Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Inspiration - Winter Week #4

In this week's box:  Spinach, Carrots, Potatoes, Garlic, Green Kale, Butternut Squash, Heart of Gold Squash, Parsnips, Green Cabbage, Red and White Daikon Radishes, Beets

This week's box is heavy.   But since you have about three weeks before the next box, you should be able to manage all this beautiful food just fine.   December is a busy time filled with shopping, parties, visiting, baking or coping with winter weather.  Try to make some time for your vegetable friends.  I have included a few party food recipes as well as simple stand-bys.  Recipe headings are in italics to make them a little easier to find.

I have been talking to some CSA members lately.  No surprise,  some of you tell me you had trouble using up all your vegetables last summer and fall. Even those of you with Chica shares!  One reason is that some of you eat out a lot.  (Note - Americans spent 48.6 cents of every food dollar away from home in 2009. So if you eat out a lot you are not alone.)  You are on the run - juggling work, children, elderly parents, activities, shopping or lessons.  What to do?

One thing you can do is think about using vegetables for breakfast and lunch as well as dinner.  Or make your own carry out "fast food".   I will try to help you with this "vegetables are not just for dinner" campaign in the coming weeks and months.

This weekend I will share recipes for pasties (pass-tees) as well as calzones.  We call things like this "road pies" in our house.   Yes, they are a little work but if you can manage to lay in a supply on the weekend they are great "grab and go" food and light years better than a Big Mac for all kinds of reasons I don't need to explain.  Have the kids help roll out the crusts.  Great life skill.

And of course there is always soup or stew.  Hard to eat in the car but ready and waiting when you get home if you have a crock pot or a timed bake feature on your oven.  I started some borscht yesterday morning and when I got back home about 6 p.m. dinner was ready.  All we had to do was toast some rye bread and throw a little creme fraiche on top of the soup.   And slice up some radishes for our salad.  (If you decide to get really motivated you could put hot soup in a few lunch box size thermos containers and let the kids work on that in the back seat.  If the soup is fairly chunky - stew, really -  and the kids aren't too little it should work just fine.)

Enough chatting.  You have places to go, people to see, things to do.  Let's take a look at what is inside your box. 

Your bag is modest in size but large in taste.  Wash and dry the leaves and they should store a week at least.  To make the spinach go farther, use as a bed for other salad items like grated carrot salad or roasted beets or pickled radishes.

You could also make a squash risotto and add some spinach leaves near the end of the process so they are just barely cooked.  Adds nice extra color and nutrition.

I love carrot season.   We can be profligate with carrots.  I add them to all kinds of soups and stews.  Grated raw, they make a fine salad when mixed with a simple oil and vinegar vinaigrette or some mayonnaise or yogurt.  I like to add a few raisins, nuts and chopped apple for extra fiber and nutrition.  Grated carrots, chopped nuts and some dressing make a great sandwich filling, too.  Add a little curry powder if you are feeling daring.

Maybe it was the blizzard, but yesterday we had potatoes for breakfast, lunch and dinner.   Subconscious carbo loading I guess.   For breakfast I made hash browns with some fried eggs and toast.   Lunch was potato soup (I just sauteed some chopped leeks and carrots and a few slices of chopped bacon, added a whole pile of chopped potatoes and simmered in water until everything was soft.  Mash a little and add some milk, salt and pepper and chopped parsley if you have some and you are done.)  Dinner was herring salad, which included chunks of boiled potatoes.

Herring Salad  (I think this would be good party food if you want a Nordic menu.  Having a lefse making party?  Serve this salad.)
If you like pickled herring you will love this salad.  If you are lukewarm about herring, try this salad.  It is an acquired taste.  Great with rye crackers and some beer or even aquavit.  A deviled egg as a first course would be a nice touch. Serve the herring salad on top of a few fresh spinach leaves if you have them. 

