Week 10 & 11: Self-Preservation

As a pair of somewhat employed musicians, our wedding was going to be a semi-DIY affair. We spent a few days last year day-dreaming about cooking the food for our own wedding, but even mentioning the idea brought about threats of dis-ownership from both sets of parents. We lucked out and found a great caterer, one who would—almost in honor of our CSA obsession—be sourcing all the vegetables from local Vermont farms. But we were going to be doing the rest: finding the alcohol, purchasing the tablecloths and decorations, buying the flowers (which our friend Ammie—a florist and new music violist—would be flying in to arrange), and writing the ceremony.

The problem with even a semi-DIY out-of-town wedding is that you’re not there (and there is not your home). Every decision seems to take twice as long. I was particularly flummoxed by calculating delivery windows—figuring out just how reliable the myriad combinations of FedEx, UPS and the US Post Office worked, so that everything would arrive on time at the venue, but not so early that no one was there to receive them.

None of this was helping my anxiety level, and as previously mentioned, in the days leading up to my departure east, I more or less stopped being able to eat. This made the height of the summer season CSA vegetable situation somewhat dire. Since I neither had the wherewithal to eat nor could I live with myself if I let all the vegetables rot, I decided that various forms of preservation were the way to go.

The easiest was just to freeze a bunch of things. We got a vacuum sealer before last years Thanksgiving because Andrew wanted to cook the holiday Turkey sous vide. The turkey was meh, but the vacuum sealer is great. We have a chest freezer in our pantry, so there’s plenty of room and I spent an afternoon prepping green beans, cauliflower and summer squash for freezing. The vacuum sealer is quite loud when it’s sucking all the air from the package, a sound which is somehow deeply comforting.

Then I moved on to pickling. Pickling seemed like a good strategy given my loss of appetite—the pickles would be ready to eat in a couple of weeks, when we were back in Chicago successfully married and presumably interested in food again.

Pickled Banana Peppers

For the last three years of the CSA, we’ve used this recipe from Serious Eats to pickle banana peppers. I looked around a bit for something different, but it didn’t really seem worth experimenting with different flavors when this recipe is so simple and good.

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You combine 1 cup vinegar, 1 cup water, 1/2 cup sugar, and 1 tsp salt in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat, stirring until salt and sugar dissolve. Remove from heat and add sliced peppers, and then stir for about 15 seconds as the peppers soften. Let the entire thing cool to room temperature, then put in a jar and throw in the refrigerator.

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These are so good. You can throw them on anything—pizza, sandwiches, salads, you name it.

Dill Pickles

Next up was the pickling cucumbers. Alton Brown has my favorite dill pickle recipe. You put 1 TB peppercorns, 1 TB red pepper flakes, 2 cloves of crushed garlic, and 1 tsp dill seed in a large jar. Then you add all of the cucumbers. The brine is 1/2 cup salt to 1 gallon water, and it gets poured over the top. If you put a little sandwich bag in the top of the jar and pour in some more brine to that, you can weigh down the pickles without having to do anything fancy. All of my pickling failures have tended to result from either over-filling the jar (which I’m definitely doing below…) or not weighing the pickles down well enough.

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These are lacto-fermented pickles: the brine prevents bad bacteria/mold from growing, while good bacteria can do their job. After two or three weeks at room temperature they’re still crisp, but have a wonderful slightly sour tang. When they’re ready, you can put them in the refrigerator.

Pickled Onion and Green Pepper Relish

We’ve always struggled to find something to do with green peppers. Neither Andrew nor I really enjoy eating them, which seems to be a pretty universal sentiment among our friends, who have resisted our entreaties to take them off our hands. After a bit of digging around in the internet, I found this relish recipe. It’s suppose to be a condiment for hot dogs or hamburgers and as a bonus, it’s shelf-safe, too.

You take 3 onions, 8 large green peppers, and a few jalapeños and slice them up into thin strips. Put them in a stock pot along with 6 TB pickling spices, 2 cups of white sugar, 1 tsp salt, and 2 cups of apple cider vinegar. Simmer for 5 minutes.

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It starts out a bit weird, since it’s not a liquid at all, but after a few minutes, the vegetables start sweating and it begins to look like what you would expect from a hot dog topping.

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After the relish comes together, it’s time to can them. Sterilize some jars, add the relish, and put the tops on. Boil them in a water bath for 30 minutes. I didn’t actually think to taste the relish before canning it, so there’s going to be an element of surprise when we actually open one.

Apple Pie Filling

And finally: apples. Last year was apparently a rough one for apples at Nichols Farm. We had some hail storms early in the summer, which pock-marked all the apples. But even with the losses, by the middle of the fall, we had enough apples to fill our crisper bins and were running out of room in the rest of the fridge for all the other veggies. This year has been a great one for apples—and we started getting them early in the season. The apples are great—breed names we’ve never heard of, with surprising combinations of sweet and tart and crunch. But by the week before I was leaving down, our smaller crisper drawer was already overflowing with apples and I felt I needed to cull the herd.

I figured the internet must have come up with some way to make filling for an apple pie and freeze it to stick in a pie later. Sure enough, I found this recipe from Food.com and decided to just go for it.

You start with 16 cups of apples, peel and chop them, and add 4 TB of lemon juice to theoretically keep them from going brown (which only partially worked, see below).

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In a large dutch oven, add 4 cups of sugar (!), 1 cup cornstarch, 4 tsp ground cinnamon, 1 tsp salt, and 1 tsp nutmeg. Add 8 cups of water and bring it to a boil. Simmer for 2 minutes, and add the apples and simmer for another 6-8 minutes, and then remove from the heat and let it cool for about 30 minutes. At this point, it will look disconcertingly like a cauldron of something you might add eye-of-newt to, but the smell is of fall and crunchy leaves and wholesomeness.

