Thursday, February 25, 2010

Roasted Tofu with Garlic scapes, (summer rears it's head in the middle of winter)

I was digging through my freezer and happened upon a little bag of green stuff. When I saw the word "scapes" on it in fading sharpie ink, my heart jumped and I was instantly transported to summer and the huge bag of garlic scapes my friend melissa brought me from her friend's garlic farm. I had thoughtfully ground them up with a little salt and oil and frozen them, and then forgotten about them. What a nice gift in the middle of winter!

Garlic scapes are the tops of garlic plants that shoot up form the earth, which are then cut off so that the garlic will put it's energy into fortifying the bulb beneath the ground, not growing a garlic plant above. Later the bulbs are harvested and then dried. Scapes are usually available for about a two week period of time, I think in late June, but my winter brain can't quite imagine the details of the growing season at the moment.

Garlic scapes make a great pesto, or just a garlic flavored mash that you can add to anything. Here I just tossed it on some tofu, with some olive oil salt and pepper and roasted it in the oven at 400 degrees until it was nicely browned on the bottom, about 20 minutes.

A squeeze of lemon over it when it comes out of the oven is a nice addition too.
The bottoms got brown and crispy
I sliced up the tofu and tossed it with some roasted sweet potatoes I cooked on Sunday afternoon so that I'd have some "food for the week", a bunch of lettuce (that was washed on Sunday as well so it was no effort to throw it into a bowl), a squeeze of lemon, and we were good to go. The kids ate the tofu with rice and vegetables, for a warmer, more "kid friendly meal"
(sorry for some of the yellow photos like this one. I take many of my pictures at night when I'm cooking dinner, and the light is not great. I'm working on a solution, but it will be a while, so bear with me!)

NOTE: if you don't have garlic scapes, you can finely chop some garlic together with salt so that it macerates. Mix the garlic with a little oil and rub that on the tofu. season with salt and pepper and roast as instructed above.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Non-traditional bialy a hit with this Jewish girl

In these cold winter months in New England, I venture out on an occasional Saturday to the local Winter Farmers' Market in New Haven run by CitySeed, the organization I have been working with for the past couple years. There are still a good amount of root vegetables and greens and so much more at the market, which is wonderful. I must admit though, that my primary reason for making the journey to the market is to eat yet another of the fabulous treats made by the Sono Baking Co. Yes, they are that good.

During the many years I lived in Brooklyn, my primary motivation for leaving my apartment each day was all the fabulous food that awaited me outside my doors. While there is a lot of great food in New Haven, there was not a perfect croissant to be found, and not many sweets as good as those from the Sono baking co, (in South Norwalk, CT). When my birthday rolled around in November the first year we moved back here, I actually took the day off from work and drove 45 minutes to the bakery just to eat their delicious food and buy a whole box of pastries and breakfast sweets to bring home. I also took a walk on the docks in the chilly fall air...and then ate some more pastry.

But, back to the point of this post. Bialy's. I have always loved them. As a kid we bought them from this Jewish deli on Whalley ave and Dayton street which is now a package store. As an adult I used to buy them on the upper west side on my way to shop at Fairway before a day of cooking and catering. Sliced, toasted and slathered with butter, oozing out into the foil it was wrapped in, delicious and special. These bialys were usually from Kossar's on the lower east side, one of the few remaining jewish outposts in that neighborhood. (now next door to Donut Plant(fabulous!), across the street from the Pickle Guys, and around the corner from Sweet Life candy store and a chinatown noodle shop on the corner of Hester and Ludlow. A fabulous 2 block walk at Essex and Grand that is seriously worth a nyc visit). Now as much as I liked these bialys with their browned onions and soft chewy interiors, I always savored the few onions inthe middle and wished for more in each bite.

The bialy's from Sono, certainly don't suffer from lack of onions as can be seen in these pictures, and the onions have not been caramelized before being baked with the dough. These onions are tossed with poppyseeds, and a little oil and cooked right with the dough as it bakes. The Sono bialys are slightly larger than average and a little softer too. None of this should be taken to mean they are inferior, different for sure, but fabulous! I haven't been able to leave the market without one since they started making them some time last summer. I have loved these spilt, toasted and eaten with avocado and a fried egg. A wonderful weekend breakfast or lunch.

Some of my other favorites from Sono: Kouign amann, conchas, fruit foccacia, and lemon briocche, and they make one of the best almond croissants around.

If you love bialys as much as I do, or just want to read about them, check out the book The Bialy Eaters by Mimi Sheraton

First Press on New Haven Cooks

Beautiful day at the CitySeed Farmers' Market. Our Cookbook took it's first step out into the world today and was greeted with such warmth and celebration. It was an exciting day. Looking forward to a big official book launch party soon, and to getting the books out to local health centers, WIC offices and other spots in a few months. Such a great community project!

To read the article in the New Haven Register by Elizabeth Benton, click here.

Friday, February 19, 2010

New Haven Cooks/Cocina New Haven - On Sale Now!

This fabulous New Haven Community Cookbook will be on sale for the first time tomorrow Saturday, February 20th at the CitySeed winter farmer's market located in Wooster Sq. 10am-1pm. It will be available soon on the website and at some local stores. Come on down to the market tomorrow, I'll be there handing out the first copies. Dozens of community memebers donated time and talent to create this wonderful book. I have been working on it for the past year and a half, and am very excited to see it move out into the community and be a usefully and delicious tool to help people cook and eat more fruits and vegetables!

here's the info form the cityseed website:

ON SALE NOW - Currently available for purchase at CitySeed's Winter Farmers' Market (open this Saturday, February 20 from 10am-1pm) or the CitySeed office - 817 Grand Ave. in New Haven (Tues. - Thurs. 9am-5pm). Price: $14.95 + tax

Thank you to everyone who submitted recipes for the New Haven Community Cookbook and sharing your favorite fruit and vegetable recipes!

