Tucson CSA – February 1, 2012

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Tucson CSA - February 1, 2012

We’re back! Yep, and it’s that time of the week again. We missed the CSA last week since we were in chilly Chicago. Compared to Tucson, it was crazy cold in Chicago. However, knowing what we know about winter in Chicago, it was actually a really beautiful and mild week (considering it was January….). We couldn’t have picked a better week to go back to Chicago in the winter – it was in the 30s everyday, and it only snowed on our last night there (it was really just a dusting). Our flights were on time, and my Tucson winter coat sufficed (although admittedly it was risky that it was all I brought with me…). I mean, it’s winter in Chicago, what was I thinking!?!?!? Clearly I have a sense for these things…

Here’s the trip in a nutshell – I like bullet-point lists:

  • Great flight from Tucson to Chicago Midway (check!)
  • Dealing with rental car agency in Chicago and navigating lame city traffic on I-290 (and a faulty railroad crossing on Harlem) on the way to Kirk’s parents house (boo…)
  • Waking up super early to drive into the city and sit in hospital waiting rooms through an seemingly very long MRI (boo…)
  • Getting the preliminary results from our neurosurgeon and radiation oncologist that Kirk is looking good post-surgery (and healing well – remaining tumor doesn’t appear to be growing!), and that we don’t have to come back for a follow-up MRI for a year (yay! check!)
  • Enjoying eating an excessive amount of food at Portillo’s: Italian beef, cheesy fries, and chocolate cake (check!)
  • Having fun and hanging with Kirk’s family (check!)
  • Eating delicious homemade brunch – egg, sausage, and potato bake (check!)
  • Going into the city to visit friends, and eating an AMAZING diner at the Purple Pig  while taking tons of touristy group pictures, even though none of us are tourists (check!)
  • Relaxing and watching the Bernie Mac show while drinking Chai tea (check!)
  • Driving back into the city for coffee with a mentor, and tea & champagne at the Peninsula with my best friend – who doesn’t love scones and tea sandwiches? Especially when they’re so fancy… (check!)
  • Saying goodbye to best friend, again (boo….)
  • Eating Kirk’s tasty homemade spaghetti with family (check!)
  • Realizing I ate too way too much, and getting ill (boo…)
  • Waking up at 6am, still ill, and having to get back to the airport to get on an airplane (boo…)
  • Taking Dramamine so as not to get ill on airplane – that stuff is amazing! (check!)
  • Sleeping through most of flight (check!)
  • Getting back to Tucson, and stepping out of the airport into sunny, clear, 73-degree weather (check!)
  • Arriving back at the house to see that the kitties survived (check!)
  • Feeling happy to be back at our new home (check!)… but still missing friends and family (boo….).

Outside Purple Pig - January 2012

(Above) With some of my Chicago ladies outside of the Purple Pig!

Tea - January 2012

(Above) Fancy pants tea at the Peninsula. I have dreams about this tea service…

And that sums it up! We were gone Tuesday night – Saturday morning. in retrospect, it was a pretty quick trip. I’m glad I was able to see most of the people that I wanted to 🙂

Honestly, after getting back (and not feeling well) I didn’t do much cooking over the weekend (except to make toast). I spent Sunday afternoon in the backyard, gardening. I’m really getting into gardening – there’s something very calming about it. But it’s so confusing trying to keep track of the seasons here – what should be planted when? I have no idea. Since the weather is so strange, I feel like I really don’t know what I’m doing.

I’ve been doing some research on gardening in a desert climate (specifically in the Sonoran Desert), and there are a few local resources that offer gardening classes – some are focused on organic gardening more broadly, some are focused on homesteading, others on permaculture. Permaculture has always been kind of interesting to me, so I may explore that a little more.  Who knows? As I learn more, I’ll fill you in. For now, check out this and this. What do you think?

Back to the topic at hand, though. I love CSA night! Wednesdays are one of my favorite nights of the week for that reason! I love seeing what we’re going to get, and it’s exciting that it’s slightly different every week. It’s fun to see what’s coming into harvest at different points of time during the year. Maybe over time it will help me get a sense of my own gardening…

Today we got the following as part of our share:

  • Lettuce – so delicate and sweet!
  • Cabbage – please! I need some good cabbage recipes!
  • 2 Bok Choi
  • 3 Fennel
  • 2 Broccoli
  • 3 Purple Turnips – does anyone have any suggestions for what to do with these?
  • 9-Grain Bread (I ❤ this stuff – I’m so glad it’s in regular rotation)
  • 2 huge bunches of Mustard Greens (I was actually supposed to get one bunch of greens, and two more daikon radishes. The daikon was HUGE this week, and we still have one left from a few weeks ago. I’m not really a big radish person, so I asked if I could trade the daikon for another bunch of mustard greens. Thus, I have two bunches of mustard greens!).

