Tag Archives: food

Tomato Photo Shoot: Going Behind the Scenes

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Tomato time continues!

Yes, that’s right.

One good tomato post deserves another ūüôā

At first when creating Today we answer the question: Tomatoes: Salad PARTer or Conversation stARTer?, which later also took the twitter title, Tomato story-time with @SnoopDogg and other featured word players, I was thinking I would provide some tomato context as part of it: Garden tomatoes picked before the last frost. Left to sit on the table as they ripened. Two months pass. Two thirds remain. Wrinkled prunes on fire. Ready. Waiting. To tell their story. One word, next word, next word, Go!

The story and art were good¬†on their¬†own though, so to this next post the artist’s statement did go.¬†Plus, there’s a selection of tomato photo shoot outtakes. Yes, here we are now, behind the scenes.

Some of you may remember how my table looked two months ago after the final garden harvest.

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Then from October to December, we went from green to red, and six plates to four.

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The amazing thing is how all the tomatoes turned red! I did have to toss a few¬†along the way, but that was to be expected, and beside the point. Per past farmer advice and¬†personal experience, a tomato, picked green, does¬†not ripen. “As long as it has a little color, even the tiniest bit, it’ll turn red, but if it’s all green, it’ll stay green.” Apparently my table, the air in my kitchen, the soil in my¬†garden, and/or the tomatoes’¬†latent lycopene desire to talk and tell stories won out. Some type of tomato magic you might say.¬†Some internet research now also tells me that green tomatoes, particularly those of a more mature size, do have the potential to ripen. But nonetheless, little green grape and paste tomatoes, turning red!

Perhaps they were waiting for the big stage.

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Or hoping to impress some raisins.

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Or looking to take a ridic rhyme time pic.

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Wassup Catsup.

In any case, the tomato party continues. Initially I had been¬†thinking that once¬†the story was¬†over, I’d come up with a good tomato recipe and use the tomatoes¬†in it. Now I think they’ll keep me company for a while longer.

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What happens when you use every single remaining tomato.

Hey, how’s it going?¬†Good to see you.

Invitation to Tomato Risotto

You’re invited!

I hope you come, because it’s going to be worth it.

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Tomato risotto.

Crunchy. Soft. Sweet. Sour. Sweet. Intriguing. More please.

These are some of the initial adjectives and commands that come to mind whenever I make this. After you try it, you might find yourself adding some more. The last two times I made it, for the family picnic last summer and a Princeton tailgate last month, I was party to almost the exact same, honest-speaking exchange:

My cousin¬†(last year) / A new friend (this year): “Wow, this is really good.”
Me: “I know, right!?”

Lucky for me was the day sometime during the summer of 2009 when I happened to borrow¬†Invitation to Mediterranean Cooking¬†by Claudia Roden from the public library. I tried a few recipes from it at the time, and they were all good, but the one that stood out was Tomato Risotto. I’ve taken the book¬†out several times since –¬†let’s just say that mark on page 87, opposite the tomato risotto picture, may or may not have been caused be me (a food bookmark is what you want to see in a cookbook anyway, right??) – and I was looking forward to seeing the familiar pages again after I’d decided to make the recipe again last month. When I went to get the book from the library, though, someone else had taken it out!¬†I also couldn’t find the photocopy I’d made of the recipe, which I wanted to see to double check the amounts. So, to the computer I went, and a small donation to the internet commerce fund later, I became¬†the owner of my very own kitchen copy.

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Simple, good design outside, and like recipes inside

Here’s how to get the party going.

Tomato Risotto

Ingredients

  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 onions, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, diced
  • 2 1/2 cups Arborio rice
  • 12 fresh ripe local tomatoes, diced (about 6 cups, including the liquid)
  • 1 1/2 cups white wine
  • 2 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 2 1/2 tsp sugar

Steps

  1. Heat the oil in a large frying pan, medium heat.
  2. Add the onion and garlic, and saute until partially softened, about 10 minutes.
  3. Add the rice.
  4. Add the tomatoes.
  5. Add the wine.
  6. Simmer for about 40 minutes, or until the rice is mostly cooked (just a little crunchy), stirring occasionally.
  7. Add the salt, pepper, and sugar.

I love writing three-word steps.

The next step is to try not to eat too much of it before going to your picnic, potluck, or tailgate. I like it best either warm or at room temperature. If you think the recipe looks¬†really easy – and it is – allow me to note the following also: the original recipe doesn’t include¬†onions (I added them), and I doubled the recipe (why make less when you can¬†make more). A few other small¬†variations from the C.Roden original are the salt, pepper, and sugar quantities. I listed what I used this time, but as I’ve noted in the past, such as¬†when making lyrical tomato sauce, how much to¬†add is up to you.

