Category Archives: CSA

A really good steak with no pictures

I had the best of intentions of taking a picture of last night’s dinner.  I really did.  The camera was out, I turned on extra lights, and I even cleared the counter.  Okay, I shoved the papers on the counter to make a clear spot, but that’s mostly the same thing.  I think what happened was that I started making brownies when the steak was ready and T came in and plated our food and then whisked off to the coffee table and before I knew it I was eating.  Hungrily.  Sorry.

Quite a long time ago, we had a chance to go by Iowa Meat Farms when they were having their anniversary/birthday/annual celebration and people come out with spices and sauces and sausage and grilled food.  It’s all free and you walk through a corridor of samples to get into the store.  We happened to taste a piece of tender but tasty meat that was covered in some sort of bbq sauce.  Maybe it was the one made from Dr. Pepper.  We asked what cut of meat he had used and he said “flap meat”.  Until that point, I had never heard of flap meat.  I’m not even sure I saw it inside the store, so I thought maybe he had said “flat meat”, like skirt steak or something else cut thin.  At this time, we were happily grilling Costco filets or ribeyes and gave no further thought to this funny flat steak.  I chalked it up to a crazy old man trying to make his sample seem fancier than it was. 

And then I actually saw it.  At Costco.  If Costco was calling it flap steak, it must be legit.  It’s a thin flap of meat, with strong grain lines and good marbling.  It looks like a tasty piece of meat.  We typically just grill it to medium-rare and slice it across the grain.  It’s chewy, but in that beefy texture way, not in a tough and tasteless wat.

So, last night, I pulled a piece of flap steak out of the freezer (trying to clear out the freezer and all) to defrost and decided we’d have CSA green beans to go with it.  I had also considered making a salad, but with the whisking of the food I had no time.

The steak had a large piece and a small piece in the package.  The small piece was rubbed with some random homemade Texas bbq brisket rub and the large one just got salt and pepper.  I like simple seasonings on steak.  The meat just sat there, absorbing flavor until the grill was ready to accept it.

The green beans were blanched for 2 minutes in boiling water and then sat in an ice water bath until the steaks went to the grill.  Then I dumped them in a hot pan (after draining, of course) with some sesame oil until they were warm and starting to get a little browning color.  By this time, the steaks were done (they cook quickly), salt was sprinkled on the beans and the whisking away was happening.

It’s a combination of T liking steak sauce and also wanting to decrease the amount of various condiments taking up a whole shelf in the refrigerator.  A Jack Daniel’s  steak sauce accompanied his piece of steak; sea salt and sesame oil was my dipping sauce of choice (like at the Korean bbq, yum yum!)  The spice rubbed steak was eaten as is, and it was good.  Since flap steak has marbling, some bites have more fat to them than others.  But it’s the melty beefy fat, the kind that melds with the meat to let you know it tastes really good and is probably not very healthy.  T did a good job of not overcooking the steak, so it was still juicy and tender, easily cut into pieces, and devoured in minutes.  The green beans did their part as obligatory green vegetable-on-plate.

Not all Costcos sell flap steak.  It’s not sold at the Costco in Las Vegas, but the Sam’s Club in Vegas has it.  It’s not always at the Poway Costco.  So, if you come across one, I encourage you to try it.  We’re always very happy with the quality of meat from Costco.  Mmm…. steak…

Look! I made real dinner!

 

salmon

As I drove home tonight, I knew I wanted to cook up some of the CSA bok choy. There was a piece of Copper River salmon in the freezer from when I bought a huge slice at Costco and divided it up for later. Because I am weak, I also added some noodle crack. More on that later, I promise.

