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!

 

Week 4: Pot Pie-A-Palooza

The Week 4 box arrived containing strawberries, raspberries, sugar snap peas, turnips, red onions, fennel, cilantro, baby lettuce, and Swiss chard. We made a few simple salads out of the fennel and the baby lettuce, and being fairly exhausted, we were determined to pick simple recipes for the week for everything else. In a shocking turn of events for readers of this blog everywhere, that didn’t actually happen.

Beef Stir-Fry with Sugar Snap Peas

We chose a simple beef stir-fry for the sugar snap peas. It involves making a marinade and a sauce that are largely the same thing, but not quite. To make the marinade, You take 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp sugar, 1 tsp rice wine, 1/2 tsp sesame oil,  and 1/2 tsp cornstarch and combine it with a pound of flank steak, thinly sliced against the grain.

For the stir-fry sauce, you mix 2 TB dark soy sauce, 2 TB rice wine, 1/4 cup chicken stock, 1/4 cup oyster sauce, and 2 TB sugar, 1/2 toasted sesame oil, and 1 tsp cornstarch. Then you heat some vegetable oil in a wok, stir-fry half of the beef for about a minute, set it aside, and cook the other half of the beef.

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Then you wipe out the wok and add a pound of snap peas, follow by 2 minced garlic cloves, 2 tsp ginger, and a minced scallion. Then return the beef to the wok, and add the sauce and cook it until it’s thickened and everything is coated, about a minute.

We served it over rice and it was delicious. I’m not a huge fan of sugar snap peas, but covered in sauce and slightly browned they were exactly what I wanted.

CSA ingredients used: sugar snap peas

Other ingredients used: beef, soy sauce, sesame oil, oyster sauce, rice wine, cornstarch, sugar, salt, chicken stock, rice

Pancetta, White Bean, and Chard Pot Pies

While looking for creative things to do with Swiss chard (Andrew, for reasons incomprehensible to me, doesn’t like to eat it), we came across a recipe from Smitten Kitchen for little pot pies. This is a prime example of a recipe that I became completely convinced was a great idea, only to discover that it was in fact not a great idea at all. My reasoning was that after week of weather in the high 80s and 90, suddenly it was 60 degrees in Chicago and we should take advantage of this by using our oven. If it had been 40 degrees in Chicago, this probably would have been a great idea. Also, I was completely charmed by these cute pictures of little pot pies, and very excited that I happened to have baking dishes of the appropriate size.

Luckily, I had enough sense to break the project out over several days.

The first step was to make the dough. For this step, you mix 2 cups of all-purpose flour, 1/2 teaspoon of table salt, and 13 TB butter together in a large bowl using a pastry blender (I was excited to discover we had one of these, although I’m sure I’ve tried to throw it out 1000 times on some kitchen purge or both before Andrew stopped me). You’re supposed to mix this all together until it looks like couscous (??). In another bowl, combine 6 TB sour cream, 1 TB white wine vinegar, and 1/4 cup of water. Stir everything together until it forms a dough, wrap it in plastic, and put it in the refrigerator.

The next day I made the filling. To do this, you heat 1 TB olive oil in a large frying pan. Add 4 oz diced pancetta and cook it until browned, about 10 minutes. Remove the pancetta using a slotted spoon and let it drain on a paper towel. Then add a diced onion, some diced carrot, and a few diced celery stalks to the pan filled with pork fat. After about 8 minutes, add a garlic clove and cook for another minute. Then add the thinly sliced Swiss chard and cook for about 3 minutes. Pour everything into a bowl, add the pancetta to the bowl, and put it all in the refrigerator for when you’re ready to assemble everything.

Having done all of that, it was starting to get warm again and we definitely did not feel like baking or eating pot pies. At a certain point it became clear the weather was just going to keep getting hotter, and I needed to just make them and put them in the freezer for October.

Saturday night I finally assembled the pot pies. First you make a roux: melt 3 1/2 TB butter in a saucepan. Add 3 1/2 TB flour and mix it around. Cook the roux for a bit until it starts to get some color. Then add 3 1/2 cups of chicken broth one ladle-full at a time, stirring to incorporate it before you add any more. Once all the broth is in there, you can bring it to a boil and let it reduce for about 10 minutes. Add the white beans and the bowl of vegetables and pancetta from before.

