Posts Tagged ‘blanching’

Week 13: August 18 – 24

August 20, 2008

Our CSA share this week consisted of a bunch of mustard greens, a bunch of parsley, four Asian eggplants, two regular eggplants, four peppers, a pint of yellow cherry tomatoes, two pounds regular red tomatoes (six tomatoes), twelve ears of corn (but gave away three), one pound of shell beans (might be cranberry limas) and four Zestar apples.

Zestar apples are tart and weirdly crunchy without being crisp.  I like them very fresh, but I think they would quickly develop an unpleasant texture if stored.  It’s a treat to get fruit from our CSA at all, though.  When we have it, it’s because our vegetables-only farmer has traded produce with a fruit farmer neighbor.

The tomatoes were in mediocre condition.  I had to toss one entirely.  Another I had to cut off a quarter of it, but then the rest of it was very good.  Rotten tomato smells awful, but it’s easy to know quickly if tomato needs to be tossed right into compost (or garbage disposal, or trash, depending on where you are).  To keep the yuck from spreading, I dealt with the tomatoes right away.  After cutting out the bad parts, I cut up the good parts into chunks and put them into a saucepan.  I stewed them for 10 or 15 minutes (I wasn’t keeping track), then froze the chunks-in-juice.  What was effectively 4 to 4 1/2 tomatoes yielded about 3 cups. 

Today was cool enough, and the volume of veggies in our refrigerator was overwhelming enough, that I did a whole lot of freezing today. 

  • Peppers are the one vegetable that gets frozen without blanching!  All four went into the freezer, some diced, some in strips. 
  • Mustard greens got the usual blanch-shock-freeze treatment. 
  • Eggplant gets steamed rather than boiled to blanch, and then their shocking water gets lemon juice added, according to Putting Food By.  I cubed the two conventional eggplants, and made stir-fry slices of the four Asian eggplants. 
  • We boiled all nine ears of corn (4 minutes to prep for freezing).  Four of them we ate.  I cut the kernels off of the remaining five and froze them. 

For our lunches today, I used up some leftover vegetables.  I cut the kernels off the three (boiled) ears of corn left over from last week (when we were away), diced up the one remaining pepper from last week (which was looking decidedly sad), tossed in a can of black-eyed peas, seasoned with honey, cider vinegar, and Tabasco sauce, and microwaved it for a couple minutes. 

There were still leftover vegetables to be used up at supper.  I steamed the remaining Kentucky Wonder green beans.  I sauteed up the shell beans in olive oil with garlic, basil, cumin, cayenne, and salt, adding the radish greens at the very end.  We also ate some of the corn from this week, while it was still deliciously sweet, crisp, and tasting just like summer. 

I went to the farmers market today intending to buy fruit for the week, since four apples last us two days if we ration ourselves.  I found plums – not the red plums with red flesh we’d liked so much in Lake Placid, but purple plums with green flesh, labeled as “prune plums.”  I bought a pound of them, which was thirteen.  I also bought a pound and a quarter of tomatillos, a hot pepper, and a bunch of cilantro to make salsa.  Most of the yellow cherry tomatoes will go into the salsa, too, because they’re not very flavorful (probably because of the rain – dryness pushed tomatoes to make sugars), and they’ll keep it a nice green-yellow salsa.

Week 8: July 13-20 (Part II)

July 20, 2008

This was a 3-farmers-market week.  In addition to buying apples and zucchini early in the week, I bought dill (intended for potato salad) at the mid-week market and tomatoes and lettuce at the end-of-week market.  The lettuce is just for salads, because it’s so hot and we have so many good things to put on top of lettuce in salad.  The tomatoes were for a family reunion picnic, and were sliced and put on sandwiches. 

The family picnic took care of some of our vegetable glut.  We made cole slaw, using the shredder attachment for our stand mixer.  We used the slicing blade for the cabbage and the shredding blade for the carrots, mostly orange and some yellow for color.  Because of the heat, I didn’t use the normal mayonnaise-laden dressing.  Instead, I made an Asian dressing of rice vinegar, canola oil (sesame oil gives too heavy a flavor), tamari soy sauce, grated ginger (I buy it jarred), and lots of sesame seeds (cheapest at an Indian grocery).

Also for the picnic, we made a big batch of tabbouleh (using 3 cups of bulghur wheat), and put in the entire bunch of parsley, three cucumbers, three orange carrots, and three yellow carrots.  The carrots are on the small side, the kind you buy at the farmers market not the kind you buy at the grocery store. 

We finally did some freezing.  It’s been very hot, so standing over boiling water to blanch vegetables is thoroughly unappealing.  We boiled about two pounds of beetroots.  The larger ones are good for grilling.  The smaller ones are good for freezing.  It works out very nicely.  We boiled the beets for half an hour, but probably should have given them only 25 minutes.  After boiling, many of the skins came off easily, but if they didn’t come off I didn’t worry about it.  Skinning beets involves pushing at the skin, trying to slide it sideways over the inside part.  We sliced a few of the beets for putting on salads (cold).  The rest we cut into wedges and froze. 

