CSA Challenge with Meadballs

If you follow my Facebook page, either Marnie Mead or Meadballs Meals, my Instagram account, or Twitter account, m_meadballs   then you have seen some of my postings labeled #CSAchallenge or #Meadballs.

The point of these is to show what produce is arriving weekly at Erie County’s farms, or at least the farms I shop, and how I cook with it. This is to give you a taste of what Meadballs will be all about.

So on the first week that Post Farm’s CSA had produce, this is what I cooked:

The most fun was turning collard greens into wraps for enchiladas. Plus I learned to make a red enchilada sauce from scratch, which tastes a lot better than the canned stuff.

Each week there are some of the same products as the week before, scapes and kale, for example, have been consistent. But as the season progresses, more color starts coming into the basket.

This past week I turned bok choy into a noodle bowl topped with Alaskan salmon. While the salmon isn’t local, I do buy from local sellers. And the dish is built around the bok choy, with the salmon as a complement. For the garlic scapes and the lettuces, I created a grilled steak salad topped with chimichurri sauce, which is a sauce made with garlic, cilantro, parsley, other herbs, a dash of lemon, red wine vinegar, and olive oil.

Quiche is one of my favorites for breakfast, lunch, or dinner – especially when it is warm out. The greens come together nicely with some garlic, olive oil, and hot pepper. They get a swirl of kale pesto and land in a homemade crust with local eggs (Taylor Farms just down the street) and cream.

The final dish, bottom right, was a grilled pizza with caramelized cabbage and onions, which I finished with with some cognac-soaked golden raisins and some vinegar. This created a dish that had the right notes of sweet, sour, crunch, melty. The homemade crust was topped with smoked gouda and mozzarella cheeses and then finished with the onion/cabbage. Cabbage is divine this way, developing a rich flavor and sweetness. I have no idea why my Irish relatives insisted on boiling cabbage when they could do this.

Good thing I didn’t learn to cook from my Irish family. The Italians (by marriage) and my Jewish neighbors were much more influential. I’ll credit a college boyfriend for introducing me to real Chinese food in Boston, where I also learned how to prepare fresh seafood.

What this all stirs up are meals from Meadballs, which will be priced at about $10 to $12 per person for dinner and delivered either to your home or to a central drop spot. There will be three meals each week in a cooler bag. All of them will be prepared in my new kitchen, which currently is under construction. The plumber was here this week putting in the lines for the sinks; the electrician added the lighting and the outlets. Next up – paint and a polished concrete floor. Then the equipment will be delivered from A. Caplan in Waterford, which will be hooked up by Dobrich Electric and Longo Plumbing. If all goes according to schedule, I will clear the Health Department by the first week in August.

I have to admit, it was pretty frightening dipping into my savings to do this. While a relatively simple renovation, wiring, plumbing and equipment add up. My research showed anywhere from $10,000 to $150,000 – depending.

That’s a pretty wide swing – but when you are talking about a kitchen exhaust hood costing $25,000 or more, it does add up. Since I’m not frying food, nor cooking over open flame indoors, that was an expense I could avoid. I still wound up on the lower side of the middle of that figure.

This is a no-loan operation. That is one thing I get from the Irish family. Invest in yourself first – don’t grow beyond what you can afford. That’s what started my grandfather in the newspaper business in 1888, and that’s what I’m doing nearly 130 years later. Although his investment was more like $250.

I digress. What if you want dinner from me?

Well there will be a couple of ways to do this:

I will post on Facebook what the weekly menus on Wednesdays or Thursdays. You can PM me, call me, e-mail me, or come to http://Meadballs.com and place an order. I will be able to take credit card/debit card orders using Square. You will be able to sign up for a flight of 6 or 12 weeks of meals (to take a break, just let me know), or 1 week at a time. Prices will be lower for those who sign up for multiple weeks. I’ll have an introductory

Some friends will be testing meals out over the next month. I’ll expand sampling beyond immediate friends and family once I have my license. You’ll be able to contact me and we can make arrangements to try out a sample meal then.

I’ll keep blogging details. And photos of the construction, as it comes along.

In the meantime, I picked up week 4 from Gordon Post’s farm in North East. Lots more greens, but more colorful veggies are coming soon; the tomatoes are between golf balls and baseballs. Blueberries from Conn’s Blueberry farm just down the road from Post should be ripe next week too. I picked up cherries from Mobilia Farms in North East and will be working with pork chops in a cherry sauce.

In the meantime, here is the recipe for the cabbage and onion pizza, which was inspired by Blue Apron.

