Thursday, December 23, 2010

Lady Marmalade

We were tossing around ideas for homemade Christmas gifts and decided to make marmalade. It's a super-easy sort of jelly to make because the rinds and pith go in (so no peeling or juicing) and those rinds and pith are what causes the jam to gel (so no need to add pectin).

We used instructions from Mad Evil Science Laboratory, except that to make it even easier than their "way easier" method, we didn't chop the peels separately; we just threw everything -- peels, pith, flesh, juice -- into the food processor. (Jack's mom was helping, so rather than admit my completely barbarian upbringing, we did seed the tangerines. And remove a little pith from the grapefruits.)

A limited-edition practice flavor, brewed from cheesecake party leftovers.
Of course, we can't do "way easier" without also doing "way more complicated," so we made four different flavors at once (grapefruit orange, tangerine cinnamon, cherry clementine, and orange lemon ginger), using 15 pounds of citrus and filling 34 jars (mostly cute little 4-ouncers).

(Generally speaking, I would recommend marmalade as an economical holiday gift, but I didn't consider I would have to pay Delta $23 today to check my traveling backpack, which contained way, way more than one quart of three-ounce containers of gel-like substances.)

Some folks have asked the difference between marmalade and jam or jelly. I'm pretty sure it's just jelly made with citrus fruit and including the rinds. (A truly pretentious but probably technically correct blog comment I read claimed that true marmalade is made with Seville oranges and anything else is just "orange jelly.")

 P.S. One more last-minute gift recommendation: I just saw this book of cooking projects and am a little bit dying to try many of them (olives, marshmallows, ginger beer), and I heartily endorse the ones we already have (crackers, potato chips, mayonnaise). To the kitchen!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Gifts for Cooks

Yikes, you can barely seed a squash around here without getting some on a holiday gift guide for cooks ...

My favorite so far is We Are Not Martha's Holiday Gifts for Food Lovers, which introduced me to several mind-blowing things (there's an Etsy for food? there's an olive oil store in Boston?) and includes my all-time-favorite two-ended magnetic measuring spoons (I prefer mine, at the link, to the fancy Martha version in the guide). A few of the things are a bit too silly or gadgety for me, but I'm finding it both a source of things to covet and as creative inspiration for gifts for others.

Smitten Kitchen's gift guide (from 2009) has the investment pieces (I love her philosophy of buying high-quality everyday items instead of cooking ephemera, but what kind of lifestyle do you need to justify a $100 serrated knife?). Sadly, the Smitten Kitchen book won't be ready until 2012.

David Lebovitz (a new favorite of mine) has a Favorite Cookbooks of 2010 that's lengthy and inspiring, even for a person (me) who would never consider buying a book devoted entirely to coconut desserts. I don't just say that because the first book on the list is one that I production edited and personally love. (There are, of course, a million year-end cookbook roundups -- New York Times and a web bonus, Publishers Weekly, NPR, the Huffington Post's Best Blogs-to-Cookbooks 2010 -- though I didn't find any of them particularly exciting.)

In the more-practical, less-food-porn, more-referency, not-necessarily-published-in-2010 genre, my personal literary Christmas wishes and recommendations are Harold McGee's new book, Keys to Good Cooking, as well as Ratio, The Flavor Bible, Veganomicon, Cooking for Geeks, and if you're feeling spendy, Larousse Gastronomique.

Oh, and has anyone gotten their hands on a Remedy Quarterly (new indie cooking journal)? I found it via Kickstarter, and then again the other day via one of the editors' gingersnap sandwich cookies, which won me a prize at the office cookie swap. I wouldn't say no to a subscription to Cook's Illustrated or Vegetarian Times, either.

Finally, have I mentioned that I like Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything Vegetarian? I mean, sort of a lot? That would be my desert island co-op cookbook and I recommend it to everyone looking for a first comprehensive helps-with-the-CSA cookbook.

P.S. Oh, gosh, just discovered the Atlantic's Holiday Kitchen Gift Guides, which is ridiculously, lovably discursive and right-on in so many ways (we love our Microplane, immersion blender, electric kettle, and one good chef's knife, and use them all nearly every day) while being completely practical and mundane.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Lots of Latkes

Posting this a bit late, but housemate Sara's beautiful latkes were the highlight of our end-of-Hanukkah potluck last week.

There's lively debate about whether you have to hand-grate the potatoes or if you can use a food processor, but -- as we learned -- you can't use the food processor if you're too lazy to go find your shredding disc.

Letting your grated potatoes oxidize to pink is apparently a sign of moral turpitude, but no word on what it means if you start with pink-fleshed potatoes (the last of the Enterprise CSA). Also, we might have, um, thrown in a sweet potato or two.

P.S. Counter my conventional wisdom, Smitten Kitchen insists latkes are easy, do-ahead, and not just for Hanukkah, and has lots of tips for food-processing, cheesecloth-squeezing, and keep-warming. She also knows how to make apple latkes with caramel sauce for dessert.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Butternut Blues

I know, I know, just a few weeks ago I was gung-ho about cooking squash, but when the reality of 30-degree-temperatures and dark at 4pm and no fresh green vegetables in the house started to set in ... I just wasn't feeling it. Seeing winter coming on and imagining the long months of orange soup after orange soup filled me with an overwhelming sense of ickiness.

