Posts Tagged ‘collard’

Farmers markets are open

June 7, 2009

Since I last posted, both of most-nearby farmers markets have opened.  There’s a market I can get to easily by bicycle almost every day of the week, but only two are easy to walk to.  Our CSA will start drop-offs this week.  This is the beginning of the season when I can’t understand why anyone wouldn’t eat locally.

This spring was an unusually good growing season.  Unlike last year when the farmers market had only radishes and rhubarb (and a bit of arugula) on opening day, this year there were all kinds of greens available, and turnips in addition to radishes. My husband brought home spinach (to enjoy as a raw salad), chard (which was my favorite green for a few years – I don’t think I have a favorite currently), collards, and rhubarb.  He could easily have bought enough things for us to eat a different vegetable every day all week, but we still have a lot of freezer stores to eat down.

We ate the spinach with beet wedges thawed from the freezer, under balsamic vinaigrette.  Blue cheese would have been nice but we didn’t have any.  The collards we enjoyed, as usual, cooked with black beans in olive oil, garlic, basil, cumin, cayenne, and salt, served over brown rice.  The chard joined white beans in olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, sage, salt and pepper, served over pasta.  The rhubarb is probably going to become ice cream sauce and go into our freezer until we make ice cream to put it over.  Sauces freeze very well.

Our CSA farmer is concerned about losing some crops that matured too quickly for his drop-off schedule.  As I said, it was a weirdly good spring for growing greens and their roots.  I hope he was able to sell them at farmers markets instead.  When we saw him on Saturday, we asked the same question we ask all summer, “Is there anything here that we won’t get in our share this week?”  His answer was broccoli rabe so we bought some of that and then stopped at an Italian grocery on our way home to buy parmesan to use with it over pasta.

In anticipation of a glut of vegetables, I did a lot of cooking this weekend to get us eating down last year’s stores.  I roasted two full cookie sheets of root vegetables.  One of them was all carrots, an interesting mix of colors (yellow, orange, and purple) and sizes.  While they were still warm, I tossed them with olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and parsley (the good part of what was left over from Passover – a lot of leftover parsley went into the compost).  We also had parsley in our freezer, and that went into a salad of bulghur and cooked lentils in a tabbouleh dressing.  The other cookie sheet was a rainbow mix of beets (one red, one yellow, and one red-and-white striped Chioggia), turnips, celeriac, parsnips, and more carrots.  Roasted in olive oil, salt, and pepper, they’ll be an easy side dish for some meal this week.

We didn’t make as many batches of applesauce last fall as I’d expected, and then we got more apples (local storage apples) through our winter CSA, so there are still lots of apples in our fridge.  Three of them went into an apples and spices sodabread that used a mix of applesauce and water as its binding liquid.  I don’t know yet how it came out.  A few others had to go directly into compost.  If the bread works, I still have enough apples to make many more loaves.

Weeks 48-49: April 22 – May 5

May 9, 2009

Spring is my favorite season.  I watch the plants in my neighborhood and on my walk to work to see how every day there are new shoots, new buds, new flowers, new leaves.  In my own yard, I watch the progression from crocuses, to daffodils and tulips, to phlox, and then on to everything else.  I watch the way that people, normally content in their bubbles of temperature-controlled homes, cars, and offices, open the windows or even come outside and notice it’s spring, temperatures are warming, things are growing.  In New England, spring is so short.  Maybe that’s why I treasure it all the more.

It’s now less than a month from the start of farmers markets in my area.  We still have plenty of frozen vegetables (and two butternut squashes) to get us through.  Especially if we’re as uninspired to cook as we have been.  All through the CSA season, fresh vegetables coming in ever week inspire us to prepare them into meals.  Because the vegetables are  so fresh and so good, the meals can be quite simple and still delicious.

That all breaks down in the winter.  I no longer know how to say “what I want for dinner tonight is…” and go out and assemble ingredients.  I can, of course, reach into my freezer, pull out a baggie of vegetables at random, and prepare it however I normally prepare that vegetable.  Somehow, though, I just haven’t been.  Which isn’t to say we haven’t been cooking.  It’s just that the vegetables are the frills, not the center, of our meals.

