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

Thursday, December 21, 2006

nashs farmshare recipe, dec 22

I'm sure we're all of sick of Indian food, faux or not, so I'll try escape the present now-here vitamin complex and anglicize some Christmas Specials. Most importantly of course, it's the season of the Gift and the Party, which is to say, the selfless act (action without regard to its fruit, as the Gita sings) and the joy of togetherness. Get those two down and nobody will pay attention to those hints of cinnamon (not cassia, i tell you) in the champagne or applesauce or quenelles or however...

Comedown Pancakes

The solstice has been a thrill since long before dear Jesus was a bearded commie twinkle in his Father's third eye, and the morning after a thrill calls for some serious grounding. We look to the venerable latke tradition for inspiration and to the frosty morning soil for ingredients: golden beets, parsnips, yukon golds, and their ilk.

For each hangover (refined sugar, fermented grain, or conspicuous consumption induced), assemble:

1 root vegetable, grated
1 egg
1 short glass of milk
some flour

The idea is to make your typical pancakes substituting as much root vegetable for flour as you can get away with. The egg is shorthand for binding and leavening and can be replaced by a binder (flour, arrowroot, tapioca, etc...) and some baking powder besides. The milk is short for richness (largesse) and can be replaced with soy milk, vegetable stock, lemongrass tea, or water.

Start by grating the roots -- the smaller the better, as more starch and area alike shall surface for the alchemy.

Mix your eggs in their own private bowl.

Then mix together a bit of flour (start small, maybe a cup for the family) with some salt, black pepper, and grated nutmeg for flavor. Carve a hole in the center of your flour and add the beaten eggs bit by bit, incorporating steadily.

If you pour too fast you'll end up with little clumps of flour and you'll have to stop Everything and make a whisk or a blender to smooth things out, because maybe for once the stores are closed and everybody is holed up trying to decipher their new televisions, pacemakers, and plowshares.

You have the beginnings of a crepe batter. Add enough liquid to where it makes sense to add the grated vegetables, and do so. Now comes your own personal wisdom, which is, in the advanced analysis, not your own at all. You want there to be the right balance of binder, liquid, and roots so the grated goodness stays in a sort of soul-full suspension in the batter, neither in patties nor running all over the littered floor. Get this balance right and -- if the salt is right -- they will crown you with laurel and come back for more.

Cook like pancakes on a hot griddle with butter if the animals permit and oil if they don't. Make sure they brown well before flipping -- the vegetables will need some cooking (grating is only half the battle). If you find the pancakes are browning before the beets are cooking, take a log out of the stove and try again.

Served best with applesauce and champagne, naturally.

A quick concession to the holiday aesthetic

So it's red and green as I remember. This is a two-in-one dish, which is to say, I'd like you to do the same thing twice.

Red Cabbage (round one)
Spinach (round two)

Blend together with careless speed:

2 small onions
2 shallots if you have them
As many green chiles as you can handle (0-6?)
1 head of garlic

The key innovation to this curry pesto comes from Suhartata ("sweet aunty") who rags the the hairy end of the onions and separates each (c)love of garlic from the mother, but otherwise does no preparation. She does not peel the garlic nor stem the chiles and that was two days ago and I've lived to preach the gospel. Go forth! She also blends in a bit of coconut (depending on income constraints) but I would suggest

1/2 cup of broken walnut bits, soaked overnight, and blended

to form the base of the pesto. You could take an African trip and use peanuts but if you get the balance wrong you'll end up with middle school flashbacks and that's nobody's idea of a merry time.

