Thursday, June 23, 2016

Getting Creative with CSA Products

Joining a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program is a wonderful idea for many people  If you can’t always get to your favorite Farmers Markets on a regular basis, a CSA can provide you with great fresh and local foods as they come into season.  You don’t miss anything! However, the challenge for many folks is knowing what to do with the contents of their box once they pick it up.   Some CSAs have a standard offering for each box; some let you choose the contents - or at least some of it.  Philly Foodworks CSA is one that does offer the consumer the option to choose their box content. After talking with the folks at Philly Foodworks last week about how some customers worry about knowing what to do with their CSA share,  I received a share box last week.  I asked to be surprised. I wanted to do that because it is what so many CSA members experience and - for me at least - I think that is part of the fun.  Here are three straightforward and delicious recipes - three dinners - from the contents of my Philly Foodworks CSA box of last week.  The point that I want to stress with CSA members is:  don’t be afraid to experiment. Remember that a regular CSA box can become a very good cooking teacher!

The Contents of my CSA Box from Philly Foodworks

A Bunch of Red Radishes
A Full head of Cabbage
A Bag of Baby Salanova
One Pint of Strawberries
A Bunch of Garlic Scapes
A Bunch of Cilantro
12 oz of Snow Peas
1.5 lbs of slicing tomatoes

Taking care of the box contents 

First things first.  When you have your box at home, you want to unpack your items and prepare to store them in the best ways you can.  You don’t want any of your bounty to go to waste. So, for me it was:  tomatoes on the table (please don't refrigerate your tomatoes!), not bunched together; scapes in the produce drawer; the head of cabbage into a produce bag and into the refrigerator; strawberries as well (we usually leave berries in their blue cardboard boxes); the cilantro goes in a glass of water with a plastic bag placed over the glass - with plenty of room for air circulation - and goes into the refrigerator; the salad greens go into a salad bag and into a produce drawer, as do the snow peas; and, finally, the radishes are cut from their greens (helps them to hold well), put into a produce bag and into a drawer in the refrigerator.  
OK - now that everything is safely stored, I can start looking at my written list and begin day dreaming about potential uses of all of these great, local, seasonal foods.

Three weekend dinners were created from the box.  All of the recipes below are designed for 2 - 4 servings.  Also, at the end of the recipes are some suggestions for using up any leftover products from the box.

Fish Tacos

Radish and Cabbage Slaw

A Fish Taco

Radish & Cabbage Slaw:
1/4 head of cabbage, thinly sliced - it should be about 3 1/2 cups
About 12 radishes (the whole bunch), julienned 
1 large shallot, chopped (about 6 tablespoons)
1/2 cup chopped cilantro - use about 3/4’s of the bunch
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper

15 oz. Black Bass, cut into medium sized chunks
1/2 cup of whole milk
1/2 cup of regular flour
11/2 teaspoons of pimenton 
salt and pepper
Cooking oil of choice ( I prefer grapeseed oil)

1/4 cup of good mayonnaise
1/4 cup of sour cream
2 tablespoons chipotle peppers in adobo (in a can in most supermarkets)
salt and pepper

Soft Corn Tortillas (if you can, go to Tortilleria San Roman at 9th and Carpenter in the Italian Market for fresh tortillas!)
Lime wedges


Mix all of the ingredients for the Slaw together and toss to incorporate fully and set aside
Mix all of the ingredients for the Sauce together and set aside

Soak the fish chunks in the milk for about 15 minutes
Mix the flour, salt and pepper and pimenton together on a flat plate
Heat the cooking oil (about a half inch deep) in a large flat pan on medium high heat (you want a little flour to sizzle vigorously before adding fish)

Gently lift each chunk of fish from the milk, let it drain and roll it into the seasoned flour and transfer the fish to the oil

Fry the fish until golden brown, drain on paper bags.  Note:  Don’t crowd your pan, fry in batches.

