Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Inspiration - Week 4/2011

In this week's box:  Romaine, mixed baby lettuce, sugar snap peas, broccoli or zucchini squash, Swiss chard, fresh herbs (dill, cilantro and possibly basil)

The weather is cool, cloudy and damp in SE Minnesota this morning.  Good for the appetite and for working in the kitchen.  Afraid it rained again last night.  A lot.  Not so good for the strawberries.  But those of you who made the trip to the farm for the strawberry festival can be especially glad you were able to pick some berries to bring home.  I really enjoyed talking with some of you.  It always makes me feel good to hear people talk enthusiastically about their cooking adventures.  As Julia Child would say - you must approach cooking with courage! 

Lots of green in this week's box -- I feel healthy just thinking about eating this food.  The romaine will keep all week in the refrigerator if you put it in a ventilated plastic bag.  I encourage you to wash and dry the baby lettuce and eat it soon.  I also think the cilantro will keep better if you wash and dry thoroughly and store in a plastic bag.  You could also try storing part of the bunch with the stems in a little jar of water, covered with plastic.

Here is a link to last year's cook out of the box post on cilantro.   It will give you lots of ideas for how to use this lovely aromatic bunch of herbs.  http://cookoutofthebox.blogspot.com/2010/10/focus-cilantro-coriandrum-sativum.html

Menu ideas (if a dish is in italics, a recipe is below)

Mixed lettuce salad with dill dressing
Pasta with steamed broccoli or zucchini, minced garlic, dill, smoked salmon or chicken and cream (Note - if you have some extra snap peas steam them briefly and you can use them in the pasta too.)
A plum, pear, peach, nectarine or cherries

Korean style romaine salad
Grilled marinated beef or other meat
Lightly blanched or sauteed sugar snap peas or other vegetable.  You could also simply saute chard - including chopped stems - with some oil and garlic (steam with the cover on a few minutes to help cook the stems) and sprinkle on some soy sauce and a few drops of toasted sesame oil.

Small plate of sliced smoked or cured meats such as salami or proscuitto and some melon slices or chunks
Chard-quinoa cakes with yogurt sauce
Raw sugar snap peas with dill dip

Caesar salad (with grilled or broiled chicken or fish if desired)
Ice cream sundae - go all out and add some nuts and maybe even some whipped cream!  You just had a salad for dinner.

Lettuce salad - with either baby mixed lettuce or romaine.  Serve with simple oil and vinegar vinaigrette
Black bean tortilla pizza
A piece of dark chocolate

Caesar Salad
If desired, you can add a broiled chicken breast just like they do in the restaurants.  Or some broiled salmon or other fish.  There are a lot of bad Caesar salads to be found in restaurants.  Sometimes they think that if you just pile shredded parmesan and croutons on romaine and maybe squeeze on a little lemon then they can sell it as a Caesar.   Too bad.  You owe it to yourself to make the real thing.  This recipe has good instructions for coddling an egg - which is an important step in an authentic Caesar salad.  http://allrecipes.com//Recipe/caesar-salad-i/Detail.aspx  If you hate anchovies you could leave them out.  A compromise would be to use a bit of anchovy paste.  A hint of anchovy flavor is most desirable in a Caesar salad.  I am not crazy about anchovies but I do like some in a Caesar salad.

Dill Salad Dressing
Here is a link to a good recipe from Epicurious.  You could substitute some chives for the chopped garlic.  You could also substitute yogurt for the sour cream if you are watching calories.   http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Creamy-Dill-Dressing-101084

Dill Dip
When my kids were little this was their preferred companion for all kinds of raw vegetables.  I wonder why most children seem to prefer their veggies raw rather than cooked?
Combine equal parts mayonnaise and sour cream.  Add some minced onion and chopped fresh dill weed to taste.  Stir.  Add a few drops lemon juice or wine vinegar and a dash of sugar, salt and pepper to taste.  If you want a sturdier dip, add a few ounces of softened cream cheese and mix until smooth.   A food processor helps with this task.

Black bean tortilla "pizza"
Ingredients:  One or two corn or flour tortillas per person, depending on size, black bean puree (see below for recipe), shredded or crumbled mild Mexican type cheese or co-jack, chopped fresh cilantro, chopped fresh peppers, onions or tomatoes if you have some, fresh romaine leaves, sliced in thin strips, wedges of fresh lime.
You don't need me to tell you this - but the black bean puree would make a good dip, too.  Even sandwich filling with some lettuce, onion and extra fresh cilantro.
Spread black bean puree on a tortilla, sprinkle on shredded cheese and some chopped onions, peppers or tomatoes.  You could even add some chopped olives.  Bake on a baking sheet about ten minutes at 400 degrees - or until tortillas are crisp and cheese is melted.  Serve topped with lettuce (or finely shredded cabbage) and chopped fresh cilantro.  Squeeze on a little fresh lime juice.
Black bean puree
Ingredients: 3 cups cooked black beans, 1 cup chopped onion, 2 t. minced garlic, 3 T. fresh lime juice, 2 t. cumin seed (crushed a little with a mortar and pestle or improvise if you don't have a M & P,  chopped jalapeno or other hot pepper to taste, 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, 1 T. oil.
Saute onion, garlic, hot pepper and cumin seed in oil until onion is soft.  Combine with beans, lime juice and cilantro and process in a food processor until smooth.  If you don't have a food processor you could just mash everything together with a potato masher.  The end result will not be as smooth but will taste just fine.

Chard quinoa patties with yogurt sauce
Ingredients: one pound swiss chard or fresh spinach or a combination, 1 cup cooked quinoa (cooked brown rice, bulgar or even barley would work too), one egg, 1/4 cup grated parmesan or crumbled feta cheese, minced garlic or green garlic to taste, plain yogurt - stirred, fresh dill or other herbs, a few tablespoons of olive oil for frying.  If you don't have garlic, saute a little onion or shallot until soft and use that.  Optional addition - some toasted sunflower seeds.
Wash the chard, including the stems.  Chop the stems in 1/4 inch pieces.  Boil stems in an inch of salted water about three minutes.  Add the chard leaves and cook another three minutes.  Drain (save the cooking water for stock) and squeeze dry.  Chop the leaves fairly fine.  Stir together the greens, stems, grain, egg, cheese, garlic, herbs, sunflower seeds if you are using them and some salt and pepper.  Form into four patties.  If you want, dredge each patty in some fine bread crumbs or a little flour.  Heat oil until a drop of water sizzles in it - then fry the patties a few minutes on each side until done.  Serve with plain yogurt on the side.  Serve more chopped fresh herbs on the side too if you wish.

Korean style romaine salad
This is a quick and simple salad recipe from Epicurious.  http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Korean-Style-Romaine-351894


  1. What is the best way to store sugar snap peas and how long do they last?

  2. Peggy,
    I just wanted to let you know that your blog adds so much value to our CSA. In fact, your blog adds value to my family's life! We have been eating so well, and I can't tell you how much I am enjoying stretching outside the box with my cooking. Before this started last year, I always had things that ended up going bad in my fridge. Now, I'm able to "keep up" with the bounty, thanks to your ideas. We are also spending a lot less on eating out becuase you always provide options that work for busy days as well as more involved meals.
    Thank you so very much!

  3. Thanks for the kind words Anne. I am very glad your food quality of life has improved. Good for you for "doing the work".

  4. Re: snap peas. Just put in a ventilated plastic bag in refrigerator. Because they are so fresh when you get them I think they should stay in good shape for at least a week. If you won't use by then, just blanch in boiling water about one or two minutes, rinse in very cold water and they will store a few more days. You can add them to salads or pasta or just use with a dip.