Week 6: Racedy, Go!*

So yesterday I was in Indianapolis for the 97th running of the Indy 500, i.e., The Greatest Spectacle in Racing! (probably trademarked . . .), plus an excuse for all kinds of over-the-top-ness, my personal favorites of which are the checkered-flag-pattern outfits. It was a great race (my 7th Indy 500, and probably my 14th or 15th Indy car race, and probably my 18th or 20th open-wheel race), and the rain managed to hold off until about an hour after the race was over. It was also cold, relatively speaking–in the mid-60s most of the day–so the problem most likely to be faced in previous years was absent.

Typically, it’s hot–last year was a record-setting 92 degrees–and on the track and in the stands, where people are crowded in next to one another, it can seem a whole lot hotter. Thus, the challenge is staying cool, which means staying hydrated but also means eating food that isn’t heavy and greasy. I’ve been experimenting with the food for a few years now (yes, please contain your surprise), and I’ve come up with a solution that meets the specific food needs of the day and also uses farm share produce.

Basically, I make salad wraps. I started with whole-grain tortillas. Next, I make or buy a spread of some kind, like hummus or a similar bean spread: this year I used some of the garbanzos I cooked a few weeks ago, to which I added garlic, cooked in a little olive oil and tahini until it got soft, plus some ginger and lemon syrups, plus some of the Asian greens, which I also cooked with the garlic and oils. I threw it all in the food processor with a little salt and pepper and got a green-speckled hummus-like spread. A little more oil probably would have smoothed it out more, but I was trying to reduce the oiliness. I shredded some carrots, and washed and dried some lettuce leaves, all of which got packed in their own separate bags or containers, and I also cut up some carrots and a pineapple (neither of which we used but will be fine for lunches), and I threw in some shredded wild turkey dark meat and some cheddar cheese. The trick with both the meat and the cheese is to make sure it’s in small enough chunks or shreds so that it wraps neatly.

For the past few years, we have been driving as far as Lafayette, IN, and staying overnight there, which makes it much less of a scramble on race day. I assemble the wraps in the hotel room in the morning: spread the hummus on the whole wrap, layer some lettuce leaves, sprinkle some grated carrots, add the meat and cheese (or not; I’ve also done veggie-only wraps), and roll it up. A sandwich bag goes over one end, sealed as far as possible, and then over the other end, again sealed as far as possible, which makes eating them much easier, as one end is always encased in plastic. It would be easy to add other veggies, even ones that have been pre-cooked in some way. (I’ve done caramelized onions in the past, and would happily do onions and zucchini; I’d prefer cooked versions of both to reduce the water content a bit and thereby reduce sogginess.) Salad-based wraps add water and fiber to the meal, both of which are helpful at hot events, the former for hydration and the latter so that one feels full without feeling so weighed down; the particular veggies vary with the CSA box. I could even imagine doing a fruit-based version, maybe using some Nutella or another nut spread to hold it all in place.

The CSA boxes haven’t been very varied: mostly Asian greens and hakurai turnips, with some lettuce and carrots thrown in for good measure. The carrots are from last fall, but have still been pretty good, albeit just a bit watery. This week, though, there was kale and chard–two of my favorite veggies–which will be featured with the turnip greens tonight, along with some garlic chicken and red rice. All of those things will make excellent leftovers, so I can have veggie wraps all week. Still, I’m very happy that the variety is going to increase; I find the Asian greens to be kind of boring–they all taste the same to me, despite the very different look, and I get tired of them, so this time of year is kind of a slog for me. By the end of June, though, there should be all kinds of things in the box.

*When I was a kid, one of us thought that “ready, set, go” was actually “racedy go,” pronounced “ray-setty-go.”

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Week 3: Yes, It’s Late

I meant to post this Sunday, and . . . things happened.

