Summer 2011 CSA: Week 1

After 10 months of a CSA subscription, we had a two month break. I’m lucky enough to live somewhere that has access to produce year-round and can have a locavore diet, but it’s been a long two months.

Our first week back we didn’t get much variety, but we still got a good share. We got a nice bag of spicy arugula and what I think is watercress, three butternut squash, about eight yellow squash and a big bag of black eyed peas.

With the recent heat, I wanted to display the fresh ingredients in an easy, light, cool way.

Gazpacho with pesto and ricotta toast

I made a cold gazpacho soup, something I’ve never made but have wanted to try. I put in only half a cucumber (it’s all I had) and replaced the difference with yellow squash. Eating it cold with all the vegetables together really brought out their flavor. It was more like a fresh salsa or salad as a meal. (Maybe this was because I think I chopped the veggies too much in the blender. But it still tasted great, and I’ll remember a lighter touch for next time.)

Paired with toasted bread topped with homemade ricotta and arugula and watercress pesto, it was a light summer recipe featuring great seasonal ingredients. It was one of those meals I kept thinking about long after I was finished, which is always a good sign.

Gazpacho

Ingredients

  • 3 pounds ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped (about 6 cups)
  • 1 cup chopped red onion
  • 1 large red sweet pepper, seed and chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
  • 2 teaspoons chopped, seeded jalapeno, or to taste
  • 6 tablespoons fresh herb (either coriander, dill, chervil, parsley or basil work); coarsely chop
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lime or lemon juice
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 1/2 cups peeled seeded and cubed cucumbers

Directions

  1. Blanch tomatoes in large pot of boiling water for 30 seconds. Drain in a colander. Cool under cold running water. Peel tomatoes. Halve tomatoes crosswise. Working over small bowl, squeeze gently to extract seeds. Discard seeds. (If tomatoes are not flavorful, use either plum tomatoes or good quality canned tomatoes. Italian canned tomatoes are usually flavorful.)
  2. Combine all ingredients except 2 tablespoons of the herb in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse to a coarse texture. Transfer to a bowl and taste. Sprinkle remaining herbs over each serving.

Food fit for Queens

I’ve been back from New York for a week already, but feel I’m still getting settled. Time went too fast, but the weather was great and the company was even better.

The original Nathan's Famous in Coney Island

While in New York, we took a trip to Coney Island (my first time!) and I saw the original Nathan’s Famous. I didn’t eat there and have never had a Nathan’s dog, but it was still cool. It is the site of the Independence Day tradition of professional eaters shoving food into their mouth that can easily choke a baby, after all.

The rest of the weekend was spent in Queens. This is where the vegetarian treats were.

I spent Saturday at Rockaway Beach, a very popular beach in Queens. A subway stop brings people from all over, and Rockaway is home to the city’s only surfing area. It is so popular that many food stands have opened beachside outposts at the boardwalk.

A quick Google search for “Rockaway Beach boardwalk food” can show you how big a deal this is. I first caught wind when I kept seeing articles in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal about what was going on, but countless blogs and community papers have great information on it, too. A recent New York Times item and Brooklyn blog photo tour help get a feel for the place. The boardwalk sells tacos, arepas, juices and smoothies, among other treats.

Babycakes vegan bakery in Rockaway Beach, Queens

Vegan brownie and cookie sandwiches on the beach. Life is good.

One place to open this summer was Babycakes, a very well-known organic vegan bakery that is sensitive to food allergies and has locations in Manhattan, Los Angeles and Downtown Disney in Orlando. (I hope to check out the Orlando outpost sometime.) They are known for vegan doughnuts and cupcakes. When I heard they were opening in Rockaway for the summer, my mouth started watering, as I hadn’t been before. They don’t have their full offerings at Rockaway, but are limited to mini doughnuts (I don’t like doughnuts), waffles (interested but I passed) and, what Bill and I settled on, a cookie sandwich and brownie sandwich they keep cold, which is great for hot days. The filling is vegan cream, and they are amazing. The cookie is the perfect size for a beach snack, the brownie was a little too big and chocolaty for my taste, but we managed to finish it!

Let's go Mets!

Veggie burger with fixings at Citi Field

The next day we went to the Mets game. I got an Yves veggie burger (they also sell Yves veggie dogs). Theeeeenn I went to the best-kept secret in baseball stadiums, the toppings bar. I’m not ashamed to admit this is where I always clean up at baseball games. The Citi Field topping bar did not disappoint. I topped my sandwich with sautéed mushrooms, onions, lettuce, tomato, jalapeno and deli mustard. This also works for nachos or fries if veggie options aren’t present. Tried and true. And I wasn’t hungry for the rest of the game.

