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Last Blog

April 15, 2013

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Nom de plume Francine Wolfe Schwartz

The last blog post for every farm season is the most difficult one for me to write.

I am selfishly thinking what am I going to eat organic and fresh for the next eight months waiting until next year’s harvest then I realize our farmers, Eva and Chris Worden, need time to nourish not only the farm but themselves and their family.

Finding inspiration while I’m wallowing is usually difficult but not this year.

Arriving every Wednesday at Worden farm for my CSA share I’ve happily listened to Mike playing the guitar and Donna’s gentle acoustical back-up as they both sing folk music.  (Yes, I’m the goof ball singing along as I choose my vegetables.)

About a month ago I heard “The Garden Song” by David Mallett.   If you are a folk music follower you’ve heard Pete Seeger and John Denver sing the song or  you might have heard the Muppets give the ballad fame on “Sesame Street”.

Listening to the  song’s lyrics stopped me from deciding whether I wanted zucchini or more lettuce.

The lyrics were describing the Wordens and Worden Farm.

If you haven’t heard the song in a long time or if it’s new to you these are a few lyrics from the first verse:

“Inch by inch, row by row

Gonna make this garden grow.

Gonna mulch it deep and low

Gonna make it fertile ground

Inch by inch row by row

Please bless these seeds I sow

Please Keep them safe below…”

I’d like to share with you the entire song’s lyrics but I have a feeling it would be an infringement of copyright laws if I did.  With this little snippet I’m sure you’re “gonna” research the song or if you’re lucky you’ll hear Mike and Donna sing it.

To me, the song’s lyrics describes the ten years of Worden Farm.

Ten is a magical year.

Turning ten means taking the giant leap from childhood to becoming a teenager jumping into the awkward stage where your feet are bigger than you and the craving to be treated less as a child and more as an adult is so strong that sometimes it’s all you can think about.

Asa, Eva and Chris Worden’s first born, celebrated his tenth birthday this year.  A phenomenon marked with cake, friends and family.

But the number ten holds even more magic at Worden Farm as 2013 marks the tenth anniversary Eva and Chris’ dream began to take seed.

To me, the poetry of the “Garden Song”  chorus – the planting your rows straight and long…if you allow Mother Earth to make you strong…giving her loving care describes Eva and Chris’ dream and what they live by.

To mark this special farm season enjoy photographs from the farm library  and several photographs shared by Donna Worden, Farmer Chris’ mom.

Welcome to Worden Farm

Welcome to Worden Farm

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You Can,Can! (Part Two)

April 8, 2013
Organic Carrots, Fresh from Worden Farm

Organic Carrots, Fresh from Worden Farm

Nom de plume Francine Wolfe Schwartz

NOTE: The information contained in this blog post is not a substitute for taking a canning class or reading and following the instructions in a creditable book. The following information is solely meant to provide background information and give you a little encouragement to try your hand at canning. You can, can!

Choose your recipe from a credible source.

In canning and all types of food preservation reliable and accurate recipes are very important. Canning recipes cannot be altered. Food preservation techniques are based on science and the balance of ingredients must not been changed or the instructions altered.

Choose your recipes from books and sources that are credible and up to date. Food safety practicing are updated regularly by the United States Department of Agriculture and they must be observed.

Poor food handling practices can result in DEADLY food poisoning. “IF IN DOUBT THROW IT OUT!”

As in all cooking and baking, read the recipe FIRST.

Timing is extremely crucial for maintaining safe food handling. Gather your equipment and ingredients making sure you have everything you will need before you begin.

Inspect all your equipment:

  • Inspect jars for craps, chips or uneven rims. Jars may need to be replaced when damaged from multiple use and storage.
  • Inspect the sealing bands. They rust whether you live in a tropical climate or arid desert. Even though they can be used several times just as with your jars multiple use and storage will damage them.
  • DISCARD any imperfect jars or sealing rings.
  • LIDS are a whole different story. They MUST, MUST, MUST be used only ONE time.

Here is some of my equipment for Boiling-Water Bath canning:

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Basic Boiling Water Bath canning equipment:
canning pot,cases of new canning jars,funnel, jar lifter,
10-inch tongs, a magnetic lid lifter,
plastic knife (not in photograph)

I have a range with a solid surface cook top. Unfortunately the burner heat will not maintain the constant temperature required to use a Pressure Canner. It is very important to establish with the manufacturer of your range that your cook-top is appropriate for canning.

The pot in the photographs is my new Boiling-Water Canner. Celia and I plan to take it on it’s maiden voyage in a few weeks . We plan to “put up” either berries or carrots.

Your first canning experience.

You may want to practice with carrots.

Celia teaches her students several canning techniques using various carrot recipes. Carrots are relatively inexpensive, are versatile and become sweeter with canning. Carrots make delicious pickles, preserves, chutneys or just plain canned carrots are handy to add last minute to stews and soups. Canned carrots are the perfect food for a treat for small children to nibble.

During the months I receive locally grown carrots in my Worden Farm Organic CSA basket I try to can as many as possible. Organic carrots in the grocery store loose there sweetness. They are shipped from who knows where and by the time they land in the produce section they’ve probably traveled enough miles to earn a free bus ticket.

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Peak inside my new canning pot. The rack in the bottom of the pot helps keep the jars from breaking or cracking.
It’s very important for your canning pot to be large enough to allow room between jars
and space to cover jars at least 2-inches with water.
By placing a rack at the bottom of a large stock will make “do” as a water bath canning pot.

Readying your jars, lids and sealing rings.

You should read and follow the recipe directions for the food you are canning. Again READ, READ, and READ before you begin. It is important at this point to arrange your assembly line on a counter next to your stove. If you do not have ample space in your kitchen, a counter height rolling cart is a good substitute.

Tip: A card table setup near your kitchen is a good place to organize your equipment.

I’ll be honest, the first time I canned I was a little stressed. But if you begin with a berry preserve a not so perfectly canned preserve can be reincarnated as syrup. (A paraphrased quote from Celia.)

