Monday, October 31, 2011

Lord, there goes Johnny Appleseed.

Recently, we found ourselves with a crap-ton of apples. (I believe that is a metric measurement.) Some were from the farmer’s market and some were from the grocery store, but the common denominator was that Red and I were tired of eating them. The Granny Smiths, in particular (from the hippie grocery), were notably less than juicy and delicious, which made me sad because I love them so. But they were still perfectly good. What to do with them?

I made Applesauce à la Burnout, basically. It’s a variation on the way my mom makes individual servings of baked apples, which is via the magic of the microwave. Probably I can’t call it applesauce as nothing gets pureed, but the apples do cook down and get soft, so maybe it’s chunky applesauce. Whatever. Here’s what I did:

Take your huge bowl of apples (10 or so).

Peel, core, and slice those babies. We actually have a fancy apple peeler that sits on the counter and you impale your apple on its spiky center piece, then turn the crank and it shaves the skin off, but it’s kind of only reliable for perfectly spherical apples. Organic, local apples are frequently lumpy as hell, so I used a hand-held peeler and it worked out great. I did use our apple corer and mandoline for the coring and slicing, respectively. When I was done, I had a mountain of apple slices:

Put them in your biggest skillet. Ours is 10 inches in diameter and is fairly groaning under the weight of all those apples. Well, there wasn’t much to do about it but crank up the heat and start cooking them down. A little brown sugar is nice for this, because it helps the sugar in the apples caramelize and get nice and gooey. At least that’s what I tell myself when I want to add more brown sugar. All told, I think I added about six tablespoons to this huge pan of apples, which is not so much when you think about it. I also added liberal sprinklings of cinnamon—you can never have too much!—and dashes of cloves, nutmeg, and allspice, because I have this problem where if I add one of those things, I have to add all of them.

How long the apples take to be finished depends on how many of them there are, how hot you have your stove, and how much you’re stirring. I think I kept the pan at about medium heat and stirred pretty regularly. It speeds up as they start to cook down and there’s more space in there, but it’s still a pretty variable process. Just cook them until they’re soft and juicy enough for your liking and they taste good. Then they’re ready to be eaten straight up (my favorite way) or in oatmeal (my other favorite way). It’s like apple pie without the dessert-for-breakfast guilt.

And now, bringing this all back around to what’s most important in life is Mr. Joe Strummer.

May you always have plenty of apples, my darlings.

Friday, October 28, 2011

CSA Weeks 18, 19, and 20: Potatoes, sweet and non.

Guess what, darlings? I just realized that I have three weeks of CSA photos for you, and I’m gonna try to get it all done right now! Fun, yeah? No promises that I can remember what we did with every random carrot, but let’s do this thing. Hold onto your squash!

First off, a programming note: Astute readers will notice that this post covers Weeks 18 through 20, while the previous one covered Weeks 15 and 16. Whither Week 17? Damned if I know. Going back through my calendar, it looks like what I called Week 16 is really Week 17, which means I lost a week in there somewhere. Through the looking glass, y’all. Who wants their money back?

We had an insanely long day of outdoor apple butter-making that started before the sun had fully come up, so I hustled to the farmer’s market and back without stopping at any of the other vendors. Here we have sweet potatoes, regular potatoes, lacinato kale, and collard greens.

We freaking love kale, and collards are pretty tasty themselves. We combined them for Vegan Soul Kitchen’s Citrus Collards with Raisins Redux, which we tried for the first time back in July and have wanted to make again since it started getting autumnal up in here. Like before, I scorned the raisins in favor of cranberries. The kale was a welcome addition.

Pretty sure we just roasted up those giant sweet potatoes with some olive oil and a drizzle of maple syrup. Best way to do it. I think in my last post I mentioned some caulipots, too, yeah? Must be where the regular potatoes went. Caulipots are great because you don’t even notice the cauliflower. Insofar as there’s a recipe for them, I use Isa’s from Appetite for Reduction—which reminds me, I need to reclaim that from a friend I lent it to in August. Caulipots are delicious on their own, but Red was feeling experimental and decided we should try a vegan gravy packet in advance of Thanksgiving (we’ll be traveling to my sister’s in North Carolina, so we’re planning ahead). It was fine. Nothing exceptional, but it looked very homey on top of the caulipots.

