Wednesday, November 14, 2012

flowers for home, seasonally

Until this year, I never gave much thought to adorning my table seasonally.  Of course I decorate for Thanksgiving and Christmas and perhaps even a bit for Independence Day, but it never really occurred to me that flowers have seasons.  Writing that out feels rather dumb, but I know very little about flowers and I was quite content to simply pick up a pretty bouquet at the grocery store and try to make sure that it at least came from somewhere inside this country (usually California).

The light bulb finally went off in my mind when we started picking up our weekly flowers from the farmers market.  Finally I saw one type of flower give way to another as I was already well aware happened in the edible vegetable world.  I've looked through my photos over the summer now gone by and here is a small progression of flowers across the season.

 Table set for a party, decorated by small flowers and greens gathered from my parents' yard.

Pre-party on Labor Day (yes, I realized I just skipped most of the summer - work with me here)

 Lilies in September

 Our last fresh bunch of the season

Around September, our flower vendor started advertising some types of flowers as being good for drying.  I'm glad she did because now we have a few arrangements to cheer us through the winter.

Dried hydrangea bouquet

 Not flowers ... but these squash were too starchy to eat, so they've graced our fall table.  The red branches in the corner will go in the living room soon.

 A big bouquet of dried eucalyptus - smells so wonderful!

Pink berry branches ... ahem ... I do realize that they're at a slightly funny angle, but you work with what you're given, ya know?

At the last farmers market we were able to pick up a few branches of juniper, which should make our house feel more festive as Christmas approaches.  I find myself now wishing that I had thought to plant a few dry-able flowers in my little plot this year so that I could fill my home with flowers through these winter months.  Ah, but there is always next year!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

settling in {again}

Here we are standing at the beginning of November - already?!  My last farmers market of the season was Saturday, and when I woke up Sunday morning I realized that, all of the sudden, we're in deep autumn-almost-winter!  When did this happen?  Only a few days ago the leaves were changing and I started slowly changing out my summer clothes for long sleeves and sweaters.  Perhaps my twice-weekly work outdoors simply kept me aloof to how cold it was actually getting (thinking warm thoughts does, sort of, help).  In any case, I find myself quickly switching from hanging on to the end of summer to preparing for snowy, cold weather.  As today begins November, I'd say this happened just in time.

As you may have noticed, I was a bit MIA these past ... well ... many months.  Full-time farming led straight into selling pies both in a tiny shop and at a farmers market.  The summer brought loads of fresh produce through our kitchen that needed eating/preparing/putting up of some kind and I joined a gym!  Now that we've gotten a few light frosts though, some of these things will change.  My knitting needles have seen some work and there are holidays approaching.  I'll start this month out right by saying, I'm thankful for the holidays because they get my creative mind working and inspired!

Wishing you a lovely November!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

CSA in the Kitchen - our final meals

We have reached our final week of enjoying this season's CSA!  You may have a week or two left if you took them off earlier in the season, and some of us will be looking forward to the fall share in just a few weeks from now, but the last regular season share has come to our table.  We've been so thankful for the chance to cook with you through this season and hopefully we'll all be returning to Montalbano Farms again next spring!


We tucked into this autumnal meal over the weekend and enjoyed every bite of it!

The sweet potatoes we pricked all over then roasted in a 400 degree oven for about an hour (as I recall it was actually just one huge potato).  When it is soft, remove from the oven and let cool until you can touch it without burning yourself; remove the skin.  Mash potatoes with a fork or masher with 1 tsp of brown sugar (or more, to taste), 1 tablespoon of butter, and a little bit of salt and pepper.

Our salad was lovely and well-balanced.  Arugula leaves, sliced Honeycrisp apple, grated Parmesan cheese and a dressing of honey, red wine vinegar, and olive oil.  Peppery, crisp, nutty, and sweet!

Our meal also featured rosemary-infused steak {Grady placed a branch of rosemary beneath the steak as it rested after grilling}, with a side of homemade horseradish cream, and a little brioche bun.


With the remaining sweet potatoes, I made a side-dish of candied sweet potatoes, but I was so excited to eat them that I forgot to take any pictures.  To make these addicting bites, peel a sweet potato or two and chop into 1/2 inch pieces.  Heat at least 2 tablespoons of butter in a pot over medium heat.  When the butter stops foaming, add the potatoes, 1 tablespoon of brown sugar, a pinch of salt and some pepper.  Cover and reduce the heat to medium low.  Cook until the potatoes are soft, stirring every 5 minutes.  When they are cooked, remove the lid and turn the heat to medium-high, stirring constantly, but carefully - trying not to break the potatoes.  After about 5 minutes, the potatoes should be covered in an addictingly delicious glaze.  Off the heat and serve.


Crispy roasted potatoes, roasted carrots and steamed brussel sprouts with some roasted chicken.  Although the chicken was wonderful, the stars of this meal were the veggies.  The potatoes are cooked with the roasting chicken, which is a clever idea brought to us by the brilliant people of America's Test Kitchen.  They suggest butterflying the chicken and roasting it on a broiler pan in a 500 degree oven for about 40 minutes total, turning half way through.  Cover the bottom half of the pan, which is used to catch drippings, with tin foil and that's where you'll spread the potatoes.  Peel and slice the potatoes about 1/4 inch thick; toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper and allow them to crisp up in delicious roasted chicken drippings - seriously the most amazing potatoes!

