Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Marinated Bean Salad

The recipe I am going to share in this post is a marinated bean salad from The World's Healthiest Foods. Very simple; you just combine the ingredients, stick it in the fridge, and you have lunch all week long. I love making things like because it makes my lunch prep very easy. Most days I put this salad in a wrap along with some spinach. You could also just eat it plain on the side of something else, like a sandwich or soup.

As I've said before, my dad generously volunteered to stay at our house while we were in Greece, and during that time he picked up our CSA box from week 15 (and even took a picture of it for me, thanks Dad!). He also finished up what was left of the produce from week 14 and a bunch of tomatoes from our garden that ripened while we were gone. He even took photos of some of his meals!

Here is one meal he made using tomatoes from our garden. He cored the tomatoes, sliced them into wedges, and arranged homemade tuna salad in the middle.

Photo by Dad
The day after we got home it was time to pick up another CSA box. So we basically had two full CSA boxes to work with.

At one point I had 16 ears of corn in my refrigerator. That is frightening.

Step one: Do not panic.

Step two: Get your shit together and cook. A lot.

Step three: Enjoy all the delicious food you made!

Since there was so much overlap between the two boxes, I'm going to combine them into one post. This makes it easier for me to get caught up on blogging as well.

CSA Week 15:

Photo by Dad
In the box: 1 head lettuce, 2 cucumbers, 1 basket grape tomatoes, 2 pounds Sweet Girl tomatoes, 8 ears corn, 1 1/2 pounds summer squash, 1 basket blackberries, 1 melon (yellow watermelon), 2 pounds Gala apples

CSA Week 16:

In the box: 1 pound spinach, 2 cucumbers, 1 bunch carrots, 1 basket cherry tomatoes, 2 pounds Sweet Girl tomatoes, 8 ears of corn, 1 pound Romano beans, 1 melon (cantaloupe), 2 pounds Gala apples

We made taco salads one night for dinner (and lunches the next day) using the lettuce, kernels from the first eight ears of corn, some of the grape tomatoes, ground beef, and tortilla chips.

The spinach made a great addition to Mark Bittman's Pasta Carbonara, because apparently I'm always trying to find ways to add veggies to things. Just toss hot cooked pasta with a couple of lightly beaten eggs and 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan (the hot pasta will cook the egg). Then stir in cooked crumbled bacon and lightly steamed chopped spinach and dinner's done. I even took a picture I liked it so much:

We had my sister and her boyfriend over for dinner one night and we made quite the feast. The best part for me was the cucumber, an unusual change of pace for me. I used a Julia Child recipe: just peel and slice the cucumber into matchsticks, then saute in a tablespoon or two of butter for a few minutes, then add salt and pepper to taste. It was amazing! I'd never had cooked cucumber before.  We also cooked up the rest of the corn, and made chicken saltimbocca using this recipe.

By the way, if you happen to make that chicken saltimbocca recipe, don't use pancetta thinking it will be the same as prosciutto, even if the whole reason you chose this to make this recipe was because you thought you had prosciutto in the fridge, when it turns out you actually had pancetta. It won't work well. The pancetta seemed to completely disintegrate into the pan, and kind of burned. That made the cheese melt away too. Kind of defeats the whole point. But, if you have been drinking as much as I was while cooking it, you won't care (because who doesn't love My Drunk Kitchen?).

I used the bulk of the cherry/grape tomatoes (including a bunch more from our garden) to make another batch of roasted tomatoes to add to my collection in the freezer. The rest I brought to work for snacks. They are a perfect portable snack for walking home from work.

Joe used all the Sweet Girl tomatoes from both weeks for a batch of his homemade tomato sauce!

The Romano beans obviously went into the bean salad.

We used the cantaloupe for the appetizer I wrote about last time. We didn't do anything special with the watermelon, but it was fantastic! Inside the flesh was bright yellow, so it looked like you were eating pineapple, and it was so, so juicy! We loved the apples too; I brought one to work with me everyday along with a wedge of sharp cheddar cheese for a mid-morning snack.

