Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Puttin' my money where my mouth is

I've been preoccupied with other things the past couple of weeks, and haven't posted. Nothing too inspiring going on around here recipe-wise, though I promise I'm eating my vegetables. I am looking forward to having chili for dinner tonight for the first time in ages; I have some gorgeous peppers to roast up for it.

However, I have been inspired by the efforts of Food Bank for NYC, and this week I donated money and applied to volunteer with their CookShop program, as well as a local food pantry in my neighborhood. You can do the same thing!
Food Bank NYC website

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Here's the thing about corn

I love corn on the cob to distraction. I love fresh corn soup, salads made of fresh corn, and adding fresh corn to any and all possible meals, while it's in season. But, as I was discussing with my photo assistant this evening, corn is really heavy to carry home from the market, and it creates a lot of compost waste (which I carry back to the market eventually). That's because the edible area is basically a 1/4" surface in between one big part of the corn (the cob) and another (the husk/silk) - an eaten corn of cob is almost exactly the same size and weight as an untouched one. But, as I said, I love the stuff, so I'm not going to stop eating it. I'm just complaining.

I did find many more-convenient selections, though:
4 ears corn
2 bunches carrots
1 leeks
1 bunch kale
1 bunch Swiss chard
1 bunch celery
1 3/4 lb. zucchini
3/4 lb. button mushrooms
2 lbs. yellow tomatoes
1 1/4 green beans and yellow wax beans
1/2 lb. mixed peppers (jalapeno, anaheim, poblano)
1 bunch oregano
1 bunch thyme
1 pint strawberries
4 nectarines
3 peaches
4 purple Italian plums
Total spent: $48

I made it home without forgetting the strawberries, but they did end up pretty squished. Luckily, they're still edible. I'm planning to use the peppers, tomatoes, and some of the zucchini and leeks in a posole stew tomorrow night with the dried hominy I soaked and cooked today. Inspired entirely by a friend's description of her mom's posole recipe, I'm going to make this up as I go along.

Otherwise, the main story here is that I still haven't bought peaches, nectarines, and apricots for jam. The heat has really gotten to me this year, and with no AC in the front kitchen part of our apartment, I am not looking forward to making any more jam. But I know it will end up worth all the sweat and's just going to take a little more convincing.

Photo from Flickr: Trimmer741's photostream

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Why I shouldn't go to the market before coffee

A lovely, if hot, visit to USG today. I very nearly made it through without disaster despite my unfed, uncoffeed state - but not quite. I forgot to buy celery, and, worst of all, I left my brown-paper-bagged pint of Tristar strawberries at the Evolutionary Organics stand when I bought my greens, and didn't realize it until I was walking home from the subway. I'll just take heart imagining that someone who works at the stand will get a treat!

Refilling my bare fridge:
1/2 lb. salad greens
2 bunches carrots
1 bunch collard greens
1 bunch Swiss chard
1 head Rocambole garlic
1 bunch Italian parsley
3 lbs. green and yellow zucchini
2 lbs. new red-gold potatoes
1 1/2 lbs. yellow wax beans
4 ears white corn
1 pint Tristar strawberries (sigh)
4 nectarines
2 peaches
4 apricots
4 Shiro plums
Total spent: $44

The real news this week isn't in greenmarket purchases, but in pickles! My crock pickles magically weren't destroyed by my out-of-town week of neglect. They are delicious - really sour and perfectly spiced. I decided not to boil the brine, making my spirit guide in that decision Sandor Katz rather than the arguably more sensible Linda Ziedrich, though I (loosely) followed the latter's recipe for the pickles.

As you can see in the photo, the brine is alarmingly cloudy with sediment, but I'm choosing to ignore that and blithely rinse my pickles before I eat them. I just can't imagine that they could taste so good and be somehow spoiled. I ended up with three quarts of pickles, plus a handful of extras (which quickly became a mouthful, and have vanished). These will certainly not last more than a couple of months given their tastiness and my obsession with pickles, and unfortunately the Kirbies currently available at the market are too big for pickling in my little crock. Next year I'll have a successful pickling experience under my belt and will start early and pickle often! I might need a bigger crock.

No big plans for this week's haul. It's pretty standard, nothing to pickle or preserve, because I was on a budget and handicapped by my lack of caffeine and calories w/r/t creativity and desire to carry more heavy bags. Next week (or this weekend, if I can get my neighbors at Locust Grove to make me a side deal), I'll get peaches, nectarines, and apricots, and plan a massive jam day. I've already bought a new flat of jars in preparation, and I'm impressed by the stylish new brushed-steel lids Ball has introduced this season.

In other news, I have some news coming soon. But meanwhile, onward and upward, with a pit stop by the pickle department of my fridge on the way!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Eat It

8/2 revision: I have let everyone down, especially Weird Al. How could I have forgotten "Addicted To Spuds" - especially given that the photo accompanying this post was of potatoes?!?!? I am off my A-game, people. There's no other explanation. Unfortunately I couldn't find the official "Addicted To Spuds" video, but here's a link to a live version on MTV from 1987. Luckily the search for that vid enticed me to rewatch Trapped In The Drive-Through which is blatantly amazing.

