Midweek recipe: Chocolate beet cake

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We’ve all been eating our vegetables pretty well lately, so we’ve earned something decadent. I enjoy beets on their own, but something about their color and texture had me wanting to do something rich and chocolatey with them. Sure enough, if you do a Web search, there are plenty of recipes for various beet-chocolate baked goods.

I couldn’t find anything that had quite the dense, fudge-like texture I was after, so I took my favorite brownie recipe and altered it a little. I’m not calling these brownies, because brownies don’t have beets in them, but this is a dense cake that will satisfy even the veggie-phobic in your household.

Chocolate beet cake

3 small to medium beets, trimmed of greens

2 eggs

3/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup butter, melted

3/4 cup Ghirardelli Sweet Ground Chocolate and Cocoa (Yes, this brand makes a difference. It is not just plain cocoa powder. It also makes amazing hot chocolate.)

1 cup flour

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Place beets in a saucepan and cover with water. Simmer 45 minutes to an hour, or until fork tender. Remove from water (which can be used in soups) and let cool. Remove skins by rubbing them with your hands. Puree beets in a food processor or blender. You will need about 1 cup of beet puree.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 8×8 square pan, or an 8-inch round cake pan.

Crack eggs into a mixing bowl, add sugar and vanilla and beat everything together with a wooden spoon until well mixed. Add butter and mix to incorporate. Add beet puree and mix.

Without getting out another bowl, dump the cocoa, flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon on top of the wet ingredients. Mix just until incorporated. Fold in chocolate chips. Spread in pan and bake 28-30 minutes, or until they reach desired level of doneness.

Midweek recipe: greens and beans (and whatever else) soup

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If your Memorial Day weekend was like mine, you came home from a few days on the road to a refrigerator drawer full of CSA vegetables you still needed to use. My kohlrabi were still rolling around in there, and my Swiss chard was starting to look tired. I woke it up with a soak in cold water, and then got started on one of my favorite vehicles for using the produce that threatens to go bad on us before we can use it: soup.

The recipe below is not the product of repeated fine-tuning in a test kitchen (though it is tasty). It is offered as an example of how you don’t always need a recipe to concoct tasty, economical dishes that will make the most of your CSA share.

A couple of notes:

  • I used a small amount of water in this soup. It came out thicker than most of my soups, and I kind of liked that, but you could use more water to give it a more traditional soup consistency. I also think that pureeing a bit of it, with the chickpeas included, and then pouring the puree back in with the rest of the soup would enhance the texture.
  • You could use chicken stock in place of water. A little wine wouldn’t hurt, either.
  • One of the things I like about soup for CSA cooking is that you can freeze it. Package it up in plastic containers or bags in portions you will use later on.
  • You will see CSA items from two different weeks in this recipe. Beet greens would work in this recipe (I usually prefer the whole beets on their own rather than mixed with a lot of other things in soups, but you could also use them in the same way the kohlrabi is used here.)

CSA drawer soup

1 green garlic plant, bulb and neck chopped finely

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 bunch Swiss Chard, plus the greens from 4 kohlrabi, plus the greens from one beet, washed and chopped into small pieces (I kept the stems with the greens for this.)

2 kohlrabi, peeled and diced

1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes

the empty can’s worth of water

2 cups chickpeas

In a Dutch oven or other large lidded pot, saute garlic and pepper flakes in the olive oil over medium heat until the garlic parts soften.

Add greens a few handfuls at a time and allow them to cook down. Salt them lightly as you add them. It helps to use tongs to toss the greens and garlic to make sure everything cooks evenly.

Add the kohlrabi, tomatoes and water. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat down and simmer for about 20 minutes. You want to make sure the kohlrabi cooks to a pleasant texture.

Add the chickpeas and cook until warmed through. Serve now or freeze for later. This would be great with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of parmesan cheese and some crusty bread.

 

Week 5: May 29, 2013

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Emily’s notes:

Last week, CSA members received garlic scapes, the flower stalk portion of the garlic plant. Today, you’re receiving the rest of the plant–two of them. Think of this as the garlic version of the green onions you’ve received earlier this CSA season. Every piece of this plant is edible, from the green tops to the young garlic bulbs. Green garlic is generally milder than mature garlic, and you can use it in any recipe where you’d normally use regular garlic. For a very detailed overview of how to store, cut and cook with this vegetable, see this helpful post on the website Food52.

Sugar snap peas are in full force this week. I like to substitute raw snap peas for chips in my lunches and snacks when I have so many of them in my house, but they also cook up into a variety of tasty side dishes. One basic technique is to blanch the trimmed snap peas by plunging them into boiling water for about  a minute, then throwing them directly into a big bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. You can actually do this a day ahead of time and store the prepped peas in the fridge. When you’re ready to make dinner, saute the peas in some butter over medium heat just until warmed through, and add some salt, pepper and lemon zest as they cook. Finish with a squeeze of lemon juice before serving.