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Two before shots

Yes, that’s how my table looked right before picking the 12¬†ripest tomatoes¬†for¬†the¬†risotto.

These days, as in today, it’s looking more¬†varicolored:

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Red and green and shades between,
The fruit picked and the plants stripped,
Some ready and some waiting,
A table of the frost’s creation.

Yes, last weekend New Jersey had its first frost, which means a few things: I picked all the tomatoes from my community garden plot ahead of time (red and green), and farmers around the state, and in other states, picked their last tomatoes for the season too.

There were still some tomatoes at the farmers’ market when I went this week, though, and when I asked a farmer friend about it, he said you should¬†be able to still get¬†tomatoes at¬†the market for a week or two.

Which means, of course, tomato risotto! As in, it’s not too late. It’s there if you want it, a little summer wow to help bring in the fall.

Summer Roasting

I write this from a place of sitting-sweating.

Labor Day has come and gone, but for those already missing summer, I have the answer: Summer Roasting.

To do it my way, there are five easy steps: 1) Stop at the local farm stand (Z Food Farm) on your way home, 2) Turn your oven on to 400 degrees, 3) Turn your air conditioner off, 4) Put the chopped vegetables into the oven, and 5) Let them roast for 50 minutes while you do your own best roasting impression while preparing the rest of dinner, standing or sitting nearby.

That’s how I did it today, and also once last week and the week before (except for the air conditioner part; no need to turn mine off because I don’t have one. ūüôā Yes, it’s often summer roasting time here in my kitchen).

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The results are worth it though, and you also can’t discount the perspiration inspiration.

Sweat I swear
Is what I wear,
My beats are bold and
My beets are golden.
My features wetter
Than washed red peppers,
Onions chopped and garlic diced,
Potatoes cut and pink flesh shown,
This time I own, as pieces roast.
My current state, do not bemoan,
The heat is real, but here, no boast,
Cooled a bit with fresh apple juice,
Fifty minutes? Sixty would be nice,
Got an eggplant going, for baba ghanoush.

That is the state of things here, truth in rhyme.

Olive oil and salt and pepper were also involved, and purple carrots too. I’ll include them here in the more traditional, full version of the recipe.

Summer Roasting Roasted Vegetables

  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 3 red potatoes, peeled
  • 3 golden beets, peeled
  • 3 purple carrots
  • 3 onions
  • 1 red pepper
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  1. Dice the garlic.
  2. Chop the other vegetables (into similar-sized pieces; I did roughly 1 cm cubes).
  3. Add the vegetables, olive oil, salt, and pepper to a baking dish.
  4. Mix everything together.
  5. Roast at 400 degrees for about 50 minutes.

The end result is nothing but sweet, roasted vegetable goodness.

It’s also easy to make, and the choice of vegetables, and colors, is up to you.¬†Later in the fall I’ll¬†also¬†add Brussels sprouts and butternut squash.¬†The numbers of each vegetable is¬†also flexible,¬†but¬†if¬†you do solid threes across the cutting board, you can make it a game of culinary¬†#threestag. This time, except for¬†the one red pepper, I was threezing (but not freezing). Next time, I’m going try 2 Tbsp of olive oil too instead of 3 because I think that’ll be enough, or I’ll add more vegetables.

And that’s summer roasting! Yes, there’s the oven. But there’s also¬†the taste, and the¬†colors a plenty (some shown here below, before roasting), for the overall loving.

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Adirondack Red Potatoes

adfs

Golden Beets

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Purple Carrots

 

Double Sweet Summer Garden Salsa

Growing up, I always loved sweet corn. It was a true summer treat, bought fresh from a local farm and then steamed at home for 5-10 minutes before being rolled around on a satisfying-to-the-sight-now-melting stick of¬†butter (or sprinkled heavily with salt if you’re my dad) and eaten along with the rest of dinner. Yellow, white, or bi-color, it didn’t matter to me so long as it was sweet and fun to eat, which is¬†what it was.

And it still is – and still is that simple to make.

But what else can you make with fresh sweet corn that is similarly simple and tastes great? Double Sweet Summer Garden Salsa! Of course. ūüôā

I made it twice this week, the first time because it seemed like a good idea, and the second time to confirm that it was ready for the world. The key ingredients are sweet corn and grape tomatoes, both of which I had growing in my garden.

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Ready for picking

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Ready for a close-up

The other fresh ingredients, onions and garlic, I got from my CSA market share. And then the rest Рthe olive oil, salt, and pepper Рwere in my cupboard already and ready to go.

