Friday, September 14, 2012

Week 13 -- September 11th

Week 13's share consisted of red onions, bok choy, salad greens, broccoli raab, white turnips, heirloom tomatoes, bell peppers and cherry tomatoes.

I used the bok choy in a stir-fry dish to go alongside my (mostly) homemade Kung Pao Chicken. The Kung Pao Chicken is mostly homemade because I use a bottled sauce to season my chicken, water chestnuts, bell peppers (yes, the bell peppers from the share!), celery and roasted peanuts. I've tried all sorts of recipes in the past and none of them came close to bringing what this sauce does, plus I can't beat the convenience. Anyway, back to the bok choy... I cut up the stalks and leaves and stir-fried them with light soy sauce, oyster sauce, a dash of sugar and a heaping spoonful of chili-garlic paste (if you want to see the brands I prefer, click the links). So simple and good -- the farm-fresh bok choy remained crunchy and juicy where store-bought bok choy usually becomes increasingly mushy as it cooks.

The salad greens, cherry tomatoes and red onions, along with some sliced local Ginger Gold apples, made their way into a fall-ish salad, which I dressed with my new favorite -- Trader Joe's Spicy Peanut Vinaigrette. Low in fat and chock full of flavor -- I can't get enough of it!

The heirloom tomatoes were yummy in panini made with muenster cheese and focaccini rolls (thanks again to Trader Joe's for the focaccini!), as well as simply sliced and sprinkled with sea salt.

The revelation of the week was the dish I made with the white turnips.  I peeled the turnips, sliced them thin and sauteed them until tender with a drizzle of olive oil and sliced garlic. Toward the end of cooking I tossed in the rough-chopped turnip greens and seasoned the whole thing with sea salt and freshly ground black peppers. My husband, who grew up on mashed turnip and yet is not a fan, loved it. A definite keeper!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Week 12 -- September 4th

I had the pleasure of collecting this week's share in a torrential downpour. It's the first time the pick-up and a storm have coincided all summer; I'm very grateful because it's no fun to drive down the hill/dirt road to the farm and huddle underneath the tent while it's raining cats and dogs.

This week's share consisted of multicolored baby potatoes, salad greens, broccoli raab, cherry tomatoes, summer squash (the squash plants in our home garden are done for this summer), multicolored beans and more husk cherries.

I made some pretty mundane dishes with my haul this week. The baby potatoes made some lovely homefries to go with our burgers one night. The salad greens I made into a fall-themed salad with the addition of sliced local Ginger Gold apples, dried cranberries, walnuts and crumbled feta cheese, dressed with balsamic vinaigrette.  The broccoli raab, summer squash and beans were all sauteed simply on different nights (not together), with olive oil, sea salt, black pepper, garlic and a touch of butter.  The cherry tomatoes were roasted and used in Eat, Live, Run's Arroz Con Pollo. And the husk cherries were husked and popped into my mouth!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Week 11 -- August 28th

Ah, week 11 -- past the halfway point of our summer CSA now. This week we had scallions, husk cherries, strawberries, salad greens, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers and heirloom tomatoes.

Some of the salad greens, cherry tomatoes, scallions, cukes and bell peppers were used in salads; the salad greens and an heirloom tomato also adorned burgers. Many of the veggies went into multiple dishes for our Labor Day Weekend festivities -- scallions and peppers went into Southwestern Sweet Potato Salad; scallions, along with our homegrown chilies, also went into my go-to guacamole recipe for the past 22 years, Guacamole Is Hot! from The New Basics Cookbook by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins. The other heirloom tomato went into the Chicago Dogs we had for dinner one night. Bell peppers went into the macaroni salad.

The strawberries were as delectable as always.

