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I’m on a one-woman mission to save the rutabaga.

Which, according to my research today, is also called a “Swede” in Europe. I was in the midst of making a Scotch broth soup with my leftover holiday lamb and Jamie Oliver advised that I should chop up a Swede and throw it into the pot along with my vegetables.

Perhaps a soup for Jeffrey Dahmer, but I vow to keep my soups human-free. Let’s refer to rutabaga using its North American lingo. And to complicate things with one more rule, let’s avoid the common Southern pronunciation “ruda-beggers” which is even more worrisome than “Swede”.

If you’re A) from Europe or B) from the South and would like return the linguistic praise, feel free. I’m Canadian and come pre-packaged with a hot mess of language issues. I call the garbage disposal a “garberator”, pronounce basil with a soft “a” and if you steal my two-four, there might be a kerfuffle, but I can be easily repaid in peameal bacon. If it dribbles I’ll just wipe my face with a serviette.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s talk soup.

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You may recall that I introduced rutabaga to my kids as part of our mystery food challenge. One of the interesting observations was that rutabaga smells and tastes a little like broccoli. Lauren mentioned it first, and I guffawed but then brought the object right under my nose, and sure enough, the essence of broccoli itself.

I had visited the farmer’s market last weekend and bought two more rutabagas. Broccoli is a favorite in our house, making rutabagas appealing by proxy. They’re easy to prep- just peel off the skin and dice them for a stove-top simmer or a long, slow roast.

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Let it be known that by reading this blog, you may encounter recipes that I do not (clarify, DO NOT) want you to make. There was the incident of the rocky mountain oysters….and speaking of oysters, I brought you that broiled oyster thingamajig, which was less meal porn, more statement about eating oysters in months that end in letters other than “R”. Stay away from them. If you’re at a wedding in June, slowly back away from the tiered seafood platter. Ignore the bride as she gushes that the oysters are all local and hand-harvested! And you’re in Long Island. This would be a different story if you’re at a wedding in PEI or the Arctic Circle. Then, by all means, go ahead.

Maybe I should stay away from oysters period. They don’t do anything to further the content of this space. And neither, really, does caramel.

Like the baked oysters post, I’m going to show you a few images of some salty sweet caramels. Unlike the baked oysters post, these images are appetizing. These caramels are darn right cute. They’re perfect on their own, but then throw in some earnest parchment paper and twine ties, and they could be straight out of an artisanal Brooklyn food festival.

You can eat them yourself, or you can do what I did, which is bundle them into some cellophane packaging (more cute points) and gift them! Save them for the people who will really appreciate them. Your friends on Instagram who message you with sweet notes like “MUST HAVE THESE!” with emojis of hearts, daggers and the rest of the dangerous weapons.

Because these caramels, for lack of a better phrase, are a bit*% to make. I make it a case not to swear in my posts, but in order to authentically translate the full caramel-making experience, it was necessary.

It all started innocently enough. I’d been buying goat caramels at Forager’s Market every time I picked up my morning coffee. My jacket pockets feel empty without a few balled-up wrappers wedged into the corners that collect the stray pennies.

Channeling my inner Emeril, I thought “SELF! These have to be pretty easy to make at home…” And so began my search for the perfect goat caramel recipe.

Not that I had many to choose from. Every time I searched “goat milk caramels” and other iterations of the phrase, only one recipe floated to the top of the page.

It was a sign.

I emailed Vermont Creamery to find out whether they carry goat milk. They responded that all of their goat milk is used to make cheese. It’s very good cheese though, Vermont Creamery I salute you for your decision. But it was back to the drawing board on my goat caramel mission. 

My search for goat milk continued, and there – right when I wasn’t looking ­­– a liter of it appeared. At Whole Foods no less, right next to my intended sour cream purchase. I quickly gathered the other necessary supplies – fresh creamery butter, corn syrup, and white & brown sugars.

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Back at home, I dug out my candy thermometer. The one with the notches lined up like minuscule drug dealers along the temperature gauge. Soft crack! Hard crack!

If you want to surprise your family, just tell them that you were drinking beer and making crack in your kitchen all afternoon.

I set up my candy-making station at the stove and got to work. Making caramel isn’t too challenging. There’s a lot of bubbling and spitting (the caramel, hopefully not you), which isn’t the worst sound if you’re prepared for it. You have to keep an eye on the caramel to make sure that it doesn’t bubble over your pot and destroy your stove; and be sure to give it the occasional stir…but as long as you’re in the kitchen paying a modest amount of attention, it’s simple business.