Double Sweet Summer Garden Salsa

  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped into pieces about the size of corn kernels
  • 1 garlic clove, diced
  • 2 ears sweet corn, kernels removed
  • 25 grape tomatoes, diced
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp pepper
  1. Saute the onion and garlic over medium heat until softened, about 10-15 minutes.
  2. Add the corn and grape tomatoes, and cook for about 15 minutes.
  3. Add the salt and pepper.

And that’s it! Sweet and simple.

The simplest actually would be to do¬†each on its own – an ear of sweet corn husked and then eaten, uncooked, right off the cob (if you’ve never tried it, give it a shot!), and grape tomatoes picked and then popped right in the¬†mouth (it’s more likely you’ve tried this, but if not, give it a shot too!). The combination of sweet¬†corn and sweet grape tomatoes, though, with a touch of the natural tomato tartness, is worth the extra time. And what’s 30 minutes in the end when you’re making something else at the same time that takes a little longer (fresh tomato sauce in my case this time).

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On the cutting board

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In the frying pan

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And in the blue dish

You can eat it hot or cold, but I like it hot.

I’ve been eating it straight like a side dish, but it would also be good¬†with chips or as a taco, burrito, veggie burger, or salad topping. Hmmmm, maybe another name for it could be sweet corn and grape tomato summer salad dressing.

However you use it, and whether the ingredients come from your garden or the farm, there it is, Double Sweet Summer Garden Salsa. Enjoy! Two summer sweets brought together.

 

On time, and in time, in the garden

The community gardening season is back!¬†Actually it’s been back for a month now, with the recreation department having prepared the plots and let us know we could get started¬†on May 1st. I’ll admit that my¬†initial reaction to the later start was to be annoyed (late March/early April would have been better for peas and other things), but when I did finally make it¬†there on May 9th (yep, more than a week after I could), it turned out alright. Like it always does ūüôā

Had I gone right away, I wouldn’t have seen the small plants coming up from the seeds left behind by last year’s plants – sunflowers, morning glories, and radishes! Apparently there were some strong little seeds¬†that made it through the winter and¬†the recreation department’s roto-tilling.

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Upon initial inspection, seeing a lot of brown

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But then after looking more closely, some green

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And some more

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And more! Here, a radish seedling.

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A cilantro plant said hello as well

It was a reminder that timing is everything. And that also important is how you respond. This time (and lately more times than not, I believe) my response was (and has been)¬†one of more going with it and seeing the beauty and appreciating what’s there. I wouldn’t call it a laissez-faire attitude, which would imply a lack of action and responsibility, but rather more of a forward-moving, active one, with ownership acknowledged. I can control and act on what I can, like getting started in the garden and planting things (tomatoes, basil, hot peppers, summer squash, cucumbers, corn, edamame, and more sunflowers, cilantro, and radishes!, so far), but you never know how it’s going to turn out. So you go with it and adapt along the way. Like, for instance, how it looks¬†like I’m going to be planting some more seeds or buying more transplants (I actually just got some cucumber and tomato transplants at the farmers’ market yesterday) for the places where the cucumber, edamame, and cilantro seeds didn’t¬†come up. And¬†that’s okay. And like, for instance, how I can take more classes, write more, draw more, apply for different jobs, go on dates, meet more people, and¬†do whatever, and we’ll¬†see how it goes¬†and figure it out.

When you have the right mindset, things also seem to happen at the right time. A friend of mine, who read a number of foodnsight posts recently, remarked how a lot of them were about time, and¬†I think he’s right. I’d thought about starting the blog¬†for a while, but it didn’t actually happen…until it happened to be right¬†time.

A coconut falls when it’s ready.

You can’t say your mother’s soup is the best until you’ve stepped out of her kitchen.

Proverbs add spice to language.

I think, but I’m¬†not completely sure, that’s how¬†these¬†three food / life / thought proverbs go. That’s how¬†I remember them at least, having heard them in lecture and in conversation by a bouncing, full of life college professor who¬†was originally from Ghana and who you could tell truly¬†enjoyed what he was doing both¬†in school as a professor and outside of school as a minister, which in general was teaching, connecting¬†with people, and adding a lot of energy and spice all around.

