Posts Tagged ‘napa cabbage’

Weeks 24-25: November 2 – 15

November 13, 2008

At the end of the CSA season, our farmer likes to invite shareholders out to the farm to do a bit of picking our own produce.  We went the first weekend in November.  It was a beautiful day to be outside.  We pulled turnips, saving the good greens, and leaving the brown or bug-eaten ones to compost in the field.  We cut tatsoi, mustard greens, and kale to freeze, and a bit of mizuna to cook fresh.  We dug potatoes, which was fun, because my husband had never seen the above-ground part of a potato, and it had been a few years since I’d last dug potatoes, so neither of us was quite sure what we were looking for.  Between my memory and our farmer’s directions (telling us where in his fields to look for what) we were successful enough.  There were also lots of squashes already picked for us, and we chose mostly butternut to take home, because I know more ways to cook it.  We also took a few Little Dumpling, because there’s something fun about one squash = one serving.  Unlike last year, when most of our haul was carrots and parsnips, we pulled neither this year.  The carrots were all gone, and the parsnips were in a different field.

We didn’t think turnip greens would freeze well, especially because we like the crunch of the stems, so we planned to eat them fresh while freezing the other greens from our CSA.  We made a turnip, greens, and tofu stir-fry shortly after our visit to the farm.  It was too hard to get the cooking times right, so the turnips ended up too soft (mush, even) before the greens were wilted enough. 

With the rest of the greens, after they’d had another week to wilt in the fridge, I pureed them into soup.  Wilted greens pureed into soup are wonderful.  I chopped, boiled, and then pureed together a few potatoes, a turnip, the remaining turnip greens, in a broth of water (1 to 2 cups per potato), salt, pepper, garlic powder, hot pepper, and smoked paprika.  Choosing the right spices for a vegetable makes such a difference. 

We’ve been eating some squash, too.  Buttercup squash is a lot like acorn squash.  It works, but is boring, baked and served with butter and maple syrup in the cavity.  Been there, ate that, lots more squash left.  At least all those are local foods.  My mother gave us a pineapple (very much not a local food) but we forgot to eat it while it was really fresh.  So we cut up the pineapple and filled buttercup squash cavities with pineapple chunks, plus a bit of water, and sprinkled the whole thing generously with a Jamaican spice mix, then baked the squash.  Jamaican pineapple squash is a delicious combination, well worth repeating. 

Pineapple isn’t the only fruit I’ve been playing with.  I made oatmeal this weekend (steel-cut, not rolled) studded with cranberries and chunks of apple (both local, of course), sweetened with maple syrup (local again), and spiced with cardamom, nutmeg, and cinnamon.  Delicious!

We finally started eating from our freezer.  With dough from a local pizza place, we made our own pizza.  (We should have planned ahead and made our own dough in our bread machine.  We have yet to do that, but sooner or later we will.)  Everything we put on the pizza was local:  tomato sauce from the summer before last, fresh mozzarella from the farmers market, and vegetables from our freezer.  One one pizza we used large-diced green bell peppers, and on the other cubed eggplant.  Both vegetables had very good flavor and texture after being frozen and then baked.  Hooray!

We’ve supplemented our CSA veggies with apples, napa cabbage, and lettuce from the farmers market.  for later.  Apple report:  the Baldwins are still incredible, the Mutsus are still crisp and juicy, and the Northern Spy apples that have been sitting in a bag on my kitchen floor for weeks are still pleasant to eat (whereas McIntosh would have gone mushy or mealy ages ago). 

Also at the farmers market we got heads of green cabbage, as a storage vegetable.  I was inspired by the red cabbage from this summer that we ate 3 months after receiving it.  (We got it in week 10 and ate it in week 22.) 

Our kitchen is still overflowing with apples, squash, and pumpkin.  I want to make applesauce, curried squash-and-pumpkin soup, cubed squash, mashed squash, pumpkin puree…  But our freezer is full.  So we bought a chest freezer.  We’ve been talking about doing this since last winter, when we decided to go up to the large share.  Instead of eating a small share’s worth of veggies and freezing the rest, we’ve been eating more veggies, leaving us fewer to freeze.  Finally, in the fall, we got inundated with more than we could eat.  That’s a good thing, because we’re planning to keep eating our vegetables this winter. 