Then heat your wok or frypan with coconut or olive oil, now recommended by nutritionists and old women alike, and fry the paste for a quick minute, until fragrant and brown. Add the chopped vegetable (red or green) and cook until the balance of crunch and lost vitamins feels right. It only gets better and better as the vegetable cooks down, more like curry and less like vegetable. Here they continue cooking until almost dry, a flaky spicy green between your fingertips and the dosa. No expectations.

a side note on gifting this weekend

Depending on your procrastination index, this may be too late, but I heard a nice tip from Nobel-prize winner Wangari Matthai the other day. She recommends a bit of wisdom from the people of Japan, who apparently wrap their gifts in cloth, not paper, thus replacing kitchy morning trash with a soft reusable envelope, and saving millions of trees in the process. Maybe this year, maybe the next, but as thunder turns to lightening, the darkness has got to give.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

nashs farmshare box contents, dec 22

golden beets
green kale
red cabb

Friday, December 15, 2006

cooking can be god: nashs farmshare dec 15th

In the beginning I was going to have this tricked out mangologue extolling the virtues of plant hybridization and the popularity of the new, blue, "mangochoke" (mangochofra en espanol), a fruit with the calming alien appearance of your standard artichoke (not those of the holy land) but with the scrapings of flesh orange, sweet, creamy, and tropical in flavor. Seriously.

Come to India: low on jobs, but high on fruit.

But one look at the ingredients and Kia leaves me no other option but to get into the intricacies of the Savoy Truffle. The Savoy Truffle has been a favorite dessert of the British royal family for hundreds of years, made and consumed under conditions of strict secrecy and whose very existence (to mention nothing of taste, medicinal qualities, or gods forbid, the actual recipe) has been made suspect. George Harrison caught the wispy wind on his pudlian palate after the Beatles 1965 decoration with the "Order of the British Empire", but even then was forced to parody the divine dish on his White Album track of the same name.

So here we are. A few farmers and loyal farmsharefolk in the village of Sequim-upon-Dungeness, about to tender the jewel of the lotus, as it were. Only because in return for centuries of rape and pillage of Indian silver, cuisine, and philosophy, there is a karmic debt to be paid.

Savoy Truffle

1 Savoy Cabbage
royal quantities (there is no measuring the queen's larder) of:
Golden (silver will not do) Beets
Dark colored carrots

Each of the four colors will be a different filling -- the dish takes some preparation. The easiest way to make this would be to roast the carrots, beets, and parsnips in neat rows on a baking dish at 400 degrees (F). You can intersperse the beets with cloves, the carrots with cinnamon, and the parsnips with nutmeg. Meanwhile steam the arugula until wilted, mince well and mix with lemon and ginger.

The more nuanced method involves a separate preparation for each filling. I've witnessed a gentle caramelization of the carrots, diced finely so the jaggery (evaporated cane juice; what brown sugar always should have been) and minced ginger can show off on each surface. Keep sauteeing (ideally in butter) the carrots until they've browned, then a little more. When the omnipresent threat of The Burn rears it's ugly maw, deglaze the pan with some white wine and lower the heat. As the wine simmers away and the sequestered flavors roam freely once again, your carrots will soften and cream in a risottoan style. When Santa has drunk all the wine, mash lightly and set aside.

The beets should be peeled (I know they're organic, but this is a British recipe. All sins will eventually be forgiven), grated, and cooked down in either milk or coconut milk until pasty and all the liquid has evaporated, then served with some freshly ground cardamom. You can sauté them in butter or ghee for a couple minutes at first, then add the (coconut) milk and lower the heat. The texture should be mayonnaise, or "Velvetona" as they say in Indian English.

The parsnips should be made into a risotto, like the recipe from a couple months back. Use onions at first and slide them into the cooked world on low heat, taking care with your sweet sweet mantras. Adorn with freshly smuggled nutmeg at crucial intervals, never forgetting the Gospel of the Salt.

With the arugula we'll be making an arugula-mint pesto. Yes, you can use spinach. Yes, you can use wilted kale, but after the digestive processes detailed above (guaranteed to kill any ambient microbial life), it's nice to have a little raw green goodness in your social life. Soak some cashews (or blanched almonds) overnight and blend them. A child's handful will do. Add ginger, arugula, mint, and lemon. Add freshly ground black pepper and salt. Adjust to taste and keep on the thicker side, thinning with water or fresh yogurt if necessary.

