Friday, February 28, 2014

Gilfeather rutabaga soup

Info on Gilfeather rutabagas from Siena Farms, which we first saw in a box a few weeks ago:

Finally, a bit about the Gilfeather rutabagas in this week's share. First, they're often call turnips, which is what rutabagas are usually called in New England. They are an heirloom variety, first cultivated in Wardsboro, Vermont by a farmer named Gilfeather, in the late 19th century. They resulted from an interspecies cross between a rutabaga and a regular turnip, and luckily Farmer Gilfeather noticed, liked, and perpetuated these delicious roots. During his lifetime, FG guarded his treasure so that no one else could grow his turnips. But, somehow, thankfully, some seeds escaped his control, meaning that Gilfeather rutabagas are still grown in 2014.

Gilfeathers have white flesh and a mild, sweet taste (improved by several hard frosts before harvest last fall). They pair naturally with potatoes.

So while the name for these veggies comes from the farmer, I find it interesting that there are feathery roots on either side of the bulbs, almost like gills.

The first week that we received some in our share, the newsletter included a recipe for Gilfeather rutabaga soup.  I made it that first week, and really liked it.  The Gilfeathers really do have a mild taste; they aren't strong like the purple top turnips.  Additionally, the soup has nutmeg in it, which I'm finding is a good way to hide some of the strong taste of veggies used in my soups.  For example, I've been putting nutmeg into my kohlrabi soup, which definitely mellows the taste of the kohlrabi, making the soup less broccoli-ish.

The newsletter described where the recipe came from:

This is an adaptation of an adaptation of a turnip and brown bread soup served at a Ballyknocken House in County Wicklow. It appeared years ago, in Saveur, issue 91. Actually, it's very like country/peasant soups from around the world that use roots plus some stale bread (or nuts, or starchy rice) to make a soup that is creamier and more filling than seems possible -- and  one that feeds a lot of people without much expense.
I started with their recipe and modified it a bit (used bread ends instead of the center of a piece of bread, no cream).


2-3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
1 1/2 pounds of Gilfeather rutabaga, peeled, and cut in 1/2" pieces
2 slices of bread ends (I used sourdough this time), ripped into pieces
6 cups of vegetable stock
Freshly ground nutmeg
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Put the olive oil and onions into your soup pot, then sweat the onions for 5-10 minutes, until translucent.  Note that I used olive oil the first time I made this soup, by mistake.  The second time, I used the butter that was called for (in the photo below).  Now that I've made and eaten the soup both ways, I prefer the olive oil to the butter, so I've put olive oil into the ingredients above.  The butter version tastes too rich to me.

While the onions are cooking, prep the Gilfeathers.

Add to the pot when the onions have finished.  Cook for about 10 minutes to let the Gilfeathers soften.

Add the nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste.  I am a bit heavy handed with the nutmeg.

Add the torn bread ends and your stock.  As I only had 4 cups of vegetable stock left, I added two cups of water to get to the full 6 cups.  The soup was still flavorful with the addition of this water.

Blend the soup.  I use an immersion blender, as I find it much easier than using a blender (plus no potential disaster from putting hot liquid in a blender).
After cooling the soup for a bit, I store it in jars.  The jars are easy to grab for lunch and the soup can be microwaved in them (with the metal covers off, of course).

The farm newsletter notes that you can use purple top turnips as well, to add to the Gilfeathers if you don't have enough.  The soup could probably be made entirely with purple top turnips, but I haven't tried to do it yet.

This process is similar to any soup I make featuring a single vegetable.  Substitute kohlrabi for the Gilfeathers and you have kohlrabi soup.  Roast some cubes of butternut squash and make butternut squash soup (you'd then skip the 10 minute saute of the veggie cubes -- I think the roasted squash makes for a better soup).

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Save your veggie scraps!

I use vegetable stock a lot.  It's the basis for most of the soups I make -- either roast some vegetable and add to the stock or just boil the vegetable in the stock for a while, then puree.  I also use it for risotto, as a low calorie addition to cook a "gratin" of potatoes and turnips without any cheese or butter...  Stock is a good thing.  I've never found a good prepared vegetable stock in the grocery stores.  (Seriously, they are just awful.  I don't know what the odd taste is in the Trader Joe's vegetable stock, but it ruins anything you try to make with it.)

