Monday, August 6, 2012

Big Box of Produce

For my second Big Box of Produce in Portland, I went with an option that combined fruit and veggies. I'm not really a fruit person generally, but I felt like I should work on that... Like last time, everything in the box was absolutely gorgeous...

 
I have a goal of not just making the same old recipes every time, since otherwise it defeats the purpose of getting these deliveries to inspire creativity with seasonal ingredients...  For the zucchini, I searched my EatYourBooks library and came across a recipe for Zucchini Gratin with Fresh Cheese in my Complete Robuchon cookbook...  (You can see this recipe online in the book's preview.)  The zucchini is sliced thinly on a mandolin, then sautéed with a little salt, pepper, cumin, and freshly grated nutmeg. 
The base of the gratin is made by whisking together chèvre, crème fraîche, and eggs with some thinly sliced sage leaves from the garden...
This was all supposed to go into a gratin dish, but I used large ramekins instead because I like individual servings. These baked (in a water bath) until the custard set... 
I'm not sure what I was expecting from the name of the recipe, but it wasn't this... Nonetheless, the dish is delicate, delicious, and slightly decadent...  especially if served up with a nice rib-eye steak (cooked sous vide, chilled, then charred on the grill) and some lovely fresh corn from the Box of Produce that also went on the grill...
I wanted to try to use most of the fruit from the Box in savory applications.  For the grapes I found a recipe for Chicken with Roasted Grapes and Shallots.
This dish turned out pretty, but somewhat bland...  I would definitely tweak it if I were to make something similar again...
In terms of sweeter applications, the pluots worked their way into my breakfast rotation, sliced up on some homemade Bulgarian yogurt and a bit of granola... When I taste fruit this delicious I wonder why I don't eat more fruit...
A lot of the cherries were just used for snacking, but when I was about halfway through the bunch I started seeing lots of recipes online for cherries soaked in bourbon, so the rest were pitted and tossed into a tub of bourbon... We'll see what happens in a few weeks...
One surprisingly awesome (and un-Emily-like) dish that came about this delivery was a Chicken and Swiss Chard Pasta Bake from theKitchn.  I didn't necessarily follow exact quantities or, really, directions, but the general concept brought me to a delicious dinner...
For this I was able to use the rainbow chard, sweet onion, and garlic from my delivery, as well as some homemade ricotta.  I didn't have any panko (re-stocking a pantry after moving takes forever...), so I toasted up some sourdough bread from the freezer and finely chopped it to make coarse bread crumbs.  I also distributed the mixture into individual portions rather than in one big container, because that's how I roll...  Oh, and you were supposed to discard the stems but I totally used them because look how pretty:
Anyway, this ended up being more than could fit into the four dishes I was planning to use, so I served up the two extra portions in oven-safe mugs...
The gorgeous organic grape tomatoes found their way into a few salads, including those made with the lettuce from the Box...  It was a perfect complement to the creamy, savory, crazy-yummy pasta bake. Casseroles are so not my style, but this dish was a reminder that I should be a bit more open-minded (and a bit less snobby...).
A search of savory recipes that use fresh apricots led me to an Apricot Mojo Sauce.  I mostly followed the recipe here, except I decided to throw in some grapefruit juice... Oh, and I didn't seed my chilies because I like spice.  (It was still quite mild... The recipe they say inspired this one actually uses habañeros, so it could definitely handle more spice...)
I was pretty excited about this one, and it definitely is very bright and fresh.  I found, though that the citrus overpowered the apricots...  The sauce tastes great, but I probably wouldn't choose it again as a showcase for apricots...
 
I served the mojo with a perfectly cooked pork loin roast (cooked sous vide at 140°F for 5 hours, chilled, then grilled to char...) and some basmati rice.  By the second day (when I remembered to take a picture) the color of the sauce had lost its bright orange color.  Perhaps a little citric acid could remedy that in the future?  This was a fantastic meal, so I feel like a jerk complaining about the lack of apricot-ness, but here I am doing just that... 
The green beans from the Box ended up inspiring an entire feast, so they got their own post.
I used another savory fruit preparation for the melon.  I can't have a melon around without making Avocado-Melon Salsa...
... and, ever since aquiring a chamber vacuum, I can't make Avocado-Melon Salsa without turning the melon into Compressed Melon...
I love the increased vibrancy of the color and the improved texture.  Mmm...  This salsa can be really beautiful if you spend lots of time carefully chopping, but I decided to go "rustic" on this one.  There's no real recipe I follow... I just combine compressed melon, cilantro, chilies, lime juice, red onion, and avocado to taste...
When I'm making enough for several servings (to be spread out over a few days), I mix everything else and then add the avocado just before serving...
I like to serve this with some perfectly-cooked sous vide shrimp.  I season the peeled shrimp with salt and cayenne, then cook at 131°F for about a half hour, then quickly chill in an ice bath.  The shrimp come out incredibly tender and delicious every time...
It was around this time that I realized I need to cut back to doing the Big Box of Produce once a month instead of every other week...  I've learned ways to minimize my time in the kitchen and am having fun cooking and experimenting, but this week I ended up having this lovely dish for lunch (because I was having other awesome things for dinner):
I realized that it isn't exactly budget-friendly to have such amazing lunches (with relatively high-end proteins) when I'm perfectly happy  making a big pot of soup or some simple tuna salad... I also find I'm stock-piling the dishes I make that freeze well because I have too much great food to consume in the two weeks between deliveries, and then I never have time to eat the food in the freezer because I get another delivery...  So, yeah...  It will be about a month before the next Big Box of Produce...  It's super-fun to cook through these piles of lovely organic local food, but it's a bit much for a single lady to handle every two weeks.

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