Saturday, May 30, 2009
I love this dock. It's the view from the side of the restaurant. Just imagine boating on this lake and pulling up for a burger. Yummy and fun!
This place is just before the Minnesota/Wisconsin border. Although I've never spent time on this lake, I have lusted after these burgers for years. It was just last year that we decided to try them.
Friday, May 29, 2009
Here's what was in the box:
Sweet Overwintered Parsnips
Salad Mix or Arugula
Egyptian Walking or Potato Onion
Hon Tsai Tai
My mother came with me to pick up the CSA. This is my fourth year with HVF and my third year sharing the box with my mother. Yesterday was the first time she came with me to pick it up. I showed her the routine and the time we spent together was a lot more fun than I had imagined. Sharing the box is bringing us closer and that is a very good thing. I'm always so surprisingly happily shocked with how she prepares the veggies.
There was a slightly tense moment when I was showing her the routine. The place was crowded and a line was building behind us. So, I took the box outside the porch to unpack the box. My heart dropped when I saw the huge quantity of thick, fat parsnips at the bottom of the box. That's when my mother started chattering away in Gujarati about how much she enjoys parsnips. It was shocking to me. Are we from the same family? I have tried and tried to enjoy the parsnip. Truly I have. But, I just don't like them.
She tells me how she's been using the parsnips instead of potatoes for her potato and cauliflower curry. Now, I don't really think of it as a curry, but I don't have the right English word to describe this dish other than to say it is a veggie dish. She described it to me and suddenly my heart is feeling a little more open to this parsnip thing.
Sometimes I wonder what people think about our conversations. My mother is bilingual and her side of the conversation is a mix of Gujurati and English, while I always respond in English. It used to make me uneasy when I was young immigrant child trying to find my place in the world. But, now I feel like it's sort of our "inside" thing. And I'm thrilled that even though speaking is difficult for me, the comprehension is still there in my brain.
Anyway, so, I happily gave her ALL the parsnips, and the spinach. We split up everything else. Then she was gone and I had to change into cooking mode. The menu: pork roast, scalloped sunchokes, wilted greens, gravy, and berries for dessert. Thinking it would be another cloudy, overcast day I was thrown off by warm sunshine. The kitchen got hot but I persevered.
The husband in this couple that came over for dinner is a very picky eater. The wife will eat anything! I planned to make scalloped sunchokes. I sliced them thin and boiled them with some onions, made a basic white sauce, mixed the two together and baked it for 30 minutes, topped it with cheddar cheese and then I let it finish in the oven until it was bubbly and the cheese was melting. The thing is that I didn't tell the husband that it was sunchokes and not potatoes until we sat down to eat. I happy to say that he liked them!
Here's the recipe for the Hot Wilted Greens. I picked this one because of that new black cherry balsamic vinegar that I bought from Annona Gourmet a couple of weeks ago. I ended up using the whole entire bag of saute greens. And that was a huge relief!
It wasn't the best meal that I've prepared mostly because I had couple of new recipes. But nearly everything got eaten and I felt a sense of accomplishment with using CSA veggies. At the beginning of every CSA season I have hopes and dreams of trying more elaborate recipes, but then as the season gets going I always end looking for simple ways to prepare food. Maybe that's just the kind of cook that I am.
Over dinner, we talked a lot about the library and the wonderful resources available to those living in this city. One of the goals of this blog was to explore living off the grid. And, yet, I also find myself wanting to explore all those resources that are on the grid. In addition to the large archive of books, there are also CDs available at the library. Lately I've been listening to Charlie Parker, Louis Armstrong, and Howlin Wolf - all music I found at the library. I'm thinking about featuring some of my library finds, re-visiting music that has been around for a while. Hmmmmmmm.......
Thursday, May 28, 2009
Lots and lots of sound in the darkening forests.
Giant June bugs buzzing against the window screen
Bunnies hopping through the woods.
