Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Winter is awesome

I take back what I said about winter. It's 60 degrees here, and I got a Vita-Mix for Xmas!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Is this my kitchen or Cute Overload??

These nested ceramic duckie measuring cups from Amanda are too cute to be real - but they are! They are probably too cute to use for measuring on a regular basis due to my own clumsiness, but I have visions of serving some sort of small, adorable dessert in them. (The cowboy in the photo to the right is my nephew.)

In other news, I'm going to California on Saturday for the holidays, so I will be out of commission for awhile.

Also, it is cold, my lips are chapped, and my nose is running all the time. Stupid winter.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Meme me

Ann from the fantastic Redacted Recipes tagged me for my first meme ever, and now that I've sat down for what feels like the first time in weeks (cookies are in the oven), I will tackle it.

What were you cooking/baking ten years ago? Ten years ago, I was a freshman in college, so I was cooking just about nothing - since I lived on campus and ate almost entirely foodservice meals. Though I did have an espresso maker (which I used every morning) and a mini-fridge in my dorm room. Mostly the mini-fridge held milk for my lattes, but at some point during first semester, one of my burnout dormies asked me to hold some LSD-soaked sugar cubes in the freezer for him. They stayed there until the end of the year, when he was, apparently, finally ready to party.

What were you cooking/baking one year ago? At this time last year, I was roasting a lot of cubed root vegetables with spices and olive oil; I baked barely any sweets, but did make savory biscuits and scones once in awhile.

Five snacks you enjoy: I love cheese and olives, pickled beets (these from Rick's Picks are my recent obsession), tamari almonds, sourdough toast with goat cheese and peach preserves, and, um, Snapea Crisps. The thing about me and snacks is that I will eat all of any snack food that is brought into the house in one sitting, so I tend not to keep it around.

Five recipes you know by heart: Chili, spicy stir-fry sauce, couscous with chickpeas and kale, vegan gravy, chocolate pudding

Five culinary luxuries you would indulge in if you were a millionaire: A big kitchen with lots of space and lots of natural light; every fancy All-Clad copper-lined pan available (including the asparagus cooker!); a brick oven for bread and pizza; a six-burner range; and a dishwasher.

Five foods you love to cook/bake: Vegetables of all types in all ways, tofu, cookies, fruit pie

Five things you cannot/will not eat: MUSHROOMS!!! in any shape or form including blue cheese, meat of any sort including seafood, raw onions, turnips, cilantro

Five favorite culinary toys: my wonderful Global 8" chef's knife, long sturdy wooden spoons, Kitchenaid hand mixer, bread machine, and Oxo tongs

I'm not quite sure who to pass this along to, but I am going to try Polly and Abby, if they are so inclined. Thanks Ann! This was fun - especially the fantasy kitchen part.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Items

Re: the messiness of latkes (and the fact that my hair and my apartment both still smell like fried potato), Amanda put it well. "There are some things that are best just eaten at restaurants," she said. Though the latkes were delicious, they were an epic hassle to make and clean up after.

Re: my own burgeoning yuppiness - I wasn't quite so sure of it until I just got giddy after placing an order with Penzeys, and even expedited the shipping so it would definitely arrive before I leave for the holidays. Though I suppose using the phrase "butter-soft Catskills merino" in yesterday's post might be a clue as well.

Re: winter and its effect on my diet, it is getting difficult to get excited about more squash, more carrots, and more spinach. I have been trying to compensate for that by making too many rich dinners and too many sweet desserts, but now I just feel a bit blobby. Though I think my new favorite food, brussels sprouts with brown butter, would be okay for two meals a day, every day, I doubt anyone else would agree.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

A day of varying priorities

These are the three prettiest things I bought at the Greenmarket today. Sorry, potatoes, you just can't compete with the butter-soft, naturally-dyed Catskills merino yarn I finally succumbed to this week.

I bought a lot of other things, but these are the vegetables:
2 lbs. Carola potatoes ("the potato lover's potato - how could I resist?)
I bag spinach
1 lb. Brussels sprouts
1 bunch carrots
1 Carnival squash
4 Poblano peppers
3 jalapeno peppers
5 Anaheim peppers
Total spent (on produce): $22

Among the non-produce items purchased were the above-pictured yarn (it is so unbelievably soft!), a container of rice pudding from Ronnybrook Dairy, 1 log of goat cheese and a container of chocolate chevre truffles (they are unreal, like tiny chocolate cheesecakes, but better) from Lynnhaven Farms, and 1 dozen eggs from Knoll Crest.

This time of year, buying a passel of peppers can only mean chili, and I'm looking forward to making my first batch of the season this week. I'm also very excited to try my hand at latkes. I'm thinking this recipe will be a good guideline.

And speaking of delicious wintertime meals, last night's dinner with three of my favorite ladies went wonderfully. I served the tawny borscht I made the previous night, which went over like gangbusters, as well as homemade macaroni and cheese, using a recipe I got from my friend Sohrab (it was amazing!), with my favorite Brussels sprouts on the side, and two types of homemade cookies for dessert. This was one of the best meals I've cooked or eaten in a long time (a large part of this was undoubtedly due to stellar company!).

Friday, December 07, 2007

Tawny Borscht

Oh look at that hearty miscellaneous-vegetable soup. It is quite beige, the color of most vegetable soups - and yet - despite its tawny color - the soup above, is, in fact, borscht. How embarrassing. The only beets I could find the day I first planned to make borscht were "multi-colored," and it turned out that they were mostly golden beets, with a couple of pink ones in the mix, but nothing dark and garnet-red like a proper beet. Hence the totally nondescript soup that ought to be electric magenta.

The soup turned out well, though I want more beets next time...probably about twice as many or more than I used here. It's definitely several steps away from coming close to my favorite borscht, the vegetarian borscht at Veselka. If they offered it all the time, I probably wouldn't even try to make my own - theirs is so delicious! - but I get cravings for it sometimes when it's not on the menu. And I do like the always-vegetarian borscht at B&H Dairy, but they don't use lima beans like Veselka does. I'm hoping the additional beet flavor will overpower the vegetable stock, which is a little too prevalent here. All in all, it's nice, but not exactly right.

Here's the recipe I used (all approximations) - I recommend lots more beets than you see here.

Anna's Borscht
6 small beets, cut into matchsticks
1 small onion, diced finely
3/4 cup celery, in approx 1/2" dice
2 medium carrots, halved and in 1/2" slices
3 medium Yukon gold potatoes, 1/2" dice
2 cloves garlic (I used Rocambole, which is quite mild)
6 cups vegetable stock
1 can lima beans or butter beans
2 tbsp. tomato paste
6 tbsp. fresh dill
4 tbsp. red wine vinegar
2 tbsp. butter or Earth Balance
salt to taste

Melt butter in Dutch oven over medium-low heat. Add onion and celery and cook, stirring, until onion softens, about 8-10 minutes. Add garlic and stir until aromatic, about 30 seconds. Pour in vegetable stock, add beets, and stir; bring to a simmer and cook about 20 minutes, or until beets begin to soften. Add carrots, cover, and simmer 20 more minutes, until carrots begin to soften. Add potatoes and dill, and simmer until potatoes start to become tender, about 10 minutes. Add tomato paste, lima beans, vinegar and salt (I used about 6 grinds of my sea salt grinder at this point), cover, and simmer at least 30 more minutes, until all vegetables reach desired tenderness; remove from heat. Taste for seasoning; add more salt, dill, or vinegar, as desired, let sit a few minutes, covered, and serve.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Soup, part 1

Today's soup is a potato and celeriac chowder/stew/thing from Crescent Dragonwagon. I used leeks instead of onion, but otherwise followed the recipe faithfully. The only issue I take with what is a relatively tasty dish is that I think the addition of 1/4 tsp. celery seed is overkill for an already quite "celery-y" soup (it calls for a whole celery root); the celery taste verges on metallic a tiny bit, and I think omitting the celery seed (or perhaps using just a pinch) would alleviate that. Though my celery-adoring photo assistant may love it as is, which is lucky, because the recipe made lots and I'm freezing most of it to feed him when he gets back from California. I might try pureeing the rest of the soup, as the celeriac didn't get quite as soft as the potato so there's a weird bit of textural dissonance going on. This photo is pretty pointless (thick whitish liquid with some unidentifiable chunks!) except for the opportunity to show off one of my prized Pea Soup Andersen's soup mugs. Tomorrow, borscht. And I'm not using a recipe for that one.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Genius Of The Day Award

The genius of the day award goes to Ann at Redacted Recipes for inventing this magnificent apple/cranberry crisp. My crisp isn't much to look at, but it's deliciously tart and spicy; in fact, I just ate two pieces and spoiled my dinner. I followed her recipe almost exactly (using Mutsu apples from Terhune Orchards), but I added about 1 tbsp. lemon zest to the topping, and used allspice instead of cloves (gasp!), because that's what I had on hand. Oh, and I chickened out and peeled the apples. Regardless, it's wonderful, and as an added bonus, my whole apartment smells like heaven now. Thanks Ann!!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Shepherd's Pot Pie

What happens when you make a pot pie, but instead of a top crust, you use mashed potatoes? It's exactly as delicious (and totally crazy) as it sounds. I didn't write down a recipe, but my filling was leeks, celery, carrots, and peas, with TVP, nutritional yeast, vegetable broth, tamari soy sauce, and some soymilk, seasoned with a few shakes of cayenne and some dried sage. I think any meat sub would have worked, though.

