Surrealist Romanesco

In my family we love three things above all else: food, art in all its forms, and people. (This must be why we love to travel so much!) In elementary school I was the only kid I knew who had a favorite artist (Matisse, for his brilliant use of color and shape). My mom and I have always been firm believers that the museum gift shop is nearly as much fun as the exhibitions themselves, and years ago my mom brought home as a museum souvenir a remarkable cookbook. Called The Impressionists’ Table, the book offers a series of truly delicious- sounding French menus based on Impressionist works of art involving food. This is the kind of book I took immediately to bed with me and stayed up late reading, and it is still crammed with the scraps of paper that I used to mark the many dishes I wanted to try. One of these dishes, deceptively simple but incredibly addictive, entered constant rotation, first in my mom’s house and now in my own.

Surrealist Romanesco

Ever since a lone cauliflower arrived in my box last fall my mouth has been watering for this dish, which I’m sure has its own name but which we in my family call simply “Impressionist Cauliflower,” in honor of the cookbook that brought it to us. My plans for that cauliflower were foiled back in November by the Great Aphid Disaster, and, because I am eating only what arrives in my box, I haven’t had another opportunity. So when a head of romanesco, that fractaled chartreuse cruciferous cousin, showed up in my box, I jumped at my chance. The resulting dish, with its brash color and form, seems better suited to more modernist schools than the refined, genteel white cauliflower side-dish I’m used to (or even like something you might find growing in a corner of a Bosch garden), so I’ve renamed this version of the dish Surrealist Romanesco.

I actually like the taste and texture better with cauliflower, and lately I have been trying out steaming the vegetable rather than boiling it as I usually do. I tend to discount vegetables that aren’t dark green as not being very nutritious, but having recently read up on the amazing nutritional powers of cauliflower (and I assume of romanesco as well) I felt guilty and ashamed at the idea of boiling the goodness out of it.

It was fun to try this recipe out with Romanesco, and, while I think I’ll stick to making it with cauliflower from now on, at least this gives me a great opportunity to pass along a beloved family recipe.

Impressionist Cauliflower
I leave the decision up to you whether to use cauliflower or romanesco (but read this post before you decide), and whether to boil or steam. You want your veggie to be quite, quite tender – NOT mushy, but not crunchy at all.

1 head cauliflower
1 T. red wine vinegar
1/2 t. salt
3 T. olive oil
1 tsp. herbes de Provence

Combine all ingredients except for cauliflower in a small bowl and whisk.

Wash the cauliflower. Separate the florets from the base using a sharp knife. (I usually slice up the base as well – this dish is so good I want to make as much of it as possible from one cauliflower!)

Plunge the florets into a pot of boiling, salted water. Cook ~10 minutes or until tender but firm. Do not overcook

Drain well. Pour vinaigrette over cauliflower. Serve warm or allow to marinate and serve chilled or at room temperature.

Serves 2, max!

Experimental Quiche: Pea Shoots, Stir-fry Mix, Spinach

I had all this stuff for stir-frying: pea shoots and the aptly named stir-fry mix. But even though I’ll order pea shoots every time I see them on the menu, I haven’t been too successful with them at home in the past and I basically just didn’t want stir-fry. No Asian flavors, no lovely bright vegetables that have to be individually chewed. No, I wanted a soft, dense pile of comfort food.

So I thought I would try another variation on the Spinach, Chard, and Onion Torta that was one of my first box meals, using eggs, leeks, green garlic, pea shoots, the chard-heavy stir-fry mix, and a bag of spinach for the filling. I had a cup of cooked black rice and a cup of cooked quinoa in the fridge, both a day or so from going bad. And with no plans to eat stir-fry any time Rice and Quinoa Crust for Quichesoon, the likelihood of those grains being eaten was slim to none. That’s when I came across a terrific-sounding recipe for quiche crust made from cooked rice and an egg – a perfect solution to my leftover rice problem that would also allow me to avoid the gluten-heavy breadcrumb crust of the original torta. The crust came out of the oven looking so beautiful – all purple and golden from the grains – that I know this will become a staple solution for the piles of grains that I make ahead for convenience but sadly sometimes end up throwing away. It tasted merely neutral, providing good texture but not contributing anything to the flavor of the quiche, but I feel confident that some doctoring ahead of time with herbs and garlic and salt and pepper will turn it into something magnificent.

Little bits of yum: Chard and tangelos

Last week a series of unfortunate circumstances came together and culminated in my having to shop at Whole Foods. With the exception of late-night vegan dessert runs, I haven’t tried to buy food there in a few years. Duck and I, having almost maxed out on kale (I know, I didn’t think it was possible either!) were craving this yummy chard and walnut dish his mom made for us a few weeks ago, so my assignment was to run into Whole Foods and pick up some chard and some walnuts. But when I got to the produce section, everything arrayed before me in the rustic wooden bins under the special full-spectrum lights, all the fruits and veggies shining and winking like a treasure box of jewels, I saw that the chard was $1.99 a bunch, and that a bunch consisted of a measly five small stalks.

Chard and Walnuts, Sweet Potato Fries, Chard-Onion Balsamic Relish, Forbidden Rice with Tangelo Ginger Sauce

Now five stalks of chard is an extremely conservative single serving for such leafy-green lovers as Duck and myself. So I was looking at $4 of chard, minimum, just for one dinner. I perused the greens section and found that the mustard greens had been bundled a bit more generously, so I decided we’d have mustard greens with lime and garlic, and the chard-walnut experience would just have to wait for a friendlier shopping opportunity.

When a huge, lovely bunch of swiss chard arrived in this week’s box, I jumped for joy and ran out to the corner health-food store to get walnuts. Washing and drying the leaves, I couldn’t help counting them and musing that this was about $6 worth of produce by Whole Foods standards. Dinner ended up being a little series of yummy bites – some of Duck’s mom’s chard and walnut dish, a simple relish made with the chard stalks and a red onion, sauteed with some of the balsamic dressing from the chard, non-box sweet potato fries (orange and white – the white were new to me and so good!), and a Tangelo-Ginger-Green Garlic sauce from a box newsletter, dressing up some Forbidden black rice.

Duck’s Mom’s Chard and Walnut Yum
This recipe is direct from the duck’s mom’s mouth!

I recommend making the dressing in a larger quantity and having it on hand for salads too, so you will have to gauge how much you dress the chard.

Chop and then steam the chard. Put the walnuts in the oven at 350 and try not to burn them, that is it the trick. One minute they are cooking….

2/3 cup good oil
1/3 balsamic vinegar
1 clove of garlic pressed
1 tsp salt
TBS of liquid mustard if you want (I didn’t use it)

Toss the chard walnuts and a couple spoonfuls of dressing and then see if you need more.

Romanesco and Kiwi: Week of March 12th

The contents of Week 17’s box

I haven’t looked forward to picking up a box this much since the early days! Because I’ve been away from home for the better part of the last month, I let my box subscription expire, so it’s been a long three weeks since my last pick up. I finally worked my way through the lettuce backlog (at one point the entire lower shelf of my fridge was taken up with bags of lettuce – they still aren’t eaten, but they are now washed and dried and in a tupperware waiting for their cue), and the refrigerator was down to nothing but condiments.

I felt like a giddy girl off to a first date when I headed for my pick-up today. Here are the contents of the handsome box who met me there:

Stir-fry Mix
Green Garlic
Navel Oranges