[ vegetarian improvisational peasant fusion cuisine for the 22nd century ]

Thursday, September 28, 2006

cooking can be god through Nash's Farmshare Recipes, September 29th 2006

Nusrat and the New Moon conspire in mutual adulation to bring you another week of pure organic goodness, this time under the sign of Ramadan. Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar, marks Islam's commitment to social justice: it's a time to give to those who have been less fortunate (whether it be in money or joy), to cherish one's family, and to honor those who cannot afford food by fasting in solidarity.

Traditionally, observers let nothing – neither food nor water -- pass through their lips during the daytime. Devoted believers, from what I could tell, have the hardest time with cigarettes. Fasting starts at the break of day, when you can “discern a black thread from white”. The evening prayer call at sunset signals the nightly breakfast: al-iftar. While Mohammad is noted for breaking his fast with a glass of water and a couple of dates, the modern faithful tend to be more expressive, preparing huge feasts each night of the month, replete with stewed lambs, walnut-stuffed eggplants, and suicidally sweet desserts. Pinenuts, the symbol of generosity, abound.

If you can hack an early fall day without food, water, gum, or cigarettes, I would highly recommend the experience. I remember a nightly sense of overwhelming thanks, identification with the poor, and general dizziness. All of which melt away by the third or fourth course – which is why they do it for a month, I suppose.

-- for your iftar: A lebanese lentil soup --

as many dried lentils as wet potatoes
olive oil
one medium onion for every large potato
a couple tablespoons of whole cumin seeds
salt and peppercorns
some parsley, lemon, and arugula

Inspect your lentils carefully for stones, twigs, and other indications of bad mojo. Rinse well and repeatedly before setting to cook. You can set them on high heat and simmer to finish (another half hour, perhaps) when the water hits a boil. Or you can give them one and a half whistles in a pressure cooker. Selon Sartre, the choice is yours. Either way, a little asafatida with the lentils will help digestion.

As the lentils aromatize your kitchen, wash your potato(es) well and dice them to a thumbnailed cube. Set aside and wait to inject until the lentils are over half-way done, perhaps ten or fifteen minutes after you've turned the heat down. Turn your attention back to the knife, board, and your onions. They merit a mediocre dice and a frypan of their own – a couple tablespoons of healthy green olive oil on medium-high heat. When you can smell the oil, slide in the onions, stirring and frying for a few minutes as they lose what little color they could once claim. By the time the onions have softened, you can add them (along with the potatoes) to the lentils.

Leave the burner on and clean the small frypan with a spare piece of bread or tortilla and dispose of it with appropriate ardor. Add your whole cumin seeds and watch them brown. It's a warm process, a fragrant mirror of the leaves outside and the family dog and young women and everything else pretty and fragile in the world. And they'll burn if you try to do something else. When they've turned three shades browner and whoever's mowing the lawn gets a waft of earthy cumin now and again, you're ready to grind. Mortar and pestle, coffee grinders, rolling pins, and wine bottles will all do the job. Crack in some black pepper with living flavor and add to the soup alongside some salt.

When the lentils have grown into softness and the potatoes are losing themselves in the starchy richness of the whole, you're ready to serve. Mix in some finely chopped parsley and finely juiced lemon at the end of the affair (only adding a hint of lemon peel if that precious commodity hasn't been reserved for cocktails), and serve. With fresh bread and a few grains of salt, enjoy in thanks and appreciation of your daily slows and fasts.

After your soup and soggy breads, you're going to want some crunch. With a little hustle (stay off the phone) you can have this, too, prepped while your lentils boil:

-- arugula pesto adorning roasted/raw vegetable tray --

a tray
potatoes and beets
tomatoes and celery
all your arugula
a few cloves of garlic
as much parmigiana as you want
olive oil
walnuts or pinenuts

Turn your (l)oven on to 350 degrees. Peel the beets and wash the potatoes. Slice them both into wedges (of six or eight) and cut again in half, the wide way. Toss briefly with olive oil, salt, and some red chile flakes if you can find some. Place on your tray, add a naked clove of garlic, and bake.

Start the lentils and all that jazz. Instead of wasting time, wash your remaining vegetables and slice the tomatoes into wedges (don't half them) and the celery into dippable strips. Set aside to wash and de-stem the arugula. Just trim the ragged crusty ends: we'll be using the rest.

