Posts Tagged ‘potato’

Local and Not Frozen

March 20, 2010

The weather today was sunny and around 70, which made me want to go almost anywhere just for the walk to get there.  Conveniently, there was an indoor farmers’ market in reasonable walking distance.  Unfortunately, it was a one-time event, connected to a “Health and Wellness Fair” held at Somerville High School.  We bought a couple of pounds of blue potatoes from Dracut, MA; lettuce, bok choy, kale, and cabbage from smaller-than-industrial organic farms in the “region” meaning southern Atlantic states;  and a pound each of barley flour and wheat berries from Northampton, MA.  I hadn’t known that it was possible to get Massachusetts grains.  I wasn’t ready to try their wheat flour at $5/pound, though.

That exercise in locavore-ism inspired me to finally sort through our refrigerator vegetable drawers.  They’ve been full of root vegetables since November.  That was back when I still had pregnancy-related nausea, so they mostly just sat.  They sat long enough that they looked scary, particularly because leeks and fennel bulbs don’t hold up as well as roots do.  Once the drawers got scary, the stuff in them sat even longer.  Vicious cycle.  But today we finally sorted through them.  About a third of the contents had to go straight into compost due to our poor management.

Once we determined that there were still edible vegetables in there, I started in on using them up.  Cubed beets and parsnips, tossed with a  bit of olive oil, salt, and pepper, are roasting in my oven as I type.  A half dozen smaller beets got boiled to be sliced and used in salad, along with the lettuce from the farmers market, lentil sprouts that my husband grew in a jar on our window sill, and hard-boiled eggs from southern New Hampshire.  I cubed a few of the turnips to get stir-fried with tofu and some of the bok choy we bought today, becoming tonight’s dinner.  Much as I’ve appreciated the supply of vegetables we froze last year, I’m very excited to be eating vegetables that are neither from the freezer nor the supermarket!

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Oven-Braised Cabbage

September 21, 2009

Sometimes it’s nice to cook things in the oven, so that the hour or so before eating is not the time you have to be in the kitchen cooking. Braising is usually a stovetop procedure, but the idea of cooking with very little liquid translates well to the oven. Here’s a recipe I made this week. It was fun to serve alongside roasted blue potatoes from the farmers market.

  • Quarter, core, and knife-shred one red cabbage.  (A green cabbage would probably taste just as good but not be as pretty.  They also tend to be larger, so increase all the seasonings accordingly.)
  • Quarter, core, and slice about 2 apples.  (I used only one but it was a hefty ten ounces!)  McIntosh have a wonderful flavor, although by the time the dish is cooked, they’ll have turned into applesauce.
  • Put half the cabbage into the bottom of a deep lidded casserole.  Layer half the apples over it.  Then the other half of the cabbage, and the other half of the apple.
  • Sprinkle the top with salt and pepper to taste, and a generous sprinkling of caraway seeds.
  • Pour about 3 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar and about 2 tablespoons of water over the cabbage and apples.
  • Bake at 350 (or whatever temperature your other food needs, but adjust time accordingly) for about an hour.
  • About 10 minutes before serving, remove the lid.  Stir together the cabbage, apples, and spices.  Leave the lid off to evaporate some liquid and gain texture.

I’d made similar dishes before, but this was the first time I tried it with caraway seeds, and I was very pleased with the results.  If you don’t have cider vinegar, you could use red wine vinegar, but the cider vinegar really kicks up the apple flavor.

My husband also found this tasty, but said he’d have preferred his cabbage and seasonings as colcannon, so I’m offering a link to my recipe for that, too.

Week 52: May 20-26

May 26, 2009

The first nearby farmers market opens tomorrow!  Our experimental year of eating only local produce is at an end.  The experiment was a success!  We’ve made a lifestyle change.  It’s a change that was building for a while, and we took it to a higher level over the past year.  Next year, I hope that my planning ahead pays off well enough that we don’t feel the need to join a winter CSA, or buy the occasional grocery store tomato sauce or potatoes.  (Flashback to my first post shows what I thought we were getting ourselves into.)