I froze the blackberries, and I've started using them in smoothies which I drink on the way to work in the morning. I've been doing about 1 1/2 cups of milk, a couple tablespoons of ground flax seed, a heaping cup of frozen mixed berries, and a scoop of pumpkin puree (I had some extra in the fridge). You can't even taste the pumpkin, but it adds fiber and thickens the smoothie. The berries are pretty sweet already so I haven't felt like it needs any extra sweeteners.

Marinated Bean Salad
adapted from The World's Healthiest Foods
serves 4

Note: I didn't have lima beans on hand so I used chickpeas instead.

2 tablespoons minced onion
3 medium cloves garlic, pressed
2 cups fresh green beans or Romano beans, ends trimmed and cut into 1 inch lengths
2 cups or 1 (15 ounce) can lima beans (or substitute chickpeas like I did), drained and rinsed
2 cups or 1 (15 ounce) can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 large ripe fresh tomato, chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil (or 2 teaspoons dried)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano (or 1 teaspoon dried)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley (or 1 teaspoon dried)
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Steam the green beans until crisp tender. I used the microwave, but you could also use a steamer basket on the stove.

Meanwhile, mix all of the other ingredients together in a large bowl. Add the green beans and toss to combine.

If you have time, marinate at least 15 minutes before eating. It will only get better as it sits and will keep in the fridge for several days.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Cantaloupe with Gruyere, Honey, and Thyme

One of my favorite parts of our trip to Greece was the food. I realize that we had a very limited experience since we spent most of our time in Athens, but we were still really impressed.

Honestly, I was a little worried about the fact that we would be eating restaurant food for ten days straight. Usually when I have to eat out at restaurants for several meals in a row, I get sick of it very quickly. American restaurant fare can be so heavy that I just can't take it for more than a couple of days in a row without feeling completely drained physically and mentally. I didn't really feel that way in Greece though. I'm not really sure why. We ate some combination of bread, cheese, olive oil, and meat with almost every meal. Maybe it was that the portions were usually smaller than they are here. Maybe it was that everything was prepared with fresh ingredients. Maybe it was because they didn't rush you and in fact expected you to sit for hours savoring your meal. Regardless of the reason, I never got sick of Greek food, and I even made an attempt to replicate one of my favorite simple meals the minute I got home!

Before I get to that, here are some highlights of our trip, as promised:
Temple of Zeus.
View of the Acropolis from the Temple of Zeus.
Arch of Hadrian
Panathenaic Stadium
View of Athens from the Acropolis.
Sometimes we got lost in the labyrinth of tiny streets so we took some photos while we got our bearings.

We went on a day cruise to a couple of islands. Our favorite was Hydra.

Many sleepy stray cats on Hydra.

We got some beach time on Aegina.

Gorgeous sunset on the ride back.
Warning: Here comes the food porn...

Feta cooked with sliced tomatoes, bell peppers, and onions.
Moussaka - one of my favorites.
Fresh, hot loukoumades - drizzled with honey and topped with cinnamon and chopped nuts.
Fried feta topped with honey and sesame seeds. Tzatziki and pita bread. 
Tomatoes stuffed with rice and meat.
Pies: one filled with cheese, the other tomato sauce and olives.
Grilled sea bass with vegetables.
Salad with sun-dried tomatoes, croutons, and mizithra cheese from Crete.
Pita gyro.
Koulouri - slightly sweet sesame bread. Made a great mid-morning snack and street carts everywhere were selling them.
Boiled greens with olive oil and lemon.
Gruyere with melon, drizzled with honey and thyme.
Ok, back to the recipe I tried to replicate at home. You can probably guess it based on the photo.

Our first CSA box after we got back contained a perfectly ripe cantaloupe revealing bright orange, juicy flesh. I used a melon baller to make some melon balls. Deciding to make it an appetizer, I cubed the gruyere, stacked the cheese and melon and skewered them with toothpicks, and placed them on a plate that I first drizzled with honey. After taking the photo I decided that was not enough honey so I drizzled a bit more over the top before eating. You could also forego the pretentious fanciness and just put all the ingredients in a bowl and dig in with a fork. It's just a wonderful combination of ingredients, you really can't go wrong. 

