Monday, July 4, 2011

Extra-long Anniversary Addition of Food and Loathing: CSA Cooking

We'll do some time traveling again soon, but for right now, I think I'd better start updating again on the present.  If you wait too long to post about stuff you've cooked, it's already been eaten and the dishes are all washed and it loses some of its energy.  So for now, let's talk about my CSA.

This was a rough season in Pittsburgh.  Even for a really rainy place, there was a LOT of rain leading into spring.  The folks at my CSA just couldn't plant things -- it was too wet.  So it started pretty late and the shares are not very plentiful.  It's a real shame, but what can you do?  The first week I got a very small bag of mixed lettuce, a very small bit of what I think was chard, some dried mangoes (like, a handful), two little stalks of rhubarb, and one sprig of oregano, one sprig of spearmint.  There was also one green onion, isn't that funny?  What are you supposed to do with one green onion?  I used some in salad, froze the rest for broth later.

This past Wednesday, week 2, I got a tiny bit of tiny strawberries that apparently came from an Amish farm next door to the CSA's farm, a bitty bag of kale, some dates, and another sprig of spearmint.  This week, they gave me a list and it said I was also supposed to get a bag of mixed lettuce, but it was a no show in my bag.   I emailed the farm about it and they say they'll make it up to me.

Leafy greens are easy enough to use.  Eat them as salad or cook them on the stove top and enjoy, depending on the type.  And that's all I did with them -- there wasn't even enough to make recipes out of, so I cooked the chard and kale with garlic, tamari, and some water, ate the salad greens with dressing.  Here's the kale all cooked.

I wanted to do something nice with those strawberries, because they were really incredibly sweet and juicy, but there weren't a lot of them.  I also had that rhubarb a week later because I'm not experienced with rhubarb and there certainly wasn't enough of them (or of strawberries) to make any of the pie or crisp recipes I have in books.  But I figured that if rhubarb is good cooked with strawberries in pies or whatever, it's good just cooked with sugar and water as a sauce for ice cream.  I put a little bit of filtered water and a little bit of lime juice in a saucepan, added two to three tablespoons of sugar (I measured none of it), and cooked it until it was dissolved.  Then I added the chopped rhubarb and kept it simmering.  To my surprise and delight, the rhubarb completely softened.  It was so soft that I could just mush it with a spoon -- I had thought I might need to use a blender on it.  After the rhubarb started getting soft, I added the already very soft strawberries until they mushed really nicely.  I made quite a nice sweet sauce that I was super-proud of!  Having a flair for the dramatic, I added one drop of red food dye, to make it extra pretty.

After letting it sit in the fridge overnight, I made a batch of vanilla ice cream from Veganomicon.  I don't know what came over me, but for some reason, I ended up putting a bit of lemon extract in it.  I shouldn't have done that, it would be better for it to be strawberry rhubarb with vanilla ice cream, but nevertheless, it was flippin' delicious.  Better than any vegan ice cream really has the right to be, if you ask most people.  I mixed the sauce right into the ice cream, but not too thoroughly.
And here it is unperturbed in the soy yogurt container where I stored it.

So, what else?  They gave me some dates, and I still had wicked lots of dates on hand, so I decided to make the only thing I'd ever made before with tons and tons of dates in it, which is Nell's Coconut Rolls from You Won't Believe It's Vegan! by Lacey Sher and Gail Doherty.  I don't use this book often.  My step-mother gave it to me after I first started cooking vegan.  But the name of it bugged me -- I was discovering in vegan cookbooks that food could be so much better if you had restrictions to make you creative.  The best cooking I'd ever done had come from vegan cookbooks.  So the implication that it was necessary to mask the vegan-ness to make you proclaim, "I can't believe it's vegan!" seemed vaguely offensive, though no doubt the title was a choice influenced by the publisher and I'm probably just being silly anyway.  I've held on to the book and I've made and handful of things from it, and really, I JUST SAID above that folks plain wouldn't believe that the ice cream was vegan.  So, here's one from the book: Nell's (delicious, simple, raw, relatively healthy) Coconut Rolls.  They are made out of dates, ground almonds (raw), coconut milk, cinnamon, and lemon juice, then rolled in coconut flakes.  I had to send a friend of mine who was just hanging out at my place to the grocery store on the corner to fetch a lemon, but I had all the rest on hand.
I used the coconut milk left on the bottom of the can I'd skimmed the fat off of to make the ice cream. Also, my almonds weren't exactly raw, they were blanched, but I really think that's much better because you don't really want the skins in these balls (it's funnier to call them "coconut balls" instead of "coconut rolls").  The way that the almonds crunch is so satisfying inside these fruity balls (tee hee)!  But I guess they're kind of an old lady thing to eat -- no added sugar, lotsa dates, all rolled up.  Seems like something you might eat to keep you regular.  But these are pretty great, and I had a difficult time parting with any of them to bring to my friends when we met up the next day, although I did manage.  And I don't know if the addition of the couple of CSA dates with the rest made any particular difference, but I'm sure that these tasted better than the last time I made them.  I'm just sure of it.

Earlier today, on July 4th, I went blueberry picking with some friends at one of those pick-your-own-berries farms.  They weren't very ripe, but we picked them anyway.  Right now, the ones I picked are on my counter in a paper bag.  I'm hoping that will do the trick.  Realizing I'd not had the chance all weekend to figure out what to cook this week, I just bought a great big zucchini in the farm's market because they're cheap and brought it home to cut up and cook in garlic, oil, and some lemon juice (I still had 1/2 lemon from having my friend fetch me one for the Coconut Rolls earlier), then I served it atop some tri-color couscous.  Not exactly a complete or complicated meal, but I would not be lying if I told you that in my former life as a person who wasn't obsessed with cooking, I used to eat couscous with any type of veggie I could get cheap (zucchini, squash, broccoli, frozen peas), often with some kidney beans thrown in, practically every day.  Ain't gourmet, but I was young.  Another of my favorites was to cook mushrooms, a pepper, and an onion together, then put it on a store-bought bun with a slice of cheese and, later, vegan cheese.  And then I got cookbooks and everything changed.

Still, sometimes you've got to give it up for a throwback.  Even if I suffered brain damage, I hope I'd remember just how to caramelize veggies and make couscous.  This was really way more advanced than my old incarnations, though, because I had tri-color couscous.  Well, ok, that doesn't change anything really, but it does make it look a little bit cooler.

Alright, I'm finally back to my old, blogging self!  I still have some trips back in time to make with you, but I am, in fact, current now.  And July 4 marks what is pretty much the one year anniversary of this blog.  My second entry was a July 4 entry.  Sing it with me, folks.  Happy birthday to blog!  Happy birthday to blog!  Happy birthday, Food and Loathing...!  Happy birthday to blog!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...