Thursday, June 28, 2012

CSA Meals - Week 7

Our house and lot are surrounded by large trees, and we don't have a pet to scare pests away. Squirrels always wreak havoc on my potted plants, but this year I've been fighting them off by sprinkling cayenne pepper over the dirt to keep them from digging holes that ruin plants at all stages. I don't feel the least bit sorry.

Right now, arugula and basil are yielding the most out of everything I planted. The basil pot is elevated on a stand to maximize sunlight, and the arugula seems to like a little more shade. 

Only the arugula and basil came from our garden.
The cucumber and bell pepper are from the share, and
the banana pepper came from Maymont via Caitlin.

I thought my garden and potted plants were finally doing well, thanks to the spicy soil, and then Tex brought some of his homegrown chard over. 

This was taken on the final night of the 
NBA season, in case anyone was curious.

Leafy greens thrive in his beautiful, fenced-in back yard that is almost all garden. The chard, which we sauteed with garlic, olive oil, and red pepper flakes, was incredibly fresh. It was an excellent addition to our meal of grilled striped bass and pasta salad with mozzarella, grilled zucchini and squash, and capers.

Earlier in the week, I managed to utilize some of our plants (see first photo) in a makeshift bruschetta and salad. I mixed our lovely sungold cherry tomatoes, pieces of fresh mozzarella, and torn basil with a little olive oil to enjoy on top of thick slices of toasted Billy Bread rubbed with fresh garlic.

By the end of the weekend, the carrots and dense head of cabbage were still untouched in the bottom produce drawer, and I felt obligated to use them that night. I managed to use about a third of the cabbage, and cut the carrots into matchsticks.

Ginger, garlic, sesame oil, soy sauce, and Szechuan peppercorns (thanks, Evan!) went into the pan for flavor, and the resulting stir fry was light and satiating.

It may not have been completely local, but it was good enough to make me excited for dinner two nights in a row. I'm grateful to have the share, and friends with wonderful plants, to supplement the (sometimes literal) holes in our garden.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

CSA Takeaway - Week 8

June just flew by, and I really can't believe we're already on our eighth week! Aside from the rainbow chard, which is pictured (sauteed with garlic and red pepper flakes), we received:

- green beans

- corn

- a spring onion

- sungold cherry tomatoes

- cucumber

- summer squash

Friday, June 22, 2012

CSA Meals - Week 6

Every recipe I've seen lately seems to have an emphasis on grilling or assembling without turning on the stove or oven. Luckily, I snuck in a roast chicken last week before the heat and humidity really hit. 

Tuesday, when I made the chicken, we enjoyed very fresh corn on the cob and raw green beans on the side. I used one of our spring onions in lieu of the ramps the recipe called for, and the liquid we spooned over our meat was pleasantly tangy.

I'll admit that making something like a roast chicken normally leads to a few days of kitchen laziness, and this time was no exception. The next few nights consisted of mac and cheese, leftover barbeque, sauteed kale, salad with feta and corn, and more chicken

Friday we ventured up 95 to celebrate another wonderful couple's wedding. We used some of the lettuce in our share for sandwiches to eat in the car, and snacked on cucumber slices dipped in hummus. The food at the wedding was, fortunately, much more interesting. We were treated to fruit and cheese, an antipasto platter, various passed hors d'oeuvres, fried chicken, paella, macaroni and cheese, sliders, a potato skin bar... and that was only the appetizer spread.

We finished the CSA week by combining the remaining chicken and produce in an enchilada casserole. I chopped a spring onion, turnips, and the two types of squashes in bite-sized pieces before seasoning them and roasting them.

After they came out of the oven, I mixed the vegetables with the chicken, and then alternated the filling with flour tortillas, grated cheddar cheese, and enchilada sauce.

You would never guess that there's a tortilla underneath the top layer of cheese, would you?

