Monday, September 14, 2009

The Ant and the Grasshopper (Or End of Summer Cooking Frenzy)

For most of the summer, I've been trying to use up all items in my farmer's box as quickly and as efficiently as I can. In spite of the wonderful, beautiful state of all the produce we receive each week. I'm not always successful but I do manage to use most of my produce within each week. Usually most of it goes into lazy, uncomplicated dishes that I can pull off without much thought (can you say veggie stir fry?). I have been completely in the moment. No forward thinking for me-no sir. I just open the CSA box or the fridge and whatever comes out is what we are eating. I do have weeks where something gets carried over-usually shishitos or onions or garlic or some little thing that will store fairly well.

Events have conspired to transform me from a lazy grasshopper into an organized ant. First, we went out of town and missed a week of veggies. Apparently all our friends were out of town too soooo...I opted to get a double box this past weekend. That means that there was a LOT of produce that needed to be processed. More in fact than it is humanly possible for our family to consume even if we eat nothing but veg for every meal.

Also, we're coming towards the end of the growing season. Even our long glorious growing season will come to an end with the onset of frosts. Sigh. No more fresh pesto each week? No more reaching into the produce drawer to throw on the grill at a whim? Panic set in. Which turned quickly to elation. I have an excuse to cook. ALOT!

This weekend I made many many dishes. So many in fact that it's not flattering to my character since it means that I spent the entire day cooking and ignoring all other obligations. My cooking comfort zone is some form of Mediterranean food-Greek, Italian, French, even Lebanese or Turkish-are all within my standard reparte. I have been wonderfully challenged and uplifted by the asian ingredients we get each week and have started to feel comfortable enough to adapt them to my usual techniques. For example, we get lots of shishito peppers and I've become slightly addicted to them. However, I've been wanting them a little more 'done' than just flash sauteed. One dish I tried this weekend was roasted shishito peppers, roasted red peppers and feta. Just put the shishito peppers on a piece of aluminum foil on the grill. If you want to add some sweet peppers too, place them directly on the grill. Once the peppers were roasted (about 5 minutes but this depends heavily on your grill temp-watch them!) and peeled of little char bits, toss them with feta cheese, a little garlic, salt, and olive oil. Holy cow! I've eaten it over a baked potato for 2 days in a row.

Another unusual (for me)and glorious dish was something called Clay Pot Miso Chicken. It's basically a chicken stew or braise-a technique that I am very familiar with. I made a few tweaks just to adjust for ingredients. I left out the wood ear mushrooms and improvised on the mirin (rice vinegar, 3/4 cup of sauvignon blanc and a smidge of sugar). I highly recommend you try this dish if you need a new way to use Gobo and you really want a reason to buy large amounts of shitake from Spain Farm. It is a relatively easy recipe that is worth the little bit of fussiness or unusual ingredients because the outcome is just soul warming. There will be a blustery, rainy day sometime around January 10th where I will be cold, with a runny nose and a spirit longing for the smell of just turned soil. I'll know that it's too early, even in warm little NC. I'll reach into the freezer and pull out this dish, heat it up and serve the salty stew over jasmine rice. I'm sure I'll feel like I just might make it.

More recipes to follow. I've resolved to make bean soup this coming weekend and at least one other dish to freeze for each week that's left of the CSA.

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