Halloween 2011 Post Mortem

Last night was my annual Halloween Party. Salt Boy gets into it too, but the crazy motivation for throwing a giant costume party comes from me. Unsurprising, since these days it’s a holiday about sugar.

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A Bowl of Cherries

Cherries

It’s three weeks into the farm-share season, and we are settling into the rhythm of cooking with massive or minuscule quantities of unfamiliar or unexpected ingredients. We were out of town last week (but that’s another post), so we bequeathed our share  to another couple of foodies we know. Upon our return we checked in to see how they fared, and the response came back: thanks for the veg, we made some lovely things, but we couldn’t handle cooking this way every week…and you can have your kale back.

It really is a lifestyle, and not to be taken lightly.

This week began our fruit share. Last year we bought a vegetable share only, and all summer I remember looking longingly at the table of fruit, to be collected by my other comrades in veg. Now it is my fruit! Week one: 2.5 pounds sweet cherries, .65 pounds sour cherries, and one small bottle of raspberry apple juice from Red Jacket Orchards. That’s a lot of cherries, people.

I had plans for these cherries. In fact I had been anxiously awaiting them for weeks, ever since discovered that maraschino cherries were originally beautiful and were never meant to resemble the red-dyed monstrosities you find in bars nowadays.

Application 1: Maraschino Cherries (using sour cherries via thekitchn)
Application 2: Amaretto Cherries in syrup inspired by dessert at Esca in NYC
Application 3: Invite people over, put a bowl of cherries in front of them. And a bowl for pits.

If we get more sweet cherries next week (and I suspect that we will), there will be sweet cherries in bourbon, cherry preserves, and cherry shrub…you know, shrub, for cocktails.

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA or Farm Share) in NYC

Last year, we signed up for a CSA for the first time, which was a bit of a stretch, because we weren’t living together yet. There was a clear division of labor: Salt Boy paid the fee, and Sugar Girl provided the labor (schlepping the resulting veg to and fro, and 4 volunteer hours over the course of the summer).

For various reasons, mostly involving compatible subway lines and minimal volunteer hours, we chose the Prince George CSA. We paid approximately $350 at the outset (to fund the farmer). That happened in early March, though some places want you to pony up by Jan or Feb. The vegetable onslaught began on June 10th, and I think I remember that it continued through early November. It’s something like 18-20 weeks of vegetables. There are still pickled (canned) carrots and kirby cucumbers in our hall closet, so you could argue we haven’t finished with the CSA yet.

Summary: pay your money before the season starts. Collect veg once a week through the season. Volunteer to work behind the check-in table for two two-hour blocks. Go home happy. Also, learn to work with new, tasty, fresh ingredients.

How much would you pay for a large reusable shopping bag full of veg at Whole Paycheck? If I run the average weekly share through the Fresh Direct website, it comes out to $20-$30, and you know the organic stuff at NYC prices is going to ring up at an even higher weekly cost. Although the volume varies from week to week, we were mostly vegetarian by the end of the summer and could never finish the share by the time the next pickup rolled around.

Here’s a listing of CSA’s in NYC.

Here are the ones we’re thinking about:

Chelsea CSA (Stoneledge Farm): 24 weeks of vegetables, 20 weeks of fruit; 1/2 hour walk or 16 minutes with a subway ride; pickup on Tuesdays 4-7; Standard veg share is $530, standard fruit share is $250; volunteer 4 hours per veg share, 2 hours per fruit share. Other stuff: coffee, honey, maple syrup.

Merchant’s Gate CSA: 22 weeks of veg, 20 weeks of fruit; $335 for a veg share, $240 for a fruit share; 4-6 hours total volunteer time; pickup at 417 West 57th Street (at 9th ave),  pickup Wednesday 3pm-7pm; other stuff: eggs, milk, yogurt, cheese.

Prince George CSA:  $360 for a veg share of 22 weeks, $200 for 20 week fruit share, pickup at 28th Street between 5th and Madison, pickup Thursdays 3:30pm-7:30pm; four hours volunteer time; other stuff: eggs, honey, maple syrup, granola, ground beef, chicken, butter.

