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Pickled

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The other day, I found myself the proud owner of a ridiculous serpentine cucumber, courtesy of our CSA share. Not wanting to see one bit of it go to waste, I decided to take this quick pickle recipe out for a spin. I mean, it includes lemon and garlic, and doesn’t require canning. Worth a try? Totally.

Friends, these bad boys live up to their name. SO GOOD!! The only thing I didn’t like was that the cuke only [yeah, only] yielded one jar, and we killed it in one sitting. Goodbye, most delicious pickles. Still, they only took about ten minutes to make. This is what I need to keep reminding myself so that I don’t get all “Oh, who has time to make pickles with one lousy cucumber?” the next time around. You know who has time? This girl. Ten minutes well spent.

Along those same lines, there were a few blackberries and some rapidly withering blueberries in the fridge. Wasting summer fruit REALLY makes me sad, but — here again — who has the time to be boiling up sauces and stuff? And to only get a cup or two out of the deal?

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Yeah. There went another ten minutes, and the fresh berry syrup definitely kicked breakfast (or was it dinner?) up a notch for the maple-abstainer at the table. And one cup was enough for more than two meals, which makes it seem silly not to do stuff like this more often. [In case you’re wondering, you mix one cup of berries with half a cup of sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir occasionally until the sugar is dissolved and the berries start breaking down, about 8 – 10 minutes.]

Juicy

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About ten years after the first time juicing was so hot, I finally jumped on the bandwagon. Actually, it’s been long enough that it’s once again THE thing to be doing, so I’m not unfashionably late — I’m on-trend! There’s a new one!

Also, it’s important to note that I’m still too cheap and indecisive to actually buy a juicer, and this conversation wouldn’t be happening at all were it not for the fact that my darling sister gifted me her [very, and I do mean very] gently used one. Score! Another important factoid is that I would never have done it more than once if said juicer weren’t easily dismantled and cleaned. Your talking about a woman who really can’t be bothered to clean the pot from the morning oatmeal in a timely fashion, so…yeah, a whole juicing contraption is a bit of a stretch.

But!

People can change, because I’ve been juicing like a boss and that thing is clean as a whistle. I told you we were doin’ things around here, people!

Okay. Now for the juice:

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Carrot Apple Ginger was the first one. Delicious! Really, just about anything with the apple-lemon-ginger trifecta is going to be a winner in my book.

Oops — well, not really. This one ended up getting the eventual thumbs down from me. Kevin *loved* it; absolutely couldn’t praise it enough. In fact, he keeps asking me to make it again — and I will, because I love him — but it hasn’t happened.

It’s the celery. Oh, I can hardly think about it without getting queasy all over again. I was able to drink it, and even thought it was sort of refreshing, but that celery taste is pronounced. I spent the whole night convincing myself that I wasn’t actually going to be sick, that it was just the thought of the celery flavor that made it seem that way.

I should point out that I hate celery. Hate it. But I thought that maybe it was just crunching into it that I hated, and maybe the subtle hint of it in the juice would be delightful. I can’t stress this enough: IT’S NOT SUBTLE. If you hate celery, by all means, leave it out yo’ juice. If you like it, though, blend away — I hear it’s a winner.

(Also: the whole reason I never liked V8 was because of the celery overtone. Should’ve been a clue.)

Not all green juices are created equal, though. The next one was minus the celery and cucumber, and included kale, parsley, and mint:

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And yes: that big ol’ pile was ground down into a single little jar of juice.

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Well, what can you expect from a pile of leaves? I only wish that I’d been doing this when the glut of winter greens was rolling in — making juice really cleans out the fridge! The bag of carrots that we’ve received every week in the CSA box have been disappearing rapidly, and never have I used up the beets and been looking for more. (The beets are for this one — so sweet and good!)

Even more exciting is having Kevin eagerly asking about what’s on the juice menu. I never thought I’d see the day! Of course, he’s asking for a V8-type fix (see above for my feelings on that), and it’s always a little sad to see him pound his glass in five seconds, but still!

The only question is this: Is it wrong to have Chick Fil A for lunch and a cleansing, fresh juice in the afternoon? I think I may have just hit on one of my main stumbling blocks on the road to optimum health….