Large fist-sized bi-color frogs (maroon and green-spotted) rustling through the dry leaves on the ground.
Large branches snapping in a distance.
Something large rushing by, disturbing the branches.
The distant roar of a modern vehicle.
The leaves roaring up with the vibrant spring gusts.
For a few minutes the sounds diverge, it feels like there are several of them, circling our fire site. The smells of our cooking, the food enticing.
The sweet scent of strawberries beckon, tickle the nose, adds seduction to the air, drawing human and bear alike.
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
So, I'm going to do a little recap to assess what I used and what is left to be used by...tomorrow.
Asparagus: Steamed these up right away on the night I got the CSA box.
Green garlic: Chopped these up for a marinade for chicken. It was a honey teriyaki baked chicken and the sauce contained rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, ginger, green garlic...I think that's it for ingredients.
Egyptian Walking onion: Fun! I used these the same as I would for scallions. Can't remember right now which recipe or meal that they were used in. Isn't it strange that I can't remember what i cooked just last Thursday. Oh wait! Just remembered: I chopped up these egyptian walking onions and put them on Friday night's pizza.
Parsnip: I left these in the swap box. I hope someone got to enjoy them!
Sunchoke: Haven't cooked these yet. Considering HVF suggestion of baking them into a gratin.
Spinach: I had planned to have a spinach salad but I'm still working through the salad mix.
Spring radish: Yummy! I was hoping to have these available for two salads, but hubby started eating them off the cutting board, so i ended up slicing the whole batch.
Salad mix or Arugula: Lots and lots of salad with some pretty purple flowers mixed in!
Rhubarb: Chopped it up and froze it for later use in a crisp.
Sauté Mix: Haven't gotten to these greens yet. These may end up in the compost bin. For shame!!!
Ramps: HVF claims this is the last week for ramps until next spring. I haven't cooked them up yet mainly because last week's risotto was such a disaster. I'm skittish with trying something again if the last time it was prepared was not so good. I have to get over that.
Garden Herb Packs: Yah! Basil plants! I put these in a pot on my back step, the door closest to my kitchen.
Memorial Day weekend really through me off. I forgot all the greens in the city. I had lots of berries but not any green stuff. I have a lot of catching up to do!
As it turns out, a bird appropriated the space and built a nest.
It took us a few minutes to figure out what that shiny thread was in the nest.
The thread is from our old, bright blue boat cover. I've always wanted to put our hair out for the birds, but never seem to get it out there in time. This nest has clearly been abandoned now that it's purpose is done. So, it seems that mid-March is the time to put the hair out, but it just seems so strange to put materials out for nest-building when there's still snow on the ground.
What a nice, beautiful surprise to find under the canoe!
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Every Spring I realize - again - that we did a very good thing for ourselves creating this space away from the city. It is cabin life on the cheap! There is no stunning view of water, no tourist enticing landscape near by, just woods and quiet. It took us over five years but we're here and it's good.
We have a great fireplace area with ringstones taken from the road we put in. It is our only source of heat right now. Our furnace recently stopped working, so no heat in the trailer. We stayed out at the fire until late at night.
Friday, May 22, 2009
Anyway, so here's the results! Yummy!
We also got these jewels in the box.
There's definitely going to be a lot of cooking going on this holiday weekend. And since we'll be heading to the trailer, there will be lots of outdoor cooking.
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
There is a new store in the neighborhood that sells olive oil and balsamic vinegar in bulk. And there are tons of different flavors. I sampled quite a few. That was new to me. I've never had the experience of pouring a little shot glass of olive oil and shooting it. The store is called Annona Gourmet. I am so glad I went in to check it out.
Actually, I stopped in there to get some aborio rice for risotto. The store didn't have any in stock. I stayed to sample the vinegars and left with a black cherry vinegar. Oh, my, extreme goodness. It was just perfect for those salad greens and took away from the bite of the black radish.
