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 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 11: Rainbow Box

The Week 11 box was one of the most brilliantly colorful boxes of the summer, and also one of our favorites. We had purple eggplants, red onions and bright red fresno pepper, multicolored tomatoes and orange carrots. We also got an assortment of green peppers, tomatillos, corn, and a bright yellow melon. With only a few perishable items, we were able to relax about getting through everything in one week and focus on what we really wanted to do, which was eat as many tomatoes as possible.

Bacon, Mozzarella, and Tomato Sandwiches

We were craving BLTs, but we didn’t have lettuce. Andrew and I briefly conferred and determined that fresh mozzarella was a perfectly acceptable substitute for lettuce in a BLT. We spread olive oil on bread,  and then layered with mozzarella, bacon, halves cherry tomatoes, and a splash of balsamic vinegar.

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CSA ingredients used: cherry tomatoes.

Other ingredients used: bacon, mozzarella cheese, bread, olive oil, balsamic vinegar.

Eggplant Stir-Fry

The next night, we made an eggplant stir-fry using the eggplant, the green bell pepper, and fresno peppers. This recipe came from Epicurious.

  1. Mix 3 TB fish sauce, 1 TB light soy sauce, 3/4 cup warm water, and 2 TB brown sugar and set aside (this is the sauce).
  2. Heat up the wok on the grill and throw in 2 TB of oil. Then add the eggplant slices and stir-fry until they begin to brown. Remove them from the wok.
  3. Next, add another TB oil to the wok and fry up the onions. Once they’re soft, remove them from the wok.
  4. Finally, add 3 TB of garlic and a few TB of chopped chiles (we used the fresno peppers we had). After 30 seconds, add a sliced green pepper and the onions back in. Then add the eggplant back in
  5. Pour in the sauce and add a handful of basil. To thicken the sauce, add 2 tsp of corn starch that’s been mixed with 4 TB cold water.

CSA ingredients used: eggplant, green bell pepper, fresno pepper

Other ingredients used: garlic, vegetable oil, red onions, basil, fish sauce, soy sauce, brown sugar.

Sauteed Corn with Cilantro, Chorizo, and Lime

I discovered this recipe last summer while searching for CSA-friendly meals to bring on our yearly cross-country road trip. It was really spectacularly delicious and insanely easy, so with a few ears of corn left to use up I decided to make it again. You take 4 ounces of the Spanish chorizo and saute it on olive oil in a pan until most of the fat has rendered, around 5 minutes. Then, add 4 cups of fresh corn and cook it in the chorizo fat until the corn has darkened. Finally, add 1/4 cup of cilantro and 1 TB lime juice.

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The cilantro turned out to be not all that important
CSA ingredients used: corn

Other ingredients used: Spanish chorizo, lime, olive oil.

Pork Chops with Salsa Verde and Apples

I’ve developed a habit of typing various combinations of CSA vegetables into google when procrastinating on something else. It’s usually not very successful for actually yielding good recipes—there are vegetables that just shouldn’t be eaten in combination, and no amount of will make them taste good.  In this case, I typed “apple” and “tomatillo” into Google and discovered a recipe for pork chops that actually looked fairly delicious. The recipe came from Serious Eats. The source was reputable enough for Andrew to sign off on it.

  1. Make a rub for the pork chops of 1 1/2 TB coriander, 1 1/2 TB cumin, 2 tsp, 1/2 tsp black pepper. Add a few TB of oil and mush it all together, then rub it on the pork chops.
  2. Simmer 1/2 LB of fresh tomatillos in boiling water for 8 minutes. Let them cool.
  3. Peel and core 2 apples, and cut them into 1/4 inch cubes.
  4. Once the tomatillos are cooled, blitz them in a food processor along with 1/2 cup of cilantro, 1 clove of minced garlic, 1 tsp ground cumin, 1 TB fresh lime juice, 1 TB honey. The original recipe called for a teaspoon of chipotle chiles in adobo; we substituted a minced fresno pepper.
  5. Once everything is smooth, mix in the apple cubes to the tomatillo mixture.
  6. Sear the pork chops in olive oil for 3 minutes per side until they’re around 150 degrees. Let them cool for a few minutes, and then slather them in the apple tomatillo sauce.

