Tag Archives: fresh herbs

CSA Week 5: Stuffed Zucchini and Herbed Polenta

My weekly farm boxes are getting bigger and heavier! As summer squash and root vegetables start to ripen I’m going to need to get myself a pack mule (or just take my teenagers so they can carry the load)! My CSA box for week five included lettuce, kale, beets, NINE (!) zucchini, three cucumbers, blueberries, green beans, cabbage, and japanese eggplant. My new favorite breakfast has become sautéed mixed veggies with scrambled eggs. This uses up a lot of veggies, but there are still plenty left!

While I’ve never been a huge fan of squash in general, I’m starting to like it more and more, which is a good thing, since it seems to be a plentiful ingredient in my weekly mystery boxes. I’ve come to really enjoy zucchini, mostly because it’s just so darn versatile! It’s got a very mild flavor of its own, which makes it perfect for cooking with other things with stronger flavors. It just takes on the taste of whatever you cook it with. By cooking these in “boat” form instead of chopping them up, the zucchini stays nice and firm and absorbs all the yummy tastes of whatever you stuff it with. I had some salami on its last legs and wonderful feta and those big flavors paired so nicely with the more mild zucchini. You could stuff yours with whatever meats, veggies and/or cheeses you have on hand or try this combo. I made a nice creamy polenta to go with it. You can keep it plain and simple, or mix in a bunch of fresh herbs and veggies to bump up the flavor.

Stuffed Zucchini and Herbed Polenta

Stuffed Zucchini and Herbed Polenta

Stuffed Zucchini

3-4 zucchini, cut in half lengthwise
1/4 cup chopped salami or pepperoni
1/4 cup chopped feta
1/4 cup chopped tomatoes
Salt & pepper

Cut eat zucchini in half, lengthwise. Scoop out some of the seeds, making a boat to hold the filling. Chop up some or all of the scooped zucchini. Put in a small bowl with salami, feta and tomatoes and lightly mix. Heap the filling into the zucchini boats. Sprinkle with a bit of salt & pepper. Bake at 375˚ for 10-15 minutes, until zucchini is tender.

Herbed Polenta

1 cup dry polenta
1 clove garlic
1/2 cup mushrooms
1/4 cup red onion
1/4 cup fresh herbs, chopped fine (I used a mixture of chives, parsley, basil & thyme)
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
2 tbsp. butter
Salt & pepper

Bring 3 cups of water to a boil. Add polenta. Turn heat down to low and cover. Cook 5-10 minutes until liquid is absorbed. While polenta is cooking, saute onion, garlic and mushrooms in another pan. Remove polenta from heat and stir in mushroom mixture, herbs, cheese, butter and salt & pepper. Mix well. Serve immediately.

Note: After cooling, polenta will solidify into a block, which you can then slice and pan fry or bake or broil. I usually save the leftovers and pan fry it with eggs for breakfast.

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CSA Week 3: Spiced Steelhead Salad with Herby Ranch

This week’s farm box brought a strange and new gift – kohlrabi! I had never tried this and didn’t have a clue as to what to do with it. A quick Facebook post yielded lots of advice. Since I had two big bulbs of it, no reason not to try it several ways. Raw, it reminds me a lot of jicama. Crisp and crunchy, somewhat radish-like, perfect for salads. I decided to use one bulb raw in salads, pickle a bit of it for rice bowls, and cook the rest with potatoes. So far, I’m a fan!

This salad used a ton of veggies and herbs I had on hand, but feel free to change it up according to your fridge’s contents.

If you don’t have steelhead available, salmon is a great substitute.

Spiced Steelhead with a Big Salad

Spiced Steelhead Salad with Herby Ranch

Spiced Steelhead Salad with Herby Ranch

Fish:
4 Steelhead or salmon fillets
1/2 tsp. allspice
1/2 tsp. paprika
Salt & pepper

Salad:
Lettuce
Kohlrabi, peeled and diced
Zucchini, diced
Cherry tomatoes, halved

Dressing:
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup fresh herbs, finely chopped (I used a mixture of chives, parsley, basil & mint)
Salt & pepper
Pinch of cayenne
Pinch of paprika
1 clove garlic, finely minced

Mix dressing ingredients and put in the fridge to chill until everything is ready.

