Saturday, October 31, 2009

Saturday dinner: Roasted Root Vegetables

Quinoa with roasted root vegetables: sweet potato, white Tokyo turnips, and red carrots.

Roasted root vegetables are an extremely easy winter meal. Basically any combination of veggies like turnips or rutabaga, potatoes and sweet potatoes, carrots, parsnips, beets, etc, can be tossed in olive oil (with sage, rosemary, thyme or other mint-family spices if you have them) and spread onto a baking sheet for roasting. This is done at 425F for about 45 minutes to an hour - but the only assistance you need to give it is an occasional stir. Add a couple cloves unpeeled garlic for the last half hour so that it doesn't get too burnt.

Quick Saturday Lunch

Fried spiced chickpeas and roasted acorn squash.

This is a slightly odd pairing, but it made for a nice quick lunch. Sometimes we make fried chickpeas to supplement a meal that needs a protein: it's basically a quick curry. Just heat a little peanut oil in a skillet; add whole cumin seeds and let them brown; then add ground coriander and stir for a second; next add a can of well-drained chickpeas along with a little bit each of turmeric, cayenne, and amchur (powdered dried sour mango - use lemon juice to substitute). Then stir and fry the chickpeas until they are looking slightly crisp and are warmed through. They'll reduce a tiny bit in size when they're done.

These chickpeas are crispy and nice as a side dish or on top of a salad.

Farmer's Market Haul, 10/31/09

Yukon Gold potatoes
butternut squash (2)
ambercup squash
acorn squash
wild mustard greens
spinach (first of the year!)
purple carrots

apples - several varietals

Womanchego cheese from Cato Corner Farm
apple cider
milk from Milk Thistle Farm
yogurt from Milk Thistle Farm
whole wheat levain bread from Our Daily Bread
more red yarn from Catskill Merino Sheep Farm (that scarf isn't quite done...!)

Friday, October 30, 2009

Friday cat blogging, vintage cuteness edition

Cell phone picture of Oscar squishing himself improbably into a tiny space in the desk; circa 2006.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Thursday: Pasta reprise

Whole-wheat penne with cauliflower-anchovy sauce.

This is another of our standby meals for a weeknight when we don't have much time to cook.

(Can you tell we've been busy lately?)

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Wednesday: Weekday standard

Arctic char with quinoa and ginger/sesame Brussels sprouts.

The sprouts were blanched, then sauteed briefly with some ginger and doused with dark roasted sesame oil for flavor before serving.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Tuesday: Prettiest Root Ever

Lotus root korma, with coconut milk and cashew paste, on basmati rice.

A korma is an Indian dish with a creamy, nut-based sauce. This recipe was heavily spiced and extra rich due to its reliance on coconut milk - and it was delicious.

Our loyal readers may remember that D4SA's first encounter with the lotus plant was non-culinary in nature: we visited a few lotuses this past summer at the New York Botanical Garden. But we've actually cooked with lotus root a few times now. We find they're very versatile: they don't have a very strong flavor, but their most unique characteristic is a pleasing crunchy texture that holds up under cooking. They fit well in contexts that suit other firm, plain vegetables like jicama and potato.

Lotus roots themselves grow in a long series of segments - on the plant, they look like linked sausages. The links are sold individually or in pairs; for cooking, they are peeled and then sliced into rounds. The interior of the root naturally has a symmetrical pattern of empty chambers, resulting in the pretty lacy patterns you can see in the picture above.

You have the best chance of finding lotus root in fall or winter at Chinese or pan-Asian groceries; they also pop up in Indian grocery stores. We used to always find a bin of them caked in fresh mud (a good sign!) at a grocery in Boston Chinatown.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Monday: Something old, something new

Roasted sweet potato - with leftovers.

Sometimes it's best not to get too ambitious on a Monday. We decided to simplify by supplementing our leftover broccoli rabe dish with a whole roasted sweet potato - plenty flavorful on its own.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

PSA: Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire

Chestnuts are a lovely seasonal item that shows up at least a couple times a year at farmer's markets around here. They're dissimilar to other nuts due to their much higher sugar content and their soft, chalky texture when cooked; because of their natural sweetness, they are equally at home as either dinner or dessert. You can use them in many different types of recipes - like the rice we made, or a creamed chestnut soup - or you can just eat them out of hand. But often the first step is roasting them, so in honor of the coming holiday season we thought we'd give you a little tutorial here.

