Monday, June 30, 2008

pickled eggs, risotto, peanut sauce . . .

A few of the things I've put together in the past couple of days.

After the beets were but a memory, we hardboiled some eggs, peeled them, and put them into the "juice" from the pickled beets -- they turn a gorgeous, vibrant fuschia, and are infused with that pickle-y flavor. Plus they take me back to my childhood, when my grandma used to do this . . .

The risotto I made Saturday night pretty much as I envisioned it last week: with the garlic scapes, the shelling peas, and the chickpea broth. Risotto is amazing. I don't think I've ever eaten any risotto but my own, which I only started making a couple of years ago, but the first time I tried it, I fell in love! I really thought, "where has this BEEN all my life?!" And each time I make it I have that same reaction yet again. In fact, there might be some leftovers lurking in the fridge right now . . .

Yes, risotto takes time, but it is SO worth it! Deborah Madison says something I like about it -- I'll go look it up. Oh, guess what! She doesn't say it about risotto, she says it about polenta, but it still applies: "Averse as we are to giving time to simple tasks . . ." oh, yes. But the time spent is an investment, and a celebration.

Then last night I topped pan-fried tofu and sauteed Asian greens from the farmer's market with a peanut sauce, sort of cobbled together from ones in Didi Emmons' Entertaining for a Veggie Planet and Vegetarian Cooking For Everyone. I used peanut butter, brown sugar, finely minced cilantro, garlic and ginger, lime juice, soy sauce, sambal, and warm water to thin it. The sauce itself was fantastic, but the finished dish didn't quite come together as I had hoped. Maybe the sauce was too thick? Or not spiced strongly enough? I'll keep tinkering with it.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

again with the hummus

Since I cooked over a pound of chickpeas the other day, we had plenty for hummus. That was pretty much dinner -- all four of us stood around in the kitchen chowing on it -- we never even sat at the table. I made pita chips to eat with it, and I wanted to jot down a few notes about what I did for those, for future reference.

Oh, and I also made a salad, with vinaigrette and the world's dullest feta (Organic Valley) and a few chickpeas thrown in for good measure. Obsessed with chickpeas? Maybe. But there are worse things to be obsessed with ;-)

Okay, the pita chips.

I used the recipe in Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, more or less, but I estimated amounts of honey, yeast, and oil. I like her flour proportions, though, 1.5 cups of whole wheat and 2 cups of white. I think she specifies bread flour, but I use all purpose (King Arthur, of course).

I let the dough rise once, and then divided it. I used 90-95 gram pieces, which I shaped into balls and then let rest for maybe 20 minutes or so? I made 7 balls and put the rest of the dough in the fridge to use as a starter in the next day or so.

I rolled them out quite thin, as I've been doing for the past couple of years. I used to make them too thick and then they puffed unevenly -- the top would be really thin and the bottom would be too bready.

I heated the stone in the oven to 450 for about a half hour.

I decided to experiment -- I've seen recipes that call for letting the rolled rounds rest for awhile before baking them, and I always do that, but it's a hassle to find places for all the doughs to rest, keep track of which one is "oldest," and then I wind up with half a dozen cookie sheets and cutting boards all gritty with cornmeal and cornmeal spilled all over the floor . . . sigh.

SO. I tried to streamline. I rolled one out, and stuck it in the oven for 3 minutes, during which time I rolled the next one, and as soon as the first one came out, in went the next. It worked out really well! The whole process went really fast.

Well, except for the little girl who wanted to help me roll dough. I let her play with two of the dough balls, which I then attempted to rescue after she was done. Those two puffed unevenly despite my best efforts, but I still think it's worth it to let her "help."

After they'd cooled, I split them, brushed them with olive oil, sprinkled them with salt, cut them into squares, and baked them on sheet pans at 350 (using the convection setting) for 10 to 15 minutes. I've done that with leftover pitas for years, but I think I finally have a process in place. I would like to do this often enough to have them around for regular snacking.