While the chicken is resting after the roast, turn the oven down a bit to 475, put in another foil-covered tray for about 10 minutes.  During that time, chop the carrots into 1/2 inch thick, 2 inch long pieces.  Toss these with melted butter, brown sugar, salt, and pepper.  When the pan is hot, carefully spread the carrots on it and return to the oven.  After about 10 minutes, turn the carrots over and cook another 3 - 5 minutes.

Finally, I must admit that I have never loved brussel sprouts.  Never.  My mom made them for dinner occasionally when I was a child, and only she ever ate them.  After sawing each mini cabbage from the stalk and then boiling them for about 10 minutes in a pot of salted water, I bathed my sprouts in melted butter (a consistent theme in this meal - butter makes everything taste awesome).  While they were much better than those I turned my nose up at years ago, I still can't say that I love them.  However, I'm sure there are a few brussel sprout lovers out there who were very thankful to have received such a beautiful stalk in their share.


And this brings me to pumpkins ... and by that I mean ... I'm now going to share with you my awesome pumpkin bread recipe.  But first, let's quickly discuss homemade pumpkin puree.  It's super simple.  First, dissect your pumpkin.  I do this by stabbing my biggest knife in the top of the pumpkin, taking it straight out, and then stabbing again and again so that I make a circle around the stem on top.  Then, I cut from the top and work my knife around the entire pumpkin to cut it in half length-wise.  After that, you can open it up, get the seeds out (save and roast later) and cut the halves into smaller pieces if necessary.  Cook these halves in a baking dish partially filled with water in a preheated oven at 350.  Bake until soft, about 45 minutes to an hour.  Allow to cool a bit, peel off the skin, and puree the chunks in a food processor.  Add water a bit at a time if the puree isn't smooth enough.  Now you have puree that you can freeze it for later or use it fresh for pumpkin bread/muffins/pie??!!

For this recipe, I have drawn from this blog and this blog to make what is, in my opinion, the most awesome pumpkin bread.


1 1/2 cups of whole wheat flour
3/4 cup of sugar (I've even used just 1/2 cup)
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
pinch of salt
1 1/2 cups of pumpkin puree
1/2 cup of oil
2 eggs
1/3 cup of yogurt (plain)
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp ginger
{all spices are ground - or use 1 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie or 5 spice blend}


Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees.
Next, in a medium sized bowl combine the dry ingredients, and in a large bowl combine the wet ingredients.
Whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, but taking care not to over mix.  Once everything is mixed together, line a bread pan with parchment paper, and pour the batter into the pan.
Bake for 50-60 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.

For muffins or smaller loaves, simply adjust the baking time.  Muffins take 15 - 20 minutes and small loaves about 25 - 30.


Finally, we'd like to leave you with a few pictures of the farm from this time last year.  We are so thankful to Rob and Christina for taking the plunge and committing to farming in a way that is good for us and for the environment - for their vision, hard work, determination, and care.  We're thankful to all of the farm hands and worker share volunteers who help to make this food appear on our table every week.  We are thankful to all of our fellow CSA members who agreed to support this lovely farm and enjoy the season of produce with us.

 ~ Grady and Courtney

Thursday, October 11, 2012

CSA in the Kitchen

The end of the growing season is approaching as the temperature continues to drop, which means that soon we will no longer be receiving our summer share or browsing the stalls at the farmers markets.  While most of me is saddened by this, there is also a part of me that is relieved - after the pounds upon bushels of fresh produce that has paraded through our kitchen, much of which we have put up for the winter, I will be glad to have the pace slow and my worry over using veggies before they spoil lessen.  With all that said then, let us soak up these last weeks of bounty!


I've already mentioned that, to me, fall means more oven-roasting and more soup-making.  With the coming of winter squash, that season is now in full swing.

Thankfully, these little acorn squash are very easy to cook.  For this meal I cut one in half and scooped out the seeds then I put a nice pat of butter in the center of each and drizzled a little maple syrup over the top.  Put this in a roasting dish in a 400 degree oven for about 30 minutes, 45 for bigger squash.  Honestly, I find acorn squash to be a bit bland so I like to add the butter and syrup but you can choose an entirely different flavor profile if you wish - maybe garlic with salt and pepper?

The side salad is adapted from Mark Bittman's How To Cook Everything.  I've never tried to make anything with radicchio before so I had to turn somewhere for help!  This salad features chopped radicchio and apples with a dressing of about 1/2 cup of plain yogurt, 1 tablespoon of prepared horseradish (it's good!  make sure you get some ...), some cider vinegar, salt and pepper.  Some of the leaves in our head of radicchio were a little bitter for my taste, but it's hard to find a recipe that uses so many obscure CSA veggies all in one!


Spinach is one of those greens that can make in appearance in almost any meal, although we usually keep it simple and just wilt it and eat it with butter.  It's great as a side for dinner, but there's no reason that spinach, and many other CSA veggies can't contribute to breakfast as well.  The only day we usually have time to cook a "real" breakfast is on Sunday, but on our particularly organized days, we like to cook breakfast the night before so that we start the next few mornings off right!  This dish is an excellent candidate for such times.

