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

 

 

 

Week 2: Poultry and Prune

With the weather on the cooler side, we decided to take a break from grilling and make a roast chicken, using the dark meat for dinner along with a to-be-decided CSA vegetable and the breast meat in a lunch salad that we could eat for a few days in a row. We found two recipes in Gabrielle Hamilton’s Prune.

Andrew gave me this cookbook for Christmas a few years back. The deal with Prune is that it doesn’t have an index. If you happen to have, say, kohlrabi, and want to know what recipes the cookbook has that include kohlrabi, you’re basically out of luck.

Prune’s tone is unusual compared to most cookbooks. It casts you as line cook in her restaurant kitchen, likely to screw up her recipes through haste and neglect. The book is filled with faux hand-written notes scrawled in the margins, like “Don’t use the mandoline. Keep your knife skills in shape,” in a recipe that included thinly sliced radishes, or “Do not stick your dirty line cook fingers in there to retrieve them. Use a fork. AND WASH YOUR HANDS, PEOPLE!” in a beef short ribs dish.

Andrew enjoys her prickliness—it reminds him of the severe yet helpful comments his violin professor would write in his scores in college. I am either irritated or entertained depending on my current level of hunger.

Bread Heels and Pan Drippings Salad (and Tokyo Bekana)

In addition to not having an index, the names of some of the recipes are a bit misleading. The one we chose for Wednesday’s dinner is titled, “Bread Heels and Pan Drippings Salad.” I flipped past it initially because it didn’t contain the word chicken. Luckily Andrew read the recipe enough to figure out that it’s actually a roast chicken recipe (At the end, the recipe says something like, “Take pan drippings and toss with salad greens and vinaigrette, serving bread heels on the side”). Given all of the effort necessary to locate the recipe and, you know, figure out what kind of food you will be eating if you cook it, it’s nice to discover that the recipe is actually incredibly simple. It’s become one of our more frequent chicken recipes.

You put your chicken on a pan (like a cookie sheet or hotel pan), and squeeze a lemon over it. You season with salt and pepper, and then smear it all over with 2 TB mustard, a few sprigs of rosemary leaves, and a tablespoon or so of olive oil. Then you nestle 10 whole peeled garlic cloves and the spent lemons around the chicken and roast it at 350°F for about an hour. Andrew pulled the chicken when the thighs were at 170°F and the breasts 155°F or a little below. The chicken came out pretty juicy, but the skin wasn’t quite as crisp as we like it, so just before eating we took the legs off the bird and threw them under the broiler to brown.

Somewhat inspired by the idea of the pan drippings salad of the title, we sautéd the Tokyo bekana in a skillet with some fat from the chicken. Andrew decided to treat the Tokyo bekana like he does kale: he started it in the pan over high heat, added a splash of water to steam it, and then covered it with a lid for a minute. The Tokyo bekana turned out to be more delicate than kale and didn’t need the steaming, so he ended up squeezing the extra water out of the greens before serving.

We also cut a few slices of bread and smooshed roasted garlic on them to have on the side.

CSA vegetables used: Tokyo bekana

Other ingredients used: A whole chicken, lemon, dijon mustard, garlic, olive oil,  rosemary, bread.

Chicken Salad with Tomatoes, Cucumber, Blue Cheese, and Buttermilk Dressing

This Prune recipe has a fairly descriptive title—Cold Chicken with Valdeon, Tomatoes, Green Onions, and Beans—but it withholds the dishes’ most important element, which is a luscious buttermilk dressing. Since I’m not a big fan of white meat, I was excited to smear it all over our leftover chicken breasts.

To make the dressing, you blend 1 shallot, a garlic clove, 3/4 cup of buttermilk, 1 cup of mayonnaise—she specifies Hellmann’s in the recipe— juice of 1 lemon, 1 scallion, 3/4 cup of mint leaves (the magical ingredient) and salt and pepper to taste.

The cats are always very excited when we shred up chicken for salads, but they were so boisterous on Thursday that we recorded a snippet to share here.

The recipe says to serve Valdeon on the side, which turns out to be a Spanish blue cheese. We went by the wine/cheese/bread store where we pick up the CSA box to see if they had some we could try. They were out, but the cheesemonger recommended a Bay Blue from Point Reyes, CA, that had almost a briny, sea shore aftertaste.

The original recipe calls for seedless cucumber, spring onions, cherry tomatoes and green beans on top of the lettuce greens. We used up some of the CSA radishes instead of green beans.

CSA vegetables used: radishes, head lettuce, one red spring onion.

Other ingredients used: seedless cucumber, cherry tomatoes, blue cheese, buttermilk, mayonnaise, shallot, lemons, mint, chicken breasts, toast.

Next: Fresh Strawberry Pie