Wednesday, May 14, 2008

CSA: week of May 12 to May 15

What a bizarre week this is. We have plenty of signs of spring and even summer in this week's box: strawberries, rhubarb, and avocados. But we also have some tenacious reminders of the winter: broccoli and oranges. Add to that the fact that we had a lovely weekend last weekend, but are now in the midst of a heat wave (mid-to-upper 90sF forecast for tomorrow), and my head is spinning a bit. 

Not that I'm complaining (not much, anyway--I could do without the heat). I lamented to a friend a few weeks ago that I was disappointed that broccoli season was over, and now I have three darling little broccoli crowns fresh from the farm. Someone also seems to have heard that I was growing weary of all the asparagus, and made sure that it was left off of the list this week. There are also plenty of items that lend themselves to hot-weather cooking. More on that when I get to the actual box contents.

My meal planning and early-bird preparing seems to have clicked into place this week, just in time for Bike to Work Week. This month is National Bike Month, this week is Bike to Work Week, and tomorrow (Thursday) is Bike to Work Day. I'm not sure why we need both a week and a day, but I don't object: as one who commutes by bike two or three days a week, and as a cyclist in general, I'm all for encouraging broader awareness of cyclists' rights and responsibilities on the road. 

Dizzy, by the way, says hello to everyone. She has decided to take up residence on my shoulders as I write this post. Shoulder perching has become a favorite activity of hers lately, and the Suitor and I can hardly bend over without her jumping up onto our backs.

But enough of all this. Fruits! Veggies! Herbs! Here's what I found on my doorstep this afternoon:

- Baby lettuce (8 ounces). Salads: the orange/fennel salad I mentioned last week (Friday or Saturday), and a cold Thai noodle salad tomorrow evening. Cool, fresh, no-need-to-turn-on-the-oven salads are what I'm going with for dinner these days. I see this heat wave as a warm-up (no pun intended) for the late summer months, when temperatures in the 80s an 90s are a regular feature of my days.

- Baby fennel (1 bulb, with fronds). It's adorable, really. Only about an inch in diameter and as bright and crisp as can be. It seems a shame to chop it up and put it in a salad, but even more of a shame to subject it to any sort of heat. So, salad it is. 

- Strawberries (1 pint). They look a bit past their prime, but perhaps that's just the effect of the heat. Nevertheless, they're still tasty. I'm trying to be good and stretch the one basket out over two, maybe three days. I'll be lucky if I make it to two. 

- Carrots (1 bunch). These little guys are, as usual, going to work with me over the next couple of days. It's my end-of-the-week jolt of Vitamin A. 

- Cilantro (1 bunch). Noodle salad... and Chinese chicken salad. The latter sounds like a nice, cool dish for hot weather, and once you make it, it is. But the making requires frying wontons and rice sticks, and frankly, I don't want to stand over a pot of hot oil until the daytime high temperature is back down to the low 80s at most. Thus, the Chinese chicken salad will have to wait until at least Saturday. 

- Napa cabbage (1 head). Thank goodness this cabbage is a more reasonable size than the stuff I normally find at the store. The store-bought version is usually as big as a watermelon, and I can never use it all. This one is the size of two grapefruits stuck together, which is a much more manageable size.

- Broccoli (1 bunch). I feel like such a dork for being so excited about broccoli, but I haven't had it in weeks (months?) and I've missed it. I might put it in the skillet chicken, pasta, and broccoli, but I have half a mind to give it a good, quick roast so that its flavor shines through. 

- Haas avocados (4). These are the cutest little avocados ever: each is the size of a small pear. Confession time: I am in most respects a California girl through and through, but an affinity for avocados is not one of them. I am going to try making a small batch of guacamole on Friday to accompany the fajitas, in the hopes that making my own guac will convert me. I really do want to like avocados: they've got good fat, and you wouldn't believe the horrified looks people give me when they learn that this born-and-bred Californian doesn't care for avocados.

- Rhubarb (1/2 pound, or 2 stalks). Since I still haven't had time to use the other two stalks, I'm looking forward to a larger-than-expected crumble this weekend. Or perhaps a small crumble and something else. Sorbet? Maybe. 

- Italian parsley (1 bunch). This actually looks like a bit of a hybrid between Italian and curly parsley, but as long as it tastes good, I don't mind either way. 

