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

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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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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. 

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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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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

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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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