Off-The-Cuff Buckwheat Noodles

I’m ridiculously proud of myself for my dinner creation tonight.

Tuesday is CSA day, of course, so usually dinner can go two ways – either I plan ahead and have something cooking in the crock pot, so I can focus on prep and planning for the rest of the week, or I scramble to figure something out from my share. The problem with the latter is that I usually freeze – an abundance of options can make it hard to focus!

Today should have been a disaster. I got a migraine headache early this afternoon. I felt like I’d been hit by a truck. Somehow, I managed to follow through on a previous commitment to pick up my friend’s son, as well as tutor him, with a stop to pick up my farm share along the way. After he left, I took advantage of my baby-sitter’s presence and decided to lay down for a while.

No joke, it was 5:40 when I finally returned to the main floor of my house, and my husband has to be out of the house on Tuesdays for an appointment at 7. The pressure was on if I didn’t want to resort to take out. Luckily, between some pantry staples and some gems from my share today, I came up with something delicious.

Luckily, I’d impulse-purchased some tempeh while I was out the other day. Tempeh is a soy-based protein that is fermented and pressed. Some, like this, have other things added, and I’m partial to the flax variety.

It comes in a solid brick like this. I cubed it up…

… and started it frying in the wok with some sesame oil, rice vinegar, garlic vinegar, and soy sauce.

Added some German White garlic, as well as some red onion from today:

And one of the summer squashes from the share today, as well.

I let this all cook up together in the wok while I broke out the soba noodles. I added chopped up radishes closer to the end of the cooking time. They’re in this picture, though I missed an in-process pic.

Buckwheat soba noodles are fabulous. I go on at length about my love for the Thug Kitchen recipe Eggplant with Soba Noodles. I’m still working through the gigantic package of noodles that I bought at my local Asian market.

This particular brand came packaged like this, and two bundles seems to be the right amount for my family of 3.

These boil up quickly – about 5 minutes. I washed the greens from the radishes and chopped them up to finish off the veggie mix.

After they started to wilt, I added the cooked soba noodles. My husband and I added hot sauce to ours after plating, since we have to accommodate a 3 year old. If you’re in a spice loving house, I’d give it a good splash during this stage.

By 6:15, dinner was making its way to the table. Healthy, delicious, locally sourced, and almost totally pulled out of thin air.

I give a lot of credit to the Eggplant and Soba Noodle recipe as well as this Pad See Ew recipe (which is a GREAT dinner choice) for my general template for how this was going to go down.

And, with that, and well fed… I’m off to tackle the rest of this week’s share.

Corn Chowder

This week, temperatures have been in the 90s. For Northern New Jersey at the end of September, this is unusual… and incredibly disappointing. I’m eagerly awaiting fall, which appears to finally be willing to creep in sometime later this week, according to my weather app.

Despite this, and thanks to living in the age of central air conditioning, I made chicken corn chowder this evening, and it was delicious. I meant to get a good picture of it in my bowl, but I totally forgot, so the pot will have to suffice.

The basic recipe I followed was from Simple and Delicious and can be found here. I’ve been trying to ease up on dairy in the past few months, so I substituted almond milk for the half and half. To compensate for that adding thinness, I added some flour to the cooking onions, to do a half-roux at the beginning of the soup.

I skipped the final step of mixing flour and more cream to thicken the soup, as well, and it came out just fine. I also added some leftover chopped cooked chicken, and served the soup with a nice loaf of Italian bread from the little meat market around the corner from my house. Easy, hearty, pretty healthy, and quick. I’ll be making it again… and I’ll take better pictures when I do.

Odds and Ends Pasta

Sometimes, CSA cooking doesn’t look fancy or experimental. Sometimes, you find yourself making “Oh crap, throw the remaining vegetables in” pasta.

Half a large onion, a couple of significantly-sized cloves of garlic (German White, for you garlic afficionados. We went to the Pocono Garlic Festival earlier this month, and I’m still working through my delicious stash…), two zucchini, and two red bell peppers.

Added a jar of tomato sauce (in this case, Classico Cabernet Marinara) and some chopped up basil from my garden.

Let it simmer for a while…

Then served it over tri-color penne.

It was the kind of easy, satisfying, and veggie-packed meal I needed after my afternoon of stock canning. But that is an article for another time. The takeaway here should be – when in doubt, throw the extra veggies over pasta. You are unlikely to regret it.

Peanut Slaw

At some point during the summer, we got some red cabbage, and I finally tried Thug Kitchen‘s Creamy Peanut Slaw recipe. It was heavenly. Peanutty without being sticky and cloying. A welcome change from a mayo-based or yogurt-based slaw.

