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Archive for March, 2010

First, let’s start off with salad stuff.

  • Roma tomatoes
  • sorrel
  • lettuce
  • spinach
  • carrots
  • cucumber

Now I normally wouldn’t put Romas in salad, but it’s just too cool to have local lettuce and tomatoes at the same time. So this salad will have lettuce, sliced tomatoes, and sliced cucumbers. Wow! There’s not a lot of lettuce, so we’ll also have a spinach salad. And I’ll probably scarf down all the sorrel leaves while I’m making these salads. Chris doesn’t really like sorrel anyway.

Here’s more stuff…

  • strawberries
  • tofu
  • eggs
  • double order of baby Tuscan kale
  • sweet potatoes
  • dill

(more…)

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Shrimp Fried Rice

This week’s fried rice was some of the best yet.  Here’s the prep.

  • diced celery, onions, and baby turnips
  • minced garlic, chopped watercress stems, and chopped turnip green stems
  • watercress leaves and turnip green leaves
  • crunchy bean sprouts and eggs
  • half-dozen shrimp, chopped (more…)

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I got my renewal member’s pack this week. Here’s what was in it:

  • toaster pancakes
  • creamed honey
  • red pepper jam
  • shopping bag
  • yummy granola
  • cornmeal
  • Food Rules by Michael Pollan

(more…)

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CSA meal planning at my house

Feeding a family takes planning – especially with a CSA subscription. Here’s an overview of how I plan our food on a weekly basis.

Sunday: Check the CSA menu and online store

Usually, updates to the weekly menus and online store are available by Sunday afternoon. The CSA menus are just for getting an idea of what might come. There’s simply no way to predict what will be available, so I’ve learned not to make hard plans from this list. It’s good for getting my brain going, though. (more…)

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This week’s delivery in three parts


  • hydroponic lettuce
  • yogurt
  • sorrel!
  • sprouts
  • baby turnips with greens
  • yellow polenta
  • carrots

I was happy to find the bonus sorrel leaves in my bag of lettuce. Sorrel leaves and cheese is currently my favorite breakfast. (more…)

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For this St Patrick’s Day delivery, I’ll divide the discussion into three parts – like a shamrock!

Part 1


  • bean sprouts
  • honey yogurt
  • apple pie jam
  • cabbage
  • popping corn
  • watercress
  • sweet potatoes

The bean sprouts are going to my mom because she has a pad thai recipe she’s been wanting to try. The yogurt was very tasty – just yogurt with a whole bunch of honey. I inhaled it immediately. Apple pie jam looks great. I’m defrosting some whole wheat bread from a pre-season delivery to make toast and jam. Bet you could also make some good cookies with this jam. Cabbage is great to have for fast sautés with onion and garlic. Probably won’t have any until next week, though.

Have you got a whole bunch of popping corn, too? Did you hear the one about popping corn on the cob in the microwave in a paper bag? You stick the cob in a paper lunch sack and put it in the microwave on high for two minutes. Haven’t tried it yet, but I’m going to as soon as I find a bag. If not, I’ve got a system for popping corn on the stove that’s working well. Check out this pretty batch.

I’ll be sure to write about the on-the-cob recipe once I try it.

Watercress is a peppery green that you could put in salad. Or you can put it in the food processor with some cream cheese and make a sandwich spread. Either way, be sure to pull yours out of the bag and check it for slimies. With my bunch, I tried to pull out all the slimy stems and leaves. Then I wrapped the base in a paper towel to control some of the moisture and put it back in the bag (after turning the bag inside –out so it wouldn’t be so wet inside).

These sweet potatoes look like good ones. We just wrap ours in plastic wrap and microwave them for 5 or 6 minutes, turning once. Sweet potatoes + salad make a great lunch.

Part 2

  • eggs
  • hydroponic lettuce
  • strawberries
  • kale
  • spinach

I was fresh out of eggs, so it’s great to get these guys. Looking forward to scrambled eggs and possibly more egg custard this week.

The hydroponic lettuce is all washed and ready to plate at a moment’s notice.

I’ll serve it with sweet potatoes and a couple of pieces of leftover fried chicken next.

The strawberries are already washed, chopped, and flash frozen.

I do love my frozen strawberries! And I think the local ones are even better than these from Florida. In this week’s newsletter, Patricia says the strawberry crop might suffer from the moisture and lack of sun. And I was planning to stock up this season and have frozen strawberries for a treat all year round! But that’s part of the ups and downs of eating local produce.

I was happy to see the kale in the box this week. I think I’m coming around to liking kale –  at least kale with raisins and pine nuts. Somehow, as a vegetable, kale has charisma. Maybe it’s the texture? I really want to like kale, and I’m glad we’re becoming better acquainted.

I’ll go through the spinach and pick out the baby leaves for a fresh salad. The rest I’ll cook or possibly wilt for salad.

Part 3 – online store order


  • catnip
  • catfish
  • blue cheese

The catnip is for my afternoon tea break. I make a pot of caffeinated tea in the morning and a pot of decaf in the afternoon. But herbal tea’s better because it is tea and it hydrates. While catnip is calming, it doesn’t put me to sleep, so it’s okay in the afternoon.

Couldn’t resist trying the catfish although I don’t think I’ll be able to cook it until next week. I plan on frying them in some of the cornmeal I got in pre-season. Maybe I’ll make some coleslaw with the cabbage, too.

This month’s Cooking Light had an article on frying basics and especially on how to keep fried food from getting greasy. I like Cooking Light. I’ve tried several cooking magazines, but this one fits the way I like to cook best – fresh, not fancy, and not a lot of emphasis on presentation. Here’s what I learned and will try to use with my catfish.

