Monday, November 16, 2009

Stocking up for the Winter

For us in the Northeast, the Saturday before Thanksgiving is traditionally the last farmer's market of the season. In other words, it's time to stock up. Which is why I braved the rain on Saturday and hit my local market.

With a little Googling, I found a great table listing produce and ideal storage conditions (from Knott’s Handbook for Vegetable Growers by way of the University of Wisconsin). Just like our ancestors did, you can actually store much of the late fall produce (and you don't even need a root cellar). *Apples: According to the guide, late season apples store the best at cool temperatures and high humidity (to help retain moisture). The chart indicates you could get two-to-six months under the perfect conditions, but I was not quite ready to buy a bushel and test it out. Instead, I bought some to use in apple sauce, some to eat and a few to save in the crisper. *Cabbage: I don't eat a lot of cabbage, but the guide claims a head should last three-to-six weeks in the fridge. I got some brussel sprouts to roast this week (as I don't think they will last quite as long as a big head of cabbage!). *Garlic: Farmers market garlic tastes a lot better than the kind you get a conventional grocery store, and has a shelf life of six-to-nine months. *Kale: I am new convert to kale, particularly Tuscan kale, and throw it in everything from stir fries to soups. While I still have not figured out how to make a good kale chip (they say they taste like potato chips) or how to enjoy eating kale raw in a salad, I picked up two bunches, which should last two-to-three weeks. *Onion: I heart small red onions. I like to make a salad and use up one small onion versus hack off part of a big one (and then have the remnants stinking up the fridge). Onions are fickle, though, and can last anywhere from a few weeks (especially if they seem moist) to eight months, according to the chart.

*Potato: Under ideal conditions, tubers will last a while. Cool, dark and dry places are best to avoid rotting, sprouting and greening. *Winter Squash: Most sources claim that squash will last about one month, cool, dark place. I bought two butternuts, so check back in and I will let you know!

Eldress Bertha's Apple Sauce (From Cooking Light)
If you think apple sauce is for babies, you have not tried homemade! I like texture, so I use a variety of apples, including those that are a bit more firm and keep their shape. Try adding pomegranate seeds for extra crunch and flair. This also makes a good topping for vanilla ice cream!
Find the recipe here.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Keuka Gold meets Green Leeks: Potato Leek Soup

Hard to believe there are only two more weekends for most outdoor farmers markets (many shut down the weekend before Thanksgiving). Judging by the weather, and bounty of produce and prepared food at my local market on Saturday, you'd never guess. Since the end is near, I went a bit wild, dropping a bundle on staples like red onions, apples and yams, but also special items like Tuscan kale and vanilla yogurt and Indian food (you gotta love a market that has a stand selling samosas next to a stand that sells winter squash). However, despite being in a buying mood, I wasn't really in a cooking mood over the weekend. But with a new bunch of leeks, and those Keuka Gold potatoes from the Irvington market sitting on my counter for almost a month, I decided to throw together a quick potato leek soup. Keuka Gold (featured in The New York Times last month) have really thin skins, so I just left them unpeeled and diced the well-scrubbed spuds. Perhaps because I chose to leave the skin on, the final product took on the slightest greenish (leek) gray (potato skin) cast. But it tasted great. And was simple to make, leaving me more time to enjoy the Indian summer sun and less at the stove.
Easy Potato Leek Soup
Believe it or not, this soup actually freezes ok, but the components do separate, so you must add dairy after it's thawed to bind the ingredients back together. And if you bring a frozen container to work to heat up for lunch? Stir in one or two of those small containers of creamer at the end! This recipe makes two, 2-cup servings.
2 Leeks, washed and roughly chopped
1 T. Butter
1 T. Olive oil
1 Shallot, roughly chopped
2 Slices of Bacon, diced
1 Lb. of Potatoes, 1/2 inch dice (I used Keuka Gold, but you can sub Yukon Gold)
3 C. Chicken broth
Splash of milk/half and half/cream
Chives, minced (for garnish)
Fresh ground black pepper
Saute leeks in butter and oil over medium heat for about eight minutes (until softened but not browned).
Season liberally with salt and pepper; add shallot and bacon to the leeks and cook for two minutes.
Add potatoes and broth; bring broth to a boil and then turn down heat and simmer, uncovered, until potatoes are tender.
Turn off heat and let cool slightly; puree with an immersion blender (or in batches in a regular blender) until desired consistency.
Stir in a splash of milk, half and half, or cream before serving; garnish with chives.

Monday, November 2, 2009

London Calling: Kappacasein at Borough Market

I've been doing a lot of traveling lately, which is why I have been doing less cooking (and less blogging!). In fact, I just returned from a big trip -- across the pond to London. I first visited London as a recent high school grad and have been back several times since. It was great to visit old favorites as well as make new discoveries. And for me, no trip to London is complete without a stop at Borough Market. Tucked under London Bridge, on the South Bank, Borough Market is foodie paradise. With a 50-50 mix of whole and prepared foods, even tourists without access to cooking facilities can eat their way through the market. But for me, there's only one stand to hit -- the "Raclette Guy." Originally affiliated with Neal's Yard Dairy, this visit, I noticed a new name on the stand -- Kappacasein (which Google tells me is a protein that is key to the cheese-making process). A recent Serious Eats post makes it sound like Kappacasein is still associated with the famous cheese shop, which is a relief. Despite the new name (and new prices), the stand still sells two dishes, both featuring gooey, melted cheese: raclette (which I have attempted to make before) and luscious cheese toasties, otherwise know as THE BEST TOASTED CHEESE SANDWICH IN THE WORLD. In my opinion, the key to their success is not the sourdough bread (although I think that is really the only kind of bread one should use for toasted cheese). Nor is it the nice mix of scallion, red onion and garlic sandwiched between the bread. No, it's the cheese. This time, I am pretty sure the cheese was a cows milk variety called Ogleshield and it was delicious, mild and melty. I must find some here in the States. If you visit, once you're done with your sandwich, resist the urge to go back for seconds, and instead wander west along the Thames River and hit the Tate Modern or cool home design stores (including Joseph Joseph and Black + Blum) at the Oxo Tower. Then, retrace your steps back to the market for seconds! After all, you'll have walked off the first sandwich no problem. Look for Kappacasein near the London Bridge side of the green market, directly opposite Southwark Cathedral (which has some stone walls and benches for you to sit and enjoy your sandwich).