I'm no Julia Child, but living in France broadened my horizons in the kitchen, forcing me out of my comfort zone and into the realm of cooking from scratch with fresh and sometimes previously unknown ingredients. I didn’t completely abandon everything I learned upon returning to the US despite reverting to some old favorites including macaroni & cheese and certain Trader Joe’s frozen meals, but it has been easy to slip back into a boring routine, especially with the arrival of Vilis and the following upheaval in our domestic lives.
Last week the Swamp Rabbit Cafe & Grocery had a deal on their produce box ($15 instead of the usual $25) that has derailed that boring routine. I think I’ve mentioned that I like their produce boxes because there is no obligation (you can buy once a year or twice a week), pick-up is flexible (after 4pm on Wednesday or Friday and anytime on Saturday) and the contents are always fresh and local. So it came to be that I was presented a new challenge: to use 7 ingredients I have little or no experience cooking with (and a handful that are more familiar) before anything spoils, and to do so in such a matter that the little people will eat it. Without further ado, here is a week’s worth of meals inspired by the Swamp Rabbit Grocery produce box!
SATURDAY: We had a busy day and so dinner was quick and easy, with BLT’s featuring the lettuce out of Greenbrier Farm in Dacusville. Start small, right?
SUNDAY: In researching some of the more unfamiliar ingredients I came under the impression that the arugula would be best eaten sooner than later, and so the Tyger River Smart Farm (out of Taylors, SC) hydroponic arugula was incorporated into pasta salad with goat cheese via this recipe from Martha Stewart. I used tri-colored rotini since gemelli pasta wasn’t available, and substituted white wine vinegar for the red wine vinegar as it is a little milder and was what I had in the cupboard. End result; this is better as a side dish than a main meal, and the boys avoided eating any arugula, red onion or pasta that wasn’t plain. The goat cheese and cannellini beans were a big hit, and the Dijon was a nice accompaniment to the arugula. Prep time 10 minutes, total time required 25.
MONDAY: Next up was the kale (Bioway Farm in Belton, SC), which I recognized because it’s what has been growing in my pallet garden! (One of the salad mixes included kale seeds, and it was the only thing to survive the summer heat.) We had been mixing leaves into our salads, but I had not tried anything more complicated. Turns out, kale can be rather uncomplicated. Tonight’s dinner was Real Simple’s roasted pork chops and butternut squash with kale. Except that in lieu of the squash I used the sweet potatoes (Crescent Farm, Clinton SC) from the produce box and therefore skipped the sage. End result; the boys both had a tiny taste of kale and politely declined any more, and surprisingly the sweet potatoes were a hard sell to the younger one. I was pleased with the kale but found the pork chops a little on the tough and dry side. Prep time 30 minutes, total time 55 minutes.
TUESDAY: Soccer night calls for something quick and easy as the boys only get home around 7pm, and although tonight’s game was rained out I was happy for this simple recipe from Country Living. Jumbo shrimp with bok choy calls for baby bok choy, but since I had the grande version (from Clemson Organic Farm) I rinsed and roughly chopped and once again was pleasantly surprised with the result. I might have simmered the citrus-soy glaze a little longer to achieve a more syrupy sauce, but it wouldn’t have changed the end result; the boys once again mostly refused the greens after taking a taste (Mikus did eat the stalks). It was a good thing I made rice to accompany the dish, as that is what filled stomachs, and although I enjoyed the shrimp I think next time I would choose a sesame oil recipe. Prep time 10 minutes, total time 15. (PS For the recipe I used Bee Well honey, Pickens SC, also purchased from Swamp Rabbit - they've got the best deal in town!)
WEDNESDAY: These ratatouille wraps by Rachel Ray were great for adults, but didn't go over well with the boys. They like ground beef burritos with veggie toppings, but apparently these eggplant (Clemson Organic Farm) wraps were too far removed from what they were expecting. The boys enthusiastically ate empty tortillas instead, and Roberts confessed they tasted only slightly better than they looked. I enjoyed the goat cheese in combination with the veggies, but end result: I have a bunch of leftover ratatouille. Recipe states prep time is 15 minutes and a total of 25, but I found it to be closer to 40.
THURSDAY: I roasted a whole chicken and made roasted scarlet turnips (Greenbrier Farm in Dacusville, SC) and baby blues as a side (although I couldn't resist adding carrots as well). I just love the color contrast between the orange carrots, red turnips and the purple potatoes, which I’ve been a big fan of ever since first seeing them in France. The scarlet turnips are of an heirloom salad variety but taste about like regular turnips. The microgreens (Iszy’s Heirlooms in Liberty, SC) joined the leftover lettuce from BLT night for a side salad, also featuring veggies from Tomato Vine. End result; no leftovers! Everyone loves the roasted chicken, especially because it doesn’t dry out when cooking whole. Ask your butcher to spatchcock it, it’ll require less time in the oven. Prep time 15 minutes, total time 60 minutes.
|source: October's Real Simple Magazine|
FRIDAY: Roasted carrots with chimichurri are on the menu tonight, taking care of the cilantro in our produce box with the recipe from October’s Real Simple. If we had a grill I would send Roberts outside with some steaks, but as we don’t… I still have a few hours to decide, right?
So what else was in the produce box that isn’t included in the above dinners? I confess that I took the big, beautiful, green bunch of collards (Thicketty Mountain, Cowpens SC) over to my neighbor first thing, because I know how much she loves them and I was facing a daunting crisper drawer full of greens – I think Lauris and Mikus will forgive me. The apples (Lively Orchards, Hendersonville NC) we ate as snacks and with lunch, and the beets… well, maybe I’ll get around to Roberts’s favorite soup, aukstā zupa! Thanks to the Swamp Rabbit Cafe & Grocery for a healthy week in culinary adventures!