I recently found (Weird) Al Yankovic on Twitter, and he mentioned that this month marks the 20th anniversary of the landmark cinema classic UHF, which is one of my favorite movies of all time. With an all-star cast including Yankovic himself, Victoria Jackson, Fran Drescher, Emo Phillips, Billy Barty (as Noodles McIntosh), Kevin McCarthy and a pre-Seinfeld Michael Kramer, UHF is clearly one of the best movies ever. Unfortunately it doesn't have much to do with produce, and even Al's hit single Eat It barely mentions vegetables, though bananas figure prominently in one verse.

Today, we're teaching poodles how to fly:
1 pint Tristar strawberries
4 nectarines
3 peaches
6 apricots
1/4 lb. salad greens
1 bunch collards
1 bunch lacinato kale
1 bunch leeks
1 bunch celery
2 bunches carrots
1 1/2 lbs. mixed new potatoes
1 lb. wax beans
1/2 lb. peppers - Anaheim and jalapeno
2 lbs. zucchini
1 1/4 lb. Lima beans
3 plum tomatoes
1 box Sungold tomatoes
Total spent: $54

No big plans, although I clearly forgot to buy less food than usual because we're leaving Monday for Bloomington. I'll just have to use it all up before then. Tonight I'm planning to have salad, then a main course of succotash with the limas and corn, garlic-sautéed lacinato kale, and roasted new potatoes (patriotic red, white, and blue mix pictured in their farm-fresh dirty state), with some sliced Sungold tomatoes to garnish. At some point I'll use the peppers in a pot of black beans, the leeks in a frittata with the remaining potatoes, and the rest will get eaten as lunch snacks (celery, carrots, wax beans), and in as yet unplanned miscellaneous meals.

In jam news: my second batch of sour cherry jam turned out, though it was a lengthy process - had to add about six times the called-for amount of pectin. Apricot, peach, and nectarine jams are all on the schedule for my return, and possibly plum jam or plum butter. I also might try something with currants or gooseberries, just for the novelty.

Pickle update: Lots of white scum growing on the surface led me to reconfigure my pickling setup. Now it's more covered, but there's still white stuff growing. I'm a bit panicked because when I leave for Bloomington nobody will be skimming the stuff off my pickle I guess I'll just hope it stops, or allow that I might have to give up on at least the top layer of this batch. Who knew that making old-fashioned crock pickles was so difficult?

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

If at first you don't succeed...

Just put four more pounds of kirby cucumbers in brine in my pickle crock. The tragic first batch came out so salty they made my teeth vibrate, so I had to toss them (the upside being that my whole kitchen now smells deliciously briny and pickly).

Running around like crazy today amidst general blues and homesickness for California. Nothing much interesting to report w/r/t market purchases, though I did get some sour cherries so I can make some jam, as a certain mother I know implied I ought to do. I wonder if I should put in the almond extract that about 75% of the recipes I've found include? I've got until Friday to decide.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

This makes me want to play video games again

The Munchables, a new game for Wii - tagline is "When Vegetables Go Bad." The storyline involves two characters (called Chomper and Munchy) who must take back the Legendary Orbs, stolen by space pirates, in order to save their planet Star Ving ("a fantastic world of many islands connected by rainbows"). NB: nowhere does the website explain why the space pirates are vegetables.

The game has a ska-ish soundtrack, with bosses including Brocco-Lee, Great Grapy, Heli-Cantaloupie (what?), and Don Onion (who is "a pirate wandering around space and leader of the Space Pirates," whose personality is "greedy and unfair" and whose hobby is "invasion"; he was last seen at "Fort Entrée"). Other characters, which you eat along the way both to stop them and to grow bigger and more powerful include Eggplanter, Space Shroom, and Rice Baller.

3D video games freak me out but I like moving the cute characters around their adorable website.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

It's sunny and 75 - feels so good to be alive

If I ever end up in debtor's prison, it will be my orchard bills that send me there.
Everybody must get stonefruit:
1 3/4 lb. peaches
3/4 lb. pluots
3/4 lb. apricots
1 1/2 lb. cherries
1 pt. Tristar strawberries
1/2 pt. chanterelle mushrooms
1 bunch curly kale
1 bunch Swiss chard
2 1/4 lb. zucchini
1 1/2 lb. green beans
2 bunches carrots
2 bunches celery
1 1/2 lb. red potatoes
2 big yellow tomatoes
1 bunch scallions
1 bunch Italian parsley
1 bunch mint
2 lbs. onions
1 pt. shallots
Total spent: $62

So much fruit! Luckily I've already polished off about half of the insanely delicious Tristar strawberries, and I'm about to start in on the pluots from Locust Grove Farm, which I sampled last Saturday when I was lucky enough to be stationed next to their stand at the market. (I'm looking forward to eating the pluots in the privacy of my home this time, without any creepy guys staring.)

I'm especially excited about the chanterelles - reasonably priced for such a fancy mushroom. The pints were even more of a bargain ($7 with a half-pint at $5), but I wasn't sure I'd be able to use them all. I haven't decided the best way to showcase their flavor - possibly just sautéed in butter and served over pasta.

Tonight I'll be using the tomatoes in some chana masala, which will make a certain chickpea-lover in my life very happy. I'll bring out blended mint lemonade to start dinner, an idea stolen from Westville - but mine will be agave-sweetened.