It’s always the right time to do what you want to do, and to do what feels right. The¬†coconut for the inception of this¬†blog fell¬†a little over a year ago, and more have been falling since, at different rates. Sometimes it’s a chance encounter with a special rutabaga (and a day off from work, and¬†the deadline of a family gathering), or sometimes it’s a neighbor’s gift of plantains (and a good run, plus a friend’s general suggestion to let the words come more easily), and then it falls more¬†quickly. Other times it’s the lessening¬†shelf-life of a winter squash, or that the gravity (and levity) simply builds up, and then it’s time. In any case, the cumulative result is also a chronicle of time passing, a certain curated version of my life that also, I hope, comes with bits of art, truth, and beauty mixed in with the radishes, pumpkins, and risotto. It’s also great when the¬†fun, funny, and creativity are all flowing.

Given the timing of this post, more than a month after the last one, I say we also take a little time and a quick look at some of the food highlights and time-points from May.

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Plantains – I made them, and they were awesome! I more or less followed my neighbor’s recipe, which in my case turned out to be¬†the following: after letting three yellow plantains ripen (after about a week they softened a bit and the outsides turned somewhat black), I peeled them, sliced them into coins, and fried them for 5-10 minutes (flipping them halfway through) in an oil mixture of 2 cups canola oil and 2 Tbsp palm oil. I also let the oil heat up first before frying them (medium heat), and when they were done I placed¬†them on a plate with a paper towel to dry.

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Spinach¬†– This one also deserves an exclamation point. Sauteed spinach with chopped garlic and rutabaga, made¬†in a mixture of canola and palm oil! I could have eaten a plateful of this it was so good.¬†It was easy too: I sauteed the diced rutabaga (about a cup’s worth) in a few Tbsp of¬†oil over medium heat, then added the¬†diced¬†garlic (a few cloves worth) and sauteed that¬†also until it was softened just like the rutabaga (this brought me to about 15 minutes now from the start), and then added the spinach (about 8 oz, but you can add more) and let it cook over low heat for a few minutes until the spinach was wilted (pictured above). As if that¬†wasn’t good enough (though it was, believe me), I also tried the following: 1) adding a handful of chopped raisins and chopped sliced almonds, and 2) adding the¬†chopped raisins and almonds, and also adding some finely shredded Parmesan cheese. Both¬†ways, so good.

If the canola and palm oil mixture sounds familiar too, it¬†should! It’s¬†the same oil that I used for the plantains. And by the “same”¬†oil, I do literally mean the same oil because, really, although plantains soak up some oil when they’re fried, the amount that remains from the original 2+ cups of oil when frying¬†three plantains is…well, I didn’t measure it, but it looked something like 1-2 cups still remaining. So there was plenty left for me to¬†use with¬†everything I cooked for about two weeks afterwards ūüôā And the rutabaga! Like a squirrel saving a food-prize for later, I still had a softball-size piece of rutabaga left over from the original¬†big one, tucked away in the back of the fridge, waiting for me to use. I had just gotten a fresh bag of spinach from the farmers’ market, and something in my head put the two together…spinach and rutabaga. Yes! It was time to cook the acorn. (I used the¬†rest of the rest of the rutabaga, similarly diced and plantain oil sauteed, in¬†a good tomato sauce the same day.)

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Asparagus –¬†Spring time means not¬†only fresh spinach, but also fresh kale, lettuce, strawberries, and asparagus! (and more). The picture above is from a few weeks ago, when I stopped at Terhune Orchards one afternoon after a bike ride and picked a few pounds of asparagus and several quarts of strawberries. Mmmmmmmmmmm, fresh local strawberries. I wish I had some right now… Yes, and asparagus too ūüôā Part of me also wishes that I had a good picture of the strawberries to use here, as a nice, sweet, juicy, red picture would look great following the yellow and green ones above. But that’s alright. And in the absence of such a picture,¬†let’s give asparagus a little extra love. If you’ve never seen asparagus¬†growing, that’s really how it¬†looks in the field, the green shoots growing right up out of the ground (followed by tall ferns later if the spears aren’t¬†harvested). To pick asparagus, you just snap the shoots¬†off at the base.¬†And then once you’re home, you can steam them, add them to pasta, put them in risotto, grill them, roast them with olive oil /¬†salt /¬†pepper and then add a little lemon juice right at the end!, and¬†do lots of other things I’ll try sometime. Lately I’ve been steaming them since it’s quick, like¬†5-10 minutes, and then¬†adding either a little salt or no salt. Easy and good.

In the process of finding the rutabaga, I came¬†across a few other things in the fridge that, shall we say, ran out of time. Usually I’m pretty good at using things¬†up, but there were a few small things I had to toss this time. And in the world where food mirrors¬†life, and combine, so too were¬†there some ideas I thought I would use when I started writing, but that now I know I’m going to have to toss. In the process of writing, and now¬†feeling where I’m at and the writing is¬†at, I’m reminded again that not everything can make it into the soup. Ideas, people, and stories can’t be forced; it’s better¬†when it all¬†flows and happens naturally. As another friend once reminded too, if it’s important and needs to be felt or said, there’s always another post, another time.

