Sunday, February 27, 2011

Locavoracious Brunch

Jack's family came by this morning, and we put them to work making a stick-to-your-ribs brunch. It's surprising to me how much of the food we just have on hand --even in the winter, even when just using leftovers and cupboard staples, even when not cooking vegetarian -- happens to have local roots. That's a radical change in my eating habits over the last year or so.

The pancakes are what we call "Suzanna pancakes," for a former housemate who taught us to make Maine-style, multigrain, everything-in-them pancakes. (Mark Bittman also knows about whole-grain pancakes, but I prefer our adaptation of a traditional pancake recipe, which just substitutes more interesting flours one-for-one with the white/cake flour). Today's dry mixture included white flour, cake flour, whole wheat flour, flaxseed meal, and barley flour (from Four Star Farms via our Enterprise farm share). The add-ins were mixed frozen fruit (including some we picked at Smolak Farms last summer), grated carrot (via Red Fire Farm), walnuts and sunflower seeds, and cardamom and cinnamon.

The frittata features Phoenix Hill Farm bacon and eggs (the farmer is a friend of Sara's, and let me just say, they could sell bacon to a vegetarian co-op). As well, it includes a selection of cheeses (including our Red Fire Farm share Fiore di Nonno mozzarella), green onions, and braising greens (also from Red Fire). The topping is the leftovers of a genius smoked tomato cream sauce from Dave's Fresh Pasta, which is dangerously close to the new house.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Food Photography and Red Fire Food

We got our Red Fire Farm Deep Winter box today, with tasty surprises as usual (pictured here: braising mix, dried cayenne peppers, carrots, onions, and Real Pickles).

Yes, I did tell Jack not to unpack the box until I got home so I could take pictures.

He was patient about that, and patiently made dinner while I poured popcorn into teacups and attempted to backlight gilfeather turnips, and then patiently wondered why I've never borrowed my housemate Erica's much nicer digital SLR for blog photos. (The photos on this blog are shot, with rare exception, on my purchased-used Canon PowerShot A540, which CNET reviewed highly when it came out ... in 2006.)

The honest answer to that is ... I'm intimidated by it. The defensive one is that I've been meaning to write something about how you can take perfectly fine photos without a digital SLR, but a guest post on Boston Food Bloggers got there first and did it better than I would have: Why you don't need a digital SLR to take good pictures. It covers everything I know (more light, use macro mode, don't use flash) and then some.

Foodzie agrees that you can do food photography with a $150 point and shoot (my camera now sells for $25-50 on eBay), and links to a number of online resources. (I love the detailed Vegan Yum Yum guide, which quickly does get into digital SLR territory.)

Further to continuing education, I also like to look at the food photography posts on the blog of Michael Ruhlman (of Ratio fame), and I follow Still Life With on Twitter. Know any other good food photo resources?

I don't have ambitions of being a great food photographer -- though I may follow up on the suggestion to borrow my housemate's digital SLR -- but I'd like my photos to represent how good I know the food is.

As a baby step in that direction, I'd like to submit some photos to Foodgawker (guidelines) or Tastespotting (guidelines) this year. Anyone tried it? I found these tips.

More Red Fire Deep winter loot, including beets, turnips, and popcorn.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Friday Veggietrivia: Spaghetti Dinner, Public Market, More

Lots of fun local foodie stuff on my radar today ...

Our friends at Sprout are putting on a "Food in the City"-themed spaghetti dinner on Wednesday. They've got a super-exciting lineup of guests: Groundwork Somerville on maple tree tapping, Millstone Coop on backyard chickens, Nick Patch on urban foraging, Food Not Bombs, The Davis Square Yogurt Making Co-op, and Keith Simmons on subirrigated gardening. (Wednesday, February 23, 7:30pm) (EDIT: Here's the Facebook event.)

Also on Wednesday, the Boston Public Market Association is encouraging people to attend a community meeting to provide public input and feedback on what they'd like to see at a year-round Boston local food market. (Wednesday, February 23, 5:30pm)

And, yay, the Somerville Winter Farmers Market just announced a recipe contest. What will we cook up? (Deadline for entries is February 28.)

