Another vividly-hued box of produce arrived on my doorstep last week. Not quite on my doorstep – it’s a 15-minute drive to pick up my box in Ringwood but it’s always worth the effort.
Just take a look at what was in store…..
I took that picture for Edible Manhattan magazine whose Instagram feed I hosted last week. Edible is the place to find out about local eats; if you haven’t been reading the magazine, you can learn more about it here.
In this week’s box, Bialas Farms provided:
- Spaghetti Squash
- Kirby Cucumbers
- Red Peppers
- Curly Kale
- Russet Bakers
- Green Beans
You know what comes first in these CSA posts….
It wouldn’t be a proper CSA post without kicking things off with some sort of salad. I just love eating a whole bunch of vegetables, piled on a plate and garnished with some torn pieces of fresh mozzarella.
In this dish we ate a mix of heirloom tomatoes, sliced Kirby cukes, corn (FYI I’m still using that microwave technique that I talked about it previous weeks), and blanched green beans. The softer herbs from my herb garden have sadly turned into spindly stick figures of their former selves and although I love rosemary for baking and roasting, I don’t love the woody herbs for salad-making. Maybe I’ll challenge myself next week to find some way to incorporate them into salads because I do love herbs on a salad like this; I missed them. But it was delicious nonetheless.
I had another salad later in the week which was kind of revolutionary in its simplicity. I usually stick to Italian, Greek and Middle-Eastern influences when I’m making my salads, but here I went with Spanish flavors. I sliced a large yellow heirloom and piled a big ball of torn burrata in the middle. Yes, I know it’s an Italian cheese, but stick with me for a moment.
I dusted the whole thing with smoked paprika, and scattered some smoked Maldon salt over the top. I drizzled the salad with a good Spanish olive oil and some aged Sherry vinegar. It was just enough of a flavor tweak to make my usual tomato + burrata cheese feel fresh and new. I’m already thinking of future iterations – fried bits of chorizo? Roasted smoked paprika chickpeas? Marcona almonds? A punchy aged Manchego? (and for the record, that’s ManchEGO, not ManchENGO, a common mistake that I made until a kindhearted soul corrected me a few years ago.)
Things got a little weird with this number, which is your standard tomato panzanella (bread salad) topped with some quick-pickled zucchini, peppers and corn.
Play with your salads. It’s safe, healthy, inexpensive, creative – what more can you ask of your vegetables right?
Another way to play: soups.
I know that half of the Internet is out there talking about the joy of Fall – the sweaters, the leaves, the Honeycrisp apples. Let me join this big lovefest by proclaiming that I, too, am smitten with the season. Let me tell you a little more about what I’ve been making in the soup department.
Faced with an abundance of heirloom tomatoes and feeling like I can’t stare another sliced raw tomato in the eye, I cooked them into submission and made this: Heirloom tomato bisque with Saint Andre waffled grilled cheese sandwiches on the side.
It was every ounce as decadent as it sounds, and I highly recommend that you give this combination a try. The Saint Andre oozes out of the sandwiches as they grill in the iron and you’re left with a sweet/tart/earthy soup with the best darn soldiers in the business.
To make the tomato soup:
This soup was inspired by a recipe that I found in The Heirloom Tomato cookbook, which pairs heirloom tomatoes with cream and fresh herbs.
In a large pot, sautee a small diced onion, a teaspoon of salt, and a ½ tablespoon of fresh, chopped oregano in some 4 tablespoons of butter until translucent. Add 2 lbs of chopped heirloom tomatoes and 4 cups of chicken broth and bring to a simmer. While the tomatoes and broth are coming to a simmer, prepare a roux in a separate small saucepan. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter and when melted, add 2 tablespoons of flour, stirring for a few minutes until just starting to brown. Add a cup of heavy cream, and a cup of half and haf, stirring constantly until just simmering. With the heat on low, cook the mixture for 20 minutes, and then pour into the pot with the tomatoes. Add ¼ teaspoon of ground cloves and puree the soup with an immersion blender. Season to taste with more salt and freshly ground peppers, and serve with the waffled grilled cheese sandwiches.
Note: I kept the tomato soup warm in a slow cooker for dinner and the soup ended up separating. If this happens, just blend with your immersion blender and it’ll be as good as new…
To make the Saint Andre waffled grilled cheese sandwiches:
Make sure that your Saint Andre is chilled before you make these sandwiches, otherwise you’ll have cheese oozing out of the waffle iron. Which isn’t such a bad thing, oozy cheese scraped from a countertop is still delicious but my guess is that you’ll want to keep most of the cheese in the sandwich itself.
