CSA-ccountability, Month #5 – August/September

[A note about the blog update situation – the transfer to new hosting doesn’t work quite how I thought it would (not surprising, given that my understanding of the inner workings of the internet is not unlike a middle schooler’s understanding of self-confidence). Basically, I thought I was going to be able to change the back-end stuff, then change the design stuff later. But it turns out that moving the site involves practically creating the site over again, so I’m going to have to make my design changes now, or at least start them if I want more than a blank slate. So we’ll still move the site soon, but we’ll be in awkward-looking mode for a while. Start saying goodbye to this cluttered old layout now, because it’s going to up and disappear on you any day now. Back to your regularly scheduled blog post.]

This has been the first month since this CSA started in which precious little has happened. No trips, no work, no major upheavals, just the steady clip of juggling the many projects involved in being a stay-at-home-mom, dipping my toes into ministry. It’s been a month for quiet exploration and reflection inside the walls of my house.

Outside those walls, though, it’s all change, all the time. In gathering the photos for this post, I can’t believe the things we were eating just four weeks ago! We’re having a warm patch, but it’s just that – a warm patch at the beginning of the Cold Season. The time for relishing 70-degree days just as much as we did in April, and starting the frantic stocking-up to hunker down for winter.

Both those things – the slower pace inside and faster outside – have also meant that I have been cooking up a storm. So hold onto your britches; this one’s going to be a doozy.

Week #20 (August 27th):

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  • sweet corn: Ate it on the cob within a few days, just like it was meant to be eaten. Managed not to overcook it this time.
  • eggplant: I squirreled these away for the following week when I found out I was getting more eggplant then too. I’ll tell that story below.
  • sun sugar tomatoes: This box I ate straight. Like candy. For snacks. It pretty much is candy. But it also got me in mind of tabouli…
  • peaches: went into GYF. Yum!
  • juliette tomatoes: became part of a massive canning project. See below.
  • “tomato and hot pepper salsa mix”: basically tomatillos and jalapenos in a bag. I used the jalapenos in something, but the tomatillos are still in my fridge. I’m sure they aren’t happy with me anymore. What the heck do you do with just jalapenos?
  • kohlrabi: Something wonderful happened to the kohlrabi, but it would take a couple weeks to happen.
  • arugula: Naomi’s doctor has been bugging me forever about getting more greens in her diet. He always recommends smoothies, so I braced myself to make a spinach smoothie sometime soon, while it was still warm-ish. When I got this bag of greens, I said to myself “spinach! perfect!” I made sure I had yoghurt and some other fruit, and got up early to make a smoothie for the next day’s breakfast. As I was washing it, I noticed this spinach looked kind of pointy, but my fuzzy morning brain was unwilling to change plans. Until we all tasted the smoothie. Um, yuck! We choked it down that one morning (by “we” I mean Jared and I choked it down; Naomi turned it into an art project); the rest of the arugula immediately withered into soup out of sheer embarrassment. I think it’ll be really funny in a year or two when we look back and say “remember that time you made an arugula smoothie?”
  • cabbage: I was waiting for this cabbage to attempt some saurkraut, of the korean variety:

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I specifically wanted to try lacto-fermenting kimchi, for a couple reasons. I am curious about the actual traditional way of doing things, and I am starting to believe all the hype about the probiotic power of fermented foods, so lacto-fermentation is something I’d like to play with. Conveniently I am experimenting with cheese a lot these days, so I am left with with plenty of whey. (I don’t even know how to start telling you about the cheese stuff. Another day.) Second, the last Korean restaurant in the area closed last year, and I want me some bibimbop. Third, kimchi makes my husband happy.

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Mashing up a whole head of shredded cabbage with my improvised pounder (a 3-lb weight wrapped in a plastic bag) was very therapeutic. And I couldn’t believe that just pounding the heck out of it, plus adding a tiny bit of whey, produced enough liquid to cover the cabbage. Amazing.

