Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Beefy Golden Beet Borscht

Golden beets were a wonderful addition to our vegetable box last week. I loves me some golden beets!

A quick survey of the refrigerator contents revealed all the makings for a hearty beefy vegetable borscht, which was one of the favorite ethnic dishes my mom use to make for my dad. Borscht contains a lot of root vegetables, including beets, carrots, potatoes, and onions, plus celery and cabbage. The main seasoning is dill. My sister likes to make a vegetarian version using the traditional red beets, but I like a hearty beef stock for the base and I have become partial to the golden beet variety that we often get in our SLO Veg deliveries. The only thing I needed from the store today was a cheap cut of beef with some good bones! I found a small rack of beef back ribs--four good bones and enough meat for pot of soup.

Preparation super easy, but the thing that really complimented this borscht was the dill rye bread I located on the grocery shelf. My mom really appreciated a good rye bread. I guess her mother use to make bread every Saturday for their entire week. Dark rye was her real favorite. The rye bread it is tonight!

I first sliced an onion and put it on the bottom of the crock pot. Then I seasoned the rack of ribs with a salt-pepper-garlic blend and laid it on top of the onion rings, fat side down. I set the crockpot on high and let that all cook for a bit. That method browned the onions a bit, and got the meat browned as well. After about an hour, I added six cups of water, four diced potatoes, three sliced carrot, and two diced ribs of celery, along with some dill weed seasoning, and let the crockpot do its magic. Meanwhile, three beets were in the oven wrapped in foil to roast for an hour at 400 degrees. I find roasting the beets really brings out a nice flavor. I would add the beets to the crock pot during the last hour of cooking, along with the shredded cabbage. Just prior to adding the beets, I pulled out the rack of ribs and removed all the meat, which at this point literally fell of the bone. The meat all went back into the crock, along with the beets and cabbage. A little more salt and pepper, plus a dash of red wine vinegar, completed this soup.

I use some large-sized pasta bowls for serving and put out some sour cream on the side. I will try to upload a picture on Facebook, because this blog will only allow one photo these days.

Beefy Golden Beet Borscht

Small rack beef ribs

One onion, sliced into rings

6 cups water

1 tsp ea salt, pepper and granulated garlic seasoning

3 golden beets, roasted, diced

3 carrots, sliced

2 celery ribs, sliced

4 russet potatoes, diced

1/2 head green cabbage, chopped

2 Tbs red wine vinegar

Wrap beets in foil after drizzling with oil and a sprinkle of coarse salt. Bake for one hour at 400 degrees. Cool, peel and dice into bite-sized pieces. 

Put sliced onions in crock pot. Place seasoned rack of ribs on top, fat side down. Set on high and cook for one hour. Add 6 cups water, potatoes, carrots and celery, plus 1 Tbs dill weed. Cook on high for 4-5 hours, or low for 7-8 hours.  

Remove beef ribs and pull meat off bones. Disgard bones. Put meat back into crock. Add beets and cabbage and red wine vinegar. Cook on high for 30 minutes until cabbage is wilted. Serve in bowls with a dollop of sour cream and some buttered rye bread.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

What's in Season? It's What's for Dinner!

Since I have been blogging here for almost two years about our SLO Veg produce, I am starting to notice I am repeating some recipes. Often there is a new twist or two, but its, you know, the same kind of vegetables or fruits, more or less. Its season-driven, and I am beginning to learn what to look forward to getting in the box.

One of the best ways to plan a menu is knowing what is in season. Usually its whatever is featured on sale in the grocery store ads. For us these days, its whatever comes in our box, since the produce is all locally grown. That's fun! Its why we have watermelon and berries in the summer and pumpkin pies for Thanksgiving, with a mainstay supply of kale, strawberries and broccoli and bok choy, because they seem to have an almost year-round growing season here. We also get lots of apples, oranges or other citrus on a regular basis. Since we also signed up for the fresh fish from the partnering SLO Fresh Catch, we are able to sample a nice variety of ocean fish caught right out of Morro Bay. Yes, we are spoiled!

I do have to supplement from local markets, because every week I need a variety of onions, potatoes, carrots, and salad ingredients. I also need things like eggs, yogurt, canned tuna, mayonnaise, mustard, peanut butter, chicken, cheese, tortillas, butter and bread. Some shrimp, pork and beef are nice to have, as well. Pantry essentials include rice, quinoa, pasta, flour, sugar, salt, pepper, broth, diced tomatoes, beans, vinegar, oil, and bread crumbs. I try to keep my pantry and freezer stocked with these staples.

But when we get our delivery of seasonal produce, it all comes to life! We can have fish tacos with fresh cilantro and red peppers, zucchini and tomatoes with basil, lettuce wraps with Asian turkey meat filling, green peppers stuffed with rice, apples and onions with brats and so on.

Getting this produce delivered has certainly expanded my cooking repertoire and sent me in search of recipes, spices and cooking vessels to create dishes with just the right flair. It brought me out of a deep cooking rut where I made the same 10 meals right out of my battered Betty Crocker cookbook. I have learned a lot about flavor profiles, so I know better what to combine or substitute in my recipes and I can whip up a meal almost effortlessly.

Last night we had pulled pork with roasted brussel sprouts and spaghetti squash on the side. Tonight we are having an Italian beefy vegetable minestrone soup so I can use up the last of my zucchini and spinach (also because the foccachia bread I had got hard and is more of a crouton-perfect for soup!). Wednesday it will be pork carnitas tacos with sauteed peppers and onions, and Thursday will be some kind of pasta with lots of veggies in there. I want to roast the cauliflower, but that might have to wait. I saw Rachel's post for a Buffalo cauliflower. How great is that? Need to try it, for sure, with bleu cheese dressing for dipping. Maybe I will share that one with my girlfriends when we get together.

