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Filtering by Category: garden

red beet risotto

Andrea

I do believe that beets are my very favorite spring vegetable. They are quickly overshadowed by tomatoes in Summer, but in May and June I could eat beets every other day. Typically I am a fan of simply roasting the globes and tossing them on a salad with chevre and a light vinaigrette. But every now and then, when I am feeling the need for something a bit more toothy and substantial I'll whip up a batch of risotto. I love the sweetness that roasted beets lend to the savory dish, and of course the vibrant hue that even a picky toddler wouldn't be able to resist.

I"ll admit...I've already written about red beet risotto here, years ago, when we were growing beets in our very own garden. The recipe has changed a bit, and the photographs have certainly improved, but I still love that first post because of its words about our little veggie patch. We're still growing beets this year, although out on Maple Hill Farm rather than just to the side of our house. And this recipe is still a favorite, one that I felt was appropriate to bring up again now that we're at the height of beet season here in Charlottesville. Plus, I just couldn't resist the urge to re-photograph the dish in all of its neon-pink glory, in proper lighting, with less distraction. It deserves to be the star of the show!

These days, I'm adding the beet greens directly to the risotto, rather than cooking them up on the side. They don't add much flavor to the dish, but I do like the additional texture and all of the nutrients packed into the deep green leaves. Thanks to the New York Times for that little suggestion.

Red Beet Risotto

from the new york times

serves 4 as a main course

Ingredients

  • 3/4 pound beets (1 small bunch of 3 to 4)
  • 1 bunch beet greens, stemmed and washed (from your beets, if fresh and unwilted. leave them out if they are past their prime)
  • 6 to 7 cups chicken or vegetable stock, as needed
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1-1/2 cups arborio rice
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped flat-leaf parsley

Method

  1. First, roast the beets. Preheat your oven to 400°. Wrap the beets in aluminum foil and place on a baking sheet. Roast for about 20 minutes, until the beets are easily pierced with a fork.  Remove from oven and allow to cool, then peel and dice the beets.  The skin should slide off easily.
  2. Slice the greens into 1-inch strips, set aside.
  3. Place the stock in a medium sauce pan and bring to a simmer, then reduce heat to low.
  4. In a large, wide, heavy-bottom saute pan, heat the oil over medium. Add the onion and stir while cooking until it starts to soften, about 3 minutes. Add the rice and the garlic and stir while cooking until the rice is separate and starting to crackle, about 3 minutes.
  5. Stir in the wine and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly. When the wine has just about evaporated, add in 1 ladleful of stock (about 1/2 cup) just to cover the rice. The stock should bubble slowly (adjust heat). Cook, stirring occasionally, until the stock is nearly absorbed, then add another ladleful. Continue to cook in this fashion, not too fast and not too slowly, stirring often and adding more stock when the rice is dry, for about 10 minutes.
  6. Stir in the diced beets and sliced greens. Add more stock and continue cooking as before, for another 10-15 minutes, adding stock when the rice is dry. The rice should be tender but not mushy, with no hardness at the middle. When it has reached the correct consistency, season with salt + pepper. Add the parmesan cheese and the parsley, and stir to combine. The rice should be creamy, if it is not, add another 1/2 cup of stock.
  7. Adjust seasonings and serve.

bella terra 2011!

Andrea

A happy Monday to you all! Let's kick off April with an exciting announcement...bella terra is back!  But this year, I've been lucky to have the opportunity to share a bit of space in the green house at Maple Hill Farm, home of the local food hub. if you're not familiar, the local food hub is a community supported nonprofit working to strengthen and secure our local food supply by supporting small, family farms, increasing the amount of fresh food available to our community, and inspiring our next generation of farmers. I am proud to be part of a community that supports such an organization, and thrilled to have the opportunity to share images of their beautiful land and facilities with you on the AHPhoto blog!

This Spring, Summer, and Fall I will be sharing images from my time at the farm with two girlfriends, Emily (local food hub) and Stephanie (flavor magazine) as we grow food for our home kitchens. Most of the seedlings we've started out at the farm will be planted on a little plot I am sharing with these friends, but some will come home to live and grow in my backyard garden. I am planning to share the bulk of the place and detail photography at AHPhoto, and the final dishes and recipes that result from all of that hard work here on bella eats. I hope it won't be confusing, and will try to keep it simple. Let's just see how it goes.

For a recap of my 2009 garden: bella terra | 2009

For images of our first 4 weeks on the farm: bella terra | weeks 1 and 4

So, are any of you gardening this year?  If yes, what are you growing?

at summer's end

Andrea

Hello. My name is Andrea. I write this food blog, Bella Eats. You may remember me, or due to my long absence you may not. I’m sorry about that, truly I am. I miss this space! Life has been busy. So so so busy. I started teaching architectural design at the University of Virginia. Teaching. At a University. !!! And before that teaching officially began there was training for teaching. And in the middle of all of that I photographed the wedding of a dear friend I’ve known since the fifth grade. Fifth grade! She was such a beautiful bride, and if you’re interested in seeing some of those images please check out the AHPhoto blog.

Oh, and I started a photography business. Because I love taking pictures of people. And buildings. And food. So if you know anybody who needs somebody to take pictures of people, or buildings, or food...feel free to send them my way. I’d appreciate it so so much. And thank you, all of you, who have commented and tweeted and emailed your support. You’re the best, truly.

And yes, I am still working for an architecture firm here in Charlottesville. So...yeah. Busy.

It feels as though summer has completely passed by Bella Eats. Since June I’ve posted about cherries, blackberries, and blueberries. There have been no luscious heirloom tomatoes, no juice-laden peaches, no golden ears of corn. I even have a new trick for releasing kernels from their cob without making a complete mess of the kitchen counter and floor, and I haven’t had the opportunity to share it with you. That is sad my friends, because this trick is a good one. It will change the way you view corn entirely. Soon, I hope.

Way back in the middle of July our dear friend Kristin celebrated her birthday. She celebrated with us, and with this lime tart topped with blackberries from our garden. Blackberry season is just about over, a sign that summer is drawing to a quick close. Our bush has shed it’s bounty completely, leaving only the tiny shriveled berries that didn’t ever come to full ripeness. Our freezer is packed full of quart-size bags of the frozen fruit, our pantry shelf stocked with various forms of blackberry jam. This tart was one of the last recipes made this summer using berries fresh from the garden, and looking at these pictures already has me feeling nostalgic.

What is it about food that stirs memories stronger than those evoked by any other sense? While blackberries don't take me back to any point of my childhood, they do plop me down solidly in our backyard here in Charlottesville. For the past 4 years we've spent countless July and August evenings standing in our garden, bowls in hand, fingers stained purple, arms eaten by mosquitos, quietly and contently plucking berries one-by-one from a bush WE planted. I know that forever, no matter where we are, when I pop a freshly picked blackberry into my mouth I will be transported back to this place. I love that.

If you’re lucky you can still find pints of deep purple blackberries at your local farmers’ market, and if you do, I recommend you make this dessert before summer's end. The crust is quite perfect, nearly the consistency and flavor of a shortbread cookie. It doesn't flake and melt in your mouth like many pastry shells, but instead offers a firm vessel on which to carry a scoop of zippy lime curd. And scoop you will, because this tart never really sets up to a solid, sliceable state. Which is fine by me. The delightful combination of sweet shortbread, tart curd, and fresh blackberries had us all going back for seconds, despite our use of a spoon rather than a fork.

For the record, I am so unhappy with the spacing that this new Wordpress theme defaults too, but I just haven't had the time/energy to dig into the CSS code to fix it. And, we're working on a redesign of Bella Eats to be launched right around the two year (two years!) anniversary of this site at the end of October.  So, please bear with me and the awkward/awful spacing of the text in my recipes... Thank you.

Lime Tart with Blackberries

from bon appetit, June 2010 Ingredients for the lime curd:
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup fresh lime juice
  • 6 tbsp (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces
for the topping:
  • (3) 6-ounce containers fresh blackberries
  • 1 tbsp blackberry jam
for the crust:
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 large pinch of salt
Method for the lime curd:
  1. Set a fine metal strainer over a medium bowl and set aside. Whisk the eggs, egg yolks, and sugar in another medium metal bowl to blend.  Whisk in lime juice.
  2. Set bowl over large saucepan of gently simmering water (do not allow bottom of bowl to touch water). Whisk constantly until curd thickens and an instant-read thermometer inserted into curd registers 178ºF to 180ºF, about 6 minutes.  Immediately pour curd through prepared strainer set over bowl.
  3. Add butter to warm strained curd; let stand 1 minute, then whisk until blended and smooth.  Press plastic wrap directly onto surface of curd, covering completely.  Refrigerate until cold, about 4 hours.*
*Lime curd can be made up to 2 days ahead.  Keep chilled. for the crust:
  1. Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar in a medium bowl until well blended, 1 to 2 minutes. Add egg yolk; beat to blend. Add flour and salt and mix on low speed until mixture resembles large peas. Using hands, knead in bowl just until dough comes together.
  2. Transfer dough to a 9-inch diameter tart pan with removable bottom. Break dough into pieces, then press dough evenly up sides and onto bottom of pan. Cover and chill 1 hour.**
  3. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Uncover crust and bake until golden brown, about 35 minutes. Cool completely in pan on rack.
**Dough can be made 1 day ahead. Keep chilled. assembly:
  1. Remove sides from tart pan and place crust on plate. Spread lime curd evenly in baked crust. Arrange blackberries in concentric circles on top of tart.
  2. Place am in small microwave-safe bowl. Heat in microwave until jam is melted, about 15 seconds. Whisk to loosen and blend, adding water by teaspoonfuls if thick. Brush jam over berries.*** (I only brushed jam over the outer ring, because I liked how they looked without the glaze.)
***Tart can be made up to 8 hours ahead. Chill uncovered.
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happy, happy day

Andrea

Last year at this time I was posting regularly about our backyard vegetable patch. I’d shared potato salad with our sugar snap peas, an earthy, herby frittata, and a rosy beet risotto. The garden was, while a bit overgrown, orderly and walkable. I visited it every day, scurrying through the gate in the morning after my runs to pick raspberries for breakfast, losing myself to daydreams as I stood with a hose each afternoon and soaked the soil under the tomatoes and peppers. I was oh-so-proud of our little plot, and oh-so-excited to share its progress with you all.

