A perfect sea urchin


The Pantry Corner

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Recession Buster

I'm on my second container of corn meal. Don't ask where all the corn bread and corn bread casseroles come from. I haven't even gotten to the polenta yet. Corn meal is cheap stuff, though it is whole grain and quite wholesome. It is also one of the forms of corn I can eat safely with diverticulosis.

It felt strange to buy that second container on Sunday. I also bought another container of rye flour. I used up the last of my rye flour making pumpernickel bread. Home made bread is another great recession buster.

The best recession buster of all these days is papaya. They ship them in at .69 a pound, and yes there are benighted souls out there who call them "exotic fruit" and have never tried one. They are intimidating, too big, too acidic, too messy, but not too cheap or when decently ripe, too delicious. And to make matters worst of all, my papaya was tiny this week, just three pounds. It has filled one container and won't last until Shabbos, but at least I got a bargain.

And yes, I was going to complain about the lack of field peas and the high prices of string beans, but the Farmer's Market had fine, plump, zipper cream peas for a reasonable price. Now if only I could train Joie to like beans.

Eileen H. Kramer -- July 19, 2011

For Man and Beast

All the turtle boards recommend dandelion greens as turtle food. While I am loathe to make Joie dependent on food that has to come from a specialty store that requires a complicated errand, I have no problem with varying my own diet to provide the right diet for her. This means the turtle eats from the same supply chain as I do. In eating a nutritious diet, supply chain is everything. The right stores have the right ingredients, and the rest is easy. Besides, I don't like to be bored.

I like greens, but dandelion greens have always impressed me as fiercely bitter. Well, there is a way to fix that. I call it Happy Greens. It started out as greens sauteed with fresh carrot slices, sometimes the bottom of a bunch of scallions, sometimes a parsnip cut up, and a can of veg-all or some potatoes. The mild, sweet vegetabbles counterbalance the greens or sweeten them far better than sugar. They thus make them happy.

Dandelion greens, though, had a long way to go to become truely happy. Fortunately, the DeKalb Farmer's Market also had a sweet recession buster, boniatoes. Boniatoes are a white yam that tastes like a cross between a sweet and a white potato, sort of. This time I thought they tasted like roast chestnuts, sweet, but not as sweet as a real sweet potato. This makes boniatoes a good sbustitute for white potatoes if these give you gas. They are many times more digestible. This is especially useful if you are cooking for an older person or someone with a delicate stomach. Best of all boniatoes were only .39 a pound. There may be a drought in Florida which has decimated the field pea harvest, but this year there is a bumper crop of boniatoes.

To fix dandelion greens cut off the roots and wash the greens. The greens come with scuzzy roots. They leaves are also scuzzy. This is a hard core vegetable. Nobody is going to buy this who is afraid of prepping it. Fine, I've been washing vegetables since I was a kid. Pick them over as you wash them. Put the bowl for the finished torn up leaves (only in halves or thirds) by the sink on a stool or the counter. Put the waste basket by the sink for the afflicted and raunchy leaves. You don't want to eat those. I won't feed them to my turtle either. If you are afraid of bugs in your greens, inspect for insect damage. Toss anything that looks damaged. Dandelion greens have a rib so check along the rib. You'll see the damage on the leaves.

The boniato has to be peeled with a vegetable peeler and picked over with a knife. I had a single very large boniato, the size of two softballs, at least. It weighed over two pounds. It needed a very hard knife for the picking over and cutting up. Knife work is weirdly cathartic, though I was running sweat by the time I had hacked the boniato up into big pieces which I cut into smaller pieces.

Then I heated some peanut oil in a big kettle with high sides. You just have to coat the bottom, though something always sticks when you have starchy vegetables. When a piece of veggie starts to sizzle when inserted in the oil, put the vegetables in. Stir them even though you will always have something that sticks. If it's really bad, add a quarter cup water to dissolve the potato starch. That helps avoid some of the mess. Also add salt and Mrs. Dash (original. Mrs. Dash is my best friend! She should be yours too.) when the vegetables are nearly cooked. If you have cut the boniato in small pieces, this dish should cook up in about twenty minutes. It could use a carrot or parsnip too, but the boniato had plenty of flavor and the greens brought out its flavor really well. I want to make this dish again. Who knew exotic food could taste so good! I guess I have my turtle, Joie, to thank.

