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

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