October 30, 2010

A Hearty Miso Soup with Greens

We are not big fans of turnips in our house.  I've tried frying them like home-fried potatoes and I've tried them braised in a beef stew.  As a family we have agreed: no more fried turnips.  In a stew they are okay, because they soak up the delicious meatiness, which plays nicely with their sweetness and hides their bitterness.  When I scored a beautiful bunch of turnips at the farmers market last weekend, the vendor recommended roasting them.  So we tried it.  (For those of you keeping score at home it was on the evening that I had planned to serve leftover Eggplant Parmesan casserole.  Some of us had the casserole while some of us had sliced ham and cheese and roasted turnips. Some evenings are like that, okay?)  These turnips were about an inch or two in diameter.  I cut them in half and tossed them with olive oil, kosher salt and pepper and roasted them at 350ยบ for 30-40 minutes, until the cut side was nicely browned... And we all agreed, no more roasting turnips.

The turnips came with their vibrant green tops attached.  And I couldn't let good greens go to waste, so I blanched them and used them in Miso Soup later in the week.  It seems silly to share more than one Miso Soup recipe, but it is so versatile, and, if the Asian section of your pantry is well stocked, it's quicker to put together than a homemade chicken noodle soup.  It is equally soothing on a sore throat, and since I was fighting off a sore throat this week, we had Miso Soup twice.

I almost always include nori and green onions in my miso soup, but when using hearty greens, I don't think the nori is necessary, and this week we didn't have any green onions, so I substituted chives (that I got in my Stuff a Bag for $5 the week prior).  I like to keep the ingredient list short:  highlight a couple vegetables, don't just throw in all the remnants left in the vegetable bin.

When you buy root vegetables with the greens attached, cut the greens off as soon as you get home.  I've read that this prevents the sugars in the root from escaping to the greens.  If you plan to use the greens, rinse them well in a sink of cold water, separate the leaves from the stems, and blanch them in salted boiling water for a minute or so. Drain.  Shock with cold water.  Drain again and squeeze out excess moisture before storing in the refrigerator or freezer for later use.

Miso Soup with Greens and Soba Noodles
Inspired by Japanese Women Don't Get Old or Fat: Secrets of My Mother's Tokyo Kitchen

1.  Prepare Dashi Stock.  In medium soup pot or dutch oven heat 4 cups water with some seaweed (something roughly equivilant to a 6" piece of kombu).  When I last purchased Kombu I was only able to find it packaged with a mixture of assorted sea vegetables.  Since then, I've been using the other sea vegetables (which I cannot identify), and the stock is just as good.  When the kombu is soften and the stock is almost to a boil, add a handful of bonito flakes and reduce heat to low.  Cover and let sit a couple minutes, then strain, pressing to release all the flavor into the stock.

2.  Bring a large pot of water to boil.  Add a tablespoon of salt.  Return to boil.  Add 4 oz dried soba noodles.  Cook according to directions on package (generally 3-8 minutes depending on thickness).  Drain.

3.  In small frying pan, heat 1 teaspoon grapeseed or other vegetable oil over medium-high heat.  Add 2 cloves garlic crushed.  Cook and stir about 10 seconds.  Add a large handful blanched greens (turnip, mustard, chard or kale) that have been squeezed to remove excess water and chopped.  Cook about a minute or two, just to heat through.  Sprinkle with seasame seeds, about a teaspoon.  Cook a couple seconds, then add a splash of mirin.  Let it bubble away.  Remove from heat and drizzle with toasted seasame oil.

3. Meanwhile bring dashi to a simmer.  Add 2 cloves of garlic, minced, a splash of soy sauce and some grated ginger or grated daikon.  Add a small handful cubed summer squash and/or 1/4 head napa cabbage, chopped.  Let cook a few minutes.  Remove about half cup of broth.  Add cubed tofu.  Pour reserved broth over 3 tablespoons miso paste.  Whisk to combine.  Turn heat off under soup.  Add miso-dashi mixture back to the soup.

To serve:  In each large soup bowl place 1/4 of the soba noodles. and 1/4 of the greens.  Ladle 1/4 of the soup over the noodles and greens.  Garnish with grated daikon and sliced green onions.  Serve hot.  We like to eat this with chopsticks and drink the broth.

