Friday, November 5, 2010

Market Analysis - Catching up through week 21

Yesterday we picked up Week 21 of the farmshare. Our CSA runs all the way through the week before Thanksgiving, when we get a "double share" so they don't have to make a delivery during Thanksgiving week and people can plan their harvest meals a bit further in advance.

Here's a rundown of many weeks of vegetables since the little guy was born.
The weights and amounts of vegetables are real. The prices are largely based on interpolation between a few farmers' markets visits, a few good guesses on things I didn't run across at the market on the weeks I went, etc. We have managed to get (and either eat, or store) our vegetables each week, but I have not been religiously going to the farmers market somehow...

9/30 - week 16
1 bunch toscano kale - $2.50/bunch
bagged lettuce mix - $4/bag
1 bunch arugula - $2.50/bunch
3 lb 2 oz potatoes - $2/lb $6.25
1 bunch celery, 1lb 1oz - $2/bunch - $2
11oz broccoli - $3/lb - $2
3 lb 10 oz carnival squash - $1.80/lb - $6.50
2 leeks - $1/ea - $2
1 lb daikon - $1.50
1 lb tomato - $2.50
3hot peppers - $0.75
Total: $32.50

10/7 – week 17

bunch of kale - $2.50
bunch of baby bok choy - $1.50/ba
bagged lettuce - $4
2 lbs potatoes - $2/lb - $4
.25lb red onion - $1/lb - $0.25
.25lb garlic - $8/lb - $2
1.5lb carrots - $1/lb - $1.50
3lbs buttercup squash - $1.80/lb - $5.40
1lb eggplants - $1.50/lb - $1.50
total: $22.65

10/14 – week 18
1 bunch dino kale - $2.50
1 bag salad greens - $4
1 bag spinach $2.50
2 lb 1 oz delicata squash (3) - $1.80/lb - $3.70
1 lb 3 oz green peppers (6) - $3/lb - $3.56
3 lb 9 oz cauliflower - $2.50/lb - $8.90
12 oz broccoli - $3/lb - $2.25
1 lb turnip - $2/lb - $2
2 leeks - $1/ea - $2
1 lb 5 oz celery (1 bu) - $2
2 lb 5 oz carrots - $1/lb - $2.13
Total: $35.54

10/21 - Week 19
1 lb 5 oz cauiflower - $2.50/lb - $3.28
3 green peppers (1 lb) -$3
1 bunch kale - $2.50
1 head escarole - $2.50
15oz beets - $2/lb - $1.87
6 oz turnip - $2/lb - $0.75
4 lb 3 oz squash – Japanese pumpkin - $1.80/lb - $7.50
3lb cabbage - $1/lb - $3
5 oz garlic - $8/lb - $2.50
2 lb 13 oz potatoes - $2/lb - $5.60
Total: $32.50

10/28 – Week 20
14 oz broccoli - $3/lb - $2.62
2lb celery - $2/bu - $2
1 bunch arugula - $2.50
1 bunch collards - $2.50
2 leeks - $1/ea - $2
2lb 6oz sweet potato - $2.60/lb - $6.17
1 lb 12 oz rutabaga - $2/lb - 3.50
4 lb 6 oz pie pumpkin - $1.80/lb - $6.56
1 lb 10 oz carrots - $1/lb - $1.62
Total: $29.47

11/4 – Week 21
1 lb 14 oz giant brussel sprouts (more than 2 pint containers, but these were weird sized) - $3/pint - $6
1 lb 5 oz celeriac - $2/lb - $2.62
1 bunch red kale - $2.50
14 oz daikon radish - $2/lb - 1.75
10 oz beets - $2/lb - $1.25
2 lb delicata squash - $1.80/lb - $3.60
7 oz red onion - $1/lb - $0.50
10 oz garlic - $8/lb - $5
3 lb 4 oz potatoes $3.25
Total: $26.47

The resulting savings has just crossed the $150 mark this week!

And the resulting plots -

Sunday, October 17, 2010

a short hiatus

In addition to all those vegetables, this growing season also brought us a baby.

He's almost 2 weeks old now, and eventually I'll get some posts up about the farmshare again. I am still keeping track of the data on what's been in our farmshare box and what it cost at the farmer's market. The week he came home, our box didn't even come to our house - a friend with the same share weighed everything in the box for me, delivered us the root vegetables, and brought us many of the items cooked or otherwise ready-to-eat, giving us time to catch up and feel ready for the following week's box to hit our fridge.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Market Analysis : Week 15

Week 15, September 23

Still more cooking and storing than blogging. But no throwing away of things that have gone bad, so these savings are real, at least, assuming I'd be buying this much food at the farmers' market, not letting my inner cheapskate talk me into buying some cheaper, less local option at the grocery store in-season, and so on.

While I've been fairly busy and tired for elaborate food projects (or for posting and photographing things for that matter), simple things are still a fine way to eat farmshare food. We steam many of the greens that arrive in the box and save them for later, when we'll be missing the freshest food in the winter. Last night we ate dinner consisting of leftovers plus freshly steamed broccoli. The most complicated leftover was a bread salad in which many farmshare vegetables, particularly tomatoes, were chopped up and tossed in a dressing of vinegar, olive oil, and tomato juice. I suppose the beet tzatziki (shredded boiled beets, yogurt, garlic, lemon juice, and dill) was about as complicated, but I've made it so many times that it doesn't feel that way. We also ate boiled farm potatoes that were cooked a few days ago.

1 bunch kale: $2.50
1 bunch parsley: $2
2 lb 13 oz tomatoes: $7
10 oz broccoli : $1.87
1 bunch bok choi (a variety with darker leaves): $3.50
14 oz fall turnip : $1.75
1.25 lb acorn squash: $1.25
1/2lb bell pepper : $1.50
2 hot peppers: $0.50
3.25lb potatoes : $9.75
1 lb red onion: $2

Total: $33.62

Monday, September 20, 2010

Market Analysis: Week 14

Week 14, September 16

4 lb Acorn Squash (2 squashes): $1/lb, $4
4 lb Tomatoes (about a dozen tomatoes, orange and red): $2.5/lb, $10
Hot Peppers: 4 hot peppers, 25c ea, $1
1.5lb Peppers (1 orange, 2 red, 1 green): $3/lb, $4.50
3 Leeks: $3
1 Head lettuce: $2.50
1 bunch chard : $2.50
1 bunch Hon Tsai Tai: (an Asian green with edible stems and flowers): $3
Dill: $2 / bunch

Total: $32.50

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Market Analysis : Week 12 & 13

My farmshare ate my blogging the past few weeks - but I'm still here, cooking my way through the late summer bounty and then some. (Why no, it's not almost fall, and it wasn't 55F this morning, and I'm not in denial.) So we'll catch up on 2 weeks at once.

Week 12's share, September 1:

Sweet Corn: 6 ears plus bonus baby corn again. 50c/ear - $3
2.5 lbs Spaghetti Squash: $2.50
1 lb Carrots: $2
1 lb 9 oz Cucumbers: $3
Red Peppers: 50c
2 Leeks: $2
1 Kohlrabi: 50c
2lb 10oz Tomatoes: $6.50
2 Jalapeno Peppers: 25c ea, $0.50
1 head of red "Magenta" lettuce: $2.50
1 large bunch Bok Choy: $2.50
1 bunch Cilantro: $2
1 bunch Dill: $2

Total: $29.50

Week 13's share, September 9:
4 lbs 6 oz tomatoes : $11
2 Jalapeno peppers : 25c ea, $0.50
1 head of lettuce: $2.50
1 bunch basil: $2
1 lb 11oz cucumbers: $3.37
3 bell peppers (14 oz): $2.60
4 red onions (10 oz): $1.25
2 lb 4 oz potatoes: $6.75
6 ears corn: $3

Total: $32.97
Savings at the end of this week is up past $75!