Recent recipe round-up

Butternut squash and kale risotto: I adapted this recipe, using spinach instead of the mysteriously-unavailable kale, and Smart Bacon instead of pancetta (I wanted to use seitan, but we were out). If I had cooked this as directed, the squash would have still been crunchy by the time the rice was done, but I caught it early and cooked the squash much longer before adding the rice. All in all, the risotto was quite nice, though a little sweeter than I had hoped - though I suppose that's inevitable, as it contains an entire squash; using kale instead of the milder spinach might have helped. I might try it again with kale and seitan, and maybe use a bit less squash.

Brussels sprouts with brown butter: I followed this recipe for sauteed Brussels sprouts last night, and to my taste, it was a success. The garlic butter cut the sprouts' bitterness perfectly, and they had a wonderful texture. My photo assistant, on the other hand, wasn't so enthusiastic. I think he has the same problem with Brussels sprouts as he does broccoli. That just meant more of this lovely dish for me, though, so it wasn't so bad.

Chocolate pudding: Okay, it's not vegetables, but this is the best chocolate pudding recipe ever. I tried it with soymilk, using a little less sugar than is called for, and it was perfect. The almond-milk version I made later was weird, but still good.

Ginger cookies: Similarly non-vegetable, but I've been on a baking jag, and I made these ginger cookies yesterday. The texture is perfect, but I would prefer a lot more spice. Next time I'll add more ground ginger, and take the advice of the commenter who recommended adding chopped candied ginger to the dough before baking.

Celeriac and potato soup: I scored a used copy of The Passionate Vegetarian for $12 (!!), and the first recipe I'm planning to try is a creamy celeriac and potato soup with leeks. First, though, I have to find out where I can buy evaporated skim milk.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Slim & Chilly Pickings

It was a freezing and sparsely-populated USG day today. Ice crystals clung to my spinach, lots of vendors were absent (even the stalwart Terhune Orchards), and - worst of all - there wasn't a leaf of kale to be found in the whole place. Brussels sprouts, which I had been avoiding while my stomach healed (since they can be tough to digest), are clearly on their way out, though I managed to find some good-looking ones. Otherwise, not a lot of interesting options, and the chilly air got into my brain and allowed me to forget beets - which means no beet and cheddar risotto, still!

My lightened load:
1 celeriac
1 bunch baby carrots
2 bags spinach
1 head Rocambole garlic
1 butternut squash
1.5 lbs. Brussels sprouts
1 Osage orange (cockroach repellent)
Total spent $28

The celeriac I'll use in risotto, and perhaps make another with the butternut squash; I'll either roast the Brussels sprouts or pan-fry them in butter with sage (along the lines of this recipe - anything to make them soft and caramelized. Perhaps I'll make a quick Dijon mustard sauce for them, like they serve at Westville.

Next time I can get apples, I'm going to make another apple pie. I've got a few recipe adjustments I'd like to try out...and I've quickly become a pie addict.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

First Breath After (Food) Coma

The only reason I am awake to write this, despite seconds on Tofurkey and three helpings of mashed potatoes and gravy is because I wisely chose to have coffee with my pie. Dinner was great - the potatoes were buttery and abundant, the gravy rich and salty, the carrots tasted almost exactly like candy - but the pie was the real success story...store-bought pie crust notwithstanding, this was some good pie.

Here's a shot as it first went into the oven (my favorite butter application method is "dotting," by the way):
Why, hello beautiful (if I may quote Pioneer Woman):
And here's your extreme close up:
Man, I can't wait until breakfast so I can eat more pie.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Thanksgiving Pile

This homely heap of root and fruit will be transformed, tomorrow, into a multi-coursed Thanksgiving meal for two. It's a bit magical. (Not pictured is Tofurky, which, quite honestly, is round and brown and would have fit right into this shot.)

Our Thanksgiving menu
Roasted Beet and Goat Cheese Salad

Oven-Roasted Tofurky
Mashed Potatoes
Gravy
Brown Sugar-Glazed Carrot Coins

Apple Pie


Photo assistant isn't a huge beet fan, but I think the improved texture and sweetness of the roasted beets will help turn him on to them - and of course the perfect match with goat cheese.

I'm not doing a separate stuffing this year, because the Tofurky comes stuffed decently, and there are only two of us. Likewise bread: no dinner rolls or biscuits, though I've promised to make some biscuits for a leftovers meal with slices of Tofurky and lots of gravy.

The carrot coins are the main course's token nod to healthfulness, but because it's Thanksgiving, I'm going to nod back toward excess by serving them with a butter and brown sugar glaze (recipe, maybe, after I invent it).

Apple pie will be Dutch style, loosely based on this recipe, using Mutsu apples, but I will omit the allspice, and I may add a twince of lemon to the filling as well as using the called-for zest in the streusel. I had some delicious apple pie at Sweet Farm, and the filling had a zip that I think may have been due to a little lemon. We'll see. I did have to buy a frozen pie crust (my mom made gagging, then retching noises when I told her), due to lack of pie crust-making resources, but I think the filling will make up for it.

If we don't eat it all in seconds after it's done, I'll take photos. Good luck with that, us.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Risotto dreams and white rice reality

Yet another delicious-sounding risotto recipe that I am prevented from trying by my new (temporary, I hope) dietary restrictions. Tonight, instead of risotto with kale and butternut squash (I'd sub seitan for the pancetta, of course), I had white rice with steamed spinach and scrambled eggs, seasoned only with soy sauce.

Though I have been chalking this up to anxiety and hoping I can overcome with the power of my strong will and talent for self-analysis, yesterday's blazingly painful experience post-avocado made me think I'm going to have to embark on a course of gastroenterology (sung to the tune of Firewater's "Psychopharmacology", at least in my brain).

Hence no interesting photos or recipes lately...steamed carrots, steamed spinach, white rice, yogurt, and sourdough bread (the latter two - probiotic!) have constituted most of my diet for the past couple of weeks. It's really not so bad, because I like all those things, but it does get a little boring, especially when confronted by so many delicious recipes I'm yearning to try...

Sunday, November 04, 2007

A mild day at USG

Saturday's trip had one goal: procuring a variety of fruits and vegetables that I can eat despite my stomach trouble. Results have been encouraging thus far, though a couple of hard lessons have been learned.

Nothing to see here, folks:
7 Mutsu apples
1 bunch carrots
1 bag spinach
1 bag arugula
3 sweet potatoes
2 lbs. German butterball potatoes
1 butternut squash
1 head Rocambole garlic
Total spent: $30

My trip filled me with ambition, so upon arrival home I made myself a sandwich with the whole wheat sourdough bread I'd bought, Earth Balance, and arugula (from Keith's Organics). Delicious, but fat is a no-no, and the sandwich did me wrong: a few hours later I was in a lot of pain.

More successful were the applesauce I made, and the carrots, which I steamed and served alongside my staple, white rice. This gives me hope that the squash will be gentle to my stomach despite being fibrous...I'm going to try it tonight. I feel a bit like a parent introducing solid foods to her baby for the first time, except I'm the baby too.

In meals for the non-ailing news, I made polenta using this advice from The Amateur Gourmet, and it turned out very well. I'm going to fry up the leftovers and serve with over-easy eggs to the free eater/caretaker of the household. Isn't he lucky?

Thursday, November 01, 2007

There is NOT a party in my tummy

There is, in fact, the opposite of a party. The mysterious and excruciating stomach pain started last Wednesday, and reached its full pain-and-nausea potential over the weekend...at the moment, I haven't been able to eat anything other than yogurt and plain starches like rice without hurting. I went to the doctor yesterday. Bloodwork has turned out normal, so tomorrow I have an appointment for an ultrasound to check my gallbladder maybe, or at least something gallbladderish.

Not totally vegetable-related, but it does mean I have to wait to try a certain recipe I've really been looking forward to. I also think this will mean no greenmarket trips until I can eat normal food again, though I do think I'll add some plain mashed sweet potato into my neutral dietary mix.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Rained/slept out

No greenmarket today, because it's raining really hard...and I didn't wake up until 10:30 this morning. But I've noticed over the past few weeks that the weekday markets are growing (though they're still not as populous as Saturday's), so stocking up on Monday won't be so bad.

