CSA Mystery Box 12-12-09

Darlings! La Diva started out with the best of intentions. I really did. When I planned my weekly menu based on last week's CSA mystery box, I thought I came up with some creative and healthy options and was excited to try out the dishes. But, for some reason, half of the anticipated dishes didn't quite turn out the way I had planned. While the meals were certainly healthy, the taste and texture did not measure up.

Why does La Diva post kitchen failures as well as my (mostly!) successful dishes? So we can ALL learn from MY mistakes! I have realized that even the most seasoned chefs and experienced cooks make mistakes in the kitchen, are victims of poorly written recipes and sometimes, no matter what you do or how hard you try, the actual food might even fail you too! (or your understanding on how to use that food!) If you are a fan of the show Top Chef, you'd have seen the last episode with all of their kitchen mishaps. No cook is immune from sometime kitchen disasters and I post mine eagerly for commiseration and advice from YOU!

Weekly wrap up from Mystery Box 12-12-09:

Well, according to Farmer Margie and other CSA bloggers, you really need to COOK the betel leaf and use it sparingly (like a condiment) This salad was inedible and the betel leaf added a smoky, medicine taste that just did not work in a salad. BOO! However, after reading comments about the smoky but tasty flavor imparted by cooking the leaf in other dishes reported, an undaunted Diva will give it another shot. (That is if it makes it into the mystery box again!)

C'mon kids, your big bowl of MUSH is ready!
  • Vegan Thai green curry with stir -fried tofu, eggplant, green peas, water chestnuts and Thai basil: Thumbs DOWN.
I usually make this dish with beef instead of tofu but thought I'd switch it up and make a veggie version in my quest to be "healthier" and "green" by eating less meat. I often cook vegetarian meals and in order to satisfy my big bear-man side-kick, DJ Nevah L8, am conscious of providing the big guy with a satiating meal that will keep him from going back into the kitchen rummaging for more food an hour after dinner. Didn't work this time. While the flavor of the curry was great, I should have listened to my instincts regarding the "mush" factor. In spite of the addition of water chestnuts to give the curry a bit of crunch and texture, the bland, mushiness of the tofu and eggplant combo (even though I stir-fried them both before adding to the curry!) resulted in a less than appetizing main that was not satiating. Perhaps I should have thrown in some sugar snap or snow peas at the last minute instead of regular?

Yum, yum, yum! I always enjoy a good comforting risotto and this combo is a keeper! I sauteed the tougher green chard stems with white onions, celery and garlic before adding the rice and broth. I also sauteed the sliced sausage and add it at the end with the chopped green leaf part of the chard. Successful and satisfying!

The photo makes the dish look better than it tasted! And on top of it, the Brussels sprouts (which I usually LOVE) were bitter too! DRAT!
  • Fish baked en papillote with garlic tomato sauce served over braised greens on quinoa: Thumbs DOWN.
SOUNDED like it was going to be good, didn't it? Well, some of it was. The garlic tomato sauce was perfect and I cooked the quinoa in chicken broth for added flavor. But the greens were too bitter to be used in tandem with the fish and I ended up eating them separately instead of with the fish. And for some reason, this batch of flash-frozen tilapia fish I bought from Costco was unusually fishy and the Brussels sprouts were bitter as well . We both hardly ate the dinner.
Seeing as my weekly menus were just not turning out as expected, I ditched the idea to make pepper steak with chicken and instead did a satisfying stand-by that I knew would get excellent results: chicken fajitas! I make my own taco seasoning and added that to the strips of chicken and stir-fried with onions, red and green peppers and then simmered with a bit of water and thickened with Wondra. Wow. Best dinner all week!

  • Vegetable soup: Thumbs UP!
By the end of the week, I still hadn't used the green beans and as I needed the fridge space for my party last night, I knew a good veggie soup was in order. With a chicken broth base I used all the green beans, some crazy little purple potatoes I had, carrots, tomatoes and threw in some small French lentils. Simple goodness.

Notice I only posted photos of the dishes that DIDN'T turn out? That's because we ate the good meals too quickly to get in a photo opp while the other crappy meals languished on their plates!

Photo courtesy of Farmer Margie

CSA Mystery half-share box for 12-19-09:

  • Collard greens
  • White turnips and tops
  • Parsley
  • Green bell pepper (that is huge!)
  • One yellow squash and one zucchini
  • One very large tomato
  • Grapefruit
  • Avocado
And here's my ideas for the week!