CSA ingredients used: half of the tomatillos, apples, 1 fresno pepper.

Other ingredients used: cilantro, garlic, cumin, coriander, honey, lime juice.

Stir-Fried Cauliflower

Every week, there’s always one random vegetable leftover on Monday that needs to get used up, and it’s usually the one we’re the least excited about eating. In this case, I was completely convinced we had a leftover broccoli and decided to make the Thai Broccoli with Peanut Sauce stir fry (the recipe is here).

Unfortunately, we didn’t actually have a broccoli at all. We did, however, have a generous stock of cauliflowers that was not getting any smaller. Given that we were already pretty hungry, we decided to go ahead and make the stir-fry with cauliflower instead of broccoli (At least they are the same shape?).

We also didn’t have a red pepper so we used a green pepper instead. For a week that involved one of the most colorful boxes of the summer, we ended up with a very bland looking stir-fry.

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The verdict was that it was actually pretty good. In the end, the cauliflower was fine, but the green pepper tasted a littler weird – go figure.

CSA ingredients used: cauliflower, green pepper

Other ingredients used: tofu, coconut milk, fish sauce, cilantro, brown sugar, rice.

Next: Pizzas and other circular things

 

Week 9: Starve a Fever, Feed a Cold Cauliflower

Two days into his 9-show week, Andrew came down with a cold and was surprisingly cheerful about it. He usually saves his colds for the end of a run of a show, and was excited to get it out of the way while he was already committed to spending 6 nights a week in a dark room. Vacation was around the corner, and we were both hopeful that this meant he wouldn’t get sick again for it.

Having a cold while trying to use up a CSA comes with its own set of challenges, given that most recipes are fairly labor intensive and nobody actually feels like eating vegetables when they are sick. However, we did a pretty commendable job by cooking a combination of soups and flavor-filled Indian style side dishes.

Sausage and Kale Soup

Andrew threw together this soup before running off for his Saturday matinee. We’d bought the Italian sausage for another purpose that Andrew now deemed unappetizing. So he took half of it, sliced it thickly, and browned it briefly in a pot. Then he took the sausage out, threw in some diced onion and garlic, and sauteed everything until it was wilted. He poured in some chicken stock we had in the freezer, added back the sausage, and cooked until the sausage was just cooked through. He tossed in some kale and simmered for the last minute. He declared it tasty enough, given his compromised abilities to discern flavor.

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CSA ingredients used: 1/2 of the kale, onion

Other ingredients used: sausage, garlic, chicken broth

Indian-Style Cauliflower Pickles

Through a combination of lack of inspiration and denial, we had developed a fairly dire cauliflower situation—with three heads of cauliflower from three different CSA weeks piling up in the refrigerator. With the weather finally cooling off, I felt it was time to face the cauliflower head-on (sorry).  I found myself drawn to the gorgeous scarlet color of the cauliflower in this Indian-style pickle recipe. The only barrier was my limited experience with frying, but I didn’t give it much thought, since when applying flame to a large pot of oil, what can possibly go wrong?

  1. You start by dicing up the cauliflower into florets and soak them in salt water for 10 minutes. Let them dry completely. The recipe recommended setting them outside to dry in the sun, but I was concerned they would become squirrel/pigeon food, so I used the top of the stove instead.
  2. Next, heat between 150 ml and 200 ml of oil in a wide pan until it’s smoking, and then fry the cauliflower. I didn’t measure the oil before I dumped it in, and ended up with way, way, too much oil. The first batch of cauliflower that went it instantly turned a perfect color of golden brown, but as I fished it out I realized I was about to start a grease fire, so I turned the oil off and hoped the residual heat would fry the remaining cauliflower.
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Some of these cauliflower florets are not like the others.

3. Next, you roast 1/2 TBSP of fenugreek seeds, and put them in a spice grinder along with 1 1/2 TBSP of mustard seeds. At this stage in the process, you’re supposed to put the cauliflower back in the oil, but I didn’t because I misunderstood the directions.