The bok choy I just sliced and steamed and then tossed in Som’ Good sauce. My mom first found it at a craft fair in Hawaii and now you can find it in Shirokiya (a major Japanese/Hawaiian store – like a department store with food). It’s really good on just about anything. The salmon was prepared in a way that borrows from my mom’s oyster sauce salmon. For Thanksgiving, she usually takes a salmon fillet (like from Costco), smears it with oyster sauce, then spreads regular mayo over that, sprinkles on green onions and then bakes it for about 40 minutes. I had this leftover mayo from a fried green bean recipe test:

 

mayo

It’s actually a pretty cool recipe (that I can’t share here… yet) that is just milk, garlic, cilantro, lemon juice, and oil. It whips up into a mayonnaise that is great for dipping and spreading. After eating it with the fried green beans, I found myself spreading it on garlic toast chips. And I still had a little crock of it. So, I figured that it’s like mayo, my mom put mayo on salmon, I’m going to put this on the salmon and bake it. So I did. 40 minutes at 350ºF and because I took the skin off and placed it on the foil separately I also got a crispy little salmon skin chip. Yum.

Have you noticed that I don’t use real recipes much? Because I just noticed it right now, typing out my dinner. Actually, I do use recipes when I bake. I’m not good enough to improvise with baked goods. Savory dishes, lunches and dinners, I can whip up and throw together and it usually comes out well.

Now, on to the noodle crack. Did I come up with that? No, Jayden admits that this dish is addictive and very much crack-like. When I first read the recipe, I thought it sounded pretty good. I’ve made egg noodles in Som’ Good sauce before, with the garlic/sweet/salty combination being very good, so why not the Garlic Scallion Noodles? I actually bought my first bottle of fish sauce to make this dish. I used the egg noodles I had in the freezer, another treat hand-imported from Hawaii:

 

noodles

I use the whole package (2 small bags of noodles) to make Jayden’s recipe. The first time I added broccoli to try and make myself feel better about it. Then I tried to rationalize that 3 Tb. butter over 4 servings is really very minimal. Then I laughed because I could easily have eaten the whole pan all by myself. I only ate half because T came home and was hungry and I would never let him go hungry, no matter how selfishly I want to hoard yummy food. I am nice like that.  I also feel that it’s not that bad because I don’t always use 3 Tb. butter.  I just grab whatever leftover end of the butter stick is in the fridge.  Sometimes it’s about 3 Tb.  Sometimes it’s more like 2.  It’s always more than 1 Tb, though.  And rarely is it ever more than 4 Tb.  So, see?  The average is much less than you think and it’s okay!

Anyway, this time I just made the noodles, figuring that with the salmon and bok choy I would be too full to gorge on noodle crack (this is what I call it now, “Garlic Scallion Noodles” takes too long to say). Because I made myself eat the salmon and the bok choy first, I was indeed too full to eat a pan of noodles. Even with the crispy edges and buttery garlic sweetness. Mmm… oh, yum yum yum. If you make these noodles once, every time you pass the noodles in your freezer while looking for skinless chicken breasts you’ll briefly consider bagging the chicken and just having noodle crack for dinner. Every time you see noodles. You’ll remember the buttery crispness that the noodles get when they sit in the pan and fry a bit. You’ll start smacking your lips at the garlic butter with sweet brown sugar taste that you get to lick up. You won’t even taste the fish sauce, but you know that it makes a difference having it there. Then you’ll remember that you can scarf down a whole pan by yourself and you will come to your senses, ignore the noodles, and resume searching for the chicken. Once in a while, though, long after your last batch so as not to raise suspicion of your addiction, you will make these noodles when someone else is around to share in the yumminess and keep you in check. Then, and only then, under the oblivious supervision of someone who loves you, you surrender to the noodle crack and feel at peace.

In order to prevent me from eating the leftover noodles from the fridge, in the dark, quickly so as not to be caught, I made myself a simple dessert of a sliced CSA peach and a scoop of chocolate ice cream. It was almost good enough to satiate me. If I finish this up, brush my teeth, and then hop into bed, I think I’ll be safe.

Just another Monday dinner

tacos

This is what happens on Monday nights, when it’s really hot outside (and inside), you don’t really want to cook, you don’t want to go out, you definitely don’t want to get on the elliptical, you know there is CSA produce that needs to be eaten and you still want a somewhat good meal.

