Category Archives: Tomatoes

Veggie Barley Bake

Our charming book club hostess, Beth, served this dish for a cold winter evening dinner, and I went nuts for it. I think of barley as such a wonderful hearty and healthy grain, but it’s rarely served except as part of a beef barley soup, which gets kind of old in my opinion. Beth says she loves serving the veggie barley bake; kids eat it, it’s healthy with barley and lots of veggies, and it tastes like lasagna. What’s not to love about that? You can use whatever combination of veggies suits your fancy or your leftovers. You just need approximately 10 cups of chopped vegetables in all. For Locavorious members who haven’t eaten up all the veggies from last month yet, here’s a great recipe….answering the questions, “What should I make with this? And that?”

As I mentioned I went a little nuts for this dish, making a couple variations already and surprising Chef Jeff who usually expects spicier things to make my favorites list. Here are some versions:

  1. The Book Club Selection: green beans and sweet potatoes
  2. Locavorious This & That: 16 oz frozen summer squash, ½ bag of broccoli, ½ bag green beans, a handful of red peppers and some leftover snap peas.
  3. Rena’s Favorite So Far: 16 oz frozen cauliflower, 15 oz frozen Swiss chard, sweet potatoes

    Locavorious This & That in the pot.

The Veggie Barley Bake Formula 

2 tbsp oil                               

2 cloves minced garlic

1 onion, chopped

2 average carrots, sliced

9 – 10 cups chopped frozen vegetables

3/4 cup barley

15 oz frozen stewed tomatoes, thawed + ½ cup water *or* 1 1/2 cups tomato broth           

1 tsp salt

1 tsp. oregano                          

1 – 2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Freshly ground black pepper 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 

Heat oil in large heavy skillet and sauté garlic and onion until softened, 3 -5 minutes.  Add remaining vegetables and sauté, stirring a few times, for 5 minutes.  Add barley, tomato broth, and seasonings; bring to a boil, cover, and simmer for about 10 minutes. 

Transfer contents of the skillet to a shallow 4 quart casserole; stir in 1 cup of the cheese.  Cover and bake for 45 minutes.  Veggies and barley should be tender.  If not, cover and cook longer.  Top casserole with remaining cheese if desired and return to oven uncovered for about 10 minutes.

Mmmm…I think I’ll eat the rest.


Lamb and Red Pepper Ragù with Pasta

Cold weather makes me want to eat hearty meat-filled meals, and recently I was fortunate enough to get a ½ lamb from Old Pine Farm. Here’s a great hearty winter meal that works wonderfully with the strong flavor of locally raised, free range lamb. Lamb pairs well with the taste of peppers. If you are lucky enough to have one of the Locavorious bags of frozen Tantre Farm incredibly sweet and hot Carmen peppers, this recipe is a wonderful use of them, along with the frozen whole Roma tomatoes.

The recipe has been adapted from Cooking Light’s “Abruzzese Lamb and Red Pepper Ragù with Penne.” I’ve never visited the Abruzzo region of Italy, so if you have let me know if it’s true what foodie people say that the rustic Abruzzee cuisine is an undiscovered treasure of Italian cooking. Home of both mountains and extensive coastline, the Abruzzo region is known for hearty mountain recipes, a lot of seafood specialties, and strong flavorful dishes. To make this recipe even more authentically Abruzzese, use chili peppers to increase the spiciness and use an egg pasta, and to make it more Michivore pick up some handmade pasta from Pasta e Pasta from Diane and Debbie at the Farmers Market or some Al Dente Pasta.


1 T olive oil

2 cups finely chopped red onion

12 oz Locavorious frozen red bell pepper slices (or 3 cups bell pepper slices)

4 teaspoons minced garlic cloves

~ 1 lb ground lamb (other ground meats would work just fine too)

1 cup dry red wine

16 oz Locavorious frozen whole tomatoes

1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, divided

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper

4 bay leaves

~ 2 cups chicken broth

~ 8 cups hot cooked penne (about 1 pound uncooked tube-shaped pasta or other short pasta)

1/2 cup (2 ounces) grated fresh Pecorino Romano cheese

Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion and garlic. Cover and cook 6 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add red peppers and cook an additional 6 or so minutes. Remove onion mixture from pan.

Add lamb to pan; cook over medium heat until browned, stirring to crumble. Drain. Return onion mixture and lamb to pan. Add wine; bring to a boil. Cook 10 minutes or until liquid almost evaporates.

