bringing home the veggies

So Nate is now playing on a soccer team that Michael coaches and I "manage" which brings the entire family to Mccarren Park every Saturday morning around 10am. Which means, of course, we are obligated to go to the amazing weekly farmer's market there that we too often avoid out of sheer laziness.

Last weekend we hit it after a winning game and Michael and I separated, each buying way too much produce. When I told Michael that we could not buy any more vegetables because we didn't have room in our fridge and it would all go bad before we could eat and what was the point of buying it if it was going to go bad...he said, "I love you very much." And then proceeded to buy more carrots.

We are a good match because Michael curbs my neurosis with passion and good humor and I fulfill his culinary dreams often based on too much of a good thing. He is the dreamer and I'm the doer. And of course I made it my mission this week to eat, cook, serve or preserve all the many veggies we bought which started with Michael cleaning and cutting the carrots and celery. Huge help!! The only way the market load every really works is if you get home and do all the primary prep work so you see beautiful clean colors and not bags of dirt when you open the fridge.

Anyway, I was on a mission so every evening we had cut up veggies and dip to tide everyone over until dinner. Mack must have eaten 60 carrots this week. Next best use: soup. I made a beautiful zucchini soup which lasted us all week. And finally, this incredibly delicious spaghetti squash with garlic and cheese.

zucchini makes an easy soup

Basic recipe: Cook zucchini (and/or yellow squash which is what we had) in broth and then puree it. HERE is the recipe.

Notes: I didn't have creme fraiche on hand (who does?) so I used some Ricotta and a little milk but you could use cream cheese or plain yogurt. Or nothing--the cream just gives it a little richer taste. I added the sherry vinegar right to the soup but you can also serve on top of each bowl. It's a very mild yet tangy soup which any kid who eats soup would like. You could even throw in a few noodles! And it really can be served hot or cold. Make a batch and freeze half for November. 

There is another recipe for zucchini soup via Grant Achatz that I also love and is only a tiny bit more complicated but richer and better for a party. 

kale and chickpea soup

I combined a couple similar recipes to come up with this one but you can really use any green and any bean (or even skip the beans.) It's fast and flavorful and keeps for a long time. A great quick reheat for lunch or dinner. And it's healthy and filling enough that it makes you feel like the Green Lantern. Maybe Batman on a good day.

Super Soup

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 1 large celery stalk, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • Salt and ground black pepper
  • 1 can (15 ounces) chickpeas, drained
  • 1 bunch Tuscan kale, stemmed, rinsed, and chopped into bite-sized pieces
  • 6 cups chicken (or vegetable) broth
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 TBSP parmesan cheese (more to serve)


    1. Heat oil over medium-high heat in a pot. Add onion, carrot, and celery; sauté until softened, about 5 minutes.
    2. Add garlic, salt, and pepper; sauté until fragrant, about a minute.
    3. Add kale; stir to wilt. 
    4. Add stock and chickpeas; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low simmer, partially covered, until tender, about 10 minutes. 
    5. Mix eggs and parmesan in small bowl. Add a ladle full of hot broth to temper. Stir and pour into soup. 
    6. Serve with more cheese and a sprinkle of olive oil.

me and my slow cooker

One problem with the crock pot is that I don't feel comfortable improvising. So today when the boys went to Long Island and I had a craving on the first really cold day of the year for soup, I made up my own recipe. It was vaguely based on ideas I had read about but basically I made a quick sautee of onion, garlic, spices, olive oil and tomato paste then added broth/water and some veggies. Throughout the day I've been throwing stuff in, like more veggies, chickpeas, some Freekah (super grains), chard leaves, etc. So right now it's a boiling experiment waiting for its revelation. I even turned the heat to high just to get it going.

Update: Veggie Soup was amazing. Michael loved it and we had it for dinner twice and lunch once. Success.

more about me and my slow cooker

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So I'm kind of obsessed with my slow cooker (some people call it a crock pot but I think those people bought theirs between 1940-1980.) I bought one a couple of years ago, originally for my mother-in-law who does not cook. She can boil — pasta and eggs. She can microwave takeout containers and she makes a mean salad but actual cooking (sauteeing, roasting, baking, broiling, braising, grilling, frying) is not her thing.

Of course she never used it and it stayed at her house gathering dust from the one time I used it there. (On Passover I made Smitten Kitchen's Tangy Spiced Brisket which was tasty but despite all that slow cooking, it was still a little tough. I might even try this recipe again, in the oven.) I also tried Sara Moulton's short ribs which was recently published by the AP News. This was really good but a little too rich for me. And not actually all that easy.

