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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Tips for Safe Thanksgiving Dinner

About 3,000 people die every year from food-borne illnesses, and more than 100,000 report being sick. That’s the first thing the Erie County Department of Health hammers home during an educational session to prepare food-industry employees to become certified as managers.

First, do no harm.

Food safety certification is one of the first steps to owning my own food truck. Most people think it starts with the recipes, which is a key part of your business plan (and the health department wants to see them, too). But a failed inspection, or, worse yet someone gets sick, and that business is done.

Food safety isn’t glamorous. Much of the conversation is around hand washing and bacteria. There’s a fair amount of discussion around “poo.”  Mainly I’m learning about all the things you don’t see as a customer that can hurt you. Gloves only protect if the hands of the person putting them on are clean, and the person wearing them doesn’t touch anything that can cross-contaminate your food by touching anything like, say, his or her nose or the cash drawer. Hand sanitizer, which our instructor demonstrated using a black light, does very little to clean your hands.

The lesson is that Mom was right. Wash your hands with soap and water. Rinse. Dry using a disposable towel. Repeat frequently.

Time and temperature are also killers. More likely, they are the reason you think you’ve got a 24-hour stomach bug after a potluck. Cooked pasta, rice, beans, and potatoes cannot sit out unrefrigerated. Once you introduce water, or heat in the case of potatoes, you have a ticking bacterial time bomb. They must be maintained at 135 degrees, or, once they dip below that, they need to get down to 41 degrees within 6 hours. And that’s not just in the 41-degree refrigerator after 6 hours. The pasta, rice, beans, and/or potatoes must be 70 degrees within 2 hours and 41 degrees when a thermometer registers in the middle within 4 more.

Homemade Roasted Thanksgiving Day Turkey with all the Sides
Homemade Roasted Thanksgiving Day Turkey with all the Sides, (Thinkstock photo)

So, all you home cooks … with Thanksgiving coming up … the turkey, potatoes, gravy, corn, stuffing, green beans, et al, cannot be left on the counter in the danger zone (below 135 degrees) for more than 4 hours. After that, into the trash those leftovers must go. And you can’t put the whole kit and kaboodle in the fridge while still hot. That will raise the temp of your fridge, risking the spoilage of everything else in there. Use a cooler to chill first, then refrigerate.

Don’t blame the mayo if your make yourself a turkey sandwich with all the trimmings at midnight and then are hugging the porcelain god the next day. Commercial mayo has a pH outside the danger zone. The most likely culprits are the potatoes, turkey, or stuffing (even if cooked outside the turkey because of the moisture content).

Given all the info flying at us, I decided pizza was what was on the menu for our dinner. Although you can’t leave cut tomatoes out any longer because the acid content has been reduced to account for America’s problem with acid reflux, it isn’t a dish I’m going to have around for 4 hours.

I watched a WQLN-TV show with Lidia Bastianich making pizza and I love her sauce. It’s simple and full of flavor. So I fired up the grill and made the sauce while the Big Green Egg was getting ready.

Here’s my riff on her pizza sauce. 

Print Recipe
Pizza Sauce
Easy to make without added sugar or artificial ingredients. When so few ingredients need to star, the sauce needs to shine.
Course Main Dish
Cuisine Italian
Servings
Ingredients
Course Main Dish
Cuisine Italian
Servings
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Crush the tomatoes with your hands into a bowl. Pour crushed tomatoes into a strainer over another bowl and drain off extra liquid. You can use the liquid for another recipe or discard.
  2. Place drained crush tomatoes in bowl and add remaining ingredients. Stir. Allow to sit for at least 30 minutes (while grill is getting hot).
Recipe Notes

Adapted from Lidia Bastianich

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