Friday, December 25, 2009

Co-op Christmas

A friend of mine says that the definition of "eternity" is two people and a ham.

I think another might be one co-op resident left alone in the house for Christmas and a large farm share.

Elizabeth, we'll all be home to help you eat all those tomatoes and tangerines ... and carrots and potatoes ... and turnips and zucchini ... and cabbage and green beans ... and avocados and apples ... and salad and squashes ... and peppers and kale ... soon!

After stomping through eight inches of snow (in the cold! in the dark!) to pick up our box this week, I couldn't help but feel a bit awed by the beautiful bounty of produce I unpacked -- some of it grown right here in Massachusetts. Is this rainbow of fresh vegetables in December not some sort of secular miracle?

Merry Christmas, fellow subscribers.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Fond of Fondue

I'd like to tell you that our descent into 1970s kitsch had to do with clearing lots of vegetables out of our fridge before the holiday. But honestly, it was more about (1) a shopping miscommunication that resulted in our having twice as much cheese as planned, and (2) the impracticality of returning the borrowed fondue pot with its base still full of methylated spirits.

We did eat lots of vegetables with it, though!
  • broccoli (raw)
  • snap peas (raw)
  • green beans (raw)
  • apples (cut into chunks, raw)
  • butternut squash (cubed, roasted)
  • sweet potatoes (cubed, roasted)
  • potatoes (quartered, roasted)
The fondue is the cheddar tomato fondue from Epicurious, basically melted cheddar and half a can of diced tomatoes. (Some sous chefs were skeptical about the tomatoes right up to the point when they tasted it.)

Best visitor comment: "I don't know why we don't eat things you get to stab with a long fork more often."

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Roasted Winter Vegetable Curry

Our usual solution for accumulated winter root vegetables is to peel and cube them and roast them all together (tossed with salt and oil, roasted at about 400 degrees for, say, 30 minutes for fairly small dice). This week we've been eating a mixture of squashes (butternut and delicata), turnips, beets, parsnips, carrots, and sweet potatoes we roasted on Monday.

Usually we eat our roasted vegetables plain (or seasoned with herbs/lime juice/cook's choice) as a side dish, but this week, Jack made the leftovers into a curry that proved immensely popular (and used the two underripe tomatoes we got in our box a couple weeks ago, to boot).

I'm told that the recipe is alarmingly simple:

  • Dice the underripe tomatoes and cook them into submission in a large pan. Push them to the side of the pan.
  • Fry a bunch of curry powder in the pan until fragrant. (Our house asserts that Indian spices taste better cooked--and cooking them certainly makes the kitchen smell like curry. If your lover doesn't like smelling curry in your hair hours later, adjust to taste.) Mix the curry powder with the tomato sauce.
  • Add the mixed roasted vegetables.
  • Add cream and coconut flakes (or coconut milk in place of both, if your kitchen is better stocked for Indian cooking than ours on a random Tuesday). Season to taste with salt, cayenne pepper, and additional curry powder to taste.
  • Serve over rice.
(The chef speculates that you should use yogurt or something tangier than cream if your tomatoes are not underripe. Judging from the amenability of curry to the flavor of underripe tomatoes, he also speculates, correctly, that there must exist some kind of green tomato curry.)

Again, apologies for limited posting: December has been more about travel than home cooking. I've been enjoying childhood favorites and Midwestern specialties like green Jello salad (with mini marshmallows and canned fruit cocktail), which underscored just how much my eating habits have changed since I've moved to Boston (much less started subscribing to a CSA and living in a co-op). Now when I read a blog post about someone buying 80 bunches of kale, I'm not like, "how weird," but instead, "hey, I know that guy."

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Vegetable Hiatus

As a note on the co-op refrigerator points out, we've been remiss in our vegetable cooking. Apologies for the long silence, and we'll be back to our orange-soup-making ways before you know it.

(Housemates who are home this weekend, I recommend starting with the squash I put next to the stove. It's getting sort of a soft spot.)

This is not to say, however, that I haven't been in the kitchen. Last week was our fifth annual wine and cheesecake party, so I baked twenty cheesecakes to go with the mulled wine and cider. No CSA content here, but comment on this post (with an idea for future farm share blogging?) for an invitation to next year's fete.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Winter Vegetable Pizza

With no CSA pickup last week, and all of us having had our Thanksgiving dinners elsewhere, we were feeling a little Old Mother Hubbard about what food we had in the house. Thank goodness for storage vegetables!