I was faced with a choice this week, as I stared at this beautiful, HUGE head of Napa Cabbage that came in our share.

I could do the tried-and-true thing and make my own summer rolls or egg rolls. I could make my own Pad See Ew. Or…. I could make a twist on the peanut slaw. The choice seemed pretty clear, especially with these beautiful scallions we also received:

First, I thinly sliced the cabbage

And the scallions

We haven’t talked about stock yet, but when you’re cutting most vegetables, particularly varieties of onions and garlic, you can save the scraps to make your own (healthier, basically free) vegetable stock for cooking. My ultimate reference point for vegetable stock is here, on Eileen’s blog. You’ll notice, as she recommends, that I did not set aside any of the cabbage. Adding cabbage to your stock is a one-way ticket to Stinkytown. I save my cuttings in gallon-sized plastic bags in the freezer and make stock mostly as needed. I’ve been known to can it when my freezers (3 of them; I’m ridiculous) get too full.

That’s all I used for veggies – if I’d had sprouts, cucumbers, carrots, or radishes hanging around, I would have added them, but I did not. I then made the sauce as per the recipe – peanut butter, rice vinegar, soy sauce, warm water, lime juice, ginger – and mixed it in with the cabbage. It always shocks me how much coverage you get out of what looks like such a small amount of sauce!

I added some sesame seeds for good measure, and ta-daa! A delicious side.

I had a ton of leftovers (it was only my son and I for dinner last night, and cabbage is one of the few things he’s not interested in… which I’d say is not surprising or terrible at three), so I got creative one more time this afternoon for lunch. I boiled up some tofu shiratiki noodles and made a cold noodle bowl with some of the slaw. I added some extra soy sauce to help the noodles to stop sticking together and distribute evenly, and then I decided to add some Sriracha for a kick. Hot sauce is actually in the original dressing recipe, but I omitted it out of toddler-mom-habit, not thinking about the fact that he would likely not eat the salad anyway.

I was not disappointed in my experiment. I would’ve liked some peanuts to top it with, but the whole point was that I was just working with things that were on hand, so beggars can’t be choosers.

Salad Turnips

If your experience is like mine, you’ve never encountered the phrase “salad turnips” before shopping at a farmer’s market or being a member of a CSA. Salad turnips are, in my experience, much closer to radishes than to turnips. Visually, they even look like white radishes:

The entire plant is edible. The bulb at the  bottom is like a radish, though usually with a bit more of a sharp bite. The greens can be used the same way one would use beet greens (or, actually, radish greens). The  bulbs can, as the name suggests, be put into salads, which is perfectly delicious. My fellow CSA members have suggested that roasting them is a way to curb the sharpness and bring out the sweetness. Every year, I enter the season intending to experiment… and then they all disappear. How do I eat salad turnips? Like chips:

I scrub the bulbs, halve them, and then cut them in thin half-moons. I then use them to dip in hummus. They are DELICIOUS like this. I’m dead serious when I say that there are none left to experiment with each time they appear in a share.

So, let’s talk about the greens. Today, Farmer John suggested that they could be sauteed or put into a soup.

Since we had onions and bell peppers in today’s share, I have garlic around from the Pocono Garlic Festival, and it was an egg week (we get egg/poultry shares from Griggstown Farm on alternate weeks), I decided to make a fritatta. Normally, one thinks of a fritatta as a dinner meal. Sometimes, we eat them for dinner, but often I’ll make them ahead for breakfasts for a few days.

Fritattas are basically crustless quiches. I sauteed the onions in extra virgin olive oil over medium low heat until they got soft, then added the garlic for about a minute. Then I added the red bell peppers and salad turnip greens until the greens started to wilt. In a separate bowl, I scrambled 6 eggs with some milk, some pepper, and some parmesan cheese. I poured that into the pan, and cooked it over medium heat until the eggs mostly set, then transferred the skillet to the broiler until the top was cooked.

The beauty of the fritatta is that, aside from the eggs, milk, and (usually) cheese, all of the ingredients are up for debate. Onions and garlic are always good. some other vegetable is tasty. Sausage, ham, or chicken  is able to be added. Greens always work – mustard greens, tatsoi, spinach, kale, beet greens, carrot tops… It’s all about method. Sautee, pour over scrambled egg mixture, set, broil.

I only used about half of the greens in the fritatta, so I was left with a choice. I chose soup. I’d originally planned for Wednesday night’s dinner to be a soup that I’d frozen in the spring,  along with salad, but I made a soup that will take its place.

