spring CSA, week 9

This week’s pickup features multicolored eggs from Breezy Willow Farm’s own chickens.

spring CSA week 9

Week 9 brings us sprouts, green lettuce, apples, cucumbers, potatoes, Vidalia onions, green beans, strawberries, and the usual bread and eggs. The dark lump in the egg carton is an avocado. I was in too much of a hurry to investigate vegetable sourcing, but I did ascertain that the strawberries came from North Carolina. They’re all right, but they still don’t compare to the ripe strawberries we’ll get in Maryland when June comes along.

A bonus picture of naturally multicolored eggs, for Easter:

Colored eggs for Easter

These particular eggs are from K’s mother; she has a friend who raises chickens. I love the delicate blues and greens.

spring CSA, week 8

This week’s farm pickup is from all over the map! From north to south, we have:
– mushrooms from Pennsylvania
– spinach from New Jersey
– garlic, apples, and potatoes from cold storage in Maryland
– sugar snap peas from Georgia
– lemons, oranges, and eggplant from Florida

week 8 csa pickup

The bread is Great Harvest’s “Herb de Breezy Willow,” flavored with last season’s dried herbs. I forgot to ask where the cheese was from, but that was today’s “farm fresh item” instead of eggs. We had a selection to choose from, and I picked Muenster. I love Muenster, especially melted on burgers. Mmm, burgers… grilling season is upon us.

I was worried about making the farm pickup yesterday, because the weather guys were predicting a thunderstorm, and the farm can get real muddy real fast. But instead when I showed up, the weather was warm and breezy and just perfect. The farm pets were out too, roaming around the yard and charming the CSA members. I got to coo over the new puppy, who was fearless and adorable. Then I had to reassure the older dog that she was lovable, as well.

The farm cat needed no such reassurance, and pretty much ignored me.

spring CSA, week 7

This week’s pickup! Per Jessie’s comment last week, I realized it would be a good idea to look into how much of this stuff was actually locally produced…

pickup week 7

From Maryland: apples, potatoes, carrots, onions, and garlic from cold storage; Great Harvest bread (I think it’s oat) and eggs.
From Georgia: Kale and green beans.
From Florida: grapefruits and oranges.

Last week’s snap peas were from Georgia too. Lucky Southerners. I’ve been pining for the HoCo farmer’s markets, but I’m realizing that the farmers would only have stuff from cold storage anyway. And they certainly wouldn’t ever have oranges.

orange and blood orange slices

I also paid extra for some blueberry crumb dessert bread (tastes like blueberry pound cake, with a fantastic crumb) and a block of Guinness cheddar (very strong and savory; K would have happily eaten the whole thing). Pickup at the farm is always tempting, because the pickup shed is also where they have their farm store set up; when you go inside, you’re surrounded by jars of honey and preserves, and bars of lovely-smelling homemade soap. And sometimes they have samples of cheese or oatmeal or whatever else just came in.

Crossover Spice Blend, three ways

Last night’s surprisingly quick and easy meal: lamb chops, green beans, and spaghetti squash, all featuring the Crossover Spice Blend. I made a spice butter for the spaghetti squash, used spice to crust the lamb, and tossed green beans in the pan after deglazing.

lamb, green beans, spaghetti squash

It worked out really well. The spice blend tied all of the dishes together, but each tasted just different enough to keep things interesting: the lamb added its own strong flavor, the squash brought sweetness, and I’m sure the green beans would have spoken up except I drowned the poor things in Parmesan. Still tasty, though.

K, who is generally stingy with praise, looked up at me during dinner and said, “Honey, this is really good.” And it only took half an hour total. I’d call it a 30-minute meal, but I think that might be copyrighted.

Specific process follows. Continue reading

lemon chicken fail

…okay, it wasn’t exactly a failure, but it wasn’t entirely delicious either.

We made dinner for some good friends yesterday. Bringing dinner is a great excuse to meet a new baby. You get to feed the new parents and catch up on things, and they let you coo over the new arrival. (Who was, incidentally, adorable.)

Thinking that bright flavors would be welcome on a warm day, I made a recipe for lemon chicken that I’d been meaning to try, and accompanied it with lemon snap peas and curried apple couscous. Everything turned out well except the lemon sauce for the chicken, which was… interesting. The table gave the lemon chicken a resounding “it’s okay,” as in, “if I ordered it at a restaurant, I’d finish it, but I wouldn’t necessarily order it again.” The women seemed to like it more than the men. Fortunately we’d brought the sauce in a separate container, and our friends scrounged up some alternate sauces: barbecue sauce and a tiny bottle of habanero salsa.

Other than using boneless skinless breasts, I followed the recipe exactly. The chicken was moist and tasty (in part because K had put it in a brine all day), but the sauce was a disappointment. The blog entry accompanying the recipe calls the sauce “bright,” but I’d call it “sour.” The sourness from the lemon juice and the tang of the creme fraiche combined for a taste that had K shaking his head and saying, “Don’t make this for me again.” (K tells it like it is.)

The sauce wasn’t great by itself, but I found it was better when accompanied by the salt and pepper on the chicken. The new mother and I mopped up the lemon sauce with the chicken while the men made good use of the substitute sauces. The lemon snap peas were just quickly boiled and tossed with a bit of butter and some lemon zest, and the curried apple couscous was flavorful and tasty as always. The couscous is adapted from this recipe, in that I left out the pine nuts and mint, used vegetable stock in place of water, and used Israeli couscous instead of regular. I like the bigger grains.