The only question of authenticity -- having learned this Truffle in India -- lies in the sauce. It's a traditional keralan affair, involving roasted coconut and coriander, and I'm not sure if it was included in the original. But by the time George and Elizabeth got around to it, it had probably taken hold. To start, roast freshly grated coconut (you can use the dessicated stuff, rehydrated) and ground coriander. Pay close attention to the smell and color of the coconut -- any lapse in attention will result in the aptly feared "riot in a skillet". When the nuttiness overpowers the cocoadelicious, empty the pan and replace with a few teaspoons of coconut oil (also recommend for washing your hair). Fry some minced shallots until brown, and add a gentle teaspoon of cayenne pepper, fry a few few seconds (until coughing). While the shallots fried you blended your coconut-coriander mixture with enough water to form a paste, and now, moments after the chile powder, you added it. Tilt in half a teaspoon of turmeric and mix well, thinning with water and coconut oil (depending on the titles and landholdings of the guests) until you have an umbered curry. Taste, add salt and black pepper, and taste again.

Finally, the assemblage. Stack your clean, dry Savoy leaves on a clean, dry cutting board. With a sharp knife and steady mind, cut the largest rectangle (or diamond) that nature's fractal will allow. Order and chaos. Chaos and order. These are the layers of your truffle -- the flaky leaves of your savory croissant. As in baklava, brush a bit of olive oil on the diner's plate (and infused oil, a truffle oil even, works wonders) and firmly stack two savoy leaves on top of it. brush on a layer of your carrots and cover with two leaves. Align. Spoon on a layer of your parsnips, evenly, and cover with two leaves. Align. Then the beets and two leaves. Then the spinach and two leaves. Drizzle with the intensity of the South Indian sauce.

Take the remaining loves and peaces of the Savoy, slice into elegant rapiers, and consecrate the plate. Peace be upon us all, and particularly George Harrison.

"But you'll have to have them all pulled out /After the Savoy truffle"

nashs farmshare box contents, dec 15th

red kale
golden beets
red pots
colored carrots
jerusalem artichokes

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

cooking can be god: nash's farmshare dec 8th 2006

Greetings from the anteroom of Ahmedabad Central Railway Station. There's a blazing tropical sun and countless countryhumans relieving themselves on the platform. India, like its Yoga, is all about the release. I've been served all my meals the last week by saintly monks and hermits, committed to codes of chastity and silence, to a lifetime of service instructing the wordly miscreants the subtle arts of meditation. In ever-thickening gratitude (like a good lentil soup, simmering over a lifetime of storied jiltings and seared fingertips) I'll deconstruct one of their recipes for us.

Dhokla [ aware! this will take some foresight ]

Dhokla is, apparently, yet another translation of "steamed fermented goodness". Rather than the idlis and dosas of the South, made using a mixture of rice flour and urad (black gram) split lentils, dhokla is cut into diamonds (key for the commercial Gujaratis) and usually made from besun (garbanzo bean flour). As usual, we're starting from scratch.

2 cups of dried garbanzo beans, soaked Over The Night, rinsed three times, and blended
A pinch of asofetida or ajwain
2 cloves of garlic
Some leftover greens

Now. When you blend the garbanzo beans, you can add the garlic. Or you can perform a separate chopping meditation, using each stroke of the knife to express your loving, nourishing intention to your family. You know it works. It may, in fact, be the only thing that does. When you blend the garbanzo beans, be careful about how much water you add -- we want a batter thicker than cake and thinner than muffins, if you know what I (wink, wink) mean. If you don't know what the spices are, it's no big deal -- their role is mainly digestive.

Having lived in the America (!) this long, you're probably able to stomach quite a lot.

The greens. The greens should have been cooked the night before, excellent and tasty, but just a little too much. We want to see green chunks in the final diamonds. We don't blend them because we don't want the diamonds to be green (oh, but if we did...). The greens I've been getting have been hand-picked, -washed, and -culled, then pressure cooked with entirely too much oil but doled in a such a manner that refusal is blasphemy. It's a pretty good trick for the cook when refusal is blasphemy. Work on it.

