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?

1 thought on “Week 2: Herb Pie in the Sky”

  1. I totally understand why you feel you need to clean now that you are going to be a daughter-in-law! Potential motherhood now looms, and we all know cleanliness is some (but not all) the proof needed to show future grandparents that you are ready for the awesome task of raising a child. xox Mommy

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