Eating no meat, many miles of open water away from a health food store. Recipes and anecdotes galore!

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

I Heart My CSA

Garlic scapes, mint, chives, oregano,tarragon, kohlrabi, broccoli raab, salad mix, stir fry mix, rhubarb chips,broccoli, asparagus, strawberries, arugula,spinach,sprouts, kale...are you hungry yet? Our CSA started on the first Tuesday of June, and Jeff and Susan of Sea Smoke Farm have kept us rolling in veggies every week since. We had the farm share last fall, too. I'd never done one before (although my parents always grew vegetables in our side yard.) It's so wonderful to go and visit your food before you eat it. And talk to the people who grow it! In the city, I'd always been tempted to get a farm share, but it still seemed so far away. Sea Smoke is only a six minute drive from our new apartment, and was about equidistant from our old house. So far, the farm share has inspired soba noodle salad with Asian greens, spicy sauteed broccoli raab with pasta, kale carbonara with pasta, herbed cream sauce, pasta with eggplant, arugula, tomato and ricotta cheese (a variation on pasta ca norma,) and countless salads and wraps. I think tonight we'll do roasted carrots, garlic scapes and kohlrabi. With pasta. Dang, we eat a lot of pasta.

Speaking of apartment/house, yep, we had to move for the summer. We apparently lucked out in that we only have to move ONCE. Some people out here change houses in the summer every few weeks, as renters come and go. We're staying in an in-law apartment over a ceramics gallery. It's very, very beautiful, and about a twentieth of the size of the house we came from. Bill's magical spatial skills enabled him to fit all of our pasta/rice/canned goods/snacks into one teeny tiny cupboard, and I only took my most extremely special knives and cooking gear, and Bill's calphalon. So it all fits. (We did have to store most of our music goodies though. At least they're pretty accessible, just wedged into my classroom for when we have the urge to rock out.) However, with the loss of approximately an acre of counter space, came an upgrade in counter quality - we have left behind formica and moved in with granite! Too bad it's extremely humid up here...I'd try my hand at some pastry crust otherwise.

Here are some recipes.

Soba Noodle Salad

(In Boston, I used to make this with choy sum and Chinese egg I make it with the Sea Smoke Farms stiry fry mix and soba.)

8 little bundles of soba noodles (approx. 1 pound)
Sesame oil
Crushed hot red pepper or red pepper flakes
Soy sauce
Toasted sesame seeds
Crushed or minced garlic cloves, to taste
Salt and pepper
Shichimi Togarashi (optional)
1/2 Tbs sugar (optional)

Start salted water boiling for noodles
Wash the greens and tear them into manageable pieces
Sautee the garlic in sesame oil in a wok or very large pan
Add greens to the pan and toss until quite wilted
Add hot pepper flakes and sesame seeds, toss to mix
Turn off the heat, set aside greens
When water comes to a rolling boil, add soba noodles and cook until al dente (approx. 3 minutes)
Drain noodles and rinse under cold water.
Place noodles in a very large serving bowl.
Add greens, additional sesame oil and soy sauce (about 1/3 cup) and mix to coat. Add salt, pepper and shichimi togarashi (7 spice mix) if using.
Taste. Adjust seasonings, especially hot pepper. This should be pretty spicy. If using egg noodles, you may want to add a bit of sugar as well. Serve cold. This is a good pot luck type meal, and extremely good for hot weather. I served it at an end of the school year staff party, and it got some strange looks...I guess soba noodles haven't made it out this far yet. But I love it. I think I adapted it from Madhur Jaffrey's World of the East Vegetarian, but I've been making it for so long that I forget.

