Random Bag Night – Lamb Meatballs with Sauteed Greens and Spiced Yogurt

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It’s been a while since I’ve done a Random Bag Night mostly because we haven’t been home a lot so there is very little in the way of leftovers and the farm share veggies have kept us occupied on the culinary front. The following recipe is very easy, provided you can find ground lamb in your local market, and is a different spin on something I’ve made a few times for this blog – meatballs. These meatballs differ slightly (aside from the variety of meat) in their contents from traditional meatballs and the turkey variety as I added cooked shallot and garlic which I don’t normally do. The lamb meat needs a little extra flavor to tame the gaminess of it and round it out. To accompany my lamb balls, I sauteed some radish greens in olive oil and garlic and I made a spiced yogurt dipping sauce (recipe below).

For the meatballs:

1 lb ground lamb

2-3 slices white bread soaked in a little milk (I used 2 hot dog rolls)

1/3 cup grated parmesian

1 handful fresh chopped parsley

1 shallot, minced

1 clove garlic, minced

2 eggs

1 tablespoon olive oil

Generous pinch of salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 375. Place the minced garlic and shallot in a small saute pan with the olive oil and saute on medium heat until the shallots are soft. Add the garlic & shallots to the ground lamb. Add remaining ingredients above and mix well with your hands, making sure that all the flavors are incorporated. I like to leave the bread a little chunky so it gives added texture to the meatball.

Spray a cookie sheet with Pam or olive oil spray, take a small palmful of the lamb mixture and roll into a ball. Place each meatball on the tray. It’s important to make sure the meatballs are all roughly the same size so that they cook evenly in the oven. Once oven is hot, place the meatballs in and allow them to bake for about 30 minutes. The meatballs should be good and golden brown like the photo above.

For the yogurt sauce:

1/3 cup greek yogurt

zest of 1 lemon

6-7 fresh mint leaves, chopped

1/2 teaspoon of cumin

pinch of salt

Combine the above ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Allow the sauce to sit for a while in the refrigerator (at least 30 minutes while the meatballs cook) so that the flavor develops.

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Random Bag Night – Pasta with Sausage, Favas and Greens

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We have finally gotten the first installment of our farm share this week, and I am beyond excited about what this will mean for the rest of our summer. The veg, which we are getting from Luna Farm here in Massachusetts, is GORGEOUS. Oh, and it’s organic too.  We are sharing the farm share with our neighbors so it’s pretty cost effective too. The above dish is a combo of farm share greens – almost the whole delivery this week was greens – and Trader Joe’s prepared fava beans (so easy!) + some leeks we had in the fridge + leftover pork sausage from 2 nights ago. I am now stocking my pantry with the brown rice pasta (also from Trader Joes) which I have come to really like in lieu of whole wheat pasta. This sauce took about 15 minutes to make (the time it takes to boil the pasta basically) and was quickly thrown together so my measurements are only an approximation and this was enough to cover about 1/2 pound of pasta:

1 package Trader Joes prepared fava beans (or you can use any canned bean here)

2 leeks, chopped

1/2 cup white wine

1 cup chicken stock

1 generous handful of your favorite greens

salt to taste

5-6 tablespoons olive oil

2 cooked Italian sausages, cut in chunks

Place the oil in a sauce pan, big enough to hold the greens, etc. Add the leeks and a pinch of salt and turn the heat to medium high. Saute the leeks until they are soft and translucent and then add the beans, the wine and the chicken stock. Keep the heat on medium high to allow the liquids to cook down. Once the liquids have reduced by at least 1/3, add the sausage and the greens and stir to combine. At this point you can lower the heat to a simmer and allow the sauce to bubble a bit while the pasta finishes cooking.

If you don’t have cooked sausage on hand, you can use raw sausage, just toss it in at the beginning after you have softened the leeks and allow it to brown a bit before adding the beans, etc. You could also substitute bacon or pancetta instead and do the same. The sauce needs the heft of the meat flavoring otherwise it’s quite bland.

Serve over a short pasta of your liking and doused with some parmesan.

Random Bag Night – Mushroom, Bean & Barley Pilaf

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After a whirlwind weekend of too much food, booze and air mattress “sleeping” we got home yesterday looking for something easy, relatively healthy and most of all, didn’t involve getting back into the car. Turns out we had some homemade sausage in the freezer from my father-in-law and in the pantry, I had a container of pearl barley which had probably been in there a while since neither of us could recall when it was purchased. Additionally I had bought some mushrooms last week and we always keep a stock of canned beans, chicken broth and dried mushrooms in the house (to the best of our abilities – whenever we get low on these and other critical pantry items we write it on the chalk board in the kitchen so it doesn’t get forgotten come grocery list time).  So combining these items, the barley pilaf was born. This version is VERY mushroom-y, so for folks who are not really into mushrooms, this is not your dish. I think the barley needs a strong flavor pairing, as it’s kind of bland itself. 

