Friday, July 31, 2009

Vegetable Alternatives

It's been a bit of an off week with our missing of the farm share pickup on Tuesday. However, when life doesn't throw you lemons, you go out and buy some damned lemons. Then you make lemonade!

This is America!

I was fortunate enough to stop by a farmer's market on 97th street this morning. At the 97th Street Greenmarket I picked up some fantastic tomatoes, green and yellow round zucchini, squash blossoms, peaches, red potatoes, and two great bottles of wine. I was fortunate enough to get a sample of these two wines. The rose was great and the chardonnay is quite honestly the first chardonnay I've ever tasted that I liked. The wines were both Treleaven wines from King Ferry Winery.

Any winery that can make a chardonnay that doesn't make me sad is okay in my book.

I made a quick beer batter and fried the zucchini blossoms then served them with a salsa I made with shallots, the Greenmarket tomatoes, and avocado. They were fantastic! The best three dollars I've spent on produce this year! Good on you, the State of New York!

For the main course I cooked up the zucchini and tomato with some garlic, shallot and mint from my mother's garden. I also boiled some of the potatoes (which weren't quite as good as the farm share potatoes) and drizzled them with olive oil, butter, and fresh chives from Mom's garden. As an unnecessary accompaniment I sliced up some chicken breast -- it was the lowest point of the meal.

Sometimes it feels obligatory to include meat into a meal even when it isn't necessary. It's like a crutch.

A meat crutch.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Jersey Fresh

As I continued to mourn the loss of our New York farm vegetables, I was left to think of creative alternatives for this week.

Today, I went to the best place I know to get farm fresh New Jersey produce: New York City! I stumbled upon some great corn and heirloom tomatoes from the Garden State at the market this afternoon and was eager to incorporate them into dinner.

First, I made use of some of the remaining farm beets with this herbed salad mix with a little Balsamic vinegar, some olive oil, and grape tomatoes.

For the main course: spinach fettuccine with New Jersey corn, heirloom tomatoes, garlic, bacon, shallots, white wine, butter, olive oil, lemon thyme (from my mother's herb garden), shrimp, and scallops.

I think I might be focusing a little too much on pasta lately. Partly it's because our I haven't been buying a lot of proteins lately. Mostly it's because I love pasta.

Now begins the part where I press my luck and make pasta continuously until Jen becomes wary of eating it. I can't help it, it's just my Italian heritage.

That's a-one a-spicy meatball!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Vegetables of Yesterweek

Tonight I wasn't going to let a complete lack of vegetables ruin the beginning of our seventh week of the farm share this season. If life gives you lemons you make lemonade! If life gives you lemons but you don't get there in time to pick them up then . . . well . . . you don't make lemonade. But, you make something equally as good with whatever you can find in the fridge! (Feel free to use that quote!)

The AeroGarden is gettin a tad bit unruly. I am worried that one night I may return home to find a miniature pickup truck broken down in the front of it.

Tonight I started off by making this slaw out of napa cabbage following my latest trend of not sticking with solely Asian recipes for Asian vegetables (see here). I tossed it with horseradish, shallots, dijon, cider vinegar, olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper, and sliced grape tomatoes with sliced scallion and basil.

For the main course: buttered turnips and potatoes with chives; roasted chicken breast, shallots, and celery; and steamed broccoli. Everything but the chicken and the chives (from my mother's garden) was from the farm.

The wine accompaniment was a sub $5 bottle so I won't even bother mentioning it. However, all told it was a very rewarding meal.

I hear rumors of a farmer's market on the Upper West Side. I may crash it this Friday to see if I can supplement my lack of vegetables for the week.

Is that like cheating on our farm share?

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Saddest Day

This week's farm share pickup can most easily be summed up by the following picture:

Yeah. I guess I misread the pickup email. I thought that the hours were from 4:30PM to 7:30PM. Apparently the pickup only goes until 7:15PM and volunteers are to stay until 7:30PM. Of course, this is probably not accurate since I rounded the corner at about 7:29PM and this is what I saw.