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Pour it into a prepared glass dish, and let it cool slightly, then sprinkle with Maldon salt. Again, child’s play.

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Vegetarians, avert your eyes…

We’re getting into the nitty gritty of pork belly today.

The pork belly ramen at David Chang’s Momofuku restaurant was one of my first experiences. Rodney and I went several years ago, waited for hours for a table, and sat down to ramen that can only be described as “well worth the wait.” A sweet harmony between chewy noodles, the porkiest pork broth, the belly itself, and what I now know to be a perfectly-runny 5:10 minute soft-boiled egg.

I soon decided to tackle pork belly at home, buying it in smaller pieces before graduating to larger roasts, which is what I prefer to cook these days. It makes enough for dinner and leaves plenty of meat for leftovers.

Although it shouldn’t have been a surprise – pork belly is essentially a big slab of bacon – I thought that it was funny when my kids started to request it for dinner. Spaghetti with tomato sauce, chicken tenders….pork belly.

If I were to rank the nutritional value of pork belly, it would rank right up there next to candy canes. So we don’t eat it often, making it an infrequent luxury.

But considering that it is the holidays, and that we’ll be eating like gluttons all week long, what’s the harm in an additional 1,000-calorie meal, correct?

I’ve been in a Thanksgiving frame of mind and can’t stop using all manner of sage and cranberry; forgive me if you’re facing an overload of these ingredients. December will be about fruit cake and royal icing, and at a certain point you’re welcome to tell me to stop featuring those too.

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Belly is nothing to look at in its raw state. You can buy it with the skin on – which is how it’s typically sold. You can alternatively ask your butcher to remove the skin, or do it yourself at home.

I’ve roasted pork belly with the skin on before, and it comes out flavorful, but with the texture of shoe leather. David Chang suggests that you keep the skin and make Chicharrón, but it involves a dehydrator and some technical skill in removing every last trace of fat. Count me in for that exercise when I retire to Palm Springs with my silver hair and Mephistos. Until then, there are far too many kids in the kitchen, husband included.

For now, let’s talk about the rest of the belly. In the spirit of Thanksgiving, this one is rubbed with a mixture of salt, sugar, chopped fresh sage and orange zest. I love citrus at this time of year, but Satsumas, with their vibrant color and sweet juice is perfect for this. But pick a favorite orange, anything will work.

Don’t forget to drink a beer while you’re making it.

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Roast on high heat for an hour, then turn down the temp to low. Much of the fat will render out, leaving you with soft, shreddable meat and a crunchy exterior.

While the belly is roasting, switch gears and make your cranberry sauce.

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If there’s a more Fall-spirited, festive, happy-making dish around, please fill me in.

Let’s talk about ingredients first, starting with this squash. (I know, I know, three straight weeks of squash…next week will be squash-free, promise).

The name “Carnival” really sums it up. This squash makes me want to throw on a party hat and blow on a plastic kazoo. Am I the only one?

Carnival squash is a heritage breed and can usually be found at your local farmer’s market. If you’re really lucky, lighting strikes, and you’re there on the right day, you can find them at Whole Foods. Especially around Thanksgiving when Whole Foods erupts into a massive delivery channel of straight-from-the-farm produce, from Winter greens to Winter squash, Garnet Yams, and everything in between.

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The Carnival squash’s skin ranges from dark green to vivid orange, and the flesh is sweet and a little spicy. I’ve got to be careful about using the word “flesh” since my kids erroneously presumed that I was feeding them humans when we did our mystery food challenge last week. I assume that you won’t make the same mistake. We don’t eat humans in our house, and neither should you.

If you’ve been reading my posts, you’ll know that I have a habit of prepping ingredients right after I get home from the store. Prepped ingredients are far easier to incorporate into quick-fix meals, so I usually slice and roast squash with nothing but olive oil, salt and pepper, and then figure out how to use it at a later time.

Likewise with homemade stock. Whenever I’m at the store, I pick up a few extra pieces of bony/collagen-filled meat, which I make into stock that can either be refrigerated for a few days, or frozen. If you’ve ever wondered who that person is buying up those packages of chicken backs, lamb necks, or chunky pork bones – that would be me. They’re cheap, and the bones give your stock incredible body.

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Here we are. The last CSA post of the season. I don’t know whether to click my heels in the air or shed a tear. I’m torn….

These posts are a beast to put together – many of them tally 3,000 words in length, which to give you some perspective, is like writing an AP English final every week (albeit without the stress and pre-reading).

