Sometimes, simpler is better. The baby greens mesclun mix we get in our CSA share is so flavorful on its own that this week, I decided to turn it into a super simple salad. I added sundried tomatoes and goat cheese, and made a balsamic vinaigrette to dress it. A little tangy. A little sweet. A lot green. It was great.
Mesclun, Sundried Tomato, and Goat Cheese Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette
[for the salad:]
- 12 oz. mesclun greens
- 1 cup julienned sundried tomatoes
- 5 oz. goat cheese, crumbled
[for the vinaigrette:]
- 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
- 1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 3/4 cup olive oil
- Combine the lettuce, sundried tomatoes, and goat cheese in a large bowl.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, mustard, salt, and pepper. Drizzle in the olive oil a little bit at a time, whisking all the while.
- Toss the salad with the dressing. Serve immediately.
Spinach & Couscous Salad
- 2 1/4 cups water
- a 10-ounce box couscous (about 1 1/2 cups)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, or to taste
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 small bunch spinach, shredded fine (about 2 cups)
- 3 large scallions, sliced thin
- 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh dill, or to taste
- In a saucepan bring water to a boil and stir in couscous and salt.
- Remove pan from heat and let couscous stand, cover 5 minutes.
- Fluff couscous with a fork and transfer to a bowl.
- Stir in lemon juice, oil, and salt and pepper to taste and cool couscous completely.
- Stir in spinach, scallions, and dill and chill salad, covered, at least 2 hours or overnight.
One of the things I love about cooking is figuring out patterns that you can create endless combinations from.
Salads are a great case in point. There are different elements that will always go well together, and a variety of ingredients that can be categorized in this element.
When I was wondering what I should do with the arugula we got this week, I decided I wanted it raw so the peppery-delicate flavor came through. I wanted it to be a salad. But I didn’t want just greens, and I didn’t want to find a recipe on the internet that required me to go out and get additional ingredients. So I used a pattern that tends to work really well:
- Leafy green
- Fresh herbs
- Dried fruit
I could make months worth of meals based on those 5 elements and never make the same thing twice. So here’s an arugula and orzo salad that I concocted with stuff I had sitting in my fridge and pantry - and it got the Fiancé seal of approval when I served it with a white fish for dinner.
Orzo & Arugula Salad
Serves 3-4 as a side
- 6 oz. orzo
- 1 bunch of arugula, washed, stems removed
- 1/2 - 1 cup cilantro leaves & tender stems, chopped
- 1/2 cup dried unsweetened cranberries
- 1/2 cup pine nuts
- 3-4 tbsp. olive oil
- 1 1/2 tbsp. lemon juice
- salt and pepper to taste
- Parmesan or feta, for serving
- Cook the orzo according to the instructions on the package. Drain, rinse with cold water, and set aside.
- In a large bowl, combine the arugula, cilantro, cranberries and pine nuts. Stir in the orzo.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, and salt and pepper. Pour over the salad and mix thoroughly.
- Chill until ready to serve, then spoon into small bowls or on plates and top with feta or Parmesan.
Turnips are not just a bland winter root vegetable. This little Japanese variety is mild, crunchy, and a little sweet. They’re harvested young and have a really smooth outside, making them rather pretty.
Like many other spring vegetables, these don’t need much work to bring out their flavor. Spring veggies are perfect for quick dinners because usually a quick sauté with olive oil, white wine and/or lemon juice is all they need.
If your turnips come with greens and are organic, like mine, use them both - it’s like two vegetables in one! Just make sure to wash them really well and throw away any yellow or slimy bits.
Sauteéd Hakurei Turnips with Greens
- 1 bunch hakurei turnips, with greens (separated)
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 2 teaspoons butter
- 1/4 cup white wine
- salt and pepper to taste
- Wash the turnips and greens.
- Chop the greens. Trim any straggly roots from the turnips and discard, then chop the turnip bulbs into bite-sized pieces. (Some of mine were so small I didn’t have to cut them at all.)
- Heat the olive oil and butter in a medium pan. Add the turnips, season with salt and pepper, and sautée for about 5 minutes – until the turnips are tender but still a little crunchy.
- Add the greens to the pan and sautée for 4-5 minutes, until the greens are tender.
- Add the white wine and cook until almost all of the liquid is gone. Adjust seasonings and serve immediately.
I am SO EXCITED to tell you about a new community agriculture initiative the Fiancé and I are a part of. A block association in our neighborhood recently won a couple of grants from the city to turn a long-since-abandoned lot into a community garden. The first cleanup day was last Saturday; while hot, it was a great day to work outside, and we made huge strides towards getting the lot into usable condition.
