Sunday, January 31, 2010

Sunday brunch: Oh crepe

Homemade crepes with cranberry "preserves."

This is one of Giselle's favorite weekend breakfasts (though ideally it'd be served with some quality dulce de leche, which we haven't been able to find anywhere up north). These were again made with half white/half whole wheat bread flour. Hilariously, last time we made crepes we tried to use pastry flour, and were mystified when they kept falling apart as we tried to flip them. Based on today's success, this seems to be because the higher gluten content of bread flour helps the thin batter hold together better during cooking.

The cranberry "preserves" were made by cooking the remainder of our frozen cranberries into a sauce and sweetening to taste.

Try Giselle's family crepe recipe at home!:


Dry ingredients:
3/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp powdered or confectioner's sugar

Wet ingredients:
2 eggs
2/3 cup milk
1/3 cup water (this is for all-purpose flour; if you are using bread flour, increase to 2/3 cup water)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, or grated lemon rind, or almond extract

Whisk the dry ingredients together in one bowl, and separately blend the wet ingredients in another. Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour in the wet. Mix with a few swift strokes, being careful not to overmix. (It will be a little lumpy.)
Preheat a frying pan over low-medium heat and grease with a little butter. Add a small amount of batter, and then lift up the pan and tip it around in all directions so that the batter spreads out into a thin layer. Set it back down and wait until the top of the crepe looks dry. (E.g. when it stops glistening.) Then gently flip it over. Let it cook for about ten seconds, and then remove.

Serve by spreading on a layer of jam, lemon juice and powdered sugar, dulce de leche, or honey, and then rolling up the crepe. Sprinkle a little powdered sugar on top.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Saturday lunch: Sunshine soup

Cream of yellow tomato soup.

Faithful readers have seen this dish several times already - we can't stay away because it is so comforting and simple. The only difference here is that we used frozen yellow tomatoes from our winter CSA, so the soup has a sunshiney color.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Thursday: Heavenly Pizza

Homemade pizza with butternut squash "sauce," walnuts, green olives, ricotta salata and Pecorino Toscano cheeses, and fresh parsley.

We really can't say enough about how good this is. We got the inspiration from a few online recipes that used a roasted butternut squash puree as a pizza sauce, but from there we decided to improvise with the rest of the toppings.

The dough was made with our local half white/half whole wheat bread flour. This was the first time we'd made pizza dough solely with bread flour instead of all-purpose, and we found it drastically improved the texture, giving it that great chewy consistency that pizza crust should have. The flavor improved too: instead of just being a vehicle for the toppings, the crust itself was toasty and interesting.

One of our favorite butternut squash recipes is this pasta sauce, which also pairs the squash with parsley and tangy ricotta salata to cut its sweetness, so we decided to import the same flavor profile into this recipe. To make it more complex, we added a second cheese - the Pecorino, which contributed some pungency - some chopped walnuts for texture, and quality green olives for a salty kick.

This might sound like a lot of trouble for pizza, but actually if we had made the dough in advance and frozen it for later use, this would have been a remarkably fast meal. We already had frozen butternut squash puree from our winter CSA, but that's also the type of thing you could prepare in bulk and then freeze in individual servings for later.

Farmer's Market Supplement, 1/28/10

We've had to go without local dairy for the last week because the cows over at Milk Thistle and Ronnybrook Farms apparently haven't been producing enough milk lately. Luckily, those bovines now seem to have gotten their act together.


apples (Northern Spy and Golden Russet)
bosc pears

milk from Ronnybrook Farm
vanilla yogurt (they were out of plain!) from Ronnybrook Farm
bread from Buon Pane
apple cider

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Tuesday: Kasha with mushroom and chickpea

Kasha with mushroom and chickpeas, served with carrot-parsley salad.

