Category Archives: arugula

Cheese Biscuits + Toppings

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Do yourself a favor and go buy yourself a squash. Any variety. Roast it until soft and then some, cut side down in plenty of butter so it gets all caramelly. Wait til it cools, a bit anyway, then eat it.

I have made a personal goal to get tired of squash this season. I foresee eating squash almost every day. Those of you who are thinking this will not be difficult don’t know how much I like squash. We shall see.

However, this post is not about squash. This post is about making do with what you have and enjoying it tremendously.

My summer CSA concluded last week. Fear not, I have signed up for a winter share as well. Sad as this may be, I was gone over the weekend and so I ended up having a bunch of extra veggies that needing using up even more than usual, namely some arugula and mesclun that was beginning to turn yellow. The worst. I also had some tomatoes from a co-worker’s garden a long while ago that she picked green, and they finally became ripe on my countertop, and were even starting to get a little wrinkly. Read: required roasting.

The other part of this story is that I made soup yesterday (veggies + lentils; good but nothing exciting) and what it really needed was some cheese biscuits, and fortuitously I also had some cheese that needed to be eaten. So, cheese biscuits it was. But I didn’t want the soup for dinner again tonight because I had it for lunch, so I plan to enjoy it with biscuits tomorrow at work lunch again, toasting the biscuits in the toaster oven.

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That still left dinner tonight. Arugula + cheese biscuits + roasted tomatoes? Sure, why not? Throw on a little mustard-apple cider vinegar vinaigrette and you are good to go.

It turned into almost a fancy, vegetarian BLT. Except that it feels a little insulting to call it that, like you substituted bacon and let’s face it, substitutes for bacon are just not as good as the real thing. This particular sandwich (to use the term lightly) was in no need whatsoever of bacon. The cheese in the biscuits left enough salty crispness, the arugula and the mustard provided a nice sharp note, and the tomatoes were sweet and flavorful.

Thinking about it later, I realized that some of my most satisfying meals, and culinary adventures, have been figuring out what to do with ingredients on hand, rather than planning ahead of time. Not that all of those always work out either, I think I’m conflating ideas that really are entirely independent. But it’s a nice thought anyway.

Really, I just want that to be true because it meshes with the idea of letting something else (i.e. the land/soil, which translates to your CSA box) dictate what you eat. I was reminded of this notion again today while catching up on the latest (and second ever) episode of Gastropod, a new podcast about the history and science of food (= win). The short of it is that ecosystems produce more than a single product, and a good chef will learn how to use all the pieces of that ecosystem in a cuisine. Not exactly relevant to what I was doing today, but something to aspire to, anyway. I do pretty well—butter, yogurt, flour, cheese (not this time but often) can all be local ingredients.

Cheese biscuits
8 Tbsp butter, cut into small pieces and chilled/frozen
2 1/2 cups flour (including 1 cup whole wheat if you want)
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup cheese (I used Jarlsburg; cheddar works well)
1 1/8 cups yogurt or buttermilk (I had to thin my yogurt with a little milk)

Preheat oven to 425ºF.

Mix together the dry ingredients. Add butter and cheese and squish the butter around briefly with your fingers so there aren’t any huge pieces (nothing larger than a pea is the general rule, although you could go a little bigger for this). You can also do this in a food processor, if you have one. Add the yogurt and mix until dough forms together. You can knead it BRIEFLY (i.e. as little as possible) to catch in the excess flour if need be.

Pat into about 3/4 inch thick round. Cut out circles with a cookie cutter or other round object of an appropriate size (I used a wine glass). You can make whatever size you want. Arrange on a baking sheet, with room to expand, and bake for around 20 minutes, until crisp and golden. (My oven started smoking at this point. I’m not sure if it was due to the biscuits or the tomatoes or something else, but always a little unsettling.) Remove from baking sheet and onto a cooling rack/into your stomach. Eat the first one with a little extra butter (if you feel like being excessive, in a good way. I love butter) or some honey or just hot and steaming without accoutrement.

