Someone Else's Farm

July 30, 2010

Did you miss me?

Filed under: Uncategorized — M @ 13:52 PM

I’m back from a vacation. But fear not: I have a bunch of catch-up posts to tell you what happened in the last couple of boxes. I’ll fill you in over the next few days!

July 18, 2010

Blueberry Syrup

Filed under: what we did — Tags: , — M @ 10:40 AM

What to do, when one is faced with blueberries that must be used now but it’s already too warm inside to successfully make pie crust?

Here’s another hint: I made waffle batter last night. I prefer waffle batter with yeast, which gets made the night before you want the waffles. In the morning, all you need to do is heat the waffle iron, give the batter a quick stir, and you’re ready to go. The waffles from my recipe are very crisp and light when they first come off the iron. As they sit, they stay light but lose their crispness. When I make waffles, we eat what we can, and freeze the rest in a plastic bag. They warm and crisp up very nicely in the toaster oven. While I don’t particularly like fruit inside my waffles, I do like fruit and other embellishments on my waffles.

Blueberry Syrup, and tools to make it

I turned a pint of blueberries (not the pint we got in this week’s haul, but an older pint that was starting to look aged) into syrup, which can sit in the fridge or freezer quite happily for a while.

I started by going through the pint, and picking out any berries that were too far gone, removing any stems and a few leaves, and anything else that wouldn’t be good to eat, or cook into syrup. The berries got rinsed, put into a medium-sized saucepan (I’d rather minimize any chance of boil-over than clean the stove) with half a cup of sugar and a quarter-cup of water, and put on the stove over a medium flame. Once the sugar had dissolved and a few bubbles were appearing around the edge of the pan, I turned the heat down to low. I love my silicone heat-proof spatulas!

I left the mixture to simmer for about 15 or 20 minutes in all, stirring periodically, until most of the berries had burst. I admit I might have helped the bursting process along with my spatula. Then I turned the heat off, let the pot cool for a minute or two, and put the contents through a food mill set up with the finest disk. I squeeezed half a lemon into the strained syrup, mixed the lemon juice in, tasted a bit to be sure it didn’t need any adjustments, and then funneled it into a clean glass jar.

The cap on this jar is a plastic cap, made specifically for refrigerator or freezer storage rather than heat-processing. I find these easier to deal with than traditional lids and rings, and they can be put through the dishwasher and reused. Not to mention, they take masking tape labels well.

Waffles, here we come!

Cole Slaw

Filed under: what we did — Tags: , , — M @ 10:25 AM

Last night was hot, again. I had to run some errands in Syracuse yesterday, including a supermarket stop. Casey gave me instructions: “Get something to go with cole slaw.” I wound up getting club sandwich fixings from the deli, since I knew we had an open package of bacon, and I knew it was once again likely that neither of us would want to heat up the house. (Lucky for us, bacon cooks well in the microwave.) I still find it impossible to take pictures while I’m actively cooking, especially when I have my hands covered with cole slaw, so you’ll have to live with just a description. Considering what happened, that might be all for the better in this instance.

My standard cole slaw recipe comes from Rick Bayless. It’s published in Rick and Lanie’s Excellent Kitchen Adventures (which also has recipes from non-Mexican cuisines, such as his Oklahoma upbringing) and is also available on line. I’ve made the sour slaw as well, but the sweet slaw is more to my taste.

I used the older head of cabbage, which started out about the size of a Chicago softball, the kind that’s ordinarily used in games where nobody wears gloves and (once upon a time) in the Ft. Collins, CO co-rec softball games, was the ball in play when a guy was at bat. This is definitely on the small side for a cabbage, but the color (more intense than I’d usually expect) makes up for that. I started by peeling off a couple of the outside layers of leaves, to get rid of most of the dirt. One thing that’s been driven home this summer is that yes, vegetables get grown in dirt. Then I gave the head a rinse, cut off the stem end again closer to what was left of the head, and halved the whole thing.

I looked inside one half.

And I found half a slug, nestled between two layers of leaves.

The other half of the slug was, of course, inside the other half of the cabbage.

I used the tip of my knife to flick out both halves of the slug into my garbage bag. Then I cleaned my knife, rinsed both halves of cabbage again, and cut wedges out from around the slug pockets. (Ewwww!)

