Greens, Greens, Greens

The last distribution for the 2009 season of Upper Meadows Farm’s CSA is loaded with greens. There’s arugula, Hon Tsai Tai, lettuce, Pak Choi, Mizspoona, Yokata-Na, and Green Wave mustard. And there are even more ways to eat them, from soups and salads to main-dish stir-frys and sides. Here are some of my favorites:

Arugula salad with pears. Epicurious gives you several options to combine two of the items in this week’s share, from a salad that combines arugula and pears with Stilton cheese, to an option with the ingredient that I would need on a deserted island, pancetta. The extra ingredient in this latter salad is ricotta salata, which, just like regular ricotta, you can easily make at home. And I think either of these salads would be lovely with a dusting of hickory nuts.

Chinese chicken soup with greens. The Web sites of my favorite Asian cookbooks, “A Spoonful of Ginger” and “Hot Sour Salty Sweet”, are limited and hard to navigate. But both books have excellent chicken soups with greens that can be summed up as follows: Make a big pot of chicken stock, add the coarsely chopped greens of your choice, cooked noodles (I like the thin, mung bean kind), a bit of cooked chicken and a dash of fish sauce. You can build on the pungency of your greens by adding ginger or chile paste, or tamp it down a bit with Chinese black vinegar. Vegetarian? “Washoku”, a Japanese home-style cookbook I have on my shelves, uses a dashi broth with a bit of miso in place of the chicken stock.

Asian greens as a side dish: Cook up more substantial Asian noodles (soba and chow fun are good, as is a noodle I recently discovered that is made from sweet potato starch). Saute the greens lightly in a neutral oil and toss with the noodles and a bit of soy sauce. If you absolutely need a recipe, here’s one from a CSA in Tucson. You could stir fry the greens with gingery sauce.  Easier still: Mark Bittman of the New York Times paired bok choi (Pak Choi in our list) with oyster sauce.

Asian greens in the main course: Take the above, and add protein. Green Your Plate is a wonderful food blog written by a woman who belongs to a midwestern CSA. Earlier this year, she put up a very complete post on Asian greens, and it included several ideas on using them in main courses.

Enough. I’m getting hungry.

Savory Pumpkin

Call me un-American, but I’m not a big fan of pumpkin pie. It’s a matter of texture and tang: Pie for me means a fruit pie that is on the tart side.

But I do like pumpkin used in other dishes, and I’ve been trying to expand my repertoire. Two weeks ago, I got an e-mail from Serious Eats with a recipe that fit the bill: Pumpkin Turkey Chili. I know that sounds like a Thanksgiving dinner that collided with a tailgate party, but it really works. (Translation: I liked it, and the kids ate it.) The pumpkin kind of melts in with the tomato and gives the whole dish more substance, which I think you need in a poultry-based chili.

I have also finally found a gnocchi recipe that I can make without turning the potatoes to glue and, surprise, it calls for pumpkin too. The recipe’s title, Pumpkin Gnocchi with a Brown Butter Sauce, Crisped Sage and Shaved Parmigianno-Reggiano, is long, as is the process for making them.
And the recipe’s call for cinnamon and allspice will leave you scratching your head. But those slight, pumpkin pie notes elevate the gnocchi and, to my mind, make it possible to do away with a lot of fancy saucing. A nice side dish for dinner and, if you are my younger son, a breakfast choice as well.

Warm Autumn Chutney

The pears and apples that have been showing up in our CSA shares can be the basis of many dishes, from savory to sweet and appetizer to dessert. This recipe combines them with some of Upper Meadows Farm’s honey into a chutney that is a flavorful condiment with any roast.

If you haven’t yet had a chance to get some of the farm’s honey, Leonard will have some for sale at this week’s distributions.

Printable Recipe: Warm Autumn Chutney

A Robust Recipe For Delicata Squash

natures pals one 119Sometimes, all the planets align.

The Delicata squash from last week’s CSA share arrived in my kitchen at the same time as a nice assortment of cultivated and wild mushrooms. Thanks to Epicurious, I found a delicious way to combine them into one tasty dinner: Delicata Squash and Roasted Mushrooms with Thyme. The vegetables are roasted in separate pans at 375 degrees (which the recipe somehow fails to note), and then combined. I served the results over home-made egg noodles.