For a richer and tangier dhokla that India recommends ("it's not my fault") over the artful protests and noble sentiments of Vegan Radio (www.veganradio.com), blend the beans with yogurt, not water. Either way, leave the batter to ferment in a warming oven for the better part of a day, until it smells sour and has noticeably ("oh my, but hasn't it!") grown. I would say "outside" or "on the countertop" but I know that's not part of the scene, these days.

After it has fermented, salt the batter and set it to steam. Use a round metal tray or plate in a larger metal pot, perhaps with an inverted bowl on the bottom to allow some room for the water. There are special "dhokla pans" of course at your local (hah!) Indian superstore, but improvisation is at least as good for your blood pressure as a small dog, I would guess.

10-15 hard time in the steamer and your batter should come out reformed into a spongy cake. Fry mustard seeds and a chopped green chile in a tablespoon of sesame oil, add a tablespoon of water, and drizzle the mixture on top, sprinkling liberally then with chopped coriander (or parsley from your box) and lemon juice (smuggled from california).

Cut into diamond shapes (crucial) and serve. Note that these cakes are a perfect breakfast or snack (which is the same word here, "nasta"), with tea, or to placate uninvited guests and hungry schoolchildren. You can change the color by adding a puree of some vegetable or another (beets, carrots, parsley) or changing the bean (use black beans, soybeans, red lentils). Remember, these aren't dishes but rather WORLD VIEWS, and the entirety of the world can be seen through each one.


On the other hand, you have rutabaga. You've done your research and can impress your friends by calling it a "swede". You've read the nutritional information below. You know you can replace it (or any other potato-like creature) in your favorite mashed potato or french fry recipe. You had roasted root vegetables with carrot aioli last night (thank you very much). Your neighbor pretended it was cabbage and made an excellent coleslaw. You're bored. Well. I have two recommendations -- one from the raw foodies and one from the Finnish.
The ancient wisdom from the land of the "swede" (that is, typically, Finland) is to cook with nutmeg. Kind of imperialist, I know, but so is the rest of our lives. A little steamed rutabaga with freshly grated nutmeg and butter. A rutabaga consommé with a hint of honey and nutmeg (and ginger in the stock, I would add). Some nutmeg up in your seasoning salt for those rutabaga chips.
The modern wisdom from the neo-Essenes is the rutabaga pasta. Actually, it's the summersquash pasta but, as the man said, the seasons they are a changin'. Peel your rutabaga and instead of switching to the knife stick to your guns -- aim well and peel that swede to its stocky core, maximize the angle of the peeler-vegetable interaction to cut away even, thin strips of brassica. These are the new noodles. After the new economy exports all our foodgrain production to the fourth dimension and the oil barons sport a hiccup, they may be the only noodles we have, as in the days before Subcommandante Marcos, Polo shirts, and the Chinese threat.
As it was in the beginning so shall it be in the end. You can serve the pasta with any sauce you lovingly please. A parsley pesto would, of course, be most appropriate. Meche's version, most famous to my palate, comes from a Patagonian restaurant whose owners barely survived the Argentine economic collapse of 2001, though their assets did not. It involves a virtuous blend of fresh picked parsley, strong garlic, olive oil, black pepper, and salt. The key technique (alongside Mother Meche's indomitable warmth and Love) was the garlic was NOT to be chopped (and thus lose some of its virility to the cutting board) but rather blended with a hand mixer in a jar/bowl with the parsley and oil. There you have it: take the wisdom and run.

nash's farmshare box contents, friday dec 8th 2006

green mustards greens
lacinato kale
yukon pots
cylinder beets

could you include info about nutrition info for specific veggies, or this is high in that, or stuff about this veggie being good for this disease or that aliment or YOU know what I mean....

Friday, December 01, 2006

cooking can be god: nashs farmshare dec 1st

I would first like to apologize if something about these recipes sounds distant -- I am far from the snow and suffering winter lows of 60 degrees here in India. My official arrival was last Friday and I'm still settling into the biorhythyms and digestive troubles of the land where, at last, the climate suits my clothes.

Cooking in India, for a young man, is a difficult proposition, but after repeated attempts the hordes of beautiful, adept Aunties have let me through. They won't eat anything I make though but this is progress, paso a paso, a slow dialectic trickle.

