31 May 2014

We have a CSA!

First CSA box of 2014

Last week I happened to look at the notice board at the coffeeshop that is my pseudo-office and found a poster for Fifth Crow Farm's 2014 CSA. So I poked around their site and said YES PLEASE.

Obviously supporting local farms is great. The basic veg share fees work out to $25 per week, which is totally doable, especially for amazing farm-fresh produce. And our local pickup site is ridiculously near our house, which is super exciting and convenient (especially for people without cars).

This week we got our first box. Look at all the stuff! VEGETABLES FOR ALL.

CSA lettuce selection

Our basic veg share included:
- three heads of lettuce: red leaf, green leaf, and one that looks almost like a non-speckled Flashy Trout's Back, with bronzey scoop-shaped leaves
- a big bag of baby arugula
- three white turnips
- a bunch of radishes with greens
- nine baby artichokes
- a bunch of dill (MORE DILL!)
- three leeks
- and a jar of home-canned jam, unlabeled, but apparently strawberry-rhubarb.


CSA honey from Citybees

We're getting a monthly honey share along with the standard veg. The honey comes from City Bees in SF. Hooray, local bees!

I'm not sure how we're going to use four different months' worth of honey, especially since our current pound of honey is only halfway out, but I imagine that we'll find a way. If nothing else, the oatmeal and tea are both going to get a lot more exciting around here. And maybe we'll even get some of the local allergy benefits. That would be great, considering that the only thing I've ever really been allergic to is California.

CSA red leaf lettuce in mid-wash

We were sufficiently excited by all the beautiful produce to make a big salad immediately. Red leaf lettuce, finely sliced radishes, and dill. We ate it before I had a chance to take a picture, but still. Hooray! Salad!

In conclusion, this was obviously a good decision. Also, HOORAY.

Have you ever used a CSA? How did it go? Did you have any issues getting through all your vegetables? I think that as long as we stay on top of things (and eat several big salads per week) everything will work out just fine.

28 May 2014

The simplest, best summer salad

The simplest, best summer salad: butter lettuce, cucumber julienne, and fresh dill

Yes, we still have dill in the house, but don't worry -- a few more salads like this and it'll all be eaten.

My taste in salad (or just food in general) is gradually getting simpler and simpler. Salads with a huge mixture of different vegetables are still delicious, and they still happen, especially when I need an entire lunch immediately. But ordinary lettuce salads with one or two other vegetables are popping up more and more often. I don't even make dressing most of the time; a drizzle of olive oil, a little salt and pepper, and a wedge of lemon work just fine.

For this one, I julienned a double handful of English cucumber slices and added a whole lot of dill. It was perfect.

If you've never eaten cucumber in a thin julienne like this, you should definitely give it a try. It's a far cry from the huge, tasteless chunks of waxy, watery cucumber in the standard house salad. The julienne cut transforms cucumber into something soft and juicy and amazing.

Other green leafy herbs would work well in lieu of dill. Parsley is the obvious choice, but chives or tarragon are also a good idea. Pick one you like and run with it.

The simplest, best summer salad: butter lettuce, cucumber julienne, and fresh dill

The simplest, best summer salad: butter lettuce, cucumber julienne, and fresh dill

butter lettuce or another salad green
English or Persian cucumber
fresh dill or another herb of your choice
olive oil
salt & pepper
lemon wedge

Wash your lettuce well and spin it dry. Chop or tear into bite-sized pieces. Arrange it on a plate.

Cut your cucumber into thin slices, stack the slices up, and cut across to make a fine julienne. Scatter your cucumber over the lettuce.

Top with a handful of fresh snipped dill. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Serve with a wedge of lemon on the side, and squeeze it over your plate before you eat.

I had mine with a big sandwich and was well satisfied. Fruit for dessert, if you want it.

What kind of salads are you eating lately?

23 May 2014

Cashew cheese with dill and red onion

Cucumber cashew cheese bites with dill and red onion

So one thing about making egg salad is that afterward you still have 3/4 of a bunch of fresh dill to eat. This is not a huge problem for me, since I love dill, but it does get a little interesting if you're trying to figure out how to eat ALL of it in a short period of time.

