The CSA Project, Part 2: The Reckoning

Where did the week go? And perhaps more importantly, where did all the vegetables from my CSA box go? Time for the truth: what I ate and how I ate it (or didn’t eat it) over the past week and a half.

The large bunch of celery became a surprisingly satisfying celery, apple and walnut soup that I’ll definitely be writing up as a recipe soon. The best part was it used up all the celery leaves, which were plentiful.

I simmered the small bunch of turnips in a Japanese-ish sauce made with water, soy sauce, mirin and a little sake, which cooked down to a glaze by the time the turnips were done. I ate them on a salad, which put a small dent in the head of red lettuce.

I roasted the broccoli with shiitake mushrooms. Tossed with oil and salt and roasted in a 425° oven for 20-30 minutes until browned and crispy, this was dinner, along with brown rice and a Thai omelet. I ate the leftover broccoli and mushrooms as a snack the next day instead of the salt and pepper potato chips I was craving. With my fingers, to make it a little less virtuous.

By the way, ROASTED BROCCOLI LEAVES. Crunchy and toasty and almost as good as salt and pepper potato chips when they’re right out of the oven. Seriously.

I chopped up the red mustard leaves and added them to some leftover chicken and rice soup. I love adding greens to soup — even bagged arugula or frozen spinach work — although red mustard is definitely a cooking-for-myself-who-cares addition, because it turns the soup a deep purple. Mustard is one of those greens that can be unbearably bitter unless boiled, and eating it in a soup ensures you get all the nutrients that would normally be dumped out with the blanching water.

Half the cabbage was cut into 1-inch chunks and roasted like the broccoli, until it was soft and crispy and sweet. Can you tell I like roasting any vegetable I can get my hands onto? The other half of the cabbage awaits its fate in the fridge. Probably a future salad, with or without smoked fish.

The arugula was, as far as I know, tucked into prosciutto sandwiches and eaten by Rob.

A small portion of the cilantro was chopped up and used to marinate fresh sardines. After the sardines were grilled, more cilantro and some of the romaine leaves were rolled into rice paper wrappers with the sardine fillets. As a dinner, it was just okay. I’m still figuring out fresh sardines.

The 4 oranges were peeled and eaten, happily.

Where I really dropped the ball was on the lettuce. I just don’t make many salads at home, especially at this time of year, when I like turning on the oven because that is the only way my frigid kitchen will warm up a little.

I’m also not a fan of raw onion, so I haven’t used either of the red onions yet, but they’ll keep long enough for me to caramelize them or otherwise transform them into something I want to eat.

I never expect to use up all the cilantro when I get a bunch because Rob is one of those weirdos who thinks it tastes like soap. Yes, I’ve heard it might be genetic and yes, I’ve heard Julia Child hated cilantro too. He’s still a weirdo.

What would you do with a mountain of lettuce? And are there any vegetables that you never know what to do with?

Coconutty Oat-Millet Granola

I have an addiction to whole grains. It might sound harmless — healthy even — this gnawing urge to buy a new type of grain whenever I am in the bulk section replenishing my stores of lentils or polenta. But it can be ugly, my pantry bursting with half-filled jars, no room for a box of cereal even. And it can be embarrassing, once the thrill of the purchase has faded and I don’t end up actually using the grain for weeks or even months.

I don’t want to end up on Hoarders: Beans & Grains. Promise you’ll tell me before it’s too late. You’ll know when I start renting a storage space to hold my excess bags of wheat berries and pearled barley.

I bought a giant sack of millet after visiting China, because I often saw the little yellow grain cooked into the congee being ladled out in steaming bowlfuls by street vendors. I’m always looking to jazz up my rice porridge, and I had never cooked with millet before.

But before I could make my own giant pot of congee, millet showed up at work, in a granola brought in by my co-worker Shanti, who keeps us all happily supplied with homemade granola and vegetable soups.

This granola was different from the usual: super-crunchy and seedy. Not seedy like a dive bar, seedy like a Trio bar. If you’re like me and hate soggy cereals, you’ll love this granola; it stays crunchy forever.

