Monday, July 22, 2013

What to do with Your CSA Veggies: Part 2

Last week we talked about extra and mysterious vegetables from our farm share/CSA that we pick up each week.  What to do? What to do?

Last week's sure-fire way to use them up is to put them in a quiche, and this week I have another suggestion- dumplings.

These posts were inspired because of my receipt of what I like to call the Yoda veggie:

Today, Padewan Learners, I'm going to show you what I did with my Kohlrabi (its real name).

Suggestion 2: When-In-Doubt-Dumplings

I name this recipe affectionately after the blog post where I found this idea (on Dinner: A Love Story).  I modified it slightly- that is, I made all the ingredients optional except garlic and ginger.  By optional, I mean you should replace them with other stuff. Nobody wants to eat an all-garlic-and-ginger dumpling. Gross.

Anything can go in dumplings.  Did you know that?

I've made these twice.  The first time I put in extra firm tofu, garlic scapes, radishes and ginger.  The second time I used shredded kohlrabi, cooked ground pork, mustard greens, garlic and ginger.

Here is the method:

Step one: Buy wonton/dumpling wrappers in the frozen food section at the grocery store. Defrost in fridge. 
Step two: Cook up any meat that you are putting in- I used ground pork.  If there's no meat, skip this step.
Step three: Shred any veggies you are using along with garlic and ginger in a food processor. If you have any "heartier" veggies in the mix, you might want to cook them a little. For example, the mustard greens would have been too chewy if they were raw inside the dumpling. I shredded them then sauteed them until they wilted a bit.
Step four: Mix it all together and get out a few dumpling wrappers.

This is the pork, kohlrabi, and mustard green mix.
Step five: Spoon out a little bit of filling on to each dumpling wrapper.

You can get more filling in if you gently stretch the wrapper a little.
Step six: Dip your finger in water and trace around the outer edge of the wrapper.

I had a little bowl of water to the side for dipping my finger.
Step seven: Fold it shut, and squeeze the edges together.  My artist friend was over for dinner on this night, so beautiful dumpling credit to him!

You don't have to be an artist to make a beautiful dumpling.
Step eight: Freeze the ones you can't eat right away, and pan fry the rest! Medium-high heat, a few tablespoons of oil in the pan, 2 minutes on each side. Add more oil as necessary.

I don't have a picture of a cooked one. Trust me, though. They are delicious. 

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Harlem Churches

Christian believers are few and far between in NYC, but not in Harlem.  Though I am in the minority ethnically, this neighborhood is full of brothers and sisters in the faith. Our local taco shop plays gospel music on Sundays. We see families coming and going from church in their Sunday best (oh the hats!). All kinds of buildings have been repurposed as churches- movie theaters, synagogues, schools, store fronts.

In this significant sense, Harlem is a gift to me. It is well documented that church attendance and faith are declining among the white population, while in most other ethnic groups church numbers stay steady, or they are rising.  Faith in Jesus doesn't erase ethnic and cultural differences- in fact, New York City is full of "ethnic churches" that express their faith their unique cultural way.  Friends who stayed with us recently visited a Nigerian Catholic church here in Harlem and said there was dancing and rhythmic music.

Believers have a special bond that has nothing to do with race and culture.  Harlem is a haven for me in that way. I work on the Upper West Side, which is mostly white, and in a spiritual sense I feel like more of a minority there than I do in Harlem, which is historically black. 

Here are a few photographs of churches large and small in our neighborhood.

Perhaps an repurposed school or movie theater?
The End is Near.
"It's more than a symbol- it's a solution! Bring your family back to church"

Salvation and Deliverance

Gospel choir music pours out onto 116th St.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

What to do with Your CSA Veggies: Part 1

We just joined the Corbin Hill Food Project and we get to pick up fresh in-season fruits and vegetables every week here in Harlem.  It's like a CSA. If you live in Harlem or the Bronx- join!  There's no waiting list!

Because they only deliver what's in season, I have wound up with some pretty unusual veggies- or a large quantity of one thing.  What am I going to with a huge bunch of radishes for three weeks straight?  How do you prepare collard greens? Swiss chard? Garlic scapes? Turnips? Sometimes you pick up a vegetable that looks like it must grow in Yoda's swamp in a galaxy far, far away.
Kohlrabi it is called.
It's been a crash course in learning to cook- and I'm loving it.  I've been all over the blogosphere looking for recipes for the odds and ends that are left over when I cook through the stuff I know (like lettuce).

According to Yoda, it is do or do not.  There is no try. So, here on the blog I'll share with you a few no-fail ways to use your extra or mysterious CSA/farm share vegetables.

Suggestion 1: The Quiche

Anything can go in a quiche.  Did you know that? Greens (kale, chard, spinach, collards, etc.).  Fresh herbs. Radishes! Onions or onion-like items (like garlic scapes). Whatever else you want to add- ham, bacon, broccoli.  Use your smarts to come up with great-tasting combinations.  I put ham, garlic scapes, cilantro and radishes in mine.

Step one: Buy a deep dish pie crust.
Step two: Chop up whatever needs to go in, mix it with 1 or 2 cups of cheese, and 3 TB flour.  Put it in the pie crust.  Make sure to add salt and pepper.
Step three: Lightly beat 5 eggs together with 1 1/2 cups of half-and-half.
Step four: Pour egg mixture over the chopped mixture.
Step five: Bake it at 350 for an hour, and let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

I had enough mixture to make two, so I froze one.  I've been enjoying it as a protein-rich breakfast food.

Anything can go in a quiche.  Remember that!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Testimony of the Iron Skillet

Bacon & Eggs
I'm not a Southerner, so until recently, the words "Iron Skillet" conjured up the image of a mediocre all-you-can-eat buffet with stale croutons at the end- Not the wonderful cooking tool that I now enjoy.

Last summer, I was engaged to be married, and living in a sublet apartment for the summer with a Southern-and-proud-of-it roommate.  She even has a blog about being a Southerner in NYC. 

She gave me iron skillet lessons, and I ended up registering for one as a wedding gift.  It has changed my life. I'm here to tell you why.

Top reasons to love the Iron Skillet:

  • It can move between the stove and the oven
  • It is truly non-stick- this is a different ball game than my stainless steel pans.
  • It is easy to take care of. 
  • It is an heirloom- people pass skillets down through families.
  • You can buy an antique, rusty one and restore it easily.
  • It distributes heat evenly and stays hot (and I have an old cooktop, so that's pretty nice).
Besides the usual cornbread and bacon and eggs,  here are some other ways I've used my iron skillet:

Deep Dish Pizza (you can see here that we did not yet have floors in our kitchen when I made this).

Blistering tortillas for tacos.  Just a touch of oil in the pan and 1 minute or less on each side makes the tortillas bubble a bit and get little crunchy sections. 

Rack of lamb for Easter.  I could sear it on both sides to seal in the juices, then stick the whole thing in the oven for a little bit. Easy as that!

What else can you use an iron skillet to do? Any other tricks to share?