Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Smoothie Stories

My mom and I were discussing smoothies recently (that's nothing new), and after we compared recipes, I realized how elaborate my smoothies have become since the Vita-Mix. Since they're so easy to make and I have everything easily at hand, I was surprised to find that the pictured pre-smoothie contained fourteen different ingredients, when, a year ago, my smoothies had four: strawberries, banana, apple juice, yogurt. This is a "wintertime" smoothie because I use winter vegetables and add spices for heat, and all the fruit is frozen. It may sound like a weird and gross combination, but...man, these smoothies are good, and they make me feel great!

Wintertime smoothie:
soy yogurt
small lemon slice
flax seed meal
curly kale
red clover sprouts
frozen mango
frozen strawberries
frozen blueberries
apple cider

Saturday, February 23, 2008

I have expensive tastes

There are two types of carrots available at USG these days. One vendor's carrots cost $1/lb. and taste like perfume. So I've started buying Windfall Farms carrots, which cost $5/lb. Also, the only spinach I can find is $6 per $1/4 lb. At these prices, I guess I'm lucky there aren't a lot of options.

Good thing I really like carrots:
1.5 lbs. carrots
1/2 lb. baby spinach
1 box red clover sprouts
1 bunch tat soi
Total spent: $22

I also got the usual goat cheese, eggs, and apple cider...though the pricey carrots did eat up my Rick's Picks budget. I do have four half-finished jars in the fridge, so I suppose I can manage for a few more days.

There are still a few pounds of apples in the fridge, left over from a few weeks back (!), so I'm going to make another batch of applesauce today. At the moment, though, I have a batch of chili on the stove. My favorite moment in the chili-making process is after adding the garlic, cumin, and oregano to the softened onions and jalapenos - the second when it becomes aromatic, just before adding the tomatoes and beans. That moment might be my favorite smell in all of cooking.

Otherwise, I'm going to put the tat soi in our smoothies, make another borscht with some weeks-old beets, and pray for spring.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Super-delicious pasta

This turned out to be way more than the sum of its parts.

Summery wintertime hydropasta:
about 1/4 cup plain goat cheese
about 8 brine-cured kalamata olives, diced
2 tsp. olive oil (fancy and pungent if you have it)
1 hydroponic tomato (you could use a handful of grape tomatoes maybe)
fresh spinach egg linguine for two people (I used Knoll Crest Farms)

Put salted water on to boil. While it's heating, mix first three ingredients in a small bowl with a fork until cheese is smooth and olives are distributed. Dice tomato, removing seeds if you care. Cook pasta according to package instructions (2-3 minutes), drain, and immediately return pasta to pan. Toss pasta with goat cheese mixture, divide onto two plates, and top each plate with half the diced tomato. Add a few grinds of black pepper to each plate, and pow! Your awesome dinner is done in under ten minutes.

The olive oil flavor is really key here - the more "olive-y" the better. I used some of the Pasolivo I bought as a birthday present to myself. It's really good - if you've ever been skeptical about whether olive oil can have a real flavor impact, Pasolivo will convince you. It's quite strong, with lots of fruity, grassy notes. Plus Pasolivo is made in my homeland, the li'l old central coast of California. And look how lovely it is!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

A skeptic relents: tomatoes in winter??!!

Another slim-pickins day at USG, which slimness was compounded by my late arrival (my usual vendor was even out of kale by the time I got there at 11).

I don't believe they were out of kale:
3 lbs. Nicola potatoes
2 yellow onions
1 1/2 lbs. carrots
1/3 lb. baby spinach
1/3 lb. baby red Russian kale
2 tomatoes
Total spent: $30

It was with a mixture of shame, hope, and confusion that I finally bought some tomatoes from the Shushan Valley Hydro Farm stand (this photo is from their website). Since they appeared a month or so ago, I've peered into their little plastic tent, even picked up then put down a bunch of basil once or twice, but haven't taken the plunge. Tomatoes in winter seem impossible, or at least ill-advised; I feel a bit like the sucker of a snake-oil dealer: "The taste of summer, yours year-round! Step right up, folks!" But today I needed inspiration (and I have had tomatoes on my mind since making the exquisite tomato soup from Veganomicon), so I went for it. I'm going to use at least one of them tonight in a quick sauce for Knoll Crest Farms spinach pasta, along with some black olives, spinach sautéed with olive oil and garlic, and Lynnhaven Farms goat cheese. So even if the tomatoes' soil-less cultivation has rendered them insipid, there will be enough flavor in the dish.

