22 November 2009

Collards à la George

George and I love visiting the Durham, NC farmer's market every weekend. It is part of our special Shabbos ritual, which I know is all backward, but the market does make us very happy and it is something we look forward to doing together. Lately we have bought collards from a special stall that only sells kale and collards—but what collards! The farmer bunches them together loosely and stands them on their stalks in huge dark woven baskets. The leaves glow mysteriously from within, and they seem so alive that I always feel like they are breathing very very slowly. Whenever I am forced to buy produce from the supermarket, the vegetables always look so cowed compared to farmers' market vegetables. I feel sorry for people who don't have farmers' markets near them; no wonder they don't enjoy their vegetables.

Tonight George cooked our collards. First he washed half of a bunch, but then he got bored and went away to rest. Later he returned, washed the rest, and chopped them up. In a large pot he sautéed onions and garlic. When they had mellowed into a darker sweetness, he added an umeboshi (pickled plum), some soy sauce [you might need gluten-free soy sauce like San-J], and a little bit of salt. Then he covered and cooked the greens quite some time. Mmm.... I cannot convey to you how absolutely savory they were. Although they tasted like golden raisins had been added, the sweetness actually came from the onions!

I'm really glad that we are learning so many ways to cook collard greens. I feel like so many of the traditional Southern foods are inaccessible to vegetarians. Also, although we live in a heavily Mexican area with many fresh carnicerias around, I feel intimidated by Spanish, the foreignness of the culture and cooking, and the large amounts of chicharonnes and tins of lard I see. Also, I haven't found a Mexican vegetarian cookbook that appeals to me.

Anyway, I am going to post a wish-list of good ol' Southern or Mexican dishes I'd like to learn:
fried green tomatoes
tomatillo salsa
sweet potato pie
Hoppin' John
old fashioned grits
vegetarian bbq
fresh corn tortillas

Any other suggestions would be welcome, as to be honest I just don't know these cuisines that well. Go ahead and post in the comments section below.

11 November 2009

Borscht Borscht Borscht

My friend Naomi took me on a food tour of the Lower East Side in NY City and one of the meals we enjoyed was sweet cheese blintzes and borscht. I couldn't believe how much more delicious they tasted together. Now of course I can't remember the name of the little place we ate at and neither can Naomi. The other day, for the first time, George and I attempted to recreate that meal from scratch. We used the Russian Cabbage Borscht recipe from Mollie Katzen's The New Moosewood Cookbook and served it hot, topped with sour cream and fresh snipped dill. (The soup is gluten-free.) This soup always turns out well; I make it once or twice a year.

George made blintzes using Mark Bittman's cheese blintze recipe in How to Cook Everything Vegetarian. I felt that the filling, sour cream and cottage cheese with sugar and cinnamon, wasn't sweet enough and also was a bit too runny, but the skins were great. George experimented with both frying the blintzes in a pan and cooking in the oven, and the frying method turned out much better because the outsides crisped up beautifully. You don't want every mouthful to be mushy.

Unfortunately, George doubled the borscht recipe and I've had to eat it for breakfast every day since. Pouring it over rice makes it go down better, but I have to say, borscht is one of those items that is great for dinner one night as "something different." I don't want to immerse myself in beet and cabbage all week long!

I'll say this about borscht for breakfast. It keeps you going all day long.

05 November 2009

Mellow Pumpkin Buns

I heart mellow pumpkin buns! I buy them at the Oriental Supermarket in Durham, NC. I have not been cooking much lately because of school crunch time and not feeling well, so when I need a quick snack I pop one of these in the microwave for 50 seconds, cut it into fourths, and enjoy with tea.

One of the things I love about Mellow Pumpkin Buns is that they actually aren't pumpkin buns. They are kabocha squash buns—you can see it in the picture. I much prefer cooking with kabocha than pumpkin; in fact I've never cooked with pumpkin because I've been too intimidated. Kabocha (or their practically identical cousins, Buttercup squash) are small and easy to chop up. Their skin is thin and peels off easily, and the flesh is moist, not stringy, with a beautiful, vibrant orange. To my mind they taste way better than acorn or butternut squash. Someday in the distant future I plan to make a pumpkin pie with freshly puréed kabocha.

The Japanese love kabocha squash as much as I do and one of their favorite ways to cook it is to simmer peeled chunks of it in heavily sugared water until tender. Then they'll serve about 3 or 4 chunks as a side dish. If this is your first time with kabocha or buttercup squash, you should definitely try cooking it this way.

01 November 2009

Get Well Food

I haven't been feeling well in oh-so-many ways lately, so George made me some simple get well food. Nothing brilliant, but expertly executed. He has gotten good at poaching eggs.

The key, according to George, is to get the salted water to a very gentle simmer. (You have to salt it so it doesn't lose its boil when you add the egg.) Then crack an egg into a tiny bowl. Lower the dish to right above the water, then slowly slowly rotate the dish 90 degrees until the side of the bowl is horizontal on the surface of the water. The egg should slowly ooze out sideways into the water. Cook until awesome.

He also boiled collard green leaves (until tender but they hadn't lost their color) and tossed them with fresh squeezed lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil. Both greens and egg were served on hot fresh rice.

I feel better.
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