Thursday, September 1, 2011

why CSAs are important

for many new yorkers, hurricane irene was a passing irritation - transportation was shut down, our favorite neighborhood bars were closed, and some cool events were canceled. certainly small businesses and hourly-wage workers suffered from a lost weekend, but a lot of us city dwellers stocked up on wine and beer and watched the rain from the comfort of our living rooms.

on saturday, i slow-cooked a 7 pound pork shoulder, put up 20 pounds of tomatoes, and had some friends over for dinner. the pork was delicious and my friends matt and deb brought over cheesy scalloped potatoes and coleslaw that were the perfect complement to the pork. matt has shared his recipe with me, and i've posted it below.

most of the reporting focused on new york city and the possible doom that irene could bring to the city. what didn't as much attention is the extensive damage that the rural areas north of nyc received as a result of heavy rains and the impact that rain has had on many of the farms in the region. that pork shoulder i cooked? sourced from the catskills area. those tomatoes i canned? from wiklow orchards in the hudson valley.

i try to eat as locally and organically as i can, and i depend heavily on small family farms for good produce and sustainable meat and dairy products. these pictures are of the farm from which i receive my weekly delivery of fruits and vegetables. (thank you, deb, for allowing me to use the photos.) i pick up my weekly share through a community supported agriculture (CSA) scheme. i pay money up front for a share with the understanding that i receive what the farm produces. CSA programs protect our family farms by supporting them, rain or shine. and in this case, there was a lot of rain.

in the coming weeks, i won't get as many vegetables as i'm accustomed to getting. selfishly, that makes me sad. but, i'm happy that by participating in the CSA model, that i have, in a small way, helped deb, pete and everyone at stoneledge farm.

watershed post has done an amazing job providing coverage of irene's wrath in the catskills region. they also have a resource list of how to help catskill farmers post-irene.

and of course, here is matt's cheesy potato recipe:

scalloped cheesy potatoes

start with 8 to 12 potatoes or bag of potatoes (this recipe is not very precise but I don’t think it can be messed up)
peel the potatoes and get out the mandoline and cut them into 1/8 inch slices (letting the potatoes sit in water so they don’t turn a grayish color while the rest of the ingredients are prepared may be a good idea)
cheddar, Monterey Jack, and Swiss (Gruyere may be a good substitute for Swiss) Grate enough cheese to layer over top of potatoes in rounds ---- dollops of cream cheese was added to one of the casserole dishes and dollops of goat cheese to the other
parsley – chop enough parsley to layer over top of potatoes in rounds
one medium white onion – using the lowest setting on the mandoline slice the whole onion
½ cup of cream plus 2 ounces of milk (whatever is in the fridge is good)
homemade bacon bits

rub a generous amount of butter on the bottom and sides of the casserole dish. layer the potatoes, layer of onion, layer of cheese, layer of parsley, and little sprinkle of flour and repeat until the casserole dish is full. when ready for baking add the cream and milk and cook covered at 350 degrees for 1 hour and uncovered for ½ hour. when you remove the casserole dish add the homemade bacon bits. this can be done sooner if you wish. this made enough for two casserole dishes.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

birthday pickles

this past weekend, i celebrated my birthday and the birthdays of two good friends with a picnic in the park. i made fried chicken, biscuits, a certain southern lady's amazing pimento cheese, and about a month before the picnic i made a big batch of refrigerator pickles. everyone brought tons of food: abby made a gorgeous caprese salad from her home-grown tomatoes, kate made delicious ricotta toasts, and lisa's butterscotch cookies were to die for. my pickle-crazy friend matt brought a great relish and a few other pickled items, lynn brought a fantastic eggplant dip and the other birthday girl tia made a kick-ass mango salsa. chris's korean-style barbeque ribs were probably the biggest hit of the picnic, and i like to flatter myself that the pickles were a close second.

before setting out the recipe for the pickles, i'd like to note that this recipe is NOT appropriate for canning. i haven't tested the pH and i'm sure there's not enough vinegar to make long term storage outside of the fridge safe. if you want a recipe for pickles appropriate for canning, i'd check out a canning-basics cookbook. the national center home food preservation's website is a great resource for canning and i like food in jars and mrs. wheelbarrow's kitchen for recipes.

the following portions should create one pint of pickles. feel free to increase the amounts incrementally to make a quart or several pints of pickles. they'll go quickly.

