Sunday, September 27, 2009

Everything Must Go!

Friday and Saturday of this week were strictly devoted to the making of foods to clear out our pantry, freezer, and fridge. This all culminated with last night's party to rid ourselves of as much food and drink as possible. We intended to also get rid of as much of our unneeded clothing, electronics, and other assorted items as well but kind of forgot. Therefore Good Will will be getting a large drop off early next week.

Friday I thawed out some frozen chorizo and made a sausage and pepper variation with remaining rolls from the freezer. I also made a salad from the beet greens, arugula, and red leaf lettuce from the farm along with some beets and dill potatoes.

Another thing that's been clogging up the pantry for some time was a big old bag of garbanzo bean flour. With that I made some hummus. I actually made a giant batch of hummus. It might be like a gallon of hummus. We had people over last night and all I had out was hummus and there's still about 98% of it left. So we may be "enjoying" hummus frequently until we move.

This morning we woke up early and took a rainy drive up to Westchester to sign the lease on our new apartment. To celebrate the move to suburbia we had lunch at P.F. Chang's, one of Westchester's myriad Asian fusion type restaurants. It appears that Westchester is a bit stuck in the mid-to-late 1990's as far as restaurants go. Luckily it doesn't extend to music so we will be spared infinite loops of Rob Thomas songs.

Tonight we used a leftover baguette, pizza sauce, mozzarella, sausage and peppers to make these French bread pizzas. We also used the leftover beet greens, arugula, and red leaf along with grape tomatoes to make a Caesar salad that may not have worked all that well.

For dessert I made a graham cracker crust with a little butter and some Lyle's Golden Syrup. I also soaked some pear slices in brandy, Amaretto, and chopped almonds to top the crust.

The result of all of this nonsense is now we have slightly less to move!

Foods we now don't have to move:

  • A large bottle of Fish Eye Shiraz.
  • Some garbanzo bean flour.
  • Chorizo sausages.
  • Green Peppers.
  • Some black currant lambic.
  • Rolls.
  • Farm pears.
  • Old, stale graham crackers.
  • A jar of pizza sauce.

Hooray for making lame meals!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Great Ravioli Tragedy of 2009

Yesterday we began the final steps in signing the lease for our new apartment! In celebration we ate dinner out. However, tonight we had to continue the task of cleaning out as much food from our freezer, pantry, fridge, and farm share as possible to minimize the amount of foods we have to move. That meant it was time to put together a dinner keeping this goal in mind.

Sadly, with this goal, sometimes dinner has to be weird.

For a salad I made a yawn-inducing beet and goat cheese salad, all from the farm. It may be trite but it was delicious. The beets from the farm are the palest I've ever seen. It's as if they were attacked by some sort of vegetarian vampire.

For a main course I sauteed some garlic and red onion and cooked it down with some kale and wax beans. You may be thinking that this seems like a strange main course. You may also be wondering what those ravioli-shaped things are that are clearly in this picture.

Well, they're raviolis. I prefer to call them tragediolis. For reasons unknown they turned this horrendous brownish color around the edges. I volunteered to sample them and quickly regretted my decision. Something went horribly wrong and they tasted sour and disgusting. It was a horrible tragedy that will go down in pasta history.

To make up for the fact that we no longer had enough food to eat I quickly cooked up these cheese toasts with some leftover bread and the Armenian string cheese from the other night.

It ended up being a weird dinner. I knew it was going to be a weird dinner originally when I set out to clean out the freezer with the raviolis, however, it took a different weird turn than I'd expected.

So it goes. Tomorrow will hopefully take different approach assuming the items being cleaned out of the freezer are not infected with the same bizarre curse that the raviolis were.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Eggplant Stuffed Eggplant With a Side of Indecision

Today we concluded (sort of) our apartment hunt in Westchester. While we haven't really nailed down a place to live we have found several places with pluses and minuses that we must now talk to death until we finally grit our teeth, pick a place, and hope for the best.

On our way home we stopped by the farm share pickup and picked up this week's share: Corn, lettuce, dill, red onion, yellow onion, yellow wax beans, potatoes, beets, kale, red komatsuma, eggplant, Cortland apples, and Gala apples.

