Wednesday, June 29, 2011

CSA Wednesday!

For the week of June 20, we received:

Zucchini (2 large)
Green Cabbage (1 large head)
White Nectarines (6)
Cilantro (2 bunches)
Bok Choy (2 heads)
Tomatoes (6)
Turnips (7 small with greens)

For some reason, I felt a little overwhelmed with this box when I picked it up. It might have something to do with the fact that I'm still carrying things one-armed, and the cabbage made it heavy. Once I got started with my meals, though, I realized we had a totally reasonable (to us) amount of produce to get through.
We had roasted summer vegetables with pasta, using 1 zucchini, 1/4 of the cabbage, all of the turnips and turnip greens, and some garlic from a few weeks back,
and chipotle pintos with zucchini and cabbage, using the remaining zucchini and cabbage and 1 bunch of the cilantro.
I'm not sure why I was compelled to buy 2 pints of grape tomatoes on Monday when pick up day is Tuesday and I knew it was approaching tomato time, so I didn't use the CSA maters for either of these recipes.

I cooked up both heads of bok choy and 4 tomatoes in an adapted version of Holly's Asian Quinoa Remix, using brown rice instead of quinoa, 2 eggs (local! delicious!) instead of 4, and the addition of the remaining cilantro. It was pretty good, but EDW and I both preferred the simpler bok choy and edamame with udon noodles I made up last weekend.
We struggled to make the nectarines last 3 days. They were juicy, flavorful, and perfect. We had the last of the tomatoes in salads and on sandwiches, and while they were adequate, I wouldn't say they were anywhere near the best tomatoes I ever ate. We were finished with our box by Sunday.

I'm heading out of town for a girls' weekend with Emmel, so I'll need to do some quality planning to make sure next week's box gets finished.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

new year's resolution revisited

When I made my new year's resolution this year, it was simply to create at least 1 recipe a month. After 2 months, I was on a sweet potato and curry kick, so I decided to choose a theme for each quarter and work within that ingredient challenge. You saw curried sweet potato soup with kale and black eyed peas, curried sweet potato hash, and curried rice salad.

For the spring quarter, I announced that the theme would be fish and salads. I presented fiesta salad with chipotle tilapia and mango salsa and broiled salmon with napa cabbage salad. As June winds down, I'm officially retiring the theme requirement of my resolution.

Part of goal setting is being flexible, and having to make another fish salad before the end of this week just doesn't make sense. With our CSA, we're getting lots of produce, and I'm trying to use only the box and other pantry staples to make our week's meals. It's making me invent lots of recipes, and I love the creative process (I also love forcing myself to use what's already in my kitchen instead of running out to buy specific items). So far, I've created 16 recipes this year (if you're bad at math, that's way more than 1 a month) and I feel great about it.

This is basically just a long-winded way to say that you won't be seeing a fish salad recipe this week, and I'm forgoing the ingredient themes. You'll still see plenty of fancy created meals-- to catch up on what you might have missed, click on the fancy created label on my side bar.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

chipotle pintos with zucchini and cabbage

One of my favorite things about vegetables is you can pretty much always throw them together in a skillet, add some seasonings, and call it a meal. You don't have to worry about undercooking anything like you do with meat, and it almost always tastes delicious.

Chipotle Pintos with Zucchini and Cabbage
serves 6 with quinoa, 4 without

1 T minced garlic
1 jalapeño, seeded and minced
1 onion, chopped
2 T olive oil
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
1 large zucchini, sliced
2 cups cooked pinto beans
3/4 large cabbage, thinly sliced
1 T taco seasoning (I make my own but store-bought is fine)
2 t chipotle pepper flakes
salt and pepper to taste

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium high and add the garlic, jalapeño, and onion. Cook until the onion has softened, about 5 minutes.
Stir in the tomatoes and zucchini, and cook for 3-4 minutes, until the zucchini begins to soften.
Add the beans, taco seasoning and chipotle pepper flakes.
Add the cabbage and a bit of water, if needed, and cover. Cook until the cabbage has wilted and is tender.
Season to taste with salt and pepper. Garnish with fresh cilantro.

I cooked some quinoa while I made this, and we had large bowls of vegetables and quinoa for dinner Wednesday night.
I loved this on first bite. I was concerned with the amount of cabbage I initially added, but it didn't overwhelm the rest of the dish. It was definitely spicy, and it was almost too much for EDW. I felt terrible, as I always do when I overspice, but Edwin was gentle with his criticism: "It's just that when it's so spicy like this I feel like I can't taste what's in it, and I want to, because I know I'll like it." He took some pepto after dinner and we hoped for the best.

