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bean dish and creamy salad
Wednesday March 30th 2011

I’ve gained a huge appreciation for legumes over the winter. Certainly helps that it’s been cold and rainy and miserable for about the last 3 months, but it’s also that I’m trying to move away from the hurry-sit-down-and-eat-while-the-foods-hot type dishes to more it’s-fine-hot-or-warm.

So I soaked up a bunch of chickpeas, then cooked them slowly in chicken stock, and then looked a what Farm Box veggies I had and started to cook!

I started with some chopped up calcots. I know, they’re best grilled and steamed and all that, but I figure they’re just onions so can’t I cook with them too?

Then I threw in a couple long stalks of spring garlic. You can’t really tell it’s there, but it is!

Then after that had cooked down a bit, I threw in two bunches of the Lacinato Kale, more-salt-than-you-think-is-healthy, pepper, hot pepper flakes and powder, and tons of olive oil.

After it sweat down, I added some of the cooked chick peas and let it simmer together for a while on very low heat.

While it was hanging out on the stove Emma helped me make some caesar salad dressing. First we whipped up what is really just a mayo.

Then I prepped some salted anchovies and another sprig of spring garlic.

Chopped it all up, added some lemon and lots of parmesan, and it was done. And no sooner was it done than Emma’s big sister, Alexis, started saying “Daddy, really, you’ve got to let me taste this again and again to make sure it’s not poisonous!” Get your fingers out of there Alexis!

And here’s how it turned out, on the little gem lettuces.

No vino for me that night – it was just the three of us for dinner that night, as Mommy was out with some girlfriends so I just had a cold beer.

But I’ll tell ya, the chickpea dish was so good that the next night we repeated the meal at Sara and Jim’s house and here’s the wine he cracked out for our oenophilic pleasure. Wow, thanks Jim!

This weeks bounty
Monday March 28th 2011

Not a bad looking box, eh? To all the (thousands and thousands of) Canadian readers out there, it’s March. Yeah, March. And this is all growing less than 100 miles from here! Sorry, had to rub it in!

So what’s in there?

There’s some escarole at 9 o’clock. Sarah suggested maybe a creamy salad (aka caesar) for it. Seems earthy lovely. I’ll have to give that a try.
Melinda already made some soup with the spring garlic (going from 6 to 11 o’clock).
The bunch of thyme there will go on everything and anything.
The mustard greens or kale or whatever the green is at 5 o’clock will go into a bean dish of some sort.
Carrots and parsnips might get roasted. Or maybe mashed parsnips, like a mashed potato. Of the carrots into a carrot soup?
Chard at 12 o’clock will go into a soup I think.
And the little lettuce heads will go into a I-have-no-time-to-make-a-big-dinner salad some night during the week.

What are you going to do with your box?

Spring garlic soup on a cold rainy night
Saturday March 26th 2011

Been a tough week at work – lots and lots of action, resulting in less and less time to cook – thank goodness Melinda is home to pick up my slack!

On a miserable cold rainy day this week I came home tired and in serious need of happy hour and I opened the door to the sweet warm smell of spring garlic soup. I walked into the kitchen just as she was returning some of the soup to the pot after blending it.

She said she just simply sweated out the spring garlic from the Farm Box in a pot, added a chopped peeled potato and some chicken stock, lots of salt and pepper and let it simmer a while. Then just blended it. What a great result. The potato added so much creaminess that I asked if she had added actual cream to the soup. Nope, just the potato.

Looks pretty damn good, eh?

Then I took a few pieces of Marin Sun Farms meat that Melinda had prepped and put them in a pan with some oil, butter, and threw in a couple half-crushed cloves of garlic, and some thyme from the Farm Box. Occasionally basted the meat with the juice (fat!) in the pan. Did it all stove top, no oven, and it turned out great. So it was just soup, the meat, and a nice salad for dinner.

The wine was a tough choice, and since it was really the soup that really was the star of the dinner, I selected a wine for that. I ended up with a Laporte Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire Valley in north-west France. It was grassy like a sauvignon blanc from New Zealand, but had a nice minerality that went with the earthy edge of the soup. All in all a good pairing. It failed completely with the beef, but whatever, can’t open two bottles on a week-night. Or can you!?  ;-)

Cold weather stew with Linda’s pork sausage
Thursday March 24th 2011

After the cooking class I was poking around in the fridge and saw that Jonathan had left me some sausage that Linda the pig farmer had made. I thought, whew, it’s cold out, maybe I’ll make it into a soup/stew with some of the Farm Box veggies.

I started by browning it in a cast iron pan with some leeks from the Farm Box. As it was cooking I could smell that it had some exotic spices in it – cinnamon, cloves were two I could detect – and that gave it a very north african type flavour.

