Been on a bit of a blogging hiatus this summer. Not that we haven't been eating well - far from it. A few new restaurants around the city, but mostly old favorites. A couple weddings, trips down the shore and some road trips have kept us moving about.
Been enjoying the hell out of our CSA this summer and cooking up a storm at home. If you're not in the know, CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. You basically pre-buy a weekly share of fruits and veggies that are from local farms. The traditional version of this is to buy a share from one farm, then drive out every week to pick up your share of whatever is in season and ripe. Farmers love this because they get the cash in the beginning of the season and get a slightly higher price for their produce than selling it wholesale to stores. Consumers like it because you get to know who grows your food. I think there is an entry on Stuff WhitePeople Like about this.
We get our CSA from Greensgrow, in Fishtown. No, they do not have acres of land that they are growing produce on - can't imagine what the Kenzo's would do with that. I can assume there would be ATV's involved though. They do grow some stuff in their greenhouses and hydroponic setups, but most of the CSA share comes from a collection of farms from around the Delaware valley. Every week it's something different, and you are often challenged to figure out a.) what to do with all these vegetables and b.) what to do with random veggies you either didn't know existed or don't think you like.
Helpfully, they send along a weekly email with a list of what you'll be getting in the share along with handy dandy recipes utilizing most of the ingredients. We've actually picked up a ton of new favorites dishes this way and learned to really love things like beets, kale and bok choy. Don't worry - there's plenty of normal stuff in there as well; beautiful locally grown tomatoes, blueberries, peppers, basil, corn and potatoes were all in a recent share.
Eating fresh and local is what it's all about and below is a sample of some of the dishes we made out of our share. I've included recipes where appropriate. Some from Greensgrow, some out of cookbooks, some I just made up on the fly. This really is one of the best parts of summer, and it wouldn't be the same without our CSA. Yeah veggies!!
Included in this share (clockwise): Sicilian eggplant, fresh basil, peaches, carrots, dinosaur kale, corn, potatoes, tomatoes, Italian long hot peppers, blueberries. We also got a block of tofu that was not pictured. We used the tofu and Sicilian eggplant to make a Thai green curry over rice.
The kale got tossed in olive oil, salt, pepper & paprika then thrown into the oven and baked into kale chips. If you haven't had a kale chip, you are missing some seriously crispy deliciousness. It's like eating a healthy potato chip.
The corn was roasted on the grill with some butter & salt, then sliced off the cob to be used later in tacos. Yep, tacos. And they were delicious. The carrots we saved for hummus dipping and a moroccan salad a week later. The potatoes hung around in the fridge to be turned into potato leek soup. More on all of these in the next post. The blueberries just came to work with me every day for snacking.
A fresh mozzarella ball, sliced up and plated under the deep red tomatoes, some of the basil leaves, and a drizzle of olive oil & balsamic vinegar. This just emotes summertime.
I grilled the long hots on our new charcoal grill (yeah charcoal!) just to blister and blacken the skin, then put them in a covered container to steam for a 10 mins. Then you carefully peel off the skin leaving just the flesh. Chop off the tops and remove the seeds. Place into a sterilized mason jar and cover with pickling liquid. These will be ready for sandwiches in about 2 weeks but will last months in the fridge. They pack a punch.
Ever had a bread salad? This is what the Italians call panzanella, and it is crazy delicious. You basically grill up some bread cubes in olive oil and salt (sounds good already, right?) then add in chopped cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, red onion, basil leaves & capers. Whisk up a vinaigrette of garlic, dijon, white wine vinegar, olive oil, salt & pepper an then douse that bad boy. Leave it set for 15-20 mins to meld all the flavors together. We took this for a orchestra picnic at the Mann and got some jealous onlookers. What can I say, we're food porn exhibitionists.
