Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Summer Farm Share, Week 1

You thought I had disappeared, I know. But, nope! The Honest Chef is simply reincarnated with a new concept going forward. Here's the new deal: I will cook most days each week, like I normally do, and each week tell you what happened, honestly. What I made, what went well, and what didn't. I will also take honest photographs; i.e. my food will look normal, and your food will look like my food because a) I only have an iPhone camera and I am not a photographer or food stylist, b) even if I was, the food would be cold by the time I styled it and no one would appreciate their food getting cold trying to replicate that, and c) I don't own white plates, which I now see is a prerequisite to any food picture being totally beautiful and appetizing. So here you have it, your new Honest Chef!

The blog concept will restart with something I am very excited about: a FARM SHARE (or Community Supported Agriculture -- or, you pay the farm up front, they give you fresh produce from the farm every week once stuff starts growing). This year, Noah and I combined efforts with Santa Claus to purchase a Summer Season share of vegetables from Siena Farms. I was SUPER excited for this, and frankly, I spend a considerable portion of my week planning what to do with this week's allotment and wondering what we'll get in the next one. So each week I'll show you what we got from the farm, and how we used it, while detailing a few of the recipes, successes and mishaps with these ingredients along the way. The cool and also sometimes not so cool thing about a farm share is: you get what you get. That box might contain something you have never tried (green garlic, awesome!) or something you truly hate (cilantro, yuck!), but there are two rules I am trying to follow, and hopefully, you will help keep me honest: 1. Try everything in the box, and 2. Use everything in the box (don't waste it or let it rot).

Greens of all shapes and sizes!

So, what did we get this week?

GREENS. Lots and lots of different types of greens. And even what wasn't greens, was green.

1 bag arugula, 1 bag mixed greens, 1 bag braising greens, 1 head red (but mostly green) lettuce, 1 bunch broccoli rabe, 1 bunch scallions, cilantro (seriously?), 1 bag spinach, and 2 stalks of green garlic.

So needless to say many people were laughing at me because I "would be eating salad for every meal!!LOlol." Well, you know what? Haters 'gonna hate. I, however, was psyched to meet the challenge. I had never even heard of green garlic, and I wasn't sure how I'd use all the greens in different ways, but I couldn't wait to get started.

Meal 1: Grilled Pizza with Mesclun Salad
Items used: braising greens, green garlic, half of mesclun salad

Braising greens, green garlic
After a small amount of panicking I realized that greens have one property in common: they shrink when they're cooked. So although it looked like I had massive amounts, each would probably shrink down to a serving size or two. Now, this is a great way to use practically anything -- throw it on a pizza. Friday was such a nice day that I decided to make grilled pizza, which seemed easy from reading about it in my latest issue of Food Network Magazine. I also had eaten a delicious white pizza with sauteed greens down in Philadelphia at Stella once, so I thought, I can make something like that. Here's what I did.

Greens going in!
And done (a lot smaller!).
First, I sauteed the braising greens, which, from what I could tell, were a combination of mini kale, mini collard greens, etc. Probably I technically should have braised them, but whatever. I had two pieces of bacon in the freezer, so I thawed those and cut them into bite sized pieces. I threw them in a BIG frying pan, in order to hold all the greens later), and waited for them to cook down. Just in case you were wondering, you do not need any extra oil or butter in the pan when you cook bacon (have I done this? yes). Once the bacon was turning brown, I added a clove of minced garlic and let it cook for 15 seconds before dumping all the greens into the pan. I then used a pair of tongs to move the greens around, because as they heat, they shrink. So, move the heated ones to the top, and the raw ones to the bottom near the heat. Then I let them cook down as much as possible, so they would be nice and tender when I put them on the pizza. The only weird thing that happened was that the bacon turned purple from some of the greens' stems. Oh well. Everyone likes bacon, no matter what color it is.
Green garlic, ooo

