Monday, April 28, 2008

Pea Week

Welcome, friends of vegetables, to pea week. Not so challenging a challenge really as these are fairly innocuous little buggers. While I can't say I would ever sit down for a nice bowl of straight peas--they do add a nice complement to many a dish. And there's something comforting about these friendly little orbicular greens, especially when paired with carrots (which I still find kind of gross, but we're mostly talking aesthetics here).

Pea week was something of a wash in terms of actual cooking. I'm growing lazy and preoccupied with other things lately, so many of my pea purchases were ready made. Case in point, I had fully planned to make a chicken pot pie. I grew up making chicken pot pies for my family; however, I would always make myself a mini personal pot pie minus the mixed vegetables. I know, I know, was I ever so young? Making a chicken pot pie with peas, carrots, and green beans (the typical Birds Eye blend), seemed like a symbol of my changing habits. But then instead, I just bought a Marie Calendars individual pie. Marie does a decent job, and the vegetables suit the dish well. Not only was this much easier, but I wasn't saddled with my usual slew of left overs. No one wants to eat chicken pot pie for five days straight.

The same can be said for making an entire pot of soup. So instead I again copped out and went the root of Campbell's split pea soup. I can definitely recommend this product; its a good hearty soup with chunks of ham in it and plenty of peas. There was also a nice smoky flavor! Well souped, Campbell's, well souped. Peas certainly do speak to a certain level of comfort--or at least they appear in a lot of foods I would consider "comforting". While I may always prefer frozen waffles or tomato soup as my comfort foods of choice, I see the appeal of peas in that respect. I think it might be because they're so small. It would be nigh impossible (once your esophagus is larger than an infant's) to choke on a pea, and how comforting is that?

I tried some snow peas though unfortunately I never got around to a proper stir fry. I ate them raw and dipped in things I found in my refrigerator. I realize that sentence makes me sound a little more intrepid and disgusting than I had intended it to. To rephrase: I ate them raw and dipped in leftover salad dressings that I needed to get rid of. Overall, not bad.

As this last paragraph my suggest, I'm currently in the process of trying to clean out my fridge. To that end, my last pea encounter was a mostly just my combining things I'm trying to get rid of. I steamed some peas (actually they steamed themselves in the bag in my microwave--isn't technology swell?) and threw in a sauce made from the blue cheese crumbles that I've been meaning to eat for a week now and then mixed that with the bow tie pasta that I can't even remember buying. Surprisingly yummy.

I'm afraid vegetables are friends may be going on a short hiatus for the next two weeks. I'm in the process of moving out of my apartment, and I'm trying not to buy more food, especially perishables. If there's one thing I've learned in these last few months, its that buying vegetables seems to necessitate buying all sorts of other things to eat them with. Thus, I'm not interested in starting a new vegetable which wouldn't really get the attention it deserves right now. I'd considered doing okra because at the end of this week because I'm going to a local festival at which I know there will be fried okra; however, I'm not planning to eat okra the rest of the week or in any other fashion ever, so I'm pretty sure that won't count. I may post next week on all fried vegetables I encounter this weekend--fried green tomatoes, fried okra, etc.--but I'll wait and see if I can actually make that interesting.

Another option is to enlist the advice of my readers on how to dispose of the vegetables I currently have in creative ways. I still have steamed peas, a few snow peas, a can of corn, carrots, and an onion. I also have a surplus of most staples, a large quantity of apple cider vinegar, many salad dressings, and a collection of cheeses. Any thoughts?

Next week: who knows?

Monday, April 21, 2008

Asparagus Week

Artful, no? I think I remember reading somewhere that white asparagus is just regular asparagus that was kept from sunlight. Thinking over it though, I'm not sure how that could be true because then how would the plant grow at all? I guess it could just be artificial light which for some reason inhibits the chlorophyll while still providing the asparagus much needed nutrients. But if that's true, does that mean we could make anything white by keeping it from sunlight? Could albino broccoli happen? Any alert science minded readers are invited to join this debate. Then again, if that first "fact" is wrong, then I guess its all a moot point.

Moving on...asparagus week had its ups and downs with a bit more emphasis on the downs. I think I'll include more (as in more than none) recipes this week because it has come to my attention I am not alone in not liking asparagus and perhaps I'll seek to change that. Of course, these recipe recommendations would be more compelling if I could in good conscience endorse their output, but I encourage non-asparagus likers to give it a go nevertheless. My family has always been a fan of the tomato asparagus salad which my mother mentioned in the comments. The actual list of ingredients for that is as follows:
  • 1 bunch asparagus
  • 1 tomato, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons thinly sliced green onion
  • 3 tablespoons nonfat plain yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon prepared mustard
Mix that together and you have what everyone in my family will tell you is a tasty salad. I thought then that I might enjoy it as well, but I had forgotten that my family members are unabashed asparagus likers all. They even eat it straight! Boiled, no less! So yes, my consensus on the asparagus salad is that you may like it, but I fear that liking asparagus already may be a prerequisite.

I wanted to experiment with different methods of cooking asparagus, but was limited by not having a grill. I did learn that broiling in the oven with some olive oil and salt is superior to boiling. Actually, I still wasn't too fond of it even after broiling, but my friend ate the stalks like candy. In a perfect world, I would try my hand at frying asparagus, but I feel this may be one of those things that only works well in restaurants.

