Tag Archives: CSA

Head Games

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There’s no metaphor tied to this salad. No anxious, overwrought voice in my head that asks ‘How can I completely overthink this dish to best represent my emotions?’ Don’t worry – I’ve barely scratched the surface of my food-as-therapy inclinations. But here and now, this is just a salad. In summers past, I’ve played the ‘how do I use all my vegetables before the next box arrives’ game. Not so this summer – I’m leaving Minneapolis in just FIVE DAYS (!!!) and now is right when the season is hitting its stride. So, to replace the CSA game, I’ve developed a new one over the past several weeks: Clean out the pantry before I move!

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I never meant to have farro in my kitchen. I accidentally bought it during one shopping trip when I meant to get freekah (for the most amazing pilaf), but as always happens when I shop on my way home from work, I forgot my grocery list and relied on my memory. Turns out, my memory isn’t always the most reliable source of information. My pantry has been harboring farro as a fugitive ever since.

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I love a good salad (even if most of you must think I only eat ice cream) only they frequently leave me craving a cookie by mid-afternoon. Particularly at this time of year when I am cycling 6.5 miles to get to campus. But this salad – oh this salad! Who knew something made up on a whim some random summer evening while Skyping with the family would leave me so smitten. It delightfully manages to keep my hunger at bay. Not only that, but it maintains its integrity over several days as the farro just keeps soaking up the juices from the cucumber, tomato and corn.

A win by all accounts.

Summer Farro Salad 

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1 cup farro
2 cups vegetable stock
 
¼ cup lemon juice
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon black pepper
 
3 ears worth of corn kernels (removed from cob)
2-3 shallots, diced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon coriander
 
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
1 cucumber, chopped
6 oz feta cheese, crumbled
1 bunch arugula, chopped
3 tablespoons mint, chopped
 
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In a medium pot bring farro and vegetable stock to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook for about 20 minutes, until tender. Drain remaining cooking liquid. While farro is cooking, whisk together extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, salt, sugar and pepper. Toss with warm farro.
 
In a saucepan, heat olive oil and cook shallots until softened, ~5 minutes. Add corn kernels and coriander and cook 5 minutes more. Toss with the farro and add tomatoes, cucumber and feta cheese. Serve atop a bed of arugula and garnish with mint.

Farewell Summer and Goodbye Watermelon

I snapped this photo yesterday on my way to work.

Autumn’s arrived. Crisp, clear, crystal blue skies and leaves the shades of fire. Chilly mornings and warm afternoons.

I am excited for the start of autumn. To wear my skirts with bright tights, boots and to layer on the cardigans. To roast squash, simmer soups and bake apples. Here’s the thing: I’ve had these watermelons hanging out, overstaying their welcome and refusing to leave.

Watermelon unequivocably resonates summertime. You see my dilemma.

I love my CSA, but watermelon every week for what seems like forever is wearing a bit thin. My relationship with watermelon is akin to the family friend whom you like, but drives you crazy after about an hour. It’s not like I don’t like watermelon, I do, I just don’t love it. You are always pleased to see them, happy to reunite after time spent apart … and then you are ready to go your separate ways. Enough is enough.

Watermelon, two ways

The problem is that I cannot stand to throw out food. I’m a frugal foodie – not in the money sense, I certainly don’t have a problem opening up my wallet to expensive ingredients, but I hate wasting food. It’s why I made half a dozen angel food cakes this summer in order to use up all of the egg whites I’d saved from my ice cream adventures. So what to do with watermelon?

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First off, pair it with mint and some citrus.

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And if you’d like, add some salty cheese and a hint of heat.

Watermelon Lime and Mint Aqua Fresca: This was an excellent way to use up a lot of watermelon and is a riff on the raw rhubarb juice that I adore. Whew. And a cinch to pull together, with only four ingredients. Fantastic on it’s own, but is also quite appealing as a twist on a gin and tonic (add gin) or a mojito (add rum). One small watermelon yields 3-4 cups of juice.

Watermelon Salad with Feta and Mint: I first made this salad when I was in the Pacific Northwest and it was entirely decent. I made it again, using half of the Yellow Doll watermelon (yes, a yellow watermelon!) from my CSA, swapped shallots for the onion and added a pinch of cayenne pepper to the dressing and I was ready to re-evaluate my feelings toward watermelon. Perhaps I’d be okay if it married into the family.