Now you split the mixture evenly between four oven-proof bowls. Then you split the dough into four parts, roll it out, and put it over the pot pies.

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I left them out while I was waiting for them to cool before putting them in the refrigerator, and when I came back into the kitchen I discovered that a cat had decided to help himself to some.

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Odin expressed an interest in the chicken broth, pancetta, butter, and sour cream specifically.

CSA ingredients used: Swiss chard, onions

Other ingredients used: flour, butter, sour cream, white wine vinegar, pancetta, carrots, celery, chicken broth, white beans.

Ultimately, I did end up making one and eating it, mostly because I didn’t have anything else to eat and I was ravenous. It was undeniably delicious, but also somewhat overwhelmingly rich – the sour cream in the dough along with the thicker-than-average homemade chicken broth made it so that I could only eat a few bites before I was full. I did have it for lunch for the next two days.

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Mojo De Cilantro

Amazingly, the cilantro (which we forgot about) survived an entire week in the refrigerator, something I have never known grocery store cilantro to do. As I was heading out to a party (my bridal shower, actually) I made a quick cilantro sauce to bring along (tacos were on the menu). The sauce is 4 cloves of garlic, a bunch of cilantro, 1/4 tsp cumin, 3/4 tsp salt, 1/2 cup olive oil, a few TB water, and a splash of sherry vinegar (I used white wine).

CSA ingredients used: cilantro

Other ingredients used: garlic, cumin, salt, olive oil, water, white wine vinegar

I couldn’t say what it tasted like because I ate it on tacos along with a bunch of other things, but it sure was beautiful.

Lime Pickled Red Onions

We were running low on our pickled onions from earlier in the summer and also vegetable drawer space, so I decided to make a new batch. For these, I used lime juice instead of vinegar. You slice up some red onions, cover them with lime juice, add 1 1/2 tsp of salt and let them sit in the refrigerator for at least an hour. When you take them out, they’re pink!

CSA ingredients used: red onions

Other ingredients used: lime juice, salt

Next: Week 5

 

Week 3: Lettuce Entertain

The arrival of house guests at the end of June made large-scale cooking projects basically impossible. I did, however, manage to finish off the remains of the previous week’s box on a 90 degree day using our new blender and the last few bulbs of green garlic and onions. This recipe for cold garlic soup is from Cucina Fresca, a great summer cookbook since it consists entirely of cold or room temperature recipes, including a bunch for cold soup, they only thing I have felt like eating the last three weeks. The authors also have an instinctive understanding that soup should also include sour cream, heavy cream, or both.

Garlic Soup

First, dice up a few onions onions and some garlic and saute them in a few tablespoons of olive oil. Then you add a medium baking potato (peeled and sliced) and 4 cups of chicken broth and bring it to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer everything until the potato and garlic are soft. After that, the mixture gets pureed in a blender and refrigerated until it’s cold. Then you add a cup of heavy cream and 2 TB sour cream. The only downside is that it takes a while for it to get cold in the refrigerator.

CSA ingredients used: onions, garlic

Other ingredients used: oil, potato, chicken broth, heavy cream, sour cream

Week 3

The next day, the Week 3 box arrived, as well as Andrew’s parents.

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Strawberries, cherry tomatoes, English peas, onions, radishes, kale, mustard greens, two heads of lettuce, spinach

As it turns out, having a few extra people in the house makes using up a CSA box significantly easier. Instead of plotting out creative, labor intensive ways to cook and preserve vegetables, with four people we could just…eat them. We had a series of lovely salads over the next few days using the head lettuce, the radishes, the cherry tomatoes, and the english peas. Andrew made another batch of Prune’s buttermilk dressing which lasted us the entire week.

