Getting through the early-summer greens glut

*Or, “Ramen: It’s not just for broke students anymore.”

I missed the first week of the “large” summer share that my roommates and I are splitting, but I am back in Boston for the avalanche of greens that is the second week.

We may need to buy some rabbits.

We may need to buy some rabbits.

Yep, that right there is what we in the business refer to as an “Oh My God What Have We Gotten Ourselves Into” amount of greens. Working clockwise from bottom left, we got romaine lettuce, red kale, rainbow swiss chard, mixed field greens, some seriously fierce parsley, beet greens with beets attached to them, and red oak lettuce. Not pictured is the baby spinach that I lost track of while corralling the greens for this class picture.

We also got these babies:

Spoon is for scale.

Spoon is for scale.

Now at this point you may be mentally composing a comment along the lines of, “Wow, Jackie, that’s a really cool CSA you joined if they send lime-flavored licorice ropes! I had no idea candy was an option! Where can I sign up?” Well, much to my dismay, these are not in fact farm candy. They are garlic scapes. And before you ask the natural “What the hell is a garlic scape” question, I’ll just admit that I have no idea. I’m going to go look them up right now. Imagine, if you will, elevator music is playing while I am away researching esoteric vegetables…

….strangers in the niiiight, exchanging glances…doobee doobeedoooo…………..

…Okay, I’m back. Apparently the scape is sort of the stalk of a garlic plant that will come up and eventually flower. Okay sure why not. I’ll let you know what we do with them and how it all turned out in the next post. For now let’s just look at some of the steps we are taking to whittle away at the Green Wall in the fridge.

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This one’s for you, Dad


Yayyyy Snapdragons!

Snapdragons finally came in today, and I grabbed two before they were even off the truck. People asked me what the big deal was and I told them they were my dad’s all-time favorite flower! They are going in the pots on either side of my front stoop. Love you both, happy summer!


How not to make coffee

*The first in a new serial, “How not to cook”

It’s been a rough week or so for me in the coffee department. There was a time when I could wake up and function pretty well without coffee. I was capable of making it out the door to work on time, working basic math problems, interacting with the general public, you name it. Now the best I can realistically hope for in the absence of coffee is to remember to put on pants before leaving the house. So I always have plenty of coffee in my pantry, both ground and bean-form, ready to go. And while it might seem like addictive behavior to have tons of coffee stockpiled in the cupboard, it’s actually just good sense: I can’t really hop in the car and zip to the nearest donut shop in the event of a household shortage, because I in my pre-coffee state should not, as they say in the pharmaceutical industry, be “operating heavy machinery”.  And some mornings a can opener constitutes heavy machinery. On those days, a coffee maker might as well be a particle collider. If I were the representative Australopithecus afarensis and coffee wasn’t happening yet, evidence of tool use by early man would have been delayed by another million years or so.

How does this thing work? Which hand do I hold it in? Do I just use it to hit the can into I bash a hole in it?

How does this thing work? Which hand do I hold it in? Do I just use it to hit the can until I bash a hole in it?

Now, at this point, you are likely already saying, “Hey Jackie, why don’t you just get one of those Kuerig doo-hickeys? Problem solved!” Ah, if only Keurigs were that simple. I rented a room from a married couple at one point, and the husband was quite passionate about his coffee. He had several types of rather bewildering brewing apparatus, but his go-to for an average Tuesday cup-o’-joe was a Keurig. This was before I had my own coffee maker-my beautiful, perfect Mr. Coffee-and several were the times that Joseph came into the kitchen to find me staring forlornly at the Keurig having failed to get it to give me coffee. Sometimes I was holding a cup 1/8 full of strong coffee. Other times just water. There was the incident when I couldn’t get the little coffee capsule into the stupid holder correctly and was trying to just hold the lid-thing shut. One time I was repeatedly plugging and unplugging the whole machine, hoping to reset whatever I had assembled and/or programmed incorrectly. Now in my defense I would like to say that I can assemble a portable dredge pump. I rigged a pulley system to get my queen-sized mattress up through the second floor porch window the last time I moved. I can do some pretty sweet stuff with a spreadsheet. I can do all those things, after I have had a few cups of coffee.

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Fiddleheads (with garlic)

Or: The pufferfish of the plant kingdom (with garlic)

Now right off the bat, you’re probably asking yourself two questions: 1) What the hell is a fiddlehead; and 2) Why the hell would anyone eat one. Yesterday my answers would have been, respectively, “I don’t know”; and “I don’t know”. Today, my answers are, again respectively, “The not-yet unfurled frond of a specific type of fern that is foraged for a few weeks in the spring”; and “I still don’t know”. (I should note that they are nowhere near as unappealing as dandelion greens. Those were probably the one thing I just couldn’t handle in the winter CSA. Ever wonder why no one really carries straight-up, unmixed dandelion greens? You probably haven’t, but I’ll tell you why anyway. It’s because they don’t taste good. Anyway, back to fiddleheads.)

Fiddleheads. It will become apparent pretty quickly that I just like the word.

Fiddleheads. It will become apparent pretty quickly that I just like the word.

The CSA really brought in the big guns for the last week of my winter share, having failed to break my spirit with the Great Cabbage Deluge of ’14. I mean, the first thing I noticed about my new fiddleheads was that the bag they came in had a label with what I’ll call a strident warning about the need to cook them. Combine that with the extra warning in that week’s email and I would go so far as to call it “shrill”. Bottom line: they really really advise against eating fiddleheads raw. Apparently there is a risk of some kind of gastrointestinal unpleasantness or associated microbial invasion if they are consumed uncooked. But hey, the same applies to chicken, and I eat that all the time, so why not. Continue reading


*Also known as Borshch, Barszcz, Barščiai, and something in a Cyrillic script that I don’t have on my keyboard to name a few.

So I got beets two weeks in a row, and I took this as a sign that it was time to make borscht. I foolishly assumed this would involve finding a recipe, gathering the ingredients, and making the soup. Ah, the naiveté. Looking back, it’s actually kind of cute. I have since learned that borscht recipes are like snowflakes and mom’s chocolate chip cookie batches: no two are exactly the same. The variation in ingredients and prep methods convinced me to back up a bit and do a little research to try and determine what was essential, what was traditional, what was most common, and what was overly fussy.

It turns out that borscht is the sort of soup that is anything you want it to be, as long as it includes beets. There are versions that are (no exaggeration) beets and water, and there are versions with more than thirty ingredients. To help sort through the mess I checked in with a Ukrainian friend (though there is some debate regarding the origin of this soup that is eaten throughout eastern Europe and Russia, Ukraine makes a good case) and asked her how some sample recipes compared to what she grew up eating. She got a good chuckle out of the more elaborate ones, and informed me that in her house anyway, borscht was suitable for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, and the whole point of it being a staple dish was that it was incredibly cheap to make and used whatever you had around. So according to her, you were definitely looking at beets, potatoes, cabbage, maybe some carrot, as the main ingredients. (Update: I spoke with another Ukrainian friend today who assured me that meat is absolutely ESSENTIAL. So again, there is more than one way to make a borscht, and apparently I’m not completely out in left field.) Continue reading