Sunday, June 19, 2016

CSA 2016 Week 2/3

I was out of town last week, so I ordered all greens that I could cook down so they would last to this week.

What's in the box this week:
week 2 -

week 3 -
head lettuce
mixed baby lettuce
1/2 crusty bread loaf
asparagus (bought at work as part of a green market for $1.50)

What also went into the cooked greens were some spinach and arugula that were going to go bad while I was out of town (why I thought I would eat 2 giant extra containers of greens, I will never know). So when I got back from my conference, I made green rice to use some of the greens and scallions.

To continue using the greens, I made 2 crustless veggie quiche. One went to a BBQ on Saturday and the other will go with the salad greens for lunches this week. It's a neat idea - you use onions as the "crust" then add in any veggies you have - so this one had the cooked greens and asparagus. Only one had the pretty top on it, so that one went to the BBQ.

The escarole went into a sausage-bean soup. I neglected to read the weather report and it's to be in the high 80s/low 90s this week...oops. Well it's pretty delicious, so it will be worth it, sweat and all.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

CSA 2016 Week 1

It's so wonderful to have such a wide variety of places to choose from when it comes to CSAs in my area. In the end, I have decided to go back to my original CSA through Covered Wagon Produce. Last year, one of my co-workers went with Covered Wagon, so this year we are splitting a whole share among 3 families and they live up by that farmers market, so I don't have to drive 30+ minutes in afternoon traffic once a week to pick up the box - what a blessing. My biggest complaint with Covered Wagon was that they had limited greens in their offerings. I think this is mainly due to when they start offering the share - which is July and by that time, it's too warm to have dainty lettuces and spinach.

So to offset this, I joined a second CSA through Old Tioga Farms - and will be splitting this as well. I heard about them when I lived in Central PA and their farm-to-table dinners in their own farm house. Since then, I have had 2 lovely Italian dinners over the past few years and now can utilize their CSA (they didn't deliver up toward me for the first bit and it would have been about an hour drive down to the farm). There's a few benefits to this CSA - they have my greens and it starts earlier in the season - June! They also have cooking classes occasionally and go to Italy to cook in the late winter/early spring - anyone interested??

Another fun thing with this CSA is the pick up location - which could end up being deadly. It's a local dairy with a farm store and some crazy-delicious ice cream. I've heard a lot about it and driven by but have not stopped in - boy, was I missing out! I'm looking forward to the milk I bought this week - it comes in glass, I didn't know that was a thing anymore! I think my future yogurt will also be extra delicious...

For the initial week we got:
mixed greens
beets and greens
radish and greens
rainbow chard
focaccia bread - did I forget to mention we opted for the bread share as well??

The mixed greens and spinach went to my co-sharer, as well as half the bread. The greens all went into a pot to braise. I added in my homemade pancetta, some reserved cooking liquid from a pot of beans and that's it. I just couldn't wait and made my inaugural CSA dish a plate of avocado toast on focaccia bread with braised greens. This dish made me so happy, I just couldn't help but show it off via text to all my fellow CSA sharers to make them jealous!!!

The rest of the greens were mixed with some white beans and will make a lovely addition to lunches.

I got really fancy with the beets and made a Beet, Cheddar and Apple Tart based on this recipe from Martha Stewart. I made bread dough with my sourdough starter rather than use puff pastry, so it's not quite as buttery as I imagine the original recipe is...but you have to feed the starter and it was rainy today! (somehow that seems to make sense in my head...)

Rather than go raw with the radishes (particularly since I have been enjoying many salads lately with radish), I found a recipe for Braised Radishes with Bacon and Shallot from the Kitchn. My grocery store didn't have shallots so I used regular onions instead. I also use the last of the beets as well - the share this week was 1 very large beet and few smaller ones. It's a very nice flavor, and once again, will go nicely with lunches alongside my tarts.


Back in the saddle again...

Well, it's been quite a while since I last posted. There are many reasons for this - mainly my computer started being funky and it made the whole blogging and writing process such a pain it just wasn't worth it to me any longer. I was in denial about how much I did or didn't need a new laptop - why do I need a laptop at home when I spend my entire work day in front of a computer and possess a tablet and smart phone? Apparently the answer is yes, I still do need a separate laptop for home I finally broke down and got one. Sometimes I wonder why I do this to myself....

