Thursday, July 31, 2008

It's All Greek To Me!

I woke up this morning with two things on my to do list: Kick butt and chew bubblegum! And I was all out of bubblegum! Make dinner and pay homage to our Greek ancestors. Well, someone's Greek ancestors. I don't think I have any Greek ancestors. I do, however, have French-Canadian ancestors and Italian ancestors, and 66% of those nationalities border on the Mediterranean (along with Greece) so that's a start!

For salad I boiled the farm share beets, cooled them, and drizzled them with a little Athena Kolymvari Premium Greek olive oil. I just happened to get this oil as a gift two days ago. It's like the Greek stars really aligned and the smiling visage prosopo of Zeus was looking down on me!

I served the beets over the red romaine with a little lemon (Greek!), honey, (Greek!), feta cheese (Greek!), and egg (not actually, but if I had . . . GREEK!) along with the cucumbers and tomato from the farm share.

With eggplant I decided that that should be featured prominently. Originally Jen had toyed with the idea of making a pasta dish such as pasta à la Norma. However, my idea today was to make a loose version of Greek moussaka. By loose I mean it's my interpretation of Moussaka and in no way authentic. I was inspired when I remembered my parents eating at Perfect Pizza growing up. I consider Nick at Perfect Pizza to be like my Greek Grandmother. He would always have the moussaka ready in "fifteen-a-minoots", something I was not going to be able to achieve for tonight's dinner.

My original intention was to make a vegetarian version of moussaka but I had some ground beef in the freezer so I opted to go with the standard meat-eaters' version.

I decided to use the remaining zucchini from last week to pad the eggplant as one eggplant wasn't quite enough for a whole casserole. I peeled and sliced the eggplant. I left the zucchini skin on and sliced it diagonally. I soaked the slices in heavily salted water for twenty minutes, drained, then patted dry and dredged in seasoned (salt and pepper) flour before shallow frying in some olive oil. Then I baked some potatoes, cut them into wedged and fried them in the same pan.

I made a quick tomato sauce using the farm share onions, peppers and the ground beef from the freezer along with some tomato, garlic, red wine and oregano. Then I made a béchamel sauce with butter, flour, milk and grated Parmesan.

I sauced the bottom of the pan with the meat tomato sauce, layered some eggplant, zucchini and potato, then topped with a little tomato sauce, a little béchamel and then put a second layer on, topping with the sauces and some sliced mozzarella cheese.

I baked the whole thing in the oven for about an hour at 350 degrees and then let it cool for about 30-40 minutes before cutting and serving. It was nice because I was able to get most of this done in the morning and then just throw it in the oven to finish it off closer to dinner time.

The final dish turned out pretty good, though next time I would go a little heavier on the sauce and a little lighter on the potato I used. But since I wasn't following any sort of recipe, I don't know how I will accomplish that. I used two baked potatoes so I guess I'd go with 1 to 1.5 next time.

I accompanied the moussaka with some House Wine which was given to us by a dinner guest last week. It's a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (54%), Merlot (30%), Syrah (11%), Malbec (3%), and Cabernet Franc (2%). [Insert generic description here about the "foxy undertones" of the wine" here.]

I had cherries leftover from the Zachary Taylor surprise dessert I made on Saturday and before they went completely bad I turned them into ice cherry vanilla ice cream. I went with a full-fat version after having mixed results in the past few low-fat ice creams I've tried to make. I think in the future I would half the heavy cream used and replace with whole milk. The fat content of the ice cream made it foam up quite a bit when I tempered the eggs into the milk mixture so it did curdle slightly. I was concerned about this but decided to pass it through the machine anyway and the consistency actually turned out pretty good. I cooked half the cherries in the cream mixture and then blended it all to make a pinkish ice cream. Then I diced the remaining cherries and added to the ice cream in the last two minutes of mixing. I topped it with whipped cream and, yes, a cherry. It's a little weird to have a cherry with its pit on ice cream but it sure makes for a lovely picture.

Okay, so I lost the Greek theme a little at the end. What're you gonna do? The cherries were from Washington State (a mere 6049 miles away!).

