I’m so incredibly thankful right now that I’m road tripping to my friend’s house in Green Bay on Saturday (to run a f**king marathon in 80-f**king degree weather, PLUS 10-20 mph winds! … Deep breath. Composure. I’m good.), and bringing dinner with me.  Because, people, if it weren’t so, I’d be leaving leafy greens at the neighbors’ doorsteps without a note.  Instead of being the anonymous zucchini dumper, I would be the anonymous leafy green leaver. Oh, ugh, that was bad.

Bad alliteration aside, if you haven’t figured it out, I’ve got a cornucopia of green veggies on my hands.

Though they are so very beautiful. And I’m thankful for that, too.

The lettuces will go in an entree salad this evening, tomorrow, on Saturday, and throughout next week until they’re gone.

Young onions will go into the spaghetti sauce I’m making for dinner on Saturday. The rest of them?  No clue… yet.

Radishes will also find their way into salad and on my breakfast plate with a sprinkle of fleur de sel. The greens will be sauteed and combined with my Growing Power scrambled eggs.

Cabbage… maybe cabbage rolls, and/or a mexican slaw with tacos. I’m in need of some inspiration here.  I’m not a Kimchi fan, so don’t even suggest it.

Isn’t this baby pac choi gorgeous?!?

I don’t cook much Asian cuisine, and every other time I’ve  tried to cook pac choi (aka bok choy), I didn’t get it quite right (stem too crunchy, leaves too slimy).  I’ll be scouring the recipe sites and cookbooks for some serious guidance this time around. It’s just too beautiful to mess up.  If you have pac choi expertise or just some fav recipes up your sleeve, please share.

I’ll share what I do with this bounty over the next couple of weeks.  Until then, take 2 minutes to get cozy with Kermit.

For Sunday dinner, I tried a mint pesto with the wild mint that came in my CSA share.  It had mint, parsley, parmigiana reggiano, pine nuts, garlic and olive oil.  What better to pair it with than lots of grilled treats, including a lamb skewers, asparagus, red onion, and the obligatory accoutrements:  minted yogurt sauce and smoky hummus (made with smoked paprika).  I also made a brown rice pilaf with a touch of the wild mint, peas, and lemon zest.  Topped with ricotta salata, it made a great side dish.

The whole thing sounds like quite a feast to behold, right? Well, turns out the wild mint is just too bitter to be a star in a thing like pesto.  This ain’t your typical mojito mint. And my limited culinary training is failing me in terms of how to adequately tame its bitterness. Adding sugar doesn’t seem right, but I might try it.

Because I’m such a nutcase about not wasting food, I’m going to at least attempt to use the rest of it.  I’m thinking of rubbing it on some chicken parts (with skin and bone) and grilling it.  Perhaps cooking will mellow the flavor?  If anyone is reading this, your suggestions are most welcome.

On Monday, I finally stuck to the meatless theme I’ve been trying to incorporate for months, but because of the abundance of pesky leftovers from Sunday dinner or the need to use other items in my refrigerator that will otherwise take a turn for the worse, my efforts to date have failed.

This time, victory was mine! I made arugula pesto with the gorgeous arugula that came in my CSA box. Basically, it was just like a basil pesto, but I subbed walnuts for the pine nuts.  Seasoned liberally with salt and pepper, it was fresh tasting and rich at the same time.  I also managed to incorporate into the meal more of the green garlic from the share and the asparagus I bought at the grocery store (totally an impulse buy).   Randy is the household grillmaster, so he grilled the asparagus and green garlic, which I then chopped and added to the pasta.

I topped the whole bit with ricotta salata (yes, I’m trying to use it up, but it’s also terrific cheese with just the right amount of bite and salt).

Served with a green leaf lettuce salad (from my CSA share), and homemade sourdough bread (made with my own starter), and a bit of brie (damn those “tiny treats” from Whole Foods!), it was a dinner to remember… and repeat!

I brought home my first batch of beautiful veggies from High Cross Farm yesterday!

Since it’s probably hard to identify everything in the photo, here’s the list:

  • RHUBARB, and a whole 3 lbs!  Yum-OH!
  • Green garlic
  • Arugula
  • Wild (!) mint that they foraged from the woods.  (How cool is that?)
  • Oregano
  • Baby Kale
  • Baby Chard
  • Lettuce
  • Garlic mustard, which is an invasive plant in this area, and honestly, I’m not overwhelmingly excited about cooking with it, but I’ll let you know how it goes.

I was in a bit of hurry after I got home last night, since I had plans to go to this.  (It was great fun!) I decided to make life easy.

I washed the lettuces and arugula, and made myself a big spanish-inspired salad.  I started off by making a quick sherry viniagrette that I can use all week long:

1/4 cup sherry vinegar
2 tsp dijon mustard
1 garlic clove, smashed
3/4  cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine everything in a jar, and shake the bejeezus out of it until it emulsifies. Easy.

Note:  The ratio for viniagrette is 3-1. Three parts oil to 1 part acid, which can be lemon/lime juice or vinegar.  You can play with this ratio to your own taste, but it’s great to have it in your back pocket when you don’t have time to prepare a fancy salad dressing with lots of ingredients. Plus it’s endlessly adaptable. Add fresh herbs, capers, honey, soy, even cheese.

Note 2:  When you combine garlic and oil, and leave it there for a long time, that’s a recipe for botulism. So don’t think you can keep the dressing indefinitely.  Use it or throw it out after a week, 10 days tops.  See? There are reasons behind these storage guidelines we see everywhere.   

