Thursday, January 27, 2011

Leek and Purple Potato Soup

Sara came home from the Somerville Winter Farmers Market last Saturday with leeks, purple potatoes, and a vision: leek and purple potato soup.

Jack and I went to the kitchen on Wednesday, and found leeks and purple potatoes ... and not much else. (Have we mentioned that we're moving on Saturday? C'mon by if you'd like to carry some boxes.) So we went to Epicurious for a leek and potato soup recipe and picked the one with the fewest ingredients (butter, leeks, potatoes, broth).

We didn't actually keep it that simple, of course, adding to the pot the onions, garlic, tarragon, and thyme suggested by the commenters, and then, at the table, to individual taste, black pepper, grated parmesan, and hot sauce.

(Is anyone else intrigued by the leek and oatmeal soup mentioned in the recipe headnote? I mean, there's a nothing-in-the-refrigerator recipe I could learn to love.)

The soup was tasty and uncomplicated for a snowy evening. (Though sadly not purple.) And leftover bowls fueled today's afternoon shoveling. (Did I mention we have two driveways to keep cleared for moving trucks? For the out-of-town readers, Boston hasn't quite had a Shaq of snow yet, but with sixty inches fallen so far, we're well ahead of average.)

P.S. I'm shocked and sad to hear that personal culinary hero Mark Bittman is retiring from the Minimalist column, but we'll look forward to seeing him in the opinon section where, as Jack puts it, "'eat less meat and tastier food without spending too much time or money' is a cool opinion to spread."

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Cornish Pasties and Rutabaga Bisque

When Sara first moved into our co-op and started cooking with us, she had to adjust to just how much food our ravenous, leftover-loving, lunch-packing, dinner-guest-encouraging residents needed. "Maybe I should just use half the broccoli?" she would say, tentatively. "Are we really going to eat all that pasta?"

(In On Writing, Stephen King mentions an alcoholic who, when asked "How much do you drink?" answers, as if it were obvious, "All of it." How much do we cook? All of it.)

Sara went to pick up the first share of our new Red Fire Farm CSA last week and was given the choice of several turnips or one enormous (enormous!) rutabaga. What did she pick? The rutabaga.That's our girl!

The giant rutabaga looked great in our kitchen for a while. But eventually we just had to figure out how people eat rutabagas.

One common use for rutabagas is as filling for pasties (though the Brits who make them may call rutabagas "swedes"). Pasties are a traditional Cornish miner's meal and lunchbox combined -- a tough pastry crust (tough enough to survive dropping down a mine shaft and thick enough to keep the insides warm) wrapped around a hearty filling. The crimped part of the crust, traditionally discarded, is a handle for your grimy miner fingers. (Pasties are also findable where those miners traveled, like the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.)

We used this recipe for vegetable pasties, which may not be the most traditional (because the filling is cooked in a pan ahead of time instead of inside the pasty), but they cooked in about half the time the recipe specified (making them sort-of-reasonable for a weeknight dinner) and they sure were tasty. (Here's a meaty version, via Emeril.)

With the other half of the rutabaga, we made this smoked paprika and rutabaga bisque (we also threw in a handful of butternut squash), which was really different from our usual winter orange soup and brought out the lovely unique earthy taste of the rutabaga.

P.S. A quick pronunciation lesson: The spelling is the same, but these Cornish treats are called PASS-tees. The items typically employed in burlesque are PAYS-tees.

P.P.S. Some extra rutabaga recipes:
P.P.P.S. Enthusiasts, don't miss the Advanced Rutabaga Studies Institute or the International Rutabaga Curl.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

When Good Vegetarians Go Bad

How bad is it when we don't have a CSA? Not to be melodramatic, but our vegetarian co-op had hot dogs for dinner twice last week.

 (Let me be the first to admit that not having fresh farm-grown organic vegetables delivered to your door weekly is a first-world problem. Even a Davis Square hipster problem. Possibly not even the largest stressor facing our house at the moment ... which also partially helps explain the hot dogs.)

Anyway, what I really want to tell you is that we picked up our first box from Red Fire Farm's Deep Winter CSA yesterday, and we are thrilled to be back in vegetable business again. Having gotten a bit out of the peel, chop, and roast habit, though, the first thing we cracked into was the jar of Real Pickles.

These are serious dills, coming in enormous spears. If you're accustomed to vinegar pickles, the fermentation method used on these makes for a very different pucker. How excited are we about them? Sara gave her boyfriend one for breakfast this morning, and he grabbed the jar back out of the refrigerator to read the ingredients and try to deconstruct them for home replication.

And ... when my housemates wanted me for urgent house business this morning, they had to pull me away from snapping pictures of our newly acquired giant rutabaga and celeriac in a snowbank, so I think a full recovery to usual vegetable-loving form is likely.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Wednesday Veggietrivia

It's up! I wrote a blog post for Somerville Local First describing the opening day of the Somerville Winter Farmers Market (mentioned here previously). I also took a handful of photos.