The old saying about cleanliness holds even more truth in food preservation.

It is IMPERATIVE to be cleaner than clean. Canning equipment MUST be washed and jars and lids must be sterilized every time you are canning.

That includes brand spanking new equipment.

Jars

Rather than using my dishwasher to sterilize a small quantity of jars I wash my canning jars in EXTREMELY hot soapy water in the kitchen sink. Since I tend to small batch can using my dishwasher is a waste of water and electric energy.

This year I plan to put up many quarts of tomatoes. In this case the dishwasher will be much more efficient both in personal energy and electrical and water conservation. Quart jars maybe carefully placed in the dishwasher’s bottom rank. Just make sure the jars do not touch. During the wash cycle they may bang together causing chips or even breakage.

Oh one more thing-make sure when hand washing in the kitchen sink you rinse your canning jars , sealing lids and rings with extremely hot water to remove any soap residue. (Tip: I use rubber kitchen gloves when washing all my equipment. The gloves help me grip the jars and protect my hands from the extremely hot water.)

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Wash jars, lids, rings and all equipment well with HOT soapy water. Rinse well before using.

Sterilize your canning jars and lids.

All lids and jars must be sterilized with boiling water.

Jars

Fill a large a large deep pot with hot water. Bring the water to a rolling boil then reduce heat to a simmer to maintain a sterilizing water temperature.

Carefully lower the washed, well rinsed jars into large pot of boiling water using kitchen tongs with coated tips or a jar lifter to protect your hands from burning and to prevent the canning jars from breaking or chipping.

Lids

Some instructions say to place the lids in a bowl and pour boiling water over them. That will work but since I can with our home air-conditioning on the kitchen air tends to cool down causing the water to quickly loose a sterilizing temperature. I like to sterilize the lids by maintaining a sterilizing water temperature in a small saucepan simmering on the back burner.

A lid wand is very handy to lower and retrieve the lids from the water.

Get ready to fill jars and can. Dry and set aside the sealing rings.

Retrieving and emptying the water from the jars and retrieving the lids from the sterilizing water is a little awkward at first but you’ll get the technique once you do it a few times.

Your sealing bands (rings) that have been washed and rinsed should be set on a clean, clean, clean dish towel to dry. They must be well dried before using in the last step before your filled jars go in the canner.

When you are ready to begin the canning process lift and empty the jar from boiling water using a jar lifter or tongs. (Sorry no photo here. It’s a little tough to take photos of this technique and few other of the techniques by yourself. (Note to self: buy a tripod.)

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Carefully lower and retrieve lids from hot water with a magnetic lid lifter.

Set the emptied, retrieved jars on a CLEAN kitchen towel, insert a wide mouth canning funnel and ladle into the jar your first time ever recipe to can.

Use canning funnel to fill jars.

Use canning funnel to fill jars.

While your prepared recipe is simmering on the stove begin to ladle the food you are canning into the sterilized jars. Follow the recipe directions on filling.

Note: It is very important to leave the noted headspace in your recipe. (Headspace is the area above the ladled in food that allows for expansion during the canning process.) Using a ruler will give you an accurate measurement.

Remove air bubbles by sliding a NONmetallic utensil-a plastic knife works well, down the sides of the jar.

Use a CLEAN, dampened paper towel and wipe the rim of the jar well. Trash the damp paper towel often during the filling step and replace with a new one.

Place a sterilized lid on top of the jar with the sealing ring down towards the glass making sure to center it. Lightly screw on the ring. Do not over tighten.

To ready the jars for processing place them as you fill and top them on the canner rack or assemble near your adapted stock pot. Carefully lower the rack into the canner or use the jar lifter to lower the jars into your adapted stock pot.

Continue the canning process as instructed in the recipe. Observe the timing accurately. This is a very crucial step in safely preserving canned foods.

Raise processed jars with a jar lifter to safely raise jars out of a canner. Photography courtesy of Celia B. Hill, UF/IFAS Lee County

Safely raise processed canning jars from the canner
using a jar lifter.
Photograph courtesy of Celia B. Hill, UF/IFAS Lee County

After removing jars from water bath place jars on a clean dish towel then cover with another towel to allow the jars to gradually cool and seal.

After removing filled jars from water bath place jars on a folded clean dish towel.
Cover with another clean dish towel allowing jars to cool gradually undisturbed for at least 12-24 hours.

After jars have cooled completely, test each lid to determine if it sealed by pressing the center of the lid. It should be firmly in place.

If the lid is not sealed firmly, refrigerate the jar and eat within a few days do not reprocess.

Thoroughly wipe the jars, clean, label contents and date. Store in a cool, dry, preferably dark place for 9-12 months.

Do NOT eat processed jars used as a kitchen decoration.

photograph courtesy of Celia B. Hill, UF/IFAS Lee County

Pickled Carrots, “put up” to enjoy
throughout the year.
Photograph courtesy of Celia B. Hill,
UF/IFAS Lee County

UF/IFAS Lee

Pickled Carrots (about 4 pints)

Source: So Easy to Preserve

2 3/4 pounds, peeled carrots (about 3 1/2 pounds as purchased)

5 1/2 cups white vinegar (5%)

1 cup water

2 cups sugar

2 teaspoons canning salt

8 teaspoons mustard seed

4 teaspoons celery seed

Wash and peel carrots. Cut into rounds that are approximately 1/2-inch thick. Combine vinegar, water, sugar and canning salt in an 8-quart Dutch oven or stockpot.

Bring to a boil and boil 3 minutes. Add carrots and bring back to a boil. Then reduce heat to a simmer and heat until half-coked (about 10 minutes)

Meanwhile, place 2 teaspoons of mustard seeds and 1 teaspoon of celery seed into each empty clean sterilized pint jar.

