Friday, July 24, 2009

Adventures in CSA: Week Six, Part I

Let's see. This week I didn't get a post-pickup photo of the whole batch, but you can trust me when I report our CSA vegetable treasure chest held the following riches:

1 Fennel
3 small Onion
2 large Beets
1 lb. Swiss Chard
3/4 lb. Carrots
1/2 lb Dandelion Greens (CHALLENGE VEGETABLE)
1/4 lb. Baby Greens
Bonus - 4 boxes Cherries
Bonus - 1 box Black Currant (CHALLENGE FRUIT!)
Bonus - 1 box White Currant (CHALLENGE FRUIT!)

Plus, still left over from market day, resting in the freezer: 1 whole chicken (cut in half).

I only purchased a vegetable share, but this week there was leftover fruit, which was offered to me. That's how I ended up with the cherries and currants. Overall, though it was a lot to contemplate cooking, I felt refreshed by the prior week of slightly less produce, invigorated by bonus fruit, and up to so many challenges. So, this week so far I've planned and made:

Chard tacos

Tacos by night.

1. Tacos with Garlicky Mexican Greens. Rick Bayless created this recipe. It looked perfect for the chard I received this week, but I didn't feel it would be rude to tweak it just a little.

First, I didn't like that the instructions told me to throw away the chard stems (or, at least, implied they were useless), boil the chard leaves, dry and cool them on a cookie sheet, and then chop the cool, dried leaves. That seemed like a waste of time, water, implements, and flavors. I chose instead to saute the chopped chard stems with the onion, adding another flavor and reducing my waste. Additionally, I simply washed and chopped the damp chard leaves, then wilted it in my pan with the onion, chard stems and garlic once those were cooked down to soft.

We enhanced the greens with with cheese, salsas, guacamole, sour cream, chopped tomato, cilantro and black refried beans. They were hearty and rich, the onion and chard stems subtly sweet. Some of the tortillas cracked, but it's no crime to eat with a fork.

Sweet, Bitter, Tart
(photo by Dan)

2. Bitter Greens (we chose dandelion) with Sour Cherries and Sweet Onions. Here's another Mollie Katzen idea. It's a variation on her recipe for bitter greens with sweet onions and tart cheese (which I made in week three).

I think this recipe would have tasted as gorgeous as it looked if the dandelion greens hadn't been quite so bitter. I would make this recipe again in a heartbeat with a milder green. As it was, they were so strong I ended up mostly eating around them to get at the cherries and onion.

Fennel and Currant salad
(Sorry for all the dim, nighttime pics. It's dinner, after all.)

3. Chuck's Fennel and Currants. After running across them purely by chance, I copied these instructions for a currant salad off of a friend's Facebook page:'s a fab recipe from Chuck using currants....bulb of fennel (chopped), 3 stalks celery (finely chopped), a few fronds of fennel (I know....Fronds of Fennel sounds like a character from Middle Earth...) + currants + juice of 1/2 lemon & olive oil to taste + kosher salt + black pepper + shaved parmesan on top (if desired). Looks divine, tastes fab & works the jaw to a fare-thee-well...for lemon juice...error on the side of too little rather than too much. Hope you like the salad!
Zowie! I wanted some of that action! We made this salad with black currants and lots of tasting. By the way, I did desire the parmesan on top. The flavors blended admirably. I think "divine" is a good adjective. Truly great. Thanks so much, John!

The end result was perfect, by my palate's specifications anyway, and kept well in the fridge for several days.

Homemade cherry lemonade by day

4. Sour Cherry Lemonade. This recipe happened to flash past on my RSS Reader on Monday. I promptly went home that night and made it. You can see another photo featuring this beverage above, with dish #1.

I used one lemon more than the cup of lemon juice called for, and my cherries were tart rather than sweet. The beverage was just what I was hoping it would be. An overnight chill-out in the fridge only improved the flavor (and turned it more red).

Chicken Fracas
(photo by Dan)

5. Roast Half Chicken (A). The chicken we bought from Norwich Farm came split in half, so we can easily eat chicken two different nights. Unfortunately, we failed at defrosting this first half (all day in the refrigerator), and the thing took forEVER to roast (while Matt waited patiently for food and our houseguests -- one vegetarian -- waited patiently to go to bed on an air mattress on the kitchen floor). Then, when the internal temp and outward appearance seemed perfect, there were still bloody sections inside. It was a maddening experience.

I still stand by Nigel Slater's roasting method (discussed here). Just make sure there's no ice in the middle of your chicken.

We ate the meat we could (with a thrilling garlic and mushroom broth gravy that kind of saved the day) and tossed the rest into the freezer for future stock-making.

I am determined to make the second half of this chicken a success, even if it means defrosting twice as long.

Dinner -- carrot soup and bitter greens with sour cherries and sweet onion.
(photo by Dan)

6. Curried Carrot Soup (seen here as served with dish #2). The carrots we received this week (woo! carrots at last!) were small and chunky. The idea of making them into a soup occurred to me, and since I have several curry powder blends in the cabinet I thought I'd try this recipe from the Chowhound website.

Notes: I used water reserved after cooking some mushrooms instead of vegetable broth. Since this meant my "broth" had no salt, a lot of salt and pepper needed to be added to the soup. Once it was seasoned, it transformed into something wonderful. I also had used maharaja curry powder, which is mild and smokey, rather than one of my hot and spicy curry powders.

This soup took under an hour to make, including all of the veg prep, even while babysitting (though I couldn't have done it alone. Dan and I switched off babysitting and cooking duties as we went along), so the flavor per effort ratio was high and satisfying.

Babysitting in the kitchen.
(photo by Dan)


We're more than halfway through week six and more than halfway through this week's share. See you soon with the rest of the story!


jenny gordy said...

these dishes all look delicious. the way you cook/eat is so inspiring to me and yet so intimidating at the same time.

Jennette said...

Don't let it intimidate you! Did you read about how bitter the greens were -- and how bloody the chicken? I'm not hot stuff. I'm just obsessive. :)

Dan said...

bitter greens were bitter.

Jennette said...

Dan -- rub it in, why don't you.

Chuck said...

Here's a bit more info. on the Fennel & Celery Recipe. It's from The Minimalist, Mark Bittman's NYC column. The recipe is accompanied by a terrific video.

Jennette said...

Welcome Chuck! Thanks for stopping by -- and with additional information, no less.

It figures Bittman is responsible. I like that guy.

Starling said...

defrosting info... when in doubt simply put your frozen item in water. cold is fine. leave it in the sink or a big bowl. then check on it and if you find an icy place work it out while running the water over it. that should help you. i've never really found defrosting in the fridge to work. of course you could always defrost and Brine your poultry at the same time.

Jennette said...

I thought that defrosting out of the fridge made for bad bacteria, but I think I'm going to have to take it outside of the fridge next time.

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