Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Risotto and Roasted Roots, FTW!

Wow, I feel like I've been cooking like a maniac and yet somehow it was the day before our new CSA delivery and we still hadn't finished all of our vegetables. From last weeks CSA, we still had carrots, radishes, chard, dandelion greens miner's lettuce, and scallions, and from our last farmer's market trip we had wild arugula and celeriac. Last night Gretchen roasted the carrots and parsnips and I made a risotto with sundried tomatoes, chard, dandelion greens, and garlic jack cheese and a salad of carrot greens, arugula, and miner's lettuce. The carrots were roasted with ginger and garlic and the parsnips were dressed with honey, malt vinegar, and mustard. They were amazing! Wow. The risotto came out excellent too. Risotto is so easy, I don't know why I don't make it all the time. I think I will from now on. The salad was OK, it turns out carrot greens are tastier cooked I think. Here's some recipes:

Risotto with Sundried Tomatoes and Greens
(serves 6)

2 cups arborio rice
5 cups vegetable or chicken broth (we use "Better than Chicken")
1/2 red onion, chopped
1/2 cup chopped sundried tomatoes in olive oil
1/4 cup tomato sauce
2 cups mixed chopped chard and dandelion greens
1/2 to 1 cup white wine
3 tbsp butter, 1tbsp walnut oil or olive oil
1 cup grated garlic jack cheese
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

In a large saucepan, melt 2 tbsp butter and sautee red onions for a couple of minutes. Add arborio rice and sautee another couple of minutes, then add greens, mix around, and sautee another minute.

Pour in about half a cup of white wine. When it seems to have mostly cooked off, start adding broth. Add about a half a cup or a cup at a time and stir fairly constantly. When the liquid is mostly absorbed, add more. You can keep the heat at medium. When you have about a cup of broth left to add, add the sundried tomatoes and tomato sauce.

When the rice has a soft, creamy texture, mix in grated jack cheese and parmesan, another tablespoon of butter, and a drizzle of walnut or olive oil. Add lots of black pepper and stir to make sure every part of the risotto is seasoned.

Roasted Carrots with Ginger

1. Clean the carrots, and remove the tops. Put them on a baking sheet and toss with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast at 400 degrees for awhile, maybe 20 minutes? Until they are slightly browned, and soft.

2. Meanwhile, mix together 1/4 cup chopped scallions, 2 tbls. chopped ginger, 1/2 a chopped jalapeño, 1 tbls. chopped garlic, and 2-3 tbls oil.

3. After the carrots are finished, pour the scallion-ginger mixture over the carrots, and toss to coat. Put them back in the oven for a couple minutes to slightly cook the ginger and garlic.

Roasted Parsnips
1. Same as step 1 for the carrots, but with parsnips. Be a bit more careful in the roasting, since the parsnip tips have a tendency to burn.

2. Mix together malt vinegar (2 tblsish), honey (1 tblsish), and mustard (1-2 tsp). I used tangerine habañero mustard, but any kind would do.

3. Same as step 3 for the carrots, but with parsnips and this mixture instead.


Sunday, March 27, 2011

Rosemary Tomato Scones Fit for a Duchess

In case you were wondering, the Duchess of Squirrel is Gretchen's alter-ego. Both Gretchen and her noble alter-ego were out of town at a conference for the last few days and I missed her, so I decided to make her brunch. I've had a hankering to work with dough lately so I made rosemary-tomato scones from the Vegan Brunch Cookbook. We had half a can of tomato sauce left over which went into them, and I added sundried tomatoes and used up a bunch of fresh rosemary. They came out really well! There's nothing better than a fresh baked scone on Sunday morning.

To go with that I briefly boiled our broccolini and dressed it with a simple vinagrette from a Barefoot Contessa recipe -- olive oil, garlic, balsamic vinegar, and dijon mustard. I added some crushed red pepper. They were tasty, and it was such a small amount of vinagrette it was just sort of a hint of added flavor on top of the fresh vegetable flavor. I also made scrambled eggs with a little bit of garlic jack cheese we picked up at the farmer's market in Santa Monica yesterday.