What is kasha, you ask? Well, you may also see it called "toasted buckwheat groats," but somehow that doesn't have much of a ring to it. Like quinoa, buckwheat is actually not related to wheat at all, but rather is a seed that bears some resemblance to other grains. You might encounter it in gluten-free versions of products typically made with normal wheat - but we know it best as the main ingredient in Japanese soba noodles. Kasha has an earthy, nutty flavor that melds well with mushrooms, chickpeas, and lightly caramelized onions in this dish.

Thanks to our two CSAs, we currently have more carrots than we know what to do with. We made this quick carrot-parsley salad (in a simple lemon juice-olive oil marinade) to add some fresh veggie flavor and a texture contrast to the main dish.

Meanwhile, check out the gams on this carrot:

Monday, January 25, 2010

Monday: Pasta e fagioli

Pasta e fagioli - Italian tomato-based pasta and bean soup.

We improvised this particular variation on the classic Italian dish. First we sauteed one chopped onion and a couple minced garlic cloves in hot olive oil, then added about 24oz of frozen tomatoes from our CSA along with a can each of white and kidney beans, a cup or so of mezzi canneroni pasta (the type that look like small smooth tubes), and three or four cups of broth. For seasoning we added two bay leaves and a little dried oregano, although we'd have added more herbs if we'd had them. We let everything simmer until the pasta was cooked and the beans were heated through, then served with grated Parmesan.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Sunday dinner: It's CHOWDA! Say it right!!

Hake chowder with homemade biscuits.

This was our first time making chowder - and quite a success. Chowder always seemed to us to be one of those meals that can only be had at a restaurant. But of course it's been a staple in the Northeast for years in average homes. After making it, we can see why: there's no easier or more practical winter meal than a mix of long-storing potatoes, fresh-caught winter fish, and a little dairy.

In this recipe the fillet gets chopped before being added, but as it cooks the pieces fall apart, giving the chowder that characteristic creamy texture. (In fact, this recipe actually contains no cream - only milk.) We'd be remiss if we didn't mention that this is of course a New England-style chowder, not a Manhattan or Rhode Island-style, which are tomato-based. The long and sordid history of the battle between these two chowder factions is featured extensively in The Food of a Younger Land, and we highly recommend the book to anyone invested in the question.

Faithful readers might notice that these biscuits look a little different from those we made only a short while ago - these are made mostly with whole wheat pastry flour, with only a little half-white bread flour added. Using pastry flour, which has a much lower protein content, changed the texture of the biscuits markedly: they had a much finer crumb and denser consistency.

In the past we always used to use "all-purpose" flour, which has a medium protein content and is therefore pretty versatile. But lately we've discovered the wonders of fresh-milled local bread and pastry flours, which frankly taste a lot better. We've found there's a learning curve involved because the two types of flour act differently in recipes; to cook with them, you need to get a sense of when to use each one and how to adapt recipes to cope with the higher or lower protein content. For example, bread flour can hold a lot more moisture than pastry flour, so to get a similar batter you might need to add a lot more milk or water when using bread flour.

(And by the way, yes, you DO have to say "chowda.")

Farmer's Market Supplement, 1/24/10

Lizz picked up the supplement this week from the Columbia greenmarket. You may notice a first for us here: local fish purchased at the farmer's market! A few different businesses around New York own a couple boats, do their own fishing, and then sell their catch at the greenmarkets - we decided it was about time to give them a try since it's hard to find quality fresh fish in the city. Pura Vida fishes in Suffolk County and sells everything no later than the day after it's caught. We've heard good things about their use of sustainable fishing methods.

Yukon Gold potatoes

hake fillet (!) from Pura Vida Fisheries
apple cider
crimini mushrooms
maple syrup

Sunday Lunch: Something Old, Something New

Leftover gyoza dumpling and carrot-cabbage stuffing with fried rice.

With a few odds and ends left in the fridge from Friday's meal, we put together this quick lunch. Fried rice is a way to repurpose leftover plain rice, adding a little egg for protein and some ginger and soy sauce to pump up the flavor.

