Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Inspiration -Winter Week #2

In this week's box:  cilantro, parsley, sage, bunched broccoli, cauliflower, bunched tat soi (type of Asian mustard green); carrots; red potatoes, black Spanish radishes, garlic, beets, bagged spinach, butternut squash, acorn squash

Are you getting into the rhythm of winter boxes?  It is kind of nice to be dealing with hardier crops that can hang around for awhile and still be in top form.  Less worry about looming decay.  Less pressure.  Two whole weeks to relax with your vegetables.  I am certainly feeling a bit more mellow now that I am not posting five times a week.

I feel like a party host when the party has moved into the perfect second stage.  You know - when most of the guests have gone home, the eating is pretty much over and you finally have time to sit down with a glass of wine and the plate of food you hid on top of the refrigerator until you had time to eat it.  Time to enjoy some quality time with some of your favorite people.  Less noise,  more laughing and longer stories.  Winter CSA boxes are kind of like that last part of the party.  Take your shoes off.  Simmer down.  Cook like it matters.  Which it does.

During the regular box season I always included menu ideas in each week's Inspiration post.  I think for winter shares I will mostly just give you some ideas for how to use each item in your box.  I bet you can take it from there.  If you are a winter share member by definition you are adventurous, creative and brave.  Who else would sign up for peeling, chopping, grating and otherwise preparing large quantities of cabbage, winter radishes, root vegetables and sometimes unfamiliar greens?  You hardy souls are probably ready to start creating your own menus with hardly any help from me at all.

TIP - make sure you have onions and celery around the house.  You will need them.  

Long live cilantro
How have you been doing with all the cilantro we have been getting?  I have been using a lot with Asian noodle soups as well as Mexican and Indian dishes.  Just search this blog for lots of cilantro ideas.   My fresh cilantro has been lasting a really long time with very little deterioration.  I have not been putting the stems in a jar of water in the refrigerator - I have just been putting it in one of these cool zip loc bags.  Nobody is paying me to say this - these bags are great for storing all kinds of produce.  Give them a try - especially with fresh herbs or leaf lettuce. The product name is Hefty Fresh Extend One Zip bags.

The bunch in my box was perky and cute - but not huge.  I am going to save it for making Thanksgiving stuffing.  Just wrap and refrigerate - it should last for a couple of weeks.  Great in soups and as a garnish for eggs, mashed potatoes and glazed carrots.

Sage is lovely with winter squash and with poultry.  I will use mine for stuffing and also with some squash dishes.  If you want you can hang your sage in a warm and well ventilated place and dry it.

Bunched Broccoli
My kids always loved raw broccoli with dill dip.  There is nothing wrong with serving broccoli this tried and true way.  Good for those hours before Thanksgiving dinner is ready and everybody needs a snack.

Instead of going shopping the day after Thanksgiving - why not hang around the house and have a nice brunch?  Make a baked egg dish using blanched chopped broccoli, cheese, ham or sausage or mushrooms,  bread cubes, some melted butter and milk and eggs (about 1 egg to every 1/2 cup milk).  Make sure the bread is well soaked with egg mixture.  Season with salt and pepper.  Maybe some dill or parsley or both.  Bake in a greased dish at 350 degrees until lightly browned and set.

I got three cute little cauliflowers in my box.  I am going to break them up into florets and make some curry.  Chopped onion, carrot, maybe a few diced red bell peppers from the freezer, and some potatoes.  I am getting better at curry improv.  Start with some oil and lightly saute curry powder.  I like to add some mustard seed, cumin, turmeric, chile pepper and fresh ginger to the curry powder.  After the spices have "popped" a bit - add the vegetables and saute a few more minutes.  Add water or broth to desired soupiness.  I love to add a cup or so of red lentils - they add a lot of flavor and texture and protein to curry and they cook really fast.   I also like to add some coconut milk - just enough to round out and enrich the flavor.  Go easy with coconut milk - lots of fat there.  A few handfuls of fresh spinach or chard added at the end of cooking also add great flavor and nutrition.  Cook vegetables until tender and serve over rice with desired chutneys or Indian style pickles.  Yogurt is also nice on the side.

If you don't want to make a curry there is always the tried and true cauliflower with cheese sauce.  Blanch cauliflower.  Mix with homemade cheese sauce - which is just a white sauce with cheese melted into it.  Maybe add some dry mustard powder to the sauce.   Put into a greased shallow baking dish.  Add buttered bread crumbs on the top.  Bake until heated through.  A gratin of cauliflower.  How elegant. 

Tat soi - Asian mustard greens
You can simply wash, dry and stir fry these in some oil with some ginger, garlic and soy sauce.  Serve on the side with any kind of meat, poultry or fish.
I also like to add these greens to boiling chicken or beef stock.  Cook for just a few minutes and pour over cooked rice noodles in a warmed bowl.  Condiments/additions:   fresh herbs like cilantro, basil or mint; lime juice; fish sauce or soy sauce; hoisin sauce; chile sauce or chile paste or hot peppers; bean sprouts, grated winter radish or carrot.  Add a bit of meat or tofu if you want some protein.  I still can't compete with a good bowl of Pho from a Vietnamese restaurant - but I am getting there, with practice.