I had made coconut brown rice one night when we had tuna for dinner.  I thought tuna and coconut would go well together, I just forgot that it doesn’t work as well with brown rice as it does with Japanese rice.  I ended up with slightly coconut-fragranced hard brown rice.  Mmm… boy, does that taste healthy!  I decided to revive it (and hopefully pump moisture into it) by making tomato rice.  Like Spanish rice but without the kick or spices.  I took the cup of leftover rice and tossed it into a pot with 3 small diced tomatoes (skin and all), salt, and some garlic powder.  I wanted the garlic taste but without the kick that you get with fresh garlic.  Does that make sense?

Of course, we had no black beans in the pantry.  Garbanzo beans up the wall, but no black beans.  We did have kidney beans and T declared that was just as good (or at least a better option than chickpeas), so we ate kidney beans and tomato rice.  I just could serve rice without beans.  It isn’t done.  Unless you’re Japanese, of which half of me complies.  So I guess it’s fair to say that half the time, I do serve rice without beans!  I’m sorry… it’s late and I’m not making sense.  Because the other half of me isn’t Hispanic, which is good because tomato rice and kidney beans would be so laughed at.

Last week, before we headed to Idyllwild, I tested out another recipe that actually came out much better than I thought.  In hindsight, it really wasn’t much of a recipe except for the rub.  It’s a paprika based rub that you spread under the skin of a roasting chicken and then all over the outside.  Roasted at 425 for 1 1/2 hours with some potatoes crisping in the goodness under the chicken and you have a nice meal.  Once you add a salad.  Made with CSA lettuce and tomatoes, of course.  So, we had some chicken meat leftover.  What do you do with leftover chicken meat?

You make tacos! (see above photo)  Now do you see the connection (as faint as it is) with the beans and rice?  I also made some salsa with the CSA salad tomatoes and an Anaheim pepper from my garden, but we ate it with chips before dinner so we had to top the tacos with jarred salsa.  All in all it wasn’t too bad.  Not the best meal I’ve made, but it didn’t require too much cooking and it also included minimal fat.  We didn’t eat a salad like I had planned, but some lettuce did get put into the tacos.  At least, into my tacos.

I wish I had taken pictures of the roasted chicken when it came out of the oven.  Or the fried green beans I made along with this green mayo (that I made from scratch for the first time ever!):

mayo

I mean, those would have been impressive dishes to write about!  All I have here so far are my mediocre, in-a-rush weekday dinners.  I’m just going to have to work on this better.  Post notes to remind myself to take pictures of food, stuff like that.

CSA #4

Our 4th CSA box was today.  I asked T to pick it up because I had a candle party to go to.  I spent way too much on candles, by the way.  I’ll take a picture of the goodies later and post it here, but it’ll be after the weekend as we are going to Idyllwild.

What did we get?  Well, let me tell you:

  • a sack of more than 4 zucchini (why?)
  • a sack of regular tomatoes
  • a small box of 4 heirloom tomatoes (from Trader Joe’s?)
  • bunch of arugula
  • bok choy (yay!)
  • green chard (better than collard greens)
  • head of lettuce
  • sack of peaches (hooray! so looking forward to these!)
  • a big bag of green beans (I have a recipe to try out for these, too)

I’m glad to have the bok choy instead of collard greens, as the pick list was suggesting.  I’m also glad to see all the tomatoes.  I really don’t know why we have to get more than 4 zucchini, as I was slacking on what to do with even that!

As this is the end of our trial, I’ll be sending in a check to continue with Be Wise Ranch.  I want to see what we get throughout the year.  I’ll most likely stop in the summer, as I can grow green beans, tomatoes, and zucchini just fine in my garden and I don’t look forward to the hoards of chard, mizuna, and arugula.  The radishes were good, though.

It’s not always gourmet around here

 

radish

That was my dinner Tuesday night. A salad made of my CSA tomatoes and lettuce and a radish sandwich made with CSA radishes, Double Devon Cream butter, and sea salt. When it was just me and I didn’t have anyone else to cook for, a lot of my dinners looked like this. Well, actually, they didn’t even look as good as this. I didn’t eat salad and I wouldn’t have bought radishes. It would have been a grilled cheese sandwich and maybe a peach if I had bought some earlier. Sometimes cinnamon toast and edamame. Sometimes, rarely, an ice cream sundae. I mean, I cooked for myself and occasionally put together a good balanced meal. I really did eat healthy, in between all the trips to the gym I had time for. But it’s just not as much fun planning a meal when no one else is there to be wowed by it.

