Sunday, January 31, 2010

CSA week nine

Why didn't anyone tell me I was off by a week? And that the week number was stated clearly on the top of the newsletter had I cared to look? I'm not going to go back and change the titles that are mislabeled, but I'm going to try to get it right from this point on.

CSA week seven - Black spaote banana meringue cookies

I had no reason to think this was going to work. My searching didn't turn up any recipes that combined whipped egg whites and fruit pulp which is usually a pretty good indication that it's not a good idea. But I had everything I needed lying around so I thought I'd give it a try just to see what would happen.

pulp from several small black sapotes
1 banana, frozen and defrosted
1-3 Tablespoons sugar depending on how sweet your fruit is
1 pinch salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
5 Tablespoons whole wheat pastry flour
some agave nectar
2/3 cup egg whites

0. Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

1. Blend the fruit. Add the sugar and vanilla and blend some more. Stir in the flour.

2. Beat the egg whites to stiff peaks. Stir 1/3 of the egg whites into the fruit mixture to lighten. Fold in the second third. Fold in the third third. Check for sweetness. Fold in agave nectar until the flavors pop.

3. Using a coffee or small ice cream scoop, dispense dollops of batter onto cookie sheets prepared using your most extreme non-stick procedure. Bake for 40 minutes, turning halfway through. Take them out, try one, discover it's raw in the center and put them back in for 15 minutes at 350 degrees.

For my second batch I found 25 minutes at 350 degrees worked well, but the hour of sitting around deflated the cookies which may have had some effect so use your best judgement.

I call these cookies, but only because I can't think of a better word for them. They've got the soft squishy/chewy texture of angel's food cake. Actually many are partially pre-squished due to troubles I had getting them off the parchment paper I baked them on.

Fresh out of the oven they were a little crisp around the edges, but that fades. There's still a little crystal-crunch from the sugar which I actually like, but you may want to avoid by using confectioner's sugar.

Despite having substantially more sapote than banana, the flavor is predominantly caramelized banana. The sapote rounds it out, but it could be mistaken for a hint of chocolate. Pretty tasty. Maybe it could use a little acid to brighten it up--a lemon sugar glaze maybe?

Saturday, January 30, 2010

CSA week seven wrap-up, week eight start-up

I thought my canistel meatball post would generate a bit more comment. Ah well. Other than that, for week seven, the greens went into the noodle dish I posted about and the avocado and one of the tomatoes went into bacon-avocado-tomato sandwiches. The other tomatoes are still waiting for marching orders; The cabbage I haven't touched; and the black sapote was only ripe when I got back from my trip so I'll be using it today. Oh, nearly forgot the celery; there's that too. That's quite a bit, isn't it?

Week eight, then.

Starting in the bottom right corner for a change, you can see that the broccoli has a sallow tinge to it. That's just going to get worse so I'd better use it today. Unless something else occurs to me in the next few hours, I'll serve it over ziti with lots of garlic and maybe some tomato.

The komatsuna above that I'll likely have with some of the leftover cabbage in a yakisoba.

The breakfast radishes are best with butter and salt on good bread. The tops I'll add to one of the two pasta dishes I just mentioned.

I just ate one of the tangerines and was disappointed that it didn't have much flavor. At least it wasn't bitter like the clementines were. I'm thinking of juicing the other one, but I think I've got a salad recipe for the grapefruit.

The spring onions I bet would be good grilled. I'm not sure where to go from there, though.

The parsley isn't enough to worry about. I tend to heavily garnish with it so it goes quickly.

The lettuce maybe I'll actually use this time, but I wouldn't bet on it. If I don't I'll start leaving lettuce in the extras bin; I don't like seeing them go to waste like that.

And finally, the avocado. This looks like the same sort as last time which had good flavor and texture so at least we're ending avocado season on a high note. I'm thinking ceviche with it since I haven't made that in a while. Or fish tacos with the mahi mahi I've got in the freezer. That might be nice too.

I'll have to think of something for the celery too; I do want to use it this week. I think I've got a braise recipe around somewhere for it. I'll have to dig it out.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

CSA week seven - Canistel meatballs

Back in this post, where I made a meatloaf using overcooked carrots and turnips, I wondered how a meatloaf using canistel might work. The texture of the wad of mushed-up overcooked root vegetables was pretty similar to the texture of roasted canistel so I suspected that that aspect would work, but what about the flavor? In the comments, Russell expressed skepticism, but also mentioned trying pumpkin meatloaf.

It was a good comparison. Roasting canistel brings out its nutty pumpkiny flavor elements, leaving a mild sweetness and, at least this time, a slight bitter aftertaste, probably from the fruit being a little under-ripe--but just a little--they were squishy-ripe, not gooshy ripe.

There are actually a fair number of pumpkin meatloaf recipes out there so I was fairly confident the canistel would work. But no point in wasting a lot of food unnecessarily; best to start the experiment with a small batch of meatballs and go from there.

