summer CSA

Salad Turnips

As Autumn’s chill settles in all around us, I find myself excited about all of the cruciferous vegetables coming our way. I adore the pungent sweetness of these cool weather varieties; cabbage, turnips, radishes, kale, bok choy, kohlrabi...I love them all. I love them because of their flavor, their high nutritional content, the crisp crunchiness they offer, and their incredible versatility in the kitchen.

Studies have shown that when eaten regularly, cruciferous vegetables help lower our risk of cancer by introducing anti-cancer phytochemicals into the body, and by helping rid the body of free radicals. Additionally, they help protect against heart disease, reduce inflammation within the body, and are abundant in a wide variety of vitamins, minerals, and fiber.

It’s almost impossible for me to choose one particular favorite, but if I had to, salad turnips would be a top contender. Their arrival in our CSA box reliably initiates a heated debate over who gets first dibs, typically resulting in their being gobbled before we’ve even unpacked the rest of the box. My kids discovered a deep love for these sweet and crunchy turnips several years ago on a visit to the farm. One of the women working in the greenhouse offered one to each of them. They brushed off the dirt and ate them whole, like apples. To this day, we call them “apple turnips” in my house, and this is how they are most often devoured. If we can exercise enough restraint to actually add them to a dish, another favorite is to slice them thinly and add the crunchy pieces to salad. Our middle ground, between eating them like apples and adding them to salads, is to slice them into rounds, sprinkle with salt, and eat them after they’ve had a few minutes to sit and the salt has started to draw out the water. It’s a delectable, simple, indulgently delicious way to savor them. But that’s it. We don’t get fussy over our salad turnips around here, because they’re so GOOD we can’t bear to meddle.

However, not everyone is a crazed, raw-turnip loving enthusiast. Whether you’re an avid fan or feeling a bit tentative about these somewhat uncommon vegetables, rest assured that there are many wonderful things you can do with them.

Here are some ideas to get you started:

Cook the greens - use them the same way you’d use chard or kale, they’re delicious!

Gently saute them in butter (this link will show that my house isn’t the only place likening these gems to apples, either!)

Make them into zesty quick pickles (no canning required!)

Ferment them….they are SO good this way!

Roast them into golden perfection

Use them in place of regular turnips in this delicate soup

Add them to stir fries, noodle/rice bowls, or fried rice (either diced and raw for a fantastic crunch, or cooked with the rest of the ingredients for a softer touch)

 

What will you be doing with yours?

 

 

Roasted Sauce for Pizza (and more)

 

A few weeks ago, I mentioned to a fellow food loving friend how I was tediously slicing cherry tomatoes for drying in my dehydrator. I grow these tiny little cherry tomatoes that go crazy every summer, and always end up with a bumper crop that challenges my ability to keep up. Drying them was a fussy process of removing the stems, rinsing, slicing in half, and one by one placing cut side up on dehydrator trays. She mentioned that she’d recently processed her extra tomatoes by roasting them whole, pulsing them briefly in the food processor, and using this delicious concoction on pizza. I was immediately inspired. Over the past few weeks, I’ve been testing and roasting and seasoning and adjusting to come up with my own version of this delicious, sweetly tangy, flavor-rich sauce. The long roasting of the tomatoes adds a smoky, layered complexity and delicious velvety texture to this sauce, making it something special. When I opened my CSA box this week and discovered several lushly red tomatoes, I immediately knew I wanted to share this roasted tomato goodness here.

 

You’ll need:

 

About 3 lbs of fresh tomatoes

1 medium onion

¼ cup olive oil

Sea salt

Freshly cracked pepper

Herbs, fresh or dried, of your choosing


Heat oven to 400 degrees. Cut large tomatoes in half, leave small tomatoes whole. Slice onion thinly. Spread tomatoes and onion in a pan, and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle on salt, pepper, and herbs to taste. Give everything a good stir, then place pan in oven. Every 20 minutes, check the tomatoes and stir everything around. The tops of the tomatoes should start to turn golden, crispy, and bubbly. Stir these cooked bits back in, and keep cooking (checking and stirring every twenty minutes) until the tomato juices become thickened and almost syrupy. This could take anywhere from an hour to two hours or more, depending on your oven and the tomatoes used. When the tomatoes have fully roasted and are nicely thickened, remove from oven and let cool slightly. Pour the mixture into a food processor (this is optional - if you’re happy with the consistency, you can skip this part) and pulse a few times until you reach a consistency you like. If you want to thin the sauce, add a few glugs of olive oil. Taste for seasonings and adjust as needed. Slather on pizza, use as a marinara dipping sauce, serve over pasta, or freeze to use on a blustery January day!

