Fresh Picked Six-Veggie Quesadillas

Veggies and cheese are always a win-win combination for me! With all the fresh fruits and veggies on the farm, I hardly remember to include meat in my meals on these hot summer days. I honestly can’t decide what my favorite fresh-from-the-field summer treat is …. a cob of corn eaten raw in the field, a bite of a peach when it is still hot from the sun or a handful of cherry tomatoes popped into my mouth as a pick a pint from our high-tunnel greenhouse.

ingredients.jpg

In celebration of the bountiful vegetable garden at Eckert’s, I decided to make this recipe for Fresh Picked Six-Veggie Quesadillas for lunch today. The combination of fresh veggies and a unique cheese place this quesadilla at the top my summer lunch list.

After chopping the veggies, this recipe comes together quickly because freshly harvested vegetables only take a few minutes to sauté to perfect doneness. Note: overcooking can turn freshly picked veggies mushy in a hurry. Instead they need just a few minutes of heat to soften them up a bit while maintaining the flavor and crunch that makes this dish so enjoyable.

 I call for the veggies to be cut into specific sizes so that they cook in the same amount of time. I decided to use a unique cheese in this receipt called Brun-uusto. Brun-uusto, also known as “Bread Cheese,” is made by Brunkow Cheese of Wisconsin.  The expert Wisconsin cheesemakers at Brunkow have translated Brun-uusto into an authentic version of Juustalepia (Juusto), a specialty cheese with Finnish and Swedish roots.

At Eckert’s, we often serve this cheese warmed in a skillet during sampling sessions and in wine classes. In the skillet, the edges of the cheese melt and form a delicious crust much like the edges of crusty bread. If you are in a pinch and cannot find Brun-uusto, no worries, substitute another favorite such as Colby Jack or goat cheese.

bake.jpg

If you are looking for a way to enjoy all the fresh picked flavors of summer, I invite you to give this recipe a try. You are sure to love it as much as me!!

Eat well this summer,

Angie

Fresh Picked Six-Veggie Quesadillas

1 Tbs. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
¼ cup sweet onions, finely chopped
2 unpeeled zucchinis, 6 – 7 inches long, thinly sliced into ¼-inch thick semi-rounds (about 2 ½ cups)
1 bell pepper, ¼-inch diced (about 2/3 cups)
About 1 cup fresh sweet corn kernels,* 2 medium ears
½ cup Sun Gold or Red Cherry tomatoes, cut in half
½ cup cooked black beans, rinsed and drained, optional
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ cup ready-made or homemade basil pesto
4 (8-inch) flour tortillas
1 (6-ounce) package baked “bread” cheese**, grated (about 2 cups)
Optional garnish: 2 Tbs. sour cream topped with ½ teaspoon of prepared basil pesto per quesadilla

Preheat oven to 400-degrees. Line a rimmed baking pan with parchment paper.

Heat olive oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium high heat. Add garlic, onion, zucchini and bell pepper; sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper; sauté 1 to 2 minutes. Add corn and tomatoes and sauté another 1 to 2 minutes or until all veggies are crisp tender. Stir occasionally while sautéing.  Add cooked beans if using. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper as needed. Set aside.

Spread about 2 tablespoons of pesto thinly over each the four tortillas. Evenly divide the vegetables between the quesadillas and spread the veggies on half of the tortilla. Sprinkle veggies with about ½ cup grated cheese. Carefully fold over the tortilla (the side without the vegetables) to make a half circle. 

Place filled quesadillas on baking pan. Bake in preheated oven until cheese is slightly melted, about 5 to 8 minutes.

Cut into each quesadillas into 3 pieces. Serve with sour cream and pesto. Serve while warm.

Makes 4 entrees or 12 appetizers.
* Nature Blessed frozen sweet white corn, defrosted can be substituted.
**Eckert’s carries Brunkow’sBaked “bread” Cheese in 3 flavors: Original, Jalapeno and Garlic.
Grated Monterey JackCheddar cheese, or Colby Jack can be substituted if this cheese is not available.

 

Cheesecake Stuffed Peaches

Things are just peachy in my kitchen right now, how about yours? I must confess I have not been keeping pace with my usual level of baking with peaches this summer. I have been so obsessed with eating peaches fresh off the tree that I didn’t even realize I hadn’t baked Chris’ beloved Peach Custard Pie yet this season! Now I am on a personal mission to play catch up to my family with peach desserts a plenty.

 My son is a big fan of cheesecake so I was excited to see what he thinks of Cheesecake Stuffed Peaches this week. This recipe is fun to make because it uses a muffin tin in a unique way. The muffin pan allows the peach halves to sit upright and level while the parchment paper directs the juices to the cup below (saving your oven from a sweet drippy mess).

sprinkle.jpg

 We have made this recipe many times for our private cooking classes and bridal showers here in our Cooking Classroom in Belleville. It is always a hit in peach season because it is a yummy gluten-free dessert and it is surprisingly simple to prepare. The key to a delicious stuffed peach is an Eckert’s tree-ripened peach of course. This is the time of year when many customers tell me they have never had a peach as good as an Eckert’s peach. I just love to hear that!

 Customers also ask me what the secret is to making Eckert’s peaches so sweet. There really is no secret I say! We just pick them riper than most farms and the longer the a peach hangs on the tree, the sweeter it tastes. So simple and so delicious.

 I hope you will give this recipe a try this peach season. The peaches are sweeter than ever…

 Eat well this summer,

Angie

Cheesecake Stuffed Peaches

6 unpeeled medium peaches, halved and pitted
2 Tbs. butter melted
3 Tbs. cinnamon sugar*
4 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg yolk
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
Blackberries and mint leaves, optional

 Preheat oven to 350°F. Place a piece of parchment paper over 12- cup regular-sized muffin pan. Cut an “x” into the paper just above each muffin cup. Dip peach halves, cut side up, in melted butter to coat. Place peach halves, cut side up, in prepared pan. Sprinkle top of peaches with cinnamon-sugar. Set aside. In a medium bowl, beat cream cheese with a mixer on medium speed until smooth, about 1 minute. Add sugar, egg yolk, and vanilla. Beat until combined, about 1 to 2 minutes. Spoon cream cheese mixture into peach centers. Bake, uncovered, about 30 minutes or until lightly browned and softened. Serve warm or at room temperature. Add optional garnish of blackberries and mint. Makes 6 whole peach servings or 12 half peach servings.

*Note: Use a purchased cinnamon-sugar mixture or combine 3 tablespoons granulated sugar with 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon.

Pork Tenderloin with Farm Veggies
finished.jpg

Hey Midwest, happy home grown season! Eckert’s homegrown season is hitting a sweet spot this week. We have had lots of peach, blackberry and veggie pickers in the fields here over the holiday week. I am thrilled to be eating my first ears of homegrown corn and biting into large red tomatoes. And yes, the first corn of the season is incredible in case you were wondering!!