Unfortunately, I'd also agreed to go to housemate Sara's church Hanukkah potluck at the last minute. And when I asked her what to bring, she said vegetables for 15 to 25 people ... and what we had in the house was more than 40 pounds of squash.

So, in search of inspired preparations, here's a selection of butternut squash recipes that seemed significantly different from the typical roast/soup/puree (mostly found via the inimitable Tastespotting):

Curried Butternut Squash with Brown Chickpeas (eCurry)
Butternut Gnocchi (My Easy Cooking)
Butternut Squash and Leek Latkes (Food & Style)
Roasted Butternut, Sausage, and Fennel Stuffing (Gimme Some Oven!)
Butternut Squash Orzo (We Are Not Martha)
Butternut Squash Risotto (A Beach Home Companion)
Butternut Squash Polenta (Epicurious)
Butternut Squash and Cheddar Bread Pudding (Epicurious)
Whole Wheat Butternut Waffles (How Sweet It Is)
Butternut Squash Fondue (Cooking Books)
Butternut Squash, Drunk Mushrooms, and Goat Cheese Napoleons (The Lonely Bean)
Butternut Squash and Brown Rice Porridge (Dog Hill Kitchen)
Shrimp with Butternut Squash in Coconut Sauce (Modern Comfort Food)
Butternut Squash and Cider Doughnuts (Art & Lemons)
Butternut Squash Butter (Art & Lemons)
Your Best Butternut Squash Recipes (Food52)

Of course, after all that, I only had half an hour to cook, so I ended up making the world's simplest squash puree after all. But as I saw the diners happily adding sunny orange glops of Vitamin A to their plates of latkes and brisket, I felt some measure of my joy in squash restored. And, as you see, they nearly licked the serving dish clean.

Squash Puree a la Running Late: Peel and seed squash and cut into small chunks. Boil (in barely enough water to cover) for 15 minutes or until very soft. Drain and transfer squash to food processor; process until very smooth. Stir in some butter and salt and pepper, and for gosh sake, try not to spill orange goop all over the subway while running for your train.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Monday Veggietrivia

First and foremost, I have to point you to my better and meat-cooking half, who cooked our second Thanksgiving turkey in a lukewarm cooler in his parents' bathtub. No vegetables were harmed in the making of this short documentary about it.

Second, a small Farm Share Stories announcement: Our house has decided not to subscribe to the Enterprise Farm East Coast CSA this winter. We've had a great year and a half with Enterprise, but we're also excited to explore some of the rest of the increasingly embarrassing wealth of Boston-area winter CSA options.

We've signed up for the Red Fire Farm Locavore Deep Winter CSA, which promises greens, storage crops, and neat local products for January through March, and we look forward to continuing to share what we cook and eat through these turnipy, parsnipity months.

We didn't think we could make it for all of December without our weekly vegetable fix, though, so we stocked up on apples (20 pounds) and winter squash (40 pounds) from Kimball Fruit Farm to get us through. (We're also planning a first-time house trip to Watertown to visit the incredibly-highly-reviewed Russo's. Stay tuned!)

However you're getting your greens on and your squash rocked this winter, we hope you'll stay in touch and keep us up to date on what you've got cooking.

P.S. We've also laid in supplies of another type, for another favorite winter tradition.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Neeps, and Tatties, and Haggis (?!), Oh My!

We had turnips and we had potatoes ... so obviously it was time for neeps and tatties.

Neeps and tatties is Scots for "turnips and potatoes," with the caveat that what the Scottish call "turnips" are what the English call "swedes," which are what we Americans call "rutabagas."

The traditional recipe for neeps and tatties is to boil and mash each separately (but been there, done that), so we did this mustard-roasted potatoes recipe from Smitten Kitchen, instead.

The standard accompaniment for neeps and tatties is haggis, that delectable product of Scottish ingenuity combining sheep entrails, oatmeal, and whiskey boiled in the sheep's stomach.

Of course, as with all good meaty things, there are vegetarian variations as well. Jack pointed out that vegetarian "haggis" is pretty much our standard Mark Bittman veggie burger with a dash of whiskey. He also agreed to wear a kilt if I made some.

Here's a great Australian narrative about haggis and the making of it, which includes the recipe I ultimately ended up following. We also had some bacon that needed eating, though, so our vegetarian "haggis" is actually double-scare-quotes "vegetarian" "haggis."

We didn't make the tomato sauce described in the recipe, but ketchup and barbecue sauce made good additions to a haggis our audience judged ... marginally edible.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving from Farm Share Stories. May you have a delicious day!

(Our haul courtesy of Kimball Fruit Farm.)

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Stuffed Baby Pumpkins

So, as promised, I fed the people the Halloween decorations.

Seven no-longer-seasonal baby pumpkins became seven gooey cheddar-mozzarella-and-challah-filled practice Thanksgiving appetizers. Win!

The recipe is basically Dorie Greenspan's Pumpkin Packed with Bread and Cheese, which seems to be all over the Internet right now (final version on Epicurious; NPR interview). I adapted it for baby pumpkins with some of the ideas here.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Cranberry Relish

We just hosted practice Thanksgiving*, and I'm a little bit delighted with a very easy no-cook cranberry relish we tried.

You could click for the whole recipe, but I'll just tell you: 2 cups of cranberries, 2 peeled and cored apples, and 1 whole orange (peel and all) in the food processor; dump it into a bowl, stir in a cup of sugar, and wait.

