Posts Tagged ‘garlic’

Traveling and Coming Home

September 10, 2009

I think I’ve been away more than usual this summer.  I like traveling, and I was away doing things that I enjoyed or at least valued.  The food from a week at a camp and a week at a conference center, however, left me feeling lousy.  Dairy and eggs left this vegetarian craving beans.  Processed starches left me wanting whole grains.  And I acutely missed the abundance of fresh, local, delicious vegetables and fruits that I would have had at home.

At the end of the summer, I had the opposite travel experience.  We visited friends in Seattle and enjoyed plums and blackberries that grow on their property.  Then we went to a farmers market that was about 5 times the size of the larger of my local markets.  The variety of produce, cheeses, baked goods, and meat was overwhelming, in a good way.  The prices of fruits were much lower than what I’m used to paying.  I’ll admit a bit of climate envy.

At home, food this week has been about combinations.  A ratatouille included tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, green pepper, and fresh garlic along with garbanzos, dried oregano, salt, and of course lots of  olive oil.  It would have included fresh basil, too,  if we’d had energy to pick some from out back.

A stir-fry included green beans, broccoli, turnips, turnip greens, radishes, radish greens, and some cilantro.  As has become usual, we firmed up the tofu by heating it without oil in a single layer on a nonstick skillet, flipping it when the first side browned.  To work with the cilantro’s sweetness, the sauce used a generous amount of jarred hoisin sauce along with rice vinegar, soy sauce, and sesame oil.

We brought back a salad we particularly enjoyed last fall:  arugula with cheddar and apples, with a balsamic vinaigrette.  We’ve started to get apples from our CSA, and the rainy summer means this should be a particularly good apple season.  Flashback: last year I posted a catalogue of apples.  So far, we’ve gotten Ginger Gold.

How a Locavore hosts a party

January 20, 2009

How does a locavore host a party?  I had the fun of answering that question last weekend.  In the winter, I can’t simply go to the farmers market and buy more food.  What we have is what we have.  Party vegetables – the kind you can eat as finger food with dip – are in short supply in the winter.  We have plenty of carrots, but I was feeling a bit selfish about my one celeriac and one (albeit Florida) pepper.  Given the constraints, I got as close as I could.

I spent a lot of time wandering around my grocery store looking at labels.  Apple cider was easy, and we served it both hot (mulled with spices) and cold.  As usual, it was from Carlson Orchards in Harvard, MA (about 30 miles away).  One of the ways I could identify other local foods was by the KVH kashrut symbol they bear.  In many parts of the country, there are local organizations that certify local factories as kosher. If you’re in another part of the country, you might find a local kosher symbol in this list.

We served pita triangles with hommus to dip, both made by Joseph’s Middle East Bakery, based in Lawrence, MA (25 miles away).  We served a selection of cheddar cheeses from Cabot, VT (190 miles) with organic crackers from Whole Foods.  We shredded some of the cheddar and baked it between corn tortillas from Cinco de Mayo bakery in Chelsea, MA (5 miles) to make large batches of quesadillas, which we cut into quarters and served fresh from the oven with organic salsa from Whole Foods.  Our guests really liked those!  We also put out a few varieties of River Queen nuts processed in Everett, MA (5 miles).

I also bought, but never put out, chocolate candies from NECCO (New England Confectionary Company) now in Revere, MA (10 miles), and Madeleine cookies from Superior Cake Product in Southbridge, MA (60 miles).  That was because we were too busy eating Hood ice cream from Lynnfield, MA (15 miles) with cake baked and brought by a friend.  Another friend brought a delicious strawberry cordial, homemade with strawberries she picked last summer.

