Archive for December, 2009

No Box 4

Due to my unexpected & very short notice trip to Mexico this weekend, we were unable to collect Box 4, so unfortunately we’ll have to skip that one. The roundup of Box 3 will have to wait until we get back, too.

Oh, and the black sapote from Box 2 were finally getting close to ripe when I left, so hopefully they’ll be ready to use next week.

Aubergine & Chard Gratin

Since we’ve had a change of plans and I’m off to Mexico tomorrow, I decided that this was my one and only opportunity to try cooking something for myself using the veggie box veggies, without anyone else to look over my shoulder or distract me. Looking at what was left in the fridge, I ended up choosing the aubergine and the chard, and went about trawling for recipes online using both that I might have a hope of actually cooking successfully.

After an initially fruitless search, I found a chard gratin recipe that didn’t look too bad, and pondered replacing the potato with aubergine, since the size and firmness are somewhat similar. A quick search for aubergine gratins brought me to Ina Garten’s aubergine (well, eggplant, given that its a US recipe) gratin. Thus, I combined the prepping the aubergine part from one, and the sauce & chard from the other, threw in some last minute improvisations (ie I misread or forgot bits of the source recipes), creating my first ever real recipe!

Aubergine & Chard Gratin

  • 3/4 pound eggplant, unpeeled, sliced 1/2-inch thick
  • Good olive oil, for frying
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup diced onion (I used red onion, but white would probably have been better)
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 3/4 cups milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1 pinch salt, pepper
  • 1/2 cup cheddar cheese, grated
  • 2 fronds green chard

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Heat about 1/8-inch of olive oil in a very large frying pan over medium heat. When the oil is almost smoking, add several slices of eggplant and cook, turning once, until they are evenly browned on both sides and cooked through, about 5 minutes. Be careful, it splatters! Transfer the cooked eggplant slices to paper towels to drain. Add more oil, heat, and add more eggplant until all the slices are cooked.

Frying Aubergine

Frying Aubergine

In a small saucepan, heat butter over medium heat; cook onion and garlic until softened, about 3 minutes (in reality, closer to 6 minutes). Stir in the flour; cook for 1 minute. Whisking constantly, add milk, 1/2 cup at a time. Whisk in cayenne pepper, mustard, salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste. Reduce heat to low; simmer, whisking occasionally, until thickened, about 5-7 minutes. Stir in about 2/3rds of the Cheddar cheese.

Ready to bake!

Ready to bake!

Pour 1/2 cup of sauce over potato. Top with chard fronds, stalks folded over. Pour remaining sauce over top, then sprinkle the remaining cheese. Bake in a 400 F oven for 20-25 minutes or until bubbly and browned.

GBD - Golden Brown and Delicious

GBD - Golden Brown and Delicious

The original source recipe for the chard gratin called for Gruyere and Parmesan cheeses, but since I didn’t have either (well, we might have Parmesan, but I couldn’t find it), I used Cheddar instead. In fact, I used my special garlic & chives cheddar, which added a nice extra flavour. The original recipe also called for nutmeg (to be added with the salt & pepper), but I forgot about that until too late. It also called for the chard to be shredded, but I didn’t read that until it was in the oven, and I’d just folded one entire frond on top of each casserole.

The final dish is actually pretty tasty, which surprised me! However, there’s probably twice as much sauce than is needed for this little aubergine, and I may have been a little heavy-handed with the cheese too, so I’d recommend using either more aubergine or less sauce in future versions of this recipe, and actually sticking to the amount of cheese listed in the recipe. Otherwise, I’m quite impressed with it all, since I managed to make a Bechamel sauce without turning it into lumps or burning the flour, and it even looks ok!

Right, time to finish that one dish, and the other will go in the fridge to surprise June with when we come back… 🙂

EDIT: oh, and the quality of the photos is terrible, yes, I’m well aware, but since June had taken the DSLR I had to make do with a point&shoot, which is mediocre at best and plain awful in low light, plus I wasn’t able to fix the whitebalance (hence the yellow cast), excuse 3, excuse 4… 😉

Box 3 – Opening

What’s inside Box 3?

