July 24, 2009

the coldest winter ....

you know how it goes.

it's been in the 50s and misty all week here. my muscles are even too cold to use capital letters, apparently. cold, fog & summer vegetables - they seemingly don't mix. thankfully the french have a solution for this!

Soupe au Pistou

1. Make yourself a batch of pesto, without the parmesan cheese (what makes it french).
2. Do you have some chicken stock made from your last roast chicken or butterflied chicken's back? Great. You'll need that.
3. Have a bunch of lovely vegetables from your CSA? Grab 1-2 each of those. Chop them small - about 1/2 inch dice.
4. Saute some onion and garlic, slowly.
5. Add the rest of your vegetables.
6. Add the warmed stock. Bring to a tiny simmer. Let it cook for a while - until the hardest veg in your soup is cooked.
7. Don't forget salt & pepper! (I never season my stock when I make it. I wait until I use it in a recipe.)
8. Serve in bowls, with the pistou on the side. Let people add as much/little as they wish.
9. Always better with parmesan, crusty bread and olive oil.

Veg I had around: red potatoes, green beans, carrots, zucchini, tomato.


June 3, 2009

We're Still Here!

Our poor little blog-that-could has been completely neglected. Having kids in kindergarten has really thrown us for a loop this year!! Who knew how busy a family could get just by being part of the school system? More on that, later...

Some updates:
-You will notice there is a Twitter feed on the right. I have jumped on the Twitter bandwagon, as I am able to update it from my office during the day. It's mostly my updates at this point, but hopefully Ruth will get the urge to 'tweet' something now and then. I have to admit that I often find myself with something to say, but not anything that would warrant an entire blog post. I'm finding Twitter useful, and I hope you do, as well. It's also a great way to connect with other people and exchange ideas.

-My household has been a single-income household since November. The 'elitist' tag that gets thrown on buying organic has definitely hit home. However, we are still getting our CSA and still doing our best to eat 'well'. In order to keep our costs down, we have just become more vegetarian! We eat red meat maybe once a week or less, and other meat consumption has also declined.

-Now that both of our eldest children have entered the public school system, we have both jumped into the burgeoning movement to 'fix' the school food situation in our respective districts. It's a daunting project, to say the least. Did you know that elementary school kitchens were removed in the 80s? Elementary schools could not prepare lunch on-site, even if they were willing and able. High schools arre a different, and more optimistic story, but where are tastes and food habits formed? In elementary school. Did you know that, at least in California, the prepared, frozen school lunch is shipped from Chicago? Even though the ingredients are sourced right here? Sounds silly, right? There are (crazy) reasons for this. The solutions are out there, but involve a lot of time, effort, creativity and ...... money.

That is where we are at, in a nutshell. There may be more updates about the school food 'movement' here in the future. For me, the goal is about getting the students access to more nutritionally-dense food, which means sourcing it locally and eating it fresh. And, hey, isn't that what having a CSA is all about?

Thanks for reading!

December 13, 2008

Food Costs

If I had anything resembling free-time in my life, this blog would have regular, daily posts. I think about food A LOT, and I have a lot to say about it, probably more than anyone wants to hear. But I have small children, a small business, a busy life, and I cook three meals a day. The time-cost for putting real food on the table isn't small, and there have been moments in the past months where I've wondered if the pop tarts would really kill us. (Not that I could swallow a piece of chemical-flavored cardboard...)

But this prompted me to post:

It's a young couple, who lived on a $1 a day for food for one month. They went as healthy as they could, oatmeal, peanut butter, beans, rice... but they couldn't afford produce more than a couple times during the experiment. They drank Tang for the vitamin C.

This makes me think a million things, about the people who really do it, about the cheap calories that are available in junk food, about how the looming health care crisis, obesity epidemic, and countless medical conditions could be wiped out with decent nutrition.

Then I wondered what our produce costs us each day. A $27 weekly box of produce feeds a family of four for $0.96 a day per person. I supplement fruit and kid-friendly vegetables (they just won't eat collards and mustard greens 7 days a week, darnit!) to get a greater variety and quantity, from a small local grocery that sources organic and pesticide-free produce from California farms. A typical week means another $25 in produce from this store, which would bring our total to just under $2 a day per person.

It doesn't sound outrageous, and it's certainly cheaper than the produce we ate a few years ago before starting the CSA box. Those days when I bought over-priced, warehouse-aged, hot-ticket items like fresh berries year-round. Now I haven't seen a berry in months (well, I did, encased in Jell-O, somewhere in the American middle-west but that's another story...), and won't until late Spring. Instead we're eating apples, oranges, persimmons and pomegranates. It is in all ways cheaper, healthier and better to eat seasonal produce; we know that. But what is to be done when the cheapest is too expensive?