On top of a basic pizza dough, we layered
  • Garlic sauteed in olive oil
  • Caramelized onions
  • Roasted potato and sweet potato cubes
  • Roasted thinly sliced beets
  • Roasted acorn squash cubes
  • Seared mushrooms
  • Cheese sauce (flour-butter roux + milk + miscellaneous cheeses)
After cooking (and a minute under the broiler to brown the cheese sauce), we topped it with arugula and goat cheese.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Thanksgiving Thoughts

Our co-op dispersed for the holiday, so no Thanksgiving recipes here, but we'll be back to start eating and blogging through the winter CSA next week.

I think I speak for all of our house when I say that we were thankful for our CSA all summer long -- particularly in this very difficult farming year. It's been such a joy to have a surplus of beautiful, local, organic, lovingly-grown vegetables in our house every week and to have wonderful, creative, like-minded people to share them with, both in our co-op kitchen and through this blog.

In that spirit, a couple of Thanksgiving weekend treats for our friends and readers.

First, a visual one: I can't imagine anyone is hungry today, but I was recently pointed to two websites -- Tastespotting and Foodgawker -- that collect drool-worthy food photos (and recipes) from around the web. I've been using their search features to collect visual inspiration when we have a surfeit of a particular ingredient (say, cabbage).

Second is one of the loveliest pieces of food writing I've read in some time, a piece on why we use cookbooks (and much more), by Adam Gopnik in this week's New Yorker. It's by turns rambling, grouchy, digressive, and difficult, but the writing is poetic and rich in metaphor throughout.

I think Gopnik's idea of the recipe as a very limited proxy for what we're really looking for when we cook and eat gets at the reason why, on a small scale, our co-op's community begins in the kitchen, and on a large scale, why sharing food is such a powerful social experience.

And this may not read as well out of context -- or if you don't find yourself in the particular situation of falling in love with your sous chef -- but this bit is one of my favorites.
After reading hundreds of cookbooks, you may have the feeling that every recipe, every cookbook, is an attempt to get you to attain this ideal sugar-salt-saturated-fat state without having to see it head on, just as every love poem is an attempt to maneuver a girl or a boy into bed by talking as fast, and as eloquently, as possible about something else. “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? / Thou art more lovely and more temperate” is the poetic equivalent of simmering the garlic with ginger and Sauternes before you put the cream in; the end is the cream, but you carefully simmer the garlic.
I think Gopnik is talking about the project of being human: that our base motivations may be food or sex, but what life is really about is the brilliantly oblique projects that we undertake to get there -- making a carrot mousse, writing a blog post, carefully simmering the garlic.

Monday, November 23, 2009

To the Carrots, to Make Much of Time

Will you dismiss me as a produce shill
If I say we're eating carrots still?
It's true: And so our cooking scheme
Begins with carrots, nutmeg, and cream
Baked in ramekins in a bain-marie.
(It tested my food vocabul'ry.)

And yet it excited me most because
We had to discuss just what it was.
(You'll excuse me if I stop to say
That kitchen debate is our forte.
And should research be in demand.
We keep books and laptops close at hand.)

The need for taxonomy confirmed,
Let's take a moment to define our terms:
A souffle's a dish that gets its height
From mounds of lofty whipped egg white.
Forgive me if this seems abstruse:
You need whipped cream to make a mousse.

A souffle's baked until its risen
While mousse meets heat to great derision.
This recipe uses both eggs and cream
But neither's whipped. And so it seems
That though the 'Net led us astray,
We baked a fine carrot puree.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Mix-and-Match a Minestrone

Minestrone fulfills two of my major cooking needs: 1) you can make it entirely from ingredients you already have and 2) it doesn't require a recipe.

As long as there are some kind of tomatoes in the house, I will attempt to make minestrone. (And I haven't tried it yet, but I am not 100 percent sure that ketchup does not count as tomatoes.)

1. Cook your aromatics (any combination of onions, shallots, leeks, celery, and carrots) in oil in a large pot.

2. Add long-cooking vegetables (potatoes, sweet potatoes, squash, turnips, parsnips).

3. Add some kind of tomatoes (fresh, canned, paste, jarred pasta sauce) and some kind of broth (from a can, box, cubes, or even just water).

4. Add quick-cooking vegetables (zucchini, corn, green beans, broccoli, cabbage, kale, collards).

5. Add starches (cooked beans, cooked barley, uncooked rice, uncooked pasta).

The trick is really just to add the ingredients in approximate order of how much cooking time they need, so everything gets done at the same time.

Add whatever seasonings you like (I totally phoned it in this time with a jar of "Italian seasoning") and salt and pepper. Serve with grated cheese (traditionally Parmesan) on top.

