June 2010 Archives

CSA Week 3

This week's bounty included:

Green leaf lettuce
Swiss chard
Garlic Scapes
Purple Scallions

There were some more options than that, but that's what I selected.

This week's schedule was going to be a little confused due to a 4th of July trip to my parents' house, then became more confused when I moved my departure date to Tuesday. Fortunately I was able to move my CSA pickup from Thursday to Monday and will be taking some of the veggies with me. But consequently I won't have detailed menus for what I made with my CSA this week.

csa3-2.jpgI made:

Pork with purple scallions and garlic scapes as a quick stir-fry

Spicy beet ice cream

Snap peas with garlic, chili sauce, and cilantro

Salsa fresca (served with tortilla chips and smoked pork tacos)

Beef with purple scallions stir-fry

Twice-cooked pork with scallions and noodles

porknoodles.jpgThis is a dish Mom would make occasionally as an alternative to normal stir-fry served with rice. It's really quick and easy, and is particularly handy if you want something fast and don't have rice made. It's kind of like lo mein.

One key to making this quick and easily is having pre-cooked and pre-cut frozen stir fry meat. I do this for beef, chicken, pork, and turkey and it's great for making a quick meal. I defrost in the microwave - 45 seconds at full power for a single serving of 3.0 to 3.5 oz. of meat.

Clean and cut the scallions. Separate the white part from the green part, and cut each part into 1" long pieces. I used purple scallions from CSA Week #2.

Prepare just the noodles from a package of ramen noodles. Do not use the broth packet. Drain when done. The noodles work with the dish, and they cook really, really fast. A win all around.

Heat a sauté pan over medium heat. Add a little olive oil. Add the white part of the scallions and cook to soften.

Add the pork and brown lightly.

Add the green parts of the scallions, garlic powder, black pepper, stir fry sauce, and a little soy sauce. Cook for a minute. I like the Lee Kum Kee vegetarian stir fry sauce. It goes well with pork.

Remove from the heat and add the noodles. Stir to combine with the sauce. Serve.

Update: I went back to do calorie counts for this dish and they're high: 557 calories!

The crux of the problem is that a package of ramen noodles is actually considered to be two servings! I don't know anyone who eats a half package of ramen noodles, but OK. Using just half of the noodles brings the dish down to a more respectable 367 calories, however.

Update 7/3/2013: I switched to using a half package of ramen noodles (organic), and added broccoli. That should reduce the calories and make it healthier!


Stir fry meat

One of the keys to quick and easy stir-fry, especially for one person, is the pre-cooked, pre-sliced, and frozen meat. I do this for beef, pork, chicken, and turkey.

If I want to have a quick beef with broccoli I grab a package of beef from the freezer, defrost it for 45 seconds in the microwave (on high), and add it to the sautéing vegetables.

In some cases, I make a roast specifically for this purpose and cut it up. Other times, especially for turkey and chicken, I prepare the leftovers this way.

This is my stir-fry meat box. Yes, it's arranged by kind of meat then date. Each package is vacuum sealed and labeled.

The box is actually a CD/DVD storage box and my big upright freezer is filled with them, because loose vacuum sealed packages are downright unwieldy without them.


thaicilantro1.jpgThere's probably a name for this dish, and it probably has phak chi, the Thai name for cilantro, in the name, but I really have no idea if this is even a real Thai dish. It is quite tasty, however... as long as you like cilantro!

This is sort of like my "Royal Orchid Thai restaurant #24 pad ga prao." That's normally made with Thai holy basil but I had just composted even the little bit of regular basil left over from CSA Week #1. I had cilantro from CSA Week #2, and that's pretty common in Thai cuisine, too, so I decided I'd go that route instead.

1 yellow onion, sliced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 green bell pepper, sliced
3.5 oz. cooked sliced pork (optional)
3 tbsp. chili garlic sauce
soy sauce
1 handful of cilantro, chopped

thaicilantro2.jpgIn a sauté pan over medium heat cook the onion and garlic until the onions are translucent, being careful not to burn either.