October 27, 2010

Easy Chili

As I wrote my shopping list for the week, I looked all over for a chili recipe.  I thought I was in the mood for Turkey Chili Verde, but as I reviewed the grocery budget, it became necessary to use the ground beef and canned tomato sauce I already had, instead of buying turkey.  It had been a while since I made chili and I wasn't in the mood for purusing multiple cookbooks looking for a new recipe, so I went back to the method that I have stored in my memory bank.  And I was not disappointed.  I added a couple things, ingredients that are in Williams Sonoma's chili recipe, that weren't in my original: masa flour, and if I had had some on hand, I would have added a can of cheap American beer.  It gives it a nice flavor.  But I didn't spend the money to get a chunk of beef chuck which I would have had my butcher grind coarsely, (which is what butchers sometimes refer to as a chili grind).  And since I didn't bother to get the specific beef called for in their recipe, I didn't crack open the cookbook.  I just wanted something warm and satisfying to serve on a cold autumn Sunday evening. And this fit the bill perfectly.  Note that, though I simmered mine for two hours to let the flavors marry, you could simmer it for as little as twenty minutes and have a perfectly acceptable weeknight dinner in barely more than half an hour.


If you read my last post, you saw what I was planning to cook for dinner this week.  You might be wondering what we actually ended up eating.

Saturday:  Beef Curry with Summer Squash and Peppers over Jasmine Rice.  I made this dish  spicy, so our 6-yr-old had a hot dog instead.  And I won't be sharing the recipe for Beef Curry at this time, because we were disappointed with the beef we used (which was a prepackaged 'thinly sliced sirloin' that turned out to be rather mangled and which cooked up a bit chewy).  Also, I need to switch brands of curry powder.  This time I used the stuff from the bulk bin at Winco and it has a little bit of a grittiness to it.  What's your go-to curry?
Sunday:  Beef Chili with Tortillas
Monday: Sliced Ham and Cheese with one of those sweet, crisp cucumbers and roasted turnips. -Ugh, we have determined that we are not turnip fans.
Tuesday: Miso Soup -which we found was a delicious use for some of the turnip greens.  I'll share it soon.
Wednesday: Arroz Con Pollo with Baked Kabocha Squash Slices for dessert


Easy Chili
Mostly my own, with some inspiration from The Williams-Sonoma Collection: Soup
More of a method than a recipe, the amounts given are estimates, so I hesitate to list a number of servings.  After you make this  a couple times, you'll have the process down and count this as an easy meal.  Leftovers can be frozen for longer storage. 

1.  Brown 1-2 lbs ground beef (or ground turkey) over medium high heat in a large heavy-bottomed pot.  If it releases much fat, drain it when it is about halfway through cooking.  Before the meat is done  cooking, add chopped aromatics:  1-2 onions, 1-2 green peppers or a similar amount of hot and/or sweet peppers and some chopped garlic.  Cook over medium heat to soften vegetables, 5-10 minutes.

2.  Add about 1/3 cup chili powder, a generous pinch of salt and a few grinds of black pepper (and, for a thicker chili, 2 tablespoons flour).  Stir to coat meat and vegetables and cook about 30 seconds.

3. Add tomatoes (one 14- to 28- ounce can chopped or crushed tomatoes or tomato sauce, or approximately a pound of fresh tomatoes, peeled and chopped).  Add beans. (Kidney, pinto or black beans are what my family prefers.   Canned beans are fine.  Drain them well. Or use dried beans that you have precooked.  I use about half a pound cooked dried beans.  If you've cooked your own beans, add some of the cooking liquid with the beans.  Do not add dried beans without precooking them.  The salt and the acid in the tomatoes will prevent them from softening.)  Depending on how long you plan to simmer the chili, you may want to add more liquid: 8 oz of cheap American beer, some beef broth, water or more tomatoes.  This would also be the time to add any additional seasonings: one chipotle pepper from a can, some dried oregano or cumin, a dash of worcestershire sauce.  (I recommend the worcestershire sauce.  It has a way of bringing the flavors together.)  Sometimes I add a 14-oz can of hominy, drained.