Fill jars with hot carrots, leaving 1-inch headspace. Fill with hot pickling liquid, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Using a plastic knife or other flat plastic utensil, remove air bubbles and adjust headspace if needed.

Wipe rims of jars with a dampened clean paper towel. Adjust lids (but not tightened). Process 15 minutes in a Boiling Water-Canner.

Variation: Pickled Baby Carrots

Follow directions for Pickled Carrots, using 8 1/2 cups peeled baby carrots, leaving them whole, and use the same process time.

Blueberry and Lemon Preserves

Source: Around the Southern Table by Rebecca Lang

7 (8-ounce) canning jars with two-piece lids

6 pints fresh blueberries

4 cups sugar

2 small lemons, quartered and thinly sliced (remove and discard seeds)

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (about 1 large lemon)

1. Sterilize jars and prepare lids (as described above)

2. While jars are sterilizing, wash blueberries. Combine blueberries and remaining ingredients in a 6-quart, stainless steel or enameled Dutch oven or other heavy nonreactive saucepan.

3. Bring to a rolling boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, 30 minutes. (A small dab of the syrup mixture spooned onto a cold plate and put in the freezer for 1 minute should thicken to the consistency of honey.)

4. Fill and process jars (as described above). If you have any remaining mixture that does not fit in the jars, store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator and use within a few days. Store properly sealed jars in a cool dark place. Let stand at least 1 week before serving for the best flavor and texture.

Makes 7 (8-ounce) jars Hands-on Time: 1 hour, 15 minutes.

Blog Post Sources: Around the Southern Table; Taste of Home Canning & Preserving; Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving; So Easy to Preserve

A special note of thanks and appreciation to my friend and colleague, Celia B. Hill, Lee County, Florida, Extension Faculty Member/Family and Consumer Sciences Agent and a very talented Home Economist, for her help with the “You Can, Can!” series posted in Words from Worden Farm.

You Can, Can! (Part One)

April 2, 2013

Nom de plume Francine Wolfe Schwartz

I’m a big fan of freezing foods.  If you opened the door to my deep freezer you’d see-everything from prepared entrées, “put-up” vegetables, soups to chopped nuts.

That was until I met Celia Hill, our Lee County, Florida,Family and Consumer Sciences Extension Agent and an off-campus faculty member of the University of Florida.

A little aside, if you are unfamiliar with the University of Florida/IFAS (Institute of Food and Agriculture Sciences) Extension you’re missing out on a valuable consumer resource.

The Extension Service is part of the land-grant university system established in 1862 by Congress through the passing of the Morrill Act.  This act and subsequent acts established a state land-grant university system and Extension Service in every state.

For more information about the Florida Extension visit: 

         http://solutionsforyourlife.ufl.edu

or visit for information about your state’s Extension office

         http://www.csrees.usda.gov/Extension/

It’s mind boggling the knowledge and expertise the Extension Service has available to the public in programs and educational literature on issues such as sustainable agriculture, energy conservation, food safety, child and family development, family financial management, horticulture, marine science, Florida Yards and Neighborhoods, youth development and the list goes on. (source: http://ifas.ufl.edu/about-IFAS.shtml#history)

Back to canning…

It was Celia’s influence that renewed my interest in canning.

Seems like she’s on a mission to educate as many consumers in the art of food preservation as she possibly can.  You might say her mantra is “you can, can!”

Before you jump into canning read Celia’s checklist to make sure canning is a fit in your lifestyle.

1. Do you have space available in you home to store your canned products in a cool, dry and preferably dark area.    Don’t panic. Be creative and store your canned foods within your air-conditioned home in unconventional storage areas.  Under a bed; on shelves in a closet or even on a shelving system that attaches to the inside of a door.  Don’t let living in a tropical weather zone deter you from learning to can.

2. Establish ample space in your kitchen to complete the canning process.  You’ll need counters (or table space) to organize the steps in the canning process and ample space to leave your  processed canning jars undisturbed for at least 12-24 hours.  One option is to begin with small batch canning to learn the flow and space you’ll need to progress to larger scale canning. (see resource section for more information about small batch canning)

3. Confirm with your stove manufacturer your stove’s range surface is appropriate for pressure or boiling water canning.  Some solid surface ranges will not maintain the proper water temperature to can safely with no food safety issues.

4. Allow time.  Canning can be a time consuming depending on the quantity and what products your are canning.  If you are new to canning you should allow extra time to learn the technique.

5. Cost. There are initial costs involved. Along with the food you’ll need a Boiling-Water Canner or Pressure Canner, canning jars, and new two-piece lids specifically designed for home canning. The jars and lid rings may be reused if in good condition free of chips or rust.  New lids must always be used. Other handy pieces of equipment are: a wide mouthed funnel, ladle for filling the jars and a jar lifter.

It isn’t necessary to buy a boiling-water canner. Some large stock pots are a good substitution especially if you’re canning with small jars.  To substitute a large stock pot insert a cooling rack in the bottom to prevent jars from breaking.

(Remember you must check with the manufacturer of your stove. In my case I can only use a boiling water canner.)

I know all of this information seems a bit overwhelming but by taking a class with your local extension agent or arming yourself with free extension information and few good books you can, can!

Visit next week’s Words from Worden Farm blog for easy recipes and photographs using the Boiling-Water Canning Method

NoteFarmers Eva and Chris Worden grew their “roots” as off-campus faculty members in the University of Florida/IFAS Extension Extension

Free Extension Publications:

National Center for Home Food Preservation

http://nchfp.uga.edu

Fresh Produce Safe Handling Practices for Consumers, University of Florida Extension Service

http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/fy481

Virginia Cooperative Extension Boiling Water Bath Canning

http://pubs.ext.vt.edu/348/348-594/348-594.html

Virginia Cooperative Extension Pressure Canning

http://pubs.ext.vt.edu/348/348-585/348-585.html

Louisiana State University Agricultural Center www.lsuagcenter.com

“Getting Ready to Can”  Publication # 1888

Books:

Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving

So Easy to Preserve

Put “em Up!

