Anyway, I’ll try to keep it brief, since this is a do-over. I’d just like to say that I felt very happy, picking these tomatoes. It was at the CSA. I was hot as hell, sweating like a madman, face burning to a crisp. But there was something so hopeful about the rows and rows of tomato plants laden with heavy pale green-just-turning-rosy tomatoes. And then I heard some high-pitched peep-peeping. Goldfinches! Brighter than day, and closer than I’d ever seen them, on top of the tomato stakes, talking to one another. Beautiful!So – this tarte tatin was as good as I’d remembered it! I decide to redo the whole post, because the last time I posted I was very strange and luke-warm about the whole thing, and I didn’t write up the recipe like a recipe. Claire, what were you thinking? Let me assure you the tart is lovely – sweet, savory, vegetal, with a very satisfying crust. Last time I cooked the tomatoes in a frying pan, and transferred them to a cake pan. This time, I cooked them in the frying pan, without moving them much at all, and then I put the crust on top and put the whole thing into the oven. Which worked very well, and is my recommended method, if you have a frying pan with a metal handle!
I have some cabbage from the CSA. I decided against stuffing it with klondike bars and lard, and opted instead to make a galette. I wanted it to be sweet and cripsyish, but also soft and comforting. I like cabbage when it’s very lightly cooked, so that’s how I approached this galette. I made a walnut crust (surprise!) and threw a few handfuls of toasted walnuts into the filling as well, for crunch. I was determined to add potatoes to the filling, and so I did, after frying them in olive oil. They were lovely! I flavored it with tamari (in a nod to moo shoo vegetable, which is one of the few cabbage dishes I like), white wine, and basil, tarragon, and thyme. I think it turned out really tasty! David liked it, too, and he’s not a fan of cabbage in any form. Score!! It’s not the prettiest thing you’ll ever make, so serve it with something colorful and crunchy, like a crispy salad with lots of fresh tomatoes and basil.
So – we got some onions from the farm. It might seem odd, but this has been one of my biggest veg challenges to date. I like shallots, chives, scallions… I just don’t love actual onions. They’re too much! I don’t like the smell of them clinging to walls and clothes like some bad dream from a Tom Waits song. But I tried caramelizing them, and I think they’re quite nice. I followed Deborah Madison’s recipe to the letter (except that I halved it). If ever I were to follow a recipe, it would certainly be hers. She’s my hero! And I decided to put them on a big, pizza-like tart. With brie, capers, and artichoke hearts, and fresh sage and fresh thyme. Because I had all those things, and they told me they’d be good together! And they were! This was very easy, and very tasty. I used a buttery pate brisée crust, but you could use pizza dough instead, if you were in the mood.
I’m making slow progress with The Bros. Karamazov, but I’m enjoying it so much. I love to read novels in which the characters think so deeply and question everything – their lives, their souls their place in the world and society – to such an extent that this becomes a huge part of the drama. Levin’s musings at the end of Anna Karenina make me weepy! His story should be over, if you take it plot point by plot point, but there’s so much he doesn’t understand! When I was little I used to think about things in this way (at least that’s how I remember it). I used to try to figure it all out, and understand how I fit in with everything, and get all confused, and then have little flashes of clarity where certain things made sense. And then I’d heat up some frozen french fries and pore over a Tintin. I was a weird kid!! At some point I stopped thinking about it so much…everything goes so fast you get swept along, hour to hour, day to day. Maybe it’s better that way…there’s something to be said for just getting on with your day, getting things done. And we’ll always have Russian novels! And you just know they’re eating beets, because, um, borscht is Russian, right? We got some red beets from our CSA, and then I went to a market and saw some big beautiful golden beets, and I couldn’t resist! So we’ve got beets for weeks. I decided to make a beet tarte tatin. This is an upside-down tart, usually involving apples and caramel. I thought it would be nice to make a savory version with beets, because they’re so sweet that they seem to form their own caramel when you cook them. (I’ve tried it in the past with green tomatoes and that turned out well!) I added some balsamic, lemon zest, orange juice and goat cheese – a few tart, bright elements to offset the earthy sweetness of the beets. I think it came out really well! I cooked all the beets, and then I had too many to fit in one layer, so I made two layers. I think, if I had a do over, I’d make one layer of beets, and save the rest to toss with pasta or chop into a salad, because the two layers of beets was very beet-y. Delicious, though, if you like beets!! With a real tarte tatin, you use a skillet to caramelize the apples, then you put the dough right on that and put the whole thing in the oven. I wasn’t sure my skillet could handle it, so I transfered it to a cake pan. If you have a big, oven-proof skillet, though – you’re golden!!
