Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Variety is the Spice of Life

I'm really impressed with the variety of produce from the farm this year.  We've been getting a mix of items every week, and it's been inspiring thinking of ways to use different vegetables.  For Week 6 we received:

- green garlic

- red spring onions

- potatoes

- fennel

- arugula

- rainbow chard

- cabbage

- cucumber

- purple, yellow, and green beans

CSA Meals - Week 5

I never thought I needed a kitchen scale, and I put it on my wedding registry thinking that it would be a nice but not necessary accessory.  I'm so glad that I did, because it's made our CSA meals significantly easier.  Many recipes reference both an approximate amount ("a large bunch") along with the weight of an item, and thanks to my scale, I know exactly how to tailor my ingredients to create the desire proportions.

For example, I found a Bobby Flay recipe for the half head of French endive (or frisee) that we got.  The Frisee Salad with Roasted Garlic Dressing calls for 1/2 pound of frisee, and I found out that we only had about 1/4 pound, which led me to halve all of the ingredients.  Frisee is a somewhat bitter green, but it has the perfect taste and texture to pair with the sweet roasted garlic flavor in the dressing.  We ate the salad alongside our fabulous roast chicken (pictured below) and rice, and I also got a few snacks out of it later in the week. The dressing is versatile enough to be used for any salad, and I'm looking forward to making it again soon.

I'm always searching for new ways to use leftover chicken, and I was especially excited to try The Splendid Table's Southwestern Lime-Chicken Hash.  I used my scale again to measure out a pound of cooked chicken, which was essentially all of the dark meat from the bird.  The spring onions and larger squash from the share went into the hash in place of red pepper.  Davy and I decided we didn't want eggs with the hash, and instead broiled the pan with a layer of cheese on top.  I didn't have tomato paste, but I used the end of a jar of salsa instead.  I didn't taste a lot of southwestern flavor, so if I tried this again I would probably add some cumin and chili powder.  It was fun to have a different style of dinner, but there was a lot of chopping involved for this dish, especially in my hot kitchen.

We finished the chicken on Sunday evening with a cabbage and escarole gratin.  The recipe was another New York Times entry from Martha Rose Shulman, and I used half a head of green cabbage and half a head of escarole (below), which happened to be about half of the greens that the recipe called for.  A small container of long-grain rice, leftover from our chicken dinner, went into the gratin instead of arborio, but the dish didn't suffer.  It's light, but still has a substantial feel to it, and it's a convenient way to use up vegetables and other odds and ends from the fridge.

Every so often something catches my eye on, and when I saw this recipe for kohlrabi fritters, I though it would be a fitting way to use the strange-looking vegetable.  I put together an easy, chunky tsatsiki sauce, boiled some pasta in case the fritters failed and/or they weren't enough for us for dinner, and prepped the ingredients.  Since our kohlrabi wasn't quite medium-sized, I decided to supplement it with the smaller squash.  

I grated both of the vegetables and put the batter together.  We don't have a large cast-iron pan, so I decided to use the dutch oven instead.  The first batch fell apart and stuck to the bottom of the pot, which makes me think that I didn't let the oil heat up enough.  The second round of fritters behaved much better, and we ate two each, with a hearty topping of tsatsiki.  I had to incorporated the languishing basil and some parsley to reach the 8 tablespoon mark for the herbs, but I was pleased with the combination.

Looking back over Week 5's dinners, snacks and lunches, I'm pleased with the new techniques and recipes that we tried.  It's fun making vegetables more of the main event, and even more fun weighing everything before I cook.


