cooking and preserving from my weekly CSA box

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.