Saturday, June 28, 2008

C is for Cabbage

Even though I am getting deliveries every other week, the CSA recommends using most of the food within the first 5 days or so. Some can go in the freezer, but I see it as a challenge to cook and eat as much as possible within the first week.

Of course I am going to be out of town the next two nights, so we've been a little more frantic than usual to use the food.

Last night we wanted to use the cabbage and still had some mint left over from the first delivery. Ryan went online and found a recipe called ginger-scented tomato and cabbage soup with fresh mint.

One of the ingredients was alphabet pasta!

We enjoyed the soup a lot. It was steaming hot so we ate outside, where it was much cooler than in my kitchen. All the vegetables still had a little crunch, and the cabbage added some nice texture.

Ginger-Scented Tomato and Cabbage Soup with Fresh Mint
1 head of cabbage
4 ounces small pasta, such as alphabets
2 onions, coarsely chopped
3-5 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon butter
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 small carrot, diced
2 cups diced fresh tomatoes
6 cups vegetable broth
10-15 fresh mint leaves
salt, black pepper and cayenne pepper to taste

Cook the pasta, drain and set aside.
Lightly sauté the onion and garlic in butter until softened. Stir in the ginger and carrot and cook for a few moments; add tomatoes, broth and cabbage.
Cook over medium heat until the vegetables are tender (15-20 minutes).
Adjust seasoning.
Ladle the soup over several spoonfuls of pasta per person.
Season each portion with a sprinkling of fresh mint and serve immediately.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

A Summer Feast

Week two of the CSA was greener than the first: two different kinds of lettuce, collards, cabbage, green zucchinis, sugar snap peas, parsley, grape leaves, garlic scapes...and some mushrooms and strawberries for color.

Last night I decided to dig in and made a 3-course meal.

First, I trolled some other blogs for recipe ideas.

For the first course, I found a recipe for strawberry and feta salad. I was so excited to get strawberries after all the rain in Wisconsin hurt the first harvest, but there was enough to give everyone a pint in their box this week. So when I discovered the recipe on Closet Cooking (which has a much better picture than I took), I knew this was it.

Can I just say yum?

The salad was so fresh and crisp and sweet and cheesy, while the tangy dressing added flavors of garlic, mustard, honey, balsamic and raspberry vinegar....This was a big winner, a perfect refreshing summer recipe, and I will definitely make it again.

For the main course, I decided to make the stuffed grape leaves recipe from the CSA newsletter. This was both fun and slightly problematic to make.

The fun part was stuffing and roling up the grape leaves. It was pretty simple. I dipped the leaves into boiling water for about 30 seconds and removed the stems. Then I laid the leaves shiny side down and placed about a tablespoon of the mixture (ground beef, rice, cinnamon, salt, and pepper) across the leaf and folded forward, right side, left side, and then rolled it up tight.

Then I mixed together chopped garlic, lemon juice, mint, and a cup of water and poured the mixture over the grape leaves, which I had put in a pot. Simmer for an hour, and that's it.

I was worried that the meat wouldn't cook well, but the real problem was the flavor. There was none. I had way too much meat left over (1/2 pound beef for eight grape leaves = way too much meat). It was nearly tasteless. But the grape leaves held up well, and I'd like to experiment with another recipe.

For dessert, I decided to make zucchini bread since I typically saute it with other veggies. I found a recipe on Smitten Kitchen, which features photos that make you want to reach inside the computer and stuff your face with them.

The delicious smell wafting out of my kitchen was the first sign that the bread would turn out well. In anticipation we walked up the block to Baskin Robbins and bought a pint of vanilla ice cream. This turned out to be a great call. The bread, with its slightly nutty taste from the addition of chopped walnuts, stood quite well on its own. But the warm bread soaked with the cold vanilla ice cream was phenomenal. We saved some ice cream for tonight, when we made the second loaf.

Luckily we still have another zucchini left.

Strawberry and Feta Salad (from Closet Cooking and
1 clove garlic (grated)
1/2 teaspoon honey
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 tablespoon raspberry vinegar
1/2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 serving romaine lettuce (cut into bite sized pieces)
1 handful strawberries (sliced)
1 handful feta cheese (crumbled)
1 handful slivered almonds (toasted)

Mix the garlic, honey, mustard, vinegar and oil.
Toss the lettuce, almonds, strawberries and almonds with the dressing to coat.

Stuffed Grape Leaves (from Home Grown Wisconsin)
8 fresh grape leaves – blanched – dip in boiling water for about 30 seconds
1/2 C. uncooked brown rice
2 Tbs. fresh or dried mint
1 Cup Water
1/2 pound ground lamb, beef or pork (we found this was way too much meat for 8 grape leaves)
Pinch of cinnamon, salt, pepper
2 garlic cloves
1 lemon

Mix meat with rice, salt, pepper and cinnamon.
Remove stem from grape leaf, spread leave on flat surface, shiny side down
Place about 1 teaspoon of meat mixture across the leafabout 1/2 inch from stem point.
Fold leaf forward toward stuffing.
Then fold right side over and roll leaf very tight. When fully rolled, squeeze it to secure. Repeat. Neatly place each stuffed roll in large pot in layers.
Pound garlic with mint and salt.
Add 1 cup water and juice from lemon andpour over grape leaves.
Cover and bring to a boil. Turn down to simmer, cover and cook slowly for 1 hour.
Steam until grape leaves are soft, but not falling apart.
Don’t over cook.

