Iron CSA: Week 2

CSA week 2

Considering that we had out of town guests visiting last week and had a few evenings in which we dined out, I am amazed at how well we did at eating what was in our box! This week, even though we ate in every night, it was harder to get through our box. Game on, meal planning. Game on.
Week Two
Here’s what we got (and what we did with it):
  • 2 zucchini (got soft and yucky before the end of the week)
  • 1 pattypan squash (kicked to next week)
  • 1 pickling cucumber (sliced and eaten with salt and pepper)
  • a scant pound of new red potatoes (grilled with last week’s onions in a packet)
  • 1 head of cabbage (kicked to next week)
  • 3 crookneck squash (1 was diced and added to the Feisty Green Beans below, the rest are going to next week)
  • 2 peaches (eaten out of hand)
  • 2 onions (kicked to next week)
  • 1 tomato (rotted after a couple days. MEH.)
  • a scant pound of green beans (half went into this Cashew Curry and the rest went into a half recipe of these Feisty Green Beans.)

Leftovers From Last Week

So far, so good! Some of these recipes were amazing! We particularly loved the Feisty Green Beans and the Sweet Cabbage Slaw.  If you are participating in a CSA, do you manage to finish everything in your box each week? If you don’t, what do you do with the leftovers?

Iron CSA: Week 1

For our anniversary this year, Jeremy and I decided to purchase a small CSA share. We ordered from Bray Family Farms, a local farm near where we live. Last Saturday was the first pickup, and I’m excited to see what comes for the rest of season. I felt a bit like I was playing Iron Chef in trying to figure out what I was going to do with my box contents, and I thought it would be fun to track how we cook and eat everything. Unfortunately, I decided to do this after we had eaten most of the first box, so there’s no picture of that one.
 
Week One
Here’s what we got (and what we did with it):
  • 1 zucchini (sliced thin, seasoned with Penzey’s Northwoods seasoning, and grilled as a side)
  • 1 pattypan squash (sliced into rounds, seasoned with Penzey’s Northwoods seasoning, and grilled as a side)
  • 3 pickling cucumbers (sliced and eaten raw with a little salt and pepper)
  • 1 pound or so of new red potatoes (I made this Tempeh Curry Recipe)
  • 1 head of cabbage (half used to make this Spicy Cilantro-Peanut slaw, the other half is TBD for next week).
  • 2 crookneck squash (sliced thin and fried)
  • 2 peaches (eaten out of hand)
  • 3 fairly mature spring onions (kicking those to next week)

I can’t wait to tear into this week’s box. Have you purchased a CSA share this year or in the past? If so, what do you like about it?

Fried Squash

fried squash

This is one of those simple, homely recipes that I love. My Grandma used to fry squash regularly when I was growing up, and I don’t really remember her preparing squash any other way. I’m sure she must have made some casseroles, but I don’t recall those. Now, I always feel like the first yellow crookneck squash of the season need to be sliced and fried the way she used to. The rest of the summer crop can be used more creatively, but fried squash always helps me ring in the summer.

I’ve written the recipe below to serve four, and it’s very adaptable and easy to play with. I generally allow one squash per person if they are small. We always use a mix of flour and cornmeal to bread our squash, but you could use some breadcrumbs or panko in place of the cornmeal, if that’s your preference. The squash can be seasoned simply with salt and pepper, or you can use a favorite spice blend on them. It’s up to you!

Fried Squash

  • canola oil for frying
  • 4 yellow crookneck squash
  • 2/3 C all purpose flour
  • 1/3 C cornmeal
  • 1 T corn starch
  • salt and pepper
  • spice blend such as Northwoods, Essence, or seasoning salt, optional

Heat about 1/4 inch of oil in a large, heavy frying pan over medium high heat. In a shallow bowl, mix the flour, cornmeal, and corn starch with a fork and season with salt and pepper. Slice the squash 1/4 inch thick. Season the slices with salt and pepper or a spice blend on both sides. Dredge the slices in the bowl and lay them aside until the the oil is hot. When the oil is hot, dredge each slice through the flour mixture again before dropping them in the pan. Be sure to shake off excess flour. Fry each slice for 4 minutes per side, frying in batches if necessary so as not to overcrowd the pan. Remove to a rack or paper towel lined plate to drain. Serve hot! Tomato Onion Chutney is a great accompaniment.

