Category Archives: Veggies

The Farmers Market Files: Italian Sausage and Kale Stew (or Soup)

Italian Sausage and Kale Stew

Italian Sausage and Kale Stew

This is a great fall stew that I threw together after going a little crazy at the farmers market one weekend (did I mention I got a job?) and ending up with more stuff than I could fit in my (albeit small) refrigerator. I bought one bunch of kale that was so large, it took up almost an entire shelf in my fridge all by itself. I needed to act, and fast. So I made up a recipe that used a little bit of everything I had on hand, plus ALL of my kale, and the results were so fabulous that I did it all 0ver again the next week, enormous bunch of kale and all.

I was tempted to call this “Kale Stew, With Some Other Stuff” when I first tried it, because it does contain quite a bit of kale. However, the other ingredients ultimately hold their own, making this a great recipe for really packing away (or getting rid of, depending on your perspective) the veggies without feeling like you’re eating rabbit food. Plus, did I mention that it’s delicious? My significant other, who isn’t nearly as enthralled with veggies as I am, ate second helpings both times I made this, and insisted on taking leftovers for lunch the next day as well. (However, if eating enormous helpings of kale doesn’t sound like your thing, you can easily turn this stew into a less kale-centric soup by doubling the broth and halving the kale.)

Serve this with a hearty loaf of bread, and you’ve got yourself a fantastic meal for a cool fall evening!

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Italian Sausage and Kale Stew

  • 1 1/2 lbs. hot Italian sausage (I thought chicken sausage worked especially well in this dish)
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 parsnips, if you can find them, peeled and chopped
  • 1 medium-sized leek, white/light green and dark parts separated, chopped
  • 2 medium-sized waxy potatoes, eyes removed, cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 4 cups chicken or veggie broth (or 8, if you’d rather make soup)
  • 1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp. ground fennel, or 1 tsp. fennel seeds, lightly crushed in a mortar and pestle
  • 2 supermarket-sized bunches kale (or only 1 for the soup version), tough inner rib removed, cut into ~1-inch-thick slices
  • Salt and freshly-ground black pepper, to taste

Remove the Italian sausages from their casings by slicing each lengthwise and removing the inner meat. Discard the casings. Heat the olive oil over medium-low heat in a large soup pot, and sauté the sausage meat, using a spoon or spatula to break it up into smaller pieces. Once the meat has browned, after about 5 minutes, add the onion, celery, carrots, parsnips, leek bottoms, and potatoes, and sauté for another 10 minutes.

Add the broth, along with the dark green leek tops, nutmeg, and fennel. Turn up the heat and bring the soup to a simmer. Once it is simmering, add the sliced kale. If you’re using two full bunches of kale, it will probably be pretty hard to stir the kale in at this point, so cover the pot and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes; this will steam the kale, which will start to reduce its volume somewhat. After 5 minutes, take a stab at stirring the kale into the rest of the stew. Cover, and cook for another 10 minutes.

The stew is done once the kale is cooked and the potatoes are beginning to fall apart. Add salt (if your broth contained salt, you might not need much) and pepper to taste, and serve.

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Cost of core ingredients: Since I only buy organic, naturally-raised, hormone-free, etc. etc. etc. meats, the 1 1/2 lbs. of Italian sausage in this recipe cost a pretty penny, making this dish the most expensive per serving of all the recipes I’ve blogged about to date. Still, at less than $3/serving, this slight indulgence definitely didn’t throw off my food budget for the week.

  • 1 large onion: ~$1
  • 2 farmers market carrots: $0.50?
  • 2 farmers market parsnips: $0.50?
  • 1 farmers market leek: $0.50?
  • 2 farmers market potatoes: $0.75?
  • 1 ENORMOUS bunch farmers market kale: $2 (this would be far more expensive if I bought it at my food co-op)
  • 1.5 lbs. chicken Italian sausage a@ $5.99/lb. = $8.99

Total cost for five servings: $14.24, plus the cost of small amounts of olive oil, celery, Better than Bullion (LOVE that stuff), spices, salt, and pepper.

Bon Appétit!

