Posts tagged ‘Basil’

April 29, 2012

None Such Farms, Buckingham PA

4plates2table

FARM SERIES

__________________________

ASPARAGUS

I’m excited to focus this spring and summer on the marvelous farms of Bucks County, PA. These are the farms I feel proud to patronize. It’s not only important to support our local farmers, but shopping locally is also a vital part of our planet’s sustainability. Look for more farm series features coming soon.  None Such Farms was our first stop.

The first spring crop I look forward to is local asparagus from None Such Farms.  Much to my surprise, the first stalks appeared a little early this year. Yes, I was watching the calendar. I knew that last year’s asparagus didn’t show up until April 26th. Ok, truth be told, there’s a sign outside the front door of the farm with last year’s crop dates, but I like to think I’m in touch with my inner farmer. When I pulled into None Such on April 19th and their sign read “we have asparagus,” it was like a glorious present.

None Such is a family owned and operated farm that provides fruits, vegetables, farm raised beef and flowers. They grow some of the sweetest corn, tomatoes, strawberries, and a whole host of other fresh produce throughout the season. When I reference going to my local farm to pick up various ingredients to make dinner, I’m usually referring to None Such Farms. The market also has a fantastic assortment of fresh-baked goods, gourmet edibles, cheeses and prepared foods. Their ground beef is the best! When I’m not feeling up to making homemade basil pesto, None Such homemade pesto is a great cheat. For today, asparagus gets all my love and attention.

FRESH ASPARAGUS SOUP WITH GOAT CHEESE & CRISPY SHALLOTS

The purple asparagus stalks turn a dark green color when cooked, and have a slightly milder flavor than the green.

INGREDIENTS (Serves 4-6)

FOR THE SOUP

  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2lbs asparagus, tough ends removed, cut into 2 inch pieces
  • 2 small leeks, white & light green parts only, large chunks
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 32oz. chicken stock
  • Small bundle fresh thyme
  • 6-8 basil leaves (small handful), chopped
  • Kosher salt & pepper
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • Sprinkle of lemon zest for serving
  • About 3oz goat cheese, sliced into rounds, one per serving (you might not need all the cheese)

Heat a dutch oven over medium-high heat and add the butter and oil. Once the butter is melted, add the asparagus and leeks, cooking until softened but not browned. Add the garlic, cook until fragrant – about a minute. Season with kosher salt and pepper to taste and add red pepper flakes, if using. Stir and add the chicken stock, thyme and chopped basil. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer, partially covered for about 15 minutes, or until the asparagus is tender. You don’t want the asparagus to become mushy. Check it at 10 minutes. When a fork pokes easily into the asparagus, it’s done. It should still retain a vibrant green color.

Remove the thyme bundle and squeeze in the juice of half a lemon. Turn off the heat and using an immersion blender, purée the soup until it’s smooth and creamy. Taste for reseasoning with additional salt and pepper.

FOR THE CRISPY SHALLOTS

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 large shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 3 tbsp canola oil
  • Kosher salt

Heat the canola oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat. Add the sliced shallots, separating them into rings as you drop them into the oil. Move them around so they cook evenly. Once they turn golden brown, use a slotted spoon to remove them from the pan, and place on a paper towel lined plate to drain. You may need to work in batches, so you don’t overcrowd the pan. Sprinkle the crispy shallots with Kosher salt when they are done.

TO SERVE

Ladle the soup into bowls, place a goat cheese round on the top of the soup, sprinkle with the crispy shallots and a little fresh lemon zest.

Enjoy!

* Here’s a tip… use a piece of unwaxed/unflavored dental floss to slice the goat cheese into rounds. It will prevent the cheese from crumbling.

None Such Farms
4493 York Rd. Buckingham, PA
215.794.5201
April 12, 2012

The Perfect Panini

I’ve committed a lot of time to the sandwich at 4plates. Creating unique sandwiches, finding ways to use leftovers to make a sandwich, talking about sandwiches, and of course, eating sandwiches. I’ve declared that the sandwich is my husband’s favorite food group, and other than the banana, it could quite possibly be the perfect food. According to Alan Davidson’s Oxford Food Companion, the origin of the sandwich is generally attributed to the 4th Earl of Sandwich, John Montagu. He was said to have eaten his food in the form of a sandwich to avoid having to stop playing cards. Meat tucked between two pieces of bread, kept the cards free from meaty, greasy fingers… lovely.

The sandwich has evolved far beyond the Earl’s slab of meat on bread. Almost every culture has their own version of the sandwich. It’s no surprise that the Italians have perfected the marriage of meat and bread with their panini sandwich. Whether made on a hearty ciabatta, perfectly baked focaccia or slices of Italian boule, it’s fantastico!  We received a panini press years ago as a gift, and I have to admit we use it often. It makes the insides deliciously melty, and the bread gets that perfect grilled crunch. No oil or butter needed on the outside of the bread, eliminating unnecessary calories. I have a Delonghi machine, but there are many brands & styles available. For around fifty bucks, you can get yourself a nice electric panini press.

GRILLED CHICKEN WITH APPLES & BRIE

INGREDIENTS

  • Sliced grilled chicken breast
  • Sliced Granny Smith apples
  • Brie cheese
  • Whole grain baguette
  • A schmear of Dijon

ROSEMARY HAM, MANCHEGO & FIG PRESERVES

INGREDIENTS

  • Sliced ham (Serrano or I use Boars Head Rosemary Ham)
  • Manchego Spanish cheese, sliced
  • Fresh rosemary (just a few chopped leaves sprinkled inside the sandwich)
  • Fig preserves
  • Hearty sliced Italian boule or other rustic bread

FRESH MOZZARELLA, ROASTED PEPPERS, BASIL LEAVES & BALSAMIC

INGREDIENTS

  • Sliced fresh mozzarella
  • Whole basil leaves
  • Roasted red peppers (jarred is fine here, just pat them dry before putting on the sandwich)
  • Sliced Italian bread
  • Drizzle of good balsamic vinegar

MIX AND MATCH PANINI PAIRINGS

Many a panini has been made in our kitchen. Here is a list of a some delectable ingredients that you can put between a hearty hunk of bread. It’s like the old Chinese restaurant menus… pick one from column A, two from column B and pray the fortune cookie you picked has you winning the lottery.

MEATS: Prosciutto, capicola, spicy soppressata, grilled chicken & good quality sliced turkey

CHEESES: Goat cheese, smoked or fresh mozzarella, super sharp provolone, fontina, Manchego & brie

VEGGIES & GREENS: Arugula, baby spinach, swiss chard, kale, artichokes, sliced avocado & of course, tomatoes

GRILLED VEGETABLES: Eggplant, zucchini, red peppers, Portobello mushrooms, yellow squash & red onions

SPREADS & SAUCES: Basil or sun-dried tomato pesto, fig or raspberry preserves, olive tapenade, balsamic drizzle & Sriracha for that spicy kick

* Don’t forget you can sweeten it up too. Nutella and banana could be the best combo yet!

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