Serves 4.

Chicken Tacos

This isn’t a terribly original recipe, but it’s dead easy and absolutely delicious. It’s a mashup of the Penzey’s recipe for chicken tacos, and a chicken taco recipe from a back issue of Real Simple. It’s become my go-to taco recipe

  •  1 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • canola or vegetable oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • salt and pepper
  • juice of a lime
  • 1 4.5 oz can diced green chiles
  • 2 T Penzey’s chicken taco seasoning
  • 1/2 C of water

Heat a little oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Slice the chicken breasts into thin strips, then saute in the oil until they begin to turn brown all over. Remove the chicken to a plate, and add a little more oil to the pan. When the oil is hot, add the onion, season with salt and pepper, and saute until soft and clear. Return the chicken to the pan and sprinkle the lime juice over the chicken and onion. Stir well to coat and cook for 1-2 minutes. Add the green chiles. Season everything with the chicken taco seasoning, and stir to coat. Let cook another minute or two, then add the water. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 10 minutes, or longer if you like less sauce.

Serve with hard or soft tortillas, and your favorite taco condiments. These are great dressed simply with a little pico de gallo, and maybe some pickled jalapeno slices for extra kick!

Makes approximately six tacos if you’re hungry and eight if you’re feeling generous.

Crunchy Cole Slaw, Remixed

16 oz cole slaw

1 bag broccoli slaw

1 C grated carrot

1 C grated celery

1 C green onion, sliced

1 C toasted almond slices

1 C sunflower seeds

1 package ramen noodles, crumbled

2 T sesame seeds

1/2 cup oil

1/4 cup rice wine vinegar

1/4 cup soy sauce

1/4 cup honey

1/2 tsp ground ginger

1/2 tsp garlic powder

salt and pepper

In a large bowl, toss together the slaws, carrot, celery, green onion, almonds, ramen, sunflower seeds, and sesame seeds. In a separate bowl, whisk together the remaining ingredients. Drizzle over the slaw then toss well to combine. Serve immediately.

Serves a crowd!

Chana Masala (Chickpea Curry)

Image
 
I have been spoiled, in that until recently I have always lived near at least one really good Indian restaurant. Now that the closest one with decent food is about 30 minutes away, I have been making do with a lot of Trader Joe’s frozen Indian dishes. That is, until about a month ago, when I decided that it was time to learn to make a few of my favorites myself. 
 
This recipe is the product of that project. I can’t speak to its authenticity, but it certainly tastes better than its frozen counterpart, and it’s made with ingredients that can be readily picked up at any grocery store, making substitutions like lemon juice for amchoor. In this recipe, I chose to use Penzey’s garam masala blend, but if you’re feeling ambitious, you can always try making your own from scratch. I have also used halved cherry tomatoes instead of canned diced tomatoes, and while the texture is different, the flavor is excellent. You can also tweak the heat by using any combination of hot curry powder, hot peppers, cayenne, or none depending on how much heat you want. Tonight, I used a jalapeno, the cayenne, and a half tablespoon of hot curry powder along with a half tablespoon of sweet, and it was enough to make your head sweat. Consider yourselves warned.
 
Chana Masala
  • 1 T oil or ghee
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 T garlic, minced
  • 1 T ginger, minced
  • 1 chile such as a jalapeno pepper, seeded and deveined, finely chopped (optional)
  • 1 T garam masala
  • 1 T curry powder
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 1 tsp brown mustard seeds
  • 1 15 oz can diced tomatoes
  • a pinch of sugar
  • 1 15 oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 C water
  • juice of half a lemon
  • salt
  • scallions 
  • cilantro

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. When the oil is hot, add the onion, ginger, garlic, and chile pepper if using. Saute for about 5 minutes, until the onion is soft and beginning to brown a bit. Stir in the garam masala, curry powder, mustard seeds, and cayenne pepper. Let cook 1-2 minutes. Pour in the tomatoes and their juices, and use a wooden spoon to scrape any brown bits off the bottom of the pan. Stir in a pinch of sugar to the tomatoes, then add the chickpeas, water, and lemon juice. Bring to a boil, then reduce the temperature and let simmer uncovered for 10-15 minutes. Before serving, season with salt. Taste and add more salt or more lemon juice if a little more sharpness is needed. Garnish with chopped scallion greens and cilantro. Serve with naan, bhature, or rice.

