Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Kitchen Garden CSA week 4

Hello all!

I hope you have had a happy and delicious holiday season full of family, fun and food! I certainly did, stuffing myself to the gills with home-cooked goodness and all the sweets that the holidays bring. My stomach might have punished me for all my indulgences, but my soul was happy!

This Christmas was particularly special for me because GP asked me to marry him! Definitely the best Christmas present I could ever receive is a committed lifelong friend and partner, one who will always be my sous chef and culinary guinea pig. I am so looking forward to our life together. For the curious, here's a good shot of the engagement ring from the designer:
It is everything I dreamed it would be! I had preferred a garnet over a diamond for many reasons. I wanted my ring to boldly stand out from the crowd, I love the color red (have you seen my kitchen?), and garnets have been assigned many positive meanings: love, passion, career success (particularly for women), charismatically drawing like-minded friends to you, and combating depression. Also, the Celtic knots on the band are elegant, commonly found on Irish engagement/wedding rings, and pay homage to both of our ancestral backgrounds. 

So, as the British would say, I am chuffed to bits. Coupled with the celebration of Christmas with my family, I feel like I've been floating on a cloud, and I haven't yet landed. The past two weeks have certainly kept me on my toes, but I managed to concoct some very tasty dinners with my CSA share. Week 4  gave me:

Salad greens, beets, carrots, Swiss chard, fingerling potatoes, celeriac, spinach, garlic, and a special variety of radicchio - radicchio di treviso tardivo.

It turns out that each of the recipes I made this week contained root vegetables cooked in varying ways. I started out using the salad greens, spinach and potatoes to make a delicious squash salad with roasted potatoes and pomegranate seeds, which I found on The Year In Food. The recipe calls for delicata squash but it's season had just ended in these parts so it was replaced with acorn squash. This salad has an amazing combination of colors textures, and flavors and I will make it many more times, I'm sure.

Next, the very fancy radicchio (which you can read more about here), and half the beets went into a fuschia farro salad from Epicurious. This salad too had an exciting combination of soft and crunchy, sweet and salty. Just don't be alarmed when you see blood-stained vampire teeth in the mirror after eating this!

Then I got creative with carrots. I feel most confident trying my own off-the-cuff recipe ideas in the form of pizza. If crust and cheese are involved, it will probably taste good regardless, but I enjoy trying different veggie sauces and toppings. I braised some carrots with onions and garlic, then once everything was very soft, I pureed it for pizza sauce. I topped it with chopped Swiss chard, cheese, herbs and red pepper flakes, and the result was a delicate, tasty pizza. It was made all the better with a few drops of Sriracha (but what isn't?)

On to celeriac. This strange ugly root has an incredible crispness and the wonderfully light flavor of celery, and I love finding new ways to use it. Jamie Oliver inspired me with his celeriac and potato gratin recipe, which I may have had two or two-and-a-half servings of one night.

The remaining beets and carrots were shredded, shaped and frittered into beet and carrot pancakes, also from Epicurious. Though the beet juice stained them into looking like bloody burger patties, these were wonderfully sweet and filling. I paired mine with applesauce, knowing that it is a traditional topping for potato latkes, but I really should have used the suggested sour cream instead. The pancakes are sweet, not savory, so together with the applesauce, there was a bit too much sugar. Otherwise, these are fun and easy (albeit messy) to make.

Lastly, I finally tried my hand at making gnocchi. I may have set myself up for failure by not using the typical potato and flour recipe, but I had an extra acorn squash lying around and wanted to see if I could give my pasta pieces more color and flavor. I actually found a recipe that incorporated the squash with potatoes, and I followed it to the letter, but the dough ended up so wet and sticky that I knew something was off. The squash gave the dough too much moisture. In an attempt to correct this I used - not kidding - about 7 cups of flour to achieve a manageable doughy texture. At that point I was frustrated and skeptical of how these would turn out, so I hurriedly tore the dough into dozens of ugly clumps and froze them. The next day, I boiled them and they floated as they should, but they tasted pretty much like flour. They weren't rocks like I was expecting, but they were certainly chewier and heavier than fluffy well-made gnocchi. Regardless, they were tasty enough with a quick tomato sauce, basil, and good Parmigiano Reggiano.

