Saturday, May 1, 2010

Remember when...

Hey friends of vegetables are friends!

It's been a long time! Just wanted to check in to tell you I'm enjoying this spring's fresh crop of produce and also that I've started a new blog. Check it out at:!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Radish Week

Oh what can I say about radishes? You can eat them raw, you can chop them up and eat them raw on salads, you can marinate them and eat them raw...the possibilities are endless. Or actually, that's about it.

I really didn't crack whatever secret there is to liking radishes. Their texture is far to dense for something that bitter. The way I see it, if you're determined to taste bad, you might as well go down easy. The pros to radishes: they can be quite attractive? I went to a vegetable market and was pleased by the diversity and bright colors of the radish selection. I ended up buying some long white ones (I don't remember what cutesy name they have for them, so I'm going to say they were "White Dwarfs") and some pink ones (which I think were actually called "Pink Ladies"). They also had an assortment of red and purple varieties. Oh one might never run out of new and exciting radish opportunities to try! I remember my mother having a book on garnishing that told you how to make roses from radishes, so from a purely aesthetic perspective, I can see the usefulness of radishes.

I'm sure if I had done a little research I could have determined some cooked radishes worthy of trying, but at that point I had already condemned radishes as "not worth going through the effort." I ate them raw a few times (during which I determined that the altered color is just a ruse, and all radishes pretty much taste the same) and also I tried a marinated radish recipe. I screwed up the recipe from the start by not having an implement to crack the radishes (a technique which was supposed to allow them to become replete with the delicious marinate) and instead chose to just poke holes in them with a fork, reasoning that it would still soak through the holes. Clearly, this method did not work as well because while the marinate was good, once I bit into the radish it tasted exactly like a regular bitter raw radish. So the cloaking device ultimately failed.

I do have one interesting thing to say about radishes (well okay, its only tangentially related) that I unfortunately was not able to experiment with this week. A commenter from last week mentioned something called miracle fruit that when eaten subdues all your taste buds except for those that detect sweetness for a period of a couple hours. People apparently eat this and then eat sour and bitter foodstuffs to experience the different tastes in a practice called "flavor tripping." In my quest to make radishes look like candy I searched around for these miracle berries around where I live. I found a store that a message board promised sometimes had them, but was unsuccessful. I fully intend to continue my search though because I like the idea of something that supposedly makes vinegar taste like apple juice and cheap beer taste...not like cheap beer.

On a less miraculous note, I believe this will be my last post on vegetables are friends. I've enjoyed the experience, but I'm having trouble keeping it up right now. Also, I'm running out of vegetables. My final reason (under the assumption that all arguments should be threefold) is that I feel, if my waning comments are any indication of overall readership, that people can only read about my eating habits for so long without getting tired of it. Thanks to all my readers for your encouragement over the months! I feel my eating habits are at least somewhat transformed, so I am calling the experiment a success. I may be starting another blog soon about life in NYC (way to be original, right?) and if so, I'll keep you posted on it. Thanks again and happy vegetable eating to all!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Sweet Potato Week

Okay, okay, I'm a potato convert. Well, sweet potatoes anyway. I enjoyed them enough to wonder if maybe I've been wrong about claiming that mashed potatoes feel like they're choking me all these years. That said, I don't really think I'll expand to trying to like potatoes. Sweet potatoes are chock full of beta-cartotene, vitamin C and B6 and dietary fiber. As far as I'm concerned regular potatoes are just another ordinary run of the mill starch. And I already like sweet potatoes now, so it seems silly to mess with a good thing.

Oddly the one form I didn't really enjoy as much with the sweet potato was the sweet version. I know it is often pied or mixed with brown sugar or marshmallows, but that seemed a little much to me. Then again, I wonder if maybe I'm not being a little unfair to the sugary method because I didn't really have the ingredients to make it properly (ie marshmallows, brown sugar, pie fixings) so instead I just sprinkled on some cinnamon and white sugar (one of the pre-mixed things you can buy for making cinnamon toast) and hoped for the best. Once I get set up for actual baking, I may have to give it another go.

