Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Bringing Back Deliousness

I am returning after a brief hiatus to the world of eating and blogging about it!

The CSA adventure continues each week with much anticipated trips to the Hyde Park Farmer's Market to retrieve my basket of fresh delights. As the seasons have changed, the selections each week have grown more and more interesting. From mostly leafy greens, I am now seeing treats such as jalepenos, beets, green peppers, enormous green sping onions, and much much more.

Each week I try to come up with something that takes advantage os the flavors and textures that each item has to offer. I find myself even more motiviated to cook and experiment, so the accompanying photos reveal new culinary experiences for me. While some of the dishes I share here today are not farmer's market specialities, my creativity and commitment to preparing home-cooked meals (often for one, but eaten the next day at lunch as well) have blossomed.

Pictured here:
Summer Holiday Layered Cake: A white sheet cake, then cut the cake to create two layers. I gently warmed a mixture of strawberry jam and orange marmelade with a few teaspoons of water to lighten up the liquid. I spread this liquid on the top of the bottom layer and replaced the top half of the cake. I frosted the cake with vanilla icing, and then decorated with fresh strawberries and blueberries.

Veggie Blowout Quiche: The veggies in the quiche include white onion, broccoli, mushrooms, tomato, chopped spinach, dill, and zucchini. I sauteed all of the above (except tomato and dill) before spreading on the prepared pie crust. I added a mixture of mozzarella and parmesean, along with 4 whole eggs and 3 egg whites. Baked for about 40 minutes.

20 Brix Knockoff: There is a wonderful restaurant in Milford called 20 Brix. I had a fabulous meal there with a friend a few months ago, and this meal was my attempt to recreate the meal in my own kitchen. The base is a baked and then mashed sweet potato. I baked the potato in the over until done, squeezed from the skin and mashed with butter, salt, pepper and maple syrup. The protien is a boneless skinless chicken breast that was grilled (gas, outdoor) after marinating in a marmelade, mustard, and syrup mixture for about an hour. The greens are farmer's market rainbow chard, which I sauteed on a pretty high heat with fresh garlic, salt, and pepper. I hit the pan with about 4 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar right at the end. It was delish, and a close second to the original at 20 Brix. I highly reccomend this restaurant and dish (although it may be a fall seasonal dish). The original is served with a moist pork tenderloin rather than chicken.

Faux Taco: A friend recently introduced me to a whole grain wheat soft tortilla, which I thought would taste like butcher paper, but turned out to be rather tasty. On a "throw all the veggies on skewers and then on the grill" kind of night, I had planned to do so and just eat a massive plate of grilled veggies. When I opened the refrigerator and saw a few lonely uneaten tortillas, a rotisserie chicken with one breast remaining, and some of that Laughing Cow herb cheese, an idea was born. I lightly marinated and grilled the veggies as mentioned above. I cut off the chicken breast from the chicken, wrapped it in foil, and threw it on the grill as well to warm. Once finished, I mixed the grilled veggies with cold tomatoes, dill, parsley, a tiny bit of oil, salt, pepper, the chicken, some parmesean and then spread on the tortillas. I broke up the herb cheese with my fingers and dabbed over the top. What a fresh and interesting treat this "clean out the fridge" meal turned out to be! One I am sure to recreate!

Veggies this week will be turned over to mom since I am headed out on vacation. I am headed to Michigan, fresh produce heaven, so I am sure I will have stories to tell.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Sunday Night Feast (On Monday Night)

With the long weekend spent at baseball games and backyard barbeques, my usual Sunday evening ritual of cooking dinner and relaxing at home was delayed a day this week. After a long a productive Memorial Day, I tossed the last load of laundry into the washer and set to work on dinner. Last week I had purchased some hearty looking boneless pork ribs, which I was determined to soak in a homemade barbque sauce and grill. With the main dish underway, I looked at the vast array of greens picked up from the market yesterday and decided on a risotto with mushrooms, onion, and a hefty amount of the delicious spinach from the farm.

