Saturday, March 8, 2014

WWOOF CSA and Potato-Crust Mini Quiches!

I've been trying new things lately. One of them is buying local and organic groceries, which I know intellectually is a healthier and more sustainable way to be a consumer but am too lazy usually to do. The second is baking savory goods rather than the usual butter and sugar bonanzas that erupt from my kitchen.

Enter WWOOF Korea! WWOOF stands for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms. I was first introduced to it through friends who spent vacations on farms in Belgium, France, Thailand, and Australia. They picked grapes, weeded gardens, babysat, built sheds, and otherwise worked with their hands while helping a planet-friendly, local business do its thing. It didn't surprise me to hear that there are WWOOF farms in South Korea.

What did surprise me, however, was that WWOOF CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) exists: it is a program that seeks to connect the farmers with the consumers buy delivering a seasonal box of produce from the farms in Korea directly to members of the community each week. There are so many cool things about this:
  1. WWOOF Korea is catering to English-speaking foreigners in Korea with this initiative, as you can tell by the website, Facebook page, and newsletter.
  2. The produce that you receive each week is kind of a surprise, but you know it's always what is in season, and there are highlighted specialties from different regions in Korea.
  3. Your groceries are delivered to you! Now, E-Mart and other Korean conglomerate-owned big box stores do this, too, because this is Korea and delivery is just the modus operandi, but still.
  4. Fresh, local, and organic! At a not-exorbitant price!
Obviously, I was quickly convinced to sign up. However, I only signed up for a one-week trial ("taster basket"), since winter break is over and I will cook much less often now. The longer the period you sign up for (one month, six months, etc.), the better your price. I signed up on February 24th, but unfortunately the boxes are mailed out each Monday, which meant that I had to wait over a week to get mine! But I received it on March 4th and was eager to see what was inside.
Eggs, strawberries, potato walnut bread, citron cakes, apple jam, garlic, potatoes, onions, a carrot, bay salt (a specialty from Jeollanam-do), bok choy, spinach!!!, and winter cabbage.
As soon as I opened up my box, I smiled really wide. Smart packaging placed a carton of bright red strawberries, a loaf of bread, and golden cake-like things at the very top. Beneath, I discovered vegetables and a mysterious, pretty package that turned out to be salt. There was also some information about WWOOF CSA and their March newsletter, which I read and really enjoyed. It may sound odd, but it makes me so happy to see how this model of a local, community-based food system is actually working and thriving in Korea.

So, it didn't take me long to finish the strawberries and the cakes, which I think might have been vegan. But what was I going to do with all of those vegetables? I looked at the spinach, and then I looked at the eggs, and then I looked at the muffin tin drying in my kitchen sink, and I thought, "Quiches."

With some help from my friend Sara, I found a tips online for how to make quiches in cupcake tins and also how to use potatoes for the crust (since good dough is a pain to make without a food processor -- also a plus because it's flourless and gluten-free).

I didn't follow any recipe exactly, so I'll just describe roughly what I did and leave you with photos!
Mini-quiches just before being popped into the oven.
WWOOF CSA organic ingredients: potatoes, spinach, eggs, garlic, and salt. Other ingredients: milk, pepper, dried basil, and just a bit of flour. And imaginary cheese. I didn't have cheese, so I just pretended my quiches had some melted Gruyère on top...

For the crust, I peeled the potatoes into thin strips, added pepper, and arranged them on the bottom and sides of the cupcake tins like little crusts. I forgot to grease the tin, so later the quiches had a bit of difficulty coming out, but otherwise the potato crusts held together just fine. (According to the recipe I found, you should bake the crusts alone for a bit first before adding the quiche filling. I totally didn't read that part. It didn't really matter though!)

I then added finely chopped spinach and diced garlic to the potato bowls. The last step was the egg filling; for 3 servings (6 mini quiches): 2 eggs, 1 cup of milk, salt & pepper, and 1 tablespoon of flour to thicken it -- and for me because I'm weird, dried basil -- whisked into frothy goodness and poured over into the crusts, filling them to the top. Baked at 180°C/350°F for 25 minutes in a convection oven, and they came out like this:
Voila. Des quiches petites. Fait avec amour, de Corée!
Beautiful! And they were delicious (although my standards are low). The only problem I had was getting them out of the muffin tins, since I'd neglected to grease them. But this just meant that I got to spoon out the extra eggy filling stuck to the tins and eat it directly. No great loss there.

So, that was my first experience baking a savory treat! It was fun, and I learned some things that I'll keep in mind for next time. Thanks, WWOOF, for giving me great, fresh ingredients to work with, and I hope to find an excuse to get another box from you in the near future!
Noms. I need to make about a dozen more of these.
Oh, one more story: organic stuff is never treated with pesticides. This is good for humans. It's also good for pests! It means that they can survive in the natural environment in which the produce is grown. But if you don't like finding pests in your food... Ha. Keep your mind open to that possibility.

So, I was about halfway through the aforementioned carton of delicious strawberries when I saw a brownish blob stuck to the side of the carton. I took a closer look and realized that it was a slug! A tiny, cute little slug in my strawberries. Ick? Well, it wasn't exactly a welcome sight, but I also saw that the slug was still alive. So, some definitive proof that my fruit was free of fatal chemicals. Deciding that I wasn't actually grossed out by my discovery, I dropped the little guy off outside and rewashed the strawberries, quickly polishing them off.
Sorry, buddy, they're mine.

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