Friday, April 30, 2010

Friday: Springtime feast

Sauteed pom pom mushroom and roasted asparagus over couscous.

"Pom pom" mushrooms, technically the hericium species, are a cultivated variety also known as bear's head or Pompon Blanc. These little creatures are truly bizarre: instead of having gills like many other mushrooms, they are spongy globes covered all over with a layer of downy "fingers," giving them a texture (and capacity for absorption) reminiscent of terrycloth:

Roving herd of pom poms

The mushroom man advised us that the pom pom's flavor is similar to that of lobster or other shellfish, and that they're substitutable for the fish in seafood recipes. We elected to do a simple sautee in butter for our first try. Our only advice after our first pom pom experience: don't rinse them first. We did, and they seemed to remain a little waterlogged even after we tried to drain them.

We'd be remiss if we didn't also mention that this was our first asparagus of the year! One of our favorite treatments for asparagus is a simple roasting in the oven at 450F with a little olive oil and salt. If they're good quality and fresh, that's really all they need.

For dessert, in keeping with the springtime theme we cooked up a little stewed rhubarb:

I'm melting! What a world, what a world...

We just sliced it thinly and then simmered with a very small amount of water and a good amount of sugar. It was tasty on yogurt, though some worthy alternate serving suggestions are to use it as a topping for pancakes, crepes or ice cream...

Friday cat blogging, nocturnal edition

Would someone please turn off the sun so that Oscar can get a decent afternoon's sleep?

Farmer's Market Supplement, 4/30/10

Special extra visit to the Union Square Friday market today - it has a different mix of stands than Saturday's market, and is a bit smaller, but Giselle made an expedition just to visit Bodhitree farm, source of the best eggs in New York City.

asparagus (first of the year!!)
garlic (new, not overwintered!)

eggs from Bodhitree Farm
pom pom mushrooms

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Thursday: Where's the chicken?

Polenta with braised maitake mushrooms and parmesan, served with sweet-spiced carrots with chickweed.

What would we do without Elizabeth Schneider's Vegetables: From Amaranth to Zucchini? We don't know. Both of these recipes come from her book, which is always our go-to source when we encounter a wholly new veggie (or fungus, as the case may be). Chickweed, another foraged spring green, has a flavor reminiscent of cornsilk when raw, but it wilted into a mild, chewy mass when mixed with simmered carrots, ginger powder and allspice. It was traditionally given to chickens, who apparently like it - hence the name. Maitake, also known as "hen of the woods," has a meaty - even gamy - flavor and aroma. Here it was braised with garlic, rosemary and sherry, and used as a topping for soft polenta.

(We suppose the use of chickweed and hen-of-the-woods mushroom makes this a chicken-themed meal, despite the lack of actual chicken.)

As a belated celebration of Giselle's last-EVER day of law school classes, we cracked open this pretty bottle of dandelion wine:

Bottle of wine, fruit of the dandelion

Giselle has been curious about dandelion wine for years, ever since reading the Ray Bradbury book of the same name. It really is made with dandelion petals, mixed with sugar, a souring agent, and some other substances which assist in fermentation. (As the man at the Chateau Rennaisance stand told us, "it takes a lot of flowers.") Dandelion wine did not disappoint: it was lightly herbal but not over-sweet like some fruit wines can be, and not at all flowery. It was more similar to a mildly sweet white grape wine than you might think.

Farmer's Market Supplement, 4/29/10

Just milk from Ronnybrook today. Now you know.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Tuesday: A not very nettlesome soup

Barley-nettle soup with chives, topped with Parmesan.

This was our second go with nettles, and another success. Nettles are traditionally wilted into soups, and after seeing how well they held up to sauteeing last week, we understood why. We loosely based the soup on this recipe, but it's not really rocket science - it's a very basic veggie and grain soup. Here, we thought the nettles had a more spinach-like taste than they did in the stir-fry, where they tasted more herbal and reminded us a little of black tea.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Monday: It's not delivery, it's D4SA!

Homemade pizza with mozzarella and sunflower sprouts.

Pizza made from scratch on a Monday night might have been a challenge, but Lizz whipped up the dough early in the morning so that it could rise in the fridge during the day. With the dough already made and a jar of tomato puree from Norwich Meadows Farm at the ready, this wasn't a difficult meal. The sunflower sprouts, which were new to us, really do taste a bit like sunflower seeds. They were pretty strong raw, but mellowed when baked.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Sunday: Just a fluke

Broiled fluke with baby mustard greens and quinoa.

Back to our usual fish meal, though the lovely mustard green mix from Monkshood Nursery livened things up a bit.