Because the party spanned supper time, we offered guests a choice of two soups, both pureed and incidentally both vegan:  a bright squash-pumpkin-apple soup seasoned with curry and other spices and a creamy white cannelini-potato-turnip soup loaded with thyme.  Recipes are below.  Using our bread machine, we made a choice of breads, too:  a whole wheat (well, half whole wheat, half white bread flour) and a garlic and herb white bread.  As always, the whole wheat flour was Whole Foods organic, and the white bread flour was King Arthur, from Norwich, VT (130 miles away).  To make the garlic bread, I added lots of chopped garlic, some garlic powder, and dried herbs like rosemary, oregano, and parsley to the bread machine after the water and before the flour.  I also doubled the amount of oil to 4 tablespoons (1/4 cup) up from the usual 2 tablespoons.

The squash soup used the good parts of three butternut squash and one pumpkin that were all showing rotten spots.  Because squash is so dense, it’s very easy to cut away the bad part and be left with good.  I think the three squashes had good parts equivalent to two whole squashes.  The pumpkin was nearly all good.  I seeded, peeled, and chunked them, and tossed them into a stock pot.  Six apples, cored and chunked, also went into the pot.  An onion would have been good in there, but I never trust myself to cook them well enough for me to be able to eat them.  I put in enough water to nearly fill the pot, but in retrospect I should have just covered the vegetables to end up with a thicker soup.  I spiced the soup with curry, cinnamon, turmeric, cardamom, coriander, and ginger, and of course salt.  Maybe something else I’m forgetting, too.  I pureed the whole thing before serving.

I was particularly pleased with how the cannelini-potato-turnip soup came out.  I started with dried cannelini.  After soaking 1 1/2 cups of them overnight, they had swelled to about 4 cups.  Those went into a saucepan with half a bulb of garlic (4 cloves, each cut up) more than enough water to cover.  After the beans had simmered for more than half an hour before I added 5 small turnips (5 ounces) and 8 small potatoes (16 ounces), all chunked.  In the process, I discovered that worms and rot had destroyed another 5 turnips, which had to go straight out to compost.  Between soup and compost, the last of the turnips we harvested ourselves this fall (at our summer CSA farm) are gone.  But back to the soup, because wormy, rotten vegetables are gross.  The soup was an excuse to use up the rest of the thyme we had gotten from our winter CSA.  It worked.  The only other seasoning I added was salt (one rounded tablespoon) and pepper (about 10 grinds).  When I pureed the soup, it seemed too thin.  Then it sat in the refrigerator overnight.  Even after it was reheated, it wasn’t too thin.  It was thick, creamy, delicious, filling, vegan, and used up both turnips and thyme.  I’ve found a winner!

Belatedly, I know, here are photos we took on the farm on the day in November when we picked those turnips, and brought home those squash as well.

Farm fields, after harvest

Greenhouses

Week 31: December 22 – 28

December 29, 2008

Because of the holiday, we got our share this week on Tuesday instead of Wednesday.  Because we were travelling and sharing meals with extended family, we divided the share a little differently.  Usually we try to divide everything right down the middle, so everyone gets a little of everything.  This week, we wanted more of whatever we got. 

There were the usual assortment of potatoes (white and red), carrots, garlic, onions, apples, and oranges, and we divided those evenly (except for the onions which they always get because I can’t eat them).  There was one celeriac, and it was the other couple’s turn for that.  We took collards because we still had the ones from last week, and put together we could make enough beans and greens for a crowd.  The other couple took lettuce and mustard greens.  That left us with kale.  We took the three zucchini because they would survive travel, and the other couple took the two bell peppers because they would be good with their lettuce in salad.  We took the two large tomatoes to cook with, and they got the box of grape tomatoes, again with salad in mind.  There might have been more.  I don’t remember. 

For anyone keeping score (like me) the items from Massachusetts were apples, onions, carrots, maybe red potatoes, lettuce, and celeriac.  Other things came from North Carolina, Vermont, and Florida.

