Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Chamomile Tea

I made chamomile tea! From scratch! It was easy! And it tasted like chamomile tea!

Chamomile (stems included)

Spread the chamomile on a thin cloth and put it in a well-ventilated, shady spot to dry. I put ours on a clean rag on a wire shelf in our garage. After 10 days or so, the chamomile will probably be dried (check it to make sure). The chamomile is really brittle at this point, so handle it rather carefully to avoid losing a lot of it. Cut all of it (flowers and stems) into 1-inch pieces (I used kitchen shears for this) and put it all in a jar with a lid.

When you're ready to make tea, measure out about 3 teaspoons of dried chamomile pieces for each 8 ounces of water. Boil your water and then pour it over the chamomile. Let steep as long as you like, then strain the tea into teacups.

This tea is mellow, pleasant, and soothing. And it was quite satisfying to really make tea, rather than just brewing it. I want more chamomile so I'm stocked for a few months!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Pesto Pasta with Spinach and Tomatoes (Campsite-Cooked!)

I got this recipe out of the current issue of the Olympia Food Co-op newsletter. They had a long article about camping cuisine, with multiple recipes included. I was excited about the timing, because we were getting ready for a camping trip when the newsletter arrived. The ingredients listed below are for a single recipe; I doubled them, because we had five people on our camping trip. 

I took this photo with the leftovers we brought home. I still can't figure out why my recent photos are all rotated strangely. I've tried to change them, to no avail.

Pasta (8 oz. dry)
1 pkg. pesto mix (the recipe calls for Simply Organics brand, but there are probably others; you could also just pack a jar of Garlic-Scape Pesto instead)
1/4 c. warm water (or to pkg. specifications; this was half what the pkg. called for, but it was the right amount)
1/4 c. olive oil (or to pkg. specifications)
1/3 c. grated Parmesan (or to pkg. specifications)
Spinach leaves (optional but recommended)
1 fresh tomato or sundried tomatoes (I used a package of the non-oil-packed chopped sundried tomatoes from Trader Joe's)
Extra Parmesan, for sprinkling

Heat water to boil pasta. When it's warm, pour 1/4 c. (or amount specified on pesto package) into another container. Add pesto mix and stir. Add olive oil and Parmesan and mix well. Continue to heat remaining water. Boil pasta. (The boiling water and pasta filled our 3-quart camping pot to the brim. In fact, we had to make slightly less than 16 oz. of pasta or else it would've spilled over.) While the pasta boils, chop spinach (and tomato, if using fresh). When pasta is cooked, drain it. Add the pesto, spinach, and tomato. Mix well. Sprinkle servings with extra Parmesan.

This was delicious. I know camping tends to make everything taste better, but this is something that we'll probably start having on a fairly regular basis at home, too. The double recipe was more food than we could eat, considering that two of the people on our camping trip were small children, but it'd be just about the right amount for five hungry adults.

Campfire-Grilled Asparagus

We went camping at Mount Rainier this weekend, and I decided to take our asparagus with us. I can't think of a better way to eat asparagus than grilled (anyone? anyone?), and that just happens to be a very camping-compatible cooking method. So I put our triple share of asparagus (we've been saving it up for two weeks) in a zip-top bag, added the marinade, and packed it in our cooler, along with a mason jar of grated Parmesan. This recipe is really similar to the last one, but the Parmesan and the camping make it worthy of reposting, no?

Asparagus, rough ends removed and composted
Balsamic vinegar
Olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
Grated Parmesan (optional)

Put asparagus in a zip-top bag. Add some balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Seal and let marinate. When ready to cook, put on a hot grill (or on a grill grate over a campfire!) for about 5 minutes, turning once during cooking. Sprinkle with Parmesan, if desired.

I really wanted to take a photo of the asparagus cooking over our campfire, but I totally forgot. I'm bummed. Anyway, this was pretty yummy. The asparagus ended up marinating for about 36 hours, and it really soaked up the balsamic flavor. Grilling it was a bit challenging, because it's difficult to get evenly distributed heat from a campfire. One part of the fire was a lot hotter than the rest, so half of the asparagus was finished cooking while the other half was still barely heated through. But it all eventually got cooked through, and I thought it was tasty.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Quick Beans and Greens

This is a soup-ish recipe from The News Tribune. Thanks to my mom for passing along the article!

Dude, the photo orientation thing is driving me nuts, but I don't have time to fix it right now. So turn your head sideways or something.

3/4 to 1 lb. kale (could also use collard greens, mustard greens, spinach, Swiss chard, or turnip greens)
1-2 T. olive oil
1-2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
Pinch dried red pepper flakes
2-4 T. water, as needed
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Balsamic vinegar, to taste
2 15-oz. cans Great Northern beans or cannellini beans (I used Great Northern)
1 c. vegetable or chicken broth (opt.)
Lemon wedges (opt.)
Grated Parmesan (opt.)

Rinse kale (or other greens). Remove tough stems and compost them. Roughly chop greens. Put olive oil in a skillet. Add garlic and red pepper flakes while skillet is still cold, and cook over medium-high heat until garlic is slightly brown. Add kale (or other greens) and fry, stirring, for a couple minutes. Remove from heat and add salt, pepper, and balsamic vinegar to taste. Stir in beans and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Add broth and stir. Serve in bowls, garnished with lemon wedges and grated Parmesan if desired.

This was really yummy--surprisingly yummy. I mean, I wasn't expecting it to be bad, but I didn't know it would be this good. I wasn't sure if I was supposed to drain and rinse the beans first; the recipe didn't say. So I didn't drain them, and I think that was the right decision.

