green city market– june virtual csa

June CSA

Below is the second installment of the Green City Market virtual CSA.

The point of these recipes is to be a tool to inspire market shoppers to experiment with new ingredients that will be available for the next month. It is hard this time of year to hold too tightly to any ingredient. Peas are here now and will be gone in a flash. Strawberries too.

But that’s how it goes. So eat ’em up while you can. There will be new recipes next month.

As always thanks to Elise for the sketches and all the work she puts into creating this document. And of course thanks to the market and the growers for doing the heavy lifting.

Cucumber Salad

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  • 2 medium cucumbers
  • 1 bu chives hopefully with their flowers
  • ½ bu dill
  • ¼ C white wine vinegar
  • ½ C sour cream
  • 1 small red onion or shallot
  1. With a vegetable peeler stripe the cucumber
  2. Cut the cucumber in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds if they are large
  3. Slice the cucumber into half moons
  4. Slice the red onion thinly
  5. Finely chop the dill and chive reserving the chive flowers if available
  6. Whisk the vinegar, sour cream and herbs together with several pinches of salt and black pepper
  7. Combine the cucumbers, onion and dressing and sprinkle the top with the chive flowers

Serve on its own or alongside grilled fish or chicken

Kale, Tomato, and Crispy Chickpea Salad

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  • 1 bu kale or other hearty green
  • 1 qt cherry tomatoes
  • 1 cucumber
  • 1 12oz can of chickpeas
  • ½ tsp ground cumin
  • ¼ C red wine vinegar
  • ½ C olive oil
  • 1 bu basil
  • ½ bu mint
  • 1 bu parsley
  1. Heat the oven to 400F
  2. Drain the chickpeas and toss with a glug of olive oil, salt and the cumin
  3. Spread out on to a sheet tray and bake until crispy
  4. Remove from the oven and allow to cool
  5. Cut the kale into ribbons and massage until tender
  6. Half the cherry tomatoes
  7. Dice the cucumber
  8. Pick the herb leaves
  9. Combine the kale, tomatoes and cucumber with the red wine vinegar and olive oil
  10. Just before serving toss the whole lot with the picked herbs and crispy chickpeas
  11. Taste and adjust seasoning adding salt, vinegar or hot sauce as desired

Spring Pea Pasta Salad

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  • 1 lb pasta (small shapes work best here)
  • 1 C buttermilk (or yogurt)
  • ½ C mayonnaise
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 lb fresh peas (use frozen out of season)
  • 1 bu mint
  1. Boil the pasta per the package’s instructions
  2. Whisk together the buttermilk, the mayo, the lemon zest and juice and taste adding salt and pepper as needed
  3. When draining the pasta, place the peas in the bottom of the colander and pour the hot water over the peas to lightly cook
  4. Toss the peas and pasta together and allow to cool
  5. Pick the mint and tear into pieces
  6. Dress with the buttermilk dressing and the fresh mint, seasoning as desired

Summer Potato Salad

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  • 2lbs potatoes, a variety of colors if available
  • ¼ C whole grain or Dijon mustard
  • 1 T white wine vinegar
  • ½ C olive oil
  • 5 garlic scapes
  • 1 red onion
  • 1 bu kale or other hearty green
  • 1 bu parsley
  1. Cover the potatoes in cold water with a hefty pinch of salt and bring to a boil
  2. Reduce to a simmer and then cook potatoes until tender
  3. Slice the garlic scapes thinly and combine with the mustard, vinegar and olive oil
  4. Drain the potatoes and immediately dress with the vinaigrette
  5. Strip the kale leaves, wash, dry and slice thinly
  6. Slice the red onion into half moons
  7. Roughly chop the parsley
  8. Combine all together, with a pinch of salt, taste and adjust seasoning as desired

Note: the colder the potato salad is served the more salt and vinegar it will need to taste delicious

Pavlova with Cherries, Blueberries and Peach Sour Cream

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When recipes call for egg yolks only, it feels like a true shame to pitch the whites, and so I save them no matter what. But that shameless frugality can lead to jars and jars of egg whites in the back of the fridge. Meringues are a perfect way to use up those stray egg whites. Pavlova is a classic dessert of Australia often paired with tropical fruits and always has a creamy center. I use sour cream instead of the traditional whipped cream to help cut the sweet of the meringue. This time of year when the blueberries and cherries still have a bit of tartness to them, I love pairing the sweetness of the meringue against the fruit and the creaminess of the sour cream.

