CSA 2008, Week Three.

In January Keith and I first started looking for a CSA, purposely searching for one that had a nearby pick-up spot. We went through the list of options and eliminated the programs which required us to head out to the farm on a weekly basis. We knew that we wouldn’t be able to commit to driving the twenty-some miles to The Food Project‘s location in Lincoln every weekend in order to pick up our box.

When Keith got our first box, the coordinator explained that as the seasons begin to transition out of spring and into summer, our weekly share would gradually get larger. Eventually, she said, the produce may not even fit into the box; there may be melons and miscellaneous squash to tote home as well. Well, the weather hasn’t even begun to level out and already our box has gotten a little bigger. In fact, I couldn’t even photograph the vegetables in the box, because of crowding issues. I had to line everything up on my counter, like so. This week, we received the following:

  • Two heads of lettuce
  • Swiss chard
  • Radishes
  • Scallions
  • One lonely zucchini

As in weeks before, I chopped up the lettuces for a mixed green salad; I skewered the zucchini and scallions with some beef that I had marinated with sesame oil, chili, ginger and garlic. Since I knew that we would be visiting my parents in New York this weekend, I saved the radishes to bring home to my dad… which left me with that bouquet of Swiss chard.

Each week, our box comes with a handful of recommended usages for its contents. This week’s box came with a delicious-sounding recipe that I had to try out: Chard Pie. I love a nice pie, but have actually never made one from scratch (read: homemade crust). The recipe actually didn’t come with instructions on how to make a crust; I turned to my cookbook library to help me out, and I’ve got to say I was so pleased with the results.

One more thing to mention: the pie recipe does not specify what kind of cheese to use. I happened to have some Parmesan and Fontina on hand, so I used a mixture of both. The next time I make this pie, I think I’ll use Comté or Gruyère Alpage.

Chard Pie, from Asparagus to Zucchini
Makes about eight portions.

1 onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 bunch chard
1 teaspoon Balsamic vinegar
6 eggs
1 cup shredded cheese
1 teaspoon salt
Fresh thyme or rosemary, chopped
½ recipe Basic Pie Dough (below)

  1. Heat oven to 400˚. Heat oil over medium flame; when the oil is ready, sauté onion and garlic until golden brown.
  2. Trim and chop chard; add to pan with vinegar and cook contents down until the greens are wilted. Remove from heat.
  3. Beat eggs in a bowl; mix in cheese, salt, herbs and chard mixture. When fully incorporated, pour into pie shell. Bake 30-40 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.

Basic Pie Dough, from The New Best Recipe Cookbook from Cook’s Illustrated
Makes enough dough for one double-crust nine-inch pie.

2 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the work surface
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
½ cup vegetable shortening, chilled
1 ½ sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into ¼-inch pieces
6-8 tablespoons ice water

  1. Process the flour, salt and sugar in a food processor until combined. Add the shortening and process until the mixture has the texture of coarse sand, about ten seconds. Scatter the butter pieces over the flour mixture; cut the butter into the flour until the mixture is pale yellow and resembles coarse crumbs, about ten one-second pulses. The butter bits should be no larger than small peas. Turn the mixture into a medium bowl.
  2. Sprinkle six tablespoons of ice water over the mixture. With a rubber spatula, fold in to mix. Press down on the dough with the broad side of the spatula until the dough sticks together; add up to two more tablespoons ice water if needed.
  3. Divide the dough into two balls and flatten each into a four-inch disk. Wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least one hour or up to two days before using.
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On Comté.

Keith went to Formaggio Kitchen last Sunday (I was busy) and came home with, amongst other things, a sizable wedge of Comté. This is all that’s left of it, and the baguette that Keith bought to accompany it.

I may or may not have said this before, but I love cheese. It is a torrid affair that we are embroiled in, cheese and I, full of longing, yearning and desire. I should add the word “unrequited” as well, but I’m hopeful.

Comté is certainly high on my list of go-to cheeses; along with Pointu Gaborit, Gruyère Alpage, Boerenkaas-Veenweidekaas and Piave Vecchio — which I think is possibly one of the prettiest wheels out there, with its sunny yellow and vibrant blue seal.

Made from cow’s milk, Comté is from the Franche-Comté area of eastern France, near the Swiss border. It’s a harder cheese, but one with a bit of resiliency to it; Comté doesn’t crumble when cut, unlike various Parmesans or a triangle of Mimolette. As for the flavor, well — it’s utterly delicious. Creamy and nutty, it’s similar to Gruyère, with a nice amount of saltiness and a smattering of crunchy calcium lactate crystals sprinkled throughout.

Apparently, Comté is wonderful in fondues and its texture probably lends itself really well to melting. I can just imagine how lovely a Comté and potato gratin would be, or a Comté-based mac and cheese… Truthfully though, I wouldn’t know. Comté never lasts long enough around my house for me to do anything more advanced than slicing off a piece and popping it in my mouth. And I’ve got to say, if that’s all I ever do this cheese, it’s more than enough to make me happy.