Monday, December 6, 2010

Dark Days Inspiration

Week One of the Winter CSA yielded swiss chard, beautiful carrots, a half dozen apples, purple-top turnips, garlic, chevre, eggs, yogurt, and chorizo. All of the items were from farms in PA, and the chard and carrots were actually grown right at Greensgrow. I am loving that we get dairy and meat with this CSA, and that the bi-weekly take is do-able for just the two of us. We also picked up a beautiful wreath, to adorn our front door, as well as some hand-made pulled pork pierogies from Polish Goodness.

I read a number of "eating local" blogs, most of which also talk about cooking the variety of seasonal items you can find close to home. A couple bloggers have mentioned the Dark Days Challenge, which encourages local eaters to try to cook at least one meal each week that focuses on local foods. It does indeed become a challenge in the winter months because a) there are less fresh produce items to choose from and b) they are harder to find as some farmers markets close up for the winter. There's a high level of burnout when trying to meet this challenge in the coldest months. After all, there's only so much you can do with potatoes, cabbage, and turnips. But I figured I'd at least take a stab at it, especially since our new CSA offers such a variety.

My attempt at this week's meal could have been better, had I decided to do it earlier in the day when I could have gotten my supplementary materials at the local Farmers Market. I knew I wanted to use the chorizo and the chard, since that was the veggie that would spoil the fastest. (Did I mention that Greensgrow also gives you the biweekly produce list in order of fastest spoiling to least? Brilliant, isn't it??) I found this recipe, which was perfect because I wanted to use up some wine that I had opened for some other cooking a couple weeks ago. I probably could have gotten the onion and the beans at the farmers market but I had to settle for buying them at the store, along with the tomato paste. The dish came out beautifully, though, and I threw it over some leftover pasta and sprinkled a little bit of parmesan on top before serving. I've never had chorizo that was so perfectly seasoned; it had a bite without being spicy-for-the-sake-of-being-spicy. And the chard had its share of flavor, too. The benefits of super fresh food!

Now that I've committed to trying this at least once a week, I'm looking forward to going back to the No Libs Farmers Market after rarely going this summer since our CSA share usually kept us busy enough. M&B Fairview Farm makes an amazing smoked sausage that I love to use in stew-like wintry dishes. And the bread from Big Sky in Delaware is always a treat! It helps that the market is at the Schmidt's Piazza, with cool boutiques and eateries lining the outdoor area. I'm already imagining a tasty cassoulet with smoked sausage and a delicious loaf of sourdough for week perhaps.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Baby wants ziti

Pasta Bolognese. Spaghetti and meatballs. And yes, even spaghettios. This baby wants it all. I can't get enough of tomato based sauces with meat and pasta. Today, at about 4:30 pm, I got an overwhelming craving for baked ziti...but not the baked ziti from the pizza joint down the street. I wanted homemade, melty, tasty baked ziti. So I found this recipe and went for it, mainly because it had the added benefit of spinach. Gotta get that folic acid, ya know.

The best part of this venture was that I got to use my first batch of tomatoes that I canned over the summer. They pureed into a perfect marinara with the addition of tomato paste, salt, pepper, garlic and onion powders, and just a tiny bit of sugar.

Our first winter CSA pickup is this Saturday! Pickup is every other weekend, but each pickup comes with dairy, a meat, and some other type of prepared food. Some weeks will have milk, which I'm assuming will be raw milk. Looks like I'm going to be doing some cooking with milk, or having some serious talks with the OB about raw milk and pregnancy. *sigh*

Monday, November 22, 2010

This is not the end

So the last week of the CSA came and went. We got a variety of root vegetables including turnips and parsnips. Knowing that we'd be outdoing ourselves with poultry later this week, I decided to make my first pot roast and use all of our wintry veggies at once. least the meat was good. Maybe they were in the pot too long, or they weren't cut to the right thickness, or they just weren't meant for this kind of dish, but the veggies didn't pick up the flavor I'd hoped they would and there was too wide of a difference in texture and "done-ness." The meat on the other hand was tasty and done just medium enough to satisfy my pregnant lady requirements. (Normally, I would have preferred it to be a little more red and bloody.)

In a few weeks, our winter CSA should be starting. Our summer CSA was great, but we chose it because we couldn't get a summer share at the place closest to us, where we managed to get ourselves into this year's winter program. Henry Got Crops is a little to far from home for us to do it again next summer, and we had a few snafus with their sort-of-disorganized billing system for staggered payments, but we had bountiful shares each week and there is something very fun about going to the actual farm to pick up our stuff. We won't get that experience with Greensgrow but we WILL get to be just a few blocks from our house, and we'll get the extra goodies like cheeses, dairy, and meats that come with each week's share.

Please feel free to pass on your most exciting potato and cabbage recipes in advance, since I have a feeling we will need them in a few weeks.

And so, I must find ways to pass the time until new CSA adventures pop up. Last year, I baked a loaf of bread every Sunday, so I might start that up again. We also have a room to clean out and make into a nursery. And before any of that, there is the greatest food holiday of all time: Thanksgiving. I'm throwing the "go local" thing out the window in favor of tradition. I'm making the age-old spinach dip, using Knorr's vegetable soup mix. I almost had to use the Lipton brand, this year, and was relieved to find the good stuff in my back-up grocery store. I'm also reviving a custom that my grandmother used to carry out each year - homemade chex mix. My grandmother is still around, but at 86, she finds it tedious to stand over the stove to toss the mix when it needs tossing. I figured I'd take it over for her. These are just "pre-game" contributions to a meal at my aunt's house which will be feeding about 20 people. All the Thanksgiving favorites will be on that table and I (along with my 2nd trimester appetite) can't wait! Oh, and of course, I'm psyched to see the family as well. Here's a list of how I imagine the meal will be:

Onion dip and ridged potato chips (my dad's standard)
Cheese and crackers (ritz and wheat stones, of course)
Shrimp cocktail
Spinach dip (I will bring veggies to dip, but everyone else will stick to the triscuits)
Chex mix

Homemade traditional stuffing
Mashed potatoes
Green bean casserole with the onion crispies on top (we don't always have this but my brother's girlfriend is making it and I'm HAPPY!!!)
Garden salad (with about 50 dressings options since everyone likes something different)
Candied yams
Some other vegetable
Cranberry sauce (probably the canned version, but I LOVE that stuff)

Ritz pie (another grandma specialty - I hate it, everyone else looooves it)
Apple pie
Pumpkin pie
Ice box cake (I hope - this is the greatest dessert ever)

What's going to be on your Thanksgiving table?

Friday, November 12, 2010

Going old school

So next week is our last pickup for this CSA. I'm sad that it's over, but glad to be free for a couple weeks before the Winter CSA at Greensgrow starts up. My appetite and desire to do anything more than sleep returned a few weeks ago, right at the start of my crazy work travel schedule, so this is the first weekend where I feel ready to do some serious food experimentation and actually have the time to do it. Below is the list for this week, as well as a few items from last week that are still good.

Daikon radish
Bok choy
Two different lettuce mixes
One head of butter lettuce
Collard greens
A TON of carrots
Butternut squash

I found what looks like a cool recipe for overnight pickled daikon radish, and I do love the quick pickling recipes! All of the wintry rooty veggies are going to be part of a nice slow cooker stew this weekend. The greens are easy to use up, too. But sunchokes. SUNCHOKES. Not quite sure what to do with this one. I know they are hip and a quick google gave me a good recipe, but if any of you out in the blogosphere have advice, please give it!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Eating..but not Chicago

And the work travel continues.

I did Boston for a couple days - which included a semi-private tour of Fenway for a work event and a delicious lunch at my favorite Beacon Hill Hotel.