In my blogging hiatus I have started to dabble in meat curing and have made my own duck prosciutto and pancetta. I also continue to ferment and took the plunge into wine making, starting with a box kit of Italian Pinot Grigio - this is currently in process and I am waiting to get to the right specific gravity for degassing and clarifying.

I bought half a pig last fall and had the enjoyable experience of choosing which cuts I wanted, how to cure specific parts and how much sausage I could get. There were a few things that surprised me about the process - as much as half a pig sounds in my head, it's actually not that much meat. Also I wanted to do way more than there was available meat, so I am looking forward to my next half this coming fall.

The duck and pig came from the same local farmer. The pancetta was a happy accident - I asked the farmer to set aside a 1lb piece of pork belly for braising. Apparently the local butcher didn't quite get what I was asking because when I defrosted the package, there was belly but no fat. In an attempt to turn lemons into lemonade, I tried my hand at pancetta. It wasn't entirely successful, as most recipes I looked at were for 5lb cut of pork belly. I tried to adjust the cure appropriately and not let it cure for as long, but in the end, after the drying time, I found the meat to be too salty. Oh well, live and learn. I put the lot in my food processor and I'm adding a little, bit by bit to various things - so no waste here!

This spring I had the good fortune to have a friend with a friend that knows how to forage for ramps on her property. I say "good fortune" as I was the happy recipient of some of these beauties for the first time and made ramp butter - it was such a lovely shade of green! I'm keeping it in my freezer and it is making appearances in eggs with the pancetta.

Another fun thing I found this spring were fiddle head ferns. I was in Boston visiting a friend in mid-April and found them. What an experience! I have been reading about fiddle heads for years in my cooking blogs but have yet to be blessed with finding them myself. I made pasta - it's my go-to when I come across a veggie that I have yet to dabble in. They were so bright and green tasting - a lovely way to bring in spring. (Also don't mind the "flat Stanley" in my picture - she belongs to one of my PAs from work and it was my assignment to bring her with me to Boston)

I'm not only about food - I have also been doing some crafting. I made a pottery garden gnome - which is funny, as it seems that I can cook most things but I have trouble growing them. After glazing, I realized he's naked! Guess that's why he has such a shocked expression...

I also found a fun "drinking while crafting" experience in making silk scarves - the company is called Sip-n-Silk. We made a zentangle pattern. Next will be sarongs! I also enjoy the painting while drinking experience as well - we have a local place called Art-n-Vino and have made some fun paintings in my off time as well.

So that's pretty much my year in review. I have also gotten a promotion at work and am now responsible for educating and molding minds - somewhat of a frightening thought, but I'm up to the challenge!!

I joined a CSA again, so keep an eye out for upcoming posts. I joined 2 separate ones and am sharing them with different work people, so I'm hoping that I didn't over commit!! Only time will tell...

My feeble attempt at gardening - at least they are growing and healthy!!!

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Vacation Cooking, Canada Style

Getting back from vacation is tough, particulary when we ate so well when were were gone! I usually try to cook farm to table - this week we cooked ocean to table! We had such a great time with family in British Colombia, Canada. The weather was wonderful - sunny, not too hot and not too much wind - perfect weather for fishing! We really packed it in and were busy all week. Here are some of the dishes we made...

We dug up some clams in no time! We went to a place that is usually under water other than specific low tides. My aunt says that with the tides changing so much that they only are able to dig clams a few times per year, so I have to say I feel pretty lucky we were there during this time.

The clams needed to spit out their grit, so they hung out in the water for 24 hours. Next they need to be cleaned. My step dad doesn't really seem too enthused for this job.

That's a whole mess of clams!! In the massive pan went granulated garlic, butter, parsley and wine (no need for salt).

What you can't see is the lovely liquid and the bread for dipping! What was left (which surprisingly there wasn't much) was cooked down for a pot of chowder later.

Next, on to oysters. We went out to the oyster lease for ours. Up in this area, people can purchase a lease that lasts for 100 years or so and they can seed the oyster beds and live off the profits. This lease is a friend of a friend's so we just pay for what we harvest.

