Monday, June 30, 2014

Eating out and grilled veggies

My lack of recent posts can be tied directly to the amount we've been eating out recently.

A week and a half ago, we went to a dinner at Land's Sake in Weston, prepared by Tiffani Faison of Sweet Cheeks.  (She was also the runner up on the first season of Top Chef. And, yes, I've watched all of the seasons of Top Chef. Let's ignore how many hours that totals, focusing instead on the hours of culinary inspiration that the show has provided.)
The appetizer was Indian inspired and include beets prepared many ways.  The main course was a bi bim bap, and the dessert was a strawberry shortcake.

Three nights later, we had dinner at North in Providence.  A few hours before dinner, we also tried out their new bakery.  It was our second time at North, where we once again enjoyed the very imaginative small plates.

Just two days later, we were off to Chicago for more restaurants, where we ate at Alinea (our third time there).
At one point in the meal, a pile of charcoal was placed on the table, then lit.
On that pile of charcoal were a couple of charred parsnips.
I've charred parsnips recently too....

We also had dinner at Elizabeth. It was an excellent meal, with an emphasis on foraged and seasonal ingredients. Given that it was spring, there was a great deal of mushroom in the meal, which made me very happy.  In the owl mug, we had a tea infused with mushroom. (Isn't the owl mug adorable?)
The centerpiece included some sous vide carrot that was then dehydrated to make a carrot jerky and some breadstick twigs (plus some actual twigs). I suspected that part of the centerpiece would be edible as we sat down, based on our prior night's experience at Alinea, where a tomato jerky came hidden in a twig wreath.
We were served a green garlic soup.  I need to try to make this soup with the green garlic we've been getting, but I know it won't be the same.

We also ate at Girl and the Goat in Chicago, Stephanie Izard's restaurant, which had me declaring it "Top Chef week," despite the fact that we ate food from only two former Top Chef contestants (cheftestants, in Top Chef speak).  We also had breakfast (twice) at the Little Goat Diner, across the street from the Girl and the Goat.
It's acceptable to have pie for dessert at breakfast while traveling, right? (I have a tendency to eat less healthy breakfasts on the road.)

At the Girl and the Goat, we had a dish of grilled broccoli with Rogue Creamery blue cheese and a creamy sauce.  It was very, very good, marked by the husband's enjoyment of a vegetable that he usually does not like. Once home, we decided to try making it ourselves.  We grilled a small head of broccoli from last week's box, a couple of parsnips (still have a few in the fridge), and the beets from this week's box.
 Look how pretty the beets are.
I served the veggies with a greek yogurt sauce with dill, salt and pepper, as well as some Great Hill blue cheese. While not exactly what we had at Girl and the Goat, it was a pretty good approximation.

There were some veggies left over. I made them into a salad the next day, cutting them into cubes, adding radishes (purchased from Verrill Farm), the small head of red lettuce from this week's box, crumbled blue cheese, and pepitas.  I added a bit of olive oil to the leftover greek yogurt with dill to make a creamy dressing for the salad. No photo, but recommended.

What's in the box, 6/28/14 edition

In this week's box:
Beets! The first of the season.  The beets had their tops on, so I made a quiche using the beet tops and some braising greens (mostly kale) that I had in the fridge from the previous box.

Also: arugula, kale, green lettuce, a tiny head of red lettuce, two green kohlrabi, green garlic, and napa cabbage.

Friday, June 20, 2014

What's in the box, 6/19/14 edition

In this week's box: kale, two heads of lettuce, radishes, dill, scallions, bok choy, mesclun, braising greens, swiss chard, fennel, and a tiny head of broccoli.  

Ahead this week: quiche with greens, salads, scallion cream cheese for bagels, stir fry bok choy with scallions....

Thursday, June 19, 2014

What's in the fridge, 6/19/14 edition

I need to mark this momentous occasion: last night, I finished all of the winter's carrots that were stored in the fridge, making David Chang's carrots. As I also have parsnips to finish up, I cooked some parsnips in the carrot juice as well.
While the veggies were good, with the parsnips taking on some carrot flavor from the carrot juice, the soup that I made with the leftovers was not as good as when I just use carrots. The parsnips seem to give the soup a bit of a bitter aftertaste, which is odd, given how sweet the parsnips are.

