Friday, July 27, 2012

Eggplant Bruschetta

What are you doing with your CSA eggplant this week? I love Eggplant Parmigiana but in the summer, I'd rather not spend precious time in the kitchen slaving over a pan of hot oil. It's also a tad fattening so here is a lighter way to serve it while still enjoying the traditional flavors of E.P. It uses a few simple ingredients, 3 of which were in my CSA box this week. Serve this as a side dish or a nice appetizer.

My mom, sister Jen and I came up with this idea and we are calling it:

Eggplant Bruschetta

1 eggplant sliced into long 1/4 inch slices (no need to peel it, the skin makes it sturdier on the grill)
sliced tomatoes
jarred or homemade pesto
shredded mozzarella and/or goat cheese
sliced basil
salt & pepper
Olive oil

Brush each slice of eggplant with olive oil on each side and lightly salt and pepper. 
Heat grill on medium to med/low heat.
Place slices carefully on the grill and grill for about 5 minutes or until you can see the grill marks. Then flip over the slices.
Next, spread a little pesto on each slice, then top with tomato slices, some crumbled goat cheese and/or mozzarella slices. 
Cover the grill and let the cheese melt, taking care not to over cook the eggplant. Serve warm.
Top with freshly sliced basil and toasted pine nuts if you prefer. 

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Good Gravy!

Hello my friends! We are now into week 4 of the Confreda CSA. Are you loving it as much as I am? Each week is a new adventure and this week's box did not disappoint.  The picture below has all the makings of a ratatouille, a homemade tomato sauce, stir fried veggies on the grill, a brushchetta and a pesto. It's an Italian (or not) home cook's dream come true!

Just a few of my favorite things:
Zucchini, cukes, peppers, basil, parsley, tomatoes, eggplant
This week at Confreda's they are running a buy one get one free on select pastas so it's only right that we post a recipe for the pasta topping. What is better than a fresh tomato sauce prepared exclusively with Confreda's garden tomatoes? Now, you probably call it "sauce" but where I come from, it's "gravy". Way back I posted a recipe to make your own gravy using canned tomatoes but this recipe uses only the fresh kind.

One school of thought tells you to peel the skins of the tomatoes before using them and de-seed the tomatoes. Personally, I skip this step and find that once you cook the tomatoes down, the skin and seeds are not that noticeable and adds some texture to the gravy. Your choice.

To remove the skins:
Boil a pot of water. Cut a little cross hatch (shallow cut) on the stem end of each tomato and drop into the water for about 30 seconds. Let them cool a bit and the skins should peel off easily when pulled from the edges of the hatch mark.

Good Gravy!
(aka. Fresh Tomato Sauce)
It's so easy, it's almost embarrassing that I am posting this as a "recipe".
I like to keep mine very simple.
5-6 good sized tomatoes chopped
extra virgin olive oil
salt & pepper
1/2 to 1 tsp sugar
3-4 cloves of crushed garlic
1 TBS dried oregano
fresh basil leaves (approx 1/4 cup)
grated cheese (optional)
1. In a large skillet heated on low, coat the bottom of the pan with olive oil. Add the garlic but be sure not to brown it as this will destroy the taste of the garlic and the sauce.
2. Add the tomatoes, sugar, salt and pepper to taste, and oregano.
3. Cook this down for about 20 minutes, or more. You can stir occasionally and keep it covered on med low heat. The longer you cook it, the more concentrated the tomato flavor.
Check the flavor and adjust seasoning as needed. Does it need a pinch of sugar? Then add it!
4. After the sauce has reached a nice consistency, you can add fresh basil. If you don't like the "chunkiness" of the sauce, you can transfer to a blender or food processor to smooth it out. For me, the chunks are what sets this apart from a "canned sauce" and brings the farm flavor home!

Optional additions: Saute some chopped onions and diced carrots until tender before adding the garlic.
Top your favorite pasta with your Good Gravy and some grated Parmesan cheese. Enjoy!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Thinking Outside Your CSA Box

We are now into week 3 of our Great CSA Experiment! If you are a CSA member then I hope you are enjoying it as much as I am. I have never eaten healthier in my life and there is a constant feeling of joy every time I open the fridge and think about what to cook next. Before, the center of my recipes might have centered around chicken, fish or ground turkey but now the star on each plate is an abundance of gorgeous, hand picked, FRESH veggies. The "animal proteins" have definitely taken a back seat lately and we are quite enjoying it.

