Friday, August 27, 2010

Toasted Watermelon Seeds

All week I've been posting for the blogathon to celebrate Farmers Market Week here in Massachusetts... for more info about the blogathon see my previous posts this week. Unfortunately due to packing I couldn't post every day like I had hoped, but there are some good ones from earlier this week, check 'em out! There comes a time in every young amateur chef’s life when she asks: “Am I doing this right?” For me that moment came today when a watermelon seed exploded, startled me and sent me jumping backwards stepping into my cat’s water dish. “WHAT?!” you are probably saying. I guess I should backtrack and start at the beginning….

I received a watermelon in this week’s Enterprise Farm farm share. I immediately ate half of it for lunch. I like watermelons. It runs in my family. When I was younger my sister and dad used to have “Watermelon Club” after dinner where they would each indulge in many slices each. Sometimes I participated but I was much more of an ice cream girl.

Watermelon seeds drying on the window sill
While eating my watermelon lunch I wondered to myself: Are watermelon seeds good for anything other than spitting at your little sister when she’s not looking? Can you eat them? This led me to Ye Olde Trusty Google. You can eat the seeds! In fact, it’s part of Egyptian culture to roast the seeds and eat them. Watermelons are native to Egypt? Who knew.

I saved the seeds from my half of already eaten watermelon and decide to chop up the remaining half and remove the seeds from there as well. This left me with a little handful seeds. The whole process seemed relatively easy. Step 1: Wash. Step 2: Dry. I patted them with a paper towel (which they stuck to) and then decided to spread them out on a plate and sit them on my windowsill in the sun. Success.

Step 3: This is where things got tricky. Heat a pan and place the seeds in the pan. Stir them around until their roasted. How was I supposed to know when they were thoroughly roasted? I figured I would give it the old eyeball test. After a few minutes they looked pretty good. Then POP! One of the seeds shot off of the pan and directly at my face! POP POP! Two more seeds! It was sort of like popcorn. I took that as a sign to mean they were done roasting.

Step 4: Pour a cup of salty water into the pan and boil and stir around until it all evaporates. I made a bit of a mess here, there was no indication for how much salt and I figured the more salt the better… they’re supposed to be salty, right? Fail. I ended up with some seeds and salty sludge. So I tried again by removing some of the salt and adding more water and trying all over again. Success. No gross clumps of burnt salt this time.

Step 5: Cool and dry. Then enjoy!

I ate one of the seeds fresh out of the watermelon and I’ll say it wasn’t bad. Though roasted salty watermelon seeds were pretty good they really just tasted like a salty, toasty, drier version of the former. But isn’t that what all seeds taste like anyway? They tasted a bit like if pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds merged. One website told me you’re supposed to bite off the exterior in your mouth to get to the inside meat but that was just way too much work for me so I ate the whole thing as is which was pretty good without all that effort. I suppose I might try this again, but more likely I’ll make “seed adventure number 2” happen when I receive a pumpkin later in the season -- even though I find the insides of a pumpkin kind of icky.

Word of advice: Go easy on the salt, you don't need much. I wish I had something fun to eat these with like baking them into muffins or a salad on the horizons to toss these into. I guess i'll just eat them on their own, still good! :)


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Hodgepodge Couscous Salad

Continuing the celebration of Farmers Market Week and the blogathon to raise money for Mass Farmers' Markets put on by Loving Local and In Our Grandmothers' Kitchens here's a tasty treat for this Tuesday:

I don’t know exactly when the whole D.I.Y. (Do It Yourself) trend came about, but I must confess that I like it. Love it, actually. I love watching cooking shows, reading cooking magazines, home decorating magazine, and craft magazines. I think it’s because I really like to make things my own. What fun is the world if everything is cookie cutter similar?

