Thursday, August 12, 2010

This Week's Bin: Local, Organic Goodies at My Doorstep

Okay, so I meant to write this post two days ago.  However, I really wanted to get the empanada ideas out, and then yesterday I worked a 12-hour day and was super-pooped when I finally got home after 9:00.  So, I'm finally getting down to letting you guys know specifically what came in my biweekly Organics to You bin.  Now keep in mind, I could choose to receive the delivery weekly, but because of schedules and my familia's eating habits, biweekly is better for us.  What I receive is the "Small Bin" with the "Fruit Add-on." I pay $48 per bin/delivery and the lovely people at Organics to You deliver right to my door every other Tuesday afternoon.

I am hoping to make this a regular part of my blog (for the time being), mostly because I hope to get comments with ideas or suggestions of how to prepare some of the included foods.  Also, because I am constantly talking about this service, how much I enjoy it, and how many varieties of fresh items are included.  So without further ado, here's what came this week:

2 HUGE heads of Romaine lettuce
1 bunch of Swiss Chard (the red kind)
3 yellow bell peppers
1 bunch of green onions
5 large white potatoes
1 lb (or so) of green beans
1 English cucumber
1 large bunch of red, white and purple radishes

2 small watermelons
4 white plums
1/2 pint of blackberries
1/2 pint of bing cherries
5 bananas
2 peaches
4 donut peaches
3 nectarines
2 grapefruits
4 oranges

I must say, some weeks seem to be more abundant than others, and this one was not particularly impressive.  Everything, however, is just SO fresh and's not uncommon for me to open the bin and start sampling everything!

Now.....does anyone have any ideas for how to prepare radishes????

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Not Your Mama's Empanadas

This post is for Denise, who was asking for recommendations of interesting empanada fillings.

In Argentina, empanadas are a staple of the national diet.  Growing up as an immigrant kid in the U.S., I always had to try to explain to friends what they were.  Luckily, this country has become a lot more multicultural, especially where food is concerned. I don't think I have to explain that empanadas are like closed-up pockets of pastry stuffed with delicious fillings.  The traditional filling for Argentine empanadas is a mix of ground beef, cumin (and other spices), onion, chopped-up hard-boiled eggs, green olives and (optionally - but NEVER when you're making them for my sister) raisins.

If you're into this whole empanada idea and want to try your hand at it, you DON'T have to start from scratch.  There is a little-known source for empanada dough rounds (called "tapas" in Spanish) here in Portland. The shop to get them from is called "Dashen's International Market."  (Google it for location).  This is a great source for many Latin-American foods such as Yerba Mate, Dulce de Batata, Dulce de Leche, Goya products like the delicious cooked/frozen sweet plantains and so on.  There is a large chest freezer that has frozen packages of the empanada tapas.  Unless you plan to deep-fry yours, make sure you get the ones that say "para hornear." (For baking).  These will turn out more flaky when baked in the oven.

There are probably thousands of variations on what this "traditional" filling includes, and I am in no way an expert on that.  I am, however, somewhat creative in the kitchen and like to experiment with different ingredients.  Not too long ago, Denise and I brought empanadas in to work to share with everyone.  She made Cuban empanadas with a divine and flavorful picadillo filling, and I made a couple of different experimental types, which I shall list below along with some other ideas I have.

Ham & mozzarella (with or without oregano)
Fresh chopped tomato and mozzarella
Tomato, mozzarella and fresh basil
Honey goat cheese and arugula
Honey goat cheese and chopped dates
Prosciutto and asparagus
Cilantro pesto and queso fresco (Mexican cheese)
Sundried tomatoes and fresh mozzarella
Shrimp and tomato
Caramelized onions and Gruyere
Spinach and onion
Apple and cheddar cheese (I know, this one is iffy)
Blackberry & lemon zest (obiously desserty)
Grilled peaches and ricotta (need I say more?)
Apricot jam and almonds

Once you figure out what toppings you're going to use and prepare them, the rest is pretty simple.  Defrost your empanada dough (tapas) and put about 2 tablespoons of filling in the middle of each.  Moisten your finger with water or milk and run it along the entire edge of the dough, then fold it together.  Now, for sealing the empanada you have a few different options.  In Argentina, the most traditional way is to do a "repulgue."  The only way I can truly show/tell you how this is done is by recommending you search Youtube for "repulgue empanadas."  Alternatively, you can press it together and also decorate it by pressing a fork  all the way down the empanada to make ridges along the sealed edge.  If you're lucky (like Denise and I are) and have an empanada press, it's just a matter of closing the little device up, pressing it together and presto!  You're done.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Organics to You

A lot of the cooking I do depends on what random melange of fresh organic veggies and fruits are included in my bi-weekly "bin" from Organics to You.  I heard about this local organization from my friend Megan over a year ago and decided to try it when I went back to work full-time this March. I thought the convenience (as well as the novelty) would be worth a shot.  The system is similar to a CSA, except there is a lot more flexibility in terms of the frequency with which you receive your bin (once a week, every other week, or as seldom as you choose).  Also, you have the option to specify certain "dislikes" and likes in order to help guide what is included in your delivery as well as the option to start or stop at any time.  Oh yeah.....that's the convenient part about it....Organics to You delivers your organic goodies right to your front door.

So, if you look at the Web site (just Google it) you can get a general idea of what type of volume to expect with each size bin.  Also, there are options to choose more vegetables, more fruit, or specific types of either or both.  I decided to start with a small bin on a biweekly delivery schedule.  I originally ordered the "Latin" add-on, which would/should have included items such as cilantro, bell peppers, onions, garlic, get the idea.  Well, on that very first delivery Organics to You messed up my order and sent the fruit add-on instead.  What a happy accident!  I couldn't BELIEVE how much fruit was included!  There seemed to be an endless supply of oranges, plums, pears, berries, bananas, apples and on and on and on. I was immediately hooked (as were my 3 kids) and decided keeping the fruit add-on was a MUST.

So far, I love Organics to You.  Sure, we've had our mini-misunderstandings, but they always do everything in their power to correct their mistakes, etc.  My only real gripe would be that they tout themselves as dealing with LOCAL organic growers, and a lot of the merchandise does seem to come from California or Mexico.  But, who am I to complain?  Tomorrow I'll receive the next box, so tune in for the list of contents......

Up next - creative empanada filling ideas - a request from Denise T. :o)