Oh, and the black radish?! So spicy and crunchy. I grated it this time and just dumped it on top of the greens. It has a bite, but that bite was tempered a bit with the black cherry vinegar.
Now I've got to do some more research on vinegar. How does it last? At what temperature should I store it? In the fridge? Or the pantry?
The health benefits include increased calcium absorption, better digestion, regulation of blood sugars, increase in anti-oxidants, the list goes on!
Friday, May 15, 2009
Back in February I saw these interesting markings on some logs partially buried in the snow. Now I know that these are the signs of the emerald ash borer infestation that has hit this state. Too bad that there is so much damage caused by these beetles. I'd much prefer to think of them as abstract art, if not for the imminent death of the ash trees.
Look at all that goodness! I can't believe how incredibly convenient it is to have of this delivered right to my neighborhood! Oh, yes, I steamed up that asparagus right away for last night's dinner. Have you ever had asparagus that was fresh from the previous day's harvest? It's truly amazing how different fresh vegetables taste.
Parsnips again and no swap box, so I brought them home. This weekend I plan to get my compost pile situated. I don't have an official compost pile. I have three holes strategically placed in my garden. My hubby used a post-hole digger to get me nice, deep holes. And into these I throw my vegetable scraps. So, the vegetables decompose right there in the dirt in my front yard where the soil needs the nutrients the most. It's worked well over the years. But, now I'm thinking maybe I need something larger to accommodate all those parsnips.
It's going to be a cold weekend so we are staying in the city. I'm winging it this weekend with the menu. I figure I've got so many good veggies, I can pick some and roast, or steam whenever I feel like it!
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
Now this is the way to start off the CSA season: ramp and sausage risotto! I found this idea through A Good Appetite on their page that lists the menu for the week. It seems this recipe is floating around the web. One of the things I like about looking for recipes on the web is reading the comments at the end. I like hearing about how others change or substitute ingredients for each recipe. Which is how I operate. Rarely do I have all the necessary ingredients and so I'm constantly changing it to accommodate what I have in my pantry. For this recipe, I did not have any vermouth and immediately thought to add the leftover white wine I had sitting in my fridge. Saw a comment that did this and that gave me confidence as I was cooking.
Also, I have to say that I love recipes that use the whole plant. This ramp and sausage recipe called for the ramp bulbs, stems and leaves. The leaves are sliced thin and added at the end of the recipe. I cut them and left them sitting on the kitchen counter. I had to go into the cupboard space beneath the bowl for a few things and after a while I started thinking perhaps something had died in my cupboard - the smell was so strong. I got worried. Then, I realized the smell was the ramp leaves. Nonetheless, the leaves added another layer of flavor and made the whole meal look like fresh spring!
Oh, my goodness, it was so incredibly wonderful. I took some pictures while I was cooking, but woke this morning with the realization that I did not have the memory card in the camera, so no pictures. They wouldn't have captured the yumminess of this recipe anyway!
It's really fun to think about the fact that while these ramps are available in the woods - in abundance - they won't be there very long. Now I'm all fired up about foraging for my own.
Cooking risotto in this household is fun. There are a lot of "yes, chef!" thrown about. I admit that I am a fan of "Hell's Kitchen" and risotto is always on their menu. I'd never tried a risotto before watching this television show. It was surprisingly easy to prepare.
I bought the sausage at Ready Meats. I bought the regular which seemed spicy enough. I steamed up some broccoli (not from CSA) and served it on top of the risotto. I should have gotten from french bread to prepare some garlic bread, but I forgot, so some biscuits went into the oven.
Now I have spinach, rhubarb and parsnips left until Thursday. I gave all the sorrel to my mother, but plan to keep the next batch for myself. I'm going to try that sorrel dal recipe. Also, I looked at the "best guess" list for this week's delivery and read that we are getting asparagus and salad mix! I love the salad mix! It has flowers in it! So pretty and convenient! Yum!
