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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Sunday Suppers: Beef Tenderloin in Chianti

tree2I’ll fess up to being downright grumpy most of Saturday. I shoveled the walk three times. The wind howled on my dog walk, chilling through my Barbour jacket, down jacket, snow pants, knit hat with ear flaps, and my shearling mittens. And my nose was running, but I didn’t want to take the mittens off the get to the tissues that stocked in every coat I own.

I will stop complaining now. It’s not even officially winter. My home is warm. My daughter is delightful. I had a Friday night alone (beaux out of town and daughter at an overnight), so I could watch what I wanted. I updated software on my printer and cursed out loud and didn’t have to apologize to anyone. When that was over, I turned on the tree, made a cup of tea, and plopped onto the couch, where the dog joined me.

By Saturday night, I kicked the Grinch out of the house. I made the batter for four batches of Christmas cookies, which I will bake today. I am not sure why, since I don’t have an office to take them to. One of the drawbacks of working from home, and a situation I am working to remedy.

snowshoeThis morning, before the dog even begged, I dug my snowshoes and poles out of the container in the garage, loaded them and the dog into the car, and headed to Pleasant Ridge Park before 8 a.m. Halfway through our trek, my hat came off, my mittens off, both coats unzipped, and my mood was greatly improved. I made a pot of real coffee in the Chemex, took a shower, and figured out dinner.

I shop at McDonald’s Meats in Girard about once a month. When I’m buying whatever cut of meat took me there, I stock up on emergency dinner supplies. The meat is vacuum packed and frozen, which preserves its freshness. It also saves me from having to buy in bulk and then repackaging and freezing. Last month, I bought a couple of small beef tenderloin steaks to grill. I never got around to it, so these are the protein component for tonight’s dinner.

You typically grill or roast beef tenderloin, or wrap it in pastry (a laWellington). Since the grill is under about a foot of snow and Wellington is just too involved, I wondered about turning it into a stew. While this seems an expensive cut of meat to “stew,” is usually reserved for very tough meats that need tenderizing. But using tenderloin has a couple of advantages, as long as you don’t overcook it. First, it takes less time to cook the dish (less than an hour compared to about 3). Second, it is such a lean cut, that it benefits from being immersed in a richly flavored wine sauce.

So after a day divided between the outdoors and the oven, I’ll be glad to settle into a big bowl of Beef in Chianti tonight.

When Mother Nature gives you snow, you’ve got to strap on the snowshoes. (And dig the tenderloin out of the freezer).

XOXOXO

Marnie

Marnie@MarnieMeadMedia.com

Print Recipe
Beef Tenderloin in Chianti
Course Main Dish
Cuisine American, French, Italian
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Servings
people
Ingredients
Course Main Dish
Cuisine American, French, Italian
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Servings
people
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Mix together 2 tablespoons flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and a pinch of thyme in a large bowl or zip-top baggie. Add beef and toss to coat. In a large, heavy-bottomed pan on medium-high heat, cook bacon until browned and crisp. Remove bacon and set aside. Add beef in batches and cook until browned on the outside and very rare inside, about 2 to 3 minutes on each side. Remove from the pan and set aside on a platter. You may need to add oil for the second batch of the beef.
  2. Remove beef from the pan and set aside. If there is any oil/fat left, add garlic. If not, add 2 tablespoons of the oil and then the garlic. Cook until fragrant, but do not brown it. This takes about 30 seconds.
  3. Add red wine and cook on high, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom. Reduce for about 3 minutes, then add the beef stock, sprig of thyme, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  4. In the same pan, saute the bacon on medium-low heat for 5 minutes, until browned and crisp. Remove the bacon and set it aside. Drain all the fat, except 2 tablespoons, from the pan. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds.
  5. Deglaze the pan with the red wine and cook on high heat for 1 minute, scraping the bottom of the pan. Add the beef stock, tomato paste, thyme, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and 1 bay leaf. Bring to a boil and cook uncovered on medium-high heat for 10 minutes. Remove thyme sprig and bay leaf from the sauce. Add the onions and carrots and simmer uncovered for 15 minutes, until the sauce is reduced and the vegetables are cooked.
  6. Mix together 1 tablespoon flour and butter. Stir into the sauce and simmer for about 2 minutes, so the flour is cooked through.
  7. In the meantime, if using the mushrooms, saute them in a separate pan in 1 tablespoon of oil until browned and tender, about 10 minutes.
  8. Add beef, bacon, and mushrooms to the sauce. Heat for about 5 minutes together. Turn off heat. You do not want to overcook the beef (this is not stew meat that benefits from longer cooking). This can sit for about 20 minutes before serving. The flavors will develop.
  9. Serve alone, with noodles, over mashed potatoes, or riced cauliflower.
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