Vegetables (from the series Meanwhile, Farmers' Market Farmers)
by Wendy MacNaughton, 20x200.com
Last week, I volunteered for a double-shift, and far and away, the most questions were about turnips. With that in mind, here's the iconic Alice Waters' elegant and straightforward approach, from her indispensable The Art of Simple Food (Clarkson Potter/Publishers, 2007), which I found at the Lower East Side's own independent bookstore, Bluestockings.
Turnips have quite a bit of internal moisture and can be cooked without any water at all. This recipe works well with large or small turnips. Peel the turnips if they need it and cut them into medium pieces. Smaller turnips can be left whole or just cut in half. Put them in a heavy pan with a big pinch of salt and a large pat of butter. Cover and cook the turnips until tender over medium heat, stirring every now and then. If the pan starts to brown, turn down the heat. Serve them as is, or mash them with a touch of fresh butter. Turnips can also be sliced and cooked uncovered over higher heat to brown them on purpose; they are delicious caramelized like this. Keep an eye on them to make sure that they don't brown so much that the flavor becomes bitter."
This is my second summer subscribing to a CSA, and I love it! The excitement of learning how to cook unfamiliar vegetables and discovering new favorites (I'm broiling eggplant slices for a late dinner with last week's salad mix as I type), as well as watching the seasonal rhythms unfold, is a true delight I anticipate all year. Early summer always seems to be about light greens, and so I thought I'd share this basic recipe from an extraordinary reissued cookbook, Specialites de la Maison, first assembled by the American Friends of France in the 1940s. I found this whimsical and star-studded gem at Three Lives & Co. in the West Village.
The index notes that Louis Bromfield won the "Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1926 for his second novel, Early Autumn... in the late 1930s, he became known as a visionary conservationist who developed principles of sustainable farming at Malabar, his farm in Ohio." (50 year-old gossip alert! "Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall got married at his Mansfield Farm"). Here is his take on "Delices du Jardin."
"To make it you must have a first rate vegetable garden or a wonderful green grocer as it includes almost everything–– the more the variety, the better the salad. But by the same token it is very flexible and almost any of the ingredients except cabbage, escarole or endive may be omitted. These are essential as they provide crispness and texture which the Chinese and French, the two most civilized people in the world, both regard as considerations in good food.
Take two green sweet peppers, half a head each of red and of white cabbage, one head of well bleached escarole, one head of lettuce, one head of romaine, six finely chopped small green onions, two bunches of celery chopped coarsely, one head of raw cauliflower finely broken up, one good sized cucumber (crisp not wilted), one bunch of radishes sliced thin, four good sized tomatoes cut into eighths.
For dressing use the usual base of good olive oil and vinegar which is beaten, one pinch of cayenne pepper, one tablespoon of French mustard, two tablespoons of finely chopped chives, one tablespoon of finely chopped dill, one teaspoon of sugar, salt to taste. This should be mixed so that the mixture is fairly thick with only enough vinegar to give it tang. Mix in a wooden bowl rubbed with garlic which is cleaned only by wiping after use with a crust of bread.
The vegetables should be soaked for an hour before using in ice water and the salad should be mixed only a moment before serving. The virtues of this salad are twofold–– its crispness, and the variety of flavors which tickle the palate, separately and together, now cucumber, now cabbage, now onion, now sweet pepper, and so on."
And finally, who could forget the harrowing account of last week's hailstorm and its threat to all of our lovely little plants? Let us mix up something with which to toast their swift recovery:
"Dark and Stormy
Combine the rum, the ginger beer, and the lime juice, which is optional, in a tall glass full of ice cubes. Stir. The key here is nailing the precise ratio between the spice of the ginger beer and the richness of the rum. Depending on brands of each used, you may want to play around with the proportions. No true Bermudian would put lime juice in his D & S, but here in the States that's how it comes."
–– From Esquire, with further tips on the correct brand and glass.
*"Our 'baby' Cinnamon, (Coriander's daughter, our milk cow) had her calf last month. It is also a girl, heifer, and I am milking her now every morning, while the baby, Comfrey, gets all the milk the rest of the day."