Posts Tagged ‘cilantro’

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 18: September 23 – 29 (with a catalogue of apples)

September 25, 2008

In retrospect, it should have been a no-brainer that leaving black-eyed peas (still in their pods) in a plastic bag in the fridge would cause them to get slimy and moldy on the outside.  It took a week and a half before we had the right greens to use them with.  I had been hoping for collard greens but had to settle for turnip greens.  In the end, it worked out fine.  I washed the pods to get the mold off, and the black-eyed peas inside were almost all perfectly fine.  We boiled them for about 10 minutes in enough water to cover but not much more.  Then we seasoned them with cider vinegar, honey, salt, pepper, garlic powder, smoked paprika, cayenne, and rosemary.  The greens, all chopped up,  went in last, a bit at a time, because each pot-full had to wilt down and make space for the next pot-full.   Stems went in, too, and because they didn’t get over-cooked they had a delightful crunch.  We ate the beans and greens over brown rice for not just one delicious meal but two, because it ended up making four servings.  I think we started with about a pound of beans (before shelling), and one very large bunch of turnip greens. 

The turnip greens, with three small turnips attached, were in out CSA share this week, along with one bunch of carrots, one bunch of beets (with unimpressive and scant greens), two bunches of scallions, one bunch of tatsoi, two pints of tomatillos, two pounds of tomatoes, ten aneheim peppers, four bell peppers and one head of cauliflower

Most of this weeks tomatoes were so ripe already that I diced and stewed them along with last weeks four pounds of tomatoes.  They had all of a sudden gone from underripe to nearly-overripe that I had put them in the fridge.  Normally I’m a strict no-tomatoes-in-the-fridge type, but I figured these would end up in the freezer, so why not?  I ended up with nearly 8 cups of stewed diced tomatoes.  The whole pot spent a day in the fridge, and then I decanted it into two pint yogurt containers.  Because I’m likely to want the tomatoes only 2 cups at a time, I ladled each yogurt tub about half full, then put a big square of plastic wrap so that it rested on the tomatoes already in, but reached up and over the rim of the container on all sides.  Then I ladled more tomatoes on top of the plastic wrap to nearly fill the container, put the lid on (holding the plastic wrap still folded over the rim) and put the tub in the freezer.  With a contents-and-date label, of course. 

The tomatillos and anaheim peppers were, as always, inspiration to my husband to make salsa verde.  I’m guessing that 2 or 3 of the peppers will go into the salsa and the other 7 or 8 will get diced and frozen for things like chili this winter.  My husband made sure to get cilantro for the salsa when he went to the mid-week farmers market.  

His main concern at the farmers market was getting apples:  some to eat fresh, some to store.  We’re still having fun with our neighbor’s dehydrator, so there are rings from 7 apples drying in there even as I write.  We think the apples are McIntoshes, but the 10-pound bag wasn’t labeled.  At $7.50 for 10 pounds of local, IPM apples, who cares what kind they are?  If the apple rings don’t work, then the rest of the apples will become sauce. 

The $2.50 per pound fresh-eating apples that he brought home this week are Elstar apples.  They’re very flavorful, sweet, and crunchy.  I wonder how well they’ll last.  The Mutsu (also called Akane, I think) apples from last week were very crunchy, and likely to stay crunchy for a very long time in the refrigerator (one of the things I like about them) but they had very little flavor.  I remembered them being nicely tart, but not this year apparently.  One of the Ginger Gold apples from two weeks ago was still in our refrigerator, and when I cut it up today to throw in the dehydrator, I discovered it was still nice and crunchy, although not as crisp as when they were truly fresh.  Ginger gold apples are sweet and unusually crisp.  I already reported that the Zestar apples we got in week 13 were tart but unlikely to stay crunchy, and that the Gravenstein apples we got in week 14 were apple-pie flavorful and excellent for apple rings but not a good texture for eating fresh.  Our apple season started early, in week 8, with July Red apples whose main feature is that they’re early.  They’re also tart, but don’t have a good texture.  I’m looking forward to Macoun and Baldwin apples later in the season.  Every year we try different apples, and sometimes we’re really impressed and sometimes we’re really not, but we can’t usually remember from year to year which was which.  So this year I’m trying to write it down and keep track!

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 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.

Week 10: July 27 – August 2 (Part II)

August 4, 2008

We went to the farmers market this weekend and bought an eggplant, a bunch of cilantro, and ten peaches.

We got an eleventh peach free. When I was putting peaches on the farmer’s scale, one of them was soft enough that I must have made a face. I didn’t want to be rude and put it back, but the farmer noticed, and he picked it up and took it off the scale so I didn’t have to. After we’d paid for our ten peaches, he handed us the soft one and told us to put it on top in our bag and eat it quickly. As soon as we got home, I tried to cut it in half for us to share, but it really was far too soft even for that.  Clearly, it was a peach for cooking with rather than eating raw.  It went into Jamaican Jerk black beans.  I started with dried beans, and simmered them until they were edibly soft.  Then I added a lot of Jamaican Jerk spice mix, a generous amount of salt, some sugar, and the peach (cut up small), and kept simmering until most of the water was gone.  If I’d been serving the beans over rice, I would have left the water (or even added more) to make a sauce for the rice.  Why cook the beans before adding seasonings?  It’s more kitchen chemistry, having to do with osmosis.  The beans absorb more water if there’s nothing in the water. 

The cilantro is to make Costa Rican style slaw.  I was lucky enough to go to Costa Rica on a service-and-homestay trip when I was a student, and I remember salads that were mostly cabbage, sometimes topped with sliced beets, seasoned with salt and lemon.  I remember cilantro being used a lot, but I don’t recall in what foods.  It turns out that cilantro goes very well in a slaw of shredded cabbage seasoned with lemon juice, salt, and olive oil.  I would have made some this weekend, but used up my lemon juice making lemonade.  Apparently, I cook a lot of CSA foods with lemon juice.  I was surprised my bottle was so close to empty. 

The eggplant was intended for grilling, along with zucchini and yellow summer squash.  We invited friends over and were all set to have a cookout.  I made more potato salad, mixed up lemonade, even the peachy Jamaican beans seemed like cookout food.  Only the vegetables were going on the grill.  But then they didn’t.  Because it rained and poured.  So we cut the eggplant, zucchini, and squash into cubes about half an inch on a side and then sauteed it in a big, deep skilled with olive oil, garlic, salt, and dried basil and oregano.  The eggplant went in first, because it needed to soften most.   It was delicious.

I finally got around to dealing with the two pounds of green beans from week 9 (almost two weeks ago).   Some had dry brown spots, like leaves of an under-watered plant, and they were getting soft.  Freezing was out, and so was eating them raw.  Instead, I blanched them and then tossed them with balsamic vinaigrette for a cold side dish. 

Aside from more cabbage than I know what to do with, I feel like we’re under control on getting through our veggies.  We’re using or storing things while they’re still good.  I just hope we’re storing enough.