When all of the fish is fried and draining, warm two tortillas for each serving.  I simply lay the tortilla over a medium flame on the stove top - don’t leave it! - turn it over a few times until it’s warm and has a little browning on it. 
Place the two tortillas on a plate almost one on top of the other
Lay some of the slaw all along the taco, top with some of the fish chunks, drizzle with the sauce, squeeze a lime wedge over all and enjoy!
Repeat until you are fish taco-ed out!

Strawberry, Pea Pod Salad with Seared Duck Breast  in a Reduction Sauce

Salad of Lettuce, Pea Pods & Strawberries

The Finished Duck Breast

Duck in Strawberry Reduction Sauce

5 ounces Salanova lettuce
11/2 cups of Pea Pods
2 cups strawberries, halved
1/4 cup ricotta salata - Note:  a salty, dry ricotta 
11/2 teaspoons of good Balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Black pepper
1 medium Duck Breast, skin on.  Note:  Griggstown has very good duck and it is available locally.
Duck fat - rendered from the duck breast
1/4 cup red wine
1 small white onion, chopped


Toss a cup of halved strawberries with the balsamic vinegar and set aside
Slice the pea pods in half on the diagonal
Wash and spin the lettuce
Toss the lettuce and the pea pods with the 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
Add the marinated strawberries to the lettuce and pea pods
Toss the mixture with lots of good black pepper
Sprinkle the ricotta salata over the salad and set aside

Heat a heavy pan - preferably cast iron - over low/medium heat
While the pan is heating, score the fat on the duck breast on the diagonal both ways (so your cuts form an x pattern)
Place the duck breast, skin side down, in the pan 
Note: you are rendering the duck fat from the breast, so you have to let the process take awhile - usually about 15 minutes.  
When you have a considerable amount of fat in the pan (you’ll know when it’s been rendered), pour the fat off into a heat proof bowl

Put a tablespoon of the fat back into the pan and increase the heat to medium
Place the duck breast into the pan with the fat side up; cook for 5 minutes; flip the breast over so that the skin side is down and raise the heat to medium high.  In about 5 minutes, the duck breast should be medium rare.  Remove the duck breast from the pan and rest it on a cutting board for at least 15 minutes.

Add a tablespoon of duck fat back into the pan on medium heat
Add the chopped onion, stir until  the onion is softened
Add the rest of the halved strawberries and stir them to incorporate
Add the red wine, increase the heat to medium high, stirring constantly until sauce thickens
When it thickens, turn the heat off and leave the sauce in the pan

Slice the duck breast

On a large dinner platter, place the salad and slices of the duck breast Spoon the pan sauce over the duck. Note:  store the rest of the rendered duck fat in the refrigerator (Cook your potatoes in it!).

Some nice crusty bread goes very well with this meal. Enjoy.

Pasta with Garlic Scape Pesto

Finishing the Pasta


Two cups of chopped garlic scapes (2 inch pieces are fine)
3/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil
Note: this is a very basic pesto which can be frozen

1/4 cup of scape mix
1/2 cup grated pecorino cheese
1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil
Note:  this is the pesto for this dish

3/4 cup of the scape pesto (that's what the measurements above will make)
1 lb of fresh, shaped pasta (like gemelli - we got ours from Vera Pasta - local folks!)
Two large tomatoes, chopped
Three - five large basil leaves
Grated pecorino for service
Red pepper flakes

Put the chopped tomatoes into a colander in the sink or over a bowl - you will have juices running.
Salt the chopped tomatoes heavily, and toss them a good deal.  Let it sit and drain

In the food processor, mix together the 2 cups of chopped scape and the olive oil
Put the mixture into a bowl

Put 1/4 cup of the scape mix back into the food processor and add the pecorino and the extra virgin olive oil and blend

You will have 3/4 cup of scape pesto - hold that aside

Cook the pasta in boiling, salted water until slightly less than al dente
Reserve 1/4 cup of the pasta cooking water
Drain the pasta; return it to the pot
Add the 3/4 cup of the scape pesto to the pasta in the pot
Toss the pasta and the pesto
Add the chopped tomatoes
Add the 1/4 cup of the pasta water and stir
Add the basil leaves, torn

Serve with additional grated cheese and red pepper flakes.  Enjoy

Additional Ideas for the Contents 

For the rest of the head of cabbage:  Chop the cabbage, stir it in brown butter in a skillet until softened.  Add a tablespoon of Dijon Mustard and stir.

