Thursday, November 17, 2011

The End of an Era

When I started Eat Outside the Box ten years ago, there were no CSA deliveries from local farms to our region. It was as if Central Contra Costa County existed in a local food black hole.

So, I thought it would be a great idea to start something up. I was new to the area and didn't really know how to get going. I called some farmers in Brentwood. I asked them if they knew about CSA and would they like to start one that delivered to the Walnut Creek area. Nobody was too excited about creating the shares, collecting the money, managing the books and membership and promoting the thing.


I called the organic farms back. "Well, what if I managed all that and you just delivered," I asked. "How do we start?" The farms agreed to start with a group of eight members who would pick up at a central location (my house--very central for me). I would need to round up members, get them to commit to a certain amount of time and take care of all the details.

I remember having a meeting at my house where about 12 people showed up. Eight signed up right away and we were off! Over the years about 300 people have participated by eating outside the box. Our yearly numbers have ranged from 8 in the first year to well over 80 a few years back. But now, there are a lot of options for joining in CSAs and buying locally produced food.

I am sad and happy to close down Eat Outside the Box CSA. It has served its purpose by increasing awareness about local eating, educating people about local farms and garnering support and enthusiasm for new models of connecting with farmers. I just had my last delivery of wonderful produce from Knoll Farms and Frog Hollow Farm this week. I will always treasure the experience and the members throughout the past ten years who have been so supportive and full of energy.

I'm kinda excited to become a CSA member who just goes and picks up a box each week. But, I'll miss meeting the farm truck every Monday night and having the close relationship I have had with the farmers over the years. I'll also miss all the members. They are amazing and interesting people who have been willing to commit to something many people don't even think about: supporting local farms.


Friday, October 7, 2011

The Last of the Summer Tomatoes?

Roasted Tomato Sauce

Olive oil
2 pounds fresh tomatoes
8 cloves garlic, peeled and pressed
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
salt and freshly ground black pepper
fresh basil
hard Italian cheese

Heat the oven to 350°F and drizzle with good olive oil.

Chop the tomatoes roughly but evenly. If you decide to add cherry tomatoes (like Sungolds), cut them in half. I like a combination of tomatoes. Spread them in the baking dish. Stir in the minced garlic, a drizzle of olive oil, and about 1 teaspoon of salt and some freshly ground black pepper. Cut the butter into small cubes and scatter evenly over the tomatoes.

Bake the tomatoes for 2 to 3 hours. This is very flexible; you can bake them until the tomatoes simply begin to break down and release their juices. Or you can continue baking until their edges blacken, and the juices are reduced significantly. I like the darkened edges on my tomatoes and the intensified flavor of reduced liquid.

Once the tomatoes are just right, toss them with some hot pasta, sprinkle with ribbons of fresh basil and serve topped with gratings of hard Italian cheese.

Monday, July 25, 2011

I'm in the mood for summer food

As the summer vegetables come into full production, I look for all kinds of recipes to use the zucchini, chard and other items we get weekly in our gardens and CSA. This week, I am especially craving Mediterranean foods. On what may have been my most relaxing vacation, my family rented a sailboat in Turkey. Included in the deal was the crew, including a cook. The food was really good. Try as I might, I cannot reproduce those tastes but the recipes I have put here are a start.

Diane Kochilas is one of my inspirations and the recipes below as well as the zucchini crescents in this week's newsletter are from her. I recommend her books Meze and The Glorious Foods of Greece.

Greek Zucchini Fritters
2 pounds large zucchini, trimmed and grated on the wide holes of a grater or food processor
2 eggs
1/2 c chopped mixed fresh herbs, such as fennel, dill, mint, parsley (I like to use mostly dill)
1 TBS ground cumin
1 c fresh or dry breadcrumbs, more as necessary
Freshly ground pepper
1 c crumbled feta cheese
All-purpose flour as needed and for dredging
Olive oil for frying

Salt the zucchini generously and leave to drain in a colander for one hour, tossing and squeezing the zucchini from time to time. Take up handfuls of zucchini, and squeeze out all of the moisture. Alternately, wrap in a clean dish towel, and squeeze out the water by twisting at both ends.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs and add the shredded zucchini, herbs, cumin, bread crumbs, salt and pepper to taste and feta. Mix together well. Take up a small handful of the mixture; if it presses neatly into a patty, it is the right consistency. If it seems wet, add more breadcrumbs or a few tablespoons of all-purpose flour. When the mixture has the right consistency, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for one hour or longer.