I also learned a lot about leaving headspace. Because, more or less, I didn’t. So, during the room-temperature fermentation stage, I’d be working in the kitchen and hear sudden bubbles, hisses, and pops from the corner. It was downright creepy. Then I kept finding them in a puddle. I am glad they are calmed down and living in the fridge now, and I hope their hissy fits didn’t mess up the seals.

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Now I just need to actually make some korean food so I can try this stuff out on the side.

The juliette tomatoes – basically cherry-sized roma tomatoes – arrived when I already had an untenable quantity of tomatoes on my hands. So when my neighbor deposited these monstrosities on my hands:

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…I knew the time had come for canning. (Seriously, I asked her “how big are they?” and she texted back “about the size of a 6 lb baby’s head.”)

I had at the time four different types of tomatoes to work with: the juliettes (in the back), a bunch of nice canners from our patch in the community garden (toward the back mixed with the cleaner-looking juliettes), and some beautiful slicers from week #19 that were threatening to go bad (foreground).

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After a long afternoon of peeling, chopping, and canning, the juliettes and canners became 2 quarts of canned whole tomatoes, and the slicers and enormous monstrosities became about 4 quarts of chopped tomatoes. Sadly, one of the quart jars of canned tomatoes exploded in the canning phase! I guess I was not careful enough with air bubbles. I rescued many of the tomatoes and re-canned them in a pint jar. Oh well!

We’ve already used like half of these. I could can some more while we have a chance, but gosh. Don’t feel like it.

Week #21 (September 3rd):

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  • baby kale: I think I cooked this up very simply as a side one night.
  • yellow beans: Jared cooked these up, also very simply, also as a side.
  • carrots: These particular carrots have gone, higglety-pigglety, here-and-there, into this-and-that. A couple went into the kimchi (above). A couple went into a stew I made last week. One went into some roasted tomato soup Jared made on Saturday. Come to think of it, I’m not sure mathematically how there are still three left in the fridge.
  • heirloom tomatoes: sadly, I think these went bad. We were kinda tomato-ed out.
  • white onions: these never last long in our house! Jared and I both made caramelized onions for different things in subsequent weeks, so that’s probably where these went.
  • sweet peppers: the little guys I just ate right out of the bag, but the two big greens sat around for a long time. It’s actually only today that they have finally gotten some attention. Stay tuned.
  • sun sugar tomatoes: I had this crazy plan, inspired by these adorable and delicious tomatoes, that I was going to make tabouli with sprouted wheat, as I have been able to tolerate sprouted wheat. I eventually made it, but the wheat didn’t sprout right and just tasted kinda smooshy and fermented, and I waited so long that the tomatoes tasted kinda off after the first day. We choked through it, but it was not the happiest eating experience. Then again, Jared liked it, and that week I had some return of morning sickness, so maybe it was okay.
  • ground cherries: these were the most bizarre little fruits I have ever seen. They looked like tiny yellow tomatillos, in their little lanterns, and the internet told me they would taste like some combination of a sweet tomato and a pineapple. After tasting them, I don’t think I could come up with a more apt description myself.

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(Other people use their colander on top of dirty dishes in the sink, right?)

I really wanted to do something special with these, so I googled and googled, until I came up with ground cherry upside down cake. Brilliant, no? I had all the stuff on hand to replace the glutenous ingredients with GF ones, so I went to town. I didn’t bother with a picture, because the upside-downness pretty much just made it look like a struedel that had gone through a garbage disposal. Total pinterest fail, if you’re going for looks. But in taste, it was out of this world. Hard not to be, with a rum-sugar sauce like that, but dang. It was perfect for the ground cherries. I officially pat myself on the back for that one. Heck, makes me want a pineapple-upside-down cake.

