Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Chickpea and Pear Olla

Exploring ideas for a dish that would combine my CSA pears and onions, I happened upon one that would also include my CSA chickpeas. An olla is a "soupy legume stew," and has many versions depending on the region of Spain in which it originates.

I simply cannot resist trying recipes with ingredients that are all over the map like this. The lure is the possibility of a new favorite dish, unusual and intriguing. Of course, the dish may also bomb. This olla did not. The flavors blended amazingly well into a savory, rustic stew with a subtle fruity tone and several layers of flavor. Very interesting technique to fry and chop the garlic, and add it just before serving. I'll definitely make this again.

I'd saved my two least-ripe CSA pears in the fridge, and they were still quite firm. Having no squash on hand of any type, I substituted sweet potato for the pumpkin/butternut squash. The CSA chickpeas, according the farmer's e-mail, are a special variety prized in Spain, and the seeds were brought from there. They are a tad more dainty than common chickpeas.
(Olla Gitana or "Gypsy Pot")
Adapted from The New Spanish Table by Anya von Bremzen

1 cup dried chickpeas, soaked overnight and drained
1 large carrot, cut into 1-inch chunks
9-10 cups chicken or vegetable stock

1 pound pumpkin or butternut squash, cut into 1-inch chunks
10 ounces green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch lengths
2 small, slightly under-ripe Anjou pears, peeled, cored and cut into 1-inch chunks
Coarse salt
Freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons olive oil
3 large garlic cloves, chopped
10 whole blanched almonds (boil for one minute in water, then slip skins off)

3/4 cup chopped onion
1 teaspoon sweet (not smoked or hot) paprika
2 medium tomatoes, chopped (or one 14-oz. can diced tomatoes)
1 medium pinch of saffron (a loose teaspoon), pulverized in a mortar and steeped in 3 tablespoons very hot water
About two teaspoons red wine vinegar

2 tablespoons slivered fresh mint

In a 5-quart pot over high heat, bring chickpeas, carrot and 6 cups chicken stock to a boil. Skim off any foam, reduce heat, cover, and simmer 1 hour or until chickpeas are tender.

Add 3 cups more stock along with pumpkin, green beans and pears. Season with salt and pepper to taste. I used 1 teaspoon coarse salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Increase heat to medium and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, until vegetable are soft, about 15 to 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a medium-sized skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and cook until golden. Remove with slotted spoon to small bowl. Add almonds and cook until golden. Remove with slotted spoon to small bowl with garlic.

To skillet, add onion and cook 5 minutes, stirring. Add paprika and stir for a few seconds, then add tomatoes (undrained if using canned) and stir, cooking for a few minutes until liquid begins to reduce.

Add tomato mixture and saffron water to the chickpeas. Continue cooking until vegetables are very soft and the pumpkin is falling apart, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add chicken broth if stew seems too thick.

Finely chop the almonds and garlic in a small food processor. Stir them into the chickpea mixture. Add two teaspoons vinegar, and taste for salt, pepper and vinegar, adjusting as necessary.

Let stew cool for 10 minutes. Sprinkle mint over the top and serve the olla with crusty bread.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas Night Greens

Even with the best of intentions, one can easily exceed the legal limit of fat and sugar consumption come the Holidays. Especially when prime rib is in the offing (hey, I DID say that I try to eat healthily but am not a fanatic!) along with scalloped potatoes, goodie plates of cookies, candy ... chocolates ... dishes with cream and butter ... oooh.

After the day of festivities wound down, my CSA braising greens raised their little green voices into a chorus that called to my overtaxed system, offering a restorative, balancing remedy. I could not ignore them.

But I did not want to go the traditional Asian route ... fat, salt and garlic aplenty had been consumed this Christmas Day. So I sauteed them up with water and chopped fresh ginger only. I think the main green was tatsoi, which seems to have a slightly spicier flavor than spinach. The resulting dish had a faint medicinal taste, but bracingly so. It felt so virtuous and healthy that I felt I deserved just one more chocolate truffle as my reward for eating greens.

Wash and sort braising greens, and saute them over high heat in a skillet in about 1/4 inch water with a tablespoon or so of chopped ginger. Stir and turn constantly until water evaporates, then add more water and keep stirring and turning until the greens are wilted and tender, and the water is gone.