Farmer's Market Supplement, 4/25/10

Largeish supplement today:

baby mustard greens salad mix

rhubarb!! (ok, not technically a fruit, but is treated as one)

fluke from Pura Vida Fisheries
milk and yogurt from Milk Thistle Farm
maitake mushrooms

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Farmer's Market Haul, 4/24/10

celeriac (celery root)
sunflower sprouts
burdock root
stinging nettles

whole wheat sourdough bread from Our Daily Bread

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Wednesday: D4SA fusion night

Idli with stir-fried pea shoots in garlic-black bean sauce.

Idlies are small, steamed South Indian cakes made from a fermented rice and lentil (urad) batter. As you can see from the picture, they have a spongy texture which is perfect for sopping up sauces and chutneys. They also have a pleasant, slightly sour taste. In some parts of India they might serve as a breakfast food.

We had been hoarding some idli batter ever since our recent trip to Jackson Heights, but hadn't decided what to pair it with. We finally settled on this odd combination - the pea shoot recipe is actually Vietnamese. It was a great excuse to use the black bean sauce that Lizz impulse-purchased not too long ago at M2M. We don't know the current status of diplomatic relations between India and Vietnam, but these two dishes got along quite well!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Tuesday: Another new veggie

Japanese-influenced soup of burdock greens, barley and mushroom.

We improvised this soup as a vehicle for another veggie that is new to us - burdock greens. Burdock root (Japanese "gobo") is a long, brown taproot with an earthy flavor. This is the first time we had seen the greens for sale. Apparently, during the plant's first year of its two-year life cycle, the young greens and stems are soft enough to be edible. The stems just need a little peeling to remove any fibrous skin. We paired the greens with two common Japanese ingredients - barley and mushroom - and flavored the soup with garlic and soy sauce.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Monday: Where the wild greens are

Whole-wheat spaghetti with anchovies, Parmesan, and wild Italian arugula.

This is yet another simple pasta based around an interesting-tasting green. Like a few veggies faithful readers will have seen on the blog lately, some wild arugula is a foraged green, albeit one with a familiar cultivated relative. However, according to Elizabeth Schneider's Vegetables: From Amaranth to Zucchini, a cultivated form of "wild arugula" has been introduced. We're not actually sure which one we have. In either case, the taste of wild arugula is not too different from that of its better-known relative - maybe a bit spicier. Wild arugula has thinner stems, much smaller leaves, and a darker color.

The arugula in this recipe is briefly sauteed to tame its heat and then folded into the pasta. A small amount of the raw greens made a nice garnish.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Sunday dinner: Pollock frolic

Pan-fried pollock on quinoa with kale.

Here's a D4SA take on fish-and-chips quinoa.  The pollock was dredged in flour before shallow-frying, and since pollock is related to cod, it had that familiar firm but flaky texture.

Farmer's Market Supplement, 4/18/10

Today's small supplement: pollock from Pura Vida and crimini mushrooms.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Saturday lunch: Grasping the nettle

Stir-fry of stinging nettles, ramps, carrots and chickpeas, served over basmati rice.

We've seen nettles at the market over the last year or two, but we've been too intimidated to try them out - until now. Yes, they really are "stinging" nettles - if you brush against the leaves, you will get a painful sting which can linger from hours to days. According to Wikipedia, these little leafies have micro-needles which inject you with formic acid, serotonin, histamine, and a couple other nasty chemicals. Luckily, mincing (VERY fine), sauteeing, soaking or boiling the leaves destroys the chemicals that cause the sting. Humans must have figured that out pretty early on, because nettles are a rather ancient food: they are useful as yet another veggie that appears early in the season when few other things are ready for harvest.

We swiped this recipe idea from the excellent food politics blog La Vida Locavore. It's simple - which is what we wanted for our first nettle experience. You may be wondering how one prepares nettles, given that you can't touch them without being stung. The answer: latex gloves. No, seriously.

Nettle leaves separated from inedible stems

It sounds like a lot of trouble to wear gloves just to prep some greens, but these guys were really worth the fuss. They have a deep, interesting flavor once cooked (when raw they smell haylike), and they retain a pleasantly chewy texture even after sauteeing.

Farmer's Market Haul, 4/17/10

stinging nettle
pea shoots
garlic (this was "take your chances garlic," overwintered from 2009...but 6 for $1)
burdock greens
wild Italian arugula

milk from Milk Thistle Farm
yogurt from Ronnybrook Farm
mozzarella from Tonjes Farm
dandelion wine from Chateau Renaissance

Friday, April 16, 2010

Friday cat blogging, profile edition

Oscar is ready for his closeup.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Thursday: On a Ramp-age

Macaroni and cheese with sauteed ramps.

This is just our typical mac and cheese recipe - quick-sauteed ramps made a sweet, oniony side dish.

