Gachi CSA #1

Dan and I started getting all of our produce, meat and bread from Gachi CSA two weeks ago (we'll get our third box tomorrow) and so far we're pretty happy with it. One of the great things/biggest challenges with getting a CSA is that every meal becomes an episode of "Chopped". Sure, you can try to do some meal planning once you get your whole box but not everything is going to be ingredients you're used to cooking or that you even like (looking at you, eggplant). Every couple of weeks, I'll do a roundup of what I've thrown together from our boxes. Maybe it'll help you with your CSA struggles, maybe it'll inspire you to take a trip to the Farmers' Market or maybe you'll just scroll through and look at some foodporn, whatever works for you. In the picture above I made a very simple salad with greens and halved jujube tomatoes. My salads usually just get olive oil, fresh lemon juice, Maldon and black pepper. I use a more flavorful olive oil for dressing than I used for cooking. The stir fry situation has soba noodles tossed with soy sauce, rice vinegar and sesame oil hiding in the bottom of the bowl. The vegetables are bok choy (not from our CSA) roasted in soy sauce and chili sesame oil and Shiitake Mushroom stir fried with some bean sprouts. I'm pretty sure there's also some roasted eggplant hiding in there but it didn't really work with the rest of the stir fry.

This is my weird, current favorite breakfast/snack toast. Lightly toasted rye or campagne, peanut butter (Skippy, which we bought to fill Ada's Kongs, oops), sliced apple and smoked sea salt. The smoked sea salt really steps up a notch so you feel like you're eating a thing a real adult would eat instead of a thing eaten by a kindergarten-er at snack time.

Oh look, here's a pretty complete, normal meal. Seared steak, mashed potatoes, roasted eggplant and candied pumpkin.

After googling "not gross recipes for eggplant," I ended up reading this article about what a disservice it is to eggplant to use it as a meat substitute. I realized that I'm so averse to slimy eggplant that I lean towards trying to keep it firm and sponge-y which makes me hate the flavor. I followed the advice at the end of the article and tossed it in an insane amount of olive oil and roasted the hell out of it. I ended up with a crisp outside and rich and creamy eggplant in the middle. I did not hate it.

The pumpkin I used for this was a small green pumpkin described as a "mini sweet pumpkin". I thought that would mean it was like a sugar pie pumpkin (but smaller) but it was definitely not as sweet. To prep it I cut off the top and bottom and then cut it in half vertically, scooped it out, peeled it and slice into about half-inch slices. Next I put it in a small Pyrex baking dish with about an ounce of butter (cubed), a tablespoon of olive oil and a generous sprinkling of salt. I covered it with foil, threw it a 350 degree oven (ish, my oven is in Celsius and also doesn't seem super accurate) and steam/poached it until it was tender. Then I tried it and realized it wasn't actually sweet, tossed it with about two tablespoons of dark brown sugar and put it back in the oven, uncovered for about ten minutes. And that's how I made up candying pumpkin. It's way better than pumpkin spice anything, let's make it the next big food trend.

I think that a tomato and mayonnaise sandwich is one of the greatest, simplest pleasures in life. Something about the way creamy mayo and tart tomato juice combines and soaks into bread just really does it for me. I used the aioli substitutions plus one small dried pepper from this Mark Bittman mayonnaise recipe. I actually think it's really hard to be successful making this small an amount in a food processor so I used our immersion blender and the tall narrow measuring cup it came with (which is roughly pint glass sized/shaped if yours didn't come with one or you threw it away). The second sandwich had leftover steak that was marinated in red wine and grilled. I don't have any pictures of the meal it came from because it wasn't very photogenic.

Once I feel like I've really perfected my carnitas recipe, I'll make that a post all on its own. I started with this Bon Appetit recipe and modified for the ingredients I had on hand (see: tiny mystery Korean dried peppers and Cass beer). I also added, chili powder, "Mexican Blend" and smoked sea salt instead of regular. One of my few complaints about our CSA is that the meat comes boneless, skinless and sometimes sliced, which was the case for the pork "leg" I used for carnitas. After the braising, you're supposed to let it just fry in its own fat but it didn't have any fat to fry in! I don't know where to get lard yet so Dan went on a search all over Itaewon and brought back shortening from High Street Market. After frying the carnitas in shortening, it was definitely closer to the taco truck taste I was looking for but I think what it really needs is lard added in while it's braising. I also made these flour tortillas, once again substituting shortening for lard. I just used a regular rolling-pin and a nonstick pan and it worked out great.

Lastly, mixed stone fruit pie. Yes, even pros mess up their lattice work some days. I have ZERO recipes for fresh fruit pies and no secret to pie crust. I use a basic 3-2-1 dough and my only advice is "have cold hands and don't fuck with it too much". If you don't have cold hands, cube and freeze your butter first. Still don't fuck with it too much. I always do fresh fruit pies to taste. Over-ripe, end of season peaches don't get the same amount of sugar as June peaches that aren't quite there yet. Plums get more tart when they bake, so sugar them generously. This pie is a plum and nectarine pie. The fruit was all pretty tart so I used quite a bit of both granulated sugar and light brown sugar. If we get more stone fruit tomorrow, I'll probably make some jam, so we can remember what stone fruit tastes like when we reach the point in Winter where we're just getting a giant box of apples, potatoes and spinach.

Tonight I'm left with chicken thighs, two more effing Japanese eggplants, bean sprouts, a medium pumpkin and SIX bunches of purple grapes with a million seeds in them. Any ideas?