One of the potatoes was starting to turn green, and another seemed to have a rotten spot.  That inspired dinner.  I cut the equivalent of about 6 large potatoes to bite sized pieces, and boiled them until a fork went in easily, as for potato salad.  Then the potatoes (well drained, of course) went into a large skillet with olive oil and two cloves of garlic, pressed (although diced would have worked).  I spiced them with approximately 1 tablespoon of curry powder; 1/2 tablespoon of turmeric; 1 teaspoon each of cumin, coriander, and ginger; a few dashes of cayenne; and about 1 tablespoon of salt.  I knew the spices were mixed in thoroughly when all of the potatoes had a yellowish tinge.  Turmeric does that.  While the potatoes boiled, I had diced the two tomatoes and chopped the kale.  They went into the skillet, too, along with a can of chickpeas, and I stirred everything together as best I could.  I cooked the whole mess until the kale wilted and the tomatoes softened.  That was the meal:  spicy potatoes, kale, tomatoes, and chickpeas.  It was easy and delicious–definitely worth repeating!

Some of the food came with us when we travelled for Christmas.  I made a huge pot of split pea soup with two pounds of split peas, six  carrots, and three turnips that masqueraded as potatoes once they were cooked in the soup.  It was seasoned with three cloves of garlic, the leaves off many sprigs of thyme, salt, pepper, and smoked paprika.  We used the rest of the bulb of garlic in a humongous batch of collards and black beans, using the Green Cafe recipe I gave last week.  Relatives seem to like my cooking.  I know they like the fact that I’m doing so much cooking.  They seem to like the food itself, too.

On our way into Lake Placid, we stopped at the Rivermede Farm Market in Keene Valley, NY.    We were lucky enough to catch farmer Rob Hastings behind the counter.  He just won a nationwide award for his work on sustainable farming!  He explained to us that his store has been evolving as interest in eating local has grown, a movement that he was on the vanguard of.  He can now stock only items grown or produced locally, and he knows all of the growers and producers of his merchandise.  We snagged a 5-pound bag of blue potatoes that he grew himself, a jar of rhubarb jam from Mooers, NY (about 75 miles away), and about 5 pounds of Fortune apples grown in Peru, NY (about 40 miles away). 

Fortune apples are a new variety, crossed from Northern Spy and Empire.  As with most new apples in this area, they were developed at the Cornell University apple research station at Geneva, NY, a little under 250 miles away from Lake Placid. 

I have to make a confession.  I bought grocery store vegetables today for what I think is the first time since May.  My husband is politely pointing out that since my mother-in-law paid that I didn’t buy them, she did.  (I love my mother-in-law dearly, just for the record, and I’m not saying that for her benefit, because I don’t think she reads my blog.  I’m saying it because mothers-in-law get a bad rap they don’t deserve.)  I picked out organic romaine lettuce from who-knows-where and a bag of organic white potatoes from Maine.  I thought that maple mashed squash would be good with dinner.  There were piles of squash at the supermarket.  No organic option.  My husband and I started looking for local.  The butternut squash had stickers from about three different growers, all of them in Mexico.   There were carnival squash, but only one had a sticker, and it wasn’t local.  Some of the acorn squash were from Washington, but some of them were from Coxsackie, NY, about 165 miles away.  Of course, we bought those. 

The centerpiece of dinner tonight was tourtiere, a Quebecois meat pie.  We faked a vegetarian version using a family recipe.  It involves something approximating ground meat (perhaps actual ground meat, if you’re of that persuasion), mashed potatoes and bread cubes, and for seasoning a mix of savory (poultry seasoning) and sweet (cinnamon, cloves, allspice).  That part wasn’t local.  But all of the sides were:  roasted blue potatoes; acorn squash baked, scooped, and mashed with butter and local maple syrup; and homemade applesauce from those Fortune apples.  We got to tell everyone at the table where each of those side dishes had come from.  I like to get people thinking a little more about where their food comes from, and appreciating things that come from nearby.

Week 30: December 15 – 21

December 22, 2008

We’ve gotten a lot of snow over the past few days.  Shoveling has been a pain – sometimes literally, sometimes figuratively.  The snow has interfered with school and with holiday celebrations.   I like weather, though.  Especially in the city, it’s a reminder that we are subject to the vagaries of nature.  Before I became a locavore, weather was how I understood the seasons.  Now I have a much deeper understanding and appreciation of how many changes come with every season.