Farmer's Market Supplement, 4/15/10

Today's supplement: yogurt from Ronnybrook Farm, bread from Buon Pane, cheddar cheese from Millport Dairy, and some apples.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Wednesday: Sorrel-ramp pesto

Sorrel-ramp pesto.

You might be unaware, faithful reader, that sorrel is a leafy green had you only encountered it on our blog last year. Thankfully our improved camera can do justice to the beautiful, bright parrot green color of this early spring veg.

Although we used to think that pesto was synonymous with basil, we've come to realize that any leafy green with a strong flavor can serve as the base of this sauce. Here, we take advantage of the bright, tart flavor of sorrel. Since basil pesto typically includes a few cloves of garlic, we instead threw in a handful of ramps, which added another complex but not overpowering flavor. A quarter cup or so of walnuts and a half cup or so of grated Parmesan were the final ingredients. Delicious.

P.S. Speaking of pesto, if you haven't seen this recent article by Harold McGee on the great cilantro debate, you might want to check it out. Apparently it was cilantro, not basil, that served as the base of "traditional" Mediterranean pesto!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Tuesday: Ramping up

Ramps scrambled into eggs.

Meet the ramp:

Ramp: faithful reader. Faithful reader: ramp.

These lovely alliums are a wild relative of the leek. Each spring, they pop up on the banks of riverbeds up and down the east coast, especially in the Appalachian region, where they hold the honor of being the traditional harbinger of spring. Here, as we alluded to in our most recent greenmarket post, they are the traditional harbinger of foodie mayhem. Ramps have become a favorite of chefs and marketgoers in the last few years, especially since their season is very short - only a few weeks.

The funny thing about ramps is that they apparently refuse to be cultivated. They like to grow in forest climates, but once the trees are in full leaf, it's too shady for the ramps. People have tried to transplant them to gardens, but they just don't like that climate as much, and they will not grow well. Luckily, they're very common in eastern deciduous forest regions, so many of the farmers at our market go on ramp-gathering expeditions and sell buckets of the things in the spring along with their other cultivated goods.

Ramps are a pretty mild allium: like other members of their family, they have a light oniony taste, but they also have a hint of garlic and an overall distinctive flavor. Since they're relatively small, they cook up quickly - the broad green leaves are also edible and can be wilted in separately from the white bulbs.

From what we can tell, ramps and eggs are a popular combination, so that's where we started with this new veggie. After sauteeing the ramp bulbs, we briefly tossed in the greens, and then added beaten eggs and stirred until they were scrambled to a fine grain.

Monday, April 12, 2010


Potatoes with whole spices and sesame seeds and mung dal.

You might be saying, "But, faithful bloggers! Doesn't mung dal look more like this?" Well, on our recent Jackson Heights shopping spree we picked up this pack of mung dal, which was missing its green hulls and which had a brighter yellow color overall. To be honest we have not been able to sort out what's going on there, but they are definitely skinless, and maybe something has been done to change the color (like a light roasting). Regardless, they have a slightly less distinctive but definitely still tasty flavor, they're a bit quicker-cooking, and they have a creamy texture since they're lacking their skins.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Sunday dinner: Sea Scallops

Pan-seared scallops on watercress served with couscous.

Another D4SA first, brought to you by the good folks at Pura Vida Fisheries: sea scallops. As we'd been stopping by the fish stand at the market recently, we'd been noticing a bin of "big" looking scallops as well as a bin of "small" looking scallops. When we finally investigated, it turned out that these were actually two different creatures. The sea scallops are rather larger, and the smaller ones were "bay scallops," around here mostly fished in the Peconic Bay on Long Island. They apparently have a slightly sweeter flavor.

We were intrigued, so we decided to try bay scallops first - but unfortunately, we seem to have missed the window of opportunity. Around here, their season is about November to early April. Something good to keep in mind for next winter...

Sea scallops, on the other hand, are pretty plentiful and are available year-round. So we quickly pan-seared these guys, doused them in a lemon-thyme dressing, and served them over some fresh spring watercress.

Farmer's Market Supplement, 4/11/10

Just a nano-supplement from the Columbia greenmarket today: sea scallops from Pura Vida.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Farmer's Market Haul, 4/10/10

Behold: the fruits of our triumphant return to the Union Square Greenmarket for the very first time this spring!!

...Ok, there aren't really any "fruits" yet, but the earliest spring greens appeared at the greenmarket this week and we got up nice and early to make sure we'd snag a few.  The ramps, in particular, caused quite a scene, with market-goers pushing and shoving to grab a bunch of this wild allium, traditionally celebrated as the first harvest of spring.


alfalfa honey
Aged Bloomsday cheese from Cato Corner Farm
milk and yogurt from Milk Thistle Farm

Welcome back, springtime!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Friday cat blogging, unflattering edition

It's not really his best angle.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Farmer's Market Supplement, 4/8/10

Simple supplement this week: whole wheat bread from Meredith's Bakery and a few apples.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Wednesday: Frittata frittata bo bata banana fana fo fata fee fi mo mata....

