The beginning of CSA season is always salad season for me. We tend to receive plenty of lettuce, along with radishes, Hakurei salad turnips, pea shoots, and different varieties of choy and cabbage, all which lend themselves to wonderful salad combinations.
Pea shoots are a terrific addition to salads and they are also great sautéed, but I know many folks don’t know how to harvest them. Take a look at my post on pea shoots from a few years ago for information and recipes (click here)
One important thing to keep in mind about much of the produce coming out of the farm right now is that the leafy green tops of many of the items are also edible and add taste, texture and added nutrition to salads. So don’t throw out the salad turnip, kohlrabi or radish greens. It is important, though, to cut the bulbs from the leaves when you get home from the farm and store them separately in the refrigerator. This maximizes the length of time they will stay fresh. Another good way to use the greens is to sauté them like spinach or kale. I like to mix a variety of greens for flavor and and textural interest, as well as to maximize yield.
After coming home from the farm today I put together this light, delicious salad that just screams early summer. While the recipe instructs you to use “mixed greens”, I used the following mixture, all culled directly from the harvest: salad greens, pea shoots, and 4 or 5 leaves from the Hakurei salad turnips. Sliced choi leaves and stalks would also be wonderful in this salad but, alas, I forgot to add them. The pea shoots taste, well, kind of like fresh peas and the turnip greens have a slightly bitter bite so both add unique taste components to the final dish. Try it. It is very refreshing.
Another fun dish I made this week was a take on roasted bok choy (choi). I love grilled bok choy but don’t always feel like going outside to grill, especially just for a vegetable, so I wanted to see what roasting the choy would be like. I was thrilled to find how easy it was. I love how the leaves get a bit browned and crispy on the edges while the stalks tenderize but still have bite, which is very similar to grilled versions.
The key, it seems, to good roasted bok choi (or even Napa cabbage for that matter, if you receive some in your share) is in the seasoning. Pestos, sauces, or even salsa can be great added after cooking, but I found generous seasoning before baking can yield big flavor.
In my baked effort today I sprinkled a large amount of an addictive Middle Eastern Spice Mix called Zaatar on the bok choy. Zaatar typically consists of a Middle Eastern variety of thyme, as well as sumac (a red, citrusy tasting powder made from ground sumac berries), sesame seeds, and Kosher salt.
Zaater blends are sold at specialty stores such as Whole Foods, Fresh Market, or O’live a Little. It is hard to make at home because ground sumac is not easy to find but if you don’t want to buy the blend you can make a fairly good version with substitutions. First squeeze fresh lemon juice over whatever item you wish to add Zaatar to (in this case the bok choy or Napa cabbage), then sprinkle with a generous mixture of regular ground thyme or thyme leaves, paprika, sesame seeds and kosher salt.
– 1 head bok choy, rinsed well, with care taken to get between ribs as best as possible
– about 1/4 cup olive oil
– salt, if not using a premixed zaatar blend
1. Heat oven to 400℉. Pour about 1-2 tablespoons olive on a baking sheet and spread around evenly. Based upon its size, slice bok choy into two or three slices lengthwise, being careful to go through the core so as to keep the stalks together. Brush each piece generously with olive oil. Sprinkle with a generous amount of zaatar (or substitute lemon juice, salt, thyme, paprika, and sesame seeds or just use generous amounts of salt and pepper).
2. Place in oven for 10-15 minutes or until edges of green leaves crisp and brown up and stalks have softened. Remove from oven. Cut stalk off at least once inch up from the bottom (dirt tends to collect in the bottom of the stalks so this step simply cuts that part away…no eating sand tonight). Serve immediately as full stalks or cut into smaller pieces.
Finally I just had to share with you my new favorite dessert, Strawberry Rhubarb Meringue Torte. I had expected rhubarb to be in the distribution when I developed this recipe and unfortunately the rhubarb has bolted so most of us won’t see it in the share. But this recipe is so good, you might want to consider buying some rhubarb just for the occasion of using it with our delicious but scarce farm strawberries.
Strawberry Rhubarb Meringue Torte
– 6 large egg whites, room temperature
– dash kosher salt
– 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
– 1 2/3 cups granulated sugar
– 2 tablespoons cornstarch, plus 2 teaspoons
– 1/2 cup sliced almonds
– 1 1/2 cups rhubarb, sliced thin
– 1 1/2 cups fresh ripe strawberries, quartered
– 1 cup water
– 1/2 cup coconut sugar or 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoon regular sugar
– 2 teaspoons lemon juice
– pinch salt
– 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
– 1 1/4 teaspoon arrowroot powder
– 1 cup heavy whipping cream
– 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1. For Meringues: Preheat oven to 250℉. Cover two unrimmed baking sheets with parchment, curling side up. Using a pencil or pen, trace two 8 inch circles (use a cake pan) on one pan and one 8 inch circle on the second pan. Turn parchment over. You should still be able to see the circle lines.
2. Whisk together 1 2/3 cups sugar and cornstarch in a small bowl. Place egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whip attachment. Whip on medium speed until foamy. Gradually add the cream of tartar and whip until soft peaks form. Gradually add in sugar mixture and beat on medium-high speed until stiff (do not overbeat).
3. Divide the meringue into thirds by placing dollops in the center of each of the three circles on the pans. Using an offset spatula or a butter knife, carefully smooth out meringue so it evenly spreads to edges of the circle. Sprinkle each meringue evenly with almond slices. Place pans in the oven and bake for 1 hour 15 minutes without opening the oven door. Turn oven off and crack oven door open. Allow meringues to sit in cooling oven for 30 minutes. Remove pans from oven. Using a thin spatula very gently release each meringue from the parchment.
4. For Filling: Place all ingredients except vanilla and arrowroot powder in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring frequently, until sugar melts. Reduce to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until mixture is thickened and fruit has broken down. Mix arrowroot and 1 tablespoon water in a small bowl until arrowroot is completely dissolved. Turn off burner yet keep pan on hot burner. Gradually stir in arrowroot mixture. the mixture should thicken fairly quickly. If it does not seem to be thickening, turn burner on to very low heat and cook, stirring until thickened (but do NOT allow mixture to come to a boil or the arrowroot will break down and the mixture will thin back out). Remove pan from burner and stir in vanilla extract. Allow mixture to cool to room temperature or refrigerate until ready to assemble torte.
5. For Torte: Place whipping cream in a clean bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whip attachment. Whip cream while gradually adding sugar until medium peaks form (do not overbeat). Place a small dollop of whipped cream on the bottom of cake platter. Place one meringue layer on top. Spread half of the whipped cream atop the first meringue layer. Remove about 1/4 cup of the strawberry rhubarb mixture and reserve for the top of the torte. Gently spoon half of the remaining strawberry rhubarb mixture in concentric circles on top of the whipped cream. Do not try to spread it with a knife or it will push the whipped cream off the sides of the torte. Top with second meringue layer, then repeat previous steps with remaining whipped cream and strawberry rhubarb mixture. Place the reserved strawberry mixture on the top of the torte. Serve immediately or refrigerate for later use. Torte is best eaten within 3 hours of assembly.
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