January 23, 2012
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.”
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
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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October 26, 2011
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 4, 2011
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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August 21, 2011
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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July 5, 2011
You know that saying “There’s no such thing as a free lunch”? Whoever came up with this saying has clearly never been mushroom hunting…. Or perhaps I should say mushroom foraging. Hunting implies a level of effort that may actually count as working for your lunch, thereby compromising its “free” status.
While there are some mushrooms for which (I am told) you do actually need to hunt, the chanterelles I found in my parent’s yard this weekend were most definitely not in that category. In fact, against the mossy green backdrop from which they emerged, their vivid coral hue all but shouted HERE I AM – HAVE AT ME!!
And so I did.
Wait a minute, you may be thinking. Are you sure that’s what that color means?
Good question. Deep in the recesses of my once-hunter-gatherer brain, I was wondering the same thing myself. Because traditionally, organisms that advertise such bright colors are usually trying to tell us something much different — something more along the lines of, oh, I don’t know… I CONTAIN LETHAL TOXINS. EAT ME AND YOU SHALL SURELY PERISH.
So yeah, that was a possibility.
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November 30, 2010
You know what I don’t get? All the hooplah about Butternut squash.
As soon as fall rolls around, everyone everywhere (from cooking magazines to coworkers to mom) is raving about it, putting it in stews and chilis and soups and salads, talking about it like it’s the height of squash sophistication.
Enough already! I mean yeah, the long neck is ideal for getting evenly-sized perfect little cubes of squash, and it’s got an appealing name (butter nut… mmm) — but otherwise it’s not all it’s cracked up to be, is it?
Let’s face it: it’s always been one of the more difficult squashes to cut. Getting through that neck is treacherous, am I right? Seriously — everyone has a butternut squash horror story. Some even have the battle scars to prove it.
What’s worse, when you do finally succeed in hacking the little beast to pieces, it often yields up (what I find to be) flesh that is a) overly moist, b) usually kind of stringy and c) only somewhat sweet some of the time. Yes, after all that work you’re not even guaranteed a sweet reward.
So there you find yourself, standing over the stove, with sore biceps and bleeding digits, surrounded by buff-colored squash peels and band-aid wrappers, and all you have to show for it is some vaguely-sweet, fibrous orange glop.
Okay so maybe I’m exaggerating a wee bit.
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November 22, 2010
Golly, it’s been a while, huh?
A very long while… like, an inexcusably long while.
*Ducks head in shame*
Okay okay, I know! I get it. Please stop yelling at me. It’s just, despite its inexcusability, there are, um, excuses.
Like, I was without internet for a month in October! Yup — true story. First there was a week of testy internet service, followed by a week of no service at all, which in turn led to a few lengthy (and largely ineffectual) conversations with Time Warner’s Customer Service department. After coming to the realization that it was time for a new modem, I finally got one… only to give it back a week later because, well, (and here comes excuse #2) I moved!
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September 13, 2010
You have been so sweet. Let me sit back and take a moment to remember you — the salt-crusted skin and the smell of brine; the sound of cicadas and crashing waves; the intense sweetness of a plum after an accidental mouthful of seawater; the feel of falling asleep tucked into a hammock, impossibly both grounded and weightless, floating; the stretch of long days, melting hot and sticky-sweet, and the cool relief of evening — before I say goodbye….
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August 30, 2010
I never thought I’d say this, but I’ve been feeling a bit conflicted about apples.
Have you seen them in the farmer’s markets in the last week or so? Bins of early apples nestled up alongside the summer squash and cherry tomatoes and big bunches of basil?
I have… and my first thought (Apples! I love apples!) was immediately followed by the realization that apples herald the coming of autumn. Another burst of excitement (Autumn! I love autumn! — and I do, in all of its roasted squash, clove-scented kitchen, crisp afternoon and brisk blue sky-glory), was too soon followed by guilt (is a love of autumn a betrayal of summer?) and a final realization that my beloved autumn is too soon followed by the dreaded winter: dreary, dark, dismal winter.
Between Thanksgiving and the holiday season, November and December are alright, but around February things are starting to feel quite bleak. By the time March finally rolls around with its lingering dirty patches of snow and slush and freezing rain, I’m already chomping at the bit for warmer weather and longer days and GREEN… but March is an interminable month, and often taunts us with a couple of warm days in the third week only to pitch us back into arctic temperatures just in time for the start of April, sometimes just in time to cruelly bury the first few crocus buds in a new layer of sleet or snow.
You see now why I’m so conflicted about the arrival of apples.
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