Thursday, June 19, 2014

Week 3: braised bok choy, fried tofu

This week I ordered "green garlic" from the CSA because I'd never tried it before; it looks like scallions on steroids, but with a slightly stronger garlic taste. You can easily replace with scallions in this recipe. I included an exorbitant amount of fresh-ground black pepper in the braised bok choy because I really like the spicy/floraly taste that it adds. If you don't care for black pepper, replace with some chili paste or red pepper flakes, or if you really don't like spicy food just leave it out entirely!

The fried tofu is a really quick way to make a tofu with a nice crisp crust, but without any kind of batter. The salting technique is one I learned from the Internet, and it really works to dry out the tofu and season it so that it crisps up when you pan fry it. Enjoy!

Green garlic braised bok choy:

1 large bunch bok choy (about 3 cups chopped)
1 stalk green garlic (about 1/4 cup chopped, could use scallions instead)
1 inch piece of ginger
1/4 tsp fresh grated black pepper
2 tbsp low sodium tamari (could use soy sauce instead)
1 tsp honey
Splash of vegetable or olive oil

Chop bok choy into bite sized pieces, leafy parts and stalks together. Rinse very well in a colander under running water, sometimes sand gets trapped in the stalk part of the bok choy. Leave to drain in the sink. Rinse green garlic and chop finely into thin slices, white parts and leafy green parts only (avoid the lighter green stem parts, they're a little tough) and set aside.

Peel the ginger and grate into a small bowl (you can dice but I find this difficult sometimes depending on how dry the ginger is). Add tamari, black pepper and honey and stir to mix. 

In a large frying pan or skillet with a lid, add splash of oil and cook green garlic on low heat until soft, about 5 minutes. Raise heat slightly to medium low, add bok choy and cook for 1 minute. Add tamari mixture, stir and adjust heat until simmering (just a few gentle and small bubbles), cover and simmer for 15 minutes or until the stalks are soft.  Remove lid and cook stirring frequently for another few minutes until the pan dries out. Serve hot, over rice if you can cook rice without burning it or making a mushy mess, which I cannot.

Fried tofu:

1 block extra firm tofu
2 tbsp vegetable oil (I use grapeseed oil)

If your tofu is packed in water, open and rinse tofu block. Slice into 8 thin rectangles (see my picture up top). Take a palmful of salt and rub on both sides of each tofu slice, the way you would salt eggplant for an Italian dish. Leave tofu to sweat for 15 minutes. Pat with paper towel to dry each slice. Add oil to a frying pan and heat on medium heat until shimmery. I use a nonstick pan, but you can do this with a regular pan if you're patient. Fry tofu 4 slices at a time, about 4 minutes on each side until golden brown. If you're doing this in a regular pan, you can't get antsy and try to flip the slices too early or they'll stick! They will release from the pan when more or less done, especially if you gently shake the pan occasionally and really get under there with a spatula. Remove slices and drain on paper towel. Once cool enough to touch, slice into triangles and serve with some tamari or soy sauce or Sriracha or chili paste or other dipping sauce on the side.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Week 2 - bbq mushroom sandwich, beans and greens

I am well aware that the two recipes I'm sharing today are typically made with pork products. And honestly, I'm sure they taste better that way. But! Vegetarians don't often get to eat tasty sandwiches, and I really love this recipe. I use a decent amount of tamari in both dishes to try and get a salty/smoky/savory flavor. You can replace with soy sauce, but I really like tamari because it's concentrated and I think imparts more flavor for its salt content, if that makes any sense. I made a quick BBQ-style sauce for the sandwich, but if you have a bottled or homemade one that you like just replace the sauce I make here with 1/2 C of your choice.

By the way, this is my "trick" for cooking dried beans. It goes quickly and there's no soaking or planning ahead required, only time. And obviously, it takes like 3000x as long as just opening a can, but since I'm a vegetarian and beans are often a main component of my main dishes, I like to cook them from dried myself so I can control texture, salt content, flavor, etc. It really is so easy to do it this way, honestly I'm not too sure what all the soaking, draining, and soaking is about really.

