LaLegumiste

Children of the Corn

I have a very good memory, generally, but for whatever reason, it does not extend to music and movies. I misquote lyrics all the time and could not tell you who sings a song I’m humming on a regular basis. I also couldn’t tell you where the following information came from, but I’m sure it was presented in one of the documentaries about food I watched at some point in the last few years. Maybe I will update this post when I end up watching the same movie again thinking I’ve never seen it, until this particular bit of information is brought up, and everything clicks into place … for a little while.

But I rant on. This documentary briefly discussed that most cultures on a particular continent rely on one one vegetable as their main source of starch. Following this logic, European cultures count on wheat for their starch, while  American (North and South) cultures rely on corn. 

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Since I was born in Europe and have lived in the US my entire adult life, this would go a long way towards explaining my reliance on both wheat and corn as my sources of starch. Doesn’t explain the penchant for potatoes, but for now I’ll put that off to my desire to diversify.

I try to be very diligent about eating any form of corn syrup and I still don’t buy the idea that popcorn is a healthy snack, even if I occasionally convince myself of that one. That said, I am powerless in the face of fresh, sweet, summer corn and we’ve just about reached that point where every store and market is piled high with ears of corn (and tomatoes and peppers, but I’m saving those for later).

Since I’ve gone on long enough, I will leave you with a recipe that is mercifully short, fairly easy, and terribly delicious. Thanks to the kind people at Serious Eats, you can find it here.

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This is evidence of my weakness for fresh corn. I bought way more than needed for the soup, so I made the rest into a succotash of sorts.

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More photos of the entire process and a few notes are after the jump.

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Cool Beans

This is a short, sweet and cool one - perfect for summer.

I like beans a lot and eat them year round. I like them in their pods and out of their pods, and am not so seasonally biased that I only eat shelled beans in the winter and beans in their pods in the summer.

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But, if I had to pick one bean dish that I only have in the summer, this would be it. The reasons for it, like much of my thinking in general, are more pragmatic than ideological - the lovely flat yellow beans required are only available in the warm months where I live, the cooking involves very little stove time, and the final product is best consumed well chilled.

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Yellow Bean Salad

1/2 lb flat yellow beans

4  large garlic cloves, shredded or pressed

1/4 cup chopped fresh flat leaf parsley

1 t sunflower oil

2 T apple cider vinegar

1/2 t sherry or red wine vinegar

1/4 t kosher salt

1 T cold water

Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. 

Trim the ends of the beans, and if you need too, cut each pod in two. 

Place the beans in the boiling water and cook for 4 - 5 minutes, until barely tender.

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While the beans are cooking, mix together the oil, vinegar, water, garlic and salt.

Drain the beans well and place in a shallow bowl, spreading them out as much as possible. Pour the dressing over the beans while they are still hot, and garnish generously with parsley. 

Let sit until beans are room temperature, then refrigerate for at least an hour before serving. This dish gets better the longer it chills, so it can be made well in advance of serving.

And that’s it! With a piece of crusty bread, perfect light summer lunch,

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To follow up something so simple, I thought dessert should be similarly easy going and decided to cut up this lovely Charentais melon, picked up at the same time as the beans. The French name made it sound fancier than a regular old cantaloupe, but unfortunately, I must have picked one that was not ripe enough. It smelled and looked delicious, but tasted barely sweet at all, requiring a follow-up with dessert number two - chocolate!

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Chasing Fairy Tales

I first saw this recipe when it was printed in the “In Season” series in NY Magazine. I already knew what eggplants tasted like, didn’t imagine these would be so different, but I absolutely had to have them for one reason: the name.

I chased these fairy tales for the past 4 years and only found them, appropriately enough, when I stopped looking. Isn’t that just like a fairy tale?

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Happy to report they were worth the wait! They’re sweet , with tiny seeds and almost as importantly, just plain cute. To satisfy my own curiosity, I tried to find out if they ever grow much larger - nope. According to this, they always stay their “dainty” size and sound perfect for appetizers. They may even be the best way to convert eggplant haters.

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There is not much to the recipe above, but a few pictures of the process are after the jump.

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In The Summertime

"When the weather is fine," to quote Mungo Jerry, I have a harder time than usual understanding how anyone could dislike vegetables or find them boring.

Let’s examine the evidence

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They’re so bright and colorful and full of flavor that you really don’t have to do much to them to enjoy. Which, of course, doesn’t mean I left my vegetables completely alone. I tried very hard to restrain myself, but to see what happened, click below.

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How To Flame-Roast An Eggplant In A One-Bedroom Apartment

If, of course, you happen to live in an one bedroom apartment with a gas stove and no outdoor space. And if you also don’t mind the smokey air that lingers, on average, 3 - 4 days, even with the windows open and the fan on. 

All of the above apply to me. The eggplant spread that requires this particular preparation has been a favorite for as long as I can remember, so it’s worth potentially concerned looks from neighbors every few months or so. 

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Less about a great recipe or pretty pictures, this post is mostly meant as a reminder to my future self. So without further ado,the step by step, according to my mother, is after the jump.

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Not Quite Gazpacho

Do you ever have moments when you remember something that you used to love and eat frequently, only to realize you haven’t had it in years and years? I had one of those flashbacks last week. I was thinking of cold vegetable soups that would make good dinners for the coming workweek, and was all set for my lazy default in that category - gazpacho.

Then I remembered how much I like dumplings or noodles in my soup - they make the soup feel more like a meal onto itself. Unfortunately, most of the soups I favor in that category are eaten hot, which sounded unbearable for August in New York. Then lightning hit - tomato soup with dumplings. I ate it all the time growing up and had last tasted it about 15 years ago. I think. 