So, what's left in the fridge?  I've been very good the past two weeks with finishing the box contents before the next box comes. With the carrots and parsnips, I made the spinach with almonds and raisins with the bag of spinach from last week's box, finishing the box contents.

Here's what's left:
4.3 pounds of parsnips.  That's it!  (Well, that's all from the CSA boxes that's in there. We do have other food in the fridge, of course.)  The veggie drawer is half empty, and there are no stacks of bagged veggies on the bottom shelf of the fridge.  

This week's box will be picked up later today, so the parsnips won't be lonely for long.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Grilled carrots and parsnips with cilantro sauce

I've grilled carrots before. This weekend, I decided to try grilling parsnips as well. First, I cut off the ends and peeled them. You could skip the peeling step if you'd like, just washing the veggies well. I knew that my guests would prefer peeled veggies.
In this past week's box, there was a large bunch of cilantro.  So I chopped some up to marinate the veggies.
Here are the veggies with salt, pepper, chopped cilantro and some olive oil.  I let them sit for about 8 hours in the fridge.
I also decided to make a cilantro sauce to serve with the veggies.  I put the rest of the bunch of cilantro with a clove of garlic (a rather large one, making the sauce very garlicky), salt and olive oil in a blender and puréed until smooth.
I put the sauce in a little pitcher, but then ended up putting a spoon in it for serving.  I put the sauce, covered, in the fridge until dinner.
When we were ready to grill, I put the marinated veggies into a grilling cage contraption that we got as a wedding gift long ago, which makes it easy to grill the veggies, particularly those that might fall through to the coals.
We put the veggies on the grill. I had read that parsnips would take about 15 minutes to grill. So we set a timer for 7 minutes and covered the grill.
Oops. The parsnips really charred, being in the center of the hot grill and closest to it (with the long handle, the grill cage angles in to the center).
So we only cooked the other side for 3 more minutes, which also charred.  

I let the veggies cool while the meats were being grilled, then cut off the most charred parts of the parsnips. It came off pretty easily, as it was a thick charred layer, leaving the soft center.
 Since the carrots were higher in the grill cage, I didn't need to cut any char off of them.
I served them with the cilantro sauce, which was very garlicky.  If I were to make it again, I'd either use much less garlic.  Better yet, I think I'd skip it altogether and add some chives instead.  The garlic overpowered the cilantro.  I think chives would meld better.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Sometimes things do not turn out well...

Sometimes things do not go as one would hope in the kitchen.  Here are a couple recent failures.

The first is baked avocados with quail eggs. I had read many blog posts about people cooking eggs in avocados. So I tried it.
But I overcooked the eggs, and I found out that I don't really like warm avocado.
Despite the lovely pepper cress adorning the avocados and eggs, this recipe was a fail. I think that even if I had not overcooked the eggs, I would not have enjoyed the warm avocado. Will not be making this again.

The other recent failure was pesto made with arugula. I've been on a bit of a pesto kick lately, particularly given the many greens we're getting in the boxes each week.
I started with a salad spinner of arugula with the stem ends removed, then put the arugula in the food processor with toasted walnuts, salt, olive oil, pecorino romano, and parmesan.
 I thinned it a bit with pasta water and served it over gnocchi.
There was a bitter aftertaste, so much so that the husband could not eat the dinner. Oddly, neither of us had noticed it when we tasted the pesto before putting it on the gnocchi. Maybe heating it brought out the bitter aftertaste?

I won't be trying either of these things again.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Chilled broccoli soup

