28 September 2009

Squash festival

We are still drowning in a sea of vegetables, even after last night, when I halved an entire four-pound bag of tomatoes to freeze. Freezer full of tomatoes! Yeah! However, that doesn't do anything to empty the crisper drawers, which are still drowning in squash, dark greens, lots of different peppers, eggplant, cilantro, potatoes: it's a total harvest festival in there.

With that in mind, I set off to butcher a butternut squash.

At this point, we're at the full collision of summer and fall veg, so I decided to make a squash risotto with a tomato melted into it. While that seemed like a good idea, that combination ended up way too sweet. Just don't put a tomato in it and you'll end up with a thick, hot, squishy bowl of caramelized veg and grain sustenance.

Winter squash barley risotto

olive oil
dry vermouth
butternut squash
(no tomato)
veg broth
fresh sage
salt, pepper
optional grating cheese/toasted nuts

For this one, start with the squash. We had butternut (and continue to have a couple more of those, plus two acorn, one spaghetti, and an endless mass of zucchini). You can use any reasonable hard-fleshed winter squash or pumpkin; it's fine.

Peel the squash, seed it, and dice it into 1-inchish cubes. Toss it with a little olive oil, spread it in one layer on a baking sheet, and roast it at about 375F until it's nice and soft and has beautiful caramelized golden brown edges. I think this took us about a half hour or 45 minutes. Give the squash at least fifteen or twenty minutes to cook before you start on the actual risotto; that way it will actually be done by the time you want to add it to the barley.

Ok! Risotto! Peel and dice a medium onion (pref yellow, but whatever). Warm some olive oil in a 3 quart pot, add the onion, and soften. While you're waiting, make some vegetable broth in a separate small pot: just add your onion trimmings, plus any other non-brassica vegetable scraps you have around, to a pot of water. Simmer it for at least ten minutes. You now have broth! Hooray! I really need to just write a page of the top ten cooking techniques I use for freaking everything, because "making broth" is definitely one of them.

When the onion has collapsed, add a cup or barley and another cup of dry vermouth or white wine to the pot. Cook on medium-high, stirring reasonably often, until the vermouth has been absorbed. Now just stick to the basic risotto method, adding a cup or so of hot broth at a time and cooking, stirring often, until the barley is cooked almost entirely through.

By this time your squash should be done roasting. Add it to the risotto pot, along with a last cup of broth, and cook as usual.

When the barley is cooked through, you're done. Take the pan off the heat and add a handful of chopped sage. (If you use dry sage, I'd add that near the end of cooking, so it can have a chance to rehydrate.) Salt and pepper. Add grated parmesan, romano or even gruyere or emmenthaler if you want cheese. You could also toast some walnuts or pecans in a little pan and break them up over the top of each serving.

Put it in a bowl, throw a little more sage over it, and eat it! This risotto really wants some serious winter greens on the side, and maybe a glass of lightish red wine like valpolicella. Thus concludes my knowledge of wine for the evening.

Leftovers: you cannot do better than fried risotto cakes for breakfast. Form them with wet hands so the risotto won't completely engooen you. If you feel fancy, you can put a little bit of cheese or maybe cooked greens in the middle of each cake. Then fry them in maybe a drop of oil, turning to brown each side. If you have cheese in the middle, make sure to let the cakes cook a while on low so said cheese melts.

Then you can eat them, with scrambled eggs and green onion optional. Voila! Breakfast is awesome!

24 September 2009

Lie around all day hard and fast lying club

Weekend eatings are the best. We get up on Saturday morning, get all our responsible things done, and then immediately traipse off to the farmer's market to swathe ourselves in bountiful tomatoes, free range eggs, and sourdough. OK, so maybe we don't physically swathe ourselves, but the mental concept holds true!

Then we come home (coffee at Bidonville optional) and proceed to whip the tomatoes and eggs and sourdough into awesome, awesome breakfast.

Lately the eggs have been scrambled eggs with sambal oelek, which is Vietnamese hot pepper paste. It's essentially unblended sriracha sauce, full of seeds and chunks of hot pepper.