In addition to all this (forgetting I'd probably get *plenty* of corn and tomatoes in the regular share) I ordered extra tomatoes at $1.50 a lb and corn at $3/a dozen and basil at $3/a lb. I made sauce with the tomatoes (and plenty of the ones from the share), pesto with the basil, and froze the corn - half as frozen cooked kernels and half in a creamy corn soup. It's all finally in the freezer, and I've still got roasted jalapenos to cook with the rest of the tomatoes into some salsa to freeze.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Would you like a salad with that?

Yesterday I steamed my arugula, since a 2nd bunch had arrived in the farmshare before we finished the first. I'm not sure what I'll do with it, but now it won't wilt and spoil before I get there. I'm thinking pureed into some kind of chilled soup, maybe with potato and a little fruit for sweetness.

That still left a rather full salad drawer. But today was my annual day of forgetting to wear sunblock while spending several hours in midday sun. It was probably even in the bag we brought to the pool, but somehow that didn't help my sun exposure much. So by dinner time I had that slightly sleepy feeling I get from sun exposure, and I did not require any convincing at all when the youngest family member voted for pizza.

But those greens in the drawer! Could I neglect them for yet another day? While waiting for the pizza I got a plentiful bunch of greens into the salad spinner and placed them in two of our bowl-shaped plates, chopped up a small orange tomato into half-wedges and sprinkled them on top of each plate, and sliced one of the plentiful cucumbers onto the salad plates as well. Last came slices of goat cheese from the farmers' market, and some vinaigrette dressing with basil. (Picky eater's version: some lettuce and some cucumber slices, undressed.) The salad, in a dinner-sized plate, wasn't really a side, but the meal felt more substantial accompanied by some pizza.

So remember to ask yourself, even if it's takeout - would you like a salad with that?

Saturday, August 28, 2010

What's in a box of peaches?

I was worried that I had bitten off more than I could chew this year, with a giant box of peach seconds from Nicewicz Farm, found at the Arlington Center farmer's market.

Last year, when I bought the same delicious giant box of peach seconds, they were mostly "split pits" that tasted great, but if you didn't stay on top of them would rot very fast from the inside out - one morning they'd look fine, that afternoon only half could be saved. Which was fine when one had a bunch of free time coming up - as opposed to planning to disappear for a weekend of camping.

You may recall that the first thing I did with the peaches (aside from just devouring a few, of course) was a lovely peach upside down cake. I also shared about 5 lbs with a friend who couldn't get to the market as fast as me.

And then, the day before the camping trip, I frantically decided I'd better at least do some canning. So another portion of the peaches got peeled, sliced, then put into a very light sugar syrup and dropped into pint jars, then processed in boiling water and stuck in the pantry. I've never done this before and hope I like the results come winter - for now, I'll just be eating the fresh ones for a few more weeks!

The morning of the camping trip, I cut up a quart container's worth of peaches that looked most likely to spoil soon - I think I'm getting better at recognizing split pits. Then they went into the cooler we planned to bring on the trip. Another dozen or so went into a container, whole, to keep an eye on, eat whole, or perhaps even grill. The sliced peaches became a peach cobbler, cooked over a charcoal grill at the campsite in a cast iron dutch oven. The whole ones landed in our breakfast oatmeal, as well as in the bellies of a number of little girls. We managed to bring a few home, even - and successfully returned home to find that the remaining peaches in the bottom of the box were still fine as well. It turns out that this year's batch was not so many split pits, and more peaches with little blemishes on the skin or bruises acquired during picking, so far fewer of them were little ticking time-bombs.

So next up: peach cardamom jam, with a bit of grated ginger, an equal amount of sugar by weight to the fruit, and a generous amount of cardamom, freshly crushed from the pods. I used about 3.5 lbs of peaches, after chopping and peeling. Even the ginger was local - harvested last year by Old Friends Farm and saved in my freezer. I haven't had a problem with stone fruit jams without pectin, and I do use plenty of sugar, and in cool weather I don't even get impatient letting it cook long enough to set.

That left a few more peaches for eating, and just enough to try making some delicious-sounding spiced peach muffins - a huge muffin recipe from King Arthur Flour, with tons of flour, that supposedly freezes well. And a great snack for when friends were coming over for the afternoon - they could finish baking and be ready just in time for afternoon snack. Well, a fine theory, except that I seem to have invented a strange batch of sugar-free muffins, after being sure to hit the supermarket to replenish our brown sugar and everything. The doorbell rang as I'd just put in all the dry ingredients *but* the sugar, and somehow when I got back into the kitchen I was convinced I'd already added all the dry ingredients. For completely sugar free muffins, they were pretty tasty with all the peachy sweetness - but next time, I'll be a little more careful!

This entry is part of a blogathon in support of Mass Farmers Markets. If you appreciate the markets that help make such fabulous local produce available to us every week during the growing season, please consider donating what you can. The blogathon has been organized by Tinky of In Our Grandmother's Kitchens.

Market Analysis: week 11

Today's farmshare came in a large box and was good and heavy. Here's a picture of the haul:

And the rundown of the contents and the farmer's market prices:

Sweet Corn: 6 ears, $3
Yellow-flesh Watermelon: 8 lbs? more? Call it $6.
Carrots: 14 oz : $1
Cucumbers: 3lbs 1 oz $4.50
Yellow Squash: 1 lb, $2
Onions: 1 medium onion, 0.50c
Tomatoes: mix of heirloom and regular, 1 lb 10oz : $4.87
red "Magenta" lettuce : 1 head, $2.50
arugula : 1 bunch, $2.50
Red Kale: 1 bunch, $2.50
Basil: 1 bunch, $2
Cilantro: 1 bunch, $2

Total: $33.37

And the savings vs buying this stuff individually at the farmer's market:

Not included on the list, several of our ears of corn had a fun bonus this week. (No, I don't meant the corn worms.) They'd grown with an extra "twin" ear of corn attached, which separated from the ear before peeling and was much tinier - and as I suspected, basically the same thing the baby corn you get in your takeout stirfied noodles. It would be quite a pain to harvest enough for an actual stirfry, but we cooked 3 in a bit of boiling water and then snacked on them.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Market Analysis: Week 10

This week's box (I know, it all looks like lettuce and chard, but there's actually plenty of other stuff in there...)

Sweet Corn: 7 ears, 50c/ear : $3.50
Canteloupe : 4 lb, 12 oz : $3.80
Carrots: 10oz, $1
Cucumbers: 1 lb, 15 oz : $3.87
Yellow Squash: 1 lb, 6 oz : $2
"Ailsa Craig" Onions (sweet): 2 tiny onions: $1
Tomatoes: 2 lb, $6
"Concept" Lettuce: 1 head, $2.50
Arugula: 1 bunch, $2.50
Swiss Chard: 1 bunch, $2.50
Basil: 1 bunch, $2

total: $30.67

Pretty graphs:

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See that picture of peaches behind the banner of this blog? That was last summer, and it was full of "peach seconds", and I found it one day at the Arlington Center Farmers' market when I went right as the market opened. I've been fantasizing about that giant box as peach season hit this year.

So, all this month, I've been going back to the Arlington Center farmers market, trying to get there when it opens, and heading straight over to my favorite fruit vendor's stall, looking behind the tables for a sign like last year's reading "peach seconds, $10/box". This week, I even parked right near the row of stalls with some kind of premonition about finding something to load into the trunk. And I hit the jackpot (although the sign said $15 this year, it was still parked in the exact same corner on top of a stack of boxes next to the truck). I joked with Mr. Nicewicz about the inflation and he said it was a bigger box. I'm not sure if he was joking or not, but in any case, using the bathroom scale and subtracting the weight of my cooperative spouse, it looks like I got 23 pounds of peaches for that $15. (The box is less full in the photo because I started sorting through it looking for ones that needed immediate treatment. Such as cutting up and eating.)