Rub fish with spice mixture. Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add fish to the pan, skin side up (if there is skin on it). Cook a few minutes and then flip and cook 3-4 minutes on the other side, until fish flakes easily with a fork.

While the fish is cooking, toss together salad ingredients. Serve fish on top of salad (I removed the skin first since I don’t like to eat it), drizzle with dressing and you are good to go! Refrigerate any leftover dressing, it will keep for about a week.

CSA Box #3. The kohlrabi is that funky bulb thing with the tentacles!

CSA Box #3. The kohlrabi is that funky bulb thing with the tentacles!

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Creamy Orzo Pilaf

I like rice pilaf.  It goes with anything. I’ve always thought “pilaf” was just a fancy way of saying rice with stuff in it to make it more interesting. Some rice pilaf (particularly the kind you get in a box) comes with not-rice that looks like rice, but it’s actually a noodle! And that lovely stuff is orzo. It is always my favorite part.  So I figured I would make my rice pilaf with orzo instead. And to get really decadent, I finished it with a little cream just to make it a little more saucy.  The result? A cross between pilaf and alfredo, with some fresh veggies and herbs thrown in for brightness.

I threw this together as a quick side dish the other night, but we all liked it so much, next time I’m going to add some grilled chicken or shrimp to it and call it dinner!

Creamy Orzo

Creamy Orzo Pilaf

Creamy Orzo Pilaf

1 cup dry orzo
1-2 tomatoes, diced
Small handful of basil, chopped
Small handful of fresh parsley, chopped
1 tbsp. olive oil
1/4-1/2 cup whipping cream
Salt & pepper to taste
1/4 cup parmesan

Cook orzo according to package directions (usually 8-10 minutes, until tender). Drain well and add to a bowl with all other ingredients (start with 1/4 cup of cream and add more if you want it more saucy).  Mix well and serve hot or cold.

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Herb-Roasted Root Veggies

I’ve been LOVING the fall veggies this year.  That means much experimenting with cooking and combining them in different ways with awesome results!  This is a simple mixture of roasted root veggies that you can mix and match however you’d like.  I used beets, white sweet potatoes and carrots, but if you like something else better (or don’t like some that I used), any root vegetables would work great in this.  I do this all the time with regular potatoes or just carrots, but this is definitely a nice twist.  The sweeter veggies actually caramelize as they cook, making this a sweet and savory treat indeed.  My kids gobbled up huge piles of these.  If you’re looking for an interesting but easy side dish for Thanksgiving, look no further.  These are as gorgeous to look at as they are delicious.

Herb-Roasted Root Veggies.  As beautiful as they are delicious!

Herb-Roasted Root Veggies. As beautiful as they are delicious!

Herb-Roasted Root Veggies

1 large white sweet potato
2 large beets
6 large carrots
Olive oil
Fresh herbs (I used rosemary, thyme and sage), chopped
Salt & pepper

Heat oven to 400˚.  Peel vegetables and chop into similar size pieces (about the size of a french fry).  Lay out on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil.  Scatter herbs on top, add a dash of kosher salt and a few grinds of pepper.  Toss about with your fingers and spread out evenly.

All ready to roast.  Minimal tossing will prevent the beets from turning everything pink.

All ready to roast. Minimal tossing will prevent the beets from turning everything pink.

Roast for 30-40 minutes, stirring once about halfway through.  Veggies are done when they are tender and starting to brown on the edges.  Serves 4.

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Citrus-Herb Roasted Chicken

When I was a kid, every once in a while we’d pick up a bucket of chicken for dinner.  This was a real treat.  I liked the chicken and LOVED the mashed potatoes that always accompanied it.  I’m not such a fan anymore.  It’s been this way for a number of years, ever since that fateful day as a teen when I dived into the bucket for my favorite piece – the drumstick – and came away with a drumstick…and a gnarly, extra crispy chicken foot still attached.  Yikes.

These days, I would probably be less squeamish about the foot, but more so about the quality of the food and the unhealthy way it’s cooked at most fast food places.  Besides, I always felt shorted on the drumstick front.  A whole bucket of chicken and most of it not what I wanted.  It makes so much more sense to cook it myself.  I like to buy the “family pack” of chicken legs and cook that whole sucker up all at once.  It usually makes enough for 2-3 meals for my little family, or it’s great if you’re feeding a crowd.

