Blog: Food

Most of these posts were originally posted somewhere else and link to the originals. While this blog is not set up for comments, the original locations generally are, and I welcome comments there. Sorry for the inconvenience.

This is how it begins

Last year one of my spring CSA boxes included a cute little basil seedling. And I said "huh -- I wonder if I can help it make more basil or if I should just recognize my ineptitude and eat it now". But lo! I decided to be daring, and I was rewarded -- that picture is from July, and it it just kept going and going (with periodic trimmings, a subject I still consider black magic). And I said to myself that hey, we should try that again. I entered this spring with plans to buy a basil seedling.

Then the pandemic happened, and the food-supply network is not as reliable as it once seemed, and Siderea wisely counselled people to grow food if we can. And I said to myself that, well, I'm not going to try to plant a whole garden with attendant kneeling-on-ground (or in my case pavement) and weed-battling and the like (and anyway I don't have places with the right sun exposure), but I can expand from one pot. I ventured out to buy two seedlings, basil and rosemary, and one more pot because I only had the one.

But herbs, while delicious, aren't really food in the sense of sustenance, so I thought some more about what I use a lot of and what is practical in pots and durable enough to withstand my ministrations, and so when Grow Pittsburgh (the people who supplied that basil seedling to the CSA) started its weekly seedling sale and one week I was able to get stuff (as opposed to everything being sold out in the first few minutes), I decided to add cherry tomatoes and lunchbox peppers (those are the miniature ones that come in red, orange, and yellow) to my plans. And because my basil seedling that I'd had for a few weeks now was not looking super-perky and the basil had been the whole point of this excursion, I ordered a couple more basil seedlings, and a little redundancy for the others (for parity). I ordered a couple more pots from Amazon to hold them.

Once they were in proper pots and getting more quality outdoor time they started to perk up, and the Internet told me that I was overcrowding some of them. And, well, this is how it begins.

Photographic evidence: Read more…

Quarantine cooking

We're under a stay-at-home order (which, granted, isn't exactly the same as a quarantine), so much cooking is happening. I don't think any of my cooking is especially exciting, but since I enjoy seeing what others are doing and coworkers have asked for pictures of some of mine, I'll go ahead and share some. I'm also pretty happy with a soup I made tonight (recipe below). Read more…

Produce of unusual size

Since our CSA didn't do a winter share this year, we signed up with Imperfect Foods to see if it delivered better produce value than the local grocery store. They take stuff that isn't "pretty" enough for grocery stores and try to make use of it, so your carrots might be huge, your sweet potatoes might be cracked, and your peppers might be misshapen, but who cares? I'm pretty satisfied so far; you get to pick what's in your box and the quality is decent.

Sometimes there are surprises. Pop quiz: which of these items is of unusual size, the mini watermelon or the "purple" daikon radish?

nearly the same size

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Fall CSA, week 6 (and final)

  • Turk's turban squash (I'm just copying what the manifest called it...)
  • 5 Rome apples
  • 6 potatoes
  • 6 rainbow carrots
  • 2 heads garlic
  • large yellow onion
  • tomatillo salsa
  • whole spelt flour

Anticipated but not present: watermelon radish. (Drat! Those are nice, and I've never seen them at the grocery store.)

They suggest that Rome apples are best for cooking. I've been doing baked apples a lot; maybe I'll make a cobbler with these ones.

Does anybody have suggestions for breads using spelt? I am particularly interested in recipes that work in a bread machine and ones for quick breads (which I would make in the oven). The CSA linked to a recipe for a blueberry/lemon quick bread, which sounds interesting except that it calls for several ingredients I would not otherwise buy. If I were to try that one, what do flaxseed meal and coconut sugar contribute to the result (chemically, flavor, baking properties, etc) and what can I safely substitute for them?

This was the last week of the fall share. I was looking forward to the winter share; that's when I started last year and we got a lot of great produce, including several things that were new to me. I learned that radishes come in more than two varieties (red and daikon)! And the baby turnips were great, and I cooked with rutabagas for the first time! Alas, they cancelled the winter share this year for a combination of supply issues and low subscription volume. I've heard good things about Imperfect Produce but they don't serve my city; a (remote) coworker recently mentioned Misfits, which apparently does, so I might give that a try. But for the locals, I'm also interested in hearing where I might shop for local produce, particularly things that Giant Eagle doesn't carry. Connect me with those radishes, parsnips, and baby turnips, please!

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Fall CSA, week 5

  • 7 poblano (?) peppers
  • rhubarb preserves
  • butternut squash
  • head green cabbage
  • delicata squash
  • 5 stayman winesap apples
  • 5 red potatoes
  • 7 rainbow carrots (most medium-large)
  • 1 red onion

The email said we'd be getting poblano peppers, which I'm used to being less long and skinny. These smell like they could be poblanos. Is this just a variant form (it's not like I've seen tons of these, after all)? If not, what are they?

Dani would like cabbage soup. The last time I went to the elves Google for a recipe, he thought it was ok but wasn't what he is used to as cabbage soup. He couldn't really articulate it, though. If there is such a thing as a canonical eastern-European-Jewish cabbage soup, please enlighten me.

The preserves were listed as "a surprise valued-added item". I wondered if this were a way for them to solve a "misc" problem (having assorted stuff but not enough of any one thing to list it). Perhaps it was, but everybody at my pickup location got the same preserves. These ones are good on toast.

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Fall CSA, weeks 3 and 4

Things have been hectic, so here's a belated post covering two weeks.

