Monday, June 7, 2010

Inspiration - Week #2

This week's CSA box contains: leaf lettuce, mixed salad greens, green garlic, garlic scapes, spinach, asparagus, green beans and maybe rhubarb or strawberries depending on what day you pick up your box.  And dill.  Beautiful fresh dill, which happens to have an affinity for spinach, green beans, fish, eggs and potatoes.  And lemon.

We have been enjoying lots of salads at our house lately.  You too, I hope.  A few days ago I started a discussion group going on the Featherstone Farm Facebook page -- about salads.  I'd love to see some pictures of your salads or read your ideas.   I bet others would too.   Some people may be suffering from lettuce overload.  Lettuce help them.!/topic.php?uid=80513594952&topic=16329

Last week I made some suggestions for Dealing with the Box when you first get it home.  Same for this week.  If you can, spend some time washing and drying the various greens and bagging them up.  Cut a half inch off the bottom of the bundle of asparagus and stand up in a jar with a little water and put a plastic bag over the top.  On the other hand, you can also get away with the no frills system used by some friends of mine.  Their way of managing the box is to put the whole thing in the refrigerator and deal with it later, one thing at a time.  That will work too.  Just don't wait too long to wash and dry the head lettuce.

What to do with that generous bunch of fresh dill?  If you decide to try all the meal ideas below you will have a dilly of a time.   The dill should keep at least 7-10 days, bagged and refrigerated.  Keep it dry if you can.   If you are feeling ambitious and are ready for a special culinary adventure, you could make gravlax.   This is a classic Scandinavian salmon dish that requires quite a bit of fresh dill.  Raw fish is cold cured in a mixture of salt, sugar and dill for a few days - then sliced thinly and served.  It can be served as an appetizer or a main dish and is accompanied by a mustard sauce.   This online article is detailed and has good pictures. You don't have to use such a big piece of fish if you don't want to.  I suggest using kosher salt, by the way.  The article does not specify a kind of salt.  Ordinary table salt would not do this justice.

Meal ideas: (Recipes follow for bold items marked with an asterisk*) 

1.  Roast chicken*.   boiled or steamed potatoes with dill sauce*  Boiled or steamed asparagus spears (also good with dill sauce)  Mixed green salad
 (Note - cook all the asparagus - remember not to overcook.  Save about 1/3 of it for pasta salad.   Also save some of the chicken breast for the salad, too.)

2.  Wilted lettuce salad *   Bread  Fruit (maybe fresh strawberries or some rhubarb sauce?) You can snip a little dill over this salad.

3.   Broiled or baked fish (or maybe gravlax?)  Rice  Steamed green beans (make a double recipe of rice if you want to make spinach casserole* later) 
If you don't serve the gravlax, you can use dill butter on the rice, fish and green beans.   Cook all the beans - don't overcook - and save about 1/3 for pasta salad.

4.   Pasta and Chicken Salad with Asparagus, Green Beans and Dill mayonnaise dressing*, served on top of mixed greens

5.  Egg salad sandwich with dill mayonnaise and lettuce on rye.  Serve with soup or salad or just a glass of milk.

6.  Spinach Casserole*  Tomato soup  Pita bread

Tomorrow's Dig In post: Vinegar

Week Two Recipes
Roast Chicken (and chicken broth)
There are many recipes for roast chicken out there.  This one comes from Laurie Colwin, who wrote two of my favorite collections of food essays: Home Cooking and More Home Cooking.
She was ahead of her time.  She said - in 1993 - "The best chickens are free-range, organic birds.  If you can find them, get them.  They cost more and they taste better."  I agree.

She suggests slow roasting until the meat falls off the bone and the skin is very crisp.
Her recipe is very simple: Place a whole chicken into an open roasting or baking pan.  Put a few cloves garlic and half a lemon inside the chicken. (You could smash a bulb of green garlic and use that.)  Sprinkle some salt, pepper and paprika on the skin.  Roast at 300 to 325 degrees "until the leg bone wiggles and the skin is the color of teak".  Two to three hours depending on the size of the chicken.
(Note:  I tried this recipe one day after I first posted this piece.  I have changed the roasting temperature because as much as I love Laurie Colwin, her recipe just was not working for me.  She said 250-300 degrees.  I say 300-325 degrees.  And plan on three hours.)

This is how the roast chicken turned out.  As you can see my Dad really enjoyed the meal.  We ate the chicken (raised by a local grower) with steamed green beans from our Featherstone CSA box and some creme fraiche with fresh dill - also from the CSA box.   Our potatoes were from our garden - the first of the year.  French fingerlings.  Fresh strawberries with just a little whipped cream for dessert.  What luxury.  I guarantee you no potentate or king ate as well as we did tonight. 

