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...