Weeks Twelve CSA Challenge – Without A Net

Inspired by last week’s challenge, I decided to work without a net this week. Still time-crunched from canning and the new job, I opened the bag of vegetables and pondered, “What great dish could be made from these ingredients that would cover many meals?”

veggies

First, I thought pasta, but what about those potatoes? I could make gnocchi from them…oh, but that time crunch. Gnocchi takes time. And all those peppers…especially the hot ones…would likely overwhelm the sauce.

Heat has it…chili is the answer.

I thought about the food science that goes into chili. The balance of taste and texture. The thickness to the sauce. I thought about all the CSA ingredients and saw their place in the mix. The only additional items I would need to purchase to create the taste I imagined would be some ground meat and tomato paste.

I started with a mirepoix…also known as the holy trinity of Cajun cooking. Traditionally, the three key ingredients of a mirepoix are onions, bell peppers and celery. In this case, I substituted garlic for the celery. I decided to take another lesson from gumbo and decided to add texture to the chili by adding these vegetable ingredients in waves. The first would be the mirepoix vegetables…browning and caramelizing them before adding the browned and drained meat, tomato sauce and paste. The second wave would be added midway through the cooking. The third would be added with about 15 minutes of cooking time remaining. By adding vegetables in this way, each has a different consistency and flavor it adds to the finished dish.

I didn’t write a recipe, just mixed and tasted and thought about ratios between flavors and consistency while it cooked down to a yummy, yummy chili suitable for lunch, dinner and packed lunches.

Weeks Eleven CSA Challenge – Phone-A-Friend

The vegetables in this week’s CSA seemed fit for a chef…so I called one. Todd Singleton is a great good friend from our early days and an awesome chef these days. I figured if anyone could suggest a meal plan, it would be he.

CSA contents: Bibb lettuce, Cubanelle peppers, onion, celery, cherry tomatoes, kale, flat beans, Armenian cucumbers, Chanterelle mushrooms, and red cabbage

The following is the meal suggestion Todd shared:

-A fresh salad of Bibb lettuce with the tomatoes, some cucumber and onion.

-Pickle the remaining cucumbers in a quick brine with some onion.

-With your protein, sautéed Chantrelles and coconut creamed kale.

-Next protein with a braised red cabbage with fennel

-How about a “hummus” with the flat beans?

-A roasted Cubanelle and onion chutney to keep in the fridge and use with lots of things – grilled meats, bagels, cream cheese dips…

The instinctive yummy pairings Todd made were fascinating. I was inspired by the blending of food science and taste that he used to determine a meal. I mean, that kind of expertise is really to be desired.

When I see ingredients, I look them up to see how they will work together. But the knowledge and creativity involved in both deciding great food pairings and that are nutritious and balanced, is formidable. This is something I want to learn.

Sure it will take time and likely many mistakes, but I do believe this is the next long-term goal of my cooking. Thank you, Todd for the motivation, and thank you for the coconut cream kale and Cubanelle pepper and onion chutney…lovely surprises and great new tastes to me.

 151e614

Todd Singleton – Food Services Technician at Southern Tier Brewing Company

Weeks Ten CSA Challenge – Working Girl

This week I started a part-time job instructing “Business Planning for Entrepreneurs.” Classes start September 17th, and I need to build a new 12-week curriculum before that date. Heading into an office other than the one at my home and adding extra hours of work to my schedule made this week’s challenge an easy choice. I needed to make meals that wouldn’t consume too much time in the preparation and would provide leftovers that could become lunches for the week.

Another great first this week…my niece took her first horse ride! No more ponies led by others. Amanda took the reins.

Reins

The ride was beautiful and on the way back to the barn, we saw a beautiful sunset! Life in the country rocks.

Sunset

Week ten CSA included: beets, collards, carrots, onions, yellow squash, bell peppers, hot peppers, jalapeño pepper, corn, garlic, zucchini, and tomatoes.

Week Six Challenge:

Think outside the casserole and make dishes that satisfy for a meal as well as serve up well reheated for a lunch.

RECIPES, LINKS, REVIEWS AND DISCOVERIES

Stuffed Green Pepper

Recipe: Stuffed Peppers

Link: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/robert-irvine/stuffed-peppers-recipe.html

Review: My first stuffed peppers without meat and they were refreshingly good. I still like meat, but more and more lately I don’t get really hungry for it often. The yellow squash and the zucchini baked inside the peppers really were a great match to the pepper.

