Friday, May 28, 2010

What's in the Box? CSA Week 3

Another week of goodies has arrived! The pictures really don't do them justice. I will post some additional information about some of the lesser known veg in this week's box. Also means I get to add more beauty shots too (who knew you could do beauty shots of lettuce....)

This week's box contains: asparagus (1.4lb), spinach (0.8lb), white salad turnips, red bibb lettuce, green garlic, arugula, escarole, chive flowers.

We have chive growing in the back yard, so these will be extra. They make a nice bouquet for the table. The asparagus looks like it's starting to sprout out, so this will probably be the last week. We have lots of greens that are good for cooking: turnip greens, arugula, escarole as well. The radish greens from last week are still around - time for a "mess o' greens."

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

CSA Tally: Week 2

Two weeks into the veg season, and we seem to be holding our own. The tally 6 days after box 2:
Asparagus: gone
Lettuce: gone
Mint: gone (made into syrup; useful for many things, but mostly used for mojitos....)
Rhubarb: still working on it
Green garlic: only couple stalks left
Spinach: a few leaves left
Potatoes: a few left
Radishes: making our way through the roots, still have the greens
Leeks: haven't touched them
Parsley: still slated for freezing

geekMan said last evening that he's amazed we're eating it all up. I think our approach to eating veg is different than it used to be. We used to ask ourselves "what do we want for dinner?" That has evolved into "what is in the fridge that needs to be eaten?" The "what" is followed now by "how should we prepare it?"

For example, asparagus is in season. When you have three to four weeks of bountiful asparagus, there's room for experiment and the delight of trying new flavors and methods with a familiar veg. So far we've had it steamed, in Potato & Asparagus salad, grilled in olive oil & spices, grilled in mustard/mayo marinade, and made into a savory mousse. I'm not sure how much longer local asparagus will be in season, but we won't run out of different ways to enjoy it.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Topsy Tomatoes

For all the garden space in our yard, there's really nothing suitable for growing vegetables. The only full sun area is either driveway concrete, or grass (and I'm saving this area for a butterfly garden, eventually). We also get the majority of our fresh veg from our CSA. Other than some fresh herbs, I have no plans to grow veg. Unless it's easy.

I mentioned using the Topsy Turvy planter to a friend last week: did she know anyone who had used it? Neither of us had. The commercials are so cheesy, and I'm a natural skeptic: does it really work? I proposed to my friend we be our own test population and both give it a try this Summer. I'm going to put cherry tomatoes in mine: the Juliet hybrid of cherry tomatoes (if I can find it). They fruit like clusters of oblong grapes. Super sweet, super prolific. Super super.

Has anyone else ever actually tried the Topsy Turvy?

UPDATE: turns out one of my trusted go-to websites for both products and information. Clean Air Gardening, sells them - they must work!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Foodie Finds: Mia Famiglia Restaurant

After a while of really cooking for yourself, it can be almost hard to go out to eat somewhere. Why pay the extra money to eat at a restaurant when you can cook as well, and often better, at home? No worries about that at Mia Famiglia - Chef Tomas is incredibly creative and skillful, and the dishes that come out from his kitchen never fail to delight.

We especially like to order a "Tasting Meal": three to five courses of chef's choice off the menu, and at this point we've done four or five of them. It's hard to explain the excited anticipation for each course when you have no idea what's coming, but you know it's going to be amazing. We've had fingerling potato soup over beet risotto served in a martini glass, mini-sammiches of rare kobe beef with arugula and mushroom aioli, veal sweetbreads, oysters, monkfish - I can't remember it all anymore. Occasionally they do a Wine Tasting meal. I think it's the same idea as the Tasting Meal we usually go for, but more planned ahead and open as a restaurant event. We haven't timed our Mia cravings well enough to attend one, until now. I'm sure they'll have the menu for the evening's goodies available, but I won't read it. I prefer to wait and be delighted by surprise.

Friday, May 21, 2010

What's in the Box? CSA Week 2

Week 2 has arrived, and we did a reasonable job of eating up the veg from last week. Some items go right away, others not so much. Herbs and pungent veg like the green garlic tend to get used more slowly.

This week's box contains: asparagus (1lb), spinach (0.75lb), green garlic, red leaf lettuce, radishes (and greens), mint, rhubarb, leeks OR a parsnip.

Beth writes in her newsletter that some unharvested leeks & parsnips survived over the winter under the snow cover. They are sort of a windfall harvest (and spring leeks are extra mild and sweet), but there may too little of each veg for everyone to get some. Tipi always provides tasty alternatives. Boxes are prepacked and snooping is not encouraged, so it's a guess as to which veg you'll get. We like both, so no worries there (although I'd rather have the leeks since we already have a couple 'snips in the crisper). I won't get my box until later this afternoon, so we'll all just have to be patient.

UPDATE: Here's the loot!
We got leeks!