This is an easy recipe and it turned out so pretty!  I recommend marinating the chicken for a few hours (or all day) but you don’t have to if you don’t have time.  I wanted the texture to be similar to a roasted chicken so I packed them all together in a roasting dish.  For quicker cook times and more crispy chicken, you can lay them out on a baking sheet instead.  But this made for a pretty presentation and the chicken was melt-in-your-mouth tender.

Citrus-Herb Roasted Chicken.  So yummy!

Citrus-Herb Roasted Chicken. So yummy!

Citrus-Herb Roasted Chicken
(slightly adapted from thecomfortofcooking.com)

1/4 cup olive oil
4 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tablespoons sugar
2 whole lemons, one juiced and zested, and one sliced
2 whole oranges, one juiced and zested, and one sliced
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
12-20 pieces chicken drumsticks (and/or thighs)
1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon dried or fresh thyme
1 tablespoon dried or fresh rosemary

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a small bowl whisk together olive oil, garlic, sugar, lemon juice and zest, orange juice and zest, Italian seasoning, paprika, red pepper flakes, and a pinch of salt and pepper.  Add marinade to a large plastic bag or baking dish (I prefer to use a plastic bag for marinated since it’s easy to rotate and get the marinade on all the parts equally.  I set the bag inside a baking dish just in case it leaks).

Place chicken in a large casserole dish.  Since my pan was the deeper sort, I placed my chicken so the small ends were down in the bottom and the larger ends poked up (think chicken leg bouquet). Place parts skin side up and spread them out evenly in the pan. Pour marinade all over chicken, turning pieces to coat all sides. Arrange slices of lemon, orange and onion around and under the chicken. Sprinkle all over generously with thyme, rosemary, salt and pepper.

All ready to pop in the oven.

All ready to pop in the oven.

Bake uncovered for about 1 hour – hour & 15 minutes, or until chicken is cooked and juices run clear. (If you use breasts for this recipe, the cooking time should only be around 40 minutes). Remove to a serving platter and garnish with additional chopped fresh herbs, if desired.

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Herb Roasted Turkey

When I lived in the middle of the country, far away from my family, I cooked Thanksgiving dinner most years for my own little family and in-laws.  And although many people complain about such a task, I always loved it.  I enjoyed having people enjoying my food, and of course when you’re the cook, you get all your favorite dishes. 🙂  Now, I’m back in the Pacific Northwest, surrounded by family and thrilled to be here.  But since Thanksgiving is no longer at my house, I’ve found that I rarely cook turkey.  Which is a shame, because it’s pretty darn good.  And it’s not just for Thanksgiving.

I had a turkey in my freezer that I bought around Thanksgiving when it was on sale.  I decided there was nothing wrong with eating turkey in springtime so I roasted that sucker the other day.  The rest of the meal did not resemble Thanksgiving, since eating like that should definitely be limited to once a year.  But this is pretty much how I cook turkey for any occasion.  What leftovers don’t end up on a sandwich the next day get packed in ziplock bags in my freezer to be used in soups, pot pies and whatever else.

Everybody has their favorite method for cooking turkey.  Some brine, some smoke, some deep fry.  I am a huge fan of roasting bags.  They reduce the cooking time and always yield a perfectly roasted, juicy turkey.  Plus they make clean up a snap.

Herb-Roasted Turkey

Herb Roasted Turkey

Herb Roasted Turkey

1 whole turkey
1/2 stick butter, softened
2 tbsp olive oil
2-3 tbsp. fresh rosemary
2-3 tbsp. fresh sage
2-3 tbsp. fresh thyme
Salt & pepper
Roasting bag – turkey size
1 tsp. flour

Preheat oven to 350˚.  Finely chop all herbs.  In a small bowl mash together the butter, olive oil, and chopped herbs, along with a pinch of salt & pepper.  Set aside.

Butter & herb mixture.

Butter & herb mixture.

Get out a turkey size cooking bag (I use the Reynolds bags) and lay it in a large roasting pan.  The directions on the bag say to add a spoonful of flour to the bag so I always do, although I’m not sure if it’s actually necessary.  I figure it just contributes to the good gravy in the end.  If you’re gluten-free you can probably skip it or use gluten-free flour.  Place the turkey in the bag.  Using your hands, loosen the skin over the breast and drumsticks, wherever you can reach.  Be gentle, and try not to tear the skin.  Rub the butter and herb mixture under the skin and all over the outside of the turkey as well.  I usually add another few grinds of salt & pepper on the outside as well.

