Tag Archives: CSA

The South Shall Rosé Again

collards Waterlogue.png

“Are you going to eat these collards, or should we just put them in the compost?”

She wasn’t making it a personal challenge, just letting me know that she had no intention of doing anything with those greens we’d received in the CSA box.

It being summer musical writing season—this year I’m working on three shows at once because, I guess, if you want to get something done, ask a busy person—I haven’t put a lot of thought into the lunches I’ve grabbed in the few seconds before I had to run to catch a train. Which meant it was Sunday, I’d just brought home this week’s CSA box, and last week’s collard greens were staring out from the crisper. I was determined not to waste them, and she wasn’t home for lunch anyway, so collards it would be.

Note to Self: put “prepare lunch” on your morning to-do list so it isn’t the last thing that gets done—or, worse, doesn’t.

I set the Instant Pot to “Sauté” (sort of like setting phasers to Stun, but tastier) and put in a big dollop of bacon fat from the jar in the fridge. While the pot came to temp and the fat melted, I washed and dried and chopped the greens and a couple of garlic scapes. This would have been a great time to use that ham hock in the back of the freezer, but we didn’t have a ham hock in the back of the freezer, so bacon fat and garlic would have to do.

Note to Self #2: get a ham hock and put it in the freezer.

I added the greens and garlic to the now-sizzling pot and stirred to make sure everything got coated, and sautéed the greens for a couple of minutes. This would have been a great time to have some stock defrosted, too. Alas, I hadn’t had that much foresight either.

I added a dollop of Dijon mustard, a little squirt of sriracha sauce, and a cup of rosé wine, then lidded up the pot and set it to pressure-cook for 20 minutes.

Now I know perfectly well that no self-respecting Southerner would cook collards with Dijon mustard, sriracha sauce, and rosé wine—if they had those things in the fridge to begin with.

I never said I was a self-respecting Southerner.

They were delicious.

Will I do it this way again? Probably not. Maybe next time it’ll be Swiss chard with orange juice and soy sauce.

collards orig.jpg

 

 

 

Simpaug Farms CSA: Week Three

Onions on the deck in the early morning light.

While I usually try to keep Sunday’s free from obligations so that we can recharge at home, yesterday was most definitely busy. Clay worked in the morning and led a pair of meetings in the afternoon, while I spent many hours in the car; three friends whom I haven’t seen in 22, 10, and 2 years collaborated on a brilliantly moving song cycle, and I attended the American premiere performance. To say that it was a deeply moving experience is quite an understatement.

Anyway. Amid all that, Clay swung by the Farmer’s Market to see Max and collect this week’s share. Since our time for cataloguing was brief, we’re a bit light on the details; I’ll do my best to revise for volume later this week.

What’s In This Week’s Share: Week Three

Vegetables

  • Collard Greens – one bunch (Clay cooked and enjoyed last week’s bunch, and will share the experience in a post of his own.)
  • Kale – one bunch
  • Salad Greens – one bag
  • Swiss Chard – one bunch
  • Pattypan Squash – several fist-sized ones
  • Pickling Cucumbers – a large handful
  • Pointed Cabbage – one head
  • Spring Onions, red and white varieties – a large bunch
  • Summer Squash – a half-dozen small ones
  • White Scallop Squash – one lovely large one

Other

  • Eggs – one dozen

How to Store CSA Vegetables

Storage this week is so easy. The onions went into a jar of water (which now feels like a kitchen staple on our sideboard!). We wrapped all of the greens and put them in the high-humidity crisper drawer along with the cabbage, cucumbers, and squashes. Voila – finished!

What To Make With This Week’s Share

I am thrilled with this week’s share in particular, because there are some dishes that I’ve been wishing on that we now have the makings of!

Chopped Kale and Pomegranate Salad

While more of an autumn dish than a summer one, I love these flavors together. Clay is writing a musical featuring Hades and several mentions of pomegranates, so it’s making me hungry for sharp, sweet-tart bites. Nuts and seeds are fabulous in chopped salad, making it excellent for filling take-along lunches, and we have an abundance in the pantry.

Risotto with Chard and Mushrooms

I adore risotto, and have quite a good time with the constant stirring. I’ll cut our chard into long ribbons and combine it with porcini mushrooms for bursts of rich, summer flavor.