Eileen H. Kramer -- July 12, 2011

Fun with Roots

Who says you are not supposed to enjoy root vegetables in the summer.After making turnip greens and turnips in peanut sauce, I thought I bet I could make some very good chilled turnip bisque. OK, white turnips are available in the summer when rutabega is last year's crop, so I got six of them. I would have gotten fewer if I could have found bigger ones, but these were the puny kind. At least they were fresh and not too woody. The three red potatoes I bought to add to the soup included one bad one that had a big black spot inside it.

The turnips though were OK. Turnip bisque is like any other bisque. You peel the turnips, cut them in small pieces. You cut up anything else you want to add to them. In this case, potatoes and scallion bottoms and a jar of Mount Olive roasted peppers. This last was for a pleasant color and flavor. I did not want my soup to look like wallpaper paste.

Then you heat some oil. You don't need that much. Just put it on medium and wait until a veggie piece dipped in it sizzles. Then mix up the vegetables in your bowl (Keep the roast peppers separate if you are using them.), and dump in HALF of them. Let them cook until reasonably soft. Then add a few cups of water and the remaining vegetables. Half the veggies boil to give the stock flavor and half fry to keep their flavor.

Then add some salt and let the mixture cool when the boiled veggies are done. Piping hot soup is miserable stuff to handle. ladel the soup into a blender. You will need to do this in two to three batches. Add salt and spices. I added McCormick's smoked paprika and more salt. Liquify the soup. Then repeat with the next batch. Stir. Taste. Adjust seasonings. Rinse. Repeat.

The nice thing about veggie bisques is that you can serve them cold, and the nice thing about bisque method is that it does not use sour cream or even yogurt. This means your soup is pareve.

Earlier in the week I made Mexicali Carrots with celery root and black olives. They came out too mild, but they were still tastey. Celery root has become a chic vegetable in the way of beets and brussel sprouts. It is also being mainstreamed. It now arrives at the store nubbly and rough, but with less caked in dirty and nothing growing out of all those crannies at the top and few if any tentacles at the bottom. Peeling celery root is still cathartic, a kind of labor of love if you like knife work, but the vegetable is far more every day fare than the delicacy it once was.

That said, there are people who have never eaten celery root, either raw or cooked. They don't even know that celery has an edible root with a fine flavor, and much better texture than the stems. I guess I know what I am buying next week, since Joie seems to be fond of this vegetable. Joie is my new turtle. Now my kitchen feeds both man and beast. I call it share the wealth. There is no such thing as turtle chow. At least my shell baby and I have one thing in common.

Eileen H. Kramer -- 7/8/11

Just When You Think "It Can't be Done"

It is fourth of July and cornbread is cooling on the stove. It is tonight's dinner, tomorrow's dinner, etc... Corn bread is great in the heat, because it is a make-ahead food. It is great because you can eat it with just about anything depending on how you make it. My standard recipe which is from the Settlement Cookbook is sweet and cakey. That is fine. I put chocolate soynut butter or honey peanut butter on my corn bread. This is Yankee corn bread, but two corn bread pans ago, I tried a different kind of corn bread. I made the Settlement recipe and left out the sugar. Instead, I added McComrick's Perfect Pinch lemon and pepper blend and McCormick's smoked paprika. I was also out of baking powder (I think I chucked it when I sleep walked.) and had to use sour milk and baking soda instead.

The corn bread was tastey but all wrong for sweet spreads. What to do.... I had a big bag of turnip greens and three turnips in the refridgerator. Leave it to me to always have more than one culinary project going at once. Well, I could make turnips with what....and serve it over broken corn bread. Voila panazella, but what could I add to the turnips for protein. Peanut butter seemed ideal, but my peanut butter is the sweet stuff, the honey flavored, and you can't cook with that or could you?

I ran some hot water, added a fair a mount of my peanut butter and some soy sauce. Greens are fairly bitter though not in a nasty way and the sweet peanut sauce would probably be good. I also added some Mrs. Dash. She's my best friend. I sauteed the greens and turnips and then added the sauce. Voila panazella and it was delicious. Greens in turnip sauce will be back in the rotation, and they said: "It couldn't be done." Actually, I said it until I was forced to change my mind.

Eileen H. Kramer -- July 4, 2011