Since his stomach stayed stable, we both took some of this for lunch on Thursday, and we were surprised when it reheated not spicy at all. I think the quinoa must have absorbed the spice, because honestly it was like someone had removed all the heat from the dish.

If you make it, be careful with how much chipotle pepper you use. Maybe start with 1/2 to 1 teaspoon and adjust from there, especially if you're not serving it with quinoa or rice.
EDW graded this a B, and I'm saying B+.

Friday, June 24, 2011

roasted summer vegetables

It's been a while since I've done anything with Simply in Season, so I pulled it out the other night for one of their seasoning blends for roasted summer vegetables.*

I stirred together garlic, olive oil, oregano, thyme, basil, balsamic vinegar, dijon mustard, and salt and pepper. I tossed some CSA vegetables (and some I already had in my kitchen) in that mixture: zucchini, turnips, tomatoes, cabbage and an onion. After those were halfway finished roasting, I added the turnip greens. We had our roasted vegetables with whole wheat pasta, with freshly grated parmesan sprinkled on top.
Every time I eat roasted vegetables I wonder why I'm not always eating them. Sure, it's kind of a mess in the pan and you do have to wait for your oven to heat up, but they are so delicious. This seasoning was stellar, and since I used dried herbs instead of fresh, we can have it year round. EDW paid me the ultimate compliment: "We could serve this to guests." When Edwin says that, I know the meal is not only delicious, but appears more than a little fancy and quite impressive. Ash and Char are coming in a couple weeks-- maybe we'll have some roasted summer vegetables and pasta one night.
*Lind, Mary Beth and Cathleen Hockman-Wert. Simply in Season. "Roasted Summer Vegetables, Seasoning 4." p. 119.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

CSA Wednesday!

It's starting to look like summer in our CSA box, and we're excited! For the week of June 13, we received:

Mustard Greens Mix (large bag)
Lettuce (2 heads)
Blueberries (scant quart)
Squash (6 small)
Spring Onions (5)
Pickling Cucumber (4)
Garlic (2 heads)
Everything was gone by Sunday night. I didn't blog about some of these dishes so you'd be a little more surprised. Here's how we used our haul:

Those blueberries went too fast. We stirred them into oats and cereal, and I ate them by the handful every time I passed the fridge.

We had summer vegetables with squash, which used 4 of our 6 squashes, and
bok choy and edamame with udon noodles, prepared with some of the garlic and garnished with green onions.
I made a marinated squash and cucumber salad for lunch sides. I sliced the 2 remaining squashes (or is the plural just squash?) and 2 cucumbers and marinated them in olive oil, white wine vinegar, a little sugar and some salt. Refreshing and easy.
On Friday I made another beans 'n greens combo with the mustard greens, chickpeas, smoked paprika, raisins and couscous. I've stopped using a recipe for beans and greens (I just saute some garlic and some onion in oil and then add ingredes until I'm happy). This combination was stellar-- the raisins took it over the top!
We finished the lettuce, cucumbers, and green onions with a salmon salad for dinner Sunday.
Do people want me to continue with the CSA posts? I like it because it keeps me accountable, but we haven't really had any trouble finishing each week's box, so I'm not sure I need to blog about it. If you like these installments, I'm happy to continue.

Monday, June 20, 2011

EDW assists: bok choy and edamame with udon noodles

My elbow continues to heal, and EDW continues to drain heavy pots for me. We worked together to make a father's day lunch in honor of my father-in-law yesterday. Steve is one of my favorite people to cook for, because when I ask him what he wants me to make he always encourages me to experiment with whatever I've been thinking about. As long as I don't present him with a plateful of raw tomatoes, he's usually pretty happy.

I decided to make a bok choy stir-fry, because every time we're at the grocery store and we see it, Edwin revels in saying "bok choy!" It is a fun word, and it's definitely a fun vegetable. I was going to use soba noodles, but there was a major price difference in the 100% whole grain udon and 100% buckwheat soba noodles, so udon it was. Use any noodle you like here, or serve it with brown rice. You'll note in the recipe that I've given exact weights for the pasta and greens. It's not that I have a food scale, but the bok choy is by the pound and 1 bunch was 1.1 LB and the noodles came in an 8 ounce box. Here's the recipe:

Bok Choy and Edamame with Udon Noodles
serves 4

2 T canola oil
1 T minced fresh ginger
1 T minced garlic
1 LB bok choy
2 cups cooked shelled edamame
2 T low sodium soy sauce
8 oz udon noodles
2 green onions, chopped

Prepare the udon noodles according to package instructions. Once the noodles are cooked, drain them and reserve at least 1 cup cooking water.