For the barbeque sauce, I sauteed about a cup of onion and two cloves of garlic in a little canola oil, added 1 cup of ketchup, a few squirts of dijon mustard, brown sugar, grape jelly, salt and pepper, and let it simmer for about 30 minutes. I marinated the boneless ribs for about an hour, and would have let it soak a total of two or so hours had my stomach not told me otherwise. I set to work on the risotto just after lighting the grill. Again with sauteeing a bit of onion and garlic, and then tossed in about a cup of arborio rice to toast and release some of its starch. Once the rice had toasted a bit, I hit the pan with a bit of white wine left from a previous evening. Then I added the first batch of chicken broth. I got the ribs and a few stalks of asparagus on the grill and commenced the ping pong match of walking from the grill outside and back to the kitchen to stir the risotto. Hindsight might tell me that risotto is not the best choice to accompany something being prepared on the grill. I tended to the risotto, adding chicken broth every few minutes and stirring pretty consistently. I rinsed and chopped the spinach (chiffonade) and added it to the risotto close to the end. To finish the dish, I added two pats of unsalted butter and a bit of fresh grated parmesean cheese to add a creamy texture. I grabbed the grilled items and a glass of iced tea and set to work enjoying the feast. The spinach had a fresh and crisp taste even after wilting a bit in the risotto.

I should mention that for breakfast I made an egg scramble with some veggies I had on hand and sprinked the fresh chives from the farm in, and it was fantastic. Still ahead from this week's basket: swiss chard, parsley, romaine lettuce, garlic chives and plenty more parley and chives. I'm considering a spinach salad with a hot bacon dressing later on in the week. Yum!

Saturday, May 23, 2009


I was, and still am, a little worried about how I'm going to use up a whole dozen eggs a week. Unless you're Jon and Kate Plus 8 (I'm watching the marathon on TLC right now) I just don't know how you eat that many and not have your cholesterol shoot through the roof. 

I'm going to give it a go though, because if I don't use them all up in a week, it's Sunday again and all of the sudden another dozen are on their way and they'll start lining up in my fridge. And look how lovely these eggs are! I was so pleasantly surprised to open up the carton to find that instead of the perfectly white, smooth, evenly shaped eggs you find at the grocery store, these were all different colors and sizes, some speckled, some brown, some bumpy. To me, this is the sign that they're truly fresh. I read that the eggs you typically buy in the grocery store are already an average of 3 weeks old when you buy them fresh, and then you proceed to keep them another 3 weeks, per the date on the container. 6 week old eggs? That's not my definition of fresh. 

So this week after a long day of work I really wasn't feeling all that imaginative and decided I had energy only for an omelette. So I cracked 3 of the beautifully imperfect eggs into a bowl, whisked them with some half and half I found in the fridge, and stirred in some fresh cracked pepper and sea salt. I thought this might be a good use for my CSA green onions too, so I chopped three of those. After cooking the eggs until just barely set I placed the chopped green onions and some thinly sliced swiss cheese on the omelette, folded it in half and heated just a minute more to let the cheese melt. 

Unbelievable how something so simple can be so good. Was it the fresh eggs? Or my liberal use of half and half (remember, cream makes everything taste better)? Or the green onions that didn't just look like green onions but actually tasted like them too? I don't know, but I do know that I'll be having at least one omelette dinner a week for the next 23 weeks.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Sous Chef Julie Creates First CSA Masterpiece

Like my dear friends Angie and Peter, I likewise discovered (and was immediately obsessed with) the opportunity to join a CSA. I have always been a farmer's market junkie, and fondly remember stopping into the market at Lunken to find the season's freshest fare. My mom knew the vendors by name, and there is nothing better than a tomato or ear of corn picked that monring. I spent many a Sunday last year at the Hyde Park Farmer's Market, and would muse over what delicious creation would grace my Sunday night table. As a single woman, purchasing in small quantity and value are both important to me.

Fast forward to 2009 and CSA comes on the scene. I orginally e-mailed several CSA's in March/April and was saddened to learn that most were booked for the season. Just last week I learned of an opening with the Hazelfield Farm CSA from Wheatley, KY (near Sparta, I've learned). After learning of the opening, I signed up immediately. Currently, I plan to "share" my 1/2 share with my mom. Due to a spontaneous trip to Nashville this past weekend, mom was on the first pickup duty, and arrived with baggies in hand to find the friendly owner of the farm.

