The Dimpling of Dumplings

Dumplings

After a brilliant jaunt at the Union Square Farmers Market, Sam and Shosh took us back to their apartment to teach us how to make dumplings! We had all kinds of tasty veggies to work with from the market and we made a ridiculously hefty pile that we were encouraged to freeze for later. And for the sake of not looking like repulsive bingers, I’m going to pretend like we still have some left…

But we don’t.Evan Chop

IMG_7272 Evan ChopIMG_7284 IMG_7296

IMG_7316IMG_7319Dumpling WrapsFirst, Sam, Shosh and Evan chopped a crazy amount of vegetables. Then they decided on three different dumpling varieties:

  • Edamame, mushroom, and onion
  • Carrot, ginger, onion, and cilantro
  • Tofu, bok choy, scallions, and chives

Sam added whichever concoction to his dumpling presser, squeezed the sides together, and presto: dumplings! Well… kinda. That’s a vast simplification that hides just how long it took. For each flavor, we laid out dumpling wraps across a floured counter, twice. To do three flavors it really adds up, but since the longest part is the prep and set-up, it makes sense to do a huge batch and save leftovers.

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Since the wraps are made to resist sticking together, you need a flour/water paste to use as a glue so they stay closed after pressing. It all becomes a bit of a factory line operation, with one person gluing, one person stuffing, and one person pressing (giving dumplings little dimples). But once the process is going it’s just a matter of sticking it through to the end.

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Sam Dumples 2

IMG_7423 Sam and Shosh

Then we pan-fried them in olive oil while preparing a few dipping sauces:

  • mega-lime, cilantro, and honey
  • peanut sauce
  • mango chutney
  • and hoisin sauce
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And then we ate. A lot.

Bruehl Shosh Loves Dumplings MBT2

Obviously, as evidenced from the giant man on the floor, it was an exhausting procedure. But I can tell you a week later, having just eaten the next and final serving, it was well worth it.And done

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Message in a Scarecrow

There has been a lot of talk in the last week about a new ad campaign from the restaurant chain Chipotle. The ad features a great combination of industrial imagery and Fiona Apple’s haunting, ethereal voice that make for compelling advertising. In the video the Scarecrow breaks out from its factory food overlords to start a small and sustainable burrito stand, quite possibly a metaphor for Chipotle’s escape from McDonald’s investment dollars upon going public a few years back.

The campaign immediately caught the attention of a friend in the ad world who, knowing our interests, passed it along. Right away all of the major (and minor) media outlets picked up on it, and there have been thorough breakdowns of the ad and how closely it reflects how Chipotle acts in reality. Funny-or-Die quickly developed a parody highlighting the discrepancies, which led to further media attention. (See: TNY, NYT, MJ, LAT, WaPo, NPR…)

The debates around whether or not Chipotle is entitled to make the argument for better production methods are intriguing, and absolutely valid. Chipotle uses ambiguous ad-speak, terms like “natural” and phrases like “food with integrity” – unmeasurable claims. But what is exceptional about the reaction to Chipotle’s campaign is that very few of the debates buzzing around are focused on the actual message of the ad; instead, most choose to focus on the messenger.

People demand to know whether Chipotle is worthy of this fight, or if they can really claim the mantle of the sustainable food movement. I, for one, don’t know. But what we can say with certainty is this: the discussion of whether or not we should be improving the food system no longer seems even worthy of debate (!). Instead, the dialogue is centered around the corporation’s hold on the subject. However you come down on the subject of “food with integrity,” it is a noteworthy shift that we are debating less about the importance of sustainable food and more about who’s carrying the banner.

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.

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.

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

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(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.)

Union Square Saturdays

The best place in the city to witness farm-to-table foodies is of course the Union Square Farmers Market. And on Saturdays it’s our favorite place to visit and find scrumptious supplements to our share, like farmers cheese and fresh pasta and jams, and all the things to make a CSA-based lifestyle complete.

Summer BerriesYou can waste fantastic hours schmoozing with farmers about their produce and how their season has been, talking about what tastes good with what and swapping recipes. We tasted veggies and got the last of some summer berries, nibbled on cider donuts, and the yarn lady showed me pictures of her sheep!

Hot PeppersTurning PurpleWhile I unceremoniously rubbed my face into newly sheared wool and Evan sneaked away to buy maple candy and ricotta ravioli and apple butter – as if we couldn’t have made apple butter with our obscene quantities of apples from our clearly October share — our brave (possibly insane?) friend Robin tasted hot peppers until she turned purple.

She has since recovered, but only after being warmly reminded by the pepper-seller that beer does not help, but a glass of milk or a spoonful of yogurt might.

But the real joy at Union Square on Saturdays is seeing a whole mess of people who avidly care where their food comes from, varying from shapes and sizes and backgrounds, chatting away about local, organic and sustainable produce. And the background to the bountiful hills of food stands… is New York City skyline.

ESB at the Farmers Market

(I mean is that the ESB steeple I’m glimpsing?) Can’t beat that.

Paige and Robin Say Yum.

His Royal Poofiness

In a recent CSA batch we got a scrumptious pile of veggies that seemed of the perfect variety for a frittata. An onion, a beautiful head of broccoli, some zucchini, and eggs all came in our share and all we needed to supplement our meal was some garlic, a splash of milk, and some farmer’s cheese. Hands of Broccoli And so we made our classic and simple frittata. We sautéed some onions and garlic and threw our vegetables in.

Then, as per usual, we covered our veggies in a cheesy egg mixture and watched as it turned into what we call a poor man’s quiche.  But this time, for reasons I can’t possibly tell you, our frittata poofed up like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man and glistened on the stove in all its chubby glory. At which point I started jumping down and shrieking, “I made a soufflé!!!!!”

Whereupon – obviously – the soufflé-like frittata deflated like a Ghostbuster hit it and totally devolved. My ever-supportive husband then turned to me and unapologetically stated, “You don’t know much about soufflés, do you?”
(Picture above not taken in time.)

Our meal was delicious, poofed or not, but I have to complain for the record that soufflés are so sensitive.  I mean, come on.

Windowsill Growings-Ons

We’ve made some mentions lately of goodies from our garden being thrown in our meals, like scallions in our peanut noodles and chives in our eggs, et cetera, but it’s been a while since we’ve given a progress report on our window garden’s goings-ons.

Our cherry tomato plants we were so dubious about are actual tomatoes… or tomatoes of the not-red-yet variety.  They’re cramped and could definitely be happier – drought not helping – but they’re fruiting, so I, for one, have big plans for their future.

Cherry Tomato Plant

Cherry Tomato Plant

We have added zucchini to our plot, knowing that it tends to grow copiously. And copious it has been! The zucchini greenery has spread like mad, and we now have little zuchi flowers a-bloomin’!

Zucchini Flowers

I’ve heard rumors you can cook with the flowers, but haven’t heard of any appealing recipes. Would be delighted by contributions.

And a certain someone demanded we have a lemon tree. I have no clue on earth how a lemon tree will survive in our apartment come winter, but I assume we’ll find out. And it must be going well enough as little buzzy bees have been visiting our windowsill!

Lemon Tree BeesAnd as our last addition, we grew some berries! They’ve quickly gotten squiggly with the heatwave we’ve been suffering, but when we get to them in time they’ve been a stupendous treat.

Strawberry Plant

In less good news, our spinach totally kicked the bucket. It was a comic failure. As were our mustard greens. And our mint has on days and off days. But I’m taking the optimistic view that for our first window garden ever, things are going in our favor.