 

Vegie Burgers

Recipe: Spicy Black Bean and Corn Burgers

Link: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/robert-irvine/stuffed-peppers-recipe.html

Review: These were so good that I made a quadruple batch and froze them as patties for future lunches and dinners. To the large batch I did add an extra can of whole black beans I didn’t mash and I went really light on the flour. They held together fine without it. Also VERY good with Sweet Chili Sauce.

Beets

Recipe: Roasted Beets

Link: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/roasted-beets-recipe.html

Review: When roasting beets you really can’t go wrong. The thyme added a little something extra. My local grocery didn’t have goat cheese. Yes, I can’t believe it either. So I had to substitute for feta. Good, but not as good as goat cheese.

 

Chicken-Rice Soup

Recipe: Chicken and Rice Soup

Link: My brain

Review: I buy my chickens locally these days. They roam free at Barry’s Barnyard. They feed in a pasture…protected from predators in a huge wire and wood enclosure. Chickens raised this way taste better in my opinion. But until I used a slow-cooked chicken carcass I made for dinner to make soup, I didn’t know how much better they were. For years I thought I had gotten my grandma’s recipe wrong because my chicken noodle just didn’t have that special something hers had. But using the free-range chicken for the soup made the difference. It tastes exactly like grandma’s soup.

Recipe: Cut up a good-sized onion and scallion, about 5 whole carrots, celery if you like. Rinse the whole chicken inside and out. Season lightly inside and out with Borsari. Mix together some of the onion and carrot and celery and place inside cavity. Place mixed veggies in bottom of slow cooker and place chicken on top of them breast side down. Make about 2 cups of chicken bullion and pour into slow cooker, add about two cups more or water. Turn cooker to low and cook for about 4 hours. I start checking at four hours because cooking time will range with the size of the chicken being cooked.

When chicken is done, lift and serve.

 

Pour the veggie and bullion mixture left from slow cooking into a stockpot. (Remove some of the fat from the top of the mixture to reduce calories if you like before transferring it to the new pot.) Pick the carcass for meat and add the meat to the veggie and bullion mixture. To be really authentic to the recipe, remove the larger chicken bones, snap them in two and add them to the mixture. Now is the time to add any extra produce you may desire. Collards worked great, but anything you like with chicken will be good. Add a bay leaf to the mixture and cook on low temperature for about 30-45 minutes. Remove bones and add noodles or rice (cooked separately in advance) to the pot and cook for about ten more minutes. ENJOY and thank Mrs. Nevada Elizabeth Smead Gray.

Weeks Ten CSA Challenge – Working Girl

This week I started a part-time job instructing “Business Planning for Entrepreneurs.” Classes start September 17th, and I need to build a new 12-week curriculum before that date. Heading into an office other than the one at my home and adding extra hours of work to my schedule made this week’s challenge an easy choice. I needed to make meals that wouldn’t consume too much time in the preparation and would provide leftovers that could become lunches for the week.

Another great first this week…my niece took her first horse ride! No more ponies led by others. Amanda took the reins.

Reins

The ride was beautiful and on the way back to the barn, we saw a beautiful sunset! Life in the country rocks.

Sunset

Week ten CSA included: beets, collards, carrots, onions, yellow squash, bell peppers, hot peppers, jalapeño pepper, corn, garlic, zucchini, and tomatoes.

Week Six Challenge:

Think outside the casserole and make dishes that satisfy for a meal as well as serve up well reheated for a lunch.

RECIPES, LINKS, REVIEWS AND DISCOVERIES

Stuffed Green Pepper

Recipe: Stuffed Peppers

Link: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/robert-irvine/stuffed-peppers-recipe.html

Review: My first stuffed peppers without meat and they were refreshingly good. I still like meat, but more and more lately I don’t get really hungry for it often. The yellow squash and the zucchini baked inside the peppers really were a great match to the pepper.

 

Vegie Burgers

Recipe: Spicy Black Bean and Corn Burgers

Link: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/robert-irvine/stuffed-peppers-recipe.html

Review: These were so good that I made a quadruple batch and froze them as patties for future lunches and dinners. To the large batch I did add an extra can of whole black beans I didn’t mash and I went really light on the flour. They held together fine without it. Also VERY good with Sweet Chili Sauce.

Beets

Recipe: Roasted Beets

Link: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/roasted-beets-recipe.html

Review: When roasting beets you really can’t go wrong. The thyme added a little something extra. My local grocery didn’t have goat cheese. Yes, I can’t believe it either. So I had to substitute for feta. Good, but not as good as goat cheese.

