Fall Bounty

[Posted by Ruth]

The late summer/early fall boxes have been brimming with great stuff.  Eggplants, leeks, ripe tomatoes, the sweetest corn of the year so far and more.  I wanted to put a meal together that let me dive right into the box this week.  The eggplant, leeks and tomatoes definitely seemed to belong together and I'd been reading a lot about oven frying eggplant slices, so I decided on a deconstructed version of Eggplant Parmesan.

Deconstructed Eggplant Parmesan
serves 4
1 recipe Oven Fried Eggplant, see below
1 recipe Tomato/Leek sauce, see below, or your favorite sauce - it should be quite thick
8 oz smoked mozzarella or fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced

Heat oven to 375.  Leave the eggplant slices in the pan (see below), spoon sauce on top, enough to cover,  top with sliced cheese and bake until cheese is bubbly; about 5-10 minutes, depending on how warm everything already is when you put it in the oven.

First to the oven fried eggplant.  Is it just as good as pan fried eggplant?  Of course not.  Don't be an idiot.  Fried is crisper and better.  But, unless you're working hard at gaining weight, why not find a good alternative?  I was intrigued by the recipes that incorporated mayonnaise and wanted to try that.  I didn't think it was worth the bother to coat both sides and flip over half way through cooking and decided to also add some cheese to the mix.  We all liked it that way so, for me, this one is definitely a keeper.

Oven Fried Eggplant

2 medium/large eggplants, peeled and sliced into 1/2" discs
Salt and pepper
1 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
1/3 to 1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
2 T olive oil, plus more for greasing pans

Preheat oven to 375 and grease 2 heavy jelly roll pans.  Toss the sliced eggplant with a little salt and pepper and set aside.  Blend the mayonnaise, bread crumbs, cheese and olive oil.  Season with a bit more salt and pepper to taste.  Spread the mayonnaise mixture on one side of  each eggplant disc.  Spread enough to cover fully but not too thickly.  Place uncoated side down on greased pans and bake at 375 for 35 to 45 minutes, rotating the pans once or twice to ensure even browning.  When topping is nicely browned and eggplant is cooked through remove from oven and let sit a while before trying to handle if you are using these in a different recipe.

For our version, I made a fresh tomato leek sauce and we topped it offt with smoked mozzarella.  The verdict on the smoked mozzarella was split.  Half of us preferred the flavor and the other half would have preferred the less dry fresh mozzarella. 

Tomato/Leek Sauce
This was a good way to use the herbs our CSA provided us to plant earlier in the season

4 or 5 Large ripe tomatoes, cored and diced
2 large leeks, white part only, halved and sliced thinly
2 T olive oil
2 sprigs rosemary
6 sprigs oregano
1 small bunch fresh basil
5 sprigs thyme
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 T honey
Salt and Pepper to taste

In a heavy pan, heat the olive oil and add the leeks.  Cook over medium heat, stirring often until they soften.  Add the diced tomatoes and the rest of the ingredients.  Bring to a steady simmer and cook uncovered, stirring occasionally until thickened.  To use to top the eggplant discs, cook until most of the liquid is evaporated and the sauce is quite thick.


CSA - Olé!

[Posted by Ruth]

In the last couple of weeks we've gotten quite a few Jalapeno and other hot peppers as well as a bag of tomatillos.  Time to go a little Mexican with the farm share, especially since our older son, who spent 2 1/2 years in South Texas, was home for a visit.

For the salsa, I wanted to get a roasted flavor without the fuss of trying to grill the tiny tomatillos so I pan roasted the tomatillos and tomatoes and liked the outcome. A bonus with the salsa was that the next day I added a few more tomatoes and a cut up cucumber to the leftovers and came away with pretty decent gazpacho. 

