farmer’s market meals

Last Saturday I actually made it to the Farmer’s Market. This was my haul:

Don’t you love how I subconsciously arranged everything in ROYGBIV order? I swear it wasn’t intentional.

I figured it might be fun to turn my Farmer’s Market trips into posts about how we eat for a week on our delicious local produce.

The cukes and the yellow squash immediately became pickles, the squash joining some zucchinis we had grown to become summer squash bread and butter pickles (seriously, such a good recipe, though I skip the whole ice bath part and they still turn out just dandy), and the cukes becoming my absolute favorite, I swear they’re as good as Claussen’s, dill refrigerator pickles.

pickles in progress

The gorgeous heirloom tomatoes and the Japanese eggplant joined some mozzarella and some home-grown basil to become a delicious margherita pizza.

Look at that tomato flesh. So red, it's almost black.

The pattypan squash was sauteed in olive oil with home-grown herbs and served alongside a red lentil salad with heirloom tomatoes, and some tilapia.

And the remainder of the squash, eggplant, and tomato were turned into a sort of ratatouille which we ate with goat cheese over pearl couscous:

This was eaten alongside some tomato and onion focaccia I made using some tomatoes we grew in our community garden:

Truly the most beautiful bread I have ever baked, and also one of the tastiest.

Finally, the blackberries were mixed with honey, lemon zest, and corn starch and topped with a few pats of butter and a cornmeal crust to become personal-pan cobblers:

All in all, a delicious week of largely local food!

CSA: Charleston – ratatouille two ways and other fun

We are moving this Saturday, and will be picking up our last CSA box this afternoon.  We’ve arranged for friends to take over our boxes for the three weeks left in the season after we’re gone.  All of this means: this might be my last CSA post for a while, because who knows how long it will take us to get our internet hooked up in our new house.  Here’s what we did with last week’s goodies.  We gave away a good portion of it because we wanted to be able to eat at some of our favorite Charleston restaurants one last time, but I made some goodies with what we used!

  • 8 ears corn (gave away half)
  • 6 cucumbers
  • 4 slicing tomatoes
  • 1 bag cherry tomatoes
  • 4 bell peppers (gave away 2)
  • 3 yellow squash
  • 1 watermelon (ate at the beach)
  • 2 eggplants (gave away 1)
  • 1 bag green beans (gave away half)
  • 3 pattypan squash
  • 7 banana peppers (Jon ate 2 raw)
  • 1 bag potatoes (gave away half)

I confess I forgot to write down which days we ate what, so I’ll just write up each meal.

Meal 1: Ratatouille Pizzas

Inspired by the Smitten Kitchen’s ratatouille tart, I decided to make a ratatouille pizza.  I made a double recipe of crust before work using this recipe:

  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat bread flour
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • salt
  • 2 packets yeast
  • 1 1/3 cup warm water
  1. Mix flours in bowl with 2 T salt and the oil.
  2. Stir yeast into warm water.
  3. Using dough hooks on mixer, pour yeasty water into flour while dough hooks are moving.
  4. Let rise at least 1 hour, preferably all day.
  5. Separate into two balls and stretch each ball across a baking sheet.

Then I topped each pizza crust with some leftover tomato sauce I’d made and frozen using this super easy recipe from the Smitten Kitchen (I’m a bit of a fangirl).

Next up: time to slice these babies up!

Then I arranged the slices on top of the sauce, drizzled with olive oil, sprinkled with salt and pepper, sprinkled with herbes de provence, and sprinkled with parmesan cheese.  I baked the pizzas for 20 minutes each at 450.  They came out delicious!

Meal 2: Ratatouille with poached eggs over couscous

After the pizza, I still had a gallon bag full of sliced squash, zucchini, eggplant, and peppers.  I also had half of my tomato sauce leftover.  So I decided to try a baked version of ratatouille following this Smitten Kitchen recipe for Ratatouille’s ratatouille, inspired by the Pixar film.  Mine wasn’t as pretty as Smitten’s, but I don’t have a mandoline for fancy slicing, so I think I did pretty well with just my knife!