Eggs baked in a nest of buttery spinach - perfect.

Wash and trim off long ends of spinach, then wilt it for about a minute in a pot of salted boiling water.  Drain and press out as much water as possible then chop.  At the same time, heat the oven to 350 and just before you are ready to assemble, put the baking dish in the oven with 1.5 tablespoons of butter.  When this has melted, remove from the oven and layer the spinach in.  Make as many little nests in the spinach as you have room for/however many eggs you want to cook.  Crack an egg into each nest.  Sprinkle with grated cheese, salt and pepper.  Bake for 15 to 20 minutes.

Enjoy your breakfast.  This would be great on a piece of toast!


Our days have gotten much busier in the last few weeks since Grady has started a part-time MBA program (yes, I am so very proud of him!) and so we have found ourselves resorting to the classics just to get something on the table every night.  Once again, we bring you burgers ...

To make our fries, we chop the potatoes and then cook them in water in the microwave for about 5 minutes.  Of course you can also boil them on the stove top, just take care not to overcook because falling apart potatoes don't fry very well.  We fry the cooked pieces in about an inch of oil in a pan over medium-high heat.  I should say 'Grady' does this - I never do this part because I hate large amounts of hot oil.  If you're brave, though, you can make these very tasty fries. 

Our slaw on the side is shredded kohlrabi (no, we didn't get it this week; yes, it's been in our fridge for probably 3 weeks now) and carrots with chopped apple and one finely chopped celery stalk.  The dressing is 1/2 cup of mayo, 2 tablespoons of cider vinegar and a touch of sugar, salt and pepper.

And I will brag for just a moment because I also made the ketchup that went with our dinner.  This was my first time making ketchup and while it was time consuming - you need to cook the tomatoes down, then pass through a food mill to remove skin and seeds, then cook into paste with sugar, cider vinegar and spices - the end result gives me great pride and tasty enjoyment!


We got ginger this week!  Awesome!!!!  Aside from making a cup or two of ginger tea, I'm going to try and make my own ginger-garlic paste by pureeing ginger and garlic in equal amounts with maybe some vinegar?  The store-bought jar I have hasn't spoiled yet and it has been open for a long time, so maybe the bacteria-fighting properties of these two is enough to preserve them.  I use this paste often in cooking Indian and other Asian dishes.  Because I have been blessed with a dehydrator, I'm also considering drying  a few slices and making my own ginger power.  I'm sure it would add so much more flavor when made fresh.  Here's to better pumpkin bread this winter!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

CSA in the Kitchen

Cool-weather crops are back in force now and Rob and Christina (and crew!) provide us with both common leaves, like spinach, and more uncommon, like Napa cabbage and bok choy.  The newsletter spelled out a few ways to cook with Napa cabbage and I'd like to elaborate on one of them - Kimchi.

Kimchi is, in many ways, another variation of Sauerkraut ... or the other way around, if you wish.  Both are types of cabbage that are preserved in brine and sour and ferment over time.  Recipes for kimchi are widely variant because you can add many different spices and vegetables to the mix.

Pictured above are all of the ingredients that will be going into our fermentation crock aka a wide mouth mason jar.  Napa cabbage mixed with a paste of garlic, ginger, onion, and hot pepper is the core of kimchi, but you should feel free to add grated carrots, bok choy, and maybe a few of those turnips we got this week.  The process is fairly simple and I will, once again, be following instructions from Wild Fermentation, which I must encourage you to buy or borrow from library or friend.  So while I cannot share his exact recipe, I will refer you to this blog that not only gives you step-by-step photo instructions, but also lists many, many dishes that you could make with your finished product!


While some of our bok choy is headed into kimchi, the rest of it once again graced our bowl of stir-fry.  This time we added a little twist and ended up with a dish almost similar to Fettuccine Alfredo, but with Asian spices replacing the Mediterranean.  Begin by cooking your noodles of choice - this time we used wide rice noodles.  While they cook, heat 1 tablespoon of neutral oil in a large pan.  We used coconut oil because 1) it contains lauric acid, which is good for you 2) it has a high smoke point and 3) we're finishing the dish with coconut milk.

Once the oil is hot, add in a dried hot chili or two or a small amount of dried pepper flakes.  The amount of heat is up to you.  Add in 1.5 tablespoons of ginger-garlic paste or an equal amount of minced ginger and garlic.  This will sputter like crazy but you only have to do it for about 30 seconds.  Then you'll add in 1 diced red bell pepper.  Cook about 3 minutes and then add chopped bok choy.

Hopefully at this point your noodles are cooked and drained (toss with some oil after draining so they don't stick together) and they are ready to be added to the pan.  I had to use 2 spoons to mix everything together but you could also try it Grady's way and just sort of toss the pan - but don't say I didn't warn you if you end up with stir fry all over your stove.  Reduce the heat to medium and add 1/2 to 1 can of coconut milk.  We added about half, but I wouldn't have minded a little more creamy-ness.  Allow this to simmer for a few moments, then serve and enjoy.


We're on a roll, making at least one soup per week for almost the past month now and this week is no exception.  This week we went with a New England style clam chowder and wistfully recalled our visit to the Atlantic just two months ago ...