But it’s fun. I love taking you on a journey through food: how we tackle mealtime based on our CSA deliveries, and how we use leftovers from one meal to create the next. It keeps me honest – never again will I question exactly what went into that strawberries and cream cake that I served on Emma’s birthday, or wonder how I made those waffled grilled cheeses.

I keep thinking about next week’s post, and the post after that – will I feel empty writing about just….one dish?

Perhaps. And perhaps not. Maybe having some free time will motivate me to clean out the kids’ long stockpiled art collection. Shop for some desperately-needed non-2007-era clothes. Massage? Manicure! This is actually starting to sound good….

Today I’ll leave you with the set of recipes that I made from my final Bialas Farms box: Week 18. Here’s what we received in our box this week:

  • Baby Bakers (potatoes)
  • Leeks
  • Green Cabbage
  • Delicata Squash
  • Shallots
  • Lettuce
  • Sweet Carrots
  • Bunched Beets
  • Sugar Pumpkin
  • Celery
  • Bok Choy

It’s a big set of recipes. Something about this being my last box made me nostalgic about my deliveries before the week was over. If last week I struggled to put interesting meals on the table, this week I was chock full of ideas. It also helped that I received my monthly box from Hatchery, whose products always seem to get the juices flowing.

I’ll admit that the first meal that I made doesn’t fall squarely into the “interesting” category. A split roast chicken, carrots and parsnips cooked in honey, butter and herbs (along with some of the chicken juices).

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Not creative and unique, but certainly delicious…And made for a beautiful Saturday night dinner at the lake, paired with a butternut squash casserole and a fresh green salad with a previous week’s stash of leftover romaine.

I found the squash casserole on Food & Wine magazine’s site and followed it to the letter. Not only was I able to use my CSA butternut squash, but I also used some of the leeks from last week’s box, as well as thyme from my kitchen garden. If you’re planning Thanksgiving sides, I highly recommend this bad boy.

With a little leftover chicken, and some homemade stock from the bones, I made a Sunday night (gluten free) chicken noodle soup. I had a few old zucchinis from a few weeks ago, which looked like they were nearly ready for the garbage bin—but I was able to salvage this sorry lot by peeling off some of the softening green skin, and spiralizing them into noodles.

My kids are so-so with spiralized zucchini noodles on their own, but I learned this week that if you add them to soup, their whole attitude changes. Sam even declared this chicken and vegetable noodle soup his new favorite. In fact, he made me promise me that I would still make him this “when he’s an adult”. Deal.

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To make the chicken soup with zucchini noodles

First make the chicken stock by taking the remaining bones from the half chicken and placing them along in a slow cooker with a few types of chopped vegetables (I used leek greens, carrots, and celery) along with some thyme and black peppercorns. Cover with water and cook on low overnight, and then strain the next day. Save any remaining chicken for your soup, and if you have none left, simply cook a breast the next day and chop/shred it for the soup. Store the stock in the fridge until you’re ready to use it for the soup.

When you’re ready to make the soup, simply prep a bunch of vegetables- I used chopped celery, carrots, red peppers, and zucchini noodles (1 zucchini, peeled, and passed through a spiralizer). Since the carrots, celery and red peppers are quite hard, you can either cook them in the chicken stock in the slow cooker for a few hours when you’re out that day, or if you’re using them at the last minute, put them in a microwave-safe container with a splash of water, and nuke, partially covered, for about 2 minutes. Drain the water. In a Dutch oven, combine your vegetables (including the zucchini noodles) and your stock and bring to a simmer. Add salt to taste, and some chopped fresh parsley. In a separate bowl, whisk an egg, and then slowly add a ladleful of hot stock to the bowl, whisking constantly. Take the pot of soup off the heat, and then add the stock/egg mixture to the pot, stirring constantly. On low heat, warm the soup gently for a minute or two, making sure that the soup doesn’t boil and scramble the eggs. Serve with a grinding of fresh black pepper.

Note: If you have leftovers, this soup may separate in the fridge. If that happens, just give the jar a good shake before heating it back up.

If you were to guess what my favorite vegetable has been, you would likely guess incorrectly. The vegetable that I loved most of all, strangely enough, was this: German white garlic.

There is a huge difference between the garlic that I find at the grocery store, and the plump, sturdy cloves that I received most weeks as part of my CSA. The German white garlic heads come with only 4-5 cloves – not multitudes of tiny cloves that make you peel and curse, peel and curse. I hate that garlic. It does the job, but oy.

So not only did I receive garlic most weeks with my CSA, but I also bought extra to stow away for rainy days and stewing adventures.

This is not stew: 

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