In the garden, things are growing. The passage of time, a month, allows me to share the following:

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May 9

May 16

May 16

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May 23

June 5

June 5

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Projected future outcome

Actual results may vary…

But where there are buds, flowers often follow ūüôā

For now, I found some flowers of another kind, from thinning the radishes,

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Radish bouquet

and found some color, and neat patterns too, from underground.

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How about that for beauty? It’s like looking down at farm fields from an airplane, but with¬†every shade of red instead of green (and with a lyrical inspiration nod to “The Hudson” by Dar Williams).¬†I think I have a thing for radishes.

It’s on the calendar

It’s on the calendar.

Plantains.

Next week.

Them and me. And possibly some friends.

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I just had the best plain plantains, courtesy of my  neighbor, courtesy of me taking care of her mail while she was away.

It may actually be a week or two, since I’ll be at a conference for part of next week (Baltimore!), and according to my neighbor what you do is buy the plantains green and then let them ripen for 3-4 days (they should turn yellow). But this is definitely happening.

Between now and then, I’m sure I’ll look up some recipes (if you have a good one, let me know!), but this is how she does it: after the plantains are ripe, you cut them into small pieces and fry them for about 5, not more than 10 minutes in oil. The oil (she said she used a¬†palm/vegetable oil mixture from Whole Foods) should be¬†hot enough so it sizzles a bit when you add the plantains, and you use enough oil to cover the pieces. “I don’t usually fry things and use a lot of oil like that,” she said, “but this is way to do it.” I told her I wasn’t a big fryer either but was going to do it.

She added that another thing you can do is marinade the plantains for an hour first with salt and ginger, and then fry them.¬†Sounds good to me¬†too. It looks like I’ll have at least two recipes going when the time comes.

Today we answer the question: Munchkins: Can you eat them?

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Yes!

Wizard-of-Oz-w16

No.

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Maybe so?

The question was originally posed by a friend a few months ago, when¬†I was giving a tour of the pumpkins¬†in my hallway. My response at the time was, “I don’t know, but we’re¬†going to find out!” The time for finding out finally came a few weeks ago, as one of my original three Munchkins had gone¬†bad (the floor life on that one was apparently only 5 months) and another one was starting to show a little mold ring around¬†the collar. Or you know, MRATC as they say in the business. Or as I just made up right now.

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MRATC, here visible with the Munchkin now right-side up. Its¬†lack of a middle piece stemmed¬†from my little niece having a good time moving it one day from the hallway to the kitchen, and back, on repeat ūüôā

I figured the best way to answer the question would be to bake the Munchkins as if they were regular pumpkins. So I cut them in half, then cut them in half again, scooped out the seeds, and popped them in the oven for 25-30 minutes at 375 degrees.

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After cutting away the MRATC, I wound up with six pieces to bake. I also baked them face down, as shown in the last picture above (the one with the pumpkin disco effect, #nofilter).¬†When I took them out of the oven, they looked, felt, and……….drumroll…………tasted pretty much like regular-sized pumpkins.

So, Munchkins: Can you eat them??? Yes!!

They’re not just for decoration anymore.

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Munchkins with Maple Syrup, Mmmmmmm.

If you’re feeling the fiber, you can even eat the skin, which is fairly thin. I baked the mini seeds too, and they also turned out well. I added a little olive oil and salt, and put them in the oven until crispy. I actually liked the Munchkin seeds better than the regular pumpkin seeds that I had made recently – the mini ones were less woody, more crispy, and easy to chew. I’ll try this again in the fall come pumpkin time, but I think we’ve found a keeper,¬†in particular for the seeds. Good and crunchy.¬†Has anyone else ever cooked with Munchkins? If you have some great uses or ideas, let me know!

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An Ethiopian Double – Injera and Ye Atakilt Alicha

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Let us see, what here do we have… A large bowl, used for something. The contents – empty, with a film remaining, dried. Used recently, a batter of some type, yes last night! A cutting board, similarly splattered, an upturned pot and pan behind. But why upturned? The shelves past the stove, full, a recently used bowl, close, yes the dishes! Not cooking now, but the morning after, the dishes all done but one, a bowl to go. Dish rack full, pots inverted, pots in place, pots not in place, yes pots drying! The bowl, posing, waiting, take my¬†picture, speaking what? To the brim, over, no more, no matter, well used, well spent, alive, and dried.

