Sunday, November 27, 2005


or, should i say, btietm. i've been a little delinquent on the btietws....

usually fall at the farmer's market is all about the apples for me: the macouns, the winesaps, the occasional jona gold. i make boatloads of applesauce, and eat apple slices dipped in peanut butter at least every other day. but for some reason this year i'm not feeling the apples. i've enjoyed a couple great ones, but i've been much more into the pears: specifically the golden boscs and the little sugar seckles. (hee—i had some seckles out last night, along with some lady apples and clementines, for snacks before our dinner party, and hayes picked one up and said "what is this, toy fruit?" so i told stephen that ryan was making fun of our little fruit and he said, of course, "hayes is a little fruit." i feel a new song coming on....) i haven't done a damn thing with them but slice and eat them, which is partially due to them being so good they don't need any help, and partially due to the young man attached to my hip/leg. but if you get your hands on some and want to do something with them besides the old slice 'n eat, try this recipe. i know, technically it's not something i ate this week (or month), but it's a fantastic recipe.

fall at the market also brings the cauliflower. oh, do i love the cauliflower. my never-fail cauliflower preparation is roasting: cut up the cauliflower into ~1" chunks; toss with olive oil, salt, pepper, and paprika; turn out onto a baking sheet and roast for about 30-40 minutes at 400˚. you want the cauliflower to get good and brown, really carmelized on the bottom. do not be afraid of the oil. if you don't use enough, the cauliflower might start to dry out partway through the roasting process. don't despair—just spray or brush it with more oil and shove it back in the oven. i can eat a whole head of roasted cauliflower myself. no problem.

a little more (okay, a lot more) work but also fabulous is cauliflower fritters. take the whole head and steam it till tender. if you have a big pot and a not-huge cauliflower, you should be able to just cut out the core and plonk it into the steamer. i get gargantuan cauliflowers from farmer ted at the market, so i have to hack mine up into a couple pieces to fit it into the pot. anyhoo, when it's tender take it out and run it under cool water till you can handle it. then pull it apart with your fingers, breaking up the florets into thumbnail-sized pieces into a big bowl, and putting the stems on a cutting board where you'll then cut them up into pieces of similar size and then add them to the bowl. now, every time i make these i use slightly different ingredients (depending on what i have in the house) in slightly different amounts (depending on the size of the cauliflower and my mood), so the "recipe" is going to get a little vague here. you'll definitely need at least 2 eggs to keep things together—just break them into the bowl, making a little well in the center of the cauliflower pieces, and beat them a little bit in there before mixing them in. then you'll need some mayo (hellman's, of course). i know, mayo on top of eggs seems like overkill. but it makes them incredibly creamy, and you don't need a lot. maybe 1/4 cup for a medium-sized cauliflower. then you need some starch: i've used flour, bread crumbs, cornmeal, and various combinations of all of these things. you need just enough to make it hold together—it should be kinda sticky/gooey. let's see, maybe 1/3 of a cup for a medium-sized cauliflower? i usually just season it with pepper and sprinkle them with coarse salt when they're cooked, but you can get crazy with the herbs/spices if you want—dill, paprika, cayenne pepper, whatever. i'd say no to thyme, though; it didn't mesh with the cauliflower flavor very well (not that that stopped me from eating the whole batch). so once you've got the batter all set, heat up a big saute/frying pan with about a 1/4-inch of oil (peanut's the best) in the bottom to medium-high heat. drop the batter in by the spoonful (i use a ceramic chinese spoon), flattening the mounds down with the back of the spoon, and fry until golden on both sides, drain on paper towels or a wire rack. they're totally fine plain, but they're awesome with a little sauce—i like mayo thinned with a little water and flavored with lemon juice or hot sauce (crystal, of course). and you can make them one day, let them cool, store them in the fridge, and heat them on on a baking sheet in a 350˚ oven another day and they're just as good. i did this when i served them at sydney's post-marathon dinner, and everybody seemed happy with them. even though they were a teensy bit mushy because i didn't let them cool all the way before putting them in the tupperware and into the fridge....