I continued to butcher the cabbage, cutting each head in half again. It’s easier to cut the core out of a cabbage quarter than a half. When I cut the halves into quarters, I found a few other questionable patches inside, where the leaves looked brown and felt gritty, as if dirt had gotten embedded inside while the head was in the process of being formed. I trimmed those away as well. There were also a few places to trim where something had eaten holes through a few layers of leaves. I guess the slug, the dirt, and the holes are all proof that the produce is organic, or at least isn’t being sprayed much.

When I make cole slaw, I cut the cabbage quarters crosswise into very thin shreds, and I stop when I get to the point near the bottom where the leaves are mostly thick veiny and tough, rather than leaf. Sometimes I can cut some more shreds from the sides of the quarters at this point, sometimes not. This particular cabbage didn’t have great yield, giving me only a total of about 4 cups of shreds. The slug trimmings were all in the veiny area, so I didn’t lose any slaw shreds to the slug. But the holes and grit were both up at the top of the head, in prime shredding territory. I think the bigger issue is that the cabbage started out small, but I lost the same size amount at the bottom to veins that I would on a larger head. I just didn’t have as much good stuff left afterwards. This is the first real disappointment of the harvest this year. I wonder if maybe the cabbages could have grown bigger, but the farmers felt that without the cabbages last week and this week, the haul would have looked skimpy? Or if maybe it’s just a problem to grow big organic cabbages, and the pests that normally get sprayed away make it that much harder to grow big cabbages?

At any rate, I blowtorched, steamed, and scraped a red pepper, and diced it. I’m not quite anal enough to turn anything into a perfect 1/8 inch brunoise; I just cut it into strips, gathered the strips together, and cut across them. I also thinly sliced a couple of ribs of celery. This all got tossed a large bowl with a pinch of salt.

For my dressing, I used Hellmann’s low-fat mayo. I used the nutritional information on the label to convert the called-for 3/4 cup into 180 g, and then used half of that (90 g) because I only had about half the cabbage the recipe called for. I stirred in about half a tablespoon of sugar, and scraped the dressing onto the vegetables. I used my hands to mix that all together, and then scraped it all back into the smaller bowl I’d used to mix the dressing and covered it with plastic wrap so it could wait in the fridge until dinner. We don’t have unlimited refrigerator space!

The cabbage, what there was of it, was tasty. Casey made a traditional three-layer club sandwich with mayo and lettuce but without tomato (we didn’t have any), and ate his cole slaw on the side. I went back to my Pittsburgh roots and made my sandwich on bread that was warmed in the toaster but not toasted, using cheese, meat, and cole slaw directly in the sandwich. (If I’d had french fries, I would have put those in the sandwich also.) But I ate my bacon on the side last night.

July 16, 2010

Outdoor Frittata

Filed under: what we did — Tags: , , , — M @ 19:03 PM

Last night for dinner, it was hot again, so we didn’t want to heat up the kitchen any more than absolutely necessary. Casey made dinner. He used up the leftover calabacitas taco filling and some of the poblano rajas, and cooked with fire.

filling, eggs, cilantro

To start, he lit the grill, and then came back upstairs to the kitchen where he combined the leftover filling, some of the rajas, and some chopped cilantro in a bowl. I think the filling got pre-heated a little bit, to take the refrigerator chill off.

filling, cheese, eggs

The filling, along with the leftover shredded cheddar and some beaten eggs, went down to the grill.

Thermometer at 450

By now, the grill was sufficiently heated to begin cooking.

Bacon, cast iron skillet, grill

The first thing on the grill was the cast-iron skillet, with a few strips of bacon. When the bacon was cooked, it got crumbled onto a plate that was waiting with some paper towels, to drain.

skillet with filling

And then the filling and eggs went into the skillet with the bacon grease and the drained crumbled bacon. After all, everything’s better with bacon!

Filling and eggs

See the bacony goodness?

Filling with cheese

When the eggs had set, the cheese went on top, to melt. Mmmmm, melty!

Browning the top with the torch

And it was cooked. Except that when it came upstairs, the top didn’t look at all browned or set, the way the broiler would have finished it off had we cooked the frittata indoors. So Casey remedied that situation with the blowtorch. Every fully-equipped kitchen needs a blowtorch.