You don’t need a recipe for roasted tomatoes or mustard vinaigrette do you? Well, fine: roast the tomatoes. (Done.) For the vinaigrette, spoon out some mustard into your salad bowl, sprinkle on a little vinegar, mix, then add a little olive oil. (Done.)

Put them all together (or not! This is excellent deconstructed. And has the benefit of not making the biscuits soggy) and mangez-vous.

(I also roasted a gorgeous purple cauliflower I picked up on the way home because I haven’t had cauliflower ALL SUMMER and it’s amazing and fantastic roasted with a little oil and salt. And garlic, which I forgot this time around but won’t again. Before and after roasting pics below.)

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On an unrelated note, I used to think life was about being happy but I came across this article from the Atlantic the other day and I’m not so sure that’s true. Do you have meaning in your life? Are you happy?

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Strawberry Arugula Goat Cheese Salad

Evidently I have a lot of arugula and strawberries. Which is what happens when you have a CSA. Let me explain Community Supported Agriculture as I understand it: basically, the community (i.e. consumer) is sharing the risk of farming with the farmer. You pay upfront for a certain amount of time (say, $350 for 18 weeks) and then each week (although winter ones are different because they are storage crops, and have pick-ups every fortnight or month) you go to the farm or to your pick-up location and collect a box of whatever happens to be in season. If it’s a good season, you will probably save money based on grocery-store prices (and the produce will be fresher and more delicious), although if it’s a bad season, you may not be enjoying as many vegetables as you hoped for. There are also meat, cheese, apple, and poultry (among others, I imagine) CSAs. It’s great for the farmers, because farming can be quite a costly investment and very dependent upon the weather, and the consumer gets super fresh in-season vegetables, sees the farm, probably will save money, and doesn’t have to make decisions at the grocery store. It helps me out a lot, because I don’t feel like I have to really plan menus for the week before going shopping – I just pick up my bags and discover what the week has in store for me. It’s fun because sometimes it does require a little ingenuity, but you get to experiment with ingredients and see what recipes and combinations you like best.

Also, what grows together, goes together. Which is certainly the case with this salad. We had some hot weather and I was really feeling salads, so I found this one by Mark Bittman (who is amazing, by the way, read his things).

P1010567Arugula can be tricky to deal with. In some ways it’s just like lettuce, but it is definitely a little bitter and can be spicy too, so not always for everyone. However, even tossing it lightly with a bit of vinegar does wonders at mitigating overly-strong flavors. You’ll be surprised.

Strawberry Arugula Goat Cheese Salad
Arugula
Strawberries, hulled and quartered
Balsamic vinegar
Black pepper
Salt
Olive oil
Fresh goat cheese

Toss the strawberries, pepper, and vinegar together and let them sit for about 10 minutes, maybe while you get out the cheese and or make some toast to go with it. Add the arugula, salt, and olive oil and toss some more, then top with the goat cheese. Enjoy!

Again, no amounts. Part of preparing food like salads for oneself  is making exactly however much you will eat – once it’s assembled, it won’t last that long, so better if you just finish it all at once. Also, you may prefer more or less vinegar, so you decide. Start with a teaspoon or so and go from there. Also, I put in some mesclun (which is the baby spring mix salad green variety) because I had some that needed using up: you are not limited to arugula.

I added the goat cheese because a) it is delicious and b) it’s an excellent way to make it into a full meal. I’m not a vegetarian but I don’t eat a lot of meat (it is delicious but much more expensive; and also a lot of meat these days has a questionable source and may be full of antibiotics and other problems. I call myself a part-time vegetarian). Some of you meat-and-potatoes folks might be a little skeptical, but salads can make very excellent meals. You will probably have to eat more volume, but they can be quite filling and if you add things like cheese (or nuts/seeds/chick peas, etc), lasting as well.

