Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Crossing the Winter CSA Finish Line: Box Twelve!

Salad greens, hearty chives, radishes, spinach, more of those peppery greens, and leeks. What with the nice weather and more going on, I haven't been too creative of late, but I am thinking about using those exotic greens in the Bye-Bye Winter Pie again, and perhaps tossing the leeks in, too. The salad greens will be served with a fresh vinaigrette tomorrow for a special dinner, as will some of the asparagus, roasted with olive oil, salt, pepper, and a dash of soy sauce.

The Winter CSA has been a marvelous adventure. As for the blog, I think our local farmers' markets will provide much raw material (!) for new recipes and further exploration of the delights of eating locally. I hope you'll come along and explore the world of real food with me!

Another Bonus Box ... Asparagus

Plus some other goodies ... a peppery kind of greens, radishes, and spinach. I've been attempting to "share" my asparagus with friends, family and neighbors ... it is truly fresh and tasty, and of course tastes best when used very fresh.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Asparagus, Tarragon and Chive Quinoa

Today's e-mail from the farmer saying ANOTHER bonus box was coming tomorrow with TEN POUNDS of asparagus in it was all it took to send me scurrying to the fridge to gather up all the asparagus I had left from the other boxes. Trimmed, it was almost exactly a pound, and the chives and tarragon in the garden have been producing nicely, so I doctored up this dish to accommodate them.

The chive blossoms, which are an advantage of having a clump of chives in your garden, dressed up this dish but aren't required!
Adapted from 101 Cookbooks, originally from the book My Favorite Ingredients by Skye Gyngell

1 pound trimmed CSA asparagus
olive oil

2 cups dry quinoa, well rinsed and drained (Costco sells huge bags of organic quinoa)
1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup olive oil
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon (or to taste) Tabasco or other hot pepper sauce
1/4 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup fresh chives, chopped
1/3 cup fresh tarragon, chopped
Chive blossoms if you have 'em

About 1/4 cup toasted and chopped almonds

Put quinoa, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 3 cups water into a medium-size pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for about 15 minutes or until little curls that look like sprouts start forming on the grains. Remove from heat. If there's still water left, drain off as best you can and let the quinoa sit, covered, to soak up the little water you couldn't get out.

Cut the trimmed asparagus into 1-inch segments and saute them in a splash of olive oil in a large skillet for about 10 minutes. Add a little water and cover to cook for just a few minutes or until tender-crisp. Watch carefully; you want to asparagus to stay bright green. When it's ready, remove from heat and set aside.

Whisk the dressing ingredients in a small bowl 'til smooth. Taste for heat and spiciness! This will vary tremendously depending on what chili sauce you use. This dish can take a lot, but do monitor and adjust at this point.

Toss the asparagus pieces into the quinoa pot and mix. Stir in the chives and tarragon. Pour the dressing over, stir well, and pile the mixture into a serving bowl. Top with the almonds and chive blossoms and serve warm or at room temperature.

Serves 6-8.

Slow Food Breadmaking Class

On Saturday, the first ever Slow Food Breadmaking Class got rolling at 9:00 a.m. with six students and three presenters. We learned breadmaking techniques, and shaped and baked personal artisan boules from dough Angela brought. Tracy showed us how to mix and knead molasses-wheat bread, and we shaped little loaves of it to take home and bake.

We also ate a lot of bread! We tasted limpa, molasses-wheat, Ashland bread, chai bread (Angela wants to try it with rye so she can call it chai rye), rosemary sourdough, and 100% whole wheat rolls made from fresh-ground wheat.

As everyone knows, homemade bread is all good, but FRESH homemade bread is ethereal. Using the methods they've been experimenting with from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, Tracy and Angela showed us how to keep a bowl of fresh bread dough in the fridge for two weeks, during which time a hunk of it can be shaped and baked anytime you wish. Who isn't for saving work but getting great bread at the same time? Wonderful stuff. And no kneading! Just mix, refrigerate, and the dough is there when you have a hankering for a fresh, crusty loaf.

As always, successful breadmaking results in the desire to experiment further, and try new things. Angela and Tracy are thinking about Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day for their next area of exploration.

Becky talked about her sourdough and wheat-grinding experiences and handed out little containers of sourdough starter for interested bakers. This starter's life began in Becky's parents' grape vineyard ... the yeast was obtained from grapes submerged in flour and water according to the method used in Nancy Silverton's Breads from LaBrea Bakery.

It's an amazing experience to share three hours in a kitchen with eight enthusiastic people who love food, bread, and baking. Hosting a Slow Food class is highly recommended!

Here's our group, except for Angela, who's shown in the next picture taking our artisan boules from the oven. (L-R: Darci, Cathy, James, Tracy, Becky, Madeleine, Peggy, and Lisa.)

