Posts Tagged ‘basil’

Traveling and Coming Home

September 10, 2009

I think I’ve been away more than usual this summer.  I like traveling, and I was away doing things that I enjoyed or at least valued.  The food from a week at a camp and a week at a conference center, however, left me feeling lousy.  Dairy and eggs left this vegetarian craving beans.  Processed starches left me wanting whole grains.  And I acutely missed the abundance of fresh, local, delicious vegetables and fruits that I would have had at home.

At the end of the summer, I had the opposite travel experience.  We visited friends in Seattle and enjoyed plums and blackberries that grow on their property.  Then we went to a farmers market that was about 5 times the size of the larger of my local markets.  The variety of produce, cheeses, baked goods, and meat was overwhelming, in a good way.  The prices of fruits were much lower than what I’m used to paying.  I’ll admit a bit of climate envy.

At home, food this week has been about combinations.  A ratatouille included tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, green pepper, and fresh garlic along with garbanzos, dried oregano, salt, and of course lots of  olive oil.  It would have included fresh basil, too,  if we’d had energy to pick some from out back.

A stir-fry included green beans, broccoli, turnips, turnip greens, radishes, radish greens, and some cilantro.  As has become usual, we firmed up the tofu by heating it without oil in a single layer on a nonstick skillet, flipping it when the first side browned.  To work with the cilantro’s sweetness, the sauce used a generous amount of jarred hoisin sauce along with rice vinegar, soy sauce, and sesame oil.

We brought back a salad we particularly enjoyed last fall:  arugula with cheddar and apples, with a balsamic vinaigrette.  We’ve started to get apples from our CSA, and the rainy summer means this should be a particularly good apple season.  Flashback: last year I posted a catalogue of apples.  So far, we’ve gotten Ginger Gold.

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Week 21: October 14 – 20

October 23, 2008

It was a busy week, food and otherwise.  Our CSA is winding down for the year, and our haul for the week was decidedly autumnal.  We got one bunch of leeks, four sugar pumpkins, six pounds of potatoes,  and 36 McIntosh apples (about 12 pounds).  Given that the leeks were the only green item, I was very glad that we had bought greens at the weekend farmers market.

The four pumpkins would have brought our tally to 7, but the one from week 20 rotted and had to get composted.  What does one do with so much pumpkin?  These average 3 cups of mashed flesh, which is 3 times as much, in any one pumpkin, as a typical pumpkin-anything recipe calls for.  Even a pumpkin pie uses only 2 cups, and blends it with all sorts of bad-for-you stuff like condensed (or is it evaporated?) milk and eggs and sugar.

We increased our daily apple intake from one to two.  We’re drying apples (6 in a typical dehydrator batch).  We made an apple crisp with 6 Cortland apples.   Apples are pushing other foods aside in our refrigerator.  We’ve made the occasional snack or dessert of apple slices fried in local butter.  Yum!  We really need to make applesauce with them–10 pounds of apples fit in our stock pot–but we haven’t yet figured out where we’d put a chest freezer, so we haven’t bought one yet.  Our freezer is pleasantly full of vegetables from the summer, but, well, it’s full

We started to take things out of the freezer.  We used a 2-cup block of frozen tomatoes (stewed in their own juice) to make curried chickpeas and collard greens, more or less following the Joy of Cooking recipe.  We had bought the collard greens at the weekend farmers market.

My husband went, as usual, to the mid-week farmers market, to get what our CSA didn’t provide.   He brought home 10 pears because they are fruit that is not apples.   He brought home a bunch of bok choy, a bunch of spinach, and a bunch of broccoli, because they were green. 

The bok choy and half of the broccoli went into a stir-fry with some of the mushrooms from last week, and the Jamaica Plain tofu.  (For any non-locals reading this, Jamaica Plain is a neighborhood of Boston.)  Chicken-of-the-woods mushrooms tend to be tough, so my husband cut them up and then simmered them while the rice boiled.  By the time he added them to the stir-fry they were quite tender and delicious.  We had expected to be able to save the mushroom broth for other cooking, but there was some sort of insect on the mushroom that we didn’t find before cooking, and insect broth just isn’t appealing to us.

We shared the joy of eating local at a couple of potlucks.  One of them we were guests at, and brought potato salad with dill and scallions.  It was a good way to use up scallions.  The potatoes and dill were from the weekend farmers market, bought in anticipation of the potluck.  The scallions were from our CSA in week 18.  A lot of ends and outer layers had to be discarded, but there was plenty left for the salad. 

The other potluck was one we hosted.  We invited guests to participate in the Eat Local Challenge by including at least one local ingredient in whatever they brought.  Some of them had fun with it:  one couple brought a squash soup made with butternut squash, apples, and onions from the Davis Square farmers market.  Another couple brought a salad of lettuce, spinach, and cherry tomatoes from the Copley Square farmers market, with basil from their own garden. 