Something Like Pasta ca Norma

1 pound of pasta (a tube shape works well - I think I used whole wheat penne or maybe radiatore?)
1 cup of ricotta cheese (ricotta salata is what is really used in pasta ca norma, and of course it's totally, radically different from ricotta. But we use what we can here on the island!)
1 medium eggplant, cubed, sweated and sauteed in olive oil
1 tomato, diced
1 large bunch of arugula, washed and torn into bite sized pieces
Nutmeg (I grate it off a nut...I highly recommend doing the same!)
Salt and pepper
Red pepper flakes (I've been chopping up dried peppers from the farm share)
Fresh oregano, chiffonaded
Pecorino romano, grated, to taste

Make the pasta, drain it, put it in a big bowl. Add remaining ingredients and stir. Leaving the pasta slightly warm allows the ricotta to soften and the arugula to wilt slightly, which I think is good. Adjust all seasonings to taste. Can be served slightly warm or cold. Very stellar as leftovers.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Long Overdue Fiddleheads

So, we finished the spring run of Pirates of Penzance last weekend. We had tons of company (six different people over the course of the week) and I have been totally exhausted. Now, having slept at least ten hours for the past two nights, I finally feel ready to update el bloggo, with a post that's been overdue for about a month.


Tiny baby ostrich ferns, curled up and hidden under dead leaves. I'd been looking for some when I went foraging with Kate, but it was about a week early then. I went out again on my own in the swamp at the street edge of our property, and found enough for two small helpings.

Ostrich ferns grow covered in brown scaly stuff. It's important to know the difference between them and the other fern babies around. The white fuzzy ones and the reddish ones are no good. Ostrich ferns are also the most delicately leaved - you can look for the dead ferns on the ground and you're almost guaranteed to find some fiddleheads, if you go looking in early May.

Once you have them (it took me about an hour to pick enough for two people as a snack,) clean 'em, rinse 'em, and sautee them in butter. Mmm. Very springy.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

A Mess o' Greens, and Rice and Beans

A few weeks ago, during my April vacation, our very dear friends Ryan and Nicoline came to visit Bill and I on the island. They're beautiful, slender, healthy people. She's a yoga instructor and he's a musician. I put my vegan cooking skills to work for her that week, making black bean soup with avocado pico de gallo and spicy corn flatbread. At the church coffee hour, where we took them for a perfect slice of local color (and Kate's donuts, which Nicoline ate despite the almost definite non-veganness of them,) Kate herself, the school librarian and member of my corps de teatre, so to speak, offered to take us dandy greening.

I'd been bugging Kate about getting some fiddleheads - baby ostrich ferns - for a while, but they weren't yet up. Dandelion greens were the best alternative, and she offered to take us around the island looking for whatever wild edibles we could find. Kate is the expert in picking things and eating them- something I've been doing somewhat haphazardly since I was a kid trying to convince my sister to eat goutweed root ("it's Queen Anne's lace! I swear! They call it wild carrots!")

Obviously, I needed some guidance, so I was delighted. The four of us piled into Kate's car and she took us around, from one summer house's back yard to the next. Ryan stepped on a snake (both were okay,) Kate and I waded into a swamp looking for cattail shoots (too soon for those, too) while Ry and Nicoline looked on (their footwear was more on the moccasin and Converse end of things than the intense rubber boot style Kate and I were rocking,) and we filled one huge plastic bag with dandy greens.

You dig dandy greens up by the root, trying to sever as much off as possible while keeping the bunch of leaves together for easy transportation. They're at their best before the flower stalks get tall, and definitely before they sport blossoms. They're pretty easy to recognize, too - everyone's seen a dandelion. The toothed leaves point down towards the center of the bunch, and they're not fuzzy.

After the dandy greening, Kate took us clam digging, which was great fun, although I eat no meat. We got about 3 dozen steamers for Ryan and his brother's eventual consumption out of the clay bed of the swimming hole, using her clam rake and washing them in a special clam basket. You can find a clam by looking for little air holes in the sand, and occasional squirts of water. You have to dig a few inches down to get the clams, and its best to discard any that are under 2.5 inches long.
Definitely discard a broken one.

