Monday, June 30, 2008

Summer Colds are Totally the Worst

Today is the glorious flowering of the seed of a head cold that was planted over the weekend, and as such, I feel like the bottom of a shoe.

Combine this sad state of affairs with the fact that after our trip to Baltimore and the push to use up all our vegetables that preceded it, and the only thing I could bear to make for dinner tonight was macaroni and cheese. Macaroni and cheese is second only to creamed salmon on toast as a strength-and-health restorer, and tonight it did its best against my sneezing, congestion, sinus pressure, runny nose, cough and overall malaise. So far, the malaise is winning, but even the best macaroni and cheese needs time to work.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Happy Day-Before-My-Birthday to Meeeeeeeeeee!

Today is the day before my birthday, but I got the best birthday present of all, i.e., the most delicious dinner I have ever eaten. I'm not as good at Nate at explaining all the process, but we started dinner with a delicious strawberries, blue cheese and red and green leaf lettuce salad with pecans and a balsamic vinaigrette (bye bye, all of our lettuce!).

But after was the best part, because my talented, handsome and extremely clever gem of a husband made my favorite thing but made it better. Let me explain: one of my all-time favorite meals -- maybe my all-time favorite, for real -- is roast chicken, so Nate roasted a half-chicken, with the bok choy roasted in the pan with the chicken, and served with glazed turnips with parsley and scallions. And it was FANTASTIC. The chicken was juicy, super-flavorful (seasoned with salt, pepper, sage and thyme, with a little Meat Magic for good measure) and perfectly cooked. The bok choy picked up all the jus flavors from the pan, as well: I don't think tossing bok choy beside a roast is one of the standard methods of cooking it, but it should be. And the turnips. Oh, the turnips. Sweet -- they were much milder than their autumnal cousins -- tiny, braised in butter and chicken stock, seasoned with the snappy scallions and some parsley, they were heavenly.

I cleaned my plate, then took a piece of bread to wipe my plate, then stole some of the turnips remaining on Nate's plate when he wasn't looking, then retired to the couch to rub my belly and remember the meal fondly. But then came the OTHER best part!

Fruit tarts are my most favorite dessert. Nate's homemade fruit tarts are my most favorite variety of my favorite dessert. This one used the last of our farm share strawberries, the Jersey blueberries and some other fruits. And it was the best surprise because he had previously told me he wouldn't have time to make me one until after my birthday.

I love fruit tarts. I love Nate, too, for making me fruit tarts. And because he saved the smallest of all the turnips to show me:

P.S. Hilariously, that picture is life sized. I held the tiny turnip up to the screen and it's an exact fit!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Chard Work

Tonight was another meal that showcased Nate's cooking. (I supply the research. What, not even?) I came home to find a dinner hot and waiting: thanks, 1950s paradigm flip! Anyhow, here's Nate to describe his creations:

What's up, Farm Lovers? As you can see above, the 3/4 of a pound of Swiss chard doesn't amount to a heck of a lot after you take off the stems and wilt it down. I wasn't using the quarter to display the size of the Swiss chard, I was simply trying to compare the shape of the Swiss chard to the shape of George Washington's powdered wig. It turns out it wasn't as similar as I'd thought.

I looked high and low for our rolling pin but I couldn't seem to locate it amongst the hundreds and hundreds o kitchen gadgets in our apartment. After a few minutes I abandoned my search and grabbed a bottle of cheap Chianti we had lying around. It did a fine job of rolling out the puff pastry dough. Probably much better than the job it will do of being a drinkable Chianti.

For our salad we had the green leaf lettuce, blueberries (not from the farm share, but from New Jersey, which, like a farm, smells like manure), goat cheese, sliced almonds, toasted pepitas, lemon juice, olive oil, and salt and pepper.

Here's the finished tart. It was supposed to be a Swiss chard and ricotta tart but with the tiny amount of chard we had it ended up being mostly a ricotta tart with hints of Swiss chard. Overall that approach wouldn't have won me any awards on Iron Chef. Well, not on the Japanese version of the show anyway. It might have done fine on that crummy American version.

For dessert, as is standard, we celebrated the marvels of the berries. Mostly because it's easy to just plop some berries on top of some yogurt and call it a night.

We have a few too many strawberries knowing that we'll be out of town this weekend so we may have to be creative for tomorrow night's dessert so that we don't have too much left over.

Well, that's all I have to say about tonight's meal. Tomorrow I need to figure out something to do with all our bok choy. I will turn it over in my mind at work tomorrow and hopefully come up with something a little more inspired than simply stir frying it.