Something about the equivalent inedibility of raw cranberries and orange peel -- not to mention the 2 minutes of prep time -- made me particularly gleeful about this combo.

(I happened upon the recipe via this discussion of Thanksgiving side dishes; it's worth a look, particularly if you don't know about roasted Brussels sprouts yet.)

* Practice Thanksgiving -- or "Thanksgiving drill" -- is some day that isn't Thanksgiving, usually a weeknight, when we audition new dishes for the big day, rehearse getting a multicourse meatless Thanksgiving on the table in less than two hours, and celebrate with people who are going to be elsewhere on the actual holiday.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

French Onion Soup!

When your CSA gives you onions (so many onions, amirite?) ... make French onion soup?

Or better yet, have someone make it for you! This recipe comes courtesy of Erica's sweetie, Ray.
  • Roughly slice 2-3 large onions (red onions give you a more savory flavor, while yellow onions will be sweeter; depends on what you like) and add to large soup pot.
  • Saute onions in oil and butter (enough to coat bottom of pan) until deep brown, 30-40 minutes.
  • Add 5-8 cups (depends on your desired onion to liquid ratio) of good-quality beef stock (the better your stock, the better the soup).
  • Add brandy to taste (about 1/2 cup).
  • Wrap sprigs of rosemary, thyme, and bay leaves in twine (so they can be retrieved) and add to pot.
  • Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Bring to boil and then simmer, partially covered, on medium-low for 30-45 minutes, until flavors are well blended.
  • Remove herb bundle.
  • Ladle soup into individual ovenproof bowls and cover with 1-2 slices of Swiss cheese and 1 slice of French bread.
  • Bake or broil until cheese is melted and golden brown.
  • Enjoy!
Variation: Cook's Illustrated's Best French Onion Soup (also here) caramelizes the onions in the oven, which reduces stirring but takes a million years.

P.S. Once again, I scoop the New York Times; here's their piece on winter squash.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Squash Time!

The season of squash is upon us, and tonight's delicata squash rings (the skin is edible) are dedicated to all my indulgent roommates over the years, the ones who have enthusiastically signed off on a late November purchase of a 40-pound box of squash.

Guide to 23(!) types of winter squash
A shorter winter squash glossary
Butternut squash recipes on Food 52

Because there can never be too much squash, I'm also thinking of cooking the Halloween decorations: roasted baby pumpkins, baked miniature pumpkins, baby pumpkins stuffed with coconut vegetables.

Mom, maybe don't click, but here's some profane squash humor for the McSweeney's readers out there: "It's decorative gourd season." (Thanks, Ben!)

P.S. The New York Times is posting new vegetarian Thanksgiving recipes daily until T-day.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Weird Roots

Our roots have started coming in white! These three weird sisters were the freaky superstars of last week's box.

In the knobby foreground is our old favorite, celeriac, which we've enjoyed in purees and soups, both good for a day foul or fair.

The green bulbous fellow in the middle is fennel, which we haven't cooked with before. You can eat both the bulbs and fronds. These folks suggest that you can eat it plain and raw with salt and olive oil, or use it in any dish as you would use celery, and offer lots of ideas and recipes besides.

And we argued about whether the root looming in the background was a beet or a turnip, but the Enterprise newsletter calls us all wrong. It's a watermelon radish, which "gets its name from its bright psychedelic pink and green interior, resembling the colors (but not the texture!) of a watermelon." They say to eat it like you would any radish, ignoring its disturbing size and albinism. (Here's a prettier picture of one; another picture and a pickle recipe; another incredibly enthusiastic fan.)

And speaking of disconcerting white root vegetables, I love it's not a parsnip, it's a carrot zombie.

P.S. Should you be in a similar rut of photographing but not cooking with your vegetables, you might enjoy Tiny Urban Kitchen's Eight Ways to Use Up Your Farm Share Vegetables.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Lettuce Unwrapped

Learn from our mistakes, friends -- this is what happens when you get lax about your lettuce eating.

We cleaned out the fridge the other day and found five heads, plus a bunch of arugula and a giant Napa cabbage.

Dinner was all-you-can-eat lettuce wraps (unwrapped in the photograph), overstuffed with cooked shredded cabbage, Asian noodles, shredded carrot and daikon radish, and cilantro and mint, topped with house recipe peanut sauce.

Should you, too, be awash in leafy greens, a few resources:

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Frittering Away

And all week long your River City youth will be frittering away, I say your young men will be frittering! Frittering away their noon time, supper time, chore time too. Put the ball in the pocket, never mind getting dandelions pulled or the screen door patched or the beef steak pounded.

Here's my young man using the very last of the season's corn to make corn fritters (basic recipe). Fritters with a capital F that stands for fried -- these are the round, puffy, deep-fried, delicious carnival food kind of fritters.

There's another kind of fritter that's something more like a pancake, flat and vegetable-stuffed and cooked in a skillet. My basic recipe for those is Fresh Corn Griddlecakes (I still have the page torn from the Globe magazine a couple summers ago). And no corn here, but the Indian-Spiced Vegetable Fritters on Smitten Kitchen look pretty delectable.

(P.S. Once again, anticipating the NYT: Melissa Clark's fritter tips.)

Friday, October 15, 2010

Retraction: Upside-Down Caramel-Apple Muffins

Don't make these muffins. I know I told you to, and sure, they look delicious (and actually they are), but now, having actually tried it, I retract the recommendation.