Roasted Salsa
1 small package tomatillos, husks removed
2 medium tomatoes
1 jalapeno pepper, or more to taste
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1/2 cup Cilantro, chopped
1/4 tsp chipotle powder
1/4 tsp ground cumin
salt and pepper to taste

Heat a dry heavy skillet on high heat until a drop of water bounces around when dripped on it.  Add the whole tomatillos and keep moving in the pan.  They will quickly brown/blacken.  Remove when they have a fire roasted look and smell, before they cook enough to begin to break apart.  Set aside.

With the pan still on high head, add the two whole tomatoes and roll around until the skins blacken.  Again, remove before they begin to to cook down.  Set aside.

While the tomatoes and tomatillos are cooling chop the onion and cilantro.  When cool, coarsely chop the tomatoes and halve or quarter the tomatillos, depending on their size.  Add to the onion mixture and stir in the rest of the ingredients.  Let rest for at least a half hour for the flavors to develop and for the tomatoes and tomatillos to give up their liquid.

Bonus Gazpacho the next day.

Add a couple more tomatoes (no need to roast them) and a large cucumber, peeled and cut into small chunks.  Adjust seasoning and chill for at least an hour.

Jalapeno Poppers

These are best done outside on the grill

For the Jalapeno poppers we played with using all cream cheese or all goat cheese and decided that a mixture of both would probably be perfect.

Jalapeno peppers, or other hot peppers
Thick sliced bacon strips, cut in half crosswise
cream cheese, goat cheese or a mixture of both (we liked a ratio of about 1 part goat cheese to 2 parts cream cheese) 
Note:  if you mix the cheeses, soften them first, blend well and then chill them for about an hour before filling the poppers.  The stiffened cheese will be less likely to fall out of the popper when grilling.
Wooden toothpicks, soaked in water for 1 hour 

For 7 or 8 Jalapenos we used 4 oz cream cheese, 2 oz of goat cheese and about 3/4 lb of bacon.

If the Jalapenos are very hot cut them in quarters, lengthwise, remove the ribs and seeds.  Place a hunk of the chilled cheese inside the pepper, roll the bacon around it, taking care to fully cover the cheese.  Secure with toothpicks.

Grill over hot coals, turning gently to evenly brown the bacon.  You will loose some cheese as it melts, but if you are gentle and have wrapped the bacon well enough, you shouldn't loose too much.

By the way, if you are a contact lens wearer like me, wear gloves or get someone else to cut the peppers.  Every time I forget to do this I wind up red eyed and angry at bed time when I try to take them out.


Purslane Pesto

[Posted by Ruth]

We got another bunch of Purslane in our farm box this week so I went the no cook way this time and used it to make Pesto.  Because the flavor of Purslane is distinctly different from that of Basil, I decided to change some of the other traditional ingredients as well, while still keeping the basic ratios the same.  So, instead of pine nuts or walnuts, this Pesto has roasted, salted cashews.  They are a bit richer and creamier and work well with the Purslane, which has more bite than Basil.  Sticking with the creamier idea, I put fresh goat cheese in in place of Parmesan.

This worked pretty well.  We spread it on slices of local Wave Hill bread and topped it with thin slices of avocado and tomato and some fresh eggs, scrambled with a bit of sour cream. Nice, quick, easy Friday night meal.

Purslane Pesto

1 bunch Purslane, leaves and tender stems, about 3 1/2 cups
2 cloves garlic
1/2 cup roasted, salted cashews
4 oz fresh goat cheese
1/2 to 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil (depending on how thick you want it)
juice of 1/2 lime or lemon
salt and pepper to taste
dash of Tabasco if you like

Put the Purslane and garlic in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped.  Add the cashews and pulse again until they are finely chopped.  Add the goat cheese, lime or lemon juice and process.  With the motor running, drizzle in the olive oil until it is the consistency you want; thicker for using as a spread, thinner if using as a pasta sauce or dip.  Taste and add salt, pepper and Tabasco to your liking.