In other news, my favorite Amish cheese vendor now has eggs, which is perfect timing, since Madura Farms just stopped selling them. Nothing else to report - time to give myself a stomachache from eating too much fruit!

NB re: photos. My camera seems to be slowly dying - I can't get the screen to work half the time, so I have to use the viewfinder, and I don't yet have Photoshop on my computer so my post-production options are limited. I'm hoping to remedy all these issues soon though.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Hot futures

Oops...wrote this Wednesday and forgot to post it. I was waiting for a photo that never materialized.

The season's first plums today pointed forward to the arrival of all the stonefruit - peaches, nectarines, apricots, more plums - and the pie/crumble/cobbler-baking and jam marathons on the horizon. Luckily my love for peaches makes the prospect less daunting than thrilling. Also spotted today for the first time: corn on the cob. Can limas be far behind? Succotash, here I come!

2 lbs. cherries
1 pint raspberries
1 quart Tri-star strawberries
1 pint heirloom cherry tomatoes
1 bunch lacinato kale
3 heads celery
2 bunches carrots
2 lbs. yellow onions
1 lb. sugar snap peas
1 lb. shell peas
1 1/2 lb. mixed green & wax beans
1 head Romaine lettuce
2 heads garlic
3/4 lb. crimini mushrooms
Total spent: $65

Celery, carrots, and onions are simmering on the stove right now for vegetable stock. Local celery tends to be quite tough and leafy compared to the juicy and luscious California-grown stuff in Whole Foods, but it's also more flavorful - great for stock, not so much for the photo assistant's lunch snacks. But he can handle it.

No special plans for any of this, beyond giving myself a stomachache eating berries.

Pickle progress: The Kirbies went into the crock Sunday with their seasonings and brine, and they're already looking quite pickled. Waiting 2+ weeks is going to be really tough - the brine smells incredible!

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

What a crock!

The cute pickling crock I bought at The Brooklyn Kitchen a month ago is going to get its first workout, courtesy of the Kirby cucumbers I bought today!

A gorgeous, if humid, trip to USG today. Isolated thunderstorms have been predicted through the afternoon, but luckily the skies were clear this morning (last night, not so much). Couldn't buy nearly the amount of berries I wanted and stay within my budget, but I did manage to stuff my refrigerator to the gills.

Too much for the produce drawer:
1 bunch scallions
1 bunch basil
1 bunch Italian parsley
2 bunches carrots
3/4 lb. sugar snap peas
1 lb. shell peas
2 lbs. yellow onions
2 1/4 lb. zucchini
1 bunch French crisp lettuce
2 1/4 lb. Kirby cucumbers
1 3/4 lbs. mixed green beans & wax beans
1 bunch lacinato kale
1 bunch collards
1 bunch Swiss chard
1 pint Sungold tomatoes
1 lb. cherries
1 pint raspberries
Total spent: $56.50

Other progress has been made on the preserving front. Witness: seven jars of jeweltoned strawberry jam recently added to my pantry. The jam tastes wonderful but it's doing that weird solid/liquid separating thing that always seems to happen when I use pectin. I've got to figure that one out.

I also made a jar of the sugar snap pea pickles from Joy Of Pickling, which turned out really strong, even for me, after the recommended two weeks' curing in the fridge. The tarragon gives them a great flavor, though, and I think they'll carry us through the season tossed in salads (and possibly even added to cheese sandwiches).

Other than the pickles, no big plans. I'll probably make a salad of roasted zucchini, Sungold tomatoes, and chopped basil tonight for dinner. We'll inhale the berries in a couple of days - I've already got a head start on the heavenly raspberries from Terhune Orchards. And I'm about to make my favorite Wednesday lunch of sautéed greens (lacinato kale, in this case), fried eggs, and freshly sliced greenmarket bread. Yum!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

It's Cherry Good To See You

Cherries are back! Cherries are back!!!

And some other things:
1 lb. shelling peas
1 lb. sugar snap peas
2 bunches carrots
3 lbs. zucchini
1 bunch collards
1 bunch red Russian kale
1 bunch Swiss chard
1 head French crisp lettuce
1 bunch Italian parsley
1 bunch scallions
1 bunch "garlic balls" (immature heads of Rocambole garlic)
1 qt. strawberries
1 lb. cherries!!!!!!
Total spent: $43

Unfortunately Terhune Orchards doesn't have cherries yet this season. I hope they will; they didn't have any asparagus at all, and theirs was my favorite last year. The ones I got from Locust Grove are delicious, but slightly short of spectacular. (Though it is early for cherries, and I'm sure all this rain hasn't helped anything.)

While I waited for the subway today, laden with bags of vegetables, I looked at the mass of various green leaves sticking out of my market bag, and I mentally compared my leaf-eating self to the brontosaurus from an elementary-school textbook, craning my long neck up to munch green bites out of trees. This is by no means the first time I've had this train of thought.

But then I started thinking, inevitably, about the brontosaurus, who now, we all know, was not real. When I was a dinosaur-loving kid (as so many bookish types are), I remember feeling very confused and a bit betrayed by scientists for making us believe in a dinosaur that turned out to have been constructed erroneously, using bones from more than one creature. It wasn't as though brontosaurus was some peripheral dino that was easily dispensed with - this was one of the canon, along with stegosaurus, triceratops, and pterodactyl, featured on those plastic mugs we all had. And all of a sudden, we're supposed to start rooting for this tiny-headed "apatosaurus" character? Worst of all, everyone pronounced "apatosaurus" differently.