This recipe is based on the Cook’s Illustrated Pavlova recipe. On average, one egg’s white is 1oz and so don’t worry about the count of egg whites in your long lost jars, just measure it out in ounces.

As for vanilla, I like the Massey Vanilla Paste. It is a combo of vanilla seeds and extract. It has delicious flavor and I love the dark vanilla seeds dotting the meringue. You can use any sort of vanilla extract to replace the paste, but when there are so few ingredients, it is worth it to use the best you can find.

  • 4oz egg whites, room temperature
  • ¾ tsp vanilla paste
  • ¼ tsp cream of tarter
  • 1 C sugar
  • 1pt blueberries
  • 1 C cherries (I like the balaton half sweet, half tart variety but sweets will work too)
  • 1 sprig of mint, torn into little pieces (if you can’t find mint simply omit or substitute another herb you like—basil, lemon balm, thyme)
  • 1 C sour cream
  • 1 C peach jam
  1. Preheat oven to 225F
  2. Whisk egg whites, vanilla paste and cream of tarter until foamy
  3. Increase speed to medium high and, while whisking, add sugar in a steady stream
  4. Let mix until meringue is glossy and holds stiff peaks
  5. Spoon a blob of the meringue on to a parchment lined sheet tray
  6. Repeat until out of meringue (usually makes about 8 good sized blobs, but make as many as you are serving)
  7. Dip a spoon in water and make a divet in the center of the meringue
  8. Bake until meringues are dry to the touch and have a few cracks along the service (about an hour and a half or so)
  9. Turn the oven off and let meringues dry out. I left them in the oven for an additional 2 hrs
  10. Gently lift from the parchment paper and store in an airtight container. Meringues, if stored this way, will keep for at least a week.
  11. To plate, whisk sour cream and peach jam until well-combined
  12. Toss the blueberries, cherries and torn mint
  13. Place meringue on center of plate
  14. Spoon peach sour cream onto center of meringue
  15. Top with a handful of the berries and serve

Green City Market, Chicago – May virtual csa

may virtual csa

Green City Market has long been a very special place for me. When I first moved to Chicago in 2007, my first job was selling pastries each Wednesday and Saturday for Floriole Bakery. I set up our tent for two years, rain or shine or sleet or snow,  slinging pecan sticky buns and still-warm bread pudding. I became friends with the other vendors– they wanted breakfast, I wanted ingredients for dinner. I saw which chefs actually bought produce from market. I learned of people’s families, their preferences and found my first Chicago community.

In early 2015 I decided to move back to Chicago full time. I wanted to reconnect with this market and the people that made me feel at home so quickly. My dear friend Elise Bergman encouraged me to join her on the Green City Market Junior Board, and this fall started my four year tenure on the board.

This week Elise and I kicked off the Virtual CSA– a shopping list and recipes to help engage shoppers with different ingredients from the market. Together we sought out the produce, I wrote the recipes and she (per usual) made everything beautiful. A new packet will be available at market and on the Green City Market Website the third Wednesday of each month.

Here’s to local produce and shopping outside.  Read on…

sausage saturday

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Erik and I have started a regular tradition—Sausage Saturday. It came about because, after a full week on final day of work, Saturday afternoons had me looking for a dinner option that would feel like a full meal but not require additional effort on my part.

Luckily, I work next to a great butcher shop. My friends there make a variety of sausages every week. Some consistent flavors like mild or spicy Italian and Toulouse spiked with garlic and thyme. In addition to those regular offerings were “the specials”.