Some carrots from the veggie drawers and anaheim peppers (moderately spicy, frozen in week 19) from our freezer went into a huge batch of chili made from a mix of dried black, kidney, and pinto beans.  The canned tomatoes that went in were from one agri-business or another, slightly better for being organic.

A small head of green cabbage, stored in our refrigerator from our winter CSA, became a stir-fry with some carrots and tofu.  (Cabbages  seem to store only about 2 1/2 months, not the 5 or 6 months it would have had to last from summer CSA or farmers market)

A bag of greens whose label had fallen off went into the skillet with cannelini, garlic, oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and sage, in what has become my husband’s signature dish for serving next to or over pasta.  In a fun little challenge, we tried to identify the greens.  We’ll never know if we’re right, but our conclusion was collard greens.  When we froze them, we expected to use them in my usual way, the recipe given in week 30.

Sweet potatoes from our winter CSA with grocery store parsley left over from Passover became a batch of sweet potato salad in honey-mustard dressing, using the recipe in Moosewood Cooks at Home (photo in weeks 40-41).

My only really creative cooking recently was a quinoa dish.  We hadn’t eaten quinoa in quite a while.  It’s a seed that only sort of counts as a grain, very light, high in protein.  I made a sort of pilaf.  I toasted the quinoa with garlic and olive oil in the bottom of my saucepan briefly before adding water, dried basil and oregano, and chopped dried tomatoes (from Turkey, but bought at Rivermede Farm in week 31).  After about 2/3 of the cooking time, I stirred in cut green beans from our freezer and some salt.  I should have added pepper, too.  It came out the wonderful trifecta of colorful, tasty, and healthy.

Week 35: January 20 – 26

January 27, 2009

In our CSA share this week we all got the usual carrots (MA), red potatoes (VT), white potatoes (NC), sweet potatoes (NC), apples (MA), and oranges (FL).  Less usual, we all got parsnips (origin unspecified) and green beans (FL).  It was the other couple’s turn for chard (FL) while we got collard greens (origin unspecified).  We got the green leaf lettuce (FL) while they took the dandelion greens (origin unspecified), because their bunnies love them and we humans aren’t so impressed.  We got the avocado (FL) and celeriac (MA) while they got the cherry tomatoes (FL) and jar of pickles (MA).

From Massachusetts:  only the apples, carrots, and celeriac.  Maybe the parsnips.  It’s a good thing I didn’t sign up to do the Dark Days Challenge.  Next year we’ll have done better storing our own.  I noticed my copy of Animal, Vegetable, Miracle lying around, and I opened it up to the January chapter.  In it, she takes stock of how much food her family put by.  Granted, we don’t have kids, but we’ve still been operating on entirely the wrong order of magnitude.  I’m estimating that we need to store 150 to 200 units of vegetables to get us from November through May.  (This is comparable, in seven months, to what we consume in the five months from June through October.)  One unit could be one bunch of kale, or one large eggplant, or a pound of green beans.  Usually one unit gets one freezer bag but sometimes we put two units of the same thing into a bag together.  This year we seem to have frozen only about 25 units of vegetables, not counting tomato and tomatillo sauces, too.  Our storage vegetables (squashes, root vegetables, cabbage) were another 55 units of vegetables going into winter, bringing the total to about 80 units, or halfway there at best.  So… maybe not the wrong order of magnitude, just not nearly enough.

A CSA that draws so much from Florida is not our answer.  It’s fun while it lasts, though.  I can’t remember when we’ve eaten this much raw food mid-winter.  In addition to the oranges, one of the apples was good enough to eat raw.  I think it was a Fuji.  The avocado was, of course, also raw.  We cut it in half, one half for each of us, then put a little lemon juice and salt into the cavity, and eat it with a spoon.  The lettuce has been good raw, too.  Some of it was in sandwiches, some of it was on a plate with dressing.  The celeriac will be good raw, too, especially if I get to it while it’s still fresh.  I might do matchsticks in a dressing of some sort, or I might do bigger sticks (think carrot sticks) served with a dip made from plain yogurt and spices.

