cooking and preserving from my weekly CSA box

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Cherry Bounce

Up here in the Northeast, we have a really short cherry season, it is about a week long. I had one day free to pick cherries so I rushed out the door and picked a flat. It came out to a little over two pounds each of sour cherries, red cherries, and yellow cherries. With all the other fruits and vegetables in my kitchen, plus a birthday party going on, and a toddler bent on destruction, the only safe place to keep the cherries was on top of the washing machine.

With the sour cherries I decided to make Cherry Bounce. I put a little over a pound in each jar, un-pitted, and added 1 cup of sugar. I let it sit for about 20 minutes while I worked on the jams that I made with the other cherries. I added 6 cups of bourbon in one jar and 6 cups vodka in another. I really wasn't sure which one would be better, so I thought why not do two batches. I stirred the cherries and sugar to dissolve and a swished the jars once a day for a week. Now they are sitting in my basement, where I will shake them once a month or so. They will be ready just in time for Thanksgiving and Christmas. I will have an update and review then, so look forward to reading it, and if you are well-liked or worth bribing, expect a nice gift from me this Christmas.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Brown Butter and Pesto Pasta

This is an incredibly simple recipe but one that I find myself making when I am in a hurry.

1 lb spaghetti, cooked
1/2 cup pesto (recipe below)
1 stick butter
1/2 cup ricotta
your favorite cheese for grating, Parmesan, Romano,etc.

Boil pasta, allow to drain over sink in colander. Meanwhile, melt and cook butter over medium heat in pasta pot until it foams and begins to brown. Don't burn it! Switch off heat, and stir in pesto and ricotta, add pasta. Serve with your favorite grating cheese and maybe some crushed red pepper.

When I make pesto, I put a bunch of basil, and about 3-4 ounces of Parmesan, cubed, in the food processor with about 2/3 cup pine nuts. I add salt and pepper, plus olive oil as I pulse. I freeze it in portions in a cupcake tin and use as needed.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Summer Vegetable CSA Week 6 -- Fruit CSA Week 1

Week 6 was a beautiful week for weather and vegetables. We received basil, green leaf lettuce, mint, 3 green onions, 2 bunches of radishes, 8 cucumbers, 6 squash, 2 swiss chard, 4 ears of corn, a missing pint of grape tomatoes, and two bunches of carrots.

The fruit share contained 2 pints of blueberries and a 1/2 pint of raspberries.

I'm still catching up on life after the breakage of our stove, the internet constantly dying for no reason, and my beautiful dear child dumping a drink on my laptop. I've also had lovely weather to distract me, but I've also been busy preserving and making jam.

Most of these things are long gone, I can tell you what I made:
Blueberries were went into a salad and a few jars of small batch jam.
Raspberries were frozen for future misdeeds.
The basil made sauce, meatballs, and bruschetta.
Green onions were frozen and used in bruschetta along with tomatoes.
Lettuce, cucumbers, and radishes were for salad.
Other cukes are being made into pickles.
I roasted most of the squash for lasagna or side dishes.
Swiss chard was a side dish.
The corn was used in my First Time Grilling Corn Ever.
The carrots last forever, so they are stored in my fridge.

That's what happens to a week's worth of vegetables! It is kind of neat to look back and say how everything was used and to see how little waste we made, I think it was a successful week in the kitchen.

Beginning of Summer White Lasagna

I love this lasagna, it is a change of pace from traditional lasagna. It is so flexible that it tastes great with almost every kind of vegetable. It has a lot of small steps, but it is well worth the time.This recipe makes a 9x12 pan.

4 chicken breasts, roasted in olive oil, salt and pepper, chopped
1-1.5 cups broccoli rabe, blanched and chopped
1-2 cups zucchini or summer squash, sliced, roasted in olive oil, salt and pepper
2 cups ricotta
9 lasagna noodles, boiled
2.5-3 cups shredded mozzarella
2 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup flour
1.5 cups milk or half and half
1/4 cup onion, diced
1 cup white wine
salt and pepper to taste

Prepare chicken, vegetables, and pasta. Make the sauce in a sauce pan, starting with the butter and onion on medium heat. Sweat the onions, and add the flour to make a roux. Add the milk and the wine, whisking to combine and thicken. Set aside. In the pan, layer a bit of sauce, noodles, a little mozzarella, and vegetables. Add another layer with a little sauce, chicken, and ricotta. Add the top layer of noodles (each layer has 3 long noodles that fit in perfectly in the pan), pour the remaining sauce over the top and the remainder of the mozzarella. Bake at 325 for about 30 minutes, covered, remove the cover during the last 20 minutes or so of baking to brown the top.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Summer Vegetable CSA Week 5

Week 5: 2 Kohlrabi, 2 beets, fennel, 8 assorted squash, 2 basil bunches, arugula, peas, 2 bunches radishes, 6 pickling cucumbers, scapes and lettuce. I'm planning on baking with the zucchini and roasting what I don't use as a side dish. The arugula will become pesto as well. The beets are already chips. Kohlrabi isn't my favorite vegetable but I was thinking I might make a cheese sauce and serve it as a side dish, since it tastes somewhat like broccoli. I am hoping to make and can some relish this week with the cucumbers. Here is where the season really begins to pick up and I dedicate a lot of time to preserving, which is always appreciated in the late fall and winter.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Summer Vegetable CSA Week 4

This week we had a new vegetable, a big leafy green bunch of escarole. I can't remember if I've ever taken escarole in the past three years or if I've ever received it in my share. Anyways, it made a lovely Italian wedding soup. We also got beets, which I always make into chips, green onions, basil, sugar snap peas, fennel, scapes, red and green lettuce, and various squash. I was sure to pick up some pine nuts and I've made a ton of pesto to freeze, though I am certain it will probably not last past Christmas. Again, the food has been flying out of the kitchen but I've been so busy, with internet problems, stove problems, and any other problems that can be problemed, all I want to do is eat, otherwise I'd have more pictures an recipes. The beginning of July is always insanely busy, better to be busy before fruit season though!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Summer Vegetable CSA Week 3

