Sunday, July 28, 2013

Summer Farm Share, Week 6

Well, I'm halfway done with the farm share. At first I was very sad about this. This has opened up a whole batch of new ideas and recipes for meals, and has really changed my diet because I had never thought of veggies first, before meat (ok, maybe when summer tomatoes are out, but other than that, never). Also, these veggies are really good, and rarely are the ones I buy at the grocery store even close. Sigh.

But, I am not too sad is is not really ending! This adventure has convinced me to buy, for more than the cost of a new wardrobe, the Autumn Farm share from Siena Farms. I hemmed and hawed because it is expensive -- more than I would typically spend on vegetables if I went to the grocery store weekly (it costs more if you buy now rather than six months ahead) -- however, as I have previously mentioned, I don't buy as much of the other things as I normally would (meat, carbs, snacks) because I am trying desperately to eat up all the veggies. And, I think this is a good thing. Here's to another 12 weeks!

So what did we get this week? Many repeats! But that's ok. I expect this will be one of the last weeks for things like summer squash and broccoli, so I made do.

The only new thing: Red potatoes (many more than shown)! ooooo. I didn't even realize potatoes were a summer veggie.

And the rest of the bunch: summer squash, green oakleaf lettuce (two heads), fennel (with fronds), rainbow swiss chard, a million beets (many not pictured), a million carrots, persian cucumbers, green curly kale, broccoli, and fresh garlic.

When I saw the potatoes on the list, I immediately thought, potato salad! Typically I am not the biggest potato salad fan but I have to say I found this killer recipe that makes it delicious and so now every time I have a party or, as it happened, have potatoes, I want to make it.

Meal 1: Grilled Chicken Sausages with fennel and onions, Herbed Potato Salad, and a regular green salad.
Used: Fennel, potatoes, 1 head oakleaf lettuce, cucumbers

So this potato salad is fantastic. What makes it fantastic is that there are a lot of fresh herbs in it, and particularly, there is dill. I love dill, but even if you don't like dill, you may very well like this, as my sister-in-law is not a fan of dill, but this is her favorite potato salad ever! (either that or she is just flattering me and scraping out her plate into the garbage when I'm not looking.)

This recipe is from Bon Appetit, with a few alterations.
Creamy Herbed Potato Salad

3 pounds baby red potatoes
3 tablespoons vinegar (something mild. red wine vinegar is nice -- just don't use balsamic.)
1/4 cup mayonnaise (can be light)
1/2 cup sour cream (light works, but not the best)
1 small onion, chopped into four large chunks (red makes a pretty color)
2 celery stalks, cut into a few large chunks
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated lemon peel

Bring potatoes to boil in large pot of water. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until potatoes are tender, about 17 minutes. Drain; let stand until cool enough to handle, about 20 minutes.

Let me make a note here. Typically, potatoes are different sizes. Which means, they cook at different speeds. These are done when you are able to push a fork into them pretty easily, but they should still retain some amount of resistance (not be falling apart). Once a potato reaches that stage, pull it out and put it in a colander in the sink. This will happen with the smaller ones and the ones near the bottom first. Keep poking around every five minutes or so until you get the final ones out. This will make it so your potatoes are the right consistency, rather than having half of them right, and half of them mush.

Cut potatoes into 3/4-inch pieces. Place 1 layer of potatoes in large bowl (bigger than you think you'll need); sprinkle with some of vinegar and salt and pepper. Continue layering potatoes with vinegar, salt, and pepper. Whirr the onion and celery in a food processor until they are chopped fine (again, not mush -- you can also obviously chop with a knife but it just takes longer). Add all remaining ingredients (I add the herbs half at a time, to make sure they don't overpower everything. You can taste it and see what you like, but I usually end up using all of them); toss (why do they say this? You will have to stir heartily with a large spoon because it will be heavy. Nothing like tossing believe me). Season with salt and pepper. Can be made 8 hours ahead (this can be made way ahead, like 24 hours). Cover and chill.

Another note. Some of the skins will come off when you cut the potatoes. That's ok! You don't need them all anyway. If only half of them stay on, that is enough to make a pretty color (see above side for some of my cut potatoes). And here it is looking delicious on the plate. For the other elements, I simply sliced up the fennel thinly, with an onion sliced thinly, and sauteed in a pan with olive oil, salt and pepper for a long while on medium low heat so they'd get caramelized. When I get lazy I add a little marsala wine to sweeten it up and make it go faster. Caramelizing onions can be the worst thing for an impatient cook. And the salad was, well, a salad, with a red wine vinaigrette this time. But hey, I told you I was missing my salads last week right? I guess Siena Farms must be reading my blog. :)

Meal 2: Friday Fritatta with a Pickled Beet and Cuke Salad
Used: kale, broccoli, garlic

So Noah has come up with Friday names for my usual Friday suspects. Friday Flatbreads and Friday Frittatas. Hey, sometimes you just want something easy at the end of the workweek, am I right? So, again, we have the fritatta that I made week 2. This time, I minced the garlic, and added it to a hot pan with olive oil, for about thirty seconds before adding up the broccoli which I cut up into bite sized pieces. Then I also added some mushrooms after the broccoli had been cooking for two minutes. Then the kale leaves, chopped up. On top of that I threw some cooked crumbled bacon (just a few slices), and poured the standard eggs and cheese over the top like the last version. It worked well, but I did try to use up some ricotta cheese by adding it in before popping it in the oven. It turned out a little watery, but still tasted good, so that's that. I forgot to take a picture of the frittata, but you've already seen that anyway -- old news.

What I did promise last week was to try to do something else with beets besides roasting them. I have read a lot about beets being so beautiful when sliced thin and raw. Well they may be beautiful, ok they definitely are, particularly the chiogga ones, when sliced that way (see right). But I will say, those chiogga ones are NOT delicious raw. They are pretty bitter, and even when I've roasted them I didn't think they were that great. So I pondered how I could serve these and make them look pretty, and so I finally decided on quick pickling them. Often soaking things in vinegar will remove the bitterness from something, and pickled beets are a thing, right? So I peeled the beets, and sliced them thin, and put them in a shallow bowl with cucumbers sliced up as well, and dumped red wine vinegar over them, so they were almost covered in it. I let them sit for thirty minutes like that (stir around once or twice), and - voila! It worked. They were palatable and beautiful. It really improved the visual aesthetic of the frittata (i.e. they did not really belong on the same plate) so I just photographed the salad. Try this out if you get these kind of beets. It really only takes two beets to make a great salad addition.