Strange, that this was the one night this week where we didn't have yogurt.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008


Tonight I picked up the share, and it was a pretty tasty spread:

2 heads of red romaine lettuce, 1 eggplant, 2 Italian frying peppers, 1 lb of green beans, 1 lb of collard greens, 3 cucumbers, 1 lb of small yellow onions, 6 Juliet tomatoes and 8 tiny red and yellow beets. On the fruit side, we got 14 small green plums.

A pretty tasty selection, but one that leaves me (I am writing this before dinner: I just opened the laptop to come up with recipe ideas!) at a loss -- it's an embarrassment of riches. A side factor is that it's already 7 o'clock, and while Nate won't be home until 8:30 or so, I brought work home with me tonight and, in fact, have a story I need to complete before I head into work tomorrow AM. So I need something that will be quick and yet also be delicious and show off the delicious flavors of our farm share veggies. Hmmmmmm ....

[30 minutes have passed , and I have started watching Army Wives in despair.]

Okay, I think this is the plan: tonight is all about keeping it simple. So, a salad with the red romaine, some cucumbers (just for me, of course) and some of the Juliet tomatoes. Sauteed green beans and tomatoes with garlic and butter. And spinach gnocchi served simply with salt, pepper, olive oil and a sprinkling of Parmesan.

Thus it was written, thus it was done. And I have to say, the Juliet tomatoes are FANTASTIC. So sweet, so flavorful, so tomato-y. The cucumbers were great, too, no matter what Nate thinks. But the real revelation were the green beans and tomatoes -- I had originally going to do green beans on their own, but Nate wanted to use up some of the leftover Jersey tomatoes, so we threw them in the butter and garlic, and it was delicious.

For dessert, more yogurt, granola and cherries. I fear the cherries may be moving through their ripeness. I'm lobbying for ice cream.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Sangria, Sangria

Tonight Jen and I are recovering from a late night as well as a long week last week. We are enjoying the leftovers from the meal we had last night with our dinner guests, Caolan, Paul, Joe, and Ryan. We are also watching the last stage of the Tour de France which is always the saddest day as we realize we need to wait 49 more weeks until we can start watching it again.

The following is what we had for dinner last night:

In an effort to continue cleaning out our pantry, fridge, etc,. we decided to make sangria.

The last time I made sangria it came out fabulously! This time was a little less impressive. The inspiration for this sangria came in the form of a $3.99 bottle of Gato Negro (one of the world's finest wines) that I picked up at Cabrini Wines the other day. Sangria is also a way to get rid of some other items we had in excess. It helped me to use up some of my Metaxa which I've had in my bar since 1998. It also used up the remaining Cointreau (which has also lived with me longer than Jen has). I also threw in a bottle of Pepperwood Syrah for good measure.

I used all this along with an apple, 3/4 of a navel orange and 1/2 a lemon. We poured it into glasses and topped with some sparkling water. It probably could have benefited from slightly better wine, much better brandy, and some sweetener in the form of either sugar or agave nectar.

This sangria would have been fantastic if it had been everyone's third or fourth drink of the evening.

The snack course was sort of a cop out in that it used up some crostini crackers and mini toasts we had in our pantry along with some corn chips and some less than impressive cheeses that were purchased last minute from the world's worst supermarket. We also had some hummus from a brand I'd never had before. While it was a bit strong on the cumin it was pretty good.

For the salad we tossed thinly sliced cucumbers and I originally had the intention of layering them like shingles alternating tomato and cucumber slices. After about 45 seconds of that I decided to go for a more "rustic" look of just dumping them in a giant pile. They were marinated in a little lemon, olive oil, salt, and pepper. We topped the salad with a little crumbled feta cheese and served it on a bed of mixed greens from Satur Farms, a local farm on Long Island. We haven't had nearly enough greens from the farm share to last the week lately, so we've been supplementing with local greens wherever possible. I must say that the difference between Satur Farms and the "Big Organic" Earthbound Farms is very noticeable, probably because the Earthbound Farms lettuce is coming from several thousand miles away.

