april 29 weekly menu | spring table

Farm Fresh

asparagus, rainbow chard, cilantro, leeks, mushrooms, green onions, radishes, rhubarb, spinach,

What’s for Dinner?

When the first layer of my CSA box reveals itself as a collage of  cilantro, green onions, and radishes, I know I’m in business for Cinco de Mayo. It became clearer as I really unearthed their vast volume, not to mention some mighty tasty other gems, that we had plenty even for a “practice” session – Mexican heaven! This along with more of the season’s amazing asparagus, some continued experimentation as to whether rhubarb is a fruit or a veggie (both – botanically a vegetable, but generally eaten as a fruit so classified as such), and the first I’ve seen of spring’s sweet, delicate spinach.

Friday – spring pizza 

shaved asparagus pizza (The Smitten Kitchen, Deb Perleman)
rhubarb crisp (Mark Bittman, The New York Times)

Saturday – practice makes perfect

braised greens, mushroom & chicken tacos (Serious Eats, Rick Bayless)
radish salsa (Mark Bittman)
mexican rice (The Kitchn)
mexican beans

Sunday – grill fest

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

Monday – farm fresh frittata 

asparagus & leek frittata (Epicurious)

Tuesday –  skillet supper

skillet chicken with rhubarb (New York Times)
israeli cous cous
strawberry spinach salad (Whole Foods Market)

Wednesday – retro favorite

pork chops & mushroom sauce (Food Network)
grilled asparagus
rice

Thursday – midweek fiesta

spinach enchiladas (Sunset)
chips, salsa, guacamole
cerveza


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Friday – spring pizza & make-ahead kick-off

shaved asparagus pizza (The Smitten Kitchen, Deb Perleman)
rhubarb crisp (Mark Bittman, The New York Times)

IMG_1084

It’s Trail Blazer mania, I’ve heard. Much more interesting and important to me is my CSA box filled with this amazing spring farm fresh asparagus AND rhubarb – thank you Hood River Organic! I can’t wait to dive in –  our TV tray/ Trail Blazers celebration will be an extra special one indeed. The pizza tonight will be piled with thinly shaved asparagus, which becomes just lightly charred in the oven. I’ll add a healthy dose of chopped scallions, fresh from the box as well. Just a little olive oil, salt and pepper, and a sprinkling of two cheeses. Deb Perleman describes it as “tangled asparagus” atop pizza – I love it. I’ll make two pizzas exactly as the recipe states, wanting to taste the simplicity of the no-sauce, asparagus, and cheese. Let this prior Pizza Night post be your step-by-step guide for easy homemade crust, or pick up a ready-made version from your local pizzeria or market. For dessert, my first spring rhubarb crisp! Not only a worthy Friday evening treat, it’s highly symbolic for me. Crisps, cobblers, crumbles, and pies, all filled with delectable Northwest fruit, begin now. A seasonal fruit crisp really can’t be beat in terms of its absolute ease and out-of-this-world taste and texture. This version has just a bit sugar and lemon or orange zest, topped with a crumbly topping of rolled oats, nuts (optional), cinnamon, butter, and brown sugar. I’ll put my kids in charge of this simple dessert…I have a feeling the ratio of fruit (veggie?) to crumble may be a bit off, given our favorite household chant. It goes something like, “Double the crumble! Double the crumble!”

Saturday – practice makes perfect

braised greens, mushroom & chicken tacos (Serious Eats, Rick Bayless)
radish salsa (Mark Bittman)
mexican rice (The Kitchn)
mexican beans