Don't be shy, get that butter and herb mixture all over under and over the skin for maximum flavor.

Don’t be shy, get that butter and herb mixture all over under and over the skin for maximum flavor.

Seal bag and tuck end down into the pan.  Cut a couple of small slits in the bag so steam can escape.  Cook according to the bag instructions.  For my turkey (14 pounds, unstuffed), this meant 2 – 2 1/2 hours, until a meat thermometer in the thigh hits 180˚.  Then take it out and let it rest at least 20 minutes.  This is an important step, do not skip it!  Letting the turkey rest will result in a more juicy bird.  I use this time to make gravy, mash the potatoes, make the salad, etc.

To make gravy, cut off one corner of the cooking bag and drain turkey juice into a saucepan.  Mix up a bit of water or milk with a few tablespoons of cornstarch.  Bring liquid to a boil, then whisk in cornstarch mixture.  Taste and add salt & pepper if needed.  Serve with turkey (and mashed potatoes of course!).

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Seared Scallops with Orzo & Herb Butter Sauce

My kids are out of town and I was feeling like giving myself a little treat.  So I made myself a fancy dinner, poured a glass of wine and watched R rated shows all evening.  It was lovely.

After cooking this dish, I was so impressed with myself I sent a photo of my plate to a friend and received the reply that it looked like something you’d pay $25 for in a restaurant!  And even better, it tasted like it too.  Simple to prepare, but elegant and oh, so delicious.

Seared Scallops with Herb Butter Sauce, served with Orzo & Snap Peas

Seared Scallops with Orzo & Herb Butter Sauce
(adapted from Cooking Light)

3/4  cup uncooked orzo
2 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley (divided)
2 tbsp. chopped fresh chives (divided)
2 tsp. olive oil
1/8 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 cup shredded parmesan
1 – 1 1/2 pounds large sea scallops (3-4 per person)
1/3 cup dry white wine
1 tbsp. chopped shallots
1 tbsp. white wine or sherry vinegar
3 tbsp. chilled butter, cubed
1 tsp. chopped fresh thyme

Cook orzo according to package directions and drain.  Return to pan, stir in 1 tbsp. parsley, 1 tbsp. chives, olive oil, salt and parmesan. Keep warm.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Sprinkle scallops with salt & pepper.  Drizzle a bit of olive oil in the skillet, heat for a minute and then add scallops to the pan.  Cook 3 minutes on each side or until browned.  Remove from pan and keep warm.  Combine wine, shallots  and vinegar in a saucepan; bring to a boil. Cook 5 minutes or until liquid is reduced to 1 tbsp.  Reduce heat to low.  Add butter cubes, one at a time, whisking after each addition until butter is fully incorporated.  Stir in remaining herbs and 1/8 tsp. each of salt & pepper.  Drizzle over scallops and orzo.  Serves 4.

Seared Scallops…mmmmm!

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Fresh & Creamy Cucumber Salad

I love people who are really good at growing gardens.  I’m not one of those people, although I always make an effort.  But it is very wise to be friends or be related to those people.  I especially like it when they plant cucumbers. For some reason, people who plant cucumbers never expect the volume of cukes that grow.  So they quickly get sick of eating cucumbers.  And they give them to me instead. 🙂

I was thrilled to discover a new recipe for cucumber salad.  This one is quick and creamy and just plain mouthwatering.  And though I may not be good at growing cucumbers, I’m great at growing herbs.  I’m planting dill and mint this weekend just to have on hand for this.  I made this to go with my Quinoa-Stuffed Tomatoes the other day, but I think it would go with just about anything.

Fresh & Creamy Cucumber Salad

Fresh & Creamy Cucumber Salad
(adapted from Cooking Light) 

1/4 cup plain yogurt
2 tsp. dried dill
2 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp. chopped fresh mint
2 tsp. dijon mustard
1/4 tsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1 garlic clove
2 large cucumbers, thinly sliced
1/2 cup red onion, thinly sliced

In a blender or food processor combine all ingredients except cucumbers and onions.  Process until smooth.  Toss with sliced cucumbers and onions in a large bowl.  Best when made right before you eat.

Quinoa-Stuffed Tomatoes with Fresh & Creamy Cucumber Salad

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