Friday, June 27, 2008

chickpeas and greens

Well, Deborah Madison never disappoints. I found a recipe for chickpeas and greens with Moroccan spices, and it was dynamite! I soaked some chickpeas around 10 a.m. and cooked them around 5, with a (whole) onion, a few cloves of garlic, and a few pinches of asafoetida. (I've decided, by the by, that chickpea broth, this way, just might be the vegetarian version of chicken broth. It's got richness, depth of flavor -- as well as a delicacy that most bean broths lack. I just love bean broths, for sure, but I think that chickpea broth is my fave.)

I didn't have quite enough cilantro, but at least some left from last week's share -- and the parsley I clipped from my own herb garden. Last year's parsley has gone to seed, but I bought a few plants at the farmer's market last Saturday and planted those with some compost; they're thriving.

The other thing I didn't have was preserved lemons -- I've been meaning to try making those for awhile, so as soon as I find a good price on unsprayed lemons, I think I'll take the plunge.

We ate the rest of the pickled beets with it, and multicolored orzo, and Aaron brought some sausages that we threw on the grill for those who wanted them.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008


I need to tell Aaron: it's an important day today! I'm making the first pickled beets of the year.

I think I'm going to make pesto to have with pasta for dinner tonight, as well as a big salad, and some pickled beets, of course.

CSA pickup day is always hard, because part of me wants to cook it all! right now! But I think that will be okay for tonight.

Then maybe I'll do greens tomorrow -- beet greens, and chard. I also want to soak more chickpeas to make more hummus. I've been on a binge lately. Plus greens and chickpeas are always delicious together . . . maybe I'll hunt around some cookbooks for inspiration . . .

Oh, and then there are garlic scapes, and shelling peas . . . that just shouts "risotto" to me. I could use some of my chickpea broth for risotto . . .

Last night I made Indian: lentil curry/dal with brown lentils; greens sauteed with ginger and garlic (it was spinach and bok choy -- not exactly traditional, but it's what I had) and basmati rice, plain except for a few cardamom pods thrown in for subtle flavor. And I rinsed and soaked the rice, which I don't often do, but it made the grains more separate and elongated. I'm not sure it made much difference taste-wise, but it looked cool. Oh, and a yogurt sauce with finely chopped cilantro and scallions and salt. That might have been the best part of the whole meal. I just ate leftovers now.

I've decided the key to getting these things ready -- cleaned, trimmed, etc. -- is to start early in the day. Right now (it's 2.30) I have basil soaking to get the mud off (it POURED yesterday -- did I mention?) and I'm about to go soak some lettuce.

Friday, June 20, 2008

strawberry jam

Yesterday the kids and I went out to Verrill Farm in Concord to pick some strawberries -- 7.5 lbs, in fact. We ate and ate them, and also made jam, 7 half pints. I gave one to Aaron who came for dinner last night. I made the jam last year, too, using a recipe from a yard-sale-purchased Vegetarian Epicure, book 2. I'm too stubborn to actually buy pectin to add to the jam, and my jam-making skills are slightly less than rudimentary, so it is a little more syrup-like than jam-like, but it tastes good. Oh, and I only got two of the lids to actually vacuum seal, so all of it is stored in the fridge.

Of course, it's a funny thing about jam: I don't really like it. I always think I'm going to like it, and I try it valiantly -- but really, I so love toast with butter that I can't bring myself to adulterate it with jam. Same drill with peanut butter sandwiches. But Jon loves it, and I love making it, so there you go.

I also made some pita chips from the leftover pita from Wednesday night's dinner, which we ate with carrots and hummus. Annie helped. She loved brushing the olive oil on the pitas. And I made pizza for dinner, a couple of which I topped with a combination of beet greens -- heavenly -- and spinach, sauteed with garlic, oliver oil and salt. The rest had a more traditional tomato sauce on them, based on a recipe in Peter Reinhart's American Pie, which is my typical sauce recipe.

I'm hoping to pick more strawberries and make some more jam before the season finishes, but I'm not sure it'll happen. The kids' interest waned quickly.

Now I need to go shape sandwich bread for its final rise in pans, and make some dough for rolls to rise overnight in the fridge and shape and bake tomorrow morning to take to a friend's for a cookout tomorrow afternoon. Oh, yeah, and cook dinner, which will involve black beans -- one of my standbys I'll write about another time.

