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!

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