I love this time of year because I eat something from the farm for every meal! I started with peaches on my yogurt this morning, I had a tomato salad for lunch and dinner tonight will be this recipe for Pork Tenderloin with Farm Veggies. This recipe is designed to show off a sheet pan full of roasted Eckert’s fresh picked veggies.

This recipe starts by marinating Eckert’s perfectly-trimmed pork tenderloin in our Vidalia Onion Dressing. Since our butchers in our Belleville Country Store trim all the silver-skin off of the tenderloin, you don’t have to do any extra work to prep the meat. I like to marinade the meat and veggies separately to ensure that all ingredients get good contact with the dressing but you could toss them all together if you want to. Use whatever summer veggies you have on hand, this recipe calls for everything we have from the farm this week.

add pork.jpg

 If you roast the veggies for five minutes before adding the pork as directed, the veggies turn out nice and tender without overcooking the pork. My family enjoys this recipe with a side of Amish noodles, Ella’s homemade noodles or steamed rice.

 I hope you will visit one of our farms soon since the homegrown summer season is officially here! And don’t forget to put this recipe in your summer dinner rotation soon.

 Eat well this summer,

Angie

Pork Tenderloin with Farm Veggies

2 pork tenderloins, silver skin removed (1.5 pounds of meat)
2 cups Eckert’s Creamy Vidalia Onion Dressing, Divided
Zucchini, cut into 1-inch coins
Yellow Squash, cut into 1-inch coins
Spring onions, cut into 1/2 inch wedges
Unpeeled turnips, diced
Yellow & Green Bell Peppers, cut into 1/2 strips
Patty Squash, diced
Red and Yellow Cherry Tomatoes, sliced in half
Green Tomatoes, diced

Preheat oven to 450-degrees. 

Place tenderloins in a glass bowl. Add ¾ cup Vidalia Onion dressing and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate 2 to 4 hours.  In a another glass bowl, toss remaining Creamy Vidalia Onion Dressing with 8-10 cups of prepared vegetables 2 to 6 hours before baking. About 20 minutes before baking, remove pork tenderloin from marinade, pat dry with dry paper towels. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Allow to remain at room temperature until ready for oven. On a rimmed baking sheet, spread cut vegetables in an even layer. Roast about 5 minutes, stirring once. Place pork on top of vegetables. Roast pork until an instant-read thermometer inserted in center of pork reads 145-degrees, about 20 to 25 minutes. Turn pork once during roasting. Stir vegetables once or twice. Remove pork from baking sheet. Place on a platter, cover with foil and allow to rest 5 to 10 minutes. Reserve any juices. Plate vegetables and cover with foil. Slice pork into 1 ½ inch pieces. Serve with vegetables and pass the juices. Serves 4-6.
 

Red, White and Blue Tomato Salad

Happy Almost 4th of July! I love this week because my son’s birthday is July 1st and it is fun to celebrate America’s birthday along with Mr. Theo’s!! We will be celebrating this weekend at Eckert’s Summer Concert series with family and friends. I am not sure what is on the menu each night but I will surely be making this celebratory salad sometime this week!

 This recipe for Red, White and Blue Tomato Salad can be easily doubled to feed a crowd. It can be portioned into serving sizes or served on a large platter for pot-lock style meals. Although we are anxiously waiting for the large slicing tomatoes to ripen here on the farm, I have been taking full advantage of our early crop of cherry tomatoes. We are growing a new variety in our high-tunnel this year called Sun Peach. I adore them and often have a bowl of them on my desk to snack on!

 This salad showcases our farm grown produce in patriotic form! Eckert’s corn is still a few weeks away from being ready to pick so I used our frozen white corn, the next best thing. Our frozen corn has won many a blind tastings against home grown corn so I use it anytime corn is not in season. Garlic and kale are also available from the farm so I tossed them into the salad as well.

blue cheese.jpg

 I topped my fresh farm pickins’ off with Amablu St. Pete Select, a delicious blue cheese found in our Artisanal cheese case inside our Belleville Country Store. St. Pete’s Select, which is cave-aged for more than 100 days, is deliciously creamy with pronounced sharpness.  We also have Buttermilk Blue and Point Reyes Blue in our Artisanal case. If you are not sure which to choose for your next recipe, ask a deli assistant to give you sample of all three! You will be amazed by the nuances between blue cheeses.

 I hope you will give this festive recipe a try for your next summer gathering. Happy Birthday America and Theo Eckert!

 Eat well this summer,

Angie

Red, White and Blue Tomato Salad Salad Dressing
1 large clove Eckert’s fresh garlic, peeled, finely chopped
1/8 tsp. kosher coarse salt
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp. white balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp. Eckert’s pure honey

 Place garlic on cutting board; add about 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt on top. Using a wide-bladed knife; mashed the salt and garlic together to form a paste. In an 8-ounce canning jar with a lid, place garlic paste, olive oil, vinegar and honey. Shake to combine. Set aside.

Salad Ingredients
1 ½ cups frozen white sweet corn*
About 6 cups boiling water
½ tsp. kosher salt  
4 cups red and green Eckert’s fresh kale
1 pound Eckert’s high-tunnel red cherry tomatoes, cut in half
4 scallions, thinly sliced (green tops and bottoms)
½ cup blue cheese (approx. 6 oz.)

 

Add corn to salted boiling water. Simmer about 2 minutes; remove from heat and drain corn immediately. Set aside to cool slightly.

 Remove stems from kale and chop very finely. In a 4-quart bowl, place kale and add about 2 tablespoons of the prepared dressing. Toss kale to evenly coat.

 Top kale with corn, tomatoes and scallions and toss with the remaining salad dressing. Crumble about 1 cup blue cheese over salad.

 Makes 4 side salads. Adding deli chopped roast beef to create entrée salad.

 *equivalent to 2 ears of corn

Summer Corn and Ham Soup
Summer Corn & Ham Soup

A lovely night was had by all at our Annual Wine in the Vineyard event! During set up on Wednesday, it was so hot our plastic cups melted but just like clockwork, the breeze kicked in and cooled off the orchard and vineyard as the wagons pulled up to the house. Our guests enjoyed a lovely evening of dining and sipping on the farm adjacent to our Chambourcin vines.

As I have mentioned before, this wine class is one of my absolute favorites of the year. Our guests treasure the opportunity to ride the wagons with a glass of wine in hand! And my family just loves hosting people who are passionate about wine and food pairings. We had five well-received courses and it was fun to show everyone how well summer wines pair with our farm produce.

Summer Corn & Ham Soup Ingredients

One of the favorite pairings of the night was this recipe for Summer Corn and Ham Soup with a Pinot Noir from Willamette Valley, Oregon. I promised our guests that I would put the recipe up on the blog this week, so here it is!

I have three tips to share that will make preparing this recipe a little quicker and more flavorful. First of all, a speedy way to husk & cook corn is to microwave it for two minutes an ear in the husk. Once heated by the microwave, the moisture in the husks helps to peel off the silks easily as you shuck the corn. Next, I rest the shucked cob on a small bowl inside of a larger bowl and use a chef’s knife to cut the kernels away from the cob. The corn falls into the bowl instead of going flying across the room. Genius!

