Posts Tagged ‘organic produce’
This week’s box contains: more kale – both the Red Russian and curly green, some more lettuce, several small summer squash, one large zucchini, a huge cucumber, a beautiful head of cabbage, a bunch of green onions and – my daughter’s favorite – some broccoli! Still quite green, but you can tell the subtle variations of the season are now appearing. While the green cabbage was definitely a fun one – and in the weeks to come, I’ll be showing you how to make much more than that same boring cole slaw, I had been waiting anxiously for the cucumber. And I waited even longer to run by the Farmer’s Market on Saturday to grab a couple of extras before sharing them with you.
While cucumbers are great raw, with or without dips and alone or atop a big (green) salad, I’ve been craving some fried pickles and was eager to get a batch going. Yes, fried foods can be “real foods” – the secret is all in the technique. And I have an amazing fried pickle recipe – seriously amazing! Regardless, I’ve still got a few weeks before I can enjoy these babies. For now, they are settling in the fridge, mellowing in all kinds of juicy tangy goodness, as they turn from cucumber slices to crisp pickles. When I fry them, I’ll let you know. Of course, you’ll want to get your own batch going so you’re ready. It is simple, relatively quick, and absolutely worth the effort!
First, slice the cucumbers. Personal preference dictates the thickness, but I like to keep mine under 1/8 inch so they don’t get that slimy texture later. Whatever you decide, make sure they are uniform so they’ll be ready at the same time! Set all the slices in a big bowl. I used 4 cucumbers, but you can easily adjust the recipe to match your crop.
In a saucepan, combine equal parts of vinegar and water. (You’ll want to use the natural apple cider vinegar, not the distilled white stuff, which is unsuitable for food use.) For each cup of water and vinegar, use 1 T pickling spice (make your own below), 3 T pickling salt (no need to go buy something new – give your sea salt a shir in the blender and you’re all set) and a tablespoon or two of sugar (of course, natural and organic) For my 4 large cucumbers, I used 2 cups apple sider vinegar, 2 cups water, a scant 1/4 cup sugar, 1/3 cup salt and 2 T pickling spice.
Bring to a boil then pour over the sliced cucumbers. Don’t worry if you don’t seem to have enough to cover them. The cucumbers will soften and you’ll find you had plenty of the mixture. Place a cloth over the top of the bowl and leave them to sit until they are cool. (First pic is right after I poured the mixture over the slices; the second is after they had cooled.)
Get your jars ready. Don’t worry – we won’t be canning these! They go in the fridge. Make sure they are clean and I like to add about a half a teaspoon of dill weed into the bottom of each jar for a little extra flavor.
When the cucumbers are cool, begin stacking them in the jars, making sure to stuff them well without overpacking your jars. Leave about 1/4 – 1/2 inch of room at the top. Make sure the pickles are covered with the vinegar mixture. Place your lids on top and stick in the fridge.
They can be used within a week, but are better if you can be patient for about a month. They can spoil, so make sure they are gone by 12-13 weeks.
Pickling Spice – You can take your chances with a spice blend. I personally love the Frontier brand. Or you can just toss together your own. Don’t worry if you don’t have every single spice in the mix – use it as your chance to personalize the blend and make it your own! Toss in something else you love that you have on hand. I usually aim for: 1-2 T dill seeds or weed, 1-2 T mustard seeds or about 1 t powder, 1/2 t red pepper flakes, 1 t cloves or a dash of clove powder, 3-5 bay leaves, 1/2 t cinnamon, 2 t coriander and about 1 T peppercorns (whole). This makes quite a bit, so if you make a batch now, it will last all season.
So there’s my box this week. Full of everything green – more kale, lettuce, chard (red and green), bok choy and some strawberries. And yes, that IS a lot of greens! This might be the first time CSA newbies wonder just what they’ve gotten themselves into! Sure, there is a great variety – but still – this is a lot of greens. And I’ll admit – it is right about now that I start craving the juicy tomatoes I know I’ll tire of just as quickly. But, here’s the thing about CSAs: they help us to eat seasonally. Eating with the seasons is not just a feel good eco-conscious trend of the moment. Eating seasonally is more in line with how our bodies were designed to eat. As a wellness professional, I often spend quite a bit of time harping on natural and real foods. I even wrote a book on the subject. <ahem> BUT, that is only the first part. There is a good reason certain foods are available certain times of the year. Right now, had we been born into any century other than this one, we would be downright giddy at the new sprouts coming out of the ground. Because we would have just spent the winter gulping down root vegetables and other foods that had been “put up” for the winter. We would be worn out from fighting off winter bugs and excited to enter this new season. Our bodies would be sluggish from our mini hibernation and these cleansing greens are the perfect remedy. There are many things all of these green have in common. Primarily – they are fantastic detox foods! Spring veggies have a short shelf life – unlike squash or potatoes of the fall – and they are filled with water, micronutrients and fiber to flush our bodies clean.
