Friday, July 31, 2009

Wow with Kra Pow!

Thai food is tasty! It is also healthy and surprisingly very easy to make at home, if you have the ingredients. We were super excited to find a bag of thai basil in our CSA bag this week because the plants we are growing on the deck aren't growing and/or replenishing as fast as we'd like. If you didn't get any this week, there is a great thai grocery store next to the Arlington Cinema and Drafthouse on Columbia Pike called Bangkok 54 (also a great thai restaurant) where you can get some for like .99 cents a bag as well as some of the other staples (fish sauce, thai chilis) to make many, many delicious thai dishes.

Here are simple directions to make a thai basil stir fry known at restaurants as Kra Pow or Gra Pow. You can also use the same recipe but add noodles and make Drunken Noodles. Bangkok 54 sells the fresh rice noodles on Fridays - they sell out fast because they rock. We love this dish because you can use any meat you want or even stick to vegetarian. We vary our vegetables with whatever we have - peppers/onions, broccoli, Chinese eggplant, cabbage, or _______ (insert your favorite here). We also vary the meat (tip - using ground chicken or pork saves cutting and cooking time.) It honestly tastes as good or better than at a restaurant and the great thing about this recipe is that you can control the amount of oil and the ratio of meat/vegetables to make it super healthy.

OK - you need: thai basil (1 bag picked and washed), fish sauce, soy sauce, chilis, meat, vegetables, garlic (1 or 2 cloves), sugar, water, vegetable oil. Chop vegetables, garlic and chilis (1-2, or more if you like spicy). Rice if you aren't using noodles.

First - Put rice on if you are making. Put a splash of oil in hot wok or pan, cook vegetables to desired consistency. Move to bowl. Then, put chilis and garlic in wok with another splash of oil and cook meat. When meat is cooked, throw in equal parts (2 tbs, but we now put 1/4 cup because we like sauce) of fish sauce, soy sauce, sugar and water (can go a little easy on the sugar if you want). Then mix vegetables back in to pan, put in basil. If you bought the rice noodles, cut and peel apart and put in pan. Mix til hot and covered in yumminess.

Thai basil stir fry - done!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Easy as Soup

We pick up our CSA vegetables after work Wednesday and try to come out of the gate strong that night making something that uses up a good amount of vegetables all at once. Since K has yoga and doesn't come home until around 9:15 - it's up to me to cook dinner so I tend to stick with easy recipes like soup or stir fry since K is the meat griller, cooker and master chef of the house.

So last night I made one of our favorite and easiest soup recipes, Middle Eastern Chickpea Soup. Even though it is super hot and humid out, I could eat soup every night. This one is taken from Moosewood Restaurant Daily Special but since I have made it so many times, I have kind of condensed the instructions into less steps. Check out the cookbook for the recipe in its entirety, but here is my summarized version. It used the potatoes, tomatoes, onions and the swiss chard from the CSA.

Cook 2 cups diced potatoes in water until soft. Meanwhile, chop a large onion (about 2 cups) and cook in pan with a little olive oil then add 1 tbs cumin, 1 tbs coriander, 1 tsp tumeric, 1/8 -1/4 tsp cayenne (depending on your spice preference) and some salt and pepper - about 10 minutes.

If you don't have vegetable stock, save 4 cups of the potato water when potatoes are done to reuse as soup base. If you do have stock, drain potatoes when soft and add 4 cups broth. Add two cans drained and rinsed chickpeas to pot and puree. If you don't have an immersion blender or hand mixer, a real blender works (recipe actually has you do all these steps separately in a blender, pouring each item back into the pot when pureed.) Add onions to mixture and stir. Add 2 cups chopped tomatoes and 2 cups chopped swiss chard or spinach to soup. Salt and pepper to taste.

Last night we received a bag of sweet potato greens in our share so I added a handful of those leaves to the chard. We still have potatoes out the wazoo so tonight are going to roast some chicken and potatoes (didn't do it the other night as we planned since babysitting and Los Tios called) and have a friend coming over to help eat them.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Frankenstein Ragout

After going out to dinner on Friday (Rasika, amazing!) and to a bbq on Saturday, we had to make yesterday count as far as using up a lot of the vegetables we have accumulated this week. Since the bulk of our stash was zucchini, we thought some sort of ratatouille or ragout would be good. We found several different versions in various cookbooks but we were feeling lazy and didn’t want to run to the grocery store so we found one to use as a jumping off point and made many substitutions and additions. The result = delicious.

We think this could be made with a wide variety of vegetables so it will definitely remain in our arsenal as a good ‘kitchen sink’ recipe when we want to use up what we have and be healthy to boot. For yesterday’s version (which made more than enough for dinner and today’s lunch), first, we satueed some sweet italian sausage from Smith Meadow Farms (Del Ray Farmer’s Market) in a pot (took out of the casing). When that was done, we put the sausage in a bowl and then cut up 3 carrots, 2 of the giant, light purple/green squash/zucchini we got in the CSA, a big purple onion, and the long beans from the CSA two weeks ago all into tiny, bite-sized pieces and cooked them in the same pot. The sausage was so lean that there wasn’t any fat or oil to drain. Nice.