We realized that we only need another freezer about as big as the one on our refrigerator.  At first, we thought we’d find a freezer on Craigslist, but those were mostly much bigger.  They’re also older, and much less energy efficient.  We looked at a few stores to get a sense or how big the freezers are, and how the space inside is arranged and accessed.  For each, we wanted to know about price and energy rating.  Nobody had an EnergyStar freezer for sale.  Finally, we got onto the EnergyStar website, and found that for small freezers the standard is much stricter than for large ones.  Instead of being at least 10% more efficient than the industry average, they have to be at least 20% more efficient.  Only one freezer currently has that rating.  And it’s sold only at one store.  And that store is Walmart.  I’ve never set foot in Walmart.  I abhor their labor policies, and the way they intentionally drive their competitors out of business.  At the same time, they’re a real leader when it comes to the environment, both for how they run their stores and what products they demand from their suppliers.  The long and the short of it is that I still haven’t set food in a Walmart store, and don’t ever plan to, but, thanks to mail-order, I’ve now done business with them, to save about 50 kilowatt-hours per year.

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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 8: July 13-20 (Part I)

July 15, 2008

Yesterday I found myself near a farmers market.  Even though I knew I’d have a fresh batch of CSA veggies today, I couldn’t resist.  I really did keep myself in check shopping, though.  I bought a giant (3 pounds, by my estimate) zucchini for a dollar, and four July Red apples.  Because I’ll no longer buy grocery store apples, early apples are exciting.  July Red, clearly, is an early variety.  The one I ate so far was very tart, and not as crunchy-crisp as I prefer.  No regrets, though, on the apples.  I was worried that I’d regret the zucchini, that we’d end up with more of it from our CSA.  So, in a sort of defenisve measure, we used it up right away.  We would have grilled it, but it was too much bother and too much charcoal.  We sliced the zucchini up, maybe half an inch thick, and cooked the slices in a single layer (multiple batches) on a skillet until both sides were a bit browned and the insides were soft.  We ate the slices on sub rolls with oil, vinegar, grated parmesan, and fresh basil.  Delicious! 

My fears were validated when we came home from our CSA pick-up tonight with six more zucchini.  At least these are a normal size.  We were only allocated four zucchini, but we got another two in trade for a bunch of spring onions.  We also got one bunch of beets, two bunches of carrots, a head of green cabbage, four cucumbers, two pounds of green beans, and two pounds of potatoes

Both bunches of carrots are orange, but I think a different variety from what we’d gotten so far this year.  The new carrots are short and fat, like gnomes.

I think I’ll make a casserole with the zucchini, with layers of polenta, zucchini, cheddar cheese, and either salsa or crushed tomatoes seasoned with cumin and cayenne.

While picking up our veggies, we asked our farmer what to do with the fava beans.  I don’t recall his answer, because another person there picking up a share said he’d cooked his up in oil, garlic, and lemon juice, which sounded good to us.  A few leaves of the beet greens were starting to go already, so we made sure to use them in our meal, too.  I shelled all our fava beans (weeks 6 and 7) into a skillet, then added garlic and olive oil, and put it over high heat.  When the beans had softened a bit, I added the beet stems and salt.  When the beans were getting wrinkly and starting to pop out of their skins, I added the beet greens and lemon juice.  When the greens were wilted, I tossed the mixture with rotini.  The beet stems turned the rotini pink.  My husband picked through the remaining basil (week 5), and sliced the half of it that was still good into ribbons that went on top of the pasta-favas-greens mixture.  It was tasty and satisfying.  Now I know what to do with fava beans. 

The Napa cabbage (week 6) finally went into peanut noodles.  It was nice to have a cold supper on a couple of hot days.  Now that we have cucumbers, there’s something good (besides carrots) to put with the parsley in tabbouleh. 

With so much food this week, we ought to be preserving some of it, but the only thing that I think would blanch well are the green beans, and they’re so good fresh.

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!