Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Tuesday's haul

We will be picking up a full share for the next few weeks. Considering the amount of leftover produce we had from the last week(s), we knew we'd have trouble fitting it all into the refrigerator. We gave a bit away yesterday, and I'm not quite sure what's left, but the list for this week's haul follows.

1/2 pound arugula
1/2 pound tatsoi
2 heads butter lettuce
2 pounds pattypan squash
2 eggplant
2 red bell peppers
3 pounds (I think) potatoes
2 pounds sweet potatoes
2 pounds beets
1 head garlic
3 small winter squash -- I think we have a butternut, acorn, and sweet dumpling
1 large bunch scallions
1 large bunch swiss chard
1 large bunch basil -- this may be the last of it; I know my container plants are going all twiggy
PYO: 10 jalapeno, 10 habanero, small bunch parsley, 30 stems flowers. We didn't take any other herbs because we still have some from last week.

While I ran around with the kids, Matt made Tuesday dinner:
Baked penne with roasted peppers, fresh basil and goat cheese. He made use of a jar of sauce I brought home from Trader Joe's the other day.

Matt also roasted some beets last night and is marinating them today with some sliced onion. He's using a recipe from our newest cookbook, Jim Lahey's my bread, and if I can get it together we may have fresh bread to make our beet-arugula-goat cheese sandwiches.

Also, via Chocolate and Zucchini, I discovered that there is a group that has organized The Bread Baker's Apprentice challenge and are baking their way through Peter Reinhart's book, week by week. The group started in May 2009 and is already up to the focaccia. That was the recipe I was lusting over the last time I picked up the book -- it involves pouring a half-cup of olive oil, sea salt, and herbs over the top. Imagine the crust. I'm a bit sorry I didn't know about this sooner; joining may have given me the incentive I need to get a regular bread-baking practice started. Although it is still possible to participate, anyone joining now and starting from the beginning would be many weeks behind, so there doesn't seem much point (to me). One nice thing is that the challenge has produced a plethora of blog posts with excellent photos of the various stages of the preparations. Useful. For the near-term (like this week) I am interested in the no-knead method that Lahey presents. Truly, I think that the difference between knead and no-knead is minimal. Most of the bread recipes I have seen only ask for 5 to 7 minutes of kneading. Not bad. It just seems like a lot of work. I think the biggest challenge will be finding a place for the dough to rest for 12 to 18 hours in our crowded space.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Recipe: Roasted Potatoes with Fennel, Kale, and Gruyere

My mom invited us to dinner on Friday and then on Sunday, dropped off enough leftovers to feed us all for a couple more days.

In between, we made Saturday dinner together:

Matt made some polenta with onions and fennel seed. He then cooled it, cut it into pieces and fried it. This was not altogether successful because the polenta was still quite wet and soft. We put it in the oven to dry it out, then saved the rest and tried it again this morning for a little breakfast on-the-go. It was nice to have something warm for breakfast.

I made the following, based on a recipe from Patricia Wells' Vegetable Harvest. The original called for bacon. I used some smoked paprika, fennel, and kale. It was good but, I must say, not as good as the simple roasted potatoes with lemon. The kids were thrilled and devoured it.

Recipe: Roasted Potatoes with Fennel, Kale, and Gruyere.

There is plenty of room for improvisation here; it is not at all a complicated undertaking and I think most people have probably made something similar before. The original recipe calls for yellow-fleshed potatoes, and while I used the red potatoes from Cherry Grove, I am leaving that detail intact because I prefer yellow. Similarly, I only had a small amount of gruyere, so I supplemented with some organic monterey jack that was sitting in the cheese drawer, but I think all gruyere would have been better. Also, the original recipe was obviously meant to be served as a small side, because it called for only 4 potatoes, resulting in 8 servings. We made as many as I could fit on my baking pan, or until I got bored with scrubbing and prepping. It is definitely scalable.

8-10 yellow-fleshed potatoes
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus a little more for sauteeing
sea salt
1 fennel bulb
1 small bunch kale or other dark leafys
1 clove garlic
smoked paprika
1 cup grated gruyere
1/4 cup minced fresh chives
freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Cut the potatoes in half, lengthwise. Extra large ones may be cut in quarters, as needed. Toss in a bowl with 2 tablespoons olive oil and about 2 pinches (maybe 1 1/2 teaspoons) of sea salt. Place on a baking sheet, cut side down and place in the oven to roast for about 40 minutes, or until tender.

While the potatoes are roasting, mince the garlic, core and dice the fennel, and cut the kale into bite-sized pieces. Warm a bit of oil in a saute pan, add the garlic and fennel and saute for a few minutes, until softened. Add about 1 teaspoon of smoked paprika or more, to taste, and continue to cook a few minutes more. Add the kale and saute until wilted. Remove from heat and sprinkle with a touch of salt.

