Beets For Those Who Hate Beets

Beet, Ginger, and Coconut Soup

Brittany Disdains BeetsContrary to photographic evidence, Brittany doesn’t like beets. In fact when I was thinking of things to do with our CSA beets this week I asked her, “You’re the one who loves beets, right?” To which she retorted – positively horrified – “EW! No.” And then, “Wait, who loves beets?” In the same way someone might say, “Wait, who loved the Spanish Inquisition?”

So we made her beet soup.

It occurred to me to trick her into eating it, tell her it was squash or something and then spring it on her afterwards. But if someone did that to me, I would flip. So I gave her the benefit of the doubt and told her it was indeed beets, and gave her full permission to not touch it, or having tried it to dump it politely down the drain. She later told me I was encouraged to trick her into eating new foods (sans viande) any time – and I’m really considering the possibilities.

But she, as per usual, was a sport.

Harvest abound, we’ve had enormous CSA loads lately. This week we got arugula, beets, bok choy, broccoli, cabbage, kale, peppers, hot peppers,  romaine lettuce, string beans, cherry tomatoes, tomato-tomatoes (and tomatoes and tomatoes), plums, pears, and a hernia from carrying it all home.

I found this lovely vegan soup on Epicurious for Beet, Ginger, and Coconut Milk Soup, and tweaked around with the recipe a bit.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped ginger
  • 3 large red beets
  • 5 cups vegetable stock
  • Epi calls for 1 can (14.5 ounces) of low-fat coconut milk. But it seems pretty obvious to me that low-fat coconut milk is half coconut and half water. So if I really need for something to be lighter, I can use half a can of regular and pour the rest in as water. But I think coconut milk is lovely as is.
  • And Epi calls for 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt, but I think it’s fair to say that you can be pa-retty generous with the salting.
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Share Beets!More Share Beets!Our beets from our CSA, as always, were gorgeous. Their colors are just unreal. I’m so infatuated with beet color that I once dyed a few articles of clothing with beet juice, thinking the color would penetrate. It did not, and my T’s vaguely resembled having been dragged through the mud. Fail.

But don’t they look like purple Cindy-Loo-Who’s?

Unlike Epicurious, we roasted our beets first because I really dislike the way boiled beets taste (hey, maybe that’s the objection Britt has!) and we thought the roasty flavor might add a nice quality to the soup.

Zebra BeetsRoasting Zebra BeetsOnce the beets were finished roasting (in a container with aluminum foil over it, at 350° for about an hour or until you can easily pierce them with a fork) we removed the skins by dropping the still-hot beets in an ice bath, then sautéed the onions, garlic, and ginger. We added the beets, stirred ’em around, then the vegetable broth and can of coconut milk and S&P. Then blended with an Immersion Blender.Beets and AromaticsImmersion BlendingWe left it to cook and thicken altogether for a bit, and then put it in the fridge to serve chilled later, although it’s very tasty served warm as well. I swirled some pomegranate molasses on the top (which kind of made the dish) and garnished with a peppery arugula leaf.

IMG_6956For our second course we had a flatbread – dough ala Evan – with tomato sauce (entirely CSA share and window garden tomatoes), share broccoli, share arugula, share peppers, (non-share) shallots and black olives, paired with a share romaine salad with (non-share) avocado, and peanut sauce. Share-iffic. I’d been referring to our flatbread as a vegan pizza, but Evan explained that it cannot be pizza without cheese. And so: flatbread.

Share and Window Garden TomsIMG_6975 IMG_6980 IMG_6983 IMG_6984

Yummy meal; yummier company.

Evan later said to me: “Why did we make beet soup for Brittany? It seems a little cruel…” I had no acceptable answer for him, except to say that I’d wanted to try it, and she and Tyler were coming for dinner. My sincerest apologies for being an asshole.

But when asked, Brittany said, “I still hate beets… but look at my bowl.” (Empty.) Then she clarified: “It wasn’t beet forward.”

