Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Drifting East

I've been in the mood for all things Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, Persian, and Indian lately. Today my body decided it needed protein, so I made red lentil dal inspired by Mark Bittman, but I made changes. That's what I do.

I like my Indian food with toasty spices, even if it's not the preferred method for cooking a particular dish.

Onion and Spice Mixture
2 tsp butter
1 tbsp whole mustard seeds
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp ground ginger
2 whole cloves
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 large spring onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
8 ounces red lentils
fresh cilantro for garnish
chopped tomato for garnish

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt butter and stir in spices. Heat until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add onions and garlic and saute, stirring occasionally, until onions are caramelized, about 10 minutes. Remove half of mixture from pan and reserve.

Add lentils to the saucepan and cover with about 1 inch of water. Bring to a boil, lower to a simmer, and cover. Cook, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes, adding more water if dal becomes too thick.

When ready to serve, stir in reserved onion and spice mixture, butter and salt to taste. Garnish with fresh cilantro and chopped tomato.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Summer Persian Cucumbers

Today's stressful and heartbreaking visit to Haymarket to not find cilantro--I had to be consoled.

Gorgeous, fresh, Persian cucumbers. $1.00 got me 15. 15 restaurant-or-higher-quality ones.

I've had Persian cucumbers before. I've had them in every season but summer. Big mistake. I've had summer cucumbers before. Straight from Mrs. B's garden. But not Persian ones.

These have changed my idea of what a cucumber can be. And I already liked every breed of cucumber I've ever had.

I ate four plain.

I have decided I need them in everything. So here's my first odd-esque usage of them. I know it's been done before. This came out of my head, but now that I've already published this post, I seem that my idea is not very original. Whatever.

East Meets West Persian Cucumber Guacamole

3 Persian cucumbers, diced
1 avocado, diced
juice of 1 lime
1/4 cup red onion, finely diced
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 serrano pepper, finely diced
sea salt to taste

Combine all ingredients and devour immediately. I guess you could wait for the flavors to meld, but we're talking guacamole.

Cilantro at the Bat

It seemed there was no cilantro in Boston all week. Not even slimy, rotting, maybe I can salvage 3 or 4 leaves?, undersized bunches. The theme continued last night as I rolled into Whole Foods at 8:30 or so, desperation making me willing to pay an assumed $3.99 for a small quantity. There wasn't any in the store. Not even in the proverbial back. I checked every day this week.

The cilantro I had been growing on my windowsill died. So did a subsequent seeding. And then a subsequent planting of whole plants with roots.

Usually when I can't find an ingredient I adapt. But my very specific and inflexible plans for the fresh tomatillos included in this week's CSA delivery required it.

It wasn't in any supermercados, mercados, or bodegas; it wasn't in Chinatown or in Super 88; It wasn't in Shalimar. Not in Shaw's, Stah Mahkit, or Stop and Shop. Not in Harvest, not in Whole Foods. I was starting to think that I should query the cooks/artists at India Quality. Or ask at Ana's Taqueria.

I knew it had to be somewhere. I even checked the USDA Herb Report this morning to verify that it existed somewhere in the greater Boston area. (Yes, I am that nuts.) So it was definitely being traded across the harbor. Since it's Friday, after physical therapy, I went to Haymarket, the liquidator of what's unsold at the market at week's end to see. Nobody had it. Not one vendor. The herb guy wasn't even there. The other vendors that usually offer herbs were selling sad-looking bunches of rosemary, thyme, and parsley, and okay-looking basil. I started to suspect that the heat had done herbs in for the week.

I was still without cilantro. I shuffled back to Whole Foods for my fifth visit this week. For some reason, the whole walk was punctuated by my thinking, "There is no joy in Mudville. There is no cilantro in Boston."

Today they had it--organic! in large bunches!--for $1.69, a pleasant surprise. I realize that Californians are probably laughing at the price that I think was a steal, but produce is much more expensive on the East Coast, and produce in Boston is more expensive than produce in New York City. Not generally, just is. Local produce too, conventional and organic, industrially farmed and not. (Interestingly enough, the wholesale markets in both cities are owned by the same company, but obviously Boston is a smaller market that is more difficult to access by air, land, sea, and rail than New York, not that it's an excuse for a TWENTY TO FOUR HUNDRED PERCENT difference in prices at the retail level, since wholesale prices aren't that different between the two, but I digress.)

So yeah, I got my cilantro.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Roasted New Potato Salad with Meyer Lemon Rosemary Vinaigrette

So usually I come up with recipes after craving something and viewing 30 recipes online and in print before coming up with something that's a variation on a riff of a combination of elements of anything I saw that mildly interested me.

My small CSA share has included two pounds of new potatoes--red skinned and Yukon gold--every week for the past three weeks and the farmer has informed us shareholders that we should expect to see potatoes just about every week from now until the end of the share distributions in November. Except I only eat potatoes about once a month, if that. I have made a small number of dishes with them so far because I do like potatoes, I just can't eat that many. But since I can expect many, many more, I have started to panic a bit as to how to use them all. These potatoes are delicious and thin-skinned and tiny--each one is just an inch or two in diameter. They're adorable and tempting and they taste incredible. But what could I do with about four pounds of potatoes that I had left after giving some away to a friend?

Luckily this weekend some of my family is getting together at their traditional mountain escape. I feel like I should bring something savory in addition to the sweet cake I made. Hopefully something that uses 4 pounds of potatoes.

