Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Inspiration - Winter week #1

In this week's winter box:  Salad  mix, 2 heads of red leaf lettuce, broccoli, cilantro, arugula, napa cabbage, carrots, red potatoes, white daikon radish, garlic, leeks, green Kabocha squash, sweet dumpling squash

Well - the American people have spoken and now we are going to see some change for sure.  For better or for worse?  That remains to be seen.  Politics is kind of like cooking.  You need to do the best with what you have.  And sometimes what you think might be a strange combination turns out really great.  Sometimes we find that we acquire a taste for a new thing we thought we hated.  Like liver.  It is good for me.  My mother made me eat it.  I used to hate liver.  Now I like it.  Is there a lesson for me there?  Something to ponder today while I listen to MPR.

And the work never goes away.  Every morning you need to get up and do what needs to be done.  In my case today I am going to make a pot of soup with some Great Northern beans.  Maybe I should look up the famous U.S. Senate bean soup recipe and make that.  In honor of that august body. And in honor of Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken.  I hope somebody is cooking some good healthy food for them every day.  They will need it.

Public servants who lost their jobs last night might be kind of depressed.   Maybe they are thinking about the next holiday to get their mind off their troubles. There are only 22 shopping and cooking days left until Thanksgiving.  If you are a Thanksgiving host, it is not too soon to start thinking about your menu.  Or if you have promised to bring a dish or two to someone else's house - do you know what you will bring?  Maybe this is the year to try something besides the green beans with cream of mushroom soup and canned french fried onion rings?  Just saying.

How many people will be at your table?  Maybe you want to stash some of your CSA squash or carrots or leeks in preparation for some special dish?  Next week I will give you a few recipes that are a little more special or labor intensive than usual - get you thinking about the big November feast.

Meanwhile, there are everyday meals to make.  Because even in the middle of a political tsunami, life goes on.  Maybe especially in the middle of a political tsunami it is important to pay attention to the important daily details of life - like cooking and eating decent meals.  Maybe you know someone who just lost their job (either due to the election results or just the economy in general).  Why don't you ask them to dinner?  Maybe even invite them for Thanksgiving?  It would be the right thing to do.


Grated carrot - daikon radish salad with asian vinaigrette - on a bed of red leaf lettuce; Chinese cabbage and noodle soup*; fresh tangerine (prices are good this time of year)

Salad of mixed greens with a mustardy vinaigrette; White beans with arugula and pork*; roasted carrots; braised napa cabbage (the napa cabbage in your boxes this week is so huge I am including lots of ideas on how to use it.  But before you get too intimidated by the godzilla napa - remember that it cooks down quite a bit.  If you have some pickled beets on hand or want to make some, I think they would be a nice addition to this meal.

Winter vegetable soup*; bread and cheese; apple crisp

Simple meat and vegetable stew*; cole slaw made with napa cabbage, carrots and a little julienned or grated daikon; rye crackers; baked squash with honey or maple syrup and cinnamon and nutmeg - maybe a little butter too.  Almost like a dessert.

Squash and lentil dal* with rice; cilantro chutney; a dish of sliced bananas with yogurt and a little honey

Lettuce/mixed greens salad; pasta (e.g. penne, fusilli, rotelle) with broccoli and pesto*; bread; ice cream or sorbet


Chinese cabbage and noodle soup - Serves 4
2-3 pounds Napa cabbage - washed and sliced in about one inch strips - separate the harder stalk sections from the leafy parts.
1 T. cooking oil
4 cloves fresh garlic, smashed
8 dried Chinese black mushrooms, softened in hot water, drained, stems removed, caps sliced (save strained mushrom soaking liquid for broth)
1/2 cup Chinese rice wine or sake
one ten ounce package rice stick noodles
1 t. salt, or to taste
4 - 5 cups chicken broth (simmer with 2 T. chopped fresh ginger and strain before using in soup)

Heat oil in a large pot.  Add stalk sections of cabbage, garlic and sliced mushrooms and stir fry about one minute.  Add one cup of broth and rice wine, cover and simmer about 5 minutes on medium heat.  Uncover, add remaining broth and salt and bring to a boil.  Then turn down to simmer and cook another 15 minutes.
While broth is simmering, put the rice stick noodles in a pan and pour boiling water over them so they will soften.
Strain noodles.  Add them and the leafy sections of the cabbage to the broth.  Cook and stir about 2 minutes - until the cabbage wilts and the noodles are tender. Serve in large bowls.  Garnish with fresh cilantro if desired.  Serve with soy sauce or hot pepper sauce if desired.  

