Thursday, December 31, 2009

Pumpkin and Roast Pork Empanadas

Yes, it's a meat pie on the veggie blog. But it is half veggie, and if you don't eat pork, I bet it would be good with some sauteed kale instead of the pork. I think I like pies because they are a main dish that can incorporate lots of veggies, and you really don't have to think of a side dish - just a pile of fresh crunchy greens for contrast. I guess I like to not have to come up with more than one fabulous dish per meal. I like to make side dishes too, but then I don't have the energy to think of a main dish to go with it!

I was looking to use up a couple of Sweet Dumpling squashes I had lying around, and yesterday was a big day of roasting, so I cooked them up. They are much like acorn squashes only spotted and not pointed on the bottom. In any recipe that calls for pumpkin, it is safest to use canned pumpkin OR any type of winter squash - acorn, butternut, kabocha, sweet dumpling, delicata, they are all pretty much interchangeable . If you cook up an actual pumpkin, whether it's a big jack o' lantern or a little pie pumpkin, it releases a huge amount of water, and you have to be really careful to press all the liquid out until it is very dry. Winter squashes are grown in the summer, just like summer squashes (like zucchini or pattypan) - they are only called "winter" squashes because they will keep nicely all through the winter at room temperature or below.

This recipe is adapted from The Border Cookbook by Cheryl Alters Jamison and Bill Jamison, a couple of big New Mexico foodies.  An empanada is a little turnover, usually filled with some sort of sweet-savory meat mixture. This is a traditional filling from Espanola, NM.  The Golden Crown Panaderia (Mexican bakery) down the street from our house makes fruit empanadas, fillled with such delights as pineapple, apricot, blueberry, pumpkin, you never know what they'll have!  There is a special dough for the crust, but I just used frozen pie crust - this time I tried Trader Joe's, which comes flat, and it was pretty good.  Be forewarned that this recipe makes 16 pretty good-sized empanadas (enough to feed about six people!)

4 pre-made pie crusts

1 cup raisins
1/2 cup brandy
1 pound pork loin
1 medium onion, minced
1 teaspoon salt, or more to taste
2 cups water
2 cups canned pumpkin or baked acorn squash
1/2 cup pecans or pine nuts, toasted and chopped
1 Tbs minced fresh cilantro (optional, but next time I would use more!)
1 tsp red chile (next time I would use more!)
1 tsp ground allspice

1 egg
1 Tbs water

Combine raisins and brandy in a small bowl and set aside to soak.

Place the pork, onion, and squash (cut in half and lay cut side down) in a 9x13 baking dish. Sprinkle the pork and onion with salt, and pour water over. Bake about 60 minutes at 375, until meat is cooked through and tender. Scoop the squash out of its shell and mash it up in a large bowl. Remove the meat (saving the stock) and shred it finely with a fork. I should have taken a picture of Dave doing this, but I forgot - sorry! You just hold the meat with one fork, and then scrape little shreds off with another fork.

Combine the squash, shredded meat, raisins (drained), and all the rest of the filling ingredients. Add stock to make the filling moist but not runny.

To make the turnovers, I cut each pie crust in quarters, put some filling in the middle of each triangle, folded them over into little wedges, then crimped the edges with a fork. At this point, you could freeze some to bake later! You don't have to thaw them, just plan on baking them a little longer. Brush the glaze lightly over the top of each empanada, and bake at 375 for 20 minutes or until golden brown.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Balsamic Roasted Oranges, Beets and Red Onions

I am really getting into this roasting thing. What wouldn't taste great roasted?  We got some beautiful beets from Los Poblanos this week, the peppermint-striped Chioggia variety. These particular ones are actually the sweetest I've ever tasted.  We've also been getting some wonderful, juicy, sweet oranges lately too, and I wanted to make a beet and orange salad.  Since I was roasting the broccoli, I thought I would try roasting the oranges and beets too!

So I cut up 4 beets, 2 oranges and half a red onion, and tossed them with about 2 Tbs olive oil, 2 Tbs balsamic vinegar, 1 Tbs honey, salt, pepper, and some fresh rosemary and thyme (my herbs are overwintering nicely even in 20-degree temperatures!) I was a little concerned about the oranges burning, so I roasted it all at 375 for about 60 minutes. You may notice I left the skins on the orange pieces, thinking maybe the peel would add flavor, but about halfway through I decided to try one, and it was bitter, so I ended up peeling all the skins off before putting it back in the oven.

