Monthly Archives: October 2010

CSA Draws to an end: So Long and Thanks for all the Food

Last year was my first year with a CSA, and my first year with Parker Farm.  It was a terrible growing year for farmers across Massachusetts.  What was not destroyed by the copious amounts of rain in early and late summer died due to some or another disease or the excessive heat of August.  Tomato blight took most of the tomatoes.  Blossoms dropped off of many plants after the harsh, sporadic weather conditions.  Despite all of this, the CSA still went on, although yields were greatly reduced and the 20-week drop off season was cut short.  I still found that I had too much food.

 

This year was a bumper year for crops, in my opinion.  Each week the limits of my bags were tested by trying to carry my share of the bounty home.  Some vegetables, sadly went to waste since I could not keep up with them all.  Marathon blanching sessions to preserve the harvest tested my kitchen legs.

 

Last week was the final pick-up of the season.  Yet for my kitchen the CSA season is not yet over.  I still have an overwhelming number of fresh foods to use up:

  • 3 huge butternut squash
  • 2 delicata squash
  • 1 sugar pumpkin
  • 1 acorn squash
  • 1 blue hubbard squash
  • 1 green tomato
  • beets
  • turnips
  • radishes
  • carrots
  • parsnips

Me oh my!  So much good food. Expect plenty of squash and root vegetable recipes in the near future.

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Veggie Pizza with Portabella Mushrooms and Pesto

As promised, here’s the assemblage of toppings that accompanied my pizza dough with rye and whole wheat flour that I made the other day.  Since I made the crust, D dutifully chopped, cooked and assembled the pizza.  Nothing like a team effort meal.

Pizza assembly is a fine art.  Cooking time, texture, and flavor melding vary depending upon how ingredients are layered.  D likes how toppings cooked close to the sauce steam and boil trapped under the cheese.  I prefer toppings like onions on the very top so that they dry out and get a little brown during cooking.  Every combination of toppings requires careful thinking of how to obtain the most amazing and desired flavor and texture blend.

Ingredients:

  • mozzarella cheese
  • portabella mushrooms
  • red onion
  • green pepper
  • marinara sauce
  • pesto
  • butter
  • garlic salt
  • pepper

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Slice the portabella mushroom and saute it for a few minutes on medium low heat with a little bit of butter.  Sprinkle with garlic salt and fresh ground pepper.
  3. Take care of the rest of the prep work: chop the pepper and onion, and shred the mozzarella cheese.  Spread the dough out on whatever pan it will be cooked on, if not already done.
  4. Once everything is in order, begin assembling: spread a little bit of sauce and a dollop of pesto on the pizza dough.  Put half the peppers directly over the sauce.  Then add the cheese. Spread the rest of the peppers and the onion next over the cheese.  Finish with the slices of portabella mushroom.

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Pizza Dough with Rye and Whole Wheat Flour

Pizza dough is wonderfully simple to make.  For those unfamiliar with the realm of homemade kneaded and yeasted goodness, it is certainly the best introduction.  I still produce inedible bread bricks on occasion, but my pizza dough is always edible, if not amazing.  This recipe is for a jacked version of pizza dough that uses a slightly different combination of flours.  It is still very easy to make and is ready to go after an hour, although the depth of its flavor profile will of course improve with a longer rising time.  We used this to make an awesome veggie pizza featuring pesto and portabella mushrooms, which will be my next post.

Ingredients:

This recipe makes 2 large pizza crusts

  • 2 1/2 cups unbleached flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup rye flour
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 2  1/4 tsp yeast (equal to 1 packet dry yeast)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cups warm water

Directions:

  • Mix the dry ingredients together (flours, yeast, salt).
  • Add the olive oil and  warm water (you want it to be hot to the touch, but cool enough to have your finger plunked in it for a while, so think “hot bath temperature”).
  • Mix everything together with a fork or spoon until it is too difficult.  Finish mixing the ingredients with your hand.  If the dough is still sticking to your fingers after incorporating all the dry flour, dust with a little more flour.
  • Knead the dough for 5 minutes.  Let it rest for 5 to 10 minutes and then knead for an additional 5 minutes.  After kneading, the dough should have a satiny smooth texture and stretch rather than tear when you squish it or fold it in on itself.
  • Form the dough into a ball, place back into the large mixing bowl, and lightly oil the top with spray oil, or pour a little oil in the bowl and roll the ball around to coat.
  • Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a damp kitchen towel and let rise for at least an hour before use.
  • This dough makes two large pizza crusts.  It is good to go after an hour, but will taste even better with a longer rising time.  Alternatively after kneading, it can be placed in the fridge to rise overnight (or over a day or two), or, either before or after the first rising it can be frozen for later use.  If freezing, coat the dough in oil and wrap tightly in plastic wrap.