The nice part about the pilaf version is that it is not as hands on as risotto so you can do other things or, like me, hang out on your front porch and soak up as much amazing weather as you can while you periodically pop back inside to check on the progress of dinner.

1 cup pearl barley

1 cup dried mushrooms (I have a mix of wild + shitakes)

1 package white button mushrooms, chopped

1 onion, diced

1 clove garlic, minced

1 can white beans (any kind is fine), drained and rinsed

3 cups chicken (or veg or beef or…) stock

1 cup white wine

2 tablespoons butter

3-4 tablespo0ns olive oil

1 handful fresh chopped parsley (+ other herbs – basil or chives would be great)

salt + pepper to taste

parmesan cheese – to top the finished dish

Take dried mushrooms and soak them in about 1.5 cups of warm water – preferably for an hour or so, but at least until they are soft. Once they are done soaking, remove the mushrooms, chop them into small pieces, and set aside the mushroom “broth” as you will be adding that to the dish:

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In the meantime, dice the onion and garlic and add it to a medium sized sauce pan (with a lid) along with the butter and about 3 tablespoons of olive oil on medium heat. Stir frequently and saute until the onions are nice and soft – 5 to 7 minutes. Once the onions are soft, add the barley and stir to coat it for about 1 minute. Add the beans and both the dried and fresh mushrooms and stir to coat, add a generous pinch of salt as well. 

Allow the ingredients to cook, while you stir, for another minute and then add the mushroom broth, the chicken broth and the white wine and turn the heat to medium high. Allow the liquids to come to a boil and then lower the heat to a simmer and cover with your lid. I checked every 10 minutes or so on the progress and to stir the pilaf. It took about 40 or so minutes for the barley to get soft. Once the barley is soft, add the chopped fresh herbs and stir for another minute or two with the lid off. If you have excess liquid at this point, you may want to turn the heat up a little and stir until some of it evaporates.

When you are ready, serve with some parmesan cheese.

Random Bag Night – Ravioli with Super Light Tomato Broth

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Sometimes I think I should rename this blog “thedrunkentomato” instead of “theripetomato” because if you just do a search for wine you will see that I use it, A LOT, in my cooking. This recipe is no exception. I am fairly proud of myself for the ingredients in this dish. For one, the tomato used is puree of fresh tomatoes from last summer, grown and purchased locally and then skinned & seeded and frozen by me for use throughout the year. Second, the basil is from my garden out front – it is just getting big enough for me to start using it sparingly so I am very very excited. And third, the ravioli are homemade from this recipe, the leftovers of which I froze and they held up perfectly. Lastly, the wine is homemade by my dad and it is super tasty. On the downside, I used store bought (free range) chicken broth, so I am definitely not completely homegrown/local/fresh, but I’m definitely making progress!

So I cooked the ravioli, frozen, in some salted water for about 5 minutes. The following broth takes about 20-25 minutes to simmer down (more if you have time) because using fresh tomatoes it takes a while to get that rawness out of the flavor and develop a more tomato-y taste. You could substitute canned tomato puree here and it works just as well.

1 shallot, sliced thinly (1/2 an onion is fine)

4-5 cloves of garlic, smashed

1.5 cups of tomato puree

2 cups broth (I used chicken)

2-3 tablespoons olive oil

6-7 fresh basil leaves minced, or a generous pinch of dried basil

1/2 cup dry red wine

salt & pepper to taste

Saute the shallots & garlic in the olive oil on  medium high heat until the shallots are soft- maybe 4-5 minutes, stir often. Add the red wine and allow it to simmeron the medium high heat for about 2-3 minutes. Add the tomato, the broth, the basil and a generous pinch of salt. If you are using canned tomato, you will need less salt because the canned ones are already high in sodium. Allow the whole thing to simmer on medium heat for a good 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally. Ladle it over the ravioli and top with some grated cheese.

You could use this as a light soup by itself, maybe even blending the whole thing with a stick blender so it’s smooth. You could also use orzo or some other kind of small pasta instead of ravioli.

