Monthly Archives: March 2015

Winter Veggie Chowdah

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Still have winter veggies left? Yuh, me too. Fortunately it’s raining out (which means that it’s warm enough not to be snowing!), and therefore a good day for soup. And even though this contains the same old winter vegetables that you are tired of, by infusing the milk before adding it to the soup you achieve a complex floral flavor melange. What I’m telling you is that this soup is not boring, and that it’s worth more than your last turnips.

It’s ladled over toast or croutons and cheese, which makes the cheese get all melty and the bread a little soft (I recommend hearty bread that doesn’t fall apart). Altogether very satisfying.

A shareable: good old (he is getting up there) Wendell Berry has a new piece about changes in farming in the last century or so. If you don’t know Wendell Berry and you are interested in food/farming/agriculture/community/the world, make yourself familiar with his work. Start with The Unsettling of America. His main themes are the importance of place, the value of hard work, and the development of community; he is generally anti-industrialist, primarily due to the detrimental effect industrialism has had on our communities.

Recipe from Deborah Madison’s The New Vegetarian Cooking for everyone.

Winter Vegetable Chowder
Milk:
2 cups whole milk
Parsley
Thyme (fresh or dried)
2-3 bay leaves
1/2 onion
Peppercorns (at least 10)
Juniper berries (I didn't actually have any, but they would be awesome)

Soup:
Butter or oil
Leeks or onion
4 cups winter vegetables: carrots, turnips, celeriac, rutabaga, parsnip, sunchokes
2 bay leaves
Parsley (and other herbs, as you see fit)
Salt
2 tablespoons flour
5 cups water (or stock, but I would say save stock for soups that need more added flavor)
Pepper

Seedy country sourdough bread, toasted (as stated, choose a hearty bread that won't disintegrate too quickly when added to soup. This is a good use for some of those loaves that turned a little more brick-like than you usually like)
Cheese, such as Gruyère, for toast

Steep the milk first: heat it up all the “milk” ingredients in a saucepan or the microwave until boiling, then turn it off, cover, and set aside to infuse.

Chop all the veggies for the soup, in 1/2-3/4 inch chunks. Melt butter or heat oil in a large saucepan/soup pot, and add the vegetables, with the bay leaves, herbs, and salt. Cover and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until browned. Stir in the flour, then add 5 cups water and bring to a boil. Cook, partially covered, until vegetables are tender, another 25 minutes or so.

Pour the milk into the soup (strain if you like, although I didn’t—I find it kind of exciting to get a peppercorn in your soup, but you might not). Taste for salt, and pepper as needed.

To serve: place toast in a bowl, and cover with grated cheese. Ladle soup on top, sprinkle with a little extra parsley, and enjoy.

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Shepard’s Pie

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Although it now be spring, according to Google, there still aren’t too many greens available (they are starting!). So, time to use up some pantry staples.

I still have approximately a zillion potatoes, that I really need to use because they are starting to sprout. We’ll get there (hopefully).

I don’t remember if I’ve shared this yet or not, but particularly in regards to sourcing quality meat, apparently my generation is leading the charge at pushing for change.

I had meant to post about this last week, because Saturday was Pi Day (!) but I didn’t get around to it. I hope you celebrated appropriately! I got so excited at 9:26am, it was almost absurd. But hey, the world needs more enthusiasm.

Shepard’s pie is easygoing. A throw-everything-you-happen-to-have in kinda meal that (with a few key ingredients) ends up fantastic. It’s a good way to use random root vegetables that are staring to look a little questionable, and though it’s a meat-and-potatoes dish, I was surprised by the high ratio of vegetables I managed to stuff in, to have it end up tasting super meaty and hearty.

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This also freezes excellently. I made two (one in an 8×8 pan (which admittedly worked better) and another in a pie dish), and froze the second (let cool, then cover tightly with aluminum foil). Then when you have a potluck and don’t have time to prep a bunch of things, plop it in a cold oven and turn up to 400 or so, leaving it until it’s heated through. Yum yum yum.

