Wednesday, July 29, 2009

One Share Project Continued

Since my last post, I've discovered that, like most great ideas, lots of people were already on to the idea of sharing what they've done with their CSA shares. Thank you to all who commented with their ideas, and I look forward to hearing more! First, I'd like to share a collection of links that are helpful for using up all that good produce.

I think the most helpful and interesting link I was given is for this fantastic Google group called Cooking Away My CSA which Cooking Light used for inspiration for their own CSA blog.

I also found some food bloggers with blogs dedicated to their CSA's, like Greening Local, plus a bunch of bloggers who have sections of their blogs dedicated to their CSA's. These include Indulge and Enjoy, Erin's Food Files, and Oishii.

Thanks to all those readers who sent in their links! I'd also like to suggest that Kath always has great ideas for produce.

I have to give special recognition to my aunt Meggie who brought out her inner food blogger and sent me tons of ideas and pictures to share! Meg works at Lincoln Cafe, under the fantastic Chef Matt. Being surrounded by local delicious food has really helped her develop her own style at home, and this mostly revolves around her favorite toy: the mandoline!

She likes to make slaws of all kinds, but espcially with cabbage and kohlrabi. She also used her handy slicer to make this great salad with an onion from her CSA, cucumbers, vinegar, sugar, salt pepper, and water.

Yum. It doesn't get much fresher than that. Delish.

Meg always makes her greens with bacon fat and onions, which I deeply respect :D She throws her leeks and squash into omlettes, roasts beets for salads, and simply steams her green beans.
She also has quite an operation going for pickled beets! I can't wait to get my hands on a jar of these. Again the slicer comes out!

She bought a $10 sack of beets from David Miller, a local farmer who supplies the cafe with fresh produce. She roasted the beets, put them in a simple pickle mix, canned in a hot water bath for 30 minutes, and of course had to have a BEET SANDWICH!

Thanks for all the great ideas Meg!!

Now that you're caught up with what the rest of the internet is doing, I'd like to fill you in on what I've done with the rest of my one share.

If you remember, my share came with greens of lots of different flavors. I knew I had to get the greens cooked quickly because they really are best eaten the day they're picked. I got this exciting new cook book and it gave me the idea to put greens into my turkey meatloaf.

I thought, why not cram more veggies in there? So I began by grating up some squash. I have no idea why, but this is the first time it ocurred to me to grate something on the box grater into a pie pan rather than a bowl. Flat bottom, high sides. DUH.

I grated up an onion, too. I think grated onion adds flavor and keeps the meat moist.

I just added these shredded veggies, plus some greens that I sauteed with celery to my usual meatloaf recipe, which uses turkey, parmesian cheese, and bread crumbs.

Ina had the idea to make individual meatloaves, and everybody knows the crust is the best part of meatloaf!

I spread a little ketchup + brown sugar + dry mustard on top.

These were done at 350 in about 45 minutes.

Served up with that potato salad.

I wanted to do something really simple with the broccoli, so I heated it on the stove in olive oil and a little water so it steamed, then seasoned it with just salt, pepper, fresh lemon juice, and finished with some parmesian cheese. Simple and delicious. Serived with our homemade pizza. Mmmm.

I have to admit that the part of the share I was most excited to dig into was the baby leeks. If you've never had leeks, they are lightly oniony, and the smaller ones are even more tender and fragrant than the full size ones. I had seen a great technique in this book that I've been dying to try: fish en papillote (in parchment)

First, you sweat the julienned leeks until they're soft. (remember sweat means low heat, no browning. butter helps!)

Then, make some herbed butter. I used sage and some of that savory from the share. Just mix them up with softened butter.

Now lay out two sheets of parchement folded along the side. I HIGHLY recommend buying parchment by the sheet. It actually lies flat on your sheet pan, unlike the parchment from a roll that curls up.