Serves 4.

Eggplant Parmesan

IMG_4922

Surprise! Just when you think this blog is defunct, I bust out with a new post. When I set out to make egg parm tonight, I didn’t plan to blog it. I had never made it before, so I didn’t know how it would turn out. It ended up being so delicious, though, that I knew that I had to both save the recipe and share it with anyone who might still be tuning in here or searching for a recipe for it. Forgive the crummy picture… I didn’t plan on sharing it.

I picked up an eggplant at the store last week because they were on sale, and they looked beautiful. I didn’t know what to do with it, but my husband immediately said that he would love eggplant parmesan. My lazier half quaked at the idea, but I agreed to do it. I kept procrastinating, secretly planning to broil it with a sesame sauce and be lazy. Today, though, I had run out of excuses and had plenty of time since it was the weekend. I was stuck. I like egg parm, but I don’t love it. I’ve really only eaten it in restaurants, and it tends to be oily, gluey, greasy, and mushy.

This recipe, on the other hand, is none of that. A little care in the prep yields a really outstanding result. The eggplant are salted to draw out water, and then pressed firmly to extract as much fluid as possible. They are breaded, but then they are baked and not fried – cutting down on the oil and the calories. These firm, toothsome rounds are layered with homemade, thick tomato sauce and mozzarella and parmesan cheese before they are baked. The top layer of eggplant isn’t covered with tomato sauce, but rather has a stripe of the sauce and cheese drawn across the baking dish to allow the top layer to stay as crisp as possible. In the end, the dish comes out dense and flavorful, with eggplant that really tastes of eggplant. It was amazing, and I’m so glad that I made it.

Eggplant Parmesan

  • 1 large eggplant
  • 1-2 T kosher salt

for the tomato sauce

  • olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • a fat pinch of crushed red pepper
  • 1 carrot, grated
  • 1 1/2 T fresh thyme, chopped
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 28 oz can crushed San Marzano tomatoes
  • kosher salt

for the eggplant

  • 1 C flour
  • salt and pepper
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1 1/2 C breadcrumbs
  • grated parmesan cheese (not that horrible shakey cheese in the green canister – get something decent in the deli section of the grocery store)
  • olive oil spray (this could be real olive oil in an atomizer, olive oil cooking spray, whatever)

for assembly

  • 2 C grated whole milk mozzarella cheese
  • grated parmesan cheese (see note above)

Slice eggplant in rounds between 1/4″ and 1/2″ thick. Lay the slices in a colander and sprinkle with kosher salt. Let them rest for at least 30 minutes to draw out as much water as possible.

While the eggplant is resting, pour enough olive oil into a large saucepan to cover the bottom. Heat this over medium high heat, then add in the onion. Sprinkle it with salt to keep it from sticking to the pan. Cook until the onion is soft and clear, then add the garlic and cook until is is fragrant and golden, being careful not to burn it. Grate in the carrot and add in the thyme, oregano, and crushed red pepper. Saute all of this together for about five minutes, then add in the tomatoes. Season with some salt. Bring the whole thing up to a boil, then turn down the heat, put a lid on it, and let it simmer for around 30 minutes or so. Taste to adjust the seasonings as needed.

Preheat your oven to 425º. Now, set up your breading station. In one bowl, mix flour with some salt and pepper. In the next, have your beaten eggs. In the final bowl, combine the breadcrumbs, parmesan, salt, and pepper. Cover a cookie sheet with tin foil, and lightly mist the foil with olive oil spray. Once the eggplant have rested long enough, rinse them well with water. Then squeeze them firmly between either tea towels or paper towels to get as much water out as possible. Dip the eggplant slices first in the flour, then in the egg, then the breadcrumb mixture. Lay them out on the cookie sheet. When all the slices have been breaded and placed on the sheet, lightly mist them with the olive oil spray. Bake them for 15 minutes.

