Spring CSA goodies!

3 04 2013

Mmmmmm….spring veggies: spinach, lemons, dill, radish, baby lettuces, red kale, scallions, cabbage, green garlic, carrots, and navel oranges. There was also a bunch of arugula but since I’ll be out of town this weekend, I swapped it for more lemons via the swap box.
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Christmas Spirits

20 12 2012

I spent an afternoon infusing spirits a couple weeks ago with my friend Laurel and just bottled up some of the goods. Mmmmm…

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Tomatoes and more

8 08 2012

Mmmm…CSA day. We got a bunch of wonderful things. Not surprising since it’s summer time, but still exciting. Eggs, Strawberries, lettuce, a melon, basil, chard, parsley, gypsy peppers, zucchini, potatoes, and TOMATOES. Romas, heirlooms, and 2 baskets of sungolds. Which, of course, I turned into martinis this wonderful Wednesday evening.





Chicken liver pate

31 07 2012

Another recipe in the spirit of finishing things (or using as much of the animal as possible) that I’ve started making on occasion is chicken liver pate. I’ve tried a few recipes but this version is my favorite so far:

You can absolutely make a larger batch of this but I find that one jar is just perfect. Plus – I only need the livers from 2 chickens for this recipe vs. the cup or lb of most others I’ve found on the interweb.

Ingredients:

  • 4 Tbs butter
  • 2 full chicken livers, rinsed, patted dry and seasoned with salt and pepper
  • 1 large shallot, chopped
  • 1 apple, peeled, cored and chopped
  • 3 sprigs fresh parsley
  • 2 small whole cloves
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1/8 cup Calvados
  • 1 Tbs balsamic or champagne vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • olive oil

Heat a small skillet over medium-high heat and melt 1 Tbs butter. Add the seasoned livers and saute until just cooked – 3 to 4 minutes per side. Put the livers in a food processor and set aside, reserving any leftover butter in the pan. Add 1/2 Tbs more butter and the shallots to the pan, season with salt, reduce the heat to medium, and cook until translucent. Add the apple, parsley, cloves, cinnamon sticks and 1/8 cup water – cover and cook until the apples are soft and the liquid mostly gone. Remove the pan from the heat and add the Cavados, stirring a bit; remove the parsley and cinnamon, and then add mixture to the livers in the food processor. Put the vinegar, remaining butter (cut into bits), and nutmeg, and process until quite smooth, stopping a few times to scrape down the bowl. Taste and add salt and pepper as necessary.

Here comes the annoying part: smoosh the pate through a fine sieve before putting it in a jar, top with olive oil, and chill until you are ready to eat (at least an hour). I have made a version where there was no straining through a sieve and it was definitely grainy in a way that this version is not. It’s worth the extra effort.

I like my pate on toasts with a little pickled onion on top but you could choose sweet if you wanted, going for sliced plums or wine soaked raisins. Totally your call.





A stand-by recipe

29 07 2012

One of the things that has come out of our participation in CSAs is the need for some stand-by recipes. You know, a recipe that you can make using a larger selection of ingredients, swapping out what’s seasonal (or about to go liquid in the bottom of the crisper drawer). A “finishing” technique. The hubby is all about finishing, and I’ve  been happy to adapt to that mentality, especially when spending big money on organic produce and meat (and booze, which is not organic but is always a shame to waste).

Risotto. I f’ing love risotto. And despite its reputation, I find it incredibly easy to make. This is no Italian grandma recipe, but it’s a great weeknight one pot meal that can use up really any random veggie you have on hand. I’ve also made it with meat but that’s not really my favorite.

Ingredients (serves 4)

  • 1 cup arborio rice
  • 4 cups chicken broth (can be replaced with water or any other broth you like – shrimp broth made from leftover shells is especially nice if using peas)
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1/4 cup dry vermouth (or dry white wine or filtered sake or omit)
  • 1 1/2 cups veggies (3/4 cup prepared favas, and 3/4 cup chopped zucchini)
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • optional: 1 Tbs cold butter, 1 Tbs olive oil, or 1/4 cup grated parmesan/pecorino (watch the salt if you use cheese)

Start by heating your broth/water to a simmer. You don’t want the multiple additions of liquid to slow your cooking process at all.

Put a large skillet over medium heat; once warm, add 1 tsp olive oil and your zucchini, seasoning with salt and pepper and sauteing until just cooked.

