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!


  1. As always, great tips and tricks to fabulous meals! And Since I had the good fortune of tasting the chicken with ricotta and Swiss chard, I can honestly say the the honest chef does great work! Keep it up!

  2. You have a great sense of humor. Keep writing.