I roasted two canistels, sprayed with olive oil and lightly salted, at 350 degrees for a half hour, but I decided to only use one for this recipe.

I ran that canistel through the food processor, skin and all, to reduce it to a paste. To it I added:
1/3 pound ground pork
1/3 pound ground beef
1/2 small onion
1/4 green pepper
1/2 stalk celery, all three very finely chopped
1 handful breadcrumbs, and
1 sizable dose of Milwaukee Ave. Steak Seasoning from Spice House

I mixed that all together and rolled out balls about 1 1/2-inches across which I shallow fried for 6 minutes with a flip half way through. I had my usual trouble getting the temperature right, but a thick crust helped the meatballs hold together so even the slightly overcooked ones had their virtues.

They turned out really pretty well. Texturally, the canistel holds the meatballs together, but not quite as well as I would have liked. I should have cut a few minutes off the roasting to leave them a little moister. Or added an egg or maybe replaced the spices with chipotle peppers.

Flavorwise, the mild sweetness of the canistel balances with the smokey pepperiness of the spice mix similarly to how barbecue sauces do. The pumpkiny flavor of the canistel pairs well with the meat and the smoke. It worked; I ate up the whole batch without hesitation. So, if you don't know what to do with your canistels or haven't liked the sweet preparations you've tried, roast them and substitute them into pumpkin recipes. It'll probably work.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

CSA week seven - Not quite banh pho xao he

This is a pretty straightforward vietnamese noodle dish modified from using a pound of garlic chives to using everything leafy and green within reach. The recipe I modified was from Andrea Nguyen's Into the Vietnamese Kitchen cookbook.

I cut the recipe down by about a quarter to adjust for the amount of noodles I had on hand. I'm going to use the original amounts to avoid weird numbers.

1 pound banh pho flat rice noodles
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar, divided
3 Tablespoons fish sauce
3 Tablespoons water
2 Tablespoons cooking oil
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 pound shrimp, peeled and cleaned
1/3 pound ground pork, broken up into bits
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 pound assorted leafy green vegetables [I used 1 bunch each of garlic chives, mizuna, swiss chard and cilantro], chopped or torn into 3- to 4-inch-wide pieces.
1 lime

1. Put the noodles in a large bowl and cover with hot tap water. Let them soak until pliable and opaque, 15 to 20 minutes. Drain. Cut into short lengths. The original recipe called for 3 to 4 inches, but I liked them a little longer.

2. Coarsely grind the shrimp into pea-sized pieces. Break up the pork into similarly sized pieces and mix with the shrimp.

3. Mix the fish sauce, water and 1 1/4 teaspoon of the sugar in a small bowl.

4. Heat oil in a wok over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and fry until fragrant, about 15 seconds. If it took less time and/or the garlic started to brown, turn the heat down; this isn't real stir-frying. Add the shrimp and pork. Break up the meat and add the salt and remaining sugar. Cook, stirring and breaking up clumps, until shrimp and pork have turned opaque, about 2 minutes.

5. Add the greens. Stir and fold to mix in the shrimp and pork and get different bits of the greens on the bottom. When the greens have wilted down by a third, add there's room in the wok, add the noodles. Mix well and add the fish sauce mixture. Turn the heat up until the sauce starts to sizzle and continue stirring 2 to 3 minutes longer, until the noodles and greens are soft and the noodles have absorbed a bit of sauce and darkened in color.

6. Remove from heat and squeeze in the juice from the lime. Mix once again and serve.

Hmm. Not bad. The shrimp and pork are, of course, great together and enhanced by the fish sauce. [When genetically modified lab-grown meat improves (right now they can just do a meat paste suitable for hot dogs and not much else and they have to use cells from animals that actually exist), they really ought to work on shrimp-pig.]

The chard goes pretty well with the other flavors and adds a substantially different flavor and texture than the garlic chives which I think is an improvement in the dish. The mizuna and cilantro seem to have wilted away to nothing, though, which is a shame.

I used the milder Vietnamese fish sauce so it's a low key dish that could do with some nuoc cham (or at least a little more fish sauce and lime juice) and sriracha to perk it up and maybe some fried garlic or shallots for crunch. Most Vietnamese recipes, I think, assume you've got your condiments and garnishes on hand to finish the seasoning of the dish. I added ground peanuts to my first serving, but the flavor isn't quite right. Fried garlic is a much better choice.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

CSA week seven wrap-up, week eight start-up

I don't think I've got any other week seven cooking to report. The sapotes and avocado haven't ripened yet (beyond the one sapote I used in the sauce for the mousse) and I haven't touched the cabbage. I held off using the garlic chives too hoping for more this week or at least something compatible to fill out the vegetation contingent in the recipe I've got. I think the mizuna and cilantro should do nicely and maybe some scallion if I bother to go shopping this afternoon. I've still got half the kale too, but I think I'll freeze the remnants. It may be tender as kale goes, but it's plenty hardy enough to survive time in the freezer.