CSA ingredients used: lettuce, tomatoes, pickled onions (from week 1), radishes, peas

Other ingredients used: eggs

By the weekend, we were mostly out of salads and I started to get to work on the other vegetables. Spinach, arugula, and mustard greens were left. The arugula I made into another portion of salsa verde from the previous week, to use for slathering on various proteins. For the mustard greens, I decided to make one of our favorite easy pasta recipes.

Penne with Green Olives and Feta (and mustard greens)

First you make a gremolata: chop of 1/4 cup of Italian parsley and mix it with a minced garlic clove and the zest of one lemon. Set it aside.

Next, bring a pot of water to a boil. Add the mustard greens and and cook for about 3 minutes, then drain them. Bring the water back to a boil and add 12 oz penne. Cook it until it’s al dente and drain, reserve 3/4 cup of the pasta water. Add the pasta back to the pot, and mix in 1/2 cup of feta, 1/2 cup green olives, the mustard greens, and a few tablespoons of olive oil. When you’re ready to eat, the gremolata goes on top.

The mustard greens from the box were very…potent, both in their peppery flavor and their ability to turn the pasta water jet black.

It was actually really cool looking. The pasta, on the other hand, came out of the blackish cooking water looking distinctly unappetizing:

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Luckily, it tasted just the way it was supposed to.

CSA ingredients used: mustard greens

Other ingredients used: penne, feta, olive oil, green olives, Italian parsley, lemon zest, garlic

Next: Week 4!

Week 2: Herb Pie in the Sky

When the box arrived on Tuesday, we were completely out of food and needed to do a fair amount of cooking right off the bat if we were going to get through Andrew’s upcoming double day. The box didn’t disappoint: we got rhubarb, two quarts of strawberries, spinach, lettuce, arugula, spring onions, green garlic, radishes, and more asparagus.

Aside from needing to cook, we also had a string of house guests coming to town, and I suddenly decided that the standards of cleanliness before guests arrive as a soon-to-be-married couple were dramatically higher than they where when we were co-habitating as boyfriend and girlfriend. I can’t explain this reasoning in any remotely healthy way, but I suppose of all of the ways the patriarchy manifests itself, this one is pretty harmless.

It’s worth mentioning at this point that the previous day we cleaned and reorganized the pantry,  and I also figured out how to descale my espresso maker. Having been without espresso for several years, caffeine at that level of concentration had a very dramatic effect on me.

We sat down to think through the week, and I came away with a plan that basically involved cooking every single dish for the rest of the week that afternoon and evening. We were going to grill ribs, bake cornbread, make salad, make a marinade for chicken legs, grill them, cook an elaborate Ottolenghi recipe, make rhubarb shrub, and also recaulk the bathtub.

Rhubarb Shrub

I discovered shrub, or drinking vinegar, over Christmas when one of my students had gifted me with some homemade cranberry shrub and I proceeded to drink it with bourbon and vermouth for most of January. I was excited because I didn’t know this stuff existed and I loved it. I’d experimented with flavored simple syrups in past summers, and while they are gorgeous and colorful they always ultimately go to waste because as it turns out, I hate sweet fruity cocktails.

This recipe from rhubarb shrub is from Serious Eats. First, slice 2 lbs rhubarb into 1/4 inch thick pieces. Add it to a pot along with a cup of sugar and a cup of white wine vinegar. Bring it to a boil, and then simmer for 10 minutes until the rhubarb has turned into stringy mush (this took about 15 minutes and a potato masher for me). Then, strain it through a fine mesh strainer and let it sit for about a half hour until it’s stopped drinking. You throw out the solids, and the bright pink liquid is yours.

CSA ingredients used: rhubarb

Other ingredients used: white wine vinegar, sugar

Grilled Spare Ribs with Cornbread and Buttermilk Dressing on Lettuce

Andrew cooked the ribs for about 24 hours in the sous-vide, and finished them on the grill. We used a tamarind BBQ sauce that we’d made and canned in the fall, and served them along with a homemade cornbread and a salad made from the CSA lettuce with the rest of last week’s buttermilk dressing.