We’re still deliberating on whether to stay with Prince George (where we were pretty happy) or try one of the others. Stay tuned for the gripping conclusion: which CSA will provide us with too much kale and zucchini?!

Pork #1: German

For reasons not worth going into*, our kitchen is currently filled with a borderline-ridiculous quantity of slow-cooked pork shoulder. While the bounty is on one level quite wonderful, on another level it’s totally insane. We’ve eaten it as omelette, ssam, fried rice, and pizza and we’re still less than half done. Thus, a chronicle of the remainder of the pork, as an education to others: may you learn from our mistakes.

Tonight, Sugar Girl was wishing for some Hallo Berlin, a German sausage place on 9th avenue. I thought back to our usual order from there: spicy sausage sliced into small chunks, covered in tangy sauce and served with sour cabbage. After a survey of our refrigerator, surprisingly bereft of other ingredients, I came up with this pork, mushroom, and onion dish. It’s a bit stewlike, as the inspirations were sauerbraten and vindaloo, but drier, faster, and easier:

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Sparky

While it’s often difficult for young urban couples in dense living quarters to have a pet, we have managed it. Say hello to Sparky:

Starter, dough, and finished product

Isn’t he cute?*

We bake a loaf of sourdough about twice a week off the little tyke, using a no-knead recipe adapted from the famous Sullivan Street Bakery one that subs him in for the yeast. Admittedly this is all the result of a certain amount of tinkering, but I think the quality of the product and the ease with which it is produced speak for itself.

We use 90 grams of a 125% hydration starter culture (that’s Sparky) along with 560g of flour (bread if we have it), 400g of water, and 12g of salt — that works out to 75% hydration. Mix (we use a stand mixer) until integrated, then cover in plastic and leave for 18-24 hours. Proof for two hours on a cornmeal-covered cloth; at 90 minutes, preheat your oven to 475 and put a dutch oven inside it. When the proof is done, put the loaf in the dutch oven (shake around a bit to make sure it’s not folded over on itself), cover, and bake for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, remove the cover and bake another 15. Remove from the oven and be happy.

*The story of how he came to live with us is one I’ll leave to in-person retelling, if only because I basically can’t get over the way Sugar Girl longingly says “Puppy?”

using the whole animal: grapefruit edition

I’ve recently circled back to an old project. Some time ago, presented with the knowledge that my mother loves those orange slice candies you can buy in any grocery store aisle, I learned to make candied orange peels. They were a total hit and saved me during one of my first Christmases as a starving student.

As a follow up, I bought a bunch of Meyer lemons at Whole Paycheck, juiced the insides into ice-cube trays for future use and candied the peels. It cemented my place in the hierarchy of a law firm full of sugar fiends. Someday, I vowed, I would do candied grapefruits. It seemed like the destined application of the technique, since the bitterness of grapefruit would cut the candy-aisle sweetness of candied peels.

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Episode 1: Emergency Thanksgiving

In the style of John Hodgeman (of the Daily Show), Salt Boy declared yesterday to be Emergency Thanksgiving. He had never cooked a Turkey before, and after years of careful study under Alton Brown and Harold McGee, it was time to conquer the bird for himself. He and Sugar Girl spent the weekend preparing turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, garlic mashed potatoes, beautifully browned brussels sprouts, and cheddar-crust apple pie. All of Salt Boy’s friends gathered around his tiny New York apartment dinner table, stuffed themselves, and tottered back to the subway in the wee hours.

In the aftermath, Sugar Girl turned to Salt Boy and said, “We have to start keeping track of this crap. Go set up a blog.” He procrastinated, but she set up the blog you see before you.

These are the chronicles of Salt Boy and Sugar Girl, who spend their days in the world of finance and economics, but spend their nights and weekends obsessing over the finer points of umami and pastry cream. With any luck, the next episode with involve less ridiculous literary choices, and more hints on how to replicate what we did last time…