Saturday, December 11, 2010

this week in veggies

The freakiest veggie:


Food bank carrots for the kids at work (background: I’m currently serving a year in Americorps. I teach in an elementary school a few days a week, plan community events, and, the main part of my job, help run an afterschool program for low-income kids. As part of that job, we give them a snack- which is really more of an early dinner- and the food for that snack comes from the food bank. I have become the food bank guru, which entails everything from writing our weekly reports and planning our menus to taking seriously bizarre foods and making them palatable to 9 year olds. Oddly, hot sauce always helps in this endeavor. They are spice maniacs).

These carrots give me mixed feelings. I’m delighted the kids get fresh produce (though they were, uh… less so. Though a few of them ate carrot sticks drenched in ranch. Small successes, eh?). However, doesn’t it seem like nature is warning you when it makes carrots so… un carrot looking? I feel like genetic engineering and/or radiation is at play here.

An amusing one I photographed before dispatching it into sticks:


(That is a plastic glove wrapped around my hand. We have all these Serve-safe regulations about gloves and sanitizing things with bleach solutions. I am basically a lunch lady)

There was also an extremely, EXTREMELY suggestive looking carrot I declined to photograph. Suffice it to say that cutting it up felt like a Lorena Babbit moment.

Also at work, the same day (I feel like I got a bicep/tricep workout with all my knife work), was a sandwich… situation.


Absurd amounts of deli meat (we have forty kids but they give us like 10 packs!) and bread. Typically we get Sarah Lee or something but apparently they had gotten a Whole Foods donation or something because we got all this absurdly fancy artisanal bread. The problem? IT IS NOT PRESLICED. I had one dull serrated knife to make forty sandwiches. It was tiresome.

The veggie I most excitedly anticipate making:


An absurdly beautiful farmer’s market cabbage. When I was in Taiwan last winter, I went to their National Palace Museum (which is totally baller: when they ran away from the commies in China, they took all the best artwork with them!). In that museum, the most famous piece of art (it’s like the Mona Lisa- there are all these signs directing you to it and there are lots of obnoxious tourists slamming into you if you want to get within 10 feet of it) is a jade cabbage from the Ming dynasty.

It looked like this! So gorgeous!

It was, however, significantly smaller. This thing is like the size of a toddler. Oh, and that’s despite the fact it cost $3. God I love cabbage.


Veggie I’ve been eating in massive amounts over the past week:


I am a kale machine!

Set out the other night to kinda-sorta recreate this Madhur Jaffrey recipe that’s actually for fish (but I used tofu).

It’s seasoned with mustard seeds and ginger, on a bed of tangy, vinegary spinach with mustard seedy tomato sauce on top. It’s ridic how good it is. This was less good but not bad for a weeknight.

We begin with mustard seeds in oil, cooked til hot and poppin’


The above mustard-infused oil was then used to “brown” tofu. Browning fail. I am so impatient. I have to just let the tofu sit still for awhile, trust that it will brown and then release from the pan when it is ready and then flip the tofu pieces one by one.


I took out the tofu with a slotted spoon, leaving a buncha mustard seeds and oil in the pan, to which I then added some minced fresh ginger. Let that brown out.


In went lovely leafy kale from the sarcastic farmers and one of my favorite canned goods, fire-roasted tomatoes.


Cook to wilt down kale and evaporate tomato juice…


Return tofu and let sorta stew for awhile to combine flavah. Am very pleased that this meal ended up Christmas colored. Honestly didn’t plan it, despite me being dizzy with joy over the holiday season (my mean boss yelled at my for playing Christmas music, which is why we all now call her Scrooge behind her back).


Serve atop fluffy brown rice!


It was all pretty casual, but here are the proportions I used should anyone want to play with it:

1 14-oz slab tofu
1 T olive oil
1 T mustard seeds
1 T minced fresh ginger
4 cups or so raw kale
1 cup or so fire roasted tomatoes
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
juice of 1/2 lime, squeezed on at the end

Another night I was craving veggie wholesomeness. I put on some onions to caramelize now that I finally do it properly (you just have to be friggin’ patient: it’s going to take you at least half an hour)


Then chopped up some turnips and tossed those in the oven, following the methodology if not the exact proportions of this recipe for balsamic roasted turnips (what constitutes a “large” turnip? Anyway, I used 6 small). That technique is good though: my mom used it earlier and when I googled it to find where she got it I realized it was South-Beach Diet inspired. Anyone who has seen my mom with Triscuits knows how awesomely backwards the idea of her using a low-carb recipe is.


Those finished, the onions caramelized, and I threw in, of course, some more kale…


… and some beans, because beans and greens are delicious and also so fun to say with an exaggerated Southern accent.

Plated all together. Vair simple, vair delicious.



Tamara Marnell said...

That's the most tiresome thing about baking my own bread--I have to slice it! I've gotten lazy recently and don't even make a loaf. I tear the dough into balls and bake rolls that take a short swipe to break open (unevenly) for filling. Bonus: since I'm the only one eating it I can freeze all of them and only thaw the one I'm going to eat so nothing goes stale. But that doesn't really help you with donations and kids....

Anonymous said...

That picture of the carrot made me LOL all over the place.

And veggie monsters are the BEST kind of monsters :D

Jess said...

LOVE the veggiessss! Americorps? That's so neat!