G.garlic and B.greens, ready
Meanwhile, I had the green garlic. The nice little newsletter that comes along with the Farm Share said "use like you would a leek." Ok. Well, I chopped it up in 1/2 inch thick rings like I would a leek. But I didn't soak the pieces in water like I would a leek (to get the sand out) because these seemed to be pretty clean. (Luckily, they did not only seem clean, they were clean). I took these and put them in a small frying pan with a little olive oil on medium-low heat, and let them cook down until a little brown and soft. OH MY GOSH was it delicious! It was reminiscent of garlic, but was nutty and not nearly as strong. Just delicious. I hope they give me some more of that next week.
Now to assemble the pizza. I rolled out the pizza dough in an oblong shape so it would fit all the way across my grill. I heated the grill up high, and then brushed olive oil on one side of the dough. I put the dough on the grill olive oil side down, and waited 5 minutes (grill uncovered). Once there were good grill marks and brown edges, I brushed the side facing up with olive oil, and flipped it over. Worked like a charm. I waited five minutes again, and then took the dough inside to put the toppings on it. I spread the green garlic pieces and the greens and bacon evenly over the dough, and then added parmesan cheese, shredded mozzarella and a few left over little balls of mozzarella, cut in half. Then put a little salt and pepper. Then back on the grill, (cover closed this time) for about 8 minutes (just until your cheese melts). Dude, it was delicious. I would make this every day if Noah would let me. And of course, we had a side salad of mesclun greens with balsamic vinaigrette.

The final pizza.
Meal 2: Summer Pasta Dish
Items used: spinach, arugula

Prosciutto, spinach, onions, tomatoes
Ok, so you've seen my entry before on making pasta dishes out of any number of ingredients with just one tip: save the pasta water. Refresh your memory here. That's what I did for Meal #2, made a pasta dish with spinach, tomatoes, caramelized onions, pine nuts, and arugula. I cooked down the spinach by putting a little garlic and olive oil in a frying pan and heating it up, then adding the spinach on top and flipping it around like I did with the braising greens above. I did however, need the extra step of draining the spinach, because fresh spinach retains a ton of water once it's cooked. A ton; and no one likes watery pasta. So put that cooked spinach in a towel (once it's cool! I did slightly burn myself trying to do this with spinach that was still too hot. I put it down after that and waited -- always working on my patience), and twist it over the sink until you can't get anymore water out (or until your hands get too tired to twist anymore). Then chop it up and add it to your pasta. I also added arugula. It wilts very easily, so you can always add it right at the last step. Just stirred it into the hot pasta with the cheese and the pasta water. Worked like a charm.

Meal 3: Sauteed Haddock with Quinoa and Broccoli Rabe
Arugula and non-sprouty broccoli rabe
Items used: broccoli rabe and arugula

If you've ever had broccoli rabe, you are probably thinking, "Well, that doesn't look anything like the broccoli rabe I have seen. Where are those parts that look like broccoli?" I had no idea about this either, but that nice little Farm Share newsletter informed me that these are intentionally picked before "flowering" because the rabe is more tender and delicious that way. Whatever you say Siena Farms!

Rabe cooking
So, I did a little research on how to cook this since I never had. Most internet cooking whizzes said to boil (or blanch) first to remove the bitterness. Ok, so I did that. I boiled it for about three minutes until the leaves wilted and it started to change from bright green to darker green. That may have been too long, but broccoli rabe is resilient. So I then drained it and ran it under cold water to stop the cooking. Then I heated up some sliced garlic in olive oil for a few minutes until it started to brown, and threw in the boiled rabe as whizzes recommended. Errrr... didn't work as I planned. There was a lot of water left in those leaves, not just from the boiling, but I think also from the rabe itself. It didn't really saute, it sort of just continued to steam, now with garlic floating around it. I added salt. Noah loved it. I thought it was gross, but not necessarily because of the flawed cooking method (it still wasn't too mushy unlike it's more familiar cousin would be). I think I just don't like broccoli rabe - it just is too bitter for me, even after the boil. Oh well. It did not go to waste!

Arugula stirred in
I also added arugula to the quinoa I was making: just added it in after the quinoa had fully cooked, stirring it around to make it wilt, like I did in the pasta dish above.

