Saturday, February 20, 2010

To Market, To Market 3 and 4

Market 4
Today, we picked up a dozen eggs, turnips, basil, oyster mushrooms and purple onion shoots. After heading to the market, we stopped in at Whole Foods and bought a couple of 99-cent French country loaves and Arborio rice from the bulk section. All in all, we spent about $22.

Tonight, I am using the vegetable stock I made last week and today's ingredients to prepare turnip and basil risotto (adapted from a recipe for butternut squash and sage risotto). I'll mix in sauteed oyster mushrooms at the end. I'll also make a side dish of crisp garlic with sauteed turnip greens and kale. Comfort food. And as my head is heavy with thoughts about the seemingly impossible-to-infiltrate Austin job market, comfort is what I am after.

On the way to the market today, Chris and I talked about how we really could (and should) ride our bikes instead of drive since it's so close.  Then one of us declared, "Baby steps." Committing ourselves to preparing 1 local meal a week feels like an impressive step 1 (and really, it turns into 3-5 market meals a week when we divvy up our purchases and are thoughtful about what to prepare.

These steps seem easy compared to the steps (and patience) required of us when it comes to settling into this city. How long does it take to find a secure job in your own field in a city like Austin? A lot longer than we had expected. Last week, Chris responded to a job posting, and this week, when he called to inquire about the timeline for responding to applicants and setting up interviews, the woman told him they'd received 125 resumes. The challenge of finding full time, steady employment feels daunting at best.

As you no doubt heard, a man here in Austin set his house on fire (with his wife and child in the house) and then smashed his plane into an IRS building. His actions are irrational, selfish and inexcusable. Particularly, I keep wondering why this man wouldn't sell his private plane (Hello, Mr. Broke, you own a plane?) to pay the IRS, rather than burdening his wife with his debts, leaving her homeless and attempting to kill other human beings. But deep down inside, there is this frustrated part of me that empathizes with the the overwhelming level of frustration the man might have felt. It's not his actions that I empathize with, to be clear, but with the feeling of constantly treading water, knowing that your body is simply incapable of treading forever.

Here is the Risotto with Butternut Squash and sage recipe I am using tonight. It's from The Complete Italian Vegetarian Cookbook by Jack Bishop (Houghton Mifflin, 1997). By the way, we love this book. And Jack Bishop appears regularly on America's Test Kitchen. We love that nerdy cooking show too.

6 cups vegetable stock or 1 vegetable bouillon cube dissolved in 6 cups boiling water
1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
3 tbsp. unsalted butter
1 medium onion, minced (we are substituting challots and green onion)
6 large sage leaves, minced, plus 8 leaves for frying (we are substituting basil)
1/2 small butternut squash, pulp and seeds discarded, peeled and cut into 1/2" cubes (we're using turnips)
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano chees
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1.  Bring stock to a simmer in medium saucepan. Keep warm over low heat.
2.  Heat oil and 2 tbsp. butter in heavy-bottomed medium pot. Add onion and saute over medium heat until translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in minced sage and cook for 30 seconds. Stir in squash and cook for 2 minutes, stirring often.
3.  Add the wine and 1 cup of warm stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer until squash is tender, about 25 minutes. (If the pot runs dry, add more stock as needed.) Uncover pot and cook off any extra liquid.
4.  Using a wooden spoon, stir in the rice and cook for 1 minute. Add 1/2 cup of the warm stock and cook, stirring frequently, until the rice absorbs the liquid. Continue adding stock in 1/2 cup increments, stirring until the rice is creamy and soft but still a bit al dente, about 25 minutes. (Add hot water if you run out of stock.) *During this step, you'll need to pretty much stand over the stove stirring and adding liquid the whole time.
5.  Remove the pot from heat and vigorously stir in the remaining 1 tbsp. butter and the 1/2 cup cheese. Add salt and pepper to taste. Garnish servings with fried sage leaves. Serve immediately.

As for music tonight? And my thoughts while cooking? We'll see what comes, but I am hoping for ingenious inspirations.

Market 3
I nearly forgot to fill you in on last weekend's market trip. The East Austin market that takes place on Sundays from the blessed waking hours of 11am-3pm is awesome. It is an indoor-outdoor farmers/arts market. While it isn't heavy on produce, one of the main produce vendors touts itself as "beyond organic" for using seeds that are not genetically engineered and for using farming methods that do not kill good insects. (There was a whole list of reasons given, but I cannot remember everything I read.) From this vendor, we purchased broccoli, cauliflower (purple and white) and kohlrabi.

That night I made something so easy and delicious - mashed cauliflower. I trimmed off the leaves and stem and cut the florets. I steamed the florets and the stem (1st I peeled off the outer layer of the stem). After the cauliflower was good and soft (10 minutes?), I threw it into a food processor, added a tbsp. of plain yogurt, a tbsp. of olive oil and a tbsp. of the water I had used to steam it. I also added salt and pepper and pureed it until it was smooth. I added some extra water to make it creamier.

As I was trimming and cutting the cauliflower, I had a really lovely surprise. I found this little guy (pictured on Chris' finger):

He reminded me that much of my food lately has been coming from gardens instead of grocery stores.

Next time I make the mashed cauliflower, instead of first steaming the cauliflower, I'll roast it in the oven with garlic and olive oil. But steaming it is certainly a quick way to go. Pictured below, along with salad and hanger steak, is what the mashed cauliflower looked like. I wish you could taste them.

A few last words. About the hanger steak - if you force yourself to eat with your stomach instead of your eyes, you can serve it to 4 people. When we're lucky enough to score a hanger steak (usually 3/4-1lb at appx. $7/lb), we cook half and split that half between us so we can spread it over 2 meals.


  1. Cauliflower puree makes a good sauce for mild fish, like halibut, saute onions, and the steamed or roasted cauliflower, and some fresh thyme, I prefer french thyme, but them I have a choice of 5 thymes, put in a blender and add stock the desired consistency. FYI, hold the lid on the blender whenever you puree hot foods/liquids, and let the blender come to a complete stop before taking the lid off

  2. i will definitely try the mashed cauliflower. it sounds like a tasty way to eat a boring veggie. i'm loving your blog.

  3. Why do I read your blog before lunch! Well, off I go to get some lunch now.

  4. Mmmm. Is is a dessert? Maybe I'll have frozen dessert night.