kitchen scribble

September 30, 2013

summer/fall CSA, week 17

Filed under: CSA — kat @ 1:15 pm

I’m sure that somewhere out there there are working moms1 who have everything under control; they bring the toddler home from daycare and have dinner piping-hot and on the table in under 30 minutes, all of it homemade and all-natural2.

I am not such a mom.3 It requires lots of planning to be that kind of mom. Sure, in theory it’s easy; from the quiet comfort of my cubicle, I can think “yep, I’ll get the kid home, I’ll put a pot of water on to boil, stick some meatballs in the toaster oven, put pasta sauce on to heat, wash some veggies, cook pasta, blanch the veggies in the pasta water, dinner on the table in under 30 minutes.” In practice, you’re hauling in a fussy toddler who’s tired from running around all day and just wants to be held by his mommy, and who cries and clutches at your legs if you refuse to pick him up, and before you know it you’ve just served him dry cereal again for dinner because he’s too hungry to wait for pasta to cook, and you haven’t even managed to get the veggies washed yet. Assuming you even got the water on to boil in the first place.

Anyway, I haven’t done much cooking this week. But we’ve eaten very well regardless, because House of India does great carryout, and the kid likes rice and naan. We also ate at the Lebanese Taverna in Rockville, so I dined on leftover lamb shawarma and hummus for lunch today. I did manage to throw together this spiced applesauce cake for a brunch at my brother’s place, which was well-received even though I initially underbaked the cake, broke it in half trying to get it out of the pan, and tried to spread buttercream frosting on it when it was too hot, thus resulting in a bumpy-looking cake with what I optimistically called a “buttercream glaze.” It was still incredibly tasty; my brother called it “addictive.” Smitten Kitchen makes foolproof recipes, I tell you.

The point is, when you look at this beautiful picture of produce picked up last Wednesday, of CSA week 174, know that we’ve consumed only some of the eggs and almost all of the apples (the kid loves apples), but practically nothing else. I’m going to throw romaine lettuce in ramen noodle soup tonight. It’s not K’s favorite, but soft soupy romaine is actually one of my vices, and as dinner-preparer in the family, I get to make executive decisions. If the kid goes to bed early and I have energy left over, we may snack on kale chips tonight.5

So. Week 17: eggs, kale, romaine lettuce, sweet potatoes, bell peppers, tomatoes, golden delicious and Cortland apples, bread (Great Harvest parmesan sourdough), and a single enormous head of broccoli.

summer/fall CSA, week 17

And here’s a bonus picture, blurry because I’m reacting to the sight of an opportunistic hand reaching up to grab himself an apple out of the arrangement:

I can totally get this apple

Oh, the squash in the corner? That’s from last week’s share. Yes, it sat on the kitchen table for an entire week. Maybe I’ll do something with it in the coming days.

  1. I really like Dinosaur Mom‘s coining of the phrase “salary mom”, because you don’t then imply that SAHM’s don’t “work”, a false impression if ever there was one. 

  2. I can’t help but think we’ve regressed from technology re: processed foods. So many other advances in technology have made life much simpler for the housewife: laundry machines, vacuum cleaners, incredibly absorbent paper towels, the microwave… and here I am refusing easy-prep foods, choosing instead to cook from scratch (that is, if I get around to cooking at all), out of some Luddite suspicion of chemicals. I generally embrace technology, but this is a glaring exception. 

  3. Why this is the mom’s task is a separate question. I don’t know how my household degenerated into traditional gender roles, being as we are two egalitarian wage-earners with roughly similar attitudes towards gender roles in the home, but although K is an excellent cook, I have for some reason become the one who makes dinner and cleans up after, even though he gets hungry first. We’re working to resolve the situation more equitably. 

  4. I’ll do a catch-up post of missing CSA pickups some other time. 

  5. I should have made kale chips for our watching of the Breaking Bad finale, but I was too tired. (A recurring theme in my life.)  

August 13, 2013

summer CSA, week 10

Filed under: CSA — kat @ 9:24 am

Man, looking back at the picture of the pickup, I miss the watermelon. Between me and the kid, our half of the watermelon was gone within days. I need to get out to the farmer’s markets and see if I can find more.