While the vegetables were cooking, we got some pasta going in another pot. After vegetables have gone for around 10 minutes, we added 2 ½ cups of vegetable stock, 3 chopped tomatoes and a handful of basil leaves, both from the CSA. We also added some corn we cut off of the cob, just to use it up. When the pasta was almost finished, we drained and threw into the vegetable/broth mixture so it could absorb some of the liquid. Then we added the cooked sausage and two cubes of garlic scape pesto (from CSA's 'In the Bag') and mixed everything up.

The original recipe called for mushrooms and white beans in the ragout and it wasn’t served with pasta. Instead of basil pesto, it had you make a marjoram one. Our version was pretty delicious and it used up a lot of our vegetables. Tonight we are going to make shrimp tacos with roasted jalepeno quinoa (will use up cabbage for taco topping) and tomorrow we are going to roast some chicken and vegetables to use up the beets, potatoes and chard we have left. Then we should be cleared out and ready for Wednesday’s delivery to start over again. :)

Anyone else have some good recipes that use a lot of vegetables at once?

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Basil, Basil!!

The basil from the CSA has been amazing this year. Today we got two huge bunches and we aren't going to have any time to use them until Sunday. Here are some tips for keeping basil fresh.

Remove the bottom leaves and cut a quarter inch from the stems and set in a glass of water, just like you would fresh flowers. They will stay fresh for days, even a week. Be sure never to put the basil in the fridge, or the leaves will turn black.

My favorite way to use up lots of basil is to make pesto. You can make a huge batch and freeze it for another time. There is nothing better then pulling out some frozen pesto from the freezer in Winter and getting a taste of Summer. You can freeze a whole batch in one container or freeze cubes in an ice cube tray. Once frozen you can put the cubes in a freezer bag and pull out a cube to add to eggs, soup, or spread on bread.

Basil Pesto

2 cups fresh basil
4 garlic cloves chopped
1 cup walnuts or pine nuts
1 cup olive oil
1 cup parmesan grated
1/4 cup romano grated

Use a food processor or blender and blend all ingredients well. This recipe is meant to be used with 2 lbs of pasta.

We've also been getting super fragrant lemon basil and made a tasty stir fry with it. We haven't tried it yet, but think lemon basil would also taste amazing with fish.

Beef stir fry with lemon basil

1 1b eye of round steak sliced thinly
2 Tbs brown sugar
2 Tbs fish sauce
6 thai chilis
5 cloves garlic
1 Tbs chopped shallot
3 Tbs lemon basil
3 Tbs lemon juice

Pound chilis, garlic and shallots with a mortar and pestle or blend in food processor. Add brown sugar and fish sauce. Mix with beef slices and marinade for one hour. Stir fry the beef until cooked through, toss in the lemon basil leaves. Turn off heat and add lemon juice. Serve with rice.

We served this with a separate stir fry of squash and cabbage. The meat we used came from Mount Vernon Farm.

Check out the Washington Post article from today about the Local Buyers Club. They deliver meat from Mount Vernon Farm and have other products from several farms.

Anyone have any other recipes for basil?

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Roast 'em if you got 'em

Even though today was a hot summer day, I had a craving for roasted chicken and vegetables. It was a great way to use up the potatoes, onion, fennel, carrots, beets, summer savory and greens. We picked up some bone-in chicken breasts at My Organic Market (MOMs) from a local farm in Maryland.

We cut up the potatoes and beets into 1/2 inch cubes, the carrots were tiny so we left them whole, the fennel and onions were also small so we quartered them, basically trying to get everything about the same size. Then we put everything on a baking sheet, tossed it with olive oil, summer savory, salt and pepper and popped it in a 400 degree oven.

Then we took more summer savory and rubbed it under the skin of the chicken breast along with salt and pepper and placed the chicken on a second baking sheet. This also went into the same oven. The vegetables took about 55 minutes to cook and the chicken took about 40 minutes. Meanwhile we washed and chopped the beet greens and radish greens. Once the chicken was done we took it off of the baking sheet and put the greens on the same baking sheet. Put this in the oven for about 5 minutes until wilted. Done.

