Wednesday, September 28, 2011

CSA Wednesday!

For the week of September 19, we received:

Corn (8 ears)
Mexican squash (4)
Chinese eggplant (4)
Lemongrass (4 stalks)
Basil (3 oz)
Roma tomatoes (10)
Raspberries (12 oz)
I was originally put off by the box since I had it in my head that I was finished with summer produce, but I ended up turning the vegetables into some really lovely meals. We love when we get raspberries, so that was thrilling. We had those with breakfast, lunch and dinner until they were gone. My favorite use was with my lunchtime yogurt, but they also made pretty spectacular quick treats every time I passed the fridge.

I used the corn to make a beans and greens skillet with pinto beans, spinach, chipotle pepper flakes, taco seasoning and quinoa. Topped with salsa, this was an incredibly quick and satisfying meal.
Two of the eggplant became charred eggplant dip, while the other two went into ratatouille with the squash, tomatoes and basil.
I used the lemongrass in Sunday night's curried coconut soup, and the basil made a lovely garnish for Monday night's pasta.
It was a nice week, but I still want kale and winter squash to start making permanent appearances in our box.

Monday, September 26, 2011

curried coconut soup with lemongrass

We received stalks of lemongrass this week in our CSA, and I was eager to make some sort of Thai inspired dish. I ended up with curried coconut soup with lemongrass* Sunday night, and it was lovely.

Mr. Bittman's recipe seemed a little light as it was, so I decided to add edamame and bok choy to his basic recipe for heft. I started by sauteing an onion in grapeseed oil, and once it was very tender I added in minced garlic, ginger, a chili, and curry powder. Next came sliced shitake mushroom caps (the recipe called for 1 cup, but I used closer to 2). I added vegetable broth and let the soup simmer for about 10 minutes, and then I poured in a can of coconut milk and the edamame and bok choy. Once the beans and cabbage had cooked a bit, I stirred in soy sauce and lime juice.
EDW and I garnished our soup with sliced green onions and sriracha, which gave it a beautiful kick of flavor. While we really enjoyed this soup, Edwin found it to be a bit on the brothy side for his liking. Neither of us can imagine how meager it would seem without the beans, bok choy and additional mushrooms, and we're glad I thought to pump up the volume. We're still excited to have it as leftovers for lunch today though, as it really is quite tasty.
Bittman, Mark. How to Cook Everything Vegetarian. "Curried Coconut Soup with Lemongrass." p. 137-8.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

summer garden ratatouille

Remember when I talked about how my cooking often looks like a hot mess? Maybe it's just things that involve eggplant, but Friday's dinner was amazing and less than photogenic. I made summer garden ratatouille,* since I finally had everything from one CSA box I needed to make the classic French peasant dish.

Is it really a classic French peasant dish? I get that information directly from the movie Ratatouille, which I loved, and have to remind myself not to call rap-a-too-tee because a first grader adamantly corrected me once. (I pronounced it correctly; he very clearly enunciated the way it was supposed to be said).

However you say it, ratatouille is incredible.

I started by sauteeing 2 onions, a lot of garlic, and a bay leaf in 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Next I added 2 small Chinese eggplants (instead of the one medium the recipe asks for), fresh basil, dried rosemary and marjoram, and a bit of salt. Here's where things started to look questionable.I decided to deglaze my pan with 1/4 cup sherry (not in the recipe at all) before proceeding with the rest, since the eggplant and onion mixture was sticking to the bottom after cooking for about 15 minutes. I added in 4 small Mexican squash (which looked like small zucchini) and 10 chopped roma tomatoes (the recipe said 2 cups-- I didn't bother with measuring). The recipe called for 2 bell peppers, but I didn't have them so I left them out. I let the whole thing simmer and break down, and then I served the ratatouille over pasta.
This slightly unfortunate looking vegetable dish is, without a doubt, one of the most delicious things I've ever made. EDW was blown away, and I couldn't quite get over it either. The whole thing just tasted so fresh and perfect, and we were sad to eat the last of the leftovers today. I do think the sherry gave it a little pop of flavor, so I would be sure to use the deglazing step if you decide to make this for yourself. All in all, it was a perfect meal for the final days of summer. *Lind, Mary Beth and Cathleen Hockman-Wert. Simply in Season. "Summer Garden Ratatouille." p. 125.

Friday, September 23, 2011

charred eggplant dip

I make a lot of food, and some of it often looks like a hot mess. I love a big bowl of ingredients, all mushed together, and my cooking reflects that. Most of the time, I take photos of what I cook and post them here, hoping they are pretty enough to impress you. Sometimes, though, I can't even photograph what I make.

I made charred eggplant dip the other night, and while it's definitely delicious, the color of cooked eggplant does nothing for the texture it takes on when it's pureed. Even the folks at Whole Living couldn't make it look that enticing-- but theirs looks infinitely better than mine, which is in a plastic tupperware and was ready for a photo shoot Wednesday night. That being said: make this dip!

