Monthly Archives: July 2014

What to Expect in This Week’s Box

Can’t wait!

Peppers with Sausage and Roasted Green Beans

Thursday evening and this is the last of the week’s CSA. Roasting green beans is one of my favorite preparations. The combination of olive oil, lemon juice, and garlic dressing and a hot oven leads to a lovely charring and really brings out the sweetness of the beans. We ate them warm, but they make a good cold dish as well. Finish them with some good balsamic vinegar from Ancient Olive.

The whole onions, with the sweetness of the peppers, and a mild Italian sausage from Wholefoods all fried together are  great way to use a surfeit of peppers.

Here are the recipes.

Roasted Green Beans

One pound of whole green beans, topped.
Two tablespoonfuls of Olive oil
Juice of one half lemon
Two cloves of garlic, sliced
Salt and Pepper
Good balsamic vinegar

Heat the oven to 450F. Line a baking tray with parchment paper. Wash the beans and place in a large bowl. Mix the other ingredients together and add to the beans. Toss until the beans are thoroughly covered. Spread thinly on the parchment paper and roast for 15-20 minutes or until nicely browned. Place in a suitable serving dish and dress with some good balsamic vinegar.

Peppers with Sausage

Six small onions, peeled but left whole
One mild Italian sausage
Six small sweet peppers, halved with seeds and pith removed.
Two cloves of garlic

Heat a suitable cast iron skillet with some olive oil. Add onions, when brown in parts, add the whole sausage. When brown, remove the sausage and cut into slices. Return to pan. Add peppers and salt and pepper. Reduce heat and cook covered until flavors blend and peppers are thoroughly soft and their skin charred. Transfer to a suitable serving dish and deglaze the skillet with red wine. Add wine sauce to the serving dish. Adjust seasoning.

goes very well with a cheap and cheerful Primativo and a crusty loaf of bread.

Front to back; roasted green beans, peppers and sausage, and a Primativo.
Front to back; roasted green beans, peppers and sausage, and a Primativo.

Steamed Eggplants with Chile Sauce (Hong You Qie Zi.)

This recipe was a revelation to me when I found it in Fuchsia Dunlop’s book Land of Plenty. Until then I had always fried or roasted eggplant. This recipe steams the sliced Chinese eggplants, which transforms them into creamy deliciousness, barely held together by their skin. You then dip them in the intense, flavorful chili sauce. Spectacular and really easy.

Here is my variation on her recipe.

  • Four Chinese eggplant sliced diagonally into one inch pieces.
  • One quarter cup of soy sauce.
  • One quarter cup of black Chinese vinegar
  • Two dried chiles, flaked.
  • One teaspoon of sesame oil.
Front to back: steamed eggplant, rice, and beans with fried tofu.
Front to back: steamed eggplant, rice, and beans with fried tofu.

Place the sliced eggplant in a steamer and steam for 15 minutes until thoroughly soft. Meanwhile, mix the other ingredients in a small bowl. Place the steamed eggplant on a spacious serving dish and place the bowl of chile sauce in the middle. Eat with chopsticks, dipping each piece of eggplant into the sauce. I served this with yard-long beans with fried tofu and brown rice for an accidentally vegan meal.

By the way, best place in town I have found for Asian ingredients and cooking equipment is the Phuoc Loc Pho Market on Colonial.

 

Tilapia Baked in Banana Leaves

This dish solved a couple of problems for me. What to do with the banana leaves we had to

Jonathan with banana leaf
That’s a big leaf.

hack off the plant by our front door, and what to do with all the lemon basil we got in the CSA box this week. Like cabbage and grapes leaves, banana leaves have been used for millennia to wrap food. They are cheap, biodegradable, and sustainable. Unlike grape and cabbage leaves, you can’t really eat banana leaves. Perhaps you can (you can eat the fruit and the flower) but I have never heard of it.

Here is the recipe.

  • Four small tilapia fillets (about one pound.)
  • Two large, undamaged banana leaves.
  • Small bunch of lemon basil.
  • One cup of coconut milk.
  • One inch cube of fresh ginger
  • Two garlic cloves.
  • One teaspoon of fish sauce.
  • One teaspoon of crushed coriander seeds.
  • Zest of a lime.
  • A sprig of culantro (tastes like cilantro, but survives the Florida summer.)
Wrapping the fish.
Wrapping the fish.

