Tag Archives: cooking

Putting up with the CSA

I woke up this morning to the pounding rain outside open windows, a truly enthusiastic downpour. A perfect day, my groggy self thought, to stay indoors and catch up on some things around the house (why, after these weeks and months of not working full-time, there are still so many things to catch up on is anyone’s guess). As my recent blogging lapse may imply, things have gotten away from me a bit in the kitchen lately. I have noticed, these last few weeks, that our refrigerator is always packed with vegetables, even when it is Tuesday afternoon and our new CSA delivery is slated to arrive in mere hours. On this rainy Monday, I decided to break that pattern, to clear out some space in the veggie drawers for our new stuff tomorrow. It was time to put some veggies up for even drabber days.

I spent the morning washing greens, chopping the stems of Chinese broccoli, separating beets from their leafy tops, steaming those tops with the Chinese broccoli and some u-choy, packing delightfully dark and tasty steamed greens into freezer bags.

Then I broke out some more CSA goodies, chopped a few rough stems, and cleaned out the salad spinner to transform this:

into this:

It feels good not just to have some space in the fridge, but to have shiny new packages in my freezer, sturdy vegetables and fantastically vivid green sauce for winter months. The frozen greens will go into frittatas, turnovers, noodles, wherever fresh greens normally go. The arugula-dill pesto, bright and fresh with a slight bitter bite, would be tasty in gratins, on pasta, or slathered on fish. Mashed into cream cheese, it would make a lovely little tea sandwich. Instead of a fridge packed with veggies that I fear I will not eat in time, I have a freezer brimming with possibilities.

Arugula-Dill Pesto Recipe

What Goes In:

  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 large bunch arugula
  • 1 large bunch dill
  • 1 handful (probably around 1/4 cup) toasted pine nuts
  • zest and juice of 1 small lemon
  • a good glug of olive oil (again, probably about 1/4 cup)
  • salt and pepper

How to Do it:

  • Give garlic a head start by rough chopping in your food processor
  • Add greens, pine nuts, lemon zest and juice. Pulse. Pulse.
  • With the food processor running, add olive oil until nice and thick.

That’s it! Super easy! Get to it! Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some adorable patty pan squashes to steam and scoop and stuff.

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Back to the City

The fourth of July was wonderful again this year: perfect days in Vermont, green grass, loved ones, cooking on campfire, dappled sunlight by the brook, and the coldest, clearest water.

I will catch up soon on kitchen projects, CSA plans. The fruit share started this week. It wasn’t supposed to start until next week, but the weather has been in the triple digits, and even peaches were plump and ready in early July, and we received a satisfying, handled bag of them with our share last night, accompanied by some wonderful berries, balms to sooth the re-entry, the easing back from three perfect days into heatwave, city grit, the grind of non-vacation life.

I will catch up on these things soon, for sure. In the meantime, I am savoring the peace still lingering from those recent, perfect days, celebrating summer and the glow of recent memories.



Fried Squash Blossoms

I mentioned in a recent post that squash blossoms were the first thing I had ever fried, and that they were wonderful. I was delighted to receive squash blossoms from our CSA two weeks in a row and even more delighted to finally eat them this evening.

The batter provides a light crunch to these babies, and the delicate texture of the blossoms screams of early summer. Better yet, they take mere minutes to prepare.

Recipe: Fried Squash Blossoms

Ingredients:

  • Squash blossoms (I had 10, but I’ve made as few as four at a time)
  • White flour (1 cup or so)
  • club soda (1 cup or so, again)
  • vegetable oil (I mixed canola with olive oil)
  • salt + pepper

How to do it:

OK, for the sake of full disclosure, I admit that I stuffed my blossoms to make them extra delicious. I had some leftover tofu-pesto alfredo in the fridge (recipe to appear here one of these days), which I mushed up with some goat cheese and spooned into the center of the blossoms.  I have previously filled these guys with goat cheese and basil or ricotta with a little bit of pesto. It’s hard to go wrong with creamy cheese and fresh herbs. If you’d like to fill your blossoms, peel the petals back carefully and spoon the filling in. For smaller blossoms where a spoon would not do, I put my filling in a sandwich bag and cut the corner off so that I could pipe it into the little flowers.

