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 8: Abandonment Never Tasted So Good

Note from Kyra: I was gone the beginning of Week 8, so Andrew took over the blog:

On Monday, Kyra left for a family vacation in Newfound Lake, NH, leaving me for the first time entirely in charge of the week’s CSA box. As sad as I was to see her go—not to mention a bit jealous—I was also looking forward to the challenge of taking on the whole box myself. I had disappeared for nearly five weeks last summer, with the unintended consequence of burying Kyra in CSA vegetables and causing her a minor mental breakdown. Now it was my turn, and I was going to throw all my culinary know-how at the problem. I was going to pickle vegetables. I was going to can vegetables. I was going to freeze vegetables. The box wasn’t going to know what hit it.

Instead, I cooked exactly two recipes and ate the leftovers until Kyra got back on Friday evening and the box became our problem again.

Almond Pesto with Green Beans

Adding insult to injury, I cooked the first recipe the night before the week 8 box arrived, so it didn’t even really count towards managing the week’s haul. It was a nut pesto from Smitten Kitchen.

You toast about 1 cup (5 ounces or 140 grams) almonds, and then let them cool. Plonk them in your food processor with 1 1/4 ounces (about 1/3 cup grated) parmesan or aged pecorino cheese. You don’t even need to grate the cheese, since the food processor will do it for you. Add 1 small garlic clove, peeled and crushed, a couple leaves from a sprig or two of thyme, a bit of red pepper flakes, 1/4 teaspoon coarse sea or kosher salt, 2 to 3 teaspoons white wine vinegar (I used red wine vinegar), and 1/3 cup olive oil, plus extra for drizzling.

Blanche your green beans in boiling water until crunchy tender (about 3 minutes), then drain and toss with the pesto.

The recipe called for just a few sprigs of thyme, but we had a bunch of basil in the garden that was starting to look a bit cocky, so I decided to toss in a handful. This wasn’t the best idea, from a visual standpoint—the pesto ended up with neither the robust brown of a nut pesto nor the vibrant green of a basil pesto, but something grassy and muddy that reminded me of some bad experiences I’d had walking a neighbor’s dog when I was a teenager.IMG_0768

I served the beans along side a couple of soft hard-cooked eggs and toast and it tasted great, with only the slightest aftertaste of loneliness and neglect.

CSA Vegetables used: Green beans

Other ingredients: Toasted bread, almonds, parmesan, herbs, garlic, eggs.

Sabih

I picked up the Week 8 box on Tuesday around midday and it came with some beautiful Japanese eggplant. I love grilling eggplant, so I jumped at this recipe for Sabih in Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem cookbook.

It’s a now well-established Radish Confidential principle that we avoid Ottolenghi recipes at all costs. But I rationalized my decision in two ways: first, the recipe called for frying the eggplant in 1 1/4 cup of oil—I figured that grilling was a much less messy and time-consuming approach. Second, Sabih is an Israeli street dish that throws together eggplant with Jerusalem salad, Tahini sauce, some hard cooked eggs, and a chile paste called Zhoug onto pita—I didn’t think that Ottolenghi’s version would be any more or less time consuming that any recipe for the dish.

I also had just enough time to make some pita—and there would be room to cook the pita on the grill.

I made the pita dough first. The recipe comes from Yvonne Ruperti at Serious Eats: Mix 8 oz of 105 to 110°F water, 1 tbsp olive oil, 1 tbsp sugar, 2 1/4 tsp instant yeast (not rapid rise), 1 tsp kosher salt, and 2 1/4 ounces (by weight) whole wheat flour with a wooden spoon until combined and smooth. Stir in 10 oz (by weight) all-purpose flour until the mixture just comes together.

Knead on low-speed in a stand mixer for 10 minutes (or by hand) until it is elastic and smooth. Form into a ball and transfer to a lightly-oiled bowl. Cover with a damp towel and let rise at room temperature for an hour.

While the dough was rising, I cut up the eggplant and tossed them with a bit of olive and salt and pepper, then set them aside. I threw together the chopped salad: 2 medium ripe tomatoes, cut into a dice (I used a cup of halved cherry tomatoes), a cup of diced cucumber, spring onions, sliced thin, a couple tsp lemon juice, and 1.5 tbsp olive oil. Then I made a recipe of steamed eggs.

