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!

 

I CAN HAZ STEAK!!1! November 2, 2008

Filed under: kitties — Amanda @ 18:15
Tags: ,

Zephyr wants to help Chuck cook dinner…Athena is slightly less interested.

Zephyr attacks the steak

Zephyr attacks the steak

 

Making tortilla soup in the dark April 14, 2008

Filed under: beer,cooking — Amanda @ 22:05
Tags: , , ,

It was a little disorienting cooking in the new kitchen for the first time – even though I’ve been unpacking and organizing the kitchen, I’m still not quite used to the new locations for pots, utensils, and spices. As daylight faded, I was cooking only by under-cabinet lighting, until I realized that the entry way has working lights as well, so my status was upgraded from “cooking in a cave by candlelight” to “cooking in a cave by firelight”. Kitchen lighting has been bumped up to a top-three spot on the “things to buy for the new home” list.

Onto the soup!

Tortilla Soup

Tortilla Soup is one of our go-to dinners, easy to make and always tasty even though I make it a little bit differently every time. I first made it about eight years ago from a recipe I found on Digital Chef (which doesn’t seem to exist anymore, probably eclipsed many moons ago by foodtv.com), but after the first few times I stopped consulting the recipe and cook it according to memory or whim.

Tonight’s version was a little different than normal, partially because I decided to try shredded chicken instead of the grilled or broiled chicken I usually use, and partially because one of my plum tomatoes had grown a moldy beard and was beginning to infect the others, so tomato-from-a-tube saved the day! The bearded tomato was a stressful start to the dish, but I took a page from the Charlie Papazian playbook (Relax, and have a homebrew!), opened up a bottle of vintage 2007 Hibiscus Wit beer, and tried to boost the soup’s freshness profile with some extra onion and cilantro.

The soup turned out well, with spicy, herbal broth (thank you, cayenne and Mexican oregano!), and the shredded chicken proved to be a winner – more tender than the grilled method, and the broth was flavorful enough that we didn’t miss the usual spice rub, so next time I’ll stick with shredded chicken but go back to the fresh tomatoes!

Tonight’s variation:

0) Cut 3 corn tortillas into thin strips and toast. I usually need to toast twice to get my preferred level of crisp, but once I forgot about them and set the toaster oven on fire. This is not recommended, particularly if you have working smoke detectors or are fond of your toaster oven.

1) To make the shredded chicken, combine in a small pot:

  • 2 chicken breasts, cut in 4 equal pieces
  • 1/2 yellow onion, split in 2
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 tsp each Mexican oregano, epazote, black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Add water to cover, bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer for 20 minutes. Remove chicken to a plate, and shred into bite-size pieces with a fork and knife. (Method adapted from Chicken: 150 Great Recipes for All Seasons by Elaine Corn)

2) For the soup, heat 2 Tbsp vegetable oil in a large pot. Add and cook over medium heat until translucent:

  • 1/2 yellow onion, chopped fine
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped fine

Add to the pot, stir, and toast for one minute:

  • 2 bay leaves
  • Assorted spices, 1/2 tsp – 1 tsp each: Ancho chile powder, Chipotle chile powder, cayenne pepper, Mexican oregano, ground cumin, black pepper, salt

Add and stir constantly for one minute:

  • 1/2 cup toasted corn tortilla strips
  • 1/3 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp tomato paste (usually 3 plum tomatoes, chopped)

Add, bring to a boil, and simmer for at least 20 minutes:

  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 2 cups water
  • shredded chicken from step one

Serve approximately 1 1/2 cups of soup per bowl, top with shredded cheese and more toasted tortilla strips, and enjoy!

 

 
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