Now back to the frying steps…

  1. Whisk flour lightly in a bowl to break up any lumps (not worth sifting, really). I added a little bit of chickpea flour tonight, but I don’t think it added much.
  2. Whisk in club soda until the batter is relatively thin, maybe like heavy cream that’s been beaten for a minute or so, just before it’s whipped.
  3. Add salt and pepper to taste. I used a very light sprinkle of cayenne pepper and a relatively hefty pinch of kosher salt.
  4. Heat 1/2 inch or so of oil in a skillet over medium heat. Heat it up until a drop of water sizzles and pops when dropped into the pan.
  5. Quickly dunk each blossom into batter and drop it in the pan. Fry for a minute or two on one side, then flip over (unless you want to get into deep frying, for which I have no advice)
  6. Remove from pan and drain on doubled up paper towels to remove excess oil. I flipped mine over to get both sides.
  7. Most important! Eat while hot! Enjoy!

CSA: Week 3

Tonight, we are getting:

  • 1 Head Deep Red Leaf Lettuce
  • 1 bu. Hakurei Red Salad Turnips
  • 2 bulbs Kohlrabi
  • 1 Head Green Iceberg Lettuce
  • 1 Head Bok Choy
  • 6 Squash Blossoms
  • 1 bu. Mixed colored Beets
  • 1 bu. Italian Parsley
  • 1 Greenhouse Cucumber
  • 2 pc. Baby Bok Choy

The meals that will spring from this will likely look like this:

  1. Salad for lunch: It seems that we are going to remain mired in salads for a bit — we still have a little lettuce from last week. The cucumber will be a welcome addition.
  2. Fried Squash Blossoms: We did not get around to cooking last week’s squash blossoms (travels interfered), so we will now have 10 to delicately fry and savor, a nice treat to share with an out of town guest.
  3. Weeknight Barbecue: Baby bok choy will likely be marinated and grilled at a potluck double date later this week. I wonder how kohlrabi would do on the grill? Perhaps it is time to find out. Or perhaps the kohlrabi will be julienned and added to a soba noodle salad for a little bit of crunch.
  4. Turnip Salad: I have been eagerly awaiting the return of Harukei turnips. Though we have not had red ones before, white Harukei turnips proved to be one of my favorite new discoveries from last year’s CSA. The early season turnips were sweet and mild with a refreshing crunch, and I loved them in a simple salad with sesame oil and rice wine vinegar. We still have some cilantro from last week’s CSA, which will be wonderful here.
  5. Bok Choy Sauerkraut: This week’s big bok choy + last week’s big bok choy = time to bust out the pickling crock. Not sure what spices I will use for this yet, but I’m looking forward to my first fermentation project of the season.

Not sure yet what will become of the beets and parsley. Pickled beets? Light borscht? Ravioli with beets and goat cheese? Mmmm…Whatever happens with my straggler veggies, I am very much looking forward to a weekend at home (I’ve been away too much lately), to grounding myself in my little kitchen, tearing through vegetables after a few days of unhealthy eating on the road, and hopefully reporting back on the projects ahead.

CSA: Week 2, making plans

Week 2 of the CSA brought exciting goodies like squash blossoms and garlic scapes. Only 4 of each, but exciting just the same. A good friend came over before pickup to help with last week’s bok choy over lunch (sauteed and tossed with radishes, wrapped up in chickpea pancakes), so we were mostly finished with last week’s goods — an accomplishment in my mind as we were away over the weekend — but there was still a full head of lettuce, plus some carrots and radishes kicking around, and the heads of lettuce are getting bigger as the season progresses, so we clearly need to step up our salad eating game if we wish to stay abreast of things.