CSA, Week 4

Here's what was in this week's share:

Green onions (we traded for garlic scapes)
Sugar Snap Peas
Dill (bonus!)

I was excited to get kale and spinach this week, because there are a couple new recipes I've been wanting to try. I was also glad to have more asparagus. We've been saving our double share of asparagus from last week, with hopes of even more asparagus this week so we can marinate and grill a really big batch. We all love asparagus, and it's amazing how well it keeps if you break of the ends, stand it in a glass of water in the fridge, and change the water daily. I traded out our green onions again this week (due to the abundant chives in our own garden) and reached for the garlic scapes once more. Yet another batch of Garlic-Scape Pesto is on the way! I know it seems like I'm stuck in a garlic-scape rut, but that pesto is just so good, and garlic scapes are so fleeting. I doubt there'll be any more this season, but one can hope! We also got an enormous head of lettuce in this week's share. Seriously--that thing must weigh a couple pounds at least. We'll eat the strawberries and sugar snap peas as is, and I'll let you know how we prepare everything else.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Sautéed Lemony Beet Greens

Sorry about the strange photo rotation.

Beet greens (1 bunch)
Olive oil (about 1 T.)
Fresh-pressed garlic (1 clove or so)
Crushed red pepper flakes (just a dash)
Freshly ground black pepper
Dill or another herb (optional)
1 lemon (or about 2 T. lemon juice)

Remove the big stems from the leaves and compost the stems. Tear the leaves into 3-inch (or so) pieces. Put the olive oil in a skillet. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes while the skillet is still cold, and cook over medium heat until garlic is slightly brown. Add the beet greens and stir to combine. Remove from heat. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add dill sprigs or another herb if desired. Sprinkle with lemon juice or serve with lemon wedges.

Evidently we in this household are big fans of greens--even when the cook puts way more than a dash of red pepper flakes in the skillet and the greens are quite spicy as a result. Unfortunately, a lot of raw beet greens equals a tiny amount of cooked greens. This photo represents all--ALL--of the greens from the bunch. I put a salad fork in the photo for size-comparison purposes. The greens were consumed in less time than it took to take the photo. But they definitely were tasty! I think this recipe would work equally well with other sorts of greens. And larger amounts of greens.

Roasted Beets with Butter

Last time I made roasted beets, I tossed them with red wine vinegar, and there were mixed reviews. So I thought I'd try using butter instead this time.

Olive oil
Coarse salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Dill or another herb (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. I didn't peel the beets, and you don't have to either. Just scrub them really well. Remove any stem remnants from the tops of your beets and compost stem remnants. You can compost the roots, too, if you like. If you're using baby beets, you can just use them whole. If you've got larger beets, you'll need to cut them into chunks. Put them in a small, oven-proof dish and coat with a couple tablespoons of olive oil. Cover the dish and bake for 50 minutes or so. To test for doneness, pierce the largest beet with a knife. If the knife goes in easily, they're done. Slice them and toss with a little butter. Add salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with dill or another herb if you like.

These were very tasty. No mixed reviews this time--everyone liked them and gobbled them up. I think Steve liked them best of all. Apparently beets in butter are better.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Today I made Garlic-Scape Pesto again--about triple the amount I made the first time. We now have four jars of it in our deep-freeze waiting for tomato time (and also the dead of winter, when I'm hoping the taste of garlic scapes will diminish the greyness somewhat).

I did things a little differently this time, so I updated the recipe.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Radish Roses

I was considering doing another cooked-radish recipe this time, but I really like the crunch and the slight spiciness of raw radishes. I thought about just cutting them up and putting them in salad. However, every time I do that, Liam is disinclined to eat them. So, knowing that he's much more likely to eat something if he can eat it in an interesting way (e.g., with a toothpick) or if it looks cool, funny, or pretty, I decided to try my hand at radish roses. I looked around online but wasn't impressed with the very simple--but quite unroselike--radish roses I found. And especially since the radishes we got this week are big, I thought I needed something more elaborate. So I decided to improvise.

They're still not amazingly roseish, perhaps, but I think they're pretty cool.


Rinse radishes. Cut top and tail off of each radish. Compost top and tail. Now it's time to make the petals. Position a paring knife along the rind of a radish, near the top. Make a deep, thin, petalesque slice, cutting about 3/4 of the way through. Turn the radish slightly and make another petal. Continue until you have petals around the entire edge of the radish (you'll probably have four or five petals). Then move inwards to create the inner petals, making additional deep, thin slices, continuing to turn the radish as you go. Be careful not to cut through the outer petals (or your fingers) as you slice. This is definitely detail-oriented work. The bigger the radish, the more layers of petals you'll be able to make. Once you're satisfied with the number of petals on your radishes, place them in a bowl of ice water and put the bowl in the fridge overnight--or for a couple hours at the very least. The petals of each radish rose will open up in the cold water.

Let me reiterate that Liam typically avoids eating radishes. Yet while I was in the process of creating the radish roses, Liam asked multiple times to taste them. But I cannot tell a lie: We had five small children at our dinner table tonight, and the two 21-month-olds are the only ones who even made a dent in their radish roses. The other three kids took a couple bites and that was it. Apparently even cool presentation couldn't trump the lack of desire for radishes?

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Radish Greens and Chive Vinegar in Salad

Today we had the Hearty Potato Vinaigrette Salad again, because it was good the first time and because we had to use up the surplus potatoes from the last batch. We still didn't use them up. I added radish greens to the salad this time around, which was a subtly noticeable addition. I also used homemade chive vinegar instead of plain white vinegar in the dressing for another slight change of flavor.