Enjoy

Marnie

Marnie@meadballs.com

Print Recipe
Caramelized Cabbage and Onion Pizza with Smoked Cheese
Course dinner
Cuisine American
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
Course dinner
Cuisine American
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Bring dough to room temperature.
  2. Heat oven to 475 degrees Fahrenheit or prepare grill.
  3. In a large saucepan, melt butter with the olive oil on medium-high until hot. Add the garlic and stir for 30 seconds. Add onion and cabbage, along with about 1 teaspoon of kosher salt and a few grindings of fresh pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes until the cabbage and onions have turned a golden color and lost all of their liquid. Stir in raisins in cognac, vinegar, red pepper flakes (start with half and add more if you like), and thyme leaves. Cook for about 2 to 3 minutes, until the cognac's alcohol has cooked off. Allow to cool. Taste and add salt and pepper, if desired.
  4. While the cabbage cooks, lightly oil a rimmed cookie sheet. Or prepare your grill with a pizza stone.
  5. On a clean counter, use your hands or a rolling pin to gradually stretch your pizza dough to the desired shape (either the size of the sheet pan or your pizza stone). If it springs back while you are stretching/rolling - give it a 5 minute rest, and roll or stretch again. Repeat until the dough is the right size. Transfer to the sheet pan or to a pizza peel coated with cornmeal.
  6. Top the dough with the two shredded cheeses, leaving a 1-inch border around the edges. Top with the cooked cabbage combo. Brush exposed edges with olive oil.
  7. Bake or put on the grill either in the pan or on the stone, and cook for about 15-18 minutes, rotating the sheet pan halfway through, Remove from the heat and brush crush edges with more olive oil. Let stand about 5 minutes before cutting.
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Scape Your Way to a Great Fourth

Garlic scapes were a mystery ingredient to me a couple of years ago when I first spotted them at a farmer’s market. Green, somewhat curled, they appeared to have a flower pod on the end.

It is a flower bud. Scapes are the green tops of garlic plants, which are removed in June to grow a more robust garlic plant. The flavor is milder than garlic, but you use a whole bunch so be careful.

Garlic scapes are the green curls in the center right of the photo.

There are quite a few ways to cook with garlic scapes. My personal favorite is to make a pesto  or chimichurri sauce with it.

For the pesto, I follow a traditional pesto recipe, substituting a bunch of scapes for the requested garlic. You will need to chop your scapes into about 1-inch or 2-inch pieces in order for the food processor to handle them. I haven’t tried mashing this with a traditional mortar and pestle, and don’t recommend it.

Some scapes are fairly soft throughout the cutting. Others get woody toward the end closest to where it was cut. Stop chopping and discard into the compost bin once you get to the tough part.

PESTO

My general recipe for pesto is:

4-6 cups of basil leaves, stems removed

1/4 cup parsley, stems removed

2-3 cloves of garlic, peeled

1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, cut into smaller pieces for the food processor

1/4 cup toasted pine nuts (although you can use sunflower seeds or toasted walnuts). I prefer the taste of pine nuts because that is what I was taught.

Generous pinch (or more) of kosher salt

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil (this is a raw sauce, so use the best EVOO you can get) – plus more for topping the sauce off

Combine basil, parsley, garlic, cheese, pine nuts, salt, and 1/4 cup of the olive oil in the food processor. Pulse until all are chopped. With the processor running, add remaining olive oil.

If you are not using immediately, scrape into a glass jar. Cover with olive oil (prevents the pesto from becoming black by sealing out the air). Cover with a lid and refrigerate.

For a variation on the pesto, try swapping out 1/2 or more of the basil with kale or arugula.

USES: Use it to top pasta, reserving about 1/2 cup of the cooking water to thin it out once it is on the pasta. Rub it all over and under the skin of a chicken and grill or roast the chicken. Add a couple of tablespoons it to cream cheese and use it as a filling for chicken breasts. Mix a couple of tablespoons with a stick of butter and spread on a cut loaf of bread make a divine garlic bread.

Pickle

You can also pickle scapes – although this is not something I have tried. You can check out Serious Eats for the recipe.

I haven’t tried it because I usually don’t have enough left to pickle.

Quiche

Use the scapes to make a quiche. This recipe includes ham, but you can omit it, substitute bacon. Or, for a purely veggie quiche, add some sautéed leeks and chard. This recipe is from The Artful Gardener. 

Pizza

Buy some pizza dough, if you aren’t into making your own, and try this combo of brie and scapes. 

Your own variations can include alfredo sauce, red peppers, feta cheese, and scapes. I’d throw in some hot pickled peppers, too.

Chimichurri sauce

Chimichurri sauce is traditionally served with grilled steaks. I like the zestful combo of the garlic scape, herbs, lemon juice, vinegar, and olive oil – and think you can serve it with chicken, a meaty piece of fish (think swordfish or halibut), or a mixed veggie grill that includes eggplant, Portobello mushrooms, and zucchini.

