Farm Box Day

It’s our farm box delivery day, chock-full of emerald-green spinach, funky kohlrabi, the always welcome carrot and kale bundles, crunchy bok choy, “wildfire” salad mix, cilantro, sweet and crisp fuji apples, satsuma tangerines, navel oranges, broccoli and gem-like golden beets. I decided to tear into the spinach right away, and make something quick and satisfying for lunch. I whipped up a ten-minute Spinach Stracciatella Soup. I’ve been craving really clean foods since the excess of the holidays, and this soup delivered with depth of flavor, nourishment and simplicity.

Here’s how I am going to tackle the rest of the box:

Kohlrabi, Apple and Potato Mash with Seared Pork Tenderloin  This is a dish I’ve made a few times when kolhrabi showed up, and it was a hit with my family, especially my daughter, who liked the sweetness of the mash.

Sauteed Kale with Kolhrabi, Citrus and Pistachios  On the Tanaka Farms Facebook page, I followed a thread about kohlrabi, and one fan raved about a recipe that she had found on Epicurious.com, with sauteed kale, shaved raw kolhrabi, lots of citrus and pistachios.I think I’ll grate the raw golden beets in this as well, and make it my lunch tomorrow. 

Bok Choy, Broccoli and Beef Stir Fry  I’ll get a skirt steak and either do a soy-based or red curry sauce, then serve it with black rice.

Chicken Drumsticks with Chimichurri Sauce  The cilantro will become chimichurri, which we love to have on hand to accompany any kind of grilled meat. Here’s my tip when you are cooking for picky eaters like my daughter, but want to enjoy full flavors at every meal: Master a few sauces that can be served along with “plain” food. Chimichurri is one of those sauces. I’ve already grilled some drumsticks, seasoning them with salt, pepper and garlic powder (not to constantly sing the praises of Trader Joes, but I love their California Garlic Powder. There’s nothing in it but garlic, no preservatives or stabilizers), that I will reheat later, serve with chimichurri and some cauliflower “mashed potatoes.”

For the salad greens, I’ll use the navel oranges, sliced fujis and some kind of dried fruit, cheese and nut to accompany my weekly roasted chicken. Another tip: Hold on to the bones of the roasted chicken after you’ve carved the meat. Maybe even freeze them. I will post later on how you can turn it into easy and delicious stock that will transform your soup. My daughter, in fact, has claimed the carrots for her favorite chicken soup, made with this stock. She also hoarded the tangerines for her school lunch box. That zips up our farm box, neat and tidy! I’ll be adding recipes to the blog before the weekend, hope you come back to check them out!

Farm Box Soup

Tomorrow afternoon, I pick up my CSA box, and I’m so excited to make my favorite meal from the contents: farm box soup. It doesn’t matter what is in the box, anything works to make a soul-satisfying, warming fusion; supplement whatever veggies you get with a basic mire poix of carrots, onion and celery, a few pantry items, and just add broth.

Farm Box Soup

Serves 6 to 8

1 medium onion, diced

3 carrots, sliced

3 celery stalks, sliced

1 bay leaf

3 sprigs thyme

4 cups vegetables such as summer squash (diced), potatoes (peeled and diced), kale (cut into thin strips), green beans (trimmed and halved), cauliflower (cut into florets), kohlrabi (peeled and diced), or whatever is in season

1 can organic diced tomatoes in juices (I love the Trader Joes or Whole Foods 365 brand)

8 cups good-quality, low-sodium chicken or vegetable stock (Trader Joes Organic Free Range Chicken Stock is a favorite)

Olive oil, salt and pepper

6 fresh basil leaves, cut into thin strips

In a large stock pot or Dutch oven, heat olive oil to a shimmer and add onions, carrots and celery. Cook until slightly browned, then add bay leaf and thyme sprigs. Add remaining vegetables and cook until softened. Season with salt and pepper. Add tomatoes in juice and stock,  and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cook until vegetables are tender and flavorful, about 30 minutes. Drizzle with a splash of olive oil, season to taste with salt and pepper, and top with fresh basil just before serving.

Romaine Lettuce

The romaine coming from the farm has been so seductive; creamy white with light green tips, crisp and succulent. I’ve enjoyed the whole leaves as a crisp counter point to rich and spicy flavors, like these meatballs with an Asian splash.

Spicy Hoisen Chicken Meatballs with Romaine Leaves

Serves 4

1 pound lean ground chicken

1 egg

1 cup Japanese Panko breadcrumbs

1/2 cup chopped onion

1/4 teaspoon chili flakes

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 cup hoisin sauce

1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger

1 cup grated carrots

8 large romaine leaves, washed a trimmed

2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Mix together the ground chicken, egg, breadcrumbs, onion, half of  the garlic and half of the hoisin sauce in a bowl, season with salt and pepper, and mix to combine. Roll mixture, about 2 tablespoons, into balls, and place on a baking sheet. Bake in oven for about 5 minutes, until meatballs start to become slightly firm.