Week #22 (September 10th):

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  • arugula: played it safe this time, and immediately made pesto.
  • carmen peppers: these went into the growing bin of sweet peppers, that I inexplicably felt powerless to use. (Just eat them, ya moron!)
  • zuchinni: these became one of my favorite summer dishes, summertime tagliatelle. See below.
  • gala apples: These little organic apples were adorable. I always want to turn my CSA veg into something fancy, you know, something special. I was playing around with ideas for apple strudel or baked stuffed apples. But man, I really need to learn to just eat stuff! This is the candy of early fall, and there is a time to just enjoy what nature gives me. So we snacked on these all week long, and enjoyed the heck out of them. Naomi even tried a couple slices.
  • sweet corn: cooked up a few days later, and ate all four little ears in one night. six minutes is really plenty!
  • eggplant: this rotund specimen was a hilarious contrast with the delicate little eggplants of the week before. My goal was to make baba ganouche, so I read a few recipes. It seemed simple enough. So I roasted them, as directed, and pretty much just put them through the food processor with the other ingredients. But, for whatever reason (probably involving not following instructions, which I now forget), the eggplants didn’t really cook all the way through. Then they didn’t blend right. Then I didn’t have fresh parsley. So really, the baba ganouche tasted sort of gross and boring. I was displeased, and I had a ton of it. It’s been languishing in the fridge for over two weeks now; I just checked on it and it has a fine layer of mold on top. (Sorry, mega ew.) I bought the rest of stuff to make mousakka; I’m going to scrape the mold off and see if there is any rescuing this situation. I do dearly love eggplant, and I hate to let such an effort go totally to waste!
  • leeks: I love leeks! And this time, I wanted to make them a part of the type of dish that made me first fall in love with them: stew. Some of our friends had a potluck and reading of “Taming of the Shrew,” which provided the perfect excuse for some authentic-ish medieval cooking. I used this funky recipe for its spices, and frankensteined about five other recipes to find cooking times and techniques that made sense based on all the veg I wanted to add. It turned out quite good, but I would use beef stock instead of water next time.
  • heirloom tomatoes: I was still feeling tomatoed out, so these little lookers just sat on the counter ’till they were nearly bad, much to my sadness. But they managed to sneak into the Amazing Kohlrabi Adventure:

I don’t really make pizzas hardly ever, because they seem like too much trouble. But something about the idea of gourmet pizzas – usually involving huge chunks of fresh mozzarella, or fresh figs, or some other novelty – captures my imagination. Also, eight months into gluten-freedom, I was starting to really crave pizza. My mom got wind of this a while ago, and last time she was up got me a Bob’s Red Mill pizza crust kit. So this time, when I googled “what to do with kohlrabi,” and a link for kohlrabi pizza came up, I got excited. I knew I had a couple weeks with kohlrabi, so I took my time, and soon I had most of the ingredients on hand. The first night it was amazing, so the second night I took a little picture story to share with you.

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GF crust,

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arugula pesto,

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thinly shaved kohlrabi,

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caramelized onions,

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heirloom tomatoes,

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with a sprinkle of tomato-basil goat cheese and a snipped-up piece of bacon.

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Om. Nom. Nom. The pesto was perfect. The kohlrabi crisped up a bit, not unlike the radish chips I’ve made a few times this year. The tomatoes were a little overwhelming, but the cheese and pesto kept up the flavor-battle.

Gourmet pizza might have to become my new hobby. I know it seems like I do a lot of fancy cooking, because I collect all the best stuff here. But really, I don’t think I get that out of hand. I almost never cook anything that won’t last at least two nights, usually three or four (and even this, I figured out how to easily make it fresh a second night with all the ingredients prepped.) Gourmet pizzas, though. The possibilities are endless! Now if I can just figure out how to get a good crust out of my sourdough starter…

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Speaking of sourdough, just for kicks and giggles, I had a bunch of heirloom tomatoes still left, desperate to be used up, so the next day I made little mini-pizzas on thin slices of my sourdough bread. Just bread, butter, pesto, tomato, and tomato-basil kefir cheese. Which, you know, you always have just lying around.

