Posts Tagged ‘tatsoi’

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.

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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.

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 14: August 25 – 31

August 30, 2008

The summer seems to have flown by.  It’s hard for me to believe that it’s been 14 weeks since I’ve turned to a grocery store to get my produce.  Next week, I’ll be back to school.  Because I teach, I have extra time in the summer to prep and freeze food.  The academic calendar, that now seems to anachronistic and obsolete for being based on an agricultural schedule, has been ideal for my local food endeavor.  (For a bit more on the connection between school and agriculture, see this 2006 article about a school break for potato harvesting in northern Maine.   (There is also a link from my articles in the Boston Globe page.)

I’ve been making so much tabbouleh that I ran out of bulgur.  Whole Foods sells organic bulgur in their bulk section, so I can buy lots of it relatively cheaply in a paper bag.  It’s become sort of a game to see how few plastic bags I can acquire.  The one I went to didn’t have any organic bulgur in their bulk section, so I didn’t get any.  But they were having a special event with lots of their local suppliers giving out tastes.  One of the supplers was Highlawn Farm, and all-Jersey dairy in Lee, Massachusetts (in the Berkshires, between Springfield and Albany).  They’re better than organic in most ways, but certification is too expensive.  One of their products is heavy cream.  Good cream means good ice cream, so I bought a pint.  Remember the strawberries we sugared for ice cream and froze back in week 5? My husband used one of those pints to make strawberry ice cream in our electric ice cream maker. Between the extra-good cream and the extra-good strawberries, it was by far the best strawberry ice cream I have ever tasted.

This week our CSA share consisted of two pints of cherry tomatoes (we took one red, one yellow), three pounds of tomatoes,three small eggplants, three green bell peppers, one pound of broccoli, one scant bag of mixed baby lettuce leaves, ten ears of corn, one bunch of beets, one bunch of onions (which we gave away to friends) and one bunch of tatsoi.

Some of the vegetables were already getting soft in the wrong ways, so I made a batch of gazpacho.  Into the blender went most of a bell pepper (the yucky soft part, and half an inch around it, went into compost), cut into chunks.  It was followed by about 3 inches of Armenian cucumber, skin and seeds included, quartered and thickly sliced.  Friends gave us half an Armenian cucumber from their garden, and it’s so big that the half spanned the full width of a refrigerator crisper drawer, and the amount I put into gazpacho was about the same as one whole normal cucumber.  I added a generous spoonful of minced garlic (we buy it jarred, it’s our one vegetable laziness), a generous splash of white vinegar, a few drops of Tabasco, some dried basil and oregano, and some salt.  When I blended it, it was a lovely pale green with darker green flecks, and had a lovely spicy flavor.  It would have been fine simply as green gazpacho.  But I had tomatoes that needed to be used, so the two softest tomatoes went in, and the gazpacho turned sort of coral-colored, which is not very appetizing.  Luckily it tasted delicious.  Two tomatoes, one bell pepper, and one normal-cucumber-equivalent yielded four bowls of the cold soup.  For a fancier presentation, reserve some of the cucumber and bell pepper, dice them, and sprinkle some atop the pureed soup in each bowl.

We brought four ears of corn with us to dinner at a friend’s home, and she did somethind delicious with them.  First she had us husk them enough to see how the corn was and remove any damaged tips.  Then she pulled back the husks and put butter, salt, and herbs directly onto the corn, then pulled the husks back over.  She then roasted the ears in her oven for about 25 minutes.  It was so much tastier than our usual boil-and-butter!  We nibbled cherry tomatoes while waiting for dinner to be ready. 

The other six ears of corn went with me on a visit to my grandmother, along with two tomatoes and a salad made of all the lettuce, two very large radishes (sliced thinly into pretty circles), one bell pepper, and all the remaining cherry tomatoes.  All of it was very, very well received.

Two of the tomatoes (slighly less, one had a bad spot that got composted instead) and two of the eggplants went into chana masala, an Indian chickpea dish.  It doesn’t usually have eggplant, but it should.  Lazily, I use MDH boxed spice mix to season it. 

The broccoli and tatsoi are bound for a stir-fry with tofu, maybe with the third eggplant.   The beet greens will be a side dish by themselves.  The beets themselves will wait, the way root vegetables do.

I sent my husband to buy fruit at the midweek farmers market, and he came home with six peaches, six Ginger Gold apples, and four Gravenstein apples.  Ginger Gold is a relatively recent hybrid (1989), with respectable Winesap lineage on one side of the cross and a random sapling from Virginia on the other.  I’ll need to remember next year that Ginger Gold apples are lovely for eating out-of-hand, delightfully crisp and slightly tart.  Gravenstein apples, on the other hand, are an heirloom variety with a flavor that reminds me of apple pie, and a texture that suggests they should be cooked.  I plan to make maple syrup baked apples with the remaining Gravensteins, but I’m not sure what to stuff the core with (well, the space where the core is removed before baking) because I have neither raisins nor walnuts on hand.

Happy Labor Day!

Week 10: July 27 – August 2

August 1, 2008

This week was almost entirely things that will not freeze well. We got two bunches of arugula, one bunch of tatsoi, three yellow summer squash, two cucumbers, two bunches of beets (well, one of beets and one of onions that we traded for more beets), two small red cabbage, and four pounds of potatoes.

We stir-fried the two bunches of tatsoi (one from this week, one from last week) with tofu, in a sauce of hoisin, tamari (soy sauce), garlic, and ginger.  It was delicious.  Tatsoi has a cabbage-y flavor similar to bok choy, but the leaves are sturdier and don’t wilt down as quite as much.  The stems are very tender and edible and are very attractive, light on dark, cris-crossing in all directions.

