Cooking from a CSA, Part 9: Caponata with Poached Eggs

In my latest CSA box I found eggplant and celery. It seemed like the perfect time to try making caponata, an excellent dish for summertime picnics. When I first tried caponata last summer, I couldn’t imagine that I would like cold eggplant, but yum! It’ a complex blend of flavors and textures, that taste great on bread. After a little research, I decided to adapt a recipe from Mario Batali (adding celery and olives).

First, I ate the caponata on french bread, as it’s normally served. But after a long run this weekend, I decided that adding a little protein would be a great addition and used the leftovers for a fabulous post-run breakfast, with eggs and toast.

Caponata with Poached Eggs (adapted from Mario Batali)

  • 1/2 cup  olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 slender bunch of early celery, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons pine nuts
  • 3 tablespoons golden raisins
  • 1 tablespoon hot chili flakes, plus extra for garnish
  • 1 large eggplant, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (to yield 4 cups)
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves or 1/2 teaspoon
  • 12 oz can diced tomatos
  • 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/3 cup pitted kalamata olives
  • Salt
  • pepper
  • 2 eggs
  • sliced baguette or other crusty loaf bread
  1. In a large pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat and add the onions, celery, pine nuts, golden raisins and chili flakes. Stir frequently, cooking until just softened, about 4 minutes.
  2. Stir in the eggplant, sugar, cinnamon, and cocoa and cook for 5 more minutes. Add herbs, tomatoes, and vinegar and bring the mixture to a boil. Stir in the olives.
  3. Set the heat to low and simmer for about 7 minutes, until it begins to thicken. and remove from heat.
  4. This recipe makes a generous few meals, and can be frozen for later. It can be eaten warm, but is traditionally eaten cold  or room temperature. I highly recommend it with poached eggs: Set a deep pan of water to boil, once boiling, add a glug of white vinegar, if desired, and give the water a little swirl with a spoon before adding two eggs. Continue gently swirling the water until the eggs are cooked, and then remove them with a slotted spoon. Toast two slices of bread, top with caponata, and place a poached egg on each slice.
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Cooking from a CSA, Part 8: Freezing Basil

It’s been a while since I blogged about the CSA. It’s been incredibly hot here in Wisconsin this July, making me not want to cook in my un-air-conditioned kitchen. With that, plus the fact that I’m on the half share and not getting nearly as many vegetables and making a lot of repeat dishes, my kitchen has been boring.

But no more! I actually scored a CSA bonanza this week. When I went to pick up my share, I didn’t grab my basil out of the box. Apparently no one did. And there was an extra box down there, so I walked away with two CSA shares and entire box of basil. (I did try to contact other CSA members to see whose share I had, but no luck.)

I had a ton of cauliflower and two boxes of tomatoes, both of which have already gone to good use in Cauliflower and Parmesan Cake and Tomato and Corn Pie. These two dishes (from Smitten Kitchen) are two of my absolute favorites, but both taste best in season–especially the Tomato Pie. In fact, last year, I tried to make it with store-bought tomatoes after tomato season ended, and it just didn’t have the same oomph that makes it so wonderful during the season.

Both those dishes used a healthy dose of basil, but even after I gave away bunches to coworkers, my carpool buddy, and even my landlord, I still had 10 giant bunches of basil left. What to do? I froze it.

It’s super-easy to freeze basil. I rinsed it thorough in a colander, spun it in my salad spinner to remove the water, and laid it on a dish towel in a single layer. Then I rolled up the dish towel to gently wring out the last of the water, unrolled it, and put the basil in a freezer bag in a single layer. I sucked all the air out the bag with a straw, and threw it in the freezer. The basil won’t have the same leafy texture that fresh basil has, but it has a bit more flavor and body than dried basil, so it works great for cooking.

Ice cream! With fresh cherries! And booze!

A few years ago, my awesome former roommate got me an ice cream maker for my birthday or Christmas. I LOVE ice cream. It’s my all-time favorite food. But I don’t make it from scratch that often…and after this week I remember why—it takes a good chunk of time. Making ice cream is a two or three day process. Luckily, the results are usually worth the wait.

I always store my ice cream maker cylinder in the freezer, so it’s ready to go when I want to make some (otherwise it’s an additional 24-hour wait while it freezes). I had some very ripe cherries in the fridge that needed to be turned into something, so when I found this recipe by Apple a Day, it sounded perfect.