Get our your robot (food processor). Give him a test drive. Good. Roughly grind the walnuts (or pinenuts if you're Lebanese or generous). Add the garlic and zap again. Roughly chop the arugula and add about half of it. It's probably not going to mix well without some lubrication, so drizzle in olive oil until it does. Add a tasty amount of cheese, grind, and explore the balance. Too much arugula will be too much bitter. Too much cheese will curdle your smile. When you've hit it almost right, add the rest of the arugula, lubricate with more olive oil, and mix in some more cheese. It should be perfect with a hit of salt and fresh black pepper. If the pesto is too thick for your liking, thin with water, cream, yogurt, or olive oil, depending on your mood.

If there's any time left, transfer the pesto to a bowl and wash the robot before the green specks dry in an expressionistic crust partout. Exit the tray from the oven, arrange the wedges in alternating circles (raw, roasted, raw, roasted...) with the pesto as their focus.

Lastly, I wanted to introduce “Malus and Two Brassicas: a modern love story” but we're out of space for the week. The main players were (red) kale and (green) cabbage, with intrigue provided by some rogue apples. Maybe next time.

recipes by local explorer ankur shah (mangolandia@gmail.com), who welcomes your comments. reprints available online at http://www.somethingconstructive.net/jamanta

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

farmshare box contents, september 29th 2006

Baby Bok Choi
Detroit Beets
Green Cabbage
Red Kale

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

cooking can be god for senior nutrition bags, september 27th 2006

[written not for the farmshare program but a community outreach nash's does with local senior citizens, providing a bag of fresh vegetables every couple of weeks]

This week's fall colors have just moved indoors – not the mottled yellows of the Big Leaf Maples outside but rather the deep greens, purples, oranges, and reds of organic produce. Perhaps the strangest and most striking member of your bountiful bag is the bundle of Lacinato Kale. Lacinato will be with us all winter, only getting sweeter and more friendly after nightly dalliances with the falling frosts. He's a tasty dark-green kale of Italian stock, and excellent for your health. Kale is full of powerful antioxidants (including zeaxanthin and lutein) that protect us from degenerative illnesses like cancer, cardio-vascular disease and age-related macular degeneration. That's over and above the standard cocktail of folic acid, Vitamin K, beta-carotene, calcium, and magnesium.

If you want the full influx of Kale's nutrients, and the respect of cooks and colleagues, eat it raw.

-- Lacinato Kale Salad --

Half of your Lacinato kale leaves, stems and ribs removed.
Two beautiful tomatoes, cut into wedges
A few spoons of toasted sesame seeds
An early drizzle of soy or tamari sauce
One cleverly grated carrot

Chop the Kale. Mix with salt. Wait. Rinse. Massage. Dress with lemon juice. Wait. Massage.
While you're waiting you can toast the seeds, grate the carrot, and slice the tomatoes. If you're ambitious you can even get started on the next course.

The salt and lemon treatments serve to ease digestion of the Kale without destroying its plentiful nutrients. However, while raw food is amazingly nutritious, it's also a pain in the backside to chew.

-- Potato and Kale Lunch Bowl --

A simple one-dish meal with all of your bright-eyed nutrients and basic starches, this dish combines potatoes, kale, and spices. Top with grated cheese for added flair.

A potato for each person (larger potatoes for larger people)
All the kale you can spare
A colorful carrot, beet, or radish
Mustard seeds
Fresh or dried chilies (optional, like everything else in your life)
Chopped garlic

First, set a couple inches of water to boil. Then, wash your potatoes well, peel them if you have the inclination, and dice them roughly. Your goal is to chop as little as possible and still fit a chunk into your mouth. Slide the chopped potatoes into the hot water and remember to stir occasionally over the next few minutes. We're trying to tenderize the potatoes, not overcook them.

As the water and potatoes dance together under the shady comfort of a lid, wash and chop your Kale, sparing the fibrous ribs and stems for compost or wild animals. Slice the carrot/beet/radish diagonally (“on the bias”) to maximize surface-area and aesthetic pleasure. We are striving for a green undertone punctuated by white monoliths and accents of orange diamond. You know.

When you've finished chopping the potatoes will be perfect. Trust yourself. Set them aside, save the water, and heat a couple tablespoons of oil or butter in the pan. When the fat is hot sprinkle in a teaspoon of mustard seeds. Cumin seeds work fine as well. Coriander seeds a little less so, so make sure nobody's looking. When the seeds pop in the oil, add the potatoes and fry, stirring well. When cooking with small amounts of oil, it's important to stir frequently and coat all the vegetables. The oil, activity, and attention will all insure a happy and healthy life for the cook. And the happy and healthy life of the cook is the only road to a happy and healthy life for the eater.