4.  Bring chili to a simmer and cover with the lid slightly ajar.  Simmer over medium-low heat 20 minutes to 2 hours.  (I'm sure you could also transfer the chili to a crock-pot and cook on Low for 8 hours, but I have not prepared it this way.)

Optional:  During the last 10 minutes of cooking sprinkle about a 1/4 cup masa (corn flour) to thicken chili and give it a corny flavor.  If doing this, omit the flour in Step 2.

Garnish with sliced green onion, chopped cilantro, grated cheese and/or avocado slices.

Serve with cornbread or warm tortillas. Or, for Game Day, may I suggest serving it over oven fries?

October 26, 2010

A Bargain at the Farmer's Market and our Menu for a Week

I had our dinners planned out for the week and I had written a corresponding shopping list, but when I checked the grocery list against the amount of money in our Grocery Money envelope, I had to slash some things.  Luckily, we have a pretty full pantry, so it shouldn't be difficult to find something to eat.

Arroz Con Pollo
Ham & Pineapple Calzone Leftover Eggplant Parmesan Casserole
Turkey Chile Verde with Cornbread Beef Chili with Tortillas
Hearty Miso Soup w/ Tofu & Soba Noodles
Halibut Kebabs with Grilled Bread and Pancetta  Hot Dogs?
Beef Curry w/ Potatoes and Carrots Peppers and Squash over Jasmine Rice

Sadly I had to forego a new recipe from Sunset Magazine, Halibut Kebabs with Grilled Bread and Pancetta, for an old standby in the freezer: hot dogs.  Surely, my six-year-old will appreciate the switch.  And I'll look forward to trying the halibut next month.  I'll save myself some work by using the ham we have on-hand for sandwiches for lunch, and stretch some leftover casserole.  But the Arroz con Pollo  I've really been looking forward to.  The recipe serves 8, so I will halve it, even though I'm sure we would have had no problem finishing the leftovers.

I was left with only $9 for the Farmers Market.  After buying eggs I had $5 left.  So my $5 bag and whatever is already at our house will have to suffice for most of our produce this week. I'll let you know how it goes. 

Seriously, if you haven't taken advantage of Vogel's Stuff a Bag for $5 Sale at the Saturday Farmer's Market in downtown Chico, here's a list of what I got this past weekend for five dollars:

  • 5 yellow tomatoes -I have cilantro and lime in the fridge, so I can make salsa
  • 6 long green peppers, similar to Anaheim -for the Chili and salsa
  • 12 small- to medium-sized sweet peppers in assorted colors -for the Curry, and who knows what else.
  • a large bunch of parsley - I don't know what I've use it for, but I like to have parsley around.
  • 2 pomegranates - for snacking
  • one daikon radish -for the Miso Soup
  • 3 cucumbers - for snacks and lunch
  • one long sweet summer squash -for the Curry
  • one beautiful bunch of turnips -these didn't fit in the bag, but the gal offered them to me for free.  I don't know what I'll do with them, maybe put them in the curry in place of the carrots and potatoes that I would normally serve.
Do you have weeks like this: the budget doesn't match the grocery list, and you have to do some major tweaking? Oh, it's a bit of a headache, isn't it?  But it is real life.  Thankfully, we have enough to make ends meet and it appears that at least this week, we will be well-nourished.


Planning your farmers market grocery list, and need to know what might be available this week?  Check out our What's In Season list.

October 22, 2010

Beef Stew

If you are looking to save a little money on produce, you should be aware that some Farmers Market vendors typically lower their prices toward closing time.  Mr. Vogel typically does his "Stuff a Bag for $5" sale after about 11:00am on Saturday mornings at the downtown Chico Farmers Market.  Time it right, because he'll run out of herbs fast.  The last couple weeks the winter squash and pumpkins haven't been included in the sale, but pretty much everything else is fair game.  Last week I scored rosemary, thyme, chives, basil, 6 paste tomatoes, a couple yellow tomatoes, 4 eggplants, a large bunch of mustard greens, a beautiful variety of sweet peppers and a couple hot peppers.  With ten dollars I bought all of our vegetables for a week.  I

Now Mr Vogel doesn't label his produce as organic, and I should probably ask what his thoughts are on organic food, how he controls pests, that type of thing.  In the grocery store, I typically buy only organic produce.  At the farmer's market, one of the stalls I visit every week is certified organic from Durham, but I also buy from non-organic vendors. I feel that consumers should be able to communicate with their farmers and I understand that many farmers are "almost organic,"  and that is good enough for me. 

