Operation Pesto

We were not remotely prepared psychologically for the arrival of the first box. Andrew was coming off an eight show week (this will be a common theme), and I had been out of town at a friend’s wedding all weekend.

The email from Nichols Farm came on Monday morning. Going on year three, we knew more or less what to expect in an early June box: spinach, kale, lettuce, rapini, potatoes, asparagus, radishes, and strawberries. I read the list to Andrew, and he stared into space for a few minutes and asked me to read it again (this will also be a common theme). Mondays are his day off, and after playing 5 shows in the span of 48 hours, he has difficulty with basic cognitive tasks and resembles a person who has recently awoken from oral surgery. It usually passes by mid-afternoon. Despite this, we came up with a plan that I was pretty sure Andrew had agreed to, and I went about going through the refrigerator indiscriminately throwing things out to make room for the contents of the box.

My friend Sammi was in town, and on Tuesday, the day the first box arrived, we were playing a recital together. We had our final rehearsal in the morning and then I headed off to pick up the box. It was around 1:30 PM when I got home with it, and I was already ravenous and a little light-headed. But having thrown everything out from the refrigerator, if I wanted lunch, I needed to make it out of the CSA.

Actually, this is not true: I could have run up the street for a sandwich, eaten it, warmed up for my concert like a responsible professional, and put off dealing with vegetables until the next day, but I was blindly determined not to fall behind on the first day of the CSA. These things can build up quickly, I said to myself as I struggled to stand. We need to make sure there’s space for when the 12 ears of corn arrive in late July. 

The recipe we had picked out for lunch was a potato salad from Smitten Kitchen.

Spring Salad with New Potatoes and Pickled Onions

First scrub the potatoes clean and cover them with an inch of water. Bring to a boil and cook for 15 min, or until they’re done. (It took mine 35 min because I was using russets instead of little ones…) While that’s happening, you can make the pickled spring onions. Mix together a half cup of warm water, a half cup of rice wine vinegar (recipe called for white wine vinegar, didn’t have any), 1 TB salt and 1 ½ teaspoons sugar and add 4 spring onions sliced thin. This goes in the refrigerator.

At this point, the potatoes weren’t done and I was getting desperate so I  made myself a smoothie. Things improved considerably after that.

When the potatoes were finally cooked, I dumped them in the sink and doused them with cold water. Then you’re supposed to refill the pot the potatoes were in with fresh water and bring it to a boil. Deb Perlman from Smitten Kitchen mentions that it’s nice to do this so that you have fewer dishes to clean, allowing me to entertain the delusion that my kitchen wouldn’t be completely destroyed after making this recipe. 

While waiting for the water to boil again, I made the dressing: ¼ cup olive oil, 2 TB mustard, 2 TB rice wine vinegar (white wine vinegar if you have it…) and salt and pepper. Once the water was boiling, I threw in the asparagus for a few minutes, then drained it and ran it under cold water. At this point, the potatoes and asparagus got chopped up and I threw the dressing over it.

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It’s worth noting that you’re supposed to let everything come up to room temperature, but I definitely wasn’t going to do that. A few of the pickled spring onions (how long ago did I make those? An hour? Last week?) went on top.

All things considered, this was pretty delicious and surprisingly filling too. I usually get bored of potato salad pretty quickly, but the pickled onions were a fantastic touch and I went back and added the rest of the spring onions to the brine so that we would have more for salads later on in the week. 

CSA vegetables used: potatoes, spring onions, a few radishes, a pound of asparagus

Other ingredients used: rice wine vinegar, sugar, salt, mustard, olive oil,

Spinach Pesto

There are few things I enjoy more than waking up the morning after a concert and knowing that I have the entire day off. I was up early to see Sammi off, and leisurely went about my morning cooking project with an uncharacteristic level of patience. 

The box came up with two pounds of spinach, which in case it doesn’t sound like it is huge amount of spinach. Neither Andrew nor I particularly like eating it raw, and we also still had lettuce, kale and rapini to go through, so I decided to make it all into spinach pesto. I used a recipe from Kenji Lopez Alt’s Food Lab cookbook, substituting spinach for basil. Based on the amount of spinach I had, I ended up quadrupling the recipe. I didn’t use up all of the spinach, either.

Kenji recommends blanching the greens in water so that they’ll stay bright green, rather than turn brown three minutes after you put them in the refrigerator. Usually I skip this step, but I figured since I was making about 6 cups of pesto I probably was going to have it around for a while. This meant blanching the spinach in two different batches, and then trying to cool it all off immediately before it turns itself to mush.

The spinach went into the food processor, along with a pound of grated parmesan cheese, an entire container of pine nuts, the zest of four lemons and the juice of two, along with a cup and a half of olive oil. We also added an assortment of basil, thyme, and sage from the garden to give the pesto a little more flavor.

The first day we had it on pasta. It was fine, but not spectacular – spinach pesto doesn’t have a lot of a flavor and we didn’t have a lot of extra things to add to the pasta. It was frankly pretty delicious by the spoonful, though, and the next day I had it on sliced ciabatta  for lunch which was delicious.

You can freeze pesto if you leave the cheese out, but I didn’t do that so now we have about 6 cups of pesto in the refrigerator. The internet seems to feel it will last 5-7 days, so we are going to be a eating a lot of pesto in the next few days, and perhaps giving it out to strangers as well.

CSA vegetables used: 3/4 of the spinach.

Other ingredients used: lemons, pine nuts, parmesan cheese, sage, thyme, oregano

Roasted Chicken & Lettuce with Buttermilk Dressing

Lettuce is one of the more challenging CSA ingredients to use up, because as far as I know it can’t be pickled, cooked, or blended. And in the order of going badness, it tends to be towards the top, so I was feeing some urgency with respect to the lettuce. We roasted a chicken, and served it with a salad made of lettuce, radishes, cherry tomatoes, blue cheese, and pickled spring onions along with a buttermilk dressing from Gabrielle Hamilton’s Prune.

The buttermilk dressing is 2 shallots, 1 garlic clove, 1 1/2 cups of buttermilk, 2 cups of mayo (she specifies Hellman’s), 1 tsp pepper, a pinch of salt, the juice of 1 lemon, 1 1/2 cups of mint, and 1 spring onion. It all goes together in a blender.

 

Not too bad for a dinner ready by 5:30 PM.

CSA ingredients used: lettuce, two radishes, one spring onion

Other ingredients used: chicken, herbs, buttermilk, mint, mayo, salt, pepper, herbs, cherry tomatoes, blue cheese, garlic, lemon.

Next: Sausage with Rapini and Saag Paneer