Saturday, October 31, 2009

Vegan Potato Leek Swiss Chard Soup!

This is going to be a picture-free post because, quite frankly, pictures of potato and leek soup are generally disgusting.

It's the end of October, and our CSA is winding down. No longer in the warm, heady days of summer, our farmer has been sending a lot of carrots, celery, potatoes and dark, leafy greens. This week we got a couple of leeks, too, so last night's recipe was pretty obvious: potato, leek and swiss chard soup.

Matt and Batya invited Nicole and me to their place for dinner last night. It was a lovely autumn meal on a beautiful, warm mid-autumn evening. We started out with Batya's zucchini fritters - crispy little pancakes full of feta and dill and dipped in a tzatsiki sauce - and some of the cheese Nicole brought back from Vermont - a soft, creamy and sharp horseradish cheddar and a firmer, milder sage cheddar. Yum!

Batya made a delicious salad out of this week's lettuce, apples, thinly sliced red onions and Annie's goddess dressing. Everyone raved about it - apples in salad are so good. They add just enough crunch and sweetness and... I don't know, awesomeness. Trust me, the salad was good times all around.

Second course was the soup. I'd looked at a bunch of recipes, but most of the traditional ones wouldn't work for one reason or another. Nicole and Batya are both vegetarians, and Nicole can't have too much dairy, so a traditional chicken-stock-and-milk recipe was not going to cut it. I found this recipe online and used it as a basic guideline to bring our soup to fruition.

The initial saute in the dutch oven combined a carrot, some celery, an onion and three cloves of garlic with some olive oil and a little bit of dried thyme. We let them brown a bit and get soft, then added three very small leeks, one very large mutant leek and about four cups of brown-skinned potatoes, scrubbed and peeled by the fabulous Sous Chef Matt Berman. A few more minutes of cooking passed, then we added five cups of water and five veggie bullion cubes, a bay leaf, some fresh thyme and a whole bunch of fresh dill and let it all bubble away for forty minutes or so while we drank some wine and chatted and played with Matt and Batya's six week old son. (Cutest baby ever, by the way!)

When everything was nice and soft and combined, we stuck the immersion blender into the pot and blended it all up into a delicious, veggie-full puree. The swiss chard was chopped into thin ribbons and added, along with salt and pepper, for a quick wilt into the soup. We served it up with slices of sourdough bread to good reviews all around! (I still think it could have used some butter and a splash or two of half and half... but that's just my love of dairy fat speaking. Even vegan, the soup was delicious!)

Dessert was cheesecake and chocolate covered strawberries, picked up by Batya in honor of Nicole's birthday. Aww! Happy birthday, Nicole!

I'm going to be out of town for the next couple of weeks, so this week's CSA delivery was one of the last for me. I'm gonna miss it over the winter, but I'm definitely looking forward to next year! I'll continue to update the blog with adventures in wintertime Greenmarket cooking... celeraic remoulade, anyone?

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Quasi-drunk food photography. We've all been there.

CSA dinner tonight was at the other Nicole's place... we can do this first-grade style and call her Nicole M for purposes of this blog entry. Nicole M and her partner, Rhonda, live in a gorgeous brownstone in Prospect Heights that gives me the kind of real estate - and especially kitchen - envy that can only be dulled by three glasses of wine and a nosedive into the leftover pumpkin whoopie pies from One Girl Cookies. Nicole M is Nicole R's share partner, so for tonight's cooking endeavors, we decided to get our CSA sharing team together for a cookout on their deck! (We were short one Matt and Batya, but since they've got a three week old baby, their absence can be excused. This time.)

Damn, these two are amazing hosts. Look at that cheese plate! We sliced up CSA apples and pears to team up with the cheese. Those gorgeous, bright orange CSA carrots were used to scoop up some otherworldly tuna salad, and Rhonda grilled some halloumi cheese for our second cheese course.

