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).