Sunday, September 15, 2013

Two weeks worth of vegetable bags, plus some crazy neon mashed potatoes

I've gotten a bit behind on writing about our vegetable bags, so now you get a food-heavy post with 2 weeks worth of vegetables and cooking. This bag was the beginning of our apple gluttony. A kilo of apples accompanied potatoes, carrots, beets, green beans, mizuna salad, and corn. Bobby was very excited about the corn. The poor guy didn't realize I already had plans for it, but after seeing the excited look on his face, I 'allowed' him to boil one and eat it off the cob. It wasn't as good as the sweet corn we have in the States, but it was still tasty.
My plans for the corn and some of the other vegetables was a late summer salad. Any good salad requires a good dressing. This one was made up of a special chili honey from Denmark, elderberry vinegar from Germany, Dijon mustard from France, and kalamata olive oil from Greece. Quite the pan-European vinaigrette!
And thus the salad: roasted beets, boiled corn, steamed green beans, mizuna lettuce, and the above vinaigrette.
More of the beets and lettuce were put to use in a lentil salad later in the week. This one had a nice warmly-spiced dressing. I found the recipe here.
By the end of the week, some of the roasted beets had yet to be used, so I decided to cube them and add them to roasted garlic and goat cheese mashed potatoes. The flavor of the beets were unfortunately covered by the strong garlic and goat cheese flavors, but there was no mistaking the fact that beets were in the mash! I don't think I've ever eaten something so... fuchsia.
There were also a few scraps of random vegetables left over by the end of the week, so I made some vegetable pancakes. These pancakes used up some of the potatoes and carrots from the vegetable bag, along with some cabbage and zucchini. Accompanied by garlicky-green beans and kimchi dumplings, we had a full meal based on random vegetable scraps.
This was the second week's vegetable bag, and it added to our already growing pile of apples! We also got a kilo of plums, baby potatoes, garlic, onions, zucchini, summer squash, green beans, swiss chard, and parsley. I am not a big fan of parsley, so I asked for recommendations on how use it up on Facebook. One person suggested a parsley pesto, which I made: parsley, roasted hazelnuts, lemon, parmesan, and olive oil. The pesto was spread over puffed pastry, rolled, cut into pinwheels, and baked. They were ok-tasting, but made a good appetizer for a dinner party we hosted (more on the food served at the party below).
As you can perhaps tell, I'm a fan of dishes that use up random bits of vegetables. The pancakes shown above are one good way, and a pasta bake is another good way to use up vegetables. For this particular pasta bake (I make pasta bakes fairly regularly, and they are different each time depending on what vegetables and cheeses I have hanging around) I used up some of the swiss chard, yellow squash, garlic, and onions from the vegetable bag. You first sauté the studier vegetables.
Next come in the more delicate vegetables (in this case chard and a bell pepper). While the vegetables are sautéing, I boil the pasta until al dente (a minute or so before the normal cooking time) and make the sauce. For this particular bake, I used crème fraîche, soft goat cheese, and some grated hard salty cheese from the west coast of Denmark. I usually make very little sauce, just enough to slightly coat the pasta.
Once the sauce is made and the vegetables and pasta are cooked, I mix them all in a mixing bowl then dump it into a baking dish. I top the pasta with some Parmesan cheese and bake it until golden on top, about 20-25 minutes at 200C/400F.
Now, about that dinner party... I am so bad at taking photos of dishes I serve at dinner parties (I'm usually so busy trying to get the dishes ready at the same time and serving them together and making sure everyone has enough wine and is there salt on the table and and and...). I can tell you what I served, though, and provide you with links to recipes. The appetizers included the above mentioned parsley pesto pinwheels. I also made a caramelized onion dip, and some spicy cheddar and ham pinwheels. For the main, I found a dish that finally used a few of the apples we've received in two week's worth of vegetable bags: this really awesome cider-braised pork neck with apples and onion confit. This was a really delicious dish, was easy to make, could be made ahead of time, and was quite impressive to serve. You should try it. I served it with the baby potatoes from the vegetable bag (I just boiled them, nice and easy), and this green bean salad with French feta (much milder than the Greek version). For dessert I used up some of the plums from the vegetable bag. My intension was to roast and caramelize the plums, which were going to go into a fruit tart with a custard base. Unfortunately, the plums were more ripe than I expected and therefore collapsed during roasting. So I instead made a almond cream base (from Dorie Greenspan's cookbook Around My French Table) and smeared the collapsed plums on top. It tasted great and no one was the wiser about the failed first attempt!

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