Monday, June 30, 2008

Raw salsa

I'm desperate for the tomato season to start. Is there anything better than fresh tomatoes? Those things they try to pass off in the supermarket as tomatoes hardly fulfill my craving for this delightful fruit. But I'll admit it: I cheat. I buy hothouse tomatoes from Maine. I get grape tomatoes from California. I'll even resort, in the dead of winter, when the cravings are too overwhelming, to those mealy faux-tomatoes at Stop and Shop.

In our last CSA pick up, we got PURPLE scallions that I was pretty excited about. And what is the best thing to make with scallions? SALSA! Yes. Shh, don't tell the tomatoes growing at the farm, but I cheated on them. I just couldn't wait. I mean, I had the scallions, I have cilantro in my herb garden that is huge and already flowering. Thank goodness for those greenhouses in Maine, getting me my tomato fix.

I make a very simple, fresh salsa. All raw, very bright, uncluttered flavor. I make it with nothing spicy so my boys will eat it. It is one of the few relatively healthy foods they'll eat, so I keep it plain and find it's still outstanding. However, if we get some hot peppers later this summer in our CSA share, I'll probably toss some in for TK and I to enjoy. Here's the recipe:


Tomatoes (any kind...I've even made it with halved grape tomatoes)
Diced jalepenos or other hot peppers, or tobasco sauce (optional, I usually omit so my kids will eat it).


You may notice this recipe lacks quantities. Can I say it's all to taste? Well, I'm going to! But, I'll try to give some hints here in the directions.

Cut tomatoes in half and squeeze out seeds. You can use your finger to squish some out, or even just gently squeeze the tomato. You don't have to perfectly get all the seeds out. In fact, if I use grape tomatoes, I don't even bother seeding them. You just don't want your salsa to be drippy with seeds.

Dice the seeded tomatoes.

Finely slice the whites (or purples in my case) of the scallions. Reserve the green part for something else! I would say as a rule of thumb, if you're using medium sized tomatoes, you'll want to use one scallion for every two tomatoes. Or more or less, depending on your taste.

Chop some cilantro leaves. How much? Oh, it depends on how much you like it. I use a few sprigs for each tomato, then add more if I feel like it needs it.

Mix the tomatoes, scallions, and cilantro leaves, then start adding the salt. I use a salt cracker (actually, I let my boys add it), so I just keep tasting. It does take a bit of salt, and I don't like my food very salty. I've made it with very little salt, but I find it's the salt that really makes the flavors of the salsa pop. So be guided by your own taste buds on this one.

Eat immediately. We rarely have leftovers, but you can store it for a day or two. You'll probably have to drain off some excess water if you keep it in the fridge overnight, but it still tastes wonderful.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Lots of recipes

We started out this CSA week with a big winner: Garlic Scape Pesto. I followed the recipe given there. Well, mostly. Oh, heck, you know I made a few changes:


7 garlic scapes, chopped into approx. 2" pieces
Fresh parsley (I'd guess about 2 tablespoons chopped, but I didn't chop it since it was just going into the food processor, so I'm really not sure)
3/4 cup olive oil
scant 1 cup Parmesan cheese


Put the garlic scapes, parsley, and olive oil into a food processor and process until smooth( doesn't turn out perfectly smooth).

Stir in Parmesan cheese and serve over pasta. I choose gnocchi since it's a favorite with my twins. The pesto turns out very thick, so it was a good match to a heavy pasta.

A quick note about this picture: the sauce turns out to be a delicate green, and I just couldn't get it to show up on the camera. Either the overhead lights or flash blew-out the color too much, or without extra light, it was too shadowy. I took this picture standing near the window, holding the plate at about a 45 degree angle to catch the right natural lighting. All so you could appreciate the green color! Of course, then I was so worried about my food falling off the plate I ended up not getting a great picture anyway. But the color is pretty, isn't it?


Served with the pesto, we had Garlic Scape Bread. Basically it was garlic bread where I used minced garlic scapes in place of garlic powder.

Looks pretty, doesn't it? Well, it wasn't garlicy enough for me. I'd add some extra garlic powder in additon to the scapes if I made this again. The delicate garlic scape flavor was wasted on garlic bread. Oh well. I mean, it was slightly garlicy buttery bread, so it was still yummy, but this won't replace my normal garlic bread recipe!


Here it is, my first big CSA failure. Garlic scape soup. The recipe is all the way at the bottom of the page listed, if anyone wants to waste their garlic scapes on this substandard meal. It was gritty and unfinished tasting. TK and I thought it was a good soup might have been good with some chicken and rice or veggies added. But as it was: uninspired. It doesn't even look good:


But no worries, things quickly turned back in a positive direction. We went strawberry picking with Snickollet (and her kids and friend), plus both moms and baby of Two Moms and Baby. Taking my inspiration from those delightful strawberries and the latest CSA haul, I threw together this salad:

The salad contained spinach, lettuce, radish, purple scallions, hard boiled eggs, and sliced strawberries. What made it really outstanding was the homemade Strawberry Vinaigrette dressing. I followed the linked recipe, except I subbed about 1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon thyme for the tarragon, and I forgot about the sugar (oops! That was an unintentional oversight, but I didn't miss it...)


