Counter Intelligence
Summer Pasta with Basil and Raw Tomato Sauce

I love all my children equally.  Except that I love this one the most.  The seasonal tomatoes and fresh basil really anchor it as a summer dish, and it’s great warm or cold.  You could use the sauce with squash “spaghetti" if you need a raw option, and it’s perfect for potluck pasta salads: tastes great straight from the fridge as well as warmed by the sun!

Summer Pasta with Basil and Raw Tomato Sauce

Summer Pasta

3 medium tomatoes, green or yellow

1/2c green or red onion (or vidalia??)

2-3 garlic cloves, diced

1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped (or santa fe wax pepper, or poblano??)

1c fresh basil

1/3c olive oil

salt to taste

2 yellow tomatoes

1 pint cherry tomatoes

2 red bell peppers (or purple! or yellow! or green! or orange!)

fresh ground pepper

grated parmesan

1/2lb cavatelli (or rotini, or bowties??)

For the blender!:

Chunked tomatoes, onion, garlic, diced pepper, rinsed basil, olive oil.  Puree your sauce, and see if you’d like some extra salt in there (keeping in mind your future parmesan addition).  Ideally you’ll make this a day in advance, as this sauce, like gazpacho and guac and salsa, matures overnight, and the garlic and onion flavors are able to permeate the mixture.  If you are worried about using a jalapeno, 1. we are very different people, and 2. do whatever you want.  You can totally skip the pepper, but I think it adds a nice vegetal top note, and a mild burn that I pretty much always want.

For serving!:

Boil your pasta with a little salt, and for the minimum time they say.  Unless you like when the pasta is a little softer?  To each his own, but if you are making this in advance mushier pasta won’t hold up for more than a day in the fridgerator.  While your pasta is boiling, chop up some bell pepper, and cut up some tomatoes.  Toss your drained pasta with your sauce and veggies.    In addition to peppers and tomatoes, you could easily add or sub carrots, cucumber, squash, or whatever else you have lying around!  Don’t be scurred.  I like to top each bowl with fresh ground black pepper and grated parmesan.  Made with fresh, seasonal tomatoes, and the most colorful of your farmer’s market offerings, this dish really showcases the best offerings of the season!

Kohlrabi Curry

If you’ve been following along, you know I get my veggies from my local CSA, and through it, last year I was given my first head of kohlrabi.  Kohlrabi is a weird lookin dude.  At first I roasted it with other veggies, and then cubed and roasted it for salads, and that was all fine until I found a recipe for kohlrabi curry, and I haven’t looked back.  I’ve gone to a few different ones, but this one is the keeper, for me.  It takes some time, as kohlrabi has pretty tough flesh, but after you’re done with the initial steps the whole thing is really low maintenance.  

Kohlrabi Curry with Cardamom and Coconut Milk

Kohlrabi Curry

1 onion

2T butter/oil

1 head kohlrabi and greens

2t black mustard seeds

1t cumin seeds

1t fennel seeds

1t ground turmeric

1t ground cumin

1t ground coriander

1t cardamom (i used ground.  who has pods?)

2 inch piece of ginger, peeled and finely chopped

2 jalapeno, seeded and chopped

salt, pepper

8oz can chopped tomatoes

1 1/2c water

3/4c coconut milk

cilantro (=coriander leaves)

Chop up your kohlrabi.  I always cut off the top and bottom (keeping the greens) and then cut the bulb crosswise into slices that are a little less than an inch wide.  Taking the green husk off of smaller slices means you lose less of the meat.  Then cube it and stick it in a bowl for later.  It might be helpful to put the chopped chiles, ginger, garlic, and ground spices all together cooking-show-style in a little dish so that you’re not worried about doing too many things at once ten minutes from now.

Cook the diced onion in your preference of cooking medium (I prefer butter but that’s the only thing making this recipe un-vegan) on medium heat for about ten minutes or until translucent.  You don’t really want them to brown, but it’s not really a huge problem if they do, a tiny bit.  Add your cubed kohlrabi and cook, stirring, for a few minutes (4 or 3 or 5).  

Stir in the seeds (mustard, cumin, fennel) and cook for two minutes.  Don’t brown the seeds.  Stir, alot.

