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.

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