Apparently the subway was taking its time to arrive, because I considered further that perhaps this was the seed of my now fully-blooming mistrust of science, which, of course, was nourished abundantly during my year at The Natural Gourmet. And I imagine today's generation of young bookish kids will have a similar reason for scorn because of the whole "Pluto isn't a planet" situation. Part of the reason I was thinking about this was a recent discussion one of the food sites I read about unsafe/scary foods, and the ongoing debate about margarine - with about half the posters concluding that because scientists say it's alright for you, then it is. It's really unbelievable to me that given the history of scientific mistakes threatening the public health (I mean, come on, DDT? Trans fats?), folks are still so willing to believe whatever today's scientific "wisdom" happens to be, when it comes to food.

Don't get me wrong, I totally believe in evolution and quantum physics and stuff. But when it comes to personal health, I am much more likely to trust, say, farmers, or traditional cultures - even to a fault. It seems like science has had more trouble figuring out the human body and how it responds to nutrition, stimuli, etc., than they have had charting distant galaxies. (Though I suppose mistakes about human health confront us in a way that mistakes about neutron stars don't.) And I won't even get into the seemingly insurmountable conflicts of interest that exist in today's largely food-industry-funded nutrition research community.

In conclusion, re: almost entirely irrelevant subject matter - I am going to be eating a lot of vegetables this week, like every week, because eating vegetables is scientifically and non-scientifically proven to make you healthy. Not to mention: I love 'em. No big plans for this week's haul, though now that berries have started in earnest, I think I'll have to do my first jams of the year next week. I'll begin with strawberry-rhubarb if there's still rhubarb around.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Encyclopedia Brown and the case of the missing strawberries

I bought two pints of delicious little Tristar strawberries at the market this morning, but now I only have one pint. The investigation is still in its initial stages, but the evidence suggests it was an inside* job.

The threat of rain was an idle one, thank goodness:
1 bunch mint
1 bunch dill
1 bunch chervil
1 head French crisp lettuce
1 bunch beets with greens
1 bunch collards
1 3/4 lb. sugar snap peas
1 1/2 lb. zucchini
1 1/4 lb. shell peas
2 bunches carrots
1 bag onions
1 bag shallots
2 pints Tristar strawberries
Total spent: $44

Today was a bountiful one at the market, to say the least. Zucchini made its first appearance, and I picked up some of the gorgeous sweet baby beets I've been seeing to make a batch of springtime borscht along with carrots, onions, and plenty of fresh dill. I'll use the chervil in a light pureed soup with the peas, as I did last week with the tarragon (which, by the way, was one of the most delicious things I've ever made).

The mint was so fragrant and lovely that I impulse-bought it - perhaps it's time to make that blended mint lemonade I've been thinking about since having a sip of a friend's at Westville...or maybe when I'm making my first batch of homemade ginger ale, I'll throw in some fresh mint and honey. Full report to come.

Not much else by way of big plans: I do want to make some sugar snap pea pickles using the Joy Of Pickling recipe (I was even more inspired to make them when I saw this Smitten Kitchen post), and the rest will be blanched and eaten as snacks. And of course I'm thrilled that carrots are back at the market! If I can avoid eating them all (good luck), I may make a light carrot soup. We'll see.

*Inside my stomach that is! Ha ha ha ha ha!

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

New acquisitions

Late to the market, waiting for Fedex. But worth it!!

Springtime arrivals:
1 MacBook Pro
2 lbs. asparagus
1 lb. shell peas
2 lb. sugar snap peas
1 lb. rhubarb
1 bunch spring onions
1 bunch collard greens
1 head broccoli
1/4 lb. mesclun greens
1 bunch tarragon
1 qt. strawberries
Total spent: $2041

Of course the presence of broccoli means my photo assistant is out of town. And since he's away, I'm going to have a hot night tonight...literally hot, because I am going to be pickling. I'm definitely going to make rhubarb chutney (using the recipe in Joy Of Pickling but with agave + molasses instead of white sugar, and with dried cherries instead of golden raisins), and I will do some fridge pickled sugar snap peas as well, with another Joy Of Pickling recipe, which is why I bought the tarragon.

As far as the shell peas go, I'm going to make them into a spring pea soup tonight. I considered buying some cream, but decided I will try to come up with a recipe that doesn't require it (as much as I do support the use of heavy cream). Luckily I have plenty of butter on hand!

Thrilled with spring despite piles of setbacks thus far (the burglary being only the first); thrilled with all the fresh produce and beautiful weather; have a lot of big and small plans, will be developing recipes like a madlady this season if all goes according to plan!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Things I Don't Like.

1. Forced blog hiatus because laptop was stolen during apartment break-in.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Things I like.