Add ground spices and chopped items and stir around for 30 seconds.  The ground stuff will kind of stick to the bottom of the pan but that’s also not a huge deal.  Next add the can of tomatoes and enough water to just cover the kohlrabi, and as the added liquid is heating, scrape the bottom of the pan with your spatula to loosen and help incorporate anything that might have just gotten stuck.  A bigger head of kohlrabi might have needed all the water they call for but mine didn’t (also the pan I used couldn’t really accommodate that much liquid, zoops).  This simmers (something between boiling and not boiling) for 20 minutes.  Add your coconut milk (again, I reduced the amount a little) and simmer for 20 more minutes.  If you want more sauce when the kohlrabi is done, you can always add a bit more (like, a quarter cup) water and/or coconut milk towards the end and just stir enough to incorporate it.

If you buy kohlrabi at a store it might be trimmed already, as the greens are less hardy than the bulb during transport and storage, but if you get it at a farmer’s market or from your CSA you probably have greens.  They’re not just decoration!  I’ve mentioned it before, but I liken using unconventional greens to eating the whole animal, and it is pleasing.  The stalks* are pretty thick, so I cut those into lengths similar to the size of my kohlrabi cubes and added them in just after the coconut milk to simmer and cook.  Then when the kohlrabi is just shy of tender I added the rest of the greens, roughly chopped.  They don’t reduce as drastically as spinach greens do, so make sure you have enough room in your pan for em.

I found that two jalapeno added a great kick, but if I had a bigger head of kohlrabi I might add in a third.  I served over rice with pita cause Whole Foods was out of naan (what is the world coming to!?) but they suggest you could top it with natural yogurt and cilantro, which I’m sure is also delicious.  

*if the cross section of a piece of stalk has a kind of yellowish ring and the thing is a lot wider than the rest of the stalk, it might be too woody to cook well.  when in doubt, don’t add it to the pan

P.S. I realize that’s a lot of Indian spices that you might not have, but a $25 dollar investment in seeds and spices now is, like, three years worth of sporadic Indian food you can cook in your house, so.  I dunno.  Just do it.

Sesame Soba Noodles with Veggies

My CSA is partnered with Sang Lee Farms out on Long Island, and they produce an inordinate amount of bok choy.  By the middle of the summer last year, bok choy and I were having a pretty serious overexposure problem.  I decided to do something with my first 2011 bok choy that had neither “stir” nor “fry” in the title, and the internet turned up a few promising options.  I chose this soba dish because we already had soba noodles, and I like to use my blender.  There are a few things I did differently, so I’ll write down what came out of my kitchen this afternoon below.

sesame soba noodles

Sesame Soba Noodles with Vegetables

1/2c fresh OJ or grapefruit juice (or 1/4c of each!)

2T fresh lime juice

1T orange zest

1 1/2t lime zest

1/2c creamy peanut butter

2T unseasoned rice vinegar

2T chopped peeled fresh ginger

2T soy sauce

2 peeled garlic cloves

2t crushed red pepper

1/3c canola oil

8oz soba noodles

1t sesame oil

1 medium or large bok choy

1 medium or large red bell pepper

1 hothouse cucumber, cut into matchsticks

3 green onions, trimmed and sliced into matchsticks

2T chopped fresh mint

cilantro and roasted peanuts for garnish

1btl sake

OK so it’s a lot of ingredients and a lot of chopping, but it’s a great dish for eating slowly over the week, or bringing to a big potluck picnic!  Guess what I’m going to do!  (Hint: it’s both!)  Also, you could probably halve the first nine ingredients safely, as I have more sauce than the pasta needed, but I LIKE the sauce, and am glad to have extra.  Personally.  It almost reminds me of goddess dressing, if that means anything to you.

The first nine ingredients go in your blender or food processor.  If you don’t have a zester, just grate the orange and lime peel as finely as possible (but also, get a zester).  The easiest way to peel ginger is to scrape the root with the back of a spoon.  It’s pretty fun.  You could probably up the ginger and red pepper and not be sad about it.  While the blender is running, slowly pour in the canola oil.  The sauce can be made anytime and just stuck in the fridge (like the day before, or whatever, if you don’t like to spend that much time in the kitchen at once).