As the potatoes begin to crackle and brown, add your chopped garlic and chilies. Fry for another minute before adding the kale and carrots. Cook on high heat as they sweat out their water – the kale will wilt and the carrots shall shine.

Salt, freshly ground pepper, and a little lemon kick at the end will finish the deal. Those who seek a graver affair can add the reserved water and cook a minute longer to thicken. A nice touch at the end is to have finely chopped tomato, onion, and cilantro (in three finely separated piles) to use for conspicuous and intersecting circles of decoration.

-- Hot chocolate --

False advertising for the morning after, when the chills have insinuated themselves into your bones and there's no more Kale until Farmer Kia's next visit. We don't actually grow cacao on the farm but we do have beets, and their long and famous history of sugar production shouldn't be lost.

A pair of dark purple beets, beheaded and peeled
A wee bit of cinnamon and/or clove
Some optional milk
Some cocoa powder

Slice the beets the round way and place into boiling water, such that the water is a centimeter above the beets. Boil until the slices are tender – remove them and set aside for later's salad. Add your spices and cocoa powder to the boiling water and even milk if you like. Lower the heat and simmer together, warming and mixing. It should smell rich and purple and hot and healthy.

Serve with neither nomenclature nor ado, a simple surprise to warm the morning.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

cooking can be god through Nash's Farmshare Recipes, September 22nd 2006

The border regions are, Naturally, the most interesting. Here we find ourselves (with any luck) a scant week into the pacific fall, the ears of summer on our doorstep and fog hanging wet in the air. Tomatoes and woolen underwear. Strawberries and shivering at the dying Wednesday markets.

-- a light corn soup --

And by light, mind you, we mean for the soul, not the belly: Add as much cheese as your girth desires. A typical corn chowder starts with a strong stock (bacon, mirepoix, herbs, corncobs), thickens with cream and potato, and finishes with the flashy protagonist. Since we still have summer captured in our cells, I'll focus on the warm instead of the thick:

equal parts carrot, celery, and onion (1/2 cup, 1/2 cup, 1 cup)
a couple bay leaves and dried red chili peppers
3-4 ears of corn, kernels on one side and cobs on the other
milk or cream or water
one potato or other Thickening Agent
a friendly pair of tomatoes

First, prepare the stock. Saute the onions in butter or olive oil on medium heat until they lose their edge and relax into the pan -- you can tell by eye (translucency) or ear (the tail end of the hiss). Add the mirepoix's other thirds (carrot and celery) and saute together for a few minutes, until everybody is soft. Toss in the corncobs, bay leaves, and chili peppers for a slow warm infusion in a liter of water. Keep the dance to a simmer and feel free to replace as much water with milk. It's a private issue between you and the dairy industry and the public has no right to know.

Let the stock simmer down for half an hour, or however long it takes to manage Everything Else you've got going on. If you're bored, celebrate. There's no reason not to.

All the while, chop the potato and tomatoes. A typical recipe might have some red or green bell peppers but I know you didn't get them from us, and with so much food so near, there's no reason to go a-looking. Similarly with the onions and celery -- I'm assuming you have some celery from last-time or a couple of onions sitting around. If not, change the title to "Corn vs. Carrot: the rivalry continues" and forget the forgetables.

If you'd prefer to polish off last week's bread, cut it and soak it in milk or water and add to the soup in lieu (or companionship) of the potato. Thickening is a broad target and, as I suggested above, what's really important is to prepare a loving hot bath for the corn. When the stock has sufficiently simmered, remove the flavorpills (corncobs, bay leaves, red chilies) and add the thickeners. The changing of the guard, as it were.

A short 10-15 minutes later, after everything has cooked, stir vigorously. Focus your light and attention on the soup. Grind rocksalt and whole peppercorns and season. Taste. Only when it's a perfect broth, with streaks of red tomato and white potato, are we ready to add the corn. Heighten the heat and add the corn with whatever final hints of green -- marjoram or rosemary if you can see it from the kitchen window, or finely chopped Italian parsley from the box -- you need.

The bowls should be full of a piping hot painter's palette, green and red and yellow and white guiding us across the equinox and into the gray unity of our collective future.

-- tender green garnish --

After the first course -- minutes or days, one can't be sure -- you're going to need something more substantial. Whatever you choose, be it an animal or vegetable that sacrificed it's life for you, a tranche of imported eggplant or a heaping mound of barley risotto, you can cover it with this flash-fried relish of dark nutrition.

lacinato kale
napa cabbage
tat soi

While you're waiting for the stock to simmer (above), you can wash and shred these fine green vegetables. It may seem less sexy than opening that bottle of lost mountain red, but in the end, say the sages, the joys are infinite. Do the kale first and salt it well. The kale will rest while you chop equal quantities of tat soil and the cabbage. The thinner you cut them the less they will need to be cooked. Mince or puree a few cloves of garlic. Do some dishes. When the stock's ready for the potatoes, squeeze any bad humors from the kale, rinse it, toss with a teaspoon of vinegar or lemon juice, and get back to your soup.