CSA-adjacent but still delicious is this Spaghetti Pie with Arrabbiata Sauce (with Daiya on top) from American Vegan Kitchen. It is like lasagna without the drama. Actually, there was a little drama, because it turned out to be really hard to dish out spaghetti noodles using a spatula while trying to maintain the integrity of the casserole. It worked much better when the pie had spent the night in the fridge and I sliced it for lunches, but next time I think we’ll make it with penne or rotini or another, more scoopable pasta. Regardless of logistical difficulties, it’s super-tasty and very satisfying. We had too much sauce, which is a great problem to have, so we just boiled up some more pasta and were good to go!

Here’s Week 19:

That broccoli hung out until this past week (Week 20), but no worries—it has a happy ending. I made the prettiest miso soup with the bok choy:

It was good, Red was weirded out because I added some kelp granules to the broth, which it made it grainy. My bad, babe.

Here’s that butternut squash soup I couldn’t shut up about last week. It’s got squash, carrots, some of that ancient-yet-still-crisp cauliflower, and probably some onion and garlic. I am totally blanking on where the recipe came from. If I can solve the mystery, maybe I’ll update the post. Maybe I won’t. Anyway, it’s pretty basic, but good and very comforting as the nights get colder. As I was cooking, we realized we didn’t have any nice crusty bread to go with it. Red ran out to the crappy grocery store down the street (sorry, but it’s true), and the only vegan breadstuff was their generic dinner rolls. First-world problem, ahoy! Trust us, we survived.

Remember when I raved about Tami’s seitan cutlets? That was nine days ago, you guys. Anyway, the seitan recipe basically makes double what you need for any of the recipes in American Vegan Kitchen. Half became the Salisbury Seitan of my last update, and the rest met its destiny as Mexicali Seitan in some fabulous burritos:

When Red took a bite, he said, “Holy shit, this tastes like a grilled-steak taco.” I don’t speak the language of omnis very fluently anymore (what is this “bacon” your people rhapsodize about so obsessively?), but I could tell he was pleased that all the tastes of his former meat-eating life were not forever lost to him. They were goddamn amazing burritos.

Week 20, ready for its close-up:

More potatoes and sweet potatoes! Whatever will we do?

Here’s some excellent potato-and-corn chowder, veganized from a random Internet recipe:

There’s that broccoli, in addition to some carrots, corn and potatoes (obviously). We had bought oyster mushrooms because Red wisely thought they’d be a good addition. Unfortunately, I forgot to add them. Fortunately, we still had miso soup in the fridge, and oyster mushrooms seemed like they’d be a good fit. As you see, they were:

We’d also bought a bunch of portabella strips, some of which ended up in here:

That is Brewpub Tater-Tot Pie from American Vegan Kitchen, and it is why Tami is going to take over the world someday. Let me say it again.


Regardless of your feelings on Napoleon Dynamite (I am apathetic but find it irresistibly quotable), tater tots are the shit. Red and I were stoked to be able to put them on top of a veggie casserole (carrots, celery, onions, shrooms, TVP, tomatoes) and call it dinner. Oh, there was beer involved, too.

The rest of the portabella strips we got for a dollar because they were getting old. The mushroom lady told us to cook them that very day, so we did:

We added them to the leftover spaghetti pie sauce. When in doubt as to what to do with your random/tired veggies, add them to a sauce!

Our final dish was African Sweet Potato Soup from 30-Minute Vegan. We’d made it before, but I couldn’t remember what it tasted like, so it was a pleasant surprise. Looking back through my old posts, I described it in 2009 as “half hearty vegetable soup, half creamy peanut-ginger bisque.” That is a pretty apt description, I must say. We didn’t have fresh ginger this time, but I think the powdered stuff worked fine. It’s a nice change from regular vegetable soup. We had maybe two cups of diced sweet potato left over, so I just roasted it while the soup simmered.

Thanks for hanging with me through this year’s CSA craziness! Four weeks left. You all are champions. Next week I’ll be back with a post about what I did with a million leftover apples and some Halloween/Samhain photos! Have a happy and blessed holiday (or just a fab weekend).

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

CSA Weeks 15 and 16: Finally, fall.

For a summer-loving gal, I sure am happy with the change of seasons. Of course, it’s hard to feel autumnal when the odd 80-degree day keeps popping up, and the leaves don’t seem too keen on changing, but overall, I like it. Week 15’s veggies don’t look too seasonal, but just go with it:

There we have some beautiful chard, another green leafy thing, garlic, and spinach, all of which may have been from One Straw, although I can’t recall if they do spinach or not. The peaches and cauliflower definitely came from other vendors. I don’t even know, you guys. I was too busy mourning the last of the peaches.