Tuesday night T worked late and came home just as I was finishing my sandwich and the most recent Big Love (love my DVR!). He’s a good guy to cook for and I don’t think he’s ever complained about a meal I’ve made for him. Of course, how could I possibly ever make something not wonderfully tasty? So, for him I make stews and braised short ribs, chicken in cream sauces, salmon baked in parchment paper, roast chicken, pork chops and roasted vegetables, pasta dishes, steamed mussels in white white, chicken milanese, garlic shrimp, risotto, and pulled pork. He’s also been a good sport through all the recipes I test out on him.  I put effort into the dishes, throw in a little extra butter and garlic, and don’t mind the hot kitchen in the middle of the summer. For me? Simple, fast, easy, but still tasty. Fancy alone food would be orzo salad.

Still, my simple Tuesday dinner was pretty good. If I had cut the crusts off the sandwich it would have been like little tea sandwiches. If I had topped the salad with a poached egg, it would have been something worthy of California Cuisine. Had I finished the bottle of white Merlot, it would have been nice meal at home for one. But I didn’t do any of those things… I just ate my little dinner in front of the tv and then was very happy when T came home.

If you haven’t had a radish sandwich, on bread buttered with the best butter and sprinkled with crunchy sea salt, I highly recommend you try it. I sliced the radishes with a vegetable peeler because I didn’t want to get the mandoline out for such a small job, but I wanted thinner slices than a knife would accomplish. The thin slices help cut down on the bite from the radishes so you just get crunchy and slightly sweet with a hint of radish heat. Yum.

CSA box #3

csa3

Box #3 from the Be Wise Ranch CSA has arrived.  Does it look like $26 worth of produce?  It certainly was heavy enough when I hoisted the bag into the house.  Here’s what I got:

  • 2 heads of lettuce
  • a bag of radishes
  • 1 bunch kale
  • 1 bunch greed chard (last time it was rainbow!)
  • 1 bunch mizuna 
  • 10-12 oranges (I didn’t really count)
  • 6-8 “slicing” tomatoes
  • 7 small heirloom tomatoes
  • 4 zucchini
  • 3 lemons
  • 2 cucumbers
  • 1 avocado
  • and a partridge in a pear tree!

Oh, wait.  No partridge.  Also, no dandelion greens.  I wonder if they ran out or if my box was missing them?  I’m not that bummed; now I don’t have to figure out how to eat them.  I can just not think about it at all.  I like kale and chard, so I won’t have a problem going through that.  No carrots this time, either, but I still have a bunch from the last box so it’s probably for the best.  I was really looking forward to the radishes and I ate 3 of them with butter and sea salt as I unpacked the other veggies.  I wish we had gotten 2 avocados instead of just 1; they have been so buttery and good that I could gobble them up in a heartbeat.  I also kind of miss the bok choy.  That was good.

I haven’t investigated to see if the oranges are peel-and-eat or better for juicing.  The heirloom tomatoes are also pretty small.  I’m guessing the nice big ones went to Whole Foods and Jimbo’s, ha ha!  What I was disappointed in was the fact that they aren’t as sweet as the tomatoes off my plant.  I mean, they’re good, but they’re not better than mine, which is what I was hoping for. 

Oh, last weekend I pulled 3 zucchini plants out of the garden, still leaving 2.  Next year, I’ll plant more tomatoes and try some eggplant.  We’ll probably keep doing the CSA through the winter, but I’m thinking I might take a break next summer.  Summer months seem to be tomatoes and zucchini and now that I know my tomatoes are good and I never have a problem with not enough zucchini, I’d rather plant those and not double up with the CSA.

Now, what to do with these oranges?

Be Wise Ranch CSA

updated: now with picture!

