Saturday, April 23, 2011

CSA week 18 wrap-up, final week start-up

It's been a while both since my last post and since I've done any serious cooking. Actually, that's not entirely true. While I was visiting my sister, I cooked Thai peanut noodles one night. I don't know that the results were all that interesting, but given the requirements that it not include dairy, pork or shellfish and have adjustable levels of spice, salt and complexity, I think I did well. I've used a few different recipes for peanut noodles in the past and had settled on the trick of switching out half the peanut butter for tahini which keeps it from tasting too much like, well, peanut butter. This time, instead, I used David Lebovitz's recipe which starts with roasted peanuts and has the unusual inclusion of black tea. Leaving out both the chili oil and cilantro caused some problems, but I was fairly pleased with the result and it did go over well with everyone but the 3-year-old. She won't eat anything so I didn't take that critique to heart.

But that was in Ohio where it isn't 85 degrees. Here in Miami, I'm not so interested in spending a lot of time in the kitchen.

Still, this is the final week of the CSA so I should cook at least one blog-post-worthy dish. For that, my eye is on either the beets or the carrots, both of which we have in substantial amounts for the first time all season. Using them both in a cream soup might work, actually.

Beyond those two, the sprouts and chives seem like they ought to be used together too. I could see them both in a cold noodle dish. I never did get around to doing that with the last batch of sprouts.

I would like to plant the basil (in the plastic on the right) since it did come with roots still attached. I have another basil plant that sprouted up into shrubbery last autumn, but spent all its energy making flowers for me to pinch off over the winter and is wilting in the springtime sun and heat. I don't know if this new basil will do any better this season, but it's smaller so I can try keeping it indoors for a while.

Another point of interest this week is the local sea salt (in the packet on the lower left). I just tasted it against the Italian, French, Spanish, Hawaiian and Californian sea salts I've got in the cupboard already and, yeah, the French fleur de sel wins, but the Florida Keys salt came in second. It has a good texture, relatively small crystal size and pleasant complexity to the flavor that cuts the intensity. It's a nice accompaniment to the grape tomatoes. Does anyone see the fact that I have seven types of salt in my pantry as an indictment of my lifestyle? No? Just me then? OK.

In a week or so, after I've used the bulk of this share, I'll write a wrap-up of this CSA season and probably fade out as the summer progresses. If I decide to formally close up shop, I'll let you know.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Southwestern kolokethokeftaide

I didn't intend to make kolokethokeftaide. I hadn't heard of them until a moment ago. I just improvised some squash fritters and ended up making kolokethokeftaide accidentally. This Greek recipe isn't far off from the Turkish kabak mucveri I made three years ago but since I wasn't actually making it intentionally, I ended up with a Southwestern flavor profile which moves it a bit farther away.

I apologize for the quality of the pictures; I ran out of AA batteries for my camera and have had to fall back on my phone's crappy camera. Also, I didn't expect to write this up, as I was just throwing stuff together, so I don't have any process pics to share. Or many measurements.

So, anyway, I grated the two CSA summer squashes, salted them, let them sit a few minutes and then squeezed out an enormous amount of water. I ended up with no more than a cup and a half of squished squash.

To that I added about half a cup of pepper jack cheese, a dollop of caramelized onion confit (really just the caramelized onion I made last week mixed with a good bit of olive oil), a minced hot pepper, a dash of chili powder, one egg and enough breadcrumbs to make a dough that held together but wasn't wet.

I heated my oil and made little Tablespoon-volume patties. Those got fried at just over medium-high heat until just over golden brown. More of a brazen brown.

Tasty stuff. And it tastes mainly of squash, not dough with a bit of squash in it like most fritter recipes make. A nice chewy/creamy texture inside and crisp outside too. Maybe they could use a dipping sauce just to mix the flavors up a little bit, but I didn't bother with one.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

CSA week 17 wrap-up, week 18 start-up

Another week of low posting, but I did do some cooking worth mentioning.

As I thought I might, I made a kale and turnip gratin. Unfortunately, there was rather more of both than I counted on, and rather less cream and swiss cheese about than I thought. The results weren't fabulous so I decided to try a fix. Digging around, I found some dried mozzarella, a bit of cheddar a fair amount of pecarino romano and, to substitute for the lack of cream, some cream cheese. I disassembled the gratin, mixed all that in and put it back in the oven for a half hour. An improvement, but still more gooey than creamy so less than entirely satisfactory. The next day I attempted to melt the cheese down and dissolve it into a cream sauce by adding a cup of chicken broth and simmering on the stovetop. Instead, the mozzerella seized up into curds the texture of ground beef. Not bad, really. The turnips had gone soft at this point so I mixed in some noodles for texture and a couple beaten eggs to thicken up the sauce and I ended up with an odd but fairly palatable concoction. Too much of a haphazard mess to be worth a post, though.

In contrast, the pork chops in fennel and caper sauce I made was not worth a post because it's already written up quite adequately on It's a Giada de Laurentis recipe that I didn't modify in any notable way. Pretty darn good, though. I do recommend it if you've still got your fennel around.

