Week 1-CSA Pick ups have begun!

This week’s share of produce was understandably small, considering how early it is in the growing season here in NH. We received 1 1/2 lbs swiss chard, 1/2 lb salad mix, 1/2 lb mesclun, 1/2 lb arugula, 10 radishes (3 different kinds; even white ones), and herbs (parsley, mint, rosemary, basil). Peas will be next week, but they are in at other farms, so one of this week’s recipes features mint and peas. It’s a tasty variation on Carbonara Sauce for pasta, from Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution. We are also eating lots of salads with our meals, now that we have lovely greens all washed and ready in the spinner in the refrigerator, so I also have a basic recipe from Jamie for a chopped salad. Start keeping your eyes open for local farmstands and Farmers’ Markets opening up, and taste some of the freshest fruits and veggies available in your area.

Oh, strawberries are in season here too, and are they great. We had Strawberry Shortcake this week, with Buttermilk Cake from my mom’s recipe. I think it’s almost a perfect dessert, because it combines so many flavors and textures in each bite, but is never overwhelming.

So on to the recipes!

Mini Shell Pasta With a Creamy Smoked Bacon and Pea Sauce
By Jamie Oliver, from Jamie’s Food Revolution-serves 4-6 as main course

I made this recipe with shells the first time, and they’re delicious, but this sauce could top any pasta that will hold onto it. It makes a lot, so you could make a half batch if you’re not sure. Jamie uses frozen peas; I did for the first time, but this week I used fresh peas, because fresh peas in season are rare, delicious little gems of goodness-eat them while you can. When they sit in the store too long, they get starchy, instead of being their sweet, tender little selves right off the vine. Plus they’re fun to shell. Last but not least, make sure everything is prepped and ready to cook, because this sauce comes together fast.

10 slices smoked bacon or pancetta, preferably free-range or organic
a small bunch of fresh mint (start out slow with the mint, adjust to your taste)
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pound dried mini shell or other type of pasta
olive oil
a pat of butter
2 C frozen peas
2 T heavy cream or creme fraiche
1 lemon
6 oz Parmesan cheese

1. Finely slice the bacon. Pick the mint leaves and discard the stalks. Finely grate the Parmesan.

2. Bring a large pan of salted water to a boil. Add the mini shells and cook according to the package instructions. Get a large frying pan over a medium heat and add about 1 T olive oil and the butter. Add the bacon to the pan, sprinkle a little pepper over and fry until crisp. Meanwhile, finely chop your mint leaves.

3. As soon as the bacon is cripy, add your peas and stir. After a minute or so, add the heavy cream (or creme fraiche) and chopped mint to the bacon and peas.

4. Drain the pasta in a colander over a large bowl. Add the pasta to the frying pan. Halve your lemon and squeeze the juice over the pasta. Stir once more, allow to bubble a bit, and remove from the heat. Add the grated Parmesan and stir to mix it in.

Notes: If your bacon is pretty fatty and you don’t want all that fat in your sauce, you can fry it up in a separate pan, then add it to the olive oil/butter pan after it is crunchy and golden. Start out easy on the lemon juice, add it to taste.

Simple Chopped Salad
adapted from Posh chopped salad, by Jamie Oliver, in Jamie’s Food Revolution.

1 carrot
2 stalks celery
3 radishes
3 handfuls of salad greens
olive oil
lemon
salt and pepper

1. Peel and trim your carrot, celery, and radishes.

2. On a large chopping board with a large sharp knife, chop the crunchy veggies into even pieces. Make a pile of them in the center of the board and continue chopping and mixing together. Add the salad greens to the pile and chop them up.

3. When you have a pile of chopped salad veggies to your liking, add your choice of salad dressing and mix well. Serve as soon as possible, if not immediately.

This is the basic technique for chopped salads. You can use any ingredients you like in salads, starting with the crunchiest ones first. You’ll pay 6 bucks for a chopped salad at Outback. Maybe not anymore. ;)

My Mom’s Buttermilk Cake-13×9 in. sheet, 2 layers, or 18-24 cupcakes

2 1/4 C cake flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
3/4 C vegetable shortening
1 1/2 C sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp lemon extract
1 C buttermilk

1. Have all ingredients at room temperature. Grease and flour cake pans. Preheat oven to 350 deg.

2. Sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.

3. Cream shortening and sugar; add eggs and extracts, and mix well.

4. Add dry ingredients in thirds, alternating with buttermilk between each third. Mix at med-low speed for 3 min, or until smooth and silky.

5. Pour batter into cake pans and bake at 350 deg. for 25 min, or till tester comes out clean from the center of the cake. Let cool 10 min on a rack, then remove from pans and let cool completely.

There, the only promise I didn’t keep was pictures. That takes a bit more doing, and I didn’t have it in me this week. I’ll get some up soon. Until next time, eat fresh and local this week! If you have any comments or ideas or questions, click on “comments” and leave me one.

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