Author Archives: Wendy Dennis

Ground Pork and Veggie Casserole with Kousa Squash Crust

The ingredients
The ingredients

“I’m not hungry so I’ll just have a bite” were my husband’s last words before finishing off the entire portion. I guess it’s a keeper. 🙂

This week, I wanted to highlight in-season Kousa squash, tomatoes, and spinach from Farmer Dave’s, the fabulous locally grown organic mushrooms from Fat Moon Mushrooms via our vendor Neighbor’s Acre Farm, as well a product from our meat farmer Lilac Hedge Farm. I went with ground pork for the latter, but their ground pork, turkey, or sausage (sans casings) would work just as well.

Click HERE to see the recipe that inspired me, and the source of the tasty zucchini crust, and click HERE to watch the “not live at the market” cooking demo video.

Ground Pork and Veggie Casserole with Kousa Squash Crust

  • 2 cups shredded or grated Kousa, (or summer or zucchini squash)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2/3 cup parmesan cheese, grated or shredded
  • 3 cups shredded cheddar (or cheese(s) of  choice), divided between crust and filling
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 pound ground pork, (or beef, sausage, (no casings), or turkey)
  • 1-2 Tbsp oil to sautĂ© veggies
  • 3/4 cup onion, chopped
  • 2 cups mushrooms, fresh, sliced =  4 cups once chopped, 6 oz)
  • 1 cup chopped squash,  then 4-6 oz fresh spinach, and two medium to largish tomatoes, finely chopped
  • cooking spray or vegetable oil of choice
The casserole closeup

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees and lightly coat a 9×13 pan with cooking spray or oil.

Place grated zucchini in a strainer, sprinkle with salt and toss. Let stand for 15 minutes.

Add eggs, parmesan cheese and half of the shredded cheese (s) to a medium sized mixing bowl and set aside.

Squeeze out moisture from the squash with paper or dish towel. Add to egg and cheese mix and stir to combine. Press, as evenly as possible, into your prepared pan. Feel free to use your hands! Bake, uncovered, for 25 minutes.

Check out that bottom crust!

In the meantime, cook ground meat in a medium (12” works) frying pan until no longer pink. Remove from pan and drain if needed. In same pan, add oil as needed and sautĂ© onion, squash, and mushrooms over medium heat until just tender. Add spinach and tomatoes. Add back the cooked ground pork and mix. Put mixture onto the now-baked squash crust in the 9×13 pan. Sprinkle with remaining cheese. Bake for 20 minutes longer, until heated through. Let rest for 10 minutes before slicing and serving. Enjoy!

Cherry Tomato and Garlic Scape Pasta Sauce

The ingredients except for the cheese!

Intro Note: I am so happy to be back doing cooking demos for our Wakefield Farmers Market, but so sad that, for safety reasons, I can’t do them in person at the market. But, you will find new recipes here each week based on what will be available the next market day. And, NEW! I will be videoing the demos in my home kitchen and posting them on my Culinary Q YouTube cooking channel that I just started during these past few months of Covid-19 staying safe at home time. 🙂 Please consider subscribing! Once I get 100 subscribers, I can get a YouTube URL with culinaryq in it. Thanks!

Here is a link to this week’s video: Apologies for the exhaust fan being on so loud during part of it!

And now, here is the recipe, followed by notes and the story behind it. One quick note: I didn’t put the word “spicy” in the title because, if you don’t like spicy, you may not have checked this out. But if you prefer mild, just leave the red pepper flakes out and, if desired, add other seasoning that appeal to you. in fact, I was wary of the original recipe calling for 2 tablespoons of red pepper flakes, which would translate to 1 tablespoon for the size of my recipe, below. You will see that I reduced the amount to 1 teaspoon and I am glad I did! It has a nice kick without overwhelming.

Spicy Cherry Tomato and Garlic Scape Pasta Sauce

1-2 tbsp olive oil

1/3 cup chopped/diced garlic scapes (4-5 whole)

garlic scapes in their natural farmers market habitat

1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1 pound cherry tomatoes, sliced in half

1/8 – 1/4 tsp of Anchovy paste

8-10 fresh basil leaves, torn

6 oz pasta of choice

salt/pepper to taste

Pecorino Romano or other cheese, grated

Put a quart of water on to boil to cook the pasta while sauce simmers. Heat the olive oil in a 10″ saute or 12″ frying pan (or thereabouts) to medium heat and add the chopped garlic scapes and red pepper flakes. SautĂ© 5-7 minutes. Add the sliced cherry tomatoes and anchovy paste to the pan and sautĂ© on medium high for several minutes and then lower heat. Add the torn basil leaves and simmer for 20 minutes, or until tomatoes are soft and saucy. Add a few pinches of salt during the simmer process to bring out the liquid from the tomatoes.*

While the tomatoes are simmering, bring the pasta water to a rolling boil and cook the pasta as directed on package, ans strain.

Once both the pasta and sauce are done, add the pasta to the sauce, mix well, bring up heat a bit if needed for serving, and top with grated cheese to taste. Makes 4-6 side servings.