When the potatoes have emerged from the oven, turn them over on the pan and use a paring knife to score the face lightly with a little hash mark. Grind black pepper over the lot of them. Distribute the smoky fennel and kale mixture atop that, and then sprinkle the cheese. Finish with a light dusting of smoked paprika and return to the oven for 2-3 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and bubbly. Garnish with minced chives and serve.
We have a lot of our share left over:
a lot of hot peppers (I hope they are not going moldy)
a small head of butter lettuce
a few scallions
a small eggplant
a few bell peppers
2 small winter squashes
a handful of beets
a few potatoes
2 small watermelons

Yikes. We will need to get organized. We had plans for most of this food, but the leftovers gave us a way out. On the agenda for this week: chiles rellenos with summer vegetables if the poblanos survived, marinated beets to be eaten with arugula and goat cheese on some fresh bread, watermelon salad or juice or cocktails (see Fanny Singer's agua fresca recipe from F+W).

Friday, September 25, 2009

Lentil Soup with Walnut Gremolata and a Simple Salad

Thursday night was another collaborative effort. I began cooking, then went out to shuttle D back and forth to her dance class, and returned to help complete the meal.

Thursday dinner:
A salad of lettuce and thinly sliced red onion, lightly dressed with lemon juice, McEvoy Ranch olive oil, salt and pepper. And a bit of pecorino.

A version of the Mediterranean Five Lentil Soup with Walnut Gremolata from The Artful Vegan, which is the second book to come from the Most Excellent crew at the Millenium Restaurant in San Francisco. We only had 3 kinds of lentils, but all the makings of this dish (except the ginger) were already in my pantry/refrigerator/freezer. While many of the recipes in both Millenium-generated cookbooks are very time-consuming, because of the multiple components involved in getting the layered, textured results that are a Millenium signature, the soup recipes generally are not. We were pleased to discover this one a couple of years ago, and have made it on many weekdays since. A bit of miso is whisked in at the end, which lends the broth a certain round sophistication. But it turns out the ginger is pretty crucial because without it, the mild sweetness of the light miso goes unchecked. I compensated with generous amounts of ground black pepper. Although the soup can stand on its own, the herby, citrusy swath of goodness we call gremolata is not to be missed.

Other observations:
Drawback of collaborative dinner-making: No one "owns" the dishwashing and cleanup, and no one wants to do it.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Summer Squash Gratin with Brown Rice

Last night I was running around, so Matt made dinner. I had emailed him early in the day with a menu suggestion. This was my attempt to encourage Matt to get dinner on the table before 7 (or 8 or 9) pm. By determining the menu ahead of time, insisting that we pick up a couple of grocery items on the way home, and cleaning up the kitchen as soon as I got home, I thought I was setting him up for a well-timed meal. Not so.

Wednesday dinner:
Brown rice. Note: Brown Basmati is our all-occasion rice. The scent alone is enough of a reason; it is intoxicating and satiating and makes the house smell good. Exceptions are made when I am making sushi or really craving the texture of short-grain rice.

With this, Matt served our adaptation of this recipe, from 101 cookbooks. We use much less butter/oil for toasting the bread crumbs, and we tend to vary the sauce. This time, it was arugula-based.

We used up our arugula, summer squash, and a few potatoes.

update: I just wanted to mention that it was a very good and satisfying meal, even though it was not served til after 8pm. Everyone was content. Matt does a lot and I totally appreciate that.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

This Week from the Farm (September 22)

Our half of a full share included:
1/4 pound salad mix
1 head lettuce (I chose butter leaf)
1 pound summer squash
1 pound beets
1/2 large bunch basil, but I gave our half to my mother, so she would have a whole large bunch
1/2 large bunch rainbow chard
1/2 bunch scallions
1 pound beets
1 pound eggplant
1 1/2 pounds potatoes
1 acorn squash
1 butternut squash
3 bell peppers
1 watermelon
PYO: 15 stems assorted flowers, small bunch parsley, 5 habanero, 5 jalapeno, 5 cayenne. I didn't take any other herbs because I still have quite a bit left over from last week.

Tuesday dinner:
Thai-ish takeaway

Then off to the Princeton Regional school board meeting, where my nervous comment and questions about board ownership of school lunch standards and food education were met with blank looks and patronizing smiles. No responses.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Weekly roundup

We have been doing a lot of cooking. One of the many pleasurable things about the arrival of fall is that it is a lot more comfortable -- cozy, even -- to stand in front of the stove. And because the start of school and fall activities and birthdays mean, inevitably, that we need to spend a significant amount of money, the economy of home cooking doesn't hurt.