I was under the impression that after the share they left some of the remaining vegetables bagged for pickup. Apparently this was not the case. Apparently they also high tail it out of the area with a quickness.

I was quite shocked. There wasn't so much as a spare pea left behind after this week's farm share. It was a sad walk back home with no vegetables to speak of. Looks like I'll be hitting the reserve cache in the crisper for the remainder of this week's meals.

Who knows what marvels would have awaited us this week. I think I'll just assume it would have been a terrible assortment due to the horrible weather we've had all week.

It probably would have been like six radishes and a rotten potato. I don't think we really missed that much at all.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Of Magic and Pierogies

Mondays are always a little lean in the farm vegetable department. Combine that with returning home from a three day weekend trip and you have a perfect storm for not having much in the fridge. After work I had no options other than to roll up my sleeves (or pretend to roll up my sleeves, since it's July), dig my heels in (the heels of my flip flops), and use a little old fashioned ingenuity in creating a respectable meal this evening.

I started off by cooking some of the farm beets and serving them in a completely radical new way: with feta cheese and balsamic vinegar! My culinary experimentation knows no bounds.

For the main course: pierogies with grilled artichokes, grape tomatoes, garlic scapes, and sage (from my mother's garden) with a light white wine and butter sauce.

To accompany the pierogies we had a little of this magical Sacred Stone red wine.

If you don't believe me that it's magical, just read the label on the back. It says it's magical right on the back! It also says that it's racy, much like the stand up comedy of Bob Saget. (It says it's racy, it doesn't compare itself to the comedy of Bob Saget, that was me).

For a food pairing it suggests my favorite outdoor and other casual cuisine. I've never seen a wine paired with a food that was cooked in a specific location. It is good to note, however, that this wine would work equally well with a buffalo steak marinated in Worchestershire sauce as it would with a light and crunchy cabbage salad.

I guess that's just part of the magic.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

First Grill of the Summer

Last night I was able to do something I've been waiting all summer to do: grill. It was a bittersweet moment since it was the first and last chance I would get to grill this summer.

The grill was running a little hot which made it a hair-singeing challenge to operate. We grilled fennel, radicchio, zucchini, portobello, and peppers. I also grilled up a whole chicken and some sweet Italian sausages.

It's so rare to have grilled food that it tasted like some strange extravagance to taste anything that has come in contact with a grill. I imagine this must be what it was like the first time a caveman grilled a piece of grilled wooly mammoth. What a wonder it must have been.

One of the many reasons for our trip to Rhode Island was to drop off our car at my parents' house. After a year of duty we would no longer be requiring its services. While it has been a very reliable ride I will not miss the unenviable task of having to park it in our neighborhood. I won't miss the tickets either.

Maybe every so often I'll write a check for $115 and mail it to the New York City Department of Finance just for old times' sake.

My mother was kind enough to send us home with plenty of freshly snipped herbs from her garden. While I was eager to get home and use them we were treated to another hellish drive through Connecticut. I spent most of the drive either swearing, talking about how much I wish we had a hover-converted car like in Back to the Future II, or both simultaneously.

While in Rhode Island, Jen found this Caesar salad kit that apparently she had enjoyed many times as a child.

We used the salad kit with beet greens, arugula, and red leaf lettuce from the farm to make the salad for tonight's dinner. Not your standard greens for a Caesar salad but they worked surprisingly well.

For the main course I made a very quick and non traditional turkey bolognese. I used onion from the farm, bacon, ground turkey, carrot, celery, tomato, and some of my mother's fresh basil. I finished it off with just a touch of ricotta.

And so a wonderful weekend in Rhode Island came to a close. Tomorrow we return to work. Unfortunately I think we will be working in dirty clothes as we have not gotten a chance to do any laundry in the past week or so.

