Monthly Archives: August 2009

Blueberry-Fig Salsa

[Printable Recipe]

After my experiment with blueberries, figs and balsamic last week, I wanted to give this flavor combination a try again. Like the cantaloupe salsa, I had all of the ingredients I needed in our Greenling box or from the pantry.

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 c. blueberries (my box of blueberries fell on the floor in between transporting them from the Greenling box to the fridge. I bet you can guess what happened to the other 1/4 c. Yes, it had something to do with these guys.)
  • 5 figs, cut into chunks (chunked?)
  • 1/2 c. whole toasted almonds
  • Splash of balsamic vinegar
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

  • Combine in a bowl and serve immediately with chips.

Verdict:
I will freely admit that this one is a little strange. But do give it a try! I was so pleasantly surprised with the way these flavors and textures came together. The balsamic played off of the sweet figs and blueberries really nicely, and the toasted almonds gave each bite a hearty crunch.

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Cantaloupe Salsa

[Printable Recipe]

We had a few friends come over before we went out, so I decided to whip up some pre-bar snacks! Our Greenling box was chock-full of fruit, peppers and onions this week, so everything I needed for this cantaloupe salsa was already in the fridge.

The flavors get much better after the salsa sits for a bit, so I’d allot at least an hour before serving.

From Smitten Kitchen

Ingredients:

  • 1 whole cantaloupe, seeded and diced
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh basil, chopped finely
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • Salt to taste (I used much more than I thought I would, ~1 tsp.)

Directions:

  • Combine everything in a bowl and let marinate for 1 hour before serving with chips.

Verdict:
Along the same lines as mango salsa, this cantaloupe salsa is a refreshing change to the typical tomato or tomatillo-based salsas. The sweet-spicy combination would be a great compliment to grilled fish or chicken.

Just remember to chop the jalapenos AFTER putting in your contact lenses (or wear rubber gloves). Ow.

Local Box Meal Plan: August 17-21

It’s that time of week again! We’ll be getting our Greenling Local Box on Thursday and I’ve got to plan for it.

This week, we’re getting chives (or mint) from Pure Luck, squash blossoms from Montesino, blueberries from Berry Best, pea shoots from Bluebonnet Hydroponics or Bella Verde, a pepper mix from Lundgren, okra or eggplant from Tecalote, squash from Naegelin, peaches from Cooper Orchards, lettuce from Bluebonnet, shallots and elephant garlic from Lundgren, and a Canary melon from Tecalote.

So I’m making:

Breakfast:

  • Melon halves with cottage cheese (don’t knock it until you try it! Cottage cheese is a great source of protein in the early morning and it’s great when paired with a sweet melon like this.)

Side dishes:

And if we get mint instead of chives, I’ll be using that in one of the cocktails I’ll be serving at my friend’s lingerie shower this weekend. Champagne, lychee and bruised mint — yummy!

Have you come up with some creative ways to use your lettuce in recipes? I find myself eating it raw most of the time.

Baked Popcorn Okra

[Printable Recipe]

I have a love-hate relationship with okra. Until very recently, I didn’t know the love part existed. Until I baked it. All of the sliminess between your fingers when slicing, the ooze that won’t seem to leave your tongue long after swallowing — gone. And the crunchy crust wasn’t so bad either.

From Greenling — it’s Mason’s dad’s specialty!

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. okra
  • 1 c. cornmeal
  • 1/2 tsp. paprika
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp. onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • Few turns of pepper
  • 1 Tbsp. canola oil
  • Pam spray

Directions:

  • Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
  • Slice the okra into 1/4″ rounds.
  • Mix the spices with the cornmeal, then add the okra and oil. Toss the okra well to coat thoroughly.
  • Spray a baking sheet with Pam, then spread the cornmeal-coated okra in a single layer on the baking sheet. Bake for 40 minutes, or until the okra is golden brown and crunchy.

Verdict:
Crunchy and thoroughly ooze-free. Using my mom’s secret spice blend (equal parts paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, and salt — try it on baked bone-in chicken, it’s delish. Oops, not so secret anymore. Sorry, mom.) made the coating so flavorful. I served them as a side dish, but to be honest, I was popping these in my mouth even before serving! Just couldn’t resist.

