Hey there! So this weekend is going to be about a lot of catching up after a pretty solid week of exhaustion born of sleep deprivation and filling in for absent co-workers. Whee. But – this is a three-day weekend, which affords plenty of time for some leisurely moments and blogging.
And cooking. And that reminds me that I need to report on my first foray into the Cookery Calendar Challenge! To recap – at the beginning of each month, I pick one of my cookbooks, and then I have to cook two things from it during the month that I’ve never tried before. In August, I went with one of my collection’s longest residents – Sundays at Moosewood, the “international” cookbook from the Moosewood Collective. I’ve had a copy of this since my very first post-college apartment, when I spent the summer immediately after graduation sharing a one-bedroom with two college friends (yes, you read that right – we somehow all found separate sleeping quarters) , both of whom were vegetarians. We made heavy use of the Union Square Greenmarket, which was just two blocks away, and I got all excited about vegetarian cooking as well and invested in this to expand my repertoire a bit, and actually did pretty well as a vegetarian for about six weeks before something in me snapped one morning and I shocked them both by cooking a whole feast of scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, AND gravy for breakfast.
But I digress.
Sundays at Moosewood covers about 18 different international or regional cuisines – some rather broadly defined (“Caribbean” covers all West Indian islands, “Southeast Asian” includes Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam, and the Phillippenes, and then there’s “Africa South Of The Sahara”), some familiar faces on the “international” scene (Italian, Chinese, Mexican, etc.) and some very, very specific regions (they don’t have “French” cuisine, but rather “Provencal”). I thought I’d be dipping into the more exotic things like Indian or Syrian – but surprised myself by going for simpler fare, mainly because I had vegetables that really needed using up.
Like the corn bisque from the “New England” section. For the past month, I’ve been getting an armload of fresh sweet corn from the CSA every Saturday – and firmly believe that fresh sweet corn is really only best eaten if you eat it that day. And as tempting as it is to snarf down three whole ears of corn in one day, these days I have neither the metabolism nor the appetite. But I didn’t want to let the corn sit for too long.
This was actually a nice second option – a simple corn soup, which also uses the cobs to start the stock. After cutting the kernels off the cobs, you simmer the stripped cobs in water for a little while, strained that off, and added that back to the usual carrots/celery/onion combo that 99.5% of all soups in the world start with. Even better, the corn is cooked separately – just slightly, enough so that it’s still really sweet and a little crisp – and added to the soup last. The cobs colored the stock a nice sunny yellow, and the whole thing was light, sweet, and summery.
…About mid-August, we had a weird – and welcome – stretch of cooler weather, and I turned to the cookbook for something a bit warming. Comforting. …And went with something French. I was missing Paris a bit, and even though I know Provence is a ways off from Paris, I figured I could find something close enough.
And found “Potato Cake” – something which I realized about halfway through was no more than a funky take on potatoes au gratin. But who cares – it actually reminded me of tartiflette, a dish I was introduced to in a bistro in Paris while meeting some online friends. I saw it on the menu, and asked them what it was. “Oh, that’s a traditional thing from Lyon,” they said. “It has potatoes, cheese, and bacon, and – ”
“I’ll take it,” I said, before they even finished.
This wasn’t the fastest recipe, but it was definitely easy – two separate stretches of something sitting in the oven. First I just had to slice up some potatoes and onions, drizzle them in olive oil, and bake them in a dish with a couple bay leaves for about a half hour.
The second stretch was where the good part came in, though – repacking it into a smaller dish for a second run in the oven, this time with the added magic of cheese.
The recipe called for Swiss cheese, but I really don’t like Swiss – so I splurged on some comte from the super-elite grocer in my neighborhood instead, and just because, I spiked it with a little herbes de provence I had in the cupboard. I may have overcooked it a tiny bit – it was a bit crispy in places, instead of being meltingly tender like the recipe implied it should be – but cheese gone a little crispy is actually good. And actually, anything involving potatoes and cheese is probably going to come out well, wouldn’t you agree?
So that was August!
This month is going to be another vegetable-heavy one – it’s the peak of the harvest, which means my CSA is going to be going nuts. And to riff off the Provencal theme, too, I am going with Potager, a seasonal-cooking cookbook with recipes geared to “things you could have grown in a little garden plot in your back yard.” …Assuming, mind you, that your garden plot is big enough for regular plantings of potatoes, runner beans and endive, but hey – I don’t have to garden what I grow to cook it. I even have a first recipe in mind – a dish involving sauteed greens over cheddar-cheese-infused polenta. Which I already know is going to remind me of cheese grits and Southern greens, and is likely going to send me on a Southern kick next month.
But we’ll see.