Snack 1: Zucchini Bread and Muffins
Used: All of the summer squash/zucchini

I recently read this article authored by what I call "a crank" (i.e. someone who is being cranky, or in today's jargon some might say, a hater) in the Boston Globe about the "stages of the farm share." She described a stage of desperation when you try to force vegetables into desserts because everyone hates you for serving vegetables. She also describes a stage of resignation where all you do is make soup because you can just jam everything together and puree it to get rid of it or freeze it. Let me say that before reading the article, I had already done both of these things. This annoyed me because I had done exactly what she said, pretty much on the same timeline that she said I would. But I resent that because I did not do this out of desperation and hatred for my vegetables! I wanted to try some new stuff and keep things interesting. And I also needed some handheld snacks (i.e. muffins) for going to two outdoor theater events (both cancelled because of the rain. booo). So -- I am here to just inform you that you can use your veggies in desserts and it is perfectly fine as long as it actually works and people like it. Zucchini bread is one of those perfectly acceptable things. And this version is not even that bad for you.

This is my mom's Low-Fat Zucchini Bread recipe. It is really really good, and in fact is the first "dessert" I ever made on my own (I know it's not really a dessert per se, but I couldn't make anything else at that point in my cooking career, so this is what I served.) This recipe makes two loaves, or one loaf and twelve muffins of it, which I chose to make instead for easy transport (and you can freeze it easily, so I did that with the loaf) - my mom doesn't mess around with quantities. If you are going to make something, you might as well make extra. This is how she has 35 varieties of cookies ready to serve at Christmas time. So, transcribed exactly as my mom wrote it for me, with my notes:

Zucchini Bread (low-fat)

3 beaten eggs
2 c sugar
3 t vanilla
1/2 c. yogurt (don't use greek -- use regular plain or vanilla)
1/2 c. canola oil
3 c flour
1 t salt
3 c grated zucchini  or summer squash (3 cups worth AFTER squeezing all the water out of it, as mentioned previously, put into a dish towel, twist up, and squeeze with all your might over the sink until you can't anymore; if you measure this before it won't be enough zucchini).
1 t baking soda
1/2 t baking powder
3 t cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350. Beat eggs, add sugar and beat until pale yellow, add vanilla oil and yogurt and beat until thoroughly mixed. Mix together all dry ingredients [the rest will be in my writing. hers is too confusing :)](in separate bowl), and then add half of the dry ingredients to the wet, mix it around, then add half zucchini, then mix it around. Then repeat and make sure everything is mixed (nothing dry is still around). Then stop stirring and pour into two greased (sprayed with pam) loaf pans or muffin pans as you see fit. I almost forgot to take a picture. Here they are going in the oven, and after they've come out. They usually are a little darker once done but I used greek yogurt (don't!) and yellow squash this time, which made a difference. These will cook for about an hour for loaves, 20 minutes for muffins. Use a toothpick and when it comes out clean or with just a few crumbs (no raw batter) take them out. You will need to cool in the pans for a few minutes before trying to take them out, or they will get all stuck in there and it is not fun.

Meal 3: Chilled Carrot Soup
Used: All of my carrots (thank goodness!), garlic

So, as I said, I also made a soup. I continually get a lot of carrots and I honestly just don't know how to eat them all because I am not a huge fan of carrots raw. I asked my brother what I should do and he said to make a soup. I said it was too hot for that. He said to make a cold soup. Smart aleck. But I took his advice. This soup is really easy to make, as are many soups, but what makes it especially delicious is the home made vegetable stock. So let's take a moment to talk about stock.

You are dutifully making lots of vegetables. You often chop onions, carrots, celery, parsley -- almost daily. When you do, you make a lot of scraps (peels, stems, ends) which go in the garbage. This was me until a year ago, when I got a freezer that was larger than a shoebox. Now those scraps from all those veggies go into a gallon ziplock bag in the freezer, and when that bag gets full, I make stock. And that's what I did for this soup, and what you can do, too, with very little effort.

Get a large pot with big sides. The biggest pot you own (within reason), and dump in freezer scraps.  Fill water until it is 2 inches from the top. Set on stove, turn heat up. Bring to a boil. Once boiling, turn the heat down and leave it simmering (small bubbles rolling). Leave it there for 2 hours or until the water level has shrunk down about 1.5 to 2 inches. Drain the scraps out of the stock with a colander, and then add your salt to your taste (it will taste pretty bland at first but the salt will help it really shine). Cool it and then you can pop it in the fridge or in the freezer in plastic containers. I even put it in an ice cube tray and then put all the ice cubes in a bag for the next time 1 need just a tablespoon or two of stock for a recipe. It really is super easy and it will be way better than anything you buy in the store.

Now, here's how to make a great cold carrot soup for summer, with that stock.

Chilled Carrot Soup with Lime and Cumin

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 pounds carrots, peeled, chopped (about 5 cups)
2 large leeks (white and pale green parts only), chopped (about 2 cups)
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
3 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
6 1/2 cups (plus more for thinning) of vegetable stock/broth
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
8 tablespoons sour cream  and 2 teaspoons grated lime zest for garnish

Heat oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. 
Add carrots and leeks; sauté until leeks begin to soften but not brown, about 5 minutes. Add garlic; sauté 1 minute. Add cumin and crushed red pepper; sauté 30 seconds longer. Add 6 1/2 cups stock. Bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered until vegetables are very tender, about 35 minutes. Working in batches, puree soup in blender until smooth. Transfer soup to large bowl. Cool. Cover soup and refrigerate until cold, at least 4 hours or overnight. Stir lime juice into soup. Thin soup with more broth, if desired. Season with salt and pepper. Ladle into 4 bowls. Spoon 1/2 tablespoon sour cream atop each serving. Sprinkle with lime peel.

This was really nice and fresh -- this is a great light summer dinner for a hot day. It is light though. I served it with bread, and just be warned, Noah only ate this as a whole meal because we had gone out to a buffet brunch that afternoon. But as a starter or a lunch, it's perfect.

Meal 4: Swiss Chard and Ricotta Stuffed Chicken with Roasted Beets and Corn
Used: Some beets, rainbow swiss chard

This last and final meal was a big deal for me and I'll tell you why. I FINALLY POUNDED CHICKEN CORRECTLY. Do you know how many recipes say "pound meat to 1/4 inch thickness" and then continue on with the recipe like it's not a big deal? Well let me tell you, it is a big deal. I have one of those mallet things, with the spiky and and the flat end that you're supposed to pound meat with, but every time I did it, I massacred the chicken, hacking it to pieces, with bits flying everywhere, and not really flattening it out at all, just denting it all over. Then, I finally figured out the two secrets. First of all, you use the flat end for chicken, not the one with pointy pyramid spikes. But second, and perhaps of even more importance, you need to put the chicken inside a large piece of plastic wrap that has been folded over, and then pound on top of that. And it worked. And I even found a new way to stuff chicken. Here is your tutorial:

Step 1: Chicken breast in plastic wrap (see left). See how much space the chicken has to stretch out and move, but yet is somewhat secure because the plastic wrap is folded over around it. This is what you want before you start pounding. Then, use the flat side, and pound evenly around the chicken breast and it will magically flatten without spreading potential salmonella around your kitchen (see right). Amazing!