I mixed some dill with cottage cheese and pepper and ate it on toast. I...uh, that's actually all I had done by this point. So when I unearthed a container of cashews from the back of the freezer, they seemed like the best idea ever. Cashew cheese with plenty of fresh spring herbs, coming up!

Cashew cheese is one of my favorite spreads ever. It's super versatile and works well with any number of flavors. This time I threw in plenty of dill and some diced red onion for a delightful fresh and herbal nut cheese. So good!

This makes a small batch of about 2/3 cup of cashew cheese, but you can easily double or triple it for a full party tray of Memorial Day tidbits. No problem!

Cucumber cashew cheese bites with dill and red onion

Cashew cheese with dill and red onion

1/2 cup raw cashews soaked in water for 1+ hours & drained
1/2 cup chopped fresh dill, loosely packed
additional chopped fresh parsley if desired
2-3 tbsp chopped red onion
1/8-1/4 cup water
salt, pepper
squeeze of lemon juice
cucumber slices and extra dill & onion to serve

Start by soaking your cashews. Simply cover them with twice their depth of water and let them sit for an hour or more. I actually let mine go for a couple days in the refrigerator, but that is not necessary at all. In fact, if you soak cashews too long, they can start to turn purple! This is evidently their previously dried juice getting rehydrated, so it's not a cause for alarm, but it can be a little disconcerting.

When you're ready to make your cashew cheese, drain your cashews. In a blender or food processor, combine your herbs, onion, 1/8 cup water, salt, pepper, lemon juice, and finally the cashews. It's a good idea to put the heaviest things (in this case the nuts) on top, for a smooth blending experience.

Blend until well combined. If you have a hard time getting everything to combine well, add a bit more water. I ended up using the full 1/4 cup in my standard blender, but if you're using a high-powered blender or food processor, you may not need to do that.

Taste and correct the seasoning, and you're done. Hooray!

Cashew cheese with dill and red onion

Once you have your batch of cheese ready, it's time to use it. I decided to have mine with cucumber.

Top each cucumber slice with a spoonful of cashew cheese. Garnish with an extra frond of dill, some finely chopped red onion, and a grind or two of pepper. Voila! Fill up a few plates, pour a few glasses of sauvignon blanc, and you're totally ready to party.

Cucumber cashew cheese bites with dill and red onion

Since I was eating my cashew cheese by myself, I did not make a gigantic party tray. Instead, I refrigerated my leftovers and later ate them with a lot of pretzel sticks. So, you know, that is a less fancy but similarly delicious alternative.


What delights are you whipping up for the holiday weekend?

21 May 2014

Serious catch-up catch-all

Where am I? What's going on?

A delightful breakfast in bed featuring migas and coffee

Someone got a nice fancy tray of surprise breakfast in bed. I made migas and coffee for ultimate delight.

Note that the tray was too small to hold an actual plate. As such, that is a very full salad plate.

Rhubarb mojito

If you have both leftover rhubarb syrup and a garden bed full of mint, you will end up making a mojito or two. Definitely very refreshing on a hot hot afternoon.

I also drank a good pitcher of iced black tea with spoonfuls of rhubarb syrup in each glass. VERY good idea. Possibly an even better idea than the mojitos.

Spaghetti with green beans, summer squash, and chicken sausage


This kind of melange is so typical that I don't normally bother to take pictures. Seared chicken sausage, green beans, summer squash, parsley, and some red pepper flake, all mixed up with a handful of spaghetti.

The leftovers were good for pre-dinner I'm-way-too-hungry snacking.

steamed green beans with pepper, sliced apricot and nectarine, and raw aged cheddar

On Sunday afternoon we had more green beans for feast spectacular, along with the first apricots and nectarine of the season and a wedge of very crumbly raw aged cheddar.

There was also a baguette and a lot of hummus (not pictured).

Seared tilapie filet with fresh spring peas

Speaking of the first of the season, how about some peas? Boiled, drained, buttered, and eaten.

The tilapia was super simple too. Toss in seasoned flour, sear in butter, cut a wedge of lemon for garnish. The end.

