Posts Tagged 'CSA'

Escarole and White Beans

My family’s CSA weekly pick up started last week! So far we have had lots and lots of greens, meaning we have been busy trying out new recipes. I decided to make this beautiful and enormous bunch of escarole into a side dish. Escarole is a rather bitter green, so I think it’s best when cooked into a dish like this.

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This recipe took about ten minutes to make, but it looks very complex and impressive so I got much more credit for it than I deserved. (Always a nice bonus!) Thanks to grandparents.com for the recipe that I adapted!


You will need:

3 cloves of garlic

2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil

1 bunch of escarole (it looks like a lot but remember that greens wilt as you sauté them)

1 cup of vegetable broth

1 cup of white beans

1/2 a cup of tomato sauce

1 teaspoon of dried oregano

optional additions if you like spiciness: 1/8 teaspoon of garlic powder and 1/8 teaspoon of cayenne pepper

Directions:

1. In a large pan over medium heat, sauté the garlic in the olive oil until fragrant. (Make sure you have the escarole ready to add because the garlic burns very quickly)

2. Gradually add in escarole leaves and stir them around until the oil is evenly distributed. Add all of the remaining ingredients and toss thoroughly to combine. Reduce heat to medium low, and cook – stirring occasionally – until the escarole is wilted.

And there you have it! Simple, tasty and seasonal. I put the dish over some bulgar, but it would also taste good over some crunchy bread or pasta.

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Spinach Grilled Cheese


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This being Connecticut, my CSA membership does not start for a few more weeks – not a ton is in season right now. In addition, I did not wake up early enough this morning to go to the farmer’s market near my house. So when I decided to make a local meal today, I knew I would have to get creative when finding my ingredients.

I decided to go to Mrs. Green’s, a small, specialized grocery store that only sells organic produce, grass-fed beef, herbal teas – you get the idea. I thought, Mrs. Green’s is so big on organic produce, they must have something grown locally, right? Wrong. I was so naive. Walking around the store, I saw that most of the produce was grown in Mexico. I asked the manager if he had anything local. He looked slightly pensive, slightly confused, and then responded no. He said it wasn’t really the season for local produce yet – try back in a few weeks. Okay, Mrs. Green’s, I know that you can’t sell tomatoes or peppers or strawberries grown locally right now, but I know you could find some greens, like spinach or kale. Just ask Jamie Oliver, world-renowned chef who cooks seasonally in the UK, which has a climate similar to that of Connecticut.

My experience at Mrs. Green’s showed me that the local and organic movements are not always on the same page. When it comes to sustainability, local is clearly the better choice – the food miles speak for themselves. And since sustainability is my priority, I will vote local over organic any time. Other people – Mrs. Green’s shoppers, for instance – see freedom from chemicals as the most important factor, and will choose organic. I don’t think either view is wrong, both health and sustainability are important priorities and it’s hard to declare one more valuable than the other.

Anyway, on a Sunday afternoon in Fairfield County, there aren’t many options for local ingredients. I had to go to Whole Foods. It breaks my heart a little bit go to Whole Foods, because I think they are overpriced and not as good-hearted as they like to sound. Their definition of local, for example, is anything that travels less than 7 hours to get to the store. I’d say that’s a bit farther than Elm City Market (AKA heaven) qualifies as local. By these standards, though, I found local spinach and cheese, as well as bread baked right here in Fairfield. And I have to say, New Jersey is a lot closer than Mexico.

I decided to make spinach grilled cheese, which is easy to make, looks extremely fancy, and tastes delectable. Here’s how: First I cut up the spinach and sautéed it with olive oil and sea salt. I also took some tomatoes (organic, but unfortunately not local), sliced them up, and let them sit in the pan for about 30 seconds on each side. Once the spinach was wilted and the tomatoes were warm, I put them aside on a plate. Next I took two slices of bread, buttered one side of each piece, and placed them (buttered-side down) on the pan. Then I put a slice of cheese on top of one slice of bread. Once the cheese melted a little, I placed the spinach and the tomato on top of the cheese. I placed the other slice of bread on top of the pile, and voila, a sophisticated grilled cheese.

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Rhubarb Upside-Down Cake

Nothing like fresh eggs and fresh rhubarb for a delicious cake.

In the middle of suburban Fairfield, not five minutes from Trader Joe’s, Starbucks, Party City, Old Navy, and about seventy-five other stores, is a farm. A real farm, too, with cows, chickens, horses, and organically grown vegetables. The real farmer? Wyatt Whiteman.

Mr. Whiteman knows all there is to know about farming – he has spent his whole life living on this farm, inheriting the home and the land from his parents. He teaches a course on canning at Motherhouse Farm, which also has classes on plucking chickens, making butter, and other skills that promote self-sufficiency. He knows all sorts of tricks to farm efficiently: “Anyone who is seriously thinking about gardening should have some rabbits,” he said. “You can feed them all your scraps and then they’re natural fertilizer for the soil. It’s all a cycle.” Sustaining yourself – that’s what Mr. Whiteman is all about.