The collards we cooked with black beans as usual, with olive oil, garlic, salt, and dried basil, cumin, and cayenne.  I know people do other things with collards, but I like this preparation too much to forgo it when we have just one bunch of greens.

Week 31: December 22 – 28

December 29, 2008

Because of the holiday, we got our share this week on Tuesday instead of Wednesday.  Because we were travelling and sharing meals with extended family, we divided the share a little differently.  Usually we try to divide everything right down the middle, so everyone gets a little of everything.  This week, we wanted more of whatever we got. 

There were the usual assortment of potatoes (white and red), carrots, garlic, onions, apples, and oranges, and we divided those evenly (except for the onions which they always get because I can’t eat them).  There was one celeriac, and it was the other couple’s turn for that.  We took collards because we still had the ones from last week, and put together we could make enough beans and greens for a crowd.  The other couple took lettuce and mustard greens.  That left us with kale.  We took the three zucchini because they would survive travel, and the other couple took the two bell peppers because they would be good with their lettuce in salad.  We took the two large tomatoes to cook with, and they got the box of grape tomatoes, again with salad in mind.  There might have been more.  I don’t remember. 

For anyone keeping score (like me) the items from Massachusetts were apples, onions, carrots, maybe red potatoes, lettuce, and celeriac.  Other things came from North Carolina, Vermont, and Florida.

One of the potatoes was starting to turn green, and another seemed to have a rotten spot.  That inspired dinner.  I cut the equivalent of about 6 large potatoes to bite sized pieces, and boiled them until a fork went in easily, as for potato salad.  Then the potatoes (well drained, of course) went into a large skillet with olive oil and two cloves of garlic, pressed (although diced would have worked).  I spiced them with approximately 1 tablespoon of curry powder; 1/2 tablespoon of turmeric; 1 teaspoon each of cumin, coriander, and ginger; a few dashes of cayenne; and about 1 tablespoon of salt.  I knew the spices were mixed in thoroughly when all of the potatoes had a yellowish tinge.  Turmeric does that.  While the potatoes boiled, I had diced the two tomatoes and chopped the kale.  They went into the skillet, too, along with a can of chickpeas, and I stirred everything together as best I could.  I cooked the whole mess until the kale wilted and the tomatoes softened.  That was the meal:  spicy potatoes, kale, tomatoes, and chickpeas.  It was easy and delicious–definitely worth repeating!

Some of the food came with us when we travelled for Christmas.  I made a huge pot of split pea soup with two pounds of split peas, six  carrots, and three turnips that masqueraded as potatoes once they were cooked in the soup.  It was seasoned with three cloves of garlic, the leaves off many sprigs of thyme, salt, pepper, and smoked paprika.  We used the rest of the bulb of garlic in a humongous batch of collards and black beans, using the Green Cafe recipe I gave last week.  Relatives seem to like my cooking.  I know they like the fact that I’m doing so much cooking.  They seem to like the food itself, too.

On our way into Lake Placid, we stopped at the Rivermede Farm Market in Keene Valley, NY.    We were lucky enough to catch farmer Rob Hastings behind the counter.  He just won a nationwide award for his work on sustainable farming!  He explained to us that his store has been evolving as interest in eating local has grown, a movement that he was on the vanguard of.  He can now stock only items grown or produced locally, and he knows all of the growers and producers of his merchandise.  We snagged a 5-pound bag of blue potatoes that he grew himself, a jar of rhubarb jam from Mooers, NY (about 75 miles away), and about 5 pounds of Fortune apples grown in Peru, NY (about 40 miles away). 

Fortune apples are a new variety, crossed from Northern Spy and Empire.  As with most new apples in this area, they were developed at the Cornell University apple research station at Geneva, NY, a little under 250 miles away from Lake Placid. 

