Sunday, June 30, 2013

Week Three: Healthy Stuff

I'm way late on updating this week - sorry! Between work, being sick, and the 4:30pm-on-a-Friday "The client says they still don't have this thing you sent two weeks ago" phone call... I've been distracted. But - the Whitecaps won again to become the Eastern Conference Champs, and off to Philly they go!

This week we picked up more garlic scapes, cabbage, lettuce, radishes, beets, collard greens, and chard. We had a cooking party, and Aly whipped up this recommended collard greens 'n' onions dish, I made a chard and feta pasta dish, and over the weekend I got in some baking. I made another Caesar salad since I was so happy with how the first one came out, but haven't had a chance to eat much of it yet.

We also discovered just how crazy good for you this stuff is. Did you know that 1 cup of collard greens has 288% of your daily recommended Vitamin A? And 57% of your daily recommended Vitamin C? And a cup of Swiss Chard has 44% of your daily recommended Vitamin A? Wikipedia tells me that Vitamin A is good for the immune system (so why am I getting sick, I ask?!) and "for the maintenance of good vision." Aly told me some time ago me that Vitamin C is good for building and maintaining connective tissue, which was good knowledge when we both injured ourselves with sharp objects - she just before telling me this, and my a week or so after.

So, on to cooking. I made some yummy cupcakes last weekend, and made more this weekend since I had more of my secret ingredient. It's a Martha Stewart recipe, because who else would add beets to chocolate cake? It's a very stealth-healthy recipe, so if you were looking for an excuse to eat chocolate cake, you're welcome.

Chocolate Beet Cake (adapted from Martha Stewart)

4 medium beets, trimmed, peeled, and cut into 2-inch chunks (I used 2 medium-ish beets, since that's what I had, and ended up with about 3/4 - 1 cup of puree)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder (I used Hershey's Special Dark)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
Salt (about 3/4 teaspoon)
2 large eggs
3/4 cup warm water
1/4 cup safflower oil (I used vegetable oil)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1. Put beets in a small pot and cover with 2" of water. Bring to a boil and then simmer for ~30 minutes, until beets are very tender. Process in a food processor until smooth.
2. Combine dry ingredients in a bowl, then mix in beet puree, eggs, water, and oil.
3a. To make cake (which I haven't done yet): line a 9-inch round cake pan with parchment paper, and spray pan with cooking spray. Pour in batter and bake about 45 minutes in 350-degree oven. Let cool on a rack about 20 minutes, pop out of pan and allow to finish cooling right-side up.
3b. To make cupcakes: Line muffin tins with paper liners, and fill about 2/3 to 3/4 of the way*. My first batch yielded 15 cupcakes, my second 18. Bake about 20-22 minutes in 350-degree oven, rotating racks top to bottom and back to front so they cook evenly.

*Don't overfill the tins! The cupcakes dome like crazy. In my first batch, I was seriously considering redistributing the extra 3 cupcakes' batter back into the full pan of 12, and I'm glad I didn't. I'd have had a brick.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Week Two: Actual Cooking!

Last night I made garlic scape pizza and a cabbage Caesar salad - delicious! I was really impressed with the salad, actually. Caesar dressing is one of those things I sort of assumed you could make, but I'd never actually taken the time to, you know, look up how to do it. The pizza served four people, and so far the salad has only served "one"... but that's because I'm the only one eating it. I'd say it could serve 4 to 6 as a side at dinner.

Cabbage Caesar Salad (via the New York Times)
- 1 head cabbage, cored and thinly sliced
- 1 egg yolk*
- 1 or 2 cloves of garlic
- juice of one lemon
- 1/2 cup (freshly) grated Parmesan cheese (I used Romano)
- 6 tablespoons olive oil, or enough to thin out the yolk/cheese mixture
- chopped anchovies (I didn't use these)
- salt and pepper to taste

Peel the garlic and rub the inside of the bowl with it. I also minced mine and added it to the dressing, because I love garlic. Whisk together everything but the cabbage, then  toss the sliced cabbage into the dressing. Serve immediately or store in the fridge to let the flavors get friendly.

Coring and slicing the cabbage: I think I saw on a cooking show once that you're supposed to slam the cabbage on the counter in order to break up the tough bit in the middle. I tried this, but I don't think I was angry enough because it didn't seem to do anything useful. I found it easiest to stand the cabbage up on the stem end and slice down, then lay the cut sides down to quarter it. It took some creativity to slice through the core, but I managed to get all the potentially tough, connect-y bits out. Once all the tough stuff is out of the way, slice away and add to the dressing. I wasn't sure how much washing it needed, since everything's pretty much protected by the outer leaves (which I peeled off and tossed), but I gave everything a rinse anyway.

* Yes, this has a raw egg yolk in it. If you don't feel OK eating raw egg, I have no idea what your options are. I'm still alive and well :) But make sure, if you do use it, that you either eat it immediately, or keep it refrigerated. The rule of thumb for foods is that they should only be in the "danger zone" (between 40 F and 120 F, I think is the high end) for two hours for maximum safety.

Garlic Scape and Chicken Pizza (inspired by the smitten kitchen)
- 1 package pizza/bread dough, thawed if frozen (if you can make bread dough that actually turns into bread, do that, and then bring it on over to my house!)
- 10 garlic scapes, cut in half at the loop-de-loop (not sure if you can see this in the picture)
- 5-6 chicken breast tenderloins (probably 1 to 1.5 chicken breasts), cooked & diced or shredded
- 1/2 cup or so tomato sauce
- pizza cheese (I used provolone)

Pat the dough lightly with flour, and stretch/toss/roll out onto your baking sheet or pizza stone. Add tomato sauce to your preference, sprinkle with chicken, and top with cheese. Add the scapes last. Bake in a 425 F oven for about 20 minutes. Transfer to cutting board, if needed, slice and serve.