Cut the Saint Andre and place it in between two slices of white sandwich bread. Butter each side of the sandwich and grill inside a waffle iron until you see the green light and the bread is nice and golden.
Now from one take-no-prisoners soup to the next. Any clam chowder fans out there?
Bag ‘o littlenecks? Check. Potatoes and onions from my previous CSA box? Check and Check.
For the record, I posted a picture of this soup on my Facebook page and my sister kindly asked what on Earth is a littleneck. I answered that it’s a clam, sort of like your standard Manila clams that frequently see in the market. At which point she admitted that she’s not entirely sure what a clam is, that she doesn’t understand my food vocabulary at all, and thus ended our conversation with an apropos #howarewerelated.
I don’t know the answer, frankly, because I’m obsessed with all things seafood, including clams. When my oven was broken for 3 months a few years ago and I fantasized about what my first post-fix dinner would be, it was clams.
The strange thing about clams is that I’ve never actually made a clam chowder with fresh clams. I’ve made a ton of other dishes with fresh clams – stews, pasta, etc, – but never chowder. And I make corn chowder in the late Summer/early Fall as though I’m preparing to take over the local soup kitchen. So it was time to bring these two loves together and make a fresh littleneck chowder to end all chowders.
You would think that making the best-clam-chowder-ever would satisfy on its own. And yes, the soup was highly satisfying. Perfect even…but then you give that soup a little diamond necklace in the form of a fully-stocked clam chowder bar and you’re verging into “died and gone to heaven” territory. Which is where I ended up last week when I sat down to this meal: littleneck chowder topped with smoked crispy bacon, oyster crackers, sliced green onions and a few drops of Cholula hot sauce. Do not skip the hot sauce.
To make the clam chowder:
I love this clam chowder, which was inspired by Anne Burrell’s recipe on The Food Network.
Soak 2 lbs of littleneck clams in few changes of water until the water runs clear. Place the clams in a Dutch oven and cover with a cup of water, cover, and then cook on high heat for five minutes until the clams have opened. Remove the clams and let cool, and then strain the liquor through a fine-meshed sieve to remove any additional debris. Set aside and rinse out your pot.
Cook a half pack of bacon (5-6 slices) in the same pot on medium heat until crispy, then remove with a slotted spoon and reserve. Cook a diced onion in the bacon fat until translucent and then add 1 of peeled and cubed Russet potatoes. Cook for a few more minutes before sprinkling the whole thing with 3 tablespoons of flour. Cook for a minute, then add your reserved clam juice. Slowly mix in 3 cups of half and half, making sure there are no lumps. Add a few large sprigs of fresh oregano, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes until the potatoes are cooked and the broth is nice and thick. If needed, cook a little longer to reduce the soup. Serve with the reserved bacon, crumbled; oyster crackers, sliced green onions and the most critical ingredient- Cholula hot sauce (original flavor).
Now from pretty pictures to ugly pictures. In true documentarian fashion I want to share with you evidence of the sweet corn lasagna that I made with all of the excess corn that I had lying around. A truism when you buy into a CSA: you will make lasagna. Frequently. Using every kind of vegetable imaginable.
I won’t even share a recipe because recipes like this are multi-stepped and take time to write up and I don’t think I’ve done the dish any favors with this picture. But if you’re curious, I’ve basically made your standard ground beef & tomato lasagna and shoved a bucketful of corn into it. If you’re still desperate to know the recipe, please make yourself known in the comments below. Again, beef and tomato lasagna, lots of corn. Kinda healthy, kinda not.
Another quick interlude here (consider this the intermission of a very long CSA post) – make food that you have on hand, and don’t wait until you have all of the right ingredients. Unless you’re baking, it’ll still taste good. Take for instance this bright green tomatillo salsa – I had leftover tomatillos from last week, a clove of garlic, and some lemons. No lime, no onion, but was in the mood to make this salsa. Raw tomatillo + garlic + lemon + s&P = a perfectly good salsa even without the lime and onion that I so often use. So this is as much a lesson to me as it may be for you: just make it up as you go – get over your fear of not having the right ingredients, play, tinker, guess, and you just might end up with something delicious.
So delicious that your child might ask to have it for lunch. And you might have to warn this child off with threats of a stomachache and then watch in horror as the salsa is eaten anyway.
Now I’ve been talking about having fun in the kitchen – the joy of creating, testing, and eating new meals. I took this mindset and ran with it this week, in some cases making a huge mess, but coming out on top with two new delicious dishes.
Let’s talk about the first. If you’ve been reading these CSA posts so far, you’ll know that one of my tricks for handling the mound of vegetables each week is to prep what I can when I get home.