It turned out heavenly! Everything takes on a rich sweet flavor, and the onions are all melty-soft... Wow!

Roasted Broccoli

We've been getting an awful lot of broccoli lately in the Los Poblanos box.  I love broccoli when steamed to tender-crunchy perfection (rather than boiled into mushy oblivion!)  There are any number of ways to enjoy steamed broccoli, whether tossed with lemon juice and parmesan, with beef in a spicy stir-fry, or smothered with gooey cheese sauce.... But I wanted to try something new. Hey, how about roasting it?

A quick search of the interweb reveals dozens of recipes for roasted broccoli - some with chile, soy sauce, sesame, or even grill seasoning.  Normally I kind of steer away from roasting things because it takes so long, but this only takes 20 minutes. Yeah, that's long for broccoli, but short for roasting!  I decided to stick to the basics rather than adding a whole bunch of seasonings - the better to taste the vegetables, you know....

Chop up a large head of broccoli into medium florets (you can also peel the stem and slice it up too, it's very sweet.)  If you've just washed the broccoli, dry off the pieces in a clean dishtowel so the olive oil sticks to them better.  Then toss them with a few cloves of garlic (minced) and a liberal amount of olive oil, salt and pepper.  Put it in the oven at 425F for 20 minutes or so, until the edges of each piece are slightly charred.  Cooking it at this high of a temperature is essential because it browns the edges without making the broccoli too squishy.  The flavor is wonderfully concentrated and nutty.  It's so good, I almost ate the whole pan myself! 

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

A Few of My Favorite Things - Brussels Sprouts and Artichokes

We drove out to California for Christmas, and stayed in Santa Barbara for a few days - it was wonderful, and to top it all off, they had a farmers' market while we were there! Since we were going up to visit Dave's brother and his girlfriend in Morro Bay the next day, I thought it wouldn't hurt to pick up a few things we could cook at their house. Here's a photo of all the delicious bounty I just couldn't resist - look at all the beautiful things that are in season this time of year in California!

I was so excited to find whole stalks of  Brussels sprouts for sale! They are so beautiful on the stalk, and someone told me you can eat the big leaves too. I guess that makes sense, since the sprouts are just little leaves, but I never thought about it before. Yes, look at me, it's ridiculous how excited I get about vegetables.

Brussels sprouts... just another much-maligned vegetable that is incredibly tasty when done right! If your mom boiled them until they were soggy, stinky blobs, I can certainly understand if you don't think you could possibly like them. I humbly submit that perhaps if you give them a try my way, you might be surprised.

So, here it is - my simple method of making Brussels sprouts taste good. Fry the heck out of them! Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a pan, toss in the sprouts and some minced garlic, sprinkle generously with salt, and cook them on medium-high until the sprouts are browned on the outside and tender on the inside. This takes maybe 20 minutes or less. Ok, so maybe anything tastes good fried, but you don't have to resort to frying them in bacon grease (although that's good too) just to make them palatable. When you brown the outside, they take on a warm, nutty flavor all their own. If you like, you can also add bacon, dried cranberrries, parmesan cheese, whatever sounds good. I particularly like a maple and mustard glaze, but they are delicious plain and simple.

Artichokes are such strange and elegant vegetables. If you have never eaten one, you might have no idea what to do with it... Much of it is prickly and tough, and we eat it in the most bizarre way: peeling off each leaf and scraping the tender bottom part off with our teeth! Here is a wonderful step-by-step explanation of how to prepare and eat an artichoke:  Personally, I don't go to the trouble of cutting off the pointy tips or cleaning out the middle before cooking it. I just steam or boil it ~45 minutes and it's ready to eat! In my family, we always just handled the leaves carefully and after eating all the leaves we'd use a spoon to scrape the prickly "choke" off the heart.