I served these with organic grapefruit, in honor of the whole excess-curbing effort.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Kale Salad with Walnuts and Raisins

If you are looking for a kale salad recipe that people actually take second helpings of, this is it. Jamie Calley told me about this salad when I was buying eggs and arugula from her at the Richland Farmer's Market last summer. I have made it many times.

Lots of CSA kale came in this box, and I am saving some to make kale chips again. Kale chips are addictive.

I am actually going to put some quantities in this recipe, but do feel free to ignore them.


About six cups of sliced kale
1/2 cup raisins, golden or dark
3/4 cup walnuts, very coarsely chopped

2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons agave syrup or honey
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt

Rip the kale leaves off the thick center stems, wash and slice.

In large mixing bowl, combine dressing ingredients and whisk well. Toss in the kale and stir well to coat. Add the raisins and walnuts, toss, and serve. This salad keeps extraordinarily well, but if you are going to serve it later, only add the walnuts just before serving so they stay crunchy.

Pears in White Wine with Vanilla, Almonds & Chocolate

I confess to becoming more and more determined through my years of cooking to create recipes that are not only tasty but good for you, and that don't have artificial stuff in them (you know ... like "fat free sour cream." Honestly.) But to do so successfully has always been a tall order. My stepchildren are still incredulous that I actually made spinach cookies.

Hence, the CSA pears intrigued me. Pears are often poached in red wine, but why? And vanilla is often associated with them ... and almonds ...

Determined to avoid sugary, carmel-y sauces and butter and whatnot, I forged ahead and poached the pears in white wine with a bit of vanilla, and topped them with almonds and grated unsweetened chocolate. And I actually served these not only to my husband, but to my friend Holly, who had dinner with us tonight. She said they tasted like something you'd get in a fancy restaurant. But ... she IS a very nice person ...

To peel pears, it helps to have a serrated peeler. It works really well on thin-skinned fruits and vegetables.

I saved a couple of the whole pears because I am determined to come up with a dish that has pears AND onions in it.


Ripe pears
White wine
Unsweetened chocolate

Peel, halve and core pears. Arrange in a skillet with a quarter inch or so of white wine. Add a teaspoon or so of vanilla. Cover and poach until pears are almost soft (don't overcook). Remove lid and continue to simmer until liquid is almost gone. Turn the pears to coat them in the reduction, then place on dessert plates and top with a mixture of chopped almonds and grated chocolate. Make sure the pears are hot so the chocolate melts.

Herb 'n Onion Potato Soup

I just had to do something with one of those beautiful CSA onions tonight. I hadn't used the potatoes from Box 2 yet, so I got them out, and of course, soup came to mind.

What with the excitement of the new box and all, I got a bit over-enthused about herbs, and put in some oregano from my garden, and some of the CSA sage. But next time I will stick with just the thyme. It's a very simple soup, and doesn't seem to want a lot of conflicting herb flavors. I try to keep dairy foods to a minimum, but you could add some milk or cream to this.


5 or 6 potatoes
1 large onion
A quart or so of chicken broth

Peel and dice the potatoes and onion, and put in soup pot. Add chicken broth and thyme to taste. I used about 2 teaspoons. Bring to boil, then simmer 'til potatoes are soft. Run a potato masher through the soup, and taste for salt. Add additional broth if the soup becomes too dry or if you like a thinner soup.

Third Box!

Okay, I figured out why I love these boxes so much. It still seems so ... unexpected to have LOCAL produce in winter! It's like the Farmer's Market all year round!

The e-mail said there would be leeks, but they appear to have been replaced with braising greens. There were red D'Anjou pears, at the perfect ripeness for eating, so I ate one. Oh, man. It was delish. There's dried sage, garbanzo beans, a big bag of kale, and some beautiful, fresh onions.

This box set off a cooking frenzy that really shows why I think of myself as a quirky kind of cook.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Collard Greens: Not for the Timid

That big pile o' CSA collard greens just waited patiently, bagged, in my fridge 'til tonight. I'd actually offered to give them to my friend Michele, who loves "canned collards," but she couldn't use them at the moment.