This particular incarnation was leeks + celery + carrots + purple potatoes + butternut squash + canned chopped tomatoes + vegetable broth + cabbage + white beans + barley, and it made a serious dent in accumulated CSA vegetables.

(If fast and loose is not for you, here is a very serious approach to minestrone making, with beautiful photos.)

Monday, November 16, 2009

Purple Potato Eater

Well if there's one thing that I won't do, that thing is deep-fry,
It's my recipe dealbreaker and I don't know why.
But if you want some potato chips, you don't have to fear,
It looks like a purple potato chip maker lives here.
He is a one-eyed one-horned fried purple potato maker,
One-eyed one-horned fried purple potato maker,
One-eyed one-horned fried purple potato maker,
Sure looks fine to me.

Well, the other problem is that we don't own a mandoline,
So he used our veggie peeler to cut the potatoes thin,
With some salt and some pepper and some Parmesan cheese,
I would surely eat them, may I try some now, please?
I was a one-eyed one-horned fried purple potato eater,
One-eyed one-horned fried purple potato eater,
One-eyed one-horned fried purple potato eater,
Sure tastes great to me.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Revenge Is a Dish Best Served with Carrots

As the result of a series of slights both real and imagined, my housemate/boyfriend (hi, Mom!) Jack found himself in the position of owing me, big time. We agreed that adequate penance would be for him to cook the, um, three weeks' worth of farm share carrots we had accumulated.

These are the ideas he sent me:
What if we suspend them in orange Jell-O? That would be colorful and texturally engaging! Or I could try out that carrot ketchup recipe I've had my eye on. Or, and I think this might be the winner, we could make a carrot consomme, thicken half of it and heat, chill the other half and layer in shotglasses, and create hot and cold layered rainbow carrot shots.
The reason for the attraction should be obvious.

What I came home to, instead, was a lovely and intricately assembled carrot salad (Epicurious's Burnt Carrots with Goat Cheese, Parsley, Arugula, and Crispy Garlic Chips). Ours was served over farm share mizuna -- one of my favorite salad greens -- instead of arugula.

The second course was a carrot curry: carrots cooked slowly, dressed with curry paste and cream, served over basmati rice and sprinkled with cilantro. The slow cooking was supposed to bring out the carrots' sweetness, and they did become sort of sweet potato-y.

P.S. A Globe piece in today's Somerville section highlights the documentary "Eating Local in Somerville" ... and mentions this blog!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Postcolonial Squash Soup

Our contribution to the squashluck was something like vichyssoise (an invented-in-America French-style potato-leek soup) and something like a very inauthentic curry (Indian seasonings), as if the Brits and the Americans got into a battle of borrowed cuisines in my kitchen, motivated by the goal of using every vegetable in our refrigerator.

The recipe goes something like this:

Peel and cube a whole bunch of butternut squash and roast it in the oven.

Meanwhile, saute four or five thinly sliced leeks and some minced garlic in olive oil in a large stockpot. Add diced potatoes and cook until potatoes are slightly browned.

Add grated ginger and a couple tablespoons of garam masala and fry for just a minute. (I'm not entirely convinced that frying dry spices is essential to any dish, but I always do it when I cook Indian food because the smell is incredible.)

Add broth (we use vegetable bouillon cubes dissolved in hot water) to cover by a few inches, bring to a boil, and cook soup, covered, until potatoes are almost completely softened.

Add the roasted squash cubes to the soup, along with milk (our choice), cream, broth, or water to cover. Stir well, bring back to a boil, then blend soup with an immersion blender or in a blender, press it through a food mill, or just mash it with a fork or potato masher. Add more liquid to adjust the consistency if desired.

Add a generous amount of grated carrot to the soup and allow it to cook for a few minutes longer. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


Our co-op likes to entertain, so we celebrated fall with a squashluck.

(I wish I could tell you that our squash windfall came entirely from the farmshare, but we actually had to lay in extra supplies. One of my favorite things about cooperative living: buying forty pounds of squash seems like a reasonable thing to do.)

Our guests turned up with some impressive dishes.

1. Stuffed acorn squash with cheese and apples
2. Stuffed acorn squash with cranberries and walnuts
3. Risotto with pumpkin and pancetta
4. Squash bread (gluten-free) with pumpkin butter
5. Pumpkin rum drink
6. Roasted pumpkin stuffed with ground beef
7. Squash filled with applesauce
8. Roasted squash seeds
9. Postcolonial squash soup (recipe to come)

And I didn't get a picture, but dessert was a triumph: pumpkin mousse and chocolate mousse parfaits.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Thursday Veggietrivia

Crows in the Kitchen recently made the lemon-barley pilaf that was our second choice for an Epicurious barley recipe.