Winter vegetable soup
There are infinite versions of this kind of soup cooked every day on the planet.  This version makes good use of the vegetables you have in your box.  Feel free to vary according to your own tastes and the ingredients you happen to have on hand in your kitchen.  I am a believer in the value of a little smoked or cured pork or other meat in this type of soup.  If you are not a meat eater, then I encourage you to prepare or purchase a good vegetable stock for flavor.  Maybe a spoonful of miso would be a good idea.  The meat adds a lot of flavor and you will need to come up with good substitutes.  If you want more protein in this soup - whether or not you use meat - you can add a few cups of cooked beans.  Then you will want to add more stock or water, too.
3 T. butter, lard or bacon fat or olive oil
2 cups sliced leeks  (white and light green parts - save the dark green tops for vegetable stock) Onions can be substituted for the leeks
2 cups sliced or diced carrots
4 cups shredded cabbage (about one pound)
2 cloves minced garlic

2 cups diced potatoes
About 1/2 pound of smoked sausage, pancetta, a ham bone with some meat on it, or other flavorful
smoked or cured meat such as a smoked pork hock.
6 cups of water or stock
1 t. salt, 1/2 t. pepper - more to taste
other possible seasonings:  fresh dill and caraway; bay leaf and thyme; parsley and paprika
Saute all the vegetables in the fat for about 10 minutes - this helps develop flavor.  Add water or stock and seasonings.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, partially covered,  for about 1 1/2 hours.

Meat and potato stew - Serves six.  Based on an old Finnish recipe.
1 - 2 pounds meat (stew beef, chunks of pork, pieces of chicken)
1 T. fat - bacon drippings, lard, butter or oil
2 t. salt
4 cups boiling water
5 whole allspice
2 cups coarsely chopped onions or sliced leeks
2-3 cups carrots, cut into 1 1/2 inch chunks
2-3 cups potatoes, cut into 1 1/2 inch chunks
Brown meat in the fat.   Add the salt, boiling water and allspice and simmer about one hour or until meat is tender.  Add vegetables and cook on low heat until vegetables are tender.  Add more water if necessary.
Note - this very simple stew has a thin broth rather than a thick gravy.  If you want, serve the broth separately in a cup.  You also could make some simple dumplings (make a batch of dough as if you were making baking powder biscuits, but use a little less flour so the dough is not too dry and steam them in the stew the last 20 minutes of cooking.)  A handful of fresh parsley and dill would be great added at the last minute.

Pasta with broccoli and pesto
1 bunch fresh broccoli - washed and trimmed into bite size pieces
1 pound pasta
5 T. olive oil
2-3 fresh garlic cloves, smashed
1/3 cup basil pesto  (aren't you glad that you made some pesto last summer when the basil was around?)
Salt and pepper to taste
Parmesan for garnish - optional
Blanch the broccoli for about 4 minutes and drain.  Save the cooking water.  Add more water to the cooking water and cook pasta according to package directions.  While the pasta is cooking, saute garlic in oil in a large pan.  Then add and saute the broccoli a few minutes.  Drain pasta (save about 1 cup of cooking water)   and add it to the vegetables in the pan along with about one cup of cooking water.  Stir in the pesto - correct seasoning - and serve in warmed bowls or on warm plates.  (Warming dishes is a nice touch - especially in the winter)

Squash and lentil dal - serves 4-6

1 1/2 cups red split lentils
3 1/4 cups vegetable stock
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
2 inch piece of fresh ginger, finely chopped or grated
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 t. ground turmeric
2 t. cumin seeds, crushed
1 1/4 pounds firm and fairly dry winter squash such as kuri or kabocha or buttercup cut into 1/2 inch cubes
(you could also substitute carrots for some or all of the squash)

Wash lentils and place in a pot.  Add stock, onions and seasonings and simmer, covered, about 10 minutes or until lentils begin to soften.   Add squash and cook another 5-8 minutes, or until squash is tender and lentils are thickened.  Serve with rice and desired condiments such as cilantro chutney.  (search this blog for Oct 11 post - cilantro sauce and cilantro mint chutney - for recipes using fresh cilantro)

White beans with arugula
1 cup dried beans (or 3 cups canned or cooked)
Soak beans overnight.  (you can use cannellini, great Northern, navy or other white bean)  Drain the next day and cook, covered with 2 inches of water.  Simmer gently - should take about one hour depending on the beans.  Season beans with salt.
1/4 cup good olive oil
4 chopped cloves of garlic
1 t. fresh herb - such as rosemary or sage.
1 bunch of arugula, washed well and chopped
Saute garlic in olive oil (gently - don't brown or burn).  Add herbs.  Stir in beans. Add arugula and cook just a few minutes - until arugula is wilted. Serve with extra olive oil and/or grated parmesan.  If you have some sun dried tomatoes around I think a few of those chopped and stirred in would be nice. Same with olives.


  1. Wow! Once again, a bunch of great ideas!

    With the spring arugula, I made a pesto that is also good with white beans. (

  2. that squash-lentil dal is the most delicious thing I have ever made- THANK YOU!!