Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Inspiration - Winter week #3

In this week's box:  broccoli, carrots, red fingerling potatoes, garlic, bagged spinach, butternut squash, sweet dumpling squash, savoy cabbage, red leaf lettuce

I hope you had a good Thanksgiving and are not too tired from cooking and cleaning up and all that family visiting.   That is one reason I like the CSA box -- it keeps coming whether we are tired or not. We all need a little structure to keep us on track and the CSA box is part of my personal regimen.  I can see the sweet dumpling squashes on the window sill as I write this.  They are calling to me and soon I will answer.

Before I share some recipe ideas permit me a digression.
Vegetables have been in the news lately and I feel a need to report to you - serious vegetable cooks and eaters.

Vegetables, you see, are newly and increasingly fashionable, at least among a certain segment of fine-dining, CSA-belonging, Michael Pollan–reading, rooftop-garden-crazed New Yorkers.

Did you know that New York magazine (not the literary New Yorker, but gushy New York magazine) has made it official:  vegetables are the new meat.  Sunchokes are sexy.  Broccoli is way cool.  Lacinato kale is hot.  Eataly has a "vegetable butcher" and people are STANDING IN LINE for vegetables.  http://nymag.com/restaurants/features/69369/

Who knew?  I am a fashionista and did not know it.  I could hold my own at a Manhattan cocktail party - discussing such things as the relative merits of potato varieties.  Or the best way to make babaghanouj.

I am not sure how I feel about this.  Glad that the much maligned vegetable kingdom is getting its due.  Worried that the East Coast foodie establishment is going to turn vegetable eating into some kind of competitive sport for status seekers.  I mean, if Iron Chef featured "Battle Broccoli" last August, can the reality shows be far behind?

I know!  How about a show about a select group of Midwestern CSA members with day jobs who cook seasonal organic vegetables IN THEIR OWN HOMES, day in and day out?  Peeling, chopping, steaming, composting, stir frying, blanching, draining.   The visuals will be so exciting.  The suspense will be terrific.  Who will fold first and order a pepperoni pizza?  Who will have a melt down because they just can't deal with a six pound Napa cabbage?  Who will cheat, use tons of butter on everything and call it good enough?  Are you in?  Let's call a producer and pitch this idea.

This is all food for thought as you and your family deal with your latest CSA box.  I know I am not thinking about the latest food trends when I am bagging my broccoli, peeling carrots or smashing a clove of garlic.  In fact I am more than a little suspicious of food fads.  I just want some tasty and healthy homemade meals that don't require tons of time.  I am pretty happy to sit down to a plate piled with simple roasted root vegetables and a piece of cheese and fruit for dessert.

So here are some ideas from my kitchen to yours.  I am sorry if you are still tired due to Thanksgiving culinary overexertion.  Too bad.  We still have to get up and do what needs to be done.  Take comfort in the fact that we ordinary Midwesterners are right in step with the New York trendsetters.  We are so cool. We are eating vegetables!

I am still a fan of broccoli in pasta casseroles. A few nights ago I cooked up a bunch of mostaccioli, blanched broccoli very briefly in the pasta water at the end of cooking time and drained the pasta and broccoli.  I mixed it together with leftover chopped turkey pieces and a bunch of turkey gravy and it was great.  If you have no turkey or gravy, there is always cheese sauce.  Or some pesto.  Or some sweet red pepper puree or even thinned hummus.

And there is nothing wrong with good old broccoli and dip. Maybe take some time to experiment with a new homemade dip.  I like the flavor of curry powder with raw vegetables.  Start work now and you can unveil your new dip creation on Super Bowl Sunday.

Even I have been having a little trouble keeping up with the robust supply of beautiful Featherstone carrots.  No worries.  They keep so well.

My strategies:
Soups and stews
Always use a little chopped carrot in soups and stews as part of the flavor base.  I put some in pea soup a few days ago and also used some in my turkey stock.

Grate or shred raw, fresh carrot and mix with a little vinaigrette for a quick salad.  Add raisins, sunflower seeds, cut up apple - you decide.

