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Archive for the ‘CSA’ Category

I finally got around to making poblano souffles again. And it totally worked.

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Ground cherries

Unwrapped


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This meal was full of so much win that I don’t know where to start.

First of all, I found the recipes on Pinterest, a “virtual billboard” that lets you point people to interesting products and ideas you find online. Yes, other sites let you do the same thing, but Pinterest does it with pictures. Pretty, pretty pictures.

I have a Pinterest board called Enticing Eats where I pin links to foods that I actually plan to make. Ambitious? Yes. Impossible? Not so far.

Two recipes caught my eye within a couple of days of each other: Slow-Baked Mac and Cheese and Baked Zucchini Fries. The macaroni and cheese called for the slow cooker, a promising release from using the oven or stovetop on these 90-plus-degrees days. The zucchini fries had to go in the oven, but I used my small countertop convection oven, which gives off less heat. Best of all, I got to use up some zucchini from the CSA box.

As an aside, when I leave Alabama, I want to move to a place where squash is not the default CSA vegetable.

I halved the recipe for the macaroni and cheese simply because the original called for 12 ounces of Fontina cheese and my Publix only sold it in 9-ounce blocks. I could live with 3 ounces of leftover cheese a lot easier than I could live with 6 ounces of leftover cheese and a bill for TWO 9-ounce blocks of fancy cheese.

Had I not halved the recipe, I would have had a lot more mac and cheese than I needed, although I guess it would probably freeze well. So far, we’ve eaten it for dinner on two nights and I have enough left for one of us to have a generous lunch. Likely me, since I seem to be in charge of consuming leftovers.

The husband gave the dish the ultimate compliment: He said he would eat it again even if the slow cooker was a pain to clean (he’s appointed himself head washer of the slow cooker vessels since they’re so heavy and I’m so [ahem] dainty).

It was creamy and cheesy, as expected, but the eggs gave it an unexpected casserole-like texture. I browned some homemade breadcrumbs (more on those in a minute) in a little olive oil and sprinkled them on top before serving. Fancy.

The zucchini fries were an excellent match. The original recipe called for panko breadcrumbs, and I didn’t even have a container of regular breadcrumbs on hand. I took a few slices of bread out of the freezer and whirled them around in the food processor until they seemed crumb-ish, then mixed them with garlic powder, onion powder, salt and Parmesan cheese, as the original recipe advised.

The breadcrumbs soaked up a lot of the egg mixture coating the zucchini fries, so I had a big mess by the end of the process. Luckily, I had sort of followed the author’s admonishment to lay out only a couple tablespoons of breadcrumbs at a time.

So, while the fries could have been prettier and crunchier and more thoroughly coated with breadcrumbs, they were still quite impressive. They were the first thing the husband smelled when he came down the stairs, and he was one happy diner. The original recipe says to serve them with pizza sauce or ranch dressing, but they were delicious without any sauce whatsoever.

So, the lessons of this post include:

  1. Head to Pinterest and request an invitation (I can probably round up a few for readers who make a good case).
  2. Follow my boards to see the cool stuff I post and let me know that you’re posting cool stuff too.
  3. Make these two dishes.

UPDATE: I made the zucchini fries again, only I rolled them in a paper towel to absorb excess moisture and tossed them in the oven while it preheated to dry them off a little more. I also sprinkled them with plain old store-bought breadcrumbs. With some of the moisture gone, they were crunchier.

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True confession: Despite growing up with ready access to my grandparents’ South Mississippi farm, I never learned to like cucumbers. Plates of cucumber slices would appear on the table throughout the summer, and I carefully avoided them.

I eventually learned that cucumbers were delicious alongside other foods. First, a high school friend made me a cucumber sandwich, well-salted and slathered with mayonnaise, and eventually I discovered cucumber salads. Mixed with tomatoes and an olive oil-based dressing, cucumbers became perfectly acceptable, if not well loved.

These perfectly acceptable vegetables show up every two weeks in my CSA box, so I had to find a go-to recipe for a quick and easy salad. Christy Jordan over at Southern Plate posted a recipe last year that looked like every cucumber salad I had ever loved. As a bonus, it called for bottled Italian dressing, so all I had to do was chop vegetables.

