cooking and preserving from my weekly CSA box

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Pasta e Fagioli

Wednesdays are pretty hectic for me, and I had to do some grocery shopping to compliment my upcoming Italian-themed Easter menu. I still need to go back to the store, at least twice. I was looking for some Italian items that our store didn't have, and in the midst of my grocery store wandering, I decided to make pasta e fagioli for dinner tonight. I had never made it before but it is a quick, meatless meal if you are looking for one. It is the perfect pantry meal and I'm out of homemade vegetable broth, plus the canned tomatoes are too precious. However, the carrots from my CSA are in this dish!

1 medium carrot  finely chopped
1 rib celery finely chopped
1 small-medium sweet onion, finely chopped
2 cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1c datalini
2 bay leaves
2-3 sprigs fresh herbs (I used rosemary and thyme but I bet basil and oregano would be good, too)
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 quart broth (I used Pacific Vegetable, feel free to use anything you like)
1 16 oz. can tomato sauce (you could use cooked down canned tomatoes, run through a food mill)
2-3 pieces of Parmesan rind
olive oil

In a pot, heat olive oil, add carrots, celery and onion, cooking on medium until onion is translucent stirring occasionally. Season with salt and pepper. Add garlic and cook for about a minute. Add broth, tomato sauce, herbs and Parmesan rind, bringing to a boil for about 4-5 minutes. Add datalini. Reduce heat when datalini is about half way to al dente and add beans and bring to a boil again, stirring frequently, about 2 minutes. You can use water to thin it, but I purposely wanted mine thick. Shut off burner, adjust seasonings and allow to cool. Serve with grated Parmesan cheese.

Personally, I could have done without the carrot, or  used grated carrot and maybe added in a 1/2 cup of grated Parmesan at the end.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Cheese Stuffed Baby Sweet Peppers

We ran a lot of errands today and while we have great CSA share, we all crave different veggies at times, even when they are not in season. We try to eat low carb as much as possible, and sometimes a guy needs something other than salad. My whole family loves peppers. We picked up some of those cute baby peppers from Costco and stuffed them and had a baby lettuce salad on the side. The salad had the usual suspects that I use when I make a quick salad: dried cranberries, almonds, apples, and crumbled goat cheese.  We had pretty much the same thing a few days ago, but try it: dried fruit, nuts, apples, and a soft cheese (any cheese that is not mozzarella or cheddar) on a salad are pretty much awesome, with a nice acidic dressing of course.

20 baby peppers, top cut off and seeded
8 oz cream cheese
1 cup shredded cheese (a blend, cheddar, pepperjack, whatever you have)
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1 egg, beaten
salt and cayenne pepper to taste

Steam peppers about 8 minutes to soften. Allow peppers to cool. Put other ingredients in food processor or mixer and mix well. Stuff peppers and bake at 425 until peppers are blistered. Serve as an appetizer, or with a salad.

These went fast, I didn't get a picture until they were almost gone, I should have added an egg. This recipe didn't have one. Don't be like me, add the egg. It binds.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Spring CSA Week 2

This is the second week of my Spring CSA, it looks a lot like last week. We had beets but my children wanted to swap them for potatoes. We ended up with two bags of potatoes, a bag of carrots, baby lettuce mix (top), baby tatsoi (right), and baby bok choi (bottom left). I really liked the baby bok choi it is really mild, it was almost sweet. I wonder if the baby tatsoi, another brassica, will be milder than regular tatsoi, which tends to be slightly bitter.

I like to try to change things up a bit from week to week, but I am always tempted to repeat my favorites. The lettuce will be a salad tonight. With the bok choy, I am thinking maybe an Asian soup with shrimp. As for the tatsoi, since I have to go to the grocery store, I was thinking about picking up some shiitake mushrooms, and making a mushroom stir fry or maybe egg rolls, I could add in the carrots, too. Potatoes, really, how hard is it to use potatoes? I think they only way I don't like them is in potato salad because I don't generally like mayonnaise. I wouldn't eat even my favorite food if it was covered in mayonnaise, but I will eat just about anything in a flour tortilla. Draw your own conclusions on that one.

PS: I think my Spell Check needs to spend more time at the farmer's market. It's called tatsoi and I most certainly do not mean Tutsi. Technology is weird.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Vegetarian Potato and Celeriac Soup

This can be made with any kind of broth, I just happened to use vegetable broth. It was made with the contents of my March 19th CSA share. It is a great way to use celeriac, especially if you are not sure what to do with it. I don't think many people can tell the difference between celeriac and potato when they are both in a soup, but if it is good, who cares, right?  We also ate the spicy baby greens from the share with the leftover Strawberry Poppy dressing, goat cheese, cranberries, apples and slivered almonds.

1/2 large onion, diced
3 tbsp butter
1 celery root (celeriac) peeled and diced
4-6 medium potatoes, peel and cubed
4 cups broth or stock
1/2 c cream or half and half
salt, pepper, and thyme to taste

Add butter and onion to pot and cook on medium heat until onions begin to slightly brown. Add celeriac, cooking with onions for about 1-2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add about 1 cup stock or broth and allow it to come just to a boil, add potatoes. Make sure it is barely boiling, add the rest of the stock and bring it to a simmer. Cover, reducing heat if necessary. When potatoes are soft and celeriac cooked, add cream and seasonings to taste.