Random Bag Night – Cloudy Broccoli Soup + Tomato Crostini

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Ok, so calling it “cloudy” broccoli soup probably wasn’t the most appetizing choice but I wasn’t really sure how else to describe it. It’s much lighter than your usual cream of broccoli soup, and it lacked the green vibrancy of the vegetable itself. This is a relatively fast soup, took about 20 minutes to cook. I served it with a roasted tomato and soft cheese crostini, using the no knead bread my husband made the other day and the cottage cheese I made on Sunday. Here are the recipes:

1 onion, chopped

1 small clove of garlic, minced

3 cups chopped fresh broccoli 

2 tablespoons chopped pancetta (optional, but it adds great flavor, bacon would be good too)

1 teaspoon of butter

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 cup dry white wine

8 cups of chicken broth (vegetable broth is fine)

3 tablespoons of plain greek yogurt

salt & pepper to taste

Toppings: squeeze of fresh lemon, drops of flavored olive oil

In a large sauce pan, place oil, butter, onion, garlic and pancetta, and saute on medium high heat for about 5 or 6 minutes until the onions start to get soft. Stir frequently. A little caramelization on the onions is fine, it adds extra flavor. Once the onions are soft, add the broccoli and stir. Add the wine and allow it to simmer for about 2-3 minutes. Add the broth, and allow the soup to cook until the broccoli gets fork tender (about 10-15 minutes depending on how large or small you cut it).

Once the broccoli is cooked through, turn off the heat and add the yogurt. Using a stick blender (or regular blender) blend the soup until the onions and broccoli are pureed. I strained the soup through a sieve into the bowls to make it smooth (sans chunks) but that isn’t necessary if you are the kind that likes pulp. Squeeze a few drops of fresh lemon juice and a few drops of flavored olive oil (I used oil that the roasted tomatoes were sitting in) and serve. You could also top with creme fraiche or some pesto for extra zing. 

as for the crostini:

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This is really really simple. Just take your favorite crusty bread and toast it, top with the soft cheese of your choice – in this case it is fresh cottage cheese – and top with roasted tomatoes (or soft sun-dried tomatoes – the kind soaked in olive oil).  Crostini are an excellent side dish for soups or a very versatile appetizer. Other toppings could be sauteed mushrooms, caramelized onions, olive tapenade…. etc etc. Lots of possibilities !

Random Bag Night – Penne with Broccoli Rabe

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This is a Friday night quickie pasta dish thrown together using ingredients I have purchased over the last week or so but not expressly for this purpose. Broccoli rabe is not something I liked growing up, and if you’ve never had it, it is definitely an acquired taste. The bitterness of the vegetable can be off-putting on its own, but paired with the right ingredients it tones down to a slightly more mellow note. I’m not sure exactly when I moved from not liking broccoli rabe to really liking it, if not craving it every so often. It is something that my mom would make on occasion, just simply sauteed with garlic and olive oil. I like broccoli rabe paired with sausage or pasta, or sometimes as my mom makes it, sopped up with some good crusty bread. 

I used the Emeril Lagasse recipe for Braised Broccoli Rabe as my sauce, substituting vegetable broth for the chicken broth because I already had a carton open from using it earlier in the week. I used penne, but any short pasta will do just fine with this. Also, if you leave out the pancetta, this is easily a good vegetarian dinner. Or, you could substitute some sausage for the pancetta and make this a more meatitarian meal. Make sure to top the pasta with a generous dousing of grated parmesan or romano, it also pairs well with the bitterness of the broccoli rabe. When you are preparing the broccoli rabe, it’s important to remove the thick lower stems, as they are more bitter.

Random Bag Night – Update to Shrimp Ceviche

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Early on in my blog I mentioned that we had taken a trip to Hawaii for our honeymoon and I returned singing the praises of Mama’s Fish House Ceviche . Last night we decided to make an impromptu appetizer version of this same ceviche using up some of the citrus that we had in the fridge. I saw a post on Slashfood yesterday about sweet and savory citrus which is where I got the inspiration last night do this. The following is what went into the bowl:

Peeled, cooked shrimp – about a dozen

2 small blood oranges, peeled and cut into chunks

5-6 kumquats, sliced

handful fresh cilantro, chopped

1/4 onion, sliced

1/4 cup light coconut milk

2 limes, juiced

pinch of salt

Hot pepper to taste

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and allow it to sit and marinate in a bowl in the refrigerator at least an hour. The longer it sits, the better it tastes.  I served it in a bowl with some slices of lime for that extra kick. This is an excellent appetizer to serve to adventurous friends and family, it’s refreshing and delicious.