Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Should Old Acquaintance Be Forgot...

It's amazing the traditions surrounding food on New Years.  It seems that cultures across the globe unpack all of their superstitions and place them right on the table.  Here are some interesting ones I've read about lately.

In China (lunar new year, but lumping it in for simplicity's sake), the word for "orange" and "gold" are phonetically similar, so tangerines and oranges are both eaten and prominently displayed.  Long noodles signify long life, and (I love this one) lots of desserts bring a sweet year.

Persians eat pomegranates to signify fertility and abundance.  They're a "superfood," so pick one up on Friday at the store.  There's a great trick to separating the kernels from the pulp:  Break the kernels apart with your hands submerged in a bowl of water.  The kernels sink, the pulp floats.

In many places, from Russia to Ireland, it's simply about quantity.  Want to signify abundance?  Big platters, big portions.  Love it.

Photo via MyRecipes
How about here in the South?  Like in Germany, eat leafy greens, which are the same color as money.  In Germany, it's cabbage, specifically sauerkraut.  In the US, the tradition is collards (which will be in this week's box).  Add some Hoppin' John and cornbread -- symbolizing gold -- and that's the traditional meal.  Just don't make chicken, since that symbolizes your fortune flying away.

Happy New Year to you all, and don't forget to make a sweet cake to bring a sweet 2015.
Photo via I'm At Home Baking

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Happiest of Holidays to You and Yours

Wishing you peace, joy, and love this holiday season.  And may all your dishes turn out to perfection.

Your Friends at Nalls

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Shhh... Don't Tell Them It's A Vegetable

But first, a word from our sponsor.  Registration for Deep Winter Crop Share is now open online.  Please click here to register.

The long, oval squash in your box is a spaghetti squash.  If this is your first experience with this beauty, then welcome!  First off, yes, it will make long strands that can stand in for pasta in many dishes.  But no, you're not going to think you're actually eating pasta.  Spaghetti squash has a much milder flavor than other winter squash types, with some even calling it "bland."  When you've got a strongly-flavored gravy on your pasta, like a ragú, say, this is a great stand-in.  You'll cut more than 100 calories off of a one-cup serving over pasta, and it's very high in potassium and folate, which most of us don't get enough of in our diets.

How do you cook it?  There's two methods, the long way and the short way.  Both of them start off the same.  Cut the squash in half, cross-wise instead of length-wise.  This will make for longer strands.  This is a very firm squash, and you'll have to put some force behind the knife.  So watch where your other hand is when you cut.  Next, scoop out the seeds and loose pulp.  (You can roast the seeds, just like pumpkin seeds.  As a matter of fact, you can do that with acorn, butternut, and pretty much any other winter squash as well.)
Photo via The Kitchn
Next, put about a quarter of an inch of water in a glass or ceramic roasting pan.  Stand the squash in the water, cut side down.  Long way:  oven at about 350˚F for 45 minutes to an hour.  Short way:  microwave on high for about 10 minutes.  Take a fork and scrape along the grain of the flesh, and it will comes out looking like Asian cellophane noodles.  Ta da!
Photo via Wikipedia
As previously stated, use any sauce with a robust flavor.  I like to use spicy sauces with spaghetti squash, like Seafood Arrabbiata or Bolognese Alla Diavolo, or these spicy mussels from SeafoodWatch.org.  Even just a simple robust tomato sauce with some Parm grated on top would be great, too.  I'd avoid dishes that actually try to show off the pasta itself, though.  Save the carbonara or the Sexy-Time Pasta for another day.

Winter Hours

After Christmas, Nalls moves to winter hours through the coldest time of the year.  This means that there are shorter hours, and only on the weekends.  Remember to come by and pick up your crop share box, and stock up on milk and ice cream too since you wouldn't be able to do your mid-week Nalls run.  And daydream of the artichokes and asparagus we'll soon see come spring.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Citrus Is More Than Dessert & Juice

Before we begin, a bit of administrative news.  The Deep Winter Crop Share signups are open.  For the form, click here.  Online signups should also be available within a week.  I'll keep you posted.  The Deep Winter round is always the most diverse, as we open it up to all domestic producers.  Look for lots of yummy things, in spite of it being cold here.