Duchess of Squirrel here: Last night, I wanted to use up some of last week's CSA before moving on to this week's, and we had some dandelion greens hanging around. I found an Alice Waters recipe that was basically greens (she suggested kale) and sausage with pasta. We didn't have sausage, but we did have some fennel fronds left over from last week as well, so I decided to just improvise a bit without the sausage, since sausage has some fennel flavor. I looked up a sausage recipe in a vegan cookbook I have, and started to saute onion in olive oil with fresh rosemary (CSA), dried thyme and fennel, and red pepper flakes. After the onions softened, I threw in the dandelion greens and fennel fronds with water, and let that cook down. Meanwhile, I cooked up the whole wheat pasta and then mixed it in with the greens. I topped the dish with walnut oil, parmesan, and lemon zest.

This was quite yummy, though the fennel fronds texture was a bit odd. It grew on us though. I'd recommend it, esp. if you don't have fennel fronds to use up. :D

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

In the Box This Week

Broccoli florets (I think, they look like the ends of broccoli rabe but no leaves, and there is a little white flower), radishes, carrots, parsnips, dandelion greens, rosemary, miner's lettuce, dill, chard, and scallions.

I am really excited that we have parsnips. I love parsnips, and I have a recipe for parsnip fries with honey vinaigrette I've been wanting to try. I'm excited about broccoli florets too, if that is indeed what they are. But I have to admit I am getting tired of miner's lettuce, dill, and carrots. Amazingly, I'm not tired of rosemary yet even though we've been getting a bunch every week since December. I read that if you put it in your bath water it increases your circulation (by what mechanism, I don't know but at least it smells good). That may be the rosemary's fate this week.

As much as the carrots from Tierra Miguel are far superior to supermarket, how many carrots can you eat? The only carrot salad I like is a dish called "Korean carrot salad" served in Russia and central Asia. According to the New York Times, it is so named because its culinary origins are in the mass deportation of ethnic Koreans from the eastern Soviet Union to the western Soviet Union. ( It has a lot of garlic and chili pepper. Carrots are so sweet already I don't really like pairing them with raisins or other sweet ingredients. I remember the carrot salad of my youth being some mix of shredded carrots, raisins, and sweetened yogurt (or was it mayonnaise?). Not a fond memory. So I will probably make Korean carrot salad but there are still carrots from last week, and that's too many damn carrots for one salad. This might be an excuse to make the carrot timbale recipe from one of my British vegetarian cookbooks...or maybe carrot ice cream?

The dill I just don't know what to do with. I'm really sick of dill. And I don't want to take a bath with it. If I had more time on my hands I'd use it to pickle something and not open the jar until we're in a different season and I'm not sick of dill anymore. I suppose I could infuse vodka with it and on some crazy night drink shots of it with smoked fish and black bread. That was always fun in law school.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

What's Cookin' Good Lookin'?

Gretchen used up our fennel and a bunch of our rosemary last night in a lovely fennel pizza. She made Mark Bittman's whole wheat dough and put fresh rosemary in it, made a simple pizza sauce, and topped it with thin sliced fennel, chopped garlic, and fresh mozarrella. Very yummy.

We're almost done with our CSA box for the week, just in time for the new delivery tomorrow. We have some cabbage left, and some carrots and dandelion greens that I plan to stir fry tonight and toss with glass noodles and tofu. But what to do with this endless rosemary? Any ideas?

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Weekend washout, but very good brunch downtown

Well, Friday and Saturday were kind of a wash as far as cooking goes. Friday night we had a million social plans and ended up staying home instead and ordering noodles from Urban Noodle, an okay place. Their vegetable soup noodles are really good, mostly because they have an excellent gingery broth. I had the chinese seafood noodles which I remembered as being really good but were actually only okay. Saturday morning I had a street food craving and we wandered over toward Santee Alley in search of pupusas. We were going to get a slice of true New York Pizza at 9th Street Pizza, little pizza by the slice place run by an ex-pat New Yorker in the fashion district. Then we were planning to get a couple of lovely cheesey pupusas. But we passed by a restaurant we had never noticed before called Tiara Cafe, and when they told us they had dollar mimosas we decided to go there instead.