The entire top shelf of our fridge is, yet again, full of green things. In fact, green things are now starting to take over other parts of our fridge. I foresee lots of healthy meals in our future…

This is me, signing out. I hope to have some more fun stuff to post in the next few days. Happy February!

Panna Cotta = Creamy Deliciousness

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Panna Cotta

This past weekend our house was christened with it’s first official “local” guests! These were’t our first guests ever – my parents helped us move and stayed with us for a while, and Rebecca (my good friend from Chicago) came to stay with us for a few days just before the holidays. But on Friday night we had our first locals over to the house! It was exciting for us since we love to cook but for some reason we rarely entertain company.

Kirk is in a band (he’s clearly way more social than I am). He’s a drummer, and in the time since we moved here he already joined a band, just like that! Can you believe it? I don’t know really how the whole music/band thing works, but apparently it’s a good way to meet some pretty cool people. So, we had two of his band-mates over for dinner. As it turns out, they appreciate Chicago-style deep dish pizza, and that is something Kirk and I are actually pretty good at making. We’ve been working on recipes for the last several years, and we’ve got it down pretty good.

The pizza turned out pretty good – though our crust recipe oddly turned out really light and airy, which was kind of unexpected (could it have something to do with the elevation difference here in Tucson versus Chicago?). It was still good – just different than we expected it to be. The cheese carmelized nicely, and the sauce was tasty in all of it’s tomato goodness. But, I’m not here to talk about pizza – I think Kirk and I still have some work to do now that we’re living in a new environment. Bread recipes can be really finicky like that, and it seems like our crust might need a little re-working.

Because we did pizza for dinner, I decided to stick with the “Italian” theme as I thought about dessert. I knew I wouldn’t have much time after work on Friday to prepare anything, so I wanted to pick a dessert that I could make Thursday night that would survive in the fridge overnight. Ideas? Ideas? Have you been able to guess yet (I’m just ignoring the fact that the post title gives it away)

Panna Cotta!

Panna Cotta

What could be better, really? Quite simply, it’s a dessert made of gelatin, heavy cream, sugar, and vanilla. That’s all you need. It’s so insanely easy, I have no idea why more people don’t make it at home (except for the fact that they don’t want to feel like they’ve immediately gained 5lbs from eating it). Serve it in a beautiful glass, spoon some fresh fruit on it, and there you have it. It just might be one of the easiest desserts ever!

I should warn you that the cream is absolutely decadent. Panna Cotta is so incredibly delicious it’s addictive. This recipe makes enough for 8 servings. I’m not going to lie… we enjoyed the leftovers for the remainder of the weekend.

Yay!

Panna Cotta (courtesy of David Lebovitz)

Panna Cotta

Ingredients

  • 4 cups heavy cream  – – – or half-and-half, if you’re trying to lighten it up, (although I have no idea why you would). If you’re going to do Panna Cotta, my recommendation is to just go all out 🙂
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 packets powdered gelatin (about 4 1/2 teaspoons)
  • 6 Tbsp cold water
  • Mixed fruit with sugar or honey, for serving

Directions

  • Sprinkle the gelatin over the cold water in a medium-sized bowl and let for about 10 minutes.
  • While the gelatin is absorbing the water, heat the heavy cream, sugar, and vanilla extract in a saucepan. Once the sugar is dissolved, remove from heat.
  • Pour the very warm Panna Cotta cream mixture over the gelatin and stir until the gelatin is completely dissolved.
  • Divide the Panna Cotta mixture into your serving cups (I used little vintage crystal tea cups), then chill them until firm, which will take at least two hours. If you’re going to chill them longer, cover them with plastic wrap once they’ve cooled down.
  • If you want to create Panna Cotta molds, lightly grease the interiors of your selected molds (using a neutral tasting oil) before pouring the mixture in. Then, once it’s set, you should be able to run a sharp knife around the edge of the mold and drop the set Panna Cotta onto a plate or bowl.
  • When you’re ready to serve your Panna Cotta, spoon some fresh fruit over it, and maybe a sprinkling of sugar or a dollop of honey (or whatever else you want to serve with it!)

Panna Cotta

I hope you enjoy it! If you’ve never tried Panna Cotta, maybe now is the time 🙂

Kirk and I are traveling to Chicago tomorrow, so I’m signing off until next weekend. I’ll be enjoying an evening with friends at the Purple Pig and an afternoon of tea and a fashion show at The Peninsula (if only I also had time for Ethiopian DiamondHot Chocolate, and Sweet Maple Cafe – – – I guess there’s always our next trip). I’ll tell you all about it when I’m back. I hope everyone has a great week!

Chioggia Beet Borscht… I actually liked it!

