Thursday, April 23, 2009

So Close

We joined one of the wonderful vegetable and fruit CSAs that operate in the Boston area! We chose Red Fire Farm because it has a pick-up in our neighborhood, but I took so long to sign up that we've had to settle for the Cambridge pick-up location. So a note on CSA membership: January and early February are the times to shop around and join: by late February and March many of them are already full. Anyone still looking to find a CSA can check out the great list compiled by the Boston Globe.

But that doesn't start till June, and though yummy early spring things like asparagus, spring lettuce, rhubarb, and pea shoots are ready for local sale a few hundred miles to our South, they're really not quite seasonal and local in New England yet. It's a good time to be expansive in our idea of local, but it's also a good time to remember the non-vegetable things that are seasonal and local. Like the delicious meat we've been getting for several months now from the Stillman Farms meat CSA. The next delivery is this weekend, and so I'm down to the last of last month's share: the things I didn't know quite what to do with, or was trying to avoid using for some other reason.

Here's what was left: stew beef and a huge two-inch thick, almost two-pound hunk of bacon.

I love beef stew, but have basically one beef stew, the boeuf bourguignon from the Gourmet cookbook, that I make and while it's delicious, my whole family is tired of it. So I tried a few pages over in Gourmet, and found a wonderful recipe for Ropa Vieja, which I modified a good deal to come up with this half-crock-pot delight.

Ropa Vieja

To prepare the beef, boil in a large pot of water for 1 1/2-2 hours:
1 1/2 pounds stew beef
2 carrots, roughly chopped
1 onion, roughly chopped
1 tsp. latin oregano
1 tsp ground cumin
1 T salt
1/2 bay leaf
1 tsp peppercorns

Let cool for about 30 minutes, then strain the liquid and save as beef stock. Pick out the beef and shred it. Compost the rest.

In the meantime, saute for about 10 minutes
3 red peppers, seeded and cut into strips
1 large red onion, cut into strips

Now, put into a crock pot
the shredded beef
the sauted peppers and onions
1 can or jar of whole or chopped stewed tomatoes or 2-3 roughly chopped tomatoes
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp ground pepper

cook on low for 4-5 hours

Serve with rice

Spinach Salad

This is Darla Alexander's spinach salad recipe, modified to accomodate the slab o bacon, which is really a treat to work with, being in fact just like the French version of bacon, "lardons."

Cut 1/2 pound slab of bacon into fingernail-sized pieces. I find it best to cut the bacon when it's frozen. Saute, with salt and pepper, until just beginning to brown. Put onto paper towels to drain off excess fat.

In the meantime, rinse and rip 4 cups of spinach into bite-sized pieces, slice 2 cups of mushrooms, and toss together.

In a saucepan, combine
2 T soy sauce
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
4 tsp. vegetable oil
1 large garlic clove, whole
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp ground pepper

bring to a boil and then immediately remove from heat. Toss warm bacon and warm dressing over salad and serve immediately.