Saturday, June 27, 2015

A Fond Farewell

It is with a heavy-ish heart that I am here to say we are discontinuing our Nalls Kitchen blog. I can't say that it will be gone for forever, but at least for the near future.We have loved sharing our experiences with you as we muddle through our Crop Share on a weekly basis. I have just been taking a long hard look at our commitments as an organization. Probably about a year or two AFTER I should have come to this realization, I have decided that I am spread too thin. I want to be able to do more things well, rather than too many things at a mediocre level. I want to give all of the amazing, awesome, incredible Nalls supporters out there the BEST experience that they can have. I don't think this medium was or is the most effective way to have conversations with you.

That being said, I am not taking this site down. There is still some incredible content here that will continue to be a great help to me and hopefully you too. It is searchable, so all you have to do is pop in your keyword and see what comes up!

I love all of you dearly and hope this doesn't bum you out too much. Look for more recipes in store and in your spoiler email weekly, as well as our fabulous Pinterest page.

Farewell for now!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Topsy Turvey

Ever wonder why it's called, "upside down cake?"  I recently found out.  A friend on Facebook posted this recipe for Nectarine Upside Down Cake.  It's called that because you put the toppings for the cake, usually sliced fruit, in the bottom of the cake pan -- in other words, you put the cake in the pan upside down.  I guess there's a simple answer for just about everything.

Photo via Damn Delicious
Nectarines are my favorite of the stone fruits.  Peaches are delicious, but the fuzz kinda gets to me.  With a nectarine, no such problem.  These are early ones, though, so they're not yet freestone.  What's freestone?  it means that the fruit, cut in half, pulls away from the pit cleanly.  It'll be a few more weeks yet before they're ripe enough for that.  I won't blame you if you hold on to this recipe until then.  It's less work, and the cut fruit for your topping looks nicer.

Meanwhile, eat your nectarines!
Photo via Damn Delicious

Monday, June 15, 2015

Keep Baking


You've got lots more zucchini from your box this week.  There was quite a bit of it, and it'll be a staple all summer long.  The muffins were really good, but how about some cornbread?

Most zucchini bread recipes fall under the heading of "quick breads."  They're named so because they don't use yeast as the leavening agent, and therefore don't need time to rise.  Instead, the recipe uses baking soda and/or baking powder with salt to make the bread rise in the oven.  The cornbread recipe above, as most cornbread recipes, fall into this category.  Most banana breads are quick breads, too.

The recipe below is from The Everything Cookbook by Betty Wason.  The book has long been out of print, but if you can get a hold of a copy, by all means do so.  It's my most frequently used reference in the kitchen, and it'll have pretty much every single classic recipe you'll ever think of.  This recipe is adapted from recipes in that book.
Photo via Epicurious

Zucchini Quick Bread

  • 1 3/4 cups all purpose or bread flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick, 1/2 cup) butter
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 cups grated zucchini
  • Dash grated nutmeg
  1. Preheat the oven to 350˚F, and liberally grease and flour a loaf pan.
  2. Whisk together dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, nutmeg).
  3. Melt the butter in a pan over medium-low heat, and continue to brown butter slightly.  Cool until just a little warmer than room temperature.
  4. In a separate bowl whisk the eggs.  Stir in the butter and the grated zucchini.
  5. Stir the dry ingredients into the zucchini egg mixture a little at a time, mixing between additions until incorporated.  Pour in the loaf pan and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 50-60 minutes or slightly more.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Guest Post - Bethany's Zucchini Muffins

Zucchini is one of the most delicious and flexible items we get in the crop share. You can make them into noodles, roast them with herbs, or make muffins like crop share member Bethany Duffy. As always, if you bake up a mean batch of these muffins (or let your kids do it for you) please share your pictures with us! Hashtag them #cookingwithnalls on Instagram and tag us in the photo @nalls_produce. Don’t forget to follow us there and on Pinterest--we will have some exciting giveaways popping up later this month.  We can’t wait to see what you’re cooking!