The Globe’s most-emailed article yesterday was a pretty good looking recipe for a butternut squash crumble.

As we like to think of ourselves as exemplary farm share members, I am a bit shamefaced to admit that we missed picking up our share two weeks ago. On the bright side: a week of eating supermarket vegetables really got us on the ball about sending in the deposit for our winter share.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Cooker? I Barley Know Her!

Why I love Mark Bittman can be summed up in his recipe for cooking barley (also works for all kinds of rice, quinoa, wheat berries, and those jars of unidentified grains left by co-op residents past):
Cooking Grains, the Easy Way
Put the grains in a pot with water and cook them until they're done the way you like them.
If you’re more into precision than I am, you have to start by knowing whether you have hulled barley or pearl barley. (See photos here.) I’m guessing we’re working with hulled barley here, but (as long-time readers know) I’ve been wrong before.

The Joy of Cooking says:
Cook 1 cup pearl barley with 3 cups water for a firm, chewy texture, or use 4 cups water for a softer texture, adding 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon salt to the water.

Both hulled and Scotch barley should be soaked for 8 hours or overnight, then simmered until tender, 1 to 1 1/2 hours, in a ratio of 1 cup barley to 4 to 5 cups liquid.

We made a barley pilaf inspired by this recipe (with beans instead of bacon and chicken and with lots of CSA carrots and turnips and potatoes.) We didn’t soak our barley, and it was toothsome, but tasty.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Carrot-Beet-Apple Cake

As I said yesterday, our Cake of Three Lies is (loosely) based on a triple-layer carrot cake with cream cheese frosting from Epicurious. (You may remember that we have difficulty following recipe directions around here.)

Here are the deviations the chef could remember.

1. We substituted 1/2 cup Sucanat for 1/2 cup sugar for molasses flavor and because we're co-opy like that. You could use brown sugar or molasses instead.

2. We added grated fresh ginger. (Cook's note: Our recent innovation is keeping ginger in the freezer and grating it on a Microplane.)

3. The recipe calls for 3 cups of grated carrots. We had several very wilted carrots that were not of firm enough resolve to be grated. Minced, they made about 1 scant cup.

4. For the other 2 cups of carrots, we substituted 1 cup of grated beets and 1 cup of grated apples.

5. We added some shredded coconut.

6. We substituted walnuts for the pecans.

7. We used 1 cup of cake flour in place of 1 cup of the regular flour.

8. The recipe makes a huge amount of frosting. (We made two single-layer rectangular cakes rather than a triple-layer round cake.) So we halved the recipe, and because we were short on cream cheese, substituted French vanilla yogurt for part of it.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Cake of Three Lies

Containing a lovely trifecta of farm share ingredients (carrots, beets, and apples), this delicious cake has caused nothing but strife in our household.

Epicurious calls the recipe that inspired it Triple-Layer Carrot Cake, but with our modifications (and a nod to a local landmark), I've been thinking of it as the Cake of Three Lies.

Beets and deception
Erica says: I asked Jack point-blank and he told me there were no beets in this cake.
Jack says: Don't tell Erica that there are beets in the cake.

Vegetable oil
Liz says: There is more vegetable oil in this cake than you should ever put in anything.
Jack says: There is a perfectly reasonable amount of oil in this cake. Also, can we bulk order vegetable oil?

The possibility of making carrot and beet cake
I say: I don't think you can put beets in a non-chocolate cake because they will turn the whole thing bright pink. And you can't make a chocolate carrot cake.
Jack says: No naysayers in my kitchen while I make a carrot and beet cake.
Liz rubs it in later when I ask for the recipe: Weren't you dissing the whole beets in a cake thing?

Next time: our recipe.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Squash-Apple Improv

Liz told us she had in mind a dish of squash and apples, topped with walnuts and cheese, then left us alone in the kitchen. This is what we came up with.

(Turns out she actually meant zucchini when she said "squash," but we didn't hear any complaints.)

Squash and Apples with Wild Rice

1 large butternut squash, peeled and cubed (reserve seeds)
2 medium apples, cored and cubed
1 large onion, chopped
Baby spinach (or other greens), chopped

Cider-Butter Sauce
1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) butter
1 cup apple cider
1/2 cup cooking wine

Toss the squash seeds with a little oil and salt and toast in the oven or under the broiler. Set aside.

Roast the squash in the oven until nearly completely cooked. Add the apples near the end of the cooking time and roast until slightly softened.

Meanwhile, make the sauce. Melt the butter in a small saucepan, add the cider and wine, bring to a boil, and season with sage and allspice. Remove from heat.

