Penne With Roasted Garlic, Pancetta and Arugula
Wednesday, June 30, 2010
Penne With Roasted Garlic, Pancetta and Arugula
Monday, June 21, 2010
I’ve received collards three times and three times, I’ve given them to my parents-in-law. It’s not that the collards are the red-headed step-child in my weekly take; it’s just that I never seem to get around to trying them and since my in-laws know what to do with them and I don’t, I figure they could enjoy them while I figure out whether kale is just a decoration or an edible food. Imagine how delighted I was to receive the collards back. In cooked form. They were sautéed with some honey ham. The flavor of cooked collards mixed with meat reminded me of my Russian childhood eating golubtzi, known as stuffed cabbage in English. Collards retain their deep green color and the flavor is a cross between grape leaves and cabbage.
Here, then, is my father-in-law’s recipe for collards with ham:
Sautéed Collards with Ham
(Print this recipe)
1/4 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/4 lb. honey ham, diced
1 bunch collards, chopped
1 Tbsp. oil
Heat oil in a pan and, when hot, sauté onion and garlic until softened. Add the ham and cover with water. Cook for approximately half an hour. Add the collards and cook until soft. Serve hot or at room temperature.
My take for week four: four heads of lettuce, two pounds of spinach, kale, collards, arugula, and more pick-your-own strawberries and snap peas.
I focused on preparing kale this week because it’s a vegetable I’ve never tried before. My familiarity with kale is limited to seeing it used as a ruffled doily underneath sandwiches and burgers on my plate. Delis seem to use kale as a frilly border for potato salad. Well, it’s time to bring kale to the fore and make a dish out of it. Raw, kale tastes like a cross between broccoli and cabbage. Cooked, it has a mild cabbage flavor.
Bringing kale to the fore proved difficult. Kale still seems like a side dish to me so I made it with peanut sauce. I probably overdid the peanut sauce because it was a little heavy on the sauce. It was tasty to me despite my inability to convince anyone else to try it.
Kale in Peanut Sauce
(adapted from How to Cook Everything)
(Print this recipe)
1 Tbsp. chopped garlic
1 lb. kale
1/4 c. chicken stock (or vegetable stock if you want vegetarian)
3 Tbsp. peanut butter
Salt and pepper
2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
In a deep skillet over medium heat, heat the oil until hot. Add garlic and cook, stirring, until golden brown. Add the kale, stock, peanut butter and salt and pepper. Cover and cook until the kale is wilted, about five minutes. After five minutes, uncover and cook another five minutes. Remove from heat and add the lemon juice. Adjust the seasonings, if necessary. Serve hot or at room temperature.
Blanching and Freezing Spinach
With so much produce, it’s time to get serious about preserving some of this goodness, else risk spoilage. There is not much one can do about lettuce but the other greens lend themselves to freezing. I ordered Preserving Summer’s Bounty to learn how to freeze, dry and can a variety of vegetables. Freezing turns out to be quite easy. You just blanch the vegetable in question, shock it in ice water, dry it off and freeze it. Of course "easy" doesn't always mean "quick."
Having frozen spinach on hand means I can top homemade pizzas with it or drop some in omelets for extra flavor and nutrition. I also sneak it into homemade Asian-style dumplings. Amazingly, spinach is a vegetable my son has always liked. My daughter has never touched a vegetable in her life so I continue to experiment with trying to sneak vegetables into her.
To freeze spinach, in a large pot, bring at least a gallon of water to a rolling boil. Use a gallon of water per pound of vegetable. While the water is coming to a boil, wash and trim the spinach and discard wilted leaves. Prepare a large bowl about a third full of ice water. Once the water boils, drop the spinach in and wait for the water to come back to a rolling boil. Once it is at a boil again, set your timer for two minutes. After the spinach has blanched, pull it out and drop it in the ice water. This shocks the spinach and prevents it from cooking further. Let it cool. Pull it out and dry it out on paper or kitchen towels. Divide into batches or leave as one big batch (whatever you need) and put into freezer-safe containers. Freeze, then bag and stack more efficiently in the freezer.
I separated mine into four half-cup plastic containers. The volume of spinach went from this:
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
(Print this recipe)
1 lb. flat iron steak
2. In the meantime, chop the bok choy. Separate the white stems from the green leaves. The stems take longer to cook so they will go in first. Heat a skillet with oil and sauté the garlic until light brown and fragrant. Add the stems and stir fry until softened. Add the leaves and stir fry until wilted. Remove from heat and stir in the oyster sauce.
3. Wipe pan and return to heat. Add more oil if necessary. When hot, add the snap peas and stir fry until they've turned bright green and are crisp tender. Remove from heat and stir in the soy sauce.
4. Slice the steak and serve with these two delicious sides.
Spinach Soup (Schav)
(adapted from Please to the Table by Anya von Bremzen and John Welchman)
(Print this recipe)
When days are hot, I always crave this cold, green soup from my Russian childhood. My grandmother would make this with the tangy, lemony sorrel that was always available there. Here, in the US, it’s not so available. In the last ten years, I’ve only seen it sold once in my local supermarket and even so, it was sold as an herb in a small plastic container alongside the other herbs. That is not nearly enough for this light, cool soup. You will need seven cups of it so the small containers won’t do. Use spinach instead for a reasonably good facsimile to the traditional sorrel soup.
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 small rib celery, chopped
1 shallot, finely chopped
1/4 chopped scallions
5-6 cups chicken stock
2 medium potatoes, peeled and quartered
7 cups spinach (or 4 cups sorrel and 3 cups spinach)
salt and pepper
1/2 c. heavy cream
2 hard-boiled eggs, sliced, for garnish
2 small cucumbers, peeled and diced, for garnish
sour cream, for garnish
1. In a large soup pot, melt butter over medium heat. Add celery and shallot and sauté until softened, about 7 minutes. Add the scallions and sauté another 5 minutes.
2. Add stock and bring to a boil. Add the potatoes and reduce the heat to medium low. Make sure the stock is covering the potatoes; if not, add more stock or water to cover. Simmer the potatoes until tender, about 15 minutes. Remove them from the soup and set aside.
3. Bring the soup back to a boil. Add the spinach and cook until wilted, 3 minutes or so. Remove from heat and add the salt and pepper.
4. Using an immersion blender, puree the soup in the pot. Alternatively, pour the soup into a blender and puree in batches. Move the soup to a tureen. Stir in the heavy cream, cool, and then refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
5. To serve, dice the potatoes and add them to the soup along with the sliced egg, cucumber, and sour cream.
Sunday, June 13, 2010
Saturday, June 12, 2010
I came to the strawberry beds and picked one to taste. What a difference! It was sweet and juicy, not hard and bland like supermarket strawberries. The strawberries were plentiful and easy to pick. The challenge was how to pack my quarts efficiently with as many strawberries as possible.
Opening day actually fell on my pick-up day: Tuesday. When I signed up, the application asked me to choose a pick up day. Without knowing anything about the best day, I picked Tuesday. As I picked, there was another man picking who told me that in previous years picking always started on a Wednesday. After he complained that “Tuesday don’t get a break,” they decided to start on a Tuesday this year. How lucky for me!
With my quarts full of strawberries, I made my way back and stopped to pick a few herb sprigs. Never (well, almost never) having cooked with fresh herbs before I can tell you that I don’t know the difference between sage and oregano and wouldn’t be able to identify either of them by sight or by taste. I mean, who knows what oregano tastes like if it’s mixed into jarred pasta sauce? I picked oregano, sage, chives and mint. Perhaps I can get a crash course in cooking with a wide variety of herbs this year.
At home, I added chives to an omelet and made some fresh mint tea by steeping mint in boiled water. Delicious! But I didn’t know what to do with the sage or oregano. At least, not yet.
As for the strawberries, most were eaten fresh. I sliced them up for my kids and they devoured them. My daughter in particular likes strawberries. As the days wore on however, half a quart of the strawberries began to languish in the fridge. Unthinkable! So I made some strawberry yogurt pops. My daughter loves these and thinks they are a “treat” when, in reality, they are a healthy snack.
Strawberry Yogurt Popsicles
2 cups strawberries, washed and with stems removed
2 cups vanilla yogurt
1-2 teaspoons honey, or to taste
Blend everything to desired consistency, pour into ice pop molds and freeze. If you want a smoother consistency without strawberry chunks, puree the strawberries first and press the mixture through a sieve to separate out the seeds. Then, blend with the yogurt and honey. If you don’t have special ice pop molds, you can pour the mixture into small Dixie cups. Cover each cup with foil and stick a wooden popsicle stick into each.
Together with my husband, we joined a CSA this year. Finally. A co-worker of my husband’s told us about this whole CSA thing a few years ago. It sounded interesting at the time but given that we were both working, it remained a good idea only in theory. In practice, I knew that I couldn’t devote that much time to cooking all week long to take advantage of the produce before it would go bad. But last year, in 2009, I remembered about this idea in the spring and decided to join. I looked through a list of local CSAs online and settled on one: Honeybrook Organic Farm in Pennington, NJ. But when I clicked on the link to join, I received the message that it was too late and that the 2009 season had sold out. What a shame.
So I waited. Promptly in February of this year, I filled out the application and sent in a check. And waited. It was a long wait to see if I’d get a share and I didn’t hear from them until the end of March. Priority is given to previous members over new members. But we got the postcard in the mail that we were in. I could hardly wait until May.
Hubby and I had debated about whether to get an individual share or a family share. According to their website, an individual share feeds two adults and a family share feeds four. Given our two little ones, it was doubtful they could be relied on to chow down on all those veggies. But, my husband felt it was better to have more rather than less. So we chose the family share. But neither of us really realized how much a family share was.
What is a CSA?
CSA stands for community-supported agriculture. Individual farms participating in CSAs offer shares of farm crops to community members for a fee. In this model, consumers pay ahead of time for a “share” of the crops that they then receive throughout the season. Consumers generally have no control over what they will receive; they receive whatever is ripe and in season. A positive feature of the model is that the produce is usually below market price and often organic. A negative is that this is not for people who can’t handle unpredictability, who don’t like most vegetables, or who don’t like the concept of not being able to choose.
For more information, visit Local Harvest; the website describes what this is and how it works. It also has a search engine for finding a CSA farm that is close to you.
After the first few weeks of receiving vegetables, I began to realize just how much a family share is at this farm and just how much cooking, preserving and giving away I must do. My refrigerator is now overstuffed with bags of greens: lettuce, spinach, arugula, kale, chard and bok choy. Every crevice is taken up to the point where I’ve had to cut back on buying other foods that I normally restock the fridge with. It is overwhelming.
What to do with it all? The answer is that I must cook, cook, cook. What to cook and what to preserve for later? Can I use it all up in creative and delicious ways? Can I preserve some for later use the rest of the year? Will my picky family eat it, or at least try new vegetables? Oh, and did I mention that I’m just a home cook who has never cooked with some of these vegetables that I’m going to get?
I don’t know the answer to these questions but I’m excited to embark on this culinary journey for the next six months.