Scrambled eggs with sambal oelek

sambal oelek
salt, pepper

Crack eggs into a bowl and mix them relatively gently with a fork. Many people (such as Eliz. David et al) will tell you only to stir the eggs together, but I like mine a little more completely amalgamated than that. Warm a (pref. nonstick) pan on medium-low, melt some butter in it, and pour in the eggs. Salt and pepper, add a spoonful or two of sambal if you want hot spicy scramble, and start stirring with a decent unmeltable spatula. This is important: you will have the spatula in the pan for a long time, and no one likes melted plastic in their eggs. Cook slowly, stirring often, until eggs are done to your liking. At a low enough heat this can take up to ten or even fifteen minutes, but it is totally worth it. Slow-cooked scrambled eggs are the best thing ever.

When done, eat your eggs with lots of toast, coffee, and a vinaigretted salad. The salad can be just leaves with dressing, or it can be something like this:

All day salad

red onion
salt, pepper

If you want red onion, slice it into appropriate pieces for your taste and soak it in warm water while you assemble everything else. This will make it a little less pungent and easier to eat raw, while not pickling it or changing its overall flavor.

Wash, dry, and tear up various lettuce; arrange it on a plate. Cut up a tomato and spread it on top. Trim and slice a couple of mushrooms and spread them on top. Drain the red onion and spread it on top. If you want any other vegetables, slice them into appropriate bits and spread them on top.

Salt, pepper, and vinaigrette it.

Eat as much as you can with your eggs, then pick at it slowly all afternoon while you do things like "read books" and "play video games". Yay salad!

21 September 2009


Behold! This is what happens when you unsuspectingly (or, you know, suspectingly) wander into the remaindered food aisle at TJ Maxx: you end up buying a massive teacube, containing 100 bags of green tea, for six dollars. Then you take it home to discover that the tea is not only subpar but also packaged individually, and not in paper, like any self-respecting Asian grocery bagged green tea, but in plastic.

So even though each of the individually wrapped tea bags cost you six cents, which is cheaper than nearly any prebagged tea on the market, and definitely cheaper than paying 75 cents on the street corner for a cup of coffee, the whole transaction is kind of crap. Every time you make a cup of tea you have to deal with a little sliver of plastic, the stuff you have eight assorted reusable shopping bags to eliminate. Then the tea itself is slightly stale and off. That's not surprising, considering that tea sold in bags is consistently lower quality than tea sold in leaf. Then consider that this tea was also REMAINDERED.

In conclusion, go to the food co-op and buy green tea in bulk instead.

15 September 2009

Oh yeah

Also, leftover lentil soup makes the best, quickest, most completely perfect pasta fagioli in the west. Er, east. Yeah.

Pasta lenticchie

That's "pasta lentils", much like "pasta fagioli" is "pasta beans". Say it: len/TEE/chee/ae.

1. Cook some ditalini or other small, chunky pasta.
2. Heat up your leftover lentil soup.
3. Combine drained pasta with soup.
4. Add parsley, shredded grating cheese and/or toasted nuts.
5. Eat it! EAT IT HARD.

In addition, I wasn't kidding about the pasta and greens.

Yes! It's mesclun!

Pasta pomodoro with mesclun

"Pomodoro" is Italian for "tomato". It also supposedly means "apple of gold", i.e. "pomo d'oro". However, through copious internet research, I have discovered that the word for "apple" is actually "mela", and "pomo" actually means "knob". Whatever! "Pomme" is definitely "apple" in French! IT REMAINS AWESOME.

1. Soften onion, garlic, and good tomato with olive oil and salt.
2. Cook it slowly! Slowly! until the tomato dissolves.
3. While the tomato melts, cook gemelli or other pasta of choice.
4. Season the tomato business with oregano, basil, pepper.
5. Mix drained pasta with tomato business.
6. Serve over a plate of washed mesclun or other salad greens.
7. Add parsley, grating cheese, and/or nuts.
8. Mix it up! Eat it hard!


14 September 2009

Celery and mustard greens

Behold! A terrible muddy-looking picture of lentil soup!

I was trying to remember what all went into this, because lo, it was really good lentil soup. I think the secrets were 1. lots and lots of good celery (cut off a celery root and everything!) and 2. baby mustard greens.