In December, after harvesting the last of the carrots for our Christmas dinner, Brian and I mourned the fact that those were probably the last vegetables we’d see come from our current backyard. We were planning to move this Summer, and didn’t think it would be very smart to put a lot of time, money, or energy into a piece of land that would no longer be ours in just six months’ time. It made me sad. Very, very, sad.

March came and went without us ordering organic compost to till into soil already rich from three years of amendment and gardening. There was no sprinkling of lettuce, kale, carrot, or beet seeds; no elaborate map drawn to show the exact location of each plant to come. May 15th, the last frost date for our part of Virginia, rolled by without us spending a Saturday planting tiny tomato, cucumber and pepper plants. The weeds grew, and grew, and grew...and I just let them.

Multiple friends who don’t know our plans to move, but do know the joy we get from growing our own food, have asked “how’s that garden of yours?”. This single question, innocent as it is, elicits a panicked look from Brian, who tries to change the subject before I can launch into our sorrowful (to me) tale. About how, no, we didn’t plant any vegetables in our backyard this year. And no, we don’t think we’ll be moving into a new house in time to establish a new garden. And yes, I am devastated that we’re not spending a portion of our weekends weeding and watering and planting and harvesting. Harumph.

In hindsight, we should have planted summer veggies. Things never move as quickly as anticipated, and our putting the house on the market was no exception. By now we could have been eating our own lettuce, cucumbers, sugar snap peas, and beets. Instead we’re buying them at the farmer’s market, which is the next best thing, but still not quite as satisfying. I’m getting over it. Really.

However...our berries have been AMAZING this year. Strawberries, red and golden raspberries, gooseberries, blackberries. Thank goodness for hardy perennial fruit that grows no matter the neglect it’s received! Those shots at the top of the page are from my visit to the garden last Friday morning, when I first noticed that the blackberries are starting to ripen. I did a little dance, hurried back inside for my camera and a bowl, and proceeded to pick every single fully-black berry on the vine. Happy, happy day.

This cake was actually made with blackberries that we grew last summer and froze. We had 8 quarts in our own freezer, and many more were given to friends. I'm betting that our harvest will be doubled this year, and we're not moving until I am proven right.  Stubborn?  Not me.

Even if you have fresh blackberries on hand, you should still freeze them for at least 4 hours before adding them to the batter. The frozen berries, with the help of the syrup, will stay firmly rooted to the bottom of the pan without rising to the top (which will become the bottom) of the cake.

The whole wheat flour provides the cake with a dense crumb, perfect for picking up between two fingers.  I made it for dessert, but I think it is even better for breakfast.  Not too sweet, hearty with whole grains, a nice compliment to a cup of coffee.

Blackberry Upside-Down Cake

from Sweet and Natural Baking, by Mani Niall serves 10 Ingredients fruit
  • 1/3 cup liquid fruit juice concentrate (or, agave nectar)
  • 2 tbsp canola oil
  • 3 cups frozen blackberries
cake
  • 3 large egg whites, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup liquid fruit juice concentrate (or, agave nectar)
  • 2/3 cup skim milk
  • 1/3 cup plus 1 tbsp canola oil
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp fine sea salt
Method
  1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 10-inch ovenproof skillet or springform pan with vegetable oil spray.
  2. For the fruit:  In a small saucepan, bring the fruit juice concentrate and oil to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 2 minutes. Pour into the prepared pan. Immediately arrange the blackberries in the pan in a single layer. Work quickly, as the syrup will harden rapidly. Place in the freezer while preparing the batter. (This will keep the fruit from floating to the top of the batter while baking.)
  3. For the cake:  In a medium bowl, using a handheld electric mixer at high speed, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in the fruit juice concentrate, beating until stiff peaks form. Reduce the speed to low and add the milk, oil and vanilla, mixing until well combined.
  4. In another medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt until combined. Add to the liquid ingredients and whisk until smooth. Remove the pan from the freezer and pour the batter over the fruit.
  5. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool on a cake rack for 10 minutes. Run a knife around the inside of the skillet or springform to loosen the cake. Invert onto a serving plate. Let stand for 5 minutes so that the cake can absorb the juices. Remove the skillet of release the sides of the spring form and carefully lift off the bottom. Serve the cake warm or at room temperature.
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it's better this way

Andrea

Last Monday I sat on a plane at Louis Armstrong International Airport, Brian’s hand in mine as we taxied down the runway and lifted off, on our way home to Charlottesville. Out the window I watched a city that I love dearly fall away, nostalgic and missing New Orleans already.

We’d arrived Friday morning to heat and humidity that we won’t (hopefully) see in Virginia for another two months. After checking bags at our hotel, changing into shorts and slathering on sunscreen we set out into the city with two friends who’d joined us for four days of exploring, absorbing, listening and, most importantly, eating. As the veteran visitors, Brian and I had laid out an agenda based on food - our nine meals were carefully scheduled and the rest of the trip was woven loosely around their locations.

There were muffalettas and seafood po-boys, chicken andouille gumbo and spicy jambalaya, raw oysters and bags of boiled crawfish, black ham biscuits and fluffy omelets served with fries, powdered beignets and pecan-laden pralines. We sipped Pimm’s Cups as we strolled the French Quarter, cooled off with a creamy Bourbon Milk Punch at Bourbon House, swirled ice in our vodka tonics while listening to set after set of incredible jazz. We walked and biked between those meals to help counter the indulgence of the weekend, oftentimes feeling that what we really, really needed was to find a shady spot to stretch out horizontally for a nice, long nap.

As New Orleans disappeared beneath a bank of hazy clouds last Monday I found myself thinking that we could live there, Brian and I, in a cute Creole cottage just downriver from the French Quarter. We’d paint our home in shades of blue and grey with a vibrant yellow, or maybe eggplant, accent around the windows and doors. There would be bikes leaned up against the side of the house, one with a basket, ready at a moment’s notice to be ridden into the Quarter for lunch or to the Crescent City Farmer’s Market for fresh, local seafood and produce. Our yard would be tiny, just big enough for a vegetable garden and a stone terrace with an umbrella-covered picnic table. We’d string lanterns from the trees and host crawfish boils on that terrace, invite guests who would wear jaunty hats and sip frosty cocktails as they unconsciously swayed to the sounds of Doreen’s clarinet wafting from the stereo.

It is a lovely dream, one that I could see becoming a reality one day if we could just find a way to get used to the stifling heat. And the cockroaches - complete terror only scratches the surface of the affect that those little buggers have on me. And the city’s status as the murder capital of the USA...  Minor details, since I already have the biggest obstacle solved - vegetables. Did you notice that my list of traditional NOLA fare does not include even a hint of green? While we happily consumed fried / buttered / sugared food for four full days, I believe that four days must be the limit. For as I dreamt about our little blue Creole cottage and crawfish boils and lanterns strung from trees and clinking glasses of frosty beverages, I managed to squeeze a giant bowl of homegrown greens onto the linen-covered table in the middle of that backyard terrace.

A vegetable garden would be an absolute necessity to our New Orleans lifestyle.

The next day, back at work in Charlottesville and fully submerged in reality, Brian and I met a friend for lunch at Feast. I ordered a mixed salad plate, and while I couldn’t stop talking about the wonderful food in New Orleans, my mind was distracted by how amazingly satisfying the plate full of veggies in front of me was. And on Saturday, at our own City Market, we filled our basket with all the green we could get our hands on - two heads of lettuce, two bunches of both kale and collards, two pounds of asparagus.

I plan to share some of our favorite New Orleans-inspired dishes here on Bella Eats in the next month or two (along with some photographs from our trip!), but just had to give our systems a break this last 10 days.  I'd originally thought that a full month of NOLA fare on this little blog could be fun, but have decided instead to spread those rich, indulgent dishes out, to balance them with recipes like this side of wilted spinach tossed with fresh peas, garlic and scallions.  It's better this way, I promise.

Tangles of earthy spinach play well with the sweet peas in this dish. The mild flavors are complimented nicely by the subdued bite of sliced garlic and a generous handful of scallions.  Serve alongside a fillet of white fish dressed simply with lemon, sea salt and herbs for a healthy, feel-good-to-the-core meal.

Spinach with Peas and Scallions

adapted from The Naked Chef Takes Off by Jamie Oliver serves 4 Ingredients
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp butter, divided
  • 1 bunch of scallions, dark and light green parts diced (about 1/4 cup)
  • 3 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 2 cups of fresh or frozen peas
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 4 large handfulls of spinach, tough stems removed
  • sea salt and pepper
Method
  1. Heat olive oil and 1 tbsp butter in deep skillet over medium heat. Add the scallions and sliced garlic, stirring to coat with oil and butter.  Let saute' for 2-3 minutes, not letting the garlic brown.
  2. Add the peas, and saute' for another 2-3 minutes, until the garlic starts to turn golden brown.  Add the wine, and bring to a boil.  Reduce to a simmer and allow to cook for another 2-3 minutes.  If using fresh peas, be sure to test one before adding the spinach to be sure that it is cooked.
  3. Add the spinach, stirring to coat with liquid.  Allow spinach to heat through and wilt, 2-3 more minutes.  Add last tbsp of butter and salt and pepper to taste.
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bella terra: 2009

Andrea

The time has come to say farewell to 2009, and HELLO 2010!!!!!!!!!!!!!  I've debated various recaps for the blog, a review of the year that could include the introduction of a new president, my trials and tribulations with running, a trip to New York city, Bella Eats on the local news, Bella Eats Pie Month and many other wonderful memories, but decided instead to keep things simple and give our garden, the source of so many great meals this year, a little tribute.

Brian and I started our garden in the spring of 2007, tilling up a 20-foot by 20-foot patch of lawn on the east side of our house.  We chose the location to take advantage of the southern light that hits the space for most of the day, bathing the vegetables, fruits, and legumes that we grow with plenty of sunshine.  Four cubic yards of topsoil and Panorama Paydirt were delivered to our driveway, on the other side of our house, and we spent an entire Saturday hauling wheelbarrow-load after wheelbarrow-load nearly 100-feet to amend the soil and break up the dense Virginia clay.  Post holes were dug and a fence was constructed, the bottom animal-proofed with chicken wire and a gravel trench.

We based the plan of the garden on Square Foot Gardening, creating 4-foot by 4-foot boxes from borate-treated lumber (which doesn't leach harmful chemicals in the soil, like pressure-treated wood) and divided those boxes into 1-foot by 1-foot squares with twine.  We left 2-foot paths between the boxes to allow for easy harvesting, and covered those paths with weed fabric and organic mulch in order to keep the maintenance as low as possible.  And then, the fun began.

