Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Our first CSA feast!

A good part of the beauty of our CSA share is that we aren't entirely sure what's going to come our way every week. When we're just cooking for ourselves, this fact leads to a bit of constraint where before there was simply Whole Foods and its endless supply of comfortable ingredients.

But when we are cooking for others, as we were this past Thursday, it leads to inspiration, and a multi-course (mostly) farm-fresh meal through which we attempt to convey the sublime quality of real food, a sort of culinary proselytizing spoken through turnips, lettuce, chard. This is especially true when the meal in question takes place hours after the CSA pick-up; in such a situation, we are forced (thrilled) to depend even more heavily on the bounty of Windflower Farms.

This meal was a special occasion. Our close friend Lacey, about to depart this coast for the land of Chez Panisse and trolley cars, found a few hours of her final New York week to have a meal with us. This was a major occasion, befitting a real feast, and so we developed a lengthy menu that bracketed a CSA-centric tableau with a couple pre-planned courses.

First up, Jon made an amuse bouche of bacon-wrapped tri-colored raisins (shown above). The raisins were tossed with brown sugar and ginger, and then wrapped in bacon and baked. These were out of control delicious, a perfect combination of sweet and savory. Though different than the bacon-wrapped dates of Homeslice West, they were at least as good and certainly more unique.

Next up, Ali made a salad of farm-fresh lettuce, homemade croutons, and baked goat cheese medallions. This lettuce, picked up from our farm earlier that day, was the best head of lettuce either of us had ever had, and the goat cheese medallions came out beautiful.

After that came Ali's Swiss chard gratin, a full-bodied gratin whose cheese played well with the sharp bite of the chard.

For the main dish, Jon made a garlic scape pesto and baked some cod in it. The garlic scapes were a combination of those we got from our CSA and some we picked up from the greenmarket. The real trick of this pesto, though, was the inclusion of toasted pistachios. The result was a unique type of nutty pesto, one we would highly recommend for as long as you can get your hands on some scapes. As a side, Jon made some more of his CSA turnip fries, this time spicing them with the to-be-named Italian spice mix his mom brought back from Turkey.

For dessert, Ali made wine-marinated frozen spiced grapes, which turned out to be the perfect antidote to the humidity that Lacey was about to leave behind. They were plump, sweet, and extremely cold. They were convenient as well, as this recipe, which requires a day or two to make, leaves behind a marinade of spiced wine, which Ali easily converted into a delicious and complex sangria that we enjoyed all night, sending Lacey stumbling home, drunk, and, we hope, satisfied and happy.


Time: 10 minutes active, 15 minutes inactive

4 strips bacon
1 tbs butter
2 cups raisins
Brown sugar to taste
Pureed or very finely diced ginger to taste

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. In a bowl, mix raisins, sugar, and ginger
3. Cut bacon strips in half. Carefully place raisins on the piece of bacon, centered. Roll the bacon around the raisins, and press in sides to firm roll.
4. Rub butter on foiled baking sheet. Place rolls on buttered surface, and bake for 15 minutes. Serve.

Time: 15 minutes active, 30 minutes inactive, excluding croutons

1 head red-leaf lettuce, chopped into 1-inch diameter pieces
1 tomato, sliced and then quartered
homemade whole-wheat garlic croutons
1 log chevre (we used some from the Vermont Butter & Cheese Co)
breadcrumbs (I ground some up while I was baking the croutons)
1 egg white

For the citrus-champagne vinaigrette:
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup muscat orange vinaigrette (from Trader Joe's)
1 tbsp chopped garlic
salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Slice the chevre into four discs. Coat each medallion with egg white and then dip into breadcrumbs, coating it well. Refrigerate medallions on parchment paper for 10 minutes or so.
2. Slide the medallions on parchment paper onto a baking sheet and into a 350 degree oven. Bake for 20 minutes or until cheese is pretty soft.
3. While cheese is baking, whisk together vinaigrette ingredients, and dress the lettuce, tomato and breadcrumbs, tossing to coat.
4. Portion out the salad, then top each bowl with one goat cheese medallion.

(Adapted from here)

Time: 10 minutes active, 20 minutes inactive

2 bunches Swiss chard leaves, chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter
1 cup low-fat milk
2 tbsp white whole-wheat flour
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup grated parmigiano reggiano, divided in two
2 tbsp whole wheat bread crumbs

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. Place chard leaves in a saucepan with water and cook over medium heat until leaves are just tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Drain, reserving 1/4 cup of the cooking liquid. Set chard aside.
3. In the same saucepan, heat olive oil and butter over medium heat. When butter has melted, whisk in the flour until blended. Whisk constantly for 1 minute. Slowly whisk in the milk and reserved cooking liquid. Continue cooking and stirring until the sauce thickens, 3 to 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and stir in half of the grated cheese. Stir in the cooked chard and transfer to four small baking dishes.
4. Sprinkle with remaining cheese and breadcrumbs. Bake for 20 minutes or until hot and bubbling. Serve immediately.

(Adapted from eggs on sunday)

Time: 30 minutes active, 10 minutes inactive

4 cod fillets, approx. 1/3 lb each
1.5 cup chopped garlic scapes, finely chopped
1/2 cup toasted pistachios
juice of 1 lemon
1/2 cup parmigiano-reggiano cheese, grated
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/3 cup bread crumbs
coarse salt and pepper, to taste

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. In a small pan over medium-low heat, toast the pistachios.
3. Place the scapes, pistachios, lemon juice, and cheese in a food processor. As you pulse, drizzle in the olive oil until desired consistency is reached.
4. After processing is complete, mix in salt, pepper, and breadcrumbs.
5. Spread pesto onto cod, and bake for 10 minutes, or until fish is flaky.

(Adapted from Thursday Night Smackdown)

1/2 bottle white wine (we used this great slightly sweet Hungarian stuff we picked up at Astor Place)
1 lb seedless green grapes
1/2 cup organic sugar
1 tbsp of lemon zest
cinnamon and nutmeg to taste

1. Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl. Add the grapes. Marinate in the fridge for at least 24 hours.
2. Drain the grapes, retaining the liquid in the empty wine bottle (or adding it back to the other 1/2 bottle...we added a peach and strawberries to the mixture for some delicious white sangria). Put the grapes in a bowl, toss with a little more sugar to coat, then place in the freezer and freeze overnight.
3. Remove the grapes from freezer 20 minutes before eating so they thaw to the perfect consistency and serve.

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