Friday, July 27, 2012

Big Box of Produce

As the chaos of moving began to subside, I decided to try a Portland-area produce delivery service.  I really enjoyed the process of trying to cook my way through the Big Box of Produce that I ordered in Boston back in the day (even if that box was more than I could handle without living in the kitchen full-time), and it seemed like it was worth another try.  Out here in Portland my produce deliveries will come from OrganicsToYou.  Here's what came in my first box:
There was a lot of awesome stuff in there, and some of it I just threw on the grill with a little seasoning (like the corn and the potatoes).  The broccoli I just straight-up snacked on... The rest I tried to have some fun with. 
I thought the kale and rainbow chard might make a nice quiche.  (I didn't feel up to making pie crust, and I had enough filling for two quiches, so I made a deal with my mom that if she brought me two crusts I would send her home with a quiche... I think that worked out well for both of us...)  I had some leftover grape tomatoes that needed to be consumed, so I roasted them up with some garlic and chili flakes.  I didn't want them adding too much moisture to the finished quiche, so I threw them in the dehydrator for about 6 hours...
I sautéed the kale and chard with some garlic and chilies.  After cooking up 8 pieces of bacon to crumble, I cooked that gorgeous Walla Walla sweet onion from my delivery in a bit of the bacon fat to add, as well.  That all went into the crust with a typical quiche base of milk/cream and eggs (seasoned lightly with cayenne, salt, pepper, and a pinch of nutmeg) along with some grated Parmesan, and it was ready for the oven.
This was actually the first time I'd ever made quiche, but it turned out pretty awesome and I will definitely do it again as a way to use up extra greens...
The next two dishes fall into the category of "ugly but delicious"...  I ended up with a lot of shelling peas because I had been to the Cully Community Market the day before my produce was delivered, and I have a weakness for shelling peas... Some of them will show up in another post, but these I decided to use in a dish of Whole-grain Penne with Sweet Pea Pesto, Chicken, and Prosciutto...
I took as inspiration the garlic scape pesto that I've made in the past, and combined blanched peas with Parmesan, toasted almonds, lemon, and garlic...
After a spin in the food processor, this would be tossed with the pasta, along with more peas, some torn prosciutto, and a couple grilled chicken breasts...
Like I said, ugly but delicious...
In a similar idea, I used the green beans in a dish of Whole-grain Penne with Green Bean Pesto and Roasted Chicken.  I was inspired by a recipe at Epicurious, but I didn't have hazelnuts (so I replaced them with toasted almonds) and I sort of hate parsley so I used blanched green beans in place of the 2 cups of parsley and just added a small handful of parsley for color and brightness.  Oh, and I forgot the garlic and added the Parmesan to the pesto instead of just to the pasta.  This "green bean pesto" was unbelievably delicious, and I can't wait to make it again.  I added it to the penne with the rest of the blanched green beans and the meat from a rotisserie chicken, and I was a very happy camper...
I wanted to do something special with the zucchini, so I decided to try Zucchini Crostini with Feta.  The zucchini is julienned...
...then tossed with lemon juice, lemon zest, olive oil, and mint.
The feta I had was some spectacular stuff from the goats at Alsea Acre (which I'd picked up at the Community Market).  I crumbled it into the zucchini mixture, and was ready to go.
If I'd had guests I probably would have tried to make this pretty, rather than just delicious... but it was just me and it was 10pm by the time I got around to making this, so I decided to just fling the mixture haphazardly onto some toasted slices of 3-seed baguette and call it good.   It could definitely be dressed up for company quite easily, though, if you spend more than 10 seconds plating it, and it's definitely delicious enough to impress your friends with.  The high-quality goat cheese really made the dish special...
The final dish in this week's "ugly but delicious" theme came about because I wanted a good use for the cabbage and carrots.  (Jackson appreciated the carrot tops, but I wanted to use the carrots myself... He doesn't need organic...)  I decided to make a cabbage slaw with grilled chicken.  The slaw included julienned apple, thin-sliced radish, julienned carrot, mint (from my garden), and scallions...
I marinated the chicken thighs in chilies, ginger, and sesame oil before throwing them on the grill, and put together a dressing of fish sauce, lime juice, cider vinegar, sesame oil, and canola oil...
 
(This dish is actually quite lovely until you plate up the individual servings, so I'll just leave that final ugly picture out...)  That does it for my first Big Box of Produce in Portland...  I'm on an every-other-week schedule, and am starting to cook my way through my second box now.  I'll be back later with those results.  What I enjoyed most about this first box was how it forced me to try some new things...  I learned that I can make kick-ass quiches with whatever I have on hand.  I learned that my version of green bean pesto is insanely delicious.  I learned about a great new (no-cook) way to use zucchini in an appetizer.   All good stuff...  I get into ruts sometimes just cooking what I'm used to.  It's good to have something that forces me to experiment, and it's even better that everything is in season and supporting local growers...

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