March 26, 2012

Crustless Quiche with Bacon, Leeks and Greens

I love quiche. I adore it.

What else (besides perhaps mac & cheese) is as simultaneously sophisticated and homey as quiche? What else is as equally well-suited for entertaining as it is for leftover lunches and tired weeknight dinners, and as un-fussy as to be equally tasty eaten room-temperature as it is warm?

What’s not to love?

dreamy quiche

Quiche is quaint; irresistible (just look at its fat wedge shape!); customizable (leaving you freedom to play with whatever combination of vegetables, herbs and cheese sounds good to you — or whatever you have in the fridge); hearty (and still easily vegetarian, if you want it to be); and finally, er… elaborate. And excessively rich.

Hmm. There’s something not to love.

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January 23, 2012

Smitten with Stewed Lentils

Have you ever made Smitten Kitchen’s Stewed Lentils and Tomatoes? No? Well if a big bowlful of cozy lentils, tomatoes and sweet carrots — almost a lentil chili, if you will — sounds appealing to you (and why wouldn’t it?), then you absolutely should. I am telling you that you should.

I am telling you that you should, because I was told — by one of my favorite farmers (and fellow cooking-enthusiasts) — that I should. And I listened to her. Thank goodness. She made it last week and came in raving about it the next day, telling me that it was SO GOOD.  Also, really easy, and it went really well with this… but really just that it was SO GOOD.

“Yeah, it looks pretty good” I said noncommittally, scrolling through the recipe.

“No. You don’t understand: [here she pauses until I look at her; dips her chin; raises her eyebrows, and — giving me her best I-sh*t-you-not face — repeats:] SO GOOD.”

[serious stare]

“Really.”

stewed lentils and tomatoes with DINOSAURS... I mean, dino kale.

I don’t think I can say I’ve ever been intimidated into stewing lentils before. I still can’t — because I actually wanted to make it anyway, and therefore was not actually coerced into it — but I tell you it was a close call.

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November 17, 2011

Pumpkin Ginger Spice Granola

I love granola. It’s great stuff.

What I don’t love is the fact that many tend to think of it as a “healthy” food, without taking into account what is often a very high fat content. In addition to the nuts, you’ll likely find copious amounts of oils and syrups, weighing in many granolas at twice the amount of fat as protein. And this isn’t just the case with large, well-known store-bought brands: even many of the granolas I see being made locally and sold at farmer’s markets have oil & honey as the second & third ingredients.

And yet, despite the fact that everywhere, every granola package whose ingredient list I perused seemed to follow this same formula… something inside me whispered, it doesn’t have to be this way. So finally, after what was probably years of rolling this secret conviction around in the back of my brain, I decided to tackle it head-on. The solution, it turns out, is quite easy. In short: simply replace the bulk of the oils and syrups with pureed fruit.

Or in this case, roasted pumpkin and brown sugar.

It’s brilliant, right?

My first step in the tackling involved (what else?) consulting the internet. Step 2 involved literally smacking myself in the forehead for not consulting the internet sooner… because there I quickly found a recipe that called for using apples and dates (pureed with just a small amounts of oil and honey) to hold the granola together. Fresh and dried fruit! Why hadn’t I thought of that?

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November 2, 2011

Collards in Broth

As you may have already gathered from its rather humdrum, self-explanatory title, this post is not about sexy food. It is not about the kind of food that you ooh and ahh over; the kind of food that you present with garnish and flourish. This is not the kind of food you rave about to your friends and take home to meet the parents.

No, my friend: “collards in both” is just what it sounds like. It won’t surprise you, leap out and bite you, or take you for a wild ride. It’s plain-old comfy food: light, simple, and nourishing; soothing to the stomach and the soul.

(If you’re in the mood for some sexy collards, though, definitely try this. I sure am, the next batch of collards I get my hands on!)

So I’ve been feeling a little sad lately. Either as a result of this, or simply because misery loves company, my stomach has been equally unhappy; moody and fussy like an over-tired two-year-old who simply refuses to keep down his vegetables. Toast and tea and clear soup are just about all I can stomach these days… literally… also just about all I can afford.

That said, I also hate waste… and felt compelled to adopt a large bunch of lonely collard greens that remained at the end of a long chilly afternoon outside at the farmstand.

Take a glum girl, chilled to the bones, with a big bunch of collards in hand and a craving for chicken soup and voila: collards in broth.

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October 26, 2011

Cumin Curried Pumpkin Soup

Hello, my name is Lauren, and I am a winter squash addict.

It started as a child with pumpkin pie and pumpkin bread, eventually progressing from all things sweet (muffins, pancakes, baked with butter and sugar) to all things savory (curries, chilies, soups and stews) to, um, all things. Just, all of them. Give me winter squash in everything.

Why am I telling you this? Because at the farmer’s market last Saturday I stumbled upon a most wonderful vendor: a farm that offers (miraculously, despite Irene-related damage) ten or fifteen different varieties of squash! And I’m not just talking your standard acorn and butternut — there were squash I’d never seen before, and I was mesmerized.

The best part is that while some of them were compellingly, dangerously huge (as some squash are wont to be), many of them — even those varieties that tend to fall into the first category — were of a managable size, some no bigger than a coconut. Tiny squash! What could be more compelling than that?? Not only are they, ahem, totally adorable, BUT you can try lots of different kinds without winding up buried in an overwhelming poundage of squash.

Having recently gained a new appreciation for taking everything in moderation, I promised myself two small squashes, and no more.

