The Hoppy Okapi

Occasional posts about hiking and other stuff

Everything’s Coming Up Dill: Our First CSA Share May 13, 2010

Zephyr explores the veggies

Our neighborhood farmers market, the Little Italy Mercato, has been going strong for over a year now, tempting me every Saturday morning with just-harvested fruits and vegetables, fresh eggs, cheeses, jams and even sea salts. Even though I don’t quite make it to the Mercato every weekend, I’ve tried quite a few new fruits and vegetables since the market began – pineapple guavas, rainbow chard, cherimoyas, several eggplant varieties, green garlic and Kalamansi limes to name a few. In the spirit of continuing to explore new flavors and add more veggies to our lives, Chuck and I recently joined the CSA program from Suzie’s Farm, one of the Mercato vendors.

Broccoli, dill, chard, lettuce, radishes

Every other week we’ll get a box of 8-15 items, depending on what’s ready for harvest at the farm. Our first box contained potatoes, strawberries, summer squash, broccoli, radishes, chard, micro-basil, red lettuce, wild arugula, chard, and a gigantic bunch of dill. That’s a lot of veggies!

Athena and Zephyr love our CSA!

Our first CSA box was definitely a success – for $25 we got enough vegetables for five nights of dinners for two people, three lunches plus some snacks for me, plus three nights of strawberry desserts, and we tried several new recipes and preparations. The Suzie’s Farm blog helpfully tells us what to expect in our CSA box, and local blogger Stacy at Little Blue Hen is also a CSA member and blogs about her box and great recipe ideas as well, so we had an idea of the items and amounts that we’d be receiving and planned a week’s worth of meals around them.

We also picked up a few supplementary items at the Mercato:

Tomatoes, butter, jam, Zephyr

Mini-tomatoes for my lunch salads, European-style butter to go with the radishes, and habanero jelly because Chuck wanted some. Did I mention that the cats really really liked our CSA box and everything else we brought home from the farmers market? They wanted to sniff everything! And Zeph liked chewing (and then spitting up, unfortunately) the ends of the Arugula. It was quite an enrichment activity for them.

Zephyr Loves Arugula

(Really, I didn’t mean for all of the CSA pictures to include Zephyr, he just wouldn’t leave them alone.)

As we put the veggies away, I did some sampling of the strawberries, basil, and dill. The bunch of dill that we got was big, and the freshness made me start dreaming of things to do with dill – I felt like everything we made should use some, since we had much! In the end that didn’t quite happen, but we found quite a few good ways to use it.

I mixed up some butter and chopped dill, to be enjoyed with some of the radishes.

Dill butter: serve with salt & radishes

And then I made what I’m calling a modified “Green Goddess” dressing, despite its tenuous resemblance to the original: mayonnaise, sour cream, dill, caraway seeds and vinegar, which I used in my lunch salads with the lettuce, arugula, basil, tomatoes, and some blue cheese. This dressing was SO good, I could eat it on just about everything! The caraway and dill flavors worked really well together.

Creamy dill-caraway "Green Goddess"-like dressing

I also made a batch of quick radish pickles by boiling some dill in a vinegar-water mixture and then simmering with sliced radishes. I used cider vinegar, but I think plain white or white-wine vinegar might have worked slightly better. I’d never actually cooked radishes before, and I wasn’t that fond of the smell as I was simmering them, but after a day in the refrigerator the pickles tasted OK. They’re my first-ever pickles and not a complete disaster, so I’ll try some again sometime!

Quick-pickled radish slices

When I think of dill, I also think of salmon, and so I tried a new-to-me salmon preparation on Saturday evening: salmon en papillote, or salmon cooked in parchment. I spread some butter on the parchment, then added salmon (seasoned with salt and pepper), dill, and lemon slices:

Preparing the salmon

I then sealed and tented the parchment, placed on a baking sheet and baked for about 12 minutes, while Chuck sauteed the squash with olive oil, garlic, and red pepper flakes.

Delicious salmon and squash dinner

We used our potatoes and chard in an Indian-style Aloo Sag spin-off – I sauteed onions, garlic and ginger, added turmeric, saffron and two sliced serrano chiles (although one would have been plenty!), then added the potatoes and covered until they were tender, and added coarsely chopped chard and sauteed until tender. We served this with chicken cooked in Penzeys Balti Seasoning and fried queso fresco (left over from chicken tacos and standing in for paneer).