Pass It On: Pasta Cooked with Less Water Revisited

Last December I mentioned an article about cooking your pasta in less water. Today's Serious Eats: Food Lab post by

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

CSA Tally

 We've had 6 days to eat up goodies from the CSA box, counting the day we received it. How are we doing?
Radishes and greens: gone
Lettuce: gone
Arugula: gone
Asparagus: almost gone
Green garlic: still quite a few stalks
Potatoes: still have quite a few
Rhubarb: haven't touched it
Parsley: slated to be frozen

In our defense over the asparagus, we did have some on hand before we received the box. I tried making asparagus mousse, something geekMan encountered on a recent business trip to Germany. That was an adventure I'll have to share with you in its own space. Suffice it to say that 1) mousse does not equal puree, 2) 12 ounces of heavy cream makes a lot of whipped cream, and 3) chemistry always wins in the end. We also had some rhubarb-strawberry crisp around as well, left over from a large batch made for dinner with friends.

Tomorrow I plan to try a recipe posted by Nick Kindelsperger at Serious Eats:Dinner Tonight for Potato and Asparagus Salad with Mustard Dressing. So, technically that would make it Dinner Tomorrow Night.... Still, it looks like a tasty way to boost the CSA tally for the week.

Also, we're still working on set-up and eye candy for the new format. Don't be surprised if the scenery changes a bit over the next short while.

Monday, May 17, 2010

New Digs

Well, it's a work in progress. Much like the house. And the garden. And always, always in the kitchen.

I'm hoping to move the posts from the other blogs to this one, and move on from there. Good thing too. The week is passing, and I have rhubarb to use up. Thinking about a lo-sugar rhubarb chutney I can mix up and can away....

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Radish Greens for Breakfast

Now, I already know what you're thinking. Radishes can be difficult enough so early in the day, but greens? Who even knew you could eat radish greens - or would want to? But prepared with smoky bacon and sweet onion and then used to fill an omelette... now you're talking tasty.

The first time I saw radish greens, they were not appetizing. I wasn't much of a radish fan either. Radishes purchased for geekMan (who LOVES radishes) sat in the fridge for a spell, and the leaves melted into slimy blankets for the radishes. Not. Appetizing.

Spring forward a few years and introduce radishes from our CSA at Tipi, and we can't get enough of them.

These are some seriously tasty radishes. Slice, add a hint of sea salt, and they are actually sweet. Yes, you read that correctly. Sweet. Crunchy. Cold. Really a treat in the spring after a winter of heavy veg. It got me thinking about the greens, and what a shame it would be to waste them.

Growing up, greens were not the menu. Salads of various lettuces, yes (I have a memory of my father harvesting dandelions from the lawn one year - everyone thought he was nuts, but isn't that always what they say about the visionaries?). We didn't eat "greens" though. I learned to love greens living in the South during graduate school. Cooked for long periods with smoked ham parts and served with vinegar. Mmmm mmm! It works best for tough greens like kale. And these radish greens were tender enough to eat raw, if a bit bitter for my taste. Enter the seasoning favorite of good applewood smoked bacon and some sweet Vidalia onion, and it's about perfect.

CSA use score: we used all the radish greens and a couple stalks of the green garlic. Oh, and a couple radishes. 

Omelette with Radish Greens in Bacon and Sweet Onion
Serves 2
You could use this to fill an omelette or a crepe, even add into the eggy part and make a quiche-like dish (around here we call them veggie pies). Amounts are approximate; a couple notes after the recipe might be helpful too.

3-4 rashers of good applewood smoked bacon (we like Usingers or Nueskes), diced fine
2 stalks green garlic (white parts only) or 1 large clove garlic, minced
1 quarter medium sized sweet Vidalia onion, diced fine
1.5-2oz radish leaves, rinsed well and destemmed (see below)

4-5 eggs, beaten well
2-3T half & half
1oz grated Mimolette cheese (see below)
butter for pan (we use a non-stick, but it still needs butter.... oh well ;-)
Put a medium-sized heavy pan over moderate heat. Add bacon; stir to break up. Cook until beginning to render and getting soft. Add onion and garlic; stir to combine. Continue cooking over medium heat until bacon gains color and onions soften and begin to color some. Add radish leaves. Stir to combine. They will wilt and lose volume quickly. Turn off heat after they are completely wilted into the bacon/onion mixture. Set aside.
Heat butter in large non-stick omelette pan (or cast-iron, or whatever you use for eggs). Beat together eggs and half & half. When butter is melted and slightly foamy, add eggs. Sprinkle with salt & pepper. As bottom sets, gently pull in eggs from the sides and allow uncooked liquid egg to spread out and cook. When omelette is almost cooked (it should still be a little wet on top), sprinkle with cheese. Add radish leaf/bacon mixture to one half of omelette. Gently fold over, and allow to set. This omelette is large enough to two. You can cut it in half; geekMan & I generally use one plate and two forks - it's cozier that way. Good served with slices of fresh radish.

Radish leaves, destemmed
Generally grown in sandy soil, the leaves will need to be rinsed well to get rid of grit. We like to use the bottom of our salad spinner with the basket - you can lift the greens right out of the water. Uses less that a whole sink full of water too. They have a bit of stem, and are tastier without them.

