Kitchen Adventures: When Foods Collide

I overspent and underthought at the farmers’ market this week, so now I’m scrambling to eat stuff before it goes bad, even if it doesn’t seem to go together really well. A CHALLENGE. So far I have made three meals basically just to use stuff up and they’ve all been ridiculously, startlingly delicious. In this post: three things which shouldn’t have tasted good.

Turnip Greens and… Herbs? Okay.: I cut the greens off of a medium-sized bunch of hakurei turnips. (And I just spent five minutes looking up Types of Turnips for you people.) I washed them really well, squeezed them dry, and cut them into thick horizontal stripes. Then I sliced a large button mushroom and chopped up a whole bunch of garlic and a serrano pepper. I heated up butter in a pan and put in the mushroom slices first, then the garlic, then the greens. They snapped and sizzled. I added salt, and herbes de Provence which were a huge, awesome Christmas gift from my parents. I let things sit until the mushrooms were partly browned on their undersides and the garlic was golden and starting to shrink and frizzle (but before it started to brown or burn), then stirred and cooked for about another minute. Then ate it in a bowl.

Results: Yum! The frizzliness of the garlic and the deep, rich flavors of caramelization made the greens feel fancy. This was also a much more filling meal than I’d anticipated.

What I’d do differently next time: We’re out of black peppercorns, so I couldn’t try out fresh-ground black pepper. I’d definitely add more mushrooms. Also, I’d expected to crave a couple of fried eggs on this, but in the end it didn’t need them. You could try that though.

Carrots with Black Beans in a Fake Curry: Or “kurry,” like krab? Anyway I boiled water in a saucepan. I chopped carrots into coins and chopped garlic, fresh ginger, a whole lot of fresh cilantro, and another serrano pepper. The carrots went into the boiling water and cooked for… five minutes?… while I finished up the rest of the chopping and stuff. Then I drained them into a colander and put the pan back on the stovetop with butter in it. The carrots went back into the pan, along with all the other ingredients you’ve heard about so far and some salt, curry powder, and cinnamon. By accident I used more cinnamon than I’d intended, so there were almost equal amounts of all three spice-type things.

Once the carrots were starting to sizzle and brown on the bottom I added about half a can of black beans which I also needed to get rid of nowish, and a couple shlooshes of carrot juice left over from a previous, less-successful adventure. (Carrot-juice socca with curry powder and cilantro. Tasty enough but definitely not worth the cost.) Cook cook cook, stirring now and then. When the carrot juice was almost entirely cooked down and the black beans were getting all soft and starting to slur, I figured it was ready and dumped/scraped it into a bowl.

Results: Soooo good! The secret was that mistake with the cinnamon. It wasn’t overwhelming, as I’d feared, but it was noticeable and gave the whole dish a common flavor to hang onto. Comforting and just a little bit exotic.

What I’d do differently: MORE CARROTS. Also, some kind of cool topping or scooping-thing would have been nice. Pita wedges? yogurt with a tiny bit of chopped apple and cilantro? Whatever, this was great. I will say that pure carrot juice is stupidly expensive, so unless you juice your own, I’d find a substitute for it in both this dish and the next one. I regretted buying it even though it was great in this. Maybe just reserve a bit of the water from cooking the carrots? Or use tomato juice, or the juices from a can of tomatoes?

Shells with Carrot, Apple, and Basil: You heard me. OK, I put water on to boil. While it was coming to a boil I chopped more carrots into more coins. I also diced an apple (Fuji?), thickly sliced an onion and then cut the slices in half, and chopped up some garlic and our third serrano pepper. When the water boiled I put in pasta shells. When they had about five minutes left to cook, I added the carrot coins.

Meanwhile, in a saucepan, I melted our old friend butter, over high heat. (I know you’re not really supposed to do this with butter but I’m lazy and impatient and hey, it works.) Everything went into the pan, and I tried to spread it out so that lots of apple and onion surface area touched the buttery bottom of the pan. Cook cook cook. Stirred the pasta. Chopped a whole mess of fresh basil. Added that to the pan and salted it. As the pan dried out I gave it a good gloop of carrot juice. I cooked that down as the pasta and carrots finished. When the pasta was al dente I drained the pot into a colander, then put it on the plate, buttered it (yes, I like butter), and topped it with the pasta sauce.

Results: I know it sounds like I’m just making up how good all of these things were, but seriously, this was fantastic. Every bite had some slightly different combination of rich, intriguing flavors: sweetly caramelized garlic with melt-in-your-mouth apple and a hint of onion; bright summery basil with carrot and apple and a bit of heat from the pepper… all of the combinations were good.

What I’d do differently: Again, I think some black pepper would’ve been nice. And fresh oregano would’ve been fine–it seems like it would go well with all of the other ingredients. But this was just a rich, satisfying evening meal, sweet but not overwhelmingly sweet. If you wanted to bring the sweetness down, maybe add fresh sage?

Really pleased with the results of my folly so far. (Yeah, they’ll put that on my tombstone.)

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