In The Weeds - Purslane

[Posted by Ruth]

It's not every day that you can point to some weeds by the roadside while walking the dog and tell your family, "See that?  That's what we're having for dinner tonight."  Thanks to our farm share keeping things interesting, that's exactly what I got to do last night.

We got a bunch of Purslane in our boxes yesterday and I was really interested to try it out.  If you google Purslane, you'll find that while considered a weed in this country it is cultivated as a food in others, like India.  Purslane is high in Omega III fatty acid, more than any other leafy plant, and very good for you.  But....how would it taste?

I first tasted both the leaves and tender stems raw.  The stems are quite flavorful, with an almost salty taste and the leaves have a fresh, green taste.  The salty, slightly bitter aspect seemed like it would blend well with some garlic and ricotta, so we had it in a pie.  We all liked it.  This one is definitely a keeper, so I guess I'll have to start foraging for Purslane!  Please note, if you decide to look for it, don't take if from along the roadside or anywhere where it may have been exposed to chemicals.

Purslane Ricotta Pie

1 bunch Purslane, leaves and tender stems roughly chopped (this worked out to be about 2 1/2 to 3 cups, chopped)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 T Olive Oil
16 oz Ricotta Cheese
3 eggs
2-3 T grated Parmesan Cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

1 unbaked Pie Crust
You can use your favorite recipe, a store bought crust, or this Olive Oil Crust which is what I used to keep things a bit more healthy.  You can also use this Butter Pie Crust recipe if you're feeling like something richer.

Preheat oven to 375.

Line a pie pan with the pastry of your choice.  I used an 8 inch, deep dish pan for this.  It should fit in a standard 9 inch pan as well.

Heat olive oil in pan and gently saute the purslane and garlic until tender and slightly wilted, about 5 minutes.  Let cool slightly.

In a separate bowl, combine the ricotta and eggs and stir until fully incorporated.  Fold in the purslane mixture and blend well.  Add salt and plenty of pepper to taste.

Brush a small amount of olive oil over the surface of the pie crust and put the purslane/ricotta mixture on top.  Smooth over the surface.  Sprinkle the grated Parmesan on top and bake until set in the middle.  For the 8 inch deep dish this took 50 minutes.


How about a nice glass of salad??

[Posted by Ruth]

Lately, we've been bombarded with cucumbers in our farm share.  I love fresh cucumbers but am not a huge fan of pickles.  I just picked up a new share today and realized that I still had several cucumbers lurking in the lower depths of the fridge.  What do to?

Our younger son, Banning, is really into juicing these days and last time he was home he brought my husband a juicer.  I figured I'd give it a shot.  Worst case, it would be awful but at least I could say "I tried" while tossing out the failed attempt at potability.

Instead, I got something I really liked.  It's quick and refreshing and I'm thinking I may just have to try it again later with a splash of Hendricks Gin and a little seltzer.

As an added bonus...it's a beautiful shade of green.
 Cucumber Mint Juice with Lime
Makes about 1 quart

If you don't have a juicer, you can blend and then strain the juice.
5 to 7 cucumbers
Approx 1/2 cup fresh mint leaves
Juice of 2 limes

Run unpeeled cucumbers and mint leaves through the juicer.  When finished, add the lime juice and chill.


Week 2 - Keeping Things Under Control

[Posted by Ruth]
Here's what we have for Week 2.

One of my favorite food blogs, The Bitten Word, had a great suggestion last year to help manage the weekly onslaught of produce from a CSA.  Use a simple white board to keep track of what you get in each week, and what is leftover from the previous week.  This has been a big help in keeping on top of what we've used and what is waiting to be used.  I put a second one on the door of my downstairs freezer, to help me keep track of what's in there as well.  Maybe it's just me, but  I find it really satisfying to erase each item as we finish it.  It feels like a tiny victory.  (Yes, I know, I should probably get a life.)