Brittany and Beet Soup.

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Tequila-Tofu Taco Night

Taco NightAfter debating the merits of Chipotle earlier this week, all we could think about was Mexican food.  It might not be the most sustainable meal, but one of our favorite vegan dinners when we need a light cooking night is tequila tofu tacos. It’s freakishly easy, and a stellar backup for nights when spending long hours in the kitchen feels foreboding.

We sauté up some firm tofu in olive oil with:

  • lime
  • cumin
  • coriander
  • a splash of tequila
  • garlic
  • and sea salt

Then we chop up whatever came in our share that week – preferably tomatoes (love cherry), sometimes corn, or occasionally cabbage for some crunch. And we cut up some avocado. (Sorry fellow locavores, I simply can’t help eating avocados… like, all the time.) Er, and occasionally the addition of pineapple is just about the best thing ever.

Tofu TacosPan-fry some soft taco shells, stuff them with goodies, add some chile sauce. And enjoy.

Taco DonezoAnd just for good measure: a little tequila on the side never hurts.

Broccoli Rice and Lentils: All Stocked Up.

Our Bulk Cabinet!

There are numerous reasons why to buy bulk and to stock your shed with goodies, and we love having our cabinets stuffed with dry yummies. It’s a dynamite way to reduce packaging waste and have supplies on hand for when your CSA share gets unruly and you’re short on ideas. There’s limited space in our NYC apartment, but we make it work somehow.

Brown Rice, Lentil & Grain MixWe’ve been getting loads of fabulous veggies as of late (go harvest, go!), and aside from nights where we just cook up a bunch of vegetables and happily munch on those, it’s delightful to have a grainy-stockpile to pair them with.

1 Hard Vegetable + 1 Leafy Green + Aromatics + Grain = Dinner Four out of Five Times a Week.

I recently stumbled on this Brown Rice, Lentil & Grain Mix at Whole Foods, which has proven very useful as a foil for all the vegetables we’ve gotten lately. It’s really tasty and aggressively nutritious. You cook it just like you cook rice, but it has all the wholesome benefits of lentils and grain-variation as well. I think it needs quite a bit of salt and pepper, but some of our favorite meals recently have involved it. Track it down!

It doesn’t matter terribly what you match it with, but here’s one dish we made with things that came in our CSA last week:

CSA Share Bounty

Broccoli Rice and Lentils:

  • Cook the rice and lentil mix as you would normal rice – in a rice cooker or in a pot with water.
  • Saute shallots, garlic, and jalapeño peppers in olive oil.
  • I love broccoli greens, and am shocked to find out people discard the leaves from their broc! If you add them to your aromatics until they get soft they make a stellar addition to a grain dish (or just plain cooked in garlic and olive oil). So chop those up and add them.
  • Boil or steam your broccoli until they’re bright green, and add that in.
  • Combine with rice and lentils once they’re cooked.
  • Add salt and pepper generously.

Aromatics and Jalapeño

Broccoli Leaf Greens

Dinner!And a tip before closing: leftover lentil and rice is a great pleasure in salad with sliced avocado for next-day lunch.

Feast happily, friends.

Dabbled with Apples

Apple!Rumor has it that this year’s apple crop is going to be the biggest in years. So it may have been a little shortsighted of us to go apple picking. Surely our CSA will be throwing more apples our way than we could possibly know what to do with in mere weeks time, but oh well: a-picking we shall go.

New York state puts us in a stellar place to take advantage of apple season. NY is second to Washington state in apple production, and we have literally hundreds of variations to choose from. So we, tra-la-la, took the Metro-North upwards a bit, met a loved one, and made a day of it.

Paige and Evan Promenade

Paige and Evan Reeaaach

Up iN that tree.

Maggie+Apple+Paige=<3.

Evan will tell you that no trip to an apple orchard is complete without (at least) one apple cider donut.

