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 jalapeño, 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?

Viva la Revolution!

Posted: April 21, 2010 | Author: Johanna | Filed under: Johanna | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

You may have seen this kid’s face before. But now, he looks a little bit older, a little bit more grown-up. In case you’ve not put it together yet, this is Jamie Oliver, formerly the Naked Chef. He is now spearheading the first truly aggressive attempt to get America to eat better via his weekly TV show, Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution. He’s taking on one of the most statistically unhealthy towns in the country, and trying to teach its residents to eat better from the school lunches on up. In the first episode, some of these kids cannot identify a tomato. Clips show them spitting out salads and throwing away beautiful and totally amazing vegetables, prepared by JAMIE FREAKING OLIVER. Dude is a CHEF, and these kids are just tossing it away.

Anyways, part of the effort is getting everybody in America to eat smarter, healthier, less processed, more real food. It actually goes right along with his whole Naked Chef persona, which was all about taking wonderful ingredients and preparing them simply and deliciously. Along with signing his petition after seeing 5 minutes of the first episode (you should sign too.), I decided to try and work some Jamie-ness into my daily diet. This lead me to a recipe I’d seen before in the pages of The Naked Chef, but never paused to actually consider and cook. Yes, I fully admit that I am a fool.

Tray-Baked Salmon with Green Beans, Tomatoes, Olives and Anchovies

I’m going to list the ingredients here, even though honestly, the only ingredients NOT in the name of the recipe  are lemons, olive oil, salt and pepper.

  • 1 8-ish ounce salmon fillet per person you’re serving
  • a pint of cherry tomatoes
  • roughly half a pound of green beans
  • a few handfuls of pitted olives (we used a Mediterranean olive mix from FreshDirect – pick what looks good)
  • a lemon
  • anchovy fillets (please do not skip these. they get all nutty and savory, and really truly round out the whole dish)
  • olive oil, salt and pepper

Heat your oven to roughly 450. Jamie says in the book to heat your oven and roasting tray on the highest heat, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to test my oven, which sets off my smoke alarm when I’m making cookies at 325, at whatever the “highest heat” is. So I picked 450. If you know and trust your oven, please feel free to go at a higher temperature, but don’t blame me if the smoke alarm goes off. I warned you.
If it’s your thing, blanch your green beans this way: Drop into a shallow skillet of boiling salted water for 2 minutes, then fish out and dump into an ice bath to shock them, keeping them bright green and making sure they stop cooking. I didn’t blanch mine, because I like a green bean that fights back, and since I was going to be roasting these anyways, I didn’t see the point in cooking them twice. Go with your gut on this one.

Combine your green beans, the cherry tomatoes (Jamie says about 20 cherry tomatoes. Count them if you have that much time on your hands, I won’t judge you. I just poured until it looked like enough), and a few handfuls of pitted black olives (DO NOT use the ones out of the can for this. Go to the olive bar at Whole Foods or do not make this recipe. You’ve been warned). Drizzle with a little olive oil, because you’re going to be roasting these HOT, give them a little salt and pepper, remembering that olives are salty, as are anchovies, and maybe a small drizzle of lemon. Toss.
Pat the salmon fillets really dry, and season with salt, pepper, and a squeeze of lemon juice. You only want to use the juice of half a lemon for the combo of the veggies AND the fish, so be delicate. Put the fish on a roasting pan or cookie sheet and drizzle with a little bit of olive oil, just so it doesn’t burn. Less than a teaspoon, seriously, because you’re just trying to ensure the surface doesn’t burn. I also added a lemon slice to the top of each piece, which I always do with salmon.
Put the veggies at the opposite end of the roasting pan or cookie sheet from the salmon, and scatter 5-6 anchovy fillets over the green beans. Don’t wimp out on the anchovies – they melt away and fall apart and bring a beautiful savory nuttiness to the other intense flavors of salt, sweet, acid, and richness.

Roast everything for 10 minutes. This will yield a medium-rare salmon fillet, tomatoes that are all puffed up and ready to explode, and wonderful things happening with the other ingredients. If you don’t like your fish medium-rare, you could of course let it go a little longer, but please no more than 12 or 13 minutes…. you want everything to taste VERY MUCH of itself, which means it cannot be overcooked.
The thing that amazed me most about this dish was probably its beautiful simplicity. It took 10 minutes to put together, and 10 minutes to cook. Nothing was seasoned with anything other than salt, pepper and lemon. And somehow, the salmon comes together all rich and buttery, and the tomatoes are acidic and juicy. The olives add their tang and briny saltiness, and the green beans are just sweet sweet sweet. And keeping everything together, seriously, is the anchovy. Because they’re tiny, the fillets just dissolve when you cook them, and you’re left with these tiny little chunks of nutty, savory something that somehow end up on your fork – it mellows out the tomato, makes the olives a little less overwhelming, and enhances the green beans in every way. And seriously – 6 ingredients along with olive oil, salt, and pepper. 6!!!!

As a kid, I don’t remember ever not liking vegetables. But there are so many kids today who are such picky eaters, because they’ve never been exposed to the delicious simplicity that is a well-cooked vegetable. They’ve never had food that tastes wholly and purely like its unprocessed self. And that makes me so sad. As a country, we absolutely need to work toward remembering what it’s like to eat the first piece of a tomato from our own garden, or our friend the farmer’s garden if we live where gardens aren’t possible. We need to remember as a nation that hamburgers come from COWS, not from McDonalds, and that cows live on farms, not in pens at processing plants. Fish come from the ocean, not a fish farm in the North Atlantic, and chickens eat worms, and dirt, and whatever the crap else is on the ground, not just corn. Have you ever seen a chicken climb a cornstalk?! No.

In general, this meal was a real wakeup call to me. I urge you to make it, as soon as you can find good green beans in your area, and as you’re eating it, remember that you don’t need 67 ingredients to make a delicious meal. And, bonus, there’s only 1 pan and 1 bowl to wash at the end! Who can beat that? Seriously.
Thanks, Jamie. Viva la Revolution indeed.

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.