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Then it gets ladeled into a freezer bag, which is frankly easier said than done. I recommend getting a partner to help you. Going solo, I got apple pie filling all over the counter, the floor, one of the cats, and in my hair. And, you know, the entire outside of the bag.

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Looks great!

It’s also worth point out that this recipe made about twice the amount of liquid you really need for the amount of apples it calls for. I used the time-honored strategy of throwing the extra goo in the fridge, forgetting about it, and then throwing it out four weeks later.

CSA ingredients used: apples

Other ingredients used: water, sugar, salt, cinnamon, cornstarch

Next: Week 13

Weeks 10 & 11: The Caprese Salad of Solitude

Week 10 of our summer CSA was exactly three weeks away from our August wedding, so needless to say the CSA was not the only thing on my plate (sorry).

Andrew, as well as my close friends and family, sometimes refer to me as having “organizational abilities.” I know they’re being serious, but whatever they are referring to as my “organizational abilities” is what I think of as “Kyra’s panicked reaction to things that stress her out that don’t seem to stress other people out at all.” The phrase “organizational abilities” implies a clear-eyed, rational mind, definitely no crying about wedding reception tablecloths, and I’m pretty sure a person with “organizational abilities” doesn’t have to pour themselves a shot of bourbon every time they open their wedding planning spreadsheet.

I am a person who is happy when I have a plan and that plan is successful. While other people might focus on, say, how delicious the CSA vegetables taste, what really makes me happy is when I have a sheet of paper enumerating exactly what dish I will cook with which CSA vegetable, what day we’re going to eat it, what other ingredients I need, and how much they will cost. I also lack the patience to make this happen. It’s an unfortunate combination of traits. This is where Andrew comes in.

Andrew has no organizational abilities almost at all. One would think that I would find this annoying, but it’s actually quite useful. He’s mostly appreciative of my attempts to organize our lives—seeing as he’s the beneficiary of things like knowing what we’re going to eat, getting plane tickets more than three days before the holiday in question, and having a good credit score. But deep down inside, he doesn’t really care about whether we’re organized or not. He cares about things like Art, and Beauty, and Nature, and the late 19th-century Elocution movement (don’t ask). So when I start to get spun up over the fact that I went over our gas budget by $3.25, he tends to take the long view.

Unfortunately, the first week of August Andrew left to play a summer music festival in Santa Cruz, leaving me at home in Chicago with my planning spreadsheet and my bourbon. Apparently planning a wedding with someone is supposed to be a good way of predicting what it’s like to be married to them. In this case, we discovered that when Andrew’s not around to act as a breaking mechanism on my stress, I tend to go off the rails.

Managing the time difference was part of the problem—Andrew was in Santa Cruz which was a two hour time difference from me and a three hour time difference from where we were getting married. (We had decided to get married in Vermont, which—like so many of our decisions around the wedding over the last year—seemed like a good idea at the time.) My sense of soon-to-be-spousal compassion was tested daily when I picked up the phone determined to wake him up at 6:00 AM to discuss with him, say, if he thought we should buy 2 1/2 inch or 3 inch thick birch poles for the chuppah, before talking myself off the ledge and waiting until lunch time.

Over the two weeks he was gone, I also had some CSA boxes to content with, containing squash, green peppers, banana peppers, tomatoes, apples, chard, corn, shallots, pickling cucumbers, potatoes, fennel, broccoli, more bell peppers, more potatoes, more tomatoes, more apples. more onions, more carrots, cauliflower, cucumbers, more green beans, and jalapeños.

 

I should have been happy that it was tomato season. I feel that between the end of July and the middle of September, one is morally obligated to eat as much tomato and mozzarella as humanly possible. But I was mostly feeling sorry for myself. Andrew and I had gotten engaged the previous summer during tomato season and it was awesome. The night we got engaged, we made this caprese salad:

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There was sort of a ring theme to our meal.

Hoping to cheer myself up, I made my own caprese salad, which, instead of providing comfort, became a sort of pathetically nostalgic emblem of my loneliness.

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In all honesty, the tomatoes were just really bad this year. Chicago was strangely cold in August—highs in the sixties, maybe low seventies. I mean, it was beautiful and very pleasant. But maybe not if you’re a tomato.

Andrew also has a moderating influence on what we choose to eat, since I have almost no judgment of what constitutes an actual meal. I’ll find a recipe and announce, “This calls for buttermilk, carrots, and ham! We have all of these things! Let’s make it!” And he just stares at me noncommittally until I have a chance to think things through.

This brings me to the beet & egg spring rolls I made the first day Andrew was gone.

 

Spring Rolls with Beets, Brown Rice, Eggs, and Herbs

This weird recipe calls for Napa cabbage and also for beets (in case you’ve forgotten in the 2 months since I last posted…but we have a really large Napa cabbage in the refrigerator at this point). It also made use of some of our mint and basil that was going wild in the back yard. As an added bonus,  I didn’t have to cook the beets.

First you prep a bunch of things.  You need to cook about a cup and a half of rice. Once it’s done, toss it in a bowl with 1 TB rice vinegar. Next, peel 3 or 4 raw beets and grate them (recipe was for 1 LB – I almost had this with one beet). Grating it took like an hour, and your cutting board will look like a crime scene, but that’s just how it is with beets.

Then prep some assorted herbs and cabbage: I used 1/3 cup of mint, 1/2 cup of basil, and 2 cups of shredded Napa cabbage. The beets and herbs go together in a bowl with 2 TB rice vinegar, and the shredded cabbage goes in its own bowl with another 2 TB vinegar.