Habaner-oh no: This week I finally used that heap of peppers I bought last Saturday. I roasted the seven little poblanos and the four mild mystery peppers; I added these along with the three teensy habaneros, minced finely (without seeds) to my pot along with onions, spices, and six cans of black beans. And, several hours later, I had a delicious-smelling pot of inedibly spicy beans. Those innocent, cute habaneros! I didn't realize just how hot they'd be. Luckily, I have been able to rescue the batch by using part at a time, cutting it with more black beans; a proportion of 2:1 or higher is necessary, and even then they are still quite spicy. The mix of peppers does give the beans quite a lovely favor, though I think I'll steer clear of the habaneros next time.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

The Veg vs. The Rock

The winner is pretty clearly The Veg since I'm at home before 3 a.m. on CMJ Thursday. I had decided this morning that I wouldn't go out to shows tonight, but I faced many temptations throughout the day (party at Mama's with free mac 'n' cheese being the most notable). And yet my plan to go home and bake a butternut squash won out over seeing live music in the company of other humans.

You see, I love squash, and butternut is my favorite. Squash is like the perfect carrot and potato got together and had sexy babies. Saturday night is squash ravioli night, and I'll be out of town until Saturday afternoon, so tonight I baked the squash, let it cool, then scooped the flesh into a tupperware for refrigeration (and for inevitable midnight snacking).

As part of the next step in my quest to take being a nerd back to its antisocial not-cool roots, for the rest of the night I will be watching cartoons while knitting socks, and probably daydreaming a little bit about squash ravioli night.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Oh no, you got kale in my mashed potatoes!

Maybe winter won't be so bad if I can have this colcannon all the time. It is what the annoying might call a "no-brainer" - three of the best foods (garlic mashed potatoes, kale, and seitan) sharing one stage...the event of a lifetime!

Thank you, Vegan Yum Yum. Thank you for giving me hope where my wintry future offers none.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Strawberries in October

Today I was on a very strict budget, and forcing myself to keep to a list. But when I had $5 left and had to choose between tomatoes (on the list; necessary for many of this week's planned dishes), and totally unexpected strawberries, I chose the latter.

I scrimped, I saved:
1 bunch kale
1 bunch chard
1 bunch beets
1 lb. green beans
2 zucchini
2 yellow onions
4 shallots
1 butternut squash
1 lb. lima beans (in shell)
1 lb. green seedless grapes
1 pt. strawberries
Total spent: $32

Because my brain is obviously not ready for fall yet, I forgot about last week's apples until Thursday, so they only made it in one lunch - plenty left to tide us through until next Saturday, especially since I can alternate with grapes.

Buying my year's first butternut squash felt a bit like a concession, but there is very little struggle left against the impending autumn, and the weather has admitted as much by becoming decidedly crisp and chilly. My plans for this harbinger are nevertheless ambitious - I want to fill ravioli with butternut squash puree, and serve them, simply and classically, with herbed butter.

I was very happy to find the limas, as I've been reading so much about the glories of fresh shell beans, and the cranberry beans we had last week were quite nice. My photo assistant loves lima beans, so I may enlist his help in the shelling.

And the strawberries? I have no idea where they came from. The organic grower I usually hit up at the tail end of my USG trip for Sungold tomatoes was putting them out as I was browsing tomatoes; though initially incredulous, I tasted one and couldn't resist their unseasonal delight. These strawberries aren't a straightforward, perfect, mid-season joy - they have a bit of an herbal, almost medicinal edge to them - but their innate strawberryness isn't troubled by this complexity. Of course, I've eaten about half of them already.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Several hours later.

The tomato, goat cheese, and arugula salad might be a cliche by now, but it's still delicious, and damned photogenic.

There is a light that never goes out

I put off this morning's USG trip for hours, because I was sleepy from a late night at a rock show, knew it would be crowded when I got there (I didn't wake up until 9:30), and I was not looking forward to my first weekly haul of fall vegetables. But once I started walking around the market, I got so wrapped up in all my options that I didn't notice the crowds or the startling ubiquity of apples and (already!) squashes. I should have known the USG wouldn't let me down - the fact that I spent way more money than usual despite having only one night of dinner at home next week notwithstanding.


None of this is murder:
1 box white raspberries
8 apples (Macoun, Empire, Mutsu)
1 lb. seedless grapes (half Marquis, half red)
1 pint Sungold tomatoes
1 pint Black Cherry tomatoes
1 lb. cranberry beans
3 ears bicolor corn
1 bunch carrots
1 bag spinach
1 bunch red Russian kale
1/4 lb. rughetta (spicy Italian arugula)
1 lb. golden nugget potatoes
2 heads Rocambole garlic
assorted chili peppers: Novallo?, Poblano, Scotch bonnet
Total spent: $56


I have no idea what to make with cranberry beans, but they are so lovely! Inside they're plain white, but the pods are just too beautiful. I am thinking maybe I'll create some sort of succotash with the cranberry beans and the corn for our one night of home-cooked dinner. And I'll use the gorgeous and probably way-too-spicy (Scotch bonnets? Am I serious??) peppers in a pot of black beans, assuming I can find the time to cook them during this crazy week.

Almost everything else will be used in lunches - the greens will be added anywhere I can put 'em, the potatoes and rughetta will be combined into a cold potato salad, and the carrots, apples, and grapes will be eated as is. (My worries about not having fresh fruit anymore have been momentarily assuaged by the abundance of grapes in many varieties.)

I have no plans for the white raspberries, because I already ate them! They were odd-looking, like Bunnicula had struck - about the color of champagne - but quite delicious. If I was in charge, all raspberries would taste this way. They were perhaps a bit tarter than their red counterparts, but nonetheless tasted absolutely raspberry-y. Lovely.

Next week I'll probably give in and buy my first squash. I'm trying to come up with a good way to use squash in lunches...perhaps just cubed and lightly-dressed as a side "salad." Since our microwave at the office stopped working last week, I've been working on cold and room temperature lunch dishes that are nonetheless filling and satisfying. It's been quite good for my creativity, I think, and I don't have to confront my (undoubtedly correct) fear of microwaving food in plastic. So far it's been all wraps and pasta salad, but I'm going to try the aforementioned potato salad and some grain salads next week.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Sick!


My photo assistant is terribly ill with the same "stomach flu" I had just before leaving for vacation (not really influenza, I've learned - viral gastroenteritis is the medical term), so I couldn't make my return to the USG today. I'll pick some things up Monday...watching autumn's cold fingers snatch away my summertime favorites all the while.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Post-vacation items

1. I kind of liked the blueberries. Kind of. They were quite nice in my morning smoothies, I have to say. Usually they're presented in sweetened baked goods (generally not my cup of tea anyway), which is when I balk, but fresh they're alright. Just not my favorite berry.
2. Speaking of tea, my time in the English countryside reminded me how much I wish American culture included an afternoon break, like Britain's tea, or the siesta of Italy and Spain. Most folks seem to "slump" a bit in the afternoon, and slogging through is probably less productive (not to mention less satisfying) than taking time to have a nibble or a rest and returning to work refreshed.
3. Being vegetarian in a tiny English village isn't impossible, but it's certainly not easy. Being vegan may have been impossible - the only veg dishes on any menu I found, except at the Indian restaurant, were full of butter, eggs, and cheese.
4. It's nice to be home, but I have to admit I'm dreading Saturday's greenmarket expedition, which will force me to realize how far autumn has already progressed.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Look at these tomatoes!

Quite a pair, aren't they? (But seriously, these colors are outrageous. Just outrageous.)

I only bought enough to last through Wednesday:
1 bunch kale
1 bunch chard
1/4 lb. sorrel
4 zucchini
1 bunch celery
1 bunch Italian parsley
4 heirloom tomatoes (Striped German, Green Zebra, and another one)
1 pint black cherry tomatoes
1 pint blueberries
1 pint strawberries
1.5 lbs. peaches
2 lbs. nectarines
Total spent: $38

The blueberries aren't for me - they're for my blueberry-loving mother, who is coming to visit for a couple of days before she and I fly to the UK for a walking tour of the Lake District. I'm not sure why I don't like blueberries...could be early exposure to overly sweet faux-blueberry flavor...but they don't do it for me. Also in preparation for Mom's visit, I stocked up on peaches and nectarines: my love for fresh fruit is clearly inherited.

This week's was primarily a maintenance trip, just getting the basics, as I don't have much time for creativity in these last few days before my trip. Last week I stayed at the office until 8 p.m. almost every day, and went in on my Wednesday off...though there was that marvelous long weekend, which I spent poolside in the sunshine.

I'm looking forward to adding the sorrel into a pasta salad for lunch one day, because I think the sourness will add interest to the regular "greens, zucchini, white beans, pasta, tomatoes, olives" lineup (which is admittedly quite delicious).

Tonight, we'll have a salad of these gorgeous heirloom tomatoes along with plenty of Italian parsley, salt, pepper, and olive oil. The main dish will be sauteed chard with Tofurkey sausage and cheese grits on the side.