Chopped up fresh cucumber was a tasty and refreshing addition
I carry my love of DIY into the kitchen, which as I’ve mentioned before, means that I like to make recipes my own and change them somehow from the pre-set directions. Usually this means adding in a thing or two. Sometimes it means taking out an ingredient I don’t like (or more often it’s removing an ingredient I just don’t have on hand and I don’t feel like buying. Rant alert: I find it incredibly annoying to have a recipe where they tell you to add in a tablespoon of vinegar or a half cup of chicken stock or a quarter of a bell pepper and then I’m left with the rest of that product wondering just how I’ll get through it before it goes bad. Someone should really make a cookbook that incorporates only whole products –- a whole jar, can, veggie, bottle, etc. If one of these cookbooks exists somebody do me a favor and let me know, I would be forever grateful!)

Anywho… where was I? Oh yes, DIY. Aside from salads, I have found my favorite sort of thing to cook up DIY style: couscous salad. And thanks to my farm share, I usually have lots of odds and ends that I never know quite what to do with. I’ve posted earlier about tabbouleh, and this recipe is very similar but I’ve adapted it so that it’s just called “hodgepodge couscous” and is a recipe that is truly all inclusive. Really kids, feel free to get wild.

My favorite things about this recipe:

  • It uses up left veggies from previous recipes
  • It’s a great way to use my share because sometimes I get a solo tomato or just two cucumbers
  • It’s healthy
  • It’s easy to make
  • It tastes good
  • No “cooking” involved, it’s just chop and mix

This is how I usually build my DIY hodgepodge couscous salad:

Step 1: Pick a grain. A box of couscous works, they are about a dollar to two dollars for a box and it’s usually a nice portion size. For my most recent variation I used a bag of Harvest Grains Blend which was a variety of grains including Israeli couscous, orzo, baby garbanzo beans, and red quinoa. I got it from Trader Joe’s, also inexpensive.

Step 2: Pick some veggies. Tomatoes work well. So do peppers of all varieties. I’ve never tried with an onion, but I bet a sweet one would be good. This time I had some celery and cucumbers grown by Enterprise Farms so I use those, it gave the couscous salad a nice crunch. Chop the veggies up into nice little bits.

Step 3: Pick some herbs. My most recent variation included both flat leaf parsley and a bunch of basil. You could probably use some actual lettuce in here too. If you want to make this more of a Mexican fare I bet that cilantro would work well. I didn’t have scallions on hand this time, but sometime I use those or chives. Chop this up nice fine.

Step 4: Pick some spices/flavorings. Sea salt, pepper, anything you like. Add a few tablespoons of olive oil – it helps break apart the grains but also gives it a nice flavor. If you have fresh lemons on hand lemon juice is a nice accompaniment.

Step 5: Clear out your fridge. Add whatever you want. This time I used a can of garbanzo beans and it worked out great. If you want to get experimental you can divide the whole thing into two batches and try out different ingredients with each.

Step 6: Mix it all together and enjoy! Cheers!

Monday, August 23, 2010

German Red Cabbage

Welcome blogathon! As I mentioned, this week I’m participating in the Loving Local blogathon to celebrate Farmers Market Week and raise money for the Mass Farmer’s Markets. If you love my blog, and love local food, go ahead and donate a bit of green to that wonderful cause. Visit HERE and click “donate”  I also encourage you to visit Loving Local HERE to find some other area bloggers who are writing about local food, cooking, farms, and much more. As part of the blogathon I’ll be posting (or attempting to anyway!) a new post every day this week, so be on the lookout for some great new content from me daily! 
Now let me tell you about cabbage...
A wonderful mix of colors on this plate!

My ancestors would be proud. Why? I succeeded in cooking cabbage. *Polish/Ukrainian/German ancestors applaud* Really, I’m proud of myself. As a previously self-professed Cabbage Hater, I’ll say that I’m officially a convert. It really happened approximately three years ago when I went to Germany. I always turned up my nose at the idea of sauerkraut, but once I had some real, authentic German sauerkraut (you know the kind… it’s tangy and warm and oh so delicious) I fell in love. Maybe cabbage wasn’t so bad after all.

