Thursday, May 27, 2010

Summer CSA, or this blog should now be called Salad Daze

Last week our summer CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) share started. We knew we wanted to do one but had to talk through the different options. 1) Use the CSA he used last year. One of the pluses was this pick-up is right next to our building. One of the negatives was there was not a lot of variety. 2) Use the CSA I used last year. Pluses: we used this one for the winter share and it had add-ons (meat, eggs, etc). Negatives: there is a downtown pick-up but not as close. 3) Some combination.

We went with Door #2 -- the next decision was the full share (family of 4 with 2 of those supposedly being young, picky eaters) or a half share (which is not half the price of the full share). We decided to go big or go home and picked the full share, feeling that the two of us could get through it. Last summer with each of us getting 1/2 share, we would end up with a full share anyway. In addition to getting the produce box, we also selected the unfortunately named "Mixed Meat" package -- 13 weeks (every other week) of assorted local meat, plus catfish and prawns. We can get local goat cheese and local eggs at the local store. And we decided we really don't need that much whole milk.

I am already feeling like the full share is too much. This is what we got last Thursday:
Green Onions
Mesculine (apparently, this should be mesclun as mesculine redirects me to mescaline, which We Did Not Get.
Mustard Greens
Head Lettuce (two heads of this)
Easter Egg Radishes
Bok Choy

The meat was frozen ground beef patties and mild (pork) sausage links.

This is what we've had so far:
Thursday - sauteed arugula and mustard greens with bacon. A spinach salad with green onions and strawberries.

This left us with
Green Onions (didn't finish them)
Head Lettuce (2 heads)
Easter Egg Radishes
Bok Choy

Easy, right? Friday night was leftovers. Saturday we had dinner at the baseball game. Sunday was an all-day canoeing trip. We didn't get home until 7 pm and were dirty and exhausted. Monday, R. boiled a chicken and made a Cobb salad. He even hard boiled some eggs and he doesn't even like eggs. So I had the eggs and he had the avocado. The Cobb salad used up green onions and more lettuce, leaving us with
Head Lettuce (1 head)
Easter Egg Radishes
Bok Choy

Tuesday, R. cooked more bacon and mixed it up with pralines to form this great crunchy praline-bacon brittle. Mixed with lettuce, chicken, and goat cheese. Wednesday we ate out because we had evening plans and didn't go home after work.

Now it's Thursday, CSA pick-up day, and we still have the radishes and bok choy left. And we're going out of town this weekend. We picked the last 2 heads of lettuce in the box, and when the people realized they were out, I offered to leave one, and they said, "No, we messed up; we'll just substitute something else." Next time, I will leave the extra head of lettuce.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Grilled Snapper with Orzo (without the orzo)

Or, Emily grills!

This is a dinner from last week. We had the feta-stuffed burgers Sunday or Monday night. Tuesday night was leftovers. Wednesday night, our friend Y. came over with tools to help Rich (I've been told I can use his first name) install a piece of art (a large metal star we picked up at an architectural salvage store over the weekend). Rich had seen two large rusty stars out on the sidewalk in front of the store when I was still out of town. He emailed me a photo and had the store hold them until Saturday. I was nervous about the star motif. Too Texas? Too trendy? I see a lot of star things on HGTV and not just the next Design Star show.

We went by Saturday to look at the stars in person. There were 2 of them, but we decided the other one was too big. The one we got is still close to 4 feet across but small enough to fit in the back seat of a Honda Civic sedan. The star came with a little hole on three of the tips, perfect for hanging, except we were going to hang it on the brick fireplace and don't have fancy tools for drilling into brick and/or mortar. But our friend Y. does because he does home repair/construction stuff for a living. This is the same friend who fixed the door on Steak Chimichurri night. He came over around 5:30 with the proper equipment, and while he and Rich hung the star about 8 feet in the air on the fireplace, I cooked dinner.

The star on the fireplace.