Has anyone ever done anything to bok choy besides stir frying it? Maybe I'll try to turn it into a pudding. A gross, watery pudding.


I, obviously, am not in favor of bok choy pudding. But I also have very little leg to stand on since I will be contributing nothing to the preparing and much to the eating, so we'll see. Tonight's meal was delish -- the salad was fantastic and fresh. The tart was a little eggy, but I blame that more on the recipe than on Nate -- well, and on the G.W. chard.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Don't Worry, It'll Turnip

Today was my first time to pick up the farm share, so I busted out of work a little early and headed over to the church on 181st to check my name off and load up on the lettuces.

For lettuces it was today, in large numbers. The haul for week 2 was:

4 garlic scapes
2 lbs turnips
1 head green leaf lettuce
1 head red leaf lettuce
1 head bok choy
3/4 lb swiss chard
1 bunch scallions
1 parsley plant
2 pints strawberries

And while I have some GREAT ideas for this week, I was all out of luck with ingredients for tonight. So instead I had a leftover enchilada and a big, delicious salad that made great use of the scallions. And here I must praise these quasi-organic, enormous scallions. They were some of the best I've ever tasted -- sharp, fresh, spring in one delicious, onioney bite. So that bodes well for this week's share, although it's gonna be a compressed one, since Nate and I are planning a little (and long overdue) trip to Charm City this weekend. But I do love a challenge.

Monday, June 23, 2008

I Am a Fool

So there will be no update tonight for one reason: I got home at 8:30 and realized that I had left my keys at work. Thus, I headed directly to Coogan's, ordered a beer, and waited for Nate to come home.

And when Nate did get home around 9:30, we just decided to eat at Coogan's. Cheeseburger, yum.

Sustainable, local, quasi-organic farm share blogging resumes tomorrow, with an all-new delivery of goods! And if I remember my keys, so much the better.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Plum Out of Food

Tonight, as predicted, we abandoned the remaining garlic scrape and the last few greens and had dinner at Plum Pomidor. We split a lobster parfait (lobster, creme fraiche, lime, cilantro, cocktail sauce), and Nate chose his traditional beef bolognese. I ordered the seafood linguine, but per Plum Pomidor tradition (it was a night for tradition), they were out. Instead, I had a linguine with tomatoes, shrimp and arugula.

Not exactly seasonal, but quite delish. Nate took some pictures, but is currently declining to post them. So, please enjoy a picture we took on a previous occasion of the lobster parfait. Never say we are not prepared.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Bok to Basics

In writing this blog over the past few days, I've really discovered a love of terrible vegetable puns. It's rather marvelous, actually -- I'm hoping to be able to keep it up as we get more and more varied kinds of marrows, shoots and growths of all sorts.

But anyway. Nate once again made dinner -- I was feeling lethargic after a hard day of light housework -- and now I am pleased to say that we are down to almost nothing left of the share. Nate made a ginger-sesame chicken breast, with coconut-lime rice and bok choy sauteed in the same ginger-sesame sauce as the chicken. It was excellent. But I shall turn it over to him:

Hello, y'all, Nate here! Well sheoooot, I was in the kitchen today cookin' up enough produce to make a ferry boat captain lose his salt pork!

As our haul from the farm share has been winding down, today's meal had two main purposes: 1) To use up our farm share produce and 2) to clear out some items from our pantry and freezer.

We started off with these quick "crostini" to utilize some of the leftover ingredients from enchilada night. Sadly the baguette was a little less than great but with some goat cheese, avocado, cherry tomato slices, lime juice, toasted pepitas, salt and pepper they turned out pretty nice.

The bok choy comes from an organic farm so unfortunately that means the bugs get to pick over the leaves first.

We used up the garlic scrapes by mixing them in with some lime coconut rice as well as using them to flavor the chicken breast I was marinating.

I quickly seared the chicken breast which was marinated in honey, garlic, ginger, soy, lime, chilis and sesame oil.

I served up the chicken with the stir fried bok choy, steamed edamame, and coconut rice. This used up the garlic scrapes and the bok choy. It also cleared the chicken breast and the edamame from the freezer and the coconut milk from the pantry.

And for dessert, more of the chocolate peppermint ice cream. After freezing over night it was even better today.

It is going to be a challenge to maintain this level of cooking, photography and blogging as we get on with our work week but we'll see how it goes.

See you tomorrow, Veg Heads!