Complete Book of Small Batch Preserving

Well-Preserved: Recipes and Techniques for Putting up Small Batches for Seasonal Foods

Is one picture really worth a thousand words?

March 25, 2013

Nom de plume Francine Wolfe Schwartz

I’m getting ready to head out to the International Association of Culinary Professionals annual conference. I am very much looking forward to this year’s conference as the theme is “Dirt to Digital: Real Food in a Virtual World”.

I hope to learn more about crafting and producing a blog; the value of pinning on a virtual bulletin board; and hanging out with my food writing friends. Besides talking, eating and going to sessions I want to make some new friends in the Digital Media Section.

I’ll admit upfront there have been times when the mechanics of producing this blog have been more mind boggling then putting my fingers to the computer keyboard to pound out “copy”. After writing this blog for three years, I have a greater respect for the “layout” technical people in the digital publishing business.

For those of you who were on your high school’s yearbook and newspaper staffs, or the editor of a club newsletter back in the prehistoric times before computers, the mechanics of writing this blog in a virtual world is the same job back then that you’d have done with a typewriter, scissors, rubber cement, a straight edge to produce a mock up with a ream of blank paper

A HUGE accomplishment for me is getting over the “I’m going to lose the copy by writing this blog on the ‘Wordpress Dashboard’ without drafting it first using the Pages software fear. This is the first blog post I’ve done this way and will do the reverse by copying and pasting the “copy” on a blank virtual page to edit and then archive it in the virtual Words from Worden Farm file folder on my very crowded virtual desktop. Then print out a “hard copy” for my real just in case crisis file in my real desk in the real world.

In lieu of reading a bunch of banter about my first adventure at making pizza take a look at the photos and realize taking these photos, uploading them into the WordPress media library then laying them out probably took longer than preparing my slightly out of round pizza. Yep, the pie stuck to my new pizza peel. NOTE TO SELF: sprinkle more cornmeal on the peel and perfect that wrist action you see the pizza guys do at Grimaldi’s Pizza. (that’s my fav pizza joint here in SW Florida).

But I’ll continue to plug along at the mechanics of the media library because I hear photos encourage the intrepid to try a recipe. Is it true “one picture is worth a thousand words” in cooking?

Cook’s notes: If you tasted escarole raw in a salad and thought it was too bitter try it sautéed. Cooking softens the “bite” and mellows the flavor. Toss sautéed escarole with pasta, stir some into a soup or plate on the side with roasted chicken or lamb. Don’t limit yourself to escarole as a veggie pizza topping. Sautéed, roasted or grilled veggies are just as delicious and another way to use up those leftover little vegetable morsels.

Thin Crust Pizza topped with Sautéed Escarole

1 recipe Thin Crust Pizza dough (see below) or 1 pound of your favorite recipe or

or store bought dough

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1/3 cup yellow cornmeal

Escarole Topping

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1 medium onion, thinly sliced

1 bunch fresh escarole, sliced 3/4-inch crosswise and washed, with water still clinging to the leaves (about 8 cups)

2/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

2 cups shredded Mozzarella cheese

NOTE: Prepare escarole filling the same day as the dough, cool, cover and refrigerate while dough is rising. Or prepare escarole topping while pizza stone is preheating. The instructions for the thin-crust pizza dough recipe are below.

Escarole, sliced onion and garlic

photograph courtesy of Francine Wolfe Schwartz

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. sauté garlic and onion cook 8-10 minutes or until lightly browned, stirring often.

Reduce the heat to medium and add the escarole to the pan, little by little as the leaves will quickly wilt and make room for more. Cook over medium heat, stirring often, until tender, 4 to 6 minutes.

Cooked Escarole Cooling

photography courtesy of Francine Wolfe Schwartz

Set aside to cool. Refrigerate covered if not using immediately.

Assemble pizza

With the pizza dough on the peel, lightly brushing the entire round of dough with olive oil. Leaving a ½-inch border of dough around the edge of the pie, spread a thin layer of the escarole. Sprinkle grated Parmesan and Mozzarella cheeses over the escarole topping and bake.

Slide pizza carefully from the peel onto preheated stone and bake until crust is well browned and cheese is bubbly and beginning to brown, 10 to 12 minutes.

Remove baked pizza with peel and slide onto a wire rack for 5 minutes to slightly cool. Transfer to a cutting board to slice. Serve with additional grated Parmesan cheese and crushed red pepper.

Repeat step 5 to shape, top, and bake second pizza.

Thin Crust PizzaPizza Dough

Makes 2 (12-inch) pizzas

NOTE: Allow 24 hours for dough to rise in the refrigerator

3 cups (16 1/2 ounces) bread flour, plus more for work surface (see note)

2 teaspoons sugar

1/2 teaspoon instant or rapid-rise yeast

1 1/3 cups ice water (about 10 1/2 ounces; see note)

1 tablespoon vegetable oil, plus more for work surface

1 1/2 teaspoons table salt

1/3 cup cornmeal

In food processor fitted with metal blade, process flour, sugar, and yeast

photography courtesy of Francine Wolfe Schwartz

photography courtesy of Francine Wolfe Schwartz

until combined, about 2 seconds. With machine running, slowly add water

through feed tube; process until dough is just combined and no dry flour

remains, about 10 seconds.

Let dough stand 10 minutes.

Add oil and salt to dough

photography courtesy of Francine Wolfe Schwartz

photography courtesy of Francine Wolfe Schwartz

and process until dough forms satiny, sticky ball that clears sides of work bowl, 30 to 60 seconds.

Remove dough from bowl and knead briefly on lightly oiled countertop until smooth, about 1 minute.

