Uh oh. Only three weeks into the CSA season and I'm already a full week behind in posting. Not an auspicious start. This is no fault of Little River Market Garden, which has been supplying great stuff. Let's see what we can do to get caught up.
The Week 2 share brought kale, pei tsai (the unnamed mystery green from Week 1), basil, passionfruit, chinese leeks, long beans, roselle (a/k/a Jamaican hibiscus), and green beans (in the bag).
The basil quickly went into a salsa verde (Italian style, not Mexican), which is good on just about anything and everything: with fish, chicken or beef, tossed with vegetables, dressing a salad, slathered inside a sandwich. The kale and pei tsai hung around the fridge until Week 3 (no picture) arrived with more greens (more kale, radish tops, kohlrabi tops). They all went into a gumbo z'herbes, about which, unfortunately, the less said the better. I was working from the Commander's Palace cookbook, which would seem a decent enough place to start, but wound up with an unappetizing stockpot of swamp bog. I think there was a roux failure somewhere along the way.
A couple experiments that fared better:
The thinking process here went something like this: first, I saw the basil and thought "pesto." Then Mrs. F used up the basil in the salsa verde. Then I saw the long beans and thought of trennette with pesto, which often includes green beans. Then I looked at the Chinese leeks next to the long beans, and thought "Why not an Asian pesto?" The Chinese leeks (much like garlic chives) were chopped, then thrown into the food processor along with some peanuts and enough peanut oil to make a paste. This became a topping for a stir fry of chicken thighs and long beans, the chicken first marinated in soy, garlic, ginger and honey. The chicken, long beans and "pesto" were served over ramen to serve as the pasta element of the dish (I know, chicken has no particular relationship to an Italian pesto, but we had it in the fridge).
The long beans are a favorite of the whole family, including Mrs. F who typically hates green beans. And the "Asian pesto" here provided a nice flavor punch and texture, though the Chinese leeks are pretty pungent raw. We're considering repurposing the rest of the pesto as a dumpling stuffing, and bought some gyoza skins to try it out.
Meanwhile, last night's dinner was straight out of the Momofuku playbook. Week 3 also brought a kohlrabi and some adorable, perky green radishes. I'd just read in Lucky Peach how David Chang had originally intended Ssäm Bar as a place doing Korean burritos (an idea which bombed at the time, though Roy Choi was phenomenally successful on the West coast a couple years later doing Korean tacos with Kogi BBQ). Hey, I'd eat that.
I started a pork shoulder with a salt and sugar rub the night before, then put it in to cook at 250° for about six hours. A couple hours before dinner I made a batch of Chang's ginger scallion sauce, and started a "quick kimchi" of the kohlrabi and radishes. First, the vegetables were sliced thin, along with some carrot, and sprinkled generously with equal parts salt and sugar; then after about 10 minutes I poured off the liquid they released. When I realized that Chang's basic kimchi recipe calls for scallion, ginger and usukuchi soy sauce (about 75% of the ginger scallion sauce recipe), I just threw a spoonful of the ginger scallion sauce in with the vegetables. I cheated even more by using some prepared "kimchi base" (Momoya brand) I picked up at Japanese Market, which really doesn't suck. I threw some pea shoots into the mix just for a different texture, then let it all sit.
From there it's a DIY affair: grab a warmed tortilla, throw on a layer of shredded pork, a couple spoonfuls of ginger-scallion sauce, a smattering of the kimchi vegetables, some fresh cilantro and chunks of avocado, then roll it all up. Good stuff.
But if you really want a taste of what can be done with Muriel's produce, I'd recommend a visit to Red Light. The restaurant is literally just down the Little River from the farm, and Chef Kris Wessel has always been one to hunt for great local product (he interested me to the joy of local mulberries, among other things), so I'm not surprised that they've connected. When I was in this weekend, he was using the roselle as a tangy accompaniment to a perfectly cooked sea scallop along with pineapple and corn, and I also spied the pei tsai in a bowl of creamy greens that was probably much more successful than my shameful gumbo z'herbes. And speaking of Louisiana classics, with the weather having cooled off a bit, Kris rolled out some veal grillades and grits, a dish I haven't seen here since he was doing it years ago at Liaison. Now that's some real cooking.