Book Review: The Food of a Younger Land

The Food of a Younger Land
Mark Kurlansky

(Find it in our widget at right under food nonfiction!)

Over the past couple months I’ve been slowly working my way through the excellent The Food of a Younger Land, a collection of WPA pieces edited into a volume by Mark Kurlansky (author of Cod and Salt: A World History), and now I’ve finally finished it. For anyone curious about what American food was like before the advent of fast food, frozen food, or 20th century cultural homogenization, this book is a fascinating peek into the past.

The book consists of excerpts written by the Federal Writers’ Project of the depression-era Works Progress Administration. The Writers’ Project employed everyone from serious novelists to people who had never published a word before, and it had offices in regions across the US. Much like the WPA project which aimed to document regional folk music of the time, the Writers’ Project conceived of a book entitled “America Eats” which would comprehensively treat what Americans ate, the folkways and customs associated with food, and the ingredients and wisdom particular to local food cultures. It was not only a work program meant to keep writers employed – like the other WPA projects, it reflected an interest in creating an American national identity, and it also stemmed from a fear that the local food cultures being documented were already too quickly fading into the past.

Unfortunately, “America Eats” was never actually completed. The WPA published many other valuable works, but the project was dissolved before the book about food could be put together. However, the WPA archives contain tons of material intended for this project, with submissions from around the entire US, and Kurlansky has excerpted what he considers the most interesting material to create this volume.

The book really reads like you’re personally leafing through a box of WPA files. The pieces are left raw, and are roughly organized into five regions: the northeast, the south, the “middle west,” the far west, and the southwest. Most states are represented, though not all, and some are more heavily represented than others – it all depends on how functional the various local projects were, and how much of interest they produced. Pieces might be brief descriptions of a local barbecue, just a single recipe, an essay about the typical cuisine of a particular area, or even a short story. Authors were told to concentrate on what made each locality’s cuisine unique, what foods they were most proud of, and what food “controversies” raged among the people (think: Manhattan vs. New England clam chowder).

The book is certainly a fascinating representation of how different American regional cuisines were from each other early in the past century. It was fascinating to me to see how much more of the Midwestern food I recognized as “traditionally American” than the food of other regions – even the Northeast, where I currently live. That’s probably attributable both to the fact that I grew up in the Midwest, as well as to the fact that many Midwestern foods were incorporated into the emerging “national” culture and cuisine of the 20th century, to the extent such a thing exists.

It was also a very different country at the time of America Eats – pieces reflect an inhospitable Maine where the people were so poor they might make “chowder” out of only potatoes, a highly segregated Jim Crow south, and a west where cowboys still lived for weeks alone out on the plains. Many pieces also document the foods of Native American nations, at least as understood by the America Eats authors. It’s notable that many of these pieces purport to record the American Indians’ “traditional” dishes, but by this time these peoples had already been pushed off of the lands where they traditionally lived, and their cuisines had surely changed as a result – thus the essay about Choctaw dishes in Oklahoma, when the Choctaw people were actually originally from the Gulf region.

There is a lot one could say about this book, but one thing that struck me was how many of the pieces were about huge public gatherings – barbecues, pay-admission picnics, annual sponsored holiday meals – where a community prepared its traditional foods. It’s hard to think of corresponding festivals like that today. In part that may reflect the fact that America is a less homogenous place than it used to be, but in part it also seems to reflect the loss of community that came along with the interstate highways and other modern transit, the increasing geographic mobility of the population, the influence of a national media and national food cultures, and other aspects of modernization.

Whether to indulge in a little nostalgia or to gain some insight into how people used to eat seasonally in your corner of the US (with hopes that we can begin doing so again today?) it’s worth picking up this fascinating book.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Friday: D4SA Dumplings

Cabbage-carrot gyoza dumplings with fried tofu and rice.