Oh yeah. I said it. Second cheese course. If you're not jealous right now, you're just wrong.

But we were just getting started...

Dinner consisted of deliciously grilled chicken, again courtesy of Rhonda, who's a master at the grill. Seriously, she has a silver James Bond-esque case just for her implements of grilling. I think I have a new best friend.

Moving on... we cut up our assorted potatoes, wrapped them in foil with olive oil, rosemary and thyme and plopped them on the grill. The green beans were lightly cooked and combined with caramelized red onion, feta cheese, fresh dill from the garden and a lemon dijon dressing.

And those yummy cobs of corn were just thrown onto the grill in their husks. We rolled them in butter at the table, just in case there wasn't enough dairy fat in the meal. (Can there ever be enough dairy fat in a meal? I don't think so.) But on the off chance we were skimping on the cheese portion of the evening, there was a third cheese dish: this beautiful Caprese salad.

Aren't those little basil leaves the cutest? I just want to take them home and snuggle up with them. And then eat them.

By the time dessert rolled around - pumpkin and chocolate whoopie pies, assorted cupcakes and eensy weensy little palmiers from One Girl Cookies and a Trader Joe's apple pie - we were all too full to even contemplate eating more food, let alone taking pictures of it. We eventually made room for the eating part. Or at least I did.

There's always room for frosting.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Hey look, corn and slow-cooker barbecue chicken!

Last Thursday, Nicole and I weren't really sure what to expect in our CSA haul. Even though we're firmly into October, we've still been getting things - like corn and tomatoes - that I sort of associate with late summer, and so far, we haven't gotten any of the root vegetables that we're still dying to bake into warm, yummy gratins and casseroles. We also felt like a challenge. So we made Indian food!

Here are the veggies we started with... hello, beautifuls!

Neither of us had ever attempted something quite as intimidating as Indian food before, so I scoured the Internerd for appropriate recipes. We hit up Sahadi's for spices before heading to the CSA. Turmeric, cardamom pods, cumin... and some garam masala that exploded in my bag on the way home, giving my shiny new apple haul a light dusting of garam masala that may or may not accidentally infuse the applesauce I'm planning to make tomorrow.

The recipes seemed easy enough, so I got a little cocky and didn't really follow any particular recipe to the letter. I couldn't find a mixed vegetable curry recipe that felt right, so I just sort of made it up as I went along, following the basic proportions of onion, garlic, ginger paste and spices to mixed-up veggies. We had the most gorgeous orange and yellow carrots, some wax beans left over from last week, some strange flat green beans and a couple of Japanese eggplant. I tossed in a little extra chili powder to make it spicy, and stirred in some yogurt towards the end to make it creamy, and in the end, it was tasty - if a bit too spicy.

Since we'd already bought the spices, and since Jessica and I are both suckers for it, we also made chicken korma with the same basic ingredients, sliced almonds, some butter that I didn't bother to clarify, a can of coconut milk and some more yogurt. The korma was definitely underspiced, but... you know, whatevs. I tried!

Served over basmati rice, we wound up feeding five hungry Brooklynites - and stuffing a couple of sample bites into a sixth - with leftovers a-plenty. I'm definitely not opening up an Indian restaurant any time soon, but I think we were all pretty happy with the results!

Veggie curry on the left, chicken korma on the right

Extreme closeup! This is actually kind of gross. I have to stop
photographing food after three glasses of wine.

This Thursday, we're planning on a goodbye-warm-weather barbecue at Nicole 2's place. I'm hoping for some eggplant to throw on the grill... and maybe some turnips for that gratin, finally.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Cooking with Nicole, part deuce

Last week, Nicole's friend Courtney joined us as we tried to figure out what to do with the gigantic, two foot long summer squash that my friend Beth gave me. Besides whacking each other over the head with it, of course.