This lot, a few blocks from where I live, has been abandoned by decades and was therefore totally overgrown with weeds and unwanted vegetation. The first order of business was clearing out a significant portion of it so we had some space to put in some raised garden beds.
Here’s what I was tackling:
And about an hour later, here’s what that same spot looked like:
And here’s a panoramic view of the lot, partially cleared:
It’s a decent sized lot, and you can see on the left that it has a gorgeous, giant weeping willow. I can already picture how wonderful it will be to have the whole lot clear, a bunch of raised beds with vegetables and flowers, and benches in the shade of the weeping willow.
We were able to clear maybe a quarter of the lot in a couple hours and build the first raised bed before everyone got too heat beat.
There’s still loads of work to be done before the space is open to the neighborhood, but I wanted to share the beginning of this project with you all. It’s a fabulous initiative by some great people in our community to reclaim an abandoned space, beautify the block, and provide a safe space for kids to learn about gardening, as well as providing a source of EXTREMELY local produce. Next up will be building at least two more raised beds, planting the first flowers and vegetables, and spreading mulch. Additionally, there’s tons more weed-wacking, weeding, and chopping to do in order to clear the rest of the lot. Expect more updates on this as the summer continues!
(hat tip to the Fiancé for letting me steal the photos he took on his phone.)
If you’ve never eaten farm-fresh eggs before, I encourage you to do so. They have such a better flavor than commercial eggs, and I’ve heard that most small-farm eggs actually contain less cholesterol than many commercial eggs, so they’re maybe healthier for you, too.
Either way, I love getting eggs from our CSA and combining them with fresh veggies. I don’t tend to get fancy with breakfast during the week, but on weekends I have more time to make a bit more involved of a breakfast. Omelettes are a staple, and this week I decided to use some of the beautiful spinach we got in our first share, and combine it with cilantro (which also came in our first share and I am putting into just about everything because it tastes so good).
Spinach & Cilantro Omelette
- 2 eggs
- 1 tbsp. milk
- 1/2 cup fresh chopped spinach
- 2-3 tbsp. chopped cilantro leaves and stems
- a dash of ground cumin
- salt & pepper to taste
- 1/4 cup shredded cheddar or monterey jack cheese
- 1 tablespoon your favorite salsa
- Preheat a small frying pan on medium heat. Beat together the eggs, milk, cilantro, cumin, salt and pepper in a small bowl.
- Pour the egg mixture into the frying pan, let the eggs start to set, then use a spatula to scrape away the sides and let the uncooked eggs slide underneath. Continue until the eggs are mostly set, but still moist and glossy.
- Sprinkle the cheese on top of the eggs, then cover one half of the eggs with the spinach. Fold the uncovered side of the eggs over on top of the spinach, creating a half-moon.
- Cook about 30 seconds longer, then flip (cook on the second side for about 30 seconds, too).
- Slide the omelette onto a plate, top with salsa, and garnish with a few more cilantro leaves.
While I used jarred salsa for this one, I can’t wait for tomatoes to be in season. This already yummy omelette would be incredible topped with some homemade pico de gallo!
It’s officially summer in my brain now. Brooklyn’s been boiling (the boiling point is about 93ºF, in case you were wondering) the past couple of days, the sun is strong, the CSA started up again, and the cats barely move all day because they’re too warm.
Summer means salad. On really hot days, I tend not to have much of an appetite, but I still want something with a satisfying flavor and texture. Salads provide infinite ways to do that, so I mixed together a whole bunch of things we got in our first share and dressed it with a very simple lemon vinaigrette. Paired with a leftover quinoa cake, this was a perfect summer lunch. I added some non-CSA celery that I had sitting in the fridge to give the salad an extra crunch; toss in your favorite in-season veggie and be happy. :)
Since I know roughly what to expect of my CSA for the first several weeks (a LOT of salad greens), I’m going to make sure I post at least one salad recipe per week, on Sundays. It gets boring to eat the same salad week after week, so hopefully committing to a new salad every week will keep things exciting for all of us.
Spring Mesclun and Radish Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette:
- A big handful of mesclun greens per person
- 2-4 radishes, with their greens (wash and separate, slice radishes thinly and tear the tops into bite-sized pieces)
- 2 stalks celery, thinly sliced
- 1 tbsp roasted salted sunflower seeds per person
- 1-2 tbsp chopped cilantro leaves and stems per person
- for the dressing: 1 tbsp lemon juice, 2 tbsp olive oil, salt & pepper to taste
- Thoroughly wash and prepare all veggies. (Chop the radishes, radish greens, celery, and cilantro, as well as any other veggies you want to use.)