Step two, add filling to the center of the pounded out chicken breast. I made this filling out of sauteed swiss chard (cut up the stems small and sauteed them first, and added the leaves after until they were wilted. Then flipped them out onto a cutting board, chopped them fine and squeezed it out of all the water I could), an egg, 1/2 cup of ricotta cheese, 1/8 cup of grated  parmesan cheese, basil, and salt and pepper (see left). Then fold ends over each other (see right).

Now, here's the trick. You want these to bake in the oven and be crispy, but you also need them to stick together. This is by far the best method I have learned so far. get a shallow pan (brownie pan, glass lasagna dish, etc.) and spray the bottom with Pam so the chicken won't stick. Take these bad boys you have folded, and hold onto the seam. dip them seam side up in one egg beaten up with just a little bit of milk in it, and then into some panko bread crumbs, but only the side on which the seam is NOT on, so you can hold the seam. Then flip it over and put it into the pan, seam side down (see left; you will also see that I got sloppy as things went on [top to bottom] because my hands were  a mess and I did not pour out enough breadcrumbs so I just had to make do). You may not believe this, but the meat will seal itself together while it's cooking, thus creating a perfect pocket for your stuffing, no hidden toothpicks required. So the chicken turned out great. Unfortunately, I was also in a hurry that night because I was making hand pies for dessert out of a massive amount of cherries Noah bought, but which I am allergic to if raw. I wasn't going to miss out on eating those babies, so I had to find some way to cook them. Thus, alas, the final dinner picture was forgotten. But you can see the cooked chicken (right).

So, another week of veggies gone by! Let's finish up with the rules. Try everything? Yes! Use everything? No. I still have some beets left over but Siena Farms says those will keep for a while, so I will use the rest next week. Plus I need that time to think of something else I could do with beets. Hope these recipes help your week get off to a great start. Until next time!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Summer Farm Share, Week 5

Hope you all are having a lovely week. My week was very full of activities, with lots of firsts-- from going sailing for the first time, to making cucumber syrup for the first time! This week in the kitchen also had another first – a bad one--which we will explore a bit later. Please, don’t forget, I am documenting all of my screw ups for you so that you won’t make the same mistakes…and you are heeding those warnings, right? Otherwise I am just publicly embarrassing myself for no good reason.

So, this week we have some great stuff. This week was also the first week with NO salad greens. So weird! I actually kind of miss them. Apparently they are almost past season so I probably can’t expect much more.

This week we had a rainbow of beauties (just look at that picture over there)!

Newbies: Basil! Mint! Hakeuri Turnips! (?) Fresh Garlic! Half-grown broccoli? And a million mini Persian cucumbers!
Oldies: Summer squashes, fennel, rainbow chard, and a billion carrots!

Drink 1: Iced Tea with Mint
Used: Mint (obviously)
The first thing I did is what I always do when I have fresh mint, and that is, to make iced tea. Mint really gives iced tea that summery zing that you want. It is so simple to make, too! But as you may or may not already know, I am a tea snob. I will not stand for using lipton tea bags filled with leftover tea bits -- you must use loose leaf. It will make the flavor so much better. I am partial to flavored black teas, and I used a peach black tea for this.

Here's what you do. Fill your tea kettle with water as high as you can (most have a fill line). Set that on the stove on high to heat up. Meanwhile, get a large bowl -- one with a spout on it is ideal since you'll be pouring liquid out of here later-- and add 1/4 cup of sugar (you can add more later if this isn't sweet enough for you) to the bottom, along with several sprigs of mint, and your tea, in a tea ball (pictured here) so you can remove it when it is done steeping. Once the water is steaming in the kettle, pour all that water over everything in the bowl. Let it sit for 4-5 minutes (look at your tea's instructions and usually it will give you the ideal "steeping time" but 4 minutes is typically a good general rule). After this, take the tea ball out of the water, and the mint sprigs out, and stir everything around. Add six ice cubes. Taste, and add more sugar if needed. Add more ice until the tea is cool, and add it to a nice pitcher with 2-3 new fresh sprigs of mint. Then, pour into glasses and enjoy! P.S. If you are going to store this overnight in the fridge, take those mint sprigs out, and replace when ready to drink the next day. If you leave it in too long, the drink will get bitter.

While we are on the subject of drinks, let's turn our attention to cucumbers. As you can see from the picture of this week's haul, we had an overabundance of them, and, although I like a cucumber in my salad as much as the next person, we didn't even get lettuce this week, so I had to think outside the box. After a bit of thinking I remembered that Noah had this great mock-tail in San Francisco that was cucumber based, which I quickly co-opted for my own drink after tasting it. So, I decided to make a cucumber flavored simple syrup to put with seltzer, lime, and mint to make a refreshing beverage.

Drink 2: Cucumber Spritzer
Used: Some Cucumbers, Mint

They don't call it simple syrup for nothing. Put one cup of water and one cup of sugar in a saucepan and stir it. Heat on medium until sugar dissolves. Ta dah! Simple syrup. To make cucumber simple syrup, just take the pan off the heat once the sugar is dissolved, and throw in your sliced up cucumbers, stir it around, and let them sit in there until the syrup is cooled (takes about an hour or so). Then, just strain out the cucumbers and you're done! To make the spritzer, just put mint at the bottom of the glass, with a few cucumber slices. Fill it with ice (this will help the mint and cucumber to stay on the sides of the glass and look pretty, unlike my picture. I only had a few ice cubes since I used them all up on the iced tea), and pour some seltzer about 3/4 of the way up the glass. Then add a bit of syrup to your tastes (remember, it is pretty sweet!). Thanks Taj San Fran for the idea!

Snack 1: Half Sour Pickles
Used: Cucumbers, fresh garlic.