Cider Donuts

Hello Autumn

Hello big pumpkin.Back home, we contemplated what to do with our big ol’ bag of apples. A few years back we wrote Appletopia with a few good ideas, but this year, what with the apple palooza ahead, we might have to get creative.

If you caught our recent post on canning, this might not seem like such a shocker, but we decided to kick off the apple season by making and canning apple butter. We cut up all the apples (at least the ones that didn’t get snarfed down with crunchy peanut butter) and put them in a dutch oven.

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Ok, so here’s where apple butter gets really tricky. Put the apples in a pot, walk away, and leave them on low heat for several hours.

No, seriously, that’s how you make apple butter. A chimp could do it.

IMG_6765

Exiting Appleland

Disclaimer: No offense to chimps intended. They’re actually very intelligent animals. Like the majestic platypus.

Canned Laughter

Canning!Our CSA share has been positively monumental lately. So much so, that we’ve had too many tomatoes and peaches than we know what to do with. Winter, however, will not be quite so flush. Thus, we recently decided to start canning.

We’ve fantasized about canning our CSA share extras for the last few years, but the combination of our small kitchen and the daunting prospects of sterilization have always scared us off. This year we got the canning-mojo, and have since been canning up a storm. We mentioned in our post Ten Things To Do With Tomatoes that we’ve begun these procedures and that we’ve been tom-loaded, so we started with tomatoes, and have yet to stop.

Though we’ll go over some basics, if you need a more in-depth primer on how to proceed, check here.

Step 1. Sterilization

The number-one rule is to keep everything clean.  Start by cleaning your jars and lids well and then put them in a pot of boiling water.  We just leave them there until it’s time to fill them. They clank around a lot to let you know they’re getting nice and sterile.

Sterilizing Cans

Step 2. Prepare food

Doing tomatoes is really straightforward, and it’s the same for peaches. You don’t want the skins of either fruit, so drop them in boiling water for about a minute, then put them in an ice bath, after which the peels just fall away when you rub on them a little. Do this a few at a time and then place them in a colander above a bowl to save the juice. Once they’re all peeled, remove the core and cut into quarters.

Step 3. Can

Stuffing Those Toms InCarefully remove the sterilized jars and start adding the tomatoes, leaving about 1/2″ at the top (the “head space”). Use the reserved juices to cover the tomatoes, and remove as much air as possible by prodding with a chopstick or wood spoon.  Screw on the lids and “process” by placing the closed jars back in the boiling water for about 45 minutes to one hour (depending a bit on the size of the jar). Then just take out the jars and let stand for a few hours without moving them. The lids should make a very satisfying pop to let you know they’ve fully sealed.

Boiling CansThose are the basics!

We got a little fancy and roasted some tomatoes with garlic for some (mid-winter) summery sauces, which smelled heavenly.

Tomatoes with Garlic and Basil and Rosemary

Roasted Tomatoes

IMG_6429As we all know, peaches – much like tomatoes – become a sad-hybrid-pretend-fruit in the supermarket come late fall/early winter. Seriously, they taste like mealy soap. To combat this conundrum, we (mere days after tomato canning) canned a combination of yellow, white and donut peaches, which promises to be a heavenly treat come the frost.

Canning Peaches

And now we’re ready! We can pack up away and hibernate, not to be seen again until April or so. Our pantry (aka NYC closet) is stacked.

Canned Tomatoes

Canned Peaches

NYC Pantries (Closets)

Next up, apples.

Even Audrey Baked in the Summertime

Picture borrowed from www.twistedsifter.com, colored by Dana Keller.

Picture borrowed from http://www.twistedsifter.com, colored by Dana Keller.

It may be past Labor Day, but if you hovered around New York City last week you’d be hard pressed to find someone who believed it. It was very sticky, impressively hazy, and just a little bit smelly. It made everyone who had packed away their AC units rethink doing so, and I saw more than one adult run through an open fire hydrant.