My bounty this week consisted of Napa cabbage, grape tomatoes, watermelon, sweet corn, lettuce and squash flowers. Yum! For advice on how to store and make the most of your CSA supply, please see below:

How to store Napa Cabbage
How to store fresh corn (tips on freezing it here too if you can't use it right away.)
How to store squash blossoms
How to store romaine lettuce
How to store grape tomatoes
How to store watermelon

My personal challenge is to concoct a dish that contains at least 2 CSA ingredients.  Tonight I made a veggie stir fry over brown jasmine rice. Basically, I just took some julienned carrots, sliced red onion and sauteed in sesame oil.  I then added a few cloves of crushed garlic, a bunch of sliced Napa cabbage and 1/2 cup to a cup of chicken broth. I cooked this down a bit until the cabbage wilted. I then added some leftover CSA broccoli from last week and some sliced baby Bella mushrooms. Cooked again til tender.  Added a few sprinkles of ginger and black pepper, then a few shakes of soy sauce. Simmer a tad more and then served it over rice.   You could really do whatever you like here. Water chestnuts, peanuts, almonds, red pepper, sugar snap peas, etc. You could also top with some freshly chopped basil or parsley.  Serve it over couscous, noodles or quinoa.  The trick is to avoid overcooking any of the veggies. Cook the ones that take the longest first, like "harder" veggies. You don't want to end up with a bowl of mush!

Next. On to those pretty little squash flowers that keep popping up in your box.

They are not just for show you know!

People pay big bucks for these blossoms when prepared in fancy restaurants so enjoy this precious flower while you can. My mom has always made them with a pancake like batter and then fried in oil. Very simple to do.

That's my Mom, Ginny. She and I have our best talks in the kitchen.
It's one of the happiest places on Earth.

She simply makes a pancake batter with Bisquick or Jiffy mix, nothing too heavy. She washes and dries the squash blossoms and then quickly dips the flowers into the batter. She then fries them in oil until golden brown on each side. After they are cooked, drain on paper towels and season with salt and pepper.

If you are looking for an upscale way to prepare them, click here for a Goat Cheese Stuffed Squash Blossom recipe.  And if you just can't get enough,  click here for 5 more ways to prepare them.

Happy and healthy eating to all of you this week!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Broccoli Revelations

I think I may need to be resuscitated. My kids finally not only like broccoli but they love it. For years I have been trying to coax them into eating it.

"C'mon honey, it's a little tree! Try it. No, wait, it's a bush! Eat the bush!"

"Don't you eat it all. I want it! "

"I'll give you 5 extra kisses if you eat it. No, I'll give you 5 dollars if you try it!"

"I'll let you eat a Fruit Rollup for breakfast tomorrow"

"I'll buy you a pony!"

All for naught!

Until this week. While preparing the Pizza Primavera on a whim, out sat a cutting board filled with chopped steamed broccoli. (No offense, broccoli, but you didn't look very appetizing.) The kids were bugging me for something to eat so I said, "Here, try this". The next thing I knew, my 9 year old was making broccoli sandwiches with Wheat Thins and my 4 year old was pretending his florets were police whistles.
He looks like my kid......
For so long, I tried making broccoli "appealing" and now they are eating it in its most unattractive form. It's like the broccoli put on her most unflattering jeans yet all the other crops thought she was hot.

"Mommy, this broccoli is delicious!"
"I love it!"

Who are you and what did you do to my children? 

All I can say is that magical things are happening all around me. My husband has been snacking on golden beets (previously would not touch with a 10 foot pole), my friend Aileen is eating her beets as a midnight snack (ditto to her too), and I'm eating cherry tomatoes instead of my usual chocolate in the closet.

Thank you CSA. I thought I would just be getting "a bunch of veggies each week." I think I may have underestimated your powers!

Looking forward to another magical week : )

Friday, July 13, 2012

A CSA Pizza!

Last night was one of those nights when I had a mild panic attack and thought all my fresh produce would simultaneously go bad.  (I know, it's crazy, right?) When I get in this mode, there is only one solution and that is to make pizza!  I managed to use 3 of my CSA ingredients and whipped up a new one. My husband aptly named  this one Pizza Primavera.
The Before

I am notorious for throwing stuff together and simply using what's available so the CSA is right up my alley. I don't measure anything (unless I'm baking) and somehow, it turns out great.