We added chive blossoms to the salad this time too. I thought maybe I should post a little more information about chive blossoms and ways to use them. In case you didn't see the chive vinegar post, here's what chive blossoms look like after they've been picked from the plant:

They're actually clusters of tiny flowers, which you can remove from the main stalk, at which point they look like this:

Then you can sprinkle them on salads, omelets, or whatever else strikes your fancy.

We had our salad with a fougasse from The Bread Peddler. Steve wanted the tomato-and-feta one. I've been eyeing the kalamata-olive one for months. But it's Father's Day, so we went with the tomato-and-feta. It was tasty, but I think we'll try the kalamata-olive one next time (I'm betting it'll be even better).

With our dinner, we ate (raw) the sugar snap peas we got in our share this week. And we finished up our meal with a half-pint of Pigman's strawberries. Mmmmm.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Chive Vinegar

While I was researching methods for drying chamomile yesterday, I noticed an online forum on which someone had posted ideas about what to do with various herbs--chamomile among them. I was excited to see that they also mentioned using chive blossoms to make chive vinegar. This was a fortuitous discovery, considering we had a bowl full of chive blossoms sitting in our fridge at that very moment--way more blossoms than we could conceivably use on salads. (In the interest of full disclosure, the blossoms are from our own garden, not from our CSA share.) The "recipe" is ridiculously easy.

Chive blossoms
White vinegar

Place chive blossoms in a glass jar (we didn't have a spare jar, so I stuck them in a glass bowl with a lid; I'll transfer them to a jar soon). Pour white vinegar over the blossoms to cover. Let the blossoms steep until you're ready to use the vinegar or to pour it into smaller jars to give as gifts.

Today, I was shocked to see that the white vinegar is already beautifully purplish-pink. I hadn't anticipated the color change. And it already tastes chivey!

I'm going to keep letting it steep. I figure the chives will infuse the vinegar with more of their color and flavor the longer they sit there.

Friday, June 17, 2011

CSA, Week 3

In this week's share, we got:
Green Onions (we traded for extra asparagus)
Sugar Snap Peas
Choice of Herbs

I've also included a glass of Washington syrah in the photo. Hey--it's local!

Jan Pigman walked out of the house to say hello as we were getting out of the car. We asked if they had any eggs left. She went in to check and emerged with the sole remaining dozen. Hooray!

There's always a trade box available at the farm in case there's an item in your share that you really dislike or already have. We have abundant chives in our garden, and we often use them in place of green onions. So I looked through the trade box and happily traded our green onions for a second bunch of asparagus. As far as herb choice goes, there were a lot to choose from this week, but I immediately reached for the sole remaining bunch of garlic scapes (not sure it really counts as an herb, but I'm not complaining). I was really hoping for more garlic scapes this week so I could make more Garlic-Scape Pesto to freeze for later (okay, and maybe to eat right away, too). Jan also invited me to walk through the garlic patch and harvest more garlic scapes. So while Steve and the kids walked off to feed the animals the bread we'd brought, Jan showed me how to harvest the scapes from the hardneck French Pink Garlic plants (actually brought over from France years ago by a friend of theirs who has a farm on Bainbridge Island). We came home with a bunch of garlic scapes big enough to make me slightly giddy at the prospect of more pesto. I also successfully begged an extra bunch of chamomile from the herb box so I can try my hand at drying it and making my own tea. More on that in another post.

Hearty Potato Vinaigrette Salad

This is another recipe from Penzeys Spices. I was intrigued by the combination of ingredients and thought it was definitely worth a try. I made a half recipe, and the amounts I'm posting reflect that change. If you were making this as a meal in its own right (which Steve and I agree is a valid option for this salad), you might want to double the amounts I list.

3 red potatoes (medium-sized), cut into 3/4-inch pieces (no need to peel them)
2-3 eggs, hard-boiled and peeled*
1/2 head lettuce or equivalent amount of greens, cleaned and torn into bite-size pieces
2 T. white vinegar
1 T. vegetable oil (I used canola)
1/2 T. sugar
1 T. butter (or olive oil if you want)
2 t. seasoned salt (the original recipe called for Penzeys' Northwoods Seasoning, which is what I used)
Chive blossoms (optional)

Cook the chopped potatoes in boiling water until tender (about 7 minutes). Mix vinegar oil, and sugar together, and toss the resulting vinaigrette with the lettuce. Put a serving of lettuce on each salad plate. Drain cooked potatoes and lightly break potato cubes with a fork or potato masher (I used a masher), but don't mash completely. Place equal amounts of potatoes on each lettuce bed. Add little pats of butter to each serving of potatoes, or drizzle olive oil over them if you absolutely can't use butter. (Alternately, toss the pats of butter with the potatoes in a bowl before dividing onto plates. This is what we did.) Slice the eggs and arrange the slices over the lettuce and potatoes. Sprinkle a little seasoned salt and, if desired, some chive blossoms on each serving. Ideally, serve while still warm. We ate it stone cold, but it was still good.

*You can boil the eggs while the potatoes are cooking if you like. I actually boiled them the day before and kept them in the fridge. What I usually do to hard-boil eggs is put them in a saucepan, cover them with cold water, and bring the water to boil over medium-high heat. Then I turn down the heat to medium-low and cook for another 12-14 minutes. Then I put the pan in the sink and run cold water into it until the water stays cold. To peel a hard-boiled egg, I tap it against the counter, turning as I tap, until there are cracks all over the shell. Then I gently roll the egg between my palms to loosen the shell and membrane from the egg white. Sometimes this works beautifully, and sometimes it's still frustrating to peel the egg. But it typically seems to help at least a bit.

Steve and I were both surprised by how good this was. It's simple, and neither of us could exactly put our finger on what made it tasty, but there was no denying that it was, indeed, very tasty. Definitely repeatable.