CSA ingredients used: lettuce

Other ingredients used: spare ribs, tomatoes, cucumber, all of the cornbread ingredients

When we saw we were getting more spinach, we sent out a plea on Facebook for suggestions of what to do with it. We got any number of ideas, but our friend Matt responded with this herb pie that would use up a bunch of CSA ingredients in one go and would work really well for Andrew to take to go. The only downside was that it broke a well-documented CSA rule– don’t cook Ottolenghi recipes. However, armed with espresso I blithely declared that I could handle it, I would make it after dinner and we would have it for lunch along with chicken thighs for the rest of the week.

Chicken Thighs with Za’atar & Herb Pie

First the chicken thighs. We picked this recipe for a middle eastern chicken from Serious Eats to go along with the herb pie. You begin by making za’atar: 1 TB dried oregano, 1 TB dried thyme, 2 TB sesame seeds, 2 tsp ground sumac. You split it in half, put half to the side, and add 2 TB olive oil, salt, and 3 garlic cloves to the other half to make a paste. This goes all around and under the skin of the chicken thighs. The other half gets sprinkled on top of the chicken thighs later.

After letting the chicken marinade for a bit, Andrew grilled it while I got to work on the herb pie. It had sixteen ingredients (which never bodes well) but at this point we already had most of them. I decided to make the ricotta first. To make ricotta, you heat milk to 200 degrees and add some lemon juice and salt. Unfortunately, the lemon that I used was mostly mummified and I didn’t get enough juice out of it to curdle the milk. I tried to strain it, but nothing happened.

I usually strain ricotta through a paper towel rather than cheesecloth because I don’t want to spend $3.99 every time I make ricotta, but we had literally one piece of paper towel left. The semi-curdled milk just sat there on top of the paper towel, not draining through. It was actually remarkably impressive, and under different circumstances would have made an excellent advertisement for a paper towels. After about 20 minutes of staring at it waiting for it to strain, I went out and bought another lemon, a bunch of paper towels, and some actual cheesecloth.

In an effort to make the experience as pleasant as possible, I prepped and organized everything carefully before starting, and cleaned as I went. I chopped spinach, green onions, arugula, parsley, mint, and dill, grated cheddar cheese and crumbled feta, grated lemon zest and chopped onions, and put everything in a nice little bowl of its own, just like in cooking videos. Shockingly, it does, in fact make for a much nicer cooking experience.

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The first step was to saute the a chopped onion in olive oil for about 8 minutes, cooking them but not browning them. After that, you add 1 LB chopped spinach and cook for a few minutes. Then all of the rest of the greens – 1 3/4 oz parsley, 1 3/4 oz arugula, 1 oz mint, and 2/3 oz dill. The recipe also calls for celery but we didn’t include it. Once these cook for a few minutes, you remove all of the greens and put them in a colander to cool.

At this point, I went to go decaulk the bathtub.

Once that was done, the greens were almost cool. The next step is to add 2 oz feta, 3 1/2 oz Cheddar cheese, and 4 oz ricotta to the mixture, along with the zest of 1 lemon, 2 eggs, 1/3 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp pepper, and a 1/2 tsp sugar.

Now it’s finally time to play with the fillo dough. You put five layers of dough on top of each other, brushing each layer with olive oil before you add the next. It goes into a 8 1/2 inch casserole dish (this was momentarily confusing – the cookbook says a pie dish but the picture in the cookbook is of a rectangular dish. Because, England. Everything is a pie. But we figured it out.) Then comes the herb filling, followed by 5 more layers of dough, each brushed with oil. After that, you put it in a 400 degree oven for 40 minutes and it’s done.

CSA ingredients used: spinach, some arugula

Other ingredients used: chicken, dried thyme, dried oregano, garlic, sumac, sesame seeds, salt, onion, feta cheese, ricotta cheese, cheddar cheese, dill, mint, parsley, fillo dough, olive oil.

Next: I have to cook again?

Week 1: Field Report

There’s a certain false confidence that attends the first CSA box. Chicago has a late spring, so the box isn’t spilling over with abundance—it’s just the right amount of early vegetables. As Monday rolled around, we found that without too much strain, we’d succeeding in using up almost the entire box. The only things left were some asparagus, baby kale, and a few radishes.