Now it’s time to make a few egg pancakes. Take 3 eggs and crack them individually into 3 little bowls and beat them. Slip one beaten egg into an 8 inch non-stick skillet that has a little oil in the bottom. After a minute or two, flip the egg over and you should have a little omelet. Repeat with the other two eggs. Once the eggs are done, cut them into little slices.

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Finally, everything gets rolled together. You need 8 1/2 inch diameter spring roll wrappers. Dip each one in warm water for about 30 seconds to maybe it pliable, and then place some whole basil and mint leaves on top. Next, add some of the beet mixture, then the cabbage mixture, then the rice, and a few strips of egg.

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Obviously I was suspicious of how these would taste—raw beets and eggs and such. But they were actually pretty good, and the egg made them substantive enough to eat a few as a meal.

CSA ingredients used: Napa cabbage, beets

Other ingredients used: mint, basil, brown rice, egg, Spring roll wrappers, rice wine vinegar,

 

 

 

Sirka Paneer

Recognizing that I was heading into a period of time where I might be a little to excited/crazed to feed myself, I decided it would be smart to make a giant pot of something. I bought this book by Raghaven Iyer called 660 Curries after my last experience cooking saag paneer, feeling that I needed to upgrade my Indian cooking resourcing a little. As a CSA cookbook it looked like it would be invaluable—vegetables in any combination in delicious curry format. I picked a recipe for Sirka Paneer, which is a sweet-tart cheese with potatoes and cauliflower in a vinegar sauce.

To make this recipe, first you need to make paneer. (Or buy it. You could do that. I just didn’t, because I had milk and I didn’t feeling like going out again)

Then, pour 1/4 cup water into a blender jar and 1/4 cup of cider vinegar, 1/4 cup tomato paste, 1 TB coriander seeds, 1 tsp cumin seeds, 2 dried chiles, 2 fresh chiles, 2 cloves of garlic, and a bit of sliced up ginger. Blend it around together to make a paste.

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Next, heat 2 TB vegetable oil in a skillet and add 1/2 cup chopped red onion (I used white onion). Stir-fry it until it’s started to brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the curry paste to the pan and lower the heat, then cook 2 to 4 minutes until the oil start to separate from the curry.

Next, you add 1 cup of water to the blender and blitz it around to clean out the blender. Once the paste is done, throw in this water as well.

Next, add 2 cups of chopped cauliflower, 2 medium potatoes cut into 1 inch cubes (I put in about 6 little ones), and 1 tsp salt to the pan. Bring everything to a boil and simmer for 15-20 minutes, until the vegetables are tender. I decided to add some carrots too since I had them.

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Once the vegetables are tender, add the coconut milk and the paneer and simmer for another 10 minutes. Then sprinkle some cilantro on top and it’s done.

This recipe was great – the carrots were not a good call and I ended up mostly picking around them. But all of the other vegetables were soft and mushy and the curry flavor blended into them really nicely.

CSA ingredients used: cauliflower, onion, carrots, potatoes

Other ingredients used: milk, vinegar, apple cider vinegar, salt, garlic, ginger, coconut milk, cilantro, tomato paste, chiles, cumin, and coriander.

Corn, Tomatoes, Avocado, and Bacon in Various Combinations

As the days went on and the wedding got nearer, it became clear that my concerns about being too busy to cook for myself were somewhat moot because I discovered I had no appetite at all. Apparently this is pretty normal in the two weeks before one’s wedding. Luckily, if you’re going to be picking at your food for a few weeks, an early August farm box provides a pretty accessible assortment of choices. Here are a few of the salad-like things I made in a vain hope that I would at some point be hungry:

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This avocado/corn/cucumber/feta/basil salad was great, particularly the lime-pickled onions for combating nausea
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Actually, the bacon corn dish was great, too, since I can always eat bacon no matter how stressed I am.
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Baked feta was a less sensible choice—a giant hunk of feta seems like a good idea, but I could only eat a few bites.

CSA ingredients used: tomatoes, corn, onions, cucumber

Other ingredients used: feta, bacon, basil, avocado

Next: In which I solemnly take on the responsibilities of a wife-to-be by using a vacuum sealer to freeze things.

Week 9: Pretty in Pink Brine

The last week of July finally brought the first Napa cabbage,  a healthy amount of corn, and an assortment of other vegetables including beets, green peppers, potatoes, green beans, eggplant, summer squash, cauliflower, and tomatoes. Andrew and I were a bit of a mess. He was still playing eight shows a week downtown and was about to take off for two weeks to  play at a summer festival in California. After the festival, we would have just a week before our wedding, which was in Vermont (we thought this would be a good idea last October when we started planning it). In his last few days in town, we tried to get done everything that he needed to actually be present for, like finding him shoes and a belt for the wedding, agreeing on a design for our Ketubah, making sure he had a valid driver’s license so he could, you know, get on an airplane, and also discussing our personal beliefs about marriage. Cooking vegetables started to seem like a secondary priority—which, it seems, is why pickles were invented.

Pickled Turnips

While digging through various vegetable bins searching for vegetables to destroy, I unearthed some turnips lurking in the bottom of the refrigerator, leftover from week 4. Turnips are challenging because they’re not very good to eat. Last year Andrew turned them into a beautiful soup from Alice Waters which tasted okay but was actually kind of bitter if we were honest. This year, I investigated pickling them instead.

As it turns out, pickled turnips are standard in Middle Eastern Food, and I’ve been eating them for years every time I get a combo plate from the Lebanese restaurant right up the street. It never crossed my mind that I was eating pickled turnips, because they’re bright pink. Evidently this is because you add a small amount of chopped beets  to the pickle,  for the sole purpose of making them pink.