Another D4SA first - homemade dumplings. Gyoza are Japanese dumplings typically filled with pork and scallions, shrimp, or other meats. (Their Chinese incarnation is often called "potstickers.") Usually they're light-colored - ours are brown because we used the half-white flour we got this week from Cayuga Pure Organics. This isn't really a weeknight meal, but they're much easier to make than their cute shape might imply.


For the dough:

In a bowl, mix 2 cups all-purpose flour and 1/2 cup water. When it comes together, turn out and knead the dough on a floured surface for about 3 minutes. Then shape into a ball, cover with a damp towel, and let rest 10 minutes. After that, knead for 3 more minutes and then roll the dough into a long snake about one inch in diameter. Cut that roll into 24 pieces - each piece will make one gyoza wrapper.
For each piece, press it with your palm to flatten, and then use a rolling pin to roll it into a pancake about three inches wide. You can cut it with the rim of a glass if you want a nice round shape, but it's not really necessary.

For the filling:

Meanwhile, chop up one small head cabbage and a bit over half a pound of carrots. Cut the veggies very fine: the cabbage should be sliced thinly and should not be in very long strips, and the carrot should be cut into very thin, small sticks. (You just want them to be small enough to fit inside the dumplings easily!)
Heat peanut oil in a skillet, and when it's hot add the carrots and saute for several minutes until they have begun to soften. Then add the cabbage and saute for about one minute. Add four teaspoons soy sauce and two teaspoons mirin, and stir and fry for about five minutes, until the vegetables are wilted and melded together. (You could vary this by adding some grated ginger, crumbled tofu, toasted sesame seeds...etc.)

To make the dumplings:

Take a round of dough and place a little of the filling in its center. Fold the circle in half to surround the filling and gently pinch it closed at the top of the half-moon. Then (this is the hardest part) "pleat" the dough on one side of the half-circle to close the dumpling. This is hard to describe without pictures, so we recommend you check out this site to see how it's done.
From this point, the dumpling can be either steamed or pan-fried. We steamed our dumplings in a typical steamer basket for about ten minutes total. They have to be in a single layer in the basket, so it might take a couple batches to finish all your dumplings.

Friday cat blogging, home ec edition

Because idle paws are the devil's plaything, we brought home this cute little blue sewing machine for Oscar after Christmas.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Farmer's Market Supplement, 1/21/10

Although there's not much in the way of fresh veggies left, a few of the city greenmarkets remain open year-round. And even though we rely heavily on our winter CSAs at this time of year, we still supplement with items from the Morningside market. (It's usually not worth it to make the long trip down to Union Square.) You can get local eggs, milk and other dairy products, bread, dry goods, and apples - plus the occasional vegetable dug out of a root cellar.

kabocha squash


spelt bread from Meredith's Bakery
whole wheat sourdough bread from Buon Pane
half white flour from Cayuga Pure Organics
buckwheat honey

The half white flour from Cayuga Pure Organics is a mix of their white and whole wheat flour. It's a medium protein bread flour which is apparently known as "brown flour" in Europe.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Wednesday: Broccoli Breakthrough

Broccoli and feta "pesto" on whole wheat spaghetti.

Some vegetables are easy to incorporate into a main dish; broccoli, on the other hand, is one of those vegetables that doesn't play nicely with others. We usually serve it a side dish, which by definition means that we must also have a main dish. But here broccoli plays the starring role, blended with feta cheese and lemon juice to create a tangy but substantial "pesto" sauce for whole wheat spaghetti.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Tuesday: Blast from the Past

Quesadilla filled with black beans, Monterrey Jack cheese, bell peppers, and summer squash.

Over five years ago, when your humble bloggers were just learning how to cook, we considered a cheese quesadilla to be an impressive feat. Today we went back to our roots and made these quesadillas with veggies from our frozen CSA, plus black beans. Simple, but satisfying.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Monday: Cod Stew

Cod stew with olives and capers, and Pecorino cheese melted on baguette.