And, of course, though we love our giant, new, entirely-conducive-to-large-group-social-cooking kitchen, we're watching the Cambridge Community Kitchen's Kickstarter campaign with interest.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Kohlrabi by Committee

We got a couple, um, large kohlrabi in our share on Friday. As Red Fire Farm gently puts it, "If you did the Deep Winter share last year, you are familiar with these head-sized wonders. Don't feel you have to use it all at once."

Often we spend a lot of time researching recipes and cooking techniques for new-to-us vegetables.

This was not one of these times.

Sara was eager to eat one right away and, with no particular plan, went at the organic green Sputnik with knife and vegetable peeler. "It's really hard," she said. "Can I slice it on the mandoline?" (The mandoline is fun.)

Jack tried to talk her out of it. The mandoline is a drag for things that are really hard. "Maybe use a knife?"

"How about I grate it?" She grated it. The whole kohlrabi. "Now what do I do with it?"

"It looks like a salad," I guessed. "Add grated carrots, too?" We added grated carrots.

Liz, who had been busy cooking eggplant up to this point, said, "It looks like Thai papaya salad. How about a Thai dressing?"

I've never had a Thai papaya salad in my life. "I can make the dressing," I lied. "What's in it?" Honey, soy sauce, olive oil, and lime juice, we decided. (We used our Warm Colors Apiary honey from the CSA.)

With the addition of lots of cilantro and chopped peanuts, it looked something like a real recipe.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Potluck Empanadas

Potluck was shaping up to be well attended this week (besides our usual crowd, we had a couple fascinating Airbnb hosts and a beard blogger), and what farm share vegetables did we have on hand? Um, onions and potatoes.

But what did we have in the freezer? Goya frozen empanada wrappers!

The name "empanada" comes from the Spanish verb empanar, "to wrap in bread," and empanadas are squarely in the tradition of food improved by being wrapped in pastry. After having made our own pasty dough last month, these frozen wrappers were amazingly easy to work with -- defrost, reroll a bit, fold over the filling, seal with a fork, and wipe with egg wash and sprinkle with coarse salt, if you're feeling fancy. Goya suggested deep-frying them, but as you know, I don't like to cook a la minute when company's coming, so ours went in the oven.
Filling number one -- and the star of the show -- was the onion and cheese recipe from this page, of which I was initially very suspicious. (Onions, garlic, honey, and cheese?) So suspicious that Erica caught me carefully following the recipe. (Not actually all that carefully. I couldn't find oregano -- Alex? -- and I substituted goat cheese for mozzarella, and, anyway, I couldn't respect the recipe writer once I realized the "add onions" step was missing.)

Filling number two expanded on the theme of ethnic pastry-wrapped foods with a samosa filling -- potatoes boiled and mashed with a spoonful of garam masala and defrosted frozen peas stirred in.

Filling number three was a vaguely Latin American stir-fried combination of refrigerator odds and ends (black beans, chopped red pepper and zucchini, Tony's seasoning).

Friday, February 4, 2011

Veggie Slop, Two Ways

What with all the upheaval of moving a five-bedroom house in January, the farm share cooking around here hasn't been very exciting lately.

(What is very exciting around here? Our brand-new granite countertops, that's what.)

This is two examples of the very first thing I learned to cook reliably, which my very first roommates termed "veggies in a pan" (as in, "Did you make veggies in a pan again?"). Former housemate Liz brought us the less sophisticated -- but unarguably descriptive and inimitably co-opy -- name "veggie slop."

On the left, we have a vegetable curry, consisting largely of roasted farm share potatoes, beets, and carrots. There's also an eggplant, a zucchini, onions and garlic, a can of coconut milk, and Indian spices in there, all served over rice.

(Footnote: We seem to have lost our vegetable peeler in the move, so we ate the beets with the skins on. Is there anything wrong with that? If not, I sure feel silly about all the time I've spent peeling tiny CSA beets.)

On the right, a cabbage stir-fry, incorporating a whole head of cabbage, two smallish daikon radishes, yellow onion, and cilantro, with rice and Asian seasonings.