While we hear that you CAN roast chestnuts on an open fire, we prefer to do it in a hot oven. First, preheat the oven to 425F. Then set each glossy chestnut on its flat side and gently score an "X" into the round side with a knife. It is easiest to do this with a serrated knife, using a sawing motion - just pressing down on these slippery little nuts with a normal blade can be tricky.

Set the chestnuts in a single layer on a foil-covered baking tray, scored side up. Drizzle some drops of water on the chestnuts with your fingers - the exact amount isn't critical, but it'll help to keep them moist.

Place the tray in the oven and let the chestnuts roast for ten minutes. Then remove the tray and flip all the nuts so that their scored side is down. Replace the tray in the oven and let it go another ten minutes.

When the chestnuts are done roasting, they'll look a bit like the above: some of the skins will begin peeling off on their own. The meat of the nuts will be soft and somewhat flaky.

Now is the fussy part - peeling the chestnuts. Grab the skin of each chestnut at the "X" where it has already begun to peel and tug it off the meat. Sometimes the skins will fall right off, and some will need some assistance. So far we haven't found any reliable predictor of which it will be...

But when you're done, you'll have a bowl full of warm, golden, aromatic roasted chestnuts to enjoy!

Sunday: Seasonal Flavors

Warm spiced rice with roasted chestnuts and broccoli.

This recipe uses the traditional fall flavors of cinnamon and clove along with delicious freshly-roasted chestnuts. The warm spices draw out the natural sweetness of chestnuts even more.

These particular chestnuts are an Asian/American hybrid. Sadly, this country suffered a massive chestnut blight in the early part of the 20th century which basically wiped out native American chestnut trees, so you aren't likely to see real 100% American chestnuts around.

Farmer's Market Haul, 10/25/09

As Lizz had some Saturday obligations this week, we had to do our usual marketing on Sunday at the Columbia market:

amber cup squash
Brussels sprouts
sweet potatoes

apples (several antique varietals)
Niagara grapes

apple cider
natural gray yarn

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Saturday dinner: Broccoli rabe with Indian flavors

Indian broccoli rabe with tomato-flavored masoor dal and basmati rice.

This Mahanandi broccoli rabe recipe pairs the bitter greens with potato and peas - a common treatment of vegetables with a bite in Indian cooking. It makes sense: the potato adds starch and moderates the bitterness, and the peas add bursts of sweetness.

For a side dish, we made a little masoor dal. Masoor is a light pink legume when dry, though as it cooks it turns a pleasant warm orange. Because it is shelled it cooks very quickly - as little as fifteen minutes - so it can serve as a convenient quick protein for a vegetable-based meal.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Friday cat blogging

The humans here at D4SA had a seriously hectic week - but as you can see here, Oscar has been able to keep up with his strict regimen of relaxation.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Farmer's Market Supplement, 10/22/09

This week's supplement: yogurt from Ronnybrook Farm and cornmeal from Cayuga Pure Organics.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Wednesday: Weeknight cookery

Udon noodle soup with miso and wakame.

Just a quick and easy dinner in the middle of a very hectic week...

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Tuesday: An old favorite

Brussels sprouts and tofu with ginger and sesame, served with rice.

Brussels sprouts are one of those vegetables that every red-blooded American child knows that she's supposed to hate. And for years, I obliged. But now I realize that adults are just fostering that expectation in order to keep all the brussels sprouts for themselves. Well played, adults.

This is our favorite thing to do with brussels sprouts, and probably one of our all-time favorite recipes. The sprouts are boiled first and then thrown into a skillet with ginger and oil and tossed briefly with a honey-sherry-salt mix. Freshly toasted sesame seeds are sprinkled over the sprouts after they're taken off the heat. To make this a little more substantial, we usually pan-fry tofu slices in the oil before proceeding with the ginger and sprouts.

The recipe above comes from Elizabeth Schneider's "Vegetables: From Amaranth to Zucchini" (see our goodreads widget at right). We highly recommend this book - it's both an excellent reference and a reliable cookbook.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Monday: Fish photo fail

Catfish with collard greens and wild rice (photo unavailable).

We were too hungry to take a picture of tonight's dinner, so we had to go with the file photo above.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Farmer's Market Supplement, 10/18/09

From the Sunday Morningside Heights greenmarket: brussels sprouts (first of the year!), and apple cider.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Keeping it in the family

Tatsoi wilted with mustard sauce and miso soup.

