Thursday, October 27, 2011

Wednesday Pictures

The pear/apple fruit - Asian pears - we got in our CSA this week

Gigantic 1.5 lb sweet potato dwarfing a cherry tomato

Beautiful broccoli almost ready to be roasted

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

New Fruit

There isn't really a good word that combines "pear," and "apple," but I'm looking forward to trying the hybrid fruit we got this week.  Does anyone know if there's an official name for this?

Update: the mystery fruit are Asian pears!

In addition, we took home:

- sweet potatoes

- kohlrabi

- a tomato

- collard greens

- butternut squash

- sweet peppers

- Japanese turnips

Thursday, October 20, 2011

CSA Meals - Week 5

I'm almost embarrassed to post about last week because it was so uneventful in terms of vegetables, and I didn't take any pictures.  Davy grilled green beans on Tuesday night to go with some of Keith's venison and goose, and we ate the rest raw as snacks. 

There was tons of basil, and I barely made a dent in it.  I put some in a baked pasta dish that I threw together from ratatouille Davy made for my birthday dinner (sans eggplant), linguine, mozzarella, and parmesan.  

On Thursday we ordered pizza and made a salad and used some of the share tomatoes, which still have great flavor even though they're winding down.  We used the remaining tomatoes in another salad that was my attempt to balance out some delicious fried seafood in Chincoteague.  The candy binge that occurred later that night probably undid any good from the salad, but at least I tried, right?

Davy carried on the makeshift dinner trend on Monday when we decided to have a wine and cheese night.  Again, to offset the rest of the meal, I prepared some mustard greens with onion, garlic, chicken stock, and sesame oil.  We both had to add soy sauce to avoid having our sinuses completely cleared out by the spicy greens.  The rush from eating them was comparable to an intense horseradish flavor, or the fiery sensation one gets from wasabi.  

I froze the okra, and still had plenty of basil and mustard greens to experiment with at the end of the week, and hopefully Week 6 won't be quite as boring. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Spicy Salad Mix

I think spicy salad mix is my favorite name of any item we've received in the share.  It's also visually appealing (pictured).  In addition, we received:

- sweet potatoes

- the last of the green beans and wax beans

- last of the tomatoes

- napa cabbage

- kale

- broccoli


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

More Rain

Adam and Darbi said that they had a tough time with all of the rain we had in the past few weeks, but we still got a great share this week:

- two huge bunches of basil

- pretty mustard greens

- assorted tomatoes

- onions

- beets

- okra

- green beans

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Fall CSA - Weeks 2 and 3

As I mentioned in my last post, I had a stomach bug a couple weeks ago. Combined with attending several concerts last week, our CSA routine was considerably disrupted, and we didn't use any of our Week 2 produce until Week 3.  Luckily, I was still on my stay-in-the-kitchen-and-off-the-couch kick, so we ate just about everything.

On Monday I made Jacques Pepin's Quick-Roasted Chicken for the second time, and this time I had enough foresight to let the butcher remove the chicken's backbone.  I love this recipe because it really is quick enough for a weeknight, which makes anything extra satisfying.  We made roasted potatoes and a salad with pistachios to go with the chicken.  The salad mix from Week 2 was very crisp, and the leaves stayed fresh for longer than usual.

The next night, after going to the market, I made carbonara-like dish with the fresh pasta (spinach and plain fettuccine and black pepper linguine).  I sauteed the cremini mushrooms, removed them from the pan, and then cooked the yellow squash with garlic and chopped homemade bacon.  

I added sungold cherry tomatoes and pasta when the squash was done, and stirred in tempered egg yolks and parmesan to finish it off.  

Unfortunately, the fettuccine was overcooked, and the noodles clumped together when I stirred everything together.  It was still pleasant to eat, and was fine leftover, but I was disappointed since I'd gotten special ingredients from the market to make dinner.  

We ate raw wax beans on the side to finish off the bag from the previous week, and had our apples as mid-morning snacks the next day.  As in the past, they were far superior to any grocery store apple available.  

On Thursday I gave eggplant another chance in this recipe for Eggplant Tian. Kerry Saretsky, the author, describes it as "easy" and "awesome," but I'm not sure I'd agree with it being "easy."  The techniques are simple enough: slicing, marinating, broiling, baking, but it took several steps to complete the recipe, and took longer than I'd like for a work night.  

As you can see, I baked it in one dish instead of four.  I was very happy with the results, and had no problem eating a few rounds of the leftovers with generous dollops of pesto on top.  This is a great way to use up eggplant, and it's almost as comforting as lasagna.  We enjoyed it with bread and a salad with homegrown peppers and tomatoes.

We munched on our green beans raw and also included them in a Saturday morning veggie scramble.  The eggs were also mixed with sweet peppers, feta, and eggs for a delicious and filling brunch.  

That afternoon, in anticipation of a special dinner on Sunday, I julienned and pickled our daikon radish and a large carrot.  