Cabbage leaves- use them to line a steamer when steaming dumplings, Steam some leaves and make a "summer roll" - rice vermicelli, veg and shrimp!

Snow Peas:  Rinsed and served with great sea salt, they are delicious with cheese and cocktails.  They can be added to rice and garlic and left over meat for a great stir fry.

Radishes:  the old standby of sliced radishes with good butter and sea salt - and maybe some great bread - is a tradition not to miss.  Radishes are also great pickled (throw them in your favorite pickles' leftover juice! No need to create your own brine.)   

Cherish Real Food!

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Thoughts While Gardening; Another TIP; Recipes!

Some random thoughts while tending the gardens

I don’t know about you but I am of the opinion that individual exercise regimens, like individual religious practices, should be a private affair. There’s way too much about both all over social media,and sometimes even in person. I propose that all of these discussions go the way of food sensitivity explanations. Let’s talk less about fantasy and more about reality!

An unrelated thought.  We belong to “Angie’s List”.  It has proven to be a good move - our home is old, and while we do a lot ourselves, plumbing and electricity are pretty much out of our range.  Every month a little magazine comes from “Angie”.  The feature article in the June edition gave detailed instructions on how to get to know your neighbors. This is not written for those who have just moved into an area. It is based on the premise that most of us don’t know - or know much at all - about those we live around.  The author gives us three “whys’ as to the value of making the effort:  1.  Relationships matter; 2.  Conversations matter; and 3.  Knowledge matters. Yes!  True.  All of it.  That said, is there something seriously wrong when we need a primer and guidance in order to consider what it takes to know, speak to, and occasionally help or ask for help from our neighbors?  You be the judge of that one.  I’ll just enjoy the fact that in our little urban block, you don’t get away with isolating yourself.   

Homesteading Hint

Ball or Mason jars with screw on lids are so useful for so many household purposes.  In addition to canning foods, pickles and jams for our larder, we  probably use them the most for short term food storage - so leftovers of homemade soups, instead of going into something plastic, goe into a big jar. So do gravies, sauces, fruit salads, my cold brewed coffee, you name it - we probably store it in a jar.  The issue becomes how to get those jars clean and free of any of the aroma of their former contents.  We of course want to use them over and over, and avoid waste.  Well, thankfully, it could not be easier. When a jar is empty, just put 2 - 3 tablespoons of white vinegar into the jar, screw the cap on and swish it around a bit.  Let the jar sit with the vinegar in it for a few hours or overnight if the aroma is strong.  Then just dump the vinegar and wash the jar as usual.  Another effective use for our household buddy, plain old white vinegar.

Early Summer Recipes:  

Recipe:  “Strawberry/Peach Tart” 

Note:  You can use whatever fruit or fruits you have in season or canned or frozen.  The original uses pears.  (Adapted from Marcella Hazan’s “A Farm Wife’s Fresh Pear Tart”)


Three large eggs
!/2 cup whole milk
1 cup granulated sugar - you can substitute Sugar in the Raw 
A pinch of Kosher salt
2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
Two pounds of fruit (for the one pictured I used fresh local strawberries and peaches we had canned in water in the Fall)

A nine inch round cake pan
Butter for greasing the pan and butter for dotting the cake


Preheat oven to 375 degrees for conventional and 350 for convection

Beat the eggs and milk together in a bowl
Add the sugar and a pinch of salt and continue beating the mixture
Add the flour and the baking powder and mix thoroughly into a batter
Drain (if necessary) and cut the fruit you are using into medium sized pieces 
If you are using multiple fruits, mix them together and add them to the batter
Butter the cake pan generously 
Pour the fruit batter into the pan; give it a couple of good raps on the counter to even it out
Dot the top of the batter with little bits of butter here and there (you can start by making tiny indentations with your finger and drop the bits of butter into those)

Bake for 50 minutes (Conventional) or Bake for 45 minutes (Convection)
When it is done, and still lukewarm, loosen the tart around the edges and either flip it over onto a plate and back top side up onto another plate OR slide a spatula under it.  I use the two plate approach - it just works better for me.  If you turn it out onto a plate, give a few raps to the bottom of the cake pan to help release it.