Sandwich Toppers

We enjoyed cabbage in delicate slaws over nachos and in burritos last week, so I’m looking forward to more of that on our sandwiches this week. Pastrami, havarti, a tomato spread, a bit of mayo, and a peppery slaw on Clay’s sort-of-sourdough bread sounds so good!

My Favorite Dill Pickles

The dill in my garden is exploding with seed pods, so I’ll turn those pickling cucumbers into garlic dill pickles as soon as I have 30 minutes in the kitchen!

Salad Supplement

The roasted vegetable and gnocchi salad we made on Saturday is wonderful, but could do with a bit of fresh crunch. We’ll tear up those salad greens and mix them into the next portion for extra color and freshness.

And the squash!

I’ll definitely make more squash chips. I’ll make another frittata, though I’d like to try adding a bit of acid to the dish – maybe roasting tomatoes alongside squash for the filling. The scallop squash is supposed to be fantastic when fried, and since we still have some chèvre from Lost Ruby Farm I’ll turn it into summery squash latkes. And I’d like to try stuffing the pattypans in the style of stuffed peppers (which could be an excellent way to repurpose any leftover risotto).

Who wants to join us for dinner?

Simpaug Farms CSA: Week One

Three-quarters of today’s haul. 

It’s my favorite day of the summer: open season at our CSA! Earlier this morning I collected the contents of our crate – three cloth sacks full of gorgeous greens, with dirt still on the radishes – and then spent the afternoon cleaning and trimming and drying and storing all of it. Because I’m a crazy person, and that’s what the first day of the season is all about.

My plan is to catalog what we receive each week, and to note our plans for cooking, eating, and preserving it. So, let’s get started.

What’s In This Week’s Share: Week One

Vegetables

  • Broccoli – 16 ounces
    Storage Instructions: Mist the unwashed heads, wrap loosely in paper towels, and refrigerate. Use within 2 to 3 days.
  • Snap Peas – 16 ounces
    Store in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. Use within 5 days.
  • Spicy mixed salad greens – 8 ounces
    Store loosely in a plastic bag in the fridge; use within 5 days
  • Rainbow Chard – 8 ounces
    Store in an air-tight plastic bag with as much air removed as possible, for up to five days
  • Red Leaf Lettuce – 10 ounces
    Line a food storage container with paper towels; separate the leaves and place them in the container, wrap loosely with paper towels, and place in the crisper drawer – check daily to discard any spoiled leaves; will keep for a week
  • Squash – 32 ounces
    Refrigerate in a perforated plastic bag for up to a week
  • Pointed cabbage – 24 ounces
    Store in the crisper drawer for up to a week
  • Kale – 10 ounces
    Wrap in paper towels, store in a zip-top bag in the refrigerator
  • Fennel – one 3.5-oz bulb
    Store in a plastic bag in the fridge for up to 10 days
  • French Radishes – 7 ounces
    Top and Tail the radishes, place them in a mason jar of cold water, and store them in the fridge. Change the water daily.
  • Scallions – 5.5 ounces
    Store in a quart-sized mason jar with the white bottoms submerged. Change the water daily, and they will continue to grow.
  • Garlic Scapes – 10
    I store them loose in the crisper drawer and trim the cut ends weekly; they keep for months

Other

  • Eggs – one dozen

What To Make With This Week’s Share

I’ve ordered the list of produce in order of perishability, so that governs how we’ll consume it.

Frozen Stir Fry Mix
This is a super-busy week for Clay, and my parents are in town for the week to work on a big house project. We won’t have a lot of time for big cooking projects, so I’m taking a short-cut and creating two family-sized packages of stir fry vegetables to freeze for easy weeknight dinners for July. They will include:

  • Broccoli
  • Snap Peas
  • Onions and Carrots from the pantry

When it’s time to make the stir-fry, we’ll add in a fresh bell pepper and all of our seasonings, and serve it over rice or noodles.

Chopped and ready for a Mandarin Chicken stir-fry

Salad
I bought a bag of the farm’s spicy mixed greens last week, and we made a splendid salad. We’ll repeat that pattern this week, with the

  • Spicy Mix
  • French Radishes (roasted with carrots then sliced into coins)
  • Yellow Squash (peeled into slender ribbons)
  • Green Pepper and Grape Tomatoes from the market

We’ll mix the fresh veggies with a big batch of creamy Green Goddess dressing made with our homemade yogurt, fresh lemon, and the GG salad mix from Penzey’s. It should yield four servings as a meal or eight as a side.