I'm so glad to see beautiful fresh grapefruit in the boxes lately.  There's no better morning pick-me-up than squeezing grapefruit juice pretty much straight into your mouth.  It got me to thinking, though, that there are so many more uses for the lovely citrus we're getting.  Besides, of course, peeling it and eating it.  (Getting to the tangelos before my 5-year-old does, though, I'll admit is a daunting challenge.)  So here are some categories of uses for citrus:

Salads & Veggies

Photo via The Daily Meal
Of course, citrus vinaigrette is a long-time standby.  Slices of citrus of all kinds can really dress up your salad, too.  It won't be long before asparagus starts to reappear, and it's fantastic with an orange sauce.  In addition to asparagus, citrus works very well with fennel.  You'll also find lots of citrus flavors in Spanish tapas, including these olives that make for a fantastic holiday appetizer.


Photo via Food & Wine
Citrus is such a perfect fit with seafood.  Even some of the most simple preparations involve squeezing lemon over fish.  You absolutely can do things a bit more fancy, of course.  I love scallops, and they pair amazingly well with citrus salad.  Mixed seafood salad benefits from the acidity in citrus, too.  My go-to salmon recipe is pan seared in a citrus sauce, too.  I'm a huge fan of Alton Brown's "Good Eats," (best cooking show out there), and that's where I learned to make fish en papillote.  Which is the most amazing way to cook fish.  If you'd like to push your skills, try a beurre blanc with grapefruit and halibut.


Poultry benefits from the acid in citrus, as well.  Last year at Thanksgiving, I made a turkey in citrus marinade.  And it's fantastic.  Latin American recipes use lime and orange frequently, and Cuban garilc-lime sauce is a classic example.  It goes great with chicken.  Moving over to Spain, orange zest brightens this chicken & chorizo dish.  Middle Eastern recipes also pair poultry and citrus, as in this one.
Photo via Food & Wine

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Holidays Cometh

Walking around the store today, I noticed a lot has changed over the last days.  Things like brussels sprouts and cauliflower have given way to more winter-y produce.  Most prominently, I noticed that the citrus is starting to come in and be beautiful.  For me, the citrus we have all winter sustains me until April when I can really eat vegetables again.  What can we do with, say, oranges?  (Okay, I'm lumping the tangerines in with the oranges).
Photo via The Naptime Chef
The most obvious thing that comes to mind is sweets.  And, yesterday, I started scratching my head about what sorts of cookies I'm making over the holidays.  What do I have that includes oranges?  As it turns out, quite a bit.  The acid from the citrus helps to balance the sugar and fat in desserts, so it's actually a pretty necessary component.  Here's what I found, and I put all of these on my short list.  So, who wants a cookie?

  • My mom loves to make her own biscotti.  So I'm sending her this recipe.
  • Sweets from North Africa all the way across Asia to India pair oranges with cardamom, and it's heavenly.  Especially in sugar cookies.
  • Citrus zest is an important component of good shortbread.
  • Santa used to occasionally leave a chocolate orange in my stocking.  You know, orange flavored chocolate shaped like orange wedges.  (Do they still make those...?  Gotta check.)  So I've always loved that flavor combinations.  So these madeleines have to be heavenly.
  • These simple orange cookies look soooo good.
Photo via How Sweet It Is

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Winter Jewels

Photo via Perpetual Feast
This week's box is a classic mixture of winter root vegetables.  I'd love to give you some elegant suggestions you can use to show off your cooking techniques, but unfortunately this week doesn't lend itself to fancy-fancy.  This week is about home and hearth, comfort food.  From a cooking perspective, I think of a plate of root vegetables like this not as a dish to make better, but to avoid messing up.   The ingredients are going to work so well together, Mother Nature was our chef this week.

