MC CSA

Our summer CSA started last week. While some people complain that receiving a box of predetermined vegetables every week is too limiting, I’ve really grown to love working with ours. I’m really at my happiest with our magic box of tricks on the counter. Rich jokes that if I was a rapper, my name would be MC CSA.

So far this week, the arugula has been made into a garlicky pasta topped with golden raisins. The leaves have also made their way into a salad of roasted beets (also from the box) and stinky blue cheese. Last night, we had an outstanding miso soup featuring steamed mizuna (a Japanese lettuce) and carrots, both from the CSA. To the pot I added a few pantry goodies, dried shiitake mushrooms, some absolutely ancient seaweed, and fresh matchsticks of ginger. I filled the bottom of each bowl with a ladleful of barley (pressure cooker, ‘natch) and tied it altogether with another CSA goodie, spring onion.

Which brings me to the main event. This past weekend I made spring onion and cheddar biscuits. It was Rich’s birthday, and I promised him weeks in advance I wouldn’t plan a thing. It worked out for the best because our neighbors had a BBQ featuring hours-smoked ribs. For my husband, any birthday involving pork is a good one. Given the menu, these biscuits just seemed to make sense. (I also brought the mighty bean salad.)

I did a bit of digging around for a green onion and cheddar biscuit recipe, but couldn’t come up with something that pleased me. Or, as I lamented to Aleza, “Why is there bacon in every one of these biscuit recipes?!?” She comforted me with the knowledge that people are stupid when it comes to pig, and suggested I find a biscuit recipe, add the cheese to the dry ingredients, and then add the onion when I added the cream. Simple enough. I found the recipe in The Fannie Farmer Cookbook — about as American as you can get. It’s a James Beard recipe, which to me makes perfect sense: leave it to a Southern gourmand to have a perfect biscuit recipe.

Spring Onion and Cheddar Biscuits adapted from The Fannie Farmer Cookbook

Ingredients

2 cups flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 Tablespoon baking powder

2 teaspoons sugar

1 cup cheddar, shredded

1 – 1 ½ cups heavy cream

½ cup chopped green onion

6 Tablespoons butter, melted

Directions

Preheat oven to 425F. Use an ungreased baking sheet.

Combine the flour, salt, baking powder, sugar and cheese in a mixing bowl. Stir the dry ingredients with a fork to blend and lighten. Slowly add 1 cup of the cream to the mixture, stirring constantly. Halfway through adding the cream, add the green onions. Stir constantly.

Gather the dough together; when it holds together and feels tender, it is ready to knead. But if it seems shaggy and pieces are dry and falling away, then slowly add enough additional cream to make the dough hold together. Place the dough on a lightly floured board and knead the dough for 1 minute.

Pat the dough into a square about ½ inch thick. Cut into twelve squares and dip each into the melted butter so all sides are coated. Place the biscuits 2 inches apart on the baking sheet. Bake for about 15 minutes or until they are lightly browned. Serve hot.

Stuck In My Head

Every so often, a really good song gets stuck in my head, and I feel compelled to share it with friends. I know I’m not alone: Martin Scorsese has had the same song stuck in his head for 30 years.

The dish I have to share with you today is like a really good song that’s stuck in my head and I need to share it. It’s a simple salad, really. Nothing special. But it just works so well: Thin discs of crisp, peppery radish, tossed with crumbles of soft, salty feta cheese,  married by a healthy dose of tangy red wine vinegar and speckled with green onion. I’m not talking about fancy Easter egg or watermelon radishes; just your Plain Jane radish, the kind that works well in the early days of spring. It’s the time of year when I’m still wearing a winter coat, but I don’t have to wear my boots anymore. We’ve put away the shovels (although Rich tells me we could get 5 inches Friday) and are anxiously awaiting the first flowers of springtime. Soon enough, we’ll be eating  artichokes and asparagus, but we’re not quite there yet.

This salad has been on repeat the past few weeks. I think a dinner guest summed it up best when he had his first bite and said “Molly, I don’t think I’ve ever really enjoyed a radish until this moment in my life.” It’s that good.

