Weekly CSA #2 – More Greens (again)

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The above picture mostly sums up what happened to our portion of the CSA share for week # 2. This week’s share included: kale, sugar snap peas, bok choi, swiss chard, garlic scapes, and one other green which I am forgetting about at the moment. We have already slacked in our usage since we ate out a few times last week so the following is what happened to our CSA items so far:

1. Kale – Used half of it with some fingerling potatoes in my take on mashed potatoes with kale. The pairing, which I’ve read about elsewhere, is actually pretty tasty. Throw in some butter with that and heck yeah, it’s good. I boiled both together in some water for about 8 or 9 minutes and then tossed them back into a pan with olive oil & butter & some salt & a dash of chicken broth, covered it and let them cook another 15 minutes. Took the lid off and let the taters get a little brown. Definitely a good side dish

2. Bok Choi, Chard, & garlic scapes – all three went into the dish above. It is a brown rice bowl topped with all the greens and scapes and a delicious fried egg. I sauteed some shallots and garlic in some olive + sesame oils and then added the harder stems of the chard and choi + garlic scapes (chopped) + some radishes sliced thin. After a few minutes of saute, I added all the leaves and about 1/3 cup tamari soy sauce, 1 tablespoon fish sauce, 1-2 tablespoons of rice wine vinegar, and juice of 1/2 lime and let the whole thing cook down, covered, until everything was nicely braised. Cooked the egg in some olive oil and added it on top of the bowl. Great Monday night dinner.

The radishes, for those who have never cooked them, were AWESOME in this dish. All the peppery flavor goes out and they just get mellow and succulent:

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Sadly I haven’t used the sugar snap peas yet… hoping to get there this week.

Lobster Salad with Avocado, Arugula & Grapefruit

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This past weekend was our 1 year wedding anniversary (yay!). We decided to have a slightly unconventional anniversary dinner party where we invited the best man and his fiance to join us for a fancy schmancy dinner at our place. The men wore their tuxes, our best man’s fiance wore the dress she wore to the wedding and I wore my gown in full regalia and it ended up being a spectacular night. We made a lobster salad, which I’ll talk about in a minute, fresh pasta with tomato sauce and a grilled pork tenderloin (in honor of the pig roast that was our reception dinner). For dessert, the top of our wedding cake – which was Carvel ice cream cake! – and Harry & David’s chocolate covered cherries paired with an awesome dessert wine. We were definitely fat ‘n happy by the end of the night and a great time was had by all.

My favorite dish (besides dessert) was this lobster salad which is a recipe my husband found on Epicurious.com. If you are a fan of lobster, you are going to *love* this. The pic below is the salad fully assembled:

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The pepper of the arugula paired beautifully with the sweetness of the lobster meat and the grapefruit complimented the richness of the avocado. The dressing, which is easy but must be done in advance, really pulled the whole salad together. This is definitely an “impress your guests” kind of appetizer.

For those who are local to Boston, we purchased the live lobster at New Deal Fish Market in Cambridge which is an excellent little fish shop. The arugula came form the Union Square farmer’s market.

Steamed Mussels & Clams in White Wine

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First let me apologize for not getting a shot of the finished product. I was somewhere between punchy and delirious around dinner time last night due to several nights in a row of bad sleep. That being said, I did still manage to crank out a decent steamed mussel + clam dish which is something that used to really intimidate me. I should admit here that I am somewhat afraid of all sea creatures – particularly the live ones – because somewhere deep inside my brain I am convinced that things which aren’t furry can’t be reasoned with. Don’t ask. I don’t know. It’s the sort of thing I categorize with my other irrational fear: clowns.

I still get kind of squeamish about handling the passive creatures, and paranoid about getting a bad one which will give us a wicked case of food poisioning. Whether or not that is rational is debatable, but it’s me so I don’t make this EASY and FAST dish nearly as much as I should. I served the steamed shellfish with a side of greens sauteed in olive oil, shallots and a splash of good red wine vinegar + salt to taste. The greens included some baby chard from our garden:

DSC_0622 You can pick the chard when it’s small like this and it’s very tender. Moreover if you start to pick off the larger leaves, the plants continue to grow and produce more of them, so you can harvest a couple times before having to replant. I also snipped a few of the beet leaves as well to add to the flavor. Aside from the chard and beat greens, the dish included some kale and some arugula.

The mussels and clams were from Maine, purchased at Whole Foods and already mostly clean which was nice. I placed them both in some cold water for about 20 minutes to get off any excess sand which might be lurking. In the meantime, I assembled the ingredients for the broth:

1 leek, chopped

5-6 large garlic cloves, roughly chopped

1 pinch red pepper flakes

4-5 tablespoons olive oil

1 cup dry white wine

4-5 fresh basil leaves, chopped

4-5 chives, chopped

small handful fresh parsley, chopped

Generous pinch of salt

Start the olive oil, garlic, leeks, salt and pepper flakes in a large deep pot on medium high heat. Saute until the leeks start to soften and the garlic becomes fragrant. Add the wine and the herbs and bring the whole thing to a rapid boil. Add the shellfish and cover immediately. After 2-3 minutes, check the shellfish and give them a stir (or shake the pot to move them around. Replace the cover and continue for another 2-3 minutes. By this time most if not all of the mussels and clams will be open. You should start to remove the ones that have opened and replace the cover to cook the remaining mussels and clams until they open (shouldn’t be more than another minute or 2). Discard any unopened mussels and clams after they have been cooked for more than 7 or 8 minutes as they are likely bad.

We used tongs to remove the mussels and clams into a large bowl so that we could allow the broth to settle and any sand that was in the pot to float to the bottom. We carefully ladled off some broth for dipping the mussels & clams into a bowl and served it on the side. It is fine to do a communal bowl if you are sharing with your hubby, but if it is for other folks who might be less accommodating, ladle the broth into individual bowls along with a portion of the shellfish.