Mix together -  in proportions appealing to you - the following items cut in a size appealing to you:
pickled herring (not the kind in cream sauce)
boiled potato
cooked beet
sweet gherkin pickle  (or dill pickle if you prefer)
onion (red is nice) or shallot
flavorful apple
a few capers if you like them
some diced red or white daikon radish for extra crunch and texture

Bind together with sour cream or creme fraiche.  Add some chopped fresh parsley and fresh dill if you have it.  Good quality dried dill would work too.  Omit parsley if you don't have fresh.  Taste.  Add a little salt and pepper if desired.  A little squeeze of fresh lemon juice or a dash of wine vinegar would be a nice touch. 

Potato-onion-squash bake
You will need about 1 cup sliced potatoes, 1 cup sliced winter squash, 1/2 cup chopped or sliced onions, 1/2 cup milk and a teaspoon or so of minced garlic per serving.  Multiply quantities as needed.  The potatoes and squash should be cut in similarly sized slices. 
Alternate two layers of potatoes, squash and onions.  Mix garlic with milk and pour over all.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper and a little nutmeg.  Bake, covered, at 350 degrees until vegetables are soft.  If you want, uncover the last 10 minutes or so,  add some buttered bread crumbs and parmesan and broil a few minutes for a crispy browned topping.

A simple supper dish.  Bake an apple right alongside for dessert.  Cole slaw would be a good salad for this meal.  A feast.

It is so wonderful to have good quality fresh garlic around.  I have been storing mine in the refrigerator.  Make sure you also keep some fresh ginger around.  Fresh ginger and garlic is a marriage made in heaven.  Almost any vegetable is wonderful sauteed with these two seasonings - and some soy sauce or sesame oil or both.

Green Kale
Pasta with kale

Wash the kale, trim away the tough ribs, and blanch for a minute or two in boiling water.  (Save the water for cooking pasta.)  Cut the kale roughly into strips and saute in olive oil with a generous amount of minced garlic.  Stir into your favorite cooked pasta.  Served with some crumbled feta or blue cheese or grated parmesan this is a great standby quick dinner.  It can be eaten at room temperature for lunch, too.  I think I would sprinkle on a little balsamic vinegar if I was eating it for lunch that way.

Butternut Squash
Getting tired of plain baked or mashed squash?   Make some risotto.
Squash risotto (made with rice or barley)
Peel, seed and cut squash into 1/2 inch pieces.  Steam or boil until just barely tender.  Save the boiling water for the risotto.  Saute some rice or barley or other whole grain with a little butter and oil and chopped onion or leek.  Add about 1/2 cup white wine and then one cup of broth at a time, simmering and stirring, until the grain is al dente.  Stir in a few cups of chopped squash and maybe some spinach leaves and you are done.  Serve with grated parmesan and a few toasted walnuts or pine nuts.  A few golden raisins or sun dried tomatoes stirred in would be nice too.  Thyme would be a good herb to use with this dish.

Prosciutto wrapped squash - party food
Cut about 2 pounds of butternut squash into wedges (peeled).  Blanch in boiling, lightly salted water about 5 minutes until just tender.  Drain and cool.  Wrap a wafer thin slice of prosciutto around each squash wedge and place on a rimmed baking sheet. 
Mix together 1/3 cup walnut or olive oil, 1/3 cup fresh orange juice 1/2 t. salt, 1/2 t. pepper and 1 t. dried thyme.

Pour dressing over squash and bake about 8 minutes at 425 degrees.  Serve warm.

Heart of Gold Squash
This is a very tasty squash.  Lately I have just been cutting this type of squash into one inch slices, removing the seeds but leaving on the skin.  Coat with just a little bit of oil (maybe add a little real maple syrup to the oil) and roast until tender.  Salt and pepper and that is all you need.  You could serve this as a warm "salad" course, drizzled with some balsamic vinegar.  I have been eating the skins - they are not tough at all.  Up to you.