This recipe is from David Lebowitz. You make a brine that’s 1/2 cups water, 3 TB salt, and 1/2 cup white vinegar – something halfway between a lacto-fermented pickle and a vinegar pickle. Then they sit out at room temperature for a week.

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They were delicious, among my favorite pickles yet.

CSA ingredients used: turnips, part of a beet.

Other ingredients used: water, white vinegar, salt, garlic

Pita with Eggplant

One of Andrew’s proudest triumphs last year was sahib, a eggplant stuffed in pita dish from Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem. When we made it last year, Andrew loving crafted everything from scratch, including the pita bread, and then finished everything on the grill. This all happened when I was out of town, and I got back in time to only have a taste. This year I was actually around for it, but we had maybe 20 minutes to cook, so we bought pita, tabouli, and tahini sauce from the local middle eastern market, and quickly fried the eggplant.

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CSA ingredients: tomatoes, eggplant

Other ingredients used: egg, pita, tabouli

Corn Chowder Salad

Next up, I had found a recipe for Corn Chowder Salad  over at Smitten Kitchen. It sounded weird, but it checked all of the boxed. It used up lots of corn, it used up a bunch of potatoes, and it contained some protein to boot. I made it as sort of a late-night fried bacon snack, which I think is important to always have around. You fry up 4 slices of diced bacon and then remove the bacon but leave the fat. Then you fry 1 lb diced potatoes, and 6 ears of corn in the bacon fat. The recipe calls for red peppers; I only had green peppers and decided to add one of them. Green peppers are one of the few vegetables we’ve never really come up with something to do with. I was hesitant to include them, but decided that frying them in bacon fat was probably as good as it was going to get.

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Once everything is cooked, you mix the fried vegetables, the bacon, and 1/2 cup cider vinegar.

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Sadly, no picture of the final product, just random vegetable components. It was pretty good – the cider vinegar was a nice touch and as expected, green peppers fried in bacon fat are not too bad.

CSA ingredients used: potatoes, corn, a green pepper

Other ingredients used: bacon, apple cider vinegar

Spicy Soba Noodles with Shiitakes

In years past, we’ve made most of our Napa cabbages into kimchi (when I wasn’t making imprudent decisions about cabbage rolls). However, we still have a half gallon mason jar of kimchi in the refrigerator from last year, and I think it’s actually still good too.

Lots of recipes for cabbage will call for, like, a cup of it. This is not even remotely cool. Under what circumstances does a person have a cup of Napa cabbage sitting around? Anyway. While bitterly rejecting recipes for Napa cabbage, I came across this recipe for Spicy Soba Noodles with Shiitakes from Smitten Kitchen that called for an entire 8 cups. I was sold.

First you make a sauce: you mix together 1/3 cup water, 1/3 cup soy sauce, 2-3 tsp Gochujang (Korean pepper sauce), and 1 TB brown sugar.

Then you toast 3 TB sesame seeds and set them aside. Saute 2 TB minced ginger and 1 TB minced garlic in oil for 30 seconds, and then add 10 ounces of sliced shiitake mushrooms and cook for about 6 minutes. Then reduce the heat to medium and add 8 cups of sliced Napa cabbage and 3 sliced scallions.

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8 cups of Napa cabbage turns out to be about a quarter of it

While this is happening, you cook 10 ounce soba noodles in a pot of boiling salted water. You’re also supposed to cook a cup of frozen edamame in the water with the noodles. I had frozen edamame, but didn’t read ahead enough to realize I was supposed to cook them with the pasta, so I left them out entirely.

Once the noodles are done, drain them and combine with the cabbage and mushroom mixture, the sesame seeds, and the sauce.

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This is not a very good picture. It was pretty dark out by the time we finally ate.

CSA ingredients used: napa cabbage

Other ingredients used: soba noodles, Shiitake mushrooms, scallions, soy sauce, brown pepper, Gochujang, sesame seeds, ginger, garlic.

Spicy Dilly Beans

At this point, the green bean situation was getting out of control and it was pretty clear that we were not going to sit down and eat 3 pounds of green beans. Last year I had done a vinegar pickle with them which I wasn’t super fond of (though my 18 month old nephew apparently ate an entire jar for dinner over Christmas last year), but this year I decided to try again with a different pickle recipe.

This recipe for spicy dilly beans is from Serious Eats. You trim the beans, which is pretty time consuming when you have 3 lbs of them. Then you fill 5 pint jars with a clove of garlic, a teaspoon of dill seeds, and a teaspoon of red pepper flakes each. The brine is 2 1/2 cups of water, 2 1/2 cups of white vinegar, and 4 TB salt.

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These are going to be really spicy

I filled them all up, and then they went in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

CSA ingredients used: all of the green beans

Other ingredients used: garlic, red chile flakes, dill seeds, water, vinegar, salt

Next: Week 10, in which I’m all alone to obsess about tablecloths

 

Week 8: Elotes FTW

As predicted, the Week 8 box was….large. We had green cabbage, summer apples, corn, a truly massive quantity of broccoli, cauliflower, more carrots, more green beans, fennel, and more red currants. And a head of lettuce.

I had been waiting for the green cabbage for months. We’d been craving homemade sauerkraut since I had tried to make it last November and it got all moldy and we had to throw it out, and we had a brand new fermentation crock as a wedding present, along with fancy pickle weights that would theoretically prevent that from happening again.

Homemade Fermented Sauerkraut

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Moldiness aside, Sauerkraut is a actually easy to make. You cut up the cabbage and put it into a large bowl (or a fermentation crock, if you happen to have one!). You add about 3 TB of salt and knead it every 15 minutes for the next few hours, until you’ve produced enough liquid to cover the cabbage. In years past, the cabbage has sat in the refrigerator for a week or two before I get around to using it, making it pretty dry. This time I made it immediately, but I still didn’t get enough liquid out of it to cover the cabbage completely, so I made a brine of 1 cup water to 1 tsp salt and covered it with that.