After the company left and I had an evening free, I set about cleaning and cooking the huge bag of greens. Kate had assured me we'd have just enough for a mess for Bill and I. It looked like way more than a mess to me, and it definitely MADE a mess - piles of trimmed root and dirt and little worms on the cutting board, a huge bowl of greens soaking in changes of water trying to get rid of the dirt and sand and grit lodged in the little leaves. After two changes of water and several twirls in a salad spinner, I decided it was time.

I sauteed some thingly sliced (but not minced) garlic and a chopped up onion in about 3 Tbs of butter in a large wok. As the garlic got translucent, I added wads of still damp greens, tossing the mixture with a wooden spoon over fairly low heat. I replaced the lid of the wok after each big wad to help steam the greens and reduce them a bit. After all the greens were reduced, I added some salt and pepper and waited for the red beans and rice, which Bill had started, to be ready.

Red Beans and Rice:

2 cans of red kidney beans (or dried, prepared accordingly)
Soy sauce
Red wine vinegar
Diced jalapeƱo slices
Salt and pepper
Cayenne pepper
1 chopped onion
Enough water to just cover the beans.

Put beans, liquids and onion in a medium-sized pot or big pan
Put on medium heat
When liquids start to simmer, add salt & pepper, diced jalapeƱos and cayenne pepper. Taste for heat and adjust seasonings accordingly. Keep over heat until liquids thicken and reduce.

Serve over brown rice.

The bitter greens, the spicy beans and the sturdy rice worked really well together...and the huge bag of greens reduced to make just two big servings.

Matua Valley Wines

Delicious. I mentioned this bottle of wine in my last post, and then decided to go on the company's Web site and learn more.

  • Matua Valley Wines

  • Their Sauvignon Blanc, with which I am mildly obsessed, is the first Sauvignon Blanc to come from New Zealand. The Spence family, who make the wines (and they produce many many different types) spent some time in California during THAT wine boom, and have been making wine in New Zealand since wines have been made in New Zealand, as far as I can tell.

    I sent some fan mail to their sales address and got a response almost immediately (well, about twelve hours later - they are on the other side of the world and all that) thanking me for the ego boost to the vintners and promising to pass the message along directly. Right now, I wish I could go live in New Zealand, especially if everyone is so gracious.

    I'm not sure why I love it so much,but I guess it's just everything I look for in a Sauvignon Blanc, which is my favorite kind of wine to drink anyway. I'm not an oenophile by any means, but I know what I like. I like something light and citrusy, not wimpy or too sweet. I like zesty, zingy, fresh, all those Sauvignon Blanc words. I don't remember ever noticing this wine when I was in Boston, and I was always on the lookout for a nice mid-rangey SB. (This one goes for about $15 on the island.) I think it's only been internationally distributed for a short time. Somehow, we get it at the North Haven Grocery (which actually has one of the best wine selections I've ever seen, especially of smaller labels.) I guess it makes sense - one island to another.

    Sunday, April 30, 2006

    Crepes and whole wheat-pepper linguine

    Yesterday was extraordinarily productive, given that it was a Saturday, a day on which I am generally given to throwing a pillow over my head and ignoring Bill's best efforts to remove me from the land of counterpane. Moved by dreams of enchiladas and watermelon margaritas, I decided the best thing to do was wake up and make France's answer to the enchilada - crepes.

    Crepe Batter:

    1 cup of flour (I use King Arthur brand whenever possible.)
    1 egg, beaten
    About a tablespoon of sugar
    About a teaspoon of baking soda
    Enough milk to make the batter runny (I don't think I added quite enough - the milk was bordering on scary.)
    Salt (I used Italian sea salt, because I have a really cool gourmet salt sampler due to recent birthday.)