Yes, two¬†nights ago I made an Ethiopian dinner and had my parents over, and the night before that I went to McCarter Theater and saw¬†Ken Ludwig’s Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery. As you may have deduced. ūüôā

Injera, the Ethiopian spongy flatbread, was on the menu Saturday night, as¬†was Ye Atakilt Alicha (Green beans and carrots), Misr Wat (Red lentil stew), and Ayib (Cottage cheese). That’s four items, so yes, actually it was an Ethiopian quadruple, but it’ll be a double here for recipe-writing purposes. I shared the cottage cheese recipe last month, and I’ll do a write-up the red lentils later after I make it again.

Like the cottage cheese recipe, I got the other recipes from the Ethiopian cooking class I took in December and January. I made them all during a 3-4 hour window on Saturday afternoon (except for the first part of the injera, which you have to start earlier), and it turned out pretty good. I also got two good reviews.

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This is how¬†everything¬†looked on my plate right before I ate it. The injera was actually lighter in color (more pictures below), and yes, the shiny metal thing at the top left corner was¬†a fork. Whoops! I played with cropping out the fork, but then the rest of the picture didn’t look¬†balanced.¬†We actually didn’t use forks – gotta use just your fingers and the injera! – but the forks¬†were¬†there on the table, at least for a minute anyway at the beginning before I remembered to put¬†them away. The¬†place-settings were the product of my pace-setting, that is, of my efforts to finish and bring the final few things together at the same time, and timely. Coming up after dinner was Caf√© Improv at the Arts Council.

I wouldn’t call the injera recipe complicated, but it¬†was a two-pager –¬†page 1 was¬†how to make the irsho (sourdough starter), and page 2 was how to make the injera once the starter¬†was ready.¬†Here are the recipes and how it all¬†worked out.

Irsho (Sourdough starter)

  • 2 cups teff flour
  • 2 cups warm water
  1. Mix the teff flour and water in a large bowl
  2. Cover the bowl with cheesecloth, and store in a warm place with good circulation
  3. Stir the batter well at least once a day
  4. The starter will be ready in a few days (depends on environmental factors). When you see tiny bubbles forming at the surface, it’s good to go.

Injera

  • Sourdough starter¬†(the mixture from above)
  • 5 cups warm water
  • 2 cups teff flour (plus 1 Tbsp more)
  • 2 cups buckwheat flour (if you want¬†gluten free) or barley flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 Tbsp teff flour
  • Oil for coating the frying pan (I used a 12″ non-stick pan)
  1. Mix the starter, water (5 cups), teff flour (2 cups) and buckwheat flour (2 cups). It should have the consistency of thin pancake batter.
  2. Cover the bowl with cheesecloth, and store in a warm place to ferment for at least a day.
  3. During this time, stir the batter a few times.
  4. Then, once you’re ready to cook the injera, add the salt (1 tsp), baking soda (1 tsp), and extra teff flour (1 Tbsp). Mix together, and then let the batter sit for five minutes.
  5. Heat the frying pan over medium heat, and lightly coat with oil.
  6. Pour the batter (about 1/2 cup at a time) into the pan, and quickly turn the pan around as if making a crepe (so the batter is spread as thinly as possible and covering most of the pan).
  7. Cover the pan with a lid as the injera cooks.
  8. Cook until holes appear all over the injera. Around the same time, you’ll notice the outer edge of the injera also beginning to curl up from the pan. Together, these mean the injera is done (you only cook the injera on one side – no flipping).
  9. Remove the injera, and place on a clean cloth to cool (I stacked them on a single plate, with paper towels between each one).

As I keep trying this¬†and make injera again in the future, I have a feeling I may¬†tweak or combine the two recipes in some way. Some of the injera recipes I’ve seen online seem to omit the starter step, so that’s one thing I want to ask our instructor about. I also forget why we included some buckwheat/barley flour rather than using all teff flour – another question to follow up on with her. On the flip side (remember, no flipping the injera when you cook it), you know what making more injera means, right? That’s right! It means also making more Ethiopian dishes to go with it! And sharing them with friends and family. The recipe handout from the class was 17 pages long.

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The starter at step 1 Рthe teff flour and water, doing a good imitation of chocolate pudding mix.

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The starter after two days (also after having sat unmixed for 8 hours overnight) Рa frothy top, plus bubbles bubbling up when mixed.

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The starter ready, so now time to add the (additional) teff flour and buckwheat flour and to make the batter bigger.

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The injera batter, half a day later Рwith a thick, chocolate mousse-like consistency (until I mixed it).

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And the injera batter a day after the initial mixing Рtemporarily settled in anticipation of the cooking step.