Watermelon, Two Ways

Watermelon Lime Mint Aqua Fresca
makes ~4 cups 
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1 small watermelon, deseeded and chopped in 2-inch chunks
juice from 2 limes
1 cup mint
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
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In a food processor, combine the watermelon and lime juice. Process until there are no more watermelon chunks. Pour through a fine mesh sieve and discard pulp. In a small saucepan, combine mint, sugar and water. Bring to a boil and cook until sugar has dissolved and the mint has wilted. Pour through the mesh strainer into the watermelon-lime juice, pressing hard on mint leaves to extract all their flavor. Stir to combine.

Watermelon Salad with Feta and Mint
from Food and Wine
makes ~2 servings
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Salad
1 small watermelon, deseeded and cut in 1/2 inch pieces
1 small shallot, finely chopped
1/2 cup chopped mint
1/2 cup feta cheese crumbles
 
Dressing
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
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In a large bowl, combine watermelon, diced shallot, mint and feta. In a small bowl, whisk together oil, lemon juice, salt, black and cayenne peppers. Toss with watermelon.

Edith Rose and the Green Beans

With a title like that you’d might expect I am going to tell you a story involving sitting on the deck with a great-grandmother, receiving pearls of wisdom that only come with a life lived, all the while snapping green beans that were harvested from the garden only moments before. It’s a nice story.

But not at all true.

Edith Rose was my family’s golden retriever. We inherited the name from her previous owners, but called her Edie for short. I wish I had a photo to share, but it was during a time long before digital cameras and cell phones. Fiercely loyal and protective, always with a smile on her goofy dog face, Edie was the most wonderful childhood companion. When our cat had kittens, their favorite place to snuggle and sleep was within the warm folds of Edie’s soft, golden fur. Jealously was always striking Silver, the mama cat, and we would often spy her taking the kittens, one by one, up the stairs and hiding them in the attic. Inevitably, the kittens would always end back with Edie.

I’ve been thinking a lot about Edie, thanks to my CSA. I’ve been drowning in green beans. With the weeks on end of hot weather and me still deep in the writing cave (although I am starting to see some pinpoints of light, indicating the end is near), I haven’t had the time or the inclination to spend much time in my kitchen. Which means the green beans have been piling up. That was never the case when I was a child – Edie would see to that. Of all of the things to that I loved about her, perhaps my dearest is that Edie was a foodie. One of her favorite snacks was green beans, fresh from the garden (or apples, just fallen from the tree). Every summer day, often on multiple occasions, you could spy her waggling butt (an adorable hybrid of wiggling and waddling – like most foodies, Edie was slightly overweight) making its way down the garden rows, ‘harvesting’ the green beans.

Like Edie, I enjoy my green beans fresh from the garden, but here I took it one step further and slathered them in batter, fried them up, threw on some flaky sea salt and paired them with a refreshing cucumber-mint dipping sauce (I dare anything with cucumber and mint not to be refreshing). A tasty alternative and a welcome reprieve from the writing cave.  Not to mention the golden brown hues of the fried green beans is just about a perfect match for Edie’s fur and the long green beans with knobby pockets of batter look eerily like the gnarled fingers of an elderly woman, wise from all of her years (perhaps my fictional great-grandmother from the story)…

Fried Green Beans with Cucumber-Mint Yogurt Sauce
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Fried Green Beans
from Mark Bittman
 
Canola oil
1 pound green beans, ends trimmed
2 cups flour, divided
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 egg
3/4 cup beer (or sparkling water)
 
Cucumber-Mint Sauce
from Food and Wine
 
1 cucumber, peeled and deseeded
1 garlic clove
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup plain greek yogurt
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons finely chopped mint
Freshly ground pepper
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For the green beans:

Put at least 2 inches of oil in a deep-sided frying pan (the larger the circumference, the more vegetables you can fry in one go) over medium-high heat. Heat to 350 degrees.

Mix 1 cup flour with baking powder and season with salt and pepper. Whisk in egg and beer (or sparkling water) until just combined and the consistency of pancake batter. Place remaining flour in a shallow dish. Dredge green beans first in dry flour, then in the batter and place in hot oil (make sure the oil is hot enough or else your vegetables won’t get golden brown). Cook, turning once, for just a few minutes. Drain on paper towels. Sprinkle with flaky sea salt.

For the cucumber-mint sauce:

Set a strainer over a bowl and using a microplane, grate the cucumber into the strainer and squeeze excess water (note: use the cucumber for a cool and refreshing cocktail … maybe a little gin and some basil leaves? Just a suggestion). Using that same microplane (why do more dishes than you need to?), grate garlic clove into a small bowl. Mash in salt to a paste. Add yogurt, olive oil and mint, stirring to combine. Add the shredded cucumber and season with coarse black pepper.