The lettuce has started showing up in the farm share boxes, which always provides me with a little dismay. Don’t get me wrong, it’s nice lettuce, and usually a fairly wide variety of  greens, not just a bag of limp green stuff, but I am not a huge fan of salad, and there’s really not all that much else you can do with lettuce. (Some of you remember the Lettuce Soup Experiment, and the green pile of Fail that turned out to be.) Yes, I know, we’re all supposed to love salad, and, really, I’m usually perfectly happy to eat it, but it always feels like way too much work. Also, I can’t really eat just a bowl of lettuce–that is just beyond boring–but I also can’t eat bell peppers or cucumbers, which are two of the things most frequently added to salads to make them more than just a bowl of lettuce. Thus, in order to make the salad an actual meal, I have to come up with things to put on it that aren’t peppers, cukes, or out-of-season tomatos (which, ew, why not just eat some pink kitchen sponges).

The other option, which I utilized last year, was to give all of my lettuce to a coworker–so he had salad all summer, and my lettuce didn’t go to waste, but I didn’t actually have to do anything with it. This year, though, I’m determined to eat at least some of it.

Toward that end, Saturday I roasted the beets from a couple of weeks ago, and I’ll slice or chop those. I also shredded a bag of carrots, and tossed them with a little oil and ginger syrup, with the intention of roasting them, too. However. I did not pay attention, or set a timer, and I ended up with a pan of charcoal. I was more than a little peeved, but there was nothing to rescue; it truly was a pan of charcoal. I still have more carrots in the fridge, so I have been grating one or two of those, but roasted carrots would have been nice. I have noticed that the carrots have been a little watery, and I thought the roasting would help that by getting some of the moisture out of them, but clearly I went a little far on that experiment.

I have cheese, too, some spinach from a few weeks ago, some whole wheat rolls in the freezer, so I had enough to make some meals out of this week’s batch. With just a little more ambition, I could have added sundried tomatos and/or steamed broccoli or some of the dried cranberries in the cupboard. Also, because a lot of the greens were bitter greens or cook-able greens, rather than straight-up lettuce, I’ve been wilting them in the microwave for 2-3 minutes with the beets and carrots and cheese, and it’s been yummy.

The other thing about salad is the dressing. (Yes, I know, I’m full of complaints today.) Bottled dressings have so much crap in them–thickeners and stabilizers and the like–that I hate to buy them, so I often settle for olive oil and balsamic vinegar and call it a day. Sunday, though, I went crazy: I took the last of the garlic–which I had chopped Saturday night for dinner, but hadn’t used all of it–and sauteed it over the very lowest heat in a little olive oil for an hour or so. I scraped it into a measuring cup (one of those Pyrex cups) and added ginger syrup, lemon peel and syrup, and two cubes of lemon juice from last week’s squeeze-a-thon, then stuck the immersion blender in it.

Hmm. Not bad. But it needs something. I ended up adding some raspberry mustard, some apple cider vinegar, and some salt and pepper, as well as a little more olive oil. The immersion blender doesn’t just puree the garlic and peel, it also emulsifies the whole dealio, so it hasn’t separated in the fridge. I mix a tablespoon or so with the carrots and beets so I don’t have to haul the bottle to work.

The rest of last week’s share was more Asian greens, including bok choi, some hakurai turnips with their greens (some people apparently put those on salads, too, because they’re milder and can be eaten raw), and the aforementioned salad greens. My downstairs neighbor came up for dinner Saturday night, so I marinated some chicken breasts in chicken broth with a little sesame oil, garlic, ginger syrup, lemon syrup, a splash of soy sauce and some salt and pepper (do you see a trend here?). I also had the last farm share onion to use, so I sliced it thin and caramelized it, then took it out of the pan to sear the chicken. I cooked a bunch of greens for a side dish–the turnip greens (they don’t last that well), a handful of kale from a few weeks ago, and one of the bunches of tatsoi–in a little oil and butter, along with some toasted sesame seeds. They were still crisp and bright green, so they made a nice complement to the chicken with its oniony reduction sauce.

This week’s share arrives tonight, and it should be similar to last week, though with some actual lettuce in addition to the other greens. I’m also getting a pile of hakurai turnips and bok choi, with which I’ll need to do something. That’s a problem for another post, though.