It seems like we’re constantly being told that the best way to get kids to enjoy a variety of foods is to invite them into the kitchen. I’m sure that this is true, but it’s definitely not the easiest guideline to implement--for me, at least, cooking dinner can take more than twice as long with a 4 year old “helping,” and that’s not always time I can spare on a busy weeknight! My solution: let kids help with meals on weekends or days off, and always let kids help with baking. 



These spiced zucchini muffins are a great place to start. There’s no chopping, no hot liquids, no operating heavy machinery. Just one big bowl, a box grater, a little stirring, and a delicious treat at the end. Besides, with the good fats from olive oil, an extra bit of whole grains from white whole wheat flour, and tons of beautiful shredded summer squash, they’re almost healthy! Smear a little cream cheese (plain or lightly sweetened) on top, and you can even get away with calling it a cupcake. Who said you need to hide vegetables to get kids to eat them? 


Spiced Zucchini Olive Oil Muffins
Makes 12-14 muffins

1 cup olive oil
3 large eggs
1 ¼ cup sugar **I have also had success making these with light agave syrup, for those who would rather not use white sugar. Use about ¾ cup agave, and reduce your baking temperature to 325 to prevent over-browning. You will probably need 3-5 extra minutes of baking time.**
1 ½ tsp pure vanilla extract
2 cups grated zucchini (about 2 medium)
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ cups white whole wheat flour
1 ½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground nutmeg
¼ tsp ground ginger
1 tsp baking soda
¾ tsp baking powder
1 tsp kosher salt
Optional: mix in ½ cup toasted walnuts or ¾ cup dried cranberries or cherries at the end

Preheat oven to 350. Line a muffin tin with paper liners, or spray a silicon muffin pan with cooking spray and set aside. In a large bowl, whisk eggs. Stir in olive oil, sugar, vanilla, and zucchini. Layer dry ingredients on top and stir until just combined. Stir in nuts or dried fruit if desired. Scoop batter into muffin cups until they’re ¾ full. Bake 20-25 minutes, until a toothpick insterted into a muffin comes out clean.


Monday, June 8, 2015

Keeping the Green Stuff Pretty


On occasion, we get a bunch of herbs in our box.  This week was Italian parsley.  This is good for more than garnish, believe me!

But herbs wither and get ugly pretty quickly, don't they?  They do, if not optimally stored.  I've kept lots of different herbs pretty and usable for weekS.  Yes, that's plural, as in two or more.  How?  Easy.  It's a plant, it needs water.  Wash them like salad, and spin dry.  Cut off like the bottom 1/8 inch from the stems and stand them in a tall, slender glass of water.  Put an Ziplock bag over the top of the glass, leaving the bag open around the bottom, and stand it in the fridge.  See this for details.
Photo via Serious Eats
Check back in a few days, and as long as you keep water in the glass, the herbs will stay fresh. See? No throwing away withered ones!

What to do with your now long-lived parsley?  Here's three options:
Photo via Taste of Home
My favorite is buttered parsley potatoes.  Wash and halve baby potatoes (I find reds work best for this) and boil them until soft.  Drain the water and add butter to the still-hot pot with the potatoes.  Salt & pepper generously and liberally add fine-minced parsley.  Toss until the butter melts and the herbs are evenly distributed.  Leftovers are great for breakfast, seared in a hot pan.

Valerie suggests this chickpea salad.  Like lots of these sorts of salads, it's better after a day or two in the fridge.
Photo via Food.com
Remember our discussion about pesto?  Parsley walnut pesto is a great topping for grilled beef or pork.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

CSA Mixology 101

Photo via Green Thumb White Apron
I spend a lot of time working in the kitchen.  A lot.  Don't get me wrong, I love doing so, but eventually you reach the point of, "Enough!"  So, fellow fledgling chefs, let's kick back for some cocktails!

I've made two of the cucumber salads mentioned in our last post, but I've still got one more cucumber left.  Cukes just seem to say, "Refreshing."  There are a couple of cocktail recipes I've found that leverage that.  Adding in a little basil to reinforce the summer-iness and lime for even more refreshment, you can make an awesome gimlet.  Or, for something a bit more refined, how about a cognac cocktail?