In this last week of the year, we’ve eaten more generously of the vegetables we’d been hoarding.  Green beans, frozen spread out on a cookie sheet to stay separate, then transferred to a pint yogurt container, really did stay separate and were easy to cook with.  They joined frozen stewed diced tomatoes and grocery store raisins and chickpeas in a Tunisian stew based on a Moosewood Cooks at Home recipe.  It gets coriander, some cinnamon, turmeric, and cayenne; salt of course; and at the very end a generous splash of lemon juice.  The recipe as written involves a few vegetables, none of which are green beans.  It also, as written, involves measuring out the spices.

My husband more closely followed another recipe from Moosewood Cooks at Home, this one for Vegetable Stifado.  He tossed in potato, eggplant, green pepper, kale, carrots, and more stewed diced tomato, a list which overlaps the vegetables called for in the recipe.  There were a lot of colors, shapes, and textures, making it an attractive meal.  It’s spiced with dill, rosemary, garlic, salt, pepper, and lemon juice, and was excellent with leftover red wine added in, too.

As the first harvests of spring become available to us, we’ll be eating the sorts of season-blending meals that have come to feel so unnatural.  Butternut squash stored on a kitchen shelf since November can join corn frozen mid-summer and fresh new spring radish greens in a single year-spanning meal.  Fittingly, the Jewish holiday Shavuos is later this week.  It celebrates the first produce of the year.  That’s truly something worth celebrating.

Weeks 46-47: April 8 – 21

April 22, 2009

As I typed the title, I noticed we’re closing in on the final stretch, only five more weeks to go!  We’ve learned a lot this year about where and how to get local foods.  When we started the year, we were planning on eating only local vegetables.  Then it became local fruits, too, over the summer, when they were readily available at the farmers market.  By the time apple season hit, we were determined to store apples to get us through as much of the year as possible.  Then the Eat Local Challenge in October pushed us to the next level.  For the month, we were pushed to not eat it if it’s not local.  Going forward, that segued into don’t buy non-local if we can buy a local alternative instead.  That means we now buy only local eggs and most dairy.  We also buy local maple syrup and honey.  Trying to keep eating well through the winter, we signed up for a winter CSA, but it was regional.  We backpedalled a bit, but only a bit, and  I enjoyed every bite of those organic, tree-ripened Florida grapefruits.

Passover was last week, and hosting a seder (cooking for 10) was a bit challenging given the season.  We still had a few butternut squash, so two of them got mashed with maple syrup and fresh ginger (from a jar), and got rave reviews.  Potatoes, celeriac, carrots, and cheddar cheese became a casserole, something like scalloped potatoes but much harder to cut into squares.  Unfortunately, our potato supplies were running low enough (especially bu the time the eyes all get cut out) that I actually bought a 5 pound bag of Prince Edward Island organic potatoes at the supermarket.

Salad was a fun challenge.  We boiled whole beets for about ten minutes to get the texture right, then sliced them.  Luckily, our winter CSA had provided us with both red and yellow beets.  Some of the red and Chioggia (striped) beets may have been left from our summer CSA.  We don’t segregate in our refrigerator.  The salad started with winter CSA Florida lettuce, topped by slices of red beetsyellow beets, Florida cucumbers, and feta cheese, and served with homemade balsamic vinaigrette.  It was very pretty and very tasty.

For haroses, a traditional Passover food made of chopped apples (local of course), nuts, wine, honey, and cinnamon, I needed more honey than I had.  I went to Harvest Co-op hoping to find some local honey.  Sure enough, there was honey from Reseska Apiaries in Holliston, MA.  And it had a bright yellow “local honey” sticker on it!

Weeks 44-45: March 25 to April 7

April 10, 2009

These weeks featured one fully local meal:  a breakfast of fried eggs and potatoes.  My husband has perfected the art of microwaving the cubes of potato for about 5 minutes so they cook inside, and he can then get the outsides crispy and spiced in a skillet.

