Wednesday, October 21, 2009

My love of produce...

Readers! I apologize for going MIA for a few weeks. I have exciting news - I am moving to the foodie mecca of the country - the Bay Area! I am so thrilled to be getting out there and have a life adventure - I hope to live in North Berkeley near the Gourmet Ghetto - so there will be endless blog fodder. Anyhow - my life has been turned upside down by the impending move (I arrive in sunny CA on November 8) and my cooking plans between now and then include coming up with the most creative ways to eat all of the food I have in the pantry and freezer without resorting to dinners of frozen berries, fake chicken nuggets and mayo (which might not be too far away at this rate....!)

Anyhow - that is my excuse for being a bad blogger over the past few weeks. But I am back and here to share that news and more - I just got word that my love of produce has resulted in some online exposure! A photo I took at the Portland, OR Farmer's Market in June 2009 has been published in an online guide to Portland, called the Schmap Portland Guide. It's a photo of lettuce and berries, and it can be viewed when you put the cursor over the "Northwest" area link.

Having this picture discovered on Flickr and published in this guide is very cool - and it's an ironically timed event, as I have been thinking recently about how much I love fresh produce. I know, it's kind of a weird thing to be obsessed about. But for some reason, it just makes me really happy to be surrounded by plants - fruits, veggies - even house plants (btw I am starting to have separation anxiety about leaving my house plants behind in Boston...) But I had this realization the other day, when I was at the new Whole Foods at Legacy Place in Dedham, MA. I was running errands for my parents and decided to stop into Whole Foods - I had heard the new store (which opened very recently) was beautiful - I could spend hours in Whole Foods as it is, and the appeal of a brand new store, coupled with the fact that I just left the very overwhelming and aesthetically unbecoming Costco down the street, was too much to resist. Oh, and the fact that it was snowing/sleeting/raining in the middle of October also added to my desire to escape reality and retreat into foodie paradise, aka Whole Foods.

I was browsing around the produce section, and went to pick out some rainbow swiss chard (on sale for $2/bunch - yay!) As I was grabbing a bunch, a young woman and her boyfriend/husband were standing there trying to figure out the difference in the various colors of swiss chard (they had white, red and yellow varieties for sale). She saw me pick out a bunch and asked if I could offer any insight onto the differences between the varieties. I gave her my two cents - explained a little about the vegetable and said that I like the red the best because I think it's a little more tender than the white, and it makes a really pretty color when you cook it with the stems. It was a brief and simple conversation and she thanked me and said it looked like I knew what I was talking about - but I walked away with a grin on my face - again, I know it's cheesy, but there is something that is so heart warming about connecting with other people over food that is fresh, beautiful and nutritious. There are seemingly endless varieties of fruits and vegetables out there and industrial agriculture and commercial grocery stores only provide access to such a small amount of it - even at a place like Whole Foods. I guess it made me happy to know that even though I think there is a long way to go to make our food system sustainable and to provide wide access to diverse crops, that maybe it's ok to start with one bunch of swiss chard at a time.

As I walked out of Whole Foods, I saw on the ground someone's shopping list. It had two columns - one said "Farm" and the other said "WF". I smiled again - I just can't imagine how big my food grin will be once I get to Berkeley!

Off to eat lunch - whole wheat pasta, fresh pesto, and red swiss chard. Yum....

Friday, October 2, 2009

Matzo Brei

For any of you who have read Ruth Reichl's books, you know that one of her favorite comfort foods is matzo brei - a food that she describes with such warmth in her books that even though I have never had it, I regularly crave it. I keep meaning to try her recipe for it, but I haven't remembered to pick up matzo (the fact that we are as far from Passover as you can get doesn't help my case either!)

Well, this morning I woke up against my will at 5am again - a funny little trick my body has been playing on my the past two weeks. As I lay there in bed, willing myself to fall back asleep even for an hour, I decided (in my partially awake mind) that I wanted matzo brei for breakfast. I had to have it. Why, I don't know. But I did.

Now, despite where you may think this is going, I did not take advantage of the 24 hour Shaw's to get matzo. When I finally got up around 7, I decided to find her recipe on and just make it with what I had - water crackers!

I had no idea what it would come out like - I ended up following some of the comments on her recipe and amending it to fit the ingredients I had on hand.

Here is how I did it - I have to say, I was very skeptical at how it would taste when it was done, because it looked kind of dry. I packaged it up and brought it into the office (I always eat my breakfast at work), and I was pleasantly surprised at how yummy it was! So in case you ever wake up at 5am and decide you want matzo brei - know that you're not alone, and here's a recipe you can follow (I presume it would really work with any kind of mild flavored cracker....perhaps not a really crumbly/buttery kind, but any dry one)

Hack Matzo Brei, minus the Matzo:

8 water crackers (we had sesame flavor ones, and they were yummy)
2 eggs
splash of milk (enough to moisten the crackers)
small handful (approx. 2 tablespoons) of finely chopped onion
chives or other herbs, for flavor
butter (be as courageous as you want here - I used a little more than was enough to coat the pan, but as you can see on her recipe, Ruth calls for like 1/2 a stick!!)
Salt and Pepper, to taste

Break up the crackers into small pieces, and place them in a bowl with the milk. Let them sit for about 3-4 minutes, until moist but not too soggy. Pour out most of the milk (you can keep a little in to make the mixture fluffier if you'd like.

Add the two eggs to the same bowl, and scramble them together with the matzo. Add the onions and chives/herbs and a dash of salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, heat the butter in a skillet on the stove until melted and hot.

Pour the mixture into the pan and cook - I think that it would be best to make it like an omelet - cook for 2 minutes or so then flip, cook the other side and try to keep the inside moist.

When it's nicely browned on both sides, remove from the pan and serve!!