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.