Cutting Corn From the Cob

Tip number two is geared towards cooking with thyme. Harvest a 3-4” piece of thyme stem. Rinse it with water before placing the whole stem in the pot. When you get to the end of the cooking time, remove the thyme stem and you will notice all the leaves have fallen off the stem into the soup. This is a great way to avoid having to de-stem tiny thyme leaves.

And last but not least, you will notice we call for the ham to be browned in the skillet in the directions below. This is in effort to amp up the ham flavors before adding it to the soup. If you are in a hurry, no worries, just skip this step and your soup will still be yummy.

Brown the Ham

We served this soup at room temperature and it was both refreshing and tasty. It is a terrific way to feature homegrown corn, garlic, herbs  and onions. I hope you will give it a try and that you will enjoy it as much as our guests did!!

Eat well this summer,

Angie

Summer Corn & Ham Soup Served

Summer Corn and Ham Soup

3 Tbsp. olive oil
2 large onions, peeled and small diced (about 3 cups)
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
About 5 to 6 ounces bone in ham steak
3 large garlic cloves, peeled and minced (about 1 tablespoon)
2 tsp. fresh thyme leaves or 1 tsp. dried thyme
¼ to ½ tsp. red chile pepper flakes
4 ears sweet corn, kernels cut off cob (about 2 cups), cobs reserved  
1 medium washed unpeeled yellow potato, medium dice (about 1 cup)
4 cups unsalted chicken or vegetable stock
1 oz thinly shaved aged cheese, like Parmesan or Manchego or Marcoot Tomme
Cilantro or parsley leaves for garnish, optional

Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a 4-quart pan over medium heat. Add onion, sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Sauté stirring occasionally about 6 to 8 minutes or until onions are soft.

While onions cook, place ham in a small stainless steel skillet. Over medium high heat, cook both sides of the ham until lightly browned about 5 to 6 minutes in total. Remove from pan and cut into bite-sized pieces. Discard ham bone or reserve for alternate use.  

Add garlic, thyme and chile flakes to cooked onions; sauté about 1 minute. Add corn and the corn cobs, potatoes, stock and ham pieces and bone. Cover with lid. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer for about 20 to 25 minutes or until the potatoes are cooked tender firm. Stir occasionally.

Remove soup from heat. Remove corn cobs and ham bone from the soup. Taste and adjust salt and pepper seasonings.

Garnish with shaved cheese and fresh herbs. Serve warm. Makes 5 to 6 servings.

Fresh Blackberry Tart

It’s really starting to feel like summer at Eckert’s in Belleville! We have our first-of-the-season peaches, Lodi apples (perfect for making applesauce), blackberries and homegrown cherry tomatoes in our Country Store. My mouth waters as I walk past the piles of fresh produce and think about all my favorite summer recipes…

With blackberries on my mind and in my culinary dreams, I just had to pull out this recipe for a Fresh Blackberry Tart from The Eckert Family Summer Cookbook (found on page 71). The recipe as written in the cookbook, is a faster version of what we made today. The cookbook version calls for mixing and dumping the berries in the pie shell which makes this recipe easy and efficient. Today however our classroom culinary instructor, Lana, taught me a new little trick to make our tart look even prettier. She had an idea to face all the berries upright in the pie shell and boy does it look lovely!!

Lana also shared a tip on rolling rounded pieces of dough. When you roll pastry dough with a tapered rolling pin (like the ones we sell in our Belleville Country Store), the pie dough naturally maintains its circular shape. Pastry chefs favor tapered rolling pins, also called a French rolling pins, for shaping bread or pastry dough. It is really quite amazing so if you would like to see for yourself, stop by our cooking classroom and we will do a little demo for you.

In the meantime, I hope you will give this recipe a try in its simple or fancy form. Thanks to premade pie dough and a short baking time, you can have this delicious blackberry dessert on the table in an hour or less!

Eat well this summer,

Angie 

Fresh Blackberry Tart
1 (9-inch) Eckert’s unbaked pie shell, defrosted (but still cool)
4 Tbs. all-purpose flour, divided
5 to 6 cups fresh Eckert’s blackberries, washed and patted dry with paper toweling
1/3 cup plus 2 Tbs. granulated sugar, divided
2 tsp. lemon zest
Pinch of salt
1 large egg, well beaten
Eckert’s Vanilla Custard (optional)

 Preheat oven to 350-degrees.

Spread 1 tablespoon of flour on countertop. Remove pie shell from tin. Gently roll out pie shell flat (final diameter should be 11-12”). Use fingers to crimp edges of pie dough all around the crust forming a 3/4 inch border. Set aside.

 In a large bowl, mix 1/3 cup sugar, flour, lemon zest and salt.  Add berries and toss gently.

Place each berry, stem side down, side-by-side inside the pie dough.

Brush tart crust sides and edges with beaten egg. Use remaining egg to brush on the tops of the berries. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of sugar on top of berries and crust. Bake for 35 minutes or until crust is golden brown.

Allow to cool 10 minutes before cutting into wedges. Serve with Eckert’s Vanilla Custard. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Note: Some of the fresh blackberry juices may escape, but that’s okay!

Fresh Blackberry Sauce

 

I cannot believe it is blackberry season already on our Belleville Farm! I walked into our main office today to find a giant box of blackberries freshly picked by our farm manager. Oh my goodness, the crop looks amazing and the berries are so juicy and sweet. We are just starting what we expect to be a ten-week season in the blackberry vines. Our thorn-less vines are trellised upright which makes for easy pickin’.

My dad, Lana and I were brainstorming menu ideas this week for one of our favorite upcoming wine classes called Wine in the Vineyard. This annual event highlights summer wines and food pairings featuring the homegrown harvest from our farm. We have five delicious pairings lined up for the two-evening event. I don’t want to spoil the suspense in case you will be joining us but I will share our plan for a sweet finish to the evening. Our last course of the night, Eckert’s Peach Wine with Eckert’s Frozen Custard and ourFresh Blackberry Sauce, will be served in cups so guests can walk around the vineyard and farm while enjoying the stunning views at sunset.

Our recipe for Fresh Dessert Sauce yields sauce thinner than preserves, think more like syrup, making it perfect for ice cream, yogurt, pancakes, waffles and more.  I also think it would make a delicious addition to a cocktail for those of you who are creative with craft cocktails. The sauce can be made with your extra blackberries and stored in the refrigerator for up to four weeks.

mix.jpg

I hope you will come out soon to taste our delicious blackberries and see for yourself just how easy and fun they are to pick. Be sure to check our crop availability schedule with your calendar and plan your trip sometime within the next two months!

Eat well this summer,

Angie

P.S.  Space is limited for Wine in the Vineyard event on June 21 and 22, 2017,
CLICK HERE to learn more: 

Fresh Blackberry Sauce
4 cups of fresh blackberries
1 cup granulated sugar
1 Tbs. water
1 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
1 Tbs. corn starch 

Place blackberries, sugar and water in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir as sugar mixes with blackberry juice and melts, about 2-3 minutes (don’t worry if mixture is not yet juicy). In a small bowl combine lemon juice and corn starch, then stir in the lemon mixture into the saucepan. Bring to a boil and cook for another 2 minutes to thicken the sauce. Cool and store in an air tight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 weeks.