"Seconds" means that sometimes they've got a little nibble somewhere on the outside, or sometimes they have a hole at the stem or a split in the pit that means that moisture can get it and leave them a bit like a silent time bomb - one day a peach will look beautiful, the next you will discover that 1/4 of it is rotting from the inside out. But if you are vigilant about using them as soon as they show any signs of soft spots, it's mostly just a pile of peaches whose flavor is not "second", for a great discount!

So far, we've eaten peaches sliced fresh, redistributed 5 lbs of peaches to a friend who was jealous that I got to the market hours before she did, and I've baked a peach upside down cake for dessert last night. I'm still torn about whether to make more jam (we already have 6 jars of apricot jam, which is similar enough to get confused when you look at the jars), or try canning them in syrup, or just make a lot of desserts to enjoy right now. Stay tuned!

Good thing I didn't order an extra canteloupe from the CSA this week. I think we've got enough fruit now.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

stir-fries and scrambles

By this point in the season, my fridge is full of an assortment of vegetables.

One thing I've learned over the years is that some vegetables lend themselves well to just using the whole thing up at once and making one side dish starring that vegetable. Also, this can be convenient and simple - plain sauteed greens with a little bit of seasoning, sauteed turnip, boiled zucchini dressed with olive oil, steamed green bean salad, sliced cucumbers with sour cream and yogurt - all take fairly little effort.

But no matter what, some vegetables will wind up being left in small quantities in the fridge, or will come in small quantities to begin with. Or you wouldn't want to eat them on their own - we've gotten one small jalapeno pepper, for instance! (The one small green pepper that arrived twice, on the ther hand, got eaten raw.)

One of my favorite things to do periodically to clean up the stragglers in the fridge drawer is to mix a small amount of a lot of vegetables up into a stir fry or a scrambled egg dish.

This morning's breakfast was a breakfast burrito - scrambled eggs with the last of some arugula, a scallion, a tomato, and some chopped jalapeno pepper, which I put into a tortilla with cheese and a dollop of sour cream.

Tonight for I will be making a stir fry with yellow squash, one tiny Asian eggplant, a few turnips that I hoarded a bit too long, the rest of the scallions, a few carrots, and the bok choy that came in this week's share. And whatever else I find in the drawer that makes sense.

I also try to make sandwiches that use our vegetable bounty - roasted eggplant or pepper plus pesto, a slice of tomato, cheese, and plenty of lettuce, or even a little leftover meat if I have some handy. But this time of year, the vegetables can be the stars of the sandwich!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Market Analysis: Week 9

This week's share:

6 ears Sweet Corn (50c/ear) : $3
6 lb Canteloupe ($1/lb): $6
bunch Head Lettuce: $2.50
bunch Bok Choy: $2.50
2lb Eggplant ($3.50/lb): $7
1lb 5oz Yellow Squash ($2/lb): $2.50
1/2 lb Carrots ($2/lb): $1
1 lb 6 oz Tomatoes ($2.50/lb): $3.40
bunch Green Kale: $2.50
bunch Basil: $2

total: $32.40

Of course, I'm not sure I would have gone for buying a 2 lb eggplant at $3.50/lb (I love eggplant, but I'd probably get a smaller amount of tiny Japanese ones or something, and some boxes probably contained those, but not mine.) And cost might have stopped me from choosig a 6 lb canteloupe at $1/lb, but we certainly won't have any problem eating it all!

We've already eaten half of the sweet corn and one of the ripest tomatoes as part of last night's dinner, and this morning I steamed the kale so it could get put away in a smaller plastic container instead of taking up half a produce drawer. We're also Getting quite a backlog of lettuce but this stuff is quite hardy and stays crisp in the vegetable drawer.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

a fine pickle

I've been pickling cucumbers this month - this time, in 3 ways.

I usually do a batch using the recipe I like from my mother-in-law. Based entirely on past successes and the fact that she's done it that way for a generation, I treat the jars as something that are shelf-stable in a cool pantry or basement as long as I get a seal when the jars have cooled off. (I don't process them in a boiling water canner or anything, but I do start with sterile jars, add well-scrubbed cucumbers, and pour the brine over it all when it's still boiling. Then I let it cool gradually and it creates a seal.) They are vinegar pickles with enough salt and sugar in them that I'm happy enough with non-refrigerated storage, but I'm no expert.

This year I wanted to try two new kinds too:

Kosher dills, fermented on their own with no vinegar - you put them in a brine of the right strength, keep them somewhere cool for a few days, and, er... hope they don't get moldy. The first batch, I didn't weigh down properly, the cukes stuck up from the brine, and the whole top was too modly to believe I could salvage - but at least I could smell that the lactic acid fermentation was working too - so tempting, but not what I was willing to eat. The second one I way overfilled the jars with brine and used short cucumbers. I tried them this morning and they seem to taste like deli half-sours - hooray! These need to go in the fridge once their fermentation is over, so I only made two jars. I made them using cucumbers already cut up into spears, which is supposed to help them pickle faster and also helped me get rid of portions of some questionable cukes without throwing away the parts that looked good.

And last but not least, sliced sweet yellow pickle chips. This is not normally my favorite kind of pickle, thus it did not occur to me to make it myself. It did not occur to me how much more I would like it if I made it myself, either! I used a recipe from the chapter on condiments in my new favorite cookbook Charcuterie, and my conclusion is that Ruhlman knows his meats... and his pickles too. These are going on many more of my sandwiches this summer! They also have to stay in the fridge, but it's worth the real estate - I have 3 more pint jars in there right now. Also - an awesome thing to bring to a potluck BBQ, since they go so well on many of the things that will be coming off the grill!

Sauteed baby cabbage

Last night we pulled some sausages out of the freezer, and meanwhile in another pan I sliced up the baby cabbages, leaving the core on each slice to hold them together, and sauteed each slice in butter. It took a few batches, but that was how long it took the sausages to cook too.

I think there's a more artistic way to do this - the slices still came apart somewhat - but simple, really good cabbage, sauteed with butter and salt - who needs a complicated recipe on a summer night?

Monday, August 9, 2010

Market Analysis: Week 8

The farmers said that this box is a box between several seasons - some of the early crops are wrapping up, and some of the later crops are just getting started. So we're not quite inundated with tomatoes yet, the sweet corn was a pretty small amount, the squash is tapering off, etc. We had moved up to a larger size box last week, but this week was back to small.

3 ears sweet corn: (50c/ear) $1.50
2 tiny red cabbages (adorable!) 1 lb 10oz, $3.25
large bunch carrots: $3
6 oz yellow squash: $1.10
1 large green pepper: ($3/lb) $1
1 cucumber: ($2/lb) $1
1 tiny Asian eggplant : ($3/lb): $0.25
1 jalapeno pepper : $0.25
4 tomatoes (1 lb 9 oz) : $5.45
1 head "Nevada" lettuce: $2.50
1 bunch arugula: $2.50
1 bunch basil: $2.00

This week's total : $23.80

So far we've enjoyed the corn, the basil (I tend to have almost-weekly pesto in this season), and some of the tomatoes and carrots, but I haven't been cooking that much.

I think tonight's dinner will try doing something with whole slices of the baby red cabbages. They are so cute! And we should probably have some more green salad. Plenty of that in the drawer.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Another way to save money with a CSA

If I wasn't doing this research project to get farmer's market prices to compare to our CSA each week, I wouldn't go to the farmer's market every single week.

And thus, I might not have spent:

  • $5 on a very nice loaf of bread.

  • $5 on a lovely quart of purplish-red round plums.

  • and $3 on some yellow and purple string beans (you see, they don't come with the farmshare unless we drive out to pick them ourselves.)

So I guess the CSA *could* have saved me another $13 this week. The things I do for my readers.

Market Analysis: Week 7

This week's box is starting to look very summery - 3 tomatoes, lots of sweet corn, an eggplant... and still plenty of squash, carrots, and cucumbers. I'm glad the weekend looks cool enough to cook some!