This was our first time cooking with tatsoi, even though we've seen it many times before at the market. From a culinary perspective, tatsoi is considered to be a type of bok choy; taxonomically, that means it's another member of the Brassicaceae family.

This isn't the first time we've mentioned our Brassica friends (also known as cruciferous vegetables), and you might be wondering why we're so obsessed. It just happens that this prolific genus has produced some of our favorite vegetables:

kale, collard greens, chinese broccoli, cabbage, brussels sprouts, kohlrabi, broccoli, broccoli romanesco, cauliflower, mizuna, broccoli rabe, turnips, rutabaga, mustard greens, arugula, watercress, radishes (including daikon), wasabi

Mustard plants include species in both the Brassica and Sinapis genera, so the dish above is technically an all-Brassicaceae affair. Perhaps we should rename it "Brassica wilted with Brassica sauce." Perhaps not.

Saturday lunch: Fall Feast

Butternut squash braised with spices (from Madhur Jaffrey via Nate - thanks Nate!), turnip greens with roasted cashews in sesame oil, and cornbread.

We made the cornbread with local whole wheat bread flour, which in our opinion really improved the flavor and texture. We also omitted the canola oil that was in the original recipe (since Giselle has purged the canola from the house) and added an extra egg instead.

The turnips themselves are destined for another recipe later this week, but today we used their greens, which don't store very well. One nice way to add a little protein and bulk to greens is to throw in some roasted chopped nuts, so that's what we did.

These butternut squash were an AMAZING saturated dark orange color on the inside, as you can see in the photo of their innards below.

squash, deconstructed

They also provided the opportunity to make one of our favorite snacks - roasted winter squash seeds. This is a fun thing to do anytime you carve a pumpkin or make any variety of winter squash for dinner. First, pick out the seeds from the pulp and wash them in a few changes of water until they are fairly clean:

Pat as dry as possible with paper towels. There are a few ways to go, flavor-wise, with the actual roasting: one option is to stir the seeds with some olive oil and salt. Another is to stir them with a clear oil (we used peanut), some ground cinnamon, and a little sugar. Either way, next spread the seeds into a single layer on a baking sheet, and roast in the oven at 350F for about a half hour, stirring occasionally so they roast evenly.

cinnamon-sugar seeds

Farmer's Market Haul, 10/17/09

broccoli raab (or rabe - apparently both are correct)
Tokyo turnips
sweet pumpkin
winter melon
German butterball potatoes
cippolini and red onions

Reliance grapes
(let's be realistic, we still have a LOT of apples in this house...)

jar of cucumber pickles from Rick's Picks ("The People's Pickle")
milk from Milk Thistle Farm
sunflower-flaxseed bread from Our Daily Bread
goat's milk ricotta from Lynnhaven Farm
eggs from Flying Pig Farm
vegetable-dyed red yarn from Catskill Merino Sheep Farm
oyster mushrooms

Friday, October 16, 2009

Friday cat blogging, fail edition

This is the truth about cat photography: for every adorable picture of Oscar you see, we have at least two or three like this.

(In case it's not clear, Oscar was sitting in the recycling box looking cute. Briefly.)

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Thursday: Raddichio pasta

Spaghetti with octopus and slivered Treviso radicchio.

We recently made a pasta with mustard greens and goat cheese; this one is rather similar, although radicchio doesn't have quite the same bite as mustard greens do.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Wednesday: Om gnom gnom

Whole-wheat purple potato gnocchi with heirloom tomato sauce and sauteed squash blossoms.

This was a bit of a fuss for a weeknight meal, but the results were worth it. We haven't made gnocchi from scratch for probably four years now, so it was about time. They aren't actually technically difficult to make: you just steam potatoes to soft, then mix with flour and one egg and knead till you have a dough. You then roll out the dough and cut into small lengths; finally you drop each piece (gnoccho?...) into boiling water and let it cook until it floats to the top, at which point you fish it out. So, as you may guess from the above, the real problem with them is that they're a bit time-consuming. (Plus you still need to make a sauce to go with them, after all that!)

This is also the first time we've used squash blossoms in anything but our standard fried blossom recipe. They were tasty this way - soft and zucchini-like in flavor.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Tuesday: Mahanandi's "hoppin' john"

"Indian hoppin' john" from Mahanandi.

We both love mustard greens and are always tempted by them at the market, but sometimes have trouble finding dishes that can handle their potency. Although we've never made the Southern recipe this is based on, we really liked Mahanandi's take on it.

