Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Seasonal Eats

Winter Squash Soup
Pork Chops with Ginger Carrot Sauce
Harvard Beets

Now, see, here's why I find it so hard to imagine going to the nouveau farming lifestyle (other than the compelling fact that I suck at it). How the hell could I continue to eat this well? Well, tonight's dinner might have made the grade. Presumably, I'd have grown bushels of leeks, fennel, and root vegetables and would have made a year's worth of stock six weeks ago or so and frozen it (or else most of the veggies would have kept at least till now--we've already stipulated access to refrigeration--and even my herbs are hanging on out there), and it's traditional hog-butcherin' time--don't want to keep 'em fat through the winter, after all--which we'll celebrate with some choice cuts. I don't know where you get fresh ginger in the historical reenactment.

If you're going to make a savory vegetable soup, it is imperative that you use a tasty vegetable stock. I haven't figured out a veggie stock that works without the combination of leeks, fennel, and turnip, so I call each of those ingredients non-negotiable too. I generally eyeball the amounts, but you do have to be careful about adding too much turnip. Surely you had some delicious broth on hand, but just in case, I added the recipe I use. Someday, I'll figure out what do do with the veggie mush that comes out at the end, which is not untasty. (Maybe make a puree?)

The pork chop is a tweaked up version of an old magazine recipe I found. I am pretty sure that today's issue would call the sauce a puree instead, which the teevee suggests is trendy to serve (so I think we can safely assume that the foodie fashion world has in fact already moved on). My only issue with this meal is that the sauce resembles the soup in texture and color. I think if I make it again, I'll make it mashed potato consistency and put the meat on top, just like they would on Top Chef.

As for the Harvard beets, Mom sent up a bagful of roots, and hey, I'm in Massachusetts. (Did you know that Hahhhvid is a wealthy town in central Mass as well as a prestigious university fifty miles away?) I am sure you remember the slimy, rubbery cubes that got slopped onto your lunch tray by some gruff, hair-netted, cigarette-reeking crone every Thursday, and you know what? Fuck you, I love them. The beets are fresh, they add a nice color contrast, and the flavors fit in perfectly. Plus, of course, they are deadly serious. I served up the beets and a generously sauced chop on a plate, and garnished with a little bit of orange zest (which ties the flavors up beautifully, but matches the color of the sauce, which definitely means puree underneath next time.) A tiny dollop of cream or a wilted sage leaf probably would have been nice to dress up the soup, but the kids were getting antsy.

Winter Squash Soup
Vegetable stock:
about 3/4 cup vegetable oil (my wife swears canola makes it foul; I obey)
2 lb. carrots, diced
2 lb. celery, diced (can that be right? seems like a lot)
1 lb. leeks, diced (use the whole thing--be sure to cut lengthwise and clean out the sand first)
6-8 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
1 fennel bulb, diced (I chuck in the tops too)
4 oz. turnip, diced (maybe 1 baseball sized one)
about 1.5 cups white wine
2 bay leaves
good handful of fresh thyme
small handful of fresh parsley (or use a bunch of stems, you cheapskate)
water to two gallons (uh, I think that's the size of my pot)

I actually divide the vegetables into two pots, and saute them in oil with a little salt to help them sweat, stirring now and then, until they are really soft and there's some sticky light brown on the bottom of the pan (that's why I start a bigger batch in two pots). Add the wine to deglaze the pan(s), and then add the water, more salt, and other herbs (now I combine them, because what the hell, I've taken up enough space) and simmer for an hour or so, and strain. Make sure there's enough salt. Freeze what you don't use.

Winter Squash Soup
(makes maybe three quarts)
-2 butternut squash (or whichever), peeled and roughly cubed
-2 leeks (just the white/light green sections--I bought too many for the stock and they're like $2.50 a pound!)
-butter, maybe three tablespoons
-1 or two large apples, peeled and cored
-decent-sized handful of fresh sage
salt and pepper to taste.

In a large saucepan, saute the leeks in butter until they're nicely golden, add the apple and sage and saute until the apple is soft. Add the squash and a few cups of stock, and cover and simmer till the squash is soft. Then dump the whole thing into a blender, with more stock as needed to get the texture you like. Return to the pot (with more stock if the blender got too full) and season with salt and pepper. I made it Sunday, and it was still delicious tonight.

Pork Chop with Ginger Carrot Sauce
(or you know, ginger carrot puree)
-1 lb. carrots, cut up
-1/3 cup cream (Really? What would happen if I used half a cup? This ain't baking.)
-about a tablespoon fresh minced ginger
-a couple tablespoons honey
-ground coriander (I buy the seeds in bulk and use a little coffee grinder)
-four pork chops (The number for Chateau Keifus. We actually have a meat guy, where we can get slightly better steaks, but I think he has a similar distributor as the supermarket)
-veg. oil.

Boil the carrots, covered, for half an hour with a little bit of salt. Then into the blender with them, along with the cream, honey and ginger, and add enough of the cooking liquid to blend to the texture you like and season.

For the chops, rub on salt pepper and ground coriander, and just fry in the pan. Easy peasy.

Harvard Beets
(Shut up, that's why)
beets, enough to make about three cups when cubed
1/3 cup sugar (1/3 comes from Mom's recipe, I'd restate my aversion to odd fractions, but the beets are already pretty sweet, and lets not get carried away)
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup vinegar
about 2 tablespoons butter ("Mounting in butter." Um...yeah.)

Cook those nice seasonal beets whole, until tender, and cool a little. The skins come off easily when they are cooked. Do that, and slice into a pleasing aspect ratio that doesn't remind you of middle school. In a saucepan, stir in the sugar, cornstarch, salt and vinegar. Heat over medium until it thickens, then add the beets and the butter.

Hunker down. It's a long time till spring.


artandsoul said...

Good God Man! I'm on my way to the Farmer's Market as we speak! What a delicious dinner!!

I, too, love beets - in any and all incarnations. Strange tastes. :)

We have a wonderful recipe for Butternut Squash soup and it became a favorite last year.

I'll let you know how my attempt at replication comes out!

switters said...

The beet is the most intense of vegetables. The radish, admittedly, is more feverish, but the fire of the radish is a cold fire, the fire of discontent, not of passion. Tomatoes are lusty enough, yet there runs through tomatoes an undercurrent of frivolity. Beets are deadly serious.
-Tom Robbins (but you already knew that)

I, too (shut up), love beets. I'll grill them with the skin on, then slice them and serve them over radishes (Ha!) with a vinaigrette dressing. They're also good that way but served over the denser parts of a good cabbage.

Acorn squash has always been my favorite. Halved, baked face down, scooped out, served with generous amounts of salt, pepper, and a quarter pound of butter.

The Devil Wears Prada. What does Nate say to Andy at the restaurant after she's given away all the stuff she got at her new job? "Looks like someone's been drinking the Kool-Ade!"

Well, I've become almost as stingy as Lemuel, my great-grandfather on my dad's side. I've been running the dehumidifier and using the water it produces to fill the toilet tank. So I really shouldn't be name-calling, should I?

Keifus said...

I think mangel-wurtzel sounds like it should be a musical instrument though, a variety of accordian certainly.

I was particularly pleased with the soup. It came out just like I wanted it to come out, which isn't always a given. Butter makes everything good.