Ok, so I did eventually have to make some food. But I was still stuck on the cukes. Then I said, well duh, I will make pickles! Now, let me just say, I have made refrigerator pickles before -- half sours are my favorite. But what I seemed to forget since the last time I made them was why exactly they were called refrigerator pickles. Was it that you let them sit out on the counter until they reach the proper curing stage and then put them in the fridge to preserve that state? Or do you keep them in the fridge the whole time and just wait a few days until they have cured enough and then eat them up quickly? I looked at the (not great) recipe. I couldn't tell. So, I left it out on the counter. WRONG ANSWER. After stuffing the jar tight with well washed cukes, a lot of the fresh garlic, fresh dill (see left), and then filling it to the brim so it covered everything with very salty water from the tap, I should have put it in the refrigerator. But I did not. And let me tell you, the result was really gross. I couldn't even take a picture for you because it exploded. Ugh. It fermented and built up pressure, and the pickles turned brown and, it just was not a fun time at the sink after opening that lid and shooting pickle juice everywhere. Disaster. It's funny how clearly at that moment I recalled that the first time I made pickles I definitely kept them in the fridge the whole time. So if you do this (and it really is cool to make your own) just keep them in the fridge. Unless you really know how to properly pickle with sanitized jars, etc. If you do, please buy me a canning set and help me learn. :)

Sadly this was not the only disaster of the week. And at the risk of seeming completely incompetent in the kitchen, I am going to just get all the bad stuff out now, and then slowly build back up your confidence in me.

Meal #1 Grilled Flatbread with Half Grown Broccoli, Sausage, and Fennel, and a Summer Squash Salad
Used: Fennel, half grown broccoli, summer squash and garlic

So, I've made a grilled pizza before, week 1. This was just a variation on the toppings.The weird looking half-grown broccoli is on the left. I peeled the stem and sliced it thin, and sauteed these with the fennel, also sliced thinly. After a few minutes, when they were starting to brown up a bit, I added the chopped up broccoli leaves, and the turnip leaves, (on Siena Farms' suggestion) and a bit of chicken broth to soften everything up (1 ice cube's worth). Having cooked these toppings I prepped the dough, and then while Noah was out grilling it, I turned to the salad.

Let me say before I get into this, that this salad is really delicious. Even though this story will probably never make you want to eat it, it actually is good and a nice way to get away from your same old leafy salads.

Shaved Zucchini/Squash Salad with Parmesean and Pine Nuts (via Bon Appetit)

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper

2 pounds medium zucchini, trimmed

1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh basil

1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted

Small wedge of Parmesan cheese

Whisk oil, lemon juice, 1 teaspoon coarse salt, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, and crushed red pepper in small bowl to blend. Set dressing aside. Easy enough! Just whisk well.

Using vegetable peeler or V-slicer/mandoline and working from top to bottom of each zucchini, slice zucchini into ribbons (about 1/16 inch thick). Place ribbons in large bowl. Add basil and nuts, then dressing; toss to coat. Don't pour the dressing on the squash until just before you're ready to eat.

Season to taste with salt and pepper. Using vegetable peeler, shave strips from Parmesan wedge over salad.

So I have this mandoline. I bought it for myself because I think mandolines are very useful. They basically can slice up your veggies very thinly and in cool shapes, and sometimes, thin veggies really matter, like in this recipe. If you had big chunks that I cut with my knife trying to get the same thickness with every slice using my own eye, it just wouldn't taste the same. I used the mandoline for the shredded carrots and cucumbers in those lettuce cups in week 2, because I wanted them to look good. For this salad, there really is no other possible way to get the squash cut so thinly and "ribbonly" than with a mandoline. I know they suggest a vegetable peeler as an alternative, but it is just not the same. There are two problems with the mandoline though: 1) the slicing blade is very sharp (which makes a good mandoline) and 2) using the finger guard makes you waste a lot of your vegetable because you can't slide the finger guard close enough to the blade, so you end up having to throw away the thick part that can't be cut any further.

So, attempting to fix problem 2 without heeding problem 1, as is per usual for my mandoline use, I left the finger guard in the box and proceeded to slice the squash sliding it over the blade using my bare fingers, so I could get the whole squash closer to the blade. Have I done this before? Yes. Will I do it again? NEVER. What did I do? The squash got thinner and thinner and I even though I was paying attention, I obviously was not aware of the position of each of my fingers and ZIP! sliced the tip of my finger. It was terrrrrrible. It hurt really really bad because it is not just a normal cut -- it is a very sharp blade and so it is very hard to make it stop bleeding and it was considerably deep. (Hopefully you are not barfing at this point because I pretty much was). This is the first time I have ever cut myself in the kitchen (burns yes, but not cuts) and it was a doozy. So let me say to you, as your very honest chef at this point, USE THE FINGER GUARD. Who cares how much of your vegetable you have to throw away --- it is just not worth it.

After I recovered and got bandaged up (thanks Noah) I started over with the finger guard. The salad came out fine but I didn't have much of an appetite after that. And as you can see I forgot the basil because my head was elsewhere. But it is still a lovely dish and a great way to use squash. I wish I could recommend it without this story, but I promised to tell you my mistakes, so there you have it. Sigh.

Thankfully, the rest of the week was more successful.

Meal #2: Swordfish steak with Roasted Beets and Carrot-Squash Fritters with Mint Yogurt Sauce
Used: Beets, carrots, remaining squash, mint, garlic

This meal was a great one. I prepared the swordfish in a foil packet like I did with this Salmon recipe a while back -- just flavor the fish with dill, lemon, garlic, salt, pepper, and oil, put in a foil packet, and cook 15-20 minutes in the oven. The beets, same old roasting as we've been talking about. I have to get some new preparations for those, I know. Next week I'll work on that.

But these Carrot Squash fritters were new, and delicious, and pretty foolproof, since this was the first time I made fritters. I thought of making fritters because sometimes people put zucchini in their latkes and I thought, I bet people put carrots in them too. So I search zucchini carrot fritters, and the New York Times gave me "Zucchini and Carrot Fritters with Mint-Yogurt Dip." Perfect! Because I had mint too, and I always a big jug of plain yogurt in my fridge. So I got to work. Here's the recipe, courtesy of the New York Times Dining Section with my notes embedded:

Carrot Zucchini Fritters with Mint Yogurt Dip

1 cup all-purpose flour, more as needed
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon coriander (can omit, I did).
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, more for serving
1 cup milk, more as needed
1 large egg
1/4 teaspoon grated lemon zest (cut the zest up, so you won't get a big string of it when you bite into one)
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 large carrots, grated (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 large zucchini, grated (about 2 cups)
2 scallions, finely chopped (I omitted because I didn't have, but I bet they would make them taste even better)
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1 tablespoon chopped mint (I put twice as much and I think it tasted better for it.)
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Olive oil, for frying.

1. To make the batter for the fritters: in a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, coriander and 1/2 teaspoon salt. In a separate large bowl, whisk together the milk, egg, lemon zest and pepper.

2. Pour dry ingredients into wet; whisk until just blended (do not overmix). Batter should be slightly thicker than cream. If it’s too thick, add some milk; if it’s too thin, sprinkle with additional flour (I had to add some additional flour, but listen to what they say -- you don't want it to look like a cake batter or anything, just some thick milk, see right.). Stir in the carrots, zucchini and scallions. Allow to rest for 30 minutes (crucial to getting them to hold together).

