Posts Tagged ‘broccoli’

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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Eat your Greens

July 12, 2009

If you’re used to getting your vegetables at the grocery store, then you’re used to getting only the most sought-after or unique parts.  Or that’s all that survives the journey from wherever-far-away to the produce isle.  When you get farm-direct vegetables, either from a CSA or at a farmers market, you get much more of the plant.  Including those unfamiliar parts.  Most often, those unfamiliar plants are the leaves or greens.

Which are edible?  And how do you eat them?

The short answer is you can (and should) eat greens sold with pretty much everything except carrots.

Okay, the longer answer:  Radish, kohlrabi, and broccoli leaves are not only edible but nutritious.  Beet and turnip greens are not only edible and nutritious, but sought-after.  While you’re selecting beets or turnips for the best roots, the person shopping next to you may be selecting for the greens, with the roots as an afterthought.  Fennel fronds get used as an herb, although the stems are completely discarded (possibly after being used to flavor broth).

I’m told that radish greens can be added to the same salad as the radishes themselves, as a flavorful lettuce.  Their texture seems wrong for that, so I’ve never done so.  I simply toss the radish, kohlrabi, or broccoli leaves in with any other greens I’m cooking.  Radish greens are very much like turnip greens, while kohlrabi greens and broccoli greens are very much like kale.  Discard stems that are too tough.

Many vegetables just aren’t sold with their leaves.  Rhubarb leaves are poisonous, so the leaves are cut off before they’re sold.  Corn, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, squash, and the like are picked off of plants and won’t come with leaves.  Turning over the earth to dig potatoes seems to separate them from their leaves.

Weeks 50-51: May 6 – 19

May 19, 2009

The first local farmers market (Copley Square, Boston) opened today for the season.  I wasn’t there.  I’ll wait another two weeks until farmers markets open that are close enough to walk to, followed about a week later by our first CSA drop-off.

I remember last year at this time that I eagerly anticipated a bounty at the farmers market.  I know better.  Harvest season starts slowly.  So, while I feel entitled to stop hoarding and eat whatever vegetables are still in our freezer, I know that we’ll need some of them for a few weeks longer.

Frozen mustard greens and frozen diced-and-stewed tomatoes joined chickpeas, lots of curry powder, a bit each of cumin, coriander, cayenne, ginger, and of course salt, in a curried mustard greens recipe based on one in Joy of Cooking.  The tomatoes can be thawed, microwaved, or simply cooked with the spices and chickpeas before the greens are added.  The mustard greens are finnicky, in that they need to thaw before cooking.  I left mine (in thin layers in ziplock bags) thaw at room temperature for a couple of hours, then cooked with them as if they were fresh.  It worked, and they didn’t overcook.  I don’t think I could tell the difference between cooking with frozen verus fresh, although it’s been many months since I’ve had the opportunity to taste it with truly fresh mustard greens.

Some frozen green beans went with a pasta and sauce meal.  Some were a bit mushy, most were sort of generic frozen green beans, but a few still had crunch!

Frozen broccoli and frozen pepper strips joined tofu in a stir-fry.  The peppers held up well, the broccoli not so well.  That might mean that the broccoli was already a bit old when we got around to freezing it.

Apple sauce came out of the freezer to go into lunch bags.  Tomatillo sauce came out of the freezer to go on top of tortillas with black beans and cheese.

In a demi-miracle of proper handling, we still had two happy, healthy butternut squash.  One of them joined cannelini beans and sage to make a topping for pasta.  Sage, a perennial, is up in our yard, but we didn’t notice until after cooking with stuff out of a spice jar.  It was a missed opportunity, but we’ll have others.

The end, I mean the beginning, is in sight!

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 14: August 25 – 31

August 30, 2008

The summer seems to have flown by.  It’s hard for me to believe that it’s been 14 weeks since I’ve turned to a grocery store to get my produce.  Next week, I’ll be back to school.  Because I teach, I have extra time in the summer to prep and freeze food.  The academic calendar, that now seems to anachronistic and obsolete for being based on an agricultural schedule, has been ideal for my local food endeavor.  (For a bit more on the connection between school and agriculture, see this 2006 article about a school break for potato harvesting in northern Maine.   (There is also a link from my articles in the Boston Globe page.)