Chimichurri can be made a number of ways – such as with and without cilantro, or with and without red pepper flakes or jalapeno. The basic premise is parsley and other herbs, lemon, vinegar, garlic, and olive oil (plus salt and pepper).

Personally, I like the cilantro and jalapeno. If you don’t, then skip them.

The recipe follows.

Go Fourth and enjoy some garlic scapes!

Marnie

Marnie@meadballs.com

Print Recipe
Garlic Scape Chimichurri
Servings
cup, approx
Ingredients
Servings
cup, approx
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Put all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until blended. You can check consistency. If you like it chunky, stop here. If you like a more finely chopped (more like a pesto), then continue pulsing until you get the right consistency.
  2. I like to let it rest for about 15 minutes, then taste and adjust seasonings.
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CSA Challenge for Meadballs, Week 1

Starting a business – or any project, really – is a lot like gardening. You plant a seed, tend to it – water, fertilizer, good light – and it grows. Ignore it, even for a couple of days, and it could die, or weaken to the point where it will never be as fruitful.

Same with a project or business. You can have the greatest idea, but it needs tending or it will never sprout. Meadballs is my little seed. My hope is that it grows so I can use local products to make you dinner, delivered. You get three at a time – which you can eat right away, put in the fridge for another day, or possibly freeze.

For quite a few months, Meadballs was just a little seed in a packet. Every time I thought I could plant it somewhere, it just didn’t work out. If you’ve ever been an over-anxious gardener and plopped a plant in the ground – only to watch it struggle to survive, then you will understand. Before you plant something, you need to understand if it gets enough light, if the ground needs amending, or even if the hose reaches. I have a rhododendron facing that fate. I bought the condo in February and planted that poor bush in May. Neither the soil nor the light is right. I’m working to amend the soil, but it takes more work than if I had done it correctly the first time.

But now I have done the work to get the right location for Meadballs. The Erie County Department of Health has signed off on the beginning of construction of the new kitchen. I met with Keegan Leehan of South One on Monday and went over the details – gasp – of the plumbing, electrical, etc., work to be done. Plus the appliance costs. I think my parents first home in Erie cost less.

 

I’m following the advice of fellow small business owners and I’m not borrowing to do this. When I plant a garden, I only plant what I can manage. If my bounty is in excess of what I can eat, then I consider the hard work and the believe I was blessed by weather. But I don’t count on that happening every year.

Just a variation of you reap what you sow. And I don’t want to be sowing with someone else’s money right now.

So the construction will begin. And I will have firm dates within a week. And I want to thank everyone who is patiently waiting for my garden to grow.

In the meantime, the farm where most of my produce will come from has started delivering. The first weeks are always slow – and now we are experiencing a lot of rain and cool temperatures, which will slow things down a bit. Even my own tomato plants, which were growing overnight, have stalled with the lack of warmth and sunshine.

The CSA basket from Post Farms contained mostly green items: Lettuce, garlic scapes, collard greens, kale, and some purple potatoes left from last season. (The potatoes were perfectly fine and cooked up deliciously.)

Each week is a challenge. These are the practice weeks before I start cooking for you. I will get a basket of seasonal foods from the farm, and then be challenged to create three meals for you.

It’s terribly exciting.

I get the baskets on Thursdays. So deliveries will begin on Mondays (nobody likes cooking on Mondays, right?).

This week I took the ingredients and created: Enchiladas wrapped in collard greens and filled with sausage and onions; garlic scape (that curly guy in the lower right corner of the photo) and kale pesto, which I tossed with some homemade pasta and topped with seared scallops; chicken gyros salad wrapped in red lettuce leaves; and purple potatoes with greens and garlic (and served with grilled chicken breast).

The most challenging dish was what to do with collard greens – other than the traditional long cooking with ham or bacon. It became my favorite dish because it was creative and really tasty. The filling included sausage from Urbaniaks, a sweet onion, black beans, and salsa. The red enchilada sauce is from CookieandKate.com.

My parents served as testers this week. And the greens come Didi approved, which is saying a lot because my mother isn’t a fan of greens. Others will get a chance to serve as test kitchen subjects, including Jennifer Smith, Pam Parker, Rebecca Styn, Kate McCune Nash, and others.

The seed is being planted. I can’t wait for you to taste the fruits of this labor.