unlike the cauliflower, which i love unconditionally, i have a more complicated relationship with greens. i want to like them, i know how good they are for me, etc etc, but i've never found a way to prepare them that made me really love them. stephen makes kick-ass collard greens with bacon, vinegar, and brown sugar, but that's a big prOcess, and mine never turn out as good as his. but this fall i've figured out what the problem has been in the past: i wasn't buying my greens from farmer ted. i don't know what this man does to his kale, but it's so freaking sweet you can almost eat it raw. i would steam it for five minutes and eat it with absolutely nothing on it and love it. then the purple kale appeared, which is just as delicious, even more tender, and gorgeous.

i used both of them in frittatas a bunch of times, which is simple and delicious: saute some onion and/or garlic in an oven-proof pan, add the chopped-up kale and cover to let it steam on low heat for a few minutes, then uncover and turn the heat up and saute to cook off any liquid. season with salt and pepper. beat up some eggs then fold in some grated cheese—i used parmegiano reggiano (the king of cheeses) and dry vela jack (amontereyonteray jack from cali)—and pour over the greens. at this point you can either a) let the egg cook mostly on the stovetop, over lowish heat, throwing it under the broiler when it's still liquid just on top, or b) throw it in a 350˚ oven for 10-15 minutes, till it's just set on top. i prefer the 350˚-oven method, which requires less attention.

i have auntie syd to thank for inspiring me to get into the other kale preparation i've been loving: kale, white bean, and sausage mess. saute onions and garlic slowly slowly over low heat in olive oil in a saucepan/dutch oven/what have you. i use this. when the onion and garlic is nice and soft and golden, add the sausage and a couple of cans of beans. i prefer the duck sausage that i get from fresh direct, and navy beans from eden organic—i used to use goya beans all the time, but i started getting annoyed and kinda grossed out by how the beans at the bottom of the can would be almost total mush, so i tried the organic beans and there was no mush and i'm happy. you can throw the sausages in whole or cut up, whichever you'd like. then throw in some stock—chicken, veggie, beef, whatever you have. how much you throw in is up to you. you can use a whole can/carton and make it soup, you can use very little and make it a dish yowith a eat witha spoon, or you can use an amount somewhere in between the two and make it how i like it: soupy enough that you can eat it with a fork but you have plenty of broth to sop up with good bread. so whatever you do, let that all cook until the sausage is cooked through, then throw in the kale, cook for a few minutes to let it wilt, and serve. this is great even if you can't get kale as sweet as what farmer ted grows, just let the kale cook longer.

now, can someone tell me how to make squash—the featured product of the winter farmer's market—so that i like it?


casey said...

oh, those cauliflower fritters sound good! i wish i could have fried things... sigh.

i'll put my thinking cap on as far as the squash goes. unfortunately, i love squash, so the key for me usually is just finding a good one (i skip the butternut and go right for the carnival squash), baking it till tender, and sprinkling with salt, brown sugar, and fresh oj 10 minutes or so before it's done.

but i'll keep thinking.

hey mama said...

c - the roasted cauliflower is just as good, i swear. a columnist in the times food section explained it perfectly: roasting dries out and toughens food, which you normally have to counteract with braising, marinating, etc---but with cauliflower drying and toughening is actually a good thing, since it has a tendency to be mushy.

and yes please help me with the squash! though the oj/brown sugar combo does sound good.... i grew up with butternut squash baked with butter and maple syrup, which just does not do it for me.

ps - i never got around to commenting, but the 70s turbans were cracking me up....

mad said...

I too use the OJ brown sugar method ... although I happen to like butternut, as long as they're small;

And while simple, I also will halve them, and brush them with olive oil, roast them, (covered at first to make them softer then uncovered) and then right before they're done, drop some butter in the cavity and coarse salt and some pepper and a dollop of goat cheese... I often like that better ... but then again, we all know I don't like the sweets, so the concept of maple syrup in the squash freaks me out!!