When you get your beets home, be sure to separate the greens from the roots before storing them. Beets will keep for much longer this way. The greens can be used in any recipe that calls for Swiss chard, kale or other hearty greens. It’s like getting two vegetables in one. The roots can be used raw, grated into salads. I plan to roast mine using the technique below. Once roasted, beets will keep for a week in the fridge. Once you’ve roasted your beets, they are a lot easier to toss into salads throughout the week. Toss them with salt and pepper, vinaigrette and goat cheese for a chic salad that’s shown up on a lot of restaurant menus lately. They would also be great tossed with feta cheese, lemon juice, olive oil and quinoa or any other grain of your choice. To take advantage of the intense color of beets, try this recipe for summer borscht, a cold soup that will dazzle your table with its hot-pink color. I’m working on a slightly unorthodox use of beets that should appeal to the vegetable-phobic in your house. Check back laster this week to see how it turns out.

Roasted beets

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Trim beets of greens and scrub well. Wrap each beet loosely in aluminum foil.

Place beets on a rimmed baking sheet or dish to catch the red juices. Roast for 45 to 60 minutes. Beets are done when a fork goes in without resistance.

Allow beets to cool until you can handle them, then rub the outer skin off with your fingers or with a paper towel. If it doesn’t come off easily, the beets aren’t cooked enough. Store cooked and peeled beets in the refrigerator.

Week 4: May 22, 2013

A note to our members: If you have been receiving the CSA information via e-mail, please be on the lookout (and check your spam folders) for an administrative message that contains a confirmation link that will allow you to keep receiving these messages via a private mailing list. As always, this information will also be broadcast via Facebook, Twitter, and this blog each week. 

In this week’s box:

2 bunches of swiss chard

2 heads green leaf lettuce

4 kohlrabi

2 cucumbers

1/2 dozen eggs

4 garlic scapes

2 lbs asparagus

2 pints sugar snaps

2 quarts strawberries

Emily’s notes:

Garlic scape - Image from Wikipedia

Garlic scape – Image from Wikipedia

This week introduces a new product to the Snead’s Farm CSA–garlic scapes. Scapes are curly stalks that emerge from garlic plants a few months before the bulbs are ready. They need to be cut to allow the plant to concentrate its energy into the garlic bulb. In recent years, they’ve become quite a gourmet sensation.

You can use them as you would regular garlic, though if you are cooking them, be sure to use considerably more, because the flavor is milder, and gets even more so as the scapes cook.

You can also use them like spring onions, chopping them raw into salads, tossing whole scapes on the grill or blending them up into pestos or salad dressings. This post from Serious Eats has a good-looking recipe for garlic scape pesto, along with several other ideas. This post from a garlic farm in Connecticut, also has some good ideas.

Another newcomer to the box this week is kohlrabi. To me, this is the quintessential CSA vegetable–something you might never have picked up at the market on your own, but that can really stretch your home cooking repertoire in tasty ways. Kohlrabi is in the cabbage family. It looks like an alien spaceship, which could be a good attribute if you’re trying to market it to your toddler. Get past it’s odd appearance, though, because with a little creativity, kohlrabi can serve a lot of purposes in your kitchen.

If the leaves are still attached, break them off and cut away the tough stems. The leaves can be eaten raw in salads or blanched or sauteed for other dishes. Last year, I made a kohlrabi pesto from the leaves. With this box, I might combine kohlrabi leaves with the garlic scapes in a big batch of spring-green pesto, which will freeze well until you want to use it in a big pasta dish with juicy summer tomatoes in a few months.

But with those wacky-looking kohlrabi bulbs, the key is in how you cut them. First, you will want to take a paring knife or your vegetable peeler and remove the tough outer layer of these bulbs. After that, here are some ideas:

  • Cut them into chunks that will fit your food processor, use the shredding blade and you’ll have the makings of kohlrabi cole slaw. Here is a full recipe for one version of that dish. Another tasty idea with kohlrabi shreds is to mix them with shredded apple, add a drizzle of lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper for a tangy side salad.
  • Cut them into planks and add them to your favorite stir-fry recipe (see below).
  • Cut them into french-fry sized pieces and make this New York Times recipe for baked kohlrabi home fries.
  • Dice them, toss with olive oil, salt and pepper and any other flavors you like, and roast them at 450 degrees for 20 minutes or so. This can be a side dish on its own, or the beginning of another dish, like this kohlrabi curry from Tasty Kitchen.