Now what to do with it? After the strands had been scooped into a Mason Jar, I left it in the fridge for a day or two before deciding that I’d make it into some kind of curry. We all like curried squash right?
I had visions of a curried coconut type of dish – maybe some kind of pickled/herby garnish to round things out.
The problem was that as I was heating the squash, spinach and the can of coconut milk together on the stove, all of a sudden my meal looked really unappetizing as a stew. It was too saucy.
So rather than forcing it into a stew-type meal, I ran with it, and it became a sauce for some angel hair noodles that I’d already made for the kids that night.
Topped with leftover zucchini, corn and red pepper fridge pickles, it was all of a sudden a vegan Thai-inspired pasta dish that sounds completely weird but really worked. Rodney devoured his whole bowl and went in for seconds and thirds. Always a success when that happens.
To make the vegan coconut curry noodles:
Split a spaghetti squash in half and roast it in the oven at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. While the spaghetti squash is roasting, make your quick pickles by mixing in a bowl the following: 1 red diced red pepper, the kernels of 1 ear of corn, and 1 diced zucchini. Add a teaspoon of salt, ¼ cup of pickling (or white) vinegar, and a teaspoon of sugar. Toss and let sit while you prepare the rest of the meal (continue to toss occasionally). (This will make more pickle than you need, but can sit in the fridge for a week or two).
Prepare a package of angel hair noodles according to package directions.
When the squash has cooked, remove the strands with a fork and set aside. In a large pan, sauté a sliced onion in some olive oil until golden. When the onion has cooked, add 2 tablespoons of red curry paste. Cook the paste into the onions, stirring for a minute, and then add a 14-oz can of coconut milk. Bring the mixture to a simmer and once simmering, add back the spaghetti squash and a large handful of cleaned and dried spinach leaves. Allow the mixture too cook down and thicken a little.
While the mixture is cooking, bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Cook 1 lb of angel hair noodles, and then toss with the sauce. Twist a mound onto plates and then top with the pickles.
And now for the last meal this week: a farmhouse frittata packed with sausage, feta cheese, spinach, red peppers and potatoes.
Not so innovative you might say, and while I’d agree, the method that I used to assemble my frittata was quite novel.
Having more ingredients on hand than would reasonably fit in my pan, I decided to lightly compress the food into the pan with my hands (aka smoosh it in really hard) and hope that the egg would fill in any little craggy holes. So, more filling and far less egg than I’m used to using in my fritattas.
While this worked in theory, in practice the egg flooded all over the stove as I was attempting my craggy hole-filling exercise. Again, not the end of the world, but given that my stove was still on, it scorched the egg and required some hardcore elbow grease to clean.
Still…..I forged on, firmly believing that my frittata would be the best frittata ever using this smoosh-and-fill technique.
The result? Justified.
My dog thought so too. “Damned delicious” he seemed to say as he smacked his lips upon my return from an outing with the kids. He’d eaten every last bite. Fortunately the big breakfast wedge that I’d eaten straight out of the oven is firmly ensconced in my memory, ready for retrieval the next time I consider what to make with a half dozen eggs and my CSA vegetables.
I’ll tentatively give you the recipe having adjusted for the level ingredients that I think should keep things safe (aka spillover-proof); please note that this has been untested a second time and might result in stove-ruining egg overflow. But if you’ve got a sense of adventure and a big appetite, I’d say go for it.
To make the farmhouse frittata:
This uses up odds and ends, many of which are leftovers from other meals and/or have been prepared in advance. If you want, you can prep all of the ingredients on the same day, although it’ll take a little more time to prepare.
Whisk in a bowl the following and set aside: 7 eggs, 1/4 heavy cream, 1/4 grated parm, salt and pepper.
Layer in an 8” ovenproof sautee pan the following: ½ red pepper, diced and cooked; 3 pork sausages, cooked and crumbled; 3 new potatoes, peeled, diced and boiled until just barely cooked through; 1 small bunch of spinach, cleaned, blanched and squeezed of liquid; ½ block (approx. 4 oz) of feta, crumbled.
Add the whisked egg to the dish, taking care and doing it slowly to keep the egg from overflowing. Bake the dish at 350 deg for 30 mins, and then broil for a few mins more. Test the frittata by making a small incision towards the side of the pan, tipping the dish, and seeing if there is any egg that leaks. If any does, simply add back to the oven at 350 degrees for a few more minutes.
When the frittata is cooked, let it rest for a few minutes before cutting it into slices and garnishing it with some fresh basil leaves.
That’s it for this week! Hope everyone has a wonderful week and we’ll see you back here next week, same time, same place….