Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Essential CSA Kitchen Tools – Salad Spinner

On CSA pick up day the Salad Spinner gets quite a work out.  Every week in our CSA there are greens.  Early on there will be arugula, bok choi, radish and turnips greens, as the summer goes on we’ll have broccoli rabe and spinach, and in the fall we hope for collard greens and kale.  We also get lettuce and herbs almost every week.  All these leafy greens need cleaned and stored.
The salad spinner does a great job with a quick rinse on herbs and then a quick spin.  I then line a plastic bag with a paper towel to store these herbs.
Greens like lettuce, spinach, and bok choi can come with lots of gritty dirt.  The salad spinner allows you to fill the container with water and then immerse the greens in the water.  Let them sit for a few minutes and the dirt will fall to bottom of the container.  I then pick up the colander section, drain the greens, discard the dirty water, and spin the greens to prepare them for storage.
And as any fan of Alton Brown knows, we try very hard to avoid uni-taskers.  The bowl of my Salad Spinner makes for a great salad bowl.  The lid also fits securely and the plunger locks in a lowered position to allow for easy transport. 
One week till our first CSA pick up!  We get to pick up a week early, I’m so very excited

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Essential CSA Kitchen Tools – Immersion Blender

By far, my favorite kitchen tool is the immersion blender! 
An immersion blender is so easy to use.  Mine came with a tall cylindrical container that you put ingredients in for blending.  It is easy to clean.  You only have to clean one detachable part.  I find this so much easier that the multiple pieces of a food processor.  All right, you should probably wipe down the top piece, but being able to immerse the actual blender without worrying about electrical parts is such a relief.  Two or Three times a week I pull the immersion blender out of the cupboard, pop it together and blend away – marinades, dressings, sauces, and soups.
During CSA season my immersion blender is used to make pesto, soup, salsa, sauce, and dessert.  Here is a sampling of Purple Cook Favorites that use an immersion blender.
Basil Pesto
Cilantro Pesto
Arugula Pesto
Parsley Pesto
Thai Butternut Squash Soup
Cucumber Gazpacho with Shrimp Relish
Creamy Tomato Pesto Soup
Salsa Verde
Strawberry Sauce
Eggplant Parmesan Caprese Salad
Beet Red Velvet Cupcakes
And that is just to name a few of the recipes in which I’ve used both CSA offerings and my immersion blender.
Looking forward to CSA season!  5 weeks till the first pick up!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Strawberry Cream Cake

This was dessert when my book club recently discussed “The Dirty Life” by Kristen Kimball.  Local frozen strawberries made the cream filling yummy.
Strawberry Cream Cake
based on Raspberry-Cream Layer Cake from Everyday Food
for the cake:
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 ¾ cup sugar
4 large eggs, plus 2 large egg yolks
1 T vanilla extract
3 cups cake flour, spooned and leveled
1 T baking powder
½ t fine salt
1 ½ cups buttermilk, divided
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray two 9-inch round cake pans with cooking spray for baking.
Using an electric mixer beat butter and sugar on high until light and fluffy, 6 minutes.  Beat in 4 eggs plus two yolks, one at a time, until combined.  Beat in vanilla extract. 
In another large bowl which together flour, baking powder, and salt.
Mix 1/3 of flour mixture into butter mixture, then ¾ cup buttermilk, another 1/3 of flour mixture, another ¾ cup of buttermilk and then remaining 1/3 flour mixture.  Beat until just combined.
Divide batter evenly between the pans.  Bake until golden, about 30 minutes.  Let cakes cook in pans for 10 minutes.  Then remove cake and cool completely on wire racks.
for the cream filling:
2 cups strawberries
3 T confectioner’s sugar
2 cups cold heavy cream
In a large bowl mash strawberries.
Using an electric mixer beat sugar and cream on high until peaks form, about 1 minute.  With a rubber spatula gently fold strawberries into whipped cream. 
Place a layer of cake on serving dish.  Spread with strawberry cream leave ¼-inch border.  Top with the other cake layer.  Finish top with remaining strawberry cream.  Serve immediately.

“The Dirty Life” Book Club Meeting

My favorite things to do are to cook and to read.  Once a year I cook for my book club, and this year we focused on local food while we discussed “The Dirty Life” by Kristin Kimball.  This book club meeting was a perfect combination of all my favorite things!
In “The Dirty Life” Kristen Kimball shares the story of her romance with Mark and their first year building Essex Farm.  Essex Farm is a full diet CSA farm in Essex, NY.  Kimball is a wonderful writer.  One of my favorite lines in the book is when she described the beginnings of member pick up days like cocktail parties in a third-world market.
Shopping for the book club diner at the market last weekend was slightly frustrating.  It had been wet and cold and the farmer’s did not have vegetables usually expected in spring, most obviously missing was asparagus.  I had expected to find baby lettuces, piles of carrots, radishes, small potatoes, and the favored asparagus.  I found some of these in small quantities – lettuce and carrots.  I did well with radishes and potatoes.  I left so sad about the asparagus.  I really wanted to share my favorite asparagus dish – Spaghetti with Shaved Asparagus.  Mark and Kristin had many occasions in that first year when they needed to make dinner with what was available.  Upon getting home I realized I had beautiful radish greens and could make Braised Greens to serve with the spaghetti.  I was back to being excited about the menu.  Here is what we had...
Braised Radish Greens over Spaghetti
Spaghetti with Basil Pesto
Roast Chicken with Spring Vegetables
Strawberry Cream Cake
The Basil Pesto was made from Basil I had stored in the freezer.  It worked really well!  Good to know.
The Strawberry Cream Cake was also made from foods in my freezer store.  I thought the berries might be too soggy for the cream filling, but I thought the dessert was delicious.  Now, it was quiet messy to serve, but my dessert guru friend always says taste is the most important.