After Boston, I spent almost a week in Los Angeles. It was my first introduction to how pregnancy can really take a toll on your stamina when traveling cross country and running to an average of five meetings each day. One meeting was a very late, but deliciously decadent, dinner at the new and outrageously too-hip-for-the-likes-of-me Red O Restaurant in West Hollywood. The paparazzi outside was sort of a guilty treat, as was the spotting of Top Chef regular Hubert Keller, who was on his way out of dinner as I was heading in. Oh and yes, there was good food, too. Traditional Mexican flavors with rich meats and just-right portions made it clear that even tacos can be gourmet. The next day, I managed to get up for an early breakfast meeting (and another awesome lunch at Elements Kitchen in Pasadena) but crashed as soon as my meetings were over at 4 pm. I wandered over to a Wolfgang Puck Bistro by my hotel for dinner, figuring that it wasn't going to be fancy but that it would at least provide better nutrition options than the nearby Carl's Jr. I was disappointed by the caesar salad (who just throws a few full leaves of romaine in a to-go container and calls it a salad?) but the spaghetti bolognese more than made up for it. I fell asleep at 6:45 PST with a belly full of spaghetti and a world series game on the TV and didn't wake up until morning.

I am currently in Chicago on a half-fun-half-work trip. The husband is a U of C graduate, so we are both here for the weekend to see college friends from both of our undergrads. It's been quite a food weekend, so I'll give the highlights...

  • Our first meal was post-airport at the Pork Shoppe, when we rendez-vous'd with our friends and hosts for the weekend. Almost all of us had the pulled pork sandwich, and it was certainly a delight. But the highlight of the meal was the side of cole slaw. I'm not a slaw girl, but wanted to get some form of veggie in that night. The slaw was considerably un-mayo-y, just the way I like it, and had plenty of carrots as well as raisins and apple chunks. Savory and sweet and perfect.
  • The most anticipated trip was the one we took yesterday morning: Hot Doug's. We've been before, but since their options change so often, it is always a new experience. The line can be intimidating (and cold), but you endure the wait for their special fries which are cooked in rendered duck fat and only served on Friday and Saturday. The husband and I happily chowed down on five separate meat dogs in a variety of flavors, including kangaroo, apple chicken, buffalo, and others. There was one with fig mustard, and the cheeses on all of the items were a variety of grandiose that can not truly be explained in mere words. Get thee to this place if you can.
  • Dinner was a delicious Thai meal at Opart Thai in Lincoln Square. Philadelphia has a severe lack of serviceable Thai restaurants, unless you venture out to the suburbs. I usually just withhold my Thai food cravings until we can get to our old standby, Joya, in Brooklyn. But Opart definitely gave Joya a run for its money, even though I stand by my belief that nothing can beat Joya's beef pad see yu. Ever.
  • Breakfast today was at Over Easy Cafe, again in Lincoln Square. I enjoyed the breakfast sandwich with pancetta and gruyere while the husband indulged in the Salty and Sweet platter, which included pancakes that had bacon inside the batter. Divine, really.
So yes, we've eaten well, albeit in a vacuum void of nutritional value. We had to miss this week's CSA share for the trip, and I'm becoming increasingly guilt-ridden about our CSA slacker-ness as of late. But next week is the last week for this particular CSA, and in a month or so, we will start the Winter CSA at a place much closer to home, so the cooking adventures should start up again, soon. The husband flies out tomorrow, but I'm here for another three days for work, so I will try to follow up with any ensuing foodie braggery. I'll leave you, though, with the best picture of the weekend...our friend Rudy's reaction to our Hot Doug's haul...

Monday, October 18, 2010

Something's been cookin', all right...

I know my absence has only been staggering to the handful of people who read this blog, but I hope that this week's illustration will be an explanation. We've been cooking in Kenzo, but this dish still has a while longer to bake. Until next April, to be more precise.

We have still been getting our CSA veggies, but I admit that most of them have gone to waste. It kills me to toss perfectly good veggies, but this is the first week in about...oh, two months...that I've felt remotely able to eat anything other than soup and crackers. I'm off for some hardcore work travel in the coming weeks, but I hope to have some more interesting updates when I'm in between trips.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Somebody likes me!

I am flattered to have received a blog award from Amber at Nater Tot. Her musings about life as a SAHM with her young son are full of her ridiculously awesome sense of humor, tips on making your baby's world safer, and other fun kid-related stuff. Check it.

So the way this thing works is that I must now bestow it upon my favorite bloggers so here we go:

The rules for accepting this award are:

1. Thank the person who gave this award to you. Thank you, Amber! I love reading about all your adventures with Nate and every time you make a joke, it reminds me of all the times you cracked me up at ACS.

2. Copy the award and put it on your blog.DONE!

3. List three things which you love about yourself.

I love my ability to make things.

I love my determination.

I love my choice in husbands. (Sorry Amber, just had to steal this one!)

4. Post a picture you love:

5. Tag five people you wish to pass this award on to

Cutest Little Babymakers - Okay so the writers of this blog are two of the women I love most in the whole wide world, but their blog is also very cool. It started when they were trying to conceive their first son, and has evolved into the tales of his toddlerhood adventures as well as the conception of the one that is on the way! They are funny, honest, and great parents.

The Shopping Mama - Kate is one of my college classmates and a former colleague, who has made great use of her self-proclaimed online shopping addiction for stuff for her two kids and turned it into a really informative blog. It's like Consumer Reports for toys, clothes, and other child-related items, but even better.

City Share - The writer of this blog actually found me and we have had a blog-comments-friendship ever since. Her story is similar to ours, except it takes place in our old hometown of NYC. She has great recipes and finds amazing ways to use all of her CSA goodies.

Young Fat and Fabulous - I just discovered this blog a couple weeks ago, thanks to my alma mater's Facebook feed. Its writer is an alumna of my undergrad college and has acheived a sort of stardom in the fashion world as she blogs about fashion for the girls who aren't a Size 0. She also just won a contest (by popular vote) to become MTV's first-ever Twitter Jocky. She is the shining example of a strong woman with a powerful voice.

Love and Olive Oil - I don't know the writers of this blog, but I have used a few of the recipes they have posted and they are awesome! Their stuff is creative and homey, but doesn't require any crazy expensive or hard-to-find ingredients. And it's seasonal, which is a plus when you are trying to figure out what to do with your fifth bunch of beets.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Week #13

Whew! What a week. So many projects, so much excitement...but we'll save all that for later...

Let's get down to the list:

Tomatoes (3 lbs of tomatoes! Ideas please!)
Peppers (About as many peppers as tomatoes - perhaps I will be pickling and/or roasting peppers this week.)
Squash (snore)
Cherry tomatoes
Purple string beans (just like in Paris)
Mint (will be perfect in my husband's home-brewed iced tea!)

Not a large variety of stuff, but we got ALOT of everything. I'm determined, this week, to use everything. We lost a couple items from last week's share to spoilage and I felt disappointed. Time to get back on track!

But first, mani/pedi dates, parties, and lunches, with my oldest and dearests in NJ. Later!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Me as a blogger = FAIL

I know, Week #12 is practically over and I haven't posted anything. To tell the truth, I haven't had time to write because I've been spending so much time cooking...honest! This week's share didn't have any huge surprises in it, so there's not much use in recapping it, but here's a summary of the week's greatest food adventures:

  • Last Saturday we went to Mood's Farm, on the advice of one of my favorite blogs, Food in Jars. We picked 2.5 lbs of blackberries and got some peaches and fresh corn, too. I loved this place. It was way cheaper and felt more home-y than the huge, more popular place we've gone to in the past. We'll definitely be back!

  • The blackberries have been savored all week, but a bunch of them have been mashed and frozen and will be made into this jam, except that apricot season is over in PA and I couldn't find a single apricot anywhere. So I'm substituting mangoes. Not exactly local, I know, but the apricots wouldn't have been local at this time of year either, so I figure it's an even trade.