Unfortunately, my trip is timed so that I'll miss a lot of late-summer bounty; I'm afraid fall will have arrived by emphasis by my next greenmarket trip, which won't be until September 29. I hope there will still be fresh hull beans for me to try by then (I've seen more and more of them lately); at that point, I will probably be resigned to apples and I can start making applesauce. We'll see. I may still fight it.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Away, away

We're on our way out of town for the weekend, but here's a quick recap of my greenmarket trip: scads of tomatoes (three colors) for tomato salad, corn and zucchini for the grill, kale, spinach, and green beans for home, strawberries, and piles of nectarines that will undoubtedly all ripen at once. No time for photos, but here are some shots of the lovely products from my dear friend Louise's San Francisco city-garden. Doesn't that lettuce just look mouth-watering? Is it a little crazy to feel that way about lettuce?



Sunday, August 26, 2007

I invented sauce; a peach army gathers

The idea for this spicy "zucchini sauce" came to me this morning while I walked to work at the record store - I thought that shredded zucchini could be seasoned and sauteed until it shed enough water to become a semi-cohesive sauce. And this is exactly what happened! It turned out perfectly.




Penne with spicy zucchini sauce
serves two
2 cups dry penne
1/2 tbsp Earth Balance
1/2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium-large zucchini, shredded (maybe 4 cups?)
1 shallot, diced super-finely
1 large or two small cloves garlic, pressed
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
salt to taste
optional: rough-chopped kalamata olives, diced tomatoes, feta/goat cheese

Cook penne according to package directions; drain and set aside (do not rinse).
Saute diced shallot until completely softened but do not brown. Add garlic and red pepper flakes, and stir until aromatic, about 30 seconds. Add zucchini and stir immediately, to stop garlic and shallot from browning; add salt (I used three grinds on my salt grinder) and continue stirring. Saute uncovered, stirring frequently, until zucchini begins to shed water, about five minutes. Cover and allow to cook for 5-10 minutes, or until zucchini is completely softened. Saute another minute or two uncovered to evaporate any excess liquid; add pasta, stir to combine, and divide onto two plates. Top with optional olives, tomatoes, and/or feta.


I'm on round two of freezing peaches; this photo of my little faux-flash-freezing setup makes my peach segments look like a futuristic army laying in wait in a cryogenic metal chamber. Fingers crossed that not heeding the advice of every single source I found on the internet that I absolutely have to use sugar when freezing peaches turns out alright.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Who needs money when you've got fresh fruit?

It was an overcast morning; I am in madcap desperation to eke the remaining joy out of summer; hence today's wild fruit spending spree.

Oh, the aching joy of shoulders:
1 pt. strawberries
1 box blackberries
1 box raspberries
3 lbs. white peaches
1.5 lbs. yellow peaches
2 lbs. nectarines
1 little watermelon
4 heirloom tomatoes
1 pt. sungold tomatoes
1 lb. spinach
1 bunch kale
4 big zucchini
1 head celery
1 bunch carrots
5 ears corn
Total spent: $55

Last week's seemingly-successful peach-freezing experiment means I'm going to try to repeat it until peaches are gone and I have a month or so worth of frozen lovelies for my smoothies. I'll be freezing most of the white Terhune Orchards peaches; the other peaches, nectarines, and berries are all going toward satisfying my apparently-endless appetite for fresh fruit.

Reading over answers to this Serious Eats thread, I realized that I couldn't think of a fruit I like that I wouldn't love to eat every day for the rest of my life, except maybe bananas. I can't imagine an occasion when the answer to "does a perfectly ripe peach sound good right now?" would be "no." Even - or perhaps especially - after eating a peach, the idea of eating a peach always seems like a great, irresistible idea. The same goes for berries, ripe melons, or citrus.

We're all friends here, so why lie? - sometimes I have eaten so many delicious seasonal fruits that I have suffered gastrointestinal distress. Logic and moderation fail me at times like these. Last week's fruit was all gone by Wednesday, and while I'd like to imagine this massive haul will last longer, I have no reason to think s6 - this week's strawberries are so delicious that I doubt they'll be around much longer.

Otherwise, it was a pretty standard day at USG. Apples are taking up more real estate than last week; soon they'll be abundant. The only new vegetable I'd like to try are some of the fresh beans, but I want to know how to use them before buying, as there are several varieties I'm not familiar with. If fresh lima and cranberry beans are still around next week, I'll pick up some of both. Green beans are waning, and shell peas are finally completely gone.

The spinach this year has been less bountiful, but quite delicious - the leaves are very tender at this point in the season, and the flavor is delicate and fresh. I bought kale as well, because it's one of the only cruciferous vegetables my photo assistant will eat, and we need to get some of those every week, I think. Swiss chard may be tastier and packed with nutrition, but since broccoli is unacceptable around here, I'll have to choose kale, bok choy, and tatsoi more often than my dear chard.

No photos this morning because we have a band staying with us and there are too many boys in sleeping bags on my floor to set up a shoot, but later I'll try to get a photo of my cute watermelon once I open it up, as well as the entwined love carrots I found in my bunch last week. [UPDATE: Just found the watermelon photo on my camera and added it later to this post.]

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Early birds, early apples

While I recognize that at 27 I am probably still too young to begin bemoaning the fleeting days of my youth in earnest, I was nevertheless shocked by two distinctly autumnal phenomena at my early-morning trip to the USG today.
Item 1: It was really, really cold. Not just chilly - downright cold. I was ill-prepared for the temperature because IT IS SUMMER, though I did get there quite early today.
Item 2: Many vendors, including my beloved Terhune Orchards, were excitedly displaying their "early apples," which means that soon they'll just be "apples," and it will be fall. Where has summer gone?

My consolation came swiftly in the form of being early enough to snag the last basket of these Tristar strawberries - perhaps summer is not all lost.

FutureVeg/LoveFruits:

1 pint Tristar strawberries
3.5 lbs. white peaches
1 lb. nectarines
1 pint Sungold cherry tomatoes
4 heirloom tomatoes (two yellow, two crazy red)
2 ears corn
1 lb. green beans
1.5 lbs. spinach
4 zucchini
1 bunch carrots
1 lb. golden nugget potatoes
2 heads Rocambole garlic
1 bunch lemon basil
Total spent: $49

While I could probably eat all the peaches myself in a day or two, I bought so many because I'm going to try freezing some of them for smoothies. It would be amazing to have enough to last a few months once they're out of season, to cut down on my Trader Joe's frozen fruit habit...

All the other fruit will be eaten out of hand, the carrots will be chopped up for my lunches, and the beautiful/weird-looking heirloom tomatoes will be eaten in a "salad" with fresh herbs and a bit of cheese.

Lemon basil may be the best smelling herb in the universe; the freshness of the lemon brings the basil's spiciness to a new fragrance level. I'm really looking forward to using it. Monday or Wednesday I'll get a few pounds of "regular" tomatoes from the weekday USG and try my hand at some spaghetti sauce using fresh, rather than canned, tomatoes.

More on my sauce and freezing experiments later; right now, I've got some strawberries to eat.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Currently reading

While at K's, I borrowed her copy of The Revolution Will Not Be Microwaved by Sandor Ellix Katz. The writing is a little rough in places, but it's quite an interesting read so far. Some of the groups and movements Katz covers definitely seem to be on the fringes of food movements, but they're doing great work - from creating seed-saving networks, underground raw milk dispensaries, to entire illegal local markets for products like bread, unpasteurized juice, yogurt, etc. I've also learned that Italy - bastion of Slow Food as a lifestyle before it was a movement - has been subjected to heavy government regulation for many traditional products (like much-discussed maggoty casu marzu cheese, but also other less-spectacular foods) since it joined the EU.

I'm only about halfway through the book, but it's definitely encouraging my desire to move somewhere I can have a garden. Part of me wants to move to Detroit, where widespread urban gardening is a positive upside to the devastating depopulation of its city center. Katz mentions Detroit, but I first read about the movement in the July issue of Harper's - here's a link to the article.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Two dinners

Last night I made dinner and brought it over to Katherine's house. It was like a picnic, but inside for most of the time (we started outside but it got dark plus the mosquitoes were ferocious).

As appetizers, we had blanched wax beans and...homemade dolmades! I was so excited to make them...though they turned out a bit weird. K and I both agreed that the flavor was good, but my cooking technique needs work. Most of the recipes I found on Recipezaar called for cooking the rice for ten minutes, adding the spices/etc., then wrapping the rice mixture in grape leaves, submerging in water, and cooking for 30-45 minutes, until the rice is done.

Because I'd never made them before, and wasn't using a recipe for my seasoning, I decided not to undercook the rice - I wanted to be able to taste my filling for spices - so I cooked it until mostly done, and cooked the wrapped dolmades for about 15 minutes. The filling turned out decently tasty, though when I filled the grape leaves and submerged them, they got waterlogged and the rice was a little undercooked.

Also, an open note to everyone whose recipe for dolmades instructs the preparer to wrap it "like a burrito":
Have you ever made a burrito? Have you ever had a burrito? Making burritos is easy, because tortillas are not the shape of maple leaves, nor are they approximately as durable as wet paper. Wrapping dolmades is like wrapping tiny doll burritos for dolls made of ash and paste. Also, you're in the afterlife.


But regardless, K and I agreed that the filling had excellent flavor. The approximate recipe for said filling is below. Next time, I'm going to steam them.