Frittata, served

And then all it needed was a little sour cream and salsa, along with a final shower of cilantro. We were hungry last night: we ate about three-quarters of the pan while we watched the day’s Tour de France coverage, recorded from the live showing in the morning.

Week 05

Filed under: pickup — Tags: , , , , , , — M @ 18:45 PM

Kale, squashes, cabbage

lettuce, cuke, blueberries

Here’s this week’s take, compared to the list.

  • Blueberries: a pint basket
  • Red cabbage: do I hear green cabbage instead?
  • Cucumbers: one, of the normal large variety
  • Fresh garlic: where there were scapes, there are garlic heads. We got three, complete with dirt.
  • Green kale: a bunch. It looks like the dinosaur kale to Casey, but I think it’s just plain old ordinary green kale.
  • Green leaf lettuce: a head
  • Red leaf lettuce: a head
  • Snow peas: not this week
  • Yellow squash: of course, three
  • Zucchini: you have to ask? Just one this time.

I was disappointed not to get the snow peas, and surprised to get as much lettuce as we’ve been getting if it’s all bolted in the hot weather. And I’m grateful the zucchini is not a baseball bat. Too bad we didn’t get any tomatoes this week.

July 15, 2010

Week 05: List and Suggestions

Filed under: pre-pickup — Tags: , , — M @ 11:21 AM

It’s Thursday: pickup day! According to the newsletter, this week’s selection will be:

  • Blueberries
  • Red cabbage
  • Cucumbers
  • Fresh garlic
  • Green kale
  • Green leaf lettuce
  • Red leaf lettuce
  • Snow peas
  • Yellow squash
  • Zucchini

The suggestions are for a snow pea and napa cabbage slaw, and a fruited slaw (normal green cabbage, pears, apples, and raisins with a yogurt-based dressing). Did you know that one Dutch word for salad is sla? And in Dutch, cabbage is kool (the oo in Dutch is pronounced like a long O sound). We learned these from wandering through supermarkets in the Netherlands and the Dutch-speaking part of Belgium. So cabbage salad, or kool sla, morphed into the English cole slaw! These days, in modern American usage, “slaw” seems to refer to any kind of salad where the main ingredients are presented as shreds, rather than leaves or cubes or other shapes. Both the slaw recipes in the newsletter do, in fact, call for the ingredients to be either shredded or thinly sliced.

Also in the newsletter this week, we got confirmation that it’s been hot at the farm. I’m surprised to be getting peas of any kind, since it’s been so hot. We got confirmation that they have fields of winter squash and tomatillos, in addition to the tomatoes and zucchini that we’ve already seen. I’m sure we’ll see some later in the season. The zucchini, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to stop.

Hot. Again. Salad. Again.

Filed under: what we did — Tags: , , , , , — M @ 11:08 AM

Another hot and sticky day. We first thought about using some of the leftover calabacitas taco filling in a frittata, but that would have involved turning on the oven since neither of us is very good at flipping a frittata to cook the second side on the stove. Anything quiche-like would have the same issue. We thought about an outdoor fried rice, but that would have felt like too much work on a day when neither of us was inspired to do much. So instead we had another salad topped with some of the leftover cooked chicken. I added the feta crumbles that didn’t get eaten yesterday to the top of mine, and dressed it with some balsamic syrup. Casey remembered that the blue cheese dressing bottle doesn’t have a squeezy top, so he didn’t have to rescue his salad after the fact.

The salad used up all the rest of our CSA lettuce, as well as one of the two cucumbers. Because this wasn’t a store-bought waxed cucumber, I didn’t feel compelled to remove every last shred of peel. Instead, I just peeled stripes, and then sliced it into wheels, so that each round had a pretty pattern of green and white around the outside, and so that the rounds were easy to eat. I also used up the rest of the red pepper I’d started for Monday’s salad, some of the carrot sticks from Monday cut smaller, and our CSA tomato. (Note to self: while carrot sticks are very convenient to eat with one’s hands, they don’t work well with a fork. Next time you make a salad, start with a brand-new carrot and slice it thinly, either on the mandoline or with the carrot peeler.) We didn’t have an open onion, so I didn’t include any this time.

It didn’t look like much, especially compared to Monday’s salad, so I decided to add some asparagus. (My original thought for the asparagus was quiche, or something along those lines. Er, no. Not this week: see above.) I took about half of this week’s bunch, and steamed it. But I didn’t remember to do this soon enough for the asparagus to cool before we were ready to eat salad. So instead of putting it on our salads, we stood in the kitchen and ate it au naturel, stalk by stalk, as a first course.

