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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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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Thanksgiving Salad Days

thanksgiving2There is no right way to celebrate Thanksgiving. Growing up, we had everyone – grandparents, parents, children – all around one or two tables with bottles of Champagne, an overcooked turkey (not when my mother and father were cooking), stuffing, gravy, and my grandmother’s grapefruit and avocado salad.

As our family changed – kids moved, grandparents died, marriages dissolved – so has the celebration. My brothers and sister and their families celebrate in their respective home states. My parents bought a second home on the Gulf Coast of Florida, where the weather is warmer and the beaches are open all year.

That became a sanctuary for Thanksgiving six years ago when liver disease nearly took my life. I was in the hospital until just before Thanksgiving (and again after Thanksgiving, and again in the week leading up to Christmas). I made a small Thanksgiving dinner at home for my then-husband and I  – our daughter had gone south with my parents. I flew down the day after and reveled in the sun, sand, and club soda.

Since then, my daughter and I have been in Florida for five of the past six years. That one year in Erie was because my job demanded being at a desk the day after Thanksgiving. We enjoyed celebrating with friends, but there’s nothing like a walk on the beach without a hat, gloves, and down jacket after the meal.

Other friends have had to change their celebration as family members have aged into nursing homes, children have moved away, or divorces dictate times with children. Then you have to improvise. Last week I celebrated Thanksgiving a week early because circumstances allowed this blended family to be together. A death brought them together, but it allowed them to sit down at a family heirloom dining table. We had vegetarians, picky eaters, and omnivores. The menu reflected this – standing rib of beef along with a butternut and spinach lasagna. And everyone united around a flourless chocolate cake with caramel sauce.

Typically, my contribution to Thanksgiving dinners is a salad since the hosts take care of the main dishes. With pears and chestnuts in season now, it seemed an ideal combination. My pears, a variety called Concorde that are delicious, made the dish quite sweet. I haven’t been able to find them this week, so I used red pear in today’s photos.

Happy Thanksgiving.

XOXOXO

Marnie

marnie@marniemeadmedia.com

Print Recipe
Roasted Pear and Camembert Salad
This salad combines some of the best fall ingredients - pears and chestnuts - into a celebration of flavors. Perfect for vegetarians, too.
Course Salad
Cuisine American
Servings
Ingredients
Course Salad
Cuisine American
Servings
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. For the relish: Bring the cider, honey, shallot, and raisins to a boil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the mixture thickens, 10 to 15 minutes.
  2. Remove from heat. Stir in the chestnuts, vinegar, rosemary, and salt. Cool the relish to room temperature before serving, or cover and refrigerate up to 1 week.
  3. For pears, if ripe to semi-ripe: Halve and core the pears. Add 2 teaspoons olive oil to a large nonstick skillet. Place pears cut side down and saute over medium-low heat until lightly browned, 10 to 15 minutes depending on the pear. Flip over and saute about 5 more minutes. Lay a slice of cheese on top of each and remove from heat. It should melt using the residual heat of the pear.
  4. If pears are not ripe (quite firm): Bake cut side down in a baking dish in a 375-degree oven for 30 minutes. Turn them over and continue roasting until tender, 5 to 10 minutes more.
  5. To serve, toss the arugula with 1 to 2 tablespoons of olive oil and the juice of the lemon and divide it among 6 salad plates. Place a warm pear half over each and top with a spoonful of the chestnut relish.
  6. Serve immediately
Recipe Notes

If you don't want to make the chestnut relish, simply top with toasted candied pecans and golden raisins.

 

Adapted from http://usapears.org/recipe/roasted-pears-with-camembert/

 

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Peppers add Heat to end of Summer

img_4532
Lake Erie shortly after sunrise on Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2016.

On this last official day of summer, I’m trying to pack as much in as possible. Fortunately, the weather has cooperated, meaning I was out in my kayak taking the last paddle of summer. It won’t be my last paddle, but summer is officially closing and with it my windows of weather opportunity.

The wind was shifting around a lot, first from the south and then moving toward the east, making kayaking in Lake Erie similar to padding around in a bathtub with infants splashing around in it. No whitecaps, but wind and current were working against one another to give me a small chop. I tell myself it’s better for my arms.

img_4526What was spectacular was that I was able to spot my first eagle of the season. Some years, I see them every day. Others, I’m lucky with just a couple of sightings. This year, I have been without seeing any of these beautiful birds soaring over the bluffs until today. This was a small eagle. At first, I thought it was one of the many hawks that patrol the bluffs of western Erie County, Pennsylvania, until I saw the tell-tale white plumage on the tail. The bird perched in a tree, allowing me to paddle nearly underneath. My iPhone did an OK job capturing him (look in the center of the photo).

Aside from getting in a 2-mile paddle in open water, I’ve been trying to keep up with the tomatoes that are continuing to ripen in my garden, along with those delivered by my CSA last week. I’m not canning this year, but I am roasting batches of tomatoes and then pureeing them in the blender to create crushed tomatoes to freeze. The flavor is too intense from the roasting to use in highly spiced recipes such as chili, but are perfect for sauces and soups where tomato is the star.

One of my favorite recipes of summer is to pickle peppers. This way I can capture the heat of the season for those frigid February days.

I wasn’t always so positive about peppers. For several years, Post Apples CSA delivered more hot peppers than I could ever use. I think Gordon Post has a passion for peppers, which I have come to appreciate. In the beginning, I would freeze them. This works if you need to add a puree of hot pepper to a recipe, such as for a soup (gives a great boost to potato soup).

Then a friend shared a recipe from a co-worker, who gave away a much-coveted jar to friends each year. But one jar of these special peppers didn’t last long. I scoffed. I had jars of pickled jalapenos that were at least a year old in my fridge.

Once I made the recipe, I understood why. These are the bomb of pickled pepper recipes. They go into eggs, on top of pizzas, and into my Utica greens. I love these peppers. And it solves my plethora of peppers from Post problem. Which is now not a problem, but something I look forward to each Thursday when my  Post Apples, North East, Pennsylvania, delivers my CSA basket.

The recipe calls for a peck of peppers. You can easily cut it down. But if you have pepper lovers in your family, make the full batch and share.

Happy pickling.

XOXOXO

Marnie

marnie@marniemeadmedia.com

Print Recipe
Pickled Peppers
These peppers are great on eggs, pizza, sandwiches, or sauces. You will need a 5-gallon bucket that is food grade plastic - no metal - gloves and possibly a face mask if you are sensitive.
Course condiment
Cuisine American
Servings
Ingredients
Course condiment
Cuisine American
Servings
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Heat water to boiling in a large pot. Remove from heat. Stir in salt until dissolved. Allow to cool.
  2. With gloves on, core, seed and cut peppers into rings. You may want to wear a face mask. Sometimes I start coughing as the peppers release some of their capsaicin. I find a grapefruit spoon is helpful.
  3. Combine salt water with garlic, oregano, cider and oil in a 5-gallon food-grade plastic bucket. Stir in peppers. Allow to marinate overnight.
  4. Pack peppers into 12 sterile 1 pint jars. Cover with solution. Add lids and store in refrigerator.
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