Although we cook fish a few times a month, we don't typically incorporate it into more complicated dishes. Usually we just bake or broil a fillet and then put it on a plate with two neatly separated piles of starch and vegetable matter. But it was high time to branch out, so we decided to make this tomato-based cod stew. We both love dried salt cold, known as bacalao (or baccalĂ , bacalhau, etc), which is also wonderful in stews, but here we used fresh fish.

This stew combines cod, tomato, olive, and capers with lightly floured and fried zucchini/yellow summer squash. (We used the summer squash from our CSA!) The recipe comes from The Silver Spoon, a classic Italian cookbook.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Sunday dinner: Pilaf party palace

Green bean and black-eyed pea pilaf.

A pilaf (or pullao, depending on where you're coming from geographically) is any dish in which vegetables are cooked slowly in rice. This can be done on the stovetop over very low heat, or in a sealed pot in the oven. We improvised this dish, in which frozen green beans from our CSA were mixed with sauteed onion, canned black-eyed peas, coriander powder, fenugreek seed, garam masala, and a little cayenne. Here we used two cups rice to three cups water, about the correct ratio if you want to replicate this in any quantity.

Sunday lunch: Roasted Root Vegetables

A winter favorite: roasted root vegetables.

This easily varied, super-simple recipe is something we make every winter when we find ourselves with odds and ends left in the fridge. It's a way to use up any hard root vegetables you might have on hand - that can include carrots, parsnips, turnips, potatoes, beets, sweet potatoes...etc. Don't mix in softer, summer vegetables because they will burn during the time the others need to cook through.

Here's the basic formula, from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything (D4SA required reading):

Roasted Root Vegetables

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, butter, or a mixture
1 1/2 - 2 lbs mixed root vegetables, peeled and cut into 1 1/2 - 2 inch chunks
several springs fresh thyme, or about 1 tbsp fresh rosemary leaves (optional)
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 head garlic, broken into unpeeled cloves (optional)
onion cut into quarters (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 425F.

2. In a large bowl, toss the chopped root vegetables in the oil and herbs with salt and pepper. Dump onto a baking sheet so that the vegetables are approximately in a single layer.

3. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes, stirring or shaking about every ten minutes.

4. If you are using garlic, DON'T include it from the start - instead, add it at the 30 minute mark. (If you add it earlier, it will burn.)

5. After 30 minutes, continue to check every ten minutes or so until the vegetables are done. It should take about 45 minutes to an hour total, depending on the size of the vegetables and your oven.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Saturday special: Muffins

It's hard to find a good muffin. They're often either way too dense, or sticky and sickly sweet. We whipped up some basic muffins with frozen cranberries left over from the holiday as a part of our Saturday brunch this weekend.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Friday: Kala Chana

Black chickpea-potato curry, served with watercress and garlic cucumber pickles.

Black chickpeas (aka kala chana) are relatives of the usual tan-colored variety, but they are a bit smaller and have more texture, along with a subtly more interesting flavor. In this dish they are cooked with potatoes in a sauce that starts with a base of pureed ginger-garlic-onion paste. They are seasoned with asafoetida, some spices, and several tablespoons of either tamarind paste or lemon juice. Here, we've served them with pickles. This is actually the way legume dishes are usually served in many parts of India, although the pickle would likely be something other than cucumber - perhaps lemon, watermelon rind, cauliflower, carrot, etc.

Friday cat blogging, defiance edition

Oscar thought he was being bad when he jumped into this box, but then seemed disappointed to realize that we didn't plan on kicking him out. He tried to salvage the situation with a nap.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Thursday: Step right up!

Frittata with bell pepper, zucchini and yellow summer squash, and pecorino cheese.

The frittata was nice, but that's not what we're here to talk about today. Get a load of the eggs below:

Yes - on top you see an egg that had TWO YOLKS. Two yolks, people! We understand more or less how that happened, but it's not something we had ever seen before. Kind of disturbing. Ate it anyway, though.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Wednesday: Pea shoots...and scores!

