Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Should Old Acquaintance Be Forgot...

It's amazing the traditions surrounding food on New Years.  It seems that cultures across the globe unpack all of their superstitions and place them right on the table.  Here are some interesting ones I've read about lately.

In China (lunar new year, but lumping it in for simplicity's sake), the word for "orange" and "gold" are phonetically similar, so tangerines and oranges are both eaten and prominently displayed.  Long noodles signify long life, and (I love this one) lots of desserts bring a sweet year.

Persians eat pomegranates to signify fertility and abundance.  They're a "superfood," so pick one up on Friday at the store.  There's a great trick to separating the kernels from the pulp:  Break the kernels apart with your hands submerged in a bowl of water.  The kernels sink, the pulp floats.

In many places, from Russia to Ireland, it's simply about quantity.  Want to signify abundance?  Big platters, big portions.  Love it.

Photo via MyRecipes
How about here in the South?  Like in Germany, eat leafy greens, which are the same color as money.  In Germany, it's cabbage, specifically sauerkraut.  In the US, the tradition is collards (which will be in this week's box).  Add some Hoppin' John and cornbread -- symbolizing gold -- and that's the traditional meal.  Just don't make chicken, since that symbolizes your fortune flying away.

Happy New Year to you all, and don't forget to make a sweet cake to bring a sweet 2015.
Photo via I'm At Home Baking

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Happiest of Holidays to You and Yours

Wishing you peace, joy, and love this holiday season.  And may all your dishes turn out to perfection.

Your Friends at Nalls

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Shhh... Don't Tell Them It's A Vegetable

But first, a word from our sponsor.  Registration for Deep Winter Crop Share is now open online.  Please click here to register.

The long, oval squash in your box is a spaghetti squash.  If this is your first experience with this beauty, then welcome!  First off, yes, it will make long strands that can stand in for pasta in many dishes.  But no, you're not going to think you're actually eating pasta.  Spaghetti squash has a much milder flavor than other winter squash types, with some even calling it "bland."  When you've got a strongly-flavored gravy on your pasta, like a ragĂș, say, this is a great stand-in.  You'll cut more than 100 calories off of a one-cup serving over pasta, and it's very high in potassium and folate, which most of us don't get enough of in our diets.

How do you cook it?  There's two methods, the long way and the short way.  Both of them start off the same.  Cut the squash in half, cross-wise instead of length-wise.  This will make for longer strands.  This is a very firm squash, and you'll have to put some force behind the knife.  So watch where your other hand is when you cut.  Next, scoop out the seeds and loose pulp.  (You can roast the seeds, just like pumpkin seeds.  As a matter of fact, you can do that with acorn, butternut, and pretty much any other winter squash as well.)
Photo via The Kitchn
Next, put about a quarter of an inch of water in a glass or ceramic roasting pan.  Stand the squash in the water, cut side down.  Long way:  oven at about 350˚F for 45 minutes to an hour.  Short way:  microwave on high for about 10 minutes.  Take a fork and scrape along the grain of the flesh, and it will comes out looking like Asian cellophane noodles.  Ta da!
Photo via Wikipedia
As previously stated, use any sauce with a robust flavor.  I like to use spicy sauces with spaghetti squash, like Seafood Arrabbiata or Bolognese Alla Diavolo, or these spicy mussels from SeafoodWatch.org.  Even just a simple robust tomato sauce with some Parm grated on top would be great, too.  I'd avoid dishes that actually try to show off the pasta itself, though.  Save the carbonara or the Sexy-Time Pasta for another day.

Winter Hours

After Christmas, Nalls moves to winter hours through the coldest time of the year.  This means that there are shorter hours, and only on the weekends.  Remember to come by and pick up your crop share box, and stock up on milk and ice cream too since you wouldn't be able to do your mid-week Nalls run.  And daydream of the artichokes and asparagus we'll soon see come spring.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Citrus Is More Than Dessert & Juice

Before we begin, a bit of administrative news.  The Deep Winter Crop Share signups are open.  For the form, click here.  Online signups should also be available within a week.  I'll keep you posted.  The Deep Winter round is always the most diverse, as we open it up to all domestic producers.  Look for lots of yummy things, in spite of it being cold here.