Because I Can Can Can!

It may not look like much to you, but what you are seeing is a total triumph! Yes, I managed to actually can my own pickles this year. Creole Spiced Okra Pickles, to be specific, and those four jars are two summers in the making. Last summer, during the okra glut of 2011, I tried to can a batch of pickles and failed miserably. The jars appeared to be cracked, then the water started sudsing — either from the dishtowel I’d placed in the bottom or from the jars or from the pan. Who knows? — and it went downhill from there. The water was overflowing the pan; it was total chaos. Refrigerator pickles it is! We managed to polish them all off, so it wasn’t a total loss, but it was two hours gone from my life which I’d never get back. No more canning for this girl.

But —

Could it really be that impossible? My grandma didn’t particularly love cooking, and she preserved her own food (as my mom always points out.) Surely it was worth another shot. This time around, I figured out that it might be a good idea to fill the canning pot with the jars already in it. That way, I’d have at least a better idea of how much water they would displace; goodbye, boil-over! After following the instructions to the letter, I ended up with four precious jars of shelf-stable pickles, and one to snack on. (There was only room in the pot for four jars, and I sure wasn’t going through the whole process for one more lonely little jar.) Best of all, it only took about an hour, and I didn’t have to figure out another use for okra.

One thing we’ve been able to count on finding at the CSA pickup, and that is okra. Plenty of okra.

Sure do wish that there was something jam-worthy — that’s what I’d like to try for my next trick. I tell you, for it being the hottest time of the year, I can’t believe how much time I’ve been spending in the kitchen. It’s been all food all the time around here, but there’s fabric on the table, and I’m about to start cutting.

Any minute now….

 

Til We Meet Again, Tomatoes

The heat is definitely on here in Houston, and so — sadly — the number of tomatoes in our farm share is beginning to dwindle. Turns out that the plants don’t set fruit well after the blazing heat begins. First there was a pound of perfect, ripe beauties. The next week, three pounds! And today…four.

Not pounds — just four lovingly grown but not quite ripe tomatoes. *sigh*

It was good while it lasted, though. We’ve eaten quite a bit of delicious sauce, that’s for sure. I may have even started to burn the rest of the crowd here out on the sauce, but I don’t really care. During the wonderful three-pound week, I roasted enough for three batches of sauce, and had two lonely tomatoes leftover. What to do, what to do?

I say, hit the Easy button and grill up some bruschetta. Every TV chef is doing it — why shouldn’t we? There are plenty of recipes for it, but I just went quick and dirty with it: Slice up some bread (I used ciabatta) and throw it on the grill. Once both sides are nicely toasted, rub one side of each piece with the cut side of a clove of garlic. I never think this is going to really do anything, but it does add quite a bit of flavor. Then for the topping, chop up a tomato or two; chop up a couple of leaves of basil, while you’re at it. Throw it in a small bowl, drizzle with a little olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Voila! Now you’ve got a topping for your crispy little bread, and it’s dinner time.

Not that I got away with serving just tomatoes on bread for dinner, but you know.

Also in today’s box: a squash that looks like a giant, light green zucchini (another patron said it was a cochon), and Asian long beans. Oh, and okra — lots more okra. Time to make some pickles!

The Product Placement is Gratis

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It is totally summertime out on our CSA farm, and I couldn’t be happier. On top of the fact that I’m falling behind in cabbage consumption [aside from yakisoba and as a garnish for fish tacos, it doesn’t get much play around here] and am glad not to see it out on the table for pick-up, it was sooo exciting to see all the cucumbers and even eggplant! Yummy eggplant!

Before we start getting all crazy with the eggplants, though, something needed to be done about the whole zucchini/summer squash situation. Those were starting to pile up, so yesterday I whipped up a couple of zucchini lasagnas — which used up all of the zucchini and most of the squash — along with a nice cucumber-heavy green salad. The second lasagna is in the freezer. The plan is to roast that one up in a couple of weeks to see how well it turns out after being on ice. It’d be great to have a pan or two on-hand for when a family needs a meal, but not if it comes out of the oven as a pile of goo. Even a liberal dash of Frank’s (which makes everything better, don’t ya know) wouldn’t help that situation.