The lemon chicken recipe wasn’t great, but it was easy. I would even make it again, if someday I find myself with lemons, creme fraiche, and chicken, and (most importantly) it’s a night when K has other dinner plans. Though next time, I’d use significantly less lemon juice in the sauce.

spring CSA, week 6

This week’s pickup: golden beets, sugar snap peas, green beans, spinach, mushrooms, green onions, blood oranges, apples, eggs, and bread (the bread is parmesan sourdough; I wanted to try their new “blackberry crumb” bread but it was all spoken for by the time I arrived).

spring CSA week 6 pickup

I love getting snap peas and green beans. I look forward to sitting in front of the TV with a bowl of peas in my lap, pinching off stems one by one. I like doing that sort of thing by hand when I have time; it makes me feel like the most recent link in a long chain of food preparers, stretching back across time. Except, uh, that my ancestors probably weren’t trimming peas and beans while watching TV.

pluses and minuses at the new Frisco Taphouse

K has a long history with Frisco Burrito Grille Taphouse and Brewery. He remembers when they were just a burrito counter. Then they expanded into the space next door, putting in a bar full of microbrews and a lot of tables for patrons, and we started going there regularly. And now that they’ve established themselves in their newest digs just down the street, we drop by frequently for a good meal and a tasty brew.

There are drawbacks, though. The parking situation is atrocious; the side lot is far too small and it fills up quickly, so visitors at peak hours are forced to find parking on side streets and in nearby lots. Also, you used to be able to get a table almost anywhere and keep an eye on the game; now, the TVs are centralized at the bar, so you might not get a good view from your table. Speaking of the television screens, those are also where Frisco keeps their massive microbrew list — and although the list of 50 taps fills two long screens, it’s hard to read from the dining area.

(They have a solution for the smartphone-enabled, though: an electronic beer list.)

Hitachino Nest Red Rice Ale; chips, salsa, and guacamole
(Hitachino Nest Red Rice Ale; chips, salsa, and guacamole)

The menu has changed, too. They’ve added corn dogs (good) and beer-battered catfish (not so good), among other things. Also, Frisco’s pizza oven is up and running. We tried the margherita pizza and it was delicious, with fresh tomato and big crispy leaves of basil. The chorizo pizza was good as well, though I hear it’s even more improved by adding bacon. (Well, what isn’t?) Two pizzas turned out to be not quite enough for three people, but they’re fun to share. Someday I’ll get around to trying their “taphouse steak and cheese” pizza, which apparently features bbq steak and avocado.

Returning visitors might notice that the enchiladas are no longer on the menu, but the kitchen will still make one for you if you ask — a fortunate thing, since their enchiladas are delicious. I recommend getting them with chorizo.

Anyway, we remain big fans of Frisco, no matter what they’re calling themselves, and we’ll definitely keep going for the food and the brews. I’ll just have to remember to get there early if I want a parking spot.

pork and potatoes

This recipe for colcannon may well supplant my standard kale recipe (blanched and sauteed with bacon and onions). It’s so good, and you don’t have to fuss around with boiling and ice water for blanching. The buttery potatoes are flecked throughout with kale, and the fresh tang of the green onions keeps it from being too heavy. Great way to eat your vegetables.

We also tried a recipe for Roast Pork Shoulder, Puerto Rican Style from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything. You make a wet rub from garlic, onion, spices, and vinegar (I used orange juice for that last one), cover the roast with it, let it sit for at least an hour, and then bake it at 300F, turning every half hour. The pork came out tender, juicy, and flavorful. I didn’t feel like getting out the food processor, so I spent a long time mincing an onion and some garlic cloves and chiles. (Sometimes I just get into a zen state at the chopping board.) The recipe is very like this recipe for pernil, except that it uses 2 chiles (I used a jalapeno and a dried Korean red chile) in place of the cumin and ancho.

I did try to take pictures of the cooked food, but I think I need to work on lighting and/or technique. The only decent picture was this shot of the minced garlic, onions, and peppers (and, um, a teaspoon).

minced vegetables

Anyway, it’s a perfectly decent recipe; we’ll probably make it again if we get another pork shoulder from the ranch. Michael Chiarello’s Forever Roasted Pork is still my favorite, but Bittman’s recipe is significantly less fussy, and quicker as well.

Finally, since we had even more potatoes, I consulted my faithful standby, The New Best Recipe. Although it was disappointingly unhelpful on the subject of pork shoulders, it did have a recipe for scalloped potatoes. They had a version that incorporated chipotle chiles and smoked cheddar, and we just happened to have some smoked cheddar that we picked up from the Dutch Country farmer’s market a couple of weeks ago. Score!

To make the potatoes, you cook a minced onion in butter until soft, then add in flavorings. When those are incorporated, add in thinly sliced potatoes (I used our Borner V-slicer, which is a fantastic tool provided you keep your knuckles well clear of the blade) and simmer in cream and broth until tender. Then you pour everything into a baking dish, sprinkle the cheese on top, and bake until the top is browned.

It’s a luxurious recipe, creamy and buttery, but it’s also dang spicy. It’s amazing how one chopped chipotle chile can just infuse itself throughout the potatoes, and it produces a lingering burn that permeates every mouthful. Definitely serve this one with something more mild. Cook’s Illustrated has the recipe behind a pay wall, but this one here seems like pretty much the same thing.