Wednesday, March 31, 2010

You Can't Stop the Beet (Hummus)

I was sent this recipe for beet hummus, and I got really excited about making it. Excited enough to make a special trip to Whole Foods for tahini.

The rhetoric was convincing:
For those of you out there who cannot fathom even the idea of beets, fine. Truly, I'm a-okay with it. That only means there is more of this beet hummus for me. I ate this entire batch, save one teaspoon that my mother caught just in time, before it was all finished off. (In this family, you snooze, you lose.) Seriously, if you like beets, and you like hummus, you'll love this beet hummus.
And the pictures were gorgeous. Seriously, don't look at my photograph; go see what it's supposed to look like.

I concede that my first mistake was substituting the beets we had (a big pinkish-white one and a handful of little yellow ones) for the typical vivid bloody crimson ones the recipe used. Fair.

But the real problem, as Liz incisively noted, is that it's really just mashed beets. Which taste okay, but not really like hummus in any particular way. And mashed beets might not be the thing, you know, that people want on their tortilla chips at a party.

(So, we have a lot of mashed beets in our refrigerator now. Jack tried to rehabilitate the hummus by doubling all the ingredients besides the beets -- more tahini, more cumin, more oil -- which helped a bit, and reminded me of this Middle Eastern carrot dip, which I really love. But the hummus is still a bit of an elephant in the refrigerator, and we're wondering if we can transmogrify it to soup.)

Monday, March 29, 2010

Quick Cajun Greens

A quick recipe for you today: Saute onion and precooked (I microwave it) sweet potato in a pan. Add Cajun seasoning and fry for a moment. Then add chopped greens (we used both kale and collard greens -- note to self: collard greens take a long time to cook) and a can or two of black beans.

Jack added more Cajun seasoning while my back was turned, which resulted in a pretty fiery dish. Adding white rice and a dollop of sour cream on top helped.

(We had a New-Orleans-airport-souvenir package of Cajun seasoning, but depending on who you ask, it's just a combination of salt, cayenne, chili powder or paprika, and a few -- or many -- other spices you probably already own.)

The New York Times recently did a completely different take on greens, beans, and rice that would also work with CSA veggies: white beans with Swiss chard.

P.S. This is Erica's birthday ice cream cake, which is 100% farm-share-vegetable-free (you may remember past devious plots to trick her into eating beets), but which Liz wanted you to see because she and Jack did such an impressive job assembling it.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Potato Week: Old-Fashioned Potato Salad

On the fifth day of potato week, my farm share sent to me ... five Yukon golds!

(Actually more like ten or twelve; we get the large share.)

The Gourmet Cookbook told me they'd be good for an old-fashioned potato salad, and also offered a handful of potato salad tips:
  • Cook the potatoes whole and with peels on to prevent them from getting waterlogged.
  • Start with the potatoes in cold water (not boiling) so the outsides don't get cooked before the insides.
  • Simmer the potatoes, rather than bring them to a rolling boil, which "will jostle them, causing them to collide and break apart."
I tend to take recipe directives with a grain of salt (that's charitable; usually I disregard them entirely), but I think this last one is key to the whole operation:
  • Once you have the potatoes boiled and cut into pieces, while they're still hot, toss them with vinegar: "The tart acidity will rapidly penetrate deep inside them, giving the finished salad a general liveliness."
Once you've got the potatoes boiled and cut up, toss the potato pieces with three tablespoons of cider vinegar whisked together with a teaspoon of salt. Then add chopped onion, celery, and hard-boiled eggs, dress with mayonnaise, and add salt and pepper until generally lively.

I also added a tablespoon or two of mustard with the mayonnaise (which is how I remember my mom making potato salad) and a sprinkling of dill.

This tastes like home to me (and it's great packed for lunch with a pickle), but there are certainly more exciting versions out there (sweet potato salad with bananas, apples, and apricots, anyone?), as well as entire blogs and websites devoted to potato salad. Tastespotting has lots of sexy potato salads, too.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Potato Week: Tater Tots

Long time readers, you didn't really think we were going to get through potato week without letting Jack deep-fry something, did you?

I sent him this recipe (from Macheesmo), which suggests breading leftover-mashed-potato tots with crushed potato chips and got this response:
I like that the preferred outer coating is previously deep-fried potatoes. That's what I'm talking about.

The leftover mashed potatoes (with additional parsnips and celeriac, in our case) are combined with some flour and egg, breaded (either with breadcrumbs -- which we actually used -- or potato chips -- the idea of which still inspire a sort of wistful longing in my boyfriend's eyes), shaped, and deep fried.

(We found the deep-frying pretty greasy, so we also tried finishing a batch under the broiler. Almost equally tasty, but much less satisfyingly golden brown.)

The advantage of using mashed potatoes (rather than the more usual grated potatoes) is a creamy, almost-melted center contrasting with the crispy golden outside. The parsnips and celeriac add a lighter vegetable-y note; if you'd like to take it the other direction, we're pretty sure some cheese inside would be good, too.

We served these with homemade veggie burgers, topped with sauteed mushrooms and onions, on fresh bread, next to a CSA-provided salad (lettuce, carrots, and golden beets).

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Potato Week: Baked Potato Soup

Today's recipe for leftover mashed potatoes is extraordinarily simple Baked Potato Soup from A Bird in the Kitchen.

Unlike potato soup recipes that call for baking potatoes or preparing a roux, this soup is incredibly fast. I made it for lunch in less than 10 minutes. Cook a chopped onion and some garlic in a saucepan; add leftover mashed potatoes and half as much stock. (We used 4 cups of potatoes and 2 cups of vegetable broth.) Stir together and bring to a boil.

