Consider the Fall and the Fork

Alas. Thursday markets are history for 2012. At least we have Saturdays until Thanksgiving, but gone for the season are the days when I could forget something or run out of it after Thursday and just pick more up on Saturday. In fact, missing this past Saturday's market forced me to buy store eggs for the first time all summer. Sigh.

But enough droopiness! There's plenty of good food to be eaten, including this recipe for Indian-style Potatoes, Green Beans, and Carrots with Cashews, adapted from Cooking Light, August 2000. This recipe is perfect for all those fall vegetables, can be made vegan, or goes great with roasted chicken.

1 Tbsp vegetable oil
2 cups sliced onion
2 Tbsp minced, peeled fresh ginger
1/2 tsp turmeric
8 cups (about 1.5 lbs) 3/4" cubed potatoes (ask your farmer which variety holds up well to stewing)
2-3 cups julienne-cut carrots (about 1/2-1 lb.)
2 chopped, seeded jalapenos or other pepper
1.5 cups vegetable or chicken broth, divided
1/2 lb green beans, cut in 2" pieces
2 tsp sugar
1/4 cup ground cashews
2 Tbsp minced fresh cilantro
1/4 cup chopped, toasted cashews

Onions sauteeing in the Le Creuset

Heat the oil over medium-high in a big enough pot with a lid. Add onions, ginger and turmeric, and saute 2 minutes.

Add the potatoes, carrots and peppers. (Notice I ran out of carrots and Hedlin had a milder pepper that day.) Add 1 cup broth. Bring to boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 25 minutes.

Add remaining broth, green beans, and sugar. Cook 12 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in ground cashews.

Serve, topped with cilantro and toasted cashews.

You'll notice I cooked mine up in my little orange Le Creuset dutch oven. Not to go all product-placement on you, but I recently I read Consider the Fork: How Technology Transforms the Way We Cook and Eat by Bee Wilson. Among the many technologies Wilson discusses, from boiling in water, roasting spits, forks, and chopsticks, to microwaves and refrigerators, the cooking benefits of cast iron come up. As Wilson writes, "If well seasoned, a cast-iron skillet has excellent nonstick properties, and because it is so heavy, it can withstand the high heat needed for searing." The downside to cast-iron: it rusts easily and leaches iron into your food. To counter these, in 1925, two Belgians began coating the iron in a "vitreous enamel glaze." Le Creuset was born, with its distinctive, beautiful colors, including my Flame Orange, which was the first shade developed!
Consider the Fork is an interesting history of all things cooking and kitchen, in the tradition of Bill Bryson's At Home. In addition to technology, Wilson makes fascinating detours into topics like how the way we eat has affected orthodontia (we all have over-erupted incisors because we don't grab and tear meat with our front teeth anymore) and fear of new kitchen technologies (refrigeration raised eyebrows because then sellers could pass of old food as fresh). She discussed food fashions and how technology determined food culture. I would have loved to hear more about how food processing affects our bodies, as she notes early on that: "There is good evidence to suggest that the current obesity crisis is caused, in part, not by what we eat (though this is of course vital, too) but by the degree to which our food has been processed before we eat it." Wilson cites a Japanese study where lab rats were fed the same amount of calories, but in different forms. After twenty-two weeks, the rats on the soft-pellet diet had become obese, despite the fact that the pellets they received were identical in nutrients and calories to the what was being given the other rats. The only difference was processing and texture. If that doesn't make you want to lay off the Cheetos, I don't know what will. But we've entered a processed world. Wilson cites a 2006 survey that found that, although 75% of Americans eat dinner at home, not even one-third of them were eating meals prepared from scratch. More likely it came from a frozen meal, a boxed mix, a jar. Soft pellets, people...

Speaking of home-cooking, Wilson investigates the claim that Victorians cooked all their vegetables to textureless mush and discovers that, given the pot size and cooking methods of the time, their boiled veggies weren't that different than what those of us who eat boiled veggies would deem acceptable.

I would recommend this book both to foodies and to history of science lovers. But most of all, I would recommend hitting the Saturday Market and cooking a couple meals from scratch!

(There will be no post next week because the UrbanFarmJunkie will be on a little vacation without a computer. But no matter where I am, my thoughts are always on my next meal!)