Local Box Cooking Class at Thai Fresh

Yesterday we traveled up to Austin to attend a Greenling local box cooking class at Thai Fresh. The premise was simple: we would learn how to use the ingredients in our local box to prepare a few recipes. I had never cooked Thai food before (scratch that — I made a terrible Pad Krapao Mu a few months ago), so I was excited for the opportunity to learn a few new techniques and meet some great people!

Ever the good host, Mason started off by offering us a choice of the Parducci Zinfandel or Pinot Grigio. Parducci is located in Mendocino, California and is the first carbon-neutral winery in the US.

Cory and I both particularly enjoyed the Zinfandel. It wasn’t as tannic as other Zins I’ve had, which really let the fruitiness come through.

Mason then showed us what was in this week’s local box. Can’t wait for those beautiful portobellos!

Here’s a fun fact: whereas typical grocery stores waste 30% of their produce, Greenling only wastes 3%! And that just ends up in the compost pile.

Next — onto the cooking!

You can tell how excited Jam, one of the owners and chef at Thai Fresh, is to be cooking and eating locally. She shared lots of great tips about traditional Thai ingredients and substitutions, and about cooking in general.

We started with her recipe for Som Tum, or shredded papaya salad. Instead of papaya, however, Jam used the peaches, blueberries and figs that came in this week’s Local Box. It’s basically a fruit salad that’s dressed in a spicy savory vinaigrette. This was a really versatile recipe that can be used with any firm, not-too-juicy fruit or vegetable. Jam suggested spaghetti squash, and she’s also made it with carrots and rhubarb. I really liked the juxtaposition of the oh-so-sweet figs with the spicy chilies. Jam uses dried shrimp and fish sauce in the recipe, which I questioned at first, but it really makes the salad much more complex. Jam said during the lesson, “If you think something’s missing, it’s probably fish sauce!” It just adds a certain something. Jam also uses palm sugar in this recipe. It apparently has a lower glycemic index than agave nectar.

Did I mention that this was a hands-on cooking class? She put us to work!

Next we started the yellow curry. Much like Indian yellow curry, Thai yellow curry is traditionally made with onions and potatoes, but instead of the dry spices used in Indian curries, Thai curries always use fresh herbs and spices. Instead of the dried tumeric and curry powder used in traditional Indian curry, Jam used a container of paste that was made up of different herbs and spices. She brought out her huge mortar and pestle and regaled us of stories of making curry paste by hand when she was little.

The curry starts by frying the curry paste in the coconut milk:

Then the chicken is simmered in the liquid for about 30 minutes, and midway through the cooking time, the potatoes and onions are also added. We used bone-in chicken last night, but boneless chicken would be much quicker.

While the chicken was cooking, we whipped up a double-batch of tofu pad thai. Anyone who knows me know that tofu and I don’t get along well, but Jam told us of a place in Austin (next to the MT supermarket, for locals) that makes fresh tofu. It’s apparently much better than the packaged stuff and it’s all she uses at Thai Fresh now. And let me tell you, it wasn’t too bad!

I always thought that pad thai was one of those dishes that is insanely hard to make, so much so that you should only order it from a truck (those from Carnegie Mellon know what I’m talking about!) or from a restaurant. I was *so* wrong. It’s so quick and easy!

Jam had already soaked the noodles for us, so we started by sauteeing some shallot and scrambling 4 eggs with it:

Tell me that’s not the biggest pot you’ve ever seen!

Then gradually added the fried tofu and some chili flakes, then the noodles, and douse them in the pad thai sauce. When the noodles are coated, add the bean sprouts and baby leeks and you’re done! Good thing too, because the curry was just about ready also.

Time to eat!

We left with full bellies and new appreciation for both Thai cuisine and our weekly Local Box. If you’re in Austin and get a chance, I highly recommend you check out Thai Fresh!

Local Box Meal Plan: August 10-14

This week, we’re getting portabellos from Kitchen Pride, blueberries from Berry Best, limes from G&S Groves, a peach from Cooper Orchards, red bell pepper from Tecalote, basil and lettuce from Bluebonnet Hydroponics, okra from Naegelin, red or yellow potatoes from Tecalote, baby leeks from Animal Farm, eggplant from Tecalote, and figs from Purple Goose Farm.