Week 10 of Breezy Willow’s summer CSA: zucchini, tomatoes, cucumbers, Summer Gold apples, an eggplant, a sugar baby watermelon, six ears of corn, nectarines, eggs, and bread (Breadery plain white).

summer CSA, week 10

I love that the sugar baby watermelon had seeds in it. I used to get seeded watermelon all the time as a kid, but it feels like I hardly see them in grocery stores anymore. Now it’s all seedless. I’ve always found seedless watermelons bland and depressingly monotonous compared to seeded ones. Sure, they’re more convenient to prepare, but on the other hand, the best and sweetest flesh is always next to the seeds, and you also get the pleasure of spitting the seeds out into growing piles.

I presented the kid with some cut-up watermelon, and he vacuumed it up and demanded more. He’s definitely a watermelon fan. The tricky part is getting him to hold still afterwards so we can swab down his sticky hands. (We’re still working on utensil technique.)

Anyway, I saw the eggplant, zucchini, and tomato, and I just had to make ratatouille.

ratatouille in the pot

Apparently my favorite time to cook is now Friday nights. After the kid goes down for the night, I still feel like I can stay up, chopping and stirring and simmering, and not have to worry about getting stuff done for the next day. I made this beautiful colorful mess of vegetables on Friday night, using Melissa d’Arabian’s recipe. I spread it out to cool in a pan, then poured it into a plastic container to chill in the fridge. Easy vegetable reheating for the rest of the week! It’s chunky, too, so it can be finger food. Hopefully the kid will take to it as well.

August 5, 2013

CSA week 9 and Buy Local, Buy Maryland

Filed under: CSA, local — kat @ 12:03 pm

It’s gorgeous in Maryland right now. July slammed us with heat, humidity, and tons of rain (I feel like the lawn just keeps getting taller no matter how often it’s mowed). It seemed like summer was going to be nasty, but so far August has been quite gentle with us. I hope the mild weather continues.

Week 9 at the CSA: onions, green beans, cantaloupe, green peppers, nectarines, peaches, tomatoes, corn, eggs, and bread (Great Harvest challah).

summer CSA, week 9

The cantaloupe felt ripe, smelled sweet, and was terrifically juicy when I cut into it. However, the flavor was just bland. It was disappointing because I had the same problem with another CSA cantaloupe from an earlier week. I think the rainy season has plumped up the cantaloupes but left them a little lacking in the flavor aspect. Or maybe I’ve just been unlucky with cantaloupes. I love a good fresh cantaloupe, but if they keep going like this I’ll have to consider making them into agua frescas or something. If we hadn’t just bought a third of a cow (more on that later), I’d think about making cantaloupe popsicles.

In other news, I was excited to see this stack of cards when I dropped by Touché Touchet:

Buy Local Buy Maryland cards by the register

I’m all for buying local! Apparently this card gets you discounts at local vendors (10% off your Touché Touchet purchase, for starters). However, when I visited the website, I was disappointed that there were only two Howard County “Food and Dining” participants, namely Touché Touchet and Chen Hibachi. Come on, Howard County, you’re crammed with food and dining options; get with the program.

Also, the website is annoying and clunky to navigate; you can view participating vendors by category, but can’t search by location. It gets difficult to “buy local” when you can’t even define your locality. I think this little card I picked up is going to be pretty useless to me until a) more Howard County vendors participate, and b) the website gets a facelift.

July 29, 2013

summer CSA, weeks 7 and 8

Filed under: CSA — kat @ 1:23 pm

‘Tis the season for stone fruits! We’ve had plums, peaches, and nectarines crowding the fridge for the past two weeks. We’ve mostly been eating them just as they come, although I’m finding that it’s a little hard to cut segments from stone fruits that don’t like separating from the pits. This was never a problem until I had a small child who needed his fruit cut into segments. And of course all that lovely sticky fruit juice squishes out between his fingers and gets all over everything. Parenting is a messy business.