Huge Veggie Stir Fry with Joi Choi

I'll admit that I'm still getting to know the bok choy branch of the crucifer family. Unlike cabbages and some cruciferous vegetables, all chinese cabbage varieties that I have encountered have been mild. The joi choi (tender baby bok choi leaves) used in this stir fry are no exception, they are difficult to see in this picture because they wilted quite a bit but the entire bag from this week's CSA share is in this bowl of plants slathered in oriental flavors.

In order to make this into a main dish meal for my whole family I had to use two skillets and a lot of vegetables. I don't know how many cups are here, but it filled my biggest bowl, uncooked, and then some. I made the sauce in a separate pan, because I wanted it to be thick when I mixed it with the vegetables, knowing the would continue to release water, even at the table.

1 bell pepper, sliced
1 package of giant package of mushrooms, sliced
1 onion, sliced
2 large carrots, sliced
1 package of joi choi from my CSA
1 package of sugar snap peas
1 package of bean sprouts

Basically, this was stir-fried in olive oil and sesame oil, starting with the hardest vegetables first and ending with the most tender (peas, joi choi, and bean sprouts). While I was doing all of this I made a sauce, I didn't measure so I'll give a close approximation:

Sauce Ingredients:
2 inch piece of ginger, grated
2 cloves garlic, grated
1/2 c tamari
1/4 c. honey to taste (it might have been slightly more)
4 tbsp fish sauce
1/4 c oyster sauce
1 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tbsp sesame seeds
2 tbsp cornstarch
1/2 c. water
1 bunch green onions, sliced

In a sauce pan add the first 3 ingredients, bring just to a boil, stirring to keep from burning. Add honey, oyster sauce, fish sauce and vinegar, bringing just to a boil, mix cornstarch and cold water in a cup and add to pan to thicken, continue to stir. When thickened, stir in green onions and sesame seeds, add to cooked vegetables.

I like to add Sriracha at the table since the rest of my family likes their food mild.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Baby Arugula Salad with Spiced Walnuts and Strawberry Poppy Vinaigrette

This is a great winter salad

Strawberry Poppy Vinaigrette

All together

This dinner salad is a great way to use things readily available in winter. The baby arugula was so tender and mild, it was hardly like a salad. The salad dressing was simple but good, it complemented the salad well. Measurements below aren't exact, it's salad, you get to make up your own rules.

baby arugula (amount depends on how many people you are serving)
2 apples, cut into quarters and sliced thin
1/2 c. dried cranberries
shaved Parmesan
Spiced Walnuts (the ones I made the other day)
Strawberry Poppy Vinaigrette   (6 tbsp is 1 one good-sized lemon, I used a tsp of poppy seeds)

Friday, March 22, 2013

Shrimp, Mushroom, Spinach and Tomato Risotto

Risotto is my go-to last minute, use-up-vegetables, not-pasta dinner. The best thing about it is that you don't really have to plan ahead as long as you keep your pantry stocked.

1 cup arborio rice
3 cups water
1/4 cup onion, diced, or a 1/2 small onion
1 cloves garlic, sliced
6 tbsp. butter
handful of baby spinach
sliced mushrooms
12-15 shrimp
1 cup grated Parmesan
2 tbsp chives
6-8 grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup heavy cream (or half and half)
lemon sliced in half
crushed red pepper

Slice and brown mushrooms in 2 tbsp butter on medium heat, set aside. In a large skillet, cook rice until translucent with onion in 2 tbsp butter. Add 1 cup of water at a time, stirring often. Add garlic after adding water. When rice is nearly done and water is almost all absorbed, start shrimp in separate pan with 2 tbsp butter, salt, pepper, crushed red pepper and lemon juice to taste, I just squeeze about 1 tbsp out of the lemon and save the rest for something else. At the same time add spinach, mushrooms, cheese, chives and cream to risotto. Cook shrimp until just pink. Season risotto with salt and a little crushed red pepper to taste. Add cooked shrimp and liquid from pan to risotto, mix and remove from heat. I like mine on the spicy side so I add a little more red pepper at the table. Sadly, this was the end of the chives from last year's CSA season that I saved in my freezer.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Spiced Walnuts and Pecans

We're really fond of spiced nuts around here, they are great in salad, with fruit, and by the fistful. I had to run out on an errand and my helpers finished the job for me, even going so far as to label them. I did two batches at once, the walnuts were for salad and the pecans will be for a dessert. Just double the recipe below, and rotate the pans, if done on two, every 10 minutes.

