Category Archives: Farm Box

That loathsome mandoline


Ok, so I had pounds of zucchini to use up and I’d been planning on a very veg-heavy absorption pasta, but then I saw a variety of posts the web about boiled pasta with zucchini and I gave in to the always gorgeous photos at Smitten Kitten and went with a julienned zucchini spaghetti.

First of all, don’t be fooled by how nice all this julienned zucchini looks:

While the results are better than if I’d cut by hand, the mental anguish was far greater. I have the STUPIDEST OXO Mandoline, with a clunky finger guard that I ended up having to use because it was so hard to force the zucchini through the julienne blade that I was sure I’d slice off a finger if I didn’t use the guard. UGH, the whole thing is bulky and awkward and the only part I like is how the legs fold out. It’s easy to twiddle the dial to adjust the thickness, but nearly impossible to pull out the piece that lets you either thoroughly wash the flat blade or flip it around to get wavy cuts. Argh.

Look at what the finger guard does to the vegetables:

That is a much smaller leftover piece than usual, because I was tempting fate and not really using it as directed at that point. The one time I tried to use this for onions about half of each onion was unusable. Grr.

Anyway, I wish instead of looking at Smitten Kitchen’s photos, I had actually read her recipe. I was in a coma and cooking without paying attention and I ended up not using any garlic or….anything that would give this flavor. Bleck. It was so boring. Had I read her directions or used a lick of common sense I would have cooked garlic in olive oil and then tossed the pasta/zucchini in THAT. Instead I just tossed olive oil over the pasta and zucchini, gave it a stir, and ate it alone while nursing my mandoline-wounded feelings in front of the TV while Ben was at band rehearsal. Tragic.

It was the first time I used some of my basil, though. That was a bright spot.

Happier times ahead: Since I was home for the weekend there is lovely Oregon Food Porn to come.

CSA: Week four, beating back the beets

When I picked up the CSA share last week I found myself facing a replay of the previous two weeks:

-1 head lettuce
-1 bunch beets
-1.5 pounds summer squash/zucchini
-1.5 pounds cucumbers
-1 bunch chard
-1 bunch sage

Sadly I had fallen a bit behind and still had beets from two weeks before languishing in the produce drawer, along with zucchini from one week before (we hadn’t eaten at home much). Eek! Time to do some processing.

I was on the phone with my mom and we looked up ways of cooking the beets without using the oven, because it was wickedly hot and humid out. She found instructions for microwaving them, and I decided to go against every instinct I possess and give it a shot. All I did was scrub the beets and cut off the greens about an inch up from the root, then put them in a pyrex baking pan (I have a smallish square one) and covered it tightly with saran wrap. I cooked them for ten minutes, then pulled out the little beets that felt tender and gave the big ones another ten. I then allowed them to cool far too much before I put on gloves and peeled them, which meant I was sweating profusely while clutching my cellphone to my ear with my shoulder and desperately trying to finagle the skins off (note: peel beets as soon as you can handle them without burning yourself; don’t let them cool). To top off this vision of grace and loveliness, I was wearing my ratty around-the-house clothes with a pair of 3.5 inch silver wedges that I’m breaking in for a wedding this weekend. Thank god I was home alone… Anyway, the beets looked like hell but tasted just fine.

I’d have to do a side-by-side test to see if the flavor is more concentrated in the oven, but honestly these tasted great dressed in a vinaigrette as a side dish.

After I had recovered from the traumatic beet peeling endeavor, I hauled out my mandoline (slicer, not instrument), and cut up about half of the zucchini and summer squash into 1/4 inch ribbons, which I tossed with olive oil, salt and pepper:

Ben grilled steak and the zucchini and we ate outside, desperate for a breeze:

Still to come: Dull zucchini spaghetti and my mandoline rage

CSA: Week three, still feeling green

The third week (two weeks ago, ahem) injected a trace of color in with the greens:

-1 head romaine lettuce
-1 bunch collard greens
-4 small cucumbers
-2 zucchini
-2 summer squash
-1 kohlrabi
-1 bunch thyme
-1 bunch scallions

Have you guys cooked collard greens? I’m a Northern girl; I’d never encountered them before. They are HUGE–check out the bunch filling the entire drainer:

I didn’t feel like boiling them in a classic “mess o’ greens,” nd I didn’t have a ham hock or anything on hand for flavoring, so I looked up how to sauté them instead. I washed and cut up the greens:

And then boiled them in salted water for 15 minutes or so.