Yesterday for lunch I made a curry with eggplant, karela (bitter gourd), and methi-baji (fenugreek leaves). Due to low demand and temperature on the farm, you won't find those in your box this week. So I'll do my best to translate.

A Gujarati Curry

It was made in Gujarat. With bitter melon which is stronger than it's name could imply. People grow up with here, enjoy, and treasure it. Ancient and modern science both confirm it's health benefits, especially for diabetes, intenstinal worms, and the dreaded Fever. You're going to be using potatoes or (and?) golden turnips. So this might not be your opportunity to wake up to the glories of that fourth taste. But it'll still be good.

Potatoes or Turnips, cut into small triangles.

The cutting itself is an important ritual -- cooking here is generally done on the floor, by a gaggle of women (cooking for three gaggles of men and children) squating with feet flat and perfect balance, vegetable in one hand, knife in the other, sending pieces flying into a communal vat. In the postmodern (read: co-ed) world, everyone is welcome to the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth (read: kitchen), and I highly advise trying it Indian style. You must, however, mop the floor before you start, and practice your balance before picking up a knife. Trust me.

Set the roots to steam on the back burner and get out your Mustard Oil.

Before the green revolution and the industrialization of agriculture, people used cooking oils suited to their season and climate. It's winter in India and you would be using mustard oil, which is hot to the taste, touch, smell, and digestion. These days it's all GMO peanut oil and cottonseed oil, which is cheap. For you/us in Sequim, the natives probably used fish oil more than anything. So, you know, buy some mustard oil.

Heat your mustard oil on medium-high heat. It will slide all over the pan. Throw in a handful of black (or brown) (or yellow) mustard seeds and wait for them to pop. When they start popping, decapitate, halve, and viscerate one small green chile (serrano) for each pair of diners. Fry until blistered and pockmarked, remove, and add some asofetida if you have it (asofetida, or hingu, is a tree resin used to enhance both flavor and digestion).

Add the steamed roots and stir well, keeping the flame up.

If you've cut them small, it won't be long (pace The Beatles) till they're tender. If they finish before you do, rinse them in cold water to stop the shining. Undercooked is fine (we could have fried them from the raw) but overcooked means you have to rename the dish. With such heat you will have to focus and to stir. In the lacunae between forceful forearm agitation, wash and chop either the collards or the kale. Just a couple of leaves, but chopped very small. If they're sufficiently dry you could even pulse them in the robot -- going for the size you would cut cilantro for your salsa. Not a paste.

Add the greens when the roots have browned.

They should be crispy and threaten to burn. Turn the heat down and add 1/2 a teaspoon of turmeric mixed into a little war, for color and good omens. Add salt. In India they would continue cooking for another twenty minutes and three tablespoons of godless cottonseed oil, but in the interested of time, nutrition, and not killing the love out of Nash's amazing kale, I'd cook it for three minutes or less, until the kale brightens into green.

Add the juice of half a lemon, check the salt, and serve.

A large Salad

Last night at my aunt's house they gave me a little metal dish of salad (finely chopped tomato and cucumber with cilantro and black salt) alongside my plate. I ate the whole thing in less time than took to realize that tiny metal dish was for all seven of us.

With that in mind, get out a large bowl. Do this before the curry. Chop up your lovely red cabbage in gratitude to those who have worked so hard to bring you such color. Throw in a generous (exorbitant?) 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar and a little cottonseed oil (you know, it's cheap, i mean, hey?, why not) and let the cabbage soak in the love.

Grate your jchokes and chioggas, and toss them with the juice of the other half of that lemon you smuggled in. At this point, when you're ready to combine, you've got sweet (the beets), crunchy (the chokes), sour (the vinegar), and spicy (the cabbage) taken care of. You'll add salt and something soft -- rehydrated raisins, figs, or dates perhaps? -- to balance. You can massage the cabbage, as well, to help with The Process.

Note that if you cut the cabbage fine enough (think robot, once again), this would be a super (just super!) filling for sushi.