Saute the onion in a large pan until transparent. Add the roasted squash and apples and the spinach, pour the sauce over, and cook just until the spinach is wilted and the mixture is warm through. Stir in the toasted squash seeds. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve over wild rice and add garnishes.

Wild Rice
Prepare wild rice according to the package directions. Or, if you are us, realize that you have tiny bits of three kinds of wild and brown rice that, made together, will be almost enough rice. We added salt and a splash of apple cider for flavor.

Walnuts: Toss about 1 cup walnut halves with maple syrup and coarse salt and toast in the oven or under the broiler. Chop up about half the walnuts and stir into the squash mixture; use the rest whole for garnish.

Goat cheese: Top bowls of squash and wild rice with a spoonful of goat cheese.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Questions for ... Housemate Erica

(With apologies to Deborah Solomon. I also make up the questions after the interview.)

What inspired you to make crispy greens?
I wanted to get rid of greens in our fridge. It's my constant dream. That and that everything be organized and labeled with dates.

What kind of greens can you use?
I've done bok choy. What did I do the other day?

I think those were collard greens.
I thought they might have been kale.

So what did you do with them?
I thought if I just put them on the stovetop. You put a little oil in a pan.

What kind of pan?
Use Anna's pan.

For our readers who don't live with Anna, do you think you could describe that a little more?
It's sort of like a thick nonstick half sheet pan. With handles.

Could you substitute something else if you don't have Anna's pan?
I wouldn't advocate it.

So, what do you do?
Put the greens on the pan. Put on some salt. You can spray them with Braggs or soy sauce. Put the pan over two burners and cook them on high, fiddling with them with chopsticks.

Yeah, what's this we hear about chopsticks?
I don't like to burn my fingers. Flip them over at some point. You'll have to do batches because they use a lot of pan space.

Wouldn't it be easier to do them on a cookie sheet in the oven at, like, 400 degrees instead?
But it wouldn't be that fun.

(We're pretty sure Erica's at the culinary vanguard here: we hear that Oleana may be getting kale chips on their fall menu and Mark Bittman is making nori chips.)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Squash * Squash * Squash

We are adventurous squash eaters around here (I bought 40 pounds of squash one day last winter; we are planning a squash-themed potluck next week; we have tried -- and liked -- squash lattes), but since we hit on this recipe, we haven't been eating our squash any other way.

A butternut squash is quite nice
If it's peeled and cut in small dice,
Add some butter and cayenne,
And roast it all in a pan
(Twenty minutes or so will suffice).

Actually, this works with any kind of squash. Peel it and chop it into 3/4-inch chunks. Melt some butter (about 1/2 stick for a medium butternut squash), and stir in 2 or 3 tablespoons of honey. Add a few teaspoons of cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg, and up to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper.

The small dice are key to this treat
With its seasonings savory and sweet.
I hope math doesn't scare ya,
'Cause it's about surface area,
The more sides, the more butter you eat.

Toss the squash cubes with the butter mixture and spread out on a cookie sheet. Add salt to taste. Roast at 400 degrees for 20 to 30 minutes. (If the squash cubes are sticking or burning, you can add a little water.) Once the squash is cooked, put it under the broiler for 1 or 2 minutes, until the tips are a little crispy.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Rustic Eggplant

One of my housemates had her friend Becky (a Real Chef! at a restaurant you've heard of!) over tonight, and she made for us what she described as a rustic, peasant dish. I think it was something like a ratatouille, though more in an Italian direction.

(Important note: Any errors in transcribing the recipe are totally mine. I find it extraordinarily difficult to focus on taking notes when sexy culinary terms like "sweat" and "concasse" are flying around and my mouth is full.)

Becky started with slivers of onion and roughly chopped eggplant, letting the eggplant cook slowly in the onion's juices. Then she added the tomato (here's where the concasse comes in) and let everything cook for a while.

Then she added lots of parsley and seasoned the dish with cinnamon, cumin, red pepper flakes, and salt and pepper.

We ate it with roasted squash cubes and collard greens (our recipes for both to come, once I can pin down the chefs) and corn on the cob.

For a heartier dish on its own, Becky suggests adding ground turkey or brown rice or making it the filling for a wrap. Or you could take it in a Greek direction, she says, with yogurt or dill or saffron for seasonings.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Countertransference Squash Soup

Our new housemate, Liz, is a grad student in counseling psychology. She provides this recipe for a thick and creamy soup that will help you begin to explore your unconscious reactions toward farm share vegetables, particularly those that may be limiting your objectivity when it comes to cooking them.