Ok. Celery is nothing new in lentil soup, or really any soup, but this particular celery was so good! At first I was really focused on the root, since we'd never had such a thing just lying around the kitchen before. I spent a couple days fantasizing over remoulade recipes before I really thought about the stems at all.

Then, of course, I made lentil soup, and the celery stems suddenly transformed into the greatest things ever.

We didn't even have any carrots! No mirepoix!

The mustard greens were a different story. The CSA gave us three bags of different baby greens in one week. Great! Except that there are only two of us! It's hard to get through that amount of tiny baby greens before they curl up and die. We were putting them in Everything: multiple pastas with spinach, grilled cheese with mushrooms and mustard, and the aforementioned huge salads.

Mustard was the hardest green to use. I tried taking some to work and just eating it as plain salad, like I'd do with any baby green, but they were just too strong. We had to cook them. In this case, they made up for my pitiful lack of mustard seed perfectly.

A lentil soup with good celery and mustard greens.

olive oil
curry spices: curry powder, ginger
(I had some fresh ginger; why didn't that go in? Oh well.)
bay leaf
red lentils
a small potato
veg broth/water
white wine vinegar/other acid (lemon juice)
salt, pepper
mustard greens/other greens
sourdough toast to eat it with.

This is not a particularly innovative soup. It's just good.

First, warm some olive oil in a soup pot. Peel and dice an onion, then soften it slowly in the oil. Finely dice some stems of celery as well. I like to do this by making a long cut or three up the stalk, then dicing across. A fine dice is important, since it eliminates any issue with long unwieldy celery strings. You're welcome. Also, if your stalks happen to have leaves, throw them in too! I used all of mine, and the result was awesome.

Throw the celery in the pot with the onion, season with whatever curry/lentil spices you find appropriate, and cook on medium, stirring occasionally. You'd traditionally have some carrot dice in here as well, but I didn't have any, and it turned out fine. For spices, our cabinet is still lacking a bunch of odds and ends (such as mustard seed), so I just used a store curry blend and some ground ginger. I know! It was still good.

While things are cooking, peel and dice your potato. The finer the dice here, the less time that potato will take to cook. You can also make veg broth if you want, or wash some dishes. Etc.

When the onion and celery have softened, add several cups of water or broth, a big handful of red lentils (I used maybe 2/3 cup?), your potato, and a bay leaf. Stir it all up, put on the lid, and bring the business to a boil. Lower to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until the lentils and potato are fully cooked and dissolving into the soup. This should take maybe twenty minutes; taste both the potato and lentil to make sure things are done to your liking. You can simmer it longer if your soup is too watery; this will let the extra liquid evaporate. Then remove the bay leaf, add salt and pepper, and make any other seasoning correction.

At this point I took my soup off the heat and puréed it with the stick blender. If you like a more chunky soup, feel free to leave it as-is.

Add a tablespoon or so of white wine vinegar to the pot, stir it up, taste it to make absolutely sure of seasonings, and you're done.

Serving: take a handful of mustard greens for each bowl. Keep in mind that mine were BABY greens; full-grown mustard may need a short dunk in the actual soup pot over the heat. Other greens should work fine too, as long as you keep in mind their various cooking needs.

Anyway. For baby mustard, chop the greens roughly and divide them into your bowls. Then ladle your soup directly onto them. Let the soup sit for a minute or two before eating, so the greens wilt just a touch. Perfect!

Eat it with toast or warm pita. Hummus is always a good idea here. So are olives. I'm just saying.

11 September 2009

Summer summer salad's gonna turn into fall salad

You and your baby doll/better go to the beach

Oh wait, I already made that joke once this year. My bad.

So. Hey, SALAD.

We got a pint of mixed cherry tomatoes and three separate bags of baby greens in the CSA box. Clearly we were meant to eat capacious salad.

But wait! We also got the aforementioned pears in the CSA box. Pears and tomatoes are both good, but they pretty clearly require two separate salads.

Ok. Two salads.

Summer salad

mesclun mix/baby spinach
cherry and grape tomatoes
good vinaigrette
salt, pepper
seared shrimp if you want it

Wash and dry greens; rip them up; strew them artfully across a plate. Toss with a little vinaigrette to coat. If you have any fresh basil, you might want to rip some of that up and add it too.