Makes 24oz of sauce or two 12 oz jars.

Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp

This recipe reminds me of my grandma so much! She had huge rhubarb plants and I remember thinking the leaves were surely something the dinosaurs ate way back when. I also remember her telling me the leaves are toxic but the stems are delicious when cooked. That fun fact fascinated me as kid!

Grandma Sweetie, as I used to call her, came over on Sundays with pies and desserts. She often brought stalks of green rhubarb from her garden and cooked them down with sugar and water. She called it “stewed rhubarb” and I could hardly wait for it to cool before digging into a bowl full. I started eating rhubarb at a young age so I am always delighted to see it as a leading ingredient in spring desserts as an adult. That being said, I know many people who say they don’t like rhubarb and I sure have to wonder what’s not to like!!

 For those people who are more apprehensive about trying rhubarb, this dessert combines two terrific flavor partners, sweet strawberries and tart rhubarb. These two dial up one another in a magical way. The fruit filling is easy to assemble. The topping also comes together simply as long as you use cold butter as directed. To serve this dish successfully, allow it to cool for at least an hour after baking so that the fruit mixture can firm up a bit. Because the moisture content of homegrown strawberries varies tremendously this desert produces a juicy filling. No worries, just serve your portions in a bowl.

 If you want to try an excellent vintage recipe guaranteed to blow your socks off, give this recipe for Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp a try! I know Grandma Sweetie will be smiling.

 Eat well this strawberry season,

Angie

Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp
Fruit Filling:
4 cups fresh rhubarb, sliced in 1-inch pieces
4 cups fresh strawberries, hulled and halved if large
¾ cup granulated sugar
2 tsp. grated orange zest
3 Tbs. cornstarch
½ cup orange juice

 Preheat oven to 350-degrees. Line a metal baking sheet with parchment paper. Butter bottom and sides of an 8-by-11-inch baking dish. Place baking dish on the baking sheet with parchment. Set aside.

 In a large 6-quart bowl, toss rhubarb, strawberries, granulated sugar and orange zest. Set aside. With a fork, stir cornstarch in orange juice until completely dissolved; about 1 minute. Add to the reserved fruit mixture. Mix thoroughly. Pour fruit mixture into the baking dish. Set aside.

Crumb Topping:
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
½ tsp. kosher salt
1 cup quick-cooking (not instant) uncooked or dry oatmeal
12 Tbsp. (1 ½ sticks) cold unsalted butter, dice each tablespoon into 4 pieces

 In a 2-quart bowl, mix together flour, granulated and brown sugar, salt and oatmeal. Distribute pieces of cold butter over top of the dry mixture. Using a metal forks, pastry blender or food processor combine butter into the mixture until crumbly. (Take care not to over mix; the mixture should be crumbly.)

 Sprinkle the topping over the fruit, covering it completely. Bake for 60 to 70 minutes or until the topping is golden brown. Allow to cool about 1 hour before serving.  (The crisp will be ‘soupy’ if served too hot.)  Serve warm with Eckert’s vanilla custard if desired.

 Makes 8 to 10 servings.

Eckert's Fresh Strawberry Dressing

I’ve eaten a lot of strawberries in my life which is why I am a self-appointed expert strawberry taster. In all my tasting years, I have to say these are the best I have ever had! Eckert’s strawberries are at their peak this week and they are solid red through the center of the fruit. They also drip like a peach when you take a bite out of one. I can’t believe that after all the ups and downs in temperature and eleven inches of rain in one week that these little jewels are glowing and growing! Maybe that is why everyone around the farm is calling them “miracle strawberries!”

 While my absolute favorite thing to do with strawberries is to slice them and eat them with Eckert’s Frozen Custard, once in a while I get creative with something less geared for my intrinsic sweet tooth. Today, I decided to try a recipe for fresh strawberry dressing for a greens salad. Four cups of pureed berries give this dressing gorgeous red color and the herb oil add something truly unique to the flavor profile. I served it with greens, fresh sliced strawberries, blue cheese and almond slivers. It was so pretty!! I am also planning to experiment with the dressing as a marinade on chicken breast in it sometime soon.

I hope you will come out to Eckert’s this week and taste what I am certain will be the best strawberries of your life!

 Eat well this spring,

Angie

 

Eckert’s Fresh Strawberry Salad Dressing

1 quart or 2 pints or 4 cups (1 ½ pounds) strawberries, stems removed
1 to 2 Tbs. Eckert’s Pure Honey
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar*
1 cup olive oil
¼ cup basil oil**
Kosher salt and pepper
1 Tbs. poppy seeds

 

Using a food processor, add strawberries, 1 tablespoon honey and vinegar. Process about 5 to 10 seconds to puree berries.  Taste and adjust sweetness with the remaining honey.

 With food processor running, slowly add both olive oils. Process about 5 to 10 seconds. Lightly add some salt and pepper; process about 5 seconds. Allow to dressing to sit about 5 minutes. Taste. Adjust seasoning. Add poppy seeds, process 1 to 2 seconds.

 Can be used immediately or cover, date and store in refrigerator.

Makes about 1 cup.

 *Aged or white balsamic vinegar can be substituted.

 **To make your own basil oil, roll 17 to 18 medium leaves or 8 to 10 large fresh basil leaves (cleaned and completely dried) and slice into ribbons. Add to olive oil and allow to marinate for 5 to 10 minutes. Basil oil can be made ahead, covered and refrigerated for 4 to 5 days. Before using allow to sit at room temperature about 5 minutes. The olive oil will turn solid when refrigerated, but returns to a liquid at room temperature. 

Eckert's Strawberry Freezer Jam

Well, I officially have more berries than your average strawberry eater knows what to do with, however, I am not your average berry eater!! The kids have been picking like mad now that the sun has been shining for several days over Eckert’s Farms so I am ready to make my first batch of Eckert’s Strawberry Freezer Jam.

ladle.jpg

I will share some straight forward techniques in this post in case it is your first time making freezer jam. But let me first admit, I am not an expert canner! And in fact that is why I love freezer jam. Since we are storing the jam in the freezer (not at room temperature), there are no sterilizing/scalding steps involved, nor do you need to worry about sealing the jar. Instead, we will be using clean, freezer safe jars or containers. Truly, this recipe and technique is great for beginner cooks and hurried cooks like me.

 Start by selecting freezer safe jars. Many brands will note on the packaging which ones are safe for the freezer. In general, they are jars with straight sides as opposed to jars that taper at the top. Next, clean the jars in the dishwasher or with soap and water and dry completely. Labels the jars with the date and jam’s name. Then, clean and completely dry your strawberries. I like to put washed berries on a paper towel-lined rimmed baking sheet. I shake the berries gently and set them aside for 20 minutes or so to let them dry fully.