My mom always served it with plain mayonnaise for dipping, and though it may sound weird, it is surprisingly fantastic! Until you've eaten it with artichokes, you've probably never appreciated the subtle flavor of mayonnaise. If you think of mayo as just a sandwich spread, you may not have an opinion about brands, but in my artichoke-eating experience, I prefer Hellmanns/Best Foods. Aioli is basically just mayonnaise with a little bit of mustard and garlic and sometimes other delicious things added. Some like to serve lemon butter or fancy dips with artichokes - go crazy, it's all good, but I still think plain mayo is the best.  Bon appetit!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Italian Celery Salad

Another installment on my winter salad kick! It's a wonderful celery, walnut and apple salad with shaved parmesan cheese and a lemon juice dressing. I don't go through celery very fast - I guess it has always just seemed like such a boring vegetable to me, it needs something to dress it up. So whenever I get it from our CSA, I make this salad to use a bunch of of it up! It's so refreshing, tangy, and also rich tasting with the cheese.

This recipe is adapted from the Silver Spoon cookbook (the Italian equivalent of the Joy of Cooking, recently translated into English).
2 tart apples (such as Granny Smith)
most of a bunch of celery
Juice of 2 lemons
1/2 cup walnuts
2 oz. Parmesan or other hard cheese, shaved into thin strips
1/2 cup parsley, chopped
Salt and pepper

Slice the celery stalks in 3-inch lengths, then slice each piece lengthwise into thin strips. Core the apples and slice them into matchsticks (so they are kind of the same shape as the celery strips). Toss with the lemon juice, walnuts, shaved cheese and parsley. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Fennel and Grapefruit Salad

I don't know why, all of a sudden I am really into salads in the middle of winter! When most people are thinking of warming soups, here I am eating salad.  But 'tis the season for citrus, so... this is one of my all-time favorites (adapted from Modern Moroccan by Ghillie Basan). Fennel is one of my favorite vegetables, with the crisp texture of celery, and a light licorice flavor. This is fantastic with grilled fish!

1 medium fennel bulb
2 red grapefruits
1/2 tsp ground roasted cumin seeds
2-3 green onions
a handful of Kalamata or other tangy black olives
olive oil
salt to taste

Slice the fennel as thin as you can. Cut the peel off the grapefruit, cut in half crosswise, and remove the skin from the segments (or if you're feeling lazy, just chop into wedges). Put whole cumin seeds in a dry pan and roast on medium heat for a couple of minutes until they smell toasty, then grind them in a clean coffee grinder or mortar and pestle. If you don't want to take the time to grind them, just put them in whole. Or you can roast regular ground cumin in the pan, but you have to be really careful - scrape it back and forth often with a spatula so it doesn't burn. Chop up the green onions and pit the olives, add to the salad with olive oil and salt. Delicious!!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Fall fruit salad dressing

There's been a bit of interest in how to make the dressing for the salad in the persimmon post. In short, it's about three parts walnut oil, one part balsamic vinegar, and salt (and maybe lemon juice) to taste.

But if you're like us and don't have walnut oil on hand, you can make your own while you make the salad. Details back at the original post, here.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Carrot Pie

For a person who hates to make pie crust, I sure seem to make a lot of pies! I guess I just love the warm toastiness of pie in the winter. This is another one adapted from The Winter Vegetarian by Darra Goldstein. I used store-bought pie crust this time, instead of the yeast dough she describes. It is fantastic! A side of fresh greens is the perfect complement to the silky richness of this pie.

My mom hates cooked carrots, but I challenge her to try this!!

1 1/4 pounds carrots, trimmed and coarsely chopped
1 large leek
5 Tbs butter
1 1/4 cups bread crumbs
1 1/2 tsp salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup minced parsley (stems ok)
1-2 tsp dried dill
3 Tbs sour cream

2 premade pie crusts
1 egg yolk
1 tsp cold water

Preheat the oven to 350. Boil the carrots in salted water until just tender, 10 minutes. Chop them very finely (this is important for the texture, so it's nice to have a food processor). Cut the green parts off the leek, and cut it in half lengthwise. Slice it thinly, crosswise. There is usually a lot of dirt inside the leek, so toss all the slices into a colander and rinse them thoroughly.

Melt the butter in a skillet, and cook the leeks, carrots and bread crumbs for 10 minutes more. Remove from the heat and add the salt, pepper, parsley, dill and sour cream. Let the filling cool slightly before spreading it over the pie crust.