It took one evening to make the custard base and prep the cherries. The next evening, I took it out of the fridge and churned it in the ice cream maker. Then it took another day to freeze through. But we tried it last night—and it was fabulous!

Cherry Bourbon Ice Cream (adapted from Apple a Day)

  • 1 pint whipping or heavy cream
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 1/4 cup sugar, divided
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 lb. fresh cherries, pitted and halved (I used a dark red variety)
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 5 tablespoon bourbon, divided
  1. In a large saucepan, combine the egg yolks and 3/4 cup of the sugar, whisking together until blended. Set aside.
  2. Mix the cream and milk in a saucepan. Heat on medium, stirring occasionally, until it starts to steam (about 5 minutes).
  3. Gradually add the hot cream to the egg mixture, whisking constantly so the eggs don’t cook. Heat the mixture on medium, stirring constantly until the mixture thickens enough to coat the spoon or spatula and you can see a trail if you run a finger down it. (About 7-9 minutes) Don’t let the custard boil.
  4. Place a mesh sieve over a clean, heat-proof bowl, and pour the custard through. Stir in the vanilla.
  5. Place the custard bowl in a larger bowl and fill the large bowl with enough ice water to be level with or above the custard level. (This is to cool the custard consistently.) Allow the custard to cool to room temperature—it may take up to an hour.
  6. In a saucepan, mix the remaining 1/2 cup sugar, the cherries, and 2 tablespoons of the bourbon over medium-high heat. Bring to a low simmer and cook until the cherries have expelled their juices and softened, and the liquid has begun to thicken (about 10 minutes). Strain the cherries, reserving the liquid. You might have anywhere from 1/2 to 1 cup liquid.
  7. In a small bowl, mix the cherries with the lemon juice and remaining 3 tablespoons of bourbon. Let everything cool to room temperature, then mix the cherry liquid into the custard, and put the custard and the cherries in the refrigerator over night.
  8. Set up your ice cream maker and churn/freeze the custard according to your maker’s instructions, adding the cherries in the last 5-10 minutes of churning. Since I don’t have air conditioning in my kitchen, it took almost 40 minutes for my custard to freeze to a nice slushy state, which is when I added the cherries.
  9. Transfer the ice cream to a freezer-proof container (I used an 8-cup Glad freezer container), and freeze until set—probably at least 4 hours.
  10. Enjoy!

Cooking from a CSA, Part 7: Moving to a Half-Share

Two weeks ago my CSA’s spring share ended and I moved to a half share for summer. I’m kind of relieved (after all, you know I’ve been having trouble eating everything), but I already miss having a full fridge all the time.

20120623-161232.jpgI’ve made the most of my last two batches including a lemony risotto with sugar snap peas, asparagus, Swiss chard and fennel. While it was a nice blend of vegetables, it definitely wasn’t a recipe worth sharing. Way too lemony with nothing to balance it out. That’s what happens when you make up your own recipes and just throw stuff in a pot to see what happens—sometimes the results aren’t perfect, even if they’re pretty.

A more successful rice dish was thing one:

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This was another “throw stuff in a pot and see what happens” recipe, but I was delighted by the outcome—and it made great leftovers. I started with a bag of brown and wild rice blend (Lundberg Wild Blend) from the grocery store and cooked it according to the instructions with vegetable broth and a tablespoon of butter. There was still a bit of liquid when the rice was done, which ended up being a good thing because it coated the vegetables like a sauce and helped my leftovers heat up with out over-drying. (Dry crunchy rice leftovers = eew).

Brown and Wild Rice with Garlic Scapes, Fennel and Swiss Chard

  • 1 cup Lundberg’s Wild Blend
  • 2 cups vegetable broth (I used a can + water to make 2 cups)
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 garlic scapes, finely sliced
  • 1 fennel bulb, ends removed, finely sliced (I also removed the very solid pieces of the core)
  • 1 bunch Swiss Chard, ribs removed, cut in 1-in. ribbons
  • salt
  • pepper
  • thyme
  • cumin

1. Cook the rice according to package instructions (in this case, bring veggie broth, butter, and rice to a boil, cover, and reduce heat to low to simmer for 40-50 minutes).

2. When there’s about 15 minutes left for the rice, begin to warm olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium-low heat. Add the garlic scapes and cook gently until just soft (about 5 minutes).

3. Increase the heat to medium, and add the sliced fennel. Season with salt, pepper, thyme and cumin to taste (I used a dash of the first three and was rather generous with the cumin). Cook until the fennel is tender, but not soft, about 5 minutes.