I decided to serve my ratatouille over couscous with a poached egg on top.  Considering I’d never poached an egg before, and considering I’m still getting over an aversion to runny yolks, I think my poached eggs came out pretty darn well!  It was an absolutely delicious meal. and we still can’t decide if we liked the ratatouille pizza or the ratatouille with poached egg and couscous better!

If I were a real food blogger, I'd have a photo of the yolk oozing out of the poached egg. Lesson learned.

Meal 3: Smoky corn chowder and Greek cucumber salad

I made a smoky corn chowder with the corn using this Real Simple recipe, which I’m a big fan of.  I’m an even bigger fan of it now that I have an immersion blender– the first time I tried the recipe, I had to use a blender, which resulted in a molten corn chowder volcano.  An immersion blender is really a must-have for creamy soups, and it’s also crucial to the tomato sauce I mentioned above.

To go with the chowder, I decided to go Greek with the cucumbers and slicing tomatoes.  I chopped them into bite-size chunks and tossed them with a dressing made with the following recipe:

Whirl the following in a food processor:

  • 1 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 1 cup Greek yogurt
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped finely
  • 2 sprigs oregano (any herb fresh from the garden would work!)
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. ground coriander
  • 2 dashes hot sauce

The resulting salad was delicious, and the smoky cumin in the sauce went well with the smoked paprika in the soup.

Meal 4: Nicoise salad with pesto

To use up the last of the veggies, I adapted two recipes to make a nicoise salad with a pesto dressing.  I always have good pesto on hand, because my mom makes her own with home-grown pesto, and, even if I have to pack it on ice in a cooler, I always bring home a jar or two after a visit.

I boiled four eggs and let them cool.  I chopped the potatoes and the green beans into bite-size pieces, then boiled the potatoes for 10 minutes, then added the green beans to the pot and boiled both together for 5 more minutes.  Then I drained the potatoes and green beans and rinsed with cold water to cool.  I cut the cherry tomatoes in half and tossed all the ingredients in a bowl with a can of tuna and a can of garbanzo beans (both drained) (not traditional, but I wanted to use them up before the move).  Then I dressed the salad using a mixture of pesto, lemon juice, olive oil, and salt and pepper.  Yum!

Meal 5: Pattypan scramble

One morning when I was home alone, I fried up some bacon, sauteed the pattypan squash in the drippings, and then scrambled them with eggs, mozzarella cheese (it’s what I had), oregano (it’s what I grow in my front yard), and the bacon.  A yummy brunch!

After all those meals, you need dessert: Key Lime Coconut Cake

I’m not kidding about my Smitten Kitchen fangirldom.  I went looking for a recipe to use up some coconut before the move, and I found this Key Lime Coconut Cake recipe.  Whaddaya know? I had limes too! I was so excited about this cake, only to be devastated when It got half stuck in the pan and crumbled into a big mess.  I tried again, this time buttering and flouring the pan instead of following the instructions to butter it and place parchment paper in the bottom, and this time it came out great.  A great summer cake.  I have a feeling I’ll be experimenting with the recipe, maybe trying to turn it into cupcakes or a layer cake.

And there you have another week of fresh local eats!

Bonus: restaurant reviews

When not eating delicious food at home, we ate out a lot! One night we ate at FIG, one of our favorite Charleston restaurants (seriously, a must-visit if you come here).  Another night, we rounded up a whole gang of friends in search of a seafood feast.  We had planned to hit up our favorite, Bowen’s Island, a true experience and a must-visit if you’re in Charleston for oyster season (any month that has an “R” in it), but Bowen’s was closed for a private party.  So we ended up trying the Sand Castle, a seafood joint on Folly that we’d never visited before.  I was sold when I saw that they had fried softshell crab and $3.25 pinot grigio, and Jon got a seafood feast which featured fried flounder, shrimp, oysters, and deviled crab.  Saturday we hit up Red’s Ice House with a bunch of friends.  Red’s has miles of deck space overlooking Shem Creek, and my one goal was a giant pina colada, a goal I achieved.  We also spotted a guy paddle boarding with his DOG on board, and were amazed at the dog’s steady, calm pose aboard the surfboard.  Just another great night in Charleston! I’m going to miss this place!