We eventually decided to make a stuffed squash. I found a recipe that involved portobello mushrooms, quinoa and ricotta cheese... but Trader Joe's was sold out of the latter two, and we wanted to add whatever we'd gotten in our CSA pickup, so we wound up just mixing together some couscous, some strange, chewy grains from TJ's, tomato, green pepper and onion from the CSA, portobello mushrooms and queso blanco from the bodega. (Oh, and an egg to bind everything together... and a bunch of red pepper flakes... and some other spices I found in Nicole's cabinet.)

It reminded me of the kind of hippie meals we used to have at the co-op in college. Veggie- and grain-centric, cheap and tasty. It was good, especially for something that we basically just made up as we went along.

Dinner with Monica this week started out with Nicole's warm Brie and hot pepper jelly on crackers - an indulgent appetizer before a lighter main course. We got beets and tons of apples this week, so Nicole and I decided to make an apple, orange and beet salad with toasted walnuts and a side of corn. I roasted the beets, sliced everything up and drizzled it with olive oil, balsamic, salt and pepper. Yum...

For dessert, the pendulum swung back to indulgent: warm, cinnamon-y apple crisp. I think I went a little too heavy on the brown sugar, so none of us could really clean our plates... but I think it'll be a good topping for some oatmeal later in the week.

I've still got last week's pears kicking around, so sometime this week, I'm going to follow Nicole's lead and make some pear-applesauce. (Her version was sooo good.)

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Dinner at Matt and Batya's: five courses of CSA awesomeness. First up are homemade jalapeno poppers. Like a moron, I sliced the jalapenos with bare hands and promptly rubbed my lips. Whoa, homemade collagen injection! The rest of the meal was eaten through my newly puffy Olsen-twins-style lips.

We stuffed the CSA jalapenos with a mixture of cream cheese and super-sharp cheddar cheese, dipped them in egg wash, rolled them in breadcrumbs and fried 'em up.

Soup course next: Batya's spectacular vegetarian red pepper soup. I had absolutely nothing to do with this so I don't know the recipe, but I've definitely got to get it out of her ASAP. That evening, we ate it with a slice of sourdough bread, but she says she usually serves it with grilled Gruyere sandwiches, which sounds like heaven in a bowl.

Fresh corn, tomato and herb salad. Super simple, super fresh, super tasty.

Eggplant and caramelized onion pizza with mozzarella and pizza dough from Monty's. We cooked these on Matt and Batya's pizza stone.

And finally, Batya's famous chocolate chip blondies. I could eat these every day for the next five hundred years and still want more.

Now for some picture-less menu bragging! A few days ago, my friend Adam and I hosted a farmer's market-focused dinner for a few of our coworkers, to rave reviews all around. Adam suggested that we just go to the farmer's market on our lunch break, pick up whatever random stuff looked tasty and figure out what to make out of it. This is what we came up with:

Heirloom tomato, peach, pancetta and basil salad with bacon-balsamic viniagrette
Corn, wild mushroom and cilantro salad with seared scallops
Grilled eggplant and fresh mozzarella stacks with homemade pesto
Potato, onion and red pepper frittata with garlic aioli and chorizo
Apple upside down cake and fresh whipped cream

It wound up being a totally lovely meal, served slowly and in courses and with lots of wine and laughter and compliments to the chefs. Cooking for friends is so nice - we not only get to be creative with the menus and flex our culinary skillz for an audience, but we also get to enjoy a fancy-pants meal with our friends for a fraction of what it would cost in a restaurant. We can't wait to do it again! But next time, we'll be sure to take pictures.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The last few days of summer have been good to us. Our CSA share this week is full of corn; heirloom, non-heirloom and grape tomatoes; onions and potatoes and collard greens and lettuce. Even our fruit share is exciting - bunches of nectarines and plums have replaced the endless parade of undersized peaches. The bags of veggies have gotten so full, it's hard to haul them home!