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The trick is to get the cabbage to stay underneath the level of the water, and it wants to flat to the top. This recipe from Serious Eats recommended using some of the outer layers of the cabbage that you wouldn’t want to eat and putting those on top, and then putting the weights on top. It works like a dream!

The only downside is that this isn’t ready for 3 – 6 weeks.

CSA ingredients used: Green cabbage

Other ingredients used: water, salt

Pork Lettuce “Wraps”

The lettuce seemed like the next priority. We had some left over country-style pork chops   from the week before, and Andrew suggested that we make little lettuce rolls using some of the corn, sliced pork, leftover rice, and a dipping sauce.

The dipping sauce is 1 cup water, 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 cup lime juice, 1/3 cup fish sauce, and 2 minced garlic cloves (It made way, way, more than I needed.)

 

I broke off the biggest leaves of lettuce and assembled them with sliced pork, corn, and rice.

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It immediately became clear that these were going to be impossible to eat, much less dip, because the lettuce leaves were not particularly inclined towards being rolled up. I gave up and threw everything together to make a salad instead, albeit one that had rice in it and a dipping sauce as dressing. It was a bit weird, but it got the job done.

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CSA ingredients used: lettuce, corn

Other ingredients used: pork chops, rice, water, garlic, fish sauce, lime juice, sugar

Grilled Elotes & Summer Squash Tacos

While musing about what to do with the first corn of the season that was properly celebratory, I came across this recipe for Elotes, or Grilled Mexican Street Corn. The picture at the top of the recipe was, shall we say, persuasive. It seemed a little indulgent to light the grill just to cook some corn, so we decided to grill the summer squash (from Week 6) and make tacos with a recipe I found at the blog Cookie and Kate.

While Andrew was lighting the chimney, I made the cheese mixture for the corn. It’s 1/4 cup mayonnaise, 1/4 cup sour cream, 1/2 cup feta cheese, 1/2 tsp ancho chile powder, 1 clove of minced garlic, and 1/4 cup of minced cilantro. Once the corn comes off the grill, you coat the corn with the topping, squeeze lime and chile powder over the top, and go to town.

These were unreal. They were among the best thing I’ve ever tasted, which I suppose based on the contents of the cheese mixture shouldn’t be shocking. After fretting while making them about how they would taste as leftovers, we devoured all five ears between the two of us in about two minutes.

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CSA ingredients used: corn

Other ingredients used: mayonnaise, sour cream, feta cheese, cilantro, garlic, chile powder.

The squash turned out okay too, but had nothing on the corn.  We put the grilled squash on flour tortillas and ate it with black beans, tomatoes, and an avocado chimichurri (2 tsp lime juice, 1 cup parsley, 2 cloves of garlic, 3 TB olive oil, 1 TB water, red pepper flakes, and a little bit of cilantro.) We didn’t have quite enough parsley, and I decided to compensate by adding a bunch more garlic. This was less than brilliant; avocado chimichurri sounds like a great idea but it was so garlicky as to be almost inedible.

CSA ingredient used: summer squash

Other ingredients use: tortillas, tomatoes, black beans, avocado, lime, parsley, garlic, olive oil, water, red pepper flakes, cilantro

Buddha Bowl

Having used up most of the fun ingredients, it was time to turn my attention to the cauliflower, carrots, and broccoli. I decided to get some tofu and make Buddha Bowls for Andrew and I to take with us to our various weekend engagements.

I baked the tofu, which was sort of fun. You have to press it for a bit to get the moisture out before you chop it up and throw it on a baking sheet to bake for 25 minutes in a 400 degree oven.

 

After that, I steamed carrots, cauliflower, and broccoli and added them to the bowl along with rice. The sauce was a peanut sauce from Brand New Vegan: 1/2 cup soy sauce, 1/2 cup water, 2 cloves of garlic, 1 TB rice vinegar, 1 TB hoisin sauce, 1 tsp sriracha, 1/2 tsp chile garlic paste, 1/4 tsp ground ginger, and 1/3 cup peanut butter. It all went together in a saucepan and cooked for a few minutes until it was thickened.

I did not succeed in taking a picture of the buddha bowl itself, which is a shame, but this recipe is highly recommended.

CSA ingredients used: carrots, cauliflower, broccoli

Other ingredients used: rice, tofu, soy sauce, garlic, rice vinegar, hoisin sauce, sriracha, chile garlic paste, ginger, peanut butter.

Red Currant and Apple Chutney

By the end of the week, we’d used up almost everything except the fruit. We briefly entertained the idea of making a pork chops with an apple currant chutney, but upon remembering it take an hour and a half to make chutney, we decided to cook our pork chops and just eat them, and make chutney to have on something later in the week.

You slice up an onion and cook it for a bit in olive oil, and then let it caramelize (for 45 minutes or so). In a separate saucepan, you add three or four apples that have been cored and chopped and some red currants, and and 1/4 cup water. You simmer them over low heat for 30 minutes, and then add the onions, 1/4 cup of brown sugar, and some salt.

It tasted pretty good! I even had it a few times on its own as a snack.

CSA ingredients used: red currants, apples, and onions

Other ingredients used: olive oil, water, brown sugar

Next: Let the pickling begin

Week 7: The Calm Before the Corn

The Week 7 box arrived at a moment in the summer crop cycle where it’s easy to become lured into a false sense of security. Spring is over and the massive quantities of leafy greens have dropped off, and the summer vegetables have started to arrive, but they are still cute and tiny. This week we had broccoli, cauliflower, baby Yukon potatoes, bok choy, red beets, carrots, raspberries, blueberries, summer squash, and English peas.