As with many tasty soups, this one starts with minced onions sauteed until soft in butter.  We decided to throw in some carrots as well because we have them and because more veggies means more goodness, right?  Once the onions are soft, add about 2 tablespoons of flour and cook for another minute.  Then, slowly whisk in some bottled clam juice.  If you're not into seafood this step smells rather fishy and makes you question your reason for ever beginning this soup - I promise though, it gets better!  We used 2 small bottles of clam juice, which was maybe 1.5 cups.  We then added another 1.5 cups of chicken stock and threw in quite a few diced potatoes along with 1/2 teaspoon of dried thyme and 1 can of cooked baby clams (you can use a can or two more but we're trying to stay low-budget).  Cover and let this mixture simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally until the potatoes are cooked.  Serve in a big mug with lots of buttery croutons on top.


The rest of our potatoes - the purple ones to be specific, will be roasted along with an herb-butter coated chicken tonight.  I'll make a little side salad with the arugula and lettuce to go along with it.  I'm thinking the spinach is going to be blended with some of the fruit we froze earlier in the summer for an excellent pre- or post-workout snack.  Yum!

~ Courtney and Grady

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

CSA in the Kitchen

Happy {official} Autumn to everyone!  The frosts are coming and so we mark a change in what's on our table - which is a little sad and a little relieving (I don't know how many more new tomato dishes I could come up with!).  Time to look forward to more greens and hearty root vegetables and winter squash.  I tend to think of fall as the season of roasting and soup-making.


And so, not surprisingly, the first item this week is a roasted heirloom tomato soup.

You may need to use some frozen or canned tomatoes to have enough for this soup, or you can use what you have and make an individual serving.  This recipe is adapted from American Classics.  

Halve or quarter the tomatoes and remove the seeds.  If you like, you can also remove the skin by dipping the whole tomato in boiling water for about 30 seconds.  Arrange the tomatoes in a roasting pan on tin foil.  Sprinkle with brown sugar and roast for about 30 minutes in a 400 degree oven.  When the tomatoes have lost most of their juices and are starting to color, remove from oven and set aside.

In a pot over medium heat, melt 1.5 tablespoons of butter.  When foaming, add 1 minced small red onion or shallot and 1 tablespoon of tomato paste.  Reduce the heat to low and cover.  Stir occasionally until the onion has softened.  Stir in 2 tablespoons of flour.  Then, stirring/whisking constantly, add in 1 to 2 cups of chicken stock then add in the roasted tomatoes.  Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer for 10 minutes to allow flavors to meld.  Remove from heat and pass through a food mill or a blender.  Return to the pot and add as much cream as seems delicious to you.  Enjoy with a grilled cheese sandwich, or just some buttery croutons on top!


If you decide to make croutons (toss cubed bread with melted butter and toast in the oven, turning once, for 15 minutes), they would also be delicious atop a salad such as this - grilled romaine.

Normally, you see recipes for grilled romaine hearts, which is the tight part inside of the greener leaves.  After attempting to grill and entire head of romaine, we now understand why.  The grilling wilted the outer leaves rather significantly, leaving them limp and unattractive.  On the plus side though, smoky salad tastes awesome.

If you'd like to give it a try, coat the outside of your whole head of lettuce with olive oil or a neutral oil.  Heat the grill as hot as it will go then put the lettuce right on there, turning to cook all sides for a total of only 2 minutes or so.  When "cooked" chop into smaller pieces, dress with vinaigrette and serve.

We ate this salad as a side to our usual {delicious} burgers and another side of creamed spinach.  Creamed spinach is not such a pretty thing to take a picture of, but it sure does taste good!  Here is a good-looking recipe.  We simply cooked the spinach in boiling water until wilted, drained and pressed the water out.  Returned to the pot with about 1/2 cup or less of cream, 1/4 cup of grated Romano cheese, and 2 tablespoons of butter.  Pretty simple and so satisfying.


This week we had the option of taking horseradish with our share.  It was optional since it seems people don't like the stuff.  Well, Grady does so we took a whole bunch home.  We peeled it like carrots and then grated it using our food processor, although a cheese grater would also work just as well.  Once grated, we blended it with a few tablespoons of white vinegar and we've got a condiment for ... steak? {Honestly, I don't use this stuff in cooking, but Grady makes it taste good!} all ready in our fridge.  Because it contains vinegar, it should last a while this way.


This week we chose peppermint as our herb and we have turned it into a syrup.  We made a simple syrup by dissolving 1.5 cups of sugar (you can go up to 2) in 2 cups of boiling water.  Once dissolved, off heat and throw in your bunch of peppermint.  Cover and allow to steep for about 30 minutes, or longer, to taste.  Cool the liquid and store in a jar in the fridge.  This syrup will likely make its way into adult beverages seeing as we have also made mint-infused vodka, a.k.a. creme de menthe.  However, if you'd like to make something sweet and non-alcoholic, I would highly recommend making peppermint ice cream.  We made some last year and it was by far the best homemade ice cream we'd had (and this was after getting the Ben and Jerry's recipe book from the library).


We have some Asian greens again this week.  Our stand-by at the moment is stir-fry since it worked so well last time and we haven't gotten tired of it yet.