I had not planned on cooking dinner. I had planned on going to the Y after work and letting Rich cook dinner while Y. hung the star (moon to follow?). But it turns out this hanging thing was a two-person job, so it worked out that I decided to be nice and come home straight from work. I was glad we had already cooked the burgers because the fish seemed easier for me to make. The recipe we had picked was a new one to us: Pan-Grilled Snapper with Orzo Pasta Salad from MyRecipes (specifically, Cooking Light online). It did involve using the grill (we don't need no stinkin' pan) but I had thought I would do the prep and the pasta and Rich would grill. I like to eat from the grill but rarely cook from it. Something about the heat and fire, although the gas stove doesn't bother me. I had really only used a charcoal grill before and even then it was a rare occurrence. I think I mainly grilled vegetables on it because I was afraid of killing myself with undercooked meat. My cooking confidence was not high at that point.

This time I was confident but tentative. Once I figured out how to get the grill going (turn the knob, push the button), I was on my way!

Substitutions to this recipe: Tuesday night we decided to make this for Wednesday but realized we did not have enough orzo and did not want to buy some at the Fancy Overpriced Downtown Market or make a special trip with the car to one of the many grocery stores beyond walking distance from downtown. We considered lentils of which we have plenty. Instead, I decided to cook linguine.

In the middle of cooking on Wednesday, I discovered I did not have enough shallots and added a little garlic but not enough to equal the full amount of shallots in the recipe. Rich suggested red onion but I had already made the garlic sub at that point. Over the weekend we bought frozen red snapper at the grocery store which was having a Buy One Get One Free deal--it turned out to be Buy One for Half Price but since there were only 3 pieces of snapper in each of the two bags, I was glad we had two bags.

Raw snapper on a plate.

The sauce.

Linguine with the sauce in the new bowl

Better view of the bowl

When I tasted the sauce, I thought it might be too tangy (I did double the recipe as recommended), but I liked it on the pasta and fish. The snapper looked beautiful on the grill -- perfect little grill marks. I served the pasta in a bowl we had just received that day as a present and put the snapper on a plate so we could each serve ourselves. The three of us ate 4 pieces of fish, and then Rich and I had the other 2 pieces over the next couple days for leftovers. I don't think I ever had snapper before. It was a good, fatty fish, which was perfect for the grill because it didn't fall apart when I flipped it. And it cooked fast.

Look at those grill marks!

The timing of everything worked out great. Rich and Y.w ere just cleaning up their mess and putting the ladder away when I put the food on the table. Their work site, by the way, was about 3 feet in front of the table, while I was working on the other side of the table in the same room.

Dessert: vanilla ice cream, chocolate sauce with Creme de Menthe, and frozen Girl Scout Thin Mints.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Feta-Stuffed Turkey Burgers

Feta-Stuffed Turkey Burgers - May 19

Last night we used our fabulous new grill and made Feta-Stuffed Turkey Burgers from Cooking Light. From start to sit-down, this took about 45 minutes. Yes, the recipe says 30 minutes, but we started off slow and used a real grill, not a pan. This required moving the plants off the balcony, sliding the grill over, and pulling off the cover. Then we had to sidestep the plants we had moved inside. Urban grilling is difficult, people.

Weber grill - so cute!

What we did differently: We had 1.5 pounds of ground turkey so used some extra red onion and feta cheese. I used Greek yogurt instead of plain yogurt (it just seemed appropriate) and grated a little lemon rind into the cucumber-yogurt combo. We did not add any lettuce to the burgers. We used onion rolls instead of Kaiser or hamburger buns.

Verdict: Delicious. The prep work was pretty straightforward. R. sliced the onion while I sliced the feta (we bought a block instead of the crumbles). He assembled the burgers, after mixing the ingredients in the mixer--not part of the recipe but why not? I made the yogurt mixture.

We ended up with 6 burgers, but we each only had one. I have one with me for lunch today as a deconstructed burger--there's a bun, but it's not assembled. We didn't have any side dishes except for a few pickles from the fridge. Next time I would make a side salad using the lettuce and tomato. And feta. And olives (for R. not me).