 Next, remove the green tops and place your berries in a flat-bottomed dish and crush with meat or potato chopper. You will need 1-2 quarts of fresh-picked berries to make 4 cups of crushed strawberries. Kitchen alert: Your house will smell amazing during this step!!

 Then you are all set to follow the directions below or those found on the packet of Mrs. Wages No-cook Freezer Jam. In my house, we use freezer jam as frozen custard topping, waffle topping and we like to stir it into plain yogurt. This pectin packet also works with other fruits like blackberries and peaches. Give this recipe a try next time you have some extra fruit on hand and let me know what you like serve with it!

 Eat well this strawberry season,

Angie

 Strawberry Freezer Jam

INGREDIENTS(as stated on the packet)
4 level cups of crushed Eckert’s Strawberries (do not over fill the measuring cup)
1 Mrs. Wages™ No Cook Freezer Jam packet (1.59 oz)
1 ½ cups granulated sugar – level measure with straight edge

EQUIPMENT
2 quart flat-bottomed dish or bowl
5 clean 8-ounce freezer jars (other freezer safe containers may be substituted)
5 lid flats
metal canning rings
Meat chopper or potato masher
Large bowl
Large spoon or ladle

 Wash jars and lids in hot soapy water; rinse well. Or clean in a dishwasher. (No need to boil water to scald any of the equipment). Mix crushed berries, sugar and the pouch of no cook fruit pectin for about 3 minutes. Spoon or ladle the “jam” into jars or containers, being sure to leave ½ inch of space from the top of the jar to allow for expansion during the freezing process. Use a damp cloth or paper towel to wrap off any jam that is on the jar top or the sides. Place lid flat on jar. Add ring and twist to secure lid.  Let stand at room temperature 30 minutes to thicken jam. Jam can be stored in the freezer for up to one year or used from the refrigerator within 5 days.

Makes: 5 cups or 5 8oz jars

 

Fresh Strawberry Cookie

In spite of the cold and rainy days we have experienced over the past two weeks, Eckert’s strawberry plants are holding their own on the farm. Thankfully our healthy and resilient plants are loaded with ripe strawberries and we are kicking off the pick your own season on our Belleville farm this week (and very soon on our Kentucky farm).

 This week, my kids have been bravely venturing out in the rain on the golf cart with boots on and buckets in hand in search of freshly rain-washed strawberries. Last night they picked some of the most gorgeous berries I have seen so far and we decided to toss together a simple dessert. This recipe reminds me of fruit pizza I made years ago. The cream cheese spread tastes yummy with just about any kind of fruit so you can get creative as the seasons change. If you like a little shine to your fruit, you can heat up a little Eckert’s Apple Cinnamon Jelly for 30-60 seconds in the microwave and drizzle it on top of the fruit.

 If you are looking for a pretty dessert for your next shower or gathering or to add a little excitement to your dinner plan, this recipe is a winner! It is easy to assemble and downright beautiful!!

Eat well this Strawberry Season,

Angie

 Fresh Strawberry Cookie

10 to 12 baked (unfrosted) Eckert’s Sugar Cookies (about 3-inches)
8 ounces regular cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup granulated sugar or vanilla bean sugar*
About 4 cups fresh strawberries, sliced
¼ cup Eckert’s Apple Cinnamon Jelly (optional for glaze) 

Combine cream cheese and sugar in a small bowl. (Cream mixture can be covered and refrigerated for 3 days.) If refrigerated allow mixture to set out about 30 to 45 minutes before spreading on cookies. About 30 minutes before serving, spread mixture evenly over top of cookies. Arrange fruit on topping. If desired, heat jelly in a small glass bowl for 30-60 seconds in the microwave and drizzle on fruit. Serve within 1 hour.

 *Note: To make your own vanilla bean sugar, half a vanilla bean pod. Place pods in an airtight container and fill with 2 cups granulated sugar. Seal with lid. In about 2 weeks, the sugar will be ready to use. Shelf life is 8 to 9 months. 

Fresh Strawberry & Custard Parfaits

As usual, strawberry season is off to a bashful start at our Belleville and Versailles farms! Just when we start seeing ripe berries in the field, Mother Nature sends a series of cool and rainy days our way. And even my nine year old knows “that can’t be good for the strawberries!” He knows our whole Eckert’s team is itching to open for our first pick-your-own crop of the year and as a self-appointed crop scout, he also knows there are lots of green berries in the field awaiting direct connection with the sun.

 So while we wait for sunnier days ahead, I did manage to find a few ripe berries this week and sneak off into our classroom test kitchen. This is for sure the prettiest recipe I have made all year! I am going to make these Fresh Strawberry & Custard Parfaits again for Mother’s Day because I know they will be a hit with kids, moms and dads alike at our family’s celebration. The meringues can be made a day or two ahead and the recipe completely reminds me of my grandma’s recipe for nighty night cookies. You bake the meringues at a low temperature. Then you turn off the oven and let them “sleep” in the oven overnight. My daughter is all over making this part of the recipe for me so I will have it easy there!

 The custard layer in this recipe is a classic custard recipe. It is similar to cream pie filling that I make for coconut cream. This step is somewhat time and attention-consuming and as I stirred, I heard my grandma saying in my ear that I just have to have patience and stir it for the full 10-12 minutes. (No toggling your phone or texting, stay focused here!)

 Then the final step is a little like assembling a lasagna. Be sure to select the prettiest glasses you have to show off the colorful layers. These parfaits can be made in large servings or even in 4 oz jam jars for mini desserts. Whatever size you choose, they are guaranteed to be a sweet sensation!


Eat well this strawberry season, Angie

 

Strawberry & Meringue Parfaits

For meringues:
4 egg whites, reserve yolks
1 tsp. cream of tartar
1 tsp. almond extract
¼ cup granulated sugar

For custard:
1 1/2 cup granulated sugar
¼ cup cornstarch
4 egg yolks
3 cups half and half
¼ cup butter
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 quart fresh strawberries, sliced

 Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Beat egg whites at medium speed with an electric mixture until foaming. Add cream of tartar and almond extract and beat until blended. Gradually add sugar beating until stiff peaks form. Using two metal spoons, evenly drop the meringue mixture onto a parchment lined cookie sheet in 18 similar size “drops.” Bake meringues for 2 hours without opening the door. Then turn off the oven and let stand in the oven for 8 hours more. (Meringues can be made up to 2 days ahead and stored in an airtight container.)

 To make the custard, combine 1 ½ cups sugar and cornstarch in a large saucepan over medium heat. Gradually whisk in egg yolks and half and half; cook milk mixture, whisking often, 10-12 minutes or until thickened*. Increase heat to medium high. Bring milk mixture to a boil and stir constantly for 1 minute.  Remove mixture from the heat and stir in butter and vanilla extract. Cover and chill 6-24 hours. Spoon half of custard into 6 glasses or parfait dishes. Top with half of sliced strawberries and three meringues. Repeat layers two more times for a total of 3 layers of each ingredient. End with one meringue on top.

