Posted by: nekojita | June 19, 2008

My CSA box made me do it

So I am back in Ohio, and will be for some time. Blogging was only a very occasional activity for me in California, but I imagine that I will be lonelier here in Columbus and will therefore blog more often. It makes me feel very frailty-thy-name-is-woman, but there it is.

In any case, I arrived back home to find the fridge full of unused CSA items. Well, not full–the fridge is never full under B’s regime; in fact the fridge was really quite empty. However, the few items that were in there came from our CSA box, sad but hopeful orphans waiting for the right dish to come along.

To be fair, B shouldn’t have to bear responsibility for the CSA box. I bullied him into it, having seen the Local Harvest site for Elizabeth Telling Farms and decided that we should have half a dozen farm fresh eggs and assorted random vegetables each week.   For the last three weeks, he–all by his lonesome–has had to use vegetables granted to him with totalitarian lack of choice. Although, that’s not exactly true either, as I will explain below. But in theory, it seems a bit of a masochistic way of acquiring fresh produce. It’s freedom through submission, or some such philosophy…

So, what did I find in the fridge? Voilà! Baby turnips, with greens still attached; stinging nettles (!!!); pea shoots; garlic scapes (???); baby lettuce; green beans. Now, what to do?

Therein lies the genius of the CSA box. I had to make something new, and that preferably used as many of the vegetables as possible. I set aside the lettuce and the green beans–those were easy and could be used at any meal. The nettles, the pea shoots and the scapes were the tricky ones. In fact, B voluntarily picked out the nettles and pea shoots from Sandy’s “extras” box, either because he was genuinely curious to try them, or because he sadistically wanted to see what I would do with them.

This is what I came up with. I think I passed the test, albeit not with flying colors. The recipe had a few kinks, but overall, I’m pretty pleased with myself. If you don’t like it, no skin off my nose–blame it on my CSA box!

Nettle and Ricotta Gnocchi with Braised Baby Turnips, Pea Shoots and Garlic Scapes

*denotes an item from the BOX

The dumplings

  • 2 cups stinging nettles* (you could use spinach, chard or any other softer green)
  • 1 cup of fresh ricotta, drained (I didn’t do this well enough in advance)
  • 1 egg*
  • 1/4 cup grated parmiggiano
  • 1 pinch ground nutmeg
  • 1/3 cup flour (you may eliminate this if you drain the ricotta very well)
  • 1 tbsp butter, melted
  • 1 cup cornstarch

1. Blanch the nettles in a large pot of boiling, salty water, for 1-2 minutes (I’m paranoid, so I did it for 2). Plunge immediately in cold water to stop the cooking. Drain and let the nettles wick dry on a couple of paper towels.  Squeeze any last drops of water out of the nettles between two clean hands. Chop the nettles coarsely.

2. Mix the drained ricotta and egg together in a bowl. Add the parmiggiano, nettles, butter and nutmeg, and beat everything together. Add the flour and mix gingerly until no dry streaks remain. Let the mixture sit, uncovered, in the fridge for 1/2 hour while you (I) go buy some cornstarch.

3. Put some wax paper on a sheet pan and dump about 2/3 cup cornstarch on it. Shake to distribute. With 2 teaspoons, make the gnocchi, following this method: a) scoop up some batter with one spoon, b) scrape the batter off with the other spoon, c) repeat until you have a ball (2-3 times), d) plop it onto the cornstarch on  the cookie sheet.

4. When you are done, put the gnocchi into the fridge to dry a bit. Put a large pot of salty water on to boil.

The sauce

  • 1 bunch (~8) baby turnips* with greens attached, cleaned well
  • 1 TB butter, plus 4 TB for later
  • 2 garlic scapes*
  • 1/2 cup water
  • salt
  • 1 large fistful of pea shoots* (note: do not squeeze!)
  • fresh ground pepper

1. Make sure your turnips are clean! Trim off the skinny beardy ends and any brown spots. Pull off any yellowing leaves. Chop the scapes into pea-sized bits.

2. Put 1 TB butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the scapes and sauté until fragrant. Add the turnips, water and butter. Don’t stir. Cover and let simmer for about 10 minutes. Turn the turnips. Let simmer for another 10 minutes. The turnips should be done. Pull them out and put them in a warm place. Leave the liquid in the pan, simmering over medium low heat.

3. Meanwhile, your large pot of water should have come to a boil. Reduce the heat a bit, so that it’s at a gentle rolling simmer, rather than a hard boil. Slide the gnocchi (about 5 at a time) into the water. When they float, use a slotted spoon to fish them out, and put them in the turnip liquor in the skillet. When all of the gnocchi are in the skillet, sprinkle the pea shoots on top and slip the turnips back into the pan. Cover and let steam for about 2-3 minutes.

4. Plate in shallow bowls, and serve with plently of crusty bread.

Serves 2

Resistance is futile!

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