Sunday, June 14, 2015

Sausage Ravioli with Swiss Chard and Bacon

I often buy Rana tortellini and ravioli because they are the closest thing to what we would normally buy at the store in Italy. Plus they are something easy and quick to cook, especially for the nights in which it is my husband's turn to cook.
Today I was out of pasta though so I decided to toss them with the swiss chard we got from our CSA yesterday, some bacon and some of the delicious Parmesan my sister brought me from Italy. I also used some chicken broth I made a few days ago out of the carcass of a roast chicken.
Everything cooks in one pan, which is something I always like (less washing afterwards!) and it's fairly quick to make.

Sausage Ravioli with Swiss Chard and Bacon

12 oz of Rana Sausage Ravioli
1 bunch of swiss chard
2 slices of bacon
1 garlic clove
2 cups of broth
1 cup of grated parmesan 

Thoroughly wash and dry the Swiss chard. Separate stems from leaves by cutting along the stems. Chop the stems and chop the leaves but keep them separate.

Warm up a large frying pan with tall sides and add the bacon slices at medium heat. Try to render as much of the fat as possible. Remove the slices when close to being done. Here there is a bit of a divergence of opinion between me and my husband: I like chewy bacon, and I use it like I would pancetta. So I just chop the bacon up and keep cooking with it. My husband likes crispy bacon, so if you are like him I suggest at this point you stick the bacon in the microwave to finish cooking and making it crisp. Then you can make it into crumbs and add on top of the ravioli at the end. Up to you.

Add the chopped stems and a couple tablespoons of the broth and cook until the stems are getting softer.
Now add the garlic (minced or sliced), the chard leaves, the ravioli and the broth. Bring to a boil and cook until the ravioli are tender (it should take about 5 minutes). If the ravioli are done and you still have too much broth in the pan, take the ravioli out with a spoon and set them aside and keep cooking the sauce until most liquid have evaporated. Then add the ravioli back and most of the parmesan cheese and toss (gently or you will break the ravioli) . Season with salt and pepper and serve.

Our CSA experience 2015: Green Earth Farm - Season Preview.

This is not our first CSA experience. We had two experiences with two different farms. The first one was a very good experience but it was a few years ago and they were not offering a pickup near enough to us anymore. The second experience was not so good because the owners were young and inexperienced but also because that year that was a drought in Illinois that definitely did not help the crops. This year we decided to join Green Earth Farm after glowing reviews by some friends and because we liked the idea of picking up the produce directly on the farm thus giving us the chance to show our kids where their food is coming from.

From our previous experience we know that joining a CSA requires a certain amount of flexibility when it comes to food tastes. You have to adapt to eating what comes in the box that week instead of what strikes your fancy. It is part of living with the seasons, and we appreciate the chance we have to do that in summer. We live in an area where eating seasonal food in the winter would mean not eating fresh vegetables for months. As much as we enjoy canned or pickled vegetables we are not ready to do the switch just yet. But summer gives us the opportunity to enjoy fresh, seasonal and local crops so why not take it? Moreover we are supporting a local farmer and thus our own local community. It's a win-win.

The season hasn't started yet, but 6/13 the farm had a "Season Preview" and we were able to meet the farmers, the kids got to feed the animals and pick some strawberries and we got a nice bag of veggies to bring home.
As you can see we got:
  •  a lettuce head
  •  a small box of strawberries
  •  a bunch of swiss chard
  • a bunch of kale
  • fresh oregano
  • fresh chive (with flowers!)
  • three parsnips (or parsley root. I forgot to ask!)
We are definitely looking forward for the season to officially begin. I will detail what we get in every box in this blog and post about recipes I make with each item.
Yesterday I made a potato salad with the fresh chives and I have used the flowers as well. It was nothing special, just potatoes, vegan mayo, olive oil, vinegar and lots of chives. The flowers have a delicate chive flavor and add color and prettiness to the salad, so give it a try!
The strawberries are already all gone as a snack, they rarely last more than one day in our house!

Our Food Summer Plans: trying to eat fresh, local, sustainable and healthy.

This summer we are trying to do things differently as far as food goes. We want our food to be fresher. We want our food to be local and sustainable when possible. We want to skip the supermarket. We want to make as much food from scratch as we can.
We are taking several steps in this direction:
  1. We joined a CSA called Green Earth Farm for the summer; 
  2. We joined a CSF (Community Supported Fishery) called Sitka Salmon Shares for 7 months starting in May;
  3. We are trying the local meat from a farm called Riemer Family Farm;
  4. We are getting milk and eggs delivered from Oberweis;
  5. We are getting organic fruit delivered from Door to Door Organics;
  6. We are getting cheese, honey and other miscellaneous things from our wonderful local farmers' market, the Woodstock Farmers Market;
  7. We are making our own yogurt, vilii and bread;
As you can see we had to compromise on some fronts.

The fish we are getting is definitely not local, but it is sustainable. Fresh fish is an unparalleled source of healthy, lean protein as well as Omega 3s and we simply love eating fish. So we decided to at least try to find a sustainable source for it and one that would have the fish come as directly as possible to us. We live in the Midwest, very far from any ocean, so there was no way for us to limit our fish consumption to local fish.

The fruit from Door to Door Organics is not local either. In the Midwest fruit is available for a very short time, and with very limited varieties. We will get local fruit from the local farmers' market when available, but fruit is such a great snack for our kids that we cannot just rely on local sources to feed two growing boys on it. 

The milk and the eggs from Oberweis are not organic but they are local and their bottles are all made of glass and reusable ( you return them to Oberweis and they refund you a bottle deposit) thus reducing waste immensely. Their milk is also gently pasteurized, unlike most organic milk available at the store that is Ultra-pasteurized. This means that more beneficial nutrients are available in it and we found it also means better yogurt (we make our own, remember?).

The meat is not organic either but it is local. Reimer Family Farm offers a CSA as well as some sampler boxes. We are not sure we consume enough meat for a monthly box, so we decided to give the sampler a try and then go from there.

I will be posting about our experiences in this blog as well as recipes that I develop with the ingredients that we are given. Let the summer of freshness begin!
I am looking for a way to get other stuff locally as well, particularly flour and grains. I will update you if I find any.