Week 7 of the CSA: 6 ears of corn, green peppers, peaches, Methley plums, onions, zucchini, tomatoes, cantaloupe, eggs, and bread (Breadery blueberry cornbread).

summer CSA, week 7

The peaches were soft, juicy, and ready to eat. As the sign at the CSA said,
10 Peaches
*be gentle, we bruise

summer CSA, week 7

Week 8: green beans, nectarines, green peppers, potatoes, beets with beautiful greens, Shiro plums, tomatoes, 6 ears of corn, and Great Harvest “everything” sourdough. It was a value-added week so I picked up a block of Muenster cheese in place of eggs.

summer CSA, week 8

I love picking up veggies in Breezy Willow’s new addition, because the breeze moves through the screens and sunlight comes through to dapple the fruits and vegetables.

week 8, sunny nectarines

It’s a beautiful time of year.

July 16, 2013

CSA catch-up, weeks 3 through 6

Filed under: CSA — kat @ 2:30 pm

I’ve been lazy these past few weeks, but the CSA most certainly has not; the vegetables have been rolling in at a very good pace. Three weeks ago, it was salad greens and blueberries all the time; now, corn season is picking up in earnest and we’re finally getting tomatoes. Bruschetta, here we come. I used to resent summer, but now I love it for all the wonderful food it brings.

CSA week 3: kale, green and red leaf lettuce, broccoli, spring onions, bean sprouts, turnips, mushrooms, blueberries, eggs, and bread (Wheat? I don’t remember). We managed to eat all of these except the bean sprouts, which got buried up in the fridge drawer and had turned into a brown sludge by the time I unearthed the bag. Poor bean sprouts. Oh, and we haven’t eaten the turnips yet, but I checked on them yesterday and they’re still good. Root vegetables are wonderfully sturdy.

summer CSA, week 3

CSA week 4: double blueberry week! Also romaine lettuce, zucchini, broccoli, cucumber, and a mysterious unlabeled loaf of something very ciabatta-like. It was also a “value added” week so we got our choice of sauces instead of eggs. I picked the horseradish mustard (the other choice was BBQ). It seems like slim pickings; I get the feeling I might have missed something at pickup but oh well.

summer CSA, week 4

CSA week 5: the season’s first corn! Also, spinach, kale, red leaf lettuce, blueberries, tomatoes, mushrooms, eggs, and bread (pumpkin bread, actually).

summer CSA, week 5

CSA week 6: More corn, beets and carrots with their greens, green and yellow squash, tomatoes, chard, mixed greens, peaches!, blueberries, eggs, and bread (Great Harvest sourdough).

summer CSA, week 6

I plan to make pesto with the carrot greens, which worked out well last time I tried it. I’m looking forward to trying it on my standby focaccia recipe. Maybe I’ll stick some root vegetables into the oven to roast while I’m doing that. No use wasting oven heat.

I sauteed up the beet greens with the chard, and did the same with the squash and last week’s mushrooms. Also the corn. It’s my standard process, and the result packages well for weekday lunches (and reheats well for weeknight dinners).

standard process

Really, if you’re wondering how I cook any particular CSA vegetable, my thought process tends to go something like:

Can I cut it up and saute it in butter and olive oil, with a bit of garlic?
If not, then can I eat it raw, with a little grated cheese or a fried egg?
If not, then can I cut it into chunks and roast it, tossed with olive oil and a bit of garlic?

This takes care of most things. It’s when something doesn’t fall into those three categories that I start looking around for ideas.

June 17, 2013

I cannot keep silent any longer.

Filed under: local, peevishness — kat @ 10:49 am

Listen, restaurants. I really, really need you to recognize the city of Brussels. It’s the capital of Belgium. It’s got a capital B, because it’s a name. It ends with an “s”. It’s famous for, among other things, the humble Brussels sprout. Yes, the sprout and the city have the same name.

I can’t emphasize this enough: there is no such thing as a “brussel sprout.”

Here’s an example of what I’m talking about, from the menu of Cacao Lane:

Cacao Lane needs an 's'

Look, it’s not like this is the first time I’ve seen this mistake. I’ll forgive an error here or there from food bloggers. They’re just home cooks. They can’t be expected to do research into how things are spelled. But you, you’re professionals. Food is your career. You should at least spell food-related words correctly.

Even Bryan Voltaggio, celebrated chef on TV, couldn’t get it right on his menu at Family Meal:

Family Meal needs an 's'

Oh, Bryan. Your menu features far more complicated words, like sorghum, bolognese, bearnaise. You don’t capitalize anything else, so I’ll forgive you for the lowercase “b.” But just do me a favor: stick an “s” at the end of your brussel.