Another treat coming your way this week is the year’s first sugar snap peas. These are delicious for snacking. If you’ve never eaten these before, you will want to remove the strings by grabbing the pointy cap at the top of the pea and tugging it down the side so that a thin stringy vein comes out. Then you can pop them in your mouth, plunge them into your favorite dip or ready them for any number of recipes. Below I have shared a stir-fry recipe that will use both your kohlrabi and your snap peas.

Snap pea and kohlrabi stir fry

Ingredients

2 bulbs kohlrabi, peeled and cut into thin planks about 2 inches long and half an inch wide

2 pints sugar snap peas, washed and strings removed

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 tablespoons grated ginger

2 cloves minced garlic

4 tablespoons soy sauce

2 tablespoons rice vinegar

1 heaping tablespoon brown sugar

2 teaspoons sesame oil

3 tablespoons sesame seeds

Heat oil over medium-high heat. Add ginger and garlic and cook for about 30 seconds, until you can smell them. Add kohlrabi and snap peas and cook for about 3 minutes.

Add soy sauce, vinegar and sugar. Stir to mix and let liquids cook down a bit. You don’t want to cook so long that the vegetables lose their bright green color.

Remove from heat and drizzle with sesame oil and seeds. Serve alone or over rice.

*The asparagus and the garlic scapes from this week’s box would also work in this recipe. Just chop them into one-inch lengths and sub them in for a quantity of the vegetables here.

Midweek recipes: bok choy

There’s no excuse not to eat your daily helping of greens this week! We started off with some lettuce-wrapped tacos, but now I’m really enjoying the bok choy. This is a really interesting Asian green that offers the culinary benefit of a thick stalk plus a green that can be cooked down. Nutritionally, it’s high in vitamins A and C. Here is a recipe we enjoyed, adapted from ideas found on the web. If you’re on Pinterest, I keep a running list of my CSA-related recipe ideas on this board.

Bok Choy and Chicken in Red Curry Sauce

photo-72 cloves minced garlic

1 tablespoon minced ginger

1 pound chicken breasts, cut into strips

1 head bok choy, leaves separated from stalks, stalks cut into thin strips

2 tablespoons red curry paste (we used Thai Kitchen brand)

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional, but we thought the curry paste needed a bit more heat)

1 14-ounce can coconut milk

1 tablespoon fish sauce or soy sauce

1 teaspoon brown sugar

Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add ginger and garlic, then add chicken and cook until done. Remove to a plate and set aside. Add the whites of the bok choy and cook about 2 minutes, until they begin to soften. Remove to the plate with the chicken.

Add curry paste and red pepper flakes to pan. Stir-fry until fragrant, a minute or so. Add coconut milk, soy or fish sauce and brown sugar. Simmer this about five minutes, then add back in the cooked ingredients, and add the bok choy greens. Cook, stirring, until greens wilt and everything is coated with sauce. Serve with rice or rice noodles.

Week 3: May 15, 2013

In this week’s box:

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Emily’s notes:

More delicious strawberries are headed your way this week! Here’s a simple recipe I found in a brochure put out by the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services for strawberry butter. This butter is great for muffins, bagels, pancakes, biscuits and fresh homemade bread.

Strawberry Butter

2 cups fresh strawberries

1 stick butter, softened

1 cup powdered sugar

Place everything in a mixing bowl and blend until smooth and creamy. Refrigerate in an air-tight container.

There are a lot of greens in this week’s box, but don’t think that needs to mean that all your meals should look the same. The lettuce is obviously going to make a lot of great salads and sandwich toppers, but don’t limit its uses in your kitchen. Ditch the carbs and save money on bread by making lettuce wraps. Fillings could include your favorite chicken salad, hummus, taco meat, burrito fillings, etc. I have my eye on this slow cooker carne asada and these Thai beef lettuce wraps (which would also use some of your onions)…decisions, decisions!

If you’re feeling really adventurous, use some of your eggs in this recipe for Vietnamese pancakes. This is kind of a savory cross between an omelet and a crepe that is served lettuce-wrap style at Spotsylvania’s Pho Saigon restaurant. This would probably be especially good with Bok Choy. (I also just noticed that the June/July issue of “Fine Cooking” magazine – on newsstands now,photo-6has a beautiful spread on Korean barbecue that suggests serving the various chicken, beef, rice and vegetable dishes with red or green leaf lettuce leaves in wrap form. This spread also includes recipes for a number of other items you’ll find in your CSA box over the course of the season, including radishes and cucumbers.)

A classic use of Romaine lettuce is Caesar salad. Lucky for you, you also have farm-fresh eggs to add to the dressing. Here is Julia Child’s take on Caesar salad, a labor of love. For a little bit easier take on this classic, here is Tyler Florence’s version.