As hosts, we wanted to make sure there was enough food.  We made an enchilada casserole and an apple crisp (using 6 Cortland apples, as mentioned above), and provided local apple cider and local wine.  The wine we found was a chardonnay from Westport Rivers winery in Westport, MA, about 60 miles away.  The enchilada casserole had a base layer of gorditas (thick tortillas) from the Cinco de Mayo tortilla factory in Chelsea, MA.  That was covered with a thick layer of mashed black beans mixed with spices and shredded Vermont cheddar cheese.  (The black beans were from dried, and we reserved some of the simmering liquid to mash them.)  That was covered with another layer of gordita tortillas.  Then a generous sprinkling of more cheddar cheese, and the whole thing was covered with a batch of tomatillo salsa.  The salsa was made with CSA tomatillos and cilantro, and scotch bonnet peppers we’d frozen from the farmers market last summer.  It’s very tasty and very easy to serve to a crowd, or to dish out servings at home over a few days.  We’ll definitely make it again!

I’ll leave you with this:  Hot milk sweetened and flavored with maple syrup is a real local treat.  Who needs hot chocolate, anyway?  (Well, me, but not this month.)

Week 8: July 13-20 (Part I)

July 15, 2008

Yesterday I found myself near a farmers market.  Even though I knew I’d have a fresh batch of CSA veggies today, I couldn’t resist.  I really did keep myself in check shopping, though.  I bought a giant (3 pounds, by my estimate) zucchini for a dollar, and four July Red apples.  Because I’ll no longer buy grocery store apples, early apples are exciting.  July Red, clearly, is an early variety.  The one I ate so far was very tart, and not as crunchy-crisp as I prefer.  No regrets, though, on the apples.  I was worried that I’d regret the zucchini, that we’d end up with more of it from our CSA.  So, in a sort of defenisve measure, we used it up right away.  We would have grilled it, but it was too much bother and too much charcoal.  We sliced the zucchini up, maybe half an inch thick, and cooked the slices in a single layer (multiple batches) on a skillet until both sides were a bit browned and the insides were soft.  We ate the slices on sub rolls with oil, vinegar, grated parmesan, and fresh basil.  Delicious! 

My fears were validated when we came home from our CSA pick-up tonight with six more zucchini.  At least these are a normal size.  We were only allocated four zucchini, but we got another two in trade for a bunch of spring onions.  We also got one bunch of beets, two bunches of carrots, a head of green cabbage, four cucumbers, two pounds of green beans, and two pounds of potatoes

Both bunches of carrots are orange, but I think a different variety from what we’d gotten so far this year.  The new carrots are short and fat, like gnomes.

I think I’ll make a casserole with the zucchini, with layers of polenta, zucchini, cheddar cheese, and either salsa or crushed tomatoes seasoned with cumin and cayenne.

While picking up our veggies, we asked our farmer what to do with the fava beans.  I don’t recall his answer, because another person there picking up a share said he’d cooked his up in oil, garlic, and lemon juice, which sounded good to us.  A few leaves of the beet greens were starting to go already, so we made sure to use them in our meal, too.  I shelled all our fava beans (weeks 6 and 7) into a skillet, then added garlic and olive oil, and put it over high heat.  When the beans had softened a bit, I added the beet stems and salt.  When the beans were getting wrinkly and starting to pop out of their skins, I added the beet greens and lemon juice.  When the greens were wilted, I tossed the mixture with rotini.  The beet stems turned the rotini pink.  My husband picked through the remaining basil (week 5), and sliced the half of it that was still good into ribbons that went on top of the pasta-favas-greens mixture.  It was tasty and satisfying.  Now I know what to do with fava beans. 

The Napa cabbage (week 6) finally went into peanut noodles.  It was nice to have a cold supper on a couple of hot days.  Now that we have cucumbers, there’s something good (besides carrots) to put with the parsley in tabbouleh. 

With so much food this week, we ought to be preserving some of it, but the only thing that I think would blanch well are the green beans, and they’re so good fresh.

Week 5: June 22-28 (part II)

June 30, 2008

Disclaimer: This is about as boring a post as they get.

The turnips, turnip greens, and broccoli from this week’s CSA drop off became a stir-fry with tofu, garlic, ginger, and Korean barbecue sauce.   (See my tofu-with-texture directions in Week 3.)  There were enough veggies to make a full 4 adult-size servings. 

The mustard greens, as always, will become “curried chickpeas with mustard greens” from Joy of Cooking.

At the farmers market, we couldn’t resist 2 bunches of basil, which will become pesto.  We similarly couldn’t resist a pint of cherries, which became snack. 

I’m surprised we haven’t been overwhelmed with lettuce.  I keep not buying it at the farmers market because I expect to get lots from our CSA.  I guess the weather hasn’t been right.