The trick is, there is no trick. You use what's on hand but use it wisely. Below are my ingredients but you don't need to precisely follow this. I had some leftover mushrooms and sliced zucchini that were reaching their end so I used them up too. Be creative and mix and match whatever cheeses you like! You can also throw in a splash of white wine while you are cooking the veggies.

1 lb pizza dough (I happen to LOVE Calise dough!)
3-4 TBS extra virgin olive oil
3-4 cloves crushed garlic
1 CSA bunch of fresh broccoli. Chop off the tough ends. Slice into stalks and steam for about 5 minutes, just to bring out the green color
1/4 cup red onion sliced or chopped
leftover mushrooms (3 or 4 Baby Bellas)
1 CSA sliced tomato
1/4 of a CSA zucchini sliced
2-3 tsp jarred pesto
1/2 cup low fat feta cheese
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella
sliced hot pepper rings (optional)
fresh basil sliced for garnish at the end
salt, pepper
1 tsp dried oregano
grated Parmesan cheese

After steaming the broccoli, let it cool, then chop it up.
Heat olive oil in large skillet. Add red onion and cook until tender but not brown. Add garlic, then mushrooms, zucchini and cook til tender, not too long.  Add the chopped up broccoli, salt, pepper and oregano and saute for a few minutes. Add a drizzle more of oil if needed. 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Spread out your dough in your lightly greased pizza pan.
Brush the pesto over the top from end to end, leaving some crust.
Sprinkle Feta cheese over this.
Next transfer your broccoli mixture over the feta.
Top with sliced tomatoes, hot peppers if using, and mozzarella cheese.
Shake some grated Parmesan over the top.
Lightly drizzle with olive oil over the top.
Bake for about 20-25 minutes, until crust on bottom is lightly golden or to your liking.

The After!

When it comes out of the oven, top with sliced basil for garnish.

Note: If you have too much topping and think it will overload the pizza, just put the leftovers in a container. Use it later as a topping for rice, couscous, pasta, or just eat it as one of your Five A Day!

Enjoy my friends. If you have any questions or suggestions, please drop me a note below.

Picture credits to my friend Mark Sylvestre who writes his own blog. Check it out!.

The Beet is Back....Again

 I was so happy to find golden beets in my CSA basket this week. They are so hard to find in the grocery store so I was elated!

If you are still a little fearful of the beet, the golden beet may finally turn you around. They have a much milder flavor than red beets.  I am sharing a recipe from Weight Watchers. (If you are counting points, this is worth 2 WW points.)

Roasted Beet Salad (serves 2)
1/2 pound red or golden beets (about 2 medium)
2 tsp olive oil
1 medium tangerine, peeled, divided into segments, pits removed
2 TBS chopped red onion
1 medium celery stalk chopped
2 tsp white wine vinegar
1/4 tsp dry mustard
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place beets on a large piece of aluminum foil: drizzle with olive oil. Fold foil to form a slightly sealed packet. Place packet on a baking sheet and roast until beets are tender when pierced, about 1 hour.

Cool beets for 10 minutes. Open packet. Slip off beets' skins with a paring knife and cut into 1/2 inch cubes. Place beets in serving bowl. Add tangerine, onion, and celery. Toss gently.

In a small bowl, whisk together vinegar, mustard, salt and pepper; pour over beets and toss to mix and coat. Serve immediately.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

She's Choppin' Broccoli

Do you remember this from Dana Carvey? It is one of my personal favorites and now the song is ringing in my head! Click here to share my insanity.

If you need a good standby recipe which uses several types of veggies of your choosing, this is the one. I think it's a classic. Eat it for breakfast, brunch, or supper.  And keep scrolling down for another broccoli favorite!

Impossible Garden Pie

2 cups sliced zucchini
1 1/2 cups chopped fresh tomato
1/2 cup chopped onion
(OR, 4 cups total of your favorite veggies, of course, BROCCOLI is excellent here!)

Mix together the following in a bowl:
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 1/2 cups skim or low fat milk
3/4 cup Bisquick or Jiffy mix
3 eggs (or 1 carton Egg Beaters + 1 cup skim milk)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray a ceramic or Pyrex pie plate.
Place mixed veggies into the baking dish.  Pour the liquid mixture over the veggies and bake for 30 minutes. Let it set before serving.
Feel free to top it with some grated cheddar cheese.