4. Add the chard ribbons to the saute pan, and cook until barely wilted. Check the rice and see if it’s done (as noted above, I went by texture, not amount of liquid). Add contents of rice pot to saute pan and stir together. Serve warm.

Unfortunately, my CSA suffered a huge strawberry crop failure this year, so I’ve only received two pints of fairly small and very ripe berries. They were perfect for baking and I made a double batch of Smitten Kitchen’s Strawberries and Cream Scones. They were wonderful right out of the oven:

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And they’ve also worked out well frozen. I simply shaped them, put them on individual pieces of parchment paper…

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…and thrown them in a freezer bag. Then I bake them according to the recipe instructions. This is a trick that I learned from Deb at Smitten Kitchen (she mentions it right in her recipes if you can make them ahead, which is fantastically helpful). Since scones are best right out of the oven, it’s nice to have a supply in the freezer!

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Cooking from a CSA, Part Six: What do I do with all these scraps and extras?

Let’s go back to the end of last week. You might remember that I was feeling a little discouraged because I didn’t get through all the vegetables and ended up throwing some stuff out. This week I again had the same problem—I just couldn’t get through everything, especially since I didn’t cook that much over Memorial Day weekend. I hate wasting food, and I’m throwing out a ton of ends and outer leaves that would be great for something like composting or juicing or making stock. So I sat back and looked at my options.

Composting is out, because I don’t have any use for compost or space to do it on the scale I require for the amount of scrap veggies I’m producing. I could keep scraps and take them out to my parents’ to compost there, but it seems kind of pointless, personally. If I did have a yard, or even a patio/balcony garden, this would be a great option.

I seriously considered buying a juicer this week. I must have read about thirty different juicer reviews and talked to a half dozen people about their juicers this week. I love fresh juice, and I actually did a modified juice/raw diet for about a week earlier this year—not really as a weight loss plan, but because I just felt lousy after all the junk I ate over the holidays, and it was a good way to cut myself off from the bad habits completely, give my system (which was feeling overtaxed) a break, and think carefully about everything I was eating. It helped me get my eating habits back on track. But I’m not considering it as a lifestyle change, and I normally like to eat my fruits and vegetables instead of drink them. Also, I would end up spending a lot of money on fruits and veggies to make ideal juice combos—I don’t get many fruits in my CSA box and I don’t like many straight vegetable juices. Plus, a quality juicer is pretty expensive and there are other items I’d rather buy (a nice digital camera springs immediately to mind!). So, a juicer an option I might consider in the future, but I’ve ruled it out for now.

So, for now, I’ve settled on making vegetable stock as the best option for my CSA leftovers and scraps. I actually started this week by throwing a bunch of my leftovers (mostly lettuce, radishes and other salad goodies) into a freezer-proof tupperware container and throwing it in the freezer. As the week goes on, I’ll add more scraps—and I should have great stock-making scraps this week, since I just received carrots, leeks, green garlic, and plenty of other great vegetables. It’s important to note that I’m only saving stuff that is still fresh and has been cleaned to the bin. No past-their-prime veggies—as Vegan Yum Yum points out here, that’s probably why many commercial veggie stocks taste so bland. Expect an update when I make the first batch.

Cooking from a CSA, Part 5: Three-Greens Pasta

My favorite meal this week was born of necessity. I was one day away from the next CSA delivery and had a pile of vegetables left to use. One of the easiest ways to reduce a mass of greens is to cook it, so I cleaned three bunches of greens, added some turnips and veggie sausage, and tossed it with some pasta. Quick, easy, and really delicious. The variety of greens adds a lot of subtle flavor, and the veggies sausage (Yves Italian variety, I believe) added some nice spice.

Three-Greens Pasta

  • 1 lb pasta
  • 1 bunch spinach (washed, stems removed, sliced in 1-in. ribbons)
  • 1 bunch arugula (washed, stems removed, sliced in 1-in. ribbons)
  • 1 bunch Swiss chard (washed, stems removed, sliced in 1-in. ribbons)
  • 1 bunch turnips, scrubbed and cut into quarters
  • 2 links vegetarian sausage, sliced
  • 1 tbl. minced garlic
  • olive oil
  • salt, pepper, oregano, thyme (to taste)
  1. Put a large pot of water on to boil for the pasta. Cook the pasta as directed, but add the spinach and arugula for the last 2 minutes of cooking. Just pile it right on top of the pasta and water, and swirl it with a spoon. Then, drain the contents of the pot in a colander and put in a large serving bowl.
  2. While the pasta is cooking, heat olive oil in a large skillet on medium-high heat. Add the veggie sausage and turnips, and sauté for about five minutes, until contents start to lightly brown.
  3. Add chard, garlic and seasoning to the pan, and stir. Cook about 5 minutes, until chard is slightly wilted but still has some body. Remove from heat.
  4. Add sautéed ingredients to the pasta mixture, and stir. Serve immediately.