Start with some squash -- we had two delicata and two acorn -- and bake them well. While they bake, consider your life history, particularly your anxieties vis-a-vis squash. (Editor's note: I am a bit anxious that Liz may be cloaking the fact she doesn't remember what went into the soup in psychological jargon.)

Meanwhile, in a soup pot, cook diced potatoes, carrot, onion, possibly celery or other sturdy vegetables, and seasonings in oil, until vegetables are almost completely cooked. (Liz seasoned with salt, rosemary, sage, and an accidentally generous measure of pepper. Add pepper just past the point where the top of the pepper container falls off for a delightfully spicy soup.)

The potatoes may require therapy at this point if they are cooking slowly. You can add about a cup of water, cover the pot, and raise the temperature until the potatoes are forced to reflect on their life choices. (Less technically: "It's not warm enough if they are cooking in a mellow way in which they are just grooving along.")

Add peppers, scallions, and other delicate vegetables at this point. Be conscious of transference relationships between the potatoes and everything else. Cook until all the vegetables are almost completely cooked.

Then lop in the squash and mix it around a little in the soup.

Pour in some milk -- a lot of milk -- until you feel self-actualized (the soup will be thick). Reseason to taste. Liz added brown sugar (according to relational frame theory, squash soup should be sweet) and salt. You could also add greens -- we used kale -- at this point.

If the squash is not mooshed enough -- and Liz assures me that this is the psychological term -- you can use an immersion blender (which Freud codified as "the blender-on-a-stick phenomenon") in the bottom two inches of the pot.

We served the soup with the same biscuits we had with our pot pie. Our housemate Jack asserts that the biscuits are essential and are ideally eaten crumbled into the soup, but he has no formal training in psychotherapy so far as I can tell.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Pie Day

Pi Day is March 14 (3.14), but pie day is when we looked at all the potatoes and apples in last week's share and thought: pot pie and apple pie! Last Friday's suddenly chilly weather helped, too.

(Let me admit up front that I can't take any credit for this one. The level of cuisine has improved markedly in our kitchen since other people have been doing the cooking.)

The pot pie recipe was Vegetable Potpie with Cheddar Biscuit Topping from Gourmet Today. (Full disclosure: I did the production editing for the book -- which pubbed just last Tuesday! -- so when I tell you it's amazing, that's with the slight bias of having hand-capitalized every main entry in the index. On deadline day.)

(This recipe, minus the turkey, is pretty much the same, and gets you the cheddar biscuits, which were sort of life-changing.)

My housemates, who are only slightly better than I am at following directions, improvised the filling based on the vegetables we had on hand -- potatoes, onions, carrots, celery, beets, eggplant, mushrooms, and frozen shelled edamame -- and used rosemary and sage instead of thyme. It was quite possibly the best pot pie I've ever had (though, to be fair, I was raised eating frozen Swanson pies).

I don't think my housemates used a recipe for the apple pie, so you'll just have to take on faith that it was a delicious and evocative taste of fall.

Return of the Dandelion Greens

I was relieved of dandelion cooking duties after my inadequate performance last time, so we return with the notes of my housemate Jack, who both dressed my boiled leftovers and cooked a new batch. He made two different dishes, based on recipes from Epicurious.

The first was an olive oil dressing with almonds, raisins, and sherry vinegar. Epicurious used it to dress raw tender baby greens; because "tender" seemed the wrong word for ours, Jack mixed the dressing with boiled greens instead (using the directions from the second recipe). Chef says: "It was lacking just a bit of something, maybe just extra salt. Also note (from the comments) that the almonds need to go in well before the garlic to avoid burning."

The second recipe, which got the higher marks in our kitchen, is very simple: boiled greens sauteed with copious -- copious! -- amounts of olive oil and garlic (and some red pepper flakes and salt).

I wasn't home for the dandelion greens consumption, so I can't report too fully on their critical reception, but I sampled leftovers of both dishes for breakfast the next morning and wrote my revised opinion on our markerboard ("dandelion greens = awesome").

Lessons learned:

Enough garlic and olive oil can mask just about any flavor.

Dandelion greens with enough garlic and olive oil to mask their bitter flavor make an eye-opening breakfast food. (In retrospect, possibly a poor breakfast choice when you have a first date that evening.)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Bitter Greens

We've been having trouble figuring out what to do with the dandelion greens, and we had two weeks' worth in the fridge yesterday.

I gave my housemate Jack half a leaf and asked if they were too bitter to put in a salad. Yes, he said, giving me half of half the leaf back. (Mind you, this is a man who has let me put lemon curd on popcorn and who thinks tomato-and-basil ice cream is a good idea.)