Lay the top crust over the filling, roll up the edges and crimp with fingers or a fork. Whisk together the egg and water, and brush the crust with it. Bake 25-30 minutes, until the crust is golden brown.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Sweet Potato, Spinach and Leftover Turkey Hash

As some of you may know, my all-time favorite breakfast is corned beef hash. Well, this recipe may actually become a rival! But I love any kind of hash. This is partly because I don't particularly like eggs for their own sake. And in general, I don't really like breakfast food. I would always rather have leftovers from last night's dinner than a stack of pancakes. This sweet potato hash can be made with turkey, sausage (or both), or smoked or baked tofu - whatever sounds good to you!  It is smoky, spicy and sweet, and the spinach adds a freshness that balances out the heaviness of the potatoes and onions.

2-3 Tbs olive oil
2 sweet potatoes (I happened to have white ones)
1 cup chopped leftover turkey OR breakfast sausage (I like sage sausage) OR baked or smoked tofu
1 small-medium red onion
1/2 lb fresh spinach
2 cloves garlic
1/2 tsp chipotle powder
1 Tbs balsamic vinegar
Freshly ground pepper

Slice the onions thinly, and the sweet potatoes into 1/4-1/2" thick half-moons. If using sausage, crumble it into a large skillet on medium heat, and cook until brown. Add the olive oil, onion and sweet potatoes. Stir to coat everything with oil. Cover and let it steam for 5-10 minutes, stirring once or twice. When the potatoes are tender, add the turkey or tofu, garlic, spinach, chipotle powder, salt and pepper. Cook until the spinach is wilted down. Drizzle in the balsamic vinegar and stir well. Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Cabbage Pie Soup

Photo by Sergio Salvador
This is my favorite cabbage recipe of all time! I know, it sounds weird. If you try it, I guarantee you will be amazed by its deliciousness. Everyone I've served it to has loved it. It's a bit of an indulgence - the crust is full of butter and sour cream, but it's actually the rich flavor of the cabbage that makes it taste so good. If you are so inclined, you can probably experiment with making it lower in fat and it will still be good.

Many people think of cabbage as a bland, boring vegetable. This may be because they've only had it boiled! I do enjoy cabbage in a stew, but that is not the way to bring out cabbage's best flavor. And you can only eat so much coleslaw. Cabbage develops a wonderful nutty flavor when sauteed. Even more amazing is the flavor it takes on when you add a balance of salt, sugar and vinegar.

This recipe is adapted from Darra Goldstein's The Winter Vegetarian.  I remember when I bought this cookbook, a co-worker said "Wow, that sounds boring!"  He couldn't have been more wrong - it is a fascinating book, full of Eastern European recipes, stories about Tolstoy's ascetic vegetarian diet, and about a thousand uses for buckwheat.

Ok, so here we go. This does take a little while to prepare, so don't start it at 6:45pm when you're starving. You can use pre-made pie crust to save time, but the original crust is so much better...

2 cups flour (half whole wheat is good!)
8 Tbs butter
1 cup sour cream
1 beaten egg

1 head of cabbage (green is fine, red is gorgeous!)
4 Tbs butter
2 Tbs vinegar
3 Tbs sugar
2 tsp salt

I just use vegetable bouillion, but if you like to make stock, go for it!

Cut together the flour and butter, with a fork or a food processor, until its texture resembles cornmeal. Then stir in the sour cream until the dough holds together. Divide the dough into two balls, wrap them in plastic and refrigerate for an hour.

Preheat the oven to 425. Slice up the cabbage into thin ribbons, or grate in the food processor. I like to cut it rather than grate it. If you grate it, it has a very different texture. Heat the butter on medium high in a large skillet. Toss in the cabbage, and cover with a lid for 5-10 minutes to help it wilt down faster. Add the rest of the ingredients - the salt will cause the cabbage to release some water. Cook on high heat, stirring frequently, until all liquid is absorbed or evaporated, and the cabbage is translucent. How long this takes depends on how finely you cut or grate the cabbage, about 20-30 minutes. I like to cook it down a lot, until it is slightly browned.

Roll out each ball of dough to fit a 9x13 pan. Spread the cabbage over the bottom crust. Cover with the top crust, and roll up the edges of both crusts together. Brush the top with the beaten egg. Bake 20-30 minutes, until the top is golden brown.