- Place a big handful of mesclun greens per individual bowl. Split the radish greens, radishes, celery, and cilantro evenly between all servings.
- Make the vinaigrette: whisk the lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper together in a small bowl.
- Toss each salad bowl with a little bit of dressing, and top with 1 tbsp. of sunflower seeds each.
Our first CSA pickup of the 2013 season is in just a few days! I am so excited to see what’s in that first box. For the past few months, my kitchen has felt a little stale; without a constant incoming stream of new and interesting vegetables, I haven’t felt inspired to cook as often as I normally do.
I have, however, been tending to my window garden. In addition to the herbs I posted pictures of last time, I’m also growing dill from seeds. They’re still pretty small seedlings at the moment, but they’ve proven tough and determined - I accidentally left them out on my fire escape in not one, but two days of torrential rain.
Picking fresh basil from the windowsill has been one of my favorite things this spring - I love having a snack of homemade bread, gruyère, basil, and peppadew peppers. The Fiancé has been perfecting his baguette technique, which is a wonderful addition to our kitchen.
I am also looking forward to the CSA starting up because I’m keeping my fingers crossed that we’ll get a few weeks of garlic scapes. They’re the one thing I feel like I never see in farmer’s markets or grocery stores here in the city - probably because the season is so short - but they are one of the most delightful food items I can think to eat in late spring.
Our farmers said they’ve had a hell of a couple weeks with dry spells, torrential rain, and hail all in the past two weeks, but it doesn’t sound like there was too much crop damage.
Stay tuned to see what the first harvest brings!
Frozen collard greens have a really bizarre texture. However, the note from our farmers on the label says they’re great for adding to soups and stews, and they weren’t wrong. This is a really simple, Southern-inspired stew that is almost entirely made from CSA ingredients: the potatoes, collard greens, and tomato purée were all from our lat CSA pickup. Had I still had homemade veggie stock on hand, that percentage would’ve been even higher, but I used the last of my homemade stock on the rosemary potato soup.
To make it a little more authentically southern, add some bacon bits or ham hock to the soup, but there is absolutely no need for them here. The recipe below is simple, but satisfying.
Bean Stew with Collard Greens & Potatoes
yields 6 servings
- 4 cups vegetable broth
- 12 oz collard greens, chopped (if using frozen, thaw before adding to the stew)
- 2 tsp. garlic powder
- 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
- 14-16 oz. canned diced tomatoes (I used frozen tomato purée)
- 1 lb red potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch dice (about 2 cups)
- 1 15.5-oz can of cannellini beans or black-eyed peas, rinsed and drained
- Ground black pepper, to taste
- Bring broth and 2 cups water to a boil in a large saucepan or Dutch oven over high heat. Add collard greens, cover and simmer for 15 minutes.
- Add garlic powder, red pepper flakes, tomatoes and potatoes, and return to a simmer. Cover and cook until potatoes are tender, 10 to 12 minutes. Stir in the cannellinis or black-eyed peas and simmer until heated through, about 2 minutes. Season with pepper, to taste, and serve immediately.
Green beans are great. They’re one of those vegetables that I tend to like pretty much as they are - I normally eat them plain and raw, or steamed with just a touch of salt and pepper. But since we’ve gotten a lot of fresh and frozen green beans from our CSA this year, I’ve started branching out and trying to make more interesting green bean dishes.
This one is very Mediterranean: tomatoes, olive oil, garlic and pine nuts add a nice depth and soft complexity to the beans. Pairs really nicely with a simple mustard and bread-crumb baked white fish (I used hake) and your favorite grain.
The only thing I would change next time is the pine nuts; cooking them with the liquid from the tomatoes results in the pine nuts being a little mushy when you eat the dish, so next time I’d add them just a couple minutes before serving.
Mediterranean Green Beans & Tomatoes
- 1 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 pounds green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch lengths
- 1.5 cups diced tomatoes with their juice (canned or fresh)
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
- 2 tablespoons pine nuts
- 1 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 bay leaf
- salt and pepper, to taste
- Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic; cook and stir until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Reduce heat if garlic begins to brown.
- Add green beans, then continue to cook, stirring until the green beans turn bright green but are not yet tender, about 4 minutes.
- Mix in tomatoes, lemon juice and pine nuts, and season with chives, bay leaf, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, stirring often. Reduce heat and simmer gently uncovered for 25 to 30 minutes. Remove and discard bay leaf before serving.