  • Parsley and tomato: The parsley will be made into a refreshing tabbouleh salad for my lunch during the week: parsley, bulgur, tomatoes, onion and lemon! I never use mint in my salad but if I had some, I'd toss it in as this recipe does.
  • As a fairly "new" resident to the South (ok, I'm goin' on my FIFTH year here in Miami!) I STILL have not made grits and only made collard greens for the first time last season. I thought this recipe looked tasty and all I have to get from the store is a nice ol' hamhock for flavoring. This recipe is from Atlanta chef Hugh Acheson: Collard greens and grits.
  • Oh dear, my nemesis THE TURNIP! I say that because I find turnips to be a bit bitter and prefer the sweetness of a parsnip over a turnip and really struggled finding ways to enjoy this veggie last season. But, I vowed this year to be more creative in utilizing this vegetable and found a recipe for turnip gratin! I better use the greens too, Bill over at Tinkering with Dinner is sooo good at using his greens, I'll take a look at what he does with his!
  • Green bell pepper: Not sure what to do with this but it's sheer size makes me want to cut it in half and stuff it! We'll see.
  • Yellow squash and zucchini: I'm not sure if I'll use these as sides, in a stir fry or in a family recipe called simply Squash Stew! (Ok, my dad calls it some crazy bastardized Sicilian version of Italian and NO, we won't "go there!" "Zucca" means squash in Italian and his name for the stew is nothing like that, crazy Sicilian!) I use garlic, ground turkey (or beef) tomatoes, carrots, potatoes, kidney beans, squash, Italian seasonings and spinach and serve it all over a nice al dente rigatoni topped with freshly grated parmesan. Now that's a hearty winter meal!
What did YOU make with your CSA last week? What are YOUR ideas? Come on, TELL La Diva, I'm dying to know!cooking class, cocktails, parties, cocktail party, Miami, coral gables, events, bartending class, cocktail class, Laura Lafata, Miami Beach, miami cooking classes, bachelorette parties, bachelorette party, personal chef, corporate events, catering, personal chef, party entertainment


thombeau said...

Girl, you always make me drool. Sometimes the food does, too!

MJ said...

*cleans up Thom drool*

I'll bring my own Handi-Wipes next time.

Boxer said...

You almost make me wish I eat meat.


Holiday video is UP and it stars: YOU! xoxo.

Jill said...

I just watched Food, Inc. the other night. Have you seen it? Now I'm totally conflicted about everything! I think my biggest food failure was an orzo, feta and shrimp dish. The Main Man gave it a 2! You know how he judges me like the damn food Olympics! I make a bread stuffed with Boursin and topped with zucchini and purple onions. Stuffing the bell peppers sounds like the best of ideas. Stream of thought, chica. It's early!

LaDivaCucina said...

Morning Jill, I, too, write too much in the morning when i'm not fully awake yet! I make a dish similar to yours with the orzo, sounds Greek to me! I want the zuke bread/cheese recipe, you can't keep teasing me and then holding out, beeyotch! I am going to make a white chili with the pepper I think! It's always a work in progress, who knows what I might feel like eating or get inspired by by the end of the week?

Thom, so good to have you back, bro!

MJ, such a clean girl with such a dirty mind! hehe!

Boxer, there is not one speck of meat in this post, you crack me up girl! Maybe it was looking at the curry that made you want to eat some? haha!

Sandcastle Momma said...

I love that you write about your unsuccessful dishes as well as your successful ones. That box looks so good and the dishes you've described are making my mouth water! I've checked into our local CSA and it won't be long before I'm receiving boxes of goodness like yours. I can't wait.

TROLL Y2K said...

You could put the turnips AND the turnip greens in the Collard Greens and Grits recipe.

TROLL Y2K said...

A visually interesting breakfast might be:

1) Stuff what it is you're planning on doing with the grapefruit INTO a hollowed-out grapefruit half.

2) Make scrambled eggs with your choice of fixins including part of the green pepper and then stuff said scrambled into eggs into the hollowed-out remaining Green pepper halves.

P.S. Do you have a "go-to" VEGAN soup stock?

LaDivaCucina said...