In the spirit of our upcoming south-of-the-border holiday, I’m in for some Rick Bayless fare this weekend. An American cooking genius, he’s gained fame and fortune through his culinary devotion to the truest, most authentic Mexican food and how to best deliver that to the public. His restaurants, hands-on teaching, television series, and prepared foods line have all done just that. This is not to mention his great commitment to environmentally sound agricultural practices and avid support of the local farmer – he’s the full package. Next time you’re in Chicago, make Frontera Grill or Topolobampo (or both!) must stops! In the meantime, here’s a simple and delicious interpretation of his braised greens tacos. I’ll use a head of rainbow chard  and caramelized leeks instead of onions. Some sauteed criminis would be a perfect addition as well. My favorite way to add chicken to tacos, happens also to be quite simple. I purchase a pre-roasted chicken from the store, and shred it quickly by hand.  In a pan, I saute a chopped onion or leek and a mashed up chipotle pepper (from a can), then add the shredded chicken. Instant taco filling! I’ll skip the homemade salsa in this recipe, and 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 and zesty cilantro. To make the meal Saturday Special, I’ll make this version of Mexican rice – really quite simple, and so worth the effort. I’ll stray from the can of beans, and slowly cook these out-of-this-world Mexican beans. Each time I make them I wonder why oh why I ever use canned beans. It’s really ridiculous how simple they are:  soak a pound of beans (I usually use pinto, but could use black, or any) overnight (or use the quick soak method), cover with chicken broth about one inch above the beans, add one half of a white onion, a couple whole cloves of garlic and 1 tsp. of salt. After bringing to a boil, cover the pot and cook very slowly (on low or warm) for an hour. Test them at this point, but I usually add a bit more salt and cook for another half hour or even more.The’ll keep just fine for Cinco de Mayo in a few days – they actually improve with a bit of time. You can also freeze the leftovers, or even have them for breakfast:  beans, sauteed greens, and an egg on top? Yum!

Sunday – grill fest

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

So many possibilities with spring asparagus, but my very favorite is also the absolute simplest and lets the farm-fresh flavor shine through. I planned to serve this with just grilled steak, but then I received so much beautiful spring greens, and I instantly had a match made in heaven…steak & chard. 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 thinly sliced rainbow chard. 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 chard. 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.

Monday –  farm fresh frittata 

asparagus & leek frittata (Epicurious)

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 asparagus, leeks, and mushrooms, 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.

Tuesday – skillet supper

skillet chicken with rhubarb (New York Times)
israeli cous cous
strawberry spinach salad (Whole Foods Market)

This is a fabulous savory rhubarb-based dinner. I’ll use bone-in, skin-on half chicken breasts, but you can use any chicken parts you’d like. It’s a simple three-step process of browning the chicken, making the sauce, then cooking them both together. I’ll saute leeks with the rhubarb, garlic, and white wine, and add a sprinkling of raw thinly sliced green onions atop the skillet dinner when it’s done. I’ll serve this with simple buttered Israeli cous cous, and a spinach salad. Those big, beautiful California strawberries have been just teasing us, week after week, until ours make their grand entrance. Rumor has it, there might be a few strawberries at the Portland Farmers Market this weekend – the early birds might be in luck! After a winter’s worth of pears and apples, I can’t wait!  I love a basic strawberry and spinach salad, simple but pretty and tasty. 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! And don’t worry about the raspberry vinegar – any good vinegar will be wonderful (a champagne version maybe?)  It’s just really a treat to have our tender salad greens back, after their long winter nap.

Wednesday – retro favorite

pork chops & mushroom sauce (Food Network)
grilled asparagus
rice

The only meal my husband eagerly volunteers to make is “pork chops with mushroom sauce”. He has a vivid and wonderful taste memory of these from his childhood. The rest of his dining companions ridiculously look a gift horse in the mouth. “No thank you,” we say boldly, just knowing the “sauce” is Campbell’s cream of mushroom soup. Oh well, food snobs we may be, but I’ll give everyone a treat and make this nearly-as-simple version of his childhood favorite. With just some fresh leeks (I’ll use instead of onion), and lots of mushrooms, sautéed and mixed with white wine and chicken broth, you have a fabulous sauce base for the browned pork. I’ll sprinkle it all with some fresh chopped scallions and serve with his childhood favorite…buttered white rice.

Thursday – midweek fiesta

spinach enchiladas (Sunset)
chips, salsa, guacamole
cerveza

One of my favorite food holidays, Cinco de Mayo, falls just shy of the weekend this year. No worries…this recipe’s a simple one, using your favorite enchilada sauce straight 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 come together in a flash. I’ll skip the individual serving dishes, instead making these in a large 9×13 dish. I’ll use leeks instead of onions, and in place of the corn, I’ll saute up a pound or so of sliced fresh mushrooms – sure to be a crowd-pleasing combo with the spinach. Sprinkle the final assembly with lots of sliced green onions and fresh cilantro. With a bag of chips and some made-by-someone-else salsa and guacamole, this Cinco de Mayo feast is on the table in a flash, weeknight style. Don’t forget the Pacifico cerveza, with a squeeze of fresh lime!

 “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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