Mimolette cheese
We first encountered this cheese at the Flying Elephants Deli in Portland, Oregon (food souvenir score!). It has a nice nutty flavor that's a good alternative to parmesan. Nowadays we can sometimes find it locally, maybe at Outpost Natural Foods or the West Allis Cheese Shop.

Friday, May 14, 2010

The Burden of Plenty

I have complained of the neglect our poor gardens have experienced over the last few years. Nearly all the rose bushes have died since no one cared to cover them for the cold Wisconsin winter. The peony bushes are slow to fill out due to several years accumulation of leaf cover. But all is not in despair.

Some plants seem to thrive on neglect though. Take the day lilies that are filling every available garden space (no - seriously - take some please). You can't tell from the picture here, but they are moving into the lawn. It's the only available remaining space. We will have to rip out quite a few, but for now I have to admit they are at least green. And they will bloom, probably all summer once they get started. I'm not 100% certain, but I'm guessing they will be the wild-type orange variety. Not exciting, but colorful anyway.

Our front garden is still suffering from what I call "chair-rail syndrome" (we've ripped out the old vine but have nothing yet to replace it).

You can see the dirt in the grass beyond the brick border - that vine had eaten almost a foot of grass already (and from the roots we pulled out, it was ready to take more). This portion of the yard gets deep shade most of the day, but there's a sliver of late afternoon sun that cuts in underneath the trees from the west. I think that's the only reason the cherry tree and the juniper here have survived. I still think a shade ground cover would be best. Right now our vote is for European Wild Ginger (Asarum europaeum). Hopefully it will fill the space well, not be too tall for the spring bulbs or the summer perennials. And hopefully it will be polite and not eat the lawn.

What's in the Box? CSA Week 1

Today was the first delivery for our CSA subscription. One week early due to nicer than normal Spring growing conditions (not that we've noticed; our house is coastal - Lake Michigan has its own ideas about weather...). We're excited that the season has started. Chats with co-workers resulted in several people confessing to CSA memberships, but ours is the first to start (score!).

 Tipi farmers Beth & Steve send a newsletter on Thursdays by email so you know what to expect. It never really prepares you for the sight of these gorgeous veggies.

This week's box contains: asparagus (about 1lb), green garlic, green leaf lettuce, radishes (and radish greens), arugula, Gold Rush potatoes (3lb), parsley, and rhubarb (1.5lb).

So, we're off and running to use all the veg in every box, one way or another. I'll keep you posted on how we manage.

Monday, May 10, 2010

CSA: What's in the Box?

It's CSA time again starting this week - another season of weekly veg boxes and I couldn't be more excited. CSAs, or Community Supported Agriculture farms provide fresh produce on a regular basis to members. Subscriptions generally last for several months over the growing season, and some include access to eggs and bakery goods as well. It's all fresh, local, and usually organic to boot.

This will be our fifth year as members of the Tipi Produce family. Farmers Beth Kazmar and Steve Pincus have been providing goodies for their CSA for, well, for at least the five years we've been members... I know they've been organic farmers for some years before that as well (since 1975 according to their website). We always get the weekly share as opposed to the every-other-week option. Some fruits or veg have such short seasons, and the harvests might skip a week, and we don't want to miss out on anything. We won't be sharing our box halvsies with anyone this year either - our first year going solo. Once the season is in full swing, we will receive a full bushel box of mixed veg every week. geekMan and I love our veg, but it's a lot for two people to get through (even with occasional help from younger family members).

Starting Fridays for the next 26 weeks of the CSA season, I plan to share with you what we get in our box each week and what we manage to do with it. Waste will not be an option. My goal is to either eat or preserve everything we get in each box. What we can't eat will be shared with as-of-yet unsuspecting co-workers (most of which are poor and often starving graduate students willing to accept the handouts). We know the pace of veg consumption might get hectic; we are hungry for the challenge.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Unplanting: Too Much of a Good Thing

Sometimes you just have to rip things out. We've been trying to preserve as much as possible of the existing plantings, but the gardens haven't had a good pruning and clean out in a few years and there was this vine eating the front garden...
The offending maurader:

I'm not exactly sure what it is, but I suspect it to be a vinca vine. Ground covers are useful alternatives to mulch or mixed plantings or grass (which come to think of it is more or less a ground cover...). They spread and don't require much care. Beware what's implied by "spread" as that can mean aggressive and destructive invasiveness. Several years of neglect allowed this vine to take over the garden, engulfing neighboring plants, even beginning to choke itself. We uncovered lily groupings, an astilbe, and two sedums, one of which is in pretty poor shape.

Poor thing. Pretty bedraggled. I'll keep you posted on how it does. In total, we ripped out about a couple cubic meters of vine. The garden looks a little bare, but I think it's taken a good deep breath of fresh air. Maybe even a sigh of relief. Next to tackle are the dozens of tree seedlings, and no doubt the weeds that will try to fill the vine void. We will have to beat them to the punch. Or, rather, dirt.

The Koreanspice Viburnum is planted in the backyard where I can smell it here in the office this evening. In the chocolate box of unknown garden goodies, that for me is like a dark chocolate praline. Bliss.