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Farm Box hangover special
Saturday May 29th 2010

Ooooh, this feels better.

Leftover new potatoes, warmed up and then put in a pan with butter to brown a bit, then topped it with an egg and mixed it all together. Plus some spicy asian spinach, also leftover.

I feel better now.

Simple veggie dinner redux
Saturday May 29th 2010

We loved the veggie dinner last night so much, we decided to bring it back for a repeat appearance, but with two changes – a sauce (for that saucy girl Melinda!) and some meat! Nope, not another meatless meal.

I got my Industrial Designer helper going on the Pisoni farms Asparagus. Gotta love the orderliness! Hee hee hee

Those got blanched and buttered and combined with the remaining carrots from 4 shares worth of carrots, topped with S&P and parsley. Oh, and some butter, too.

Redid the beets with (Continue Reading…)

A simple all-veggie dinner
Friday May 28th 2010

Lots of talk on the blog and twitter spheres about making meatless meals. Things like meatless Mondays and the like. Now, I’m fairly militant when it comes to treating animals humanely. Well, except for the not eating them part. We only eat grass fed meat, and eggs from pasture raised chickens. Very very little factory farmed meat in our house. We try quite hard on this.  But that’s not to say I don’t do meatless meals. I kind of like focusing entire meals on just the beautiful vegetables we get from the CSA. So that’s what I did tonight

It was quite a simple dinner really. Five different simple preparations of vegetables, just put on the table, and everyone made their own little meal out of them.

There were some of the new potatoes. A dream to eat. Warmed my Danish heart.

Some steamed carrots with parsley on top.

Oh, and I’ve got to put a shout out to my helper for her work on the carrots. Thanks Emma!

Some boiled golden beets, topped with  (Continue Reading…)

Extra boxes – where’d everyone go?!
Thursday May 27th 2010

Holy cow! Where did everyone go?! There were an extra 4 boxes left over last night!

A brief interlude to explain what happens to these extra boxes. The official rules from the CSA are pick up til 10pm, and then it’s shnooze-you-lose. But when we were CSA pick-up-ers, before we were hosts, we would always be forgetting, and so if people contact us by the next morning I’ll arrange an alternate pick-up. That actually happened last night – a member emailed me and asked to pick up today – no problem, I’ll put it back out for him. But there were still an additional 4 boxes out there at midnight last night! And no emails this morning! Is everyone taking off for the long weekend again?

So let’s put this in perspective. Here’s a picture of the contents of one box. (Pretty nice looking bounty, eh?)

That’s 8.5 pounds of food! But cuz of the no-shows, it’s actually a total of 42.5 pounds of food! Wow! I look forward to working our way through this. Thankfully it’s the long weekend so there are lots of opportunities for sharing at parties. We’re going camping at a friends ranch in San Gregorio on Saturday night with tons of people, and a bbq at the Loomba’s on Sunday. What should I make?

I’m thinking of a huge beet salad. Boil them up, pull the skins off, let them cool a bit, then toss with wine vinegar of some sort, olive oil and some alium of some sort, and maybe some goats cheese, roasted nuts and parsley. Could do a big potato salad too. Carrots could get blanched and pickled. I have a ginormous bag of those beautiful little lettuces now too – could just make a nice tossed salad for everyone to share. Hmmm…


What’s coming this week (and what’s left over)
Tuesday May 25th 2010

Got the list from Two Small Farms today. Here’s what’s on it’s way:

- Italian Parsley
- Chantenay Carrots
- New Potatoes
- Red Romaine Lettuce OR Loose Spinach
- Strawberries
- Gold Beets
- S ummer Squash OR Broccoli
- Cilantro

I see some salsa verde in my future with the parsley and cilantro. Or maybe a parsley pesto?

Ooh, and either of those two would go great with some steamed carrots.

I didn’t get the potatoes last week (boo hoo) so am sure glad I’m getting some this week. I’m going to aim again for the fancy retro “baked” potatoes with bacon, creme fraiche and chives.

Strawberries. Those poor strawberries get devoured. We went through three boxes of them last week in under 24 hours. Yikes!

Beets are going to get roasted. Maybe steamed though because they’re gold and it’s great to keep the colour fresh.

Summer squash (aka zucchini). I’m happy that Jorge and Jason gave me some suggestions. I’m definitely going to try one of their ways.

Actually I see a great summer BBQ meal here with the box (if the weather decides to cooperate damn it!):
- Grilled meat of some sort
- Salsa verde
- Roasted beets
- Potato salad, but it’ll be gentle on the flavours and mayo cuz these babies are tasty!
- Caesar salad
- Roasted and proiled stuffed zucchini, a la Jorge. Or ribboned, a la Jason and then served antipasti style.