Heat the oven to 350 F. Blend all the ingredients except the tilapia, banana leaves and culantro, in a food processor. Cut each fillets in half, so that they are about as wide as they are long. Pace the fish in a suitable container and pour over the marinade. Cut the stems from the banana leaves and tear the leaves into almost squares so that you have eight squares. The squares need to be big enough to fold over and enclose the fish. Wash the leaves carefully. Place a fillet in the center of each leaf square, add some of the sauce. Add a culantro leaf. Fold the two sides of the banana leaf square over the fish and then fold the other two ends to form a packet. Place the packets in a baking tray, with the folded side down so that they do not come apart. They can overlap. If you are a belt and braces kind of person, cover with tin foil. Bake in the oven for 15 to 25 minutes (depending on the thickness of the fish.) You can check to see if they are done by opening one packet and seeing if the fish flakes apart. Serve with rice. Note that I left out the chili peppers from my version. This is a delicate, fragrant, dish that I don’t think needs the heat.

It is fun to let everyone open their own packets at the table. It can be messy, but the fragrance of the packets as they open is one of the pleasures of the dish.

Tilapia is one of our most sustainable fish species, especially when it is farmed in ponds in Latin America. The fish grows quickly, is largely vegetarian, which means producers don’t have to catch fish to feed to fish, and since it grows in ponds (or sometimes tanks) it has less impact on the environment, if managed properly, a big if. Many people seem to object to fish farming because it seems unnatural, but that strikes me as silly. Fish seem to be the last major food source for which we rely on wild resources. It is akin to relying on hunting for meat, or gathering for vegetables and grains. We are not going to feed seven billion people with hunter-gather techniques. So let’s farm fish if we are to eat fish at all. Sure, it will impact the environment, but so does agriculture. The question is can you do it in a sustainable, productive way without too much unwelcome impact on the natural environment? Only if we stop pillaging the oceans and farming predatory fish like salmon and start eating bait fish like sardines and farmed tilapia.

The Fish Issue

My favorite thing to do with a bunch of amaranth leaves is to make Jamaican Callaloo. Callaloo seems to be one of those words that is used to mean the soup, the cooked vegetable, and the growing vegetable, at least in Jamaica. Callaloo soup in Trinidad seems to be made with a different plant. I use a a variation of this recipe.
Amaranth grows very well in Florida. Once you have it in the garden, you will never get rid of it and it is a green that will survive the heat and humidity of a Florida summer, so I am not surprised to find it in Frog Song’s CSA box this week.

Here is the recipe that makes enough for four.

Thyme, okra, chopped amaranth stems, coconut milk, chicken broth, crab meat, scotch bonnet pepper, amaranth leaves, onion and garlic. Ready for callaloo.
Thyme, okra, chopped amaranth stems, coconut milk, chicken broth, crab meat, scotch bonnet pepper, amaranth leaves, onion and garlic. Ready for callaloo.
  • One large bunch of amaranth leaves.
  • One onion, sliced.
  • One clove of garlic, sliced.
  • Few sprigs of thyme.
  • Half a dozen okra.
  • Four cups of chicken broth. I like to make my own, but we didn’t have any in the house today.
  • Half a pound of crab meat (more about that later.)
  • One whole scotch bonnet or habanero pepper (I got mine from a friend’s garden.)
  • One cup of coconut milk (I have seen various callaloo recipes with this, but having made the soup with it, I don’t think it adds much to this recipe.

Wash the callaloo thoroughly. It can be one of those gritty greens. Separate the leaves from the stems and chop the stems roughly. Add all the ingredients, except the crab and the okra, to a soup pot and simmer down until cooked through. Perhaps 20 minutes. Remove the scotch bonnet pepper and be very careful to keep it whole. This way it adds great flavor but not intense heat to the soup. If you purée the pepper, watch out! It will be very hot. Strain the solids and place in a food processor and purée. If you prefer a non-puréed texture, strain the solids from the liquid and chop finely. Return to the liquid. Add the crab meat and the chopped okra. Add salt and pepper to taste and heat through. I served it with lovely Olde Hearth whole wheat levain bread.

