Category Archives: side

Curried raw kale, roasted red pepper, and spelt salad

It’s spring here, so I’ve been enjoying my life here in Sydney by refinishing furniture (as pictured here),

replanting seeds, and getting up to my usual shenanigans in the kitchen. This curried salad is from one of my CSA box experiments, and uses up some of the first signs of summer’s impending heat in the form of a roasted red pepper and some beautiful curly kale. I can’t wait until I have enough of my own produce to try a version of this from our balcony garden.

Curried raw kale, roasted red pepper, and spelt salad

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Filed under almonds, experiments, local, main, quick meals, raisins, salad, seasonal, side, spelt, vegan, vegetarian

Adventures in curry leaves

I don’t care what anyone says about tofu’s versatility. It has nothing on the lowly potato.  Fry them, roast them, coat them in a slick of olive oil with salt and pepper, and you have dinner. Ok, maybe not the most balanced dinner, but let a girl dream once in a while. If you want something green, broccoli, potato, and sharp cheddar cheese is even tasty if you do get lazy and make everything in a microwave. Not that we own a microwave.*

If you haven’t gathered this already, I will never tire of potatoes.

But I thought I had tried pretty much every variation I could think of, until I came across this recipe from 50 great curries of India, by Camellia Panjabi.  These potatoes are boiled, and then tossed in hot oil with some turmeric, mustard seeds, lentils, chile powder, and curry leaves.  The curry leaves are reminiscent of garam masala, but more vibrant somehow, and they transfer their frangrance to the potatoes far more thoroughly than I would have expected from a quick toss in a pot.

The end result? The most addicting, exotic homefries you will ever taste.  Hot or cold, this dish is both simple and impressive, and goes quite well with any sort of curry.  Or you could just eat them for dinner as is.

The only catch, really, is finding a source of fresh curry leaves.  Around here, the only place I’ve ever seen them is the Asian market in M&M farms, which seems to get boxes of them in sporadically.  Luckily, they freeze well, so stock up.

*For the record, we killed ours. It is resting peacefully in the basement, along with all our other broken stuff that I loathe to get rid of when we finally get out of this city for good.

Recipe after the jump.

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Filed under main, potatoes, side, vegan, vegetarian

Reflections on 2008

Well, it was a bizarre, fantastic, and somewhat surreal year, and it’s going out in proper New Haven style.  (What, you don’t know what that is? Well … Think biting, icy snow and freshly made pizza, with the slight char on the crust. Happy New Year, right?).  There were a lot of firsts: buckwheat baguettes, cheese making, voyages to Australia and beyond, campfire cooking, and milestones of a more personal sort.  Next year promises to be even crazier, believe it or not, with the end of graduate school, a wedding (with our own homemade / homegrown food!) to pull off, jobs to find (somewhere, somehow) and still more travel to far off, exotic places. Well, maybe, anyway.  Hopefully we’ll finally make it out to Arizona for the Grand Canyon hike we keep talking about, with a possible side trip to Pizzeria Bianco, because that’s just how we roll.  The pizza will come first, of course.

Tomorrow, though, the silly resolutions kick in.  Here are a few food-related ones from my list for the year, just for good measure.  (Do you have any this year? Leave a comment!)

  1. Don’t die from James’s camembert experiments (oh yes, there will be a guest post. If we survive.)  I should add — I have faith. They actually look pretty good. I guess we’ll find out soon enough…
  2. Knife skills, baby.
  3. Make more green things.  Preferably things that James will eat.  (You know what the secret is?  Bacon.  If you add it, even in minuscule quantities, he will eat.)
  4. Learn to make simple, amazing dishes for parties that don’t require me to hide out in the kitchen. This will come in handy for our wedding, as we’re cooking everything ourselves.
  5. In honor of the financial crisis: more cheap eats.

And with that, I leave you with something to kick of the most typical of resolutions: Broccoli soup, a la Gordon Ramsay.

Easy Broccoli Soup

Cost: Cheap

Difficulty: Easy (as if the title didn’t tell you already)

Serves: 2-4 depending on what you serve it with. It’s really a starter, but is freaking amazing for lunch with grilled cheese sandwiches.

Splurge a little and buy good broccoli for this. As this recipe requires all of three ingredients, you must do it. Spend the extra dollar for the pretty fresh organic stuff (or farmers market stuff, you lucky warm climate bastards).  You will need a blender, unless you are more ambitious than I am.