How does one "avoid messing up?"  Simple.  Peel it, cut into bite sized pieces, and toss with olive oil.  Generous salt and pepper and in the oven.  Around 350˚ for half an hour or so, put it on a plate.  Ta-da.  The "big secret" is to chop up all of the vegetables into equal size pieces as best you can.  They all have that hard texture, and they're all going to cook at pretty much the same rate.  By using equal pieces, they all cook in the same amount of time.
Photo via Food & Wine
Yes, there are some avenues for creativity.

  • After you roast them, toss with some finely chopped herbs, like parsley.  A little thyme can work too.  Keep it simple.
  • Glaze sparingly with something sweet, like honey or maple syrup.  Prepared this way, my 5-year-old thinks they're dessert.
  • Toss with a little vinaigrette.  Again, use sparingly.  While that link only uses parsnips, any of these vegetables can substitute for each other.
  • Roast them with an apple or some other winter fruit (cranberries, for example).
I guess the arrival of winter isn't all bad!

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Aaaaand Let the Leftovers Begin!

So, Turkey Day is over.  How was yours?  I'm thankful that my sister-in-law let me take over her kitchen to make Thanksgiving dinner.  And it turned out very well!
Front to back:  Sherry & Molasses Glazed Carrots, Cinnamon & Star Anise Cranberry Sauce,  Ratatouille a la Remy, Herb-Roasted Turkey With Maple Gravy, Cranberry Apple Stuffing, mashed potatoes with parsnips, salad.  Yeah, I forgot the sweet potatoes.
Now the fun part begins!  What to do about leftovers.  While we're on the topic of mashed potatoes, that's the one item where I way overdo it with the leftovers.  I always forget that there are quite a few starches on the table, and the quantity of mashed potatoes consumed is reduced due to this fact.  What can we do?
Photo via the Food Network

  • Potato pancakes  When I was a kid, my mom used to use leftover mashed potatoes to make potato pancakes for breakfast.  This recipe seems to approximate hers.  This one for cheesy mashed potato pancakes looks very promising too.
  • Waffles  Okay, this is a new one I stumbled upon while researching this article.  But... wow.
  • Shepherd's pie  Using them for a crust for shepherd's pie is great too.  You could make a traditional version, or use up some more leftovers by using turkey and sweet potatoes as well.  You could add in some of your green beans to that one, too.
  • Pot pies  As a variant on the shepherd's pie idea, replace the crust of your favorite turkey pot pie recipe with a layer of mashed potatoes.
  • Other starchy sides  Baked cheesy puffs or these creative spring rolls would be a great side to a dinner this week.
Photo via Joy the Baker

    Friday, November 21, 2014

    Thanksgiving Cometh

    There's less than a week to go before Thanksgiving.  Has everyone gotten their menu settled?
    Photo via wallconvert.com
    I'd like to talk about what usually becomes a Thanksgiving afterthought:  the mashed potatoes.  On the Thanksgiving table, they're one of the least special items.  After all, we have them fairly often throughout the year, right?  So why are they supposed to be special on Thanksgiving?  Don't they almost have to be drowned out by the cranberry sauce and the stuffing?  No, I say!  They can hold their own!  By gosh, today they will be special!

    Photo via About Food
    But how?  What can make that starchy staple a standout?  Here are some tips:

    • Wash the potatoes first.  Well.  Use a brush.  Then slice them into thin (maybe 1/4" to 1/2") disks.  They'll cook faster.
    • Parsnips add complexity to the flavor of mashed potatoes.  Peel and slice them as thick as the potatoes, and boil then mash them together.
    • Use a food mill to mash them.  That makes the smoothest potatoes.  That's how restaurants get that incredible texture.  It also makes peeling the potatoes first unnecessary.
    • After you mash them, don't skimp on the salt and pepper.
    • Put a complimentary flavor in with the potatoes.  For example, take 1/4 cup of the turkey drippings and mix them in with the potatoes.  If your stuffing is heavy on thyme or sage, put a hint of it in the potatoes too.  Other flavors that might compliment might be some mashed roasted garlic or a bit of horseradish.
    • Fat makes mashed potatoes creamy.  Butter/margarine, sour cream, half and half, all are good options.  Of course, cheese is good (rumor has it that there is some amazing smoked cheddar at the store), or you could go all out.
    Good luck with the potatoes!