The radish emitted an not-so-pleasant odor that lingered in our fridge and freezer for most of the weekend, but it did add a nice crunch to shrimp spring rolls.  Below are a few shots of Davy's spring rolling handiwork.  We served them with a peanut butter and hoisin dipping sauce.

We also made homemade chicken pho from a recipe we made in a cooking class, and I got so caught up in preparing and eating it that I didn't take any pictures.  It also deserves its own post, which hopefully I'll have the time for at some point, but it turned out well and was comforting on a chilly Sunday night.

Monday was our wedding anniversary, and I made a simple dinner since we're going to Portland, OR for a long weekend.  I prepared two recipes from The Best Recipes in the World, by Mark Bittman: sole meuniere (made with flounder) and a braised leek and rice dish (made with bok choy instead of leeks).  

Both were subtly flavored and allowed the quality of the ingredients to really shine through.

I'll be taking Week 4 off, but plan on some Portland posts for next week!

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Spicy and Sweet...Mostly Sweet

Two weeks ago I came down with a nasty 24-hour stomach bug. For most people, that would mean avoiding the Food Network and anything else with edible references, but I got just as much out of watching the daytime lineup as I would have if I'd been healthy.  By the weekend, I was itching to get back into the kitchen and start eating the way I wanted.  

My first task was to make good use of the seven habaneros given to us by a friend.  I never got around to making jerk seasoning last fall, and I wasn't going to make the same mistake again.  I'm also not going to make the mistake of letting a short Saturday afternoon project prompt a long-overdue organization session with my spice cabinet again, but that's a different story.

Following my dad's tried and true recipe, I prepped and gathered spices, scallions, onion, and the peppers - I left half with seeds, and gutted the others.  

Everything went into the food processor, and I pulsed it for a few minutes until the jerk was almost smooth but still had some texture left.  

It's not the prettiest of seasonings, but it's got a luxurious layering of flavors, and there are two jars worth of it that I'm impatient to use on some grilled chicken or fish.

The next item on my post-sick list was a batch of The Pioneer Woman's Knock you Naked Brownies.  I had my eye on these since she posted the recipe, and was feeling just sorry enough for myself that I felt the time was right to try them.  These are interesting because the bulk of the ingredients is composed of German chocolate cake mix, and doesn't really have anything to do with brownies.  The end result, however, is quite brownie-like.  

I added more chocolate chips to my middle layer, of course, and changed the caramel filling.  Instead of making my own caramel sauce, I used the remainder of the Trader Joe's jar I bought a few months ago.  It had the right flavor, and added some stickiness to the brownies, but it didn't have the same oozing quality as The Pioneer Woman's filling.  After the first few days of eating them, I discovered that microwaving the brownies achieved the desired level of gooeyness.  They wouldn't be first on my list of desserts to make again, but they were well-liked by others and were fairly easy. 

My next two brownie efforts, which came about a week later, will probably stay in my regular baking rotation.  One of my co-workers changed departments, and I made Reese's cheesecake brownies in her honor, because she likes cheesecake, brownies, and peanut butter.  And I hate all of those things.  This wasn't about me at all.  This also wasn't an excuse to buy a box of Ghirardelli brownie mix from Costco.  Who even likes that stuff?

My brownie layer, true to the guide on the box for two mix packets, was extra thick.  I think next time I make these, I'll use a different recipe (not another mix - I'm loyal to Ghirardelli) or just not use as much of the batter so they're a little thinner.  Some of the brownies in the middle weren't even cooked through, though I didn't see that as a problem, and neither did many others who consumed these.

The top layer, melted chocolate chips and a little bit of cream, wasn't really soft enough to cut through with a fork without dismantling the whole square.  I'm not sure how to adjust that, but it wasn't so distracting that it took away from all of the rich flavors in the brownie.  These are no joke, as Jillian Michaels would say.  

Last but not least, the Peanut Butter Fudge Brownie Trifle from How Sweet it Is.  I don't think this warrants much of an explanation.  I will say I messed up and got regular cream cheese instead of whipped cream cheese, although I think I would do it with the regular again.  My layers weren't exactly even, and I ended up making a side trifle, because not everything fit in my dish, but I am not complaining.  

It's genius to have chocolate pudding as one of the components instead of excessive amounts of whipped cream, because it prevents each bite from being overly sweet.  Make this ASAP.  You will be able to feed a crowd with it, and no one will be disappointed.  

Davy's anxiously awaiting a taste as he sits in a tub of trifle.

Who's ready for dessert?

The Whole Branzino Phenomenon

I feel as though I'm missing something.  Last month, I ate in three or four restaurants, two of which specialize in seafood.  At all of them, the "whole fish special" was always branzino.  It just seems a little silly to me that all of these places have the same whole fish, and one of them wasn't even in Richmond, so I know it's not because of a local trend.  Mamma Zu and Edo's Squid have had branzino on their menus for years, so I don't think it's a recent trend.  Why is it so common to feature whole branzino?

Photo from