I have to make a confession.  I bought grocery store vegetables today for what I think is the first time since May.  My husband is politely pointing out that since my mother-in-law paid that I didn’t buy them, she did.  (I love my mother-in-law dearly, just for the record, and I’m not saying that for her benefit, because I don’t think she reads my blog.  I’m saying it because mothers-in-law get a bad rap they don’t deserve.)  I picked out organic romaine lettuce from who-knows-where and a bag of organic white potatoes from Maine.  I thought that maple mashed squash would be good with dinner.  There were piles of squash at the supermarket.  No organic option.  My husband and I started looking for local.  The butternut squash had stickers from about three different growers, all of them in Mexico.   There were carnival squash, but only one had a sticker, and it wasn’t local.  Some of the acorn squash were from Washington, but some of them were from Coxsackie, NY, about 165 miles away.  Of course, we bought those. 

The centerpiece of dinner tonight was tourtiere, a Quebecois meat pie.  We faked a vegetarian version using a family recipe.  It involves something approximating ground meat (perhaps actual ground meat, if you’re of that persuasion), mashed potatoes and bread cubes, and for seasoning a mix of savory (poultry seasoning) and sweet (cinnamon, cloves, allspice).  That part wasn’t local.  But all of the sides were:  roasted blue potatoes; acorn squash baked, scooped, and mashed with butter and local maple syrup; and homemade applesauce from those Fortune apples.  We got to tell everyone at the table where each of those side dishes had come from.  I like to get people thinking a little more about where their food comes from, and appreciating things that come from nearby.

Week 30: December 15 – 21

December 22, 2008

We’ve gotten a lot of snow over the past few days.  Shoveling has been a pain – sometimes literally, sometimes figuratively.  The snow has interfered with school and with holiday celebrations.   I like weather, though.  Especially in the city, it’s a reminder that we are subject to the vagaries of nature.  Before I became a locavore, weather was how I understood the seasons.  Now I have a much deeper understanding and appreciation of how many changes come with every season.

My nearly-all-local meal of the week (in the spirit of the Dark Days challenge) was very much a seasonal meal.  We made latkes tonight for the first night of Hanukkah from potatoes that we dug ourselves, and ate them with homemade applesauce.  If the weather hadn’t been so bad, we would have had local eggs to make the latkes with.  Instead we used my mother’s generic grocery store eggs.  They might be local, I suppose.  We drank local apple cider (the non-alcoholic kind) with our meal, and my brother gave me a pack of Harpoon hard apple cider because he found out that they use local apples, and he knew I would like that!

It was a good week for cooking with kale.  At the beginning of the week, we cooked wide-leaf Dinosaur kale (Massachusetts grown, from our winter CSA in week 29) in a style we learned from Green Cafe in Bethlehem, PA.  They use it for collards and that’s our favorite green to do it with, but it works well for pretty much every kind of strong-flavored leafy green, including the ones nobody writes recipes for, like radish greens.    At Green Cafe, they cook the beans separately, but we like to make a one pot meal.  As we have adapted it, here’s the recipe:

  1. In a large skillet, heat lots of minced or pressed garlic in a generous amount of olive oil.
  2. Add black beans (either dried beans that have been soaked/simmered until soft or canned beans).
  3. While the beans heat through, add dried dried basil, cumin, and a bit of cayenne.  If the beans were dried, add a generous amount of salt, too.
  4. Add chopped greens to the skillet. 
  5. Sprinkle the greens with more basil, cumin, cayenne, and salt.  Drizzle them with more olive oil.
  6. Mix the beans and greens together.  Keep cooking until the greens wilt to the texture you like.
  7. Serve over rice.

Later in the week, we used older curly leaf kale (also Massachusetts grown, from our winter CSA in week 28) to make soup.  Wilted vegetables make good soup.  Particularly wilted vegetables make good pureed soups.