Warm roasted squash presented nicely on a special tray or plate could be great party food.  If you leave the skins on, the slices are easy to pick up and nibble.

The long awaited precious parsnips have arrived!   Because parsnips are so sweet, they once were commonly used in desserts.  The sometimes still are.

You can roast your parsnips with some carrots and potatoes for a wonderful meal.  Or you can try a parsnip pie.

Parsnip pie - adapted from The Fannie Farmer Cookbook by Marion Cunningham
Makes one ten inch pie.
Use your favorite pastry recipe to make a pie crust and partly bake about 5 minutes at 425 degrees. (prick shell all over to avoid puffing)
Pour filling into the partially baked shell, drizzle with 2 T. honey, lower temperature to 375 degrees and bake for 50-60 minutes - until the filling is firm in the center.  Serve at room temperature with lightly whipped cream.
Pie filling:
3 cups pureed plain parsnips (peel, boil, drain and mash well)
2 T. softened butter
1/2 cup honey
1 T. orange rind, grated
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 teaspoon EACH cinnamon and mace or nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon EACH allspice and cloves (or all cloves)
1 t. fresh lemon juice

Green cabbage
Use some of your cabbage for cole slaw.  Make sure to save at least a third of the head for borscht (see recipe below, under Beets)  And you could also use part of your cabbage in a stir fry.  Pork, ginger, garlic, soy sauce, a little Chinese wine or sherry, cut up cabbage and finish with a dash of sesame oil.  Serve with rice or noodles.  Add a little sliced or julienned carrot when you are cooking the cabbage for some extra color if you wish.

Red and white daikon radishes
These radishes are great simply peeled, thinly sliced and served with your favorite dip.
Last night we ate them with dill dip before we ate our venison borscht.
I LOVE the magenta color.

Creme fraiche is better than sour cream for soup - doesn't curdle

They also are great in a sandwich to add crunch and a little zing.  Who needs iceberg lettuce or onions if you have daikon radishes?
Try them on a burger.
You can also peel and dice or shred the radishes to use in lettuce salads or as a garnish to Asian style soup or noodle dishes. 

I highly recommend that you make a big pot of borscht some time soon.  You have practically everything you need in your box - potatoes, cabbage, carrots, garlic and - of course BEETS.  You will need to get a large onion, too.  And some kind of meat.  I used venison top round steak this week.  Any cut of beef that benefits from long slow cooking would be fine, as would beef soup bones.  And a can or jar of tomatoes or tomato juice.  Parsley is optional but nice.

Make or buy 2 quarts of beef stock.  (You can also use water.  I used a few cups of beet cooking water, a bottle of beer and 2 cups of tomato juice along with some water.  This recipe makes a thick soup.  Add more liquid for a thinner soup.
Add the following to the stock or water:
Meat, if desired (you can use leftover roast meat or simple diced stew meat.  You could use beef or pork.  We used some road kill venison (but that is another story).
You don't need more than 1/4 pound per serving - maybe less.

The following vegetables - in approximately these amounts:
2 cups chopped onion or leek
2 cups diced carrots
2 cups diced potatoes (no need to peel)
4 - 5 cups sliced or chopped cabbage
2 cloves minced garlic
about 2 cups fresh or canned diced tomatoes with their juice
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 T. dried dill weed (or 2 T. fresh if you have it)
1-2 t. salt
pepper to taste
2 - 3 cups cooked, peeled and diced beets (add in the last half hour or so of cooking)
Bring to a boil and then simmer, covered, on the stove or in the oven until meat and vegetables are tender. Even better served the next day.

It is very important that borscht have a sweet sour taste.  Near the end of cooking, add about 1/4 cup sugar and 1/4 cup red wine vinegar or fresh lemon juice.  Taste.  Adjust with a little more of one or both as you wish.
Serve with a dollop of creme fraiche or sour cream or rich yogurt if desired.

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