Oooh!  Kohlrabi!  I almost forgot - we haven't made it yet so I don't have a picture, but I'm sure we will be shredding our kohlrabi with some crisp apples and making a coleslaw with it.  Come to think of it, we probably should have made that to go with our burgers!  


As always, please let us know if you have any ideas or if you've tried our recipes and discovered better ways to make them.  Hope everyone has a great week!

~ Courtney and Grady

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

CSA in the Kitchen

Well, friends, we seem to be looking at some of the last fruits of the summer this week in our share - that isn't to say there won't be a few more tomatoes and peppers still coming but fewer and fewer.  Don't let your share go to waste!  I know how hard it can be to use some of the ingredients you may not be used to cooking with (remember the green onions I used at least 3 weeks after getting them?).  If you can't think of a way to use what you have before it goes bad, try freezing it.  Many things freeze well or may be OK if pre-cooked first.  Probably straight frozen zucchini isn't awesome, but if you saute it first then freeze maybe it will reheat better?  Better to give it a try and possibly lose it than not try and simply throw it out!


This week's share would be an excellent one from which to make ratatouille.  I wrote about this dish a few weeks ago and you can read that here.  Truly, one of the most delicious late-summer meals I've had and I have made it twice since writing about it.

Here is another great meal to make with eggplant and tomatoes (although the ones pictured above came from a can).  I would call it eggplant Parmesan except that there's no Parmesan involved in what we made.  So, we'll call it Eggplant a la Grady.

Slice the eggplant into 1/4 inch rounds, we peeled it first too.  If you have time you can also toss the slices with 1/2 tablespoon of salt and let sit for 30 min to an hour to draw out the bitterness - be sure to rinse thoroughly before preceding.  Heat a neutral oil in a large pan and when a pinch of flour sizzles in it, dip the slices in a beaten egg, then coat both sides with breadcrumbs and place carefully in the oil.  Be sure not to crowd too many slices into the pan.  Flip them after about 2 minutes so that both sides are evenly browned.  Cook the slices in batches and set aside until all are done.

Arrange the fried eggplant in an oven-safe pan (Grady likes to make food look pretty - the arrangement is up to you), top with slices of fresh mozzarella and place under the broiler for 2 minutes until the cheese is soft and partially melted.  Top with tomato sauce, sauteed fresh tomatoes, or simmered diced tomatoes from a can (what we did).

We enjoyed this dish with a simple side salad made from our crisp Romaine, dressed with a red wine vinaigrette and topped with Parmesan cheese and cherry tomatoes.


So bear with me, sandwiches are not the easiest things to make pretty in pictures.  However, they are so delicious.  Pictured here is a steak and cheddar cheese sandwich with sauteed sweet peppers and onions and a sprinkle of freshly dried thyme.  I'm not sure there's much more to say on this topic except that the thyme on this sandwich was pretty awesome.  If you haven't sliced and frozen some of your sweet peppers yet, I would encourage you, again, to do so.  We actually used some frozen ones here because we didn't have any fresh on hand this week - the sandwich wouldn't have been nearly as good without them!


This lovely dinner is another that showcases the excellent produce we got this week.  Here we have grilled chicken rubbed with parsley butter {for guidance on making herbs butters read here} topped with an arugula and turnip green salad, grilled zucchini and a side of rice ... and a glass of red wine!

The chicken is best if you take the time to brine it for an hour before cooking.  Use 1 cup of kosher salt for about 2 quarts of cold water, you can also add 1/2 cup of sugar which I recommend doing!  Soak the chicken in this solution in the fridge for an hour then rinse thoroughly.  Pat the skin dry and continue, or for more crisp skin you can let it sit uncovered in the fridge for up to 4 hours.  Use your fingers to loosen the skin from the meat on the breast and legs.  Using a spoon or just your fingers, spread the herb butter on the meat, under skin, attempting to do so as evenly as possible.  Then either roast or grill the chicken - the herb and butter will flavor and moisten the meat as it cooks!

The salad is simply the arugula and turnip greens dressed with a mustard vinaigrette and sprinkled with Parmesan cheese.  The greens themselves are a bit strong so you can opt to add spinach or another milder green to the mix.

The zucchini was simply sliced, tossed with olive oil, salt and pepper and then grilled away from direct flame for a few minutes.


As we face {embrace?} cooler weather this week, we're planning to cook up a hearty beef stew complete with purple potatoes and possibly some turnips.  We're also returning to some of our old stand-by's like fresh salsa in bean burritos because we know our opportunities are getting fewer.


Finally, we'd like to say 'thank you' to Rob and Christina for working so diligently not only to fill our plates with excellent food, but also to grace our homes with beautiful flowers.  You guys are the best.

~ Courtney and Grady

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

CSA in the Kitchen

The ingredient that really caught my attention this week was the bok choy, so let's start there.  The types of dishes that usually call for this green are not what Grady and I are used to cooking (or eating) so this was a bit of an adventure for us!  After looking at what we had on hand, I decided to make a noodle stir-fry.

The great thing about stir-fry's is that you can throw in what you have - a big plus in CSA cooking!  For this dish I thinly sliced the thick ends of the bok choy and cut the leaves into strips.  I added small broccoli florets and some chopped green onions (please don't look back at how many weeks ago we received those!).  You could possibly also add sliced onions or even sweet peppers.