However, I was wary. I knew those beets and broccoli were only going to get bigger. In fact, there was likely a Napa cabbage sitting in the field right now with our name on it, growing larger and larger by the day, until it would at last break free and take up residence on the entire bottom shelf of our refrigerator.

We had made a curry pretty recently and neither of us exactly felt like it, but when I came across this recipe for Aloo Gobhi in Serious Eats that used the potatoes, the cauliflower, the peas, the carrots, and the onions, I couldn’t help myself.  Using 5 CSA vegetables in one dish is about as good as you can do without resorting to the black arts (or buying a $500 juicer).

Aloo Ghobi

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First, you make the masala. It’s 1 TB grated ginger, 2 minced garlic cloves, a handful of cilantro, 1 tsp red chili powder, 1/2 tsp turmeric, 1/2 tsp salt, a pinch of cinnamon, and a pinch of cloves. You pour in a half a cup of water and puree it until it’s smooth.

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Next, you add 1 TB canola oil to a skillet and set it over medium heat. Add 1 tsp mustard seeds, 1 tsp cumin, and 1 clove of minced garlic. Cook it for about a minute, and then add 1 thinly sliced onion and cook for another 8 minutes.

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Once the onions are soft, turn the heat up a bit and add a can of diced tomatoes (these were supposed to be fresh tomatoes, but we didn’t have any and I wasn’t about to buy any when we were about to be up to our ears in tomatoes). Then comes a handful of potatoes and some carrots. This cooks for 10 minutes or so, until the potatoes are soft.

Once the potatoes are soft (it was closer to 25 minutes for me), the masala mixture goes in to the skillet along with 1/2 cup water and some cauliflower. Turn the heat to low and simmer for a while. At the very end, the peas and a handful of cilantro go in.

I ate it over rice with yogurt, and we had a giant container of leftovers for the next four days too.

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CSA ingredients used: cauliflower, peas, potatoes, onions, carrots

Other ingredients used: garlic, cilantro, cinnamon, cumin, ginger, red chili powder, turmeric, salt, mustard seeds, a can of tomatoes.

With the next few night’s dinners taken care of, I decided to try to do something with the leftover currants from the previous week. In the index of the King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking cookbook, I found exactly one entry for currants, in the form of Oat and Currant Scones.

It should be clear to any regular reader of this blog that our interest in food is purely epicurean and we would never purposefully cook something healthy.  However, we are fans of the King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking Book. I don’t tend to enjoy particularly sweet desserts, but I’ve found that I enjoy most of the recipes in this book. The only downside is that after cooking from it for a bit, you have about 12 different types of flour in the house.

Oat and Currant Scones

Per usual, this recipe had a vaguely ridiculous ingredient list, but we had accumulated everything on it for some previous purpose. I assembled white whole wheat flour, all purpose flour, baking soda, baking powder, eggs, buttermilk, old-fashioned rolled oats, milk, vanilla, sugar, and oat flour. Oat flour, it turns out, is oatmeal that you put in the food processor for 30 seconds.

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The bourbon was not part of the recipe.

To get started, you preheat the over to 375 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Whisk together 3 ounces of white whole wheat flour, 3 1/8 ounces all-purpose flour, 1 5/8 ounces oat flour, 1 3/4 ounces sugar, 1/2 tsp baking soda, 1/4 teaspoon baking powder, and 1/4 tsp salt in a large bowl. Using a pastry blender, cut 1 stick of butter into it until the texture resembles bread crumbs.

Then you add the currants and the oats and stir it around gently, trying not to smoosh the currants up too much.

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Mix together an egg, 4 ounces of buttermilk, and 1 tsp vanilla extract in a separate bowl. Pour it quickly into the dry mixture and stir it around a bit.

Dump the dough out on a floured work surface (more floured than my work surface would be recommended…) and knead it a few times. Divide it in half, and then pat each half into a disk that’s about 1/2 inch thick and 6 inches in diameter. Divide each circle into 6 wedges.

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Transfer then to the baking sheet, brush the tops with milk, and sprinkle some coarse sugar on the top. Bake them until they’re puffy and golden brown, about 22 minutes.

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CSA ingredients used: currants

Other ingredients used: white whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour, oats, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt, butter, an egg, buttermilk, vanilla extract, milk

Stir-Fried Sesame Bok Choy

By the end of the week, we’d used up almost everything except the boy choy. We made it as a side to go along with country-style pork chops. This recipe is from the New York Times.

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Prep the bok choy by cutting it into 2-inch pieces. Combine 1/4 inch chicken broth, 1 TB rice wine, 2 tsp soy sauce, and 1/4 tsp cornstarch and set it aside.

Heat the wok (we’ve been doing this on the grill; directly on the coals) and stir-fry 3 garlic cloves and a 1 inch piece of ginger for 10 seconds. Then add the bok choy, sprinkle with some salt and some sugar, and cook for 30 seconds. Stir in the cornstarch mixture and cook another minute, then sprinkle with 2 tsp of sesame seeds and serve.

 

CSA ingredients used: bok choy

Other ingredients used: sesame seeds, soy sauce, cornstarch, garlic, ginger, rice wine, chicken broth

Next: Here comes the corn!

Week 6: Ful Medamas Fail

The Week 6 box brought fava beans, english peas, raspberries, currants, golden beets, carrots, Swiss chard, sweet potatoes, broccoli, and sweet Vidalia onions. I also took a truly horrible picture of it, complete with unappealing trails of raspberry goo. My excuse is that I picked up the box on the way home after a day of teaching summer camp in which a child managed to set the classroom microwave for 95 minutes and no one noticed, and someone else stepped on a firecracker. I was pretty tired.