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I couldn’t tell you why I haven’t had it in so long. Probably because that’s around the time I started cooking for myself and I don’t know how to make the cream of wheat dumplings that make this cold tomato soup special. Since a dumpling-making instructor was easily located, I figured this would be the perfect opportunity to remedy my dumpling making deficiency.

I had all the ingredients on hand, a few hours of free time, and a need for nightly dinners, so the decision was easy enough. 

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The recipe and photos are after the jump. To be sure, making this cold tomato soup is more involved than making gazpacho, but the end product and trip down memory lane made the effort worth it to me.

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Nettles Redux

I am not on a crazy nettle kick, a fad food joy ride or trying to be trendy with my choice of edibles. It’s funny that I even feel like I have to justify my decision to make a recipe with an ingredient I’ve enjoyed since childhood, but there it is. Blame it on living where I currently do and too much time spent reading food blogs and magazines.

I already made one nettle soup this spring, the same nettle soup I try to make once every spring. But then this popped up on the T blog, and I had to try it, just for comparison’s sake. When I read it I promised myself that if I found all the ingredients at the market without having to go to extremes like showing up at 9:30 am on a Saturday, then I would make it. Guess what? They were all there, and here you have it - step by step photos of the recipe linked above.

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Salvage Cuisine

I bought too much at the market (again). I didn’t get to it all in time. The moment when it could be used for its intended purpose was gone. The thought of throwing it all out made me slightly sick. This situation called for salvage cuisine - improv cooking whose main goal is to salvage one, or several, ingredients, rescue them from ending up in the trash, and with any luck, turn them into something palatable, maybe even delicious.

I am a big fan of salvage cuisine, engage in it at least once a week, but only write about it when I think it may be helpful to others. 

This week’s experiment involved potatoes that had gone all wrinkly on me, ramps that were slightly wilted and were less than a day away from getting slimy, and a chunk of very sharp cheddar that I thought was pretty blah on its own.

The end result was definitely greater than the sum of its parts. I christened it Potato Ramp Galettte and enjoyed it for both dinner and lunch.

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Since salvage cuisine generally occurs in the evening, with little to no natural light, and my lighting skills are not up there yet, I have no pictures to share other than the ones you see here, taken the next morning and at my desk. The recipe is posted after the jump.

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Smooth Transitions

After seeing picture after picture on the internet of fresh and oh so intensely green dishes heavy on asparagus, and peas and fava beans, I figured they must all be available at the markets by now. And they might be - at markets somewhere other than the one I usually go to. Maybe I got there too late, or maybe I need to try a different market, but either way I struck out. Again. In part.

My plan was simple.  A light salad of fresh greens more interesting than my standard half spinach/ half mesclun deal, tossed with favas and maybe asparagus, dressed with something tangy and topped with crumbled feta.

I found my greens. Look how springy these baby greens are!

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Plus, I thought I would try something new in the land of I-have-no-idea-what-to-do-with-them greens. I give you chickweed:

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It was mild and kind of citrusy, and it added a different texture to the mix. It worked.

I was also excited to find green garlic. I used to eat it raw, with roasted lamb, but since I no longer eat meat, I’m  sometimes at a little loss for what to do with it. It has a mild flavor, to me anyway, so I prefer to eat it raw since cooking further dulls its potency. This time it was easy - green garlic dressing.

That’s where my luck ran out. No favas. No asparagus. Substitutions had to be made, and what was destined to be The Best Spring Salad Ever became a transitional salad - a blend of springtime excitement listed above and the seasonless powerhouse of dried beans. Scarlet runners, to be exact. They weren’t the fresh fava beans I was pining for, but they worked well in this combination, maybe even better from a visual interest sort of perspective.

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The recipe, as much as it can be called that, and more photos, are after the jump.

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Spring Revival

A few weeks ago, cold medications killed my smell and taste buds. Sure, I could take in air easily  and swallow food without cringing, but what was the point? I couldn’t taste anything for a full week, and when I finally started to get my senses back there were several days of just very faint sweet/ salty / sour/ hot distinctions. As in, straight up sea salt was faintly salty and straight up Sriracha was faintly hot. The boredom and frustration began to get to me and I started having nightmares of a future without taste buds. Not fun.

My frustration was compounded by the thought of missing out on lots of good stuff at the market. It was almost the end of April, when fresh things are finally pushing through the soil and only to be completely gone in a few very short weeks. I tormented myself daily thinking that I would have to wait a whole other year for ramps and peas and asparagus, radishes and tender little carrots, nettles and fiddleheads.  As soon as my smell and taste returned, I hightailed it to Union Square.

And there I found… almost nothing. Two weekends in a row, showing up pre-noon, which for me is a weekend best, and what I found were apples and potatoes and lots of overwintered root vegetables. All great in their own right, but after all these months, where was the green stuff? I had to consider myself satisfied with ramps and stinging nettles. Don’t get me wrong, I was hoping to lay hands on both of those items. There were so many others that should have been there and that I saw no signs of.

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Apparently, I may not see signs of them for a bit, if at all this year. After reading this NY Times article, I felt slightly vindicated. Turns out I’m not the only one getting frustrated here, and it’s bound to be worse for those in the restaurant business.

No point in dwelling any longer though, so I’ll move on to the bright side, or in this case, the green side - the ramps and nettles. They were both amazing, young and bright to the point that I wandered if I’d been missing the boat and only catching the end tail of the ramp/ nettle bandwagon in previous years.

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Find out what happened to these bright young things in the recipes and photos after the jump.

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