We accompanied the salad with some of a loaf of Wegmans Tuscan garlic bread. It wasn’t anything special.

I’ve come to the conclusion that while I like salad, especially on hot days, the lettuce is my least favorite part of a traditional mixed salad. Even when it’s really good lettuce, it just doesn’t float my boat, especially when there are other yummy things in the salad bowl. The lettuce just sits there, not doing much, wilting under the dressing. Thus, last night I ate a little of the lettuce in my salad, but gave most of it to Casey, who appreciates it more than I do. Yet, there are other days when nothing sounds better but a pale, crunchy, cold, moist wedge of iceberg lettuce, to be held in my hands and eaten by plucking one leaf at a time from the outside of the wedge. Today is shaping up to be an iceberg-wedge day, but we have no iceberg. Alas.

One more quick note on asparagus. Last month, I thought I was being creative when I made the asparagus sort-of-carbonara with shells. Not long ago, I was looking through Faith Willinger’s Red, White, and Greens, an Italian vegetable cookbook, and what do I find? A recipe for asparagus carbonara! It was very close to what I did, with the major difference being that I used shells and the recipe calls for fettuccine. It goes to show that (a) there’s nothing new under the sun; (b) I think along the lines of at least one cookbook author; and (c) my choice of pasta shape is apparently not in line with Italian tradition.

Mexican Party!

Filed under: what we did — Tags: , , , , , — M @ 10:44 AM

Casey has four students (R., K., K., and K.) and a high school teacher (E.) doing research with him this summer. We wanted to host all of them for dinner, and Tuesday night was the day that worked for everyone except R. We wanted to plan the menu to use some of our CSA produce, as well as work within everyone’s dietary guidelines (shellfish allergy; no meat or fowl). So we opted to do a bunch of things that would fit into a roughly Mexican meal, and everyone could pick and choose to make a meal suitable to their own taste. Casey checked ahead of time, and everyone was OK with spicy food.

Table with food

More food on the table

I started by turning 8 poblanos into rajas my favorite way: using the blowtorch to remove the skins, putting the seared chiles into a sealed bowl to steam, scraping the skins off with a grapefruit spoon, cutting the chiles open to remove the seeds and stems, and finally cutting the chiles into strips. The rajas went into the two vegetarian taco fillings, and were also on the table as an addition for anything else someone wanted to use them for.

We made another batch of Rick Bayless’s potato and chard taco filling. I used water rather than chicken broth, to keep this filling vegetarian, and this time I put some feta crumbles on the side rather than sprinkling them on top of the whole bowl. We also used up our yellow squash and zucchini by making the Santa Fe-style calabacitas from Mark Miller’s Tacos (recipe available from Google Books), another vegetarian filling. We ran the rice cooker, and reheated a can of vegetarian refried beans. I shredded a brick of sharp cheddar and chiffonaded some of our CSA lettuce, and we had  guacamole, sour cream, our special chipotle crema (in the squeeze bottle), two different jars of salsa, and three hot sauces. We had flour tortillas on hand, since that’s what is generally available and what’s generally served as soft taco shells in this neck of the woods.

For those who wanted to eat fowl or meat, Casey concocted a marinade for chicken breasts out of dried chiles that were soaked and pureed, vinegar, Mexican oregano, and some other spices that I didn’t catch; the chicken breasts were grilled outdoors and then cut into strips. And we made some plain old ground beef taco-seasoning standard filling, just in case anyone was freaked out by the thought of something different.

The hit beverage of the day was a sort of limonada: half a squeezed-out lime half, an ounce of fresh lime juice, two ounces of purchased limeade (Newman’s Own brand uses sugar rather than HFCS), and the rest of the glass filled with sparkling water. Dessert was also a hit: ice cream (vanilla, cookies and cream, or Southern Lemon Pie frozen yogurt), with dulce de leche for those who wanted to gild the lily.

I’d forgotten how much boys eat. We didn’t have as much left over as I thought we might, but there’s enough that we won’t need to cook for the rest of this week, which is good because it’s going to stay hot. It was a great evening, and a delicious dinner. Afterwards, we cleaned up the kitchen, watched the coverage of the Tour de France we’d recorded live that morning, and then pretty much fell into bed.

