Monday, May 31, 2010

Inspiration - Week 1

I picked up my Grande box #1 Monday morning at the farm.   Now safely stored in my refrigerator: mixed salad greens,  a head of leaf lettuce,  big bunches of radishes, rhubarb, spinach and asparagus and last but not least a tidy aromatic bunch of fresh cilantro.  It took me half an hour to DEAL WITH THE BOX, and that included clean up.   I even took a few big bowls of used water out the back door and threw it on the thirsty strawberry plants.  Put the trimmings into the compost, too.  Waste not want not.
 I was efficient and you can be too.  I trimmed, washed and dried first the spinach, then the mixed greens and last the cilantro.  While the batches sat in the water and I waited for the little bits of grit to sink, I did other little chores like trim 1/2 inch off the bottom of the asparagus before I stood it up in a few inches of water in a wide mouthed jar.  I didn't wash the radishes - just trimmed off the tops and bagged them.  I bagged up the head lettuce for washing later.  While one bunch of greens/spinach waited in the washing water, I spin dried another bunch.  You can get a lot done in half an hour if you don't mess around.  Later on this week I will be glad I took this time to prep a bit.   Make yourself do this too - you will be happy you did.  (For details on salad washing and spinning, see my April l3 post)

My plan for the next 22 weeks is to supply you with useful and maybe even sometimes entertaining information so you can get your beautiful food out of the box and onto your plate.  Every Tuesday morning will be dedicated to Inspiration - a week's worth of meal ideas - with a few recipes thrown in.  I will also be posting Wednesday through Saturday mornings with more recipes and other tidbits.

Some meal ideas for this week.  Items marked with an asterisk * - see recipes below
Main dish salad, whole grain bread,  rhubarb crisp *
Toss mixed greens with a simple vinaigrette .  Add your favorite cheese, meat, hard boiled egg, fish, nuts, fresh or dried fruit. 
Some possible combinations to stimulate your imagination:
cheddar cheese, sunflower seeds, apple, raisins
blue cheese, grapes, dried figs, walnuts
ham, bacon or sausage, swiss cheese, sweet onion, radishes
tuna, hard boiled egg, onion,  cut up asparagus

Pasta with asparagus sauce*, green salad using mixed greens or leaf lettuce.   A simple baked custard made with honey or maple syrup would be good with this meal - adding needed protein as well as a sweet finish.   (Sorry about that little glop of asparagus on the plate - I never claimed to be a food stylist.  This is real life we are talking about here.)
Japanese spinach salad * - Serve with rice and grilled, broiled or baked chicken (or other meat or fish or tofu)  A first course of simple miso soup with a few cooked spinach leaves or chicken broth with some sliced spring onions would make this meal special.

Poached Eggs on a bed of lightly sauteed spinach (if you have used most of your spinach in the Japanese salad, just put the eggs on toast or English muffins and use less spinach) - serve with  baked or roasted potatoes, cooked polenta, or other grain on the side.  Serve with hollandaise sauce *  if you are feeling celebratory.   If you have extra salad greens - add a side salad.

Tortillas with beans,  shredded leaf lettuce and radish-cilantro salsa *  Fresh melon or pineapple would be a nice addition to this meal.  Add any extra fresh cilantro to the cooked beans - stir in a few minutes before serving. 

**Recipes **

Rhubarb crisp
Cut rhubarb into 1/2 inch pieces.  Add about 3 T. sugar per cup of rhubarb.  Mix well and put rhubarb into a baking pan.  Sprinkle with topping.  Bake at 375 degrees about 1/2 hour - until top is browned and rhubarb is bubbling.
Topping:  mix together until crumbly:  1 cup flour (white or whole wheat), 3/4 cup old fashioned rolled oats, 2/3 cup packed light brown sugar, 1 t. ground cinnamon, a pinch of salt and 1 stick of butter, cut into small pieces. (Tip - double this recipe and freeze extra.  Use with any fresh fruit for a quick dessert.)