While I was waiting for the water for the noodles to boil, I cooked the veggies in a large pan over medium-high heat in a few tablespoons of sunflower oil (peanut would be ideal but we don't keep it on hand).  Once the greens were wilted and everything was soft - about 4 minutes - I removed them to a bowl.  The noodles I boiled for a few minutes, drained and tossed with a little more oil to keep them from sticking.  In the same large pan, I heated another tablespoon of oil and added 1.5 tablespoons of ginger-garlic paste (or use 1/2 tablespoon each of minced fresh ginger and garlic).  After 15 seconds, I added in the noodles and 1 tablespoon of soy sauce.  Saute this for another 4 minutes then combine with the veggies and you're ready to eat.

I was considering making a soup with the bok choy and if that suits your fancy, take a look at this recipe.  


Likely due to the transition to cooler weather, we were both feeling a bit sick on Sunday as we picked up our share.  Not wanting to put too much effort into cooking, but needing something filling and soothing, we stirred up a pot of comforting creamy chicken soup.

This soup uses a base of about 3 cups of homemade chicken stock and probably another 2 cups of water (we add the water because our stock is very flavorful and concentrated, if you're using canned you can use 5 cups).  Bring this to a boil and add in 1 cup of rice, which can be white or brown; reduce to a simmer and cover.

While the stock simmers, chop a carrot or two, some onions and celery if you have it - we even added thinly sliced garlic.  Saute these in some oil over medium-low heat until soft (about 15 minutes).  When the rice in your stock is cooked, add in the vegetables.  Alternatively, you could do the sauteing first in a large pot and then add the stock right on top to deglaze and then cook the rice, all in one pot.  Finally, mix in some chopped parsley (our herb of choice this week) and maybe some thyme?  We did.  To make it creamy, we simply added cream at the end.  If you'd like to skip the cream it will still be wonderful.  We also didn't have any chicken on hand but if you do, feel free to add it.

This soup was so satisfying to me that I ate two bowls of it for dinner and two again for lunch the next day.


Pickles again!  I believe this is at least the 3rd time we are talking about pickles.  I really can't take any responsibility for it.  It's all Grady and his love of sour condiments.  Rob and Christina had just the perfect sized cucumbers at the Logan Square market, so I guess it was just too hard to resist.  These are quick refrigerator Dill Pickles, another Well Preserved recipe.


Our beautiful, soon-to-be-gone tomatoes this week may be heading into a casserole of sorts.  I work for some excellent bakers/chefs at a pie company here in town and the savory chef has just created a Roasted Heirloom Tomato pie.  The pie is delicious and would be a perfect way to showcase these tomatoes, but I don't want to undertake crust making for a mid-week dinner, so here's what I'm thinking:

I will slice (or maybe just quarter?) the tomatoes, toss them with olive oil, salt and pepper and also a decent amount of grated Parmesan cheese and basil.  I will layer this in a small (or whatever size looks like it will hold the amount I have) casserole dish with pre cooked white beans, such as Cannellini.  Likely, I will also add in some minced garlic and sauteed onions.  Breadcrumbs on top?  Then I will bake it in the oven at 350 for however long it takes ... 20 or 30 minutes, I'm guessing.

Sound good to you?  If so and you actually try to make this tomato bake or something like it, let me know how it goes!


Hope that everyone is enjoying these beautiful days!

~ Courtney and Grady

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

CSA in the Kitchen

Welcome to September and to the beginning of autumn.  Of course, the true start of the fall season is not until the autumnal equinox on September 22nd but the coming of cooler temperatures, fewer hours of daylight and the start of school for students signals a change of pace and perhaps a shifting of mindset from reveling completely in summer glory to considering making provision for the cooler days ahead.  This week we are focusing more on preserving our share.


We were excited to see the giant bag of string beans in this week's share.  Every single bean this week went first to the cutting board, to trim the ends off, and then into a large pot of boiling water.  We blanched the beans for about 1 minute then strained them out and transferred them immediately to an ice water bath.  Once cool and dry, we spread them on a tray to freeze, and then bag and store.  They will wait for a day when fresh veggies are not as accessible.


Our share this week also went towards the spread we prepared for our Labor Day barbeque.  We served the traditional fare of burgers and hot dogs ... oh wait, we live in the Midwest so we served brats, not hot dogs.  To go with this, Grady made some quick bread and butter pickles the day before.

Quick refrigerator pickles are just that - quick and stored in the fridge.  If you are thinking of making a big batch and canning you'll need to follow a recipe that has been tested for safety but if you just want a jar or two of sweet little guys to go atop a juicy burger, here is a recipe for you.

Grady was such a handyman in the kitchen that while he was whipping up these pickles, he went ahead and pickled some jalapenos too.  Honestly, I'm not sure what we're going to use them on at the moment but perhaps that husband of mine has a few brilliant thoughts he hasn't shared with me yet.  Whatever use we make of them, pickling with vinegar is an easy was to preserve peppers, if only for a few extra weeks.  He followed this recipe from Well Preserved, but reduced the liquid down to 1 pint, cooled the jar on the counter and then refrigerated instead of water bath processing.