Over the last three summers we've planted blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, tomatoes, cucumbers, every color of bell pepper, green beans, sugar snap peas, edamame, eggplant, corn, kale, yellow squash, collard greens, every type of lettuce, spinach, broccoli, brussels sprouts, red beets, onions, carrots, basil, thyme, oregano, sage, rosemary, chives, fennel, watermelon, cantaloupe and muskmelons, some of those with great success and others with complete failure.  All are grown from organic seeds or plants, and we don't use any sprays or chemicals.

Early each spring we spend a weekend covering each box with organic compost to prepare the soil for the seeds and plants that will grow through the next 8 months.

Bella Terra: Preparation

The chives are typically the first green in the garden, emerging from the protective cover the previous season's growth provided through the winter.

Bella Terra: Chives for a Mushroom and Herb Frittata and Cheddar Chive Biscuits and Cheddar Chive Cornbread, among other things. The other herbs follow shortly after. Bella Terra: Herbs for an Earthy Risotto, among other things.

The garden really started filling out by June, with the blackberry bush loaded down with little green berries and the herb and lettuce boxes overflowing.

The Sugar Snap Peas were one of our first vegetable harvests. Bella Terra: Sugar Snap Peas for a special Caesar Potato Salad and Spicy Pickles In July we saw some major progress, with the garden getting close to its peak season. Cucumbers. Tomatoes and Bell Peppers. Bella Terra: Beets for a Red Beet Risotto and many, many salads and roasted veggie medleys. Bella Terra: Greens for a Greens Salad with Roasted Vegetables, and lots of sauteed kale. Bella Terra: Cucumbers for a Guacamole-Inspired Salad.

Towards the end of July and into August, our berries, bell peppers and tomatoes exploded.  We had more than we knew what to do with, but luckily froze and preserved as much as we could to get us through the fall and winter months.

Bella Terra: Blackberries for many batches of Jam, and general munching. Bella Terra: Raspberries for more Jam, Raspberry Almond Muffins and Raspberry Buttercream Frosting. Bella Terra: Tomatoes for Creamy Tomato Soup and Slow-Roasted Tomatoes. Bella Terra: Peppers for Stuffed Peppers and Chile Rellenos.

Things slowed down through mid to late Autumn, as Brian and I weren't quite as on top of getting seeds and plants in the ground for a fall harvest.  We have eaten a lot of lettuce and greens, continued to use fresh herbs in most of our cooking and even pulled some carrots out from underneath 2-feet of snow for our Christmas dinner.

It was a great year for the garden, and it is coming to a close on a bittersweet note.  Brian and I are hoping to put our house on the market in the spring or summer, and so don't have plans to put much into the soil this year.  Instead we'll be getting a bunch of pots and whiskey barrels, and trying our hand at container gardening so that we can move plants with us when we find a new place.  I will be incredibly sad to say goodbye to the little patch of earth that has provided us with so much, but look forward to starting again in a different part of Charlottesville.

And now, for the final Bella Terra post of 2009...Rosemary. Our holiday meal was a festive event this year, with my Momma and stepfather in town and 6 additional friends here to share our table.  We decided on an Italian theme, with braised short ribs in a thick tomato sauce over fresh fettucini, brussels sprouts sauteed with pancetta, the carrots pictured above in a white wine and sage glaze, garlic-full mashed potatoes.  And, as a precursor to the actual sit-down dinner, we had rosemary roasted cashews alongside bacon-wrapped dates.  Everybody was pleased, and it was a very merry Christmas day. These nuts are salty and sweet, earthy and spicy.  They solve whatever craving you may have, and are gracing our table again this evening as we ring in a new year.

Rosemary Roasted Cashews

from the kitchen sink recipes Ingredients
  • 1-1/4 pounds cashew nuts (roasted, unsalted)
  • 2 tbsp coarsely chopped rosemary
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar, light or dark
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tbsp melted butter
Method
  1. Preheat oven to 375*.
  2. Place nuts on parchment lined baking sheet.  Bake for 10 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, mix together rosemary, pepper, sugar, salt and butter in a large bowl.  Toss the warm nuts with the mixture until well coated.
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bella terra: stuffed

Andrea

Hello hello! Goodness, there were a few days there that I felt like I was never going to get back to Bella Eats. Life has been busy, my friends, but in a very good way. The kind of way that makes you feel really good about what you’re doing, and very thankful for the support of your understanding husband who winds up single-handedly taking on the domestic tasks of keeping us both fed and in clean clothes, while simultaneously helping me make invitation design decisions and proofreading documents for presentations. He’s a keeper, that one, as are all of you for your very sweet comments on my last post. I apologize for not being as present in comment response as I should be, but wanted you all to know how much each and every one means to me. If you asked a question, and I think there were only a couple, I answered it in the last day or so at the bottom of the comments. And please, if you ever have a question for me that requires a timely response, feel free to send me an email - I’m usually better with those. Stuffed There has been a lot of stuffing happening around our house these last few weeks, and I don’t just mean boxes full of wedding invitations for a friend or images into a presentation for a big board meeting. I mean stuffed peppers. And squash. It all started with a dinner party thrown by our dear friend Amy, who hosts fabulous gatherings at which everybody cooks a dish based on a theme for the evening. Sometimes the theme is a specific ingredient such as almonds or chocolate, and other times it is based on a method of cooking or assembly. A month or so ago the theme was “stuffed!”, and we enjoyed the food so much that Brian and I have been replicating recipes ever since. Stuffed-5 The timing worked out perfectly, as we had just traded extra bell peppers from our garden for a friend’s over-abundance of homegrown pattypan squash. If you’ve ever grown squash, you know that two people can’t possibly consume all of the bounty from one little squash plant. Its unreal. We planted summer squash two years ago and were so over it by the end of the season that we haven’t planted any since. The same goes for eggplant. Next year we’re planning to coordinate with our friends and plan more regular produce swaps, to take advantage of the space we each have and be sure that nothing will go to waste. Our own mini version of a CSA. Stuffed-2 Peppers are a different story. I never get tired of them, and the only reason for sharing is when I know that we can’t possibly finish them before they start to get soft. I haven’t always felt that way as growing up, I only knew of one type of bell pepper - green. They made appearances in the stir fries, fajitas and supreme pizzas of my childhood, their distinct earthy flavor permeating whatever dish they graced. I wouldn’t have called myself a fan, but I didn’t mind them either. Like milk with breakfast and  brushing my teeth before bed, the emerald bells were just an ever-present part of my life that I didn’t bother to question. Stuffed-6 Sometime in college I discovered that bell peppers came in colors other than green, and the rainbow beauties started making their way into my cart each week at the market. I found the sunset-hued varieties to be much more versatile than the green, and added them to my usual pepper-laden dishes as well as pastas, quiches and salads. They aren’t inexpensive, so when I found out we could grow them in Virginia I was quite excited. Our garden has seen them all. The first summer we were a little over-zealous with our pepper patch, planting green, purple, red, yellow and orange bells, along with one lone (although incredibly productive) banana pepper plant. Our kitchen saw much pepper experimentation that season, as we learned that we really weren’t fans of green bells anymore, that the beautiful eggplant color fades from the purple bells when they are cooked (leaving you, essentially, with a green bell) and that we couldn’t possibly keep up with the harvest from one banana pepper plant (although, now that we know how to pickle, I think we’ll try again next year). Stuffed-7 As summer winds down we are cherishing the last red and yellow bell peppers coming out of the garden.  Smaller than those we were getting a couple of weeks ago, but every bit as tasty, they’ve added a mild sweetness and lovely color to frittatas, stir fry, fajitas, homemade pizzas and summer salads. Our favorite use lately has been to sauté thinly sliced red peppers with strips of onion, minced garlic and fresh kale, then to pile the whole mixture on top of grilled spicy Italian sausage drizzled with dijon mustard and encased in a crusty bun. So delicious, so summer. And then, of course, there is the Stuffed! pepper option.  Always a winner in my book, I finally convinced Brian of their merit a few years ago when I made them using red and yellow bells instead of green.  We tried the same stuffing recipe with pattypan squash, with much success.  Pattypan has such a mild flavor that it lends itself well to a full-flavored filling. Stuffed-8 I came up with this recipe on a whim, adding ingredients to the stuffing until it looked and tasted the way I thought it should.  The result was quite tasty but I encourage you to tweak to suit your own tastes. Stuffed Peppers or Squash serves 4 Ingredients:
  • 4 bell peppers (preferably red or yellow), 4 medium patty pan squash
  • 1 cup cooked brown rice
  • 1/2 cup corn kernels, fresh or frozen
  • 1/2 cup raw red onion
  • 1/2 cup diced bell pepper (from the tops that you'll cut off)
  • 3 roma tomatoes, seeds removed, diced
  • 1 can black beans, drained
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 tsp ancho chile pepper, OR 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese, plus 2 tbsp to sprinkle on top
Method:
  1. Preheat oven to 400*.
  2. For Peppers:  Cut the tops off of the peppers.  Cut out the interior ribs and remove all seeds.  Bring a large pot of water to a boil, and drop the peppers in so that they fill with water.  Boil for 1-2 minutes, until the peppers are starting to soften and turn a brighter shade of yellow/red/green.  Remove from water, drain and set aside.
  3. For Squash:  Cut tops off of squash as you would a pumpkin.  Scrape out interior seeds and strings, discard.  Bring a large pot of water to a boil, and drop the squash in.  Boil for 5-8 minutes, until the squash is fork-tender.  Remove and drain, set aside.
  4. In a medium-size bowl, mix together the cooked rice, corn, red onion, diced bell pepper, and roma tomatoes.  Drain the beans and press or squish with your palms before adding to the rice mixture (some beans will remain whole, but most should be squished).  Add cumin, chile pepper, salt and pepper, mix well.  Add 1/2 cup cheese and set aside.
  5. Line a baking dish with foil and set peppers or squash in dish.  Fill with rice mixture until full, and sprinkle top with cheddar cheese.
  6. Bake at 400* for 20-25 minutes, until cheese is bubbly.  Turn on broiler for last minute or two if you want to brown the cheese a bit.  Remove from oven and let cool for a few minutes before serving on a bed of rice.
Stuffed-9 Chiles Rellenos serves 4 This recipe is nearly identical to the one above.  But, there are a couple of ingredient changes and the method for preparing the peppers is a little different. Ingredients:
  • 6-8 medium-size poblano peppers
  • 1 cup cooked brown rice
  • 1/2 cup corn kernels, fresh or frozen
  • 1/2 cup raw yellow onion
  • 1/2 cup diced bell pepper
  • 3 roma tomatoes, seeds removed, diced
  • 1 can black beans, drained
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese, plus 2 tbsp to sprinkle on top
Method:
  1. Move rack to top of oven.  Turn broiler on hi.
  2. Place peppers in a baking dish.  Place under broiler and broil until all sides are charred, turning accordingly, for 3-5 minutes.  (See photo on left below for peppers just after charring).  Remove and turn off oven.
  3. Put hot peppers in a gallon-size ziplock and seal.  Let "sweat" for 30 minutes in bag.
  4. After 30 minutes, remove peppers from bag.  Skin should be easy to peel from peppers - remove it all.  Cut a slice in one side of each pepper and remove all ribs and seeds from interior.  IMPORTANT - If you are sensitive to heat, make sure to remove ALL of the ribs as this is where the heat lies.  Also WASH YOUR HANDS many many many times with soap and water before touching your eyes, nose, mouth etc.
  5. In a medium-size bowl, mix together the cooked rice, corn, onion, diced bell pepper, and roma tomatoes.  Drain the beans and press or squish with your palms before adding to the rice mixture (some beans will remain whole, but most should be squished).  Add cumin, salt and pepper, mix well.  Add 1/2 cup cheese and set aside.
  6. Line a baking dish with foil and set peppers or squash in dish.  Fill with rice mixture until full, and sprinkle top with cheddar cheese.
  7. Bake at 400* for 20-25 minutes, until cheese is bubbly.  Turn on broiler for last minute or two if you want to brown the cheese a bit.  Remove from oven and let cool for a few minutes before serving on a bed of rice.
Stuffed Merge 2 This weekend, Brian and I are off to Brooklyn for a childhood friend's (mine) wedding.  We are so excited, even though we'll only be in the city for about 48 hours.  As with all of our vacations, we are planning this one entirely around food (except for the wedding of course, but the lovely bride has Baked! catering the desserts!!!).  If you have any suggestions for your favorite foodie havens in Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn...send them on!  And expect a full photographic review of our trip next week...!
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bella eats: tomatoes part 2