It's been years since I've been in school, but Sunday nights are still kind of icky. I love my job, but I'm always a lot happier on Friday nights, with two whole glorious days of sleeping in, socializing and sloth lie ahead, than Sunday nights when you know the next day is gonna be full of alarm clocks, long commutes and to-do lists.

All the more reason, though, to have a lovely Sunday dinner. For this evening's fancy meal, I cooked the strip steak I'd ordered through the CSA's naturally-raised meat delivery service. It was a beautiful steak, unfortunately cooked by someone who really has no idea what to do with a nice piece of meat. Ten minutes, two smoke-detector alarms and three open windows later, what I thought was going to be a medium-rare steak was basically still moo-ing. So I sliced it up, tossed it back in the pan for a couple of seconds on each side, and wound up with a bunch of less-attractive - but perfectly pinky-red on the inside - slices of steak. On the side - buttery corn off the cob and a really simple salad of sliced tomato, parsley, salt and pepper.

Unfortunately, I forgot to charge my DSLR's battery this week, so I wasn't able to get a decent picture of dinner. I suck. Instead, please accept this picture of the delicious peach and plum crostada that I made for dessert:

And also, the picture of the sliced nectarine, butter and maple syrup on Trader Joe's whole-grain waffles that I had for Saturday breakfast:

(Those nectarines aren't fluorescent in real life... only in the flash of my point and shoot. Though I guess if I hadn't been too lazy to pull out the Nikon on Saturday morning, I would have realized the battery was dead long before Sunday dinner.)

Coming soon: a full accounting, with pictures, of last Thursday's CSA feast at Matt and Batya's! Homemade jalapeno poppers, whaaat?!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Cooking with Nicole

Me and Jessica getting silly in the kitchen...

For the past two weeks, my friend and fellow CSA member Nicole and I have been going back to her apartment after veggie pickups to make dinner. It's fantastic - all of the benefits of going out to dinner with your friends without the massive bill coming to the table at the end of the evening.

Last week, Jessica joined us for arugula and tomato salad and a pesto dish that I recreated from the memory of the trofie with pesto that Jason and I had first encountered on a long-ago trip through Cinque Terre, Italy. We ate our feast on Nicole's couch, paired with a bottle of cold pinot grigio, and chatted for hours.

This week, Matt came over and we made a corn and heirloom tomato salad and a terrific roasted eggplant and carmelized onion pizza, served with a sparkling shiraz. (On a side note, can I just say how much I love sparkling red wines? Nothing says summer like a chilled Lambrusco or its equivalent.)

No pictures were taken, save for one iPhone snapshot of me giving the thumbs up and wielding a pizza cutter next to our eggplant creation, but trust me when I say that everything looked as lovely as it tasted. The recipes follow, but since we mostly cook with our senses, the amounts are not precise. Experiment!

Pasta Cinque Terre

(This is traditionally made with trofie, a Ligurian pasta made with flour and water and shaped into little, tapered squiggles. Since we didn't have any on hand, and didn't feel like searching them out, we substituted tricolored rotini. You can use any short, thick-ish pasta - penne would probably be good, too.)

  • medium sized box of pasta
  • leaves from one or two bunches of basil
  • small handful of arugula (parsley works well, too)
  • olive oil
  • pine nuts
  • Parmesan cheese
  • two cloves of garlic
  • about a cup of potatoes, cut into one inch chunks - we used fingerlings, since that's what the CSA provided, but you could use whatever's around.
  • a big handful of green beans, ends snapped off
In a blender or food processor, combine the basil, arugula, about 1/4 cup of pine nuts, two cloves of garlic and a generous splash of olive oil and combine. You might have to add more olive oil, but it's cool - just remind yourself how great it is for your heart and your skin and hair and keep drizzling it in. When it's all combined into a slightly thin paste, add a quarter cup or so of grated Parmesan and stir it around. Set aside. Boil the pasta according to directions. In a separate pot, boil the potato chunks until tender. Remove the chunks, set aside, and blanch the green beans for two or three minutes. In a big bowl, combine the pasta and the pesto, stir together and season with salt and pepper, then add in the green beans and potatoes. Garnish with a sprinkle of pine nuts and/or extra Parmesan cheese, and serve.