The main course for the meal was bison burgers -- burgers because we wanted to make coleslaw with our farm share cabbage and burgers are the perfect accompaniment, bison because we wanted to try something different. Bison is very lean so the flavor was much different than beef. I seasoned them very minimally to really capture the taste of the bison. Jen prefers her burgers a little more seasoned, what I like to call "Canadian style" with Worchestershire sauce, onions, etc.

Jen made the coleslaw. She used the farm share cabbage, red cabbage, carrots, a little balsamic mustard, red wine vinegar, some lemon, mayonnaise, salt and pepper. Like most slaws, it was even better tonight after marinating for a full 24 hours.

Jen also made the potato salad with onion, celery, mayonnaise, mustard, salt, pepper, hot sauce, Old Bay seasoning and celery salt.

Then "we" knocked over our pitcher full of sangria mix into the recycling bin and shattered it. Most of the mix stayed perfectly inside the pitcher, even though it fell off the counter. We debated it for a while and decided not to serve the remaining sangria (now filled with shards of broken glass) to our guests. I think it was the right decision.

For dessert we had a little dish that I like to call "Cherries Taylor". It's my take on the classic dessert that killed our after the dessert that killed our twelfth president, Zachary Taylor.

And that does it! Tonight we had a pretty unsatisfying dinner of many leftovers (Jen's least favorite kind of meal) but it's our rest day in preparation for another week of farm sharey goodness. I keep hoping we'll get something extremely unseasonal and not native to this region like coconuts or papaya. It seems unlikely but I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

This is Jen -- overall, the salads I made were fine. Nate is right in that the coleslaw is more delicious today: yesterday, it tasted a wee bit too lemony. The potato salad was good, but it ended up getting too smooshy in texture. I think I would have used red potato, more mustard, and more onion/celery. The hot sauce is a genius addition, however.

And yes, I broke the pitcher. It is a tradition in our home that I break glasses and pitchers (I broke the last pitcher we had), and Nate breaks plates and ramekins. However, I dropped every single other piece of cutlery yesterday as well. Part of the fault is that our new placesettings are oddly balanced and heavy, and when I rest them on a plate they fall. The other part of the fault is that I overpartook of the sangria.

But tomorrow is another day, and we get more share goodies! So that's quite exciting.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Cabbage, The Legend Continues

Welcome back, cabbage heads! Be prepared for the stunning sequel to last night's cabbage (and hot dog) tale.

Tonight's mission was simple: make stuffed cabbage. The problem was how exactly to best achieve this. I had picked up some ground bison on Thursday hoping to somehow work it into a meal. My original plan was to use the bison in the stuffed cabbage but I decided that that would take away too much from the flavor of the cabbage. It also wouldn't serve the bison very well.

So, instead, I wanted to feature the flavors of our farm share vegetables predominantly.

What I did was to cut up some of our garlic, onion, pepper and zucchini (all from the farm share) and saute them in a little olive oil. I also added some Jersey tomatoes which were not quite as great as everyone's been making them out to be.

Simultaneously I made a tomato sauce with another of the Jersey tomatoes and some of the farm share onions.

I then added some arborio rice and cooked it with a little water until it was fully done.

I boiled some whole cabbage leaves then chilled them in cold water before wrapping them with some of the vegatble and rice mixture.

Then I placed all the rolls on a nice bed of the tomato sauce and placed it in the oven for about 35 minutes.

I won't bore you with yet another green salad. I'm hoping for some interesting produce next week so I can make some slightly different salads. I love lettuce with lemon, olive oil and tomatoes but I didn't feel the need to put yet another picture of a plain salad on the blog.

When I was done I realized that between the salad and the main course we had a completely vegan dinner prepared for us. Lately I've been loving the challenge of cooking vegan. It was pretty tasty as a vegan dish.

However, putting about half a cup of grated Parmesan on top of it made it even more delicious!