Pasta with asparagus sauce
Chop asparagus stalks (about 4-5 per serving), setting aside tips.  Cook stalks in about 1/2 cup water until tender - not more than 5 minutes.  Cool, then puree in a food processor, blender or food mill.  Set aside.
Heat about 2 T. olive oil or hazelnut oil in a pan - add a few cloves chopped garlic or a handful of chopped onion (more or less depending on amount of asparagus) and lightly saute, along with asparagus tips.  If you have some shitake mushrooms or other mushrooms, saute those too.  After about 5 minutes, add asparagus puree.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Optional - add a few tablespoons cream or creme fraiche.  Serve on top of cooked pasta, along with grated parmesan or other hard grating cheese.  A spoonful of chopped, toasted Minnesota hazelnuts as a garnish makes this dish truly special.  Pine nuts would also be good.  As would chopped fresh chives.

Hollandaise sauce - 
copied from my April 27 blog:  For the hollandaise all I needed was one raw egg yolk,  2 T of fresh lemon juice (about 1/2 a juicy lemon) and 6 T. cold butter (that is 3/4 of a stick)  I whisked together the egg yolk and the lemon juice in a small saucepan.  Then - over very low heat - I gradually whisked in one T. of butter until it melted.  Then another T. and another until I had a beautiful thick bright yellow sauce.  The trick here is to keep the heat low, add the butter one piece at a time and keep stirring gently.   Some recipes tell you to use a double boiler but I have never found it necessary

Japanese style spinach salad
Steam spinach (cook it over- not in- an inch or so of boiling water) for 3-4 minutes.  Cool, squeeze dry and chop.  Add dressing: 1/4 c. soy sauce, 2 t. sugar, 2 T. peanut or vegetable oil,   Optional: 2 T. sesame seeds (lightly toasted in a dry skillet and then crushed) and 1/2 t. toasted sesame oil.  This is enough dressing for about 1 1/2 pounds of spinach.

Radish-cilantro salsa (based on recipe from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything)
Dice fresh radishes and add some diced cucumber if you have it.  For every 2 cups of radishes, add 1/3 cup chopped red onion or scallion (green onion), 1 t. minced fresh garlic and 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves. Add zing with a few tablespoons of fresh lemon or lime juice or red wine vinegar and -of course- chopped fresh chile peppers or red pepper flakes to your taste

Next post: 8 a.m. Wednesday - when we will Dig In - and learn more about olive oil
I welcome your comments on the blog - or you can e mail me at


  1. Forgive this novice question. Can you make a batch of the Radish-cilantro salsa and freeze it? Or would you (could you) freeze the radishes until you are ready to use them? I think my dad and brother would love this, but I don't see them for a few weeks.

    The asparagus sauce sounds wonderful. I can't wait to read more through the week and get my first box on Thursday!

  2. Hi Manda -
    No need for forgiveness. I would not recommend freezing radishes. I think if they are refrigerated (trim off the tops) and bagged up and a little humid they should keep for a few weeks.

  3. Peggy--thanks so much for these recipes. For the rhubarb crisp, how many stalks of rhubarb should I use and what size baking pan do you recommend? I'm asking b/c my Chica share came with 10 stalks of rhubarb, and I'm not sure if I'll need all of them for this recipe.


  4. Awesome blog! I'm a newbie to the CSA thing...and Featherstone. And I'm super excited to try some new things. The radish-cilantro salsa sounds intriguing...but I didn't get enough radishes in my small (chica) box. Wonder if they'll be more next week?

    Also can't wait to make some rhubard crisp!! :)

  5. Meredith - you can use all the stalks or some of them, depending on how much crisp you want. I akm thinking you could easily use them all unless you have another plan for some of it. Just do 3T sugar per cup of rhubarb. Baking pan size - if you use all the rhubarb then I would use a 9 x 9 pan. You want it about 1 1/2 inches deep after it is baked.

    Brooke - You can still make the salsa - just downsize the proportions. With salsa you don't have to be real exact.

  6. There was no rhubarb in my box. sniff. sniff.

  7. Dear M, Sorry about the no rhubarb -- we did not make clear that rhubarb is delivered over two weeks - so if you did not get it this week you will get it next week. My husband personally harvested 400 pounds yesterday (he is supplying rhubarb to Featherstone until their own plants mature). I helped him harvest 193 pounds on Monday so I understand the physical logistics of rhubarb. Spreading the harvest over two weeks makes a lot of sense to us! Hope you enjoy it when it finally comes. Peggy

  8. I had to smile about your "dealing with the box." I did much the same thing, but it's so worth it to have ingredients all ready to go when I'm ready to cook.

    I used my cilantro to make an Asian-style sauce for noodles that I posted on my site.