When the dough had risen for an hour, punch it down, cut it into 6 even pieces and form into balls. Let them rest for ten minutes under a damp cloth. Then roll them out until they are about 7 inches in diameter and let rest covered by the cloth for another 20 minutes.

While the dough rest a final time, I got the grill started and then made the Tahini sauce: 2/3 cup light tahini paste with 1/2 cup water, 2 tbsp lemon juice, 1 medium clove garlic, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. The Zhoug was new to me: in a food processor, spin up 1 1/4 oz cilantro, 1/3 oz parsley, 2 hot green chilis, 1/2 tsp ground cumin, 1/4 tsp ground cardamon, 1/4 tsp ground clove, 1/8 tsp sugar, 1/4 tsp salt, 1 garlic clove, 2 tbsp olive oil, and 2 tbsp water.

The grilling was straight forward: I crowded the coals together on one half of the grill and cooked the eggplant over the coals, turning until well browned (about 2 to 3 minutes per side). Then I cooked the pita, two at a time over the hottest part of the fire, turning them when well browned (about 2 to 3 minutes on the first side; 1 to 2 minutes on the second). I shifted them to the cooler side of the fire to keep warm while I cooked the rest of the pita.

Everything came together in a big mess of eggplant, cut of egg, tahini sauce, Zhoug, and Jerusalem salad. And it was SO GOOD. The fresh pita just put it out in the stratosphere: it was charred and pillowy. The Zhoug gave it a bit of zing through the rich tang of the Tahini sauce. It was almost indecently good.

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CSA Vegetables used: eggplant, cucumber, spring onions, garlic

Other ingredients used: all-purpose and whole wheat flour, sugar, salt, instant yeast, tahini, lemon juice, olive oil, eggs, cherry tomatoes, cilantro, parsley, chile peppers.

Pickled Banana Peppers

Oh! I forgot one other recipe. The Week 8 box came with banana peppers, so I pickled them using this super simple recipe from Kenji Lopez-Alt at Serious Eats.

Slice up the banana peppers. Mix 1 cup distilled white vinegar, 1 cup water, 1/2 cup sugar and 1 tsp kosher salt in a sauce pan and bring to a simmer, stirring until the salt and sugar dissolves. Throw in the sliced peppers and stir. Let sit until the brine has cooled to room temperature. Then jar and refrigerate. These are awesome tossed on pizza right out of the oven.

CSA vegetables used: banana peppers

Other ingredients used: distilled white vinegar, water, sugar, salt.

Next: Kyra’s back

The Week of 17 Vegetables, Part 2

As the week progressed and we gradually started to see the back of the refrigerator, the weather was still a blistering 90 degrees and humid. This presented a challenge for using up certain vegetables. For instance, we had a dire need to find a purpose for three enormous heads of cauliflower, but the dishes we were interested in cooking all involved turning on an oven, frying them in hot oil, or slathering them in cheese—all of which sounded terrible given the temperature outside. We decided to save the cauliflower for when it cooled off, and hoped they wouldn’t be sitting in the refrigerator until October.

There were still any number of other vegetables to be used up, including a cucumber, some broccoli, green beans, and potatoes, and various types of onions. We also still had sour cherries. It was so hot that no food sounded particularly appealing, but I decided that if I was going to eat at all it was probably going to be a cold soup. We found an avocado and cucumber soup on Serious Eats which was perfect for our purposes.

Avocado and Cucumber Soup

  1. Take 1 avocado, 1 diced cucumber, 2 chopped tomatillos, 1/4 cup of onion, 1 small seeded (or not…) serrano, 1 teaspoon of salt, and 1 cup of water and blitz them in a food processor. Put 2 teaspoons of cilantro on top.

CSA vegetables used: cucumber, white onion

Other ingredients used: avocado, tomatillos, 1 serrano chile, salt, water, cilantro

Grilled Chicken and Green Bean Salad

Next up were the green beans. Andrew found a recipe for grilled green beans from Serious Eats, and we decided to make it along with a grilled chicken. Andrew made a miso chicken and we grilled the green beans, tossed them with thin sliced red bell pepper, and slathered them in a miso dressing. The miso dressing was made from 3 TB dark brown sugar, 2 TB soy sauce, 2 TB white miso, 1 TB rice vinegar, 1 tsp minced garlic, 1/2 tsp sesame oil, 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes, and 1/4 tsp ground white pepper.

