By demand: Food Saturdays
After getting a number of emails and comments asking for more posts about cooking, I thought it wouldn’t be too much trouble to do a sort of Food Saturday, where I share a meal or two from the week, in lieu of the more intense chronicling I did while writing about my CSA. Even without the CSA, I’m still cooking locally and seasonally as much as possible, mostly because I’m cheap and I’ve figured out you get more bang for your buck that way, since season, local vegetables are often inexpensive (same price or cheaper at the farmer’s market than the grocery store, at least in Brooklyn), but pack way more flavor. Eating healthier, as I noted before, is infinitely easier if you stick to flavorful foods. Having good flavors helps replace the urge to eat fatty or sweet foods that leave you unsatisfied.
Plus, there’s a few more challenges that might be interesting to work out with the community. I made a resolution at the top of the year to eat more whole grains and to find lots of uses for my new kitchen gadgets. On this front, I’ve done really well with the immersion blender and the mini-chopper, but I haven’t really taken full advantage (yet) of the slicing and grating functions on the food processor. But I did make a strong move towards more whole grains. I bought a variety of them, so that they’re staring at me in the pantry and begging to be used. I’ve changed kitchens, which brings new challenges. This new one is smaller (the refrigerator is technically in the living room, very New York), but it actually has more built-in storage and counter space, plus it opens up to a balcony and gets lots of natural light, which just makes you want to be in there. Because of all the extra storage and counter space, I was able to sell one of my portable counters, and the other is in the living room by the refrigerator. Don’t worry; we found a way to make it look okay, with help from a landlord that built a little cubby for the refrigerator.
I know some of you made food resolutions yourself, so it could be fun to use these threads to track your progress. Without further adieu, a couple of highlights from the week. These are more freeform than before, but the great thing about the internet is that you can use inspiration and google around for recipes.
Polenta and beans
Lindsay Beyerstein signed us up for a class in seasonal cooking, and I learned this excellent, low-stress way to make polenta in the oven with a Dutch oven. A lot of people think of polenta as fancy shit that comes in a tube—I know that’s how I’ve thought of it in the past—but actually it’s just cornmeal cooked with water. Super filling, high fiber, very healthy. And cheap: a bag of cornmeal costs a little more than a dollar, and you can get 4 quarts of soft polenta from that. You can use this basic recipe, but what the chef showed us was that you can just toss a bunch of veggies in with the polenta, and they’ll cook right up with it. So, I tossed in butternut squash, carrots, green onions, some parsley, and some garlic. You can use less water or cook it more if you want it thicker. If it’s a little soupy when you first pull it out, that’s okay—you want to let it wait for 5-10 minutes to serve, and it gets firmer.
I had made, for Super Bowl Sunday, a dish of pinto beans baked in salsa verde with cheese on top. I had about half left over, so I decided to remake them as a second dish, and also to use up some of the leftover beer in the fridge. The beans in their original form are to the left. Browned some onions, added a little garlic, then I dumped the beans in and poured beer over them. (This was all experimental, mind you.) As I hoped, the beer helped liquefy the cheese nicely, and rehydrate the beans. It was delicious, too, since the beer added depth to the flavor, making what was a sort of basic cheese mix taste much richer. It was so rich, in fact, we ended up having to mix it in with the polenta to eat it.
Polenta makes a good breakfast food. Just fry an egg and pour it over the polenta, maybe with a little hot sauce. One thing I learned about eggs from Lindsay is that cage free chickens who get to eat whatever they find—maggots, vegetation on the ground, whatever chickens eat—actually produce eggs that have omega 3 fatty acids, which are the kind you actually need. Not to make life overly complicated, but yeah, eggs may be good or bad for you, depending on where you get them.
As part of my goal to eat more whole grains, I bought a bunch of barley, and while looking around for stuff to do with it, I discovered you can make risotto out of it. This was great news, because I love risotto, but I don’t love that it’s low fiber and don’t have a lot of nutritional value in general. Barley, however, is high protein and high fiber. So, I took a bunch of squash from the farmer’s market, roasted it, and made a risotto with barley instead of with Arborio rice.
As I noted with my New Year’s food resolutions, I got an immersion blender for Christmas, and I wanted to really expand the recipes I could make because of it. That’s been going swimmingly, and I’ve been making lots of soup. For this dinner, I got some farmer’s market sweet potatoes, boiled them in veggie broth, added some white beans and flavorings (mostly of the spicy sort), and then all blended it with an immersion blender. Then, to add depth, I cooked in some of the beer. Served it all with steamed broccoli.