Week 9 – the tropical storm edition

Well, that was an exciting pickup week.

In anticipation of the incoming storm, our pick up time moved from 2:30 to 11, and the fruit share was canceled for the week. Ginger is going to send us a double share next week.

I love the hauls in the middle of summer. This is all stuff I love, and I’ve delegated almost everything.

Last night, we had Taco Tuesday. One of the bell peppers made it into the tacos. The others got blanched and frozen. The beans got blanched and frozen. Tonight, we’re having Garam Masala Chicken Stew, which includes the red skin potataoes and a couple of the onions. Tomorrow, we will do BLTs. I’ll make some traditional bacon, but I’m also going to make eggplant bacon. We’re also going to have beet-zucchini pakoras. Friday has been our takeout night during the pandemic, so we’ll do that on Friday. Saturday, we are going to have zucchini-rice casserole. If you’re keeping a tally on the summer squash, the remaining one went into zucchini bread that I made last night. I’ll do some sort of pasta on Sunday, and I’ll likely work the basil into that if I don’t use it sooner. We got cabbage, too, and I’m thinking I will do slow-cooker golombki on Monday. That leaves the swiss chard unaccounted for; I’m unsure if I’ll freeze it or cook with it this week.

Oops, Beets!

Sooooooo I broke one of the fundamental rules of the kitchen. I started a recipe before I made sure I had everything I need. In this case, it wasn’t any ordinary cooking project; it was a canning project. The thing I was missing wasn’t some easily substituted ingredient; it was a piece of equipment (or, more accurately, a piece of a piece of equipment). I had not used my pressure canner since I moved a year and a half ago. The gauge was exactly where I expected it to be, but the pressure regulator weight has gone missing!

By the time I realized this, I already had many, many pounds of beets cleaned and boiling on the stove. Insert facepalm here. So, when a thorough search did not turn up the weight, I decided to finish making the recipe. We used some immediately, and I froze the rest. Who knows if it’ll hold up in the freezer, but it’s better than nothing!

The recipe is one I’ve done before – Orange Thyme Beets.

Last night, I used some of the beets, chopped and mixed with couscous, as a side with dinner. Today at lunch, I took leftovers of that mix and added feta cheese that I’ve had marinating in olive oil and herbs from my garden. It was delicious both ways. So, not a complete loss!

Bad Manners

I have an awful lot of privilege. I know this. I’m a white woman living in suburban New Jersey with her family. Mid-thirties, house, yard, and even no job losses in our house in the middle of a pandemic. I consider myself “woke” in so many ways, yet I keep finding ways that my privilege shapes how I view the world.

One of these is the cookbook formerly known as Thug Kitchen. It wasn’t until the recent discourse surrounding the Black Lives Matter movement that it even occurred to me that “Thug” was a racial slur. It flitted in and out of my head with no real lasting consideration. I typically call the cookbooks my “sweary cookbooks” and I’ve loved their gimmick from the first time I saw them. Delicious, healthy vegan recipes that taste like comfort food, with recipes peppered with colorful language in ways that I, born and raised in the Garden State, found hilarious.

However, the creators of the cookbooks, who are two white people around my age from LA, have been (rightfully, when I think about it) called to task about their use of the word “thug.” They’ve been shifting their brand to “Bad Manners Kitchen” these days. Many activists in the online cooking community are justifiably angry that it took them so long to shift, or that they even dared to do this in the first place. There’s a lot of suspicion and anger around the fact that the authors kept their identities secret in the first place, maybe proving that they knew what they were doing wasn’t right. Many have called for “canceling” them over all of it.

I’m sticking with the recipes. I’m tentatively supporting their switch. I’m also acknowledging that I’m doing this from a privileged space and am not the authority on what is right. The recipes are still delicious and healthy. These cookbooks have been instrumental in making my cooking “grow up.” I don’t know that there’s a right or wrong way to handle a situation like this, but I wanted to be clear about all of this before posting recipes from this source. They’re particularly a summertime staple for me, so it was a concern.

I choose to believe we’re all growing and learning how to be more respectful.

Bad Manners can now be found here.

Their statement on the name change can be found here.

CSA Share, Week 8 – July 28, 2020

This week, I didn’t have my young helper. Well… he came along, but insisted on remaining in the car. So, we have fewer cute kid pictures than usual.

This week was the first appearance of ground cherries in 2020.

Still more eggplant – going to make some croquettes this week. I went to link to an old post that I swore existed, but somehow I haven’t blogged about croquettes! That will come along shortly. They’re my go-to when I have an abundance of eggplant.

We ate sausage stir-fry last night with some of the onion and bell pepper. The night before was summer squash soup with homemade biscuits. I’ll make an entirely separate post about that recipe, as well – it used five of the vegetables in this week’s share as ingredients!