Great to serve also with some crusty bread for soaking up that yummy broth!

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Random Bag Night – Pasta with Sausage, Favas and Greens

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We have finally gotten the first installment of our farm share this week, and I am beyond excited about what this will mean for the rest of our summer. The veg, which we are getting from Luna Farm here in Massachusetts, is GORGEOUS. Oh, and it’s organic too.  We are sharing the farm share with our neighbors so it’s pretty cost effective too. The above dish is a combo of farm share greens – almost the whole delivery this week was greens – and Trader Joe’s prepared fava beans (so easy!) + some leeks we had in the fridge + leftover pork sausage from 2 nights ago. I am now stocking my pantry with the brown rice pasta (also from Trader Joes) which I have come to really like in lieu of whole wheat pasta. This sauce took about 15 minutes to make (the time it takes to boil the pasta basically) and was quickly thrown together so my measurements are only an approximation and this was enough to cover about 1/2 pound of pasta:

1 package Trader Joes prepared fava beans (or you can use any canned bean here)

2 leeks, chopped

1/2 cup white wine

1 cup chicken stock

1 generous handful of your favorite greens

salt to taste

5-6 tablespoons olive oil

2 cooked Italian sausages, cut in chunks

Place the oil in a sauce pan, big enough to hold the greens, etc. Add the leeks and a pinch of salt and turn the heat to medium high. Saute the leeks until they are soft and translucent and then add the beans, the wine and the chicken stock. Keep the heat on medium high to allow the liquids to cook down. Once the liquids have reduced by at least 1/3, add the sausage and the greens and stir to combine. At this point you can lower the heat to a simmer and allow the sauce to bubble a bit while the pasta finishes cooking.

If you don’t have cooked sausage on hand, you can use raw sausage, just toss it in at the beginning after you have softened the leeks and allow it to brown a bit before adding the beans, etc. You could also substitute bacon or pancetta instead and do the same. The sauce needs the heft of the meat flavoring otherwise it’s quite bland.

Serve over a short pasta of your liking and doused with some parmesan.

Gnudi – Done well this time

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So you may or may not remember the first time I made gnudi and it was a spectacular failure because I didn’t add flour. After all my hard work getting the water out of the cheese and the spinach and making all the tiny balls of ricotta yumminess I watched in horror as they disintegrated about 2 seconds after hitting the boiling water. I managed to salvage the remaining batter, freeze it, and then use it as ravioli filling, so not a complete failure I guess. I have poked around online and seen the errors of my ways – needing flour – but haven’t come across a compelling recipe until now. I have recently stumbled upon the Delicious Days blog which had this outstandingly easy recipe for gnudi (or ricotta gnocchi) and I tried it out yesterday. I am so freaking excited because not only was this easy but it was FAST too and something that can be modified in many ways to produce light pillows of ricotta fabulousness. Here is the recipe converted into US measure for those of you that don’t have a kitchen scale:

1 cup ricotta

1/2 cup flour + a little extra for flouring work surface

1/3 cup parmesan

1 egg yolk

1 pinch of salt

1 tablespoon of chopped parsley (I added this for extra flavor

I followed the recipe as outlined on the DD blog, so I highly recommend having a read through there first. I combined the ricotta, with the excess water poured out (but no need to wrap it in cheesecloth and drain), with the egg yolk, cheese, salt and parmesan. Stir well so all ingredients are combined. You should start your pot of salted water boiling so it is ready to go before you add the flour.

Add the flour and just stir enough so it is combined but do not try to knead it. The dough will be somewhat wet and sticky but should stick together just fine. Take a large spoonful and place it onto your floured work surface. Roll it out into a long finger-like roll and then cut into bit sized pieces like so:

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Make sure you flour the surface you set them on so they are easy to remove. Once you have cut them all – and it’s important to time this well – put them right into the boiling water. Give it a stir, and watch them float to the top. It took about 3 minutes for them all to float up. Remove with a slotted spoon and add your favorite sauce. I made a crudo tomato sauce using the following ingredients:

1 14.5oz can of diced tomatoes

3-4 tablespoons olive oil

3-4 cloves of garlic

4-5 tablespoons olive oil

6-7 leaves of fresh basil

Take the garlic and cut it into smallish pieces, and saute it in the olive oil until it is light brown. Turn off the heat. Add the tomatoes to a bowl, pour over the hot oil and garlic, chopped basil and a pinch of salt to taste. Allow this mix to sit for about an hour or so – this allows the flavors to mingle. I placed the bowl in the microwave for 1 minute to heat it up before adding the gnudi.

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Summer Fruit + Herb Salad

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This is a twist on your typical fruit salad and is something I love to serve with brunch. Now that the herbs are going strong in our garden, I am taking full advantage of it.  The idea is very simple – take your favorite fruits and 2-3 herbs, chop and combine. The following is what went into the photo above but you can make a much simpler combination and it works beautifully:

Apples

Strawberries

Blueberries

Raspberries

Mango

Kiwi

Pear

Mint

Chives

Cilantro

Combine the above ingredients, chopped, into a bowl and allow the flavors to mingle for a while before you serve it.  There are a myriad of combinations to the fruit and herb salad, but I would steer clear of using too strong of an herb flavor – like sage or thyme or tarragon, as it will overwhelm the fruit. Mint, cilantro, chives, parsley and basil are all good to use. You can also squeeze a lime over the salad to add additional flavor but it’s not generally necessary.

This salad is especially good spooned over some plain lowfat greek yogurt and drizzled with some honey.

I’d love to hear any favorite fruit + herb combos you’ve tried …