Thanks Sandcastle Mama, I just looked up where you are and didn't realize you is waaaaaay up there! Wow! I doubt you'll be getting the same CSA produce as me down in Southern Florida! Cool, we can see what each other gets!

Troll, thanks for the great ideas! I don't really like green peppers too much, they are kind of bitter too but I'm learning to eat them and actually have even started liking them, esp. in the Chinese pepper steak and fajitas.

As for the Go to vegan stock, white miso paste is always great for added intense flavor. I should have added a bit to the curry to give it some depth. The flavor was actually fine, the texture, not so much.

LaDivaCucina said...

Oh yeah, Troll, You are right about the collards and the turnips. I was looking at recipes in the new Gourmet cookbook and saw one that combined the two! Great idea, I'm going to add the turnips and greens to the collards! Yeah-uh!

Buzz Kill said...

Concerning the 12-12 box:
Love the play-by-play. The curry eggplant sounds like it would have been ok without the tofu as a side dish. And I have got to try and make a risotto sometime. You've inspired me to at least research it.

Concerning the 12-19 box:
A local farmer once told me that a green pepper in not ripe and that's why it's bitter. Ripened green peppers turn red, orange and yellow. Since that revelation the Mrs and I never by them any more. However, my mother always used them for a meat stuffed pepper with tomato sauce which I always liked. She cooked them in the oven for like an hour and I think that got rid of the bitterness.

I've had good success with grilling the squash and zucchini (sliced lengthwise about 1/2" thick) with oil, salt, pepper, garlic and parmesian as a side dish. I marinate it in a ziplock for as long as I can.

I've got nothing for the other stuff. Good luck and hope to see all thumbs up this week.

Making Space said...

Love your play by play! I got nuthin to contribute but admiration. I've been slacking on the daily dinner cooking and this reminds me to get back on the wagon!

LaDivaCucina said...

Hi Buzz, Yes, YOU MUST try making the risotto. It's easy, cheap, you can make it in one pot and it's filling plus there are so many ways to make it. I also do asparagus and chicken, a seafood one with mussels, scallops and shrimp and my roasted pumpkin.

I know about the green vs. red pepper but I think it costs Margie more to keep 'em in the ground longer so we get green. That's probably why the red are more expensive. I prefer red too. I use the green in meatloaf too and am actually starting to like them! Thanks for all your thoughtful suggestions.

Hey MS! If you don't cook daily what the heck do you do for dinner? Micky D's? It's too bad we are half a world away, I could use those voice lessons and you could use some good dinners!

TROLL Y2K said...

Thanks. I was leaning towards Miso and now your advice confirms that choice.

I make a collard/turnip dish at least 3x a year.

trina said...

Yes, I did try that Betel Leaf (took a small nibble to taste) and I just found the flavor to be too toothpasty/medicinal for me. So I haven't used it. I hate not to give it a chance though, so if you think of something to do with it,let me know!

LaDivaCucina said...

Hi Trina, Margie (our farmer) said they are better cooked and Bill over at Tinkering with Dinner made a stir fry with the leaves along with beef and lemongrass. Click on the link I provided in my post to take you to his site!

Thanks for stopping by and please feel free to add your comments, recipes or suggestions!

moi said...

Ah. The best laid plans of mice, men, and cooks :o) Sorry about your Thumbs Downs. But you got me craving some tabbouleh, at least.

Speaking of grits: My husband is from South Louisiana. The first time he ever made breakfast for me, it included a big steaming side bowl of grits, which I'd never had. "Cream of wheat!" I exclaimed. "Just like my grandmother used to make for me!" He then watched in horror as I proceeded to sprinkle the grits with heaping teaspoons of sugar. To this day, I treat my grits like Cream of Wheat – sugar, butter, and raisins, never mind him. Although, I do like cheesy grits, especially if Shamu makes them.

Aunty Belle said...

HAd a few laughs--an' I is certain ya won't starve.

Merry Christmas /Happy Holidays to you and yores, Sweet Thang.

LaDivaCucina said...

Moi, I'm with you! Grits, corn meal, polenta? I was brought up on Cream of Wheat too! I've had the grits savory but why not sweet? Sounds just dee-lish to me! (my grits were the bomb, wait fo next post!)

Aunty, no one will ever starve even NEAR La Diva's house and I feed all the little lost lambs of the neighborhood....

Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas to you and yours!!