Heat 1 inch of olive oil in a large frying pan until rippling, or at about 275 degrees. Meanwhile, take up heaped tablespoons of the zucchini mixture, and form balls or patties. Lightly dredge in flour.

When the oil is very hot, add the patties in batches to the pan. Fry until golden brown, turning once with a spider or slotted spoon. Remove from the oil, and drain briefly on a rack. Serve with plain Greek style yogurt or with the carrot puree below if desired.

Spicy Carrot Puree with Mint-Flavored Yogurt
For the Carrots
4 large carrots, chopped
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp caraway seeds
2-3 TBS extra virgin olive oil
2 TBS fresh lemon juice
salt and cayenne pepper to taste

For the Yogurt
1/2 c Greek yogurt
1 TBS extra virgin olive oil to taste
1 TBS fresh lemon juice
3 garlic cloves, peeled
salt to taste
2 TBS fresh mint leaves, cut into very thin strips

Steam the carrots over medium heat until soft, about 25 minutes.

Pound the cumin and caraway seeds together in a mortar and pestle.

When the carrots are soft, transfer them to a food processor and pulse once or twice for a few seconds to mash. Add 2 TBS olive oil, lemon juice, salt and spices and pulse a few more times to puree until smooth.

Place the puree on a serving dish and make a well in the center.

Mix together the yogurt, olive oil, and lemon juice. Crush the garlic cloves in the mortar and pestle with a little salt and add them to the yogurt. Season to taste with additional salt. Place in the center of the serving plate encircled by the carrot puree. Sprinkle with the mint leaves and serve.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Crazy Weather and Farm Production

I have been out of California for a while. Driving home, middle of summer, I had the air conditioning on high through Nevada. I drove into the sunny eastern Sierra and once I topped Donner Pass, I looked into a bank of thick black clouds. In July. By the time I got to Sacramento, it was raining cats and dogs. It was still pouring when I arrived home.

How odd, I thought.

The few days before, temperatures were reaching 105 degrees. The days following the rainstorm were, again, hot and sunny. Stifling.

So, how does this unpredictable, unseasonable weather affect our food?

Globally, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that there will be, or already are, 30 countries in crisis and in need of external food aid. In January of this year, President Obama readied the military for widespread food rioting that was predicted for the spring. We witnessed the "Arab Spring" that many attributed to a desire for democracy and others to lack of food. In Tunisia,the protests that led to the downfall of the government began after an educated but unemployed 26-year-old man set himself on fire when police confiscated the fruits and vegetables he was selling without a permit.

On the home front, our weird weather may mean that cherries split in the late rains, peaches have brown rot, yields are low and what's left in the field and on the trees ripens all at once. The idea of planting for harvest over the entire season is just a memory and things need to get off the farm and onto the shelves fast and now.

As eaters, we may feel like we didn't get enough asparagus or cherries. Did anyone have apricots this year? The harbingers of summer have been less than perfect. Now, plums, plums, plums...and the figs ripen faster than we can eat them. It seems like the tomatoes in my garden have just stopped fruit production and my corn ears -- well, as close as I live to Brentwood, my corn is not an example of that great sweet corn region.

So, as much as I can complain about having too much of one thing and not enough of another, I just keep thinking how hard this must be for farmers. Their lives depend on some measure of predictability and on an expectation of yields. And farmers around our globe are facing unbelievable challenges feeding us.

I'll just keep buying local, whatever is available. At least I have that luxury.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

New York Times Recipe sent by a Member

New York Times

May 24, 2011
Quinoa and Chard Cakes
I’d been thinking about making a sort of “burger” with quinoa and vegetables when I saw a recipe for chard cakes in the Dining section of The Times. I combined the two ideas and came up with these quinoa and chard cakes, which you can serve as a main dish or a side. A few days later, I made the same recipe but used spinach, which is lower in sodium, instead of chard (see variation below). Top these cakes with yogurt spiked with puréed garlic.