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Chioggia Beet Borscht

Who knew? Going into it, I honestly had no idea how I would feel about borscht. Pureed beets and broth? Meh. However, since I had chioggia beets on hand from last week’s CSA share, I figured there was no better time like the present to give borscht a try. I won’t hold you in too much suspense – I actually really liked it! (As though you couldn’t figure it out already, given the title of this post).

I first heard about borscht when I was in college. My roommate, Lilly, was studying International Business with a focus on Russia, and as her study abroad time was approaching, she kept making cracks about how she’d have to eat borscht everyday (I had no idea what it was, but I could tell that she didn’t seem pleased about it). After she referred to it several times, I finally asked her what she was talking about, and she explained that it’s pureed beet soup – a specialty in Russia that she was certain she would have to eat all the time… (and from what I understand, she did end up eating a lot of borscht….).

Of course, as I’ve “matured” (ha!) and gained experience in a variety of international foods, I’ve come to realize that borscht is more broadly found in eastern and central Europe (not just Russia), and each country has it’s own unique recipe. Many traditional borscht recipes actually seem to include meat, but mine doesn’t. I’m not sure which country’s version mine is most like, but I tried to keep it simple and took inspiration from several recipes I found in my cookbooks.

Since this is actually the first time I’ve tried borscht, I’m not even sure if it tastes the way that it should. It definitely wasn’t the deep red color I was expecting it to be, but that made sense as soon as I peeled my beets and saw that they were actually white and orange striped (I wish I’d taken a photo of them – just look up “Chioggia Beets” on Google and you’ll see what I mean). All I know is that I thought it tasted pretty good. I’m not a big soup person (especially when it’s pureed vegetables), but I had two bowls!

I should tell you, though, that Kirk won’t try it – he hates beets and won’t even entertain the idea of sampling it. That’s why I was sneaky and made it on a night when he was out at band practice (although he could smell it when he got home). Anyway, that’s just my warning to say that I don’t have a second opinion on this one, so I guess you’ll just have to trust me when I tell you that I thought it turned out pretty good, but sometimes I like things that are kind of weird 🙂 Take all of this with a grain of salt (ha! grain of salt – what a nice play on words! I crack myself up sometimes).

I think the secret to the success of this recipe is that I kept it simple – that seemed to work well for me. Simplicity paid off!

Chioggia Beet Borscht 

Chioggia Beet Borscht

Ingredients

  • 3/4 lb fresh beets, cleaned with greens removed
  • 3/4 Tbsp dried Thyme
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil, divided
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 6 cups vegetable stock
  • 2 Tbsp Balsamic vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp Honey
  • Sour Cream, for garnish

Directions

  • First, roast the beets 🙂
  • Preheat oven to 400F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Place the beets (they should still have about a 1 inch stem, and DON’T PEEL THEM YET! The skin helps retain color and keep them moist) in a large bowl and add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil then sprinkle salt and pepper. Make sure the beets are well coated in oil. Empty them onto the prepared baking pan and cover with aluminum foil.
  • Roast the beets for about 1 hour or until they are fork tender. Allow to cool and then carefully peel of the skins off and cut into chunks (I actually roasted my beets the night before. So then the night I made the soup, I just had to peel the skin off and chop them).
  • Heat the oil in a medium soup pot over medium heat. Add in the onions, carrots and the rest of the dried thyme and allow to soften for 8-10 minutes (until lightly browned) Add in the chopped garlic and cook for another 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Add in the stock and the roasted beets, bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for 20 minutes to allow everything to really soften up (this will make pureeing so much easier).
  • After the soup has cooked, carefully transfer it to a blender and puree in batches (I did this in two batches. You don’t want to overfill the blender when you’re blending hot liquids – filling it halfway full is a good rule of thumb. Steam needs to escape, and you don’t want to get burned wen your soup explodes out of the blender). An immersion blender could work here as well.
  • Return soup to the pot over a low heat and stir in the vinegar and honey, check for seasonings and add salt and pepper if necessary. If the soup seems too thick, add more vegetable stock. Serve warm with a dollop of sour cream!

Yum. I’m still in awe and pleasantly surprised. Why didn’t I make borscht sooner?

Tucson CSA – January 18, 2012

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Tucson CSA - January 18, 2012

Woohoo! We’re at week 3 of the CSA, and still going strong! We still have some leftovers from last week (fennel, some greens, fresh dill, one daikon radish), and I’m yet again feeling overwhelmed (is this becoming a trend???). I thought we had gotten a lot of veggies the past two weeks. Well, this weeks tops it all (so far). See that photo up there? That produce is taking up just over half of our kitchen table. That’s a lot of produce.