Add the sliced green pepper and the pork. The meat is optional, and chicken or seafood would presumably work equally well. The key to quick and easy meals is the pre-cooked, pre-cut, and frozen meat.

thaicilantro3.jpgInstead of dealing with the large number of chili peppers and other sundry ingredients, I do take the shortcut and just use a big spoonful of Lee Kum Kee chili garlic sauce.

Add a little soy sauce.

Add the cilantro and cook for less than a minute until wilted. You don't want to overcook the cilantro (or basil, which is what this recipe originally called for).

Serve with rice


strawberries.jpgMy first local strawberries of the season!

Turkey and cabbage stir fry

turkeycabbage1.jpgThis dish is quick and easy, delicious, and a great use for leftover turkey or roasted chicken.

For making stir-fry for one, I package leftover turkey, chicken, and beef into 3 to 3.5 oz. packages and freeze them.

Normally I make this dish with regular green cabbage, but since I had fresh Napa cabbage in my CSA I used that instead. Separate the white and green parts of the leaves. For one lunch serving I used three very large leaves.
turkeycabbage2.jpgHeat a sauté pan over medium high heat.

Add a little olive oil then sauté the white parts of the Napa cabbage. Add two minced cloves of garlic and sauté for a minute or two, being careful not to burn the garlic.

Add the meat (defrosted) and sauté for a minute or two more.
Add the green part of the cabbage and cook until wilted.

Season with pepper.

Serve with rice. It's good with soy sauce, but it works better to add it at the table instead of while cooking, because it will discolor the cabbage.

Sausage, egg, and cheese English muffin

I really like the sausage, egg, and cheese on an English muffin breakfast sandwich. I make mine with organic eggs and Cabot cheddar cheese on Barowski's organic whole wheat English muffins.

I used to make them using two Jimmy Dean IQF (individually quick frozen) pre-cooked breakfast links, cut in half to make for half-round logs that fit pretty well on an English muffin.

But I got a package of Tangletown Farm loose pork breakfast sausage  as part of my Meat CSA, so I decided to try that, instead. And with that, it's all local-ish. The English muffins are from Maine, which technically isn't local but it's not that far away, either.

(I've also made my own homemade English muffins which are, in fact, very good, but awfully labor intensive!)

Preheat the griddle to 375°F.

Divide the sausage into 2.0 oz. servings (before cooking) and make them into patties in a 3.5" cutter. You would get 8 per pound, of course, but my package was slightly less than that so I got 6 that were a little over weight (2.1 oz.). The diameter is bigger than the English muffin, but it will shrink when cooked.
Cook for about 6 minutes per side, remove when the internal temperature reaches 160°F.
breakfastsandwich3.jpgI like my sausage a little spicier, so I think I'll add some extra cayenne while preparing the patties next time.

Roasted chicken, pan gravy, rice, sautéed fresh baby spinach

roastedchicken1.jpgI received a small (2.5 pound) fresh chicken in my meat CSA this month and decided to just go simple with it.

I rubbed the chicken with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and sage and roasted it at 400°F for 40 minutes, until the internal temperature reached 160°F.
roastedchicken2.jpgThe careful reader of this blog should have noted that I did not use a vacuum sealer, sous vide machine, smoker, deep fryer, or any unusual appliances. I used the oven.

The pan gravy is just the juices from the roasting pan reheated on the stove and deglazed with a slurry of all-purpose flour and water, and a little soy sauce. I strained it before serving.

The sautéed spinach is just fresh baby spinach from the farmers' market sautéed in a little olive oil until just barely wilted. It's seasoned with pepper and a little soy sauce.

And if I was presenting the whole chicken at the table, yes, I would have clipped the wings tips at the first joint prior to roasting as they inevitably will become overcooked.

Spaghetti and beet balls

beetballs1.jpgI was thinking of things I could make with the beets in my CSA and I thought up the bad play on words of the beet ball. Then it occurred to me that I might actually be able to make a 'meat' ball, out of beets!

After doing a little googling I found that "beet balls" is indeed a rare recipe, but, sadly, mine is not the first. But mine is better. OK, I don't really know that since I didn't make Sarah's recipe, but mine is deep fried, which by default makes it better. But I do thank Sarah for thinking of putting ricotta cheese in them, which I had not thought of but is an excellent idea.

