Thursday, December 27, 2012

And the Beet Goes In(to the Juicer): Beet-Carrot-Spinach Juice

When it comes to receiving Christmas gifts, I’m a little nontraditional. Diamonds might be a girl’s best friend, but who wants a best friend who’s prettier than you? Also, best friends can stab you in the back - and if they’re using a diamond, it’s going to hurt.

So David, who obviously knows me well, gifted me a juicer. It’s not just any juicer - it’s the Omega 8006 Nutrition Center Juicer. We named it Omar. Omar is easy to clean, which makes him far superior to the only other juicer any other juicer I’ve ever used.

Of course, I wanted to start “juicing” (that’s what the cool kids call it) immediately. I decided to switch our Plow to Porch delivery subscription to the “Juicing Box,” which includes more juicing-friendly produce and fewer random things like turnips and dragon fruit.

We received our delivery later that week, and it included an absurd amount of beets. I don’t have anything against beets, but I usually like to eat about one beet per sitting, maybe two if for some reason I have two beets on a plate in front of me. In this “Juicing Box,” we received three bunches of beets, with four beets to a bunch. Math is not my strong suit, but that is too many beets.

At this point, we had no choice but to start juicing every day, so none of the produce would go to waste. It became sort of a bonding ritual between me, David, and Omar. David would come home from the office to find me diligently scrapbooking writing my dissertation, and we would head to the kitchen to find Omar and make some juice. We came up with a bunch of different juice “recipes,” all of which included beets, of course.

I felt like Lil’ Wayne with all the beets I was dropping… into the juicer. One of my favorite recipes only involves three vegetables: carrots, beets (duh), and spinach. Here’s what I used:

6 carrots from Rancho Cortez in Santa Maria, CA (distance from me: 65 miles)
3 beets, including stalks (save the leafy greens for a later meal)
1 bunch spinach, also from Rancho Cortez

I started with the spinach, because Omar’s instruction booklet said he prefers it if you start with the softer objects (like spinach) and work up to the harder objects (like carrots). That seemed reasonable. But after most of the spinach had been juiced, here’s what I had:

A disappointing yield, I’m sure you’ll agree. But not to worry: greens always produce a paltry amount of juice, and that’s just as well, because spinach juice tastes all weird and bitter. That’s what the carrots and beets are for: to make you forget you’re consuming an entire bunch of spinach in two sips. After juicing all the carrots and beets as well, I had a container full of juice (on the right, closer to Omar) and a container of pulp (on the left):
It was enough to fill two mason jars: one for each of us. I was struck by how much the carrot-beet-spinach juice resembled blood, and I suspect David had the same thought, because his face looked a little funny as he raised his mason jar to clink with mine.
Vampire juice?
After taking a sip, David and I smiled at each other from across the kitchen table and immediately turned away in disgust: our teeth were coated with a sheen of the blood-red juice. A superstitious person might assume we were vampires who had, just this second, committed murder.

On the bright side, it tastes delicious. The bitter taste of the spinach is completely overwhelmed by the sweet beets and carrots (whose juice is as sweet as a fruit’s, surprisingly). The moral of the story is: drink this juice, but not before a hot date! Unless your date is into the whole vampire fad.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Square Soup (Squash + Pear Soup)

If you know me, you know that the only thing I like more than a good nap is a good portmanteau. And my penchant for portmanteaus extends beyond the obvious ones (“bromance,” “jorts,” “biopic,” etc.). For example, are you gay and also Asian? You’re gaysian. Did you accidentally fart when you sneezed? Gross, you just snarted.

Now, over the past few weeks, the delicata squash situation in my house had become, well, squawful. They just kept coming every week in my Plow to Porch box and I had run out of ideas of how to use them.

At first I tried to turn them into a whimsical centerpiece, but five squash standing in a line looks more awkward than attractive. It wasn’t even much of a conversation starter: “Hey, babe, what are we planning to do with all this squash?” “… Yeah, I don’t know. There are a lot of them, huh?” “Yeah.”

I figured the best way to use up too many of any vegetable is to make a soup. I wanted to make a soup with a bit of sweetness. Fortunately, as it turned out, I had also been compiling a surplus of pears. They were hidden in a drawer in my refrigerator, though, so their presence wasn’t as intrusive as that of the delicata squash.

I realized I could use up all my squash and three of my pears in one go by turning them into Squash Pear Soup. Square Soup.

My soup is only square in name, though: I thought serving it in a square bowl would just be redundant. Also I don’t own any square bowls.

Square Soup

Square soup in a round bowl
5 delicata squash from Jose Alcanta Garcia
3 Bartlett pears from Todd Ranch
1 tablespoon honey from San Marcos Farms
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cups chicken broth
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
½ cup evaporated milk

First, I preheated the oven to 350 degrees. While it was heating up, I got to work on the squares. I sliced each one down the middle and brushed it with a little bit of olive oil. Then I arranged the halves on cookie trays, like so:
I popped the trays in the oven for 30 minutes and killed time by deciding on a new, more attractive centerpiece (I went with a single pumpkin).

After 30 minutes, I poked the squash with a fork and it was tender, so I took the trays out of the oven. I let the squares cool down for about 10 minutes, then used a spoon to scoop the flesh (or whatever gross word you want to apply to the inside of a squash or pear) into a blender.

The blender was almost full, but there was room for one cup of chicken broth, which I added to help the mixture liquefy. When it was the consistency of food you could feed someone through a tube, I transferred it from the blender into a pot and added the rest of the chicken broth, the nutmeg, and the honey.

I brought it to a boil on the stove, then let it simmer for 10 minutes. A few minutes before I served it (to myself), I stirred in the evaporated milk and continued to let it simmer.

Finally, my square soup was ready! It tasted different than I expected it to – it was a little spicy from the nutmeg. But the 5:1 squash:pear ratio turned out to be pretty perfect in terms of balancing squashiness and sweetness. And this recipe made about 12 servings, so I’ll be having square soup in a round bowl with my dinner for another week!