 *This is a critical step and full attention is needed for the full 12 minutes. Stir often and be sure to the bottom and sides of the pan to prevent browning. 

Eckert’s Italian Sausage and Asparagus Cream Pasta

It's asparagus season in the Midwest and I am eagerly digging through my files of asparagus recipes. I came across this one and decided it just had to be dinner this week.

dish.jpg

 On the Belleville farm, we are in the midst of preparing 5 acres of ground for our first ever asparagus plantings. Although it will take about 3 years to get a sizable crop of asparagus spears, I am already excited to the moon and back because it is my favorite spring veggie!!

 Asparagus is a perennial plant which means, once it is established, it will produce for us indefinitely. Our farm guys will be learning a lot as they plant the first roots next week. I am sure we will be sharing video and shots on Instagram soon, so stay tuned!!

 Back in my kitchen, I decided to bring fresh asparagus, pasta and Eckert's sausage together. I started by choosing a cone-shaped pasta called Gigli (also called Campanelle) because its ruffled edges hold thick sauces so well. Other pasta choices worth substituting are fusilli or farfalle. Gigli is a fun one to use if you can find it, because of its story (of course it is available at Eckert's Country Store in Belleville). Gigli is shaped like a lily which is the symbol of Florence where this pasta is made. (cool huh?)

 This recipe is fairly simple and it really allows the flavors of the sausage and asparagus to stand out in a basic white cream sauce. Be careful not to overcook the asparagus or it really loses its nice texture and snap. When making this recipe, I used Sauvignon Blanc, a dry white wine. Sauvignon Blanc is one of my favorite white wines when the temperatures warm up and it compliments spring vegetables perfectly.

 I hope you will give this recipe a try the next time you pick up some fresh asparagus and be sure to check out our asparagus planting progress at Eckert's soon on social media!

Eat well this spring, Angie

Eckert’s Italian Sausage and Asparagus Cream Pasta

1 pound Gigli or Penne uncooked pasta
1 pound hot or mild fresh Italian sausage, casings removed and meat crumbled
1 Tbsp. olive oil
½ to ¾ cup frozen chopped onion, slightly defrosted
1 garlic clove, minced
½ tsp. red pepper flakes, optional
1/3 cup dry white wine
¾ cup low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup plus 2 Tbsp. heavy cream
2 to 3 cups fresh asparagus, trimmed and cut into ¾-inch pieces
¾ to 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and Pepper to taste

Boil water and prepare pasta according to package directions.

Brown sausage in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat until lightly browned, about 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer sausage to plate.

 In the skillet, add oil and heat over medium heat until oil is shimmering. Add onion and cook until softened about 4 to 5 minutes. Add garlic and pepper flakes and cook about 1 minute. Add wine and simmer until almost evaporated, 2 to 3 minutes.

 Increase heat to medium high, add broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low; add 1 cup cream and asparagus pieces. Simmer for 4 to 6 minutes* or until asparagus is slightly tender, but firm and sauce is slightly thickened. Mix in sausage and grated cheese; continue to cook 1 to 2 minutes; season with salt and pepper.

 Place cooked pasta and cream sauce in a large warm serving bowl. Toss with the remaining 2 tablespoons cream. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

 * exact cook time may vary based on thickness of asparagus

 

Sweet Cherry Mojo Sauce (for Ham)

Easter is around the corner and I have a fun twist for your traditional holiday ham to share! Mojo sauce is a classic sauce in Cuban cooking that uses garlic, olive oil (or lard) and citrus. And since Chris’ parents were in Cuba earlier this year, I think this sauce will be a fun addition to the Eckert family Easter table!!

Mojo sauces are used as marinades for meat, most commonly pork, or they are served as condiments for vegetables or breads.  In this version, we have added Eckert’s honey and sweet dark cherries to sweeten up our sauce and add texture. A little heat infuses the oil with intense garlic flavor making it an amazing topping for ham! You will want to taste your version and doctor the sweetness and acidity to meet your preferences.

pour cherries.jpg


We recently served this sauce in a wine class in mini bowls with crostini and goat cheese and we paired it with Velvet Devil Merlot by Charles Smith Wines. It was so well received we decided to taste it with ham this week and it was just incredible. If you are looking for a way to put an International spin on your holiday ham, give this Sweet Cherry Mojo Sauce a try!

Eat well this Easter, Angie

Sweet Cherry Mojo Sauce (for Ham)

16 garlic cloves, peeled and very thinly sliced lengthwise
1 cup onion, finely slivered (1 medium)
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. salt, divided
1 cup olive oil
1 ½-2 cups frozen Nature Blessed sweet dark cherries, defrosted*
1-2 cups fresh orange juice, divided (from 3 or 4 oranges)
Reserve zest from 1 orange, finely mince
½ cup fresh lime juice (from 2 or 3 limes)
Reserve zest from 1 lime, finely mince
1 Tbsp. white wine vinegar
2-3 Tbsp. Eckert’s Pure Honey

In a medium bowl, combine garlic, onion, cumin, ½ teaspoon salt. Set aside.

Heat olive oil in a medium sauce pan over low heat. Add onion mixture and cook about until softened, 10 to 15 minutes. Stir occasionally.

*In a microwave proof 1-quart bowl add cherries; microwave on high heat about 2 minutes; stir. Microwave another 1 to 2 minutes until fully defrosted. Cut each cherry in half. Set aside.

Add 1 cup orange juice, lime juice, orange and lime zest, and vinegar to onion mixture. Over low heat, cook another 10 minutes for flavors to blend. Add dark cherries. Stir in honey and ½ teaspoon salt to taste and cook 4 to 5 minutes stirring occasionally. Taste, adding additional honey as needed for sweetness. Add tablespoons of reserved orange juice to balance the flavor. (You may not use all the orange juice.) Remaining orange juice can be added to the ham roasting pan. 

Serve as a side condiment to warm ham.

Makes about 3 cups of sauce.  Sauce can be make 3 or 4 days ahead of time. Pour sauce in 1-quart canning jar, cover and refrigerate. Heat thorough before serving. 

Mexican Crustless Quiche

A few weeks ago, I hosted a breakfast for a dear friend and her new baby boy! I needed an easy dish that would feed a group of 12 so I pulled out an old favorite called Mexican Crustless Quiche. I forgot how much I love this crustless dish! In fact, I am going to make it again for Easter since it came together so easily and it was enthusiastically received.

I have learned a new kitchen hack with cottage cheese. I love to puree it in my food processor to create a smooth texture. The resulting smooth cheese is more similar to ricotta cheese making it great for quiches and lasagnas!

The combination of cottage cheese and shredded cheese gives this dish its intense cheesy flavor while Nature’s Blessed white corn adds texture and a hint of sweetness. I tossed in sweet pepper and green onion in this version but I have also swapped the corn, pepper and onions with other veggies and sometimes I toss in a half a pound of browned Eckert’s sausage (FYI pork sausage and mushrooms make a tasty combination).

I don’t think you will have many left-overs but just in case you do, this dish reheat well too. I hope you will give this recipe a try for your next breakfast or brunch celebration! Easter is around the corner, what are you serving?