My new discovery this week was husk cherries! I first learned about husk cherries from my dear friend Evelyn's blog post last summer. Although they're called cherries, they really aren't cherries at all. According to Farmer Nick, they are a relative of the tomatillo, which you might guess from the papery husk which covers the small berry-like fruit. They don't have a hard pit but have teeny little crunchy seeds inside. The flavor is really hard to describe. They taste like a million familiar things and nothing you've ever had before, all at once. My husband actually started laughing when he had one for the first time. They're fun to eat and rather addictive -- I was thankful that each tiny cherry had to be unwrapped from the husk individually, requiring me to take the time to savor each one.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Week 10 -- August 21st

We were away on vacation again for week 10, so my friend Mike collected our share and graciously posted this photo of his haul: cucumbers, summer squash, French Breakfast radishes, bell pepper, scallions, heirloom tomatoes, cherry tomatoes and arugula (not shown). Thanks, Mike!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Week 9 -- August 14th

This week, our share consisted of cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, kale, watermelon, beans, basil, heirloom tomato and strawberries.

The cucumbers and heirloom tomato were transformed into pickles and fresh salsa respectively, once again. The strawberries were gobbled up speedy-quick, as Junie B. Jones would say (Ah, I remember the days when the boys would devour those books... seems like so long ago now. But I digress.)

I used the basil to make pesto again, but with a different recipe. This one uses a little less olive oil, a little more walnuts, and a little less garlic (I omitted the optional butter), but it's pretty much the same. Somehow this one struck me better than the last one I used.

The watermelon was one of the items that all shareholders got this week. I was surprised when I cut it open and discovered seeds! It had been a long time since I last had a watermelon with seeds -- it's funny the things one forgets.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Week 8 -- August 7th

Week 8 brought baby kale, radishes, cherry tomatoes, baby leeks, tomatoes, arugula, cucumbers and strawberries.

The baby kale and baby leeks went into a frittata, along with cheese and some homegrown zucchini.

The cucumbers made more kosher garlic-dill refrigerator pickles.

The strawberries were gobbled up as soon as this photo was taken. I'd never had local strawberries before; I'm not sure I'll ever be able to eat a supermarket strawberry again. Local strawberries are tender, juicy, very sweet little gems... just incredible.

The heirloom tomatoes made more fresh salsa. The recipe we use was originally by the late Jeff Smith, the Frugal Gourmet, but it's been played with a little over the passing years. Here it is:

Homemade Salsa

2 cups diced tomatoes
1 medium onion, diced
1/4 bell pepper, diced
1/2 teaspoon sea salt (or to taste)
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 1/4 teaspoons red wine vinegar
Optional: 2-3 jalapeƱo peppers, minced

Combine and mix all the ingredients well. Store in the refrigerator, covered. Makes about 1 1/2 pints (we usually double the recipe, and add the jalapeƱos to half the yield for those who love heat).

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Week 7 -- July 31st

This week's share included microgreens, arugula, onions, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, tomatillos and heirloom tomatoes.

What are microgreens? According to You Grow Girl, they are "tender and tangy lettuce and mustard greens that are chopped off young, usually when they are only an inch or so high at the most and barely a few weeks old." And according to me, they are super tasty! These were little round leaves and were a little peppery, reminiscent of arugula... yummy. I used them in a salad with the cherry tomatoes.

The cucumbers were made into more pickles -- used Kittencal's kosher garlic-dill refrigerator pickle recipe again, this time with the called-for amount of garlic.

I used the tomatillos to make Chicken Enchiladas with Roasted Tomatillo Chile Salsa. It was kind of a ton of work, considering I started with a store-bought rotisserie chicken. They were pretty good, I thought, but not the best enchiladas I'd ever had by any means. I felt the tomatillo flavor was rather lost here. In hindsight, I should've made a simple tomatillo salsa instead.

The arugula, as usual, was used to "green up" any dish I had on hand that I felt needed it (color-wise and nutrition-wise).

The heirloom tomatoes and onions were augmented with a farmstand bell pepper to make fresh tomato salsa for my 15-year-old; he can inhale homemade salsa by the gallon.