To make lentil-kale soup, I simmer about a cup of lentils (preferably organic French green, from bulk bins at a natural foods store) in about two quarts of water.  When they start to break down, I add a couple of cloves of fresh garlic (pressed or minced) one or two teaspoons of garam masala (an Indian sweet-and-savory spice mix), salt to taste, and about half a cup of lemon juice.  Shortly before serving, I add one bunch of kale, chopped.  The exact quantities vary every time I make the soup.   We ate it with baked circles of sweet potatoes, sort of oven fries in a different shape.  I mixed honey (local) and brown mustard (not) to make a dipping sauce.

Soup is especially easy to adjust seasonings in while cooking.  One of the joys of being vegetarian is that you can taste as you go.  No salmonella to worry about, especially with foods coming from local farms.

It was also a week for cooking pumpkin. One of them we cooked to freeze.  My husband baked it, because that doesn’t require peeling, so it’s relatively minimal labor.  After he scooped out the flesh, I whirred it in a miniprep.  It didn’t actually puree, because it’s a bit too stringy, but it’s all tiny bits and will be good for baking.  We seasoned and baked the seeds, as we always do.  Those were for eating right away.  We’ve baked enough squash seeds this season that we finally know how much salt and how much spice to put on (usually garlic, maybe cumin and a bit of cayenne). 

The other pumpkin had to be eaten right away.  The reason we cooked it was that it had spots of rot.  It looked like a cartoon of Swiss cheese when my husband was done peeling it and cutting out the bad spots.  That one got boiled.  It got very soft, not at all stringy, but quite waterlogged.  I drained it as well as I could, and mashed it with a potato masher.  I learned the hard way that pumpkins should only get sweet seasonings, not savory.  Butternut squash is good with maple syrup (with or without butter and salt); with butter and sage (better with chunks, not mashed); or with cumin, cayenne, chili powder, garlic powder, and salt.  Pumpkin is decidedly not.  We usually finish what we make.  We were not able to finish the Tex-Mex spiced pumpkin. 

On a completely different note, our CSA share this week included:  apples, cranberries, onions, acorn squash, carrots, celeriac, thyme, and lettuce from Massachusetts; red potatoes that might be from Massachusetts or might be from Vermont; garlic, kale, and pecans from North Carolina; collard greens that are probably from North Carolina but they didn’t actually tell us; and peppers and oranges from Florida.

Sharing a share means sometimes we get lucky and what we like better they like less, and vice versa.  We split the oranges, cranberries, pecans, carrots, garlic, sweet potatoes, and red potatoes half-and-half.  We each got one pepper.  We split the one head of lettuce half-and-half with a knife.  Both couples ate lettuce-and-pepper salads that night, and it was delicious.  We have so many apples that the other couple took all the ones in good enough shape to eat straight, and I took the few that were good only for making applesauce.  We have so much squash from our summer CSA that we took the tiny acorn squash and the other couple took the large one.  One of them doesn’t like celeriac but both of us do, and there was only the one root, so we scored that.  We still haven’t cooked with any of the thyme we got before, so when we got more thyme, the other couple got it.  They got all the onions, too, because I can’t eat them.  I was excited by collard greens and un-excited by yet more kale, and the other couple felt exactly the opposite, so it was easy to decide who got which greens.  The collard greens were a much bigger bunch than the kale, so that helped to balance out quantities, too.

I feel like we need a winter CSA for January through April rather than December through March.  We still have so many storage vegetables from our summer CSA and from careful shopping at the end of the farmers market season.  When the squash has all been eaten or gone rotten, and the potatoes have all been eaten or turned green and sprung shoots, and the cabbage has been eaten or grown mold, then it will be time for fresh vegetables from elsewhere.  We have a long way to go.

Week 22: October 21 – 27

October 28, 2008

This was our final CSA week of the 2008 season. It was also the last week for many farmers markets. Luckily, one of the markets near us stays open until Thanksgiving, so we can wean ourselves more gradually off of fresh produce. The produce itself helps with that. Everything, it seems, is giving way to squash and root vegetables.

Our share this final week was all squashes (including pumpkins), 16 of them in total:  four pumpkins, four butternut squash, four buttercup squash, two delicata squash and two sweet dumpling squash. 