Eat well this spring,

Angie

Mexican Crustless Quiche
1 ½ cups Nature Blessed super sweet white corn kernels, defrosted*
2 cups (16 ounces) cottage cheese, pureed**
12 large eggs
¼ cup all-purpose flour
¼ tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. ground black pepper
1 large bell pepper any color, small diced (about 1 cup)
4 spring top and bottom green onions (scallions), small diced (about ¾ cup)
1 lb. Mexican style grated cheese blend (about 4 cups)
About 2 cups Eckert’s Fresh Tomato Salsa

Preheat oven to 350-degrees. Butter a 9 x 13-inch baking dish.  In a large mixing bowl, beat eggs about 1 minute with electric mixer or large wire whisk until well blended. Mix in pureed cottage cheese.
In a small bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt and pepper.  By hand, using a large mixing spoon, fold flour mixture to eggs mixture until well blended.
Add bell pepper, green onions and corn; stir to combine.  Mix in grated cheese. Pour mixture into butter baking dish. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until center slightly firm and top is golden brown.
Allow to set about 5 to 6 minutes before cutting into 8 to 10 pieces. Serve with Eckert’s Fresh Tomato Salsa on side.
*In a microwave proof 1-quart bowl add corn, microwave on high about 1 minute; stir. Microwave about another minute until slightly defrosted. Set aside.
**Using food processor or immersion blender, puree cottage cheese until smooth about 30 -40 seconds. Set aside.
This recipe may be made the night before; refrigerated and bake the next day. Bake about 5 to 10 minutes longer.

Make 8 to 10 servings

Fresh Chive Cheese Drop Biscuits
ingredients.jpg

I couldn’t wait to get my hands in the dirt this week after our second delivery of herbs arrived from Kaiser Hill Farms. We have been working with Kaiser Hill for more than 10 years now and they are just terrific! Mark and Beth grow our custom herb selections in their greenhouses located in New Haven, Missouri. They are terrific herb growers and dog lovers so we hit it off from the very start!

scoop.jpg

We have 40+ kinds of herbs in our greenhouse in Belleville which made it a little challenging to narrow down the choices for my first planter. Chives are a must have herb for me though! After a little herb inspiration, I couldn’t wait to get into the kitchen to cook something with herbs.

scoop.jpg

Our classroom staff made this recipe for Fresh Chive Cheese Drop Biscuits in a recent cooking class. It was an instant hit with men and women alike. As you might guess, the fellas did prefer the version with bacon. Even though we baked a few extra biscuits, there was not a crumb to be found by the end of class.

Since baking requires exacting techniques, Lana, our culinary instructor, shared hers with the students:

1.       Fluff your flour with a fork or spoon before measuring.
2.       Check the dates on your baking powder and baking soda to make sure they will produce           the desired leavening.
3.       Be sure to use cold butter.
4.       Don’t substitute anything else for the buttermilk.

 After the class Lana and I were discussing how versatile this recipe is! You can try it with many different herbs and experiment with your favorite cheese. I am sure we will be making this again soon for the classroom or in our home kitchens. Wouldn’t these be great for Easter Brunch??

Eat well this Spring,

Angie

 Fresh Chive Cheese Drop Biscuits

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, stirred before measuring
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder (check expiration date)
3/4 teaspoon baking soda (check expiration date)
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon regular table salt
6 tablespoons (3/4 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
4 ounces (1 1/2 cups) large-hole grated aged sharp cheddar cheese, slightly packed (For example: 1833 Barber's - England)
1/2 cup fresh onion or garlic chives, washed, patted dry and snipped
1 1/4 cups cold buttermilk, well-shaken before measuring

Preheat oven to 425°F.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar and salt in a medium mixing bowl.  Cut in cold butter with pastry blender until mixture is like coarse meal.  (You may see tiny pieces of the butter).  Gently stir in cheese and chives.  Add buttermilk and stir until just combined, about 1 to 1 1/2 minutes.  Do not over stir.

Drop dough in 12 equal mounds about 2 inches apart onto a parchment-lined or greased shiny baking sheet.  Bake in middle of oven until golden brown about 12 to 15 minutes.  Remove from baking sheet to cool slightly before serving.  Serve hot with Amish butter and an Eckert's savory jam of choice.  You may need 2 baking sheets since these biscuits are so large.

Another herb combination:  1/2 cup fresh snipped dill fronds (no stems or seeds) and 3 slices cooked Eckert's bacon finely chopped; reduce salt to 1/2 teaspoon.

Makes 12 (3 inch) biscuits.

Note:  Any biscuits remaining have the best taste and texture, when split in half and toasted.  Serve warm.  A smaller biscuit size can be made.  Baking time will be slightly reduced.

Herb Marinated Mozzarella

Planting season is just getting started at Eckert’s Garden Center in Belleville and our team couldn’t be more excited. Plants are arriving daily and our staff and I can’t wait to share our passion for plants with our guests!! This weekend we have two fairy gardening classes and a cooking class featuring herbs. With longer days and warm weather on the way, I simply cannot contain my plant enthusiasm!!

My senses went into overdrive when I saw all the herb plants in our greenhouse. I just had to make this recipe for Herb Marinated Mozzarella. It is a highly adaptable recipe and it’s fun to experiment with different combinations of your favorite herbs. The recipe begins by infusing the oil over low heat with fresh cut herbs. After the herb oil has cooled, it can be poured over the mozzarella. A period of time in the frig allows the bright herb flavors to infuse the mozzarella. This is a nice appetizer or side dish for pasta night and a great way to show off your herb growing skills!

Eat well this spring! Angie

Herb Marinated Mozzarella

1 Tbs. chopped fresh chives
1 Tbs. chopped fresh thyme
2 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper
2 cloves of garlic, smashed
3 strips of lemon zest, about 1” long
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 8oz ball of fresh mozzarella

Combine first 7 ingredients in a small pot over low heat. Cook 20 minutes, turn off the heat. Let oil mixture come to room temperature in the pot.

Slice cheese into 1/4” thick slices. Pour about 1/4 cup of the oil into an 8 x 8 or 9 x 9 glass or ceramic dish. Place cheese rounds in dish in a single layer. Pour another 1/4 cup of oil on top of slices. Repeat with another layer of cheese. Pour all remaining oil on top of the second layer of cheese. Cover pan and refrigerate 8-24 hours. Serve cheese with crusty bread. Reserve remaining oil for brushing on chicken before baking or tossing on cooked pasta or steamed vegetables.

 

Spanish Rice with Salsa Rose

This cold spell has sent my kitchen into a tail spin! Ella and I tend to cook when we are worried so when we saw the forecasted temperatures in the teens we fired up the oven and started baking. In the past five days, we have made chocolate chip cookies, brownies, beef brisket, pizzas, pasta, pancakes and Spanish rice! If we can’t control the weather, we might as well eat good food, don’t you agree?!