    Tuesday, November 18, 2014

    Hey, This Isn't Parsley!

    Yes, it kind of looks a little like parsley, but it's a very different flavor.  There have been plenty of times when I've been in a hurry and grabbed the wrong one.  And, I'll admit, planting them next to each other in the garden last year wasn't the brightest thing I've ever done.

    Most of us know cilantro is chopped up and put in guacamole, but it plays a role in a much broader swath of world cuisine than most people realize.  Cilantro, also called coriander (yes, they're the same) is native from Southeast Asia all the way across Eurasia to Southern Europe and North Africa.  And from Southern Europe, such as Spain, cilantro migrated across the Atlantic to Latin America.  In addition to using the leaves, the seeds are toasted and ground to use as a spice.  That's what you likely have in your spice rack.

    Photo via Food & Wine
    So, basically follow the Equator from the Pacific coast of Asia west around the whole world and you'll find cilantro in the local cuisine.  For example:

    Friday, November 14, 2014

    Apples, Apples, and More Apples

    Image via Blogging for Apples
    More talk about apples?  Yes!  There will be more baking apples in your box this week.  In addition, apples are on sale this weekend!  Just $1 per lb.  So, what to do with them?  Remember our initial discussion about fall crop share?  The idea isn't to try and use them all right away when you get them.  The idea is to put some of them up for the winter.

    That's not to say that you can't use them now.  We've talked about apples quite a bit recently (see this and this and this), so you know there's a lot you can do.  When I get a whole big bunch of apples, though, I like to put up apple pie filling in quart jars.  Put one quart of canned apple pie filling, slice about 1-2 more fresh (or cellared) apples and a few pats of butter into a crust and bake.  Almost-instant apple pie.

    So, without further ado,
    Image via Food In Jars
    Canned Apple Pie Filling
    • 10 cups peeled, cored and sliced apples
    • 2 1/4 cup apple cider
    • 1 1/2 cups water
    • 1/3 cup bottled lemon juice
    • 1 1/2 cups sugar
    • 1/4 cup Clear Jel
    • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
    • 3/4 teaspoon nutmeg (which is always better if you grate it fresh!)
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
    • 1/4 teaspoon cloves
    1. Prepare a boiling water bath canner and 3 quart jars. Put new lids in a small saucepan and bring to a gentle simmer.
    2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and blanch the apple slices for 1 minute. Remove them from the pot and place them in a bowl of cold water with a splash of lemon juice in it.
    3. In another pot, combine the apple cider, water, and lemon juice. Set over high heat. While it heats, whisk together the sugar, Clear Jel, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves.
    4. Stream the sugar mixture into the water and juice, whisking well to incorporate without lumps. Bring a boil and cook, stirring constantly until it begins to thicken.
    5. Once the canning medium has thickened, fold in the apples and remove it from the heat. Fill the jars, leaving a generous inch of headspace. Wipe rims, apply lids and rings, and process in a boiling water bath canner for 25 minutes.
    6. When time is up, turn the heat off, remove the lid, and slide the pot to a cooler burner. Let the jars sit in the water overnight to cool.
    Adapted from this recipe at Food In Jars.

            Tuesday, November 11, 2014

            Caldo Verde & Broa

            Photo via Garden Guy Hawaii
            The greens that were in this week's box that you likely didn't recognize are Brassica oleracea var. costata, commonly known as Portuguese cabbage or kale.  You can use them like any other Brassica, such as collard greens or kale.  (Here are some ideas from a while ago.)