I broiled two small eggplants from our CSA box for about 25 minutes, and then I used my immersion blender to puree the innards with lemon juice, garlic, and a bit of cayenne (I wasn't reading closely when the recipe said to use red pepper flakes). I also added about 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika-- it seemed like the right thing to do.

EDW and I took the eggplant dip with our lunches, and dipped our crudites in it for a little veggie variation. It was fantastic. I also dumped some on my spinach and chickpea salad, and you can imagine how well that went off. Word of warning: the garlic is strong, so pack altoids (or keep them in your desk, next to your dark chocolate, like me).

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

CSA Wednesday!

For the week of September 12, we received:

Butternut Squash (4)
Kale (1 bunch)
Sweet Banana Peppers (7)
Greasy Beans (10 oz)
Ambrosia Apples (7)
Blackberries (1 qt)
If not for the sheer excitement of the first butternuts of the year, I'd say I was slightly underwhelmed by this week's box. Ambrosia apples are far from my favorite variety, and they were sort of a chore to eat through. It was nice to have blackberries, but they weren't as amazing as ones we'd received back in the height of summer. I'm not complaining, though-- we still had lots of good eats throughout the week.

I used the kale and 2 of the butternuts to make a butternut and bean skillet, which we topped with some of the banana peppers.
Greasy beans, as it turns out, are just another type of green beans, and I stir-fried them with tofu in a variation of my spicy stir-fry sauce. We had the stir-fry over udon noodles which made EDW, my noodle loving man, incredibly happy.
I used the remaining butternuts for chili Sunday night. I followed my favorite chili recipe from last year, and used the squash instead of sweet potatoes and 2 cups of pinto beans along with 2 cups of black beans. It was divine.
I know winter squash lasts forever, but I was too excited to save any for later. We ate the rest of the banana peppers with lunches, and the apples and blackberries made nice fruit snacks during the week.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

butternut and bean skillet

The butternuts have arrived! We received 4 in our box this week, and I just had to cook some on Tuesday. Since I had little time and a lot of squash desire, I decided to shred two to speed up the cooking process.
Butternut and Bean Skillet
serves 6

2 T olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 small butternut squash, peeled, seeded and shredded (I used my food processor)
3 cups cooked beans (I used 2 cups black beans and 1 cup pinto beans)
1 T cumin
1 t cinnamon
1/4 t cayenne pepper
1 bunch kale, stemmed and torn into bite sized pieces
salt and pepper to taste

Saute onion in olive oil over medium heat until it is starting to soften. Add the shredded squash, turn up the heat to medium high, and cook until the squash is tender, 10-12 minutes.
Add spices and beans. Stir in kale and about 1/3 cup of water; cover and cook until kale is tender and wilted, about 3-4 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve over brown rice. Garnish with peppers and salsa.
I was concerned that EDW would think the kale didn't belong in this dish, but we both loved the combination. We actually would have liked more greens, but I could only use what I'd been given. The salsa really sent the dish over the top, and while it's definitely not winning any beauty contests, this recipe is a star. It has reheated beautifully for lunch, and we are mildly obsessed with its goodness. Edwin and I both give it a solid A.
Thank you, fall, for bringing me my butternut squash.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

CSA Wednesday!

For the week of September 5, we received:

Broccoli (1.5 LB)
Collard Greens (1 large bunch)
Okra (1.5 LB)
Tomatoes (6)
Yellow Squash (6 medium)
Asian Pears (4)
If there's one thing that rivals my love of the fall apple selection, it's Asian pears. I'm basically obsessed with them and gobble them as quickly as I can-- and I was thrilled to get 4 in our box this week. I've been supplementing our produce each week and buying apples and Asian pears, so it was nice to have them already included. The pears were gone by Thursday. (EDW and I hit up the farmer's market to visit my favorite apple vendor from Henderson county for a 1/2 peck of apples and a ton of Asian pears)

The collards, okra, 3 tomatoes, and 3 squash went into vegetable soup on Tuesday,
and everything but 1 tomato got roasted for dinner on Friday along with some chickpeas I had on hand. We had the roasted beans and veggies with cheese toast, and I discovered that string cheese does not, in fact, make great toast.
The last tomato went into a salad for dinner Sunday night, when I made lentil and bulgur soup.