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It was the best of injera times

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And not the best of injera times

But overall it was a good time. One note to self for the next time: Remember to cover the frying pan when cooking the injera. My mom and I were trying to figure out why the injera wasn’t¬†cooking evenly, and one by one¬†and by¬†trial and error, we settled on the following as the optimal system: use about a 1/2 cup to 5/8 cup of batter at a time, do a quick swirl-turn of the pan to spread the batter out (and do the swirl-turn fast¬†so as to not have the pan off the burner for too long), and also move the pan around as needed to¬†give more heat to certain parts. But the cover! I forgot about that. That may have been the single key to the question of ‘how to cook the injera evenly, and easily.’ The recipe above made about 15 pieces of injera. Together I think we ate 5. Good, spongy, slighty tangy: injera.

At this point, I know there might be another question out there: “Yes, there’s been a lot of talk about injera, and those bowls of brown liquid look lovely, but how hard is it to find flour?”

To this question, I will say, It’s not as teff as you think.

If you live in the greater Princeton area, you barley have to go far at all.

You could even ride your bike to the store, if you’re a young buckwheat like me.

Okay, maybe that last one wasn’t the best, but you gotta admit, the first one’s a good starter.

Pero en serio, we have some options. Store-wise, the best one-stop options for flour are the¬†Whole Earth Center and Whole Foods. Both have teff, buckwheat, and barley. The rest that I checked out were kind of hit and miss, yes-this and no-that. Wegmans has teff and buckwheat, McCaffrey’s has buckwheat, and Shoprite has barley. Wegmans had the lowest-priced teff, but otherwise the prices were about the same – a little more here, a little less there. So unless you really like food-shopping and driving around (or perhaps biking or walking, if you’re buck-wheating the trend), hitting up one of the W stores should work fine for all¬†your injera needs.

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Ye Atakilt Alicha (Green beans and carrots)

  • 3 red onions, sliced
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 6 oz tomato paste
  • 2 Tbsp ginger, minced
  • 2 Tbsp garlic, minced
  • 2 pounds green beans, ends trimmed and cut into two pieces
    (or 1 small cabbage, chopped into pieces)
  • 1 pound carrots, peeled and cut into 2″ long pieces
  • 4 jalape√Īos, seeded and sliced
  • Water, added as needed to prevent sticking
  1. Heat the oil a in pan over low heat.
  2. Add the onions and salt, and cook until soft or browned.
  3. Add the tomato paste, ginger, and garlic, and cook for about 10 minutes.
  4. Add the carrots, and cook for about 10 minutes.
  5. Add the green beans, and cook until the carrots and green beans are mostly tender.
  6. Add the¬†jalape√Īos, and cook for 5 minutes.
    Note: if the mixture is sticking to the pan along the way, add a little water. You can also cover the pan to have the carrots and green beans cook more quickly.

This is one of those¬†recipes that is simple, easy to make, and tastes great.¬†I’ve made it twice now with green beans (pictured below) and also twice with cabbage.

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Even when I played around with the recipe – like by cooking the onions without the oil (just with a little water) and adding the oil later, or by cooking the onions in half the oil, or by cooking the whole recipe over medium heat and adding more water as needed along the way – it always turned out good.

When we made it during the class, I also realized¬†the following: you don’t need¬†to chop off the bottom ends of the garlic – you can mince everything and then toss it all¬†in! I’m not sure why¬†I had never thought of that before, but doing that is awesome – several seconds saved, and my sense of conservation satisfied. In the class, we also sometimes used a grater/shredder for the ginger and garlic. So that’s an option too if one day, you know, you find yourself in an extra grate mood.

In any case…here a few final notes and pictures on the¬†alicha.¬†For the carrots, first I cut them into pieces about¬†2″ long. Then I took the fatter pieces (the ones that had come from the big¬†ends of the carrots), and I split them in half the long way to make them closer in size to¬†the rest. They don’t have to be¬†perfect – any size is fine – but this made the pieces¬†about the same size.

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The green beans don’t have to be perfectly uniform, either. And in fact you (or perhaps some helpful friends or kids) can do this step with just your (or their) hands – no knife necessary. That’s how we did it in the class – we snapped the ends off and then snapped the beans in half.

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With¬†the¬†jalape√Īos, if you like things a little hotter, you probably know what to do. I didn’t add¬†any seeds to the alicha, but they’re there if you want them, and the jalape√Īos can also cook for more or less time at the end.

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And that’s it! An Ethiopian Quadruple Double. Give them a try, and see what you think. It’s no mystery I think they’re pretty good ūüôā

Hot Not Tabbouleh

Let’s file this one under hearty, midweek, easy, and good.¬†I made an initial version of it earlier in the week, and I was like, “Hmmm, this is pretty good for being pretty simple,” and then I made it again yesterday so that I could give it to a friend and also refine it/write about it.