Cooking from a CSA, Part 3: Week 2 and Spring-time Saute

My second CSA box arrived with all kids of goodies:

Black Spanish and traditional red radishes

Three kinds of lettuce

Three kinds of beets

Aspargus

Leeks, green garlic, and scallions

I also received a bag of tomato puree and a 5 lb. bag of golden potatoes. Most of the this week’s goodies went into salads, and I made another pasta dish similar to last week’s, but with asparagus and leeks–oh, and I threw in pine nuts and a can of chopped clams–so good!

But my favorite thing this week turned out to be these:

Haruki Turnips

I’ve never been a fan of turnips, but when I got this adorable bunch of baby turnips, or haruki turnips as they are usually known, In my CSA box, I had to give them another try.

I started by turning to the Internet for help and found a few recipes for pasta with turnips and this recipe for gnocchi with turnips that served as my inspiration. (That gnocchi looks excellent and I have to go back and try making that sometime).

Using only what I had on hand from my latest CSA box, I whipped up a quick buttery sauté that totally turned me around on turnips! I hope I get another bunch in the box soon.

Springtime Sauté with Turnips and Potatoes

  • 2 small to medium potatoes
  • 1 bunch baby turnips, including greens
  • 1 small leek
  • 2 green garlic stalks
  • oregano
  • thyme
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • Parmesan (optional)

1. First, wash all the vegetables, taking extra care to scrub the potatoes with a brush. Dice the potatoes (skin on), and slice the leek and green garlic into thin rings. Throw the rings in a colander and give them a good wash. Remove the greens from the turnips and cut the turnips into quarters. Remove the long stems from the greens and cut the leaves into 1-in. wide strips.

2. Heat the olive oil and butter on the stove on medium-high heat, until the butter is melted. Add the potatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, until just starting to brown–about 5 minutes. Throw in the leeks and green garlic and cook about 2 min., until they just start to loosen up. Add a sprinkling of oregano, thyme, salt and pepper.

3. Add the turnips and cook about 5 minutes, stirring frequently.

4. Add the turnip greens and cook until just wilted.

Voilá. Serve in a bowl and top with grated cheese if desired.

Cooking from a CSA, Part 2: Week 1 Wrap-Up

My first week with the CSA was pretty much as success, except for one thing: Many of the greens wilted before I had a chance to eat them. Luckily, the CSA-blogging community (who knew such a wondrous resource existed?) came to my rescue and suggested that I bag the next batch to keep moisture in. There is a great CSA link party every week, hosted by In Her Chucks, which you can find here. It’s a great way to find other people writing about CSAs.

I made a number of  salads and sandwiches, but my two favorite dishes from the week were a great pasta with leeks, green garlic, red peppers, mustard greens, and mushrooms (I bought the mushrooms, but every thing else came from the box), and a beautiful salad with two types of beets (roasted in the oven at 300 for a few hours, then left in the fridge overnight to cool), lettuce, radishes, scallions, walnuts, and feta.

Cooking from a CSA box, Part 1: Joining a CSA

A few months ago, I took a leap of faith and signed up for a CSA (that’s Community Sponsored Agriculture) option that was delivering to my office. Every week from late April to mid-November a bushel of vegetables will be dropped off at our headquarters cafeteria, filled to the brim with fresh-off-the-farm organic vegetables.
Why was it a leap of faith? After all, fresh organic vegetables are awesome, aren’t they?

I’ve looked into CSAs a few times and decided not to sign up for a few reasons:

1) A bushel of vegetables a week is a lot of vegetables! I hate wasting food, and I worry about my refrigerator being filled with rotten produce.
2) Members don’t have any say in what arrives in their box. So if it’s 3 lbs. of turnips or another vegetable I’m not too fond of, I’m out of luck.
3) Some of them are quite pricey, and don’t work with my food budget.
4) Trying to remember to drive over to the drop-off location, and arranging my schedule to make that happen seems very inconvenient.