Zucchini Polaroid

So we took the opportunity to bake. (No, really. We’re not that bright.)

Zucchini bread is a harvest season favorite because of all the unruly zukes that manage to get away from you and take a turn towards plus size. People literally beg you to take zucchinis off their hands, and really, who am I to deny them?

The comically enormous zucchinis tend not to have as much flavor as the smaller ones – which is too bad because so many of them seem to get away from their gardeners – but they make a perfect foil for a sweet bread. And just one can often yield a healthy sized zucchini bread, a handful of zucchini muffins, and still a bit leftover for zucchini fritters.

In the Zucchini Battle of 2011 we gave a good list of things to make when the harvest explodes, one of which was zucchini bread. But as the recipe has been asked for, I’ve decided to elaborate. It’s so easy there’s almost no reason not to take 15 min and use the bartering system to take someone’s garden veggies (including some uberzukes) and return a bread back after.

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups of flour
  • 2 1/4 cups of white sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 3 tsp cinnnamon
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 sticks of butter (or 1 cup vegetable oil)
  • 3 tsp vanilla
  • 2 cups of grated zucchini
  • 1 cup chopped pecans

(I found a vegan recipe here! So when I’m not baking for others, I can chow down too.)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees and grease two 8X4 inch pans. Sometimes the mixture fills one 9×5 just as well and is a fatter more luscious bread. But play it by ear with how much mixture you have and whatever kinds of loaf pans.

Start by shredding up the zucchini with a grater: and prepare to get jacked. Or if you prefer spaghetti-arms and you have one near, a food processor with a grating attachment will work just as well.

Shredded Zucchini (sans food processor)Stir up all your dry ingredients in a bowl (flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon), while melting your butter on the stove. Keep a watchful eye so your butter doesn’t brown.

In a separate bowl blend sugar and melted butter, and then add eggs one by one.

Zucchini Bread Wet IngredientsAdd dry ingredients to wet ingredients, stir up altogether, and then add zucchini and chopped nuts. Feel free to add dried cranberries, chocolate, and other nuts and dried fruit depending on your tastebuds.

Zucchini BreadsPour mixture into buttered pan (or pans). Bake for 45-60 min. You’ll know your bread is ready by the smell, and if a toothpick comes out clean. Enjoy plain, or if you’re feeling crazy fry it in a pan for breakfast and enjoy with a cup of coffee.

Zucchini Bread

Then share with neighbors.

The smell of baking zucchini bread is a classic sign of fall in our household. While Audrey might have enjoyed a sweltering bake day with us last week, this week she’d be back in sweatpants (ha, a likely story) as the weather has dropped an ominous 30 degrees. But at least, like us, she’d have some comfort food to mourn the passing of summer with. Fare thee well, lovely summertime.

Ten Things To Do With Tomatoes

Tomato PaloozaAs  you might have seen in our post Greener Thumbs Prevail, we have tomatoes all a-bloom in our window garden. But on top of those beautiful babies, we also got a truck-load of tomatoes from our CSA share this week. It seemed only fitting that we should write about the abounding number of things you can do with tomatoes, to which there is no end (except in this case, in which the end is ten).