My nearly-all-local meal of the week (in the spirit of the Dark Days challenge) was very much a seasonal meal.  We made latkes tonight for the first night of Hanukkah from potatoes that we dug ourselves, and ate them with homemade applesauce.  If the weather hadn’t been so bad, we would have had local eggs to make the latkes with.  Instead we used my mother’s generic grocery store eggs.  They might be local, I suppose.  We drank local apple cider (the non-alcoholic kind) with our meal, and my brother gave me a pack of Harpoon hard apple cider because he found out that they use local apples, and he knew I would like that!

It was a good week for cooking with kale.  At the beginning of the week, we cooked wide-leaf Dinosaur kale (Massachusetts grown, from our winter CSA in week 29) in a style we learned from Green Cafe in Bethlehem, PA.  They use it for collards and that’s our favorite green to do it with, but it works well for pretty much every kind of strong-flavored leafy green, including the ones nobody writes recipes for, like radish greens.    At Green Cafe, they cook the beans separately, but we like to make a one pot meal.  As we have adapted it, here’s the recipe:

  1. In a large skillet, heat lots of minced or pressed garlic in a generous amount of olive oil.
  2. Add black beans (either dried beans that have been soaked/simmered until soft or canned beans).
  3. While the beans heat through, add dried dried basil, cumin, and a bit of cayenne.  If the beans were dried, add a generous amount of salt, too.
  4. Add chopped greens to the skillet. 
  5. Sprinkle the greens with more basil, cumin, cayenne, and salt.  Drizzle them with more olive oil.
  6. Mix the beans and greens together.  Keep cooking until the greens wilt to the texture you like.
  7. Serve over rice.

Later in the week, we used older curly leaf kale (also Massachusetts grown, from our winter CSA in week 28) to make soup.  Wilted vegetables make good soup.  Particularly wilted vegetables make good pureed soups.

To make lentil-kale soup, I simmer about a cup of lentils (preferably organic French green, from bulk bins at a natural foods store) in about two quarts of water.  When they start to break down, I add a couple of cloves of fresh garlic (pressed or minced) one or two teaspoons of garam masala (an Indian sweet-and-savory spice mix), salt to taste, and about half a cup of lemon juice.  Shortly before serving, I add one bunch of kale, chopped.  The exact quantities vary every time I make the soup.   We ate it with baked circles of sweet potatoes, sort of oven fries in a different shape.  I mixed honey (local) and brown mustard (not) to make a dipping sauce.

Soup is especially easy to adjust seasonings in while cooking.  One of the joys of being vegetarian is that you can taste as you go.  No salmonella to worry about, especially with foods coming from local farms.

It was also a week for cooking pumpkin. One of them we cooked to freeze.  My husband baked it, because that doesn’t require peeling, so it’s relatively minimal labor.  After he scooped out the flesh, I whirred it in a miniprep.  It didn’t actually puree, because it’s a bit too stringy, but it’s all tiny bits and will be good for baking.  We seasoned and baked the seeds, as we always do.  Those were for eating right away.  We’ve baked enough squash seeds this season that we finally know how much salt and how much spice to put on (usually garlic, maybe cumin and a bit of cayenne). 

The other pumpkin had to be eaten right away.  The reason we cooked it was that it had spots of rot.  It looked like a cartoon of Swiss cheese when my husband was done peeling it and cutting out the bad spots.  That one got boiled.  It got very soft, not at all stringy, but quite waterlogged.  I drained it as well as I could, and mashed it with a potato masher.  I learned the hard way that pumpkins should only get sweet seasonings, not savory.  Butternut squash is good with maple syrup (with or without butter and salt); with butter and sage (better with chunks, not mashed); or with cumin, cayenne, chili powder, garlic powder, and salt.  Pumpkin is decidedly not.  We usually finish what we make.  We were not able to finish the Tex-Mex spiced pumpkin. 