Last week's 12 lbs of extra cucumbers may have been a bit too many for how my week turned out - I've still got some left, but I do have 7 quart jars of sour-and-salty vinegar pickles, 4 pint jars of sweet pickle chips, and plans to try a few more jars of kosher dills. (Those are trickier, because you put them straight into the right amount of salty water with seasonings, and hope they actually ferment and do not mold. This apparently does not always happen. How the heck do commercial pickle makers pull this off?)

7 ears Sweet Corn (0.50c/ear) : 3.50
1 lb 1 oz Red Cabbage: $2.10
1 lb 1 oz carrots Carrots ($2/lb) : $2.10
Yellow Squash and zucchini (1 lb 2 oz): $2.25
2 lbs 12 oz cucumbers (pickling and slicing) : $4.10
Bunch of Scallions: $2
1 lb Eggplant: $3
1 lb Tomatoes: $3.50
1 Head Lettuce: $2.50
1 bunch Kale: $2.50
1 bunch Cilantro: $2
total: $29.55

To date, the farmshare has filled our fridge (and our bellies) with $21 more in produce than we would have gotten if we'd set out to the farmers' market to buy this exact mix of items!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Market Analysis, week 6

This week's box contained:

Yellow Squash and zucchini: 1lb 4 oz, $2.50

Cucumbers (mix of slicing and pickling) 2 lb 3 oz, $4.40

bunch of scallions: $2.50

Carrots, bunched with greens: $2.00

Fennel: $3.00

Green Pepper: $0.75

1lb Tomatoes: $3

1 Head Romaine Lettuce: $2.50

1 bunch Kale: $2.50

1 bunch Basil: $2

Total : $25.15

I also used another money-saving feature of our CSA this week. I ordered 3 lbs of swiss chard for a total of $6. Looking at the amount of chard, I'd say that was about 5 bunches worth, which go for $2.50/bunch at the farmers' market, so that's about $6 spent and $6 saved. I've just finished steaming the chard, squeezing it out, and putting it in the freezer for winter or for any other time that we want to make swiss chard and potatoes, one of our favorite dishes and a must for grilled fish if you have Croatians in your family. I also ordered 12 lbs of pickling cukes for $1/lb, which is half the rate they go for at the farmers' market. Now I just have to make a lot of pickles!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Reverse Shopping List

When the farmshare arrives each week, I take a quick inventory of what's still in the fridge from the last week, and what's just arrived, and make a sort of "reverse shopping list" of what produce needs using, and what's most urgent.

I like to cook on the fly, for the most part - I'm certainly not one to stick to a weekly meal plan made out in advance. But I am always checking up mentally with what's in the fridge, what the weather's looking like, whether we've got many dinners out coming up, what leftovers we should be eating soon, and so on. And I tend to have a queue, at least in my head, of some meals I plan to make in the next few days. This week, for example, the use-up list includes zucchini with many exclamation points. Some of it got grilled, some of it will go into zucchini bread (enough to freeze), some might go into an omelette or another batch of grilling, and some might get shredded and frozen on its own. The collards got steamed to make them less urgent, but I'm thinking of making a one-pot sautee meal I often make with collards, chicken/sausage/pork, onions, and BBQ sauce. The chinese cabbage went to a potluck, the cucumber will go into a test batch of kosher dill pickles. The tomato didn't even go on the use-up list but it did get devoured - twice with sandwiches and a 3rd meal over pasta with leftover grilled zucchini and grilled sausages. And if I don't have a plan, I recheck our reverse shopping list before deciding what to cook, with a goal of making sure we eat at least one leftover item or farmshare item that's on the list.

So that's a bit of my version of "planning" around a fridge full of food. What's yours?

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Market Analysis: Week 5

Unpacking this week's box:

1 lb 13 oz Green Cabbage: ($1/lb) : $1.80
5 lb Zucchini ($2/lb) : $10
Dill: $0.50
2 lb 3 oz Pickling Cucumbers: ($2/lb) : $4.40
1 bunch Scallions: $2
1 bunch carrots: $3
1 head radicchio: $3
13 oz tomatoes: ($3/lb) $2.40
giant head Lettuce: $2.50
Collard Greens: $2.50

Total: 32.10, a good $10 above the average box cost. That's quite a bumper crop of zucchini. I did go with a $2/lb price of zucchini - lots of stalls had it for different prices. There were a few vendors who sold it cheaper but they definitely use pesticides (in a limited way, but still, not quite comparable to our CSA) and one who sold it more expensively than the price I went with.

And the plot from this week:

Leftover from last week, we have half a bunch of scallions, a few of the zucchini, and a fair bit of Chinese cabbage, which I intend to turn into more salad or some spring rolls to bring to a BBQ this weekend. With 5 lbs of new zucchini, I think I'll be taking my own advice and making and freezing some zucchini bread very soon!

Warm Food

I'd be exaggerating if I called this an inspired seasonal recipe using vegetables that go wonderfully together and are likely to come in your farmshare box this month.

Actually, what happened is that I wanted to do something with the fennel other than cut it up and serve it over salad. Fennel is seasonal right now. It came in our box this week, and I like it, but I've never actually tried to cook it before.

So I browsed through some of my cookbooks and found a recipe that sounded great, for braised fennel and celeriac. Celeriac, or celery root, is not at all seasonal right now. It's a late fall root vegetable that stores well over the winter in a root cellar.

Well, my squirrel tendencies and our winter storage share came to the rescue - I was saving that last celeriac, the last item remaining item from our winter share, in the vegetable drawer. I kept telling myself that it was small and I'd work on using it up when we seemed like we might run of room to put away the share one of these weeks.

So I was able to combine celeriac and fennel in this recipe, adapted from Claudia Roden's Book of Jewish Food. Sometimes, things that aren't in season together and seem to have very different styles make a surprisingly wonderful pairing!

Braised Celery and Fennel with Lemon

3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tbsp light vegetable oil
1 small celeriac, about 1/2 lb, peeled and cut into ¾-inch cubes
1 medium fennel head, cut in half, then in thick slices
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp sugar
Salt and black pepper

In a wide pan with a cover, fry the garlic in the oil till lightly colored. Add the celeriac and fennel, and add water to barely cover. Add the lemon juice, sugar, and a little salt and pepper, and simmer with the lid on, stirring occasionally, for 1/2 hour. Then take the lid off, increase the heat and reduce the liquid to a thick sauce.

You could serve this as a cold salad mixed with parsley, but since it was wet and rainy and we felt like warm food, we served it warm, over some quinoa that I cooked in the rice cooker with 3 parts water and 1 part pineapple juice. The slight sweetness that the juice added to the quinoa was just right with the celeriac and fennel over the top.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Cold Food

Some of this food did require a bit of cooking, but after a week of avoiding any use of flame in the kitchen I was going crazy. Also, I think I may have acclamated to the heat a bit.

In the end we wound up with a meal we could stand to eat in the 88 degree dining room.

Last night's menu:
Bread (I do not recommend baking your own bread when it's hot out, but guess who did?)

Hummus (from a friend who had too much), doctored with lemon juice and chopped basil that came from our farm.

Garlic scape pesto, leftover in the fridge. I'm surprised I haven't tried this before this year! Recipe below.

Raw kale salad. I made a batch of this last night when it was also too hot to cook, but last night I couldn't come up with something else to accompany it so we had takeout chicken fingers.

Raw turnip and apple salad. I've been hoarding these because I love them so much despite having plenty of other food in the CSA box that needs cooking, and today I realized I'd better start using them even if it's not always for sauteed turnips. So today one large turnip went into this salad. Recipe below.

Beet Tzatziki. A creamy salad with cooked, grated beets, garlic, lemon, dill, and yogurt. This one involves boiling water for a while but it's so worth it. Recipe below.