Now for the strange part. To serve, put a square of pie in a wide bowl and pour the broth over it. You might be thinking, why make it soup?? The cabbage pie looks pretty good by itself, and won't it get soggy?! Trust me, it really is even better with the broth.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Green Beans

I have about 5 gallon-size bags of beautiful green beans in the freezer from my garden this summer. It makes me happy to pull them out during the winter and remember the glory of those bright, warm days. I have two absolutely fantastic recipes for green beans to share.

The first thing to know about green beans is: to obtain the best texture, you should boil them in a big pot of water for 3-5 minutes. They will turn bright green, and the pot may not even quite return to a boil before they are done. If you steam them they get a bit rubbery, and if you saute them they don't cook fast enough. Drain them in a colander and spray them down with cold water to stop the cooking so they retain their crisp texture.

My friends Sarah and David called up this morning to ask for this recipe, that we served at our wedding celebration this August. So I guess it's time to put it on the blog!  It comes essentially from Mollie Katzen's new cookbook,  The Vegetable Dishes I Can't Live Without, but of course I have modified it a bit.

3 Tbs olive oil
3/4 cup almonds, coarsely chopped
1 clove garlic, coarsely minced
2 Tbs capers
1.5 lbs green beans, prepared as above

Heat the olive in a large skillet. Add the almonds and cook, stirring constantly for about 5 minutes, until they look and smell toasty. Add the garlic and stir a bit, then turn off the heat. Add the green beans and turn with a spatula or tongs to mix, sprinkling with salt as you go. I was tempted once to just add the salt to the almond mixture, but it all sank to the bottom and was really hard to get mixed in. Voila!

The other wonderful recipe is Gujerati-style Green Beans, adapted from Madhur Jaffrey's Indian Cooking

4 Tbs olive oil
1 Tbs black (brown) mustard seeds
4 cloves garlic, finely minced
1/2 tsp red chile powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sugar
Freshly ground black pepper
1 lb green beans, prepared as above

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When hot, put in the mustard seeds. As soon as they begin to crackle and pop, put in the garlic and stir until they just begin to brown. Put in the red chile and stir for a second, then add all the rest of the ingredients. Turn the heat down slightly, and stir for a few more minutes so the beans get well-coated and absorb the flavors. So good! Even though this is an Indian recipe, it is good alongside almost anything. I have also made it with powdered yellow mustard.

Cranberry Pie

When most people think of cranberries, all they know is the gelatinous cranberry sauce served at Thanksgiving in the shape of the can!  I love the cranberry relish my grandmother made, basically just a whole orange (peel and all) and fresh cranberries chopped up with a little bit of sugar.

But here is something I just discovered - cranberry pie! It is absolutely incredible. It tastes like Christmas. It reminds me of something I can't put my finger on. My best friend Lora likes it, and she doesn't like fruit in general (yes, weird). Ok, so it's not pretty - I am not that great at making pretty pies, in fact I hate making pie crust so this is just store-bought crust. But inside that ugly shell is pure cinnamony cranberry deliciousness. It calls for cinnamon sticks, which you'd think would be annoying to pick out, but it's actually fun because they taste so wonderful all soaked with sweet cranberry juices.

I have no idea where I got this recipe - I found it on a card, in my handwriting, in my recipe box and I thought it was the one Lora gave me, but when I was telling her about how I'd made it, we quickly realized it's not the same recipe at all!  Anyway, I think her recipe was some kind of family secret, so it's probably better that I don't publish it on my blog... This one is pretty basic.

8 cups fresh cranberries (or frozen, chopped)
2.5 cups sugar
1/3 cup tapioca
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup molasses
3 cinnamon sticks

Mix all but the cinnamon sticks in a large bowl. I used a potato masher to crush them all together, but you could probably just chop the cranberries coarsely first and then mix it all together. Pour into the bottom crust, then tuck the cinnamon sticks in. Put on the top crust (lattice is recommended but I didn't have the patience). Bake at 400 for 60 minutes.

For thickening, I used pearl tapioca, which you can actually see in the photo if you look closely. I don't know whether mine was instant or regular, but instant tapioca or tapioca starch is best. You can also grind up the pearls in a clean coffee grinder or food processor to make tapioca starch.

I'm going to have to buy some more cranberries!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Go Greens!

Cooking greens, like kale or broccoli greens (I just recently discovered these are edible!) are something I pretty much never even heard of until I was about 25. And I didn't figure out how to make them so they really taste good until several years later.  Lots of people have never tried them, and many others have not had them done well.