And the Mets promotion was a MetroCard. With an article telling the international food options along the No. 7 train (the line that runs past Citi), I might have to return next summer for some food and baseball.

Running wild

Flickr photo courtesy of ccarlstead

Since turning 30 last fall, I’ve thought of new ways to stay active. I do things here there to keep moving, but I was looking for something different that could work in a flexible schedule.

I’ve toyed with the idea of running with an end goal of doing a 5k. This is only 3.1 miles so it seems doable: I start running slowly, build up endurance and speed and end at a finish line. There is an end result to my actions and a sense of accomplishment. And I figure if I start now, I can be doing a 5k once it cools down in Florida and the running season is in full swing.

I have gone on some walks and keep track of my distance on walkjogrun.net. I need to take the next step and check out the Couch to 5k plan, which can get you from couch (me now) to 5k (my goal) in nine weeks. Not going to lie, I’m a bit nervous as I haven’t run more than a mile straight in my life, and that was in high school!

Last week I was talking with a friend who started running this year. She mentioned a race she is doing in January, and I told her I would run it, too. Verbalizing this commitment (and now blogging about it) holds me a little more accountable. To get started, I found a 5k in a few weeks I plan to walk. (I figure I can’t run a 5k in three weeks since I’m starting from zero.) I’m pretty excited to check out my first 5k and get a vibe of the run from an easier standpoint.

Do you have any advice or recommendations you can pass to a new runner with no experience? I’m a bit nervous, and hope I like it!

Post-vacation detox

Bill and I just got back from a great vacation visiting his family. We left the hustle and humidity of South Florida behind, along with our normal eating routine. Now we are home and it’s time to get back on track with food and drink.

Since I don’t eat meat and I have an unusual work and sleep schedule, I normally eat three small meals throughout the day. I usually have an apple and maybe a banana or smoothie thrown in. I have coffee when I wake up and mid-afternoon, and I drink water throughout the day. I am a creature of habit, and have found what works for me.

This schedule is usually thrown off while on vacation because of all the activity. Maybe I want a coffee/water/apple but am in the middle of something where it’s not available, you get the idea. (More on what I ate in an upcoming post.)

This vacation was no exception. I was up earlier, we were always on the go and many meals were grab-and-go. The easiest thing for a vegetarian wanting a quick meal is a cheese and vegetable sandwich (often my vacation standby). I also had Chipotle and pizza once each. To start the day I often had eggs or an egg sandwich. This resulted in more carbs and dairy and eggs than usual. When I got home I decided to take a few days and go vegan to get on track.

I went to the grocery store and grabbed a ton of veggies for salads, steamed veggies and rice, smoothies, that sort of thing. My first meal back in Florida was a no-cook kale salad with avocado, tomato, onion, jalapeno and corn. (I forgot black beans but it really needed that protein.) I made a dressing with the juice from one each orange and lime and a little olive oil and agave for sweetness. I tossed and ate. The raw, fresh ingredients really hit the spot. Though my salad was great, I sure miss my vacation.

How do you tackle vacation eating habits when you get back to reality?

Wheat berry salad

I was browsing the bulk food bins at the store when I noticed wheat berries. I had never had them, so I poured enough for a few servings into a plastic bag and took it home.

They sat in my pantry a while since I didn’t know what to do with them. I’m a fan of quinoa and always have couscous, but didn’t know what to expect from this. Wheat berries are known for their fiber, protein and iron, nutrients I’m always looking for as a vegetarian.

I finally boiled them and tried a few. They were great, chewy and hearty. I knew they would be perfect in a cold salad with hearty ingredients that would stand up to it. I took ingredients from a salad featured in the New York Times vegetarian Thanksgiving meal planner, couscous salad with dried cranberries and pecans that I like.

Clockwise from top: Wheat berries, walnuts, dried cranberries, onion, celery

For my version, with the wheat berries I threw in a big handful each (No exact measurements, sorry!) walnuts, dried cranberries, onions and celery and mixed it together. To that, I took a quarter cup olive oil and a tablespoon each cumin and lime juice, mixed and drizzled on top. A little salt was thrown in, mixed and the salad chilled. This was a great little snack or side dish to meals.

In addition to salads, I can see wheat berries being really good warm with roasted veggies and a vinaigrette, as a different grain in baked bread and in soups. If anyone has a way they enjoy it, I would love it hear it.

What is your favorite grain?