Dolmades

3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup very-finely minced shallot (I used one gigantic one, probably 3-4 regular
sized)
1/2 cup rice (I used basmati, but I'll try arborio next time)
1/2 cup vegetable broth
1/2 cup water
juice of 1/2 lemon
1/4 tsp dried dill
1 tsp fresh mint, minced finely
pinch red pepper flakes
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Sautee shallot in half the olive oil until translucent. Add red pepper flakes and dill (crumbling dill in your fingers), and stir for a few seconds, until spices become aromatic. Add rice, and stir until grains become translucent; add vegetable broth and water. While rice is cooking, add lemon juice and mint. Cook until almost done, add remaining olive oil and salt and pepper to taste, roll your dolmades, and finish cooking.

Then we had a cheese-laden almost-lasagna whose only claim to good health was steamed kale mixed in with the ricotta, and zucchini slices layered among the many, many cheese layers (ricotta, fontina, and mozzarella, with parmesan on top, of course). It was very delicious.

And then K gave me some chard from her garden!! She just pulled the thing right out of the ground. It looked delicious. And when I was preparing it for dinner tonight alongside veggie sausage and couscous, it smelled very fresh - almost like just-mowed (mown?) grass - and it tasted even better than it looked. Definitely the best chard I've had all season - yum!! Nice work, Gardener K!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Monday, August 13, 2007

Move over, yellow peaches...

...because this year, nectarines and white peaches are more delicious than you.

I've always felt that nectarines were just less-flavorful peaches for people who can't stand skin fuzz, but the few nectarines I've had this year have proven me wrong. While the yellow peaches have been quite inconsistent, with about a 3:1 "okay" to "wow!" ratio, I haven't met a nectarine this season that hasn't been wonderful.

Much more surprising to me is that Terhune Orchard's white peaches, which I had assumed would be as pale in flavor as their flesh is in color, are juicy, sweet, and full of peach flavor - much better than most yellow peaches I've had this year. It's eerie that a post-Bunnicula-looking fruit is so loaded with sweet peachiness.

I'm still trying to figure out why they said that men prefer the white peaches. Maybe they're supposed to be less juicy? Or less sugary? Or they look more like footballs? I really like them, and I'm not a man...although I do like action movies, I guess, so maybe I'm not a good example.

UPDATE: this website explains that white peaches are actually sweeter than yellow - not because they have more sugar, but because they are lower in acid, which allows the sweetness to shine through. I don't know who this Produce Pete fellow is, but he seems to know from white peaches. However, neither Peter nor Google has come up with my answer as to why men would prefer them...but I do know that they're very good for breakfast.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Ho-hum (not the veggies, but me)

It was a tough week at work, which unfortunately translated into kind of a downer Saturday. While I had pledged that I would buy less at the USG this week since my photo assistant is going away for the week, and therefore I only need food for one, I didn't quite manage...and spent almost the same as any other week.

So much green, so little time:

1 bunch peppermint
1 bunch tarragon
1 bunch Italian parsley
1 bunch Russian kale
3 small heads bok choy
3 zucchini
1 bunch (3) white onions
1 bunch leeks
1 lb. shell peas
4 white peaches
3 nectarines
4 apricots
2 yellow ("low-acid") tomatoes
1 pint orange Sungold cherry tomatoes
Total spent: $35

The tarragon is an experiment - I'm trying to get myself out of my fresh herbs comfort zone, which is made up entirely of basil, oregano, and parsley, though I've yet to find my tarragon recipe. I bought the mint to make this facial scrub from Urban Vegan, which actually calls for dried mint, though it worked wonderfully with the fresh herb. (My face felt amazing, but it was annoying to have to prevent the oats from going down the drain. I will make it again, though.)

Tonight's dinner was risotto with leeks, chard, and peas; Tofurkey sausage; and sliced Sungold tomatoes with parsley. The tomatoes were perfect - little sweet globes of warmth and light. I'd been planning to make a green risotto with the chard for the past few days, but when I saw leeks at the greenmarket, I realized their more-vegetal oniony flavor would suit the chard better than the shallots I had originally bought for the purpose. It turned out terrific.

I don't have solid plans for anything else I've bought this week, though I did recently make a new pot of black beans (with the poblano and jalapeno chiles I bought last week and didn't write about because I was in Baltimore to see friends at Virgin Fest), so the kale will probably end up in burritos, or with the beans over rice. We'll see what happens with the tarragon...and I've also got a ton of fresh mind leftover to find a use for.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Delicious stir-fry sauce; plum updates

Last night I was craving spicy green beans a la San Francisco's amazing House Of Nanking, so I improvised. Of course, they didn't hold a candle to the originals, but they were certainly salty, spicy, and delicious. They were so good that I wrote down the stir-fry sauce recipe for once:

Spicy garlicky stir-fry sauce for green beans (and tofu)
Enough for two green-bean-loving people

4 tbsp. vegetable broth
2-3 tbsp. tamari soy sauce
1-2 tsp. chili garlic sauce (I used about 2 and they were on fire!)
2 cloves garlic
about 1/2 tsp. cornstarch

Mix everything up in a little bowl with a fork. Start sauteeing your beans whole on medium-high, then add half the sauce when they're halfway done. Add the rest just when they're tender enough, and stir until everything's coated and sauce is thickened, about 5 seconds (seriously). Serve over LOTS of rice with many iced drinks on the side. You can also use this sauce for tofu, but you can figure out how to do that on your own.

In plum news, the lovely big Shiro plums were...well...still plums. I am afraid I'm doomed to disappointment by most plums. The combination of super-tart skin and extremely mild, sweet interior flesh is just not for me. I wish I could find the Green Gage plums from last year! Sigh.

Also, in only tangentially-related news (because they are only tangentially vegetables), Snapea Crisps are now available at Trader Joe's, which basically means all my meals are going to be spoiled by snacking from here on out.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Green vs. purple plums

People with luxuriant amounts of counter space have big, lovely, ceramic fruit bowls, which display the season's bounty to maximum effect. However, were I to allot so much space (12"+ in diameter!) to fruit, we would have to consider it a third roommate and charge rent accordingly. Instead, my fruit bowl is a Texas commemorative plate, which is luckily just the right size to hold these lovely Shiro plums.


I had to stop when the bags got too full:
5 ears corn
1 lb. "golden nugget" potatoes
1 pint heirloom cherry tomatoes
1 bunch rainbow chard
4 zucchini
1 lb. shell peas
1.5 lbs. green and yellow beans
1.5 lbs. peaches
1 lb. nectarines
1 lb. Shiro plums
Total spent: $44

Tonight I'm planning a multi-course dinner to use up the most perishable of my purchases: first will be corn on the cob, then tomato and goat cheese salad with salt and pepper, then for the main course, a plain omelet (using local eggs), peas, and roasted potatoes. I can't wait!

Hopefully the pretty golden Shiro plums will be more satisfying than the purple variety have been. I've expressed my dissatisfaction with regular plums in the past, and last year the only plums I liked were Green Gage, which have been absent from USG thus far this season.

As I feared, this week cherries were, for my purposes, gone: a few stands still had a limited supply, but they were mostly mushy and mottled, not worth sorting through. Peaches are still gathering momentum, but apricots, too, seem to be waning, but luckily nectarines have just started showing up. However, I haven't found an east coast nectarine that can compare to a good peach...

Otherwise, my week's purchases are pretty standard: green beans for blanching and serving plain or for stir-frying, zucchini for dicing and steaming in pasta salad (and stir-frying, I suppose), chard for putting in everything possible. Next week I have to remember to buy two bunches, since the kale has been really tough lately, and spinach is nowhere to be seen. I should experiment with other greens, but I have had some unlucky results with collards that make me hesitant. Maybe I can get some baby bok choy or tat soi next week. The lovely legumes have distracted me from my greens so far this summer.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Love hurts

It seems that the cherry season this year has been terribly short; it seems like only a week or two ago I was enjoying my first summertime cherries, and now they're already obviously on the wane. Strawberries disappeared all at once, but cherries are slowly fading - fewer USG vendors this week than last, and fewer next week, and soon they'll be totally gone, along with sugar snap peas, which are also past their prime. I feel winter creeping into my bones already!...and yet, it's mid-July.

Today's nevertheless-lovely harvest:

1 lb. cherries
1/2 lb. apricots
1/2 lb. plums (little purple ones, not sure what variety)
4 peaches
1 lb. sugar snap peas
1 1/2 lbs. green and yellow beans
1 lb. shell peas
1 bunch rainbow chard
3 zucchini
2 cousa squash
5 ears bicolor corn
1 pint orange heirloom cherry tomatoes
Total spent: $42

The tomatoes are delicious - as my photo assistant said while enjoying them with goat cheese, salt, and pepper, they're "outrageous" - and the little cherry tomato size is somehow less intimidating than the big ones, which I'm afraid will go bad before I can use them. The tinies are easy to snack on during every trip to the kitchen, which is good since I won't refrigerate them and they'll only last a couple of days in our hot lair.

