Champagne, Sour Cherry & Rhubarb Preserves

There is nothing like a chilled bowl of perfectly ripe cherries on a hot summer day.

Last year was a bust for stone fruit in my area owing to a nasty and ill-timed hailstorm. I do confess to breaking down and purchasing some Washington State imports in a moment of weakness after a sweaty bike ride out to Brighton Beach. They were good, but nothing like the ones I picked myself up at Fishkill Farms a few summers back.

That day called to mind strawberry picking with my mom as a small child. Why anyone would choose to let me wear white for such an activity, now or then, is beyond me. Based on my empty bucket and the stains down the front of my shirt, the folks at the cash register would have done well to weigh me upon entering and exiting and simply charge my mom for the difference.

But I digress. Last week’s CSA share brought a quart of honest-to-goodness local cherries. Alas, they were more tart than I had hoped and so they sat in my fridge for a few days while I mulled what to do.

A lovely pork blade chop from Flying Pigs Farm founds its way into my bag at the farmers’ market on Saturday morning. I’d stopped by with the intention of buying bacon to complement the first promising tomatoes I’d spotted this year. But one thing lead to another and, suddenly, I was tucking 12 ounces of beautifully striated pork into my bag. (It turns out I’m a sucker for a handsome man who speaks of pork the way most people talk about their first love.)

I had a small bundle of rhubarb that had been sitting in the back of the crisper for a couple of weeks. I imagined that the cherries and rhubarb would make a lovely sauce for my chop, but that would only make a dent in my fruit stockpile.

Then I remembered the previous night’s booze crime…

Louis and I had a date for a screening of Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte. We met up for dinner beforehand—mussels and frites for me, couscous with merguez for the gentleman. It was a lovely night, so lovely that I found myself declaring, “It’s such a lovely night!” as we swanned out of the café. Halfway down the block, with no awnings in sight on this lovely brownstone-lined side street, the skies opened. Within a matter of minutes, Louis and I looked as if we’d jumped in a pool fully clothed.

We took refuge in a nearby bar, ordering a round while we hatched a plan (and dripped all over the floor). Having determined that Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte was available for streaming, we headed back to my apartment and traded our drenched clothing for sweatpants and T-shirts. The previous week’s cat sitter had left a nice bottle of bubbly, which seemed like just the thing for such a festive occasion.

Fifteen minutes after the pop of the cork, I was asleep on the couch, my head resting on my dear friend’s shoulder. While Louis managed to stay awake for the whole movie, he didn’t do much better than me at drinking the wine, which I guiltily shoved into the fridge, uncorked, on my way to bed.

And so I give you this delightfully decadent dish…

Champagne, Sour Cherry & Rhubarb Preserves

  • 1 cup chopped rhubarb, tossed with 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 quart sour cherries, halved and pitted
  • 1 cup pink champagne (or whatever leftover bubbly you happen to have on hand)
  • 2 tablespoons Pomona’s Universal Pectin
  • 1.5 cups sugar
  • 2 tablespoons calcium water (see instructions in the pectin box)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cardamom
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Bring the bubbly to a boil in a medium heavy-bottomed pot. Combine the sugar and pectin powder in a separate bowl. Add fruit to your pot and bring back to a boil. Add sugar, cardamom, almond extract and vanilla, stirring vigorously for 3 or 4 minutes. Take off the heat. When the preserves are cool enough to handle, ladle into a couple of 1.5-cup mason jars (or whatever you have on hand). Let cool most of the way on the counter. Then screw the lids on and pop them in the fridge.

Cherry Rhubarb Champagne Preserves Hot

Don’t panic (as I did) if the preserves seem loose at first. This is what mine looked like after eight hours in fridge. The internet tells me it can take up to 48.

Cherry Rhubarb Champagne Preserves Set

Have it on toast. Serve alongside a soft, creamy cheese. I’ve been dropping a generous spoonful of these preserves into plain yogurt as an afternoon snack and can report that this is also a good strategy.

Kohlrabi, Potato & Apple Soup

As should be evident from my sporadic posts, it’s been a hectic autumn. I’ve done my best to keep up with the onslaught of fresh CSA veggies by making simple and serviceable dinners for one. I also hauled a ridiculous quantity of carrots, turnips, lettuce and fresh herbs down to Baltimore for Thanksgiving. I slunk home guiltily on Sunday, afraid to face the cabbage, kohlrabi and apples that I had left behind.