If you're cooking with lots of veggies, you have the fixings for stock.  As you cook throughout the week (or weeks), save the tops and peels in containers that you put into the freezer.  Be sure to wash your vegetables before peeling or cutting the ends, as you don't want to end up with dirt in your stock.

I save scraps from carrots, onions (not the papery skins though), leeks, mushrooms, daikon radishes, potatoes, turnips, cabbage, butternut squash, parsnips, and celery -- but I don't save scraps from beets (it'll make for a very red stock, which then colors everything you make with it -- if you don't mind the color, save your beet scraps), radishes (except for daikon), or garlic (I think it would make the stock too pungent -- I want the stock to be fairly mild, so that I can flavor the dishes that I'm making with it).

Here's a container after preparing some daikon radishes and carrots.

I keep the tops of the carrots to give to our rabbit. 

When you're done with your veggie prep, cover the container and put it into your freezer.  If the container isn't full, you can just add on top of the frozen scraps the next time you prep veggies.  If it's full, start another one.

Once I have a few containers, I'll make some stock.  Next time I make it (still have some in the fridge from my last batch), I'll write a post showing how to do it.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Citrus salad

Tonight's salad used the pea tendrils and an apple from the box, clementine segments, toasted walnuts, and feta.
I made a citrus vinaigrette for it with some lemon juice, lime juice, honey, mustard, ground peppers and olive oil.  A bit too much acid from the citrus, probably from using too much lime juice (I had a couple of limes that were looking like they should be used soon).

What's in the box, 2/26/14 edition

Today marks the second to last week of the winter share period, which means that we're on our 47th week of the full year share.  (The weeks of Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's were skipped, as will be the week after next.)

During the winter, we pick up the boxes from the barn, stored there to keep the veggies from freezing outside.

In the box this week:

A green cabbage (at least it's not another red cabbage), pea tendrils, apples, watermelon radishes, shallots, Gilfeather rutabagas (an heirloom turnip),  carrots, and popcorn on the cob.

From today's newsletter:

And this week, we say good-bye-till-next-summer to a stalwart, winter-storage crop: cabbage. (I'm guessing that you'll be not-so-sad about that.)
Seems that I'm not the only one who's been a bit frustrated with the large weekly infusion of cabbage.  That said, I actually liked seeing the small green cabbage in the box, as I'd like to try the cabbage and ricotta timbale with green cabbage instead of red like last time.

Overall, a good box this week.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Veggies for breakfast II

Starting with peppercress last spring, at the suggestion of the weekly newsletter from Siena Farms, I occasionally have eggs over easy on top of some of my farm greens.  This morning, I put together a mix of pea tendrils and grated daikon (using the large hole on the box grater).

At the Winter Market at Russell's Garden Center this past Saturday, we bought some eggs from Pete and Jen's Backyard Birds.

I fried two of them in olive oil.  (I prefer to use olive oil instead of butter when I'm making eggs to go over veggies.)  I salt and pepper the eggs after breaking them into the pan.


Just for me.  The husband does not like green stuff with his eggs.  He's missing out.

David Chang's carrots, two ways

David Chang's method for cooking carrots is the best I've ever had.  I first saw it in Lucky Peach, but have also found the recipe online.

We have been cooking carrots this way at least once a week lately.  Be sure to cook extras, as you can turn your leftovers into a delicious soup (see the end of this post).

I started with two pounds of carrots.  We currently have some very pretty rainbow carrots from the farm. 

Before you start prepping the carrots, start to prepare the juice.  For two pounds of carrots, I use two cups of carrot juice.  If you have a juicer, then you can make your own, but I buy carrot juice at the grocery store.  (In a pinch, I've bought an orange and carrot juice mix, but get the plain carrot juice if you can find it.  I have found plain carrot juice at Shaw's, Sudbury Farms and Whole Foods.)  Don't worry, you won't end up wasting the carrot juice, if you make the soup with your leftovers.  (And you will want to do this, as the soup is really good.)

Put the two cups of carrot juice into a saucepan and add a piece of kombu, which is a thick dried seaweed (I found it at Whole Foods).  Simmer with a cover on for 10-15 minutes.  Be careful, or the juice will boil over.  It's a mess when that happens.  After simmering, let it sit covered on the stove with the heat off until you're ready to cook the carrots.  The recipe recommends steeping for at least an hour, if you have the time. 