On a completely different note, our CSA share this week included:  apples, cranberries, onions, acorn squash, carrots, celeriac, thyme, and lettuce from Massachusetts; red potatoes that might be from Massachusetts or might be from Vermont; garlic, kale, and pecans from North Carolina; collard greens that are probably from North Carolina but they didn’t actually tell us; and peppers and oranges from Florida.

Sharing a share means sometimes we get lucky and what we like better they like less, and vice versa.  We split the oranges, cranberries, pecans, carrots, garlic, sweet potatoes, and red potatoes half-and-half.  We each got one pepper.  We split the one head of lettuce half-and-half with a knife.  Both couples ate lettuce-and-pepper salads that night, and it was delicious.  We have so many apples that the other couple took all the ones in good enough shape to eat straight, and I took the few that were good only for making applesauce.  We have so much squash from our summer CSA that we took the tiny acorn squash and the other couple took the large one.  One of them doesn’t like celeriac but both of us do, and there was only the one root, so we scored that.  We still haven’t cooked with any of the thyme we got before, so when we got more thyme, the other couple got it.  They got all the onions, too, because I can’t eat them.  I was excited by collard greens and un-excited by yet more kale, and the other couple felt exactly the opposite, so it was easy to decide who got which greens.  The collard greens were a much bigger bunch than the kale, so that helped to balance out quantities, too.

I feel like we need a winter CSA for January through April rather than December through March.  We still have so many storage vegetables from our summer CSA and from careful shopping at the end of the farmers market season.  When the squash has all been eaten or gone rotten, and the potatoes have all been eaten or turned green and sprung shoots, and the cabbage has been eaten or grown mold, then it will be time for fresh vegetables from elsewhere.  We have a long way to go.

Week 29: December 8 – 14

December 16, 2008

We haven’t been cooking very much.

We made enchilada verde casserole again.  It didn’t work as well as last time. I think we didn’t use enough cheese, salsa, or salt.  The casserole is easy to make.  It’s layered, like lasagne:  first corn tortillas, then a layer of mashed beans with some cheese and spices, then another layer of tortillas, then homemade tomatillo salsa and shredded cheddar cheese.  The tortillas are Cinco de Mayo, from Chelsea, MA.  The cheese is Cabot, from Cabot, VT.  The salsa verde came out of our freezer.  It was made with tomatillos, garlic, cilantro, and hot peppers.  We started with dried beans, which use much less energy to transport than canned beans, and soaked and simmered them in lots of water, which is from the Quabbin Reservoir, MA.  We baked sweet potatoes to eat with the casserole. 

I made a big pot of split pea soup, with big chunks of turnips, potatoes, and carrots.  I should have used some of the fresh thyme, but I forgot about it until too late. 

I used some frozen kale in a quick supper because I was too lazy to prep the fresh.  The meal itself was uninspiring, but the ease of getting just a bit of kale was notable.  We had frozen it as flat as possible in a gallon zip-lock bag.  That made it easy to break off a corner, since I was only heating up food for myself. 

The biggest meal of the week was with the friends we’re sharing our winter CSA share with.  They invited us to stay for dinner after we brought over the week’s vegetables.  The entree they made was a delicious casserole of six layered root vegetables under a bechamel sauce.  Our share for the new week included one bunch of arugula, one cucumber, one pepper, and a box of grape tomatoes.  Rather than try to divvy that up, we made a salad that we all ate together.   The arugula was from a Massachusetts greenhouse.  The cucumber, pepper, and tomatoes were from Florida.  I’m having some trouble with this whole-coast CSA idea.

We also got kale, cabbage, and apples from Massachusetts; garlic, carrots, potatoes, and sweet potatoes from North Carolina; and oranges and corn from Florida.  (There was also a squash and some onions from Massachusetts, but we left all of those with our friends.)   Next week we anticipate some holiday extras:  cranberries and pecans. 

It’s time to make applesauce again, but I used the big pot for split-pea soup.  On days that we haven’t had oranges, we’ve had homemade McIntosh apple rings with lunch.  They are delicious!