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CSA vegetables used: green beans

Other ingredients used: chicken, red peppers, rice, miso, brown sugar, white miso, sesame oil, soy sauce, rice vinegar, crushed red pepper flakes, white pepper

Having broken the rules and tentatively waded back into Ottolenghi with last week’s kohlrabi recipe without any dire consequences, we were primed to do it again. Andrew tentatively suggested Ottolenghi’s Surprise Tatin for the potatoes, and I took one look at the artful and lovely picture of the finished product and latched on to the idea. We had all sorts of other rationalizations, including: once we make this, it’ll be great to have leftovers. Also: it only has nine ingredients, so how long could it take? The answer turned out to be all of Andrew’s afternoon, not to mention trips to multiple grocery stories attempting to locate the correct type of puff pastry.

Surprise Tatin

  1. Halve the tomatoes, drizzle them with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and put them in a 275 degree oven for 45 minutes until they are nice and dry.
  2. Cook the potatoes in boiling salted water for 25 minutes and cut them into 1-inch thick disks.
  3. Saute the onions with oil and some salt for 10 minutes.
  4. Now it gets fun. Brush a 9-inch cake pan with oil and line the bottom with parchment paper.
  5. Cook the 3 TB sugar and 2 TB butter on high heat until it’s caramelized. Pour the caramel into the cake pan and tilt it around so that it covers the bottom. Scatter 3 sprigs worth of oregano leaves on the bottom.
  6. Lay the potato slices close together at the bottom of the pan, cut side down. At this point, Andrew discovered that 1 LB of potatoes was not enough to cover the bottom of the pan, and had to return to step 2 and repeat.
  7. In the little gaps between the tomatoes, tuck in the onions and tomatoes and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add 5 oz of goat cheese, cut into slices and scattered over the top.
  8. Puff pastry time. Cut a disc of puff pastry 1 inch larger than the dimeter of the pan. Lay it over the tart and tuck in the edges down around the potatoes.
  9. At this point, if you’re exhausted and angry at the author, you can put it in the refrigerator for 24 hours and eat it later.
  10. Once it’s time to eat, bake the tatin in a 400 degree oven for 25 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 350 degrees and cook another 15 minutes. Then you remove it and let it sit for 2 minutes EXACTLY.
  11. This is the best part! Pull it out of the oven and stick an upside down plate on top. Now you “carefully but briskly” flip it over onto the plate and remove the pan.

CSA vegetables used: onions, potatoes

Other ingredients used: cherry tomatoes, sugar, butter, oregano, puff pastry sheets, goat cheese, salt, pepper.

As the most festive meal of the week, it seemed only fitting to cook a sour cherry pie to go along with the Surpise Tatin. Andrew has recently become enamored the baking column in Serious Eats written by Stella Parks, who goes by the pen name Bravetart. She had an old-fashioned dough recipe that he decided to try in place of his usual pie dough.

  1. Whisk together 8 ounces of flour, 1/2 ounce of sugar, and 4 grams of salt together in a bowl. Cut 2 sticks of butter into little 1/4 inch chunks and mix it all around. Then smoosh the butter with your fingers. Add 4 ounces of cold water.
  2. Roll the dough out into a 10 by 15 inch rectangle. Now you fold it up in a super complicated way that’s hard to get into without diagrams.
  3. Now you can roll it out and make a pie!
  4. To make the filling, take 2 lbs of pitted sour cherries, 1 ounce of lemon juice, 7 ounces of sugar, 3/4 teaspoons of kosher salt, and 1 1/2 ounces of tapioca starch and mix it together with a spatula. Pour it into the pie shell.
  5. Whisk 1 egg, 1 egg yolk, 1/2 ounce of heavy cream, and a pinch of salt together and brush on top of the pie.
  6. Bake the pie in the oven for an hour at 400 degrees. Cover it loosely with silver foil and then bake another 15 minutes.
  7. The pie will have to cool pretty considerably before it solidifies enough to eat.

CSA vegetables used: sour cherries

Other ingredients: flour, sugar, salt, butter, lemon juices, tapioca starch, egg, heavy cream.

