Thursday, June 28, 2012

Week 2: Strawberry Freezer Pops

As in years past, our CSA season has started off with a whole mess of green leafy things and a couple of quarts of luscious strawberries. Some people might consider it a sacrilege to alter said strawberries in any fashion, but we are not such people. We are definitely not such people during a legitimate heat wave. Besides, these freezer pops are only the teensiest step away from fresh fruit.

Of course, strawberries are one of the easiest items in the CSA share to use up, and I'm guessing you might want to know what's happened to that whole mess of green leafy things. So before we get to this week's recipe, here's a quick rundown of some of the other foods we've been eating:
  • Kale, held over from last week, never made it to the freezer. Instead, I boiled and drained it; seasoned it with sauteed garlic, a little olive oil, salt, and lemon; and mixed it into leftover spaghetti.
  • Arugula and red leaf lettuce became a salad with scallions, strawberries, and my balsamic vinaigrette.
  • Another head of leaf lettuce went into a braise with onions, garlic, and salmon, based on this recipe from Everyday Food. As far as cooked lettuce goes, I'm going to stick with grilled or stir-fried romaine. But the fish was very good, and the dinner reduced the volume of lettuce in our refrigerator considerably.
  • Collard greens received the "stuffed cabbage" treatment with a tabbouleh-influenced filling of bulgur wheat, mint, parsley, carrots, and bell pepper. Not bad, but still a work in progress.
  • Radishes are not in the "green leafy" category, but we've had a lot of them, too. Last week, some became pickles (David Lebovitz's recipe); some went into a "summer roll" (aka fresh spring roll) along with more mint. I had high hopes for the summer rolls, and I did like the vegetable combination, but I was completely turned off by the gelatinous cellophane noodles and the equally gelatinous rice paper wrappers. Still, if you want to take a stab at this, you could start with this recipe here. Don't say I didn't warn you.
Strawberry Freezer Pops
(adapted from Everyday Food)

2 cups halved, hulled strawberries
2 Tbsp sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp lime juice (about 1/2 lime)

Combine ingredients in a blender. Puree, scraping down sides as needed.

Divide puree among four 3-ounce freezer-pop molds. Freeze until solid, 4 to 6 hours. Run molds under hot tap water to release pops just before serving.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Week 1: Zucchini and Cheese Frittata; Spanish-Style Greens and Chickpeas

Just the other day I was musing about how it would be nice if the first CSA basket of the season filled my fridge. I really should have thought that one out a bit more.

We had a family obligation that coincided with our pickup date, and as fun as trips and family gatherings are, they do shorten the cooking week. I definitely felt challenged, not to mention overwhelmed and exhausted, when I saw the overflowing shelf of greens in my refrigerator the night we got back.

Fortunately, I recovered quickly. In the past three days I have tackled spinach, chard, and zucchini, and have made a reasonable dent in lettuce and radishes. I'm about to admit defeat on kale, however. Too much for a shortened week, let alone one when it's 90 degrees outside. I think I'll have to blanch and freeze it, just to make room for this Friday's pickup.

Zucchini and Cheese Frittata
(Adapted recipe from Sorrento cheese. Serves 4 to 6. If you want to double the recipe, bake it in a 9-by-13-inch dish for 20 minutes.)

1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 onion, diced
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1 small zucchini, thinly sliced
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1/8 cup dry white wine
6 eggs
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (about 4 ounces)
1/8 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease a 9-inch pie plate.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Saute the onion and bell pepper for about 5 minutes, or until the onions soften. Add the zucchini, mushrooms, and wine, and cook until the zucchini is soft and the wine has evaporated, about 5 minutes more. Set aside.

Beat the eggs, add the ricotta, and whisk together until smooth. Stir in the vegetables and pour the mixture into the pie plate. Sprinkle the top with the mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until set and slightly browned on top.

Spanish-Style Greens and Chickpeas
(Adapted from Smitten Kitchen. Serves 4 as a side dish. Makes a nice, light entree, too, served with a leafy salad and some crusty bread.)

1/2 pound Swiss chard
1/2 pound fresh spinach
3 Tbsp olive oil, divided use
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp ground cumin
Pinch red pepper flakes
1/2 cup tomato sauce
1-1/2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
2 cans (15 ounces each) chickpeas, rinsed and drained
Salt and black pepper, to taste
Smoked paprika and lemon juice, optional for serving

Thoroughly wash the chard and spinach. Remove stems from the chard (these can be saved for another use), and roughly chop the leaves.

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a Dutch oven. Shake off any excess water on the leaves, then add the chard and spinach to the pot. (You may need to add the leaves in batches.) Cook, stirring occasionally, 5 to 10 minutes or until the greens wilt and the leaves are tender. Remove the greens to a colander and set aside to drain.

Heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet. Add the garlic, cumin, and red pepper flakes and cook for 1 minute, then add the tomato sauce, vinegar, and chickpeas. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the chickpeas are heated through. Add the drained greens to the pan and heat through. Add salt and pepper to taste. (You may not need to add salt if you use salted tomato sauce and chickpeas.) Sprinkle the dish with smoked paprika and lemon juice as desired. I forgot to do this the night I cooked the dish, but I really liked it on the leftovers.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Toasted Quinoa and Spinach Salad

School events, fundraisers, meetings ... I have a good mental calendar, but sometimes life still sneaks up on me. So here I find myself, somewhat surprisingly, on the cusp of CSA season.

I can't say that I have prepared in any special way, but we're down to dregs in the refrigerator, so I'm hoping for a nice "refill" from the farm. I think it's a good bet that Week 1 will include fresh greens, so consider the salad recipe below a teaser of the season to come.

Toasted Quinoa and Spinach Salad
(From The Boston Globe. This salad has a high proportion of spinach to quinoa. Serves at least 4 as a side salad, and 2 to 3 as a main dish for a light lunch or supper.)

1 cup quinoa (I used white)
2 cups water
Juice of 1 lemon (about 3 tablespoons)
3 tablespoons olive oil
Ground black pepper, to taste
6 ounces baby spinach
1 cup crumbled feta
4 scallions, thinly sliced
1/2 cucumber, halved lengthwise and sliced into half moons
Salt, to taste

Heat a large, dry skillet (10- to 12-inches) over medium-high heat. Toast the quinoa, stirring regularly, for about 5 minutes or until aromatic.

Bring the water to a boil in a saucepan. Add the toasted quinoa, cover the pan, and lower the heat. Simmer the quinoa undisturbed for about 15 minutes, or until it absorbs the liquid. Fluff the quinoa with a fork, transfer to a large bowl, and set aside to cool.

Whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, and black pepper in a small bowl. Pour over the quinoa. Add the remaining ingredients and toss gently. Taste and adjust seasoning as desired.