I tend to have difficulties with bread dough, so my crust felt a little tough. I tried to mess with it as little as possible, but that may still have been too much. I think next time I'll saute scapes, like SK did with the ramps, and probably chop them as well. They sort of dried out and lost their yummy garlic taste.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Week Two: Garlic Scapes

This week was not as leaf-intense as last. We picked up radishes, garlic scapes, cabbage, beets, lettuce, collard greens, and more “radishes”. I’m putting the second “radishes” in quotes because they were labeled “salad turnips” this week – and there were also teeny tiny cute radishes, which looked much more like the radishes I assume most people think of when they hear “radishes”. We also picked some herbs: lavender, chives, oregano, and a mystery leaf that we can’t recall the name of. While wandering around, we also sampled some pineapple mint – jury’s out on whether it’s worth picking lots of.

Oregano, Lavender, Chives, Mystery Leaf

Our winning item this week was definitely the garlic scapes. We got to pick eight things from the barn (instead of last week’s seven), and each ended up grabbing 10 scapes. Aly couldn’t resist biting into one, and then told me I MUST do the same – oh wow. It’s a very “green” garlic taste, almost like biting into a clove of garlic, with a little of the heat of an onion, too. In the pick-your-own field, I found the cutest, most perfectly tiny strawberry in existence. It was everything a strawberry should be – bright red, heart-shaped, and outrageously sweet and juicy. 

In relation to the "real" radishes. How cute?

I got last week’s chard all blanched and into the freezer – hopefully it tastes good when I actually use it! My pink stems looked a little droopy, but the yellow ones seemed fine. At least I’m adding some color to my freezer? I did the same for the spinach I had left over from the failed smoothie. I know spinach condenses a lot when boiled, but jeez, shouldn’t I have ended up with more than 2 ounces from more than a half pound of the fresh stuff?

I’m much less busy this week than last, so I was able to plan ahead what I might be able to make with this week’s harvest, thanks to the CSA newsletter. I’m defrosting some dough for a pizza with chicken for tomorrow (as our plans were rearranged thanks to the Bruins), and will probably make a cabbage salad as well. I also made a Pinterest-inspired lavender mojito. Yum!
Letting the booze infuse...

To make this week:
Garlic Scape Pizza (it's only fair to give Smitten Kitchen credit for this inspiration, even if the only similarities shared between her recipe and mine are pizza dough and tomato sauce!)

Caesar Cabbage Salad (via New York Times)

Blanched greens
- boiling water
- greens, stems chopped into 1-inch pieces and leaves cut into ribbons (roll the leaves to make this easier)
- ice water

Drop the stems (or leaves) into the boiling water, cover, and boil for two minutes (one source I looked at stressed that this should be exactly two minutes and not a second more or less. Something about enzymes.). Use a slotted spoon or strainer to remove leaves/stems from the boiling water and immediately submerge in the ice water. Swish everything around to stop the cooking, and then strain/squeeze out excess water. Store in zip top bags in the freezer.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Week One: Green Monsters

My fridge is full of leafy green things. As Dan so eloquently put it, the “fridge looks like a damn prehistoric forest. Some small creature is going to jump out and bite me!” We, along with some friends of ours, have just kicked off our first ever CSA season, and the amount of produce that’s now in my fridge is astounding. On Tuesday, Aly and I picked up collard greens, Swiss chard, bok choy, scallions, spinach, radishes, and Napa cabbage from the harvest barn, and then picked some sugar snap peas (I think 9 total – the weather was not so good for leisurely picking) and a few random snips of herbs (thyme, sorrel, catmint, and what I think is chocolate mint) from the fields.

It doesn’t seem like much when I write that, but as you might be able to tell from the pictures, these greens are ENORMOUS. The Napa cabbage is longer than my forearm and weighs 3 pounds. The collard greens could be used to fan me while I sit on a lounge chair by the pool, book and frosty beverage in hand. The Swiss chard leaves are the size of a sheet of printer paper (and I gotta say, I LOVE that the stems are hot pink and yellow!).

It’ll be a challenge this week to cook all of this up, so I’ll be doing some research into preserving this for later!

First project: Green Smoothie (Tales of a Kitchen)
1 small cucumber, cut into chunks (The recipe called for the cuke to be mostly peeled – I didn’t do this but might next time. I may also seed it.)
1 apple, cored and cut into chunks
1-2 handfuls spinach, washed*
1 lime, juiced
1 T ginger, minced or grated on a microplane
1 T honey/agave/simple syrup
1 cup water

Throw everything into a blender and process until smooth.

I had to process this for much longer than I had expected, first to get everything down to the blades of the blender, and then to get everything to a “drinkable” consistency. My first iteration was … meh. I added the juice of a lemon to wake it up a bit, but I think it needed something else. It was pretty tart (probably because I used a Granny Smith apple), so I think next time I’ll use a sweeter apple and some more honey. After consultation with friends who’ve made this type of smoothie before, I’ll also throw in some yogurt or avocado for a smoother texture.

*Washing greens: Snap or cut the stems off your greens – I also had to chop the root ends off (yep, this stuff’s fresh!). Dunk the leaves into the pot filled with cool water, a few at a time, and swish gently to rinse off all the dirt and crud, then shake gently over the pot or sink. Pile the leaves on a clean dish towel, gather up the corners into a hobo bundle, and give it a few lasso spins to dry everything. If it’s not raining, do this outside, otherwise you’ll get water all over your kitchen (maybe you could avoid this by carefully arranging a plastic bag around the bundle?). Or you can be all fancy-pants and use a salad spinner!