We also froze some zucchini and green beansPutting Food By says that only small zucchini freeze well.  Of our six zucchini, I judged that three were small enough to freeze.  We cut them into thick slices, blanched them for three minutes, shocked them for three minutes, and put them in our freezer.  The green beans were also three minutes to blanch and three minutes to shock.  I cut them to lengths somewhere between one and two inches.  Unfortunately, sitting on the top shelf of our refrigerator for nearly a week caused many of the beans to freeze and become weirdly translucent and have to go straight to compost. 

In other food news, we tried kohlrabi finally.  I knife-peeled one of them, and cut it into sticks maybe half an inch on a side.  It’s delightfully crunchy.  It reminds me of the inside of broccoli stems, which isn’t surprising, because kohlrabi is also a stem. 

Finally, the inventory:  The non-roots still to be used are one bunch of dill, one bunch of lettuce, three large zucchini, one cucumber, and one kohlrabi.  The roots still to be used are lots of carrots, some beets (mostly chioggia), and two pounds of potatoes.  The fruits still to be used are most of two pints of black raspberries.

I forgot to mention the raspberries.  We went berry picking today with friends, and brought back two pints of purple raspberries and two pints of black raspberries.  Well, that’s how many there were before we started the car ride home.  There were fewer when we arrived.  The purple raspberries I tried to turn into conserve.  I hope the boiled berry-sugar soup will firm up.  After a night in the refrigerator it will move into the freezer, in one-cup containers, to be moved to the refrigerator as needed during the year.

Week 4: June 14-21

June 22, 2008

Our CSA finally feels like it’s in full swing.  This week we received broccoli, mizuna, red leaf lettuce, bok choy, arugula, sugar snap peas, and radishes.   

We finally started to save for winter.  One bunch of broccoli and one bunch of mizuna went into the freezer.  Both vegetables require the same steps. 

  • First you clean them very well.  For broccoli, there’s enough risk of insects that it’s recommended that the broccoli soak for half an hour in well-salted water, which should kill any insects and make them float to the surface.  I was glad not to find any floating bugs after saline-soaking my broccoli. 
  • Next, the vegetables get trimmed.  Of course the ends come off.  The broccoli stems needed peeling because the skin was so tough.  Mizuna leaves that were already decaying got tossed into compost.  The idea is pretty simple:  if you want to preserve food, remove any with over-active food-decaying enzymes. 
  • Cut the vegetables up.  Pieces should be evenly sized for even cooking.  How big you cut them depends on the recipes you plan to use them in later.  It’s all about planning ahead. 
  • Blanch the vegetables.  This involves submerging them in boiling water for anywhere from 1 to 5 minutes depending on the thickness of the vegetables.  My mizuna got 1 minute.  My broccoli (florets and sliced-and-quartered stems) got 3 minutes, which might have been more than it needed.  (Putting Food By and The Cook’s Companion both give times for different vegetables.)  The decay-causing enzymes in the very center have to get cooked and stop working.  I blanch vegetables using a deep-fry basket in a big saucepan.  The deep-fry basket has a handle.  Before I got it, I used a metal colander (again, lowered into a saucepan), and had to hold the colander with tongs.  It’s also possible to put the vegetables directly into the saucepan, and then use a colander to drain them when they’re done.  The drawback to that method is that you can’t then use the same hot water for multiple batches of vegetables.
  • As soon as the veggies are blanched, they get shocked: submerged in an ice-water bath to stop the cooking process.  I use another metal saucepan for the ice-water, since it can handle the temperature extremes and the rapid temperature change.  The ice bath is for the same length of time as the blanching. 
  • Shake off excess water.  Pack into storage containers.  We packed the broccoli in an old yogurt tub, and the mizuna in a ziplock bag, which we freeze flat to reduce clumping and make thawing and cooking easier. 

Freezing a couple bunches of vegetables still left us plenty to eat fresh. 

We at the sugar snap peas raw. 

The lettuce and arugula became a series of salads.  What remained of last week’s romaine went in, too.  Red leaf lettuce seems to go slimy fastest, of all the lettuce varieties.  Romaine lasts unusually long.  Baby lettuces go slimy faster than full-grown, possibly because they need to be kept bagged, while the full-grown ones have their own head structure to keep them together. 

I made spicy peanut-sesame noodles and mixed in one of the bunches of bok choy (raw).  Cold grain-based salads are some of my favorite lunches.  I learned the hard way that the bok choy should get mixed with the noodles before the dressing is poured on.  I make my own dressing, using the blender to mix peanut butter, sesame oil, rice vinegar, soy sauce, ginger, garlic, and chili oil.

I stir-fried mizuna and some of the broccoli (from the bunch that wasn’t blanched and frozen), along with tofu, in Japanese seasonings: soy sauce, rice vinegar, ginger, garlic, and wasabi.  It’s a combination I figured out myself the first year in the CSA, just from being told that mizuna (then totally unfamilar to me) is also called Japanese mustard greens. 

Another stir-fry was Chinese style, flavored with hoisin sauce, soy sauce, ginger, and garlic.  It involved the other bunch of bok choy, the rest of the broccoli, the radish greens, and some garlic scapes from the farmers market. 

My farmers market treat this week was a quart of fresh strawberries.  Massachusetts strawberries are smaller than grocery store ones, but red all the way through and oh so sweet and flavorful!  Of course, you get what you pay for.