A couple of nights ago we had Taco Tuesday on Wednesday and thanks to the Lego movie, my kids think that is so much fun. Our taco night consisted of bowls of Eckert’s homemade salsa, Eckert’s taco dip, Eckert’s hydroponic lettuce and freshly grated Mammoth Cheddar. I removed Eckert’s chorizo from the casing before browning it in a skillet and serving it along with this recipe for Spanish Rice with Salsa Rose. We enjoyed this comforting meal around the dinner table while overlooking a frosty orchard.

The big hit of Taco Tuesday was my newly concocted Spanish Rice recipe. I love the Salsa Rose products from the folks at Reinneck Ranch because they are delicious and LOCAL! The owners of Reinneck Ranch live in Mascoutah, Illinois and they are always a pleasure to work with. Recently they sampled their salsas at our Wine and Food Festival and as usual, they sold their shelf clean.

I thought it would be fun to experiment with their salsa in a rice dish and now I know, I will never buy the packages of instant Spanish rice again. This dish gets it savory flavor from the onions and garlic and a hint of sweetness from the salsa. My kids topped off their plates with shredded cheese before eating their body weight in rice. Yes, I will be making this recipe again very soon.

Fingers are crossed these temperatures won’t harm the peach crop. In the meantime, I will keep my apron on and my oven full.

 Eat well this winter,

Angie

Spanish Rice with Salsa Rose

 2 Tbs. canola oil
½ white onion, chopped (about ¾ cup)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups white rice (I used Basmati)
3 cups water
¾ cup Mild Salsa Rose

 Add oil to 10” skillet over medium heat. Heat until shimmering. Add onion and sauté for 5 minutes. Add garlic and saute for 2 more minutes. Add rice and stir constantly for 2 minutes. Pour in salsa and water. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes or until rice is done and liquid is fully absorbed. Makes 8-10 servings (or only 6 if you have rice lovers).

 

Baked Havarti with Apple Slices

If you are looking for a delicious appetizer to pair with an ice cold glass of local beer, here ya go! I love this simple appetizer and it is on my mind as we assign tasting tables to all the breweries that will be attending our biggest and best Wine and Food Festival this weekend!! The weather looks perfect and our outdoor seating area is already calling my name. CLICK HERE for more details..

Just a couple nights ago, Chris’ parents were over for an impromptu happy hour and I served up this baked Havarti. It was simple to toss together in a matter of minutes and the apple slice tie-in is fun and different.

Eckert’s pie shells are thin and flakey adding just the right amount of dough to this recipe. You can get creative with your own favorite mustard. I had a hard time deciding between Eckert’s Honey Mustard, Eckert’s Horseradish Mustard and Eckert’s Hot and Sharp Mustard. I really think they all would be delicious choices. Shine up your presentation with a little brushed egg (you could also use milk) and a sprinkling of poppy or sesame seeds. It is important to bake the cheese in a small dish with sides. I used a 3 cup oven-safe container but anything small will work. The cheese will run and ooze out of the pie crust but that is what I like most of all.

We will be sampling our baked Havarti recipe this weekend. Come on by the festival and give it a try!

Cheers, Angie

Baked Havarti with Apple Slices

1 Eckert’s frozen pie shell (9”)
8 oz. block Havarti cheese
1 1/2 Tbs. Eckert’s Hot & Sharp German Mustard
1 egg, beaten
½ Tbs. poppy seeds
apple slices for serving
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Place the frozen pie shell on a cutting board or flat surface. Allow shell to thaw at room temperature for 15 minutes. Spread mustard in the center of the shell. Top with block of Havarti cheese. Make four cuts (about 4 inches in length) around the edges of the pie shell towards the center. Pull outside edges of pie shell up and towards the center of the cheese, pinch dough shut over the top of the cheese. Once edges are well sealed, brush outside of dough with egg, sprinkle with poppy seeds and place in a small baking dish*. Bake 20 minutes or until dough is golden brown. Rest five minutes before serving with apple slices.

 *Note: The baking dish must be a snug fit to prevent the cheese from running outside of the pie shell. I used an 3 cup Pyrex container (7” x 5” approximately).

Chef Lou's Blue Cheese Zinfandel Butter

Eckert’s Wine and Food Festival is approaching quickly and I am getting more excited by the day because we are going to have more tasting opportunities than ever before! Click here for details

At last year’s festival, it was a thrill to have the acclaimed Chef Lou Rook from Annie Gunn’s in Chesterfield, Missouri as our guest chef. Chef Lou shared recipes in our cooking classroom and signed copies of his cookbook called Rook Cooks, Simplicity at its Finest. This recipe is called Domestic Blue Cheese Zinfandel Butter in the cookbook and it can be found on page 141.

This week, we made Chef’s butter recipe and decided to freeze it for tasting during this year’s festival. This recipe is packed with interesting flavors and would make a great topping for grilled steaks, hot pasta and fresh bakery bread. After whirling some up, we decided to serve it on toasted bread with sautéed mushrooms and a slice of cured sausage. Wow, was it delicious! Needless to say, our demo samples only lasted a couple minutes as the store staff gobbled them all up!

This recipe comes together quite easily using a couple of tips from Chef Lou. First of all, take your time cooking the shallots and garlic over medium to low heat. The wine is used to deglaze the pan and capture the flavors that adhere to the skillet. Next, it is a slow reduction process to thicken the wine adding more richness to the butter. After cooling the wine mixture and combining it with the butter, we tasted it before adding small amounts of salt and pepper. I remember Chef saying “salt is not a flavor, it is a flavor enhancer.” He cautioned the crowd to use salt sparingly and to let the natural flavors be predominant. After the butter was seasoned to our liking, we placed it on waxed paper and rolled it into a log before placing it in an air tight container. This butter can be refrigerated or frozen for future use. In our case, we will be freezing it for a couple weeks. 

Chef Lou’s Blue Cheese Zinfandel Butter is truly a WOW recipe. It is exploding with flavors that will instantly add complexity to grilled meats, pastas and more. Give it a try when you are looking to add a gourmet twist to your next dish. Please consider this an official invitation for you to come to Eckert’s and taste it for yourself during our Wine and Food Festival!

Cheers, Angie 

Chef Lou's Blue Cheese Zinfandel Butter

1 Tbs. minced shallots
1 Tbs. minced garlic
1 stick plus 2 Tbs. unsalted whole butter, room temperature and cubed
2 tsp. honey
¼ cup red zinfandel
1 cup crumbled blue cheese
1 Tbs. minced chives
1 Tbs. minced Italian parsley
Kosher salt, to taste
Peppermill, to taste

In a medium sauté pan, sauté the shallots and garlic in the 2 Tbs. butter over medium heat until they are lightly toasted.Add the honey to the pan, then deglaze with Zinfandel. Reduce wine by three quarters and allow to cool at room temperature or in the refrigerator. When the reduction has cooled, combine the stick of butter, blue cheese and the reduction in a food processor or blender. Blend on medium speed for 2 to 3 minutes.Finish the butter with chives, parsley, salt and pepper. Blend until incorporated, about 1 minute