Wednesday, June 27, 2012

an abundance of squash

Sunday's farmers market was overflowing with squash.  Heaped high in wicker baskets, green and yellow beauties tumbled over each other in a gorgeous, edible-gem display one table after another.  I couldn't resist.  There were lovely yellow summer squash, an unreal shade of intense buttercup; curved gourd shapes, a paler yellow with cool green bottoms; and a basket of pattypan squash, green, yellow, and adorable.  

Besides making mouth-watering pictures, squash make mouth-watering dishes, and dinner last night featured the "pattypan" squash, stuffed with other farmers market finds.  The pattypan looks like a trippy overgrown acorn, and can be yellow or green in color, although I chose the yellow beauties. The squash has a summery taste, refreshing with a hint of sweetness when cooked. 


6 pattypan squash

2 spring onions, or 1 medium sweet onion

3 garlic scapes (pictured at right), or 2 cloves of garlic

2/3 lb ground pork, or other ground meat

2-3 sprigs rosemary
2-3 sprigs thyme

olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. 

2. Wash and pat dry the squash. Cut off the top about one-third of the way down the squash so that you create a "body" and a "hat" out of the yellow beauts.

3. Scoop out the soft insides to create a squash shell cup, and reserve the flesh and seeds in a bowl. Place the squash shell in a baking dish, sprinkle with sea salt, and dot a smidgeon of butter on the bottom. Place the tops in the pan as well, dust with salt, and then into the oven they go. Set a timer for 45 minutes, and get ready to make the filling.

4. Chop up the spring onions and garlic scapes (the head through about 2/3 of the stem) into bite-sized pieces. Start a saute pan over medium low heat with a dab of butter and several drops of olive oil, adding the onion once the butter-oil combination is melted and hot. Give the onion about 5 minutes to get translucent, then add the scapes, cooking for about 5 more minutes.

5. The smells in the kitchen will be hunger-inducing at this point, so add the ground pork into your onion-scape mix, and cook for another 10 minutes, or until the pork is browned.

6. As the pork cooks, chop up about a cup of the squash innards, and throw them in the mix once the pork is brown. Add the rosemary, thyme, salt and pepper, and cook another few minutes.  Let the mixture rest as the shells cook.

7. Timer beeping? Time to take the shells out of the oven, and fill them up with the pork mixture, trying to fill the shell up to the very top, or even a little bit beyond. Turn the oven to a broil, take the tops out of the baking dish and put them onto a plate, and then stick the stuffed squash back in the oven for 10 minutes.

8. Pull the baking dish out, and let the squash cool for a few minutes.  Top the shells with their caps, and serve!

This is a good recipe for entertaining, as the built-in serving dish of squash shell is edible, scrumptious, and eye-pleasingly presentable. The squash has a mellow sweetness that absorbs the woodsy herbs and pork for a thoroughly satisfying, juicy taste.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Attack of the Kohlrabi!

It was staring up at me. A bulbous, purple root mass with thin piping attaching giant purple-flecked leaves. "What IS that?" I whispered.  The farmer's market vendor smiled and said, "Kohlrabi."  The name itself, strange and smooth, rolled around my tongue as the more pressing question burst forth: "How do you EAT that?"  The vendor shrugged, said her dad ate it raw, but I could roast it, and, intimidation setting in, I did not buy the purple things.

The next day, at my regular farmers market, kohlrabi stalked me; every stall showed its wares, purple and green, taunting me in my helpless, unknowing state.  I gave in and bought it, assuming that I could search for recipes on the internet. There were a few recipes, some pictures on Huffington Post (unfortunately posted after my kohlrabi-recipe search), and a recipe or two on foodnetwork, but nothing that grabbed my attention.

Which led me to embark on a three-week journey of kohlrabi experiments as I slowly fell for this bizarre looking plant.  The recipes below are a range from fairly simple summer salad to a more complicated stewed kohlrabi suitable for some of the unseasonably cool days we've had this June.  But most of all, the thing to love is the flavor of kohlrabi, a funky mix of radish and cabbage flavors with a smooth, crisp texture.

Kohlrabi Summer Salad


1 kohlrabi bulb
1 apple
1/2 cup walnuts or almonds
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon cinnamon
sea salt to taste

1. Slice the kohlrabi in half. Cut side down, start thinly slicing the bulb.  Once that's all sliced up, do the same to your apple.

2. Add all the ingredients, toss, and serve.

How simple is that?  Fresh, crispy, crunchy, sweet, salty, colorful... and did I mention, healthful? It doesn't get much better (or easier) than this.

Kohlrabi Wedges

1 kohlrabi bulb
1-2 sprigs of rosemary
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 teaspoon paprika (or more, if you like the smoky flavor)
sea salt to taste

1. Preheat your oven to 425 farenheit.

2. Slice the kohlrabi into wedges, just like in the above salad.

3. Toss the kohlrabi with the oil, rosemary, sea salt, and paprika.

4. Lay it out on a baking sheet, and cook for 40 minutes.

The kohlrabi will be fork-tender, juicy, translucent, and surprisingly sweet. Munch these like potato wedges, but pat yourself on the back for avoiding the starchiness and calories of potatoes.