As for this week, I'm going to be out of town for the latter half (back for Saturday, but busy on Sunday) so I'm going to have to be careful about what I use and what I store. My mizuna is already a little yellow so I'm going to use that right away in the recipe I alluded to in the first paragraph. The oyster mushrooms I've already used; all the other CSA bloggers were so enthusiastic about having them with eggs so I just did that for lunch. I cooked them in the drippings I saved from last night's steak for a touch of extra flavor. It was a good idea; very tasty.

The tomatoes look good to go and my avocado nearly ripe so I ought to use those soon. A salad of some sort is obvious enough or slices on a sandwich or I could stuff one in the other.

If the sapotes ripen before I leave, I've been thinking of pairing them with banana, although just how I'm not sure. Mushing them both up and mixing them into something seems the obvious way to go. I don't want to do another custard, though. I thought about meringues, but I don't think I can successfully fold that much heavy wet flavorings into egg whites without deflating them. I suppose a quickbread is an easy choice. I know people have substituted black sapote into banana breads; have any of you made a bread using both?

The chard and celery I think will keep although neither will be at their best next week. Maybe it would be better to freeze them now before they've had a chance to degrade. When I do use the celery, I think I'll braise it. I like it a lot better than way than raw.

The canistel is probably going to ripen while I'm away but it's good to hold off an extra day or two with canistel anyway just to be safe. I'm still committed to using it in a savory dish, but I think I'll try meatballs instead of a full meatloaf. No point in wasting an enormous amount of other ingredients when it doesn't work. Shame I don't have any betel leaves, their smokiness would probably play well against the canistel's sweetness. Some other time for that idea, I suppose.

Friday, January 22, 2010

CSA week six - Kale and ricotta salata salad

The particular sort of kale we got this week, Russian Red, has a reputation for being relatively tender so I looked around for recipes where I could use it raw. Raw kale salads were kind of a foodie trend last year so there are a fair number of recipes littering the web. I settled on one that I found on the Bitten blog where it says it's credited to Kim Severson from the New York Times. But a little research turned up that it appeared in the January 2007 issue of Gourmet where it's credited to Lillian Chou and described as "inspired by an antipasto that's popular at New York City's Lupa." I know you don't actually care about any of that stuff, but I'm a librarian so I'm picky about correct attribution even as I stretch the bounds of fair use of other peoples' intellectual property.


1 1-pound bunch tender kale, trimmed and stemmed
1 large shallot, finely chopped (about 2 Tablespoons)
juice of 1 meyer lemon (about 1 1/2 Tablespoons)
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup ricotta salata (or feta. Anything semi-firm and salty, really. I used the 1-year aged farmers cheese that screwed up my salt cod dish last week.), crumbled or coarsely grated

1. Roll up the kale leaves and thinly shred.

2. Whisk together shallot, lemon juice, salt (not a lot) and pepper. Slowly whisk in the oil.

3. Toss kale and cheese with the just enough dressing to coat well in a large bowl. Check and adjust seasoning.

I added some small-diced tomato which I think added some pleasant brightness. Some pine nuts for crunch would be nice too, but I'm all out.

The salad has a lovely combination of light freshness and hearty earthiness as each bite fades from the dressing to the kale as you chew. And it is a bit chewy-- this is kale not baby spinach--but not at all excessively so. I found both flavor aspects to be great pairings with sirloin tip. I wouldn't want to actually add meat to the salad, though; it stands very well on its own. If you wanted to add something to make it a little heartier, maybe hard boiled egg?

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

CSA week six - Szechuan clementine chicken

Nothing novel or exotic here, just a more authentic alternative to the recipe in the newsletter for the same dish. There are a few variations on this particular recipe on-line and I think I've worked my way back to the original at At least that appears to be where it first appeared on the web, but I think it likely had a former life on paper somewhere. I made an alteration in the directions to bring it even closer to the traditional method so this is a new variation on the theme.

1/2 tablespoon cornstarch
1 Tablespoon dry rice wine
1/2 pound boneless chicken thighs, cut into 1/2 inch pieces

1/2 Tablespoon minced ginger
1/2 Tablespoon minced garlic
1 green onion, minced
1/2 teaspoon ground Sichuan peppercorns
1 Tablespoon dry rice wine
2 Tablespoons soy sauce
1 Tablespoon hot bean sauce
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil

1 Tablespoons peanut oil
5 small dried hot red chiles
2 Tablespoons clementine peel, torn into 1 inch pieces

1. Cut up your chicken and toss with the wine and cornstarch. Let marinate 30 minutes.

2. Combine the sauce ingredients.

3. Heat a wok to smoking, add the oil and then the chiles and peel. Stir fry briefly until they darken and become aromatic. Add chicken and marinade. Stir fry 1 minute until chicken is cooked through. Add sauce. Stir fry 30 seconds until sauce is thickened and bubbling.

Remove the chiles and peel before serving with a big bowl of white rice.