  • The peaches can be seen in the picture above, as I pickled them. That's right, I said pickled. But don't think of it like a dill pickle or anything. There's vinegar in there, but also a ton of sugar, cinammon, ginger, and cloves. (I used the standard recipe from the Ball Blue Book.) I can't wait to open these up this winter and serve them with some vanilla ice cream...maybe homemade!

  • The outdoor canning set up is also worthy of a note. We have two grills outside (gas and charcoal), but neither is big enough to accomodate a canner. Our indoor stove is electric (not our choice!) and has a glass cooktop, so canning inside is an impossibility, although the heat that is generated by the activity is enough of a deterrent. So we purchased a camping burner from LL Bean and it works GREAT! I plan on canning the jam, once it's made, but I am also looking forward to getting bunches of tomato seconds and making a big batch of sauce.

  • The LL Bean burner and the canning pot also came in handy a few nights ago when it was ridiculously hot, but I wanted to cook the tomatillos and Mood's Farm corn to make a salsa. I simply took the canning rack out of the pot, changed the water, brought it to a boil on the burner, and threw in the tomatillos and corn. I even threw in some boil-in-a-bag brown rice! We cooked chicken on the grill and were quite proud of our "cooked entirely outside" meal. The corn and tomatillos were joined by fresh tomatoes (both CSA and home-grown), our very own jalapenos from the backyard, some green/red peppers, onion, olive oil, salt, pepper, and a good dose of lime juice. It went on top of the chicken and rice. So simple, but really delicious.

I'll try to post this week's list before I head off to my hometown in NJ to visit friends. I'm hoping to savor some of my favorite hometown foods while I'm there, which could be worthy of a post or two as well!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Hot food

Jeezum crow, it's hot in Philadelphia. I spent a magnificent day attending a work retreat at the Morris Arboretum, today, but even the tour of the grounds was a miserable experience due to the excruciating temperatures that have gone into the 90s for the last four days. Nonetheless, I will go back there when the weather is more cooperative and highly recommend it as a fine way to spend an afternoon.

We've been doing our best to eat up our CSA items while using the stove/oven as little as possible. Almost all of the tomatoes are gone and they have been eaten the way fresh tomatoes should be - raw, sliced, with just the tiniest bit of salt and pepper. But today's meal was the most delectable. We put a bunch of chicken cutlets in a citrus dill marinade and grilled those last night, so I used some of the cold leftovers to top a salad of the arugula, feta cheese, and grill-roasted carrots, beets, and last week's CSA onion. It was a multi-faceted victory for me since it was (and I'm ashamed to admit this), the first time I had actually cooked something on the grill all by myself. But I'm hooked, now. I think I'd like to try to cook a week's worth of dinners wrapped up in tin foil on the grill.

Anyway, moving on...we threw those veggies on the top of the salads and I drizzled them with balsamic and walnut oil and they were perfect.

I have a plan for a cous cous dish for the eggplant. Anyone know how to grill cous cous?

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Week #11

Jeez, I'm a bad blogger. I didn't write a single post since last week's list post for Week #10. Admittedly, we've been pretty busy readjusting to post-vacation life and working on some other projects that may or may not be revealed at a later date. We also tried a few recipes last week that were less than successful, so I had very little to brag about. I even lost some vegetables to spoilage because I didn't use them fast enough. Epic fail. But this experience is about the failures just as much as it is about successes, right? I'm considering this a new week and my goal is to keep it simple. It's going to be a scorcher, so I'd like us to eat as much raw or stove-top-cooked stuff as possible. Suggestions are welcome!

I thought I at least owed everyone a picture. Above is a pre-mix shot of the refrigerator dills that are currently marinating on the kitchen counter.

This week's list:

Plum tomatoes
Cherry Tomatoes
Heirloom tomatoes
Squash (we have last week's leftover, too!)

We've never had purselane before, but I have an idea for a cold salad with it. Everything else is pretty straight forward....although we're open to ideas for how to use a whole lot of summer squash!

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Week #10

We had to skip a couple of weeks due to the Europe trip, but I wanted to keep our CSA journey on track. It's technically only week #8 for us, but since the CSA is in week #10, we'll stick with that. As we drove to our pick-up, this week, I worried about being stuck with yet another week of beet and scallion overload. But clearly there was a birth of crops while we were away because this week yielded some new and exciting options that we can't wait to eat!

spring mix
squash blossoms
green tomatoes
heirloom tomatoes
cherry tomatoes
carrots (they are red, purple, and yellow - just like the ones we saw in Paris!)

The squash blossoms and tomatillos are in red only because I've never cooked them before. I do have some ideas for them. Green tomatoes are in yellow for the same reason, except that I DEFINITELY know what I'm going to do with those! I put cucumbers in yellow because we got alot of them and I'm not quite sure how to use them all.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Wait, so it's Friday already? Yikes! I won't bore you with all the "we went here and then we went there details" from the last three days. Instead, here are the highlights:

  • Moules (muscles) at Leon de Bruxelles, which is actually a chain restaurant in and around Paris. I had the house recipe and M. had the marinated variation. Mine came swimming in an amazing broth of creme fraiche, white wine, celery, and some spices. The muscles, themselves, were big and meaty. Quite a difference from the prix fix lunch menu muscles that I had, the very next day, at one of the non-descript cafes on the Rue de St. Germain.
  • After a long, long, long walk through what amounted to about 1/4 of the Louvre, we collapsed at a table at Le Petit Machon. The name translates to "the little stab," which is what we got when the waitress poo-poo'd our selection of "Coca Cola Light" over wine. Lady, I've had enough wine and all I want is a refreshing soft drink. Anyway, our hurt feelings disappeared when the food arrived. I had an amazing chicken and crayfish dish that was accompanied by a potato gratin of some sort, and all was swimming in an amazing creamy lobster sauce. M. had the steak frites and the highlight was the unique hollandaise sauce that came with it.
  • We made our own crepes...well we put them together on our own, last night. The Monoprix had pre-made dessert crepes, to which we added sliced banana and nutella. If there is a heaven, this is being served there, 24-7. The Monprix also yielded a surprisingly delicious pre-made pizza with proscuitto and mozz.
  • Cheese, cheese, and more cheese. We've been eating breakfast at the apartment, and sometimes dinner, and it always comes with some cheese! About a block away, there is a row of stores (as is typical in Paris) that each sell a different type of food item. M. has repeatedly impressed the guys in the fromagerie with his knowledge of cheese, even if he needs a little help explaining how much of it he wants. Tonight, we dined on a delectable feast of brie, morbier, bread, roasted chicken, and fresh heirloom tomato. Each food dealer seemed happy to indulge our feeble attempts at speaking their language, and some have even shown us the utmost respect by responding to our "Au Revoir"s with "Have a good night."
As far as the sights are concerned, since my last post, we have seen the Louvre, the Forum Les Halles and surrounding shopping on Rue de Rivoli, Notre Dame, the Musee D'Orsay, St. Germain, Mirais, Bastille, Pigalle, and Montmartre (my personal favorite). Our favorite activity, both here and in Amsterdam, has been photographing street art as we find it. I hope to have post a slideshow of those pictures after the trip is over.

Tomorrow we head to the Marche de L'Ave de President Wilson. It is in our neighborhood and is apparently one of the most decadent outdoor food markets in the city. I am gearing up for some pate and fresh pasta, as well as some awesome pictures.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Big fat American babies!

Our food journey was not incredibly remarkable today, but we did have fun. It's only 7:30 pm here and we are already home in our rental apt, assed out on the couch with feet a' throbbing.