If you want to make this 4th-of-July appropriate, you could add blueberries, since it’s already got the red and white. They aren’t in season in Maine right now but you can find them frozen if you do want to get local ones. I would suggest putting them straight from the freezer into the vinegar with the strawberries (go easy on the blueberries though, they can easily overwhelm the other delicate flavors). Although you may end up with a purple and white salad rather than red, white, and blue.

 

Arugula pesto

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Apologies for the somewhat blurry photo – I’m working on my photography skills.

I have so many things to tell you I don’t know where to begin. So I’m just going start with today, and we’ll see where we go from there (if you’d like a little more of an intro, I just updated the “About” page). I picked up Week 2 of my CSA (community-supported agriculture, a farm share, for those of you who will be learning from this blog; more on that later) today. Mesclun, arugula, chard, cilantro, garlic scapes (which I’m extra thrilled about), radishes, Chinese cabbage, and an fantastic surprise, strawberries. Which were pick-your-own and I ended up with a huge rash which I hope is from the straw and not the berries (yep, it took me a while to make that connection too, but the bushes do grow in straw beds). Anyway, since I still had some arugula from last week, I decided to make one of my favorites of all things, pesto.

Pesto as I know it is basically some some of vegetable, olive oil, a hard cheese, some kind of nut (pine nuts are traditional for regular pesto, but other kinds work better with other ingredients), and garlic. It can be made out of pretty much anything, and is also super easy. I made kale pesto a few weeks ago, which I will tell you about soon, and plan to make garlic scape pesto, sundried tomato pesto, carrot top pesto, and of course classic basil pesto. Arugula pesto certainly has a stronger and I would say less coveted flavor, but it remains delicious and fresh and green and spreadable over pasta or on sandwiches with melted cheese, which is the whole point. Its bitterness also goes well with sweeter foods – I bit into a few cherries while eating and they added a nice balance. If you have dried fruit (figs go particularly well, my dad added them to an arugula pesto once) I would add them right into the pesto.

I made it in my mini-hand blender food processor, which is pretty much the best appliance ever: a hand blender, with attachments for a food processor and a whisk too. I use it with shocking frequency for pesto, nut butter, smoothies, frostings… I definitely don’t want this to turn into an advertisement but it was the best birthday present to myself ever (I spent a while looking around for sales). However, a regular food processor will work as well or better (especially for larger batches, I had to do this in a few parts because the bowl of this one is small). I’ve tried to make pesto with a knife before, and it can still taste good but it never gets as creamy.

Without further ado, here’s the recipe:

Arugula pesto
2 cups (packed) arugula
A few cloves of garlic, chopped loosely
About 1/2 cup of hard cheese like parmesan or asiago
About 1/2 cup toasted walnuts
3-4 Tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper
A few dried figs, if you want

Cook the garlic in the olive oil in the microwave for about 15 seconds (you can also sauté it if you prefer, but the microwave works fine for this). Place everything in a blender together and whir away. Scrape down the sides at some point, taste, and maybe vary the ratios of oil or other ingredients depending on what texture and flavors you like best.

You will notice that all these measurements are inexact. This is a) because I didn’t actually measure anything so I’m just guesstimating and b) to encourage you to decide what you like best. You can’t go too wrong. Cook up some pasta or make some toast and voilà! Dinner.

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(P1010587Note: I later ate it some with beet greens and beets and their sweetness was perfect with it. Recommended, although it looks weird.)

Pesto of all kinds freezes very well, so I like to make a fairly large batch and stick it in little labeled containers in my freezer for the wintertime. This is also useful if you are on your own and don’t want to eat buckets of pesto at once (it is easier to make in large batches). Although pesto tends to disappear reasonably quickly, since it has infinite uses (on pasta, grilled cheese, as a dip, mixed into salad dressing, etc).

After I finished the pesto I did end up freezing most of my strawberries, first on a baking sheet and then into bags so they don’t stick to each other, so I can have them for the wintertime as well (I think I mentioned smoothies…). Don’t worry, I kept some out for breakfast and dessert. Nom.

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