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!

1 comment:

  1. another amazing week! it's almost as much fun to read about as it was to eat!