Produce trio: carrots

I almost didn’t do carrots, because really, carrots! They go in things! There they are, in things! Almost nobody ever says, “Carrots, oh how I need more ways to eat them,” because raw will do, or in most salads, and there you have that: carrots! And you can put them in lemony chicken soup, and you can put them in lamb stew, and you can put them in all the soups I haven’t written down, more or less, and in potpie with or without actual pie crust, with or without meat…carrots!

But the other night I made a new carrot thing that felt lovely and festive, so I thought I would write it down here. It even looks mostly like a recipe, with quantities and everything!

5-Spiced Maple Glazed Carrots
1#ish of carrots, peeled and cut on the diagonal–you might do this with what the store attempts to pass off as “baby carrots,” but really the full-size ones mostly have more complex flavor, so I recommend bothering
2 T butter
1/4 c. maple syrup
1/3 c. water
1 T 5-spice powder
chopped chives if they’re still in season

Melt the butter in a pan with a cover. Throw the carrots in and toss them around a bit. Add the rest of the ingredients except the chives. Bring to a boil and lower to a simmer, covering. Check every 5 minutes or so and stir; should take 10-20 minutes depending on how high your simmer is. When the sauce has almost reduced itself to a glaze, throw the chives in and cook a tiny bit more. Hurrah carrots.

Produce trio: beets

1. Roasted beets with walnuts and goat cheese. Heat oven to 400 F. Wash beets and cut the ends off. Make a little packet with foil and put the beets and a little drizzle of olive oil in. Throw on a cookie sheet or other baking dish (or bare in the oven if you trust your foil-packet-sealing abilities). Bake for 40 minutes or until the beets are fork tender. Peel when cool enough to peel. Toss with crumbles of mild sweet goat cheese (Celebrity Goat with honey is awfully good for this purpose) and toasted walnuts or pecans.

2. Beet yogurt with herbs. There is a restaurant called Byblos in Montreal, and it is a Persian restaurant with very little overlap in foods with most Persian restaurants I’ve been to. They serve a trio of veg-yogurts, beet and spinach and eggplant. It is very colorful as well as delicious. In this recipe I used rice vinegar instead of the recommended red wine vinegar because my family is fairly particular about vinegars. And it was lovely, just perfect. (My attempt at the spinach version: less perfect. Stay tuned.) You can eat it with a spoon, or with pieces of pita, or you can use it as a condiment on a sandwich with shredded chicken or whatever other things you like. It is so pink. Also, as I noted on other social media earlier, very handy for demonstrating that you have a crack in your tupperware.

3. Sesame beets. This was my dinner, along with a peanut butter apple. (My food gets a little eccentric when I’m only feeding myself.) I substituted lemon juice in for the lime juice listed, because my lime betrayed me, and I used a sesame oil that was infused with chilis. I also didn’t boil the beets on the stove, because I’m using the limited stove as little as possible until we get it fixed next week, so instead I cooked them as above, but for slightly less time because I didn’t want them to be completely soft. It’s important to toss them thoroughly, or you’ll just get the taste of mild roasted beets with a little aftertaste of the sesame seeds (which is fine but not, y’know, notable) and not the happy tangy dressing.

Produce trio: cauliflower

I love cauliflower. Love love love LOVE cauliflower. I particularly love the purple kind. Also the orange, but deep, royal purple cauliflower from the farmer’s market is one of the best treats in the history of treats. For being one of my favorite veg, however, cauliflower has an ugly temper. The revenge it seeks when you ignore it for too long is epic. I have very vivid memories of one New Year’s Eve at my grandparents’…anyway. Ways to make cauliflower so that you eat it right up and avoid that fate.

1. Brassica (and stuff) salad. This is how I eat cauliflower the most. In fact, this is how I eat cauliflower at least three times a week and often more like six. This is a little thing I like to call “lunch.” I combine cauliflower florets, broccoli florets, and some other sturdy salad veg: rounds of real carrot if I’ve got some, cherry tomatoes, chunks of sweet bell pepper. I douse the whole thing in Ranch, Caesar, blue cheese, or some other creamy dressing, and top liberally with roasted non-salted pistachios. OM AND ALSO NOM.

2. Lebanese roasted cauliflower. This recipe, to be exact. We had it at the very restaurant the person mentions in Vancouver, and it was amazing, and I have successfully recreated the amazing back home. You don’t have to spice it exactly the same way each time, but the lemon-cumin-sumac combo is really nice.

