Posts Tagged ‘chicory’

First CSA Drop-Off

June 2, 2010

Our first CSA drop-off of the year was yesterday (a week earlier than normal), and it’s a bumper year for greens.  Our farmer tells prospective members to expect 5-7 items a week in a small share and 8-11 items a week in a large share.   We get a large share, and this week we got 16 items!  We’re feeling a bit inundated.

We got a small share for many years before upgrading to a large share 3 years ago.  What made us change was the combination of learning how to freeze vegetables for winter use, and really wanting our local eating to be year-round.  That was when I started this blog, to track how it went and share what we’d learned.  I explained more in my first post.

Over the 7 years we’ve belonged to a CSA, we’ve learned how to prepare various obscure vegetables.  We’ve found some new favorites, and found that favorites change depending on the year (growing conditions?) and the preparations we use.  We’ve learned how to freeze vegetables (detailed in an earlier post), what freezes well (or what cooks well after being frozen), and how to predict how much of our bounty we should freeze (because we won’t get around to eating it fresh).

Which takes me to this week.  There’s no way we can eat 16 bunches of greens in one week, at least not in any way that leaves us happy to repeat the process next week.  And why should we?  We very much enjoy our home-frozen greens when we eat them in January.

This week we got 2 bunches each of red leaf lettuce, bibb lettuce, and pea tendrils – none of which freeze.  I’ve heard good things about romaine lettuce in stir-fries, but not bibb or red leaf.  We’ll eat a lot of salad this week, but we’ll also revert to one of the best tricks for surplus: giving away at least 1 of our 5 heads of lettuce.  Pea tendril leaves can be enjoyed raw in salads, or get cooked into stir-fries or any dish that uses peas, because the flavors are so similar.  To do so, just pull the leaves off their vines.  The flavor is so nice and de-leafing so time-consuming that we usually eat them as finger food, grabbing a stem and munching leaves, flowers, and the edible parts of the stem, until all that’s left are un-chewable parts for compost.

We also got 2 bunches each of bok choy, mizuna, chicory, kale, and spinach.  If we didn’t have so much lettuce, we’d enjoy some of the spinach raw in salads.  Mizuna and chicory can go into raw salads, adding interest with their strong flavors – mizuna is spicy and chicory is bitter – but only in small amounts. 

Bok choy is generally a stir-fry green around here, but sometimes goes raw into cold peanut noodles.  My peanut noodle sauce involves throwing stuff into a blender until I’m happy with the texture and flavor:  peanut butter, sesame oil, soy sauce, rice vinegar, garlic, ginger paste, and chili oil.  That gets tossed with the noodles while they’re still hot, and sometimes sesame seeds also.  Sometimes I add the vegetables at the same time, so they get coated with sauce, but sometimes I add them later, so they don’t get wilty the hot noodles.  Scallions, carrots, bok choy, napa cabbage, and romaine lettuce are all good peanut noodle vegetables.

Bok choy does not freeze, and mizuna (also a stir-fry green around here) does not freeze well, so I predict a few stir-fries in our future this week.  They probably won’t go into stir-fries together, as they have affinities for different sauces. The bok choy will probably be joined by some of the turnips we still have in our refrigerator from last fall.  Both mizuna and bok choy/turnips will be stir-fried with tofu cooked firm, something I should have learned to do much sooner than I did.  The trick is to not use oil until after the tofu is browned!  Cut the tofu into large bite-sized pieces, and arrange them on the bottom of a large non-stick skillet.  Give them fairly high heat, and flip them over when the first side is browned.  After the second side is browned, add whatever oil, sauces, and seasonings you like, and of course vegetables.

Because we got so much this week, and so many things that just don’t freeze, we then have to freeze whatever we can.  This morning, I froze both bunches of kale and both bunches of chicory.  Having now been through two winters of home-frozen vegetables, I have a much better sense of what’s worth freezing.  Kale cooks almost as well from frozen as it does fresh.  Chicory loses some of its texture – particularly its nice, crunch stems – but retains enough flavor and texture to be worth freezing.  Now or next winter, you can cook it up with oil, garlic, lemon juice, and garbanzo or cannelini beans, to serve over couscous.

