Friday, September 19, 2014

Good Food Comes A-Knockin': Door-to-Door Organics

You don't have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces - just good food from fresh ingredients.
-- Julia Child

I grew up in rural Pennsylvania, never once wondering where the peas, strawberries, corn, and tomatoes I was eating came from. If they weren't from our garden they were probably from a nearby family member, neighbor, or roadside stand. Or if they were from the grocery store, I don't think my parents ever worried about pesticides and such -- back then no one was really concerned about what was in/on their food. "Local" and "Organic" weren't buzz words yet.

When I started getting serious about cooking about 5 years ago, I realized that the "organic" produce I was buying from the nearby food store just wasn't cutting it. Also, I like my dollars to go to the actual farmers (and not a huge corporation) whenever possible, which isn't always easy here in the NYC metro area. So, I started looking for a local organic produce option in my area. I tried a neighborhood CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) for a few years, and the produce was great, but the hours for picking up my box of goodies didn't mesh well with my getting home after 7 p.m. We also had to pick up our boxes from someone's home, and in the winter parking became tricky, as did navigating the poorly lit garage. There was one night I was sure that the police were going to be called, as I bumbled around in the dark for my box with a flashlight in one hand and a carton of local eggs in the other. Ugh!

Then, last December my gorgeous, healthy-eating neighbor Kat Loves Kale, mentioned that she had organic produce delivered right to her door by Door-to-Door Organics, and I've been using them ever since. (Thanks, Kat!)
Note: Door-to-Door comped part of my order for this week's box, which was very nice of them since I was planning on posting about them anyway. They also provided me with a discount code for any of you who want to give them a try. So, if you are lucky enough to live in an area where they deliver, you'll find a code for $10 off your first order at the end of this post. (Yay!)

The whole ordering process is very easy and stress-free. I get my box every other Thursday. Around Noon on the Friday before my delivery week, I can go to my account and see what's in my upcoming week's box. I have until 8 a.m. on the Wednesday before my delivery to change my order (you can make up to 5 swaps to your box if there's something you don't want/like/need). Then, on that Thursday, I come home to a well-packed box (or two) of beautiful organic produce and any grocery items I may have added to my order. Everything in the produce box is organic, and as local as they can get (depending on the time of year).

You can choose from a mixed box made up of organic fruits and vegetables, an all-fruit box, or an all-vegetable option. The boxes range from $25-$54 per box, depending on the size you select. In the summer, from June-Sept, there's an option to sign up for their coveted all-local organic box: "The Local Farm Box," which is a couple dollars more per box than your regular subscription, but oh-so-worth it! Such great stuff inside!

Here's what was in this week's Small Local Farm Box:
  • Zucchini Squash
  • White Button Mushrooms
  • Tomatillos
  • Romaine Lettuce
  • Red Tomatoes
  • Red Chard
  • Poblano Peppers
  • Kale
  • Green Cabbage
  • Delicata Squash
  • Cucumbers
  • Baby Eggplants

Why I'm a Returning Customer: 
  • Great Packaging: The 100% recycled boxes are well-packed with reusable or recyclable interior packaging. I ordered eggs and cheese a few weeks ago, and ended up getting home later than I expected (all deliveries are usually completed by 6 p.m.). It was an especially hot day, so I had prepared myself for dealing with a melted mess, but when I opened the box it was so well-insulated with ice packs, the eggs and cheese were still perfectly chilled. Also, if you don't have a recycling bin, there's an option to recycle your packaging directly with Door-to-Door Organics. (They'll pick up your used box when they deliver the next one.) They also have great customer service. If an item gets smooshed or doesn't arrive up to par, let them know. They will happily rectify it.
  • One Stop Shopping:  Door-to-Door Organics also offers all-natural grocery items in addition to their produce boxes. Everything from antibiotic-free meats and wild-caught fish, hormone-free dairy, dairy and meat alternatives, fresh-baked breads, deli products, beverages, and canned/pantry items. It's great for those, "I forgot to get almond milk when I was at the store!" or "I need some beautiful spreads and breads for my dinner party this weekend but don't have time to go food shopping!" moments. And, if you want to add more fruits/veggies beyond what you are already getting in your box, you can buy them individually via the "Shop" option as well. There's also a handy "Restock" category that let's you easily re-order items you've purchased in the past.
  • A Happy Box: There are always smiley faces on my packing slip, and sometimes you get a flyer/note from the local farmers. (How special is that?) Most of this week's box came from the Lancaster Farm Fresh Cooperative. 
  • Quality Ingredients: Organic food waiting at my door = great cooking awaits me in the kitchen! Look at these beauties: Poblanos, baby eggplants, tomatillos, zucchini, oh my!