Here’s what we picked up today:

  • A nice big bunch of colorful Swiss Chard
  • a HUGE head of cabbage (hmm… I’m not really a fan of cabbage… any suggestions?All I can think of is coleslaw).
  • Tatsoi: I had no idea what this was until I got home and looked it up on the internet. Apparently it’s a dark green Asian salad green that “…has a spoon like shape, a pleasant and sweet aroma flavor tlike a mild mustard flavor, similar to bok choi. Tatsoi is generally eaten raw, but may be added to soups at the end of the cooking period. When tatsoi is mixed with other greens it enhances the flavor and nutritional value.” (food.com)
  • Another bunch of Carrots (this one is significantly larger than the previous two – carrot cake anyone?)
  • A big head of lettuce (yay salads!)
  • Watermelon radishes (it’s all about beauty with these radishes – perhaps we’ll thinly slice them and make a nice dip for them…)
  • Peasant Bread
  • 2 Grapefruits (perhaps some of the most fragrant grapefruit I’ve ever come across – perhaps candied grapefruit peel is my future?)
  • 8 Red Lasoda Potatoes

So, what do you think? Do I have enough stuff to get me through the rest of the week and this weekend? I think so. Kirk and I are traveling back to Chicago next week, so we’ll need to get through most of this by Monday night. I’m ready for the challenge – bring it on!

Now I just need to make room in the fridge…

Anything is Possible with Popsicles

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Tiramisu Pops

Do you ever feel like there are just too many things that you want to try cooking and/or baking? I know that in the world of foodies out there, I can’t be alone. I feel like my recipe “to-do” list is never-ending, and it doesn’t help that I keep buying more and more cookbooks. It has really become an obsession! I thought it was bad when we lived in Chicago, but since we moved to Tucson I think it’s gotten worse.

Over these past few weekends we’ve been doing a lot of thrift store shopping. Kirk and I are on the lookout for a coffee table and/or some side-tables that we could refinish. You know, it would be nice if we didn’t have to keep putting our drinks on the floor when we’re in the living room. It would also be nice if we didn’t have to use our wood bar stools as bedside tables!

Anyway, I think we have been to almost every Goodwill resale store in Tucson. Although we haven’t had any luck on the furniture front, I’ve brought home about 5 cookbooks over the course of these adventures (and don’t even ask me about kitchenware… I may have picked up a few stray pieces of colorful china, some glassware, and a fabulous orange enameled cast iron roasting pan from 60’s era Denmark). It’s amazing what you can find at a thrift store for just a few dollars! How can you turn down a beautiful Limoges plate (in perfect condition) for 99 cents?

Back to my point. Browsing through my insane cookbook collection I find myself feeling overwhelmed by the sheer number of recipes and ideas that I want to try. I’m starting to notice that my natural inclination is to want to only cook sweets and baked goods, although I do force myself to venture into the realm of healthy savory dishes since that’s what I actually should be making on a more regular basis. I would like to think that I could live off of flour, butter, cream, sugar, and chocolate… but there’s a reason why we signed up for a CSA.

Yesterday I ignored that fact. Veggies? Meh. I had leftover Green Tart to snack on, and that was good enough for me. On a whim I decided that I wanted to make use of the glassware I picked up over the weekend. Match that with leftover mascarpone and a recipe for creamsicles that I saw in one of my new cookbooks. What do you think we get?

Tiramisu popsicles!

Tiramisu Pop

Above all other deserts, Tiramisu is the one I crave most often. If an Italian restaurant has it on their menu, I always try it. What can I say? It’s just my thing. After all, this is the second post related to Tiramisu that I’ve written in the last couple of weeks.

I have seen some recipes out there for Tiramisu ice cream, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen one for a popsicle (though this popsicle is really just shapped ice cream on a stick). Could it get better? I don’t know. Maybe. Anything can be improved on. But for a recipe that I just tossed together with absolutely no guidance except my knowledge of what Tiramisu should taste like, I think it turned out pretty good. And it looks so pretty. Doesn’t it? It was hard for me to leave these alone in the freezer all afternoon. I kept looking at them, wanting to just yank them out and eat them immediately.

I used 4oz cordial glasses, and only filled them about 3/4 full (liquids expand as they freeze). I think these would be fun if they were made in tall shot glasses, or whatever other glass you might have that could be a good general shape for a popsicle (or, you know, you could use a real popsicle mold).

After we tried them last night, Kirk suggested that I could have just used this recipe to make straight-up ice cream. I agree that this could be a great traditional ice cream. But I just really liked how pretty they looked as fancy popsicles! But this is to say that if you don’t have the patience to pour the mixture into little glasses, and then monitor them as they freeze so that you can insert the stick at the right moment during the freezing process, then I would just process this recipe in an ice cream machine and store it in a covered dish in the freezer.

Tiramisu Popsicles

Tiramisu Pops

Ingredients

  • 4oz Mascarpone Cheese (room temperature)
  • 1 cup Heavy Whipping Cream
  • 2 Tbsp White Sugar
  • 3/4 tsp Vanilla Bean Paste
  • 1/4 cup Espresso
  • 1/4 Cup Kahlua
  • 2oz Shaved Dark Chocolate (I had a piece of solid chocolate that I shaved using my microplane).