  • 2 heads of broccoli. Cut the florets off and save the stems for some other project (broccoli slaw, anyone?).  Just a tip: look for closely packed, fresh florets. This means the broccoli is fresh. You want fresh broccoli.
  • 2 pinches salt, plus more to taste.
  • water
  • olive oil, plain yogurt (optional)

Fill a medium pot with water (until it’s ~2/3rds full).  Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Once it’s boiling, add a pinch of salt, add the broccoli florets, and add another pinch of salt. Stir quickly and cover. Cook for 3-4 minutes, until the broccoli is lush and green and can be pierced with a knife but has not turned to mush.  In other words, if you drag a sharp knife through the broccoli, against the side of the pan, it should take a little pressure to get it through. When this happens, take the broccoli off the heat, and drain, BUT KEEP THE WATER. You will need it.

Place the cooked broccoli florets in the blender.  Add some of the reserved broccoli water until the water comes up to about half the broccoli height in the blender. Cover, throw a towel over the top of the blender, and hold.  Pulse gently a couple of times, to keep the water from shooting out and scalding your hand, then blend until it’s a nice puree.  Taste and adjust the salt, and maybe add some pepper or cayenne if you’re into that sort of thing.  Pour into a bowl and decorate with either the olive oil and yogurt, a bit of cheddar cheese melted on toast (my favorite), or nothing at all.  Serve immediately.

Variation: Do a mix of broccoli and cauliflower for an even creamier texture. It won’t be quite so vibrant, but I think the mix of flavors would be nice.

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Filed under bacon, quick meals, side, soup

Loooong

Long beans in ginger sauce

I’m incredibly uninspired today, mostly because I spent all day trying to be a computer geek and install a linux virtual machine. Who needs 276 updates ever? Ok — except Windows.  But there’s a recipe, of course, to go with my boredom-fueled post, featuring this baby right here:
Impressive

No, I’m not growing green beans on top of my lab (though it’d be an awesome place for a garden). These are “yard-long beans”, which taste kind of like green beans, but without the sweet aftertaste. And while I’d love to spin some tale about how you MUST try these now, I’m not convinced myself — it would be an utter lie. Not even so much because of the flavor, but because these guys seemed to go from squeaky to mushy in no predictable fashion. They are kind of cool looking, though — like Rapunzel beans. Luckily, this recipe WILL work for normal green beans or haricots verts. So if you need a little somethin’ to dress up your veggies, give it a try.  If only because you too can then photograph your food growing colder by the second, as you line up your camera and try your best to bring out your inner “artiste.”

ooh, artsy

Or you could just eat up.

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Filed under China, quick meals, side, yard-long beans

Cure

The sky flickers momentarily, illuminating the shadows for just long enough to show you that yes, you are about to step in a rather large puddle. A moat, if you will. When it rains here in the summer, nature spares no expense at creating a scene. Not that I mind, as long as I can seek refuge indoors when the lightning’s at its worst.

In truth, the rain makes running exhilarating, as the heavy air becomes cool — if only for a moment. When I was growing up, it was a thing to long for, to keep our ground moist and our water supplies above disaster levels.  Here, it’s taken for granted, and in some parts of the country at the moment, it is feared. For good reason, too. What nourishes the ground one day may wash away carefully planted seeds the next.

What exactly does this have to do with garlic soup? Nothing, unless you happen to find it’s a comforting thing to have in the house on days like these. Especially when your officemates are coming down with colds. This version is adapted from Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume 1 (which I got for a whole $4 — best purchase ever), and if you’ve never had garlic soup, you’re in for a surprise. Think subtle, tasty broth, not garlicky, spicy mess. In fact, if I had to substitute stock with anything, this soup base would be my first choice.

Serve it with a bit of bread toasted in olive oil, and you have a delicious starter. Or add some protein in the form of red kidney beans and a bit of whole wheat pasta, for your own minestrone-like dish. Whatever you do: Don’t skimp on the garlic. I promise, you won’t regret a single clove.

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Filed under comfort, fennel, garlic, main, side, soup, vegan, vegetarian

Such sweet things

Our first strawberry

Our garden’s reveling in the summer sun, throwing up signs of contentment in little shoots and buds. Sprouts of questionable heritage yielded spindly little seedlings, which eventually transformed into our little patch of controlled chaos in the backyard. Along with it, creatures emerged — little slugs and aphids, butterflies and ladybugs. Signs that soon (well, now, actually), we’d be competing for the very produce we made possible.

Tomatoes!