Beet, Orange and Goat Cheese Salad

I made this salad tonight and within one bite I knew I wanted to share. It’s not fancy or fussy, but is brilliantly hued and surprisingly sweet. I don’t have much to say – no deep thoughts about life, just a nod to how much I enjoy food. This salad is a shining example of why I love my CSA. The salad greens were amazingly robust and flavorful. And the beets … oh my, this season’s beets have been wonderfully balanced between earthy and sweet.

This is a breeze to put together … I had a conference call to Singapore this evening (I am still in hard-core work mode) and managed to throw this together in a matter of minutes. Of course, I had the foresight to roast the beets earlier this week (and in the morning no less, while my apartment is still blessedly cool).  Pairing the beets with citrus was amazing. I had bookmarked this recipe some time ago, as I am always looking for inventive uses for rhubarb. And I attempted to cook the rhubarb as described – but just wasn’t feeling it for a salad (stay tuned for how I re-invented it …), so I ended up omitting it. I swapped goat cheese for feta, simply because I had some in my refrigerator, and these days I just don’t have time for extra trips to the grocery store.

I am smitten with this salad. For the colors and the flavors. My only hope that there are more beets in this week’s CSA…

Beet, Orange and Goat Cheese Salad
modified from Bon Appetit, April 2010
1 generous entrée-size salad
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1/2 teaspoon orange zest
1 tablespoon orange juice 
1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 teaspoon honey
2 tablespoon olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
 
mixed salad greens
1 medium beet, roasted and thinly sliced
1 orange, peeled and segmented
1 1/2 ounce goat cheese, crumbled
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Whisk orange peel, orange juice, lemon juice, vinegar, honey, and olive oil together. Season dressing with coarse salt and pepper. Toss with salad greens, sliced beets, orange segments and goat cheese.

Soup Club

Winter has descended upon Minneapolis. There is snow on the ground and below freezing temperatures.

I would continue to complain, but I am making a concerted effort to find joy in my life. Which mean today I am going to talk about Soup Club. I love, love, LOVE Soup Club. It was one of the few shining points of last winter and will be for this winter as well. A group of really fabulous scientist-cooks get together to make soup every other Wednesday. One person brings a vegetarian option, one brings a meat option and one brings in a chef’s choice option. Somebody brings in a few loaves of bread and often somebody else will bring in dessert. We all gather in the lunchroom to break bread as well as to ooh and ahh over our collective culinary expertise.

People get excited for Soup Club Wednesdays. And rightly so.

This past Wednesday I brought in a vegetarian soup: Roasted Winter Squash Soup with Ginger and Lemongrass. I was more than pleased with how this dish turned out and has happy to share it with my colleagues (and I hope they were pleased in consuming it). The ginger brings a spiciness, the lemongrass a freshness and the coconut milk a creaminess. Utter delicousness, if I do say so myself.

I used a whole variety of winter squash, primarily because they had been sitting neglected since I received them many weeks ago in my CSA, but there’s no reason why a large pumpkin or butternut squash wouldn’t work out nicely.

Soup Club: bringing people together in the most delicious way in hopes of surviving winter. What a brilliant idea.

Roasted Winter Squash Soup with Ginger and Lemongrass

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1 sweet dumpling squash
1 acorn squash
1 spaghetti squash
2 tablespoons olive oil
2, 6-inch stalks lemon grass
1 large sweet onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
2 cups corn kernels (fresh, canned or frozed)
2 cups vegetable stock
1 can coconut milk
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Halve squash, remove seeds and place cut-side down in a roasting dish with 1/2 inch of water. Roast at 400 degrees for 30-45 minutes. Scoop roasted squash out of shells and puree in blender until smooth. Run througha mesh seive to remove excess water. I had had about 2, maybe 2 1/2 cups, of squash puree when I was finished. Set aside.

Cut off and discard top of lemongrass, leaving a 6-inch stalk, then smash stalk with side of a large heavy knife. Cook lemongrass, onion, and 1 teaspoon salt in oil in a heavy medium pot over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until onion is softened. Add garlic, ginger, smoked paprika and white wine vinegar and cook for another minute or two. Add squash, corn (I used canned corn and dumped the entire contents in), vegetable stock, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally. Stir in coconut milk. Remove from heat and discard lemongrass.

Purée soup in 3 or 4 batches in a blender until very smooth (use caution when blending hot liquids), straining each batch as blended through a fine-mesh sieve into a large heatproof bowl, pressing hard on and then discarding solids (this is kind of a pain in the ass, but I think it’s worth it – no leftover stingy bits of lemongrass!). Season with salt and pepper and reheat if necessary.