That does it for now. The Kitchen Garden is actually taking a holiday hiatus from the CSA shares, and I will only be picking up one in the month of January, then regular bi-weekly shares will start again in February. Without shares to talk about, I plan on doing a post about my 12 weeks of recreational classes at The Cambridge School of Culinary Arts. I'll work on gathering my thoughts and photos to share next time. Until then!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Kitchen Garden CSA weeks 2 & 3

Well, I am now officially a veteran of cooking the Thanksgiving turkey. This year the bird fell to me, and I have to say, it wasn't as hard to cook as I would have thought. It was a brined Trader Joe's turkey, and I seasoned it with olive oil, fresh herbs and salt, then roasted it for about 7 hours, basting with chicken stock. While I'd still like to work on making the moistest turkey ever, it was quite good.

I also found a delicious recipe for eggnog pumpkin pie in The Good Housekeeping Cookbook. Just replace the evaporated milk with eggnog for extra sweet creaminess.

More recently, I have been loving my CSA shares from The Kitchen Garden, and have been able to make a ton of meals out of each pickup. The second time around, I received:

Fingerling potatoes, daikon radishes, russian kale, brussels sprouts, spinach, a turnip, parsley, two small heads of broccoli, a head of romanesco cauliflower, and garlic.

Brussels sprouts, brussels sprouts! I actually had four whole stalks of these, since I had been given some from Trader Joes at Thanksgiving. It was a good thing though, since the stalks I had received from The Kitchen Garden were teeming with my new nemesis - aphids. As mentioned previously, The Kitchen Garden's produce is of noticeably higher quality than some of Silverbrook Farm's, but I think hidden aphids are beyond the farmers' control. They are a risk you take when buying farm-fresh rather than from a grocery store. Unfortunately, the sprouts were un-salvageable, so I tossed them and used the Trader Joes brand instead, to make:

two batches of a favorite dish around our house, sauteed brussels sprouts with sriracha and cashews from The Bitten Word blog (recipe in sidebar). I served it once with a simple bulgur salad with Moroccan spices and dried cranberries,

and once with naan and Indian dal (cooked, seasoned lentils).

The turnip was shredded and went into an udon noodle stir fry with carrots, red pepper, and shiitake mushrooms. I have to admit, I'm not really sure of the best way to cook turnip. It was quite bitter even after being stir-fried until soft.

The russian kale went into another pan of spicy kale lasagna (recipe in sidebar).

My office has an annual celebration of 'International Thanksgiving' shortly before actual Thanksgiving, where people are encouraged to bring food from different cultures/cuisines for everyone to eat at lunch together. In the past I've made fried rice, Chinese pickled cucumber and dumplings, and I was stuck as to what to make this year. I wanted the dish to not require any heating, as that can present issues in our office kitchen, and making it hand-held would also be preferable. So I thought, what was my favorite cold, hand-held international food? Bahn mis of course! Bahn mis are Vietnamese baguette sandwiches that have some combination of pate, protein of your choice, cilantro, pickled carrots and daikon radishes, mayo, chili peppers, and other soy, garlic and spicy condiments. Using food from my CSA, I invented an open-faced vegetarian take on banh mis that people could eat as finger sandwiches.

First, I quick-pickled the daikon radishes with carrots in a mix of vinegar, sugar and water. Then I made each little sandwich: a slice of baguette, a smear of adobo mayonnaise (mix adobo sauce into mayo), a slice of baked tofu, a pile of pickled veg, and garnish with parsley (I hate cilantro) and a slice of jalapeno. Bagging each component separately, these were easy to transport to work and make onsite, and my co-workers enjoyed them (although most removed the raw jalapeno, understandably).

With the rest of my share, I used the potatoes to make curried smashed potatoes, and paired it with creamed spinach and parsley with Indian spices. The broccoli and cauliflower I steamed and threw into a lazy bowl of vegan goodness with sweet potatoes, tofu and black beans.

My third share contained:

Celeriac, onions, parsnips, a bunch of fresh herbs, radishes, hakurei turnips, a head of lettuce, a bunch of kale, a bag of spinach, carrots, and potatoes.