I bailed on the dill curry I've been talking about, though. I figure that if I've got the ingredients in the house for two weeks and I still haven't made the recipe, then that's a recipe I don't really want to make. And I'm not going to cook something I'm not interested in just for a blog post. Not to please you lot anyway.

On to this week then...

That's callaloo on the right, traded in the extras box for the kale that was in the share. I don't need any more kale. I think I'd like to make mchicha with it again as it turned out quite well the first time.

The green beans I'm going to pickle as the last batch I made turned out great.

For the leeks, I want to do something with a cream sauce. I remember liking a chicken and leeks dish my mom used to make and I haven't done anything using cream with the CSA leeks I've gotten yet.

That squash is the first we've seen in quite some time, isn't it? I know saved some squash recipes for CSA season that I haven't used. I'll have to look one up. I might go with fritters. I could go for fritters.

Potatoes and parsley I'll save until I need them which just leaves the dandelion. Oh, I'll probably have them over pasta in something simple. We haven't had any turnip greens for me to do that with in a while and dandelion should work just as well after a quick blanch.

One final note: I'm going to be out of town next weekend so my half-share is up for grabs. Nobody at work ever wants it when I offer. Do any of you? I use the Coconut Grove pick-up if that makes a difference.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Roasted strawberry banana ice cream

I had been thinking of making roasted strawberry beet ice cream, but, as I've actually been craving ice cream recently, I decided to go a route with a higher chance of creating something actually palatable.

I started by cleaning a pint of strawberries and cutting them into equally-sized small pieces. I added two medium bananas, sliced in half and roughly chopped, tossed them in a Tablespoon or two of demerara sugar, [For those unfamiliar, demerara sugar is essentially old-fashioned brown sugar. Modern brown sugar is made by returning some molasses to refined sugar. Demerara is made by leaving the molasses in.] and roasted at 375 degrees for 1 hour, with one stir in the middle.

I used a fairly large pan and a fairly high temperature to make sure the juices would evaporate. The point here is to concentrate the flavors into a smaller volume so the final ice cream will pack more punch per spoonful.

I blended the results with:
1/2 cup demerara sugar
1 pinch salt
juice from 1/2 lime
2 Tablespoon rum
2 teaspoons vanilla, and
1 1/2 cups cream.

Without the juice to thin the cream out, the result was rather thicker at this stage than the other fruit ice creams mixtures I've made. To compensate, I added 3/4 cup milk.

I was happy with the texture then, but it thickened up in the refrigerator overnight and it didn't seem quite sweet enough at that temperature. So, to thin it some more and adjust the sweetness back up without modifying the flavor balance too much, I added 1/4 cup agave nectar.

That all went into the churn. My kitchen was hotter than I would have liked which have have affected the thickening, but the alcohol and fructose worked against that too. Either way, it was rather softer than I would have preferred when I ran out of cold 25 minutes into churning and it wasn't able to hold on to a lot of churned in air, so it's kind of dense. Well, it'll have to do.

Since I had some on hand, I swirled in some Hershey's strawberry syrup. It's 100% artificial so it the flavor is less Strawberry than it is just Pink, really, so there's some contrast with the ice cream.

Here it is after ripening:

The texture is a little dense, but not hard even straight out of the freezer. If you're not going to have super-premium fat levels, denseness is a good second choice texturewise. I should have blended the mixture either a little more or a little less as there is the occasional tiny bit of fruit or maybe it's a little curdling from the citric acid in the cream. It's a minor unpleasantness. Roasting the fruit let me replace a lot of water with cream so it's richer than other fruit ice creams I've made and the tendency towards crystalization seems to be lower.

Straight out of the freezer the tart berry flavor really pops. After letting the ice cream soften a little, a more rounded fruit flavor emerges. The strawberry syrup brings the berry out above the banana a little bit. The result is reminiscent of the good quality strawberry syrup with pieces of fruit in it you get in ice cream parlors. And that inspired me to add chocolate syrup which creates a passable approximation to a banana split. If I had known it was going to work out that way, I would have roasted some pineapple too and added some candied walnuts. But it's just dandy as is.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

CSA week 16 wrap-up, week 17 start-up

Just one recipe post for last week? Sorry about that. There should have been a second, but ice cream is a multi-day process and I got a late start. It was Friday evening by the time I actually ate it in its final form and it seemed pointless to post then. I'll get it up tomorrow. Also, when I went to make the curry I found that half my dill had gone grotty. This week's new batch fills the gap so I'll probably make it tonight. Finally, with the weather heating up the kitchen and my refrigerator full of leftover fried chicken, cooking just didn't seem like a great idea.

On to this week then.

As I said, the dill is going into a curry, if not today, then soon. I was thinking of doing a gratin with the turnips as I've got lots of cheese and just a bit of cream lingering in the refrigreator. That would likely use some of the spring onion and maybe the kale? I did a quick search just now and kale gratin is a thing. Not with turnips generally, but why not?

The grapefruit, I might use for the unusual grapefruit and coconut milk shrip curry I made a couple years ago. I recall it turned out well. Or I might just juice them. I could go for some grapefruit juice.

And finally, the fennel. I have very little experience cooking with fennel and a search turned up many options. I'll have to sort through them to see what appeals.