Photo via Food.com
This week, we will have more blueberries and another awesome cantaloupe.  Obviously these two can pair up to make a colorful, delicious fruit salad, but how about another cocktail or two?  Fresh berries are an incredible bar ingredient.  Something refreshing with blueberries and mint, maybe?  Or, for the more serious mixologist, something with absinthe?

As for the cantaloupe, its gorgeous color can be brought to full bloom in a Fiery Torch.  Or how about a glowing orange cantaloupe martini?

In any case, hand off your keys, get the blender or the shaker, and let's have a few!
Photo via Rachel Ray Magazine

Friday, May 29, 2015

Time to Cool Off


Yes, it's too early to start complaining about the heat. But I'm going to anyway. I guess I'm just a wimp. While I am no fan of winter, I would rather be too cold than too hot. So what am I to do to keep cool as it gets warmer and warmer?

Thankfully, we have cucumbers. The saying, "cool as a cucumber," is definitely based in fact.  Eating them definitely makes you feel cooler. And what better way to eat them than in a cucumber salad.
Photo via Bon Apétit
Like coleslaw, the debate about cucumber salad revolves around using the cream-based dressing or a vinegar-based dressing. We've had this discussion before.  While I remain strongly in the vinegar camp for coleslaw, I'm pretty equally divided when it comes to cucumber salad. My favorite is the one my mother made when I was a child, and I guess a lot of us have dishes like that. Her cucumber salad was very simple: peel the cumbers, slice thinly, optionally add a green or yellow onion also sliced thinly, and a bunch of chopped fresh dill. The dill has to be fresh. Has to. Put in a small squirt of olive oil, salt and pepper, and cover the cucumbers with white vinegar. It's great after a couple of hours, and perfect the next day.

Here are some more cucumber salad recipes, and I've included ones from both sides of the argument.


  • I still have half a bunch of radishes from a week ago that I need to use up. I'm planning on trying this recipe this week.
  • I remember buying tahini for some recipe once. I had to buy a big jar, even though I only needed a tablespoon or two. I wondered what the heck to do with all the extra tahini. It makes some pretty good cookies, but the real find was using it in a cucumber salad dressing.
  • You can shell some of the peas from this week's box for this creamy cucumber salad.
  • When it gets really hot out there, this crab and cucumber salad will be super refreshing!
  • And I guess, technically, tzatziki sauce is a kind of cucumber salad...
Photo via Simply Recipes

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Being Well Dressed


This time of year, there's lots and lots of lettuce to go around. We're getting it in our boxes, and also getting it from our gardens. So, of course, we have salads every day.  I much prefer my own dressing. It's nice to know what's in the food you're eating. Ever try to read the label for a bottle of salad dressing? I hope you remember your chemistry from college...

Photo via The Daily Meal
Making salad dressing is extremely easy. It's also cheaper. Well, you can buy very fancy ingredients, of course. Trust me, I spend lots of money on that.  But it doesn't have to be.  You need a bowl, and a whisk. That's about it. Here are some common salad dressing recipes that can get you by most of the year.

  • Mustard vinaigrette – This is about as easy as it gets. You need two parts of some kind of vinegar, one part of some kind of mustard, and one part olive oil.  Feel free to get as creative with this as you like. Try different kinds of mustard (I would stay away from the bright yellow kind, but try just about everything else).  Try different kinds of vinegars: cider, red wine, rice, or the flavored ones.  There is a great store for flavored vinegars and oils in Springfield Town Center.  To make the dressing, whisk together the mustard and vinegar, and slowly stream in the oil as you constantly whisk. You're getting them to emulsify.  And a little salt and pepper, and you can add spices or fresh herbs too.  Voilà!
  • Citrus vinaigrette – The same as above, but replace half of the vinegar with some kind of citrus juice. Lemon and lime work well, orange mostly doesn't have enough acid, but you could put a little orange juice and a little lemon juice together.
  • Bleu cheese – Yes, it's wonderful. Yes, it's also completely full of calories and fat. You could make it full fat, and it's way better than what you get in the store, or you can use low-fat or fat-free dairy ingredients.  Mix together 3 tablespoons butter milk and sour cream, 2 tablespoons mayo, 2 teaspoons white wine vinegar, and 1/2 cup crumbled bleu cheese.  Season with salt and white pepper.
  • Thousand island – This one is deceptively simple.  It's just equal parts ketchup, mayo, and relish.  Both mayo and ketchup are also way better when you make them yourself.
  • Lemon poppyseed
  • Sorry Alton, but your Caesar dressing is missing 2 anchovy fillets.  Once you add those in, it's perfect.
  • This buttermilk ranch recipe is a little involved, but oh so good!