Grilled Kale

 

The calendar, and some days, the weather, tell me that summer is fading. My kitchen reflects the teeter totter of seasons, with some days bringing soup and some days bringing salad, as I work to balance the lingering warmth with oncoming coolness. This time of year I always find it most difficult to part with our grilled meals, and really, I’m not sure we should. The crispy, smoky qualities of grilled food nestle quite cozily under autumn’s wing. Grilling fall vegetables helps keep things harmonious with the season; one worth trying right away is grilled kale. Similar to kale chips, but with a smoky edge, grilled kale makes a delicious side dish or salad base. Try topping it with a drizzle of apple cider vinegar, crumbled bacon, caramelized onions, sliced apples, niblets of feta, or dried cranberries.

Grilled Kale

1 bunch kale, washed and dried, tough stems removed

Maldon or other coarse salt

Pepper

1 clove minced garlic

¼ cup olive oil

Spices, as desired (try crushed red pepper flakes, cumin, or curry powder)

Optional add-ins (crumbled bacon, feta, dried cranberries or raisins, sliced apples, or caramelized onions)


Heat a grill to medium high heat. While the grill is heating, mix together olive oil, any optional spices, and garlic. Brush each kale leaf generously, flipping to coat both sides. Sprinkle the kale with salt and pepper, to taste. Using tongs, place each kale leaf on the grill, cover, and cook until crispy, about two minutes. Open the grill, flip kale leaves carefully, cover the grill once more, and cook for another minute. Use tongs to remove from heat. Serve as is, top with garnishes, or tear into large strips to use for salad.

 

A summer beef stew

This weekend, we got a much needed reprieve from the hot, dry summer. Sunday brought a cool, humid rain, and for my family, an excuse to stay indoors and be lazy. Somehow this shift inside immediately awakened my desire to be in the kitchen, fussing over dinner. With some good music playing and a gray drizzle outside, I felt inspired to create a summer beef stew, using some of the stew beef from our most recent share. I wanted something savory and rich to balance the damp weather, but also something that would embody the vibrance and lively color of summer. This did the trick.

When I think about summer food, beef stew isn’t usually what comes to mind. But with lively tender crisp vegetables paired against the slowly braised beef, it works. Almost any summer vegetables can be used here, so get creative and make substitutions as desired.

Summer Beef Stew

3 strips of Brookford bacon

Olive oil

Salt and pepper

1 lb Brookford stewing beef

28 ounces canned tomatoes

2 cups dry red wine

1 TBSP anchovy paste

1 bay leaf

1 TBSP herbs de Provence

2 cups water or stock

1 cup chopped green beans, chopped into 1 inch pieces

1 zucchini, chopped into small bite size pieces

1 summer squash, chopped into small bite size pieces

2 carrots, sliced into ¼ inch rounds

3 small onions, sliced thinly

¼ cup sherry vinegar

Fresh herbs for garnish

Flaky sea salt

Set a large dutch oven on an unheated stove. Lay the bacon strips in the dutch oven and turn the heat to medium high. Cook, flipping once, until crispy. Remove the bacon and set aside to cool. Season the stewing beef well with salt and pepper, rubbing it in with your hands. Leaving the bacon fat in the pan, (add a glug of olive oil if the pan looks like it needs a little extra), add the stew beef to the hot fat. Sear, undisturbed, until well browned and a crust has developed, about five minutes. Carefully turn the beef and repeat until seared on all sides. (If your pan isn’t large, you will need to sear the beef in batches to maintain enough heat to get a good crust). Once all the beef is well crusted, add half the wine to the pan and use a wooden spoon to scrape the brown bits from the bottom. Finely chop the reserved bacon, and add half of it to the pan (reserve the other half) along with the anchovy paste, and stir frequently as the mixture cooks down. Once the liquid has thickened, (this will take about five minutes over medium high heat), add the rest of the wine, the bay leaf, the herbs de Provence, and the canned tomatoes. Stir well and cook over medium high heat for five more minutes, while preheating the oven to 250 degrees. At this point, you may want to add additional liquid (either water or stock), depending on how much is left in the pan. You want enough liquid to allow the beef to braise once in the oven, but not so much that the mixture turns soupy. Give it a stir, cover with a heavy lid, and put the entire pan in the oven. Allow the beef to braise for 4-6 hours, stirring every 45 minutes or so, and adding more liquid as needed to maintain a stew-like quality. During the last hour of braising the meat, heat olive oil over medium heat in a skillet. Add the onions, and cook, stirring often, until translucent, about two minutes. Add the remaining vegetables, season well with salt, and saute until tender crisp, making sure to remove from the heat before they lose their bright color.


Remove the dutch oven from the oven and place it on the stove top. Remove the lid, stir it well, and add the sauteed vegetables and sherry vinegar to the pan, mixing carefully to incorporate everything. Taste for salt and pepper and season as needed.  Serve on its own, or over soft polenta or cooked rice. Garnish with a sprinkle of the reserved crumbled bacon, a few glugs of olive oil, a pinch of flaky sea salt, freshly ground pepper, and a sprinkling of chives or other fresh herbs.