1 1/2 pounds Swiss chard, washed and stemmed (do not discard the stems)

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 plump garlic cloves, minced, or 2 teaspoons minced green garlic

2 teaspoons cumin seeds, lightly toasted and ground

Salt and freshly ground pepper

1 cup cooked quinoa

1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan (1 1/2 ounces)

1 egg, beaten

1 tablespoon canola oil

For serving:

1/2 cup plain yogurt

1 garlic clove, puréed with a generous pinch of salt

1. Fill a bowl with ice water. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, salt generously and add the chard leaves. Blanch for two to three minutes until tender, then transfer to the ice water. Drain, squeeze out excess water and chop medium-fine. Add the chard stems to the water, and cook four to five minutes until tender. Transfer to the ice water, then drain and cut in 1/4-inch dice. Measure out 3/4 cup of the stems, and reserve the rest for another purpose.

Alternatively, steam the chard leaves, then the stems, above an inch of boiling water until tender. The leaves will take three to four minutes, the stems five minutes.

2. Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium heat in a medium or large skillet. Add the garlic. When it is fragrant, in 30 seconds to a minute, stir in the chard leaves and stems and the cumin. Stir together for about a minute, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer to a large bowl, and add the quinoa, Parmesan and egg. Stir together.

3. Heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and the canola oil together over medium-high heat in a large, heavy skillet. Moisten your hands, and shape the quinoa and chard mixture into four hamburger-size patties (or make smaller, fritter-ish patties). Carefully place the patties in the hot oil, taking care not to crowd them in the pan. Press down on the tops of the patties with the bottom of your spatula to prevent them from falling apart; if they are thick enough, they should stay together. Cook for four to five minutes on each side until nicely browned. Remove from the heat and serve.

Variation: Substitute 2 pounds bunch spinach for the chard. Stem and wash the leaves (discard the stems) and wilt, in batches, in a large frying pan in the water left on their leaves after washing. Proceed as instructed.

Yield: Serves four.

Advance preparation: The cooked chard and cooked quinoa will keep for four days in the refrigerator. The mixture will keep for a day.

Nutritional information per serving: 242 calories; 2 grams saturated fat; 3 grams polyunsaturated fat; 9 grams monounsaturated fat; 53 milligrams cholesterol; 18 grams carbohydrates; 3 grams dietary fiber; 485 milligrams sodium (does not include salt to taste); 11 grams protein

Martha Rose Shulman is the author of "The Very Best of Recipes for Health."

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Chard Tart: one of my all time favorites

This week has been cold and rainy. During weather like this, I like to return to my comfort recipes. This one is delicious and filled with chard. Yum!

Chard and Herb Tart
(Torta di Bietolo ed Erbe)
This is a popular tart in Tuscany and can include other herbs like tarragon, sage, nettles and borage.

1 lb Swiss chard, stems and ribs removed
1 ½ TBS extra virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced or pressed
1 15 oz container whole milk ricotta cheese
½ C freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 large eggs
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp ground pepper
¼ tsp minced fresh thyme
¼ tsp minced fresh oregano
1/8 tsp grated nutmeg

1 17 oz package frozen puff pastry, (2 sheets) thawed

Cook chard in a large pot of boiling salted water until just wilted, about 2 minutes. Drain. Squeeze out liquid. Chop chard. (I do this in a food processor.)

Heat oil in a heavy large skillet, over medium heat. Add garlic, sauté 1 minute. Add chard, sauté until excess liquid evaporates, about 5 minutes. Transfer chard mixture to a large bowl. Cool slightly. Mix in ricotta and next seven ingredients.

Preheat oven to 375 with rack positioned in lower third of oven. Roll out one pastry sheet on lightly floured surface to a 14 inch square. Transfer to a 9-inch-diameter tart pan with a removable bottom. Trim edges, leaving one inch overhang. Fill pastry with chard mixture. Lightly brush pastry overhang with pastry brush dipped into water. Roll out second sheet to a 13 inch square. Using tart pan as guide, trim pastry to a 10-inch round. Drape over filling. Seal edges and fold in.