Corn and Heirloom Tomato Salad

(This is one of those dishes that's only as good as its ingredients. If you don't have an awesome, perfectly ripe, in-season tomato, then don't bother. But if you do... definitely make this.)

  • one gigantic tomato
  • three ears of corn
  • olive oil
  • vinegar (we used red wine vinegar, since that's what we had, but you could totally use balsamic. I'd avoid white vinegar, though.)
  • parsley
  • whatever other herbs you've got lying around, especially basil

Boil the corn until tender. Slice the kernels off into a large bowl. Dice the tomato and mix it into the corn. Add a bit of olive oil, a splash of vinegar, some finely chopped herbs, salt and pepper and stir. Done!

Roasted Eggplant and Carmelized Onion Pizza

We were far too hungry to make our own dough for this recipe, so we went to the pizza place down the block from Nicole's apartment and bought a ball of dough off of them for three bucks. You could make your own dough if that's how you roll, but I think it's much easier - not to mention more fool-proof - to just buy it from the professionals.)

  • a ball of dough
  • half of a standard sized block of mozzarella
  • half an eggplant, thinly sliced into circles
  • three onions, thinly sliced
  • butter
  • olive oil
  • banana peppers, if you're feeling frisky... or if you just got a bunch in your CSA box and you don't really know what else to do with them

Pick a baking surface for your pizza. We used two smallish cookie pans, but if you have a pizza rock, I'd totally go with that. Grease it up with some oil and sprinkle with cornmeal to avoid sticking. Stretch out the dough, making sure to patch any rips or tears, until it's fairly thin. Set all of that aside and start cooking the veggies. You want to cook the onions over medium-low heat with a pat of butter and a splash of olive oil, stirring every once in a while, until they get soft and caramelized and they smell so good that everyone will be hovering behind you, forks poised, eyes glazed with a manic hunger. This is probably a good time to serve your salad course.

After the onions are done, set them aside and start frying up the eggplant. Add a small pat of butter and small splash of olive oil to the pan and lay the eggplant down so that it forms a single layer. It's usually easier to cut the rounds in half... you can fit more in the pan that way. Cook over the same medium-high heat until each side is lightly browned, then set aside while you cook the next batch. While you're doing this, you can shred the mozzarella and sprinkle it across the resting pizza dough.

When all the veggies are done, distribute them evenly across the pizza. If you're using the banana peppers - and we hope you do - now is the time to slice them and add them to the pizza. Then stick the whole mess into the oven at 400 degrees and cook until you can't stand waiting any longer... or about twenty minutes, to be a little bit more precise. Cut it into slices and serve to your hungry friends, then pour another glass of wine and wait for the compliments to roll in.

(Trust me. They will.)

Monday, August 17, 2009

Oh man. You know who has two thumbs and sucks at updating her blog?

That's right. This girl!

As summer gets hotter and I get lazier, I've taken to eating most of my CSA share out of hand. It's pretty boring... and I'm definitely not going to take any pictures of myself sacked out on my couch, gnawing on a cucumber or eating a tomato like an apple... thus, no updates. :(

Here's to changing that, though!

These miniature peaches...

plus a pint of blueberries, a pint of raspberries and one glug of maple syrup, cooked over low heat for ten minutes or so...

...becomes the yummiest waffle topping ever.

And this onion and scallion?

They were clearly born to be mixed with some Yukon Gold potato and roasted in the oven for a while with butter and olive oil and some herbes de provence. The fancy organic chicken with the crackly skin was just as good. Love you, too, CSA meat delivery!

And finally... no salad dressing? No problem.

At least not when you have the following things in your cupboard: vegetable oil (eek, ran out of olive oil!) and balsamic vinegar, honey, salt, pepper, herbes de provence. Whisk it all up and pour it over your all-CSA salad:

(Well, all except the goat cheese.)

