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!

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