Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The End

This July world famous Spanish (Catalonian, actually) chef Ferran Adria is going to close El Bulli --  considered by some to be the best restaurant in the world.  If he can do that,  then I can stop blogging on Cook Out of the Box.  Which is what I am going to do. After today.

Sometimes creative people just need to set off in a new direction.  I can't help it.  I'm a Gemini.

Now now.  No whining.  It's not so bad.  I know there are a few of you out there who will go into a little withdrawal, and I love you for that.  But you will get over this.  You will find comfort in the arms of one of the zillion other food bloggers and cookbook authors who preach the gospel of cooking from scratch with fresh, organic and local foods.  Also, I know there will be several people from the farm, including Jack's wife Jenni, who will be writing several times a week on the farm website with new ideas and a fresh perspective on the food in your box. Here is the link:
I am not going to totally disappear.  You will still be able to e mail me at with your food questions or comments.  Think of me as Featherstone Farm's own Ann Landers, except I won't be advising you on how to deal with annoying neighbors,  rude in-laws or errant spouses.  I'll just be providing information, advice and encouragement concerning food and cooking to people who take the time to e mail me.   And who knows?  Cooking may help you solve other problems.  I like to think that many human troubles would go away or at least be more bearable in the presence of regular home cooked, nutritious and tasty meals.

I also will continue to show up at Featherstone events at the farm to do the occasional food demonstration.  I will be at the Fall Harvest party August 27 and hope to see you there.    My husband Frank, rhubarb farmer and gardener extraordinaire, will be joining me and I promise an entertaining and educational session.  Maybe I can talk him into showing off his famous knife sharpening skills as an added bonus.

Finally, I will be commenting occasionally on the farm's Facebook page and I hope you do, too.  I would love to see some pictures of the meals you make at home.  They do not need to be perfect or fancy.  Just real.  I would also love to see some pictures of happy children eating vegetables.  We have a lot of work to do to stamp out vegetable prejudice in this country.  (I call it vegotry - for vegetable bigotry.   Here is my post on that, titled "Broccoli is not a punishment" )  Let's give Michelle Obama a hand, okay?  She can't solve the horrible epidemic of childhood obesity all by herself, you know. 

And don't forget - every single blog post that I have written since Jan 17, 2010 is archived at  There are 180 out there in the cloud, counting this one.  These posts are not going anywhere.  Virtually all of them are just as relevant and useful now as they were when I wrote them.  Bok Choy, for example,  has not changed since last year.  My instructions on how to make homemade yogurt or hollandaise sauce are still pretty darn good.   You can even bookmark it as a favorite and read it every so often on a rainy day.  

I would like to thank Jack Hedin,  farmer in chief at Featherstone Farm, for giving me the opportunity to write about food - in particular about making meals from scratch at home using organic vegetables from the Featherstone Farm CSA box.  He and I agree that good farmers need good cooks.  Featherstone Farm grows some of the most beautiful vegetables anywhere -- but the farm would have no business plan without people who care how food is produced and who are willing to wash and dry their own lettuce, peel and chop their garlic and onions, stir fry some broccoli or carrots and roast a chicken or make a pot of soup once in a while.

I also would like to thank Margaret Marshall, the CSA manager, for her patience, support and good humor.  And all the farm staff who work so hard to plant, tend, harvest, pack and transport good food. 

Finally, I would like to thank you - CSA members and home cooks everywhere.  You are saving the world one meal at a time.  God bless you in your labors.  I have one parting request -  please keep cooking and share your knowledge, enthusiasm and experience with a child or two or three.  If our nation's children grow up knowing little or nothing about how to properly feed themselves, we haven't done our job now have we?