And this is my thing with the slow cooker. If you're already sauteeing onions, garlic, adding spices, browning meat on the stove before you put it in the cooker, why not just cook it on low in a pot ON the stove. I like being able to turn the thing on and forget about it. It's kind of exciting to see it transform over time. But I can cook without it so either 1. there's something unique about the actual vehicle and the way it cooks the food or 2. it's a throw-everything in and let it rip so you can't do it fast and easy.

I started experimenting with Cooks Illustrated's Slow Cooker Revolution. Those guys cooked a million briskets before nailing down the perfect recipe. (They even invented a technique of microwaving onions and spices before adding to sauce.) I've now made Mexican Chicken, Everyday Chili, Tortilla Soup with chicken, Tequila and lime Turkey Chili and Cauliflower and Cheese sauce (which was just dense and clumpy and wound up in the garbage disposal.) Basically I've made every kind of Mexican stew. And Michael has kindly suggested I move on.

And I'm trying to figure out a new angle for the slow cooker because I'm not done with the thing yet. The stews benefited from long and slow because the meat got tender and the flavors melded. That said, the prep was fairly intensive and they were all somewhat similar. I've seen Sara Lee of the Food Network literally throw a raw roast into a slow cooker and pour in some canned broth and voila-dinner. But is the roast any good? If so, this might be a new direction.

zucchini soup

This is seriously one of the best soups I have ever made.

Silky Zucchini Soup c/o Grant Achatz

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1 1/2 pounds zucchini, halved lengthwise and sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 2/3 cup vegetable stock or low-sodium broth
  • Julienned raw zucchini, for garnish
  1. In a large saucepan, melt the butter in the olive oil. Add the onion and garlic, season with salt and pepper and cook over moderately low heat, stirring frequently, until softened, 7 to 8 minutes. Add the zucchini and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, about 10 minutes. Add the stock and 1 1/2 cups of water and bring to a simmer; cook until the zucchini is very soft, about 10 minutes.
  2. Working in 2 batches, puree the soup in a blender until it's silky-smooth. Return the soup to the saucepan and season with salt and pepper. Serve it either hot or chilled, garnished with julienned zucchini. The soup can be refrigerated overnight.

book group cauliflower soup

The soup I made for Turducken was amazing but too rich for every day consumption. So since then I've been fiddling with a lighter version that is easy and healthy. I made it for my family recently and my mom then made it and wrote it down for her book group lunch. It was a hit with the ladies. 

  • 2 medium heads of cauliflower
  • 1-2 quarts of stock (vegetable or chicken)
  • 2 leeks chopped
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese
  • Lemon juice to taste
  • Salt  and pepper  (or onion salt and white pepper) to taste

1. Saute onions and leeks in a little safflower or olive oil until wilted but not brown.

2. Add cauliflower, stem and leaves removed, and cut into chunks. Stir into onion mixture.

3. Add enough stock to barely cover the vegetables and simmer over medium-low heat until cauliflower is very tender.

4. Let vegetable mixture cool slightly, then puree (in batches) in a blender until smooth. Add milk and cheese and blend until mixed. You may want to add more stock as you blend each batch, or when you're finished blending, depending on how thick you want the soup. 

5. Add a squeeze of lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste. 

6. Serve hot or cold!

time for beans and greens

It's veggie/healthy/detox week here at the Casa Moshan. We have indulged in rich food and drink for too long and need a break. So this weekend I got out my healthy cookbooks: Alice Waters' The Art of Simple Food II. And last night, as the temperatures outside dropped to 5 degrees, I made an adapted version of her White Bean and Broccoli Rabe Soup (recipe below).

A few months ago I paid $65 to see her speak about food and wound up drinking a plastic cup of water in a middle school auditorium while the speakers crackled and buzzed and I could barely hear her answers to inane questions like "How did you start cooking?"

But I gotta say this soup was perfect. I altered the original a bit: bacon instead of pancetta, canned white beans instead of dried chickpeas, and simplified it (ie no fresh herbs which I never have on hand.) But it was super satisfying and a good model for hearty winter soups in general-use any beans, any greens, etc.