As for the rest of the small bush of basil we got, that was obviously meant to become pesto. I found a basic pesto recipe in the Joy of Cooking that turned out great. It's as simple as it gets with basil, pine nuts, olive oil and romano cheese. Put it in the Vitamix and watch the magic happen. We boiled up some olive pasta we brought back from Italy, tossed it with some pesto and a dash of pasta water, then a quick hit of grated romano. A really satisfying plate of pasta that tastes like something you'd pay for at a BYO.
Recipes below. Get cooking!
1 head kale, washed and thoroughly dried
2 tablespoons olive oil
Sea salt, for sprinkling
Preheat the oven to 275 degrees F.
Remove the ribs from the kale and cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces. Lay on a baking sheet and toss with the olive oil and salt. Bake until crisp, turning the leaves halfway through, about 20 minutes. Serve as finger food.
Peppers have a skin that turns REALLY tough when you can the peppers, so you've got to remove the skin before canning. Fortunately, there is an easy trick to remove the skins. It's called "blistering". .
Place peppers on a charcoal or gas grill about 5 to 6 inches above glowing coals; using tongs carefully turn peppers frequently (skin side down if they are cut up), exposing all surfaces to the heat source until skin blisters evenly on all sides.
Allow the peppers to cool by placing them in a tight fitting tupperware container. This will make peeling the peppers easier. Then pull the blistered skin off the rest of the pepper with a gentle tug and an occasional rinse with water. In areas of the pepper where the blistering was not complete, just scrape the skin off with a knife or vegetable peeler.
In a saucepan, combine:
- 5 cups vinegar (5%)
- 1 cup water
- 4 tsp kosher salt
- 2 tbsp sugar
- 2 cloves garlic
Fill sterilized mason jars, leaving 1/2-inch of headspace. Flatten whole peppers. You may add 1/2 teaspoon of salt to each pint jar, if desired for taste (it is not a preservative). Fill jars loosely with peppers. Use a ladle or pyrex measuring cup to carefully fill each packed jar with the vinegar solution.
At this point you can either can them in a boiling hot water bath for 10 mins, or just put them in the fridge.
Yields about 1 cup
If you are dealing with a large pile of basil, pick the leaves, figure out how much you have with a 1-cup measure, and scale up the other ingredients accordingly. For shopping purposes, the amount of basil leaves pictured above (gathered from two full-grown plants) required me to make 6 batches of this recipe.
Combine in a food processor and process to a rough paste:
2 cups loosely packed basil leaves
1⁄2 cup grated Parmesan
1⁄3 cup pine nuts, hazelnuts, almonds, or a combination
2 medium garlic cloves, peeled
With the machine running, slowly add:
1⁄2 cup olive oil, or as needed
If the pesto seems dry (it should be a thick paste), add a little more olive oil. Season to taste with:
Salt and black pepper
Use immediately, or pour a very thin film of olive oil over the top, cover, and refrigerate for up to 1 week. Or, as discussed above, freeze in an ice cube tray, covered. Knock out for storing into a zip-top bag and freeze for up to 3 months. Doubling the recipe will fill up an ice cube tray.
3 tablespoons good olive oil
1 small French bread or boule, cut into 1-inch cubes (6 cups)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 large ripe tomatoes, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 hothouse cucumber, unpeeled, seeded, and sliced 1/2 inch thick
2 bell peppers, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes (I like to use a combination of purple or yellow or orange, to nicely colorize the dish)
1/2 red onion, cut in half and thinly sliced
20 large basil leaves, coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons capers, drained
For the vinaigrette
1 teaspoon finely minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons champagne vinegar
1/3 cup good olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1. Heat the oil in a large saute pan. Add the bread and salt; cook over low to medium heat, tossing frequently, for 10 minutes, or until nicely browned. Add more oil as needed.
2. For the vinaigrette, whisk together the ingredients.
3. In a large bowl, mix the tomatoes, cucumber, red pepper, yellow pepper, red onion, basil, and capers. Add the bread cubes and toss with the vinaigrette. Season liberally with salt and pepper.
4. Serve immediately, or allow the salad to sit for about half an hour for the flavors to blend.