Tag Archives: Vegetables

Not-Waffles

Even those of who enjoy cooking at home regularly are trying to have a little more fun with it these days. Sometimes this means comfort food. Sometimes this means gourmet dinner preparations. Sometimes it’s a cross between Survivor and Chopped. And since we can’t invite each other over for dinner, the next best thing is sharing photos of our kitchen accomplishments. And, often, trying to make each other laugh.

And sometimes it’s all of these things at once.

Witness the story of Tot-waffles.

I don’t know the creator of the Tot-waffle, but I do know that our friend V heard about this culinary innovation and went straight to hi freezer. And became the envy of all the others, as the Coolest Dad Ever. To be sure, this is a guy whose waffle-iron game is strong: at every community-theatre potluck his Broffles (brownie batter baked in a waffle iron) are the dessert descended upon with the greatest delight. To be further sure, this is a guy whose engineering skills are unparalleled among our friends. He’s the one who hacked his espresso maker with a water supply hose so he’d never have to refill the reservoir, and who 3D-printed a larger hopper for his coffee grinder so he wouldn’t run out of beans in the morning.

So of course he made Tot-waffles. And Sriracha-maple ketchup to go with them.

I don’t like Tater Tots all that much and even I wanted one of those waffles.

But we have no Tots. They’re not something we buy.

But we have science. And potatoes. And a subscription to The New York Times. And wouldn’t you know, there was a recipe for Tots.

Simple enough, really. Parboil potatoes; shred them on a box grater or food processor; add some salt, garlic powder, and cornstarch and mix gently (you don’t want mashed potatoes); form into little nuggets; fry very briefly; cool, then bake to finish.

Mark Bittman’s recipe said to leave the skins on; I didn’t, because I was working with some older potatoes that were pretty wrinkly. I added a little paprika, too.

She proclaimed the Tots the Best Thing in the History of Ever. I’ll take that with a grain of salt; she had worked late and hunger is, I know, the best sauce. But I liked them, too. In fact, if this is what Tots taste like, then I like Tots. No waffling about it.

Don’t Stew About It

One day it’s sunny and bright, the next grey and chill—in other words, March. While we were in Antigua a couple of weeks ago, it seemed to rain every night, overnight, leaving everything fresh and clear in the morning. I like that idea but don’t know how to get our climate to adopt it. These days it’s hard to be sure we know anything.

I am pretty sure, though, that on a damp, cool day we’re going to want something comforting and warm for dinner. With two hours of video that I needed to screen for work playing in the background, I could come up with something.


Don’t-Stew-About-It Stew

Put a film of oil in the Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Set the oven to 350F. Open the window a crack so the smoke detector doesn’t get fussy. Sprinkle cubes of beef chuck with salt and pepper. Working in batches so the pot doesn’t get crowded, brown the beef on all sides.

Deglaze the pot with a little stock. Roughly chop lots of vegetables: lots of carrots; a couple big, fat onions; plenty of celery; a few cloves of garlic. Add a bit more oil to the pot and lightly brown the vegetables; give them a little salt to help draw out moisture from the onions. Make a little well in the middle of the pot and sauté a couple tablespoons of tomato paste, then stir to distribute it among the vegetables.

Add the beef back to the pot, atop the veg. Sprinkle with a couple tablespoons of flour. Put the pot in the oven for 10 minutes or so to lightly brown the flour.

Remove the pot from the oven and stir in a couple cups of stock and a cup of red wine, salt and pepper, some thyme, a little paprika, a couple bay leaves. Put the lid on the pot, return the pot to the oven, and walk away.

Finish watching the stupid video. Take the quiz, passing it a perfect score and the knowledge that you would have scored just as well without watching the video. Don’t stew about it. The house is starting to smell wonderful. Go for a run and shower afterwards; there’s plenty of time.

After a few hours, check the beef. When it’s just shy of falling-apart tender, lower the oven temperature a bit and put the pot back in without its lid so the sauce can thicken a bit. At the last minute, warm a couple of serving bowls in the oven. Serve the stew in warm bowls, topped with a little chopped parsley, along with some nice, crusty bread.


No need for a cookbook, no need for exact amounts or fretting over lacking ingredients. Just a cutting board, a Dutch oven, a sharp knife, and little confidence that, though there’s a lot I can’t control and even more I can’t predict, there will be dinner.

And probably some leftovers. It’ll probably rain again tomorrow.

Not Quite Breakfast for Not Quite Dinner

Painted in Waterlogue

There was a package of smoked salmon in the fridge. I guess that’s not tremendously unusual; it’s the sort of thing we have from time, not quite a staple and not quite a splurge. She bought it, I guess, when her mom came to visit, and they hadn’t eaten it. I didn’t have a lot of time to cook, so a protein I didn’t have to defrost had pretty strong appeal. What did not appeal, however, was serving it for breakfast with bagels and cream cheese. I like the idea of bagels and cream cheese and smoked salmon, but smoked fish is just too fishy for me in the morning.