Beet Tzatziki
Inspired by Sofra restaurant, adapted from Spice: Flavors of the Eastern Mediterranean, by Ana Sortun, based on this adaptation.

3 baby beets
3 tiny cloves pressed garlic
juice of about 1 lemon
1/4 cup sour cream plus 1/4 cup regular yogurt (take the thick part, if you can, instead of blending the liquid back in) This substituted for Greek yogurt, which is what I've used before.
1/2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoon schopped fresh dill
Black pepper
Mix, taste, and leave covered in the refrigerator at least 1 hour before eating.

Raw Turnip and Apple Salad
based on Farmer John's Cookbook: The Real Dirt on Vegetables
1 peeled, grated granny smith apple
1 peeled, grated Hakurei turnip
juice of 1/2 to 1 lemon
1 tbsp olive oil
1/4c raisins
2 tsp chopped fennel fronds
salt and pepper to taste

Mix, taste, and leave covered in the refrigerator at least 1 hour before eating.

Garlic Scape Pesto

10-12 garlic scapes, chopped into 1" pieces
1/4 cup ground almonds
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

In a food processor, combine scapes, almonds, cheese and some of the olive oil. Blend until combined. Add remaining olive oil, scraping sides occasionally. Eat, or store in a jar in the fridge (or freezer, supposedly, but I haven't tried that yet.)

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Market Analysis: Week 4

Here's this week's box!

3 lbs zucchini ($2/lb, $6)
1 bunch bok choy ($3)
1 head napa cabbage ($2)
1 head fennel ($3)
1 bunch scallions ($2)
1 giant head lettuce ($2)
1 bunch swiss chard ($2)
1 small bunch garlic scapes ($2)
1 bunch basil ($2)

Total value: $24

After the week 3 blip we're still catching up, and so far we're staying within a few dollars of what it would have cost to buy these boxes as the farmers market.

"Inventory control" this week wasn't so good. It's been too hot to cook all week, but that means we used up the most perishable greens and scallions that are best to eat raw, as well as inventing several ways to eat zucchini raw. We went through a lot of napa cabbage, but there's still plenty of it. (And look what arrived today! MORE napa cabbage!) So we are still working our way through many of the other items from last week. But I always feel like we're ahead of the game as long as it fits in the refrigerator drawers.

adventures with cabbage

We got a giant head of napa cabbage two weeks ago, and then before it was finished we got another one last week. So I've been on a quest to use up the cabbage creatively that ended up in a recipe I'm pretty happy with.

the basics:

for every 4 cups of sliced napa cabbage

2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tbsp plain vegetable oil (we use safflower, but you could use canola, sunflower, etc.)

I don't usually measure while I'm making salad dressings, so taste this and feel free adjust a little to taste - more sugar if it's too sweet, more soy sauce if it's not salty enough, more sesame oil if you can't taste it, etc.

the rest:

Add whatever else inspires you (or whatever else you've got too much of in the fridge!) to the salad. Last night's version had some sliced sugar snap peas, some shredded arugula, and some scallions. If you want to make it a main dish, you could add the protein of your choice and more vegetables with a little more density than cabbage and leafy greens.

Which brings me to another tip - in addition to finding simple recipes you like with a vegetable you have a lot of, sharing it with friends is a great way to use more of it before it gets a little repetitive on your table. Last night's cabbage salad went to a potluck dinner. We've got about 2 servings left, and it keeps well enough that they should work for tonight's dinner.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Fresh Spring Rolls, or Anything But Salad

At our CSA farm, it's the season for Chinese cabbage. Apparently this crop does well in their soil and microclimate, because I seem to remember getting HUGE heads in the past and this year is no different.

Chinese cabbage is good in stir fries (too hot) or salads (getting a bit boring, working our way through the 2nd large head). I even managed to distribute some of it to my daughter's preschool class, doing a visiting "show and tell" where we guessed all the vegetables in the CSA box, and passed things around to touch, smell, and observe. It was a big hit at snacktime that morning! But we still have plenty left.

So today I remembered another hot-weather meal that's great for cabbage and for a hot day - fresh spring rolls. These are the kind you might have tried at a Vietnamese restaurant, in a translucent wrapper with lots of fresh vegetables and perhaps some shrimp or chicken inside, a few mint or basil leaves, and a dipping sauce or two.

You'll probably need to go to an Asian supermarket to get the rice paper wrappers, but it's well worth it for a hot weather meal that can be adapted to anyone's tastes and requires little to no cooking. The wrappers look like this:

To cook them, you can just microwave some water until it's hot but not too hot to stick your hands in, and pour into a shallow bowl. You dip one wrapper in until it feels soft, then carefully pull it out and spread on a plate.

Then, for fillings, you'll want shredded cabbage, maybe some slices of leftover meat or some little sticks of tofu, shredded carrot or thinly sliced scallion, cucumber, anything that strikes your fancy! We used some leftover deli turkey, scallions, and quick sauteed matchtsticks of zucchini and hakurei turnip as well as the cabbage.

The dipping sauces are something else you might find at the Asian Market or you can mix up yourself: vinegar and sugar and fish sauce, black bean paste and vinegar, peanut butter thinned out with water and vinegar, etc.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Zucchini Season!

Who says I actually need to cook the thing before I suggest it to anyone else?
The forecast for this weekend is for weather close to 90, and we've got enough other stuff to do in the house that now is not the best time to heat up the kitchen. But I just read this idea in our CSA newsletter and thought "aha!" So I'm passing it on.

The brilliant insight: Instead of trying to freeze zucchini, freeze things you alredy cooked with the zucchini. Zucchini bread was at the top of their list.

No recipe, because I don't know that I'd use the one in the newsletter. Use your favorite, with nuts or chocolate or raisins to make the a bit sweet. Or ask a friend!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Market Analysis: Week 4

giant head of Chinese Cabbage: $3
Hakurei Turnips: $2.50
2 lbs zucchini ($2/lb) : $4
bunch of baby beets & greens: $3
Scallions: $2
Arugula: $2.50
Head Lettuce: $2.50
Green Kale: $2.50
bonus: a few sprigs of dill

Total: $22.00, back above the weekly cost, by a hair.

To go along with my "market analysis", a quick note on "inventory management"...
We spent a few days out of town since picking up the last share, and didn't cook quite as much. In preparation for this one arriving I made stir fried noodles yesterday with some of last week's chinese cabbage, bok choy, leftover noodles, and turnips. I also steamed the kale and the turnip greens and froze them. So in addition to this week's sharem our fridge already contained a little bit of lettuce, half a Chinese Cabbage, a few turnips, half the bok choy, and a few garlic scapes.
Not enough to be a huge challenge to use up while it's good, I hope.

Market Analysis: Week 3

The week 4 box is on its way to Boston, but I never wrote about Week 3, so here you go.

My box contained:
1 GIANT head of napa cabbage - I've got to guess on this one, $3
1 head of lettuce - $2.50 at this week's market
1 head of kale - $2.50 at this week's market
2 zucchini, about 1 lb - $1 at this week's market
1 large bunch bok choy - $2.50 at this week's market
1 head hakurei turnips with greens - $2.50 at this week's market
1 small bunch garlic scapes - about $3 worth

This week's total: $17, less the $21.25/week cost of my share. I'm a bit surprised. Before I started adding up the total of what's in my box, I would have expected that the first month or so would be less than the cost of my share per week, but would quickly catch up. Instead, the first 2 weeks just about broke even and the third week was a little light on value at the farmers market (though as the farmers said, it's getting heavier on weight!) My guess is that at the beginning the farmers' markets are actually charging a bit more of a premium for what they've got for sale. Also, we got a pretty long list of greens and that's mellowed out as we're getting some more dense items like the bok choy and the Napa cabbage.

Will the trend go up, or down, in week 4? Stay tuned, the truck is already on its way here...