Gotta invite some people over!

Oh, and Jim and Sara called – they were down visiting the Pisoni family yesterday and brought back some broccoli, asparagus and romaine. Maybe we can combine and make a huge party!

What about you? What are you going to do with your Farm Box?

Oh, I almost forgot. Here’s what was left over from the three boxes last week. Just a half bag of crack lettuce and, um, yup, those are the same beets! Ahhhh!

“On the wagon” night
Monday May 24th 2010

We’ve been trying to make Monday’s an “on the wagon” night. Not that we’re hard-core boozers (“Hey! I can stop any time I want!”), but as food plays such an important part in our life, along goes wine. And with my MW studies, I really should be immersed constantly in all things vinous. But we all need a night off, and that’s where Monday’s come in.

It’s in part a scheduling thing. Tuesday’s is swimming night, so if it’s the Bickert/Drennan’s turn to take the kids then we might be out for a casual dinner, which means wine or sake. Wednesday’s is when my tasting group meets, so there’s wine Wednesdays. Even if the group isn’t meeting, it’s Farm Box night so what better to go with some beautiful food than some wine! Thursdays is serious food night at the house because we find out Thursday mornings if there is an extra box or three from the CSA drop-off from Wednesday night. Friday is well, Friday – screw the wine – I might need a Dark and Stormy! Then there’s Saturday night – it’s the weekend! Then there’s Sunday Suppers on Sunday. So that leaves Monday. Really the only night on the wagon!

So I was on the wagon tonight. And I wanted something simple and seriously healthy.

I had lunch at Delica SF today at the Ferry Building with Michele, and had the asian style spinach. We had a HUGE bag of spinach from the Farm Box (about 2.5 shares worth!) so I set about recreating it.

First I blanched the spinach in heavily salted water for about 45-60 seconds. Then flashed it into some ice water. Then strained it, and squeezed it til it was really dry. Then I made a “dressing” of peanut butter, rice wine vinegar, toasted sesame oil, toasted sesames, and some of that cool garlic chili paste you get from the asian food store. Here is the final composition. And trust me, that’s a small bowl – you gotta use lots of spinach when making this!

Then Melinda made a sort-off nicoise salad with lots of the farm box. She lightly cooked up some carrots, hard boiled a Marin Sun Farms egg, added some Italian tuna and some calamata olives, and tossed it all with some crack lettuce. Looks yummy, eh?

A great simple meal, perfect with my glass of water! Oh, was Melinda on the wagon tonight? You’ll have to ask her!

Saturday summer grill at home
Sunday May 23rd 2010

Weather weather weather. Seriously froze my ass off at Marina Green for Emma’s soccer game today! Ouch! And I needed a bit more comfort as last night was a roughie toughie. Drinks with Mr. McCambridge at Tadich, dinner at Barbacco (A++), then a rock show with Michele. Proceeded to shatter the glass on my iPhone (doh!) and ate a Farolito burrito (super, with chorizo, no rice – greasy greasy) at 1am, after running the gauntlet walking from Mission and 11th to Mission and 25th! If you’re from San Francisco, you know how crazy that is after midnight! Oww!

Anyway, we thought it was going to be nice weather, so we planned a grilling session with Sara and Jim. We did end up grilling and it was a drop dead fabulous dinner.

Sara and Jim bought some corn at Allemany market and it was beautiful sweet and creamy. We cut it off the cob, got the peas shelled (and blanched) …

… then got it going in a pan with (Continue Reading…)

Ode to the humble zucchini
Friday May 21st 2010

The neighbourhood I grew up in was a mix of different recent immigrants to Canada. When I was a little kid (after we immigrated to Canada), it was mainly Italian and Portuguese families, and as I got older it shifted to Russian, and as I was in college, it became a hotbed for Chinese immigrants, both before and after the turnover of HK to China.

Each of these immigrant groups has brought an indelible mark to the culinary scene of Toronto and the old neighbourhood.

These days, the food scene in the suburb of Toronto where my parents still live is where all the hot Chinese restaurants are. Whether they’re Shanghais, or Hong Kong style, or whatever style of whatever province of China they specialize in, all the hot restaurants are up near my childhood neighbourhood. Strip malls with only Chinese (or sometimes Vietnamese or Lao) signs, you could possibly be the only gweilo around!