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Quick Broccoli Mac and Cheese

This stove top broccoli macaroni and cheese is quick and easy.  It also makes minimal dishes, which is another big plus in my mind.  There are endless variations to this recipe that would turn it from a good thing into something even better (use different cheeses or a combination of cheeses, add other or different veggies, add bacon, add pesto, etc).  Since I was interested in something quick and easy to fill my belly, I went with the easiest, laziest way to make it.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound dry pasta
  • 1 head broccoli
  • 2 cups grated cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • salt
  • pepper
  • garlic powder

Directions:

  1. Boil a large pot of salted water.
  2. While water is boiling, chop the broccoli into bite-sized florets.
  3. Once water is at a rolling boil, add the pasta.  Two minutes before the pasta is done, add the broccoli florets.
  4. Strain once pasta is done.  Add pasta and broccoli back into the cooking pot on the hot burner.  Reduce heat to low.
  5. Add 2 tablespoons of butter,  1/2 cup milk, and 2 cups of cheese. Stir until all combined.
  6. Season with salt, pepper, and garlic powder to taste.
  7. Remove from heat and serve.

You could also pop this into an oven proof dish and cook it under the broiler for a few minutes to brown the top, or even bake it for 20-30 minutes at 350 degrees to intensify the flavor merger between the hot cheesy broccoli goodness and the pasta.  If you do any of this, however, then it is no longer a quick, easy, lazy mac and cheese dish.

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The Perils of Bad Habits

Ages ago I made the muffins pictured above.  They were pretty delicious and I was eager to share the recipe.  Unfortunately, I assembled the recipe for these muffins the way I assemble most of my recipes: I scoured the internet for ideas, wrote several variations of muffin recipes scribbled on a scrap of paper, and, as I mixed up the batch, I made modifications, picking and choosing different ingredients from different recipes.  Since I’m now trying to share my recipes through this blog, I’m sure I circled what I ended up doing and scribbled notes about my changes on this scrap of paper.  These scraps end up looking a lot like this:

A typical example of my sloppy recipe notes

Since these often illegible scraps of paper accumulate battle scars of water damage, grease smudges, and food splotches in the process of creating the recipe they are easily mistaken for trash and may make it there before they make it to my computer.  I’ve been trying to modify my habits but it is easy to fall back into old patterns.  Hopefully, the random bit of paper that holds the secret to recreating the chocolate almond chunk muffins pictured above will be found.  If not, I may try to create a new recipe based on my same basic formula of one part inspiration to one part improvisation, and will do better at keeping track of the documentation of the process and results.

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Egg Fried Rice Featuring Green Beans

This recipe took care of several problems for me all in one fell swoop: I had two fistfulls of green beans from my CSA and about 6 cups of plain cooked rice sitting in my fridge, a leftover accompaniment to a curry made earlier in the week.  Thus, a beautiful marriage was born.  The eggs add protein which justifies calling a bowl full of this dinner.  It would of course make a tasty side to almost anything.  Fried rice works best with pre-cooked rice that’s been sitting in the fridge for a while, hence this is a perfect type of dish to use up leftovers.

Introducing the green beans to the cooked onion and garlic

Scrambling the eggs

Ready to be served

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups of cooked rice (any kind will work, I used basmati)
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • onion
  • 2 large fistfulls of green beans
  • 2 eggs
  • oil
  • soy sauce
  • fresh ginger
  • crushed red pepper flakes
  • pepper

Directions:

  1. Use the side of a knife to crush the peeled garlic cloves.
  2. Dice about a 1/2 cup of onion.
  3. Snap the ends off the green beans.  Break into 1″ to 1 1/2″ pieces.  (It’s a nice meditative experience to use your hands to snap the ends off and to snap the green beans rather than using a knife.  Fresh beans “pop” a bit like bubble wrap when you snap them.) Rinse the beans.
  4. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil on low in a large fry pan or wok.  Add the garlic and onions; cook for a couple of minutes.
  5. Add the green beans and stir to combine.  Sprinkle with crushed red pepper flakes and black pepper.  Cook, covered, for 5 to 6 minutes; stirring every minute or two.
  6. Move the vegetables to the side of the pan.  Crack two eggs into the cleared portion and scramble until runny, but almost set.  Push the green beans back to coat the pan evenly.
  7. Add the 4 cups of rice and pour 2 tablespoons of soy sauce over the top.  Stir for a minute or two until everything is mixed together well.
  8. Grate approximately 1 tablespoon of fresh ginger over the fried rice.  (I keep fresh ginger lobes whole in the freezer.  Whenever I need fresh ginger, I pull out a chunk, peel a small area of it and grate only what I need.  It keeps in the freezer for months.)
  9. Stir the ginger into the rice.  Let it cook another minute or two while you stir.

The time it takes you to grate the ginger allows the rice on the bottom to brown a little bit, making it extra delicious.  Serve and enjoy!

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