The weather is cooling off.  We've even had a few pleasantly dreary days this past week.  So, with those beautiful end-of-summer peppers and herbs I made a delicious beef stew.  Normally I would include onions and carrots in stew, but I had neither.  That's ok.  What I like best about a stew, is that it doesn't require a recipe. 

With that, here's a recipe:

Beef Stew

Serve with crusty bread and butter.  You may want to make this stew a day before serving it.  If so, refrigerate in a tall container.  The fat will solidify on top, making it easy to remove. Serves 6-8.

1 1/2 pounds beef chuck roast, cut into 1" cubes
1/2 cup all purpose flour
salt & pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 1/2 cups liquid: water, broth or a mixture including wine or beer (I used water.)
6-8 cups cubed vegetables (I used a couple baby yukon gold potatoes, which I left whole, and an assortment of sweet peppers.)
Seasonings (I used a sprig of rosemary, couple sprigs of thyme, a dash of red pepper flakes and 5 cloves of garlic, crushed)
Optional: 1 small bunch of greens, chopped (about 6 cups raw)
Finishing: maybe a splash of vinegar, a bit more garlic, chopped herbs to garnish

Toss meat with flour, salt and pepper.  Heat olive oil in large dutch oven over medium high heat.  Add meat and brown on all sides.  This may need to be accomplished in 2 batches.

Add liquid and scrape bottom of pan.  (If your meat has burned onto the bottom of the pan, you'll want to wash out the pan to avoid a burnt taste in the stew.  Otherwise, those browned cooked bits are flavor, leave them in!)  Add vegetables and seasonings. Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to a simmer.   Cover and cook 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.  Add greens.  Cover and cook 20-30 minutes.  Finish:  Taste and adjust seasoning.  Garnish and serve.

October 18, 2010

Teriyaki Steak

I don't like to cook meat.  I generally leave grilling up to my husband.

I thought I would share something he has been making lately that is so simply I could do it. It's a quick-grilling Teriyaki Steak.  We like to serve it with steamed short-grain white rice and a homemade miso soup that's full of veggies.  Fun chopsticks and Japanese rice bowls and soup bowls make it feel special. And because the steak is served sliced into bite-sized pieces, I find that the recipe serves more people than when serving whole hunks of meat to each guest.

Teriyaki Steak

Have your butcher slice the round steak horizontally into large, thin pieces, so that 3 or 4 pieces equal a pound and a half of meat. Serves 6-8.

1 1/2 pounds round steak, sliced 1/4" thick
bottled teriyaki sauce - we like Soyaki
sesame seeds or thinly sliced green onions for garnish
Japanese ponzu sauce and sesame sauce for dipping

Marinate thinly sliced steak in teriyaki sauce 2-8 hours.  Let sit at room temperature at least a half hour before grilling.  Preheat gas or charcoal grill.  Over a very hot grill (high heat), cook steaks 45 seconds on each side.  Set steaks on plate and cover with aluminum foil.  Let rest 10 minutes.  Slice meat in thin slices against the grain.  Transfer to serving dish and garnish with sesame seeds or green onions. Provide guests with individual dipping dishes and allow them to mix the Ponzu and sesame sauces to their liking.