            This is, however, a component of the national dish of Portugal.  You can also find it quite a bit around the Cape Cod area, which has a large Portuguese community.  It's a soup made from these leafy greens, onion, potato, and chicken stock.  (I'm sure we all still have some potatoes left over, right?)  Traditionally it's eaten with Broa, which is a yeast-based cornbread with wheat or rye flour added as well.  Here's my recipe for Caldo Verde:

            Photo via Williams Sonoma
            Caldo Verde

            • 8 ounces mild chorizo or Linguiça sausage
            • 3/4 lb. Portuguese cabbage
            • 1/4 cup olive oil
            • 2 medium onions, chopped
            • 1 lb. potatoes, peeled and sliced thin
            • 1 tbsp. minced garlic
            • 4 cups chicken stock, preferably unsalted
            • 1 cup water
            • salt & pepper
            • ham hock (optional)

            1. In a soup pot, warm the oil over medium heat and then sauté the onions until translucent, 10 minutes or so.  Add the potatoes and garlic, sauté 5 minutes more.  Add the water and stock, 2 tsp. salt, ham hock if using and the potatoes.  Simmer, covered, 30 minutes.
            2. Slice the sausages into bite-sized pieces, and boil them in water for 5 minutes.  Discard the water.
            3. Remove about half the potatoes and mash them.  Return to the pot, add the sausage, and continue to simmer until the sausages are cooked, 5 minutes more.
            4. Rinse the cabbage and slice the sides away from the tough center stems.  Stack the leaves together and roll lengthwise into a tight bundle, and slice (chiffonade) into very thin strips.  The longer pieces can be cut in half.
            5. Add the greens to the soup and simmer just until they are green and still a little crisp, 5 minutes.  Do not overcook the greens.
            6. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper to taste.  Serve, drizzling a little extra-virgin olive oil over the bowls of soup.
            Adapted from this recipe from Williams Sonoma.

            Wednesday, November 5, 2014


            Photo via Wikipedia
            There were beets in the box this week.  Quite a few, actually.  Awesome!

            Beets are really good for you.  They're a great source of folate and manganese.  In spite of their nutritional value, they taste really good too.

            But there were an astonishing number of beets in my box.  Scratching my head on what to do with it, I noticed that my son had just emptied a couple of pint jars of our fruit butter.  So I decided to make pickled beets.

            Pickled beets when I was growing up were, well, boring.  Yeah, they turned things purple, but it didn't really taste like much.  Fortunately, experimenting with my canning recipes, I found out that pickled beets can be very not boring.  A couple of added favors and... wow, what a difference.

            First, the boring version.  Boil the beets for around 20 minutes, until they're a little tender but still have snap.  Once they cool enough to handle, rub with a paper towel to take off the skin.  (I wear latex gloves so as to minimize staining my fingers.  It's also a very good idea to do this over the sink and not over your beautiful walnut cutting board.  Just sayin'.)

            Photo via Taste of Home
            Cut the beets into either disks or bite-sized chunks, and fill your sterilized jars.  Cover with a simple brine (equal parts cider vinegar and water, with about a tablespoon of pickling salt per pint of liquid). The beets should be completely covered under the liquid, and you should leave about 1/4" head space in the jar.  Process in a water bath for 25 minutes.

            But, here's the kicker.  Add some additional flavoring to your brine.  Here are some combinations that I've had success with:
            • Pickling spice
            • Cinnamon, clove and allspice
            • Honey and star anise (Here's the thing.  For some dumb reason, I bought a huge bag of star anise from Penzey's.  Why?  No clue.  But I've been experimenting putting it in everything just to not waste it.  Found some winners, like this one, and some not-so-winners.  P.S. Want some anise?  Happy to give you some...!)
            • Mustard seed, a bit of red pepper flakes, and sliced onions
            • Cumin and curry powder
            • Keep it simple with just a bit of sugar
            If you've got a favorite recipe for pickled beets, or a favorite way to use them, please feel free to comment!

            Saturday, November 1, 2014


            We have another interesting ingredient in our crop share this week:  leeks!  I know, next question is, "What's a leek?"  It kinda looks like a scallion, and they are actually closely related to both onions and garlic.  Leeks are much milder, however.  The white and light-green parts are what you want to eat, and for simplicity you can pretty much use them wherever you'd use onions.  They're an aromatic, like onions, celery, and fennel, so you can put them in things like seafood en papillote.  One of my favorite uses is to put them in pot pies in place of (or in addition to) onions.  For example I've put them in this, this, and they work particularly well in this and this.

