Archives for posts with tag: carrots
Painting shows lime, mint leaf, ginger root and glass.

Lime-Ginger-Mint Cooler. 4″ x 6″ Gouache and Watercolor Pencil. Sharyn Dimmick.

What season is it anyway? I am in the kitchen, trimming cabbages, peeling rutabaga, cutting the tops off carrots. I was going to make Caesar Salad with baby romaine to celebrate the first warm, bright Sunday of May, but all of the lemons on our tree are small and green, so instead I trim the remaining winter vegetables. The rutabaga has that hot taste it sometimes gets and some of the carrots are watery. They don’t know what season it is supposed to be either.

I start slicing fennel, thinking I’ll stir up some kind of mustardy vinaigrette for it. I go back upstairs for a recipe that is surely in my saved blogs folder and can’t find it. I search two or three blogs I read for fennel salad and come up empty-handed. Yes, I make a fennel salad, but I want to make a different one. I mix some whole-grain mustard with some red wine vinegar and put that on the sliced fennel. I eat quite a lot of that while I’m thinking (I haven’t had lunch).

I go back upstairs and find an intriguing recipe for rutabaga, which I have all of the ingredients for. I look for the Mario Batali original, but can’t find it. Do I really want to make rutabaga home fries? Not before I eat something. But what am I going to eat? There on the toaster oven is the dry French bread I was going to make into croutons for the salad. When in doubt, eat bread and cheese. I cut the bread into three slices. Our cheese supply is limited today: we are down to mozzarella, Pecorino and those crusts of Parmesan that you throw into vegetable soup, so I cut a few slices of mozzarella, add some Pecorino for flavor, pile fennel shards on top of that and put the whole thing in a 400 degree oven. Fifteen minutes later the cheese is browned in spots the way I like it, the fennel is warmed through. I eat a cheese toast. I go upstairs. I eat another one. In ten minutes I am back downstairs for the last piece.

This time I stay long enough to make pizza dough. I keep sourdough starter in the fridge and try to use it once a week. Mozzarella and Pecorino are perfect pizza cheeses, so I mix together 3 cups of flour*, and 1 and 1/2 cups of water and let it rest for ten minutes. Then I add 1/2 cup of sourdough starter and a little over 1 tsp kosher salt. I let the KitchenAid mix that several minutes with a dough hook while I add flour, tablespoon after tablespoon after tablespoon, waiting for the dough to leave the sides of the bowl, which it doesn’t want to do today. Eventually, I move it to a floured board and knead by hand as it absorbs all of the flour from the board. We do this dance for quite awhile and then  I smear a little olive oil in the bread bowl, cover it with a dish towel and consign it to the refrigerator: I will make the pizza tomorrow. The arcane pizza-making instructions come from The Cheese Board Collective Works, one of my favorite cookbooks for pizza and sourdough bread.

Now, some people I know make delicious pizza. They seem to plan what they will put on it. Around our house, we make pizza because we have a lot of odds and ends of cheese and meat, or half a jar of olives to use or some leftover pasta sauce or eggplant that needs to come out of the freezer. Or we make pizza because it will use the mozzarella we have in the house. I spied some green olives on the door of the fridge that I suspect will become pizza ingredients and I believe I have some roasted red peppers in the cooler.

The cooler, by the way, is a cabinet that more houses should have. It is a cupboard built next to an outside wall of the house. Part of the wall has been replaced with a screen. Because fresh air cools the cabinet, you can keep oil, vinegar, mustard, ketchup — things that might otherwise take up space in your refrigerator — in the cooler. We store canned goods in there, too, both homemade and store-bought, and things like Karo syrup.

The day slips away after that in another round of phone calls and emails about hotels in France. Sigh. I whir 1/4 cup of minced candied ginger in the blender with the juice of two limes and a handful of fresh mint leaves. I pour most of it into a glass and add sparkling water. I call that dinner. Without the water this makes a great dressing for fruit salad: you can add more lime if it is too paste-like, but the fruit will give off juice. It’s a good alternative to dairy-based dressings and mayo (shudder). I’ve been known to dress carrot salad with it, too.