This is almost right, but the flavor has nasty bitter notes from burt orange oil. I should have added the peel with the sauce instead of blackening it with the peppers. Oddly that's one thing the newsletter recipe kept traditional so it's going to suffer from the same problem. ... There may actually be a problem with these clementines too. I've just tried the fruit and they've got the same bitter edge to them. Ech.

I added a little more sugar to the dish to compensate for the bitterness; It doesn't fix the problem, so I don't think I'm going to be keeping the leftovers, but I can just about look past the bitterness. The other flavors are, I think, just about right. I really want to try this recipe again with peel from extra-sweet oranges added late in the recipe (and maybe with a few more chilies). I think it'll be dead on traditional Szechuan and really tasty.

Monday, January 18, 2010

CSA week five - Frozen black sapote caramel mousse

I adapted this recipe from a fig recipe here. It uses a technique I've been curious about for a while. There are a fair number of churnless ice cream recipes out there that fold the flavorings into to whipped cream and then freeze. Obviously the results can't be too close to real ice cream or nobody would have ever used hand churns and the electric ice cream churn would never have been invented. But maybe it's different but just as good? Probably not, but worth a try to find out.

1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water, divided
3 egg yolks
1 cup fresh black sapote pulp, whisked smooth
1 Tablespoon almond butter
2 dashes cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract, divided
1 1/4 cups heavy cream

0. Separate three eggs. Save the whites for angel food cake. Put the yolks into a large bowl. Chill your mixer's bowl and whisk attachment.

1. Mix the black sapote pulp, almond butter, cinnamon and 1/2 teaspoon of the vanilla.

2. Heat the sugar and 1/4 cup of water in a small heavy saucier or a medium-sized heavy saucepan. Turn heat to medium. Stir continuously until the sugar dissolves, wiping down the sides of the pan if sugar starts crystalizing, stir frequently until the syrup comes to a boil then stop stirring. Cook, keeping a close eye on the color and thickness of the syrup, until a golden brown caramel forms at around 340 degrees.

At least, that's if you're going to parallel the original recipe. My stove conked out when my syrup was at just 250 degrees. That's thread stage, just barely beyond simple syrup. I use a sugar with a little molasses left in which compensates a little, and I am pretty happy with the results, but I think it would be even better with a proper caramel.

3. Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks. Three yolks is too little for a beater to get a good grip on so you'll probably have to do it by hand like I did. You're aiming for ribbon stage where the yolks have thickened to the point where you can drizzle a line on top from your whisk and it'll stay visible for a few seconds. Hard to do by hand, but at least get to the point where the egg yolks lighten to a sunny yellow color.

4. When the caramel is ready carefully add the other 1/4 cup water. Use a spatter guard or at least some oven mitts. Stir to incorporate and to cool the caramel enough to stop it cooking. Pour the caramel into the egg yolks by drizzling it down the side of the bowl while whisking. When it's all incorporated, whisk in the sapote mixture.

5. Whip the cream with your chilled bowl and whisk until well into the soft peak stage but before it starts firming up. Add the rest of the vanilla early on in the whisking and maybe a little powdered sugar. I started this while the caramel was cooking, but you can stop after step four and keep the sapote-caramel mixture in the refrigerator until you're ready to continue.

Hold back a half cup of whipped cream and fold the sapote-caramel mixture into the rest. Freeze the mouse overnight and serve topped with a dollop of the reserved whipped cream and the sauce I'm about to describe. I knew I wasn't going to serve the mouse right away so I just spread the reserved whipped cream on top and froze it too. That was a mistake; the extra texture and temperature of unfrozen whipped cream would have been nice.

Black sapote almond sauce

The original recipe called for making another caramel and then adding figs to it. With my stove not working, that wasn't an option. Here's what I came up with while waiting for the electrician to show up.

pulp from 1 small black sapote
1 1/2 Tablespoon almond butter
1 Tablespoon cream
2 Tablespoons agave nectar
2 dashes allspice

1. Add agave (or honey or simple syrup) in stages, mixing well and tasting until you get to the level of sweetness you'd like.

2. Heat in the microwave for a minute before serving.

You'll want to let the mousse sit out a little while to soften. With my extra-cold freezer, ten minutes did the trick, but I still carved out a chunk rather than scoop a serving.

The mousse's flavor is distinct but not intense, as much cream as sapote. The almond butter and cinnamon rounding them out and downplaying the sapote's fruitiness. The half cup of sugar isn't a lot so the mousse isn't overwhelmingly sweet. The texture is light, fluffy even, but slightly crisp even after out of the freezer for a while. The result is pleasant, but understated.

The sauce, in contrast, is boldly flavored. The agave emphasizes the sapote's fruitiness despite the larger percentage of almond butter.

The pairing works really well. The different sweeteners and spices bring out different aspects of the sapote and the contrast in flavors and textures makes for some interest too. This isn't a knockout like the sapote toffee cake, but nobody's going to complain about it.