The place was totally empty, but the menu sounded interesting and you can't beat dollar mimosas. It actually turned out to be delicious! We shared an order of cheesy grits with mustard greens, poached eggs, and sundried tomato sauce with and an order of vegan chilaquiles. The grits were awesome, almost fluffy and with the cheese nicely integrated. The vegan chilequiles were with a yellow sauce which was called habanero sauce on the menu. It was very yummy but not hot which makes me skeptical about how much habanero was in it. The chips were good and thick, and there was silken tofu in the dish too. Personally I like my chilequiles swimming in sauce and there was only enough to coat the chips in this dish, but it was very tasty. We each had three dollar mimosas which were surprisingly strong. For $25 for both of us, it was a pretty good deal!

Saturday night was a bring-your-own dinner Purim party at our synagogue, so we got burritos from Coronado's, a new Mexican place on 5th street we've been wanting to try. With Mas Malo and Border Grill in the neighborhood, it's easy to spend a lot of money when we have a craving for Mexican food. Coronado's is an inexpensive restaurant that according to yelp has great carne asada. Apparently they have a popular place in the San Gabriel Valley. As much as I wanted to try that carne asada, I was trying to be good so I got a calabacitas burrito (Mexican back squash, which is a zucchini type squash) and I got a chile relleno burrito for Gretchen. While I was waiting I tried their margarita. I'm pretty picky about margaritas and I think it's a sin not to use fresh lime juice, but they had a trick up their sleeve at Coronado's. They used some kind of bottled lime juice but it was better than Rose's lime juice, which lots of bars use. And then they squeezed some fresh lime in as well. When they shook it up, it had that little bit of frothiness that a margarita made with fresh lime juice has. It was an okay margarita.

The calabacitas burrito was really good. It was filled with tender chunks of Mexican zucchini and grilled onions, and the refried beans were very tasty. Gretchen liked the chile relleno burrito and said it tasted fresh and wasn't as heavy as chile rellenos can be. We'll be back to Coronado's.

Make this Recipe Now!

We got beautiful squash blossoms at the farmer's market in Ojai last weekend. It seems early for squash blossoms, but California is magical that way. We also got amazing walnut oil from an Ojai producer. The resulting dish is in my opinion one of the best we've made, and it's really easy:

Squash Blossoms with Mozzarella and Raisins

  • 12 squash blossoms
  • 1/2 cup fresh mozzarella, diced
  • 2 tablespoons raisins, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons oil-packed sundried tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/2-1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons walnut oil
  • salt to taste
  1. Mix together the mozzarella, raisins, sundried tomatoes, and cayenne pepper in a bowl. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Grease a cookie sheet with a thin film of olive oil.
  3. Stuff the squash blossoms with the mozzarella - sundried tomato - raisin mixture, twist the ends and tuck them under, placing them on cookie sheet.
  4. Bake for 350, then drizzle with walnut oil and salt to taste.

Ricotta Contest

I often enter contests on food52 is a website with a weekly cooking challenge, and the winners are published in a cookbook at the end of the year. This past week's challenge was fresh ricotta. I decided to make ricotta gnocchi. I found an easy-sounding Mark Bittman recipe in the New York times which basically involved mixing up flour, eggs, ricotta, and salt, and dropping spoonfuls into boiling water until they float. The result was more malfatti than gnocchi-- malfatti means "misshapen", and these were like drop biscuits.

For the sauce, I wanted to use these terrific pistachio meats we bought at the farmer's market in Ojai last week. I've used pistachio with yogurt before with some success, and I thought I'd do a brothy pistachio-yogurt sauce. I had kibbeh in a brothy yogurt sauce at Skaf's, an Armenian Lebanese restaurant in Glendale a while back, and it was a nice, slighly sour sauce.

I wanted to add other flavors, and I originaly thought of making a roasted red pepper and sundried tomato sauce that could be swirled in, but I ended up just putting everything in the food processor and mixing it all together. It came out very tasty. Here's the recipe:

Ricotta Malfatti:

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan
  • 10 ounces fresh ricotta
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • salt and pepper

Pistachio and Roasted Pepper Sauce:

  • 1 red bell pepper, roasted, skin removed
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/3 cup sundried tomatoes packed in olive oil
  • 1 cup yogurt
  • 1 cup vegetable or chicken broth
  • 1/3 cup pistachio meats
  • 1 cup mint leaves, loosely packed
  • 1 teaspoon allspice
  • black pepper and salt
  • 1/2 lemon
  1. In a large bowl, mix malfatti ingredients until the dough stays together. Add flour if needed.
  2. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and drop in rounded tablespoonfuls of dough one, being careful not to crowd the pan. When the malfatti are done, they rise to the top. Remove them to plates with a slotted spoon.
  3. In a pan, cook garlic and onion in butter until soft. Add garlic, onion, half of the mint, the juice of the lemon, and the rest of the ingredients to a food processor and purée. Season to taste.
  4. Finely chop remaining mint. Smother malfatti in sauce and garnish with fresh mint to serve.