Another thing I'm saving for later that I thought looked good was a recipe for sweet potato coconut soup. As soon as I get a blender, I will be enjoying such festive summer soups with relish!

But enough on the negative and the things I was unable to accomplish in my limited cooking space! I made some delectable sweet potato fries that were well received thanks to the valuable donation of a friend with a full size oven and an apartment with a nice roof for sweet potato fry eating. We made one batch simply with a little kosher salt, but after those turned out so well, we thought we'd mix things up with the second batch with the addition of spices. He had curry and cumin (and an assortment of spices that didn't seem to lend themselves to sweet potatoes as well). The curry were delicious and the cumin were decent, but not quite as good. Considering the ease of this particular snack food, I could definitely see doing this in the future. I should also add, that I didn't really fry them because I hate frying things. Instead, I tossed them with olive oil and threw them in the oven for a while. They were perhaps not quite as crisp, but overall still delicious and perhaps slightly more healthful.

The other delicious find of this week was some sweet potato ravioli at an Italian grocery store. I'd been contemplating trying a sweet potato gnocchi, but really why go through all that trouble when you can just buy delicious pasta. I'm not sure about the availability of sweet potato ravioli just anywhere because I for one had never seen it before, but should you in your travels ever come across some--my recommendation is that its quite worth your time. In fact, I have a whole box of them, and right now I'm wondering if its too early in the day to fire up the hot plate and start some cooking.

So yes, to sum up: well done sweet potatoes! Its nice to find that beta-carotene is available to the masses in a delicious vegetable and that those snotty carrots don't have some sort of dominion over it.

Next week: radishes!

Monday, July 7, 2008

Jicama Week

Oh, jicama. Jicama week fell victim to the "I'm more preoccupied with buying silverware for my new apartment to later consume jicama with than actually eating jicama" syndrome. Instead, this post will be mostly a conglomeration of jicama "fun facts" with only a few ideas on its use that I can vouch for first hand.

First of all, I can see why jicama is a good salad fixing. It has the crispness of a potato (which I'm not a fan of) and the sort of juiciness of a pear (which I do like). It adds a certain freshness to any salad. Normally, I am of the "vegetables that crunch should be promptly and unceremoniously souped" school of thought, but jicama has a most enjoyable texture. I found some ideas for some interesting salads which I would have liked to experiment with except that up until yesterday I had nary a pot to cook in. One such idea was a shrimp, pineapple, and jicama salad. Doesn't that just sound like summer? I could eat that on the beaches of Cancun (though for more practical purposes I would likely eat it here in my new apartment).

Jicama is apparently popular in Vietnamese food, but apparently not at those restaurants I've been to because I can't remember coming across is knowingly. Apparently, jicama, sometimes called the Mexican Potato or yam bean, is 86-90% water. Imagine that! Also, while the root is a delectable addition to summer salads and soups, the vine contains a toxin that is used to poison insects and fish. Okay, that should reach my "fun fact" quota.

As for the jicama I did eat (and enjoyed, I must say). I had some raw with chili powder and lime. Surprisingly, the lime juice took on the dominant flavor and I didn't really taste the chili powder. The telltale crunch and lime flavor was an enjoyable summer treat. I also had some cooked jicama courtesy of one of my friends from Mexico City. She grated it and cooked it with sugar and vanilla and cinnamon. There may have been other things involved in this, but I can't remember then. At any rate, it was an interesting contrast to have a sweet jicama dish which in the end resembled something sort of like apple sauce but with more texture and tasting less like apples.

I think for next week I'm going to try something that will be a personal challenge. I have always disliked potatoes above most things, and have never seen a need to change that because I get plenty of starch in my diet. However, it has come to my attention that there is a nutritional advantage to sweet potatoes or yams, so I think I will tackle those.

Next week: yams!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Bean Week 2.0

This may be a little short because its week two so there's slightly less to say. Also, I'm moving yet again tomorrow (ah the transience of youth!) so everything is a bit hectic at the moment.