Sauteed haddock, arugula quinoa, and rabe
And the fish? This is easy and once you have eaten it you'll use this for fish all the time. I learned this in my "Fish Without Fear Class." Freaking amazing. Ready? Heat a small pat of butter and a little olive oil in a frying pan (enough to cover the bottom). Take fish (something white (haddock, cod, etc. works well). Sprinkle with salt and pepper liberally on both sides. Then coat with flour. Then (THIS IS THE SECRET) smack that fish with your hands (over a sink if you don't have a Noah that cleans up all your kitchen experiments for you -- thanks love!) so that all the excess flour is off of it, and there is just a thin coating. Then pop the fish into the pan. Let it cook until the underside is brown (3-4 mins), flip once (use two spatulas, it is easier), and let the other side brown, take it out. Sprinkle with a bit more salt, pepper, and lemon, and viola! Best fish ever, and also awesomely, easiest fish ever.

Meal 4: Lunch salad
Items used: arugula (there was a lot of it, ok?).
Just added it to some nice leftover corn salad from my mother-in-law and some spare grape tomatoes. Almost used up!

Meal 5: Chicken Caesar Salad
Items used: red lettuce, other half of mesclun salad

Ok, so I did still have a lot of lettuce to use. Luckily I've found one "salad meal" that Noah will always eat, and that is a big Chicken Caesar Salad. This one is delicious (p.s. you must like garlic).

This is very simple to make, and you can use any kind of chicken. Lots of people grab a rotisserie from the store, but I like to just bake up some boneless skinless breasts -- turn on the oven at 350, drizzle olive oil, and salt and pepper, and maybe some other herbs, and cook until it's done (like 20 mins). Then I shred it. This time, to be honest, I forgot to take the chicken out of the freezer, so I just threw that sucker into the oven with the above-mentioned seasonings, and just kept rotating it and cutting it up until it cooked through. Not ideal, but if you're gonna end up chopping it up and covering it with dressing anyway, no one will even notice. It's the garlicky Caesar dressing that makes all the difference. My mom passed down this recipe to me. Just warning you though, no one is gonna want to kiss you for a long while after you eat this (did I mention it is garlicky?)

Caesar Dressing:
3 oz cream cheese (you can, and she would, use reduced fat)
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 Tbsp dijon mustard
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 and 1/2 tsp anchovy paste (this stuff is worth keeping in your fridge)
1/4 cup skim milk
Salt and pepper (use a pinch and taste it. add more if you like)

Dump everything in a blender. Turn blender on and blend it up! This will make enough for a big batch of salad, from two heads of lettuce, or incidentally, from half a bag of mixed greens and a head of red lettuce. Toss the dressing with everything, the chicken, lettuce, croutons and parmesan cheese if you have it (I even snuck some tomatoes in there). I usually do half of the dressing first, toss it around to see how much more I need, and then add. Turns out, this recipe works a lot better with the traditional romaine lettuce. The red lettuce got soggy after a while, but hey -- I had to use up these greens! (touche salad-mockers).

I decided to save the scallions to make Udon Noodle Stir-fry on Thursday night, with whatever other veggies that came in the next batch that would go well in a stir-fry. In order to preserve the scallions the whole week, I placed them with the roots down in a glass of water. This keeps them from wilting, which they will do after a few days. (You can actually regrow scallions this way (cut the usable parts off but keep the roots in water and they will grow new shoots), but I never have enough patience for this.) I am also saving the left over arugula (please don't give me more!), which lasts a pretty long time, for a nice beet salad I'm making for my sister-in-law's birthday.

So, Farm Share Week 1 = awesome!

Rules followed: 1. Try everything? Fail. Cilantro is disgusting and I refuse to eat it (why? see here).
2. Use everything? Success! I gave the cilantro to my mother-in-law so even my herb-enemy was not wasted.

1 comment:

  1. This CSA blog is a really great concept and the recipes sound interesting for only having greens to work with. You may not have white dishes but the black background is great and the pictures are vivid and appetizing. Great blog.