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.