Posts Tagged ‘produce’

I hear it all the time:
Is this a beet?
It’s sooo good!
I even didn’t think I liked beets!

Well, I’ve got news for you people, the beet is your friend. It is your friend not only because it is nourishing to your body, beautiful to look upon but (dun, dun, DUN!) easy to prepare. Oh, and lest I forget (!)… it’s also a permanent two-for-one-deal.

I know, I KNOW… you’re still picturing a buttered beet side dish that came out of a can served to you by Great Aunt Hilda. Delete that from memory bank immediately and permanently because beets are pretty, well sexy.

Picture bright half moons of earthy sweetness in a salad with your favorite fixin’s like blue cheese and walnuts, lobster and avocado or oranges and mint. Even just served sliced and drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, they make an elegant side dish. This is all easy-peasy when you have some roasted beets on hand in the fridge.

My beet protocol is something like this: Buy beets at the farmers market. Preferably smaller ones but I look most intently at the greens attached making sure they are bright and healthy looking. On that day or the next, when I happen to have the oven hot for something else I snip the greens from the root, leaving about an inch of stem attached to the beet and then prepare as described below and toss into the fridge for use throughout the week. Featured in salads usually or always a nice addition to the plate when you need a bit of color to round things out.

Now for this two-for-one bit I mentioned earlier… don’t throw away those greens! Once snipped from their bulbus counterpart remove the green part of the leaf from the pinkish stems and wash throughly. Then just treat like spinach (or any soft green): sautéed lightly in olive oil, garlic and chile is the most straightforward way.

So if that, all that, is not enough beets also make a delightful raw salad. If you were to tell me to shred a couple of pounds of root vegetables on a box grated I would likely give you a sour look. Fortunately beet salad can be prepared entirely in the food processor, then transferred to a salad bowl with dressing ingredients thrown on top and just mixed in. Once prepared it’s stunningly beautiful, perfect for summer potlucks. As a recent diner at our house commented, I’m pretty sure it makes you healthier just looking at it. The taste is so simple and delicious it will leave you feeling great about yourself and the food you just made.

Also, short notes on color for beginners: Handling cooked red beets may leave you looking like you had a run-in with your kitchen knife. Not to worry, washing as soon as possible will likely remove all red juice. The same goes for your cutting board. If it is being stubborn though you may pour some kosher salt on your hands making a paste with water, this exfoliant should get the last of it and leave your flanges nice and soft. Internally your body has a similar dilemma and you may notice some coloration when you use the bathroom. Please do not call your doctor frantically as my co-worker did.

Roasted Beets

1 or 2 bunches beets, preferably of similar size

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Trim stems, leaving about one inch attached to the root. Wash beets.
Lay beets on a large square of tin foil and drizzle lightly with olive oil. If using different colors of beets, be sure to wrap in separate packages.
Wrap foil tightly around beets and place in hot oven.
Bake for approximately 60 minutes, they are done when you can poke with the tip of a knife and meet little resistance. Smaller beets take about 45 minutes, larger ones can take closer to 90 minutes.
They’re pretty gracious little buggers though so don’t fret too much about the exact timing.
Remove from oven, when cool skins slip easily away.
Beets can then be served or stored in the refrigerator.

Raw Beet Salad
Adapted from Mark Bittman

1 1/2 pounds beets (approx.)
1 large shallot
1 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard, or to taste
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons sherry or white vinegar
1 sprig fresh herbs like tarragon, mint or thyme (optional)
1/3 cup chopped parsley or cilantro

Peel beets and shallot, place in food processor and pulse until chopped but not pureed. You could also shred with a box grater or mince by hand. Mix in a bowl with remaining ingredients and salt and pepper to taste.

Ultimately, it’s not your grandmothers beet.
But, it should be yours, you just might like it.


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I promised to get to this eventually. See this post. I’ll start by saying that there is nothing better than a wedge of cake or a piece of pie for breakfast. But, too often, I eat all the dessert in the house before the am and must succomb to a more traditional breakfast experience. For this I employ my friend the slow-cooker.

Here is how to make perfect oatmeal, steel cut please. Turn the slow-cooker on before you go to bed and it will be ready to eat by morning.

Crock-Pot Oatmeal

1 cup steel cut oats

4 cups water

dash of salt

splash of milk or cream (optional)

Cook on low setting for 8 hours. Refrigerate leftover oatmeal and reheat the next day for another delicious oatmeal experience. If you are me you add more salt, butter, brown sugar, cinnamon and either milk or cream, preferably cream. That way I can have my pie and eat my oatmeal too! If you are Mr. Order Envy you just eat it with a splash of milk. What a paragon of discipline.

Breakfast Smoothie

I’ve never been a fan of smoothies. Drinking a meal sounds a bit boring. And Jamba Juice smells very, very strange. Recently, I’ve experienced an about-face. A smoothie can be delicious when a hot bowl of oatmeal just won’t help you face a 90 degree summer morning. I am thinking of my friends in Austin, Texas.