While we may not have existed primarily on stored foods and root veggies all winter, we did just finish up a string of indulgent holidays from Thanksgiving to Valentine’s Day. We spent months with our windows tightly shut (which keeps our air filthy), fighting off H1N1 and numerous other concerns and our kids are wrapping up another stressful year of schooling. Our bodies are just as in need of a detox as our ancestors, and a great way to gently detoxify the body – something I’m a HUGE fan of – is to add some greens to the diet daily.
So, there you have it. Want to really spring clean inside and out? Eat your CSA greens – all of them! And here’s how:
The kale, bok choy and chard can often be used interchangeably in recipes. If you have a favorite that calls for one, you can always sub another. Or, you can do what I like to do and use a blend of them.
While they are all great when cooked, I felt like something a little more simple tonight, so I went with this recipe – one of my favorites – with a few alterations.
I used my lettuce, chard and kale this time – just a few pieces of each. Then I added the green apple and celery – both of which are also great liver boosting, cleansing foods.
I whisked my vinaigrette – using whole grain mustard instead of the ground for a deeper flavor. Again – purifying vinegar, healthy and fresh olive oil and natural maple syrup – which is definitely a superfood.
And of course, I glazed my pecans with maple syrup – one of my favorite treats.
I tossed it all together, topped with some artisan croutons from a local bakery and added the bleu cheese on top just for fun. Start to finish = 12 minutes. And I’ve got a fun and surprisingly filling meal that is packed full of nutrients! Lots of iron, fiber, B vitamins, calcium, chromium, vitamin A, potassium, zinc, vitamin K, protein, magnesium, chlorophyll and amazing phytonutrients that help increase eyesight, cleanse the body, support heart health, balance the blood sugar, and yes, prevent many forms of cancer.
Still wondering what to do with the rest of your greens? Try making green smoothies by tossing them in a blender with some berries and a little juice. You could also saute them and toss into just about any favorite pasta. Or, combine with sun dried tomatoes, feta and some basil for a fun and unique pizza topping. The combination of flavors and textures is amazing.
Wondering what to do with all of that organic goodness in your CSA box each week? Or perhaps you’re the one that didn’t even join a CSA this year because you’re not sure what to do with 5 pounds of zucchini? Stay with me; I’ve got you covered. Each week, I’m going to show you what’s in my box. Contrary to what you may have been told, a CSA box includes a huge variety of produce! Our farmers (Delvin Farms for those of you that are local) grow over 80 varieties of heriloom and traditional vegetables – yes eighty! So, no, I won’t be showing you what to do with 5 pounds of zucchini, because I’m pretty sure I’ve never received that much at one time. But, I will show you what kind of yummy veggies you can actually expect to find in a CSA box – and perhaps even more importantly, I’ll show you what to do with it!
Yes, really. One of the biggest benefits to a CSA – seasonal and local eating – can also be incredibly impractical to our palates that are accustomed to enjoying tomatoes in January and strawberries in October. While we all wait impatiently for that first bright tomato in our box, after the third week of tomatoes, bruchetta and sandwiches are becomming tired! I’ve been there; I know. I really do!
So, with the arrival of each box, I’ll show you step by step how to prepare some amazing and unique dishes with the food that is currently in season. I’ll give pictures, instructions and – of course – my personal comments. You don’t have to be a part of my farmer’s CSA to enjoy the recipes – what I’m enjoying in my box is probably not that different than what you’re finding in your box. And if you didn’t take the plunge this year, you can find everything at your local farmer’s market – and gain the confidence to sign up for a regular share next spring!
I pick up my boxes at the farm on Wednesdays, so you can look for the next post in the series either Thursday or Friday. Our CSA begins this Wed, so the first post will be later this week. Stick around!