Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Books, Locally Roasted Coffee, Pure Eire Milk ...

Picture the east sun warming your back as you sip delicious, locally-roasted Buzz Joy coffee, perhaps in a latte, while browsing the Richland Library's wondrous Friends of the Library Book Sale Room shelves or perhaps visiting with a friend at the convenient and comfortable tables in the light and airy foyer.

Now imagine discovering that Buzz Joy's coffee shop at the library uses delicious, fresh, local, Pure Eire milk (from grass-fed cows) in its coffee drinks! I'm not a huge fan of the word "bliss," but putting all these things together in one place makes for a pretty darn pleasant experience.

To my amazement, Heather at the Buzz Joy coffee shop told me that having Pure Eire milk delivered is cheaper than picking up organic milk at Winco. Heather is also committed to recycling and her enthusiasm for walking lightly on the earth is quite contagious.

Check out Pure Eire's website for the amazing facts about why milk from grass-fed cows is superior to standard organic brands. And next time you crave a great cup of coffee or want to meet a friend for a cup, remember this lovely new option.

I found a video to show you what's going on in the coffee shop and book sale department at the library!

Box the Tenth

With a pang, I admired my array of fresh, local vegetables, realizing that soon my boxes will stop coming. This box held baby bok choy to swoon over, a salad mix with umpteen different types of greens in it, a hulking bag of spinach, bunches of deep-green chives and parsley, green onions and tender, sweet carrots.

I made a luscious greens-and-herbs salad tonight for dinner, and blushed when I remembered the post where I said I was getting tired of greens. No! They are SO delicious and fresh. I don't want my boxes to stop!

But! Only a couple of weeks after the last box, the first local farmer's market will open ... where I can be found regularly taking advantage of the awesome opportunity to buy more of this amazing produce.

Goat Cheese Chocolates

What is it about goat cheese? I'm not a big fan of soy, so goat cheese is kind of my tofu. But it has way more personality. It works and plays well with other flavors and textures, but I'd never really thought about goat cheese in desserts. But it works! And just think, you're getting your antioxidants (choc) and protein (cheese) in one delicious treat.

The original recipe had no sugar, probably because the calendar I got it from had healthy living as its theme. Unless you are a true lover of very dark, unsweetened chocolate, you'll want to add a bit of sugar, or use sweetened chocolate.

You can roll it up in little balls and coat it in cocoa to make truffles, or flatten it and cut it into squares.

Yes, this recipe uses no local ingredients. Yet. I am hoping for a local producer of goat cheese ... I know they're out there!
Adapted from A Year of Healthy Living calendar, Amber Lotus Publishing

4 ounces excellent quality bittersweet chocolate, chopped
6 ounces fresh goat cheese
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup walnuts, toasted almonds or hazelnuts, chopped
1/4 cup unsweetened excellent quality dark cocoa powder

Melt chocolate over low heat, stirring often. When smooth, set aside while you proceed. In small bowl, beat goat cheese with vanilla (I just used a fork and lots of enthusiasm), then stir in chocolate and nuts.

Taste mixture at this point. If you like, add a little sugar. Gather into a ball, or press into a bar, wrap well in plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour. Cut into squares, or for truffles, shape into balls and roll in cocoa powder. If making squares, you can refrigerate it longer and cut just before serving. Makes about 18 pieces.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Warm Balsamic Bean and Spinach Salad

To my delight, I discovered the bag of CSA spinach from last week hiding in the back of the fridge. It was as fresh and beautiful as if it had just been picked. The Coconut-Cashew Greens from Moosewood Celebrates came to mind, but then I discovered a recipe for warm bean salad with balsamic vinegar and bacon--two things that go splendidly with spinach. I am not above muscling a major ingredient into an existing recipe! A few other alterations resulted in a quite delicious main dish.

If using bacon or garlic in a dish, I like to add them near the end of cooking so the bacon has more texture and the garlic retains its fresh flavor.

I served this salad as an entree, but the recipe would work well as an accompaniment to meats if you left out the beans and upped the quantity of onion and spinach. The bay leaf adds an interesting layer of flavor under the balsamic and bacon.

Update: Despite the unassuming nature of this dish's appearance, it is very good. Second-helping-by-husband good. And leftover-for-lunch-the-next-day good. Too good not to add this update!
Adapted from A New Way to Cook by Sally Schneider

4 slices (about 2 ounces) natural bacon
2 cloves garlic

1 large CSA onion, halved and sliced thinly
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
3/4 teaspoon coarse salt
A few generous grinds of black pepper

12 ounces or so CSA spinach leaves, washed, with large stems removed

1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
2 bay leaves

3 cups cooked beans (I used the CSA nine-bean mix I cooked and froze earlier)

Peel and chop the garlic finely. Place in small dish. In large skillet, fry bacon pieces until crisp. Remove to bacon pieces to small dish with the garlic.

To same skillet, add onion, crushed red pepper, salt, and black pepper. Saute onions for about 10 minutes or until they soften and start to turn golden.

Add spinach, stir well, and cover. Cook for five minutes or so, stirring occasionally, until spinach is wilted.

Add balsamic vinegar, 3 tablespoons water, bay leaves, and beans. Stir, and cover. Simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Stir in bacon and garlic and heat through.