I tried to forget them, but by and by I started thinking about cornbread, to go with the leftover lentils from Monday's post. Well, what is more natural with legumes and cornbread than greens? So I hauled them out and looked at them. For once I didn't want to Google my CSA vegetable and be overrun with myriad variations of the same basic idea. These greens just shouted AUTHENTIC.

So I called Michele for collard advice. She knew exactly what to do! The recipe is really more hers than mine.


A big 'ol bunch of
collard greens
ham (Michele prefers it) or bacon

Grab the big leaves and strip the leafy parts off the center veins, and from any large-ish side veins. Slice up the leafy parts. Wash them well.

In a pot, fry up the meat, and leave as much fat as you are comfortable with. I used the "natural" bacon left over and frozen as described in the Brussels Sprouts post.

Toss in the greens, stir 'em around, and add water ... about a half inch. Put in about a tablespoon of sugar (I used sucanat). Michele says this cuts the bitterness of the greens. Cover the pot and boil for at least an hour. Check and add water if necessary.

Michele likes to cook hers for two hours, and says some folks like to put in crushed red pepper, although she does not. I did not. And these greens were delicious, earthy ... and went fantastically with the lentils and fresh cornbread I made using the Moosewood Cookbook recipe.

And the cornbread was greatly enhanced by the muscadine jelly (very winy-tasting) that Michele brought back from her last trip to Arkansas. I put jalapeno jelly (made by my friend Lenora) on my other piece of cornbread.

All in all, it was scrumptious. And! This was a three-CSA-item dinner ... collards, lentils, and the squash custard from Monday for dessert.

This eating local thing is a blast! 

Oh, and Michele says not to forget to enjoy the collard greens' "pot likker!"

Monday, December 14, 2009

Braised Lentils with Saffron

I'm not sure what variety my CSA lentils are, but they're petite and brown .. I'm guessing they're French.

We first tasted this unusual combination at Taverna Tagaris. When I decided to try to make it at home, I found online that the combination of saffron and lentils isn't unusual at all. Some recipes include meat and vegetables, but I like the simplicity of the just the lentils and seasonings. The saffron seems to lift and compliment the flavor of the lentils. And that's no small feat ... lentils are quite mild flavored.

This recipe is adapted from several I found online. Red lentils give a lovely final presentation, but brown lentils work, too. The important thing is not to overcook the lentils. They should not break down, but remain whole, swimming in just a bit of broth.

This recipe makes 5 or 6 hearty servings.


1-3/4 cup lentils
1 tablespoon olive oil or butter
1/4 cup white wine
1 teaspoon saffron threads
2-4 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade

Sort and rinse the lentils. Place them in a bowl and soak for about 6 hours, then rinse again and drain.

Heat chicken stock in a separate pan. The amount of stock needed will vary depending on the lentils.

Heat the olive oil or butter in a skillet over medium heat, and add the drained lentils, stirring to coat. Heat for a few minutes, stirring occasionally, then stir in the wine and saffron. After the wine has mostly evaporated, add hot chicken stock to just cover the lentils. Cover and simmer gently for 12 to 20 minutes, adding broth if the lentils become dry. Taste for salt and texture. The lentils should retain their shape and be slightly chewy, but not hard. Remember that they should be swimming in just a bit of broth. Serve immediately in individual ramekins.

Broccoli with Oregonzola

Pretty simple ... I steamed the CSA broccoli 'til tender in a few tablespoons of water, then sprinkled it with a bit (doesn't take much) of crumbled Oregonzola cheese, a version of gorgonzola produced in Oregon. Elevated broccoli to new realms of taste. Broccoli from the store doesn't usually come with leaves around it, but the CSA broccoli was cradled in lovely, deep green leaves.

Squash Custard with Cranberries, Walnuts & Ginger

You know how when you watched the movie Titanic, you found yourself thinking, "maybe it won't sink this time." Even though I knew better than to leave the big Hubbard-y CSA squash in the garage, I did it anyway, thinking somehow the laws of thermodynamics would alter themselves just this one time. But the temperature got so low that the squash froze. I asked my parents if it was okay to quickly cook squash that had frozen, but they weren't sure. I called the County Extension office, but no food people were around.