Last night's trip the Monoprix yielded a delicious, albeit interesting, breakfast spread. Apparently, I grabbed a camembert cheese, last night, when I meant to grab a brie. It was still delicious, especially with the fig jam I'd picked out, but it was a wee bit strong for a morning bite! We spread it on fresh bread with the jam, and also had fresh peaches and pain au chocolat.

We headed off to see the Eiffel Tower in the daytime, with pre-purchased lift tickets in hand. Going up a structure diagonally in a fast-moving elevator is quite an experience! After that, we walked over to the Grand Palais and the Petit Palais, and then over the Avenue du Champs D'Elysees. We strolled all the way up to the Arc de Triomphe, doing some souvenir shopping along the way (M. for himself, me for friends' "bebes" back home). The title of this post actually refers to the funny attitude I got from a saleswoman in a store when I asked her if I should size up for an American child. She said, "Well, yes, our children's clothes are sized smaller because WE are sized smaller." Ahhhh, Paris. After a while, we were hot, sweaty, and hungry, and needed to burn some time before a recommended cheese shop reopened for the afternoon. We ended up lunching at Hippopotamus, a sort of TGI Friday's-like chain in Paris. We both had burgers that were quite good and came with endless fries and salad. It felt almost...American.

Eventually, we made it to the cheese shop, where M. used his cheese expertise to select two items. We hit a patisserie for two baguettes, a produce vendor for some fruits and veggies, and grabbed some wine and fizzy watery drinks from Mono Prix. After an early evening nap we are preparing to enjoy a small spread of these items for dinner and perhaps a post-dinner stroll around the neighborhood.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Vaarwel Amsterdam

I am writing this entry from our rental apartment in Paris, but figure I should finish up our tales of Amsterdam before discussing the fledgling hours of our week in the big city.

We did indeed have a fabulous dinner on Saturday night. Our guide book suggested Pastini and we were happy with the description that said the restaurant sat at the intersection of two canals. It was a bit chilly but we sat outside anyway and enjoyed a beautiful view with food to match. With our wine came the little treat in the picture above. The spread was made of some sort of sweet butter mixed with chopped olives and a green herb...maybe basil? For mains, we both ordered pasta dishes. I had the Linguini Romano - chopped brussel sprouts, bacon, creme sauce, and parmesan on the most perfectly al dente linguini pasta I've ever had. M. had the Tagliatelle Agnello which consisted of lamb, tomato, eggplant, and parmesan cheese. So good! And in true American fashion, we were amazed at how filling the European-sized portions actually were. There was dessert, too! I had the tiramisu and M. had the torta limone, which came with a scoop of house-made ice cream that was just amazing. Dessert doesn't seem so naughty when everything you eat is properly portioned.

While we were eating, we watched one of these go by. Pretty awesome.

On our last day in Amsterdam, we visited de Hortus, one of the oldest botanical gardens in Amsterdam. The greenhouses held all sorts of rare plants from around the world, maintained in their proper habitats. After that, we had lunch at a small street cafe while we waited for The Brouwerij 't Ij to open. The cafe was notable for its awful service, but also for our second helping of bitterballen. M. had a tuna melt that wasn't much, but I thoroughly enjoyed my sandwich of goat cheese, walnuts, and pear syrup...once they managed to get my order right after trying to bring me the wrong sandwich twice. The brewery brightened our spirits. We tasted a couple beers before embarking on the tour, led by a cheeky dutchman who had lots of funny stories to tell. He also gave us a bit of the history of the place. The brewery was founded by a Dutch pop star and went totally organic in 2002. In order to get hops that are organic, the brewery has to import them from New Zealand! We tried another beer before buying a few and heading back to the hotel.

Our last night was fairly low-key. We went to the Maoz around the corner, enjoying falafel sandwiches and frites, before heading out for a walk around a square we hadn't visited yet. We hit a grocery store on our way back for some Dutch chocolate treats (our faves were Choco Moments and Orange Pims) and had a mini-picnic in our room before hitting the hay.

This morning, we headed to the Centraal Station to catch a high speed train to Paris. When we arrived at our rental apartment, we picked the one restaurant in our rather shi shi neighborhood that looked reasonable. Le Petit Retro did NOT disappoint! Not only was our waiter patient with my broken french, the restaurant had a very reasonably priced version of the one dish I was determined to have while in Paris: fois gras. As I said in a facebook status shortly after the meal, I have worshiped at the altar of fois gras and it was good. M. had the rack of lamb, which was also amazing, and we shared an appetizer of country pate that was great. The entire meal with wine, sparkling water, and coffee came to 84 euro, but that included tip. We understand that's quite a steal in this part of town.

We visited the Monoprix on our way home for some breakfast items. We are now stocked with cheese, jam, bread, some fruit, and pain au chocolat. After dropping off our bounty, we took a quick walk to the Eiffel Tower to see it twinkle and are now relaxing at the apartment, getting ready for a day of sightseeing, tomorrow!

A demain!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

"Wine from Germany"

Greetings from Amsterdam!

We arrived yesterday and have spent our almost-two days wandering around, using the hotel as home base and a place to catch quick naps in order to catch up on the sleep we lost on the overnight flight. We've tried to dedicate ourselves to using the public transportation as much as possible and it's worked out rather well. The tram system here is phenomenal and a great way to see the city if you get tired of walking.

Hunger was our main concern when we got to our hotel, yesterday. It was mid-morning but we were certainly ready for a lunch. Our hotel suggested the cafe right across the street. Cafe Kale didn't disappoint! We saw bitterballen on the menu and immediately ordered it as a starter. It came to us fresh from the fryer as is evidenced by the still-tender roof of my mouth. But my goodness, was it good. M. described it as "deep fried gravy," which doesn't do it justice but does accurately describe the sinfulness of it. We followed up with some beer and a couple of sandwiches. I had a Beemster cheese and salsa sandwich which was notable for the smoky deliciousness of the flavored gouda that is popular here, and M. had a parma ham, mozz, and salsa sammy. Both filled us up so we could take a quick nap before heading out to explore.

We woke up hungry and headed off in search of a Steakhouse, which is a popular restaurant type in the city. Our Lonely Planet guidebook suggested Steakhouse Piet de Leeuw and we found it on a little side street off of a main one. It felt like a hidden gem, and proved itself to be as we appeared to be some of the few non-Dutch that came for dinner. The steaks were perfectly cooked, and came with a "salad" (more like a slaw - not really my thing due to all the mayo) and frites. When I had a little trouble with the herring app (herring is the national fish here) that we ordered, the surly-but hilarious waiter brought us two little samples of smoked eel that ended up being quite tasty! The meal ended with a shared house-made chocolate mousse that was only slightly upstaged by the homemade whipped cream that came with it. Even with the experimental side-step of the herring, the meal was awesome.

To walk off the mousse, we strolled around the central canal district, going through and around the Red Light District. We knew we "had to see it," but I doubt I will consider it the highlight of our journey. A quick drink in a brown cafe, served by the most bad-ass female bartender I think I'll ever see here, ended the night.

Our hotel has a free breakfast and we enjoyed that this morning. The spread was more extensive than the pastries and coffee we were expecting. There were plates of meats and cheeses, fresh rolls, hard-boiled eggs, tiny tubes of liverwurst (best I've ever tasted) and other assorted goodies. We ate a small meal that still felt hearty. So far, today, we have visited the Anne Frank House (sobering but very well done), walked around the shops in Jordaan (M. purchased the world cup gear he was craving), eaten the delicious frites of the Wil Graanstra Fritehuis in Westerkerk Square, and experienced the dual beauty and madness that is the Albert Cuypmarkt.