We still had an ungodly amount of spinach pesto. You may recall from a previous post that I had claimed that it was best to freeze pesto before you mix in the cheese. But my older sister told me that was bananas, that she’d frozen plenty of cheesy pesto and it defrosted just fine. So since Andrew and I couldn’t stomach another spoonful of pesto (a welcome problem to have), we decided to go ahead and freeze it. This method from the Kitchn popped up on my Facebook newsfeed, which would have been exciting and convenient if such emotions weren’t shadowed by the sense that the bots are watching my every move.

The pesto method involves spreading it out on a piece of wax paper on a sheet pan, covering it with another piece of wax paper, and sticking it in the freezer. Once its frozen, you can break off pieces of whatever size you need when the urge comes. As a bonus, you don’t have to try to clean pesto out of your ice cube trays.

 

Grilled Salmon, Asparagus, and Kale with Buttermilk Dressing

Monday, Andrew’s day off, featured an extensive pantry cleansing, including a sorting and culling of spices. During that process, we discovered an unlabeled jar that contained a delicious spice rub. After some detective work, we figured out that it was from this recipe for lamb that consisted of cumin, Urfa Chile (this is the best thing ever), sumac (also the best thing ever), and salt. We slathered this all of the salmon and grilled it, along with the rest of the asparagus. We made a side salad using the CSA kale, and the remainder of the buttermilk dressing from earlier in the week.

CSA vegetables used: half of the asparagus, kale

Other ingredients used: salmon, rice, sumac, Urfa pepper flakes, cumin, salt

And that was the end of week one. To recap:

Dish CSA vegetables used Does it taste good? $$$? Exhausted? Gone? Or rotting in the fridge?
Spring Salad w/New Potatoes Potatoes, radishes, spring onions, asparagus Yes, thanks to the spring onions $ Yes We didn’t quite finish this before I got tired of the asparagus flavor gradually permeating everything
Spinach Pesto Spinach Yes, but not when you’ve eaten it four days in a row I know I said this last year, but why are pine nuts so effing expensive? No Definitely not gone, but safely frozen for a day a long, long time from now
Grilled Chicken & Lettuce with buttermilk dressing Lettuce, radishes, spring onions That was legitimately delicious lettuce $ No Gone
Orecchiette with Sausage & Rapini Rapini Totally fine $ No We got close to finishing this, but not quite
Saag Paneer Spinach Oh my god yes Surprisingly inexpensive, especially if you use paper towels instead of cheesecloth to strain the paneer Yes, but that’s more the result of eating fried cheese is surprisingly exhausting Gone, but not forgotten
Grilled Salmon, Asparagus, and Kale with buttermilk dressing Kale, asparagus yes $$$ (Salmon) No Gone

Casualties: None so far, but some of the radishes are looking a little shifty.

Next: Oh no more spinach

 

 

Absence Makes the Heart Grow Nauseated

I was texting with Andrew during intermission of his show Friday night, obsessing over the fact that I had made a quart-and-a-half of spinach pesto and still had a bunch of spinach left over. I sent him a link to a recipe on serious eats for vegan saag paneer that substituted tofu for the paneer. Our conversation went something along these lines:

Andrew: “Is the tofu still good?”

Me: “No, I threw it out yesterday.”

Andrew: “Paneer is fun to make!”

Me: “Great, let’s do it!”

Andrew: “Though I’ve had some bad experiences with saag paneer.”

Me: “What kind of bad experiences?”

Andrew: “It made me sick. But you should make it for yourself!”

Me: (…)

It’s taken a few years for me to accept an important hack of CSA-owning couple-hood, which is that we don’t necessarily need to eat the same thing, even if we’re cooking together. But with Andrew playing a show, the weekend is a perfect time for parallel recipe testing. He needed something to eat between shows on Saturday and Sunday, preferably a meal that didn’t make him nauseous. I needed to use up the spinach. So we went with a recipe for sausage and pasta that would use the CSA rapini for him. And I searched for a non-vegan saag paneer recipe.

Orecchiette with Sausage and Rapini

The recipe is from Cook’s Illustrated.