After a weekend that involved baking both a tatin and a pie, the next night we were looking for something that required little to no effort to cook. We found it in the form of this Serious Eats recipe, and once again pulled out the wok to stir-fry on the grill.

Stir-Fried Beef with Broccoli and Oyster Sauce

  1. Take 1 LB of hanger steak, cut into 1/4 inch strips, 1 TB soy sauce, and 1 TB xiaoshing wine and combine in a bowl. Let marinade for a couple of hours in the refrigerator
  2. Combine another 1/4 cup of soy sauce, with 2 tsp corn starch and mix it all around. Add another 1/4 cup of xiaoshing wine, 1/3 cup of chicken stock, 1/4 cup of oyster sauce, 1 TB sugar, 1 tsp sesame oil.
  3. Mix 2 minced cloves of garlic, 2 tsp minced ginger, and 3 scallions in a bowl and set aside.
  4. Cut the broccoli into florets.
  5. Once the coals are good, start stir-frying. Beef goes in first, and is cooked for about 1 minute and then gets dumped in a bowl. Next in goes the broccoli, followed by the the garlic/ginger/scallion mixture and the sauce. At the end, the beef goes back in and everything gets stir-fried together.

CSA vegetables used: broccoli, spring onions

Other ingredients used: 1 lb hanger steak, soy sauce, xiaoshing wine, corn starch, chicken stock, oyster sauce, sugar, sesame oil, garlic, ginger.

Next: Field Report, Weeks 5 & 6

Week 4: Chard Times

Head Lettuce Salad, Grilled Chicken with Vegetables, and Salmon with Lentils and Swiss Chard

The Week 4 box arrived in time for me to become the busiest I’ve been all summer and the CSA provided an extra level of hysteria. When you get home after rehearsal at 1:10 and a student is arriving at 1:30 and all you have in your fridge is kohlrabi leaves, fennel, and spring onions—which you must somehow form into a lunch that will sustain you for the next six hours—you are in a somewhat bad place. I haven’t quite taken to just shoving raw root vegetables in my face, but I can see how it could get to that point.

That said, this week’s box came with a lot of exciting new things, such as the first beets, broccoli, summer squash, and cauliflower. We also got head lettuce, bok choy, spring onions, swiss chard, and sweet and tart cherries—the tart cherries were a week earlier than we were expecting. And Andrew had some time to do a bunch of the cooking and grocery shopping. I was hopeful that I wouldn’t starve to death surrounded by rotting vegetables.

The biggest shock in the box was the world’s largest Napa cabbage, but since I was already running late and needed to race off to teach almost immediately, we threw the cabbage in a giant Walgreens bag and into the fridge and then made the easiest thing we could think of: a garden salad made with the lettuce. It was pretty similar to the Salad Nicoise(ish) that we made the first week.

Head Lettuce Salad with Eggs and Tuna

The head lettuce was beautiful, and also very dirty. After we cleaned it all, we combined the lettuce, cucumber, cherry tomatoes, tuna, catamount cheese (cross between swiss and parmesan), and cooked a few eggs. We also made a red wine vinaigrette, which was equal parts red wine vinegar and dijon mustard to three parts olive oil, salt & pepper and a pinch of sugar. I crammed some of it in my face and ran out the door, promising to help with dishes later.

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CSA vegetables used: Head lettuce

Other ingredients used: Tuna, eggs, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, cheese, red wine vinegar, dijon mustard, basil, olive oil.

For the past few weeks, we’ve been start the week by cooking the vegetable that seems most likely to go bad, but other than the head lettuce this was a pretty robust crew. It was perfect grilling weather, so we decided to grill a chicken (which would give me leftovers for quick lunches), and tossed the summer squash and a few other veggies onto the grill to boot.

Grilled Chicken and Vegetables

Andrew halved and tossed summer squash, spring onions, and fennel bulb with olive oil and salt and pepper. Then he made an herb paste by grinding 1 tsp fennel seed, 1 tsp coriander, 1  garlic clove, 1/2 tsp black pepper, and a bit of kosher salt in a morter & pestle. He grabbed a handful of chopped basil, oregano, thyme, and just a tiny bit of sage from the herb garden. He then butterflied the chicken and spooned the herb paste under the skin. He seasoned the chicken with salt & pepper.