Radishes in a jar if fresh, cold water.

Pork Tenderloin with Braised Chard and Roasted Fennel
When I think about pork sausage I smell fennel and rich earthy greens, so we’ll create a whole meal around those flavors. We’ll use:

  • A pork tenderloin from the freezer
  • Rainbow Chard
  • Scallions
  • Fennel
  • Garlic Scapes

I’ll chop up one of the scapes and stuff it into deep slashes in the pork, to impart a lovely garlicky flavor during the roasting process. We’ll quarter the fennel bulb and roast it in the same pan with the pork, and braise the chard with a few of the scallions and another of the garlic scapes.

Fennel Bulbs remind me of woven carpets.

Vegetable Lasagna
I made a fabulous vegetable lasagna for Easter that I’d like to reprise – one-third of a box of lasagna noodles in a loaf pan makes a solid meal for four with leftovers. We’ll use:

  • Kale, chopped very finely
  • Scallions, chopped
  • One Garlic Scape, puréed
  • Two Zucchini, sliced into very thin coins
  • Shredded Chicken, Basil Pesto, Tomato Sauce, and a variety of cheeses from our freezer/fridge/pantry.

Coleslaw
Clay’s favorite summer condiment is coleslaw, so he’ll use ingredients from our pantry and a couple of carrots to turn the Pointed Cabbage into his favorite treat. (Then he’ll probably make pulled pork to go along with it.)

Breakfast BLTs
To power us all through a week of construction work at the house, I’m counting on bottomless pots of coffee and tea, and a hearty breakfast to start each day. We’ll make bacon and egg sandwiches on fresh bread, spread with a tomato pesto and topped with the red leaf lettuce for crunch.

And that should take us through the week. Stay tuned for how it goes!

How a CSA Serves Us

 

radishes

Simpaug Farms radishes – June 17, 2018

Over the past few weeks, I’ve written about how we’ve evolved in our cooking and shopping habits since combining our kitchens, and how we save money at the supermarket in order to have more to spend on delicious little splurges. But there’s one other major way that we both save money on food and splurge for the very best: our membership in a CSA.

CSA is short for Community Supported Agriculture, and it’s a brilliant business model for small farms to support the communities that exist in the areas surrounding the farmland. There’s been risk involved with farming since the first farmer planted the first seed, but CSA removes some of the risks from farming by allowing the people who eat the food to purchase it before it’s grown. (I did say it was brilliant!)

Our local farm is Simpaug Farms in Suffield, Connecticut. Nestled on 250 acres – that’s a bit less than half of a square mile – the folks who run the farm use sustainable practices that preserve the land the generations to come, they produce fruits and vegetables free from synthetic pesticides, and they raise animals without hormones or antibiotics. They plant a broad array of fruits and vegetables that come into peak ripeness throughout the season, ensuring both variety and abundance for members.

We joined the Simpaug Farms CSA back in April, by filling out a form online and making a payment of $800. In return, starting on June 19 and running for the next 20 weeks, we will collect a crate of 10 to 14 different fruits and vegetables, and a carton of a dozen eggs. That works to roughly $35 per week for produce and $5 per week for eggs – all of it local, natural, hormone- and antibiotic-free, and chosen just for us at the peak of fresh deliciousness. (For comparison, at the grocery store yesterday we spent $26 for half that volume of fruits and vegetables from at least several hundred miles away, and $5.99 for a dozen similarly raised eggs.)

This is clearly a wonderful partnership for me and Clay, but it’s just as wonderful for the farm. I met Megan and Max, who run the business-side of Simpaug Farms, at the Fairfield Farmer’s Market this morning. Max’s answer to my question “So how does having the CSA help the farm?“ is excerpted below.

The biggest form of help from the CSA is being able to plan better. Today, which is just a day at the Farmer’s Market, started at 5am. We drove from the office in Ridgefield to the farm in Suffield, collected all of the produce from yesterday’s harvest, drove to Fairfield and set up the market, are working here to sell everything we can (and hoping we guessed right on what to bring), and later we’ll drive back to the farm to drop off anything we don’t sell so it can be put to use.