Boil your soba noodles in salted water for the minimum time recommended on the box.  If they’re too soft they’ll break apart when you’re tossing them with veggies later.  Drain and immediately rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process.  Once the cold water has mostly drained off, cut them in 2-3 places to get more bite-sized pieces (I love using scissors when I cook) and then toss them with sesame oil.  This is a pleasing hands-on activity.

Matchstick your veggies!  The idea behind matchsticking is bite sized pieces with maximum surface area for sauce delivery (to face).  They don’t need to be perfectly uniform, just remember to think of the length of the pieces in the context of the bowl and fork you’ll be using later, and you’ll be fine.  Mine looked like this: 

Matchsticks

I thoroughly washed my bok choy and put out two bowls, one for matchsticked stems and one for chopped greens.  Baby bok choy is pretty fine raw, but the big guys can get a little bitter, so put some salted water back on to boil, cause we’re gonna blanch.  Transfer your noodles over to a big mixing bowl so we can use the strainer.  Once the water is boiling dump in your stems bowl and let them boil for about a minute.  Then toss in the greens in til they’re bright green, which should be less than a minute.  All of this goes into the colander and is put under cold running water til chilled.  No one will notice if you blanched for too little time, but they will notice if you left em too long, so err on the side of being hasty.  Once the bok choy is well drained, it can go in the bowl with the noodles and the other vegs.  Toss with about half the dressing and your chopped mint.  You can always add more dressing, but if it’s soggy you’re kind of stuck.  It makes this much:

tossed

And then your friend Michael will have two bowls of it, the first meticulously garnished with baby tomatoes and cilantro and chopped peanuts, and the second unphotographed.  The chopped peanuts add a nice texture, if you have the time and inclination to add em, and chopped cilantro is kind of just always nice, right?  Go forth and entertain all asiany, my friends.

Creamy Beet Top and Roasted Parsnip Risotto (vegan)

I basically did exactly what I did with the asparagus and leek risotto, but with the stalks from my beet greens instead of leeks, and roasted parsnips instead of asparagus.  Therefore, it is PINK.  nbd.  (Side note: whenever I make carrot top soup or put beet or turnip greens in something, I feel like a pioneer eating the whole animal.  This brings me great satisfaction.)  Onward!

pink risotto

Creamy Beet Top and Roasted Parsnip Risotto (vegan)

1 med parsnip

1 bu beet greens (with or without leaves, depending on if we’ve had the salad talk yet)

olive oil

1/2 c arborio rice

1/2 vegan bouillon cube (or 1 1/2 c whatever broth you have)

1 1/2 T flour

1/2 c soy milk

pepper, salt, duh

shaved parmesan (which probably won’t be vegan)

walnuts (an hour later I remembered this garnish idea, hence not in photo…)

1 btl Red Wine

Pre-heat oven (or toaster oven) to 375.  Cut your parsnip into a few pieces that are evenly sized.  Sometimes the top is much wider than the bottom, which makes even cooking impossible, so I just cut mine into three pieces, but you could also make matchsticks if you like.  Brush with olive oil, light salt and pepper.  Open bottle of wine.  Roast for about thirty minutes, maybe less (depending on thickness) until fork tender/edible.

Wash your beet greens/stalks off and then chop into one inch pieces (remembering that these should be appropriately sized for face).  Saute on low/med heat in olive oil for a few minutes, until sizzling.  The oil in the pan will turn a little pink, it’ll be fun.*  Add a cup or so of broth made from your bouillon and hot water, keep heat on low.

In a separate small saucepan heat 1T of oil or butter, add flour and stir, heating briefly.  No burny!  Whisk in soy milk.  This step is most tricky, as just wishing for not lumps is not usually effective.  Do your best.  After a couple minutes of stirring over low heat and wondering if next time it’ll be different (it won’t) add this mixture to your beet stalks and broth, stirring constantly.**  At this point I added the rice I had already made, stirred well and basically just re-heated/softened the rice.  

Dice your parsnip into pieces and add to the pan, stirring.  Plate or bowl your food, pepper if you like (but in this case, I’d taste test the parsnip first, as it’s a peppery little guy on its own), shave some parmesan on there, and sprinkle with some walnut pieces!