I pretty much just chopped up a cucumber, a medium tomato, a small red onion and a banana pepper, then coated the mixture with a few tablespoons of Italian dressing (the Southern Plate recipe calls for an entire bottle of dressing — I just can’t justify making the veggies slosh around in that much dressing).

Marinated for two hours, the salad was the perfect accompaniment to eggplant pasta (also a CSA-inspired dish). Marinated for two days, it was an even better accompaniment for leftover eggplant pasta.

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True confession: I didn’t eat coleslaw for nearly 30 nears.

For someone who grew up in the South, that’s quite an accomplishment.

The coleslaw I remember from my childhood was a gloppy, mayonnaise-laden mixture that I could not imagine eating. For one thing, it was incredibly crunchy, although I can’t tell you precisely WHY that was so off-putting to me. I’ve never been anti-mayonnaise, either, but those tiny bits of cabbage coated in it were uniquely unappealing.

At some point, however, I discovered vinegar-based coleslaw.

This. Yes. This made sense.

Flavored with vinegar and a little salt and sugar, this brand of coleslaw was more akin to a fresh salad than the heavy blob of a side dish I remembered. I was old enough by that time to be over the fear of crunchiness, too.

I still didn’t venture to make my own coleslaw, however, for a while after that. For one thing, I knew it was a dish that my sometimes-picky husband wasn’t going to touch.

When I joined a CSA, however, I suddenly found myself facing a head of cabbage every couple of weeks. I was also armed with a brand new food processor, complete with a shredding blade.

Oh yeah.

I quickly found a Rachael Ray recipe for Oil and Vinegar Slaw on FoodNetwork.com and went to work. It calls for a 16-ounce bag of shredded cabbage mix, but I just substituted 16 ounces of the head of cabbage (I just chopped off a chunk at a time and weighed it) and ran it through the shredding blade. I never looked up what else might be in cabbage mix, but what I’m making is delicious as is.

Oil and Vinegar Slaw
(Recipe by Rachael Ray)

  • 1/4 cup red wine
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons peanut or vegetable oil
  • 1 sack, 16 ounces, shredded cabbage mix for slaw salads
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Salt and pepper

Mix vinegar and sugar. Add oil. Add cabbage and season with salt and pepper. Toss with fingers to combine. Adjust seasoning. Let stand 20 minutes. Re-toss and serve.

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Even after making jam, I had at least a quart of strawberries left yesterday. Enter Facebook, where one of my friends had recently posted a recipe for White Chocolate and Strawberry Cookies. They were reported to be pink and delicious, and while I’m no great fan of pink food, I am quite fond of all things delicious.

The dough turned out a bit thinner than most cookie dough I’ve worked with — I think it’s difficult to add strawberries to some foods without watering them down. Thus, the cookies spread out a bit during baking more than I would have liked, but they were still delicious.

They have more of a cake-like texture than your average cookie, and the white chocolate chips almost make them cloyingly sweet, but not quite. I’m tempted to make them without the chips, but I don’t think the strawberry flavor will shine on its own.

I used the shorter baking temperature for softer cookies.

White Chocolate Chip and Strawberry Cookies

1 1/2 cups strawberries, cleaned
1 cup butter
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 eggs
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 cups white chocolate chips

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Clean, trim, and slice berries.
  3. Crush strawberries with a potato masher. (You should end up with 3/4 cup of crushed strawberries.) Leave some larger chunks if desired; set berries aside.
  4. In a large bowl, beat butter and sugars.
  5. Beat in one egg at a time.
  6. In a separate bowl whisk flour, salt and baking powder.
  7. Add dry mixture to creamed mixture, about 1/2 a cup at a time.
  8. When well mixed, slowly add berries, about 1/4 cup at a time, while mixing at the same time, ensuring berries are spread well throughout.
  9. Add the white chocolate chips and stir to combine evenly throughout batter.
  10. Drop batter in tablespoons about 1-inch apart on a greased baking sheet.
  11. Bake at 350 degrees for 11 to 12 minutes for soft cookies, or up to a maximum of about 14-15 minutes for crunchier cookies, watching the edges to ensure they are lightly browned.
  12. Cool on wire racks.