That said, they'll wonder why you didn't make ice cream instead. The texture of frozen mousse is like cheap ice cream that's been half-defrosted and refrozen. I think I liked it better before I froze it. No reason you couldn't serve it that way either, really.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

CSA week five wrap-up, week seven start-up

Not much left of week five after all this time. I'm holding on to the sapotes since they seem to be finally approaching ripeness now that my kitchen has turned back into a hot-box. I hope to make the recipe I came up with in the next day or two.

The rest of the dill I used making a halibut gravlax. It's still curing so I don't know how it's going to turn out. Dill does go nicely with halibut so that part I'm confident about, but since it's a steak instead of a fillet, I don't know if it's going to cure all the way through. I may have to slice it in half and then give the inside a quick sear to make it all palatable. I'll let you know how it turns out.

That just leaves the lettuce which I've got to admit I haven't touched since I stuck it in a plastic bag two weeks ago. I'm curious if it's anything close to edible at this point. I'm going to go take a look now...and that looks perfectly fine. Weird. Even weirder, I've just noticed that the bag has a hole in it. I've got no idea why this lettuce hasn't rotted.

Anyway, on to this week.

The little black sapotes aren't going to ripen for a while. I'm skeptical that they'll ripen properly at all when they're so small. I've got nothing to back up that suspicion, though.

The cabbage I'm going to set aside for a while. I've eaten more than my fair share of cabbage recently and I've got plenty of leftovers in the freezer. If you're thinking of making bacalhau a mineira with yours, you should consider using your kale in there too. One of the recipes I found included kale and I think the combination would work really well.

As for me, right now I'm thinking of just shredding the kale Brazilian-style and sautéing it up as a side dish, but I'll look into more African recipes for hearty greens; maybe something there will appeal.

I want to use the garlic chives in a noodle dish, but there are so little of them I don't know if it'll work. East Asian recipes use garlic chives as a vegetable, not an herb. I've got one recipe that calls for a pound of them. I suppose if I use a lot of other vegetables I'll be fine, but it won't be a proper banh pho xao he.

I quite like the idea of using the clementines for a proper Szechuan orange chicken, but I'm not using the recipe in the newsletter. A) it says garlic is optional which is clearly nonsense, b) it doesn't coat the chicken in cornstarch so the texture won't be right and c) it doesn't get its heat from Szechuan peppercorns. It shouldn't be hard to find something rather less bastardized.

The avocado looks dense enough that it can probably approximate a Hass in a California cuisine recipe. That will probably require at least one of the tomatoes too. Assuming they ripen at around the same time, anyway.

Carambola I've always had trouble using in recipes. I think it's better eaten out of hand.

But all that starts tomorrow. I stopped by the Coral Gables Farmers Market on the way back from picking up my share and got some lovely, very fresh, mahi mahi fillets for dinner. I had hoped to pair them with something from the box, but nothing usable right now seems to fit. Maybe the kale. Or the lettuce? I'll have to think about this.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Roasted cabbage with bacon

I had hoped to present a new black sapote recipe for you today (and have a fancy desert for myself), but my sapotes aren't cooperating. One's softened, but the skin isn't browning and flaking the way it's supposed to. Who knows what's going on inside there. The other may as well be a bocce ball for all the ripening its done. I guess the cold snap affected the fruit in my pantry just a badly as it did the ones still on the trees.

Instead, here's how I used up the rest of my cabbage. This is a recipe I saw on this morning, and like most of their recipes, it's pretty simple.

Take however much cabbage you've got, slice it into thick wedges, lay them out on a baking rack over a pan, spray with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, strew with bacon lardons (4 thick slices for a full head), and bake at 450 degrees for 30 minutes. I added some sliced onion, but otherwise left it as is.

Here it is just before I flipped the wedges half way through roasting:

And here's the final result served over a plate of potato pierogies with a dollop of sour cream:

For as simple a dish as this is, it's pretty darn good, actually. The cabbage takes on a range of flavors and textures depending on how browned it got, from sweet and juicy to toasty crisp. Not a hint of the off flavors cabbage can have. And it's pretty unusual to have cabbage that isn't wet or greasy. It lets you appreciate it for itself instead of as part of a salad or transformed by pickling.

The bacon, of course, pairs fabulously with the cabbage. The onion is less prominent, but it does add a little extra to the dish. Worth including.

I think I'd slice the cabbage a little thinner next time; the thicker slices are just barely cooked through and the centers didn't see much salt. I'd want the bulk of the cabbage softened a little more if I were going to serve it over pasta, as one might if one were out of pierogies.

But really, I find myself considering ways to elaborate on the dish. Top it with buttered bread crumbs maybe? Anchovies instead of bacon? There are some interesting options here.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

CSA week five - Bacalhau a Mineira

Coming off of two relatively dull posts and some extra time away from the blog, I knew I had to come back from my trip with an extra interesting post. That's a particular challenge given the cabbage and plum tomatoes I had to work with. Not the most congenial ingredients for something impressive.