I didn't want anything too heavy or anything incorporating mayonnaise or eggs because of the several hour car ride without a cooler.

Also, I can't get enough of the Meyer lemons I bought this week. They're incredible in everything. I even ate one as if it were an orange. Actually, that's a lie: I ate the skin too.

Roasted New Potato Salad with Meyer Lemon Rosemary Vinaigrette

Roasted Potatoes
4 pounds mixed new potatoes, 1"-2" diameter, washed, larger ones halved or quartered according to your liking
3 tbsp unfiltered extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
1 spring onion, finely chopped
3 stalks baby celery, finely diced

Toss the potatoes with olive oil and salt in a roasting pan until coated, place in a 400 degree oven, stirring every 15-20 minutes until potatoes have crispy, golden edges and are tender on the inside. Let cool to room temperature. Toss with onion and celery.

Meyer Lemon Rosemary Vinaigrette
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp fresh rosemary leaves, finely chopped
1/4 tsp coarse kosher salt
zest of 1/2 Meyer lemon
juice of 1/2 Meyer lemon
(if you're using regular lemons, add about 1/2 tsp sugar)
3 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp prepared dijon mustard
1/3 cup olive oil

Whisk together all ingredients in a large nonreactive bowl.

Pour roasted potato mixture into bowl with vinaigrette and toss to coat. Let stand at least 2 hours at room temperature or overnight in your refrigerator. Bring to room temperature before serving.

You'd think this would serve about 12 people, but you'd be wrong--it's much less, because people will actually eat this potato salad and ask for seconds.

A Delectable Deviation

Okay, so I thought that I would only include healthy things on this site, but the cake I made today calls for an exception.

One of the most delicious desserts of summer is simply fresh blueberries (or any fresh berries or even grapes) with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkling of brown sugar. This can be improved by adding a little bit of lemon zest, or by sticking the whole thing under your broiler until crispy like she did.

But I'm going to visit family over the weekend and feel like I should bring something that is portable and that requires no on-the-spot preparation once I arrive at my destination. Fresh berries are generally highly perishable and too delicate for distant, nonprofessional, unrefrigerated transport. A cake is the perfect solution for such a problem. They keep well.

The remains of sour cream in my refrigerator have been begging to be used, but after many desserts of blueberries, sour cream, and brown sugar and a stint with a burrito last night, it needed to be gone from my refrigerator or face the trash can.

So I've found plenty of recipes for sour cream cakes, usually coffee cakes, some even including blueberries. I've found lots of recipes for lemon cakes, some also including blueberries. I haven't yet found one for fresh lemon, blueberry, and sour cream (maybe the acid from the lemon juice would curdle the sour cream? most recipes used lemon extract or zest). I was largely disappointed with what I found. What follows is an amalgamation of several somewhat promising recipes plus my creative adaptations and measurements resulting from a zero-hour unexpected paucity of ingredients.

I generally prefer cooking to baking because it's very correctable if anything goes wrong. You can always make adjustments. Baking is not only less flexible, but is more intimidating. Once you've thrown whatever you're baking in the oven, there's no turning back. Chemical reactions are taking place at every step and you could be doomed at any point. Measurements should be as close to exact as possible. Despite receiving excellent grades in the laboratory component of organic chemistry and having an uncanny ability to eyeball things to the microgram (really, the lab director would stare at me in disbelief week after week), baking has eluded me. No matter how much research I do, I can never figure out what goes wrong and I'm always afraid to change quantities of anything except sugar.

Well, I don't have a scale in my kitchen right now. It's in storage. But I realized that American home bakers using the imperial measuring system are kind of, well, always messing around with vital quantities. So I went for it. Who knows if I'll be able to replicate this again. It can't not be delicious to try.

The outside temperature today was 90 degrees with 65% humidity.

Meyer Lemon and Blueberry Sour Cream Cake

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup dark brown sugar, packed
3/4 cup white sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
3/4 cup sour cream, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
juice of 1 Meyer lemon (about 3 tbsp)
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour (I used Arrowhead Mills organic unbleached white flour)
1 tbsp baking powder (I used Clabber Girl)
1/4 tsp salt (I used Morton coarse Kosher salt. I know, too big. It's all I had.)
1 1/4 cups fresh blueberries
pinch of flour
zest of 1 Meyer lemon

Grease and flour a 9" x 13" baking pan. In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar with a wooden spoon until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Beat in eggs one at a time, fully incorporating each before adding the next ingredient. Add sour cream, vanilla extract, and lemon juice and mix until combined.
Whisk together flour, salt, and baking powder with a fork. Add flour mixture to butter mixture and beat until smooth, being careful not to overmix. Gently shake blueberries with a pinch of flour to coat (this keeps them from sinking to the bottom of your cake). Fold blueberries and lemon zest into cake batter. Pour batter into baking pan. Bake at 350F for 35-45 minutes, or until a knife inserted in center comes out clean.

I used a 9" x 9" baking pan and a standard loaf pan filled to about 1" deep so I could test what this would taste like before I embarrassed myself by bringing an experimental cake somewhere. I shouldn't have worried. This is one of the best cakes I have ever had. It's really good. Like, opening up a store in SoHo that only sells this cake and charging $11 a slice for it wouldn't be unreasonable good. Transcendental.