Smell ya later!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

It's All About The Vegetables, Baby!

I had another day of feeling vaguely achey and gross. I think I have a touch of the H1N1. Maybe I'm just slightly ill. Once I got home I had a little tea and a snack and still felt gross. However, after a little pseudophedrine I was flying high! Is pseudophedrine just a fancy pharmaceutical term for magicks?

For a salad I tossed some arugula with avocado, tomato, lemon, and olive oil. Also, for good measure: some garlic scapes.

I've got precious little time before leaving the state and a precious lot of vegetables left in the fridge. Combined with my recent mild mystery illness I opted for another night of soup. I used the farm onions, garlic scapes, turnips, potatoes, broccoli, and kohlrabi along with some sliced almonds, white wine, cayenne, cumin, and thyme to make the soup.

The resulting soup was pretty darn good. I resisted the temptation to add any milk, cream or cheese and it turned out that it really didn't need anything additional. The only thing I would have changed was putting a little bit less cayenne in the soup. I have this incredibly potent cayenne pepper that I got a while ago. Each time I use it I use less and less but it just seems to be exceptionally strong, so much so that a scant quarter teaspoon in a huge pot of soup left me sweating afterward.

I hate to talk about my own culinary brilliance, but I think adding the chopped almonds was a fantastic idea. Basically I'm as much of a culinary genius as Jacques Pepin for coming up with that idea.

I realized that I'd worked myself into a vegan corner so, rather than break the trend, I made a vegan dessert with some blueberries from Dzen Tree Farms and farm peaches that I tossed in some lemon zest. The peaches were not perfectly ripened so I drizzled a little agave nectar on them and served it over crumbled graham crackers with a sprinkle of cinnamon.

Nine times out of ten I will pick a chocolate-based dessert over a fruit-based dessert but this combination happened to be extremely delicious. It was just a bunch of stuff lying around in the pantry that "inspired" it but I think I stumbled upon a real winner. I may look at making again in a more composed form.

Maybe I'll also top it with melted chocolate and whipped cream. Or crispy fried pancetta!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Salmon Soup for the Soul

Today marked the sixth week of our second farm share season. Unseasonably cold July weather and immense amounts of rain combined to give us another slightly small pickup. This is probably a good thing considering that recent business on our part has led to a significant backup of vegetables in the kitchen. Currently there are seven cucumbers in the fridge which is about ten more than I'd like to see.

Week six's pickup included: beets, broccoli, arugula, napa cabbage, spring onion, cucumbers, scallions, cilantro, lettuce, and peaches.

Last night (for unknown reasons) I barely slept, broke out in a slight fever, and had a very upset stomach. This means that all day I've felt like a pile of crumbs. It could have been last night's insane bachelor madness catching up with me. I lost count but I must have had at least one beers!

Tonight I needed something a little lighter so I used up some of last week's bok choy. I sauteed them in a little sesame oil and sliced up some salmon with a little tamari and rice wine vinegar. I made a quick miso broth with a little green chili paste and combined the two with some sliced scallions. The presentation in this photo is a little lacking because I was so eager to sit down that I ate half the bowl before I remembered to take a picture.

The soup was just the thing I needed after a long day of feeling icky and spending most of it either soaking wet or damp from my assorted walks through the rain.

As I prepare for a trip home to Rhode Island this weekend I'm wondering if I may need to take some of these vegetables home with me so they don't go to waste.

Some people bring their mom flowers. Others bring their moms seven cucumbers.

Monday, July 20, 2009

The Return of the Lame Bachelor

Whenever Jen goes out of town I am often assaulted with dozens of people joking about how I'll be living the bachelor life. I'm not really sure that I ever lived the bachelor life. Unless, of course, you count drinking three cups of tea and watching Revolutionary Girl Utena as wild bachelor activity.

A few months ago Domino's Pizza started making these Bread Bowl Pastas. Jen commented that perhaps the culinary world had reached an all time low. I commented that I would like to make a version of this dish from scratch -- without the aid of the gaming piece named pizza behemoth.