To grill the chicken and vegetables, we made a two zone fire. Andrew put the chicken skin side down over hotter side of grill for about 15 minutes and then turned it over and moved it to the cooler side of the grill to make room for the veggies.

We grilled the vegetables over hot part of the fire for about three minutes a side, until they were nicely darkened. Then we diced them up and tossed with basil leaves and a splash of red wine vinegar and olive oil, and sprinkled feta cheese on top. We also grilled some bread and pilled the grilled vegetable chunks on top of the slice of bread.

The chicken was taking forever to come up to temperature on the cool side of the grill, so with the veggies done, we moved it back over to the hotter part of the fire until it reached 150°F on the breast, 185°F on the dark meat.

CSA vegetables used: Summer squash, fennel, spring onions

Other ingredients used: A chicken, a bunch of herbs, feta cheese

On Wednesday, we tossed some of the leftover chicken with an avocado, the leftover mizuna and romaine from week 3, and a lime-cumin dressing, but I was in such a hurry to eat that we forgot to take pictures. The entire day, various media outlets were predicting “end-of-days level storms and tornados,” but this turned out to be something of an exaggeration and the storms failed to produce any of the tornados that were predicted to destroy the city of Chicago.

However, it did rain really hard and none of the grilling projects were an option. We made salmon with lentils and swiss chard, a recipe from The Quick Recipe, a cookbook from the Cook’s Illustrated people. Since the recipe took an hour and a half to finish, we were not very impressed with its quickness, but it was a one-pot meal which made doing the dishes faster, I guess.

Salmon with Lentils and Swiss Chard

  1. Separate the swiss chard leaves from the stems, set the leaves aside.
  2. Chop one small onion linely, and saute it in 2 TB butter along with the chopped chard stems, a few sprigs of thyme, and a bit of salt until it is softened and starts to brown.
  3. Add 1 cup of french lentils (also known as lentils du Puy because of course they are). Add 1 3/4 cups chicken stock . Simmer for 30 to 50 min. until tender. It definitely took closer to the 50 min side for us, even though the lentils are tiny.
  4. Thinly slice the swiss chard leaves and saute them in 1 TB butter until wilted and “glossy green”, 1-1/2 -2 minutes.
  5. Heat some oil in non-stick pan until smoking and season the salmon fillets with salt & pepper. Cook, flesh-side down, until browned, 2-3 minutes. Flip fish and cook until done (medium-rare?), about 2 1/2 minutes longer.
  6. We ate them with a squeeze of lemon.

CSA vegetables used: Swiss chard

Other ingredients used:  Salmon, Lentils du Puy, lemons, butter, onion

Next: The Tragedy of the Napa Cabbage

Week 3: Something About Gender Normativity and Quiche

Strawberry Ice Cream, Spinach, Potato, and Goat Cheese Quiche, Fennel and Sugar Snap Pea Salad and Grilled Steak with Potatoes and Caesar Salad

The third week’s CSA box came as a welcome respite from the previous weeks’ leafy-green-athon. We were excited to see fennel and green garlic, which were among my favorite CSA items from last year. I was also eager to try the cilantro, and was determined to for the first time in my life use up a bunch of cilantro before it rotted. Andrew was pleased about sugar snap peas, and we both were a bit concerned by the turnips, since last year we had hoarded them for months until they got used up all at once at Thanksgiving dinner.

With our schedules getting busier and less time to cook, I became particularly obsessed with finding recipes that used more than one CSA item. When I saw that we had potatoes as well as spinach, I proposed using them together in some sort of gratin/galette/quiche/ tart/frittata/whatever. Then I helpfully headed off to rehearsal, leaving Andrew to contemplate whether he really felt like making another pie crust.

Unable or unwilling to decide about dinner, Andrew began by making this simple strawberry ice cream from Food52. The chief virtue of this recipes was that it used up another cup and a half of buttermilk that we still had leftover in the fridge. (We thought maybe we shouldn’t let things other than vegetables go bad in our fridge, either.) Andrew jumped at the chance to use some in ice cream.

