Posts tagged parve
Friday, April 8, 2011

apple and fennel salad

Fennel Apple Salad

I’m convinced that smoke detectors cause more injuries than prevent them. I was making dinner last night – nothing crazy – just a simple weeknight affair: some roasted fish, some cabbage with hot sauce, some sautéed spinach that needed rescuing. Everything in this dinner cooked pretty quickly, and there was little prep work – it was simple, unfussy, satisfying fare. Andrew was minutes away from home. We were going to eat and finish dinner before 9 pm, which, on weeknights when he isn’t working from home, is an accomplishment. The world was mine for the taking.

Or so I thought. But the universe had slightly different plans for me. The smoke detector decided it was too smoky. I happen to disagree – I could see as clear as day (though Andrew might claim it was a tad smoky in the kitchen). But all was fine and good – nothing was burning, nothing was even close to burning. But a few seconds after I set a hot baked fish on the counter, the alarm went off, and because I flail when I startle (and that detector has been known to raise the dead), I accidentally, in my flailing, happen to touch the edge of the baking tray the fish was on. For a few seconds, which was all that was needed to do the damage. All the while the smoke detector was blaring and a neutral female voice was calmly informing me that there was a fire. There wasn’t. I know because I was there. American smoke detectors are such drama queens.

Continue reading apple and fennel salad.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

sunchoke soup

sunchoke soup with a drizzle of olive oil

It takes a really dedicated soul to make it to the farmers’ market these days. It’s not so much the cold – though it does take a kind of Spartan determination to be a greenmarket regular in winter months – it’s more the duration of the winter we’ve been dealt this year. The cold doesn’t seem to let up, and my hat, scarf and mittens are my constant and faithful companions.

Still, despite the blustery winds and the numbing morning chill, I go faithfully every Saturday, bundled up, with my reusable grocery bags in tow. I go partly because it’s a habit now, and partly because I like to support local farmers. It kicks off my weekend and it’s now part of my Saturday morning tradition.

Continue reading sunchoke soup.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

roasted parsnips

roasted parsnips with cumin and honey

Parsnips will never win a beauty prize. They’ll never even place runner-up. And sadly, all too often they get passed up for a prettier-looking vegetable. Root vegetables have it rough, I tell ya.

Even Andrew wrinkled his nose in disappointment after finding out that I was planning on roasting parsnips for supper. “Wasn’t there anything else at the farmers’ market,” he grumbled.

Well, actually, no there wasn’t much more at my local market a few weeks ago, nor has the situation improved much last week. Which is why I kicked off my bimonthly “The Farm Stand” column over at Prospect Heights Patch, with something as homely and humble as a parsnip.

Continue reading roasted parsnips.

Friday, January 28, 2011

red lentil soup with lemon

red lentil soup with lemon

I’ve always been a bit of a homebody, but only now is it becoming acceptable and even cool. I attribute this paradigm shift to age (not that I’m claiming to be old, not at all). As I get older, I enjoy puttering around my home more and more, and it’s finally become acceptable to say to friends, “We stayed in and made dinner on a Saturday night.” No one raises eye brows anymore, expecting you to regale them with a tale of an outing until four o’clock in the morning in the coolest lounge that has just opened – a lounge that doesn’t have a name or an entrance sign and has a password which you must tell to a faceless voice over the telephone nearby. Yes, we’ve all been there. I’m over it and I have been for some time.

red lentil soup with lemon

Last night, over dinner during our monthly book club meetings, one of my friends was telling us of one such night, which is now an aberration in her life. “A party,” she said, “that started at 10pm. I barely made it. I mean, I really had to remind myself that I had to go.” We all nodded because at this stage in our lives, a party that starts at ten in the evening, is indeed quite late. We’d have to be out, having a late dinner to motivate ourselves to actually attend. If we’re at home in our pajamas – forget about it. It won’t happen.

Continue reading red lentil soup with lemon.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

applesauce

my mother's kitchen light

And so we’ve officially ushered autumn in. Everywhere I turn – apples, apples, apples. Everyone keeps telling me about apple picking, my farmers market has more apple stands than I know what to do with, and I’m coming into a small apple fortune come Monday night when a friend plans to bicycle over a portion of her forty pound bounty, and I’m hoping to get busy with some apple butter, which reminds me I should get a food mill and some Bell jars stet.* But that’s a story for another day. Today is all about apple sauce that I made while at my parents’ house a few weekends ago.