I have ambitious plans to turn the spinach into spanikopita filling, sort of a fritata, and freeze that (after baking).  I’ve been good about following my doctor’s recommendation to not eat feta during pregnancy, so I’m sure I’ll enjoy spanikopita all the more after the birth.

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CSA starts and Apple Bread

June 10, 2009

Our CSA began this week with greens, greens, greens, greens, and some more greens.  Specifically, we got two bunches each of red leaf lettuce, romaine lettuce, pea tendrils, spinach, chicory, and bok choy.  The bunches were so big that they wouldn’t all fit in our refrigerator without difficulty.

That gave us the push we needed to start right away saving for winter.  My husband washed, chopped, blanched, shocked, and froze one of the heads of chicory.  It will be good over pasta with cheese and mushrooms.  Between the time they were first cultivated and the time air conditioning was introduced, mushrooms were a winter crop.

We also cooked the spinach, both bunches, because it takes up so much less space that way. It ended up in a pasta sauce that is basically bechamel sauce with chopped spinach and parmesan cheese.  It made a lot of sauce.  When we have the leftovers, I think we’ll puree the sauce so that it spreads over the pasta better.   I hope that pureeing it doesn’t take away its fresh, green, spinach-y flavor.

We can almost defrost our chest freezer for the summer.  Everything but a few tubs of soup fits easily into the freezer attached to our refrigerator.  I could probably make it all fit, with some time and effort.  We’re reducing what’s in the freezer, still.  The night before our first CSA drop-off, we enjoyed a stir-fry of tofu with tatsoi and Asian eggplant, both from the freezer.  I am pleased to report that both froze satisfactorily.  The tatsoi stems became even tougher and harder to chew than when they’re fresh, and the eggplant was on the softer side but it did still have texture.  I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how well just about everything freezes.  Putting Food By seems to get it right, every time.

The apple bread I wrote about in my last post turned out pretty well, so here’s the recipe.  If you didn’t save a glut of apples this year, come back to this recipe in October when there are lots and they’re cheap.

Apple Quickbread or Muffins (vegan)

Most quantities are guesses.
2 1/2 cups flour, white or whole wheat (dark spices make it brown anyway)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cloves, nutmeg, ginger
2 tsp cinnamon
2 or 3 tsp salt
3 apples, diced small
1 cup water, or less
1 1/2 cup applesauce

Mix dry ingredients.
Mix apple pieces in to coat with flour mixture.
Add half of water and then applesauce, stirring to mix evenly. If dough is too dry, add the remaining water.
Oil and flour a 9×9 baking dish (or a dozen muffin tins).
Pour in batter.
Bake at 400 degrees for 50 minutes.

Week 12: August 10 – 17, Vacation

August 18, 2008

We spent last week on a lovely vacation in Lake Placid, in the Adirondacks.  I did my homework ahead of time, and found farmers market listings for New York State.

We brought a large cooler with us that contained, among other things, the corn salad and what was left of the Costa Rican slaw that I made in Week 11, along with chicory, lettuce, cucumbers, radishes, carrots, red cabbage, green bell pepper, potatoes, and two tiny yellow squash, all left over from the previous week (or even earlier). We ate some of the salads for lunch on the Lake Champlain ferry.

Our first night in Lake Placid, my mother-in-law made the chicory, mushroom, and roasted pepper pasta dish from Greens, Glorious Greens and it was colorful and delicious. (Yes, we brought the cook book with us. If you’re looking for it, look under escarole, not chicory.) While she cooked that, I made a colorful if odd salad of lettuce, radishes, yellow squash, green pepper, the largest cucumber, and some knife-shredded red cabbage leaves. It was a lot of food, even for four adults.

We went to the Keene Farmers Market on Sunday.   The highlight was a local dog-and-owner square dance troupe.    The dog and its owner were a couple, and the dogs had to be very, very good at accepting “stay” commands from each of the owners in the square, while lots of other interesting activity was going on, both human and canine. 

We were at the market with my in-laws, who were with us for the entire weekend.  Between all of us, we bought a dozen ears of corn, two zuchini and two yellow squash large enough to make burger-size slices to grill without falling through the slats, one incredible tomato, one bunch of beautiful rainbow chard, two pints of raspberries, a quart of mixed plums and Saturn peaches, and a dozen free-range eggs.

