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.