Clean, peel, and dice about a half pound of beets. If you have normal-sized beets, this would probably be one beet, but since I had these crazy miniature beets, it was a number of them.

If you have a normal kitchen you could probably roast the beets at this point. I put the beets in a vacuum bag, added salt, pepper, and olive oil; vacuum sealed, and cooked for 45 minutes at 180°F in the sous vide.
beetballs2.jpgRemove the bag from the sous vide, chill, and refrigerate overnight.

I'm pretty sure the refrigerate overnight step is not required, but it was in Sarah's recipe, and I didn't start making the beet balls until 7 P.M. and had already had a few glasses of wine, so it seemed appropriate to stop at this point, well before hot oil was involved.

Put the beets in the food processor with two cloves of garlic (minced), bread crumbs, all-purpose flour, ricotta cheese (about 1.5 oz.), an egg, freshly grated Parmesan cheese, salt, pepper, a dash of cayenne pepper, and purée.

Preheat the deep fryer to 360°F.

Take beet mixture and form into balls. Even with the breadcrumbs and flour they'll be significantly softer than meatballs.
beetballs3.jpgDredge the balls in all-purpose flour.
beetballs4.jpgDeep fry for two to three minutes.
beetballs5.jpgServe as for meatballs. Beets and tomatoes are a pretty common combination, and it seems to work with a tomato pasta sauce in this recipe, too. They're fragile, however, so I wouldn't try to simmer them in the sauce - just pour the sauce over them when plating. They're very good plain, and I presume you could make a beetball sandwich and who knows what else.

While you wouldn't be able to fool a meat eater into believing they're meatballs, I'd bet you could easily trick people who think they don't like beets into eating these beet balls. OK, I probably lost some of the "healthy" credentials by adding cheese, breadcrumbs, and deep frying but, hey, it sure is tasty!

First installment of my meat CSA!

meat-csa1.jpgToday was the first monthly installment of my Tangletown Farm summer half share CSA! Lots of great local, organic meat: fresh whole chicken, porterhouse steak, ground beef, pork spare ribs, pork rib end chops, pork loin chops, and pork sausage!

Pork Spare Ribs

ribs1.jpgThere is an updated and improved version of this recipe at Pork Spare Ribs #2.

This is, by far, the best recipe for ribs I've made so far. I've tried many variations for ribs, including plain oven cooked, braised, and sous vide. This recipe is excellent but, unfortunately, requires a great deal of time and equipment. I think it's worth it, however!

Coat the ribs in dry rub, vacuum seal, and refrigerate overnight, or for a few days.

ribs2.jpgHeat the sous vide machine to 157°F and cook the ribs for 12 hours. Let rest for at least an hour after removing from the sous vide so the meat can reabsorb some of the lost juices.

ribs3.jpgSome of the best barbecue recipes use low heat and smoke for a very long period of time. This is hard to control, however, and can lead to dry meat if you're not careful. The sous vide takes care of this very well. Not to mention running the Bradley Smoker for 12 hours would  use $ 18 in pucks!

Coat in barbecue sauce and put in the smoker for 1 hour at 180°F to 220°F. I used hickory. The smoker definitely adds a dimension missing when finishing off the ribs in the oven. It dries out the barbecue sauce perfectly and the ribs smell like they've been smoked the whole time!

The ribs are very tender, pretty moist, and met my new metric for well-textured ribs: I did not need to floss my teeth after eating them!

Update: These ribs also freeze well. I vacuum sealed a package of ribs and froze them. When I wanted a meal of ribs I took the frozen vacuum package and placed it directly into the 149°F sous vide machine for 2 hours. I removed them from the vacuum bag, plated them, and put them in a 350°F oven for a couple minutes to evaporate some of the moisture on the surface, warm the plate, and warm the jalapeño corn bread but that's not really necessary.

ribs4.jpgUpdate: I've started cooking the ribs at 155°F for 18 hours in the sous vide. It might not be necessary, but it works very well, and, from a practical standpoint it works better because I put the ribs in the morning, and then take them out the next day in the afternoon, which is generally more convenient.

