This week’s gorgeous bounty!
… What to make, what to make…?
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…
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.
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.
Then we pan-fried them in olive oil while preparing a few dipping sauces:
And then we ate. A lot.
I’ve said so before, but I think it’s worth re-mentioning that the Union Square Farmers Market is the best place in New York City on a Saturday.
We met our fabulous friends Sam and Shosh for a lovely wander through the stalls and to procure some ingredients for dinner (details to come). The full array of fall harvest was out, along with all of the Union Sq standards.
It’s hard not to find a little something for everybody there: freshly baked breads, cheese straight from the goat, sheep, or cow, cozy colored yarns, treats, and for the vegetable-enamored, everything.
There are comical gourds of all shapes, sizes, colors, and degrees of bumpiness, all hailing autumn.
And copious amounts of kale, which is the super-vegetable when it comes to cold weather! There should be piles of this stuff for weeks, and we can’t wait to make kale chips, kale juice, cooked kale, massaged kale, and kale-kale.
And HONEY. Though I am mostly-vegan, I am not terribly convinced that bees are being exploited. I am, however, fairly uncomfortable with the possibility that agave workers are, and thus, I have not forfeited my right to eat honey. We bought some lusciously spreadable raw wildflower honey at the market, thick and butter-like in its consistency. Raw honey is uncooked, so it preserves its pollen, and is less processed, which is the best excuse to spread it on everything. (But I do promise to keep an ear out for sad bee complaints.)
We found Jerusalem artichokes! I’ve been too nervous to cook them because I haven’t the slightest idea what to pair them with. My cookbooks are void of Jerusalem artichokes entirely and I’ve found zero support on the internet. It’s the purple kohlrabi incident all over again. But that might be a project for tonight.
I mean Don Draper couldn’t argue with that.
Ooh, and ground cherries. They’re a kind of cherry-tomato hybrid with a really zesty sweet flavor – described in this blurry sign as being pineapple-y. And they come in their own natural wrappers, making them a perfect mid-stroll snack.
We walked away with carrots, bok choy, peppers – including a purple one – eggplant, greens, and more. Afterwards we jumped on the L and headed straight to Brooklyn to start stuffing dumplings for dinner.
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.
You 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!
While 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.
(I mean is that the ESB steeple I’m glimpsing?) Can’t beat that.
As you may (or may not) have guessed from the complete lack of posts recently, things have been hectic. The consequences of this stretch of mayhem are as follows: our regular writer’s fingers are officially tapped, so this post will be brought to you by the “ever supportive husband”; some posts in the next series may look like they happened weeks ago, and they did; cooking has been hard, and the time spent in the kitchen has been total utility; and we have accumulated a giant pile of food that needs to get used, stat.
Since we both got a glorious work free night, which happened to coincide with our share pickup, we decided to take care of this food pile all at once by making a couple of soups and sauces and freezing everything. The one night cooking marathon included:
We’ll post updates on the rest of the things soon, but here is the recipe for the squash soup:
Start by toasting the cumin a little, then add the olive oil, garlic and onion. Sauté until the onions are translucent and then add the curry and ginger. Add the squash and cook until softened. Add the vegetable broth and bring to a boil, then simmer for about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and puree (an immersion blender really comes in handy here). Adjust seasonings and add salt and pepper to taste.
This was really pretty simple to do, and since we had an ingredient surplus we were able to freeze enough for a few meals. The next time the blog goes silent, you can bet we’ve hunkered down and are breaking into our new emergency stockpile.
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. 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.)
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.
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’!
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!
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.
Sometimes new friends come in your CSA!
Don’t be startled, they come with the territory. And if you let them, they’ll tickle your thumb.
Above is Albert. As we have a window garden there’s a convenient place for Albert to live when he accidentally arrives in our tote bag. Albert’s made several friends since: Mr. and Mrs. Frankenstein, Buttersworth, and Swarthy. They all live happily in the soil and throw bug parties and watch passers-by.
I suggest you burrow through your goodies from your share and make sure you don’t have any new pals nibbling on your vegetables. We had the alarming experience of almost cooking Buttersworth on Tuesday, and have since been more thorough in our searches.
Anyone have a suggestion on where to put farm friends when you don’t have a window garden? (Flushing not an option.)
I’ve found that many people who violently dislike tofu, of which there are many, actually enjoy it when it’s been thrown on a grill because it’s crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. Marinate slabs of tofu for a few hours in a ziplock bag with whatever flavors you like — soy-sesame concoctions are usually a favorite — and then put it on the grill and let it get a little on the blacker side. Meanwhile, cook down the leftover marinade. When the tofu starts to blacken a bit pull it off and eat it with the leftover sauce. It might (just maybe) surprise you.
And ask Ev to come over and fix you a meal. There’s a good chance he’ll do it, and there’s an even better chance you’ll like it.
For a few more coal-tinted ideas, check out Olaf and His Meals from last year’s harvest.
I know a losing battle when I see one, but I’m currently in a fight with bok choy. Despite my aversion to its texture, I love bok choy’s flavor. My former favorite way to have it was in a coconut sauce with cod and sticky rice. But since our household has added fish to our current unapproved list, we’ve been really strapped on ideas for bok choy. (Stir fries. Incessant stir fries.)
So when bok choy came in our farm share this week – for the second week in a row – I sighed a big sigh. It seems only to work with Asian flavors, so I paced our five-foot-long kitchen trying to come up with a non-stir fry Asian meal until I was dizzy, and then remembered an old favorite – peanut noodles!
Peanut noodles are remarkably easy to make:
We took scallions out of our window garden, and cooked them up with bok choy from our share, and then dumped the rest of the flavors in while cooking some noodles on the side. Uber-delicious, and even better as leftovers.
It has been correctly pointed out to me that I in fact do not know a losing battle when I see one… nor, perhaps, believe in losing battles. Nevertheless, despite this victory, bok choy seems to be winning the war.