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Archive for the ‘CSA notes’ Category

The idea

Sunday, I pulled out all the vegetables I’d frozen over the last several months and made vegetable stock. I left a couple of bags of blanched green beans, a bag of chopped celery, and a bag of corn. Everything else got thrown in the pot.

The ingredients

The frozen assembly consisted of spinach, kale, beet greens and stems, green beans, celery scraps, Shiitake and oyster mushroom stems, Swiss chard stems, and fennel.

I also added some chopped onion and garlic cloves.

For stock, onions don’t need to be peeled or chopped. However, this onion had some powdery mold on its outermost layer, so I didn’t have a choice.

The process

First, I browned the vegetables in batches. The problem with frozen vegetables, however, is there’s a lot of moisture to get through before you get any browning action. Maybe I’ll defrost and drain them next time. And possibly roast them in the oven instead of on the stove.

Second, the more-or-less browned veggies got tossed in the stock pot, which was then filled three quarters full of water.

After bringing it to boil, I let the pot simmer for about an hour. Then I strained the stock and put it back in the pot to cook uncovered until it had boiled down to half as much. It’s easier to store concentrated stock.

To freeze the stock, I poured it into ice cube trays. (more…)

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Summertime to CSA subscribers means incredible goodness and quantities of fresh, colorful produce. But it also means you have to be more on your game than ever.

You simply must open up your food, take it out of its bags, and look it over as soon as you can. Dump it out and repackage it. Don’t think of yourself as the end-recipient of the CSA packing process. Instead, you are its last stage, the linchpin, the make-or-break player. (more…)

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Freezing eggs

Did you know you can freeze eggs?

It’s a bit of a process but really useful when you suddenly need an egg or when you need a bunch of yolks or whites.

The first step is separating the eggs. While there are tools that help with this, I find it easier to use my hands. First, crack the egg into a bowl.

Then carefully slide a hand under the yolk and pick it up. Carefully shift the yolk from one hand to the other. After a few times, all you’ll be holding is the yolk and the whites will be in the bowl.

(If you break a yolk, it’s no big deal – you’ve still got an egg. Put it in the fridge and use it in a day or two.) (more…)

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Egg custard!

Chris and I have a new love – egg custard. I’ll make three servings in the morning whenever I’m planning vegetarian meals. Then we have one each that night for dessert and split the third at breakfast the next morning.

Here’s the basic recipe. It’s quick and easy without a lot of fuss. It evolved from this recipe, but I returned all the fat, replaced the Splenda with sugar, and then cut the sugar in half.

(more…)

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Saturday 5/29, I went to the opening of Farmers’ Fresh indoor market. It’s in downtown Carrollton just off the square and is open four days a week:

  • Tuesdays 10-6
  • Thursdays 10-2
  • Fridays 10-6
  • Saturdays 8-2

The market has beautiful, fresh, local produce… (more…)

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A couple of people have asked about the emergency goat cheese biscuits I made the other day. So here’s the deal. The emergency part just means I didn’t roll out the dough and cut it. They’re also called drop biscuits.

with dried Sea Island red peas and spinach, romaine, and beet green salad

(more…)

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I’m leaving town for a week tomorrow, so it’s been a little hectic with the packing and the cooking and the eating around here. I think I gain weight before going on vacation. We eat more and larger meals trying to finish up our week’s food a few days early.

So what to do with this week’s food before vacation? (more…)

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Have you heard about Farm Day?

There’s nothing like seeing where it all happens. Especially if you have kids or still consider yourself one. Think about all the food you or your kids eat that’s associated with something – the Cheetos cheetah or the Checker’s jingle, “You gotta eat.” Here’s your big chance to make some associations with CSA food. Meet some farmers along with some goats and chickens. See some stuff growing. I promise it makes the food taste better! Or maybe just more fun. I do think part of my affection for my CSA food comes from knowing some of the farmers and having seen where the stuff gets packed up. It just brings out the C in CSA.

I’m going to be out of town, so I can’t go. 😦 I would so love to see all these different farms.

So far, my CSA farm experiences have all been with Nancy and Jacque Garry of Red Hott Tomatoes. Their farm is so cool! (Just search for “Red Hott” to find some posts about my visits.) And Nancy and Jacque have started a new website at http://thegarryfarm.webs.com. Check it out even if you don’t make it to Farm Day.

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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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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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