Instead of discussing things right away I went into the kitchen and started cooking with no real goal in mind. We didn't really have any groceries or anything other than then things we've gotten from the farm so it was clearly going to be a vegetarian meal. I started by making this pear and Reggiano salad with lettuce and pears from the farm and a few grape tomatoes.

For the main course I hollowed out the eggplant, and stuffed it with a mixture of garlic, onion, the hollowed out eggplant bits, fennel, tomato, parsley, pine nuts, balsamic vinegar, and chevre. Most of the obvious items were from the farm share. The other items were odds and ends that we need to clean out of the fridge and pantry before we move.

To help lighten the load we will eventually have to move we opened this bottle of Wölffer Estate Cabernet Franc.

After buying some time with that brief culinary venture, which turned out to be quite tasty, we are now faced with the reality of having to choose between at least four really great apartments. This involves the making of a matrix and weighing numerous pros and cons.

I think we'd pay our first month's rent just to have someone make this decision for us. Any takers?

Monday, September 21, 2009

Dynamites (Reprise)

Yesterday I traveled back form Rhode Island to return my car to the great state of New York. I returned only with the clothes I left with and a little care package from my Aunt Pauline: some authentic Woonsocket style Dynamite mix, sealed in a little Tupperware container and ready for use.

Today we spent all day driving all over Westchester to look for a new apartment so when we returned home it was a perfect night for said dynamites. Firstly, they are delicious. Secondly, they required little to no additional work to prepare. Perfect for a day where Jen and I were both physically exhausted form the mental workout of deciding where to move.

Aunt Pauline's dynamites use the traditional green peppers along with celery (an ingredient I forgot in the version I made last week). I also made a salad from the remaining farm share greens and tomatoes as an accompaniment.

Dynamites must be served on these rolls. They are from Dupras Bakery in Woonsocket, RI and inexplicably say "Caranci's Italian" on them with the address of Dypras Bakery listed below. I never really understood this. There are only two and a half Italian people in Woonsocket: My mother, my friend Keith from high school, and .5 of me. I'm not sure who this Caranci character is but that is a French Canadian bakery if I've ever seen one. Also, Italians don't make rolls like this -- no one outside of Woonsocket does.

I guess like most ethnic cuisines this dish is largely tied in to local agriculture and culinary custom, making it difficult to duplicate outside its geographic home. (Read about my solid attempt to recreate it last week.) Sort of like the "New York System Weiner" which is native to Rhode Island and, strangely, does not exist here in New York.

I wonder if the many mothers and aunts of Woonsocket would consider going into some sort of mail order business to supply their scattered relatives with some authentic dynamite mix.

Sort of like Omaha Steaks.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

United Plates of Armenia

Yesterday brought our fourteenth week of farm vegetables.

Basil, fennel, arugula, lettuce, tomatillo, cherry tomatoes, tomato, garlic, peppers, celery, cucumbers, romano beans, onion, chili peppers.

We only got tomatillo so I think my greatest culinary challenge of the season is going to be figuring out what to do with only one tomatillo. Any recommendations are welcome from all creative and/or tiny chefs out there.

Tonight I utilized some more of the corn, grape tomatoes, and goat cheese along with the lettuce from the farm to make a salad. I also used some of Amy Hepworth's orange grape tomatoes from Milton, NY.

For the main course I used this marinated Amrenian string cheese from Sun-Ni along with some flatbreads and additional grape tomatoes to make a quasi-traditional Armenian dish. Normally I don't know enough about Armenian cooking to know my lahmahjoon from my jilbour but I have it on good authority that this is how one uses Armenian string cheese.

Now this is the first night this week there hasn't been a random Dolly Parton movie on CMT so we're going to have to work to figure out what to do with the rest of our evening.

My vote: watch some reruns of Psych. That would be sweeter than a bowl full of roejeeg!

Monday, September 14, 2009


In the magical world of Woonsocket, Rhode Island, there are two main staples that are available at just about any gathering: family style chicken, and dynamites. If you travel more than 15 miles away from Woonsocket in any direction, no one you meet will have heard of either of these dishes.

The former is simply roasted chicken served with french fries, roasted potatoes (or both), and pasta with marinara sauce. This is never eaten at home and only served in four or five restaurants in the Greater Woonsocket Area (I didn't make that term up, that's what they call it).

