OMG Kohlrabi

Kohlrabi: possibly the oddest looking vegetable you’ll get all season, and a huge source of confusion for many new CSA members. I mean, really. The first time you look at kohlrabi, it looks like the kitchen equivalent of a UFO. At first, it looks like a root (spoiler alert: it’s not), since it comes with its greens attached like radishes, beets, and turnips. It turns out it’s actually a bulbous stem (yes, what the heck) in the brassica family: the home of cabbage, brussels sprouts, etc.

8 years in to CSA membership, that sure is easy for me to say with a fair amount of nonchalance. However, I was incredibly grateful for google in the beginning. I especially enjoyed this article from Huffington Post, part of a series entitled “WTF, CSA?” Fun tidbit – my blog’s name, “OMG, CSA,” is a send-up to this article.

Many of the recommendations I see for kohlrabi involve eating it raw, comparing it to jicama or radishes. My favorite way to eat it, though, is roasted. It softens and sweetens beautifully, and it matches well with roasted apples, sweet potatoes, turnips, and radishes. (Yes! Roast your radishes! They’re delicious!) Actually, my technique with these vegetables aims to look something like this apple and root vegetable hash from Martha Stewart, but I discovered it was much easier to roast everything in the oven than to do it her way.

The methodology is simple: cube everything. (Make sure you peel the kohlrabi thoroughly – the skin is tough! All the other vegetables I mentioned can keep their skins.) Toss them with olive oil and whatever seasonings you wish. Dump them into a glass Pyrex dish, and roast them in the oven. 375 is a good temperature, but if you’re already cooking something else, there’s room for adjustment. It’s an imprecise science – I’m going to tell you to cook them until they look and feel done. I take the dish out to push the vegetables around and even the browning a couple of times during the course of cooking. Other than that, though, it’s hands-off and easy, easy, easy.

We had chicken for dinner tonight. I had one broiler chicken left in the deep freeze from last season, so it was time to use it up. (I’ve been on a mission for weeks to clear out the freezers, and there’s still food in there! But, I digress. That is a rant for another post.) We had veggies – I only used sweet potato and kohlrabi tonight – as well as more salad from last night. It was delicious.

Yes, that’s Lego Batman in the upper right corner of the frame. I am not known for my professional-grade pictures, and we have a 5 year-old.

CSA 2019 – WEEK 1

I have so much to say, but I am typing one-handed, with my infant son cradled in the other arm, so this may end up as a “To be continued…” post.

Today was the first Bloomfield-Montclair pickup! I wore my veggie dress to celebrate.

We had perfect weather for pickup, and it felt so good to see some familiar faces.

Usually, the first week is unnervingly small. I feel like this year was more impressive than usual. As per our weekly email:

LETTUCE (Red Leaf)
SPINACH
RADISHES
KOHLRABI
GARLIC SCAPES
PEAS
CHOICE OF DILL OR CILANTRO
CHOICE OF ESCAROLE OR ENDIVE (frissee)
There was also an “extra” of Chervil. I took that, anticipating making eggs tomorrow. (It compliments scrambled eggs SO well.)
No fruit share or meat yet (both start next week), but we did get eggs.
Early season pickups are heavy on the greens. I made a beautiful salad to accompany dinner tonight.
Salad greens from a CSA can be intimidating. There they are, typically in massive quantities… and covered in dirt. We’re so accustomed to supermarket power-washed vegetables that it can seem daunting. A few years ago, I settled on a technique for cleaning the grit with little stress.
Use two bowls. Fill both with cold water. agitate the leaves in one, then allow them to rest for a while before moving them to the other bowl. Repeat the process until the water is clear of grit, emptying the bowl each time. I like to dump the water into my rain barrel, personally, to give it a second use. Finish the process with a traditional salad spinner to dry.
Tonight was a fairly easy prep night. I’m looking forward to talking about kohlrabi this week – it was the vegetable that ultimately led to this blog – but for now, I am calling it a night. Welcome to the 2019 CSA season!

Butternut-Pear Salad

I’m not one for making salads from cookbooks. I know the basics of which flavors match, and I know how to make my own dressings. I don’t often bother to follow someone else’s directions. However, last night, I made a salad from a new cookbook I picked up this week: Fresh From the Farm: A Year of Recipes and Stories. (PS, the link says one price… go into the store if you want this book and can. The hardcover is on the bargain rack for $8 right now. They must have released a paperback version.)

The salad jumped out at me, because it had roasted butternut squash and pears – both of which I had in abundance – and a lime-ginger vinaigrette, which sounded (and was) delicious. It turns out that the cookbook author has a blog, and the recipe I tried is mentioned in this post, though the recipe in that post is for a different salad. (Of course she wants you to get the book… and this is why I try to respect cooks & authors by not reposting their recipes if they have not made them readily available on the internet, themselves.)