I didn’t get too wild with this week’s haul, I’m afraid. The spinach went into this tester wrap (I’m lucky as hell to be testing for Tami Noyes and Celine Steen’s upcoming sandwich cookbook o’awesomesauce!), with some totally-out-of-season strawberries and a delicious hazelnut dressing:

Hold on, let me back up. I need to properly thank Tami and Celine for having me as a tester, because Red and I have enjoyed some of the most amazing sandwiches over these past few months. Both of them are recipe-creating geniuses, and it is awesome to eat food that doesn’t require silverware. Double-mega thanks to Tami, for whose upcoming book Grills Gone Vegan I’m also testing! It’s testing mania in my house! As if I haven’t been blessed enough by the vegan cooking goddesses, Tami was also kind enough to send me a copy of her first book, American Vegan Kitchen. I love it, and it is the best cookbook a homestyle-food-loving guy like Red could ask for. It is fan-freaking-tabulous. We love you, Tami!

Wow, it is so much better writing about how awesome other vegans are than about what we ate all week. Seriously. But I promised you I’d take you through our CSA, and I’m doing it—slowly and with long gaps between posts because I am by turns lazy and mental, but mostly lazy. So, back to my lackluster photos!

After those ballin’ strawberry-spinach wraps, we had…some other stuff. I honestly can’t remember what in hell we did with that chard and the other green leafies, but I am sure it was delicious. Some of the cauliflower went into (I think) a tester recipe, and let me just state for the record that cauliflower is perhaps the longest-lived fridge vegetable I have ever met, except maybe for garlic. We had a bunch of cauliflower left over and no desire to do anything with it, so it sat. And sat. And did not get moldy or mushy or gross. Finally, this past weekend (so, like, after it had been hanging out for three weeks), we used the rest in a squash soup and some caulipots. And it was as good as the day we brought it home. Cauliflower, you are the long-distance runner of the Crisper drawer.

I did a little better with Week 16:

I forget what kinds of apples we got, but they’re all good, so eat more apples, okay? The carrots went to a variety of uses, including just plain microwaved and diced into raw chunks for Lucy. One ended up in that squash soup, as well. You’ll see that sooner or later, I swear. I mean, it doesn’t look like much, but it was delicious. That smallish broccoli we just steamed and ate as a side. Here’s that butternut squash, roasted up all pretty:

I do love me some winter squash. The squash, broccoli, onions, and garlic all came from One Straw; the carrots, apples, and mushrooms were from elsewhere.

You can’t really tell from the photo, but that’s a whole bunch of shrooms. Enough for two mushroom-centric recipes. Here’s one of them:

That’s Salisbury-Style Seitan with Mushrooms from American Vegan Kitchen. The seitan recipe from that book is killer. I am by no means a seitan expert, but I’ve tried a few different versions, and this is one of the best. Those dumb-looking mashed potatoes are the byproduct of another AVK recipe, Tempeh Stroganoff-Stuffed Potatoes (no picture because I was mad at myself), and they are dumb-looking because the fuckers wouldn’t bake, then they fell apart when I tried to scrape out the insides for the stuffed part of the recipe. So, once I finished crying (because yes, I cried over my stupid defective potatoes), I put them in a pot and mashed them like I was mashing the brains of my worst enemy. They still didn’t get creamy and fluffy like proper mashed potatoes, but when you’re putting delicious tempeh stroganoff and/or seitan with shrooms on top, it doesn’t make much difference. The tempeh stroganoff was boss, too, in case you’re wondering.

Oh, right, here’s where some of those carrots ended up:

This is a tester recipe from Tami’s grill book, and it is enough to make you want to fire up your grill in the middle of winter, although I punked out and made it indoors, because when you have a cast-iron skillet you can take it from the stove to the oven to the flames of hell and it will be fine. Behold, Tempeh Chickpea Stew with Harissa Biscuits! I had never had harissa before, and this is but one example of why Tami is cool: She makes me buy weird sauces and things I would have ignored otherwise and now love. I’ve got harissa and sriracha and sambal oelek and I even made my own freakin’ berbere spice. This is the second time I’ve made this recipe, so you know I really like it. The next time anyone gives me shit about where I get my protein, I am handing them a bowl of this and saying, “You’re welcome, douchebag.” Chickpeas! Tempeh! A whole bunch of vegetables! Delicious savory biscuits on top! This will keep you full until you see that Chocolate Pirate’s Booty (Marla, you’re a terrible influence) on top of the fridge and decide it’s time for dessert.

And that’s all. In case you’re really excited for that squash soup, I’ll try to get the next recap up before Thanksgiving.