1. Penzeys shallot salt. They sent it to me as a sample in my last order, and despite my skepticism (to my mind seasoned salts are on the same level as Hidden Valley ranch dressing mix), I've been using it and loving it. So far my favorite use is for sautéeing greens - since garlic isn't in season yet it's particularly handy. It's also delicious in salad dressing.
2. Trader Joe's dried bing cherries. I love cherries. I can't figure out why I haven't been buying these for ages. Especially good eaten in the same handful as almonds when you come home starving from work. Go blood sugar!
3. Broccoli raab. The broccoli-hater in my life won't eat this stuff, but he's out of town and I can't get enough of it. The bitter-sweet balance is just perfect. Apparently the season is short around here, though, so it's almost gone already. Apparently someone out there loves it enough to have made it a website.
4. Sunshine. Apparently it will be in short supply tomorrow at the market. I've already packed my extra socks.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Excuses, Kalustyan's trip & secrets of tempeh

I've been going to the Friday greenmarkets at Union Square lately, and since I have to scurry off to work immediately afterward, the freshness of the experience and my will to post fades by Sunday, when I finally have time. (Saturdays I'm now part of USG, working at the Rick's Picks stand.) That will all change next week, because I'll start shopping at USG on Wednesdays, which will also be my new day off. And so! As the season starts anew, so doth I.

Excuses, excuses. I did finally go to Kalustyan's, and naturally I'm kicking myself for not being a regular all these years. I went a bit overboard, as the photo indicates. I just got so excited about all the exotic legumes! - "overwhelming" doesn't begin to describe the place. I wouldn't even let myself consider the spice aisle, because once I got there my basket was getting hard to carry, even with both arms. Next time!

Tonight I'm making pan-fried tempeh, collards (the delicious, sweet ones from Yuno's Farm), and baked potatoes with gravy, and I got to thinking about tempeh. Lots of vegetarians and plant-food enthusiasts don't like tempeh, and I think that's because most restaurants handle it poorly or at least not well. Even a beacon like Angelica Kitchen has problems with overly sour, bitter tempeh (though it's much better than most).

The secret of making tempeh delicious, which I had to spend $20K going to a health-positive cooking school to learn and which I am now sharing with you at no charge, is that you must simmer it in marinade for 20-30 minutes before pan-frying, grilling or baking it; or if you're using it in a stew, it must cook in the liquid at least half an hour. That eliminates the off-flavors that tempeh so often has. The marinade can be extremely simple: for each 8-oz. package of tempeh I use a few tablespoons of shoyu, a couple slices of ginger, two smashed garlic cloves, and water to cover. Cover and simmer about 30 minutes, then let cool until it can be handled, slice on the bias, and you're ready to pan-fry (my favorite), grill, or bake your tempeh. Leftover pan-fried tempeh is phenomenal in a sandwich! In fact, one of the reasons I like to have tempeh for dinner is the promise of sandwiches for lunch the next day.

Onward and upward. Friday I'll be buying my vegetables, Saturday I'll be out in the 80-degree heat all day, and next week things will return to some semblance of normalcy - at least w/r/t my vegetable blog, that is. New excitements on the horizon! More later.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Springtime! Green things! Back home! Overwhelmed.

Triumphal return to USG after 2+ weeks in Bloomington, Indiana. I love the people there, and I always have fun when I visit, but the long stay made me realize how much I love living here. And this (Friday) morning's greenmarket only emphasized that - many vendors had reemerged from winter hiatus, people had cheerful despite-the-rain springtime moods, and there were fresh young greens, herbs, vegetables...enough to forget about my 3ish hours of sleep last night.

Can't wait to chop all this up:
1/4 lb. baby spinach
1 bunch Swiss chard
1 bunch curly kale
1 bunch tat soi
1 bunch mystery flowering greens
2 bunches baby carrots
1 bunch green garlic
1/2 lb. brussels sprouts
3/4 lb. button mushrooms
3/4 lb. portabella mushrooms
1 bunch mint
1 bunch thyme
Total spent: $37

Tonight I'm making stir fry with tatsoi, button mushrooms, tempeh, and young garlic; I minced some of the tops like chives and added them to the egg salad we had for lunch.

Otherwise, no real plans yet, just excited to have fresh local vegetables in my life at the moment.

Tomorrow is my first day at the Saturday USG with Rick's Picks...very much looking forward to it, despite the 7:30 a.m. start time. Now that I'm working Saturdays, I'll be switching to Friday morning greenmarket trips. I like the Friday market, and I think a change might be just the thing.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

This is a test

This is a test of my new mobile blog posting capability...

Monday, March 09, 2009

News In Brief

1. Tomorrow is my final class, and Friday is my graduation.
2. Monday (a week from today), I leave for my internship at Farm in Bloomington, Indiana. I bought myself a new knife roll to celebrate.
3. When I get back I'm going to start working one day a week at the greenmarket for Rick's Picks.
4. Last week at USG I bought onions, carrots, and arugula.

That's all for now! Busy busy week getting ready for everything.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Friday Night Fights

Friday night was my group's final dinner at school, and everything turned out great. Our seasonal, Eastern European-themed menu went over wonderfully with the diners, and, though we had our share of conflicts and panic moments, I think everybody left feeling positive and accomplished (albeit tired and achy). Photos and menu below.