XOXOXO

Marnie

Marnie@Meadballs.com

Print Recipe
Red Enchilada Sauce
Mise en place - meaning get your ingredients together and ready to use - is an important part of this recipe.
Servings
Ingredients
Servings
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Put dry ingredients - the flour, chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, oregano, salt, and cinnamon - into a small bowl. Stir with a fork. Set bowl near the stove. Have tomato paste and broth ready.
  2. In a medium-sized pot over medium heat, warm the oil until it’s it’s hot enough - you will see the oil slightly ripple and give off heat. Check with a sprinkle of the flour/spice mixture - it should sizzle.
  3. Add the remaining mixture. Whisk constantly until toasted, about 1 minute. Whisk in tomato paste. Slowly pour in the broth - whisking constantly to remove any lumps.
  4. Raise heat to bring the mixture to a simmer. Cook, whisking, for about 5 to 7 minutes, until it has thickened. Reduce heat if the mixture begins to boil instead of gently simmering.
  5. Remove from heat; whisk in the vinegar. Allow to cool and taste, adjusting with more salt and pepper if needed.
Recipe Notes
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Friday Faves: Getting the Garden Going

Snow in April might normally put me in a funk – along with the droopy daffodils. But each morning I check in with my seedlings – tomatoes, basil, eggplant, cucumbers, zucchini, chard, beets, and snapdragons sprouting under the grow lights.

The zucchini and cucumbers burst forth with such enthusiasm that I’m going to have to move them out of their seedling tray today because they are close to pressing against the plastic dome cover that traps in the moisture and heat.

Snapdragon and nasturtium seedlings.

The beets, and the chard, are also sprouting – as are the tomatoes. Those, the tomatoes, I planted in peat pots to reduce the repeated transplant trauma that can occur between now and the time they go into the outdoor containers in mid-May (depending on the temps). The chard and beets will move into the cold frame – which has lettuce, arugula, and radish seeds planted in half – later this month.

 

Tomatoes, cucumbers, and zucchini seedlings.

My seed-starting set up is a DIY job, with grow lights sourced from Lowes, my basement, and Amazon. I will be curious to see how the plants respond to the various lights – which range from florescent to LED, and in price from $8 to $40.

Why does this make me so happy? Because I can imagine vines loaded with ripe cucumbers, and tomatoes. I am hoping for zillions of zucchini.

And did I mention that I also buy CSA shares from Gordon Post, a farmer in North East. His CSA is the best deal going, with so much variety, more than 200, that it can be overwhelming.  I can help you out on that this summer. I am buying extra sh ares and will be cooking prepared farm to table meals using Post’s produce starting in July. The chicken, beef, and pork will come from Parable Farm, just over the border in New York state.

If you want to buy shares in the CSA, and I encourage you to do so, we can work out a deal on me picking up your share and cooking with it, returning to you the part I haven’t used.

More on that as it develops.

So I’m in love with sprouting vegetables because they are a sign of hope, of the future, and of my new business.

In the meantime, asparagus is the closest thing we have to a seasonal vegetable right now. Although it’s not sprouting locally, it does serve as a reminder of what will be coming soon enough. This chicken breast, sourced from McDonald’s Meats, on Route 20 on the east side of Girard, is wrapped in bacon or prosciutto and stuffed with asparagus. Serve it with a lemon aioli (garlic and lemon mayo) over a mixed rice pilaf for a lovely spring dinner.

XOXOXO

Marnie

marnie@meadballs.com

Print Recipe
Bacon Wrapped Chicken Stuffed with Asparagus
Course dinner
Cuisine American
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Servings
people
Course dinner
Cuisine American
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Servings
people
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Place bacon in a oven-proof skillet, roasting pan, or rimmed baking sheet. Bake for about 10 to 15 minutes (depends on the thickness) to render off some of the fat and partially cook. Remove from oven before it browns (you need to be able to wrap chicken with it). Transfer to paper-towel lined plate.
  3. Line baking sheet with heavy-duty foil to cook chicken.
  4. Pound out of the chicken to approximately 1/2-inch thickness. Brush chicken breasts on both sides with pesto.
  5. Trim asparagus to remove the woody ends, and so the size is about the same as the chicken roll (so only the tips of the asparagus stick out).
  6. Place a piece of prosciutto over each piece of chicken. Place 3 asparagus spears on top of prosciutto and sprinkle with some cheese, if using. Roll chicken around asparagus. Wrap each roll with 2 bacon strips.
  7. Place, seam side down, on baking pan.
  8. Bake, uncovered, at 400 degrees for 30-40 minutes or until juices run clear. Check after 30 minutes.
  9. If your bacon is not crisp, place under broiler for about 5 minutes.
  10. Serve with a lemon aioli.
Recipe Notes

To make lemon aioli, follow this recipe from Martha Stewart. 

OPTIONS FOR LARGE CHICKEN BREASTS: If you really large chicken breasts, then they will be too big to roll. So cut each in half, width wise, being a little more generous to the thin end. Then pound. Or butterfly each breast, pound, then cut in half.

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