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Filed under European, Gluten-free, Meat, Recipes, Soups, Stews, Veggies

The Farmers Market Files: Sweet Red Pepper and Tomato Spread

Sweet Red Pepper and Tomato Spread

Sweet Red Pepper and Tomato Spread

Here’s another great way to preserve the farmers market bounty for the sad, dark, monochrome days of winter when there is nary a brightly-colored food item to be found that isn’t from Florida or Mexico. This spread is great on sandwiches, crackers, and pasta, and can be used to dress up soups and stews as well, kind of like a sweet harissa. You might be surprised by how sweet it is, given that it only calls for five ingredients and none of them is a sweetener. Cooking down the red peppers concentrates their flavor, and the combination of this sweetness with the tart tomatoes and pungent garlic produces a perfect end-of-summer flavor medley.

A little bit goes a long way, so I always set aside some to use fresh and put the rest in the freezer for later. The recipe below yields about 2 cups of spread, though this recipe is easily doubled/tripled/etc., if you’d like to freeze it in larger quantities.

(Keep in mind that this recipe really only qualifies for cheapskate status when made at this time of year, when tomatoes and red bell peppers are fresh and abundant, and can often be bought in bulk quantities at farmers markets. Otherwise, you’re looking at a $20+ spread!)

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Sweet Red Pepper and Tomato Spread

  • About five large ripe red bell peppers, or the equivalent*
  • About 10 large or 15 medium picked-ripe roma tomatoes, or the equivalent*
  • 1 head garlic, separated and peeled
  • 4 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tsp. salt, or to taste

*Note on quantities: Don’t worry too much about precision here. The beauty of ingredients that are this delicious is that your end result is going to taste good, no matter what.

Preparing the veggies: Roughly chop the peppers, tomatoes, and garlic, and process finely in the food-chopping appliance of your choice. This spread is best with a bit of texture, so try to avoid processing the vegetables into a puree – very small pieces are ideal.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over low heat. When hot, add the vegetable mixture. The vegetables will begin to release their liquid and simmer. Cook at a low simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the mixture reduces to 1/2 to 1/3 of its original volume. (It will thicken to a paste-like consistency once it cools.) Remove from heat, stir in salt, and let cool.

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One of my favorite ways to serve this is on a sandwich with avacado, cheese, and a fried egg:

Sandwich with sweet red pepper spread

It is surprisingly hard to take an attractive picture of a sandwich.

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Cost of core ingredients:

  • 5 farmers market red peppers, bought bulk: $3?
  • 15 medium farmers market tomatoes, bought bulk: $3?
  • 1 head garlic: ~$1

Total cost: ~$7, plus the cost of small amounts of olive oil and salt.

Bon Appétit!

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The Farmers Market Files: Salsa Fresca

ALL the tomatoes

ALL the tomatoes

August is a great month for food. All of the peak-of-summer veggies are at their absolute prime, and if you’re lucky enough to live in a place with a thriving farmers market scene, you’ll have access to the freshest, most delicious produce you’ll ever be able to get your hands on (unless you grow it yourself). Most supermarket vegetables, particularly the ones that are shipped in from hundreds or thousands of miles away, hit the shelves a minimum of several days after being harvested. This means that in order for them to reach your local produce section in anything resembling sellable condition, they need to be picked slightly before they’re entirely ripe, and finish ripening along the way. This isn’t such a big deal for some veggies (green peppers, for example, which aren’t actually ripe to begin with), but many are significantly less flavorful if they’re picked before they’ve ripened entirely.

Nowhere is this more true than in the realm of tomatoes. A fresh-picked, field-ripened tomato is miles – no, probably light years – away from the lackluster, reddish-orange tomatoes you’ll get in the supermarket. The taste difference is so remarkable that I don’t even bother with fresh supermarket/co-op tomatoes at all anymore – I usually just use canned, which are picked ripe and canned fresh. But for two wonderful, glorious months of the year, fresh, ripe, delicious, mouth-watering tomatoes are mine for the taking at my local farmers market – and I do my best to take full advantage of this fortunate fact by putting them in EVERYTHING. The more tomatoes a recipe calls for, the better.