Artic char with stir-fried pea shoots on quinoa.

Pea shoots are the tips of young pea plants, which are snipped off in the spring to encourage the plant to continue growing. We were excited to see them in our Winter Sun Farms CSA, since we haven't made them before. In this stir-fry, they are briefly sauteed with garlic, sherry, broth, soy sauce, and sugar.

CSA haul, 1/13/10

From Merchant's Gate CSA:


pickled beets

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Tuesday: A late meal

Okra and chickpeas in tamarind sauce, on basmati rice.

This is a sweet-and-sour combination from Madhur Jaffrey's World of the East. It's a favorite winter dish of ours because it can be made with ingredients that we almost always have on hand: frozen okra, canned chickpeas, garlic, and tamarind paste. (The dish is even better with curry leaves, but sadly those are harder to come by outside of Queens.)

CSA haul, 1/12/10

From Winter Sun Farms this month:

butternut squash
red heirloom tomatoes
yellow heirloom tomatoes
broccoli florets
carrots (not frozen)


fair trade coffee

Monday, January 11, 2010

Monday: Watercress-Celeriac Soup

Watercress-celeriac soup with white bean and pecorino bruschetta.

We had a couple bunches of watercress left over from the tea sandwiches, and a few celeriac that weren't getting any prettier in the crisper, so we were pleased when we found this perfect recipe that combined the two. It's an unexpected pairing, but came out very pleasant and probably lighter than if something like potato had been substituted. We basically followed the recipe above, although we weren't too picky about the exact ratio of one veggie to another, and it still came out well.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Saturday: Tea Sandwiches

Tea sandwiches with several fillings: egg salad, smoked salmon-dill-caper, red radish, watercress, and marinated cucumber.

For a change of pace, this meal was almost entirely NON-local (with the exception of the egg salad we made, which included some local pickles from Rick's Picks, and the smoked Atlantic salmon). But Santa promised Lizz's parents some tea sandwiches, and tea sandwiches are what they got!

Tea sandwiches are generally made with very thin-sliced soft white bread from which the crusts have been removed, and usually contain mayonnaise. They can have many types of fillings, but we made a few classic ones. The radishes were sliced into slim rounds, salted and left to sit for twenty minutes or so, and then rinsed. This process removes a little of the bitterness and makes them crisp.

Our favorite may have been the cucumbers, which we marinated in this improvised manner: two medium-large cucumbers were peeled and sliced as finely as possible. Then we mixed together two minced garlic cloves, about four tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, the juice of one entire lemon, about 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne, and some salt to taste. The cucumbers were added, stirred in thoroughly, and left to marinate for maybe twenty minutes to a half hour. We stirred the mixture every once in a while; at first the liquid collected at the bottom, but it accumulated as the cukes marinated.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Friday: 15 Minute Biscuits (Plus Soup)

Cream of heirloom tomato soup with homemade biscuits.

We made this comforting cream of tomato soup with special out-of-town guest chef Tom. The soup was pretty straightforward, although it benefited from the delicious heirloom tomatoes provided by our CSAs.

We follow Mark Bittman's standard recipe for biscuits; they're surprisingly quick and easy:


2 c all-purpose or cake flour
1 scant tsp salt
4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
2 - 5 tbsp cold butter
7/8 c milk

1. Preheat the oven to 450 F.

2. Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl. Cut the butter into small pieces and then use your hands to rub them into the dry mixture until the butter is thoroughly blended in. (It might look a little like bread crumbs.)

3. Stir in the milk just until the mixture forms a ball. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead it 10 times - no more!

4. Press the dough into a 3/4 inch thick slab and cut into circles using the rim of a drinking glass. Place the rounds on an ungreased baking sheet.

