Sunday, July 8, 2012

Garlic breath forever

Sometimes I fantasize about working for a food magazine or TV show or something--some kind of gig where I could cook, take pictures of the food, and then brag about it for my salary. Then I realize that I would be fired very quickly for never making deadlines. Here's the reality: I make something tasty, immediately text pictures to my friends, and then eat. And eat. And sit in the glory of the food, and nothing gets blogged. So to everyone who I promised recipes: sorry!

The other thing that would get in the way of a career in food for me is my tendency to throw things together with reckless abandon, which is the problem with both of the following "recipes." They aren't recipes, they're actually just descriptive analyses of how I randomly threw things together to make something delicious. So I hope you can make it work!

White Bean "Pesto" Hummus

1 15-ounce can of white (cannellini) beans, saving the liquid
1/4 cup olive oil
A hearty handful of fresh basil, maybe about a cup or a little more
2-3 cloves of garlic or an inch of garlic stalk, sliced
1ish teaspoon nutritional yeast, or parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

So making this is very easy. You just throw the beans, oil, basil, and garlic in a food processor or blender and puree it. Once that's looking like hummus, add enough of the reserved bean liquid to make it the consistency you like and enough of the yeast, salt, and pepper to make the flavors just right. Then fire up your blender to finish mixing it and enjoy! We were being healthy the first time we made it and used thinly-sliced heirloom zucchini to dip, or you can rock it with pita chips or even spread on toast with tomatoes or radishes. Yum!

The night we got our farm share was oppressively hot so we snacked on the hummus and then made a cool garden salad. But last night I felt like making something a little more involved, so I embarked on an Indian curry. Now, I've been obsessed with Indian food since the first time I tasted it as a kid on a daddy-daughter date in Back Bay. When I was in college, my grocery lists were a confusing combination of the typical collegiate items such as rice-a-roni and tater tots, and exotic herbs like turmeric and fenugreek purchased in bulk. I've even been hospitalized in the name of Indian food, but that's a story for a different blog. So last summer, I hit the jackpot when I dated a nice Indian guy whose mother taught him to cook before he left for college in America. Our favorite activity for those few weeks was to cook Indian food together and then chow down... unfortunately, I got bored of him before I learned my way around the pressure cooker. Again, a story for a different blog. So now I can make a pretty convincing curry without even cracking a cookbook or wielding a measuring spoon (which makes the recipe pretty impossible to duplicate without a demonstration.)

Last Night's Vegetable Curry

Vegetable oil
Herbs and spices (like mustard seeds, turmeric, garam masala, red chili powder, ground cumin, ground coriander, cilantro, fenugreek... etc.) Maybe a teaspoon each?
1 white onion
6 cloves of garlic
2 cans of roasted, diced green chiles (the small cans)
4 tomatoes
1 green bell pepper
Collard greens - about 8 leaves

Heat the oil in a large frying pan and then sprinkle in the herbs and spices. If you're using whole mustard seeds, have a lid nearby to deflect the seeds back into the oil. When they get hot, they pop out of the oil. It's a pretty fun game. Once the spices are mixed in the oil, forming kind of a fragrant paste, put in the chopped onions and garlic. Mix well to coat: they'll be nice and colorful from the spices. After a few minutes, when the onions are starting to get soft, put in the cans of chiles and the chopped tomatoes and stir. Let that bubble and stew while you chop the green pepper and collards, and then put those in, too. Season with plenty of salt and simmer, covered, for about half an hour, stirring occasionally and spooning in a teaspoon of water at a time to keep the curry moist. Serve over rice or with flatbread. This amount of veggies would serve four people, or two people that need a second dinner at midnight.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Branching out into the non-vegan

There are three people sharing this year's farm share: Monica, who is a pescetarian with a dairy allergy; Lindsay, who has no dietary restrictions, but is dedicated to healthy eating and is sympathetic to the vegetarian cause; and myself, a wayward vegan. I can really only speak to my own preferences, so here they are: I won't eat meat in America. Period. We have an absolutely abhorrent and disgusting meat culture, and I won't have anything to do with it. But I will eat meat raised ethically and cleanly by people who respect the animals. I also avoid eggs and dairy, for similar reasons, but since it's very hard to avoid entirely in our culture, I allow it on special occasions at restaurants or with friends. And, I will eat local, sustainably-caught fish (for the time being) (because I'm a fickle hypocrite.) So, since Monica wasn't available for dinner tonight, we made some allowances...

I wasn't planning on buying fish for dinner, but I passed a little market in Southie and couldn't resist some locally-caught cod. So while driving to Lindsay's, I distracted myself by planning the meal. Cod, baked in the oven over a bed of kale and garlic scapes (both from the CSA,) covered in olive oil, lemon juice, bread crumbs, and cilantro. The cilantro was also from the CSA, and gave it a little extra flavor. We baked the fish at 450 degrees for 15 minutes in a foil packet with everything else as previously mentioned, and it came out PERFECTLY. Lucky me! It was really delectable--so good that I didn't think about the downsides of eating seafood.