“Mom make this again” are among the four best words in the English language.

Five Uses For An Ugly Pear

Let’s face it: While organic produce is tops in taste, it sometimes comes up short in the beauty department. And since we are a culture trained to prize beauty, that can mean that we too often pass on the better fruits and vegetables.

The pears that we have been getting in our shares aren’t the prettiest pears I’ve ever seen. But their flavor is fabulous. So to help you over pretty fruit syndrome, I’ll give you my five best ways to use an ugly pear:

1. Pear Puree: Easy-peasey lemon squeezey, as my younger son likes to say. Peel the pears, put them in a saucepan with a quarter cup of water over low heat, and let them slowly soften. Puree in a Cuisinart or with a stick blender. I combine the pear puree with other pureed fruits when I make fruit leather in my food dehydrator. You can also make a Bellini with it.

2. Pear Tart: Peel and slice thin, layer on top of a crust with almonds as in this recipe and this one. The first recipe takes only two pears, the second a bit more. But the combination of pears and nuts and cognac is wonderful. My favorite pear tart recipe, however, is the Buttery Pear Tart in King Arthur Flour’s Whole Grain Baking cookbook, which pairs pears with a barley crust and crystallized ginger. Alas, it is not available online.

3. Pear Salad: A crispy bite of pear perks up any fall salad. I like to add pared, julienned pears and a few walnuts to my greens, but a lot of recipes favor blue cheese or Gorgonzola as well.

4. Pear Breakfast: I found this recipe earlier this year after I mistakenly ordered a large bag of wheat berries from King Arthur. Yes, I thought it was odd that a breakfast recipe uses olive oil, but it’s barely a dot and, with all that dried fruit, it’s not noticeable.

5. Pears, Poached: The best pears for poaching are firm pears. I’m not terribly handy with a knife, so it took a bit of time for me to learn how to core them properly. And it is definitely easier to core before you peel the pear. What to poach your pear in? There’s a wide variety of choices, from Asian to Italian and back.

And if you absolutely must have beauty, take a look at this photo: A farmer in China has perfected a method of growing pears to look like babies.

Spaghetti Squash In Two Rounds

I’m not a fan of spaghetti squash. I like lots of types of winter squash; I love spaghetti. But I’m not quite sure what the first breeder of  spaghetti squash was thinking when he produced this vegetable. I, however, got outvoted by my kids at the Week 16 CSA distribution, and we came home with a giant spaghetti squash.

So I turned to Epicurious, and up popped spaghetti squash with parsley walnut pesto. That was practically a hole in one for the Week 16 share, which contained beautiful parsley and killer garlic. Whether it was the freshness of those two ingredients or the recipe’s insistence on toasting the walnuts and adding lemon zest, the pesto was fabulous and a nice counterpart to the squash.

But good or no, I had a lot of leftover squash to clear from the dinner table. So I typed “leftover spaghetti squash” into Google and came up with spaghetti squash pancakes. I’ve been experimenting with vegetable pancakes this summer, and this was another interesting addition to the recipe box. I didn’t have soy flour, so I subbed chickpea flour and that seemed to work. I also roughly chopped the squash so that there would be no long strands poking out of the pancake and used whole milk because I always use whole milk.

I’m not too demanding of leftovers. I just want them to not be leftover again. But I could see making these pancakes as a first use of a spaghetti squash the next time one appears in our shares.

Kale Frittata, Collard Dip

BHG coverOK, time for a confession: I’m a recipe snob. Though I search far and wide for inspiration when I cook, there are some sources I don’t consider, like the women’s magazines. In my mind they’re the kind of places that feature recipes that begin with, “Open 1 can of …”

On Monday, I found myself in a doctor’s office, reading the new issue of Better Homes and Gardens. And there, in the back, were not one but two recipes I definitely intend to make. The first, a kale and goat cheese frittata, is earmarked for the kale in the week 16 CSA share. The second is an unusual use of collard greens–as a creamy baked dip for other veggies. It’s loaded with bacon, cream cheese, Monterey Jack cheese and sour cream, which kind of reminds me of that 1980s-era artichoke appetizer that everybody called “heart attack” dip. No matter. I think it looks like a lovely way to use collards, a vegetable that I have been wary of using all season.

Thank you BH&G. I won’t be such a snob in the future.