There were way more potatoes than we could reasonably use on the salad, so I've edited the ingredients accordingly.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Balsamic-Marinated Grilled Asparagus

I'm happy that we had asparagus in our share again this week, because I was eager to make use of my newfound asparagus knowledge. Many thanks to my friend Jeanette at Off the Cuff Cooking for her recommendations about asparagus-trimming technique and asparagus marinades.

Olive oil
Balsamic vinegar
Freshly ground black pepper

Remove rough ends from asparagus. To do this, grab tip and tail of each piece individually. Bend tip and tail gently toward each other until the rough end breaks off (it should break approximately 1/3 of the way up the stalk). Compost rough ends. Place trimmed asparagus in a container. I used a zip-top bag, but I cringe when I do that, because oil-coated bags are just not very reusable. However, they certainly are convenient for marinating! Anyway, add some oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, and pepper to the container, and toss the asparagus a bit so they get coated with the marinade. Let them marinate for a while, then put them on a hot grill (perpendicular to the slats so they don't fall through). Grill for about 5 minutes, rolling them over once during the grilling process.

These were flavorful and tender all the way through and so much better than last week's attempt. They absorbed the balsamic flavor nicely. However, I think they might do even better with a balsamic reduction that would stick to them better. And Steve thinks maybe we should add some herbs into the mix next time. He also said we should make sure to have crusty bread on hand to mop up the puddle of marinade that was left. At any rate, we all gobbled up our portions. I, unfortunately, didn't gobble mine as quickly as Steve did, so it was up to me to share when both of my children finished their own portions and asked for more. I felt almost like a mama bird confronted by two screeching, open-mouthed hatchlings. But I'm not going to discourage my children from asking for seconds on vegetables.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


I don't actually know how this compares to other Mulligatawnys, because this is the only one I've ever had. I made it for the second time tonight, and it won't be the last. I didn't make it from stuff in our CSA--and it's not exactly seasonally appropriate--but I'm still posting it, because it's good, and it's CSA-friendly. I got the recipe from the Everyday Paleo site. We don't follow the paleo lifestyle in this household, though I've been fascinated by it since some friends introduced me to the concept. And I've certainly benefited from the tasty paleo recipes!

1 1/2 lb. meat (I used ground beef, and that's what the original recipe called for, but you could use something else)
2 T. olive oil (the original recipe called for coconut oil)
2 shallots, chopped
1 leek, halved and sliced
3 carrots, chopped
1 parsnip, chopped
2 apples, peeled, cored, and chopped
1/4 c. fresh parsley, chopped (we harvested some from our garden)
1 T. curry powder
1/4 t. freshly grated nutmeg (you could use ground, but it won't be as good)
1 t. ground turmeric
1/4 t. ground cloves
1 T. cinnamon
1 quart (4 c.) chicken stock
1 can (13.66-oz. or so) coconut milk
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Heat the oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the shallots & leeks and sauté for 4-5 minutes. Add the carrots, parsnip, & apples and sauté for another 7-8 minutes. While the veggies are cooking, brown the meat in a separate skillet. Add the browned meat to the soup pot and mix with veggies. Add parsley & dry spices and mix well. Add chicken stock & coconut milk, bring to a simmer, and cook for 1 hour (uncovered). Add salt and pepper to taste.

This is rich, satisfying, and full of flavor. One of our guests at dinner tonight was a seven-year-old girl who is a pretty typical seven-year-old foodwise, and she ate three bowls . . . and wanted more after that. I think that's a pretty good advertisement.

Rhubarb Cobbler

Part of me wanted to try a new recipe with the rhubarb we received this week, but most of me really wanted to revisit the cobbler I made at around this time last year, before we were part of a CSA. Most of me trumped part of me. I found this recipe in a Penzeys Spices catalog from last year. Enjoy! I know we will!

4 c. rhubarb, chopped (make sure to remove and compost all remnants of leaves, because they're toxic)
1 c. flour
3/4 c. oats
1 t. cinnamon
1 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. melted butter
1 c. sugar
1 c. cold water
3 T. cornstarch
1 t. vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, oats, cinnamon, brown sugar, and melted butter. Press half of the mixture into a greased 9x9 pan. In a saucepan, combine the sugar, cold water, cornstarch, and vanilla. Stir to get rid of clumps in the cornstarch. Cook over medium heat until very thick and transparent (6-8 minutes), stirring frequently. Add rhubarb, stir, and then spread over crust in baking pan. Sprinkle remaining oat mixture over the top. Bake for 1 hour.

This is very yummy. I can smell it cooking right now, and I'm practically drooling. I'll wait to post this until I have a photo; perhaps I'll be able to hold myself back from digging in before taking said photo, but I offer no guarantees.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Spinach Cooked in Leftover Kale Marinade

At dinnertime, we made spinach that we quickly sautéed in the leftover marinade from the Grilled Coconut Kale.

It was good. Not nearly as good as the kale was, but I wasn't expecting that anyway.

Garlic-Scape Pesto

Garlic scapes are beautiful, they're delicious, and I don't think I'd ever tasted them before yesterday.

While searching for ways to use them, I found this recipe. I followed it almost to the letter, but I'll post what I did anyway.

Garlic scapes (10), thinly sliced
Grated Parmesan (about 1/2 c.)
Slivered almonds (1/3 c.)
Olive oil (about 2/3 c.)

Using a food processor, traditional blender, Magic Bullet-type appliance, or immersible blender, blend the garlic scapes with the almonds, olive oil, and Parmesan. Add salt to taste.

Hint: Once everything is in the bowl of the processor/blender thingie, mix it up with a spoon before closing it up and blending it. I did this the third time I made the pesto, and it helped everything get blended up more quickly.