Before that, the Russians brought their personal culinary charms of which yogurt is one of my family’s favourites. I remember my mother driving across the top of Toronto to get this one special type - though to be honest, she thinks our local Strauss yogurt is just as good if not better! And I remember that the only decent bread in town as a kid was at the Jewish Russian bakery that my parents affectionately called The Psychiatrist! Come on, can’t you see it? The crowd of people waiting to be served, as the little old bubbies behind the counter take their time, cuz they’re almost more interested in how your cousin Ari is doing than in getting you your loaf of challah!

But what’s the point of all this culinary nostalgia? It’s about backyard gardening. But really it’s about zucchini.  See, the Italian and Portuguese immigrant families in my neighbourhood were of the pretty stereotypical style - there was always a carboy of homemade wine going in the basement, and that made it’s way to the table every evening. There was always the big tomato canning weekend. All the great traditions they brought from the old country.  And my friends were the typical children of these families. They would rebel against the cultural traditions and argue that they would rather be playing street hockey with their “Canadian” friends (quotes used because most of us were recent immigrants to Canada ourselves!). But their parents would speak to them in Italian or Portuguese (and often didn’t speak any English) and force them to help with canning or sausage making or winemaking or whatever other tradition they were keeping alive. But I remember always how my friends would rail against all those veggies from the garden! Why can’t they eat like their “Canadian” friends! Frozen food, or fast food, whatever – anything but veggies. And nothing got them going like the zucchini!  For what seemed like weeks and weeks, the zucchini would turn up on their dinner table. There was mountains of it on the kitchen counters in our little part of Toronto!

See, like in my home growing up, where my Dad was (and still is) an avid gardener, the garden was a key cultural reference point and a key source of food for these immigrants’ families. My father would always grow many types of tomatoes, and also raspberries, and strawberries, and always the zucchini. The zucchini. I’m sure Andy and Stephen could espouse the benefits of zucchini growing – it’s got to be one of the most prolific and easy to grow vegetables around. For those of you who grew up in areas popular with gardening, don’t you remember the zucchini?! The Italian and Portuguese families of my childhood would have so much of the stuff they’d leave bags of it on neighbours’ porches! What do you do with all these zucchini?!

Well, this week we have 3 shares worth of it! What am I going to make with all that zucchini?!

A few simple ideas come to mind.

1) Certainly it will be grilled any time the grill is on. Super high heat, then let it cool with herbs, vinegar, and olive oil on it, then serve as an antipasta type dish.
2) How about a frittata style thing? Shredded zucs in a pan with olive oil and maybe even onion and garlic. When it’s close to done, throw in a scrambled egg or two. Cook, invert, serve.
3) Zucchini bread. To be frightfully honest, I don’t “do” flour. Anything with flour turns inedible in my hands. So I’m going to leave this one to The Gordo.
4) Ratatouille?

What are you going to do with your zucchini?

(P.S. No Farm Box dinner tonight. Off with Michele to a rock show, preceded by drinks from Mr. McCambridge at the Tadich, and dinner at Barbacco! Gotta run. BART awaits.)

With braises, timing is everything
Friday May 21st 2010

Well, it’s been just a miserable crappy spring weather here. Cold, rainy, and quite unseasonable. I hope that the crews down at Two Small Farms are doing okay, and keeping warm.

A conversation with pretty-much-professional-cook Claudine the other night, coupled with some crappy weather, got me thinking about a braise. She told me that good professional kitchens would never dream of serving a braise the same day it’s made, and that it’s always better the next day. The flavours come together and the dish gathers complexity.

So last night, I pulled out some Marin Sun Farms pork pieces that were labelled “stew pork” and got started on it.

First I browned up the pieces, making sure not to crowd the pan. It took about 5 rounds in a pan like this. (Actually, I had two pans going, in the effort of time.)

Then at the end I tossed in a bunch of rosemary. I was a little panicked (Continue Reading…)

The bounty and a fresh spring dish from Melinda
Thursday May 20th 2010

It was Wednesday yesterday so we got our box last night. Yeah!

A brief note on weight. The box this week was not an especially heavy one, but still had lots of veggie goodness in it. It came in at about six and a half pounds. And there wasn’t too much discard weight there – just the carrot tops and the pea shells. So that’s almost 6 pounds of food. Figuring most people will eat one dinner out a week at least, that’s a pound of vegetables a day. That’s not an unmanageable amount – for two people, that’s 8 ounces a person. For a family of 4 like us, it’s only 4 ounces. It really really shouldn’t be that hard to cook through that much veggies in a week, should it? (As an aside, we have a couple extra boxes to cook through this week. Guess folks are on vacation. That’s 19+ pounds for us to get through! Better invite people over for dinner!)

So what was on the menu last night? (Continue Reading…)