White Bean & Winter Vegetable Stew

We’re getting down to the dregs in terms of seasonal eating. My last CSA pickup was over a month ago. The green things at my local farmers’ market dwindled down to hearty spinach before drying up completely sometime in the middle of February. And so I have turned my attention to beans and storage vegetables (plus a little store-bought kale–hey, a girl’s gotta get her greens).

White Bean & Winter Vegetable Stew

  • 1 pound dried navy beans, soaked overnight and drained
  • 1 onion, peeled and halved
  • 2 large carrots, cut into large chunks
  • 2 celery stalks, cut into large chunks
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and halved
  • 1 teaspoon sage
  • 1 teaspoon rosemary
  • 1-2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1 ounce guanciale, cubed
  • 1 large butternut squash, peeled and cubed
  • 1 large bulb celeriac, peeled and cubed
  • 1 parmesan cheese rind
  • 1 Meyer lemon, skin and all, finely chopped
  • 1 large bunch kale, stemmed and roughly chopped
  • salt and pepper

Add the beans, onion, carrot, celery, garlic, guanciale, herbs and spices to a large Dutch oven along with enough water to cover by a couple of inches. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and let cook for an hour or more, until the beans are tender. Fish out the celery, carrots and bay leaves. Add the squash, celeriac, cheese rind and lemon, and top with enough water to just cover everything. Bring back to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. When the vegetables have softened (about 15 minutes), stir in the kale along with plenty of salt and pepper. Cook until the kale is wilted. 

White Bean and Winter Vegetable Stew

It’s going to be another long and strenuous workweek. At least I’ve packed my lunch.

Packed Lunch

Pasta with Lacinato Kale & Creamy Delicata Squash

Yesterday morning I met a film crew at Walt L. Shamel Community Garden to discuss the future of food and the importance of community self-determination.

Jasmine Interviewing

There aren’t enough layers in the world to make two hours of standing around in 10-degree weather pleasant. A full 36 hours later, I was still craving something warm and comforting. As luck would have it, my evening meeting was canceled, affording me my first night at home in over a week. Even better, kale and squash from Saturday’s CSA share were waiting for me.

Pasta with Lacinato Kale & Creamy Delicata Squash

  • 1 delicata squash
  • 1 small red onion
  • 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 refreshing beer of your choice
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary
  • 2 tablespoons crème fraîche (or sour cream or whatever other recently expired dairy products you have on hand)
  • 1/2 tablespoon honey vinegar (or white wine vinegar)
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • salt and pepper
  • 3 ounces spaghetti or any other pasta that suits your fancy
  • 1 large handful lacinato kale, stripped of its stems
  1. Set the oven to 450. Cut off the tips of your squash, slice it down the middle and scoop out the innards. Toss this in a baking dish along with a sliced red onion. Drizzle on a tablespoon or two of olive oil and pop it in the oven. (Sure, you could wait for the oven to properly pre-heat but, let’s face it, you’re hungry in the way one can only be in the depths of winter.)
  2. Crack open a beer, change into some sweatpants, and search online for a recap of Season Four of Downton Abbey because, damn, you can’t seem to remember a thing.
  3. After 15 minutes or so, strip the rosemary and stir the needles in with the onions, give the whole pan a good shake, and pop it back in the oven. Now would be a good time to set a pot of salted water to boil.
  4. When the squash is tender, pop it into the small work bowl of your food processor along with the crème fraîche, nutmeg, vinegar and a good dose of salt and pepper. Run the food processor, scraping down the sides and adding a little water if needed, while you tend to the rest of your meal.
  5. When the water boils, add the pasta. Scoop the onions and rosemary into the food processor and run a couple more minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning with additional salt and pepper. A few minutes before your pasta is done, add the kale to the boiling water.
  6. Scoop the squash mixture into a small mixing bowl, add the kale and pasta along with a bit of the cooking water, and toss to combine. 