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Roasted Summer Tomatoes (for Winter Enjoyment)

This week was a bit of a challenge with the CSA. We got the box on a Tuesday, and we knew we were leaving for Greece on Friday of that same week. So this week was all about seeing how much of the box I could freeze for later in the three evenings after work I had available in between packing and cleaning and everything else.

What I didn't have time to consume myself or otherwise store for later I figured my dad could handle - he generously volunteered to stay at our house with Sid Vicious while we were gone. For short trips a daily visit from a pet-sitter is sufficient, but for a ten day long trip I was worried he would get too attention-deprived, so I was relieved that my dad offered this enormous favor. Sid is more like a dog in that he seems to require a lot more interaction than other cats I've owned in the past.

By the way, I love how I tried to be all casual about our vacation by slipping in it at the end of that first sentence. Ha. I can't pull that off. Before this trip I had never been to Europe. Neither of us had. So this was actually a big freaking deal for both of us. Joe was going to Athens for a conference so I decided to tag along too. We had a great time! I'll be sure to share some photos in the next post.

CSA Week 14:

In the box: 1 head lettuce, 1 cucumber, 1 basket grape tomatoes, 1 pound Sweet Girl tomatoes, 4 ears of corn, 1 pound Romano Beans, 1 red onion, 1 head garlic, 1 basket blackberries, 1 basket strawberries

I froze the whole container of blackberries to add to my growing collection of CSA blackberries. I ate the strawberries for dessert by dipping them into a small bowl of melted chocolate chips.

The Romano beans were pretty easy to freeze as well; they just needed to be trimmed and blanched first.

The Sweet Girl tomatoes and red onion were combined with some store-bought Romas to make a double batch of this amazing Quinoa Caprese salad. Half went into our bellies, the other half was delivered to my friend Amy and her family who just brought home their new son from Taiwan. I loved this salad because 1) it makes great use of delicious summer tomatoes 2) you get all the elements of a traditional Caprese salad from the basil and big pieces of fresh mozzarella, and 3) it uses quinoa, the magical super grain full of fiber and protein. For lunch I put a big scoop of this salad on top of greens to add even more veggies.

I left the corn, cucumber, and the rest of the lettuce for my dad.

I saw an article in the local paper about roasting tomatoes in small batches and freezing for later to add to soups and sauces. I decided to try it out using the grape tomatoes from the box. I also used some cherry tomatoes from my own garden. That is the recipe I decided to share this week.

Roasted Summer Tomatoes (for Winter Enjoyment)
adapted from the Corvallis Gazette Times

Notes: The great thing about this method is that it works for large or small amounts of tomatoes, so if you have a small garden, you can roast whatever you harvest each week and just collect them in the freezer until you have an amount you can actually do something with later.  The result is a nice chunky mixture which could be used as a topping for polenta or a slice of crusty bread, as a thick sauce tossed with pasta, or a great way to beef up a soup. Oh, and it would be great as a topping for meat like steak, chicken, or fish.

Olive oil
Tomatoes (big, small, whatever you have), washed, stems removed, halved or quartered if large
Peeled garlic cloves
Fresh or dried herbs such as basil, oregano, or parsley, chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Preheat the oven to 400 F.

Generously drizzle some oil onto the bottom of a roasting pan or rimmed baking sheet. Add the remaining ingredients and toss to combine.

Roast until the tomatoes are starting to darken, stirring occasionally. Everything will have softened and there should be lots of tomato juices in the pan. I roasted cherry tomatoes which took between 20-30 minutes. It might take longer if you are using larger tomatoes.

Taste and season with more salt and pepper if needed.

Allow to cool. At this point, you can remove the skins if you'd like. They should peel away very easily. I was too lazy so I skipped this step. If you don't want a chunky sauce, you can puree the mixture in a food processor. Store in jars or plastic bags in the freezer. 
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