Layer your ingredients in the parchement. I started with wild Alaskan king salmon, because we don't mess around when it comes to fish. Then I added the leeks and a good slice of the butter, along with a splash of lemon juice. (I was supposed to use wine, too, but I completely spaced it out. more for me!)

Brush the edges of the parchment with a little egg white, and seal.

Bake at 375 until they puff up a little, around 10 minutes.

If you were in a fancy restaurant, they'd serve the pouch to you whole and let you open it at the table, so make a little hole

and sniff.


the butter and lemon steam the fish, which should be just barely cooked. delicious. We plan to do this again and again.

Finally, we chose to do our favorite thing ever with cabbage: bacon+cabbage. Turns out we were eating this almost exactly one year ago :) See the breakdown here.

Thank you again to all who have contributed to this project, and I look forward to hearing any more you have to share. I hope this project inspired you to get out there, buy some food that grows around you, and make the best of it. I consider myself very lucky to meet the people who grow my food, and I want to do the best I can to highlight the quality of the ingredients.

Summer is the best, no? Get out there and enjoy it!

Next time, canning! :D

p.s. I'm on twitter! check me out @culinarybliss!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The One-Share Project, and a Challenge

Greetings readers!

July is chugging right along and, despite the temperatures of late, summer is certainly here and that means frequent trips to the farmer's market. While I live in the heartland, unfortunately our market only lasts a few months out of the year. So, when the market is around, I feel terribly guilty for skipping it out of laziness. I know that come December, when I have snow up to my knees, I want to feel secure in the notion that I'd done all I could to take advantage of the abundance while it lasted.

That said, we've had our first garden this year and as a result decided against getting a CSA share this year, being uncertain of the amount of produce we'd have on hand each week.

For those that aren't familiar, a CSA share is a weekly amount of produce from a local farm that you pay for before the season begins. CSA stands for "community supported agriculture". I like to think about taking a share in a CSA as an investment. By giving a specific farm your money before the market season begins, you commit yourself financially to a farm. This support is not contingent upon any amount of food. If your chosen farm has a tomato disease this year, you do not receive any tomatoes, and you pay the same amount of money. Likewise, if your farm produces the most fantastic tomatoes ever known to man in great abundance, you get them, for the same fee. (Find one!)

One of the most fantastic things about CSA shares is that very element of surprise. To me, this quality gets at the exciting and motivating nature of cooking locally and seasonally. Aside from the undebatable difference in quality that good produce provides, planning meals based on what's in season forces home cooks to be creative. Rather than beginning to plan a meal thinking, "what do I feel like?", when we are faced with the limitations of the season, we're forced to think, "well, I have all this_____________. What do I do?"

A coworker who is luckier than me was on vacation last week, and very kindly gifted me her weekly vegetable and bread share from the fantastic ZJ Farms (which I've blogged about before)

Hence, I was initiated into the CSA fold.

Looking down at the produce spread around the table I thought...

"well, what do I do now?"

I occurred to me that I was in the situation so many CSA supporters find themselves in each week: a ton of highly perishable quality produce.

I thought it would be very interesting to show the world (the internet, i.e. you) what I did with every piece of this share.

Today I give you the first installment of the share.

Before I move on, I should identify everything in the above photo. We were given:

a baguette
a small bunch of baby leeks
handfuls of many greens, including kale and chard
Four pieces of squash
six red skinned small potatoes
a small bunch of dill, savory, and some herb that smelled like anise
a small bag of broccoli
a head of cabbage

I was so excited to see all the top flavors of early summer represented in this share. I hope that what I share can give some inspiration to those who are faced with a big bunch of food and the task of figuring out how to feed it to their families. I chose to do some things I am very comfortable with and that I think highlight the quality of these ingredients.

To begin, I wanted to dig into the bread. I couldn't think of anything better than breakfast. That idea was helped along by the bacon and eggs that I took home from market with the share.

Round here, breakfast starts with french press coffee.