But, I think what I've got here just might fit the bill. Bacalhau a Mineira is a salt cod dish from the Minas Gerais state of Brazil. It's one of those dishes where every village has its own variation and the only proper one is the way your mother made it. I found a recipe in English on that was taken from the Book of Latin American Cooking by Elisabeth Lambert Ortiz, but when I looked for other versions, I had to Babel-fish translate them from Portuguese. I may not be getting everything quite right, but at least I know they're authentic.

Almost every version I found, with the exception of Ms. Ortiz's oddly, was a casserole layered with pre-cooked vegetables, heavy on the potatoes. So, I started with a pot of salted water where I boiled two thickly sliced medium red potatoes until just tender. I removed those and then blanched three plum tomatoes to make them easier to peel. Removed them, lowered the heat and coddled two eggs.

Meanwhile, in a medium cast iron pan, I sautéed sliced onion, garlic and red and green peppers until softened. Then I added about three quarters of a pound of sliced cabbage which I sautéed over rather high heat until nicely wilted. To that I added the tomatoes, peeled and chopped, and a half cup of white wine. I reduced the heat, cooked until the tomatoes started to fall apart and then removed all of that to a bowl, leaving the accumulated juices in the pan.

Into those juices went three quarters of a pound of salt cod that I had soaked overnight in a few changes of water to desalinify (so why I didn't just use fresh cod, I dunno). I cooked the cod until it started getting fragrant and flaky and then removed it to another bowl.

Now it was time to start building the casserole. Since the pan was oven safe I just used it instead of a baking dish. First a layer of the cabbage mixture, then some potato slices, then some cod, sprinkled with parsley, green and black olives and, god help us all, raisins. I repeated that two more times, each layer well-lubricated with olive oil.

On top I nestled in my halved beautifully mollet-cooked and then topped with shredded queijo Minas. At least that's what the recipe called for. I asked for a substitute at Whole Foods, but the cheese expert (from Brazil fortunately enough) got called away and a couple yahoos attempted to help. I ended up with a queso blanco that was a) a bit too salty and b) didn't melt the way queijo Minas is supposed to. Ah well.

But I only learned that latter part after 30 minutes in a 350 degree oven.

And here's the result:

That pile really ought to be at least partially held together with melted cheese. One recipe I saw shredded the potatoes and mixed it and shredded cheese in with the other ingredients. Maybe I should have done that.

Hmm...this is an interesting combination of flavors. I wouldn't have thought raisins and cod would work, but they do. It's not really melding though. It's a lot of individual elements that aren't actively clashing, but not building to anything either. Maybe the cheese is supposed to hold it together more than just physically. Now that it's cooled a bit, the cabbage, potato and cod flavors are working well together, the earthy melange punctuated by the bright saltiness of the olives emphasizing the cod and raisins bringing out the cabbage's sweetness. The tomatoes don't do much, but these aren't the world's most flavorful tomatoes. Still, I think I'm starting to get how it's supposed to work and I think I can say I actually like this now. Good thing since I've got about five meal's worth left over.

Friday, January 8, 2010

CSA week five - Pan seared salmon with cream dill sauce

Another simple dish, but since I'm actually out of town right now you're lucky to be getting a post at all.

The salmon is just lightly seasoned with salt, pepper, dried basil, chervil and dill and seared in a little olive oil over medium high heat for five minutes skin-side down and a quick flip to finish. Kind of like the boneless pan fried chicken recipe now that I think of it.

The sauce is the slightly more interesting bit. It's sour cream, a good bit of finely chopped fresh parsley and dill, a little finely minced shallot, salt, pepper, light red wine vinegar (lemon juice would have been a good choice too), a dollop of prepared horseradish and the pan drippings from the salmon. I wasn't sure dill and horseradish would work together, but it's a nice pairing if you don't go overboard with the latter. Lovely over the salmon. Pretty good on the homemade egg noodles. Made a decent salad dressing too. Not as good on roast beets as I thought it would be, though.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

CSA week five - Roast chicken and beets

This is pretty simple, but it's one more iteration in my roast chicken series and I wanted to get it down on the record. Last time I roasted a chicken (the Hamersley's Bistro recipe before the Moroccan and boneless fried chickens), I smeared it with an herb paste that didn't do a great job in flavoring it and mostly just fell off. This time I stuffed the paste under the skin--actually I simplified it down to a parsley and thyme butter--and seasoned the outside Zuni Café style with a seasoned salt and let it sit in the refrigerator overnight.

Both the Hamersley and the Zuni recipe keep the chicken unbutchered but I decided to butterfly it. I'm also roasting the beets and, since I'm not wrapping them in foil as a lot of recipes call for (since I want the chicken drippings to add a bit of flavor to them), I wanted to spread the chicken out over top to shield them from the direct heat. I stuffed a few lemon slices in between too.

I used the America's Test Kitchen roasting method: forty minutes at 500 degrees, turning the pan halfway through. That finished the chicken just right, but the beets needed another ten minutes to get to the soft texture I was looking for.