Dessert: Leftover strawberry-rhubarb crisp with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Some of the ingredients- red onion, cucumber, Greek yogurt, feta cheese

Turkey and onion with spices in the mixer

Cucumber and yogurt sauce/spread

Patties being assembled with cheese in the center

On the grill

Look at those grill marks!

Assembled and ready to eat

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Special Lunch Post: Turkey Club Wrap

I'm heading out of town straight from work today so did not bring my lunch with me (just snacks) because I didn't want to leave a dirty container at work for a week or travel with one. Or clean it in the work bathroom and leave it at work, an option I just now considered. However, I also had leftover chicken paprikash for dinner last night, which made 4 meals, and today's lunch would have been 5, which is really just too much, so I wanted something different anyway.

Although there are other options on campus for lunch (one day I will get egg salad on a bagel), I went for the one I always go to --the closest one. There's a "cafe" (coffee shop) on the ground floor of my building. It sells coffee and tea from a local coffee shop but the food is provided by the campus provider. They have packaged salads and sandwiches which generally include an assortment of wraps. I tend to go for Turkey Club, Chicken Caesar, or Buffalo Chicken. Today I went with Turkey Club because it was the only one available--there were two non-wrap sandwich options, but they cost more. The 3 I pick are also the 3 cheapest ones, $4.79 plus tax. If you buy it with a bottle of soda, the total is $6.66--the devil's lunch!

I know that the semester is officially over (graduation this weekend), summer classes haven't started, and the cafe has reduced hours, but, hello, people still work here. I have a 12-month contract; I don't get summer off and neither does my lunch. Well, fine, I get the turkey a lot anyway. But the hot press seems to have also taken the summer off. If you get it hot, the cheese melts, and the lettuce gets that nice warm, wilty feeling, and it's generally a little gooier all around. The cafe person put my sandwich in the press, and when she gave me my unnecessarily large plastic container with the wrap, the container was warm, but when I got back upstairs, the cheese was not melted, and the lettuce was not wilty. I actually broke my plastic knife in half trying to cut through it. Cutting the wrap is an issue even when it's hot but the lettuce was particularly trying today; I seemed to have only tough lettuce parts in my wrap.

Lesson: Don't buy lunch on campus during the summer.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Chicken Paprikash

There has been a lot of travel happening, with more to come, so that means not much cooking. Monday night, after we had spent a long weekend out of town, R. cooked Chicken Paprikash. We actually bought the ingredients the week before but didn't have a chance to make it. The chicken was in the freezer, but I moved it to the refrigerator Sunday night when we got home. That's me, always thinking ahead.

I haven't had Chicken Paprikash before, and, in fact, R. is the only person I've ever heard say "paprikash." I would have just called it Chicken Paprika. But it's his father's recipe, not mine, and he has some Hungarian heritage and I don't, so what do I know.

No recipe for this meal because it was all in R.'s head and only required one phone call. Well, two calls because his parents weren't home so he called his sister. I can tell you this meal involved bacon, chicken drumsticks (he had been looking for thighs but couldn't find the right kind), onion, paprika (I want to say he used a combination of sweet and smoked), sour cream, and cute little home-made dumplings. I have links to 4 recipes I found online, none of which match what I remember from his. I don't think he used any tomato paste, but since I wasn't home for the start of the cooking, I can't say for sure. I can say I did not see any tomato paste cans on the counter. He cooked some rice to go with it since it's a soupy dish. I would have thought noodles, but again, it's not my recipe.

It was a very good dinner but perhaps a bit large for two people. We are still eating it. I had it Monday night and Tuesday for lunch and will have it again today (although with noodles this time because we did run out of rice). He had it Monday and yesterday. We will probably eat it tonight, which will exceed my quota for number of times I'll eat the same meal in a week (3). We need to finish it before leaving town Thursday night as I don't think it will keep that well over the weekend.

Four examples of chicken paprikash recipes, none of which were actually used:
one, two, three, four.