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Now that the season of zucchini insanity is over, you might not care about this any more, but I want to tell you about one of my most tried-and-true recipes: Summertime Tagliatelle. It’s from a massive vegetarian tome a friend gave me in college, and this recipe is one of the reasons I still have it. The other reason is all the awesome Indian food in it.

I have made this dish dozens of times, but this was the first time I made it since I have figured out how to actually use my mandolin slicer, so the slices actually look pretty, rather than like hacked-up fatty zuchinni-slabs. (Using a vegetable peeler, as the recipe says, doesn’t work.) But it’ll work with slabs, or just slices (you just have to cook the zuch a little longer if your slices are thicker). My other adjustment to the recipe is that I let the lemon juice cook off for a little bit before adding the cream, otherwise it’ll curdle. It’ll probably curdle anyway (I’ll still eat it and love it), but this has helped a couple times. And oh yeah, I just use half and half, or milk, or whatever I have; this is also probably the first time I’ve used fresh basil and peppers instead of just dried basil and a few red pepper flakes. Man, this post is making me look way more gourmet than I am.

Anyway, it comes down to slightly-spicy fried zucchini in a lemony cream sauce, over noodles. To me, this is one of the dishes that tells me the harvest season is at its succulent apex.

Week #23 (September 17th):

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  •  slicing tomatoes: Gosh, what happened to these? I don’t remember throwing them out… but they’re gone now… I must have cooked them in something, but I really couldn’t tell you what. Huh. And this was last week!
  • celeriac: what the heck is this strange creature! I will tell you below.
  • nectarines: funny story; for whatever reason I was convinced all week that these were apples, so I just dumped them in a corner of the counter and forgot about them until we’d gotten through our other apples. Then I went for an apple and found dangerously ripe nectarine! They immediately went into GYF for the next two days; thankfully they were mostly still good. The incredibly sweet nectarines we’ve gotten have been a taste highlight this summer.
  • potatoes of no description: these actual potatoes are still on my counter, but since I always tell you that and then use them the following month after you’ve forgotten about them, I’ll show you what I did with some potatoes from last month.
  • kale: I made this into what has become my favorite kale salad recipe. This time I went nuts with all the dumb little details in the recipe that I usually ignore – I toasted the almonds, soaked a quartered garlic clove in the olive oil for twenty minutes… I think it made it even better. Doesn’t mean that next time I won’t go right back to ignoring the instructions.
  • green beans: steamed, then sauteed in butter w/ salt and pepper. Simple side dish, but I was sick of letting green beans go bad because I wasn’t inspired. Life lesson: just eat the stuff.
  • sweet peppers: By this time my sweet pepper collection had gotten really ridiculous. But I finally figured out why I wasn’t using them, and did something about it. Read on.

A digression for potatoes: I had pinned this recipe forever ago, and seen it come and go through many a feed, so I think of them as “Pinterest potatoes.” I have since found out they are called Hasselback potatoes, are a Swedish thing, and are way more complicated than the stupid little picture floating around Pinterest lead me to believe. Turns out there are whole techniques for slicing them just right, things you have to do to get them to fan out when they cook, etc. Reinforces my belief that you should never trust things that look easy on pinterest.

My version turned out like underdone baked potatoes that were sliced funny. The best part about them was all the melted cheese (my last-minute addition) that crusted to the bottom of the pan.

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Since you are dying to know: what is celeriac?! The Internet tells me it is a variety of celery cultivated for its edible root. My eyes tell me it is some kind of unholy tentacle-faced monster, straight out of a twisted 80’s kids movie, created by Jim Henson on one of his weirder days.

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“Bloreaaaargh!” It seemed to say.

Anyway, it looks a little less intimidating once you shave off the skin, tentacles, and hair.