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Introducing guest blogger Batya!

The lovely and accomplished Batya von Berman - the better half of the other half of our CSA share - has done it again! This is her first guest appearance on Cooking Inside the Box, but hopefully not her last. All pictures and text by BvB... enjoy!

Guest Blogger Batya "Chef de Cuisine" (von) Berman nee Stepelman.

La Trouchia (Green Chard Omelette/Fritatta)

This was so delicious I can hardly believe it came out of my own kitchen.
I found this recipe and made it without a mis-step. I tweaked it only slightly.

Wash the green chard (about 5 HUGE leaves) - see picture- and then soak them in water and a pinch of sea salt for about 30 minutes. Put leaves into a salad spinner and remove all excess water.

Cut the chard into long thin ribbon strips and set them in a large mixing bowl. Add some flat leaf parsley and basil. I took fresh herbs from my "roof" garden (which was recently attacked by a squirrel, but is now making a significant comeback!)
In a separate bowl mix: 6 eggs. One tablespoon of organic sour cream. 2 oz of organic Parmesan (grated). Black pepper and sea salt to taste. Whisk away.

Add the mixture to the ribbons of chard.
Coat fry pan with 2.5 tablespoons of olive oil. Add all ingredients. Cover tightly with lid.
Flip after 15 minutes. Cook bottom side for another 10 minutes and serve. Delicious!

Bon Appetito!

Friday, July 3, 2009

This week's haul looked especially gorgeous laid out on Matt and Batya's kitchen counter, post share-divide. We got more kale, chard, crispy snow peas, gigantic cucumbers, radishes, the last of the garlic scapes and deep red cherries. Oh, and another kohlrabi! Actually, two this time, so we each get a whole one. I swear I'm actually going to cook something with it this time!

I'm still feeling lazy on my first day of stay-cation, so lunch today was simple: pumpernickel bread, spread with softened butter and topped with sliced radishes and sea salt. (The other little sandwich there is prosciutto and goat cheese... surprisingly not as tasty as the radish one!) I'm not sure if I'm digging the pumpernickel - I think next time, I'm gonna replace it with a baguette - but the radish/butter/salt combo made up for whatever the bread was lacking.

And meet today's breakfast: cherries. Served with cherries. Garnished with cherries. Why fiddle around with perfection?

Monday, June 29, 2009

I've never been much of a fish-cooker. In fact, I'm not particularly good at cooking any kind of meat. I was a vegetarian for many of my formative culinary-skillz-learning years, so while I can whip up a lot of veggie dishes, I can also mess up a perfectly lovely steak like nobody's business.

It's time to start learning, though. Fish is tasty and light and full of protein, and it's kind of ridiculous that the full extent of my fishy knowledge is what kind of sushi I like to order. So I found this recipe for prosciutto-wrapped halibut that looked not only yummy (hello, pork fat!) but also pretty hard to mess up.

The asparagus puree was so not going to happen, though. By the time I got home from work and the gym, it was already eight, my tummy was growling, and I wasn't about to drag the food processor out of its hiding spot just for the vegetable portion of the evening. Instead, I sauteed my CSA's swiss chard with a little bit of garlic scape and some shallots. It was great - there really is a difference between super-fresh chard and the supermarket kind. It just tastes... I don't know. Green. In a really good way!

The empty spot on the plate was reserved for some maple-glazed turnips. Unfortunately, I only had one saute pan.... and I kind of timed everything wrong... thus, no picture of the turnips. (You're not missing much. Just visualize a bunch of white chunks covered in dark-brown syup and you've pretty much got it.) They were awesome, though, and they arrived on my plate after most of the fish and chard were gone, making for a sort of sweet, vegetable-based dessert.