I'd also like to give a shoutout to my local Whole Foods for randomly having fresh Meyer lemons in their store in July. I don't live anywhere near California. I am convinced that the Meyer lemon is what elevated this cake to incredible status because while I love lemons, I don't even really like lemon cake and I usually avoid consuming or baking anything of the general category of lemon flavored baked goods. This recipe also incorporated two of my favorite Whole Foods finds:
1. The fabulously priced (at $5.99) two pound container of blueberries. You hear that?! Two pounds! They last all week! They're delicious and nutritious! I buy at least 1 box of these every week and when I don't find them, I get panicky. I've never found a bad berry in one of these huge boxes (the pint containers are another story). And you could probably get me to pay $7.99 or even $8.99 if you were to offer the same size container but organic, you hear me?
2. Arrowhead Mills flour, all varieties. It comes in small bags so it doesn't get stale at the relatively slow rate I use flour. It's also delicious and very consistent from one bag to the next.

No, Whole Foods didn't pay me to say any of this. I wish they would. And by that, I mean, I wish I could be an ingredient/product hunter/evaluator for them, which would pretty much be my ideal job. They wouldn't even have to pay me that much.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Burrito Delight

I've had a craving for burritos for a while. And by a while, I mean I haven't had a burrito since approximately January 2009.

I know that what I have been craving is an Americanized version of a burrito and may not necessarily even be good. But I'm not going to pay $12.00 for something of the same description at a buffet-line style takeout place. Given the choice between eating out and cooking, I choose cooking unless my craving is for something I am unwilling to make at home, e.g., sushi for its difficult and expensive to source graded fish. Besides, I wanted something delicious.

Today's CSA pickup included spring onions, cilantro, and summer squash, among other things.

Lazy American Veggie Burrito

Squash and Onion Saute
1 tbsp canola oil
1 large spring onion, white and green parts, separated and chopped, divided
1 medium yellow summer squash, cut in half lengthwise and sliced into 1/4" pieces
2 shakes adobo powder (I didn't claim authenticity)

Heat oil in pan over medium heat. Add white parts of onion and saute until translucent, about 8 minutes. Add squash and green parts. Cook, stirring infrequently until squash is cooked through and onions are golden brown. The squash and onions should be somewhat caramelized.

"Re fried" Beans
1 tbsp canola oil
1/2 cup chopped green onion, white and green parts
1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
1 can (I know, I know) light red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/4 cup water (if necessary)

In a medium saucepan, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onions and saute until edges are golden brown (you want the pan to be a little too hot for this part), about 5 minutes. Lower heat to medium and add corn. Saute for a few minutes more until onions become translucent. Add beans, cilantro, cumin, chili powder, and coriander and stir to combine. Heat, stirring occasionally and mashing the beans somewhat with the back of your cooking utensil. The beans will stick to the bottom of the pot, let this happen for a few minutes before stirring and letting it happen again. Continue this way for about 15 minutes, adding water if bean mixture on bottom of pot does not release by stirring contents.

Gringo Salsa
1/4 cup chopped spring onion
1 serrano pepper, stemmed
2 ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped
1/4 bunch cilantro
1 clove garlic
juice of 1 lime
salt to taste

Pulse all ingredients together in a food processor until desired consistenct is reached.

Optional Garnishes
sour cream (full fat: don't ruin a perfectly delicious meal)
green parts of spring onion, thinly sliced
lime juice

Spread sour cream and salsa on a whole wheat 8" flour tortilla that's been heated over a gas flame for about 15 seconds per side. Add sauteed squash and onions and beans. Garnish with cilantro, green onions, and lime juice, wrap, and enjoy.

Serves 4.

This recipe is vegetarian if your tortillas are made without lard and vegan if you omit the sour cream.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Summer Slaw with Peanut Dressing

A food processor is worth its weight in dirty dishes for chopping great numbers of things up. Last week it was too hot to cook, and consuming anything warmer than room temperature seemed wholly unappetizing.

I've been feeling too delicate to go to the grocery store; I can't lift the weight of a basket with food in it and I am finding it difficult and painful to maneuver the cart with one hand. Whatever, I don't mind trying. The problem is other people in the grocery store. They bump into me and my shoulder and I black out from pain. I still stand after these encounters, but I'd rather avoid them. I've tried going to the store at "off" times of day, but there isn't really an "off" time at my nearest store. (Well located, developers, well located.) Sadly, whatever psychologist the architect and client consulted to maximize customer spending influenced them to choose a very, very awkward layout. So I consulted my refrigerator/pantry for dinner.

Summer Slaw

1/2 medium head cabbage, shredded
2 medium carrots, shredded
3 radishes, shredded
1/4 large red onion, shredded
1 atauflo mango, shredded
1/2 serrano pepper, shredded (why not?)
1/4 cup peanuts, roughly chopped

Peanut Dressing
juice of 1 lime
2 tbsp peanut butter
1 tbsp canola oil
1 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp fresh ginger, grated
3 drops toasted sesame oil

Whisk together all dressing ingredients and pour over the shredded mango and vegetables. Toss to distribute and let stand in refrigerator for 15 minutes. Top with chopped peanuts just before serving.

This would probably be even more delicious garnished with cilantro or Thai basil or toasted sesame seeds (or all three).

Those with peanut allergies can substitute cashew butter and cashews.