 

Chicken-Rice Soup

Recipe: Chicken and Rice Soup

Link: My brain

Review: I buy my chickens locally these days. They roam free at Barry’s Barnyard. They feed in a pasture…protected from predators in a huge wire and wood enclosure. Chickens raised this way taste better in my opinion. But until I used a slow-cooked chicken carcass I made for dinner to make soup, I didn’t know how much better they were. For years I thought I had gotten my grandma’s recipe wrong because my chicken noodle just didn’t have that special something hers had. But using the free-range chicken for the soup made the difference. It tastes exactly like grandma’s soup.

Recipe: Cut up a good-sized onion and scallion, about 5 whole carrots, celery if you like. Rinse the whole chicken inside and out. Season lightly inside and out with Borsari. Mix together some of the onion and carrot and celery and place inside cavity. Place mixed veggies in bottom of slow cooker and place chicken on top of them breast side down. Make about 2 cups of chicken bullion and pour into slow cooker, add about two cups more or water. Turn cooker to low and cook for about 4 hours. I start checking at four hours because cooking time will range with the size of the chicken being cooked.

When chicken is done, lift and serve.

Pour the veggie and bullion mixture left from slow cooking into a stockpot. (Remove some of the fat from the top of the mixture to reduce calories if you like before transferring it to the new pot.) Pick the carcass for meat and add the meat to the veggie and bullion mixture. To be really authentic to the recipe, remove the larger chicken bones, snap them in two and add them to the mixture. Now is the time to add any extra produce you may desire. Collards worked great, but anything you like with chicken will be good. Add a bay leaf to the mixture and cook on low temperature for about 30-45 minutes. Remove bones and add noodles or rice (cooked separately in advance) to the pot and cook for about ten more minutes. ENJOY and thank Mrs. Nevada Elizabeth Smead Gray.

Weeks Seven, Eight & Nine CSA Challenge – “Quick” Meatless Meals

It has been busy at Villa Capriccio! Harvest season for my own garden, canning, freezing and making jam has usurped time.

I am not complaining, the haul has been awesome.

Check out my giant zucchini – 19” long – 6” radius at largest point and yielding 15 cups of zucchini for 5 batches of zucchini bread this winter!

 mongo cuke 

It was the first season for potatoes in my back yard and super excited about my 12 batches of raspberry-peach jam.

 

 Potatoes      Jam

Unfortunately, all this bounty has shortchanged my CSA experiment. I had to combine the last three weeks to make it all work. Still, it has continued to be a delight. With all the great vegetables and fruits coming my way, I decided to celebrate by going meatless. And since time was at a premium, I chose “quick” recipes. Not to say there isn’t some prep involved, but they are more streamlined than my usual choices.

Over the last three weeks, my CSA packages have included: Cabbage, fresh garlic, collards, corn, new potatoes, shallots, white onion, sweet basil, yellow squash and eggplant.

Week Seven-Eight-Nine Challenge:

Quick meatless meals

 

Food for thought

  • Making Eggplant Parmesan was my first chance ever to whisk, dip, flour, dredge, and fry anything. It is a skill I am long overdue in acquiring. Frying may not be the healthiest, but it is yummy.
  • I need to find a better knife sharpener.

 

RECIPES, LINKS, REVIEWS AND DISCOVERIES

 cabbage burgers

Recipe: Cabbage Carrot and Green Pea Patties

Link: http://recipes.malayali.me/menu/easy-recipes/cabbage-carrot-green-peas-patties

Review: These were tasty, but man, or man, were they tough to get to hang together. There seems to be no binder. Perhaps I got the grind too course or too fine, but it just wouldn’t stick it out through the process. I want to take another crack at it because it would be terrific to have a stockpile of these in the freezer for quick lunches. Maybe I’ll add some black beans whole and some ground to add some southwest and kick it up a bit.

 

 Eggplant

Recipe: Eggplant Parmesan

Link: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/food-network-kitchens/eggplant-parmesan-recipe.html

Review: As previously mentioned, I am not an eggplant fan. My CSA seems determined to change my mind with every variety of eggplant coming through the door. This eggplant parm was awesome! I loved it. The marinara sauce was incredible! I must confess, I did ratchet up the red sauce a bit with about five times the required basil, twice the thyme and double the garlic. YUM! The red sauce recipe is a keeper for a homemade sauce.

