Week 6: Ful Medamas Fail

The Week 6 box brought fava beans, english peas, raspberries, currants, golden beets, carrots, Swiss chard, sweet potatoes, broccoli, and sweet Vidalia onions. I also took a truly horrible picture of it, complete with unappealing trails of raspberry goo. My excuse is that I picked up the box on the way home after a day of teaching summer camp in which a child managed to set the classroom microwave for 95 minutes and no one noticed, and someone else stepped on a firecracker. I was pretty tired.

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Sweet Potato Curry with Swiss chard

My first project was to make a curry with the sweet potatoes and the Swiss chard. I searched all over the internet for recipes, and ended up choosing this one, mostly because again I already had all of the ingredients at home. It’s from a blog called the Minimalist Baker, and I substituted Swiss chard for kale.

You put a tablespoon and a half of grapeseed oil in a frying pan (In a weirdly self-indulgent act, I actually picked this up from Trader Joe’s instead of just using olive oil. It actually made the cooking process very pleasant!). You sauté 1 shallot, 2 TB grated ginger, 2 TB minced garlic, and a minced Thai red pepper for a few minutes. Then add 3 TB of red curry paste and a large sweet potato that’s been peeled and cubed.

Add two cans of coconut milk, 1 TB maple syrup, 1 1/2 tsp ground turmeric, and a pinch of salt and bring it to a boil. Simmer from 5-10 minutes (I think I did closer to 15) until the sweet potatoes are soft. Then you add 2 cups chopped Swiss chard, 1/2 cup roasted cashews, and the juice of one lemon. It simmers for a few more minutes, and then it’s ready!

IMG_0354.JPGCSA ingredients used: sweet potatoes, Swiss chard

Other ingredients used: garlic, ginger, Thai red pepper, red curry paste, coconut milk, maple syrup, ground turmeric, salt, cashews, lemon

Ful Medamas

Next up was the fava beans. Andrew was very excited about them and suggested I make ful medamas, which I had never heard of but everyone else seemed to think was delicious. I poked around a bunch of recipes and ended up sort of deciding to follow all of them at once, since general consensus in all recipes was that it was incredibly easy. One recipe told me to soak my fava beans overnight, which I dutifully did. If I read the fine print on the opposite page, it would have been obvious this was only for dried fava beans.

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Fresh from a nice overnight soak

Once I figured out I didn’t need to cook them for two hours either, I became significantly more optimistic. I shelled them and put them in boiling water for about two minutes, and then peeled off the inside skins.

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Then I mushed them up with some lemon juice, a TB olive oil, some cumin, and salt and pepper. There were only about 3 spoonfuls of food, and it didn’t even look remotely like the picture. One of the recipes also recommended serving them with bread and a fried egg, which seemed like a good idea considering this was supposed to be my dinner.

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This is not even remotely what any of the pictures online looked like. Here’s what it’s supposed to look like:

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This guy’s turned out great, and he didn’t even use a recipe

Or this:

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CSA ingredients used: fava beans

Other ingredients used: bread, egg, cumin, lemon juice, olive oil

It’s worth exploring fresh fava beans further, but it seems likely that this dish is one of the few instances where you do a lot better with the canned than the fresh.

Spigarello Returns

As mentioned last week, I had a bit of a surprise the first time I bit into spigarello. I decided to try again, this time with a recipe. The internet has very, very few spigarello recipes. Serious Eats, our usual go-to, yields nothing, and NY Times cooking has only one entry for it. We ended up using this one.

You blanch the spigarello leaves and then drain them in a colander, trying to get them as dry as possible. Then you heat some oil in a frying pan and return them to the pan to brown a bit. Then you add a tsp minced shallot, a tsp minced garlic, and a few red chile flakes. Squeeze a little lemon juice and some honey over the top and they’re done. We had them with salmon and rice.

The browned parts were really nice, and the honey made a big difference, but even after all that they were still quite bitter.

CSA ingredients used: spigarello

Other ingredients used: salmon, rice, lemon, olive oil, honey, salt, pepper

Red Currant Cheesecake

At the end of the week, we still had a plate of gorgeous currants sitting in the refrigerator. We didn’t really know what to make with currants other than scones, but our friend Ben was coming over for dinner and it made more sense to make a dessert than an afternoon snack. Also, I had a sudden craving for cheesecake. Cheesecake is secretly one of my favorite desserts, but I rarely indulge in it because other people seem to find it unhealthy, or something.

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This recipe was from Organic Life. You start with two cups of crumbled ginger snap cookies, with you mush together with 2 1/2 TB sugar and 5 TB butter. Then you press it onto the bottom of a greased 9-inch springform pan. You make it in a 350 degree oven for about 10 minutes, until the mixture is crispy and brown. Reduce the oven to 325.

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Next, in an electric mixer you mix together 12 oz goat cheese (really), 8 ounces cream cheese, and 1/2 cup buttermilk for 4-5 minutes until it’s smooth and fluffy. Gradually beat in 1/2 cup sugar and 4 eggs one at a time. Add the zest and juice of one lemon. Pour half of the mixture into the springform pan, add 1/4 cup red currants (we added 1/2 cup and could have stood to have more in there. Come on, Organic Life. It’s a red currant cheesecake.) Then you pour the rest of the batter on top and add some more currants.

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To make this, you have to stick the springform pan inside a roasting pan. In order to prevent water from seeping in, you wrap the base of the springform pan in silver foil. Then you pour enough water into the roasting pan to come 2/3 of the way up the springform pan.

The cake cooks for 1 hour and 20 minutes, and then has to cool for about 2 hours before you can eat it.

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CSA ingredients used: red currants (about half of them…stay tuned for scones next week…)

Other ingredients used: goat cheese, cream cheese, buttermilk, sugar, butter, ginger snaps, eggs, lemon

Next: Week 7!

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: 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