Market Days St. Croix January 26, 2013

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Today my shopping trip wasn’t quite as large as usual, due to a variety of personal conflicts preventing me from cooking at home as much this week.  So I scaled down what I purchased to buy only what we will eat over the next few days.  Here’s the photo of my “haul”:

Market Days 01/26/2013

I primarily shopped at ARTfarm, where I bought heirloom tomatoes, cucumbers, kale, green leaf lettuce, microgreens, onions (with their green tops), and heirloom cherry tomatoes.  But there were several items there that were SO hard to pass up today!  For example, check out their locally grown broccoli:

ARTfarm Broccoli

I intentionally framed the photo to show the HUGE and lovely stems of this broccoli plant – lots of broccoli goodness to cook here, yum!  And the greens are just as good!  You can see them on the lower left in this photo, which also features some lovely beets and several kinds of lettuces:

ARTfarm Beets and Greens

And of course, the cucumbers, and some more green leaf lettuce.  This is some of what I brought home.

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From ARTfarm I headed over to Southgate to see my friend Aberra Bulbulla to check out his fruits that he has available today at his stand.  I had to buy a coconut water, of course, fresh from the coconut…

Cutting Open the Coconut

Aberra recently surprised me with a box of fruits of all sorts that he grows on his farm.  Over time on this blog I’ll feature them all!  There are some familiar ones here, in addition to some exotics:

Aberra's Fruit Box

There are mangoes, star apple, sugar apple, sapodilla, carambola, local orange and grapefruit, guava, mele apples, chocolate fruit, and pomelo all in this box.  And we’ve been eating them and enjoying them all!  Many tropical fruits are excellent to bake with, which I’ll have recipes for those coming up for you guys also.

So that’s the weekly haul!  I’ve already made a salad with quinoa, the tomatoes, and cucumbers.  And lots more going on this weekend – I’ll have some really interesting updates soon!

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Bright and Local Green Bean Salad

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Here’s what we’re eating today – Local green bean salad with lemon vinaigrette, shallots, local parsley, and sliced kalamata olives.  I adapted this recipe from Food Network slightly…I left out the anchovies!

Local Green Bean Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette, Shallots, Local Parsley, and Sliced Kalamata Olives

Clean Out the ‘Fridge Soup!

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I started poking through the refrigerator last night and realized I had some vegetables that were going to go past their prime if I didn’t cook them soon.  I also had a bit of chicken left from the roasted local chicken I made on New Year’s Day, so it made sense that it was time for a big pot of “Clean Out the ‘Fridge” Soup!

“Clean Out the ‘Fridge” soup is pretty simple.  It’s really just whatever you want to throw in, with some simple seasonings and an hour or two to simmer.  I started by taking inventory of the vegetables that needed to be used – and the ones that I wanted to add “just because.”

Clean Out the 'Fridge Ingredients

I started with a couple of carrots, celery hearts, mushrooms, some of the local tomatoes, and figured it was time for me to cut up and roast the local pumpkin before it got soft.  I decided to add 1/4 of it to the soup, and roast the rest for later.

Cut Pumpkin

Gorgeous inside, right?  This pumpkin came from Sejah Farm.

Soup and Pumpkin Getting Started

I chopped up the carrot, celery, 1/4 of the pumpkin, and left the pumpkin in large pieces to roast.  I put a bit of water in the pan with the pumpkin and then covered the whole pan with foil, and roasted it at 350 degrees for an hour (or until soft).

More Tasty Ingredients!

And here’s the soup with the tomato and mushrooms chopped up and added!  I decided to toss in some frozen green beans as well, and then started getting creative and went out to the garden for some japanese greens, which I gave a quick rinse in the sink before slicing them up and tossing them into the pot.

Japanese Greens and Amaranth

Last, I shredded the leftover chicken, tossed in a can of chickpeas, added some vegetable bouillon paste, salt, pepper, dried oregano, and put the pot on to simmer for a while.  I want to point out that with soup like this, I don’t worry too much about how I chop up the vegetables.  The most important thing is that they are all bite-sized pieces, and that they fit on the spoon when they are being eaten!  So some of the mushrooms are cut in wedges, other in squares…I don’t care.  Save the perfect little diced cubes for when you’re entering a cooking competition, but at home all that matters is that it tastes good and is easy to eat.

Soup Set to Simmer

And here’s the soup at the finish.  I stirred in some tomato paste because I decided to give it a bit more tomato richness, but that’s purely optional.

Clean Out the 'Fridge Soup

And, as a bonus, here’s the pumpkin puree – scooped out of the shell after cooking and popped in the freezer for future dishes…like pumpkin bread…or one of my favorites, pumpkin lasagna!

Frozen Pumpkin Puree

The best thing about making a soup like this is that it carries over for several meals, and is even better the next day.  It would also go well mixed with rice, or pasta, or a loaf of crusty bread.  I had it for breakfast.  🙂

So when your vegetables are starting to wilt, don’t throw them away…make a big pot of soup, and enjoy the abundance of flavors!

Braised Lettuce and Peas, Cucumber Salad, Avocados, and Grits

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For the next meal from Saturday’s shopping trip, I wanted to use up all the lovely butter lettuce, as it wilts quickly!  I found this recipe on Food Network (a site I go to quite often):  Braised Lettuce and Peas.  I’ve never cooked lettuce before, so I was willing to experiment – I wanted to do something other than simply make a salad.  And since I had some frozen peas in the freezer,this seemed a perfect way to use them both!  The recipe calls for shallots, though, which really can’t be found on St. Croix (at least not very fresh), so instead I substituted the last of the organic onions.

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I also had some organic grits, and I thought those would go well with the lettuce and peas, so I got that out too.

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I chopped up lettuce, tossed in the pot with the peas.  Grits on to boil.

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Chopped up the cucumbers, tossed with pepper, salt, and a splash of white wine vinegar…and then I noticed the lovely ripe avocado just waiting to be eaten (doesn’t it look lonely in the photo?).  So that was sliced up to add to the meal.

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And done.  A simple weekend meal.  Doug likes hot sauce on his grits and avocados, so I sprinkled a bit on top before serving it to him.

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The butter lettuce was very good cooked!  I think next time I’ll wait a bit longer before tossing the lettuce in to cook with the peas so it doesn’t cook down so much.  It seems to me that maintaining a bit more of the “leafiness” vs. a spinach-like texture would be nicer.  But it still was very tasty, and another experiment done.  So don’t be shy about experimenting with food, especially for a daily meal…you just might surprise yourself with how good it turns out!