I'm pleased with the chicken. It's a touch less succulent than the best results I've gotten before, but it is flavored nicely throughout which previously recipes that only seasoned over the skin didn't manage. The skin isn't quite as nice as the previous best either, but I think second night resting in the refrigerator before roasting would help with that. The black pepper in the outer seasoning did burn a little so I think I'll avoid that in the future and maybe use the slightly lower temperature of the Zuni method.

I still like the boneless pan frying method best, but it's good to have the oven hot on a cold night like tonight.

The beets turned out well too, but the chicken basting didn't help really. The best flavor was the pure sweet beet on the inside and the slightly crispy caramelized stumps where the tops were cut off. Maybe I should have peeled them. Are you supposed to peel beets before you roast them? I think that would let flavors penetrate better.

Monday, January 4, 2010

CSA week five - Mushroom bread pudding

This is only marginally a CSA recipe; I used the oyster mushrooms, but lots of other mushrooms too. This was, as I said on Saturday, more about using up half a loaf of staling bread and too many eggs, a task at which it succeeded quite well. As usual, I looked at a bunch of different recipes and cobbled together my own version of the dish. Many recipes suggested using this as a side dish to steak, but, as my own innovation, I decided to incorporate the beef into the dish proper.

1 1/2 Tablespoons butter
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, finely diced
1 pound of assorted mushrooms
I used:
3 1/2 ounces oyster mushrooms, chopped
8 ounces cremini mushrooms, sliced
4 1/2 reconstituted assorted dried mushrooms including criminis, porcinis, cloud ears, shiitake, chanterelle and oyster mushrooms, chopped. Save a little of the soaking water.
1/4 pound sirloin tip, sliced against the grain into strips and cut into 2-inch lengths
1 handful parsley, chopped

6 cups semi-stale bread, cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes
The bread I had on hand was a 5-minute-a-day recipe with good amounts of whole wheat and rye. It had a dense spongy texture good for sandwiches, but not really ideal for this application. For the record, I wasn't entirely thrilled with the bread and I'm going back to normal no-shortcuts baking.

6 extra large eggs
2 cups cream
1 cup milk
1/2 cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese plus a little more
hot sauce
Worcestershire sauce

0. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and lightly salt the sirloin tip.

1. Heat butter and olive oil in a medium cast iron (or non-stick) pan over medium-high heat. When the butter finishes sizzling add the onion and cook until softened and translucent, around 5 minutes. Push to one side and add a quarter of the mushrooms and a pinch of salt. Cook until softened, golden (and a little browned) and any expressed liquid has evaporated, around 5 minutes. Don't stir too much. Push to the side with the onion and add the next quarter of the mushrooms. Continue until all the mushrooms and cooked. Empty the mushroom/onion mixture into a bowl leaving a little fat in the pan if possible.

2. Meanwhile, cube the bread if you haven't already and put them in a large bowl. In a smaller bowl, whisk together the eggs, cream, milk, cheese and seasonings.

3. Add a little more olive oil to the pan if necessary and add the sirloin. Cook for a few minutes, continuing to restrain yourself from fussing with the pan so the meat can sit still and brown. When the meat is browned add it to the bowl with the mushrooms. Also add the parsley and stir well. Deglaze the pan with a quarter cup of the mushroom soaking liquid and add that to egg mixture.

4. Butter or oil an 8x11-inch baking dish. Add the mushroom mixture to the bread cubes and stir well. [I found my bare hands to be the best tool for this.] Dump the mixture into the baking dish and spread out evenly. Pour the egg mixture over top and let sit at least 10 minutes to soak. [If you're using dense bread like I did, over night would be better. Lighter bread needs less time, but you could soak a brioche or french bread overnight to let a lighter bread fall apart to create a more pudding-like texture which is not a bad option.]

5. Top with the extra Parmesan and bake at 350 degrees for an hour until a knife inserted into the center comes out almost clean. Let cool a bit before cutting.

You might have gotten the impression that I wasn't entirely happy with how the bread I used turned out. It's not actually bad, it's just distinct and the wide range of textures--crisp, tender, creamy, chewy--it gives the dish is actually a pleasant effect. I would like a more integrated flavor, though. As it is, it's very much a steak and mushroom omelet with a side of toast. Now there's certainly nothing wrong with that (although I wonder where the richness of all that cream went), but I feel like it could have been better. Barring using a different bread, I probably should have processed it down into coarse bread crumbs and let it soak longer. That's a tweak for next time; This turned out pretty tasty as is.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Week five start-up addendum

I completely forgot that I'm going to be out of town the latter half of this week including next Saturday. Since we can't put holds on the shares any more, do any of you want, or know somebody who might want, my next half-share? I pick up at the Coral Gables location.

I'll ask around at work too, but I've never found a taker there before so I'm not expecting to this time either.


Saturday, January 2, 2010

CSA week four wrap-up, week five start-up

For the record, I'm feeling much better now. Once my course of antibiotics was done with I could go back on my probiotics and my tummy trouble faded rapidly. I appreciate the concern of all those who were concerned.