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Scallion Pancakes

Scallion season is here! We cook scallions in just about everything, but I'm also trying to be in squirrel mode all summer long instead of just in the fall this year.

Here's my favorite way to save fresh scallions for later: frozen scallion pancakes.
The dough is easy to make, I'll get plenty of scallion goodness when I use them later, and our household's resident picky eater loves them.

Plus, once they're in the freezer it's very easy to pull out one or two and fry them up, making it possible to make a simple Chinese-style meal at home *and* a favorite appetizer. Meanwhile we're cooking our own healthy vegetables instead of paying someone else to deliver theirs.

I borrowed the recipe from Ming Tsai, but I've included it here with my way of creating the pancakes and freezing them.

* 2 cups all purpose flour
* 1 cup hot water (I boil it in the microwave)
* 1/2 cup sliced scallions
* 1 tablespoon sesame oil
* 1/2 cup canola oil
* Salt and black pepper to taste
* 1/2 cup ginger dipping sauce, recipe to follow


Measure flour into a bowl, then make a dough by adding the hot water while mixing with a wooden spoon. Mix/knead (be careful, the dough will be hot!) until dough forms a ball.

On a floured surface, roll out dough into a 1/2" thick rectangle. Brush on oil mixture, cover with scallion and season with salt and pepper. Carefully roll dough into a log, rolling the scallion inside. Cut into 4 pieces.

Flatten each piece, fold over again once or twice, then shape into a ball and form a pancake about 1/4" to 1/2" thick. Place pancake on wax paper and continue stacking pancakes with wax paper between. Freeze pancakes. (I made a double batch and cooked about 1/2 the first batch the same day, and froze the rest.)

To cook pancakes, in a hot non-stick pan, coat with canola oil and pan sear both sides until golden brown. Cut into wedges and serve immediately with dipping sauce of your choice.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Sharing a Share!

Has all this talk about community supported agriculture and farmshare boxes got you thinking about trying it out?

I'm an enthusiastic CSA customer - of meat, vegetables, fish, and fruit so far (though we're skipping the fish this season) but lest you think that I'm some kind of crazy person I should mention that I've tried out all of these CSAs by sharing them with someone else at first. And added each one in gradually.

My very first season with Brookfield Farm, I think we signed up to take home a third of someone else's box - giving us a chance to choose those vegetables we thought would get eaten in our household, and to take home an amount small enough to feel managable and to adjust to how to plan my meals around which vegetables are arriving in the box that week. Hate brussels sprouts? (What's wrong with you?) Your share may be happy to take extra. Love rutabagas? You can probably bargain with you share partner to take them all home. You might want to find a partner who doesn't love and hate all the exact same things as you so that the splitting has two winners instead of a winner and a loser.

With our CSA, we moved up to half a share for a year or two, and then a full share's worth because eventually I felt confident that I wanted to cook and eat it all, and I couldn't stand seeing all that good stuff in the box and only taking half of it home. We still share our meat CSA - though in the end I take home a quantity that's about as much as having one small share, we save a bit more money per pound and get a bit more selection by having one extra-large share to divide up. I signed up for the fish share myself because it seemed like a lot of time-sensitive work to divide up a whole fish each week, and my eyes were a bit bigger than my stomach - though I did adapt eventually and we didn't waste much fish. Next time we do it, though, I've realized the best way to share it would be just to alternate weeks - one week I'd get a whole fish, the next week the next person would.

Even though the season has started by now, it may not be too late to find a friend who has a share and has decided that it's a bit more than they want to cook and eat each week. Keep your ears open and join us in cooking fabulous sustainably raised local food!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Keep it Simple

One thing I've learned as farm season starts to ramp up is that it's easier to keep up if I keep my meals simple. The vegetables don't need elaborate preparations to taste good when they're this good to begin with (and that's a relief when it's over 80 degrees in the kitchen, too!)

So with the many cooking greens we've gotten in the past 2 weeks - mixed baby braising greens, tat soi, komatsuna, swiss chard, collards, turnip and radish greens - the first step I've taken is generally to sautee, boil, steam, or blanch.

Two-thirds of the komatsuna got put away after sauteeing and eaten just like that.
The other third went into a quick grain salad - brown rice, komatsuna, raw scallions, and frozen corn from last year with a dressing of oil rice vinegar and a splash of soy. Grain salads are one of my go-to sides in summer - just mix some likely suspects including cooked greens up with something crunchy or chewy and sweet and some grains cooked in the rice cooker.

The swiss chard went into our favorite simple dish from the Croatian coast - chard and potatoes. ( Cook peeled potato slices in salted water, when they're close to done add the chard, then drain when the potatoes are cooked, mix, and season with olive oil and more salt.)

The braising greens got steamed in the microwave and sent to be part of a school lunch, and the remainder went into some scrambled eggs with greens.

The tat soi, which I love, but was looking like I might not get to while it was still in good shape, got blanched and frozen so I can love it when the season's ending too. I pulled a little bit out before I was steaming to go in some fried rice while it was cool enough to cook last night.

One place I violated "keep it simple" was the turnip greens - which I steamed, then incorporated into a pasta dough. It was healthy and fresh, but such a pain to work with - the greens made the dough wet and sticky and I didn't get them dry enough first. I actually stopped when I'd made what looked like enough for dinner and still had some dough left over, which we experimentally made into some firm gnocchi a few days later. I won't rule this idea out entirely, but next time I won't try to pretend pasta making is simple just because sometimes I can pull it off without seeming like a Project.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Market Analysis week 2

It's already starting to look like a lovely bounty in there! I only went to one farmers market this week (and only bought garlic scapes so I'd be sure to have enough to make scape pesto even though I knew there'd be some in our share, and fresh shallots because I couldn't resist... er, and some fruit too.) I noted the prices of radishes, turnips, scapes, and bunches of pretty much any green thing that could come in bunches (all $2 a bunch). A few things in our box weren't actually available at the market this week though so I followed these observations and made a few guesses.

1 bunch radishes ($2)
1 bunch Hakurei turnips ($2)
1 small bag of garlic scapes ($3)
1 large bunch baby bok choy ($2)
1 bunch arugula ($2)
2 tiny zucchini - I saw none at the farmers market, but they're tiny, call it 50c worth.
1 bag washed cutting lettuce ($3)
1 bag washed tatsoi ($3 pending more any more specific tat soi info)
1 head romaine ($2)
1 bunch collard greens ($2)

total market value of my box this week: $21.50, officially ahead of the farmer's market prices on week #2!


Friday, June 11, 2010

Turnip, turnip...

The Hakurei turnip seems to be a favorite vegetable of CSAs and farmers' markets in Massachusetts. It's a small, mild variety that can be planted early and is ready to harvest in the very beginnings of the season. I first heard of it and saw one when I got our first farmshare box from Brookfield back in 2002 or 2003 - since then I've started noticing them at farmers markets and hearing about them in other folks' CSA boxes as well. Eat them raw, like radishes, they say. Well, okay - you can. They're good, and so are radishes, a little spicy, crunchy, and definitely spring-y. And this time of year, I have plenty of both for our raw crunchy sharp eating needs!

Thanks to Brookfield, I also discovered that I love fall turnips. Sliced thin, sauteed in butter, maybe with some parsley or a little black papper - totally simple and delicious. The bite goes away, the butter makes them tender and delicious, and they're even a great side to cook a bunch of and serve with a few different meals as the week goes on.

Last year's brainstorm : spring turnips are still, well, turnips. If I don't want to eat them crunchy and raw, I can sautee them in butter too! They taste at least as good as the fall ones (possibly even better), and they give me something substantial to cook when the majority of what I'm getting is greens. So if you've got turnips too, I encourage you to give sauteeing a try.