Bake until pastry is golden brown about 45 minutes. Cool 10 minutes. Remove sides from tart pan. Transfer to platter, cut into wedges and serve.
Bon Appetit, May 2000

Monday, May 2, 2011

Greens and Eggs

I love almost all combinations of greens and eggs. I don't know why but I find them a perfect complement to one another. The recipe below is from Deborah Madison's cookbook "Vegetarian Cooking for Eveyone." Deborah was the chef at Greens for a while and now lives in New Mexico. I adore her recipes. I hope you like this one.

Chard and Onion Omelet (Trouchia)
by Deborah Madison

Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone
These Provençal eggs, laced with softened onions and chard, never fail to elicit sighs of appreciation. I'm forever grateful to Nathalie Waag for making trouchia when she came to visit—it has since become a favorite. The trick to its success is to cook everything slowly so that the flavors really deepen and sweeten.

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large red or white onion, quartered and thinly sliced crosswise
1 bunch chard, leaves only, chopped
Salt and freshly milled pepper

1 garlic clove
6 to 8 eggs, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
2 tablespoons chopped basil
2 teaspoons chopped thyme
1 cup grated Gruyère
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan

Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a 10-inch skillet, add the onion, and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until completely soft but not colored, about 15 minutes. Add the chard and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until all the moisture has cooked off and the chard is tender, about 15 minutes. Season well with salt and pepper.
Meanwhile, mash the garlic in a mortar with a few pinches of salt (or chop them finely together), then stir it into the eggs along with the herbs. Combine the chard mixture with the eggs and stir in the Gruyère and half the Parmesan.
Preheat the broiler. Heat the remaining oil in the skillet and, when it's hot, add the eggs. Give a stir and keep the heat at medium-high for about a minute, then turn it to low. Cook until the eggs are set but still a little moist on top, 10 to 15 minutes. Add the remaining Parmesan and broil 4 to 6 inches from the heat, until browned.
Serve trouchia in the pan or slide it onto a serving dish and cut it into wedges. The gratinéed top and the golden bottom are equally presentable.

Source Information
From Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison

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Monday, April 25, 2011

Wilted Greens 2 Ways

I love mixing up my cooking greens in a couple different ways. One thing I like to do is a wilted greens salad. For this, I use a mix of both salad greens and young cooking greens like chard or spinach. I like the leaves to be pretty small. This works great with baby bok choy, tat soy, chard and baby spinach. I think it would also be fine with baby mizuna. What I do is pour some olive oil in a skillet and heat it until it sheets. Add some chopped green garlic or pressed garlic cloves. Add sliced mushrooms and saute until the mushrooms are browned but there is still some of their liquid in the pan. Wash and mix the greens and put them in a bowl. Add some balsamic vinegar to the pan and heat it up. Add a little more oil to make a dressing. Pour the entire contents of the skillet over the greens and toss to lightly wilt and dress the greens. Add some grated cheese to the top. If you have roasted beets, they're great in this salad as well.

For more bitter greens like wild mustard, wild radish or Italian rapini, I like to wilt them a bit more and add a vinegar while hot. This is more of a traditional Mediterranean side dish. The recipe below is posted on Epicurious and comes from Gourmet Magazine.

Wilted Mixed Greens
Gourmet, May 2003
There is a tradition in Crete of gathering wild greens and using them not only in vegetable or salad dishes but also as stuffings for savory turnovers. Cretans make use of tiny leeks, wild fennel, purslane, and milkwort, as well as the more familiar greens. We have substituted a mixture of the varieties of tender greens available at most supermarkets. You can even use prepackaged mixes, such as baby Asian salad or baby braising mix.
Yield: Serves 4 (as part of mezedes)

1 1/2 pound mixed tender or baby greens such as young chard, kale, mustard greens, spinach, beet greens, dandelion, and arugula, coarse stems discarded and leaves coarsely chopped (20 cups)
2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Cook greens in a 6- to 8-quart pot of , uncovered, until wilted and tender, about 3 minutes. Drain greens in a colander, then immediately plunge into a large bowl of very cold water to stop cooking. Once cooled, drain in colander, tossing occasionally, 1 hour.
Just before serving, whisk together vinegar, salt, and oil in a bowl until combined well. Add greens and toss to coat.

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Monday, April 18, 2011

James Beard's Spinach Pasta

I just made some spinach pasta using my Bloomsdale spinach from our share this past week. It was beautifully green and very tasty. Freshly made pasta is much more flavorful than that dried packaged stuff. I made a brown butter, green garlic and sage topping and added some aged parmesan. Try it!