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Inspiration - Week 6/2011

In this week's box:  Mixed salad greens, basil, spinach, kale, garlic, potatoes, cucumbers, green beans, broccoli, summer squash

I hope you survived the Fourth of July weekend unscathed.  We took our two grandsons and daughter in law to Eitzen, Minnesota.   Eitzen is a small town - population around 220 - that does the Fourth in a big way.  I think it is the most southern and eastern town in Minnesota.  We enjoyed the parade, the American Legion Chicken barbeque, the playground and the beer garden.  The chicken was excellent and the potato salad was so-so (it was storebought).  I suppose it is unreasonable for me to ask for homemade potato salad - volunteers served 1,000 meals yesterday.   
Grandsons, curbside, wait for more candy.  Grownups relax.
If you have never experienced a small town Minnesota Fourth of July I highly recommend you do so some time.  Eitzen awaits.  (Or you could also try Cherry Grove and Harmony, also in our neck of the woods.)

Perhaps you overindulged with food and drink last weekend.  Get back on track with your CSA box full of good green (and some white) food.

See recipes below for dishes marked in italics.
1.  Salad Nicoise, french bread, for dessert - a small piece of really good cheese - make sure it is at room temperature and some grapes

2.  Vegetable cheese soup, rye bread, pear crisp

3.  Kale cheese calzone,  potato green bean salad w creamy vinaigrette   (Steam green beans and potatoes until tender.  Cut into desired pieces (you can cut up potato when raw so it cooks faster) and add dressing when vegetables are still warm.  Add a handful of chopped fresh basil for extra flavor.  Marinate at least an hour before serving.

4.  Steamed broccoli w peanut sauce over thin egg or rice noodles  (add some thinly sliced basil leaves as a garnish to the broccoli dish for extra flavor - maybe with an extra squeeze of lime juice), lime sherbert

5.  Miso soup, Japanese noodle and cucumber salad,  lightly sauteed spinach marinated in a little soy sauce sweetened with sugar or mirin, simple baked egg custard, chilled, for dessert

6.  Zucchini feta pancakes, plain yogurt, rice, cold melon
Go to this link for a post I wrote last year about vegetable pancakes.  You can use many different types of vegetables to make pancakes that are good for breakfast, brunch, lunch or supper.  They are very easy to make  -- grating the veggies is the biggest part of the work and if you have a food processor this goes fast.

Salade Nicoise
The classic version of this salad includes potatoes, green beans, tomatoes, hard boiled eggs, tuna, anchovies and nicoise olives.  However you can vary this as the season and your tastes may guide you.  With or without tuna, this salad is a full meal, served with some bread.  The concept is simple.  Toss salad greens with a simple olive oil and vinegar vinaigrette.  If you have fresh basil, tear some leaves and toss with dressing along with the greens.  Divide greens one plate for each serving.  Arrange on top of the greens some or all of the following:  boiled potatoes (marinated in some vinaigrette), steamed green beans - cooked just until tender, quartered fresh tomatoes, quartered hard boiled eggs, tuna (good quality canned or fresh cooked) flaked into chunks, sliced cucumber,  roasted red pepper, French or Greek black olives, feta cheese, sweet onion sliced into rings.  If desired, serve some extra vinaigrette alongside in a pitcher.  If you like anchovies, drape a few on top of the salad as a garnish.

Japanese noodle and cucumber salad
(This recipe is from Molly Katzen's Still Life with Menu, one of my favorite cookbooks)
5 to 6 ounces of vermicelli noodles (Molly says Japanese saifun or Chinese bean thread noodles are best but regular vermicelli - thin spaghetti - also work.  You could try rice noodles as well)
6 T. rice vinegar
4 t. sugar
2 t. soy sauce
1 t. salt
2 T sesame seeds (I would lightly toast these in a frying pan)
1 medium sized cucumber- peeled, seeded, cut into lengthwise quarters and sliced thin
thin sliced scallion greens
(Note - I think a teaspoon of toasted sesame oil would be lovely added to the soy vinegar dressing.  A little grated carrot, daikon radish or even kohlrabi would be good along with the cucumber.)
Cook noodles until just barely tender, drain and rinse in cold water.  Divide among 4 serving bowls.  Top with sliced cucumbers, sesame seeds and sliced scallion greens.  Mix vinegar, sugar, soy and salt into a dressing and pour over the individual salads.