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
Every year, we see the ramps spread out further on the woodland ground.
Monday, May 11, 2009
But I was tired. Then spent most of Sunday working in my garden. When it came time to cook dinner, I was really tired. But I worked through my exhaustion, got the dishes done and had all the space I needed to prepare a meal. The menu:
roasted sunchokes topped with chives
spinach salad with tomatoes and black radish
= 4 CSA items.
I think this picture reveals what went wrong.
First off, there was too much dressing on the salads. I didn't have the energy to makes the ramp dressing, so we used conventional stuff. The black radish was crisp and crunchy. I think next time I will try grating the radish. And dang it, it was so cute, this little black thing, I should have taken a picture. I'm learning so much about CSA eating and also CSA blogging.
Second, I didn't roast the sunchokes long enough. I knew that sunchokes take a long time to cook up. They are really crispy and remind me of apples when I am chopping them up. I stuck a fork in them when I thought they were done, but that little test was not sufficient. I should have just tasted one before declaring that dinner was done. The good thing is that sunchokes can be eaten raw so eating slight crunchy ones is all right, if not tasty. I has tossed them with some olive oil and cajun seasonings, then topped then with chopped chives.
I have a few things left to cook up: rhubarb, burdock, spinach, ramps, parsnips.
As much as I looked forward to the season starting, the realities of this experiment hit me square on this weekend. Using high-quality ingredients makes it a lot easier to whip together a simple, yet amazing meal. I just have to make sure I cook it long enough!
Friday, May 8, 2009
There is a range of time for pick up and I tend to go early. If I don't go at this time, there is a strange, but strong chance that I will forget. Sometimes, I wait for my hubby to come home from work and we will walk over to get the CSA box. Yesterday I went early and was surprised to see that most of the boxes had already been picked up. I think there are 50 members at this location. It was exciting to see that the shares sold out in the Twin Cities area!
The choice this week was dogwoods or willow branches. I picked the bright dogwood. It was a tough choice.
About choices: I can be frustratingly indecisive. The CSA helps me with this annoying trait of mine. I like that I don't have a choice with what shows up in the box. I just take what's packed in the box so one level of decisions are done. Choosing what to do with the vegetables is the fun side of decision-making.
There is rhubarb down under all that spinach. There were also the dreaded parsnips and the intriguing black radish.
Look at them chives!! There are a few buds in there too which are a little extra spicy.
This is going to be a weekend of good eating!
Wednesday, May 6, 2009
This evening, just before sunset we had a rainbow! And then later I got the CSA newsletter through email! It's been a great end to the day. The box is going to include everything that was on the best guess list: sweet overwintered parsnips, red sunchokes, ramps, sorrel, overwintered spinach, rhubarb, burdock, chives, black radish, willow. This tip on the newsletter is really helpful:
Use first: Ramps, sorrel, chives,
spinach. The other items store
very well in the crisper drawer,
but use within a week or two for
I've got to plan ahead because we are going to the WI trailer this weekend. I think I'll just take the burdock and the sunchokes because I can fry these easily. And I don't mind frying when I'm cooking outside.
The Big D had a business trip out to NYC last month. He returned with over two dozen bagels. I cut each one in half and then froze the whole lot. I gotta remember to make a chive cream cheese for the morning bagels. So the chives have to be split because I also want to add some to sour cream. Here's a recipe for the cream cheese:
1 block soft cream cheese
1 tsp garlic powder
I'm determined to enjoy the sorrel more this year. I want to try some recipes that bring out the distinctive tangy, lemon taste. It seems the best way to do that is to make some sort of drink with it. I found a Jamaican sorrel drink recipe. Hmm? Am I brave?