3. To make the yogurt dip: using a mortar and pestle or the back of a knife (or a garlic press), mash together the garlic and 1/4 teaspoon salt. In a small bowl, whisk together the garlic paste, yogurt, mint and 1 tablespoon extra virgin oil. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Top, just flipped. Bottom, just went in.
4. Fill a wide saucepan (I used skillet with high sides, which might be what this means but I think saucepan is misleading) with 1 inch of olive oil (mine was about half an inch and worked fine -- if you are scared of using a lot of oil like I am, this recipe is still for you); heat until the temperature registers 375 degrees on a deep-fry thermometer (or until a small drip of batter browns immediately) (I used that test in parenthesis because I certainly don't have a deep-fry thermometer!). Line a cookie sheet with paper towels. Working in batches, drop battered vegetables by the tablespoon into the oil, being sure not to overcrowd the pan. Fry, turning occasionally, until golden all over, about 3 to 4 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer fritters to the cookie sheet to drain. Transfer fritters to a platter or plate; sprinkle with salt and serve with yogurt dip.

Yield: 3 dozen fritters (I made just over 2 dozen, but I tend to have a heavy hand, so my fritters were big).

Don't they look delicious? And the best part is if you make too many for you and your significant other or whoever else is at dinner that night, you can just freeze them and re-heat in an oven or toaster oven, and you can enjoy the leftovers whenever you want!

Hopefully this meal has convinced you that I am not incompetent in the kitchen and that I am capable of teaching you something worthwhile in this blog :).

Meal # 3: Flank steak with a Basil Chimichurri, Grilled Carrots and Turnips, and Sauteed Swiss Chard
Used: Basil, garlic, carrots, hakeuri turnips, and rainbow Swiss chard.

For some reason, I always think flank steak is a great summer meal, even though I have never made it before in my life. Why haven't I? Because my grocery store doesn't carry it. At least, I thought they didn't until I asked the man at the meat counter and he said he thought there was one in the organic meats section. Let me take a short aside here -- one of the other benefits of having this farm share is that my weekly grocery bill goes way down because I don't have to buy veggies, but also because I am just naturally eating less meat because I have so many veggies to use up.Which means I can get really good quality meat. So even though this tiny organic flank steak cost like 16 dollars which is normally crazy to me, I bought it because I knew it was better for me and I could actually afford it since basically all I bought this week was a piece of swordfish and a piece of steak among a few other pantry items. It is this fact above all that is making me want to get the Fall farm share as well. We'll see.

So anyway, I got that flank steak. I marinated it in (surprise, right?) a balsamic vinaigrette (hey, this is very common for flank steak --- I do know how to make other marinades!), and also tossed the carrots (washed, but not peeled) and turnips (halved if large) into some as well. I let the steak sit in it for an hour but the veggies only about 10 minutes. Then I made the foil packet of veggies I made in Week 2 for the grill, and tossed it on medium high heat. Once I flipped that over after 10 minutes I realized that was a terrible idea because the vinaigrette was leaking out and causing some pretty huge flames, so I turned it back over, and opened the packet, and just stirred the veggies around so they'd get cooked on all sides. That worked fine. I sauteed the swiss chard on the stove the same way I always sautee greens -- a little oil, then garlic for a minute, then add the chard, and toss it around until it cooks down. Then add salt, pepper, and some red chili flakes if you are into that heat (not like I am but I do like a little zing). Can we all just take a moment to acknowledge how pretty this rainbow chard is though? Look at those stems!

So when the veggies were almost done, I prepped a spot on the grill for the steak. The good thing about flank steak is that it cooks pretty quickly. I took a paper towel with a bit of olive oil on it, and quickly wiped it over the grates (be careful, obviously it is hot, and if you drip any oil -- your paper towel should not be dripping!-- it will cause a flame to come up and burn you so use tongs to hold it just in case) in order to create a good sear. Then I patted the steak dry, seasoned with salt and pepper, and plopped it town on the grates. After a minute I put the cover down, then after five minutes or so, checked for grill marks on the bottom and when I saw them, flipped it over. I wanted this to be pink in the middle, but not raw, and I used the pressing test, which is flawed but works ok, especially for meat that is ok if it is a little under or over done. This is called the hand test. When you press the meat (you can use a utensil and not your bare finger) it is not done if it feels like section of palm under your thumb does when your hand is relaxed. If it is squishy like this it is not ready. So cook it some more. Mine was done in about 15 minutes. Keep the cover down as much as you can to speed along the cooking. Once it is done, pull it off and let it rest on the counter for 10 minutes. At least 5! It needs it, or all your juiciness will disappear. Also you must cut this kind of steak thinly, and as always, against the grain. In the picture above, the grill marks are going against the grain. You see below, those little lines in the meat's "skin", how they are perpendicular to the grill marks? That's what you want. For this steak, slice along the grill marks (your marks will be different, but look at the meat before making that first cut!)

Finally the Basil Chimichurri. Let me say I really have no idea what chimichurri really is because I don't think I've ever had a true one. But I basically know it is a bunch of fresh herbs and garlic in oil, kind of like pesto without the cheese and nuts. So that's what I made. I put a clove of garlic, chopped into three big pieces, into the food processor along with all the rest of the basil I had. I turned it on until it was chopped finely, added salt and pepper, and then drizzled in olive oil while the thing was running. Then I scooped it all out, and added more oil to make it spreadable on the meat. Makes that steak look snazzy doesn't it? And it was a easy but nice and fresh sauce to pair with the steak.

So there you have it. Another week of vegetables, of creativity, and of mistakes which will hopefully never be repeated.
Rule 1: Try everything? Yes, complete success, even the greens of the turnips!
Rule 2: Use everything? I still had some carrots left over, and by this time, they've gone kind of rubbery, so I put them in my stock bag in the freezer. To be discussed next week!

Until then, have a wonderful time in your kitchen, at farmer's markets, and a great time generally enjoying the summer!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Summer Farm Share, Week 4

Ah, a holiday week. I know that at present it is actually after the holiday week and therefore you are probably all sad like me that we had to go back to work and can't relive the 4-day weekend. Boohoo. But what a great haul for a holiday week from the farm share!

Super excited about: fava beans, rainbow beets, CARROTS (what!? I thought these didn't come out until the fall!), many different little summer squashies, bok choy, and a new herb, summer savory.
Meh about: green oakleaf lettuce, fennel.
Ugh about: red russian kale (again, argh) and broccoli plant leaves?!!!!!

Overall, this was a great basket for a weekend full of cookouts, and a few recuperating meals to finish the next week off. So let's get started.