I’ve been reading Michael Pollan’s Second Nature: A Gardener’s Education, which makes the transition to the “wilderness” of the national parks we just visited back to civilization an interesting one. It’s a comfortable book, meandering through the seasons — and his garden, in each — with a thoughtful ease. And while it’s preachy at times, I think his point about America’s view of nature is dead on. Yes, we invented the concept of national preservation areas, where wilderness could be preserved for all to see. And yes, as the ranger in Prairie Creek State Park pointed out, we have cleared virtually every single old growth forest outside of those preservation areas since we decided to settle here. Pollan’s explanation of this is that we have an “all or nothing” view of nature, and how we manage it;

Once a landscape is no longer ‘virgin’ it is typically written off as fallen, lost to nature, irredeemable. We hand it over to the jurisdiction of that other sacrosanct American ethic: laissez-faire economics.

Yes — big developers. Because who wouldn’t want more condos? It’s already ruined, right? This is despite the fact that, as Pollan points out, man has had a profound effect on nature as we see it. We’re part of it, and we influence it, in our introduction of foreign species, our management policies, and our understanding of our role in its history. Most of the time, we’ve had a more profound effect than we know. His point? We have, in essence, become “gardeners” of our landscape, responsible for its care and general health.

We’ve done a good job, in some cases (the State and National Park systems, an example of which is shown above, are a case in point). But in a lot of instances, I think this all-or-nothing concept (which seems to pervade our thinking, really — politically, environmentally, economically, and socially) is dangerous. It gives us license to write off our responsibility, to ignore our role in the planet’s future. Yes, it’s easier to manage; the lines are black and white, easily placed into the law books for all to see. But just as industrial ag is easier on a large scale, it’s not necessarily better.

I guess that’s why we started this garden. And why I’ll keep it up. I didn’t think I’d like it… I thought it’d be just another chore. I mean, this is me — I barely water the house plants; I used to kill them before James came along and started watching over them all. But I find myself going out to visit it every morning, to keep tabs on the soil condition, the new buds, and the creatures I find myself learning more about, in order to defend our plants’ tender leaves. It’s all the more interesting when you can’t just spray a few chemicals about to take care of whatever your problems are. So far, everything is doing pretty well. We’ve had to share our strawberries with the birds, and had some hungry leaf miners eat through the first leaves of chard. Other than that? We have strong, healthy tomato plants, and some amazing squash and cucumber coming along. Our carrots seem happy, and the potato we planted from the Union Square greenmarket is finally pushing a few buds up out of the soil. And we have more lettuce than we can eat — a few plants are going to seed, and I’m just going to let them, just to see what happens. Oh — and I can’t wait for the tomatoes.

So, with that, I’ll leave you with a recipe. Well — this isn’t really a recipe. I just threw a few veggies, some pasta, and a sauce together and called it lunch. But it’s really tasty (with sort of a satay flavor), and makes use of the garlic scapes that seem to be the only new and interesting thing at the Wooster Square farmer’s market at the moment. It’ll be perfect with our yellow pears, carrots, and spring onions later in the season. I only hope I’m still in New Haven when things start to get really exciting.

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Filed under books, carrots, environment, gardening, garlic scapes, ginger, main, pasta, side, vegan, vegetarian

Sweetness, cream, and a bit of spice

Creamy butternut squashThis dish is, if anything, intriguing. It’s not plain creamy, or cheesy, or any of the other qualities that make mac and cheese oh-so-irresistible.   It’s not comforting, either, at least in my book. It makes you think, which is saying a lot for someone who thinks for a living.  But I really shouldn’t be surprised, given who this pretty little creation comes from.Butternut squash plated 

It’s brilliant.  Any idea who I’m referencing now?  I just got his cookbook in the mail, along with a very bendable mini-tripod and some hope that my photography might improve.  And immediately, I nestled into the couch and started to read.  No, he’s not a writer; his prose reminds me of a school boy’s, actually, though it’s improved immeasurably since this one came out.  But he’s hilarious, has turned his fame into a vehicle for championing quality food for everyone, and happens to be a pretty good chef.  
Squash prep
His flavor combinations are familiar, but somehow unlike anything I would have come up myself. They work somehow, in an unexpected way.  So I’m sharing this one with you, because it’s worth trying, just once. Even if you only have whole milk and cheddar in the house, and don’t feel like trekking to the store.
Squash prep 2 
I used a local pear wine in this dish, which worked pretty well, but any white wine will do.  Cream and parmesan, as the recipe originally called for, would have been better than the whole milk and parmesan I actually used, but the flavor was still quite good.  The consistency wasn’t quite what I wanted, but I made do.  If you happen to find yourself in my predicament, make a béchamel sauce with a bit of butter, milk, and cream, and add the nutmeg and cheese to the sauce.  If not, use the cream. Go on — you know you want to.

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Filed under butternut squash, cheese, cream, milk, side