This sounded so good that I made it three hours earlier than I intended to, just because I couldn't wait. And it is good--really, really good. It probably would be delicious on pasta, but I liked it just spread on hunks of ciabatta. I would've loved to keep it all to myself, but in the interest of preserving marital and filial harmony, I will share.

As Dorie suggested, I put some of the pesto in a mason jar and put it in our deep-freeze to save for when tomatoes are at their peak. If you do this and your jar isn't full to the brim, push plastic wrap against the surface of the pesto to keep the air off of it before you screw on the jar lid.

I covered the remaining portion closely with plastic wrap and put it in the fridge to share with Steve and the kids later. If that's not love, what is?

The first time I made this, I used an immersible blender. It got really bogged down in the thick pesto. I was able to make it work, but it definitely was work. That also might've had to do with the narrow, cylindrical blending container I used. The second time I made it, I used a Magic Bullet. That worked much better than the immersible blender, but I still had to stop several times to vigorously shake the blending container so that everything would get chopped up. I think a food processor would be ideal, but alas--we have none.

I'm really hoping (though it's unlikely) that we'll get more garlic scapes in next week's CSA, because I'd love to make another batch of this to freeze.

Three-hour-later update: Steve agreed with me that this was delicious. He also said it was a good thing I had already put away the other two-thirds, or else we would've eaten all of it. Liam and Annika took one bite each and weren't interested. (Oh, bummer--Steve and I had to eat more!)

Months-later update: We loved this on open-faced ciabatta-roll sandwiches with fresh tomatoes and basil, like this:

Not the best lighting for this photo, I know.
Forgive me--I took it in a moving car with the plate sitting on my lap.
We were in the car on the way to go camping,
but that didn't stop us from enjoying a gourmet-restaurant-worthy lunch.

We've also opened up a couple containers of the frozen pesto now that the colder months are upon us. We've enjoyed the pesto on bread and also on grilled carrots, as with the carrot-green pesto.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Garlic Scapes in Tuna Melts and Salad

Today we decided to use some of our generous lettuce portion--as well as a sliced garlic scape, some chive blossoms from our own garden, and leftover blue cheese--in a salad.

Steve also added another sliced garlic scape to the tuna and mayonnaise he mixed up for our tuna melts. Then he sprinkled some dill on top of the cheese before broiling the melts. (Side note: I think the key to a good tuna melt is toasting the bread beforehand.)

The tuna melt on the top right is Liam's; he requested no dill.

The week-and-a-half-old dill is really doing well in the plastic-bag-covered glass of water! I wonder if changing the water every day is the trick.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Grilled Coconut Kale

I found many online versions of kale with coconut milk, but I was particularly intrigued by the ones that called for grilling the kale. So I was thrilled that we got to choose kale as part of our CSA share this week. (I bought coconut milk ahead of time just in case.) Here's what I did:

Kale (one bunch)
Coconut milk (one 13.66-ounce can or thereabouts; please skip the lower-fat light coconut milk!!)
Lemon juice (a couple tablespoons)
Coarse salt (1/2 tablespoon or so)
Ground cayenne pepper (1/2 teaspoon or so)
Sweet paprika (1/2 teaspoon or so)

What I did: Remove the center stalk of each kale leaf and compost it. Tear the remaining greens into pieces, but try to keep the pieces pretty large. (After all, you're grilling them; you don't want them to fall through the slats.)

What you should do: Follow my advice in the comments section and grill the kale leaves whole.

In a small pot, heat the coconut milk over low until just slightly warm, stirring until it's smooth. Put into a glass dish or bowl. Add the lemon juice, salt, cayenne, and paprika. I whisked everything together to break up the paprika and cayenne. Stir in the kale until it's thoroughly coated with the marinade.

(Steve took this photo after I'd already started grilling; there was a lot more kale in the dish before.)

Cover the dish and put it in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours.

At mealtime, place marinated kale pieces on the grill over high heat. Grill for about a minute (or slightly under), then flip the pieces and grill for another minute or so before removing.

This was delicious. It is easily the tastiest kale I've ever eaten. We all ate every bit of our kale, and we definitely will be repeating this recipe. Steve said that he used to be an anti-kale person, but this recipe has converted him.

Next time, we'll marinate and grill the kale leaves whole, rather than tearing them into pieces; we can always cut out the stalks after grilling if need be. It was quite the process to lay out all those little kale pieces on the grill, then turn them (all the while trying to keep them from falling through), then take them off the grill, then add more kale pieces to the grill . . . It would be so much easier to just lay out a few whole leaves.

We had extra marinade after putting the kale on the grill, and it seemed too much of a waste to just throw it away. Next time, I think we could probably make 1 1/2 times as much kale with this amount of marinade. Or we could double the marinade recipe and use three bunches of kale. I'm sure we'd still eat all of it. In the meantime, we've saved the surplus and are planning to use it when we sauté the spinach we got in this week's share.

Thanks, Steve, for thinking to take photos during the grilling process!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Roasted Radishes and Radish Greens

I really like radishes, so I was happy to have them in our share this week. In the past, I've always just composted the greens and then used the radishes sliced in a salad. I thought we should try something different this time.

Radishes (from 1 bunch)
Radish greens (from the same bunch)
Olive oil (a couple tablespoons)
Lemon juice (a couple tablespoons)
Coarse salt
Freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 500 degrees F. That's right--500. Remove stem remnants and roots from radishes and compost remnants and roots. Halve radishes. Remove stems from radish greens and compost stems. Chop greens. Put radishes and greens in a small oven-safe dish. Toss with the oil and lemon juice, and add salt and pepper to taste. Put in oven and roast for about 20 minutes, until radishes are fairly tender.