This meal incorporated a tomato that had many an admirer during its time on our kitchen table. We wanted to share it with the rest of you, our faithful readers:

Most amazing tomato ever

Monday, October 12, 2009

Monday: Simple Pasta

Penne with anchovy-tomato sauce.

Well, tomato season is winding down...which means that this is probably the first dish we've posted in which we used canned tomatoes.

Our modern conventional food production system does allow grocery stores to stock "fresh" red field tomatoes year-round, but after you've had real local heirloom tomatoes it is just impossible to go back. Canned tomatoes make a more acceptable substitute for many types of dishes, including pasta sauces. We usually buy canned whole tomatoes as opposed to the chopped-up or pureed ones. In the wintertime, we occasionally get canned or frozen heirloom tomatoes in our CSA share, which is even better.

This dish is one of those easy weeknight dinners that takes under half an hour, start to finish, and we tend to make it as a fallback meal when we don't have a lot of time or energy. Frankly it takes about the same amount of time to do an easy pasta as it does to order a pizza...

Sunday, October 11, 2009

PSA: Applesauce and Apple Butter

Hello, faithful readers! Today we have a tutorial on how to make two fall favorites, applesauce and apple butter. The great thing about both of these products is that they can be frozen. You can make one big batch of applesauce in the fall when apples are cheap, and then divide it into plastic containers and freeze; it will last all winter. They can be defrosted overnight in the fridge.

To make applesauce, start by peeling and coring the apples. The exact amount doesn't really matter - you can make as much as your pot will fit.

Then cut the apples into slices, and dump them into a large pot (one with a thick bottom will work better). You can add as many apple slices as will fit in the pot. Add enough water so that it covers the bottom; you only want it to be about an inch deep, regardless of how many apple slices you have in there. The apples don't need to be submerged.

Cover with a lid and put over high heat until the water comes to a boil. Then lower the heat to let it simmer. Pretty soon the apples will start to break down - you can help them along by occasionally stirring or mashing a little with a wooden spoon:

Once they are looking fairly broken down, add some spices. We usually use cinnamon, allspice, ginger powder, and a little nutmeg. Some people like to use ground cloves, as well. Stir in the spices and watch the apples turn a nice golden color:

Keep stirring occasionally and cooking the sauce over low heat with the lid on. It's not too hard to tell when it's done because at that point it looks like applesauce!

That's right, there is no pureeing or anything else complicated involved - the apples do it all themselves. Thanks, guys.

At this point you can stop and either serve the applesauce or allow it to cool before putting it into tupperware and freezing. But if you are feeling adventurous and have a lot of time on your hands, you can continue onward in pursuit of apple butter...

Apple butter, for anyone who's not aware, is a delicious form of preserves. It's sweet and spreadable, and usually is sold by the Amish. Just like jam it is suitable for preserving in jars if you go through the proper sterilization process and use plenty of sugar - but if you want to do it the easy way, just eat it within a week or two, or freeze it for later use.

To continue on to apple butter, turn the heat on your stove down to as low as possible. (If you have a small burner, use that one.) Re-cover and keep cooking for a long time - it may take a few hours total. As the apple butter cooks the color will darken - that is the sugar caramelizing:

I'm not going to lie to you, faithful readers - apple butter is laborious, because you have to stir increasingly frequently as it gets closer to being done. The apple butter will thicken and will stick to the bottom of the pan, so you have to stir every few minutes and be sure to scrape the bottom repeatedly. This is a good task to do if you have something else going on and you can run back and forth between them. (Luckily, nowhere in our apartment is further than fifteen feet from the stove...)

You can tell when the apple butter is nearly done because it will greatly reduce in volume, and it will start to stiffen. When you scrape it off the bottom, it will keep its shape, like so:

When it is fairly dark in color and has a spreadable consistency (like soft butter) you can call it done.

Enjoy on a piece of toast or - yum - fresh cornbread.