While the noodles are cooking, remove the bok choy greens from the stems. Slice the stems and set them aside. Chop or tear the greens and set them aside.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the bok choy stems and cook for 3-4 minutes, until they begin to soften.

Stir in the greens and 1/2 cup reserved cooking liquid. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has evaporated and the greens and stems are tender, about 10 minutes. Stir in the edamame and soy sauce, followed by the udon noodles and enough reserved liquid to make a saucy mixture.

Season to taste with salt and pepper. Turn off the heat and add the green onions. Serve with additional soy sauce and sriracha sauce.
We all really enjoyed this. The bok choy stems are so pleasant-- almost creamy and really flavorful. Edwin is delighted by anything that comes with noodles (his words after lunch: "You could probably put any food I think I don't like on noodles and I'd be happy."), and Steve seemed to enjoy his lunch as well. I did find that the dish tasted better with some sriracha stirred in, so if you make this, be prepared to add extra seasoning in the form of soy sauce or sriracha.
All in all, it was a lovely afternoon spent with Steve. It wasn't the traditional father's day cookout, but it suited our family just fine.

Friday, June 17, 2011

summer vegetables with kale

I used to plan my meals on Sunday mornings. It was a peaceful ritual, and I'd pull out my favorite cookbooks, flipping through them looking for ideas. I'd make a list of the meals for the week and head to the grocery store. Now that we're into our CSA, my meal plan is much more fluid, and, I'll admit, more fun.

On Tuesdays, I try to have a backup plan in place in case I can't make a meal out of CSA ingredients and things already in my kitchen. It's exciting, and I like feeling prepared. I still stock up the kitchen on Sundays with things I know we'll use, like extra vegetables, herbs, beans, grains, and pasta, so I usually have what I need for the week already.

When we got the first of the summer squash in our box this Tuesday, I knew I had to make some immediately. I went through my fridge and freezer, and decided to use some precooked black beans and the kale I knew my in-laws were sending with Edwin that afternoon. (Mary and Steve have a wonderful garden and they share their greens with us, which I love.) I also had an ear of corn hanging out, so I got EDW to cut the kernels off the cob when he got home to throw that in as well. Here's what I did:

Summer Vegetables with Kale
serves 4-6

2 T olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 T minced garlic
1 bell pepper, chopped
4 cups sliced summer squash (I used 4 small yellow squashes)
lots of kale, stems removed (my in-laws sent a nice size bag)
1 ear sweet corn, kernels removed from the cob
2 cups cooked black beans
1 15 oz can diced tomatoes (or fresh if you have them)
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1 jalapeño, minced
2 t Mexican oregano
2 t cumin
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper to taste

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat.
Add the onion and garlic and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.
Stir in the squash and bell pepper and cook until tender, about 5 minutes.
Add the kale and cover. Stir occasionally and cook until kale has wilted.
Stir in the tomatoes, jalapeño, oregano, cumin and bay leaf, followed by the corn and beans.
Cook, stirring occasionally, until some of the liquid has evaporated.
Season with salt and pepper.
We loved this skillet of veggies. It was beautiful, thanks to all the colors, and so tasty. I served it with brown rice that was slightly undercooked and oversalted (I cooked most of this by myself, with my gimpy elbow, and I guess that immobile left arm makes me unable to cook proper rice?
It definitely makes me unable to make pretty slices and chops, but I'm managing).
EDW said he thinks he'd prefer it with quinoa or in a tortilla, and I think I agree. Regardless of the rice issue, we both give this recipe a solid A.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

CSA Wednesday!

For the week of June 6, we received:

Peaches (8)
Sugar Snaps (a lot?)
Garlic (2 heads)
Romaine Lettuce (2 heads)
Kohlrabi (4 bulbs)
Green Onions (6)
Curly Spinach (a pound?)
We had a kohlrabi stir-fry andbeans and greens, with spinach, and pico de gallo with green onions,
and we used the romaine in salads.
I didn't use any of the garlic yet (I was already working on a head when we got it), but I'm not concerned because it isn't exactly close to spoiling in my pantry. I never use the jarred garlic, and I'm happy to have some locally grown bulbs.