Mmm... sweet vegetable-based dessert. Great, now I'm craving sweet potato pie. Thanks a lot, maple-glazed turnips!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Christmas morning at my parent's house is always something I look forward to. The lights, the tree, the presents... the mimosas! Christmas breakfast, on the other hand...

My parents, like any good Italian-Irish parents, go nuts on the holiday food. Christmas Eve dinner is always a feast of seven fishes, Christmas dinner always involves my dad's spectacular garlic and turkey broth minestrone with plenty of beans and escarole, but Christmas breakfast has, for as long as I can remember, featured a sausage, cheese, bread and egg concoction that the rest of the family calls "strata" and I call a holiday disaster.

It's not that the premise is bad. Strata is like a savory bread pudding - egg and milk soaked bread baked with cheese and meat. What could be bad about that? I think it's the sausage that pushes it over the line for me. I like every single kind of meat in the universe - except breakfast sausage. Maybe it's the fennel, or the inevitable fake maple syrup flavor. Whatever it is, though, it makes me kinda queasy whenever I get a whiff of it. So every Christmas, I gorge myself on homemade cinnamon rolls and scrambled eggs while trying to dodge the wafting strata fumes.

I digress. Strata is a great idea. It uses up all of your leftovers and it tastes really good, when it's not chock-full of Jimmy Dean. By the time I made this on Tuesday night, my chard was getting kind of wilty and the sell-by date on my chicken sausages was rapidly approaching. But mixed up in a casserole dish with some bread that had seen better days - and some brand-new milk and eggs from the bodega - my veggies became a tasty dinner that was even tastier for breakfast the next day.

It kinda freaked me out, though. Putting chicken sausage in an egg dish. As I was pouring the eggs in the casserole dish, I was like, "Eggs... meet your mommy!"

Sick, dude.

Chard and Chicken Sausage Strata
serves six

one bunch of chard
clove of garlic
scallions, if you got 'em
olive oil
three chicken sausages (I used Italian-style, but you can use whatever you feel like. Veggie sausage might make the whole chicken and egg thing less creepy, too. Or pork. I have no objections to pork.)
four big slices of white bread, or five smaller slices of white bread
nine eggs
a cup and a half of milk

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees, if you are the kind of person who can remember to preheat your oven. (I'm not.) Saute the chard and scallions in olive oil and garlic until they're all wilted. Then take the greens out of your pan and add the chicken sausages. Cook them until they're done. Mine were pre-cooked so I just cooked them til they got a little crispy. Dump the sausage in your casserole dish. Chop up the bread into big chunks and put that on top of the sausage. Then put the chard on top of that. Mix up the eggs and milk with some salt and pepper and pour it into the casserole, making sure to smush the bread down a little so it all gets soaked. If you are me, this is the point where you will remember to turn your oven on. It's okay. The bread will just soak a little extra while you wait for it to heat up!

Anyway, cook the strata for 50 to 60 minutes. You'll know it's done when it gets all browned and fluffy and a knife to the middle comes out clean. It's tasty hot or cold, on cozy winter holidays with your family or on rainy summer days while you're scrambling around getting ready for work.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Tonight's dinner began as a pork tenderloin special at Garden of Eden about a month ago, during the height of swine flu panic. I'd ordered a quarter pound, saw the price, did a double-take and asked for a few extra cuts. (I can't remember what it was now, but I think it was something totally insane like $2.99/lb. Hot damn!) I stuck the miscellaneous pork in the freezer, feeling totally thrifty and proud of myself.

When I saw the bok choy in this week's CSA pickup, I knew that my frozen pork had finally found its companion. I came home from work late today, after a bridal shower gift buying excursion that somehow turned into a shoe shopping excursion, and all I wanted to do was flip open my phone and order a bucket of sweet and sour chicken. But the bok choy and defrosted pork chunk were calling me instead.

"Eat us! We're dying in here!" they said. (Well... not dying so much as wilting. Or... defrosting. You know, whatever it is that food does that makes it important to eat it really soon.)