Do you ever get home from work after a long day and try to read a recipe and it just doesn't make any sense? At first, I thought it was the amount of butter (for which there was a printed correction) ... two sticks, really? ... or the order of the steps ... or my just plain pig-headedness about knowing better than recipes ... but it turns out that the caramel-apple muffins didn't have any apples in the ingredient list.


(I see the New York Times online version of the recipe is corrected to have apples now; here's what it looked like when I tried it, as well as another blogger's favorable review.)

So, anyway, I cut up an apple (one big one was more than enough for a dozen muffins, I don't know what you're about with your three apples, NYT) and cooked it in a pan with some brown sugar and a couple tablespoons of butter (not a whole stick of butter, what?) for the topping (bottoming?).

While I wasn't following the directions for the topping, I decided not to follow the directions for the muffins, either, and instead I made Dorie Greenspan's Great Grains Muffins (from this book), which have whole wheat flour and cornmeal and oatmeal, and in my personal version, also cinnamon and allspice and cardamom.

The other thing I wish the article would explain is how to serve upside-down muffins in a dignified fashion ... not that anyone here minded.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Carrot Cake

Sometimes people are all like, "I read the New York Times Style section and it was totally about you, Teresa." Not so much because of my sexy Skechers bike shoes, but because, for instance, I was tending a worm bin and living in a co-op long before the fluff section of our paper of record (the one we love to hate) told us it was cool.

So let me just say, I was not surprised at all when the carrot cake tackled by The Baker's Apprentice was the very same one I had made -- twice! -- the week before. I can't say enough good things about the baker, and I find her book infallible for baked goods. (Full disclosure: I did the production editing on her next book.)

Housemate Sara has been running her juicer recently, so I used about four cups of leftover mixed carrot-apple pulp each time, instead of the three cups of grated carrot called for in the recipe.

(Bonus for blog readers: a visual carrot cake recipe from the lovely hand-drawn contributions to Recipe Look.)

P.S. The next CSA-related treat I want to try? New York Times Upside-Down Caramel-Apple Muffins (related article).

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

One Potato, Two Potatoes

We'd just gotten through our ten-pound bag of potatoes when yesterday's supply arrived. (Well, a few spuds escaped through the bottom of the box. You may have spotted us dodging traffic and chasing tiny potatoes down Highland Ave.)

Jack wanted crispy potatoes and I wanted something not deep-fried, so he "used" this recipe for Crispy Potato Wedges ...
Except, my wet mix included some milk and greek yogurt, and my dry mix was flour and Tony's and some garlic powder, and I just dumped the wet mix onto the potatoes and then gradually added the dry mix, which resulted in more like a lumpy batter.
(Our compatibility is based on his ability to compromise and our shared inability to follow directions, obviously.)

Our potatoes were crispy as promised, though a bit odd looking. Lesson learned: You probably do need to individually dip and dredge the potatoes.

Should you also be suffering a surfeit of potatoes, there's always last winter's Potato Week for inspiration (gratin, mashed, baked potato soup, tater tots, salad).

I perked up my ears at The Kitchn's 10 Ways to Eat a Potato (and Just a Potato) for Dinner, but the title is a bit of a misnomer -- it's about adding things (other than potatoes) to a baked potato to make it dinner.

And after seeing it repeatedly recommended online, I've been playing with The Flavor Bible, by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg. It's a reference book, a sort of cooking thesaurus, consisting mostly of long lists of ingredients that play nicely together. Many are obvious (tomatoes and basil), some are not (octopus and tangerines), and I've been finding it a good way to jog my culinary memory for things I like to eat.

Here's the start of what they say goes with potatoes:

bay leaf
bell peppers, green, esp. roasted
butter, unsalted
caraway seeds
cauliflower (e.g., Indian cuisine)

Among the surprise entries (to me) were chili oil, cinnamon, ginger, lavender, and oysters.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

More Sauce to Your Leek

PISTOL: By this leek, I will most horribly revenge: I eat and eat, I swear--
FLUELLEN: Eat, I pray you: will you have some more sauce to your leek? there is not enough leek to swear by.
-- King Henry V, V.i

Oh my, what big leeks we had!

I didn't want to make a leek soup or anything where the leeks wouldn't be front and center, so I took a page from James Peterson's Vegetables (new to me, but highly recommended) and made something like his very simple leek gratin:
Halve the leeks in a baking dish, pour over a cup of heavy cream, add salt and pepper, and bake for 30 or 40 minutes.
Our lighter leek gratin had half a cup of light cream and half a cup of whole milk, actually.

(Can I digress for a moment? I decided this afternoon to go all old-school and look for a leek recipe in a book instead of on the Internet, and now I'm sorry. Our leeks were tasty, but just look at the sexier Jamie Oliver version of a leek gratin. And look at all the ideas on Epicurious! And on Ask Metafilter! And on TasteSpotting!)

Tuesday is our use-up-the-farm-share-vegetables day, so we served the leeks with roasted dinner: potatoes, butternut squash, apples, onions, and corn (all hacked into large pieces, tossed with oil and salt and pepper).

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Herb Mayonnaise and Pesto

Inspired by Mark Bittman's recent paean to the food processor, we made a couple tasty condiments with farm share herbs this week.