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Sassy Slaw of Fresh Spring Greens

As tired as I was from a busy day today, the selection of greenery in today's box drew me inexorably to make this crunchy slaw from a British magazine. Once again, the Brits score a hit with a basic dish lifted to sublime heights of earthiness. A bit sweet, a bit tangy, entirely different from typical mayo-laden slaws.

For fun, I've left in the British units of measurement. It was an extra job weighing things to make the conversion, but worth it, I think.

And yes, if you're the one writing the blog, you CAN uses phrases like "sublime heights of earthiness." I write 'em like I taste 'em.
Adapted from British Country Homes magazine

200g CSA greens (I used a mixture of kale, spinach and chard), washed, thick stems removed, and sliced (about 8 cups)
225g cabbage, sliced fine or shredded (about 2 cups)
1 bunch CSA spring onions, trimmed and chopped
1 medium apple, cored and diced
15g CSA parsley, chopped (about 1/3 cup)
150g dates (chopped) or plumped raisins (about 1/2 cup)
150g walnut pieces (about 1/2 cup)

4 tablespoons cream or sour cream
150ml walnut oil or canola oil (that's over half a cup, but I used 1/4 cup with great results)
4 tablespoons lemon juice
3 tablespoons honey or agave nectar
4 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
A few grinds of black pepper

Whisk the dressing ingredients in a small bowl. In a large bowl, combine all the salad ingredients except the walnuts. Stir the dressing in throughly. Serve with walnuts to sprinkle on top. If you mix the walnuts in, they'll go soft if you have leftovers.

Makes 8 or so servings, but it's really good, so seconds will be taken!

Eleventh Box, Eleventh Hour

Seizing the day, seizing the mixed salad greens, spinach, green onions, radishes ... and savoring the experience. More asparagus, and this time some young kale. A hank of chard. We've so enjoyed vegetables of this caliber throughout the farmers-marketless season--it would be tough to go back to store bought next fall.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Spring Chicken Pot Pie

Not your typical wintery chicken pot pie ... this one welcomes the new green tarragon awakening in the garden ... green onions ... fennel ... asparagus ... all gathered together for an unexpectedly fresh taste. As I write this, rain is lashing the window in a sudden afternoon of wind and gray gloom blowing through ... but I can see blue sky right behind it.

I really don't know why dishes with crusts are showing up so often here ... but I don't think it's something that needs to be analyzed.

As always, substitute confidently and enjoy this pie, however you make it. The original called for a diced tomato and some peas. I seriously altered the original version to suit my Spring fancy, but don't think the venerable Sheila Lukins would mind. She would understand the need to realign ourselves culinarily with both the calendar and the barometer.

Update: This dish is sheer ambrosia; very satisfying but suitable for light evenings, blooming lilacs, and chirpy birdsong. Do try it.
Adapted from a recipe in Parade Magazine by Sheila Lukins

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter or ghee

1 medium fennel bulb, tops and leaves removed, sliced thinly (about 1 cup)
3 tablespoons flour

3 cups homemade local, free-range chicken broth
1 bunch green onions, white and green parts, cut in 1/2-inch slices
1-1/2 cups carrots, diced or sliced
1 cup diced CSA potatoes (1/2-inch dice)
1 apple, cored and cut into 1/2-inch dice
1/4 cup chopped fresh dill or 2 teaspoons dried
1/2 teaspoon salt

2-1/2 cups cooked local, free-range chicken, deboned and cut up or diced
1 cup CSA asparagus, thick ends snapped off, cut in 1/2-inch slices

1/4 cup fresh tarragon, chopped, or 2 teaspoons dried
2 cloves garlic, minced

Salt and pepper to taste

1 sheet puff pastry (1/2 pound) or your own coconut oil pastry using half the recipe from this post, or other homemade pastry. Or make biscuits and place cut dough on top of the pie ... or dot cornbread batter on it .. or ... you get the picture.

1 egg mixed with 1 tablespoon water for egg wash (I skipped it)

Heat oil and butter in large pot over low heat. Add fennel and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Sprinkle on flour, and cook stirring constantly for one minute.

Add broth, green onions, carrots, potatoes, apple, dill and salt; bring to boil. Reduce heat to gentle simmer and cook, partially covered, until vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes, stirring often.

Add chicken and asparagus, season to taste with salt and pepper, then cook 5 minutes more. Stir in garlic and tarragon, and add a few grinds of black pepper.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spoon chicken mixture into 2- or 3-quart round ovenproof casserole. Roll pastry out and trim to or just larger than your casserole diameter. Lay pastry over chicken mixture and either crimp edge or tuck under all around. Slit top so steam can escape, and brush pastry with egg wash if you wish.

Bake until crust is golden, 30 to 40 minutes.