Not sure what expect for next week's haul, but in the meantime, we have two more nights of dinners before the next pickup and all that's left is a scrape and a basil plant. Tomorrow night may be a day to stimulate the local economy with a dinner out.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Going "Vegan"

Tonight, as far as I was concerned, was a boon: I came home from work to find Nate hustling around the kitchen preparing Vegan potato-kale enchiladas, a recipe which comes to us courtesy of my sister Lisa, who made them for me in Kalamazoo. And since it was Nate who did the bulk of the work, I will turn over the blog to him for to describe it:

Hey, what's up, folks? This is Nate comin' at ya with the straight poop on how I used these great ingredients to create an unoriginal dish that I stole from Jen's little sister!

Hit it!

It all starts with some of the red kale we got from our farm share, paired up with some yukon gold potatoes. I washed and dried the kale, peeled and chopped the potatoes. I set the potatoes to boil and set the kale aside.

While the potatoes were boiling I toasted some pepitas over a medium flame. I did not elaborately stack the pepitas into a delicately balanced pyramid as the photo would suggest, but rather sauteed them.

After toasting up the pepitas, I roasted two poblano peppers over an open flame, peeled the skin off of them then sauteed up some garlic and onions in a little olive oil. I then combined some diced tomatoes and seasonings, along with the chopped poblanos, and simmered over low heat.

While the sauce simmered, I sauteed up the kale with a little garlic and then added the boiled potatoes and some additional spices.

After the mixture was done I then pureed the sauce, ladled some into a casserole dish and began forming the enchiladas.

I then baked them at 350 degrees, covered with foil, for 25 minutes before uncovering them and finishing them for an additional 15 minutes.

We served them up with sliced avocado, toasted pepitas and a dollop of sour cream (not pictured). This completely ruined the vegan integrity of our meal but this was of little importance since we began our evening with some assorted cheeses and duck liver pate.

For dessert I made a chocolate ice cream which I added some leftover holiday peppermint bark to. A quick run in the ice cream maker and we were enjoying the mint-chocolatey goodness.

Then, I murdered Jen with the candlestick, in the living room. Thanks to Paul and Caolan for giving us such a useful gift.

Now all I need is an alibi.

Okay, I am rising from the grave to take over the rest of the post. Dinner was delicious -- not as spicy, somehow, as the one Mousie made in Michigan, but still delicious. And while the potatoes, the avocados and the sour cream weren't part of the share, they complemented the kale nicely. So far, one of the most delicious yet, if not the most delicious yet. And also the most labor intensive (for Nate if not for me). Coincidence?

Three days left. Basil plant, bok choy, a scrape or two and a handful of lettuce remain. Suggestions, as always, are welcome ...

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Lazy Woman's Dinner

Ahhhhhh, pasta. What did we ever do before you? Tonight was another one of those nights where time, time and time were the most important factors in putting tonight's dinner on the table. Since it was dinner for one, I turned to pasta, also known as, the single easiest thing to make for dinner.

I decided to make a variation of this recipe for Spaghettini with Spicy Escarole and Pecorino, but substituting whole wheat linguine for the spaghettini, and adding some garlic scrapes to the mix, as well as a splash of lemon. It was pretty good -- the texture of the escarole was a nice counterpoint to the linguine. Next time, I'd add more red pepper flakes and more anchovies, I think -- it could have used some more spice. And oh yeah, Epicurious: you do NOT need any pasta water to add in. In fact, you don't need to add the cup of water they call for the steaming either: there's plenty of water in the escarole to go around.

Pictures to come later -- the picture-uploader just came home and is developing his own opinions on the anchovieness of the pasta. (Current verdict: needs more).

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Lettuce Entertain You

Tonight was the first of many nights to come, I predict, where time will enter our dinner calculations in a large way. You see, we pick up our farm shares on Tuesday, a problem in that Wednesday and Thursday nights are my night to work late, and are often Nate's nights to work late -- and working late the two nights after delivery means that it's going to be very catch-as-catch-can when it comes to making dinners out of our grab bag of veggies. Unless, of course, we get very good at predicting what we'll be getting on Tuesday by Saturday or Sunday, so we can shop for the appropriate ingredients in advance.