Everything about a free-range egg is sturdier than in a conventional store-bought egg – the shell is harder, the yolk is brighter and stands taller in the pan, even the whites are better, although I can’t describe how.  It was $3 for the dozen and worth every penny!

We hadn’t intended to buy peaches, because we get those around home (Boston area) often enough. Plums were more interesting, and we couldn’t decide between the two varieties being sold. When we asked for a mixed quart, the farmer looked around for an empty quart container to fill for us. Not finding one, he picked up one that already had peaches in it. Instead of completely emptying it out before putting in plums, he left some peaches explaining that they’re very sought-after, costing half again as much closer to New York City. (He lives much closer to New York City than to Lake Placid, but comes up to the Adirondacks to fish, and pays for gas by selling at the farmers market.) They’re strange looking fruit, because the flesh makes a doughnut around the pit, with dimples on the top and bottom where the pit is shorter than the fruit. They were, in fact, tasty, but we liked the plums better.

We grilled the squash and zucchini, and ate leftovers all week. Leftover corn we cut off the cob and diluted the overly spicy corn salad that I’d made the week before. Leftover wine and mushrooms inspired a yummy chard side dish: we cooked the mushrooms in some olive oil until they started to release juices, then added minced garlic, then red wine. It all cooked together for a bit while the rest of supper heated. When everything else was nearly ready, coarsely chopped chard went in, and was pushed around until it all wilted. The mushrooms were purple from simmering in wine so long, but the colors of the chard stems still showed through.

We visited the Cornell Maple Research Station where we learned about the many ways they’ve found to increase yield and reduce energy needed. We bought a half gallon of dark (grade B) maple syrup while we were there.

We had picked 8 blackberries before going away. When we got home again, we harvested a relatively-whopping 19 blackberries. More had ripened and then gone past during the week, so we left those for the birds.

Week 11: August 3 – 9 (Part II)

August 8, 2008

Following up to my previous post, I looked in Joy of Cooking for chicory and found nearly nothing – a brief description that says its sharp flavor is good used sparingly in salads. I looked in Greens, Glorious Greens and found a bit more.  Again, it said chicory is somewhat bitter and a little of it is good in salads.  In addition, escarole is the shoot of chicory, and they can be cooked the same way.  There was an escarole and pasta recipe, involving roasted red peppers and mushrooms, and maybe Parmesan cheese (there should be cheese, even if it’s not in the recipe) that looks good enough to try with our chicory.  Since the chicory will be cooked, it doesn’t have to be used so soon, because it doesn’t need to still be crisp when eaten. 

As planned, I added radish greens to black beans and rice.  The greens were voluminous, filling my salad spinner.  The beans were in my smallest pot, only 1.5 quarts.  I chopped the greens and added a handful to the beans simmering in seasoned liquid.  By the time I had a second handful ready to add, the first greens had shunk to nothing and there was room.  It worked that way handful after handful.  I only once had to stir the greens in to make them wilt faster.  I put the rice in a serving bowl, then poured the beans and greens over them, and stirred it all together before serving. 

This week’s corn was not showy.  Many of the ears were stunted – full bottom halves, dwindling off to tiny, immature kernels near tips that didn’t come close to the tops of their husks.  There was one ear in which I found two tip worms, one a healthy, live green, the other dead and brown.  I simply cut off the top couple of inches, because the bottom half of that ear was still good.  Another ear had some sort of larvae it, and I threw it right into compost without even looking to see if any was salvageable.  There were only two good, full ears among the eight we got this week. 

I made a corn, bean, and bell pepper salad based on a corn salad in Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home.  All that corn yielded 3 cups of kernels (cut off the cob before cooking).  Apparently, one healthy ear yields 1/2 cup of kernels.  The corn gets cooked in a covered skilled with some water, oil, cumin, and cayenne.  Salt and lemon juice, and cilantro if you have any, come later.  I used a mixture of black and kidney beans, thinking the kidney beans would add a nice color, but they came out nearly black after soaking and simmering with the black beans.  The beans also never softened up as much as I wanted them to.  For salads, I guess I need to use canned beans.  My husband bought three large green bell peppers at the mid-week farmers market (there weren’t any red ones available).  I diced two of them, yielding about 3 cups, same as the corn.  The third will go into salad, with lettuce, cucumber, and radish, because that’s what we have around.