As I said before, I am not a vegetarian.... Recently our friends Nate and Laura gave us the Gift of Meat - 1/4 of a cow!! So we were pretty excited to cook up some steaks this weekend. But you know how when you order steak at a restaurant, it comes with a mountain of mashed potatoes and this pathetic little pile of steamed or fried zucchini, green beans and carrots? That's just sad. What you really need to go along with a big juicy steak is the big strong flavor of a garlicky heap of greens!

Yes, you can chop them up and put them in soup to get your vitamins, but the best flavors of most greens really shine when you saute them in olive oil with plenty of garlic and salt. I did mention beet greens and chard in an earlier post, but the recipe is a bit different because they have a bit of natural saltiness, and a unique flavor.

For kale, start by ripping out the center rib from each leaf because it is pretty tough. For broccoli greens, you don't really have to do this. Then lay all the leaves down on the cutting board and slice through the whole pile to create thin ribbons. Heat up the olive oil on medium high in the largest skillet you have, and throw the whole pile in. If you have a lid for the skillet, put it on so that the greens wilt faster. When they have cooked down a little bit, you can stir them and put in some minced garlic, and salt to taste (use at least 1/4t salt for a panful of kale). Keep frying and stirring until the leaves begin to brown a tiny bit - be careful not to burn them, but this browning will give them a wonderful nutty flavor.

Another fabulous way to eat kale is grilled - rub each leaf with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, then throw them on the grill individually for about 10 seconds - just until they start to turn slightly brown and crispy. It is easy to burn them, so be careful! I got this technique from a gorgeous cookbook called Homegrown, by Michael Nischan with Mary Goodbody. It was actually described as an accompaniment to grilled chicken, and interestingly, the recipe has also been posted on

And finally - until just recently, I was a bit scared of collard greens. All that talk about boiling them for hours, with bacon, and the funky smell while they're cooking... Well, I finally just tried frying them, with minced red onion, paprika and a little bit of oregano, and they're great! They can be tough, so be sure to take out the center rib, and add a little water to the pan so you can cook them longer if needed. I could eat the whole panful by myself!!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Sweet Potato Pancakes

I love sweet potatoes, but all those recipes for mashed or candied, with orange juice or marshmallows, get old fast!!  Here is a wonderful, filling, savory pancake for breakfast, lunch or dinner... who doesn't love potato pancakes? These are even better, and quickly becoming my favorite breakfast. The recipe is adapted from Mollie Katzen's Moosewood Cookbook (which you may have noticed is one of my all-time faves).

6 cups grated sweet potatoes (in the photo, I have white sweet potatoes and garnet yams)
1 cup grated onion
1 1/2 tsp salt
3-4 Tbs lemon or lime juice (optional)
2 beaten eggs
1/3 cup flour

Mix all ingredients thoroughly. Heat 2-3 Tbs oil in a large skillet on medium heat, until it is very hot (a fleck of batter should sizzle on contact). Use a spoon to scoop out batter, including the juices at the bottom of the bowl. Form thin pancakes, pressing down with the back of the spoon. Fry on both sides until brown, adding a little more oil if needed. Serve hot, with sour cream or yogurt, and applesauce if you like, although they are plenty sweet.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Kohlrabi Pickle

I volunteer at one of the Los Poblanos Organics CSA pickup locations, and it's a great place to pick up new recipes. One of our members came in last week really excited about kohlrabi, and I said - Wow, you must know a good recipe! What are you going to do with it? 

I had tried growing it a few years ago, and it was beautiful but I couldn't figure out what to do with it. I ended up making this stuffed kohlrabi thing, and it was not that great... Let me just say, I am fundamentally against pretty much all "stuffed" vegetables. I mean, you just carve out the inside and mix it with a bunch of bread crumbs or whatever, it takes a bunch of time and energy to assemble, at least an hour to bake, and basically just tastes like flavored bread! By that time, I'm starving and wishing I'd just sauteed it in olive oil, so I could be enjoying the vegetable's full delicious flavor without all that work. And kohlrabi is pretty dense stuff, so it was a big pain chipping out the hard, solid inside just to fill it with fluff!