Week 4: June 14-21

June 22, 2008

Our CSA finally feels like it’s in full swing.  This week we received broccoli, mizuna, red leaf lettuce, bok choy, arugula, sugar snap peas, and radishes.   

We finally started to save for winter.  One bunch of broccoli and one bunch of mizuna went into the freezer.  Both vegetables require the same steps. 

  • First you clean them very well.  For broccoli, there’s enough risk of insects that it’s recommended that the broccoli soak for half an hour in well-salted water, which should kill any insects and make them float to the surface.  I was glad not to find any floating bugs after saline-soaking my broccoli. 
  • Next, the vegetables get trimmed.  Of course the ends come off.  The broccoli stems needed peeling because the skin was so tough.  Mizuna leaves that were already decaying got tossed into compost.  The idea is pretty simple:  if you want to preserve food, remove any with over-active food-decaying enzymes. 
  • Cut the vegetables up.  Pieces should be evenly sized for even cooking.  How big you cut them depends on the recipes you plan to use them in later.  It’s all about planning ahead. 
  • Blanch the vegetables.  This involves submerging them in boiling water for anywhere from 1 to 5 minutes depending on the thickness of the vegetables.  My mizuna got 1 minute.  My broccoli (florets and sliced-and-quartered stems) got 3 minutes, which might have been more than it needed.  (Putting Food By and The Cook’s Companion both give times for different vegetables.)  The decay-causing enzymes in the very center have to get cooked and stop working.  I blanch vegetables using a deep-fry basket in a big saucepan.  The deep-fry basket has a handle.  Before I got it, I used a metal colander (again, lowered into a saucepan), and had to hold the colander with tongs.  It’s also possible to put the vegetables directly into the saucepan, and then use a colander to drain them when they’re done.  The drawback to that method is that you can’t then use the same hot water for multiple batches of vegetables.
  • As soon as the veggies are blanched, they get shocked: submerged in an ice-water bath to stop the cooking process.  I use another metal saucepan for the ice-water, since it can handle the temperature extremes and the rapid temperature change.  The ice bath is for the same length of time as the blanching. 
  • Shake off excess water.  Pack into storage containers.  We packed the broccoli in an old yogurt tub, and the mizuna in a ziplock bag, which we freeze flat to reduce clumping and make thawing and cooking easier. 

Freezing a couple bunches of vegetables still left us plenty to eat fresh. 

We at the sugar snap peas raw. 

The lettuce and arugula became a series of salads.  What remained of last week’s romaine went in, too.  Red leaf lettuce seems to go slimy fastest, of all the lettuce varieties.  Romaine lasts unusually long.  Baby lettuces go slimy faster than full-grown, possibly because they need to be kept bagged, while the full-grown ones have their own head structure to keep them together. 

I made spicy peanut-sesame noodles and mixed in one of the bunches of bok choy (raw).  Cold grain-based salads are some of my favorite lunches.  I learned the hard way that the bok choy should get mixed with the noodles before the dressing is poured on.  I make my own dressing, using the blender to mix peanut butter, sesame oil, rice vinegar, soy sauce, ginger, garlic, and chili oil.

I stir-fried mizuna and some of the broccoli (from the bunch that wasn’t blanched and frozen), along with tofu, in Japanese seasonings: soy sauce, rice vinegar, ginger, garlic, and wasabi.  It’s a combination I figured out myself the first year in the CSA, just from being told that mizuna (then totally unfamilar to me) is also called Japanese mustard greens. 

Another stir-fry was Chinese style, flavored with hoisin sauce, soy sauce, ginger, and garlic.  It involved the other bunch of bok choy, the rest of the broccoli, the radish greens, and some garlic scapes from the farmers market. 

My farmers market treat this week was a quart of fresh strawberries.  Massachusetts strawberries are smaller than grocery store ones, but red all the way through and oh so sweet and flavorful!  Of course, you get what you pay for.