Monday, June 8, 2015

The Joys of June

Ah! The joys of June are upons us! I speak specifically of green peas, beets and new potatoes, all of which we harvested in abundance last week. Together with plenty of fresh herbs that are also now flourishing in the garden, these fresh veggies have made for some great meals. This week, we share a favorite recipe for each one.

If you don't have these veggies in your garden, visit one of the many area farmer's markets, where you are sure to find them.

Creamless Cream of Pea Soup

This technique vastly reduces the calories in a springtime favorite.

1 cup shelled peas
12 pea pods
1 tablespoon safflower oil
1/2 cup diced onions
1/2 cup diced celery
2 cups stock (chicken or vegetable)
1/2 cup cooked rice
1 teaspoon minced fresh tarragon leaves, plus additional for garnish
salt
freshly ground black pepper

Bring a pot of water to a boil over high heat. Drop in the peas and pods. When the water returns to a boil, set a timer for 2 minutes. When the timer sounds, remove the peas and pods from the heat, strain them through a colander, rinse well under cold water and reserve them in two separate bowls.

Heat the oil in a soup pot. Add the onions and celery and cook, stirring, until the onion is translucent. Add the stock, the rice and the tarragon. Bring to a simmer, reduce the heat and cook, covered, for 10 minutes. Add the pea pods and about half the peas and cook three minutes longer. Remove the pan from the heat and allow to cool for at least 15 minutes. Transfer the soup to a food processor or blender and puree. Strain the soup through a sieve and into a clean soup pot. Add the remaining peas, salt and a few grinds of pepper. Heat through. Serve immediately, garnished with more tarragon leaves.

Roasted New Potatoes
This recipe works best if all the potatoes are the same size.

1 pound new potatoes
2 tablespoons bacon drippings (preferably from Benton's bacon)
1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary leaves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Wash the potatoes and remove any damaged or soft spots. Drop the potatoes into a pot of rapidly boiling salted water and cook 10 minutes. Drain in a colander and refresh under cold water. Allow the potatoes to cool enough to handle, then rub off loose peelings.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Put the bacon drippings in a baking pan and set the pan in the oven for 2 or 3 minutes. When the fat is hot, add the potatoes, shaking the pan to coat them well. Return the pan to the oven and roast, shaking now and then, until the potatoes are golden brown, about half an hour. Remove the pan from the oven and sprinkle the potatoes with the rosemary, salt and pepper, tossing them to coat well. Serve at once.

Flourless Chocolate Beet Cake
For those who claim to dislike beets, we offer this, which we have modified from a recipe given in Vegetables by the late master chef, Charlie Trotter. This is one of the richest chocolate cakes you will ever eat. A food processor makes shredding the beets a breeze. Use a kitchen scale to measure the chocolate and cocoa accurately.

Cherries are also in season now. Serving this with some pitted fresh cherries and a scoop of Ben and Jerry's Cherry Garcia ice cream will take it totally over the top.

2 1/2 cups shredded beets (about 10 beets, each an inch and a half in diameter, peeled and trimmed)
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
5 tablespoons sugar
1/3 cup water
3 ounces dark chocolate chips
3 1/2 ounces baking cocoa
9 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup sugar
3 eggs

In a large saucepan, combine the first three ingredients. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes. Strain the beets through a sieve, return the juice to the saucepan, and reserve the beets in a bowl. Bring the beet juice to a simmer and cook another 30 minutes, or until it coats a spoon. Pour half of this syrup over the beets, saving the remainder for garnishing the plate later.

In another saucepan, bring the 5 tablespoons of sugar and 1/3 cup water to a boil. Add the chocolate and cocoa. Stir until the chocolate is melted. Add the butter and stir until the mixture is uniform. Remove from the heat.

Butter 6 one-cup ramekins. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl, beat the remaining sugar and eggs on high speed with an electric mixer until the mixture is light in color. Stop the mixer occasionally and lift the beaters above the mixture. When the eggs run off the beaters in a continuous ribbon, they are ready for the next step. With a spoon, fold the chocolate mixture into the eggs, stirring to produce a uniform mixture. Fold the reserved beets into the batter. Fill the ramekins about 3/4 full of batter. (Do not overfill. Use extra ramekins if you have too much batter.)

Set the filled ramekins on a baking sheet, place in the oven and bake undisturbed for 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. As they cool, the cakes will pull away from the sides of the ramekins.

To serve, tap a cake out of a ramekin and onto a plate. Add a dollop of ice cream and/or some fresh fruit, drizzle some of the reserved beet syrup over all, and enjoy.

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