Half an hour after you walked in the door, you’ll be sitting down to a healthy, hearty and seasonal meal…and Season Five of Downton Abbey.

Pasta with Lacinato Kale and Creamy Delicata Squash

Kabocha Squash & Sage Bread

The squash situation has gotten a little out of hand. This week’s CSA share, the last of the season (sniffle), brought the count up to a dozen–six delicata, one butternut, one acorn, one turban, one pumpkin and three kabocha squash to be specific.

Squash Overload

I also had some fresh sage that was threatening to turn to dust after three weeks in the crisper. (It’s been a busy month.) The sage was grown at La Finca del Sur and purchased at the South Bronx Farmers Market, which Lily Kesselman and her neighbors started this year to bring farm fresh fruits and vegetables to their corner of New York City. I spent a delightfully sunny fall afternoon learning what it takes to start a community-led farmers’ market and chatting with Freddy in between sales of his collards, fresh herbs and late season tomatoes.

Freddy from La Finca del Sur

Kabocha Squash & Sage Bread 

  • 1 medium kabocha squash
  • 10 tablespoons butter (plus a little extra for greasing your pan)
  • 1/4 cup loosely packed fresh sage leaves
  • 2 cups flour (plus a little for dusting your pan)
  • 2 teaspoons apple pie spice (or, if you didn’t happen to just get a free bottle of this in the mail because you inadvertently ordered a totally insane quantity of bay leaves and coriander seeds, you can use 1 teaspoon cinnamon plus a little nutmeg and whatever other baking spices you have on hand)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 3 eggs
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 (or 205 if, two years on, you still haven’t figured out how to switch your oven back to Fahrenheit). Cut the squash in half and scoop the innards into a bowl. Cut the halves into quarters and place in a roasting pan. Cook for 40 minutes or so, until the squash is lightly browned and fork tender.
  2. BONUS RECIPE: While your squash cooks, remove the squash seeds from the guts as best you can. Rinse the seeds in a colander, which will help remove a bit more of the guts, but don’t sweat it if you don’t get them perfectly clean. Toss the seeds with a heaping tablespoon of coconut oil, a couple of tablespoons of sugar, a little cinnamon and cayenne, and a healthy pinch of salt. Spread the seeds onto a baking sheet (lined with foil if you’re lazy like me) and pop into the oven along with your squash. Make sure to check on these regularly, as they’ll go from toasted to burnt pretty quickly. (One suspects that a lower oven temperature would help, but we’re trying to be efficient here!)
  3. Meanwhile, melt 10 tablespoons of butter in a very small saucepan over low heat. Roughly chop the sage and add it to your melted butter. Let cook for five minutes or so and then remove from heat. You want the butter to get golden and give off of a sage aroma, but avoid burning the leaves.
  4. Whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and spices in a small bowl.
  5. When the squash is done, drop the oven to 350 (175 Celsius, which you think I would have memorized by now) and remove the pan. Peel the skin from your roasted squash. (This will be infinitely easier if you let it cool first. But, if you made the ill-advised choice to start a baking project at 10:00pm on a school night, a large spoon should help get the job done with only minimal damage to your fingertips.) Drop the squash into the food processor and purée until smooth.
  6. Stir the squash, sugar, eggs and sage butter in a large bowl until smooth. Add the flour mixture in batches and stir until incorporated.
  7. Use the butter you failed to return to the fridge to grease a loaf pan. Swipe some of the flour spilled across the kitchen counter into your pan and shake to coat. Scoop your batter into the pan and pop it in the oven. Let bake for 45-50 minutes, until the loaf is nicely browned and a butter knife stuck inside comes out reasonably clean. (Another 5 minutes probably wouldn’t hurt, but damn, it’s getting late!)

In the interest of time, you’ll want to take care of the dishes while your bread bakes. I recommend starting with the spatula you used to scoop the batter out of the bowl.

