Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Home-canned Grape Juice

Photo Credit:  Melissa Binder

This has been my specialty for years, and yet is one of the easiest things there is to can!  My mother always made it with  our own grapes on the farm, and I have fond memories of the smell of concord grapes in the fall, as well as drinking grape juice on special occasions; I feel connected to that era every time I can a batch.  I used to can 50-70 quarts every other year so that I would have plenty to give as hostess gifts, etc. but in recent years I've scaled down to more reasonable amounts so that I have just enough on hand for my own use and for company (and so I don't OD on canning!).  I wanted to use local grapes to stick with my local produce goals, but the PA grapes were in and over before I realized it.  These grapes came from New York and were sweet as well as beautiful.  I used 10 pounds of grapes which yielded 21 quarts of juice (three canner loads).

Source:  Adapted from Mennonite Country-Style Recipes Cookbook

Remove grapes from stems and wash thoroughly; drain.  Place 1 c. grapes and 1/2 c. sugar in each quart jar.  Fill with boiling water, leaving 1/2" headspace.  Stir to dissolve sugar.  Add lids, tighten and process 15 minutes in boiling water bath. 
When ready to serve, strain into pitcher, discarding grapes.

Note:  Depending on how sweet the grapes are and your preferences, you can use less sugar.  This year I used a heaping 1/4 c. sugar per quart.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Rustic Swiss Chard and Mozzarella Tart

Source:  Adapted from Better Homes & Gardens Magazine

1 1/4 c. all-purpose flour*
1/4 t. salt
1/2 c. cold butter
1/4  c. cold ice water
1/4 c. sour cream*
2 t. fresh lemon juice

In a large bowl, combine flour and salt.  Cut up butter; cut into flour until mixture resembles coarse meal.  Combine water, sour cream and lemon juice.  Add half the sour cream mixture to flour mixture; toss with a fork.  Add remaining sour cream mixture; toss with a fork until mixture is moistened.  Form into a ball.  Wrap and refrigerate (up to an hour) while preparing filling.

1 bunch Swiss chard, washed and chopped (about 5 c.)
1 c. chopped leeks*
4 gloves garlic, minced
1/4 t. dried thyme, crushed
1/4 t. salt
1/4 t. black pepper
1 T. olive oil
3/4 c. shredded mozzarella cheese
Fresh Italian (flat leaf) parsley

Preheat oven to 400 deg.
In a large skillet, cook chard, leeks, garlic, thyme, salt and pepper in hot oil over medium heat for 4 minutes or until chard wilts and leeks are tender.  Cool slightly.  Stir in cheese, set aside.
On a lightly floured surface, roll pastry to a 12" circle.  Transfer to a parchment-lined or greased baking sheet.  Spoon filling into center of pastry circle, leaving a 2" border.  Fold dough over filling, leaver center open and pleating edges of dough.  Bake for 30-40 min., or until golden.  Sprinkle with parsley. 
Serve hot.

Makes 4 main-dish or 8 appetizer servings.

*My substitutions:
whole wheat pastry flour for the all-purpose flour,
 my homemade yogurt for the sour cream,
 and onions plus 2 extra cloves of garlic for the leeks.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Panzanella Salad (Italian Bread Salad)

I discovered "Chef Tim's Sweet Balsamic Vinaigrette" earlier this year at Root's - Chef Tim has a stand there, and he always has samples of this yummy salad.  Tonight was the first I actually tried his recipe, which is listed on the bottle.  The Country Store also carries this dressing.  Instead of croutons, I used cubes of leftover homemade Italian bread I had in the freezer.

6 cubed roma tomatoes
1 peeled, deseeded cucumber
1 T. minced red onion
16 medium fresh basil leaves, cut into thin strips
3 c. cooked, cubed seasoned chicken breast
3 c. croutons
8 oz. Chef Tim's Sweet Balsamic Vinaigrette dressing

Toss all ingredients with dressing and place on a bed of 8 c. lettuce greens.  Drizzle greens with additional dressing.

Serves 4
Note:  This is a perfect use for the roasted chicken breasts that I keep in the freezer.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Hitting the Wall

I don't know what happened, but I hit a wall on the cooking thing!  I think it was a combination of the garden fizzling a bit with the lack of rain, me getting side tracked with some other fun endeavors (see my All Things Andrea blog!), trying to sort out the implications of my numerous food allergies, and just plain laziness on my part when it comes to food prep.  Meanwhile, my garden produce was rotting away in my refrigerator....  I should be back around shortly, though.  I have a few recipes I still need to post, then plan to post the rest of the recipes from my collection, even if I didn't actually get them prepared this summer.  All in all, it's been a great venture - I've been stretched in lots of meaningful ways.  But, best of all, the season isn't over!  There's all kinds of wonderful produce coming in season (even if it's not happening in my garden!), and I still have a stash of recipes I want to try.  So, check back shortly!

Sauteed Green Beans and Red Onion

Source:  adapted from Everyday Food
This is one of my favorite ways to use up an abundance of green beans, as well as red onions, which don't store over the winter as nicely as yellow onions.

2 T. olive oil
1 t. sea salt
1/8 t. ground pepper
1 lb. green beans, trimmed and cut into 3" lengths
1 medium red onion, cut into 1/2" wedges
2 t. balsamic vinegar

In a large nonstick skillet, bring 1 c. water, olive oil, salt and pepper to a simmer over medium heat. 
Add green beans and red onion.  Cover; cook until beans are crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. 
Uncover; continue cooking, stirring often, until water has evaporated, beans are tender, and onions are beginning to brown, about 5-8 minutes more.  Stir in balsamic vinegar and serve.