I have some other ideas:
Chicken with Sorrel sauce
Vegetarian sorrel tart
Penne with mushrooms and fresh sorrel
I am pleased with meal possibilities for next week. Thursdays seem like a good delivery date for me. Especially since we seem to spend most weekends at the trailer. This gives me time to (loosely) plan some meals. Although I do have a tiny, compact little kitchen in the trailer, it's always nice to try to cook out on the open fire. Or fry something outdoors with a dual propane stove top. If I am going to fry something I'd rather do it outside so the smell of the oil doesn't linger in all the fabrics. I'll try making some burdock chips and sunchoke fries.
That rainbow this evening had such distinct colors. It was vibrant and beautiful and one end of the arc seemed to be positioned right over the house where I pick up my CSA box. Just one more night until I get my pot of organic gold.
My parents are from India. They come from rural, farming communities. Farms where banana, mangoes, and maize grow. An unexpected result of joining a CSA is the renewed relationship with my parents. Growing up, we always had a garden with tons of zucchini, peppers, and tomatoes. My mother always cooked from scratch and the result is that my body has a strong constitution. I got the necessary nutrition I needed as a growing girl.
We share our CSA box with my parents. While I am generally looking for "American" recipes for this fresh, abundant produce, my mother incorporates it into her Gujarati cooking. It's interesting to see what she chooses to do with it all. And this year, I'm going to pay more attention as I realize that I need to gain these skills. Sometimes all I crave is a good Gujarati meal full of cooked vegetables, rice and dahl, and sometimes a curried chicken.
This year, we are going to make the effort to visit the farm. I am curious about my parents' reaction to the farm. Will they find similarities? Will the wandering goats and chickens bring up memories of their own childhoods in India? Will the smell of damp dirt and growing vegetables connect them to this land in ways that living in the Twin Cities suburbs for 30 years hasn't?
OK, so now let's talk budget. This is my fourth year with Harmony Valley CSA and I have to admit, every spring there is a struggle to get the money together. Thankfully the time coincides with tax returns. But, then when I get over how the big chunk of money gouges into my budget, I realize that I won't be paying any more for vegetables for the rest of the summer. My grocery store and coop spending drastically reduces as spring turns into summer and continues well into the fall. My primary purchases during the CSA season is meat.
The cost is $890 for 30 weeks. That breaks down to $30 a week per box. Split this in half because I share with my mom, and now I see I'm paying $15 a week for the freshest, yummiest, organic produce in the region! That's cheap! Especially if you consider the cost of organic produce in the grocery stores and coops. And this produce is SO much more fresh as it is generally picked a day or two before the delivery date.
I haven't tried the meat share yet for two fairly good reasons. First, I just don't have the freezer space for all that meat. Second, I buy my meat from a local meat market, Ready Meats. The beef is corn fed and purchased from smaller meat processors, and not from those large-scale production farms. I asked the butcher one day. I was scared to ask, but I did, and was happy with the answers. I can buy just the right amount for whatever I am cooking that day and I have tried different cuts of meat, something I never would have done if choosing my meat from the grocery store.
My decision make process is decidedly different during the CSA season. The question of "what's for dinner?" changes to "what should I do with this vegetable?" My usual process is to select meat choice or find an interesting recipe, then select the side dishes to go with it. During the CSA season, I focus more on what is on hand. For example, I'll get some sunchokes or baby bok choy, then think about how I will prepare it, and finally, choose a meat that goes with those flavors. It's a slight shift, but big enough to bring me some peace in my life.
Cooking is different for me. I spent many decades sticking with recipes. Now, it's about using what I have in my fridge or pantry to concoct a meal. I find myself using some standard ways to prepare a variety of vegetables. I have this great mustard and honey glaze for turnips. I liked the flavors so much, I prepared beets and potatoes the same way. It reminds me of my mother's Gujurati cooking where many different vegetables can prepared using the same, simple ingredients. It's the flavor of the vegetables themselves that add variety to the each meal.