The recipes ideas are endless, always with a twist. Here is to happy eating!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Thai Fish Tacos with Peanut Sauce and Carrot Slaw

Last Saturday night, I somehow found myself home alone, with no men-folk to feed or fuss over, no daughters to hang out with, and no girlfriends to rehash our lives with over coffee, so....I decided to take myself out for dinner and a movie. 

I checked out the movie listings and spied the new Robert Downey Jr. movie, The Judge, was playing at a downtown theater. Perfect! Robert Duvall was also on the ticket, along with Billy Bob Thornton, so it had to be good. Of course, I could just judge that for myself, now, couldn't I? (he he).

Dinner first. What was nearby? Oh, just my personal favorite, Splash Cafe. Its a local eatery that specializes in clam chowder, fish n chips, and burgers, but they also bake breads and pastries, and their lunchtime combo of a half sandwich and cup of chowder is hard to beat for under $10 (or over $10, for that matter). But fish tacos were on special this night for $2 apiece, with a small bread bowl of chowder for another $5. Perfect for my solo date night with myself. They offered the tacos in their original, Baja or Thai styles...Thai??? Sounds great!

What I got was tender, grilled chunks of cod served on two corn tortillas with cabbage, shredded carrots, diced green onions, strips of red bell pepper, and leaves of basil and cilantro, all drizzled with a spicy Thai peanut sauce that made me lick my lips, my fingers, and my paper basket liner. I would definately be ordering these tacos again, but better yet, I could try to recreate it at home! 

Then I went to the theater and cried through most of the movie, with some intermittent laughter at the surprises woven into the lovely human interactions. Romance, struggle, laughter, redemption...everything I look for in a movie. I thought it was a well done movie and enjoyed it all the way through the last of the credits. In all, a great date night.

So on Monday night, when my hub had returned from the car races and our roommate and our son would be home for the evening as well, I made this:

I had some Sand Sole from our SLO Veg delivery that had been put in the freezer for just this occasion. Thin, white fish filets that I coated in seasoned flour and pan fried in butter until the coating was crisp and the fish was flakey. I was out of cabbage, so I lined the heated tortllas with butter lettuce and layered on a carrot slaw that I had mixed with a couple of tablespoons of sesame-ginger dressing right out of the bottle. I searched the refrigerator's vegetable bins for slaw additions: I chopped up some green onions, red bell peppers, basil and cilantro leaves and added a dash of celery seed, which was the roommate's idea. He has some pretty good food instincts, for a guy. I made my own peanut sauce, however, using a cup of peanut butter, some soy sauce, fish sauce, lime juice, sweet chili sauce, Siracha sauce, garlic, ginger, and brown sugar. I could have made my own slaw dressing with sesame oil, ginger and rice vinegar, but I think I mentioned that I was out of rice vinegar. Could've used white vinegar, I guess, but I had the bottled stuff. I think you can follow heating the tortillas, mixing up a carrot slaw with anything else you have in the frig and pan-frying some fish filets, but here is the recipe for a wonderful, finger-licking and versatile, no-cook Thai peanut sauce. 

Thai Peanut Sauce


1 1/2 cups creamy peanut butter

1/2 cup coconut milk

3 tablespoons water

3 tablespoons fresh lime juice

3 tablespoons soy sauce

1 tablespoon fish sauce

1 tablespoon Siracha sauce

1 tablespoon sweet chili sauce

1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger root

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro


1. In a blender, mix the peanut butter, coconut milk, water, lime juice, soy sauce, fish sauce, hot sauce, ginger, and garlic. Mix in the cilantro just before serving

(I am using the leftover peanut sauce on some Thai chicken and noodles tonight. Just cooking some pasta, browning chunks of chicken breast, and mixing it all together with the peanut sauce. Might add some leftover green beans, too.)

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Kale soup

I found a hearty kale soup recipe the other day that fit my needs perfectly, because its fast to make on a week night after work. I had the curly-leaf kale, some carrots, potatoes, onions and beans on hand, plus a nice fresh loaf of French bread. Soup makings if I ever saw it!

I pretty much followed this recipe, except I only used the one kind of bean (red kidney beans) and added some cooked, diced brat sausage chunks. I also did not bother to blenderize the beans that were leftover from another meal. I flavored the broth with fresh rosemary and mint, and some red wine vinegar, and it had a nice degree of complexity for all of its simplicity.

An added bonus was having enough soup to take to work the next day!

 Two-Bean Soup with Kale | -

Kale Soup

2 Tbs Olive Oil

2 Tbs butter

1/2 onion, chopped

2 ribs celery, chopped

3 carrots, peeled and diced

1/2 tsp salt

2 cloves garlic, smashed

4 Cups water

2 tsp vegetable or chicken boullion

5 small red potatoes, diced into bite-sized chunks

1 15oz. can red kidney beans, undrained

1 large bunch kale, chopped

2 links cooked chorizo or other sausage, diced

1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper

1 Tbs. red wine vinegar

1 tsp fresh rosemary and mint leaves, minced

Cooking directions:

Boil potatoes in water with boullion added for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, saute onions, celery and carrots (mirepoix) in olive oil and butter until onions are translucent. Add salt, garlic and rosemary and cook for one more minute until fragrant. 

Add mirepoix to potato pot; then using the same saute pan, saute the chopped kale for 2-3 minutes until it just begins to wilt.  Add the kale to the soup pot, along with kidney beans, red wine vinegar, mint, and sausage. Season with fresh ground pepper to taste.

Serve with hot, buttered French bread slices and a glass of your favorite wine.