On the side, we had two delicious veggie dishes: chickpea salad and roasted kohlrabi. The kohlrabi was easy, just roasted alongside the cod at 450. The chickpea salad, which was delicious, was based off a recipe by Goya that Lindsay found in the Sunday paper. It was (roughly) a can of chickpeas, cut grape tomatoes, cucumbers (CSA,) mozzarella, parsley (previous CSA,) thinly sliced garlic scapes (CSA,) olive oil, balsamic, lemon juice, salt, and pepper.

It's incredible what two people can whip up in less than an hour with five minutes of planning time. And it's incredible how refreshing it is to share a good, home-cooked meal with a friend. After only three weeks, I'm already seriously valuing these meals, and the conversations and lessons learned over them. Thanks, Red Fire Farm!!

Wait, wait... "garlic scapes?" How do you spell that?

Well, last week in the farm share we got a lot of really normal produce. Like, carrots. And broccoli. And excuse me, but I was looking for a challenge! Luckily there was one newcomer to the CSA rotation: garlic scapes! Without a lot of useless drivel, here's what we did with our food.

First, a delicious salad.

That would be spring mix and [roasted] beets from the CSA, blackberries and walnuts from the store, and an impromptu homemade balsamic. (For anyone who likes salad, once you get the ratio of oil-to-vinegar down for a few basic dressing recipes, you can whip up just about anything delicious in a matter of seconds, and you'll never buy bottled dressing again. Time to save your jam jars!)

After this delectable salad, which will turn any beet-hater into a beet-worshiper, we ate a bunch of grilled vegetables. In foil packets, we grilled broccoli, carrots, and garlic scapes sprayed with olive oil; on the upper-rack of the grill, we put four quarters of a head of cabbage. We paired the veggies with some random Russian rice pilaf with *very* roughly translated directions and had a delicious and filling meal.

This was one of those meals that anyone could prepare--it would be next to impossible to ruin, even for the most inept. All it took was cutting and heating. But... YUM!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Kohlrabi Greens

Just a little update on our new friend, kohlrabi: I used the greens in a curry last night, and they tasted just like kale. It was a nice addition to the curry, and I was psyched not to waste such a big part of the plant!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Inaugural Farm Share Supper

This year, I was finally able to do something that I've wanted to do for years: sign up for a local farm share! I learned about the concept of Community-Sponsored Agriculture about three years ago, and while I was never able to get my act together enough to sign up for one in time, I finally did this year in collaboration with Monica and Lindsay. We got a full-season share from Red Fire Farm in Granby, Massachusetts and decided to rotate who picks it up each week at the local Whole Foods, and then to split the bounty between us.

Monica and I are both vegetarians (in fact, both of us are largely--though not strictly--vegan) and Lindsay is sympathetic to that. This week was our first shipment of goodies from Western Mass., and we got together to cook up something fierce. The farm's weekly newsletter informed us that we would be getting cilantro, green garlic, hakurei turnips, purple kohlrabi, kale, spinach, red leaf lettuce, braised greens, and spring mix. Now, obviously we've all grown up with an abundance of hakurei turnips and purple kohlrabi on our dinner tables. For those of you who didn't, hakurei turnips are a small, early-summer root vegetable that look like white turnips. They're crunchy, and slightly sweet. Kind of like a cross between jicama and radishes. Apparently you can roast them, too, but that seems superfluous since they're so good raw. I ate two of them today cut up in a veggie wrap with braised greens (brassica mix,) orange peppers, and hummus. Also, the greens are edible and would be good sauteed with spinach or kale or something.

Kohlrabi is even more unique than hakurei turnips. It looks like a small alien from outer space, and it looks like it came out of the ground (on Mars):
How cute is that picture with the little faces drawn on? Regardless, the part that you eat is part of the stem. I don't know who dreamed this vegetable up, but it's delicious! It's commonly used in Germany (the world's largest producer and consumer of this freak from the cabbage family) and it is also common in the cuisines of India, Israel, China and Africa. Apparently you can eat it raw, but we peeled it, cubed it, partially roasted it, and then threw it in a curry. It tastes a lot like a tender broccoli stem, and has a similar texture. I really, really like it.

So, now that we're all educated, here's what we did about dinner last night: kale chips, dipped in a shocking green garlic and white bean dip, followed by kohlrabi curry, finished off by some mini apple crisps that Lindsay had made and frozen in adorable little Le Creuset ramekins. I'm a sucker for that kind of crockery. Surprisingly enough, this was my first time making kale chips. The dip was a very easy and spicy! hummus-like concoction, and curry was relatively quick. Lindsay will have to speak to the apple crisps; I have no clue what she did there. All I know is that they smelled and tasted like love and paradise.

For the kale chips: cut up a bunch of kale into, I don't know, sexy-sized pieces. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with seasonings that make you happy. Bake in the oven for as long as it takes for them to get crispy at 350o. Obviously, this recipe is extremely precise and it's important that you follow the instructions exactly.