Mr. Whiteman has more helpful information on local farming than I could ever gather, because he has experienced farm-to-table living his whole life. He had started a website about his farm that was going to include tips for gardening, cooking, and other valuable farming advice. He said he knows people could benefit from what he has to say, but “really – who has time to sit around and make a website?” Well, me. And other bloggers with CSA memberships. But that’s because we don’t need to spend all of our time farming, we just pick up our food every week. The farmers – the people who really have the best advice – are the ones who don’t have time to peruse the blogosphere. Of course, the enthusiasm of local eaters is essential to the livelihood of the farmers, and the blogosphere has expanded the “community” aspect of CSA to include people from across the country… pretty cool stuff. But talking to Mr. Whiteman reminded me that when it comes down to it, the farmers are the ones who know it all.

I had initially stopped by Mr. Whiteman’s farm to buy some fresh eggs that he was advertising with a sign on the edge of his lawn. But we got to talking and he told me about a rhubarb upside-down cake that he’d made from the rhubarb that is currently thriving in his garden. I decided I had to try that, and asked if I could buy some rhubarb, too.

He grabbed a knife that was stuck in the fence and snipped me some rhubarb on the spot. He cut off the green leaves that sprout from the stalks, because the leaves are poisonous, and handed me the stalks, which have a sweet, tart, and refreshing taste.

So, inspired by Mr. Whiteman, I set out to make rhubarb upside-down cake with fresh eggs and just-picked rhubarb. I got the recipe from this page in The New York Times, but I made some adaptations to the instructions:

What you need:

2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature, more to grease pans

1 1/2 pounds rhubarb, rinsed and sliced into 1/2-inch cubes (about 4 cups)

2 teaspoons cornstarch

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar 1/2 cup light brown sugar

2 cups cake flour

1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

Zest of 1 lemon, grated

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

4 large eggs

1/3 cup sour cream

Lemon juice from half a lemon

Prep the pan:

Heat the oven to 325 degrees. Line a 9 inch circular pan with parchment paper butter it. Wrap a layer of foil around the bottom of the pan, and then set the pan on a baking sheet.

Make the topping (or the bottom, depending how you look at it):

In a medium bowl, mix rhubarb, cornstarch, and ½ cup of granulated sugar. Set the bowl aside. Then, mix the brown sugar and 1/2 stick butter in a pan over medium heat. Whisk until smooth and bubbling, about 2 minutes. Then set the stove on low heat and leave the pan until later.

Make the batter:

Whip two sticks of butter with a mixer. Then add in the remaining 1 cup of granulated sugar and the lemon zest. Cream together at high speed. (Don’t forget to scrape the sides of the bowl occasionally) Add the vanilla and then the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Mix in the sour cream, then the lemon juice. It’s ok if the mixture has a weird consistency at this point. Slowly add the flour, about ¼ cup at a time, until well combined.

Assemble the cake:

Pour the brown sugar mixture into the cake pan, the spoon in the rhubarb and its yummy juices. Pour in the batter so that it covers all the rhubarb. It’s ok if the batter is a little thick.

Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until the top is firm to the touch and you can stick in a tooth pick and it comes out clean.

Let the cake cool for 15 minutes before flipping it onto a plate. Don’t wait any longer or it will stick.

Why You Want a CSA Membership

Getting a CSA (Community Sponsored Agriculture) membership will be the best thing that ever happened to you. You just have to remember that it’s not a super market. Don’t feel restricted by the large amounts of obscure vegetables you take home each week, instead see them as an excuse for trying innovative recipes!

My family has a CSA membership at Sport Hill Farm in Easton, CT, and we often structure our meals around the produce we get from the farm. It actually makes planning dinner easier, because there’s inspiration at the ready! Our neighbors always fight over who gets our share if we are on vacation. Going to pick up our share on Thursday is the highlight of my week. I love reading the board that lists the different produce I can pick out – how many tomatoes, cucumbers, bunches of swiss chard (depending on the week) I can take – everything picked from the garden only hours ago.

Already have a CSA membership? Share your tips!

These are Tammy McLeod’s tips for joining a CSA from her absolutely spectacular blog: Agrigirl’s Blog. I highly recommend checking them out: Tammy’s Top Ten (t3 report) Tips for belonging to a CSA.

Calm Your Kale Anxieties

Kale is a vegetable you’re probably seeing a lot of right now, because it is happy in colder temperatures. Granted, it’s not really that cold in CT right now, but kale can be grown all year round, so your farmer probably has tons of it while you’re waiting for more typical veggies.

Ask anyone with a CSA (Community Sponsored Agriculture) membership, and he or she will probably tell you that there is a lot of kale involved in the deal. So try this crunchy snack – kale chips! 

Here’s how: First cut the kale leaves from the thicker stems and tear the leaves into bite-sized pieces. Then wash the leaves and dry them with a salad spinner. Spread the leaves on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Then drizzle them with olive oil and sprinkle some salt on top. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes and you’ll get truly yummy snack.

If you close your eyes, you can convince yourself you’re eating potato chips. Almost.

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