This week, we got:

  • 1 Head of Red Oak Lettuce
  • 8 oz. Sugar Snap Peas
  • 1 Head of Green Romaine Lettuce
  • 1 Head Green Boston Lettuce
  • 1 Head of Bok Choy
  • 3 Red Beets
  • 4 Garlic Scapes
  • 1 bu. Cilantro
  • 4 pcs. of Rhubarb
  • 4 pieces of Squash Blossoms

I am very excited about the beets, scapes, and squash blossoms in particular. Squash blossoms are the first thing I ever fried, and they remain one of the few things I am willing to cook in any significant amount of oil. I lightly batter them, sometimes filled with ricotta and herbs. I happen to have some leftover pesto-tofu alfredo in the fridge, four spoonfuls or so, just enough to fill these babies up and get them cooking for a simple supper tomorrow night.

As for the beets, I recently came across this gorgeous recipe for beet gnocchi on CakeWalk. These will be made tonight, served up to an impromptu dinner guest with goat cheese and garlic scapes. I just might be more excited than I should be. Time will tell. All I know for now is that my beets are roasted and beautiful, and I’m looking forward to a colorful meal.

We ate a big salad last night with a sesame-cilantro dressing and last week’s radishes, tossed up with pickled beets still lingering (and still good) from last season, and some sliced up, fresh and tasty sugar snap peas. I see more salads in our future. Lots more salads.

I’m hanging onto the big old head of bok choy. We got a lot of bok choy last year, and I’m waiting to see if we get more next week, waiting, too, until I’m not going away for the weekend, to get going on some bok choy kraut. I was skeptical of my ability to burn through a big jar of fermented bok choy last summer, but it turned out that it went great in pad thai inspired noodles, peanut sauces, etc. — the brininess replaced fish sauce and rice wine vinegar, and it was delicious.

The rhubarb, which was truly beautiful with its lovely (but poisonous) leaves, has been chopped and combined with a good bit of gin to make my favorite summer cocktail treat. More on that later, and more plans next week, hopefully recipes instead of a hurried list of food uses. In the meantime, I am excited about the lovely colors gracing my table, still delighted by the freshness coming through on Tuesday nights. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some hot pink gnocchi to make.

CSA Teaser

Our CSA started!

No pictures this week, but I’m getting excited for the summer of vegetables laid out before us.

This week, we got:

  • lettuce, lettuce, lettuce (red oak, red romaine, green Boston)
  • sugar snap peas
  • 1 bunch radishes
  • 1 bunch fancy, multi-colored carrots
  • 1 bunch tall and slender asparagus
  • baby bok choy (and so it begins — last year there was more bok choy than I ever could have imagined)
  • 1/2 pint strawberries

Peas were consumed standing at my kitchen island in bare feet, snapping strings from pods and munching away. I don’t believe there is a better way to eat these crisp, sweet things when fresh than plain and raw. Sautéed in butter with sea salt and mint takes second place, but I so rarely get that far.

Asparagus was roasted last night. I will admit to eating some of this, too, with my fingers, standing barefoot at the kitchen island. Some of it made its way onto a plate, though, for my solitary dinner. Shawn took the rest to work today for lunch. I will be living on salad lunches for a bit, tender lettuce leaves, pretty carrots, radishes steeped in lemon juice to take out a little bit of their bite.

And the strawberries…oh the strawberries…strawberries made their appearance at the greenmarket a few weeks ago, fragrant and bright red, but I had not gotten around to buying them yet. We’re participating in a fruit share this year, which won’t start until a little later in the season. But, as with last year, our farmer treated us to a wee half pint to kick off the season. The flavor in these things is insane. We’ve been eating them bit by bit, plucking them one by one from their little green carton, oohing and aahing  at their splendor.

It’s the start of the season, so the haul was fairly light, and no major plans were required to ensure consumption of vegetables. But I will be posting as the weeks go on, as more things spring up and make their way into our weekly share, and as our winter diet of starch and cheese gives way to veggies day and night. In the meantime, if you haven’t already, get thee to your local farmer’s market. Snatch up some snap peas and strawberries, some asparagus if it’s still hanging on. These things are fleeting and delicious and demand your attention!