CSA tips and tricks

Image: "Clagett Farm CSA Week 18", a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from galant's photostream

Each week, I blog about what I got in my CSA box and what I do with it.  After reading this Slate piece by an overwhelmed CSA member, I thought maybe I should also write about the tips that help me figure out how to handle my weekly deluge of fresh, local produce.

  • The goal is not to love every item, but to find a way to eat every item. That might sound a little strange, but hear me out.  I don’t like turnips. I don’t really like rutabagas.  If I were just shopping the Farmer’s Market or grocery store, I’d probably never eat a turnip, a rutabaga, or even greens like collards or kale.  However, part of the appeal of the CSA experience is trying new things, and I consider it my mission to find at least one way I can eat every item without hating it.  The author mentions her struggle with turnips. I share that struggle.  I’ve hidden them in chowders, put them into risottos, and even snuck them into pot pies.  For me, they need to be part of an ensemble of other veggies that hide their turnipy flavor.  The same is true for mustard greens.  I don’t really like them by themselves, but I’ve discovered that, covered in cheese in a frittata, they’re pretty tasty!
  • The internet is your friend. Not sure what to do with collard greens? Get thee to Epicurious.  Sites like Epicurious, The Kitchn, and AllRecipes are the keys to CSA success.  You just type in “collard greens” into the search bar, and tons of recipes will pop up.  Read the reviews on the recipes, and don’t be afraid to experiment and substitute. A recipe calls for celery and you don’t have any? Maybe you can add in a little celery seed for flavor, or substitute a similar watery, crunchy veggie in its place.  You don’t have the herb they call for? Try substituting something you do have!  And don’t be afraid to Google for substitutions either– it’s how I learned I can make my own buttermilk if needed for a recipe by simply adding vinegar or lemon juice to a cup of milk!
  • Make a plan of attack. It helps to make time on the day you usually pick up your CSA box to plan and do prep work for the week’s worth of meals. On the day you get your CSA box, lay everything out.  Figure out which things are most perishable, and plan to eat those first. Estimate what you can reasonably eat in one week, and make plans to give away or preserve (via freezing, pickling, or canning) what you can’t.  Don’t feel bad about giving away your produce if you know you can’t eat it! You may help win new subscribers for your CSA program that way!  Use the aforementioned recipe websites to find recipes for each meal, then head to the grocery store to get things you might need to fill in. Look at any recipes that might take longer than an hour and see if you can do any prep work ahead of time to ensure faster meals later.
  • Learn to pickle. Seriously. Pickles are a great way to preserve your produce, and they’re a great thing to give away to help lighten your load. You can pickle cucumbers, squash, peppers, onions, carrots, green beans… anything.  I’m a big fan of spicy refrigerator dill pickles and summer squash bread and butter pickles (doesn’t have to be used with squash).  You don’t have to spend all day boiling them in jars, either– just keep them in their brine in the fridge for a few weeks.  They’ll get pickle-ier as time goes on, but they won’t go bad. You don’t even need jars! I make my personal-use pickles in large re-used yogurt tubs. Updated to add: Don’t stress if you can’t find pickling salt. My research has shown that kosher salt will work just fine, it just might result in cloudier brine and less-green cukes. They will still taste great.
  • Make friends with your freezer! Another great way to save veggies for a later day is to make up a big batch of soup, pasta sauce, or ratatouille and freeze it flat in a ziplock bag for a later day.  We ate frozen soups and sauces all winter long.  I even froze shredded zucchini to use in zucchini bread after the season was over.
  • Have some stand-bys. Every week, I eat at least one stir-fry made with any variety of veggies, using a simple sauce that uses any and all of the following: soy sauce, honey, lemon/lime juice, sesame oil, sriracha, ginger, garlic, red pepper flakes.  Another good standby is a frittata using a variety of veggies.  Another is to saute veggies with garlic and herbs and serve them over pasta with parmesan or feta cheese.  These meals will carry you through when you just can’t be bothered to try something new and fun with your produce.
  • Have fun. Don’t let yourself feel too guilty about greens wilting in your fridge. Some days, you just aren’t feeling it, and that’s fine. I’m little miss CSA, and I still eat popcorn for dinner on occasion.  If possible, try to give away your excess produce to someone who will eat it, but don’t beat yourself up if something goes bad before you use it.  Compost it if possible!

