Thinking Inside the Box

Usually by this time of year, I’m rolling in lettuce and other greens, bringing in snap peas by the bushel, and harvesting radishes left and right.

But right now, my garden is almost 100% bolted greens and sad tomatoes, planted a little too late and still straggly.

The slugs ate all my beans, most of the basil, and the nasturtiums never took off like most years. The chickens killed most of the strawberry starts. The only thing I’m really getting a decent crop of is the peas, which are still less than other years.

I blame it all on starting a business and having a toddler who can’t actually come out into the garden with me unless I want more things to get un-done than done.

Thank goodness for farmer’s markets…when I can actually get there, which this year has only been about 3 or 4 times.

So, when I got asked if I would like a CSA box courtesy of Oxbow Farms in exchange for a little shameless promotion for the farm, I jumped on it. I have been a CSA member with that farm before, in fact, and I buy their produce at the market all the time. It was a perfect fit with my schedule too, since I was able to pick the box up the day before I hosted the first “public” dinner in our summer backyard dinner series.

I had Joe pick up the box, since he works close to where the pick-up location was, at Melrose Market. He strapped the whole thing to the back of the scooter and speedily brought it home for me to inspect.

What a bounty waited in that small box for me. There are 2 different sizes of shares you can purchase, and this one I believe was one of the small shares. Some things didn’t last past the next morning, but we are still eating the lettuce, and I still have some broccoli and a bunch of chard left, with plans to finish them up this weekend.

As for the other items in the box, I knew right away to what use they would be put. A simple salad to showcase the greens and baby root vegetables that Oxbox farms excels at. When we were getting a CSA box regularly, it was so awesome to always have fresh things to cook and eat that I didn’t have to work hard to provide. It always came with recipes from the farm to help us get creative with ingredients we might not have used before. Not to mention how outstandingly fresh everything was. Then our garden became much more productive and we decided that we could do without the box for a while. With me going back to work full time, getting a box on a regular basis is looking better and better…

I’ve been dreaming of this magical pistachio dust ever since I saw it. I wanted to try making it with sunflower seeds, mostly because I really can’t ever make a recipe the way I see it written. I first made it with the pistachios as called for, then I made a batch using the sunflower seeds. It was excellent. And then I mixed the two batches to go over a huge salad. EVEN BETTER.

Spread lustily and shamelessly over a deep bed of red tinted lettuce, sweet roasted baby beets and turnips, and a few handfuls of snappy green cucumbers, it was a salad that couldn’t call for much more. A little drizzle of good olive oil and a shake or two of champagne vinegar was all it needed to become a delicate tumble of sweet and savory, crunch and silk.

This recipe is incredibly free form, which goes along with how it is to work in a garden. You just have to go with the flow sometimes and take what you can get–much like when you sign up for a CSA box, and you are at the mercy of Mother Nature and how she has treated the farm that week. And it fits in with my “French” theme from the past couple of weeks too, as it’s a salad I’m sure any frenchman would be glad to have on a warm summer evening as part of a larger meal.

Green Salad with Roasted Root Veggies
serves 8-10 as a salad course, 4-6 larger servings

1 medium-large head of good romaine type lettuce, washed well and dried
1 bunch very tiny beets
1 bunch baby turnips, or more beets if you prefer
3-4 small persian cucumbers
salt and pepper to taste
olive oil
champagne vinegar

Heat your oven to 400ºF. Remove the tops from the root veggies (keep them to sauté another time, if they are very tender) leaving about 1/2″ or so of stem attached to the bulb. Scrub them all well and trim off most of the long root part of the beets. In a glass baking dish, drizzle with just a touch of olive oil and roast until tender. This could take anywhere from 1/2 hour to an hour depending on the size of the veggies. You want them to be soft enough for a knife to slice into with no resistance.

While the root veggies roast, wash and dry the lettuce well. Slice each leaf down the middle, stack, then chop into bite sized pieces. Toss into a bowl and cover with a damp towel until you are ready to serve the salad.

Cut the cucumbers in half and then into slices, and keep covered in the fridge until just before tossing the salad.

Once the root veggies are done, let them cool just a bit, then cut any larger roots into small bite sized pieces. Add these pieces, along with the cucumber, to the lettuce and drizzle a couple of tsp each of olive oil and vinegar over it all, starting with just a little, tossing, and tasting before adding more. There should be no liquid in the bottom of the bowl, just enough to barely cover the leaves and vegetables. Add some salt and pepper and toss again. Cover the whole thing in a light blanket of pistachio dust and serve, passing more dust if need be.

Optionally, you can leave the salad undressed and unadorned and it will keep in the fridge for a couple of days to be dressed and eaten as needed.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary box from Oxbow Farms in exchange for this post, but all the words, photographs and opinions are my own.

Break the Cycle

Sometimes we have leftovers. Like, a lot of leftovers.

Sometimes we don’t have any.

Why is there such a weird cycle of this? It drives me crazy because when there aren’t any leftovers it means I have to either eat plain old salad for lunch or make something new. Or else it means that there isn’t anything for Joe to take to work.

I hate that.

But what I hate even worse is when we have a lot of leftovers and things get forgotten about or ignored (because there are better leftovers in a different container) and then go bad as a result. You can’t feed everything to the chickens, you know.

One thing that’s always kind of an oddball leftover is oatmeal. Oatmeal? I’m not really sure how we end up with leftover oatmeal on a regular basis but I can tell you that I’ve had it in the fridge half a dozen times this Winter.

Good thing Winter is almost over and we can stop eating oatmeal as often because we’ll feel like eating fruit salad instead. Spring is coming. We’ve got flowers blooming, and I’ve been pulling radishes and pre-sprouting pea seeds in the oven like they were a bread dough to coddle.

But until Summer is actually here and we’re eating fresh fruit and yogurt everyday, I’ve figured out what to do with that leftover oatmeal that isn’t “feed it to the chickens” (or now, the worms in the worm-bin).

Waffles!

Yes! I love waffles. We eat waffles at least once a week and it’s still one of those breakfasts that the boys consistently get super excited about, as if I never make them or something.

And as an added bonus, these waffles are pretty healthy. There’s a bit of applesauce in there for sweetness, which also makes it so there’s no added oil or butter like a lot of waffle batters. So, they’re relatively low fat and almost entirely whole grain.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

They are, however, 100% entirely delicious. And they make a breakfast hearty enough to fill you up so that you can go out and garden for a while, or splash in puddles.

Oatmeal and Applesauce Waffles
makes 8–8″ waffles in a Belgian waffle iron, batch easily splits in half

3/4 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 heaping Tbsp Baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3 eggs
1 2/3 cup milk, any will work
1 cup unsweetened (not chunky) applesauce
2 cups cooked, cold, rolled oats

If you decided to halve the recipe, use one whole egg and one egg white.

While the waffle iron heats up, whisk together all the dry ingredients. Next whisk in the eggs, milk and applesauce. Once the batter is an even consistency, add in the oats and use the whisk to break them up, then whisk them in. It will still be kinda chunky from the oats, but that’s a good thing.

Cook however you like to cook your waffles. It would probably also make excellent pancakes, though I haven’t tried that yet.