Well, this woman from the CSA said, her mom used to make a kohlrabi pickle! It's really simple. You chop up the kohlrabi into matchsticks and you put them in a jar with minced garlic, and chile flakes if you like that sort of thing (and I do). Then you fill the jar 1/4 of the way with rice vinegar, 1/4 more with water, and the rest with soy sauce. That's it. And oh wow, is it good. Not too soy-saucy as you might imagine - the vinegar and water really balance it out. I ate about half a pint as soon as I was finished making it. It's addictive!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

What the hell is a genesimmon?

A guest post by Dave!
I discovered persimmons one year in college when I spent Thanksgiving at my friend's aunt's house. She was, to put it mildly, a foodie, and I got introduced to a lot of new things that visit. My friend and I rode the train up to Berkeley and went directly to the restaurant where her aunt worked, for dinner.

Since I couldn't decide between two desserts, Aunt Catherine suggested I have both. One was a persimmon pudding, and I forget what the other one was. I was eighteen and the world was swimming. I'd never been to Berkeley, I'd never met a professional chef, and I'd never had a dessert like this. Aunt Catherine also had a little bowl of persimmons at her house and I had some every day for breakfast while I was there. Persimmons are the ultimate fall fruit.

When I got back from break I emailed all of my friends about the persimmon. My friend Jason replied, "What the hell's a genesimmon?"

The above persimmon is the Fuyu variety. It gets softer as it gets more ripe, but you can pretty much eat it any time, like an apple. The other common variety of persimmon is the Hachiya. It is pointy like an acorn, instead of tomato-shaped like the Fuyu. It is also an astringent variety, which means you must let it ripen until it is a nearly mushy pudding-like blob, so soft you think it must be rotten (but it's not). Otherwise it is terrible to eat.

Back to the Fuyu-- my favorite way to eat it is to peel it, cut it into chunks, and squeeze a lime over it. That's the best. Or, you can make a salad like I remember Aunt Catherine making.

The vinaigrette can be made with about 3 parts walnut oil to one part balsalmic vinegar, salt to taste. If it seems a little sweet, a squeeze of lemon will work things out.

But, if you're like most people and don't have walnut oil in the cupboard (besides, it goes rancid rather quickly), you can make your own with olive oil. First, chop and toast the walnuts for your salad, 4-5 minutes at 350F. Then combine the hot walnuts and the olive oil for your dressing in a pan an heat on low for 5 or 10 minutes. Be careful the walnuts don't get too dark/burnt! Since hot oil doesn't make for good salad dressing, you'll need to chill everything for a bit.

For the rest of the salad, slice Fuyu persimmons and Asian pears; toss with Belgian endive (frisee) or a salad mix, the toasted walnuts, and pomegranate seeds.

My Favorite Beet Recipes

I adore beets. Their deep red color is so sensual, and their smell so earthy. Yes, it's a culinary cliche! I know, you're probably thinking "That's what all beet-lovers say, but I'm not one of them. Beets taste like dirt."  Well, I can't promise these recipes will make you love them, but... more than one of my friends has said they never liked beets before they had them at my house! Of course, it helps to wash them very thoroughly with a brush, and maybe scrape them with a knife to get off the tough parts of the skin.

Beets are super-easy to grow, you can plant them almost any time of the year (maybe not in the dead of winter) and they are pretty pest-free in my experience. Even in the heat of ABQ summers, my beets have not turned woody, although I've heard that can happen. Chard is the exact same species of plant, just a different variety, bred for tender leaves rather than big roots.

My all-time favorite way to eat beets: 
This is a very simple procedure, from Alice Waters' Chez Panisse Vegetables cookbook. Slice them 1/8-1/4" thick and steam them until they are tender. Then while they are still hot, drizzle them with a little bit of vinegar - any kind will do, but I particularly like red wine, white wine, or cider. Sprinkle a few chives over them, and that's it! They really don't even need salt or pepper. The beets are tender but not jellylike, and the flavor is clean and fresh. They're delicious hot, or cold (like on a salad, perhaps with walnuts and goat cheese or gorgonzola). These are Chioggia beets, with alternating pink and white rings - gorgeous!

And if you're feeling a little sad about throwing away that huge bunch of beautiful greens, here's what to do:
Beet greens can be tough, but if you have a good-looking bunch, cut them off and store them separately from the roots. I like to cook them using Mollie Katzen's Moosewood Cookbook recipe for chard. This is surprisingly, outrageously delicious. I could eat the whole bowl myself in one sitting!