Finally, the change in my connection to the land. Technically, Harmony Valley is not really considered local for us here in the Twin Cities because it is located just over the state border. But, it is close enough for me to monitor local weather and consider the effects to the farm. While people can demarcate geographical borders, the weather system doesn't abide by those lines drawn in the dirt. I feel nourished by the bounty of the land. I feel connected to the Midwest. I feel grateful for a large harvest. And understand the food chain a little better when the harvest is effected by flood or drought. I feel pride for my choices that lead to the continued sustainability of small scale farming and eating local foods.
Yeah! Good things! And it all starts tomorrow!
Tuesday, May 5, 2009
Sweet Overwintered Parsnips
Willow or Dogwood
This is typical for the first box. And I look forward to it with anticipation, but also with a little bit of trepidation.
I've learned that the CSA forces me to develop new relationships with vegetables that I previously didn't like or had never tried. Most of the time I found that I liked them, the ones that I hadn't liked before were of bad quality and not fresh. Fresh vegetables are hard to not like. And if I'm diligent about finding and trying new recipes, there's not much that doesn't taste good coming from the farm.
But, parsnips are a different matter. I don't like parsnips. I don't like the taste of them, even if there are fresh from the farm. So, one year I tried just throwing them in with other vegetable scraps to make a vegetable stock. The smell of the boiling parsnips sent me out of the house. It smelled so foul. I hate saying that, but it's true. Every year, for three years I have tried to enjoy parsnips.
This year, I'm going to give it another try because the new chef (Bri) at the farm says that the parsnips are a delight to work with. I guess I'll look over the newsletter and if there is a good recipe, I'll give it a shot. But what I really want to do is dump the whole lot into the swap box. The "swap box" is the place to put vegetables that I won't use "so that others may enjoy them."
This reminds me that I really need to get a composting pile. I need to place to trash the vegetable that I don't use, or maybe just for the scraps.
I'm really looking forward to the sunchokes, the ramps, the spinach, the sorrel, the chives and the black radish. All good things containing everything needed to detox the liver and kidneys from the winter slump.
I haven't found a recipe for the burdock that I like. I have considered just slicing them, then roasting them in the oven, then storing them for tea which apparently is good for purifying the blood stream of toxins. Also, I read today that the prickly seeds of the burdock plant inspired the manufacturing of velcro. It reminds of what my neighbor was saying about biomimicry which is the concept that looking closer at how nature functions can lead to sustainable solutions to human problems.
Another tough one for me is rhubarb. I used to not like baked fruit at all. I disliked it so much that my husband wrote a song about it. I don't know why, maybe to just capture my angst towards fruit that is all hot ad mushy. But I have grown since then and am finding my way to the joys of baked fruit. Last year I did an apple/rhubarb crisp. The great thing about rhubarb is that it can be cut into little pieces then be thrown into the freezer, set aside to used for a crisp.
Ok, so now I know that I may be over my distaste for baked fruit. My mouth is watering thinking about all the rhubarb...and everything else, the sunchoke fries, the sour cream filled with chives, the spinach salad with ramp dressing, the crispy radish. Spring is such a great time to be alive and eating healthy!
Monday, May 4, 2009
However, getting to them can be an unnerving experience. While there are ramps growing everywhere, there are also lots of wood ticks. So, after spending some time digging up ramps, I spend time searching for wood ticks on my body.
Ramps have a onion and garlic qualities. They are also referred to as wild baby leeks. I use them in stir frys and for salad dressings. I picked up this recipe from my local coop: Eastside Coop in Northeast Minneapolis.
1/3 c. walnut oil
1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
5 ramps (white parts only)
salt & pepper to taste
Mix all ingredients in blender.
The salad dressing is perfect over spinach, another item available early in the CSA season. The dressing is yummy, but makes me a little gassy. They have quite a strong garlic smell so if I store them in the refrigerator, the smell intensifies.
I just read that the appearance of ramps is an indicator for morel hunters. Yum. That sounds great to me. Ramps and morel mushrooms sauteed together! I just can't wait for this season!