Photo via Alton Brown

Friday, May 22, 2015

Hold the Strawberries

Photo via Wikipedia
The big red things in your box are rhubarb.  When I was a kid, and even to today, my parents had it growing in their garden.  And one of the first things from the garden after the long, cold Midwest winter broke would be the rhubarb.  My mom would make strawberry-rhubarb cobbler or pie.  It's very tart, so pairing it with something super sweet, like strawberries, works very well.

I have a very funny rhubarb story, actually.  When I first started participating in a CSA several years ago, I got a box with Swiss chard in it.  I'd never seen nor even heard of chard before, and so I thought it was just small rhubarb.  So I made a cobbler out of it with some strawberries.  The whole time, the texture wasn't exactly right, but I plowed forward anyway.  It didn't have much in the way of the tart flavor (duh), but it seemed okay.  I brought it to a church potluck.  Pastor had about 3 helpings, so I guess it was fine.  Let's hope he's not one of my loyal readers...
Photo via Taste of Home
Pairing rhubarb and strawberries works so well, in fact, that most people can hardly come up with something with rhubarb not containing strawberries (or blackberries, or another very sweet berry).  Gauntlet cast!  If you, like me, have greedily eaten all of your strawberries from last week, here are some things you can do with rhubarb without them!
  • One of my very favorite blogs to follow for canning idea is Food In Jars.  If you ever in your life want to make some jam or can anything, follow Marisa's blog.  She's written a cookbook that's well worth it, too.  Her rhubarb suggestion is rhubarb vanilla jam.  I guess you can pickle rhubarb too; seeing as I like my pickles super sour, and the combination with star anise is intriguing, I might give that a try!  
  • Sticking with the sweet theme, I've found two baked goods to try.  Naptime Chef is a wonderful blog for baked goods, another worthy one to follow.  I really want to make this rhubarb ginger buckle, and these oatmeal squares sound pretty good too.
Photo via bon appétit

    • I've found two highly promising savory recipes as well.  I'm using the rhubarb from my box this week to make a compote with pork tenderloin.  This recipe for spicy chicken with rhubarb salsa sounds fantastic, too.
    • Last but not least, don't forget cocktail hour!  Some of the Nalls staff are pretty keen on the idea of rhubarb infused vodka.  I'm planning to try out my mixology skills for a couple of blog posts later this summer, so stay tuned for that!
    Photo via Spoon Fork Bacon

    Tuesday, May 19, 2015

    Savory Berries


    We're getting our first peeks of summer fruits, and eating them is like a long drink after a drought.  I can't seem to keep them in the house.  My six-year-old has eaten three pints of apricots (his favorite) since Friday.  I don't know where he puts them all.

    Photo via Epicurious
    Any blueberries left from your box?  I booby-trapped the fruit drawer in the bottom of the fridge, so I actually have some left.  I wanted to use them creatively, preferably not for dessert.  So here are some savory berry ideas:

    Photo via Cookstr

    Thursday, May 14, 2015

    Technicolor Cropshare

    Photo via Simply Recipes
    Beets and carrots, carrots and beets!  Yahoo!  Many, such as Dr. Sanjay Gupta on CNN, say that you should eat five different colors every day to make sure you get a broad array of vitamins in your diet.  This week's box sure helps with that approach: orange carrots, purple beets, blue blueberries, red strawberries, green chard and cabbage... There you go!