Southwestern Lime-Chicken Hash

Adapted from The Splendid Table
Serves 4 to 6
  • About 1 pound of cooked chicken,shredded or chopped
  • Juice of 2 medium limes
  • 1 large onion, cut into 1/4 inch dice
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • Stems of 8 branches of fresh coriander, thinly sliced
  • Fresh coriander leaves from 8 branches
  • 1-1/2 cups of squash or other vegetables
  • 1 to 2 fresh jalapeƱo chilies, seeded, deveined and minced
  • 2 large cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/3 cup chicken broth mixed with 1 tablespoon salsa
  • 2-1/2 pounds boiled and chilled red-skinned potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • Canola or extra-virgin olive oil
  • grated cheddar cheese
1. Preheat oven broiler. In a large bowl, combine the chicken and the lime juice. Let stand while you gather the rest of the ingredients. Add the onions, coriander stems, half the coriander leaves, the squash, garlic, tomato paste, broth or water, and the potatoes. Toss with salt and pepper.
2. Generously film with oil the bottom of a 12-inch skillet that has an oven-proof handle. Set skillet over medium-high heat. Turn the contents of the bowl into the skillet and spread it out. Cook, adjusting heat as needed, to slowly crisp the ingredients (8 to 10 minutes). Use a spatula to turn pieces if they threaten to stick.
3. When vegetables are starting to brown, spread out the mix over the skillet so the bottom of the mix can crisp. Once golden brown, remove from the oven and sprinkle with cheese
4. Slip the hash under the broiler 1-2 minutes to start it browning. Broil until cheese is sufficiently melted.
5. Serve the hash hot, sprinkled with the rest of the fresh coriander leaves. 

Greens and Red Cabbage Gratin

1/2 pound greens, such as escarole, stemmed and cleaned in two changes of water
1/2 pound green cabbage, finely chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
1 large garlic clove, minced or pressed
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 egg
1/8 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
1/4 cup rice, preferably a short grain rice like arborio, cooked
1 ounce cheddar cheese, grated (1/4 cup)
1 tablespoon breadcrumbs

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Fill a bowl with ice water. When the water comes to a boil, salt generously and add the greens. Blanch for about two minutes, until tender and bright green. Transfer to the ice water, then drain and squeeze out water. Chop coarsely.
2. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large, heavy nonstick skillet over medium heat, and add the onion. Cook, stirring often, until tender and translucent, about five minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook for another minute, until fragrant. Stir in the cabbage and about 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring, for 10 minutes, until the cabbage is tender and fragrant but still has some texture and color. Stir in the chopped blanched greens. Add salt and pepper to taste.
3. Beat the egg in a bowl, and stir in the cooked vegetables, parsley, rice and cheese. Stir together well and scrape into a 1-quart baking dish. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs over the top, and drizzle on the remaining olive oil. Bake 30 to 40 minutes, until firm and browned on the top. Serve hot or warm.
Yield: Serves two to three
Advance preparation: This can be made a day ahead and reheated. Alternatively, prepare the vegetables through step 2 a day ahead, and assemble the gratin the next day. It will keep for four or five days in the refrigerator.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Impromptu Sandwiches, Stuzzi, and Roasted Chicken

Three things:

1.  Davy makes killer sandwiches, especially when we need to clean out the fridge.  For dinner last Sunday, he used a piece of chicken breast, rosemary, parsley, feta, mayonnaise and bacon to make a vibrant chicken salad.  With CSA cucumber and salad mix, plus a homegrown tomato, his dinner was attractive and delectable.

2. We tried the newly opened pizza place, Stuzzi, on Monday night (after a failed attempt to get in when it was packed on Saturday).  It's hot, and loud, but was ideal for a quick, relatively inexpensive dinner before Davy had to go to band practice.  To start, we ordered an arugula salad with shaved parmesan and fried mozzarella, both of which were reasonably priced and heartily portioned.  Our margherita pizza didn't floor me, but I thought it was decent and it's nice to have a different type of pizza place in Richmond.

3. I finally thawed my chicken from Ault's Family Farm and tried a new recipe: "Jacques Pepin's Quick-Roasted Chicken," originally adapted from Food and Wine.  I did have to battle with the bird to cut its backbone out, but for the most part, it was extremely easy to put this dish together.  This is also the only time I've ever followed a recipe closely and the cooking time was accurate for my oven, which makes me more inclined to prepare another chicken with this method.  It cooks in thirty-five minutes, rests for five, and the results are wonderful.  I'm looking forward to incorporating chicken into upcoming meals this week.

CSA Meals - Week 4

Aside from sweet varieties like banana, zucchini, and pumpkin, I haven't really ventured into the world of bread-making.  A friend recently directed me to a blog called the Cookin' Canuck, where I discovered a recipe for Caramelized Onion & Spinach Olive Oil Quick Bread.  