I’ve been making so much tabbouleh that I ran out of bulgur.  Whole Foods sells organic bulgur in their bulk section, so I can buy lots of it relatively cheaply in a paper bag.  It’s become sort of a game to see how few plastic bags I can acquire.  The one I went to didn’t have any organic bulgur in their bulk section, so I didn’t get any.  But they were having a special event with lots of their local suppliers giving out tastes.  One of the supplers was Highlawn Farm, and all-Jersey dairy in Lee, Massachusetts (in the Berkshires, between Springfield and Albany).  They’re better than organic in most ways, but certification is too expensive.  One of their products is heavy cream.  Good cream means good ice cream, so I bought a pint.  Remember the strawberries we sugared for ice cream and froze back in week 5? My husband used one of those pints to make strawberry ice cream in our electric ice cream maker. Between the extra-good cream and the extra-good strawberries, it was by far the best strawberry ice cream I have ever tasted.

This week our CSA share consisted of two pints of cherry tomatoes (we took one red, one yellow), three pounds of tomatoes,three small eggplants, three green bell peppers, one pound of broccoli, one scant bag of mixed baby lettuce leaves, ten ears of corn, one bunch of beets, one bunch of onions (which we gave away to friends) and one bunch of tatsoi.

Some of the vegetables were already getting soft in the wrong ways, so I made a batch of gazpacho.  Into the blender went most of a bell pepper (the yucky soft part, and half an inch around it, went into compost), cut into chunks.  It was followed by about 3 inches of Armenian cucumber, skin and seeds included, quartered and thickly sliced.  Friends gave us half an Armenian cucumber from their garden, and it’s so big that the half spanned the full width of a refrigerator crisper drawer, and the amount I put into gazpacho was about the same as one whole normal cucumber.  I added a generous spoonful of minced garlic (we buy it jarred, it’s our one vegetable laziness), a generous splash of white vinegar, a few drops of Tabasco, some dried basil and oregano, and some salt.  When I blended it, it was a lovely pale green with darker green flecks, and had a lovely spicy flavor.  It would have been fine simply as green gazpacho.  But I had tomatoes that needed to be used, so the two softest tomatoes went in, and the gazpacho turned sort of coral-colored, which is not very appetizing.  Luckily it tasted delicious.  Two tomatoes, one bell pepper, and one normal-cucumber-equivalent yielded four bowls of the cold soup.  For a fancier presentation, reserve some of the cucumber and bell pepper, dice them, and sprinkle some atop the pureed soup in each bowl.

We brought four ears of corn with us to dinner at a friend’s home, and she did somethind delicious with them.  First she had us husk them enough to see how the corn was and remove any damaged tips.  Then she pulled back the husks and put butter, salt, and herbs directly onto the corn, then pulled the husks back over.  She then roasted the ears in her oven for about 25 minutes.  It was so much tastier than our usual boil-and-butter!  We nibbled cherry tomatoes while waiting for dinner to be ready. 

The other six ears of corn went with me on a visit to my grandmother, along with two tomatoes and a salad made of all the lettuce, two very large radishes (sliced thinly into pretty circles), one bell pepper, and all the remaining cherry tomatoes.  All of it was very, very well received.

Two of the tomatoes (slighly less, one had a bad spot that got composted instead) and two of the eggplants went into chana masala, an Indian chickpea dish.  It doesn’t usually have eggplant, but it should.  Lazily, I use MDH boxed spice mix to season it. 

The broccoli and tatsoi are bound for a stir-fry with tofu, maybe with the third eggplant.   The beet greens will be a side dish by themselves.  The beets themselves will wait, the way root vegetables do.

I sent my husband to buy fruit at the midweek farmers market, and he came home with six peaches, six Ginger Gold apples, and four Gravenstein apples.  Ginger Gold is a relatively recent hybrid (1989), with respectable Winesap lineage on one side of the cross and a random sapling from Virginia on the other.  I’ll need to remember next year that Ginger Gold apples are lovely for eating out-of-hand, delightfully crisp and slightly tart.  Gravenstein apples, on the other hand, are an heirloom variety with a flavor that reminds me of apple pie, and a texture that suggests they should be cooked.  I plan to make maple syrup baked apples with the remaining Gravensteins, but I’m not sure what to stuff the core with (well, the space where the core is removed before baking) because I have neither raisins nor walnuts on hand.

Happy Labor Day!

