Wednesday, July 1, 2009
Adventures in CSA: Week Three, Part I
I decided to post this week of CSA cooking in two installments, since some of you reading may be looking for ideas as you're dealing with your own vegetables at home. Here's Part I of what I have been doing with the current week's allotment.
This week saw me lugging home a CSA share consisting of:
2 oz Parsley
3.2 oz Baby Greens
1 head of Lettuce
1 Napa Cabbage (CHALLENGE VEGETABLE!)
1 lb Swiss Chard
4 oz Purslane (CHALLENGE VEGETABLE!)
4 Garlic Scapes (CHALLENGE VEGETABLE!)
It looked like it would be another week of greens topped with other greens! However, three of the items were ingredients I'd never prepared, which made them exciting Challenge Vegetables.
Let's see how it has been working out. So far, we've made...
1. Turkish-inspired Salad of Baby Greens and Purslane. So we did start off week three with a salad!
When thinking about how to prepare gorgeous, soft purslane, a challenge vegetable if I ever saw one, I turned to internet research. I found out that though purslane is considered a weed in the US, it is used in salads, stews, pork dishes, and other ways around the world, especially in Greek, Turkish, Italian and Mexican cooking. Apparently, it is also very healthy -- high in vitamin C and rich in a certain beneficial Omega-3 fatty acid.
(By the way, isn't purslane a lovely weed?)
On Chowhound, a site user suggested a common Turkish preparation for purslane, but did not provide a recipe. I extrapolated from his/her list of ingredients and created a free-form salad using raw purslane, baby greens (the only item not listed in the Turkish dish), crushed walnuts, pomegranate molasses, olive oil, garlic and red pepper. Ultimately, I added a little lettuce to pad it out into enough salad for three people (D. came over to help us with some leftovers from last week, along with the salad).
Pomegranate molasses tastes like genius, and parslane is tender and buttery with a little bit of lemon flavoring, so the two were great combined. This was not "just a salad" at all. I thought it was quite fine. It was eaten so quickly I barely got a picture. The photo above shows just the scrapings from the bottom of the salad bowl.
2. Pommes de Terre à la Méridonale, from Elizabeth David's classic Summer Cooking. I love Elizabeth David's writing, but the three cookbooks of hers I have (collected in one volume) I use more often for reading as inspiration than to cook from. This recipe, however, looked simple, yet potentially flavorful, and I thought it seemed correct to pair my CSA parsley with its friend, the potato.
I picked up some small new potatoes at the Union Square Greenmarket, washed them, and left them whole. These were sauteed covered in a dutch oven in a thin layer of olive oil over medium-low heat. When they were cooked through (I stirred them every 5 minutes or so), I put them in a bowl and added chopped parsley and garlic to taste. Then, we served them alongside dish #3, below.
Because the potatoes were not tiny, they needed about 25 minutes to cook through (instead of the suggested 15), but the skin was crispy and delicious. They required only a little extra salt once broken open to eat. I thought the raw garlic might be too strong, but it sizzled and seared on the hot potatoes. Nice.
3. Vietnamese Chicken Lettuce Wraps with Spicy Lime Dipping Sauce. Making wraps with our abundance of lettuce leaves was Dan's idea, and it was a good one. He also made it his project, which I didn't mind at all. I thought this recipe seemed promising, and Dan more or less adapted it for chicken rather than shrimp.
We had a near mishap when an unlabeled bottle of worcestershire sauce was mistaken for soy sauce and added to the cooking chicken with an amount of fish sauce. Suddenly the kitchen smelled all wrong -- pungent and carnal, and not in a sexy way. A little ginger helped, as did a fan in the window, the odor gradually dissipated, and when it was cooked through the chicken tasted right.
The head of lettuce from Norwich Farm unfolded into beautiful, sturdy-yet-tender leaves, and the wraps were hearty -- stuffed to order with cellophane noodles, dipping sauce (lime, fish sauce and red pepper flakes), chopped peanuts, carrots, mint, basil, and cilantro. Even with such tasty ingredients, the refreshing crispy, farm-fresh lettuce 0n the outside was the best part.
(Pardon the phone photo. I left my camera at home, and made the next two dishes at our friends' house.)
4. Mollie Katzen's Complete Beets (left), from The Vegetable Dishes I Can't Live Without. Beet roots and greens come together in this dish. The flavors are very simple -- olive oil, beets, cider vinegar, garlic, salt -- but they meld in an impressive way. Beets do make a bit of a mess, but this dish is worth making again.
My tip for peeling cooked beets is to hold one as firmly as possible in a pair of tongs, then skim off the peel using the back side of a knife. The peel slides off but the knife doesn't cut away precious chunks of cooked beet. I put parchment paper down underneath these beets to protect the counter from stains, as that is what my friends had on hand, but it still made me nervous and a few drops bled through (though they didn't stain). At home I would use a paper towel on top of a plastic cutting board.
(Again, pardon the phone photo)
5. Peas a la Francaise (bottom). That same evening, I used Jacques Pepin's recipe, found here, for a French dish of pearl onions, peas, and lettuce. I substituted corn starch for the potato starch called for in the original recipe. This combination seemed like a fitting way to both use up the last of our lettuce and to cook the peas I coincidentally picked up at the farmers' market on Monday. I'm also always happy to have an excuse to buy pearl onions, even if I'm not making creamed pearl onions (which are divine).
It turns out herbs de Provence really shines as a spice mix when paired with the peas and lettuce. Though there was no butter in the dish, it tasted like there could have been. Wilted greens don't always look the most appetizing, but the flavor was so hearty and rich I fell in love. I'm thrilled with this recipe.
See Part II here!