Strawberry Ice Cream

To make the ice cream, you take one quart of strawberries and hull and quarter them and blend them with 3/4 cups sugar. Then add 1 1/2 cups of cold buttermilk, 1/3 cup sour cream, and 1/4 teaspoon of salt and mix everything together until smooth. You freeze it in an ice cream maker and then transfer to your freezer to firm up for a few hours. We didn’t have quite enough sour cream, but we had some cream cheese kicking around in the fridge and used it to make up the difference.

 

Spinach, Potato, and Goat Cheese Quiche

I got home from rehearsal to find that Andrew had resigned himself to making a quiche. He pulled together the recipe from a couple different sources, starting with this recipe from Serious Eats, but also referencing Michael Ruhlman for the ratio for the quiche custard.

We’d been eating a lot of pie-type things, and Andrew started to feel that we should be a bit more health-conscious, probably because he has a front seat to the sheer amount of butter that goes into your average pie crust. He found a recipe for oat crust in the King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking Cookbook, hoping that 2/3rd of a cup of oats might counteract the consequences of a stick of butter in the crust.

To make the dough, you start with 2/3 cup (or 2.5 oz by weight) of regular old-fashioned oatmeal and grind the oats in a food processor until it becomes oat flour. Then you pulse in 3/4 cup (or 3 1/8 oz by weight) all purpose flour and 1/4 tsp kosher salt, and work in 1 stick of cold cubed butter. Dump the crumbly mix in a bowl and smear in  3–5 TB of ice cold water. To see if you’ve added enough water, pinch some dough—if it binds together, you should be good. Form dough into round, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes. When it’s rested, roll out and blind-baking the crust under pie weights for about 15 minutes in a 400°F oven.

To make the quiche filling, you fry the potatoes and onions in oil until they start to brown and drain them. Wilt the spinach in a dry pot for a few minutes (the giant pile of spinach reduces itself to a tiny ball in a very satisfying way). The potatoes and spinach go into the shell along with some big chunks of goat cheese, and followed by a custard poured over the top made with 4 eggs, 1/2 cup whole milk, 1 cup of heavy cream, and ¾ tsp kosher salt. It cooked in a 350°F oven for about an hour. Andrew pulled it when the thermometer stuck in the custard was at 170°F.

CSA vegetables used: spinach, 1/3 of the potatoes, 2 red spring onions

Other ingredients used: thyme, oatmeal, flour, butter, goat cheese, egg, milk, heavy cream, salt.

 

Shaved Fennel and Sugar Snap Peas with Garlic Lemon Vinaigrette

While the quiche cooked, we threw together a shaved salad that we loosely based on a recipe in Prune. We sliced raw fennel, spring onions, and sugar snap peas thinly on a bias. 

The dressing called for garlic, which I made using some of the CSA green garlic. At this point in the season, the CSA garlic looks more like a scallion than garlic. You can barely see the outline of cloves inside each head. To make the dressing, grate the garlic against a microplane and mix it with ¾ cup olive oil and ¼ cup plus 1 TB lemon juice. Salt and pepper to taste.

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Awkward teenaged garlic

CSA vegetables used: 2 red spring onions, fennel, green garlic, ½ the sugar snap peas.

Other ingredients used: thyme, oatmeal, flour, butter, goat cheese, egg, milk, olive oil, lemon

We ate dinner at 9:30 at night, and while we were tired and cranky, we felt triumphant in having used up all the spinach, half the potatoes, half the sugar snap peas, the fennel, the last of the spring onions, some green garlic, not to mention half the strawberries, all in the first 12 hours of having the box. 

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This is expert level CSA use

Wednesday we decided to grill some steaks in honor of Andrew’s birthday. I had been struck by the size and heft of the CSA romaine—it had a subwoofer-like crunch when you broke off a leaf. It seemed perfect for a Caesar salad. Since we were already firing up the grill, we decided to grill the potatoes as well.

Grilled Steak, Potatoes, and Caesar Salad

The recipe for Caesar Salad, from Serious Eats starts with the croutons.