Shape dough into tight ball and place in large, lightly oiled bowl. Cover tightly with plastic wrap

photography courtesy of Francine Wolfe Schwartz

photography courtesy of Francine Wolfe Schwartz

and refrigerate for at least 24 hours and up to 3 days.

photography courtesy of Francine Wolfe Schwartz

photography courtesy of Francine Wolfe Schwartz

Prepare pizza

One hour before baking pizza, adjust oven rack to second highest position (rack should be about 4 to 5 inches below broiler), set a pizza stone on rack, and heat oven to 500 degrees.

Remove dough from refrigerator and divide in half. Shape each half into smooth, tight ball. Place on lightly oiled baking sheet, spacing them at least 3 inches apart; cover loosely with plastic wrap coated with nonstick cooking spray; let stand for 1 hour.

Coat 1 ball of dough generously with flour and place on well-floured countertop. .

courtesy of Francine Wolfe Schwartz

courtesy of Francine Wolfe Schwartz

Using fingertips, gently flatten into 8-inch disk, leaving 1 inch of outer edge slightly thicker than center

Using hands, gently stretch disk into 12-inch round, working along edges and giving disk quarter turns as you stretch.

photography courtesy of Francine Wolfe Schwartz

photography courtesy of Francine Wolfe Schwartz

Lightly dust paddle with corn meal. Transfer dough to the paddle and carefully stretch pizza into a 12-inch round.

Corn meal on paddle

Lightly dust paddle with corn meal

Spread escarole mixture over pizza dough.

Spread topping thinly over pizza dough

Spread topping thinly over pizza dough

Sprinkle 1/4 cup Parmesan evenly over escarole followed by 1 cup mozzarella.

Slide pizza carefully onto stone with paddle and with a quick jerk remove paddle. Bake pizza until crust is well browned and cheese is bubbly and beginning to brown, 10 to 12 minutes, rotating pizza halfway through.

Remove baked pizza with peel and place on wire rack for 5 minutes to slightly cool. Transfer to a cutting board to slice. Serve with additional Parmesan cheese and crushed red pepper.

photo courtesy of Francine Wolfe Schwartz

photo courtesy of Francine Wolfe Schwartz

Repeat step 5 to shape, top, and bake second pizza.

Cook’s Tip: A rimless cookie sheet lightly dusted with cornmeal makes a good substitute for a pizza peel.

Sneaky Muffins

March 18, 2013

Nom de plume Francine Wolfe Schwartz

It was about this time last year there were too many zucchini and yellow summer squash in the refrigerator.  Containers of ratatouille from my Flying Biscuit restaurant cookbook were “put up” in the freezer so I was trying to come up with a new idea to eat up all of the surplus squash.

Muffins!

At my house we eat fruit, corn or bran muffins so why not a savory slightly sweet summer squash muffin?  I know zucchini quick bread  is nothing new but I wanted to an add more nutrition and give a twist to the traditional recipe. Hmmm… I added oatmeal, lemon zest and dusted the tops with sanding sugar.

I’ve never seen a quick bread or muffin recipe using yellow squash so that was a “real” recipe development project. Since the zucchini is only slightly more watery than yellow summer squash I could use the zucchini recipe as a jumping off point.

Once the batter ingredients were balanced I worked on the flavors.  I wanted the squash muffins to be both savory or sweet.  I added orange zest and a chiffonade of basil.  It’s a no brainer to make them sweet-leave out the herb for a sweet treat muffin.

This past week I was in the same quandary – too many zucchinis. I found a bagful lurking behind carrots.  From the date marked on the plastic bag they had been ignored far too long.

A quick solution was to bake a batch of the soon to be famous zucchini muffins.   Since the grandkids were sleeping over last Friday night I knew I’d have willing eaters. The only problem was the little one (the two almost three year old granddaughter) is a visual eater.  I needed to come up with a way to hide any hint of zucchini.

I used my food processor shredding disk to shred the zucchini them emptied the shredded zucchini into a bowl.  Then exchanged the disk with the steel blade; added the remaining wet ingredients and shredded zucchini into the processor bowl  Pulsed a few times to just combine the wet ingredients and continued on the recipe as usual. Since the shredding disk produced a finer shred than a box grater the batter was slightly tinted with a green cast .

My littlest recipe tester had no idea there was zucchini in the muffins and since I told all three of them they were Dr. Seuss muffins, (you know the Green Eggs and Ham story book) they said the muffins were “cool”.

I’d say the muffins were a success!

These muffin are just sweet enough as a breakfast treat, dessert or a little something with afternoon tea. With a hint of lemon or orange they have a unique flavor note that makes them even more delicious.

Lemon Zucchini Oatmeal Muffins

Make about 16 muffins

1/2 cup rolled oats (not instant or quick cooking)

1/2 cup toasted and chopped walnuts (optional)

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup whole-wheat pastry flour or whole-wheat flour

1 cup sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

2 eggs

1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce

1/4 cup of canola oil

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

zest of 1 lemon

1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg (optional)

2 cups grated or shredded zucchini (about 2 medium)

1/2 cup raisins (optional)

Preheat oven 375°F.

Cook’s tip: For easy clean-up shred zucchini using a box grater on

a sheet of waxed paper.

photo courtesy of Francine Wolfe Schwartz

photo courtesy of Francine Wolfe Schwartz

Line muffin cups with paper baking cups or lightly with oil or butter . Set aside.

photo courtesy of Francine Wolfe Schwartz

photo courtesy of Francine Wolfe Schwartz

In a large bowl combine oats, walnuts, all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, sugar, raisins, baking powder and salt.  Stir well to combine all ingredients.

photo courtesy of Francine Wolfe Schwartz

photo courtesy of Francine Wolfe Schwartz

In a medium bowl whisk together eggs, oil, applesauce, vanilla extract and lemon zest.  Add zucchini and stir well to blend all ingredients.

photo courtesy of Francine Wolfe Schwartz

photo courtesy of Francine Wolfe Schwartz

Stir the zucchini mixture into the flour mixture until all ingredients are just moistened.  Avoid over stirring.

Spoon batter into prepared muffin tin, filling about 3/4 full.