The July 2014 issue of Food and Wine magazine arrived recently in the mail. Inside is a recipe by Grant Achatz for a chilled zucchini soup, where the zucchini is caramelized before it's blended into soup. It's not zucchini season here yet, unfortunately. However, I did have a couple of heads of broccoli in the fridge from this week's box, so I decided I'd try to make a chilled broccoli soup.
Since I couldn't caramelize the broccoli, I decided to caramelize a vidalia onion. It takes a while, so start this first. Slice the onion, then add olive oil and some salt.
While the onions are cooking, wash and chop the broccoli. I used everything, from the stem to leaves to florets.
 Once in the pot, add water to cover as well as a little salt.
Bring to a boil, then cook about 5 minutes. The stems should feel fork tender, but not mushy. Turn off the heat, leaving the broccoli and cooking water to cool.
Continue to cook the onions until they're ready.
Put everything into the blender and puree until smooth.  If your blender isn't large enough, do this step in two batches. Note that blending boiling liquid is a really bad idea, hence letting the broccoli and water cool. Besides, you won't be eating the soup until it's cold anyway.
 I like to store soups in canning jars, which makes it easy to pack for lunches.
I served the soup for lunch the next day with some toasted almonds and a bit of olive oil.  I think it would also be good with a garlicky crouton or with some greek yogurt and chopped chives.
The amazing thing is that the soup is less broccoli tasting that I'd have expected, perhaps because it's been pureed so thoroughly. Despite his aversion to broccoli, the husband enjoyed this soup.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Because sometimes a half bushel of veggies a week isn't enough....

Today I planted 18 plum tomato plants, 4 hot portugal pepper plants, 4 zucchini plants, and 6 groups of tomatillo seedlings. Tomatoes and hot peppers are for making sauce for the winter. Zucchini is for eating now (although sometimes I freeze some in slices for winter stir fries). Tomatillos are great for salads and salsa (which can be frozen for the winter as well)

The poor plants should have gone in the ground a few weeks ago, but thankfully did okay with regular waterings on the porch. All seem to have survived the transplant, thanks to the drip irrigation and to the husband who put out the hoses around the plants.

Because I need more veggies.  (Alternatively: Because I am crazy.)

Experiments with kohlrabi

The boxes have had kohlrabi in them the past few weeks. Kohlrabi is a pretty veggie, but it's a veggie that I've not really figured out yet. I like its leaves sautéed; with grits, they seem very much like collard greens.
I've steamed kohlrabi in chunks before, usually with some broccoli, as it's then like broccoli stems. I've also put it into broccoli casserole, making it a kohlrabi and broccoli casserole. But I'd like to find ways to eat it that don't involve broccoli, because we get kohlrabi more frequently than broccoli and also because the husband does not like broccoli.

With the kohlrabi from two weeks ago, I tried making a salad with a recipe from a farm email from a few years ago, with kohlrabi, radishes, and green garlic dressing. I started by peeling and cubing the kohlrabi. Both the husband and I tried a raw cube of kohlrabi, with was a bit radish-like.
The recipe called for boiling the kohlrabi for 5 minutes, which completely changed the taste (and the texture too, but that was to be expected). While neither of us was happy with the cooked kohlrabi, I decided to finish the salad, hoping that the dressing would improve the taste of the cooked kohlrabi.
Verdict: It didn't. We ate the salad, but didn't enjoy it. I'm not putting the recipe here, as I wouldn't recommend it.

So when I saw two kohlrabi in this week's box (one green, one purple), I started to think about how to eat them differently. I had read somewhere that you could eat them raw, sliced thin with a drizzle of olive oil and some salt. So I prepared them that way. I liked it; the olive oil seemed delicate with the kohlrabi. The husband suggested some acid, so I added some white balsamic vinegar, effectively making what tasted like a quick pickle.  
It was good, but was tasting a bit too much like a cole slaw to me, which didn't fit with the pasta with broccoli rabe we were having for dinner. I've seen many recipes for slaw using kohlrabi; after this salad, I'm definitely going to try making a slaw with the next delivery of kohlrabi, particularly since I still have many carrots in the fridge. 

Kohlrabi experiments will continue. I wonder if it might also be good in the daikon cake recipe in place of the daikon, just as I did with the purple top turnips.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Fava green, radish, and asparagus salad

A few weeks ago, there were fava greens in the box.
I used them for a salad.  Removed the thick stems, washed them, then gave them a rough chop.  Added radishes and raw asparagus.  Dressed it with lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper.  
It was not the husband's favorite salad; he said something was missing from it.  However, as we don't get fava greens often, I don't expect I'll need to figure out how to improve this one.  Guessing it might have been better with a creamy dressing.  And some tomatoes.  I am ready for tomato season.