The setup for some pretty sweet breakfast. There are chives on the right from the planter in the back, and a little extra sharp cheddar and parmesan. (I highly recommend looking for your grocery store's brand of extra sharp cheddar. It's sold with the other block cheeses, but it can be very good. I got a huge block of this on sale for $3 and used it for everything from pizza to eggs to eating straight out of hand. Much cheaper than the aged cheddars in the cheese island.)

I made toast with the baguette, fried the bacon, and made a fried egg for me

and herbed scrambled eggs with cheese for the man.

(Those photos really show the difference between the natural light and light bulbs.)

Tasty. A delicious respite from my weekday oatmeal. (And much better coffee than at work.)

Next I decided to deal with the potatoes. I boiled them whole to make one of my favorite salads.

Vegan Chili Lime Dill Potato Salad

6 small potatoes, chopped
2-3 pieces of celery, diced
a handful of fresh dill, minced
a handful of fresh chives, minced
the juice of one small lime
a healthy dose of salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4-1 tsp. cayenne powder, to taste
mix the above and add

enough Vegenaise to bring it together (usually 3/4-1 c.)

I really have found the flavor of Vegenaise to be superior to most premade mayo, though it still can't compete with the homemade stuff. (which is very easy. try it!)

As my aunt Meg would say, "NUM!"

I have to thank Mary for this beautiful bowl which really brings out the color range in this salad. (Click that one!) If I were a good little food blogger I'd have put some lime zest on the top to make it even prettier, but you know I dug into this as soon as the photo was finished.


I'm going to stop with the potato salad so this post doesn't become outrageously long, but stay tuned for the fates of the rest of the share.

In the mean time, I want to hear from you. If you're a blogger and have a CSA share, I challenge you to try doing the same project I am. Photograph a share and blog the whole thing. (I promise you'll realize just how creative you are!) If you send me a link to your posts I'll gladly post it here. If you're a blogger, post something you've gotten from market and what you've done with it, and I'll do a post full of links. If you're an eater and have ideas to share about your farmer's market hauls, leave a comment, or send me an email with photos and I'll post them.

Until then, some up to date photos of the garden. My beans are growing like crazy! And the onions and carrots have really taken off!

A dragon carrot!

The Biggest Onion!

The beans!

All together now!

Alright folks, I look forward to hearing from you and will share the rest very very soon!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Tempura Squash Blossoms with Asian Pork Chops and Mashed Potatoes

Oh yes. It's that time.

Get your butt out there and buy some squash blossoms. It really doesn't get much better.

When we saw a basket of these at the farmer's market I couldn't resist. The dude wasn't familiar with these edible blossoms as yet, and thus protested the whopping $3 investment, but my powers of persuasion (aka repeating over and over "TRUST ME. IT'LL BE DELICIOUS") wooed him into allowing me to bring them home with us.

Boy was he glad.

Before I get to them, I'll start with the main dish of this meal. We have really cut down on our meat consumption recently, and have largely cut our supply down to locally sourced, sustainably fed, humanely slaughtered meats. We buy our grass-fed ground beef from the Amish, our chicken from the coop (which isn't local unfortunately, but is organicaly fed free range) and all of our pork products now come from a very sweet couple we meet at the farmer's market.

I wandered up to the woman at Saturday market, knowing she sold meat by the coolers on her table, and asked for bacon. She asked if I wanted cottage bacon, or "real bacon". I looked at the cottage to check the marbeling, when she piped up, "Me, I prefer the real thing." I am inclined to follow the advice of the provider of my food, so I took a pound of bacon home with me after checking it's perfect fat and meat ratio, much meater than commerical bacon. It was around $6, which is a little more expensive than grocery store bacon. but there's no question in my mind that it's worth it. I see it as an investment for a variety of reasons. First, bacon is a highly processed fatty product, so I strive to use the highest quality product minimally and effectively, getting the most out of a small amount. Aside from the qualtiy, I had the opportunity to meet the woman who raised the pig I was about to eat. I knew I'd see her next weekend. And I knew she'd answer any question I had about its life, and its death. The next vendor I visited for potatoes said, without prompting, that she treated her animals extremely well.