This brought our pumpkin total to 10 (or eleven, if you count the one that rotted).  I really had to start using up pumpkin, and a lot of it, so I decided to play around and make up a pumpkin custard.  I halved one of the pumpkins and baked it upside-down in about half an inch of water for at least an hour.  While the pumpkin baked, I oiled and seasoned the seeds (salt, cumin, and cayenne) and baked them, too.  The pumpkin spent the night in the refrigerator.  After baking, the flesh was soft enough that the pumpkin halves lost all structural integrity and collapsed to almost flat.  The next day, it was cool enough to hold easily while I scooped out the flesh and mashed it.  It made 3 cups.  I mixed in 3/4 cup of maple syrup, about half a cup of milk (which might have been too much liquid), 4 beaten eggs, and spiced (cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, cardamom).  The whole thing went into a 1.5 quart casserole, and in 350-degree oven for close to 2 hours.  Because the casserole was so deep, it took a long time for the middle to heat sufficiently.  It was delicious.  It would have been even better with whipped cream.  And all of the ingredients except spices (pumpkin, eggs, milk, and maple syrup) are local!

We used up the last few greens in our refrigerator creatively, in a dish of pasta with parsley pesto and spinach.  The parsley was from week 19, and had kept remarkably well.  The spinach was from the farmers market.  We chopped it, steamed it, and stirred it into the pasta-with-pesto, along with some balsamic vinegar.  Parsley doesn’t blend as easily as basil, so if I were to make the pesto again, I’d blend the parsley with the oil until it broke down, and then add in the cheese, garlic, and pine nuts.  I wouldn’t buy parsley for the purpose of making pesto, but it is a tasty way to use up a whole bunch at once. 

My husband went to the mid-week farmers market in search of greens, and came home with one bunch of napa cabbage, one bunch of collard greens, one bunch of chard, one head of lettuce, and ten Baldwin apples

Baldwin apple monument
Baldwin apple monument

We first tried Baldwin apples a few years ago, after seeing the Baldwin apple monument in Woburn, MA (less than 15 miles away).  It has become one of our favorites.  It has a relatively dense texture, typical of heirlooms.  Its flavor is strong:  tart, sweet, and very apple-y.  Most of the Baldwin trees in New Englad were killed by ice storms in the 1920s (I have no idea where I learned that, so it might not be true).  Not only are we fans of Baldwin apples, we’re also fans of West County Cider’s  hard Baldwin cider.  West County Cider is made in Colrain, MA (about 100 miles away), in the Berkshires. 

We bought fresh cider at the very last weekend farmers market.  We also bought a 10 lb bag of Northern Spy apples, another heirloom.  They’re less tart than Baldwins, so they come across as more sweet and juicy.  Like Baldwins, they’re dense.  That makes them store well.  Our plan was to store them for weeks until we were ready to make applesauce.  Then we realized that we like them for fresh eating much better than the McIntosh that are filling our refrigerator, so we’ve been eating them instead. 

The Cortland apples aren’t in the fridge, because there isn’t space for all the apples, and cooking apples don’t need to retain texture like eating apples do.  Unfortunately, a couple of them have developed rotten spots.  I cut one out and diced the rest of the apple to fill the cavities of the two delicata squash, which I then baked.  (I seasoned the seeds and baked them, too, just like pumpkins seeds.)  I should have also filled the cavities with cider or broth to moisten and soften the squash as they baked.  The apples did not break down and do that job as I’d anticipated and hoped.  The baked stuffed squash still looked lovely.  The skin of delicata squash is thin and edible, so being able to separate the flesh from the skin (which is easy when it’s soft) wasn’t such an issue.  