It is dinner-time here, which means I must go out and forage for more blog material, of course. My first impressions of the city are that it is beautiful; the weather is as close to perfect as one can get; that Philly could learn alot from the coexistence of public transport, bike riders, and car drivers; and that the matter-of-fact sarcasm of the wonderfully friendly locals is something I could really enjoy on a permanent basis.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Final sprint

Wow. I did it. I managed to use or preserve every portion of our CSA share over the last three days in preparation for our departure for a different continent tomorrow. This week's quiche was one of goat cheese, pureed beets (yes, beets!), and fresh sage from our backyard garden. I didn't like it so much on the first day, but this morning I found myself really enjoying the flavors. The dish pictured above was a super-combination of farm-stand tomatoes, red onion, CSA kale, CSA summer squash, and our first ripe eggplant from the backyard. It was thrown over pasta with some goat cheese crumbles. Another dish that actually tasted better the next day as leftovers.

Last night, we grilled some steak and threw it over a salad of the greens, cabbage, and scallions from the share. Easy and tasty. I made a batch of pesto with the CSA basil, as well as a couple handfuls of basil from the garden. That went into the freezer along with the green beans, to be used after we get back. The cucumbers, of course, became a second (and third) batch of quick bread and butters.

Tomorrow, we are off to foreign lands. Believe it or not, I hope to blog more while we're in Amsterdam and Paris, as I'm sure that there will be new foods to talk about at every turn. Bon voyage!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Hurry up and cook

This week's challenge is to either eat, or figure out a way to freeze, all of our CSA items by Wednesday!

Salad Greens
Summer Squash
Pickling Cucumbers
String beans

I have a pasta dish that might take care of the kale, squash, and scallions. The cucumbers will become another batch of bread and butters. The greens and cabbage can easily become salads. Believe it or not, I found a quiche recipe that includes beets! The basil will become pesto and will be frozen, probably along with the string beans. Now I just have to go do it all!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

No pictures, today

I think the heat is causing my brain to only fire on half its cylinders because I've forgotten to take pictures of what we've cooked, all week long. I think about how I will want to plate the meal for picture-taking purposes, while I'm cooking it...and then remember to take the picture after I've finished eating it.

So here's a round-up of how we've used this week's share, so far:

Weekly quiche - farmers cheese with sauteed spinach. A rousing success!

The beets, fennel, and lettuce became a delicious salad. I boiled, peeled, and sliced the beets and laid them over the lettuce, along with thinly sliced fennel, and some orange pieces. (Similar to the salad I made last week.) The hubby grilled some shrimp that I marinated in olive oil, lemon zest, and lemon & lime juices. A quick dressing of dijon, OJ, white wine vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper brought everything together.

Yesterday, I let the slow cooker take care of our protein with this awesome pulled pork recipe that I've made before. I am slowly perfecting my own version of bbq sauce based on this recipe, but the hubs remarked that this incarnation of it was the best one yet. I took care of the CSA summer squash and some of the scallions by making this for the side. Everything tasted twice as good as lunch leftovers, today.

This evening, we ate some more pulled pork, but I made this kale and green beans recipe in an effort to use up two more CSA items. This dish has the potential to become something great, but it was pretty much a failure, tonight. It made me sad since we put so much work into getting those beans! The recipe called for way too much salt, and I wondered about it as I poured the salt into the pan, but I should have followed my instincts and made it 1 tsp instead of two. Also, I only had pre-grated parmesan cheese which a) probably had a ton of salt added to it and b) did nothing but clump up and make the dish smell weird.

Tomorrow is our last CSA pick up for the next couple of weeks. We're headed to Europe for 10 days, on a long-awaited honeymoon. (We've been married for almost two years...and we've been broke for most of that time.) In Amsterdam, we will be in a hotel, but we've rented an apartment in Paris and can't wait to frequent the local "marches" for breads, cheeses, fruits and veggies so that we can cook some of our own meals. If you've ever been to Amsterdam or Paris, we welcome suggestions of good local foods, or even reasonably priced restaurants, to try.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Week #6

This entry has been delayed as we've been spending lots of time away from the computer over this holiday weekend. Our backyard fence is finally complete, so when we aren't hanging at BBQs with friends, we're putting the yard back together. I hope to have some pics of the new and improved space soon.

Our CSA pickup was a little different than usual, this week, as we actually got to go into the fields and pick some of our items! Green beans were "pick your own," which proved to be difficult since the Tuesday pick-up group had already done quite a number on the two rows of plants that we could access. It was slow-going, but we finally flipped over a couple plants to find a bounty of big, beautiful beans that quickly filled up our container. It actually felt kind of good to "harvest" part of our share, even if I spent the whole time imagining how backbreaking that work must be for the folks who do it all day long. I think the beans will be in a steak stir-fry this week. I've been envisioning lots of stir-fry meals for the nights that we don't want to grill, but where I want the stove to be hot for as little time as possible. We also got to pick our own echinacea so that we have a cute little bouquet on the dining room table - that is, when the cats are not trying to chew on them.

Here's this week's list:

Pickle cucumbers

String beans



I put the scallions in yellow because we got TEN of them. What the heck do you do with 10 scallions?!?!

I took last week's bread and butter pickles to a holiday bbq and they were such a hit that I've decided to use this week's cukes to make another batch. We have our own pickling cucumber plant in the back yard, but with only one plant, the harvests are slim. I think that these quick pickle recipes will be the best way to use the cukes that we are able to get from our plant.

The beets are in green, but we are running out of things to do with just three beets every week, so it might end up being a challenge. Everything else is pretty versatile.

Last week's quiche was a ricotta/summer squash number. It was a disaster for many reasons - a crappy pre-made crust from our scary local grocery store and my failure to sautee the squash before assembling the quiche were probably the main reasons for the disaster. This week, I have re-upped the supply of well-made whole wheat crusts and plan to use the spinach (sauteed first, of course) along with some of those scallions, and local farmer's cheese from NJ. Fingers crossed!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Do it for America

That's tonight's dinner up there. Arugula is seriously the best salad green ever. It has a little bit of crunch but without feeling watery and it's sooooo tangy. I boiled the beets, peeled and sliced them, and then placed them atop the arugula along with some orange pieces, goat cheese, chopped garlic scape, chopped scallion, and a freshly grilled chicken breast. The dressing was an easy combo of white wine vinegar, olive oil, dried mustard, salt, and pepper. Simple.

While I was waiting for beets and chicken to cook, I made this bread and butter pickles recipe with the pickling cucumbers. I halved it since I only had four cukes but it came out just fine. Okay, they were better than fine. I want to save them for a bbq we're going to this weekend, but I don't know if I'll be able to resist them for that long.

Tomorrow, I envision the rest of the CSA items (fennel, stir fry mix, and basil) in a stir fry with some shrimp or scallops, laid over some quinoa. Sounds good, eh?

And it's America's birthday, this weekend! We've been invited to two bbqs and I honestly have too many things that I want to make for our contribution to the festivities. We will definitely take ingredients for dark'n'stormies (rum from Barbados, ginger beer, and limes), as well as the pickles. But I've been jonesing for some of the slow cooker pulled pork and homemade bbq sauce that I made a couple months back, and I'd really like to use the peaches I canned last summer to make a nice crumble. But then there's the awesome double mustard potato salad recipe from "How to Cook Everything." That book was seriously the greatest gift my brother ever gave me, and the potato salad is one of its finest moments. Maybe I'll just honor our forefathers by making it all, and then I'll sit back with a dark'n'stormy while I happily watch my friends enjoy my food. I think Ben Franklin would appreciate that.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Week #5

I got our share on Friday, as usual, but we threw veggies in the fridge and hopped in the car for a weekend trip to MA. We spent four days in lovely Montgomery, MA - one of the foothill towns to the Berkshires - with lots of friends, but without any internet. (Which was quite heavenly, I must admit!) I went to college in Western Massachusetts, and I find myself loving that region more and more, each time we go. We were there for a "wedding pig roast" and it was a smorgasbord of local foods and homemade loveliness. There was ice cream from Herrell's in Northampton (to accompany the variety of pies that were brought by guests for inclusion in the pie-baking contest!), a keg from Berkshire Brewing Co., and a locally purchased pig that was stuffed with oranges and roasted by a nice guy from CT. The "bride" hand-sewed hundreds of fabric napkins and a ton of garlands to adorn the tents where we ate the lovely meal. She also cooked all of the food, including the homemade pickles and bbq sauce. This morning, we managed a swing-by at my alma mater so I could finally add a car sticker to our rear window. Okay, and I got a sweatshirt, lounge pants, and coffee mug, too.