Corn on the cob is quite a good consolation for the loss of earlier-summer crops - it's getting sweeter every week. There are already two husked ears in the steamer for dinner tonight, along with my favorite cherry tomato preparation, named above, and some squash and tofu sauteed together with garlic and spices, over rice.

I couldn't resist the green and yellow beans; I bought them from the same organic vendor I got them from last week, and they were delicious, and so versatile. They'll be blanched and served cold and salted in lunches, chopped into 1" pieces and added to pasta salads, stir-fried, and probably other ways I haven't imagined yet.

My fingers are crossed that the peaches will turn out better than the last ones I had; these are from the orchard I bought most of my peaches from last year, so I'm hoping they'll be as flavorful. I've already tasted a few of the plums and I'm experiencing my usual "blah" feeling about them; perhaps the Shiro and green gage varieties will be more to my liking, as they were last year.

I also bought some non-produce: goat cheese from Lynnhaven Farm (wonderful!), and fantastic basil pesto from an herb vendor. It's the second time I've bought the pesto - you get about 1 cup for $5, which lasts through lots of pasta salad servings - and it's really wonderful. I haven't made my own because I don't have a food processor... and I'm happy to buy it from the cute young couple who run the herb stand.

This morning I went to the USG about half an hour earlier than usual, as I had to get home early to go to the Sunburn Siren Festival, and it seemed more crowded than when I'm normally there. I wonder if there are more people who show up for the market's 8 a.m. opening than are there at around 9:30 or 10...before it gets crazily-crowded with regular folks around 11 or noon. I'm thinking of trying to get there when it opens one of these Saturdays, to see if I can get it on any extremely special, sells-out-immediately, produce...or perhaps that's a myth?

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Yellow and orange and sunny

USG was packed early this morning with folks who were loading up their weekender totes with ears of corn and berries. The morning was beautiful and sunny, and the fruits and veggies were orange and yellow, as if in homage. The bright yellow chard is breathtakingly lovely! (Also yellow, but not pictured: gold nugget potatoes, corn on the cob).

A perfect morning:
2 ears bicolor corn
1 lb. yellow Swiss chard
1 pt. orange heirloom cherry tomatoes
1 lb. green and yellow beans
1 lb. sugar snap peas
1 bunch red kale
1 lb. gold nugget potatoes
1 head Rocambole garlic
4 zucchini (2 green, 2 golden)
1 lb. apricots
1.5 lbs. peaches
1 lb. cherries
Total spent: $45

The peaches (tree-ripened) are lovely and juicy, but still working up to perfect flavor - it's still early in their season. Last week's apricots were so delicious that I got twice as many this time. If only I had taken that canning class at Brooklyn Kitchen last week...but it was a Sunday, and I had to work. They assured me they'd have another one soon, though...fingers crossed it's in time for me to put up some peaches, tomatoes, and apricots.

I've already got the whole head of Rocambole garlic on the stove in tomato sauce (with last week's basil - oops!). All the snap peas and most of the beans will end up blanched in lunches, but I will sautee some of the green beans with garlic and red pepper for dinner tonight - paired with the potatoes, and preceded by corn on the cob and a salad of sweet, juicy tomatoes with goat cheese and Italian parsley.

That chard! It's so lovely - the contrast of the fresh green with that bright yellow - that I want to come up with some way of showcasing it. Perhaps I can combine it in a recipe with some of the golden zucchini to highlight the sunniness of both vegetables.

Last week I had a bug for pasta salad, probably due in large part to the delicious pesto I bought at the USG, as well as the excruciating heat. Here are two variations I made, both great for packing in lunches, because the flavors blend in the fridge - they're not recipes as much as assembly suggestions:

Tortellini Pesto Salad
tortellini (I used Trader Joe's artichoke tortellini, but your cheese would work)
pesto (1-2 tbsp per serving)
kale
cherry tomatoes (as many as you want)
goat cheese (2 tbsp per serving)
salt and pepper to taste

Tear kale into approx 2" pieces, steam it, and set aside. Don't throw away the water you steamed it with - add more water and use that to cook the pasta (saves nutrients). Drain pasta and rinse gently with cold water until cool. Chop kale into thin strips; halve cherry tomatoes. Add pesto, pasta, kale, cherry tomatoes, and about 3/4 of the goat cheese to a bowl; season with salt and pepper and toss. Just before serving, crumble the rest of the goat cheese on top.

Penne Pasta Salad
penne
pesto (1-2 tbsp per serving)
summer squash (about 1 medium zucchini per serving)
Italian veggie sausage (Tofurky andField Roast are my favorites)
goat cheese (2 tbsp. per serving)
salt and pepper to taste

Dice zucchini, steam it until just barely tender (err on the side of crisp) and set aside. Again - use the steam water for the pasta. Drain pasta and rinse gently with cold water until cool. Dice and sautee veggie sausage. Add pesto, pasta, zucchini, sausage, and 3/4 of goat cheese to a bowl; season with salt and pepper and toss. Just before serving, crumble the rest of the goat cheese on top.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Going overboard...

...was my greenmarket m.o. today. Though strawberries are already gone, the amazing July selection at the USG today more than made up for it.

I love summer:
1 quart cherry tomatoes
1 lb. sugar snap peas
2 cousa squashes
1 bunch red Russian kale
1 bunch rainbow chard
1 bunch carrots
1 bunch Italian parsley
1 bunch basil
1.5 lbs. cherries
5 apricots
Total spent: $34

The plural of "squash" is giving me a headache. Does "squashes" mean only "multiple varieties of squash," or can I use it to mean "two fruits of the squash plant"? I think my point comes across regardless.

I'm very glad sugar snap peas are still here - they're our summer staple vegetable so far. I've been blanching them for 75 seconds, shocking them in ice water, then packing them in lunches with a few grinds of sea salt...and then, more often than not, we have them again (prepared the same way) with dinner.

I'm excited to have bought my first tomatoes of summer! One of my plans is to have them in a pesto pasta salad with cousa squash, goat cheese, and Italian parsley - with fresh basil to garnish. I bought some pesto at the greenmarket because I don't have a food processor to make my own. The basil will also go into some homemade tomato sauce.

Most of the other veggies are self-explanatory - greens for adding to burritos, pasta, and anywhere else I can fit them in, and the carrots for having raw or steamed with lunch. The cherries are from Terhune Orchards, which is also where I get my apples in fall - they have the best cherries at the greenmarket (they also had the best asparagus when it was around). I'm very happy that apricots are starting to show up; a few places even had peaches. Though these are two of the fruits I most want to can this summer, so that clock is ticking quickly. We'll see if I can fit in a class and get the gear in time to put up some fruit this summer.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Update

So, I obviously haven't posted in awhile, and I was thinking of giving up Produce Stories altogether. My main reason was that I started this blog (a year ago!) as a means to encourage myself to eat lots of fresh, seasonal fruits and vegetables, and to think of creative ways to prepare them. Since that's ingrained now, I thought that the blog had done its job. However, when I was home in California, multiple people told me how much they like it, including one of my mom's friends, who said that she has Produce Stories bookmarked on her work computer and goes to it to check out my veggie photos whenever she needs a pick-me-up...so as of this Saturday, I'm going to restart in earnest.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Thank you, strawberries

This morning I had one of those wonderful post-coffee sleep-deprived few hours where everything was right in the world. Last night I was at a show until after two, which was a wonderful experience full of people I know and love and people I know now who are amazing...so we went home with much elation, fell asleep, and I woke up to a cat's head-butting at 9 a.m., too hot to doze - so in spite of myself, I had an early greenmarket day. I was still bleary-eyed when I dropped off my compost scraps, but after an iced-coffee at Joe's, nearly did a double-take when I saw little green cartons filled with small round red...cherry tomatoes? No! Early season strawberries had arrived. And eight dollars later, a quart of them were mine.

How can one person deserve so much joy? I'm just lucky, I guess.

Thank you, greenmarket:
1 quart strawberries (half of them are gone at 5 p.m.)
1 lb. sugar snap peas
1 lb. asparagus
2 bags spinach
1 bunch red kale
3 zucchini
8 Winesap apples
Total spent: $37

No photo today. It was a whirlwind morning. Plus, you people know what strawberries look like.

Beyond berries (raspberries were also an option, though I passed them up), the other exciting new development today is sugar snap peas, which are also the season's first. I am excited to stir-fry these...and serve them just blanched in lunches as an alternative to carrot sticks, which have been keeping me going all winter, I'll admit, but it's time for a change.

I'm not sure what I want to do with the asparagus (other than eat it as soon as I can), but I'd like to try a new recipe. But I like it so much just sauteed that it's hard to commit to recipes when it comes time to make dinner. I'll keep you posted.

In non-greenmarket vegetable news, avocadoes: still delicious!

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Everything's cuter in spring

After dropping off my week's worth of fruit and vegetable waste with the compost lady, I was immediately plunged into a newly bountiful greenmarket experience. Tables were piled with asparagus - sold loose or in bunches - as well as rhubarb, tender-leafed spring spinach, and sweet-looking baby lettuces. And more vendors I recognize from last year have returned.

