Tuesday, January 12, 2010

How Veggies Stole My Blog

Vegetables stole my blog. Yep, they just marched right into my kitchen, one big CSA box every week (+ a few extra odds and ends from the farmers’ market… I am such a sucker for a local farmers’ market!), and demanded that I DO SOMETHING with them, and do it right quick, before they started to revert to a previous organic life form, a conversion facilitated by copious amounts of mold. ‘Doing something’ usually entailed some combination of chopping (and chopping and chopping…), sautéing, mixing, stirring, seasoning, and eating. It also often involved my new favorite veggie cookbook (thanks sweetie for picking this up for me and saving me the agony of having to walk through the Mall of America).
Occasionally it involved the food dehydrator that I borrowed from my friend Betty; or freezing extra portions to savor summer’s goodness in the frostiness of mid-winter (frozen pesto thaws beautifully and makes a great topper for pitas, with tomato slices and mozzarella cheese – broil until the cheese bubbles!). And over Labor Day weekend, it involved canning 42 pint jars of homemade (organic, locally grown) tomato sauce with my friend Mary.
42 pints of yummy goodness! For four solid months, I ate, slept, breathed and chopped my way through my weekly servings of veggies. I have never eaten so many fresh veggie-based meals in my life. And if you knew me very well, you would probably be scratching your head right now and wondering, “What on earth? She doesn’t even like veggies!” I’m afraid it’s true… I have never met a raw vegetable that I would consider taking home to meet the folks. I not only dislike raw veggies, I truly despise them. I can still recall being forced to eat raw carrots and celery sticks at lunch… which usually ended up mush in the pocket of my cheek until I could excuse myself to go spit them in the toilet. So my husband was a bit taken aback when I announced last spring that I wanted a CSA share this year. “What on earth are you going to do with all of those raw vegetables that you so despise?” A fair question, given his knowledge of my vegetable avoidance habits.
 What, indeed? Well, there really is only one answer. Although I can tolerate and even sort of kind of enjoy a fresh salad every so often (Romaine and spinach leaves only please – no frilly bitter things allowed! And keep those other raw veggies off of it… and please don’t forget to smother it with chicken, croûtons, sesame seeds and yummy salad dressing so I can’t taste the leaves!), the only real answer to my dilemma of consuming more veggies in my diet was to cook everything.
Not only did we cook almost everything that came in the door, I learned how to cook with things I have never, ever, eaten in my entire life before. Like Napa cabbage (stir-fry… still too bitter for my taste though). Red and green cabbage – we liked the small, red heads of cabbage better than the big green ones. We made a lot of Bierocks – a German version of cabbage/beef calzone, a recipe sweetie’s mom passed on to us. They even freeze and reheat well. They were actually quite good… but with 4+ heads of cabbage coming in every week, we just couldn’t keep up with enough cabbage dishes – sadly, some of the cabbage ended up in the compost. Parsnips (parsnip soup). Swiss chard (tastes like spinach when sautéed and used in pasta dishes). Collard greens (I don’t even recall what dish we hid these in). Kale (again, like spinach – sautéed and used on pasta).
image from here.
And then the glorious time of the summer finally arrived, when the leafy green things started to peter out and we were refreshed with a wave of veggies I actually recognized and used in abundance – potatoes, onions, shallots, carrots, TOMATOES (and tomatoes and tomatoes!), zucchini & yellow summer squash. And then later, winter squash and pumpkins. And some more tomatoes. And I learned some new tricks for those plentiful tomatoes. Like, what do you do with 5# of tomatoes when you already cooked enough veggie dishes to last a month? Make tomato paste! Five POUNDS of tomatoes will cook/bake down to less than a pint of paste. And boy oh boy is it good paste, too! Much better than those little cans you’ll pay an arm & a leg for at the grocery store.
image from here.
As if this Vegetable Undertaking weren’t enough, the searching out new recipes, the braving new frontiers by eating things I’ve never eaten before, the chopping and chopping and chopping and cooking, cooking, cooking, I had to do it without the help of my faithful kitchen companion, whose real job suddenly approached a project deadline with such frantic parameters that he spent the last few months of the summer/fall leaving at 8am and returning home around 11pm, long after the veggies had been cooked and the dishes cleaned up and everything put away. This was the real tragedy of the Summer of Vegetables – normally we would chop and cook side by side, sharing the toil and the experiments, celebrating our success together over another good home cooked meal, together. But not this year. I, who hate to cook almost as much as I hate raw vegetables, did all of the cooking. Alone. And lived (barely) to tell the tale. The Veggie Tale (couldn’t resist). But all was not for woe. I did learn some powerful lessons from this experiment with vegetables. 1) I still don’t like raw vegetables. 2) Almost anything is palatable if cooked with enough garlic & onions. 3) If you don’t like to cook, do not cook a season of food, alone. Just don’t do it. Hire a cook if necessary. The expense is minimal compared to saving the marriage. 4) Even a favorite vegetable can get tiring when served in copious amounts, for weeks on end. (Even tomatoes). 5) Ratatouille is fabulous but it makes sweetie ill. Eat it when he is not around. 6) Four or more heads of cabbage is just not do-able in a week, with a family of two. 7) Red cabbage will keep almost forever in the fridge and will eventually be eaten by sweetie on his wraps and in his scramblers (don’t ask!). But even this fact does not justify receiving more than 1 head of cabbage/week. If your CSA continues to bombard you with cabbage, you have my permission to not feel guilty when it goes to the compost. Reuse it on your own garden next year, on a vegetable you love. 8) I have a wider range of vegetable tolerances than I previously thought.
9) When all else fails, add salsa & cheese to the dish. 10) Canning should always be done with a good friend… and at least two bottles of wine and some really good chocolate.
image from here.
Happy Chopping – Victoria


ciara_leighann516 said...

I love you. I just wanted you to know that. :) B Bo

Julia said...

I'm so proud of your massive undertaking, and in awe! I didn't know you hated raw veggies--talk about facing the devil in the face and giving it the finger :) Way to go!

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