Vegetable Archive

Thursday, March 5, 2015

cornmeal-fried pork chops + smashed potatoes

cornmeal fried pork chops + goat cheese smashed potatoes

I’m pretty sure I’m the last person in the cooking-obsessed world to get Sean Brock Fever, the chef behind McCrady’s, Husk, and Minero in Charleston. Worse, this is probably a good time to admit that I was sent his first cookbook, Heritage, when it came out and rejected it on sight alone. There was something about those sleeve tattoos cupping the sacred rainbow beans, an image I’ve seen variations on countless other farm-to-table cookbook covers and magazine spreads, that put me off. Skimming the recipes didn’t always help. Your red peas, cornmeal and gold rice should be from Anson Mills, and if not, at least the cornmeal should be fresh from a gristmill. Your tomatoes should be home-canned, or at the very least, San Marzano. Your pork should be from a heritage pig, your buttermilk and goat cheese should come from a local farm, as should your Red Bliss potatoes; this is your heritage after all.

boiled potatoes
just a little splash of light cream

And it’s not that I don’t share the book’s values, either. Like most people, I prefer local humanely raised pork to the feedlot variety. If you haven’t yet, I hope you get a chance to try freshly dug potatoes from a farmers market in a month or two, so you too can be amazed by the depth of flavor atypical of the grocery store variety. I recently bought Anson Mills polenta and grits for the first time, and I’m converted. They’re incredible. They’re fantastically expensive too, as carefully grown food, the best in its class, often is. My grandmother would roll over in her grave if she knew I had used two cups of them just to dredge buttermilk-soaked pork chops (you know, among other concerns there), as the cookbook suggests. I unquestionably believe the world would be a better place if we all had access and the budget for these kinds of ingredients, or if we could all eat Brock’s amazing cooking — James Beard award-winning food that is exclusively indigenous to the South, using heirloom produce and heritage animal breeds — every night. But when it crosses the threshold of my apartment, it’s hard not to be aggressively aware of its gap with the reality I live in, or, as Morrissey once sung to me from a poster on my high school bedroom wall, “it says nothing to me about my life.”

goat cheese smashed potatoes

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Monday, February 2, 2015

charred cauliflower quesadillas

charred cauliflower quesadillas

Last week* I mentioned that we’d been on a big breakfast-for-dinner spree this winter, less out of a noble desire for inexpensive, balanced, wholesome meals and more because scrambling eggs at the last minute allows us to go all the way to 15 minutes before dinner to come up with an idea for it, which is meal-planning equivalent of the heavens opening up and glorifying all of my late-afternoon lethargy at last.

scallions, poblano, lime, cheese, cauliflower, "cilantro"
give it an extra chop once cooked

The other kick we’ve been on since the beginning of the year is passing off anything we can put in, on, or near a tortilla as dinner, leading to a steady rotation our go-to fajitas, beef tacos, black bean tacos and, in a mash-up of both the breakfast and tortilla benders, scrambled egg tacos. Many of you asked “how” I got my son to eat such foods as scrambled eggs and tacos, and while I’m tempted to take credit for it (“it’s the rainbow of local organic produce and definitely not the daily succession of pb&j sandwiches I ate while he was in the womb!”) it would be dishonest when it’s been more due to random outside influences. The grandmother of one of my son’s classmates brought in warm — warm! freshly cooked! how I long to be a kindergartener most days! — quesadillas for snack a few weeks ago, and it’s all he’s talked about since. Plus, since it fit into our all-tortillas-all-the-time meal plan, I set about finding a way to pass it off as dinner.