From what I'd read about radish greens being peppery, I think I expected more spice from them. Even raw, I didn't get the peppery kick I had read about. As expected, the greens reduced in size dramatically after being cooked. I was interested in how the heat from the oven (perhaps combined with the lemon juice?) caused a good deal of the pink/purple color to leach out of the radishes.

I thought this was a decent dish, tastewise. The greens adopted the lemony flavor nicely. The radishes were less flavorful, and they didn't have any radishy bite after cooking. In this household, we typically don't repeat recipes that are just okay, and I suggested to Steve that perhaps this wasn't repeatable. He disagreed, saying he thought it was good. Liam gladly ate the greens and asked for more, so again, I handed over some of my tiny portion. I didn't want to give them up, but I'm thrilled that Liam is liking greens. He ate all his radishes only because that was required of him before he got seconds on the rest of the meal. Annika spit out the single bite of radish she attempted. She ate one bite of the greens.

If I make this recipe again, I might cut the radishes into quarters rather than halves and decrease the cooking time accordingly. I think that would allow the greens to hold up a little better, and it might help preserve more nutrients and color.

I have more radish recipes lined up for next time!

Friday, June 10, 2011

CSA, Week 2

We remembered to bring bread to feed the animals today at Pigman's. We fed the chickens--including the unintentional rooster (he was technically supposed to be a hen), the turkeys, the three sheep, and even the goose, whom we've dubbed El Diablo. He literally bites the hands that feed him, and at feeding time, he also bites the sheep who share a pen with him--and whom, at other times (according to Dean Pigman), he snuggles with quite contentedly. Liam wisely chose to toss pieces of bread to El Diablo. I actually hand-fed the terror (E.D., not Liam) and, because I didn't want to be outdone by Dean when he demonstrated this, I even let El Diablo attack my breadless hand a bit just to see what it was like. Answer? Impressively firm bite, but not sharp.

Sadly, there were no fresh eggs left by the time we showed up. Grrr. We'll have to get there sooner next time.

Here's what we got in our CSA share this week:

Garlic Scapes
Sugar Snap Peas
Choice of Kale or Bok Choy (we chose kale, due to the intriguing grilled-kale recipe I found this week)

I've updated the vegetable-storage page to include these new veggies.

No new recipe yet today, because Steve is currently literally snoring on our kitchen floor waiting for me to be finished with this, and because we spent the evening with good friends who shared their own CSA bounty with us, leaving our own share untouched until tomorrow.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Raw Kohlrabi in Dijon Vinaigrette

I don't think I'd ever tasted kohlrabi before today.

I like kohlrabi.

I found some steamed/sautéed kohlrabi recipes that we'll probably try down the road, but I thought we'd try a no-cook method this time.

Kohlrabi (I used one large-ish bulb)
Red wine vinegar (a couple tablespoons)
Dijon mustard (a tablespoon or so)
Olive oil (about twice as much oil as vinegar)
Freshly ground black pepper
Dill or another herb (optional)

In a small glass bowl (I actually used a drinking glass), mix together the vinegar and dijon. Slowly fork-whisk in the oil until everything is well combined. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Remove the greens from the kohlrabi bulb and save them for another recipe. I would've done this if I had known it was an option, but I naïvely composted them instead. I'll know better next time.

Peel the kohlrabi bulb, removing the peel and the pithy outer flesh. I would highly recommend skipping the vegetable peeler; it leaves much to be desired. I ended up ditching it (after several unproductive little kohlrabi-peel shavings) in favor of a paring knife. Ahhh--much better. Compost the peelings.

Julienne the kohlrabi.

Toss with the vinaigrette, sprinkle with dill or another herb if desired, and serve.

I am kicking myself. I keep forgetting to use the dill! We had some on our beets and beet greens, some on steak (a rare [ha!] treat in our house), and on poached eggs, but we still have a ton left. I totally could've been using it in all these recipes.

Anyway, about the kohlrabi: Steve, Liam, and I all liked it and think it was repeatable (Liam reneged on that later, but he's 4 1/2, so that's to be expected, right?). I appreciated the crunch and the slightly sweet, yet ever-so-slightly sharp flavor of the kohlrabi. And almost anything in vinegar and dijon mustard is good in my book. Annika was not so sure about the whole thing. I think she has texture issues at the moment.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Sautéed Spinach with Garlic

I went grocery shopping tonight. While I was gone, Steve fed Liam and Annika raw spinach, in addition to their other dinner fare. Liam ate his spinach; Annika wasn't so enthused. Anyway, Steve typically waits to eat his dinner until I get home; he likes it when we can eat together (very sweet). So when I got home, he had a spinach recipe and the needed components all prepared. Here's what he did:
Olive oil
Fresh-pressed garlic (couple cloves)
Coarse salt
Dill or another herb (optional)

Remove and compost the large, tough spinach stems. Put some olive oil in a skillet, and add the garlic while the skillet is still cold. Cook over medium heat until garlic is slightly brown. Add spinach and stir to coat with olive oil. Cook for about 1 minute, just until spinach is wilted. Remove spinach from hot pan immediately. Add salt to taste, and sprinkle with dill or another herb if you like (I forgot).

This was simple and tasty.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Roasted Beets with Red Wine Vinegar

I've had beets before, but I've never cooked them before today.

I actually thought to take a picture this time!

But not until we only had a tiny bit left.