My secret ingredient in this particular pie was heavily reduced lamb stock. Shepard’s pie can be made with beef or lamb (lamb is a little more traditional), but I didn’t have lamb and anyway beef is a little cheaper. I did, however, have some lamb bones from a roast a little bit ago, so I boiled those for a long, long while, at first with quite a bit of water and then I let it reduce to perhaps 1/4 of the volume. Ended up with a thick rich lamb juice that paired splendidly with the ground beef. However, if you don’t have that you can use chicken stock, and it will still be tasty.

I will also note that I screwed up the potatoes a bit, and was glad not to be serving them plain. I don’t have a potato masher, and had the bright (heh) idea of using my immersion blender (at first just as a blunt tool, and then I decided to turn it on). Turns out too much beating blows up the swollen starch cells in the potatoes and make them gluey and weird. Fortunately, if you put them on top of something (aka ground meat mixture) and bake it, they still taste pretty good. Other suggestions for rescuing potatoes here.

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Shepard's pie
Potatoes:
Starchy potatoes
Milk
Butter
Salt and pepper
Egg yolk (optional)

Meat: 
Oil
1-2 onions
2-3 carrots
Other veggies (turnips, celeriac)
3 cloves garlic
1 lb ground beef or lamb (you can also use small chunks, if you prefer)
Salt and pepper
1-2 tablespoons flour
3/4 cup or so of lamb stock (reduced) or other stock
A spoonful of tomato paste
Rosemary and thyme
A dash of Worchestershire sauce (optional)
1/2 cup frozen peas (optional)

Scrub the potatoes, and set them to boiling: cover with cold water, salt, then bring to a boil and simmer until soft (warning: if you overcook them, they are more likely to become gummy).

Preheat oven to 400ºF. Chop up whatever veggies you are using. Sauté veggies with oil, starting with the onions (everything but the garlic), until mostly soft, then add the garlic. Add the ground meat, salt, and pepper, and cook until meat is browned, stirring. Toss with a little flour, then add your lamb reduction, or other stock (it helps if this is already heated). Add tomato paste/sauce if you have it, other sauces as you see fit (Worchestershire sauce?), and herbs. If it starts getting dry, add more stock. Mix in frozen peas if you like.

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By now the potatoes should be done; drain and mash (with skins!) with butter, milk, and and egg yolk if you are feeling particularly luxurious (hopefully with a potato masher. I’m not sure what I’ll use next time as a substitute). Season to taste.

Put the meat, which should have a thick sauce, in a baking dish (I recommend 2 8×8 pans, so you can freeze one, but you could do one large one, or pie dishes if you don’t have other vessels). Spread mashed potatoes on top, and put it in the oven until the juices are bubbly and potatoes are golden on top, 25 minutes or so. Let cool slightly before serving.

Leftovers heat up well in the microwave, although better (of course) in the oven. And like I said, it freezes well.

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Winter Lentil Salad

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Yum, food. As I was derelict in my previous post, I am now providing you with a lentil recipe. With winter vegetables, no less (and admittedly a few additions). But first I have a bunch of fun things to share, since I’m on all these mailing lists and come across a variety interesting articles that I think you’ll enjoy.

There has been a considerable interest lately in the increasing power of women in agriculture: globally in the face of climate change, in sustainable ag generally (something to do with a nurturing spirit? Although I reject the concept that that has to be a feminine trait), and overall in the food and farming sector. This is partly because women tend to be better at collaboration, which is increasingly important to the new economy, and especially in this emerging field. And partly because the world may be changing. Slowly. Go ladies!

Related to the new economy: can farms be a part of it (think Uber for farm storage)? And to new stuff in general: what about printing 3D crackers (although I don’t quite understand how this is different from making actual crackers).

More related to this recipe: if you need another incentive to eat less meat, here’s a fun video about water use in food, from Grist. And finally, a shoutout to Montana, and growing awesome heritage lentils. Lentils are great for ecology, since they fix nitrogen in the soil, but are also packed with protein. The article also includes a lentil recipe, so… get cooking!

This recipe is vegan, gluten-free, paleo (I think? I don’t know much about paleo, to be honest), what have you… but the tahini keeps it nice and creamy. Fresh, interesting, filling, and tasty—do you need another reason?

