Archive for January, 2011

January 31, 2011

Blue Potato Soup

It’s getting to that time of year: our garlic is half rotted, the potatoes are growing legs, there’s only one onion left in the fridge (where we have learned onions last the longest). So, as we slog through the last week before our next market, we’re using up the last of January’s vegetables.

Tonight we had a potato soup with ditalini pasta (the very small round tubes), mushrooms, frozen kale and fresh croutons. We used a variety of blue potatoes that turn a range of soft purples after cooked-and held their shape better than white or yellow potatoes like Fingerlings, German Butterballs, or Yukon golds. In the High Mowing seed catalog the blue potato that keeps its color is called “All Blue.”

Here’s the recipe:

Peel and chop five mid-sized blue potatoes.
Chop two shallots, three large cloves of garlic, and two mushrooms.
Lightly sauté the vegetables in a tablespoon of butter at the bottom of the soup pot.
Add eight cups of water and a few pinches of tarragon.
Bring to a boil and then turn down, add one cube of vegetarian bouillon.
Seasons with black pepper, rosemary, tarragon, and salt.

Meanwhile, make up the pasta. When the pasta is ready and the potatoes have become soft, turn off the heat and throw in as much kale (fresh or frozen) as you would like. Stir until soft and then serve with croutons (and parmesan cheese, if that’s something you like).

To make the croutons we chopped up the bits of stale bread. Heat olive oil, black pepper, salt, and a hint of garlic powder, in a shallow pan. When you can just feel the warmth when you hold your hand over the pan, add the bread and stir constantly until crispy.

This soup also underscores the value of preparation before a winter of seasonal eating. The bags of kale in our freezer help us extend the stored veggies we rely on (e.g. potatoes, onions, garlic). If you can afford the expense and the time, buy a bit extra at the farmers’ market next summer and freeze it right away. Fresh herbs like parsley and dill (although not basil, which turns black) are simple – just chop coarsely and put into freezer bags. Peppers are just as easy. Blanch kale for 3 minutes before freezing to keep the color and flavor intact. Sweet corn also keeps its flavor well, although you have to boil it then cut the kernels off the cob before freezing it. These are just a few of our favorites. Putting Food By is an excellent resource if you’d like to learn more about stocking up before next winter.

The soup was certainly no midsummer fresh tomato and eggplant delight. Sure, I would love to eat tomatoes year round, would love it if every week I had two bunches of fresh parsley, but this is about eating what we have this time of year. And at this time of year, people should be eating potatoes. Here’s what I come back to: this soup is good enough. It was filling, yummy, and made with what we have.

January 30, 2011

Asian Greens and Tofu with Peanut Sauce

This has become a favorite of ours this winter because it’s simple, tasty, and more or less failsafe. It does call for several things we obviously can’t get locally, but none of these are produce. This is a good recipe for a few people to make, since it’s full of separate sections, but it’s also fairly straightforward alone.

1 cabbage or 4-5 cups of Asian cooking greens
1 block firm tofu
Peanut sauce
First, get your rice started, if it’s brown rice you need to leave more time than white rice, so keep that in mind
1. Cut the tofu into small cubes and lay them on a clean cloth to dry.
2. Fry the tofu in a little neutral oil until they start to turn golden brown, about 20-30 minutes depending on your stove. Try to avoid moving them more than you need to prevent sticking. When they are done, set them aside in a bowl.
Meanwhile, don’t lose track of the rice, and start the greens:
3. Chop the cabbage or Asian greens into two-inch long strips and set aside
4. Finely chop two shallots and three cloves of garlic.
5. Cook the shallots and garlic until they turn slightly translucent, then add the cabbage or Asian and a few tablespoons of water.
Meanwhile, make up the peanut sauce:

We like to use Mark Bittman’s peanut sauce from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian but you can use whatever peanut sauce you like. We’ve been using Ithaca Tofu, a delicious tofu brand made in Ithaca, NY.

January 25, 2011

Making Brownies on a Cold Winter’s Night

It is 1ºF out and this week’s first round of snow has just started falling. In the street lamp outside our living room window we can see the snow dusting the street; in the morning it will be ice. The weather isn’t predicted to break for a while. It’s the perfect night for brownies.

Tonight we’re making the brownies I grew up on.  My dad and I used to whip these up in the evenings, a double batch so he could take some to work and the family could eat the rest.  It’s a great recipe because, as my dad says, “you can mix these up and have them in the oven in under ten minutes.”

Maida Heatter’s All American Brownies:

Over the years Maida Heatter’s careful, often obsessive instruction have been lost, but, the gist of it is still here, and it still works beautifully.  I do remember that she recommends pressing aluminum foil over the outside of your pan, then laying it inside the pan to perfectly line it.  You can also just grease the pan without foil.

1/4 lb butter
2 oz unsweetened baker’s chocolate
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
1/2 cup flour
pinch of salt

1. Melt butter and chocolate over low heat or a double boiler.  Add vanilla and eggs and sugar.  We don’t have an electric mixer, but if you had one, you’d use it now.

2. Stir in the flour and salt.


3. Preheat the over to 350.
4. Grease your 8×8 inch pan and pour in the batter.
5. Bake 20-25 minutes.  If you’re us, your oven is hyperactive so the trick is to check early and many times.  When you check, stick a fork, knife, or toothpick into the middle and if it comes out just a little gooey, then the brownies are done.  If it comes out dry, you’ve gone too far.