Are you a CSA member? Do you have any tips to share? Questions you’d like me to answer?

CSA: Charleston – giving it all away

Some weeks, there’s just no way we can eat all of the CSA goodness that comes in our box, and this was one of those weeks.  Jon was gone for most of the week, and I was out of town over the weekend finding us a place to live in Little Rock (mission: accomplished!).  So I gave away most of our veggies to neighbors and coworkers so the food wouldn’t go to waste.  Here’s what we got:

  • strawberries
  • 3 carrots (gave away)
  • 4 onions
  • 1 bunch spinach
  • 1 head romaine lettuce (gave away)
  • 1 butter crunch lettuce (gave away)
  • 4 zucchini (gave 2 away)
  • 8 squash
  • 2 bunches beets (gave away)
  • 2 bunches chard (gave 1 away)
  • 1 bunch cabbage (gave away)

As you can see, I gave most of that away.  Here’s what I did with what I kept:

One night, I seriously ate a plate full of spinach sauteed with garlic, olive oil, and a squeeze of lemon juice for dinner.  So good!

I also baked Smitten Kitchen’s Poppy Seed Lemon Cake, which was AMAZING, and I served it with sliced strawberries soaked in a bit of sugar over night to make them nice and syrupy.  She adapted the recipe from one at Cafe Sabarsky, which is a cafe inside the Neue Galerie in New York, and Jon and I actually have been there! Here’s what we had when we were there:

And for our first meal back home, together, after all our traveling, I made a pasta using the chard and onions with a little bacon, garlic, olive oil, red pepper and parmesan cheese.  It was inspired by this pasta recipe which I use a lot with collards.  I also sliced up the squash and zucchini and made Baked Summer Squash, which turned out pretty good as well!

We’re looking forward to picking up another box of goodies this week and getting to eat most of them this time! It turns out I’m not crazy for thinking we’re getting a ridiculous amount of veggies in our smaller-sized (compared to the last season we did) boxes– in this week’s email, the farmers told us that they’re having a bumper crop, and they’re passing on the bounty to us.  No complaints here! I’m always happy to find a friend to share some local veggies with.

CSA Charleston: sometimes even i get overwhelmed

Another delicious week with our Pinckney’s Produce CSA!

DSC05663Another great haul this week! Here’s the breakdown:

  • 5 sweet potatoes
  • 1 large head cabbage
  • 1 bunch kale
  • 1 bunch collards
  • 4 small heads broccoli
  • 2 heads cauliflower
  • lots of various tomatoes

This was our next to last CSA box! I’m already getting sad about the season ending, and will do more of a retrospective on the experience next week.  I’ll also post a picture of the stock of food we’ve now accumulated in our freezer– at least one friend seems to be unable to believe everything I’ve said is in there fits! Continue reading “CSA Charleston: sometimes even i get overwhelmed”

a quick bite

As an update to my recent post on making changes to the way I eat now that I can no longer plead ignorance, I thought I’d share that today my husband signed us up for a CSA through Pinckney’s Produce.  CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture.  From Pinkney’s website, here’s the rundown:

How a CSA works: based on a seasonal commitment, community members pre-pay for shares of the seasons’ harvest. Members then receive weekly, a box of fresh vegetables. This method assures a variety of products picked at the peak of ripeness and flavor and delivered to a convenient location in your neighborhood.

Conveniently for us, our pickup point will be at one of our favorite restaurants right around the corner from our house, where we like to buy our local eggs.

Our first box of goodies will arrive next week, and I’m pretty excited.  This will mean that I can’t just eat whatever I want, but will have to plan my meals based on what is seasonal.  In many ways, this will be familiar to me, as I grew up eating fresh, home-grown produce from my family’s garden, helping my mom can the extras, and enjoying what each season had to offer.  I expect that I’ll be sharing further about our new little eating experiment as we go along, and I encourage you to check out CSAs wherever you are.