So I went looking for ways to cook them. Epicurious does them sauteed and spicy and sauteed. The New York Times suggested Provencal Greens Soup.

But because I always trust Mark Bittman, and because it was good weather for comfort food, and because there were potatoes in this week's box, I decided on Green Mashed Potatoes (article, recipe). I had seen this recipe when it was first published in the spring and made it then with kale; I'd forgotten it actually called for dandelion greens.

Mark said to boil the greens for one minute. I did, tasted, and found them ... bitter. I boiled them for five minutes ... bitter. I boiled them for ten minutes, while running to consult my cookbooks and the Internet on whether longer boiling could reduce bitterness.

By then, all I could taste was bitter. I borrowed my housemate Erica's taste buds. Bitter, she pronounced. Would you eat it mixed with mashed potatoes? No.

So I chickened out and added a few big handfuls of this week's mixed salad greens (speed-wilted in the microwave) to the potatoes instead. (I also went off-recipe and grated some Parmesan over the top.) Delicious.

I did go back to the Internet afterwards; there are a lot of enthusiastic dandelion eaters out there, including many who claim the greens are hardly bitter at all. This piece on making dandelions palatable seemed the most promising in terms of admitting that dandelions are, in fact bitter, and providing several strategies for masking that bitterness.

As for our dandelion greens ... they're in the fridge, boiled to death. Any suggestions for what to do with them?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Prep for the Week

It is a truth universally acknowledged that vegetables are more likely to be eaten if already prepared. (If not, well, there's a reason I know that you can eat six-month-old turnips. Those turnips actually moved from Brookline to Somerville with me last winter.)

To help us get through our farm share, as well as because most of us pack lunches and/or eat at least some meals on the go through the week, I'm trying to be more conscious about doing some advance prep of vegetables and grains on Sunday nights.

Last week I had three pots boiling at once: brown rice, corn on the cob, and beets.

My new favorite method for cooking the corn is to bring the water to a boil, put in the corn, cover the pot, and turn off the stove. The corn's done in five minutes, but it doesn't seem to get overcooked if you leave it longer (which is good if you want it ready at the same time as the rest of your meal).

A former housemate taught me how to boil the beets, which always seems to me a little faster and easier than roasting them. Scrub them and trim the tops and bottoms, boil for 30 minutes to an hour (fork them to see if they're done), then run cold water over them and the skins -- like magic! -- slip right off. I usually cut the boiled beets into small dice, then people add them to salads or whatever else they're eating through the week. Sometimes they're good by themselves with salt and pepper or a little balsamic vinegar.

I also roasted a little tray of potato cubes (tossed with oil, salt, and cayenne; in the toaster oven on broil for, oh, 12 minutes or so).

Any ideas for preparing lettuce or cabbage in advance to encourage daily consumption?

This is only marginally related to food, but another way that I'm wasting time on a Sunday evening is by playing Cheese or Font?, a little online game that encapsulates everything I've learned as a cookbook production editor.

Corn Chowder

Inspired by the corn, potatoes, and onions in this week's share (and by the cold, rainy soup-making weather), I spent a couple hours Saturday afternoon making a corn chowder. (I used this recipe, made vegetarian by omitting the bacon and using vegetable bouillon cubes.)

I more than doubled most of the vegetables -- red peppers, carrots, celery, and sweet potatoes, as well as the onions and corn -- to make it a little more harvest-based than cream-based.

One of my biggest fears about living in a co-op (a small one -- there are five of us here) is that I will never be able to go back to cooking a normal amount of food again.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Making Salsa and Not Canning Tomatoes

Probably just like everyone else, we used the tomatillos to make salsa verde this week. (What else do people make with tomatillos?)

The recipe world seems to be a bit divided about whether you boil the tomatillos, roast them, or use them uncooked. I chose this recipe because it had a roasting option (we broil pretty much everything around here) and because it matched the ingredients already in the house.

(Recipes also seem to differ quite a bit in whether you need to add water. This recipe has no additional water, while the recipe in the Enterprise newsletter called for adding 2 cups. Ours was fine without when I made it, but it's solidified a bit over a couple days in the fridge.)

Making salsa got us started thinking about canning. It seems like I've been reading about the resurgence of home canning everywhere recently, often tied to the idea that it's a money-saving thing to do in tough
economic times

We use a lot of canned tomatoes in our house, for pasta sauces and soups and pizza, so the idea of jarring a bunch of the beautiful heirloom tomatoes we've been seeing at the farmer's market to draw on through the winter was pretty appealing.