5. Bake 7 - 9 minutes or until the biscuits are a beautiful golden brown.

Note: if you have yogurt, substitute it for the milk and reduce to 3 tsp baking powder.

Friday cat blogging, kitty detente edition

Vintage photo of Oscar meeting Pirlo (nee: Cowpie), when Pirlo was a foster kitty at D4SA.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Tuesday: Kinpira

Burdock-carrot kinpira* with green cabbage-egg stir fry, served on brown rice.

For those who may be uninitiated, burdock (sometimes labeled by its Japanese name, "gobo") is a long, thin brown root. It can be found at farmer's markets during the colder months, or in some pan-Asian grocery stores. It's an unusual vegetable, with a very earthy, almost herbal flavor. If you decide to try a burdock recipe, make sure to chop or shred it directly into a bowl of water, because it (enzymatically) browns very quickly in the air, which will adversely affect the flavor.

In this particular dish, the burdock and carrot are cut into shavings (a carrot peeler works best), then fried in a little oil. Soy sauce, sugar and red pepper are added and stir-fried until the liquid has almost completely evaporated. The final dish has a delicate, still slightly crunchy texture.

As for the other dish, we finally found another cabbage-and-___ recipe, this time with egg filling in the blank!

*According to our cookbook, "Kinpira" was a "strong and dashing mythical hero of old Japan." But you knew that already.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Sunday: Cabbage and Tofu

Green cabbage and tofu cooked in mirin-shiitake-soy sauce, on rice.

We confess that this humble Japanese dish sustained us through many desperate veggie-less winters, before we discovered the world of winter CSAs. Now that we aren't horribly sick of it, it's nice to have from time to time.

This was a standby of ours primarily because cabbage is one of the few vegetables that can be found in decent condition in almost any grocery store, and the strong flavors of mirin (a Japanese sweet cooking wine), soy sauce, and shiitake give the dish enough interest to make it a satisfying one-pot meal.

For any of our dear readers who are starting to crave something green, here is our version of the recipe, adapted from Madhur Jaffrey's World of the East:

Cabbage and Tofu

3 large dried shiitake mushrooms
1 package (14 oz.) firm or extra-firm tofu
1 small-to-medium cabbage (approx. 2 lbs, but doesn't have to be exact)
4 tbsp peanut oil (or other clear oil)
1 tsp salt
2 tsp mirin
4 tsp Japanese soy sauce

1. Soak mushrooms in 3/4 c hot water while you prepare the other ingredients.

2. Press the tofu to remove excess moisture. This can be done by wrapping the tofu in paper towels and resting something heavy, like a plate, on top.

3. Remove cabbage core and slice into shreds, about 1/4 inch wide.

4. Remove mushrooms from liquid, discard stems, and slice the caps into strips.

5. Heat oil in a heavy-bottomed pot (or wok, if you have one) over medium-high heat. When oil is hot, add the cabbage and mushrooms. (Depending on the size of the pot, you might have to add cabbage gradually.) Stir and fry for a few minutes until cabbage wilts.

6. Turn heat down to medium and crumble tofu into the pot using your hands. Also add the salt, soy sauce, and mirin. Stir and fry for another 4 - 5 minutes.

Serve over rice.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Saturday: Beet-kes

First D4SA dinner of 2010: Beet-kes (shredded beet pancakes) on sauteed rainbow chard.

Mark Bittman endorses latke-style shredded veggie pancakes made out of plenty of things other than potatoes. Here, we used part of our strategic stockpile of CSA beets. The beets were shredded on a box grater and mixed with shredded onion, one beaten egg, and a cup of flour. Then the mixture was formed into patties and pan-fried.

These came out really well - the texture was surprisingly light, and they retained the characteristic sweet earthiness of beets. We didn't have anything in the way of sour cream or soft cheese, which might have added something, but they went well with a glass of local milk. They also worked well as sandwiches, layered with a few anchovies.

The chard from our CSA held up remarkably well while we were out of town, although it needed a bath before use: