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I decided to prolong the CSA season with a winter share: four heavy payouts every other week in November and December. Here is the first installment, which nearly killed me as I biked it home in a backpack:

-Winter melon (it developed a sketchy spot and died a sad death within a couple days, sigh.)
-Salad greens
-Spinach
-Cabbage
-Garlic
-Mystery squash
Several pounds each of:
-Carrots
-Onions
-Sweet potatoes

But the real news that week was the batch of leftovers I spent most meals consuming. Over the weekend Ben got a bee in his bonnet about meatballs, and decided to make a batch. He claims they were not an unalloyed success, but I beg to differ. Despite a bit of crunch to the onions, I think they were damn good, and besides, who argues with someone else cooking them dinner!? After a brief chopping lesson I was not allowed in the kitchen while he cooked, but here’s the triumphal plate in extreme close-up:

He used this recipe from Everyday Food, and the only adjustments we’d make next time would be to up the amount of sauce and to chop the onions finer. Oh, and after a tragic ground-turkey incident a few weeks before (how do you make a virtual sign to ward off the evil eye?), Ben subbed in ground beef for the ground turkey. I do not vouch for the turkey version, be healthy at your own risk.

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So many carrots. But first, the week’s haul:

-1 butternut squash
-1 head of cabbage
-3 leeks
-3 hot peppers
-4 white potatoes
-3 daikon radishes
-1 bunch arugula
-Carrots.

At this point the carrots were starting to panic me. I had received them most weeks since august, and while we’d tried to eat carrot sticks whenever we remembered, and they were keeping very nicely in the produce drawer, I was up to about 4 pounds. There aren’t many things I dislike, but cooked carrots are high on the list. And I don’t really love many of those sweet soups (squash, carrot, etc.). I’ve since received several more pounds of carrots, but it’s no longer a problem, because: Grated carrot salad.

Obviously I’d eaten carrot salads in France, but for some reason it hadn’t occurred to me to dispose of bulk quantities of carrots this way. Maybe because I always forget that the cuisinart makes tasks like this easy? I started small. Five carrots are pictured but I only used four.

Peeling them was the most time-consuming part. After about 60 seconds of grater-plate cuisinart action (sounds dirty!) I had this:

I made a 1-to-1 dressing of peanut oil and cider vinegar, with a bit of dijon mustard and very, very finely minced garlic. (For four smallish carrots I used 1 tablespoon each of oil/vinegar; about a teaspoon of vinegar and 1 clove of garlic. The carrots give off a lot of juice once they’re salted, so that was just enough, though I’d go a little heavier next time.)

Mix dressing. Dress carrots. Add lots of salt and pepper and let it sit at least half an hour or so, to get nice and juicy and well-combined. I had trouble staying away from the bowl, as you can see from how much carrot I had to begin with:

And how much was left by the time Ben got home (that is a large bowl):

It was one of those nights when you’re too tired to eat anything complicated, much less cook, so I made a green salad and toasted cheese on bread, plus the carrot salad, and we ate our veggie plates in front of the fire. And then the next day I wolfed the rest of the carrots, and made another batch within a week. And I’m craving it again.

This is so easy, people. Go try it.

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CSA: Week 18, Carrot pants

Heeeeee hee hee hee hee.

See anything interesting? Let’s zoom in:

Carrot Pants! Hee!!!

Ahem.

The goods:
-1 rutabaga
-1 bunch beets, with lovely greens (purples!)
-2 red onions
-2 apples
-Salad greens
-Sweet potato fingerlings
-Carrots, including Carrot Pants.

I still had the kale from the week before, plus the lovely, lovely purple greens from the beets, so I decided to thaw some italian sausage and figure something out.

I cut up a couple cloves of garlic and a red onion:

Took two sausages out of the casings and cooked them most of the way, then cooked the garlic and onions (in olive oil), slowly, until the onions were soft and a little sweet. All photos from this phase were both blurry AND badly lit, so I’ll spare you.

I added the kale in first, since the beet greens were pretty tender. I let those wilt down a bit, added the beet greens, let *those* wilt, poured in a little chicken stock (at this point, I scraped all the lovely browned bits up, using the chicken stock to deglaze the pan even though it was still full of things), added salt and pepper, and covered the pan.

While that finished getting tender, I sliced up a tube of Trader Joe’s organic cooked polenta–a $1.99 miracle item that you should add to your pantry today–and started crisping it up in a nonstick pan w/ a little oil. It takes longer to get crispy that you’d think; allow 10 minutes. I had to hold the greens and sausage for a little while.

When the polenta was done I added the sausage back into the greens and let it heat back up, checked for seasoning, then spooned it over a couple polenta slices, making sure to get a bit of the very savory and delicious broth.

Very fast and very, very delicious. And pretty. And I would like more now.


In house news, that same week I received a cross-country delivery: My grandfather’s wing chair! It’s not in perfect shape but I love it in our living room.

And if anyone needs a piece or two of furniture shipped cross-country at a reasonable price by an exceptionally friendly, helpful and responsible mover, shoot me a line–I was super-happy with the guy I found!

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Once again, unrelated produce and recipe contents.

The goods:
-Popcorn!! Currently curing on the wall. Apparently you can put an ear in a paper bag in the microwave and it will all. pop. off. This is unspeakably exciting to me.)
-2 white, 1 purple turnip
-Assorted peppers
-1 small bunch kale
-1 sad, sad little japanese eggplant
-4 white potatoes
-3 carrots

I can’t even remember, now, why I had a sudden need for soup, but I remembered Deb’s post about Beef, leek and barley soup at Smitten Kitchen on a day when I had to work from home anyway, so I wandered over to Whole Foods, grabbed what I needed, followed the instructions to a T, and had soup simmering within about 20 minutes of getting started.

It makes me happy to take pictures with natural light. I really do need to solve the lighting problem for night-time photography…

I can hear my mom now. Looking at those photos, she is saying “KATE! You didn’t brown your meat first!” To which I say “I know, I know, but the recipe said to just chuck everything in the pot, and let it cook a while. I should have followed my instincts.”

While the soup is perfectly tasty as written, I do think that next time I will brown the meat before starting. I blame my store-bought stock, in part, but this was just a bit bland. Very comforting and all, but not quick savory enough for my taste.

Still, I’d never thought of using short ribs (they only had boneless at whole foods, sigh) as the meat for soup, and MAN, does that texture and fattiness play well here! The self-shredding talents of short ribs are perfect for adding back into soup.

Ben didn’t mind the bland soup–he was just excited to have soup with bread and butter for dinner, just like at his grandmother’s house when he was a kid.

By the way, after typing “soup” about 50 times in this entry it’s starting to look very strange. Soup. soup soup soup soup. I am reminded of my favorite Calvin & Hobbes strip ever.

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So once it’s been actual weeks between posts, it starts getting harder and harder to write. Especially because a lot has happened in real life lately, and I haven’t really been focused on food. But ONWARD. I will post some short little recap things to get back in the swing of things.

Here’s what I got many, many weeks ago in the 16th week of the CSA. Like, early October.

There are:
-Sweet potato fingerlings
-More purple peppers
-A Napa cabbage
-Onions
-Apples
-Decorative squash
-Salad greens
-Kohlrabi
-Rosemary

It was finally getting chilly, so I hauled out the slow cooker and did a pork loin roast.

In the past for similar meals I’ve used hard cider, but this time I used regular–I prefer it with the bite of hard cider, which even a few splashes of cider vinegar weren’t able to match. This was too sweet for me. But anyway.

Chop up a couple onions, a few potatoes (I used smallish brown ones of an undetermined variety!), a few cloves of garlic. Sear the pork shoulder (season first w/ salt and pepper). Soften the onions and garlic in olive oil, then throw every else–potatoes, 2 cups cider, a sprig or two of rosemary, the pork–in the slow cooker.

Cook on low for 8 hours.

I was lazy and didn’t trim any fat off the pork, so the liquid was pretty fatty. I poured the liquid into my gravy separator to get some of the fat off before I reduced it.

It’s not a pretty dish. Next time I’ll serve it with some chard or other greens, and find other ways to liven up the presentation:

Still, nothing beats walking into the house to the smell of dinner all ready to go!


Other housekeeping notes:

-Here’s one of those chairs with a couple coats of stain on it:

And as a reminder, the before:

We just need to finish staining the other three and then get fabric and do the seats. Before Thanksgiving.

-We visited my favorite baby again a couple weeks ago, too. Gah, the cuteness!

That more than makes up for the frumpy dinner, right?

-I am back to freelancing full-time. Need some writing done? Shoot me an e-mail!

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Sigh, the recipe in the post has nothing to do with any of the veggies I received that week. But here they are, for the record:

-1 pound potatoes
-1 pound carrots (STOP THE MADNESS)
-1 acorn squash (with unnoticed damage; it rotted within a week, agh!)
-1 bunch purple basil
-1 head lettuce
-1 pound peppers
-3 asian pears
-2 hot chilis
-1 head garlic

Ok, The Best Pasta. We got delicata squash a couple times in a row, and I was reminded of the pizza I made with it last fall, with walnuts and other lovely things. But I didn’t feel like making pizza, and was leaning towards risotto or pasta until I saw this post on The Kitchn, suggesting a pasta dish with acorn squash and pancetta. It looked tasty, so I went with the pasta urge, though I didn’t follow that recipe. Instead, I made yet another absorption pasta, which even casual readers know I am obsessed with. First I got everything ready to go.

Delicata Absorption Pasta with Walnuts, Sage and Pancetta
For this I used about half of a 17 ounce bag, and it was three servings; it’s all very flexible
2 delicata squash (I used 1.5 in the pasta and reheated the other half the next night)
1 onion, diced
5 or 6 thin or 3 thicker slices of pancetta
A handful of walnuts
Sage leaves
Olive oil
Butter (to fry the sage)
Chicken stock (have 4 cups on hand; you probably won’t use nearly that much but better safe than sorry)
Salt and pepper
Parmesan cheese, for serving
(For those keeping score at home, the squash, onion, and sage were from the farm)


(Ignore the arugula in that photo. I decided against it.)

I cut and cleaned the delicata squash and rubbed them with a bit of oil, then roasted face down at 425 for about 20-30 minutes, until they were very tender. Meanwhile I heated some olive oil in the pot I’d be using for the pasta and browned the pancetta, rendering as much of the fat as I could (you need oil to brown pancetta, btw–it tends to turn grey, then burn if you do it dry; I think the fat doesn’t render out as fast as American bacon). I pulled it out when it was nice and crispy, then softened my chopped-up onion in the delicious combination of lard and oil in that pan. I am not being facetious; that is good stuff. See the lovely color from the pancetta??

I also toasted the walnuts in the toaster oven and managed to just barely scorch them.

I added the pasta in to the onions and oil, and did the usual absorption thing–add stock, cover for a while, stir, add stock, uncover, etc. I use the covering/uncovering depending on how much stock I have/how fast I want the pasta to cook/how much more liquid needs to boil away once the pasta is almost done.

While the pasta cooked I crumbled the pancetta and chopped up the squash and walnuts. The nice thing about delicata is that the skin is usually so tender you can eat it. Test a sliver and if it isn’t tough, chop the squash up skin and all!

I fried a few sage leaves from the farm in butter, because why not add a third fat source? The more the merrier!

Once the pasta was al dente, I stirred in the chopped squash and about 2/3 of the pancetta and walnuts, along with a couple of the sage leaves, crumbled. I adjusted for salt and pepper, then plated the pasta and topped with the remaining pancetta and walnuts, a little sprinkle of parmesan and a couple sage leaves.

And then I died.

Goodnight.

———
Actually I revived myself after dinner to chop up 900 peppers for Ben, because holy crap, our entire fridge? Full of peppers. I cut up at least 6 of these, I think (I just enjoy these colors):

Ben ate them in one workday, so I guess I shouldn’t worry too much about extra peppers, after all.

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-1 bunch arugula (still very ratty)
-1 bag mixed greens
-1 large kohlrabi
-1/2 lb. edamame
-3 Carmen peppers (an heirloom bell variety)
-Handful dodgy cherry tomatoes
-2 asian pears
-1 bunch dill
-3 onions

I had to play catch-up, and I ended up mostly cooking with the previous week’s produce while doing my best to preserve this week’s. I had saved a recipe for Potato-Kale gratin from The Kitchn, and since I had several bags of potatoes from previous weeks, plus a bunch of kale that needed to be used up and some rapidly aging leeks in the crisper (eek!), I used that recipe as a starting point and improvised a variation.

Kale and Potato Gratin
Loosely adapted from The Kitchn
1 pound thin-skinned boiling potatoes such as red potatoes
1 bunch kale
1/4 cup olive oil
2-3 cloves garlic, minced (my cloves were large; I used about 2 tablespoons!)
2 normal or 4 small leeks, cleaned
2 italian sausages
2 teaspoons coarse salt
1 teaspoons pepper
1/3 cup bread crumbs
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350° F.

Get a pot of water boiling with enough water to cover the potatoes, and prepare an ice bath.
Slice the potatoes 1/4″-thick. Remove and discard the spines from the kale then chop the remaining leaves in roughly 1/2″-thick ribbons. Cut the leeks in half (if you didn’t already when you were cleaning them) and then into thin half moons.

When the water is boiling, add a dash of salt and drop in the potatoes, cooking for about 2-3 minutes, until tender, but not cooked through. Drain and plunge into the ice bath. Drain again and dump onto a dish towel and blot.

In a large bowl, combine the olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper. Add the kale and rub the olive oil mixture into the leaves–they will sort of crumple up and absorb the oil.

Sauté the leeks in olive oil until they are starting to soften, then add in the sausage, crumbling it. Cook until the sausage is about 95% done.

Alternate layers of the potatoes, kale, and sausage mixture, along with sprinkles of bread crumbs and Parmesan in a 9″x12″ rectangular casserole or glass or ceramic baking dish (I used an 11×7 oval casserole). Top with more of the parm/bread crumbs.

Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake another 15 minutes, until top is crispy. I served it with slices of french bread.

This was almost a success, but not quite there. I gimped out and used grated parm/romano from Trader Joe’s and something about it had a really weird taste. Weird enough that I returned the cheese. I got a faint overtone of both goat cheese and bananas from the finished dish, but Ben thinks I’m totally nuts, so take that with a grain of salt. Sometimes kale does give me that “hint of banana” thing… Who knows. Anyway, I love the idea of this, and I want to try it again, maybe adding in a little more liquid or cooking the potatoes pretty much all the way instead of part way. The leek/sausage/kale combo is always nice. Anyway, I blame the weird TJ’s cheese and have learned my lesson and will go back to grating my own.

It did reheat extremely well–Ben enjoyed his so much that he emailed asking for the recipe, because one of his coworkers was jealous. Here it is, finally: This one’s for you, Alex!

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