CSA Cooking: fennel, garlic, and basil

12 07 2010

It’s been a long time and the summer is halfway over already.  And guess what, I was right about something.  Blogging the CSA every week is hard.  But don’t think that the season is halfway over.  On the contrary, it’s hardly begun.  The CSA runs from early May through Thanksgiving.  So far the take each week has been small but once August hits we will hear the call of all-you-can-pick tomatoes.

I do have some other things to post from the last two months of farm fresh vegetables, but I also have a trip to Trinidad to post about.  Oh yeah, the food is still good.

So this week at the farm what greeted me was potatoes, carrots, lettuce, fennel (bulb, stalk, and leaves), garlic, basil, parsley, and cucumbers.  My thoughts immediately went to the fennel.  It’s the kind of thing you need to plan the whole meal around, you know?  It doesn’t really go with everything.  I thought of lamb, and Karen mentioned that we had some lamb shanks in the freezer.  It was on epicurious that we saw this recipe:

Braised lamb shanks recipe

Okay, there’s fennel seeds listed there, but not exactly what I’ve got.  That’s okay, we put it in anyway.  We didn’t have any star anise, but that tastes like fennel so I cubed up the bulb and sauteed it with the onion, and I chopped the stalk and put it in with the celery.  I was even planning on using the leaves as garnish.  Oh yeah, I’m getting my Top Chef on.  We also used the carrots and garlic from the CSA in the braise.  The reviews for the recipe said that it goes great with polenta, so I decided to make some as well.  I’ve never made polenta before, so this was a very big adventure for me.

We did, however, make some substitutions in the recipe.  It calls for 3 cups of port, which you are to reduce down to 2/3 cup.  I had some red wine and I poured out whatever was left in the bottle, which was about a cup and a half.  I reduced it down, don’t ask how much.  Then it calls for a quart of beef stock and a quart of chicken stock, and you are to reduce this down to a cooking liquid of 3 cups.  You know what?  I really don’t have that kind of time, so I put in a quart of chicken stock and brought it to a boil but didn’t reduce it at all.  So there.

Once that was braising in the oven I thought of the polenta.  I saw this recipe on the Food Network’s website and it seemed like a good, basic recipe.  But it made way too much, so I cut it in half.  Well, I cut almost everything in half.  I cut the water, cornmeal, cream, and parmesan in half.  But I had a moment of weakness, a moment where I had one too many things in my head and something fell out.  I didn’t halve the salt.  “What’s the worry?  It’s only an extra teaspoon.  Of salt.”  What are you going to do, start over?  All over a little too much salt?  Whatever.

So the polenta was barely edible; the addition of the cream helped a bit, but wow.  I ate my entire portion anyway.  I had to, since we forced the kids to eat theirs.

That was when Karen upstaged me.  She came home from work and asked me what vegetable we were having with dinner.  I hadn’t thought of that.  So she made a sauteed ratatouille with zucchini from the CSA and eggplant from our garden.  It was the highlight of the meal.

So the vegetables were good and the lamb was delicious, as were the carrots, onions, and everything else in the braise.  And I’m sure there was some sort of nutritional value or something in the polenta.  But in all it was a success.  And later in the week we did finish off everything else from the farm.





Sandlot Hero

5 04 2009

Opening day for Major League Baseball is this weekend.  This post is not about that.  It’s about sandlot baseball, whose opening day isn’t until the last day of school.

A few years ago ESPN counted down the top 25 sports commercials of all time, and I’ll never understand how this one wasn’t even on the list:

An egregious oversight.  I identify a lot with that kid.  I loved playing baseball with the neighborhood kids, even though I was terrible at it.  When you’re the youngest they send you to deep right field like this:  “Keep going… keep going…. farther…” and after you cross the street they’ll say “Perfect!  Stay right there and don’t let anything past you!”   

Only four months left until the Little League World Series.





Talent show ’09

27 02 2009

In the school that the boys attend the talent show is a pretty big deal.  Last year Isaac was in it for the first time, and he loved it.  This year when the time came to sign up he wanted to play more music from his Legend of Zelda video games on the piano, so we were more than happy to oblige him.  But his teacher also wanted them to sing a song as a class, and so did Jonathan’s teacher.  That meant that for the duration of the show Karen and I would be sitting with just the babies.  No small feat, but undeniably easier than having Jonathan on my lap at the same time.

They went in order of grades, so Jonathan’s kindergarten class went first.  They sang a rousing rendition of Down by the Bay, complete with visual aids.  Then some first graders did some stuff, and then Isaac’s class sang This Little Light of Mine, complete with little flashlights to “let shine.”

see?  they're shining!

After another couple of acts Isaac took his turn at the piano.  He played the Clocktown theme from The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask.

he says he wasn't nervous

He played it perfectly (of course).  The crowd was so moved there were cell phones in the air.  And at the end he took a nice deep bow, to the sound of thunderous applause that threatened to send the roof crashing down on top of everyone.  