White Bean and Broccoli Rabe Soup

  • 2 slices bacon, chopped
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 tsp spices: dried oregano, cayenne, salt, pepper
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 can white beans
  • 2 cups stock and 2 cups water
  • 1 bunch of broccoli rabe; washed, drained, and coarsely chopped
  1. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion and bacon and cook for 3 minutes.
  2. Add carrots and celery and cook until soft, about 15 minutes. Turn down the heat if the vegetables start to brown too quickly.
  3. Add salt, pinch of cayenne, 1 tsp dried oregano, pepper, garlic and beans. Cook for 3 minutes
  4. Add beans and their liquid, plus 2 cups broth and 2 cups water. Bring to a boil then simmer for 10-15 minutes.
  5. Throw in the broccoli rabe and cook for another 10 min.
  6. Taste for salt and garnish with olive oil and a squeeze of lemon.

cauliflower, the soup

My latest holiday cooking adventure was for the annual Turducken feast for which I made Thomas Keller's cauliflower soup. Dave liked it, thank god. It's a rich soup of leeks and cauliflower bathed in milk, broth and cream and a hint if Madras curry powder. I skipped the fried beet chips but added

Keller's buttery croutons and some pickled cauliflower-tiny florets soaked for two days in a mixture of white and rice wine vinegars, sugar and salt. I also made chive oil (by Vitamixing chives and canola oil then letting it sit overnight. In the morning I strained it with cheesecloth and put it in a squeeze bottle).

Since then I have been somewhat obsessed with cauliflower soup, making it in different ways--less cream and milk than Kellers, plus balanced by acid. But I like the leeks...keeping the leeks.

borschtpacho

Michael heard Anya Von Bremzen being interviewed on NPR talking about Russian cooking. (She's that awesome cookbook writer/traveler who recently wrote a memoir about her childhood in Cold War Russia.) She was friendly with my old boss and I heard wonderful stories about her travels. But now she is writing about her native Russian cuisine. "What is Russian food?" Michael asked. "Can you make it?"

I found an article about her in Food and Wine along with recipes for her take on Russian classics. The only one that even slightly appealed to me was the Borscht meets Gazpacho.

“I hate Borscht and I hate Gazpacho,” Michael said.

“I know me too....but let’s try it. “

The recipe is here. It’s a beautiful soup that I’d someday like to make for my mother-in-law who stores beautiful pottery in her open kitchen cupboards, instead of plates. It was easy enough to make and tasted like a sweeter gazpacho. I served it with all that smoked fish at brunch with Avi and Brook because it seemed to somehow fit into that Eastern European thing. Nobody really loved it though and it wound up sitting in my fridge, dripping beet colored juice for 3 weeks before I finally threw it away.

the closest I'll get to farming

Last weekend on the way home from my parent’s house in Easton MD, we stopped at a wholesome family farm that was hosting an awesome kids festival with games, rides and a pumpkin patch. So much cooler than anything we could have hoped for in, say, New Jersey where every city family I know heads to show the kids “fall.” Nate was completely not interested in the idea of a farm until we mentioned “a bouncy thing” and he was off running. 

Ten minutes in, Mack had lost his shoes and started looking like the poor dirty homeless barefoot child he seems destined to be. We feared marching the shivering kids through the mud to a distant pumpkin patch so we called it a day with a basket of apples, a mini pumpkin, a bunch of beautiful ($2 a head!) broccoli. 

The best part for me was – nope, not the bouncy thing (though that was surprisingly fun) -- but the squash sale.

I really wanted a snake squash but it seemed a bit excessive so I bought this guy.

I brought it home expecting to turn it into something delicious but I couldn't cut into it without ruining my knives. I thought about cooking it whole to soften it (like a spaghetti squash) but it seemed so hollow, more like a gourd so I decided just to put it on the balcony where it has a lovely view of New York City and can reflect on it's life in the city vs. the farm. 

But I was determined to cook the broccoli we bought. I often just oven roasted broccoli with olive oil and salt/pepper but I wanted to do something more "fall." Soup! The vitamix! My first few attempts at Brocolli soup resembled a thick puree:\.

Although Michael deemed it delicious, we both admitted it wasn't really soup. After a couple more tries, I found a delicious keeper of a soup recipe.

Super Simple Broccoli Soup

  • 1 head broccoli chopped
  • 1 lg clove garlic
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 tbsp parmesean cheese
  • 3/4 cup shredded cheese
  • salt/pepper
  • greek yogurt to garnish

    In a large pot cook broccoli and garlic with chicken broth. Let cool slightly and pour into vitamix or blender. Add remaining ingredients (not the yogurt) and blend on high one minute, or until uniform. Top w. a tsp of yogurt.