The USDA has very comprehensive canning resources available online. My enthusiasm for the project was damped a bit by all the OMG YOU WILL DIE OF BOTULISM (though this is not really a concern if you can follow a recipe -- always a question for me -- and stick to high-acid foods, like tomatoes, if you don't have a pressure canner).

But it was really the mathematics of the thing that put the kibosh on canning for us. The USDA told me that for crushed tomatoes, no liquid added, I would need about 2 3/4 pounds of tomatoes per quart. I didn't make it to the Davis Square farmer's market on Wednesday, but at Copley heirloom tomatoes were $3 or $4 per pound. So about $8 to $11 worth of tomatoes in each quart. Jars and lids looked like they'd run about another $1 per jar.

So figuring a cost of about $10 per quart, canning 12 quarts of tomatoes would have been an upfront investment of $120. (By comparison, we buy fancy canned Muir Glen organic tomatoes for $2.69 for 28 ounces, or about $3 per quart.)

Are people really saving money canning? (I think it's a bit of a cheat to say that the produce is free if you grow it yourself -- at least on the scale that I grow tomatoes, they're about the farthest thing there is from free.)

Monday, September 7, 2009

Empty Refrigerator Cabbage Stir-Fry

We pick up our share on Wednesdays, so finding things to eat on Tuesday can be a little rough.

Fortunately, this week we were armed with your comments suggesting additional things to do with cabbage. We ran with JamieLichtenstein's Asian-sounding stir-fry idea, and came up with this.

Empty Refrigerator Cabbage Stir-Fry

1 head of green cabbage
Kitchen staples: an onion, garlic, ginger, Asian chile sauce, soy sauce, cilantro

I sauteed an onion and a couple cloves of garlic, then threw in the chopped cabbage. There was too much to saute, so I added a little water and let the cabbage steam until it was pretty well cooked.

Then we tossed in some chopped ginger and dressed the whole mess with generously with Asian chile sauce and soy sauce and -- housemate Jack gets full credit for this -- a secret ingredient. (I'm pretty sure you'd get similar results from a bouillon cube, if, bless you, yours isn't the kind of house that has five-year-old British condiments in the back of the fridge.)

Then we stirred in some chopped cilantro in and served it over white rice. No leftovers.

P.S. I was a little skeptical about it coming together while I was cooking, but let me just say, I've never before had housemates arrive home while I was cooking cabbage and say "That smells delicious!"

Monday, August 31, 2009

First blog post... adventures with cabbage

Our houseful of hungry mostly-vegetarians makes short work of most of our farm share items. This is not exactly the case with cabbage, which we accumulated to an alarming quantity during July and August. At our house meeting on The Cabbage Problem, kimchi was suggested as a solution. None of us had any idea how to make it, so we asked Mark Bittman, the New York Times food writer.

(Note: I am a total Mark Bittman fangirl.)

It turns out that Mark has written about kimchi quite a few times—one article back in 1996, then again in 2000, then again in his vegetarian cookbook (2007). He differentiates between aged, pickled "winter kimchi" and fresh "seasonal kimchi," which you can make and eat on the same day. We went for the latter. Because we cook recklessly around here—my problems with authority manifest as an inability to follow a recipe and I'm too impatient to measure—we combined elements of all the recipes.

I didn't realize this until I'd finished making it, but "seasonal kimchi" is essentially Asian slaw. If I'd known I was just making coleslaw (and not trying to recreate a particular alchemy that magically transforms cabbage to kimchi), I would have been even more fast and loose with the recipes. It is, however, a delicious Asian slaw. I made it twice, once with red cabbage and then again with green cabbage.

Our final house recipe is, approximately: One head of cabbage, coarsely chopped. Add to it one bunch of scallions and a couple cucumbers, chopped. Add lots of garlic and ginger, then some chiles (fresh or dried), then soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, sugar, and salt to taste.

A couple notes on the process and results: Mark told us to wilt the cabbage by salting it and letting it stand for a few hours before making the kimchi. In our experience, however, farm share cabbage is indestructible and does not wilt. (In fact, the last serving of our first batch of kimchi got lost in the back of the fridge for about three weeks, and though I threw it out, the cabbage was just as firm as ever.) Additionally, our kimchi was distinctly not-red (even when we used red cabbage), which lost it some authenticity votes here. (A splinter group of housemates actually lobbied for adding red food coloring.)

For the third cabbage, rather than make yet another batch of kimchi, we tried Bobby Flay's Red Cabbage Slaw. You chop up the cabbage and make a dressing in the blender; chill and it's done. I used half the cabbage to make one batch in the morning, then, by popular demand, used the second half to make another batch that night.

Any ideas for the one last head of green cabbage still hanging out in our fridge?