So we’re having:

Breakfast:

  • Granola with peaches and figs (if you have a dehydrator, you can dry the peaches and figs and throw them into the granola)

Lunch:

  • Grilled balsamic-marinated portabello, red pepper and eggplant sandwiches

Dinner:

Dessert:

  • Blueberry-lime frozen yogurt

I’m excited for the first limes of the season! What are you doing with yours? (Quartering them for Dos XX doesn’t count!)

Vegetarian Baked Egg Rolls with Duck Sauce

[Printable Recipe]

In our house, salads are very much an afterthought. If I actually want people to eat them, I serve them as a first course, and we rarely eat multi-course meals. When we had friends over last weekend for dinner, Cory suggested that in lieu of salad, perhaps I could incorporate veggies elsewhere. “Like egg rolls?” he asked. I kind of rolled my eyes at first (only he would suggest replacing salad with fried food), but given that I found what looked like a fantastic recipe for baked egg rolls, I thought I would give it a try.

I made the filling in the morning and let it cool completely, then assembled the egg rolls in the afternoon. Since they only took a few minutes to bake up and are really best when eaten immediately, I baked them up right before dinner. If you’re waiting a while (more than a half hour or so) between assembling the egg rolls and serving them, cover the assembled egg rolls with a damp kitchen towel and keep them in the fridge (the wonton wrappers will dry out fairly quickly).

Adapted from Imperrfections

Ingredients:
For the egg rolls:

  • 1/2 Napa cabbage, shredded (I used the food processor for both the cabbage and the carrots.)
  • 3 large carrots, shredded
  • 8 large crimini mushrooms, minced (I used both the caps and stems.)
  • 3 green onions, chopped (green and white parts)
  • 1 tsp. canola oil, plus a bit more for brushing on top of the egg rolls
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 tsp. grated fresh ginger
  • 1/3 c. soy sauce
  • 1 tsp. sesame oil
  • 1 package (16) wonton wrappers

For the duck sauce:

  • 1/2 c. water
  • 1/3 c. sugar
  • 1/2 c. mango jam
  • 1-1/2 tsp. cornstarch
  • 1 Tbsp. white vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp. salt

Directions:

  • Combine the cabbage, carrots, mushrooms and green onions in a bowl.
  • Heat the canola oil in a pan and saute the garlic and ginger in the hot oil. Add the vegetable mixture, soy sauce and sesame oil and saute for ~4 minutes until the moisture in the veggies is cooked out.
  • Remove the veggies from the pan and let cool.
  • Combine the ingredients for the duck sauce in a small saucepan and simmer for 5-10 minutes until it’s thickened and smooth. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool (you want this to be at room temperature when it’s served, not hot).
  • When the veggie mixture has cooled, assemble the egg rolls and set them aside on a baking sheet lined with a silicon mat:

Put about 1 Tbsp. of the veggie mixture in the bottom corner of the square wonton wrapper.

Roll up the wonton wrapper, pinching it tightly as it’s rolled, until the wrapper is in the shape of a triangle.

Fold the right and left sides of the triangle in so that it looks like an envelope.

Wet the edges, then roll up the wonton wrapper the rest of the way. The outer edge of the triangle should be face-down. Continue rolling the rest of the egg rolls until you’ve exhausted your supply of either wonton wrappers or filling (for me, the wonton wrappers went first).

  • Brush the tops of the egg rolls with canola oil, then bake at 425 degrees for 12 minutes. (Mine weren’t quite brown enough after 12 minutes, so I broiled them for an additional 2 minutes.)
  • Serve immediately with the cooled duck sauce.

Verdict:
I’ll be honest — I never expected these to be as crunchy as traditional fried egg rolls, but was I wrong! We all really liked the combination of textures. The criminis (beautiful ones from Greenling!) added a heartier flavor and consistency to the filling, and the saltiness of the soy sauce and sweetness of the carrot played off each other nicely. Traditionally made with apricot, the duck sauce made with the mango jam was a nice change. It had the same sour-sweet flavor as the stuff that comes in plastic packets, but tasted so much fresher and brighter.