4. Mix the cauliflower with the powdered seeds, 90 ml of red chile powder [editors note: this is a LOT of chile powder. I had to grind up dried chiles that I found in the pantry and they tasted like…absolutely nothing, since they were 3 years old], 1/4 tsp turmeric, and the juice of 3/4 lemons. You mix everything together, and pour it, along with the oil, into a container.

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Now it appears I didn’t use enough oil

In spite of all of the various mishaps, the final product was delicious—especially the cauliflowers that had actually fried.

CSA ingredients used: 1 head of caulilfower

Other ingredients used: peanut oil, mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds, turmeric, lemons, red chiles.

Roasted Beets with Chiles, Ginger, Yogurt, and Indian Spices

We very intelligently grilled the beets earlier in the week—wrapping them in foil and nestling them next to the coals while we were grilling the ratatouille—but then we forgot about them for a few days. When I rediscovered them, I also chose this salad with Indian spices from Melissa Clark, which looked both delicious and like something that Andrew might be able to taste as he entered the next stage of his cold.

  1. Slice up the beets into little cubes.
  2. Mince 1 clove of garlic and mash it up with a teaspoon of salt. Next, add 1/3 cup of Greek yogurt, 1/2 of a diced jalapeno pepper, a teaspoon of fresh grated ginger, and 1 tsp of lime juice, and some salt.
  3. Spread the dressing on the beets.

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CSA vegetables used: beets

Other ingredients used: yogurt, mustard seeds, jalapeno, ginger, lime.

Lemony Carrot and Cauliflower Soup

With one cauliflower down, I was excited to see what I could do with the next one.  I had been searching all over for a recipe for cauliflower soup that seemed appealing in the middle of summer, and was unmoved until I discovered this one from Melissa Clark that used a combination of lemon and miso and would address some CSA carrots to boot. We substituted chicken broth for vegetable broth or water, because while I trusted Melissa Clark, I felt that when cooking with cauliflower you need all the help you can get.

  1. Toast 1 TB coriander for 2-3 minutes under they were fragrant. Then smoosh them in a mortar and pestle.
  2. Heat 1 TB oil in a large pot. Cook 2 cups of diced onions until they are soft, and then add a clove of garlic and cook for 1 minutes.
  3. Add 1 TB of diced carrots, the crushed coriander, 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt, and 6 cups of chicken broth, along with 3 TB of white miso. Bring it to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes, and then cover and cook another 10 minutes.
  4. Use an immersion blender to liquify everything. Before eating, stir in 4 TB of lemon juice.

This was one of my favorite cauliflower dishes so far and we still had a fair amount of cauliflower and carrots left, so I made another batch to freeze for later (along with a note to myself to remember to add lemon when I defrosted it).

CSA ingredients used: 1 head of cauliflower, 5 carrots, 1 large onion, garlic.

Other ingredients used: coriander, salt, chicken broth, white miso.

Next: The perfect CSA recipe, if I could remember how to say it.

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

Week 4: Keeping up with the Vegetables

The first few weeks of the CSA, Andrew and I flew headfirst into the planning and cooking, and the neuroticism on my part aside, did a pretty bang-up job of maintaining a certain level of control over things. Nothing rotted other than a few handfuls of arugula, and we we picked simples recipes (donuts excepted) that didn’t involve a lot of hunting for obscure ingredients (ladna excepted). We even went out a few times to meet friends for dinner and didn’t talk about vegetables that much.

This early success had to do with us having very little to do in the beginning of June and feeling fairly relaxed about it. As a freelance musician, a favorite pastime of mine is stressing out about money during slow periods, but I didn’t even have that to do since I knew that things would pick up at the end of June. Life was lovely.

Then came the end of June, which turned out to be insanely busy. Who would have guessed? During the fourth week of the CSA, I was cramming in daily 3 hour rehearsals, teaching 10 lessons a week, and finishing a residency proposal. Over the weekend I played four different weddings in the span of 48 hours and then capped it off by giving a duo recital on Sunday afternoon.

To celebrate me having done everything I was supposed to do, we decided to have a couple friends over for an evening cookout/vegetable using-up party . We picked an Indian-style meal with Tandoori chicken, braised cauliflower, yogurt raita, beet chutney, and naan. Or I should say, Andrew picked an Indiana-style meal, because I was too frazzled to think of anything but Beethoven and Hindemith fingerings.