Cook’s tip: Use an ice cream scoop to fill muffin cups.

photo courtesy of Francine Wolfe Schwartz

photo courtesy of Francine Wolfe Schwartz

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until tops are golden brown and tops spring back when lightly pressed.

photo courtesy of Francine Wolfe Schwartz

photo courtesy of Francine Wolfe Schwartz

                     Serve Warm with a Cup of Tea, Coffee or a Cold Glass of Milk

Lemon Zucchini Oatmeal Muffinsphoto courtesy of Francine Wolfe Schwartz

Lemon Zucchini Oatmeal Muffins
photo courtesy of Francine Wolfe Schwartz

Yellow Summer Squash with Basil Muffins

Note: These muffins are delicious with or without the basil.

Makes about 16 muffins

1 cup whole-wheat pastry flour or whole-wheat flour

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup toasted and chopped pecans (optional)

1 1/4 cups sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg (optional)

2 eggs

1/3 cup canola oil

1 cup grated or shredded yellow summer squash

1/2 cup basil chiffonade

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon fresh orange zest

Preheat oven to 375°F.  Coat 16 muffin cups with oil or line with paper baking cups.

Cook’s tip:  Grate squash on a sheet of waxed paper for easy clean-up.

photo courtesy of Francine Wolfe Schwartz

photo courtesy of Francine Wolfe Schwartz

In a large bowl combine whole-wheat flour, all-purpose flour, pecans, sugar, baking powder, salt and nutmeg.  Stir well to combine all ingredients.

In a medium bowl whisk together eggs, oil, squash, basil, vanilla and orange zest.  Stir well to combine all ingredients.

photo courtesy of Francine Wolfe Schwartz

photo courtesy of Francine Wolfe Schwartz

Stir in the squash mixture into the flour mixture until all ingredients are just moistened. Avoid over stirring.

Spoon batter into prepared muffin tin, filling about 3/4 full.

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until tops are golden brown and tops spring back when lightly pressed.

Cook’s tip:  Store fresh basil on your counter top in a jar of water. Change water daily and basil should stay fresh for at least several days.

photo courtesy of Francine Wolfe Schwartz

photo courtesy of Francine Wolfe Schwartz

Cook’s tip: Chiffonade is strips or shreds of herbs or shreds of vegetables or herbs.

To prepare a basil chiffonade:

  • Stack about ten leaves into a neat pile.
  • Roll the pile of leaves lengthwise into a fairly tight cigar shape.
  • Using a very sharp knife slice across the “cigar”.  The closer the slices the finer  your chiffonade will be.
  •  Fluff the chiffonade with your fingertips to separate the shreds.
  • Use quickly as possible. The edges of the basil chiffonade will darken very quickly.

A Matter of Taste

March 11, 2013

Nom de plume Francine Wolfe Schwartz

My desk is past shameful. There are stacks of recipes to be categorized and filed; a basket full of papers from an American Heart Association cookbook project to be stored; another basket categorized as “ideas”; a container of biz cards to be sorted and indexed and to one side of my desktop a dozen or so stickie note reminders with one that says, “clean desk”.

I promised myself that last summer was going to be devoted to organizing our home office so we could be more productive.

I tackled the “family files” and reorganized the supply cabinets but that’s where the project abruptly stopped.  Work got in the way.  When you are a consultant, business comes first.

The “organized” clutter on my half of the office has reached the point that my husband’s half of the office looks better than mine. Which is appalling considering he is the first to admit desk organization (and for that matter anything else) is not in his DNA.

It’s to the point of crisis management.

The desk clutter cannot wait until “things slow down” . The only way to tackle this problem is to devote at least 15 minutes everyday to gain control. I figure by this summer I might see the top of my desk.

The plan is working.

Found in the “to read and file” stack is a Food & Wine, clip of a Living Well column, “Team Batali’s Vegetable Challenge, Chefs Mario Batali and Mark Ladner want people to eat more vegetables and drink more wine with them.”  (No, I’m not going to admit the date of this clip.)

The intriguing title caught my interest and I stopped to read the entire column.  Wine pairing with a vegetable driven menu has been a quandary at my home.  Is it at yours too?

The old rule “red with meats and white with chicken or fish” has long gone by the wayside with us but vegetable dishes seem to be a hit or miss proposition.  Not that I’m complaining. Taste testing wine works for me but learning a few guidelines would make purchasing wines easier.

After reading the story (and a little additional research)  I’ve learned It’s unlikely you’d sit down to a plateful of carrots.  It’s the preparation technique, the vegetable combinations and the addition of wine friendly ingredients that creates a more interesting pairing of flavors.

Start with your wine preference …

Red

  • Tomatoes, naturally acidic tastes better with an acidic red like a Sangiovese
  • Spinach, chard or other dark leafy greens pair up with a lighter red such as a Gamay.
  • Mushrooms, lentils-the more earthy ingredients are a natural with a Pinot Noir
  • Hot spicy dishes flavors are intensified with tannins as in a fruity Zinfandel
  • Vegetables combined with cheeses stand up to more tannic reds as with a Syrah

Roasted Turnips and Greens

Serves 6-8

1/4 cup pitted kalamata olives

1 navel orange, plus 1/4 cup fresh orange juice

2 pounds young turnips and their greens—

turnips halved, greens stemmed and chopped

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 medium onion, thinly sliced

1 garlic clove, minced

1/2 cup water

Salt and freshly ground pepper

2 ounces baby spinach (2 cups)

2 tablespoons chopped hazelnuts

Preheat the oven to 400°. In a mini food processor, puree the olives; transfer to a bowl. Using a sharp knife, peel the orange, removing all of the bitter white pith. Working over another bowl, cut in between the membranes to release the sections.

On a rimmed baking sheet, drizzle the turnips with 1 tablespoon of the oil. Roast for 20 minutes, until almost tender.

