Toss lacinato kale with pear, clothbound cheddar, scallion, olive oil, white wine vinegar, salt and pepper, and dinner’s ready in less time than it takes to decide what to order–leaving you with the whole evening to contemplate the pain of this week over unremarkable whiskey and a movie you’re barely watching.
As regular readers know, I am quite devoted to Farmer Ted and the whole Windflower Farm crew.
But this week I had occasion to check out another CSA. My coworker and I visited Crown Heights Farm Share to learn about some of the innovative strategies they are using to recruit and retain low-income residents. From what I observed, the folks in Crown Heights have built a remarkable sense of community. They also have some remarkable vegetables courtesy of Sang Lee Farms, located on the North Fork of Long Island. One of the coordinators we met with was kind enough to send me into the night with a lovely bouquet of guy lon, also known as Chinese broccoli.
I made it to my own CSA, which is five blocks away, just before closing time. Good thing I did as, in addition to a delightful selection of vegetables, I picked up a pound of ground lamb that I had ordered during a bout of insomnia the week before and promptly forgotten about.
Guy Lon & Cumin Lamb Stir-Fry
- 1 cup long grain white rice, rinsed
- 2 tablespoons whole cumin seed
- 1 pound ground lamb
- 4 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon Szechuan peppercorns, ground
- black pepper
- 4 tablespoons safflower or other neutral cooking oil
- 1 large onion, sliced pole to pole
- 1 red bell pepper, cut into matchsticks
- 1 jalapeño pepper (or to taste), minced
- 1 large bunch guy lon (Chinese broccoli), leaves, flowers and thin stems roughly chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
- 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
- 2 scallions, sliced on the bias into 1/4″ pieces
- 1/4 cup roughly chopped cilantro
- Bring two cups of water to boil in a medium pot. Add the rice, stir, cover, and reduce heat to low. Let simmer for 20 minutes, turn off the heat and let stand for another 5 minutes before serving. (This should be just enough time to prep and cook the rest of the dish.)
- Toast the cumin seeds in a dry cast iron skillet over medium heat, stirring constantly, until they release their aroma and turn a few shades darker. Gently mix the lamb with the cumin, Szechuan peppercorns, tamari or soy sauce, and a good amount of freshly ground black pepper in a bowl and set aside.
- Pour 2 tablespoons of oil into the skillet and bring it up to medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring frequently, until they are limp and charred in places. Add the red and jalapeño peppers, allowing these to brown and go limp. Empty the contents of the pan into a bowl.
- Place the skillet back on the heat and pour in another tablespoon of oil. Add the guy lon stems and let these cook for a few minutes, stirring frequently. Add the flowers and leaves and cook stirring constantly until the stems are bright green and the leaves are wilted. Dump the guy lon on top of the onions and peppers.
- Place the skillet back on the heat and pour in the last tablespoon of oil, followed by the lamb, garlic and rice wine vinegar. Cook stirring frequently for 10 minutes or so until the lamb has released and then reabsorbed most of its juices. Stir the cooked vegetables and the scallions in, and let cook for a couple more minutes. Add the cilantro off the heat. Serve over rice, which should be done right about now.
When today promises to be even longer than yesterday and you’re not sure when your next meal will be, start with toasted whole wheat sourdough slathered in ricotta and topped with sliced plums, honey, fresh thyme and black pepper. This pairs nicely with a latte and some last-minute packing for a much-needed weekend getaway.
Summer reared its head one last time this weekend, with temperatures soaring to the low 80s on Saturday. I kicked off my 40th birthday by taking a funder on a tour of community-run farmers’ markets in East New York and Bushwick and ended the night jubilantly dancing with good friends at Franklin Park. (OK, fine, I ended it at a 24-hour diner, but that was technically the day after my birthday.)
By Wednesday, which was the first day in October, temperatures had dropped to the low 60s. There’s a crispness in the air that I will always associate with the first day of school. The woman at my local coffee shop must be feeling the same deeply ingrained nostalgia. “Have fun. Make new friends!” were the words she sent me off with this morning.
The close of my workday found me meeting the same funder for a cup of tea and a lovely apricot and pistachio tart at one of Maison Kayser‘s New York City outposts. I hadn’t had their addictive pain au cereales since my June study trip to Paris, so I grabbed a loaf before departing.
A couple of blocks away I stumbled upon Beecher’s Handmade Cheese, which I had been meaning to investigate. Cubes of their signature cheese, Flagship, greeted me just a few steps inside the door. It was everything you want cheddar to be–sharp, creamy and crumbly all at once. My hunch that it would melt beautifully was confirmed by the sweet bearded Macalaster graduate working the counter. I mentioned my grilled cheese vision and he encouraged me to add a little funk to the mix in the form of Alemar Cheese’s Good Thunder. This young man seemed to know his cheese. And so I departed with not one but two precious (and preciously priced) cheeses in my sack.
While I am perfectly capable of eating nothing but a grilled cheese sandwich for dinner, I felt compelled to dispatch with some of this week’s CSA share. Boy, am I glad that I did.
Roasted Eggplant and Tomato Soup
- 1 medium eggplant
- 2 large tomatoes
- 1 medium yellow onion
- 1 red bell pepper
- 1 jalapeño pepper
- 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 small handful cilantro
- salt and pepper
- splash red wine vinegar
Preheat the oven to 425. Drizzle 1 tablespoon olive oil into a roasting pan. Rinse the vegetables and slice them in half, making sure to core the peppers. Place everything cut side down in the roasting pan, drizzle the remaining olive oil over the top and place in the oven.
Let roast for 30-40 minutes until the vegetables are soft and their skins are beginning to char and pull back.
Peel off the skins from the peppers and tomatoes and transfer everything to a food processor. Add a healthy pinch of salt and black pepper and purée until smooth. Continue to run the processor while you slowly add water until you’ve achieved the consistency of your favorite tomato soup. Add the cilantro and purée for a couple of additional minutes. Just before serving, bring soup to a simmer, remove from heat and add a splash of red wine vinegar.
WARNING: This recipe made about two servings of soup. I am seriously bummed to not have more leftovers, as it is quite tasty. As your attorney, I advise you to double it.
I recently read that Gabrielle Hamilton makes her grilled cheese using mayonnaise instead of butter. This is a game changer. Seriously.
Grown-Up Grilled Cheese
- 2 slices good quality bread
- 1 tablespoon mayonnaise
- 2 ounces serious cheese – 1 cheddar and 1 a little funkier
Bring a cast iron skillet up to medium-low heat. Spread the mayonnaise on one side of each piece of bread. Place one slice into the skillet, mayonnaise-side down. Layer on your cheese and add the top slice. Let cook until nicely browned, pressing gently with a spatula. Flip and repeat the procedure. Let sit for a minute or two before serving to make sure all of that oozy goodness doesn’t drip right out.