I made my bread bowl with yesterday's leftover linguine, some diced tomato, arugula, fresh mozzarella, Parmigiano, and a little pizza sauce. The end result was pretty good, however, at the end of the day it was pretty much just like having a fat piece of pizza. Also, I'd be willing to bet that any facsimile presented by Domino's would not be nearly as delicious.

To up the ante a bit I had some beer. To further up the ante I decided I would watch the ultimate man movie: The Matrix! I hadn't seen it in a good long while and that (more so than the pasta bread bowl) is something Jen would not be thrilled about partaking in.

While the movie was enjoyable it is hard to take seriously ever since Sequential Pictures released A Glitch In The Matrix.

Just see for yourself.

Now since it's nearing 10:00PM, it's definitely time for bed. Good night!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Pre-Utah Carb Loading

With Jen ready to leave for Salt Lake City tomorrow, I made a last valiant effort to clean out the fridge and freezer for her departure.

I started with what was originally a simple arugula salad with lemon and olive oil. Jen rummaged through the fridge and suggested I add the mozzarella and avocado because she didn't like the idea of me eating them while she was in Utah. Since she has to go to Utah I figured I'd humor her and follow her advice.

For the main course I used some frozen Severino linguine along with scallops in a light scampi sauce with some of the snow peas from the farm. I also added in some additional sauvignon blanc that we've been sitting on for a couple of weeks.

Then we enjoyed the Tour de France stage of the day which was loaded with images of Jonathan Vaughters.

I'm not really sold on Jonathan Vaughters's new look. It's as if Dr. Mindbender assembled a squadron of Cobra agents to scour tombs across the world to collect DNA to construct him. Unfortunately G.I. Joe foiled them at a number of spots so that they were only able to collect DNA from the tombs of Louis Skolnick and Captain James T. Kirk.

Vaughters, you look a little like a tool shed. This I command!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Leftovers Galore

We've reached a bit of a backup and the time for cleaning out the fridge, pantry, and freezer has come. I suspect that next week may be largely focused around cleaning out some of that nonsense.

The first course for tonight was something I called "picnic salad" which basically means, everything leftover from various recent picnics. I used the last of our mixed greens, tabouli, Mahon cheese, olives, and some bits of the Peruvian pork from Monday night.

The main course was roasted tomato ravioli with saffron dough from Severino Pasta (and, more recently, our freezer). I drizzled the ravioli with a little olive oil and shredded some more Mahon over the top.

For dessert we enjoyed some of the farm blueberries with a little yogurt and some chocolate angel food cake that has been outstaying its welcome in our freezer for some time.

What goes well with chocolate and blueberries? Well, watching the Tour de France. Especially when all the riders are bickering like a bunch of little girls and the emotions run high. I'm not sure if bike riders were always this much of a bunch of sissies or if it's just been amplified by Twitter.

Either way they're a bunch of little sissy la-las.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Potato Famine

This morning, around 7:00am, I awoke with a terrible pain in my stomach -- one that stayed with me throughout the day and into the early afternoon. I suspect it was not last night's dinner as Jen displayed no such pain and discomfort. Feeling nauseated all day I chanced a granola bar around noon but that made me feel terrible for about an hour so I decided to lay off food for the rest of the day. When I got home I took an hour nap and started to feel a little better after.

I knew Jen was going on some sort of boat this evening for a work event so I would be on my own for dinner. I imagined that Jen was reenacting Speed 2. I imagine that I am the Keanu Reeves to the Jason Patric character who will likely be accompanying her right now and saving her from the diabolical clutches of Willem Dafoe.

(Author's Note: Like many, many people, I have not seen Speed 2.)

Given my ailment, and the large amount of leftovers building up in the fridge, I opted to simply have the leftover boiled potatoes from Peru night. All I did was drizzle them with a little olive oil and grate some Mahon cheese over the top.