Andrea

As I sat on our deck steps last night listening to the cicadas and sipping a glass of vino verde while Brian threw toys for the dogs, their feet tearing through our bed of mint and releasing the most intoxicating smell into the air, I realized that the outside temperature was incredibly comfortable. A lovely 68 degrees, with the lightest breeze to whisk the hair out of your face and send goosebumps dancing up your arms, made for the perfect deck-sitting evening. I thought to myself “Fall...she’s almost here”, before picking myself up and moving inside because Summer’s mosquitos haven’t yet received the memo. sunflowers merge September. The first month of Autumn...how is it already upon us? The end of Summer is quite visible in the shriveling of our tomato plants, the slumber of our blackberries and the fully ripe figs on the public trees just down the street (of which I have enjoyed many...). I must admit, I’ve been feeling the fingers of Fall moving in to pull me through the last few weeks of Summer for awhile now and have not been unhappy about it. For Fall, with her crisp air, golden light, crunchy leaves under feet and produce fit for warm and hearty meals, is absolutely my favorite season. SRtomatoes-1 That’s not to say that I won’t miss Summer. I’ll miss our garden, and bemoan the fact that I didn’t have enough forethought to plant winter squash, sweet potatoes or another round of beets. I’ll miss the gorgeous heirloom tomatoes that literally burst open on the vine because they are so full of juice, and the sweet taste of a peach pulled from a tree with my very own hands. I’ll miss my effervescent white wines and fresh berry tarts topped with vanilla ice cream, and simple green salads for dinner paired with a loaf of french bread. And of course there’s the kayaking, the trips to the reservoir with the dogs and the extended daylight that allows for late evening walks and runs with girlfriends. SRtomatoes-2 We’ve done our best to preserve as much of Summer’s bounty as possible. We had bigger plans for the 2009 harvest, but I’m proud that we saved so much more than last year and feel certain that we’ll do even better in 2010. We’ve made over 200 ounces of jam, in flavors ranging from strawberry rhubarb to peach lime. I’ve frozen 10 quart-bags full of blackberries and the same number full of peach slices. I’ve baked and frozen zucchini muffins and raspberry muffins to grab on the go on future rushed Autumn mornings. And I’ve slow-roasted tomatoes, 8 pounds of them, to enjoy over pasta and on sandwiches this winter when I need a little reminder of warmer days. SRtomatoes-4 Slow-roasting tomatoes concentrates their flavor into single bites that seem to explode in your mouth.  They will instantly transform a simple parmesan-laced pasta or crusty loaf of bread spread with St. Andres or another triple cream cheese into the most satisfying meal.  That is, if you can keep your husband and other fingers away from the pan as the tomatoes cool... SRtomatoes-1-2 If possible, I encourage you all to freeze or can as much local produce as you can this summer.  I wish I'd pushed the idea earlier on, and promise that next year I'll have more comprehensive guides to canning and freezing.  As I've mentioned, Brian and I try to eat as locally and seasonally as possible.  Unfortunately, living in Virginia, there comes a time every winter when it is nearly impossible to get any fresh local produce.  This year we decided to extend out local eating season as long as possible by preserving as much as we could.  We had big plans for canned whole vegetables and fruits, salsas and tomato sauces (of which Brian did make one freezer batch).  We weren't as productive as we had hoped, although the season isn't quite over yet.  So, get to your local farmer's market this weekend and pick up the last of the tomatoes, peaches, berries, okra etc, and have a little canning or freezing party in your kitchen.  Come winter, you'll be so happy you did. SRtomatoes-2-2 Slow-Roasted Tomatoes recipe from Molly Wizenburg's A Homemade Life, pg. 192 Ingredients:
  • 3-1/2 pounds ripe Roma tomatoes, halved (about 20 tomatoes)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • salt
  • ground coriander
Method:
  1. Preheat oven to 200*F.
  2. Wash and dry tomatoes, and cut them in half length-wise.  Place in a large bowl and drizzle with olive oil.  Toss gently to coat.
  3. Arrange them on a baking sheet cut-side up, and sprinkle each with a pinch of salt and a pinch of coriander for every 4-6 tomatoes.
  4. Bake until the tomatoes crinkle at the edges and shrink to about half their original size, 4 to 6 hours.
  5. Cool to room temperature before storing them in an airtight container.  They will keep in the refrigerator for up to a week or the freezer for a few months.
**I also found this slow-roasted tomato recipe that I wanted to try, but we ran out of tomatoes in the garden too soon. I may pick some up at the market this weekend to give it a try. SRtomatoes-3-2

Winners!

The winners of the last two Saucy Mama Lime Chipotle Marinade (picked by random.org) are: #15 Bev #31  Melissa, of Melissa's Journey Congratulations Ladies!  I know you'll love the sauce.  Please send me an email at bellaeats[at]gmail[dot]com with your full name and address. All other winners, of Saucy Mama marinade and jam, your treats are going out this week!  I promise! Other Bella Terra posts this season:
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bella terra: pick-me-up

Andrea

When I bought three raspberry plants (two red, one golden) from my local nursery last year I had no idea what to expect. We’d had mixed luck with berries - the blackberry bush we’d planted the year before was showing a lot of promise for its second summer but the blueberry bush we’d put in 3 years prior hadn’t grown a bit and typically yielded a harvest of only one dozen berries each season. I was taking a chance, but the raspberry plants were inexpensive and I was determined to have long branches loaded with berries twining through the fence surrounding our garden. RasMuffins - Merge 1 We got lucky.  Their first year the raspberries didn't do much.  We were rewarded with a couple of small handfuls of fruit - really only enough to snack on as you wandered through the garden checking on other plants, certainly not enough to actually do something with.  But this year - the berries' second year - has been quite the surprise.  Maybe its because I wasn't expecting much from them, or maybe its that their location in the garden is a bit out of the way, but just a few weeks ago I was shocked (shocked!) to discover that the raspberry branches had reached clear out of their intended boundaries and were loaded (loaded!) with plump berries.  I wish I could show you photos of their progress, but the general unruliness of the garden has left me embarrassed to share the evidence. RasMuffins-8 Its hard to not get excited about being in the kitchen, concocting new recipes when your fridge has a constantly rotating bowl full of red raspberries, golden raspberries and blackberries.   Unless, like me last week, you come down with a bug right in the middle of berry season.  It was nothing too serious, but provided enough sour feelings to keep me completely out of the kitchen and away from the blog. I had no interest in cooking food, writing about food or editing images of food for five full days. It was all I could do to get the tomato soup post up Tuesday night, and the next day I couldn’t even bring myself to read comments because the mere thought of tomatoes gave me a queazy feeling. Finally, on Saturday, as I was laying on a towel in the middle of our living room floor after a particularly hard 4-mile run, thoughts of homemade muffins popped into my head. RasMuffins-4 I jumped up, so excited to have the urge to bake without a queazy feeling following along behind that urge. It was getting worrisome, this lack of desire to stand at my kitchen counter, because I had promised some dear friends that I would make cupcakes for their daughter’s third birthday party the next day. And, we had raspberries. Several bowls of raspberries freshly picked from our garden just waiting to be folded into muffin batters and buttercream frostings and made into jam (peach + raspberry = yum!). The opportunities were endless, yet until Saturday I’d done nothing to seize them. RasMuffins-7 These little raspberry almond muffins pulled me out of my funk, with some help from Ellie Krieger, whose book I had picked up at the library a few weeks prior. They are hearty, made with a mix of all-purpose and whole-grain flours, and pack nice little raspberry punches into each bite.  Made moist by applesauce instead of butter, and topped with a crunchy cinnamon and almond topping, they provide an adequate amount of sweetness countered by the slightly tart raspberries - a sure pick-me-up for any slow morning or afternoon.  I've frozen a bunch of them to use as my own little weapon against future kitchen blues... RasMuffins-5 Raspberry-Almond Muffins makes 16 muffins adapted from Ellie Krieger's The Food You Crave, Apple-Pecan Muffins, pg 22 Ingredients:
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tbsp light brown sugar, packed
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds, chopped finely
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole-grain pastry flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup natural unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup fat free buttermilk
  • 1 cup fresh raspberries
Method:
  1. Preheat the oven to 400*.  Coat a 12-cup muffin pan with cooking spray, along with 4 wells in a second muffin pan.
  2. In a small bowl, mix together 2 tbsp of the brown sugar, the almonds and the cinnamon.  Set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, baking soda and salt.
  4. In a large bowl, whisk the remaining 3/4 cup brown sugar and the oil until combined.  Add the eggs, one at a time, whisking well after each addition.  Whisk in the applesauce and vanilla.  Stir in the flour mixture in two batches, alternating with the buttermilk, just until combined.  Gently stir in the raspberries.
  5. Pour the batter into the prepared muffin tins, filling each about 2/3's full, and sprinkle evenly with almond mixture.  Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of one of the muffins comes out clean, about 20 minutes.
  6. Let cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes before removing from pan.
RasMuffins - Merge 2 What about those cupcakes I mentioned before?  Well, I made these again, along with a vanilla version for the adorable 3-year-old's birthday party.  They were a big hit with the young-uns, but I think the adults enjoyed them even more... Cupcakes-Merge Other Bella Terra posts this season: Bella Terra: Preparation Bella Terra: Chives Bella Terra: Herbs Bella Terra: Sugar Snaps Bella Terra: Red Beets Bella Terra: Kale Bella Terra: Cucumbers Bella Terra: Blackberries Bella Terra: Tomatoes, Part 1
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bella terra: tomatoes, part 1

