Friday, July 22, 2011

Big Box of Produce

I’m trying a new thing with produce delivery from Boston Organics. Every other week, I’ll receive the “Dogma Box” of locally sourced organic goodness, delivered to my door. For as long as I can handle it, I will be doing a Big Box of Produce post about what I do with the contents of my, um, big box of produce. Everything that came in this delivery was absolutely gorgeous. I say "for as long as I can handle it," because this bounty of awesomeness comes with a down-side: this quantity and variety of perishable goodness in my kitchen means a lot more cooking than usual. My typical MO is to do some one-off big batch cooking once or twice a week, so being in the kitchen cooking every night (even for short times) is a lot of extra pain (at least the way I was doing it this week). I’m going to see if I can do a better job with the next delivery, because this produce is so beautiful that it would break my heart to have to cancel delivery over pain management issues. We’ll see what happens… I basically have to do all of my cooking in 10-15 minute flurries, with no more than 2-3 flurries per day total (for both lunch and dinner). It's kind of a trip. I imagine this is similar to the soccer mom conundrum, except instead of kids I have nerve damage. Anyway, back to the happiness... In future posts I’ll open with a picture of everything in my box, but I forgot to take that picture this week amidst the chaos of the day, so we’ll just go through item by item as I used them. The packing list this week (with states of origin) was:
  • 1 lb Baby Bok Choy (MA)
  • 1 bunch Red Beets (MA)
  • 1 bundle Calaloo Greens (MA)
  • 1 bundle Collard Greens (MA)
  • 1 Cucumber (MA)
  • 1 head Green Leaf Lettuce (MA)
  • 1 Hot House Tomato (Quebec)
  • 1x Mint (MA)
  • 1 lb Mixed Soft-Rind Squash (MA)
  • 1 lb Shelling Peas (MA)
The first item I enjoyed (along with two items that I added on) was the tomato from Quebec.
I was skeptical about this, being a hot-house tomato from Quebec, but it was a damn tasty tomato and made a delicious lunch paired with some toasted whole wheat bread and raw milk cheddar.
The beets were listed as "bunched red beets,"so it was a fun to discover that they were actually candy cane beets. So pretty! Unfortunately, I didn't know what I was working with until I had already peeled and sliced them, so I lost the loveliness when I cooked them. They were still delicious, though, and next time I'll be prepared! This time, I cooked them sous vide and put them into a salad with cucumber, mint, sous vide chicken breast (143°F, 90 minutes), arugula, and a dressing made from balsamic, rice vinegar, and olive oil. The cucumber and mint were both from my Big Box of Produce as well.
Speaking of mint, this was sort of a craptastic week around here, and I was very happy that in addition to this mint I also happened to have some limes and rum sitting around the house. There was only one thing to be done...This is the classic Steph-and-Emmo Mojito. One serving is made with a small handful of mint leaves muddled with ~2T sugar and 3T lime juice, then shaken with 1/2 C rum and served on the rocks. (Some people would use 1/4 C rum and then finish with 1/4 C soda water, but we were not the type of people who kept soda water on hand, so we always just substituted rum for the soda water. It seemed like the only reasonable thing to do...)
Next up in the box is the head of lettuceI turned this into a lunch salad with the rest of the cucumber, anther sous vide chicken breast, and a store-bought all-natural yogurt dressing. I have to say, this lettuce was totally freaking delicious. I had no idea lettuce could taste so good. I mean... it's lettuce. LETTUCE. Who knew? Moving on... Zucchini! I had plans for this that involved chicken and complicated things, but they fell through after I had a giant salad for lunch and was utterly exhausted. I decided instead to do the ol' Vegetarian Epicure Baked Eggs in Zucchini with Hollandaise thing... but I didn't feel up to making (or eating) Hollandaise either... so this is what I came up with. I did the zucchini on my Japanese turning slicer, because it is way more fun than a mandoline...
Just like in the other recipe, the zucchini is salted, squeezed dry, then satéed with some chopped scallions. I divided the zucchini between three ramekins at this point and set aside.
Because I wasn't making a Hollandaise, I wanted my eggs to be perfect, so I went with a 143.5°F (60-minute) egg.
I toasted up some of that whole wheat bread above, too, and brushed it with a bit of (Amish) butter.
When you have the perfect balance of tender egg white, juicy zucchini, and gooey egg yolk, you really don't need a sauce...
This was the bomb... I'll make this dish this way from now on. (Well, at least 93% of the time... There is something to be said for a nice Hollandaise, after all...) Up next: baby bok choy. I cooked this up for just 5 minutes sous vide in a 185°F water bath (I didn't feel like steaming and already had the water bath heated from yogurt-making) and served with some oyster sauce, sesame oil, and a sliced marinated (sous vide) chicken breast.Wow. This post is epic. This is a really big box of produce... The next item is one I'd never even heard of before: callaloo greens. After some digging on the internet, a Caribbean preparation seemed most appropriate. I went with jerk chicken and a coconut-braised callaloo green with ginger and garlic.I got the jerk chicken marinade online,
then cooked a chicken leg sous vide (shocking!) at 148°F for around 5 hours (after 4 hours marinating) before chilling it for a day until I was ready to cook the greens.
While the greens were cooking, I re-warmed the chicken in my toaster oven, then blow-torched the skin to get all charred and yummy.
This was AWESOME. I don't think I would have been remotely inclined to make it if not for the callaloo greens appearing at my door, but I will totally make it again (and hopefully soon).
Getting to the bottom of the box. The collards (which I feed several pounds of to my rabbits every week but had never actually cooked with before) got a quick treatment sautéed up with some Chinese sausage for lunch...Finally, the last item in my box was the pound of shelling peas. At the last minute, I decided these would go with some homemade ricotta gnocchi with prosciutto... I made a batch of Zuni Café ricotta gnocchi with my homemade ricotta (they are not perfect, but they were absolutely delicious and I was very very very tired...)I brined the shelled peas for 10 minutes then blanched them sous vide. (Yes. I cook everything that way. Shut up.) They were then shocked in ice water and warmed in (Amish) butter just before serving...
This was incredibly delicious. Hardly any ingredients, but all of the ingredients present were super-awesome. Just how great food should be...
Sigh. That was my week in food with my first-ever Big Box of Produce. It was exhausting, educational, delicious, exhausting, fun, painful, and exhausting. I look forward to seeing what the next box has in store for me... but I'm glad I get a week off first.

UPDATE: OK, so this is on permanent hiatus at the moment. I will resume if my doctors can eventually figure out a way to get my pain under control. Currently, though, this is just more than I should put myself through on a regular basis.

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