What do you do with “hot” rutabagas and watery carrots? I expect some gardeners or farm cooks will have some answers.

*I like to use part whole wheat flour in pizza dough, usually at least 1/2 a cup.

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painting shows bowl of chicken-coconut soup with Asian condiments

Chicken-Coconut Soup. 8″ x 8″ watercolor pencil. Sharyn Dimmick.

The weather swings from mackerel skies to overcast, from sun to rain. The farm box remains remarkably constant in content: spring onions, leeks, carrots, cabbage, cauliflower, tangerines. Today we got cilantro and asparagus as well. My mother has been under the weather for days, following a diet of toast, toast and toast. What can I possibly make for dinner?

I settle on an old favorite, a spin on Thai chicken-coconut soup with plenty of winter vegetables: carrots, cabbage, spinach and leeks.

I begin by making coconut milk. I measure two cups of unsweetened coconut into the blender while I heat 2 and 1/2 cups of skim milk on the stove. (The richness of the milk does not matter: we are using it to extract the coconut flavor from the coconut — I’ve used everything from whole milk to skim and water in a pinch). Blend the warmed milk and the dry coconut for a minute or two and then strain out the coconut. Throw that same coconut back in the blender with two cups of warm water and make a second batch, straining the coconut out. Now you may throw the coconut meat out, or compost it: all of the flavor has gone into the bowl of thick and thin coconut milk.

I heat two pints of homemade chicken stock on the stove and add the coconut milk and most of a boned and skinned chicken that we roasted earlier in the week. I add 1 Tbsp. fish sauce and the juice of one lime and about 1/2 tsp of chili paste with garlic. I let the meat simmer in the broth while I cut up two root ends of lemongrass and slice about 1 Tbsp of frozen fresh ginger into thick coins. Leaving the lemongrass and ginger large means we will be able to spot them in the soup. I add a bowl of leek rings that I cleaned and cut a couple of days ago.

Mom slices carrots into irregular pieces — like making carrot sticks — and washes spinach leaves. I wash and chop the roots of today’s cilantro and add them to the simmering pot. I slice cabbage thinly.

Then we go upstairs and watch an episode of “The Rockford Files.”

When we return to the kitchen, Mom turns up the pot to high and adds the carrots. In three minutes the carrots are almost cooked and I turn the burner down to medium and add the cabbage. Oops. I have underestimated the volume of the soup, so instead of cooking spinach in the soup we put spinach leaves in our bowls and ladle the hot soup on top of them, turning off the soup pot. I garnish my bowl with fresh cilantro. There is plenty of soup for future meals: we will reheat it and add fresh spinach and cilantro to our bowls again.

Food Notes: As you can see, this is not a precise recipe. The basics include a blend of chicken broth and coconut milk and the classic Thai seasonings of ginger or galangal, lemongrass, fish sauce, and chilies. You can vary the amounts of fish sauce, lime juice, chili paste, lemongrass and ginger to taste. If you like your soup sweet, you can add brown sugar. You can make it with canned coconut milk, either regular or light, which is what I do when I am not out of canned coconut milk. Tonight’s version was mild, rather than spicy, to accommodate Mom’s indisposition, but you can amp it up with loads of chili paste or fresh chilies. You can make it traditional Thai style with no vegetables at all. You can add rice noodles or rice. You can use leeks, spring onions, or scallions. You can include sweet potatoes or broccoli, as long as you do not cook them too long in the soup. If you like crunchy broccoli, you might want to put it in your bowl and pour the soup over it like we did with the spinach: by the time you get to the bottom of your bowl the broccoli will be nicely cooked. This is a nice soup to eat when you have a cold or when you are trying to tempt someone with a low appetite: packing it full of vegetables adds vitamins and minerals to the broth.