First up, I still had some brussels sprouts left over, so I made Smitten Kitchen's brussels sprouts and chestnuts in brown butter, which I put on top of orzo. To go alongside, I made a quick Caesar salad with the lettuce. By the way, this was the first time I had ever roasted or eaten chestnuts. They are delicious and unexpectedly sweet!

Then there was leftover turkey from Thanksgiving. I found the perfect recipe to combine it with a ton of veg from my CSA in Mark Bittman's Food Matters Cookbook. The solution? White turkey chili: a simple, seasoned mix of turkey, celeriac, parsnips, turnips and potatoes with white beans. I made a giant batch and froze it, so I have quick meals in the future.

I still also had all the ingredients left over from my banh mis, so I made banh mi sliders with leftover Thanksgiving rolls. With this, I made a farro salad from the new Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, which includes parsnips and carrots with a sweet and spicy dressing and goat cheese (the book calls for feta).

The beginning of the holiday season has had me eating more carbs, sweets and indulgences than I'd like to admit, and I've started feeling like a slug. Time to detox with a salad - or two. On the left, a persian rice salad with brown rice, cashews and dates from Bon Appetit, and on the right, Martha Stewart's winter spinach salad with pomegranate seeds instead of cherries, and pears rather than apples. 

The kale and onions from my share went into a caramelized onion and kale gratin, also from the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook. Well that's all for now. I've been finding great ways to use root vegetables which I will share next time!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Switching CSAs

So my Silverbrook Farm CSA has come to an end, and I am now picking up substantial bi-weekly shares from The Kitchen Garden Farm in Sunderland, MA. I'm loving the new shares, they're large, have a wonderful variety of produce, and for what it's worth, are cleaner and nicer looking than the last few weeks of my Silverbrook shares. The style of picking up the Kitchen Garden shares is also different. The Silverbrook Farm shares would be portioned out and packaged for each person ahead of time, you just had to throw everything in your bag. The Kitchen Garden instead lays out bins of each vegetable, and posts the amount you should take of each on a whiteboard. For example, the list will say '2 pounds of potatoes', '1 head of lettuce', and '1 bunch of carrots', then you can select and bag which veggies you want. I really appreciate the opportunity for selection.

The last week of my Silverbrook Farm shares and the first week of the Kitchen Garden shares happened on Monday and Wednesday of the same week so I was bombarded with fresh veggies. My last Silverbrook share brought:
Two carnival squash, mixed greens, a head of green cabbage, a bag of arugula, cranberries, apples, red potatoes, and delectable Cloumage cheese curd from Shy Brothers Farm.

The Kitchen Garden gave me 2 pounds of beets, a bunch of carrots, broccoli, a head of radicchio, hakurei turnips, sweet potatoes, bok choy, a head of cauliflower, and red onions (the kitty was sold separately).

Apples and carrots went into Oh She Glows' lentil walnut apple loaf, which I served with smashed potatoes and butternut squash. This was my take on vegan meatloaf and mashed potatoes, and it turned out more flavorful than the real thing!

The sweet potatoes and arugula went into this flatbread recipe from The Kitchn. I swapped cloumage for the ricotta. I also made a few pumpkin pie smoothies. I couldn't find an easy recipe that I liked for these online, so I made up my own version with frozen bananas, almond milk, pumpkin puree, maple syrup and pumpkin pie spice. It was like drinking pumpkin pie filling - yum.

I stuffed the carnival squash with mixed greens, sweet potatoes, turnips and onions and baked them until soft. I love trying all the different varieties of squashes, they each have their own delicate flavor.

Upon request from GP, I made a New England boiled dinner with part of the green cabbage, potatoes and carrots. I had to replace the corned beef with pot roast though, as I was unable to find briskets anywhere in my area... I made a drizzle out of hard mustard and beer and we ate it up with plenty of cider.

More butternut squash from previous shares, along with black beans and arugula, were seasoned and sauteed, topped with cloumage and walnuts, and served on a bed of brown rice. This was a last minute throw-together-random-stuff dinner that I was pleasantly surprised by.

