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I have a surprise for you.

This week, there will be no snow….no kids….no lake….no booze….no feast. I know, I know, why muck with tradition. But sometimes you need to shake things up. Show some diversity. Act like you have a life beyond your four walls and backyard.

New York is an interesting place. Yes, it’s the big, bustling city that we all know. But in many respects it’s like a village. You bump into your neighbors, know your mailman on a first name basis, say hello to the Super who works a few buildings down the street.

Often, particularly if you have no reason (work, school, etc) to get outside of your neighborhood, you become complacent and live within a 1-mile radius. Everything you need – good restaurants, dentists, doctors, movie theaters, food shopping, toy stores – is right there. Quite literally, there is no reason to leave. Except for the guilt that reminds you that you chose to live in this city for everything that exists beyond that 1-mile radius.

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I took these photos a few weeks ago when I visited the Union Square farmer’s market. Union Square is right next to Chelsea, a 10-15 minute walk depending on my energy level; but sometimes, particularly in the winter, it feels like a trek. It’s just so darn cold, and ordering my groceries on Fresh Direct with the click of a button is too darn easy.

But I miss it. I miss the market and its earnest farmers. I miss the conversations about weather and yield. Most of all, I miss the heirloom varieties of radish, squash, turnip and carrot, in colors that range from vibrant purple and forest green to maize and garnet and goldenrod.

So here, without further ado, are a few photos from my latest visit to the Union Square farmer’s market. Which had me buying so much produce that I was forced to hail a taxi for the return trip to my apartment. Always a good sign.

If you’re in New York, or any city for that matter, pay a visit to your local farmer’s market. Prime season is coming up soon, but it’ll be a few more cold weeks before we get there. I’m sure that your local farmers would appreciate the love.

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rutabaga_FeedMeDearlyI don’t buy rutabaga often…wait, let me flip through my mental files….I don’t think I’ve ever bought it. Doesn’t the name imply the over-boiled vegetables that your Scottish grandmother might have forced you to eat as a child? The funny thing that we discovered about rutabaga is that it does in fact smell (and taste) a little like broccoli. And as I’ve found out over the last few days, it makes for the best mashers (add a little brown butter)…which leads to the best Shepherd’s pie. Which, if you ignore the vast amounts of butter and cream required to get you to the finish line, feels a little healthier than your standard white spuds. So for what it’s worth, I recommend giving rutabaga a try. If only to brag to your friends that your kids were eating it the night before.

ME: OK, hold on. Wait. This is the mystery food! What is this called?

LAUREN: Squash?

EMMA: CHEESE!

ME: It looks like cheese, doesn’t it?

LAUREN: Yellow squash?  

ME: Yeah, it looks exactly like yellow squash, but it’snot.

LAUREN: Yellow melon?!

ME: Nope. What do you think it is, Sam?

SAM: Nothing.

ME: It’s not nothing. Do you want to smell it first? Who wants to smell it?

LAUREN: Smells like broccoli.
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 yams_FeedMeDearlySweet potatoes, yams, aren’t they all the same thing? In fact they’re not, with yams being starchier and drier than the orange-fleshed tubers that we’re used to seeing in the stores. And while sweet potatoes are delicious, sometimes I find them to be cloyingly sweet. Yams are a little more my speed; the kids’ reaction? Even sliced and baked into something that resembles a potato chip, yams held little appeal. One day they’ll come around… 

ME:  OK, guys. We’re trying a new mystery food.

SAM: Potato chips?

ME: It kind of looks like a potato chip, doesn’t it? But it’s actually not a potato chip.

SAM: What is it?!

ME: I’ll give you one. It’s a yam, like a sweet potato…but it’s white. Isn’t that interesting?

EMMA: I’m not going to have it!

ME: You don’t have to have it. You want to try it Lauren?

LAUREN: Mmm…

ME: You like it?! It’s good, right?

LAUREN: Kind of.

ME: Who else wants to try?

LAUREN: Um, why are they so hard.
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I just had my second to last CSA pickup and it’s making me a little weepy. I must confess that Rodney is ready to move on and not have our usual Saturday morning pickup stress. While he enjoys the fruits of my labor, he’s less enthusiastic about the fruit itself.

But me…I’m going to miss it. There are parts of it that I won’t miss – namely the omnipresent need each Saturday to wash several pounds of greens. But I love the ease of reaching into my crisper and pulling out something gorgeous that inspires me to cook.

Last week was no different. We returned from pickup with our usual bags (plural) of produce, which included the following:

  • Choice of Tomatoes
  • Buttercup Squash
  • Cubanelle Peppers
  • Parsnips
  • Romaine
  • Spinach
  • Adirondack Blue Potatoes
  • Onions
  • Cilantro
  • Parsley

I’ve become totally obsessed with buttercup squash and one of the first things I do now that it’s squash season is immediately slice the squash and bake it at 350 degrees with a few sprigs of fresh herbs. Otherwise it sits on my counter and mocks me when I’m too busy during the weekdays to think about roasting squash for dinner.

