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