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.
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
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!
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.
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)
- Turn up the music, sing along and/or boogie down
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F – grease and flour two 9” x 5” baking pans – Set aside
- In a medium bowl:
Mix baking soda, baking powder, salt, wheat germ, flour, and walnuts (if using) – Set aside
- 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.
The recipe: Cabbage Bread
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.
The recipe: High-Calcium Cabbage Bread Recipe
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.
The recipe: Psychedelic Dill, Beet Bread
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.
The recipe: Kale and Feta Bread
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!
The recipe: Acorn Squash Bread
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!
The recipe: 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.
The recipe: Grilled Green Onion Flatbread
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.