Flash forward to today and welcome in the good old Enterprise Farm Share which supplied me with a head of red cabbage. My cabbage cooking history includes no previous usage of cabbage. Not a one recipe ever cooked with cabbage before. Nada. But this was the time. 
I found a wonderful recipe at and it’s everything that the reviewers said it would be. 

My bouquet garni looks a bit like a mummy.
Is it supposed to look like this?
  • It was warm, tangy, sweet, and a superb accompaniment to any meat dish. Oh, and easy too! (I served it with baked chicken drumsticks and sautéed Swiss chard, though in retrospect I should have made some sausage or something… maybe next time.)
  • The color! After cooking lots of greens for the past few months it was nice to have this wonderful pinkish-red accompaniment to my meal!
  • Because of the apples, allspice, and cloves (and my own addition of a pinch of cinnamon) this recipe really reminded me of the of fall and the holidays so maybe I’ll make some for Thanksgiving or Christmas this year.
  • Oh yeah, I also made my first every bouquet garni (with the peppercorns, allspice, cloves) for this recipe. I’m starting to feel pretty professional!
German Red Cabbage as found on Allrecipes

Ingredients --
  • 1 medium head red cabbage, cored and sliced
  • 2 large tart apples, peeled and sliced
  • 1 medium sweet onion, sliced and separated into rings
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 6 whole peppercorns
  • 2 whole allspice
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 2 teaspoons cold water

Directions --

  1. In a Dutch oven, toss cabbage, apples and onion. Add water, vinegar, sugar, butter and salt. Place the peppercorns, allspice, cloves and bay leaf on a double thickness of cheesecloth; bring up corners of cloth and stir with kitchen string to form a bag. Add to Dutch oven. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 1-1/4 hours.
  2. Discard spice bag. In a small bowl, combine cornstarch and cold water until smooth; stir in cabbage mixture. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 1-2 minutes or until thickened.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Bring on the Blogathon!

I'm excited to announce that I'll be participating in Loving Local's Blogathon to celebrate the wonderful flavors of Massachusetts during Farmers Market Week August 22-28.

What's the Blogathon? Loving Local says : 
"Hosted by In Our Grandmothers’ Kitchens with help from Massachusetts Farmers Markets and the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources, LOVING LOCAL will gather bloggers across the Bay State and beyond into a giant smorgasbord of good, local food."
Funds raised during the blogathon will go to Mass Farmers Markets, a non-profit charitable organization that helps farmers markets throughout the Commonwealth. So look for some extra fun content coming from me next week and be ready to pledge some money to go to a great cause. Yippie, I'm excited!  

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Call Me a Hater

Dear beet, I think you taste like a dirty potato. Sorry.

Photo courtesy of Andrew Scrivani for The New York Times
So when this article was called to my attention (Beet Recipes Even a Beet Hater Can Love by the New York Times) I was intrigued. Albeit, still skeptical. I have yet to make one of these "tasty delights" which include:
  • Beets & Beet Green Gratin
  • Beet, Citrus and Avocado Salad
  • Mixed Spring Green Salad with Roasted Beets
  • Grated Raw Beet Salad
  • Roasted Spring Onion and Beet Salad

Perhaps I will dive in and attempt one of these and *gasp* maybe I will like one of them. Though, dear beet, don't hold your breath.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Herbed Summer Squash and Potato Torte

Not so beautiful, but it was yummy and filling!

My farm share really likes loading me up with summer squash so instead of the normal old bake or sauté way of cooking it (bleh, borrrring!) I decided to hunt around for something more fun. Alas! A torte! I found a great recipe from fellow food bogger Deb at Smitten Kitchen. While she said her torte wasn’t winning any beauty contests I disagree, the picture looked scrumptious and I just had to try it. Note: If she thinks her torte “isn’t winning beauty contests” mine looks like roadkill. *sigh* But anywho, it’s not about the beauty of the thing, it’s the taste.