Cut tomatoes into halves or quarters; add them to the salad.

If you want shrimp, sear them in a little olive oil and add them to the salad. I am obviously a little obsessed with shrimp lately, so I went for it. If you don't want shrimp, it's totally fine to just leave them out. You could also use something totally different, like garlic croutons, sautéed red onion, toasted pine nuts, or cheese of some sort. I bet some cubes of seared halloumi would be really good.

Add salt, pepper, and maybe a finishing few drops of dressing.

Eat it!

Fall salad

mesclun mix/baby spinach
ripe pear
pecans or walnuts
dried blueberries/other fruit
just pepper
dressing: lemon juice and olive oil, or maybe poppyseed

Wash, dry, and arrange greens as above.

Core your pear and cut it into pleasing chunks. Strew them across the greens. Add a handful or two of dried fruit. We have these awesome dried wild blueberries from the food co-op, so that's what I used. Most kinds of dried fruit would work well, though: cherries, cranberries, figs, apricots. Of course there are also fresh figs out now, and we all know how I feel about fresh figs.

Break some pecans or walnuts up coarsely. Toast them quickly in a little frying pan, tossing frequently to avoid burning. Seriously, nuts burn in about two seconds, so be careful and watch them closely! It should take maybe 3-4 minutes on medium-high heat to get a golden brown toast. I used mostly pecans with a few walnuts mixed in, but probably all kinds of different nuts would work well. Slivered almonds would be good with a cranberry or cherry salad, and pistachios would be good with figs or apricots.

Let the nuts cool slightly before adding them to your salad. Then pepper it, dress it however you like, and eat it.

John had this salad with no dressing at all, but I think I would use at least a squeeze of lemon. If you like heavier dressings, poppyseed would probably be really good. Maybe even balsamic vinaigrette?


09 September 2009

Chili and a fried egg

A couple weeks ago we made an attempt at some normal fall food storage. Since I have yet to persuade my mom to actually give up her canner and ship it up here, this generally means freezing food. So John and I made a massive batch of chili, stuffed it full of corn straight off the cob and fresh farmer's market garlic, ate a lot for dinner, and still managed to freeze 6 containers.

Then we started eating them. I think there's one left. (Note: we're eating it in about fifteen minutes.) That chili will certainly last us though the cold, cold winter nights. Good job, us!

Of course this also means we ate lots of delicious, delicious chili, so I think I can deal with it.

You can do many things with chili in the freezer. First, you can obviously just warm it up and eat it. You can puree it and use it as an enchilada sauce. You can mix it into some mashed potatoes. Or, in my current favorite version, you can make chili with an egg on top.

Chili with an egg on top

an egg per person
greens/maybe herbs for garnish
maybe some tomatillo salsa if you have some left
maybe some sambal oelek if you want super-spicy egg
maybe some chips if you want it with some chips
salt, pepper

Ok. First, warm up your chili on the back of the stove. Make sure it's hot by the time you start cooking your egg. Easy.

Now make your egg. I think a fried egg is best on top of chili, although scrambled eggs have also been tested and found acceptable. Cook your egg however you like it, adding salsa or sambal if you so desire. Keep it on the undercooked side so the yolk will run nicely and the white won't turn to leather in the chili.

Get out a couple leaves of decent greens and chiffonade them finely. I used some raw chard, which was an excellent plan.

Now ladle some chili into a bowl. Gently slide your finished egg on top. Salt and pepper, garnish with greens, and eat it.

I totally love to break the entire egg up and stir it through the bowl, so the yolk dissolves into the mix. You get an egg-thickened soup without doing any of that annoying tempering. The greens wilt a little in the heat of the soup, and the egg white stays nice and hot.

If it's this awesome in September, how awesome is it going to be in January?

07 September 2009


We went to Las Vegas a week ago for my little brother's 30th birthday. In many ways, this was awesome, since everyone there was certainly awesome. We also ate a lot of delicious food, particularly at Bouchon for the semi-formal birthday dinner. Tear-off breadsticks set directly on the table; a 6-cheese tasting plate with honeycomb and apples; escargots in puff pastry with garlic butter; excellent bibb salad with lots of fresh herbs; perfect gnocchi that made me seriously regret my (also awesome) dinner order; a cauldron of mussels in white wine, bigger than my head, filled with about 50 tiny, perfectly steamed shellfish; massive amounts of thin-cut crispy fries cooked in duck fat.