Also good with French fries or tater tots!


Steak, baked potato, and sautéed beet greens

steak3.jpgGrilled Highland Farms Delmonico steak, baked Yukon gold potato, and sautéed beet greens.

The steak was grilled, partially cooking it, immediately frozen, then vacuum sealed. I then stick the frozen steak in the sous vide at 133°F for an hour, which works great. It's kind of crazy to have a frozen, technically reheated steak, come out perfectly cooked rare, every time, with no fuss! Also it was pouring rain at the time I made dinner, so it was nice to not have to grill in the rain.

The beet greens were from the beets in this week's CSA. I removed the stems as for kale or Swiss chard, then sautéed them in olive oil. I added salt, pepper, and a splash of red wine vinegar at the end.

CSA Week 2

It's week two of my Wellspring Farm "small share" CSA! This week's bounty included:

Napa cabbage (HUGE)
Salad mix
Purple scallions

And all cleaned, divided, and in several cases, vacuum sealed:

The beet greens went into steak, baked potato, and sautéed beet greens.

The beets when into Spaghetti with beat balls (really!).

Some of the cabbage went into Turkey and cabbage stir fry.

About half of the cilantro went into Thai-style pork with green peppers, onions, garlic, cilantro, and chili sauce.

More than half of the scallions went into Twice-cooked pork with scallions and noodles.

Napa cabbage last a long time in the refrigerator and it was still good for use in Citrus garlic striped bass taco with salsa fresca in week 5! Also stir-fried as a side for tonkatsu.

Also: last week's post from CSA week 1.

Spinach and basil lasagna

lasagna1.jpgOne of the fun things about the CSA is figuring out what to do when, for example, you have way too much fresh spinach, and too much basil for everyday seasoning, but not enough to make pesto. This is a variation on my sausage, onion, and green pepper lasagna designed to solve this problem.

I only had so much spinach and basil, and I can really only eat so much lasagna, so I make mine in a 4 1/2" x 8 1/2" glass loaf pan. That's four servings, about a third of a 9x13 pan. I should also point out that this is an extremely thick lasagna, over three inches tall!

In a sauté pan over medium heat, add a small amount of olive oil and wilt 8 oz. of fresh spinach. Season with salt and pepper. You may need to do it in two batches. Squeeze out the excess water; the easiest way to do this is to put it in a kitchen towel and twist the towel.
Chop several handfuls of fresh basil.
lasagna3.jpgIn a large bowl prepare the ricotta cheese mixture:

1 egg, beaten
5 oz. (by weight) ricotta cheese (1/3 container)
0.6 oz. grated parmesan cheese
2.6 oz. shredded mozzarella
Red pepper flakes

Should make about 10 oz.

4 sheets of no-boil lasagna
26 oz. (by weight) tomato sauce

I like the Barilla "flat like homemade" no-boil noodles because they're perfectly sized for a 4 1/2" x 8 1/2" loaf pan.

I prepared my own homemade tomato sauce this time instead of using a jar of regular spaghetti sauce as I did before. You still need about 26 oz. (by weight) of sauce regardless.

Coat the inside of a 4 1/2" x 8 1/2" glass loaf pan with spray oil. Add the following layers, starting from the bottom:

4.3 oz. sauce
-- pasta
3.3 oz. ricotta mixture (1/3 of total amount)
half of the spinach
half of the basil
1.3 oz. mozzarella
4.3 oz. sauce
-- pasta
3.3 oz. ricotta mixture (1/3 of total amount)
4.3 oz. sauce
-- pasta
3.3 oz. ricotta mixture (1/3 of total amount)
half of the spinach
half of the basil
4.3 oz. sauce
-- pasta
8.8 oz. sauce (remainder)
1.3 oz. mozzarella

In case you're wondering about the all of the crazy weights, I prepare dishes like this on a scale. You just zero out the scale before adding each ingredient and it makes it really easy to make the same dish very uniformly and consistently.

There is a very strong possibility that the lasagna will bubble over, so put a piece of foil on a sheet pan and set the baking dish on that for easy clean-up.

Spray the underside of another piece of foil with spray oil to minimize cheese sticking to it. Cover the baking pan with foil.