Jack fried some eggplant slices for eggplant-tomato-mozzarella sandwiches for lunch one day and talked me into making basil mayonnaise to go with them. (It's amazing how many of our conversations start with me saying, "I think I'm just going to warm up some leftovers" and end with me emulsifying egg yolks.) We did the mayonnaise recipe from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, which is pretty much the same as the method described in the article, and just threw in a big handful of basil at the end.

Then, to use up the herbs on Tuesday, we made a lemon-basil-parsley pesto, based on our usual pesto recipe, but with a few twists:
In the food processor, combine a small handful of walnuts, a shallot (I was too lazy to peel garlic), and a few big strips of lemon zest. Process to combine. Add as much basil and parsley as you have, as well as a few ice chunks*, and process until smoothish. With the food processor running, slowly drizzle in half a cup or so of olive oil. Add a handful of Parmesan and process; add additional Parmesan and salt and pepper to taste.
(Mark Bittman, as usual, one-ups us for minimalism and makes pesto mayonnaise.)

* The ice chunks purportedly keep the herbs bright green. I don't know about that, and I've always skipped this step before, but it turned out that the additional agitation made the herbs process in our tiny Cuisinart much more easily.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Winter CSA Research

We got the most beautiful CSA box from Enterprise this week: tomatoes, red peppers, apples, carrots, a big bag of potatoes, carrots, and four (!) eggplants.

The late-summer weight of the box, however -- as well as the winter squashes and pumpkins taking over the farmers market -- was a reminder that the growing season is drawing to a close and that it's time to start discussing what to do for our winter produce needs.

I compiled a Google Doc to lay out the Boston-area winter CSA options for my housemates (hence the slightly Somerville-centric angle). It's pretty similar to the Winter CSA list Boston Localvores put together last year, though I also added some non-CSA produce options (e.g., Boston Organics) and non-produce CSA options (e.g., the Pioneer Valley Grain CSA).

Last year, our house got the Enterprise East Coast Farm Share, which runs from December through May and is probably the simplest and most straightforward way to continue your CSA experience: every week, you get a box of somewhat local, mostly organic, and varied (not just root vegetables!) items. However, I also hear great things about the Shared Harvest CSA and Red Fire Farm's Locavore Deep Winter CSA, and I'm game to try something new.

Where will you get your winter vegetables?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Wednesday Veggietrivia

It was a pleasure to meet a handful of other local food bloggers at our weekly potluck yesterday.

We discussed recipes and local food (of course), winter CSA options (more on that to come), teaching children to cook, the uses of xanthan gum, and many fascinating facts about sea slugs.

If you don't already know them, may I recommend that you check out our new blogger friends?
P.S. Potluckers, the New York Times would like to see your signature potluck dish, for a special issue of their magazine.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Summer-into-Fall Vegetable Chili

I came down with a nasty cold this weekend, to go with the decidedly fall-like weather, so it seemed like time to make a Giant Pot of Chili.

I like this chili because it takes lots and lots of whatever vegetables you have. (Maybe you're noticing a theme here?) Ours struck a nice-but-unplanned balance between late-summery farm share ingredients (fresh corn, tomatoes, bell peppers, and celery from the CSA, as well as zucchini) and those more evocative of fall (butternut squash, carrots, onions).

The best chili is obviously the kind your mom makes, so I'm not going to tell you how to make it, except to say that I think a more-vegetables version is worth trying. (Our recipe is loosely based on Emeril's.) If you have strong feelings about what ingredients are allowed in a proper chili, you're welcome to call this vegetable stew. Or a ragout, if the queen's coming to dinner.

Because of a purchasing error, we didn't actually have any chili powder. (Note to self: giant bag labeled "chili powder" at the Indian market is pure powdered chiles -- something like our cayenne pepper -- not a great deal on the much milder American chili powder). I subcontracted the seasoning to Jack, who claims to have learned to cook by making chili, so all I can tell you is that authentic Farm Share Stories Chili features some combination of the ingredients pictured above (l-r: garlic powder, cocoa, pepper, Worcestershire sauce, apple cider, cayenne, garlic oil, cumin, liquid smoke, salt).

P.S. There is definitely leftover chili for today's food blogger potluck! Still time to RSVP!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Wednesday Veggietrivia

Gelation and meat glue are way, way, way outside the scope of the cooking projects we're doing here (and I scowl at Jack every time he mentions jury-rigging kitchen appliances for budget sous-vide), but the series of Science & Cooking Public Lectures hosted by the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences this fall looks pretty phenomenal. (Although I'm actually more jealous of the undergraduate course, for which the amazing On Food and Cooking is the textbook.)

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Local Food Blogger Potluck

The Loving Local blogathon organized for Massachusetts Farmers Market week (go read some of the posts if you haven't!) introduced me to lots of interesting, creative food bloggers -- and made me want to continue the conversation about recipes, farmers markets, CSAs, and eating local.

I'm organizing a local food blogger potluck so I can meet some of them, and I'd like to extend the invitation to my readers (some of whom are food bloggers, too), as well.

Loving Local food bloggers potluck
Please bring food to share (many of us love local and vegetarian options, but no rules about what to bring).
Friends and family are invited also!

Tuesday, September 14, starting at 7pm.

My house, in Davis Square, in Somerville.
E-mail me ( for address/details and to RSVP.

P.S. Farm share celery makes elegant ants on a log.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Beet Treats

O me!—What fray was here?
Yet tell me not, for I have heard it all.

