Fresh From the Farm

Posted: June 2, 2010 | Author: Rita | Filed under: Rita | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

As a pretty-much vegetarian most of my grocery bill goes to fresh produce. Gush over Trader Joe’s as much as you want but I’ll never be much of a fan as long as they offer scant veggies and fruit — almost none of it organic at that! Previously I mentioned that I am joining a CSA, which stands for Community Supported Agriculture, where us city (and suburban) folk buy shares of wares fresh from the farm. There are lots of advantages to this for both sides but I’m mainly excited for the guaranteed weekly vegetables. Now I can splurge on fancy stuff at the grocery store since the CSA is paid for in advance! Yeah, I’m looking at you, skyr.

Yesterday was the very first day of my CSA‘s pickup and my fellow foodies and I were quite impressed by the haul:

Now, I have a half-share, so everything listed on the sign is halved and split with my partner, some guy the coordinators paired me randomly with. While this is a cool way to meet new people in the CSA community, the guy never answered my email when I asked a logistical question and he hadn’t shown by the time I arrived. Not sure what’s up with that. A generous afterthought is that any leftover shares goes to the synagogue that hosts this CSA’s homeless shelter kitchen, so they will have fresh veggies themselves. Maybe that’s where this guy’s stuff will end up.

I eagerly carried my swag back home and cleaned them all now so I won’t have to waste time doing so later this week. Vegetables have to be koshered too: rinse or swish them in water three times, no more, no less. This is to assure that there are no insects hiding underneath leaves and one of the most forbidden things Jews can eat are insects. This took a long time!

Helpfully, the CSA sent out a newsletter the day before indicating what we’d be receiving along with a recipe, because I sure don’t know what do to with all of these greens. This week it was for a mango salsa and it contains cilantro:

Mango-Cilantro Salsa
Serves 3
Recipe by Maryellen Driscoll

1 heaping cup chopped mango (thawed, frozen mango works fine)
2 tablespoons chopped green onions
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1 1/2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
2 tablespoons mild-flavored oil, such as peanut, walnut or grapeseed
Large pinch of red pepper flakes (or minced fresh jalapeƱo, amount to your liking)

Combine all of the above ingredients in a small bowl. Season with kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste. Let sit, refrigerated, for up to 4 hours before serving.

Luckily I happened to have mango and limes on hand, but not peanut oil, so I just used olive oil. I also spiced it up with pepper and chilli powder but it remained pretty mild. I was considering eating it for dessert but I think I will let it set in the fridge and marinate it on some fish tomorrow.

Mostly I was dreaming about eating bok choy but now that I think about it I have no idea how to prepare it! Instead I made a giant-ass salad and used maybe 1/8 of this week’s veggie haul. Bok choy will require some research.

In this salad is romaine, mixed greens, arugula, sliced radishes, a couple of stalks of green onions, half of a plum tomato, a handful of pumpkin seeds (raw), chickpeas, one beet, broccoli florets, 3 cloves garlic and dried raisins, cranberries and a couple of pecans. The dressing is a spiced olive oil/red wine vinegar/honey mix.

From the first bite you could tell these greens were fresh from the farm. The leaves are bigger, the texture silkier — especially the mixed greens, and all in all they were more flavorful too. This was picked THIS morning! Isn’t it amazing? And isn’t it furthermore amazing that people have so lost touch with the land and what they choose to consume that it’s novel, almost revolutionary, to buy food from farmers? Wow. I wish more people were able to experience this, especially for those that vegetables at all are considered a luxury.

On the other hand, this is a ton of food. Not sure how I’m going to use it all up every week, especially if earlier in the season means less items. Does this mean this is the least amount of stuff I’m going to receive for the next 21 weeks?? Eek. Weekly dinner parties at Rita’s?

Seven Species Salad

Posted: January 20, 2010 | Author: Rita | Filed under: Rita | Tags: , , | 4 Comments »

Tu B’shvat, the Jewish New Year for the trees, is next Saturday and I’m still unsure of my plans. Originally I had wanted to throw my own seder but it seems more and more like I won’t have the time (or money) to coordinate it! Luckily there are many excellent organizations having their own event but it’s usually for the best, I’ve found, to do things yourself. Or at least, it can be more fun that way.