Unfortunately these were potatoes I purchased at a bodega the other day prior to receiving the delicious potatoes on Tuesday. It doesn't really matter since they would have been wasted on me tonight.

So I'm just going to drink ginger tea and wait for Sandra Jen to return from her party on the big boat. Luckily I have three hours of Tour de France TiVoed and Phil Liggett (who is trying out his stand up material about French bathrooms) and Paul Sherwen (who is narrating large chunks of the course description in Swahili) are in rare form.

In retrospect I probably could have left this "culinary" episode off of the blog.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Quickest Indian . . . Meal

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Tonight was one of those nights where you (read: I) only have about twenty minutes to make dinner. It was the perfect night to quickly chop up a blend of all the veggies from the farm share, toss them in a pan, and make a quick vegetable Tikka Masala. For veggies I used (from the farm) potato, kohlrabi, turnips, and kale. From elsewhere I used red onion, celery, and Romanesco that we had lying around.

I also rubbed some lamb top round steaks with cardamom, oriander, clove, garlic, chive, black pepper, salt, brown sugar, paprika, and chipotle. In lieu of rice we just had some naan bread.

Based on a recommendation from a wine expert I consulted I went with this Seven Daughters white wine to accompany the meal.

Going on this recommendation I have started to accept that fact that spending more than $7.99 on a bottle of wine tends to generate an infinitely more pleasing dinner experience. It's almost as if the price were in some way tied in to the overall quality of the wine!

Curious. I think this requires additional scrutiny and research.

More on this later.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Picnic Dinner in Central Park

Tonight was week five's pickup of our farm share. After racing home (and witnessing a taxi cab run over a cyclist on the street), I made it to our farm share pickup site to pick up this week's vegetables. Normally I would have stopped to be a witness to the accident but I was really pressed for time. Besides, the guy on the bike totally deserved it.

This week we got snow peas, potatoes, kale, bok choy, turnips, kohlrabi, cucumbers, dill, and blueberries. We were also supposedly supposed to get scallions but I didn't see any available for pickup.

Tonight was also the New York Philharmonic Concert in Central Park. This is an event we have somehow managed to catch each year we've lived in New York City. The challenge is in us both rushing out of work, getting there early enough to claim any parcel of grass in the park, and actually finding each other.

This year we somehow ran into each other right by some bizarre statue I'd never seen before of a guy riding a horse with raised swords that said "Poland" at the base.

The picnic dinner consisted of baguette, tabouli, and country pate.

We also enjoyed some hastily chilled rose which we used in our yuppietastic picnic wine holders. The wine made up for the fact that we could just barely make out the music playing somewhere in the distance. According to my sources the music they played tonight was Mozart's Symphony No. 41, Jupiter and Beethoven's Symphony No. 7. Of course it was so faint that I will have to take their word for it. The volume was equivalent to putting your iPod in another room, plugging in the headphones, turning the volume to its minimum setting, closing the door, filling the room you're in with one hundred chattering pigeons, and then putting a pillow over your ears

The mahon and raw mild cheddars were a wonderful pick for tonight unless you are Jen who thanked me for getting the cheese by saying, "What, no French cheeses?" Apparently the baguette, and rustic pate were not enough of a celebration of Bastille Day for her tastes.

Jen took advantage of a golden opportunity by making a white nectarine and Jersey blueberry cobbler last night before bed. We enjoyed this along with some leftover chocolate chip cookies she'd baked the previous day.

All told this was a pretty good concert in the park. It definitely ranks above the year that we arrived ten minutes before the end of the concert, barely witnessed a fireworks display behind some trees, got caught in a torrential downpour, and then had to wait in a rain-soaked line to get in the subway at 86th street for about 45 minutes.

This year's grade: B+.

Monday, July 13, 2009

PERUse What's Cookin' (or Machu Pi-chew On This)

Apologies for today's title.