DON'T THROW AWAY THE CARCASS.  PLEASE.  After you have taken the meat off the bones, just scrape the carcass and the pan juices into a pot.  You can also throw in the tops of the green garlic and a little onion, carrot or parsley if you wish.  Or one or two whole cloves.  Add water about three quarters of the way up and simmer for three hours.  Strain broth.  Cool and then refrigerate.  Now you can dispose of the carcass.  Fat will rise to the top of the broth and harden.  Then it is easy to remove.  Chicken fat is also called schmaltz.  I like to save some in the freezer.  Sometimes a little schmaltz is just what you need.  Ask a Jewish mother.   If you are not going to use this broth within a few days,  you can freeze it. 

Dill Sauce for potatoes and vegetables
Melt 1/4 stick (4T.) butter.  (You can substitute part olive oil.)  Add 1 T. chopped fresh dill and 1 t. fresh lemon juice or white wine vinegar.  Salt and pepper to taste.

Wilted Lettuce Salad (You can use up a lot of leaf lettuce this way)
4 servings
About one pound leaf lettuce, washed and dried (if you don't have a salad spinner you can use kitchen towels).  You can also add some spinach, beet greens or other tender green.
4-6 strips bacon, diced (you can also use pancetta - that is my favorite)
4 green onions (or one bulb green garlic, minced fine, and some chopped garlic scapes)
4 T. Cider vinegar (or red or white wine vinegar)
2 t. sugar
While bacon is cooking, shred or tear salad greens and place in a large bowl.  After bacon is cooked, add vinegar, sugar and onions or garlic to pan drippings and heat gently.  Pour warm dressing and bacon pieces over the greens and quickly toss.  Serve on warmed plates.   Salt and pepper to taste.  Excellent garnished with chopped or quartered hard boiled eggs and sliced radishes.

Pasta Chicken Salad
Cook pasta of your choice - such as rotini, fusilli, penne or elbow macaroni.  Plan on about one to 1 1/2 cups cooked pasta per serving.  Drain and set aside.  Chop cooked green beans and asparagus into one or two inch pieces.  Add to pasta.  You may also add some chopped onions, garlic scapes or chives to taste.  Fresh spinach leaves cut into 1/2 inch strips would also be a good addition.  Then add pieces of cooked chicken.  You could also use turkey, salmon or tuna or even some cured or smoked sausage.  If I had some toasted pecans around I would thrown those in too.
Dressing:  Mix equal parts mayonnaise and plain yogurt.  Thin with a little milk if desired.  Add a few tablespoons of fresh chopped dill and a teaspoon or two of Dijon mustard.  Salt and pepper to taste.  If you want to spark the taste a bit, add a dash of vinegar and pinch of sugar.  Serve on a bed of salad greens.  (Note:  Thursday's Hands On post will be about how to make mayonnaise at home.)

Spinach Casserole - 4 servings
One bunch or bag of spinach (1/2 to 1 pound)
1/2 cup chopped onion or 4 chopped scallions (green onions)
One T finely minced fresh green garlic
2 cups cooked rice
1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
1/4 cup fresh parsley (optional)
4 eggs
1/3 cup milk
1 cup crumbled feta cheese (You could substitute grated swiss cheese)
1/2 t. salt, black pepper to taste
Cook spinach in a small amount of water for about 5 minutes.  Cool, squeeze dry and chop.  Saute about 1/2 cup of onions and the garlic until soft.  Beat 4 eggs.  Mix spinach in a bowl with rice, onions, eggs and seasonings.  Bake at 350 degrees until firm and lightly browned - about 30 minutes.


  1. thanks for the freeing alternative to Dealing with the Box - tho i'm currently SO HAPPY to get back to the weekly ritual of admire, cleanse (or not), store. also appreciated the asparagus eye-opener - yes PLEASE let's keep growing in MN. i made an inelegant and delicious asparagus scramble with last week's bundle. looking forward to your thoughts on garlic scapes and green garlic...

  2. GREAT talking with you this morning! The dill mayo is amazing. Say, what would one need with the "Sometimes a little schmaltz is just what you need."? I occasionally save bacon fat, is schmaltz very different?

  3. I would say similar to bacon fat. Let's say you were going to make a risotto with chicken broth and some kind of vegetable. You could use the schmaltz instead of oil to saute the onions and rice. Makes it a bit more chickeny. A classic use for schmaltz is with cooked chicken livers for chopped liver - served with raw onions and chopped hard cooked egg. Or if you were making dumplings for chicken and dumplings, you could use schmaltz for some or all of the shortening when you make the dumplings.