Add tomatoes, 3 tablespoons parsley, salt, crushed red pepper, bay leaves, and broth; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer 10 minutes. Discard bay leaves. (Discard tomato skins if desired.) Add pasta and cheese; toss to coat. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon parsley.

A Garden Variety Beet-Veggie Soup….aka Borscht

Beet-cabbage-vegetable soup…also known as borscht. For years whenever I’d say how much I like beets, folks would then ask, “So, you make borscht?” And for years I would have to fess up that not only did I not make it, I’d never even tasted it. Borscht is a soup that I thought one needed a secret family recipe from your mama’s bubbie’s bubbie from deep in the Russian or Baltic or Ukrainian or, at the very least, Eastern European heartland. No such luck in our family. I vaguely remember my maternal Bubbie tossing together canned pickled beets and sourcream and sitting down to eat that scarily vibrant pink concoction after everyone else had left the table. Now that I think about it, that’s always when Bubbie ate, so maybe it didn’t have anything to do with the borscht. In any case, I assumed that neon pink stuff from a can was not of any interest.

Flash forward to this past summer when the garden and the farm share were yielding beets, beets, root veggies, beets and cabbage and more beets. While hungry and “complaining” about the bounty after playing ultimate one evening, a young guy (i.e. a guy younger than me) commenced eye-rolling, “Come one, just make borscht, it’s so easy. Even on a weeknight.” HUH? What did he say? He rattled off a generic recipe formula….”My wife and I love it in the summer; we just cook down some cabbage and onions, carrots or whatever else is around, add some water and beets; plop on some sourcream when the veggies are soft. It’s delicious hot, warm or cold.” WHAT? My head was spinning with challenges to my long held assumptions:

  1. Borscht is not just for Bubbies.
  2. Using canned beets is not required.
  3. Some long kept secret family recipe is not required.
  4. Some young, punky ultimate-playing guy can make this unusual old world soup.
  5. Same guy can whip it up on a weeknight in spite of having 2 young tots.
  6. It’s delicious. Really? OK, well I had to give it a try.

So now I am here to testify – borscht is delicious! You cook down some cabbage and onions slowly, almost caramelizing them; you add root veggies full of natural sugars. What’s not to like? OK, maybe this soup needs a better sounding name, however, even the ever skeptical chef Jeff was won over. Our summer’s bounty was transformed into various batches of borscht (or let’s call it veggie-beet soup), the leftovers now safely snuggled into the freezer for winter consumption. But don’t think of borscht as just a summer-time cold soup. Most of these ingredients are still available at the farmers market through the fall, and it’s a hearty, healthy vegetarian soup great served hot in this cold weather. I prefer it hot. Borscht is also a perfect use of frozen whole or stewed tomatoes too, putting back in a touch of that fresh summer flavor.

Instead of relying on Bubbie’s secret recipe I use Debra Madison’s the “The Ultimate Root Soup: Borscht” from Local Flavors as my guiding light. This soup is very amenable to substitutions – no leeks? Use extra white onion. No turnips? Use parsnips. Want a vegan version? Skip the sour cream. And on a weeknight…use canned broth. Full disclosure – I typically use canned broth, but for the Slow Food Huron Valley Harvest Cook-off a couple weeks ago, I made the stock from scratch. It was the soup/appetizer winner, so maybe I should call this particular version Blue Ribbon Borscht. Hard-core Ann Arbivores & Michivores will love this soup too, as you can source everything but the pepper and bay leaves from our local food shed. For this version all the vegetables except the celery came from Tantre Farm.


2 russet and 2 purple potatoes, peeled

4 carrots, peeled

5 large garlic cloves, chopped

1 large red onion

2 small white onions, one diced and one quartered

1 bunch baby turnips, scrubbed and trimmed

½ large green cabbage (equates to about 4 cups when shredded)

2 T butter

Salt and pepper

3 bay leaves

1 ¼ lbs of beets, peeled

1 package Locavorious frozen stewed tomatoes, or frozen whole tomatoes

1 T sugar

8 cups vegetable stock (recipe below), water, or some combination

6-10 sprigs parsley, half chopped, half whole

1 T red wine vinegar

½ cup sour cream

1 T horseradish

1 celery stalk

½ kohlrabi, chopped

2 Shiitake mushrooms



  1. Vegetable stock: Wash/scrub the soup vegetables.  Place peels from the carrots, beets, and two potatoes in a pot with three of the garlic cloves, two bay leaves, two teaspoons of salt, celery, kohlrabi, some parsley sprigs, the quartered white onion, and the Shiitake mushrooms.  Other combinations of vegetable trimmings will work too.  Cover with 10 cups of water; bring to a boil, then simmer while you prep the vegetables, ~ 45 minutes.