  1. Tomato SauceThe classic option is, of course, tomato sauce. Any cook worth their salt knows how to make a sauce: tomatoes, onions, garlic, basil, oregano, salt (some people say sugar – I disagree). The fresher the tomatoes, the better the sauce. Crazy easy: crazy delicious.
  2. Swirled Tomatoes with BalsamicSalsaRatatouilleBruschetta. Toast bread with olive oil and garlic, and top with chopped tomatoes and basil.
  3. Or contrarily, just lay out some tomatoes in a swirly pattern, topple them with basil, drizzle with balsamic and oil, salt and pepper generously. It’s a crowd pleaser.
  4. Stuffed TomatoesSalsa! In addition to tomatoes, we’ve gotten some hot peppers in our CSA share as well. Chop tomatoes, onions, garlic, hot peppers, and fruit of choice. We used pineapple (which obviously came locally in our Northeastern share… oops). And whamo. Eat with burritos, fajitas, on greens, or with a corn chip or two.
  5. Stuffed ZucchiniTry making tomato paste. (Which can be used in BBQ sauce, soon to be blogged about.)
  6. Ratatouille is another way to use a share bounty. Put eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes and garlic in a roasting pan. Head-spinning!
  7. Stuffed tomatoes, especially on the grill, are so tasty. Crunch up some stale bread and a hard cheese, like a Pecorino, and cook them in the oven until they melt. Then crisp ’em up in the broiler, for gooeyness’ sake. Try the same thing with zukes and use tomatoes as the stuffing with breadcrumbs and cheese, and you’ll have stuffed zucchini.
  8. Roasted TomatoesWe stumbled on this phenomenal recipe from The Times for tomato risotto that was incredibly luxurious and delicious. We scratched the sugar and vegan-consciously let people add their own parm. It was rich and superb.
  9. Roasted tomatoes are beautiful and mouthwatering. Lay them out on a pan with garlic, salt, basil, oregano, rosemary and cook them until the tips blacken.
  10. And canning! As you may have heard, winter tomatoes are, well er, not tomatoes. So this year we took our excess and canned them so we can have ripe tomatoes when the harvest season ends. It was labor intensive and messy, but come January will have been damn worth it when we make any of the treats seen above.IMG_6461

The Bartering System

IMG_5990Here is a favorite trick of the Farmin’ Cityfolk trade: Bartering.

Evan and I were cooking a big dinner recently when we abruptly realized we had baked two desserts (both guest of honor’s favorites), baked bread, prepared sauces, made some stately appetizers, used leftover rice to make vegan rice pudding, and made a lovely breakfast for ourselves, but had forgotten entirely about the main course (minus grilled goodies).

Meet Nick:

Nick the Gardener

Nicks are not as easy to find in the Greater NYC area, because Nicks need huge quantities of space for plush fantastical gardens full of yummies:

Nick's Garden

Peppers from the Garden

Zucchini Flowers from the Garden

Big Hand, LIttle FlowerBut when we’re out of Manhattan and in need of some greenery, he always comes through in a clinch.

It is a mark of friendship to know people’s foods (take say, to remember to leave the crystalized ginger out of salads for one friend, or to always avoid eggplant – horrors – for another, there are gluten-free, veggie, or vegan, or some might claim they just don’t like cheese). We know Nick likes cakey breads made with garden goodies, and he knows we like anything that comes up in his backyard. Show up at Nick’s with a pumpkin, banana, or zucchini bread, and you can leave with dinner makings.

Bartered Banana Bread

Banana Bread and Vegan Rice PuddingIt’s really the tit-for-tat socialist lifestyle we’re aiming for.

Nick’s bountiful pile of swiss chard, broccoli greens, basil, and summer squash made for a very promising meal – and it’s safe to say it delivered. Sautéed broccoli greens and swiss chard and some grilled squash goes a long way in this household.

It’s not always easy to find bartering pals, but ask around. My mother, for example, has been known to take Thanksgiving turkeys in exchange for legal advice. We’ve always got one thing we’d love to do and another thing we’d rather not. So feed a friend in exchange for some physics tutoring, or paint an apartment for pizza and beer, or change a lightbulb for a cookie. But keep in mind that when it comes to bartering, food will always be the gold standard.

Lunchtime

A Nap in a Hammock

Greener Thumbs Prevail

Zinnias in NYC

As we blithely told some apartment-hunting friends recently, “You’re not the first people in New York City to want outdoor space.”

New Yorkers do what they can with the minuscule amount of space the landlord gods grace them with, generally something resembling a shoebox with a toilet. As you might remember from last year, Pygmy Goats - http://blog.sfgate.com/pets/2010/01/26/pygmy-goats-the-new-it-pet/for Evan and me doing what we can means utilizing the two windows in our studio apartment with happy, fanciful window gardens, bringing the farmin’ to city as per usual.