(By the way, I was wowed by everything we ate at Family Meal except for the Brussels sprouts, which is weird because I’m generally a huge Brussels sprout fan. It might just be me, though; others at the table loved them. I’m just not a big fan of nasal pungency (I don’t like wasabi or horseradish either), and the mustard or whatever it was in the sauce coating the sprouts was a bit strong for me. It’s okay. Everthing else was fantastic — incredibly moist fried chicken, really flavorful rockfish, and oh, absolutely extraordinary chicken pot pie fritters, crunchy outside with molten pot pie filling in the middle (how does that even happen?). They were tiny and cost $1 apiece, but they were totally worth it. Just be careful not to burn your mouth.)

Family Meal's brilliant chicken pot pie fritters

And while I’m at it, let me pick the scab off another pet peeve. After a great dinner with the in-laws at Family Meal, we went to Kloby’s for carryout the next day. They made me wait half an hour, even though they told me the wait would only be 15 minutes, but it’s okay, I forgive them for that. Their barbecue is totally worth the wait.

This is what I couldn’t forgive (and was stuck staring at for an extra 15 minutes):

Kloby's does y'all a disservice

It’s a contraction of “you all,” right? The letters that are elided are the “o” and “u”; since those letters are taken out, the apostrophe is inserted in their place. The proper rendition is therefore “y’all.”

(My college roommate, from North Carolina, informed me that when addressing larger groups, one may even use the delightful phrase “all y’all.” But that’s for advanced users only. Me, I’ll be happy if you just stick the apostrophe where it’s supposed to be.)

I know it’s a minor nitpick. But I have to stand up for what’s right.

June 14, 2013

summer CSA weeks 1 and 2; also, ice cream

Filed under: CSA — kat @ 10:56 am

You know what I love about fresh salad greens in the summer? It means you don’t have to turn on the oven on a 90-degree day, or even heat up a saucepan on the stove. Nope, you just rinse, chop, and eat. No heat required. We’ve been eating a lot of salad.

The summer CSA began last week and I’m already a week behind. My excuse: ice cream. More on that later.

Week 1 pickup: chard, green leaf lettuce, strawberries, zucchini, white mushrooms, spring onions, mixed greens, spinach, eggs, and bread (Great Harvest sourdough).

summer CSA, week 1

I did have to turn on the stove for the chard, spinach, and mushrooms. I sauteed the chard in butter (stems first, leaves after they’ve cooked a bit) with some spring onion, and served it as a side. I also wilted down the spinach and combined it with mushrooms to make vegetable-y, cheesy scrambled eggs for the kid.

Since week 1 was the week of my birthday, and I was planning to throw a milkshake party, I also splurged on some pints of Trickling Springs Creamery ice cream (available right at the Breezy Willow pickup! It’s a dangerous place).


I still have remnants of pistachio and strawberry cheesecake ice creams in the freezer, but the black forest ice cream disappeared. Just vanished. Apparently chocolate-cherry is a favored combination among my guests. I did manage to get a little into my own milkshake, too, so I’m content. (My milkshake, for the record: black forest ice cream, chocolate ice cream, raspberries, whipped cream, maraschino cherries.)

Week 2 pickup: beets, Boston Bibb lettuce, green leaf lettuce, spinach (in bags), double spring onions (I swapped kohlrabi for more spring onions), blueberries, garlic scapes (yay!), yellow and pattypan squash, eggs, and bread (parmesan sourdough).

summer CSA, week 2

I made the mistake of giving the kid a blueberry and he promptly sat on the floor and demanded more, eating blueberry after blueberry with great enjoyment. I finally discreetly dumped the remaining blueberries into another container and showed him the empty carton. He was a little upset, but I managed to buy him off with a stick of cheese. Kid’s got good taste.

I made a zucchini pie (suggested in Breezy Willow’s weekly recipe mailer) with some spring onions and last week’s zucchini. It was kind of underwhelming. The base flavor was pretty good, but it was a little drier and tougher than I wanted, and also insufficiently cheesy. I’ll tweak the recipe and try it again; if it works out, I’ll let you know.