Bell pepper and Parmesan frittata with wild rice.

Giselle has an evening class on Wednesdays this semester, so this is just a quick dinner which is easy to make with our frozen CSA peppers.

However, it is NOT easy to play "The Name Game" with the word "frittata"......just FYI.

CSA haul, 4/7/10

This was our final Merchant's Gate CSA distribution, and in fact our final winter CSA of the year!  Hooray!  Now we just have to make it last until the farmer's markets are in full swing...

carrots (5 lbs...)

maple yogurt
pickled red sweet peppers
maple-pecan granola
5 lb of half-white bread flour

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Tuesday: These are a few of our favorite things

Karela pulao (bitter gourd and cashew curry).

Three amazing new entrants to the D4SA universe are featured in this meal: bitter melon, curry leaves, and jaggery.  We've used these ingredients many times, but for some reason they haven't made it onto the blog until today.  (Apparently we haven't been shopping in Jackson Heights frequently enough in the past year...)

Bitter melon (also called bitter gourd or karela) is one of the weirder vegetables you may ever encounter.  In this country, it comes in two common varieties: the Indian, smaller and bumpy version, which is dark green and might remind you of a crocodile, and the Chinese, larger and smooth type, which is a lighter green and looks something like a puckered cucumber.  Its most important characteristic is its flavor: a shocking, strong and fascinating bitterness which is utterly unlike the flavor of any other food.  (The closest analog might be the taste of quinine in tonic water, but even that is a pretty impoverished comparison.)  In both of our experience, the first time you try a taste of bitter melon, the flavor spreads through the mouth and seems totally overpowering.  That first bite must trigger some kind of reaction in the brain that renders subsequent encounters permanently less intense.  The next few times we cooked bitter melon after that fateful first taste, we still had to select recipes that include methods of dulling its flavor, such as draining it using salt and turmeric.  But these days we could eat plain sauteed bitter melon and not find it overly strong.  We're not really sure why the human brain would experience bitter melon this way, but we promise you have to try it to believe it.

Curry leaves are less dramatic, but they are one of our favorite food flavorings.  We don't have them as often as we'd like, so we pick them up every time we see them.  Apparently they're a Mediterranean member of the lettuce family, but they have a potent, spicy and complex flavor that plays a role more like bay leaf when added to a dish.  (Note: don't confuse curry leaves with curry powder, which doesn't contain any of this leaf, and is instead a widely varying mix of ground spices.) This is the characteric flavor of many South Indian dishes, which can't really be replicated with any substitution.

Finally, jaggery is just palm sugar.  It's sold in a large brown block, and pieces can be broken or grated off for use.  Like molasses, it has its own totally distinctive aroma in addition to being a sweetener.  We ran out of jaggery quite a while ago and had been using brown sugar as a substitute, which is acceptable, but this recipe made us remember how much flavor we had been missing by doing so.

That was all quite a mouthful for describing a simple pilaf (regionally known as pulao, pillau, paella, etc).  This Mahanandi recipe may be pretty easy to put together, but your three new BFFs above are more than enough to make it totally distinctive.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Monday: Pale Green Things

Methi chole (fenugreek and green chickpea curry).

Lizz's parents visited us in New York this past weekend, and since they had a car, we took advantage of the opportunity to stock up on Indian groceries in Jackson Heights.  In addition to two gigantic ten-pound bags of Lal Qilla brand deradunhi basmati rice, tons of dal, and a block of jaggery (more on that later), we brought home a lovely harbinger of spring: fresh green chana in their shells! 

These little guys are only available in the springtime at Indian grocery stores, though the frozen and shelled version is widely available.  They are fresh, only partially mature chickpeas, and they grow in cute little pods that look like green peas:

Also like peas, they have a "green" note and a slightly sweet flavor, and cook very quickly - more like a fresh vegetable than like a dried legume. 

This recipe pairs the chana with fresh methi - fenugreek greens.  These are the greens of the same plant that gives us fenugreek seeds (the source of fake maple sugar flavor, and a frequent component in curry powders).  The flavor of methi is hard to describe, but the greens are noticeably fragrant and herbal - in fact, the dried version is used as a flavoring in some other Indian dishes.  We highly recommend trying them out if you've never had them: they're easy to wilt into vegetable or legume dishes of many kinds.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Friday cat blogging, things that are not pillows edition

AC/DC computer adapter: not a pillow. 

This has been another edition of "things that are not pillows."

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Farmer's Market Supplement, 4/1/10

butternut squash


milk and yogurt from Ronnybrook Farm