And, as for what I'm going to do with the items from this week's box? I'm planning on making myself a lovely cocktail with the Dry Rhubarb Soda I ordered from the market section and gin from our bar, to sip while I dream up some delicious dishes to make with all of those gorgeous fruits and veggies. In the meantime, here are some of the year's favorite dishes using ingredients from my Door-to-Door boxes:

Summer Corn Salad with Smoked Ricotta Dressing

Sautéed Fennel, Apple and Kale Salad

Okay, okay. You've been wonderfully patient, so you can now be rewarded with a code for $10 off your first order with!

Here's the code...are you ready?

Note: This code is good only at and expires 9/19/15. The offer is limited to new, first-time orders only, one per customer. And, it's good towards a box of any size. You'll have the opportunity to add it on your order page ("Apply Coupon") before checkout.

Right now, Door-to-Door Organics delivers organic produce/groceries for free to various locations in New Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Michigan (there's a $1 delivery fee for Grand Rapids), Chicago, Missouri, and Kansas. They also deliver to Staten Island, NY.

If you can and do take advantage of this offer, please let me know how it works out.

Hooray for organic eating!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Duxelles: Mushroom Magic

I first made duxelles back in 2010, when I was cooking my way through The Fundamental Techniques of Classic Cuisine, and I remember thinking how amazing it was that mushrooms, shallots, herbs and butter could be so delicious. Now, I make a batch whenever I can. When a recent organic produce box included local mushrooms, I was inspired.

My basic recipe for duxelles goes as follows:

Gourmess Duxelles
2 TBS unsalted butter
1 garlic clove, minced
3-4 TBS finely chopped shallot
1 lb mushrooms, including stems, finely diced
1 TBS brandy
Fresh tarragon (or fresh parsley/thyme)

Note: You can leave out the brandy, but if you do so, please imagine me frowning and giving you the side eye. I use tarragon instead of the more traditional parsley or thyme because I love tarragon with mushrooms. I also sometimes don't chop the shallot as finely as I should -- and it still turns out divine, so don't worry too much about that.

Minimal MESS/ingredients/clean-up: Category 

To Do:
  • Lightly rinse your mushrooms and gently get rid of any grit, dirt, etc. Then dry with a paper towel before chopping. If your mushrooms are wet, they will become soggy and gross. DO NOT soak them in water under any circumstances. Pretty please.
  • Melt the butter in a shallow pan over medium heat, then add in the minced garlic and shallot, and cook until translucent, about 3-4 minutes.
  • Add the mushrooms and a pinch or two of salt. Cook until the liquid is released from the mushrooms, about 5-7 minutes. Stir in some chopped fresh tarragon (or parsley).
  • Add the brandy and raise the heat to medium-high. Cook for another 3-5 minutes, or until the liquid is gone. You'll notice that the mushrooms have become darker in color and the mixture is almost paste-like.
  • Remove from the heat. Stir in a bit more tarragon (or parsley) and season to taste with salt/pepper. Let cool to room temperature before eating. Voilà!

As I tried to not eat the entire pan's worth of duxelles, I started thinking of how I could use the lovely mixture. The traditional use is in omelets or as stuffing for vegetables and fish, but I was thinking of spreading it on little toasts with ricotta or goat cheese, or topping a pizza with greens and bacon. The tasty little mushrooms would also be great tossed in pasta with some cream and herbs, or maybe in some homemade ravioli? Or mini mushroom pies? Yum.

In the end, I just put them in a pretty bowl and devoured them with a glass of red wine.

To each her own.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Pantry Pleasures: Mediterranean Bean Salad

Some days, I wish I lived in the Mediterranean.

I think I would do well by the Sea, eating platters of olives, capers, fresh-caught fish, and flavorful tomatoes (my favorite), while sipping crisp wines and soaking up the sun for the rest of my days. 

But then I snap back to reality and remember I live in suburbia, nearly 4,810 miles from the Mediterranean (and yes, I actually checked the distance).

So, to cheer myself, I scanned my pantry and fridge for something Mediterranean in design, and threw together a tasty salad.  It was a perfect late lunch, and we ate it along with toasts spread with fresh ricotta and herbs. Mmmm.

Mediterranean Bean Salad (for Two)
1/2 cup green olives, sliced in half
1/4 cup sundried tomatoes in oil, chopped
1 15 oz. can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1 5 oz. can of light tuna (sustainable/dolphin-safe, please), flaked with a fork
3 TBS chopped fresh parsley
1 lemon
Garlic powder

Minimal MESS/ingredients/clean-up: Category 1

To Do:
  • Mix olives, tomatoes and 2 TBS chopped parsley in a bowl with 4-5 teaspoons of the oil from the tomato jar and 2 TBS of lemon juice.
  • Stir in the beans, and season to taste with salt/pepper and a pinch of garlic powder.
  • Add in the tuna and mix together gently until well incorporated. Cover and chill for at least 15 minutes to let flavors meld.
  • When ready to serve, adjust seasonings if needed, squeeze a bit more lemon juice over the salad, and sprinkle with a bit more of the chopped parsley to brighten. 
  • Close your eyes and imagine an ocean breeze and sunshine.
  • Enjoy!