 

Summer Nights Eggplant

Recipe: Summer Nights Eggplant

Link: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/summer-nights-eggplants/

Review: This is kind of a twice-baked potato idea. You hollow the eggplant, blend and cook with other ingredients, stuff it back into the eggplant and bake. Think my breadcrumb ratio was off as they seemed to override the taste of the other ingredients, but it was a good meal and folks had seconds.

 

Corn and bean salad

Recipe: Southwestern Black Bean Salad

Link: http://www.skinnytaste.com/2009/06/southwestern-black-bean-salad.html

Review: Yum from every angle. Great as a side dish. Great as a chunky dip, great a day later and even a week later. Paired with blue corn chips, it was absolutely awesome.

 

Yellow squash

Recipe: Summer Squash Ribbons with Thai Basil and Peanuts

Link: http://food52.com/recipes/5505-summer-squash-ribbons-with-thai-basil-and-peanuts

Review: This was so good, that I have made it three times in the past three weeks. Though it has shown me that my mandolin doesn’t slice thin enough to really do this recipe justice. Even better about this recipe…no cooking involved and a great use of my fresh Thai basil. A real winner.

 

Screen Shot 2014-08-30 at 2.59.25 PM

Recipe: Kickin’ Collard Greens

Link: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/kickin-collard-greens/

Review: I liked this recipe, but I think I would do it differently. A little less liquid to cook down the collards with and I wouldn’t put the bacon in with the greens until the bulk of the liquid cooked off. I like the bacon to have a slight touch of crispness rather than getting all soggy.

 

 potatogalettes

Recipe: Potato Galettes with Sage

Link: http://www.foodrepublic.com/2012/09/01/potato-galettes-sage-recipe

Review: Perfect with a little sour cream! Definitely comfort food rather than everyday fare, but very good.

 

 

 

 

WEEK SIX CSA CHALLENGE – A TASTE OF THE ISLANDS, MAHN!

What is Turks and Caicos? The Turks Islands and the Caicos Islands together are Turks and Caicos or TCI, British Overseas Territory in the tropical Bahama Island Chain. The predominant theory is that Turk Islands got their name from the Turks’-cap cactus.

turks-head-cactus

While others claim it was named for the Barbary pirates.

Barbarossa

Caicos is said to be derived from the Lucayan “caya hico,” which means – small string of islands.

And here they are:

tccarib

Whyfor this spotty history and geography lesson, Chuck? Well, because this week my CSA Challenge travels with me to the Caicos Islands! I could have put my CSA on vacation and received extra produce another week, but I opted to give my week six produce to friends and try some island fare.

Going native meant preparation. I researched recipes of Turks and Caicos. Historical fare recipes were scarce and most Caribbean dishes – though authentic -were too general for my goals. I opted to find recipes currently being made on the Caicos Islands by working chefs. I was having very little luck until I found an insanely well-linked supplement to the online publication called Where When How – Turks and Caicos, and one issue just happened to feature recipes from Island chefs. I planned the meal, made shopping lists and waited excitedly to head to the grocery after our plane touched down in Providenciales.

Shopping grocery stores in foreign lands is – for me – like going on the best cultural tour ever. Last time in TCI, I found Coconut-Peanut butter, a spread I now prefer over any peanut butter. This trip, spotted dick sponge pudding and coconut cookies were new-to-me items that just happened to fall into the cart.

coconut-peanutSpotted Dick

Other than the eating, the best part of this gastronomic adventure was my outdoor kitchen. For years – trapped inside while making jam and other all-day projects – I have drempt of having a functional kitchen out of doors. A place where I could prepare food surrounded by nature and great views.

In the TCI condo, there was a huge screened porch overlooking the beach and ocean. I set up shop and pretended my outdoor kitchen dream had come true.

kitchen

This practice kitchen was incredibly instructive as I taught me that I definitely need some kind of shade in my kitchen and screens…lots of screens.

 

Week Six Challenge:

Research and reproduce fare being served by Island chefs currently in TCI.

Food for thought

  • Is an ounce a weight or a mass measurement?

RECIPES, LINKS, REVIEWS AND DISCOVERIES

IMG_1880

Recipe: Tomato & Papaya Salsa

Full disclosure: this recipe is just a small part of a Mahi Mahi recipe from the kitchen of Coco Bistro

Link: http://onlineissues.wherewhenhow.com/publication/index.php?i=184354&m=&l=&p=33&pre=

Review & Discoveries: THIS IS THE RECIPE OF THE WEEK! A definite must for canning (if possible) or freezing if not to make it through the winter with some fruit and veggie sunshine salsa. Everyone who tasted it, just kept eating it, and found inventive ways to use it in other meals. So far, it is reported to be great on fish, eggs and toast! BTW, this recipe should call for 3 mangoes rather than two, as it is impossible not to eat these ripe beauties as you slice them. BTW, the blue corn chips were an appetizing color contrast for the salad.

