Thursday, July 14, 2011

Last week's CSA bounty included a single zucchini, which I'd intended to make into Marcella Hazan's zucchini and bacon sauce for pasta. But while I was researching upstate New York restaurant menus - and dreaming of opening my own little farm to table cafe somewhere along the Hudson River - I came across a grilled zucchini, goat cheese and balsamic vinegar crostini that sounded just fantastic. It was perfect timing, too, since I'd just picked up a small bottle of really good balsamic from an Italian imports store in Providence, Rhode Island, and I was itching to try it out.

After a long day of brunching, Smorgasburg-ing and walking around Williamsburg with Emily, I came home with just enough energy left to pan fry the zucchini, smear a bit of goat cheese on a baguette and drizzle some balsamic on top of everything. Finito!

Speaking of Emily, check out this duo of cherry jams that I made! The first, balsamic cherry preserves, is a recipe that I first saw on Emily's blog. She is a jam-maker and canner extraordinaire, and as soon as I saw this, I was like, "Droooool... I have to make this!" And oh, man, am I glad I did! This jam comes out fabulous - deeply flavored and sweet with a bit of a mellow balsamic tang. And as good as it is on jam, I think this would be amazing as a sandwich spread with some savory ingredients - duck breast, maybe, or smoked turkey or a salty, smoky piece of ham.

The brighter jam on the bottom is made with the sour cherries that I'd picked up at the Smorgasburg farmer's market. (Along with this awesome cherry pitter from the Brooklyn Kitchen, which I really couldn't recommend more. It makes the tedious chore of pitting cherries into something approximating fun. Or at the very least, not un-fun.) I also got a little bit cocky and decided to follow David Lebovitz's no-recipe recipe for cherry jam. It worked out perfectly, right down to the tell-tale hot jam on a frozen plate nudge-and-wrinkle to indicate that the jelly had jelled. It is crazy good jam, too, packed full of that bright, tart cherry flavor you get in a really good country diner's cherry pie. (In fact, it was so great that I think I might just make myself a cherry pie this weekend, while cherries are still in the market!)

Finally, check it out: I managed to use my kohlrabi this time! AND my garlic scapes! I feel like I should get some kind of award or something. Kohlrabi are tough, man. Last year, at one of the early CSA pickups, Ed looked at one of those bright purple alien spaceship-looking vegetables and said, "What the hell do you do with this?"

"Mostly I throw them out, " Matt replied. I sheepishly nodded my head in agreement.

But not this time! I'd read a couple of recipes for P.F. Chang-style "Asian" chicken wraps before making my own, and a bunch of those recipes called for water chestnuts. I like the crunch and mild flavor of water chestnuts, but I didn't really want to go buy a whole can of them just to get a half cup of so to mix with the chicken. That's when it hit me - kohlrabi! It has the texture of a water chestnut with a slightly stronger - though still not dominating - flavor... it would be the perfect substitute! And sure enough, it was.

None of the recipes I'd read really called to me, so I kind of improvised my own - I sauteed the kohlrabi and a sliced garlic scape with a bit of oil, then added a pound of ground chicken and broke it up with a wooden spoon as it cooked. After the chicken was fully cooked, I added half a cup of so of a sauce that was basically equal parts rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil and sriracha with a ton of fresh grated ginger and black pepper. I let the chicken mixture bubble for another few moments, then took it off the heat and served it with romaine lettuce leaves, a little more sauce for dipping and a quick-pickled cucumber salad - made with a CSA cucumber, no less! - with rice wine vinegar, sugar, salt and water.

Yum! This was spicy and refreshing at the same time, full of ginger and sweet, cool cucumber. It does take a bit of preparation time and some toiling over a hot stove time, too, but it's still an awesome summer weeknight dinner.

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