Keep the oil hot and clean: I’ve never used a thermometer, but I’ve got one and will try this time. When you add the food, the oil temp goes down. So the thermometer helps you adjust the heat to keep the oil hot. And food doesn’t absorb as much hot oil.  I’ll also try to skim out any leftover breading bits between batches to keep burned bits from interfering with the flavor. (Although with catfish for two, there won’t be many batches.)

Add carbonation: Adding baking soda or something carbonated to the breading also keeps the food from absorbing excess oil. For catfish, I’m thinking beer.

Conveniently the article has a recipe for frying catfish that describes a three-step breading process.

  1. flour alone
  2. milk and eggs mixture
  3. flour, cornmeal, and black pepper mixture (about 1:1 with the flour and meal)

So that’s what I’m going to try next week.

The Blue Farmhouse Cheese was my birthday/getting-a-book-to-press present to myself. It tastes sooo good!

Part 4 (oops!):

Found this little guy at the bottom of my CSA box. How lucky is that! It’s been a couple of months since we’ve had fresh garlic, and I’m so looking forward to using it again.

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Salad’s a big part of spring and fall CSA-dom. Here are some of my thoughts on how to get the most out of your CSA salads.

Tools

There are two essential salad tools: a salad spinner and a good sharp knife (or two). I used to think that a salad spinner was just another kitchen gadget, but it makes salad so much better. Here’s mine.

(I'm still glad this red wallpaper is gone from my kitchen - even though it made for nice, warm photo lighting.)

I like my salad spinner because the spinning handle’s on the side and because I have a top that fits it.

That way, it’s easier to store in the fridge.

Let’s start with lettuce

Most of the lettuce from Farmers’ Fresh is hydroponic or leaf lettuce. (Hydroponic is the lettuce with roots that’s grown in a greenhouse.) These types of fresh lettuce are one of the real treats of local food. They’re delicate and full of flavor and would never survive long enough to be sold in a supermarket. Keep this in mind and eat these lettuces quickly; they will never be better.

I usually wash mine the first day or so and store it in the salad spinner in the fridge. It’s usually gone in a day or three.

Other greens

Salad can also mean baby spinach, arugula, and even some other greens that might surprise you– beet greens, turnip greens, kale, bok choy, and others. The trick with these greens is to separate the baby from the not-so-baby. Baby beet greens make great salad; not-so-baby beet greens not so much. If I have time, I separate greens by size on the first prepping day and make a salad mix out of the babies.

Here’s a pic where I separated the beets, big beet greens, beet stems (for stir-fry, fried rice, or shepherd’s pie), and baby greens for salad.

We also get “mixed Asian greens” sometimes. This is usually mizuna, tatsoi, and some other spicy greens. Chris and I like them as salad, but, like with the other greens, you can also braise them or use them in a stir-fry.

You might also try pea shoots (more in the fall, usually) and watercress in your salads. Just chop ‘em up stems and all and add them to the mix. Pea shoots are kind of sweet and watercress is peppery.

Herbs

Some herbs go great in salad – usually the tender green ones. Chervil, salad burnet, and parsley are the best. You can also add mints, dill, and par-cel. And any herb flowers are good in salad. If you have any doubts, just taste some and see.

If I have time, I’ll break off the little leaves off the stems before adding herbs to salad. If I don’t have time, I chop them up with their stems on. And the par-cel stems always get chopped up because they have a nice celery taste.

Winter savory (I think), sorrel, Mexican tarragon with flowers, nasturtium leaves, salad burnet, chives, and par-cel. (The savory and the tarragon leaves aren't so great on salads. Think stew, instead.)

Sorrel (which I love by itself) is somewhere between an herb and a green. Either way, tear up the leaves and add them to salad for a lemony kick.

Fixin’s

Here’s where that sharp knife comes into play: slicing up salad fixin’s. And some of them need to be sliced thin for the best effect – like radishes and Asian turnips. If you slice these guys thinly, they add a nice spark to a salad. But if they’re too big, they overpower everything else.

onions, baby bell radishes, and Asian turnips

You’ll also be chopping carrots and green onions for salad, but these don’t need to be as thin. Same goes with other sweet-ish things like roasted beets and strawberries.

Sprouts are good on salad, too, and need no chopping. It’s so easy to forget the sprouts, though. I’ve learned to pull them out of the fridge with the rest to have the visual reminder to add them at the end.

In addition to sharp knives, a little scooper thing can be useful, too, when you’re done chopping.

Dressings

Recently, I’ve gotten really lazy and have been using just (good) vinegar to dress our salads. This is partly because the delicate lettuces don’t do well with oil, in my opinion. It’s too heavy and weighs them down. The stronger greens stand up to oil or a heavy creamy dressing much better.

If you have a dressing you like, for sure stick with it. My step-son loves the Good Seasons Italian that you mix up at home, for instance. But it’s also pretty easy to make your own dressings. One of the nice things about dressing is that you can keep tasting it and adjusting the ratios. Of course, if you keep adjusting the ratios, you often end up with more dressing than you intended. Just keep it around for marinade or the next week’s lettuce load. Here’s a bunch of vinaigrette recipes to try.

What goes with salad?

So much…

Scrambled eggs!

Shrimp!

Soup and cheese toast!

Pasta of all types!

Pizza!

Sweet potatoes (and winter squash) go great with salad. Sausage doesn't hurt either.

Stand-alone salads

Goat cheese and toasted walnuts!

Salad tossed with tuna canned in olive oil!

Any cold and leftover protein can be mixed in with salad to make a really nice lunch.

Enjoy all these salads while they last. Sure by next month, you’ll be ready to see the back of them. But come August, you’ll start dreaming of them again. Luckily, they’ll be just around the corner come fall.

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