The latter is a strange sort of sloppy joe made with sauteed onions and peppers with ground beef and some sort of tomato. Depending on the cook this seasoned ground beef varied from mild to extraordinarily spicy. This mixture is served in a grinder roll typically made from the most bleached and bromated flour legally available. This is never available on any restaurant menu I've ever seen and is only served at gatherings and is always prepared by someone's mother or mémère.

While I lived in Woonsocket for 25 years and was a professional chef I never made dynamites -- I made family style chicken approximately 11,000 times, mostly at a restaurant that served little else -- but never dynamites.

Until now.

I didn't have a recipe for dynamites so I just deconstructed what I normally found in the dish. I browned some garlic and onion then added chopped peppers, ground beef, thyme, and tomato paste until I had something that resembled what I was used to.

I took a few liberties. For starters I used vidalia onion which I would wager has seldom made an appearance in dynamites. I also used red and yellow peppers in place of the traditional green peppers because it is my firm belief that green bell peppers are not suitable for human consumption. Not many people share this view. Lastly I used hot dog buns as no one in New York City knows what a grinder roll is unless they have come from Rhode Island.

I'm pretty certain that this is the smallest batch of dynamite mix ever made and possibly the only time in history that fewer than twelve people have been present during the consumption of said dynamites.

Who knows what marvelous adventures still await us in our quest to recreate niche local cuisines while emptying our freezer of small portions of ground beef?

Now if only there was some sort of Woonsocket dish made from torillas and chorizo sausage.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Ribeye Madness (Round 2)

The ribeye that I'd removed from our freezer the other day required multiple days to be fully consumed. Tonight we began round two of our battle with the enormous ribeye.

But first we had two weeks worth of salad greens from the farm that I combined with grape tomatoes, croutons, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and shredded Córdoba. The salad greens were getting slightly elderly but overall it was a pretty tasty salad.

The ribeye preparation was a touch unorthodox. I started by browning some garlic, onion, and fennel (all from the farm) then hitting it with some steamed baby beets (also from the farm) at the very end. I seared the ribeye with the sauteed vegetables and hit it all with some red wine.

I don't know if I'd necessarily recommend this preparation but it was interesting. What it excelled at was in utilizing many neglected vegetables from weeks past.

After all this I pored through all of my available wine literature to find the perfect accompaniment to ribeye that would also incorporate a suitable pairing with fennel and beet. What I found in The Critical Sommelier by Nicholas Racharian* was that a 2007 Di Majo Norante Sangiovese would be the best suited match for this meal. Wouldn't you know that I happened to have a 2007 Di Majo Norante Sangiovese in my wine cellar**? Fortune had indeed smiled upon me.***

* This is not an actual book.
** My "cellar" is actually a rack from Crate & Barrel.
*** None of this actually happened ****.
**** Except that we did actually have this wine. In fact it was the first red wine that I found.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Beginning The Purge

As some of you may, or may not, know: Jen and I are moving in the next few weeks. Given this we have been in a race to eliminate as much from our freezer and pantry as humanly possible.

Last night we used up some nice salmon steaks with corn, peppers, onion, parsley, and tomato. This was all for the farm, except for the salmon, which was from a farm but not in the Hudson valley.

Tonight we went through some of the backed up salad greens, grape tomatoes, mozzarella, red onions, and half of a huge Ribeye from the freezer.

I made a Caesar salad, a quick mix of mozzarella, balsamic, and tomato, then seared the half ribeye finishing it by killing the remainder of a bottle of Worchester sauce.

In total dinner took about 12 minutes to make if you don't count the 15 minutes of doing dishes beforehand. It also utilized many ingredients that we need to burn through before our move.

The coming weeks should present themselves with progressively unimpressive meals as we burn through our inventory until we find ourselves having a meal made from some miscellaneous dry pasta, canned tuna fish, and hoisin sauce.

Oh, and we got The Beatles Rock Band in the mail today.

Gotta go!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Great Vegetable Takeover

While I toiled away until the wee hours of the morning, Jen was busy assuming pickup, chef, and photography responsibilities. This meant she was lucky enough to pick up all the vegetables, lug them home, and make dinner!

This week we got: tomatoes, celery, lettuce, onions, fennel, kale, parsley, corn, beans, assorted squashes, and peppers.