If it hadn't been for the inclusion of the word "quick," I may not have cared so much, but something about this recipe struck me.  Knowing that we'd probably receive some type of green that would be easy enough to adapt for this recipe, I decided to make it as soon as I could.  My opportunity came last Thursday, when we had a couple people over to grill ribs and chicken.  I substituted our red Russian kale for the spinach, but otherwise followed the site's instructions.  

My picture isn't as pretty as the Cookin' Canuck's, and my bread was slightly underdone and very crumbly, but it has an amazing flavor from the olive oil that paired very nicely with the sweet onions and earthy kale.  One of my friends said that it reminded him of cornbread, which was an apt comparison because of the soft texture and savory flavor.  I am definitely going to hold onto this recipe; I love how the bread can be eaten at any time of the day, and can accompany almost any other food.  We paired it multiple times with a frittata, and I can imagine that it would be fantastic with soups and stews in the winter.

Another dish that I've been waiting to recreate is from one of Martha Rose Shulman's "Recipes for Health" columns in The New York Times.  With the bag full of beans that Shannon gave us, along with our spring onions and squash, I didn't need much else to try Greek Stewed Green Beans and Yellow Squash with Tomatoes.  

We haven't gotten tomatoes from our share yet, so I bought a can of petite diced, and I forgot to sprinkle lemon juice when I served it, but the stew was delicious and fresh-tasting regardless.  We ate it as a side next to our grilled chicken and ribs, although I would have no trouble eating this for my main course.  It made enough to be eaten several times, and we heated some of it in a pan for the frittata I mentioned earlier.  This recipe is a prime example of how basic, quality ingredients don't need to be dressed up to please the palate.  

I was able to use stir fry greens from Week 3 with this week's pac choi (a leaf is pictured below) to make a shrimp stir fry on Tuesday.  The greens and shrimp didn't need a lot of extra flavor besides a little soy sauce and Sriracha, and I also had a healthy lunch for the next day.  

I made several salads with feta, cucumber, and tomato for snacks throughout the week, and planned on making a salad with the French endive (which is also known as frisee).  The only thing I needed was garlic, and Kroger didn't have any when I went on Monday.  Davy had to go to band practice, so I didn't have time to go to another store, and we ended up trying a new pizza place near Carytown.  It turned out to be worth it, and we didn't even have to get rid of the endive.  I'll have more to report about the frisee and my second attempt at homemade dressing next week.  

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Time for Basil

This week the strong, summery smell of basil floated out of our bag of produce.  I can't wait to use it in a risotto or soup, and to try out some of our other veggies:

- zucchini

- squash

- cucumber

- green garlic

- spring onions

- kohlrabi

- escarole

- cabbage

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Beans and Greens

As we move into mid-June (!), I'm starting to see some different produce in our CSA share:

- French endive

- Red Russian Kale

- pac choy

- zucchini (regular and "8 ball")

- cucumber

- salad mix 

- spring onions

We are also lucky enough to receive some extra, beautiful green beans from Shannon's garden (the photo is also courtesy of her)

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

CSA Meals - Week 3

Although I don't think I've been very creative with my CSA goods so far this year, Davy and I are still consuming more of them than we have in the past.  My goal for the upcoming weeks is to incorporate the veggies into our meals even more so that they're part of the main dish instead of just a side or snack.

My parents had a wonderful cookout for Memorial Day weekend, and Davy and I benefited from the leftovers.  We were sent back to Richmond with smoked sweet potatoes, brisket, pulled pork, and cous cous salad.  On Tuesday we picked up a half pint of Buz and Ned's cole slaw, along with a bottle of their barbecue sauce, and feasted on all of the leftovers.  I put together a salad with cucumber, tomato, and small block of feta that had been neglected in the bottom drawer of the fridge for awhile.

The next day I sliced the rest of the cucumber that we used in the salad, which was crunchier and fresher tasting than any supermarket cucumber, and paired it with a small chunk of cheese for my mid-morning snack.  We indulged in takeout from 8 1/2 that night, and I sauteed the chard with garlic to accompany a red pizza and prosciutto, mozzarella, and arugula hero.