I went to Farmer Dave’s Barn Market in Dracut the other day to ask Farmer Jane (my demo contact) for ideas as to what I should feature in this week’s demo because I wanted to make sure whatever I used would be available on June 20. Given the season (and given that everyone knows what to do with strawberries, which are IN, YAY!) I went with cherry tomatoes from Farmer Dave’s greenhouses and garlic scapes from their fields. To order, go HERE and select Wakefield Farmers Market.

Farmer Dave’s Barn Market. Just up the road a bit in Dracut MA!

Next I search around and found THIS RECIPE from Norman’s Farm Market in Maryland that totally fit the bill as a foundation for my version. I toned down the amount of red pepper flakes, guessed at the amount of garlic scapes, and added some fresh basil.

Also, I grated some of West River Creamery‘s Cambridge English Cheddar (to order, click HERE) instead of a hard cheese more typically used with a tomato sauce, and it worked wonderfully to pull together the flavor and texture of the dish. The original recipe had cheese as an optional ingredient. I think cheese really added to it. But it’s up to you.

While I make sure to keep all my live cooking demos at the market vegan, and will do my best to provide info for vegan substitutes for dishes I create this season that contain animal products, I will be taking advantage of this new venue to also feature products from our fish monger and our meat and dairy farmers. Plus, Whatever I make at home will be on our dinner table, so I need to make sure Steve is going to like it. 🙂

You can also use regular garlic and/or onions instead of garlic scapes, but this time of year, I recommend taking advantage of this funny looking but tasty spring favorite!

Done. with a garlicky zing and a red pepper kick.

* For the science behind salt and tomatoes, see

To pre-order for the June 20 market day, click HERE.

UPDATE: As we had the leftovers for lunch, my husband Steve commented: I’d be surprised if people did not like this.” There, and from a man who typically does like things mixed up. 🙂

Quick and Easy Fresh Vegetable Soup: The Trick is in the Flavor Base

recipe ingredients

With a chilly day predicted, I thought a hot soup would be a good choice, but I wondered how I could make a flavorful soup in an hour or so? I would have no time to make a separate vegetable stock and, in the spirit of our cooking demos, I did not want to go with a store bought option. What to do?

I needed to figure out how to create a strong flavor that would not dissipate once water was added to make the soup. What came to mind were two things. The first is a tip I learned from Mike Vrobel, of DadCooksDinner, that he uses to make his turkey stock: Be sure to include onion and carrot and slice them very thinly to let more of the flavor out into the liquid. The second is that tomatoes are one of the vegetarian ingredients used to add an “umami” flavor. Okay, three things, with the third being that dried herbs, when added early in the cooking process, can pack as much of, or an even better punch then their fresh counterparts.

Oh, okay, five things. Garlic (of course) and just the right amount of salt.

picture of flavor base before adding water and chopped veggies
The flavor base

The instructions are in the following recipe, but the short story is saute thinly sliced onion and carrot on low for a few minutes in olive oil, (do not brown!) raise temperature, add dried herbs, salt, and pepper, and cook for a minute or two, add thinly sliced garlic and cook until fragrant, add diced tomato, lower temperature, and cook down for 10-15 minutes. Then add water and veggies, cook for 15-20 minutes, and season with salt to taste. Here is what I did at the Market Kitchen Tent:

Quick and Easy Fresh Vegetable Soup
(serves 4)

2-3 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, very thinly sliced/chopped
1 3 to 4-inch piece of a medium carrot, very thinly sliced
2 small clove garlic thinly sliced
4 tsp dried parsley
2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried thyme
1/4+ tsp each salt and pepper
1 medium sized tomato, diced
1 medium carrot, diced
1 small to medium potatoes, diced
1 3″ or so chunk of daikon radish, diced (can also use two big red radishes)
15 or so green beans, in 1″ pieces
kernels from one cob of fresh corn
liquid scraped from the “de-kerneled” cob
2 cup water to start, then, if needed, add more to cover by 1/2″ or so (I used three cups)
1 tsp salt

Heat the olive oil in a sauce pan, add onion and cook on low for a few minutes. Add the thinly sliced carrot and cook another few minutes, then raise the temperature to medium high and add dried herbs, salt, and pepper. Cook for another minute or so, add the garlic and cook until frgrant, about 30 seconds, then add tomatoes, and liquid scraped from corn cob. Lower heat and cook for at least 10 minutes or so until thickened and very fragrant.

Next, add all the rest of the veggies and the water. Simmer for 15-20 minutes, adjust seasoning if desired, and you are done!

So easy and so good! You can use whatever veggies you like, but I’d recommend keeping the flavor base the same.

You might be wondering about the daikon radish in the ingredient list. I am a big fan of this vegetable, also called ice radish. I discovered it back when I followed a macrobiotic diet and have since learned that it is very good for the soil, making it an excellent rotation crop. Unfortunately, it is not one of the more familiar vegetables, so I always like to give it some PR when I can.

picture of person with a daikon radish
This is Dave, who went to Farmer Dave’s tent and got himself his own daikon radish. 🙂

I found out that Farmer Dave’s has been offering it in their current CSA, so I requested that they send some along to Wakefield this week. And they did! Along with using it in the soup, I also offered raw slices for people to try. I am happy to say that more than just a few people headed over to Farmer Dave’s for a daikon radish when they left the Market Kitchen Tent.