I buy frozen berries/fruit and Greek yogurt at Trader Joe’s. I’ll leave the protein powder, Green Vibrance, sea-weed etc to your own discretion.  I like frozen berries, a dash of whatever juice is in the fridge, Greek yogurt, a drizzle of honey. Blended well in the blender. Tastes good to me. Kind of cobbler-ish?!

Of course, you can concoct something especially delightful if you have fresh fruits handy. I got quite a loot this week in my CSA basket. Nestled into the produce was a darling little bunch of sweet peas. My nickname is Sweet Pea.

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This is about the eighth week in a row I’ve received parsnips in my CSA box. I usually roast them and sprinkle with balsamic vinegar. This week I wanted to stretch them into something delicious that would keep in the fridge to pull out this week when we needed something.

Inspiration: I just finished reading Jam Today by Tod Davies – a book Erin lent me and we both love. Check it out. She makes the case for cooking without recipes and relaxing into the process. Really enjoying it. So that’s what I tried to do.

This is what I did:

I started by sauteing a slurp of olive oil and some red pepper flakes in a small soup pot (That is how I pretty much start any soup, sauce, vegetable saute. It’s my home-base. My G-chord). Added half an onion that I had stashed in the fridge, sliced, and two cloves of garlic, whole. Salt and pepper.

When it smelled fragrant and the onion was soft, I added about 8 chopped parnips (mine were small) and 2 large carrots, also chopped. I had an apple sitting on the cutting board so I added a handful of cut-up green apple. A few dashes of turmeric and one small dash of ground ginger. More salt and pepper.

When that looked browned and delicious, about 8 minutes, I got the urge to deglaze. This is my favorite technique. It makes me feel powerful and magical. What better than….dry sherry. This is my favorite thing! So a glug of sherry went into the pot. As that sizzled, I stirred, scraping up the brown bits from the bottom of the pot. How is it possible that one can cook in a pot and clean it at the same time? It can only be magic!

After the sherry mostly evaporated, I added enough water to cover the vegetables. I was too lazy to get out the measuring cup so I just added a few full glasses worth. Some pieces of cooked sweet potato from last night’s dinner got added to the pot. Waste not! I couldn’t let well enough alone, so I added a 1 bay leaf and 1 clove and brought the whole thing to a boil. (The sweet potato made me think of Christmas which makes me think of cloves so I think that is how I came up with that one.)

I reduced the liquid to a simmer and checked my email, browsed the internet, watched some basketball, and finally did the computer work I needed to get done. By then, the vegetables were tender. Maybe it was 40 minutes – maybe it was 1 hour. I removed the bay leaf and clove. More salt and pepper.

Then, I employed my second favorite trick – the immersion blender. Whirred to the consistency that I like.

Then we ate it. The soup is sweet and exotically spicy. I think if you had a cold it would be especially soothing. Serve hot or chilled with a sprinkle of any fresh herb (I had dill on hand). Maybe you’d like yogurt or creme fraiche or croutons on yours. This is a Sunday soup that is perfect. Nourishing, satisfying, spicy and sweet, and very low-maintenance. If you want, serve with a salad and some good bread and no one will complain that they didn’t get a great Sunday night supper.

***Don’t stick to a recipe on this one – it that can and should change depending on what you have on hand. Any root vegetables would work. And any spices you like – but add them along with the vegetables so you get the benefit of heating them to bring out the flavors, rather than adding them in at the end.  Although, of course, that would work too. You don’t need sherry for deglazing, obviously. Wine, white or red, or even dark beer or just a splash of good-tasting vinegar. You certainly don’t need to deglaze the pan at all – it just adds more flavor but it isn’t worth cracking a bottle if it isn’t already open. If you don’t have an immersion blender, add into a regular blender when the soup has cooled a bit  and puree in batches. Don’t pour the whole thing in the blender hot or it will blow the top off the blender and you will be scraping soup off the ceiling and treating burns.

Below is a rough recipe for Root Vegetable Sunday Soup if you didn’t like my prose version:

Saute in soup pot over medium heat:

a few tablespoons olive oil

a few dashes of red pepper flakes

1 garlic clove, whole

Add and cook until soft:

1/2 onion, sliced

salt and pepper

Add and cook until browned and a bit tender:

6-8 parsnips, peeled and chopped

3 large carrots, peeled and chopped

1/2 apple, chopped (optional)

1/2 teaspoon dried ginger

2 teaspoons turmeric

salt and pepper

Pour into pot and cook until mostly evaporated:

1/2 cup good dry sherry or wine (optional)

Add and simmer until vegetables are tender:

enough water to cover vegetables plus a few more inches

1 clove

1 bay leaf

To finish:

Remove bay leaf and clove and blend soup to desired consistency. Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Serve hot or cold with fresh herbs to garnish. Make a salad and heat some bread.