Andrea

You might remember that peaches claimed the number one spot on my "favorite summer produce" list.  But I must say, it was a close, close race.  In fact, Brian and I agreed that the attributes we loved most about both peaches and tomatoes were mostly the same. Both taste infinitely better during their season than at any other point in the year.  The personal acquisition of each (peaches from the orchard, tomatoes from our garden) guarantees a freshness and minimization of the bruises that these fragile fruits usually have when gathered from the grocery store, not to mention warm + fuzzy memories of time spent with your honey.  And finally, both peaches and tomatoes are so very summer.  In the end, I think it was my sweet tooth and Brian's lack thereof that determined each of our favorites. tomatosoup1 (1) The ripening of tomatoes in our garden is a bittersweet time for me.  Sweet, because we look forward to the juicy yellow, orange and red fruits from the time we plant the seedlings in mid-May, and bitter because it signals the beginning of the end - the downward slide of summer into fall.  Especially this year, when our harvest season has been cut so short by the blight claiming tomatoes across the Northeast.  Brian and I noticed it early this year, the slow yellowing then browning and shriveling of the lowest branches on our plants.  Eventually, the plants become skeletons of their former selves, with sad tomatoes hanging desperately to branches for as long as they can.  We learned this year that there is no way to avoid the fungus, especially since we have a strict no-spray rule, and if we want a full harvest season next year we need to plant a succession of tomatoes every 4 weeks starting in May and ending in July.  Lesson learned. tomatosoup merge 1 Despite the blight, we have had way too many tomatoes to handle all at once, just not enough for all of the canned sauces and salsas we had planned.  We've had countless tomato mozzarella salads, tomato + hummus + ham sandwiches, roasted tomato pastas and just plain tomato slices sprinkled with salt and eaten while standing over the kitchen sink, juice dripping from our hands.  Friends and neighbors have been lucky recipients of our extras - and in fact our guests last weekend claimed our house as the best "bed and breakfast" they'd stayed at as they loaded their car with a bag of heirloom tomatoes and a jar of homemade jam.  In return, they shared a recipe for Heirloom Tomato Soup that was not only delicious, but a great way to use up large quantities of our bounty. tomatosoup merge 2 We made it the next night, and I was pleased after my first taste to find that it was reminiscent of a favorite tomato basil soup I enjoyed at a local Greek restaurant while in graduate school - rich and creamy, with a nice spice that hits the back of your throat after each bite.  It was wonderful with fresh heirloom tomatoes from the garden, but I also look forward to trying it with canned tomatoes in the winter when I need a little reminder of warmer days.   For me, tomato soup has no particular season - I'll take it any time of the year. tomatosoup06 (1) This soup is the grown-up version of a childhood favorite, and pairs perfectly with grown-up grilled cheese sandwiches.  We made ours with a fresh french baguette, jarslberg cheese and salty soprassata - but feel free to use whatever soft cheese and cured meat makes you happiest. Creamy Heirloom Tomato Soup I adapted this recipe from a friend's adaptation of a Cooking Light recipe.  The original didn't use any cream, which I'm sure would be good, but the cream makes it oh, so delicious... serves 4 for dinner with a salad or sandwiches Ingredients:
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 4 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/8 tsp hot red pepper flakes (optional - use more or less to suit your tastes)
  • 1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
  • 3 tbsp fresh basil leaves, chopped finely
  • 6 large heirloom tomatoes, peeled and chopped (or 2 (28oz) cans whole tomatoes, if you make this in any season other than summer)
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 2 large slices good quality bread, torn into 1-inch pieces
  • 1-1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup light cream
  • salt and ground pepper, to taste
Method:
  1. Heat oil in large saucepan over medium-high heat.  Add onion, garlic, thyme, basil and red pepper flakes, stirring until onions are translucent.
  2. Add tomatoes and cook for 5 minutes, until tomatoes start to break down.  Using wooden spoon, mash tomatoes against side of pot to release juices.
  3. Stir in sugar and bread, stirring occasionally until bread starts to break down, about 5 minutes.
  4. Transfer soup to a blender in batches and puree' until smooth and creamy (if you have an immersion blender, feel free to use it in the soup pot).  Return soup to pot and stir in chicken broth and cream.  Reheat, and add salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Serve with mini grilled jarlsberg and sopressata sandwiches, if desired.
tomatosoup09 (1) We've been eating a LOT of tomatoes in our house, so stay tuned for more Bella Terra: Tomato posts... SRtomatoes-1-2 And, the Bella Eats Jam winner is...JENNY (comment #7)!  Send me an email at bellaeats[at]gmail[dot]com and I'll get your jam out to you this week.  If I don't hear from Jenny, I'll select another winner randomly in my next post. Other Bella Terra posts this season: Bella Terra: Preparation Bella Terra: Chives Bella Terra: Herbs Bella Terra: Sugar Snaps Bella Terra: Red Beets Bella Terra: Kale Bella Terra: Cucumbers Bella Terra: Blackberries
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bella terra: blackberry jam, anyone?

Andrea

I can’t believe I’ve waited so long to talk about jam this summer! Here it is, mid-August, the blackberries are nearing the end of another extremely productive season and I am just now sharing these recipes with you. It seems that our bush quadrupled in size from last year, and the bounty we’ve received reflects that growth. I am giddy thinking of next year’s harvest, since the new growth taking over our fence and gate will bear what surely must be another quadrupling of this year’s numbers. Oh, the possibilities. jam11 (1) I must admit, I’m somewhat happy to see this blackberry season come to an end. In just a couple of weeks I’ll be able to cut back all of this year’s fruited wood, and will have the space needed to train the new growth and reclaim our entrance to the garden. Blackberries bear fruit on the previous year’s growth, so as the new arms have reached out into any space they could creep to, we’ve been powerless to do anything about them. I can’t bear the thought of cutting any of them back, for fear of what that would do to next year’s harvest, but I will be very grateful to not have to play limbo to pass through the garden gate. jam10 (1) I’ve actually shared this recipe with you before, in the springtime when Florida strawberries hit Virginia stores and I couldn’t help buying multiple quarts. Molly’s jam recipe is really the only one you need, as it can be modified to use any variety of fruit available at any time of the year. And modify we have, for Brian and I have been jam-making machines this last month. We wanted to preserve as much of the summertime bounty as we could, and since our blackberry bush has produced approximately two dozen quarts of deep purple berries in just 30-days time, jam seemed like an obvious solution. We’ve also frozen half a dozen quarts for use through the fall and winter (its doubtful they’ll make it to spring), made a couple of pastries and plenty of smoothies. jam6 (1) But our favorite use of our overabundance of the sweet-tart fruit has been jam. So far we’ve tried three different varieties with our blackberries, and we have a few more in mind to try out this weekend. The peaches we’ve been picking have come in handy too, providing a natural sweetness that allows us to cut the sugar used in the original recipe. We’ve been eating jam on biscuits, waffles, pancakes, almond butter sandwiches and even pork tenderloin as a delicious glaze. We have jars upon jars stored up in our pantry, waiting to be given to friends or consumed by us over the next 11 months. jam9 In fact, one lucky reader will receive a 6oz jar of Bella Eats Jam to enjoy! Just leave a comment on this post telling me your favorite jam/preserves/jelly flavor. Who knows, maybe you’ll see your flavor featured after our next experimentation!   I’ll announce the winner on my next post, so comment away until then. jam4 (1) Blackberry Jam with Peaches or Plums adapted from Molly Wizenburg via Epicurious Ingredients:
  • 8oz fresh blackberries
  • 2 pounds fresh plums or peaches, peeled and chopped
  • 1-1/2 to 2 cups sugar, depending on sweetness of peaches / plums
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
Method:
  1. To peel peaches and plums, bring a large pot of water to boil.  Slice a large "X" into the bottom of each piece of fruit.  Drop the fruit, 3-4 at a time into the boiling water.  Let boil for 45 seconds and remove with a slotted spoon to a large bowl filled with ice water.  When fruit is cool (about 1 minute) remove to a cutting board and peel skin, which should pull apart from the fruit easily.  Chop fruit into 1/2-inch dice.
  2. Toss blackberries with peaches or plums in medium-size bowl.  Add sugar and lemon juice and toss to coat.  Let sit for 2 hours, stirring occasionally.
  3. Prepare canning jars as per canning instructions (see recipe above or instructions for your canning equipment).
  4. Transfer fruit mixture to a 4-quart saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally.  Crush the fruit with a potato masher and let continue to bubble until it thickens, about 20 minutes. Dip a metal spoon into the jam and then hold it over the pot, letting it drip for a few moments to cool.  Run your finger down the back of the spoon, through the mixture.  If your finger leaves a clear path on the back of the spoon, the jam has cooked long enough.  If not, keep cooking and test every 5 minutes until you get a clear path.
  5. Spoon jam into prepared jars and process according to canning instructions (see recipe above or instructions for your canning equipment).
Peach Jam with a Hint of Blackberry (this is the jam pictured in the images above.  the blackberry jam with peaches or plums is darker in color) Ingredients:
  • 8oz fresh blackberries
  • 2-1/2 pounds fresh peaches, peeled and chopped
  • 1-1/4 cups sugar, divided
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice, divided
Method: Use the same method as above, except separate the blackberries and peaches into two separate bowls.  Toss the peaches with 1 tbsp lemon juice and 3/4 cup sugar.  Toss the blackberries with 1 tbsp lemon juice and 1/2 cup sugar.  After two hours, puree' blackberries in a food processor or blender, then strain to remove seeds and pulp.  Stir blackberry puree' into peaches and continue with step #4. jam merge 1 And, if you're not sure what to do with the 24-ish ounces of jam the recipes above produce, make this cake [pictured above], using the jam instead of the filling.  Or, give jars out to your friends - they'll love it, I promise. jam3 (1) Other Bella Terra posts this season: Bella Terra: Preparation Bella Terra: Chives Bella Terra: Herbs Bella Terra: Sugar Snaps Bella Terra: Red Beets Bella Terra: Kale Bella Terra: Cucumbers
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bella terra: just can't keep up