What delicious dishes have you been throwing together and forgetting to post about?

12 May 2014

Homemade dill-dijon mayonnaise and the egg salad thereof

Homemade dill-dijon mayonnaise and the egg salad thereof

Homemade mayonnaise is supposedly difficult to make correctly. That's interesting, because this took under five minutes to make and had no issues whatever. Don't be scared--just give it a try!

The worst that can happen is that your mayo breaks. To fix a broken mayonnaise, all you have to do is get out another egg yolk and gradually whisk your broken mayo into it. No problem.

We wanted a super-flavorful mayo, so John (who was at the whisk) broke out the jar of dijon mustard, a bunch of fresh dill, and some chive blossom vinegar.

Let's go!

Egg salad on a radish slice

Mayonnaise with dill and dijon

1 egg yolk
splash of vinegar (chive blossom, white wine, or champagne)
spoonful dijon mustard
salt, pepper
1/2 cup grapeseed oil
chopped fresh dill (or other herbs of your choice)

Mix together egg yolk, vinegar, dijon, and salt and pepper to taste. Gradually whisk in the oil until your mayonnaise is completely emulsified. Fold in as much dill as you like. Taste and correct the seasonings, and you're done.

You can use this immediately or stick it in the refrigerator to use later. Fresh mayonnaise only keeps for about 3-5 days, so make plans to use it up quickly!

Now that you have some homemade mayo, what should you do with it? My vote is always and forever for egg salad.

Homemade dill-dijon mayonnaise and the egg salad thereof

Egg salad for two

5 hard-boiled eggs
3-4 radishes
a handful apiece of fresh dill and chives
3-4 tbsp homemade mayo
1 tbsp dijon mustard or more to taste
salt, pepper

Chop your eggs. I like to chop mine irregularly for a more interesting texture in the final product. Slice your radishes and cut across the slices to make little strips. Chop further if you want smaller bits. Wash and chop up a healthy whack of both chives and dill.

Deposit your eggs, radishes, herbs, mayo, and mustard into an appropriate bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Mix everything together, correct seasonings, and you're done. Hooray!

Homemade dill-dijon mayonnaise and the egg salad thereof

This recipe makes enough for four open-faced egg salad sandwich halves or two very full closed sandwiches, plus some leftovers to scoop onto radish slices. You could also serve spoonfuls in nice crisp lettuce leaves or endive boats. Hooray!

Now I really want to take a batch of these on a picnic, with a bagful of apples and a cold bottle of sauvignon blanc. So perfect for summer.

Have you ever made homemade mayonnaise? How did it go?

07 May 2014

Couscous salad with chickpeas, golden beets, and zucchini

couscous salad with chickpeas, golden beets, and zucchini

Who wants a quick and delicious lunch salad? You know you want one.

Raw beet has fast become my favorite way to cram as much crunchy, sweet vegetables as possible into a salad. To keep everything in my kitchen from turning fuchsia, I use golden beets. Red or chioggia beets also work well, but their juice will stain. At the very least, red beets will produce a bright pink salad. Be aware!

Of course, beets alone are not a particularly sufficient lunch. To give this salad some real heft, I opened a can of chickpeas. These little guys are the saviors of lunch salads everywhere. And why not bulk it up with the easiest non-grain ever, instant couscous? Perfect.

Not only is this salad tasty, easy, and cheap, it's very easily packable for work lunches or potlucks. The couscous absorbs the dressing, so there's very little risk of an olive oil spill. If I still worked in an office, I absolutely would have packed up a bunch of servings so I could grab one every day as I ran out the door.

I accidentally made enough salad to feed myself for a full week. Oops. On the other hand, now I have lunch just waiting in the fridge constantly. I call that a win.

Makes 6-8 servings.

couscous salad with chickpeas, golden beets, and zucchini

Couscous salad with chickpeas, golden beets, and zucchini

1 cup instant couscous
salt, pepper, olive oil
1 cup boiling water
1 medium-large golden beet
1 small zucchini
4 mushrooms
fresh parsley & chives
2 cups cooked chickpeas

lemon juice
dijon mustard
salt, pepper
olive oil

Make your couscous by putting it in a heat-safe bowl, seasoning it with a bit of salt, pepper, and olive oil, and pouring the water over it. Cover with a clean tea towel and let it sit while you prep the rest of your ingredients. It will be done in about five minutes.