It was thoroughly great, and the staff was super nice. If you happen to go to LV, Bouchon is certainly the place to go. Everywhere else we ate ended up subpar and overpriced.

But. It was 104F outside. We walked down the strip at one point in an attempt to see how realistic walking was/avoid paying fifteen freaking dollars for a cab to go a mile and a half/just get out of the massive amounts of flashing lights and noise and morons for a little while. We chose the side with shade, but still. Walking a mile and a half in 104F weather is not the best idea. When we came home, we got off the plane and into the cab and breathed a sigh of relief at the 74F air and the thought of wearing jackets against wind, not sun.

Now it's fall. Our CSA box is full of pears, mustard greens, winter squash. Tomorrow we're scheduled for rain. It's September and it's fall.

05 September 2009

Still momentarily summer

Tiny, softball-sized French market melon from the 4th St. co-op. I ate it.

Then, in the CSA box, we got a huge muskmelon, cracked and leaking juice from both sides.

I dissected one half into a bowl. The other half gave up two full, wet containers to bring very carefully to work. Probably another half a cup of juice was left in the shell.

I drank it all.

02 September 2009

Beets beets


I find beets to be some of the most consistently underrated vegetables. Come on! Beets are awesome! They do not have to be pickled beets in a jar (although I also love those, and need to make some); they can be fresh and earth-tasting and perfect. Get a bunch of beets and eat them!

Two ways to eat beets:

I. Awesome sandwich of beet and cheese.

boiled/peeled beets
cream cheese/goat cheese if you're feeling all fancy
nice softish sandwichy greens such as arugula or spinach
good bread such as sourdough
lots of black pepper and some salt
fresh flatleaf parsley
(plus some extra grating cheese if you're low on the cream variety)

Oh yeah!

Get out some pieces of bread and toast them to your liking. My liking: barely toasted at all, but still warm and a tiny bit golden if necessary. Remember: toasted bread rips the hell out of your mouth when you try to eat it in sandwich form!

Spread a bunch of delicious, delicious cheese all over your bread. Add a few leaves of nice tasty greens.

Slice your beets up and arrange them onto the bread. I layered my greens in between the slices of beets, because I was feeling all fancy. Not fancy enough to go to the store and get goat cheese, though!

Bedeck your sandwich with copious pepper, a little salt, and a handful of torn parsley. I guess you could add a little drizzle of olive oil if you felt Extra fancy.

Eat it!

I had some sauvignon blanc and an apricot and felt well satisfied with my lot in life.

II. Awesome salad containing beets.

boiled/peeled beets
good crispy salad greens, possibly including beet greens!
a hardboiled egg per person (optional; sub toasted nuts)
lots of black pepper and some salt
fresh flatleaf parsley
a good vinaigrette

Oh man. This is really, really easy and really, really good.

Wash and dry your lettuce and other greens. We really need to get a salad spinner one of these days, especially now that we no longer have a back door out of which I can spin my dishtowel filled with freshly washed greens. Or maybe we just need a back door again. It's all good.

Cut your lettuce into nice salady pieces and put them on a plate; maybe toss them with a little dressing. Cut your beets into appropriate chunks and arrange them all over the lettuce. Quarter a hard boiled egg and disseminate it as well.

Bedeck your salad with copious black pepper, a little salt, a handful of torn parsley, and your vinaigrette. Now eat it!

I think I may also have had sauvignon blanc with this one. This seems plausible. Dry white wine plus sweet beets equals bliss. Do it.

01 September 2009

Perfect breakfast

We got jumbo eggs at the farmer's market a couple weeks ago. Normally this would never happen. Our eggs are large, i.e. small. This time I got jumbo, though, and they are seriously awesome, with huge yellow unbelievable yolks.

Breakfast: fried egg, romaine with vinaigrette, sourdough toast with butter, red grapefruit juice in an old fashioned glass and an entire yellow tomato.