Sauteed Spring Turnips

1 bunch Hakurei turnips
2 Tb butter
salt and pepper to taste
chopped fresh parsley (optional)

Wash and slice the turnips. They don't need peeling.
Heat the butter in a skillet, add the turnips, and sautee over medium-high heat until they are tender. (I didn't time this, but it's probably 5-10 minutes.)
Add salt and pepper to taste, sprinkle on parsley if you want. Enjoy!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Market Analysis: Week 1

My first CSA box contains:

1 bunch radishes
1 bunch Hakurei Turnips
1 bag Cutting Lettuce
1 bag Braising Mix
1 bunch Swiss Chard
1 bunch Arugula
1 bunch Komatsuna

Yesterday at the farmers' markets I took notes on what was for sale. Prices vary a bit, and the cheaper farms tend to use IPM (integrated pest management, a low-pesticide farming approach) and the more expensive ones are USDA certified organic. Our CSA uses organic methods but isn't certified, so I've picked the middle price range when there were a number of farms offering the same item.

so for our small early season box, that's:
radishes, $2
turnips, $3
bagged lettuce mix, $4
bagged braising mix, $4
swiss chard, $2.50
arugula, $2.50
komatsuna, $2.50
total: $20.50

We get 24 distribution weeks at Brookfield farm for $510, $21.25 a week. (That's being slightly conservative, the last box is supposed to count as 2 distributions and be twice as big. But I'll stick to $21.25 a week rather than $20.40.) And the first week is usually the smallest distribution. It still comes pretty close to buying all that at the farmers market!

(Nobody was selling komatsuna yesterday, but I'll assume it'd be priced similarly to any of the other bunches of cookable greens that were for sale.)

(As an aside: strawberries were a dollar cheaper in Arlington than in Somerville! From the same farm who has a stand at both, even! (Because the competition at the Arlington market was a different farm, and they were selling theirs cheaper, I presume.)

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

pretty in pink

Before rhubarb season in Massachusetts completely passes us by, I though I'd better do *something* with the bunch I picked up at the farmers market. It was in my fridge for almost 2 weeks in the crisper drawer and still just fine!

Browsing for a recipe for something other than pie, I came up with a simple jam recipe that sounded like it would work for a few small jars. The recipe called for 1 lb of rhubarb and the picture showed a lovely pink jam - but as I saw when I cut up my rhubarb, I got some stalks that were rosy on the outside and quite green on the inside. Problem solved: I still have a bag of frozen, locally grown cranberries in the freezer, which would add some tart fruit and perk up the color of the jam. The recipe also called for candied ginger, and I had frozen ginger - another locally grown find last fall.

Rhubarb-Cranberry-Ginger Jam

1 bunch rhubarb, about 3/4lb, chopped into 1/2" pieces
fresh or frozen raw cranberries, about 1/4 lb
1/2 c sugar
1-2 Tbsp grated fresh ginger
1 Tbsp water (I just let a little the ice that had accumulated on the cranberries melt.)

The other project in the picture is one of our two loaves of molasses-wheat bread. There was one local ingredient there - the whole wheat flour was grown and milled at Four Star Farms in Northfield, MA. Nothing new there, except that my daughter, reading Little House in the Big Woods expressed amazement that they had made bread without bread machines. I pointed out that that didn't have to be so different even though we live in modern times, and chose this loaf to knead by hand and bake. We kneaded it before dinner, it rose during dinner, we shaped it after dinner and it went into the pans for its 2nd rising, and it was just coming out of the oven at her bedtime.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

single-jar pickling

Canning and pickling can be a great idea when you're faced with a bounty of some particular crop from your CSA, or find a great deal on a large quantity of something, or just want to make sure you're supplied with pickles you made yourself all year round.

But if you like the taste of pickled vegetables or homemade jam, there's no reason to limit yourself to doing it as a big project.

We've used up all of our homemade cucumber pickles (note to self: buy a few more jars worth of pickles this summer!) and the smaller batch of pickled beets I made last fall too. But we still had a few beets in the refrigerator drawer from our last winter CSA pickup. So before we get our first CSA box this week, I mixed up a quick jar of pickled beets to empty out the drawer a bit and to have more cold vegetable options as we head into the warmer season.

The recipe is simple, and no do for a quart of liquid and 4 beets than it would be for several gallons of liquid and a lot more beets. Honestly, with beets I think it's easier to make one jar than more since each jar you fill requires peeling and slicing enough beets to go inside!

easy pickled beets

(makes 1 quart size canning jar)

4-6 medium beets, cooked until tender, peeled, and sliced
1 crushed garlic clove
1 tsp caraway seeds

Sterilize the jar in boiling water (I actually skip this step when I'm making a small batch that will not be stored in the pantry forever... but please don't use me as your food safety authority!) Put the sliced beets directly into the jar as you slice them. Add the garlic and caraway seeds directly into the jar.

For the pickling liquid:

6 dl (or 2.5 cups) red wine vinegar
1.5 dl (or 5/8 cup) water
60 grams sugar (a quarter cup plus a teaspoon will do, if you don't have a kitchen scale)
22 grams salt (about 3.5 teaspoons)

Heat the liquid with the sugar and salt until the are dissolved and the water comes to a boil. Then pour the water directly into the jar, cover, and let cool. The beets should be ready to eat after pickling at room temperature for a few weeks.
Store in the refrigerator after you open the jar.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Market Analysis

I haven't picked up my first CSA share yet - Brookfield farm starts deliveries next week. So for the 3rd week in a row that some market in the area was open I got to go to the farmers' market and buy as many vegetables as I thought we would eat, without worrying about duplicating what was waiting to come my way in the CSA share.

For me, what I buy even at a farmers' market where everything look tempting is still less than I'm ever likely to get in a CSA box. That's one of the things I appreciate about having a weekly box I'm committed to in advance - if it comes into the house, I will find a way to cook it and eat it. If I have to decide what I want, even if my choices are gorgeous and fresh and locally grown, I will bring home a smaller bundle.

A recent conversation got me thinking about food costs - how much do I spend at the farmers' market compared to how much those items might have cost elsewhere, how much do I take home, and how much do I get in a weeks' CSA box compared to what that costs. (Nevermind that even when I'm getting a box, I *still* go to the farmers' markets to supplement with fruit, dairy, bread, meat, and crops that my CSA doesn't grow or that I'm not going to drive 2 hours away to pick...)

I'm hoping to do a weekly report, once my CSA starts up, of the farmers' market prices that week on all of the items in my box. (Bear with me if this doesn't work out - the main challenge is that our neighborhood farmers' market runs the day *before* my CSA pickup for the week.) In the meanwhile, I'll just tally up the cost of my week's outing to Davis Square:

Blue Heron Farm, Lincoln:
1 bunch spinach, $2
1 bunch lettuce, $3

Hanson's Farm:
1 quart strawberries, $7

Enterprise Farm, Whately:
1 lb broccoli, $3.50
(in June! Brookfield's is usually ripe in August or September, I'm boggling.)

And that's it for the produce. Under $10 worth of vegetables plus the expensive fruit. (Maybe the price will come down later in the season? I don't like this trend of berries costing a dollar or two more every year.)

Then, of course, I also had to get :
a small package of smoked haddock, $5
a small package of RI-made feta from Naragansett Creamery, $7
a loaf of locally baked potato-pepper bread from Breadsong, $4.50
and a sage plant to stick on the back porch, $4

I won't claim that my CSA will save me all of those slightly impulsive add-on purchases, since I still go to the farmer's market even when it's running.

Next week, stay tuned for the first installment of actually analyzing what comes in the CSA vs. the cost of those items at the market.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Salad days

The leafy greens are leafing and greening all over Massachusetts. June seems to me to be both a blessing and a curse - I'm thrilled to finally have fresh tasty greens that didn't have to come out of my freezer or be shipped to me, and salads are gloriously easy to prepare, but eventually I'm going to tire of eating my greens the same way all the time.

