Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Produce Stories Best Of 2008

So the ballots are in, and I've finally tabulated the scores in the first annual Produce Stories Best Of The Year...
Okay, nobody is voting but me, so "tabulating" means "remembering" and "typing stuff." Also, I know that I used a tacky font for the Best of 2008 header. I happen to enjoy "groovy '70s" font and have no other outlet in my life for it. Okay?

Vegetable Categories
Best Vegetable (Overall): Brussels Sprouts
    Runners-up: Green Beans, Kale
Best Leafy Green: Fancy Italian Kale whose name I don't remember (from Northshire Farms)
    Runners-up: Collard Greens, Red Oak Lettuce
Most Overrated Kale: Lacinato
Best Root Vegetable: Carrots
    Runners-up: Shallots, Beets
Best Vegetable Dish: Quiche with Caramelized Shallots and Thyme (recipe below)

Fruit Categories
Best Fruit (Overall): Nectarines
    Runners-up: Blackberries, Tristar Strawberries
Best Apple: Macoun
    Runner-up: Mutsu
Favorite Fruit Dessert: Applesauce (recipe below)

Fresh Herb Of The Year: Thyme
    Runner-up: Italian Parsley
Favorite New Culinary Skill Acquired This Year: Canning
Favorite Food I Stopped Hating This Year: Mushrooms

Quiche with Caramelized Shallots & Thyme:
Makes 6-8 servings
1 single pie crust
2 cups shallots, cut into 1/8" sauté slices
4 large eggs, well-beaten
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp. minced fresh thyme
Freshly grated black pepper
3 oz. colby cheese, grated
3 oz. parmigiano-reggiano, grated

Preheat oven to 425 degrees and blind-bake pie crust with weights 10 minutes. Allow to cool. Turn oven down to 350.
Make caramelized shallots: Soften shallots with a pinch of salt over medium-low heat in small amount of olive oil (cover pan to speed softening); turn up heat to medium-high and cook, stirring frequently, until shallots are evenly brown. This will take about 20-30 minutes. Allow to cool.
In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, cream, milk, thyme, and a generous amount of freshly-ground black pepper.
Distribute shallots evenly around bottom of pie crust; then add cheeses, distributing each in an even layer. Pour egg mixture over cheese.
Bake quiche on the middle oven rack for 30-35 minutes, or until lightly golden brown and set all the way through. Allow to cool to room temperature before slicing.

Makes about 8 servings
4-5 lbs. apples
3 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg (optional; or use 1/4 tsp. each nutmeg and allspice)

Was, quarter, and core apples, and place them in a large pot with a lid. Add spices and fill pot with water to cover by at least 1". Cover and bring to a simmer over medium-low heat; reduce heat to low and cook until apples are completely soft but not falling apart.
Drain apples and let sit in colander until cool enough to handle. run apples through food mill using largest- or second-largest-holed screen. Serve hot or cold.

Making/taking stock

This was the type of morning that makes it hard to romanticize being a Greenmarket farmer (which romanticizing I will admit that I do quite often). Below freezing and windy, today makes me want to stay inside my warm apartment, baking and nestling up on the couch with a book and a hot drink - while all day, the vendors are outside, selling cold produce to warm-home-bound people like me. And the fact that standing outside in the freezing cold all day is probably one of the least difficult aspects of farming as a profession, especially in winter? Hard for this California-bred vegetable-lover to fathom.

I said lots of "goodbye 'til next year"s today:
1 bunch Swiss chard
1 bunch red Russian kale
1 bunch collard greens
1 lb. fingerling potato "roasting mix"
3/4 lb. assorted chile peppers
4 lbs. onions
4 lbs. carrots
1 bunch celery
1 lb. cranberries
3 lbs. apples
1 head Shaman garlic
Total spent: $49.50

I have stock on the stovetop now (5 quarts water and 2 lbs. onions, 2 lbs. carrots, 1 lb. celery, 2 bay leaves, 4" kombu, 5 black peppercorns, 2 sprigs thyme, pinch of salt), and I'm also planning to make applesauce, a mushroom quiche, and maybe a loaf of bread or some pita or tortillas, if I'm feeling adventurous. And I'm not sure if I'll do it today, but I'm planning to make some cranberry jam or jelly - these are the first cranberries I've seen at the market this year, and I'm excited.

And later, I will finally finish my tabulating and announce the Produce Stories Best Of The Year!

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Freezing toes; greens galore; announcement!

Lately I've been reflecting a lot on the person I was a few hours ago, when I was getting ready to leave for the greenmarket, a person I don't understand. Actions speak louder than words, so I think the best way I can sum up this enigmatic past me is the decision, upon finding via weather.com that the temperature outside was 31, to wear the pictured holey sneakers rather than, say, one of the many heavy boot options available in my shoe wardrobe.

My toes are still freezing after half an hour in my warm apartment. What was I thinking? At USG, I kept hopping from one foot to the other while vendors added up my purchases, and lest they think me ungraciously impatient, I was impelled to explain my toe situation. Despite my frostbite-fearing hurry, I managed to find some great vegetables among the dwindling winter offerings.

Cold feet, warm kitchen:
1 bunch collard greens
1 bunch lacinato kale
1 bunch fancy Italian kale
2 lbs. Brussels sprouts
1 lb. assorted chili peppers
1.5 lbs. assorted mushrooms
1.5 lbs. sweet potatoes
1 lb. miniature, multi-colored potato "roasting mix"
Total spent: $32

The mushrooms will go into quiche when my quiche-loving photo assistant comes back from LA, the greens will be blanched and sautéed/stir-fried, and I haven't decided whether to make chili or lentil pepper-pot with the chili peppers.

I'll use the sweet potatoes in lunches - spicy roasted sweet potatoes with blanched greens are a great lunch side. And the apples left from my Wednesday USG trip will become applesauce at some point today.

In camera news, it's apparently working again.

In other news: Announcing the first annual Produce Stories Best Of The Year Countdown - next week I will be sharing my picks for best produce of 2008. How will you stand the anticipation?!?!? I honestly don't know - you might try meditating, or maybe you could take up a new hobby? I hear knitting's popular.