 

Put zucchini in a bowl to the side and bring your pan back up to heat. Add 1 Tbs olive oil and the onions (seasoned with a touch of salt); saute until translucent. Make sure there is still some olive oil in the pan or add a little bit more, and then add your rice. Stir the rice with the onions and oil for about a minute, toasting the rice a bit. You’ll know it’s ready for the next step when the rice is a bit translucent around the edges:

 

Add your vermouth, if using, and stir until absorbed.

Now you are going to start the longer process of adding your broth in batches. This freaks people out. Don’t worry – you can’t really screw it up. I use a soup ladle that I think is about 3/4 of a cup? I guess I could measure it, but I never have. I start with 2 ladles of broth and stir that into the rice. Then I leave it alone until the broth has been mostly absorbed. This is where my recipe is not like an Italian grandma – she’d have you stirring constantly. Whatever. I’m busy shelling fava beans over here. It is important that you let the risotto dry out between liquid additions; this is part of what gives it that creamy quality.

When you can draw your spoon across the pan and the rice stays still, it’s time for the next addition (I typically do a ladle-full at a time):

 

When you have about a ladle full of broth left, it’s time to add your veg in with the last batch of broth:

 

Stir in until veggies are just warmed, pull off the heat and add the butter/oil/cheese if using. I used a Tbs of cold butter this time but am just as likely to skip it altogether. Check seasoning and serve with fresh pepper.

Once you’ve made this recipe a few times, you may discover that you like a little bit more broth or a little less. You may discover you want to use less veg. Totally your call.

I timed this last time I made it and it took 45 minutes from start to finish, but I don’t pre-prepare ingredients, so I was busy preparing the favas while the broth heated and chopping onions while the zucchini was sauteing. If you are un-comfortable doing it this way, you may have time in between steps to make yourself a beverage. I advise you to take advantage of that. After all – you’ve had a long day.

If you have leftovers, try making risotto cakes:

 

Add a raw egg to your leftovers (I had 2 servings left) and then gently coat scoops of the mixture in seasoned breadcrumbs. Fry in a little oil until brown on both sides, and enjoy with a side salad!

 





A fava primer

15 07 2012

This blog could also be titled, “Try not to be depressed with how long it takes to end up with so few favas.”

I like fava beans. But they don’t have a big ROI when it comes to effort. I have grown them once before and decided to plant them again this spring as soil fixers. Here’s the bunch I picked about an hour ago:

Here they are again with a ramekin for reference (I plan on putting all of them in the ramekin once they are blanched and peeled):

Now – to get to the point where you can eat them, you’ll need to shell, blanch, and peel them. Here we go…

They shell kind of like peas, but you have to really man-handle the squishy fluff filled pods:

Put them all in a pile, or you can be crazy like me and sort them into similar sized piles; they can really vary in size!

Bring some water to a boil, and toss your favas in to blanch. I do the large ones for a count of 90, the medium for a count of 60, and the small for a count of 30, starting with the large in the water and adding each smaller size as 30 counts has gone by. You really don’t have to worry too much about this; you’ll just end up with favas with different levels of cooked-ness if you don’t separate. Not a big deal. We’re talking less than 90 seconds here.

Strain out of the water with a slotted spoon and set in a bowl for the next step:

To peel, some people say you can squeeze and they pop right out. I do not find this to be the truth. I use my thumbnail to help the process along:

And once you get through all those little suckers, viola! 1/2 cup of favas.

I think I’ll make a salad with these, lettuce, hard-boiled eggs, and some parmesan shavings.

 





The first tomatoes of the year

11 07 2012

It’s veggie CSA day and we got our first tomatoes! Cherry tomatoes, some romas, strawberries, basil, parsley, lettuce, plums, zucchini, cabbage, spring onions, potatoes, and eggs. I swapped some cucumbers for more onions because they were too huge, and also because I’ve been pickling and just can’t handle cucumbers in the fridge right now (the hubby was not a big fan of this decision).

And not only have I been pickling, I’ve been making jam, mustard, ginger beer (haven’t tasted it yet) and my own mayo. Out of control? I might have busted the blender…

Those carrots are from our backyard! Best harvest we’ve had. Last year was an arugula year; this one was a carrot year. We enjoyed a few at a time from the garden for a month or two and then one decided to flower so I pulled ’em!

One was gi-NORM-us!

It’s not exactly State Fair worthy, but pretty darn good for a humble back yard garden, if I do say so myself.

Here they are all washed up and ready for pickling. Oh, how I love pickled carrots with hummus. Or plain. Or in a bloody mary.

Today is special for another reason – it’s my friend Alison’s birthday. Happy Birthday, Alison! I blogged just for you.