Salad, With Chicken

Filed under: what we did — Tags: , , , , — M @ 10:18 AM

It’s been hot this week. Monday, I couldn’t bear the thought of cooking indoors. I took a couple of chicken breasts, gave them a coat of olive oil and Penzey’s Northwoods seasoning, and grilled them. They got cut into bite-sized pieces, which went on top of a salad composed of the CSA lettuce, the last of the CSA pickling cukes from last week, more of those radishes from the very first box (we have only two left to use), sliced on the 1 mm blade of our plastic mandoline, a carrot (also sliced on the mandoline), part of a green pepper and part of a red pepper, the last store-bought tomato, and a few slivers of a sweet onion. It hit the spot for dinner on a day when neither of us felt much like cooking or eating. It looked like a salad with chicken on top, at least till I forgot that our bottle of blue cheese dressing didn’t have a squeezy-top with a flow-restricting hole. Then it looked like a salad with chicken and a white puddle of dressing on top. Luckily, I was able to scoop most of the excess dressing out before my salad drowned, and it wound up not being the disaster it could have been.

I forgot to make croutons out of the last pieces of multigrain bread. But that would have involved turning the toaster oven on.

The one extra thing I did in the kitchen on Monday was to peel all the rest of the carrots in that bag, cut them into sticks, and put them in the fridge to eat. I’ve become less enamored of the ubiquitous baby-cut carrots over the last several months. For one thing, I have a hard time finding a bag in the cooler case of any supermarket that doesn’t contain a pool of water. Hold a bag by the corner, let the water drain into the opposite corner, and it’s not uncommon to wind up with a triangle of water an inch tall or worse. And furthermore, I’ve noticed that they just don’t taste very good, if they taste like anything at all. (I suspect the former might have something to do with the latter.) Crunch: sometimes. Sweet, carroty taste: rare. So instead, I’ll take the time to peel and cut up the full-sized version (Wegmans only sells organic big carrots, which I’m fine with), usually a pound or two at a time, and reap the benefits of taste. For all I know, they’re better nutritionally also; I care more about the taste.

July 12, 2010

Catching Up

Filed under: what we did — Tags: , , , — M @ 12:15 PM

We used more of our CSA produce over the weekend, but didn’t take pictures.

Saturday night for dinner, we had another version of the Sandwiches That Failed, this time courtesy of Casey. The bread was from a seven-grain batard purchased at Wegman’s, and toasted in a bit of olive oil. The sausage was turkey kielbasa, cut into lengths to match the bread. The greens were the kale from last week’s box, cooked in some cider and cider vinegar. (Note to self: Harpoon cider has very little flavor, especially compared to cider from the UK and Ireland, or that’s been hardened at home. Don’t bother spending money on it in the future.) No cheese this time, and I missed it, both for the flavor and because the gooeyness helps to hold the whole sandwich together.

The sandwich, as a whole, was more successful than my version, in large part because the sausage didn’t have the musty flavor I disliked. But similar to the stir-fry from the other night, the kale suffered from the problem of Not Enough Knife. Whether it was more due to the lack of cheese-glue or because the kale wasn’t chopped as finely as it could have been, I had problems where I took a bite and the kale came out en masse. We’re getting there, I think, but the concept still needs work.

And then last night, we fired up the grill for dinner because we found a beautiful steak at Bosco and Geers. Casey seasoned it simply, with olive oil and Borsari brand seasoned salt, original flavor. (Our grill has enameled cast-iron grates. The directions specify that the food, not the grates, should be oiled. So Casey out a little olive oil and salt on one side of the steak, rubbed it in with his hand, flipped the steak, and rubbed his salty oily hand on that side too. That was it.) When Casey went out to check the grill, it was cold because we’d drained the propane tank. Luckily, we had another one, so we swapped it in and fired up the grill again. Alongside the steak, Casey put some foil, and grilled the asparagus from last week. (I just checked, and this week’s asparagus is still in the fridge, so we can do it again.) When it was cooked, it got a squirt of fresh lemon juice, and a sprinkle of lemon zest.

It was a really really good dinner.

Hot again today. I foresee salad for dinner. The last of the seven-grain bread should be just about perfect to turn into croutons.

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