So, since Nate wasn't going to be home until 9 tonight, it was my lookout to prepare the dinner. I stopped by Whole Foods for some supplementary supplies and got home by 8, and dinner was ready by the time Nate came through the door on time. How did I accomplish such a feat, you ask? Easy -- I made the world's simplest dinner: a pot of soup. Lettuce soup, actually, to use up some of our immense amounts of greenery. I modified a recipe I found on Epicurious, borrowing liberally from my grandfather's delicious (but highly fatted) lettuce soup recipe: Chop up a cup of onion, along with two cloves of garlic and some garlic scrapes. Saute in a drizzle of olive oil and some butter. Add three-quarters of a teaspoon of coriander (we had no preground coriander, so I had to mash some seeds with the mortar and pestle), salt and pepper, cook until soft. Add one potato, peeled and cubed, then 8 cups or so of lettuce and three or four cups of stock. Boil covered until the potatoes are soft, then puree all. Season with additional salt and Worchester sauce, then add a pat of butter and a splash of milk. Garnish, a la my grandfather, with sliced radishes.

We ate the soup with some cheeses (blue, goat and cheddar) and pate with bread. A lightish supper, but not bad. And it used three of our CSA ingredients! So that was a plus. Dessert, as per usual, was some of the strawberries with yogurt and granola. So far, I'm very happy with the quality of the strawberries (slightly tarter than I'm used to, but red all the way through instead of white and dead-looking) and the garlic scrapes. The lettuces are nice and varied (although to be honest, having them in a soup is perhaps not the ideal way to evaluate their natural flavor), but I am pertubed by the radishes. The radishes I remember from my childhood (my parents -- hi Mum and Dad! -- loved radishes: we grew them in the garden and they were in every single blessed salad I ate from 1983 to 1987) were crisp and almost juicy: these are gummy and squish a little when I cut them. They have a great peppery bite, but I find their texture to be suspect.

Tomorrow will be a true test, since Nate will be home even later and I will be left to my own devices. We have escarole, bok choy, some greens, some of the aforementioned gummy radishes and the basil plant left to be used, plus a garlic scrape and a half. (The kale is already earmarked for Friday's dinner.) Hmmm. We have some eggs -- bok choy, escarole and radish scramble?

I might need to give this some more thought.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The Sharing Begins

As the years have worn on, Nate and I have discovered two things: one, that we are that most pernicious of neo-hippie yuppy, the ones whose thirst for organic and locally-grown produce cannot be slaked, and two, that in our little plot of land in Washington Heights, we will never be the kind of earth-tillers and gardeners we might aspire to be. (Not even windowbox gardeners, sadly -- our apartment is lovely in many ways but "sunny" is never a word the realators would use for the space.) This being the case, we enrolled this spring to be members of our local community-supported agriculture program, or CSA if you're hip. Which we are.

In essense, we forked over a fairly large sum of money (but a reasonable one in the extreme when you prorate it) this March to a farmer in Connecticut. In return, every Tuesday from now until mid-November, for a total of 22 weeks, said farmer (working in cooperation with some farmer neighbours, I believe) agrees to supply us with a share of that week's bounty. We don't get any say in what we get -- although we have been promised that during some weeks, we can select between various like things, such as greens or root vegetables -- or how much, but they've promised us a wide variety from their 15 organic acres and quantities sufficient for "a family of two adults and two children or two enthusiastic vegetable eaters." (Only time will tell if we are sufficiently enthusiastic: I have nightmares of overflowing bags of corn and peppers come late July, but there are worse things, truly.)

I, of course, have been itching for the share to start. This weekend, I pulled a half-dozen of my archived Bon Appetits, Gourmets and Cooking Lights for recipe inspirations, and made a rudimentary spreadsheet of the selected recipes so we wouldn't be caught at a loss no matter what the share threw at us. Today, Nate picked up our inaugural delivery -- and I must say, I think my recipe surfing will not profit us this time. But, here's the spread:

1) One head of bok choy
2) One quart of strawberries
3) One head of escarole
4) Four garlic scrapes
5) One bunch of 10 radishes
6) 3/4 lb of kale
7) 3/4 lb mixed greens
8) One basil plant

Not a bad haul, although the woman running the distribution site today assured Nate that this would be the smallest of the lots by far.

Dinner tonight made use of a few of today's ingredients:
Salad of mixed greens, sliced radishes, avocado, cherry tomatoes and chopped scrapes with olive oil and lemon juice; spinach and four-cheese ravioli sauteed in olive oil, butter and garlic scrapes.

And for dessert, Nate chopped some strawberries and served them over mini spongecakes with vanilla yogurt and ground up flax seed. (The flax seed does not add a tremendous amount of deliciousness, but it does add fiber, which both Nate and I have been instructed to get my our respective doctors. So on it goes.)

So far, so good: I'm a big fan! And Nate -- who, let's be serious, is going to bear the brunt of the labour of this project -- is enthusiastic so far. In fact, he is documenting this experiment himself via pictures (I have stolen the ones in this post from him) at his flickr stream:

More tomorrow!