Green Pasta
1 and 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 pound spinach, wilted and squeezed dry

The easiest way to make this pasta is in a mixer or food processor.
By Electric Mixer:
Fit the paddle into your electric mixer. Put the flour and salt into the bowl and give it a quick whirl to mix them. Add the egg, spinach and oil and turn on the beater. Let it go for half a minute, until you have coarse grains of dough in the bowl, something like the consistency of piecrust before it is gathered into a ball.

Replace the paddle with the dough hook and knead in the bowl for 5 minutes. OR take the dough from the bowl, dust a wooden surface with flour, pat the dough into a ball, and knead for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, you should have a firm, smooth bright green ball of dough. Cover with a cloth and let rest a minimum of 30 minutes before rolling and cutting.

By Food Processor:
Put the metal blade into the food processor. Measure in the flour and salt, and process briefly to blend them. Drop the eggs, oil and spinach through the feeding tube, and let the machine run until the dough begins to form a ball, around 15 seconds should do it. Once you've become familiar with the method, you'll be able to correct the recipe at this point. If the dough seems too sticky, add more flout. If it's too dry (unlikely with the spinach) add a few drops of oil.

Turn out the dough out onto a floured surface. Dust your hands with flour and continue the kneading begun by the food processor. Work for 3-5 minutes, adding more flour as needed, until you have a smooth ball of dough. Set it to rest under a dish towel for a minimum of 30 minutes before rolling and cutting.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Polenta with Greens and Eggs

There are several recipes for cooked greens with corn meal mush or polenta or grits and eggs. I have taken a couple and adapted it to my taste.

Adapted from the smart palate recipe for creamy polenta with greens and poached egg and a Southern fried eggs, grits and collard greens recipe.

4 cups water
1 cup polenta (I am using Country Grains Floriani from Oliveto in Oakland. It is very coarse.)
1 tsp sea salt
2-1/2 cups wild greens like wild mustard or radish greens cut in strips
freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
Extra-virgin olive oil
Parmesan cheese

Bring water to a boil in a 2 or 3 quart pot.
Add salt to pot, then add polenta in a steady, slow stream, whisking constantly. Reduce heat to low and continue to whisk for a minute or so to prevent lumps from forming. Simmer for 15 to 30 minutes, until polenta is thickened. Whisk every few minutes (polenta likes to stick to the bottom of the pot). Add more water (1/4 cup at a time) if the polenta becomes too thick.

Meanwhile, wilt the greens in a pan with the water remaining on their leaves and some salt.

When polenta is cooked to your liking, turn off heat and stir in the chopped greens. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper to taste. Cover until ready to serve. (If reserved polenta becomes too thick, or to reheat leftovers, stir in 1/4 cup water or milk and whisk over low heat for a couple of minutes to loosed it up.)

To poach eggs: add water, to a depth of about 3 inches, to a small pot or saucepan. Bring to a boil, add vinegar, and reduce heat to low. (It should be just below a simmer, hot enough for small bubbles to form on the bottom of the pot but not actively bubbling - that would break up the egg.) Break each egg into a small cup and carefully slide egg into water. I like to swirl the water with the handle of a wooden spoon right after adding the egg; it prevents the egg from spreading out too much into the water. Poach for 4 to 5 minutes, until white is firm and yolk is still soft. Remove egg from pot with a slotted spoon.

If you want, you can cook your eggs however you like them. This dish is delicious with fried eggs, creamy scrambled eggs or poached eggs, so experiment!

Transfer hot polenta to bowls. Top each serving with a serving of egg, drizzle with olive oil, and shower with parmesan shavings.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Green Pies

I am always searching for recipes for wild greens. In the process of doing this, I found some scientific articles about the health benefits of Cretan green pies, kaltsounia with greens and cheese. Search as I might, I could not find a recipe with this name. I did, however, find a number of Greek greens pies. The one I liked the look of best was this one from Banana Wonder (a blog.)

The health research indicates that these green pies, made from wild plants contain high levels of flavonoids, specifically quercitin. There is some very preliminary evidence that asthma, lung cancer and breast cancer are lower among people consuming higher dietary levels of quercetin. Anyway, I just love the way these taste.