And one last recipe, Roasted Spring Turnips, Snap Peas, and Garlic Scapes.

I found a recipe at a neat blog about eating locally (on the West Coast, but hey, we've got the same stuff here on the East Coast!) and followed the recipe pretty closely. I loved the lemon zest, and I used a lemon pepper herb mix. The garlic scapes were my favorite part as they got a little crispy in some parts and slightly caramelized. Lovely!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Napa Cabbage Salad

And here's a recipe that I made to take to the farm last night. We met another family of twins there and had a little picnic before picking up our share. Very fun! We still had half a head of Napa (Chinese) cabbage from the previous weeks' share, so I decided to throw together a quick Asian salad.

I followed this recipe pretty closely, so just follow the link if you're interested. I omitted the almonds due to food allergies, and didn't miss them. However, if you're not dealing with food allergies, I'd probably leave them in. I also ran short on sesame seeds, and again, it was fine with only about half the recipe amount although given the choice, I'd probably go with the original recipe quantities.

Long story short, the salad was outrageously good. Yum!


Note from 2009: This is one of my favorite recipes from the 2008 CSA season. Mmmm! I just made it again this year with our first head of Napa Cabbage. It was just as good as I remembered!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Chicken Lettuce Wraps and Spinach Artichoke Au Gratin

Chicken Lettuce Wraps:

I very, very loosely followed this recipe. I made quite a few changes and while I was extremely happy with the results, the wraps weren't exactly similar to the P.F. Chang lettuce wraps. So if that's what you're looking for, you might want to go to the original recipe. Having said that, here's my version:


1 lb. ground chicken
4 oz. water chestnuts, minced
6 oz. baby bella mushrooms, minced
1/2 medium onion, finely minced
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
3 Tablespoons brown sugar
3 Tablespoons soy sauce
Splash rice wine vinegar
2 Tablespoons ketchup
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 cup water
1 Tablespoon oyster sauce
1 Tablespoon spicy brown bean sauce**
Lettuce leaves (we used about 2/3 a head of Bibb lettuce)


In a large skillet, brown the ground chicken. When it is about 3/4 of the way done, add the water chestnuts, mushrooms, onion, and garlic. Continue cooking, stirring often, until chicken is browned.

Meanwhile, mix all remaining ingredients (except lettuce) in a small bowl. Stir well.

When the chicken is done, add the sauce you mixed in the small bowl. Stir well to coat all the chicken and let cook for about 2 or 3 minutes until slightly thickened.

Place a spoonful of filling onto a lettuce leaf, then roll the lettuce up.

**As I mentioned previously, the original recipe linked above called for red chile paste, but the only brand I could find had peanuts in it, which is a no-go due to food allergies here. So I got House of Tsang brand spicy brown bean sauce. The final recipe was not quite spicy enough. I'd say either use the red chile paste if you don't have to worry about allergies, or add some red pepper flakes in addition to the brown bean sauce.


Next I tried Fresh Spinach and Artichoke Au Gratin. I wasn't sure how it would come out using fresh, uncooked spinach...most recipes call for the frozen stuff. I almost steamed the spinach or blanched it, but ultimately, laziness ruled the day and I just used raw spinach. Worked out fine! Again, there's a recipe I used as a jumping off point (here), but made some significant changes.

1/3 pound spinach, coarsely chopped
2/3 of a 14 oz. can of artichoke hearts (non-marinated, drained), coarsely chopped
6 oz. cream cheese
2 Tablespoons butter
1/4 cup parmesan cheese


Preheat oven to 375 degrees

Soften cream cheese and butter in the microwave for about 20 seconds until it can be stirred together.

Mix in artichoke hearts, spinach, and parmesan cheese. Transfer to a baking dish (or just make the whole recipe right in the baking dish from the get-go...that's what I did!)

Bake for about 20-25 minutes. Serve with chips, bread, and/or veggies for dipping.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Spicy Bok Choy

Here I thought I was being so smart, making the dreaded bok choy on a night when I was going out for dinner. Of course I tried it, and wouldn't you know, it was incredible! That was unexpected. I was completely, though pleasantly, surprised. The only problem now is that I'm a little depressed that we got our expected CSA distribution list for the week and there's no bok choy on it. Ah well, maybe spring turnips will be my next true food love...stay tuned!

Oh, the recipe. Here it is. I didn't really make any changes, so just follow the link if you're interested.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Chive Flower Omelet

I've never eaten a chive flower. Heck, I've never even seen a chive flower before. They're neat. Really chive-y, but purple and pretty. At our CSA, they suggested we just throw them into a salad. Well, it's a bit too strong for that for me. But, getting some inspiration from this blog (about the only chive flower recipe I found on google), I decided to make an omelet. I adapted a lot of the ingredients to what I had, but left the two biggies the same: eggs and chive flowers.