Thursday dinner:
Matt and I collaborated on a quick pasta meal. I made basil-parsley-walnut pesto and boiled the pasta, while Matt sauteed a whole bunch of eggplant, summer squash, and bell peppers. Then we tossed it all together and called it dinner. If we were feeling less tired, we would have made a salad, too.

Friday dinner:
A standby of Seitan and Greens with coconut green curry sauce. We did not have enough of any one grain, so I made a quick pilaf of millet and rice with scallion. Each dish was good on its own, but they didn't go together that well.

Friday night snack:
Lavender shortbread, cut into heart shapes. I made these to save for teatime at the birthday party (see below), but Matt and I enjoyed a few with our Friday night tea. I make my shortbread vegan, and I know there are many who would say that it isn't real shortbread without real butter or consider my occasional use of non-hydrogenated vegetable oil spread disgraceful, but I like it and I don't feel nauseous after.

On Saturday, we had a sleepover party for D. Six 12 year old girls, 2 younger siblings, and us. It went off pretty well. I was very pleased with my craft project -- I made a giant fabric dahlia and attached it to a ponytail holder for K -- but only a few of the girls finished theirs. I had convinced D to rent "Better Off Dead" for one of her movie showings. I remember watching this movie repeatedly with Anouck when we were young, but these girls are too young get the Howard Cosell references, which may be my favorite part of this weird, funny 80's teen movie.

Afternoon snack:
Watermelon from the farm and pretzels from a huge container that D won in a contest.

Burrito bar consisting of warm tortillas, rice cooked with a bit of oil and cinnamon, Rancho Gordo Santa Maria Pinquito beans, sauteed veggies with a bit of jalepeno, monterey jack cheese, and mango salsa. It was quite good, and well-received by the party-goers.

Chocolate mousse cake with cashew crust (from Millenium Cookbook recipe for Chocolate Almond Midnight, but without the almonds and raspberry sauce and some other minor variations). Scattered with fresh raspberries and served with raspberry sorbet. Vegan.

After-movie teatime:
Peppermint tea, organic (and local, from PA) apples, lavender shortbread.

Sunday breakfast:
All store-bought: bagels, regular and tofu cream cheese, orange juice. More farm watermelon.

Sunday dinner:
Matt made stew with leftover Pinquito beans, potatoes, tomatoes, and the leftover vegetables we bought for the burrito saute. Seasoned with 2 habeneros and served over rice. I thought it was delicious, but he was not thrilled.

Mad Men snack:
I made a quick vanilla cake (vegan, Peter Berley) even though I knew I shouldn't. We ate way too much.

Monday lunch:
Whole wheat elbows with greens and lemon zest, lots of pepper, and shaved pecorino. Quick and easy. K loved this. It had been a while since I made this type of preparation for her. There is never any picking at the greens in this dish, no matter what kind or how much, and we have an absolutely clean plate at the end.

Monday dinner:
Courtesy of mom.

What's left:
  • A very small watermelon, meant to be made into watermelon-feta salad. Did I mention how I tried to make this salad and went to the cheese shop and bought Bulgarian feta because one of the recipes I looked at specifically called for this. I usually buy French. The Bulgarian feta is much stinkier and affected my enjoyment of this salad. And I still have 1/2 pound left. Argh.
  • Some arugula, meant to be made into pesto and eaten with mashed potatoes.
  • Potatoes.
  • A number of hot peppers, including those poblanos, which were meant to be made into chiles rellenos.
  • Varied and sundry fresh herbs.
  • Quite a few beets. Please, Matt, no more of that pasta sauce. It wasn't bad, but I don't want to eat it again for ... a pretty long time.
  • A tiny amount of salad mix. No salad was prepared this week, but small amounts of lettuce were consumed nonetheless.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

This Week from the Farm

On Tuesday, we picked up our share. Our half consisted of:

1 green bell pepper
2 red bell peppers
1 eggplant
1/4 pound salad mix
1/4 pound arugula
1/2 large bunch basil
1/2 large bunch rainbow chard
1/2 bunch of radishes
1/2 bunch scallions
potatoes and beets, not sure how much because Matt got those
1/2 large bunch gorgeous celery with perfect leaves
1 watermelon
1 head garlic (it was our turn this week)
PYO: 15 stems assorted flowers, 5 jalapenos, 5 cayenne, 5 habaneros, small bunch parsley, a bit of thyme, mint, and sage

After picking up, we usually head straight over to my parents' house to drop off their half of the share. This week, my mom fed us. She served Matt some pasta with beet sauce, like a ragout, that she had made with golden beets, from a recipe in an Ayurvedic cookbook. The color wasn't that great (I think adding a carrot would have helped retain the golden hue), but it was savory and good.

Wednesday Lunch:
Matt was inspired to get up early and make a similar dish the next morning using some of our red beets. We'd been collecting them weekly but not using them often.