Garnish with whatever baked potato toppings you have on hand: we used cheddar cheese, parsley, and sour cream. Scallions and bacon would be nice additions if you have them. The original recipe uses bacon and is worth taking a look at (not least because the food photography is better).

We also have croutons in our soup, because Jack is on a kick of making rockin' toast. These croutons actually represent the second time he made toast for me in one day.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Potato Week: Mashed Potatoes (and Friends)

You get used to all kinds of strange things living in a co-op (spoons appearing in your mailbox; a challah costume on the dining room table), so Liz didn't ask a lot of questions when she came upon us in the kitchen at 10:30 p.m., up to our elbows in potato peelings.

I hesitate to confess, but I only wanted to make mashed potatoes because most of the appealing potato recipes I found online called for leftover mashed potatoes.

We were on a roll after peeling all the potatoes, so we peeled our parsnips and celeriac and put them in the pot, too. (I'm calling it "mashed potatoes" this time, but this is really about the same thing as the various celeriac purees we talked about before, just with a higher potatoes: other white things ratio.)

I was going to add what I thought was a turnip, too, but it started bleeding when I peeled it: apparently a white beet? Abort!

We boiled all the veggies in our biggest pot (not big enough!) and mashed them with butter and milk, salt and pepper.

We garnished half with copious parsley and a pat of butter and took it to a potluck; the rest went into the refrigerator to be repurposed. Stay tuned ...

Monday, March 15, 2010

Potato Week: Potato Gratin

OMG we have so many potatoes.

In the spirit of cooking through them all, this week is Potato Week here at Farm Share Stories. One new potato dish each day, Monday through Friday.

Today's is a potato gratin. (You may remember when I was wondering what a "dauphinois" was; it's this!)

This is thinly sliced potatoes (thank you, mandoline) layered in a baking dish, with cream-simmered-with-garlic poured over, and grated cheese and rosemary on top. It's a bit hard to tell from the picture, but we also tucked in a bunch of chopped chard.

The baking took longer than we expected: more than an hour at 350 degrees.

(The recipe we used is from a cookbook manuscript I'm working on. In the meantime, here's how Smitten Kitchen makes a potato gratin; here's a recipe from Epicurious that uses sweet potatoes as well as standard ones.)

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Pizza Salad

We still tend to be overwhelmed by CSA lettuce, so "make a salad" is a persistent to-do list item. If anything in the kitchen isn't moving very fast, I threaten to put it in the hypothetical salad.
"I have one carrot left over."
"We can grate it into the salad."

"I chopped way more parsley than we need for the pasta."
"Let's put it in the salad."

"Does anyone know what these little screws belong to?"
"Put them in the salad."

"Have you seen the cat?"

So when instead we made a pizza that used up the little bits of everything in our fridge, Jack christened it "more-pizza-less-lettuce salad."

This pizza is topped with red onion, garlic, spinach, and cooked sweet potato chunks, as well as a can of tomatoes and a mixture of goat cheese, cheddar, and Parmesan. (We make pizza not infrequently; this is the dough we use.)

We also had a lone green pepper, but it was relegated to the actual salad.

(P.S. We are also a little bit excited about the breakfast pizza on Smitten Kitchen this week.)

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Cream of Parsley (and Mushroom) Soup

As commenter black.of.the.woods suggested last week, we tried the cream of parsley soup from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything Vegetarian to use up our last two bunches of CSA parsley.

The basic recipe is very simple and quick: Saute an onion, add 4 cups of parsley and cook until wilted, add broth to cover, and immersion blend until smooth. Add more broth and cream (up to 2 cups) as desired, then salt and pepper to taste.

Black.of.the.woods suggested using mushroom broth, so we took it one step further and added dried Chinese mushrooms (shiitakes, I think) and used the soaking water for broth.

The soup was delicious, but the mushroom flavor was much stronger than the parsley flavor. So I'm hesitant to tell you that we've discovered the killer app for parsley, but at least our refrigerator is once again parsley-neutral.

Mark's suggested refinement, which we were too hungry to implement, is to serve in ovenproof bowls, grate some Parmesan over, and melt under the broiler, a la French onion soup.

(Jack would like to mention that he made rockin' toast, which he really did. Buttered; sprinkled with salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning; and fried in a pan, it stole the show.)

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

A Preponderance of Parsley

Mark Bittman says it's "impossible to overstate its importance," but no one in my house is quite sure what to do with parsley, besides add a sprig of it for garnish here or there. So we have ... an accumulation of it in our crisper.

When an entry on the Bitten blog suggested a method to rapidly reduce our parsley stores, I started looking into purees and pestos:
In a platter of leeks and pasta for two, I would never have used a whole bunch of parsley in chopped form: it would have been like eating some sort of wilted salad. But as a puree it was by no means too much.
We ultimately used a recipe for parsley pesto from the Dallas News. (The article, on "winter pestos," also includes intriguing recipes for kale pesto and black olive pesto.)

I wasn't a huge fan of it tasting out of the food processor, but served over penne with extra pepper and parmesan (and with frozen edamame added to the leftovers for lunch), it was pretty tasty.

Commenter black.of.the.woods suggests trying the cream of parsley soup from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, which sounds promising. We've still got two bunches of parsley left, so stay tuned.

(For the more adventurous, this vintage New York Times recipe for fried parsley calls for a clean coping saw and a twist drill.)