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The first CSA delivery of the season contained a ridiculously large basket of strawberries, so I needed a quick way to use a lot of them.

I remember jam-making and jelly-making as a hot, time-consuming process, but I also remember my grandmother switching to the easier “freezer jam” method at some point, so I don’t feel like that much of a cheater for using it.

I’ll find out whether it worked in approximately 17 hours.

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Today, a friend sent me a link to Unclutterer, a blog about getting organized. The posts preach minimalism: the less stuff you own, the less stuff you have to organize. Every Wednesday the site mocks “unitaskers,” items that only serve one function while taking up valuable space. These products are often the worst of the “as seen on TV” club, and invariably enable you to do things that you can easily do without them, such as washing your feet or cracking eggs.

I admitted earlier this week to owning my own unitasker, an awesome cappuccino maker that, after a scroll through Unclutterer to see the ridiculous things that other people own, I’m liking more and more. While preparing dinner tonight, however, I realized that I’m actually the proud owner of two more unitaskers, both of which I needed for the substantial amount of produce in my CSA:

  • The Oxo Good Grips Strawberry Huller, which pierces the strawberry, scoops out the hull and releases it in a couple of quick moves. Using a knife to cut out stems is tedious and a bit slow, and poking a straw into the center of each strawberry simply makes a mess and often doesn’t remove the entire stem. This unitasker is also small and easy to clean, so it stays.
  • The Oxo Good Grips Corn Stripper, which strips and collects corn kernels as you move it down the corn cob. Sure, it does what a good sharp knife will do, but it does it without making a huge mess. Stripping corn with a knife results in flying kernels. The easy-to-clean container on this gadget is what makes it worth having. Fill it with corn kernels, dump them out into a bowl, then start filling it again.

So, in my kitchen a unitasker must perform its task much better than other multitasking accessories can and it must be easy to clean. (In fairness, apparently it also must be an Oxo product or an Italian import.)

I have this paranoid idea that most unitasker products are given as gifts by people who are hating on the clean, efficiently run kitchens of their recipients. What other explanation is there for the s’more makers that rampaged across American Christmas shopping lists a few years ago?

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True confession: I have never liked sweet potato casserole, that impostor of a side dish that shows up on the table every year at Thanksgiving. It always seemed more fitting as a dessert, but it in no way could compare to the pecan, egg custard or chocolate pie that sat in the kitchen waiting for the turkey to be cleared.

Sweet potatoes are put to much better use in pies; sweet potato pie, after all, tastes astoundingly like pumpkin pie.

(more…)

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I still remember the moment I discovered that salad could mean something more than iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, croutons and dressing. I was at a fancy mountainside restaurant in Birmingham, Ala., with my future husband, probably around 1995, when the waiter brought out our small starter salads. They were filled with … leaves. And no hint of the crunchy, flavorless iceberg lettuce my fiance and I had both grown up thinking was the foundation of salad.

I learned that the leaves were baby arugula greens, and suddenly a new culinary world opened for me: Salad was no longer that bland bit of crunch existing only to carry dressing or serve as a low-calorie, tasteless diet option, but a real opportunity for nutritious, delicious creativity in the kitchen. Non-iceberg greens could be sweet or bitter and carry their own weight in a salad without relying on the dressing to make up for lack of flavor.

How did America get so obsessed with iceberg lettuce? Probably the same reason that grocery-store tomatoes and apples taste like mushy cardboard: According to Practically Edible, iceberg lettuce is easy to grow, easy to ship and lasts a long time in the fridge compared to other greens.

Through the early ’90s, it was nearly impossible to find any other kinds of greens in your average suburban grocery store, at least in Mississippi. I only had to remember one lettuce code during my entire six-month stint as a Jitney Jungle cashier in 1990.

I’m working my way through a big batch of Sylvetta Italian arugula mixed with other fresh greens this week, thanks to a winter CSA split with MrsDragon over at Mrs Dragon’s Den.  I even had to wash the dirt and a couple of tiny worms off, since my greens had just been plucked from the ground only two days earlier. Best salad ever.

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