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.)