Week three brought us more sugar snap peas, kousa and summer squash, beets, swiss chard, chives, lettuce, radishes, scapes and broccoli rabe. My favorite thing to do with the sugar snap peas is to put them in salads but I also love to just wash them and take them with us as a portable snack. The squash was roasted and along with the broccoli rabe, it made a great lasagna. The scapes were made into pesto and the chives packed away for another day. It really amazes me how quickly everything goes. I never have a lot of kitchen waste but I think this has been my best year yet.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Four Allium Risotto

If you've ever received garlic scapes in your CSA share, or bought any at the farmer's market, you know that they can be made into a lovely pesto. A risotto is a delicious way to use your pesto, but I thought it would be even more fun to use some of the other members of the same genus, Allium.

Four Allium Risotto:
1 small-medium sweet onion, about 1 cup, medium chop
2 shallots, diced
3 tbsp. butter
1 1/2 c. Arborio rice
4-5 cups chicken stock
1/3 c garlic scape pesto*
1 12 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 cup grated Parmesan
1/4 c. heavy cream
1 tablespoon chives, chopped fine
crushed red pepper

In a large skillet over medium high heat, melt butter, add onions and shallot, cook until browning begins. Add rice and cook until translucent. Adding 1 cup stock at a time, reduce to a simmer and stir constantly, until rice is nearly cooked, add tomatoes and scape pesto. The rice will be somewhat translucent with a milky white part in the middle, but not crunchy, when properly cooked. Add Parmesan and season. Stir in heavy cream, allow to cook on low 5-10 minutes. Adjust seasonings if needed and add chives.

*Recipe coming soon, I promise!

Saturday, June 22, 2013

CSA Pickup Week Chicken Soup

I started the day thinking I would just be making my normal chicken soup with carrots and barley or pasta. I had and still have a good supply of carrots but then I thought it didn't make much sense to have all these other wonderful vegetables on hand and just use carrots. When I make soup, I don't mess around. I usually make a soup big enough for those who like stuff and those who like broth to have dinner and leftovers for lunch.

For the broth:
In a stock pot, cover with water: a whole chicken, a peeled onion or two, 3 big peeled carrots, the center of your celery (you know the leafy part in the middle that you aren't going to eat) or 2-3 ribs with leaves, 2 big cloves peeled garlic, 10 peppercorns, 3-4 bay leaves, a tbsp salt, and a Parmesan rind, if you have one.

Start it on low, and gradually turn it up over the first hour to a simmer. Simmer for 2-3 hours or until your chicken is almost falling apart. Remove chicken and strain, discarding all the broth flavorings. Set aside the chicken for de-boning.

You can add any vegetables you like, you can even sautee them in a little butter first, but be sure to add them incrementally according to how fast they cook. Carrots, potatoes, root vegetables, first. They usually take 20-30 minutes longer than other vegetables to cook.

Here is my soup in order of things added, everything cut into a medium dice: Carrots, Swiss chard, including stems--cooked 25 minutes, 2 summer squash, a can of diced tomatoes, a medium onion sauteed in butter along with 2 cloves of garlic (minced), and in the last ten minutes I added some frozen green beans that I had on hand, some dried thyme from my share, 1/2 cup Israeli cous-cous and the deboned meat from the chicken. I adjusted my seasonings with salt, pepper, and some balsamic vinegar at the very end.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Pound Cake with Strawberries and Whipped Cream

We picked a major load of strawberries at Rogers Spring Hill. Immediately, I spent the entire evening dreaming of wonderful thing  to make, as I stuffed every other strawberry into my mouth.
My husband suggested a pound cake with strawberries and I thought that sounded pretty good, so I looked up a recipe and decided to make a quick run to the store for a bundt cake pan. If I had to do it all again, I would have bought a different one. I've been baking a long time, I've never had a cake stick until now, even with cooking in an inexpensive pan.

For the cake, I use Elvis Presley's Favorite Pound Cake Recipe. I didn't have a chance to verify the truth of this claim and I was worried about some of the reviews saying it was bland. It wasn't bland, it was moist and tasted like a pound cake. I was a little worried about overflowing the cake pan so filled my pan about 3/4 of an inch from the top and put the remaining batter into a small loaf pan. The cake baked for me at for about 55 minutes and the small loaf was done at about 45, starting with a cold oven on 350.

I made the whipped cream in my stand mixer and garnished with berries. You don't have to buy whipping cream, heavy cream will do. In a mixer, add 2 cups whipped cream, 1/4 c powdered sugar and a teaspoon of vanilla. Whip it with a whisk attachment until it is fluffy. Make sure to watch it so that you don't accidentally make butter instead. I never measure, so this is approximate, feel free to omit the sugar, increase, or reduce it.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Summer Vegetable CSA Week 2

Week 2: Two bunches each broccoli rabe and rainbow chard, a bag of spinach, a bag of snow peas, two tomatoes, a head of romaine lettuce as well as Boston lettuce, two bunches of chives, two summer squash, and garlic scapes. I loaded all into my vegetable ark and brought it home in the pouring rain.