The hunter and his catch.

Getting them open can be a bit tricky, but we have a master over here!

These are some massive oysters. We decided to get the large ones because they had to be cooked. Due to the warm water, there is risk for salmonella and so no raw seafood for us. Guess we will just have to settle for BBQ'd oysters, oh darn...

We went for a simple, creamy dressing of mayo, parmesan cheese and lemon.

When you have oysters this fresh, you don't need much! (BTW, the other sauce was barbeque sauce, cheese, lime, bacon and mojito seasoning for my uncle, who hates mayo - I didn't get a chance to taste it, but it sure smelled good!)

We not only had gifts from the ocean, we also were fortunate enough to forage for some apples (after the bear and crows that is - seriously there are loads of animals around the property and the caretaker said they watched the bear up on his hind legs eat the apples from the tree the day before), blackberries and rhubarb from my aunt's garden. The drought has also hit this part of the country and it was pretty slim pickings for the berries - it started raining as we were leaving so I'm hoping the berries that were left will plump up.

The rhubarb and some berries were turned into a sauce for the salmon.

The apples and the rest of the berries were made into this giant apple berry crisp. We served it with whipped cream and it was gone!

Last order of cooking buisness is a Coho salmon my step dad caught while we were out trolling. 

The BBQ came in handy again with this beautiful fish. My uncle has a special rub he uses - it's a mix of things so I'm not all together sure what he put on there...he has it down to a science and it was super tasty.

My uncle expertly delivering the fish to the grill.

Cooked to perfection! It was delicious with the rhubarb berry sauce.

Everyone enjoying our lunch al fresco - my aunt, mom and step dad. 

Sunday, August 9, 2015

CSA Week 10

Here's what came in the box this week:
summer squash

This week I feel somewhat put together...somewhat. I made a one-pot Spanish style chicken and potatoes. You first cook down the eggplant, tomatoes, onion and garlic (I also added in peppers that were left over from last week). Then you put everything in the blender. I originally thought that you put in cooked chicken, so I poached chicken in some homemade veggie broth (I needed the broth for another recipe). After reading the recipe again, it turns out you cook the chicken and potatoes in the sauce you just made (guess this shows you that you need to really read those recipes before you start cooking...oops). So I browned the cut up potatoes then added in the chicken and sauce and simmer until everything gets all bubbly. I couldn't quite get what was "spanish" about the dish, so I added in some smoked paprika and herbs with the potatoes. After simmering for 10 min or so, I added in fresh chopped parsley and left over chard from last week. Served over rice, this will be my lunch for the week.

I also made a gnocchi skillet with summer squash and kale. This recipe was orginally a fall type dish, using butternut squash and sage - I made it into a summer dish by using summer squash and dried thyme. The dish was to be put under the broiler but it was too hot to turn on the oven - lots of parmesan cheese later, and it was sooo delicious. You use packaged gnocchi, I found a whole wheat version and have been keeping it around for this type of dish. This seems like a very fancy dish and it didn't really take too long to make - would be good for a company first course or dinner for 2.

I got a massive bunch of scallions - the biggest bunch ever, really, so I was really trying to find a dish that would highlight the scallions. I found a recipe that made the scallions into a pesto. To take the edge off, you saute the onions in oil with garlic while the pasta is cooking. I added in the last of my peppers from last week and everything went into the blender with lemon zest, lemon juice, more olive oil and pasta water (I also added in parsley since I had to buy the bunch for the spanish chicken). I put the sauce into the bottom of a big bowl and added parmesan cheese and the hot pasta and stired it all up. It was nicely balanced and a lovely green color - and it didn't get dark like basil pesto can (due to oxidation). For a second meal, I added some cooked chicken sausage and it was much heartier. 

I also made a crustless zucchini pie. Yes, I did end up turning on the oven - it was more of a last minute decision as I had to make a dish for a work picnic. I was looking for something that wouldn't need to be heated and would be ok at room temperature. This dish seemed to be the perfect for this situation. I still had some zucchini that I shredded from last week - I was planning on making fritters during the week but it didn't happen, so I made this instead. I was surprised the shredded zucchini lasted like that in the fridge (and tip - it seemed to actually dry it out). The recipe called for shallot and chives, but I used the scallions instead. I also added in parsley, since I had it. It turned out really good and I would make it again - very nice for a light lunch or brunch. 