One massive pear
Ready to roast
The finished product

It was a good use for many ingredients that I already had lying around. When Susie suggested using frissee in the salad mix, it shook me out of my habits. We got frissee this week, and typically, my response is to make white bean & escarole soup and shove it in the freezer. Hooray for expanding my range! This only took half of the buttnernut squash that I purchased at the farmers market last Saturday (in a burst of motivation that then fizzled), so I roasted the other half in the skin so I’d have some squash puree. I’ll likely turn that into squash & apple soup later. Pears turn really quickly, and this was the first week we got really whomped with pears in our fruit share, so I was glad to have an excuse to get at least some of them consumed immediately.

Be prepared, this salad makes a huge amount of food. We had two containers of leftovers after this meal (which included salmon and rice), though the fact that Little Chef is resolutely against salad at the moment doesn’t help that situation.

High Summer, Part 1

I took this ridiculous picture today.

What you’re seeing here is the sum total of both my Coeur et Sol share and my Bloomfield-Montclair share, along with some backyard harvest, though minus whatever we ate from Chelsa’s share last night.

It’s high summer. Tomatoes. Summer squash. Eggplant. Ground cherries (which I’m shamelessly popping as I type this up). Basil, canteloupe, beets, peaches…

Getting this treasure trove really helped my outlook on life today, and it’s been therapeutic to process this evening. Late afternoon, I had an unfortunate patch of bad news, so my cooking reporting is not quite as varied as I’d hoped it’d be by this point, but there is always tomorrow.

I had hoped to make ratatouille tonight, but with the interruption, we had sandwiches, instead. I did make a killer salad for a side: Coeur et Sol salad mix, purple radish, yellow cucumber, and Montclair-Bloomfield ground cherries and green bell pepper. Yum.

I’ve been itching to try out Thug Kitchen’s Peach-Mint Sun Tea. It lives up to every bit of the hype. Peaches came from my share. Mint was the orange mint I have growing in my yard. I did find I needed to strain the tea after blending, which they don’t mention in the recipe.

I broke out the CSA cookbook for the first time this season, and I used some of the parsley that’s thriving in my yard to try making Chimichurri. It’s currently steeping. I could have used the next-size-down jar (I made a half-recipe), but I didn’t realize that until too late. Live and learn.

Eggplant. There is eggplant everywhere. Tonight, I made an eggplant parm that will likely go in the freezer tomorrow. I breaded and baked the slices of eggplant in the same manner that I did for the eggplant sandwiches from last week. I sauteed portobello mushrooms and basil (from my share) and mixed that into the (jarred) sauce to make things more interesting. I used the leftover eggs from the breading process to thicken the ricotta; my mom used to do that for calzone filling.

I found myself with an abundance of thyme from my yard, as I often do. Thyme is really easy to grow, and I’m grateful for it, because it’s one of my favorite herbs. It’s really easy to dry, and I documented the steps tonight for you to follow. This drying method works well for any non-oily herb. I’ve had great success with thyme, dill, rosemary, savory, oregano, and marjoram with this method. Herbs like basil are better dried in an oven or a dehydrator because they have so much moisture that they risk molding before they’ve successfully dried.

First, you’ll need your herbs, kitchen string or yarn, scissors, and a brown paper bag. I save the lunch-style bags I get from things like bagels for this purpose. Tonight, the bags came from my fruit share, actually.

Tie a bundle of the herbs together, leaving a long  tail of string. Place them inside the bag, with the string coming out of the top. Pinch the top of the bag and tie it shut, like a drawstring, but leave a nice long tail. Label your bag with the herb and the date, and cut ventilation holes in the bag. use both string tails to tie the bag up in a cool, well-ventilated, dry space. I use a closet in my kitchen that otherwise holds a recycling bin, broom, mop, etc. It has a bar across, as though one would hang coats in there,  so it’s really convenient for hanging. You can see the graveyard of old strings in the photograph – this has been my drying place for years, and I’m a little lazy about cutting down the bags.

On average, your herbs should be dry in a couple of weeks. This will vary due to temperature and humidity. I usually err on the side of leaving them hanging longer – there’s little damage that can be done. Store the dried herbs in glass jars or repurposed empty spice jars and revel in the feeling of not paying an arm and a leg for the store-bought stuff.

Clearly we’re not through the pile of veggies yet. See you in installment #2.

Back from the dead

(Or, at least that’s what it feels like.)

This has been a string of tough days and weeks on the real life front, and my  cooking and blogging have suffered. I hope that this has turned a corner, and we can get back to our regularly scheduled summer abundance.