Jen used all of this to make one of the most delicious pastas I've had in a long time -- and that was at 12:30 AM, cold, and out of the fridge. She used fettuccine, scallops, shrimp, zucchini, corn, heirloom tomato, and some type of green (kale?).

It appears that the next few weeks may involve us moving, thus leaving the farm share and New York City behind for the greener pastures of right outside New York City. That will also involve the blog being updated at its current level of approximately once a week. However, we will be even closer to the vegetables that must enter New York City through one of our many bridges and tunnels. That means yet another exciting chapter of vegetal excitement to follow!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009


I had a special request (from a special lady) to make moussaka tonight. I haven't made moussaka in a while but the eggplant from this past week's farm share needed to go into something. Why not moussaka?

While I know it would not please my Greek grandmother I decided to lean a little west of Greece since I had so much tomato and basil from the farm as well.

I made a concassée of tomatoes which I added to some of the sauteed garlic, onion, and chili from the farm. I also added some ground beef and red wine to make a thich hearty meat sauce.

Separately I made a white sauce with ricotta, milk, Parmigiano Reggiano, and eggs.

I layered strips of roasted eggplant with the meat sauce, slices of baked potato, chunks of fresh mozzarella, torn basil leaves, and drizzles of the white sauce. I topped with mozzarella, white sauce, and basil leaves then baked it in the oven. It ended up being kind of like a noodle-free eggplant and potato lasagna.

It's like fusion cuisine for mental midgets!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Rising From The Ashes . . . of SOUP!

After a busy streak at work, a bout with illness, and an unpleasant internet service outage we're back, baby!

If you're wondering what you missed during the break the lion's share was done by Jen with very little input from me other than eating it before falling asleep. Here's what went down:

We had weird Italian-style fish tacos with pesto halibut and pine nuts!

There was week 11 of the farm share which I picked up promptly before eating take out Indian food!

There was this dish which I think is shrimp cous cous which I never actually saw until I downloaded the images from my camera!

There was this great braised lamb shank with cauliflower puree, celery soup, and tempranillo!

. . . and there was a great vegetable soup which made excellent use of much of the neglected vegetables in our fridge!

Today it was time to pick up the twelfth week of the farm share. This week we got: more celery, kale, lettuce, Italian eggplants, red onions, beets, cucumbers, basil, a pink or Cherokee tomato (it looks like I selected the pink variety), Sungold tomatoes, small red tomatoes, chiles, plums, and nectarines.

This was our best share so far this season. While I'm glad the reprieve from the rains has improved the quantity and quality of the produce I could do with this being my last head of celery for a long time. Possibly for the rest of my life. No offense to celery of course. I would hate to pick favorites in the vegetable world. It's like telling your children that you love one of them more than you love the others. While I'm not saying that let's just say that if there was a fire and there was only one vegetable in the fridge that I could not save it would be the celery.

But I'm not playing favorites!

It shows a lack of inspiration but finally getting all these nice tomatoes there is seldom anything I can think of that is nicer than simply slicing them up, tossing them with basil, and serving on top of salad greens. In this case I added a little goat cheese with the pink heirloom and Sungold tomatoes. I drizzeld a touch of balsamic vinegar over the top. Often when we make these great vegetables we do not do well to score culinary creativity points.

Jen's recent love of making soup is great for me but not so great for her. Unfortunately the quantity necessary for her style of soup making is incompatible with her dread of eating the same meal more than once. Fortunately I have become quite handy at rolling around on day two and turning the soup into something else. For tonight I transferred yesterday's vegetable soup into veal stew and served it over cooked noodles. As per normal I did not tell Jen what I was doing beforehand because she hates my ideas 100% of the time but somehow likes the end result about 98% of the time. Apparently that 2% margin of error must be so terrible that she has a Pavlovian disgust reaction every single time I do this.

I was definitely not well enough to have a beer tonight but sometimes you just have to break the rules. Still, I've been dying to try this beer from what just might be the closest brewery to our house (less than fifty blocks away) so wellness be damned.

The sad part is that I really couldn't taste much of anything from this cold I had. I could tell that it was carbonated though. That's a positive point in any beer.

Tomorrow I might just have a second try. Dare to dream, friends.