The CSA offered through my office eliminated a few of my worries:

1) Since I’m a vegetarian (well, pescetarian, if you want to be technical), I eat a lot of produce anyway, so this wasn’t my strongest concern. A rep from the farm came to the office and answered a lot of my questions, including the one about the amount of food. They also offered a half-share with biweekly pick-up for the summer portion of the CSA (June through October).
2) I like trying new things, especially with food. Maybe I can learn to love turnips.
3) With the half-share and a monthly payment of $75 spread over the entire year, my concerns about the price were alleviated. Since I originally researched CSAs a few years ago, the cost of groceries has gone way up. Also, the grocery store nearest my home has TERRIBLE produce. So I often find myself running to the local organic co-op last minute, and that type of grocery shopping gets quite pricey. $75 a month for the bulk of my food will cut my grocery bill by quite a bit.
4) They deliver to my office. It can’t get easier than that–I’m there anyway!

So I’m very excited to have inexpensive fresh produce coming to me at work.

I received the first box on Thursday, and I’ll admit that I was a little overwhelmed. Look at everything inside:

Left to right, top to bottom: Mustard greens, radishes, scallions, green garlic, leeks, frozen strawberries, three types of beets, a bag of mixed salad greens, celeriac, more beets, a head of parnisse, arugula, mizuna, purple mustard greens.

Plus, there were two bonuses:

Frozen strawberries and roasted red peppers.

I didn’t start cooking until Saturday morning, when Mary and I experimented with an egg dish:

Baked Omelet filled with vegetables

Easy Baked Omelet

  • 5 eggs
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup flavorful grated cheese (we used Feddoste)
  • 1 bunch arugula, rinsed, thoroughly dried and roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 small leek, cut in half length -wise, then chopped. Rinsed.
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped roasted red peppers
  • 1 scant tablespoon butter
  • splash of olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
Whisk eggs and milk together. Heat butter and olive oil in a pan over medium. Add mushrooms and leeks and cook until just soft. Add arugula and stir in until barely wilted. Turn off heat and stir in red peppers. Pour vegetables into 1 qt. casserole dish and add egg mixture, salt, pepper and half the cheese, stirring to mix. Top with remaining cheese. Bake at 350° F for 20 minutes, or until the omelet is puffed and golden brown on top. Serves four.
Wish me luck as I try to work through the rest!

Gingerbread Waffles

I have to admit, I don’t think I ever would have dreamed up gingerbread waffles on my own. This morning I was looking for something warm and homey for breakfast and I turned to The New Settlement Cookbook* for a basic waffle recipe. As I scanned the basic recipes, I came across “Gingerbread Waffles” and just had to give it a try. Warm, spicy-sweet and perfect for a winter morning. Not only did they taste great (I ate them as the book recommended, with a little bit of butter and sprinkling of powdered sugar), but the texture was perfect—crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside. These would be excellent with a jam or fresh fruit.

Gingerbread Waffles

Gingerbread Waffles (adapted from The New Settlement Cookbook, 1991 edition)

3 eggs
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup molasses
1 cup buttermilk (I used sour milk)
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/3 cup butter, melted

1. Using a whisk in a deep bowl, beat the eggs until light and frothy. Add the sugar, molasses and milk, whisking thoroughly after each edition.

2. In a separate bowl, sift together all the remaining dry ingredients (everything except the butter). Whisk the dry ingredients into the wet (a little at a time will help avoid flour clumps), and then add the melted butter and whisk until blended.

3. Warm up your waffle iron for about 5 minutes, then add your batter to the middle of each grid. (These waffles fluffed up quite a bit so I had a lot of batter dripping out of my first batch—start light and add more batter next time if needed). Cook until the surface is slightly darker and a light crust has formed (about 6 minuted on my iron).

4. Serve immediately, with butter and powdered sugar, or the topping of your choice.

Yield: About 16 waffles, depending on the size of your iron.

I could have fed 4-5 hungry people with this batch. I froze my leftovers to toast up later.

* A note about my source: The New Settlement Cookbook is a newer edition of a great traditional cookbook that was born right here in Milwaukee. It’s filled with updates of traditional ethnic recipes and basics. While it doesn’t have the beautiful photos and modern flair of more contemporary cookbooks, I find myself turning to this book again and again for the basics, especially for baked goods. Sadly, it’s out of print, but worth picking up at a second hand bookstore if you ever come across it. (My mother found copies for my sister and I after thwarting our multiple attempts to steal hers.)