Beans and greens:
-1/2 C dried beans. I used beautiful heirloom beans called good mother stallard beans (who knew?) but pinto, navy, cannellini or kidney beans would be great.
-1 bunch collard greens, about 10 large leaves
-1 clove of garlic, peeled and left whole
-generous pinch of salt
-splash of tamari

Rinse and pick through the beans, discarding any stones or broken beans. Fill your largest pot about 2/3 of the way full, add beans and garlic clove and set to boil on high heat (it's going to seem like way too much water, but remember you'll add the greens later, and the large volume seems important for this quicker cooking process for some reason). When the beans come to a boil, leave boiling for a solid minute stirring semi frequently. Reduce the heat to low, stir and cover. Leave simmering for about 40 minutes, until the beans start to soften. This means you *could* chew and eat one successfully (i.e. without choking or breaking a tooth) but they're still not soft enough to eat in the final dish. When the beans reach this point, add in the salt, stir, and cover again. Cook undisturbed for another 20 to 30 minutes, longer if they seemed to have a long way to go when you tasted them. Meanwhile, cut all the ribs out of your collard greens. If you're obsessive like me, you'll cut all the leaves in half, stack them, cut them in half again, and slice thin even ribbons (see above). If you're not obsessive, you'll just tear or chop all the leaves into small, bite-sized pieces. Rinse the collard greens in a colander under plenty of running water and leave to drain. After those 20 to 30 minutes are up, add all of the collard greens to the pot, stir, and cover again for another 20 minutes or until the beans and the greens are cooked to your liking. Drain with the colander, pick out the garlic clove and discard it, then drizzle beans and greens with tamari to taste. Makes about 3 or 4 servings as a side dish.

BBQ mushroom sandwich:
-1 lb mushrooms, any kind or a mix. Go cheap! I used crimini.
-3 cloves garlic

-1 TBSP tomato paste
-1 TBSP molasses (I have blackstrap, any kind is fine though)
-2 TBSP apple cider vinegar
-1 TBSP dijon mustard
-2 TBSP tamari
-1 TBSP olive oil
-1 tsp smoked paprika

-4 hamburger buns, quarters of a baguette, whatever you like to eat sandwiches on

Wipe mushrooms and caps with a damp paper towel or cloth. Don't go crazy here, just gently brush away dirt clumps, etc. Slice all of the mushrooms into a fine dice, long thin matchstick shapes, or a combo of both. It doesn't matter how perfect this looks, as long as the pieces are relatively small, because they'll be cooked down and stacked on the sandwich. Peel and finely dice the garlic.

Mix together all of the remaining ingredients (except the buns) to make a quick BBQ sauce. Stir vigorously with a fork to combine. You can play around with this ratio to your own taste, this is just a sweet but mostly salty balance that I really like. You could replace the paprika with chili powder, just be aware that some chili powders contain salt (and so do tomato paste and dijon mustard!) so you might want to dial back on the tamari.

Take a large frying pan with a lid, add a small splash of olive oil, and set over medium heat. When the oil is hot, slowly add all of the mushrooms. Stir, and leave to sweat it out for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring semi-frequently and adjusting the heat so that they don't burn or stick. During this time they will shrink dramatically and release a lot of water. When the pan has more or less dried out again, add the garlic and the BBQ sauce and stir. Cook at a simmer for 20 minutes, stirring to make sure they don't burn. Taste and see if the mushrooms are cooked to a texture you like. You want the mixture to still be sauce-y, because that mushroom-infused sauce is the tastiest part! Turn off the heat, and pile about 1/4 of the mushroom mixture onto each bun or bread slice and serve.

About me!

Hi all! Welcome to my CSA recipe blog. This year, I'm very excited to try the Philly Foodworks CSA. This is a flex CSA which means that I get to choose exactly what I want each week, from a variety of veggies, fruits, herbs, breads, condiments, pickles, etc. All of the producers are local or relatively local to Philadelphia, and many of the partner organizations have a food justice and/or community organizing focus. I'll put together a post or two collecting some reflections on all these topics later in the CSA season, but for now I'll just be blogging recipes. Since CSAs inherently motivate me to think in weeks as units for my cooking, I'm going to post once per week, from late May to late October.

I'll try to describe one or a few recipes I made through the week where CSA ingredients are the focus. Often I'll cook a "main" and a "side" for myself for dinner and lunch the next day, so I'll try to always post two recipes that go together. My goal here is in part to take on a summer project that's fun and exciting for me, partly to share seasonal, vegetarian recipes and techniques that are relatively easy and make a reasonable volume for one person to eat throughout the week. I really believe that seasonal eating is better eating, taste-wise and balance-wise, not to mention better for the environment and the local economy. I also firmly believe in "seasonal cooking techniques" (i.e. not turning on the oven after ~mid June in a hot small West Philadelphia kitchen unless it is for baking a fruit pie). I'm really tired of boring, lettuce-based salads and I really love sandwiches, so I'll likely focus many recipes on that.