Andrea

I feel like I am so behind on bella terra posts that I've got to give you another immediately following my last.  Its the time of year, I suppose - even the farmer's market has exploded with dozens of options for fresh local produce.  So many things are happening in the garden that I am having a very hard time keeping up.  In fact, as I write this, the very last cucumber that we will get this year is ripening on the vine, and I haven't even shared a recipe with you yet!  The rest of the cucumber plants have started browning from the ground up, wilting away in the high-80* heat we've had these last few weeks.  Soon their place will be taken with new plantings of fall crops...once I figure out what those will be. cukes merge 1 We enjoyed an abundance of cukes this year, many more than we've been able to handle gracefully.  I've shamelessly offered them to anybody who will take them, and am usually met with a pleased-yet-baffled look as I hand over an armload of huge cucumbers and am asked "any suggestions"?  Salads, of course.  Lots and lots of salads. cukes 7 Maybe this one - even though cucumbers aren't listed in the ingredients I think they would make a fine addition.  Same goes for this one, which you're probably already making what with all the beets showing up in farmer's market booths and grocery stores this time of year.  Throw some cucumbers in, they'd be great mixed with those golden globes, purple cabbage and just-off-the-vine tomatoes.  But if you're looking for something new, something with a fresh California-inspired, deconstructed guacamole flavor, I've got just the salad for you. cukes 8 It screams summer, with its refreshing bites of cucumber and juicy tomato.  The red onion adds just the right amount of bite that is tempered slightly by the creamy avocado.  Take it to a picnic, a backyard fiesta or an evening dinner on a friend's front porch.  Margarita not required, but definitely recommended. cukes 2 Mid-Summer Cucumber Salad with Champagne Vinaigrette vinaigrette from emeril via food network Ingredients:
  • 3 large cucumbers, peeled, seeded and chopped
  • 1 tbsp kosher salt
  • 1 small red onion, diced finely
  • 20 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 avocado, chopped to 1/2-inch dice
  • finely chopped cilantro, to taste (I find that everybody's tolerance for cilantro is a little different, so use as much or as little as you'd like)
  • 1/4-cup champagne vinegar or white wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 2 tsp minced shallot
  • 1/2 tsp dijon mustard
  • 1/4 tsp minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • salt + pepper
Method:
  1. Peel cucumbers and slice them in half length-wise.  Scoop seeds out with a spoon and cut cukes into 1/2-inch slices.  Place cukes in colander in sink and sprinkle with kosher salt.  Toss to coat and let sit for 30 minutes before rinsing very well.
  2. Combine vinegar, honey, shallot, mustard and garlic in food processor.  Slowly add olive oil and process until smooth.  Salt + pepper to taste.
  3. In a large bowl, toss rinsed cucumbers, red onion, tomatoes, avocado and cilantro together.  Add dressing to taste.  You will have dressing leftover, and it should be used within 1 week.
cukes 1 Want to read more about our garden? Bella Terra: Preparation Bella Terra: Chives Bella Terra: Herbs Bella Terra: Sugar Snaps Bella Terra: Red Beets Bella Terra: Kale
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bella terra: the last of the greens

Andrea

I’ve mentioned before that I am a big fan of leafy greens. Big, big fan. A taste for greens kind of comes with the territory when you grow up in the south, along with a decent addiction to fried okra and sweet tea. But unlike those two childhood favorites, greens can be an incredibly healthy addition to your diet - full of fiber, vitamins A, C and K, folate, iron and calcium - as long as you leave out the bacon that is standard in most southern dishes. And when you eat greens as often as Brian and I do you really should leave out the bacon. Or run a few extra miles a day which, lets be honest, could be worth it. greens 8 We planted kale our first year with the garden but had very little luck with it. We were late getting the seeds in the ground that spring and wound up having very hot weather very early in the season so the poor little shoots never really had a chance. The next year we tried collard greens, having heard that they were a bit heartier than kale. Wow. Heartier was right. We had more collards than Brian and I plus the handful of friends that also like greens could handle. They were enjoyed immensely through most of the summer, but at the end of the season Brian not-so-subtly hinted that he’d had enough collards to last him for quite some time, and could we maybe try kale again next year? greens 2 We chose lacinato kale this spring, also known as black or dinosaur kale, because we love its deep earthy flavor and feel that it is a tad less bitter than other kale varieties. The seeds went into the ground in mid-march, and because we’ve had a relatively cool and wet summer we've been enjoying a steady harvest of fresh garden kale for the last two months. The weather is getting warmer now though, and the greens are fading fast. I’m suddenly feeling the pressure to increase our intake before they all wilt away and we have to wait for the cooler fall air for our next crop. greens merge 1 Luckily, this increase in consumption corresponded with a couple of key events that led to the creation of a new favorite salad. The first was an email I received a few weeks ago asking if I would like to participate in a Barhyte Foods recipe contest featuring their line of condiments - Saucy Mama. The second was my discovery that young, raw lacinato kale leaves make for quite the tasty salad. Accompanied by sweet roasted vegetables, tangy goat cheese and a delightful raspberry vinaigrette, the slight bitterness of the greens (which is typically tempered by blanching) was balanced perfectly. And because kale is more firm than lettuce it holds its own quite well even after being coated with the dressing, adding a nice crunch to a bite filled with soft beets and creamy cheese. Add some toasted walnuts to the top and you have a lovely dinner salad in front of you. You won’t even miss the bacon. greens 9 It is best to use young kale leaves, just 4 to 6 inches long and 2 to 3 inches wide. They will be more tender, and less bitter, than their older siblings. I also tossed in some beet greens, which have a wonderful spicy bite to them and are best if used within one day of being pulled from the ground. For the dressing I used Saucy Mama’s Raspberry Vinaigrette. In full disclosure, Barhyte Foods has sent me samples of their most popular condiments to develop recipes for a contest they are holding. Also, to be completely honest, I must tell you that this dressing is delicious. Really, really delicious. Summer Greens Salad with Roasted Vegetables and Raspberry Vinaigrette serves 4 for a light dinner Ingredients:
  • about 1 pound of fresh greens - rinsed, dried, removed from stems and chopped (I used lacinato kale and beet greens) - should equal about 6 cups
  • 3 medium-size beets - washed, peeled and chopped to 1" dice
  • 2 medium-size carrots - washed, peeled and chopped to 1" dice
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • salt + pepper
  • 4 tbsp raspberry vinaigrette, plus more if needed for you tastes (I used Saucy Mama Raspberry Vinaigrette...delicious!)
  • 2 oz fresh goat cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
Method:
  1. Preheat oven to 350*.  Place chopped beets and carrots into medium-size glass baking dish.  Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper, stir to coat.  Roast vegetables for 30-40 minutes, until tender but not mushy.
  2. Wash and dry greens as best you can.  Remove leaves from stems and chop to bite-size pieces.  Place in large bowl and toss with raspberry vinaigrette to coat well.
  3. Remove vegetables from oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes.  While they cool, toast your walnuts.
  4. Place a heap of greens in the center of your plate.  Top with roasted vegetables, crumbled goat cheese and toasted walnuts.
greens 12
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bella terra: bridging the gap

Andrea

beets merge 5 Would you look at that? The garden has gone wild! To enter one must blindly reach through the blackberries to the latch on the gate and, once the latch is found and opened, duck underneath the new growth that won’t bear fruit until next summer. Tomatoes have broken free of their cages, the strawberries are taking over our pathway, herbs are spilling out of their raised bed and the blackberry bush has exploded with just-ripe fruit. beets merge 4 Once inside you embark on what feels like a treasure hunt, pecking through the ever-bearing strawberry patch for the tiny, sweet fruit and pulling blackberry branches aside to reveal purple berries as big as my thumb. The tomatoes are plump and just starting to ripen, moving from a deep apple green through shades of yellow, peach and pink before finally settling into deep rosy reds (romas and brandywine), golden yellows (hawaiian pineapple) or dusty purples (cherokee princess). beets merge 2 The cucumber vines have been prolific, providing us with more bounty than we’ve been able to handle, and the okra is just starting to bear its strangely-shaped pods. We’ve definitely moved from spring crops into summer,  having already said our goodbyes to the sugar snap peas and lettuces and stored away the last of the spring onions.  The crop we've been enjoying most recently, the one that bridged the gap between spring and summer and would have provided a harvest for even longer if we'd just planted another succession, are the red beets. beets 6 Beets are a newly acquired vegetable on my list of top ten favorites.  I was introduced to them just a year or two ago, in the roasted form and mixed with a medley of potatoes, carrots, pearl onions and brussels sprouts.  Having only had experience with the canned and pickled varieties in the past, I was pleasantly surprised when I took my first bite of fresh roasted beet and discovered its delightfully sweet flavor and firm texture.  Ever since, beets have made it into most of our roasted veggie dishes and made select appearances in salads containing goat cheese and toasted nuts. beets merge 1 Most recently I tried beets in a creamy risotto, and was extremely pleased with the final result.  I based the recipe on a butternut squash risotto that I've been making for many years, thinking that the beets would make an easy substitute in level of sweetness and overall texture.  The beets do take longer to tenderize than butternut squash, so my method resulted in a creamy risotto with bits of slightly firm beets.  If you'd prefer your beets to be very soft, I suggest roasting them with a splash of olive oil for 10-20 minutes before adding them to the skillet. Oh!  And if you're lucky enough to purchase (or grow!) beets that still have their greens attached, and those greens are still crisp and brightly colored, cook them up like you would kale, swiss chard, or collard greens.  They are delicious. beets 3 I think that barley would be a fantastic whole-grain substitute for the arborio rice in this recipe, we were just all out.  Make sure to use pearl barley if you try it - quick-cooking barley doesn't allow for the slow release of the starches that provide the creaminess risotto is known for. Red Beet Risotto serves 4 as a main course Ingredients:
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, cut into 1/4 inch dice (or enough tiny onions to equal about 1 cup diced)
  • 3 medium-sized beets, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch dice (about 2 cups)
  • 2 cups arborio rice (or 1 cup pearl barley)
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 6 cups chicken stock, heated over medium heat
  • 4 tbsp (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup walnut halves, toasted, for sprinkling on top
Method:
  1. In a large skillet with tall sides, heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the onion and beets and cook until the onions ahve softened and translucent, about 8 minutes.
  2. Add the rice and stir with a wooden spoon until toasted and opaque, 3-4 minutes.
  3. Add the wine to the toasting rice and then add a 1/2 cup of stock.  Cook, stirring constantly, until the liquid is absorbed.  Continue adding stock by 1/2 a cup at at time, waiting until the liquid is absorbed before adding more.  Cook until the rice is tender and creamy, yet still a little al dente, about 20 minutes.
  4. Stir in the butter and cheese until well mixed.
  5. Serve immediately with toasted walnuts crumbled on top.
beets 5 Interested in reading other posts about our garden? Bella Terra: Preparation Bella Terra: Chives Bella Terra: Herbs Bella Terra: Sugar Snaps
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bella terra: long overdue