Directions

  • Using a whisk, mix all of the ingredients together in a bowl (don’t over-whisk or you’ll end up with whipped cream). If you want heavier coffee and/or Kahlua flavor, go ahead and add a little more 🙂
  • Pour the mixture into something with a spout (I poured it into my large measuring cup). This will make pouring it into small glasses soooo much easier.
  • Fill your glasses about 3/4 full.
  • If you’re using glasses like I did, you’ll want to put the glasses in the freezer (without their sticks) for a few hours until the cream starts to harden. The point here is that you want to make sure that when you insert the sticks, they don’t lean, fall over, or sink all the way to the bottom of the glass. The cream should be firm enough to hold the stick in place, but not to hard that you need to use heavy pressure to insert it.
  • Once the sticks are inserted, let them freeze for several more hours until you’re ready to eat them!
  • Pull them out of the freezer about 5 minutes before serving. The cream that is in contact with the glass will need to melt slightly so you can pull them out.

Side note: I don’t know why, but I had a really hard time finding wood popsicle sticks at my local grocery store. They didn’t sell them! Seriously! The only items they sold related to popsicles were: 1) actual popsicles or 2) flimsy plastic popsicle molds.  So, I had to go to Michaels and find the popsicle sticks in the kid’s craft isle. This is just a heads up for any of you that decide to try this…

Tiramisu Pop

Tiramisu Pops

Green Tart!

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So, who wants spinach and fennel fronds for dinner?

What, no takers? Spinach and fennel fronds don’t sound like dinner to you?

Come on… it’s better than you think. Veggies are good for us! Especially those green ones – at least, that’s what I’m hearing these days 🙂

So as everyone is probably now painfully aware, our new “thing” is making our way through obscene amounts of produce – it’s the challenge we now face every week, and each week is full of new possibilities. I’m starting to make things I never imagined I would.

Because I refuse to let ANYTHING we get in our CSA share go to waste, I couldn’t bear to think about throwing away the beautiful fennel fronds that, of course, came with our farm-fresh fennel this week. So I didn’t throw them away. I saved them. They’d been sitting in the fridge in a grocery bag since Wednesday night, just waiting for their time to come. The subtle anise scent they gave off was just too tempting, and I had spent most of the weekend thinking about them.

When I first made the decision to save them, I thought maybe I’d be traditional and use them as a garnish for something (maybe a nice piece of salmon?). That just seemed to easy – come on fennel fronds, bring it on! I knew I could do something more fun with them.

I spent much of this past weekend thinking it over (as I seem to do these days re: using up our veggies), and finally this morning it dawned on me – why not try making a tart with some of these leftover greens? I started browsing some of my favorite recipe blogs, looking for a good basic spinach (or other “greens”) tart to use as a base for my own take on a green tart. I finally settled on modifying Heidi Swanson’s (101 Cookbooks) recipe for a Turnip Green Tart.

You know what? I can’t lie. I was skeptical about eating a “Green Tart”. How good could it really be? Fennel fronds and a handful of spinach… really? Well, now I know NEVER to throw away my fennel fronds again. They have such an amazing and unique flavor, why don’t more people use them??? I really couldn’t be happier with how my Green Tart turned out. I can actually imagine using this as a base recipe for the future when I have greens I need to use up. Yay for new discoveries!

Although I used fennel fronds and spinach in this recipe, I suspect any mixture of greens could work and add a new twist to the flavor. Also, next time I might slice up a fresh tomato and lay it on top of the greens just before putting the tart in the oven. Who knows? It could be nice when tomatoes come back into season. I hope you give this a try! And remember, greens are good for you 🙂

Green Tart (makes one 9-inch tart)

Ingredients

Cornmeal Tart Shell:

  • 1 1/2 Cups All-Purpose Flour
  • 1/2 Cup medium corn meal
  • Scant 1/2 tsp fine grain sea salt
  • 10 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut in cubes
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • Just under 1/4 cup cold water

Green Filling:

  • 5 oz greens of your choice (I used 4oz Fennel Fronds, and 1oz Fresh Spinach)
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup vegetable broth
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • Scant 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 Tbsp Dijon-style mustard
  • 1 1/2 tsp Italian Herbs
  • Cheese of your choice (I used Swiss) & a bit of crushed red pepper flakes, for topping

Directions

Start by making the tart dough.