I drained them and pressed the water out:

And then sautéed them with garlic and olive oil until they tasted good. (How specific!)

With a good amount of salt and pepper, they made a nice side dish with sausage and funny O-shaped pasta from Trader Joe’s:

I must say I prefer kale or chard, though.


Scape scape scape. It’s like a typo. I keep typing “ramps,” but that’s….not what these are.

Scapes are the tops of young garlic plants. From what I’ve read, they are trimmed off to encourage the plant to put energy into the bulb, rather than the flower. They have a mild flavor, slightly garlicky but more like a dense scallion.

When Tom stayed over the night before he went back to Oregon, we finally used my bag of scapes in a couscous to accompany some Korean-Style steak from Trader Joe’s. I chopped them up, which is time-consuming since they all curl different which-ways, so you have to do one or two at a time:

I sautéed them in peanut oil over medium-high heat until they were tender (this takes a while!)

Meanwhile, I cooked the couscous, which was even bigger than pearl/Israeli couscous, and appeared to be hand rolled. I bought it at Christina’s spice shop in Inman Square, in an unmarked plastic bag.

It had an interesting texture–slightly chewy, slightly grainy, in a good way. It almost felt like there was semolina in it, or something?

When it was cooked I sautéed it with the scapes for a few minutes, trying to get a nice browned exterior on some of the pearls. That didn’t really work; they just stuck–I have to stop trying to do it, but the image in my head is such a tasty one! It was still pretty good:

I had Tom slice up the baby zucchinis from the CSA into ribbons, and he grilled those (coated in olive oil, of course!) and the steak. I won’t buy that pre-seasoned steak again; the texture was great but the marinade was too sweet for me. Still, this dinner came together very fast and was quite delicious! And in real life it wasn’t blurry. Sigh.

UGH. On an unrelated note I just noticed that all of my photos that were posted at Shutterfly are now showing up as tiny thumbnails in my blog archives. I went and looked and they changed their systems–looks like if I update the image source links I’m ok, but otherwise it only shows a thumbnail. Annooooying.

CSA: Week two, fun with chard

Aaaand once again I’m a week late.

Week two CSA contents:

-1 bunch chard (green)
-3 medium red beets
-1 head lettuce
-4 oz. garlic scapes
-8 oz. summer squash/zucchini
-1 bunch dill

Tuesday night I stopped at Whole Foods after the CSA pick-up and grabbed the makings for a semi-homemade pizza. They sell bags of fresh dough, all ready to bake. I also got some mozzarella and a couple tablespoons of an artichoke-garlic spread from the antipasto bar. (I find that there are frequently useful little things in those!)

At home I spent ages washing greens, then I cut up:

…and sautéed the chard and set it aside. I rolled out the dough and brushed it with olive oil, then smeared the artichoke dip around and put on the cheese, lovingly grated by Ben. (“It. is. sticking. Why is it clumpy? Why?”–it was a humid night and even putting the cheese in the freezer to firm up didn’t do the trick.)

I baked that (on the highest heat below broil; somewhere north of 500 degrees) until the cheese started to bubble, then pulled it out and added the chard, and baked until it seemed done. Precise, no?

All in all it probably took about 10 minutes longer than throwing a frozen pizza in the oven and it was *delicious.* I will likely be doing this a lot this summer, and experimenting with grilling them as well.

We finished with a salad made from the lovely tender lettuce. For some reason the head this week had loads of little baby lettuces (clones? mutants? they were delicious so I don’t care) clustered around the base:

Eee! Tiny tiny lettuces! Adorable. *Munch* We both commented on how tender and delicious the lettuce was, eaten within 24 hours of harvest! And not to be all philosophical, but there’s something appealing to me about washing mud off the lettuce because the farm was hit by the same thunderstorms that hit us here, too.