When the eggplant slices are golden brown and crunchy, it’s time to assemble the dish. Leave the oven on while you do this. Grab a 9×13 glass baking dish. Spread about a cup (maybe a little more) of the tomato sauce in the bottom of the dish. Lay the eggplant slices in two rows with overlapping edges in the dish. Cover them with more tomato sauce, some mozzarella cheese and some parmesan cheese. Then, layer more eggplant slices on top of these two rows in the same way. Instead of completely covering them with sauce, add a stripe of sauce down the middles of the two rows. Add more mozzarella and parmesan on top of this. Bake for 15 minutes, until the cheese is melted, brown, and bubbly.

Serves 4 if offered with just a green salad on the side, or up to 8 if served with a side of pasta, as well.

Lemongrass Grilled Pork Chops

Lemongrass Pork Chops

Ever feel stuck in a rut during grilling season? We often do, but the desire to use the grill often wins out over the lack of perceived options.  Since we don’t get to spend a lot of time at home these days, we tend to focus on how we can make the most of our weekends and be as lazy as possible at the same time.  I’m sure most of you feel the same.  However, this year our local farmer’s market has provided a shot in the arm to our usual Sunday night cookouts.

Since moving to Richmond just before the startup of the season, we’ve been frequenting the South of the James farmer’s market.  There we found a great local meat vendor – Ault’s Family Farm.  I admit, they caught my eye with their sign marketing pastured pork fed on non-GMO grains.  Did my eyes deceive?  The allure was too strong; I’d come to the market for veggies but found myself leaving with a pair of beautiful, bone-in pork loin chops.

I knew that I wanted to grill them, and I also knew that I didn’t want to give them the same dry rub treatment that I had our steaks of the prior week.  Enter the struggle with laziness.  I drowsed on the sofa that Saturday afternoon, daydreaming about grilled pork. I remembered a savory, grilled pork dish that I used to order on occasion at Just Pho – a favorite restaurant of ours when we lived in Athens. It was marinated with lemongrass, and it was aromatic, sweet, salty, savory.  It was a pork dish that arrested every part of the palate and demanded attention.  I knew then what I was setting out to recreate.

Lemongrass

Lemongrass is a legitimate grass – not in name only. It is used as an herb in many cuisines, particularly in Asian cooking. The flavor and fragrance have a delicate citrus quality with an earthy, spicy undertone reminscent of ginger.  Lemongrass is purported to have many health benefits, most notably as a cancer-fighting herb.  It also is said to reduce hypertension, lessen toxins in the blood – acting as a diuretic, and aid digestion.  It is also known as citronella, so if its scent is familiar, you might have some candles bearing its fragance on your patio!  Lemongrass is simple to prepare.  If the stalks are whole, the root and green parts are trimmed away.  Any tough outer leaves may also be trimmed.  The remaining stalk can be finely sliced. Or, you can smash it with the flat side of your knife asyou would garlic, then mince the smashed lemongrass.

In the end, I came up with this simple marinade.  You do a bit of chopping and mixing, then bathe your pork chops in it and let them rest while you heat the grill.  I won’t say that I perfectly recreated the chops from Just Pho, but they were excellent.  The flavor of the marinade paired with the fresh pork in a gentle duetto; they performed in concert perfectly.  With some rice and some grilled spring onions and asparagus, we had a harmonious ensemble.

I am submitting this recipe to Weekend Herb Blogging # 233 (hosted by Palachinka),  highlighting the star of the marinade: lemongrass.