The beets this week had unusually long, thin stalks with unusually sparse leaves.  The beet stems-and-greens, therefore, were mostly stems.  I chopped the leaves coarsely and cut the stems to one-inch pieces, maybe shorter.  I cooked them in my usual way, sauteed with garlic in olive oil, then tossed with lemon juice and salt.  They made a meal paired with cheesy polenta – my husband mixed in shredded mozzarella, grated parmesan, garlic powder, and pepper. 

I finally made the potato salad I’d been meaning to make since I bought dill for it in week 8.  I did by best to re-create the yummy salad a friend makes based on her grandmother’s recipe.  I don’t know how similar my potato salad was to my friend’s grandmother’s, but I’m very pleased with how it came out.  Here’s what I did:  Cut two pounds of potatoes into large bite-sized pieces.  In a saucepan, cover the pieces with water.  Bring to a boil.  After the water reaches a boil, continue boiling for seven more minutes.  (Test with a fork to be sure the texture is right.  Potatoes cut a different size will need a different length of cooking.)  Drain the potatoes and rinse with cold water.  Dress with a mixture of 1/4 cup vegetable oil (I used canola), 1/2 cup white vinegar, 2 teaspoons salt, and a half dozen or more grinds of black pepper,  Mix in one bunch of dill, chopped.

I want to make a color-switched cole slaw with red cabbage and yellow carrots.  I hope the red color doesn’t run, because then the carrots wouldn’t still be yellow.  When (if) I make it, I’ll have to post a photo.

While we have arugula (or when we had lettuce), various veggies go into green salad. Tonight’s supper, for example, included a salad of arugula, cucumber, and beet roots.  The beets were boiled for 20 minutes (which was a bit too long for the small size of our beets this week), then cooled and sliced.  They’re sweet, colorful, and (if not over-cooked) crunchy, which makes them a wonderful addition to a salad.  Be careful, though, because they stain hands and could probably stain countertops if you don’t wipe them down promptly and thoroughly.

We at the salad with a homemade balsamic vinaigrette. I use a Good Seasons cruet, and add balsamic vinegar past the -v- line all the way up to the -w- line, then olive oil up to the -o- line.  I put in salt, garlic powder, basil, oregano, and black pepper.  I have no idea what quantities.  Just sort of to taste.  Sometimes when I make a fresh batch, I’ll dress my salad and then get up from the table to doctor up the dressing.  Usually my problem is not enough salt.  Kitchen chemistry hint:  it’s easier to dissolve the salt in the vinegar before adding the oil.  It’s about polarity.  That will have to be its own post sometime soon. 

When we don’t have leafy greens for a salad, some of those same good-for-eating-raw vegetables become crudites (vegetable sticks) with dip.  We did that recently with carrots, cucumbers, and kohlrabi.  My homemade vegetable dip is very easy:  start with plain yogurt, add salt, pepper, garlic powder, and dill, all “to taste.”  Because the base is plain yogurt (as opposed to sour cream and mayonnaise, which is the more typical dip base) it’s very healthy, aside from the salt.  I use lowfat plain yogurt.  I buy Stonyfield Farms, which is based in southern New Hampshire only about an hour north of Boston, so it’s a local food.  And tasty local food, at least on this blog, is the whole point.

Week 9: July 20-26

July 25, 2008

We just ate an incredible, gourmet-looking dinner. We had a zucchini-polenta torte (or was it a casserole?) and a salad. The salad was arugula, cucumber, Gorgonzola (blue cheese), and black raspberries, with balsamic vinaigrette dressing.  The torte was in 3 layers:  seasoned polenta, sliced zucchini, and cheddar cheese.  For the polenta layer, I simmered together 1 cup of fine cornmeal (sold as polenta), 1 quart of water, about a tablespoon each of cumin and minced garlic, about a teaspoon of salt, and maybe half a teaspoon of chili powder (I wasn’t measuring anything).  I arranged it in a 9×13 pan, and baked it at 350 for maybe 45 minutes.  The arranged circles of two large zucchini made it look very pretty.   The spiced polenta layer made it very tasty.  We accompanied the meal with another local agricultural product:  perry (hard pear cider) from a farm in northeastern Massachusetts. 

This week’s CSA drop-off left us with one bunch each of arugula and tatsoi,  two zucchini, two yellow summer squash, four smallish cucumbers, one head of cabbage, one pound of Kentucky Wonder beans, two pounds of green beans, and two pounds of potatoes.  We were also supposed to get one bunch of spring onions, but I gave those away to someone else at the pick-up. 

Tatsoi is new this year, and looks like dark green arugula, but Greens, Glorious Greens says it’s flat cabbage and good for stir-fries, which is probably what we’ll do with it.  The zucchini and summer squash would be good grilled and in sandwiches (or just plain), but we’ll probably just sautee them and tossed with pasta. 

A couple of salads have made use of last week’s lettuce, this week’s arugula, a couple of cucumbers, and (as mentioned above) all the black raspberries we hadn’t simply eaten already.  Beets would have gone very well, but to get the right texture they have to be boiled and cooled before slicing into salads, so we didn’t put beets in. 

The weather finally broke.  We had a couple of cool days this week.  Finally, I did some blanching and freezing:  the pound of Kentucky Wonder beans and a pound and a half of slender little carrots, yellow and orange mixed.  The beans blanch and shock for about 3 minutes, and the carrots get 5 minutes.  I had intended to do the two pounds of green beans, too, but ran out of time.

What’s still in our fridge?  Some beets and carrots, all four pounds of potatoes that we’ve gotten so far, the bunch of dill I bought to make potato salad with, one kohlrabi, two zucchini, two summer squash, three cucumbers, one head of cabbage, one bunch of tatsoi, and two pounds of green beans.  I wonder what else we can freeze.