Thursday, October 21, 2010

Comfort Food {Potato Soup}

So I have made a fair amount of soup from scratch - some excellent, some... well, I won't make again. One of the soups that I tried is one I will keep and make for years to come. I found a recipe for a baked potato soup, and completely adjusted it, so in all honesty it is really my own now. It is so good I had to share it. Try it once... you will be hooked, I know it.
{1} medium onion, chopped
{1-2} leeks, chopped
{2) shallots, finely chopped
{2} cloves of garlic, crushed
{3} Tbl. all purpose flour
{6-8} bacon strips, cooked and chopped
{3 Tbl} leftover bacon drippings
{1} tsp. salt
{1} tsp. dried basil
{1/2} tsp. pepper (I used white pepper)
{6} cups chicken broth
{8-10} medium sized Yukon gold potatoes, cubed
{1} cup half & half
{1) tsp. hot pepper sauce (like Tapatillo or Tabasco)
shredded cheddar cheese (for garnish)

Directions: In a large stockpot, saute the onion, shallots, garlic and leeks in the bacon drippings until tender. Stir in the flour, then the salt, basil and pepper; mix well. Gradually add the broth, and bring to a boil, stirring at a boil for about 2 minutes. Add in all the cubed potatoes, chopped bacon, cream, and hot pepper sauce. Simmer for a good 45 minutes to an hour, covered. If it looks like you need a little more broth, add a bit more, it definitely will hurt! Plate and garnish with your shedded cheddar.

Bench Notes: When the potatoes were good and tender, I took a potato masher and pushed down on all the potatoes in the soup, until about half of them were a bit broken up. I like my potato soup to be more on the thick side, with some good substance in the broth. You can also take a stick blender to it, to break the potatoes up a bit, if you have one. I like the texture of this much better than chunks of potatoes in really thin broth.

Also, don't let the idea of cooking with bacon drippings scare you. It REALLY enhances the flavor overall, and should not be missed. The dried basil is a key ingredient in this, so are the Yukon gold potatoes. Yukon golds are one of, if not the most creamy potatoes you can buy. Any other potato would not have the smooth creamy potato texture that you should get out of this soup. Russets are very grainy, you definitely should skip out on those.

And as with most soups, this one really tastes even better the next day. You could totally make this the day before serving it and just heat it back up in a pot. Paired with a baguette - and maybe a little salad, and you have a wonderful meal!

I hope you enjoy! We sure did.

CSA - Contents for October 21, 2010

This week's CSA bags contain some awesome new things! Sweet melons and Armenian cucumbers are especially unique! We've included several items that are ideal for some wonderful cool weather meals. We have had so much rain lately, and it is the perfect time for some comfort food. Try a potato leek soup, or an eggplant stew. The carrots would be perfect for a sweet cinnamon glazed carrot dish, or in a fresh carrot cake (yes, it is easier than you would think!). Can you believe all the rain this week? All  I want to do is curl up with a heavy blanket, a tasty snack and a good book!

This weeks CSA packages include:
Zucchini, Green    

Green Bell Pepper
Green Onion*
Sweet Melon*
Mixed Greens*
Eggplant (Italian)
Cayenne Pepper

Beets (Bulls Blood)*
Tomatoes (Cherry)*
Tomatoes (Heirloom)*
Armenian Cucumber*
Speckled Swan Gourd

Items with an asterisk: Certified Organic produce. Produce sourced from our local friends at Sage Mountain Farm in Aguanga, CA.

Items without an asterisk: Naturally Grown. Produce sourced from Woodson Family Farms, Fallbrook, CA.

Friday, October 15, 2010

CSA - Contents for October 15, 2010

It is already the middle of October... can you believe it? Our mantle is covered with swan neck gourds that we planted earlier in the summer, as well as some rather nice looking pumpkins that we also harvested. Pretty soon those pumpkins will need faces, and then we will have an excellent excuse for roasting pumpkin seeds.

This weeks CSA packages include:
Zucchini, Green
Eggplant (Italian)
Red Cooking Onions*
Green Bell Peppers
Mixed Greens*
Tomatoes (Cherry)*

Items with an asterisk: Certified Organic produce. Produce sourced from our local friends at Sage Mountain Farm in Aguanga, CA.

Items without an asterisk: Naturally Grown. Produce sourced from Woodson Family Farms, Fallbrook, CA.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Basil: The Amazing Herb with an Aromatic Punch

Potted basil seedlings
We have seen a fair share of basil this CSA season. I doubt anyone is complaining though. Basil can be used for so many different things, so it is always welcome. Once upon a time I thought basil was just an ugly ground up spice that lived in my mother's spice tin. Seldom used but for her spaghetti sauce, I had no idea the power of basil; the aroma, the gorgeous color, or even the fact that it could single-handedly revolutionize a dish. Somewhere in my history I came upon a recipe which called for fresh basil, and so came time for me to learn about this wonderful leafy herb. Many times when we visit the grocery store we see "basil" packaged in a little plastic pack, generically labeled to the hilt. Package labels like these are deceiving, because really there is definitely not just one "basil." If fact, there are actually more than 60 different varieties! Lemon, purple ruffle, lime, cinnamon, red rubin, sweet, and dark opal basil, the names sound romantic and rightly so, for basil can be responsible for turning a seemingly sensible dish turned blasé, into something quite wonderful.

Basil two

Pesto is one of basil's greatest transformations. You can order it at just about any pasta serving restaurant and can buy it at almost every grocery store. But is it good. That is really the question. I am sure for as many decent pestos on the market the number of awful ones are three-fold. The sauce itself can be as simple as a blend of basil and pine nuts, and as intense as brought by the addition of hot peppers, roasted pistachios, sun dried tomatoes, garlic, and red bell peppers. One of the best pestos I've ever had the pleasure of tasting comes from our very own backyard: Basiltops, in Cardiff-by-the-Sea. I first tasted Cynthia's pesto at my local Vista Farmer's Market and was hooked. Next time you find yourself shopping at one of our area's Farmers Markets, look for them - take a taste (they sample abundantly!) and you will not think twice about forking over $10. While pesto is wonderful, let's not forget that basil can be used for so much more. Basil's repertoire includes uses such as a classic topping on pizza, an ingredient in soup, layered on cheese atop a crusty bread, tossed in a stir fry, infused into oils for salads, and even as tea (basil leaves torn and thrown in boiling water make an invigorating brew, and also aides in digestion). Note to self: basil should be torn, not chopped.

This little story about a love affair with basil must include the fact that basil is nutritionally wonderful. For all of you health food lovers, listen up! Basil has been shown to provide protection against unwanted bacterial growth, hosts a unique array of flavonoids, is considered an anti-inflammatory aid, and is high in Vitamins A and K, potassium, magnesium, iron, and Vitamin C. The nutritional aspects in basil found through Vitamin A not only protects certain cells from free radical damage, but also helps prevent free radicals from oxidizing cholesterol in the blood stream. Fantastic! In essence basil is more than just an aromatic herb that lives in your planter box, it is a diverse plant that is nutritious, delicious and aromatically pleasing. And it is really so much more than that ugly ground up spice in your mother's spice rack...

Friday, October 8, 2010

CSA - Contents for October 8, 2010

This weeks CSA packages include:
Zucchini, Green
Yellow Onion

Green Pepper
Orange Marmalade


Friday, October 1, 2010

CSA - Contents for October 1, 2010

October is here! Today marks the first day of the month of pumpkins and spices - and good food!

This weeks CSA packages include:
Squash, Summer
Zucchini, Green

Large boxes will see:
Green bell pepper