The cabbage made for a fine lunch once I cut off the moldy bits and cooked it up with carrots and a little bacon. The key is a nice sharp Dijon mustard. I had a work event Monday night. By the time I got home around 10:00, it was all I could do to dice an apple and sprinkle some granola atop my bowl of yogurt. I’m sure I ate dinner on Tuesday night but, between a big fundraising push and the scramble to write my paper for Wednesday’s class, I’ll be damned if I can recall what I made. I’d be willing to bet it involved peanut butter.

By Wednesday, what I had been telling myself was allergies had settled into an undeniable cold. Mercifully, I scored a seat for the long subway ride from Harlem back to my corner of Brooklyn. I’m still not sure whether the train skipped my stop or I failed to notice it through my feverish haze, but the extra long walk through a cold and misty rain didn’t help the situation.

I arrived home exhausted and in need of comfort. Scanning the pantry, my eyes alit on the dregs of a box of Streit’s Matzo Meal left over from my Passover foray into Miso-Spinach Matzo Balls. This time I stuck to the directions on the box, which yielded lovely, classic matzo balls in just under an hour, most of which I spent selecting the perfect soundtrack for my melancholy.

 

A normal person would have served these in a chicken broth, but I had some Hawthorne Valley beet kvass that was approaching its expiration date, so I went with a sort of borscht-matzo ball hybrid. It was deeply satisfying, if slightly off-putting in color.

Unsurprisingly, I didn’t feel much better today, so opted to work from home. Breakfast brought more yogurt with apple and granola. For lunch I simmered a few of the leftover matzo balls with a couple of cubes of frozen chicken stock. At the last minute, I added some sad spinach buried in the back of the crisper. (Forgive me, Farmed Ted.)

Now about that kohlrabi…

Kohlrabi, Potato & Apple Soup

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 large kohlrabi bulbs, peeled and chopped
  • 3 large potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 3 small apples, peeled, cored and chopped
  • 1/2 tablespoon dried savory
  • 1 teaspoon dried sage
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon white pepper
  • salt and pepper
  1. Bring olive oil up to medium heat in a large Dutch oven or other heavy-bottom pot. Sauté the onion until soft, approximately five minutes. Add the kohlrabi and sauté for another five minutes.
  2. Add the potatoes apples, herbs, spices and a healthy pinch of salt. Top with just enough water to cover, bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Cook until the kohlrabi is tender, which should take somewhere around 45 minutes, adding more water if needed.
  3. Puree using an immersion blender or in batches in the food processor, thinning with water if needed. Run through a chinois (or a food mill if you’re lucky enough to have one), discarding any fibrous remains. Taste and adjust seasoning with additional salt, pepper or nutmeg.

I had originally thought I might augment the puree with a generous pour of the half and half left by a house guest. But the resulting soup was so smooth and creamy and satisfying all by its vegan self that I opted instead for a sprinkle of pan-toasted croutons and a little diced apple.

Kohlrabi Potato Apple Soup

Garlic-Ginger Tofu & Collards

The weather this weekend has been nothing short of glorious. After a long, hard winter, New Yorkers are eager for sundresses and sandals, outdoor drinking, and fresh vegetables. Alas, yesterday’s farmers’ market foray yielded less greenery than I had hoped. I did manage to pick up a couple bunches of small, tender collard greens and a clamshell of spring onion shoots.

The rest of Saturday was spent drinking Bloody Marys, craft beer and some ill-advised whiskey in a series of Brooklyn backyards. We capped the day off with a couple of hours of dancing to 60s soul tunes.

I awoke early this morning with a distinct craving for fried pork dumplings, perhaps with a moo shu chaser. But this didn’t seem like the best way to regain my health after a weekend of possibly excessive imbibing. And so I set about crafting a healthier dish that would take advantage of my farmers’ market bounty and satisfy my salt and spice craving.

Garlic-Ginger Tofu & Collards

  • 2 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1/2 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Sriracha
  • 1 one-inch piece of ginger, minced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large pinch sugar
  • 1 container extra firm tofu, drained and sliced into strips
  • 3 tablespoons canola or other neutral oil
  • 1 bunch collards, stemmed and roughly chopped
  • 1 small handful spring onion shoots or a few scallions, thinly sliced

Combine the first eight ingredients in a shallow bowl. Add the tofu and stir gently to coat. (In a perfect world, you would have done this before you were ravenous so that the tofu had plenty of time to soak up the marinade, but my lunch was still pretty tasty.) Bring the oil up to medium heat in a large skillet. Lay the tofu pieces in, cooking them in two batches if necessary so as not to crowd the pan. Let the tofu cook undisturbed until nicely browned, rotate the pieces and continue to cook until they are firm and mostly browned. Lay the tofu pieces on a paper towel to drain and add your collards to the skillet along with the remaining tofu marinade. Cook until the collards are wilted and most of the liquid has boiled off. Stir in the onion shoots or scallions and remove from the heat.