  • Aubergine (Eggplant) – one
  • Green ‘Suntan’ Peppers – one
  • Green Beans – 3/4lb bag
  • Fennel (bulb and tops) – one, from the Xtras box
  • Green Chard – one bunch
  • Piper Betel Leaves – one bag, approx 5-6 leaves
  • Thai Basil – one bundle of stalks
  • Cucumber – one
  • Cherry Tomatoes – one pint pot
Box 3

Box 3

Initial thoughts:

Plenty of non-unusual items this week, so finding recipes shouldn’t be too taxing. The only real unknown is the Piper Betel leaves, but they look like they’ll keep for a while, so no rush yet!

Usage ideas:

  • Aubergine (Eggplant) – we had Aubergine Parmesan a few nights ago, so revisiting that is a possibility, but June mentioned an aubergine & tomato recipe she’d found, so it could go either way.
  • Green ‘Suntan’ Peppers – another one to put in the fridge and ponder a usage for. I’ll need to be twice as inventive now!
  • Green Beans – combined with the last few remnants of the Box 1 green beans, these are probably going to go to June’s mom.
  • Fennel (bulb and tops) – no ideas yet. While the bulb itself is fairly small, there’s a forest of tops to use, so we need something that’ll use lots of tops as well as the bulb.
  • Green Chard – again, no ideas, but the stalks look very similar to celery, so perhaps something that normally uses celery? The leafy parts might make for good cabbage substitution? Have to think about this one some more…
  • Piper Betel Leaves – the CSA newsletter has many suggestions for this rather unusual leaf, including Tempura-fried Betel Leaf with coconut crab sauce, Betel Leaf Drizzle (for garnishing), seasoning for boiled vegetables when combined with onion slices, adding colour to scrambled eggs, and as a seasoning wrap for baking fish fillets. The only question is which one do we want to try? 🙂
  • Thai Basil – the aroma from the fresh leaves is very strong, so this will definitely add a good basil flavour to anything we use it in … which is another way of saying no ideas yet 🙂
  • Cucumber – since June doesn’t like cucumber, this one is mine. I think the classic peanut butter & cucumber sandwiches are on the cards, or maybe even canned fish & cucumber (it’d normally be Tuna, but since I’m not a fan of tuna when tinned, I’m hoping to find something like mackerel).
  • Cherry Tomatoes – I suspect that June will snaffle a few now and then over the weekend, and either cook the rest with the aubergine (see above), or add into a salad.

Photos, by June:

Aubergine

Aubergine (Eggplant)

Green Pepper

Green Pepper

Green Beans

Green Beans

Fennel

Fennel

Green Chard

Green Chard

Piper Betel Leaves

Piper Betel Leaves

Thai Basil

Thai Basil

Cucumber

Cucumber

Cherry Tomatoes

Cherry Tomatoes

The Roselle Experiment

Whatever happened to the roselle from Box 1? Well, earlier this week June decided to actually do something with it, and went with the recipe from the CSA newsletter to make Roselle Tonic:

Sorrel (Roselle) Tonic

  • Fresh or dried Sorrel flowers
  • Water – 1 quart
  • Ginger – 1 piece
  • Brown sugar or honey, to taste

Strip the rose colored ‘petals’ (sepals) from the flower and put in a bowl. Bring one quart of water to a boil and add ginger. Pour hot ginger water over the Sorrel and let steep overnight. Add brown sugar or honey for desired sweetness.

The original plan was to drink some of the tonic once made, and freeze the rest to make a sorbet. However, once the tonic was added the icecream maker’s bowl it started to freeze solid to the point where it couldn’t scrape the sides down and was in danger of breaking the machine, so we had to put the brakes on that idea. That being said, June then actually tried the tonic, but she didn’t like it, and to be honest I came to the same conclusion after I’d had some. The problem is that this is one of those flavours that you really need to have acquired a taste for before you can enjoy it – much like elderflower or dandelion & burdock drinks from the UK that took me a while before I started to like.

So the long and the short of it is that neither of us particularly like this tonic… but the experiment itself was worthwhile, if only so that we’ve tried something new. Perhaps next time we should go with our original idea of making jelly/jam from it for selling? 🙂

Box 2 – Roundup

Our second box, and the first that we’d have to try to utilise in just one week. So what did we do with it?

