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Archive for the ‘CSA’ Category

I was excited and a little leery when I found a bagful of fresh English peas in my latest CSA box.

As confirmed by my CSA representative, English peas are extremely sensitive to hot weather, so they would have never had a chance on my grandparents’ farm in South Mississippi. Therefore, the only English peas I’ve ever eaten have come straight out of the can, slightly mushy and pretty bland. Meh.

Since the record-breaking heat in North Alabama/South Tennessee was making it clear that this would be the only fresh English peas I would get this year, I knew I had to make the most of them.

I don’t mean this as an insult to my Southern ancestry, but at some point cooks in the South started boiling vegetables into a salty mush. I remember the first time I ever had a string bean that had been briefly steamed, and thus still held a bit of natural sweetness and a light crunch. (Truly, it would have been considered underdone at my grandmother’s house.) Corn on the cob became a whole new experience for me when I discovered that I could simply wrap individual ears in waxed paper and microwave them for a few minutes, leaving sweet and crunchy kernels that needed neither salt nor butter.

I was determined not to turn these peas into mush.

I found inspiration at Williams-Sonoma’s website: Sautéed English Peas with Garlic and Sesame. Unfortunately, I didn’t have sesame seeds or sesame oil in my pantry, so I had to wing it. I also don’t know how many pounds of peas I started with; Williams-Sonoma recommended two garlic cloves for 3 pounds of unshelled English peas. Do the math for the amount of peas you have, or just use a couple of cloves of garlic.

There are few vegetable recipes that wouldn’t be made better with a couple of cloves of garlic.

The husband was at first stunned by the color of the peas when I removed the lid from the pan; the short cooking time had left the peas a brilliant green. The texture was magnificent; they weren’t crunchy or chewy, but they weren’t mushy either. The garlic flavor burst through with every bite, but not in an overwhelming way.

Sautéed English Peas with Garlic

  • Fresh English peas, shelled
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • Pinch of freshly ground pepper

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Fill a large bowl 2/3 full with ice water. Add the peas to the boiling water and cook for 3 minutes. Drain the peas and immediately plunge them into the ice water. Let stand for two minutes and drain.

In a large frying pan over medium-high heat, heat the olive oil. Add the garlic and sauté, stirring constantly, until it is fragrant but not brown, about 30 seconds.

Add the peas, salt and pepper, and sauté, tossing and stirring occasionally, until the peas are just tender, 4 to 5 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasonings. Serve immediately.

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Yang hasn’t given up his photobombing duties; here, he inspects the bowl of English peas mid-shoot.

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My brother and I take a dip, circa 1975.

Nearly everyone I know who has kids spends tons of money and time striving to plan the perfect summer. A host of activities, from vacations to camp to traveling sports leagues, quickly pile up on this short stretch of calendar, seeming more like duties than recreation.

My childhood summers were pretty unstructured. Maybe we’d take a dip in a tiny plastic pool, or maybe just run through sprinklers. Maybe I’d get to go with my grandfather early in the morning to pick tomatoes or beans, or — if I was REALLY lucky — I’d get to dig up potatoes.

As I was shelling a small bagful of English peas from my CSA box yesterday, it occurred to me that some of my best summer afternoons weren’t spent waiting in line at Disney World, running to the next slide at a water park or shaking the sand off my towel at the beach. My most enjoyable summer moments were spent in my grandparents’ den, shelling peas or snapping beans, enjoying an episode of Woody Woodpecker or Tom and Jerry or, better yet, the carefree, Not Very Serious conversations that adults indulge in when they’re pleasantly engaged in a repetitive task with no real deadline.

If I could choose one childhood moment to relive now, it would be one of these afternoons.

I don’t think you can make memories like this on purpose; really, I think my grandparents probably thought I’d rather be off doing something else. But I do wish that more families would slow down a little this summer and spend a few afternoons doing a little of nothing together.

It’s important, and it may be more memorable than anything you could possibly plan.

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Yang, simply exhausted from all the sniffing.

My first CSA delivery of the summer yielded quite a spread, including cucumbers, jalapenos, onions, leeks, basil, squash, greens, strawberries, English peas and Roma beans.

As I unloaded the goods, I recalled how Yin used to closely inspect every CSA haul — it was nearly impossible to set up a picture of vegetables without a cat in the frame.

Yin, very serious about his vegetable inspection duties.

Not 30 seconds later, Yang strolled over and resumed Yin’s inspection and photobombing duties. He spent nearly five minutes sniffing every square inch of plant material, nipped at the Chinese cabbage and finally plopped down right on top of the Yukina savoy.

He was in every photograph, just like his brother.

Cats. They know comedy.

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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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