St. Patrick's Day!

Thursday was St. Paddy's Day, and Gretchen made a fabulous Irish meal! We had some asparagus from the Ojai famer's market last weekend, and first she roasted it with meyer lemon olive oil, rosemary, and salt and pepper. When I got home from work, hungry as a horse as usual, she gave me a pan of asparagus to munch on. They were delicious, and much healthier than the cheese and bread I'd usually head to for a quick fix. Roasting asparagus gives them depth of flavor, and the tops were nice and crispy.

Gretchen also made a bowlful of absolutely delicious braised radishes for us to much on. I could not believe how good these were. I would usually only use radishes as a garnish for a taco, or throw a few into a lettuce salad. This radish dish was an Alice Waters recipe. The radishes are sauteed in butter and brown sugar, and then braise in water and the radish greens, and a little white wine vinegar. The radish bulbs come out creamy and delicate, and the greens are slightly salty and very flavorful.

Next we had colcannon, an irish dish that is typically made from kale or cabbage and mashed potatoes. Gretchen used the swiss chard and cabbage from our CSA box, and some potatoes from the store. The cabbage and chard were chopped up and boiled, and then mixed in with mashed potatoes. My favorite cookbook of all time, The Ultimate Vegetarian Cookbook by Roz Denny, had a colcannon recipe with nestled baked eggs. Gretchen put the colcannon in a square plan and made little indentations for each egg. Then she baked it until the eggs were set but the yolks were still a little runny. The result was delicious-- creamy, yolky eggs mixed with mashed potatoes and greens. It was a simple but lovely dish.

Finally, the dessert. I would have paid $15 for this dessert in a restaurant and been totally happy. Gretchen made a sherbert from tangerines and oranges from my parents' trees in the San Fernando Valley using almond milk and sugar, and then followed an Alice Waters recipe for chocolate sauce made from baking chocolate. Finally, she added a stroke of Gretchen-riffic brilliance! She made homemade whipped cream and added orange flower water. If you've never had it, orange flower water has a strong floral aroma. A little goes a long way. Think of putting your nose inside an orange blossom-- that's what it is like. Orange flower water is available in Middle Eastern stores, and it's usually only a couple of dollars for a quantity that will last you years. It's also a key ingredient in a lovely classic cocktail called the Ramos Gin Fizz.

She layered the tangerine-orange sherbet, bittersweet chocolate sauce, and orange flower water whipped cream into wine glasses. It was perfect.

This is the kind of meal that makes me not miss going out to eat at all. We each had probably four servings of vegetables in this mea, and it was absolutely delicious and satisfying.

In the Box this Week

This week our box had fennel, rosemary, miner's lettuce, dandelion greens, radishes, carrots, scallions, dill, swiss chard, and cabbage.

Welcome to our life

We are two queer attorneys, 29 and 31, living in downtown Los Angeles. We are happy and proud that we've already accomplished the biggest goal in our lives -- to find each other and fall in love. But now that we're married and our careers are on the right track, we're getting ready to spend the rest of our lives together. That means getting healthy and getting organized. We started this blog so that you, our friends, family and anyone else who stumbles upon us, can help keep us accountable to our new goal: eating our veggies, every single day.

We get a weekly vegetable delivery from Tierra Miguel farm in Southern California, and the contents of the box are different each week. Local, seasonal eating comes to us in downtown LA. But staying home and cooking vegetables means resisting the delectable delights of downtown -- to name a few of our favorites, ricotta fritters, gnocchi with roasted grapes and goat cheese, steak with marrow butter, butterscotch pudding, and lasagna with fresh pasta sheets. Our neighborhood is overflowing with artisanal cocktails made with mezcal, tequila, whiskey, and rum. And we love checking out the newest and most unique restaurants and bars as soon as they open up.

This blog will chronicle how we use every single vegetable in our CSA box every week. And when we slip up or give ourselves a treat, we'll tell you about the fabulous restaurants of LA.