Simple Pleasures

As winter closes in, I find myself really craving comfort food. This afternoon, as I walked home through the chilly fog, I got a yen I haven’t had in years. I wanted tuna casserole, that ultimate comfort food, the kind with the crusty broiled top and the simple-but-brilliant filling of macaroni, tuna, and Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom soup all mushed together and seasoned with nothing but parsley, salt and pepper. I don’t eat tuna anymore, and I don’t eat wheat pasta, and I sure as hell don’t eat whatever craziness they put in a can of Campbell’s, so my casserole tonight was a bit of an adventure, but in the end it came out perfectly and filled my tummy with warm, gooey, winter coziness.

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Spinach and Apples

I am head over heels in love with the cornmeal pizza crusts from Vicolo Pizza. They beckon to me like blank canvasses waiting to be filled by all manner of culinary artistry. Tonight I brushed lemon olive oil onto one shell before heaping it with spinach sauteed with garlic, grated parmesan cheese, and little clumps of caramelized onions. The other I lined with a thick coat of caramelized onions before layering on my beloved tempeh bacon and slices of Rome Beauty apple. Both pizzas were sublime, and I scarfed down slices alongside a salad of lettuce and arugula, drizzled with the fruitiest dressing made from lemon olive oil, apple cider vinegar, and just a hint of orange syrup.

Spinach, Parmesean, Carmelized Onion, and Lemon Oil & Tempeh Bacon, Apples, and Carmelized Onion

Tat Soi and Pomegranate: Week of December 12th

This week’s box was so gorgeous and abundant, I had to take a picture!

Week 8 Box Contents

Diane Sweet Potatoes
Tat Soi (that’s the glorious dark green bunch behind the eggs on the right)
Lettuce
Pink Lady Apples
Spinach (in the bowl at the back)
Satsuma Mandarins
Broccoli
Arugula (almost hidden behind the carrots)
Napa Cabbage (hiding behind the lettuce)
Nantes Carrots (gorgeous! although one arrived broken and another has a big worm hole)
Tadorna Leeks
Pomegranate

Leeks

Frizzled Leeks

Leeks! So many leeks… what to do with them… put them in soup… put them in other dishes where they inevitably dissolve away into the base, becoming invisible amongst the other ingredients.

This bunch would not go unsung, I swore to myself, and so I decided I would frizzle them.

I had only the vaguest idea of what a “frizzled leek” actually was, only that it was something that featured the leek in a starring role and probably involved some oil and some crisping. I normally stay far away from large quantities of oil and eschew any kind of deep frying altogether, but this week was Chanukah, an eight day festival of fried food, so what better time to make Chanukah leeks?

And I have to say, they are amazing. What perverse law is it that dictates that everything deep fried must taste incredible? I made the little guys with the notion of using them to top other foods, but I can’t seem to stop eating them straight. In case reading this description has inspired lust and envy, here is the secret to frizzling your own leeks…

Frizzled Leeks

4 small-medium leeks
A bunch of oil that can be heated on high heat (I used sunflower)

Cut the white parts of the leeks into 1-2 inch chunks. Slice each chunk in half vertically, then cut each half into strips. (All the photos I saw online had quite thin leek strips, but I liked making them a bit larger – about 3 or 4 strips per leek half, vertically.) Wash the strips thoroughly as leeks can house quite a bit of muck between their layers. Dry the strips thoroughly because you are about to dump them into very hot oil.

Heat an inch or two of oil in a small pan. Throw in a handful of leeks. Remove with a slotted spoon or tongs and place on paper towels. Season with salt!

How long should I fry the leeks?, you may ask. Good question! I experimented, which is why some in the photo above are brown and others are still very leek-colored. I liked the range, so I would recommend that as soon as the strips begin to stiffen and brown, you start to fish them out. Because you won’t get them all on the first go, this will ensure a range of crisp to burnt flavor and texture. Perfect!

EDIT: I found out about a fun event called SnackShots, put on by the yummylicious Greedy Gourmet. where food bloggers contribute photos and writing about a particular food. This month the topic is leeks – how perfect!

Sweet Potatoes and Cabbages

Yum. Thai red curry with pillowy sushi rice. More winter comfort food, for a California girl raised on pan-Asian comfort food, that is.

Despite repeated okonomiyaki sessions, I still had a ton of napa cabbage. And an untouched Wakefield cabbage on top of that. What would I do with this festival of cabbage that wouldn’t require long periods of fermentation or the application of corned beef?

After mentally combining my many cabbages with what remained of my box – a few sweet potatoes and carrots – plus a tub of tofu and a couple cans of coconut milk from my recent trip to an actual grocery store, the direction dinner was heading in seemed clear.

Thai Red Curry with Sweet Potato, Cabbages, Carrots, and Tofu

Napa Cabbage

As the weather gets colder, I find myself with a hole in my belly that can only be filled by some kind of indefinable, completely yummy food. For me this mysterious ultimate craving usually falls into the savory category, and I do know that it should be hot, and have a soft, yielding texture.

I’ve had this huge napa cabbage sitting in my fridge since the previous box, and so I decided to see what my beloved Asian Vegetables cookbook had to offer. In the section for napa cabbage I found a recipe for okonomiyaki, which are Japanese savory pancakes. The recipe might as well have been subtitled “The answer to your winter food longings.”

I sliced up some of that napa cabbage along with a red onion I’d bought (because who can resist that color combo of pale green and lavender?). I mixed a few of my eggs with some broth and flour and tamari, stirred in the veggies, poured it all in a hot oiled pan, and scattered bits of my beloved tempeh bacon on top.

Okonomiyaki, uncooked

Then I cooked it, quartered and flipped it, let it cook through, and sprinkled it with toasted nori and sesame seeds.

Hot, savory, yielding. Stuffed with sweet, soft napa cabbage and red onions. Full of flavor from the seaweed and sesame. And I haven’t even mentioned the crazy dipping sauce made with ketchup, sake, and dried mustard!

Okonomiyaki, cooked

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Pink Ladies and Blue

Because I had to toss both the cauliflower and the broccoli, I didn’t end up doing a lot with the contents of this week’s box. I did, however, have a little piece of stilton in my fridge from a Ploughman’s Lunch at the incomparable Lovejoy’s Tearoom. The night of the Great Aphid Adventure, I was so hungry as I wrestled with my produce that I fetched out the stilton and crumbled it across some slices of one of the Pink Lady apples. It was a perfect pairing. I couldn’t have asked for a lovelier dinner – a more filling one, perhaps, but none lovelier!