October 6, 2010


I haven't been to the farmers market in three weeks, so I feel out of my element. Okay, I did go to the farmers market in Southern California last week, and I still have a couple of beautiful nectarines and plums that I have been packing into lunches this week, but I don't have any fresh, local vegetables and I have no eggs, so when it comes to making dinner, I'm feeling a little out of touch.  Especially since fall has suddenly kicked in around here. I would feel so much better if I had a 10-lb bag of Pink Lady apples, and a couple of winter squashes and one large bunch of greens.  Well, except that I almost always dislike winter squash once it is cooked....  And actually, I do have some sort of winter squash--or maybe it's a pumpkin--that I picked up at Oto's two weeks ago...  I also have some onions that are still decent and some cute little baby potatoes that I'm planning to serve with pork chops and chutney this evening. I have a couple of almost-ready poblanos and bell peppers in the garden, four okra that I harvested right before we left for vacation, and the last half of a bunch of organic green onions that I picked up at S&S when I was buying pork earlier this week.  So we'll get through the week.  I'm just anxious to get some good local eggs and check out all the autumn produce this Saturday morning.

In the meantime, I thought I'd share a recipe for popcorn.  Yeah, it doesn't really highlight local produce, though I suspect that this time of year, one might be able to buy corn for popping at their local farmer's market or pumpkin patch, but that's not the point.  This is just a quick snack for munching while watching a movie or packing into a lunchbox.

I've never been a big fan of microwave popcorn.  It just seems artificial to me. Sure, it has an alluring smell that sometimes tempts me, but most brands leave that weird film in your mouth, and it kind of ruins the experience.  I own an air-popper, but I haven't used it in quite a while.  I prefer the stove-top method, because of the flavor the cooking oil imparts, and because it doesn't require a uni-tasker (that I would have to go digging in my garage to find).  Special thanks to my Uncle Dave in Kansas City who taught me how to make popcorn on the stove four years ago.  My life has changed.

Adapted from Dave Reid of Kansas City

1/4 - 1/3 cup cooking oil with a high smoke-point (enough to cover the bottom of your largest pot).  I prefer the flavor of coconut oil or grape seed oil, though you can use something like canola or peanut oil, if that is what you have on hand.
1/3 - 1/2 cup popcorn kernels
3 tablespoons butter, melted, plus a generous sprinkle of table salt
OR a generous sprinkling of Nori Komi Furikake (Rice Seasoning)

In a large lidded pot, over medium-high heat, heat cooking oil with 3 popcorn kernels.  Stay close by and listen for kernels to pop.  Once popped, remove lid, sprinkle in the remaining kernels, and replace lid, leaving lid slightly ajar, so that stem can escape.  Cook over medium-high heat, shaking pan back and forth over burner fairly constantly (yes, with all that shaking your lid might not remain ajar, just be sure that the stem is escaping) until popping slows.  As soon as popping slows to about 2 seconds between pops, remove pot from heat. leave lid on a couple seconds as the last few kernels pop, then carefully remove lid, being aware that a few kernels may pop out at you.  Transfer popcorn to a large serving bowl, drizzle with butter and salt (or sprinkle with rice seasoning), toss with a spatula (or two table knives) and serve.

October 1, 2010


I haven't blogged in almost a week.  In fact, I've barely touched a computer in about a week.  We are on vacation in San Diego. My father-in-law decided that his grandkids needed to see the town he grew up in, and who I am to argue?  We've taken the girls to Lego-Land and the San Diego Zoo, and we've spent considerable time on the beach.

Wednesday afternoon we checked out the local farmers market.  This time of year they still have all the summer fruits that we see in Upstate California (apricots, peaches, nectarines, plums, grapes and a small selection of strawberries).  Being in Southern California, they also have a lot of avocados, both the Haas, that are exported to grocery stores all over the country year-round, and a larger, more buttery (if you can imagine a more buttery avocado) Reed variety.  We bought a couple of Reeds, a large heirloom tomato and a couple of local limes and made guacamole. 

Another find:  Passionfruit!  I had never had a passionfruit before.  The skin is tough and appears crinkly.  Cut it open with a sharp knife and the interior is filled with a sweet-tart orange glop surrounding crunchy black seeds.  Just suck it out.  Passionfruit has a really specific, vaguely citrus, taste.  One slurp and I was transported back to... well, the first time I had a Crystal Geyser Passionfruit Juice drink: Westminister Woods in about 5th grade.  Weird food memory, I suppose, but that is what is embedded in my mind...

Wishing you many happy food memories!