Get Fresh with Fermented

Text and photos by Kerri Conan

They say fermented foods are an acquired taste. And I say the best way to hop that train to Funky Town – and get the zing without the dang – is to cut them with fresh ingredients.

One of my favorite combinations – and Mark’s – is sauerkraut and cabbage. Perfect with smoked sausage and fatty roast pork or tossed with egg noodles, these two forms of the same vegetable illustrate exactly how well opposites attract. The preserved cabbage contributes acidity and pleasantly musty flavors, while the fresh leaves provide bright grassy notes. Continue reading

Posted in Produce

The Pleasures of Roots

Text and photos by Mark Bittman

The winter CSA at Glynwood (located in New York’s Hudson Valley), in a good week, provides us with more winter vegetables than anyone other than a full-time vegan with the time to cook nonstop could handle. This means two or three types of cabbage, a gorgeous array of winter squash (some of which, like the spectacular fairy squash, are new to me), onions, leeks and other alliums, and, of course, roots: black and watermelon radishes, a variety of turnips, beets, potatoes, parsnips, carrots…what am I missing?

I like eating some of these roots raw—the best turnips taste better to me raw, there’s nothing like thin-sliced kohlrabi with a sprinkle of salt, I don’t have to tell you how good a carrot can be, and I love raw beet salad with vinaigrette. But there is a very practical limit to how much of this you can indulge in, and, as my friend Kerri once said to me when I went on a raw-vegetable binge, it is defined by your stomach’s ability to act as a juicer. When raw, these babies are not that easy to digest. Continue reading

Posted in Produce

Those Crazy November Tomatoes

Text and photos by Kerri Conan

Maybe you are lucky enough to get local vine-ripe tomatoes in autumn. In early-freeze zones (like where I live, in Kansas), the bounty of summer would have been replaced weeks ago with hardy roots and squashes. Except this year: As of last Saturday, all sorts of heirloom tomatoes still dotted the landscape. In my excitement, I’ve been greedy.

With shortened days and less intense light, November fruit in mid-country latitudes tend to be starchier and potentially mealier than the juicy July tomatoes. They can also have a sour, almost fermented taste. And of course they look pretty beat up. All you have to do is coddle them a bit. Literally. Continue reading

Posted in Produce

Smokin’ Good Spaghetti Squash

Text and photos by Pam Hoenig

I admit I’m vegetable averse. Growing up, if my mother had let me, I would have limited my consumption of produce to peas (frozen, of course), baked potatoes, and corn on the cob, which for many years I made my mother cut off the cob for me—sorry about that, Mom! Continue reading

Posted in Behind The Scenes, Grilling, Produce

Thank You, Farmer

Text and photos by Kerri Conan

November opens the season of gratitude and giving. Seems like the first toast should be raised to celebrate our farmers. Mine—the good folks in and around Lawrence, Kansas—grow the amazing food I’ve eaten and written about all year. If you’re lucky, you know yours, too.

Now on the cusp between tomatoes and rutabagas, let’s all take a moment and say, “Thank you, Farmer” for all our meals past, present, and future.

Thank you for taking risks. So I can, too! Continue reading

Posted in Bittman Topics, Farming, Produce

Eggplant Parmesan for the End of Summer

Text and photos by Pam Hoenig

I know that it’s officially fall but with the beautiful weather we’ve been having, I prefer to think that summer is still with us. It certainly looks that way in my local market, which is overflowing with beautiful produce, including these lovely lavender eggplant I decided to put in my basket. My husband had been asking for eggplant Parmesan for a long time (he still talks about the eggplant Parmesan his friend Dominick “Spike” Candido made when they were in college together). My idea was to do a freeform, unbreaded, version on the grill. Continue reading

Posted in Produce, Recipes

You Can (Quick) Pickle Anything

Text and photo by Emily Stephenson

Having a jar of quick pickles in my fridge makes my weeknight cooking both easier and more interesting. It’s a two for one deal: you get something delicious and crunchy that goes with almost anything, and you are 90% of the way to a finished dish. They’re a cinch to put together and will last throughout the week, at which point you can choose another vegetable to pickle.

In the few days since I made this batch of pickled fennel, I have: chopped up the fennel and mixed it with rice, along with some of the pickling liquid and olive oil; added the fennel to blanched fresh cranberry and green beans and dressed the mixture with pickling liquid, olive oil, and herbs; chopped the fennel and added it to a salad, and used the pickling liquid to make the dressing; eaten the pickles with cheese and crackers; added them to a sandwich. Continue reading

Posted in Produce, Recipes

Cabbage Sprouts

By Kerri Conan

Photos by Kerri Conan

Witness the benefit of getting to the farmers’ market when the first stalls open at 7:00 a.m. Saturday morning: one-of-a-kind cabbage sprouts.