Eat. When the soup's done and the belly's warm, heat your wok with a little bit of sesame or oil olive. Add the garlic and the kale and saute together on high heat until the kale shrinks. The mass of green will prevent the garlic from burning -- when the kale has wilted noticeably add the other greens and flash fry with gusto, gumption, and pizazz, and ushar for less than a minute. When it feels like somebody has turned the Brightness Up on the world, retire from fire and kitchen and serve your powerful green garnish atop whatever main course the family has ordained.

A well-intentioned and enjoyed meal is, itself, a prayer.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

farmshare box contents, september 22st 2006

nappa cabbage
tat soi
green leaf lettuce
white radish
italian parsley
lacinato kale
bunch carrots

Friday, September 15, 2006

cooking can be god presents: The Moustache Family

Mary Edleson's family reunion, earlier this summer, featured an all-ages cookbook fiesta of giving.

cooking can be god through Nash's Farmshare Recipes, September 15th 2006

- stir-fried cauliflower in a garlic beet sauce -

You might wake up in the morning with no mood for the news or any other kind of abuse. You might save your radish greens for soup or Jimmy's rabbits. You might give the diagonal slice treatment to a handful of red-and-white, Alice-in-Wonderland, french-breakfast radishes, melt a soapdish of homemade butter, and get right down to it. No newspaper necessary, no music beyond the crunchings, crispings, and the birds. It could end this cycle of hypertrophy; It could begin something beautiful. Some internal acceptance of the clouds returning and crowds leaving, after their respective summer sojourns. The first whips of our Olympian fall.

For lunch it's Salif Keita on the horn and the neighborhood children playing along. Put a small pot of water to heat as you peel and eighth (one step past quarter) the striated beets. The warm water should barely cover the beets: boil them together until your blender or forearm can handle mashing them towards unity.

Salt and pepper a pot of water to boiling, on the back-right burner, and carve up

the entire cauliflower
one stalk of celery

The cauliflower in fat, heady morsels and the celery politely thin. Let them blanch two minutes while you heat a frypan and saute

1/2 head of garlic, in whole cloves
the lagest tomato in the box, sliced

in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil. When the tomatoes and garlic come up with black spots, the cauliflower should be just soft. Empty the contents of the frypan (oil, garlic, tomato) into the beet-paste and scoop the cauliflower and celery out of the water and into the frypan.

At this point you're moments away from stir-fried cauliflower and celery (left hand) and a warm garlic beet sauce (right hand). Throw pasta, udon, rice, or whatever grain you'd like in the impromptu stock: the meal is basically complete. Perhaps, even, it always was. To finish the vegetables, stir them rapidly on high heat until a shade past tender, adding salt, freshly ground black pepper, and any fresh herbs (rosemary? dill?) visiting town. To finish the sauce, blend/mash until uniform, salt, and add a wee bit of cayenne pepper and apple cider vinegar to round out the flavor parade. A wee bit, mind you.

For decor I'd roll upon a few arugula leaves and cut them thinly into ribbons; serve the pasta (or whatever) into bowls, mix in the cauliflower, and spoon over the sauce. Doll up with arugula and it's all over.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

farmshare box contents, september 15th 2006

green leaf lettuce
baby dill
green cabbage
french breakfast radish
chiogga beets

Friday, September 08, 2006

cooking can be god through Nash's Farmshare Recipes, September 8th 2006

In South India and Sri Lanka, there's usually one item on the menu: Rice. Luckily for world culinary heritage, eating rice actually means sitting down to a wide spread of curries, chutneys, and lentil dishes, all meant to be eaten alongside the main event. In Kerala, India's southwestern state, these curries are known not by the vegetables they contain but rather by their technique of preparation. Which means that, stretching slightly past yesterday's news, we can prepare all manner of hypercontinental delicacies with our local fare. Thinking out of the box, so to speak. Below I'll provide the original recipe for pyar uperi, and a translation more appropriate to our dialect.