With the CSA, we know in advance how many people will collect their shares from each location, so know just how much to pack and deliver. But when CSA members purchase shares early in the season, we can plan just how much of a crop to plant because we can adjust for our market. Since the biggest costs in farming come early in the season with seeds and equipment, it’s really helpful to have the capital for that up front, too.

There are still shares available for the Simpaug Farms CSA, and the first pickups for the season start on June 19. Join us in supporting a fabulous small farm, and in eating well all season!

P.S. If you want to get to know a little more about the farm and the CSA, their pinterest boards are full of recipes and tips for preparing fresh summer vegetables, and their YouTube channel has some good videos, too.

Salsa for Canning: The Veg Box Chronicles

We’ve been steadily plugging away at using our CSA produce, but now that we’re approaching peak harvest, the volume is increasing faster than a family of two can chew. Given how the stressors of life earlier this summer led to some wasted veggies, my “we can’t waste anything” attitude has become a little more militant – so I’ve been mentally dividing our weekly hauls into four categories:

  • Foods that are best eaten fresh (eggplant, yellow squash)
  • Foods that can last for awhile (carrots, onions)
  • Foods that can be frozen with a little effort (berries, zucchini (shredded))
  • Foods that can be preserved with a lot of effort (tomatoes, tomatillos, peppers, etc)

We’ve been roasting the “best fresh” foods and eating them with so many different grilled proteins and slow cooked grains, that my tummy is always full of yums. (The current favorite is brunch: slice an assortment of squash-like veggies and onions, arrange them on a cookie sheet a generous sprinkle of salt, and roast for an hour or more until they are fully caramelized – then pile them onto cheesy grits and top with an egg.)

We’ve been cycling through what can last for awhile, including the grocer’s sack of carrots. The first harvested are pulled from the bag and included in almost every meal – peeled as “noodles” under a stir-fry, shredded in cole slaw or salad, chopped as a mirepoix base for an adaptation of our favorite Instapot chili, quick-pickled to eat alongside bratwurst, and baked into a delicious frosted cake.

We’ve divided the “good frozen” foods into best-for-baking portions, and stocked the freezer with enough ingredients to keep us in quick breads for two months: so far we have 1 cup measures of shredded and drained zucchini and whole blueberries, and I’m looking forward to drying apples in the fall.

Yesterday, we turned the tomatoes, tomatillos, green peppers, cubanelles (in place of the called-for jalapenos,) garlic, and onions from this week’s box – along with some cilantro and a few extra toms to make up the right volume – into a gallon of salsa that we preserved for winter use.

Some of my most vivid childhood memories are standing on a chair at the kitchen counter of my grandmother’s house, the youngest of the “old enough” cousins tasked with preparing vegetables for canning. We shelled peas, snapped beans, peeled the skins off tomatoes, cut corn from the cob, and ate as we went – while avoiding the splash of boiling liquids from different hot pots on the stovetop. I don’t have a family recipe for tomato salsa, and I don’t believe anyone ever made a tomatillo variety, so I try new ones every year.

Having had some luck with a few of Mel’s recipes earlier in the season, we opted for her Best Homemade Salsa for Canning recipe, halving it for the volume of ripe tomatoes we had on hand. Seasoning to taste, we used half as much sugar as she did, and double the amounts of cumin and cilantro. I’ll try this recipe again, but will roast the garlic first – the overall recipe has a beautiful blended flavor, but biting into a mince of mostly raw garlic is a little over sharp. Using 5 cups of tomatoes and adjusting the other quantities to match yielded us four pint jars and a small bowlful for yesterday’s lunch.

Having never made tomatillo salsa, I found a well-reviewed recipe from Food.com, and gave it a whirl. We had 7-1/2 cups of tomatillos, so adjusted the other quantities accordingly for a yield of 3 pint jars, 2 half-pint jars, and a small bowlful for lunch.

Modifications: at the end of the 20-minute simmer the liquid was too lemony for our taste, so we added a tablespoon of sugar and more cumin, then let it cook for another 10 minutes before adding a palmful of cilantro and giving the whole pot a whizz with the immersion blender to turn it into a much smoother consistency. Next time, I’ll cut the lemon juice by 1/3, too (or sub in a little distilled vinegar if needed for the proper preserving PH).