A few years ago, when the Eat Local and Slow Food movements were getting attention, I thought it would be quite thoughtful if I made my contribution to local agriculture and participated in a Community Supported Agriculture program, or CSA. There are many farms around the country that do this – the easiest way to find one close to you is to do a quick search. There are actually a few different CSAs in San Diego. I think there’s one that delivers to you, but most of them have designated pick up spots that you go to on a certain day.

Be Wise Ranch is one of the cheaper subscriptions and they also have the most varied pick-up locations (all around San Diego). They offer Large or Small boxes, weekly or every other week, and you can start with a 4-week trial (or 8-weeks if you choose the every other week pick-up). They seriously have pick-up spots everywhere throughout the week. If they don’t have one near you, maybe you don’t really live in San Diego. I find it more convenient to pick up a share on my way home from work rather than going to the farmer’s market on the weekend.

I held off joining for a few reasons at first.

  • It sounds like a chunk of money when you send in quarterly payments.
  • At the time, I was only really cooking for one (one of these days, let me tell you how much more fun it is to cook for two) and not buying a lot of produce.
  • I wasn’t sure if I really wanted to deal with wacky vegetables that weren’t on my regular rotation list.
  • I wasn’t a big salad eater, and everyone knows you always get lettuce in the CSA box.
  • Henry’s was a good supplier of cheap produce and I figured I was only spending maybe $10-20 a month on fruits and veggie; even Be Wise Ranch is about $13 a week.

Then I moved into a house with a backyard and an already-fenced garden area. I’ll just grow my own vegetables! You can’t get more local than that! I even got a nifty seed starting set for a present and then went hog wild buying seeds from everywhere. I even got all nerdy and plotted my garden and planned plantings in CAD, complete with gridlines! Seedlings grew, the ground was tilled, seedlings got planted, sometimes the plants didn’t get watered, and some died. Some were victims of a certain dog, who shall remain nameless **Cassie**, who discovered she could jump over the low fence and dig in all the fun new dirt and greenery. You know that zucchini plants are very hardy, right? Like, you could think about planting a single squash seed and before you know it a huge plant has taken over, threatening to strangle the nearby citrus trees and filling your house (and friends’ houses) with zucchini. Anyway, suffice to say I had a lot of zucchini and only zucchini that year.This year, I have even more zucchini (I swear I planted only one plant!), a few tomatoes, some garlic… and more zucchini.

I have now gotten way off point. The point was that I am not going to successfully provide myself with enough produce to have a balanced diet and that Henry’s, while great for bulk items, isn’t always consistent with the quality of fruits and vegetables. I also had some extra spending money, so I decided to just try a 4-week trial of the CSA.

We’re now into our second box of goodies (I did a Large share, every other week) and I’m having fun. We go through the veggies in about 2 weeks, although sometimes I have to get creative and just cook it up so we can eat it. The downside is that I also get zucchini with my share.

Be Wise Ranch also posts a Weekly Pick List, so you can get an idea of what you might get when you pick up your share. I like to compare what I’m getting to the Small box, and also to what the shares got the week before (since I skip a week).

CSA

The first week we had lettuce, strawberries, mizuna (just cook it with bacon and gulp it down – it’s bitter and coarse, but maybe some people like that), zucchini, cucumbers, carrots, more greens and something else. I don’t know. I do know that we had an excess of lettuce that week because of my mom’s visit and we lost a head of the CSA lettuce due to poor packaging on my part. I also pushed off zucchini to Cami.

The next box had lettuce, carrots, zucchini, turnips, lemons, cucumbers, betts, chard, bok choy, and arugula. And possibly more greenery, I’m not sure. We’re getting through them pretty well and I’m sure we’ll be out of veggies by the time our next pick-up arrives.

One of my arguments against joining a CSA was that I would spend less money just doing my own shopping. And that I don’t have time to go to the farmer’s market. What I’ve realized is that the CSA gives me a larger quantity (never mind high quality and huge variety) than I would have if left to my own devices. It also forces us to eat more vegetables since we have them sitting in the 2 veggie drawers in the fridge. I think this is a good thing all around.

If you have the time and money to do so, I have now joined those who highly recommend joining a CSA. And if you’re going to join one in San Diego, I think Be Wise Ranch is the most convenient and economical and so far their produce has been exceptional.