Meanwhile, in a large, deep skillet, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the onion and garlic and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, 5 minutes. Add the water and turnip greens, cover and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the greens are just tender, 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Pour the orange juice over the turnips. Roast for 5 minutes longer, until the turnips are tender and glazed; season with salt.

Add the spinach to the greens; toss until wilted. Drizzle the pureed olives onto a platter. Top with the turnips, greens, orange sections and hazelnuts. Serve hot or warm.

Pair with a peppery California Syrah

(source:  foodandwine.com)

Whites Dry or Sweet (Rieseling, Chardonnay or Savignon Blanc)

  • Rich purée sauces cream or butter base
  • Vegetable gratins
  •  Dishes with almonds, hazelnuts, roasted pinenuts or pumpkin seeds
  • Sweet and rich vegetables-sweet potatoes and butternut squash

Spinach Gnocchi Gratin

Serves 4

3/4 pound spinach (about 1 bunch), coarse stems discarded and the leaves washed well and drained

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup milk

1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, cut into pieces

1 cup all-purpose flour

4 large eggs

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg, or to taste

1/3 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan

In a large heavy saucepan cook the spinach in the water clinging to the leaves, covered, over moderate heat, stirring once or twice, for 3 to 4 minutes, or until it is wilted, refresh it under cold water, and drain it well in a colander. Squeeze the spinach dry by handfuls and chop it fine.

In a heavy saucepan bring the water and the milk just to a boil with the butter, stirring until the butter is melted, add the flour all at once, and stir the mixture briskly with a wooden spatula until it pulls away from the side of the pan and forms a ball. Cook the dough over moderate heat, stirring, for 1 minute. Transfer the dough to a bowl and with an electric mixer beat in the eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition, the salt, the pepper, the nutmeg, and the spinach.

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Into a kettle of boiling salted water drop walnut-size spoonfuls of the paste, about 10 at a time, and simmer them, uncovered, for 5 minutes, or until they rise to the surface and are cooked through.

Transfer the gnocchi as they are cooked with a slotted spoon to a large colander and let them drain well.

Arrange the gnocchi in one layer in a buttered 1 1/2- to 2-quart shallow grating dish or flame-proof baking dish, drizzle the cream over them, and sprinkle them with the Parmesan and salt and pepper to taste. Bake the gnocchi in the middle of the oven for 10 minutes and broil them under a hot broiler about 4 inches from the heat for 1 minute, or until they are browned lightly.

Pair with Chenin Blanc or Pinot Grigio

(source: epicurious.com)

Red or White

Thai Red Curry

Serves 8

1 Tbs. olive oil

1 medium yellow onion, diced (1½ cups)

3 Tbs. red curry paste

2 Tbs. low-sodium soy sauce

1 clove garlic, minced (1 tsp.)

1 lemongrass stalk, cut into thirds and smashed with back of knife

1 ½-inch piece fresh ginger, smashed

5 kaffir lime leaves, or zest of 2 limes

1–2 Thai chiles, finely chopped, optional

2 medium carrots, cut into ¼-inch-thick rounds

2 zucchini, cut into ¼-inch-thick rounds

1 russet potato, peeled and cut into ½-inch cubes

1 12-oz. can light coconut milk

3 Tbs. light brown sugar

1 cup trimmed green beans

1 cup Thai basil or fresh basil leaves, torn

Heat olive oil in large saucepan or wok over medium heat. Add onion, curry paste, soy sauce, and garlic, and sauté 1 to 2 minutes, or until fragrant. Add lemongrass, ginger, kaffir lime leaves, and Thai chile. Sauté 30 seconds, or until combined.

Stir in carrots, zucchini, and potato, and sauté 1 minute to coat with curry. Add coconut milk, brown sugar, and 1 cup water. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer 5 to 10 minutes, or until potatoes can be pierced with tip of knife. Add green beans and simmer 5 minutes more, or until green beans are crisp-tender. Remove lemongrass, ginger, and kaffir lime leaves, and season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with basil leaves just before serving.

(source: The Thai Kitchen)

Pair with a sweet wine, such as Riesling or Gewürztraminer, or a light and fruity red

Red or white?   … it’s always a “matter of taste”. – David Rosengarten

 

Slow Food USA (and Greens and Grains)

March 4, 2013

Nom de plume Francine Wolfe Schwartz

This is a shortie blog post.  I’ve just returned from the first Slow Food Regional Meeting in Atlanta.

Not to disappoint anyone looking for the weekly recipe ideas there are several Greens and Grain recipes to enjoy our good, clean and fair food grown here at Worden Farm.

(Please do not blame me for this cold snap! The weather in Atlanta was dismal, damp and cold.  And no I did not bring the weather front south with me.)

What is Slow Food?

“Slow Food” is an international movement of people who are committed to improving the way we grow, prepare and share REAL food.

The Arcigola Association formed in Piedmont Italy was the beginnings of what is now know as Slow Food International.  In 1986 this European organization was formed as a resistance movement to combat the opening of a McDonalds’ restaurant near the Spanish Steps in Rome and to combat the spread of the fast food lifestyle.

What is now known as Slow Food International was founded in 1989 based on this philosophy:

A non-profit member-supported association, Slow Food was founded in 1989 to counter the rise of fast food and fast life, the disappearance of local food traditions and people’s dwindling interest in the food they eat, where it comes from, how it tastes and how our food choices affect the rest of the world. “

There are over 1,500 convivia (local chapters) in 150 countries as well as a network of 2,000 food communities who practice small-scale and sustainable production of quality foods.

Slow Food volunteers are promoting environmentally friendly food production, teaching children how to grow and prepare food and working to make “real” food accessible to all.

Slow Food members imagine and strive for a world where the food we eat is good for us, good for farmers and workers and good for the planet.  “Good, Clean and Fair Food.”

To learn more about Slow Food USA, Slow Food International and how to connect to a local convivias visit:

Slow Food USA http://www.slowfoodusa.org

Slow Food International http://www.slowfood.com

If you live in the Southwest Florida area please send me your contact information to learn more about Slow Food Southwest Florida. Look for our convivia on facebook by searching Slow Food Southwest Florida.