The predominant color is still green, and there isn't much variety (except for the potted herbs and extraordinary-looking flowers); one stand had some greenhouse-grown organic tomatoes which looked lovely, but at $5/lb. I decided to hold off. Neverrtheless, I picked up a lot of staples and a few exotics that I'm excited about this week. (Excuse the dark photo - my photo assistant had an appointment this morning and so couldn't help.)



May vegetables are better than May flowers:
2 lbs. asparagus
2 bags spinach
1 bunch red Russian kale
5 Winesap apples
2 zucchini
1/4 lb. mixed baby lettuces
1 lb. baby golden fingerling potatoes
1 bunch ramps
1 basket fiddleheads
Total spent: $36

I have absolutely no idea what to do with the fiddleheads, but I'm looking forward to them. I've eaten them once before that I can remember, years ago at an upscale Portland restaurant named after them, and don't remember being impressed. But they're so seasonal and considered so special that I imagine there has to be a way to make them wonderful.

Though I'd love to make ramps risotto for a third week in a row, I am going to force myself to be more creative. I've read about asparagus/ramp soup, which sounds lovely - I'm hoping to find a recipe. (Though this recipe for soup made with just the ramps does sound nice.) And this time, I've ensured I'll have enough of the thicker asparagus spears to use for that pan-roasted asparagus recipe from Cook's Illustrated - and I'll sautee the thinner spears.

The greens I'll used as usual - steamed or sauteed, added to every meal possible...though perhaps someday I can wheedle someone into getting me a Vita-Mix blender as a gift, and then I can add them raw to green smoothies in the morning! A girl's got to have a dream.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Update: dinner!

While I had planned to make the pan-roasted asparagus recipe from Cook's Illustrated with the bunch I picked up at the greenmarket, my discovery that there were lots of tiny spears changed my mind. Instead, I divided the asparagus spears into three separate piles based on size, and sauteed them in a bit of olive oil - first the thick pile, then the medium pile a minute later, then the tinies a minute later. They turned out perfect! This (blurry) photo is of the three cute asparagus piles - I just liked the way they looked against my new red cutting board (it's the kind with grippers on the back so it doesn't slide while you're cutting):



I also took a photo of the delicious second incarnation of risotto with ramps - though it turned out a bit odd in the kitchen lighting. The only thing that could have made this dinner more perfect is fresh fruit for dessert...

Finally!


I dragged myself to USG this morning before 10, despite the hay fever that has made me not want to get out of bed EVER...and, luckily, I was duly rewarded by asparagus's spring debut at the market. No longer will I have to envy the asparagus meals I've seen pictured on so many other sites for a month now (or spend $8/lb. at Whole Foods) - tonight, I can grill my own!

Otherwise, a quite lovely morning. Lots of greens in addition to the aforementioned asparagus, more ramps - things are picking up. Though I have to admit, I would really love some local fresh fruit; the only option I found today was rhubarb, which requires more sugar to prepare than I'm currently allowing myself. How will I make it to the start of cherry season?

Last week's photos were lost because I kept forgetting to post them, and last night I had to take the camera to the record store to photograph Mountain Goats - and to free up room for the live shots, I was forced to delete the cute ramps/garlic chives tableau I had captured. Luckily, I wrote down the recipe for risotto with ramps that I concocted last week. It's going to be dinner again tonight.

The Greenening:
1 bunch ramps
1 lb. asparagus
1 lb. spinach
1 bunch green chard
1 bunch kale
2 small yellow onions
2 heads garlic
8 Winesap apples
Total spent: $24

Risotto with Ramps
3/4 c Arborio rice
3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 bunch ramps, chopped (you should have about 1/3 c stem pieces, 1 c leaf pieces)
3 c vegetable stock
1/2 c Parmigiano-Reggiano (or more to taste)
freshly ground black pepper and salt to taste

I didn't write down any directions, but basically just sautee the stem pieces of the ramps in the olive oil until soft, add the rice and leaf pieces, stir until rice is translucent and fragrant, then follow normal procedure for risotto. One shortcut I learned is that it's easy enough to heat your stock, cup by cup, in a Pyrex in the microwave before you add it each time, rather than keeping it constantly simmering on the stove and dirtying another saucepan. After your risotto is done (you should use up all 3 cups of stock for sure), turn off the heat and stir in the cheese, salt, and pepper. Serve with more spring vegetables, preferably grilled asparagus!!

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Veggie envy

No greenmarket this week - I was low on funds (okay, totally broke), and uninspired by my last two trips. (Also, my search for recipes featuring ramps, the only new springtime vegetable I found last week, led to my understanding that they taste like onions. I may still try them, but that killed my motivation.) However, on the food blogs I read, everyone is talking about how delicious this season's a) asparagus and b) artichokes are. Neither of these are availably locally in the market. And I dearly love them both.

So I think I might take part of my food budget to Garden Of Eden and buy artichokes and asparagus to steam and roast, respectively, while my photo assistant is still out of town. That's the other reason I skipped the greenmarket - it's funny how much more inspiring I find it to make meals for another person. When it's just me, I generally come up with some concoction of brown rice and frozen vegetables (last night it was shelled edamame and corn), sauced with a combination of nutritional yeast, garlic, pepper sauce, and soy sauce. It's nothing to write home about, but it's reasonably healthy and can be thrown together with a minimum of effort and dishes.

Anyhow, tomorrow I should have more interesting vegetable news to report...I'm quite looking forward to trying the roasted asparagus technique from Cook's Illustrated, so I'll share the results. And let's not get into how much I love artichokes. Man. When I was a vegetarian teenager, I used to have an artichoke every year for Thanksgiving dinner instead of turkey. My grandmother would always scoff and say that artichokes seemed like nothing more than an excuse to eat the lemon butter dipping sauce, at which I would respond "so?"

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Gravy!!

Last night I was feeling uninspired about dinner, so I read a couple of my favorite food blogs for ideas. Vegan Lunchcast was having leftover mashed potatoes and vegan gravy for lunch, and I decided that it was as good a time as any to tackle my fear of homemade veggie gravy. VL linked to this recipe from Bryanna Clark Grogan, and I thought it was worth a shot.

And it was! Though I accidentally doubled the soy sauce and salt (by halving the recipe and forgetting to halve them), the gravy turned out delicious. The toasted nutritional yeast/flour combination really does mimic the roasted flavor of the pan cracklings used to make brown meat gravy. I served the gravy over mashed potatoes (using the little yellow delights I bought at last week's greenmarket), and it was heaven. Since the gravy itself isn't tremendously unhealthy (especially when I make it with the correct amount of sodium!), I think it would be a nice accompaniment to plain boiled or baked potatoes - a flavorful variety, like I had this time - rather than the rich, buttery mashed potatoes, for an everyday-type side dish.

Last night, we had gravy, mashed potatoes, and faux-chicken nuggets from Trader Joe's - vegetarian comfort junk food at its finest! But I do think I can incorporate this gravy recipe into healthier meals as well.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Spring - so what??

Okay, I'm not quite that cynical, but despite the ridiculously gorgeous day, there was very little in the way of actual produce at the greenmarket this week. The food options are still mostly apples and potatoes, though I did find the same greens I had last week - including the fantastic chard - though there are, here and there, signs that bounty is just around the corner. The market was dominated by potted plants and flowers, which certainy looked lovely, and made the place smell fragrant (and highly allergenic).

Pretty much the same as last week:
1 lb. Bindje potatoes (pretty little yellow ones)
4 lbs. apples (Winesaps and Mutsus)
1/2 lb. rainbow chard
1 bunch red Russian kale
1 log goat cheese
1 loaf "San Francisco" sourdough
Total spent: $27

I made a lovely lunch snack of the sourdough smeared with goat cheese, topped with tart Mutsu slices, and popped under the broiler for a minute and a half. The goat cheese, from Lynndale Farms, is delicious, with a nice, pure, creamy flavor.

Onwards and upwards! I'll keep my fingers crossed for next week.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

A semi-glorious and expensive return to USG

The past month or so has been impossible. Hence, no greenmarket trips. At this point, my body is fairly crying out for fresh vegetables...I think this USG trip came just in the nick of time. Though, unfortunately, most vendors are still replete with potatoes, apples, onions, and other fall/winter offerings - perhaps because our spring has been so cold thus far - I was able to find some really nice-looking (and pricey) greens.


Some of this isn't produce at all:
1/3 lb. mesclun mix
1/3 lb. rainbow chard
1 bunch kale
2 lbs. fancy red potatoes (I forgot what variety)
4 lbs. apples (Mutsu, Red Ida, and Winesap)
1 bag shallots
3 lbs. whole wheat flour
1 dozen eggs
Total spent: $36

The eggs were an impulse buy, chosen after I had walked around a bit and realized the spring greenmarket bounty I had been irresponsibly hoping for hadn't arrived. Though I don't eat eggs all that often (I have a bit of an inferiority complex regarding my inability/unwillingness to become totally vegan), farm-fresh ones are so lovely. I'm going to make omelets for dinner tonight, probably filled with greens and with roasted potatoes alongside. The greens vendor also had some "green garlic," which looked like the garlic equivalent of chives; he claimed that the roots of the stalks are delicious when scrambled with a fresh egg. I think I may have to try them next week.