Speaking of extending the life of foods, our main tomato dish this week was inspired by the need to use milk before it went bad.  Usually, I make yogurt from almost all of our milk (post about that here) but this week I still had some leftover and it was on the edge of going bad.  This was the perfect situation for making cheese!

The easiest cheeses to make are the ones that require only milk and an acid - paneer is one such cheese.  This is the soft, fresh cheese that it used in Indian dishes and it is wonderfully simple to make.  I would recommend following these instructions if you'd like to give it a try.

With fresh paneer on the table, I knew I should make an Indian-flavored dish to use it in.  Often I simply make a tomato-butter sauce but with fresh tomatoes on hand we decided to ... grill!

One of the most delicious dishes Grady and I have eaten at an Indian restaurant was a paneer and fresh vegetable kebab.  Whatever marinade or rub they used, when paired with the smoky grill flavor in the soft, creamy cubes of cheese - oh goodness it was excellent.  We were aiming to replicate that in some way so we marinated the tomatoes and cheese with spiced yogurt.  We used about 1/2 cup of plain, whole milk yogurt, 1 TBS of ginger-garlic paste (or an equal amount minced fresh), 1/2 tsp of chili powder or to taste, 1/2 tsp of turmeric, 1 tsp of cumin, a pinch of salt.  You could also use a garam masala powder if you have that on hand.

The tomatoes, as you can see above, were cut in quarters and stuck on a kebab; the cheese we left as a whole.  These were grilled on medium-low heat with some wood chips for smokiness, for around 15-20 minutes.

While I cannot say we achieved the restaurant quality we were longing for, grilling tomatoes and cheese is just a great idea.  With a side of fried potatoes tossed with Indian spice mix and some steamed braising mix and rice, this meal was a delight straight from our CSA bag.  Although we didn't use them, onions and green bell peppers are also often part of the kebab.


Does anyone have a plan for what they will do with the tatsoi we received?  If you have a good recipe, please share it in the comments!

Grady + Courtney

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

CSA in the Kitchen

One of the things I love about our share is that we get to pick which herb we want every week and what usually amounts to one extra item of produce.  I appreciate this because it means that we can eat more of what we like!  When it comes to picking an herb I almost always go for thyme - I don't really know why except that I just love the smell!  Thankfully, thyme dries very well.

I would highly recommend selecting your herbs not just with the week's meals in mind, but your winter pantry as well.  Thyme, basil, oregano and rosemary all dry relatively well and are useful for brightening winter dishes.  For my birthday last week, my wonderful husband bought me a dehydrator!  Maybe this wouldn't be exciting to you, but I'm over the moon about it.  As soon as we got our share home, I set the herbs to dry.

You don't need a dehydrator to dry your herbs though, just a paper bag and some time.  Think ahead just a bit and you will be delighted with the results mid-winter.  Freshly dried herbs truly make a difference!

There are some herbs that I don't seem to use much of when they're dried.  Sage, which I have in the picture above, is one of them.  Instead of adding to my underused store, I preserved the sage in butter.  Compound butters work well for herbs that either don't dry well or that you would prefer to use "fresh" in a dish with butter.

Mince the herb (I just use scissors) and mash the butter in with it, using a fork.  Room temperature butter is much easier to work with.  Once it's properly mixed, scoop the mixture onto a large piece of plastic wrap and shape into whatever shape suits you - logs are good.  Wrap the log and place in the freezer for future use.  My plan for this butter is to be gently melted and browned then tossed with pasta.  Simple and delicious.


When we see the first tomatoes of the summer we are always overjoyed.  By the end of August, tomatoes have become old news - I almost get bored trying to think of what to do with them.  We must not let this happen!  To bring new life to my tomato scene, I plan to make a tomato tart.  Fresh tomatoes, Parmesan cheese, drizzle of olive oil all on top of a flaky tart crust.  It's like pizza but more buttery.

I believe most basic cookbooks can guide you to a decent tart crust (I'd suggest one without sugar).  Simply roll out your dough, fill it with fresh-cut tomatoes and whatever else sounds good - garlic maybe?  Fold the sides of the dough up as pictured above and bake on a tray or pizza stone until golden brown.  Again, I'd reference the dough recipe for heat and approximate time.  Here is a recipe for a savory, whole wheat pastry dough.

Second tomato inspiration: roasted!  Yes, you can make your very own sun dried tomatoes in your oven at home.  If you're lucky enough to have an oven that bakes below 200 (or a dehydrator!), you're in even better shape as a slower roast dried them better with less risk of burning.  Set your oven to its lowest heat setting.  Wash your tomatoes, slice them in half lengthwise and toss with olive oil.  Spread slices open side up on a tray (you may want to line it with parchment paper).  You can also add pieces of garlic if you wish.  Sprinkle lightly with salt and leave in the oven for a few hours, checking periodically until they are shriveled and flavorful.  You can find good directions here, as well.


I said I would give an update as to what we did with our hot peppers ...

Wearing gardening gloves, I took the tops off these hot peppers and sliced them down the middle.  Put them in a pint Mason jar, covered with high-quality vodka and left it on a shelf in the pantry.