The only truly successful venture was some cream of asparagus soup I made which was actually pretty delicious. So far it seems soups are the only mode of vegetable consumption to never let me down. This gives me hope that should I ever lose all my teeth, I will be able to take it in stride. I'll try to recreate the recipe, but as I have a tendency when cooking to just throw things in without measuring, it may be a little coarse. The short hand for this recipe would be: take asparagus and add copious amounts of butter and cream until a soup is formed. But to break it down further: First, I cut up the some fresh asparagus into 1 inch pieces and boiled them in enough vegetable broth to cover them, but not really that much. In another pan, I melted some butter and then added some flour as a thickener, followed by some (maybe a quarter cup?) of cream and some (a cup?--wow, this is the most useless recipe ever) more broth and cooked that until thickened. Once the asparagus was soft, I combined the two mixtures and let it cook a little longer with a little salt (I also may have added pepper, but its all a little hazy now). Then, because, I don't like chunks of gross things in my soup, I pureed the whole mixture. I garnished with a little Parmesan cheese. So yeah, if anyone is feeling intrepid and wants to try this based on my shakey description--I can say that I fully recommend this. Coming from a general disliker of asparagus, I feel this endorsement should carry some weight.

I'm sorry I can't offer more/better recipes. My readers are so good about offering reliably good fare, but I seldom give back to the vegetable liking community. Next week, I shall endeavor to write something down if I feel like it may turn out to be delicious.

Next week: peas!

Monday, April 14, 2008

Corn Week

This will be a redemptive post. I finally am back on the vegetable wagon, and feel that I fully gave this week's vegetable a proper run. Busy or not, there's no reason not to find time for consistent vegetable preparation and consumption. So this week I had some fun with corn. Its really a very versatile vegetable. You can eat it, use it as a grain, make mazes from it (surely nothing surpasses the entertainment potential of corn stocks/husks), and there are rumors that it might be the next big alternative energy source. Yep, its a fine time to be corn in America.

I started the week with some corn on the cob. I never really understood just how troublesome it is to eat corn off the cob. Is there a strategy that doesn't seem to jam it straight into your gums? Certainly, a post-cob-snacking flossing was in order. Then again, I had some cooked corn off the cob, and it just didn't seem as good by itself or even with butter. Perhaps there's something to having to work for your food.

I tried a couple experiments with sweet corn things, which seemed like a good idea, but was not ultimately that successful. I operated under the syllogism that 1) I like sweet things, and 2) I aim to like corn, so 3) sweet corn dishes will be delicious. I had some corn fritters (which also fit the so often true premise that 4) things are better fried), but found them lacking. I also made some sweet corn muffins using both corn meal and canned corn (though one friend insisted it tasted more like pineapple). These were a mistake from the start. Not only did they start a small fire in my oven (which, okay, I can't entirely blame the corn muffins for) but they ended up soggy and squished. Actually, this again might not be the corn muffins fault, as potentially the reason they were soggy and squished is because I tried to take them on a trip and left them in the trunk of my car under a heavy bag prior to consuming them. Nevertheless, the fact remains that no one I offered them to would eat more than a bite and even the ducks we tried to feed them to were unimpressed.

But on to more successful ventures! I made a pretty decent corn chowder during the week. I have a soft spot for things that can be chowdered, and corn seems to work nicely in this capacity. I also made a pretty good corn salad. Basically it was fresh corn cut off the cob mixed with some oil, apple cider vinegar, a little salt and pepper, and a lot of chopped fresh basil. It was excellent cold, and I feel would be a good, refreshing picnic food. After all, the picnic season is upon us, for those who enjoy the simple pleasure of eating outside.

I'm a little wary of next week's vegetable, but after finding corn to be a little easy, I think I may be ready for a challenge of sorts.

Next week: asparagus!

Monday, April 7, 2008

Cabbage Week

First of all, I should apologize for not giving the promised update on avocado week. For all you faithful readers who were diligently checking back to see if you really can make viable ice cream from an avocado--I guess I've been uncovered as both a dirty rotten liar and a neglectful blogger. Again, apologies all around. Unfortunately, that avocado was forgotten due to my being busy this week. I'm a little worried that my life may be adversely affecting my commitment to vegetables.

Unfortunately, this will likely be a short one as I'm a little short on time this week as well; however, I'll try to get all the cabbage-y goodness into the post nevertheless. To that end, check out this monstrosity: Certainly, cabbage to the extreme. My cabbage eating was a little more contained. I got the joy of quarantining myself to work on my thesis and eating nothing but cabbage! I felt rather like an Irish peasant at times, but nevertheless there were high moments.

I thought the Reuben was pretty tasty (so tasty that I not only made more than one, but offered them to friends). I opted to go with the grilled-cheese-butter method because I really should test this lithe young metabolism while I have it. Unfortunately, while the sandwich was good, I think my least favorite part was probably the sauerkraut. I tried a bit of it on its own for comparison and decided its just not for me. Clearly, my German roots are failing me. But I guess its good to know that with enough corn beef and dressing, the taste can be suitably down-played.

Raw cabbage was a little better. I made a makeshift salad and was going to get really plucky and attempt a slaw, but was thwarted by not having vinegar. I really should plan my menu before going to the store at the beginning of the week because I hate having to go for just one thing. Its just a waste of gas really. At any rate, slaws aside, I made a cabbage soup which wasn't too bad. Not my favorite thing to soup, but still okay. I found myself missing the texture of the cabbage a little. Perhaps I'm growing inured to vegetable texture now? We'll call that progress.

Next week: corn!