Sunday, February 12, 2012

Mission Not So Very Impossible At All (CSA Harvest)

My local Community Supported Agriculture group invited me to write a small article in their weekly newsletter detailing how I used my most recent produce haul.  I thought I’d share it with you, too.

The mission? (I joyously accept!) Turn a bicycle basket of produce into 14 days of sustenance.

The resources at hand?

CSA Produce Share
Belgian Endive, Broccoli, Beets, Collard Greens, Endive, Dill, Fennel, Purple Cabbage.

I have 14 days to complete the task.  (Since I am generally the sole diner at my table,  my weekly pick up lasts me two.  I alternate shares with a friend.)

In the maddening annual scheduling mishap that is the month of February, the heartbreakingly beautiful weather arrives simultaneously with the bumper crop of work we symphony musicians depend upon to finance our leaner months.  Since it’s all I can do to keep up with the notes that arrive with alarming rapidity on my music stand, cooking becomes a call for efficiency. The days of experimentation and creativity are temporarily set aside.  Now is the time to draw upon trusted standards and the contents of my freezer.

I find it a wise investment of time to wash, trim and ogle the entire harvest as soon as it enters my front door.  When you’re racing to get to work by 7pm, you’ll feel quite clever indeed having already checked one task between you and dinner off the list.  Besides, it all fits into the fridge more easily in tidy little packages, the chickens next door enjoy the windfall of trimmings, and even my plants benefit from the leftover bowls of greens washing water.

This week’s delights were dispatched thusly:

Belgian Endive:  Steamed briefly, wrapped in ham, napped with a Sauce Mornay (kitchen-ese for that cheesy saucy goodness one puts on homemade mac ‘n cheese) and run  under the broiler.  If you’ve got your kitchen kung-fu going strong, you can make (and eat) this in 30 minutes.

Purple Cabbage: Great piles of Asian slaw at the ready (toss shredded cabbage with a what’s-in-the-fridge version of Asian dressing:  peanut oil, rice wine vinegar, hot sauce, soy, sesame oil, garlic, ginger, sesame seeds) make a meal when consumed with sandwiches, soup, or the potstickers made and stashed in the aforementioned freezer some weeks ago.

Escarole: Salade Lyonnaise, non?  This biting green is perfectly complemented by the richness of bacon and eggs.  Toss the escarole with warm bacon pieces and a mustardy vinaigrette (make it right in that bacon pan!), top each portion with a poached egg.

Collard and Beet Greens:  Wilt the entire lot of it at once and toss it with lots olive oil, chile flakes and raw mashed garlic. (Dirty Little Secret: I pureĆ© four heads at a time, freeze it, and shave the amount I need off the brick with a paring knife.)  Prepared as such, it’s the foundation of two of my favorite quick meal standards:  pasta, greens and beans (the parmesan goes, I hope, without saying) or heaped atop a cheese melt sandwich.

Broccoli: a simple soup made in the off hours is – ding! – reheated in an instant.  Some serves to replenish the freezer.

Dill:  One big handful in a loaf of no-knead, no effort bread, the other handful in a dill garlic yogurt dip.

Beets: Roasted while the no-knead, no-effort bread was in the oven.  Plunged directly into that garlic dill yogurt dip, leaving a pink streaky sunrise in the bowl.

Fennel: still pending.  I’d like to try candying thin slices, but my schedule will likely insist I mound those thin slices atop a piece of salmon, wrap the lot in foil and bake.  The chopped fronds will find their way into that Sicilian classic: pasta with finnochio, sardines, pinenuts and raisins.  Strange but true.

Over a week to spare, and the refrigerator is stocked with mighty meals!  Mission accomplished, thank you very much!


Anonymous said...

For using the fennel, I modified a favorite Middle Eastern Lentil soup.

1 Cup red lentils (though any will do)
1 Cup wheat berries (we have some in the freezer from last years CSA)
1 tsp salt
1/2 tbs ground cumin
1 onion, halved and thinly sliced
two bunches of fennel bulbs, thinly sliced
1/2 cup olive oil

Place lentils and wheat berries in pan with 1 1/2 quarts water. Add salt and cumin. Bring to a boil; skim, reduce heat, cover and simmer until wheat berries are cooked, approx 1 hr. Add more water if necessary.

While the above is cooking, place oil, onions and fennel in skillet and caramelize.

Add yummy veggie candy to the grains and legumes and enjoy. I suspect any grain/legume combo could be used. The original recipe was for bulgar and rice with red lentils.

It does take an hour to make, but most of that is just occasionally checking in and stirring.

Paula said...

Thanks! I love cooking with lentils - they cook more quickly than other legumes. Recipes that take lots of time and little attention are often perfect for me. I give things a peek and a stir on my practice breaks!