And even more amazing (if you can believe it) is the fact that in my neck of the woods, said tomatoes are actually cheap to boot. “Fresh” supermarket tomatoes are something like $2 per pound on the low end, and fancy organic/heirloom varieties can cost $6/lb. or more. But not at a Twin Cities farmers market. Here, you can buy ’em by the bucket – and man, do I ever – and the more you buy, the cheaper they are per pound. I usually buy a smallish bucket of tomatoes per week (prompting me to designate a tomato drawer in my kitchen) – probably 10 lbs. or so, for around $6-8 – but people who are canning or making large batches of tomato sauce will often buy them by the box. Once my friend Jenny bought an entire garbage bag of roma tomatoes – seriously, a whole bag – for $20, and cooked them down into pasta sauce to freeze.

I LOVE that you can do this here, because this isn’t the case everywhere. In Denver, where I grew up, farmers market vendors tend to charge by the pound, just like the grocery store, and you definitely don’t get much of a discount for going straight to the source. It’s impossible to make any of the great end-of-summer dishes this way – a simple ratatouille would put you back $20, and a fresh tomato soup would be even more expensive. It’s not that I don’t think farmers are entitled to a fair price for their produce – they absolutely are – but buying (and selling) produce in bulk this way results in efficiencies for both sides. The buckets of tomatoes that I buy are not full of flawless, shiny, grocery-store-worthy tomatoes – those tomatoes probably actually get sold to the grocery store. Instead, I get a bucketful of tomatoes with flaws – a bruise here, some superficial spottiness there, which I am more than happy to trim out – and the vendor gets rid of a bunch of tomatoes that she wouldn’t have been able to sell otherwise. If this isn’t what’s supposed to happen at a farmers market, then I really don’t understand what they’re good for. (I’m looking at you, Denver.)

Salsa Fresca

Salsa Fresca

Anyhoo. I’ve been in tomato heaven, eating my weekly bucket of tomatoes. And this week I’ve been kind of obsessed with this salsa fresca recipe, so of course I had to share it. The recipe I’m giving below (based on a friend’s family recipe) is huge – it yields 10 cups of salsa, give or take depending on the size of your tomatoes – but it’s so good that you’ll want it all, I promise. Eat it with chips, put it on tacos or refried beans, take it to parties to impress your friends with your cooking (by which I mean blending) skills, or do what I did – devour it in two sittings with your significant other. But beware: this salsa is not for the faint of heart – people who want their garlic, their raw onions, or their cilantro in moderation. You may reek of garlic for several days afterwards. But hey, to many people, that’s just a sign of good taste.

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Salsa Fresca

  • 8 good-sized, fresh, picked-ripe farmers market or homegrown tomatoes
  • 1 onion
  • 1 head of garlic (Twin Cities folks – the Gardens of Eagan garlic that the Wedge is currently selling is the most phenomenal garlic I have ever tasted; well worth the trip)
  • 1 bunch of cilantro, leaves only
  • Green chilies – 1 jalapeño for mild, 2-3  jalapeños for a medium salsa, or multiple hotter chilies (such as serranos) if you want to go all out
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1 tsp. salt, plus more to taste

Roughly chop all vegetables. Combine in a blender or food processor. (You may have to do two batches if using a blender or a smaller food processor.) Blend, taste for salt and adjust if necessary, and devour!

(Alternately, if you would like an attractive, delicate-looking salsa fresca, then you can carefully chop all vegetables into uniform pieces. But keep in mind that it’ll taste the same regardless. :))

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Cost of core ingredients: I’m not sure that I could really call this a “cheap” dish, considering it a) isn’t actually a meal, even though it’s been functioning as one in my house the past couple of days, and b) is so delicious that it gets devoured pretty much immediately. But my significant other and I did eat this for “dinner” two days in a row (hey, it’s only August once a year), so here we go:

  • 8 farmers market tomatoes: $2?
  • 1 farmers market onion: $0.50?
  • 1 head of UTTERLY AMAZING garlic: ~$1
  • 1 bunch cilantro: $1.79
  • 2 jalapeños: $0.68
  • 1 lime: $0.72
  • Corn chips for eating: $3.49

Total cost for….well, what should have been more than four servings: $6.69 (plus salt) for the salsa only, or  $10.18 total.

Bon Appétit!