    Let's see how we can mix and match colors.
    Photo via Healthy Happy Life

    Photo via Epicurious

    Friday, May 8, 2015

    There's More to Life Than Eating Cantaloupe, Horatio

    Oh, what a jewel you'll find in this week's box!  The first cantaloupes of the year.  And, trust me, this bears little resemblance to what you'll find in a supermarket.  Texture, taste, color, sweetness... it's a completely different animal.  Er, fruit.


    So eat it.  Immediately.  Greedily.  As-is, although I would recommend not eating the peel.  Then, once you're done, go and get another one from the store.  Yes, while eating them straight is my preferred approach, there are more things you can do with cantaloupe.

    Photo via Epicurious
    A classic appetizer this time of year is sliced cantaloupe wrapped in prosciutto. Get a good prosciutto, because what makes this work is the salty/sweet contrast.  There are a number of salads based on this pairing, too.
    Photo via Foodess

    The sweet/spicy contrast works great with cantaloupe, too.  Diced into a salsa (as simple as onion, tomatoes, your favorite chilies and lime juice), it's excellent over grilled chicken.  It goes great with salmon or shrimp as well.

    Enjoy.  As unlikely as it sounds, cantaloupes are one of the true gems of the season.

    Photo via Steamy Kitchen

    Tuesday, May 5, 2015

    A Tale of Two Pastas

    Over the winter, I've collected two recipes that I've been itching to try:  Pappardelle With Spring Vegetables, and Spring Vegetable Ragout With Fresh Pasta.  Now that we're starting to see the fruits (okay, veggies, actually) of spring, I finally get to make this!
    Photo via Fine Cooking
    The latter recipe is exceedingly simple.  It calls for blanching whatever baby spring vegetables you have, reducing that water to a vegetable broth, and tossing vegetables, fresh pasta, fresh herbs, and butter with the broth.  The former one is a bit more complex.  It calls for a quick sauté of the vegetables, and tossing with a sauce of shallot, seasonings (cayenne and celery seed), mascarpone, and reduced chicken stock.

    When I look at the pictures of the two recipes, in both I see the ultimate taste of spring.  It should be crisp, incredibly light, and fresh tasting.  Because of that, I like the herbs from the latter, and I think the heaviness of mascarpone cheese called for in the former would be way too heavy.  On the other hand, I believe the sauté pan would give the vegetables a crispness that blanching wouldn't (think stir fry), and the dash of cayenne would definitely liven the dish.  While either vegetable broth & butter or chicken stock would make a wonderful sauce, I'm leaning towards stock.  The collagens it has (you're using homemade, right?) will give the sauce a silkiness that simple broth won't.

    Photo via Fine Cooking
    In either case, the great thing about these recipes is that they'll work for whatever young veggies you've got on hand at the moment.  I was at Nalls today, and picked up some asparagus and some beautiful young rainbow carrots that'll work fantastically.  So, whichever you pick, open a bottle of crisp white wine and enjoy the fruits -- er, veggies -- of spring!

    Monday, April 27, 2015

    King of the Road

    Ever heard this song?  I love it, an oldie but a goodie.  One of my favorites, and it reminds me of a great little idea to try out for dinner tonight.  "Hobo packs" are a cooking technique that Boy Scouts have been using for generations.
    Photo via The Unorthodox Epicure
    The idea is simplicity itself.  Take a piece of heavy aluminum foil (if you don't have heavy foil, double layer the regular stuff), add in whatever is for dinner, and seal the edges tightly.  Put it over a campfire, or a grill, or even a burner on the stove set to low, and in a little while you're ready to eat.