Here's much to do with beets, but more with love:

Why then, O beating love! O loving beets!

This week, once again, we managed to accumulate lots of beets, which we boiled, pureed, and ... turned into desserts.

Inspired by Chowhound and his runaway imagination, Jack concocted a beet sorbet that went something like this:

Mix together 2 cups pureed beets, 1 cup orange juice, and 2 tablespoons lemon juice.

In a pan, combine 1/2 cup sugar and 1/2 cup water. Add a bunch of dried mint leaves and bring to a boil. Let boil for a few minutes, then remove and reserve the mint.

Combine the mint syrup with the beet mixture and freeze following your ice cream maker instructions.

For a garnish, make candied mint by drying the mint reserved from the syrup on a cookie sheet in the oven (or in a pan on the stovetop).
Chef says, in retrospect, you could use more sugar (more like 3/4 cup) and lots more mint (maybe fresh mint or mint extract).

Don't think we've reached the far left of frozen beet confections; see, for example, this roasted beet sorbet sandwich with chocolate sable breton cookie hearts. (And there are, of course, also beet ice creams in the world.)

Meanwhile, I set out to make Double Dark Chocolate Beet Muffins, but the batter came out disturbingly puce, so a last-minute addition of cocoa powder made them triple dark chocolate. They're pretty far from being breakfast muffins, and I don't buy it when folks say baking with beets doesn't taste like beets, but they are, if I say so myself, not a bad superfood snack.

Baking with beets is not a terribly original idea; you'll find lots of recipes for chocolate beet cake, and we've made not-chocolate beet cake before. The idea I find most helpful is that pureed beets, like applesauce, can be used as a substitute for some of the oil in many baking recipes. Unlike applesauce, of course, they bring along that alluring/disturbing deep red hue.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

White Eggplant Lasagna

So, the Enterprise CSA sent us this beautiful white eggplant. It was literally unlike any eggplant we had ever seen before. (I've never seen one like it in a store. That's why I love getting a CSA.)

This eggplant demanded special attention. We had to respect its gravitas. It simply would not do to give it our usual treatment, dicing it into small pieces and stir-frying it into that co-op favorite, veggie slop. This eggplant wanted to be made into quails. (Well, maybe, but that's not what we wanted for dinner.)

This eggplant deserved the full-court press, four chefs in the kitchen, every burner in service treatment. This eggplant wanted to dirty every pan we owned in its preparation. (This eggplant, as you will notice from our narrative, did not, however, quite merit a special trip to the grocery store for ingredients.)

This eggplant was going to be made into lasagna.

Jack sliced, breaded, and fried the eggplant. (When we later admired its firmness of texture, reminiscent almost of fried fish, he acknowledged, "that could be because I used fish seasoning.")

Meanwhile, I sliced the tomatoes, boiled the lasagna noodles (it turned out we had only four, so they were more of a gesture toward tradition than an ingredient), and sliced and sauteed a box of button mushrooms we'd inherited (thanks, Ariel!).

Liz prepared the cheese, which was a challenge only because we didn't have anything like the cheese you would want to have if you had, say, planned in advance to make lasagna. Jack instructed her to make "something like ricotta," and bless her, she made a medley of yogurt and sour cream and the bits and ends of several items from our cheese drawer that was something like ricotta. (Note for posterity: a little bit of smoked cheddar is lovely in an eggplant lasagna.)

Jack seared the tomato slices, because, honestly, that man will put anything in a frying pan if you don't watch him. (I caught him frying dried mint leaves today, but that's a different story for a different blog post.) While defending his gorgeous stack of fried eggplant from our attempts to nibble, nay devour it. (It was that good. Oh, it was so good. A little fried eggplant would hit the spot right about now, actually.)

Erica washed our never-ending stream of pots and spoons and dishes like the kitchen hero she is.

Liz layered it up: pasta sauce, lasagna noodles, cheese mixture, fried eggplant, sauteed mushrooms, seared tomatoes, basil, rinse, repeat, and grated Parmesan on top. Everything was cooked, but we put the lasagna in the oven for 20 minutes to warm it through and melt the cheese and just because we like dying of slow torture by hunger every now and again.

Turns out, it was lasagna worth waiting for.

And the eggplant? Delicious. To die for. Every complaint anyone has ever had about eggplant was resolved here. It was not bitter. It was not mushy. It was firm-but-tender, delectable, mild-tasting, non-slimy eggplant. It was eggplant even a nonvegetarian could love.

(P.S. Dear Enterprise Farm, please send us some more of those white eggplants!)

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Sonnet 130: My Eggplant's Taste

My eggplant's taste is nothing like an egg;
Piano keys are whiter than her skin;
Our table's never seen such an odd veg:
Something quite like a fairy-tale pumpkin.

I have had eggplants ebony and green,
Rosa bianca hasn't such a hue;
But while too much of other kinds I've seen,
This is the type I'm dying to accrue.

I love her firm flesh and her gentle taste;
Readers, I say to you -- this eggplant rocks!
Another two or five would be no waste,
If Enterprise would send them in our box.

If you'll forgive this poetic charade,
Come back again; I'll show you what we made.

(It's still Massachusetts Farmers Market Week, and there's excellent blogging being collected at Loving Local. Donations to Mass Farmers Markets support "veggie prescriptions," among other awesomeness.)

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Why Eat Local?