I'm so glad to see beautiful fresh grapefruit in the boxes lately.  There's no better morning pick-me-up than squeezing grapefruit juice pretty much straight into your mouth.  It got me to thinking, though, that there are so many more uses for the lovely citrus we're getting.  Besides, of course, peeling it and eating it.  (Getting to the tangelos before my 5-year-old does, though, I'll admit is a daunting challenge.)  So here are some categories of uses for citrus:

Salads & Veggies

Photo via The Daily Meal
Of course, citrus vinaigrette is a long-time standby.  Slices of citrus of all kinds can really dress up your salad, too.  It won't be long before asparagus starts to reappear, and it's fantastic with an orange sauce.  In addition to asparagus, citrus works very well with fennel.  You'll also find lots of citrus flavors in Spanish tapas, including these olives that make for a fantastic holiday appetizer.


Photo via Food & Wine
Citrus is such a perfect fit with seafood.  Even some of the most simple preparations involve squeezing lemon over fish.  You absolutely can do things a bit more fancy, of course.  I love scallops, and they pair amazingly well with citrus salad.  Mixed seafood salad benefits from the acidity in citrus, too.  My go-to salmon recipe is pan seared in a citrus sauce, too.  I'm a huge fan of Alton Brown's "Good Eats," (best cooking show out there), and that's where I learned to make fish en papillote.  Which is the most amazing way to cook fish.  If you'd like to push your skills, try a beurre blanc with grapefruit and halibut.


Poultry benefits from the acid in citrus, as well.  Last year at Thanksgiving, I made a turkey in citrus marinade.  And it's fantastic.  Latin American recipes use lime and orange frequently, and Cuban garilc-lime sauce is a classic example.  It goes great with chicken.  Moving over to Spain, orange zest brightens this chicken & chorizo dish.  Middle Eastern recipes also pair poultry and citrus, as in this one.
Photo via Food & Wine

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Holidays Cometh

Walking around the store today, I noticed a lot has changed over the last days.  Things like brussels sprouts and cauliflower have given way to more winter-y produce.  Most prominently, I noticed that the citrus is starting to come in and be beautiful.  For me, the citrus we have all winter sustains me until April when I can really eat vegetables again.  What can we do with, say, oranges?  (Okay, I'm lumping the tangerines in with the oranges).
Photo via The Naptime Chef
The most obvious thing that comes to mind is sweets.  And, yesterday, I started scratching my head about what sorts of cookies I'm making over the holidays.  What do I have that includes oranges?  As it turns out, quite a bit.  The acid from the citrus helps to balance the sugar and fat in desserts, so it's actually a pretty necessary component.  Here's what I found, and I put all of these on my short list.  So, who wants a cookie?

  • My mom loves to make her own biscotti.  So I'm sending her this recipe.
  • Sweets from North Africa all the way across Asia to India pair oranges with cardamom, and it's heavenly.  Especially in sugar cookies.
  • Citrus zest is an important component of good shortbread.
  • Santa used to occasionally leave a chocolate orange in my stocking.  You know, orange flavored chocolate shaped like orange wedges.  (Do they still make those...?  Gotta check.)  So I've always loved that flavor combinations.  So these madeleines have to be heavenly.
  • These simple orange cookies look soooo good.
Photo via How Sweet It Is

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Winter Jewels

Photo via Perpetual Feast
This week's box is a classic mixture of winter root vegetables.  I'd love to give you some elegant suggestions you can use to show off your cooking techniques, but unfortunately this week doesn't lend itself to fancy-fancy.  This week is about home and hearth, comfort food.  From a cooking perspective, I think of a plate of root vegetables like this not as a dish to make better, but to avoid messing up.   The ingredients are going to work so well together, Mother Nature was our chef this week.

How does one "avoid messing up?"  Simple.  Peel it, cut into bite sized pieces, and toss with olive oil.  Generous salt and pepper and in the oven.  Around 350˚ for half an hour or so, put it on a plate.  Ta-da.  The "big secret" is to chop up all of the vegetables into equal size pieces as best you can.  They all have that hard texture, and they're all going to cook at pretty much the same rate.  By using equal pieces, they all cook in the same amount of time.
Photo via Food & Wine
Yes, there are some avenues for creativity.

  • After you roast them, toss with some finely chopped herbs, like parsley.  A little thyme can work too.  Keep it simple.
  • Glaze sparingly with something sweet, like honey or maple syrup.  Prepared this way, my 5-year-old thinks they're dessert.
  • Toss with a little vinaigrette.  Again, use sparingly.  While that link only uses parsnips, any of these vegetables can substitute for each other.
  • Roast them with an apple or some other winter fruit (cranberries, for example).
I guess the arrival of winter isn't all bad!