Now you can start preparing your carrots.  Wash them first.  You don't have to peel them, but I do.  Save your ends and peels for veggie stock.  (I'll have a future post about that.)

Cut the carrots into chunks.

When you're ready to start cooking the carrots (you can hold at the prep state for a while if you'd like), remove the kombu from the carrot juice and put it in your compost. 

Put 1.5-2 tablespoons of unsalted butter into a large saute pan and melt it.

Add the carrots to the butter and salt them.  I didn't measure the salt, but I did shake some on all of the carrots.

Stir them up, then add the carrot juice.  Note that the juice gets some odd solids in it after the simmering.  I just scrape them into the carrots.

Be sure to cover the pan, so that the juice will not boil off. 

Cook the carrots over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally.  Cook them to your desired tenderness (I like them at around 15 minutes).  Test with a fork starting after 10 minutes.

If the juice does boil off, you can add water to thin it back down.  I had this happen to me once when the cover wasn't on tightly.  The carrots still turned out well.

Serve the carrots without the juice, but be sure to save the juice in the pan to use after dinner. 

After dinner, I put my leftover carrots in a blender (sadly, just a run of the mill, cheap blender), then pour in the juice, and blend it up for a carrot soup for the next day. 

Lunch for tomorrow!

After warming the soup, I like to stir in a tablespoon or two of fat-free greek yogurt to add some creamy goodness.

Note that both the carrot juice and the soup are a darker orange because of the red carrots that I used.  When I cook just orange and yellow carrots, the color is much brighter.  That said, unless you need the soup to be bright orange, there's no ready not to use the red carrots as well.

The husband approves of both carrot preparations.  Given that he's not a fan of veggie soups, it is high praise.  Try these carrots.  You'll never make them another way.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Seeing other farms

It's not you, it's me.  Really.  Your veggies are very, very good... but sometimes I just want something that isn't in the box.

Like arugula.
This arugula was purchased from the Winter Farmers' Market held on Saturdays at Russell's Garden Center in Wayland, MA, grown by Red Fire Farm.

I added some tomatoes from Backyard Farms (bought at the grocery store, but from Maine -- if all of California counts as local out there, certainly Maine is local to Massachusetts) and an Israeli feta purchased at Trader Joe's.  Some salt, some pepper, some olive oil -- salad! 

A bit of summer in the depths of winter.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Veggies for breakfast

Siena Farm's CSA introduced me to watermelon radishes, which look like slices of watermelon when cut (but still taste like radishes).

As with many of the veggies we've been getting from the farm this winter, we have lots of them in the fridge.  A few weeks ago, I try braising them using this recipe, modified to remove the salt pork.  I found the braised radishes to be okay, but the husband did not enjoy their bitter aftertaste.  I do note that the recipe calls for spring radishes, which might be less spicy than the radishes we have now.  Regardless, I won't be braising radishes again, as they weren't a hit with either of us.

In addition to putting radishes in all of our salads, I've been slicing them thinly and putting them on a bagel, atop a thin layer of cream cheese. 

The crunch and bit of spice that they add to the bagel makes for a more interesting breakfast than a bagel with cream cheese alone.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Fancy ramen

Many years ago, after hiking 9 miles up and down (and up and down and up and down) arroyos to Keet Seel in the Navajo National Monument in Arizona, we found ourselves sitting with fellow hikers who were also camping overnight in order to take the tour of the cliff dwellings first thing in the morning.  The woman made a disparaging comment about "those kids who eat ramen for dinner when camping," clearing mistaking us for people who wouldn't eat ramen for dinner.

Foolish woman.

We ate ramen on our honeymoon then, and we still eat it now.  The difference is that now we call it "fancy ramen" and dress it up a bit.

Tonight's ramen featured soft boiled eggs, daikon cut into matchsticks, and some pea tendrils.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

What's in the box?

Some people might be buying lottery tickets today.  (You know the Powerball jackpot must be large if they're mentioning it on NPR.)  Others of us are opening CSA boxes.  Rather than hoping for a large sum of money, I'm hoping for a box free of cabbage.

Am I a winner?