Listen to good music and relax. I suggest:

“Sara Smile” from Bird and the Bee’s Hall and Oates tribute album.

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I’m not an advance-planner of meals. I fly by the seat of my pants to call of the hunger in my belly. Only when I’m entertaining or aiming to impress do I marshal my culinary forces and construct a plan of attack. As it happens, my work/life schedule tends to be unpredictable, so it helps if my cooking and shopping are, if not predictable, then at least thought through to the best of my ability. I’ve been working on it.

I’m fascinated by people who strategize their cooking week. I’ve found, when I take the time to plan ahead, bellies get filled with minimal stress. A pot of soup that I doubled and threw half in the freezer is welcome on the night I work late and can’t stand another meal on the run. A bunch of root vegetables roasted and tossed with balsamic vinegar on a Monday night make a fabulous salad to nibble throughout the week.

Do you strategize your week food-wise? How do you execute your plan? I want to know!

When I have failed to meal plan having the following foods on hand ease my week considerably:

1) SEASONAL MIX OF PRODUCE: For this, I rely on my CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). I pick up a box of fresh organic vegetables and fruits biweekly. This box provides the base for the week and gets me cooking with produce that I might not choose on my own. This week I received:

Parsnips (pictured below)






Chinese Cabbage

You can see a picture of my CSA summer loot here.

2) FROZEN WILD SALMON – I order frozen wild salmon filets from Vital Choice. This source of wild seafood is recommended by Oceana – an organization dedicated to protecting the world’s oceans. So, my frozen salmon is sustainably caught and all that. I ignore the sticky fact that my shipment is flown in from Alaska and that I live a block from an ocean, which is chock full of seafood; I never promised moral perfection. The good news: I can come home, put the salmon in some water to defrost, and by the time I’ve changed into my comfortable clothes, the fish is ready to cook. About 10 minutes later – delicious wild salmon for dinner. And I mean delicious.

3) FROZEN BROWN RICE –  Thanks to my mother-in-law for this suggestion. I buy the above version at Trader Joe’s but this guy says you can also find frozen brown rice at Whole Foods. Microwave for 3 minutes and you have enough rice for two-plus people. I’ve been making a brown rice and leafy greens combo for a quick, healthful lunch or a great dinner side. See my “recipe” for 3 Minute Brown Rice and Greens (co-created by my husband, Mr. Order Envy) at the end of this post.

Coming soon…..”Planning” Breakfast – Or, My Attempt Not to Eat Dessert for Breakfast.

EASY RECIPE: 3 Minute Brown Rice with Greens

1 package frozen brown rice

1 bunch of dark leafy greens (Kale, Chard, Mustard Greens etc…), rinsed and tough stems removed.

1 clove garlic, sliced thin

1 chile de arbol or a pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)

Salt and Pepper

Heat 1/4 cup of olive oil in a saute pan over medium heat until hot. Add garlic and chile de arbol or red pepper flakes. Let sizzle 30 seconds. Do not let the garlic turn brown. Add greens to the pan. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Saute greens until wilted to your taste.

Serve over cooked brown rice.

Any ONE of the following you may enjoy sprinkled on top of the rice and greens, but this hearty, healthy side is delicious by itself:  hot sauce, squeeze of lemon, soy sauce, left-over peanut sauce from last night’s Thai food take-out dinner.

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Farmers' Market and Mountain

Sure to get foodies throwing heirloom tomatoes, this article from the NYTimes Freakonomics blog is the first in a series by James McWilliams on farmers’ markets. His thesis: The notion that farmers’ markets build community is a myth. McWilliams cites historical precedent for the inevitable evolution of merchant/seller relationships, particularly close ones such as those between growers and patrons at farmers’ markets, into hard-nosed, and, often combative, business exchanges.

This seems pretty obvious to me. The power of a local market to create community is uncertain. If you aren’t likely to make nice-nice with your Rite-Aid pharmacist, you probably aren’t any more inclined to build a meaningful relationship with the organic food grower from whom you buy your weekly produce.

McWilliams’ post does get me thinking about the perceived value-added by shopping at local farmers’ markets. Removing from consideration any larger concerns such as the reduction (or not) of one’s carbon footprint, what is the net positive gained by shopping local? Is the value simply access to higher quality produce and handmade products (enough for me)? Or, does there exist the possibility that something else can be created? Something that may challenge McWilliams’ thesis?

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The Livin’ Is Easy

The Livin' Is Easy

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CSA Virgin

E has entrusted me to guard and defend her CSA box. Risky, E.

How does a CSA virgin respond? Will I lather myself in produce and lie drunkenly on the kitchen floor not sure whether to throw the whole box into a late-summer gazpacho or a savory tart? I believe the words “share” or “split” were used. Ahem…Do high school seniors on a Cancun spring break “split” the frat boy they just met at the pool?

Dear E,

There are no guarantees when a girl has been pent up as long as I.

Eager and Market-Bound,


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