Actual usage & thoughts:

  • Italian Dandelion – The various other blogs by fellow members of our CSA all seem to agree on one thing – that the dandelion greens are very bitter. Therefore, we’ve not been bold enough to actually try doing anything with it for fear of making something we’d have to trash.
  • Garlic Chives – Added to the rice of the Lemon Chicken dish (see below). It definitely created an extra dimension to the rice, and there’s plenty more which I’m sure we’ll use in the coming weeks.
  • Lettuce (Romaine) – As covered in the previous post, I made an adhoc salad from it, and wished there was more of it!
  • Bok Choy – June cooked up a Lemon Chicken with Rice & Bok Choy dish (which I’m sure she’ll get around to blogging about eventually, since she took enough photos of it), which was excellent all round. The Bok Choy was very flavourful, and surprisingly sweet, so it make an excellent side to the dish. EDIT: June finally posted about the Bok Choy.
  • Green ‘Suntan’ Pepper – I admit I haven’t done anything with this yet, partly from laziness (since I’d be cooking for myself), and partly from inexperience (since I don’t cook that often). It still looks fine, so maybe next week I’ll find something that’ll work.
  • Yellow Squash – Pretty much the same as the green pepper above, I’ve not found anything to make this into yet.
  • Avocado – June did her usual with at least one of the two avocados, so I’m guessing there’s no complaints.
  • Black Sapote (AKA chocolate pudding fruit) – neither has riped yet, so not much can be said about it. It’ll probably be another week or two before they can be eaten.

Ratings:

  • Hits – Bok Choy, Garlic Chives, Lettuce, Avocado
  • Near Misses – none!
  • Total Flops – Italian Dandelion
  • Not Rated – Green Pepper, Yellow Squash, Black Sapote

Final Opinion:

From what we actually ate, there were definitely no complaints. However, from a combination of lack of ideas and unriped fruit, there is still quite a bit of produce left for the coming week(s), so I’ll have to hold off on final judgment until a later post.

Hawaiian Ranch Salad

Getting hungry this evening, I decided to throw a simple salad together, using the romaine lettuce along with some other things in the fridge. I didn’t plan on blogging about it, so I didn’t think about taking a photo until it was already half eaten, sorry! However, it turned out reasonably tasty, so here’s a quick recipe:

Hawaiian Ranch Salad:

  • Romaine Lettuce – one small head, rinsed and drained
  • Ranch Dressing – as much as you want 🙂
  • Pineapple Tidbits – half a small can, drained
  • Bacon – in this case bacon bits, since they were handy, but broken rashers would also work

Roughly tear the lettuce and chuck in a bowl. Add the pineapple bits, then pour on the dressing and mix (or should that be toss?). Finally, add the bacon on top and eat!

I originally planned to use the remains of a can of Spam (which had gone into an omelette for the little one earlier in the week), hence the combination of pineapple in this salad to make it Hawaiian – well, as Hawaiian as a pizza anyway – but the open can wasn’t still good, so a quick substitution of bacon saved the day here. The salad ended up being better than I expected, as the sweetness of the pineapple worked will in contrast with the savouriness of the ranch and bacon, and the lettuce itself was really fresh and fairly sweet as well. However, since we only had a small head, just this one salad used the entire thing… which left June a little miffed when she found out it was all gone already! Hopefully we’ll get more romaine in future boxes, as this one was excellent.

Box 2 – Opening

What’s inside Box 2?

  • Italian Dandelion – one bundle
  • Garlic Chives – one bundle.
  • Lettuce – one (small) head, in this case Romaine
  • Bok Choy – one head, complete with caterpillar and other bugs!
  • Green ‘Suntan’ Pepper – one
  • Yellow Squash – one
  • Courgette (Zucchini) – one, swapped for an avocado since neither of us are fans of it
  • Avocado – ‘monroe’ variety this time, one plus the swapped one
  • Black Sapote (AKA chocolate pudding fruit) – two
Box 2

Box 2

Initial thoughts:

Another good selection, with only the Bok Choy being unusual. Black sapote would probably also be considered unusual by many, but since we’ve had it before, it’s not such an unknown to us. See June’s blog post for her thoughts on the box.