Cook at 375°F for 45 minutes, remove the top foil, and then cook for 15 more minutes uncovered.
One problem with a lasagna this thick is that I haven't quite figured out how to serve it without it falling over, as it is above, without creating a ridiculously large serving. It still tastes great, however!

It can be frozen, but I haven't really perfected the reheating method. Boil-in-bag from frozen gets its hot without drying it out, but the cheese doesn't melt properly. Defrosting then baking at 350°F for 30 minutes dries it out too much.

Basic tomato pasta sauce

This is my basic red wine pasta sauce, which is based on Giada de Laurentiis' recipe, but with a little added red wine. It's the base for other things, so it doesn't have some common herbs like basil or oregano in it yet. Some of this sauce is going into my spinach and basil lasagna, for example, and putting the basil in the sauce too would be overkill. Plus, adding fresh herbs is best done closer to serving time.

olive oil
1 yellow onion, finely diced
4 cloves garlic, pressed
2 stalks celery, finely diced
1 carrot, finely diced
4 oz. red wine
2 cans crushed tomato (28 oz. each)
dash of red pepper flakes (optional)
2 bay leaves
2-4 tbsp. unsalted butter

In a large pot over low to medium-low heat, add olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan.

Add the onion and garlic and sweat for 5 to 10 minutes, until translucent, making sure not to burn either.

Add the celery and carrots and continue to cook for 10 more minutes until softened.

Add the red wine and increase the heat to medium-high. Cook for 2 to 4 minutes or until most of the liquid has evaporated.

Add the canned tomato and bay leaf and continue to cook over medium-high heat until the sauce begins to bubble.

I like my pasta sauce with a little heat, so I add dash of red pepper flake here, though the sauce is also very good without it.

Lower the heat and simmer for 1 hour.

Remove bay leaf. Add salt and pepper.

Add a few tablespoons of butter; this will help reduce the acid taste in the sauce. Taste and add more butter as necessary. Some people use sugar, but I find that makes the sauce far too sweet. I've heard cinnamon works, but I've never tried it.

I wanted a slightly chunky sauce, but if you wanted it smooth you could put it through the food processor, blender, or a stick blender to smooth it out.

Make sure you used good canned tomatoes - I used Muir Glen fire roasted crushed tomatoes this time, but I would probably have chosen one of the other varieties had I thought about it some more. The fire roasted variety leaves little black specks in the sauce which I'm not really a fan of.

Makes one 26 oz. package (equivalent to a jar of sauce) and three 5 oz. packages (individual servings). Update: I now make it in 6 oz. single serving packages. While 5.0 oz. is  enough, 6.0 oz. is a generous serving and I like lots of sauce.

Update 4/9/2012: My stove is incapable of producing low heat so I now make sauce on my induction hot plate, which is excellent for making sauce. Perfect low heat with no hot spots and no burning of the sauce!


Salad veggies in jars

salad18.jpgI've been doing this for a while, but I just realized I never posted about it. Instead of trying to fit the salad veggies in the same jar as the lettuce, it makes sense to put them in their own 4 oz. (or maybe 8 oz.) jar. Aside from making more room for lettuce, the veggies last less than a week, but the lettuce lasts up to two weeks, so keeping them separate makes sense.

salad19.jpgsalad20.jpgIf you're sealing these tiny jars in a chamber vacuum sealer, I've found the best way is to put them in upside-down. For some reason, they have a much higher seal failure-rate than the big jars if you put them in the normal way.

Other vacuum packed salad posts:

The Great Salad Experiment

Great Salad Experiment - Part 2

Spinach and green leaf lettuce experiment

Opening vacuum sealed jars

Lets vacuum seal a bunch of stuff
(includes putting salad vegetables in vacuum sealed bags)

Sesame, garlic, and ginger bok choy

bokchoy1.jpgI had this big thing of bok choy from my CSA so I decided to make it for dinner.

Clean the leaves and separate the green and white parts. Thinly slice the white parts.

Mince several slices of fresh ginger.

Press several small cloves of garlic.

Heat a sauté pan over medium-high heat with a little sesame oil. Heat the white parts of the bok choy until they start to soften. Add the garlic and ginger and cook for several more minutes.