Since Tu B’shvat is minor — the two Jewish cookbooks I own barely give it a paragraph, let alone specific recipes — and since it has been reinvented many times, I’m going to assume that as long as one sticks to the basic idea of the holidays as a New Year for the trees, then you can interpret and celebrate it any way you’d like, including what recipes to make!

One consistent custom, however, is to eat the seven species of fruit and grain mentioned in the Old Testament, which are wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and dates; all of which are healthy, flavorful and nutritious. Just mentioning these foods all together sounds so wholesome, doesn’t it? The reason there generally aren’t recipes for Tu B’shvat is because the above-mentioned foods tend to be eaten separately and not cooked, like nibbling on a bunch of grapes rather than eating something deglazed in red wine, say. That doesn’t mean we can’t come up with something, hmm?

If you’d like to combine them all into one dish for efficiency’s sake, it’s very easy to transform this into a salad:

Seven Species Barley Salad
Serves 4 – 6

- 1 cup pre-soaked hulled barley, cooked and cooled (see below)
- 3 teaspoons pomegranate juice
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt
- 1 red bell pepper, diced
- 4 – 6 figs, quartered
- Handful of red grapes, halved
- 1/2 cup crumbled feta or gorgonzola cheese
- 1/4 to 1/2 cup Whole wheat croutons (see recipe below)
- 1/4 cup sliced almonds
- Dates, sliced, for garnish
- Freshly ground black pepper

Note on the barley: though pearl barley is more common and takes faster to cook, the nutritious bran has been removed. In this way, pearl barley vs. hulled (complete) barely is like white rice vs. brown rice. If you want all the nutrition, go for the hulled, but you’ll need to pre-soak for many hours before cooking. Do this by placing the amount of barley desired in a bowl or container with double the amount of water and let sit on your countertop overnight. Done! You can even cook the barley in the water you soaked it in. Visit this website for more detailed info.

To boil barley: “The ratio of barley to water is 3 cups water for every 1 cup of barley. Over high heat, bring the barley and water, uncovered, to a boil. Cover, and reduce the heat to low. Allow the barley to simmer for 45 minutes. Do not add salt to your barley until AFTER it is cooked, since it can block absorption of water.

“Cooked barley will always retain some chewiness. You’ll know your barley is done when 20 percent of them have burst open. You can use the above method with non-pre-soaked barley too. Follow directions as above but cook for 1 1/2 – 2 hours instead.”

For the whole wheat croutons:
- Whole wheat bread
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- Chopped fresh oregano, basil, thyme, or other favorite spices

Take a couple of slices of whole wheat bread and crumble into bite-sized pieces or smaller. In a small bowl combine oil and spices. Lightly coat the bread pieces in the mixture and place on baking sheet. Bake at 425 degrees until crispy, a few minutes.

Ok, onto the recipe itself!

While the barley is cooling, in a small bowl, whisk together the pomegranate juice and a pinch of kosher salt. Add the olive oil and whisk to combine. Set aside.

Combine the barley, red bell pepper, figs, grapes, preferred cheese, croutons and sliced almonds. Add the dressing and stir to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Garnish with date slices. Serve immediately or allow to sit in the refrigerator for up to 1 hour.

Important note: since I just made this up I haven’t attempted to make this recipe yet and I’m not sure if it works! Let me know if you try it yourself and tell me how it went! I suspect it needs lots of tweaking.

There are so many ways these seven ingredients can be combined! I’ll have more on that next week.

Johanna: The Improviser

Never quite follows the recipe. Doesn't really measure. Tastes with her fingers. Somehow, it always works.

Alyssa: The Triple Threat

Can do it all. And modest to boot.

Bakezilla: We Use Mixers Too

She likes to bake. Actually, baking is the only thing she does. It's a passion.

Rita: The Kosher Chick

Restrictions have nothing on her.