Up again Saturday to do the marketing:
1 bag onions
5 lbs. carrots
1/2 lb. arugula
1 bunch mustard greens
1/2 lb. oyster mushrooms
4 Empire apples
Total spent: $22.50

Friday Night Menu:
Appetizer - tasting trio
Brussels sprout salad with Meyer lemon vinaigrette
Lima bean puree with rye cracker
Fig-onion compote

Dilled beet borscht with roasted garlic cream

Beer-braised seitan-stuffed cabbage with porcini sauce
Winter vegetable latke with arame caviar, kabocha mash

Pear trifle with vanilla maple cashew cream
Cranberry-red wine reduction, almond lace cookie

Our dinner prep started Wednesday evening, when we made the brown stock for the borscht (which recipe I still haven't posted as promised, will do that soon), the seitan for the cabbage rolls, and the mushroom stock for the sauce.

For six hours Thursday, we got the majority of our prep done, saving only the cabbage roll assembly, latkes, brussels sprout salad, and trifle assembly for Friday afternoon. Progress was mostly smooth, though we had to do some last-minute cooking due to underestimated dessert quantities, and the entree was a real bear to plate. Everything was delicious. I'm so glad it's over.

No rest for the wicked, though - Tuesday is my final practical cooking exam, and Thursday and Friday I'm doing prep for my classmates' Friday Night Dinner to fulfil my last graduation requirement. So it will be another hectic week.

Tonight I'll practice my planned entree for the final: deconstructed tempeh curry (basically: pan-fried tempeh with coconut curry sauce), served with cinnamon/cardamom rice, kale with cumin and caramelized onions, roasted sweet potato garnish, and lemon-ginger pickled carrot garnish.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Candy, candy, candy, I can't let you go

Tonight, the photo assistant and I joined a friend for an early dinner at Dirt Candy. I am already trying to figure out how to recreate their carrot risotto.

But before I go into that, here's the shopping:
1/3 lb. baby Swiss chard
1 lb. white mushrooms
4 lbs. carrots
6 lbs. yellow onions
1 lb. Italian red torpedo onions
1 bag shallots
2 lbs. carola potatoes
2 lbs. Empire (?) apples (the bins weren't labeled!)
1 4-lb. bag mixed "bargain" apples
Total spent: $37.50

Dirt Candy, as you may have heard, is a restaurant dedicated to vegetables - so naturally, I wanted to try it. I'm no restaurant critic (though perhaps I qualify as a vegetable critic?), but here's the summary. (Photo is from their website. I don't take photos anywhere outside my house, really, but especially not in tiny restaurants.)

I loved: carrot risotto (my favorite thing I ate there by a long shot - I do love carrots); jalapeno hush puppies w/ maple butter; the fact that they offered an upscale pinot grape juice along with the wine list (delicious, and I got to drink out of a wine glass just like a real grownup).
I liked: Greek salad (but I thought the fried mushrooms made the feta a bit too much); popcorn pudding (a little too sweet for my taste).

All the food was delicious, though I do think the menu relies a little too heavily on fried food. But frying is certainly a good way to make vegetables decadent, which is obviously one of the goals of the place - and I have to say, they succeed admirably. The place is tiny - 20 seats - with a two-chef line, chef Amanda Cohen expediting, and one server. I'm sure they felt a bit frantic back there, but the compactness and efficiency of the setup made me romanticize the idea of opening my own tiny restaurant.

And dinner was early (it's not easy to get a reservation for 3 there - 5:30 was our only option), so I had time to make granola and hummus, start a batch of yogurt, and sharpen my knife when I got home. Earlier in the day I made vegetable stock, but I didn't get around to the applesauce I had planned to make out of my bargain apples. Luckily class ends early tomorrow.

In semi-freakout news: next week is our Friday Night Dinner!! Tomorrow I'll make brown stock (using carrots, onions, celery, and the pound of white mushrooms) and post the recipe, which I invented to use for our borscht. It is fantastic for soups!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

"It's Valentine's Day, and I'm catatonic"

Well, not quite. But because my Valentine and I were thwarted in our attempts to go see Coraline in 3D, we did spend a decent amount of time on the couch watching 30 Rock on DVD.

But before all that, was this:
1 bunch scallions
1 head Savoy cabbage
1/4 lb. arugula
1 1/2 lb. German butterball potatoes
2 lbs. large carrots
1 1/2 lbs. small carrots
1/2 lb. burdock root
1/2 lb. shiitake mushrooms
4 lbs. apples - Mutsu, Macoun, Winesap
Total spent: $28

Currently on the stove is an extremely romantic split-pea stew with onion, celery, burdock, and carrot, which I'll garnish with thinly-sliced scallions, and serve with buttered greenmarket whole-wheat sourdough. Chilling in the fridge are the crusts for the mini apple-tarts I decided to make after a horrible and total pie-crust failure forced me to abandon my plan of a heart-shaped apple galette (I know, it would have been really cute - probably too cute); alongside the "pie" will be maple-vanilla coconut-milk pudding. We'll start off our meal with an arugula salad dressed in a lemon vinaigrette, topped with goat cheese and smoked paprika-tossed toasted walnuts.

After that, we are going to a party. A dress-up party. The kind of party I usually don't go to because I don't really own any nice clothes, I don't know how to apply makeup (and do not own any), can't walk very well in short: I hate dressing up. But the party is my dear friend Meg's, and she is leaving the country for three months, starting tomorrow. Also: I rediscovered a vintage cocktail mini in my closet, which will be perfect so long as I don't have to sit down. So the photo assistant and I will have to make an appearance. He, by the way, is napping, and has not yet been apprised of the dress-up situation. Maybe I'll convince him it's a costume party and he is going as Nick Cave.