Here's the recipe from the Red Fire Farm website for the Green Garlic and White Bean Dip. It was quick and easy, and we only used four stalks of green garlic instead of six. And we all had garlic breath until 10am today, this the day after.

Here's the recipe for the kohlrabi curry. We doubled it for three of us. It was quick and easy, with not very many ingredients. Sometimes curries can be daunting for people that don't prepare them often, because you sometimes find recipes with, like, 28 different spices that you have never heard of and have to walk down a back alley to find. Not the case here. Definitely a good recipe for beginners to curry, and it was full of flavor and delicious. My fingers still smell like curry, and I love it. Not to mention, Lindsay crunched the numbers for the calorie information, and it wasn't bad.

All around, a ridiculously delicious and successful dinner with good, local food and good friends! I can't wait to see what we'll do with the next set of mystery veggies...

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Curried Split Pea Soup

Tonight I had my darling Amanda over for dinner, and she brought her sister who just got home from college (and is already bored of the suburbs.) Since the weather has been gross, I decided it was high time to make a curried split pea soup that I had dreamed up back when the weather was warm. For some reason we had a faux-été in March and now we're getting drearsville in May. Anyway, I love using Golden Curry to make a nice Japanese stir-fry that my mom taught me, and the last time I used it I thought it would make an impeccable addition to split pea soup. As with any out-of-the-blue recipe, I was nervous that it was going to be absolutely terrible. Luckily for Amanda and Brittany, the soup actually turned out quite nicely. It is a hearty soup perfect for cold weather, with the nice kick of curry to make it interesting. Here we go!

As you can see, I forgot to photograph it until after I had started devouring it. And obviously split pea soup isn't meant to look like much. But what is a blog post without an illustration?


2 cups dried split green peas
8 cups water
1 onion
3 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 carrots
4 stalks celery
4 small potatoes
1 box Golden Curry
Sea salt to taste, but at least a few teaspoons


Have your friends chop the onions and garlic for you, then sauté them in the oil. When the onions look translucent, add the split peas and water. Bring to a boil and then reduce head and simmer for 45 minutes. Leave the room and watch a chick flick to pass the time, since the weather sucks and you just want to cry to a Nicholas Sparks plot line.

After 45 minutes, put in the celery, carrots, and potatoes that your friends also chopped for you. After all, you're providing the food, they should at least do the chopping. Don't forget the curry! Throw in a whole box of medium-hot to hot Golden Curry mix and salt. Give it a good stir, cover the pot, and let simmer for another hour while you finish your movie.

After an hour, your soup is ready to eat and piping hot! Serve it with crusty bread and enjoy. This recipe makes a lot of soup, so you'll have plenty to send off with your dinner guests and to freeze for later when you're too lazy or too sick to make a meal. If you use the medium-hot curry mix, the soup will be nicely spiced, but not spicy. If you like things with more kick, definitely go for the hot box.

I finished off with these vegan pear cakes, because I'm obsessed with them. I put them in a muffin tin so that they're in nice little individual servings. Not only do they pass for dessert, but you can keep them in the fridge and serve them cold for breakfast. Careful, they disappear quickly!

Marinated Mushrooms

One of my sister-in-law's friends has been on me to post some recipes and pictures of meals I make that are vegan/vegetarian. I haven't blogged in about two years because my life has been absolutely insane, but now things are calming down and I have a little more discretionary time to sit on the internet. (Read: I need something to do while I'm avoiding studying for the BCBA exam.) So here's blog post #1 of my post-grad school life: MUSHROOMS! Also known as my brother's personal hell. I love marinated mushrooms from the antipasto bar at Whole Foods. Every week I do the majority of my grocery shopping at Russo's because the majority of what I eat is produce, but then I always need a few staples from the grocery store too. My biggest downfall and the arch-nemesis to grocery thrift? Olives and antipasto. I have a problem. So, today I decided I would try my hand at my own marinated mushrooms for about a third of the cost. The result? Incredible. I ate a few that wouldn't fit in the jars and I actually said "well, excuse me!" out loud. Yes, I know that's embarrassing.


1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1/3 cup olive oil
A few dashes of balsamic vinegar
1 10-oz. package of regular, boring, run-of-the-mill white mushrooms. Cut the big ones in half or thirds.
5 cloves of garlic
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon dried or 1 teaspoon fresh minced oregano
Ditto with the basil
1 shallot, minced
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Some pepperoncinis (optional)


Throw everything except for the mushrooms in a pot and bring it to a boil. Since it's about half oil, it more looks like you're frying than you're boiling. Anyway, cool, bubbles. Reduce heat and simmer for 6 minutes. Throw those mushrooms in, stir, cover the pot, cook for a minute, remove from heat and let cool uncovered. Once it's all cooled, give it another couple of good stirs and then pack it into some jars and throw it into the fridge. Apparently these can be kept for 3 or 4 weeks in the fridge, but mine would never last that long. I like to throw them on salads or in vegetable wraps for some zesty flavor, and then you really don't need any salad dressing. They would be really nice served warm on a cold day over a baked potato, too...