Sunday, March 22, 2009

The First Meal

Before we get to the food, a few words of introduction on this sunny second day of spring.

  • We aren't peasants. We teach at a private boarding school north of Boston. We do yoga and enjoy watching subtitled films. We don't have farm animals (though we'd like to) and, unlike most peasants, food takes up a very small percentage of our income. Despite these unpeasant-like credentials, however, we both grew up in rural Maine in families that subsisted, at one time or another, on farming and various approaches to gleaning and living off the fat of the land. Our families tended to eat very well without spending much money. And so do we.
  • Our exploration of peasant food is in the context of globalisation. Thanks to the modern industrialized food system that you have to love and hate, many of us are far removed from our food sources yet we can get virtually any type of food we want at the grocery store regardless of the season. Your average peasant, on the other hand, tends to live near her food source and probably eats seasonal foods and preserves food to last through the winter. Most of us live in a world defined by globalisation. The food and recipes in this blog will reflect modern times, but will strive to retain what we feel are the essential qualities of peasant food: that it be delicious, economical, healthy, relatively simple and easy to prepare, and considerate of the seasons and local environment.
  • Most of our dishes don't have names. Bake a sweet potato. Steam some greens. Saute some carrots and ginger. That all tastes damn good, but it doesn't necessarily have a cutsie recipe name. Most peasants don't use cookbooks or watch cooking shows; the ingredients and recipes are just a fundamental part of their lives. We're trying not to overcomplicate matters here. Most of it's straightforward food. Cook it. Eat it. Ommmm.
As with much peasant cuisine, our first meal on this exploration fits right in with Michael Pollan's introductory words in In Defense of Food: "Eat food. Mostly plants. Not too much."

It's the end of winter, so note the emphasis on root crops in this meal : carrots, turnips, sweet potato, onion. The white stuff in the measuring cup is quinoa, a grain we've recently discovered and fallen in love with (get it at any grocery store in the bulk section). It's super easy to make (it cooks like rice), it adds variety to the staple (and boring) base grains of rice and pasta, and it tastes excellent. On a final note, this whole meal can be quite easily vegan fare, except that Adele added butter to the turnip because she's French-Canadian and butter flows through her veins.

There are three parts to this meal, so you'll need to do a little prepping of the elements before jumping in to make sure that everything is finished and ready to serve at about the same time. So read ahead before starting...

1) Wash and make some slits in a large sweet potato. Wrap in tin foil and bake at 425F for approximately 45 minutes.

2) Peel and cube a large turnip. In an oven-safe dish, mix with olive oil and (optional) a couple pats of butter, the rest of the onion peeled and chopped, and 5 or 6 garlic cloves peeled. Roast in a 425F degree oven for about 30 minutes.

3) 2) Bring 1/2 cup of quinoa and a cup of cold, salted water to a boil. Cover and reduce to simmer for 20 minutes.

4) When the quinoa is about half done, heat a generous amount of olive oil in a large skillet. Add 2 finely chopped carrots, a 1/4 of a finely chopped onion, and 1 large clove of garlic minced, a handful of raisins, cumin (about 1 tsp), powdered ginger, cinnamon, coriandar (each about 1/2 tsp) and salt to taste. Cook on medium-low heat until carrots are just tender. Add the cooked quinoa and a little more water, and cook for a few more minutes.

A glass of red wine, a slice of lemon, and dinner is served!

Total prep & cook time: about an hour
Approximate cost: $7.00 for two people

1 comment:

  1. Hey, Adele and Josh!
    I love the idea of the blog, and the layout is great, too. The photos really add a lot. I just bookmarked it, so I'll be a regular!