 

A seasonal eater's ode to the season

Every summer, there’s a week where the magic happens. At first the harvest unfolds slowly; leafy greens and alliums are joined by radishes and carrots, variety sprouting up as the weeks tumble by. By the time the cucumbers make their sturdy appearance on the vine, the harvest is no longer lazily unfurling, rather, it has become a veritable explosion of shape and color. For me, the magic week happens when the shift in pace is so palpable that simply opening the veggie box seems to discharge a trace of midsummer magic into the air. This week’s veggie box full of sweet corn (a full dozen!), cherry tomatoes (red and yellow!), humble zucchini and summer squash (always holding down the fort!), jalapenos and bell peppers and onions and cabbage (and more, oh my!)...had me cartwheeling across my kitchen (at least in my head). It’s the week where abundance is undeniable. It’s the week where my gratitude for seasonal eating swells to new heights, reminding me how grateful I am for what we go without so that I can fully absorb and appreciate the fleeting beauty of this season. It all tastes like summer. It all smells like summer. All so purely elemental - sunlight and rain and soil, the genetic intricacies so carefully enclosed within tiny seeds, the miraculous science and magic that conspire to coax carrot seeds into carrots and tomato seeds into tomatoes, and everything in between.

In the midst of a world that seems ever divided, with real issues that need to be solved, I find myself at once inspired to create change and inspired to embrace the little joys around me. These morsels of happiness are not trivial. They’re the lifeblood of a contented life. Of being whole. Of replenishing our hearts and souls so that we can move forward as positive forces within this world. Taking time for mindfulness, gratitude, and simple indulgences isn’t frivolous, it’s critically important. In that spirit, I share my summer eating bucket list. It is this seasonal eater’s ode to the season and vow to appreciate every last bite.

Before the wood smoke curls through the crisp night air of October, I will eat…

...a whole tomato like a tangy, coreless apple. I won’t hold back on the salt.

...delicate summer squash salad.

...bell peppers with skins blistered from the grill.

...cured and grilled cabbage served with Brookford blue cheese. I won’t want to share this.

...marinated and grilled eggplant.

...crunchy, zesty cucumber salad.

...sumptuous gazpacho. With crusty bread.

...salt potatoes. (Contented sigh.)

...tangy-sweet grilled onion steaks.

...an entire batch of homemade salsa. In one sitting.

...grilled pizza smothered in Brookford mozzarella, bacon, tomatoes (thinly!!! sliced) and grilled eggplant.

...silky marinated zucchini.

...corn grilled in the husk, smothered in Brookford butter.

...grilled, bacon wrapped jalapenos. With a cold beer.

 

...and by the time the mornings bring a soft haze of frost on the field, I hope to find my belly full, my heart basking in summer’s residual heat, and my palate satiated. We’re in the thick of summer’s magic. Let’s devour it.

Polenta and Savoring Summer

Something happens to time in the thick of summer. It simultaneously moves briskly and haltingly, landing us in September or October still decked out in our flip flops and sunglasses, cold drink in hand, wondering how we landed months ahead when just a moment ago we were laughing with friends around the grill. This incongruence of time hits me in the kitchen, especially at dinner time, when it is both late and early, the sun keeping us company well into those languid evening hours. I want to eat something that matches this divergence of time in this season - something that is at once simple and lavish, understated and exquisite. Although I tend to happen upon this impasse every year, my solution tends to vary ever summer. Some summers I’ve resorted to grilled pizza, others it’s been risotto. This year has been the season of polenta. Whether grilled, broiled, sauteed, or creamy, I can’t get enough of its versatility and willingness to host or be hosted by each and every pairing I’ve sent its way. If you’ve been finding yourself standing in a daze in a sun dappled kitchen, wondering what dinner should be, look no further. Here are my tips and tricks for mastering polenta and harnessing summer’s lazy, break-neck pace.  

To start, you need a good polenta recipe. I use organic, non-GMO dry polenta. If you know you’re going to grill, broil or saute it, you can also buy prepared polenta. It is more expensive (and in my opinion, less tasty) than dry polenta, but it’s great if you’re in a rush. That said, making homemade polenta isn’t difficult and is very cost effective.

 

You'll need:

4 cups of broth or stock (if you don’t have any, you can use water)

1 tablespoon cultured butter

1 ½ teaspoons salt (if your broth is salty, you’ll want to decrease the amount of salt)

1 cup of dry, organic polenta

½ cup freshly grated cheese

Bring the salt and broth to a boil over medium high heat in a large pot. Slowly add the polenta, whisking as you go to prevent lumps. Whisk continuously until the polenta begins to thicken, then reduce heat to low. Stir frequently using a wooden spoon and taking care to incorporate the polenta at the edges of the pot. Taste every ten minutes or so - the longer you cook it, the more the individual grains will soften. Some people prefer a grittier, firmer grain, some prefer the longer cooked softness. As the grains soften, the flavor will change and become more sweet. The polenta is finished when you like how it tastes and feels. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the butter and cheese.