Layered summer squash in the pan
And oh boy was it tasty! I didn’t have two round dishes to make the torte so I just layered everything in a big glass casserole dish and it still came out wonderfully. No, it wasn’t beautiful, BUT it was delish. My torte was probably thicker than normal, especially because of my lack of mandoline (see below) and it didn’t really stick together well when it came out of the pan -– but I’ll overlook that because it was so tasty. It was also amazing to heat up and eat the next day, and the day after that since this recipe was huge -- you might be interested in cutting the recipe in half if you don’t want to be eating torte for a week. While the recipe didn’t call for it, I served my torte with a big dollop of sour cream. YUM!

Now that we have the actual "cooking/recipe/eating" portion of this post out of the way, let me tell you about the mandoline: As I mentioned, my kitchen is a little sparse when it comes to gadgets and cooking utensils. I pretty much use just one knife for every kind of cutting and chopping (*gasp*!) and occasionally my little food processor for meal prep. My trusty old knife made the task of thinly slicing 5 potatoes and 3 summer squashes pretty tedious.

After the torte was in the oven baking I decided to read some of the reviews. Silly, I know, I should have read them BEFORE cooking. But, I’m a fool. Someone asked “What’s the best way to slice the potatoes and squash if I don’t have a mandoline?”

“A mandoline?” I asked myself. “Surely this person is bonkers. I know what a mandoline is, it’s the funny little string instrument my boyfriend owns.” Yes, that is indeed a mandolin, but add an “e” and it becomes a marvelous kitchen gadget that I didn’t know about but MUST. HAVE. IMMEDIATELY! Check out this wonderful one from William Sonoma – even comes complete with a tutorial video you can watch!

While I enjoy slicing veggies I’m not very good at it, maybe because I fear slicing the top of my finger off and turning my meal preparations into a trip to the emergency room. I tried so very hard to slice my potatoes and squash thin like the recipe suggested – and really, for the most part I was very successful, though it took me about a half hour of slicing patience. Had I had this wonderful mandoline gadget I bet the torte would have come out even better. I am definitely putting mandoline at the top of “cooking gadgets to buy” list for when I move to a bigger apartment in 3 weeks.

PS: I am getting REALLY far behind on posts, yikes! Be on the lookout for some great recipe posts coming next week! Cheers!


Herbed Summer Squash and Potato Tort (adapted from Smitten Kitchen (adapted from Bon Apetit))

Makes 8 servings

Ingredients --

  • 1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled, cut into 1/8-inch-thick rounds
  • 12 ounces yellow crookneck squash or regular yellow summer squash, cut into 1/8-inch-thick rounds
  • 6 teaspoons olive oil
  • (Jill's note: I also threw some parsley in here because, you know, I had it on hand)
Directions -- 

  • Preheat oven to 375°F. Butter two 8-inch-diameter cake pans. (Jill's note: I had only a large casserole dish, so what you see in my pictures is much thicker than probably intended.) Set aside 1/4 cup sliced green onions. Toss remaining green onions, cheese, flour, thyme, salt and pepper in medium bowl to blend.
  • Layer 1/6 of potatoes in concentric circles in bottom of 1 prepared pan, overlapping slightly. Layer 1/4 of squash in concentric circles atop potatoes. Drizzle with 1 teaspoon oil. Sprinkle with 1/6 of cheese mixture. Repeat with 1/6 of potatoes, then 1/4 of squash and 1 teaspoon oil. Sprinkle with 1/6 of cheese mixture. Top with 1/6 of potatoes. Drizzle with 1 teaspoon oil. Sprinkle with 1/6 of cheese mixture and press gently to flatten. Repeat procedure with second cake pan and remaining potatoes, squash, oil, and cheese mixture. (Jill's note: If you find it confusing it might be easier to think of it like this if you're making just one pan of it. Layer like this: potatoes, squash, oil, cheese mix, potatoes, squash, oil, cheese mix, potatoes, oil, cheese mix.)
  • Cover pans with foil. Bake until potatoes are almost tender, about 40 minutes. Remove foil; bake uncovered until tortes begin to brown and potatoes are tender, about 25 minutes longer. (Can be made 6 hours ahead. Cool. Cover with foil and chill. Rewarm, covered with foil, in 350°F oven until heated through, about 30 minutes.)
  • Cut each torte into wedges. Sprinkle wedges with 1/4 cup green onions; serve. (Jill's note: Serve with a dollop of sour cream, too, if you wish!)