Facing the board the last night of week one, I realized I still had a lot leftover.  We'd made our way through the salad greens, but still had kale, 1/2 the Asian mix, 1/2 the dandelion greens, one bok choy and some chard.  Time for a clean out the fridge meal.
The reality of trying to use everything in a CSA farm share is that you're often faced with a hodgepodge of produce and no set plan.  Where are you going to find a recipe for a few partial bags of this and that and a bit of wilted something else?  Sometimes, you just have to pull it all out, chop it up, get in in a pot and hope for the best.  So, rather than provide a set recipe, I thought I'd let this post reflect the way I really cook many nights; which is more ingredient, seat of the pants based, rather than following a set recipe.  The key here is to channel your inner Julia Child, serve it with confidence and, as she would say, "Never explain, never apologize!"

Along with all those greens, I had a bag of green French lentils, some mushrooms, a hot pepper, some onion and a few leftover cloves of roasted garlic.  Time for beans and greens.

Beans and Greens, basic game plan
(Mark Bittman's book "How to Cook Everything Vegetarian" has some great suggestions as well)

Coarsely chop a seemingly impossible amount of greens and set aside.  I had 8+ cups.
In a heavy bottomed pot, saute onions, peppers, garlic and mushrooms in olive oil.
 Add the greens, if you have tons, you may have to do this in stages to allow the volume to go down a bit.
Season to taste - you can keep this as simple as salt and pepper or have it take any direction you like:

Head southwest, with cumin, chile powder, etc.  (I did cumin, aleppo pepper and chipotle pepper with a bit of Worcestershire sauce)
Go Asian, with ginger, soy, hoisin sauce and some sesame oil added at the end
Try French: add tarragon, thyme and a bit of lavender and some wine

Add your beans, the lentils are great because they don't require presoaking, but you can add any presoaked beans you like, or even canned in a pinch.

Add enough water or broth to cook the beans, usually at least double their volume, and cook slowly until beans are tender, checking along the way to see if more liquid is needed.  You can taste the broth along the way to adjust the seasoning.  It should seem flavorful, not bland.
Serve with rice, pasta, quinoa, etc. and relax.  You've cleaned out the fridge... for now!


Week 1 - Braising Mix

[Posted by Ruth]

In our boxes this week we got a half bag of Braising Mix.  If you're unfamiliar with Braising Mix, also known as Saute Mix, its made of up more mature sections of what is normally found in a baby salad greens mix.  It will often consist of shoots from greens that have bolted or gone to seed, a little too rugged to be included in a baby salad mix but still too tender to require as much cooking as a fully mature green.
This makes Braising Mix ideally suited to a quick meal.  It is at its best when given a quick saute or when tossed with a hot dressing for a wilted salad.

As you can see in the earlier photo, Braising Mix is often pretty 'stemmy'.  Although you could tear the leaves off the stems, this is time consuming and will produce too much waste.  The best bet, after a thorough washing and spinning dry, is to take a moment to line them up with the stems pointing in one direction, a few hands full at a time, and chop the stems into approx 1" sections.  This will let them add flavor and crunch to your finished dish, without sticking someone with a mouthful of long, chewy stem.

To preserve the fresh taste and vibrant color of this mix, I went with a quick wilted Salad Dressing

Braising Mix with Warm Honey Mustard Dressing

1 large clove garlic. minced
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 T prepared mustard
1 T honey
4 tsp apple cider or sherry vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

1/2 bag Braising Mix 

Prepare Braising Mix as directed above and have it waiting in the bowl you will use to serve it.
Heat oil in a small, heavy pan over medium heat.  Add minced garlic and sizzle gently to cook the garlic a bit.  Do not brown the garlic.  Stir in the honey and mustard until blended in.  Stir in the vinegar, salt and pepper, sizzle for just a moment to ensure all it quite hot, but not enough to cook off the vinegar.  The mixture will still look somewhat separated.  Immediately, toss the hot dressing into the Braising Mix until thoroughly blending and wilted a bit.

Serve the same way you would serve a side salad.  We found this went really well with the roasted potatoes we had the same night.  The color was terrific.