Sometimes, you just gotta do what seems right. So I hacked off the most frozen parts, cut the rind off the lesser-frozen parts, and microwaved the resulting cubes. Ice crystals in the squash turned into water, so I had to drain the cooked squash. The CSA acorn squash (which I had brought inside) was roasted halved. I was rewarded with a lovely yellow-gold squashy mash. Each squash had a distinct taste; the Hubbard-y one was mild and cool, and the acorn was intense and earthy. I decided to combine them for an ethereal custard.

I wanted to try molasses instead of sugar, but was interested in preserving the beautiful color ... this is SQUASH, not pumpkin, and its appearance should say so. The custard mix was kind of thick, so I tested a cranberry on top and it didn't sink, so I figured a little topping of nuts, ginger and cranberry would lift this into another realm.

Libby's, step aside. Squash just may be the new pumpkin.

2 1/2 cups cooked CSA squash
1/4 cup organic sugar or sucanat
1/4 cup agave syrup
3/4 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
3 local eggs
1 cup organic milk
3/4 cup organic half-n-half

2 tablespoons dried cranberries
2 tablespoons candied ginger
2 tablespoons local walnuts

In blender, combine custard ingredients until smooth. Pour into buttered, shallow 3-quart casserole.

In small food processor, chop ginger pieces until about the size of peas. Add cranberries and chop, then add walnuts and chop. The mixture pieces should be approximately the same size. Sprinkle over top of custard.

Bake at 350 degrees for about an hour and 15 minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out clean.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Second box!

Although I had to wear sunglasses when driving to the drop site, IT IS COLD HERE. Last night the temperature got down to 4 degrees, and stayed at around 19 all day.

The CSA farmer is keeping us informed as to developments on the farm. The carrots and beets are trapped for the moment in frozen ground. Greenhouse heating troubles removed the lettuce mix and the braising greens from our boxes. All growing things are kind of hunkering down right now. Even knowing this ahead of time did not diminish the "Christmas morning" feeling I got when I peeked into my box.

Here is what I saw ... a big 'ol squash of some sort, will look up what kind. Maybe a Hubbard? And a little squash I think is an acorn. Three fists of broccoli, a whole SLEW of rutabagas (I love produce with dirt on it), some turnips, collard greens, spinach, potatoes, and a bag of petite brown lentils. Woo hoo!

The spinach (as thick, green and gorgeous as last time) was flirting with being frozen, so I washed it immediately and it's ready to saute with garlic and olive oil for dinner. I'm most curious about the rutabagas, as I don't recall ever eating them before. I see ... lentil soup ... roasted squash ... and what a perfect time to take a couple of my free-range chickens out of the freezer and roast them with the potatoes.

I am loving this.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Golden Borscht

Winter CSAs will, I think, lend themselves nicely to soup. About the time you're looking at the bits and pieces left in your fridge, soup starts to sound good.

And I have officially used everything from the First Box! Tomorrow I get to pick up the Second Box!

I had three golden beets left from the summer farmer's market, plus some potatoes from my CSA farmer's booth, and the CSA bok choy, and some Granny Smiths from my husband's parents' orchard ... yep, it's a go. Recipe is a hybrid of six I found in various cookbooks. This borscht was so good I made a second batch of it with more beets (organic from Yoke's Market) and the other CSA bok choy. It's robust, which I think was the original borscht inventors' idea.

Saute 15 minutes:
1 tablespoon butter or olive oil
1 large onion, chopped or halved and sliced thinly
3 carrots, diced
6-8 kale leaves, sliced (I used one of my CSA bok choys)
or 1/2 head cabbage, sliced
1 cup diced celery

Sprinkle on and stir in:
3 tablespoons smoked paprika

Add and simmer for 1 hour:
2 quarts beef broth (I used Imagine brand organic)
1 Granny Smith apple, diced
3 beets, golden or red, diced
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 can tomato paste
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 bay leaves
a few grinds black pepper

2 local potatoes, diced
pinch crushed red pepper, more if you wish

Yogurt or goat cheese

Cook 'til potatoes are tender. Remove bay leaves. Taste for salt and pepper. Serve with sour cream (or yogurt or crumbled goat cheese) and chopped dill (fresh is best, dried is okay) to top each serving.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Gunsmoke Slaw

Heretofore, when slicing Chinese cabbage for slaw, I sort of closed one eye and tried not to think about the 700 or so miles it probably traveled to get to Pasco. So it was with huge delight that I prepared Gunsmoke Slaw with my beautiful CSA Chinese cabbage.