Buttercup is sweeter than some of the other varieties that you might encounter – the butternuts, the acorns. And like all squash, it sits well in the fridge once it’s been cooked, making it useful for all kinds of recipes down the road. 

With the buttercup roasted and in the fridge, I set about making dinner. I had planned for roast chicken, but as so often happens up at the lake, we started drinking wine, and by 5PM I was slightly wobbly and had no inherent interest in making dinner. But I was hungry, and came up with the idea to make the top layer of scalloped potatoes for dinner using nothing but a few potatoes, onions, cream, parm, herbs, and a few cloves of garlic.

The true story behind these potatoes is even more shameful than their slightly embarrasing beginnings. Having fed the kids, Rodney and I found ourselves starving when the potatoes eventually came out of the oven (slightly too crispy from inattention) and rather than eat them at the table like civilized adults, we plunked ourselves right down on the floor in the kitchen, the platter between us, sleeves rolled up, cutlery free, and dove right in.

I rationalized that they were more similar to nachos than a potato side dish, which didn’t make things any better. My id was ashamed, and I’ve vowed never to eat dinner on the floor again to protect my easily-bruised ego.

To make the scalloped potato sheet pan:

Layer the following ingredients in a sheet pan that’s been rubbed with olive oil and covered in parchment paper: 3 medium red potatoes, thinly sliced; 2 cipollini onions, thinly sliced; 3 garlic cloves, lightly crushed. Pour ½ cup of chicken stock and ½ cup of heavy cream over the potatoes. Toss some parmesan cheese (about 1/3 cup) over the top and sprinkle with a little more salt and freshly-ground pepper. Scatter thyme leaves on top of the potatoes and bake at 350 degrees for about 90 minutes (or until the potatoes are golden and bubbling). Since I was drinking wine, I lost track of time and nuked them a little longer than I should have but they were still wonderfully delicious.

I know that I haven’t talked about what happened to the squash yet; that’s still to come…for now, let’s talk turkey.

Perhaps because I’m not cooking Thanksgiving this year, but have had some kilowatt cravings for turkey. Buying a whole turkey for our family is a little excessive as two big appetites don’t make up for three little ones. And we all know how I feel about poultry breast. If you’re unfamiliar, I urge you to check out this post where I review my feelings in detail. However, on occasion, Whole Foods will surprise me with the gift of drumsticks, and when I see them at the store, I’ll buy a pack or two.

And what better way to prepare them than to dry-brine the drumsticks overnight, David Chang-style, with a touch of salt and sugar. And because it’s turkey…a little dried sage. I also used my David Chang pork belly technique on the drumsticks with a high temp sear in the oven, followed by a low and slow bake at 250 degrees. It produces the best kind of drumstick – brown and crispy on the outside with juicy leg meat inside.

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We ate the majority of the drumsticks on their own, as you would at your local Renaissance Fair with sleeves rolled up and juices dribbling down our chins. Minus the wenches of course.

What, might you ask, does this have to do with my CSA? Leftover turkey is wonderful in all kinds of dishes, and don’t you start thinking about tetrazzini. Although come to think of it, prepared with good ingredients, tetrazzini would likely be spectacular. Turkey is great in anything from soup to fried rice, but I used it here in lettuce cups using my CSA romaine. The lettuce cups are really healthy – gluten and dairy-free – and get a sweet and spicy kick from curry powder and dried cranberries.

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To make the turkey drumsticks:

 

Dry rub the drumsticks with a few tablespoons of salt, sugar, and dried sage. Let sit in the fridge overnight, tightly wrapped with saran wrap. The next day, let the drumsticks come to room temp and then bake in a hot oven at 425 degrees for 30-45 minutes until nice and crispy. Turn the oven temp way down to 250 degrees and continue to bake for a few more hours- they won’t dry out at this temp and with their juices sealed in- test with an oven thermometer if you’re unsure (leg meat should read 165 degrees). They should be done in 1 hour, but I let mine go for 3 hours and they were perfect.

To make the lettuce wraps:

Wash and dry a few large romaine leaves and set aside. Shred or chop the meat from 2 drumsticks and mix with a few tablespoons of mayonnaise, a teaspoon of curry powder, 1 rib of chopped celery and 2 tablespoons of dried cranberries. Give the whole thing a stir, season if necessary with salt and pepper, and then pile into the romaine leaves, garnishing with a few fresh cilantro leaves.

And now that I’ve mentioned David Chang, I might as well fully admit to the fact that I made pork belly again. I’m pretty sure that cooking it twice in 10 days is as severe an offense as making banana cream pie twice in that same time period. I can’t help it, I’m completely addicted to it, and even worse, I’ve gotten my kids to love it too. Lauren was begging for pork belly last week with a slightly crazed look in her eye.

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