You can't go wrong if you simply roast peeled and diced carrots with a bit of olive oil and salt.  Roast along with potatoes and beets for a great combo.  We will often make a whole meal of roasted vegetables, with maybe a piece of bread and cheese on the side.

Don't forget carrots make a great curry.  They are also indispensable added to all kinds of soups like beef barley, pea or bean.  I like them grated raw with raisins and a simple vinaigrette made with maple syrup and a little orange juice.

Essential for so many dishes. 
Simplest pasta
Don't forget the simple pleasure of gently sauteing plenty of chopped garlic slowly in a generous amount of  butter and olive oil.  Serve tossed with thin pasta such as vermicelli or angel hair.  Add salt and fresh pepper and some fresh grated Parmesan.  Quick, easy, cheap and wonderful.  If you are starving and tired you do not need to order pepperoni pizza.  Just start boiling water and sauteing garlic.  The garlic aroma will immediately have a restorative effect.  Before you know it you will have a plate of steaming flavorful pasta before you.  It might heal you to the point where you can manage to make yourself a spinach salad too.

If you are having a lot of company for Thanksgiving,  then just go wild and make a great big pot of mashed potatoes.  Need some instructions?  Check out my post for September 11.  If you have leftovers, great.  Just saute a little onion and garlic  and maybe diced celery and add the potatoes along with some milk and maybe a little broth.  Voila!  Potato soup.  Or add some cooked bacon and corn.  Chowder. 
You might want to save out a potato or two to use with the cauliflower for curry.

Black Spanish Radishes
I will come back to these later this week.  I hope you appreciate winter radishes for their crunch and bite.  I am finding uses for them in many salads and in cooked dishes.  Mix together equal parts of rice vinegar and sugar.  Add a dash of salt and a teaspoon of toasted sesame oil.  Peel and grate radish and marinate in the vinegar sugar mixture.  I am quite fond of this as a simple first course salad.  Add grated carrots for extra color and nutrition.  Serve on a bed of spinach or lettuce if desired.

Try this classic salad with a simple meat and potato meal or as a light lunch with bread and cheese.
Salade Russe
Prepare relatively equal amounts of cooked diced potatoes, carrots and beets.  Add some diced fresh onion, lightly cooked peas and a little sweet pickle.  Mix with good mayonnaise - preferably homemade.  Add a little fresh or dried dill to the mayonnaise if desired.
Save some of your beets.  When you get some cabbage in your box we will talk about borscht.

Bagged Spinach
Wash and dry well and store in a ventilated bag.  (Maybe one of those Hefty Fresh Extends?) This time of year it is nice to use spinach in salads.  Try mixing the spinach with a mustardy vinaigrette and serving with some chopped apple, walnuts and blue or swiss cheese.  A little diced or sliced roasted or pickled beets would be a nice addition - on the side of the salad.
If you have some extra spinach - try adding some to a vegetable curry.

Butternut Squash
In a pizza rut?  Try winter squash pizza!
Bake or boil squash and make a puree of the flesh.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Try this on a partly baked pizza crust instead of a tomato sauce.  Top squash pizza with some caramelized onions, some chopped fresh sage and parsley and maybe a little dried thyme,  some chopped cooked chard or spinach and grated cheese of choice.  (Gruyere would be nice.)   If you have some roasted peppers around a few of those would be nice.  Or fresh mushrooms.  Bake in hot oven until crust is done and top is light brown and bubbling. 

Squash and white bean soup
You also could add diced peeled raw squash pieces to cooked white beans and broth for a lovely squash and white bean soup.  Sage and thyme would be a good seasoning, as would rosemary.  Salt and pepper of course.  And start with some sauteed garlic, onion, leeks or shallots.  Maybe a little finely diced carrot and celery for some extra flavor.

Everyday squash

Sunshine in a bowl
I like to add some cooked mashed squash to polenta when I am cooking it.  Cook until thick and serve as a breakfast porridge with some dried cranberries (or even leftover cranberry sauce), maple syrup and a little milk, cream or butter or even yogurt.  If you have some toasted pumpkin or sunflower seeds sprinkle a few of those on top too.

Acorn Squash
Make your favorite stuffing.  Partly bake acorn halves.  Add stuffing and bake until squash is done.  A full meal, along with a salad.

I hope you are looking forward to a great Thanksgiving holiday.  On Thursday I will tell you what's going on in our house.  And give a shout out to black radishes, what the heck.

One last mini rant.  Since when did "pan seared" become the word for "fried"?  Keep your eyes peeled for inflated menu-speak.  It is everywhere.  As a defender of the English language I say be careful of these new phrases that come from marketing people.  I am going to start looking for examples and will warn you when I can.

1 comment:

  1. I love this new format. This way, if i have a great thing that I want to use, say, the beets for, I don't need to figure out how that will affect the rest of the week's recipes. :)