Week 3:

  • 5 carrots (1 white)
  • 5 yellow onions
  • 5 empire apples
  • butternut squash
  • head napa cabbage
  • small acorn (?) squash
  • bunch arugula
  • 11 small red potatoes
  • jar tomatillo salsa (last-minute substitution for maple syrup)

Week 4:

  • large acorn squash
  • head purple cabbage
  • bunch green kale
  • 3 red peppers (I don't know if the darker one is a different variety or if that's just normal color variation)
  • 5 yellow onions
  • 2 heads garlic
  • delicata squash
  • 5 roma apples
  • green tomato relish

The salsa and relish both appear to have a fair bit of liquid content. Suggestions on what they're best used for?

The napa cabbage mostly went into stir-fries; I'm not sure what I'll use the purple cabbage for. (That's a lot of coleslaw, but I don't know if I really want to make sauerkraut.) The squashes have been accumulating in my squash cellar (ok, bin on the basement landing, where it's cool and dark but accessible), from which I fairly regularly pull one to bake stuffed with apples. Much of this is staples, and well-timed; I was almost out of both onions and garlic.

Unfortunately the winter share got cancelled this year. I haven't yet looked for local alternatives. The winter share last year was my introduction to a CSA, and I particularly liked a lot of the winter produce, some of which I'd never seen before (i.e. is not in the local grocery store). I'm thinking particularly of the different types of radishes, and also baby turnips.

Read more…

Fall CSA, week 2

  • large bulb fennel (with fronds)
  • pie pumpkin
  • large bag green curly kale
  • head escarole
  • white eggplant
  • acorn squash
  • 8 carrots (3 large, 5 small)
  • 7 red carmen peppers
  • 5 D'Anjou pears
  • 1 enormous sweet potato

The escarole never even made it to the fridge; it went into a pot of risotto last night (yum!).

I'm not actually a big fan of pumpkin pie. I might roast it, or maybe it can be the basis of a soup (like butternut-squash soup, but with pumpkin). I'm definitely open to suggestions!

I'm not familiar with this type of pepper. One went into the beef stew I made tonight (for Shabbat lunch), along with some carrots and a turnip left over from last week. They're large enough to stuff.

Clearly it is time to do some baking with pears. And I need to find a field guide to pear varieties, so I know which types are best for what applications. So far, all of 'em have been good for eating raw.

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Fall CSA, week 1

  • large bunch white turnips with greens
  • 1 red onion
  • 2 "sun tan" bell peppers
  • bunch Japanese garlic chives
  • bunch basil
  • head hydroponic lettuce
  • bag green beans
  • 1 white acorn squash
  • 4 d'Anjou pears
  • 9 mini peppers
  • 6 fingerling sweet potatoes

I don't know what "sun tan" bell peppers are. One is green; the other is mostly green but has a red patch. Do they taste like green bell peppers or something else?

I've never had a white squash before. Is this just aesthetics or is there something different about how it tastes?

I'm glad to have more sweet potatoes! Also turnips, though I'm particularly looking forward to the baby turnips we got last winter. So tender! We had the turnip greens tonight, sauteed in sesame oil with shallots. (I think the dish wanted garlic too -- note for next time.)

One of the pears has a small bruise, which just means I should eat that one first. I can manage that. :-)

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Summer CSA, week 17

  • large heirloom tomato
  • sweet potato
  • fairytale eggplant (I've never heard that name before)
  • bunch of white turnips with greens
  • green bell pepper
  • large acorn squash
  • 7 McIntosh apples
  • 6 Bartlet pears
  • 4 assorted mild peppers, to be identified
  • bunch parsley

The preview email said the pepper medley would include green peppers, no-heat jalapenos, cubanelles, and poblanos. I'm not sure which of these peppers are which. The one that looks like a green bell pepper doesn't smell like one and makes me think poblano. The pictures I found of cubanelles are various colors, with the only green being light green -- don't know if that's what I've got there. Anybody who can help with pepper identification, please speak up. :-)

I sometimes stuff acorn squash with apples; I might try pears for a change. I'll roast the turnips, maybe with a mustard sauce. I sauteed the greens tonight with ginger, shallot, and red and yellow mini-peppers from the last share. The eggplant will be all for me because Dani hates eggplant; I might bread and fry it.

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Summer CSA, week 15

  • 1 bulb fennel with fronds
  • 2 bulbs garlic
  • 1 honeydew
  • 4 ears sweet corn
  • 2 green bell peppers
  • 8 mini peppers ("snack peppers") (yellow, red, orange)
  • 4 bartlett pears
  • 5 roma tomatoes
  • 1 bunch red radishes with greens

Small share got: fennel, roma tomatoes, pears, corn, white potatoes, shallots, "semi-hot block peppers" (?).

I've roasted some of the past corn and made corn fritters with some (making kind of a mess of the "remove raw corn from ears" part). This week's email included a recipe (warning: site full of invasive ads and crap) for Caribbean boiled corn on the cob that I might try. The recipe fails to mention when to add the coconut milk, but I think it's implied by the series of photos.

I might make pasta with roasted fennel and lemon with the fennel.

Alongside the share I got a bag of Japanese eggplant (because I've never had that kind and I like eggplant). That'll be for me; Dani hates eggplant. I can have eggplant while he's having whatever I do with the green peppers, which I don't like. I'll roast some of the eggplant and I invite other suggestions. These are the long, skinny ones.

Read more…