Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Wednesday: Almond joy

Yellow cauliflower with roasted almonds and cranberry beans, served with quinoa.

We adapted this recipe from a Chinese one in Madhur Jaffrey's World of the East, substituting cranberry beans for lima beans (which Giselle has refused to eat since infancy). It's a very quick preparation, in which pre-cooked cauliflower and beans are stirred in oil with a little garlic and ginger, and then sherry is added in. But what really makes the dish is the first step, in which you fry almonds in the oil you will use to cook the vegetables. Who knew almonds could taste like that??

Incidentally, if you're wondering why those little purple beans are named "cranberry," you should check out how they look before being cooked:

Last year a farm came to the market which sold several other types of shell beans (beans sold fresh in their inedible pod), and we got to try a couple, but unfortunately this year cranberries are all we can find. If anybody knows where in New York you can score a couple other types of shell beans, please let us know.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Tuesday: Octopus fried rice

Fried rice with octopus, plus roasted acorn squash (not pictured).

Somehow, over five years of cooking, we've never until now attempted fried rice. That's rather silly, considering that it is not too difficult: just saute garlic, ginger and scallion in oil, then add cooked rice and stir for a few minutes; next, pour two lightly beaten eggs into the center of the rice and continue stirring until the egg scrambles throughout. We added tinned octopus to this dish, as well as soy sauce to flavor.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Monday: Dal, with special guest chef

Toor dal with tomato and green beans.

As the seasons change, the menu here at D4SA changes in turn: here we have the first dal of the fall. In brief, dal refers to any of a number of split lentils in Indian cuisine. As anyone who has seen the dal shelf at our apartment surely knows, that number is rather large. We typically make a lot of dal in the wintertime, as it's a bit too heavy for the heat of summer, and green veggies aren't as easy to come by in the colder months. Stay tuned to learn more about the universe of dal...

This particular dish is toor (sometimes called toovar/tuvar/arhar) dal - which is actually dried, split yellow pigeon peas. It's flavored with mustard seed, lemon juice, brown sugar (jaggery if you have it), cayenne, fenugreek, cumin, turmeric, ginger, and cilantro.

Our enthusiastic guest sous chef Laura chopped the green beans precisely to specifications.

Laura, with the fruits of her labor

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Sunday: Yellow dinner

Sweet corn on the cob and yellow tomato omelette.

We swear we didn't make the whole meal yellow on purpose...

Farmer's Market Supplement, 9/27/09

An extra Sunday supplement this week, due to the abbreviated Saturday marketing: "cranberry" shell beans, Jonagold apples, green and white acorn squash.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Saturday: Unattractive but delicious dinner

Mashed purple potatoes and "lentil loaf."

Ok, this dinner is, in fact, ugly. (Nykki saw it, looked concerned, and inquired whether I was eating play-doh.) But we've really been struggling with incorporating mashed potatoes into our mostly-vegetarian diet. Mashed potatoes go well with steak, fried chicken, pork a meat and they make a good side. But if you're not eating a chunk of protein, what to pair it with?

Our latest attempt at a complement was this vegetarian "meatloaf" substitute, which incorporated brown lentils, red quinoa, grated carrot and ginger, bread crumbs, and a little tomato paste. The recipe is linked to above, though as you can see we made a few substitutions. The result was one of the denser foodstuffs we've ever encountered, but honestly I think it might be superior to the food it was replacing...and it did go well with the potatoes.

Farmer's Market Haul, 9/26/09

Poor Lizz had to go marketing all alone this week, because Giselle was knocked out by the presumed swine flu.

purple potatoes
sweet corn
green beans
orange cauliflower
Kirby cucumbers

Concord grapes
small watermelon

whole wheat sourdough bread
eggs from Flying Pig Farm
Brigid's Abbey cheese from Cato Corner Farm

Friday, September 25, 2009

Friday cat blogging

We tried to make Oscar go to boxhab, but he said no, no, no.

Friday: Cousa soup, special swine flu edition

Simple soup of Cousa squash, tofu and tomato.