            Reading up on leeks, I recently learned that they're highlighted in a number of Turkish dishes.  That gives me a great excuse to branch out into a new palate.  Two traditional Turkish dishes are at the top of my "to try" list.

            Photo via writekolik.com
            (Google Translate can help you)
            The first is Etli Pırasa Dolmas.  (Don't ask me how to pronounce that correctly.  No clue.)  Dolmas basically means a leaf wrapped around a filling of rice, spices, and sometimes meat.  For example, stuffed grape leaves you often find at Greek restaurants.  In this case, "tubes" of layers from the leek are softened in boiling salt water, then filled with ground meat.

            Photo via Almost Turkish
            The second dish is one of the signature dishes of Turkey, Zeytinyağlı Pırasa (again, I'm no help with pronunciation).  Here, the leeks are sort of poached in olive oil with some carrots, and mixed with lemony rice.  Which sounds amazing.

            Thursday, October 30, 2014

            Short Winter Crop Share

            This is the last week of Fall Crop Share!

            Our next round is Short Winter Crop Share.  There will still be fall things at the beginning, so if you've enjoyed the recent contents there should be a few more weeks of the same.  If you haven't signed up yet, you can either email cropshare@nallsproduce.com or sign up when you pick up this week's box.

            More recipes to follow shortly!

            Sunday, October 26, 2014

            It's a Hubbard Squash

            The winter squash you probably didn't recognize is a golden Hubbard squash.  Most commonly it's used as a substitute for pumpkin, so anywhere you'd use pumpkin, like in soups, you can use this squash.  Or, even better... pie!

            Photo via Reimer Seeds

            To me, nothing says "Americana" more than a pumpkin pie.  In this case, the recipe even mentions a Hubbard squash specifically.  I'm happy to share (below) my pumpkin pie recipe.

            But first, here's another of my favorites.  It's a dip that's highly reminiscent of pumpkin pie.  It's very quick to put together, and it's a great appetizer for get-togethers.  The ginger snaps are a perfect compliment as well.  As a matter of fact, it's inspired me to try making a ginger snap crust for this Thanksgiving's pumpkin pie.

            Pumpkin dip
            • 8oz cream cheese
            • 8 oz pumpkin
            • 1 cup powdered sugar
            • 1 tsp cinnamon
            • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
            • ginger snaps
            Mix all ingredients well and serve with ginger snaps.

            Burt's Pumpkin Pie
            • 2 Tbsp butter or margarine
            • 1-1/2 cup cooked fresh or canned pumpkin
            • 1 ½ tsp ginger
            • 2 tsp cinnamon
            • ½ tsp mace
            • ½ tsp ground cloves
            • 2 eggs
            • 2 Tbsp flour
            • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
            • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
            • 1/2 tsp salt
            • 1 cup milk
            1. Line a 9" pie pan with pastry and keep it cool in refrigerator while you make up the pumpkin filling.
            2. Start your oven at 450 degrees.
            3. Melt butter and stir it into the pumpkin (or squash) along with the spices.
            4. In a separate bowl beat the eggs until light and frothy. Stir the flour, both types of sugar, salt and milk into the beaten eggs. Then mix the egg mixture and pumpkin mixture together with a gentle hand.
            5. Pour the filling into the unbaked pie shell and bake for 15 minutes. At the end of this time reduce the oven temperature to 375 degrees and bake for 45 minutes longer; or, until the tip of a knife inserted in the center of the pie comes out clean and shining.

                  Wednesday, October 22, 2014

                  Member Submissions

                  I'm always happy to have members send in their favorite recipes.  If you have any that you like, particularly ones involving the current week's crop share, please send them to me at burt@nallsproduce.com.  I'm also happy to get ideas for posts you'd like to see, and any other feedback you might have to make this blog more helpful.

                  If you're looking for something to do with your beet greens from this week, here's a suggestion from one member.  It's actually quite a hearty soup, and the weather lately definitely calls for soup.

                  Photo via Whole Foods Market
                  A member sent us this link on how to roast whole butternut squash.  I've found that if you've got a heavy-duty vegetable peeler, you can use it to peel the squash prior to baking and then follow that recipe.