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Harira – Moroccan Vegetable Soup

Harira

Harira - Moroccan Vegetable Soup

You guys, this soup is AMAZING. I discovered harira while traveling through Morocco. After days of paying through the nose for crappy, bland couscous-and-sauteed-veggies kinds of dishes in touristy restaurants, my friend and I happened upon this man in an alleyway who was serving up steaming bowls of this stuff for the equivalent of 25¢ US. And we never ate crappy tourist food again.

Harira is traditionally made with lamb meat, but there are many vegetarian versions as well (like this one, and the one served by the alleyway man). I’ve never tried a version with lamb, and I’ve never felt the need to, because this one is so incredibly tasty and satisfying.

Spices in a Moroccan Souk

Spices at a market in Fes, Morocco

The spices are what really make this dish. It calls for a lot (eight), but all of them are common and widely-available. Harira is also traditionally served with a Moroccan chile and garlic paste called harissa, which does add a nice additional kick to it, but it’s expensive and entirely optional. If you do go for harissa, I recommend this one. You can also make your own, though I personally find this way more trouble than it’s worth.

Served with a filling bread, this soup makes a lovely and hearty meal, and it’s great in the winter. The recipe below was adapted from this recipe on eCurry, which I’ve changed a bit to make it simpler to follow and a bit cheaper. I’ve also upped the spices because this soup needs LOTS of spices.

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Harira – Moroccan Vegetarian Soup (adapted from eCurry)

3 Tbsp. olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 large carrots, chopped
1 cinnamon stick
1 tsp. ground ginger OR a 1 inch-long piece of fresh ginger, grated/minced
3/4 tsp. turmeric
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground coriander
1 to 2 tsp. paprika (smoked, if you have it, but regular is fine)
1/8 to 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper, to taste
1/2 tsp. caraway seeds
1/2 cup red lentils, well-rinsed
1 medium potato, chopped
1 zucchini, chopped
1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
1 cup cooked chickpeas (about 1/3 cup dried), OR 1 14.5 oz. can chickpeas
8 cups water, stock, or water + bullion
1/2 bunch cilantro (stems and leaves), chopped/minced
1/2 bunch parsley (stems and leaves), chopped/minced
1/2 cup orzo, white rice, or other small grain item
1 Tbsp. flour + 1/2 cup water (as a thickener – omit to make gluten-free)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Harissa paste for serving (totally optional)

First, measure out all spices (including the cinnamon stick) into a bowl and keep it by the stove, to make things a bit simpler later.

Heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Sauté onion, celery, and carrot until the juices evaporate and they begin to brown or stick a bit, about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Chop the rest of the veggies and wash the lentils while this is happening.

Add the lentils and the spices, stir, and let fry for 1 minute, stirring constantly to prevent burning. Add the chopped zucchini and potato, and fry for another 1 to 2 minutes. Add tomato puree, water/stock, and chickpeas. Bring to a boil and let simmer, partially covered, for 15 minutes.

Whisk together the flour and 1/2 cup of water, and pour it into the soup. Stir to incorporate. Add the parsley, cilantro, and orzo/rice, and simmer, partially covered for another 20 minutes. Add salt and black pepper to taste.

Serve with a dollop of harissa in the middle of each bowl (expensive and optional), if you like heat, and a nice, hearty bread. Brace yourself for mouth-gasms.

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Cost of core ingredients: This recipe is a bit pricier than others posted here, due to all the veggies and herbs, but overall it’s still pretty cheap – if you omit the harissa paste or use homemade. Ingredients listed are primarily organic and were all purchased at my food co-op.

1 onion: ~$1.20
2 carrots: ~$1.15
1 potato: $0.96
1 zucchini: $1.83
1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes: $2.49
1/2 bunch parsley: $1.00
1/2 bunch cilantro: $1.00
~1/4 lb. red lentils @ $2.29/lb. = ~$0.57
~1/4 lb. chickpeas @ $2.29/lb. = ~$0.57
~1/4 lb. orzo @ $3.19/lb. = ~$0.80

Total for at least 6 servings: $11.57 + the cost of small amounts of olive oil, celery, all spices, flour, and bullion.

Harira

Bon Appétit!

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Filed under Gluten-free, Moroccan, Recipes, Soups, Vegan, Vegetarian, Veggies