On to the list...

Swiss Chard
Pickle Cucumbers
Stir Fry Mix
Summer Squash

We also got some flowers. I took them with us as a "thank you" gift to the relatives we stayed with on Friday night in CT.

I put the Stir Fry Mix in yellow simply because I've never made a stir fry with leafy greens before. I'm stumped on what sort of protein might do well with the strong flavor of the mix, so suggestions are welcome. Fennel is one of my favorite veggies of all time, so I'm happy to have some, although I'm used to having a bit more of it to work with. My goal this week is to try something different with the repeats. In other words, no roasting of veggie mixes, and no making my usual chicken and potato salad with the arugula. I have some pickle-plans for those cukes, inspired by my weekend in the country, so I'll have an update on that later this week.

Monday, June 21, 2010

That's a great local "bouquet," right there. The cup is from the local brewery that is right around the corner from us. It is filled with fresh basil that we got at The Emerald Street Urban Farm, along with a few beets (to make the two we got from the CSA more worthwhile), and a big beautiful bunch of kale. Emerald Street is a local urban farm that has a weekly on-site farm stand. The best part about it is that it's pay-what-you-can. They give away lots of produce to local folks who need it, and of course, we do our best to give a little extra when we pay so that they can keep providing delicious produce to neighbors in need. What I really loved about our experience there was that the produce was fresh picked just for us! I sent Farmer Patrick into the field to pick my kale and basil, while I fished a few beets out of a bucket full of water. It was one of those experiences that just felt right and made me feel good about living here. I highly recommend a trip there on Saturdays, if you are just looking to get a few extra items but don't have any specific needs in mind, as they lovingly harvest only that which is ready to be picked. Here are a few more pics of the farm...

Some of that delicious Emerald Farm basil went into a lemon-basil sorbet that marked my first time using the ice-cream attachment for our Kitchenaid mixer. I can't believe I've never used it before. Changed my life. Seriously.

Tonight, we were kept long at a community meeting and wanted something fast for dinner. Before we left for the meeting, I threw some chicken breasts in a Wegman's citrus-dill marinade. When we got back, we put those on the grill and I made simple salads of fresh CSA spinach and a tiny bit of leftover goat cheese. I made a dressing of walnut oil, a finely chopped garlic scape, lemon juice, dijon mustard, some fresh thyme from our backyard garden, salt, and pepper. The chicken went on top, making for a fresh light dinner. We ended with the sorbet, of course.

Tomorrow's goal is to use more than one of our CSA veggies for dinner, so that we finish our bounty in the next couple of days. We always seem to have something left over at the end of the week, even if we already used part of it earlier in the week. Being more proactive about using all of the items is definitely in order.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Week #4

We are rockin' an all green week, y'all.

Rainbow chard
Braising mix
Spring mix
Sorrel (!!!)

The hubby missed the sorrel and goat cheese quiche so that will make a return this week, but with the whole wheat pre-made crusts I got at Wegman's last week instead of the crust o' puff pastry. (Dear Wegman's, open a store in Philadelphia already.)

Lots of greens this week, but that's cool with me because it means less cooking and more salads. I did have to research the braising mix, but I was able to come up with ideas so quickly that I thought it warranted the green.

Tomorrow, I am headed a few blocks away to the Emerald Street Urban Farm for their Saturday farmers market. The farm's organizers turned a huge empty corner lot into a working farm with both community plots and crops that are sold at their market, which is pay-what-you-can. I'm excited to write an entry all about my experience, there, tomorrow! Check back later in the weekend to see it!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

You take the good you take the bad...

Whew! What a week. Between my full-time job, my side job, and an important art project, it's been a little hard to really sit down and write a post. This will have to be a grand summary of the week so far.

I figure if I'm going to write about the challenges of CSA cookin', I should write about my cooking failures, right?

First off was my cherry pie. The filling was delicious, but I overworked the crust so it didn't hold. Also, I trusted the hubbie to take it out of the oven with the instruction that he take it out when it got slightly browned. It came out a little early, I think. The best part about using real lard on pie crusts is that it gets that perfect flakey crunch when it browns, and that was definitely missing.

Next up was the dish I made with the ingredients shown in the picture up there. It was a pasta dish that had tomato, cilantro, shallot and garlic. It ended up tasting like salsa thrown over pasta. Blech.

In the neutral zone, I took the easy route for the zucchini, turnips and kohlrabi by doing a roasted veggie medley last night. I know it's okay to eat the same thing twice but I always feel lazy when I resort to the roasted medley.

And then there are the successes! Last night, there was a return of the mashed potatoes with garlic scapes. Yes, another repeat, but the husband had not yet experienced this delicious dish, and since one of my main goals in cooking is to make him happy, I was psyched to hear his enthusiasm for the mashed. And tonight, I made this beet, mustard green, and goat cheese risotto except I actually mixed in the greens and the goat cheese instead of crumbling on top. It was absolutely delicious. Highly recommended.

Scallions and bok choy will probably go into a shrimpy stir fry of some sort, tomorrow.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Week #3

Hooray for an all green week! Well...almost. I put beets in yellow, only because I've actually never cooked with fresh beets before, and we only got two, so I'm not quite sure what to do with them. Any suggestions?

Green squash
Mustard Greens
Bok choy
Mesculin Mix

I went down to the Piazza Farmers Market, this morning, to pick up a couple of things. I found huge bunches of garlic scapes and grabbed one. I have some serious plans for those scapes, this week! And as I was walking out of the market, a new stand caught my eye. It was a fruit farm stand and they had....wait for it...pie cherries!!! I first discovered pie cherries at our favorite "pick your own" farm, last summer. I bought two quarts, called my mother-in-law, and got a day-long lesson in pie baking that resulted in the most delicious pie I've ever tasted. Tomorrow, I'm going to go at it alone and see what happens.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

All wrapped up...

Here we are at the end of week #2 and I've managed to use every item in our share, despite being home alone to eat it all. It meant eating leftovers for lunch every day. And tonight, I spent a good hour trying to convince myself that it was okay to go get Arby's for dinner before I buckled down and made the meal I'd been planning to make with the last two CSA items: bok choy and broccoli. As I moved around the kitchen, I realized that making dinner is the one time of the day when I'm completely in my own space. There's no computer screen or iphone to stare at, no coworkers coming to ask a question. Even though I occasionally earn a night of eating out, cooking my own tasty dinner is really a gift to myself in alot of ways.

So it seems appropriate that I thought up a meal that was inspired by this blog post about "fish presents." I've made this exact recipe in the past, usually with mahi mahi, as I am always a big fan of a meal that only involves one baking sheet and the oven. Today, I added my own touch to the recipe by replacing the onion with chopped ginger and using both broccoli and bok choy. The key really is to boil the green veggies for just a couple minutes. The entire thing comes out perfectly cooked; the fish is never dry because it is basically poached in the little package. The tiny bit of oil keeps the fish nice and buttery and ads flavor to the greenery. I recommend giving yourself this fine gift as soon as possible.