 

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I really like exploring new vegetables, and find I can usually grow to like something different or unusual or strange to me. However, I sometimes have this problem with tubers: I really really don’t like cooked carrots. I hated them as a kid; they made me gag, and nothing my mom did to them made me stand them. That childhood aversion still lingers so strongly that the more a tuber is like a carrot, the more I can’t stand it – no matter how otherwise different it is, or what other things my taste buds tell me to love about it.

So I have a sort of scale – the potato-to-carrot scale. A “1” being tasty and unobjectionable (like a potato) and a “10” being downright carroty. So parsnips are a 9, turnips are around a 6, beets maybe a 7.5, sweet potatoes a 3… you get the idea.

With celeriac, I was so distracted with the weirdness of the thing, that it didn’t even occur to me that the Carrot Problem would come up. Pretty much the whole internet (i.e. two links then I got tired) told me to try this Jamie Oliver recipe for celeriac, so I complied.

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The things smelled amazing as they cooked. They had garlic, plenty of oil, some nice herbs, and had been steamed in broth for half an hour, until they were practically caramelized. I was prepared to love these. So imagine my shock and dismay when I took my first bite and tasted… carrot!

But not a lot of carrot. Just a sort of whiff, a passing trace. They are more like a soft turnip, sweet in a way that reminds me of celery. I’d give them a 4 on the P-2-C scale. The way they were cooked, it was almost impossible not to love them. Frankly, I should try cooking those last three carrots in the fridge this way. I might get over myself yet.

A transitional note to say that, a funny thing happened while I was chopping celeriac during Naomi’s snack time (a frequent strategy these days). I pull out the camera to take a picture of the veg, and she says “CHEESE!”

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That was new. And boy, is she full of cheese.

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Anyway. I will conclude this endless tale of produce with the fate of my hoarded sweet peppers. As you can see, the collection of bells, poblanos, carmens, and who knows what else had gotten a bit out of hand. They were starting to wrinkle in protest of their abandonment in the crisper.

 

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But it took until now for me to realize why I was neglecting them. It isn’t that I meant to; every few days I would open the crisper drawer and sigh at them. So beautiful! I cannot let you go to waste!

What I finally realized is that I was subconsciously collecting peppers to make chiles rellenos. Stuffed peppers. Having poblanos in the house is somehow like having my husband ask my subconscious, “can we have stuffed peppers?” so strong are my memories of his love for them. Never mind that he probably had no idea there were poblanos in the house, and wouldn’t mind what happened to them as long as they got eaten. But somehow to me, to have all these lovely long colorful peppers and not make stuffed peppers… would feel like I was betraying my husband. Cruelly ignoring his deep culinary desires.

I didn’t say it wasn’t weird. But there it is.

Today, I finally had all the other ingredients, a recipe picked out from the five stuffed pepper recipes Jared had collected in the huge pile of loose-leaf recipes (I think it was this one), and time and energy to think about the tedious task of roasting peppers.

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For the first time, I tried oven-roasting them, which was way easier than my usual straight-over-the-gas-burner method. However, it also collapsed the peppers into almost disintegrating. I laughed a bitter laugh at the recipe’s instruction to “cut a small vertical slit” and “remove the seeds and veins.” It was more like, “ruthlessly disembowel this disintegrating pepper that never said anything mean about your mother, and try to keep it in one piece kinda.”

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Funnily enough, one big red pepper was somehow missed in the sink when I went to roast the others during naptime, so it got the more direct fiery treatment at the last minute. It held up much better.

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The filling was simple, but effective, made so by the large quantities of cheese added at the end.

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In the end, I was too busy getting these in front of my hungry family to take a picture. But they were certainly very yummy. Annoying preparation, but simple and balanced ingredients. And most importantly, my husband felt very loved at the end of a long day. Therefore, worth it.

One thought on “CSA-ccountability, Month #5 – August/September

  1. […] became part of my Babaganouch Rescue Plan. As you might remember from last month, I ended up with a very large batch of babaganouch that was very very not good. I posted a plea for […]

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