I love get-togethers, particularly those that are outside and involve grills. Fortunately for me, when moved back up to New England, the cement "patio" that we had in Philadelphia was blown out of the water by a really nice yard space with grass. This space is GREAT for a cookout because although it is not enormous, it is the biggest grassy space on the street, and  has enough space for two grills and all the tables and drinks and seating you could want for a group of up to 20. PERFECT space for hosting a July 4th cookout right? Well, not if it's 95 zillion degrees with humidity of 100%. So after I had invited several family members over for a cookout, I realized, this would be a cookout only in the literal sense in that we would cook outside, but eat and socialize inside. But, I forged ahead in using my farm share supplies to the best of my abilities to wow guests with the food.

Meal 1 (side dishes really): Cookout Fare
Ingredients used: half of summer squash, green oakleaf lettuce, beets

So I made another beet salad, using more lettuce and fewer beets this time. Sorry to bore you. But the summer squash was much more exciting, at least for me. I have to say that I once was a summer squash hater. I hated the texture, the taste, everything about it... except the outside of course, which is always pretty (particularly the variety in the share this week). But recently I've been realizing that there are two things that will make summer squash unappealing: if it is too big, and therefore the seeds and mushy part around the seeds make up most of what you are eating, and/or if it is steamed. Man oh man does that stuff get watery and bland if it is steamed. And I did not want anything of that description at my cookout. So, I grilled it. So much better. I sliced it the long way (to make it easier to handle on the grill without slipping through the grates -- still a challenge though, so be vigilant!) marinated it in (yes, again) my trusty balsamic vinaigrette a few hours ahead (you can do it for as little as 10 minutes), and then my father-in-law, manning the veggie grill, cooked them for a few minutes on each side until they browned up. Unfortunately they were all scarfed down before I remembered to take a picture of them cooked, but hopefully you'll get the idea from the before picture.

After this cookout I managed to eat out or at other people's houses for the remainder of the weekend, with the small exception of omelets for lunch on Saturday, in which I used some of the summer savory. This herb puzzled me, because it looks like rosemary, but tastes like thyme. Either way, it was good, but unfortunately, since it is relatively strong, I was not able to use all of it before it shriveled up soon after. Anyway, Monday, I tried to get us back on the eat-at-home wagon.

Meal 2: Haddock Filet with Steamed Carrots and Fava Bean Salad
Used: Carrots, Fava Beans, Fennel, Summer Savory

The fish was prepared using the same "slapping" technique I have mentioned in week 1. So carrots! So exciting to get them in the farm share. I love tiny carrots because you don't even have to peel them to eat them, only wash, and you can serve them all whole, so even less work.

Here is how I prepared these babies. I cut off most of the greens (I recommend trimming them all the way off if you use this technique -- I thought the ends would look cute but with this technique they sort of all just ripped off in the cooking process making a mess). Then I filled a small saucepan with an inch of water and a pinch of salt, put the carrots on top of them, and turned up the heat to high, with the cover on. Once they started steaming, I left them for about 5 minutes, and then opened and poked a knife into the side of one of them to see if they were done. They were not. Mine took about 10 minutes, but yours may be different depending on the sides. You want the knife to slide in pretty easy, but keep checking so they don't get overcooked and mushy. Just test every few minutes and you'll be fine! Then I drained, tossed, and finished them in olive oil and salt and pepper to serve.

And finally, fava bean salad. Ok, this (left) is how the fava beans looked when I got them. Gross right? Well Siena Farms says all those black warts are normal and they are not rotten. Ok fine. What is probably not normal is them accidentally freezing in your fridge because one of the beans was touching the cooling element on the top. Crap. But they turned out to be mostly salvageable -- but the beans don't produce very much anyway, which was why I was annoyed to have to toss even a few. With fava beans, you have to peel them twice. First, take them out of the bean pod, and they will look like they do on the upper right. Then you have to put those in boiling water for one minute, take them out, and then peel them again, and they will look like they do on the lower right. Much more appealing in my opinion. But that is not very many beans as you can see. I made a fava "salad" but it was really more like a condiment at that point. But it was delicious. I got this recipe from the Farm Share Newsletter (that thing is turning out to come in pretty handy).  Here's Ana Sortun's recipe, with my tweaks -- because who has Aleppo pepper hanging around anyway?

Fava Bean & Walnut Salad

1-2 cups cooked fava beans (I used what I had)
1 small onion, chopped
1 bulb fennel, chopped
2 T olive oil, or a bit more (was walnut oil--power to you if you have it)
1 T fresh parsley, chopped
Red pepper flakes to taste (if you like it hot, use more, if not just do a quick shake or pinch of flakes)
1 clove of garlic, minced
A bit of summer savory, chopped
1/2 of toasted walnuts, chopped

What you want to do is put some olive oil into a skillet with the heat on medium low. Add your fennel and onion, and let them cook down until they are soft. This can take about a half an hour. Keep the heat on the low side so they don't scorch. Add in the parsley, red pepper flakes, and the minced garlic when they seem almost done (or done -- they won't overcook with a minute more cooking to go). Cook until the garlic is fragrant and tan, about one minute, but just watch it. This stuff cooks fast sometimes. Then, take all of this stuff and dump it into the food processor. Don't be lazy and because your food processor is in the sink ready to be washed and just try to use your blender (yes, I did this, and it wouldn't grind it up at all -- you can only use a standard blender interchangeably with a food processor if there is a lot of stuff in it and it has at least some liquid, otherwise, it's bad motor-burning news). Unless you have a Vitamix, in which case, you are super lucky, and yes, you can put this in the blender instead.

Add your savory to the food processor, and some salt and pepper. Turn that sucker on and drizzle in olive oil while it's on, through the top. Grind until it is all combined (just a few seconds should do). Take this out and mix with the fava beans and walnuts. And now you have a delicious fava bean salad! It really is the best way I have ever eaten fava beans, or any beans really. So try it out!