No squash this week... we were drowning in zucchini and crookneck squash from our home garden so didn't want to pile on with CSA varieties (although theirs are much more fun to look at than ours). We also had a ton of cherry and grape tomatoes (red and yellow) from our home garden, but there's no such thing as too many summer tomatoes in my book so I was happy to bring more home from the farm.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Week 6 -- July 24th

Week 6 we were away on vacation, so my dear friend Dawn agreed to take our share and here is what she got! Garlic, Swiss chard, scallions, fennel, cucumbers, yellow onions, cherry tomatoes and basil -- yum!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Week 5 -- July 17th

Our share this week included broccoli, kale, onions, rainbow carrots, cucumbers, green beans, beets and cherry tomatoes. Our CSA, unlike some which give everyone the same selections each week, allows its shareholders to pick out some (usually six) of the items ourselves. Since we were going away on vacation four days into the week, I tried to select some vegetables that could be preserved or quickly eaten as snacks (like the cherry tomatoes and carrots), or like the onions and beets, vegetables that could be stored for a week or two.

I made kale chips with the kale, something I had wanted to try for a long time. Kale chip recipes are pretty much all the same, but here is the one I used. They turned out great, although next time I would dry the kale leaves even more carefully and spread the kale out on an additional baking sheet (I used two, but really should've used a third) to allow more of the leaves to crisp up more. The chips were very tasty and super addictive. It's shocking how quickly one can down a huge bunch of kale when it's been tossed in olive oil and baked 'til crisp!

I decided to pickle the green beans and the cucumbers. I have no experience with canning and wasn't prepared to learn on the fly, so I tried out a couple refrigerator pickle recipes. Refrigerator pickles, as the name implies, must be stored in the refrigerator and are a terrific way to make pickles that you intend to eat within a few weeks. 

I used this recipe to make the pickled green beans with one adaptation: I omitted the coriander seeds, mostly because I didn't feel like buying a spice that I might not use again. Instead I added about a 1/4 teaspoon of ground coriander which I already had in my pantry.  

For pickling the cucumbers, I used Kittencal's excellent recipe for kosher garlic-dill pickles. I sliced the cucumbers into thick coins instead of leaving them whole as my cucumbers were the conventional variety and not pickling cucumbers. On the advice of some of the commenters I decided to double the amount of white vinegar (to 1/4 cup); I also used a couple tablespoons of dried dill weed after being unable to find fresh dill weed locally, and only about 4 garlic cloves because that's all I had.

We tasted the green beans and the pickles when we returned from our vacation (about 1 1/2 weeks after I first pickled the vegetables). The green beans were kind of disappointing to me -- super vinegary and a little unpleasant to eat. My 18-year-old son liked them more than I did, but even he had had enough after a few.

Kittencal's pickles were a revelation, however! Crisp and so delicious -- the flavor was really balanced, even with the dried dill and half the amount of garlic. We were fighting over them and rationing them out at the same time. I was really pleased with my first experience with homemade pickles.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Week 4 -- July 10th

Week 4's share included lettuce, beets, fennel, pea tendrils, green beans, napa cabbage, basil, cherry tomatoes and cucumbers. The cherry tomatoes were my first of the season and they were super sweet!

This was my first experience using fennel, although I have eaten it before. I sliced up the fennel bulb and used it in an improvised pasta dish with sausage and white wine, and added a little bit of chopped fennel fronds for garnish. I thought it was okay used that way but that it lacked something. The rest of the family aren't big fans of anise/licorice flavors so no one was super enthused about the dish.

Farmer Adam suggested that I find a way to use the fronds since they were so lush and plentiful. I ended up freezing them and the tough stalks to use in an Italian-style chicken soup (I'm thinking with cannellini beans) when the weather turns cooler.

I used the basil to make pesto with a recipe I've used many times in the past. I used walnuts instead of pine nuts because I always have walnuts on hand and find that pine nuts are a little too pricey for my liking. I remembered the recipe quite fondly but this time found it kind of unbalanced flavor-wise.