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Sweet Potato Curry with Swiss chard

My first project was to make a curry with the sweet potatoes and the Swiss chard. I searched all over the internet for recipes, and ended up choosing this one, mostly because again I already had all of the ingredients at home. It’s from a blog called the Minimalist Baker, and I substituted Swiss chard for kale.

You put a tablespoon and a half of grapeseed oil in a frying pan (In a weirdly self-indulgent act, I actually picked this up from Trader Joe’s instead of just using olive oil. It actually made the cooking process very pleasant!). You sauté 1 shallot, 2 TB grated ginger, 2 TB minced garlic, and a minced Thai red pepper for a few minutes. Then add 3 TB of red curry paste and a large sweet potato that’s been peeled and cubed.

Add two cans of coconut milk, 1 TB maple syrup, 1 1/2 tsp ground turmeric, and a pinch of salt and bring it to a boil. Simmer from 5-10 minutes (I think I did closer to 15) until the sweet potatoes are soft. Then you add 2 cups chopped Swiss chard, 1/2 cup roasted cashews, and the juice of one lemon. It simmers for a few more minutes, and then it’s ready!

IMG_0354.JPGCSA ingredients used: sweet potatoes, Swiss chard

Other ingredients used: garlic, ginger, Thai red pepper, red curry paste, coconut milk, maple syrup, ground turmeric, salt, cashews, lemon

Ful Medamas

Next up was the fava beans. Andrew was very excited about them and suggested I make ful medamas, which I had never heard of but everyone else seemed to think was delicious. I poked around a bunch of recipes and ended up sort of deciding to follow all of them at once, since general consensus in all recipes was that it was incredibly easy. One recipe told me to soak my fava beans overnight, which I dutifully did. If I read the fine print on the opposite page, it would have been obvious this was only for dried fava beans.

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Fresh from a nice overnight soak

Once I figured out I didn’t need to cook them for two hours either, I became significantly more optimistic. I shelled them and put them in boiling water for about two minutes, and then peeled off the inside skins.

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Then I mushed them up with some lemon juice, a TB olive oil, some cumin, and salt and pepper. There were only about 3 spoonfuls of food, and it didn’t even look remotely like the picture. One of the recipes also recommended serving them with bread and a fried egg, which seemed like a good idea considering this was supposed to be my dinner.

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This is not even remotely what any of the pictures online looked like. Here’s what it’s supposed to look like:

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This guy’s turned out great, and he didn’t even use a recipe

Or this:

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CSA ingredients used: fava beans

Other ingredients used: bread, egg, cumin, lemon juice, olive oil

It’s worth exploring fresh fava beans further, but it seems likely that this dish is one of the few instances where you do a lot better with the canned than the fresh.

Spigarello Returns

As mentioned last week, I had a bit of a surprise the first time I bit into spigarello. I decided to try again, this time with a recipe. The internet has very, very few spigarello recipes. Serious Eats, our usual go-to, yields nothing, and NY Times cooking has only one entry for it. We ended up using this one.

You blanch the spigarello leaves and then drain them in a colander, trying to get them as dry as possible. Then you heat some oil in a frying pan and return them to the pan to brown a bit. Then you add a tsp minced shallot, a tsp minced garlic, and a few red chile flakes. Squeeze a little lemon juice and some honey over the top and they’re done. We had them with salmon and rice.

The browned parts were really nice, and the honey made a big difference, but even after all that they were still quite bitter.

CSA ingredients used: spigarello

Other ingredients used: salmon, rice, lemon, olive oil, honey, salt, pepper

Red Currant Cheesecake

At the end of the week, we still had a plate of gorgeous currants sitting in the refrigerator. We didn’t really know what to make with currants other than scones, but our friend Ben was coming over for dinner and it made more sense to make a dessert than an afternoon snack. Also, I had a sudden craving for cheesecake. Cheesecake is secretly one of my favorite desserts, but I rarely indulge in it because other people seem to find it unhealthy, or something.

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This recipe was from Organic Life. You start with two cups of crumbled ginger snap cookies, with you mush together with 2 1/2 TB sugar and 5 TB butter. Then you press it onto the bottom of a greased 9-inch springform pan. You make it in a 350 degree oven for about 10 minutes, until the mixture is crispy and brown. Reduce the oven to 325.

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Next, in an electric mixer you mix together 12 oz goat cheese (really), 8 ounces cream cheese, and 1/2 cup buttermilk for 4-5 minutes until it’s smooth and fluffy. Gradually beat in 1/2 cup sugar and 4 eggs one at a time. Add the zest and juice of one lemon. Pour half of the mixture into the springform pan, add 1/4 cup red currants (we added 1/2 cup and could have stood to have more in there. Come on, Organic Life. It’s a red currant cheesecake.) Then you pour the rest of the batter on top and add some more currants.

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To make this, you have to stick the springform pan inside a roasting pan. In order to prevent water from seeping in, you wrap the base of the springform pan in silver foil. Then you pour enough water into the roasting pan to come 2/3 of the way up the springform pan.

The cake cooks for 1 hour and 20 minutes, and then has to cool for about 2 hours before you can eat it.

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CSA ingredients used: red currants (about half of them…stay tuned for scones next week…)

Other ingredients used: goat cheese, cream cheese, buttermilk, sugar, butter, ginger snaps, eggs, lemon

Next: Week 7!

Week 5: The Kale Imposter’s Tale

The Week 5 box arrived on a perfectly gorgeous day, and since we were in the process of grilling some chicken thighs on the back patio we decided to have it pose for its picture outside.

We had strawberries, sour cherries, head lettuce, romaine, spigarello (more on this later), beets, carrots, more fennel, white onions, and more sugar snap peas.