Meal 3: Grilled Pork Loin with Hoisin Glaze, with Grilled Bok Choy and Red Peppers
Items used: Bok Choy

This grilled pork loin was killer, and it all has to do with the glaze. I don't know if you all read Cooks Illustrated, but if you don't, you should start. Every recipe they have is just amazing because it has been tested a zillion times to make sure this is the best whatever you ever made. I was reading in their latest issue about grilling pork loin and I had the exact ingredients I needed to make the sweet and spicy hoisin glaze since I made those lettuce wraps a few weeks ago. This dish is simple: just turn on your grill to high, let it heat up nice and hot, and then shut off one set of burners. Put the pork loin on the side that is OFF. Let it cook, turning about halfway through, for 25 minutes or so. Then, move it to the burner that is on, and put on the glaze, rotating it and adding more glaze, for about five minutes.  Once it is ready, let it rest for a bit before your serve it. Here is the glaze recipe:

Sweet and Spicy Hoisin Glaze

1 tsp oil
1 glove of garlic, minced
1 tsp of ginger, minced
Red pepper flakes, to taste
1/2 cup of hoisin sauce
1 TBSP rice vinegar

Heat up a small saucepan on medium heat. Add the oil, and then the garlic, ginger, and red pepper flakes. Cook this for about one minute until it starts to smell fragrant -- don't let it get brown!  Then dump in the hoisin. Mix it around until incorporated, and then turn off the heat. Then add the vinegar and stir while still warm. Divide it up now so you can use most as a glaze but can save some for a sauce, which is deeeelicious. While the pork is cooking, you can have your bok choy, or any other veggies cooking on the other side of the grill, in an open foil packet. As you know, I hate to turn on the stove when the grill is already on, so this is a great way to cook everything together. With each of these veggies I just simply tossed them in oil, salt, pepper, and a little bit of soy sauce (not sure that made a difference), and then put them in a piece of foil, with the sides rolled up so they wouldn't fall out. Just keep rotating them around in the packet every once in a while to make sure they get cooked evenly. In just 45 minutes, you can have this snazzy plate staring up at you!

Meal 4: Beans and Greens with a Fried Egg
Used: Broccoli Leaves, Kale

This meal was technically during the next Farm Share rotation, so I will have to reveal that we got garlic in the next batch. But all I really did was cook down the greens like I have shown you before in week one. I treated the broccoli leaves just like kale -- they were a little more chewy than the kale, but definitely edible, to my surprise. I guess those farmers at Siena Farms were not playing a joke on us recipients. I added a little fennel and garlic to the greens too. Additionally, I opened a can of cannellini beans, and cooked those for just a few minutes with poached garlic (more on this next week), which I will share next time. I topped it all with a fried egg. Super easy dinner, nutritious, and actually pretty filling. Noah only needed two post dinner snacks which both were fruit rather than old leftovers, so that is definitely
success in my book!

Unfortunately, I did not follow all the rules this week:

1. Try everything? Yes. 2. Use everything? No. I stupidly left the other half of the summer squash out in a bowl on the table. They looked so pretty! And I basically forgot that they weren't gourds. So they rotted -- sigh. Also I barely got to use that summer savory before it shriveled. I should have frozen it when I realized I wasn't using it fast enough. But still, not too bad for a holiday week. Hope this next one feels like a holiday for you all.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Summer Farm Share, Week 3

Welcome back, everyone, for the third segment of "what to do with my farm share." This week, we had a host of new veggies in the box, and some old favorites. And NO cilantro this time, thank the Lord! Also, because of the Fourth of July holiday, this is a short week, and we get a new box on Wednesday, so there was the unique challenge of using up all the veggies even faster. Challenge accepted.
So, what did we get?
Newbies: rainbow chard, garlic scapes, broccoli, flat-leaf parsley, summer squash (yay!)
Repeats: russian purple kale, red oakleaf lettuce, boston bibb lettuce, english shelling peas, fennel, and scallions (still yay!)

Now, even though I love all of these ingredients, some of them were unfortunately harmed in the making of my first meal, which was, I will admit, a disaster, and which I will now chronicle for you.

Meal (disaster) 1: Pizza with garlic scape pesto
Ingredients used (wrecked): half of garlic scapes, half of kale, 1 bulb of fennel.

So some of you may have heard rumors that garlic scapes can be made into a delicious pesto -- well you, and I, heard wrong. I made pesto with these (see my earlier blog on Fancy Fish for a reference on how to properly make one with a fresh herb such as basil or parsley) and oh my GOD was that stuff spicy. It was basically like eating raw garlic, which I guess in a sense, it was. So I added some basil to make it sweeter. No dice. Then I thought, well, it's raw now, so if I cook it, that will mellow its taste. So I spread it on a pizza dough, and then topped the pizza with sauteed fennel and kale (like we did for the flatbread in week 1), and some cheese. When it came out of the oven it looked great. But when I bit into the pizza the pesto had this weird, now too-sweet and super garlicky flavor. Not a good combo. I spoke (read: left an exasperated message about garlic scapes on his answering machine) with my brother about this because he has his own garden and "couldn't wait" until his garlic scapes came out so he could make a pesto. Turns out he mixed a little bit of the pesto with tomato sauce for the pizza base, and rather than coating the whole thing with it. Whoops! So the lesson here is: don't use garlic scape pesto as if it were regular pesto, use it as a flavoring. I will keep this in mind for next time. But now you know too, and you won't have to waste your ingredients nor force your significant other to eat seven pieces of weird pizza for dinner and lunch the next day.

Thankfully, the rest of the week was not so dire.

Meal 2: Seared Scallops on Spring Pea Risotto
Ingredients used: peas, some parsley

Browned and ready to flip

After that disaster on day one, I decided to go back to something I really knew for the next meal: risotto. Now, I've already covered risotto on my blog, so check it out here if you want to know the basics. All I did for this one was to shell and steam the peas for a minute (as in the second week of farm shares), then pureed half of them with a little salt, olive oil and parsley, and left the others whole. I added all of this at the very end, so the risotto would stay bright green.
But I do find that searing scallops is a really easy way to add something -- protein yes, but really it's a little bit o' fanciness. And doing this is really easy. Here's how. Take your scallops, and pat them dry. As you may or may not know, a sear will not happen if whatever you are trying to sear is wet on the surface, so pat them with a paper towel. Sprinkle them with salt and pepper. Now, take a non-stick frying pan and crank the heat to medium high. Add half a TBSP of butter, and half TBSP of olive oil. Once the butter bubbles begin to subside, stick as many scallops in the pan as you can without them touching each other. Cook for 2-3 minutes until the underside is brown (see above right), and then flip each one over with some tongs. Let the other side cook for another 1-2 minutes, until that side is brown. Remove from pan, and serve. Tah-dah. These taste delicious with the risotto, but can be laid over other things (sauteed greens for instance, or beans, etc.). And see, don't you agree that fancies it up?

Phew. At least I haven't lost my touch.

Meal 3: Chard and Kale Dumplings with Tomato Pan Sauce
Items used: rainbow chard, other half of kale, parsley, and a garlic scape

So it was Sunday night. I had just come from an afternoon Red Sox game, which was blazing hot, but which we thankfully also won (walk off Needless to say my well-intentioned planning earlier in the week to make Chard Dumplings on Sunday night was now making me irritated at said self. But, we had A/C and I luckily had eaten an entire bag of cotton candy at the game, so I gathered up all that sugar rush, and got started.

