Sometimes with a CSA share, using everything up before it spoils becomes a challenge. Here's how I handled some organic veggies that were lingering in my 'fridge. As with fashion, simplicity with food always works somehow.
When I was a little girl growing up in the mountains, autumn fruit consisted solely of apples, oranges and pears. When pomegranates were in season and available – usually once a year or so – my adventurous mom always came home from the market with one or two. I honestly think that, in some small way, eating pomegranates helped awaken my palette. Methodically quartering the fruit and savoring the ruby-like seeds one by one seemed so much more exotic to me than mindlessly munching on yet another Macintosh. It also helped me realize there was an entire world out there, waiting to be discovered.
Pomegranates are a sign of good luck and abundance, so it makes perfect sense to bump up the hedonism quotient by pairing these little gems with best-quality, slightly bitter dark chocolate. This parallels their tartness, and also teases out the seeds' sweet and delicate essence.
First and foremost, wear an apron or old clothes, because both pomegranates and chocolate stain! Cut a pomegranate into quarters. Submerge it in a large, stainless-steel bowl and coax the seeds away from the skin. The good seeds will sink to the bottom. The bad seeds will float to the top.
Skim away any refuse that you can, then drain the seeds well.
Drain the seeds on some paper towels for a few hours, changing towels halfway. Gently blot the little rubies with another paper towel before dipping to make sure they are completely dry.
Melt about 1 cup of best-quality dark chocolate buttons at 50% power. [I used Valrhona 72% Dark Chocolate. Please use the best chocolate you can find. It makes a huge difference.] Nuke at 2-minutes intervals until smooth. You can also melt the chocolate on the stove over double boiler.
Stir well with a fork or whisk to ensure that the mixture is completely smooth and creamy. It should glisten and have a slightly runny texture.
This is the fun part. Toss about 5-8 seeds into the melted chocolate. Using a fork, gently bathe them in chocolate. Let as much excess chocolate as possible fall between the fork tines, then drop the coated seeds, one or two at a time, onto some parchment or wax paper to cool. Depending on how fast you work, you may need to gently re-heat the chocolate in the microwave for 30 or so seconds.
The cooling, chocolate-covered pomegranate seeds: my homage to Jackson Pollack. Make sure they cool overnight or at least for 5 or 6 hours.
Serve these little treats in a pretty contrasting bowl. Enjoy them within a few days.
Listen to music when you cook and see what happens
Music, to me, is just slightly less important than food and water on my hierarchy of needs; the older I get, the more I realize how it truly feeds my spirit and centers me. I feel panicky when I forget my iPhone ear buds, probably because music always takes me to a good place.
Case in point: last night. As I listened to Miles Davis' "Kind of Blue," I faced a refrigerator brimming with CSA-share veggies – and no defined plan for dinner. Improvisation is at the heart of jazz, so I decided to allow the same spirit of serendipity to infuse my cooking.
And so Chickpeas with Tomatoes, Eggplant and Kale was born. This chickpea- and veggie-laden dish is reminiscent of something you'd find in southern Europe or North Africa [especially if you add harissa]. It tastes best if you allow it to simmer on low for a few hours and allow the flavors jam and get to know each other. In this recipe, olive oil, onions, and garlic are the drums, piano, and bass: the three essential instruments. That said, so don't fret if you only have 2 tomatoes. And if you feel a strong urge to toss in a red pepper, do it in the true spirit of jazz! This entree is substantial enough on it's own, but you can also serve it over a whole grain, like brown rice, or pasta. Don't forget the music...
Chickpeas with Tomatoes, Eggplant and Kale
1 medium eggplant
1/3 cup olive oil
1 large sweet onion, peeled and chopped and 6-7 garlic cloves, peeled. Make into a paste by whirring in a food processor [Try to use a sweet onion if you can get one. It really makes a difference]
Dollop of harissa [Optional, but wonderful]
3 large, ripe tomatoes, chopped
About 1 cup kale, trimmed and chopped finely
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp dried basil
1 T dried parsley
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 15 ounce can of chickpeas, rinsed and drained
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 450. Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil and spray it with cooking spray. Prick the eggplant all over with a fork, place on cookie sheet in heated oven and roast for about 45 minutes or until it's pooped. Remove from oven, slice in half and allow it to cool. Then scrape out the insides, chop, if needed, and set aside.
In a large casserole or high-sided pan, heat oil over medium low. Add onion/garlic mixture, and harrissa, if using. Cook about 10 minutes, or until everything is translucent. Be careful not to burn.
Add remaining ingredients, including eggplant pulp but excluding the chickpeas. Bring to a boil, then lower heat to low. Cook for 1-2 hours, adding more oil [or water or veggie stock, if you are less inclined toward decadence] as needed. This is the most important part of this dish...the longer it simmers, the better it will taste, since the flavors need to meld.
Add the chickpeas about 30 minutes before you want to eat. Cover and simmer, adjust the seasonings, as needed, then enjoy.