Meanwhile, mix together the remaining hoisen, garlic and ginger.Remove meatballs from the oven, and using a pastry brush, lightly brush the sauce on the partially cooked meatballs. Return to oven and continue to bake for another 5 minutes, or until meatballs are very firm to the touch and cooked through.

Place meatballs on romaine leaves, top with grated carrots and cilantro, and enjoy right away.

Beets

Roasting brings out such lovely components in root vegetables, and with beets, it’s also one of the simplest (and least messy) ways to prepare them. Just cut the greens off, and be sure to save the leaves for a salad or sauteed side dish. Place the beets, skin on, on a sheet of foil. Drizzle them with olive oil, salt and pepper, then throw in a fresh sprig of thyme or rosemary. 

Seal the foil into a package, and roast in a 400-degree oven. The amount of time in the oven depends on the size of the beet, you can start to check them with the tip of a paring knife for tenderness around 20 minutes.

Once the beets are easily pierced with the paring knife, it’s time to rub off the skins, once they’ve cooled a bit. Use a paper towel to hold the beet in the palm of your hand, then cradle paper towel around the beet with your opposite hand, gently pulling pulling the skin down from top to bottom.

 That’s the best less-mess tip about peeling your beets with a paper towel after they have roasted: the skin easily slides off, and your hands don’t turn pink. I also slice them with a paring knife while holding them in the same paper towel, then I store them in an airtight container until I’m ready to use them in a salad. For a quick, easy salad that helps you follow the philosophy of eating from root to greens, wash your saved beet leaves, stack them up on top of one another, and roll them into a large cigar. Cut them into a fine slice, or chiffonade, then toss them with lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. Top them off with the roasted beet slices and some crumbled goat cheese. Such a lovely combination of flavors; sweet, earthy, bitter, creamy and tart.

Cauliflower

This head of cauliflower weighed about 5 pounds!

What to do when you get cauliflower bigger than your daughter’s head? Make soup! There are so many different ways to go about this: first, I envisioned a creamy, nutmeg-laced dish, but it was far too heavy for the unseasonably warm weather we’ve been enjoying this winter. Instead, I roasted the florets along with some garlic cloves, sauteed a few shallots in a big pot, and added smoked paprika. When the cauliflower was carmelized and golden brown, I put that in the pot, covered it with chicken stock, and cooked it until the cauliflower was fall-apart tender. Then it was ready to turn into a silky puree, only needing a touch of salt and pepper to bring out the smoky sweet flavor that roasting begets.

Chiquilin smoked paprika from Spain inparts rich flavor

 Roasted Cauliflower and Smoked Paprika Soup 1 head cauliflower, core removed, cut into florets3 garlic clovesolive oilsalt and pepper2 shallots, diced1 tablespoon smoked paprika4 cups good-quality chicken stock, plus additional 1 cup to adjust consistency, as needed Heat oven to 375 degrees. Toss cauliflower florets and garlic in olive oil, salt and pepper, spread out on a baking sheet and roast in oven until florets turn golden brown, about 15 minutes. 

 Remove soup from the pot to a food processor or blender, working in batches if neccessary. Puree the cauliflower mixture until smooth, adding additional stock if needed to adjust consistency. Return puree to pot, reheat and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Green Beans

We’ve been getting a generous share of green beans this fall, and as is typical of too much of a good thing, we are getting a bit over-saturated. Roasted green beans, blanched green beans, green bean casserole, green bean stir fry. The list rolls on like Bubba going on about shrimp in Forrest Gump. As plentiful the green beans are, I never grow (that) weary of them. My favorite way to dress them up? Sauteed with olive oil and a few of my favorite Mediterranean flavors like tart, sweet sundried tomatoes, toasty pinenuts and zingy mint. Use the shallots in your farm box for an earthy base.

Green Beans with Sundried Tomatoes, Pinenuts, Mint and Fresh Mozzarella

2 shallots, thinly sliced

2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

1 pound green beans, stems trimmed

1 cup oil-packed sundried tomatoes, cut into slices

½ cup chicken stock

½ cup fresh mozzarella, cut into small cubes

1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint

Salt and pepper to taste

Heat a large skillet and drizzle with olive oil. When oil is heated, add shallots and garlic, and cook until softened. Add green beans and sundried tomatoes, and cook until green beans begin to soften, about 3 minutes. Add chicken stock and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, and cover. Cook green beans until crisp but tender, then add cheese, mint and salt and pepper.

 

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