Serves 2 as an entree, 4 as a side

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Cousa Squash and Spring Onion Couscous

1 cup chickpeas, cooked
4 baby carrots, chopped
1 1/4 cups water
3/4 cup couscous
2 tbsp olive oil
1 spring onion, white and green parts, chopped
1 clove garlic, peeled and sliced thinly
1 medium cousa squash, cubed
1/4 cup almonds, toasted and chopped
1/4 cup dried cranberries or raisins
charmoula and feta cheese, optional to taste

Place chickpeas, carrots, and water in a small pot and bring to a boil. Lower heat to medium and boil, covered for 15-20 minutes or until carrots are soft. Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a saute pan. Add spring onion and garlic and cook over a medium flame, stirring occasionally, until fragrant, about 5 minutes. Add squash and saute until onions and squash are carmelized and not watery, 15 minutes. Add almonds and cranberries. Remove pot with chickpeas from heat and add couscous. Some water will have evaporated, this is fine. Stir to combine. Once couscous has absorbed all water, add to pan with squash. Heat through and serve.

This was delicious as written, but I added 1 ounce of feta cheese and 1 tbsp of charmoula to my serving.

Serves 2

CSA Love

My back is killing me and I can't walk correctly. I don't even know why I say walk, it's more of a shuffle, but much slower than an amble. I lined my lightweight carry-on with plastic bags and took the subway for this week's CSA pickup.

The take:
1 bunch beets, 1 bunch carrots, 1 bunch spring onions, 1 bunch kale, 1 bunch (delicious smelling) basil, 2 pounds new Yukon Gold potatoes, 2 medium cousa squash, 1 pound green beans, and 1 head romaine lettuce.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Ceviche Peruano

When it's too hot to cook, why not cook without heat? Ceviche is a wonderful summer recipe; the Peruvian version is one of the simplest to prepare and, in my opinion, the tastiest. This dish is perfect for cooks with low mobility. The most basic traditional version uses a firm white fish and variety of sea creatures marinated in just lime juice and salt, but I elaborated a little while keeping within the Peruvian flavor profile. Using whole bay scallops instead would eliminate some knifework and speed the preparation.

Ceviche Peruano

juice of 3 limes
1/2 tsp salt, or to taste
freshly ground black pepper to taste
10 sprigs cilantro
1/2 serrano or hotter pepper (use an aji amarillo if you can find it)
3 cloves garlic, peeled
1/2 pound sea scallops (quartered) or bay scallops (whole)
1/4 red onion, sliced thinly in a food processor and separated into rings

Combine lime juice, salt, pepper, cilantro, hot pepper, and garlic and pulse in a food processor until finely chopped. Pour marinade over scallops and stir to coat, making sure there is enough liquid to cover fish. Top with sliced red onion. Let marinate/"cook" 2-3 hours in refrigerator until fish is opaque and firm. Serves 2.

Traditional accompaniments for this dish are boiled corn, sweet potatoes, or yucca, but I used a less labor-intensive sliced avocado.

Cripple Cuisine Does Borscht

After another car accident, my neck is once again constrained by a collar and I only have the energy to make really easy dishes that require almost no labor. Boiling is usually good for that. This borscht requires chopping, which I did by indiscriminately hacking away at the items on the cutting board, or you can shred the stuff (except the potato) in a food processor. I didn't peel any of the vegetables (too time-consuming and vitamin-defeating).

I also didn't have my purse, as it was left in the car following the accident, so I had no money or access to it, as banks were closed for the holiday weekend. I made this entirely out of things I already had, which wasn't much since I wasn't around last week and missed my CSA pickup.

Tip: The longer you saute the onions and tomato paste together, the deeper the flavor of the soup. Thanks to the beets, this soup tastes garden fresh despite its dependence on pantry and staple items that have probably been lying around the kitchen for several weeks.


1 tbsp cooking oil
1 onion
1 can tomato paste
1 can diced tomatoes
10 baby carrots, greens removed, chopped (I had these left over from the previous week's CSA)
3 potatoes, cubed
2 medium red beets and 3 small golden beets, cubed (also CSA)
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
4 cans water
1/2 head of cabbage, chopped (CSA again)
salt and pepper to taste
2 tbsp sour cream or plain yogurt per serving
fresh dill for garnish

Saute onion in oil until translucent. Add tomato paste and saute about
10 minutes (chop the rest of the vegetables while this happens). Add
tomatoes, carrots, potatoes, beets, and garlic and cook 5-10 minutes.
Add water and bring to a boil. Once boiling, add cabbage, salt, and
pepper. Bring back to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 20-30
minutes until vegetables are tender. To serve, ladle into bowls and top each with sour cream and dill.

This recipe makes about 8 servings, so you won't have to cook again in the near future.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Adult Fruit Salad

I was separated from my CSA for a week while enjoying a trip to the beach with family and friends. After several days of consuming delicious but not exactly light food, I threw this together when an unexpected guest of honor showed up.

30 black cherries, pitted and sliced in half
3/4 pound strawberries, stemmed and sliced lengthwise in 1/2" pieces
1/2 pint blueberries
1 tbsp sugar
3/4 cup red wine (I used Pinot Noir because an open bottle was sitting on the counter but this would probably be even better with Syrah or Malbec)
juice of 2 clementines (again, sitting on the counter)

Combine all ingredients and toss to coat evenly. Let sit for 15 minutes and serve.