Warm winter lentil salad (this makes a lot, so you have it for lunch)
2 cups cooked green lentils, or 1 cup dry
4 or more carrots
4 large beets, or more smaller ones
A head of garlic
Olive oil and salt
A leek or two, or an onion
Other greenery (bok choy, spinach, kale, etc)

Dressing:
Tahini (a large spoonful)
Olive oil (2 large spoonfuls)
Apple cider vinegar (a small spoon)
Coconut butter, if you have some (a small spoon)
Turmeric
Salt
Fresh orange juice, if you have it

Chop up carrots and beets—I pretty much quartered both of them (I like long carrot pieces). Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt, and roast with garlic cloves until soft and getting caramelized, at least 30 min at 350ºF or so (turn over with a spatula a couple times). Watch the garlic cloves—they burn faster than the veggies. While the veggies are roasting, cook the lentils, if you haven’t already (cover with at least an inch of water, bring to a boil, then simmer until soft. Drain as necessary). Chop up the leeks or onion (slice onion lengthwise to have it hold more body) and sauté briefly until soft. Chop up greens, if needed.

Stir together dressing ingredients (mine got a little curdled, but still tastes good, so don’t worry about it too much). Taste, adjust, and thin with water if needed. Toss lentils, carrots, beets, whole garlic cloves, greens, and leeks together, and then mix in dressing.

Best served slightly warm or room temperature, although it is also good cold.

Chickpea Red Sauce

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“Enough with the winter vegetables already! I’m sick of turnips and beets and cabbage!” you say.

Fine. Me too (well, a bit anyway). It is March, after all (!), so I will allow us a brief respite.

Time to pull out all those tomatoes you made into sauce into the summer. Just kidding, I wasn’t that good this year. I’ll do better next year, promise (I did freeze some of them, but not enough for lots of pasta sauce). Fortunately, you can still buy tomato sauce, and some of it is pretty good! Look for brands without added sugar. Cheryl Wixson’s Kitchen sells Maine-made tomato sauces; and if you aren’t in Maine or aren’t as ridiculously neurotic about eating locally as I am, go for the fancy Italian ones. They grow delicious tomatoes.

Speaking of tomatoes, here’s an interesting article about seed-breeding, and making it open-source (it’s funny to me when agriculture borrows terms from tech. Mostly it’s the other way ’round). Breeding for flavor?? What a novel concept.

This sauce is hands-down my favorite go-to quick vegetarian (vegan, even) meal to feed a crowd. It’s easy, delicious, nutritious, and almost universally loved (I don’t think I know anyone who doesn’t love it, but I’m hardly ever ready to entirely reject the possibility).

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I usually put it over pasta, but today I decided to do potatoes. Mostly because I have approximately a bazillion potatoes and they are almost sprouting so need to be used. I have this idea in my head that I don’t like potatoes that much—I never seem to have an urgency to use them—but it’s not true, whenever I make them I devour them quite happily. In any case, using potatoes with this recipe has the added benefit of sharing another interesting tidbit, a tomato-potato plant! Apparently, they are in the same family and can be grafted together. So, not only could you grow the ingredients for this recipe in the same place, they could be the same plant.

Fried potatoes with chickpea red sauce
Potatoes
Oil and Salt

Olive oil
An onion 
Garlic
A few sprigs of rosemary
1 cup cooked chickpeas (to cook: soak overnight, then boil and simmer with an onion until soft. Add salt near the end, and make sure to keep the broth for another use)—canned will do in a pinch
1 1/2 cups tomato sauce (home made or bought)
Salt and pepper
Cheese to top, if desired

Do the potatoes first. Chop them up into small chunks (if you want them crispy, make them skinnier and smaller). Sprinkle generously with salt and oil and put in a hot oven (400ºF ish) until crispy, at least 20 minutes and probably longer.

For the sauce: Chop the onions and garlic, and sauté in oil with the rosemary until soft and aromatic. Add half the chickpeas and sauté a little longer, making the chickpeas golden. Add the tomato sauce, then purée, either in batches in a blender or with an immersion blender. It’s also good not blended, just not as original. Add in the rest of the chickpeas, taste and adjust seasonings, and serve over the roasted potatoes, topped with cheese as desired.

Like I said, it’s also great over pasta. Or sandwiches, for that matter.