Oh, and I wasn’t going to get any more ice cream, but they were running a special on salted dark chocolate ice cream. Featuring local Salazon Chocolate, even.

So I, uh, went home with an extra half gallon of ice cream.

salted dark chocolate ice cream

Salted dark chocolate. I have no willpower.

May 24, 2013

spring CSA, week 12

Filed under: CSA — kat @ 9:48 am

For the last week of the spring CSA, Breezy Willow wants to make sure that you eat your vegetables.

spring CSA, week 12

Look at all those beauties. Hiding in the back there is the largest celery cabbage I’ve ever seen. Leaning up against it, a head of romaine lettuce, a loaf of sourdough bread, a bunch of fresh asparagus (the ends were still moist!), and a pound of spinach. Closer to the front, there are two bunches of red chard (I traded an eggplant for extra chard), a pile of zucchini, Breezy Willow eggs, and three Vidalia onions.

I may have mentioned it before, but let me just say it again: I really love the colors on those Breezy Willow eggs.

pretty colored eggs

Last weekend I buckled down and prepped or cooked almost all the vegetables in the fridge, enabling more relaxed weekday evenings. I blanched green beans, cut up Brussels sprouts with garlic to roast in the oven, and sauteed kale, chard, beet greens, and radish greens in butter. I also roasted up all the sweet potatoes that have been biding their time in the back of the cupboard. It made getting dinner on the table really easy this week. Since this is a holiday weekend coming up, I should have plenty of time to put a dent in the greenery crowding our refrigerator.

Usually the last week of the summer/fall CSA is a very sad time for me; it ends around the same time as the last of the farmer’s markets, and it means I have to stock up for the winter. The end of the spring CSA, on the other hand, is a happy time. The farmer’s markets are opening, I’m making dates to visit the pick-your-own places, and summer’s bounty is just around the corner… and so is the summer CSA.

Oh, and strawberries. Larriland Farm‘s latest email blast said that they plan to open sometime next week for strawberry picking. I am so ready. Casey was saying that the strawberry harvest in North Carolina was hurt by heavy rain, and that ours is relatively late because strawberries need sun to ripen. I enjoy learning these details; it makes me feel closer to the land, and really makes me appreciate the berry harvest when it comes.

Speaking of strawberries, the last of the berries from last Sunday’s market were starting to look a little wrinkly and soft, so I cut them up and tossed them lightly with some sugar and a dash of lemon juice. In a jar overnight in the refrigerator, they released even more juices, producing a dark red syrup with chunks of strawberries floating around inside.

It’s tart, sweet, and brilliant on ice cream. Vanilla works perfectly well, but I’ll take mine on a scoop of Breezy Willow’s strawberry cheesecake ice cream.

strawberry ice cream, strawberry topping

May 22, 2013

Granola bars! and this Sunday’s shopping

Filed under: local, recipe review, weekend cooking — kat @ 2:27 pm

I think I snapped sometime last week, when I dug yet another tasteless supermarket granola bar out of my work drawer. It tasted like cardboard and chemicals, a mockery of the big chunks of chocolate and round red cherries on the plastic wrapper. I grumpily ate it anyway (I was hungry, after all), but promised myself I would find a better way.

The internet (specifically, Smitten Kitchen) came to the rescue! I won’t copy her recipe over because I barely changed it, but if you want to click through, I recommend doing so. The recipe takes almost zero time to come together, it’s easy as anything, and you’ll never eat a supermarket granola bar again. (Well, you might. But you’ll resent it.)

On top of the oat base, the recipe calls for 2 to 3 cups of dried fruits and nuts. All we had in the house were Craisins and chocolate chips, so I used 1.5 cups of Craisins, 1/3 cup of chocolate chips, and 1 cup of Rice Krispies cereal to pad things out.

granola bars

They turned out amazing. Yes, even though I messed up and forgot to add the melted butter until the very end (and, in my haste, tried to melt said butter in the microwave and it exploded, leaving greasy streaks everywhere). Anyway, they’re dreamy creations, peanut buttery and oat-y and sparkling with fruits and chocolate. It’s like eating an oatmeal craisin cookie in bar form.