Now that my oven is again working, I'm hoping to have a productive week in the kitchen. Whenever we get romaine, I know we're going to have salad. I do have a few odd-ball type recipes on deck that use cooked romaine but I'm waiting for a week where I'm swimming in lettuce. I love using Boston lettuce in place of bread, so I will keep it on hand as long as possible to use as a wrap or a taco shell. if not, there is always salad. The squash, spinach, and chard are all in just the right amount for a side dish. As usual, I will chop and freeze the chives. For the broccoli rabe, I am thinking about a ricotta cheese sauce with sausage meatballs or a white lasagna. As for the scapes and the peas, I just don't know, they are both great in salads. For this week, scapes are definitely my wild card. I will either make a pesto or incorporate them into a meal in place of garlic. I'd say the biggest challenge will be using the peas before they go bad, I may have to review my notes from last year and give myself a refresher course on peas.

I'll put this question to both of my readers: What should I do with the peas? If I make your recipe, I'll post a photo and give you credit! How amazing would that be?! Almost on par with a Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer giveaway, right?

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Vegetable CSA Week 1

This was the first day of a twenty week vegetable CSA. This has probably been my favorite first week out of the last three years. 2 bunches of thyme, oregano, garlic chives, 2 bunches broccoli rabe, a cucumber, 2 bags of spinach, beets, 1 bunch kale, a head of Boston lettuce and a tomato that is not pictured because it is in protective custody.

Thankfully, beets will keep a long time in the fridge because I have a repairman coming sometime this week. I cannot make beet chips until he looks at my oven. That's a pretty major setback so I'm planning on doing most things on grill or stove top. The thyme will be hung and dried for another day and the oregano will be frozen in an ice cube. I'm not sure about the garlic chives yet, whether I want to make a compound butter, a pesto, or just freeze them. The lettuce will make a great bread substitute or will go for a salad, while the spinach will end up as a pesto or dip. I'm not sure about the broccoli rabe, maybe a pasta or sausage dish. We often use the cucumbers as a substitute for crackers or chips, our 4 year old loves them this way. As for the kale, I'm still not certain. I wish I could find one go-to recipe that I like for kale but until then, it continues to defeat me week after week. Kale is my biggest nemesis.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Braised Goat Chops

Last time I went to my favorite butcher, Blood Farm in Groton, MA, I saw these in the case and picked them up. I'm not an exotic food fanatic, but I am tired of chickenbeefchickenporkchicken, well I'm not really tired of beef. Cows are my favorite animals. Yes, I know about bacon, but I also know about oxtail, brisket, beef ribs and short ribs. I also know about goat. Very little before the other day, but I decided I had to learn. So picked up a package of goat shoulder chops and kept them in my freezer until I had a day to experiment. If I know one thing about meat it is that braising nearly always works when you have no clue, so that was my plan.

Braised Goat Chops:
2 chops
1 tsp garam masla
1/2 tsbp Chinese five spice powder
3-4 large carrots, peeled and sliced
1 small onion sliced
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1 cup kale
1 can diced tomatoes

Pre-heat oven to 325. Heat a cast iron skillet on high. Season chops with garam masala, five spice powder, salt and pepper. Add to skillet browning on each side. Remove from skillet and set aside. Add carrots, onions an garlic to skillet. Cook 3-5 minutes on medium-high, careful not to burn the garlic. Add the can of diced tomatoes to skillet and cook 2-3 minutes. Add kale and chops to an oven-safe dish, pour contents of pan over the chops and bake on 325 for about 1 hour 30 minutes or until tender. Serve with cous cous.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Week 12: Final Spring CSA Week

This is the last week of the my Spring CSA share. Next week is the first week of summer shares. I was so happy to see tomatoes! Even though they are greenhouse-grown, they are leaps and bounds beyond whatever is in the grocery stores right now. This week also included kale, parsley, cilantro, 2 bags of spinach, two bags of lettuce and a bag of joi choi with nasturtiums. I originally had some tatsoi but I traded it for an extra bag of lettuce in the swap box.  One bag isn't enough for my family for a week!
We had our usual Taco Salad, so as of now, we're one bag of lettuce, one tomato down and the cilantro is gone. I'm thinking of spring rolls on Friday with the joi choi, carrots, and some shrimp. The kale is going to be in a chicken, kale and carrot soup. The spinach will be a dip or spanakopita. I'll still have enough extra to make a great salad and the parsley will probably end up in a compound butter.

I'm so glad we signed up for the spring share, and I'm looking forward to my third bountiful summer share.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Tatsoi and Chicken Stir Fry

Normally, most people don't think of green in a stir fry but Asian greens, like tatsoi are perfect for a dish like this. I find tatsoi, when it is fully grown, to have stems somewhat like celery and the greens to be fairly mild. I make this for my family, if you are wondering why the portions are ginormous. I also have to use two separate skillets or cook the protein first. We don't normally eat rice so the amount of food reflects that as well.

Tatsoi and Chicken Stir Fry:

3 packages boneless thighs, cubed (about 15 thighs)
1/4 c tamari
1 tbsp ginger grated
1/4 c honey
sesame oil
olive oil

Heat pan with oils, about a tbsp of each. Add chicken and other ingredients. Stir until chicken is cooked. If a lot of water cooks out of the chicken, you can drain some of it or reserve it to thicken or thin the final sauce. I set the chicken aside once it is cooked and do the vegetable in the same pan.

Any combination of vegetables, you probably need about 1-1.5 cups per person
I used carrots, mushrooms, tatsoi, peppers, and onion
2 tbsp peanut butter
1/4 cup honey
1/3 cup tamari
3 cloves garlic, sliced
2 tbsp ginger, grated
olive oil and sesame oil

Add garlic and ginger to hot pan with oils. Cook 1-2 minutes. Add vegetables in order of how long they take to cook, I usually start with carrots, then peppers, mushrooms, and onions are usually last. Don't add greens until the end. Add other ingredients, tamari, honey, peanut butter, and tatsoi. When the last vegetable goes in, get ready to thicken the sauce and adjust the seasonings, add more honey, peanut butter, tamari to suit your tastes, even some chili paste for those who like spice. Mix 1/4 c cornstarch with a minimal amount of liquid, either water or the liquid from the chicken. Pour in pan and cook until it thickens. Sometimes I find I need more or less cornstarch, it really depends on the water content of the vegetables

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Chive Butter

Chives are amazing. They can be used many ways but compound butter for steak is definitely one of my favorites. The steak doesn't need to be fancy, just well seasoned with salt and pepper, the butter does the rest of the work.