(You already see where this is going.)

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October 16, 2011

Baked Early-Autumn Apple Sauce

I should warn you that I briefly considered titling this an Apple Puree, just because calling this delicious mess “applesauce” felt… well, not quite right, somehow. I mean, that’s what it is — no question about it — but it tastes nothing like the jarred, store-bought apple sauce I was used to eating growing up… or even like some of the home-made applesauces I’ve had at various Thanksgivings and Passovers. Not like any applesauce I have ever had, actually.

But calling it a “puree”, while not inaccurate, seemed both too precious and too exacting: one might wonder what one is to do with an “apple puree” (should I bake with it? mix it with something? schmear it on a plate of fancily-prepared pork and miniature onions?), whereas one does not have to wonder what to do with applesauce.

So let me just re-emphasize: this rosy-hued, tart-sweet taste-explosion below is *not* the jarred applesauce so many of us grew up knowing and (not really) loving.

Speaking of, I’m a little in love right now, actually. I might even be blushing a bit. Can you tell?

[Resist urge to make a pun on blushing and cheeks and apples. Fail.]

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October 4, 2011

Roasted Tomato Pasta with Chickpeas, Garlic and Basil

Tomatoes.

A gorgeous rainbow of baby heirloom tomatoes.

We over at the Urban Farm are rolling in them. Drowning in them, just about. No, really. I don’t think you fully understand me. I am telling you we are dealing with an onslaught, a true onslaught of tiny tomatoes, marching so steadily and relentlessly towards ripeness that it is difficult to keep pace with them. It is a problem.

It is, in fact, my very favorite problem of the month.

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September 22, 2011

Grilled Okra

Up until this year, I’d never really thought much about okra. Just about my only experience with it was in some sort of gumbo, somewhere, many years ago… and I wasn’t impressed. It’s not that I didn’t like it; it’s more that it was never really an option. I didn’t grow up eating it, I didn’t see it in the grocery store, and it never appeared on any menus that I’ve noticed — except for that gumbo situation. And maybe deep fried.

So it was with some surprise that I found myself inexplicably drawn to a sprawling display of okra at the Grand Army Plaza farmer’s market a few weeks ago. I had only a vague memory of what okra tasted like and absolutely no notion of what to do with it, which of course meant that I had to fill a bag to take home with me.

I know, this sounds like a recipe for disaster, right? (Get it? recipe for disaster? Ah haha!)

Well, somewhere between bringing my bulging bag of okra to the register and walking in my front door, I remembered my George Forman grill. And suddenly, I knew what I wanted to do with my okra: I wanted to grill them. And then I wanted to sprinkle them with something… sea salt and… something smoky, but not necessarily spicy… aha! Paprika.

Yes.

So I did.

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September 12, 2011

White Bean Babaganoush

I finally bought Tahini.

Finally.

For years I have been meaning to buy Tahini, and for years it has somehow managed to elude… well, I was going to say “shopping lists”, but what I should say is “my ability to give a sh*t”. Because ironically enough, despite the fact that I am a committed list-maker and love making all sorts of lists, I never really make shopping lists. Maybe this is because I so rarely cook from a recipe, having somehow managed to maintain a mysterious confidence in my ability to successfully substitute or simply do without certain key ingredients… despite a good deal of evidence to the contrary.

(I don’t write about those.)

On those rare occasions when I spontaneously decide to turn over a new leaf, become an organized shopper, and organize my grocery needs into lists — and actually remember to take them out of my pocket once I get to the store, instead of four days later — I tend to treat them more as “suggested guidelines” than anything else. Usually it’s the harder-to-find, more specialized, less generally-useful or immediately-necessary items — like green curry paste, brown rice vinegar, fish sauce, or (yep) tahini — that get forgotten about, ignored, or put off until the next shopping trip.

Basically what I’m telling you is that I’ve managed to make this particular procrastination stretch on for years. YEARS.

Part of me almost feels as though I should be proud of myself.

But I digress. The day has finally come: Tahini is officially the newest member of my kitchen. And as all kitchen-members must pull their weight around here, Tahini (whom I have decided to spontaneously personify and capitalize) was immediately put to work. Together, Tahini and I made this:

Behold: White Bean Babaganoush. Just the first of many things on my long list of adventures for Tahini and I.

(See? Lists. I *do* make them… I swear.)

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August 21, 2011

Mexican Succotash

I’m back!

And yes, I realize it’s been over a month since my last post… but what can I say? I’ve been frolicking. And traveling. And writing and reading and getting my hands dirty.

Unemployment, contrary to popular opinion, has been conducive to a whole lot of cavorting.

First I spent a few days on a farm where I befriended a few sheep, harvested my first (and second, and hundredth) beet, and did yoga outside next to a pen of squabbly turkeys. Then I went for a run along the Golden Gate Bridge and foraged for wild blackberries (and fennel, and Grecian strawberries, and Ponderosa lemons) in San Francisco. THEN I went to Nashville where I got to go honkey tonkin’, get harassed by a rather forward little Jersey cow, and eat my way through a bucket of crabs and a plate of fried green tomatoes (thankfully not all in one sitting). Finally I returned home to pillage a prolific plum tree on a quiet block of Park Slope, jump in the ocean… and spend hours reading about the nutritive value of organically- vs conventionally-grown tomatoes, sustainable farming methods, and farm-to-table/plate/school initiatives. Yep.

      

In between all of that, I also managed to make this salad:

Now *that’s* farm to table, baby.

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