1.5 lb chard or beet greens, coarsely chopped (including stems)
2-3 Tbs olive oil
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbs balsamic vinegar
a little salt and lots of pepper

Heat oil in a large skillet, add the garlic and chard and stir-fry until limp, perhaps slightly browned. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and vinegar. Serve hot or cold.

And now some fancy stuff:
If you're getting bored with beet salad, try this - Scarlet Quinoa, Beet and Cucumber Salad.  My friend Antonia sent me this recipe after having something similar at someone's house, and since I love beets and I've heard quinoa is good for you... I thought I'd try it.  It is gorgeous!  Very tasty - a light yet hearty cold salad. Food fact: quinoa has the highest amount of protein of any grain!

One of my personal favorites is Beet and Goat Cheese Pizza.  I first had this at a restaurant called Carmelita in Seattle, with golden beets. Wow! All you need is a pizza dough (raw or prepared), then you throw on some olive oil, garlic, beets (steamed, as above), and goat cheese (or maybe gorgonzola!)  Bake it until the crust is golden brown and the cheese is bubbling.

Or perhaps you'd like to try a borscht.... My mom always made Mollie Katzen's Russian Cabbage Borscht from the Moosewood Cookbook. But there are zillions of borscht recipes online, and I bet they're all pretty good.  Happy beet-eating!

Yellow Pear Tomato Preserve

This may sound weird, but it is incredibly delicious. I have to grow yellow pear tomatoes every year now, just to make this stuff. It's not difficult to grow enough - the plant grows to a humongous size here in ABQ, and is extremely hardy and prolific.  The preserve is sweet, gingery and mildly tomato-flavored - it's delicious on toast, or on a Thanksgiving-leftover turkey sandwich... seriously, on anything.

There are actually quite a few recipes to be found if you search the internets, but here is the recipe I started with, and I love it! Thank you, "mysterygirl" for the great recipe.

Here's the recipe in case the link gets broken someday:

8 cups yellow pear tomatoes
1 lemon
3 cups sugar
1 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons ginger root or 4 tablespoons thinly sliced candied ginger
Wash and dry tomatoes. Cut a thin slice from blossom end and press out seeds and discard. Combine tomatoes, sugar and salt, simmer until sugar is dissolved. Boil for about 40 minutes. Add thinly sliced lemon and minced or sliced ginger. Boil about 10 minutes longer. Pour into hot jars and seal at once.

Thursday, October 29, 2009


The first post to the vegetable blog - the one that everyone will miss and no one will go back to read...

It has been a fantastic year for our garden, another fabulous season at the farmers' market, and we have just started subscribing to the Los Poblanos Organics box again!  We have such an abundance of vegetables, Dave and I finally got inspired to start documenting some of our culinary inspirations.

Many people are at a loss when it comes to thinking up delicious ways to cook vegetables, especially some of the more unusual ones, like kohlrabi or rutabagas.  Well, this is my obsession.  I'm talking about really yummy, "I can't get enough of this marvelous flavor" vegetable recipes.  Not just some bland bunch of steamed veggies on brown rice, not some gloppy lentil soup with every kind of veggie you don't know how to cook thrown in... Not even a gratin slathered in cream and cheese and breadcrumbs - that's cheating, you're not tasting the vegetable, you're tasting creamy goodness with just a hint of veg, and you just can't eat that kind of thing every night! And since you should eat vegetables every night (nutritionists are now saying half of every meal you eat should be veggies), we could all use some better ideas about how to cook them.

Why eat boring food? I've tried a lot of vegetable recipes - some good, some bad - and I'll be assembling only my favorites on this blog.  People often ask me if I'm a vegetarian, and I say no - I just love vegetables.

So... a couple of pictures to get your mouth watering... here are some of our homegrown poblano chiles roasting on the grill. One of my favorite vegetables, what a perfect photo.  Nothing says New Mexico in fall like the smell of roasting chile.

We just had our first hard frost here in Albuquerque (at least for where I live, near downtown) and these are the last of our tomatoes - heirloom varieties Brandywine, Yellow Pear, and Mr. Stripey. Those green ones will ripen up in a few weeks on the counter.