Risotto is ready for face!  Enjoy.

*(If you’re a normal person, you’ll not have made rice in your fridge.  Unless normal people get Chinese take-out?  Regardless: you will here add arborio rice and saute it together with the leek for a few minutes.  The rice should darken a shade or two, but not burn or pop or do anything undesirable.  You’ll add your broth or bouillon dissolved in hot water a half cup at a time, stirring often, til the rice is cooked and everything looks great.  Extra liquid may be required, and that’s ok)

**(If you’re a normal person, there will also be cooked rice in the pan.  I imagine that adding the “cream” at any stage of cooking the rice would be fine, but maybe the last time you add broth it’s actually a mixture of broth and the cream stuff so that it’s easier to incorporate evenly.

Creamy Leek and Asparagus Risotto (Vegan)

When looking over my spread from the Crown Heights CSA, today, the leek and asparagus seemed to be asking for it.  I had a vague image of a future pasta-something with a creamy sauce and those green things, all for face.  The internet suggested I add shiitake, but Crown Heights isn’t into mushrooms (I know, right?) and I’m pretty sure traveling in 90 degree heat is a Vice Don’t, and then the internet said RISOTTO and I said Yes.

Now, I had made rice earlier to go with the spicy beans I made yesterday (with a stout from Butternuts Beer and Ale and several jalapenos, but that’s a different post) and it seemed excessive to prepare two different kinds of rice on the same day, so I kind of faked the ending (certainly not the first time…) and it turned out great!  So I present to you: how I made this dish followed by how a normal person would probably make it.

Creamy Leek and Asparagus Risotto (Vegan-ish)

Creamy Leek and Asparagus Risotto (Veganish)

1 bu. asparagus

1 med leek

olive oil

1/2 c arborio rice

1/2 vegan bouillon cube (or 1 1/2 c whatever broth you have)

1 1/2 T flour

1/2 c soy milk

pepper, salt, duh

shaved parmesan (which probably won’t be vegan)

1 btl Red Wine

Pre-heat oven (or toaster oven) to 450.  Wash and trim asparagus (the bottoms are kind of woody, notwant) and line them up meticulously on a baking sheet.  Brush with olive oil, light salt and pepper.  Open bottle of wine.  Roast for about ten minutes, maybe less (depending on stalk thickness) until fork tender/edible.

Cut off the top and bottom of the leek (all the dark green part that looks like leaves, gross, and the bottom part with the tentacles or whatever, also gross) cut in half the hot dog way, and then rinse well.  They can be dirt-y.  Slice thinly and saute on low/med heat in olive oil for a few minutes, until soft.*  Add a cup or so of broth made from your bouillon and hot water, keep heat on low.

In a separate small saucepan heat 1T of oil or butter, add flour and stir, heating briefly.  No burny!  Whisk in soy milk.  This step is most tricky, as just wishing for not lumps is not usually effective.  Do your best.  NBD.  After a couple minutes of stirring over low heat and “out damn lump”-ing with a spoon or spatula, add the mixture to your leeks and broth.**  At this point I added the rice I had already made, stirred well and basically just re-heated/softened the rice.  

Cut your asparagus into pieces that are appropriately sized for eating and add to the rice, stirring.  If you’re going to take a picture or impress your friend save a couple asparagus tops from being subsumed in the rice, and lay atop the dish.  Plate or bowl your food, pepper if you like (you do) and shave some parmesan on there (I usually just use a steak knife across the surface, you get pretty little cheese curls).

Risotto is ready for face!  Enjoy.

*(If you’re a normal person, you’ll not have made rice in your fridge.  Unless normal people get Chinese take-out?  Regardless: you will here add arborio rice and saute it together with the leek for a few minutes.  The rice should darken a shade or two, but not burn or pop or do anything undesirable.  You’ll add your broth or bouillon dissolved in hot water a half cup at a time, stirring often, til the rice is cooked and everything looks great.)

**(If you’re a normal person, there will also be cooked rice in the pan.  I imagine that adding the “cream” at any stage of cooking the rice would be fine, but maybe the last time you add broth it’s actually a mixture of broth and the cream stuff so that it’s easier to incorporate evenly.)