Makes 4 very hearty servings.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Asparagus Pasta Salad with Saffron Vinaigrette

Let true Spring begin ... asparagus has long been the herald of this new season, along with the first tender stalks of rhubarb. This salad was quite interesting and satisfying, and its preparation was greatly speeded by help from my Mom with chopping, tending, and chive picking chores. It only needed a small salmon fillet alongside, and some of the tender, crisp CSA radishes to make a superb meal.

Update: This salad is even better the day after it is made; the flavors are stronger throughout. If you make it ahead, wait to add the goat cheese and pine nuts on top just before serving.
Adapted from several online versions; original from The Taste of Summer by Diane Worthington

1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon saffron threads

1 clove garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/3 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons cream (optional)

1 pound pasta (original used orzo; I used penne. Most shapes will work fine.)

1 pound (weighed after trimming) thin CSA asparagus, trimmed, and cut into segments about the same size as pasta you use

1/3 cup chopped chives; garnish with blossoms if available

4 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts

Make vinaigrette:

Combine vinegar and saffron in small saucepan. Bring JUST to a simmer over gentle heat; remove from heat and cool.

Smash garlic clove with salt with mortar and pestle to make a paste. Place paste in large bowl with the cooled vinegar mixture, lemon juice, mustard and cream. Whisk in olive oil. Taste; if too tangy, add a bit of sweetener or more cream.

Cook pasta and asparagus:

In large pot, heat salted water to boiling and add pasta. Cook according to package directions; just before removing pasta from heat, add asparagus pieces for about 30 seconds. Drain all in a colander, make sure water is removed completely, and pour into the bowl containing the dressing.

Toss a few times, add in chives, and mix well. Let sit 30 minutes before serving, tossing occasionally. To serve, top each serving with crumbled goat cheese and toasted pine nuts. Serve warm or at room temperature. To serve leftovers, reheat gently in skillet.

Makes 6 to 8 generous servings.

Bonus Box ... Asparagus

We've been expecting this box, as our farmer let us know we'd have an extra delivery when asparagus harvest got underway. The radishes were a surprise ... and a sweet, crisp accompaniment to our first asparagus dish of the season.

Friday, April 2, 2010

"Bye-Bye Winter" Pie

At 5:00 p.m., I was sluggishly resigned to sauteeing my gorgeous CSA spinach with garlic ... but it sounded SO boring. Then I remembered a Greek Greens pie recipe, got out that lovely swath of chives, the parsley, spinach and onions, all from the CSA box, and galloped down the very green path of creative culinary abandon. At 6:45 we dug into the yummiest spinach dish ever.

Once again, a true winner ... one for the three-ring notebook of awesome recipes.

You can use any top crust you like, even filo dough or puff pastry, if you don't want to make your own.
Adapted from Ready When You Are by Martha Shulman

One recipe (though you'll only use half) coconut or butter pastry (recipe below)

1 tablespoon olive oil
A clutch of CSA green onions, with tops, sliced
1 pound CSA spinach, washed, drained but not spun, lightly chopped down with kitchen shears
1/4 cup dried or 1/2 cup fresh dill
1 cup chopped CSA parsley
1 cup chopped CSA chives
2 tablespoons garlic, chopped
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
Fresh nutmeg

4 local eggs
1-1/2 cups feta cheese, crumbled (or less to taste; I'd use 3/4 cup next time)

Make pastry and set it in a cool place. Oil a 10-inch Pyrex pie dish or equivalent.

Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet that has a lid. Toss in the onions, stir, and saute for a minute or so. Add the spinach, cover and cook for several minutes or until the spinach has decreased in volume. Stir, then throw in the dill, parsley, chives and garlic. Sprinkle with salt and a few grinds of black pepper. Then grate a few poofs of fresh nutmeg (about 1/4 teaspoon) over all, and stir. Cover and cook for a few minutes, then turn heat off, uncover, and set aside to cool slightly. This would also be a good time to make the pastry.

In large bowl, beat the eggs. Stir in semi-cooled spinach mixture and the feta cheese. Mix well and pour into oiled pie dish.

Roll 1/2 the pastry to just a bit larger than your dish, place over top of pie and either crimp or tuck edges under. Slash for venting. Bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out clean and top of pie is golden. Cut into wedges and serve.

If reheating and you wish the pastry to be crisp, heat pie in the oven.

Freeze the other half of the pastry for later creative cooking!

Makes 6 generous servings.

Adapted from several I found online. The pie's original crust recipe used standard butter pastry.

3/4 cup regular flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon sucanat or sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt, heaping a bit
6 tablespoons cold butter OR coconut oil (if using coconut oil, measured it out at room temperature)
1 teaspoon cider vinegar
3-5 tablespoons ice water

In small bowl, mix all dry ingredients well. Cut in the butter or coconut oil with a pastry blender 'til shortening is in pieces no larger than peas, then add the water a tablespoon at a time, with the vinegar, mixing with a fork until dough holds together like traditional pastry dough. Gather into a ball.