Leftover juices from this salad are a delicious starter for a single serving of berry sangria:

2/3 cup juice from fruit salad
1/2 cup seltzer
1/2 oz. triple sec
squeeze of orange

Pour ingredients into an ice-filled wine glass, mix, and serve.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Almost Authentic Caesar Salad with Garlic Croutons

I wasn't about to lose another head and a half of romaine lettuce to the refrigerator this week. Ice crystals have started forming on the romaine again. Interestingly, the more delicate lettuces don't seem to be having a problem with freezing and my refrigerator seems to be harboring secret cold zones. What better way to save your farm-fresh lettuce from undelicious destruction than to make a Caesar salad? I'm not one to discriminate: I used the whole (medium-sized) head of lettuce, not just the heart. I'm a huge fan of garlic, so I add the smashed cloves to the salad after they've done their job flavoring the croutons, but most people would probably remove them.

2 cups day-old bread, sliced into crouton-sized pieces (I used a sourdough boule)
1/4 cup olive oil
3 cloves garlic
1/4 tsp coarse kosher salt
1 egg
1 head romaine lettuce, washed, dried thoroughly, and chopped
4 anchovy fillets packed in oil, chopped
juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup grated Pecorino or Parmesan cheese
freshly ground black pepper to taste

Place bread in a single layer in a baking dish and bake at 350F until lightly toasted, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, smash garlic cloves and place them in olive oil with salt. Remove bread from oven and place in large saute pan. Drizzle 4 teaspoons of the olive oil over bread and add smashed garlic cloves to pan. Saute over medium heat until bread is golden brown and garlic begins to soften. Meanwhile, bring a pot of water to a boil. When water is boiling, add egg and coddle for 1 minute, then run under cold water to stop the cooking process.
Place lettuce in a large bowl. Add remaining olive oil and toss to coat. Add anchovies, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, and egg and toss until creamy. Add croutons, cheese and black pepper, toss, and serve immediately.

Serves 2-3, but I definitely ate the entire thing in one sitting (um, yeah, that's a million calories from olive oil. Plus bread. And cheese. And an egg...). But I really did walk 8.8 miles today according to Google Maps.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Carrot Top Tabbouleh

I decapitated the adorable baby carrots from my CSA share, but the greens looked too luscious to throw away. To make up for my cold-blooded murder of their bottom parts, I decided to put them to good use. I had only a few sprigs of parsley left in a glass on my windowsill, so I decided to make some tabbouleh/tabouli/taboule with carrot greens.

1/3 cup boiling water
1/3 cup bulgur wheat
tops from 1/2 bunch of baby carrots, leaves only, chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
6 sprigs parsley, leaves only, chopped
6 mint leaves, chopped
2 scallions, sliced thinly
1 medium cucumber, seeded and diced
1 tbsp olive oil
juice of 1 lemon
10 grape tomatoes, halved
2 oz. feta cheese, crumbled

In a glass bowl, add boiling water to bulgur wheat. Cover and let stand 30 minutes. Toss together carrot tops, parsley, mint, cucumber, scallions, olive oil and lemon juice. Add bulgur wheat and refrigerate. Just before serving, toss in tomatoes and feta cheese.

Serves 2

I found that the carrot greens weren't as flavorful as the parsley, but they were tasty all the same. I might use more next time. I didn't add salt to this recipe because of the feta cheese, but feel free to add salt to taste.

Third CSA Pickup!

The take:

1 head red leaf lettuce
1 head romaine lettuce
1 head escarole
1 bunch beets - I'm beside myself with anticipation for these. They are so dark and nutritious looking
1 bunch baby carrots - They're so cute!
1 bunch red Swiss chard
1 bunch kale
1 bunch scallions - They're super young and flavorful
1 head green cabbage

The triage: I chopped the leaves off of the beets, radishes, and carrots. The cabbage and the kale can probably wait the longest. The kale might not make it past my chip making habits, though. I'll roast some of the beets and shave others raw over salad, ditto for the radishes.

I'm starting to run out of ideas for lettuce beyond salad, wraps, and some soups. (A pasta dish from the NYT made with Bibb lettuce that I recently tried making was objectively terrible.) Any ideas?

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Whole Foods Contest

My nearest grocery story is Whole Foods and it's about a block away from my apartment. Even with the bounty that is my CSA share, I still seem to be in there just about every day. They always seem to know what I'm thinking, and they recently announced a weekly contest on food52 to which I've submitted recipes.

Each week has a featured ingredient. Here is what I've submitted so far:

I know what you're thinking: Cucumber and mango salad? How (whatever decade that cucumbers and mangoes were popular that would qualify this recipe as an anachronism)! Don't knock it until you try it. It's delicious and refreshing.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Swiss Chard and Kohlrabi Green Quiche with Goat Cheese and Pancetta

I adapted this recipe from my friend Lucas Louys, a talented cook and aspiring radio host residing in Buenos Aires. His original tarta de acelga calls for a cheese similar to Port Salut and a traditional masa pascualina for the crust. My adaptation incorporates kohlrabi greens, a sweet-tasting complement to earthy Swiss chard. This can be made vegetarian if you leave out the pancetta, which I added because I happened to have some in my refrigerator.

1 bunch swiss chard, stems and leaves separated
1 bunch kohlrabi greens, stems and leaves separated
3 tbsp olive oil
2 onions, chopped
2 carrots, diced
2 oz. pancetta, diced
2 small orange bell peppers, diced
4 cloves garlic, finely sliced
3 tbsp fresh oregano, finely chopped (or 1 tbsp dry)
1/2 tsp aji molido (a milder version of crushed red pepper. if you don't have aji, you can use 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes or more depending on your taste for spice)
1/2 tsp pimenton
3/4 tsp ground cumin
salt and black pepper to taste
6 eggs
4 oz. creamy chevre or goat cheese log
4 oz. feta cheese, crumbled
pie crust for 11x13 pan
1/4 cup grated pecorino

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add chard stems. 2-3 minutes later, add kohlrabi stems and boil for 5 minutes. Add leaves and boil 5-10 more minutes, until stems are tender and leaves are cooked well. Drain before chopping finely in a food processor.