I’ve been sick for two and a half weeks now, though I’ve finally turned a corner and would call myself “mostly better.” Unfortunately, that meant I was sick throughout a brief family vacation to southern Delaware. I still managed to meet my one cooking goal while down there: Aunt Suzy had commented on how appealing my fritatta recipe looked, and I was able to make one for all of us for breakfast at the condo. I’d forgotten how irksome it is to use unfamiliar pans, but it came out okay, regardless.

I used spinach and garlic scapes from my Bloomfield-Montclair CSA share, and summer squash from Coeur et Sol.

What are garlic scapes, you ask?

Whole, they are long and twisty. This is one cut up into sections. They’re the green part that grows out of the top of garlic. They are like a firmer, garlic-flavored chive. They stir fry well, and they pretty seamlessly go into recipes where you’d use garlic (like this breakfast). They also make a mean pesto, but I can do another post on that, later.

I brought all of both of my shares down to the condo with me. Of course, I ended up trucking quite a bit home, but we did eat Crazy Salad at a few meals.

I kept thinking of this salad as a Tale of Two CSAs. The base salad mix came from Coeur et Sol, but there’s spinach in there from Farmer John. The radishes and kohlrabi were from Chelsa, but the carrots came from Farmer John’s booth at the farmer’s market.

… If you’re asking yourself, “What the heck is kohlrabi?” right now, you’re not alone. Kohlrabi was the first “odd” vegetable I experienced via CSA, and from my google searches in the past, I am not alone.

This pudgy, alien-looking vegetable is Kohlrabi. It also comes in purple, though both are white on the inside. It looks like a root, but it’s actually a bulbous stem. It’s a brassica – related to broccoli and cabbage. (Pro tip: this means the kohlrabi scraps do NOT go in the scrap bag for stock. Brassicas get smelly when they simmer.) One use for kohlrabi (the one Farmer John recommends repeatedly, though I do enjoy roasting) is to use it like jicama. I did just that for the salad, thanks to a grater I found in the condo kitchen.

Honestly, it’s perfectly fine like that. It adds a different texture and layer of flavor to the salad. However, I love cubing kohlrabi and roasting it, often with other root vegetables and a bunch of spices. I did this the previous week, with some radishes.

Yum, yum, yummmmmmm.

BEETS.

I have an almost comical love of beets. Chelsa included some baby beets in the share this week, and here’s how I enjoyed my first beet fix of the season.

I used the greens as part of my breakfast this morning. I did a simple sautee of the beet greens with some EVOO, garlic, and black pepper. I topped this mess of greens with one of the nasturtium flowers that also came in my share.

That is a breakfast fit for finals week. The toast is topped with strawberry-cranberry jam, which is homemade. The egg is topped with chervil from my share.

(My day job is as a private tutor. All of my students have finals this week. This partly explains why I haven’t yet begun obsessively blogging.)

I then steamed the beets in a bamboo steamer until they were tender, shredded them, and made “beet tartare.” The dressing for the beets is mayonaise, mustard, lemon juice, and pepper.

I ate the beet tartare on toast triangles, along with a salad topped with pan-fried tempeh.

Today is the first pickup for the Bloomfield-Montclair CSA, so I anticipate having more to share later.

Beautiful Dinner

Dinner was beautiful tonight.

We had a colorful salad, consisting of salad mix, pea shoots, baby salad turnips, and radish flowers from the Coeur et Sol farm share. It also included a cranberry/raisin/blueberry mix, shredded carrots, sliced cucumber, grape tomatoes, and basil orange balsamic chicken.

To make the chicken, I cubed boneless/skinless breast and marinaded it in a ziploc bag. The marinade was a little bit of EVOO, balsamic vinegar, basil from my own container garden, some garlic powder, and a healthy splash of orange juice. After letting it marinade in the fridge for an hour or so, I cooked it in a chef pan over medium-high heat until the chicken was done.

Last week, at Chelsa’s recommendation, we ate sliced breakfast radishes on toasted, buttered bread. Tonight, as a variant on that, I made garlic bread from a loaf of ciabatta bread, and then we topped it with sliced French breakfast radishes (from Coeur et Sol) and fresh chives (from my window box). Heaven.

Little Chef is vehemently against salad at the moment, so he had  his meal in pieces, with the addition of some hummus and some almonds.

Food that looks good, tastes good, and makes you feel good. Ohhhh, late spring, welcome back.