Everything else is pretty self-explanatory; I bought the butterballs because they're uniform in size and tasty, and I've been jonesing for crash hot potatoes lately. Oh, and I don't really know what to do with the cabbage. Maybe I'll pickle it!

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Le cru et le cuit

Two adorable baby lambs just hanging out in a cage at USG today! I cannot express in anything close to words how cute they are - it's more like guttural grunts interspersed with wrenching sighs. (Update: Molly posted a photo!)

Same As It Ever Was:
4 lbs. (big) carrots
3 lbs. Caribe potatoes
6 lbs. Mutsu apples
1 bunch leeks
3/4 lb. baby chard leaves
1 lb. crimini mushrooms
Total spent: $30

My mini-obsession with Satur Farms mesclun greens has been done to death here, but last week's photo of said greens (from their site) helps illustrate my current dilemma.

My favorite farmer, from whom I buy the world's most delicious carrots (which are sadly gone for the season), has greenhouse-grown baby greens of all stripes for sale at the moment. Now, these greens are priced for salad (that is, high), but I'm pretty sure they're a bit too hearty to eat raw, even though they are being sold for that purpose.

Even without considering the oxalic acid content of the admittedly-delicious-looking chard pictured above, eating it raw doesn't appeal to me. The trouble becomes that once it's cooked down, I've got a very pricey small vegetable side dish...I guess I got so excited about green, fresh, leafy things at the otherwise-bleak market that I threw economic caution to the winds.

Regarding Lévi-Strauss and the title of today's post: I saw a girl walking near NYU the other day wearing a hoodie that said "will close read for food," which, coupled with my etymological wonderings today about "crimini" mushrooms (surely the name is from the Latin crimen -inis, meaning crime, but why?), started me thinking, as I do occasionally, about my college education.

The economic climate and my momentary buyer's remorse about spending $9 for what will wilt down to a cup of cooked greens made me wonder exactly what dollar value of my college education was lost due to the brain-cell-incinerating habits of my immediate post-collegiate years. I suppose I should just be grateful that I'm not still paying it off (thanks, parents' largesse due to temporary windfall from dot-com boom!), because then it would be like the large-scale version of buying groceries on credit (which I had to do for years) - depressing because they're long gone before you're done paying for them.

Not exactly apropos of anything relevant to my vegetable-buying habits, but these were my reflections while wandering the market today. In some ways I feel like a late bloomer w/r/t food and making a career of it, and I feel pinches of small regret for the effort spent learning things I can no longer quickly summon; on the other hand, I don't think I ever would have moved to NYC or so easily spurned graduate school or a corporate career if it weren't for my time learning about, e.g., Ovid and phallologocentrism at the anarcho-liberal institution I attended. I guess this is when I get all new-agey and talk about my path. Well, that's my path.

And now, on to today's task: another borscht recipe-test. I hope this turns out to be the one! And later this week, I'll make vichyssoise.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009


Rest in peace, Joe Ades - the "peeler man," a USG institution - you brought smiles to so many faces and good peelers to so many kitchen drawers (including mine).

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Dinner update

It was awesome. I want to make four-course meals every night!!

Why don't you take a picture? It would last longer!

Today was, simply, hectic. I got a late start, the L train was running in two sections, and (no surprise) it was freezing. Plus I had to stop by Whole Foods to get greens and peppers, as well as beets and fresh dill for the borscht recipe I'm testing for school (and Satur Farms mesclun greens - pictured - to feed my addiction). By the end of it, K and I had our brunch date an hour and a half late, but everything turned out fine. Our brunch was great, the borscht turned out well. Unfortunately I lost track of everything I bought at the market today during my rush.

Because the L was running shuttle into Manhattan, it was quite crowded and everyone was irritable...and since the only beets I could find at Whole Foods had greens - big, robust greens with which I would be thrilled on any day I wasn't already heavily laden with produce - I was the person on the train with two feet of green leaves sticking out one of her three giant tote bags. Usually it doesn't faze me, but today everyone's stares burned: I was stressed and vulnerable and there was a lot more negative energy zooming around than usual. At one point I just wanted to yell "haven't you ever seen a woman carrying vegetables before??" In retrospect, it's probably best that I didn't.

The cold plus the stress plus my own perversity have made me plan a four-course dinner tonight. It's relatively simple, but it's four courses nonetheless. My photo assistant will be thrilled to do all these dishes:
  Mesclun greens with shallot vinaigrette
  Dilled beet borscht (goat cheese garnish)
  Mushroom and cheese frittata with garlic-sautéed baby spinach and tat soi (crispy shiitake garnish)
  Poached lady apples with toasted walnuts and dried cherry-maple compote

I'm not quite ready to share this borscht recipe, but I was inspired by this Amateur Gourmet thread to post my own favorite granola recipe. I have been refining this one for years, and I have to say, in all modesty, it's just about perfect (at least, to my taste). It's also got a lot going for it, health-wise: sesame seeds are a great source of calcium, sunflower seeds have lots of magnesium, even refined coconut oil is good for you, and walnuts are the best nut source of omega-3. I use half maple syrup for flavor and to cut down on honey, but honey is key for browning and clumping, so all maple doesn't work.