I can't exactly explain why "more, different, salad" makes me so excited when I'm facing the prospect of a month of salad with dinner every day. Maybe it's just that the greens I've eaten all winter have tended to be what I've frozen last summer and fall. Or maybe I should have been buying more hardy greens in winter and doing this then - but better late than never, I suppose.

Joining my lettuce based salad lineup this year is :

Shredded kale salad

  • 1 bunch kale, sliced into thin shreds or ribbons (you can even leave the center rib in where it's not 1/2" thick)

  • 2-3 tbsp apple cider vinegar or lemon juice

  • 1 tsp salt

  • 1-2 cloves crushed garlic

  • 1 tbsp olive oil

Put the kale in a bowl, add the salt, garlic, and vinegar/lemon juice, toss thoroughly, and let sit for at least 30 minutes. This step will tenderize the kale.
Then add the olive oil and toss together, adjust seasoning to taste.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

A Guide to Locally Raised Meat in the Boston Area

What I really want to be eating is more crunchy green things. But as I think I've whined about in every post in this blog so far, they're still not quite in season yet.

But fortunately meat keeps going all year round - and we're getting plenty of tasty things from our Chestnut Farm meat CSA. There are a few meat CSAs in this area, which all work pretty similarly - the season runs year round and you sign up and pay for 3 or 6 months of deliveries up front. Each month you pick up an assortment of meat selected by the farm based on what they've slaughtered that month. It comes frozen and you bring it home to your freezer and defrost it before cooking.

During farmers market season and at stores that specialize in local produce, these farms and others can also allow you to shop for specific cuts of meat.

Meat CSAs

Austin Brothers Farm in Belchertown has a monthly pickup in Central Square, Cambridge. The share includes beef and pork. You can order 5, 10, or 20 lbs for $9, $8.25, or $7.75 per lb respectively. You can add on eggs to the share. They offer metro pedal power bike delivery to your door (for an additional delivery fee) as well, to Watertown, Somerville, Cambridge, Boston, Charleston, Jamaica Plains and South Boston.

Chestnut Farms in Hardwick has a monthly pickup in Arlington Center (and a few other towns west of there as well.) The share includes beef, lamb, pork, and chicken. You can order 6 months at a time, 10 lbs for $8/lb, 15 lbs for $7.75/lb, 20 lbs for $7.50/lb, or 25 lbs for $7.00/lb. Shareholders can also add on Thanksgiving turkeys, easter hams, and buy eggs and bargain cuts (mainly offal) at the monthly pickups. You can request no-pork (kosher) shares or no-lamb shares if you wish.

Stillman's Farm in Hardwick has monthly pickups in Brookline, Jamaica Plain, Quincy, and Cambridge. The share includes beef, lamb, pork and chicken. You can order 6 months at a time, 5 lbs for $9/lb, 10lbs for $8/lb, and 20lbs for $7.75/lb, or 12 months at a time for additional discounts on 10 and 20 lb shares.

Other ways to buy local meat
Stillman's farm also sells meat at the Farmer's Market in Union Square, Somerville on Saturdays, as well as many other locations (downtown Boston, Lexington, Bedford, Cambridge, etc). A full list of their farmer's market locations is here You can contact them in advance to order specific items. Occasionally Cuisine en Locale sets up a meat order and delivery in the off-season in the Cambridge area as well. The price list to place orders is here.

Chestnut Farm sells meat at the Arlington Farmer's Market in Arlington Center on Wednesday afternoons, as well as the Natick and Lexington farmer's markets. You can also place orders in advance with them.

Austin Brothers Farm sells meat and eggs at the Central Square Farmer's Market in Cambridge on Monday afternoons, and some farmer's markets in Western MA. I believe they may have pasture raised veal available too, but don't see any references to it on their site.

Codman Community Farm in Lincoln has a farm store open daily (except Mondays, I believe - the farm itself is closed on Mondays) with meat from their cows, goats, and pigs and eggs from their chickens (supplemented often by eggs from Chip-in Farms in Bedford). Selection varies according to season. Choose meat packed into several freezers.

Drumlin Farm, a Mass Audubon site with many farm animals to visit as well as rescued birds, also has a freezer of meats for sale although selection is limited.

Natick Community Organic Farm sells meats at their farm store and at the Natick Farmer's Market and Natick Winter Farmer's Market.

River Rock Farm in Brimfield sells beef at the Somerville farmers' market in Davis Square on Wednesdays. They will deliver anywhere in Massachusetts for $10 for a $50-$150 order, $5 for a $150-$250 order, or free for orders over $250.

Signal Rock Farm in Charlton sells sheep milk products and lambs, at the Davis Square farmer's market on Wednesdays and the Lexington Farmer's markets on Tuesday afternoons in the fall.

Pete and Jen's in Concord sells chickens (which sell out like hotcakes), eggs, pork, rabbit, beef from another farm, and lamb by pre-order or from their mini-store in Concord.

Golden Egg Farm in Hardwick sells chicken and duck eggs at the Arlington, MA farmers markets, as well as sometimes whole chickens or the occasional lamb or goat. I'm watching closely - ducks may be available this summer.

Foxboro Cheese and Lawton's Family Farm in Foxboro are selling veal at the Davis Square farmer's market this
season (along with dairy products.) Dairy farms are often great source for local humanely treated veal - they have to do something with the half of their calves that aren't going to produce milk.

Sherman Market in Union Square, Somerville - a tiny locavore grocery store - has poultry and meat from a variety of local farms (not all mentioned here by name because they don't otherwise distribute to the Boston area) including Hardwick Beef, Misty Knoll poultry.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Steam and Freeze

Our CSA box still won't start up until June, but from our small urban backyard comes a surprise early season edible - weeds!

Stinging nettle is far more common around woods in Europe than I though it was in Massachusetts - but last year I discovered a single plant while trying to pull up another giant weed. (Me: "dear, can you go pull up that 6 foot weed with the purple berries? I can't quite seem to get it loose." Him, from the back corner of the yard: "Weird! Did you know we have a stinging nettle plant back here?" Me: "Ohhhh! That's why my hand is tingling.") This year, in the same corner of the yard, there's a small patch of it. It stings when you touch it with bare hands, but after cooking the stinging is gone.

Stinging nettle is a fairly versatile green, high in iron, and tasty in things like lasagna, scrambled eggs, spinach pie, etc. My wild edibles guide says to harvest it directly into a large pot, rinse thorougly in the kitchen sink with tongs, and then steam thoroughly and use the cooked greens. I chose to remove the greens from the stems after steaming so I didn't have to worry about stinging. And since it'll only be good for harvesting and eating for a few weeks and I don't really need to be having stinging nettle every 2 or 3 meals, I'm using one of my favorite tricks from when bulky greens are in season : steam and freeze. Once it's steamed, I squeeze it down to some fist-sized dense balls, put those in a plastic bag, and freeze them for later use. If your tastes run to more conventional vegetables and you don't have a patch of stinging nettle in your yard, this is a convenient way to wind up with handy frozen spinach, chard, or kale when you have access to more of it than you can fit in your fridge or eat in a particular week.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Coming Soon

Spring is in the air here in Massachusetts. Which means a few crocuses peeking out of soft soil, probably another snowstorm lying in wait for when we least expect it, and still several months before my first small CSA box arrives, filled with lettuce, cooking greens, and some radishes. But I'll take the sunshine past 5pm and stare longingly at pictures of last July's peaches while I go on eating meat, root vegetables and cabbage for the next few months.

This blog, also coming soon, will focus on tips for eating seasonally, locally, and "out of the box", whether that's from a sustainable CSA, a produce delivery service, a weekly trip to the farmers market, or even the "box" that is your own fridge and the leftovers and forgotten produce hiding within it. I hope to provide pointers on choosing a CSA, other community supported food options (I belong to a meat CSA and have belonged to a CSF bringing me a weekly share of locally caught whole fish, for example), and of course, how to turn all that produce into food you can eat without letting it go to waste.