Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Inspiration - Week #15

In this week's Grande box:  Heirloom and San Marzano roma tomatoes, mixed salad greens, arugula, yellow wax beans, edamame soybeans, Yukon Gold potatoes, watermelon, broccoli, tomatillos, hot peppers, bok choy. (Some boxes will get "make up" eggplant or raspberries)

I hope you have marked your calendars for the upcoming harvest festival - Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 18 and 19.  Southeast Minnesota is very beautiful at that time of year, so it is a good time to visit the farm, enjoy some good food and learn more about where your food (at least some of it) comes from. 

This week's boxes contain some new treats that you haven't seen yet this summer -- tomatillos (the green tomatoey things with husks) and edamame.   And although you got some arugula a few weeks ago, this week the bunch is quite robust - you can have a complete arugula experience. 

How are you doing at using up the contents of each week's box?   Don't be discouraged if you don't always manage to get to everything.  Have you conducted a personal fresh produce survey in your kitchen lately?  Now would be a good time.  You just may have to declare some things dead.  I am sorry about that - but that is what compost is for.    Stick with me and you will get better at vegetable management.  I promise.  And remember that it is a good sign that your food has the capacity to rot  - it means that it is whole and natural and has not been treated or transformed to last practically forever on a shelf.  It is alive and as such will eventually decay unless you cook or preserve it in some way. 

So here are some ideas for cooking this week's food.  And if you have something left over from last week or even the week before - hopefully you can find a way to use it this week.   If you get stuck, feel free to send me an e mail and I will try to make a suggestion or two.
Contact me at cook@featherstonefarm.com    I like to hear from the front lines.

As usual, where you see an asterisk you know there is a recipe at the end of the post.
These menus borrow from the cuisines of America, Japan, Mexico, Italy and China.   I love living in a nation of immigrants.  The food is so much more interesting. 

Burger Night
Hamburgers (or your favorite grill food or even a grilled cheese sandwich); potato salad with wax beans (just steam or boil the beans until just tender, cut into pieces, and add to your favorite potato salad recipe.  Or serve separately with a simple vinaigrette.)  If you still have a few radishes around, they would be nice in the potato salad; sliced heirloom tomatoes; watermelon  (Note - see my post for July 10 for a potato salad recipe.  Just because the post says russets are best - don't let that stop you from making potato salad with Yukon Gold potatoes.)

Not Your Mother's Hot Dish (and maybe your mother's chocolate pudding)
Chicken broccoli casserole*; green salad with simple vinaigrette; dinner rolls; homemade chocolate pudding*

Deconstructed sushi with a soybean starter
Boiled and salted edamame in the pods*; chirashi sushi*; watermelon compote*

Bok choy and friends
Fried rice with bok choy and green or yellow beans and maybe other vegetables you need to use up. (See June 15 post for fried rice guidance.)

Huevos rancheros - so satisfying
Simple supper or brunch dish.  Poached or fried eggs on warmed tortillas - with tomatillo salsa*.  Refried beans or rice or both on the side.  Or if you have some extra boiled Yukon gold potatoes around, slice and fry for American fries.  Add some onions or peppers or garlic or all three to the potatoes if you like.

Tuscan comfort
Soft yellow polenta with arugula and gorgonzola*; mixed green salad; good crusty bread; a ripe peach or pear for dessert - maybe with a biscotti?


Chicken broccoli casserole
This recipe has four basic parts.  With a little planning, it should come together fairly quickly.
Note that you can make a lovely Minnesota style hot dish WITHOUT employing canned condensed soup of any kind.
1.  The pasta - I recommend tubular pasta for this dish - it could be good old elbow macaroni or penne or something else exotic.  No long thin pasta.  While the pasta is cooking, make the sauce.  8 oz of pasta should serve 4.

2.  The sauce - Make a white sauce with cheese - also called mornay sauce if you use gruyere.  See Sept. 2 post on Bechamel for a recipe.    Add swiss or cheddar cheese to the sauce.  Make a double recipe and freeze half the sauce for another day.  You will need at least 2 cups of sauce for 4 servings, depending on your tastes.

3.   The broccoli - chop the broccoli, including the stems (peel stems first if necessary.  Compost any tough ends).  Keep stem pieces separate from florets.  Add stem pieces to pasta cooking water about 5 minutes before pasta will be done.  Add florets about 3 minutes before.  Drain broccoli and pasta together.  This saves time and dishes.

4. The chicken - you can use chicken, turkey, ham or even sausage or canned tuna.  The meat should be already cooked.  About 1/3-1/2 cup cut up meat per person.

Assembly -- Put drained pasta and broccoli in a large bowl or even back in whatever pot you used to cook the pasta.   Add meat.  Pour sauce over all and mix well.  Put into a greased casserole or baking dish and bake at 350 degrees until heated through.  Optional topping - grated cheese or buttered bread crumbs.

Optional additions - saute some onion or sweet peppers and add along with the broccoli.  Add fresh herbs if desired.  Some chopped fresh parsley would be nice.

Chocolate pudding
This is a snap to make and uses staples that are likely to be in the kitchen - except for maybe the chocolate chips.  You could leave those out and just use another tablespoon of cocoa:  milk, sugar, butter, cornstarch, cocoa, chocolate chips, vanilla.
Mix together:
1/4 cup white sugar, 1/4 cup good quality cocoa, 3 T. cornstarch, 1/4 t. salt
Add and stir until smooth:
2 cups milk (I use 1% and it works fine)
Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring frequently with a whisk to avoid lumps
Once pudding thickens, take pan off the heat and add 1 ounce semisweet chocolate (2 T of chocolate chips is about 1 ounce), 1 T butter and stir until butter and chocolate melt. Then stir in 1/2 t. vanilla.
Pour pudding into small serving dishes and chill. This recipe makes 6 average or 4 large servings.

