Thursday, July 17, 2008


There has been some recent deliciousness occurring in my kitchen. The cause: This summer, I am participating in a local farm share, a privileged activity of the socially-conscious green (and maybe, young and urban) professional, which was recently featured in the NYTimes. You pay in advance for produce. Every week, one person picks up that week's allocation of vegetables harvested from the farm. We then struggle to consume the fresh produce without having any of it rot. It is wonderful.

If you are lacking the time (or more importantly, RoHS-compliant soil) to grow your own food, a farm share is the next best thing. You pay (in my case $150) in advance for what turns out to be about 4 months worth of vegetables. That's $10/week for enough vegetables to stuff yourself silly on. Onions. Beets. Turnips. Carrots. Chinese cabbage. Lettuce. Spinach. Tomatoes. Kale. Garlic (and skates). Squash. Zucchini. Cucumbers. You get all of the joys of the earth without any of the labor, birds,
cutworms, deer, mites, droughts, storms, winds or thieving neighbors. It's then an exercise (in my case, a serious learning exercise) to learn how to cook what you have, make it tasty, and most importantly, just eat or preserve all of it. We've had good luck with all our recipes this week... so far.

Saag/Korma Hybrid (a.k.a. I disavow any knowledge of regional Indian cuisine):
  1. Saute finely chopped onions with pressed garlic in a fair amount of rapeseed/canola oil and butter (as a substitution for clarified butter or ghee).
  2. Once the onions are translucent, fold in about a pound of washed, finely chopped spinach.
  3. Add delicious spices, such as coriander, ginger, cumin, fennel, cinnamon and chili powder. Saute. Do not steam.
  4. Separately, wash and dice up summer squash (we had a variety that half-hybridized with zucchini and was quite sweet).
  5. Fry the summer squash in hot canola oil, and as they start to cook spice them with mace, paprika, salt and cinnamon.
  6. Add yogurt to the spinach-onion-spice mix. Reduce.
  7. Fold in the spiced fried squash. Reduce until creamy.
  8. Serve over rice.
Beet and Cucumber Soup (a.k.a. I love cold cucumber bisque):
  1. Start out peeling the beets (save the greens). Dice a cup's worth of them and cook in boiling water.
  2. Juice half a lemon into a blender. Add some salt, some pepper and a handful of chopped onion.
  3. Peel a large cucumber, and cut into medium-sized pieces. Add this to the blender.
  4. Add the cooked beets (drain the water).
  5. Blend!
  6. Add a cup of sour cream to the mixture. Blend!
  7. Add milk and blend until the texture is appropriate.
  8. Serve chilled with sour cream.
Vegetable Ragout (a.k.a. One eats what there is to eat.):
  1. Saute chopped onions with pressed garlic in a fair amount of olive oil.
  2. As the onions are partially cooked, add vegetables in the order of most flavorful/slowest-to-cook (mushrooms, carrots, broccoli, celery, peas, corn, peppers, whatever you have on hand). We added broccoli, beet greens and lemon juice. Saute.
  3. Add tomato sauce and spices (thyme, rosemary, oregano, salt, pepper) (and optional things like tomatoes and meat). Stir, then cover and let steam. If you need more liquid, add vegetable stock or bullion and water.
  4. Fold in chopped cabbage and cover.
  5. Serve as is, with rice, or over pasta.
To make some excellent Eastern European peasant food, start with the ragout, skip steps 2 and 3, go straight to 4 (folding cabbage into sauteed onions and steaming) and then add a pile of cooked lentils. It doesn't look like much, but it is very simple, tasty and filling.

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