Chive Butter:
2 sticks butter, softened
2-3 tbsp fresh chives, sliced thin
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
juice of half a lemon
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 clove garlic, minced

Mix everything up and chill. Use on bread, radishes, steak, or whatever suits you. Also, yes, the chive flower is edible but you can use it to make your butter look fancy when you serve it. They are pretty, delicious, and have a concentrated chive flavor.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Sausage and Spinach Dip

We had just come home from an evening of errands, popcorn, and ice cream. We needed something hot for a light dinner and I was thinking snack foods. I took my favorite spinach dip recipe and went from there. We ate it with peppers and some dipping chips and went to bed happy. This is a one-pot meal.

Sausage and Spinach Dip:
6 links Italian sausage, casings removed or 1 lb of loose Italian sausage
1 generous cup cooked, chopped spinach
1 shallot, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
crushed red pepper
3 cups shredded cheese
3 packages of cream cheese
2 tablespoons fresh chives, chopped

In a large oven-proof skillet, cook sausage with shallot. Drain excess oil. Chop briefly in food processor if it doesn't break apart. Before adding sausage, wilt spinach in pan. Pre-heat oven to 400. Add garlic, sausage and crushed red pepper (to taste), with spinach allow to cook 1-2 minutes. Add cream cheese a little at a time and stir. Add chives and shredded cheese. Allow cheeses to melt and combine well. Place in oven for 10 minutes on 400, serve with crudites or crackers. This makes a ton, so you might even reheat it for lunch the next day and it can most certainly be made ahead. Enjoy.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Sort of Chicken Confit

This is my take on a recipe I found a long time ago. You might enjoy the original better but I like that this is simple, the herbs can be changed according to what I have on hand and it goes great with a salad or a vegetable made on the stove top. Best of all, it turns an affordable protein into something special.

Sort of Chicken Confit:
12 bone in thighs
4 tbsp salt
5 cloves garlic crushed
4-6 bay leaves, broken apart
1 tsp thyme

Pre-heat oven to 300. Line two rimmed pans with parchment paper. Mix garlic, salt and herbs in a bowl. Rub on chickens. Bake chickens 3.5-4 hours, flipping chickens and rotating pans every 30 minutes. Serve with a salad, risotto, or green beans.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013


 I've made spanakopita so many times that I don't even use a recipe any more. You can make any size based on what is in your share, as long as you have a few ingredients and do what I say.

I split my cooked my spinach, which was three bags pictured in my share, and divided it. Part was for spinach dip and the other was for the dish pictured above. I didn't bother measuring it but it must have been, in total 4 cups cooked.

2 cups spinach, wilted, cooled, squeezed of excess water
8 ounces feta, crumbled with into large pieces
1 bunch green onions, sliced
1 package phyllo dough
1 egg beaten
1 stick butter, melted

Pre-heat oven to 375. Prepare your spinach. Wilt it well, cool it, get the extra water out and chop. If you try to add it to the other ingredients while the spinach is warm it will dissolve the cheese and more water will come out making your dough soggy.

Mix the chopped spinach with cheese, green onions and season to taste. Some people don't add salt, I don't always, because feta is saltly, but sometimes it needs it to bring out the flavor of the spinach. Add beaten egg and mix gently so as not to break down the feta too much.

Use melted butter to grease a 9x12 baking dish. Open phyllo dough and cut to fit baking dish, brushing butter lightly between each layer of dough in the dish. After about 10 layers, add filling and repeat layering with phyllo dough and butter.

Bake at 375 for 40-55 minutes (ovens can be crazy) until golden brown on top. Remove, allow to cool about 5-8 minutes and brush top with any remaining butter.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Spring CSA Week 11

What a week! I was really surprised to find tomatoes and chives with flowers in my share. My son had to carry one bag of spinach because I should have brought two bags this week. We ended up with three bags of spinach, kale, tatsoi, nasturtiums, lettuce mix, carrots and a lovely bunch of oregano. No swaps this week for me, but I really had a hard time deciding between cherry tomatoes and a big, ripe whole tomato.

I've mostly been making things that I've made before as I tend to do when I am busy. I made a whopping bowl of spinach dip last week and will probably make another this week. I like spinach almost every way so it isn't hard to use up three bags. It looks like salad with the lettuce this week and I might have all the ingredients for a nice dressing. The tatsoi will be for an Asian dish one night and I am thinking about making a kale and feta pie. I feel like the carrots don't get attention but I can't make enough of them when we have a roast, so they are always great to have on hand. The oregano is enough for some herb butter, and then some, probably two batches for the freezer. The tomatoes and the chives might be components of a salad dressing or just part of a salad with edible flowers. If we're grilling, I might even throw the tomatoes on the grill.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Spring CSA Week 10

This was a great week for spinach. I traded my bok choy for an extra bag, making a total of three bags of spinach, a bag of mixed lettuce, carrots, chives, dill, kale, a cucumber, and a few nasturtiums.

My plan for the week: dill dip for potatoes, salad, a green smoothie with kale, preserve the chives, spinach dip, and a main dish or soup with spinach. If we don't use all the cucumber for salad, I slice them thin with a mandoline and use them in place of chips or crackers.

Someone recently asked "What do you do to use your share up before it goes bad?" For many people a CSA share can be overwhelming in quantity and variety. When I bring my bounty home, I usually photograph it and take inventory.