Rice would be the obvious accompaniment, but I went with quinoa cooked with chicken stock and satueed leeks. It was good. The leftovers should make for a bright spot in tomorrow’s workday.

Garlic-Ginger Tofu and Collards

Chilaquiles Verdes for the Working Girl

I am pulling some very long days as I settle into my new role. While I no longer feel clueless, each day brings unanticipated challenges. There’s an irony in spending nearly all of my waking hours (and, to be honest, most of my dream life as well) thinking about how to ensure that all New Yorkers have access to fresh, local food when I can barely find the time to feed myself.

I made it home at 9:00 tonight determined to make use of the last of the remaining Katchkie Farm tomatillos gifted to me at a work event a couple of weeks ago. Several had already gone into Wajeedah’s Black Bean Bean & Corn Salsa Verde. Even past their prime, as they were tonight, these were some delightful fruits.

Chilaquiles Verdes for the Working Girl

  1. Bring a cast iron skillet up to medium-low heat with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil.
  2. Remove the husks from five or so tomatillos and give them a quick rinse. Chop roughly and toss into the food processor.
  3. Add a clove of garlic and some roughly chopped hot peppers. Peppers vary in their heat and we each have our own threshold, so you’ll have to use your own judgment here. Having tasted the tip of a jalapeño and found it to be mild, I added the whole thing and also an inch or so of what I think was a serrano. The resulting dish was very spicy.
  4. Add some salt, pepper and, if you happen to have it (which I did not) cilantro. Run the food processor for a few minutes, pour the resulting salsa verde into a small pan, bring to a boil and lower the heat so that you’ve got a nice slow boil. (You’re aiming to thicken things up a bit.)
  5. Meanwhile, pan fry a few corn tortillas in your skillet, allowing them to get dark in spots and lightly salting them as they come off of the heat. Stack these and slice them into quarters or eighths. 
  6. Stir your quickie tortilla chips with the hot salsa verde and pour into a low bowl. Garnish with queso fresco (or feta if that’s what you have on had), sliced avocado, roast chicken (I wish), and/or whatever your little heart desires that doesn’t further delay mealtime. A fried egg would be nice.

Chilaquiles Verdes

This is not a purist rendition of chilaquiles verdes, but it gets the job done in about 15 minutes, leaving you with time to give the cat some much-needed love before collapsing into bed.

Non-Suffering Succotash

Tuesday’s CSA share brought plums, corn, romaine, basil, peppers, onions, eggplant, cabbage and more glorious tomatoes. The rest of the week brought a flurry of social engagements and two distinct mountains of work.

It seems the cat is finally out of the bag; after two decades working in sexual health and reproductive justice, I am making the move to food. While I won’t officially start until after Labor Day, I am already hard at work behind the scenes preparing and training for my new role as the Executive Director of Just Food. Just Food works with community leaders to ensure that all New Yorkers have access to fresh, locally grown food. To say this is my dream job is a bit of an understatement. To say that I am busy is more than a bit of an understatement.

Somehow I managed to knock off the lettuce, plums and most of the tomatoes by Sunday morning. But that left me with a whole lot of vegetables to consume. Add to that the fact that I felt compelled to buy okra, scallions and hot peppers while introducing a friend who is new to the neighborhood to the Grand Army Plaza Greenmarket and the situation gets comical.

I spent my Sunday strolling Brooklyn for a series of food-fueled meetings. I had it in my head that I might indulge in a little impulse shopping along the way. While I tried on a few pairs of shoes and a vintage dress, nothing really struck my fancy–until I stumbled on Park Slope’s Sunday Down to Earth Farmers Market. It had been a couple of years since I had hit this market, which seems to now focus less on fruits and vegetables and more on all manners of dried, fermented, preserved, juiced, pickled and canned products. Tucked among the stalls was Barry’s Tempeh. I love me some tofu and I love me some seitan. Tempeh, however, has always struck me as a bit dry and dense. But one sample of Barry’s brown rice, quinoa and barley version and I was a convert. I departed with a pound of frozen tempeh stuffed into my purse.

Barry's Tempeh

My next meeting was scheduled to take place in a bar with a backyard, but it seems we weren’t the only ones who thought outdoor drinking on a mild August afternoon was a good idea. So we retreated to Four & Twenty Blackbirds for an afternoon “snack” of giant slabs of peach and raspberry crumble pie. By the time I got home, I was pretty sure I was done eating for the day. But by 9:00 I had miraculously regained my appetite. Fortunately, the tempeh has defrosted nicely nestled between my sunglasses and some books I picked up on the street.

