summer/fall CSA, week 20; fall salad and pizza

Last week’s CSA was a beautiful fall assortment.

summer/fall CSA, week 20

We got two shares of apples, spinach, kale, Brussels sprouts, yellow onions, carrots, carnival squash, and apple cider, as well as the usual eggs and bread (Breadery sourdough).

We ate the apples pretty much as is; the kid gets half a sliced apple in his school lunch every day, and K and I both eat an apple apiece at work daily, so apples go fast. In the next few weeks I’m probably going to go nuts on the apples at the farmer’s market, too, so I can put some up as applesauce and pie fillings for the winter. Bread was sliced up and eaten that very day, and the cider disappeared quickly as well.

As for everything else…

what happens to CSA veggies

We had some items left over from last week (top right in the collage), so I mashed all the remaining ingredients into two items. I made a fall salad with roasted sweet potato, squash, Brussels sprouts, and kale; I also sautéed spinach, mushrooms, and onions for pizza. The weather right now is perfect to have the oven on, and these made great leftovers for lunches all week.

Fall Salad: everything roasts at different times, which is actually perfect because you can cut up the next thing while the previous thing is roasting. Set the oven to 400 degrees and lightly grease two pans with olive oil (I used a 9×13 rectangular pan and a 9″ pie pan).

Carnival Squash: slice this one up first. Don’t worry about peeling; peeling winter squash is not to be taken lightly and if you can avoid it, do so. Just put the slices in the greased pie pan and stick it in the oven. These need to stay in for an hour or so, depending on how thick you’ve cut your slices.

Brussels sprouts: rinse and cut in halves; toss in the 9×13 pan with some salt and pepper; stick in oven. These need to cook for 35-40 min.

Sweet potatoes: peel and cut in chunks; toss in the 9×13 pan with some more salt and pepper, stirring the Brussels sprouts around as you do so they don’t burn. Put the pan back in the oven. Sweet potatoes need to cook 25-30 min, or until soft.

Carrots: peel and cut in chunks; toss in the 9×13 pan with the potatoes and sprouts. These need to cook 20 min.

Throw in some peeled garlic cloves while you’re at it. Garlic is always nice.

While the root vegetables are cooking: strip kale from stems, tear into pieces, and rinse; blanch the kale in boiling water to soften it. Then drain it so it’s not soggy.

By this point, your roasting should be done! Toss the kale with the roasted root vegetables. The squash should be done at this point too; just cut the cooked flesh from the peel and toss it with everything else. Squirt some lemon juice over all (adds a nice bright note) and drizzle it with good olive oil. Voila, fall salad. Reheats beautifully, too.

As for the pizza, I used the lazy pizza dough recipe from the Smitten Kitchen blog; I put it together Saturday night and let it rise overnight and well into Sunday. It was a bit touch-and-go as the dough was very wet after its long rise, and tore easily; still, having made it, I smacked it down on the pans and pressed it out and hoped for the best.

I had previously sliced and sauteed mushrooms and onions in olive oil, and I had also wilted down some spinach on the stovetop. K had also pan-fried some sausages and cut them into thin disks, so those went on the pizzas as well. I spread jarred tomato sauce in a thin layer over the dough, then strewed the toppings around and covered it all in shredded mozzarella cheese. They went into the oven at a ripping 550 degrees for about 15 minutes.

They turned out amazing. The crust was lovely and the vegetables took on a wonderful roasted texture. Plus, served alongside the fall salad, it made enough for several meals. Definitely doing this again.

The French Twist Cafe

…has ruined me for hot chocolate.

So when I was a kid, I loved Swiss Miss hot chocolate – you know, the packets of cocoa and sugar and whatever that you can mix with hot water. I particularly liked the ones with the little mini marshmallows; I loved chasing them around in the cup and trying to drink them before they dissolved. Suckers always floated to the far side of the mug, too.

Then, when I was a teen, I discovered that Starbucks made hot chocolate with milk. It blew the watery Swiss Miss away. Starbucks hot chocolate was creamy and sweet; they steamed the milk as if for a latte, but then mixed it with sweet chocolate syrup. The richness of the milk won my heart. I now made my hot chocolate at home with hot milk and cocoa mix (nothing but sugar and cocoa in the ingredient list, thank you very much).

But then, along comes the French Twist Cafe.

It’s a tiny little place, tucked away on a side road off the Main Street of historic Sykesville. It’s warm, cozy, and very welcoming, and they make fantastic crepes. I had their autumn special crepe, with applesauce and salted caramel drizzle, and it was delightful; with the seasonal gingerbread chai alongside, I really felt like I was celebrating fall.

autumn apple crepe and gingerbread chai at the French Twist Cafe

But forget all that for a minute and let’s talk about the hot chocolate. I think they call it “chocolat chaud,” which as far as I can tell is just French for “hot chocolate.” I ordered a hot chocolate and watched them steam the milk; then, to my surprise, the only thing that went into the milk was a generous scoop of bittersweet chocolate chips, stirred until melted. I think the lady said the chips were 70% cocoa, which is pretty darn bitter if eaten on its own. And that was it! No syrup, no sugar, no artificial flavorings of any kind.

It was a revelation.

The taste is pure chocolate, rich and creamy with the milk, no cloying syrupy aftertaste. I was amazed. The next time I got Starbucks hot chocolate, it felt far too sweet on my tongue; I missed the uncomplicated simplicity of nothing but bittersweet chocolate and hot milk, whisked together. Thanks a lot, French Twist Cafe; you’ve ruined me for hot chocolate forever.

Guess I’ll just have to go back.

hot chocolate at the French Twist Cafe

Ignore how the drink looks. It looked much prettier when they gave it to me, but I couldn’t resist taking a sip or three before I took a picture.

(They sweeten their whipped cream with honey. Get the honey whipped cream on top. It’s heavenly.)

3 more weeks of CSA

The past three weeks of the CSA have been just delightful, really. I’m always sad to see the last of the peaches but honestly, towards the end of the year, they just aren’t as sweet as they are in high summer, whereas the apples are coming into their prime. And now that it’s properly autumn, I love turning the oven on to roast root vegetables, and bake cakes and quickbreads. I also don’t mind simmering stuff for hours on the stove, to fill the house with warmth and savory smells.

Anyway, here are weeks 17, 18, and 19:

summer/fall CSA, week 17
summer/fall CSA, week 18
summer/fall CSA, week 19

Plenty of root vegetables, plenty of apples, lots of lovely dark greens. And I don’t know where Breezy Willow sources these amazing Red Delicious apples, but they totally live up to the name. Red Delicious in the supermarket is uniformly bitter in the peel and tastelessly mealy in the mouth; I never buy it. But the ones in the CSA share have a lovely, juicy crunch, and although the peel remains bitter, it provides dimension to the sweetness of the flesh. It’s mind-blowing. I can’t even believe the two apples are related.