If you are serving your polenta soft, as a bed for vegetables or meats, you are essentially done at this point. I like to top my polenta with a dollop of butter or sour cream, a sprinkle of maldon salt, and a little more grated cheese before adding other toppings.

If you are making polenta to grill, bake, broil, or saute, you’ll want to scoop it into a well greased container or pan (parchment paper is also your friend here) and pop it into the fridge to thicken. Within a few hours, the polenta will have solidified nicely and become easy to slice.

Now that you’ve made your polenta, what should you do with it?

If you’re serving it soft (which is my favorite, by the way. There’s something so comforting and downright indulgent about it), it can be a bed for grilled meats or vegetables (hot or cold - though you’ll want the polenta hot), or you can top it with a sauce made of fresh tomatoes (again, cold or hot). If you don’t mind standing over a hot stove for a minute, you can quickly saute (or even roast) a medley of vegetables to serve on top. Truly, any vegetable works here.

Try using soft polenta as a bed for:

Wilted greens with garlic and vinegar

Chopped tomatoes with fresh herbs

Grilled peppers and eggplant with feta cheese

Green beans sauteed with garlic (deglaze the pan with a splash of white wine - yum!)

Chilled roasted beets with garlic and dill quark

Grilled sausage, zucchini, and onions

Fresh tomato sauce and a drizzle of high quality olive oil

If you want to sear your polenta, slice it into pieces about ½ inch thick. Brush the slices with olive oil and then broil, pan sear, or grill about three minutes per side, until crisp and golden. Serve these crispy polenta slices with grilled or fresh vegetables and a drizzle of good olive oil. Top with a few shavings of cheese and some chopped herbs.

Alternatively, place sliced polenta in the bottom of an oiled baking dish, and bake at 350 degrees until beginning to crisp, about 15 minutes. Top this crust with any vegetables of your choosing: fresh sliced tomatoes, sauteed onions and summer squash, grilled eggplant and torn basil leaves...top with a generous layer of freshly grated cheese and a sprinkle of salt and pepper, and return to the oven for 15-20 minutes longer, until bubbling and golden.

 

 

 

Avoiding Food Waste: A Vegetable Guide

Last week, I posted about food waste in America, and the myriad problems that result from this waste. While it’s true that much food waste comes from restaurants and other food services, actions at home add up in a major way. Because food that ends up in landfills produces enormous quantities of methane as it breaks down, it’s important to try and avoid having food go into the trashcan whenever possible. In my last post, I listed ways that households can avoid food waste on a larger scale through methods like composting and freezing leftovers. Today, I’m breaking it down, vegetable by vegetable, in a quick guide designed to help you make the most of each vegetable while eliminating waste. For each vegetable, I’ve listed useage ideas to help make sure nothing gets stranded in the crisper drawer. You’ll find links for recipes to help inspire you, and hopefully some ideas that are fresh and new. There is also an “avoid waste” section for each listing, which addresses ways to use the parts of vegetables that most often end up in the trash, and gives ideas for using large quantities for situations when you have more than you know what to do with. Four options that come up frequently in the “avoid waste” sections are: regrow in water, make homemade greens powder, save for stock, and dehydrate. I haven’t added the links each time, but added them here for easy referencing. Enjoy!


Arugula

Use fresh or cooked: in salads, great for pizza, pasta, polenta, risotto, eggs, soups.

Avoid waste: make homemade greens powder or cook when starting to wilt.

 

Asian Greens

Use fresh or cooked: great for stir fries, sauteed with garlic, soups, eggs, polenta, etc.

Avoid waste: ferment, use in smoothies, greens powder, or cook when starting to wilt. Some (like bok choy) can be regrown in water.

 

Basil

Use fresh or cooked: pesto, pasta, casseroles, soups, eggs, for seasoning dishes.

Avoid waste: freeze in white wine or olive oil in trays for use in cooking later, make basil vinegar or oil.


Beets

Use raw or cooked: raw beets are great shredded on salads, juiced and in smoothies. Cooked, beets are delicious roasted and then served warm or cold, in soups, and alongside other root vegetables. Beet greens are also delicious; use them as you would spinach or chard.

Avoid waste: use the greens! Pickle the beet roots, ferment them, freeze them, or make nutritious beet kvass. Add trimmings to veggie stock. Beets also bake well in a variety of recipes, like this cake.


Cabbage

Use raw or cooked: in soups, salads, stir fries, braised, stewed, roasted, or even grilled.

Avoid waste: use the core, too. Cabbage cores can be thinly sliced or julienned before adding to stir fries, casseroles, or soups. Dehydrate wilted cabbage and add it to homemade greens powder. Ferment fresh cabbage to make kimchi or sauerkraut. Regrow in water.