                  The final recipe is cheesy, creamy grits with butternut squash.  This one comes courtesy of Paula Deen, so you can be really sure of the cheesy and creamy part.

                  Photo via Hoffman Media
                  Easy Cheesy Butternut Squash 'n' Grits

                  • 1 butternut squash (about 3 pounds)
                  • 3 cups half-and-half
                  • 1 cup water
                  • 1 cup quick-cooking grits
                  • ½ teaspoon salt
                  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
                  • 1 ½ cups shredded sharp white Cheddar cheese
                  • 3 tablespoons butter
                  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
                  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
                  • ¼ teaspoon seasoned pepper
                  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
                  2. Using the tip of a sharp knife, pierce squash several times on all sides. Place squash directly on middle oven rack, and bake for 35 to 40 minutes or just until tender. Remove from oven, and let stand until cool enough to handle.
                  3. Cut squash in half lengthwise; remove and discard seeds and stringy fiber. Peel squash, and cut flesh into about 1-inch cubes.
                  4. In a large saucepan, bring half-and-half and 1 cup water to a boil over medium heat. Slowly stir in grits, salt, and garlic powder. Cover and reduce heat to medium-low; cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes or until grits are thickened. Stir in cheese and butter until melted.
                  5. In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add squash cubes, sage, and seasoned pepper; cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes or until squash is lightly browned and tender. Serve over hot grits. Garnish with sage sprig, if desired.

                  There are plenty of mums here at Nalls, and they're beautiful!

                  Thursday, October 16, 2014

                  Who Else Made Cabbage Rolls?

                  One of the most glorious uses of cabbage, a staple in European cuisine for centuries, comes from Eastern Europe.  From eastern Germany and across Poland, cabbage rolls are a comforting meal as the days get colder.  See below for my family's formerly-secret recipe.

                  With the rest of your cabbage, try making your own sauerkraut (and no, the Juniper berries are not optional).

                  Photo via Designs by Pinky
                  Cabbage Rolls (or, in Polish, Galumpkis)

                  • 12 large cabbage leaves
                  • 1 beaten egg
                  • 1/4 cup water
                  • 1 cup cooked rice
                  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
                  • 1-1/4 teaspoon salt
                  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
                  • 1/4 teaspoon thyme leaves
                  • 1-1/4 pounds ground beef
                  • 1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
                  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
                  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice


                  1. Immerse cabbage leaves in boiling water for 3 minutes, or just until limp; drain. Combine next 7 ingredients. Add beef; mix thoroughly. Place about 1/4 cup of meat mixture in center of each leaf; fold in sides and roll ends over meat. Fasten with wooden picks (optional); place  in large skillet.
                  2. Combine remaining ingredients. Pour over cabbage rolls. Simmer, covered, 1 hour, basting occasionally. Remove cover for last 5 minutes; or, until sauce is of desired consistency. Serves 6.
                  These freeze very well; so, make extra for another time or two. The recipe doubles easily.

                  Tuesday, October 14, 2014

                  They're Not the Same

                  They're not the same.  Potatoes and sweet potatoes, I mean.  They're actually really different.  Ever cut up potatoes, then leave your knife on the cutting board for a while?  The white residue is potato starch.  Sweet potatoes are much less starchy.  They have a different nutritional profile, too.  Like most orange veggies, they're really high in Vitamin A.  Even though they're different, you can use the them in a lot of the same ways.

                  Photo via Chez Us
                  When I asked around the staff, the most common use of sweet potatoes was simply baked.  Way easy, too.  Use a fork to poke holes in them to vent steam, then nuke 'em for 8-12 minutes.  Done.  Serve with butter, sugar, brown sugar, maple syrup... You get the idea.  You can even twice-bake them (recipe at the end of the post).

                  Photo via Simply Recipes
                  This is my favorite way.  You can actually replace potatoes in most recipes with sweet potatoes, so make just like you would standard mashed potatoes.  Don't add sour cream or creme fraiche, though.  Just butter.  To dress them up, molasses is wonderful.  Or do something with a touch of bourbon.