Creamy vinaigrette
Mix in a blender or food processer or with a whisk
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1/3 cup olive or sunflower oil
2 T red wine or sherry vinegar
2-3 t. honey or real maple syrup
1/4 t. salt
3 T. yogurt
fresh herbs to taste (try 2 T. fresh basil chopped fine or 2 t. finely snipped dill)

Wisconsin Cheddar Cheese and Vegetable Soup

This recipe is adapted from one in Savoring the Seasons of the Northern Heartland, by Beth Dooley and Lucia Watson.  I like it because it has a good ratio of vegetables to cheese.  Most commercial cheese soups are full of fat and thickeners and who knows what else.
Saute the following vegetables in 3 T. butter over low heat until softened:
1/2 cup diced celery
1/2 cup diced onion

Add the following and simmer about 5 minutes until vegetables are tender:2 cups chicken or vegetable stock (preferably homemade)
2 cups chopped broccoli (or cauliflower) (about 1/2 inch pieces)
2 cups chopped potatoes (peeling optional) (about half inch pieces)
1 quart milk
1/8 t. nutmeg
1/8 t. freshly ground black pepper
Puree the soup in batches (note - if you use a blender or food processer - cool soup first or it will "explode".  You could save back half of the milk and add it after cooking the vegetables to speed cooling.)
Put puree back in the pot and heat to a boil.  Turn off the heat.  Add 3 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese in small batches,  stirring well.  Make sure each batch melts before you add the next.  If you add the cheese all at once it might get gloppy and stringy.
Gradually reheat soup but do NOT boil.  Whisk in 1 T. Dijon mustard and 1/4 cup sherry and a few dashes of Worcestershire sauce and Tabasco to taste.  Garnish with toasted croutons and more grated cheddar.

Kale-cheese Calzone
First make your favorite pizza dough.  Make a double recipe and freeze half the dough.  Next time you want to make pizza you will be halfway there.  This is a time honored trick of experienced cooks -- make extra and freeze for another day.  Efficient.
Divide dough into portions - about one tennis ball size ball of dough per person.  Let dough relax.  Roll into four 9 x 6 oblongs.  Place filling on long side of each oblong, leaving room on the edge for sealing.  Lightly brush the edges with water.  Fold dough in half, adjusting so that filling is distributed over the half circle.  Press edges of dough together to seal.

Filling (this is from Ken Haedrich's Country Baking)
(enough for four individual calzones)
1/2 pound kale - wash, remove ribs, slice and steam until tender.  Cool, squeeze dry and chop.
1 cup grated Parmesan
1 cup grated Mozzarella
1 cup crumbled Kasseri cheese (Asiago would work too.  Or use extra mozzarella or Parmesan)
2 T. finely chopped onion
2 T. chopped fresh basil (you could also use pesto)
Mix kale with cheeses, onion and basil.  Divide between dough pieces.  Fill and seal.  Let rise about 5-10 minutes.  Bake at 350 degrees about 25 minutes, or until lightly browned.

Broccoli with peanut sauce
Steam or boil broccoli until just tender-crisp.  Drain.
Prepare peanut sauce:
Spicy peanut sauce (Plenty for about six cups cooked broccoli or one pound of pasta. This keeps well in the refrigerator – make a double batch for another day.
1 cup peanuts-only peanut butter (salt added is ok) – chunky or smooth
1 cup hot water
1 T peanut oil
2 1/2 t. fresh garlic – minced fine
2 t. fresh ginger – minced fine (optional)
2 T soy sauce or tamari
2 T hoisin sauce (optional – find this at an Asian market or ask your grocer to stock this great condiment. If you omit this, add an extra two teaspoons each of sugar, vinegar and soy sauce)
2 T Asian toasted sesame oil (optional but very nice if you have it)
1 T chile paste (Asian style) or red pepper flakes to taste or finely chopped fresh hot chile peppers
2 T brown sugar, white sugar or honey
5 T rice or cider vinegar
Gently saute garlic and ginger in peanut oil for about 5 minutes. Add remaining ingredients and stir until well mixed. Pour over cooked broccoli (warm or at room temperature). Optional additions: chopped sweet red or green pepper, tofu cubes, chopped sweet onion or scallions, chopped fresh cilantro.
Serve broccoli and peanut sauce mixture over rice or thin rice or egg noodles.  Add a wedge of lime if desired.