  1. Preheat oven to 375.
  2. Take a bowl and whisk together 3 tablespoons oil and and minced 2 garlic cloves. Pass the oil through a strainer and put the garlic cloves aside for later.
  3. Next, dip a bunch of bread cubes in the garlic oil, add 2 TB parmesan cheese, and mix it all together. Put everything in the oven on a cookie sheet and cook for 15 minutes.
  4. The dressing is next: mix 1 egg yolk, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 2-6 (this seems like a wide range, doesn’t it?) anchovies, 1 teaspoon Worchestershire sauce, the garlic from before, and 1/4 cup parmesan cheese together and blend. The recipe says with the blender running you should add 1/3 cup of canola oil. Then you pour it into a bowl and add 1/4 cup of olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
  5. Pull the croutons out (assuming you didn’t already burn them, like I did) and put another 2 TB of parmesan cheese over them.
  6. Mix dressing, croutons, and romaine together.

The grilled potato recipe also came from Serious Eats. The potatoes were left skin-on, cleaned, and cut roughly in half and boiled until tender. Then we tossed them with olive oil and a bit of salt and pepper and finished by searing them over the hot side of the grill until they were crusty and dark. Andrew grilled lemon halves and the last of the spring onions alongside, then sliced the onions, and tossed the potatoes with the onions and with lemon juice in a bowl before serving.

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The steaks were salted about 45 minutes before we planned to cook them, and then we let them rest so that the moisture from the salt would absorb back in. Once the grill was ready, Andrew cooked them on the grill along with the rest of the CSA potatoes and some lemons. He finished the steaks over the hot side of the grill, searing them until they reached an internal temperature of 125°F.

CSA vegetables used: half of the romaine, the rest of the potatoes

Other ingredients used: lemons, 2 steaks, 1 head of garlic, olive oil, canola oil, bread cubes

Next: In which Andrew cooks turnips while I visit the suburbs and we try dry curry.

 

Week 2: Working Grill

Ladna, Pan-fried Halibut with Kale and Kohlrabi Salad, Fried Eggs with Grilled Asparagus & Red Springs Onions

As the weekend approached, I began crumbling into a ball of stress due a complete failure to plan out anything that I needed to get done other than the CSA . Friday morning I hustled to design business cards and a poster for an event on Sunday, and then set about trying to find someone who could print them for me on basically no notice. In the midst of all of this, we somehow managed to piece together a string of delicious meals that provided enough leftovers to get us through the weekend.

Friday: Ladna with Tofu and Leaf Broccoli

The chief achievement of the week was making ladna at home on the grill. We had wanted to cook ladna the week before, but our local asian grocery store was out of the wide fresh rice noodles that it turns out are pretty essential (we made pad Thai instead). We still had the idea for ladna floating around in our heads, however, and upon seeing that we had leaf broccoli in the CSA, we decided to make it a priority to track down the right kind of noodles.

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This is what leaf broccoli looks like.

This meant a trek to Tai Nam Market near Argyle and Broadway, an intersection filled with some of the best Thai and Vietnamese food in Chicago. It’s an intense grocery store, with live seafood crawling around in tanks next to row upon row of whole fish on ice. We wandered back and forth in front of the row of fresh rice noodles, feeling a little self-conscious that it took us, like, 10 minutes to be sure we had the package we needed.

Friday was the first day of the summer that hit the 90s, so it was arguably not the best day for grilling. But we were deeply motivated having had so much fun grilling the pad Thai, so come evening I traipsed outside with a cold beer to light the coals while Andrew prepped the ingredients inside.

Like any stir-fry, ladna is all about the prep. The rice noodles came in a 2 pound block that seemed fused together. Separating them was a bit challenging, but the recipe from Hot Sour Salty Sweet suggested running them under warm water, which seemed to help a lot. Ladna “gravy” is made with 1 TB fermented soybean paste that’s been mashed until smooth, 1 TB soy sauce, 1.5 TB fish sauce, and 1.5 TB rice vinegar. You also use 1.25 cups mild chicken broth. We had a homemade chicken stock on hand which isn’t exactly mild, so we diluted it by half with water. You also need a cornstarch slurry made with 1 TB cornstarch to 3 TB water.

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In order of appearance

The other big discovery was the chili-vinegar sauce that went along with it. It was really simple: 1/2 a banana pepper sliced thinly, 1/2 cup rice vinegar, and 2TB or so of sugar. We recognized the condiment because we’d seen it at the table when ever we went to Thai Pastry on Argyle, but we had no clue that it was supposed to go on ladna.

