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

Thursday, October 26, 2006

cooking can be god: nash's farmshare oct 27th 2006

How many ways are there to divide 10 ingredients into 3 recipes? 4 recipes? 5? 10 ingredients into any number of recipes? A simple mathematical problem (email me your guesses, answer forthcoming...) but which of those divisions (each covering all 10 recipes) is the most beautiful, the most elegant? Why, the Perfect Division, of course. 10 being a perfect number -- naturally -- and a perfect number being -- naturally -- a one of those blessed numbers who are sums along the way, subtotals of your counting fingers. 1. 1+2. 1+2+3. 1+2+3+4. 1+2+3+4+5. You and the Idea understand one another, I presume.

So there we have 10. 1+2+3+4. And, combinatorial hijinkx aside, there you have a structural recipe (a guide in the echoing caverns of possibility) for your meal. Courses of increasing complexity, from the sole vegetable in your starting soup to the zazzy quartet of your finishing curry. Let freedom ring.

(1) curried carrot soup (1)

We're going to be using the oven a lot, for a lot of roasting a lot of vegetables. So the wise would do well to start it early (touching 400, if you will) and to leave it on. This oven affair is also part of the secret to preparing hot food: by the time everybody's eating they've been around the kitchen for long enough that they're no longer cold. This trick shares the same philosophical pedigree as the hidden truth that the true heating power of all that firewood you bought comes out in the chopping of it.

all your carrots
pinches of turmeric and ground coriander

a bit of sesame oil

half a thumb of ginger, minced
mustard seeds

another bit of sesame oil

optional cilantro for optional garnish

Give the carrots a rough dice and gentle rub with oil and then the spices. Oven the tray and roast the vegetables while you continue your preparations -- dicing other vegetables to roast afterwards. Remember, cooking is a mechanical science at times, and with mechanics, you always want to read All the directions before starting.

When the carrots are sweeter, juicier, and browner (tender but not soggy, maybe with the flirty hints of a Crispening), they're done. Sauté the mustard seeds in hot sesame oil -- when they sizzle and pop, add the ginger and continue to stir carefully with all your collected attention and will. The ginger golden, add half a liter of milk, soy milk, vegetable stock, thinned coconut milk, or water. Initial contention aside, you will have a smooth gingery broth steaming ahead of you. Before it thinks to boil, blend you carrots in a blender or robot, stealing the occasional ladle of Fluid from your soup pot when necessary. When the carrot is as smooth as the sailing, thin with a further ladle of Fluid and return the entire puree to the pot. A smooth creamy orange dominates your field of vision, marred with the intermittent mustard seed.

(2) triple warm beet salad (2)

This time, for variety, peel your beets. Admire their striped beauty. Dream of paisely. If you have three beets of equal size

- chop one into matchsticks

- chop one into circles, and each circle into quarter-circles (triangles)

- chop one into grated (hah. fooled you.)

Since this food comes from the Earth and the Far, you won't have three beets of equal size. Adjust accordingly, skimping on the grated if necessary. It's the most work, anyhow. The matchsticks get steamed until tender in the least water you can manage, and the grated ones get sautéed (for a flash, until the water stems off) in a bit of butter or olive oil, but the triangles get roasted so you should do them first.

Lovingly layer your serving dish with whole leaves of spinach and chop the another handful into thin strips. When all three beet styles are ready (only sauté the grated beets when the others approve, keep them covered in water until then), mix like the children of the great American Empire, incorporating thin spinach into fat city, giving it time to warm and to wilt. If you're flush with fall abundance crumble a young handful of the walnuts you candied this morning atop the melange and step back far enough so the shapes (four) and colors (three) and ingredients (2) and love (1) all come into focus. Meditate and Serve.

(3) triple pickle, stove-top style (3)

Late in the game and no chance for a healthy three-stage lactic acid ferment before dinner, your sauerkraut ambitions need not be shelved along with youthful idealism and old wooden flutes. In fact, the latest in psychological research suggests that, to mar a phrase, "there are no shelves".

eighth-ed radishes (halved and halved and halved again)
shredded purple cabbage

whole heads of broccoli
diagonal spears of peeled broccoli stalks

Heat a healthy tablespoon of olive oil in a heavy pan. Look around for dill seed, caraway, cumin, or another potent aromatic seed. Place it next to your jar of whole black pepper and jug of vinegar. When the oil is hot add a couple spoons of The Chosen Seed; when it, too, pops (and everything one day must pop) slide in the cabbage, stirring well to sew together a shiny coat of smooth spice. The cabbage will wilt and soften, asking for vinegar to finish the job. Add minced garlic if the moment moves you (and know that nothing else is moving you besides the moment, the ever-present unfolding of that unique, infinite moment) and the other vegetables. Fry together for a skinny minute and add in the vinegar (at least a cup). Put a lid on the mixture, if available, and allow them to steam and soften, a brutal rendition of the otherwise gentle breakdown that occurs naturally (with no radical denaturing of nutrients) through salty time.

When the broccoli is bright green (she is your mascot, pay close attention to her), test the flavor. Is it too strong? Too weak? And the salt? The vegetables will be soft enough, so distribute most of your focus to the vinegar, to the bite. Adjust until perfect and serve (alongside bread or another course; maybe with rice and the following curry).

(4) prince romanesco and friends (4)

Ah, yes. So good of you to grace our plebian box, Noble Romanesco. We humbly look to your spires and infinite detail for inspiration. For satisfaction.

arugula, roughly chopped / kale, de-ribbed and chopped / red potatoes, steamed and diced / romanesco, in splendid florets

We're going to make a simple sociological curry. The base note of potatoes provides all the hard work and expertise, the flashy greens love being seen and absorb much of the flavor, and prince romanesco himself headlines the event, coasting on kind genetics.

butter / 2 tsp cumin seeds / 2 tsp mustard seeds / equal, heaping spoons of minced garlic, ginger, and green chile

Melt your butter and toast cumin and mustard seeds in the ensuing goodness. Add the tender potatoes (tender, not soft -- if you steamed them too much turn back the clock and do it again) to fry. Before the potatoes brown, add your pungent wet spices (garlic, ginger, and chile) and stir to incorporate. The mixture fragrant and the potatoes browned, drop in the greens.

As the kale is tougher than the arugula, add it first. It will steam and shrink and lose water to the whole -- only then release arugula into the mix. Alongwith the arugula, sprinkle in

1 teaspoon of turmeric / salt to taste (start small) / 2 teaspoons of roasted, ground cumin and coriander

Immediately thereafter, carefully honor the curry with prince romanesco, handling each floret with care and respect. Lower the heat and stir until the romanesco flowers in color, turning bright and vibrant. Add more butter (ghee) and serve with minced red onion and cilantro.

You have arrived -- add salt or soy sauce to taste, optionally minced and wring the optional garnish, and your first course is warm and on the table.