Heat olive oil in a large saute pan. Add onion and saute for 3 minutes. Add carrots and pancetta and saute for 3 minutes more. Add pepper and garlic and saute until onions are carmelized, about 10 minutes. Add chopped chard and kohlrabi greens and stir to combine. Season with spices, salt and pepper. Turn off heat in pan.

In a large bowl, beat 6 eggs with salt and pepper to taste. Beat in chevre and feta cheese. Fold into chard mixture.

Scoop mixture into pie crust in a 9"x 13" pan (Having an aversion to shortening and not finding lard for a masa pascualina at my local grocery store, I used an all butter crust recipe which I'll post if someone indicates interest.) and top with grated pecorino.

Bake in 375 degree oven for 30-35 minutes until center is set and crust is golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool at least 10 minutes before slicing. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Makes 8 servings as an entree and many more as an appetizer.

Spicy Hake with Stir-Fried Mizuna

1 5 oz. filet hake, rinsed and patted dry
1 clove garlic, sliced thinly
1 tsp ginger, peeled and grated
1/2 jalapeno pepper, sliced into thin rings (I didn't remove the seeds)
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp honey
1 tbsp cilantro, minced

For the mizuna
juices from pan
1 tbsp sesame seeds
1/2 bunch mizuna

Heat oil in one half of a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Add garlic, ginger, and jalapeno, stir frequently until softened. Gather together the ginger, garlic, and pepper and place hake filet, skin side up, on top. Sear for 2-3 minutes, until a golden brown crust forms and garlic and pepper are crispy. Flip and top fish with soy sauce, honey and cilantro. Cook until fish flakes easily with fork, 4-5 minutes more. Meanwhile, toast sesame seeds in dry half of pan. Remove cooked fish and place on a warmed plate. Add mizuna to liquid remaining in pan and stir fry 2-3 minutes until wilted. Toss with toasted sesame seeds and serve with fish.

Serves 1.

What do you do with kohlrabi, anyway?

Well, I roasted one.

Another got cut up into matchstick-sized pieces and went into this fabulous soup:

Not Exactly Asian Soup

For the broth:
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/2 tsp ginger, peeled and grated
1 tsp canola oil
2 cups beef broth
1 cup water
1 tsp. tamari soy sauce

In a saucepan, heat canola oil on high heat and add ginger and garlic. Saute for 30 seconds, then add beef broth, water, and soy sauce. Heat to a simmer.

For the contents of the soup:
1/4 bunch mizuna, cut in 2" lengths
3 stalks bok choy, sliced crosswise into 1/2" pieces
1 small green onion, white and green parts separated, sliced thinly
1 shiitake mushroom, sliced thinly
1/2 small purple kohlrabi, cut into matchstick-sized pieces
1/2 small asian turnip, cut into matchstick-sized pieces (I wouldn't really call it julienned and shape is approximate since I have shaky hands)

Add mizuna, bok choy and white parts of green onion to simmering broth and heat for about 5 minutes. Divide the mushroom, kohlrabi, turnip, and green parts of the green onion between two dry soup bowls. Pour simmering broth with mizuna and onion over vegetables and serve immediately.

Serves 2.

This recipe is gluten free if your soy sauce does not have any gluten. Make sure to check the label.

Second CSA Pickup!

The take:
1 head romaine lettuce (RIP: it froze in my feisty, outdated refrigerator, despite being in what I thought was the warmest place in it barring the door. Any ideas? Anyone? Bueller?)
1 head red leaf lettuce (I wish this had frozen instead, since I still had some left from last week even though I have eaten large salads incorporating at least one or two leaves of this at least once every day, often twice--and I may or may not be seriously toying with the idea of making breakfast salads)
1 head Bibb lettuce
1 bunch broccoli
1 bunch Swiss chard
1 bunch purple kohlrabi
1 bunch chioggia beets
1 bunch asian turnips
1 bunch cilantro

So far I have been doing well with my pickup triage, using the things that are likely to last longer last, but I love beets and couldn't resist. I roasted a large one immediately along with a kohlrabi (root?) and an asian turnip.

I cut the greens off of the beets, turnips, and kohlrabi and stored them separately. I froze the broccoli immediately (I know, I know) because I couldn't bear to witness its nutrients slowly seeping out into the ether of the refrigerator air as I prioritized other things for consumption. The cilantro came with roots, so I put it into a glass filled with water on my windowsill. Everything else went into fresh extend bags, excepting one beet, which I rinsed off and ate raw before I even put anything else in the refrigerator.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

First CSA pickup!

Steve the farmer did give fair warning that the early harvest shares would be heavy on greens. He should have clarified and said heavy and green, as the "small" share for this week included about 12 pounds of chlorophyllous delights.