I'm not sure what variety of kale this is, but I do hope that it turns out better than the usual tough, curly kind; the leaves seem quite tender and they're totally flat and shaped a bit like arugula. (A later Google search has shown that it is Red Russian kale.) Perhaps I'll use them with the chard in some garlicky mixed-green tacos one evening, with black beans on the side. I've been making big pots of beans all winter, but I haven't had fresh greenmarket peppers...I can't wait until lots of different types are available again, so I can experiment. Supermarket poblanos and jalapenos are waxy and tired (though, of course, better than nothing).

No applesauce this time - these will be sliced for lunches. Applesauce reminds me too much of winter - and since the winters temperatures are hanging around, I've got to avoid being stuck in the winter mindset. Maybe my early-onset hay fever will help...sigh.

A sidenote - sometimes I can't post because this happens:

Saturday, March 03, 2007

A late USG morning

I slept in 'til 10 this morning, so I didn't end up making it to the greenmarket 'til 11. I wasn't surprised to find about the same selection as last week (read: not much), but I did find some inspiration for next week's vegetable dishes.

My short list:
1 butternut squash
1/2 lb. fancy organic spinach
1 bunch fancy organic chard
8 (or so) shallots
2 small yellow onions
1 head garlic
7 lbs. Mutsu apples
Total spent: $28

How did I spend $28 on such a small haul? The spinach alone was about $10 - it's $4 per 1/4 lb., which works out to about twice as much as the Trader Joe's bagged organice spinach. But this stuff has better flavor and hasn't spent a lot of time getting intimate with plastic...and my purchase supports local growers. Everything was a bit pricey - even the squash (which is quite nice-looking) was $3, which is a bargain considering its food value, but still high compared to $1 during peak season.

I had planned to have roasted squash, braised celery, and sauteed chard with Tofurky sausage for dinner, but my photo assistant was feeling sick so I made a version of my Ultra-Soup. This used 4 tbsp. Bragg's Liquid Aminos instead of 3 tbsp. soy sauce, potatoes instead of pasta (I had some left from last week's greenmarket excursion), and - most exciting of all - I used homemade seitan! The idea came from La Dolce Vegan, a book I ordered specifically for its faux-meat recipes; the seitan was very easy to make (I started with vital wheat gluten), and it turned out very well after simmering for an hour in the soup. This was probably my favorite batch yet.

Meanwhile, my beloved Mutsu apples are simmering away on the stove for applesauce, and I'm looking forward to when the greenmarket has produce pretty enough to photograph again.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Surprise! Return to USG

Dear Winter,

I know you were winning for awhile, and that instead of rushing out for fruits and veggies on Saturday mornings I have been staying in bed and sometimes even drinking hot chocolate, but those days are over. Get ready for Spring.

Regards,
Anna

Return to the greenmarket haul:
1/2 lb. baby spinach
1 bunch green chard
1/2 lb. baby bok choy
1/2 lb. shallots
1 1/2 lbs. yellow (Austrian?) crescent potatoes
1 small Stripetti squash
2 heads garlic
8 lbs. assorted apples
Total spent: $27

I was surprised when last night, I thought "perhaps I'll get up early and go to the greenmarket tomorrow" - and even more surprised when I woke up early this morning and did it! Pickings were sparse, but they were certainly better than when I last visited, and I found some lovely (albeit expensive) greens that I'm excited to use. No more bagged spinach for me!...or, at least, not until my half-pound of $16/lb. organic, biodynamic, greenhouse-grown baby spinach is gone, probably in two or three days.

Taking a cue from my favorite dish at Curly's Vegetarian Lunch and recent successes of my own, I'll sautee some of the spinach and chard with shallot, garlic, cumin, and crushed red pepper to make spicy greens tacos for dinner one night (Curly's uses kale in theirs also, which I might try eventually, though kale hasn't been a favorite around here, unfortunately). I'll stir-fry the baby bok choy with tofu, the chard stems, and perhaps some carrots or zucchini...it's so lovely to have greens options, rather than just spinach (no matter how much I love it). The remaining spinach will probably go raw into some tofu wraps for lunches, and the chard I'll sautee with veggie sausage and serve alongside the roasted potatoes.

The Stripetti squash is a bit of a left-field choice, especially since I recently read some food blogger's horror story of cutting into a fully-roasted spaghetti squash and finding it totally moldy and desiccated inside...but, as I said, pickings were sparse, and as the vendor where I bought the squash was otherwise entirely dedicated to potatoes and onions, I felt like I should take what I could get. I think I'll roast it like spaghetti squash and serve it with homemade sauce (or the Trader Joe's bruschetta in a jar, if I don't get around to making homemade this week) and cannellini beans.

And, of course, the (great-looking) bargain-basement apples, which I bought for $0.50/lb. from my favorite apple vendor, Terhune Orchards, will very shortly be made into applesauce.

I can't wait to cook all these vegetables! It feels like forever since I've had inspiring produce, and even though these choices are a bit pedestrian, I feel really great about them.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Vegetable update PLUS veg-friendly...London?

As far as updates go, it's pretty much been spinach, carrots, green beans, and the occasional zucchini around here lately. I can't get myself to eat salad in winter, so those are pretty much my only options. But now that January has been over for a couple of weeks, the winter despair is subsiding, and I'm looking forward to new greenmarket excursions in a month or so.

In other news, I spent a few days in the UK for work last week, and discovered that the slow-food/reducing food miles movement is quite prevalent over there. Greenmarket culture is huge there, mainstream food magazine I was reading seemed to assume its readers were food-mile-conscious, and some friends from New York acknowledged that the local produce/fresh food movement is much more prevalent in London than in NYC.

A Google search led to this article about a political party leader endorsing the Slow Food movement - he grows his own vegetables, and condemns giving sugar to children:

Perhaps the best quote: "I've said that we need to match concern for GDP with concern for GWB - general well being. That's why I want to talk about food." I wish I could imagine a US political leader making statements like these, but "Big Food"'s influence, plus the generalized unwillingness of the American people to be conscious of our food consumption prevent it.

Another evidence of the increasing concern for health and whole foods in the UK is the success of a bottled-smoothie company called Innocent.

Bottled smoothies are certainly not absent from the US marketplace, but Innocent's don't include sweeteners, sugar, water, or concentrates, nor do they overrely on base juices like grape or apple - they're 100% fruit, come in reasonable serving sizes (250 ml or about 8 oz), and are deliciously tart, like real fruit. The ingredients are listed as servings of real fruit, e.g. "19 pressed grapes, 1/2 mashed banana, 16 strawberries, dash orange juice, squeeze of lemon juice."

Their drinks come in versions for kids with "no bits", yogurt-enhanced "thickies" for breakfast/meals, and "juicy waters," which are soft drinks made of fruit juice and spring water. And to work toward their goal of being totally self-sustaining, Innocent are shifting their bottling from 50% recycled plastic bottles to "eco bottles," which are made of cornstarch and are totally biodegradable. Innocent also contribute to many other worthy causes (their website outlines their charitable contributions and activities).

What makes Innocent's place in the UK market is that its smoothies aren't a niche item, sold in health-food stores and the odd grocery. They are EVERYWHERE. The coffee/snack kiosks in train stations all stock at least a dozen flavors, and they can be found most places you'd think to buy a soda or a bottle of water. In my limited London experience, I found Innocent smoothies to be more readily available than e.g., Odwalla or Naked Juice drinks are here in the US...and they taste fresher and more like "real fruit" than the Odwallas of the world, which tend to be largely apple/grape-based for sweetness.

My London friends told me that over the last few years, Britain's political leadership has focused on local food as both a means to improve the notoriously-poor British diet, and a means to reduce food miles - this 2005 BBC article claims that 25% of all heavy-goods traffic miles in the UK are moving food: - and, most impressive of all, is that it's actually making a difference. I suppose that's the sort of positive change possible in a country not ruled by lobbyists from the meat and dairy industries.

Not that I'm defeatist; I believe that the US diet will change drastically over the next decade or so, but I am afraid that things will get a lot worse before they get better, and that when change occurs, it will be legislated, harsh, and fast-moving. The fact that the British, facing national diet/food culture with so much reliance on cheese/dairy, refined grains, and meat, have been able to effect such quick and far-reaching change, is quite a reason for optimism on our side of the pond.

Meanwhile, I've read several food blogs lately (especially last night, when I had to stay up to wait for the bread to finish), and I'm feeling a little inspired lately - my next experiment will be veggie spring/salad rolls. I imagine they'll have the wrappers at Garden Of Eden. I'm thinking I'll fill them with carrot, cabbage, spinach, and tofu. But spring rolls are all about the dipping sauce, and I've got to find a sauce recipe before I dive in.

Only one more month of winter!!