Asparagus Season! Asparagus Season!

In my mind, the argument for eating seasonally and locally can be summed up in one word: Asparagus.

I try to eat as locally as possible across the board, and certainly all foods taste better the fresher they are. Even the fastest shipping methods can alter the flavor and texture of all veggies for sure, but none quite so much as my beloved asparagus. Asparagus is where I truly draw the line at eating out of season, refusing to purchase it in January, because it’s simply a shell of the real, most succulent deal, having been shipped thousands of miles from Chile or Argentina.

This refusal to eat it year-round results in a yearning that lasts most of the year and an almost Pavlovian link for me between spring and asparagus. It is one of the earliest vegetables to arrive at the scene, on the heels of wild ramps, just before fresh peas sing their early summer song, and I begin to have asparagus dreams at the earliest sign of winter’s end, salivating like Pavlov’s dogs (with apologies for that image). Spring came early this year, bringing warm days and bare legs nearly two months before it was time for asparagus to peek out of the ground. The asparagus craving started early, too, spurred on by summery days and sandals, but the asparagus itself did not show up at the farmer’s market in force until yesterday.

A fellow market-going lady standing over the bunches smiled at me when I arrived at the Grand Army greenmarket, exclaimed that it seemed pricey. I told her what I have just told you, that I love it deeply, that I only eat it now, that it’s in a little early and that larger bunches may be available soon for that same price, but that she ought to snatch some up. She asked how to pick the best bunches, if she should be looking for tight asparagus tips, if fat or thin was better. I told her that yes, tight tips were the best sign, but that it was so early, everything before us so brand new, that it was all in good shape (the selection will surely become more disparate as the season progresses). I told her that my momma raised me to love the fat, juicy stalks the best, but that thickness is not an indication of tenderness. I explained that I like to get a range of thicknesses, that my favorite thing is to roast the asparagus at a high heat, that the thicker stalks get sublimely juicy while the thinner wilt quickly and caramelize, that the variety is wonderful. And then I bought 3 bunches of asparagus, along with an extremely affordable little bundle of arugula, and marched proudly home.

I had gone to the market early, just after rolling out of bed, in hopes of snatching up some veggies before they were snatched up by someone else, so I had not yet had breakfast. I spent a good portion of my walk home from the market thinking about the brunch applications of asparagus. I opted to roast asparagus, as is my wont, and to serve it over soft polenta with poached eggs.

The first step in asparagus preparation is to soak it. I just plug up my sink and let it soak there, being sure to swish it around lots. Asparagus likes to grow in sandy soil, and its bud-like tips are perfect for holding onto grit. Soak and clean the asparagus and trim the bottom ends. You can do this either with a paring knife, slicing off the bottom end and peeling the tough layers from the base, or simply by grasping the asparagus with one hand in the middle of the stalk, the other at the very bottom, and snapping it. It will break at the junction between tender, tasty stalk and tough end.

Preheat your oven to 400º or a little higher, lay your asparagus out in a single layer on a sheet pan, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with sea salt.

Roast the asparagus for 8 minutes or so, then flip it over by jostling the pan or rolling the stalks over with a spatula, and cook for another 8 minutes, until it feels tender when pierced with a fork. Take it out of the oven, and squeeze fresh lemon juice all over it. Ordinarily, I would simply eat it with my fingers standing at the counter, or, if feeling fancy, transfer it to a plate and eat it with my fingers sitting in a chair. Because it was breakfast time, I spooned soft, sage-and-pecorino-laced polenta into dishes, laid the asparagus over it, and topped with poached eggs. It was a richer brunch than I usually serve up, but an appropriately lavish way to welcome asparagus season, to open up to spring.

For those of you who doubt the superiority of local over non-local foods, I urge you to do a taste test today, while asparagus season is still in swing. Get yourself to a farmer’s market during this short growing season, get some super fresh asparagus, and compare it to the non-local stuff that is surely still available in your supermarket. You’ll surely see what the fuss is about.