To recreate Shanti’s seedy granola, I tweaked my current favorite recipe, Melissa Clark’s Double Coconut Granola. Because millet doesn’t need as much fat and sugar as oats to crisp up, this version has the added bonus of using less coconut oil and sweetener, so it’s not quite as much like eating an oatmeal cookie for breakfast.

My big jar of millet is nearly gone. Who knows what lucky whole grain will come home with me next?

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Friday Links: February 24, 2012

Getting real with sardines. (Follow me on Instagram: anjaliruth.)


What I’ve been reading:

Mucky fat butties and a sense of place – The Guardian UK (side note: best article title ever?)

James Beard Awards 2012: Semifinalists Announced – LA Weekly

The Real Caveman Diet – Slate

After the Feast, the Digestif – New York Times

Tijuana’s Salad Days Are Back! – Carolynn Carreno


What I’ve been cooking:

Charred Carrot Salad – The Yellow House

Crispy Sardines with Lemon and Mint – Donna Hay

Spicy Lemon Date Spread – Joy the Baker

…and thinking about cooking:

Jerry Traunfeld’s Root Ribbons with Sage – Food 52

Beet (not beef) Bourguignon – Green Kitchen Stories

The CSA Project, Part 1: What’s In the Box

I hate wasting food. Blame my Presbyterian missionary lineage, in particular my grandfather, who spent many of his formative years living in India and Thailand, where sweetened condensed milk was a delicacy and underwear was purchased once every five years. In bulk.

The happiest I ever saw him outside of the usual weddings, graduations and baby births was the one time the family gave him a giant box stuffed with generic brand goods from the supermarket for his birthday. It was back when generic brands had monochromatic packaging and just had words like COLA, SHAMPOO and HAM printed on the labels. I remember there was lots of RAMEN in the box and that he was smiling from ear to ear.

So I often feel like I’m channeling Norm when I pack up the three bites of mashed potato left in the bottom of the serving bowl, or take home the wilty bunch of kale from work rather than tossing them out. I can mix the potatoes into a soup, I can perk up the kale in a little cold water. My refrigerator is usually filled with tiny containers that Rob doesn’t bother to explore. I’m the guide: “The leftover rice? Go past the unmarked roasted sweet potato wrapped in foil and to the left, under the Parmesan rind.”

That’s why when I buy a box of vegetables from my favorite CSA — South Central Farmers, they’re great — I try to plan carefully to make sure we eat them all before they go bad. I usually come close to succeeding, and that feels good — even better than a box full of RAMEN.

So how do we eat all these vegetables? I thought it might be interesting to write out a list of what I got in this week’s box and then check back in next week, to see how it all got used. If anything, it will be motivation for me to be on top of it, what with you looking over my shoulder and all.

In this week’s box:
• 1 (large!) bunch celery
• 1 bunch turnips
• 1 bunch arugula
• 1 head romaine lettuce
• 1 head red lettuce
• 4 oranges
• 2 heads broccoli
• 2 red onions
• 1 bunch cilantro
• 1 bunch purple amaranth (?) red mustard
• 1 large cabbage

There is a lot of lettuce in my refrigerator. I foresee more than a few salads this week.

Friday Links: February 17, 2012

On fruit day in my food prep class, some genius made Thai green papaya salad. (Find me on Instagram: anjaliruth.)


What I’ve been reading:

McDonald’s Teams Up With Humane Society To Phase Out Pig Crates – NPR

Heart Attack Grill Customer Has Heart Attack — While Eating 6,000-Calorie Burger – LA Weekly

Charles McIlvaine, Pioneer of American Mycophagy – The Smithsonian

Why Farms Want Cold Winters – Gilt Taste


What I’ve been cooking:

Perfect Baked Polenta – LA Times

Spicy Oven-Roasted Chickpeas – The Kitchn

Asparagus & Ricotta Tart – Apples & Onions

…and thinking about cooking:

Lamb-and-White-Bean Chili – New York Times

Bay-Smoked Potatoes – LA Times