For those of us who eat primarily plants, quinoa is a great thing to keep in the pantry for days when you want something packed with protein but still light and healthy. Use quinoa instead of beans to make an awesome veggie burger that’s great for any meal (this batch was dinner, breakfast and snacks!). Experiment a little with your favorite vegetables and seasonings; I mashed this up basically with whatever was one hand. I can imagine these will be even better during the summer with fresh herbs from the window box!
Quinoa Veggie Patties
Makes about 8 patties (4-5 servings, at least)
- 1 cup quinoa, rinsed and drained
- 2 cups water
- 1 small, finely chopped red onion
- 3 cloves finely chopped garlic
- 2/3 cup grated carrots
- 2 cups finely chopped spinach
- Zest of 1 lemon
- 1 tsp. each dried basil, oregano, and chile pepper flakes (or throw in a handful of fresh herbs)
- 2-3 tablespoons chopped cilantro leaves
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 egg
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Bring quinoa and water to a boil in a medium pot. Reduce heat to medium low, cover and simmer until liquid is absorbed, 20 to 30 minutes. Set aside off of the heat for 5 minutes, then fluff with a fork and set aside to let cool.
- In a large bowl, combine cooked quinoa with onion, garlic, carrots, spinach, zest, herbs, flour, baking powder, egg, salt and pepper. Form mixture into eight (4- to 5-inch) patties.
- From here, you can either bake or pan-fry the patties.
- To bake: Arrange the patties on an oiled baking sheet. Bake at 400˚F for about 12 minutes, flip the patties over, and bake for another 12-14 minutes (until lightly browned and starting to crisp).
- To fry: Heat a little olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Place 2-4 patties in the skillet (or as many as you can fit without them touching), and cook for about 5 minutes. Flip gently, and cook for 5 minutes on the other side, until both sides are brown and crispy. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels to drain excess oil.
Serve these hot immediately, or at room temperature. You can also keep the mixture in the fridge for a few days and fry them up fresh whenever you want them, but I found the cooked patties reheat just fine over medium heat on the stove.
The last winter pickup has come and gone. I still have about 2-3 pounds of potatoes, a bunch of red onions, a few stray carrots, and several packages of frozen vegetables from the farm, but the stores are slowly dwindling.
My neighborhood CSA is actually opening up registration for the summer share in the next couple weeks, but it will be months before that actually begins. During the growing season, this blog may be a little sparse; I’ll keep posting until I run out of my current supply of CSA veggies, but then I’ll probably be quiet for a while. We’ll likely start going back to the farmer’s market on a more regular basis, but at this time of year it’s a lot of bread and cheese and jam (not that there’s anything wrong with that!). I may start posting pictures of pretty farm things instead of recipes. I’ll have my hands full with wedding planning, but there’s always time for photos of delicious food. :) (There may even be a special post about the wedding menu, which will be local and seasonal as well!)
But fear not: I do plan to continue this blog. It’s been a great way for me to keep track of things I’ve tried for the first time and to collect my old favorites. I expect this year to be a little more challenging because we’ll probably get a lot of the same produce as last year, but I don’t want to post any duplicate recipes here. My hiatus from regular blogging should open up more time for me to collect recipes I’d like to try, though (including digging through old farm newsletters and adding their recipes to my favorite recipe app!).
Thanks for sticking with me this far, and keep on eating well!
This soup is thick and creamy and delicious and the best thing to eat when snowed in over the weekend.
What else is there to say?
Oh yeah, serve with a warm chunk of fresh, homemade baguette and a big slab of cheese!
Rosemary Potato Soup
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 - 1.5 pounds of your favorite potatoes, washed and cubed (peeled or not, it doesn’t matter)
- 1 quart homemade vegetable broth
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 3 tablespoons flour
- 1 1/2 cups milk (skim is fine)
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
- Salt and black pepper, to taste
- In a large stock pot, heat olive oil and sauté onion until tender, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 2 more minutes. Add potatoes and vegetable stock to the pot. Bring to boil and reduce to medium-low heat.
- Let potatoes cook until tender, about 20 minutes. With a slotted spoon, remove 2 cups of the potatoes. Set aside. Puree the remaining potatoes with an immersion blender or put potatoes in a blender or food processor.
- In a small sauce pan, melt the butter. Stir in flour and cook for 2 minutes, until it starts to brown. Whisk in milk, bring to a boil and simmer until thickened. Slowly stir mixture into large stock pot with the pureed potatoes. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a low simmer.
- Stir the 2 cups of potatoes back into the soup and add the fresh rosemary. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Heat through again and serve warm.
Bon appétit, and stay warm!