In the course of researching it, I found a lovely Michael Pollan piece from the New York Review of Books, which is a pretty good summary of where we are with food politics. His description of farmers markets having grown to be more than a place to buy vegetables really resonated with my experience on Saturday:
Farmers’ markets are thriving, more than five thousand strong, and there is a lot more going on in them than the exchange of money for food. Someone is collecting signatures on a petition. Someone else is playing music. Children are everywhere, sampling fresh produce, talking to farmers. Friends and acquaintances stop to chat. One sociologist calculated that people have ten times as many conversations at the farmers’ market than they do in the supermarket. Socially as well as sensually, the farmers’ market offers a remarkably rich and appealing environment. Someone buying food here may be acting not just as a consumer but also as a neighbor, a citizen, a parent, a cook. In many cities and towns, farmers’ markets have taken on (and not for the first time) the function of a lively new public square.
In other news, it's not too early to be thinking about your summer CSA ... TheMOVE has scheduled a farm share fair for February 3 (5:30-8pm) at the Democracy Center in Harvard Square. (I saw this in a MOVE e-mail; I'm not finding many details online yet.)

The e-mail also says "a separate (amazing) crew is organizing a Farm Share Fair @ the Park Ave Church in Arlington on Thu 2/24 (4:30-7:30p)" -- anyone have details? (EDIT: More info here:

Friday, January 7, 2011

Worst Mom Ever

Let's start by saying that I'm pretty excited for the Somerville Winter Farmers Market tomorrow, because ... our forty pounds of squash? That I had in a cooler on the back porch? We'd eaten most of them, but some snow got in the cooler over the holidays, and when I checked it, there were three slightly molding kabocha squashes standing in four inches of water.

We rescued them and peeled and chopped the good parts, and so we had lots of squash puree in the refrigerator.

Simultaneously, I'd agreed to make a birthday cake for my housemate's six-year-old. I think you can guess where I'm going with this ... 

I did my due diligence and asked the Internet if there was such a thing as squash cake. But since the first recipe I found 1) used summer squash, and 2) used it raw and chopped instead of cooked and pureed, I decided to disregard all instruction. (Here's a recipe I found later that actually would have made sense for my ingredients.)

My plan, instead, was to make my standard carrot cake, substituting squash for carrots. That plan lasted until I realized that squash puree is completely unlike grated carrots. Vaguely recalling that some low-fat cake recipes substitute applesauce for vegetable oil, I substituted squash puree for the oil in the recipe.

Because when better to try an untested improvised low-fat vegetable-based cake than when you actually have the chance to ruin someone's birthday?

The cake came out extra moist and a little flatter than I would have liked, but certainly passable. (The frosting is leftover cinnamon cream cheese filling.)

The birthday girl didn't seem to mind, especially when distracted with her presents of pea shoots and spinach.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Field Trip: A. Russo and Sons

I didn't exactly plan it this way, but maybe yesterday's desolation at our CSA-less month starts to be a good explanation of why we biked 16 miles through the melting snow and rain today in order to buy baby carrots.

Or maybe not. Anyway, Jack and I felt the need to get out and work off the decidedly non-CSA-inspired meals we've been eating recently and our crisper was bare, so we decided to pilgrimage to Watertown and check out Russo's.

Oh my. It was like a mating of Whole Foods (curated artisan cheeses, snappy graphic design, rainbows of beautiful produce) and Market Basket (unassuming, an unnavigable maze of carts, adorable old ladies, incredibly low prices). There are apples atop imported mineral water, there are eight kinds of fresh mushrooms, there are six kinds of eggplant cheek-by-jowl with fancy quince jams, and there are lobster ravioli. There's a garden center and a sandwich counter and a bakery. Yelpers love it.

(Here's a well-done review -- "the Boston area’s de facto hidden foodie market that no one knows about that everyone knows about" -- that complicates the question of what exactly it means to enjoy inexpensive imported produce out of season, and I can't say I entirely disagree. I will say that I spotted lots of tasty local items in the "seasonal outdoor market" where you first enter.)

I found everything I wanted (onions, garlic, kale, red peppers, carrots, zucchini) and Jack found everything he wanted (persimmons, dried kiwi, cinnamon bread, egg lo mein, king oyster mushrooms), and we left with as much as we could carry on two bikes for less than $40.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Somerville Winter Farmers Market

Friends, I hate not having a CSA, even just for a month. If you want to eat more vegetables, there's no better way to do it than to have them just appear, bountiful and uninvited, in your fridge every week.

So I am thrilled that the rumored and long-awaited Somerville Winter Farmers Market (Facebook, Twitter) starts next week. Here's the coverage in the Somerville Patch;  here it is on Foodbuzz.

The market starts on January 8 and runs every Saturday (10am-2pm) through March 26. It'll be at the Center for the Arts at the Armory, 191 Highland Avenue.

 P.S. I was just pointed to Slow Food Boston's event calendar: an excellent winter lineup for all your bean-eating, cookbook-swapping, foodie-film watching needs.