You’ve seen Swiss chard before, and I’d love to hear how you enjoyed it (e-mail me here). Last year, I made this chard, sausage and white bean soup several times, and it’s definitely a winner. But I also love chard for egg dishes like frittatas and quiches. If you’ve never made your own pie crust for quiche, you are missing a treat. It’s so much tastier than those store-bought crusts, more like a biscuit than a cardboard crust. I’m not going to say it’s any lower in fat, but it lacks the preservatives and (if you use all butter) the trans fats found in many commercial crusts. Here is a recipe for Swiss chard and onion quiche that I made during the first week of Snead’s CSA pickup. It looks long, but I swear, it is not that difficult.

IMG_1359Swiss Chard and Onion Quiche

for the crust:

2 cups all-purpose flour (I often substitute 1/2 cup of this with white whole-wheat flour. It makes me feel better about the butter.)

1 teaspoon salt

2 sticks cold unsalted butter, diced

1/2 cup ice water

for the filling:

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 spring onions, white and green parts chopped

1 bunch Swiss chard

6 eggs

1/4 cup milk, cream, half-and-half or plain yogurt

salt and pepper to taste (and any herbs, such as chives, thyme or parsley, that you happen to have)

2 oz goat cheese

make the crust:

This can be done ahead of time, as this dough will freeze well for several months.

Place the flour, salt and butter in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Pulse until butter is broken up a little smaller than pea-sized pieces. With the machine on, pour the ice water into the feed tube. Allow machine to run until dough just begins to ball up in the bowl.

Dump this very loose dough onto a well-floured work surface. Knead it lightly, and gather it into one big ball. Cut this ball in half, shape each half into a disc and wrap them separately in plastic wrap. Refrigerate at least two hours, or up to 2 days, or freeze for several months.

When you’re ready to make quiche, remove dough from refrigerator about 15 to 20 minutes before you want to work with it. Roll it out on a floured surface until it’s big enough to fit your pie dish (I use a standard Pyrex dish). Allow extra to hang over the sides, and tuck it under so it fits the dish, then use your fingers to make ridges. Or just forget about all that, cut off the extra, sprinkle it with cinnamon sugar, give it a twist or roll and bake it up into makeshift pastries in the oven with the pie (These will cook faster than the quiche.).

make the filling:

Separate the green chard leaves from the colored stalks. Tear the leaves into 1 to 2-inch chunks and set aside. Finely chop the stalks.

Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions and chard stalks and saute until translucent. Add chard greens and a couple small pinches of salt. Saute until the greens cook down.

While this mixture cooks, mix eggs with milk, salt and pepper to taste and chopped herbs, if using. Whisk well until mixture is of uniform color.

Spoon greens mixture into prepared pie crust. Pour egg mixture over this, taking care to spread it around the pie dish. Top with crumbled goat cheese. Bake at 375 degrees for 30 to 45 minutes, or until quiche is solid. Allow to cool at least 10 minutes before cutting.

A quick note: The same great vegetables you’re enjoying in your CSA box are also being used in many local restaurants. Kybecca’s take on Snead’s asparagus was recently featured by a Northern Virginia Magazine food blogger. Find the post here.

Midweek recipe: Asparagus and gnocchi with mushrooms

photo-5Here’s an asparagus dish that we made Wednesday night. We had bought some of the Wegmans brand whole-wheat gnocchi and wanted to try them out. The flavors were nice, but I would say on the gnocchi that they’re a little chewy. Maybe whole-wheat is too much to ask of gnocchi. You could do this with any kind of pasta you like, although the boiling time will be longer with dry pasta, and you will not want to add the asparagus until just a couple minutes before the pasta are done.

1 16-oz package pre-made gnocchi (We used the Wegmans Italian Classics brand.)

1 pound asparagus, washed, tough ends trimmed off and cut into one-inch pieces

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

10 oz. mushrooms (We used a wild mix that started frozen, but you could use any kind you have.)

1 clove garlic

salt and pepper, to taste

juice of one lemon

2 to 3 oz goat cheese (Or feta. Or parmesan. Or just a mix of what you have on-hand.)

Bring a large pot of water to boil. While you’re waiting for the water to boil, heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and let them cook down. Allow the water in the mushrooms to extract and then boil off before you add salt and pepper to taste, plus the garlic.

When the water is boiling, add the gnocchi. One minute later, add the asparagus. Two minutes later (or once the gnocchi have floated to the top of the water), dump everything out to drain in a colander in the sink. Without shaking off too much water, add the contents of the colander to the pan with the mushrooms. Stir to mix, then turn off the heat. Add lemon juice and cheese and stir until everything is nicely mixed and coated. Serve immediately.

How are you using your asparagus? E-mail me if you’ve got a recipe to share!