    Hobo packs can be adapted to pretty much anything you're cooking:  Meat, fish, chicken, vegetables... anything.  In my decades of Scout experience, I've come up with a couple of rules of thumb.  Let me share the results of my many experiments.
    1. You need some fat in the pack.  This can be butter or oil.  If you're including a meat whose fat will render (e.g., ground beef, pork, or lamb), use less and put the oil mainly on the meat.  That'll ensure it cooks nicely until it gets hot enough for the fat starts to render.
    2. Include at least some of an aromatic vegetable.  Onions are the most commonly used ingredient, but celery, carrots, or any other aromatic will work.  For chicken, fish, or veggies, I've found fennel is my favorite.
    3. Season it.  That means salt and pepper.  And don't skimp.  If you've got some fresh herbs, add them too.  Think about the classic, time-honored pairings:  mint with lamb (where I went camping, spearmint grew everywhere in the woods and we used it), dill with chicken, etc.
    4. If you're making more than just a side item, include your starch and protein in the packet as well.
    Tonight we're having zucchini and carrots with fennel, olive oil, dill and chives.  Since we're not camping, we'll use plates instead of eating right out of the foil.  But I won't fault you if you do it the rustic way!


    Wednesday, April 22, 2015

    Tapas

    I had lunch today at one of my very favorite places, a tapas restaurant.  For those of you not familiar with the genre, tapas originated in Spain.  Sangria is a wine with fruit and brandy in it, served frequently there.  Unfortunately, it attracts flies.  Spanish taverns began covering glasses of sangria with a small plate to keep them out.  Not wanting to serve their customers an empty plate, they came up with small appetizers to put on the plates.  So tapas are small Spanish dishes that are meant to be shared.  They have a beautiful profile of sherry, olive oil, and garlic.

    So I thought, what tapas dishes can we make from items we've recently had in our boxes, or things in season now?  Well, here goes!
    Photo via Steamy Kitchen

    Artichokes

    A number of wonderful tapas dishes involve a strongly garlic-flavored olive oil.  It's great on artichokes too.  Another preparation uses lemon along with the wonderful garlic oil.

    Apples 

    Manchego cheese is a sheep milk cheese commonly used in Spanish cuisine.  It pairs well with apples.  Slice the apples thinly, soak them in rum or brandy for a couple of hours, and serve with the cheese.  Another option is to make an apple paste.  A creamy salad of apples and walnuts is another classic tapas dish.
    Photo via Food.com

    Oranges

    Valencia is a city on the Medeterranean (east) coast of Spain, and they grow oranges in that region.  So yes, there are many tapas dishes that have oranges, such as this orange and onion salad.  There's plenty of beautiful, young asparagus in the store, so don't use canned asparagus when you make orange and lemon sauce to serve it with.

    Spinach

    One of my very favorite tapas dishes is this one, spinach with currants and pine nuts.  I add a teaspoon or two of good sherry vinegar just before serving.  This chickpea and spinach stew from Seville is another delicious option. 
    Photo via about.com
     

    Friday, April 17, 2015

    If I Can Do It, So Can You

    All winter, going to the grocery store was an exercise in frustration.  I get so used to cooking with fresh herbs, I want them to cook with over the winter, too, but the prices are exorbitant.  Plus, the packages contain more than I need at the time, so I wind up tossing some in the trash when it goes bad.  Ugh!

    On top of this, I'm the biggest brown thumb on the planet.  Seriously, I try every year.  I try hard.  But my little 35 square foot garden usually yields about 3 carrots, 2 tomatoes and a handful of jalepeños in a year.  Yes, I'm that bad.

    But herbs are different.  Maybe they're more foolproof than veggies.  In any case, about this time I plant a bunch in pots, and I don't have to buy any for months.  One plant, that will yield all season long, costs about the same as 1 or 2 small packages at the grocery store.


    Come fall, we'll talk about how to preserve herbs over the winter.

    One more note.  Have you tried Trickling Springs's ice cream?  Waaaay good.  Their Strawberry is about the best I've ever had -- and when it comes to ice cream, I'm really addicted.  The seasonal flavor right now is Lemon Chiffon, and it's pretty darned incredible too.  Hurry up and get some, before I eat it all!


    Tuesday, April 14, 2015

    Don't You (Forget About Me)

    This song has been stuck in my head for the last couple of days.  For those of you who also grew up in the 80s, it's pretty easy for that one to be an earworm.