Tempeh, Corn & Okra Succotash

  • 1/4 cup or so of olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 pound tempeh (ideally fresh or fresh frozen), cubed
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 green pepper, chopped
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
  • 3 cobs of corn, stripped (Freeze the cobs until you have enough to make a killer chowder.)
  • 3/4 pound okra, trimmed and sliced into 3/4″ pieces
  • 2 medium red tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/4 cup loosely packed basil, chiffonaded
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • salt and pepper
  1. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large cast iron skillet over medium heat. Add the tempeh and cook until nicely browned on one side. Flip the pieces, adding a little more oil each time until they are nicely browned. (The more oil you add, the tastier and crispier your tempeh will be, so use your own judgment.) Sprinkle liberally with salt and set aside.
  2. Add 2 more tablespoons of olive oil followed by the onions, green pepper and jalapeno pepper. Cook stirring occasionally until the onions are limp and starting to brown. Add the corn and cook for another couple of minutes. Season with salt and pepper and empty into a bowl.
  3. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and the okra. Cook stirring occasionally until the pods have softened and are dark along the ridges. Add the tomatoes and cook for 2 more minutes. Season with salt and pepper and then dump in the tempeh and the corn mixture. Cook for a minute more. Off of the heat, add in the basil and vinegar. Taste and add additional salt, pepper or vinegar as you see fit.

Tempeh Corn and Okra Succotash

I made up for my afternoon drinking fail by pairing this succotash with a Sixpoint Sweet Action. For a brief moment, I forgot that tomorrow will be another 12-hour workday. Luckily, I have three additional servings of succotash to get me through the week.

Swiss Chard & Black-Eyed Pea Salad

My nephew Wally is mad cute.

Sick Wally

He is also a vector for disease. I have been rocking the same glazed eyes and runny nose for the past week (though I fear they’re not quite as cute on me). By Friday my cough had reached a new level of intensity, rendering sleep a challenge. In the wee hours of Saturday morning, desperate to feel that something other than my cough was “productive,” I set some black-eyed peas to soaking.

I had big plans for Saturday, but a pounding headache and sheer exhaustion compelled me to stick close to home. Luckily, I had those black-eyes peas, a fridge full of vegetables, and friends who were game to scrap our night out in favor of supper on my roof.

I’ve been trying to spend more time on the roof. While the air in my apartment is thick and stagnant in these dog days of summer, it’s always breezy and at least ten degrees cooler up on the roof. A glass of wine and a little al fresco dining as the sun sets will cure just about anything (except maybe this cold). I like to treat my rooftop suppers as picnics, preparing simple, fresh food that’s easily transportable and meant to be eaten at room temperature.

Brookly Roof

Swiss Chard & Black-Eyed Pea Salad

  • 3/4 pound (1.5 cups) dried black-eyed peas, soaked overnight and drained
  • 1 large onion
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme (or a few sprigs if you’ve got fresh)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon smoked salt
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar, divided
  • 3 bunches swiss chard, turnip greens and/or other leafy greens, roughly chopped
  • 3 tablespoons finely minced fresh dill
  • salt and pepper
  1. Add beans, onion, bay leaf, red pepper, thyme and olive oil to a large pot. Cover with water by one inch, bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Cook until just tender, 30-45 minutes, adding water if needed.
  2. Remove onion and bay leaf. Stir in smoked salt, half of the vinegar and a healthy dose of black pepper. Add the greens in batches, starting with the stems, which will take a little longer to cook. Let simmer until greens are tender but still toothsome, 15-20 minutes.
  3. Remove from heat and stir in the rest of the vinegar, dill and salt and pepper to taste. Let sit for at least 30 minutes. Serve cold or at room temperature.

Swiss Chard and Black-Eyed Pea Salad

I served this salad alongside whole wheat sourdough toasted in coconut oil and a variation on last summer’s Garden Pea and Spring Onion Puree. A couple bottles of rose rounded out the meal.

Supper on the Roof

Neighbors trickled up to the roof as the sun set. Dishes were carried downstairs and replaced with chocolate and more wine. Just after dark, the supermoon rose above the chimney of an adjacent building.

EAT THIS: Fig, Avocado & Spinach Salad

Fig Avocado Spinach Salad

Figs, avocado, scallions and baby spinach in a mustard, honey, safflower oil and apple cider vinaigrette can be prepared and consumed in the 20 minutes between your arrival home from a board meeting and your 9:00pm conference call–though you may find yourself in need of a square of Jacques Torres’ Gingerette Bar to help everything settle.