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).