                  Photo via Cookstr
                  Anyone else love potato pancakes?  Replace regular potatoes in whatever recipe you use.  You might change out the seasonings, depending on what you do.  Or add some shredded apples.

                  Photo via Parade Magazine
                  Not being from the South myself, this isn't something with which I've had much experience.  But the staff would likely run me out on a rail if I don't mention it.  Some promising-looking recipes are here, here and here.

                  Sweet potatoes don't have to be the big Thanksgiving production with marshmallows.  But they're great that way, too.  Or, this year, try a little twist to the old favorite.

                  Twice-Baked Orange Sweet Potatoes

                  • 3 sweet potatoes, scrubbed
                  • 1/4 cup orange juice
                  • 1 tablespoon butter or margarine
                  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
                  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
                  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
                  • 3 oranges peeled, sectioned and coarsely chopped
                  • 2 tablespoons sliced almonds

                  Preheat oven to 375°F.

                  Prick sweet potatoes with a fork; bake 1 hour or until tender. (Leave oven on.) Halve sweet potatoes lengthwise; scoop out the pulp and reserve the skins. Mash pulp with orange juice, butter, salt, pepper and ginger; stir in oranges.

                  Pile mixture into reserved sweet potato skins; top with almonds. Bake 15 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Serve hot.

                  Tuesday, October 7, 2014

                  The Earthiness of Fall

                  Mushrooms in the box are always a treat for me.  The earthiness they bring to any dish just fits this time of year.  The weather has turned a bit cooler, and will continue to cool.  So let's make some soup!  Mushroom soups broadly fall into two categories, creamy and not creamy.  In many recipes, a basic mushroom ragout serves as a foundation.  I'll give you a ragout recipe at the end, but meanwhile let's talk about some soup.

                  Photo via Food & Wine

                  Soups Without the Cream
                  I'm making mushroom barley soup with my mushrooms.  It's really hearty and filling, and has been a family favorite for some time now.  This mushroom and sausage soup is along a similar vein, although I don't think angel hair pasta fits too well.  I use some small, round pasta, such as orecchiette, which works well.  I also love this porcini mushroom soup recipe, the tomatoes really make it unusual as far as mushroom soups go.  The mushrooms in the box are baby bellas, which can fit nicely in any of these recipes, either alone or mixed with other types.

                  Photo via Food & Wine

                  Creamy Mushroom Soups
                  I've been on a quest for the perfect creamy mushroom soup recipe for what seems like forever.  (Corny as it seems, I do think La Madeleine does a pretty solid job.)  Some, such as this one, use heavy cream.  Others, however, get their creamy texture from just the mushrooms and butter.  Two good examples are here and here.

                  Mushroom Ragout
                  This is a chunky "sauce" made from mushrooms, and it's really a versatile fall recipe.  You can add it to soups to bring in the creamy, earthy mushroom taste, substitute it wherever you use cream of mushroom soup to bring a richer, more complex taste, or (my favorite) use it to top baked or mashed potatoes.  Adapted from this recipe.


                  • Olive oil, for sautéing
                  • 4 ounces finely diced pancetta
                  • 2 tablespoons butter
                  • 1 1/4 pounds fresh mushrooms, any type or mixture, sliced
                  • 1 large shallot
                  • 2-3 large sprigs thyme
                  • 1/4 cup strong red wine
                  • half-and-half, to taste
                  • salt and pepper

                  1. Sautée the pancetta in the olive oil until crispy and golden, 5 minutes.  Remove the pancetta to a plate, reserving the rendered fat in the pan.  Melt the butter in the pan as well.
                  2. Cook the shallot until soft and transparent, then add the mushrooms and thyme.  Cook until the mushrooms begin to release their liquid, 8-10 minutes.
                  3. Remove the mushrooms, discard the thyme, and deglaze the pan with the wine.  Cook until reduced by half, then fold back in the mushrooms and pancetta.  Season with salt and pepper.  If using cream, add it 2 tablespoons at a time until you reach your desired consistency, then reduce slightly.
                  4. Serve over potatoes, polenta, or in an omelet.