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 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

 

 

Once More Into the Beets, My Friends

I used to follow an assortment of delightfully frivolous blogs, like one about how to dress yourself if you’re only five feet tall, and the best way to decorate your dorm room for less than ten dollars. At some point in many of these blogs, the writer would vanish for months at a time and re-emerge saying something like “Sorry I’ve been gone so long, I was doing XYZ.” I would roll my eyes and lose all respect for the author.

My original vision was that my CSA blog last year would be largely comedic, and the reader would enjoy laughing at my inept attempts to cook kohlrabi while giving myself food poisoning and having psychotic breaks about beet greens. In retrospect, I felt that last year’s CSA experience benefited from the observer effect, where the act of observation on a phenomenon changes it. Faced with a modest audience, we threw ourselves headlong into the CSA project, utilizing a combination of my organizational skills and Andrew’s culinary prowess. The end result was something disturbing similar to a food blog, at least for a few months.

The paradox, of course, about blogging about your overwhelm is that past a certain threshold, you are also too overwhelmed to blog.  So after posting a few times a week for eleven weeks, in the height of the season, drowning in tomatoes and corn and all manners of radishes, the blog went fallow, even as box after box of vegetables kept pouring into our apartment.

In a last ditch effort to salvage my self-respect, I went through all of my photos from the fall trying to see if I could figure out what we did with at least some of the vegetables. One of the reasons for starting the blog originally was to have documentation of what we actually cooked, so we could go back and find the recipes later (it’s nice to have a use for your blog that doesn’t depend on people actually reading it). Sadly, the evidence is pretty spotty:

September: This looks like some delicious…pork? In some sort of salsa? (Andrew tells me it’s jerk pork, and that it was delicious)

October:  I spent most of this month refreshing fivethirtyeight.com, but photographic evidence seems to indicate I also ate at least one bowl of pumpkin soup:

 

November: I spent most of this month randomly crying in public and drinking heavily, but we did host Thanksgiving using almost entirely CSA vegetables, which was pretty spectacular and also I’m sure none of my family members will agree to have a holiday at my apartment again until we get a dishwasher. No photographic evidence exists other than these pies, which do include CSA apples and CSA pumpkin mush. I remember that part pretty vividly. Andrew reminds me that the sour cherry pie also featured CSA sour cherries that we froze in July, because we’re smart.

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December: Three full boxes of vegetables came east with us for the holidays, which we spent alternating between Andrew’s family and mine. I don’ remember what we did with everything, except by the end of the trip most of the vegetables were gone and it came down to about eight watermelon radishes which we forced everyone to eat, like, 4 days in a row. Luckily, they were a big hit with members of the under-two crowd. 

 And that was the end of CSA 2016.

We hadn’t really considered not doing a CSA this year. We just sort of assumed it was on. But the spring got busier than usual. Andrew got a show downtown that began in April and that runs for six months straight. He’s gone for dinner 5-6 nights every week, and three days a week he isn’t around for lunch either. More rational people might have decided that this year it might make sense to make some changes, say, for instance, not having a CSA. 

But as the memory from last year of piles upon piles of giant brassicas rotting into puddles of brown goo faded once again, we thought, This time it will be a real challenge. Armed with two years’ experience and a sense of trepidation, we ventured once more into the, um, beets. 

Next: Would you like some pesto with your pesto?

Week 10: Saccatoosh

Every once in a while, a recipe presents itself that so perfectly accommodates the week’s assortment of vegetables that it feels as though some vegetable deity may in fact be looking out for us. The week 10 box included a pound each of fresh cranberry beans and fresh lima beans—still in their pods—and before we could even lament our fate, Andrew discovered this Smitten Kitchen recipe for summer succotash that not only called for our exact assortment of beans, but also included three other ingredients from the week’s box: corn, tomatoes, and an onion. Also, bacon!

It also gave me the chance to try and remember the word for succotash. Apparently telling people that you’ve made “saccatoosh” and it’s really tasty doesn’t give them a clear picture of what you’re talking about.

The box also included artichokes, potatoes, swiss chard, a melon, another cauliflower (oof) and a half pound of okra. Oh, and a single beet, which vanished into the refrigerator only to be discovered again 3 weeks later. But first, the succotash:

Summer Succotash with Bacon

  1. Shell 1 LB cranberry bean. Cook the cranberry beans in water for 25 minutes.

2. Now, shell 1 LB of lima beans. Cook the lima beans in water for 5 minutes.

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3.  Fry up a bunch of bacon, remove it with a slotted spoon, then cook a diced onion in the bacon fat.

5. Put four ears worth of fresh corn, a bunch of diced up tomatoes, and 1 TB of sherry vinegar in a giant bowl. The original recipe called for these vegetables to be cooked, but we decided to keep everything raw.

6. Add the cranberry beans, the lima beans, and the bacon, and some chopped up basil.

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It’s a good thing this succotash tastes good, because we ended up with about 5 LBs of it

CSA ingredients used: corn, tomatoes, red onion, lima beans, cranberry beans

Other ingredients used: bacon, basil, sherry vinegar

German Potato Salad

Since we had leftover bacon, I also decided to make a German-style potato salad, which could be eaten cold and would give Andrew another dish he could take with him to the theater during the second week of his show. I blended together two recipes, one from the NY Times and one from Serious Eats, and managed to come away with a pretty delicious, though very vinegary, potato salad.

