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!)