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While the first goal will be a goal-postponed – given the snow, my friend and I decided to connect on another day – the second goal is in the process now of being a goal-realized. ūüôā

As many a cook knows, many times or perhaps most or even all of the time, what you make often turns our a little different every time. This is especially true when you keep the ingredients (mostly) the same and don’t worry (too much) about the exact amounts. In this case, I knew the ingredients that I’d used the first time but not the precise amounts. I also decided to make a small spice swapperoo at the end. The result? The second version was indeed different from the first, and better.

The dish’s slightly different appearance the second time I made it also moved it a little further from how it reminded me of tabbouleh (the dish’s brown rice and spinach looked a little darker this time, I think because I used a little more tomato paste), but no matter for the name. I like the original name I gave it; it’s more interesting than calling it, say, vegetable-bean-spinach-baked-tofu rice; and in the end, it’s still a hot version of something somewhat reminiscent of tabbouleh, yet something else.

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First version

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Second version

Hot Not Tabbouleh

The igredients

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 onions, chopped into small pieces
  • 3 garlic cloves, diced
  • 1 red pepper, chopped into small pieces
  • 16 oz (1 can) light red kidney beans
  • 1 1/4 cup corn kernels
  • 16 oz spinach
  • 2.5 cups cooked brown rice (1 cup uncooked)
  • 3 oz tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • Lemon juice from 1/2 lemon
  • 16 oz extra firm tofu
  • 2.5 Tbsp soy sauce

[Wow, 17 ingredients! That might be the longest list in this space so far. It’s possible you have all or most of them already, though. The only things I didn’t have until that first day were the spinach and the corn, which I happened to buy (frozen) on a whim while wandering Wegmans.]

The steps

  1. Make the rice. (I used a rice cooker.)
  2. Bake the tofu.¬†(Press out extra water, cut into small slabs (I made them about 1/2″ x 1″), mix with the soy sauce in a bowl, and bake on a baking sheet at 400 degrees for 40 minutes, flipping them once half-way through.)
  3. Then do the rest. Start by sauteing the onions and garlic in a large pan over medium heat. Sauté until mostly soft.
  4. Add the red peppers and sauté until mostly soft
  5. Add the beans, corn, and spinach
  6. Add the rice, tomato paste, wine, and water. If there is any soy sauce left in the bowl, add that too.
  7. Mix everything together and cook for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally to keep it from sticking to the bottom.
  8. Add the salt, pepper, chili powder, and lemon juice
  9. Cut the baked tofu pieces in half lengthwise, and add them to the pan
  10. Mix everything together and cook for another 10 minutes
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Most of the ingredients

Partial progress (just after the sauté)

Just after sauteing the onion, garlic, and red pepper

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The tofu, baked

Tofu, halved

The tofu, halved

And all ready to go

And the final dish, ready to go

If you’ve never had Hot Not Tabbouleh before (and if you made it through that last dependent clause), let me tell you, it’s got some substance to it. There’s a touch of sweetness from the corn kernels in most bites, a hint of smokiness from the chili powder, and a spinach smoothness that makes you wonder if there isn’t some melted cheese somewhere in there too.

As I was making it the first time, my general thinking was that I wanted to try new combinations of ingredients (using what I had on hand) and ultimately make something new. This included using a spice that I had only used once in a while – Chile Con Limon.

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While I liked how the first version of the dish tasted, with the second version I decided to try another type of Chile Con Limon:

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My main reason was I wanted to use more whole ingredients, like real lemon juice in place of what I saw on the El Monte Spices Chile Con Limon label (citric acid, dehydrated lemon, lemon juice, lemon peel, and natural flavors).¬†Of course, as I’m writing this now, it occurred to me that I should also take a look at the ingredient list on the McCormick Chili Powder label. Well, it looks like my Hot Not Tabbouleh, version two, has a small amount of silicon dioxide. Maybe, like the beans, tofu, and spinach also in it, it’ll help make certain things, if you know what I mean, more free flowing? Like it’ll loosen things up and help give a different air?

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Oh, stop, I’m just bean funny.

With my selection of a real lemon, maybe I was also channeling¬†the recipe’s second cousin, actual tabbouleh, for which lemon juice is a standard ingredient.

Whatever the case may be, the second coming of Hot Not Tabbouleh turned out pretty good. I’ll probably make it again at some point in the future – or to be more precise, I’ll make a similar¬†but slightly different version again – and that as before, it’ll be good again, and possibly better.