Happy Friday!

Bowls

If you’ll allow me to state the obvious for a moment…. it’s hot.

My car thermometer said it was 98 degrees out this afternoon when I was driving to the library with my children. It’s been like this most days for the past week.

It’s hard to get the gumption to really cook when it’s this hot. I’m not saying that I don’t manage to overcome that – I did make Eggplant Parmesan yesterday –  but some days are not worth the extra heat.

A good meal option on those days are “bowls.” If you subscribe to any cooking magazines, especially the ones that bill themselves as being oriented to healthy eating, bowls are not a new concept. They’ve been a fairly major trend for a few years now. I put together the most beautiful, delicious quinoa bowl the other night for dinner, and I wanted to share the methodology.

First, I cooked up some quinoa. I used homemade vegetable stock, which has the benefit of extra vitamins and no added sodium, though you could use packaged stock or water and it’d be fine.

I steamed some summer squash and some peas, rinsed a can of chickpeas, and cut a bunch of cherry tomatoes in half. The ingredients got layered in a large serving dish.

Before adding the cherry tomatoes, I added the dressing. This was partly a choice due to space – I could not have stirred the mixture without making a huge mess after adding the tomatoes – and partly a presentation choice. I used homemade honey mustard dressing. I cannot recommend highly enough this article about making your own salad dressings. It comes with 8 recipes. I’ve tried 2 so far, and both have been winners.

Everything is wonderful about this meal choice. The kitchen isn’t super hot, the meal is a huge protein punch, it’s tasty and colorful, and it’s a kid pleaser! Little Chef currently hates summer squash, so he ate around it, but Littlest Chef gobbled up everything he didn’t end up wearing.

Everything about this recipe is malleable according to your tastes. You could do Italian dressing. You could subtract any of the vegetables and/or add others: red onion, broccoli, cucumbers if you’re serving it cold, etc. Play around; every result manages to look fancy, even though it’s pleasantly simple.

Happy eating!

CSA weeks 5, 6, and 7

I’ve had some technical difficulties getting Dropbox to sync my pictures. I’m excited to say I’ve fixed the problem! Here are the past few weeks of CSA pick ups, told in pictures.

Week 5: July 7

 

We get an email with the share, but I’ve always preferred to take a picture of the board. Sometimes the specifics vary by site (one might get broccoli while the other gets cauliflower, for example), and the email doesn’t specify amounts. It’s a nice record to keep.
Little Chef has gotten very helpful and independent.

Week 6: July 14

It was so incredibly hot that day. You can see it in my face, ha. No pictures of Little Chef, as he declined to wear shoes and SERIOUSLY REGRETTED his life choices.He ended up spending the time standing on the lawn, because the blacktop was too hot.

Playhouse Zucchini Bread. Made this to take camping with us the next day.
Finished product. Delicious.

Week 7: July 21

“Ugh, it’s really hot again…. and I forgot to take pictures so I’ll take one in the car afterwards.”
Summer has exploded. You might notice a discrepancy between my share and the board I have double the eggplant and no summer squash, because I traded with a fellow member who does not care for eggplant. For those keeping score at home, that means I had 8 eggplants.

 

CSA 2020 – Weeks 2 and 3, plus Strawberries

Week 2 – June 16, 2020

The first few weeks of CSA are usually slow, with small shares. Week two finds us at the start of the fruit share. Little Chef helped me pick up, as usual – and our new usual, in masks.

The first few weeks are also very salad-heavy, so I have fewer recipes to report. I did, however, make a delicious vegetable risotto.

The white things on the right that look like radishes are actually “salad turnips,” also known as “harukei turnips.” They can be used interchangeably with radishes, though they have a bit of a bite. They’re also really good roasted (frankly, so are radishes), or you can slice then up and use them like chips to eat hummus. Their greens are edible, just like radish greens. Those, I prefer to put in a quiche or fritatta, personally.

Also note the debut presence of garlic scapes. Garlic scapes are the green part that grows above ground when you’re growing garlic. They can be chopped up like scallions, sauteed, baked into casseroles, or made into pesto. I even threw some into my chili on Saturday. They have a very mild garlic flavor.

Week 3 – June 23, 2020

Here we go, really starting to hit our stride. June is still green-heavy. Two kinds of lettuce, broccoli rabe, and spinach. This time of year, I’m guilty of just chopping and freezing a lot of the greens. It’ll be different when my kids are older, but right now, my six year old refuses most “salad.” Ooof.

This is also the first emergence of kohlrabi, another favorite of mine, which I talk about at length in this post.