And this wine, featuring a hot air balloon, was the perfect accompaniment to our dinner. I imagine that it is the balloon from The Mysterious Island and it is about to crash land on a strange island. Except instead of being uninhabited, this island is inhabited by two yuppies who enjoy watching Psych while they eat their dinner. Because they are wannabe senior citizens.


Make sure to tune in to the stunning conclusion of the cabbage trilogy tomorrow night!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Hot Dog! It's Cabbage!

Jen finally got a rest from her long multiple-week busy stretch at work and actually got home early today. Even though we had ample time to prepare an elaborate meal tonight, I went for something extremely easy.

I started off with a few cheeses, bread and the leftover pesto. The cheese selection included: Danish Blue, Uniekaas Reserve Aged Gouda, and Lincolnshire Poacher.

The salad was another boring one. Should I just start leaving the salads out? It was the last of the mixed greens and some red leaf. The red leaf has not held up well since Tuesday night. I'm trying to think that I need to consider alternative lettuce storage methods to prevent the greens from wilting so quickly. The salad also had tomatoes, cucumbers, pecans, goat cheese and red onion with lemon, olive oil, salt, and pepper.

For dinner I brought out leftover ratatouille and also made this braised cabbage with bacon, onion, cabbage and a touch of cider vinegar. I cooked it down quite a bit and it was the perfect accompaniment to our main course.

Hot dogs! See, I told you tonight was easy. And what does one put on hot dogs? Well, I do ketchup, mustard and celery salt. Although I came extremely close to either making the greatest culinary mistake or greatest culinary discovery when I nearly put cardamom on the hot dogs accidentally.

Jen and I decided that the perfect cap to this dinner would be to go out to the Mister Softee truck. The truck wasn't at its normal location but we spotted it up a couple of blocks so we crossed the street and began our approach. At the moment we reached the truck it pulled away and we were left standing on the curb amongst the disappointed children.

There was another truck across the street but it was one of those trucks that deals exclusively in popsicles poorly shaped like superhero's heads.

It was at that point that we decided we would have dessert at home.

On the walk home it appeared that the sun was going supernova. This was not good. In the spectrum of supernovas it goes from champagne to star with star being the worst. But it was okay because we were going to have ice cream!

I still had some of the strawberry ice cream we'd made with farm share strawberries stashed in the freezer. I made an odd choice to top it with our farm share blueberries and I melted some chocolate over the top as well. The result was far more pleasing than I would have imagined.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

B - L - T! It's Dyna-MITE!

Welcome back, folks! After two days of reruns (or near reruns) we're back with fresh new material! We'll keep this up as long as possible until we need to do a musical episode and then we'll probably drag it on for a year or two longer than we should then call it quits, shark squarely jumped.

We are running behind due to our (mostly Jen's) busy work schedules so we're catching up on the last 30 minutes of yesterday's Tour de France stage, watching today's stage and trying to make another meal with our farm share vegetables from this week.

In perusing our haul from yesterday I really wanted to feature the vegetables as the primary flavors of the meal.

Salad is easy. I used the red leaf lettuce and the disgusting, nasty cucumbers along with some tomato, goat cheese, garlic scape, olive oil, lemon and slivered pecans. I topped it with a light dusting of old bay seasoning just for fun.

I was remembering how my mom would occasionally make BLTs for dinner and how it was delicious. Sadly, I usually had a Jewish friend over (always the same friend) when it just happened to be BLT night. The first time was just bad luck. The second time was funny. The third time it became a tradition. Then every time he was over we would have BLTs! It was good that he was not particularly orthodox. He ended up loving BLT night!

For the BLT I cooked the bacon then removed them from the pan, drained the oil and grilled some slices of paesano bread in the pan, allowing a little remaining bacon fat to flavor the bread along with some additional olive oil and butter. I know it sounds extremely unhealthy but I used just a touch of each for flavor.

I got out my unopened jar of mayonnaise to observe that it was 9 months past its expiration date. It looked pretty nasty so I had to throw it away. In place of mayonnaise I decided to use a little of the balsamic shallot mustard I had in the fridge. I put a very light spread of it on both slices of bread and then topped the bottom piece of bread with lettuce, thick slices of tomato, bacon and sliced avocado.