The vegetables are super easy: just cut them up into the shapes of your choice. I scrubbed and grated a golden beet and finely chopped a zucchini and a handful of mushrooms. You can add all kinds of other vegetables if you like. Chop up a decent whack of flat-leaf parsley and a handful of chives while you're at it.

When your couscous is finished, fluff it with a fork. Add your vegetables, herbs, and chickpeas and stir together.

Make your dressing by combining the juice of half a lemon, a spoonful of dijon mustard, and a generous grinding of salt and pepper. Whip with a fork to emulsify as you drizzle in about 1/3 to 1/2 cup of olive oil. Taste and adjust seasonings.

Pour your dressing over the salad and mix thoroughly.

couscous salad with chickpeas, golden beets, and zucchini

Check out that beautiful golden glow. I actually might have to rename this "golden glow salad," don't you think? So pretty. So tasty.

Which salads are keeping you happy as the weather heats up?

05 May 2014

Strawberry rhubarb vodka sparkler

Strawberry rhubarb vodka sparkler

It's super hard to find a lot of specialty northern fruit and veg in California. By "specialty" I mean things that aren't really grown here: ramps, fiddleheads, and rhubarb. The ramps and fiddleheads never show up no matter how hard you look. But lo! Finally, after several no-dice grocery store searches, I got my hands on a couple stalks of delightful ruby-red rhubarb. Yay!

(I totally just had to use my iron will not to call those searches "fruitless." Er. Clearly my will is not all that iron. ANYWAY.)

The question was what to do with it. John suggested rhubarb scones, but it suddenly got too hot to bake. Clearly, refreshing spring cocktails were the answer. So I made a rhubarb-infused simple syrup and started mixing.

Rhubarb simple syrup

Rhubarb simple syrup

2 cups chopped rhubarb
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water

Combine rhubarb, sugar, and water in a small saucepan. Cook slowly over low-medium heat, covered, for about 20 minutes. Strain out the solids and chill the syrup thoroughly before using.

Check out the ultra-pink results! OH MAN.

Rhubarb simple syrup

Now I just had to decide what to do with it. Fortunately, we had a handful of beautiful spring strawberries in the refrigerator. What could possibly pair better with rhubarb?

Strawberry-rhubarb vodka sparkler

per drink:
2-3 strawberries
3/4 oz rhubarb simple syrup
2 oz vodka
~1 cup sparkling water
mint or lemon to garnish
also lots of ice

Wash and roughly chop your strawberries. Muddle them well in a cocktail shaker with your rhubarb syrup. Add ice and vodka, and then shake for as long as you can possibly stand it, preferably for at least a minute. This is especially important if your strawberries didn't want to muddle.

Strain into an ice-filled pint glass. You may need to clear strawberry seeds out of the strainer midway through the process. Add sparkling water, garnish with a mint sprig or lemon twist, and drink.

If you want to serve this as an ultra-lethal martini, just leave out the sparkling water and serve up in a martini glass. Be careful, though! It's going to taste like candy and be super alcoholic. So, you know, the sparkling water version is a better idea for a hot day when you just want to gulp down your drink as fast as possible.

Strawberry rhubarb vodka sparkler

Voila! A delightful, refreshing, seasonal, and beautifully pink cocktail. It's an excellent plan for a bright and sunny afternoon.

Now I just have to figure out what to do with the rest of the simple syrup. Ideas:

- Add lemon, mint, or ginger to the strawberries and rhubarb syrup before muddling. All the flavor variations!
- Add some freshly ground black pepper. You know strawberry and pepper can be great together. Why not?
- Try using the rhubarb syrup in a mojito with lime. Yes, rhubarb mojito!

Some of these are going to have to happen in the near to immediate future. I'm just saying.

What refreshing drinks are you making with your spring rhubarb?