Side note: The small bunny who lives amongst the ferns in our backyard became very curious and came out of his hole to sniff the romaine, only to be frightened away when I came running with my camera.

Caesar Salad

The lettuce was also our first priority, and we grilled up a bunch of chicken legs to eat along with one of our favorite dressings, a fancy version of a caesar dressing from Jean- Georges Vongerichten. This dressing is basically crack. You mix 4 TB lemon juice, the zest of 2 lemons, 1 TB red wine vinegar, 1 clove of minced garlic, a minced anchovy, a teaspoon of mustard, an egg yolk, some chile flakes, and 2 oz parmesean cheese together in a food processor, along with 3/4 cup of canola oil. Then you add 1/2 cup of olive oil. The original recipe calls for kale, a serrano pepper, and mint. We made the kale version (tragically using grocery store kale…) for a potluck the day before, but saved enough dressing to use a few times again with our CSA romaine.

CSA ingredients used: romaine

Other ingredients used: lemons, mustard, anchovies, red wine vinegar, canola oil, olive oil, egg, parmesan cheese.

My next project was the spigarello. Looking at it, I became completely convinced that the farm had given us lacinato kale instead. I even had some leftover lacinato kale which I held up against this vegetable. They looked identical.

I decided to make Smitten Kitchen’s parmesan broth with white beans and kale. We’d been saving up parmesan rinds in the freezer for several months to do this, we had this kale, and I was reaching the point in summer where the idea of eating anything remotely heavy was deeply upsetting. I even had some leftover beans from the previous week’s pot pies.

Parmesan Broth with White Beans and Kale

I doubled this recipe. To make this, you first boil 1 LB of parmesan rinds, 12 cups of water, 2 large onions (in my case 4 little ones), 6 cloves of garlic, and 1 tsp peppercorns in a large pot for about an hour. Andrew reminded me that the parmesan tends to form a sticky mess on the bottom of the pot and take hours of scouring to clean up, so I wrapped the cheese in cheesecloth to simmer away.

It worked like a dream and the pot came away clean. In an unusually clairvoyant move, I decided to assemble only enough of the soup for one serving. I poured some of the broth into a bowl, added a half a cup of white beans, and chopped up some of the lacinato kale which I added raw to the hot broth.

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After I took my first sip it became clear that the greens I had added were not, in fact, kale. The spigarello didn’t wilt in the broth, like the kale does. And, it was is so bitter that it made my cheeks hurt and my teeth ache. I fished it out, finished the soup without it, and decided to throw the rest of the parmesan broth in the freezer for the time being.

CSA ingredients used: onions, a few stalks of kale spigarello

Other ingredients used: parmesan rinds, white beans, black peppercorns

Beet and Lentil Salad with Feta

I selected this recipe after getting home from a gig at 7:00 or so one Saturday night, which is not usually a good time to start planning dinner. However, it was one of the few things I could find to cook that had a pretty interested ingredient list that I actually already had. In addition, it used up the CSA beets, the beet greens (major bonus points, usually forgot about those until they’re beyond hope) CSA fennel, and CSA onions. Sadly, I was too out of it to take any pictures. But here’s how you make it:

Cut the beets in half and put them in a 400 degree oven cut side down along with a TB olive oil and some salt and pepper. Roast the for 25-30 minutes or until they’re soft, which for me took about 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, boil the little baby lentils in water for 35 minutes until they’re al dente. Once they’re done, they have to get drained and spread out so they’ll dry.

While all of this is going on, heat 1 TB oil on the stove. Add an onion cut into 1/4 inch moons and some sliced fennel, and cook until they’re browned and fragrant, about 15 minutes. Then slice up the beet greens and add them, then cook for another 8 minutes or so. These vegetables get added to the bowl with the lentils. Once the beets are cool, you peel them and slice them up into little chunks, then add them to the bowl as well.

Now you make a simple dressing: 3 TB mustard, 1 TB honey, 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper, and some dill. This dressing goes over the lentil mixture, and you add some crumbled feta and you’re good to go.

The original recipe calls for a fried egg on top. I didn’t have any, but I bet it’s excellent.

CSA ingredients used: onions, fennel, beets

Other ingredients used: lentils, mustard, honey, balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper, dill

 

Sour Cherry Galette

Nothing says love of country, even terrified-lying-awake-at-night-for-the-last-six-months love of country like cherries pie. For July 4th, Andrew used Stella Parks’ recipe for cherry pie to make a sour cherry galette. To make the dough, you whisk 8 oz flour, 1/2 ounce sugar, and 1 tsp kosher salt together in a bowl. Then you cut 2 sticks of butter into little 1/2 inch cubes and toss it with the flour mixture. With your fingers, you smoosh each butter cube until it’s flat. Stir in 4 ounces of cold water, and then knead the dough against the sides of the bowl until a shaggy dough forms.

Roll the dough out into a 10 x 15 inch rectangle. Fold the 10 inch side in towards the center, and then fold the other side in like a book. Fold in half once more until you have a little block, then cut it in half.

Then you roll out one of the halves onto a floured surface. For the filling, Andrew halved the recipe because we were only making one little galette. You take 1 LB of pitted sour cherries, and mix them together with 1/2 ounce lemon juice, 1/2 cup of sugar, a half a teaspoon of salt, and 3/4 ounce of tapioca starch.

The filling went into the middle of the dough, and then the edges were rolled over. It went into the 400 degree oven and cooked for 1 hour.

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CSA ingredients used: sour cherries

Other ingredients used: flour butter, sugar,  salt, tapioca flour, lemon

Cherry galette aside, it was not a super successful week for either planning out or implementing recipes. However, we did manage to eat the entire massive head of romaine over the course of about 6 separate salads, which felt like a major accomplishment.

Next: Week 6!