april 24 weekly menu | spring table

Farm Fresh

asparagus, green garlic, lettuce, mushrooms, mustard greens, green onions, radishes, spinach

What’s for Dinner?

Many absolutely love the flexibility of Hood River Organic CSA.  Not only can you pick and choose the seasonal veggies (and so much more!) that pique your interest each week, you can place a hold on any given scheduled delivery, the credit simply carried forward to a future box. I like to simplify, and “take what I get” – what the farm has pre-selected for delivery each week. It’s part of the fun for me…what will I get? What will I do with it? (More importantly, it’s one less thing I have to think about!) And I really never take a hold, but consider it part of the challenge to get that whole darned box into our dinners before the next round arrives on my doorstep. BUT, I’m trying something new this week. Based on my crisper status (uncharacteristically bulging before my new week’s delivery!) and my personal vacation status (ON…Mom’s taking a little kitchen leave in honor of long girls’ weekend), I’m using a veggie “hold”. This presented a new and fabulous task for me…to utilize both this week’s chock-full delivery, as well as lots of bits and pieces I had hanging around from last, to assemble fourteen days’ worth of dinner! I pondered and puzzled, never wanting to waste, but not wanting anyone to go hungry either. The kitchen will be my friend this week, as I prepare for the normal dinner hour, as well as one “make-ahead” meal each day. These will come in more than handy for the troops left at home next week, as well in easing my transition back to chef-in-charge status. Happy cooking!

Friday – spring pizza & make-ahead kick-off

spinach, green garlic, & scallion pizza (Deb Perleman, Smitten Kitchen)

Make-Ahead-Meal #1

curried lentil stew with spinach (Gourmet)

Saturday – hooray, harissa!

pastaworks farro salad (Pastaworks)
baguette

Make-Ahead-Meal #2

pasta with walnut sauce & greens (Martha Shulman, NYT)

Sunday – grill fest

grilled asparagus (Serious Eats)
grilled steak & arugula (Epicurious)
grilled bread (Bon Appetit)

Make-Ahead-Meal #3

mama leone’s chicken soup  (Elephant’s Deli)

Monday – farm fresh frittata 

green garlic & spinach frittata (Katherine Deumling, SIO Blog)

Make-Ahead-Meal #4

cream of asparagus soup (Gourmet)

crab and shrimp cakes

Tuesday –  practice makes perfect

crispy beef tacos (Cook’s Illustrated)
radish salsa (Mark Bittman)

Make-Ahead-Meal #5

spinach enchiladas (Sunset)

Wednesday – in-the-meantime berries

wheat berry salad with mustard greens (Anthony Cafiero, The Oregonian)
roasted chicken

Make-Ahead-Meal #6

green garlic pesto (Mariquita Farm)

Thursday – sammie night

mustard greens & mushroom panini (Martha Shulman, NYT)
crunchy radishes

Make-Ahead-Meal #7

strawberry spinach salad (Whole Foods Market)
burgers & fixings


__________________________________________________

Friday – spring pizza & make-ahead kick-off

spinach, green garlic, & scallion pizza (Deb Perleman, Smitten Kitchen)

IMG_1084

Let this prior Pizza Night post be your inspiration and step-by-step instructional. With my Hood River Organic box just delivered, I can literally pick and choose veggies off my table to top the pizzas! The inspiration this week came from a very memorable visit to Lovely’s Fifty Fifty. We recently enjoyed a spring spinach, green garlic, fromage blanc, & chive pizza pie. Deb Perleman at The Smitten Kitchen posted a recipe for ramp pizza that I think is similar – she suggests spinach and something “onion-y” as alternatives. green onions will be my choice. I’ll skip all the convoluted parts and use canned sauce and pre-shredded mozzarella! Well, if I feel fancy, maybe a little fromage blanc – that just sounds too good! Add some salami for the meat-lovers in your group.

Make-Ahead-Meal #1

curried lentil stew with spinach (Gourmet)

To get this make-ahead week underway, I’ll make this quick lentil-based dahl. It has that magic formula of fresh garlic and ginger, cooked until fragrant with curry powder, turmeric, and cumin. The rest is really up to you – nearly any veggie will shine. I’ll be using one of my many bunches of green onions, a chopped squash I’ve had hanging around, and a mixture of spinach and spicy greens left from last week’s delivery. And of course I’ve got loads of farm fresh cilantro. The final little hot spice oil is yummy, but not at all essential, and I’ll skip it for the make-ahead version.  This can be easily frozen, then thawed and ladled into big wide bowls. Basmati rice would be a bonus, but even served with just naan picked up at your local Indian restaurant is perfect. Sprinkle with additional fresh cilantro if you’ve got it – YUM!