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Chile-vinegar sauce

 

Like with the pad Thai, we put the wok directly on the coals until it was scorching hot and then the cooking happened in a sweaty fury. The noodles went in first, cooking for a couple minutes and then being set aside in the serving bowl. The garlic and tofu came next, then the leaf broccoli (some of which overflowed the pan and fell onto the coals, see below). When the leaf broccoli had wilted and the tofu browned, we tossed in the ingredients for the sauce, which came to an instantaneous boil. A few moments later, the sauce had thickened and we poured it over the noodles and went inside to escape the heat.

After we ate, I sat in a sort of stupor, muttering about the dish being a “gamechanger,” though I don’t really remember what I meant by that. All I can say is that everyone should give it a try, on the grill if you can. The flavors were intense, blended yet distinct, and the chile-vinegar sauce brought the whole thing alive.

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A gamechanger

CSA vegetables used: Leaf broccoli

Other ingredients used: Tofu, rice noodles, fermented soybean paste, soy sauce, fish sauce, chicken broth, corn starch & water, banana pepper, sugar, rice wine vinegar.

Sunday: Pan-fried Halibut with Kale and Kohlrabi Salad

I felt it was important while making the week’s plan to put a dent in the kohlrabi before it started getting the upper hand, and we also had a large quantity of kale that didn’t yet have a designated purpose. I didn’t have high hopes for a google search for”kale and kohlrabi,” but probably shouldn’t have been surprised when I came across the webpage of someone else trying to use up their CSA. In this case, I found a recipe for kale and kohlrabi salad with a lemon-tahini dressing recipe from Emma Frisch.

To make the dressing, you blend 2.5 TB tahini, juice from one lemon, 1 TB honey, 1 TB toasted sesame oil, 1 tsp horseradish, and 1 tsp salt. The kale is sliced up thinly and the kohlrabi grated so that it sort of looks like cheese. I doubled the recipe for the dressing and dumped it on top of all of the kale and kohlrabi without too much thought, resulting in the salad being significantly overdressed. Luckily, kale and kohlrabi can stand up to being drenched in tahini dressing more than, say, a bag of spring mix, and it was still quite edible.

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Our protein of choice was halibut, which Andrew pan-fried in butter and olive oil after dusting with smoked paprika, cayenne, salt and pepper. He cooked it over medium high-heat for about 3 to 4 minutes a side, until it was just beginning to flake.

CSA vegetables used: kale and kohlrabi

Other ingredients used: halibut, tahini, honey, horseradish, lemon

Monday: Fried Eggs with Grilled Asparagus & Red Spring Onions, Bruschetta with Spinach Pesto and Feta

The weekend was incredibly busy, with a rehearsal, a gig, a concert, and three hours spent introducing preschoolers to miniature cellos as part of the kids activities tent at the summer street festival in our neighborhood. When Monday came along, all I wanted to do was sleep and eat leftovers. While peering into the fridge to see what our options were, we found the CSA asparagus, which had gotten pushed to the back and hidden by a large bag of kohlrabi leaves. The tips of the asparagus had already started to go, but they were salvageable.

We decided to make the classic and easy dish of fried eggs served over asparagus. During a walk to get wine before dinner, we marveled at how pleasant it was outside once again and decided we should just grill everything—the asparagus and the spring onions—use the wok to fry the eggs. We also still had spinach pesto, which we decided to slather on slices of grilled bread.

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We grilled the asparagus for 3 to 4 minutes over the hottest part of the fire. Then we halved some CSA spring onions and grilled them for about two minutes until they were dark.

We started the slices of bread on the cooler part of the grill until the edges were starting to brown. We then finished them over the hottest part of the fire, turning them frequently to keep them from burning. The slices of toast came off the grill and were promptly spread with pesto and sprinkled with feta.

The eggs were fried in a big glug of olive oil in the wok over the grill, and Andrew spooned oil over them while they cooked.We were aiming for a flash-cooked fried egg, extolled by Deb Perelman at Smitten Kitchen and Kenji Lopez-Alt. The heat was a little hard to judge, and so the yolks were harder than we liked by the time the whites were cooked through. Andrew thinks he should have put the wok directly on the coals and let the oil heat up a few seconds longer. He’s eager to try it again.

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Not bad

CSA vegetables used: asparagus, spring red onions, leftover spinach pesto

Other ingredients used: eggs, bread, olive oil.

Next: Week 2 field report

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