Coming soon: Cooking scapes with Tom!

CSA: Week one, greens galore

Agh, I am terribly behind. I’m mere days away from picking up CSA week three, and I haven’t yet posted one and two! I’m hopping to it now.

Ok, so. Last week I picked up my first CSA share from Stone Soup Farm. I have a half share, 5-8 pounds/week.

The goods:

-3 oz. mesclun
-1 head lettuce
-1 bunch kale
-1 small summer squash (3 oz.)
-1 bunch radishes, in place of cilantro
-5 garlic scapes
-I small basil plant

The radishes Kabir and I ate with butter and salt:

The kale I made into a very tasty absorption pasta with sausage and feta:

(I just can’t resist those colors)

The summer squash I forgot in the produce drawer, oops.

The lettuce made several delicious salads.

Salad 1, for after the pasta:

Salad 2, dinner later in the week, with baby beets (vacuum-packed from Trader Joe’s, thanks Juree for the tip!), feta, chicken, etc. (Shockingly bad photo):

The basil I transported home like so:

It was in a tiny, tiny grower’s pot:

And I transplanted it a couple days later into a bigger pot:

I can’t say that it’s thriving. It still has that sad little droop at the top, even though it’s living outside and the soil is nice and damp. Germi, help me! Is it ok??

Earth Day

Happy Earth Day! Along with most of the northern hemisphere, I’ve tried to switch to reusable bags this year, and I won’t lie, I’m longing for the happy and practical (they roll up so small! they still go over your shoulder!) RuMe bags that Not Martha posted yesterday–she has ten sets to give away! makes this brilliant Starter Kit that would make it easier for anyone to switch to reusable bags and bottles:

I definitely need to make or get some produce bags like that.

The other bandwagon we’re jumping on this year is the CSA (community supported agriculture) weekly farm box. We joined the Stone Soup Farm CSA–the farm is in Belchertown, MA and this is their first year running a CSA. We have gotten several extremely entertaining and well-written newsletters so far, and when I checked out the About Us page it turns out the farm is run by a very young and idealistic crew. I’m excited to see what the summer brings–here’s the lettuce growing in the greenhouses right now:

(photo: Stone Soup Farm)


Anyway, if you haven’t heard about CSAs, they are a program designed to help connect buyers with farmers so the farmers have some guaranteed income and the buyers know they’ll be getting a steady supply of local produce all summer, even if getting to the farmer’s market is inconvenient. I have been frustrated by how much of the produce at Whole Foods is trucked from California or is completely out of season stuff from South America, and I’m excited about challenging myself with the weekly box of whatever Stone Soup is harvesting. I’m planning to do at least a weekly post about what is in my box once it starts up in June. According to the farm:

“You can expect to see all of the following vegetables in your CSA share throughout the year: Arugala, Beans, Beets, Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Cabbage, Carrots, Cauliflower, Celeriac, Celery, Sweet Corn, Cucumber, Diakon, Edamame, Eggplant, Fennel, Garlic, Kale and Collards, Kohlrabi, Leeks, Lettuce, Melons, Mesclun Lettuce, Okra, Onions (Red, Yellow and Walla Walla), Parsnips, Peas, Peppers, Popcorn, Potatoes, Pumpkins, Radishes, Rutabaga, Spinach, Summer Squash and Zucc., Sweet Potato, Swiss Chard, Tomatoes, Cherry Tomatoes, Turnip, Winter Squash, As well as the following herbs: Basil, Cilantro, Chives, Dill, Hot Peppers, Rosemary, Mint, Oregano, Thyme, Parsley.”

Wow. If I get even half of those things there will be lots of experiments to conduct!

For more information about CSA and how to find a CSA in your area (shares are getting very booked up for this year, so act fast!) check out Local Harvest.

Stone Soup’s geese keeping watch over the farm back in early March:

(photo: Stone Soup Farm)