I believe the only item unaccounted for from week four is the turnips. The tops I had over pasta (with olive oil, tomatoes and sausage) that very first day. The roots I used in a beef stew that didn't turn out as well as I had hoped. I had read that, if you're going to make stew, you ought to deeply brown the ingredients to develop as much flavor as possible. You may dry everything out, but they'll be soaking in liquid for a few hours and all the tasty bits stuck to the pot will get dissolved back into the mix. A good idea, but I think I took it a bit too far. The flavor balance was all screwed up and the dried out meat didn't rehydrate; it just fell apart into chewy strands. It wasn't until after a night in the refrigerator and the dissolution of the dumplings that the flavors managed to stabilize into something palatable. Which is why I didn't write it up.

One other note before I move on. Remember a while back when I said the betel leaves tasted like root beer? This week I watched an old episode of Iron Chef America where Rick Bayless used an herb called hoja santa or acuyo which is also known as the root beer plant because of its flavor. The leaves looked a lot like betel too so I wondered if there was a connection. Turns out they're closely related: hoja santa is piper auitum and betel is piper betle. I think the takeaways here are:
a) my left-field description of betel was actually pretty apt. That means that I comprehended what I was tasting and was able to accurately describe it. It's an unexpected confirmation that I'm a half decent food writer.
and b) if we get betel again, and you aren't happy with the standard recipe options, there's a whole world of Mexican recipes you can substitute it into.

On to this week. I'm a little disappointed with the selection this time around; I find myself with a surfeit of eggs and slightly stale bread so I was hoping for something that would make a suitable filling in a bread pudding. The closest here is the mushrooms. I hadn't really considered a mushroom bread pudding before, but a little searching reveals a good number of recipes so I guess that's a plan.

I've also got a bit of salmon in the freezer so that's a natural partner for the dill. I haven't decided if that's going to involve a cure or a sauce yet, though.

Plum tomatoes are particularly good for sauce and I'm out currently so I guess I'll be making some more. I've never made a bolognese; maybe I'll try that.

The beets I want to roast. I'll probably roast a chicken to go with them as long as I've got the oven going.

The lettuce looks to be a sort that's good for wrapping stuff in, so I'm going to look around for recipes along those lines.

For the black sapote. I've got the idea to use it in a custard or mousse. I'll see if I've got sufficient eggs left to do that after I've made the mushroom bread pudding.

And that leaves the cabbage. I'm not sure what I'll do. It'll last a while so I may just pick at it over time instead of making one big cabbage-centric meal.

Friday, January 1, 2010

CSA week four - gomen wat

The final item from my CSA share this fortnight was the collard greens and I didn't think there was going to be a lot of options with them. Unless you want to shred them and use them in one of the Brazilian methods you're going to have to braise them. It's just the nature of the leaf.

But, it occurred to me that the Southern style of braising collards evolved out of African traditions; There must be African methods of cooking hearty greens that, even if they don't change the methodology much, should have some interesting variations on the seasonings. Turns out I was right; I found several recipes from different regions once I started looking.

I think I've mentioned here that I want to try some Ethiopian cooking. This was my first opportunity so this, gomen wat, was the regional version I went with. That does mean that this recipe is intended as one component of a multi-dish meal served with injera. I haven't got any teff flour so injera's out of the question, but I suppose I could have made a full dinner. And now that I think about it, there ought to be ways to approximate the unusual flavor and texture teff brings. Maybe next time.

The gomen wat I made is mostly based on the recipe I found at, but I adjusted based on other recipes I found and some personal preferences too.

1/2 pound (I bunch) collard greens - cleaned, destemmed and roughly chopped
1 cup water
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1/2 small onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
3/4 cup red bell pepper, thinly sliced
2 small hot peppers, thinly sliced
1/2 Tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1 inch ginger root, grated

1. Place collard greens and water in a dutch oven or large pot. Bring the water to a boil then reduce heat to low and cover. Simmer until collards are barely tender, about 20 minutes. Set pot aside.

2. In a medium cast iron or non-stick pan, heat 1/2 Tablespoon olive oil over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the onions and cook gently until they start to brown, around 10 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute more. Add the rest of the olive oil, the collards and the cooking liquid. Simmer uncovered over medium high heat until the pan is nearly dry, around 15 minutes (but check after 10).

4. Add the peppers, lemon juice, salt, ginger and spices. Mix thorouly and cook until the peppers soften, around 5 minutes.

The cooking method works well for the collards, leaving them brightly flavorful and with an al dente firmness. I misjudged the heat of the peppers I used, so the dish is blazingly spicy. Good despite that, though. The turmeric and allspice provide an earthy base for the greens and citrus. The sweetness of the red peppers are a nice contrast and they add a little crunch. It's quite different from the standard pork and smoke notes--less homey, but more interesting at least to me. I'm going to save the leftovers and pull it out next time I make something Ethiopian to get the full effect.