A recent much-emailed New York Times op-ed, "Math Lessons for Locavores," calls into question the virtues of eating local, particularly as pertains to energy costs (more data):
But the local food movement now threatens to devolve into another one of those self-indulgent -- and self-defeating -- do-gooder dogmas. Arbitrary rules, without any real scientific basis, are repeated as gospel by “locavores,” celebrity chefs and mainstream environmental organizations. Words like “sustainability” and “food-miles” are thrown around without any clear understanding of the larger picture of energy and land use.

The result has been all kinds of absurdities. For instance, it is sinful in New York City to buy a tomato grown in a California field because of the energy spent to truck it across the country; it is virtuous to buy one grown in a lavishly heated greenhouse in, say, the Hudson Valley.

A lengthier Guardian article from a couple years ago takes on a similar theme: the complexities of calculating food miles and carbon costs. "It is better for the environment," the author figures, "if UK shoppers buy apples from New Zealand in July and August rather than those of British origin."

To be fair, the author of the NYT piece acknowledges that there are many reasons to eat local, not all of them mathematically unsound.

But why do we?

Enterprise Farm, which supplies our CSA, has a somewhat atypical approach to "eating local." In order to offer a year-round farmshare, the farm partners with farms from all over what they call the "East Coast foodshed" to fill our box. So our "local food" in February can include Florida grapefruit and North Carolina green beans -- which are, by my calculations, about 2.2 times more local than California produce. (According to this site, more than half of the United States' fruit and a quarter of our vegetables are grown in California. Seventy-six percent of tomatoes!)

Enterprise Farm talks about its mission in detail on its website. Other reasons they favor eating local: to support small farms and farmers, to protect local farmland and the environment, to change our food distribution system, and to decrease the time and distance your food travels.

And why do I eat local?

(Well, I don't in any absolute sense. Much in the way Mark Bittman suggests that there are substantial benefits to being a "lessmeatarian" or "vegan till six," I eat local and write about eating local ... except all the times that I don't. I buy Georgia peaches when they look better than Massachusetts ones. That said ...)

I eat local because it's an easy way to pay more attention to where our food comes from, and I think not knowing that is one of the biggest disconnects in our world. (Check out this clip, in which Jamie Oliver discovers that first graders can identify chicken nuggets but not tomatoes or potatoes.) Eating local lets us connect the same sunny weather we're experiencing with the bounty of eggplants in our CSA box (or our lack of rain with the disappointingly tiny onions).

And I eat local for the same reason I grow my own tomatoes in the backyard. Not out of any expectation that my $10 investment in seedlings and stakes and potting soil (much less my time spent watering and weeding and worrying over my charmingly scraggly plants) will produce a $10 harvest of heirloom tomatoes. But just to be a little bit closer to the miracle that turns sunlight into a tomato sandwich; to be able to say, "I grew that," while offering it to someone I love; and because it turns out that making things and geeking out with people who know how to make things is inherently satisfying.

I also eat local as a purely selfish aesthetic choice -- because I love the culture of farmers markets that have sprung up everywhere in this city (Brian Halweil says people have ten times more conversations at farmers markets than at grocery stores). Because often restaurants that serve local food are also restaurants that draw their menus on chalkboards and decorate with crates of obscure craft beers and preserve old-school candlepin bowling alleys. Because supporting quirky small farms rather than corporate giants and Big Organic is in itself appealing to me. Because I love participating in a giant -- and growing -- community of foodies and locavores and food bloggers and Twitterers and traditional journalists who are genuinely excited about -- of all things -- vegetables.

Why do you eat local?

(This post is part of a Massachusetts Farmers Market Week blogathon organized by In Our Grandmothers' Kitchens. Read some of the other excellent food blogs linked at Loving Local for more reasons to eat local than we have beets in our crisper. And perhaps consider a donation to Mass Farmers Markets if you'd like to keep the local food coming?)

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Not-So-Lazy Corn Chowder

The lazy days of summer seem to have come to an abrupt end today.

First the summer part: With the sudden change in the weather, it began to feel like fall, and wool socks and blankets and nourishing soups all of a sudden started sounding appealing.

Then the lazy part: The weather canceled our original plans (to picnic with a crowd of friends at the Waterfront Performing Arts Series), and from the point of view of two in the afternoon, still in my pajamas (I was working from home) and nothing planned to cook, it seemed like a good idea to spontaneously invite everyone over for dinner and a movie instead.

(It's really a blessing to live in a house where you can say to your housemates, "Hey, I might have invited a few dozen people over for dinner in an hour," and they just shrug and say, "Do you want help peeling those potatoes?")

How not lazy is this? I even followed a recipe. (Well, okay, I omitted the bacon for vegetarian-ness, and increased all the ingredients by approximately 1.5 or 2 times, except where the math was hard, and didn't measure anything, and added the peppers late, and paid no attention to the directions on the bouillon cubes, and didn't have any sea salt. But I did actually use the fresh thyme sprigs -- upper right in photo -- not because we managed to grow any ourselves, but because we happen to be babysitting a traveling friend's well-equipped herb garden.)

We've made this corn chowder before (last year, chowder season began on September 15, so you see how unseasonal the weather is). It's my favorite because it has so many vegetables besides the corn -- onions, carrots, celery, red peppers, potatoes, sweet potatoes, tomatoes -- and they're all vegetables that look beautiful in farmers markets (and even grocery stores) right about now. (You'll notice that I took the exact same cutting board photo last year.) In fact, Sara tried a ladleful just before the corn and cream went in and pronounced it a perfectly fine vegetable soup.