The remaining green cabbage went into my favorite soup of all time - hot and sour mushroom, cabbage and rice soup from The Kitchn. I've modified the recipe a bit, reducing the amount of cabbage, and adding Chinese black vinegar and lemon juice. Dotted with Sriracha, this soup will warm you to the core.

The blog Serious Eats provided me with this delicious recipe for radicchio risotto, drizzled with balsamic vinegar. I'm becoming a big fan of risotto, they're not as intimidating to make as they may seem. Whether or not the final texture on my risotto is perfect - who cares? I like them! This recipe had the savory smoothness typical of risottos, but with crunch and bitterness from the radicchio and a sour bite from the vinegar. It was incredible. 

The broccoli and cauliflower were spiced and roasted, and paired with this simple recipe for sauteed turnips, fennel and chickpeas.

Lastly, with two pounds of beets, all I could think to make was the Russian soup borscht. I have never eaten nor cooked borscht before, and this simple recipe from The Kitchn makes no pretense of being authentic. My understanding is that the real deal is very involved and includes making beef stock with bone marrow. I still look forward to one day trying legitimate borscht, but this simple one-pot meal of mushrooms, potatoes, beets and carrots simmered in seasoned broth has earned a permanent spot in my recipe box.

That's all for now! In my next post I'll share what I've been eating lately, along with my adventure cooking for Thanksgiving.


Saturday, November 3, 2012

CSA Weeks 16, 17 and 18

Hello hello, and happy November! Is it awful that the moment Halloween ended, I started hearing Christmas carols in my head? I come from a family that takes Christmas very seriously, and November is just prep time for yuletide. I'm itching to break out my three Christmas trees and start baking cookies and pies!

But I'm getting way ahead of myself. I still have to tell you about the final weeks of my Silverbrook Farm CSA, and in my next post I'll feature the first share of my new bi-weekly winter pickup from The Kitchen Garden.

Week 16 of my Silverbrook CSA brought:
Butternut squash, lettuce, pea tendrils, apples, tomatoes, ground cherries, potatoes, green peppers, and grapes. I also bought cranberries, parsnips and borlotti beans.

I used the cranberries and pea tendrils in this recipe for pan-seared scallops on a bed of greens and sprouts, drizzled with cranberry and horseradish sauce. The original recipe called for mixing horseradish into prepared cranberry sauce, but I could only find horseradish in sauce form itself, so I criss-crossed the two, and was very pleased with the results. This dish looks beautiful, has a unique combo of flavors, and is filling but light. Plus, this was the first time I had made cranberry sauce from scratch, and I couldn't believe how easy and quick it was!

Next, Taco Day rolled around (which was also Vodka Day), and the lettuce, borlotti beans, peppers and tomatoes became filling for a huge batch of tacos. Spicy and delicious!

I paired the parsnips and potatoes with mushrooms to make a rib-sticking root vegetable curry inspired by The Complete Curry Cookbook. The original recipe was for a beef-stew like curry, but I replaced the meat with mushrooms and cut the cooking time in half.

Finally, the butternut squash and mixed greens went into a improvised salad with onions, red cabbage, pepitas and nutritional yeast that I loosely based on a recipe in the I Love Trader Joe's Cookbook. The salad was okay, but not great, and I worked really hard at making the sauteed shrimp flavorful, but they fell flat.

Looking back, I'm realizing that I combined the shares from Week 17 and Week 18 to make meals. I was busy and not eating a home after the Week 17 share, and before I knew it, I was picking up another haul of food. Here's what I received:
Week 17 was more grapes, pea tendrils, another butternut squash, a head of cabbage, kale, bok choy, apples, potatoes and a jar of mustard. (Once again the kale was swarming with aphids and got tossed.)

Week 18 had eggs, lettuce, pea tendrils, more mixed greens, butternut squash, apples, pears, and potatoes.

I also bought a mammoth sweet potato, which went into three different dishes. Here's a picture for scale:

First up, one third of the sweet potato went into my favorite sweet potato and black bean chili with cornbread.

The cabbage I cut into quarters and roasted, drizzling it with chili lime sauce according to this amazing recipe from The Kitchn, which I can't believe I haven't mentioned before. I paired the cabbage with pumpernickel toast and seasoned white beans on a bed of pea tendrils.