2 1/2 c. nuts
1/4 c. maple syrup
1/4 c brown sugar (scant cup, not packed)
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp. cinnamon
dash of nutmeg
salt (to taste)
2 tbsp butter, melted and cooled
1 egg white

Preheat oven to 300, roasting nuts for 10 minutes. Melt butter and cool. Lower oven temperature to 250. Allow nuts to cool when removed from oven. Combine all ingredients, except egg white, adding nuts after ingredients are well mixed. Beat egg white in a separate bowl until it foams and add to nut mixture. Spread on parchment lined sheet and cook at 250 for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. If doubled, rotate pans when stirring. Remove and allow to cool.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Spring CSA Week 1

Carrots, baby bok choy (joi choy), potatoes, celeriac, baby arugula, and baby spicy greens
This is the first week's haul of my Spring CSA and also my first spring CSA session. It's a light haul, smaller than even the small shares of the summer but I am glad to have some fresh vegetables in the house again.

That ugly vegetable in the center is celeriac, it has a very mild flavor, like a cross between celery and a white potato. It's great in soups, and I will probably either make celeriac and potato soup or cream of celeriac soup. The baby arugula is heading for a salad, the joi choi will probably end up in a salad or a stir fry, and the spicy greens are going in a soup. I will probably split up the carrots for salad and maybe make some glazed carrots as a side dish.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

St. Patrick's Day Dinner Menu

 Quite a few years back, we had a little disaster with corned beef, I took it out of the package and roasted it like a regular brisket. The trash was quite full that night. I'd actually never heard of corned beef and cabbage until my adult life, I suppose my family chose to embrace the Italian side because the food is better. However that may be, a little variety never hurts and I have actually learned to make corned beef. Next year, my goal is to prepare the brine myself. And before you freak out about that, you can easily order juniper berries online.

So here is my menu:

The whole spread
Corned Beef and Cabbage
Soda bread, Kerrygold Irish Butter, and Kerrygold Dubliner cheese
I used the bottle to make a centerpiece
Bailey's Irish Cream flavored buttercream, my piping skills have no effect on the tastiness

The cake that changed my mind about chocolate cake
This really isn't a difficult dinner to make. For the corned beef, I either order it or just buy it at Costco. The key thing is to rinse the brine off the beef before cooking, and then it is pretty much just covering it with water and gently boiling until tender. I set it aside once it it tender and add my vegetables, boiling for about half and hour. You can add whatever vegetables you like but I had a whole cabbage, quartered, a large onion, quartered, about a dozen baby reds and some carrots in mine. I just fill up the pot with all the veggies that can fit.

Soda bread could not be easier, I found this no fail recipe at Brown Eyed Baker.
I just follow it to the letter, I can easily whip up two loaves in under 15 minutes. If you don't usually like soda bread, this will make you a fan. I served it with Irish butter, which made it even better, and some good Irish cheese.

The Guinness cake comes from the same website as the soda bread but with a variation on the frosting. I'm not much of a drinker, so I just buy a small nipsized bottle of Bailey's Irish Cream. I beat 3 sticks of butter in my mixer until it s fluffy and add about 4 cups of powdered sugar, 2 tsp. vanilla, the bottle of Bailey's and a pinch of salt, if I am using unsalted butter. I tint it to the right color and spread it on the cake. For the piped frosting I just use the same method (no Bailey's though) with 1 stick of butter and a scant cup of powdered sugar, and more food coloring. If you need to thin the frosting, you can always use milk or half and half, I usually add the powdered sugar gradually until I have the consistency that I want. One last thing, the directions for this recipe say about 35 minutes for the cake, I found that I went closer to an hour. Make the cake! You will never regret it!

The centerpiece is just the bottle from the stout that I used for the cake. I ran out of green food coloring, otherwise the carnations would have been green, but it still looked nice. If your guest brings Australian wine, like mine did, you can imagine it was made by the descendants of the transported Irish. I have a Pandora station on my TV so I set it up to play Irish music while we dine, if you wish to do the same, search for Wolfetones, The Irish Rovers, or Paddy Reilly. Afterwards, you can play cribbage. I don't know if that was ever an Irish thing, but all of the old Irish guys around here know how to play.

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

St. Patrick's Day Breakfast

 For St. Patrick's day breakfast, I decided to make McCann's Irish Oatmeal in my crockpot overnight. Many bloggers have said that the best way to keep the oatmeal from burning at the edges is to put an oven safe bowl inside the crockpot on foil or canning rings and fill about half way with water. I have also read that there is some issue with cracking when the two pots are not separated, hence the foil or rings. So here is the setup...

 This cooked about 9 hours, and this is what it looked like in the morning. You can't see it here, but mine is sitting on about 4 large canning rings. And yes, that is a souffle dish.

1 cup steel cut oats
4 cups water
2 small apples, peeled an diced
1/4 c pecans, chopped
2 tsp vanilla
1 tbsp cinnamon
1/2  c. maple syrup or brown sugar
1/4 tsp nutmeg, you can use more but I'm not wild about nutmeg
pinch of salt

Just follow the set-up for the crockpot that I described, or not, if you are feeling rebellious. It's your crockpot, so do what ye like. Mix everything together in an oven proof bowl and put it in the crockpot on low for at least 8 hours. You could add raisins or more apples, even more sweetener if you like. 'Twill be ready in the morning.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

My Spring CSA begins Tuesday, March 19th. Join me in cooking, eating, planning and preserving the contents of my box.