May you all be as warm and cozy as we were this evening, with our chowder and movie and good company and hot chocolate.

(This post is part of a Massachusetts Farmers Market Week blogathon organized by In Our Grandmothers' Kitchens as a benefit for Mass Farmers Markets. See Loving Local for evidence that local food bloggers are as prolific as local farms. Lots of excellent vegetable reading!)

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Lazy Days and Loving Local

The laziest days of summer seem to be here, and we're happily feeding ourselves from our farm share without terribly much cooking effort.

Last Thursday, lunch was the farm share sandwich pictured here (somewhat inspired by an earlier version): lemon cucumber, tomato, fried egg, mozzarella, and basil-parsley pesto, on a multigrain bagel.

Dinner was a cold pasta salad, reprising the lemon cucumber, tomato, and basil; adding CSA red onion and defrosted frozen edamame; and dressed with crumbled goat cheese, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar.

And for dessert, we popped our CSA popcorn (oops, that was delivered back in June; it's from Next Barn Over Farm in Hadley), and took it to Powderhouse park to watch Up. (Incidentally, if you haven't quite reached your quota of free summer outdoor movies yet, here's a listing of Boston-area series.)

So for lazy cooks, among whom I count myself first, it's a good time to be thankful for the bounty of beautiful late-summer produce that arrives in our CSA, ready to eat right out of the waxed cardboard box and the best for having the least done to it.

In the spirit of beautiful local produce, this post is part of the Loving Local: Celebrating the Flavors of Massachusetts blogathon, which is itself part of Massachusetts Farmers Market Week (August 22 to 28, 2010; events PDF).

Fellow food bloggers, here's how to participate in the blogathon.

Readers, check out Loving Local sometime this week for links to lots of other local foodie bloggers.

The blogathon was organized by In Our Grandmothers' Kitchens, as a benefit for Mass Farmers Markets. If you'd like to support them, this is the donation link.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Lazy Red Onion Pickles

I wanted to make pickled onions with the tiny red onions that came in this week's box, and I even went so far as to find a recipe. But then we finished last week's pickled beets (yum!), I realized pickled onions are pink anyway, and into the leftover beet brine went some onion rings.

We'll see how that goes.

If you'd rather do things the right way, I recommend drooling over Orangette's paean to pickles, including a recipe for pickled onions she describes as
... close to transcendent: cold and juicy, with a flavor that—between its many layers of cinnamon, clove, and chile—might best be described as Christmas in July, spicy and sweet. They look soft and bendy, but once between the teeth, they give way with a surprisingly noisy crunch ...

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Wednesday Veggietrivia

Not too much cooking in our kitchen this last week ... but lots of stuff happening in the food world.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Celery Soup and Pickled Beets

This is the time of year when you should just slice your CSA tomatoes, put a leaf of basil on top, add mozzarella if you must, and consider how lucky you are to be presented with such bounty.

That's what we did for dinner.

But after dinner, we got down to the serious business: using up the less-loved CSA vegetables filling up our crisper.

Jack put three bunches of celery (two from the CSA and a purchased package of celery hearts) to use in a celery soup. (It appears to be part of a whole celery menu, eek. And here's another, beautifully photographed creamy celery soup.)

The resulting thin, refined, cool soup was an elegant lunch for the unexpectedly well-dressed crew that circumstance brought to our table today. It belies Jack's hours laboring over a hot stove with a blender, food mill, colander, and cheesecloth. I have from a good source that he came to bed late with the scent of celery in his hair.

Meanwhile, I made these super-easy beet pickles. Erica had already boiled and diced the three weeks worth of beets we'd collected (heroic, considering she doesn't even like beets), so I substituted them for the sliced raw beets in the recipe.

We didn't have the mustard seeds called for, so I used Trader Joe's Everyday Seasoning (pictured and raved about here), which contains mustard seeds and made awfully pretty brine.

They'll be ready for tasting tomorrow. (Yes, I already tried some. Pickly!)

Mark Bittman's website offers quick pickles the wrong way, a sort of vinegar-marinated cooked veggies, which I'll probably try with the beets that didn't fit in the jar.

And should you also be suffering a surfeit of beets (or own your own Erica), the New York Times claims it has five beet recipes even a beet hater can love.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Stuffed Eggplant

Folks, we were a little daunted by last week's giant eggplant. It just seemed demeaning to cut such an enormous aubergine into little pieces, so we skipped over it a few times while making curry or stir-fry or pasta.

Jack suggested that making stuffed eggplant would preserve the vegetable's gravitas. We had never seen one before, but Google image search and Tastespotting assured us it was real.

Our criterion for the recipe was that it be fast, because potluck guests were imminent, so we based our cooking on this stuffed eggplant Parmesan, which bakes in 30 minutes, and we scraped the shells extra-thin to be sure.

(How do you hollow out an eggplant? A spoon; a grapefruit spoon, per the recipe suggestions; or, best of all, we found, an avocado slicer.)

Ours was tasty, but it looks like the next level in eggplant stuffing is to go in an ethnic direction: Lebanese stuffed eggplants, fried stuffed Chinese eggplant, Greek-style stuffed eggplant, and adorable miso beef stuffed eggplants.