This dish was so simple and the flavors of all of the vegetables were really amazing.  If you are willing to heat up the house for an hour or so, this is a great way to use up a bunch of vegetables all at once.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Farmers market fruit and corn

Despite being inundated with an amazing array of vegetables from our CSA every week, we just can't resist visiting the Del Ray farmer's market on saturday mornings to see if there are any berries or fruit for breakfast and snacking. While there this morning, we noticed that fresh corn has already started to make its debut so picked up a bunch. Here is a great recipe we found in a book called "Cooking with Asian Leaves" by Devagi Sanmugam and Christopher Tan that we actually bought after getting a few interesting herbs from the CSA (korean mint, malabar spinach and sweet potato leaves) last year. We love cooking Asian food anyway so this book definitely added some great recipes to the arsenal. This one calls for Thai Basil, which we are growing on our deck and which you can buy at Bangkok 54's awesome store on Columbia Pike for like .99 cents a bag. We've served this dish as an appetizer, with crackers and chips and other dips. It could also be a great topping or side dish for fish or meat.

Stir-fried Basil Corn

(this cookbook was published in Singapore and we think we bought it online from a UK site, so all the measurements are in grams - we did our best to convert before posting but should taste great even if some parts are a little more or a little less.)

3 tbs coriander root (some Asian grocery stores sell this, we used cilantro stems/leaves)
4 cloves garlic
3 chilis
2 tbs cooking oil
2 1/4 cups corn kernels (can use frozen)
1 tbs grated palm sugar (gula melaka or could use brown sugar, plain sugar)
2 tbs fish sauce
1/3 cup thai basil leaves

- pound coriander root, garlic and chilis coarsely
- heat oil in a wok. add the pounded ingredients and cook, stirring constantly for about 1 minute or until aromatic
- add in the corn kernels, grated palm sugar, fish sauce and basil leaves.
- stir-fry over high heat for about 5-8 minutes until the corn is cooked (with fresh summer sweet corn cook only 2-3 minutes)
- serve hot (it's also good at room temperature or even cold)


Week six's bounty

This week we finally got a bag that had more that just lettuce and greens in it. We love them, but it's been hard to find a way to eat them all each week. This week's bag came with onions, garlic, potatoes, cucumber, carrots, lettuce, squash, beets, radish, fennel, chard and summer savory.

Here are some of the things that we made this past week:

**Potato-Chorizo Tacos (we used the potatoes and onion from the bag this week and cabbage from last week's bag)

3 potatoes cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 2 cups)
12 oz. fresh chorizo sausage (remove casing)
1 small onion, finely chopped

Bring one quart of water to boil in a medium pot add 2tsp. salt to the water and potatoes. Simmer until tender about 10 min. Drain.
In a large skillet, over med. heat, combine chorizo and onion. break up sausage and cook 10 minutes until sausage is cooked through. Drain excess fat.
Add potatoes to pan and cook over med. heat about 8 minutes.
Meanwhile, warm corn tortillas.
Serve with tomatillo salsa and avocado. Or, blend the two together to make a sauce
Top with thinly sliced cabbage (toss cabbage with lime juice and salt)

Check out Nellie's market (formerly Tanya's market, before that, Chirligua market) at the corner of Mt. Vernon Ave. and Glebe Rd. It's right next to the 7-11. They have great corn tortillas and you can find other Latin American ingredients for crazy low prices (30 corn tortillas, 6 limes and 6 fatty jalepenos for literally $1.69.)

**Beet salad with goat cheese

Once again we have used the Giada recipe as a base to make a roast beet salad. We have thrown in as many vegetables from the bag as we can - lettuce, cucumber, roast beets, and radish. Also, we have found a local goat cheese that we really like from Firefly Farms. They can be found at the Dupont farmer's market on Sundays and most of the time at the Whole Foods in Alexandria. It is very mild and creamy and works great in salads and pasta.

** Penne with Slow-Roasted Cherry Tomatoes and Goat Cheese

There is a farmer's market in the cafeteria of the House of Representative's Longworth building. Since I work near there I like to see what they have to offer. This past week the farmer was from the Northern Neck of VA and had an offering of delicious looking tomatoes. She had samples to taste of the yellow cherry ones. They were amazing - so sweet and delicious. I bought 2 pints and brought them home. I found a good looking recipe from that slow roasts the tomatoes and would use up some of the basil we got from last week (we kept them fresh in a glass of water) and some leftover goat cheese and we made yet another salad to go with it. Very delicious.

** Grilled Zucchini and Halloumi salad

If you have never tried grilled Halloumi cheese, you should. It is delicious, especially when grilled (or pan-fried). You can find it at Cheestique and MOMs on Mt. Vernon Ave. I saw this recipe in the food section of the Washington Post this past week. We haven't made it yet, but are planning on making this with some lamb kabobs (from Mount Vernon Farms).

Enjoy and keep sharing those recipes.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Eating locally on the road

While planning a recent road trip, we came across this great website called Eat Well Guide that lists restaurants, farmer's markets, orchards and stores that support fresh, locally grown and sustainably produced food and products. You can search by a variety of categories and they have a mapping tool to plan your route.

We ate at one of the restaurants the site suggested during our trip and it was definitely one of the highlights. :)