Usage ideas:

  • Italian Dandelion – June has already told me she’s going to cook the recipe from the CSA newsletter, namely Dandelion Fetuccini, so I’ll have to see if that comes to pass. Otherwise, a simple salad might work, as would steaming or light sauteing as a side.
  • Garlic Chives – these can be used in pretty much any dish where (a little) garlic is required, so it’s just a case of picking one.
  • Lettuce – another salad is probably on the cards, perhaps filling for a BLT too.
  • Bok Choy – I’ve no clues about this, so will have to research some Asian recipes for ideas. Might work well in combination with the garlic chives.
  • Green ‘Suntan’ Pepper – June’s not a fan of bell peppers, so I’m going to have to think of something for myself here. I suspect it’s not sweet enough to eat raw, so I’ll have to cook it. Maybe if I find a recipe that uses with with bok choy and garlic chives, I’ll kill three birds with one stone!
  • Yellow Squash – it’s pretty small, so perhaps a Yellow Squash Parmesan (ie fried then baked with cheese etc) for a one person meal.
  • Avocados – June will do her usual avocado and rice with these, I suspect…
  • Black Sapote (AKA chocolate fruit) – these just need to be left to ripen (when they become black and very soft), and can then just be eaten with a spoon, oh… or perhaps with icecream? Hopefully they’ll ripen quickly!

Photos, by June:

Italian Dandelion

Italian Dandelion

Garlic Chives

Garlic Chives

Lettuce (Romaine)

Lettuce (Romaine)

Bok Choy

Bok Choy

Green Pepper

Green Pepper

Yellow Squash

Yellow Squash

Avocados

Avocados

Black Sapote (Unripe)

Black Sapote (Unripe)

Box 1 – Roundup

Seeing as there was no box for the Thanksgiving weekend, we’ve been eating from this box for two weeks rather than the usual one. That being said, it was a good introduction of what to expect, along with a good warmup for us trying to find ways to use the box contents.

Actual usage & thoughts:

  • Callaloo – after inspecting pictures of it online, we came to the conclusion that this particular bundle we’d got was well past it’s prime, so was not used. However, odds are we’ll get it again in future boxes, and hopefully it’ll be in a fresher state so that we can actually use it!
  • Lemongrass – used in the Thai dish as previously posted. The remains of the bundle are currently drying out in the fridge, so we’ve got the option of using it over the next few weeks or so.
  • Green beans – used in both the Thai dish, and steamed then mixed with onion to be a side dish for our Thanksgiving meal. On both occasions the beans were tender and flavourful, so the Xtras box swap really paid off for us this time.
  • Lettuce – used with the Cherry Tomatoes to make a side salad, also for the Thanksgiving meal. The lettuce stayed crisp and green in the fridge for much longer than we expected, and tasted like a leafier romaine. Another one to look forward to in future boxes.
  • Corn – boiled as mentioned previously, and won’t be boiled next time!
  • Cherry Tomatoes – a few eaten straight from the pot, the rest combined with the Lettuce for a side salad. The tomatoes were fairly tender while retaining a reasonable firmness, and the juices weren’t bitter like shop-bought ones can be. However, the flipside is that they were also not very sweet, which meant they worked best in combination with other salad vegetables, rather than eaten individually.
  • Avocado – half was roughly diced and served as a side for the Thanksgiving meal, the rest was eaten with rice by June at some point in the last week. I personally am not a fan of avocado, so I’m taking June’s word that it was a good one (although the shop-bought ones are not dissimilar, I’m told, since Publix sells local organic avocados as well).
  • Roselle – not used yet, so it’s slowly drying in the fridge. The problem with these flowers is that you need to plan to make something where they are the focal point, as they’re not easy to integrate into normal meals.

Ratings:

  • Hits – Green Beans, Avocado, Lettuce, Lemongrass
  • Near Misses – Cherry Tomatoes
  • Total Flops – Corn, Callaloo
  • Not Rated – Roselle (and Dill)

Final Opinion:

This was a good first box that we used a reasonable percentage of, although much of that was helped by the Thanksgiving meal and having two weeks rather than one. We’ll have to pick up the pace for the next box, since it’d be crazy to let this stuff go to waste. Roll on box two!