Not everyone was a newbie, though. Here are some ideas for using daikon shared with me today: Slice it in rounds and serve with hummus or another dip in lieu of crackers. Julienne and include in a wrap. Or, the most fun sounding one: slice thin or spiral and serve with a strong soft cheese on dark rye bread, accompanied by a good beer.

Of course, it is great in soups or stir fries, any casserole dish, (use to complement or as a substitute for turnip, potato, or carrots) raw in a salad or veggie plate, or try it roasted, by it itself or in a veggie medley. Here is a fun recipe I am going to try this weekend: Spicy Roasted Daikon Radish French Fries.

Do a search online for daikon radish, and daikon radish recipes. You just might find out that you have a new favorite veggie.

Fresh Sweet Corn Relish: a “no cooking needed” recipe!

picture of recipe ingredients
The ingredients, with option olive that I did not use for the market demo

In honor of the summery weather and full harvest time, I made a fresh corn relish highlighting a number of veggies along with, of course, fresh corn. It was a bit hit! And, for once, I made the recipe as written. Well, almost. <grin>

Quick, easy, tasty, it can be a side dish, a dip, a topping or garnish for fish, (salmon comes to my mind) pork, or whatever strikes your fancy. Here it is, with a few notes.

2 cups fresh corn kernels from the cob (I used 4 ears) *
1/2 cup finely diced red bell pepper
1/2 cup finely diced red onion
1/2 cup finely diced tomatoes
1/3 cup deseeded, deveined, finely diced jalapeno or other hot pepper.**
1/2 cup white vinegar
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil (or 1 tablespoon dried – use the olive oil if using dried basil)
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1-2 tablespoons olive oil (optional)
salt & pepper to taste

* Click HERE  for a video showing how to get kernels off the cob without the mess!

**I used moon peppers, more commonly called Bishop’s crown peppers, from Flats Mentor Farm.

Toss together the corn kernels, finely diced red bell pepper, red onion, tomatoes, and hot pepper.

picture of fresh corn relish
Ready to eat!

Mix the vinegar, salt, pepper, and basil together in a separate bowl and then add to the veggies and toss to cover.

It is ready to eat, but you can also store, covered, in the fridge for up to 4-5 days or more, but keep an eye on the tomatoes!

samples in cups

Fun with Kale. Really! Secret SautĂ© Ingredient and a Quick “Massage”

ingredients in the saute
All the ingredients except the soy sauce!

I actually converted a few “I hate kale” folks and had a toddler coming back for 3rds! I based my sautĂ© recipe on The Sauteed Kale Recipe that Converts Kale-Haters, which has butter or ghee as the cooking oil, along with shallots, soy sauce, and Dijon mustard as the secret ingredients for success.

Since I stay vegan for our demos and with no shallots available at the time, I had to make a few adjustments. Here is the recipe I used at the market. In contrast to the recipe I put on the bulletin board during the demo, I used a medium-largish onion, doubled the amounts of soy sauce and mustard, and cooked the onions slow and low for about 25 minutes so they just started to caramelize. I knew that doing this with the onions would give a bit of a creamy texture and sweetness that, while not a substitute for what butter can bring, brought a special something beyond just a quick cook of the onions in the olive oil.

2-3 Tbsp Olive oil
1 medium to large onion
1-2 large garlic clove, minced
2 tsp. tamari or soy sauce
1 tsp. Old School Kitchen’s Maple Bourbon Mustard *
1 bunch of kale, rinsed and chopped **
water as needed
salt and black pepper, to taste
* Use whatever mustard you like
**Don’t dry the kale; the water droplets will help it steam as cooking.

Remove leaves from stems and chop the kale into small pieces.

onions in pan
I used a whole onion. Why not?

Heat the oil or fat over medium heat in a saute pan with high sides or a dutch oven.

Add the onion, lower heat, and cook slow and low for at least 20 minutes to bring out sweetness – longer if you have time to caramelize them a bit more. Bring the heat up and add the garlic, cooking briefly until fragrant, about a minute.

Add the chopped kale and stir to coat in the oil. Add the tamari or soy sauce and mustard, and stir again.

finished dish of sauteed kale

Sauté, stirring frequently, until the kale is tender, about 8-10 minutes or to how you like it. If the kale starts to stick to the pan, add a couple tablespoons of water. This will help soften the kale, and the water will cook off.

Season with salt and pepper before serving and enjoy…But wait, what was that about a massage?

Rubbed or massaged kale
Rubbed or massaged kale

To season and soften kale without cooking, simply remove the leaves from the stems and chop the leaves, add a bit of olive oil, salt (I used and would recommend kosher salt if you have it) and a squeeze of lemon juice. Then rub or “massage” with your fingers for a few minutes or more. You can use it alone as a salad green (ooo, I can taste this with walnuts and apples!) or in a salad mix, add to a stir fry, or use the rubbed leaves to make kale chips!