This is a light, smoky, spicy slaw, adapted from one of my top 10 cookbooks. It pairs well with heavier winter dishes like stews and casseroles.

Slaws are extremely versatile and recipes for them can be tampered with wildly. Add vegetables, adjust dressing seasonings ... this whole recipe can be made Asian by substituting rice vinegar for cider vinegar, chili paste for chipotle, and adding fresh ginger.

For Gunsmoke Slaw, taper the chipotle up gradually. It can be really hot. Also adjust the sugar to suit your taste ... I like tangy slaws so usually reduce it. I also reduce the oil because I don't like heavy slaws. This recipe reflects my adjustments.
Adapted from Vegetarian Planet by Didi Emmons

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 garlic clove
1 tablespoon sugar or agave nectar
1 teaspoon salt
Chipotle puree or chopped chipotle in adobe sauce, to taste (start with about 1/2 teaspoon)
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1 tablespoon canola or corn oil

2 seedless oranges, peel and pith removed, cut into sections with membrane removed
1/2 head green cabbage or 1 head Chinese cabbage, cored and sliced thinly
3 carrots, grated
5 scallions, sliced thinly

Mix dressing ingredients in a small food processor. Adjust chipotle and sugar to taste. Add dressing to vegetables in bowl and stir well. Toss in oranges. Best made at least 2 hours before serving. Keeps very well for several days.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Crispy kale

Indeed, you CAN make a crispy snack of this much-maligned green. They taste like healthy, green air, and are incredibly easy to make. The CSA kale is, like the spinach, wonderfully robust and deep, deep green.

Turn oven on to 250 degrees.

In the bottom of a large-ish bowl, put about 2 teaspoons olive oil. This is for a medium-sized bunch of kale. Bigger or smaller bunches, adjust amount of olive oil accordingly.

Cut out tough stems of a bunch of kale (kitchen shears work great for this, or you can just rip the leaf away from the stem), and cut leaves in half or so if they're large, and if you feel like it. Wash and thoroughly spin dry (this is important) the kale pieces.

Have some salt in a little dish nearby. This is the second time I've made these chips, and I decided to add some pepper and cayenne to spice things up. For the amount of kale in the picture, my salt, pepper and cayenne in equal amounts TOTALLED about 1/2 teaspoon altogether. You don't need much salt or spice; the leaves are going to lose a LOT of volume.

With your hands, spread the olive oil around the interior of the bowl, then toss the leaves in. Kind of rub the oil onto the surfaces of the bowl to pick up the oil, then massage them around so the oil coats as much of the leaves as possible. Don't stress out over this--you just don't want any globs of oil.

Spread the leaves, preferably without their touching each other too much (although a little touching is okay) on a cookie sheet lined with a Silpat. Honestly, the Silpat is the invention of the century for cooks, so don't mess around with foil and stuff, get a Silpat.

Sprinkle your salt or salt/spice mixture lightly over the leaves.

Bake for about 30 minutes. Check it at about 15 minutes, though. The transformation from leaf to chip can be fairly sudden. When done, all the leaves should be crisp with no moisture left.

That's it! These look cool in a bowl. They'd make great party food except that you get little pieces of green in your teeth.

Update: I made another batch of these and sprinkled mesquite meat rub seasoning on them before crisping. Very yummy.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

This and that

Oh my gosh, I have followers! Eeek! Well, in for a penny, in for a pound. If local eating is my cause, I guess I have to not be shy about promoting it.

Catching up on some other box items ... the brioche is delicious, but after tasting it (who could resist? It was so fresh!), I froze the rest so I can be pleasantly surprised at some later meal. In future, I can order breads for my CSA box from the Burhmaster Bakery in Selah,where the brioche came from. They have whole-grain breads, too.

The lettuce mix traveled to Brewster, Washington and made a lovely salad at my mother-in-law's house the day after Thanksgiving. I'd made a little vinaigrette of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, red wine vinegar, garlic and salt to take along, and we drizzled that on top of the greens.

The carrots and radishes have been disappearing as crudites! And it turns out kohlrabi is delicious raw, too ... peeled and sliced. Kind of a cross between cabbage/turnip/broccoli, but with a very mild flavor.