Posts Tagged ‘spinach’

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.

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.

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.

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 3: June 7-14

June 22, 2008

Week 3 was when the season really got going.  The most local market opened and then, days later,  our CSA started drop-offs.  Luckily our farmer also has a farmstand at the market, so we were able to ask him for predictions and shop at the market for things we would not get from the CSA that week.  He predicted lettuce, so we didn’t buy any.  Then he didn’t include lettuce in the drop-off.  So we bought some romaine at the later-in-the-week market. 

The only vegetable we bought at the weekend market was bok choy, for more stir-frys. I had finally, the week before, figured out how to cook tofu the way I like it.  I’ve been vegetarian for well over a decade, so you’d think I’d have figured out sooner how to cook tofu.  Nope.  The trick is this:  brown the tofu in an un-oiled non-stick pan.  No oil.  Let it sit, triangular slabs arranged in a single layer over medium-high heat, until that side is browned.  Then flip them over and do the same to the other side.  The triangles might stick to each other a bit.  When the second side is browned, then add oil and garlic, or a sauce (either bottled or home-mixed).  Then add whatever vegetables. 

In our CSA share, we received arugula, mustard greens, spinach, and pea tendrils (stems, leaves, and some flowers).  We ate a lot of the pea tendrils raw, a bizarre curly finger food.  Since there wasn’t lettuce, the spinach became spinach salad, with feta, olives, and balsamic vinaigrette.  Some of the arugula became a different salad, with blue cheese and balsamic vinaigrette. 

The rest of the arugula and the rest of the pea greens, wilted by the end of the week, went over pasta.  My husband brought home some garlic scapes from a co-worker who had surplus.  He chopped up and sauteed the garlic scapes, arugula, and pea tendrils in olive oil, seasoned with lemon juice, cayenne, basil, and oregano.  We tossed it with pasta and shredded parmesan cheese.  Yummy!

The mustard greens went into “curried mustard greens and chickpeas” from Joy of Cooking.  The first year we were in the CSA, we received mustard greens.  I’d never cooked mustard greens before.  I don’t know whether I’d ever eaten mustard greens before.  So we did what we always do with a new vegetable:  start by looking in Joy of Cooking.  We own the 2004 edition.  It has two recipes for mustard greens.  One of them involves pork.  We’re vegetarian, so that was out.  The other is the curried chickpeas recipe.  We tried it.  We liked it.  Now whenever we have mustard greens it’s the first thing we make.  Last summer we bought Greens, Glorious Greens – a cookbook I wish I’d had the first year.  It has lots more mustard greens recipes, including a different one involving curry and chickpeas.  Unfortunately, most of the mustard green recipes in Greens seem all to require random other produce like yams.

Week 2: June 1-7

June 22, 2008

The night before the second farmers market, a friend came to dinner and brought us a gift of lettuce from her own garden.  The second week of the farmers market, there were vegetables to buy.  There was lots of lettuce, but we already had that.  So I bought a bunch of bok choy, a bunch of sweet turnips with pretty leaves, and a big bag of spinach leaves. 

The lettuce we ate under vinaigrette and called “salad.” 

The spinach I steamed, then tossed with lemon juice, olive oil, and salt. 

The bok choy, turnips, and turnip greens went, along with tofu, into a stir-fry with spicy Korean barbecue sauce.  Turnips were a vegetable we had to learn to eat.  It turns out spicy Korean barbecue sauce does the trick, letting the strong turnip flavors meld into something pleasant. 

I always look for root vegetables with nice greens.  Beets have the tenderest greens, even more tender and mild than spinach.  Radish and turnip greens are a bit prickly when raw, and I wouldn’t want them as a side dish themselves, but they’re good generic greens.  Week 1’s radish greens went into chana masala (along with the usual canned chickpeas and canned tomatoes).  Week 2’s turnip greens went into the same stir-fry as the turnips themselves.