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 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!

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