The second purple cabbage was still in our crisper drawer, where it had patiently waited since week 10!  At first I had no idea what to do with it.  Then in week 13 we got potatoes and I figured out that purple colcannon was a good thing. So I saved the other cabbage for potatoes that I thought were coming imminently.  We finally got them in week 21.  The outer leaves of cabbage had some mold.  I peeled them off (4 or 5 leaves total) and the cabbage underneath was still in very good shape.  So I made the colcannon again, but using the whole head of cabbage and about two pounds of potatoes.  I also used plain yogurt instead of milk.  The yogurt picked up the purple from the cabbage even more than the milk did, so instead of the mixture being purple and white, it’s pale purple and dark purple.  Hooray for natural fun colors!   Hooray, too, for another recipe that uses all local ingredients (except the spices)!

 

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 6: June 29 – July 5

July 8, 2008

The veggies are starting to pile up.   Production at our CSA is in full swing, and the quantities of vegetables we’re getting are copious.  We went away for the holiday weekend, so we weren’t home to cook and eat as much as usual.  Our plan was to freeze what we couldn’t use, but then the weather took a turn for the hot and muggy, so I didn’t blanch-and-freeze veggies after all.

We got two bunches of beets (with greens, of course), one bunch of Red Russian kale, one of collards, one of parsley, one head of Napa cabbage, three bunches of carrots (two orange, one yellow), one pound of fava beans, and two pints of strawberries

One bunch of last week’s basil turned into enough pesto for a couple of dinners, with beet greens on the side, followed by ice cream topped with strawberries.  The strawberries I picked over (and there were quite a few bad ones, and quite a few more that needed bad spots removed), then sliced and macerated in 3 heaping tablespoons of sugar and 1 tablespoon of lemon juice (if I’m remebering correctly).  The beet greens I washed (salad spinner method), cut coarsely, steamed, then tossed with olive oil, lemon juice, and salt.   The beets themselves keep well and are still in my crisper drawer.

The salad spinner method of washing greens is this:  fill the colander of the spinner about 2/3 full of greens.  For very sandy greens, rinse the leaves before placing them in the colander.  For moderately sandy or dirty, rinse them once in the colander alone.  With the colander in the bowl of the salad spinner, fill the bowl with water.   Use your hands to agitate the greens.  Lift the colander out of the bowl.  Notice how dirty the water is.  Pour out the water and rinse the bowl.  Place the colander back in the bowl.  Repeat the process, starting by  filling the bowl with water again.  When the water left in the bowl looks clean enough, you’re done.  If you’re steaming the greens, leave them wet, otherwise spin to dry. 

The collards and kale were too large to fit in our crisper drawer, so they sat on a shelf in the refrigerator and quicly became very limp.  I had planned to freeze them, but then it was too hot to blanch them.  I cooked them with black beans and served them over rice.  My favorite way to season collards, which works with most greens (like turnip greens or kale) is with olive oil, fresh garlic, and dried basil, cumin, and cayenne, and salt.  It’s a surprising and very tasty combination I got from the Green Cafe in Bethlehem, PA.  It works for just the greens, as a side dish, and it also works for black beans and greens together.  The beans need more cooking time, so do them first, and when they’re basically done add the greens, giving them only just long enough to soften. 

The Napa cabbage was dense enough to go in a crisper drawer, and held up fairly well, so it’s still there.  I expect that it will go, with tofu, into a stir-fry of some sort.  The parsley is also still in a crisper drawer, and either needs to get packed in water and frozen (no blanching for herbs) or made into tabbouleh.  The carrots (both orange and yellow) are also hanging out in a crisper drawer.  They’ll last perfectly well until I figure out what I want to do with them.  Some of them will get washed, cut into sticks, and packed in lunch bags.  I’m thinking about buying a vegetable scrubber to be just for carrots – they’re covered in CSA dirt, and will be eaten raw, so there can’t be any “foreign contaminants” on the scrubber, like those acquired from grocery store potatoes. 

I’m stumped by the fava beans.  I think I’ve been stumped by them every year.  I use a lot of kinds of beans in my cooking (I can think of 8 varieties off the top of my head) but not favas.  Not only do I not know what to do with favas, I don’t know how to make fresh beans edible.  Boiling?  If you know what to do with fresh fava beans, please leave a comment!