We know we've been doing a lot of summer squash-tomato soup recently, but a warm soup sounded good to Giselle when she was sick, and those cute little Cousa squashes were begging to be used. Since we only had a little fresh tomato left, we actually flavored the broth of this soup by using tomato paste - not a bad method when you just want a tomato flavor to permeate your dish. We recommend buying tomato paste in tube form, which is how it's typically sold in Italian shops. Though you can buy it in little cans in every grocery store, it's hard to use a whole can at once, so the tubes make much more sense storage-wise.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Thursday: Red beet pasta

Penne pasta with red beet, rainbow chard, and walnuts.

The world of pasta sauces is truly vast: this is another of our favorite non-tomato-based options. We usually use goat cheese rather than walnuts, but it's good both ways.

Chard, for anyone unaware of this fact, is actually a variety of beet grown for its big, glossy leaves rather than for the root. For that reason, chard and beet greens are more or less interchangeable. (When we buy beets with nice-looking greens, we just use the beet tops in this recipe.)

Farmer's Market Supplement, 9/24/09

This week's supplement: red beets, rainbow chard, mini Cousa squash, and bread.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Wednesday: Cranberry bean soup

An improvised late-summer soup of zucchini, red and yellow carrots, "cranberry" shell beans, tomato and scallion.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Tuesday: Fractals for dinner

Roasted arctic char with broccoli Romanesco and brown rice.

Romanesco is a rather amazing-looking member of the Brassica family, growing in a fractal-like spiral pattern:

For preparation, you can use it basically like cauliflower, although the flavor is different. This is not to be confused with broccoflower, yet another ambiguous Brassica family member which resembles a green cauliflower.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Monday: rustic fall dinner

Roasted Carnival squash with white bean croquettes.

Last time the croquettes appeared on this blog, they were done with ginger, garlic and soy sauce as flavors. This time, we switched it up and used scallions and a pinch of allspice.

Roasted squash is a winter standby for us - some types, like butternut, fall apart and therefore are only suitable for soups or purees, but acorn and similar types can be halved, roasted and eaten from the shell:


Cut the squash in half and scoop out the seeds and pulp (a grapefruit spoon works well). Salt the squash.
Cover a roasting pan or tray with foil and grease it slightly. Place the squash halves in, cut side down.
Pour about 1/2 cup water into the pan around the squash halves (that's just to keep things humid as they roast).
Bake at 400 degrees F for 40 minutes.
Then pull out the pan, flip the squashes to cut side up, and grate in a little of your choice of cheese. Replace in the oven just long enough for the cheese to melt.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

D4SA Dhaba

Sunday night dinner: Aloo chaat.

Chaat is a category of Indian "snack" food that has many different variations. It typically includes cooked potato and chickpea (usually black or green chickpea, though we used normal ones today), a yogurt sauce, a tamarind sauce, cilantro, and various spices which generally include cayenne and black salt. In India, it's a street food - but here you can find it at some small Indian sweet shops. If you're in Boston, we recommend the chaat at the cafe in the back of Shalimar in Central Square; in New York, Rajbhog Sweets in Jackson Heights is a good bet.

The chaat we made basically followed the above formula, though we also threw in some chopped heirloom tomatoes for seasonal flavor. Yummmm.

Farmer's Market Haul, 9/20/09

We made a quick trip to Philly this weekend, so we missed the Saturday greenmarket in Union Square. Luckily, there are CENYC greenmarkets all over the city, including one at 115th near Columbia on Sundays. We stopped by there on our way home to pick up enough veggies to last us until Thursday.

Romanesco broccoli
Carnival winter squash (first winter squash of the season!)
cranberry (shelling) beans
yellow heirloom tomatoes

purple plums
Gala apples

chocolate milk from Milk Thistle Farm (they were out of regular! we swear!)

Friday cat blogging

Oscar reminds you that some ultra-plush toilet paper is produced from old-growth forests. The cheap stuff is good for the earth, and good enough for him!

Thursday: Mispoona Two Ways

Buckwheat noodles, mispoona, and radishes with tart tofu-mispoona dressing.

Mispoona is a cross between mizuna, a Japanese mustard green, and Tatsoi, another brassica family member. This was our first time cooking with it.

In this recipe, mispoona greens are blended with soft tofu, lemon juice, and lemon zest to make a sour, bright-green dressing. The remaining mispoona is chopped coarsely and used as a bed for the soba (Japanese buckwheat) noodles. Radishes and sesame seeds act as garnishes. Interestingly, although red radishes are relatively spicy on their own, they are completely tamed by the tofu-based dressing. (Dairy seems to have the same effect.)