We have plenty of salsa for the winter plus a few jars for gifts, and a day of remembering childhood – for $14 at the grocery store, and one week’s vegetable box. That’s quite a yield.

The eyes have it

So I made this carrot-tomato soup over the weekend, and we enjoyed it for dinner on Monday – along with grilled cheese sandwiches and a green salad. Fine, fine comfort food that seemed worth a review.

I couldn't get the texture smooth enough in the food processor, so he whirled an immersion blender through the last of it in the pot to remove lumps and bumps. The soup is very thick, even though I subbed in cream for the yogurt (since ours was still in the machine at finishing time), but beautifully spiced with basil, cracked black pepper, and the cumin-seasoned roasted veg.

If we hadn't been eating cheese-stuffed sandwiches along with (provolone, cheddar, and cranberry Wensleydale inside pumpernickel), I would have sprinkled shaved or crumbled cheddar over the soup as a mix-in, for a little sharpness over the top of the rest. As it was, the soup a great dipping consistency for our sandwiches.

I would make this again, albeit with a bit of something green thrown in – Garlic scapes, or some shredded cooked spinach – for a bit of contrast, and a bit of stock for thinning it out. And I can imagine tossing in a bit of roasted turnip, parsnip, beet, or potato when those come in season.

Do you have a favorite puréed or other root vegetable soup recipe?

Pendulums Swing: The Veg Box Chronicles

Last week I wrote that we hadn’t done much cooking or eating in two weeks. We have more than made up for that lack in the last week!

  • Last Monday, we cleaned out the fridge of as much about-to-be-too-far-past-prime-for-eating produce as we could for the Salmon Feta Soba Salad.
  • Tuesday we had dinner with friends in town and came home too late to do much with our veg box other than tuck it into the fridge. It contained:
    • 3 pints of Blueberries
    • 1 head of Cabbage
    • 3 pounds of Carrots
    • 20 pickling Cucumbers
    • 8 small Eggplants
    • 2 heads of Leaf Lettuce
    • 1 enormous bunch of Parsley
    • 3 green Peppers
    • 8 summer Squashes
  • Wednesday was a lovely night for cooking.
    • I combined two-thirds of the carrots with some onions and garlic from our pantry and roasted them for a carrot-tomato soup.
    • He used all of the Peppers plus most of the Eggplants and Squashes (plus onions and tomatoes from the pantry) to make a Disney-inspired Ratatouille., served over grits with a fried egg for dinner.
  • Thursday was a late night for him, so I enjoyed left-overs and started the annual summer scrubbing of the kitchen cabinets.
  • Friday was for preserving.
    • I turned the 2 largest Cucumbers into Amy Pennington’s sesame quick pickles and preserved the rest as my family’s Favorite Dill Pickles (3 beautiful pint jars of them).
    • While a set of salmon filets were grilling away outside, he tossed the last of the prior week’s Romano Beans into the pressure cooker as an adaptation of this recipe from the New York Times – and they remind me of a stewed tomato and french bean dish my grandmother used to serve when I was a little girl.
  • Saturday we went to a dinner party, bringing a jar of those lovely pickles as a hostess gift, and a tray of hoisin-glazed grilled shrimp for the appetizers.
  • Yesterday I assembled the carrot-tomato soup from Wednesday night’s carrot roast, made a tart from the prior week’s pint of Sour Cherries and the last handful of blueberries (plus one of the bags we froze on Tuesday night) – while he made a salad with the last of the prior week’s Kale, Friday’s quick pickles, and some peppers, tomatoes, and herbs to go with a grilled steak for dinner, and did all of the work for more homemade yogurt.

Sadly, the parsley did not survive its overnight in the fridge without water, but the cabbage has been reserved for a batch of coleslaw – we’ll make it tonight to have with pulled pork on Friday – and the lettuces are washed and dressed for bag lunch sandwiches this week. We still have some eggplant, squash, and carrots, along with some potatoes from the prior week. I’m hoping that the Potatoes will become Hasselbacks to go with next Friday’s dinner, and that the Eggplant will become a lovely dip to take with lunch as an afternoon snack. Carrots last for a while so I’m not worried about those, but I am fast out of ideas for Squash.

What have you been cooking? What would you do with 4 little summer squashes that aren’t zucchini?