In our dream world, we would have a rooftop garden, or even a rooftop farm. We’d have a city-cow for dairy and some city-chickens for eggs and maybe a city-pygmy goat. Because – I mean, look at them – who can resist a pygmy goat?

We have yet to build our city farm, but we are still desperately trying to keep our teenie-weenie garden alive and well. This year we still have our happy little lemon tree, as well as sage, mint, chives, basil, zinnias, johnny-jump-ups (which bring me unreasonable joy), and tomatoes again, both cherry and beefsteak.

IMG_0528

IMG_6127There’s nothing better than waking up in the morning, rolling over in bed, and seeing our city street framed by our garden.

DSCN0628 (1)

(Our friends, by the way, landed a lovely one-bedroom, with in-building laundry and gym, rooftop access, and outdoor space on their first day hunting… So who am I to talk, really.)

Thorncrest Farm’s Milk House Chocolates

Milk House Chocolates at Thorncrest Farm

A couple weeks before our chronicled trip to Europe, my wonderful in-laws took Evan and me to a dairy farm in Northwestern CT called Thorncrest Farm. As you probably know by now, visiting small sustainable farms near New York City is our favorite way to spend a weekend and to supplement whatever comes that week in our CSA. This farm in particular, was ambrosial. Any Tom, Dick, or Harry Kimberly the Chocolatierdairy farm might sell milk, but few will tell you which cow (by name) you are being fed from, provide cheese, butter, and yogurt-making classes, and have their very own chocolatier.

Kimberly, my new absolute favorite person on earth, is the self-taught mastermind behind the small chocolate operation in what can only be described as the middle of nowhere. (Picture winding back roads, copious forestation, and maybe a handful of suspicious looking deer.) Kimberly was kind enough to methodically walk me through her case full of chocolate, telling me stories about her progress and her cows as she did so. After some introductions, Kimberly explained to me that certain cows produce milk that is better suited for specific chocolate flavors, and making chocolates on the farm allows her to use that to her advantage.

Trust me when I say, this precision pays off.

Her chocolates – be they milk, dark, with mint or peanut butter (a combination that in no way resembles Reese’s), caramel, ginger, pumpkin, creamy vanilla, mango, or hazelnut coffee – are all exquisite. When you walk into her kitchen-barn and are greeted by the chatty Kimberly in her charming chef’s costume the scent of cocoa and milk wafting through the air is truly penetrating. And the artistry involved in her work is simply unreal.

Milk House Chocolates, Thorncrest Farm

Harper's Mango ChocolateKimberly told me about her deep unbridled affection for her cows, tearing up as she shared a story about having sold one of her favorites to another farm.  Apparently when the cow’s milk production dropped soon after being sold the farmers prepared to slaughter her, and Kimberly promptly cut her losses and bought her cow back. The cow lived out her happy life on Thorncrest Farm.

Below is a picture of a very recent Mama-Cow, looking pooped but proud.

One of Kimberly's CowsSurrounded by the scents of chocolate it was hard for me to resist dreaming about following around Kimberly for a summer and learning about life on her farm, not to mention witnessing the process of creating her elegant artisan treats. And I felt so enchanted with her world that I found myself too shy to admit to her that I tiptoe on the fence of being vegan. That I’m so frustrated by the meat and dairy industries and the scandalous treatment of animals in factory farms that I often have vegan weeks, and have weeded out foods that seem tarnished by the trade. In the quiet of my own home, where I’m blissfully not tormenting others, I have replaced dairy milk with almond milk, eat little to no cheese, and miss butter terribly. But places like Thorncrest give me hope for future dairy consumption. That day I had a delicious sip of Victoria the Cow’s milk, and succumbed to more than a few breathtaking pieces of chocolate.

Thorncrest Farm Milk

Thorncrest Milk