We ate the makeshift casserole with a garnish of lime juice and salad. It was a flavorful and satisfying hot meal, even in the onset of summer.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

CSA Takeaway - Week 7

For the first time ever, our share was split in the Ellwood Thompson's parking lot instead of at our house or Josh and Caitlin's house. As a result, we traded a few things instead of halving them. Josh and Caitlin got the onion and Korean melon, and we took the cabbage and green pepper. The rest was divided evenly:

- sungold cherry tomatoes

- salad mix

- squash

- zucchini

- cucumbers

- carrots

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

CSA Meals - Week 5

The theme of Week 5, looking back, seemed to be extremely basic food. We ate sweet corn off the cob with grilled fish, multiple salads, carrot and cucumber slices with hummus, hamburgers and cheeseburgers, grilled chicken, cole slaw, and sauteed cabbage. It wasn't overly remarkable (I didn't even really care for the cole slaw), but truly felt like summer.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

CSA Takeaway - Week 6

We're in a period of transition from late spring to summer, and the produce is abundant. This week, we received:

- green beans

- corn

- cucumbers

- lettuce

- Tuscan kale

- Magda squash

- patty pan squash (pictured)

- Japanese turnips

- spring onion

- dill

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

CSA Meals - Week 4

As I mentioned when I first reported on our Week 4 haul, I took less than half of the produce because we were traveling to Pittsburgh for the wedding of my good friend, Sarah. The bride was exquisite, and all of her careful planning resulted in a fabulous weekend, including delectable brownie truffles in the hotel gift bag and tea sandwiches for the bridal party that were the perfect pre-ceremony lunch.

Davy and I started our trip to Pittsburgh with regular-sized sandwiches I made at home. They utilized the remaining arugula, along with some Idiazabel cheese and Hungarian salami my grandma had given us.

Prior to leaving Richmond, I finished up the kale, tuna, and white bean salad, and we made hoisin turkey burgers for dinner on Wednesday night. I had high hopes for the burgers, and while they were flavorful, they didn't stay together well on the grill, and we didn't end up eating the second round of them. Luckily, the grilled carrots, squash and broccoli turned out well (we just tossed them with olive oil and seasoning), and were a refreshing afternoon snack the following day.

I was on my own Sunday evening, and seized the opportunity to eat pasta with pesto. In addition, I made what has been my go-to salad for the past few weeks: lettuce, edamame, sunflower seeds, and Asian sesame dressing. It's simple, summery, and has a blend of textures and tastes that's been very appealing lately.

For once I'd had the foresight to prep the chard I wasn't going to use right away, and sauteed it with garlic halfway through the week. On Monday night, I chopped it and added it to risotto with spicy turkey sausage. The onion, pictured below, is also from our CSA, and it formed a great base for the dish. I neglected to take any photos of the finished product, but the risotto turned out beautifully.  

My forgetfulness can probably be blamed on the extended recovery that was required after celebrating the union of two wonderful people. Congratulations, Sarah and Thomas!

Thursday, June 07, 2012

CSA Takeaway - Week 5

Aren't these beets pretty? I wish we liked them, but they all went to Josh and Caitlin. We still made out pretty well; this is the first week for corn, and I can't wait to eat it off the cob. We also got: all-lettuce salad mix, cabbage, cucumbers, carrots, and a red onion.

Dinner at Lunch

I was going to try to wait until next week, when I'm having a sandwich delivered, to post about Lunch, a new eatery in Scott's Addition, but I just looked at this picture of my meal again, drooled a little, and wanted to share a little bit about it. 

My cod "crowned with tomatoes" and served with mashed potatoes and a garnish of corn and soybeans was visually appealing, tasted wonderful, and was offered at the reasonable price of $12. In fact, the priciest item on the menu, a filet, was only $14. 

We managed to sneak in a few drinks before the end of happy hour, which meant our beverages ranged from $2.00 to $3.50. Davy and our friend, Leslie, both ordered the "Loaded Chicken," a chicken breast stuffed with pork, wrapped in bacon, and smothered in cheese and barbecue sauce. To soak it all up, the chicken is also balanced on a pile of mashed potatoes. 

None of us could think about dessert, a brownie a la mode, but considering how much we liked our meals, I'm sure it would have been just as flavorful and indulgent. 

With its cheery exterior and friendly service, not to mention the flexible breakfast hours (breakfast food is served every day until 3!), I know I'm going to make a point of trying every meal - including brunch - at Lunch. One down, three to go!

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

CSA Meals - Week 3

Sometimes inspiration comes in the form of hearing what you already know from someone else. Two weeks ago, I experienced a renewed interest in my CSA after taking a cooking class called "Late Spring at the Farmer's Market" through the University of Richmond School of Continuing Studies.

