Thursday, June 21, 2012

Easy Season

This week my CSA box included:
crustless broccoli quiche
Crustless broccoli quiche

  • Broccoli (three heads)
  • Red Onions
  • Cucumbers (two large)
  • Carrots
  • Peas

That list is a little more streamlined than the original box, which included lettuce, mixed greens, and spinach but that were left behind in the swap box.

This is an easy box. I don’t need recipes for these veggies because they are pretty “normal” and ones I like. Although having a CSA share can be a fun way to try new recipes and eat vegetables that you don’t eat very often, sometimes it’s nice to keep it simple. This box is perfect for this time of year when I’d rather be at the pool than in the kitchen.

cucumber salad
Cucumber salad
Without any need for research, I got right in the kitchen Tuesday night when I picked up the box. Before long the first head of broccoli was added to a crustless broccoli quiche. It was an easy recipe that did involve the oven, but not much planning or forethought. I also ate about half of the carrots as a snack with some hummus while I made the quiche.

Last night I still had leftover quiche, but needed a little something extra to go with it. I sliced one of the cucumbers very thin, did the same with one of the red onions, added some vinegar, water and a little sugar and I had salad to eat as a side.

stuffed vegetable bread
Stuffed vegetable bread
Tonight I was feeling like junk food. Namely, a delivered pizza, but instead the veggies came through again. I decided to return, in a way, to the stuffed spinach bread of last week, with a baked stuffed sub. To do so, I sautéed some broccoli, plus some mushrooms and spinach I had on hand and added it to some jarred spaghetti sauce. I hollowed out some French bread and stuffed the vegetable the mixture with some mozzarella inside. I wrapped it up in foil, baked it and in about 15 minutes I had a somewhat healthier way to conquer my pizza craving.

It’s hard to say what has been my favorite dish this season so far, but the baked sandwich was right up there. It’s a good reminder that good food doesn’t always have to take a ton of effort.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Stretching Ingredients and My Creativity

beet feta and walnut quesadillas
Beet, feta and walnut quesadillas
Right now I’m reading, Why the Chinese Don’t Count Calories, by Lorraine Clissold. It summarizes Chinese food culture into 15 secrets. The secrets help the Chinese eat in a healthy way and still enjoy their food. Secret 2 is Think of Vegetables as Dishes. She says the Chinese give vegetables the same attention as meat. Instead of a dinner of meat with a small side of vegetables, the meal is mostly vegetables and many different kinds at that.

Secret Number 4: Eat Until You’re Full is accomplished through something called multi-dish eating. Instead of eating a few things in great quantities, they eat a lot of different things in small quantities. Instead of a plate with chicken, vegetables and a potato, Chinese diners sit down to many different plates of different types of vegetable dishes that they all share and end up taking small bites of a lot of different things.

Beet, feta and walnut spinach salad
Beet, feta and walnut spinach salad
Clissold says Western diners can do the same by putting individual ingredients on the table and letting those at the table choose to create their plate and how the items go together. Instead of creating a meal of chili and a salad, she suggests making a bowl of chili, stir frying some mushrooms, slicing up some vegetables like tomatoes or cucumbers, and roasting some chopped butternut squash, and putting it all on the table. Each person gets a bowl of rice and then digs in to a little bit of each.

In a way, I’ve been putting these two rules to work this week, first with beets and then with garlic scapes, green onions and spinach. Earlier in the week I roasted some beets in olive oil and balsamic vinegar. First I made a beet and spinach salad topped with walnuts and feta cheese. When I was still hungry after that I put the same ingredients, minus the spinach, inside two tortillas and grilled it. Both dishes highlighted the beets, which were caramelized and a bit crispy, and left me satisfied, but not stuffed.

Baked spinach with roasted garlic scapes and green onions
Baked spinach with roasted garlic scapes and green onions
Later in the week, after reading a friend’s Facebook comment about her disappointment in the garlic scapes in her own CSA box, I remembered I had some of these strange things to use up. Determined to use them instead of letting them grow into some other form over the summer forgotten at the bottom of my crisper as I’ve done in the past, I decided to try roasting them.

I cut the scapes into two-inch pieces and did the same with my remaining green onions and poured a bit of olive oil on them. I roasted them until they were brown and almost crispy. They tasted amazing, almost like chips, and I was tempted to eat them just like that, but wanted to be a little more creative.

I put them in the chopper until they were broken into small pieces. Then I added them to a pan with about two big handfuls of spinach and sautéed the spinach. Next I added some milk to the pan and scraped up the remaining brown bits. I added a pinch of Parmesan and transferred the spinach mix to a baking dish and baked it until the liquid was almost absorbed. The baked spinach was wonderful with the roasted scapes and onions adding an extra level of flavor to it.  

I spread a little of the extra roasted scapes and onions on some bread and toasted it in the oven and served it with the spinach. With the other half of the portion, I hollowed out a piece of French bread and stuffed the spinach inside. I wrapped it in foil and baked it for about 10 minutes, something I’ll be doing again.

Stuffed French bread
Stuffed French bread
I’ve only started to read about secret 5 so I’m hoping to learn some more rule I can put in practice this CSA season.  The book also has a few recipes, which I want to try, but even if I don’t, I’m looking forward to cooking more creatively this season, thanks to the book.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Ready, Go - Week 1

I picked up my first box of veggies this week. I had big plans for my first box, which didn’t pan out. During the off-season I meant to research new recipes I wanted to make this summer and organize them into a blog post I could refer to throughout the CSA season. Instead they are in the usual places, in stacks of pages ripped out from magazines and saved as favorites on my computer. I also wanted to recategorize the recipes posted on my blog by vegetable, but that never happened either. I also read a great book on organic farming, Turn Here Sweet Corn by Atina Diffley, and meant to write a review of that.

 Oh well. I may return to those projects this summer, next fall or next winter, but for now it’s on to the vegetables I’m picking up every two weeks. Here’s a list of what I received this week:

  • Kale 
  • Beets
  • Green Onions
  • Garlic Scapes 
  • A number of different types of lettuces/greens 
  • Carrots 
  • Broccoli 
  • Salad Turnips 
  • Cucumber 

On Tuesday, after I picked it up, I put the kale to use right away with some leftover pasta I had in the refrigerator. I don’t really have a recipe. All I did was sauté the kale with some thinly sliced garlic scapes until it was cooked down. Then I added some store-bought pesto to the pasta, stirred in the kale mixture and topped it with some grated Parmesan. It was quick and simple, but tasty.

I’ve eaten most of the rest in variable salads in the past couple days. The surprise of the box was the salad turnip. The Two Onion Farm newsletter described these as “extremely tender, juicy, and sweet, with just a hint of mustardy, turnipy taste.” They also called them the most delicious vegetables they grow. They were absolutely right. I peeled one so far and ate it raw. The flesh is more tender and moist than other root vegetables and the taste is very mild, but distinct. I can’t wait to eat the other one.

Finally, tonight I decided to put a few of the beets to use. I traded some of my greens for more beets, thinking I was going to make some beet burgers. Since I haven’t had time yet, I decided to try a new recipe. I was gone all day, so soup in the crock pot won out. Although I didn’t follow the directions exactly for the Roasted Beet and Potato Soup, it was a nice surprise. When I came home tonight my house smelled almost like I’d been cooking tomatoes all day. The beets were an unexpected acidic compliment to the potatoes. 

So even though I didn’t do all the planning I wanted, the CSA season has started out well. I’ve learned to love a yummy new vegetable, eaten a number of healthy dishes and found another new way to like beets. I shouldn’t be surprised. It’s what CSA season is all about.