Having bought bacon from her, oh, every Saturday for the last month or so, the dude and I decided it was time to branch out and try some other pork products from from this same family. I'd seen AB roast a pork tenderloin, and that sounded fantastic. We lucked out to find out that she sold presliced loin, which seemed to be what we think of as tenderloin, plus a small muscle and fat still attached.

We went the way of AB and marinated the sliced chops, but we chose to use asian flavors and tons of fresh herbs. We had 4 chops for the following amounts.

1/2 c. soy sauce
1.3 c. olive oil

2/3 c. stock
5 cloves of garlic, sliced thinly
1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
3 tbsp. honey
1/4 tsp. shriracha, or chili sauce
1 tbsp. fresh sage leaves, chopped
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp. sesame oil

I marinated this for around two hours, flipping the chops in the marinade. (Sure it's easier to use a plastic baggie, but I try to avoid those whenever I can.)

Once I finished marinating them, I patted the chops dry and coated them with a flour mixture, shaking of excess of course.

1 c. unbleached all purpose flour
1 tsp. cayenne
1 tsp. salt (I use kosher)
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

I fried these in a pan with

2 tsp. butter
1 tsp. olive oil

Once the chops were just brown on the surface, I pulled them out of the pan and deglazed it with the leftover marinade, which I cooked down to about two inches deep in the pan, for me around 10 minutes.

Then, I put the chops back in the pan, and threw it into a preheated 350 oven.

Honestly, I judged their doneness by feel and stopped these chops at just the right point where the carryover cooking was enough to finish them off. I would say it was a total of 13-15 minutes, but every oven is different, so going by the feeling of the meat is the ideal. I'm sorry, but I'm just not one of those home cooks who puts a digital thermometer in their meat. This is a skill that comes with experience, but you can also feel how the meat should give when you poke it by using your hand.

By this time the sauce was sufficiently reduced. If the meat is finished before the sauce is thick enough, simply reduce the sauce futher on the stovetop. (Don't be an idiot and touch the handle of the pan though, it's hot. Duh.)

Make mashed potatoes like you know how. These were new potatoes with extra sharp cheddar, sour cream, TONS OF CHIVES, and a little milk, plus generous salt and pepper.

I poured the sauce over the pork, which is very ugly but I insist was absolutely delicious with a crispy crust and perfectly tender and moist meat.

mmmmm. delish

I had it with lettuce from our garden, plus these tomatoes

and this cheese. just goat cheese with tons of fresh herbs, salt, and pepper.

We wanted to make the blossoms in the most simple straigtforward way that would showcase their quality. Everyone recommends frying them, some say stuff them first. We decided to fy them the best way we could think of: tempura.

This light and fluffy batter should be very thin, like crepe batter. (It's Portugese in origin, not Japanese, betcha didn't know.)

Tempura Squash Blossoms

Begin with some oil. I always strain and save oil that I fry with.

Put it in a heavy pan and heat it to 350.

Meanwhile, prepare the batter.

Begin with

1 c. flour
1 tsp. salt

Mix together, then add

1 c. club soda, ice cold

Dip in the blossoms whole and let as much excess batter drip off as possible.

Fry until golden brown on both sides. (I did need to use my tongs to hold them down and flip them over.)

I put all my fried stuff on a rack over paper towels.

I also always lightly salt (with regular iodized salt, which has a much finer grain) anything I fry as soon as it comes out of the fat. Trust me.

That guy is the only one that got photographed. Everybody else was eaten as quickly as humanly possible.

After being smitten with the blossoms, which were tender and earthy, the dude wanted me to start tempura frying EVERYTHING. So, I thinly sliced some carrots and they were deeeelish.

That's all for now, but come back soon, because I have a fun little project in the works!
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