I'll be here all week.  Thank you!

I’m expecting a call next week finalizing the record deal.  

But something odd happened.  All those acts from last year in which girls danced along to Hannah Montana songs weren’t there.  I was stunned, because there were at least ten of these routines last year.  But there were a lot more acts this year, so I suppose they found other things to do.  In all it was a great evening out with everybody, and when we left (which was a bit before the end) Isaac and Jonathan didn’t want to go.  They’re already making plans for next year.





An old friend

11 02 2009

Ben is almost three.  Looking back on each year it’s inspiring to see the progress he’s made.  And that’s a good thing, because day to day it can seem like there’s not much happening.  But there is.

Long long ago there was a time when Ben couldn’t do much.  He couldn’t sit up without support, he couldn’t roll over.  He could, however, hold a toy in his hand and “play with it.”  By this I mean that he would wave it in front of him.  He could also stand in an exersaucer and bat at toys.  But his three positions during the day (besides on my lap) were in the saucer, lying on the floor, and sitting in the swing.  He napped (and got fed) in the swing, and when he was there he had a favorite toy.  It was one of those toys meant to put over a carrier-type car seat.  Baby pulled on the ring, it came towards them, and vibrated on its way back up.  Ben loved it.  He’d play with it for long stretches of time.  But eventually he became bored with it.  So it got put away.

Nathaniel arrived last summer, so we’ve been getting some old toys out again for him to get bored with, and the old bumblebee was one of them.  Ben is rarely in the swing these days so he hadn’t seen too much of it.  But the other day I set him there while he napped and he started playing with it again.  Pulling it, letting it vibrate, never letting go.  He always liked feeling the vibrations.  

swinging himself and lounging around

So I sat there watching him pull and relax, pull and relax.  He was remembering just like I was.





One week in

9 02 2009

We’ve got some rules in our house that we actually enforce.  One of them is “No video games during the week.”  The boys have come to accept this rule, but it usually means that on Friday night, Saturday, and Sunday they want to do nothing but play video games.  We also have a “no video games before lunch” rule.  So the actual time spent may be relatively small in relation to the week, but the amount of space in their minds occupied by the games is very large.  Time was not kept by the position of the sun in the sky or by the phase of the moon.  Time was kept by marking how many days were left until the three day gaming binge.  Obsession is a dangerous thing, and these kids aren’t even ten yet.  So we decided to prove to them that there are other things to do than sit in front of the TV with a controller.

We designated February as “No Video Games Month.”  When met with the expected protests we explained that at least February is the shortest month of the year.  We could have picked March.  We could have picked JULY, when they’re home from school (we still may do that one).

next year he performs at the grammys

So here we are, one week into our screen-free month (no TV either) and what’s been happening?  I can tell you one thing that hasn’t been happening.  Much to our surprise we haven’t heard one complaint.  There the game systems sit, in full view of the children (and parents), and I haven’t heard one question about leniency on the rule.  Isaac has, however, delved into Zelda strategy guides as if he’s living vicariously through them.  I’ve hid those now, because I find it a bit creepy.  

Jonathan is summarily unfazed by the whole idea.  While he loves the idea of being free to play video games, in truth he could give or take them.  He often plays for a while then puts the controller down and does something else.  In this case he’s gotten hooked on one of their Christmas presents from my mother, the Smart Globe from the Discovery Store.  

actually looking for Carmen San Diego

He’s played with it so much that when they ask him to locate countries on the globe he can do it pretty quickly.  He was even helping Isaac do it (and mocking him at the same time).  So far I’d say that this experiment is a success, and it’s one we’ll have to repeat in the future.





Table for six, please

27 01 2009

This past Saturday was the first time we actually asked for a table for six at a restaurant.  Nathaniel is just now learning how to sit up, and Ben is just now staying seated without trying to climb out.  Apparently an unexpected benefit of us spending all that time with Ben at the high chair at home is that he likes sitting at a table and playing with toys now.  So we sat them together and ate our lunch.

ben thought it was the wine list, nate thought it was onion rings

And Ben looks awesome in his new glasses.





Woah! Look at that!

9 12 2008

It’s very interesting to see just what grabs the attention of babies and small children.  And if you can hold the attention of more than one at a time (and if you’ve got the assistance of an older brother to make sure Ben doesn’t roll away), well then you’ve got yourself a photo op.  

yeah, yeah!  Um, where is it again?

And no, I have no idea what they’re looking at, even though I was that close to them.  But Ben rolled away, and then there was one..

no i don't know where ben went

One little baby lying on his tummy, started to cry and I gave him to Mummy! (To the tune of Five Purple Conkers)

put down that camera and pick me up already!