The mixed greens joined tomatoes, onions, peppers, lentils and bulgur in a batch of Protein Power Goddess Bowls from Oh She Glows (see recipe in sidebar).

The bok choy went into a large bowl of Sriracha slaw (from the Sriracha Cookbook), which I paired with lemony miso noodles.

Nothing from the CSA here, but I made a second spicy Asian dinner out of more Sriracha slaw, and bowls of Mark Bittman's kimchi soup with tofu.

More pea tendrils and random veg became a side salad to a main dish of Hipster Food's pumpkin rotini (recipe in sidebar).

Potatoes, potatoes, potatoes! What to do with them all? I turned to Smitten Kitchen, one of the most popular food blogs out there, for a great tortilla de patatas recipe, which used up a good portion of my potatoes, onions, and eggs. This is a fantastic breakfast or lunch dish that is homey, savory and filling.

Lastly, again, nothing from the CSA here, but in honor of Pumpkin Day, which also happened to be Pretzel Day, behold: pumpkin pretzels!!! This is your basic homemade soft pretzel recipe, with pumpkin puree mixed in. I couldn't decide if I wanted them to be salty or sweet, so I sprinkled them with both kosher salt and cinnamon. They were a hit!

I'll stop there before this turns into a mega-post, and deal with my last Silverbrook share and my first new CSA share in the next post.

'Til then!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

CSA Weeks 13, 14, 15

So I haven't been posting as frequently, but I attribute that to not having been cooking as frequently. I've been hit with a bout of culinary laziness lately, and have often turned to takeout Chinese and pizza for dinner. With the days getting darker earlier and my CSA shares getting a bit smaller, I'm not as motivated to jump into the kitchen every night after getting home. With that said, I think I can concisely combine what I've concocted over the past three weeks.

Week 13's share included:
3 ears of corn, lettuce, carrots, mixed greens, okra, tomatoes, bell peppers, potatoes and Asian pears.

To start off, using the lettuce, and some of the carrots, I made a large salad with edamame, radishes, tofu and kimchi with a soy sauce vinaigrette.

The okra inspired me to try and make a vegan gumbo. I've always wanted to try authentic Louisiana gumbo and I realize that the real thing is far from vegan. I figure I'll wait to try the legitimate version from a real Cajun cook, meanwhile I'll dabble with my own meatless variation.
 More of the carrots, some tomatoes, okra and the rest of the peppers went into the gumbo with kidney beans and rice. I found the recipe from Whole Foods, and used Trader Joe's soy chorizo. While the gumbo turned out alright, the soy chorizo was terrible. Rather than being solid, like a real sausage, when removed from its plastic casing, it disintegrated into neon-red mush and didn't add anything to the dish.

Next, to celebrate National Peanut Day came some bun, which I've posted about before. The last of the carrots and a few greens went on top of vermicelli with radishes, cucumbers, herbs, shrimp and peanuts with a soy and rice vinegar sauce. Fresh, filling, a great goodbye to summer.

The potatoes, mixed greens and more tomatoes were sauteed with garlic, onions and Indian spices  per this recipe, and served on top of garlic naan with yogurt.

Then came the first of two National Guacamole Days on September 16. Let me tell you, guacamole is a big deal in my house. GP just about faints every time I buy an avocado, he loves our 7-ingredient guacamole so much. So for dinner, we basically ate 1.5 bowls of guac apiece, with tortilla chips and broiled fish for garnish. We each had a bowl of our homemade guac with chips, and then made an entree of fish fillets seasoned with cayenne pepper and cumin, and topped with a seasoned salsa of chopped avocado, corn, green tomatoes, onions and garlic. We reeked of garlic for days, but it was worth it. :)

Lastly, this dish didn't use any of my CSA food from this week, but I finally put my long-frozen blueberries from several weeks ago to use. For breakfast on the weekend, I made a nice batch of Smitten Kitchen's blueberry yogurt multigrain pancakes

Moving on to week 14:
To be completely honest, I was pretty disappointed with this week's share. It was a bit small, with the bulk of it being hand fruit: apples, Asian pears, and bosc pears, but part of owning a CSA share is accepting the chance that yields for some weeks won't be as bountiful as others. My disappointment stemmed mostly from the quality of the food. Half of the apples seemed to have been burrowed into by insects and were rotting from the inside out, the kale was chock full of so many aphids, it practically crawled of my counter, and it was also inhabited by a big caterpillar who showed himself just seconds before I would have chopped him in half. Lastly, I was given a jar of the farm's own orange marmalade, but it must not have been sterilized or sealed properly, because opening it for the first time, I found a layer of green mold on the top.