Painting Notes: The quickest of paintings to meet a deadline.

Painting shows ingredients for turkey-apple stew, plus a border collie.

Turkey-Apple Stew. 12″ x 12″ gouache and watercolor pencil. Sharyn Dimmick

The day after Thanksgiving we are happy campers: we camp in our house. We have leftover rolls. We have leftover pie. We have leftover roast turkey, cranberry sauce and a few extra baked yams. Sometimes we have mashed potatoes and brown turkey gravy. When we get hungry, we grab a roll, heat up a slice of pie, filch some sliced  turkey off the platter. But when we get tired of grazing, sometime in the next day or two I make turkey-apple stew, employing leftover turkey, gravy and stock, with the additions of carrots, apple cider and fresh apples. I have to keep an eye on the gravy supply and make sure I make the stew before my brother feeds the gravy to Ozzy, the border collie. We make a rich, dark brown gravy from the drippings in the roasting pan, flour and water, and Ozzy loves to come for Thanksgiving.

What I use to make the stew is mostly dark meat. I strip it from the thighs and drumsticks, throwing the bones and sinews into the stock we started Thanksgiving day with the giblets, odd pieces of celery, any unwanted skin. Eventually, we will strip the entire carcass and throw it in our biggest pot for stock. We will probably make turkey and noodles with that, but stew comes first in the post-Thanksgiving rotation.

I begin by slicing apples and cutting carrots into batons. I use four apples and three carrots, usually, but you can adapt this to your own tastes. I don’t peel the apples. Because my Mom does not like eating pieces of onion, I will cook a small, peeled onion whole in the stew and remove it before serving. If you like pieces of onion, go ahead and add a cut -up onion or two to your stew.

Saute 3 carrots, cut into batons and

4 sliced apples (and optional onions) in a few Tbsp of olive oil and butter.

Sprinkle vegetables with dried thyme (stripped from five or six stalks)

When vegetables begin to brown,

Add some turkey stock and 1 cup or so of apple cider (I saute the vegetables in a standard skillet and add stock and cider until it is full). If you want it more savory, use more stock and less cider. For a sweeter stew, reverse the ratio.

While vegetables simmer, strip your turkey and cut it into pieces you can put in your mouth.

Put turkey pieces in your pot of leftover gravy (If you don’t have leftover gravy, you’re screwed as far as this recipe goes unless you can scrounge up some brown drippings and make some more. In a pinch, you can thicken stock  with flour, but it will be a pale imitation of the real thing).

Heat the turkey in the gravy, as you would for hot turkey sandwiches. When vegetables are tender, add vegetables to turkey and gravy. Taste and season. I like to add Tabasco at this point — just a little. You might prefer salt and pepper. Nutmeg is a nice addition, too, and I can imagine that ginger might be good. The original recipe (published years ago in the San Francisco Chronicle’s magazine) calls for adding cream. Sometimes I throw in just a splash of half and half to round it out, but it is not strictly necessary.

I have served this plain in a bowl to eat with leftover rolls. I have served it over rice. I have served it over soft polenta. You could even eat it over mashed potatoes.

Food notes: You can, of course, make this stew with white meat if that floats your boat. For goodness’ sake, please don’t make it with cream gravy — even gravy mix is better than that. In our house when the gravy supply is low, we extend it with brown fluids: coffee has been used, or Kitchen Bouquet, or meat drippings from some other meal.

You can gussy this up by adding cream or half and half to your taste. If I have brandy, cognac, applejack or hard cider I’ll toss a jigger in with the apple cider and stock. If your sauce is thinner than you like, you can make a quick roux of flour and butter to thicken it — we usually reduce our gravy to save it so mine doesn’t need any additional thickening. If you have parsley on hand, chop some finely for a beautiful and flavorful garnish. If you want to be the next Martha Stewart, carve some crab apples into fancy faces, roast them and garnish with that. Don’t tell Martha I said that.

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody! See you next week.