Most importantly, this recipe provides an opportunity to show off our stacking pyrex bowl set. Here's the mise-en-scene:

Farmer's Market Supplement, 9/17/09

This week's supplement: red radishes, scallions, cilantro, and sourdough bread.

Wednesday: homemade mac-and-cheese

Macaroni and cheese.

Homemade macaroni and cheese was probably my favorite meal as a kid. A few years ago, however, when I first proposed the idea of mac-and-cheese for dinner, Giselle looked horrified. In her youth, mac-and-cheese had meant that fluorescent orange gooey stuff that came in a blue box - but I think she's come around.

Although this isn't something you'd want to eat every night, it's a reliable and satisfying staple meal for us. The trick is to use good cheese - if it's not good enough to eat straight, you shouldn't be cooking with it. The preparation is just a classic Bechamel sauce with melted cheese. The sauce is poured over pre-cooked macaroni and dusted with paprika, and then the casserole is baked at 350 F until golden and bubbling.

If "just a classic Bechamel" means nothing to you, dear readers, do not fear. We'll elaborate more in a future post.

Tuesday: Tofu Jalfrezi

Tofu jalfrezi (tofu with bell peppers and tomatoes).

This is another Mahanandi recipe. It might be more traditionally made with paneer (the soft Indian cheese), but in a lot of Indian recipes, tofu actually makes an admirably good substitute for paneer. We sometimes make saag tofu when the idea of making paneer from scratch feels too daunting.

Monday: Beet with anchovy

Beet with anchovy, beet greens, and roasted Yukon Gold potatoes.

Even to two anchovy lovers such as ourselves, beet and anchovy initially sounded like a strange combination. But there's something about the sweet richness of the beets and the saltiness of the anchovies that really works. Little other than a clove or two of garlic and a simple olive oil-vinegar dressing is required.

You can make this dish with any type of beets, but this week we used Chioggia, little candy-striped pink and white beets with a more delicate flavor. We suspect these particular Chioggias might have been a little too near the golden beets out in the field, because they looked suspiciously yellow-tinged...

Yet more uses for summer squash

Usually there is a point at the end of the summer at which zucchini plants completely overrun the garden and overproduce their veggies, and everyone in the family gets sick of eating summer squash for dinner and desperately tries to give it away to neighbors. In any case, I recall that generally happening when I was growing up. Given our small New York apartment we don't have a garden nor the problem of overproducing zucchinis, but in honor of this summer tradition we decided to buy a bunch extra and make some good old-fashioned zucchini bread.

I imagine you can make this with other kinds of summer squashes, though I haven't ever tried - basically all quickbreads just call for adding a cup of grated, squeezed squash to the regular ingredients. This adds flavor and also moisture to the bread. You can make carrot bread, apple bread, and others in the same way.

Sunday lunch: Micro-coddled squash

Micro-coddled Pattypan squash with leftover eggplant salad with sesame dressing and baba ghanoush; yellow carrot sticks for dipping.

We had a few too many summer squashes, so we decided to reserve the two mini-Pattypans. Luckily we found this ridiculously cute recipe to use them in. First the Pattypans are cooked in the microwave until the flesh is tender enough to scoop out. Then a few slices of cheese are placed in the hollow, and an egg is cracked in. The squashes go back into the microwave for a few minutes, just until the egg white is solid.

We don't use our microwave for much except making tea, so this recipe was uncharacteristic for us, but it worked well. We've heard that some people make scrambled eggs in the microwave, so maybe that shouldn't have been a surprise...

Saturday dinner: Penne with summer squash

Penne with summer squash, tomato and parmesan. (And check out what the smoke did in the picture!!)

We got a nice assortment of summer squashes:

It was a very simple pasta recipe, but fresh and satisfying. Like most pasta sauces we cook, this recipe started with onion and garlic, but instead of chopping them up and starting with a saute, this recipe called for them to be halved, placed in the oil and allowed to sizzle gently for a few minutes. This gave the dish a different, less-developed onion flavor.

For dessert: Kefir-peach smoothies.