- pyar uperi -

1 small coconut's flesh, shredded
1 tsp. turmeric
1/2 tsp. whole black pepper
5 shallots
3 green chile peppers

1 burgeoning handful of pyar (green beans)

coconut oil
1 tsp. mustard seeds
2 tbsp. urad dal (split black gram)
half a dozen curry leaves

Uperi is a light and spicy green-bean stirfry that can liberate this much-maligned vegetable from the soggy memories of middle-school lunchrooms it has long endured. First, thinly chop the green beans until they are bigger in diameter than they are wide. Steam or boil until a tender, bright green. While you watch and wait, grind together -- in a mortar or robot -- the first five ingredients. Sniff judiciously with your eyes closed until you're ready to proceed, purified of congestion and stress.

The sexy part of the cooking process is typically brief -- heat the oil and throw in the mustard, dal and curry leaves to sizzle. When they stop popping add the ground mixture and fry well for one minute, spreading the mixture quickly so it browns evenly. Throw in the chopped beans as the fragrance matures and continue stirring, cooking only long enough to unite the flavors, add salt, and taste (about three minutes at sea level and a calm mind).

- our homegrown uperi -

Using the same delicious idea and digging through the box for the right shapes, colors, tastes, and textures, I came up with a cup of walnuts instead of the coconut and white radishes instead of shallots. Use half of the pointy cabbage (Early Jersey Wakefield) if your greens beans (or hankerings for them) have run out. Rosemary instead of the mustard seeds, urad dal, and curry leaves cinches the deal, eliminating all but the most subtle currents of eastern cuisine in the process; Hold on to those last three for a more fused experience.

If using cabbage instead of green beans, remember to keep it small. Often I'll grate the cabbage first, then chop the long strands into submission. Steam or boil in a small amout of water as before, just until tender.

As the vegetables cook, face your spice paste. The most important newcomers are your walnuts. In order to provide the same coating goodness, toast them until the first black spot appears, then soak them in wine (or juice, or water) for a few hours. Drain and grind the nuts slowly, taking care they don't form a uniform paste but rather a crumbly wet mixture that will spread texture throughout your dish. Then mix together gently with finely chopped radishes (a different sort of spice), freshly ground black pepper, the turmeric, and (if you have 'em) a couple of mashed chile peppers. A clove or two of garlic would be great.

Fry the rosemary or spices in oil (They say olive and coconut are best), brown your spice paste, and add the cabbage or beans. Remember to stir and flip rapidly, cooking away the excess water and thoroughly spreading the love.


A quick and cool soup for the long summer afternoons, before the sun and white wine bottles have been tucked away for the evening.

- between borsht and gazpacho -

carrots, chioga beets, patty pan squash
broccoli, bok choi

Cut your carrots, beets, and squash into thin, handsome, slices. Rub them gently with olive oil and black pepper and roast them any way you know how. Don't forget about them. Save the pale interior pieces of the squash for the stock, dicing and setting them to boil in a pot of salted water. Add broccoli florets and observe: when they turn a bright green, remove and plunge into ice water to stop the cooking. Cut thin strips of bok choi for the stock, with a little wild sage if you can find it. Test the salt, add some olive oil, and your stock is ready. Chill together with the exiled broccoli and roasted vegetables until ready to serve.

For the garnish, I mince twice as much parsley as spinach and mix them together with a couple tablespoons of vinegear. Let the bowl sit on the counter until the masses are arrayed and stir into the mix before serving.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

farmshare box contents, september 8th 2006

Early Jersey Wakefield cabbage (the pointy-headed one)
red butter lettuce
chiogga bunch beet
italian parsley
green beans
white radish
patty pan squash
bok choi
bunch carrots

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

The Cooking Can Be God Farmshare Program

Each week, Nash's Organic sends out a box of seasonal vegetables to its Farmshare customers, who have chosen to support the farm by sending in a check at the beginning of the season. The full farmshare season lasts until the end of December, and for the remaining four months, I'm going to be helping out by writing a recipe to go in each box.

Kia makes the list on Wednesday and prints the newsletter on Thursday so I have a few hours Thursday morning to come up with some interesting and hopefully pertinent creations. I'll be updating this site as a public history for the Farmshare customers and a resource for anybody else interested in beets, mizuna, or my particular approach to culinary misadventure.

And, as always, Enjoy.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Simmer Down

welcome. welcome to the shiny new frypan of the cooking com bigode effort: Cooking Can Be God.
Cooking Can Be God makes two attempts --
1. to delve deeper into the philosophy and revelation behind Cooking Com Bigode, and my cooking in general.
2. to add new recipes, changing with the physical and social climate, to our collection

i seldom know how or when to proceed, but i sense this bird, too, shall fly.