In an effort to learn from each other and share home-cooked good-ness, CitySeed has compiled New Haven Cooks / Cocina New Haven, a New Haven Community Cookbook to celebrate the cultural richness of our city through food! The cookbook is packed with recipes featuring fresh fruits and vegetables submitted by families and individuals throughout New Haven. New Haven Public Schools will also be including at least two recipes from the New Haven Community Cookbook into the school lunch program.

In an effort to get this great cookbook to low income families in our community, CitySeed will be distributing 5,000 copies of New Haven Cooks / Cocina New Haven for free through Community Health Centers, WIC offices and public school health events.

Get some fresh fruits and vegetables, Get inspired, Get Cooking New Haven!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Quick thoughts

Sunday night, the kitchen is cooling down from many hours of roasting, boiling and baking. Getting ready for the week. Head swarming with thoughts for this blog, so many of which go unwritten for lack of time; how to navigate the world of deceptive ingredient labels, genetically modified foods, cooking fresh whole foods in this busy era, sweet tooths, food for the privledge, food for everyone, and so many other topics. Hopefully in the coming months I will have the time to post my thoughts, strategies, struggles and successes on many of these subjects. I end the night with the taste of warm home baked bread in my mouth; whole spelt, left to rise over and over through the afternoon, a softer texture than ever before, chewy crust, tender crumb, bread for the week and a kitchen to clean.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Bean Burgers with Squash Soup, a quick dinner

Because I am a professional chef and an attentive mother, people some times fantasize that I am some kind of miracle worker, that dinner at our house every night must resemble the fancy food I cook at work or the dinner I cooked for a celebration with friends, and that my children love everything that I cook.

Let's be clear: I am not a "wonder" mom or a "wonder" chef. I do not miraculously cook elaborate perfect meals every night for my family. In fact, when I was cooking full time professionally (which is always more than full time) when I got home, my feet hurt and I was tired, really tired, so my husband did most of the cooking. Recently, since I still have 2 young children, I have been doing food work that is oriented out of the kitchen: cookbook writing, food policy work, improving school food and many other things. All of this has left me more energy than ever to cook at home, a welcome gift.

Life is still exceptionally busy, but the inspiration and desire to cook is constant, and the need to pull my self out of a boring-dinner-cooking-rut a welcome challenge. Often as I am racing from one place to another either for work or for kids, I start thinking about what ingredients reside in my fridge or freezer and how I might combined them into something delicious and nutritious...and something different than what we've eaten for the last 3 nights. On many evenings this thought process revolves around a partially empty fridge, a stray carrot, some broccoli or frozen corn, some dry grains, a small piece of meat or a block of tofu and lots of condiments and spices. The essential question: How can I make something from virtually "nothing"?

The answer to this question has yielded some fabulous results at times, one night we had sushi from a cup of rice, 2 carrots, 1/2 a zucchini, and 6 frozen shrimp, another night: corn pudding, black beans and garlic sautéed broccoli using frozen corn a few eggs, 1 can of beans and 1/2 a head of broccoli. Tonight's meal had a prize ingredient of a whole butternut squash, a luxury these days, so not a meal from "nothing" but these bean burgers certainly fall into that category. They were a welcome change from the usual plate of rice and beans, and the kids loved them!

Bean Burgers with Squash Soup
1 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 egg
1/2 cup cooked rice (reheated)
1 scallion (or 1/2 a small onion, finely diced)
2 sprigs cilantro (optional)
1/2 cup flour (any type is fine)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
salt and pepper to taste (and garlic powder if desired)

1. mash everything together with a fork until well combined.
2. in a preheated frying pan over medium heat, add a small amount of oil. scoop about 1/4 cup of the bean mixture into the pan and flatten into a burger about 3 inches wide and under 1 inch thick.

3. cook burger until well browned on one side, flip over and press slightly with the spatula to flatten the burger. Repeat until you have used all the batter. If the burgers seem in anyway too soft in the center, you can bake them in the oven for a few minutes to dry them out. This batch can out great, so I hope yours will too. This is a great base recipe to add any sort of seasoning you want, ginger, lime, garlic, curry or anything else. You can shred some spinach, toss in some corn, red pepper or broccoli as well to get some more vegetables into your meal.

makes about 8 medium sized burgers.

I also made some quick squash soup with a butternut squash I had roasted off the night before.

1 squash
6 cups liquid (divide between water and stock to your liking, or even add some milk if you want)
1 onion
salt and pepper

1. cut squash in half lengthwise. rub with a small amount of oil, season with salt and pepper and put on a baking pan cut side down. roast in the oven at 375 until soft when poked with a knife or fork, about 40 minutes.
2. cut onion and saute in a pan with a little oil or butter. season with salt and pepper.
3. scoop squash out of the skin and add to the pot along with the stock and water. simmer for about 15 minutes. puree with a stick blender if you have one, or in a regular blender. serve

My kids enjoying dinner. Papa works late on Mondays so I was flying solo.

Again, this is basic simple recipe that you could add a lot to. roasting some apples or celery root with the squash adds a wonderful twist to the soup, fresh herbs like thyme or rosemary are great too. peanut butter and cilantro would put a Senegalese twist on it too. A recipe for squash and peanut soup from the Fair Haven Community Health Center appears in the cookbook I just finished, New Haven Cooks/Cocina New Haven.