Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Herbed Olives

We sent Jack to the store by himself with a head cold, and he came home with several kinds of exotic cheese and a kilogram of very inexpensive olives in a plastic bag of vegetable oil.

We decided to upcycle them into glass jars and give them some flavor enhancements -- highly inspired by Dorie Greenspan's herbed olives (as seen in Around My French Table).

We put the olives into canning jars (two quart jars was about right for two pounds of olives -- we might have eaten a few on the way to the jar).

Then I warmed about a cup of olive oil just slightly in a pan with some mustard and fennel seeds, a few cloves of garlic, a couple bay leaves, and some sprigs torn from our scraggly indoor rosemary plant, and then poured the warm oil over the olives. To one jar we also added a couple dried chiles; to the other we added some strips of lemon peel and a big pinch of dried mint. Then we added more olive oil to cover the olives.

We didn't notice a very distinct change to the flavor of the olives, even after several days, but the improvement in aesthetics led to rapid olive consumption. The olive oil did solidify in the fridge, so I think I may try unrefrigerating the olives.

(6/3/12: Update to this post.)

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Popcorn on the Cob

Ever since Enterprise Farm sent us popcorn, we've been considering one question: Can you pop popcorn while it's still on the cob?

Friends, I have to tell you, the Internet is absolutely idiotic on this question. I don't even want to dignify the places we went trying to figure this out. (OK, fine: absurdly inane video; Yahoo! Answers distinguishes between corn and popcorn; Instructables has no ideaactually somewhat helpful eHow.)

So in the name of science, we dropped a cob in a paper bag and put it in the microwave on the popcorn setting. It popped a bit in the center (some flew off the cob and some stayed stuck) and then started burning while the ends stayed unpopped.

Perhaps most unexpectedly, what did pop came out with an oddly non-popcorn-like texture -- much more like puffed rice. (This got me onto a tangent researching puffed grains -- popped quinoa, anyone?) Not sure if this was our popcorn or our method; we'll try some off the cob tonight and see how it goes.

Our recommendation: try it once for the fun, but make the popcorn you want to eat off the cob.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Coleslaw with Greek Yogurt Poppyseed Dressing

In celebration of an unseasonably warm Groundhog Day, what better than a barbecue?

The guests brought the meat, but I put together a potato salad and a coleslaw. (It worked out perfectly for us, but why, I wonder, do these quintessential summer side dishes rely on potatoes and cabbage, those most wintery of CSA staples?)

The potato salad was our old-fashioned Gourmet standard. (The secret is tossing the hot potato pieces with cider vinegar; this time I added lemon zest.)

I went looking for a good old-fashioned coleslaw recipe to go with it, but had some trouble finding one that wasn't too similar to potato salad. Mark Bittman doesn't dignify the standard in How to Cook Everything (he gives a spicy no-mayo coleslaw instead). But we make an awful lot of Asian slaws around here, so the Internet's multitude of "oil + vinegar = no-mayo coleslaw" recipes were Just Too Boring. (Incidentally, know who's really into coleslaw? Smitten Kitchen.)

AskMetafilter's discussion of no-mayo slaws suggested poppyseed dressing, and the yogurt was literally on the counter in front of me, being strained. (There are plenty of yogurt and Greek yogurt coleslaws out there; interestingly, most also use some mayonnaise.)

Here's what I put together:

1/2 cup Greek yogurt (I actually used our own coop-made yogurt, strained)
3 tablespoons poppyseed salad dressing
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon brown sugar (optional; our yogurt is unsweetened and very tangy)
1 teaspoon celery seeds
Pinch of salt

The salad is shredded cabbage, carrots, and green onions, with a sprinkling of dried cranberries for extra sweetness.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Friday Veggietrivia

Finds for Friday ... a couple writers after my own heart, when it comes to simplifying your cooking, not relying on recipes, and doing what it takes to make eating fresh vegetables work in your kichen.

The New York Times says "ditch all the recipes" (and trust your instincts, and prep your vegetables as soon as you get them home) in a blog post on Tamar Adler's cookbook, An Everlasting Meal:
Her message is that cooking does not have to be complicated, and all anyone needs are a few basics to get started. In instructing readers on the art of intuitive cooking, Ms. Adler offers not just cooking lessons, but a recipe for simplifying life. ... 
Why are so many of us intimidated by cooking? It may be that this convenience-food generation never got to see our mothers and grandmothers boiling and roasting meals without a recipe, turning the leftovers into hash or stew. Instead we are guided by cooking shows that celebrate the elaborate preparations and techniques that Ms. Adler calls “high-wire acts.”
I've also been enjoying the "2 Minutes to Dinner" blog by Purple Kale Kitchenworks. "Rethinking Convenience Foods" is about the advance prep you can do on your own fresh foods (like immediately when your CSA box arrives) to help yourself eat them throughout the week:
We know it isn’t technically hard to squeeze a lemon, but when we’re pressed for time or space, we have excuses not to do so. ... So I’ve accepted the value of expediency, of convenience, and admit that packaged food reflects something real about the choices people make when they walk into their kitchen to cook. But instead of having people take their cues from marketing departments, I encourage them to prep from fresh ingredients, and in versatile ways, personalized to their own tastes and cooking habits. I suggest they create food for their own convenience, derived from great ingredients not pulled from plastic and polystyrene packaging. They might braise a batch of celeriac, for instance, which lends itself to many quick dishes and keeps well for days. Or they can squeeze half a dozen lemons, if that means they’ll eat more salad throughout the week.
(The "Otherwise, Trash" feature is also fun for nose-to-tail vegetable eaters.)

P.S. Anyone using Pinterest? I've started seeing referrals from the site.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Orange Bowl

Something about February always means an accumulation of farm share citrus in the house -- oranges, and tangerines, and clementines, and grapefruit, oh my!

Here's a Chinese honey tangerine (one of many) that Enterprise sent us. They're pretty loose-skinned, are awfully seedy, and have a funny empty space in the center.

I hand-juiced a bunch to make a really terrifically tasty pitcher of pulpy juice. Then I used the juice to make Epicurious's tangerine sorbet, and it was ... frankly, yuck. Grainy and watery and pretty much indistiguishable from a mashed-up orange Popsicle.

If you've got a lot of citrus of your own, I can recommend the reckless marmalade we made a year ago. I am also recently digging America's Test Kitchen Feed, particularly the DIY section, and I'm sure their instructions for making Seville marmalade--down to warming the sugar in advance--are excruciatingly correct.