This week the CSA doubled down on the bitter greens, introduced a special ‘guest star’ and I almost suffered a personal electronics catastrophe in the name of blogging.
Greens and roots – those are the major players in a Tucson winter farm. Greens love our relatively mild winters and the root veggies are burrowed into the cozy soil. Which is why I was excited to see a special item in this week’s harvest. I’m sure most of you already know what the mystery plant above is, but I like to be overly dramatic at times, so just indulge me.
Aw, look how shy she is! Don’t be afraid, my green lovely. I mean you no harm. Well, I am going to cut you up, drop you in boiling broth and eat you – but aside from that, you’re completely safe.
May I present to you a Brassica oleracea – otherwise known as Romanesco Broccoli! Ain’t she a beaut? Looks like the vegetable version of a lovely Star Trek alien. As the name would suggest, this heirloom variety hails from Italy. However, despite what the name suggests, this is not a broccoli but a variety of cauliflower. In any case, it’s cool to look at and fun to cook with.
Here’s my first escarole of the year. Now *this* is a bitter green.
As I mentioned before, bitter greens can be an acquired taste. And I done acquired it. This is a pretty, low, wide, frilly head of greens. Here’s a side view:
Looks like a lovely buttery bunch of lettuce. But believe me. It is Not. I’m pretty happy about it, but can I cook it in a way that tempers the bitterness? We shall see…
First CSA meal of the week was a(nother) gorgeous recipe from My New Roots: Fragrant Pho Noodle Bowl. “Fragrant” refers to the aromatic vegetable broth you make first, and it absolutely earns that adjective with its infusion of fennel seeds, cardamom pods and cloves. I didn’t have all the ingredients listed (star anise or coriander seeds) and I’m sure it would have made it even more heavenly. I also didn’t have much to garnish it with, but it still was a hearty yet light delicious vegan meal. I highly recommend checking out the recipe. Below is my version with mizuna greens (though in this case, I should have let them cook longer instead of just letting them wilt in the residual heat – they’re tasty but sturdy!) I also added lots of zippy cilantro. But I would have been SUPER happy with mung bean sprouts and some enoki mushrooms.
Next to the broth, the star of this meal was the red bottle of Awesome Sauce – ie, srirachi!
Just looking at that picture makes my sinuses clear.
Next up was Friday’s roast chicken (pasture-raised from the CSA) with turnips in the pan (anything in a pan roasting with the chicken is an automatic WIN). I also boiled up the new potatoes and dressed them with butter and goat cheese. The resulting sauce was a little lumpy but the taste was saliva-inducing. Aaaand, I forgot to take pics. (Sorry). To make it up, here’s a tip I picked up somewhere on the interwebs: boil the potatoes in water with bay leaves, whole peeled garlic cloves and some peppercorns. All that flavor steeps into the potato.
The next day I tackled the escarole. You definitely want to cook it. I don’t recommend it raw in a salad. It’s also best to cook it with fat (yeah, twist my arm) and other intense ingredients, in this case lemon slices, garlic and red pepper flakes with some of the leftover pho broth. I tasted it and worried that it was still too intense so I dumped in a (rinsed) can of cannellini beans, heating it until it was warmed through and melding with the other flavors. We ate it up with leftover shredded chicken and salad. You can still taste the bitterness and some people just aren’t gonna like it no matter what. But there weren’t any leftovers on Jamie’s plate, so that’s saying something! For me, it hit some kind of spot inside that I’m still figuring out. I don’t know why but it’s rather addictive. The leftovers became my breakfast the next morning with a fried egg on top – mmmmMM!
Note the greener greens above are from some mizuna I also added towards the end, cause it was there. But all-mizuna would have been a great choice in this dish, too.
Then came the last dish of the week, Lentil Stew, which I turned into Lentil Cauliflower Stew so I could use the lovely alien along with the mustard greens. And that’s when tragedy almost struck. But first, the food. I’d made a bone broth with the chicken carcass, this time going the whole 24 hours in the crock pot. The smell was absolutely soul soothing. Then I pretty much followed this recipe except instead of the other winter roots (like celeriac and parsnip) I used the Romanesco. Everything was going great, the stew had been bubbling along nicely and I was all ready to capture the fresh glory with my cameraphone. I was poised right on the edge of a decent shot, but dang, my hand was casting a shadow. So I figured I’d go one-handed, for surely I’m not that clums — PLOP. In fell the phone. For just a second, mind you. OK, two. I needed at least one full second to comprehend the horror of what had just happened. But I fished it out and then let the stew bubble away as I wiped it off, gauged the damage (seemed okay) and then ran a blow dryer over any of the ports/holes to make sure the bone broth wasn’t shorting anything out. After a period of time where it wouldn’t shut down (?!) I just left it alone for a whole day.
I know you’ll be happy to hear that all is well in my electronics world now and looks like the blessed thing is fully functional. I was even able to use it the next evening to take this belated shot of the stew, now on its second (even more flavorful) day.
Well, it’s not much to look at. A more beautiful use for the Romanesco would be to slice it thickly and roast it to slightly charred perfection in a slick coating of olive oil, salt and pepper. But that’s not how the dice rolled this week and our tummies were still happy.
But, sad to say, I didn’t use all my produce. There was still half a bunch of mizuna and half a bunch of cilantro left (ie, wasted). And yes, I know I could have done something with them still – make cilantro pesto, maybe try roasting the mizuna into chips ala kale? But time ran out and there was a new harvest to pick up. Onwards and upwards!
So here’s what I have to play with for week 5:
- Easter Egg Radishes
- Fennel (!)
- Sweet Potatoes
- Tuscan Kale
In the meantime, hope you’re having some fun with fabulous food.