Wednesday Dinner:
Matt cooked Veggie Sausage with Caramelized Onions and Peppers, Celery and Chard, and a whole minced habanero. He served it over brown rice. It was very spicy and very delicious. Habaneros are my favorite hot pepper. I love the rich, spicy, smoky flavor they impart. Matt didn't use any other spices or seasonings in his dish, but the habanero gave it complexity. Awesome.

Friday, September 11, 2009

A New Zeal

The work-filled summer was followed by a relaxing couple of weeks in the country, and then by frenetic preparations for the start of the new school year.

Among the culinary highlights of late summer was my first attempt at chiles rellenos, which was quite acceptable. I've got about 6 more poblanos in the fridge that are waiting to be smothered in cheese.

In the country we did a lot of cooking, but kept it simple. I loved Jhumpa Lahiri's piece in The New York Times about packing for and cooking in a summer rental. It was so timely. At the time that I read it, I had a constantly churning list working itself out in my head, even though we hadn't even settled on our summer vacation plans. I suppose I knew that in the end, my house rental scheme would prevail over the camping trip that Matt was talking about but not actually planning. Her essay on the subject spawned a Bitten blog post and drew a long list of commenters that spend as much time thinking about things like this as I do!

Our week in the country was split between 2 places. One was the home of a close family friend, and had a large, beautiful, well-equipped kitchen. We didn't need to bring any equipment, but we packed up some of our CSA produce. The second was a rental with a perfectly good kitchen setup, but no oven. For this, we packed a number of things, including a cast-iron skillet, a 3.5 quart pot, 2 knives, and a microplane grater. We also brought staples like olive oil, sea salt, pepper, grains, pasta, dried porcini, good parmesan, and a fair amount of produce, which we supplemented with trips to the local farm stands.

Among the memorable things we made:
A gorgeous Tomato Salad with Crispy Shallots from a Fanny Singer recipe that appeared in an old Food+Wine (September 2003). My friend Lauren turned me onto this. I took this recipe home, and made it at least 3 times since. Lauren also made a phenomenal escarole salad based on the one served at Frankie's Spuntino. The dressing was simply oil and lemon juice, salt and pepper. She added thinly sliced red onion, shaved pecorino, and a handful of walnuts. I love it when unbelievably simple preparations like this make your jaw drop in appreciation. It was incredible. We made another family favorite, Orechiette with Pistachio Pesto, also from a Frankie's recipe.

When we got to the house that week, there was a blueberry tart sitting on the table; Lauren had baked it from her mother's recipe. I wrote that one down and brought it home. We also had fun trying out new recipes based on what needed to be eaten quickly. I made a vegan banana bread from memory and enjoyed the first warm slice on the way to the Innisfree gardens. Another day, Matt and I collaborated on a peach crisp. I had never made a crisp before, but it made a great breakfast, so on our return home, I experimented with several recipes and whatever I had on hand. In the end I decided that I like to cook mine uncovered and for less time, about 20-25 minutes, and I could do without nuts in the topping.

At the other house, we made the Tomato Salad again (twice). A huge batch of porcini risotto, which didn't come out great, partly because I didn't have the right-sized pan and also did not salt it enough. The leftovers were salted and fried up for breakfast as little croquettes. Pasta with browned seitan and shallot bits, basil pesto, and more beautiful Hudson Valley tomatoes. Spicy mango salsa, eaten with chips! We ate out a few times, too. Our favorite spot was the burrito truck that sets up at the Montgomery Place farm stand. Excellent and affordable. And the little bakery in Tivoli made an extraordinary multigrain roll. Unfortunately, we weren't in the area for the weekend farmer's markets, which is usually a vacation highlight for us.

It was great to be able to cook in the relaxed, easygoing way that a week off allows. I returned home energized. The weather had turned cool, so right away I started baking. I made several more peach crisps, using a different recipe each time. The worst was when I experimented with a longer cooking time. I ended up with a hard, granola-like crust. I innocently brought it to a meeting to share, and I thought it was awful, but it was politely received. I made Patricia Wells' Spicy Polenta-Cheese Crackers one night. They were good, just the right amount of spicy. From her book, Vegetable Harvest, I also made some outrageously good roasted potatoes with lemon. You slice rounds of lemon and roast them with the potatoes. It is one of those easy recipes that seems kind of obvious, but it is perfect. I could eat that every day. I've had that book for a while, and now I am ready to really use it.

We have September birthdays at our house, so in the last 2 weeks, I have made a couple of batches of brownies (Peter Berley), some plain vanilla cake (Peter Berley), and some Taza Guajillo Chile Chocolate Mexicano Cupcakes with ganache frosting (Emilie at The Conscious Kitchen). All vegan, all amazingly good.