We took our last winter CSA delivery.  We’ll get by for the next month and a half on what we have in storage.  We started April with 4 butternut squash and 1 pumpkin still stored on a kitchen shelf  from the November end of our summer CSA season!  We have bags and tubs of frozen summer vegetables,  a crisper drawer quite full of root vegetables, and lots of sweet potatoes in a cold cupboard.

One of the vegetables we got from our CSA was dandelion greens, which are sturdy enough to survive shipping from Florida.  Thank goodness for Greens, Glorious Greens (more info at References and Resources).  It said that the best way to deal with the bitter taste is in a tomato sauce, preferably with cheese.  I think of dandelion greens as being for raw salads, not cooking with, but it cooked into pasta sauce like spinach, only with more texture.

Week 43: March 19 – 24

March 24, 2009

This week we used up some foods that we had stored longer than we ought.  Potatoes (with sprouts and eyes removed) and cabbage (with moldy outer leaves removed) became colcannon.  With two heads of cabbage to use up, we had too much cabbage just for colcannon, so the rest went into lentil soup, along with Florida kale from our winter CSA.  After discarding the rotten parts of a butternut squash, only about half of it was left, but that part was delicious boiled and mashed with maple syrup.

I know that the squash was from our summer CSA.  I think that one of the heads of cabbage was from the farmers market at the end of its season, and the other was from our winter CSA.  Some of the potatoes were also from our summer CSA, including some we dug ourselves, but others were from our winter CSA.  That means we got the squash, one of the cabbages, and some of the potatoes back in November, four whole months ago!   I feel wasteful, having to discard parts of the vegetables, because they were good when we got them.  Next year we’ll try to use them up within two or three months, so we can eat the whole thing.

Week 42: March 11-18, Signs of Spring

March 18, 2009

This week was full of signs of spring.  Today (not technically part of the week I’m writing about) my crocuses were only green shoots when I left for work in the morning, but one of them was fully open when I cam home from work this afternoon!

Other signs of spring:

1) Most of our potatoes are sprouting in a very serious way.  We’ve got two-inch-long potatoes with four-inch-long sprouts.  We’re cutting out the area around the base of the sprouts and rushing what’ s left of the potatoes  onto the menu.  Microwave “baked” potatoes with melted cheddar cheese make an excellent breakfast.  They make an excellent snack, too.

2)  Lots of crocuses in a neighbor’s south-facing yard, photographed Saturday March 15.  They were much more purple in person.  This photo is disappointingly washed-out.

crocuses1

3)  Long Trail Hefeweizen hit store shelves.  It’s my favorite beer, and is made in Bridgewater Corners, Vermont, a little under 150 miles away.  Definitely in my foodshed.  Not as local as the next item, though…

4)  It was time for the annual Maple Syrup Boil-Off in urban Somerville, Massachusetts.  It’s at a public space called the Community Growing Center.  Sap is collected from some street trees, some trees on the campus of Tufts University.  Sap from Silver Maples and Norway Maples, which are common in urban areas, is lower in sugar than Sugar Maple sap.  That means it will still make syrup, but a lot more sap and a lot more boiling time is needed to get the same amount of syrup.

The boiler, built by Somerville High School metal fabrication shop students, holds a wood fire under a tray of boiling sap.

maple_boiler

So as not to stop the syrup already boiling, when more sap is added, it is poured into a warming tray above (and connected by a valve to) the main boiler.

maple_warmingpan

Surrounding the boiler are  are buckets that were all full of sap, piles of wood for the fire, and a lot of curious visitors savoring some beautiful weather.

maple_boiler_buckets

In case you’re wondering, the syrup is never made available for sale.  Some of it gets donated to a local soup kitchen, and some of it gets served at a pancake breakfast fundraiser.  Also in case you’re wondering, neither my husband nor I show up in any of these photos.

maple_thescene2

I tried a couple of recipes this week that I wanted to post here, mostly so I can find them again later.  I hope they’re helpful to someone else, too.  They have nothing to do with spring.  They have nothing to do with vegetables.  They do use only relatively unprocessed ingredients that you’re likely to have around home, and they’re easy.