I obliged. Ten minutes - and a little bit of mysterious "stir fry sauce" - later, there was pork, scallion and bok choy stir fry on the table... and all was right with the world.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

I know that some people will disagree with me, but I think that the reason we have Sunday mornings is so we can have brunch. Starting the last day of the weekend with a strangely-timed and inevitably indulgent meal sets the tone for the whole day. Some weekends, I crave complicated egg-y scrambles, fancy little mesclun salads and strong cocktails somewhere loud and busy and fun, but this weekend was all about comfort food, eaten at home in my jammies on the couch right next to Pickles the cat.

I still had some buttermilk from last week's strawberry cupcakes, and some blackberries from last week's trip to Fairway. Both were nearing the end of their useful lifespan in the fridge, and so they were more than happy to jump into a mixing bowl with some flour and egg and baking powder and become my breakfast.

Dinner was a bit more veggie-centric. I roasted a chicken breast with some of the mystery herbs from the CSA, sauteed the zephyr squash with a little bit of olive oil and butter and drizzled some honey over the world's tastiest caramelized brussels sprouts. A friend who's also in this CSA pointed out that the squash tasted kind of nutty, and she was right! It's really good - there's less mushy seedy stuff than in a regular summer squash, and there's a definite nuttiness to it.

Maybe the nuttiness is why I liked it so much. I can relate.

Yesterday started out with a field trip to Woodside to have lunch with Jamey and his sister at Sripraphai. The food there was fantastic - just as spicy and complex and yummy as zillions of reviews have promised - but we probably couldn't have consumed more deep-fried, sugary or heavy food if we'd tried. (We just couldn't resist the crunchy, deep-fried watercress salad with tofu and mushrooms and cashews, though! Or at least, I certainly couldn't.)

After such a late (and calorie-tastic!) meal, a lighter dinner was in order. I'd previously Googled "garlic scapes," trying to figure out what to do with them, and came across an article in the Times that suggested blending them into a simple white bean dip.

And so, I did. I had a can of white beans in my cabinet that weren't getting any younger, so I put them into the blender with both scapes, a big splash of olive oil and some salt. Thirty seconds later, my hummus was born! Scooped up with some sliced (and decidedly non-CSA) bell peppers, it was a tasty and healthy dinner.

It might not have been the best thing to eat before going out dancing, though. Unless my dancing partners were really into garlic breath. Next time, I'd just use one scape to one can of beans. Those suckers are strong!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

June 18th is finally here! Matt and I left work at five, both exhausted and grumpy after a long and rainy day. By the time we got to the pickup spot, though, our bad moods gave way to ridiculous excitement... our veggies were here!

I'm too tired to start cooking tonight, so here are some glamour shots of my half of the haul. The crazy curlicue above is a garlic scape... I've never had one before, but a bit of research has suggested that they're delicious sliced up and sauteed in butter. I'm thinking bruschetta...

These are zephyr squash! They're pretty small - and my picture of them is pretty out of focus - they're about the size of one of my fingers. We got seven of these to split between us.

I loooove bok choy. Super excited about sauteeing this with some sliced pork and soy sauce. There are weird little holes in the leaves, but I'm kind of whatevs about it. Maybe some bugs were munching on it... who can blame them? I'd be munching on it, too.

Herbs! In a little pot of dirt! I'm not entirely sure which herbs they are. One of them smells like oregano.

These strawberries are out of control. So red and perfectly ripe and sweet and tart and delicious. I doubt that they will survive the evening.

This freaky, alien-looking vegetable is apparently kohlrabi. I have no idea what to do with it. I bet Google will know, though...

And finally, the greens. To your left, we have some kale... scallions in the middle... and a big bunch of lovely chard on the right. Since it seems boring to just chop 'em up and cook them up with some garlic, I think I'm gonna make a strata with some of the greens and some chicken sausage.

Oh man. I have to go. It's strawberry time!