 

Carrots

 Use raw or cooked: salads, baked goods,  soup, stir fries, casseroles, and roasted.

Avoid waste: use the tops to make pesto or soup. Add tops and trimmings to stock. Add small carrots to smoothies, make juice, or slice and dehydrate for later use. And don’t forget to make these delicious fermented ginger carrots. Carrot tops can be regrown in water.


Collards

Use raw or cooked: while collards are probably too tough for most salads, they work very well as a sturdy wrap for sandwiches or burritos when used raw or steamed. Collards can be braised, steamed, or sauteed. They’re excellent cooked on their own, with soups, paired with pork, or with eggs.

Avoid waste: most people don’t know it, but you can eat collard stems. Try braising them, fermenting them, or use the stems to make stock.


Corn

Use raw or cooked: in salads, on the cob, in sautes, chili, soup, chowder, burritos, fritters, and casseroles.

Avoid waste: make relish (try this fermented version, too!), and use the cobs and husks in stock! Corn cobs, especially, are exceptional in all kinds of stock. Don’t throw away the husks, either. They’re excellent for making tamales or using as a wrapper for a delicious grilled meal. Corn husks can also be used for arts and crafts and a variety of odd jobs around the house - check out these ideas!


Cucumbers

Use raw: in salads, pickled, in place of bread for sandwiches, and as soup (this is a great way to use up a lot of cucumbers at once).

Avoid waste: leave the peels intact and eat them whenever possible. If you must peel them, save the peels for stock, use them to make infused water, or chop the peels and add to salads or use as a garnish.


Eggplant

Use cooked: in casseroles, grilled, roasted, salad, and in soup.

Avoid waste: do not peel unless needed for your recipe. Use the peels and ends in stock. Eggplant is also an easy vegetable to freeze for later use.


Fennel

Use raw or cooked: in salads, soup, roasted, in stir fries, stewed, sauteed, or try them on a homemade white pizza.

Avoid waste: fennel fronds can be added to salads or used as a garnish for a variety of dishes. The stalks are great for juicing, steaming alongside fish, and in stock. Try fermenting fennel for a crisp and fresh garnish. Can be regrown in water.


Green Beans

Use raw or cooked: for snacking (try making green bean “french fries!”), sauteed, grilled, in casseroles, and as the base for a tasty salad.

Avoid waste: save the trimmings for stock. A surplus of green beans can easily be fermented, pickled, or frozen.


Kale

Use raw or cooked: in salad (try this kale caesar salad, this shredded kale salad, or this lovely massaged kale salad), in soup, sauteed, with eggs, in smoothies, roasted, and yes, grilled.

Avoid waste: kale freezes easily, can be juiced, added to smoothies, or dehydrated to make greens powder. Don’t throw away the stems - use them for stock, cook them to eat, or pickle them.


Leeks

Use cooked: in gratin, as a side dish, in soups and stews, roasted with other vegetables, in place of or in addition to onions in most recipes.

Avoid waste: leek trimmings are gold for stocks of all kinds - save them save them save them! Also, regrow in water.


Lettuce

Use raw: salads! Also, lettuce works great in place of bread for sandwiches, wraps, burgers, and more.

Avoid waste: add the bottoms to stock, regrow in water. Extra lettuce can be used up easily by making soup, adding to smoothies, or juicing.


Onions

Use raw or cooked: literally in everything.

Avoid waste: onion trimmings and peels make great stock. Keep in mind that the peels will add color (in addition to delicious flavor) to your stock, so if you’re feeling picky about that, you may want to omit them.


Peas

Use raw or cooked: in salads, soups, stir fries, as a snack.

Avoid waste: freeze them, pickle them, add a handful to a green smoothie, juice them, and add the trimmings to stock.

 

Peppers

Use raw or cooked: in salads, soups, stir fries, casseroles, burritos, on pizza, roasted, stuffed, as a breakfast bowl, as crudites...endless possibilities!

Avoid waste: add the trimmings, seeds, stem, etc. to stock. Dehydrate them or freeze them for later.


Potatoes

Use cooked: mashed, fried, sauteed, in soups, casseroles, gratins, as a gluten free crust for quiche, in bread, as chips...what CAN’T potatoes do?

Avoid waste: only peel them when needed, and when you do peel them, save the peels to make these delicious chips. Alternatively, add the peels to vegetable stock.


Radishes

Use raw or cooked: salads, with butter (on a sandwich or dipped), in stir fries, on tacos, in soup.

Avoid waste: add the trimmings to stock - and DON’T throw away the greens! Radish greens are delicious! Use them to make pesto, soup, salad, or braise them as you would any other hearty green (think bacon fat and salt).


Summer Squash (and zucchini)

Use raw or cooked: in salad, sauteed, stuffed, as a pizza crust, in casseroles, as chips, fritters, soup, with eggs, battered, grilled, and roasted.