Licking Batter

By the time you finish cleaning up and write your blog post, the bread should be done. Let it cool for a bit and then gently pop it out of the pan. Not being much of a baker, I have no idea why there is a raised platform in the center of the loaf. I’d be ever so curious if yours comes out the same.

Kabocha Sage BreadOdd protuberance or not, this bread will be very good–so much so that there will only be a small slice left on the office snack table by the time you get out of your morning meetings. Fortunately, this will be enough to ward off starvation during your next meeting.

Kabocha Sage Bread Slice

East New York Callaloo Stew

I had the first fundraiser for my new job on Wednesday. It was great fun, but also taxing. Nothing like a 13-hour workday that starts and ends with manual labor, in between which you have to get dolled up in a bathroom stall and then meet a few hundred people!

While the event featured upwards of 60 of New York City’s finest restaurants and beverage purveyors, I arrived home ravenously hungry. (My predecessor had warned me that I should task people with making sure I ate, but somehow I failed to listen.) Luckily, I had tortillas, eggs, tomatoes, a jalapeño, and some cilantro on hand, which made for a lovely midnight snack.

Midnight Breakfast Tacos

The alarm went off at 7:00am on Saturday. I hauled my weary body out of bed, cleaned up, downed some coffee and hopped the 3 train to the second to last stop, Van Siclen Avenue in East New York, Brooklyn. I was there to check out some of Just Food‘s programs, starting with a Meet Your Farmer event for food pantry recipients at New Hope Family Worship Center. Eileen, Nicholas and their two farmhands had risen far earlier than I had in order to make the drive down from Whistle Down Farm in Claverack, New York–the four of them crammed into a van alongside the organic vegetables that they grow especially for this site and two other food pantries in the Bronx.

Many of the clients already knew the farmers, as they had visited the farm earlier in the season. Eileen and Nicholas shared a bit about their farm and the techniques that they use to grow vegetables without pesticides or chemical fertilizers. The pantry workers and clients shared their experience with the program and put in requests for vegetables they would like to see next year. Scotch bonnet peppers, greens and more Italian frying peppers topped the list, as did okra (which is apparently tough to grow in the Northeast). The event concluded with a cooking demonstration featuring the carrots that were in this week’s vegetable allotment.

The pantry opened for distribution and the rest of us headed across the street to the East New York Farms! Farmers’ Market, which runs from 9:00am to 3:00pm every Saturday from late June through mid-November at Schenck Avenue and New Lots Avenue. (They run a second market on Wednesdays from 3:30 to 6:30pm at New Lots Avenue and Georgia Avenue.) In addition to a wide variety of prepared Caribbean dishes and natural health care products, the market features produce from a couple of regional farms and from nearby community gardens.

East New York Farmers Market

I made a beeline for the Youth Farm stand, as I had sampled their Scotch bonnets in one of the few dishes I did manage to try at Wednesday’s fundraiser and was eager to get my hands on some. (That’s the farm off to the left in the picture below.) Turns out they had figs as well, which made me a very happy girl.

East New York Farms

A few stalls down, I stumbled on callaloo, which I’ve been curious to try my hand at ever since I discovered that the vegan Jamaican place around the corner from my apartment sells callaloo patties. The green in question, pictured below, is actually amaranth leaves, but is commonly referred to as callaloo, which is the name of several different dishes prepared using the leaves. Each island seems to have its own interpretation of callaloo, so I went with my instinct and the ingredients that I happened to have on hand.