Cook up a bunch of carrots (peel and chunk) in boiling water until they are pretty soft and the water is almost gone (if you drain water keep it for soup).  Mash with a potato masher and a little oil or butter.  I did this at Thanksgiving and added some cumin and a little sauteed garlic and it was a great dip with homemade pita chips.
I think mashed carrots would make a great sandwich filling - especially with some fresh herbs and maybe a few chopped walnuts mixed in.

Diced roasted carrots make a great snack.  Put them in a bowl or jar on the counter and eat them like peanuts.  Very satisfying.

Have you mastered roasting garlic?  I confess I have not. But I am having better luck by following a few rules.  I have learned to be patient - garlic does not take well to high temperatures.  I also prefer breaking up the bulb into separate cloves - UNPEELED.  Make sure to coat the cloves lightly in olive oil before roasting.  Cook in a 350 degree oven  until the cloves are soft.  Squeeze out the roasted garlic.  Use right away (add to mashed potatoes or use on a pizza or toss with pasta) or save in a covered jar.  If you have this around you will find ways to use it.

Spinach and lettuce
Do you know how lucky we are to be eating locally grown organic salad greens in Minnesota in December?  No need to get fancy with these greens. Just wash and dry and serve with your favorite salad dressing.  This is such good spinach I don't think I would "waste" it by cooking.  At least this time of year.  Don't forget your beets.  A few roasted beets on a green salad are very nice.

Butternut squash
Cut this in half and roast it.  Scoop out the flesh and mash.
Or peel and steam and then mash.  Lately I have been mixing mashed squash with cooked polenta (about 1 part squash to 3 parts corn).  It is great for breakfast with maple syrup or supper with a little bacon, herbs or tomato sauce.  Squash puree is also great mixed into quick bread or muffin recipes or even simple buttermilk pancakes.

Sweet Dumpling squash
These little guys are great stuffed and baked.  Use your creativity when it comes to stuffing.  Mix grains like cooked rice or barley with some onion and nuts - like a pilaf.  Or add some sausage to bread crumbs.  Add herbs.  Moisten with a little stock or wine or beer.

Red fingerling potatoes
Try this easy recipe for potato pizza.  I might add a little bacon or chopped ham to the basic potato mixture.  This is also a great way to use up some fresh garlic.

Savoy cabbage
This is considered the king of cabbages by some.  Here is an Italian recipe (this is a variety commonly found in Italy) for soup.  It calls for one cup of chopped ramps (wild leeks).  They grow all over the woods of Southeast Minnesota in the spring.  This time of year I would substitute regular leeks or use some extra garlic or onion or even scallions.

6 T. good olive oil
1 large onion, minced
1 medium head Savoy cabbage, cored and coarsely chopped
1/2 t. salt
1 cup wild leeks(ramps) or other leeks
1 quart vegetable or chicken or ham broth
2 T. chopped fresh parsley (preferably Italian type)
8 3/4 inch slices day old peasant bread
4 garlic cloves, cut in half
Saute the onion and leeks in the olive oil about 5 minutes over low heat until soft.  Add cabbage and sprinkle with salt.  Cover and cook over medium heat until cabbage wilts - about 7 minutes.  Bring broth to boil in large soup pot and add cabbage and onion mixture to broth.  Simmer on low heat about 20 minutes.  Add parsley and take off heat.
Toast bread and immediately rub with garlic.  Put two slices in each soup plate or bowl.  Pour soup over bread and serve immediately with salt and pepper on the side.
Serves 4.

1 comment:

  1. "Who knew? I am a fashionista and did not know it."

    I knew it!! My husband still laughs when I talk about you while I'm cooking as if you are a celebrity (which you are, to me!).

    I think I'm going to make some carrot bread this week to use up some of the carrots I'm trying to keep up with. I got a cute little bread pan with mini loafs (like a cupcake pan, but mini-bread), and I haven't cooked for my friends in a while so they are due some food from the farm.