Andrea

My goodness.  I have really been slacking on the bella terra posts.  And its a shame, really, because things are progressing beautifully in our little garden.  And now, looking at all of the pictures I've uploaded I feel a bit overwhelmed because there are so many things to tell you all about. snaps 1 Such as how strawberries make a lovely addition to a simple salad, especially when you drizzle poppyseed dressing over the top. And how sugar snap peas are a fine enhancement for that same salad with their delightful crunch and sweet flavor.  Oh, and that lettuce and spinach?  Fresh from our garden as well.  All the rain we've had this year has kept our lettuces very happy, we didn't have nearly the bounty in 2008 as we've had this summer. snaps merge 2 And I can't forget to mention that a strawberry rhubarb syrup is delicious spooned over a lemon bundt cake, a recipe I'll share with you as soon as I can weed through the gazillion other drafts waiting (im)patiently in my drafts folder. snaps 9 And what about the blackberries?  They've multiplied exponentially this year, completely taking over the southern edge of the garden and providing respite from the afternoon sun for the tender herbs, onions and lettuces in their shadow. snaps merge 3 Even as I write this post, these pictures I am about to share with you are already inaccurate.  For now, the blackberries have started to turn a rosy red.  In just a few weeks they will morph into plump purple berries the size of my thumb and provide endless possibilities for jams, pies and ice creams.  I can't wait.  I really can't. snaps 11 But the sugar snaps, they are our greatest accomplishment yet this season.  In years past we've started the seeds to0 late, so that just as the plants are starting to produce the heat zaps them and they crumple to the ground, leaving us with just enough peas to munch on in the garden but never enough to make it back to the kitchen.  This year though, we've got more peas than we know what to do with.  Each day I am bringing a bowl-full inside after popping half a dozen into my mouth while picking.  They are delicious in salads and added last-minute to a stir-fry.  The less you cook them the better - you don't want them to lose their wonderful crunch. snaps merge 1 My latest use for sugar snaps comes from the June 2009 issue of Bon Appetit.  The peas added a nice sweetness to a salad that threatened to be overwhelming with its spicy radishes, red onions and caesar dressing.  I loved the textures as well - the crunchy sugar snaps and radishes were a nice compliment for the softer potatoes.  Its a nice addition to any picnic or cook-out, and if you make it just for you there will be plenty for lunch all week long. snaps 13 I decided to make this salad the day before we were to join some friends for dinner, thinking that potato salad is always more delicious after having sat overnight in the fridge.  And it was delicious the second day, although no more so than the first, and certainly less beautiful.  The vibrant colors you see below were captured just after the salad was assembled, with the potatoes still slightly warm.  The next day all of the colors mellowed and meshed together, leaving a not-nearly-as-nice presentation.  I won't make the mistake again. snaps 17 Caesar Potato Salad with Sugar Snap Peas from Bon Appetit, June 2009 Ingredients:
  • 1-1/2 lbs unpeeled assorted baby potatoes, cut cross-wise into 1/2 inch slices
  • 8oz trimmed sugar snap peas
  • 1 bunch radishes, trimmed and thinly sliced
  • 1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp dijon mustard
  • 1 garlic clove, pressed
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan
Method:
  1. Steam potatoes on steamer rack set in large pot until almost tender, about 10 minutes.  Add sugar snap peas and steam until crisp-tender, about 1 minute.  Transfer veggies to a large bowl, cool slightly, then add radishes and onion.
  2. Whisk olive oil, lemon juice, garlic clove and dijon mustard together in a small bowl until well blended.  Whisk in parmesan.  Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Add dressing to potato mixture and toss to coat.  Serve warm or at room temperature.
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bella terra : an earthy risotto

Andrea

Its been awhile since I've had a bella terra post and I am WAY overdue.  Things are actually  happening out there in our 20' x 20' patch of veggie heaven and its not just about herbs anymore.  But, because I'm behind and because spring herbs should be prolific pretty much everywhere right now, I'm going to give you another herb post.  But don't worry, not only did we plant tomatoes, cucumbers and bell peppers today, we also harvested our first spinach and bibb lettuce as well so you should be seeing some diversity around here very soon. risotto-merge-1 The chives are in full bloom...aren't they lovely?  I clip them to put in vases around our house, not only because I love their color but also because if the flowers are left to reach full maturity in the garden we will have chives popping up in every nook and cranny next year.  They are incredibly hardy and reproduce like crazy - we divide them to give to friends each year just to keep things under control.  Luckily, we are big fans of cooking with chives in our household so those we keep rarely waste away in the garden. We've also recently discovered that thyme is a very useful herb in a variety of dishes.  Keep it whole in soups or as a bed for baked white fish or salmon (it will infuse the fish with a delightful flavor and scent).  Or, gently pluck the leaves from the stem and stir them into a buttery barley risotto, our newest discovery and one that fast-tracked its way to the top of our favorites list. risotto-2 This meal is one that I concocted while sitting at my desk in the office, waiting for the last 30 minutes of the work day to tick by.  My mind tends to wander towards food often, especially when dinner is eminent.  On this particular day I realized that things were getting a little sparse in our refrigerator, other than a little baggie of brussels sprouts I'd picked up at Whole Foods the weekend before that needed to be cooked as soon as possible.  We always keep a variety of grains in our pantry and luckily so because on this day, thoughts of risotto topped with golden brussels sprouts danced into my head and refused to be silenced. risotto-4 I wanted a risotto heartier than the typical white rice variety so chose to use barley instead.  If you've never tried using barley in risotto I insist that you do, as soon as possible.  Barley adds an earthy depth to the dish that is especially good with herbs, spinach or mushrooms.  It may take a bit longer to cook than the traditional rice dish but it is more flavorful and filling*. risotto-merge-2 Brian and I ate in complete silence this night, save the occasional "this is SO good" or "I could eat this EVERY night" comments.  The thyme complements the barley and the brussels sprouts beautifully, and the high-quality butter was worth the extra splurge.  I used Heidi's recipe for the brussels sprouts, which never disappoints.  They were perfect. I'd like to say something about risotto.  Not only is it delicious, its relatively simple.  I think it gets a bad rap because of the rather lengthy period of stirring that it takes to reach perfect creaminess, but if you've got someone to hand the spatula over to every now and then and a glass of white wine to sip when its your turn, the task really isn't that daunting.  And it is completely worth the effort. risotto-7 Buttery Barley and Herb Risotto with Golden-Crusted Brussels Sprouts serves 3-4 Risotto:
  • 4 cups chicken or veggie broth (I used Better Than Bouillon No Chicken Base)
  • 4 tbsp good-quality european butter, divided (I used Plugra)
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 [heaping] cup of pearl barley, rinsed
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese
  • 1-1/2 tsp fresh thyme
  • 2 tbsp fresh chives, minced
  • salt + pepper, to taste
Golden-Crusted Brussels Sprouts: [from 101 Cookbooks]
  • 24 brussels sprouts - rinsed, stems removed, chopped in half
  • 1 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for rubbing
  • salt + pepper
  • 1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese
Method:
  1. Heat the broth in a small saucepan over medium heat and keep at a low simmer.
  2. Melt 2 tbsp butter in a large, heavy-bottom saute' pan.  Add the onion and garlic and saute' over medium heat for 3-5 minutes, until translucent.  Add the barley and stir to coat with the butter, about 1 minute.
  3. Add the white wine to the pan and stir briskly to deglaze.  When the wine has evaporated add 1/2 cup of broth to the pan.  Stir until the liquid has been absorbed and repeat.  Stir often, adding broth 1/2 cup at a time and letting it absorb before adding another.  You may not use all of the broth, but you'll know the risotto is done when the barley is tender but not mushy.  The risotto should be creamy and hold together without any liquid around the edges.
  4. Stir in the remaining 2 tbsp butter, parmesan cheese and herbs.  Salt and pepper to taste.
  5. While risotto is cooking, prepare the brussels sprouts.  Brussels sprouts should be rubbed in olive oil before being added to the pan.  Heat 1 tbsp of olive oil in large non-stick pan.  Place brussels sprouts, flat-side down, in pan and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.  Cover and let cook for about 5 minutes.
  6. Remove a sprout from the pan after 5 minutes and test for tenderness.  If tender, remove cover from pan and toss sprouts to quickly brown on round side, about 2 minutes.
  7. Dish risotto immediately onto plates.  Top with brussels sprouts and sprinkle with parmesan cheese and freshly ground pepper.
risotto-9 *Don't get me wrong, I love a good arborio rice risotto as well, but I typically reserve it for when the risotto is a side rather than the centerpiece.  Arborio rice has a milder flavor and is tasty with butternut squash or other sweeter vegetables like beets.
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bella terra: the first to show