IMG_1886

Recipe: Frozen Piña Colada

Link: http://cocktails.about.com/od/atozcocktailrecipes/r/frzn_pna_clda.htm

Review & Discoveries: Attesting to their tastiness, I could only find empty glasses to photograph.

Turks and Caicos was a lesson in flexibility. The condos where we stayed had great access to a local grocery store, but the larger grocery store with more selection included a spin on the local highway, a task the hotel’s rickety one-speed bike was not mete to undertake. Due to this limitation, (as with other menu items) I had to scrap my plan of making “Turkinis” when the necessary ingredients were not available.

I headed down the street to the liquor store. No luck there either, I explained my predicament to the proprietress why asked me, “Have you ever tried Bambarra?”

“What is Bambarra?”

“It is the rum of Turks and Caicos!”

Can’t get much more TCI than that, I thought and grabbed Bambarra reserve.

Bambarra

A quick Google of crowd-pleasing rum drinks brought me to mojitos. But our store lacked mint, so it was on to piña coladas. Couldn’t find Crème de coconut, so I asked one of the super friendly employees for assistance. Not certain which one of several different creamed concoctions of coconut I wanted, he asked, “You mean for making piña coladas from scratch?”

“Is there any other way?”

Luckily the condo had a super heavy-duty blender and a few, very loud revolutions later a frothy white drink slid glacially into glasses. Sweet, warm, creamy…oh yeah, life is good.

IMG_1881

Recipe: Conch Salad, Man!

Link: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Conch-Salad-Man-51138800

Review & Discoveries: So how can you tell if the conch is fresh? This was a question for which I hadn’t prepared. Seeing as I was in a major conch-farming region in a grocery store touting the “catch of the day,” chances were good that the conch was fresh. But when I pressed on the conch, it had a more hard rubber spring back than expected. I gave it the smell test…all good. Then looked at the surrounding fish….clear, bright eyes and good flesh tension. Seemed worth the dice roll.

When I started to prepare the conch, I found that when it was sliced, it had a much softer, less rubbery texture that was perfect for this ceviche style salad.

One note: I made this salad the day before as the recipe said to chill combined for at least an hour to maximize flavor. So – I thought – if one hour is good, nine hours should be primo! But when I served the conch salad, it tasted of brine. As I hadn’t salted the dish, the only guess I could make was that osmosis over so many hours had pulled the salt out of the conch flesh and re-distributed it throughout the dish. It was so heavy, I ended up rinsing the whole salad and adding orange, lemon and lime juices to bring it closer to the desired taste.

Despite my learning curve, the conch salad was yummy and light – after the debrining. A great starter for any meal.

IMG_1887

Recipe: Cappellini Aglio e Olio

Link: http://onlineissues.wherewhenhow.com/publication/index.php?i=184354&m=&l=&p=55&pre=

Review & Discoveries: Being a girl who likes her gravy, I was a bit apprehensive about this recipe. It seemed to loose an amalgamation of sauce-like ingredients to satisfy. And where was the oregano? “This isn’t Italian fare,” I reminded myself. “This is island time!” I put my reservations on hold and was amply rewarded. I won’t say I won’t tweak this recipe when I make it again, but it was both simple and spectacular.

fish 2

Recipe: Caribbean Stuffed Red Snapper

Link: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/caribbean-stuffed-red-snapper-recipe.html

and original recipe (Herb Crusted Grouper) link: http://onlineissues.wherewhenhow.com/publication/?l=1&m=19978

Review & Discoveries: Improvisation was key to making this main course work. Before reaching the island, I had selected an herb-crusted grouper.

I prepared the crust – a blend of herbs, bread crumbs and butter, rolled ¼” thick and placed in the freezer for cutting and placing on the fish just before a final broil. However, when I got to the grocery store to purchase the fillets, the fresh catch options did not include grouper.

Scrambling, I saw some lovely red-eyed fresh snapper. I had never prepared a whole fish before, but figured, how hard can it be? Yes, fools rush in…

Found a recipe for snapper online that included additional ingredients to turn the crust I had already made into a stuffing and to better compliment the snapper. I thawed and re-crumbled the crust and added the new ingredients.