Saturday – hooray, harissa!

pastaworks farro salad (Pastaworks)
baguette

The great thing about this main dish salad (besides it being just SO good!) is that a weekend batch is perfect for lunches in the days to come. It has that divine combination of earthy, sweet, tart, and spicy – adjust the harissa to your own personal spicy barometer. Instead of kale, I’m going to use a bunch of collard greens I found in waiting. I very thinly slice the greens, and use them raw, but for a less strong flavor, you could boil with the farro in their last few cooking minutes. Farro is a virtual nutritional goldmine, and offers a wonderful full-bodied texture and flavor. Have fun trying different nut, seed, and dried fruit combinations. I think I’ll forgo the dried fruit this week, and add lots of chopped radishes instead.

Make-Ahead-Meal #2

pasta with walnut sauce & greens (Martha Shulman, NYT)

With the kale raab I’ve got left from last week, I’ll create my own make-ahead version of this hearty, healthy pasta dish. This sauce is protein-rich, packed with walnuts and ricotta, kind of a combination between pesto and a cheese sauce. After making it in the food processor, I’ll freeze this separately from the blanched raab (any hearty greens could substitute here). On the night it’s to be served, all that’s left to do is thaw, boil the pasta and mix it all together, making sure to use some of the boiling water to attain the right consistency. I’m putting the kids in charge…it’s that easy.

Sunday – grill fest

grilled asparagus (Serious Eats)
grilled steak & arugula (Epicurious)
grilled bread (Bon Appetit)

My first asparagus delivery…so many possibilities, but the one I jump to first is the absolute simplest and lets the farm-fresh flavor shine through. I planned to serve this with just grilled steak, but then I received some surprise arugula, and I instantly had a match made in heaven…steak & arugula. I’ll modify this recipe just a bit to be able to toss the whole steak on the BBQ, slice it thinly when it’s cooked to medium, and serve atop a bed of arugula. I’ll marinate the steak in an olive oil, chopped garlic and rosemary combination, then simply make a “dressing” of the rest of the ingredients, pouring over the platter of cooked steak and raw arugula. And as long as we’ve broken out the barby, a side of grilled bread could not be simpler. I often do this with just olive oil and sea salt, but feel free to  try one of these fancier versions, any of which would be amazing.

Make-Ahead-Meal #3

mama leone’s chicken soup  (Elephant’s Deli)

With spinach to spare, I can’t go wrong with this all-time Elephant’s Deli family favorite.  It’s a chicken soup that’s rendered just so unique with the addition of the Hungarian paprika. I think it’s a good “any season” soup, and becomes quite spring-ey with tender, tasty spinach. I always add more greens than called for. After cooling, freeze it in a tupperware bowl or large freezer bags. When it’s time for serving, all that’s needed is a quick thaw and simmer, and a crunchy baguette and butter to serve alongside.

Monday –  farm fresh frittata 

green garlic & spinach frittata (Katherine Deumling, SIO Blog)

Frittatas are our year-round friend. But I especially enjoy them in the spring, when there are so many just-arriving veggies to add to the mix. Also, they are really meant to be tinkered with – eggs, cheese, and whatever vegetable combo appeals to you. This week, I’ll use my green garlic and spinach, but it could just as easily be chard, broccoli, kale, whatever. I also love frittatas in the warm weather because they cook in a flash (so don’t heat up the kitchen) and can really be served at any temperature – just-out-of-the-oven hot, luke warm, or even room temperature. An amazingly delicious and satisfying spring supper that I’ll go to again and again.

Make-Ahead-Meal #4

cream of asparagus soup (Gourmet)

crab & shrimp cakes

I may have to purchase additional asparagus, but this quintessential spring soup is so worth it. It is mostly made up of just lots and lots of farm fresh asparagus. Plus, a bit of butter, onion, and broth, pureed until it’s silky smooth. With its fancy French name, it’s nice to know the ingredient list is so humble. These are times that I adore my immersion blender – just stick it in the pot and go to town pureeing, adding just a little cream (milk would work) and lemon juice at the end. (If you’re freezing it, add the cream the night you serve.) A sprinkling of fresh-snipped chives would be amazing. The rest of the meal consists of pre-made crab and shrimp cakes. Featured-this-week at New Seasons, they’re ready for just a quick sauté in some butter or olive oil until golden. Anyone can handle that, at least that’s what I’m banking on!

Tuesday – practice makes perfect

crispy beef tacos (Cook’s Illustrated)
radish salsa (Mark Bittman)

Tonight’s meal is practice for the fiesta that’s just a week away – Cinco de Mayo. We’re going ultra (American) traditional with these tacos…a ground beef version in pre-made crunchy taco shells (a kid favorite!). The Cook’s Illustrated recipe for the taco mix is simple, and puts these a giant step above from-the-packet taco seasoning. Besides the requisite cheese and chopped olives, I need look no further than my crisper for the toppings line-up: shredded lettuce, sliced green onions, and chopped cilantro. I’ll also whip up this radish salsa, similar to ones so common in Mexico with chunky radishes and green onions (this one uses cucumbers too), along with garlic (I’ll use my green garlic) and zesty cilantro.