By the time dinner came around, I was useless for any part of the process that didn’t consist of curling up in the fetal position with a beer, which doesn’t apparently involve any cooking. But it turns out that lighting coals in a chimney starter and staring at them in a dazed stupor was helpful, so I did that. Andrew didn’t seem to mind my uselessness, being particularly excited about making naan from scratch, and seemed to be getting over his post-cabbage rolls funk.

Beet Chutney

The recipe for beet chutney came from Alice Waters’ Chez Panisse Vegetables.

  1. Roast the beets in the oven at 400. It should take 30-60 minutes. Peel them and cut them into 1/4 inch dice.
  2. Combine the beets with 1 tablespoon chopped fresh ginger, 2 teaspoons chopped serrano pepper, 1 tablespoon peanut oil, 1 1/2 teaspoons of red wine vinegar, 1 teaspoon lime juice, and 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper. Add salt and pepper too.

These beets were beautiful. Chopped up and ready to serve, they almost looked like little chunks of tuna ceviche. They also had quite a kick.

Braised Cauliflower

The recipe for the Indian-style cauliflower came from All About Braising by Molly Stevens.

  1. Cut the cauliflower into little chunks.
  2. Heat 3 tablespoons of butter in a dutch oven. Throw in 2 teaspoons cumin seeds, 2 teaspoons coriander seeds, 1 tablespoon of minced fresh ginger, and one serrano chile. You’re supposed to cook it for 10 seconds until the spices start to sizzle, but not enough that they start to burn. Add 1/2 teaspoon of ground turmeric, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt and then add the cauliflower quickly before all of the spices burn.
  3. Pour in 2/3 cup water and reduce the heat to a simmer. It should take about 15-20 minutes for the cauliflower to become tender.
  4. Now you uncover it, bring it back to a boil, and pour in another tablespoon of butter, and cook for another 5 minutes. At this point, Andrew tossed in the beet greens, because we had them, and cooked them until they wilted.

 

Grilled Naan

The recipe for the naan came from Serious Eats and was surprisingly simple: the vast majority of the time it took to make it involved sitting and waiting.

  1. Mix 4 cups of bread flour, 1 packet instant yeast, 2 1/2 teaspoons of salt, and 2 tablespoons of sugar together in the bowl of a stand mixer. Add 14 ounces yogurt and knead with a dough hook it until it comes together into a ball. Knead for another 5 minutes, and then cover the bowl and let it rise at room temperature for 2 hours, until it has doubled in volume.
  2. Dump the dough out on a table and cut it roughly into 6 pieces. Roll into little balls. Cover and let them rise again for another 2 hours.
  3.  Roll out the balls into flat naan-shaped things. Throw them on the coals and grill them until the bottoms are blackened, and then flip them over.
  4. Once they’re off the coals, brush them with melted butter.

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Tandoori-Spiced Chicken

We also made two grilled Tandoori chicken, which turned out to be way too much, given that everybody gorged themselves on the naan. The recipe came from the Gourmet Cookbook.

  1. Blitz 1 small onion, 2 garlic cloves, 1/2 cup of plain yogurt, 1 TB lemon juice, 2 teaspoons of salt, 1/2 teaspoon turmeric, 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin, 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, and 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander together in a blender.
  2. Soak the chicken parts in the marinade for at least 8 hours.
  3. Pull the chickens out of the marinade and grill them. Serve with lime wedges and fresh cilantro.

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Andrew said that if he had to do it again, he would have followed the recipe more closely. He didn’t take the skin off the chickens, or score the meat before marinating, and he thought it would have been more flavorful if he had. But it was still pretty tasty.

In the end, we had a pretty fun assortment of dishes. The beet chutney was packing heat, but the yogurt raita was a nice soothing flavor. The cauliflower and chicken were great, but the naan was still the highlight.

 

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This brought Week 4 to a close, in which Andrew did 100% of the cooking and I still got to claim credit for it by posting about it on my blog.

Next: Week 4 report