Olive oil
Red wine vinegar
Coarse salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Dill or another herb (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. I didn't peel the beets, and you don't have to either. Just scrub them really well. Remove any stem remnants from the tops of your beets and compost stem remnants. You can compost the roots, too, if you like. If you're using baby beets, you can just use them whole. If you've got larger beets, you'll need to cut them into chunks. Put them in a small, oven-proof dish and coat with a couple tablespoons of olive oil. Cover the dish and bake for 50 minutes or so. To test for doneness, pierce the largest beet with a knife. If the knife goes in easily, they're done. Slice them and toss with a little red wine vinegar. Add salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with dill or another herb if you like.

Annika and I really liked these. Steve thought they were pretty good. Liam said he didn't like them, but he ate every bit. Hmmmm . . . I might try using butter instead of red wine vinegar next time and see how that goes over.

Next day: I'm glad I'd already heard about the colorful digestive results of eating beets. Otherwise, I think we all would have been a bit alarmed.

Sautéed Beet Greens with Garlic and Onion

I didn't even know you could eat beet greens.

Beet greens
Olive oil
Finely chopped onion (a couple tablespoons; I used dried because that's what we had on hand)
Fresh-pressed garlic (a couple cloves)
Coarse salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Dill or another herb (optional)

Remove the big stems from the leaves and compost the stems. Tear the leaves into 3-inch (or so) pieces. Put a little olive oil in a skillet. Add the onion and garlic while the skillet is still cold, and cook over mediumish heat until garlic is a little brown. Add the greens and stir until they wilt and get tender. Add salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with dill or another herb if you like.

These were good. We all ate every bit on our plates, and Liam asked for seconds. I'd probably go easier on the salt next time; they were a bit on the salty side. But still yummy.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Sautéed Chard with Garlic

Darn. I still forgot to take photos. Maybe next time?

I’d never tried chard before. I was a bit nervous, because I’ve heard a lot of people say they don’t like chard. But I was still excited to give it a try, because my friend Missy and her kids really like it.

Here’s what Steve did:

Olive oil
Fresh-pressed garlic (a clove or more)
Cayenne pepper
Coarse salt
Dill or another herb (optional)

Trim about an inch off of the stems and compost the ends. Separate the stems from the greens. Slice the stems thinly. Tear or chop the greens coarsely. Put a little olive oil in a skillet. Add garlic while skillet is still cold, and sauté over medium heat until slightly brown. Add cayenne and sliced chard stems and cook for 1 minute. Stir in chard greens and cook for another couple minutes until tender. Sprinkle with salt and dill or another herb if desired (I didn't remember to do so).

This was quite good. The stems added some nice crunch, and the garlic was a tasty addition. We liked it very well; all four of us cleaned our plates. Liam asked for more, so in the interest of encouraging that sort of behavior, Steve and I relinquished some of our portions.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Mustard Greens with Bacon

Incidentally, the day of mustard greens was also the day of the U2 360 concert in Seattle, but that didn’t stop me from whipping up a batch at lunchtime before Steve and I headed north for an awesome dinner at Wasabi in Belltown (thanks for the recommendation, Justin!) and the amazing concert at Qwest Field.

I’d never tried mustard greens before, but I was intrigued by the name. I really liked the spicy flavor of the greens when they were raw. Because I have (distant) Southern roots, and because I ascribe to the well-known maxim that bacon makes anything better, I decided to do this:

5 c. mustard greens
5 slices bacon (I used uncured, thick-cut), diced
2 ½ T. beef broth*
Dill or another herb (optional)

Remove and compost the thick stems. Tear greens into pieces. Cook the bacon in a large skillet until brown. At this point, you can drain off some of the grease if you have a lot, but I had almost none. Add greens and broth; stir. Cover and cook on medium for 10 minutes. Sprinkle with dill or another herb if desired (I didn't think to do this).

Comments:These were good, but I was disappointed. I missed the spicy flavor after the greens were cooked; it entirely cooked out. I’m also concerned that the long cooking time means I cooked out a lot of the nutrients. Next time, we may just sauté (covered) in a few tablespoons of broth for 5 minutes or so, then add some lemon juice, fresh-pressed garlic, olive oil, salt, and pepper. I know my long-gone Southern forebears may not approve, but this seems a healthier option (sorry, bacon! You know I still love you), and I hope the decreased cooking time will preserve the spiciness somewhat. I may also try adding some mustard greens to salad to give it a taste boost.

*Making beef broth is super easy and cost effective with Better than Bouillon Organic Beef Base. You can make as much or as little broth as you want with almost no effort. I don’t know why I spent so many years buying comparatively pricey one-quart Tetra-Paks of broth when I could’ve saved money and packaging with these little jars that cost about $5 and yield 9.5 quarts of broth.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Grilled Asparagus

I was excited to see asparagus in our bag this week. Bathroom odors aside, it’s yummy, and Liam really likes it. Here’s what Steve did with it this time:

Olive oil
Coarse salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Dill or another herb (optional)

Trim stems and compost the ends. Put asparagus in a veggie grill pan and place on heated grill. Carefully (!) pour olive oil over asparagus, moving pan to another part of the grill during flare-ups. Grill “until it seems right” (Steve’s words; I realize they’re not very helpful). Remove from grill and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add sprigs of dill or another herb if desired.

I trimmed an inch or two off the stalks, but these were thick asparagus, and in retrospect, perhaps I should’ve trimmed more. Or maybe we should’ve cut each stalk in half and taken the tops off the grill first, letting the thicker stalks cook longer. The lower ends of the stems were really woody. Liam struggled with them, and even I had to spit out the very ends. Helpful hints, anyone?

CSA, Week 1

Our first CSA share was like the most awesome grab-bag gift. I was so excited when we were on our way to pick up our share that I totally forgot to bring bread so Liam and Annika could feed the animals.