Make-Ahead-Meal #5

spinach enchiladas (Sunset)

OK, now we’re talking. This make-ahead meal will be an instant fiesta, just in time. Yes, indeed you can fly home from girls’ weekend at 4 p.m. on the 5th of May, and with a quick stop for a bag of chips and some made-by-someone-else salsa and guacamole, and have a Cinco de Mayo feast on the table in a flash. The recipe’s a simple one, using your favorite enchilada sauce from a jar (I’m a fan of anything Rick Bayless). With a bag of pre-grated Mexican cheese, and using the suggested “layering” approach to enchiladas (vs. the cumbersome individual rolling), these can easily be prepared while the ground beef for tonight’s tacos is browning. Instead of the corn, I’ll slice up a pound or so of shiitake mushrooms I’ve had hiding in my crisper – sure to be a crowd-pleasing combo with the spinach. In dishes like lasagna or enchiladas, I like to cook the dish as directed, cool completely, wrap tightly with foil, and freeze. When I’m ready to cook, I put them in the oven frozen and just increase the cooking time appropriately.

Wednesday – in-the-meantime berries

wheat berry salad with mustard greens (Anthony Cafiero, The Oregonian)
roasted chicken

While we patiently wait for the Oregon (true) berry onslaught, this wheat berry salad will tide us over. This recipe by Tabla Mediterranean Bistro’s chef was just made for the spicy mustard greens and scallions that have come my way this week. Wheat berries are the true whole grain – they are the whole wheat kernel, before any amount of processing takes place. They take a while to cook (inactive, boiling time), but are so worth it! Packed with fiber, protein, and iron, they have a subtle nutty, earthy flavor and a nice chewy bite. After the boiling time, this salad is a snap – just throw in the thinly sliced greens and scallions, add the simple, lemony dressing, and you’re done. Some chopped, toasted nuts would be a wonderful addition (walnuts, hazelnuts, pecans, whatever!). This and a favorite country bread is often a full-meal-deal at my house. However, adding a made-by-someone-else roasted chicken would be a lovely addition.

Make-Ahead-Meal #6

green garlic pesto (Mariquita Farm)

With the stems of fresh green garlic, I’ll make a simple, unique and ultra-flavorful pesto. It can stay covered in the fridge for several days, and makes the perfect start to any number of future dinners. Served simply, mixed in just-cooked pasta would be my vote, adding a side of whatever looks good at the butcher counter that day.

Thursday – sammie night

mustard greens & mushroom panini (Martha Shulman, NYT)
crunchy radishes

What have I got left in the fridge come Thursday? Whatever it is, I try to steer it toward a place in a panini. In the good ol’ cast iron pan, I’ll skip the boiling and just sauté up the thinly sliced mustard greens and mushrooms, scallions, and green garlic. This pan will also serve as the panini cooker, placing lightly buttered or olive oiled bread right on the hot surface to begin building the paninis. These have the greens mixture, slices of cheese, and maybe some chicken from last night. You really can’t go wrong. I just make sure my bread is hearty enough not fall apart in the process, and solid enough so cheese isn’t dripping out every opening. If I’ve got radishes left, it’s the simplest side around – stem and serve with a favorite store-bought hummus, or just a sprinkling of sea salt.

Make-Ahead-Meal #7

strawberry spinach salad (Whole Foods Market)
burgers & fixings

Those big, bold California strawberries just tease us, week after week, until ours make their grand entrance. After a winter’s worth of pears and apples, boy was I excited to see those sweet little Oregon strawberries at the market this week! A strawberry and spinach salad doesn’t really qualify as a make-ahead dish. But I’m counting it…especially considering how dirty spinach straight from the farm truly is! With the gorgeous leaves washed (many times!) torn, and bagged with a moist paper towel, they’re staying power is decent. I’ll also make-ahead the dressing, not worrying about the raspberry vinegar – any good vinegar will be wonderful. There are lots of variations of this tried-and-true combination; the basic ingredients beyond the berries and spinach are a good cheese and nut of your choice. Goat cheese provides just the right creamy, tangy complement, and the crunch can come from sliced almonds, toasted hazelnuts, whatever! It’s just really a treat to have our tender salad greens back, after their long winter nap. The rest of the make-ahead meal will just be readying some grilled burger fixings. I’ll really cheat and buy pre-formed and seasoned patties (hard to resist sometimes!), and broil my portabellas after just a sprinkling of olive oil, salt and pepper. I’ll start the platter with the sliced, golden mushrooms, torn farm-fresh lettuce leaves; the rest of the clan can add to their heart’s content.

 “What the Kale?!?”

Don’t panic and get out the compost bin if all of the sudden you have a giant veggie delivery coming your way, and you still have a fridge full.  Here are a few suggestions for preserving the bounty!  (Soups and stews freeze wonderfully in those gallon zip lock freezer bags.)

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