I was planning on leaving it there for a few days but thought I'd check up on it about 6 hours after starting the infusion.  I dipped in a spoon and took just a tiny drop to taste.  I would describe the sensation as liquid fire!  Seriously though, I immediately dropped the spoon and ran to the fridge to start gulping whipping cream.  We'll keep this stuff around, but we'll be sure to use it very sparingly!


And finally, when you can't think of what to do with your veggies, I suggest ratatouille.  Yes, it sounds fancy and yes, it's delicious.  Thankfully, this dish is also flexible and simple.  We still had an eggplant on hand last night, not sure from where, so I peeled and chopped that into 1/2 inch pieces, chopped a sweet pepper (you could use more than one), chopped and onion and chopped, cored and seeded a handful of tomatoes.  All of these I sauteed in olive oil over medium heat, separately (this isn't necessary but according to some it makes the overall dish better - if you'd like, just toss them all straight into the baking dish).  As each batch was finished, I layered it into a lightly oiled 9 x 13 baking dish.  Once everything is in, add some pieces of crushed garlic and bake, uncovered, in a preheated oven at 350 for about an hour.  

If you happen to have zucchini or summer squash on hand, you can add those or substitute them.  You could add more peppers or make it onion-heavy.  I sprinkled freshly dried thyme and basil-oregano vinegar on ours, which was tasty!  I'd show you a picture but have you seen baked eggplant?  It's just not pretty.  So, take my word for it that it tastes wonderful.


Have a great week!

Courtney and Grady

Monday, August 27, 2012

days, recently

Apologies for my blogging absence outside of our CSA posts.  I'm not sure if it's just the late summer days or feeling just busy enough with work and home that I don't often find myself with the mental energy and motivation for writing.  I'm rather sure that cooler weather will have an effect on this feeling, though!

Important days that have passed in my absence: blog anniversary!  I've been blogging for just over one year now.  I can't believe it's only been one year, actually, because it seems that so much more has happened between now and last summer - the biggest things being that we now live in Chicago and I have employment.  Many thanks to those of you who have encouraged me along the way in this writing.  I don't think I would maintain this space if I knew that no one out there cared :-)

Day after anniversary: my birthday.  Yes, it was lovely.  I did work, which made for a quiet evening with my love and two slices of pie.  We've decided that turning 25 makes me a real adult.  Whether that's true now, earlier or later, I am so thankful for another year of life and growth.

Finally, we were on a vacation earlier this month that I have yet to share much about.

Cape Cod is an annual trip for my family reaching back almost 50 years.  My grandparents took my mom and her siblings, my parents take my family, and this year Grady and I returned to a cottage we called 'ours.'  As always, it was beautiful.

I just started a page on Flickr as well, where you can find a few more photos from our vacation, if you like.

Happy Monday, friends!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

CSA in the Kitchen

Let's start the week off right with a salad.  We got two lovely heads of lettuce this week and promptly turned them into a Caesar salad.  The salad part is quite simple - tears the leaves off of the stem and rinse thoroughly, then dry thoroughly (it's important to dry lettuce well so that the dressing actually stays on it).

We make our Caesar dressing from scratch, so it's a bit more labor-intensive but so very delicious.  Beat one egg yolk (yes, this involves eating raw egg) with the juice of half of a lemon.  Add one or two cloves of freshly pressed garlic, 1/3 cup of finely grated Parmesan cheese, 1 TBS of Worcestershire sauce and 1 minced fillet of anchovy.  While mixing, drizzle in about 1/4 cup of olive oil.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Dress your salad greens and enjoy.


These last few weeks we have found ourselves with quite a few bell peppers.  This is a wonderful thing but, you see, Grady and I enjoy certain foods so much that we will often eat them once per week - we have had fajitas or something along those lines involving fresh salsa at least that often and sometimes more.  You, however may not love fajitas so much and so we bring you: meatloaf.

Yes, we did chop a green pepper and add it to our meatloaf mix.  The carrots we added were from our share last week.  We like to top our meatloaf with BBQ sauce so while you can taste the distinct green pepper a bit, mostly it tastes like delicious sauce with some meat and veggies.  For the mix I would use 1 medium carrot, 1/2 an onion and 1/2 a bell pepper per 1 pound of ground meat.


This share is also looking perfect for making a refreshing batch of Gazpacho (use tomato, cucumber, bell pepper, jalapeno, and possibly even the herb you picked up).  According to Cook's Illustrated magazine, the way to make a perfectly creamy soup is to slowly drizzle in the olive oil as the blender is running.  Take a look at the recipe on this website to guide you to your simple dinner-from-a-blender!

Photo taken from oui, chef blog


Our love affair with the grill continues this week as we plan to attempt grilling beets and fennel - maybe at the same time, maybe not.  I would say this could be a recipe for burned roots and bulbs but Grady is determined and so we will seek to enhance these foods with grill-supplied smoky flavor.  We'll let you know how that works for us ... if any of you have tried grilling either of these items before, please do let us know.


Got hot peppers?  I know we do!  We took a handful to attempt infusing in vodka for future use in such drinks as very spicy Bloody Mary's.  Not wanting to drink your peppers?  Well Preserved food blog had a great recipe for hot peppers fermented with whey.  Check it out here!

Have a great week, everyone!

~ Courtney and Grady