Avoid waste: save the ends for stock. Large quantities of zucchini and summer squash can be made into “noodles” for quick eating (it’s faster and easier to make them with a “zoodle” maker, but you can make them by hand as well). Remember that zucchini bakes well - try making bread or these brownies. Try making pickles or fermenting them.


Swiss Chard (and spinach)

Use fresh or cooked: in salad, lasagna, soup, burritos, with eggs, sauteed with garlic, over pasta.

Avoid waste: use the stems. They can be chopped and cooked, requiring a little more cooking time than the leaves. Swiss chard and spinach both dehydrate well for homemade greens powder. Any trimmings can be added to stock.


Tomatoes

Use fresh or cooked: everywhere! Soup, salad, on sandwiches, in homemade salsa, sliced and sprinkled with salt, in sauce, stuffed.

Avoid waste: tomatoes can be preserved in a multitude of ways. Make them into sauce and can them, make fermented salsa, dehydrate them, even freeze them. Making soup uses a large quantity at once - try gazpacho for a refreshing and cooling option.

Caesar Salad and Reticent Joys

I love Caesar salad. The briny, tangy dressing, the crunchy croutons, and silky crunch of romaine. Even a Caesar salad that’s only so-so makes me pretty happy, though a sub-par Caesar serves an entirely different purpose than an intentioned, all-from scratch, mindfully prepared Caesar. When done right, this latter version is special, understated, and worth sharing.

My family recently spent a week on Great Diamond Island in Maine. It’s a quiet, wooded island with secluded rocky beaches and the almost constant aroma of sea roses diffused in the air, twisting with the scent of seawater before reaching your nose. It’s a spot we’ve been visiting for some time, and being there always refreshes my love of simple, delicious food. Along that rustic shoreline, food seems only to need the right amount of salt and a loving drizzle of olive oil. Complicated preparations and hours in the kitchen just feel extraneous and alien. We were there with family, and I wanted to make a dinner that could balance the rich simplicity of our surroundings. It needed to be special but straightforward. While thumbing through my cookbooks, I landed on April Bloomfield’s recipe for Caesar salad from A Girl and Her Pig. My search was over. We’d top our salads with plenty of freshly grilled shrimp and call it a meal.

It is these understated pleasures of life - salt air, the tang of anchovies, sea roses, and crisp romaine - that make me fall in love with our farm share over and over again. Life’s exquisite details that can so easily pass us by if we aren’t careful, mindful, attentive. The rhythm of the seasons and their ever changing culinary offerings. The sweet anticipation of what’s on the cusp - waiting for herbs and then garlic scapes before tomatoes and peppers. In the cacophony of everyday life - inboxes, screens, deadlines, and headlines, I am working to make a meditation of tuning out the excess and tuning into the intricacies where the real magic awaits.

In my life before children, I worked for several years in marketing for a local non-profit organization. We focused much of our energy on word of mouth, because believe it or not, this old time standby is still steady and true. As a food lover who marvels at how wondrously lucky we Brookford customers are, I feel driven to add my voice to the word of mouth buzz that will help spread the word about Brookford’s CSA, and the simple magic that is contained within a weekly box full of vegetables. Brookford still has shares available for the summer session. Members who join late get a prorated price, so there’s no paying for food that has already come and gone. Payment plans are available to help make this luscious food more attainable to more people.

If you, like me, find yourself caught up in the quiet moments unpacking your CSA box, tell a friend. Tell them about the emerald green carrot tops, the smell of feathery dill, and the head of lettuce that resembled an enormous ruby flower. If you anticipate opening a new jar of yogurt so that you can be the first one to dip into the custardy layer of cream, tell your neighbors. Share the reminder of reticent joys. Life doesn’t always have to be so big. Use your voice, your powerful voice, to call attention to the little things.

 

A Mindful Caesar Salad

adapted from A Girl and Her Pig by April Bloomfield

INGREDIENTS

  • 8 ounces of croutons, preferably homemade

  • 8 anchovy fillets, or 2 tsp anchovy paste

  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar

  • 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard

  • 3 garlic cloves, smashed and minced

  • 1 large egg

  • 1 cup sunflower seed oil

  • 1/3 cup freshly grated parmesan

  • Maldon or good quality sea salt

  • Freshly ground pepper

  • 1 lb. fresh romaine or other crisp lettuce, washed and chilled

  • Optional - grilled shrimp, chicken, or steak for topping

In a food processor, combine the anchovies, vinegar, mustard, and garlic until smooth. Add the egg and pulse for 30 seconds. With the machine on, slowly add the oil until the mixture emulsifies and thickens slightly. Add the cheese, and pulse briefly until incorporated. Taste, and season as needed with salt and pepper. Cover the dressing and refrigerate until cool and thickened, at least 30 minutes. In a large bowl, toss the chilled lettuce leaves with half of the dressing, gently rubbing the dressing onto the leaves with your clean hands. Arrange fresh croutons on top, then sprinkle on some more cheese and a pinch of salt and pepper.