Root vegetables last the longest and go into the fridge or storage right away. I put the vegetables stored at room temperature away next. Lastly, anything that has to be wrapped or stored for maximum freshness, such as herbs or leafy greens gets packaged and put in the fridge. I make note of what needs to be eaten first and cannot be preserved, usually lettuce and pea tendrils. Normally, I make a salad in the first few days after a pick-up, using the other vegetables.

On a big week, in the summer or fall, I make a menu up based on what needs to be eaten first. I write out a plan for snacks, sides, lunches, and main meals. I also decide what I want to preserve in the freezer, by canning, or other means. I will normally preserve the food the same say or 1-2 days after a pickup at the latest.

As for veggies like eggplant, squash, root vegetables, I usually plan to use them over the weekend or when pick-up day is closer. I pick up my share on Tuesdays, the vegetables that last longest are perfect for weekend meals that require longer cooking times.

Lastly, I think the first year or two of a CSA can be an adjustment period for some people. Learning new recipes and becoming familiar with new food takes time. When a food becomes familiar to the cook, preparation time decreases, as well as waste. My advice is to be patient, try to avoid waste but realize you are still learning and that sometimes things will go bad, it gets easier after the first year. If you are determined to make it work, the benefits are fantastic. You will become more prepared, self-reliant, frugal, and you will have a full freezer and pantry--not to mention a kitchen full of fresh delicious vegetables--so don't let waste discourage you!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Spring CSA Week 8

Lettuce, nasturtiums, oregano, chives, carrots, cucumbers, braising mix, and spinach! We're leaving for a trip and I've already planned to take part of my share on the go. I'm going to make a spinach dip to spread on sliced cucumber, pepper strips, and crackers for the road. We'll be taking a salad, as well as eating one for our last meal here at home. The carrots will keep until we get back. I've chopped the oregano and frozen it in a cube of ice for a future sauce. The chives are chopped and stored in the freezer for another day as well. I traded my joi choi for an extra bunch of chives in the swap box because they freeze so well and I didn't want anything to go to waste. There were a lot of chives in the swap box, I can't even imagine not wanting them! I'm sure that other people feel the same way about the beets, kohlrabi, and extra cukes that I exchange in the regular season.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Purple Loaded Mashed Potatoes and Mixed Grill

When I picked up my CSA share a few weeks ago, I did notice the potatoes looked dark, but I just thought they were a little wet. It rained heavily on our pick up day and I set them in a colander on the counter to dry. They were put in a bag for another day. So when I was planning a meal for a dinner guest, I decided that potatoes would make a nice side but it wasn't until the actual meal prep that I noticed: The potatoes were purple! I have had fingerling purple potatoes but I couldn't remember if they retained their color when boiled. I told our guest I had a surprise for him when he arrived. They were beautiful to look at and tasted great, really no different from a white potato at all. Had I been paying closer attention I would have thought more about it, but I love little unexpected changes from the usual.

The meal includes marinaded steak tips, chicken and Italian sausage with Cilantro-Parsley Pesto (also used for the chicken marinade) and Loaded Mashed Potatoes. It included cilantro, potatoes, peppers, and chives from my share.

Loaded Mashed Potatoes:
10-12 medium potatoes, peeled and quartered
2 sticks butter
1 bunch chives, chopped
1 cup bacon, chopped
2 cups shredded cheese (cheddar, or a favorite blend)
1/2 c sour cream

Boil potatoes until they are easily pierced by fork. Drain. Add butter, and partially mash. Add rest of ingredients, seasoning with salt and pepper to taste. Continue to mash to desired consistency. Allow to stand about 3-5 minutes, to melt cheese and butter completely. Stir to finish mixing and serve.

Cilantro Parsley Pesto:
1 bunch flat leaf parsley
1 bunch cilantro
2 cloves garlic
1 bunch green onions
3-4 cherry peppers, seeded
1/2 cup olive oil
juice from 1 lime

In a food processor, process parsley, cilantro, garlic and peppers. I had to do the parsley alone, first to make room. Add green onions, and pulse to a fine grind, adding olive oil and lime juice slowly through the pouring hole in the lid. Season with salt and pepper to taste and blend again.

Can be used as a condiment or a marinade for chicken. We really liked it on the chicken.

Steak Marinade #3:

3 tbsp honey
1 inch piece of ginger, peeled and sliced
1/4 cup tamari
1/4 c olive oil

Mix all ingredients together well and marinate steak overnight. Tamari can be salty, I added a little more salt in proportion to the amount of meat, so salt carefully.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Ragu alla Bolognese

Bolognese sauce is one of those sauces that surprise you. It is made of ingredients that most people probably wouldn't put in a pasta sauce on purpose. Over the years this has become one of my absolute favorite sauces because it can be made so easily from pantry staples and basic produce that most people keep on hand. I love that I was able use storage carrots from my CSA in this dish, which is a nice change from braises or salads.