With those flavours in mind I decided to add some chick-peas to the mix, cuz you know, when you think of north african food don’t you think of couscous and chick peas and things like that? And I had a bunch of collard greens from the veggie box and thought they’d help make the soup rich and hearty.

I don’t have picture of it, but on Sara’s suggestion I added a bunch more onions and garlic, and a quart of whizzed up jarred tomato (from last year’s Mariquita harvest, of course!). Great idea from Sara that was, because the tomatoes and the cinnamon really went well together. It was a nice rich hearty stew, perfect for the weather!

So what to drink with it? Well, Jim reached into his deep deep cellar and pulled out a fabulous wine to pair with the dish. A Monte Antico from 1998. This is an Italian wine from Tuscany that is made with the sangiovese grape – the same grape as Chianti. Well, it’s mostly sangiovese, but likely had some Merlot and Cabernet thrown in too. What I liked about his selection was that it was nicely aged and showing great aged character, and the bottle was also showing it’s price tag – $6.99! Yup, a wine for <10 bucks that aged gracefully for 12 years in the bottle. Another lesson that with the right wine, you can age even inexpensive wine.

(Eagle eyes here will see that the picture here has a >$40 price tag. That’s cuz its a 3-liter from my cellar – I didn’t manage to snap a photo of Jim’s bottle. The current vintage of Monte Antico is around 9-10 bucks now)

There were lots left over so the next night we added a bit of water to the soup/stew and had it again! This time we had a wine from the Northern Rhone valley in France, from a region called Crozes Hermitage, and it worked great. Crozes are usually made with all Syrah grapes, but sometimes they throw in a bit of Marsanne or Rousanne (white grapes! Yes, into a red wine!). While much younger than the Tuscan the night before, this fruity red still worked great with the soup/stew. And the price? This one was a bit more expensive, at $25. Could it age like the Monte Antico? Yes for sure. But for the price of the Crozes, you could do 2 or 3 of the Tuscan. But why not try to age both?!

The season starts off with a bang!
Monday March 21st 2011

I’m back! The CSA is back! And it’s starting off with a BANG!

I know, I know, you were all so worried that my Farm Box Life blog wouldn’t come back after the end of the Farm’s winter break. But have no fear! After a few months of nights spent staring at a fridge devoid of farm-fresh produce, the CSA made it’s first delivery and my Farm Box Life blog is taking off for another season.

I’ll be continuing along the same plan as last year, though with a few tweaks here and there. Maybe a site redo, maybe more emphasis on what wines we’ve been drinking with our CSA box meals, maybe a few other ideas I have up my sleeve. I’ll keep you posted.

So, yes, the bang. Shelley and Julia from the farm approached me a month or so ago and asked if they could throw a cooking class/party at our house to coincide with the first delivery of veggie boxes. Um, duh, yeah, of course! We’d love that! If for no other reason than it would be cool to see a professional chef like Jonathan teach and cook a meal for 10+ in a kitchen as miniscule as mine. And wow, was he ever able to do it!

Here’s a good shot of Joe watching Jonathan in action. I think that he’s laughing cuz he’s never seen me let anyone in my kitchen! Gotta admit – it’s kind of hard. I really had to relinquish ALL control and put a camera in my hand instead of a kitchen knife!

On the menu were some calcots, a regional spanish delicacy. They get charred pretty much to bits over hot coals and …

… put in a big pile on the table. People take them in their hands and slide the charred outer layers off, revealing a soft sweet inner mass that gets tipped into romesco sauce.

Jonathan also made a sweet potato tart-like savory dish. See, if it’s got flour or dough in it, I don’t know what its called and I can’t follow it’s creation or instructions! I’m dough-illiterate!

Linda, the pig lady, and friend of Andy’s, supplied some pork for the party, which Jonathan braised with some farm box carrots and turnips. Yummmm.

The biggest hit of the night for me was the black rice dish Jonathan made. He had pre-cooked the rice, and then pan fried it with onions and other stuff, but also nice meaty strips of pork. The meat was sort of what I remember as back-bacon from the old country. It was so so good. Earthy black rice, asian-y flavoured with onions and other stuff, but then meaty with all that yummy pork. It was a meal untu itself!

I’m often at a loss for new dressing to feed the kids. They were saying last night that if they had their way, I’d make them creamy salad (aka caesar) every night of the week! So it was cool to try the salad Jonathan made with Farm Box lettuce onions and carrots, plus some avocado, and a dressing made with indian spices – cardomom, cumin, cilantro, if I remember correctly. What a great change.

In the end it all boiled down to why we do this in the first place. The communal feeling we get sitting down and breaking bread together!

Thanks so much to Jonathan and Shelley and Julia for making it up to the city and hosting the class/party at our house. It was a great start to the season!