Followed instructions to salt and lime the snapper inside and out, then wash both away before stuffing the fish. The recipe instructs leaving the salt and lime on and in the fish for at least 15 minutes. But I think I won’t let it remain for more than 30 when I make this fish again. For this effort, I left the lime and salt on for several hours. For me, it gave the fish a too aggressive salt taste.

Grilling instructions were followed, but alas, something wasn’t quite right. The fish was not fully cooked. So it was finished off under the broiler. All in all, quite yummy. Hard to go wrong with fresh ingredients.

IMG_1892

coconut moose

Recipe: Coconut Sphere with Caramelized Banana

Link: http://onlineissues.wherewhenhow.com/publication/index.php?i=184354&m=&l=&p=55&pre=

Review & Discoveries: Yes, I had high hopes. But with island humidity and lack of kitchen implements, I decided to take some meringues with me and just make the coconut moose and caramelized bananas.

While in NYC before the trip, I searched for a butane kitchen torch that had a removable fuel tank so it could travel and I would just need to purchase fuel on the islands. My search failed and the caramelized bananas were the next casualty.

It didn’t matter, coconut moose would be awesome. However, the local market didn’t have vanilla bean or gelatin, so it was time to scrap the entire dessert.

A Tortuga rum cake would be apropos. Atop my beloved, rusty one-speed bike, I hit the road. No Tortuga either. Walked to the bakery counter…everything was German sweet chocolate this and red velvet that. Decided to grab some mango and coconut gelato and pair it with the meringues.

I will admit, I was shocked not to find fruit gelato at the store. Barred at every turn, but refusing to ditch dessert entirely, I parted with my original intentions, and decided just to try a new flavor of ice cream instead. Pistachio, á la Ben and Jerry was the chosen iced dairy confection. It may not be island, but mahn was it good! There is a reason you find Ben and Jerry’s ice cream around the globe.

 

WEEK FIVE CSA CHALLENGE – BUTTER ME UP!

When I lifted this week’s CSA produce bag, something was different. It was the same dimension as past weeks, but now it had density. I investigated to find cabbage, squash, zucchini, cucumbers, onions and beets among the kale and Napa cabbage. We had turned the seasonal corner from butter lettuces and herbs to much heartier, heftier fare.

I grew up in touch with the seasons, knowing what vegetables and fruits would be ready for eating when. But I had allowed distance from farming and the supermarkets’ utopian practice of stocking nearly every fruit and vegetable in every season to induce unmindfulness of when foods ripen and even from where they come. The only clue to connection was the dearness of price. A pint of strawberries cost $7.50 in January? Hmm, they must not be in season locally.

Growing up, my parents had two acres where we raised corn, strawberries, asparagus and potatoes. My two brothers and I worked many hours pulling weeds, hoeing and thinning corn mounds, gorging on strawberries still warm from the sun, digging and slicing seed potatoes, and shooting at Red-winged blackbirds with BB guns to steward our produce from seed to sauté.

It was shocking to me that these most primary memories of the seasons had been obliterated in a glut of convenience and abundance. I am so grateful to Edible Earth Farms and my new raised bed gardens for putting me back in touch with this lost knowledge. It makes me feel more integrated, more aware, more rhythmic, more in touch with the cycles of life.

While cleaning my produce, I made related discovery. No two beets were near alike in size, the Napa Cabbage had a small worm trail and a cucumber had a brownish area where it had thickened due to contact with the ground. These imperfections made me laugh, pointing up how far I had strayed from organic, real and non-hybrid. The produce I was cleaning was grown for taste and nutrients not transport. They might be a little smaller than grocery issue, but they also haven’t absorbed chemicals to pump them up or assassinate their predators.

I had been homogenized, taken in by uniformity, shine, and lack of blemish. I had begun to believe that these with important attributes. Enthrall to the culture of produce perfection, I realized I had become hyper-vigilant in my cleaning of fruits and vegetables, cutting deeply away anything that hinted of insect or earth or over ripeness. I had forgotten what real, non-modified, organic produce looked like. I had left behind the beloved carrots with two taproots looking like a pair of legs, the taste of my aunt’s tomatoes (grown each year from seeds saved for generations), and the wisdom to know what was harmful to eat and what was safe. I finished cleaning each leaf of the Napa cabbage bored through by the worm. He was no longer in residence and – after all – it was just a little hole. No reason to waste precious cabbage leaves. There was enough for both of us, and in fact we were connected by this miraculous food.