Bolognese Sauce:
1.5 lbs ground veal
1/2 lb pancetta, cut into small cubes
2 large carrots, peeled
1 medium-large sweet onion
2 ribs celery
1 28 oz. can whole San Marzano tomatoes
1 cup red wine
1 cup milk

1 lb pasta, cooked
Parmesan cheese

Brown pancetta over medium, high heat in stock pot, add ground veal and brown. In a food processor, process carrots, onion and celery. Add to browning veal and season with salt. When veal is totally cooked, begin to add the sauce from the San Marzano tomatoes, saving the whole tomatoes for the food processor. Process tomatoes and add to pot. Add red wine. Simmer 10-20 minutes. Add milk, simmer additional 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper at the end. You can always cook it down further if you have time, the times are just estimates. Serve over tagliatelle with Parmesan cheese. Makes enough sauce for about 1.5 lbs of pasta.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Spring CSA Week 7

 Herbs are never a bad thing. I was so happy when I opened my box this week to find cilantro, chives, and basil. I even traded my joi choi for more cilantro. We go through cilantro pretty fast these days. Tonight, we're having taco salad again and I was thinking about making more chimichurri sauce for a mixed grill dinner that we're having on Wednesday. It makes a great marinade, too. I'm hoping to use the basil in a sauce, possibly for eggplant on Thursday. It looks like I have plenty of carrots and greens for salads and braising. The cucumber always goes great in salad but it isn't bad for dressings and appetizers, either. I'll probably end up freezing the chives for another day and I'm not sure if the what the greens are in the share, they look like arugula, but they might be from a root vegetable or a mustard green.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Strawberry Mascarpone Tart with Almond Crust

This is what happens when you are up late and have a sudden urge to bake! Thanks to a coupon I had for a huge tub of mascarpone cheese, believe me those don't come by every day, and I had been worrying about how I was going to use it all up. If you haven't had mascarpone it is like a light, subtly sweet cream cheese.

For the shell, I use this recipe, which I did completely in my food processor. I did have very cold butter straight from the fridge and once I had it in the tart pan I put it in the freezer until the oven preheated. I baked it for 20 minutes on 400.

After the crust had cooled for about 20 minutes, I made a filling: 14oz mascarpone, 2/3 cup powdered sugar, 2 teaspoons vanilla, 2 teaspoons lemon juice, and 2 tablespoons heavy cream whipped together in a mixer. I decide the crust was cool enough so I spread it in the tart shell and added sliced strawberries on top. I also glazed it with 2 tablespoons lemon juice mixed with powdered sugar, I don't have a measurement for that but I just added sugar until it looked like a glaze and brushed it on.

As it was pretty late, I covered it and put it in the fridge. I worried a little the the crust would get soggy but it wasn't, every bite was delicious. I can't wait to make it again over the summer.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Spring CSA Week 6

Week 6 brought three bags of storage potatoes, actually two, but I traded my joi choi in the swap box. We also received a bunch of radishes, a cucumber, storage carrots, tatsoi, mixed lettuce, and cilantro. There is always a surprise each week, this week it was a nasturtium in the salad mix and a small bunch of mint.  I wish there would have been more nasturtiums so I could try a few of the recipes I have been saving, but the mint really threw me a curve. I don't cook with mint much but I do know of a wonderful salad dressing that is made with mint and I can always make Greek food with mint and a cucumber. Perhaps I might even end up infusing it into a tea? All in all, I'm very pleased with the Spring share, it is better than I thought it would be.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Lemon Parmesan Fiddle Heads

I've been studying and identifying plants, especially wild edibles for the past year. This is the first year I've really brought anything home other when I went mushroom hunting with my dad as a child. Even then, I never found much. Now, when I go mushroom hunting, hopefully I won't come home empty-handed anymore, even if I don't find any mushrooms. These are fiddle heads, which are basically young, unfurled ferns. They taste like a very mild cross between spinach and asparagus, with no bitterness. I prepared them simply, in a pan, salted with olive oil, and cooked until wilted. I added some squeezed lemon juice before removing from the pan and added Parmesan at the table. We all tasted 2-3 and gave them our approval (like they needed it?). It will be nice to look forward to Spring for a reason other than mushrooms that are nearly impossible to find.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Osso Bucco with Saffron Risotto

Braising. It's probably one of the most flavorful ways to cook any kind of meat. The flavors are always deep and complex. This was my first time using beef shanks, it isn't easy to less common cuts of meat in this area. One of my goals has been to avoid getting into a chicken-groundbeef-porkchop rut, so I've been branching out between this year and last. The carrots were some monsters from my weekly share, everything else was just pantry staples.

Osso Bucco:
4-6 beef shanks
1 tbsp lard or oil
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 large onion, halved, and sliced
4 large carrots, chopped
2 cloves garlic, sliced
 1 can stewed tomatoes
1 cup red wine
chicken broth

Preheat oven to 325. In a pan with fat or oil, brown meat 4-5 minutes, each side over high heat until brown and seared, working in batches, so as to not over-crowd the pan. Transfer to lidded roasting pan (you could use a crock pot, too) and in the same pan. Cook chopped vegetables with salt and pepper about 5-6 minutes. Add vegetables to roasting pan with meat and tomatoes and de-glaze skillet with wine, add to meat and vegetables. Add enough chicken broth to ensure the meat is 2/3 covered. Cook at least 3 hours or until tender on 325.

Saffron Risotto:
1 cup arborio rice
2 tbsp butter
3 cups water or chicken stock
1 cup Parmesan cheese
2 tbsp heavy cream
crushed red pepper
1/4 tsp saffron powder or threads

Cook rice with butter over medium heat until translucent. Add liquid 1 cup at a time, stirring almost constantly. When most liquid is absorbed add cheese and adjust seasonings. Add saffron and heavy cream, tasting and adjusting seasonings if necessary. Remove from heat and serve.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Steak Tips with Chimichurri, Radish Greens, and Salad

The good thing about this dinner was it used up a lot of our share for the week. The bad thing is that using up the CSA vegetables early in the week means we have to work down our winter stock of frozen (non-CSA and comparatively bland) vegetables. I'll be glad when they are gone!