Since I used avocado it should technically be called a BLT&A but that just didn't sound appropriate.

I've got to say, the result was pretty good. In the future I think I would continue to use a sweet or spicy mustard in place of mayonnaise.

I took our onions, garlic, garlic scapes, and peppers and browned them lightly in a little olive oil. Then I threw in some of the green and yellow zucchini and cooked it down with a bit of basil and oregano. Then I added in some tomato with a dash of balsamic and some salt and pepper. I like to really stew my ratatouille down until it is almost overcooked. Then I serve it warm or room temperature. While it's not a traditional accompaniment to a BLT I thought it would go nicely.

This wine had everything going for it, a cool label and a really awesome name: Gnarly Head. It probably should have been called Gnarly Tree but it is really not my place to judge. Perhaps when I open my own vineyard I can make such decisions.

The merlot* was not necessarily the perfect accompaniment to a BLT but it was a decent enough red wine.

*Note: If you are one of those pretentious jackasses who has seen the movie Sideways one or more times and now fancy yourself a wine expert, please excuse yourself from this blog, find a deep puddle and promptly submerge your head. You are a jerk and people may be civil to you to your face but truthfully they find you insufferable.

I'm constantly torn between enjoying the delicious fruit we're getting in its natural state and trying something new and exciting. While this isn't super new (or exciting) it was something slightly different enough to keep us interested but didn't require so much preparation that we wouldn't be able to savor the delicious berries as they were. I took a Belgian waffle, topped it with a dollop of yogurt, sprinkled berries and slivered almonds on top and then drizzled with maple syrup.

And there you have it.

I'm not sure about tomorrow night. Jen and are having a battle to see who can work the latest (I may win tomorrow) so there may be nothing to eat or write about. We should be back in full force on Friday to rock your world with tales of a meal so amazing that it may leave you speechless!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

New Vegetables, Late Start

Once again I had to race home from work to hit the farm share pickup right before they closed up at 7:30PM. It was sort of the dregs at that point but I got some pretty good stuff. Normally there are a lot more insufferable thirty-somethings with Baby Bjorns and toddlers eating raw live organic macrobiotic flax cookies crowding the line. I was able to make it through the line with relative ease this evening.

Here's what week six's crop looked like: red leaf lettuce, mixed salad greens, a giant head of cabbage, three cucumbers, a pint of blueberries, some white onions, a bulb of garlic, three tomatoes, two Italian peppers and three zucchini.

I was able to make a pretty decent salad out of the mixed greens, tomato (which actually tasted like tomato!), the cucumbers (for Jen only, naturally), the leftover croutons, the leftover mozzarella, the last of our pine nuts, some of our last batch of garlic scapes a little olive oil, lemon, salt and pepper.

We also enjoyed a baked potato with the remaining horseradish cream from our London Broil night. We had our leftover pasta from last night and the remaining cucumber salad as well.

We also had some fresh blueberries with yogurt and granola. I'm always tempted to do something with the berries but just having them plain and simple seems to me to be the best way to enjoy them. It's also conveniently easy for us lazy types.

Tomorrow night should give me a little more time to prepare something more inspired as I will return from work quite a few hours earlier than this evening.

Tomorrow, be prepared to read about a meal fit for royalty! The type of royalty with a small selection of vegetables and a strong desire to clean out their fridge and pantry!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Cleaning Out The Fridge

Jen had to go to work early today and work late tonight so before I went to work I put together a quick pasta with all the remaining produce.

I roasted the Italian peppers on our stove's burner, then covered them to let them steam up a bit so I could remove the skin. I also steamed up the remaining kohlrabi then sliced it up along with the peppers and tossed it all together with yesterday's pesto.

The result was pretty tasty. The kohlrabi lost a lot of bitterness after steaming and was actually very sweet and buttery.