Something made me realize that oatmeal is only 1/4 or even 1/6 the cost of cold cereal, the sort we usually consume with milk for breakfast.  I already knew that, unlike rolled oats, steel-cut oats make an oatmeal with so much texture that it will reheat just fine in the microwave.  I like it with maple syrup.  I like it with brown sugar.  I like it with homemade applesauce.  For some reason, I decided to try making chocolate oatmeal, and it worked!

Chocolate Oatmeal:  Put one serving of leftover steel-cut oatmeal in a bowl.  Sprinkle the top with 1 1/2 tablespoons of white sugar, and 1 tablespoon of cocoa powder.  Microwave for 45 seconds, then stir, then microwave another 45 seconds and stir again.  It will be very brown, chocolaty, and delicious.

On St. Patrick’s Day I refused to go out of my way to do anything Irish.  I think it’s because I’m bothered by the Irish-for-a-day attitude so many Bostonians have.  We have potatoes and cabbage that need to become colcannon (and will do so tonight) but I wouldn’t make it on St. Patrick’s Day.  This is only worth mention because I was decisively foiled.  I finished a library book set half in Ireland, with old home-cooking recipes scattered throughout, as cooked by the main characters.  They were so folksy that I thought the author might have invented them for the story.  When I finished the novel, there was a section at the end about where she had collected each recipe from.  Since we needed to make bread anyway, rather than run our bread machine, I decided to try the “everyday bread” sodabread recipe in the book.  It said that every housewife would have her own recipe, refined from making it literally every day of her life except Sundays, so there was a lot of detail missing.  Here’s the recipe paraphrased from Recipes for a Perfect Marriage by Morag Prunty, with some of my own edits.

Irish Sodabread:  Mix 1 lb flour with 1 tsp baking soda and enough buttermilk to make a dough.  Add a spoonful of sugar if you like, and fruit or butter if you have it on hand.  Bake in a hot oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour.  When it comes out of the oven, wrap the loaf in a clean dishtowel to keep it from getting hard.   Translation:  1 pound of flour is about 2 cups.  The flour can be white or whole wheat. I made a loaf of each as long as I was running the oven anyway.  I used a mix of milk and plain yogurt because I don’t have buttermilk in the house.  I think that either one alone could work just fine, as long as you add some and mix some so you can stop when the dough is wet enough.  The quantity of liquid really doesn’t much matter either – one of my loaves was much wetter than the other and only the shape was much affected.  With white flour I made a fancy loaf, with a tablespoon of white sugar and some currants and caraway seeds, and I think I should have used 2 tablespoons of sugar instead, and also 1 teaspoon of salt.  It was perfect for buttering for breakfast.  With whole wheat flour I made the most basic loaf (which also would have benefited from 1 teaspoon of salt), nice for a lunch sandwich.

Weeks 40-41: February 25 – March 10

March 10, 2009

Our winter CSA has continued to bring us the lushness of Florida.  And it’s the same thing week after week after week.  I hadn’t realized how much I enjoy the way foods come into season, are abundant for a while, and then go out of season again.  I really, really do.  I’m looking forward to summer.  We will not be joining this same CSA next winter.  Our goal is to buy what we need over the summer when we can get it from local producers, supplementing our summer CSA with  local farmers markets.