One final note: I managed to get to the Indian Grocery today in search of amchoor powder, but I couldn't find it. Oh well, just an excuse for another trip sometime. I did get some spicy snack mix, some fresh mangoes and some ground cumin, though.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Last week's chickpeas

We've been eating salads every night, with gorgeous lettuce and spinach, as well as radishes and, this week, scallions, all from Drumlin, dressed with red wine vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper. Bliss in a bowl.

One of my perennial difficulties with the greens is how dirty they are: it's a lot of work to wash them, but also a lot of water! I hit upon a solution: I've been saving the water (or "harvesting" it) to water my plants with! I'm very happy about this, because I really felt guilty washing all that water down the drain.

Last Friday night I reprised a dinner I'd made last year, from Deborah Madison's Local Flavors book. It's sauteed bok choy wrapped inside crepes made with scallions sprinkled on them. Best of all, my kids ate them (sans the bok choy, sadly) because we said they were similar to scallion pancakes that we sometimes get at Chinese restaurants.

But I had also soaked some chickpeas, so I cooked those. I was thinking of making more hummus using the recent Cook's Illustrated method, which I did tonight, finally -- it was fantastic, though a little on the runny side. That's what I get for not measuring the lemon juice or the cooking water I added in. But it makes great salad dressing -- a nice change from the vinaigrette we've been having.

But I also cooked an Indian chickpea dish from Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian. I'll look up the name of it in a minute. (Moghlai Chanay.) I have to say, I make decent dal and seasoned basmati rice; a few little vegetable curries (one with brown lentils and cauliflower comes to mind); a yummy Indian potato dish, adapted from one in Laurel's Kitchen . . . but I tend to be disappointed when I attempt anything more elaborate. Somehow the things I've tried lack the depth I'm after. But this one was a winner! Adding lots of seasonings over time and letting them all saute to bring out their flavor helped, I'm sure, as did that incredibly cool technique of stirring the yogurt, tablespoon by tablespoon, into the seasoned onions. It was almost like making a roux. It disappeared into the sauce, but added this rich, velvety dimension to the dish beyond the complexity of flavors. Really amazing. AND, I left a few things out of the recipe that I didn't have -- fresh cilantro, for example, and amchoor powder. But I'll certainly be getting the latter next time I go down to Patel Brothers! (Plus, I used very old garam masala -- yes, I toasted and ground the spices myself, but like three years ago. Shh. )

Wednesday, June 4, 2008


Well, CSA pickup #1 was today, so dinner will be a big salad with lettuce, spinach, radishes, chives (from my little herb garden) and probably a can of chickpeas dumped on top, with a nice olive oil and red wine vinegar dressing . . .

oh, yes, and some yummy bread (because baking bread every. single. day is totally normal, right?)

and a birthday cake for little Annie, 3 years old today! My old standby, the 6-minute chocolate cake from Moosewood . . . almost as fast as a mix and about 10 times better . . .

leaving tomorrow and not packed yet, augh!!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

corn meal

I think I've been on a little cornmeal kick lately -- but not just any cornmeal -- more specifically, coarse-grind polenta.

Last week I made a mushroom polenta pie based on a recipe in Moosewood Low-Fat Favorites, using portobello mushrooms and some beautiful local spinach from Wilson's Farm. I forgot to take a picture, but it was delicious, and we ate it with some red sauce I made and froze last September, based on a recipe of Deborah Madison's -- I think it was a "long simmered tomato sauce" but I can't remember at the moment which of her cookbooks it comes from.

Today I'm making Anadama bread. I started it last night, as specified by the recipe in Peter Reinhart's Bread Baker's Apprentice. I've made it before, but not in awhile. I mixed up the sponge earlier and just now put together the dough. Personally I like a darker molasses than he calls for. Mostly I'm making this to take to my sister later this week.

I'm thinking this is an ideal moment to start this project, because our summer CSA begins tomorrow! I am so excited. Our first pickup will have lettuce, spinach and bok choy.