Callaloo Squash and Scotch Bonnets

East New York Callaloo Stew

  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 1 ounce slab bacon, diced
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 2 bell peppers, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme (or 1 teaspoon dried)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 4 cups lobster, shrimp or crab stock
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 1 Scotch bonnet pepper
  • 2 cups peeled and cubed winter squash (delicata, butternut, pumpkin, etc.)
  • 4 cups finely chopped callaloo leaves (or water spinach, swiss chard, collards or other greens)
  • zest and juice of 1 lime
  • salt and pepper
  1. Add coconut oil to large pot over medium heat. Add bacon and cook stirring continuously until partially rendered. (Do not let is get crispy.) Add onions and sauté until soft. Add bell peppers and sauté for another 5 minutes. Add thyme, allspice and garlic and cook for 1 more minute.
  2. Raise heat to high, pour in the stock and coconut milk and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and add the squash and Scotch bonnet. Let simmer until squash is very tender, approximately 30 minutes. Add the greens, zest and lime juice. Let simmer for another 30 minutes or longer if you like your greens very tender. Give it a taste. Add salt and pepper to taste. If you could stand more heat, pop the Scotch bonnet open and let simmer for a while longer. Just be sure to fish it out before serving, lest someone get a major surprise.

Callaloo Stew

A Recipe for Recovery

I just got back from South Florida where I spent Thanksgiving with my family. I tacked a couple of days in Miami Beach on to the end of my trip. I was looking forward to checking out the Miami dining and cocktailing scene–as well as the swanky pool at my hotel. Instead, I contracted food poisoning and spent the next 36 hours checking out the pay-per-view selection and the marble-tiled bathroom floor. (While there a few suspects, my money is on the peel-and-eat shrimp.) When I did manage to drag myself to the balcony, this is what I gazed upon.

Fontainebleau View

I made it through last night’s plane and taxi rides without incident, but still felt the need to sleep with a bucket next to the bed. I’m in that awkward stage of recovery when the thought of food nauseates me but so does an empty churning stomach. White toast, white rice, white pasta or Saltines would probably be advisable, but these are not things I keep around and going to the store seems unthinkable at the moment.

As luck would have it, I did have the ingredients below–all of which are easily digestible and/or possess restorative properties. The inspiration came from Blue Hill Yogurt, which is very popular with a certain one-year-old friend of mine.

Tahini-Squash Yogurt (aka Sophisticated Baby Food)

  • 1 small delicata squash (I imagine butternut or any number of other winter squashes would work nicely.)
  • 2 tablespoons tahini
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 cup plain yogurt (I used goat, but any kind would do, so long as it has the good bacteria.)
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • pinch of salt
  1. Core, peel and slice the squash. Steam until tender.
  2. Puree the squash plus the rest of the ingredients in a food processor. You could get fancy and run this through a chinoise to remove any fibrous squash matter. It was all I could do to pour it into a bowl.

Delicata Squash-Tahini YogurtThis was tasty and seems to have kept my blood sugar up until well into the afternoon. I do not hold it responsible for the stabbing pain just under my left lower ribs.

Autumnal Salad

The aforementioned Progressive Party left me feeling a little worse for the wear. It was Sunday and I had a mountain of reading for the next night’s class. I needed something quick and healthy that did not require venturing outdoors.

Autumnal Salad

  • 1 Kabocha (or other sweet winter) squash
  • 1 tablespoon regular olive oil
  • 1 pinch cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400. Peel and seed the squash (reserving seeds) and chop into 1/2-inch cubes. Toss squash cubes with 1 tablespoon olive oil, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Pour into roasting pan and pop into oven. Toss rinsed seeds in same bowl along with cayenne and cinnamon. Pour into a small pan, cover loosely with foil, and pop in oven. Roast stirring occasionally until squash is cooked through and browning at the edges. Squash seeds should be toasted and/or have started to pop (hence the aluminum foil).

  • 2 tablespoons plain greek yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons honey vinegar (or white wine vinegar)
  • 2 tablespoons good quality olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 head red leaf lettuce
  • 2 small apples, chopped

Whisk the first four ingredients together, adding a little more vinegar or some honey as you see fit. Toss the lettuce with the squash, squash seeds, apples and dressing. If you want to be fancy about it, you can reserve some of the seeds to throw on top. 

Autumnal Salad

I made a similar version of this with baby winter greens and butternut squash for a dinner party a couple of weeks later. This time, I included half of a thinly-sliced red onion, which I left to marinate in the dressing until just before serving. It was a big hit.