Wild Greens Pie
adapted from Athens Plus

For the pastry:
4 cups self-rising flour
1 cup beer
8 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt

For the filling:
6 cups cleaned greens such as spinach, white beet, nettle, shallots, parsley, dill or whatever else desired
1 tbsp white rice
4 tbsp olive oil plus a little to grease the pan

Wash the greens well and drain as well as possible.

Pastry: Knead all ingredients until a smooth dough is formed. Roll into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for one hour.

Filling: Chop the greens finely, place in a large bowl, add the salt and knead well to reduce volume. Set aside and strain off excess liquid and then mix in rice and olive oil. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Grease a pie dish (approximately 11 inch diameter). Divide dough into two pieces so that one piece is a third of the size of the other (the smaller will be used for pie topping). Take the large piece of dough and press it down with your hands on a floured surface until it is flat, then place in pie dish so it covers all sides. Spread the greens over the pastry. Roll out smaller piece of dough and place on top. Pierce the top 3 or 4 places and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour until the top is golden.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Broccolini, Sprouting Broccoli, Broccoli Florets?

Well we've been getting little tiny broccoli stalks in our CSA box. The farmer calls it sprouting broccoli. Some people call it broccolini and I tend to call it broccoli florets. So, what is it, exactly? And why all the names? According to Wikipedia, sprouting broccoli is a variety of broccoli with a large number of heads and a lot of thin stalks. Broccolini, on the other hand is a hybrid of broccoli and Chinese kai-lan. The stalks seem to be longer and it looks a lot like broccoli raab. Happily, I can say they are all related.

When I saw this recipe, I really wanted to try it out. I am going to later this week.

Broccolini with Smoked Paprika, Almonds, and Garlic
Bon Appétit | November 2009
by Amelia Saltsman
Broccolini may also be labeled "aspiration" or "baby broccoli." if using Ordinary broccoli, cut off the florets, peel the stalks, and cut into short, thin sticks.
Yield: Makes 8 servings

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1/2 cup whole almonds, coarsely chopped
3 large garlic cloves, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika*
Coarse kosher salt
2 pounds broccolini, rinsed, stalks cut into 2- to 3-inch lengths
1/3 cup water
1 to 2 teaspoons Sherry wine vinegar

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add almonds. Stir until lightly browned, 2 to 3 minutes. Add garlic and paprika. Sprinkle with coarse salt; sauté 1 minute. Transfer to small bowl. Add remaining 2 tablespoons oil to skillet. Add broccolini; sprinkle with coarse salt. Add 1/3 cup water. Cover and boil until crisp-tender and still bright green, about 4 minutes. Pour off any water. Stir in almond mixture. Season to taste with coarse salt and pepper. Mix in 1 to 2 teaspoons vinegar. Transfer broccolini to bowl and serve.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

In Praise of Nettles

Nettles have been eaten throughout much of human history and have been valued for their taste and healthy qualities. But in our modern society, they have become a food from which most of us are pretty far removed. Inevitably when we get nettles in our CSA share there are some members who are either confused or frightened by the delicate green weeds. Because of the abundant rain, the nettles are abundant on the farm. Some members have shared their perspectives and ideas this week.

Hi Gail - I wanted to share with you how I think about nettles. It's like, before this age of refrigerated ships and trucks, in those areas with winter cold and snow, nettles were probably the first edible greens that people had access to -- so when we start getting nettles, I think about what a relief it might have been to know that winter was almost over -- yay! we have nettles!!

I made a nice frittata with the nettles. It was really good, just a fancy name for an omelette with bread crumbs. A warning should be issued because they are wicked dirty, need many rinses. I love nettles and I am so grateful to the person who picks them so I don't have to!

Nettle Soup
To ratio of potatoes to nettles is completely up to you. I packed a lot of nettles in, and it tasted great! But you could use less, if that’s all you had. If you would like, you could add a few dashes of lemon juice or balsamic vinegar for more flavor and tang. I am sure there are a lot of ways to dress this basic soup up!