But it was 4 in the afternoon, I had to leave for rehearsal shortly, and breakfast had been a long time ago.

While I cooked some linguine, I flaked the salmon into a bowl. I chopped a bunch of cilantro and a bunch of dill and added them. I chopped some capers and added them. Thinking I might be on the verge of too-salty, I saw some appealing-looking grape tomatoes on the counter; I halved and added them to the bowl.I very lightly steamed a few spears of asparagus, sliced them into quarter-inch rounds, and added them, too. We had cream cheese, but I left it in the fridge in favor of some mozzarella I roughly cubed.  I made a quick vinaigrette from a teaspoon of dijon mustard, a bit of the caper brine, and a couple tablespoons of olive oil, gave the bowl a generous grind of black pepper, and tossed everything to coat. When the noodles reached al dente, I scooped them into the bowl; some of their starchy cooking water came along, as intended. I tossed the pasta with its fishy-cheesy-herby condiment–too chunky to call it “sauce,” I think.

The heat of the noodles softened the cheese and tomatoes and warmed the salmon and herbs without cooking them. But the dressing wasn’t so cold as to turn the pasta into a salad. It was like a bagel with cream cheese and smoked salmon, but in a bowl. Fresh, bright herbs; sweet tomatoes; soft, creamy cheese; briny, hearty, yet delicate fish; this dish had a little of everything.

I called down to the office. “Dinner is served,” I said. “Or lunch, or whatever this is.”

Whatever it was, we enjoyed it a lot.

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It is So Green by the Side of the Road

Painted in Waterlogue

There’s a farmer’s market held in each of the villages around here, each on a different day of the week. My rehearsal call on Friday wasn’t until mid-afternoon, so I had a little extra time. I put on running clothes, grabbed a tote bag, and my wallet and keys, and drove to Egg Harbor.

The market there is tiny, as befits the tiny park in which it’s held. Winter was severe here, and it’s been a late spring. Not much has grown to harvest yet. Photographs on offer in one booth caught my eye; I chatted for a while with the merchant, a poet (her sweetheart is the photographer; his work illustrates her books). I bought a scone baked with rhubarb from the garden of another vendor. I passed on the meats at two stalls; even with the Refrigerator Down the Hall, their portions were too large. Somebody was selling maple syrup, but I haven’t been in the mood for pancakes. Somebody was selling fabric goods—some stuffed toys, and some hanging hand towels fashioned to look like sundresses.

The last booth had some freshly harvested greens—“Spicy Asian Mixed Greens,” the label read. “They’re a little bit spicy,” the vendor said, in case I’d missed the label. She said they were okay to use as a salad, but would be even better braised. That sounded good to me. I paid and thanked her. Juggling my keys, phone, and wallet, not all of which would fit neatly in the small pockets of my running shorts, I put the greens in my tote along with the scone, and put the bag in the car.

The little park overlooked the Egg Harbor marina, so I walked down to take a look at the water. It was a spectacular day, maybe the first day that hinted at summer. But there wasn’t much sidewalk near the marina—certainly nothing to run along—so I backtracked, checked the grocer across the street to see if they had the tea I wanted to stock for her visit—7 days 10 hours 45 minutes from, not that I’m counting. There was plenty of tea, but she’s particular, and none of her favorites were there.

I started for home, deciding to run on the trails in the park rather than try to find some not-too-busy route in Egg Harbor. I finished and, tired and happy, drove back to my home-away-from. Inside, getting ready for a post-run shower, I realized I’d left my tote in the car. I trotted back out to get it, reached in and found the scone.

No greens.

I trotted back to the parking lot; maybe they’d fallen onto the floor of the car.

No greens.

They’d fallen, all right, but not in my car. They were somewhere between the farm stand and where I’d parked the car, very likely dropped while I was juggling my keys and phone and wallet and tote bag.

I had the scone for breakfast this morning. It was okay, though not really good enough to be worth its price andthe price of a bag of Spicy Asian Mixed Greens, neither tossed in a salad nor braised.

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What didI do for dinner? I finished rehearsal and went to the grocer—there were some other things I needed. I bought some chard and a bunch of radishes. I washed the radish greens and chard and braised them along with a sliced onion, a dash of soy sauce, some sliced mushrooms, and a couple cups of chicken stock. I sliced a leftover chicken thigh and, while it warmed (and its cornmeal breading crisped a little) in a skillet, I tore some a few strands of linguine and let them heat through with the braising greens. It wasn’t quite soup, it certainly wasn’t a pasta dish; it was a bowl of vegetables with some bits of noodle and chicken. It was exactly what I’d wanted, and completely different than I’d planned. And it was so green.