Andrea

There have been a few small changes in the garden since my first bella terra post.  The thyme, sage and oregano are starting to show some green.  The blackberry and raspberry vines have tiny bits of new growth.  And the weeds are popping up with a vengeance.  Brian (my hubb) and I have big plans for the weekend.  Some fence repair, re-mulching the paths, weeding and seeding.  In just a handful of days (7-10 to be exact) we should have broccoli, peas, beets, lettuce, kale and spinach poking out of the rich compost.  I can't wait.  :) Here, the blackberry vine... blackberry-1 The very first signs of life I see in the garden each year are chives.   Beautiful green shoots that peek from beneath the blanket formed by last year’s growth, the late-fall crop that laid down their lives with the first hard frost to protect the next generation.  They were already popping up two weeks ago when I ventured into the garden for the first time since fall.  The new chives are thankfully resistant with help from the old - they managed to survive the late snow we had just last week.  When I visited the garden after work one evening to check their progress I was pleased to find that they were ready for me to cut. here, on march 7th... garden-1 see how they've grown? chives-1 Chives are one of my favorite herbs to use in the kitchen because they are so versatile.  Toss them with fingerling potatoes to roast, sprinkle them raw over top of an omelet, fold them into batter to be baked in cheddar biscuits...their mild, onion-like flavor allows for endless possibilities.  I’d bookmarked this NY Times recipe for an herb frittata earlier this month and knew as soon as I spotted those lovely bits of green from over the fence that the time had come to try it. frittata-1 I'd never made a frittata before.  It seemed to me that it would be a difficult task and, having never read a frittata recipe before, I assumed that it would contain whole milk and cheese (similar to a quiche) and not be terribly productive to my weight-loss efforts.  Boy was I wrong, on ALL assumptions.  For one, the process was really easy.  As long as you have a decent non-stick skillet and some patience, this dish really couldn't be easier.  And I used just two dishes to make it...two!  I really like a quick and simple recipe, but add "very little clean-up" to its list of attributes and I am in love. frittata-2 Second, the frittata is much healthier than any quiche recipe I've made.  The main contributor to its healthfulness?  A lack of crust.  That's right...no crust. And...no cheese.  The greek yogurt makes the consistency so creamy that you'll never miss it.  Plus, this particular recipe is loaded with spinach and herbs, not to mention heart-healthy walnuts and yummy mushrooms.   frittata-3 I was so impressed with my first frittata experience that I've already been dreaming up new combos of flavors.  I can't wait until that pile of herbs and spinach pictured above is all home-grown from my garden, maybe with some bell peppers and tomatoes mixed in.  Oh, what a glorious summer it will be... frittata-7 Spinach, Herb and Mushroom Frittata 258 cal, 19g fat, 6g carbs, 1g sugar, 2g fiber, 11g protein  [nutritional info from thedailyplate.com] recipe adapted from the NY Times Ingredients:
  • 12oz baby spinach 
  • 1 cup chopped parsley
  • 1/2 cup chopped chives 
  • 8 fresh cremini mushrooms, cleaned and chopped
  • 8 large eggs 
  • 1/2 cup thick Greek-style yogurt 
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts 
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt, preferably kosher salt (more to taste) 
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste 
  • 1 to 2 garlic cloves (to taste), green stems removed, finely minced 
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil (2 tablespoons if you don’t have a nonstick pan) 
Method:
  1. Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil. Fill a bowl with ice water. Add the spinach to the boiling water and blanch for 10 to 20 seconds. Transfer to the ice water to cool for a few minutes, then drain and squeeze out excess water. Chop finely.
  2. Beat the eggs in a large bowl. Stir in the yogurt, walnuts, salt and pepper. Add the spinach, herbs and garlic, and mix together well. Adjust salt and pepper. Let sit for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add the mushrooms.
  3. Heat a 10-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat and add the olive oil.  Drop a bit of egg into the pan, and if it sizzles and cooks at once, the pan is ready. Pour in the egg mixture, scraping every bit out of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Roll the pan to distribute the eggs and filling evenly over the surface. Shake the pan gently, tilting it slightly with one hand while lifting up the edges of the frittata with the spatula in your other hand, in order to let the eggs run underneath during the first few minutes of cooking. Turn the heat down to low, and cover the pan. Cook 10 to 15 minutes, shaking the pan every once in a while, until the frittata is just about set. Meanwhile, light the broiler.
  4. If the frittata is not quite set on the top, place under the broiler, about three inches from the heat, for one to two minutes, watching closely, until just beginning to color on the top. Do not allow the eggs to brown too much or they’ll taste bitter.  (I wound up leaving it under the broiler for about 4 minutes total, until just starting to brown).
  5. Remove from the heat, allow to sit in the pan for five minutes or longer, then carefully slide out onto a platter. Serve warm or at room temperature.
frittata-5 In the Blog World... Tina at Carrots 'N' Cake has released a call for guest bloggers...how fun!  If you haven't checked out Tina's blog yet you really should.  She's got great daily tips for creating a healthy lifestyle through good eats and exercise.  Guest blogging is a great way to spread your blog words to further reaches, so consider sending her an email with some ideas! Two Spoons made a savory version of my scones!  Yum...the possibilities are endless.  :) Ryan at Chasing Daylight made bella eats enchi-ritos!  So glad you enjoyed them, Ryan! Jennifer and Jessica of Keep It Simple Foods have been enjoying my dark chocolate PB and strawberry breakfast combo...glad you're liking it ladies! Mmmm...a little french inspiration in the morning is a great start to any day!  :) If you've tried a recipe you've found on bella eats, let me know!  I'd love to read your thoughts on it and send others your way.  :)  Who else is THRILLED that tomorrow is Friday?!?!?!?  :)
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bella terra : preparation

Andrea

We had perfect weather in Virginia this weekend.  75*, sunny, a light breeze.  The kind of weather that makes you believe that Spring may finally be here, that leads to lovely outdoor runs and white wine on the deck.  The same weather that in years past has caused you to put your cold-sensitive plants outside because "they'd like a little sunshine" only to have them frozen by a freak late-March storm (not this year my friends...I won't be fooled again.)  It was the kind of weather that got me thinking about our vegetable garden, and how the time for sowing seeds is just around the corner and I still hadn't amended the beds with fresh compost.   garden-2 It was perfect weather for wandering around the local garden center, picking up spring-harvest seeds and dreaming about how, if only I had my own cold-frame set up in the backyard, I could already have baby lettuce peeking out of the soil.  Hmm...maybe next year. This will be our third year with the garden, and over the last two we've started to sort out which veggies work and which don't.  There were disappointments last year...the Virginia heat was too much for the brussels sprouts to handle and the squirrels got 75% of the corn.  We unearthed the secret to keeping flea bugs off of the eggplant and had an abundant harvest, only to discover that there are really only two eggplant recipes that we like and the farmer's market can more than provide the fruit needed for those.  No need to take up valuable garden space.  garden-3 On Saturday I bought lettuce and spinach, beets, peas and broccoli, all seeds that can go in the ground in the next couple of weeks and provide a harvest in as few as 45 days.  In May, after danger of Virginia frost, I'll be sowing green beans and okra seeds to be harvested in July.  Baby tomato, cucumber, bell pepper and squash plants will go into their assigned beds and parsley, basil and dill will join the perennial chives, thyme and oregano already starting to show some green. broc-1 I think I am most looking forward to growing our own broccoli, although each veggie has a special place in my heart and becomes my instant favorite the minute it is ripe.  But broccoli...it gave us trouble last year, or at least the squash bugs that enjoyed most of the harvest gave us trouble.  And I enjoy a challenge.  We will persevere with broccoli this spring and when we do we will make it this way, at least once. broc-2 There are a few things about this recipe that I need to share, things I will do differently when I make it again.  First, I used whole coriander but will definitely use ground next time.  Biting into the occasional coriander seed was an intense, unpleasant experience for me.  If you love coriander feel free to use whole seeds, but I think spreading the flavor more evenly by using ground would be more enjoyable. broc-3 Second, the tofu needs to go in the oven first.  I put the tofu and broccoli in at 425* together, and the broccoli was done well before the tofu.  To speed things up I wound up removing the tofu from the oven and quickly pan-frying it, but I think it  would be really good roasted.  I've specified in the recipe below to put the tofu in first and roast it until golden brown on one side before flipping it and adding the broccoli for the last 20 minutes. broc-6 Roasted Broccoli with Glazed Tofu inspired by the wednesday chef, via orangette serves 2, with a portion leftover for lunch the next day Ingredients:
  • 2 pounds broccoli, cut into bite-size florets
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 teaspoon whole coriander seeds (or 1/2 teaspoon ground...i'll use ground next time)
  • 1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds (or 1/2 teaspoon ground...i used ground)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • 1/8 teaspoon hot chili powder
  • 12 oz firm tofu
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons lemon zest (from 1 large lemon)
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • lemon wedges, for serving
Method:
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Slice tofu into eight 1/2" slices, then slice again on the diagonal to make 16 pieces total.  Place on paper towels and press for 10 minutes.
  3. In a large bowl, toss broccoli with 2 tablespoons oil, coriander, cumin, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper and chili powder. In a separate bowl combine remaining 2 tablespoons oil, lemon zest, honey, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and remaining 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and whisk together.
  4. Individually rub each piece of tofu with the oil/lemon/honey mixture.  Place on a baking sheet and bake until top is golden brown.  Pull baking sheet from oven and flip tofu.  Add broccoli to baking sheet, spreading in a single layer.  Put pan back in oven and roast for 10 additional minutes.  Stir broccoli and roast for another 10 minutes.
  5. Serve over rice, with fresh-squeezed lemon juice.
broc-4 A few notes: First, my cousin Kelly (Meghann's sister) was in a scary accident this evening while riding her bike.  Thankfully she was wearing a helmet and is going to be ok.  I'll let Meghann give us details if she wishes, but I do want to stress how important it is to wear a helmet.  Kelly's may very well have saved her life. Second, I'm going to make bella terra posts a regular occurrence, to share with you all the happenings in the garden and recipes to go along with harvests. I don't yet know the frequency, but I hope that by this summer they will be weekly.  I'd love any feedback you have or suggestions for content.  What would you like to see? Third, thank you all for your continued support!  I'm so pleased with the feedback I've received regarding the new format and am so happy that you all seem to be open to whatever direction I go.  I will say that I've enjoyed my week of recipe-based posts and would like to continue with them, although I wouldn't be surprised if a food diary post pops up every once in awhile.  I just can't help but to take pictures of my daily food, and I still have overwhelming urges to share them with you.  So I think that I'm not going to set any rules, not limit the blog in any way.  I'm going to let the day and life and food inspire me and see where it goes, and I hope you'll all continue to follow. I welcome all constructive feedback and would love to hear more from you.  Have a great Monday!  :)
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