When you have the tart on your serving plate, sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar.

It is delicious warm or at room temperature


Recipe:  “Zucchini Logs stewed in olive oil with Greens and Onions”

Note:  This recipe is adapted from Deborah Madison.  You can use whatever combination of other vegetables with the zucchini.  Again this is more technique than recipe.


Three tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more to finish
1 yellow onion - sliced 1/2 inch thick
1 large clove of garlic, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons chopped sweet marjoram or oregano (we used a teaspoon of each, fresh)
1 1/2 pounds of zucchini - cut into “logs” - just halved lengthwise if small and about 11/2 to 2 inches long
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
8 Swiss Chard leaves, coarsely chopped (we used 4 -5 chard leaves, 2 - 3 kale leaves, and 2 large mustard leaves.  We do not remove the stems of fresh leafy greens; Madison does)
1/2 cup water or stock (we used no salt chicken stock)


In a large wide pan with a tight fitting lid, heat the olive oil over medium heat, add the onion, the garlic and half of the herbs.
Cook - stirring occasionally until softened, about 4 minutes
Add the zucchini logs, stir to coat with the olive oil, season with pepper and 1/2 teaspoon salt.
Lay whatever leafy greens you are using over the zucchini and sprinkle a few pinches of salt over. 
Add the stock or water, cover the pan and lower the heat.

Cook gently until the zucchini is tender - about 20 - 30 minutes.
Remove the lid and stir the leafy greens into the zucchini - gently - and add the remaining herbs
Re-cover and cook for another few minutes
Taste for salt and pepper, drizzle extra virgin olive oil over and serve.

Note:  We used a vegetable peeler to drop shavings of parmesan cheese all over the top.  It’s a delicious addition.

Recipe:  “What’s in the ‘Fridge Frittata”

We’ve been perfecting our Frittata technique for a number of years now.  It is worth it to have your own favorite technique for these delicious and versatile egg dishes.  The best Frittata results from clearing the ‘fridge and your larder of left over vegetables, cheese, herbs, peppers and potatoes.

Ingredients (this will make a frittata for 4 or for 2 with leftovers for lunch the next day.  This time around I used two all clad baking pans to make individual frittata but it is just fine to use your favorite omelet pan  The pan just needs to be deep enough to hold all of the ingredients - and they will “puff” up a bit.)

6 large farm eggs
1 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup regular flour
Salt and Pepper
2 - 4 tablespoons of unsalted butter 
1 cup of cheese, grated or cubed; one cheese or, even better, a mix of cheeses
For the pictured Frittata I used a mix of fresh mozzarella, some gruyere and some parmesan

Vegetables:  decide on what you are using and chop the vegetables a bit.  For the Frittata pictured I used tomatoes, cooked leafy greens, mixed herbs from the garden, some roasted red peppers and very thinly sliced spring onions


Preheat your oven to 375 degrees

Generously butter whatever pan or pans you are using
In a large bowl or mixing pitcher, beat the eggs until frothy
Add the milk, the baking powder, and the flour
Whisk vigorously
Add a pinch of sea salt and some freshly ground pepper
Add whatever vegetables and herbs you are using to the mixture and stir
Add whatever cheese or cheese you are using and stir

Pour the mixture into the pan and level it off
If you’d like (and I like) add some bits of butter around the top of the mixture
Bake for about 25 minutes or until the a toothpick in the center comes out clean or nearly clean - I tend to take it out of the oven and let it sit a bit when the center is almost done.  But if you like your eggs cooked through - look for that toothpick to be clean. 
Enjoy hot or at room temperature!

Cherish Real Food!