Lemongrass Grilled Pork Chops

  • 1 T soy or fish sauce
  • 3 T peanut oil
  • 2 stalks lemongrass, smashed then chopped (about 3 T)
  • 1 1/2 T rice vinegar
  • 2 T honey
  • 1 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 2-4 thick cut pork loin chops

In a non-reactive bowl, whisk all ingredients together until they are evenly combined.  Pour the marinade over the  chops and let them marinate for about 1 hour, making sure to reserve the marinade for basting the chops on the grill.  You can marinate for longer in the refrigerator if you wish, or do it for an hour on the counter so that the chops come to room temperature.

Lemongrass Pork Chops

Meanwhile, prepare the grill and heat the charcoal. When hot, grill the pork chops until they reach an internal temperature of 165°.  Brush the pork chops with the reserved marinade while they grill.  Remove from grill when done, and let rest for five minutes before slicing or serving.

Serves 2-4.

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Spice Crusted Steaks with Chimichurri Sauce

Spice Crusted Steak with Chimichurri Sauce

I’m willing to bet that most of you thought I forgot how to blog.  Well, I didn’t forget how – I just haven’t had much of a chance to do so.  Starting a little bit after my most recent post last autumn, I started a new job – a new job that requires me to travel out of town Monday – Friday each week.  As a result, I only have time on the weekends to cook.  I won’t lie.  I haven’t done much cooking on those weekends.  The small, country kitchen sans dishwasher coupled with not enough time at home didn’t exactly appeal to my domestic sensibilities.  Didn’t, I say, because I have moved into new digs this month.  I now have the nicest kitchen I’ve ever lived with.  I also live close to one of the largest farmer’s markets in Richmond (South of the James!), and I have a dishwasher.  A fancy, new dishwasher that begs for dishes to wash. Who am I to deny it that right?  Not to mention we have picked up a new grill just in time for grilling season.

The brass tacks: I’m excited by this kitchen, and I am dying to use it when I am home.  I figure, with a little bit of juggling, I can get a post up here about once a week.  So, let’s dispense with the explanatory chatter and get on with the food.

Last weekend we thought we would celebrate the first full-on meal cooked in this kitchen by grilling up some steaks.  My husband, being an eager grillmaster, was ready to work some charcoal magic out back.  I know a lot of purists out there like their steak rather plain, but I like to gussy mine up a bit.  Nothing too fancy, but I like a flavorful spice rub, liberally applied on the steaks and grilled to form a nice crust.  I also love chimichurri sauce, which brightens up the heaviness of steak and tastes likes spring.  Chimichurri sauce is Argentinean in origin, and is a parsley, garlic, and oil based sauce served with beef.  This is an opportunity to use your best olive oil.  Since the sauce isn’t cooked, the olive oil flavor is going to be prominent.

To keep the spring flavors going, we grilled asparagus to go on the side of our steak.  If you’re a fan of Penzey’s, I urge you to brush some fresh asparagus with olive oil, sprinkle on some Mural of Flavor, and grill it until tender.  Mural of Flavor is salt free, citrusy, and a great compliment to asparagus.  Yum.

Spice Crusted Steaks with Chimichurri Sauce

  • 4 NY strip steaks, about 9-10 oz. each

for the dry rub

  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • ½ tsp ancho chili powder
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • ½ tsp onion powder
  • ¼ tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp  coriander
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • dash allspice
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • ½ tsp black pepper

for the chimichurri sauce

  • 1 bunch flat leaf parsley
  • ½ bunch cilantro
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • ¼ C onion
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp Aleppo pepper
  • pinch of cayenne
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 4 T red wine vinegar
  • ½ C olive oil (use the good stuff!)

Combine all spices for the dry rub in a small bowl and mix well.  Remove the steaks from cold storage and press about a teaspoon of the dry rub onto each side of each steak.  Let the steaks come to room temperature before grilling.

Steak with dry rub

Meanwhile, make the chimichurri sauce.  In the bowl of a food processor, combine all ingredients except for the olive oil.  Pulse until the herbs are very finely chopped.  Remove the herb mixture from the processor to a serving bowl.  Pour the olive oil into the bowl and stir to combine well.  Do not add the oil to the processor, as it will emulsify and become thick and cloudy– like a salad dressing.