- Onions (2). One red, one yellow. One of them (maybe both) will be sliced, marinated, and grilled with the steak for fajitas. Anything not used in the next couple of days will keep just fine in the fridge. 

- Minneola tangelos (2 pounds). For eating, although one will go into a salad. I ate one this evening, and the sweetness and flavor just about knocked me over. I'm looking forward to eating the rest of them! 

So, that's what I'm up to. How is everyone? What are you cooking this week? 


Brave Sir Robin said...

I don't want to stand over a pot of hot oil until the daytime high temperature is back down to the low 80s at most.
That cuts out 4 or 5 months of the year for me!

Avocados are one of my absolute favorite things. I could eat guacamole

I'm pretty sure rhubarb freezes well, and I know it goes great with strawberries.

You have an excellent assortment this week!

Bee said...

I am totally with BSR on the avocado issue: LOVE THEM. In fact, we had some guac tonight -- a necessary side dish for black bean soup!! BTW, I could have used some of your cilantro for the soup. It lacked zing. (We are back to soup weather -- it's probably in the 40s right now!) Believe it or not.

I just went downstairs to get my mint tea (!), and upon returning discovered that Minstrel had taken up residence in my chair. It is his favorite place. So far, he hasn't tried the shoulder perch thing.

It does seem that Bike Month covers all of the categories and renders "week" and "day" redundant.

Fennel: we just put some in the herb garden.

Strawberries: ate the first of the English berries tonight! They were a little sour, but little daughter and I enhanced them with some good cream.

Tangelos: now that sounds delicious!

We are off to Hertfordshire tomorrow (Sigmund's word awards dinner), but I will check in with you at the weekend. I haven't sorted out menus yet, but I'm wanting cozy food again.

Anne said...

BSR - I really do have quite a bounty this week, don't I? It's been a while since I had so many items--lately it's been 9-10, but this week it's 12! Lucky me. :)

I'm going to make guac tomorrow and try it with my fajitas. It's not unheard-of for me to try making a dish that I've disliked in the past, and to start liking it once I've made it. Perhaps it's something to do with knowing exactly what goes into it? Anyway, hopefully the same will hold true for guac.

Bee - I'm tempted to send you some cilantro seeds from a local nursery (when I finally get around to sending marmalade) so that you can grow some nice, strong California cilantro of your own! But I'm not sure if the customs people would object. I'll look into it.

I've never seen black bean soup served with guacamole! But my only real experience with black bean soup is with Greens restaurant's black bean chili, which they serve with crème fraîche. When I make it at home, I just use a bit of cheese. It is sooooooo good!

Dizzy loves to sit in spots where we've recently been sitting. In fact, if the Suitor and I are sitting on the couch with Dizzy in my lap, and the Suitor gets up, she will leave the warmth (and petting!) of my lap to curl up where he was sitting. And one of Baffle's favorite spots was my desk chair. If he wasn't waiting at the front door when I got home, he was always curled up in that chair.

Minstrel is a fantastic name for a cat! Is he very talkative?

Apparently the special thing about bike day is that there were "energizer stations" set up along popular bike routes for the morning commute. They had snacks, water bottles, and even canvas tote bags. Of course, I missed the one that was on my route, so no freebies for me.

Have a wonderful time in Hertfordshire! I love sunny spring weather, but part of me is envious of your 40 degree days. Perhaps my enviousness is enhanced by the fact that I'm facing down a ride home in 95 degree weather, but I do love hearty, cozy food and bundling up in warm clothing.

Brave Sir Robin said...

I would LOVE about three days in a row in the 40's!!!

Truly I would.

Mmmm Black bean soup sounds delish. There are so many ways to make it.

Anne - What kind of fajitas are you making? How do you serve them?

Anne said...

The fajitas are steak. Skirt steak, to be precise. Not the leanest cut out there (*ahem*) but sooo good for fajitas. The recipe is one of the 15 quick dinners in the June Bon Appétit, and I'll post it tonight or tomorrow. It is indeed very quick--the most time consuming part is trimming the beef--but like to give it a little extra marinating time, so I put everything together and put it in the fridge to marinate while I'm at work.