3. Listen to Deb. I like cauliflower gratin and cauliflower soup from Smitten Kitchen, although I use less onion in the soup (“Use Less Onion” would be my kitchen’s motto were it not for Mark, but it is for Mark, and therefore we have to stick with “Basil Is A Vegetable”). Also I use a lot more paprika. A lot. Actually the soup is also good if you throw in mushrooms with the paprika and make it the love child of SK Cauliflower Soup and Random Hungarian Mushroom Soup. That is a great goodness. If I wasn’t going to Montreal, I’d make some for myself this week. Mmmm, paprika. (Note: whenever I say paprika, I mean real Hungarian paprika, not the food coloring they sell as American paprika. Szeged is the brand I use. Szeged is the brand most paprika lovers I know use. Mmmm, Szeged. They did not pay me to do a commercial for them, but I totally would. “When I want to get away from my Scandinavian Blonde-And-Bland Roots, I use Szeged spices….”)

Produce trio: eggplant

I love eggplant. Really really really. It is good in so many things! Eggplant parmesan! Eggplant in garlic sauce! Ratatouille! So many lovely things to do with eggplant! So here are some.

1. Roasted eggplant. Very simple, very good. Cut off the top, whack it in half, oil each cut side as minimally as possible (basically so as to keep it from sticking). Put in a moderate oven (that’s 350 F) for half an hour or so. Timing will vary based on the size of your eggplant. Drizzle with lemon juice, sprinkle with sea salt, eat. Yum. My brother said, “I tried that, but the insides got all slumpy.” Yes! Slumpy insides are the best! So good. This is best with small eggplants. The tiny ones will do nicely, or the round green stripey ones. The long ones are fine too. But with the great big ones, the most common ones to find in American supermarkets, you get a lot of slumpy per unit slightly-crispy skin.

2. Eggplant dips. This is best with large eggplants for exactly the reason above: lot of slumpy per unit slightly-crispy skin. You may have to roast them a few minutes longer, but roast as above. Then scoop out the insides and mash them up with a fork. Then add the spicing you like: olive oil and roasted garlic is nice, or lime juice and chopped cilantro. I’m going to try sage butter today and let you know, but I hardly see how it could go wrong, because sage butter makes everything better. (Edited to add: I am right, sage butter does make everything better. It was lovely.) A variation on the roasted garlic version, with tahini and lemon juice, makes baba ghanouj, and that’s a lovely thing to do, but if you don’t have tahini, you can still have good eggplant dip. This is good for chips or crackers or as a sandwich spread base or what have you. For example you could spread the lime and cilantro eggplant dip on a good baguette and then top it with slices of avocado and sweet bell pepper and a soft white cheese.

(I saw a recipe that advised that you cut the eggplant into cubes to roast it. I do not recommend this for eggplant dip. It is a perfectly fine way to get your roasted eggplant fix from a big eggplant, but the cubes will form edges that do not want to be mashed with a fork nor with a food processor nor noffing. At least mine did. They were perfectly nice roasted eggplant cubes, but what I wanted was the tangy limey dip stuff.)

3. Fried green eggplants. This is a recent invention of Timprov’s. He takes a tablespoon or so of bacon grease, although if we hadn’t made any bacon lately I daresay it would work with other fats. He slices up the lovely little round green stripey eggplants into fairly thin slices but not paper thin, and he fries them up in the bacon grease. Then he tops steaks with them. This is good. I am a person who needs something else on a steak to make it tasty (I’m anemic and the worst carnivore ever, basically), and we are out of dates at the moment, but fried green eggplants are at least as good as sauteed mushrooms. Possibly better.

I also like moussaka, but I make it differently every time, so I have a hard time telling you how to do it from that. Oh, and I also like roasted eggplants tossed with rice vinegar and peanut oil and chopped cilantro and roasted peanuts and halved cherry tomatoes and the tiniest dash of chili oil. That’s good stuff. That’s another thing you want little eggplants for.

I do like the big eggplants, but the little ones are so handy.

Produce trio: things I can’t get

So when I started doing my produce trio entries, I asked what you guys would like to see in this project. And for many of the items, I’ll get there. But. We are closing in on the end of farmer’s market season, and there are several things on the list that I have not seen at our farmer’s market or Byerly’s. And part of the point of this is that I would tell you things that I have verified that I think are good, not just things that sound nifty. (And a good thing, too, because there was at least one thing for the upcoming eggplant post where I thought I had a viable technique and had to go back and adjust. Anyway.)

So! Here are the things that I can’t get. If you want to share ideas for preparation/recipes in the comments section (either on marissalingen.com or on lj, I don’t care which), please have at it. The requested items are:
Currants
Elderberries
Gooseberries

Go.

Produce trio: defeated by wax beans

Friends, I have been defeated by the wax bean.

I said, starting out this new blogging series, that I would give you three ways to eat a given fruit or vegetable. Three! Three is a culturally important number, and also it just isn’t that many, so the project isn’t overwhelming. But. Wax beans are delicate. Wax beans are subtle.

Wax beans are kind of wimps.