I made them this past Sunday, and we’re already practically halfway through the batch. I used a 9×9 Pyrex dish, but I think next time I’ll use a 9×13 to make an even thinner granola bar (closer to supermarket size). And I’m looking forward to using dried cherries and cashews for the next batch. (Oh, Ann’s House of Nuts, how I miss you.)

We also went to the farmer’s market in Oakland Mills on Sunday. I went for strawberries and bread, and came away with thyme and radishes as well.

Sunday market haul

That’s Popeye bread from Great Harvest (spinach in bread = no guilt about breakfast sandwiches), and both French and English thyme. I’m horrible with plants, but I think if I plant the thyme outside, Mother Nature will take better care of it than I can. And I love thyme on chicken in the summers.

The strawberries lived up to my expectations, by the way; they were wonderfully sweet, juicy, and dark red all the way through. Every year, I’m amazed anew by the taste of ripe strawberries. There’s really no comparison to supermarket ones.

(And if you send your kid to daycare with strawberries to snack on, he’ll smell deliciously sweet when you pick him up in the afternoon. He might even have sticky red streaks on his cheeks, perfect for kissing. It’s adorable.)

Ahem. Anyway. We also made a stop at Linda’s Bakery for assorted cupcakes, since we were going to see family later that day. The people manning the counters are always so patient with me while I dither around figuring out what flavors to get. (Really, I’m just trying to convince myself that I don’t really need to order one of everything.)

Linda's Bakery purchases

Since I hadn’t tried the passionfruit macarons before, we got a couple to sample. (Verdict: very sweet, not terribly passionfruity.) And as a bonus, next time I go in there, I’ll get a free cupcake! They have a frequent buyer card with which you can get a free cupcake after every 10 cupcake purchases. I’ve somehow miraculously managed to hang onto the same one since I started. On the other hand, I must have five or six frequent buyer cards from Great Harvest floating around the house. Someday I’ll find them all and have a bread party.

Anyway, it’s great to live in a place where such good food is so easy to find.

May 16, 2013

spring CSA, weeks 10 and 11

Filed under: CSA — kat @ 10:46 am

The spring CSA is only 12 weeks long, and then (if memory serves) we’ll get a week off before the summer CSA starts up. So there’s just one more week left. At least the farmer’s markets are open to tide us over.

Week 11: Bean sprouts, green beans, Brussels sprouts, cremini mushrooms, romaine lettuce, sweet potatoes, beets, dinosaur kale, eggs, and bread (Great Harvest cinnamon chip). Apparently dinosaur kale is so called because the pebbly texture on its leaves is kind of like dinosaur skin. It does give off a sort of prehistoric vibe.

spring CSA, week 11

I’m determined to eat the bean sprouts tonight; the last couple of times, I let them sit too long and they turned brown and sad. The romaine will probably get eaten next; a nice crisp salad is always good on warm days like these. Everything else is a good hearty vegetable that can sit in the fridge drawers for a couple of days without too much damage.

Last week, week 10: spinach, asparagus, spring mix, rainbow chard, zucchini, Breezy Willow eggs, radishes, spring onions, red potatoes, and bread (Great Harvest sourdough). I think we did a good job eating all of these except the poor chard.

spring CSA, week 10

We sliced and baked the zucchini in the toaster oven, the asparagus got sauteed with some onion, the radishes were pickled (K is delighted with the result, but I am not quite convinced), the spinach and mushrooms went into an omelet (the kid likes vegetables when covered with egg and cheese) and the poor chard is rehydrating in the fridge. I pulled it out to cook a couple days ago and the stems were all floppy. I’m letting them drink up some water; hopefully they’ll get a little more firm. Still nice and colorful, though.

As for the spring greens, we had a dinner salad that very night. My favorite, with an over-easy egg on top, and some sliced sausage and grated Parmesan to add a little bit of luxury.

spring dinner salad

The past couple of times K’s fired up the grill, I’ve had him throw some sausages on as well. Protein is a time-consuming item to prepare, and I like being able to just whip up some veggies with some kind of carb and then serve it up with sliced sausage. Gets dinner on the table faster in the evenings, and the fat-and-flavor hit of the sausage means you don’t need to eat very much to feel full.

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