The instructor gave us a few tastes of local and grocery store products to compare the difference between the two, which is more pronounced when they're sampled back to back. I'm already sold on fresh eggs, local strawberries, and turnips grown by someone I can talk to face-to-face, but it was the creamy, tangy, locally made goat cheese we had in class that re-opened my eyes about buying food at a farmers' market. Looking back, my meals during Week 3 seem much more interesting as a result.

On Wednesday, I prepared a salad with some of Week 2's kale, and massaged the leaves with my trusty Asian sesame dressing and lime juice. Sunflower seeds, corn, and edamame helped make the salad into a more substantial meal. That evening, I put together a penne, arugula and feta dish that turned into lunch on both Thursday and Friday.

Although it doesn't have anything to do with local produce, the encouragement I felt from my class led me to change my regular breakfast routine. I tried out a Martha Stewart recipe for breakfast quinoa, which was sweet and comforting. I'm not sure I'd want to eat it every day, but it was a nice switch from my usual wheat toast with peanut butter, and was very filling.

No vegetables were harmed during our Thursday night wine, cheese, and salami dinner, either, but the salami is local (to Harrisburg), and the round cheese and chutney were made within 100 miles of Richmond.

The dish I prepared in class was "Spring-to-Summer Vegetable Ragout Over Goat Cheese Grits," and I loved it enough to attempt it at home for some friends visiting from out of town (recipe below). I made a special trip to the St. Stephen's farmer's market for some extra vegetables, and picked up beautiful baby carrots and large, shelled peas. 

The ragout can be made with a variety of vegetables - we substituted edamame for peas in class - and in my opinion, the dish can be eaten any time of the day. I finished the leftovers for breakfast one morning, and they tasted completely appropriate as the first meal of the day.

A head of broccoli and a container of little cucumbers also found their way into my bag at the market, and I added them, with some peas, to a Thai-inspired noodle salad as part of Shannon's birthday dinner. Along with the noodles, we had arctic char from Yellow Umbrella that Davy grilled, and it was absolutely delicious.

On Monday, Memorial Day, I sauteed the curly kale with some garlic and red pepper flakes, and used some of it to make a frittata. Going with what seems to be the theme this week, I only took pictures before I did anything with the veggies. Luckily, they're pretty enough on their own.

To finish the week, I made another kale salad, this time with tuna fish, cannellini beans, cucumber, lemon juice, and olive oil. It's ideal for warm weather, and could also be used as a sandwich filling.

My trip to the St. Stephen's farmers' market was the first I'd made to a market during CSA season (outside of picking up my share). I'm really going to try to keep it up as we move into summer, and continue to branch out with local products other than what's given to me each week.

Spring-to-Summer Vegetable Ragout Over Goat Cheese Grits
Yields: 4 servings

For the Grits:
1 cup water
1 cup vegetable or chicken stock
1/2 cup stone ground white grits (coarsely ground)
1/2 T salt
2 t pepper
1/2 cup goat cheese
1 1/2 teaspoons lemon zest

1. Bring the water and stock to a boil
2. Add the grits, and stir with a small whisk. Skim off any floating husks and reduce the temperature to medium. Continue stirring for five minutes, or until the grits absorb the liquid.
3. Remove from the heat and cover with a lid, or wrap tightly with plastic wrap. Set in a warm area for 35 minutes - the grits will finish cooking by steam.
4. Add the salt, pepper, goat cheese, and zest, and stir to incorporate. Keep warm until ready to serve.

For the Ragout: 
1/2 cup shelled peas
4 oz small carrots
4 oz small zucchini or yellow squash
3 green or spring onions
3 cloves garlic
2 T olive oil
salt, to taste
1/2 cup stock or water
1 T chopped mint
1 T chopped thyme 

1. Cut the carrots and squash into quarters lengthwise and then into 2 in lengths. Cut the onions in two inch lengths, quarter, and set aside. Slice the garlic thinly.
2. Cook the garlic in the olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium high heat, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the carrots, onions, a pinch of salt, and the liquid. Cover and cook until the onions soften, about 3 minutes.
3. Add the squash/zucchini and cover. Cook until it softens, about 3 minutes. 
4. Add the peas and cook uncovered until everything is tender (2-3 more minutes). Stir in herbs, taste, and adjust seasoning as necessary.

Serve the ragout in bowls over the grits.