So, the take:
1 bunch bok choy
1 bunch mizuna
1 head Bibb lettuce
1 head red leaf lettuce
1 bunch red Russian kale
1 bunch pea tendrils
1 head chicory
1 bunch spinach

I know I should use this blog as a vehicle to showcase original recipes incorporating the bounty that is the CSA share, but I panicked. And then copped out and made a salad with several of these new, green objects. My selection of green objects was admittedly colored (green) by which I thought would last the least amount of time improperly stored in my refrigerator. Why improperly? My kitchen doubles as a hallway (or my hallway doubles as a kitchen) and is too narrow to allow the door to open completely and allow for the refrigerator-width produce drawer to open more than an inch or so. I could talk about the poor design of the refrigerator, but that would open up a discussion of the poor design of the apartment, and that would be, well, a tangent.

I ripped up a few leaves of each of
red leaf lettuce
bibb lettuce
and added
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/4 yellow onion, sliced
1/4 cucumber, sliced
1/2 tomato, sliced
2 tbsp crumbled feta cheese
8 kalamata olives
black pepper
and tossed it all together. I didn't use salt since the olives and feta were salty enough for me.

Not very original, but my body was happy to have something green in it after having consumed about 10 soup dumplings and a pizza snack the day before. I'm going to need to invest in produce bags and a good salad spinner. More interesting recipes soon!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Victorious again

Saturday's take at Haymarket:
1 bunch parsley
2 tomatoes
1 mango
1 avocado
4 still-warm whole wheat pitas
1/2 pound kalamata olives
mad garlic, yo

$6.75, but I will admit that about 40% of the olives are a little soft. This will probably not deter me in the future.

I got home and made an adulteration of the jicama-watercress-avocado salad in the Veganomicon cookbook that we tried at my aunt's house a few weeks ago. In addition to forgetting about Google Book Search, I forgot the lime juice and sugar in the dressing, but I made a pretty decent-tasting approximation from memory.

Here's my altered version including some ingredient additions/omissions/substitutions:


juice of 1 orange
2 tbsp. soy sauce
3 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 tsp. cilantro, finely chopped
3 tbsp. canola oil
1 tsp. sesame oil


1 medium-sized jicama (Mine was $1.12 at $1.99/pound at Whole Foods. It looked medium. You do the math.), peeled and shredded
1/3 bunch watercress, snipped from your nearest windowsill
1/2 ripe avocado, sliced
1/2 mango, cubed
1/4 yellow onion (the red is prettier), sliced thinly
black sesame seeds, for garnish
cashews, toasted and chopped, for garnish
fresh cilantro and mint, chopped, for garnish

Whisk all dressing ingredients together and let sit at room temperature for at least 10 minutes. Pour over shredded jicama in bowl, mix together, and let stand while preparing remaining ingredients. Place watercress on plate and top with jicama-dressing mixture. Arrange avocado, onion, and mango on top of jicama. Sprinkle sesame seeds, cashews, cilantro, and mint on top and serve.

Makes 2 servings.

This is really refreshing--perfect for a summer day, or at least a day that pretends to be summer, which I have to get used to in Boston.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Windowsill gardening

I've started a little garden on my windowsill with a mixture of purchased plants and cheating. Right now I have potted basil, Greek oregano, German thyme, rosemary, cilantro, and--in a fabulous win in the chemical-free produce battle, watercress growing in a plastic tray filled with water. I bought two bunches and have been cutting off about a quarter of a bunch at a time for salad, leaving about 3/4" of stem. It's sprouting back at about the speed of my appetite for watercress. Yay fresh!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The dirty secret.

That's right, in a previous post I referred to my $1.00 Haymarket cauliflower. You're probably thinking one of two things:

1. Oooh, Haymarket, I don't know. What about eating fresh and local?
2. HOLY CRAP, $1.00 cauliflower?!

Why I don't feel guilty about buying produce at Haymarket:

The major reasons are availability and price. At this time of year farmers' markets in Boston aren't open yet and my CSA doesn't start until the first week of June. Most supermarket chains do not stock a terrible amount of local produce at this time of year.

The produce at Haymarket comes from the wholesale distributors across the hahbah in Chelsea. The vendors at Haymarket buy cases of produce rejected or passed up by restaurants and grocery stores at ridiculously reduced prices. Why does it get rejected? A whole case is often rejected because of a cosmetic blemish on one or two items. Or the contents are too near to ripeness to satisfy a supermarket's model of leaving produce out for 2 weeks or more. Maybe it "fell off a truck". The melons might be too small or oddly shaped to be sold in a conventional store. Or maybe a chef changed their mind about a produce order when it arrived at the restaurant late.

What you find at Haymarket is a mixed bag, but if you know how to select produce, you're going to go home with a ton of food for very little cash (only, sweetie). Some vendors won't let you touch the merchandise and some will. I tend to avoid those that don't let me pick (though when five pounds of sweet potatoes or six cucumbers are a dollar, I don't mind getting a few bad ones). Organic food can be found, and fresh herbs that you're not growing at home are a steal. I wash everything as soon as I get home and refrigerate what is appropriate to refrigerate and most of it lasts me at least 5 days.

If it doesn't go to Haymarket, it's probably going to get thrown out by the distributor. So I like to think of it as reducing food waste, even if that's not entirely accurate. Maybe it gets canned; I like to think it does.

Besides, given the option, I think it's definitely better for me to be eating fruits and vegetables than something that comes from a box on a supermarket shelf.

Last Friday's take:
1 cucumber
1 head cauliflower
1 bunch mint (which I used for tabbouleh along with some parsley I had happily surviving in a glass of water from the previous week, then I made some iced tea with mint to accompany my pseudo-Moroccan food)
2 pounds of bananas (I don't live in Hawaii and don't see myself getting these locally)
5 bulbs of garlic (not from China)
5 limes
1 eggplant
2 navel oranges
2 cantaloupes; 1 small, 1 oddly shaped, still not ripe even now.