We bought kefir from Tonjes Farm at the greenmarket last week, on a whim. We did not, at the time, actually know what kefir was. As it turns out, kefir is a dairy product made with cow, goat or sheep's milk, which is inoculated with a specific culture and allowed to ferment. The resulting drink is somewhat like yogurt, but with a cheesier flavor. We didn't like it much plain, but blended with peach and some sugar it made a good smoothie. Like many things we eat, the recent macrobiotic craze has apparently been a boon for kefir, so if you keep an eye out you may find it at a grocery or farmstand near you.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Saturday lunch: Baba ghanoush

Baba ghanoush (roasted eggplant dip) with pita and mixed baby greens salad.

We still had one eggplant left from last week's market, so we made this dip in order to use it right away. Incidentally, we ended up having to make our own tahini paste by grinding white sesame seeds because we turned out not to have any.

The baby greens mix, though not from Yuno this time, was pretty amazing:

We recognized spinach, purslane, baby Red Russian kale, nasturtium flowers, and possibly arugula - but we haven't ID'd the other seven specimens yet.

Farmer's Market Haul, 9/12/09

Chioggia beets (cute little beets with pink-and-white-striped insides)
"crookneck" cucumbers
mispoona (a mild Asian mustard green)
summer squashes (long yellow, small Cousa, and both white and dark green Pattypan)
red and yellow bell peppers
heirloom tomatoes
Yukon Gold potatoes
baby greens and edible flowers salad mix
red carrots
Cippolini onions
Rocambole garlic

little mixed pears (Asian pears, round green pears, and small green-and-pink pears)
2 small red watermelons
Champagne grapes

cranberry-pecan sourdough from Our Daily Bread
milk from Milk Thistle Farm
yogurt from Ronnybrook Farm
2 unsalted butters from Ronnybrook Farm
"Vivace Bambino" cheese from Cato Corner Farm

Friday cat blogging, back-to-school edition

Oscar would like to apologize for the long intervals between blog updates: now that law school is back in full swing, he has been too busy briefing cases for Giselle to update the blog every night.

Farmer's Market Supplement, 9/10/09

This week's supplement: heirloom tomatoes, Ronnybrook farm milk, eggs, and peaches (not quite ripe yet).

Thursday: A variation on a favorite

Raw tomato-cilantro sauce on quinoa.

We had thought of doing our usual raw pasta sauce (another good meal for a busy weeknight), but then realized we had no basil. Fail. Luckily, we found a bit of cilantro in the depths of our crowded produce drawers, and decided it could substitute well as the dominant herb in this dish. This was simple, but quinoa has a nice complex flavor, so it came out well - it's hard to go wrong with any tomato dish when you start with amazing tomatoes.

Wednesday: Summer kale

Arctic char, brown rice and curly kale.

We tend to semi-consciously avoid kale in the summertime - like collards, they're one of the few leafy greens available deep into wintertime, and both actually are better in the colder months. But rules are made to be broken, right?

Tuesday: Yogurt with chickpeas and tomato

A quick-and-easy weeknight meal: Madhur Jaffrey's yogurt with chickpea and tomato.

This dish reminded us of chaat - in particular, the chaat made at Punjabi Dhaba in Cambridge, MA. What is chaat, you ask? Stay tuned...

Monday: "Anchovied" eggs

Wax beans Hungarian-style and "anchovied" eggs.

Wax beans look like yellow "green beans," but they taste different:

No, these are not french fries

The world of fresh beans has always been kind of confusing to us - apparently, all "string" or "snap" bean types are just baby versions of the "common bean," Phaseolus vulgaris. Anyway, this recipe called for an interesting preparation: first you trim and boil the beans separately. Then you saute onion, parsley, and garlic in butter, and then add flour to make a light roux; you thin that with stock or water and then simmer until it's the consistency of a sauce. We seasoned with smoky paprika, some minced dill, and a little bit each of sugar and lemon juice. The beans are tossed in the sauce to coat.

"Anchovied" eggs are Mark Bittman's cutesy name for deviled eggs made without the mayonnaise and with some chopped-up anchovy and olive oil mixed in. Being anchovy devotees, we like them better than the normal version.