I had the remaining chard for my afternoon snack on Thursday, and we went to a friend's house for grilled burgers later in the evening.  Davy and I provided squash and onions to throw on the grill, and tossed them with a little olive oil, salt and pepper.  The natural sweetness and the smokiness from the grill made the vegetables the highlight of our dinner.

The annual Greek Festival was going on over the weekend, and since Davy and I moved into our house, we're now close enough to walk to Grove and Malvern for it.  I made a simple, refreshing salad when I got home from work so I would have something in my stomach before I stuffed my face with chicken souvlaki (and drank too much wine).   

We had the privilege of attending a beautiful wedding on Saturday in Gloucester, VA, and because we were worn out when we returned the next day, we decided to order a Mary Angela's Pizza.  I wanted to try to finish some of the vegetables, so I roasted the purple-top turnips and put them in a salad with cucumber and tomato.  

Neither of us are sick of dressing our lettuce with balsamic vinegar and olive oil yet, but I did feel like trying to make a ginger dressing to add some variety to our salad routine.  I referenced two recipes for ginger vinaigrette, but we were missing a fair number of ingredients and I wasn't in the mood to drive to Kroger, so I made up my own version.  I grated ginger and combined it with sugar, rice vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil, and vegetable oil to make a decent dressing.  It still needs some work, but it was nice to have a different flavor with the salad greens.  I also set aside some of the lettuce, cucumber, and turnips for a snack on Monday or Tuesday, and there's plenty of the ginger dressing to give them an extra boost.

When our CSA partners picked up the share last week, it was warm enough that some of the greens were looking a little wilted.  Adam from the farm recommended putting some of them in water, so I'd cut the stems off of our broccoli raab and kept it that way all week in the fridge.  It worked so well that I tried it with the Asian stir fry greens on Monday, and they perked up after several days in the produce drawer.  

I've been thinking about replicating a pasta dish from Edo's Squid since we've had so much broccoli raab, and I finally got the chance on Monday. With Davy's help, I made tomato sauce, blanched the greens, and crumbled and browned some hot Italian turkey sausage.  Next, I boiled a half a pound of orrechiette in the same water that we used for the broccoli raab, and when the pasta was ready, I combined about 1/3 of a cup of ricotta with about 1/2 cup of the cooking water in a large bowl.  The sausage, greens, and noodles went into the bowl on top of the cheese mixture, and then I started adding spoonfuls of tomato sauce to attain the appropriate balance.  Obviously our dinner wasn't exactly like the restaurant serves, but it was delicious and healthier (or so I'd like to believe).  

The only item left is the stir fry greens, which are still satisfactory, and I'm hoping to combine them with new vegetables from Week 4 in a shrimp stir fry.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

A Splash of Color

This week we received a large bag full of fantastic vegetables:

- salad mix

- Swiss and rainbow chard (pictured below)

- broccoli raab

- Asian stir fry greens

- spring onions

- cucumbers

- squash and zucchini

- purple top turnips

CSA Meals - Week 2

The second round of produce was easy to get consume within the week, mainly because of two dinners with friends.  The half bag of lettuce mix was eaten the same day in a salad for Shannon's birthday meal.  We dressed it lightly with olive oil and lemon juice, and garnished it with toasted pine nuts.

I followed a recipe for the mustard greens (pictured) that also included our large spring onion, and ate it as a side dish for dinner and snack for the next couple days.  Mustard greens are very spicy, and this recipe called for chicken stock as well as a little bit of sesame oil, which definitely helped to tame their flavor.  

On Thursday night we had dinner at a friend's house, and were able to provide arugula, roasted turnips, and grilled garlic scapes and zucchini for a fresh salad.  The turnips were very sweet, and the garlic scapes were fragrant without overpowering any of the other salad ingredients. 

I blanched the broccoli raab again and stored it in the fridge until we were back in town on Monday.  Even though we ordered Thai food that night, the sauteed greens were a healthy and delicious pre-dinner snack.  

Incorporating warm ingredients into our salads has definitely prevented us from getting into a salad rut.  I'm going to have to keep trying new recipes and being creative so that we can keep up the trend of eating all of our vegetables between pick up days.