It was very exciting to get some bok choy for variety this week!  The green vegetable I was most interested in, though was dino kale, I think because it goes happily into foods that feel seasonal.  I just can’t eat much salad in the winter, so lettuce and grape tomatoes week after week doesn’t work for me at all.  At least tomatoes cook into lots of things.  I’ve heard of cooked lettuce but it’s not my type of adventurous eating.

roots_dishes

We did manage a pair of very local meals last week.  The first, as seen in the photo above, was rather involved.  One of the dishes was colcannon.  Instead of my typical white potatoes and purple cabbage, it used green cabbage and got a bit of color from some red-skinned potatoes as well as the caraway seeds.  (Recipe in week 13.)  The color in the meal came from carrots and parsnips in a mustard-maple syrup glaze from a Vegetarian Times recipe.  (We “fleshed” out the meal, pun intended, with vegetarian bratwurst.)  All of those vegetables could be local.  Because our winter CSA produce has gotten intermingled with our local storage vegetables, I honestly don’t know how much of it was local.  But it could have been, and next winter it will be.

The steaming water from the carrots and parsnips along with the boiling water from the potatoes and cabbage became the broth for a wintry soup.  In went dried beans, seasonings, and a lot of  root vegetables cut to bite-sized:  carrots, celeriac, and rutabaga.  The vegetables could have been local.  I think the celeriac and some of the carrots were local, and the rutabagas and other carrots were not.  Dried beans are a winter storage food, but mine came from the supermarket.  I’d like to find a local source.  On the other hand, if I had a local source then I’d feel compelled to get all of my beans that way and we go through an awful lot of beans.

We finally made applesauce from a 10-pound bag of Northern Spy apples that had been sitting around since fall.  A half dozen of them were completely rotten and had to go straight to compost.  Another half dozen had siginificant bad spots that had to be cut out.  We still ended up with a whole lot of applesauce.

Since our winter CSA seems to know no seasons, I don’t know when the photo below is from.  I found it when I downloaded the colcannon and carrots-parsnips photos.  We’ve made this sweet potato salad a few times this winter.  It’s vegan (well, it would be totally vegan if you replaced the honey in the honey-mustard dressing with some other sweetner) and the recipe is in Moosewood Cooks at Home.  To make a version this colorful, first find a kitchen with orange counters.  Then mix cooked orange sweet potatoes, raw green bell peppers and parsley, and raw red bell peppers, and toss with dressing.

sweetpotatosalad

Weeks 36-37: January 27 – February 9

February 9, 2009

Our winter CSA shares have been more of the same:  a few root vegetables from around here, and lots of stuff from down South, which increasingly means Florida rather than North Carolina.  We’ve done a bit of noteworthy cooking, though, so I think this post will be worth it.

Over the past couple of weeks we’ve gotten apples and celeriac from Massachusetts; carrots, beets and parsnips from Quebec;  red and white potatoes from Vermont; sweet potatoes and a rutabaga from North Carolina; and lettuce, chard, parsley, bell pepper, eggplant, green beans,  and cherry tomatoes from Florida.

Some of the sweet potatoes, a pepper, and some of the parsley turned into a sweet potato salad, with a honey-mustard dressing, from Moosewood Cooks at Home.  Not only is it delicious, it’s pretty, with the bright orange sweet potato chunks accented by bright green pepper and parsley.  It’s also vegan, although I like to turn it into an entree salad by adding hard-boiled egg.  Their recipe calls for peeling the potatoes but we don’t, because it’s too much work and wastes a very nutritious part of the vegetable.  We brought it to a potluck and nobody seemed to mind at all that there were skins in it.

Some of the carrots and the rest of the parsley went into a lentil salad.  My husband cooked French green lentils until they were edibly soft but not falling apart – a delicate and important balance.  He grated carrots and chopped parsley, and mixed those in.  The salad was dressed with olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper, very much like tabbouleh.  I have no idea where the carrots are from that ended up in.  I suspect they’re from our summer CSA because our farmer grows three varieties, including a chunky one good for grating.  The carrots we’ve been getting from our winter CSA are very slender, a shape which would make them good for steaming and elegantly serving them whole, but which is really not at all good for grating.  The lentil salad is good to pack for lunches, although it needs some sort of starch on the side.