A birthday apple-picking adventure

This year, Giselle wanted to celebrate her birthday by engaging in hard manual we went apple-picking with a few friends. Our destination was Fishkill Farms in Dutchess County, NY. The drive up was quite nice - the leaves are starting to turn colors outside of New York City - and Fishkill Farms itself had a lovely view of distant mountains:

vegetable garden with apple orchard in the distance

Before heading out to the orchard, we admired a roving herd of cheese pumpkins:

yes, they are named that because they resemble giant wheels of cheese

We also visited the farm's chickens, who proved more difficult to photograph than the pumpkins, because they refused to stand still:

chicken, this was your best shot

Eventually we commenced with the hard work of picking (and sampling) a variety of apples: Macoun, McIntosh, Mutsu, Empire, Spartan, and Jonagold. Here are some gentle, apple-loving folk enjoying the beautiful fall day:

not pictured: Nykki, Charlie, Lizz

After our bags of apples got too heavy to carry, we dropped them off at the car and made a quick stop at the pumpkin patch before heading out. Apparently there's a pumpkin shortage in some parts of the country, including the Northeast - so we decided to stock up:

Then we drove back to Harlem with 25 lbs of apples in tow:

It turns out that's a lot of apples:

What to do with 25 lbs of apples? Well, we reserved a few pounds - mainly Macs, Spartans, and Empires - for eating out of hand. We used the Mutsus (the large green tart apples above) in an apple crisp and then made applesauce and apple butter with the rest. Stay tuned for more on that...

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Saturday Dinner: Frittata for Two

Red Russian kale-sweet pepper frittata.

Frittatas are less exotic than they sound - they're sort of like baked omelet/quiche hybrids. They don't require many ingredients, and can be filled with cheese and/or vegetables. (Most veggies should be sauteed or blanched before being added.)

For this frittata, we blanched the kale for a couple minutes and sauteed the peppers until soft. Then we mixed the veggies with six beaten eggs. Next, on the stove we heated a little oil in a skillet that can be put into the oven. Then we poured in the egg-vegetable mixture. We let it cook undisturbed on the stove for about ten minutes on medium-low heat. Finally, we transferred the entire skillet to an oven preheated to 350F. A frittata should bake for 10-20 minutes, until the top is no longer runny.

Saturday lunch: Salad days

Tasty salad of sucrine lettuce, baby swiss chard, Kirby cucumbers, green heirloom tomato, chopped walnuts, sliced Bosc pear, and chevre. (Pictured in front of a little bit of fall bounty.)

We dressed this salad with a drizzle each of olive oil and champagne vinaigrette, and served it with some multigrain bread and a glass of apple cider.

Farmer's Market Haul, 10/10/09

We must both be craving leafy things, because we went a little crazy on the greens this week...

sucrine lettuce
baby rainbow chard
Red Russian kale
Treviso radicchio
heirloom tomatoes
butternut squash
squash blossoms
wild mustard greens

Lakemont green seedless grapes

chevre (soft goat's-milk cheese) from Lynnhaven Farm
milk from Milk Thistle Farm
eggs from Flying Pig Farm
multigrain bread from Our Daily Bread
decorative squashes
multicolored "Indian corn" (We needed some fall decorations!)

Friday, October 9, 2009

Friday cat blogging

Congratulations to last week's three caption contest winners, Carl, Laura and Kaya! You have all won........yet another picture of Oscar!!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Thursday: Birthday dinner

Very simple late-night birthday dinner: roasted acorn squash with melted cheese, served with broccoli and quinoa.

We know, we know...not too exciting, but law school respects no birthday, and Giselle wanted an easy dinner after her court visit, client interview, and evening class. More exciting birthday activities will follow.

Farmer's Market Supplement, 10/8/09

This week's supplement: milk and yogurt from Ronnybrook Farm, eggs, broccoli, and apple cider.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Wednesday: Mid-week masala

Veggie masala with coconut milk and lemongrass, served over basmati rice.

We adapted this recipe from an okra masala in a very crunchy Asian vegan cookbook - okra may be done for the year, since we couldn't find it at the market this week, but we had plenty of broccoli Romanesco left over. We added potato to the recipe, as well, since we had some fingerlings lying around. Back by popular demand, special guest chef Laura (not pictured) assisted with prep.

This is only our second time cooking with lemongrass. It smelled amazingly potent and fresh:

The main flavors in this recipe are the large amount of fresh ginger and lemongrass sauteed at the start, and the can of coconut milk added at the very end, which creates a thick, creamy sauce. We also adapted it a bit by adding some spices we thought would mesh well - a small amount of fenugreek and mustard seed, and a bit of turmeric and cayenne.

Observant readers might note that peas are NOT in fact in season - we confess, we used frozen peas, and in fact we almost always do when peas factor into our cooking. Fresh peas are delightful, but their season is very short, and let's be honest, they're kind of a pain to shell. Frozen peas are one of the few veggies whose quality is quite acceptable. In fact, peas flash-frozen at the right point of ripeness can be just as good as fresh peas that are a bit past their prime.