Sunday night: Mexican dinner party

Not pictured: Richard

After enjoying the purslane with potatoes in green sauce that we made last week, we decided that we needed to make the most of tomatillos while they were in season. This led to the decision to re-make a delicious roasted tomatillo salsa that we first made last summer. But of course, salsa needs something to go on, so we decided to make chiles rellenos (stuffed poblano chilies). This called for making rice - which of course must be yellow rice, which we didn't have but decided we could make - and of course beans. That inspired us to try out the "frijoles borrachos" (drunken beans) recipe we'd been mulling over for quite a while. ....Needless to say, partway into this ambitious endeavor we realized it was time to have an impromptu dinner party.

Frijoles borrachos are beans slow-cooked with Mexican beer, along with other seasonings. We used some black beans that we got from our CSA last winter but never quite got around to:

The tomatillos were a multicolored bunch - mostly green, but with some yellows and purples. For the salsa, they're put under the broiler until the skins are blackened (this can also be done in a cast-iron skillet), then skinned and blended with jalapenos, onion, and garlic (all blackened as well). Roasting brings out a completely different flavor from tomatillos than does boiling, as in the purslane dish we made last week.

Here are the chiles rellenos being....relleno'd:

Ok, our dinner involved a lot of blackening - these were blackened and skinned as well, then de-seeded and de-veined, and stuffed with cheese for a final bake. Lizz's hands burned for the next 24 hours from touching the chili veins, but it was worth it.

Once we had invited people over, we realized it would probably be a good idea to have a drink to serve them. Ambitiously, we decided to make horchata, the delicious Mexican rice drink. The recipe we followed called for pulverizing some rice, then soaking it in water with a stick of cinnamon, and then blending it in several stages while adding water. Finally it gets strained and sugar is added to sweeten. It came out pretty well, although probably a finer mesh strainer would have given it a better texture.

Meanwhile the salsa and beans simmered away:

Though we used to buy it in premixed packets, yellow rice isn't honestly too hard to make: you start with white rice and cook it with a generous pinch of saffron, some cumin, some garlic powder (if you have or like garlic powder), and a coloring agent - usually annato seeds, but turmeric works too.

Our friends Manasi and Richard kindly brought over a batch of freshly-made guacamole, as you can see here:

It was quite a spread...if we do say so ourselves.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Sunday Japanese Lunch

Eggplant salad with tart sesame dressing and cold soba noodles.

One of my favorite things about eggplant is its unique flavor and texture - it doesn't quite taste like anything else, and it often doesn't seem identifiably plant-like at all. In some dishes, the texture is reminiscent of meat or mushroom. This is one such dish where you might be hard-pressed to identify the main ingredient, despite the simplicity of the preparation. The eggplant is simply peeled, cut into matchsticks, and blanched for 3 minutes, then tossed with a ground white sesame-vinegar-tamari-sugar dressing.

As we've mentioned before, eggplants just love to hybridize, and it can sometimes be difficult to determine which varietal you've got. Here's the green and white beauty we picked up yesterday:

The pattern and color are reminiscent of the small, round Thai eggplants, sometimes called brinjals in Indian groceries - but, at over a pound, it's too large to be one of those. It's probably a hybrid or close relative.

Saturday night: red okra

Spiced okra and tomatoes over herbed couscous, with a glass of "Bittersweet" cider from Eve's Cidery.

This red okra actually dates from last week's greenmarket - we just hadn't gotten a chance to cook it until now. It held up very well in storage. Isn't it beautiful?

Okra is in the mallow family, which means it's related to hibiscus, cotton, and cocoa, and it probably originally comes from Ethiopia. This is the first time we've ever found red okra, which is a less common varietal than its green sibling. The pods are a beautiful lime-green on the inside, and though much of the color is lost in cooking, they do keep a reddish tinge.

This particular dish uses a Middle Eastern flavor combination: vinegar, cinnamon, parsley and mint. Like many okra preparations, it relies on an acidic ingredient - here, tomato - to cut the "gooey" texture okra has naturally.

Three colors of heirloom tomato, chilies, and white onion

Here the okra is chopped and braised in a deep pot with minced chilies; then the tomatoes, onion, and vinegar are added and allowed to simmer until the dish has a saucy texture. It's served over couscous which has been tossed with chopped mint and parsley.