The inspiration for this week’s recipes came from buying a brick of yeast that seems to be the same size and consistency as movie brick of C-4. I had gone to the grocery store to buy a few little packets of yeast like I remembered doing with my mother. But the packets had disappeared. I dropped by the bakery counter hoping for some advice. The woman there told me that she didn’t think they stocked it anymore…apparently the majority of the population purchased their bread pre-made. She kindly offered to sell me a block of commercial yeast. I took her up on the offer and got the buy of a lifetime…$2.49 for enough yeast to last a lifetime.

So I added surplus of yeast to diverse produce and came up with this week’s theme of breads.

yeast

This week’s food-stuffs: Acorn Squast, Zucchini, Cabbage, Napa Cabbage, Onions, Yellow Squash, Cucumber, Kale, Beets

Week Five Challenge:

Bake a bread for every item of produce and cook a recipe submitted by a beloved a framily member that includes Napa Cabbage and promises to do it justice.

Food for thought:

-      mace is a spice similar to nutmeg

-      spice cabinet is filling up with things I believe I will use

-      Spelt Flour is a whole grain, non-wheat flour. Spelt is a cereal grain in the wheat family that is higher in protein and easier to digest than wheat.

-      And now…THE RECIPES AND REVIEWS

NapaCabbageEggs

The recipe: Andrew’s Napa Cabbage Recipe – Contributed to Chuck’s culinary education

- from the Poulet de Palais de Pollard

The instructions:~ two eggs ~ 1 chopped Green Onion ~ some roughly chopped Napa Cabbage ~ teaspoon of Oyster Sauce ~ tablespoon of Soy Sauce ~ a few thin slices of Cucumber, cut lengthwise. ~ a few dashes of Rice Wine Vinegar ~ Fresh, crusty roll 1) preheat a skillet on medium high heat 2) a bit of butter in a nonstick pan, melt 3) Cabbage and Onion in pan to soften 4) stir in the Oyster Sauce 5) beat eggs in a cup then add to skillet 6) cook until firm 7) spindle with soy sauce to taste 8) put egg on a crust roll 9) add slices of cucumber and some dashed of vinegar 10) enjoy a packet of goodness.

The review: This made a great dinner, but I would happily eat it any hour of the day. I need to get a shallower frying pan so I can flip the mass or become less a Nancy-pants about the watery goo that always accumulates in the top of an omelette. But beyond my own runny egg peculiarities, I loved this meal. The cabbage took center stage…which isn’t so easy with its subtle taste. The texture it brought to the eggs was simply inspired. Thank you for the suggestion, Andrew!

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 Zucchini Bread

The recipe: When life hands you zucchini, bake this bread

The instructions: I inherited, tweaked and named this recipe. It is my favorite sweet bread…ever.

3 eggs

1 cup granulated sugar

1 cup loosely packed brown sugar

1 cup cooking oil

3 tsp maple syrup

3 cups shredded zucchini

2 tsp baking soda

½ tsp baking powder

2 tsp salt

½ cup wheat germ

2 ½ cup unsifted unbleached flour

1 cup chopped walnuts (if feeling decadent) 

  1. Turn up the music, sing along and/or boogie down
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F – grease and flour two 9” x 5” baking pans – Set aside
  3. In a medium bowl:

Mix baking soda, baking powder, salt, wheat germ, flour, and walnuts (if using) – Set aside

  1. In a second, larger bowl:

Break the three eggs and whip ‘em good. Add granulated sugar and whip again. Add the brown sugar and whip yet again. (If you want a taste of heaven and promise not to sue if tummy issues arise from consuming raw eggs, grab a spoon and try some of this heavenly froth.) When the vegetable oil comes along, you must whip it. When the syrups goin’ strong, you must whip it. Clean that whip! And grab a wooden spoon. Stir in zucchini just until fully integrated. Pour dry ingredients into wet and fold in until well mixed. (This is another perfect moment to sample a spoonful for those who believe that salmonella avoidance is for someone else.)

5. Pour mix into pans equally and pop into oven on middle rack for about an hour. I set mine to 50 minutes, then check every 5 minutes until a wooden tooth pick comes out clean. Cool in pans 10 minutes, then remove and cool the rest of the way on cooling racks. Wait, strike that. When cooled just enough to touch, cut off a gorgeous piece, smear it with some butter and enjoy. Bread freezes well. I actually freeze shredded zucchini so I can make this bread fresh throughout the winter.