We had eggs on Monday night and were quite excited for Tuesday's arrival.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

lots of vegetable soup

We had a great haul in our CSA box this week, and I was eager to cook everything. I started throwing vegetables in a pot until I had a beautiful soup on Tuesday night. I told EDW that I just kept adding things until it looked ready (I neglected to take photos, but just picture me chopping and adding ingredients and you're set) and then I called it a day. He said I should name the recipe Call It a Day Soup, but we'll go with the more traditional:

Vegetable Soup
serves 6-8

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 onion, chopped


3 tomatoes, chopped

2 T dried basil

1 T dried oregano

6 cups vegetable broth

1.5 LB fresh okra, chopped

3 summer squash, chopped
3 cups frozen lima beans

1 bunch collards, thinly sliced

salt and pepper to taste

Saute onion and garlic in oil over medium heat until softened. Add tomatoes, basil, and oregano, and cook until the tomatoes release their juices. Stir in vegetable broth and bring to a boil. Add the remaining vegetables and simmer until the okra is tender and the beans are cooked, about 7-10 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve with toast.

Edwin and I LOVED this soup. We both give it an A and think it's perfect, and we're so glad to have the leftovers for lunch.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

CSA Wednesday!

For the week of August 29, we received:

Bell Peppers (2 large)
Carnival Squash (2)
Pickling Cucumbers (12)
Peaches (10)
Red Potatoes (3.5 LB)
Tomatoes (4)
I shared some of the potatoes with my in-laws, and EDW and I rationed our peaches through Monday. We started out eating them by themselves and ended up having them in cereal and oats. On Monday, after I'd slurped up the last of my oatmeal with peaches and sunflower butter, I happily declared "I love peachy oats!" I make grand declarations about my morning oatmeal many times a week, but this one was different because I was focusing my praise on the peaches instead of my beloved nut butters.

Several of the cucumbers, two tomatoes, and one bell pepper starred in Tuesday night's easy fancy pasta salad,
and the squash became a mildly unsuccessful carnival squash soup, served alongside a salad with more cucumbers and tomato.
I roasted red potatoes and we mixed them with chickpeas and kale for an awkward family reunion salad,
and the last bell pepper went into a pesto frittata for a rainy Labor Day lunch. We had the frittata with a marinated vegetable salad that used the last tomato, a couple more cucumbers and a spare bell pepper.
The rest of the cucumbers were sliced and sent along with the week's lunches, and everything was finished by Tuesday afternoon.

Bring on more squash! Send me autumn greens!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

easy fancy pasta salad

Need an easy pasta salad for Labor Day? Try this one:

Easy Fancy Pasta Salad
serves 4

8 oz whole wheat pasta, cooked and cooled
1 large red bell pepper, thinly sliced

1/2 red onion, thinly sliced

2 ripe tomatoes, chopped

4-5 pickling cucumbers, thinly sliced

3 T balsamic vinegar

3 T dijon mustard

3 T olive oil

2 T agave nectar

feta cheese
spinach, optional

Combine pasta and vegetables. Combine vinegar, oil, mustard, and agave nectar. Pour dressing over pasta salad and mix. Serve over spinach if you desire, and garnish with feta cheese.

We had a bunch of lovely vegetables fresh from our CSA, and I just threw them all together. The dressing I used is basically the same dressing I use on our salads-- sometimes I change the vinegar or sweetener, but it always involves dijon mustard.
EDW and I loved this light pasta salad. It's fresh, quick and easy and makes a fabulous lunch the next day.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

carnival squash soup

We received two carnival squash(es?) in our CSA box this week, and I knew I wanted soup. Sure it's still summer, but when you're given your first winter squash of the season, the only logical thing to do is roast it that same day for soup the next.

I used this recipe for winter squash soup as my base, but I made several changes. I only had two carnival squash(es?) to work with, so I roasted them Tuesday night and added a 15 ounce can of pumpkin (from last year's reserves-- I'm down to just 2 cans!) in place of the third squash. I used olive oil instead of butter and vegetable broth instead of chicken. When I stirred in the cumin, I added 1 teaspoon of smoked paprika, because it seemed like a good thing to do.

After the soup had simmered a while, I added 2 cups cooked navy beans before pureeing the whole thing with my immersion blender. I wanted to add some protein and heft to the soup, and I figured beans were a good way to do it. Because of the added ingredients, I had to thin my soup with water. I just poured in water (I was out of broth) and blended until I had a consistency I liked. You can't really ever taste pureed navy beans in soups, if you're wondering. They just add a nice thickness and nutritional benefits.
When I initially tasted the soup, it seemed a bit bland. Instead of simply adding more salt and pepper like a normal person, I dumped in more cumin. This proved to be a mistake, since EDW really didn't like the soup at all. His main complaint was that it tasted overseasoned. I agree-- two teaspoons of cumin would have been plenty once more salt had been added, but you can't really remove cumin once it's in.

We had our soup with spinach salads, and I definitely was its bigger fan. While Edwin powered through one round of leftovers, after lunch the next day he declared he was finished with the carnival squash soup. I understood, but I still ate the leftovers. To me the overspiced quality didn't make the soup inedible, it just made it not super fantastic. The cumin flavor was very prominent, but I still thought the squash's velvety sweetness came through a little.
Regardless of my semi soup flop, I still like carnival squash and wouldn't mind getting more.