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

(The recipe for okonomiyaki is beyond the “more”) Continue reading

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!


[APHID UPDATE: See this post for an update on how the farm is dealing with the aphid situation detailed below.]

There was an unexpected and decidedly unwelcome addition to my box this week.

One of the things I love best about my box is the great newsletter that comes with it, introducing each food and giving some advice on how to store and use it. In discussing the broccoli, the newsletter cheerfully recommended that if there were any aphids I was to try soaking the broccoli in salt water for 15 minutes and they would come off much more easily.

It wasn’t the broccoli I was excited about the night after my box arrived. It was the cauliflower. I have the most delicious, show-stopping yet incredibly simple family recipe for cauliflower, and I was already looking forward to sharing the recipe and a photo of the completed dish here on the blog. I was also quite pleased because I was exhausted and here was a fast, simple preparation I could make for dinner that I already knew I loved.

I went to prep the cauliflower and found many, many tiny insects. “These must be aphids,” I thought to myself (slightly grossed out) as I dutifully cut up the cauliflower and set it in a bowl of salt water to soak while I did other things in the kitchen.

Well, I sprayed, and I scrubbed, and I picked until the cauliflower began to fall apart. Think about the shape of a cauliflower up close. The head is a tightly packed fractal of whorls, and, despite my efforts, each of those whorls was tightly packed with aphids. After putting about five times more effort into cleaning this vegetable than I had intended to spend on preparing and cooking it, I slipped it sadly into the compost.

The next night I tried with the broccoli, thinking its looser structure might allow me more access to the aphids without destroying the integrity of the vegetable. I even went so far as cooking it, but there were multiple bugs in every bite, and I just couldn’t do it.

(revolting aphid photo found on Google Images captures the spirit of my aphid woes, but in no way represents the actual density of aphids on my produce! (there is just about one in each crevice, not a thick coating of them anywhere))

I know and accept that produce grown organically is going to bring me into much closer contact with the insect world. Holes in my leafy greens, worms in my corn – these are the sweet signs of sustainable eating. But I’ve been buying only organic broccoli and cauliflower for years, and I have never before been asked to eat a mouthful of insects.

And I know that if I lived in olden days I could expect to put a lot more effort into preparing my food – my standards of how long is reasonable to spend on washing my cauliflower may be incredibly privileged. But let’s face it – I have chronic fatigue and repetitive stress injuries in both hands. In the olden days I would be the crippled tribe member watching the kids and keeping the fire going while everyone else was out hunting and gathering. I need a certain amount of convenience to get by.

So that’s a bummer, basically. Out of a ho-hum box I’ve already had to compost two of the offerings. I will end with this photo, which I find incredibly gratifying. I’m sure you can imagine why.

Ladybug devouring aphid

Cauliflower and Cabbage: Week of November 28

I did end up switching to every other week, so I waited 2 weeks for this box. And boy, was I ever ready for it by the time my pickup day came! But for some reason the contents just weren’t that thrilling to me. All good veggies, but nothing that made me dance around in joy. No dark greens for cooking, for one thing, and veggies just aren’t veggies to me without them.

Cauliflower (medium head)
Broccoli (1 medium crown)
Lettuce (1 1/2 small heads red leaf)
Pink Lady Apples (3)
Wakefield Cabbage (1 medium head)
Crimson Grapes (1 long bunch)
Arugula (1 large bunch mature)
Italian Parsley (1 large bunch)
Carrots (7 small/medium)
Leeks (4 or 5 small)
Diane Sweet Potatoes (2 medium, 1 large)