End result: outstanding! Here's what it looked like:

Want the recipe? Never fear! You can't stop me from reciping. I just made that word up! Ha, ha, spell checker, I don't care that you don't think it's a word!


2 eggs
Splash of milk
1 tablespoon finely diced onion
1/2 clove garlic, finely diced
1 teaspoon minced fresh chives (additional for garnishing if desired)
1/2 teaspoon minced fresh parsley (additional for garnishing if desired)
Petals from one chive flower (additional chive flower for garnishing if desired)
2 tablespoons minced spinach (additional for garnishing if desired)
1/4 cup crumbled feta (additional for garnishing if desired)
2 teaspoons olive oil


Place olive oil in skillet over medium heat. Add onions and garlic and saute about 2 minutes.

Meanwhile, whisk eggs and milk until lightly frothy. Add chives, parsley, chive flower petals, and spinach. It will be VERY herb-y.

Pour egg mixture into skillet with the onions and garlic. If the onions and garlic collect around the outside, quickly mix them in before the eggs start to set. Or just leave them along the outside.

Cook until eggs are almost set on top. Add feta cheese and cook an additional minute or two.

Slide the omelet out onto a plate, folding in half as it slides out of the pan. Garnish with additional, well, everything. If you'd like.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Shrimp Egg Rolls and Scallops over Wilted Tatsoi

Shrimp Egg Rolls


1 lb precooked shrimp, coarsely chopped
1/2 head Chinese cabbage, stems removed and leaves coarsely chopped (I probably should have used a whole head, especially since I have no idea what to do with the other half a head)
1/4 cup shredded carrots
1/4 cup diced water chestnuts
1 radish, cut into small papersticks (probably could have used 2 radishes...I wasn't sure how it would go but threw it in since I had it)
6 ounces baby bella mushrooms, finely diced
3 cloves garlic, finely diced
1 tsp sesame oil
2 tablespoons olive oil
Splash rice wine vinegar
2 Tablespoons soy sauce
2 Tablespoons oyster sauce
Egg Roll wrappers (I used 12 egg roll wrappers...your mileage may vary depending on how stuffed you make your egg rolls)
Vegetable oil for frying


Heat the sesame and olive oils in a large skillet over medium high heat (oil amounts are approximate). Saute garlic and mushrooms until slightly tender, about 2 minutes. Add the carrots, water chestnuts, and radish. Saute an additional 2 minutes. Add the Chinese cabbage, rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, and oyster sauce. Stir well until cabbage begins to wilt. Add the shrimp, stir well, then remove from the heat.

Once filling has cooled slightly, fill egg roll wrappers. If you don't know how to do that, no worries. The directions are on the package of egg roll wrappers.

Add about 1/4" oil to a skillet and heat over high heat until a wooden chopstick dipped into the oil causes bubbles to appear. Carefully add egg rolls (there will be spatters unless you're a far better egg roll roller than I am). Turn once the first side has browned. I find it best to use a spatula in one hand and a chopstick in the other to turn the egg rolls. When the other side has browned, remove to paper towel lined plate to drain.


As if that wasn't enough, I also made:

Pan Seared Scallops over Wilted Tatsoi

The wilted tatsoi was really outstanding. I very loosely followed this recipe, except that I only used tatsoi rather than assorted Asian greens. Also, I only had seasoned rice vinegar (which they say specifically not to use), so I used it and omitted the sugar. I added some garlic, because, come on. How could you not use garlic in this? And I just eyeballed all the ingredient quantities since I wasn't using anywhere near the same quantity of greens. Anyway, it was delicious. I'm so glad we decided to try the tatsoi. We had a choice at our CSA of tatsoi or arugula, and I'm really happy we decide to go with the one we'd never heard of.

For the scallops I tried something a little different from my normal bread-and-fry-in-garlic-butter method I employ for most seafood. We had some lemon thyme that I didn't have any plans for, so I used that as my inspiration. I mean, it wasn't a big stretch to pair lemony flavors with seafood, but anyway :)


1 lb sea scallops
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon thyme
1 teaspoon lemon pepper
zest from 1/2 lemon
Oil for frying


Rinse scallops in cold water and remove that little tough piece on the side. I don't know what it's called (anyone want to help me out?) It peels right off, though. Gently pat excess water off with paper towel.

Toss scallops with thyme, lemon pepper, and lemon zest until all scallops are lightly coated.

Add enough oil to thinly coat the bottom of a skillet. Heat over high heat. Add scallops (don't it in two batches if your pan is small). When the bottom of the scallop is lightly seared, turn over and cook the other side until it's seared. I'm hesitant to give cook times as it really depends on the size of your scallops, but it's quick...1 or 2 minutes per side approximately.