Raw Tart Shell

  • Combine flour, cornmeal, and salt in a food processor.
  • Add in the butter and process until the mixture resembles sandy pebbles.
  • Add the egg yolk and drizzle in the water. Add more water if needed, just until dough comes together.
  • Turn out onto a floured counter top and gather into a ball. Press  it into a 1/2-inch thick disk, and wrap in plastic. Chill for about an hour.
  • Preheat the oven to 350F. Place a rack in the middle of the oven.
  • When you’re ready to line the tart pan with dough, place your dough disks on a lightly floured surface and roll out until the dough is large enough to line your tart pan.
  • Transfer the dough to the pan. Ease the dough into place, taking care not to stretch it too thin or rip it (though if you do, you can always patch it up. I had to…). Press the dough along the bottom of the pan, out to the walls, and against the sides. Trim away the excess dough.
  • So you don’t end up with a soggy mess, you want to partially bake the tart shell before filling it.
  • Using a fork, make small holes along the bottom of the tart shell. Line the shell with parchment paper and fill to the rim with pie weights (or dried beans), and bake it in your preheated oven  for about 25 minutes.
  • At the 25 minute mark, remove the pie weights and put the shell back in the oven for another 5 minutes, or until the crust is dry and just barely starting to brown.
  • Remove from oven and let cool.

To make the filling:

Green Tart!

  • Chop the greens and toss them into a blender. Add the garlic cloves, eggs, broth, cream, salt, mustard, and herbs. Blend it all together until it’s smooth.
  • When you’re ready to bake, fill the tart shell with the filling and bake for 30-40 minutes or so, or until the center is set, and has firmed up to the touch.
  • About 2/3 of the way through I followed Heidi’s lead and sprinkles the tart with a bit of cheese (swiss) and crushed red pepper. Yum!
  • Let it sit for a few minutes (5-10) before serving. As it cools slightly it will further firm up.

Green Tart!

Green Tart

IMG_5930

Pickled Daikon & Carrots

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Pickles are strangely addictive. I don’t know why more foods aren’t pickled (nor why I don’t make pickles more often). This particular recipe is for refrigerator pickles (i.e. they aren’t processed and sealed, thus they should last about a month in the fridge) and are sweeter rather than salty. In fact the flavor is somewhat reminiscent of bread and butter pickles, which was noted by many other sites as I was searching for a good recipe. Thus, I feel like I must have done these right!

I came across this recipe via the NY Times and tweaked it slightly. It all started when I was researching recipes that that use Daikon Radishes (which came in this week’s CSA share). If you can’t tell, I try think outside of the box (a little) when it comes to using up my fruits and veggies. It was like it was meant to be when I found this recipe! In this week’s CSA share we had also gotten beautiful little carrots, so how could I not give these a try? I already had all of the ingredients on hand, and the recipe looked pretty straightforward.

This pickle is actually traditionally called “Do Chua”, and is a common Vietnamese pickle that’s typically stuffed into banh mi sandwiches (ever had one? They’re incredibly tasty). I don’t know if I’ll go so far as to make my own banh mi sandwich – (although I’m tempted) but we’ll probably end up using these pickles as a topping for salads… or just for general snacking (as I said, I tend to get addicted to pickles!). I think they’re pretty good, and I’m happy that I found a tasty way to use the Daikon!

So what are you doing? Get into your kitchen make some pickles!

Pickled Daikon & Carrots (Do Chua) – adapted from the NY Times

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Ingredients (Yields about 3 cups)

  • 1/2 lb carrots, peeled and cut into thick matchsticks
  • 1 lb daikon radishes, peeled and cut into thick matchsticks
  • 1 Tbsp salt
  • 2 Tbsp plus 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups white vinegar.

Directions

  • Place carrots and daikon in a bowl and sprinkle with salt and 2 Tbsp sugar. Knead vegetables for about 3 minutes, this will help them expel their water.
  • Stop kneading when vegetables have lost about 1/4 of their volume. Drain in a colander and rinse under cold running water, then press gently to expel extra water.
  • Transfer to a glass container for longer storage (I used a large jar as I knew I’d want to store the pickles in the fridge).
  • In a bowl or large measuring cup (for ease of pouring), combine 1/2 cup sugar, the vinegar and 1 cup lukewarm water, and stir to dissolve sugar.
  • Pour the sweet brine over the vegetables. Let marinate at least 1 hour before eating, or refrigerate for up to 4 weeks.

Pickled Daikon & Carrots

Tucson CSA – January 11, 2012

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Tucson CSA - Jan 11, 2012

I ❤ the Tucson CSA, did you know that? Can you tell? I really do. I know, I know, it’s only week two – but there’s something deeply satisfying about leaving work at 5pm, driving down Speedway Boulevard to 4th Avenue, and seeing the Historic Y come into view once I’m on University Blvd. Walking by the boxes brimming with produce and picking up our share is the best feeling – there’s something deeply satisfying about the whole process. Also, being surrounded by a community of people who are supporting local farmers – eating from the land that we all live on and around – makes me feel connected to something great than myself. It’s just a really great experience all around. Somewhat indescribable, I guess. Either that or I’m just really inarticulate.