EDW and I LOVE peaches. I hadn't bought any this year because it seemed just too early for them, but these peaches were delicious. We mostly ate them with breakfast each morning, or as a little afternoon treat. It was hard for me not to eat more than my fair share, but I showed some restraint in light of the fact that EDW's been so kind to me in the kitchen.

As for the sugar snaps: while there are many wonderful ways to prepare fresh peas, Edwin and I are big fans of raw sugar snaps. We both take a pile of crudites with us for part of our lunches each day (usually we each eat half a bell pepper, some carrots, radishes, and either sugar snaps or snow peas), and we went through our local snaps in about 3 days.

So there you have it. We made it through everything, except the garlic, with time to spare. I really love our CSA.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

EDW presents: barbara's corn and tomato pasta

You remember Barbara, right? Mother of Emmel, one of the Barronesses? Always has a nice mani?

I've had about a billion meals with Barbara over the years, and if she's cooking in the summer, it usually involves fancy olive oil and tomatoes from her garden. (It always involves wine.) One of my favorite Barbara meals is this tomato and corn pasta.

We had a coupon for free sweet corn at Earthfare this week, so I emailed Emmel for the recipe. The email went something like this:

"Holla. We have a coup for free corn at earthfare. What goes into that pasta your mom makes again? Corn, tomatoes, pasta, basil? Olive oil and garlic or no? Shallot or green onion or anything? Love you like one-armed spinning and starbucks in the afternoon. PS the pain meds made me want to vom to the max. Never taking them again."

She responded with:

"Holla. We put corn, tomatoes, cilantro, a little hot pepper chopped and olive oil. You could probably put some minced garlic or green onion in there if you wanted to. I hate pain meds. I don't understand how people get addicted to them. Vom! Take a couple more advil and it'll do the same thing. Off to look at wedding rings and tuxedos."

I responded with "Thanks preesh! Have fun and holla at me tomorrow. xx"

Then EDW and I worked together to make it happen. You don't really need measurements for this-- just toss everything together until it tastes right. And if you're one of those people who thinks you have to cook fresh corn, move on from that thought. Freshly cut corn is sweet, crunchy, and refreshing. You'll like it, I promise.

Since I can't drain pasta or mince things nicely, EDW was on that. He also shucked and cut the kernels off 4 ears of corn. And cut a pint of grape tomatoes in half. And minced the jalapeño and most of a bunch of cilantro. I'm not sure why I said we worked together. Edwin clearly did most of it. I salted the boiling water, stirred the cooked pasta with the raw corn, tomatoes, cilantro, jalapeño, and olive oil. I also seasoned it to taste with salt and pepper.

Then I made EDW pose with our meal.
We had the pasta for dinner last night. While it's absolutely better with Barbara's fancy olive oil and garden tomatoes, this version is still a winner. We like it best served at room temperature.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

EDW presents: beans and greens, elbow edition

I went mountain biking with my pals Lisa and Randy on Wednesday night. We usually do about an 8 mile ride, and Randy gives me tips on biking as we go. I did a really good job-- I made it across the bridge both ways, went through all the creeks, and even made it up without stopping on an incline that normally demands I break for water. Randy and I went on a tiny loop that was new to me, and it was steep, curvy, and hard. And I did it!

At the end of the ride, as we were heading back to the parking lot, I decided to take a risk. There's a drop where the parking lot and trail meet, and I always walk my bike over it. I decided to try riding up it, and I just went for it.

Yeah. I crashed. Apparently you have to hit the lip just right, and Randy didn't know I was going to try it so he wasn't coaching me. I stuck my left arm out to break my fall, and I jammed it pretty hard on the concrete.

Randy and Lisa helped me up, and I really thought I was okay. My wrist hurt a lot, but we all thought it was probably just a strain. I got back on the bike and rode down the road to the cars. By the time the bikes were loaded onto their car (I borrow their spare when we ride), my elbow was starting to throb. As I drove home, I tried to bend my elbow as much as I could, and I noticed that the pain was increasing and my range of mobility was decreasing.

I'll try to wrap this up: I fractured my radial head (think of the cup in your elbow where the radius, one of the forearm bones, connects.) It's a tiny fracture, but it hurt a lot. When I went to urgent care Thursday morning I couldn't move my elbow at all, and just getting the x-rays of my arm was incredibly painful because they had to move it around for different images and views. I saw an orthopedist Friday, and I got a splint. I'll wear it for a week full time except for showering and range of movement exercises 3 times a day, then wean off it and wear a sling. I'm not allowed to do any weight bearing exercises for a month, which means no muscle pump or yoga (and just when I was perfecting my peacock pose!). I can still do one-armed spinning, so at least I'll get to see Lisa and Randy (he's my spin instructor) in the mornings. On the bright side, one-armed spinning seems to make me use my core and legs even more, so that's good.