So! I'll be posting some of my favorite salads, sandwiches, pastas, pies, and more throughout the summer and fall. Hopefully you'll find some of them helpful, whether you're also doing this CSA and we're often in sync with the ingredients we are working with, or you occasionally pick up a cool vegetable at the farmer's market and are looking for a new recipe for it.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Week 1 - pasta with spicy kale, raw asparagus salad

Week 1 CSA box contents: apples, kale, spring onions, and asparagus

These two recipes I'm going to share are both really easy, and together they make a very tasty, spring-y meal. 

Spicy kale pasta isn't revolutionary or anything, but I thought I'd share anyway because that's what I cooked this week. I love pasta with greens, and this is my go-to recipe for nights when I need to make something quickly that doesn't dirty too many dishes. The asparagus salad is a recipe I took and barely modified from Smitten Kitchen, where I first discovered that you can eat asparagus raw. Asparagus is something I only eat when it's in season locally, and I love the taste but not always the texture of cooked asparagus. So! Eaten raw it takes on a really great, crunchy texture and a simple lemon dressing highlights the asparagus flavor. 

Spicy, garlicky kale pasta
-1/2 lb pasta, any shape
-1/2 lb kale, any type
-3 cloves of garlic
-1/4 c olive oil
-red pepper flakes, to taste

Grab your largest pasta pot, fill with water (about 2/3 of the way) and set to boil on high heat. While you're waiting for the water, peel and slice garlic cloves into thin slices, or dice finely.  Take a small frying pan and add the oil, sliced garlic and as many red pepper flakes as you want (1/4 tsp is a good starter guide for spicy but not too spicy and you could always add more later). Leave the frying pan on the stove but don't turn the heat on yet. 

Meanwhile, slice the kale into thin ribbons. I like to leave the kale bunched and scrunch it up in my left hand while I cut perpendicular with the knife in my right hand. If your kale has thick stems and ribs, cut or pull the leaves off first. (Mine was small, so I just sliced very thin ribbons and ate the stems attached to the greens.) Rinse all the kale and leave to drain in a colander set in the sink (just use the same one you'll drain the cooked pasta and kale with)

Hopefully by now the water is boiling, so add a generous pinch of salt and then add the pasta. Set a timer for one minute less than the suggested time for "al dente" or the shortest suggested cooking time. If you'd prefer the kale to be well cooked or "mushier" in the final dish then do two minutes less than al dente on the timer. 

Turn the heat on low or medium low on your oil, garlic and chili flakes. You want the garlic sizzling but not browning, cooking very slowly while the pasta boils. If the garlic starts to brown, turn the heat down.

When the timer goes off, add all the kale from the colander to the pasta pot and stir. After one minute, taste a piece of pasta to make sure it's done to your liking. If it's still crunchy, leave for another 30 seconds and taste again. Turn the heat off under the pasta and also the oil in the frying pan. Put the colander back in the sink and drain the pasta and kale. Quickly run some cold water over the pasta and kale to stop the cooking, drain again briefly, then return it all to the same pasta pot on the stove. Keep the heat off but pour the contents of the frying pan over the pasta and kale. Stir to coat the pasta and kale in the oil, add salt to taste. Serve with grated cheese. 

Raw asparagus salad with lemon and spring onion
-1/2 lb asparagus
-1/2 lemon
-1 spring onion (could replace with shallot or red onion)
-olive oil
-block of pecorino romano or parmesan cheese
-salt and pepper

Rinse asparagus under cold running water, especially the heads. Hold a stalk flat on the cutting board and take a vegetable peeler and run it from tip to tip, producing a thin asparagus ribbon. Your peeler will probably get caught in the head of the stalk, that's OK. The slices don't have to be perfect or uniform consistency. Add the ribbons to a large bowl that you'll use to serve the salad. Repeat with all the stalks until you have a bowl full of asparagus curls (bear with me...). Take a small glass or bowl for mixing the dressing and squeeze half of a lemon into it, taking care to scoop out or strain seeds. Cut the bulb of the spring onion into slices, as thin as you can get them (around 1 TBSP of sliced onion in total). Add the onion to the lemon juice. Add olive oil to the dressing and stir vigorously with a fork to emulsify. It's really up to you how much to add, I like the dressing really lemony so I didn't add much. If you're not sure, start with 1 TBSP and go from there. Take the vegetable peeler and run it over the cheese to make flakes or ribbons and add to the bowl of asparagus curls, about a small handful. Add the dressing to the bowl with asparagus and cheese, toss and mix in salt and pepper to taste.