Still have some broccoli leftover? Don't fret!
Our local Dave's Market makes a killer Chicken & Broccoli Aioli. They were nice enough to share their recipe in the Providence Journal. Enjoy!

1 1/2 pounds chicken breast
1 1/2 pounds small pasta shells
1 1/2 cups olive oil, divided use
1 pound fresh broccoli florets
8 cloves garlic (about 1/4 cup)
1 TBS salt
2 tsp ground black pepper
1 TBS garlic powder
2 TBS onion powder
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

Cook and then cut chicken breasts into 1 inch pieces.
Cook pasta, drain and rinse with cold water. Mix 1/2 cup olive oil into pasta.
Steam broccoli florets and rinse with cold water.
Saute garlic in 1 cup olive oil, being careful not to burn or scorch garlic. Let cool. this is important so that the oil will be infused with the garlic.
Combine chicken, pasta, broccoli, garlic and seasonings. Mix well. Serve
Hint: A rotisserie chicken works great in this recipe.

(Of course, I like mine sprinkled with red hot pepper flakes)
Serves 6.

Kale, Kale, the Gang's All Here!

This week's bushel is AMAZING! The photo below does not do it justice. Seriously, you have to understand just how deep this bounty is. This is the 2nd week into the CSA with Confreda Farms and I'm still like a giddy school girl when I open up my box of goodies. For those of you who know me well, you are probably scratching your heads saying, "But there's no chocolate in the box, Beck!" That's how excited I am! Veggies are my new candy! (In case you don't believe me, I brought a 1/2 pint of cherry tomatoes to work tonight as a snack and didn't go near the vending machine. That is progress!)

Does this box make my broccoli look wide?
In your box this week, you might find kale, broccoli, Swiss Chard, tomatoes, cabbage, squash, and cucumbers. Do you know what to do with it all?

Our new CSA Mantra. Repeat after me:

Share it, Store it, Cook it, Freeze it, or Eat it. 
NEVER throw it away!
Weekly storage tips:

Kale:  Click here
Broccoli: Click here
Swiss Chard: Click here
Tomatoes:  Click here
Cukes: Click here!
Golden beets: Click here
Squash: Click here

My mom used to saute Swiss Chard in olive oil and garlic as a side dish but I thought I'd take my chard to a new level.  I usually make a spinach pizza so I thought, why not a Swiss Chard pizza?  I found a recipe on the internet that is strikingly like my spinach recipe pizza, only it uses Swiss Chard. Click here for Mehan's Swiss Chard Pizza. I made this today and it is delicious!  My 2 little boys gobbled it up. I am not joking. And for a Swiss Chard Quinoa Cake recipe, click here. This girl Mehan really knows her Chard!

More recipes in the next blog. I promise.  The week is not over, my friends!

If you are new to this blog, welcome and please share your comments below.
I'd love to hear from you and what you are doing with your CSA bounty!
Title credits to Ray Aubin!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Zucchini, Lettuce, Parsley, & Beets, Oh My!

It's time to talk recipes and ideas. What to do with so much freshness? Luckily, I have some blogs in my back pocket from when I was new to the blogosphere. What to do with zucchini? Click here to find out!
Scared of that bunch of beets? Don't be! You will never look at beets the same way again so please click here.

At the beginning of every meal, I say:

As you might guess, we had a BIG salad last night and I had 2 salads for lunch today. With 4 kinds of lettuce, who could resist? If you are tired of the same old lettuce, tomato and cuke salad, try something new and a bit fancy. Salad toppings are endless and are only limited by your imagination. Who doesn't love a salad in the summer? You can eat a different salad every day and never get bored!

  • Add some dried cranberries, walnuts, crumbled goat cheese, and red onion. Toss with a light balsamic vinaigrette or just plain olive oil and balsamic vinegar.  If you are not into goat cheese, try feta.
  • Taco Salad: top your greens with leftover taco meat, salsa, crushed tortillas, a dab of Greek yogurt or sour cream, shredded cheddar and a sprinkle of hot sauce. The salsa and yogurt are a built in dressing!
Other salad toppings to transform a salad into a meal:
beans or chick peas
hot pepper rings
Chinese noodles
sesame or sunflower seeds
slivered almonds or any kind of nut
raisins, Craisins, cranberries, sliced apples, grapes
kalamata olives
grilled meat or fish, any kind you like
cubed or crumbled cheese
chopped eggs or bacon bits

Two more ideas
  • Substitute larger lettuce leaves for sandwich bread. Roll up tuna, ham, turkey, cheese, etc. inside a lettuce leave. Great for those counting carbs and trying to get more veggies in.
  • I know people who have used it in soups (like escarole or spinach), and I've seen Bobby Flay grill whole Romaine leaves. Whatever floats your boat!
Are you ready for more? Good!

