29 September 2010

Tales from the CSA: Week 18

In this week's box:

1 pumpkin
1 butternut squash
1 head Boston Bibb lettuce
5 potatoes
4 apples
small pile of green beans
1 green bell pepper
2 little hot peppers
a cute little decorative gourd

More squash!  That squash-cooking day is starting to look increasingly critical. Last week's and this week's apples went into pies for the weekend.  My folks were in town to celebrate my dad's birthday, which is a pretty common event each fall - they'll often make the trek down from the Philly area for a weekend of fun, good company, yummy food, and football around his birthday.  And I always make apple pie for dessert, because it's his favorite.  My crust making has improved dramatically in the past year.  I attribute it to 3 things:

  1. Butter.  I had been sticking with 100% vegetable shortening for my crust.  Since it's an old family recipe, it used to be made with lard, and shortening is the closest modern cognate.  But it really tastes better if you use about 1/2 butter and 1/2 shortening.  The shortening is easier and more forgiving (and makes the crust nice and tender), but flavor-wise, it doesn't bring much to the party.  Butter does.
  2. Better sense of what the dough is supposed to feel like.  I've been making pies with homemade crust for years, but, as is the point of this whole Food Lab exercise, you need to make a given thing frequently to really get a sense of the best tricks.
  3. Confidence.  See above. 
Also, I have a much better rolling pin now (solid wood French style pin rather than the kind with the ball bearings), which contributes.  The right equipment really does make a difference.

I was a little heavy with the cloves (I was chatting with my mom while making the pie, and shook the container a little too vigorously over my sliced apples), but everyone was nice enough not to mention that.

Two more weeks to go - I'm really going to miss the weekly surprise over the winter...

22 September 2010

Tales from the CSA: Week 17

In this week's box:

1 head Boston Bibb lettuce
1 green tomato
1 acorn squash
1 butternut squash
1 green bell pepper
3 hot peppers (one looks like a poblano, the other two I'm not sure - possibly habanero)
6 apples
6 red potatoes
small pile of green beans
small pile of okra

We're in the home stretch, with 3 more weeks of produce to go. Nothing too exciting to report this week, other than I'm starting to get a lot of winter squash. The cool thing about it is that if you have a cool, dark place, you can store it for quite a while. I do not have that. I'm thinking I'll probably hang onto everything we don't use through these final weeks, and then spend part of a Saturday roasting it all, pureeing it, and then freezing it in 1 c. amounts, thus leading to a winter of squash pies, breads, pasta filling, and muffins from organic CSA squash. Sounds yummy - and will save time, since roasting, cooling, and pureeing squash is not exactly a 10 minute process.

20 September 2010

Recipe: Rum Punch

Did you know that September 19 is International Talk Like a Pirate day?  Of course, rum punch was the best way to celebrate!

Anyone who's been to any of the Caribbean islands should be familiar with the rhyme to the right.  So here's how we played it:

Sour: lime
Sweet: simple syrup
Strong: Mt. Gay rum (not white rum, because, as my friend Deb pointed out, you might as well use vodka)
Weak: we tried both OJ/pineapple and blood orange Italian soda/pineapple.  Both had things to recommend them, but I preferred the blood orange soda - the carbonation made the drink a little lighter and it wasn't as sweet.

We skipped the bitters (mostly because I couldn't find this photo to remember that we needed them), but we did grind on some fresh nutmeg.


15 September 2010

Tales from the CSA: Week 16

In this week's box:

small pumpkin
small other winter squash
2 yellow summer squash
1 zucchini
1 green bell pepper
1 head Boston Bibb lettuce
4 ears of corn
5 apples
large pile of green beans
small pile of okra

This week's box arrived a day late. Of course, I can't think of a better candidate to take Labor Day off than farmers.

I was happy to see more okra. We can either just eat it or put it in gumbo.

And the winter squash went into some lovely fresh ravioli in sage butter sauce for a dinner with friends on Saturday night.

4 more weeks to go...

09 September 2010

Tales from the CSA: Week 15

In this week's box

6 ears of corn
small pile of green beans
small pile or okra
2 little yellow squash
1 green bell pepper
head of Boston Bibb lettuce
6 apples
1 small acorn squash
1 mostly green tomato

Sure enough, as Dean from Dino predicted, the composition of my produce box is changing. I suspect that the peaches are done, and the tomatoes are probably not far behind. Sigh.

We were out of town for Labor Day, but we ate it all anyway other than the acorn squash (saved to make filled pasta this weekend), the okra (not enough for a side dish, so hoping to get more), and the apples (saved to make pie for the 2010 NFL season opening weekend).

Speaking of, I'll continue writing about food during football season, but there will be a transition to writing about football food. Although we're still planning to do labs, it will likely be with less frequency until after the Super Bowl.

In the meantime, though, we have weekly Sunday parties to watch games, and every Sunday morning, Chef Spouse gets his cook on. So prepare yourself for musing on cooking for a crowd and recipes for gumbo, chili, ribs, and other hearty fall and winter fare. 

01 September 2010

Tales from the CSA: Week 14

In this week's box:

Pile o' green beans
4 ears of corn
1 zucchini
1 yellow squash
1 green bell pepper
3 white peaches
3 nectarines
4 apples
4 tomatoes

Dean and Kay, owners of the fabulous DC trattoria Dino, send out a weekly enewsletter. In addition to news of the restaurant and their ever-changing list of awesome special promotions (my favorite recent one? continuing Restaurant Week prices through Labor Day weekend), Dean also muses on various food and food-related topics.

This past week, he focused on what he has - and., notably, hasn't - been seeing at the farmers' market.  The record-setting heat we've experienced in DC this summer means that the tomatoes and peaches are petering out early.  I would venture to guess that the summer squash will follow suit.

So I definitely savored this week's tomatoes and peaches, letting the peach juice drip down my chin and slicing the tomatoes thin, topping them with salt and pepper, a drizzle of olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and a chiffonade of basil from my garden, enjoying the classic tastes of late August while looking forward to fall's flavors.  Although it's still about a billion degrees in DC, the days are perceptibly shorter at this point, 10 weeks past summer solstice, and I'm already thinking of butternut squash-filled pasta, long-simmered dishes, and fresh homemade bread.

Recipe: Variation on a (Tuna Tartare) Theme

We decided to make another run at tuna tartare.  We'd been out of town for the weekend with a group for whom food is basically fuel.  Case in point?  I took fresh peaches and tomatoes from the CSA, and I was the only one who was interested in eating them - everyone else wanted to grocery store cherry tomatoes and pre-cut (under-ripe) melon.

We love these people, but we were in need of some tasty, quick to make, goodness.

Yes, I know that tuna tartare is "over."  Foodies have declared it another dead fad, along with plating your food in towers, foams, small plates, tasting menus, and gourmet burgers.  The thing is, classics done well tend to taste good, and I mostly care about whether things taste good.  Tartare too pedestrian for your refined palate?  More for me, SUCKA!

Anyway, we wanted something a little spicy, so to hand-chopped tuna we added:
Sesame oil
Soy sauce

(all to taste, of course)

We went heavy on the green stuff and toasted more wontons - only this time, we brushed them with egg white so the sesame seeds actually adhered - and dug in.

Late summer bliss!