what you'll need + lazy slaw, if you please

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Monday, January 12, 2015

mushroom marsala pasta bake

mushroom marsala pasta bake

Over the last couple years — a dark time in which I’ve slowly had to accept that my once-tiny baby with fairly simple needs now required real square meals at very specific times of the day, such as dinner, far earlier than we ever do and that he’d likely be looking to me (me!) to provide them or face the hangry consequences — I’ve attempted to increase my repertoire of two things: 1. Dinners that can be made easily in under an hour that I actually want to eat, and 2. Casseroles. No, no, I don’t mean the canned cream of soupiness things. I mean, the idea of taking disparate meal parts and baking them in a big dish until they’re much more than the sum of their ingredients. Plus, they’re dinnertime magic: they reheat well; they make excellent leftovers for as long as you can stretch them; and they rarely require anything more on the side than a green salad (for grownups) or steamed broccoli (for people who haven’t yet come around to salad). Long Live The Casserole Rethought With Minimally Processed Ingredients! is hardly a sexy catchphrase, but there you have it: my new battle cry.

what you'll need

In the first category, Alex’s Chicken and Mushroom Marsala from 2008 in the archives became a favorite again in 2013 when I began making it much more quickly with thigh cutlets. Within the second, I’ve been trying as best as I can to reimagine baked pastas into dishes that are less of a cheese-valanche and more of an insanely good flavor assault with a sizable portion of vegetables within. (See also: Baked Orzo with Eggplant and Mozzarella and our previous house favorite, Baked Pasta with Broccoli Rabe and Sausage).

brown the mushroomsadd the onionsadd butter, then floursimmering until thickened

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Monday, December 15, 2014

endives with oranges and almonds

endives with oranges and almonds

I realize this might not look like much. It probably looks suspiciously like a salad, which means it’s probably going to be the last kid picked for your holiday cooking olympics. It doesn’t taste like ginger, linzer or crushed candy canes. It smacks of January Food, the stuff of resolutions and repentance, and there’s no time for that now. But I need to tell you about it anyway, urgently, because the preoccupation with this salad has hit me so intensely, so wholly, it’s basically the only thing I want to eat, and since I’m ostensibly the grownup here, this is exactly what I’m going to do.

what you'll need
a navel and a cara cara orange

I had this for the first time two weekends ago, when I got to spring a surprise Miami Beach getaway on my husband as a belated birthday present. We had dinner the first night at José Andrés’ Bazaar, the kind of prolonged, indulgent meal that, I’m sure purely coincidentally, usually only occurs when we’re not simultaneously parenting. I don’t think we had a bite of food that was less than pristine. I’ve been a little obsessed with Andrés’ cooking since I lived in DC, right around the time Jaleo opened. I remember piling in there one night in 1999 with friends in town from New York and one told us that he really wanted to study in Paris the next year, but he needed someone to stay in his rent-controlled East Village apartment and also take care of his cat while he was gone. My roommate and I have never volunteered ourselves so quickly, not that anyone asked me my “welcome to new york” story. Even without such life-changing memories, the food was perfect, and no matter how many pork and scallop products were on the menu, there were always vegetables too, treated as carefully and respectfully as the finest jamón serrano. Our Miami meal was no different, which is why I guess it shouldn’t be a surprise that of everything we ate, it was this seemingly random composition of goat cheese, almonds, oranges, chives, sea salt, endive, sherry vinegar and olive oil that I haven’t stopped pining over since.

segmenting

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Monday, December 1, 2014

twice-baked potatoes with kale

twice-baked potatoes with kale

As I do every year, I woke up the morning after Thanksgiving with dueling urges to consume pie for breakfast as well as to repent with an endless sequence of brothy vegetable soups until I no longer dreamed of pumpkin cheesecake, cranberry caramel almond tarts and chocolate silk. I vowed make the wholesome side triumph this year, however, yet somewhere along my righteous path to eating kale salad for breakfast, lunch and dinner, I remembered that kale salad tastes absolutely nothing like pie and that was basically the end of that. By dinner that night, we were digging into terrifying heaps of spaghetti and meatballs at Carmine’s, followed by overstuffed chocolate cannolis. There wasn’t a ribbon of kale in sight.

three russets
i used chard, not kale, because it's what I had

By Sunday night, however, I’d found a happier medium between total submersion in butter, cream and chocolate and the kind of austerity measures that never quite cut it when it’s 33 degrees outside: the twice-baked potato, restuffed with not only the usual sour cream and cheese, but an entire bundle of greens. Greens make everything healthy, okay?

wilting the greens

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