Week One's basket included: romaine lettuce (fresh and clean), several radishes, kohlrabi (we think), kale, chinese cabbage, strawberries, a small baggie of washed flat leaf parsley. Our basket also includes a boquet of fresh wildflowers, which were purple and white this week. Mom and I agreed that she would keep the contents of the basket this week and I would join them for dinner.

My parents enjoyed the kale last night, which my mom explained was tossed in with sauteed mixed vegetables and shrimp.

Tonight, to accompany a pan seared halibut and red skin potatoes, I created a slaw from the cabbage, grated radish, parsley, and some green onion. I made a light sweet dressing with 2 teaspoons light mayonnaise, 2 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar, 1 teaspoon of white sugar, a few shakes of celery seed, and a bit of salt and pepper. In my excitement to give it a taste, I should have dried off the freshly washed cabbage a little bit more thoroughly, which made the dressing a little bit watery. But hey, live and learn, right?

Mom and dad gave the slaw a good review....and I thought it turned out pretty well. The radish gave a nice bite and the parsley a very fresh flavor.

Since mom is holding the romaine and kohlrabi hostage in Anderson, this might be my only CSA meal to report this week. More to come after next week's pickup.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Basket #1

We had the best of intentions to take a family field trip to pick up our first market basket this morning, but alas it just wasn't meant to be. The babies were up, as usual, before dawn and starving. By the time their next meal rolled around it became clear that we weren't going to be able to finish feeding them, clean them up, change them, get dressed ourselves, pack their bag, pack the car, put them in their carseats and drive to Hyde Park. I'm tired just thinking about it. So since he was already dressed Peter headed out to retrieve the first week of produce. 

He just arrived back home and everything looks beautiful. A pint of strawberries, a bunch of radishes, two bags of lettuce, a big bunch of green onions, a dozen fresh eggs and something that I'm pretty sure is bok choy. I really wasn't sure what to expect as far as quantity went, and I was maybe a little disappointed there wasn't more overall, but maybe that will change as the growing season continues. And I'll also admit that I'm less than thrilled with the bok choy, especially because something prickly got me as soon as i attempted to pick it up.

And now what should I make? I'm thinking about an omelette or quiche with the green onions, a nice salad with the radishes, and maybe a strawberry tart. I'll update later this week and share the results!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Back in Action

We're back! After more than a year of not blogging, I've decided it's high time to start a new site. And what a year it was...we worked an awful lot, sold a condo in Chicago, bought a house in Cincinnati, moved all of our earthly belongings, and most importantly, had our twins, Ben and Lily. So yes, we're back in Cincinnati and presto change-o we're a family of four. I'm not gonna lie--the first three months were rough--but now that the babies are five months old we're slowly getting the hang of what it means to be parents. 

So then what's the story with this new blog? Well, it's about food, of course. Followers of our older blog, Read it and Eat, will remember that we adore dining out and did so quite frequently, especially when were in Chicago. But as you parents out there already know, things change and one of the very real consequences of having twins is that we just don't have the time or money to eat out so frequently. 

But wait, I went to culinary school, right? So I should know how to cook, right? Right. And I'm motivated more than ever to make sure I'm cooking nutritious, yummy food for my family. So I did what I've wanted to do for about two years: I joined a CSA. Huh? What's that, you ask? Well, it stands for Community Supported Agriculture and basically it means that I signed up with a local farm to get a weekly delivery of fresh fruits, veggies and dairy products. It runs for 24 weeks, and it starts THIS SUNDAY!

I'm so excited I can hardly stand it. When the email notice came last week letting me know that I should be present for my first pick-up at the Hyde Park Farmer's Market between 9:30 and 11 am on Sunday, I could hardly contain my excitement. What's going to be in the basket? I have no idea, since it varies every week depending on what's in season. I do know that at a minimum it will include a dozen fresh eggs each and every week. Hot dog. 

I have this feeling that we're going to end up with more veggies than we can possibly consume in a week, but I'm going to give it a shot. I'm excited about using products I might never purchase otherwise, and will share my recipes, successful and not so, here on the blog for you each week.

The babies are about to start eating "real" food so the timing couldn't be better. We start on rice cereal tomorrow, graduate to yellow and orange foods, then move on to the greens. All of this should certainly make for some interesting Kodak moments and presumably a good deal more baths.

Follow along as we make our way through a season of fresh produce and not so fresh diapers, recipes included.