On the plus side, I sorted out the bean snafu of last week. If you'll read the comment my mother left, everything is illuminated. I also figured out why I was so convinced everything I was eating was a pinto bean. I'd bought a can of pinto beans to refry and through the power of suggestion assumed I must have consumed said pinto beans. I suppose this is one of the hazards of the two week system.

However, this week I did make the refried beans and they were quite good and very easy! That recipe can also be found in the comments (though you'll have to go back to artichoke week). I'm not used to working with fried pork skins and was a little wary of them at first. I think I saw some Food Network special on how they were made which scarred me from ever trying them straight. Once mixed with beans, however, I could forget all about them while enjoying their delicious taste. Obviously the problem is completely psychological, but its so hard to get the image of a conveyor belt full of whole pig skins out of your head. I don't watch the Food Network so much anymore.

Speaking of things left over from last week that I hadn't tried, I cracked open the hummus and that seems to be yet another thing to eat on a pita chip. The thing I'm noticing about all bean dips though is that while they may be okay, there are usually other dips available that are better. However, I can reasonably promise that were bean dip or hummus the only option (in some less than adequate party spread where cheese ball, salsa, spinach dip, or ranch dip were unavailable), I would indulge in the brown stuff.

I had two types of beans in restaurants. At the Black Eyed Pea, I got some red beans and rice. Not bad, but I also didn't exactly clean my plate on that one. Of course, the large portions of food at the Black Eyed Pea didn't help matters. I guess again beans failed to excite when there were better options to be had. I mean sure, they're not bad, but they're no chicken fried steak or peach cobbler. I think if I'm ever going to really eat beans, it will have to be when I am too poor to afford other foods.

I also had some beans at a BBQ restaurant. I'm at a loss to determine what kind of beans were used to make BBQ beans not because I can't remember, but because I didn't ask. They had a lot of cumin in them though, so that was pretty good.

In honor of my Mexican friends who were in town this week (as well as a testament to the fact that I'm running out of things I want to try), the vegetable of the week is jicama. I can't say how much I'll get to, as again the transition time is upon me again, but I'm going to do my best.

Next week: jicama!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Bean Week 1

As the title will suggest, I have decided to go with the two week bean plan as outlined last week. My reasons for this are threefold:
1) I determined I liked beans well enough to focus on them for another week. And with such wealth of bean diversity, there is still ground left to uncover!
2) I have yet to try the refried bean recipe so highly recommended last week, and I bought all the ingredients for it--so clearly that needs to happen. I also have some uneaten hummus, and have decided chickpeas fall squarely in bean territory.
3) I'm too lazy to think up anything other than "radishes" right now, and its just hard to get psyched up about a week of radishes. You know?

I've been a little busy/distracted this week, and I've been eating beans at random intervals. For that reason, I realize I'm finding it difficult to actually remember what I ate this past week. I worry at forgetting things at such a young age. Sure now its just what bean was in that soup I had last Sunday and the name of those little things at the end of shoelaces (an occasional crossword word), but pretty soon it'll graduate to more important things--the names of pets or the password of this very blog!

Okay, piecing things together slowly...I definitely had some black beans and chicken which was decent. I haven't developed my bean senses enough (or maybe my palette in general) to really tell the difference between beans that readily. Perhaps week two of the bean feast will cure that? At any rate, I suppose black beans go on the good list.

I had some baked beans--the kind with bacon on top--with dinner the other night. That seemed pretty good too. What kind of beans are generally used to baked beans? It again like something I should know. Who knew I was so intellectually unprepared for the rigors of bean week. For all that, the baked beans were decent. I enjoyed the sweetness accompanied with the always enjoyable tell tale taste of bacon grease.

I'm beginning to feel more confident about dubbing the soup beans pinto beans. Of course if my mother (the creator of the soup--as well as most of the bean creations witnessed in this post) comments otherwise, I will print a full retraction. Then henceforth I can refer to this episode as the "pinto bean scandal." As for the potentially pinto soup, it was enjoyable. There was ham in it which lent it a nice flavor. My only complaint is that bean soups are not as easily removed of texture by blending. It seems that even in soup the maintain a certain stoic grittiness. Not unpleasant, per se, but a little damning to my "soup is a panacea for all texture issues" theory.