So I have two failed attempts and two successes, and you will have to pitch in and help me out here. The failed attempts: the first one was a hoisin sauce with rice vinegar, chopped fresh cilantro, and roasted (unsalted) peanuts. It was a really good sauce. Everybody ate it all right up and complimented the sauce. And the beans…disappeared. It was like eating bean-shaped sauce. This is not the goal! So we are going to put that sauce on something more robust, like salmon or broccoli or brussels sprouts. So okay, I thought. A bit more subtle. A bit more delicate. I sauteed the wax beans in sage brown butter. Sage brown butter! Everybody loves sage brown butter! (Especially me.) But again: the flavor ended up being bean-shaped sage brown butter. The beans just…disappeared.

Well, fee, I said, because I collect fake swears like that. So here are your two, count them, two wax bean suggestions, and please feel free to help me out in the comments:
1. Steamed with lemon juice. Yes, really. Simple. Nice. And it’s about all wax beans can take.
2. Roasted with a tiny bit of garlic. No, really, less garlic than that. This is one of the rare times where the phrase “one clove of garlic” makes any sense. For years and years I could not make it make sense, and now I know: it is for wax beans. Throw ’em in the oven at 425 F for 12-15 minutes, and then eat. (This is also good with green beans. Green beans are more sure of themselves. Green beans stand up for themselves against other flavors. But we cannot live by green beans alone.)

Previous produce trio: cucumbers, and if you have more cucumber suggestions, please add them in the comments, because lordy do we have cucumbers. This morning in my weekly letter to Mark’s grandfather I told him I had been trying to remember to give cucumbers to all the people I see whom I like, and I was thinking of lowering the bar to people I see whom I am kind of lukewarm on. Because cucumbers. Uff da.

Produce trio: cucumbers

For ages now I’ve toyed with doing a particular food blog project, and then I always end up thinking that it would be a lot of work. But every time I mention it, it seems like I have another friend who indicates it is relevant to their interests, and now I’m thinking it’s only as much work as I let it be depending on how often I do the posts, so here we go.

The idea is: pick a kind of produce, and I will tell you at least three good ways to eat it. They might include actual recipes, or else just things people do. There will be a lot of “to taste” and “as you like.” They might be things I made up from scratch myself, or they might be things I found elsewhere and will link. But there will be at least three tasty things to do with [insert produce here] every time I do one of these entries. Please feel free to suggest produce items in the comments! But keep in mind that I won’t always get to the suggestions right away.

A few weeks ago I went to the farmer’s market and bought a flat of cucumbers. I came home with them, tra la yay cucumbers, and then Mark went out to harvest his garden and brought in three large cucumbers. The next day he went out again and brought in four large cucumbers. Happily for the south suburbs and their gourd-related fate, this trend did not continue. But still it was plenty of cucumbers. We put them in ordinary salads, and sometimes I even peel and seed them and put them in spaghetti sauce. We like cucumbers. But still, there needs to be an end to it.

(Please note that the major down side to cucumbers in spaghetti sauce is that leftovers will not keep as long or as well.)

1. Not Really Pickles Salad. Peel cucumber if you don’t like cucumber peel in your salads. Slice. Chop fresh dill or shake dried dill over cucumbers. Dribble rice vinegar on enough that some of the dill washes off the top layer and onto the bottom layer. If you have a sweet tooth, you can add a little sugar here, but we don’t.

2. Tzadziki. Peel cucumber and cut seeds from the center. If you have a food processor, stick large chunks of cucumber in it with mint leaves and/or dill (we like both at once, mileage varies), a couple grinds of fresh pepper, a squeeze of lemon, a garlic clove or two, and as much Greek yogurt as you like. (The question is whether you want it to be a thin sauce or a combination salad/condiment. Your call.) Whirr in food processor. If you don’t have a food processor, dice the cucumber, chop the herbs, and accept that you should really go with the salad/condiment style or it’ll take you forever to chop the cucumber fine enough. Mix together. Use on lamb meatballs, gyros, salmon, whatever you like. Or eat straight.

3. Strawberry mango cucumber salad. Chop strawberries, mangoes, and cucumber into bite-sized pieces (peel cucumber first if you like it that way). Chiffonade some basil and toss that with the other elements. Dress with walnut oil and lemon juice, or possibly avocado oil and lime juice, or…yeah. Possibilities here. You can also do this with mint leaves instead of basil. You can also skip the chiffonade step and put the fruit and cucumber on top of whole leaves of basil or spinach. The world is your oyster.

Okay, so cucumber feels a bit like cheating, because we eat a lot of it and none of these are real recipes. But I’m planning to do more of these, including ones that will take research. Produce! We like produce! Oh, one more thing: while I said I would take suggestions, don’t bother suggesting celery or celeriac. I can’t tell you any good ways to make them because they are inherently ungood, even though celeriac looks like the baobab planet and makes me want to love it and also makes me wander around the house muttering under my breath about dessinez-moi un mouton. I just can’t do it. I’ve tried.