    This made four big crepes. I very lightly buttered a big Calphalon pan, waited til the butter sizzled a bit, and poured in a scant ladleful of batter. When bubbles appeared around the edges, I flipped it and added the filling. I decided to do one sweet crepe and one savory crepe for each plate. The savory crepe had Appleton Farms goat cheese and a handful of baby spinach leaves. The sweet crepe had sliced bananas and strawberries with Death By Chocolate sauce (awesome and contains chestnut puree.)

    The first crepe I made was way too thick, so I added more scary milk (it tasted fine in something cooked but I don't think I'd have had a glass of it. You know?) The last three turned out very well, though they still could have been thinner.

    Lunch was just leftover avocado and cucumber maki, but for dinner I decided to get ambitious and break out the pasta extruder. The idea was to make whole-wheat linguine with the hand-crank extruder my grandfather gave me a few years ago. It's a nifty simple machine, and requires less cleaning than the electric one my family had when I was little.

    Whole Wheat-Pepper Linguine Dough:

    Two cups of whole wheat flour (again, King Arthur)
    Two eggs
    Salt (Italian sea salt again here)
    A good amount of fresh-ground pepper. (I used White Muntock, because in addition to my gourmet salt collection, I now have gourmet pepper. I love birthdays. I did have to grind it in a mini-prep, though, because our pepper grind is pretty gimpy.)

    Mound up the flour and make a dent in the flour mountain. Dump the two eggs into the dent. Add the salt. Stir everything together with a fork, adding water as you go to make a nice dough that holds together and feels springy, like a nice butt. Knead the dough for a while. I added the pepper at this point, though it would have worked just as well to add it with the eggs.

    Extrude the pasta:

    Split the dough into four balls. Knead each ball, incorporating as much extra flour as you need to make the dough un-sticky. Slightly flatten a ball and run it through the extruder on the widest setting (on mine, it's 1.) Fold the resultant sheet in half and run it through again, until it makes a uniform rectangle. When you fold, strategize so that any irregularities get incorporated into the sheet. Put the machine on the next thinnest setting and repeat the squishing and folding maneuver. I had to keep going until the 5th seting to get it thin enough to make noodles. After I had a thin sheet, I left it to rest for a while under a damp towel while I extruded the other three sheets. The sheets turn out pretty long! One was almost too long for the countertop.

    Make the noodles:

    Cut each long sheet in approximately half. A good length for noodles is 12", so do whatever you can to make sheets in about that length. (I suppose I could have made eight balls instead of four and eliminated this step, but this is much faster.) Dust each sheet with more flour so the noodles don't stick together. Run each sheet through the linguine setting on the pasta extruder. (My extruder has a linguine and a spaghetti setting, and they're actually separate parts of the machine.) This turned out to be a two-person job, so Bill came in and helped crank the machine while I fed the sheet through and we each tried to catch the noodles and prevent them from breaking under their own weight. It mostly worked.

    We laid the noodles out to dry for a bit and started on the sauce:

    Creamy mushroom "chicken" sauce:

    About 1 cup of sliced champignon
    Three Tbs butter
    About 1/2 cup white wine
    Three cups milk
    1 bag of Morningstar Farms Chik'n strips (is soy controversial now? Please weigh in and let me know the downside - I know they're processed, so that's a downer, but they're tasty and seem pretty healthy...)
    Two packages of Knorr cream sauce (haha! We're so lazy! But it's so tasty!)
    About 1 cup of chiffonaded baby spinach leaves
    Salt (Eurasian black salt, this time, for fun)
    Pepper (Green Madagascar, again pulverized in the mini-prep)
    Pecorino-Romano cheese - as much as you like, grated

    Sautee mushrooms in 2 Tbs butter
    Add white wine and salt
    Add milk and Knorr packets
    Add 1 Tbs butter
    Stir until butter melts
    Allow mixture to come to a boil
    Add spinach leaves and cheese
    Turn down to a simmer until everything thickens up, then turn off the heat so it doesn't scorch.

    Dinner! Boil the pasta in lots of salted water, put the sauce on top, and enjoy. We had Matua Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand with the meal.