Week 7: July 6-12 (Part I)

July 9, 2008

This week from our CSA:  one bunch each of beets, red Russian kale, spring onions, mizuna, and broccoli; 3 bunches of carrots (2 yellow, 1 orange), 2 kohlrabi, 2 pounds of yellow summer squash, and 1 pound of fava beans

The kale and broccoli are the only things that will freeze well, but we already ate the broccoli (and yes, it was delicious, sauteed up in olive oil with garlic). 

The carrots and beet roots will keep perfectly well for a long time in the refrigerator. 

I’ve never had kohlrabi before, but at least Joy of Cooking has an informative entry.  It looks like it will keep for a short while (longer than a week), as will the summer squash.  I wonder if there’s a good way to cook them together?  Squash is lovely grilled. 

The mizuna and beet greens will only last a few days, so I’m worried about using them up in time.  Normally, we eat at home 6 nights a week, but summer messes with our schedules and we need to make an active effort to eat perishables before they turn.

I still have no idea what to do with the favas.    (See week 6.)

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.

Week 5: June 22-28 (part I)

June 25, 2008

When we decided to get all our veggies farm-direct this year, we changed from a small share to a large share from our CSA. That means we’ll get twice as many vegetables as usual from June through October. If we were getting just the right amount for 5 months, then we should now be getting just the right amount for 10 months. We’ll supplement from the farmers markets whenever we see good prices on foods that we like that also freeze well.  On our to-do list:  buy a chest freezer, probably used and cheap from Craigslist.

This week what we got from the CSA were: parsley, broccoli, turnips (with greens, of course), chioggia beets (with greens, of course), mustard greens, two bunches of kale, two bunches of small carrots (whose greens are inedible – a rarity), and two pints of strawberries.

The farmers market strawberries we got a few days ago were uniformly small, unblemished, and bruise-free. They were incredibly sweet and flavorful when we ate about 2/3 of them right away, around lunch time. We decided to save the other 1/3 to eat after supper. By the time those few hours had passed, the berries had lost a lot of their flavor. Our CSA farmer doesn’t grow any fruit at all, but he sometimes trades with other farmers in his area to get fruit for us. This is the first time we’ve ever gotten strawberries from him. Some of the berries were beautiful, but my husband was out for the evening and it didn’t seem fair to eat them myself, so they had to be saved. Many of the berries were overgrown, or blemished, or bruised. Generally they seemed better for making into something than eating straight. Putting Food By says strawberries freeze better sliced and with sugar than whole or without sugar. What would we do with the strawberries later? Ice cream! The recipe book that came with our ice cream maker has a strawberry ice cream recipe that calls for the berries to be sliced, macerated with sugar and lemon juice, and allowed to sit at least two hours. Perfect! So we prepped the strawberries, and then put each pint into the freezer, to become ice cream sometime later this summer.

Parsley, of course suggested tabbouleh.  I’ve learned that tabbouleh can change with the seasons depending on what vegetables are available.  Usually I use dried (store-bought) parsley and mint.  Having fresh herbs is a treat.  This week, tabbouleh involves parsley, carrots (finely chopped), and chickpeas.  Radishes would have made a nice addition, but we didn’t have any.

For a long time, kale was relegated to the short list of vegetables-I-don’t-like, along with brussels sprouts.  It’s so good for you, though, and we kept getting it from the CSA, so when I couldn’t give it away, I kept trying recipes.  I finally found a way I like kale (and my husband does, too).  It’s a soup, so more of a winter food than a summer food. We froze both bunches to use next winter, following the blanching steps in my previous post. Kale stems are tough, so the leaves have to come off. It sounds awfully laborious, but turns out to have a trick: gently pinch or wrap your fingers around the stem, just below the bottom leaves. Pull away from you. If you get the pressure right, your fingers will push the leaves up off of the stem, sort of un-zipping. Quick, easy, and bizarrely fun!

Here’s the kale soup recipe I created:

  • 1/2 lb dry lentils (French green are best)
  • 1 large bunch kale, stemmed and coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1 – 2 tsp garam masala (Indian spice mix)
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic (I buy it jarred, no idea how many cloves)
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 5-10 grinds fresh black pepper
  • 6 cups water
  • In a 4-quart saucepan combine the lentils, garlic, garam masala, and water. Simmer until the lentils start to break down. Add the lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Taste to adjust seasonings. Add the kale and simmer until it is wilted.

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.