This week we got the following items in our share:

  • 2 Butternut Squash
  • 1 Bunch of Carrots
  • 2 Bunches of Chioggia Beets
  • 3 Daikon Radishes
  • Fresh Dill
  • 3 Fennel Bulbs
  • 2 Navel Oranges
  • Bag of Spinach
  • 1 Loaf of 9-Grain Bread

I kind of feel like I’m back at square one again. What am I going to do with all of this stuff? I still have some leftover carrots from last week, so maybe carrot muffins or carrot slaw are in my future. I don’t think I’ve ever had Daikon radishes, so that will be new to me 🙂 I love beets, so that’s going to be easy. Maybe I’ll roast them and make a salad with some goat cheese. Do you have any other ideas?

Butternut squash – AHHHHHH. Really, more squash? AHHHHHH! Even though I like to give my squash a hard time, I actually really like it. The humble squash doesn’t deserve to be teased though, so I’m going to spend some time brainstorming a good use for it.  Things turned out pretty good with my spaghetti squash bread adventure, and I’m really starting to like the idea of using various types of squash in my baking. I’m going to spend some time thinking on this further.

In short, I feel good being part of the local food system. I want to know my farmer. I love been challenged with cooking creatively. I’m excited that we’re eating healthier. I’m supporting local sustainable farming. I want to be kinder to my environment. Most importantly, I’m having fun!

Tucson CSA - January 11, 2012

Spaghetti Squash Bread

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Drive Home

Yep. That’s my drive home from work. Isn’t it pretty?

I should preface this recipe by telling you that we spent much of this past weekend thrift store shopping (don’t worry, we’ll come around to the Spaghetti Squash Bread eventually, but if you’re too impatient just scroll down). Anyway, I tend to get excited when I find fun things in thrift stores, and I just need to share it with the world 🙂

During our weekend of running around town to thrift stores, used bookstores (Bookmans), and a farmer’s market (St. Philips Place Farmer’s Market), I walked away with the following:

  1. 4 New Books, 3 of which are cookbooks (…maybe that seems a little excessive. Don’t worry though – I got rid of three boxes of books during our adventures to Bookmans and the thrift stores, and walked away with a nice $170 store credit to Bookmans. Sweet!)
  2. A jar of raw Orange Blossom honey from New Mexico (courtesy of Bee Chama Honey)
  3. A clear vintage glass Fire King oval baking dish
  4. A glazed (peach) glass Fire King double serving dish
  5. “S” and “P” ceramic salt and pepper shakers
  6. A 70’s era mug with flowers on it
  7.  Two 60s-era Japanese gold leaf flower-decorated bowls
  8. A 1977 mustard yellow edition “Betty Crocker Recipe Card Collection” in pristine condition (and complete!)
  9. A new favorite Mexican restaurant in Tucson. Rosa’s is great – my beef tamale was to die for (and didn’t cause me any digestive upset, as Mexican Food often does…). TMI?

When I got home Sunday afternoon I immediately cleaned all of my goodies (I like to see old things get a fresh new sparkle), and then laid them out on the counter just to take it all in. There’s something deeply satisfying about looking at the beautiful things that you’re able to find after sorting through junk all day.

While admiring my finds from the weekend, I couldn’t help but see my lonely spaghetti squash from last week’s farmer’s market, staring at me from the other side of the kitchen counter. I wanted to ignore that it was there, and just bask in the afterglow of a successful weekend of finding some good deals. Why couldn’t I just ignore the fact that I needed to do something with it – anything with it? Honestly, the spaghetti squash had been bothering me all weekend.

Hmm… where to begin? It started with the CSA share we picked up last week (see my last post). I hate to admit it, but over the last few months Kirk and I haven’t eaten as many veggies as we should have. I’d like to blame it on stress and moving… but the bottom line is that we really just love unhealthy food. I know we can’t be alone – if it has been deep fried, covered in melted cheese and/or full or carbs, you better believe we want to eat it 🙂

So now that we have an excess of veggies courtesy of our CSA, I’ve been feeling pretty overwhelmed trying to think of creative and tasty ways to use them up before they all wilt/rot in the fridge. The oranges, of course, are long gone – they got sliced and eaten almost immediately. The braising greens were used up Saturday night (I made spicy braised greens with bacon to accompany a nice piece of baked salmon with fresh dill and lemon). The kohlrabi, two tomatoes, a few carrots, and a few leaves of Tokyo Bekana were used in a salad last night. The collard greens were sauteed in chicken broth, garlic, and bacon tonight. The sourdough bread was sliced, toasted, and spread with butter and raspberry preserves for breakfast this weekend (although there’s still about a third of the loaf left. The sourdough is insanely delicious, I might add). So I think we’re doing fairly well! It really takes a lot of meal planning when you have this much produce on your hands!