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Urban Adventure

I’m not sure if it was the aroma of Rich’s challah French toast or the furry little paw poking at my nose that woke me up last Saturday morning, but when Rich overheard the one-sided conversation I was having with the owner of said paw, he strolled in to see what was happening.  He was still holding his beloved cast-iron skillet, wiping down the remains of the morning’s meal.  “Would you like to have an urban adventure, Ms. Sleepy, Sleepy?” he asked. “There’s an exhibit at the ICA I’m interested in seeing that ends today. We can go to the exhibit, then go to Flour bakery for a bite.” I had my coat on before he had put down his skillet.

The exhibit Rich was interested in viewing was a retrospective of the expressionist artist Mark Bradford. A 2009 MacArthur Fellow, Bradford is an artist without a paint brush, utilizing found art — most often billboards he’s scavenged around his native Los Angeles — to create collages that explore race, class and gender in urban American society. Like an archaeologist digging through a site’s remains, Bradford scrapes away at the layers on billboards.

Mark Bradford -- Kryptonite (2006)

I had never been to the ICA, and there were a few things about the museum I really appreciated. The first was them waiving me through when I flashed my university ID. (Why had I never been here before?!?) I loved that they provided free audio tours on iPods for all their visitors; another option was to call the number printed on the descriptive card next to each painting. Since it was the weekend, we opted for using free minutes and left the iPods for other visitors. I also really enjoyed that throughout the exhibit were docents who would gather perplexed visitors, myself included, and walk us through some ideas that the artist was perhaps trying to convey.

After the museum, we walked a few blocks over to Flour bakery. I haven’t had a ton of stuff from Flour, but I’ve loved every bite I have had there; I still think fondly of a grilled tofu sandwich I had at their Washington Street location last October.  But it was the daily special, the salmon cakes, that caught my eye.  Full confession: Even though I’ve considered myself a vegetarian for good chunks of my life, I absolutely adore fish. As long it has fins and scales, I will eat it with relish — or make that tarter sauce. Steamed, fried, poached, pickled or baked, I love it. I remember once, when I was in high school and had been a vegetarian — er, pescatarian — for years, that I announced to my parents I was going vegan. “But Molly,” my mom pointed out, “you love fish.”

So clearly I had to have the salmon cakes. I actually got them to see how they compared to mine. During the layoff, salmon cakes had become a house favorite. It’s a total pantry recipe; I’d always have the canned salmon, the panko bread crumbs, mayo and eggs in the house. The toughest and ickiest part of the preparation was removing the bones from the canned fish. I am thrilled to report I have discovered Bumblebee now makes a package of salmon already skinned and deboned, costing less than $2. And so inspired by Flour, I revisited an old favorite, this time with sweet potato and chipotle.

Patty cake, patty cake, baker's man

Salmon Cakes with Chipotle Mayo

Ingredients

1 can or package salmon — approximately 5 oz.

1 sweet potato, peeled and cubed

3/4 cup panko bread crumbs

2 eggs

2 tablespoons mayonnaise

2 green onions, chopped

Juice of 1/2 lemon

Directions

In a 2-quart saucepan, boil the sweet potato in 2 cups water until tender.

Drain potato. After it cools, place the cubes in a medium-size bowl and mash well. To this, add the rest of the ingredients and mix until well-combined. I find that using my hands is the best way to get this done.

Heat oil in 10-inch nonstick skillet. Using 1/4 cup of fish mixture per patty, form patties and fry in skillet over medium flame, approximately 5 minutes per side, until golden on both sides. Add more oil to skillet if necessary.

While the patties are frying, make the chipotle mayo.

Chipotle Mayo

Combine in a bowl:

4 tablespoons mayo

1 chipotle pepper and its adobo sauce, minced

2 cloves garlic, minced

Squeeze of lemon juice

Flour served their salmon cakes with a mesclun salad on the side. Tonight we had ours resting atop a pile of garlicky chard studded with currants. It was delicious.