I made the anchovy paste while Andrew cooked the sausage and the pasta. I smooshed two anchovies, a tsp of garlic, a TB of lemon juice, and a TB olive oil all together.

You bring pasta water to a boil and put in a pound of orecchiette. While that’s doing it’s thing, you put oil in a skillet and heat it up, then throw in 8 ounces of mild Italian sausage, with the casings removed and broken into little chunks. Once it’s browned, you remove it from the skillet and put in a few more teaspoons of garlic and some red pepper flakes, and cook that in the sausage fat for a minute or so. Then you add the broccoli rabe, which has been chopped into 1/4 inch pieces. The rapini cooks for a few minutes and then you set it aside.

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Raw sausage makes any still life much less appetizing.

In the now empty skillet, you add a cup of chicken broth and 3/4 cup of pasta water. This comes up to a boil, and then you simmer it until it’s reduced a bit, 4-6 minutes. Then the anchovy oil goes in, along with 1 1/2 TB butter, the sausage, the broccoli rabe, and 1/2 cup of parmesan cheese (we probably put in like 2 cups, not really sure why Cooks Illustrated is sometimes stingy with the delicious parts).

CSA ingredients used: Rapini

Other ingredients used: mild Italian sausage, parmesan cheese, anchovies, olive oil, garlic, lemon juice

Saag Paneer

The only thing I really knew about saag paneer before making this recipe was that it used spinach and that it made Andrew nauseous. He later clarified that the last time he had saag paneer was quite a few years ago and he was on a bad date and he didn’t know if the nausea was related to the richness of the dish or the personality of his dining companion. The recipe I picked was from Saveur.

Reading over the recipe, I was overcome by a deep sense of sadness. Making ricotta cheese is one of my favorite things. How is that I had gotten this far in life without knowing that there’s a dish you can make that is basically the same thing as making ricotta, except that then you fry it in oil? And people are allowed to eat this?

As soon as the door closed behind my last student Saturday afternoon, I got to work.

First, take 8 cups of whole milk and put it in a large pot. Bring the milk up to around 200 degrees, right before it’s about to boil. Then add 1/4 cup of lemon juice. When you’re making ricotta, you usually add salt at this point too, but as previously mentioned you are about to fry this in oil so it’s not really necessary.

Let the cheese drain. (This is what cheesecloth is for, but I usually use paper towel and it’s fine.) After it drains for a while, you want to spread it out a bit, put another piece of paper towel on it, and then put a heavy pot over that to press it. Once it’s been pressed for about 30 minutes, you can cut it into chunks.

After that, you heat 6 TB of canola oil in a frying pan and fry the cheese for about 5 minutes. The cheese goes off to cool somewhere and the skillet gets saved for later.

Next, you put 4 TB of chopped garlic, a piece of chopped ginger, 1/4 cup of water, and a serrano chile (I didn’t have one, so I used a frozen thai green chile. It was fine.) in a blender. You blend it until it’s a paste, and then heat up the remaining oil in the skillet and fry the paste a bit. Mine was more of a liquid than a paste, but it didn’t seem to make a huge difference. After that, 6 cups of chopped spinach goes into the pan and cooks until it’s wilted, about a minute. Then you turn the heat way down and cook it until it’s very soft, about 15 minutes.

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Notice the tofu in the background that did not actually end up being part of the recipe

After that, you add 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, 1/2 teaspoon of  garam masala, and 6 TB of heavy cream (in case you thought the fried cheese wasn’t enough). The cheese goes back into the skillet, and everything cooks together for another 15 minutes. I had mine over brown rice, but I bet it would be even more amazing with naan.

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CSA ingredients used: spinach

Other ingredients used: milk, lemon juice, heavy cream, garlic, ginger, a chile, cayenne, garam masala, rice.

This was exceedingly good, and exceedingly filling, and so far there hasn’t been any ill effects. Just in case, I decided to wash it down with a tamarind pisco sour (2 oz pisco, 1 1/2 oz tamarind concentrate,  1/2 oz simple syrup).

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Next: Week 1 Field Report