I used to abhor the term “special” when it comes to food. All of the food on the menu should be special. So by denoting a particular dish “special” doesn’t that undermine all of the other menu items? And more often than not a menu special is the thing that the kitchen really needs to move. Didn’t Bourdain have a whole thing about fish specials on Mondays? That pretty much summed it up in my mind. Read on…

ramps

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For more and more of us ramps are the harbinger of spring. Ramps, or wild leeks, are some of the first things to pop out of the ground, sometimes even when there is a light blanket of snow in the woods. And after this winter, a welcome sign that despite cold and lasting frozen precipitation, something will grow again.

They are in the allium (onion) family and share all the characteristics of that group. But they are different from those cultivated varieties in their wild smell and tender leaves. They have a garlic-y pungency that is hard to describe or forget. I had never worked with ramps before cooking in Chicago—a town whose name is derived from the Native American word for ramp. My chef and I walked in to “Rampfest” an annual fundraiser celebrating these foraged darlings; he looked at me and said, “Whoa, it smells like ramps in here.” And from now on, that smell is unmistakable and makes me so happy. Read on…

“snowdrops” and spring cooking

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One of my goals for 2016 is to memorize a poem every month.

I started in January with Louise Gluck’s Snowdrops. The poem leapt off the page. The imagery of a delicate white flower being almost surprised at its own resilience. The fragile stem pushing through cold, damp earth to be “among us again” and bracing against “the raw wind of the new world.”

Then February came with Neruda and March, Ms. Angelou. But a few days ago, while walking in my friends newly planted garden, “snowdrops” sprang to the front of my brain. Tiny little carrot sprouts practically wide-eyed. Radishes climbing toward the sun while the wind whips them down. Baby onions stretching up with seed caps clinging to the sprout like sleepers in a child’s eye.

The flavors of spring are delicate and feel like the tender skin of a baby’s foot, not yet calloused against the years of use. The first sprouts and greens are whispers compared to the bawdiness of tomatoes and hot peppers. They offer no comfort from the cold the way that thick-walled squash or storage potatoes do.

This time of year, I turn to poaching to be gentle with these newbies. This technique gently cooks ingredients in simmering liquid, which does not immediately sound delicious. But if you make that liquid delightful (with the addition of aromatics or wine or beer or stock) the flavors mingle and become something more than a pot of boiled carrots. Read on…

Honey

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One of my chef mentors regularly said, “Our job as cooks is allow ingredients to speak for themselves. We just give them the mic.” This can mean anything from adding a bit of salt to something sweet for contrast, roasting a vegetable to concentrate the flavor, cutting the ingredient in a particular way to affect the texture. My favorite way of amplifying an ingredient is to pair it with an unconventional flavor allowing for it to be seen in a new light. The way that a room in your family home seems new when the furniture is rearranged, so too can an ingredient you’ve eaten thousands of times seem exciting when paired with something unexpected.

Honey naturally has these flavor variations depending on the type of honey it is. The most common clover honey is light in color and tastes simply of sweetness and a bit of grassy sunshine. Less common buckwheat and chestnut honeys are mahogany hued and equally dark in flavor. They would be out of place swirled into a cup of tea, but drizzled over ricotta on toast are a honey experience that throws Pooh Bear on his head. Read on…

Popcorn for Dinner

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In the last two months, I’ve had popcorn for dinner six times.

It all started because I was given a bag of the most breathtakingly beautiful Ruby Red heritage popcorn. It is dark red, perfectly uniform pearl drops that seem to glow from within the jar on my pantry shelf. And being much more of an eater than a saver, I made a big bowl-ful the very first night.

Pure delight ensued. Like staying up late on a school night. Skipping dinner in lieu of eating the least junky of junk food was a fun little break from my regular square meals.

The next morning at work a friend asked what I did the night before.

“Ate popcorn for dinner and binge-watched Fargo. You?”

“Ugh. I hate when I give up and just eat popcorn for dinner like a lowlife.”

Read on…