Grill the steaks over direct heat for the first five to six minutes of cooking to form a nice crust, then move to indirect heat to finish to your desired doneness.  A good chart to reference temperatures for steak doneness can be found here.  Let steaks rest about 5 minutes before serving to allow juices to redistribute.  To serve, plate the steaks and spoon chimichurri sauce over them.

Serves 4.

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Spicy Carrot Soup with Cilantro-Lime Puree

Carrot Soup

It’s that time of year, friends. There’s a singular nip in the air most mornings. My cat wants to spend every waking moment roaming down by the river. I bought a long sleeved shirt and broke out an extra blanket for the bed. Finally, today, I turned the heat on. Autumn is here, and it’s soup time.

It’s also cold season. My husband caught a cold and passed it to me. I promptly passed it back to him, worse than I received it. Yes, soup was needed in this house. Still feeling lethargic, I wanted to make a soup that was easy, tasty, and packed with nutrients. Carrots, then! Carrots, besides bearing bright-orange beta carotinoids, are chock full of vitamins A, C (goodbye, colds!), K, potassium, thiamin, niacin, fiber, plus other good stuff. Coupled with ginger, which has anti-inflammatory properties and boosts immune system performance, I figured the carrots in this soup would hit my cold with a knockout punch.  I threw in some other warming spices, including a healthy amount of my garam masala to give the soup a gentle, warming spice. Yum! To contrast with the aromatic spices in the soup, I made a simple cilantro lime puree to drizzle on top. It was great, but if you’re not feeling the effort, just sprinkle on some chopped cilantro and a squeeze of lime.  Or drizzle on some sesame oil.  Whatever speaks to you.

Carrot Soup

The cilantro-lime purée spoke to me.

Both soup and purée tasted great too. I liked the minimal effort they took, and I loved getting to break out my immersion blender. Do you have one of those? Because if not, you must get one. I have had mine since last Christmas. I kept putting off using it, assuming it would be difficult to clean or a pain to use. Nay, nay – I was wrong. It was easy, it was fun, and it was so easy to clean. If you have one, use it. Use it often. If you don’t, then buy one. They range from $30-$100. It’s worth every penny. I use this Cuisinart (a $30 model), and I am already planning more soups just so I can use it more.

Since I figured this won’t be the only cold I get this season, I made a great big pot of this soup and froze half of it.  The great thing about too much soup is getting to put some away for when you need it again.  And next time, I’ll have nothing to do but warm it on the stove.

Carrot Soup

Spicy Carrot Soup with Cilantro-Lime Puree

  • 1 T peanut oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1″ piece of ginger, grated
  • 4 C water
  • 1 1/2 lbs carrots
  • 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
  • juice and zest of 1 lime
  • 1 T soy sauce
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp garam masala

Wash carrots and peel if using conventional, non-organic carrots.  Cut the carrots in 1″ pieces and set aside.  Heat peanut oil in a large, heavy bottomed pot over medium-high heat.  When the oil is hot, add the onion, ginger, and garlic.  Saute until the onion is soft and translucent, stirring occasionally to keep the garlic from burning.  When the onions are soft, add the carrots to the pot and pour in the water.  Add the salt, red pepper, soy sauce, garam masala, lime juice and sesame oil– reserving the lime zest.  Bring the soup to a boil, then reduce the heat so that the soup stays at an active simmer.  Cook this way for 20-30 minutes, until the carrots are easily pierced with a fork and soft.  Remove from heat.  Using an immersion blender, puree the soup.  I like to leave a bit of texture but remove any chunks of solid vegetable.  If you want a silkier texture, puree the soup in batches in a conventional blender.  When the soup is blended, stir in the lime zest and taste for seasoning.  Add salt, if needed, until the carrot flavor is bright.  Serve drizzled with cilantro-lime puree.

Serves 4.

Cilantro-Lime Purée

  • 1 1/2 C cilantro leaves, washed and packed
  • juice of 1/2 a lime
  • 2 T peanut or other neutral tasting oil
  • pinch of salt

Using an immersion blender, purée the ingredients together until they are smooth.  Add a bit more oil or water as needed to achieve a thin consistency that is easily drizzled.

Makes about 1 C of purée.

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