I also thought it might be fun to occasionally mention what we drink, as the hubby is sort of a beer fan and one of our splurges in life is buying cases of fancy microbrews more often than we should probably admit. I will preface this by saying that we rarely consider whether or not a beer "goes" with what we're eating. I'll drink red wine with red meat, and white wine with fish and chicken, but c' is beer. This week, I've been obsessed with two varieties of Smuttynose beers. The Star Island Single is their year-round golden ale. It has a spicy vibe, sort of like a pumpkin ale, which is my favorite thing to drink in the fall. The Summer Weizen is their seasonal wheat beer...and I do love the fruity summer brews! Cheers!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

What a busy week! Whenever the hubby is a way, I am always balancing more household duties along with the plethora of work and community-related tasks that I pile on voluntarily. Cooking dinner almost felt more like a chore than an adventure over the last couple of days, but I did get some enjoyment out of figuring out ways to use some CSA items for meals that could be made on the quick.

The garlic scapes have been calling me since last Friday, and I finally managed to use them yesterday in a big batch of skin-on mashed potatoes. I chopped them very finely and threw them in raw, but I think the next time I'll saute them first. It went well with a nice steak on the grill. For a veggie, I used the kohlrabi, along with a bag of Trader Joe's shredded carrots in this salad. I know I mixed some typically American fare with a salad that is Asian-inspired, but I loved every bite. Kohlrabi is a really neat vegetable. It has the exterior qualities of a cabbage, and a similar taste, but with more buttery undertones.

Tonight, I came home from a community meeting that lasted twice as long as was necessary (as usual), and I wanted to eat something quickly so I could do some work on a knitting project. I have to admit that I considered ordering chinese and laughing hatefully at the kale that was waiting patiently in the crisper drawer. But I relented. I took some Trader Joe's brown rice fusili and threw that into boiling water. While it was cooking, I removed the stems from the kale and cut it into ribbons, sliced up some sundried tomatoes, and minced two garlic cloves. I heated olive oil in a dutch oven and put the garlic in to cook. Then I threw in the kale and a can of drained cannellini beans, and threw on the lid. When the kale was good and wilted, I added the cooked pasta, a little more olive oil, a squirt of lemon juice, salt, pepper, and a little bit of the water that was used to cook the pasta. I let the whole pot simmer for just a couple minutes and dished it into a bowl before topping it with a shake of parmesan. Not bad at all.

I have some greens and a couple radishes left, along with the bok choy and broccoli. I think I have some plans for those two lovelies, already...

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

An Ode to Sorrel

OMG. STFU! I love sorrel so much that I've resorted to using pre-teen txt speak to express my excitement. I said in my Week #2 post that I was excited to get to cook with sorrel for the first time, but I had no idea that it would be this great.

The bunch that I got in this week's CSA take-home was about a handful. Technically, it went quite a long way even if I used all of it in one night's worth of cooking. I did a little internet research and found that it is most loved in the following three contexts: 1) raw in salads, 2) sauteed with butter and poured over noodles (or in a more elaborate cream sauce that can be used for pasta or salmon - too rich for me), or 3) in quiches with goat cheese. I also found a bunch of recipes for sorrel pesto, but I'm still working through last year's frozen supply of basil pesto, so I passed on that.

I walked almost all the way home (from University City to Kenzo), last night. It was too beautiful outside to exercise in a boring ol' gym. But by the time I got home, walked the dog, fed cats, and watered the newly planted back yard garden, I was HUNGRY. I needed something fast. I had two chicken breasts thawed, so I threw those on the grill to cook. I boiled some penne pasta, too. I took a small sautee pan and threw some butter in to melt on low heat. Then, I broke up about 7 sorrel leaves into smaller pieces and threw them in the pan to simmer. Once everything was smelling good, I tossed that on top of a bowl of drained pasta, tore up a chicken breast, and sprinkled a little parmesan on top. It's one step above what most parents probably feed their toddlers on any given night, but that one step makes a difference! The sorrel stood out but had the perfect flavor with hints of lemon-y tang and a sort of smooth spice. Even the pieces that had gotten a little crispy in the pan were awesome.

I also made a quick salad with some of the CSA greens and a couple radishes. Just to see how it would taste raw, I tore up three sorrel leaves and tossed them in the salad. Wow! The flavor was bold and fresh and those three little leaves went a very long way.

After savoring this easy and tasty meal, I got to work on a quiche. Last week's leek and feta quiche was a hit and made it very easy for me to take breakfast to work. The recipe I found for that first quiche suggested using puff pastry sheets for a crust instead of a pre-made crust. I must admit, it's pretty tasty. I went with that again for the sorrel quiche and based my recipe on what I did for the leek quiche. First, I put the puff pastry sheet into a shallow quiche pan and stretched it over the edges a bit. Then, I took about 6 oz of goat cheese and crumbled it all over the bottom of the quiche. On top of that, I added all of the rest of the sorrel, as well as the CSA scallion, both roughly chopped. Next, I took three eggs and beat them with about a cup of milk, 1/4 tsp of salt, and some pepper, and poured it in. I baked for 40 minutes at 375, during which the heavenly smell of cooking sorrel filled the first floor of my house.

I ate my first piece for breakfast, today, and it was what inspired the title of this post. If I could write a love song to sorrel, I would. (But I don't think anyone wants to see me try to write poetry...let alone sing it.) If you see a person digging in the herb bucket at this week's pickup, frantically muttering about needing more sorrel, it's probably me.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

So, about Berlin

To my handful of readers:I hope you won't mind if I also write about my gardening triumphs and mishaps. I figure it's related enough to this blog's true purpose, since I do grow things that I eat.

We drove out to Berlin, NJ, today. I was on a mission to find galvanized feeding troughs to use as raised beds in our garden, after reading this. I'm think that my hubby secretly loves my obsession with Apartment Therapy, since it almost always leads to some sort of weekend adventure that resembles a scavenger hunt, but with more irony and cold-hearted laughter. We hit the Agway in Berlin, first. While Agway's website lists steel "stock tanks," this particular store only carried the plastic variety. We decided to go to our second option, the Tractor Supply Co. which is further out in Sicklerville, but pit-stopped at the Berlin Farmers Market first.

Let me digress for a second and give this piece of advice. If anyone ever tells you that the Berlin Farmers Market is awesome, just turn around and walk away. The website says that it was started as a livestock and produce auction, but now it's nothing more than a junk parade. I'm not talking about antiques, because that's cool...I'm talking about real, live JUNK. New junk. The farmers market looked cool, but I was so nauseated by the smell of the indoor market that I couldn't even think about going over to look at produce. Blech. For friends from my hometown, it was like the Union Market...on crack.

So back to the real goal. We made it out to the Tractor Supply Co and found exactly what we were looking for. You can see what I'm talking about in the picture above. They are now sitting on bricks in the backyard, drainage holes drilled, half-filled with soil. We will be heading out to get some more compost, which I've found can be acquired for free at a startling number of places in Philly. One container will house tomatoes, exclusively. We purchased at least four varieties but made sure to get a bunch of romas for sauce-making! The other will house a variety of other veggies including peppers, pickle cucumbers, and eggplant. I'll try to post some pictures of the finished product once the yard is presentable.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Week #2

Friday is finally here! What's even better is that I don't think there will be any red in this week's list. I'm confident I know, or can figure out, how to use every item we got. It's definitely going to require a trip to the farmer's market for supplements, but not for much. The hubby is away at a conference all week, too, which means I get to dine on my accomplishments all on my own. Believe it or not, he's jealous.

Here is this week's bounty:

Kale (a different type than last week, which was the kind you typically see at the grocery store - must investigate this one)
Bok choy
Lettuce mix (looks like some spring greens with a little romaine in there)
Garlic Scapes

Garlic scapes and sorrel! I put them in yellow type as things I would need to find a recipe for, but make no mistake, I am psyched to have them. Sorrel is a lemon-y herb that I've been dying to find a reason to use for some time now. In fact, I put back an absolutely beautiful bunch of purple, yellow, and green leafed sage once I heard there was some sorrel in the herb bucket. Garlic scapes are the twisty stems that come up out of certain types of garlic heads, sort of like the pretty flowers that we pinch back on our basil plants all summer, except garlic scapes are awesome. I'm imagining mine as a yummy addition to some mashed potatoes at some point this week.