And the other day, I made a nice salad-ish meal with roasted beets and potatoes, sliced thin, and sprinkled with french feta and hazelnuts. The whole assemblage being made upon a bed of arugula. I used a combination of red beets, golden beets, red bliss potatoes and yukon gold potatoes, and it was very pretty indeed!!
I love the idea of community gardens and alotments – shared patches of land that people work together to grow food. Eating is such a communal activity, it seems right that growing food should be as well. We get a box of vegetables delivered to us each saturday, and I feel like a kid on Christmas morning as I lift out all of our treasures. And then through the week we visit the farm to pick certain crops that are in season. The boys like to come, too (especially when it’s raspberry season) and they’re a big help in filling up my baskets. It’s a joy to watch them meander through glowing green rows of sweet peas and tomatoes, following the dizzy paths of bees buzzed on sunshine; so pleased with themselves when they find plump, warm vegetables. It’s wonderful to get vegetables I know we love, of course, but it’s a fun challenge to get some we’re not as familiar with, as well. I love dreaming up recipes that will make any vegetable taste good.
This first week wasn’t a challenge at all! I love everything we got – spinach, chard, kale, leeks and … turnips!! Turnips are among my favorite vegetables. And these were beautiful little spring turnips, creamy white and sweet. They didn’t need to be peeled. And their greens were in great shape, as well, which is something I almost never find at the grocery store. I think that turnips, thyme and sharp cheddar are a nearly perfect combination, and I decided to bake that combination into a pie. I like leeks with thyme and cheddar, too, so of course I added those. I wanted to cook the turnip greens into the pie, and I added a big helping of spinach, to soften their sharp flavor. I decided to make a buttermilk crust, just for a change, but you could easily use a regular pate brisée crust, if you wanted something flakier.
That’s right, I ate quinoa in 1993! That’s got to make me one of the first wave of quinoaers, right? Old school! Except for maybe the Incas. They might have come first. When I first met David (in 1993) he made a quinoa-barley soup that his co-worker had recommended. And it was really good! I have to admit that I don’t cook with it as often as I should, and I’m ashamed to admit that it might be because it’s so popular now! It’s so earnestly vegetarian, which is a quality I admire in a food, but sometimes it makes me take a step back from it for a while. Silly, I know!!
If you’re looking for a way to introduce quinoa to somebody who hasn’t tried it, this might be it, because the quinoa is so much a harmonious part of everything going on around it. Malcolm asked what the little floating curls were, and I said, “sea monkeys!” Fortunately he’s too young to know what those are, so I revised my answer to “the ultimate Incan super-food, that made them into superheroes!” He liked the soup a lot, anyway.
I think this soup turned out really well! I’m quite proud of it! It’s got a really pleasing flavor and texture. Very savory, soft, but substantial, and comforting. I grated the zucchini, which, once cooked, gave it a perfect sort of texture. And I puréed half the spinach and chopped the other. I used the broth left over from cooking french lentils, but I think you could make a simple vegetable broth and it would be fine. It’s as close to chicken soup as I’ve come since I stopped eating chicken soup. And probably better for you! It’s simply seasoned with fresh thyme, nutmeg and cinnamon. I wasn’t sure this combination would work, but I went ahead with it on a whim, and it’s really good!
By the harsh light of day, the truth is that I don’t always cook dinner so fast. Sometimes I make dinners that take all day, on and off. But, as it happens, some of the best dinners are dinners that take no time at all. This doesn’t mean they’re dull, it just means that we’re vegetarians, and the best vegetables are frequently lightly cooked vegetables. So, here’s a good meal for a night that you want something quick and tasty. Kale and carrots braised in white wine with thyme and caraway seeds, served with israeli couscous made into a sort of pilaf with apricots and pistachios and goat cheese. Simple.