Jamaican Callaloo.
Jamaican Callaloo.

So the verdict? Bethany likes it, but would prefer better crab. Sam is not so keen. Deborah is too polite to say. I agree, a can of crab from Publix is not a great ingredient, but this is why I titled this post the fish issue. Getting good seafood is a big problem in Central Florida. Wholefoods has some good choices, but they are very expensive. Lombardi’s isn’t great. Publix’s is slightly cheaper, but the quality is not great and you are buying into the global seafood industry (my crab came from the Philippines) with all the problems that come with it; unsustainability, poor labor conditions, and environmental damage. See this interview with Paul Greenberg on NPR’s Fresh Air for more on this issue.

My callaloo would have been great with fresh crab caught from the end of the pier by the kids on a family vacation. But is that the only way to have seafood in my diet? That doesn’t strike me as globally sustainable either. We will return to this issue when I write about our second course.

Caprese Salad

Caprese salad
Bethany makes the caprese.

The tomatoes are so delicious, they work well in a simple caprese salad. When we have large slicing tomatoes I like to match them with sliced mozzarella. But in this case, Bethany mixed them with Mozzarita’s  ciliegine (out of Pompano Beach, FL and sold by Wholefoods) and the lemon basil from Frog Song. Not quite the right basil. A bit too harsh, but that is the pleasure of CSA, you use what you have. She finished it with some lovely Hojiblanca olive oil from Ancient Olive.

Succotash

As everybody knows, succotash is a Native-American dish made largely from corn and beans. So we brought a couple of ears of sweet corn (Bethany was not sure if it was Georgia or Florida corn, but hey) and we headed home for lunch. Here is the recipe.

Corn, okra, tomatoes, and onion.
Garlic and Lima beans are in the pot, we are ready to go.
  • 2 ears of corn, shucked.
  • As many Lima beans as you can gather from the garden. Only a dozen in our case.
  • Half a dozen grape tomatoes, quartered.
  • One onion
  • one clove of garlic
  • Half a dozen okra, chopped into rounds.
  • Two sweet peppers, roasted, seeded, and chopped.
  • Olive oil and salt and paper to taste.

Sauté the garlic in the oil over a medium heat until you can smell it. Add the fresh Lima beans and enough water to cover them. Boil the water away. As the water evaporates add the thinly sliced onion. As the onion softens, add the tomatoes. As the tomatoes soften add the corn and then the okra. Add the roasted and chopped peppers. Cook only until the corn and okra have cooked through. The okra will turn bright green. Add salt and pepper to taste. I like to finish it with a splash of good olive oil from Ancient Olive ( a Spanish Pichual) and a sprinkle of sea salt.

Beautiful!
Beautiful!

With an arugula salad (from Frog Song) dressed with good shaved reggiano cheese and a poached egg from Lake Meadows Farms, and a slice of Olde Hearth’s whole wheat levain bread, this makes a lovely lunch. This pairs well with our favorite rose wine.

 

 

Frog Song Organics and the pleasures of CSA.

Contents of pick box.
Green beans, watermelon, amaranth, lemon basil, Chinese eggplant, onions, and sweet peppers.

We just signed up for Frog Song Organics Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) weekly pick box for the summer. Frog Song is located in Hawthorne, FL, up near Gainesville. So not exactly local, local. But they have started coming to the Winter Park Farmers’ Market on Saturday so we can pick up there and, as John says, the climate and soil in Gainesville is so much better for vegetables than down here, even though it is only a couple of hours away. They supplied a great first box; watermelon, amaranth, lemon basil, green beans, grape tomatoes, Chinese eggplant, sweet peppers, and onions.

This blog is going to be all about what we cooked with the CSA each week, augmented by stuff from the garden and from the rest of the farmers’ market. I hope you stick around the the next post to see what we did first. Unless otherwise noted you can assume the dishes are prepared for two people; me and my lovely, hungry, and discriminating partner Bethany.