This is Lawrence, Kansas, in mid-summer and you never know what’s going to pop out of the ground. But if it’s edible, Avery’s Produce will definitely put a box on their table, even if only a handful exists. A quick chat with Avery reveals that no, they’re not anemic Brussels sprouts but rather baby cabbages that he calls “second growths,” sprouted spontaneously in the abnormal rain and cool weather after the larger heads were cut.

Standing at this fork in the road—do I treat them like cabbage and make slaw or cook them like Brussels sprouts?—the decision was easy. Let’s split and grill ’em, then dress to mitigate potential bitterness with my go-to Brussels sprout honey-mustard-shallot-olive vinaigrette. I tossed them with olive oil and salt and put them in a grill basket over direct medium-high heat; they were ready in just a few minutes, shaking now and then to roll them around.

And surprise, surprise, they were quite sweet, even in the spots where they were charred. (So Brussels sprouts aren’t little cabbages after all.) I changed gears and went with more olive oil, white balsamic vinegar—to play on the sweetness—and handfuls of chopped dill and chives from the garden. The resulting warm salad was the most memorable farmers’ market dish of the summer. Until now. I’ve still got a couple months of Saturday early bird specials left to go.

Posted in Behind The Scenes, Produce

Cooking with Almost Nothing

Photo by Emily Stephenson

I’m cooking in a vacation rental this week, and I only brought my knife with me, which means the tools in “my” kitchen reflect the generosity of the owner and the cooking inclinations of previous tenants. I’ve found one pot, some bowls, a couple skillets, a wooden spoon, a can opener, and a colander. But I can still do almost all the summer cooking I want.

I left the tools to chance, but I knew there would be no ingredients in the house. I packed the pantry items that seemed summer-appropriate, and I stopped on the way to pick up everything I thought I might need. In truth, I think I could have gotten away with salt, pepper, olive oil, and vinegar, but I brought a bit more.

Summer is the best time for pared-down cooking. You don’t want to apply much heat to anything because it’s so ripe and full of flavor. I’d happily eat tomato sandwiches and salads and grilled vegetables (if I had a grill) through September.

Inspired by a really great noodle salad we tested a few weeks ago, fish sauce was one of the things I brought, as well as buying tofu and rice noodles. A cold noodle salad is perfect summer fare.

I knew it was going to be a time investment, but I didn’t have anything else better to do, so I started by julienning lots cucumber and carrots (knife). I didn’t do it perfectly as you can see, but, hey, I’m on vacation. I boiled water (one pot) to steep the rice noodles, then drained them (colander). I cubed tofu, chopped cilantro, and minced onion (knife). I whisked together lime juice, fish sauce, sugar, and salt until it tasted good (fork), then I tossed everything together.

It was a great summer dinner that required just four basic tools, and felt like much more than the sum of its parts.

– Emily Stephenson

Posted in Behind The Scenes, Produce

Fun with Frenching

Photos by Kerri Conan

Friday night, one glass of wine into firing the grill for steak with a pile of farmers’-market string beans in the sink, I decided to kill some time Frenching.

The plan was to stir-fry the beans in olive oil with lots of garlic and shallots until droopy, then add tomato wedges, cover, and let them stew just long enough to release some juice but not their skins. Off heat, I’d stir in a handful of basil leaves from the back yard, adjust the seasoning, and serve at room temperature. Splitting the beans lengthwise—like fancy canned and frozen green beans—would help the pods soften and absorb flavor, and I liked the idea of getting random bites with baby seeds.

My ad hoc by-hand technique varied: For straight beans, I lined the business side of the knife on top and pushed down with conviction, pretending not to care when the odd end slipped free of the hack. If they were curved, I used the seam on the bean as a guide to run the tip of the blade from the middle outward in both directions, turning each between strokes. I’m pretty fast with a knife and like the practice but apparently you can also lay them horizontally in the feed tube of a food processor and let the slicing disk do the work.

Whatever your method or recipe, try Frenching at least once this season. There’s a reason why they’re cut that way for green bean casserole. This quick braise had all the freshness you want from summer vegetables, without the squeaky stick-to-your-teeth chalkiness of lightly cooked green beans. Instead their exposed insides provided a silky counterpoint to the crisp skins. And the leftovers can become anything from a three-bean salad or toast topper to a rich frittata.

– Kerri Conan

Posted in Behind The Scenes, Produce