Stewed Kohlrabi

1 kohlrabi bulb
1 small onion
1/2 cup raisins
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon butter
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 cup of chicken (or vegetable) broth
sea salt to taste

1.  Medium dice the onion and kohlrabi (pieces should be about the size and shape of a large-ish lego piece). 

2. Mid-dice, start warming up a saute pan with the olive oil and butter, and toss the onions on when you've finished chopping (keep the heat low so you don't burn the onions).

3. After the onions get fragrant and translucent, add the kohlrabi, turn the heat to medium, and cook for about 15-20 minutes, until the kohlrabi starts to get a little soft when you poke it with a knife.

4. Add the spices, stir to coat the pieces of onion and kohlrabi, and let it cook 3-4 minutes more.

5. Add the broth and raisins, cover the pot, and let the kohlrabi stew for 10 minutes, until it melts when you touch it.

This dish is a little more complex, but yields a deep, warm, satisfying flavor, especially on a cool evening. 

So when you see these futuristic vegetables, don't be scared! At $2.75 for 3-4 bulbs at the Philadelphia farmer's markets, kohlrabi is a delicious, easy-to-please steal.

What do you like to do with your kohlrabi?

Sunday, June 3, 2012

how much is that strawberry in the window?

I've had an epiphany, and it involves strawberries.

A dear foodie friend and lending-library-compatriot gave me Barbara Kingsolver's "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle," and I am a forever changed foodie.  Kingsolver writes about her year of eating locally, consuming only vegetables, fruit, meat, and dairy products that were created either in her garden or produced in the garden, dairy, or chicken farm of a neighbor. There were notable exceptions - coffee, for instance, as well as flour to make their own bread - but other than that, the family was locavore all the way.  Throughout the book, Kingsolver, her daughter, and her husband make compelling arguments about the economic, health, and environmental benefits of eating locally, and the arguments were still rattling around my brain when I was looking for fruit in my local Whole Foods. 

"Organic!" the label stated, all the way from... California?  Really, that's where my neighborhood Whole Foods gets its strawberries? I looked around, seeing the majority of produce from Mexico, California, Florida, and North Carolina, and I felt my epiphany arriving in slow waves of realization.  Somewhere in the further reaches of my skull, I had to have realized that not all food was in its prime growing season all the time, but seeing all the organic, Californian produce made me realize that I must be putting quite a bit of strain on the ozone with my globavore buying spree. The synapses in my brain were sparking, and I wondered... how much does it actually cost the environment to send strawberries from California to my home market?

A nifty site,, helped me out with the question. I picked Salinas, CA, as lots of strawberries come from that area (it's on the southwestern coast of California, a hotspot for strawberry growing).  After a little research, it seems that a freight truck, on average, gets 6 miles for highway and city driving. Into the calculator those numbers went, linked with the starting and ending points... and we get 13, 821 pounds of greenhouse gasses belched in to the environment with one truck trip.  This doesn't even take into account that the truck is refrigerated, which spits yet more carbon dioxide into the air, or the fact that strawberries are held in a large, refrigerated warehouse for up to 24 hours before they're shipped (yet more noxious gasses offered into the universe).  If we calculate, then, the strawberries at my farmer's market, which were from Lawrenceville, NJ, and keep the truck the same (for variable stability), then we add 162 pounds of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere. That, of course, does not take into account that the vehicle used for transport by our local farmers was significantly smaller, gets better and more efficient gas mileage, and probably used coolers instead of a refrigerated vehicle to get the strawberries to market.

13, 821 pounds of greenhouse gas for my California strawberries, and 162 pounds for the Lawrenceville ones.   The trip from Lawrenceville is the obvious carbon footprint conscious choice, costing the environment approximately 83 times LESS pounds of greenhouse gas, or about 0.02% of the carbon emission of the sly California strawberry.  

0.02% of the carbon emission.  Shock waves were now coursing fully through my body. I had no idea my penchant for fruit was gassing up the ozone, that I had a little extra responsibility in the hot-as-hell, 90 degree May weekend, followed by the cool June 65 degree afternoon of global warming.

And where do I go from here? I'd like to promise that I'll never be a globavore again, but I know that's a promise I'll break when I drink my coffee (grown in warmer climates halfway around the world) in about 30 minutes. I'm not one for grand pronouncements or extreme action, so the most sensible plan I've lit upon is to try to eat as much local produce as I can: the farmers market today was awash in garlics, onions, lettuce greens, kale, and some iridescent Swiss Chard that I'd almost rather admire than cook. In addition to the bounteous local produce, I can eat as much locally grown, pasture-fed meat and dairy as possible, and start reducing the very large footprint that I've already carved into the earth.  I'm repentant, excited, and vaguely in awe of the interconnectivity of life, in that my local strawberry binge will do a very small part of keeping the earth a happier, healthier place.