Thursday, June 9, 2011

Week 1: Summer CSA Blog Begins!

This year, I signed up for my very first CSA (Community Supported Agriculture).  It's not just any CSA, it's designed so that rather than simply picking up a weekly box, I get to harvest my own produce from the farm, for a more community-oriented, hands-on experience.  The other amazing piece to it is that it is one of the only CSA's where the farm is actually within city limits!  It is just down the street in the West 7th neighborhood.  

I intend to chronicle this CSA experience; sure to be the tastiest, freshest summer of local food, yet!

Here's more info on the farm:

What was particularly interesting for me was how passionate Susane (the farmer) is about her garden. No chemicals are used, she plants based on health and variety.  She is very much a gardening "mad genius"... planning out the garden beds to the degree that in some places, she is able to use the soil for 3 different 'turns' during the roughly 20 week season.  For example, where the potatoes are beginning to grow underground, spring lettuce mix is growing up top. When the lettuce is finished, the potatoes can use the space.   She is adamant about her rule of thumb: plant once, harvest ten times; and trains each garden guest exactly how to harvest each and every herb, fruit, vegetable and green in order to maximize its fruitfulness.  Now that's conservation!

Week 1 Yield:
Green onions, spinach, thyme, oregano, mint, curly parsley, leeks, chives, radishes, sorrel, russian red kale, mitzuna, red mustard greens, many other greens.. (there were so many different kinds of greens, I can't even name them all!!).  I know I missed a few things, but that was the bulk of what was harvested.  Week 2's Harvest is about the same, with the exception of a few more herbs. 

I bet you're wondering what I made with all of this great, local produce.

For starters, I made:

Parsley-Walnut-Lime Pesto

Bacon-Wilted Greens-Panzanella

Salads (I prep salads for Eric and I to take to work all week)

Ginger-Scallion Stir Fry with Basmati Rice

Minnestrone Soup with CSA Herbs, Sorrel, Kale and Greens (recipe for my Minnestrone will come at a later date.. )

(Recipes Below)

Watch for next week's pickup, coming soon!

Feeding the masses :)


Parsley-Walnut-Lime Pesto (mostly because I ran out of lemon zest... but it turned out great!)

Making your own pesto is such a useful skill, because you can easily modify it to incorporate your favorite herbs, nuts and flavors, but also because it is a fresh, flavorful, healthy item to add to so many things!  You can use it on flatbread pizzas, toss it with pasta or steamed vegetables, use as a dip or a bruschetta topping, etc...

For this particular pesto, I had no lemons on hand, so I used limes. Either is typically ok.

Several big handfuls of parsley- roughly picked (This means no large stems, but small, tender stems are ok. Basil is the traditional herb)

A few handfuls of Walnuts (You can really sub any soft nut. Traditionally, pine nuts are used)

A few tablespoons of oil.  You can use a flavorful EVO or Canola for less flavor, depending on preference.

Zest of 1-2 citrus fruit

A palmful of grated parmesan cheese.

Kosher Salt to taste

Roughly chop the parsley.  Put the parsley, a little bit of salt, the oil and the nuts in a food processor.   Pulse until it is a coarse texture. Season with K Salt, and stir in zest and parmesan. 

Your pesto will keep for a week or so in the fridge. 
If you have a pressure cooker, you could test the pH and can it for those winter months when you are missing the taste of fresh basil from your garden!  If you are going to can it, I would advise against adding the cheese; rather, add the cheese to "freshen it up" when you open the jar.

Bacon-Wilted Greens-Panzanella

This is a great "method" recipe to know as well, because you can put just about anything in it!  "Panzanella" literally just means "bread salad."  Another way I like to eat panzanella is caprese-style.  Fresh baby mozzarella, basil, and salted, garden-picked heirloom tomatoes.  Toss it with just a drizzle of balsamic and olive oil..   (I can really get off-subject when it comes to food...)

1-2 loaves of ciabatta
1/2 # Bacon or Pancetta, cut into lardons
1/2 cup onions or shallot, thinly sliced into rounds, cut in half
About 6-8 Cups of greens, such as baby mustard greens, kale, sorrel, spinach, etc.
2 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
1 TB fresh thyme, roughly chopped
2 TB fresh basil, roughly chopped
1 TB good vinegar, like balsamic
2 TB red chili flakes
K Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Preheat your oven to 375. Cut your bread into 1" cubes with a serrated knife.  Toss them in a drizzle of Olive Oil and season them with K salt.  Do this in batches if you need to.  Spread them in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake them for about 4-6 minutes so that they are starting to crisp up on the outside, but remain mostly soft on the inside.  Set them aside in your largest bowl.

Lightly sautee the garlic, shallot, chili flakes and bacon in oil.  Keep your heat at medium or below- you want to render the fat in the bacon, not crisp it up, which will happen with high heat.  Wash your greens well, and let them dry or hit them in the salad spinner.

Beautiful Red Mustard Greens

Garden Fresh Spinach

When the bacon is fully cooked, yet soft, add the vinegar and scrape up the flavor bits from the bottom of the pan.  Toss in your greens, 1 handful at a time so that it all fits.  You want to cook it down to the point that the greens are all tender, but not falling apart.  See photo.

Slowly adding the greens so they all fit

Greens are wilted not overcooked
Once the greens are ready to go, season with K salt and freshly ground pepper.  Add the greens to the bowl of bread and toss.  Serve warm or room temp.

Serve and enjoy!!
There's no mystery here. Simply wash your garden lettuce well, dry it, and make up several matching "tupperware" containers complete with your own favorite lettuce blend, sprouts, tomatoes, etc.  I recommend making a separate container, or even a small ziplock bag to put your salad "toppings" into, and then toss together at work each day with your favorite dressing!

Ginger-Scallion Stir Fry with Basmati Rice
This one is SO easy, and it makes use of a huge volume of green onions, if you have a surplus.  If not, sub any of your favorite veggies that are in season. It's just a very simple, basic stir fry.

About 8-12 cups+ of your favorite veggies, or in this case, scallions, cut into 1" lengths. Try to use some variety in color. It makes for a more appealing looking stir fry.
1 medium onion, cut into 1" strips, or pieces cut a similar size to the green onions
A 2" piece of ginger, sliced thinly and then cut into thin strips.
A few cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
Soy Sauce
Red Chili Paste
Red Chili Flakes
Sprouts are a nice addition, if you like them.
Canola Oil
4c Basmati rice or other rice of your choice

Use a seasoned wok if you have one. The idea with a stir fry is that you are cooking the veggies with high heat, over a short amount of time, tossing frequently.

Make your rice first, according to the instructions on the bag, and have it warm and ready to go.

Get your oil hot. The amount you need will vary on the quantity of ingredients you are going to add. I start with about 2 TB.  Add the ginger, chili paste, garlic and (bulb) onions.  Stir fry them until they are starting to soften.  Add the veggies. Continue to toss frequently so the veggies cook to the desired softness.  Towards the end of cooking, add the chili flakes, a few good splashes of soy sauce, and salt and pepper.  Taste.  Remove from pan so the veggies don't overcook.  Serve over rice.   Enjoy!

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