In today's box, we have lots and lots of carrots (always appreciated, especially now that we cook them using David Chang's method -- more on that another time), some apples (I have appreciated the introduction of apples over the past couple of weeks, breaking up the endless march of roots), daikon radishes, parsnips, pea tendrils (greens!), purple top turnips (okay, I have to admit that I was also hoping there wouldn't be any of these in the box either), and a cabbage-sized kohlrabi.  According to the Siena Farms' newsletter today, it's a kossak kohlrabi.  More kohlrabi soup ahead for me, most likely, as it's the most palatable way I've found to eat it.

Also from today's newsletter: "Random fact. In Ireland, turnips, not pumpkins, are carved into scary-faced lanterns."  Perhaps I've finally found a use for those accumulating turnips!

Yearning for the summer

It's been snowing here every couple of days lately, bringing several inches each time.  In the midst of the snow and the inundation of root vegetables, I find myself yearning for the summer and its vegetables. 
In addition to the regular CSA share, I order the extra "tomato lover's" box that comes for six weeks during the height of tomato season and I have a garden in our yard.  For the past two years, I've just grown tomatoes and tomatillos in it, with a focus on plum tomatoes for sauce.

Funny to think of how I can get just as sick of tomatoes then as I am of root vegetables now. 

I spend lots of time for many weeks putting up tomatoes for the winter, as sauce and dried.  I roast the tomatoes to make sauce.  (No recipe now, as it would be cruel to all of us.)

And, of course, we eat lots of them fresh.

Missing those days now!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Surviving the CSA

I've been a CSA member for several years now, first at Land's Sake in Weston, MA, and now at Siena Farms in Sudbury, MA.  The shares at Land's Sake ran from spring through the late fall, and, when I first joined Siena Farms, I started with a similar share.  This past year, I decided to try the full year share, which started last March.  Every week, I pick up a half bushel box of vegetables.

Lately, the box has been quite heavy on purple top turnips and cabbages.  Other roots come as well, including parsnips, beets (although, sadly, not for the past couple of weeks), carrots, watermelon radishes, daikon radishes, kohlrabi, shallots, and potatoes.  But it's the turnips and cabbages that are proving to be a challenge.  (Seriously, is there anyone out there who can manage a huge cabbage each week?  Sometimes green, usually red, but always huge.)

I've foisted shared cabbages and turnips with family and co-workers, but I think their willingness to take raw vegetables is waning.  (And, let's face it, I've been keeping the easier to use veggies for myself.)  So lately, I've been using red cabbage in almost every meal -- making slaws, adding it to salads, putting it into stir fries.  So tonight, I turned to the internet to search for another option and found a Cabbage and Ricotta Timbale recipe from the New York Times.  I was dubious; it sounded like an odd mix of cabbage with eggs, but desperate times call for trying any recipe that uses a pound of cabbage.

I made a few changes to the recipe. 
  1. Although the recipe did not specify the type of cabbage to use, I assume green was intended, judging from the photo on the recipe page.  I used red. It colored some of the hard boiled whites with streaks of purple.  If you'd find this off-putting, go with green.
  2. I unintentionally added cilantro to the recipe.  While the recipe called for dill, I pulled out what I thought were dill cubes from my freezer (I made herb ice cubes back in the summer when the bunches of herbs were coming almost as frequently and in the same quantities as today's cabbages), but they turned out to be cilantro cubes.  (Mental note: using stickers on plastic bags in the freezer is a bad idea.  Use a Sharpie next time so labels can move from one bag to another.)  Once I noticed the error, I added dill cubes as well, figuring more flavor was never a bad thing.
I made it in the larger casserole rather than in ramekins.  Had a bit of trouble getting it to come out of the casserole in one piece; half stuck to the bottom while the other half came out onto the plate.  A bit of careful placement, and it almost looks like it came out whole (if you ignore the couple of pieces of egg white in the photo below).

Verdict: A great way to eat cabbage.  Probably one of the best things we've tried lately with cabbage.  Even the husband says he'd be willing to eat it again, although it was suggested that it should be made on an occasional basis rather than every week.  I might try skipping the hard boiled eggs next time.  I'm not sure that they were really necessary.  Not bad, but I'm not sure they added much.

Next to the timbale in the photo above: parsnip fries.  Will post about those another time.