Now our fridge is cleaned out, almost 100% free of produce, just waiting for tomorrow's pickup. As a normal week does, this week's menus sort of fizzled out as the produce choices ran out. It will be interesting to see what tomorrow holds. I would like to try a little harder to capture the essence of each ingredient (a la Iron Chef, the original Iron Chef, not the crummy American version).

That is the trouble with getting all these great fruits and vegetables: part of me wants to be creative, part of me just wants to eat the vegetables nearly plain or simply cooked to enjoy them without excessive cooking and seasoning.

Unless they are nasty cucumbers, then I will boil them, season them up and still think they are disgusting.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Early to Rise, Motorcycle Surprise

This morning Jen and I woke up at 6:28AM so that we would be ready to catch the 6:30AM start of today's Tour de France stage 15. It was a pretty groggy start to the day but well worth the excitement of watching the Tour de France travel through (SPOILER ALERT!) Italy!

I put on a kettle of tea, something Phil Liggett, the great announcer for the Tour de France, is always inviting the American audience to do as they are waking up so early. Phil Liggett vastly overestimates the amount of tea that Americans drink. I may be the exception to that and for that reason I imagine that he is talking directly to me!

When I exited our apartment to get the newspaper this is what I saw:

That marks the second time this week that a random motorcycle has been parked in our hallway! Wednesday morning as we left for work, this is what I saw:

This sleek yellow crotch rocket was just parked there as if that was something that was acceptable for one to do. Someone else must have discovered it first as it was wallpapered with notes alerting the driver to the error of his ways. I'm not sure if they ever got to today's bike.

We then made our tea and coffee and enjoyed a breakfast of fresh mango slices and toast with two spreads: chocolate hazelnut and grapefruit marmelade. The problem with eating breakfast at 6:45AM is that lunch usually does not come soon enough.

We started cobbling together our lunch around 11:00AM as the Tour was winding down. I made a salad with the remaining red leaf lettuce and beets. I also used goat cheese, avocado and ground almonds with a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

I made a quick pesto from our leftover basil and ground almonds. We had it tossed with spaghetti. The early start wore on us a bit and we had some dinner guests this evening so we took a little bit of a nap this afternoon to get some strength back. We still had some vegetables to use up from this week's share and we needed to be in top form in order to do so.

I started out tonight by making one of my least favorite salads! I hate cucumbers but I understand that there are people that have not yet figured out that they are disgusting little weakly-flavored logs of grossness. And since those fools exist I am able to pawn off these nasty little things from our farm share.

It's a simple enough salad to make, if you like disgusting cucumbers. I just slice them nice and thin and marinate them with a little drizzle of rice wine vinegar, tamari, honey, sesame oil, garlic, ginger and sesame seeds. I also tossed in some thinly sliced red onion for good measure. I had to have Jen taste it to tell me if it tasted good. She said it did.

I didn't believe her.

I made coconut rice with the sliced remainder of our green onions as the base for our main course.

The main course was Ginger Chili Shrimp with Broccoli and it was shamefully easy to make. I just heated up some sesame oil and sauteed some onion and slivered broccoli stem with a bit of garlic and ginger. After they were nicely browned I tossed in the shrimp and cooked them up for a couple of minutes before tossing in the broccoli florets. I reduced some leftover ginger-chili sauce I had along with the juices from the shrimp and cooked vegetables. I sweetened it with a small spoonful of sugar and then thickened it with a cornstarch slurry. I tossed everything together and it came out very nicely.

Tonight's beverage pairing: Bluepoint Summer Ale from Long Island, New York. Very tasty. I don't really believe much in beer or wine pairings but this went quite well with our meal. It was 95 degrees today and the Summer Ale was very refreshing.

For dessert we used up some of the New Jersey blueberries which have been sweet, delicious, plentiful and extremely cheap this July. We served them over angel food cake with whipped cream and chopped almonds.

Overall it was a pretty successful day and week. The only thing we have left is our two Italian peppers. Luckily the peppers will hold up better than most of leafy greens we've been getting. We should be able to use them up soon.

Tomorrow is a late night for Jen and I so we probably won't update again until we get our next haul on Tuesday.

Smell ya later!