I doctored up the salad with julienned piquillo peppers, slivered pieces of Pamplona style salami from Bolzano’s, Bel Gioso ricotta salata (I didn’t have manchego on hand, OK?), red onion and radishes.

I would have added chickpeas as well if they weren’t frozen solid in their cooking juice in my freezer.  And some sea-salted marcona almonds would have added some crunch and an extra hit of rich flavor, too, but like I said, I was in a hurry.  And it was a great salad without these additions.

I’m already dreaming about breakfast from my CSA:  soft scrambled eggs with sauteed greens and green garlic.

But I have to go for my run first.

Happy trails, and happy cooking!

After attending the Local Farmers’ Open House at the Urban Ecology Center, where Randy and I are members, I decided that a spring greens and produce share sounded like a fabulous idea. Just a few farms offer spring shares, and I decided to go with High Cross, a well-established farm in Campbellsport. (I will likely go with a different farm for the summer share.)

Image

Is this little baby not the cutest thing you’ve ever seen? One of the ram lamb residents of High Cross Farm.

I got in the game a bit late, so instead of four boxes, I’m getting three, and I pick up my first one today!  Yippee!

I’m hoping for some rhubarb along with all the other lovely spring greens.  I have an unhealthy obsession with rhubarb, so you know, I might freak if it’s not in at least one of these boxes.  I actually ruled out a couple of CSA farms only because they don’t grow rhubarb.  So yeah, I’m pretty serious about the stuff.

Anyway, I’m anxious to share what I get in my box (it’s like opening a present!), and what I do with it.  Until then, have a happy hangover week.

According to Bon Appetit magazine, this week is Hangover Week, and these, my friends, are boozy popsicles. Salivate away.

Did you know that Hawaii imports 85-90% of all their food?  Shocking, isn’t it? Especially when you consider there are almost 2 million acres of agricultural land and 7,500 farms throughout all of the islands.

Photo courtesy of The Hawaii Independent. This is a photo of a Taro field in Waipio. Taro is still a major crop in Hawaii. Photo links to more stats on Hawaii's agricultural production.

I’m no growing expert, but the conditions in Hawaii seem to me perfect for growing an enormous variety of crops.  In many ways the climate is similar to southern Califorinia, only better. It IS paradise, after all.

You may wonder why I’m talking about Hawaii in a post about eating locally.  I just spent nearly two weeks there, and I tried my best to eat locally.  We tended to eat at roadside stands or at high end restaurants that pride themselves on sourcing their ingredients from the islands.  Since we stayed in condos, we were able to have some of our meals at home, and we shopped at the plentiful farmers markets or small neighborhood grocers for our produce and some of our dairy.

But it was still a challenge.  You can see if you travel there that there is a kind of locavore movement that has taken hold in many communities, and like communities in the Midwest, it’s a two steps forward, one step back enterprise.

Even so, the energy around local, organic foods and especially the plentiful farmers markets in Hawaii got me excited about the upcoming growing season here in Milwaukee.  I love shopping at local farmers markets, but there are downsides.  Going to a farmers market is a  time commitment, and honestly, I sometimes get overwhelmed by the selection and end up carrying out far more than my husband and I can consume.

After taking a year off from joining a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), I’m jumping back in.

The question is: Who should I sign up with this year?

I’m relying on the Urban Ecology Center’s Local Farmer Open House on Saturday, March 17 to help me decide.  Many local farmers who offer CSA shares will be there to provide literature about their farming practices, the length of their growing season, and what a typical box might contain at different times during the season.

It’s important to me that the CSA I join…

  1. Offers a half-share.  A typical share from a CSA farm feeds a family of 4-5.  Since I’m feeding two, I need a half share to avoid waste.  Because with waste comes guilt.  And guilt is definitely something I DON’T need!  Preferably, I would like a half-share to pick up every week. Many farms design their half-share so you pick up your basket every other week.  Easier for the farmer, yes, but more difficult for me.
  2. Offers eggs.  I signed up with Rare Earth Farm for a couple of years when I was splitting a full share with someone I worked with.  Their eggs were dynamite and while now it’s easier to find local eggs in the grocery store, it wasn’t as easy even just a few years ago.
  3. Doesn’t use excessive chemicals or pesticides in their farming.  I prefer organic, but honestly, the hoops farmers have to jump through in order to label their crop organic is sometimes too burdensome and resource-intensive.  If a farmer assures me that their crop is minimally treated, and they use ecologically responsible agricultural practices, even though it’s not “certified organic,”  I’m OK with that.

This year I’m planning to attend one of the great workshops they’re offering.  I’m debating between “Cooking from your CSA box,” led by Annie Wegner LaFort, a local chef and master food preserver, and “How pesticides and food choice affect our health and local water quality,” led by Lynn Markham, University of Wisconsin Extension Agent at University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point.

Because I’m a cook myself, Annie’s workshop is a natural draw.  It’s always interesting to see how other cooks approach ingredients. Also, having just gotten my feet wet in the world of preserving last summer, I’m in need of some good resources!

I know and understand very little about how our choices impact our local water quality, but it strikes me as a critically important topic.  As someone who cares about health and the environment, I feel a responsibility to learn all I can about these issues.

I’m excited to attend the open house this year, and to share my experiences with my CSA here.  Once the season begins, I’ll share each week what I’m receiving in my box, and how I’m preparing the items.

Aloha, and happy eating!