The marinade is simple, but delicious: lime (juice + zest), cumin, chile sauce, and garlic. The steak and onions
(and strips of bell or poblano pepper) get cooked together, as the onions seem to improve with proximity to the steak and its juices. As for serving, I'm a fan of the "make your own" method: put out all the fixings and let people build their fajitas as they like them. There will be guacamole, some cheese for the Suitor, and extra lime for squeezing over everything (because one can never have too much lime).

This is only the second time I've made fajitas, so I'm by no means an expert fajita chef. I think they're pretty good eats, but as always, I'm open to suggestions if you think they could be improved!

Brave Sir Robin said...

I'll look in my Bon Appétit, sounds really good.

Skirt steak is really the only "true" fajitas, but these days lots of other cuts get passed off as fajitas.

Around here, most people grill the fajitas and add the onion/peppers separately. I like the cooking together method.

I usually grill them very, very rare then after they rest I slice them very thin and finish them with the onions and peppers. (of course you pour any accumulated juices in with them.)

It takes a lot longer that way, but they're good.

Anne said...

You know, I think tonight I'll try your way of cooking them! Do you use an outdoor grill, a grill pan, or a skillet?

Brave Sir Robin said...

I use an outdoor grill (BBQ), usually with wood, but what ever you have will work. The smoky flavor really makes a difference.

Did you ever have them at Goode Company Taqueria on Kirby Street when you were in Houston?


Anne said...

No outdoor grilling for me, at least for the next couple of days, given how hot it is (currently 95, down from 98). But I did them on my grill pan last time, and will probably do them again that way this time. The grill pan has the added benefit of not letting onion slices slip away.

But as I once again face down a ride home in hotter-than-ideal weather, I'm seriously considering postponing the fajitas until tomorrow. Hopefully the meat won't suffer from being in the marinade for an extra 24 hours...

Oddly enough, I don't think I ever ate fajitas in Houston ! I only once went to Goode Company Taqueria, near the end of my time in Houston, and I had a burger (which was excellent). At some point in the next couple of years I'll go back to Houston and when I do I'll make a point of having fajitas at Goode Company!

Brave Sir Robin said...

Those Goode company fajita tacos are just beyond description. Really, they are melt in your mouth tender, very flavorful, and served on that excellent house made tortilla.

Mmmmmmm . . . . . .

Bee said...


The Goode Co Taqueria is probably my number one favorite Houston hang-out!!! (That IS the taqueria which I've referred to many times.)Their fajitas AND their burgers are great.

I read this exchange about fajitas with much interest. Please do post your recipe for the marinade.

As for the black bean soup, as BSR said, there are many -- and I've tried many. The Spanish version can be quite sweet (ham stock; sherry) -- and my family doesn't like it as much. (It wouldn't go well with guacamole.) We tend to have one that has sort of evolved from a recipe that my mom found on a back of a can. You saute carrots, celery, onion and garlic; add four cans of black beans and some stock; and then plenty of lime, some seasoning, and fresh cilantro to finish. (Quick; healthy; easy; standard ingredients.) This version is great with guac, but we always serve it on the side -- with tortilla chips of course. I really just like the soup as a dip for my chips!!

Here's a request and a recipe:

Tonight I made turkey burgers, which I served with chipotle ketchup. Chipotle ketchup is really good: use a diced chipotle pepper plus one teaspoon of adobe sauce per 1/4 cup of ketchup. But now I have an open can of chipotles. Do you two have any good chipotle suggestions??

Anne said...

Your mom's black bean soup sounds wonderful, Bee! I'll have to try it at some point.

I don't think I've ever used canned chipotles, so I'm not familiar with the flavor. But going on the fact that they're peppers, presumably you could mince them and add some various other ingredients (cilantro, maybe some onion and garlic, tomato...) to make a salsa? You could also put them in a black bean soup! But really I'm just pulling things out of... well, you know!

Brave Sir Robin said...

OK - I've been promising a chipotle recipe for a while.

Put the in a jar, the will keep refrigerated for a long, long time.

They are wonderful minced and mixed into mayonnaise. It adds a wonderful kick and smoky taste to turkey sandwiches, wraps, etc.... They are also good in almost any kind of beans, or even mixed into ranch dressing for crudities. Actually, the chipotle mayonnaise is good for that as well.