These are the thoughts that plague me, but they’re not going to hold me back, I tell ya!

Know what else is occupying my brain today? The thought of making the season’s first batch of theĀ Best Tomato Sauce Ever for dinner tonight with the tomatoes we received this week. Oh, dinner’s going to be delish!

Fresh From the Farm

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So far this year, we have been blown away by the beautiful produce our CSA farm has been delivering this spring. It’s amazing what a little rain will do!

This is last week’s selection, which pretty much represents every other week in April:

The password is “greens”.

Chard, collards, lettuce, beet greens, kale and more kale — lots o’ greens. There was a cauliflower or two at first, but that ship has sailed. Now come the onions. What am I going to do with all of those onions?? So far, I’ve only used one; good thing they keep a while! Do you think it would stink up the freezer if I caramelized a bunch and put them on ice?

Hey, do you see the big white thing in the bottom right? It’s a watermelon radish. Biggest radish I’ve ever seen. Tasty, too! And those brownish things are Indian Corn Cucumbers — such a delicious cuke.

This week, I neglected to take a picture before packing it all away, but here’s the rundown: more cucumbers, chard, beets, onions, zucchini, summer squash, carrots, and blackberries. I’m thinking of making pickles out of some of the cucumbers and carrots, because the thought of wasting even one is too terrible. As for the beets, they’re starting to pile up a little, so tonight I made a batch of chips to go with our sandwiches.

[Oh would you look at that. I managed to use the one chipped plate for my little photo shoot, here. Nice!]

This is the recipe I use for the chips. The only change I made was to toss the vegetable slices with olive oil rather than spray the pan, and that’s only because I didn’t feel like using the spray. The beets roasted up in about ten minutes. The whole bunch of beets only makes enough for about four servings, but they don’t really keep so it’s perfect.

I’m telling you, I can hardly wait to see what’s waiting for us next week. They say that melons should be coming soon. MELONS!

 

 

When Life Gives You … Chard

Spring is here, and — thanks to the mild, somewhat rainy winter — our CSA bag has been filled to the brim with lots of goodies. Mostly greens.

Lots and lots of greens.

I’m not going to lie: it has taken me a full year of receiving shares to get the hang of efficiently making use of the veggie assortment. Seeing as how we really didn’t eat all that many vegetables before, it’s been a little overwhelming at times. Maybe some of the beautiful produce went to waste; I’d rather not say.

But! This is a new year, and I’ve been putting those greens to good use.

Kale in the morning smoothies? Check!

Yakisoba to use up the cabbage? You bet!

Salad with dinner? Natch!

And then there’s chard.

 

Lovely, no?

The thing is, I only know how to make one or two dishes with it, and I’m kind of sick of them both. It’s really good in smoothies, but, you know, there’s all the kale to consider. When we received another bundle in this week’s share, I knew that I had to do something big. To the internet! Hmm…grind it up into pesto, you say? Perfect!

[In my haste to get dinner on the table, I forgot to snap a pic of the finished product. Total amateur hour around here. It looks just like the picture in the link, but you probably guessed that already. Pesto is pretty much pesto.]

I subbed out pecans for walnuts, since there’s no way a walnut is making it into the house on my watch, and added some pecorino. It’s like a really mild, slightly bitter version of the traditional basil sauce. The family’s response was so-so on night one, but I used it on a sandwich the next day for lunch and that was really super good. And we’re back down to one bunch of chard leaves in the fridge!

 

I’m not sure that Big Turnip’s story will have such a happy ending. So far, I’ve managed to use part of it in a slaw, only to be reminded that I don’t like the taste of turnips. Our lovely farmers included a couple of recipes to help clueless folks such as myself, but, well, there’s the whole not liking the taste aspect. Still, we’re trying new things all the time around here — there’s still hope!

TGIF, friends. T.G.I.F. It’s been a long week, which hasn’t gone at all the way I’d planned (because who actually plans for their kids to get in an orderly fashion?), but the weekend is here and the boy may finally be on the mend! And, on the bright side, I’d forgotten that being housebound and somewhat stressed out is actually the perfect formula for spurring this girl into action. Looking forward to sharing some of the progress with you next week. Til then, here’s wishing you a happy and healthy weekend!