Due to the cold, wet spring we’ve had, this was apparently a “light” week by Pigman’s standards. That alarmed me a bit, because this supposedly light week filled our crisper to overflowing.

I got a little giddy reading the list taped to the front of the bag and peeking in. Here’s what we got:

Mustard greens
Herb choice

For the herb choice, there was a separate box of herbs from which we could choose one. Our options were catnip, chamomile, cilantro, dill, oregano, parsley, or peppermint. We already have cilantro, oregano, parsley, and mint (mojito mint, but still) planted in our garden or growing in pots, and I don’t know what I’d do with catnip but no cat (ideas?). I was torn between chamomile and dill, but Steve really likes dill, so that’s what we chose. Maybe we’ll get chamomile next time, for tea?

I’m hoping we get kale soon, because I found a kale recipe that sounds amazing.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

CSA, Season 1

For a few years now, I’ve been fascinated by the CSA (Community-Supported Agriculture) concept. The basic premise is that people in a community contribute money (and sometimes labor) to a local farm in exchange for a portion of the harvest. If you want to get businessy, you’re essentially buying a share of the farm’s yield, which typically comes in a weekly box/bag of produce (and sometimes dairy or meat). The whole concept just had a deep, earthy appeal to me. Not to get to weird on you, but it’s like I was hungering (ha!) for more of a connection to what I ate and its origins.

Once we had undergone our northwestward migration and started settling in to the culture here, I grew even more interested in CSAs. I liked the idea of supporting local business, getting food that was amazingly fresh (as in picked within a few hours of being on our table), connecting more with our community (this idea goes deeper, but I’ll save that for another post), encouraging the idea of food production devoid of harmful pesticides and herbicides, and at least diminishing the fossil-fuel usage entailed in cross-continent/cross-ocean shipping of food. I also wanted us to up our veggie intake. We’re pretty careful and intentional about what we eat, but veggies aren’t our forte. They just seem to get lost in the shuffle a lot of the time.

Despite my growing interest in CSAs, for a long time I was unwilling to give up the control I had when picking out the specific veggies and fruit I wanted at the Co-op, where the produce was largely local anyway. I am the primary cook in our household right now, and I’m a meal-planner. If I let someone else decide for us what produce we’d have each week, how would we know what we’d be eating on a given day? But gradually my discomfort with this idea turned to intrigue, and from there to excitement at the mystery of it all. And I was also increasingly enthusiastic about the idea of eating produce that was in season and very locally grown, rather than flown in from the Southern Hemisphere because, irksome as it may be, pears just aren’t in season in the spring. This isn’t to say that we’re ready to give up our off-season Argentinian pears, but we’re moving in the right direction.

Hmmmm. I don’t know if we’ll ever be able to give up those pears.

Once we’d decided to participate in a CSA, I started asking friends about our options. We are so fortunate to live in an area where there are many amazing local organic farms with CSAs. We got glowing recommendations for several different farms. But we finally decided on Pigman’s Organic Produce Patch, a tiny (6-acre) local farm. Like many of the farms we were considering, Pigman’s adds beneficial microbes and trace minerals to the soil to increase its health and consequently to increase the nutritional value and taste of the food it produces. Pigman’s is the most local option we have, and that means less fuel usage when we drive to the farm to pick up our weekly share. It also means being more deeply rooted (!) in our community (there’s that idea again). It doesn’t hurt that we have already grown fond of Jan and Dean Pigman, that we’re free to walk around the farm when we visit, that they have chickens who are providing us with multicolored eggs each week, and that we’re encouraged to bring scraps of bread so Liam and Annika can feed the chickens, lambs, and maybe the rather frightening resident goose. The Pigmans also have cows and cats that like to jump in your car (the cats, not the cows). I’d add a link to the Pigman’s website here, but there isn’t one. As they put it, “We are not E-mail people,” so a website is pretty much out of the question, at least for now.

I’ve set out a couple rules for us as we start on this CSA adventure:

1. Make use of as much as possible. I don’t want us to let our produce go bad before we can use it, and I don’t want to compost parts of the plants that we could be eating instead. This means a bit of research to find out what is edible (did you know you can eat beet greens?).

2. Stick to preparation methods that use staple ingredients. We aren’t a family that keeps a lot of food on hand; aside from standard pantry items, we basically have in our house the food we’ll eat for that week. We pick up our CSA share every Friday. I’m the primary grocery shopper in our household at this point, and I don’t do a grocery run until Tuesday. So if we chose recipes that called for items we didn’t have on hand, we’d have to wait four days before we could start eating our veggies. Meanwhile, their nutrient content would be diminishing. I’m sure sometimes I’ll just incorporate what we get into a recipe I already have planned. And maybe—just maybe—once in a while I’ll come across an unusual recipe that sounds too good to pass up, and I’ll make a special grocery run.

As I was talking with my mom about how we’ve embarked on this new journey, she suggested that I blog about it. Good idea, Mom! At the very least, blogging about this will get me writing on a more regular basis again, and it’ll give me a place to record recipes in case any of them prove repeatable. And who knows? Maybe the posts will be helpful to some of you, and maybe you’ll be kind enough to suggest other ways we can enjoy the bounty Pigman’s will provide these next months.

Every week, I’ll post a list of the items we received in our CSA bag that week. And then as we eat each item, I’ll add an entry detailing how we prepared it and how it tasted. I may even post photos if I think of it.

I’ve been researching how to store all these veggies, so I’m including a page that has an alphabetical list of veggies and how they should be stored (look up at the top of the page, beneath WendyKate). I’ll add to it as the weeks go by.

We also plan to buy a share of a cow this year, but I’ll say more about that in another post, once we’ve actually put our money where our mouth is. :)