Indian-style dinner using potatoes and chard

After two nights of our Indian-style dinner, Chuck made a beef and broccoli stir fry that lasted for two more nights – it was the first time in years that I’ve eaten broccoli voluntarily, and I was quite happy with the results – the broccoli was tender and mild, and soaked up the delicious stir-fry sauce. I still won’t be eating supermarket broccoli, but I’ll happily eat the stuff from Suzie’s Farm!

Chuck also made a strawberry dessert from our Nick Stellino cookbook: strawberries marinated in spiced rum (Nick Stellino’s version used marsala), served with a honey-sweetened vanilla-scented mascarpone/ricotta cheese mixture and topped with shaved chocolate. This preparation really let the flavor and natural sweetness of the strawberries shine!

Strawberry goodness!

We get the next box is on May 29th (a week late because we’ll be in LA watching the Tour of California next weekend), and I can’t wait to see what goodies we get next!

 

Bikes and BBQ May 2, 2010

Grand Prix Racers

Chuck and I ushered in the month of May with bikes! I read about the Barrio Logan Grand Prix a few weeks ago and thought it would be fun to watch, and we had a Groupon for Lil Piggy’s BBQ in Coronado, so we decided to bike to the Grand Prix in the morning, then continue on the Bayshore Bikeway over to Coronado. We checked the race schedule the night before and discovered that the men’s pro race was starting at 1:30 pm, so we decided to head back to the Grand Prix after lunch as well.

We woke up bright and early on Saturday morning, biked south on Harbor Drive for about two miles, and got to the race course shortly after the start of the first race – the riders were already speeding around the corners as we approached closed-off streets.

Chuck stands along the course

Before we got to the race, we weren’t quite sure how the whole thing worked, but we quickly figured out the important parts. The race course was a very curvy .8 miles with two main loops, and each race ran for a set length of time. An announcement was made for the last five laps, and then the real race to the finish began.We walked around the course to a few different vantage points – it was impressive to see the riders flying  through the curves.

Men's Cat 5 race

Lining up for the Masters Race

We stayed for the first three races in the morning, the men’s category five, masters, and category four races. I thought it was funny that the music changed from Chariots of Fire-style inspirational music during the Cat 5 race to Oldies for the Masters start, even though the guys in the Masters race were probably too young to remember most of the Oldies from their original release. I also liked how the winners of the races were each given a bag of tortillas in addition to their trophies – where else but Barrio Logan does that happen?

After the Cat 4 race we cast a wistful glance toward La Dona, a tempting Mexican restaurant right near the race course, then rejoined the Bayshore Bikeway and made our way to Coronado. The ride is a mostly flat 20 miles, and the biggest challenge was the wind – with the bay on one side and the ocean on the other, there’s no natural wind break, and it felt like we were battling a headwind pretty much the whole way to Coronado. We reached the Ferry Landing shops and made our way to Lil Piggy BBQ for some pulled pork sandwiches. I was impressed by the beer selection and the tenderness of the pulled pork, and intrigued by their array of sauces – a standard sweet sauce, a spicy BBQ sauce with bold red chile flavor, and , and a honey-mustard style sauce. I think we’ll definitely be repeat customers!

BBQ

After lunch we bought our tickets for the ferry back to downtown San Diego – biking the 20 miles back along the bay wouldn’t be much fun after a big BBQ lunch! I took in the view while we waited for the ferry:

Waiting for the ferry

Coronado Bridge from the ferry landing

Ships at North Island Naval Station

After the ferry ride (I didn’t get TOO seasick, although I felt a little woozy while we were waiting at the dock), we retraced our early morning path to the races. We got back in time to watch a few of the kids’ rides – only a one or two half-laps each, but it looked like they were having fun! The crowd had grown since the early morning hours, and there were a good number of people on hand to watch the Pro/Cat1/2 race.

The announcer's stand

Lining up for the Pro race

They were fast! This was the longest race, at 75 minutes, and there were several lead changes and breakaways and chases, including a big breakaway that just barely got caught right at the finish line – it was pretty amazing to see all that happen as the race unfolded over the successive laps of the course. I also had fun playing with the multi-shot mode on my camera, both at high ISO to capture the riders in more detail, and then at low ISO to get a blurred image effect:

Close to the Action!

High-speed racers, low-speed ISO

We had a lot of fun at the race! I think Chuck wants to get in on the local racing action after watching the Grand Prix. I think it might be fun too, but I’d need to upgrade both my speed and bike handling skills – otherwise I’d go crashing into the hay bales!

 

 
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