All for $7.00, probably less if I had gone on Saturday instead.

Even if you're totally against the idea of this market, it's a great place to go for people watching, just don't get in the way! The variety of languages I hear makes me miss New York.

Breakfast? Lunch? Dinner? All three.

Asparagus is in season and readily available. The New York Times has a way of knowing... May 5th's Asparagus, Prosciutto, and Egg recipe inspired me, but being made with butter and cream, it didn't really fit into my healthier eating scheme. If I were serving brunch, I would make this dish exactly as they suggest, but it was delicious this way too:

2 tsp. olive oil
10 thin stalks asparagus
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
1 egg
1 tsp. lemon juice
1 slice prosciutto (I used Applegate Farms from the deli counter at Whole Foods after balking at the price of the prepackaged brand suggested in the NYT recipe)
1 tsp. grated Parmesan
Kosher or sea salt to taste
freshly ground back pepper

Remove tough ends of asparagus. Heat olive oil in pan and add asparagus and crushed garlic, sauteeing until desired doneness. Remove asparagus from pan and place on plate. Squeeze lemon juice onto asparagus. Crack egg into pan (I used a non-stick pan so I didn't have to add extra oil). Scramble egg and add pepper. Just before egg is finished cooking, place prosciutto in some empty pan real estate and leave undisturbed for about 1 minute. Place prosciutto on top of asparagus and egg on top of prosciutto. Sprinkle with Parmesan and freshly ground black pepper. I didn't add any salt since the salt in the prosciutto was enough for me.

Makes 1 serving.

The garlic clove just kind of hung around the pan, imparting subtle garlic flavor into everything, which I loved.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Today at Whole Foods...

I'm one to go far, far out of my way in pursuit of ingredients, preferring to shop at Indian markets for Indian ingredients, Russian for Russian, Persian for Persian, etc. I don't mind making special trips to special stores for a dish.

But my closest grocery store is Whole Foods, at about three quarters of a block away. Which is not a bad thing, except maybe for my wallet. And sometimes I don't have time or energy to go far afield in search of ingredients. You've heard that before. Food should be simple. Most of the time.

I'll admit I have a suspiciously well-stocked pantry. (If by "pantry" you mean "cabinet in the kitchen that doubles as a hallway in my tiny shared apartment" ...I can dream.) Having spent over a hundred dollars at this particular store in the past week on staples (I know, terrible financial decision, but I can't carry heavy loads very far, more on that later, maybe) and maybe just a few impulse items, I went with a list. I needed one Fresno chile and a piece of fish for a recipe that intrigued me. And some pistachios for general snack consumption.

I had some leftover pseudo-Moroccan vegetable dish and needed something to accompany it and make it enough for a meal, so this recipe from Saveur seemed appropriate. I didn't really modify it except to use less olive oil (as much for thrift as for volume and fat reduction...I know, I don't really associate shopping at Whole Foods with thrift either, but I've actually found some items to be the same price as or cheaper than other stores and I'll figure it out as I go, as I'm new to the neighborhood and the options around me).

Here it is, with my "modifications":


1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp. fresh lime juice
1 tsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. pimenton dulce
1/2 tsp. Kosher salt
10 sprigs fresh cilantro, minced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 red Fresno chile, stemmed, seeded, and minced
1 shallot, thinly sliced

I put about half of this mixture this over half a pound of fresh haddock, scored so that it wouldn't curl in the oven, left it to marinate for about 30 minutes, then baked it at 400F for 8ish minutes.

Makes 2 servings.

I think the next time I will toast the spices first and use double the lemon and lime juices.

Yes, really, I had everything in my apartment already except for the pepper ($0.30) and the fish ($7.52 for a little over half a pound--not a bargain, but supposedly sustainably harvested).

I served this with leftover pseudo-Moroccan vegetables, the recipe for which changes depending on what vegetables I happen to have, but is based on this basic formula, which I realize might not be exact anyway, as I'm an eyeballer in the kitchen except when I'm baking:

Pseudo-Moroccan Vegetables

Spice Mixture
1 tbsp. turmeric
1 tbsp. ground cumin (I know I should probably buy whole seeds and toast them before grinding)
2 tsp. ground coriander (ditto)
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. pimenton dulce
1 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tsp fresh ginger, grated

The Rest
1/4 cup olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 large sweet potato, peeled and cubed
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
1/2 head cauliflower, chopped (I usually use about 1 1/2 cups of cooked chickpeas instead, but I had to use my $1.00 Haymarket cauliflower)
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 medium or large eggplant, cubed
juice of 2 oranges
3 tbsp. golden raisins
3 tbsp. pine nuts, toasted (I usually use almonds, but didn't have any left)

Heat olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Add spice mixture and heat until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add onions, garlic, potatoes, and carrots and cook, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes. Add cauliflower and continue to cook for 3 minutes, then add pepper and eggplant and cook for 3 minutes more. Add orange juice, raisins, and pine nuts (add chickpeas with this step if using), heat until simmering, and cover, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes until vegetables are tender.

You can add a few handfuls of fresh or frozen chopped spinach 2 minutes before the end if you like.

Makes 6 generous servings.

This is delicious over couscous or bulgur wheat, but it wasn't in the cards today. The bonus is that it's delicious by itself and gluten-free if you don't put it on anything...or, you know, rice.