The CSA has certainly blessed me this week! Thankfully, it keeps for a while if stored properly. Click here to see how.  Of course, it's a great garnish but why stop there? Let your parsley be the star of the show! Have you ever had tabbouleh? It's made with Bulgar wheat and TONS of chopped fresh parsley. I made a Quinoa tabbouleh last night. (Yes, it's  a Becky invention.)
Quinoa Tabbouleh
1 1/2 cups dried quinoa, rinsed
2-3 fresh lemons (enough to make 1/2 cup lemon juice)
3-4 TBS extra virgin olive oil
zest of one lemon
good sized handful of parsley, chopped
1/2 pint (or more) of chopped grape tomatoes
1/2 peeled and diced English cucumber
1/2 cup or more of crumbled feta cheese
1/4 chopped red onion (optional)
salt and pepper to taste
Cook the quinoa according to package directions. Remove from heat and transfer to a large bowl. Allow it to cool for about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, zest and juice the lemons. Whisk in salt and pepper to taste.
Pour the dressing over the quinoa. Toss in the fresh chopped parsley, tomatoes, cukes, feta and onion if using. Mix until combined throughout.  May be served at room temp.
Fresh mint and basil also work well here so you can mix and match. You won't mess it up, I promise! Herbs are very forgiving like that.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The Great CSA Experiment Begins!

The big day has finally arrived!  No more mystery or fear. Today I am feeling beyond blessed! I picked up my CSA bushel and a ninth today with kids and husband in tow.  If you have no clue of what I speak, please click here to catch up.

Today's bushel included 4 kinds of lettuce, 7-8 green and yellow squash (including the flowers!), 3 bunches of beets, and 3 huge bunches of parsley.  I laid it all out on my kitchen island and stared at it for a good 15 minutes,  scratching my head while calling my neighbors to rescue me. Where will I put it all? (Remember, I don't have a 2nd fridge?!)

This is what a bushel and a ninth looks like!

 If you have joined the CSA and are picking up your shares this week, here are a few tips to get you started.  I will include recipes in my next blog but this one is about prepping your produce. Here is a great site to help with storage tips,  click here for more information.

1. Lettuce:  If you don't have a salad spinner, get one now. Even if it's from Job Lot, any kind will do. Remember that these veggies were just picked today so they are covered in the amazing nutrient-rich soil from whence they came (yes--soil means dirt.).  I washed mine 3 times and spun them silly.  After draining the water, you can store it in the spinner, however, you are going to have so much lettuce, you will need backup. So, here is another way to keep it fresh:
Lay out the washed and drained leaves on top of paper towels and store in the fridge in a covered container.
2. Parsley: No need to wash it, yet. Simply snip the ends.
And place in a glass jar with water to cover the stems. You may need to refresh the water from time to time.
You can also cover it with a plastic bag and elastic the bottom to create a greenhouse effect. I store mine in the fridge. When you are ready to use it, wash and dry the leaves, then chop up as needed.

3. Beets:  Cut most of the greens and their stems from the beet roots, so they do not pull away moisture away from the root. Leave about two inches of the stem attached to prevent the roots from "bleeding." Do not wash before storing. Place in a plastic bag and wrap the bag tightly around the beets, squeezing out as much of the air from the bag as possible. Place in refrigerator where they will keep for up to 3 weeks. Store the unwashed greens in a separate plastic bag squeezing out as much of the air as possible. Place in refrigerator where they will keep fresh for about four days.
Raw beets do not freeze well since they tend to become soft upon thawing. Freezing cooked beets is fine; they'll retain their flavor and texture.
4. Zucchini:  Store zucchini in a plastic bag in the refrigerator crisper drawer four to five days.  Do not wash until ready to use. At the first sign of wilting, use immediately.  For the zucchini flowers, sprinkle with water, wrap gently in paper towels and refrigerate. Use as quickly as possible.

My wheels have been turning all day long and I am excited to share some recipes with you next.  Stay tuned!

A special thank you to my friend, Mark Sylvestre for taking these photos!