        2.     Chop these vegetables: onions, carrots, turnips, potatoes, cabbage, and the rest of the garlic.

3.     Melt butter in a large soup pot.  Add onions, carrots, turnips, potatoes, cabbage, and garlic.  Toss with 1 T of salt, cover and cook over medium heat until the vegetables have wilted, ~ 25 minutes.

4.     Meanwhile, dice the beets.  Defrost the frozen stewed tomatoes enough to get them out of the container. If using frozen whole tomatoes, no need to defrost.

5.     When the onions, cabbage, etc. are soft, add the beets, frozen tomatoes and 1 bay leaf.  Keep the heat on medium and gently break up the tomatoes.  Strain the stock and add it to the soup plus enough water to equal about 6 cups.  Once the soup is boiling again, reduce heat to a simmer and cook an additional 25-30 minutes or just until the beets are tender.

6.     Add salt and pepper to taste.  Remove from heat and stir in 1 T vinegar.  Sprinkle chopped parsley on top. Can also use chopped fresh dill.

7.     Combine the sour cream and horseradish.  Serve soup hot, warm or cold with a spoonful of the sour cream-horseradish on top.

Michigan Lady Food Bloggers – Mastering the Art of French Cooking

Or some semblance thereof.  A loose group of food-loving, Michigan lady cooks and bloggers got together this weekend for a themed luncheon – cook something from Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French cooking Volume 1…. or just cook something from a French cookbook, or something remotely French sounding…or head down to the creamery and buy some really stinky cheese. In all cases, the food was yummy!

Now, as a local foodie, the proposal to cook French at first made me feel slightly dizzy. But I got over it. Seasonal and local vegetables are often highlighted by French chefs. And I was very pleased to note Julia Child’s lengthy discussion in Mastering the Art of French Cooking Vol 1 of the proper way to blanch green beans and cauliflower for maximum flavor (lots of boiling water, not too long, plunge into cold water.) As your typical busy-working-mom-still-trying-to-cook-at-home person, French cooking also sounded like it would be way too time consuming. But I got over it.

Check out this recipe from Fast Food My Way by Jacques Pepin – Chicken Bouillabaisse – served with a spicy rouille. Other than lemon, olive oil & saffron, this dish can be made from many local Michigan ingredients, and it came together in pretty quickly and had wonderful flavor.

Bouillabaisse ingredients:

1 T good olive oil
1 T coarsely chopped garlic
½ teas saffron threads
1 teas grated lemon zest
¼ teas salt
½ teas freshly ground black pepper
¼ teas fennel seeds
¼ teas herbes de Provence
½ cup coarsely chopped onion
¼ cup coarsely chopped celery
¼ cup coarsely chopped carrot
4 chicken thighs or about 1 ¾ lbs chicken parts, skin and fat removed
About 1 cup or ½ a can diced tomatoes – or 1 package Locavorious frozen tomatoes
½ cup dry white wine
¾ cup water
5 red or Yukon gold potatoes, about ¾ lb, halved or quartered
1 ~ 10 oz piece of kielbasa sausage, cut into 4 pieces
1 T chopped fresh tarragon, chives or parsley
2 teas Pernod or Ricard (optional)

Mix the olive oil, garlic, saffron, lemon zest, salt, pepper, fennel seeds, herbes de Provence, onion, celery and carrot in a large bowl. Add the chicken and turn to coat. Cover and refrigerate until you are ready to cook. (I actually let the chicken marinate overnight.)

Transfer the contents of the bowl to a stainless steel pot and add the tomatoes, wine, water and potatoes. Cover, bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to low and boil gently for 25 minutes. (If using the frozen tomatoes, after 15 minutes, gently break them apart with a spoon; you can also if desired fish out the tomato skins.) Add the sausage and cook for 5 minutes longer. If adding Pernod, stir it in now with the fresh herbs.

For the rouille: Remove ½ of a cooked potato and ¼ cup liquid from the pot and place in a food processor with 2 large garlic cloves, 1/8 teas cayenne pepper and ¼ teas paprika. Process for about 10 seconds. Add 1 large egg yolk. Then with the processor running, slowly pour in ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil and process for a few seconds, or until incorporated. Taste for salt and add a dash if needed.

Serve the bouillabaisse in warmed soup plates with a spoonful of the rouille drizzled on top.











And for a truly sensational meal, invite a bunch of Michigan Lady Food Bloggers over and have each bring a dish!