Note: Please buy organic nuts, seeds, and dried fruit whenever possible: pesticide toxins are concentrated in fats and dried foods. And buy nuts as intact as you can (e.g. whole almonds, walnut halves), because the more surface area is exposed, the more quickly their fats oxidize and turn toxic. And always store nuts in the fridge.

Anna's Best Granola
3 cups rolled oats
1/3 cup raw sesame seeds
1/3 cup raw sunflower seeds
1/2 cup chopped raw walnuts
1/2 cup chopped raw pecans
1 cup chopped raw almonds
1/3 cup coconut oil
1/6 cup grade-B maple syrup
1/6 cup honey
1 cup mixed dried fruit (I like 1/3 each raisins, dried cranberries, and chopped dried cherries)

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
Mix first six ingredients in large bowl.
Melt coconut oil in small saucepan over low heat; whisk in honey and maple syrup until smooth. (Don't skip this step and add the oil and sweetener separately because they won't combine properly and your granola will stick horribly.)
Add oil/sweetener to oat mixture and stir until thoroughly coated.
Spread on a half-sheet pan and bake 25 minutes or until golden brown; allow to cool completely in the pan.
Using a metal or hard plastic spatula, remove granola into a large bowl and combine with fruit until evenly distributed. Transfer to an airtight container.
Granola will keep for about a week.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

She's so c-c-c-c-cold

Yes, I went to the (not-so-) greenmarket today despite the single-digit temps. I wore three shirts, a sweater, and a sweatshirt under my jacket, plus a pair of super-thick knee-socks over my regular socks and leggings under my jeans. It was a real chore getting my boots on over all that stuff.

But in addition to making me weirdly off-balance, my frozen brain tissue couldn't recall much about my trip, other than I bought potatoes, carrots, and other predictable things. I had to swing by Whole Foods as well, for non-starchy vegetables, and I picked up some crimini mushrooms which I'll pair with my greenmarket leeks in a brown-rice risotto (to serve with sautéed greens) if I can drag myself out of our cozy bedroom lair long enough to cook it.

Currently I've got a batch of vegetable stock bubbling away (okay, simmering gently, but that's not as merry an image) on the stove, and I'm trying to think of something I can bake to heat up the house a bit more. I guess I should have thought of that before buying that delicious loaf of spelt bread at the market today.

Okay, back to hibernating. Will post recipe if risotto happens and is worthwhile.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Birthday books!

I just ordered these books as a belated birthday gift to myself:
Excitotoxins by Russell Blaylock, On Food And Cooking by Harold McGee, Know Your Fats by Dr. Mary Enig, Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes, and The Joy Of Pickling by Linda Ziedrich.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Return to USG: they may not be so pretty, but they're dinner

It was a lovely cold clear morning at the USG - I am so glad to be back!

Super Roots:
2 1/2 lbs. soup carrots
1 lb. yellow carrots
1 lb. eating carrots
2 celery roots
3 lbs. parsnips
1 lb. burdock root
3 lbs. Yukon gold potatoes
1 lb. shallots
4 lbs. onions
1 head Shaman garlic
1 head cabbage
4 lbs. "bargain" apples
2 1/2 lbs. Mutsu apples
1 lb. Macoun apples
Total spent: $42.50

Once again reconfigured for construction, the USG was short a lot of vendors, and selection was limited to the season's slim selection of hearty roots (and the odd greenhouse-grown delicacy), but I managed to get enough food to fill all three of my shopping bags and test the strength of my shoulders and arms.

As the photo above indicates, I've got a red lentil and root vegetable stew simmering on the stovetop at the moment - not really a recipe dish but here's what I've done so far:
    I sauteed one onion (medium dice) in sixish tbsp olive oil and a pinch of salt until golden, added 4 cloves minced garlic and 1/2 tsp each sage and thyme, and cooked that about a minute;
    then I added 2 large yellow carrots, 2 medium orange carrots, one parsnip, and two 12" burdock roots, cut very roughly into 3/4"-1" pieces, stirred well, and sauteed uncovered for a few minutes, then covered and cooked about five minutes;
    at this point I added 4 cups homemade vegetable stock, 2 cups rinsed red lentils, several pinches of salt, 2 bay leaves, and a 3" piece of kombu; I brought this to a boil then turned it down to a simmer.
    When my lentils have disintegrated and my vegetables are tender, I'll season to taste with salt, pepper, and lemon juice, and serve the stew with some of the whole-wheat bread I just took out of the oven.

I'm hoping the stew tastes good (I have never cooked with parsnips or burdock root at home before) and that the bread isn't underbaked. Fingers crossed!

Some of the rest of the vegetables will go into more stock (I'm down to one quart in the freezer), some into practicing one of the recipes for my group's upcoming Friday Night Dinner, and some will be featured in a week of what I'm guessing will be very similar meals.

I did buy some non-local collards and kale at the grocery, and will probably get some more Satur Farms mesclun mix at Whole Foods, my new pricey addiction. All in all, I'm feeling stocked up and looking forward to much better meals than my pantry-relying creations of last week (although I did come up with a lovely black bean soup).