The last thing I made was a quick salad with cucumber, tomato, feta, parsley and red wine vinegar. I had the feta left over from a few weeks ago, so I was glad to use it up. The vinegar is one that I made and it tends to be a bit overly acidic, so I added some honey and it was nice, bright and fresh. 

For some reason, this week seemed to be much more managable...maybe I'm getting used to it??

Sunday, August 2, 2015

CSA Week 8/9

Things got away from me last week and I only got around to making 1 dish. I also think it is directly related to how hot it has been, not really an excuse, but maybe a reason. So this week I had to make up for slacking off...

What I had to deal with:
green onion
italian sweet peppers
zucchini (TONs from various sources)

The one dish I was able to make last week was a Greek-style veggie casserole. It used potatoes, oregano and zucchini. It also called for green beans and feta. Very tasty but I thought olives would have been a nice addition. I started using it like a hash for breakfast...really good with a runny yoke fried egg on top. 

My box sharing friend had her baby, so my gift to her was to use her share of the box and cook it up for the new parents. So I made a chicken, quinoa and summer veggie skillet. The recipe called for chunks of zucchini but most of the zucchinis I had were larger so I decided to shred them up and add them to everything. In this dish, they basically just melt into the dish.

What smaller zucchini I had, I made into garlic marinated zucchini. You fry up the sliced and salted zucchini then marinate in red wine vinegar, herbs and garlic. It sits at room temp for about an hour and you have a herby-sour side. 

In addition to the overwhelming amount zucchini, I also got a ton of green onions. I found a recipe called green rice, which uses up various greens and cooked rice. Mine had the green onions, broccoli tops, zucchini, and chard. The recipe used white rice, but I have loads of rice blends so I used a red, brown and black rice mix. You add in some egg, milk and cheese then bake. It comes out as a sliceable dish...loads of veggies and nuttiness from the rice. Yum!

Since the oven was on (and I had loads of zuccini), zucchini bread it is. This time a double chocolate muffin. I made 2 batches - one batch of muffins and a loaf. Can you guess the baby's gender? ;)

Jalapeno mac and cheese made an appearance again to deal with the first batch of jalapenos for the year. I added in the shredded zucchini so I didn't use as much pasta. I also used quinoa macaroni this time over the orzo. I also added in the last of my bacon jam...match made in heaven.

I'm exhausted...made most of this in one afternoon!! Will not let it get away from me again...

Sunday, July 19, 2015

CSA Week 7

Here's what's in the box this week:
summer squash (1)
zucchini (1)
chard and vinaigrette (went to my friend)

Half the kale was eaten as slaw, since I still had some dressing left over from last week. The other half I turned into kale chips. This is so easy and the kale shrinks down to nothing. It's a great way to use it up, plus way cheaper than the kale chips you can buy in the store! Well, I can't really comment on the packaged kale chips, as I refuse to buy them when I can make my own. These I dusted with chile-lime salt - a seasoning you can find in the Mexican section of the grocery store or online. The key is to spread everything out into a single layer, or they won't dehydrate evenly - even use a few pans if needed. 

For Sunday breakfast, I decided to make a hash with the potatoes. I picked through my growing supply of potatoes for all the smaller ones and boiled them first. I also used the summer squash and zucchini in the hash, as well as the last of the chicken from last week. The key to a good hash is to make sure you get good browning and crunchy bits. That's a bit hard for me, as I just can't seem to leave things alone (it has taken me many years to learn to make good fried eggs, since I have a tendency to flip too soon). For me, the key is to multitask so I get too busy to constantly tend to the pan. 

Still have the oregano left and the lettuce. I'll use the lettuce up in work salads. Will hit the farm stand down the street to beef up my salads with some cucumber and peppers. There's lots of potatoes left, so I was thinking about making a lemon, oregano, potato salad...will have to find a recipe for that...