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New Year, New CSA

I’m lounging in bed on a lazy Saturday morning, listening to the chirps of young birds and looking out the window at the baby leaves of a maple tree and the last blossoms of a yellow forsythia bush. I’m so grateful that spring has arrived; I love the winter, but part of that love is in knowing that it ends. And this year, spring is not just in the yard and outdoor parts of our life, but on our plates: yesterday was the first pick-up day for a new-to-us CSA!

We’ve explored many CSA options over the last several years – Simpaugh Farms from West Suffield, CT last year with a weekly delivery to a nearby farmer’s market; Norwich Meadows Farm from Westchester, CT two years ago with home delivery every week; and when I lived in Manhattan I supported Windflower Farms from Valley Falls, NY (right down the street from where my Nana lives) for years – they had a share delivery directly to my neighborhood.

This winter, I saw a post for The Hickories on Instagram, and was over the moon with excitement; this beautiful farm is just 12 miles from our home.  They use hoop and green houses in addition to fields so their growing season is exquisitely long and the CSA shares run from the end of April through Thanksgiving, and include a wonderful variety of vegetables, fruits, herbs, preserves, and pick-your-own crops. Members collect shares every week directly from the farm stand, which is attached to the sheep barn!

Yesterday I visited the farm for the first time. After a 28-minute drive through beautiful winding roads, I met Farmer Laura and the baby lambs – the little nibbler in this photo came over to the fence to greet me and lick my hands.

Inside a barn a small white lamb nibbles hay. In the foreground, two brown lambs and one white lamb rest.

Lambs!

After spending some time with the wooly friends, Laura brought me back into the farm stand room and showed me how collection works. I signed myself in for the week, and brought my giant canvas bag to the wall of CSA produce bins to collect our share:

  • I weighed out a half-pound of beautiful spinach leaves
  • Collected a bag of freshly picked and washed arugula
  • Gathered a bunch of bright Hakurei turnips
  • And another of lovely scallions
  • Was introduced to a bouquet of kale raab
  • And chose a beautiful jar of salsa verde

Yesterday’s share newsletter was a wonderful education in raabs: these are the first new growth of bolted brassica plants (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, etc) each spring, and are entirely edible! I’ve eaten broccoli raab but had never seen it or any other growing; since my bunch still had a few flowers attached, I cradled it like a bouquet.

In years past, figuring out how to store our veggies was a big part of share day, but now that I’m using The Jar Method of prepping and storing the produce that comes into our kitchen, it was nearly effortless to put these beauties away.

Week 1 Share: Kale Raab, Salsa Verde, Spinach, Hakurei Turnips, Arugula, Scallions

Week 1 Share: Kale Raab, Salsa Verde, Spinach, Hakurei Turnips, Arugula, Scallions

I stored the Kale Raab and the Scallions each in a 1-quart mason jar of water as a bouquet. I dried the spinach and arugula leaves and tucked each into their own half-gallon mason jar, with a bit of folded up paper towel at the bottom to absorb moisture. The salsa came in it’s own packaging. The turnips have given me a bit of trouble so currently they’re still in a bunch on the counter. Storage tips welcome!

The other ingredients will be so easy to use, though:

  • We used a third of the raab in a shrimp linguine dish last night, and the rest will be chopped for tomorrow night’s stir-fry along with the scallions.
  • The salsa verde is just what we need to make our favorite InstantPot chili with pork shoulder from the freezer.
  • The spinach will become a salad, along with strawberries, goat cheese, pecans, and some balsamic dressing.
  • Arugula is a wonderful sandwich topping for turkey sandwiches, especially with hummus and red pepper tapenade as the condiments. Time to get some bread dough rising…
  • As for those turnips? I’m a sucker for a pun and a huge fan of poutine, so am seriously considering an adaptation of this Turnip the Disco Fries recipe.

(If anything we make is worthy of sharing, Clay will certainly post about the adventure.)

P.S. While at the farm stand I also bought a bouquet of antique tulips and a new-to-me magazine: Edible Nutmeg. I’m looking forward to digging in later this weekend!

Edible Nutmeg (Spring 2019 edition) and Antique Tulips

Edible Nutmeg (Spring 2019 edition) and Antique Tulips

The Nowhere Near Ultimate Thanksgiving Challenge

Painted in Waterlogue

“Let’s just have green beans,” she said.

She didn’t mean we should forego the turkey, skip the stuffing, or pass on the pumpkin pie. And she surely didn’t mean there would be no mashed potatoes.

I had been asking about green bean casserole, which is a pretty traditional Thanksgiving side dish around here. But considering the butternut squash soup, the giblet gravy, and the aforementioned and very buttery mashed potatoes, I agreed the there would be enough creamy things on the menu. Steamed beans with salt and pepper and a little lemon zest would provide a nice, crisp balance. Nobody missed the casserole at Thanksgiving dinner, and everybody left the table happily full.