Where did I get this idea? Why the handy dandy Farm Share newsletter of course! The recipe was a little off kilter, but I'll spruce it up for you in a minute. First, I want to tell you something about these here dumplings. They are not your typical potato gnocchi with spinach in them, or ricotta nudi, or whatever you usually order at restaurants. These dumplings are meant to taste like a dumpling made of solely swiss chard. I hate to say this as an example, because it makes me sound like a food snob, but if you've ever had the spinach gnocchi at Vetri, that's what these taste like (although obviously not as good as that). They are delicious, but not what you might expect is all I am saying. If you have a little time on your hands, and a lot of greens to use up, I would definitely try these because they are delicious and interesting. Also a note on portion size: Noah says, this recipe is only a "side portion for two" amount, and normally I'd disagree because his portion size is not normal, but everyone likes dumplings, so make more if you have more than two average eaters at dinner.

Rolled and ready.
They float!
Here is the recipe Siena Farms gave me. And here's what I changed. First of all, for the sauce, I kind of went off the reservation. That sauce seemed like it would be really heavy for these things, so I used a small can of diced tomato, only 3T of butter, and parsley, and called it a day. Just let it reduce in a pan for a few minutes and it makes a lovely compliment to the dumplings. And for those dumplings, I didn't change any ingredients, I just sort of adapted the method. First of all, I had to add more flour. My dough was really sticky, so I added two additional Tbsps. Still sticky. Oh well, I thought. I'll just put flour on my hands and roll these babies into small balls quickly so that they hold together. It worked fine -- but just make sure not to handle them too much. Roll in your hands until just formed and drop onto the cookie sheet. I also chilled them in the freezer for 20 minutes, rather than leaving them out for an hour (in this heat? yeah right). I must say, I was preeeeettttyyy nervous that these were going to dissolve once they hit that boiling water, which, as my Grandma will tell you, is a common problem with regular potato gnocchi and the reason why to this day she refuses to make them. But miraculously, they did not!  Here they are, floating to the top after three minutes of me holding my breath and watching them like a hawk. They had a very delicate texture, and really were delicious.

Chard and Kale Dumplings: served.

Meal 4: Chicken and Veggie Kebabs with Quinoa
Items used: summer squash, broccoli, parsley, and a garlic scape

With the gross garlic scape pesto behind me, I decided to just use garlic scapes in place of garlic for the rest of the week. Every time I wanted to use garlic, I instead chopped up the scape into tiny pieces and used that instead. This actually worked quite well, particularly in the marinade I made for the next dish.

Now, we've probably all tried to make kebabs, or if you haven't you probably think they are simple enough, and they are. But there are a few tips I have for making kebabs that will make your experience far more enjoyable because you will avoid common kebab-killers like: kebab skewers burnt in half, fflavorlessness, and the most irritating, ree wheeling veggies that are no longer stuck to the skewer so they cannot be turned and cooked on their other side. So, how to combat these problems.

First, I always use wooden skewers because those metals ones a) look way too hard cre, b) are often too thick, and c) stay too hot for too long when you just want to eat your food. But if you use wooden skewers you must soak them for at least 30 minutes in water. They will catch on fire and burn quickly into separate pieces, and I know because I have done it. I thought, when in a  rush, how necessary can this be? Very necessary. Just do it first thing when you're preparing dinner, and it won't seem like a bother. Next: if you can, marinate the meat, in this case chicken, overnight. I made a marinade that is very similar to the balsamic vinaigrette in Week 2,  but I added chopped fresh parsley and a chopped garlic scape to the base with the usuals. Then I added a bit more water to make it a little dilluted so that it could spread evenly over the whole piece of chicken.  Also, once you've cut the veggies, allow them to marinate in the same mixture for a few minutes while you prepare the grill. Finally, use two skewers instead of one (see left). This way, all the ingredients will stay  put. This is a little more challenging when sticking them through the raw ingredients, but just make sure you cut the pieces big enough to allow for two skewers, and you should be just fine. Bring them out to the grill (med high heat) and make sure to turn them often and watch them, so that nothing burns, and you'll have a delicious dinner in no time (see during and after shots below. You can serve it over rice or quinoa, like I did, or even by themselves if you are just really into kebabs.

Meal 5: Grilled Sirlion Steak with Scallions, and a Fennel and Orange Salad
Items Used: Scallions, Fennel, Boston Bibb Lettuce, the last of the parsley

Ok, so last meal of the week. Steak. Noah told me in so many words that we were eating too many salads, so I figured I would appease him with steak. I used the inexpensive but versatile sirloin steak, and marinated it overnight in an Asian-style marinade: 1/3 cup of soy sauce, 1 clove of garlic minced, a sprinkle of red pepper flakes, and 1 TBSP of brown sugar. Again, add a bit of water to thin out if you don't think this will cover your steak. I put it in a large ziplock bag, covered it with the marinade, and popped it in the fridge overnight. The next evening when I came home, I removed the steak from the marinade, patted it dry with a towel (drying it for the same reason we dry the scallops, to create a good sear), and popped it on the grill. I also trimmed the hairy ends of the scallions off, and tossed them whole with olive oil, salt and pepper, and threw them on the grill. For this grilling, I kept the lid open. If you want to grill scallions, I would trim the ends of the thinner green parts off -- if they burn they taste TERRIBLE--and keep turning them so that the white parts of the scallions don't burn. Are they amazing? No. But they do make a nice garnish and accompaniment to steak if you are using the grill anyway.

The final thing I made with the farm share was orange and fennel salad with a red wine vinaigrette on a bed of Boston Bibb lettuce. This was my mom's suggestion. Let me just say I do not like oranges, and as you know, I'm not a big fan of fennel, but she said it was amazing, and I had to give it a try. So I did. I sliced the fennel with my food processer flat blade (you can use a knife too) and placed the slices on top of the lettuce. Then I sliced 1 orange thinly and put it over the fennel. And finally, made a vinaigrette just as the balsamic one, but changed the vinegar for red wine vinegar (balsamic would be too strong) and also added the remaining chopped parsley I had. Was it edible? Definitely. But I wouldn't make it again if I were only cooking for myself. Noah really liked it though, and if you like oranges, I encourage you to try it. Plus, it looks pretty.

So, that's another week of Farm Shares down -- already a quarter of the way through! It has been so much fun so far, and I hope these musings on vegetables have been interesting to you too.

Before we close, let's check the rules:
1: Try everything? Yes! 2: Use everything? Almost. I have a few garlic scapes still left, but I can keep chipping away at those by using them in place of garlic for the next week.

Until then, have a great weekend, and, if you're in New England, or some other place having a giant heat wave, keep cool!