Saturday, October 31, 2009

Vegan Potato Leek Swiss Chard Soup!

This is going to be a picture-free post because, quite frankly, pictures of potato and leek soup are generally disgusting.

It's the end of October, and our CSA is winding down. No longer in the warm, heady days of summer, our farmer has been sending a lot of carrots, celery, potatoes and dark, leafy greens. This week we got a couple of leeks, too, so last night's recipe was pretty obvious: potato, leek and swiss chard soup.

Matt and Batya invited Nicole and me to their place for dinner last night. It was a lovely autumn meal on a beautiful, warm mid-autumn evening. We started out with Batya's zucchini fritters - crispy little pancakes full of feta and dill and dipped in a tzatsiki sauce - and some of the cheese Nicole brought back from Vermont - a soft, creamy and sharp horseradish cheddar and a firmer, milder sage cheddar. Yum!

Batya made a delicious salad out of this week's lettuce, apples, thinly sliced red onions and Annie's goddess dressing. Everyone raved about it - apples in salad are so good. They add just enough crunch and sweetness and... I don't know, awesomeness. Trust me, the salad was good times all around.

Second course was the soup. I'd looked at a bunch of recipes, but most of the traditional ones wouldn't work for one reason or another. Nicole and Batya are both vegetarians, and Nicole can't have too much dairy, so a traditional chicken-stock-and-milk recipe was not going to cut it. I found this recipe online and used it as a basic guideline to bring our soup to fruition.

The initial saute in the dutch oven combined a carrot, some celery, an onion and three cloves of garlic with some olive oil and a little bit of dried thyme. We let them brown a bit and get soft, then added three very small leeks, one very large mutant leek and about four cups of brown-skinned potatoes, scrubbed and peeled by the fabulous Sous Chef Matt Berman. A few more minutes of cooking passed, then we added five cups of water and five veggie bullion cubes, a bay leaf, some fresh thyme and a whole bunch of fresh dill and let it all bubble away for forty minutes or so while we drank some wine and chatted and played with Matt and Batya's six week old son. (Cutest baby ever, by the way!)

When everything was nice and soft and combined, we stuck the immersion blender into the pot and blended it all up into a delicious, veggie-full puree. The swiss chard was chopped into thin ribbons and added, along with salt and pepper, for a quick wilt into the soup. We served it up with slices of sourdough bread to good reviews all around! (I still think it could have used some butter and a splash or two of half and half... but that's just my love of dairy fat speaking. Even vegan, the soup was delicious!)

Dessert was cheesecake and chocolate covered strawberries, picked up by Batya in honor of Nicole's birthday. Aww! Happy birthday, Nicole!

I'm going to be out of town for the next couple of weeks, so this week's CSA delivery was one of the last for me. I'm gonna miss it over the winter, but I'm definitely looking forward to next year! I'll continue to update the blog with adventures in wintertime Greenmarket cooking... celeraic remoulade, anyone?

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Quasi-drunk food photography. We've all been there.

CSA dinner tonight was at the other Nicole's place... we can do this first-grade style and call her Nicole M for purposes of this blog entry. Nicole M and her partner, Rhonda, live in a gorgeous brownstone in Prospect Heights that gives me the kind of real estate - and especially kitchen - envy that can only be dulled by three glasses of wine and a nosedive into the leftover pumpkin whoopie pies from One Girl Cookies. Nicole M is Nicole R's share partner, so for tonight's cooking endeavors, we decided to get our CSA sharing team together for a cookout on their deck! (We were short one Matt and Batya, but since they've got a three week old baby, their absence can be excused. This time.)

Damn, these two are amazing hosts. Look at that cheese plate! We sliced up CSA apples and pears to team up with the cheese. Those gorgeous, bright orange CSA carrots were used to scoop up some otherworldly tuna salad, and Rhonda grilled some halloumi cheese for our second cheese course.

Oh yeah. I said it. Second cheese course. If you're not jealous right now, you're just wrong.

But we were just getting started...

Dinner consisted of deliciously grilled chicken, again courtesy of Rhonda, who's a master at the grill. Seriously, she has a silver James Bond-esque case just for her implements of grilling. I think I have a new best friend.

Moving on... we cut up our assorted potatoes, wrapped them in foil with olive oil, rosemary and thyme and plopped them on the grill. The green beans were lightly cooked and combined with caramelized red onion, feta cheese, fresh dill from the garden and a lemon dijon dressing.

And those yummy cobs of corn were just thrown onto the grill in their husks. We rolled them in butter at the table, just in case there wasn't enough dairy fat in the meal. (Can there ever be enough dairy fat in a meal? I don't think so.) But on the off chance we were skimping on the cheese portion of the evening, there was a third cheese dish: this beautiful Caprese salad.

Aren't those little basil leaves the cutest? I just want to take them home and snuggle up with them. And then eat them.

By the time dessert rolled around - pumpkin and chocolate whoopie pies, assorted cupcakes and eensy weensy little palmiers from One Girl Cookies and a Trader Joe's apple pie - we were all too full to even contemplate eating more food, let alone taking pictures of it. We eventually made room for the eating part. Or at least I did.

There's always room for frosting.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Hey look, corn and slow-cooker barbecue chicken!

Last Thursday, Nicole and I weren't really sure what to expect in our CSA haul. Even though we're firmly into October, we've still been getting things - like corn and tomatoes - that I sort of associate with late summer, and so far, we haven't gotten any of the root vegetables that we're still dying to bake into warm, yummy gratins and casseroles. We also felt like a challenge. So we made Indian food!

Here are the veggies we started with... hello, beautifuls!

Neither of us had ever attempted something quite as intimidating as Indian food before, so I scoured the Internerd for appropriate recipes. We hit up Sahadi's for spices before heading to the CSA. Turmeric, cardamom pods, cumin... and some garam masala that exploded in my bag on the way home, giving my shiny new apple haul a light dusting of garam masala that may or may not accidentally infuse the applesauce I'm planning to make tomorrow.

The recipes seemed easy enough, so I got a little cocky and didn't really follow any particular recipe to the letter. I couldn't find a mixed vegetable curry recipe that felt right, so I just sort of made it up as I went along, following the basic proportions of onion, garlic, ginger paste and spices to mixed-up veggies. We had the most gorgeous orange and yellow carrots, some wax beans left over from last week, some strange flat green beans and a couple of Japanese eggplant. I tossed in a little extra chili powder to make it spicy, and stirred in some yogurt towards the end to make it creamy, and in the end, it was tasty - if a bit too spicy.

Since we'd already bought the spices, and since Jessica and I are both suckers for it, we also made chicken korma with the same basic ingredients, sliced almonds, some butter that I didn't bother to clarify, a can of coconut milk and some more yogurt. The korma was definitely underspiced, but... you know, whatevs. I tried!

Served over basmati rice, we wound up feeding five hungry Brooklynites - and stuffing a couple of sample bites into a sixth - with leftovers a-plenty. I'm definitely not opening up an Indian restaurant any time soon, but I think we were all pretty happy with the results!

Veggie curry on the left, chicken korma on the right

Extreme closeup! This is actually kind of gross. I have to stop
photographing food after three glasses of wine.

This Thursday, we're planning on a goodbye-warm-weather barbecue at Nicole 2's place. I'm hoping for some eggplant to throw on the grill... and maybe some turnips for that gratin, finally.