I sauteed onion and garlic, then added potato and sauteed for a while longer. Then I added salad turnip greens and sauteed until they started to wilt. I added homemade vegetable stock, a can of cannelini beans, and spiced to taste. I simmered until the potatoes got soft, and ta-daa! I have half of dinner for tomorrow.

So, today’s lesson is: salad turnips are awesome. If they’re a choice in your share, get them. If you see them in the farmer’s market, get them. GET THEM. EAT ALL THE SALAD TURNIPS.

Chomp, chomp. Nom, nom. Goodnight.

The Cusp of Fall

Cool, fall-like weather has been the norm here for the past couple of weeks. Overall, the summer has been mostly cool and rainy, but we had shifted into weather that caused me to break out the hoodies. Now, as usual, summer has bobbed its head back up for one final September hurrah. The temperatures snuck back up into the 80s, though there’s blissfully little humidity.

It’s fitting, then, that this week’s share is mostly the greatest hits of late summer – corn, peppers, beans, eggplant. The rain and cool temperatures this year have made it a bummer year for tomatoes and melons, but otherwise, the abundance continues. Salad greens came back on the early side, too, thanks to the cool weather.

This is the pile of delicious that is awaiting me as I type:

CSA share for 9/12/17

Red leaf lettuce, arugula, bell peppers, 2 kinds of green beans, corn, summer squash, potatoes, parsnips, leeks, eggplant, shallots, hot peppers, parsley, apples, peaches.

Tonight, my priority is corn. We’re going to do BBQ baked tofu, corn, and salad, I think. I’ll get creative again tomorrow.

Eggplant Pasta Salad

One of the things I love most about cooking is the ability to take recipes as starting-off points and going on to customize the meal to what my specific tastes are. Admittedly, I can’t really picture how cooks manage to suss out the measurements in their recipes; I’m so stereotypically the type of cook that runs on what it looks or smells like that it’s hard to pin down the specifics.

The other night, we had a side dish with dinner that was one of these modified recipes. I’m a big fan of alternative pasta salads; I’m not thrilled with the mayonnaise ones as a general rule. So, when one of my friends posted rave reviews on Facebook of this recipe from Smitten Kitchen, I knew I had to give it a try.

First off, let’s talk pesto. The blog post and recipe linked above walk you through the steps of making your own pesto dressing for this salad. If you don’t have any pesto already on hand, go for it! It looks like a solid dressing, and I’m 100% in favor of spreading the good word of non-traditional pesto. I will write an entire blog post on this later, but for now, let me make it quite clear: you do NOT need to limit yourself to basil and pine nuts to make pesto. Any dark greens or herbs can be used, and any oily nut can be used. I most often use pecans in my recipes, since we have family in Texas and often end up with huge bags of high-quality pecans floating around our kitchen. Lately, as this blogger did, I’ve used walnuts, because I’m out of pecans (my three-year-old is a FIEND) and having a stash of them in the house gives me more options than pine nuts do. Long story short, pesto is more a method or a genre than a specific sauce or dressing.

More on that later. Needless to say, I had my own pesto already, in my freezer, which I broke out to use. I thinned it with some olive oil and garlic vinegar.

Next, let’s examine the charred eggplant. I’ve mentioned before my love of the Thug Kitchen recipe that involves charred eggplant, and now this. You can grill the eggplant, as the recipe suggests, though if you’re short on time, are an apartment-dweller, or are just too lazy to take out the grill, you can also just take the vegetables and cook them in the broiler, which is what I did. I drizzled the eggplant slices with olive oil and seasoned them with garlic, salt, and pepper, though you could also marinade them.

We passed on the sun-dried tomatoes; not so many fans of them in this house. Instead, I put some halved cherry tomatoes into the finished salad.


We extended the leftovers into a meal the next day by adding a can of garbanzo beans and a little balsamic vinegar. White beans would have also worked nicely if you were keeping the recipe vegetarian; I can also imagine tossing in some sausage or cubed chicken to make this a meal.

Beans, beans, beans

This is what shelling 2 pounds of beans looks like:

And this is what shelling 2 pounds of beans *really* looks like. IPad with Mad Men (I am slow in my media consumption), a beer, and the remnants of the construction of the turkey meatballs I have cooking in my oven.

I love Tuesday nights. It’s utter insanity, leaves me exhausted, but I’m blanching and freezing these beans, and when my bean-loving toddler is happily chowing down sometime mid-winter…. it’ll all be worth it.