 

Microgreen Meatless Monday

I haven’t been blogging much about my microgreens. I’m new to the world of these tiny vitamin powerhouses, and I’m definitely on a learning curve. (I’ve been finding some interesting articles, though it has taken some creative keyword selection. Most of the information you find when searching “microgreens” relates to growing, rather than cooking.) To add to the learning time, it’s midterm season around here, so my student load is… well… insane. This means that I’ve mostly been using my microgreens as garnish on top of sandwiches or soup, which is not bad or inappropriate in the slightest; it’s just not really noteworthy.

Tonight was different. I got a real burst of inspiration, and I’m so thrilled with how it came out. I had lots of odds and ends to use up in my fridge, and I ran with the Meatless Monday theme. The result ended up being a tempeh, soba noodle, and vegetable salad, and it was sooooooo good.

First, I cubed some tempeh this afternoon and let it marinate. The marinade was a mixture of soy sauce, rice vinegar, garlic vinegar, garlic powder, onion powder, ginger, and maple syrup.

The rest of the work came closer to dinner time, as nothing took a particularly large amount of effort or time. I stir-fried the tempeh and big vegetables (broccoli, bell pepper, sugar snap peas) over high heat – I was going for a bit of a sear. I added the sugar snap peas last, because I did not want them to cook much.

Meanwhile, I cooked and drained the soba noodles – I only used one bundle, since that’s what I had left in my pantry – and rinsed them in cold water. After the vegetables had their quick pass in the  pan, I dumped them in a big salad bowl and stuck them in the fridge for a little while to cool.

Meanwhile, I made the dressing – some EVOO, garlic vinegar, basil-flower-and-orange vinegar (that I began steeping in September), honey, and brown mustard. This made WAY too much dressing, but I’m refrigerating the extra and will use it on salads.

Then, I began to assemble the salad. In went the soba noodles…

… and the greens.

The greens, by the way, were a mixture. I used the remaining garnet mustard from last week, as well as a hefty amount of the signature mix (which is brassica-heavy) and a bit of the alfalfa sprouts. I also threw in some basil leaves from the plant that’s hanging out on my windowsill currently.

A quick toss with some dressing…

Gorgeous.

Happy Meatless Monday, everyone!

Eating From the Farm(s)

I’ve been flipping through my pictures as I’m queuing up some posts for the week ahead, and I had to just post this appreciation. There’s nothing quite as satisfying for me as looking at a beautiful plate full of homemade, locally-sourced food. This was dinner last night.

Honey-balsamic Pork Tenderloin

Homemade applesauce

Mashed potatoes with garlic chives

Crazy salad

The vast majority of the ingredients came from the farms – the apples from Tree-Licious, the pork from Wrong Direction, the veggies in the salad and the potatoes and chives from Circle Brook.

Eating local is where it’s at.

“Veggie Madness”

That’s the way I usually put CSA prep on my to-do list. I turn into a kid in a candy store or an overactive puppy – SO MANY VEGGIES. WHAT TO DO WITH ALL OF THEM?!?

Often, I take a picture of the week’s share laid out on my table. It’s a great way to really see and enjoy the abundance. I didn’t do that this week, though I did get a picture of the wagon loaded up with my kid and my share…

Tuesdays are tricky for dinner. CSA pick up starts at 2 pm. We often don’t know what’s coming in the share until Monday evening or Tuesday morning. Add in an active preschooler, and there’s not a lot of time to work my magic on the share and turn it into a complete dinner. I try to make an easily accompanied protein that I can make fit into whatever vegetable landscape I end up with. Today was one of those days.

I made “Beer Chicken.” I’ve long since lost the link where I learned to make Beer Chicken, but the author of that blog post asserted quite heavily that she was not providing a recipe, but a method of preparing chicken, up to you to customize. This redefines easy: take chicken thighs, place them in the bottom of the slow cooker, sprinkle them with spices of your choice, pour in one bottle of beer, then cook on low for 8 hours.

It works. Every time. Tonight was smoked paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, and a little kosher salt. The beer was 16 Mile Tiller Brown.

DELICIOUS.

On-site today, there were plenty of jokes about taking a break from salad. We’ve finally hit deep summer, where lettuce stops being abundant thanks to the heat. I genuinely did not expect to find myself going home and making… well… a salad. But we got arugula, and it was delicious! Arugula, tomatoes, cucumbers, feta, walnuts… and we dressed it with a homemade dressing: parsley, basil, garlic, oil, garlic vinegar, brown mustard, and maple syrup. YUM.

I intend to typically include a list of what’s in the share. You’ll get that in tomorrow’s post; tonight, I’m very tired. I’ve been munching some ground cherries and sipping some wine while writing this post. I have blanched carrots to get in the freezer, kale to chop and freeze, and then it’s off to bed for me. Look for a list of the bounty, an explanation of what the heck ground cherries are, and a dinner featuring eggplant tomorrow.