Scallions!

It’s been a bountiful season for scallions, and yet I somehow still can’t get enough. As a child, I wasn’t all that familiar with scallions as an ingredient. I remember my mother using them to make seven layer dip, but not much else. When I first started cooking in college, I thought of scallions as an ingredient that I needed for a few specific recipes only. As I branched out in the kitchen, I began to see scallions in a new light. These days, scallions are one of my favorite kitchen ingredients. They add a punch of color and flavor wherever they are used, and are surprisingly harmonious with a wide variety of ingredients. I love that they are able to serve equally well as garnish and as flavor enhancer. They work well cooked or raw, and the ends can be saved to add depth and flavor to stock. If you’re wondering what to do with your CSA scallions, here are a few ideas:

  • Use them as a garnish for soups and stews - the fresh burst of flavor will up the deliciousness factor!

  • Make traditional scallion pancakes, or try these amazing mung bean pancakes.

  • Add them to stir fries; I like to add them in the last minute of cooking to ensure the flavor stays bright

  • Make a creamy scallion risotto

  • Substitute them for onions or garlic when you run out

  • Grill them!

  • Add them to tacos, burritos, nachos, enchiladas, etc.

  • Use them to top a pizza

  • Saute them with ground pork

  • Tuck them into sandwiches for a gentle bite - they’re especially delicious with chicken (or tuna) salad

  • Roast them

  • Fold them into savory black bean fritters

  • Eggs! Eggs and scallions are made for each other. Cook them with your eggs, or use them raw as a garnish on top

  • Wrap them in bacon

  • Make stir fried rice


How have you been using your scallions? Comment and share your ideas!

 

All things green

Beautiful, crispy, buttery, tender greens. It’s what greeted me when I opened my CSA box this morning. When I went outside a little later to work in my garden, I walked around to inspect each bed. More delicate leaves of green. My culinary mind is working overtime, plotting the ways I’ll put all this photosynthesis to work in my kitchen.

Sometimes a box full of leafy greens can be intimidating for folks, so I thought it might be helpful to look at the many ways to put them to use in the kitchen.

 

The Basics - Storing Greens

First off, you really want to store your leafy greens in the crisper, set to low humidity. This is especially important for lettuce. Skip this, and your lettuce is likely to wilt. If you’re short on space, prioritize getting the lettuce and other leafy greens into the crisper rather than other sturdier vegetables, like snap peas and beets, which don’t require this low humidity space as urgently. If your greens do wilt, you can usually perk them up by soaking them in ice cold water. If you’re dealing with a wilted head of lettuce, carefully cut off the very end of the head before soaking. I prefer waiting to wash my greens right before I use them. Washing ahead of time can lead to a slimy mess if you don’t dry thoroughly.

 

Cooking Greens

Greens like chard and spinach, which can be cooked, tend to cook down a lot. What looks like a huge bag of spinach when fresh ends up looking like a whole lot less once sauteed. I often cook a large batch of greens early on in the week so that I can add them to various dishes as the week goes on. They make their way into eggs, soups, chilis, sautes, mixed veggie and grain bowls, burritos...pretty much everything, everywhere. Another way to use greens quickly is to add them to smoothies or homemade juices. Several handfuls of greens can easily hide in almost any smoothie or juice recipe, and although the color will be altered, the flavor really won’t. Not only do these tricks help to ensure your greens don’t go to waste, they also help you squeeze in extra vegetable servings. If you’re not sure exactly how to cook your greens, keep in mind that pretty much all greens are delicious simply sauteed with garlic in olive oil or butter, and sprinkled with salt and a dash of vinegar.

 

Lettuces

Lettuce doesn’t have to mean salad. Depending on the variety, it can work beautifully as a wrap or cup for other food. If you prefer to use your lettuce in salad, remember that chopping the lettuce into smaller pieces helps you to use and eat it more easily. Large, bulky pieces of lettuce take up more space in a salad than finely chopped lettuce. If you’re looking to up your veggie intake, shredding or finely chopping your lettuce can help. Like spinach, lettuce is also a great addition to smoothies and juices. However, lettuce can be cooked, too. You can grill it, use it to top a pizza, or turn it into a delicious, delicate soup. If you’re looking to move through a lot of lettuce quickly, that soup uses a full two heads of lettuce for four servings! For more creative ideas on using lettuce, check out this article from Bon Appetit.

 

Greens! Add them to eggs, smoothies, and pizzas. Pair them with salads, soups, and sandwiches. Add a little side salad to every plate you make. Swap out your potato chips for some lettuce sprinkled with olive oil and salt (a favorite amongst my kiddos!). Around here, we’re embracing this beautiful hue. It’s kind of like eating a little slice of summer.