A friend of mine was kind enough to pick me up some purple corn at a Peruvian market after a discussion we had about the proper technique for making chicha morada, a traditional Peruvian drink. You don't want to hang out with the crowd I hang out with. We're troublemakers.

Today was the first day I had the time available to make the drink which, while easy to make, takes a good deal of boiling, steeping, and cooling time.

The drink was nicely refreshing for a July day that required me to have the oven going for approximately five hours.

To keep with the Peruvian theme I also made a cool quinoa salad with lime, cucumber, tomato, red onion, avocado, and spices. My hatred of cucumbers was trumped by the fact that this salad needed a little color. Ideally I would have added some mint instead but the three leaves currently on the plant in our AeroGarden were not quite sufficient for the quantity of salad I made.

While I can't find any indication that pork ribs are all that common in Peruvian cooking I decided to make a dry Peruvian style rub for these ribs, marinate them for the afternoon, then slowly roast them in the oven. The rub contained garlic powder, salt, pepper, cumin, and dried chipotles. I also squeezed a lime and drizzled a little olive oil over the rack before letting it marinate. I then slow roasted it in the oven for a few hours and did not finish it on the grill because we do not have a grill because our life is sad and meaningless.

In retrospect I would have gone a lot lighter on the chipotles. I couldn't decide between using one or two dried chipotles. Thankfully I went with one because these ribs were just a bit more than what I consider bearable for spiciness.

My goal would have been to accompany this meal with some pisco but I couldn't seem to locate pisco at any local liquor stores. Instead I settled for this Stoudt's Heifer-in-Wheat beer from good old Adamstown, Pennsylvania. It is rather fitting since Pennsylvania's state motto is: "The Peru of North America."

The friend who gave me the chicha morada recipe also gave me some tips on making a parallel recipe (mazamorra morada) using essentially the same base as the purple corn drink. My friend could not figure out the English word for the exact ingredient to use as a thickener so I took a guess and used cornstarch.

I wasn't sure how thick you are traditionally supposed to make this dessert so I just thickened it to a pudding-like consistency. The dessert is supposed to be served hot -- something Jen's father would never approve of.

The dessert, much like the drink tasted very much like Christmas, sort of like a mulled cider. I'm impressed with Peruvians' ingenuity in making a sweet drink out of purple corn.

With ideas like that it's a wonder they never found those lost cities of gold!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Foods of Freedom

In searching for a theme for tonight's dinner I chose the theme of Freedom. "Why," you ask. Well, because that sounds better than the actual theme which was: stuff we had lying around.

For dinner I simply cooked up a little Severino garlic basil gnocchi and topped it with some Monte Bene tomato sauce. The sauce was from Bedford Hills, NY but the pasta was from just outside of Philadelphia. As we all know Philadelphia is the city of brotherly love but also the birthplace (kinda) of freedom.

And that's something we can all sink our teeth into.

Yards Brewing Company has recently released a line of beers which are purportedly based on the personal beer recipes of the founding fathers. This evening I enjoyed a Thomas Jefferson's Tavern Ale. Apparently whilst not impregnating his slaves in Monticello, he would often partake in this beer which his wife, Martha, brewed up twice a year.

At 8% alcohol this beer packs a buzz solid enough to inspire anyone to write their own Declaration of Independence.

Jen was kind enough to, once again, stop by Crumbs and pick me up this delicious s'more cupcake. While topped with marshmallows, chocolate, and graham crackers it was also filled with some sort of substance reminiscent of a Hostess CupCake but probably made with substances found on planet Earth.

Even if this was simply a Hostess CupCake topped with marshmallows and graham crackers it was stellar. Some day I'm going to have to go check out this place, Crumbs, and wade my way through insufferable hipsters with their stupid ironic t-shirts so that I can have another taste of these sweet, sweet cupcakes.

Either that or I'll just wait for Jen to bring them home again. That may be easier.