quartered

You see, my mother, like me, gets overly excited about fall produce and before she knows it, her house is drowning in apples as if she’s about to start her own apple stand. But you and I both know that a human being can only eat so many apples a day and before you know it, they start to get all mushy and mealy. And then you throw them out, and that’s just tragic. Tragic, I say.

cored

So I found myself staring at piles of apples that I knew, (just knew!) were going to go to waste and that my mother would kick herself for allowing that to happen. I figured apple sauce might be a fun way to use them, and since I’ve never actually tried my hand at it, I decided to trust Elise’s recipe (since hers never fail me) and attempt one of my childhood favorite treats. So while my mother was napping, or running errands (I can’t recall which), I grabbed some apples and got to work. And by work I mean I cut and cored the apples, threw them in the pot with the remaining ingredients, brought everything to a boil, reduced heat, and let everything simmer for half an hour. In fact, while the apples were cooking, I got started on dinner and didn’t even tend to the pot once. Not a single time.

ready

If I’d known apple sauce was so easy to make, I would have never bought it in the first place. And the taste, the flavor, the apple-y intensity that a pre-made version can’t even approximately deliver – are well worth the minimal effort apple sauce requires. Besides, no scented-candle can make your house smell as cozy and welcoming as that cinnamon-apple smell that will envelop your house. If anyone finds a way to bottle it, let me know – I’ll be your first customer!

apple sauce
apple sauce

*Whoa, that was a long sentence!

Continue reading applesauce.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

eggplant caviar

eggplant caviar

A few things first. One, my friend Tina thinks the name “eggplant caviar” is an abomination and is misleading, but that’s about the only name I know for it. Blasphemy, she said to me, do you see any caviar here? Alas, I do not. She’s, technically, in the right. So this is partially an apology to her – I don’t mean to mislead. Two, there are two schools of eggplant caviar making that I’m aware of insofar as Russian eggplant caviar making goes. Both parties cling to their version as the version, but the weirdo that is me, likes them both equally – they are quite different from one another. And like a mother to two very different children of the same origin, I cannot pick a favorite.

like little hats!

The first is the method my friends from the Ukraine have taught me – which involves baking an eggplant, removing its skin and combining it with a seductive and potent blend of pureed tomato, onion, garlic, vinegar, salt and pepper, and stirring a bit of finely minced cilantro. It is simple and addictive, and if you’re a fan of garlic, you can’t go wrong here.

halved!

The second is a bit more labor intensive, and hails, at least according to my Uzbekistan-born grandmother, from Central Asia (think former Soviet republics that end in “stan”). It involves slow cooking the eggplant with tomatoes, onion, garlic and red peppers for many hours, until the vegetables combine, disintegrate, fall apart, and grow brown. Their transformation is magical, as things go from acidic, to sweeter, more caramelized, more seductive. While it’s uncommon for brown food to be considered sexy, this dish smolders. If you think you don’t like eggplant, try this and talk to me after. I would be surprised if you didn’t reverse your stance on eggplant.

pretty from the top
looking sadder

Normally eggplant caviar is served during the “zakuski” portion of the meal. For those of you who are not Russian speakers, “zakuski” describes a spread of snacks served at Russian banquets or parties, or in my mother’s case, whenever anyone shows up at the house. Originally, the word stems from the Russian word “kusok” or “kusochik” which means, piece, or little piece. The prefix “za” denotes that you are using these little pieces, or snacks, as a follow up to a drink, a chaser, so to speak. When Russians drink vodka (which they do at most celebratory gatherings), they invariably do it in shots and follow up shots with either a pickle, slice of salami, Russian sauerkraut, a pickled mushroom or a piece of dark, rye bread with something tasty spread over it. Like this eggplant caviar. Zakuski are intense, powerful bursts of flavor designed to quell the burning of alcohol in your mouth.

sad :(
onions tomatoes
cubed peppers

But sometimes you’re not in the mood for a drink (watch the entire Russian clan disown me after this sentence), but what you want is a taste of home, because you miss the food you grew up with. And after you spy eggplant piled high at your favorite farm-stand, you greedily load your bags with the necessary ingredients and then cook the brown mess for hours while you translate your mother’s recipe from Russian, filling in instructions she takes for granted as “given”. And laughing at her description of cooked eggplant as “sad”. If you’ve ever seen a wilted, browned eggplant, you know what she means by that. But invariably, reading that makes me smile.

eggplant caviar eggplant caviar

Looks, my dears, caviar it is not. But were I to really choose between actual caviar and this, I would go for this, hands down. Especially if my mother is making it.

eggplant caviar eggplant caviar
eggplant caviar

Continue reading eggplant caviar.