 

 

New Shares for the Summer Session

I’m pretty excited about this year’s summer session. In response to customer feedback, two  new share types are available this summer, and they’re pretty neat. The first is a Peak Season Vegetable Share, which includes twelve weeks of Brookford’s most popular harvest offerings. The second is an Artisanal Cheese share that will provide two cheese selections each week for either 12 or 20 weeks, depending on which option the customer chooses.

 

The Peak Season Vegetable Share is a great option for lots of people. Running June 27 through September 12th, it will feature the best vegetables of the growing season, in a convenient half-share size. For smaller households that fear a full veggie share would be too much, this is a great opportunity to partake in the best of what Brookford has to offer. For anyone who has wanted to try the CSA but fears the commitment of the full summer session, the peak season share comes with a smaller price tag during the most lush vegetable season. Because this share is half-size, it will work very well for folks who still like the flexibility of supplementing with produce from the store and/or home gardens.  At only $23.33 per week, the peak season share is a really, really great value.

 

The Artisanal Cheese Share is another exciting option that I’m really happy to see. Over the past few years, Brookford has offered an increasingly diverse variety of cheeses - from Jalepeno to blue cheese to clothbound cheddar. Anyone who is a lover of truly delicious cheese can empathize with how difficult it is for many dairy share customers to narrow down dairy selections each week. I love the idea of a cheese share that will surprise customers with something different and exciting each week, and perhaps help nudge customers into trying, and falling in love with, something new. If you haven’t recently checked out the huge variety of truly excellent cheese that is now offered through Brookford’s CSA, you might be in for a surprise. The farm is now making brie, camembert, raw clothbound cheddar, smoked cheddar, raw cheddar, jalepeno cheddar, gouda, feta, maasdam, mozzarella (seasonally available) and raw blue cheese. It’s all from happy, grass fed cows, and it’s all really, really good. I’m working on a post highlighting the various cheeses and look forward to sharing that (and my obsession with the Shades of Blue raw blue cheese) in the next few weeks. In the meantime, if cheese is your thing, you need this in your life. This share will run for either 12 weeks for $180 (coinciding with the peak veggie timeline) or 20 weeks for $280, at the customer’s discretion.

 

As I was writing about these shares, I was thinking about how much fun either would be as a gift; perhaps for a wedding, bridal shower, warm weather birthday, anniversary, or just because. With CSA pickup sites throughout most of the state, it’s pretty easy to find a convenient location for most customers to pick up. I’m pretty sure there’s no gift that could possibly outshine a full summer of farm food.


In addition to these fun new shares, Brookford will be offering their typical shares for the summer as well. The summer session starts soon...June 6th! Sign up soon to make sure you don’t miss out. You can register online here: http://www.brookfordfarm.com/register/.

 

DIPS!

A couple weeks ago, I posted some ideas for snacking using ingredients from your CSA share. This week, I wanted to continue on that thread by focusing on the ever versatile dip. Many of the dairy choices offered by Brookford Farm make fantastic bases for dips both sweet and savory: kefir, yogurt, Greek yogurt, and sour cream will all work. Dips are a great way to get kids to eat vegetables they might otherwise shy away from. Toddlers, in particular, often love dippers and might surprise you by their willingness to eat all things crunchy when given the opportunity.

There are lots of recipes out there for all kinds of dairy based dips. Here, I’ll share some general guidelines to help you become a pro.

 

  • Generally speaking, Greek yogurt and sour cream can be used “as is.” Kefir and regular yogurt benefit from thickening before use in dips. This is really very easy. It requires a fine mesh strainer and a coffee filter or thin piece of fabric. Place the strainer over a bowl, and place the coffee filter or fabric in the strainer. Pour the kefir or yogurt into the lined strainer, and place the bowl (with strainer inside) into the fridge. The whey will drip into the bowl, leaving you with a thicker product in the strainer. Leave the bowl in the fridge as long as it takes to reach the desired consistency (typically anywhere from 3-12 hours).
  • For most dip recipes, yogurt, greek yogurt, and kefir can be used interchangeably. It’s the add in ingredients that will determine the flavor of your final product, so it’s okay to use what’s on hand.

  • Get creative with dippers. Raw fruit and veggies are great for dipping. Crackers, meat cubes, breadsticks, chips, homemade veggie chips, and toast also work really well.

  • Feel free to be adventurous with add-ins. Beans, herbs, many fruits and vegetables, and several cheeses are very, very happy to mix with yogurt (or kefir, or sour cream) and become dip. A few recipes to get you started: this yogurt and chickpea dip, and this avocado and cumin dip.

  • Remember that herbs and spices are the ticket to versatility. Try cumin and chili powder, sauteed garlic with dill, cinnamon and nutmeg, or lemon and oregano. (For starters).

  • Know that you CAN make your favorites. Don’t believe me? Try this onion dip, this ranch dip, or this horseradish dip, and then we’ll talk! ;)