This menu consists of steak tips, seasoned with salt and pepper, left to rest at room temperature for about an hour, and then grilled, topped with my Cilantro, Lime, and Cherry Pepper Chimichurri. It also included a "salad bar" so that everyone in the family could build their own from the radishes, toasted nuts, carrots, cucumbers, cranberries, lettuce and goat cheese that I laid out. I made a Citrus-Balsamic dressing based on this, but I also added the juice of about 1/2 of a Meyer Lemon. I didn't think I would like it once I tasted it, and the acidity was definitely off, probably the fault of the orange, which is why I had to add lemon juice. Actually, once it was on the salad with the cranberries and the goat cheese it was quite good. The other item on the plate was sauteed radish greens. Finally. I know I've been talking about doing this for weeks! Everyone but me liked them, I found the flavor fine, but they were slightly tough for my tastes. I think kale is tough too, just to be fair.

Sauteed Radish Greens:
greens and stalks of two bunches of young radishes (I'd cut closer to the leaves for older bunches)
1 clove garlic, sliced thin
2 green onions, sliced
olive oil
1 tbsp water

Heat olive oil in skillet, add garlic and sautee for 2-3 minutes over medium heat. Add greens, salt, and pepper. If the greens seem tough, add a small amount of water to lightly steam. When the leaves are wilted, removed from heat and serve.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Cilantro, Lime, and Cherry Pepper Chimichurri

What do you do when you have a lot of cilantro but no plans? You can make a wonderful condiment for grilled steak or chicken. This is a relatively small portion (2-3 people) but it was more than enough for our dinner.

Cilantro, Lime, and Cherry Pepper Chimichurri:

1 bunch, about cups cilantro
1 clove garlic
1 hot cherry pepper, seeded
juice of 1/2 lime
1/3 c olive oil

Add first four ingredients to a food processor, pulse and scrape down the sides, repeating until finely chopped. Through the lid, slowly add oil, it will be a slightly oil sauce, you may need to use more or less oil depending on the amount of cilantro used. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Beef and Noodles the Ultimate Comfort Food

Beef and Noodles served over mashed potatoes. Not just any potatoes, these are the storage potatoes from my CSA. Although they are stored, I might guess that they are still fresher than potatoes I have purchased at the grocery store on a few occasions. I grew up eating this, I've always loved it but I have not made this in years. In fact, none of my children ever remember me rolling out the egg noodles, let alone eating this for dinner. This isn't a very carb-conscious dinner but it does put my potatoes to good use.

Beef and Noodles:

2-3 lbs pot roast of your choice
4 cups broth or stock
2 onions, sliced
oil or fat of your choice, I used bacon drippings

 Season with salt and pepper, brown beef on both sides in stock pot with 2-3 tbsp oil or fat. Add onions and cook 3-5 minutes. Add stock and simmer 2-3 hours until tender. Cool and remove roast to shred. Add shredded meat back to pot and set aside.

Mashed Potatoes:
12-15 medium-small potatoes, peeled and quartered
1 1/2 sticks butter
1/4 c. heavy cream or half and half
salt and pepper

I don't know why I am telling how to do this but anyways...
Boil potatoes until they fall off fork, drain, add all other ingredients and mash by hand or with hand mixer. Do not use boxed or instant mashed potatoes or you will ruin this recipe, your life and break my heart.

Egg Noodles:
2 eggs
2 scant cups flour
salt pepper

 Make sure your beef and broth are at a low boil or close and that your potatoes are almost done before beginning this step. On cutting board or counter, make a mound of flour, add a little salt and pepper, make a hole in the middle of the mound. Crack eggs in the middle, and with a fork or your fingers work the egg into the flour in a circular motion until combined. Knead it gently together, flatten with hands and roll out with a rolling pin to about 1/8 of an inch. Using a sharp knife cut it into strips, separate and add to broth gently. Egg noodles take less than a minute to cook. Stir gently to ensure they are fully cooked. Also note that the broth will thicken quite a bit at this step.

Once the noodles are cooked, adjust seasonings and serve over mashed potatoes.

Props to Dad for teaching me this recipe. Still, this was the first time I ever got the noodles thin enough.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Chicken and Bacon Caesar Salad

Another big dinner salad today, the greens are from my CSA share. I hosted a party once and this salad was gone before any of the other main dishes. Since chicken and bacon can be thawed quickly it can be made on short notice.

Essentially this salad is about: 6 cups of lettuce; 4 chicken breasts, seasoned with salt and pepper, grilled and sliced; two pounds of applewood bacon, cooked and chopped; a few handfuls of grape tomatoes, halved; tossed in Caesar dressing and about 1/4 cup grated Parmesan.

This probably isn't something that a determined person would not be able to figure out on their own, but I figured I'd post it anyways for those loaded with Spring greens (and hopefully bacon) who are in need of inspiration.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Spring CSA Week 5

It is a challenge to get new things in a weekly CSA share from week to week. I also enjoy the challenge that comes from those weeks with little variation. Staying out of a rut and trying new things requires a lot of creativity.

This week we have another salad green mix, a cucumber, joi choi (it's getting bigger, too), cilantro, storage carrots, storage potatoes and radishes. I actually had dill but I traded it for more radishes.

Tonight we're having a salad bar with citrus-balsamic dressing, steak tips, cilantro chimichurri, and sauteed radish greens. I used carrots and cucumbers from my share for the salad as well. As I write this, this week's share is halfway gone. I have plans for the carrots in a braised dish later this week, the joi choi will be something Asian, lettuce wraps, soup, or maybe spring rolls, and as for the potatoes, no idea yet. I have some bacon ends that would make a nice potato soup but maybe I want gnocchi. Either way, I'm glad that potatoes are so versatile and they store so well!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Mascarpone Saffron Risotto with Mushrooms and Ragout of Chicken Thighs

I made this entirely of ingredients I had on hand without any planning. The chicken can be made ahead of time, even 2-3 days. My friend got me a good deal on Saffron and this is the result of experimentation. My portions usually include enough to feed all of us, plus leftovers for lunches, if they seem huge.
12 bone in chicken thighs, skin on
2 onions, halved and sliced
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can stewed tomatoes
2 cloves garlic, sliced
chicken stock