So I ended up tossing about 1/3 of what I was given, but I did manage the make some delicious dishes with what remained. In addition to the foods already listed, I also received: 2 ears of corn, lettuce, potatoes and tomatoes.

Firstly, to use up the last of the mixed greens, okra and corn from the previous week, I made The Bitten Word's pan-roasted corn and okra, throwing in the greens to wilt. Alongside, I followed Silverbrook's recipe for pears topped with goat cheese and honey. The vegetables were crunchy, salty and smoky, and the pears - fuggehdaboudit. My mind was blown by the combo of goat cheese and honey. I have fallen so in love with goat cheese that I'm thinking of making a concession to my dairy-free ways. (Though, let's be honest, if you've been reading this blog, you'll see that I've dropped the no-dairy restriction while cooking through my CSA shares. I've started using cheese, yogurt and sour cream now and then, as you'll see this week).

I had some leftover vermicelli from the bun last week, so I put it to good use with this great Indian recipe for semiya biryani. It's pan-cooked chopped vermicelli with Indian spices and any vegetables you have on hand. I used corn, potatoes, tomatoes, carrots and peppers, then topped the dish with mint, basil and cucumber raita (cool yogurt with chopped cucumber, lemon juice, salt, pepper and mint).

The lettuce, more tomatoes and boiled potatoes went into a household favorite: Nicoise salad, with green beans, cucumber, shallots, olives, tuna and hard boiled eggs.

More corn and the remaining tomatoes went into Martha Stewart's summer succotash which was incredibly tasty. It's a bright mix of blanched wax and green beans, corn, tomatoes, avocado, and borlotti beans in a light vinaigrette - it's absolutely made for the late summer farmer's market offerings. With this, I also made a vegan, Greek potato gratin with herbs and mushrooms which was so flavorful, filling and easy that it earned a permanent home in my recipe box.

Lastly, I invented a recipe for other random veg that I picked up at the farmer's market. I would make a pizza with butternut squash puree instead of tomato sauce, and top it with Brazilian eggplants, garlicky kale and goat cheese. As previously mentioned, the kale fell through, so I replaced it with basil, and it turned out quite well. I'm getting more creative with trying recipes of my own creation.

Week 15 offered:
Romaine lettuce, 3 ears of corn, pea tendrils, mixed bok choy and kale, buttercup squash, apples, potatoes and concord grapes. I also bought ground cherries out of curiosity (Silverbrook calls it 'farm crack'), and tiny pumpkins for decoration.

I only took two pictures of things I made this week, because they were all pretty simple. The first was on National Corned Beef Hash Day. I'm breaking the ovo-pesco-vegan diet again for this one, because I grew upon corned beef hash and I looooove it. GP and I fried up a can of it, with toast, eggs, sauteed bok choy and kale chips.

I turned the buttercup squash into southwestern squash soup with ancho chile cream and spicy toasted pepitas. This was a recipe I learned in a cooking class I'm currently taking at the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts (more on that later). It was made by others in my class on the day we learned soup recipes, and I loved it so much that I recreated it at home. I admit that it wasn't as good as my classmates, but I was proud of my presentation and it was a perfect soup to start off autumn.
As for the rest of the vegetables: I made caesar salad with the Romaine and paired it with broiled bluefish; the pea tendrils I sauteed with beans and served on naan bread; the corn went into another batch of pueblo corn pie; and I ate the apples and grapes as snacks. The concord grapes are amazing by the way. They are the 'grapiest' grapes I've ever had - they taste purple.

So there's my long-winded three-week recap. I'll post week 16 soon, and then there are only three weeks left of my Silverbrook CSA. Sad day.

Until next time!