1 onion, peeled and chopped
3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely minced or put through the garlic press
Olive oil or coconut oil
8 cups of flavorful broth
4-6 potatoes, peeled and cubed (more potatoes- thicker and more creamy, less-thinner)
6-8 cups of packed and washed nettle leaves

In a large soup pot, heat the oil until hot, and add the onion. Sprinkle a little salt over it and saute until the onion starts to soften (about 5-7 minutes). Add the garlic and saute for a minute or two more.

Add the broth and potatoes and bring to a simmer, turn down heat and simmer for about 20 minutes or until the potatoes are soft.

Now add the nettles leaves, and cook for about five more minutes. You can just mash up the soup a bit with the back of a wooden spoon for a rustic soup, or you can puree it into a smooth soup. For those who can have dairy, finishing this soup off with some cream would be great too. Salt and pepper to taste and serve.

Monday, February 28, 2011


For 2011, I will offer an eggs only CSA to those who are interested. Members will be able to pick up in Oakley, Walnut Creek, Danville and Orinda.

The hens are all pastured and happy in Brentwood. Eggs are $6 a dozen and members can sign up for weekly or alternate week deliveries.

Greens and Beans

I love bitter greens with beans: white bean and rapini soup, mustard greens and garbanzos, pinto beans with lamb's quarters....I think they are a great compliment to one another. Below is a recipe I really recommend from Alice Waters.

White Bean and Wilted Greens Soup
From the book Chez Panisse Vegetables by Alice Waters
Serves 6
Cook Time 2 hours
1½ cups dried cannellini or Great Northern beans
2 medium tomatoes
1 medium yellow onion
1 small carrot
3 cloves garlic
~ Olive oil
2 bay leaves
1 small piece prosciutto, with rind, or smoked bacon
6 cups chicken stock
3 tsp. salt
1 bunch (about 1 pound) spicy greens (arugula, mustard greens, or turnip greens)

12 sage leaves and fresh Parmesan cheese for garnish

Soak the beans overnight.
Peel, seed, and chop the tomatoes. Set aside.
Peel and cut the onion and carrot into small dice; peel and chop the garlic very fine. Place the onion, carrot, and garlic in a nonreactive soup pot with some olive oil and a splash of water; cook until translucent. Add the bay leaves, drained beans, and prosciutto or bacon, and cook for a few minutes more. Add the tomatoes to the beans and stew for another minute or so.
Pour in the stock and bring the soup to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer and cook for about 1¼ hours, stirring occasionally. Add the salt after about an hour. The beans should be fully cooked, soft but not falling apart.

Add the greens, washed and cut into 1-inch strips, and simmer, uncovered, for another 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, heat some olive oil in a small frying pan. Fry the sage leaves in the oil for a few seconds, a few at a time (more than a few seconds and they’ll turn black). Drain on a paper towel or absorbent cloth.

When the soup is done, ladle it into soup bowls and serve, garnished with a few shavings of Parmesan and the fried sage leaves.

I also think that peppery greens are delicious with either sweet or astringent fruits. So, arugula with Fuyu persimmons, tangerines or Fuji apples and a light vinaigrette are a favorite of mine.

Monday, February 21, 2011

The 2011 Season has Begun

Another year of eating locally has begun. February 22 is the first day of the season. We will be getting many delicious greens, as usual for this time of year. We will have Fuji apples, Dancy tangerines, arugula, tatsoi rosettes, fava leaves, wild radish greens and stalks of green garlic.

Since it's still cold, try this recipe for
Green Garlic Soup from Chez Panisse.

1 pound green garlic (about 8 to 10 plants)
1/2 pound new potatoes
2 medium onions
1/4 pound unsalted butter
2 quarts chicken or vegetable stock

Cut the garlic into thin rounds or half-circles. Unless very tough, the lower foot or so of the stem and leaves are fine to use. Peel the potatoes and cut into 1/2-inch cubes. Peel and chop the onions into small dice. Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed pot, add the onions, and cook slowly until translucent and tender. Salt, and add the garlic and potatoes. Cook these together for 5 minutes, then pour in the stock and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer and cook the soup until the potatoes are tender. Check the seasoning. This soup can be served rustic and chunky, or puréed.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Eat Outside the Box in 2011

Eat Outside the Box will start up in 2011 on February 21. We will have pick up sites in Oakley, Orinda and Walnut Creek. Contact me if you are interested in signing up.