But here’s the thing, the Spaghetti Squash had been staring at me all weekend and I had no idea what to do with it until Sunday, when I was standing there looking at my “new to me” kitchen ware and wanting to be in complete denial of it’s very existence. I mean geez, it was huge! I had been scouring the internet looking for some fun way to use it, and the general consensus seemed to be that most people roast it, sprinkle it with a little olive oil and salt, and eat it just so. I’m sorry, but that just seemed boring. I’ve eaten it that way before – in fact that’s the only way I’ve ever prepared it. And don’t get me wrong, it’s good! Wonderful in it’s simplicity when you’re craving something, well, simple.

I don’t know why, but I had been craving some banana bread in the morning. Why? I don’t know. I just was. Who can explain such things? And then it hit me – why not make a sweet quick bread with the giant spaghetti squash??? Really? I mean, people make zucchini bread, carrot bread, pumpkin bread, etc… so why not spaghetti squash bread? In theory, it shouldn’t be much different, should it? Well, it isn’t 🙂 And I love it! I really couldn’t be happier with this discovery.

Spaghetti Squash Bread

SS Loaf

Ingredients (for two loaves)

    • 3 cups all-purpose flour
    • 1 tsp salt
    • 1 tsp baking soda
    • 1 tsp baking powder
    • 3 tsp ground cinnamon
    • 3 large eggs
    • 1 cup canola oil
    • 2 cups white sugar
    • 3 tsp vanilla extract
    • 2 cups cooked spaghetti squash

SS Loaf

Directions

  • Grease and flour two 8 x 4 inch loaf pans. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Mix flour, salt, baking powder, soda, and cinnamon together in a bowl.
  • Beat eggs, oil, vanilla, and sugar together in a large bowl. Add sifted ingredients to the creamed mixture, and beat well. Stir in the squash until well incorporated. Pour batter into prepared pans.
  • Bake for 45 to an hour, or until tester inserted in the center comes out clean (it actually took me closer to an hour, but I started checking it at 40 minutes).
  • Cool in pans on rack for about 20 minutes. Remove bread from pans, and completely cool.
  • Slice and serve with a pat of butter 🙂

IMG_5887

Tucson CSA – January 4, 2012

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Tucson CSA, January 4, 2012

Look! Can you believe it? I never thought I’d be able to get this kind of amazing produce (locally grown!) in January. Though, of course, January in Tucson is like spring everywhere else, so I guess it’s not so surprising. It will probably be even more shocking to see what they can grow in the summer. I can’t imagine much produce can make it through a desert summer, but it will be interesting to see what we get then…

In mid-December, on a tip from my new boss, I signed us up for the Tucson CSA. It turns out that we share a love for local food and cooking (!), and on the last day the CSA was open before the holidays he took me with him to pick-up his share and he showed me around (and gave me his giant bunch of braising greens). I was sold at first sight – everyone was so nice and welcoming! The pick-up location is in the courtyard of the Historic Y near downtown and the University of Arizona campus, which is really a beautiful setting. There was a musician playing acoustic guitar, and a chef sampling Indian-inspired dishes she had made using that week’s produce (and giving out her recipes). Yum!

That evening I went home and signed us up online. Unfortunately for us (though probably good for them, I guess…) the CSA and volunteers took a break for the holidays, so yesterday (January 4th) was the first pick-up day for us. It was so hard waiting two/three weeks, but ultimately not a bad way to start 2012!

As you can see from the photo at the top of this entry, we got a pretty good sized share. In fact, I brought the biggest reusable shopping bag I had, and it still didn’t all fit (I was left carrying bread and tomatoes in my arms, in addition to my overflowing bag). Here’s what we got:

  • Kohlrabi (4 small heads + greens)
  • Collard Greens (good-sized bunch)
  • Tokyo Bekana Greens (The most massive head of lettuce/greens I think I’ve ever seen – not really a lettuce, though. Click on the link for a good description I found elsewhere in the blogosphere)
  • Braising Greens (a nice big bunch)
  • Carrots
  • Spaghetti Squash
  • Small basket of about 6-7 winter tomatoes
  • 3 Navel Oranges
  • Loaf of Sourdough

I have yet to figure out what to do with all of this. I’m thinking about trying a spaghetti squash bread (like zucchini bread… but not), maybe I’ll make a rustic tart using the greens, perhaps a “Kohl”-slaw is our future, and maybe some fried green winter tomatoes. I don’t know. There are endless possibilities!

All I know is it’s a good way to start to the year. I’m excited to see what the CSA continues to bring us throughout the year. It’s so interesting living in a place where fresh produce is abundant year round.  I should mention that two of the oranges are already gone (dessert last night), and I suspect the third one will be gone today. Eating all this beautiful citrus fruit is actually making me think about planting a citrus tree… because I can! And why not?

Until next time, I’ll leave you with this photo of my giant head of Tokyo Bekana (yep, it’s taking up more than half a shelf in the fridge). What should I do with it?

Massive Lettuce!