Other updates:
Pear pie = meh - I liked the pecan streusel topping, but the pear pie didn't quite work. Perhaps I needed more seasoning, or more lemon juice, or something: it was a bit overly sweet and one-dimensional, as my mother warned me it might be. Though it doesn't help that the pie crust was the toughest and worst yet! I am somehow regressing in pie-crust skill, and I don't know why. This week I will either go apple again or find a recipe for vegan banana cream pie.
I'm out of cinnamon so I had to order from Penzeys again. My order, which I am only listing because it's an eclectic bunch of mostly B-list spices I'm unsure about: allspice, cinnamon (Ceylon this time), vanilla beans (Madagascar), marjoram, zatar, tarragon, mustard powder (not hot), ancho chile powder, chipotle chile powder. I can't wait!
Veganomicon forays - So far I have made the chickpea cutlets, which are just as fabulous as I'd hoped, and the tomato soup, which is the type of tomato soup you'd get in a restaurant and say "this is why we go to restaurants - for tomato soup like this." But you're at home, so you just think "I am a genius," even though it's not your recipe. I still haven't made the autumn latkes - they'll happen this week.
More applesauce is on the stove, using last week's miscellaneous apples.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Warning: totally predictable.

Allow me to join the boring hordes and pledge my undying love to Veganomicon. Believe the hype - and I don't mean about Vampire Weekend, though you can go ahead and believe that hype too, they're pretty good - this is a great cookbook, with tons of recipes that even non-vegans will love.

More of the same:
3 beets
2 lbs. carrots
3 lbs. Yukon gold potatoes
1 box red clover sprouts
1 bunch kale
2 bags spinach
2 bags misc. apples
6 pears

I bought the pears for the pear pie I meant to make yesterday, using this recipe, but I didn't have time. I'm hoping I can make it happen this week, because Pear Pie with ginger and pecan streusel topping sounds about as good as it gets.

My first foray into Veganomiconing will be the Autumn Latkes, which are simply potato pancakes made out of other autumn vegetables instead of potatoes; the recipe calls for shredded beets, carrots, and sweet potatoes, but the previously mentioned dearth of sweet potatoes at USG means I'll be using regular Yukon Golds to replace them. Otherwise I want to try just about every single recipe in the thing, particularly the casseroles.

While we've been using the sprouts primarily in smoothies, where texture doesn't really matter, the red clover sprouts are more "hairy" and better for sandwiches than the mung or the lentil, so I think I'll only get them from now on. Since there's not really any lettuce to be had for our Tofurky-cold-cut-and-mustard sandos, the sprouts are essential for crunch and contrast.

The bad news: we had some of the carrots steamed alongside stir-fried seitan and brown rice, and they tasted like perfume. This happened a couple of weeks ago, and I stopped buying carrots from that vendor for awhile, but this time I didn't have another option. It doesn't taste chemical-y, just like these particular carrots have an odd flowery flavor. They're okay when combined with other ingredients and spices, but it's quite noticeable when they're steamed on their own. Weird.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

In case you need a reminder that vegetables are funny

Natalie Dee has the funniest comics ever, and many of them treat fruit-and-vegetable-related subjects.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Ever-dwindling options

Even if I hadn't been anxious to get home to make my first-ever double-crust cherry pie (yes, I had to use canned and no, it wasn't pretty enough to photograph), I would have come home light-handed today. I couldn't even find any sweet potatoes!

I suppose this could make a nice soup:
2 lbs. German butterball potatoes
1 bag spinach
2 bunches kale
2 yellow onions
1 box mixed red clover and mung bean sprouts
4 pears
Total spent: $22

Also, I forgot carrots. No big plans for this tiny haul (kale and sprouts for smoothies), though the pears are a bit newsworthy. I bought them because my photo assistant likes them, though I don't, and it seems like having fruit variety is good when possible (which it barely is at this point in the season). Well, we cut one up and had it with brunch (homemade veggie biscuits and gravy!), and...I kinda liked it. I'm used to pears being mealy and weird, but this one (from Terhune Orchards, of course) was crisp, juicy, and sweet. So maybe I like pears now. Don't tell my mom.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Which do you want first? The good news or the bad news?

Everyone always chooses the good news first, which is often essential, since the bad news generally correlates to the good. But in this case, that's not true. Well, it's kinda true.

The good news is that my ersatz carrot pickles totally worked! They're delicious, and the bonus is that my experiment taught me that I like pickled carrots (though it wouldn't be hard to extrapolate that conclusion from my loves of pickles and of carrots). I just peeled and "sticked" the carrots, stuck them into the jar of leftover Kool Gherks brine, topped off with white vinegar, put the lid on tightly and shook it all up, then let it sit in the fridge for about a week. Now I have bonus pickles.

The bad news is that my stomach is acting up pretty seriously again, despite my trip to the gastroenterologist and the resulting acid-reducing meds - perhaps my obvious unwillingness to give up briny and spicy foods is partial culprit. I've also been hit by a big heavy molasses-truck of depression this week, and I'm not sure if the stomach is the egg or the chicken here. (Metaphors fly thick and fast around here when I get to talkin' about the sads.)