  1. Take 1 LB of potatoes and cut them up into 1 inch cubes. Put them in a pot and cover them with an inch of water. Bring them to a boil, and then cook them for 10 minutes until they’re tender.
  2. Fry some bacon. Once they bacon’s done, mince up an onion and cook it in the bacon fat for 5 minutes. Crumble up the bacon.
  3. Whisk together 1/3 cup of white vinegar, 2 TB sugar, 1 TB mustard, 2 tsp salt, and some pepper into a dressing.
  4. Toss everything together.

CSA vegetables used: potatoes, onion

Other ingredients used: bacon, mustard, white vinegar, salt, pepper, sugar

Pickled Okra

Okra has always been a fairly controversial vegetable in my family, and for that reason I’m not sure I’ve ever actually eaten it. Last year, we got okra in the box exactly once, and it sat in the refrigerator slowly rotting into a slimy mess over the course of several weeks. Since we already knew we were not motivated to cook with it, pickling seemed like the best option.

I selected a recipe from Alton Brown, who seemed like a fairly reliable guide to the world of pickling suspect vegetables. To pickle the okra, you clean it and then load it all up into mason jars figure out how many jars you need. Then you dump out the okra and sterilize the jars. Add 1 chile, 1/2 tsp mustard seeds, 1 clove of garlic, and 1/4 teaspoon of peppercorns in each jar. Then make a brine using 1 cup of rice wine vinegar, 1 cup of water, and 1/8 cup of salt.

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Odin also didn’t eat a lot of okra growing up.

Update: we opened the okra while on vacation and it was delicious! The okra wasn’t slimy in the least—it was crisp and crunchy and piquant with vinegar. It even got the seal of approval from my brother-in-law, who grew up in North Carolina and has very complex feelings about okra.

CSA ingredients used: okra

Other ingredients used: chiles, mustard seeds, garlic, peppercorns, rice wine vinegar, water, salt.

Grilled Baby Artichokes with “Caper” Mint Sauce

One night while Andrew was playing his show, I had dinner with my friend Amanda. We decided to grill clams and mussels (Andrew had a bad experience with mussels a few years back involving a bouillabaisse followed by lots of barfing, so now I only eat them if he isn’t home).

In addition to grilling shellfish, we also decided to cook something with the artichokes since they were starting to look a little sad. My intention was to recreate the April Bloomfield artichoke recipe from a few weeks back, but since we were grilling and didn’t want to use the stove if we didn’t need to, we decided to do this recipe from Epicurious. (Spoiler alert: Had I read the recipe carefully, I would have discovered that we still needed to use the stove for this one).

  1. First, you make a sauce. The sauce is 1/2 cup of olive oil, 6 anchovy filets, 2 1/2 teaspoons of capers, 1/4 cup of mint, and 1 TB white wine vinegar. At this stage, we discovered that we didn’t actually have capers, so we substituted Kalamata olives instead.
  2. Next, you trim the artichokes (as detailed in this post), and cook them in boiling salted water for 8 minutes. We somehow managed to miss the boiling step completely.
  3. Now you toss them with olive oil and put them on the grill for 5 to 8 minutes.
  4. Once they’re cooked (or in this case, not cooked), you pull them off the grill and slather the sauce all over them.

As you can imagine, they didn’t come out spectacularly well since they were essentially raw inside, but they weren’t that bad either.

CSA ingredients used: baby artichokes

Other ingredients used: olive oil, olives, anchovies, white wine vinegar, mint

Sauerkraut

Turning our cabbage into sauerkraut was Andrew’s idea. I was skeptical that this would yield anything other than a jar of homemade sauerkraut sitting in our fridge for a year, but I decided to go for it. To make sauerkraut, you dice up 1 cabbage into tiny pieces. Put 1 tsp of salt with the cabbage and begin to work it with your hands. The salt will cause the cabbage to released liquid, although it releases more liquid if isn’t two weeks old already. Nevertheless, the cabbage should reduce enough to fit in one quart jar.

At this point, you’re supposed to add the liquid that you acquired, put the sauerkraut somewhere to fermented for a week, and call it a day. My cabbage failed to released any liquid at all, so I made a brine for it using 2 cups of water to 1 tsp salt and poured it over the top.

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If you think this sounds too simple to actually work, I agree with you. However, over the course of the week it did indeed turn into sauerkraut, and I absolutely loved it. It was a nice, tart ferment while somehow still tasting fresh. We brought it with us on vacation and ate it with hot dogs for a few family dinners.

CSA ingredients used: cabbage

Other ingredients used: water, salt

Garlicky Swiss Chard

Usually by Sunday or Monday,  I’m desperate enough to use up any vegetables we haven’t cooked yet that I will make random side dishes for us to pick at over the next few days that aren’t connected to any sort of meal. This is an favorite swiss chard recipe from Melissa Clark.

Roll up the chard and cut it into 1/4 inch strips. Heat some oil in a saucepan, add 2 cloves of minced garlic and saute for a minute, then add a pinch of red pepper flakes. Stir in the chard and cook uncovered for a few minutes, then cover and cook a few more minutes until the chard is bright green.

As with spinach, the chard impressed me with its ability to cook down into almost nothing. But it was tasty with leftovers.

CSA ingredients used: Swiss chard

Other ingredients used: garlic, red pepper flakes, oil

Next: A desperate move with a cauliflower