3-4 kirby cucumbers - sliced into 1/2 inch slices
1 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds
1 clove garlic - sliced thinly
1-2 sprigs of fresh dill

place dill into the jar along the sides and pack the slices of cucumber into the jar. intersperse the cucumbers with garlic slices and toss the mustard seeds into the jar when it is half filled with cucumbers. pack the cucumbers into the jar until 1/2 inch head space remains. pour the hot brine (see below) over the cucumbers and place the lid on the jar. let sit out until the jar is room temperature and then place in the fridge. let the pickles sit for at least a couple of days before opening and eating.

2 cups water
1 cup white vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon kosher salt

combine the above ingredients in a non-reactive pot and bring to a simmer until the salt and sugar have fully dissolved.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

favorite summertime recipes

i tend to hand-write blog posts on my train ride to and from work, and lately i've been so immersed in the bartimaeus trilogy (which i highly recommend), that i haven't made time to write. that doesn't mean that i haven't been cooking. summertime is zooming along and my csa is in full swing. i also opted for a fruit share this year, and i've loved every week of fresh organic fruit. i've created some recipes that aren't really ready to share, so i thought i'd share some of my go-to favorites for the summer.

smitten kitchen's pickled sugar snap peas: sugar snap peas are an early summer treat that disappear pretty quickly into the season. i usually just eat them raw or very lightly sauteed with a little bit of salt. i questioned the merit of doing anything to my snap peas, but pickling them was a revelation. if anything, this quickle recipe makes the peas even crisper.

david lebovitz's baba ganoush: i've been getting eggplant from my csa for nearly a month straight. i love grilled eggplant, i like it sauteed and served over pasta, but this baba ganoush is hands-down my favorite way to eat eggplant. i use a little less tahini than called for but otherwise find the recipe perfect.

fig & plum's simple caesar salad: i know, i know, caesar salad is boring. every corner restaurant has it on their menu with stale croutons and dry chicken. that is exactly why you should make this classic at home. use real, fresh ingredients put it together with love. jess is right, this recipe is a keeper.

food in jar's roasted tomatillo salsa: this recipe is new to me this year (and the accompanying story is worth the read). this was my first summer receiving tomatillos from my csa. i've always enjoyed the flavor and just haven't used them at home before. this salsa is easy -- yes you can just throw everything in the blender, skins and all -- and tasty and is also a great marinade for veggies or meat.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

asparagus and pickled rhubarb rolls

asparagus season has come and gone in new york, but i still wanted to share this recipe. i first made these tasty snacks at the tail end of last year's asparagus season. my friend shaina was visiting the east coast and we planned on picnicking in the park. i had pickled rhubarb on hand and had seen a white asparagus and pickled rhubarb salad on food52. i loved the idea of the salad but it wasn't picnic friendly. i riffed a bit and produced this finger-friendly dish.

(photo credit: shaina g.)

asparagus and pickled rhubarb rolls
1 bunch asparagus, trimmed to 2 inch stalks - blanched for 30 seconds
pickled asparagus (see recipe below)
goat cheese
prosciutto - thinly sliced

group an individual stalk of asparagus, one or two pieces of pickled rhubarb and a dab (dime sized) of goat cheese together and roll in a slice of prosciutto.

pickled rhubarb
rhubarb - 1 lb, thinly sliced
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1 cup water
1 cup turbinado sugar
1 teaspoon salt

slice the rhubarb at an extreme diagonal (a la steamy kitchen's celery). pack sliced rhubarb in glass jars. bring remaining ingredients to a low boil. ensure that all sugar has dissolved, carefully pour hot vinegar mixture over the rhubarb (covering completely). let cool, and then put in the fridge to chill.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

pretty in pink: rhubarb syrup

i'm not sure whether i love rhubarb because of its pretty pink color or because its the first splash of spring color i see at the farmer's market. either way, its a really fun vegetable (that charades as a fruit) to prepare and eat.

as i mentioned in my last post, i'm striving to preserve as much of each season's bounty as i can. last year, i made a strawberry rhubarb and balsamic jam and pickled rhubarb, both of which i enjoyed all winter long. but this year, in addition to the jam and pickles, i wanted to try something different.

this rhubarb syrup is quick and easy and turns out a delightfully pretty color of pink.

4 cups rhubarb - cut into 1 inch chunks
2 cups water
1 cup turbinado sugar

combine the above ingredients into large pot over medium heat. simmer until rhubarb softens (approximately 20 minutes). let cool and strain liquid. store syrup in the fridge. i use the leftover rhubarb mash as a topping for my morning yogurt.