The review: As this is my recipe, it is obvious I love it. So it seems that the review for this recipe is up to those who try it.

 Unknown

The recipe: Cabbage Bread

The link: http://curiouskai.blogspot.com/2011/07/cabbage-bread.html

The review: This is more a baking technique than a recipe. Prior to baking the dough, you wrap it in cabbage leaves. The leaf leaves behind a really cool pattern on the bread. I have to admit, I had a great deal of bread success going into this attempt, and I got a little cocky. Why not – instead of making my first attempt with a simple white bread – make cinnamon rolls instead? Why reference how large a portion of dough should be used in the size leaf I had? Why buy cooking twine? I am a baker, why couldn’t I just wing it? The results weren’t heinous, but it will take some practice to make my cabbage bread look as good as the one in the photo above. I over packed the cabbage leaf, I didn’t seal the edges so the filling seeped out, the dental floss I ended up using left taste and color on the bread. But hey, experimentation is fun and the results were highly edible…just not as successful as they could have been. Photos below show my wraps before cooking and after. Still the cabbage pattern effect is organic and cool.

Cabbage wraps

cabbage sweet rolls

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Cabbage bread

The recipe: High-Calcium Cabbage Bread Recipe

The link: http://homecooking.about.com/od/breadrecipes/r/blbread75.htm

The review: I am the first to admit that the failure of this recipe could be completely mine. But I regret the cup of toasted sesame seeds that were sacrificed to make this bread. I weaned myself off white breads years back and have developed an affinity for hearty, whole grain breads with less-than-sweet taste. However, I could locate no pleasure center in the taste of this bread. Each bite seemed a chore. Since it did have some herb flavoring, I decided to re-purpose the bread. I cut it and double cooked it like biscotti and turned it into croutons.

 Beet swirl cut

The recipe: Psychedelic Dill, Beet Bread

The link: http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_JyrjHwiLeU8/SbEwEH0siKI/AAAAAAAABYo/vpGZR0ZFEEw/s1600-h/red+bread4.jpg

The review: This bread was a ton of fun to make and flavorful to eat with a great texture. Don’t allow yourself to be turned off by either the inclusion of the dill or the beet. Both deliver a great flavor and they work well together in this marbleized bread. Besides, making and baking the dough softens each flavor. This recipe will stay at the top of my list. Perfect for replacing store-bought hearty breads. I did struggle with the proportions. Both dough mixes were too wet when mixed as the recipe instructed. I had to add a great deal more flour to be able to get them to the right consistency.

 Beet swirl

feta cut

The recipe: Kale and Feta Bread

The linkhttp://souvlakiforthesoul.com/2013/11/kale-and-fetta-bread-recipe

The review: This is wonderful savory bread! My streak continued with recipe proportions making the dough either too wet or too dry. This one was too dry to hang together. I was out of Greek yogurt after making the recipe, so I ended up adding a bit more olive oil and some leftover tzatziki to make it work. Happily, it didn’t destroy the taste. This bread packs a great deal of taste and interesting texture and umm-umm-umm those yummy bits of feta!

feta pan 

 Acorn Squash Bread

The recipe: Acorn Squash Bread

The link: http://evabakes.blogspot.com/2012/11/acorn-squash-bread.html

The review: Sweet, moist, spicy, dense and awesome. I had to freeze this bread for later to avoid eating it all fresh out of the oven. This bread is well worth the bake!

LemonSquashCut

The recipe: Lemon Summer Squash Bread

The link: http://heatherchristo.com/cooks/2011/08/01/lemon-summer-squash-bread/

The review: OMG! The zest, the lemon, the frosting…like sunshine and lemonade turned into a cake. Definitely dessert bread, but friends will ask for seconds…and thirds if they aren’t shy.

onion flatbread

The recipe: Grilled Green Onion Flatbread

The link: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/emeril-lagasse/grilled-green-onion-flatbread-recipe.html

The review: I don’t think Emeril and I are kitchen compatible. This is the second of his recipes I have started with high hopes and ended up disappointed. I didn’t buy his seasoning mix…opting to make it from scratch as directed in the recipe. The flatbread was okay, but nothing special. The seasoning was way over the top. Perhaps I used too much, but the mix seemed to overpower the flatbread. It may be time to tighten up my Creole and Cajun cooking skills. I know Emeril is a regional James Beard Award winner. Love to hear that others have had better success.

 Next week’s challenge: A taste of the islands, mahn.