There are stunning grassroots answers to this question in community gardens, backyards and rooftops,

December 8, 2008

she has never steered me wrong

I am not a turnip fan. My first winter with Eatwell, I dutifully gave them a shot by roasting them in the oven...but I just couldn't get past the funky, turnipy smell.

All winter long, I gave them away to the French babysitter, who couldn't understand what I didn't like about them, but gladly took them and fed them to my daughter and the other kids.

Last week, Ruth sent me an email about making a soup out of the turnips. Even though she said they were 'out of this world', I was still dubious. However, I had to try it because A/ it was an Alice recipe and B/ the turnips don't have a second home as I no longer use the babysitter on a regular basis and C/ Ruth has NEVER been wrong about food. EVER.

I made the soup last night and had two bowls. And the kids ate it. And I brought it for lunch today. I think one could say that I have been converted!

2 lbs of small, fresh turnips with leaves
1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter
1/2 tsp of fresh thyme, chopped
1 bay leaf (I had a fresh one from the farm! woohoo!)
1 piece of prosciutto or smoked bacon (I used pancetta)
8 cups stock...chicken, vegetable or even water (I used leftover turkey stock)

Thinly slice the onion and garlic and saute in a large, non-reactive pot with the oil and butter and a tablespoon of water. Cover and gently cook until the onions are transparent.

Meanwhile, thinly slice the turnips. Reserve the greens.

Add the turnips, cover and stew a little bit.
Add the herbs, pork product ;) and stock. Bring to a simmer and cook low for 1/2 hour.

Towards the end, add the reserved greens, that have been washed and cut into 1/2 slices. Cook until wilted. Season with salt and pepper. Add a few slices of shaved parmesan. The end ;)


November 16, 2008

gourd city

I counted 3 squash sitting on my counter by Friday.  One kabocha from two weeks ago, a butternut from last week and a fresh one from this week.

Supposedly, squash gets sweeter as it's left to mature...so, you know...that was all in the plan... ;)

I saw a recipe in Sunset magazine that seemed like a good way to use the squash somewhat in disguise.  My kids love a lot of fruits and vegetables, but squash unfortunately isn't one of them.  Having some time this Sunday afternoon, I made a batch of squash gnocchi.  Some for tonight and the rest for the freezer.  

The basic recipe is like this:

  • Cook a butternut squash.  You can roast it, steam it or microwave it.  I did the latter - poke holes all over and put it in the microwave on high for 10 minutes.  (Mine needed a bit more cooking afterwards).
  • Scoop out the flesh and mash.  You need 2 cups.
  • Season: salt, pepper, nutmeg, sage/marjoram/thyme.  You could have fun and add Indian spices - that would be yum.
  • Add flour, 1 cup at a time.  Now, I used King Arthur's white whole wheat flour.  The recipe calls for 3.5 cups + dusting.  My squash took at least all of that...maybe even a bit more!
  • Roll out into 'snakes', cut into 1/2" pieces.  
  • Boil in salted water just until they float - no longer.
That's it!  I tossed ours with melted butter, parsley and lemon juice and topped with parmesan.

Beware: the dough remains a bit sticky.  I tried to do the Italian nonna thing by rolling each little gnoccho down a fork to get the grooves.  It didn't work so well...I do not recommend.  Just leave them in their little pillow form and enjoy.

September 22, 2008

radio silence

One month since the last post?  Oops.  For me, there hasn't been much to say about summer produce.  What can I possibly elaborate on when it comes to tomatoes, basil and zucchini?  

Let me fill you in:

Zucchini?  Adore.  Especially when it is so fresh and downright creamy.  I just saute them with onions.  For me, that's how they are at their best.  I don't need lots of recipes or ways to jazz them up.  

Tomatoes:  It was an interesting season here in California.  All of the wild fires turned the sky smoky which in turn slowed down the ripening of the tomatoes.  We got our real first batch sometime in mid-late August.  I guess the smoke acted like a protective shade.  According to Eatwell, it's the best season they've ever had.  I have to confess that, while I enjoy a good heirloom, there is nothing like an amazing roma or cooking tomato!  I have been keeping them as close to their natural state as possible by making lots of panzanella or quick marinara.

Basil: not a huge fan of Eatwell's basil, to tell you the truth.  The leaves are pretty small and it is definitely on the spicy, not sweet, side.  It makes a good pesto, though.

So, why the long time between posts?  I haven't been doing much cooking.  It's been sliced tomatoes in burgers or panzanella or tabbouleh.  I miss spinach.  Kale.  Squash.  Is that weird?  Summer's bounty is here and all I can do is think about what is missing from my box.  I almost even miss swiss chard...