Week 11: August 3 – 9

August 6, 2008

Yesterday my husband picked the beginning of our blackberry crop:  four delicious berries.  There are a lot more on the bushes, still not ripe.  I’m amazed at how productive our three blackberry bushes are, given that we only put them in last year (so this is their second summer).  We never got any more blueberries beyond the eight in week 7, and we never got raspberries at all.  There had been just a couple berries on the bushes (only two raspberry bushes survived of the three that we planted), but then we had what seemed like a week of heavy rains, and by the end of the week there were no raspberries to be seen.

I went to the grocery store yesterday to buy lemon juice, so I could make the Costa Rican slaw of cabbage and cilantro that I described in my previous post.  Today I made the slaw.  I used a whole head of green cabbage, cored and knife-shredded.  I mixed in about 1 1/2 tablespoons of salt, which wilts the cabbage some as it macerates (letting me fit more cabbage into a bowl that wasn’t really big enough), along with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 4 tablespoons of lemon juice.  When the cabbage had softened enough, I mixed in the entire bunch of cilantro, chopped up, even the stems.  It will be our salad tonight, rounding out a meal of black beans and rice. 

This week from our CSA we got one head of lettuce, one head of chicory, one bunch of red Russian kale, one bunch of orange carrots, one bunch of mizuna, one bunch of radishes with lovely greens, one pound of pickling cucumbers (six), two pounds of green beans, four pounds of potatoes, and eight ears of corn

That list includes an awful lot of greens, which are the hardest to store for any length of time:  lettuce, chicory, kale, mizuna, and radish greens.  Kale is the only one of them that will freeze decently.  Radish greens are the first greens on that list to get yellow.  I’ll chop them coarsely and mix them into our black beans tonight, just before serving, so they have time to wilt but not to over-cook.  Mizuna is first on that list to go slimy, so tomorrow night’s dinner should be built around them.  It will probably a mizuna and tofu stir-fry, seasoned with ginger, rice vinegar, soy sauce, garlic, and maybe wasabi.  Lettuce and maybe chicory will make nice green salads over the weekend, when temperatures are higher again. 

This is the first time we’e gotten chicory.  It’s a strongly-flavored salad green, but I don’t know what else can be done with it (if anything) and I’m a little scared of it.  I’ll see what Greens, Glorious Greens and Joy of Cooking have to say about it. 

It was cold and rainy today, so it was good weather to blanch vegetables for freezing.  I froze the kale and all of the green beans.  (See freezing instructions in week 4.)  I had to do the green beans in two batches and the kale in three, just because it’s so fluffy.  With the green beans, I tried for the first time freezing them on a tray and then putting them into a tub to keep them from freezing into a solid block.  It seems to have worked.  The tray I used was a cookie-sheet-with-sides (technically a jelly roll pan), covered with a sheet of wax paper.  The beans weren’t completely frozen when I moved them into quart-size yogurt tubs, and I went back and shook the tub a couple of times later to keep the beans separate.  I won’t really know how it worked until winter, when I cook the frozen green beans.  One pound of cut green beans fit in each tub. 

To make space for the added veggies, I did some organizing in my freezer.  I generally try to keep the oldest items in front, or on top of a pile, so we remember to use them first.  While I was organizing, I took an inventory to see how well we’re doing at getting ready for winter.  I was disappointed.  I know, though, that we’re only about halfway through the harvest season and a lot of what’s still to come are foods that will store well.  We still have a quart tub of tomato sauce and a quart tub of vegetable stock from last fall.  From this year we have frozen a pound of beets, a pound and a half of carrots, a bunch of broccoli (roughly a pound, filled one quart tub), four pounds of green beans (including one pound of Kentucky Wonder beans), four bunches of kale, one bunch of mizuna, and three small zucchini (probably a bit more than half a pound).  We also have two pints of sugared strawberries for making ice cream, and two cups of raspberry conserve.