Be part of the conversation:

www.facebook.com/slowfoodusa

www.twitter.com/slowfoodusa

NOTE: Farmers Eva and Chris Worden are founding board members of the Slow Food Southwest Florida Convivia.

Kale and Mushrooms with Creamy Polenta

6 main-course servings

source: bonappetit.com

1 1/4 pounds kale, washed, stemmed, cut into 1-inch pieces

4 cups whole milk

3 1/2 cups water

2 cups polenta

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

4 ounces pancetta (Italian bacon) or bacon, coarsely chopped

4 ounces mushrooms (such as crimini, oyster, and stemmed shitake), sliced

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

1 garlic clove, minced

1/2 cup low-salt chicken broth

2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme

1 tablespoon grated lemon peel

4 tablespoons unsalted butter (optional)

2/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Cook kale in large pot of boiling salted water until tender, about 6 minutes. Drain.

Bring milk, water, polenta, salt, and pepper to boil in heavy large saucepan over medium heat, whisking constantly. Reduce heat to low and simmer until thick, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat.

Meanwhile, cook pancetta in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer pancetta to paper towels.

Add mushrooms and if needed add 2 tablespoons oil to drippings in skillet. Sauté until mushrooms are tender, about 6 minutes.

Stir in kale and pancetta. Add garlic and broth; simmer until broth is slightly reduced, about 6 minutes. Stir in thyme, lemon peel, and 2 tablespoons oil.

Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Whisk butter and Parmesan into polenta and divide among plates. Top with kale mixture.

Farro, Chickpea, Feta, and Mint Salad

source: marthastewart.com

Makes 6 cups

Serves 4 to 6

2 1/2 cups cooked farro, tossed with 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice while warm

1 can (15 ounces) chickpeas, drained and rinsed

2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest, plus 1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoons

fresh lemon juice

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

3/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled (3 ounces)

1/2 cup grape or cherry tomatoes, halved

1/2 cup fresh mint

1/4 small red onion, chopped (optional)

Coarse salt if desired

Combine farro and chickpeas in a bowl. Stir in lemon zest, juice, and oil. Let cool.

Stir in cheese, tomatoes, mint, and onion. Season with salt. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Cook’s Note:

Salad can be refrigerated for up to 2 days.

Greens and Bulgur Gratin

source: epicurious.com

Yield: Serves 4 as a main course or 6 as a side dish

1/2 cup coarse bulgur*

2 pounds assorted greens such as kale, collard, escarole, spinach,Swiss chard, and/or

mustard greens

6 large garlic cloves, minced

3 tablespoons olive oil

1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan (about 1 ounce)

6 ounces chilled whole-milk or part-skim mozzarella, grated coarse

For topping

1/2 cup fine fresh bread crumbs

1 tablespoon olive oil

*available at natural foods stores and specialty foods shops

Preheat oven to 400°F. and lightly oil a 1 1/2-quart gratin dish or other shallow baking dish. Set aside.

In a heatproof bowl pour enough boiling water over bulgur to cover by 1 inch. Cover bowl with a plate to trap steam and let stand 20 minutes. Drain bulgur in a large fine sieve, pressing out excess liquid, and transfer to a bowl.

Keeping each variety of green separate, tear greens into bite-size pieces, discarding stems. Still keeping greens separate, wash thoroughly by dunking in a sink full of water and transfer to a colander to drain. (or wash in a salad spinner bowl and spin dry)

In a 4 1/2 to 5 quart pot, heat water over moderate heat. Add sturdier  greens (kale or collard) and cook uncovered 3-4 minutes until leaves just begin to wilt. Add delicate greens (escarole, spinach, Swiss chard, and/or mustard) and continue to cook about 2-3 minutes or until just wilted.  Stir occasionally. Drain greens in colander, pressing out excess liquid. Set aside.

In a large heavy skillet cook garlic in oil over moderate heat, stirring, until softened but not golden.

Stir in greens and bulgur and season generously with salt and pepper.

Stir in Parmesan and remove skillet from heat.

Spread half of greens mixture in the prepared gratin dish and sprinkle evenly with mozzarella. Spread remaining greens mixture over mozzarella and smooth top with a rubber spatula. Gratin may be prepared up to this point 8 hours ahead and chilled, covered.

Make topping:

In a small bowl with a fork stir together bread crumbs and oil until crumbs are evenly moistened.  Sprinkle topping over greens mixture and bake in middle of oven 30 minutes, or until bubbling and top is browned lightly.

Chicken Baked on a Bed of Whole-Grain Peasant Bread and Swiss Chard

four servings

source: foodandwine.com

1/2 pound day-old whole-grain peasant bread cut into 1-inch cubes

(about 1/2 loaf)

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 cup salted capers, rinsed well

1/4 cup golden raisins, coarsely chopped

1 large bunch of Swiss chard (about 1 1/2 pounds)

stems finely chopped, leaves torn into pieces

3 shallots, thinly sliced

3 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped

1/2 teaspoon minced thyme

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

One 3 1/2-pound chicken, skinned and cut into 8 pieces, or 8 skinless bone-in chicken thighs and/or drumsticks

Preheat the oven to 350°.

In a large bowl, toss the bread cubes with the olive oil, capers, raisins, Swiss chard, shallots, garlic and thyme. Season with salt and black pepper. Spread the bread in a large enameled cast-iron casserole.

Season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper and arrange them over the bread. Cover the chicken with a piece of parchment paper and close the casserole with a heavy lid. (or cover tightly with foil)

Bake the chicken for 35 minutes.

Remove the lid and parchment paper and increase the oven temperature to 400°. Bake the chicken for 10 to 12 minutes longer, or until golden on top and cooked through. Remove the casserole from the oven and let stand for 5 to 10 minutes. Serve the chicken with the bread and greens.

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