You can really do this two ways, the best way is to cook the onions in a pan for 3-5 minutes, set aside and then brown the chicken, seasoned with salt and pepper. Working in batches it takes about 4 minutes per side, and then they can be transferred into  a roasting pan with a lid or a crock pot. You should also de-glaze the pan with a bit of chicken stock or white wine and add it to the pot but if you are low on time, there is a second method: Throw everything into the crock pot and cook on high for 7 hours. The first way tastes better, but the second was is great if you are short on time. When the chicken is in the pot or pan, add tomatoes, garlic and enough reserved broth to fill it up about 1/2 to 2/3 of the way. You can braise it in the oven on 325 until it is tender or cook it in the crock pot on low or high until it shreds easily. Allow it to cool once it is tender, strain tomatoes and onions, set aside liquid. Shred chicken, adding tomatoes and onion and a small amount of reserved liquid if necessary. You can freeze any remaining liquid and use it for another sauce or stock.

10-12 mushrooms, sliced, cooked in 2 tbsp butter and set aside
1 cup arborio rice
2 tbsp butter
3 cups chicken stock
1/4 cup diced onion
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
3 tbsp mascarpone cheese
1/4 c heavy cream
1/2 tsp saffron powder (optional)
 2 tbsp chives, chopped

Cook onions in butter, 3-4 minutes on medium heat. Add rice, and cook until translucent. Adding 1 cup of stock at a time, cook and stir rice frequently to proper texture. Add cheeses, cream, and saffron powder, when rice is nearly done, adjust seasonings with salt and pepper. Add mushrooms and chives. Serve with chicken thigh ragout.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Bacon Potato Bites

Let me just say, don't use colored toothpicks. I don't know what I was thinking. Otherwise, these are easy to make and great for a party.

Bacon Potato Bites:
thick-sliced bacon
potatoes, quartered (cut into roughly the same size)
olive oil
non-colorful toothpicks
sour cream
fresh chives, chopped

Pre-heat oven to 400. Spread potatoes out on 1 or 2 rimmed baking sheets and drizzle with olive oil. Liberally apply salt and pepper. Roast potatoes until they are about half done, tender enough to pierce with a toothpick but still firm. Remove from oven, allow to cool. Wrap bacon around all the way around and cut of the excess, securing with a toothpick. 1 slice of bacon can cover 2-3 potatoes. Return to oven and bake until bacon is cooked and potatoes are soft. Serve with sour cream mixed with fresh, chopped chives.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Cilantro, Greens, and Chicken Noodle Bowls

This is another quick dinner. Soup or salad is a perfect way to use greenhouse greens. I also added other vegetables that I had in the fridge. You can use a rotisserie chicken and boxed broth or you can make your own stock and shred the chicken, reserving whatever stock you don't need for another day.

Cilantro, Greens, and Chicken Noodle Bowls
1 whole chicken, de-boned and roughly, shredded
1 gallon stock or broth
1/2 cup carrots, sliced
1 tbsp diced ginger or 1/2 tsp ginger powder
2 cups joi choi
1 cup tatsoi
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
3-4 large mushrooms sliced
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
3-5 tbsp tamari
1 lime
2 bunches green onion, sliced
1 clove garlic, sliced thin
2 packages ramen noodles, seasonings thrown in trash

Everything, except lime, tamari, noodles and green onions goes into a large pot until greens are wilted. Season with tamari and lime to taste. Once pot is just to a boil, add noodles and green onions. Turn off heat, serve when noodles are soft.

I love Sriracha--others in my family, not so much, so I add it at the table.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Bruschetta Salad

I mentioned before that we aren't eating a lot of bread these days, so with a whole bunch of grape tomatoes in the kitchen, I decided to make my favorite bruschetta recipe into a salad. It's really simple, just be sure to use good feta, it really makes a difference. I like to grind pepper over this salad, it's a nice contrast to the acidic tomatoes and the salty feta.

Bruschetta Salad:
Lettuce, your choice
Grape tomatoes, halved
4 oz feta, crumbled
3 green onions sliced
freshly ground pepper
dressing of your choice, I like balsamic

If I explain further it will probably insult your intelligence.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Spring CSA Week 4

Look at all that green!

It is hard to believe we're already on Week 4. As you can see above, we're looking pretty green. We've got mixed lettuces and spicy mix (the one that looks thin and wispy) and even regular lettuce. Carrots and potatoes, from the winter storage crop, graced our share. The Cutest Little Radishes Ever continue this week with two new additions: a greenhouse grown cuke and cilantro.

As I write this, I'm making taco salad for dinner so we're already down 1 bag of lettuce and the cilantro is gone. I will be trying to think of some new, fun salads to have this week, maybe a new take on some of our favorite dinners. I didn't get a chance to eat just the radish greens alone last week, I tasted them, even added a few to the soup, so hopefully I can try them sauteed soon. They hold up well in anything with cooked greens. So many greens from tubers and root vegetables are tasty and edible, so don't just chop them off and throw them away!

Monday, April 8, 2013

In a Hurry Chicken, Tatsoi, and Noodle Bowl

In a Hurry Chicken, Tatsoi, and Noodle Bowl:
2 chicken breasts, sliced thin
handful tatsoi
handful joi choi
2-3 tbsp tamari
2 tbsp chives, chopped
2 tbsp ginger, minced
4 cups chicken stock
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp olive oil
1 package ramen noodles, seasoning packet in trash

Brown chicken in pot with olive oil and ginger, 4-5 minutes. Add broth, tamari and sesame oil. Bring just to a boil, add greens and simmer. When greens are wilted, add noodles, chives and remove from heat. Serve with Sriracha for the adventurous.