Remove pods from branches.  Rinse.  Place in pot of salted boiling water.  Boil about 5 minutes.  Drain.  Serve in the pods for a fun finger food appetizer.  You can serve them cool, room temperature or warm.  Sprinkle a little salt on the pods.  You can use your hands to squeeze the beans from the shells.  Or - holding the pod firmly by the stem end - put the pod partly in your mouth and kind of pop the beans into your mouth.  Here is a good short video showing how to cook and eat edamame.  http://www.wikihow.com/Cook-Edamame  (I had to watch at least five you tube videos of cute little kids eating edamame before I found this one.  I hope you appreciate the sacrifices I make for you.  For some reason lots of parents like to post videos of their children eating edamame.  Now you don't have to watch them unless you want to.)

Chirashi Sushi (Scattered Sushi)
This is a great and simple way to use up bits of meat, fish, vegetables, or mushrooms.
Sushi rice is mounded in individual serving bowls and topped with meat or fish or tofu, vegetables and some type of sauce or garnish.
Making the sushi rice:  Cook short grain or sushi rice - either white or brown.  For 1 and 1/2 half cups raw rice, add (after the rice is cooked) 1/4 cup rice vinegar, 2 T. sugar and 1 t. salt.   Use a large bowl to toss the hot rice with the vinegar mixture - you want the rice to absorb the vinegar as it cools.

Toppings:  Up to you.  It could be as simple as a boiled egg with a sprinkle of soy sauce and some bits of dried seaweed.   Or some sliced cooked or raw fish.  Or leftover sliced grilled meat or chicken.  Or marinated tofu.  Vegetables can be cooked or raw or some of each.  Lightly steamed yellow or green beans would be nice.  Sauteed shitake mushroom too.  Or some roasted winter squash.  Maybe use a combination which is the same as the filling for your favorite restaurant sushi hand roll.  Possible garnishes - toasted sesame seeds, dry seaweed cut into little strips, pickled ginger.  Possible sauce:  soy sauce, more rice vinegar, a sauce made with miso.  (For many good ideas, see Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything, page 472-474.)

Watermelon compote
Make a syrup sugar syrup: boil together 1/2 cup sugar with 1/4 cup water until sugar is completely dissolved.  Add 2 T. fresh lime juice and 2 T. chopped candied ginger.  Cool.  Cut watermelon into cubes while syrup is cooling.  Pour over melon.  Stir a few times to distribute syrup.  Macerate at least one hour before serving.  Serve chilled.

Tomatillo Salsa
This salsa goes especially well with egg or pork dishes.  You can use tomatillos fresh or cook them.  I am giving you a recipe for cooked salsa because I think it will keep better.  The fresh tomatillos themselves should keep a week or two in your refrigerator.   For fresh salsa simply combine some mild poblano chiles, tomatillos, garlic, cilantro, salt, and lime juice and hand chop or lightly process in a food processor.  If you like heat - add some chopped fresh hot chiles.

one pound tomatillos (about 12 medium)
one clove garlic, peeled and sliced
serrano or jalapeno chiles - seeded and chopped - about 2 T. (Use more if you like lots of heat)
1 cup lightly packed cilantro (optional but recommended)

Remove husks from tomatillos and rinse off the sticky residue.  Place in a saucepan (water should barely cover the tomatillos), bring to a boil, add a pinch of salt, then turn down and simmer about 5 minutes.  Drain, saving the cooking liquid.
Place in blender or food processor: 1/2 cup cooking liquid, chiles, cilantro, garlic .  Blend so all is finely chopped.  Roughly chop the tomatillos and add those.  Blend very briefly - you don't want too smooth a texture.  Salt to taste.  If you want a thinner sauce, add more cooking liquid.  Flavor will develop as sauce sits.  Allow at least several hours before serving. 

Polenta with Arugula and Gorgonzola - serves 4
Cook polenta.  Bring 2 cups water to a boil, add 1/2 cup milk and 1/2 t. salt.   Slowly pour in one cup polenta cornmeal (coarsely ground) , while stirring to avoid lumps.  Simmer about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.  (Optional - add about 1 T butter or olive oil to the polenta near the end of cooking.)  Vary the thickness by adding a little extra water.  For this recipe you want a creamy and relatively soft polenta.
Cook arugula.  Crush 4 cloves of garlic.  Saute in 1/4 cup olive oil.  (optional - use less olive oil and saute 2 pieces bacon along with the garlic.)  Saute about 10 minutes - taking care not to burn the garlic.  Turn off heat.  Add about 6 cups washed and coarsely chopped arugula to the pan and stir to coat it.  Stir in about 1/2 cup crumbled gorgonzola or other blue cheese.
Place arugula in the bottom of a baking dish.  Sprinkle with 2 T. balsamic or sherry vinegar.  Spread polenta on top.  Drizzle with a little extra olive oil.  Bake at 400 degrees about 20 minutes - until polenta is lightly browned and bubbling.
Variation - omit blue cheese.  Sprinkle grated parmesan or asiago cheese on top of the polenta before baking or even stir into polenta at the end of cooking.

BONUS RECIPE- watermelon AND arugula!  Who knew?
Check out this watermelon salad - with arugula, a sweet balsamic dressing and goat cheese.  Looks lovely. http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2010/02/french-in-a-flash-watermelon-salad-with-fromage-de-chevre-brule-recipe.html

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