CSA SNAFU

Fresh from the CSA... ignore the plastic bag.

I feel like I’ve been an unwitting contestant on Iron Chef: CSA for the past week, trying to use up my box of picked-for-me produce. Some things have been great. I made the basil into a pesto, roasted the cherry tomatoes, and tossed the whole kit and caboodle together with some pasta and black olives. The Kentucky Wonder Beans were delicious in a Chinese stew I made with some potatoes I found in the cupboard and a few mushrooms who were just waiting to fulfill their dinner destiny at the bottom of my crisper. Of course, I failed at taking photos of either dish, but I promise to make the stew in a few weeks and share it with you. I would make it again next week, I loved it so much, but I think Rich would prefer a little more variety on his plate.

And then there were the four poblano peppers and the butternut squash.

What do you do when half your CSA makes you sick?

By some miracle, I came across this recipe off a blog I read about in this New York Times article about a doctor who believes eating well is essential to being well. It looked easy enough, and I had everything the recipe called for in my pantry — quinoa, pecans, and dried cranberries. I had stock hanging out in the fridge, and I ignored the call for non-fat sour cream, which is how I usually deal with dairy in recipes. It sounded easy enough.

But it was a DISASTER. The poblano pepper skins did not peel as easily as the words on my screen said they would. And, it burned. A lot. Now I know I should have known better and used latex gloves to peel the peppers, but honestly, um, yeah, I don’t have any lying around my kitchen because a. I am not a surgeon, and b. really spicy things hurt my tummy, so owning a box of latex gloves seems silly. (Of course, I also received a set of steak knives as a wedding present, but I digress) So the skins didn’t peel right, the seeds burned my fingers, and the pepper just kind of fell apart in the process, making them impossible to stuff. Then I had a bite of one of the roasted peppers and thought, oh uh, I have to eat four of these? I could barely swallow a bite of one, they were so hot. In true Iron Chef fashion I made do with what I had and added some of the poblano peppers to the butternut squash sauce, in lieu of flavor from the non-fat sour cream. I sauteed up the bunch of kale and placed it atop the quinoa mixture and sauce.

Trust me, it looks a lot better than it tasted.

And, well, it was a pretty crappy dinner. It just wasn’t very good.

I didn’t bother signing up for the CSA box this week. My body can’t handle apples, pears, carrots or super spicy things — what I am going to do with with SIX habenero peppers, let alone another bunch of carrots, a half dozen apples and an Asian pear? I would love to get all my produce from a CSA, but it actually turned out to be a wasteful experience for me. I guess other CSA participants have no food intolerances, but I do. What I’m trying to say is, even though I would love to support the farmer, and be with him through floods and tomato blight, I can’t actually eat most of the produce he produces. When I have to give away half my CSA box, I’m not saving any money, I’m wasting the farmer’s time by not using his food he’s worked hard at growing, and then I still have three or four nights of dinners I need to find food for. I guess I do need a little more choice when it comes to what I put in my body.

Perhaps a CSA is just not for me.

Dinner for Two Becomes Dinner for Five

Shabbos dinner somehow grew from just me and Rich to three guests at our table Friday night. In my fridge I had three beets, a head of cabbage, five mushrooms, and a block of feta. We feasted.

I was very silly and didn’t take photos of our food before we supped, so what I have here are leftovers — hooray for leftovers! I have no shots of the cabbage and mushrooms, which turned out to be the hit of the night. I didn’t do anything special to them — just sauteed up an onion for  a good long time until it began to caramelize, tossed in some garlic, then the mushrooms, then the cabbage.  Right before I took it off the flame I added two sage leaves. All I did was cook the cabbage down until it was too exhausted to put up a fight anymore. Limp, molted green and muddy brown, it probably wouldn’t have made very pretty picture, but it tasted great.

The beets took 25 minutes in the pressure cooker.A very simple dish: I cubed the beets, and half a block of feta, then drizzled balsamic vinegar and sprinkled fresh mint (from my container plants outside) on top.

I used the other half of feta for the quinoa, chickpea, and farmers’ market tomato salad. I cooked the chickpeas in the pressure cooker for 11 minutes with some bay leaves, a teaspoon or so of whole black peppercorns and two cloves of garlic, unpeeled. While that was going on, I cooked the quinoa in my rice cooker — no muss, no fuss. Quinoa is a great pantry staple: protein, carbs, fat, calcium, you can get a pound of it for less than $4 in bulk at Harvest Co-op.

As for feta, here’s a tip: If you go the Market Basket in Somerville — which, by the way, has FANTASTIC produce at the some of the best prices in town — head over to the deli counter. On the right hand side up against the wall is a counter fridge. Inside you’ll likely find huge blocks of really decent feta for about $4.

To dress the quinoa salad, I combined:

6 TBS olive oil

3 TBS red wine vinegar (I like my lips to pucker, so I always go 2 to1 with my dressings, while I think most recipes will say 3 to 1)

1 clove of garlic, minced

1/8 teaspoon mustard (I’m actually pretty anti-mustard, but it can’t be beat for emulsifying salad dressings)

a pinch of salt

a few grinds of fresh black pepper

2 teaspoons agave nectar (you can do honey, too, but I like the sweetness of agave, and it’s good to have on hand for vegan salad dressings)

2 TBS chopped fresh mint

I put all these together in a glass jar, and shook. That’s all. This is basically the blue print for all my dressings.

Make sure to let the quinoa cool down before you dress it. Otherwise it will soak up everything and you’ll be wondering where all your flavor went. I speak from experience!

Quinoa salad on one of my new plates... thanks Freecycle!

Tomato, tomahto

Normally, I’m skeptical of farmers’ markets. True, they are local and sustainable and organic, but they can also be extremely expensive. Last summer I spent $40 on a bag of gorgeous produce only to use it all in one meal. But this is Massachusetts Farmers’ Market Week, so I decided to take a lunchtime bike ride to BU’s on-campus farmers’ market, in hopes of procuring peaches for some ice cream action this weekend.

I had the most lovely visit with the folks from Wards Berry Farm in Sharon. And I scored. Big time. For $6, I biked away with gorgeous tomatoes, peaches and garlic:

All this for $6!

The kind gentleman running the stand noticed my means of transport and noted that the farm is only three miles from the commuter train. A weekend visit to the farm may be in the future…

I’ll get at least two meals out of these tomatoes:

I wanted to gobble these at my computer this afternoon. Hooray willpower!

Like I’ve said, stock a good pantry, and you’re good to go. Tonight I made an easy pasta with the fresh tomatoes and garlic, then tossed in some artichoke hearts and olives.

This reminds me of that Skittles commercial. A rainbow of flavor!

(The husband, who normally hates tomatoes of the grape or cherry varieties, snarfed up dinner so fast that I didn’t get a chance to photograph it.)

I also set some chickpeas up to soak overnight for a quinoa, chickpea and tomato salad for Shabbos dinner tomorrow night.

Chickpeas in a pressure cooker: 11 minutes to perfection.

Friday is my neighborhood farmers’ market. I’m definitely biking by on my way home to see if I can get some fresh basil for my basil-peach ice cream. My plant’s on its last leaves at this point in the summer.

Make me into ice cream, stat!

Come back this weekend for the recap on deliciousness.