I'll heal quickly and be good as new in no time.
And yes, I will mountain bike again. Randy's going to teach me to properly climb obstacles on the bike.
I've been encouraged to move my arm, while it's in the splint, as much as possible, but I can't lift anything heavy. I'm right handed, so it's not too bad, but it majorly affects what I can do in the kitchen.

EDW to the rescue!
I had planned on making a variation of beans n' greens with our CSA spinach Friday, and Edwin offered to make it all if I talked him through. I absolutely could have chopped, sauteed, and stirred, but I couldn't have made the beans because I would have had to drain the pot. EDW did all of it, though, partly because he's sweet and partly because I was trying the pain meds the orthopedist prescribed me which made me alternately want to dry heave, vomit or giggle. (Not taking those again, FYI).

Friday afternoon, Edwin made a pot of pinto beans. He used his strong arms and elbows to lift and drain them, and then he portioned them out into 2 cup containers for future use.
Then he chopped everything for pico de gallo, made a batch of quinoa, and sauteed an onion with garlic, spinach, pinto beans and pureed chipotle peppers.

Look how proud he is! Look at his perfectly bent elbows!
This was delicious. We loved the spinach/pinto/chipotle combo, and the quinoa made it seem less like a burrito bowl and more like a fancy entree. I was totally impressed, and I think Edwin was too.
I hope you like it. He made it.

Friday, June 10, 2011

kohlrabi stir-fry

We received 4 kohlrabies in our CSA box this week, and I did what I usually do with new-to-me-to-cook vegetables: I made a stir-fry. I went with kohlrabi stir-fry with chicken or pork,* but I used a block of extra firm tofu instead of the meat.

Mark Bittman writes that kohlrabi is an underrated vegetable, and I completely agree. It has a lovely radish-like texture, but it's sweet and mild. It kindof tastes like broccoli stems, and it's tasty raw or cooked.

The recipe calls for a pound of kohlrabi, but we all know I don't know how much my 4 bulbs weighed. I decided to use the kohlrabi greens as well as the last bit of our daikon radish (no wasting our produce in this household!).

Once my vegetables were chopped and my tofu had been pressed and cubed, I was ready to start. I've said it before and I'll say it again: stir-fries are sometimes a bit labor intensive on the prep, but they come together quickly (and lately, without stress. I'm gaining confidence in my quick cooking technique.)

I lightly fried my tofu in vegetable oil, and then I stirred in fresh ginger. Next came the daikon and kohlrabi with 1/4 cup of water. After a few minutes, I added in the kohlrabi greens, let them wilt, and turned off the heat. Then I stirred in soy sauce, lemon juice, and scallions.
We had the stir-fry with brown rice and a generous squirt of sriracha sauce. EDW and I especially liked the heat from the sriracha combined with the sweet, slightly firm kohlrabi. The daikon added a nice peppery touch, and the greens were very pleasant. I would have actually liked more greens in the stir-fry, but I didn't feel like prepping the kale we had in our fridge from my in-laws (that went to a speltberry lemon tahini lentil bowl the next night).
Edwin and I would happily eat this again.

*Bittman, Mark. The Food Matters Cookbook. "Kohlrabi Stir-Fry with Chicken or Pork." p. 457.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

CSA Wednesday!

For the week of May 30, our CSA box included:

Red Leaf Lettuce (2 large heads)
Cherries (a quart?)
Daikon Radish (the size of an adult forearm)
Mint (lots and lots)
Green Onions (6)
Kale (a pound? 2?)
Radishes (7)
I especially liked this box for two reasons. In the first place, we got cherries, and EDW and I LOVE cherries. We gobbled those up within a couple days. Secondly, I was able to use many of the ingredients in many different meals, which was fun. We had:

a kale and daikon stir-fry, garnished with green onions,
quinoa tabbouleh with daikon, radishes, mint and green onions over a bed of red leaf lettuce,
beans 'n greens burrito bowls,
and mint and parsley pesto.
There were lots of lunch salads, as well, with lettuce, green onions, and daikon:
I polished off the last of the lettuce and green onions Tuesday before picking up the new box. The only thing leftover was a bit of daikon, but I used the last of it for a stir-fry Tuesday night, so we're still managing to eat everything and not waste anything.