It’s also been strawberry season, and Little Chef and Littlest Chef joined me on a couple of loops up to Sussex County. Picking in a mask was hot, but otherwise ok! The berries are as delicious as ever.

I made a Strawberry Glace Pie a couple of nights ago with some of the bounty. We also had homemade whipped cream with it!

In case you’re wondering, I make my own pie crust. I use the recipe from the old school Good Housekeeping cookbook.

 

CSA 2020: Week One – June 9

Last week was the first CSA pickup. I’ve had “blog” on my to-do list for a week, now, and I haven’t done it! Not an auspicious start to the season. I have, however, been cooking, so eventually, you’ll get to see all of that.

The first week or two of CSA is always light. Early June in this zone isn’t exactly the height of abundance, and this year that holds particularly true. We had a very cold, wet, drawn-out thaw this spring.

So here’s the first haul:

We had the makings for a good salad, though the lettuce got used elsewhere…

I made these amazing Vietnamese-style chicken patties that were served on lettuce leaves. The makings for the chicken patties came largely from Greengrocer Foodhub, including these amazing mini purplette onions that I’d never had before. I didn’t have scallions, so I subbed them in, and they were delicious.

  

  

I did not have any fish sauce, so I made a substitute – one part soy sauce, one part rice vinegar, and half a part worcestershire sauce.

  

The first pickup went smoothly. Little Chef insisted on helping, complete with a mask that he said makes him “look like a ninja.” I wore my usual first-day attire: my veggie dress. I also wore my honeybee face mask, because why not.

Easter in Quarantine

Easter used to be a constant thing in my life. Up until my young adulthood, it was always held at my grandparents’ house. In college, the celebration shifted to my aunts’ houses on alternating years. My mom came from a big Polish family – she was the middle of seven children – so, Easter was a BIG DEAL. An average gathering was about thirty people, and there was always a huge spread consisting of eggs (hard boiled and scrambled, possibly deviled some years), pierogies, kielbasa, chrzan, golombki, beets, babka, ham, turkey, hash… and some things that were not traditional polish, like soda bread, banana bread, fruit salad, etc. It was a FEAST like none other.

Easter got weird in my mid-adulthood. First came the year I was pregnant- I crossed the 38 week line on Easter Day, and my doula recommended I stay close to home. In my late-pregnancy nesting insanity, I cooked a Polish brunch for my spouse and myself. So, you know… enough food for six.

Little Chef’s first Easter was the last hurrah for my Grandmother after not hosting for years. She was selling her house, and it was the last scheduled gathering there. Bittersweet.

For Little Chef’s second Easter, my mother had broken her leg and was temporarily living at my grandmother’s apartment. I brought full Polish Easter on the road to serve to my immediate family, my    mom, and my brother while the rest of the extended clan gathered at my aunt’s. In a strange, dazed sort of way, I was VERY proud of myself for pulling that off on incredibly short notice.

Little Chef’s third Easter was fairly “normal.” We went to my Aunt’s house and picked up my Mom along the way. Unbeknownst to us, that would be my mom’s last Easter.

In 2019, we had a barely 2-month old baby and we’d only been in our new house for 3 months, but we hosted Easter for my in-laws, and I cooked a feast.

Then…. this year.

You know that monologue the Grinch has about Christmas coming “without ribbons, without tags, without packages, boxes, or bags?” That’s how Easter felt this year. Holy Week services were held over Zoom. I spent more time in front of a computer than I think I ever have.

I was hell-bent, though, on having a special day for Easter. We dressed up. I had managed to stock all of the essentials by the big day – we had mimosas, pierogies, kielbasa, eggs, and babka. I decided to skip making a ham, and then my neighbors mentioned that they had too much ham. We traded pierogies and babka for some ham, and everyone’s day got more delicious.

The babka was the real triumph; it was so hard to find yeast, because everyone went crazy when it was clear that we were locking down, so there was a run on it. I ended up getting a two-pound package from a wholesaler! I have plenty of yeast for the forseeable future.

If you’re looking for a good babka recipe, this one is the closest I’ve found to my great-grandmother’s babka. My family came from a part of Poland that is now part of the Ukraine (my great-grandmother left when World War 1 was brewing, so the lines were different then.). I had a hand-written copy of the original recipe, but it’s buried somewhere. This one is delicious. If you’re wondering, yes, you can substitute all-purpose flour for the bread flour. I never bother with the bread flour.

I hope with all of my heart that by next Easter, this is all behind us. That we can gather and feast and relax and laugh. It was strange and and somehow fitting to be celebrating the resurrection in the middle of a plague. I’m proud of pulling off the celebration that we did, and I’m glad we have these strings of tradition, of familiar and comforting foods, that can still be there in the midst of these crazy times. Having a touchstone of normalcy in these days is worth its weight in gold.