Add the green leafy parts of the bok choy.
bokchoy3.jpgOnce it starts to wilt add freshly ground black pepper, a tablespoon of sugar, soy sauce, and a few dashes of hot pepper sesame oil. Sprinkle with a sesame seeds.

Serve with rice.

I ate the entire thing of bok choy for dinner with nothing else, but I had more than enough protein through the rest of the day. It would make an excellent side dish, too.

First week of my CSA!

csa1.jpgThis year I got a CSA (Community Support Agriculture) small share with Wellspring Farm. It's still quite early in the growing season here in Vermont, but here's what I got this week:

Spinach (1 lb.)
Bok Choy
Green leaf lettuce

And here's everything prepared for the week in my refrigerator:

csa2.jpgThe lettuce and spinach are washed, divided, and vacuum sealed in jars so they'll easily last a week. The lettuce and spinach would probably almost last two weeks. But the big advantage is that I can pop the lid off the jar and pour out the contents into a salad or stir fry, since everything's already cleaned and ready.

The basil has its stems wrapped in a moist paper towel and placed loosely in a bag.

I used the bok choy to make sesame, garlic, and ginger bok choy.

Sesame tofu and spicy green beans

sesametofu.jpgThis turned out great! Slice a cake of extra firm tofu and marinate it in homemade teriyaki marinade overnight. Actually, it was a day longer than that because of an unexpected menu change (mmm... nachos), and I think the extra day of marinating made it even better.

Prepare a coating of all-purpose flour and sesame seeds and coat the marinated tofu.

Heat a sauté pan with dark sesame oil and cook the tofu slices until browned.

Serve with rice, spicy green beans, and a dipping sauce of soy sauce and finely sliced scallions.

Another time I prepared it:


Updated August 8, 2019: It also good if you skip marinating and instead mix the tofu into the spicy green beans so the spicy sauce adds some flavor to the tofu.


Chicken Paprika

chickenpakrika1.jpgThere is an updated version of this post here.

This is (as far as I can remember) basically a recipe from the old Joy of Cooking. I started making this in college, probably about 24 years ago, and it's so simple and tasty I keep making it, despite misplacing that ancient copy of Joy of Cooking.

Season chicken breast with salt, pepper, and garlic powder.

Dice an onion and finely chop garlic to taste. For one breast (one serving), I use about a half a medium onion and two small garlic cloves.

Sautée the onions until soft, then push out of the way and lightly brown the chicken breasts on both sides.

chickenpakrika2.jpgAdd chicken broth. Add 1 tbsp. paprika or more. Ideally, add a mixture of hot and sweet Hungarian paprika to taste. Cover, and cook for several minutes until the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 160°F.

Remove the chicken to a warmed platter.

Reduce the broth.
chickenpakrika3.jpgAdd sour cream to make a sauce. Add salt and pepper to taste.


Roasted pork with gravy

porkgravy1.jpgI intended to make a bone-in roasted pork, similar to what I made earlier. The universe was conspiring against this menu and I made thinly sliced roasted pork with gravy instead, which was quite delicious!

Trim the fat from a sirloin end pork roast and separate from the bone making something that looks like an over-sized tenderloin, other meaty bits, and a pile of bone. Season with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and onion powder and place in a lightly oiled roasting pan.

porkgravy2.jpgI had intended to make pork chops, but I wasn't paying attention and picked up a sirloin end roast without the rib bones instead of a 7-rib roast, so I decided boneless was the way to go.

Roast for an hour at 350°F, flipping at 30 minutes.

Unfortunately, I wasn't really paying attention I neglected to take into account the thinness and the meat was slightly overdone, reaching about 170°F internally. To counteract dryness I decided to thinly slice the pork and make gravy instead of making pork chops.
Simmer the roasted bone in enough water to cover for 3 hours to make pork stock.

Heat the pan drippings, some of the pork stock, soy sauce, and a slurry of flour and water to make pork gravy.
Though nothing like what I was intending to make, it was very delicious. I also ended up with 4 servings for pork for stir fry and two thinly sliced pork with gravy meals.


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