Off to chat it up with other CSA cooks at an evening soiree...

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Charmed, I'm sure. No, seriously!

I imagine that the broccoli and pea shoots felt almost as victorious as Betty White must be feeling, today. They were the last ones standing, after all. I came home from work, and did a quick stir-fry with some shrimp, ginger (yeah, lots of it too!), garlic, and a shallot. The sauce was a clumsy mix of sesame oil, olive oil, and soy sauce, and the whole thing was thrown on top of buckwheat noodles. Not glamorous, but it'll do. Bet that's what Betty said.

As the shrimp hit the oil in the wok, I thought to check the date on some concert tickets that were stuck behind a magnet on the fridge. They were for our favorite band so I'd purchased them a while ago, but thought the date was far off. And of course, they were for tonight! I rushed the hubby home from work and out the door and off we went. The show was amazing, despite the fact that the joint had no A/C. They played their entire new-and-not-yet-released album plus a half-set of old stuff...including a song we used in our wedding ceremony. Love them.

That poor stirfry is waiting for me to eat it, though. Lunch tomorrow. The hubby ate his portion and said it was delicious.

In other news, I got my first social invite related to this blog thing. A friend told a friend who also spends his week pondering what to do with CSA items, and he was psyched to have some camaraderie. And I'm psyched to chat about this stuff with someone other than the man I live with who says he likes everything I cook. I'm totally warning this dude about vitamin greens, though.

Week 2 begins tomorrow. It's funny to me how nervous but also excited I am about getting tomorrow's share. I keep imagining what items from this week I'd like to get again, and guessing at what the new items could be. Could this be the new Christmas Eve for hipsters? Just a thought...

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

You gotta know when to roast 'em...

Before we get down to business, I present (above) the evidence of what was done with the CSA arugula. This salad is based on this recipe, but I've done it a few times without the rotisserie chicken. I threw the CSA radishes on the plate for some color and completely forgot the parmesan, but it was pretty good despite all that. This entree also co-starred the bread I made with the lemon and rosemary, which didn't come out that well because I put the oven at 350 instead of 450 and didn't realize it until 45 minutes later.

I used the vitamin green and the tatsoi for this salad, which I've been eating all week for lunch. And I've realized something after eating it for a couple days now. Vitamin green is yucky. I've never been a fan of those greens that have strong flavors, like mustards and collards. We can now add Vitamin Green to that list. Much like collards, I think it could only taste good if it was boiled in mounds and mounds of some sort of highly salted animal parts. We're bound to get it again, in which case, I will have ham hocks at the ready.

The saving grace of lunch today was the fresh watermelon and feta salad (with a dash of pepper) that I packed for an afternoon snack but ended up scarfing down after eating 3/4 of the evil vitamin green salad.

Tonight, I stared at one kohlrabi, three turnips, some asparagus (not CSA), an onion, some carrots, and two fennel bulbs and felt a bit defeated. The greens on the carrots and the kohlrabi were looking pretty pathetic so I knew these veggies had little time left. I decided it was time for a mercy killing, so I chopped them all up, threw them in a roasting pan and coated with olive oil, salt, and pepper. They will join some grilled-up bratwurst for a simple dinner and I will only have the pea shoots to deal with...

Monday, May 31, 2010

Never too much of a good thing

I never have a hard time figuring out how to use rosemary because it's my favorite herb, but I chopped a bunch of the rosemary from this week's CSA share and tossed it into my weekly no-knead bread batch, along with some lemon zest. I also juiced the lemon and added that to the water requirement for the bread dough. Fresh rosemary is probably my favorite scent of all time. I'm a savory foods girl, and rosemary lends itself to so many savory dishes.

Lemons. There's another thing that is very rarely local to Pennsylvania that I buy by the half-dozen on a regular basis. I slice them and throw the rounds on top of fish or chicken that's going into the broiler (or on the grill). I add zest or juice to a variety of recipes for a little bit of tang. Lemons are one of those things I won't give up for the eating local movement. Someday I will have a heated greenhouse in which I will have my own lemon tree. Mark my words.

The locally grown strawberries and rhubarb from Wegman's are indeed in the oven right now, as part of a crisp, the recipe for which can be found here. I didn't have any sugar in the raw, so I used brown sugar for that part of the recipe.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Week #1

So here's how it'll work. I'll list this week's CSA share and color code the items according to my familiarity with them. Green indicates I can figure out what to do with it without any problem. Yellow means that I think I can find a recipe somewhere. Red = "help!" Throughout the week, I'll try to post my progress as I work my way through the share.

This week's CSA take:

Pea Shoots
Hakurei Turnips
Vitamin Greens

I went to Wegman's for some non-produce items and ended up picking up some locally grown strawberries, rhubarb, and carrots, along with some fennel (my new favorite vegetable) and some potatoes. There is definitely a strawberry rhubarb crumble in our future, and I think the carrots and fennel will end up in a slaw-like salad with the kohlrabi, later in the week.

In just a few minutes, the kale will go into this recipe and will accompany some steaks that have been marinating in teryaki. One of my favorite things about summer is that we use the grill almost nightly. This year, we have our newly purchased charcoal smoker grill for when we have more time and don't want a quick meal from our propane grill. We also purchased this camping burner, mainly to use later in the summer for canning, but I'd like to experiment with cooking entire meals outside and this will aid in that endeavor.

Let's get started, shall we?

I know I know. A blog about what I got in my weekly CSA and how I'm going to cook it is definitely not new. I'm about two years behind the "eating local is cool" curve. Some introductory remarks:

1. I try my best to buy local for a number of reasons, but not because I think it makes me a better person. Quite simply, it's sometimes cheaper than going to the grocery store and the produce lasts considerably longer than the stuff that's been shipped from afar. This realization has coincided with the development of a serious love of cooking, so that I enjoy the challenge of finding something new and trying to make it into something delicious.

2. I'm not the perfect or ideal vision of a "locavore" so I try not to identify as one. I occasionally supplement my CSA items or farmers market purchases with stuff that's not in season. I buy meat from Costco. I use plastic containers to store leftovers. And I've actually been known to use plastic utensils to eat my lunch at the office when I forget to bring real ones from home. Basically, if you are reading this and consider yourself a true locavore, I'm the devil.

3. I live in the Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia. The area is a dichotomy of newbies who tend to flaunt their healthy bike-riding-local-food-eating-gastropub-loving lifestyles and the longtime locals who are personally offended by the newbie criticisms of the fly-ridden produce section at the one local grocery store. (It's worth noting that the defensiveness is punctuated by the fact that most of the grocery carts being lugged around that store have not one fresh fruit or vegetable in them.) Nonetheless, there are quite a few of us who happily exist in the middle ground of these two camps - old heads who hit the farmers market once in a while, and newbies who can be seen chowing on a cheesesteak from Slack's every once in a while.

4. Our CSA is Henry Got Crops, which is a joint venture between the largest food co-op in the city and the city's agricultural high school. I like the idea that we are supporting an urban high school that is teaching city kids about farming and veterinary sciences. Plus, we've tried to join a CSA that is closer to our house every year since we moved here and it always fills up too fast. And quite frankly, recent neighborhood events have made me pretty happy about our choice to go with Henry Got Crops.

5. The purpose of this blog is really to just serve as a clearinghouse for ideas on how to cook the seasonal items that come to us each week. It might morph into something more, but please comment, encourage, criticize, snark, or otherwise contribute. I like hearing other people's opinions almost as much as I like touting my own.