Thursday, May 22, 2008

Ecclectic and Organic

Eggs with Pickled Tomatoes and Beet Greens

First of all- check it! I have photos of my own food today! This is partly because this is one dish I was neeeever going to find an image of elsewhere. Also, I ususally neglect to take pictures of anything I cook before I bolt it down like something on "Animal Planet".

I have just turned in my last paper this semester, and discovered another farmers' market. Thus I have had a most satisfying day and a most interesting dinner. Among the things I picked up at the market were some beets and some pickled tomatoes. The guys who sold the pickles said "try them with scrambled eggs". And so I did.

Beets are a favorite of mine, but today instead of making more borscht, I decided to concentrate on the upper half of the plant. Beet greens are difficult to come by fresh, and these looked great. They're fairly mild and quite attractive as vegetables go, and you can prepare them much as you would kale or collards. If you're not in the habit of preparing kale or collards, the recipe below should help.

I realize how foreign the idea of a pickled green tomato may seem at first, but if you're fond of pickled anything, you'll probably like them. And if you like eggs with salsa, you'll probably like this recipe. Pickled tomatoes are also popular in Eastern Europe. If they're a bit too tart, slice them and rinse them off before scrambling them in.

Beet Greens
1 strip bacon
1/2 onion
1 tbsp olive oil
1 bunch beet greens
1/2 cup water
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp brown sugar
Black pepper
Red pepper, if you like

Cook the bacon in the olive oil until crisp, then remove. Sautee the onion until it begins to brown, then toss in the beet greens and the water. Add the brown sugar, vinegar and other seasonings and stir. Cover and let cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until greens are tender.

Eggs with Pickled Tomatoes
1 tbsp olive oil
2-3 eggs (or however many you want)
2 tbsp milk
2 pickled tomatoes, sliced into thin rounds
1 tbsp fresh cilantro

Mix the eggs together well with the seasonings and milk. In a pan on medium heat, scramble in the in the cilantro and the tomatoes as the eggs cook. Serve with your beets.

Monday, May 19, 2008

In Soviet Russia, Food Eats You!

Pelmini and Borscht

Yes, comrades, I was a Russian major. I spent a semester abroad in St. Petersburg, and highly recommend you visit sometime. Unfortunately, it seems one has to be especially motivated and well-heeled to get there (damn visa fees and airfare!) In the meantime, you can cook Russian food, put on Swan Lake, and drink vodka until that Kandinsky poster no longer seems abstract.

Russian food is wonderfully fortifying, as it should be in any country where the temperature dips to -40 on a regular basis. Among classic Russian fare are dumplings called pelmini. Pelmini are traditionally filled with veal ("Siberian pelmini"), cooked in broth and served with sour cream, vinegar and fresh dill. They often look a lot like tortellini; I made mine with wonton skins from Safeway. Yes, Pavel, I know it's not totally authentic. Neither is the goulash seasoning.

Another staple of Russian cuisine is borscht. Russians begin most meals with soup, which is thought to be good digestive practice. The wimpy borscht you see in supermarkets bears no resemblance to the incredibly hearty and wildly diverse soups that call themselves borscht in Russia. Sometimes borscht was a rich, tomato-based stew, sometimes it had beans, sometimes meat, sometimes cabbage, and often a little bit of everything. Borscht strikes me as the best reflection of Russian cuisine and history; it pays to be flexible, because when it hits -40, everything goes into the pot.

Siberski Pelmini
1 lb ground veal
1 package wonton skins
1-2 egg whites, for sealing skins
1 chopped shallot
1/2 cup fresh dill, chopped
1 tbsp Russian seasoning/goulash seasoning
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp salt
2 tsp black pepper
Mix the veal, seasonings, shallot and dill together thoroughly. Place a heaping teaspoon of filling in the middle of a wonton skin, rub the edges with egg white, and fold it into a triangle, sealing it all the way around and pressing out as much of the air as possible without squishing the filling out. Pull the corners of the triangle back and press them together, using a little egg white to make them stick. Mine weren't gorgeous, but they'll be edible. You can freeze them on a cookie sheet, then wrap them well and use them later, or toss them straight into boiling water. Boil them for about 10 minutes; when they float to the surface, they should be done.

1 lb cubed beef
1 onion, sliced
1 beet, chopped
1 potato, diced
4-5 cups beef broth
1 can tomato sauce
1/4 cup lemon juice
Splash apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup fresh dill, chopped
Sour cream to garnish

Brown your beef in a deep pot, then add the onions, potatoes and beets. Cook together for 2-3 minutes, then add the broth, tomato sauce, lemon juice and other seasonings. You can also add beans, cabbage, carrots or any other vegetables you like. Borscht can simmer for several hours and will only get better, but sometimes I rush it and just eat it when the beef is cooked. Garnish with a dollop of sour cream and some more fresh dill.

Monday, May 12, 2008

The Lovely Eggs

Organically Delicious/Japanese Bachelor Food

I'm not rich, but I'm willing to shell out my dough at the farmer's market whenever I get a chance. Why? Because for an extra dollar or two, eating locally-grown food makes me feel like a million bucks. Not just because I'm doing something socially responsible. (If only all responsibility tasted so delicious.) These foods taste better, stay fresh longer and are actually healthier than conventional varieties.

Case in point: I bought my first dozen pasture-raised eggs this weekend. I've been paying for organic or cage-free eggs for a while, but these came fresh from a farm only a few miles from where I live in Maryland. The shells are different colors because the chickens don't eat some homogenous paste all their lives. The yolks are an intense, deep yellow. And just as I suspected, they are damn tasty. The lady farmer who sold them even had a lab analysis posted showing that these eggs had more vitamins and less cholesterol than supermarket eggs. When I asked her if that was for real, the farmer's answer was interrupted by the badge-toting NIH food scientist standing behind me who assured us that it is absolutely true.
I was so anxious to try my fancy new eggs I ran home and made katsu don.
Katsu don was introduced to me by my friends John and Alex, who were sharing a weird, boxcar-like bachelor apartment near campus for the summer and fending for themselves foodwise. It's real Japanese college kid food, and it's as easy as pie. Er, actually it's a lot easier than pie. Maybe I should start saying "easy as katsu don".
Katsu Don
1 serving of rice
2-3 eggs (depending how hungry you are)
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp rice vinegar
few drops sesame oil
shredded dried seaweed to garnish

Start cooking your rice in a pot or rice cooker. When it has 5 minutes or so left to cook, sprinkle the rice with vinegar, crack your eggs over the top and close the lid again. When the rice and eggs are cooked, add the soy sauce, sesame oil and seaweed (if you're into seaweed- I know I am.) Eat it with your feet up on the coffee table while watching sports.