Luckily, my husband also baked a cornbread rich with chopped apples and grated cheddar cheese, including some with hot peppers in it.  We keep not managing to make applesauce, but we’ve been cooking more with apples.  I sliced and fried up (in butter) a half dozen apples for serving over waffles.  I have to admit that we poured maple syrup over the waffles, apples and all.

I’ve gotten so accustomed to our produce coming from very nearby.  As a result, it feels now like our CSA food is coming from so far away.  I think I was reacting to that when I talked my husband into cooking a wholly-local breakfast last weekend.  The star of the meal was homefries made from potatoes we dug ourselves in November and diced peppers that I froze in September, both from our summer CSA.  Although he used non-local spices (what locavores sometimes refer to as Marco Polo spices), he used Vermont butter rather than oil from who-knows-where.  He also fried up New Hampshire eggs.  We’re very pan-New England around here.  Meanwhile, I mashed up a previously-baked butternut squash (summer CSA again) with New York maple syrup and more Vermont butter.  To cap it off, I remembered to take a photo.

eggtatersquash

We got a giant sweet potato a couple of weeks ago and I’m finally remembering to share photos of it.  The tiny white potato is one of the ones we dug ourselves.  We were so excited to find anything left underground, after so many other people had been harvesting before us in that same field.

bigtaterlittletater

giantsweetater

Week 35: January 20 – 26

January 27, 2009

In our CSA share this week we all got the usual carrots (MA), red potatoes (VT), white potatoes (NC), sweet potatoes (NC), apples (MA), and oranges (FL).  Less usual, we all got parsnips (origin unspecified) and green beans (FL).  It was the other couple’s turn for chard (FL) while we got collard greens (origin unspecified).  We got the green leaf lettuce (FL) while they took the dandelion greens (origin unspecified), because their bunnies love them and we humans aren’t so impressed.  We got the avocado (FL) and celeriac (MA) while they got the cherry tomatoes (FL) and jar of pickles (MA).

From Massachusetts:  only the apples, carrots, and celeriac.  Maybe the parsnips.  It’s a good thing I didn’t sign up to do the Dark Days Challenge.  Next year we’ll have done better storing our own.  I noticed my copy of Animal, Vegetable, Miracle lying around, and I opened it up to the January chapter.  In it, she takes stock of how much food her family put by.  Granted, we don’t have kids, but we’ve still been operating on entirely the wrong order of magnitude.  I’m estimating that we need to store 150 to 200 units of vegetables to get us from November through May.  (This is comparable, in seven months, to what we consume in the five months from June through October.)  One unit could be one bunch of kale, or one large eggplant, or a pound of green beans.  Usually one unit gets one freezer bag but sometimes we put two units of the same thing into a bag together.  This year we seem to have frozen only about 25 units of vegetables, not counting tomato and tomatillo sauces, too.  Our storage vegetables (squashes, root vegetables, cabbage) were another 55 units of vegetables going into winter, bringing the total to about 80 units, or halfway there at best.  So… maybe not the wrong order of magnitude, just not nearly enough.

A CSA that draws so much from Florida is not our answer.  It’s fun while it lasts, though.  I can’t remember when we’ve eaten this much raw food mid-winter.  In addition to the oranges, one of the apples was good enough to eat raw.  I think it was a Fuji.  The avocado was, of course, also raw.  We cut it in half, one half for each of us, then put a little lemon juice and salt into the cavity, and eat it with a spoon.  The lettuce has been good raw, too.  Some of it was in sandwiches, some of it was on a plate with dressing.  The celeriac will be good raw, too, especially if I get to it while it’s still fresh.  I might do matchsticks in a dressing of some sort, or I might do bigger sticks (think carrot sticks) served with a dip made from plain yogurt and spices.

The collards we cooked with black beans as usual, with olive oil, garlic, salt, and dried basil, cumin, and cayenne.  I know people do other things with collards, but I like this preparation too much to forgo it when we have just one bunch of greens.