The other night bean dip was definitely consumed. But again I'm at a loss to determine what kind of beans might have been in it. It was dark, certainly and I instinctively want to say black beans. The dip was delicious and had there not been slightly more delicious spinach dip to its left, I might have eaten a lot more of it than I did.

This is maddening because I know I ate at least two other kinds of beans this week, and I'm at a loss even to remember the species of those I did eat. I know I had a bite of falafel (under the "chick pea as bean" rule posited earlier) yesterday, but then I already liked falafel. Hopefully, I can iron out all these issues in "bean week 2." I can seamlessly add anything from this week that I forgot and no one will have to know that they are secretly part of the somewhat less than illustrious "bean week 1." So yes, welcome to "bean week 2" the week where I learn to write things down.

Next weeek: bean week part deux!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Artichoke Week

Isn't that just lovely? Of course, artichokes don't often get to this beautiful flowering stage because they are picked that they might be sold around the country for $3 a piece. Now is this price too steep for the fun of sucking a small amount of edible "meat" from the leaves in one of the more labor intensive vegetable eating experiences I have encountered? Well, apparently not for some. For my part, the word on artichokes is: I just don't get it.

I don't understand why something costs that much when it is virtually tasteless (mostly just tastes like the butter or mayonnaise you dip it in ) and I'm convinced any slightly slimy thing dipped in butter would taste about the same. And clearly artichokes don't want to be eaten. They stab you with their razor sharp leaf spikes as you descend them into a boiling pot of water. More vicious than lobsters! Artichokes probably assumed (you know, if they were sentient beings) that they were relatively safe for all that. I mean who would look at them and think "Now that looks tasty. I'm going to need to eat one of those right now." My mother, an unabashed artichoke lover, has often mused on the first person to eat an artichoke and how they must have been exceedingly hungry to attempt it. There must have also been a great deal of trial and error involved. I can't imagine eating a leaf, discovering it was bitter, and then thinking "oh I see, you can only eat this tiny milimeter at the bottom; the rest is just compost!"

But enough of a rant on artichoke leaves, which if you couldn't gather, I was not a big fan of. The real reason people outside of my family seem to like artichokes is to buy the hearts, and just the hearts, in little jars of water or oil. The existence of hearts in artichokes has the added benefit of being fodder for many a cloying vegetable joke, the sort published in Reader's Digest, like "Why are artichokes so sweet?" "Because they're all heart!" No really, I think I've read that somewhere. And for the record, artichokes are not sweet at all.

The hearts, in addition to being much easier to eat and a source of questionable humor (yes, even I look down on anthropomorphizing from time to time) are a great deal more versatile. I tried them in salads, on a pizza, and they can also be put in pastas. They were admittedly better in this easier to eat form, but I still don't understand the reason for the extravagance. They don't really seem to taste like much, and their texture reminds me of a hard boiled egg. Eggs are so much cheaper. Overcook one, chop it up, and soak it in olive oil, and I doubt there would really be a difference.

I did try some artichoke dips because I always try to like at least one thing each week and that seemed like my only option. I got two: an artichoke garlic dip and a spinach and artichoke dip. The last one was perhaps a bit of a cheat because I already liked spinach dip, and honestly that was the predominant taste. And because I had the tasty spinach dip as a crutch, I tended to eat less and less of the straight artichoke dip, which without comparison, really wasn't that bad. See? "Not that bad"! There is some end to my artichoke bitterness.

So yes, to sum up: artichokes--just don't get the hype. I think after this week I need something a little easier. I've been thinking I should tackle beans (other than the previously friended "green beans" from many a week ago). I'd thought about dividing this category because there are so many beans to chose from, but the idea of a straight "lima bean" week wasn't particularly appealing. Still, it does seem rather difficult to cover the category in a single seven day period. I thought about maybe making it into two (possibly consecutive) weeks. Right now, my plan is to just start with week one and see how I go from there. So yes, I'm relying on the advice of my commenters on what beans to focus on! Thanks!

Next week: bean (feast) week!