Zucchini Bread (from Smitten Kitchen)
Yield: 2 loaves or approximately 24 muffins
3 eggs
1 cup olive or vegetable oil
1 3/4 cups sugar
2 cups grated zucchini
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)
1 cup dried cranberries, raisins or chocolate chips or a combination thereof (optional)

Friday, June 20, 2008

The New Frontier

Last night I ventured into uncharted territory. Dessert.

Until now, I've used my CSA ingredients in stews, salads, soups, side dishes, dressings, toppings, and snacks. But never dessert.

That is, until I got some rhubarb. At first I wasn't quite sure what to do with it. Of course, I had heard of rhubarb pie, but I didn't see myself making that.

Actually I couldn't understand how rhubarb - which looks like red celery - would transform into a dessert. It looks more like a vegetable that you would dip into hummus or salsa.

But a quick search on brought up mostly tart, pie, and compote recipes, often made with strawberries, which are also harvested this time of year (sadly though, the waterlogged strawberry crops mean much fewer, if any, pints in my box this summer, according to my CSA).

I settled on a rhubarb and strawberry compote with fresh mint spooned over vanilla ice cream.

After I stopped drooling, I chopped the rhubarb into 1/2 inch pieces, which went into a saucepan with 1/4 cup of water and 1 1/2 cups of sugar and simmered for 10 minutes. I either cut the rhubarb too big or should have simmered longer because the final outcome (stirred together with halved strawberries and mint and chilled for an hour before spooning over ice cream) was more crunchy than tender.

This was noted in the recipe - to cook until tender - but I was too busy preparing dinner to think about tasting it. This was shocking to realize, because I have a huge sweet tooth.

So next time, I'll be sure to make dessert separately.

Rhubarb and Strawberry Compote with Fresh Mint (from Bon Appetit, May 2008)

3 cups 1/2-inch-wide pieces fresh rhubarb (cut from about 1 pound)
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1 1-pint container fresh strawberries, hulled, halved
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint

Combine rhubarb, sugar, and 1/4 cup water in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Bring to simmer, stirring occasionally, until sugar dissolves, about 3 minutes. Simmer gently until rhubarb is tender but not falling apart, stirring occasionally, about 7 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in strawberries. Transfer to bowl and stir in mint. Chill until cold, about 1 hour.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Summer of Green(s)

I've jumped on the non-fossil fuel emitting bandwagon. I have always ridden a bicycle, but for the first time, I'm making a conscious effort to reduce my driving.

This, in part, came about because of my participation in a CSA. During the winter share, I realized I was buying less but driving more to the grocery store. Instead of my weekly run, where I'd buy food for the next several days, I would pick an ingredient or two from the box, find a recipe, and drive to the store to buy what was missing from my shelves -- a few times a week.

I felt like these extra trips defeated the purpose of community supported agriculture, which should cut down on greenhouse gas emissions through deliveries of locally grown food (I say "should" because of current research challenging the notion that eating local always leaves a smaller carbon footprint than eating food that comes from farther afield, depending on how food is packaged and transported, what type of food it is, and how it is grown).

I have since started going to the small Mexican grocery store around the corner more but still shop often at the nearest Jewel and Whole Foods, which are close but not walking distance.

With warmer weather (finally!) hitting Chicago, I decided to cut those short car trips out as much as possible. I took my rusty but trusty 12-year-old mountain bike to a bike shop and got a rack and two collapsable baskets installed on the back.

And just in time for the summer CSA, which started Wednesday!

Speaking of green, there is a lot of that in this share.

Fortunately, many of the Wisconsin farms that contribute to my CSA were not hit too hard by all the rain and flooding that is devastating parts of the Midwest. At least that's the preliminary report. In the first box, we got lettuce, spinach, asparagus, green garlic, mint, and chives (topped by purple flowers, who knew?).

While there are many greens, the share includes some brilliant colors - those purple flowers, bright red radishes (which tasted crispy and spicy in my salad last night), chewy white mushrooms, dark red stalks of rhubarb, and a jar of brown pear butter.

There is more urgency to eat this food. The shares are going to come hard and fast every other week, instead of once a month, and many of the greens spoil if not eaten in a few days to a week.

We've already made a small dent with a big salad last night and sliced mushrooms, radishes, hearts of palm, and goat cheese. The night before, Ryan tested one of the recipes included in the CSA newsletter.

Spring Linguine

1/2# asparagus – prepared and cut into 1 inch pieces
1/2 # mushrooms, sliced
2-3 stalks of green garlic, sliced
Handful of spinach
1 pd. Linguine pasta
Salt and pepper, chives, parmesan cheese (we subbed asiago cheese)

Boil water and cook pasta according to directions on package
Meanwhile, sauté garlic, asparagus, and mushrooms in olive oil, until slightly tender.
Turn off heat and add spinach – season with salt and pepper
Add drained linguine (hot)
Toss well
Top with chopped chives and shredded parmesan cheese


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