I am going through a photo slump lately, the kind where I hate the places I usually use and hate the new places I try, so all of my photos are turning out just O.K., and I’m afraid to even submit them to Foodgawker or Tastespotting because a little more rejection is just not what I need right now; nonetheless, there’s nothing wrong with my eating, as you can probably guess, so let’s focus on that.
I’ve joined a CSA. This is a fairly big deal. You probably already know what one is, but I didn’t—not until June, when one of my favorite bloggers mentioned a shipment from hers, and I said something about being jealous, and she said, Doesn’t Chicago have Community Supported Agriculture? And I said, Well, I guess we do.
Here’s how it works: you pay a flat upfront fee (mine was a reduced $180 because of a rough growing season in Chicago), like you’re buying a share in the farm, and, in exchange, the farmers give you regular shipments of fresh produce.
Actually I think it was fate that I learned this in June, because Broad Branch Farm (located in central Illinois, four miles east of a town named Wyoming) was only the second farm I contacted, and, would you believe it, they still had openings for the vegetable half shares, delivered every other weekend for a total of eight shipments, beginning in July.
I got my first shipment Saturday, and, people, I am so excited. In the box (again, pay no attention to the overexposed photography) were peppers, garlic, Swiss chard, lettuce, turnips, parsley and, oh my gosh, was all I kept thinking to myself while I pulled packages like presents out of the cardboard: how am I going to eat all this?
So I started with soup.
Having had such success with vegetable-based soups (celeriac, carrot, spinach) in the past, this was a natural choice for the turnips, but, I am sorry to say, a disappointing one. While the soup was edible, it lacked flavor, of any kind, enough so that I was shaking additions on top (more salt! some parsley!) in an attempt to help things. It was creamy, it was hot, but it was nothing much else. I’m half-tempted to add the leftovers to some mashed potatoes (do any of you have thoughts on that?).
On to the greens. There was a little brochure with my share that gave news about the farm and included a recipe for a quick breakfast—Swiss chard and eggs. What you do is this: saute the Swiss chard (stem and leaf, which I chopped up roughly), crack some eggs on top and cover until cooked through. I added a step in scrambling and pouring in a little milk, as well as seasoning the whole thing with salt and pepper, but, let me tell you, I loved it. I ate it for dinner Saturday and then again for breakfast Sunday. Swiss chard is similar to spinach and from the same family as the garden beet, so you could use those if they’re handy. It will be ready in 15 minutes, and you’ll feel totally satisfied when you’re done.
Then, the peppers. I found five or six of them in there, in different sizes, some fat and short, some skinny and long like jalapenos, but they were all sweet, and so I searched a little online and found something perfect: Potato fritters with sweet pepper relish.
This is a little more fussy of a recipe than I usually like: you have to make the relish at least two hours ahead of time, and, separately, you have to peel, dice and cook the potatoes, before mixing them with other things, forming them into patties covered in bread crumbs and frying them on the stove.
However. This recipe is worth it.
Reminiscent of the so-good-I’m-still-talking-about-them croquettes I got at a Japanese deli in San Francisco’s Ferry Building last summer, these little fritters are crispy on the outside, soft and creamy on the inside, blended with bites of cilantro and onion and cheddar cheese. And the pepper relish, cold and sweet, drenched with balsamic vinegar and olive oil, makes the perfect complement on top.
Plus, these fritters look so pretty when you’re done! (and that’s nothing to scoff at, particularly these days, when I’m the one behind the camera.)
Potato Fritters with Sweet Pepper Relish
Adapted from What Did You Eat, via Deborah Madison’s The Greens Cookbook
4 to 6 russet potatoes, peeled and diced
3 egg yolks
1/4 cup roughly chopped cilantro
1 onion, diced
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
salt and pepper to taste
about 1 cup bread crumbs
4 Tablespoons oil
Recipe for sweet pepper relish (*see below)
Boil the potatoes until tender, then drain and mash, leaving them a little rough in texture. In a medium-sized bowl, combine the potatoes with egg yolks, cilantro, onions and cheese. Season with salt (I’d be generous here) and shape into little patties. You can pop them in the fridge or freezer at this point to help them meld together quickly. When ready to cook, dredge the patties in bread crumbs, pressing the crumbs into each side. Heat the oil in a skillet until hot, and cook the patties over medium high heat, until browned on both sides. Top with the pepper relish and enjoy!
*Sweet Pepper Relish
3 sweet peppers (green, red, yellow—whatever you have)
1/4 small onion, finely diced
1/2 cup virgin olive oil
2 Tablespoons or more balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper
Chop the peppers into small, diced pieces, and combine them in a bowl with olive oil, vinegar and salt and pepper. Marinate this for about 2 hours, then drain the oil off (you could use the drained oil for a salad dressing) when you are ready to serve the fritters.