Makes four generous servings.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

An All-Local Dinner

So often these last months of the Winter CSA, I've noticed that everything I'm serving for dinner is locally produced. It happened again tonight. We had a lovely salad of CSA greens and shredded CSA beets, baked CSA potatoes, and locally-raised chicken.

We really appreciate knowing our farmers--we have met them all. Recently the person who provides our local eggs and chickens sent an e-mail that his farm received a 100% on its agricultural inspection. We enjoy the e-mails from our CSA farmer telling us what is going on at the farm and what to expect in our boxes, and giving us information about the various vegetables themselves and how they were raised.

I know there are lots of sophisticated arguments for and against eating locally, but I don't spend too much time on them. Receiving my Winter CSA box every two weeks has been a great spirit-lifter and cooking challenge. And when the farmers' markets open here in town, I'll be buying the bulk of our food at them. It's just fresher and tastier than anything the supermarket has shipped in. And 100% of my food dollars go directly to a local farmer--not to transporters and retailers.

If you live in the greater Tri-Cities area, Prosser, or Walla Walla, check out the Slow Food Southeast Washington website and click on "Sources" for listings of markets and local producers.

Ninth Box!

Okay! Ten pounds of taters, so anyone out there that I know, please call in with how many pounds you are going to take off my hands. They're gorgeous, local ... and we're told in the e-mail that they're NOT treated with sprout retardant, so ... oops ... phone's ringing right now ... kidding. But don't wait!

There's more of that luscious local popcorn I posted about earlier.

While the Thrill of the Box is not gone, it has dimmed. I am getting tired of greens! Never thought it would happen. The spinach and chard in this box are stupendously fresh and I'm sure tasty as always. A couple of the beets I'll julienne to go in tonight's CSA greens salad that's being served with roasted local chicken and ... yep ... baked potatoes. Not complaining! Not complaining!

But. I am ready for Spring. We're told by the farmer that asparagus is coming! Only three more CSA boxes to go, so I'll try and keep the flame alive 'til we reach Box 12!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Warm and Tangy Potato Salad

What I was going for here was that deeply satisfying texture and taste, both tangy and mellow, that evokes Bavaria and has you looking around for a stein of beer and longing for an accordian player to stroll by playing a polka. I think I succeeded.

Stir in chopped, fried natural bacon if that's your thing. Grainy mustard is nice, but Dijon works fine. Don't have parsley? Other greenery would work. I imagine the hardy inventors of this salad, hunched over their simmering potato pots, just used what they had on hand.

Natural sausages served with hot sauerkraut from a jar are all you need with this salad for a great meal. And maybe some applesauce.

This recipe is the product of countless musings through the years over endless recipes for German potato salad, of which there are as many versions as there are Moms and Grandmas, with modern tweakings by offspring who blog about their supposed improvements to the original. Oops. Guess that's me ...

5 medium CSA russet potatoes (about 3 pounds)
1 tablespoon olive oil

1 cup cider vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar or agave syrup
2 tablespoons grainy mustard
2 teaspoons salt

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium red onion, diced (about 2 cups)

1/2 cup chopped CSA parsley
1 tablespoon capers, drained
1 teaspoon smoked paprika (optional)

Peel potatoes and toss with olive oil to coat. Roast at 350 degrees for an hour or so or until potatoes are cooked but not falling apart.

In small bowl, mix vinegar, sugar, mustard and salt.

While potatoes are roasting, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in medium skillet. Add chopped red onion and saute for a few minutes, then add vinegar mixture and cook for a few minutes until heated. Don't let the onions get soft; they should be slightly firm.

Slice potatoes in 1/4-inch slices (or dice or chunk them) into a mixing bowl. Pour onion/dressing mixture over, and stir to coat potatoes. Stir in parsley and capers, and let sit for 15 minutes or so, stirring occasionally, so the dressing can absorb. Serve warm, sprinkled with optional smoked paprika.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Fresh Beet and Carrot Salad

The cinnamon in this recipe really creates a different, spicy tone to the salad.

Having only four small beets, I made this salad, that was supposed to be mostly beets, with mostly carrots. I added an apple because I wasn't sure I had enough carrots for the proper volume to absorb the dressing. And having all that gorgeous CSA parsley prompted me to up the quantity of it. So feel free to play with your beet, carrot and parsley amounts! The apple adds sweetness, so if you're looking for a tangier salad, leave it out.
Adapted from an old Martha Stewart Everyday Food magazine

1/4 cup lemon juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3/4 teaspoon salt

1 pound raw CSA beets, peeled
2 carrots, peeled
1 apple (optional), cored
3/4 cup torn CSA parsley

Whisk dressing ingredients in medium bowl. Shred beets and carrots (and optional apple) in food processor (I used the fine shredding disc). Mix into dressing and toss well. Toss in parsley.

Makes about 6 good-sized servings.

Eighth Box!

Box 8 was refreshing, to say the least. Look at that beefy parsley ... I have been trying to find a recipe that uses an entire bunch of parsley, but may have to settle for less extreme amounts. The spinach, slim-jim carrots, radishes, and salad greens have already been used and enjoyed. There are some small beets with their luscious greens, and more beautiful onions. And green split peas. We are getting into sunny Spring weather now, so the hot and hearty soup window is closing. It'll be an interesting challenge to find ways to use the goodies from this box.