    What is it we shouldn't forget?  As spring really gets started, we all start looking forward to fruit.  Very soon we'll all be stuffing our faces full of berries and starting to make jam.  I've been craving strawberry jam for some time now, so believe me I'm looking forward to the berries too.  Shortly thereafter (maybe six weeks from now-ish), we'll be eating... well, let's see if you can guess from this:

     
    But let's not get too far ahead of ourselves.  As I see these favorites arrive, I also can't forget that another will be leaving until the fall:  pears.  I love pears.  Remember when we talked about pear desserts? They're also great in salads.  And we're really getting lots of different kinds of lettuces right now, so a beautiful salad would be a great way to say, "see you next time, and I won't forget about you" to those beautiful pears.
    Photo via MyRecipes
    • Do you have any apples left from last week?  Paired with some of the pears (sorry couldn't resist), this salad comes together with an amazing mix of textures.
    • Pears pair well (yes, I'll stop now) with strongly-flavored cheeses, like bleu, stilton, and gorgonzola.  This salad is a great example.
    • Radicchio is a bitter lettuce that I've only recently discovered.  I do love the color it brings to dishes.  It also pairs well with fennel, as in this recipe.  I've made this similar one for a while, too, and pears would contrast well with its saltiness.
    • If you'd like to go all-out with the lettuce varieties, here you go!
    Photo via Whole Foods
     

    Friday, April 10, 2015

    Ogres Have Layers


    When I saw all of the beautiful spring onions in our box last week, with more on the way this week, for some reason this scene flashed in my head.  Ah, the wisdom of Shrek.  I love my cartoons.

    The thing about onions is that they form the base of so, so many things we cook.  I don't know about your kitchen, but my family of three easily goes through half a dozen in a week.  The question is, when we get beautiful onions like these, the early spring ones, how can we actually feature them in the dish?  What can we do beyond just using them in mirepoix?

    Photo via Epicurious
    Here are some ideas for you.
    More onions, please!

    Friday, April 3, 2015

    They're Finally Here!


    We're getting a treat this week.  It's the thing I wait for all winter long.  When spring gets here, so do the artichokes. They've only been a recent discovery for me, but all spring long I could eat them day after day after day.  My six-year-old son also thinks they're very fun to eat.

    Artichokes are related to thistles. So, technically, they're a weed.  The artichoke that you see is an unopened flower. If you let it bloom, they turn into very large, beautiful purple flowers.  But don't do that. You're wasting a perfectly good choke!

    Photo via Wikipedia
    If you're not familiar with artichokes, I highly recommend you watch this video clip from Alton Brown.  As a matter fact, if you're cooking anything for the first time, see if you can find a video clip of Alton cooking it. He's a great teacher.  A few months ago, when he was in town, I went to see his live show. I don't think I've ever laughed so hard.

    Artichokes are easily made simply by steaming them. What you want to do is cut off the sharp tips on all of the leaves, and then steam them upright until they begin to open. This might be 25 or 30 minutes.  Practice making fancy sauces, Hollandaise or Bernaise or something similar, or even just a vinaigrette, and you're good to go.  

    Photo via Cooking With My Kid
    There are three phases to eating an artichoke. First, are the leaves. They are tough and fibrous, but when you pull them off right where they attached to the choke they have a whitish flesh that is soft and delicious. So dip that white part in your sauce, and scrape the meat off with your teeth.  This is the fun part.

    The heart of the artichoke is the most prized piece.  After eating the leaves, there will be a fuzzy part with purple tips on top of the flat part of the artichoke. The fuzzy part isn't good to eat, so take the edge of a spoon and scrape it all off. Make sure you get it all.  You can cut the heart of the artichoke into bite-size pieces and eat it. Dip it in your sauce.

    Photo via Epicurious
    The inner part of the stem is also soft and very good to eat. You need to take off the outer husk that's stringy, and then eat the delicate part inside. When I cook artichokes, I use a vegetable peeler to take off the fibrous part before cooking them.

    This is my favorite recipe for artichokes.  While they steam, make a simple vinaigrette of Dijon, lemon juice, and olive oil.  Slice the artichokes in half, drizzle over the dressing, and finish under the broiler.  A couple more of my favorites are here and here.

    Enjoy!