But, on Sunday night, while watching a cooking game show that included a “remake this side dish” challenge, I thought about green beans. (I’d bought more vegetables than we’d needed to cook for the seven of us, so there were some in the fridge that ought to be cooked soon.) When we arrived home on Monday after long days at the offices and long, rainy commutes, it seemed time for something warm and comforting—and not just the last of the reheated Thanksgiving leftovers. One of my students today had said, “You know, give me green bean casserole and mashed potatoes, and I’m good for Thanksgiving.”  So, while she folded some laundry, I thought: Game on. Remake Green Bean Casserole as an entree using only things we have in the fridge or pantry.

Green Bean Tortellini

1/2 package spinach tortellini
2 cups green beans, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 cup mushrooms, cleaned and chopped
1 medium onion, sliced
2 tbsp giblet gravy
2 tbsp cream
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp grated parmesan cheese
2 strips crisp bacon, crumbled
salt and pepper to taste
vegetable oil

Do the slicing and chopping. Set a pot of water to boil. If you have been sitting at a desk or piano, or in traffic, all day long, go into the living room and do a 7 Minute Workout. If your day has been sufficiently active already, slice and dice while waiting for the water to boil. Warm pasta bowls in the oven.

Cook tortellini according to package directions. Steam the green beans over the water in the pasta pot.
Put a glug of oil in a skillet, get it good and hot, and sauté the onions, then the mushrooms. Add the Worcestershire sauce and toss.
Drain the tortellini and put it in the oven to keep warm; it won’t be long now.
Add the green beans to the drained pasta.
Add the cream and gravy to the mushrooms and onions; stir to combine and heat through.
Pour the mushroom/onion sort-of-sauce over the pasta and beans; toss to combine.
Divide into the warmed bowls. Sprinkle crumbled bacon and cheese on top.

Serves 2, plus one lucky lunch-eater the next day. (Or increase all the quantities and serve 2 for lunch, or 4 for dinner.)

 

The idea here is for a dish that is equal parts veg and pasta. The result is not soupy. The beans are still crisp. The bacon is totally optional, but I’d made it and forgot to add it to the Brussels sprouts on Thanksgiving day, so its salty crunch seemed like a wise addition. It’s not Thanksgiving leftovers, it’s something entirely different. And I’ll do it again.

Dinner in 30 minutes, plus a little exercise, and the feeling of accomplishment that comes from a long day of happy-but-challenging work.  Not bad for Monday.

 

 

Simpaug Farms CSA: Weeks Twelve, Thirteen, and Fourteen

It takes approximately 10 weeks to form a new habit. It took approximately 10 weeks (as evidenced by the diminishing level of detail in our “cataloging the share” posts) for collecting and processing our share to become routine.

At some point between 10 and 2 each Sunday, I tidy the fridge, dispose of anything spoilt, wash any dishes, and head to the Farmer’s Market to collect our share. I unpack the crate of goodness into cloth bags, load them into the trunk, and drive home. (The market is three times farther away from our home than the grocery store is, and this process still takes less than half the time of a typical grocery run. No lines!) Once home, I unpack the items, store them appropriately (this now takes less than ten minutes!), and move on with my day.

In the first weeks of receiving the share, I spent hours with the fresh veg – meticulously photographing each item, washing and drying and trimming and wrapping and placing each one in its storage spot, poring over cookbooks and farm magazines looking for just the right recipes to showcase our farm-to-table goodness, and then feverishly batch cooking it all.

Now, it’s just food.

Well. In our house, nothing is “just” food, but bringing the share into our home isn’t a project – and it’s so much less effortful than making lists and choosing each item and packaging them. Sundays are, once again, full of ease.

What’s in Our CSA Share?

For the last few weeks, each of our shares have been remarkably similar: eggplant, tomatoes, onions, garlic, sweet and hot peppers, fresh herbs, acorn and butternut squashes, green beans, lettuce mix, watermelon and pullet eggs.

We’ve eaten watermelon by the slice, and I’ve relished baking cakes with these beautiful, yolky little eggs. Clay developed a new InstantPot chili recipe using acorn squash instead of beans, and a butternut+Parmesan pasta sauce. We’ve made creamy tomato soup and roasted ratatouille, and put up a few jars of salsa for the winter. I made a dozen mini quiches last week that we enjoyed for take-along-breakfasts. And salad is back in season, with a different custom dressing (see yesterday’s post about our thwarted desire for hot oil).

I’m craving a squash-and-potato soup with sharp cheddar cheese, so that’s on this week’s to make list. I’d like to give Ina Garten’s mini Italian frittatas a try. And I’ve been baking stone fruit skillet cakes and fall-fruit hand pies – I’ll keep at both of those!

What’s happening in your kitchen?