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Polish Pickles

How beautiful my pickles!
(I JUST learned how to caption pics in blogger)
My fridge has been taken over by cucumbers. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a good thing, I enjoy a cuke now and then. And I’ve been finding some creative ways to cook with them (see fried cucumbers). The point of this blog and joining my farm share was for a culinary adventure -- try something new, be inspired by new things, and experiment. So with the idea of experimentation in mind, I decided to attempt to make pickles.

A personal note about pickles: I’m a very picky pickle eater. I like them crunchy and I like them flavorful. I detest those thin little pickles you get in a jar that taste like mush. Bleh! I rarely eat the pickles that come alongside a sandwich in a restaurant because I am skeptical about them. I like a nice crisp, garlicky, dill pickle that has a kick. I suppose I am certifiably a pickle snob. My dad used to make pickles when I was younger, using the whole cucumber and jarring them in our basement for months in a brine of salt, whole garlic, and onions. Now THOSE were pickles. The recipe he used was an old Ukrainian recipe that I can only assume was passed down from my grandmother. Though I thought about trying that old time recipe, I really have no place to put 20 jars of pickles.

I used 4 pretty big cucumbers
Alas, I was looking for something a little…. Easier. I searched the web and came up with a huge variety of pickle recipes, really, it was a number that blew my mind. Who knew there were so many ways of creating pickles? Jarring them, letting them sit from anywhere to a day to weeks, different flavors, styles, my oh my. I was really beginning to get overwhelmed.

I sliced them into rounds
Then destiny struck. My weekly farm share newsletter came with a pickle recipe! An OVERNIGHT pickle recipe! Not to mention the recipe originated with a Polish guy named Joe who used to make the pickles and bring them into the American Legion. Now I know Polish people, (I mean I am half Polish after all), and we are picky about our pickles (see above). Knowing this recipe came from Joe made me confident in their greatness. And oh gosh, they just seemed so easy!

The hardest part about this recipe? Waiting overnight to try a pickle! I know, patience is not my strong suit…. Just think how bad it would have been waiting for a few weeks. Yikes.

The large jar before pouring in the liquid
I followed all directions carefully (though I ended up using 4 cucumbers, not the amount they suggested… maybe my cukes were much bigger than what they recipe had intended). I sliced some of the cucumbers I got pickle rounds and then I also made some spears for variety. The liquid mixture was perfect to fill a tall canister and a shorter canister that I had on hand.

Tick, tick, tick, 24 hours went by… then I popped open one of my jars of pickles from the fridge. I was nervous. I really wanted them to be good. And they were! They were wonderfully crispy and had an impressive garlicy, dill, seasoning kick that is just delicious! I have been snacking on them ever since! I suggest you make some, maybe for a party or picnic or just for fun.

Na Zdrowie! Happy pickling!

Oh how yummy!
Ingredients & Directions --

  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 6 cups water
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup salt
  • Bring to a boil and let cool.
  • Add:
  • 1 tbsp. pickling spice
  • 1 tbsp. mustard seed
  • 15 to 18 cucumbers, sliced
  • 1 onion
  • As much garlic and dill as you want (I sprinkled in crushed garlic and dill after each layer of pickles.)
  • Layer cucumbers, onions, garlic and dill in a gallon jug in multiple layers.
  • Pour liquid into jar and refrigerate overnight. Keep refrigerated.
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