Holidays and Hunger

I’ve let myself go. It has been more than three shameful weeks since a new post on this blog, and I am disappointed in myself. Of course, I could use the excuse of the hectic holiday season–and I will. Whenever I sat down in front of a computer for recreational purposes, I almost always got sucked into online gift shopping.

The reason for the start of the hiatus was my being sick. I apologize for the weakness. I had the standard range of cold symptoms. It wasn’t the kind of thing that kept me from cooking completely, but instead of stopping every few minutes to grab my camera and take a photo or pick up a pen and make some notes, I stopped every few minutes to cough or sneeze and then wash my hands. Boy was my skin dry. The foods ranged from roasted sweet potato wedges and farro with mushrooms and greens to macaroni and cheese, the ultimate comfort food.

Starting in the first week of December, the clock seemed to run at double time after 5pm each weeknight. My holiday baking started so late that some people received packages after Christmas. Sigh. In case you are wondering, some of the treats I prepared were Smitten Kitchen’s sugared pretzel cookies, cornmeal jam thumbprints, hazelnut cherry chocolate bark, fudge-y brownies, peanut butter/chocolate chip cookies, and the standard frosted cut-out sugar cookies.

Time crunch aside, I have plenty to be grateful for this holiday season. That includes the wonderful fresh food I have available to eat each week.
A place at the table image
This would be a good time talk about a movie screening I attended last month, facilitated by Island Harvest, the local hunger relief organization on Long Island. In partnership with a cinema, they screened the film A Place at the Table, a documentary focused on hunger in America. It happens to be produced in part by Tom Colicchio and his wife, and Tom Colicchio attended and participated in panel at the end of the screening, which I will admit was a draw. While we sat and watched the film, I felt saddened, infuriated, and enlightened all at once. Any description I try to make will not do it justice, so I strongly recommend you buy it and/or watch it, and tell everyone you know to see it. Like I said before, I am grateful to be among Americans who can afford a home, health care, and all the food I need. IMG_0060Having a substantial grocery budget is a luxury, and such resources are not available for millions of people–for millions of Americans. In fact, millions of American suffer from food insecurity, which means they are unsure about where there next meal will come from. They are thinking about food all the time, and not in a fun way.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) directly benefits those who are struggling to afford food, and it continues to be cut amidst battles over the Farm bill. I, along with those involved with the film, think this is tragic. Of course it is possible to find points of contention, especially when it comes to something political. Plenty of coverage is focused on people’s concern about abuse of the system (why isn’t there more coverage of corporate executives jumping through loopholes?). I believe it should be noncontroversial to provide children with nutritious food every day. If we don’t, we are putting our poorer citizens at an greater disadvantage, and wasting their potential. Once people stop worrying as much about having enough to eat, they can better focus on the things we Americans place so much value on: working hard, absorbing knowledge, and taking care of oneself. Here’s hoping that politicians do their part to restore SNAP funding in 2014.

I wish you all a happy, healthy, and hunger-free New Year.


Thank goodness it’s Fry-day!

Got you. Were you wondering why I wrote this on a Wednesday? It’s because I went on a frying kick on Monday night.

I found a recipe that uses broccoli and carrots, which had been flowing in from my farm share, in fritter form. And then I thought that I should make some latkes. It was the 5th night of Hanukkah, after all.

So I put on sweatpants and a sweatshirt, turned on the TV to have A Charlie Brown Christmas in the background, and got to it. (Can I just pause for a second and note how depressing that special is? And Peanuts in general. Poor Charlie Brown. Perhaps I should also pause to acknowledge the irony that I just mentioned making latkes for Hanukkah while watching a Christmas special.)

Broccoli Carrot Fritters
Adapted from Cooking Light Magazine

4 Cups water
2 Cups broccoli florets
1 Cup carrots
, matchstick-cut
2.25 ounces/1/2 Cup all-purpose flour
1.5 ounces/1/3 Cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
1/4 Cup something in the onion family
(green onions, white onions, leeks), chopped
1 large egg, add more egg as needed
2+ Tablespoons olive oil
1 Cup plain yogurt
2 teaspoons fresh dill (optional)
, or fennel fronds in my case (I knew saving them would come in handy!), chopped
If using leeks, or if you are using white onion and want to make the flavor more mild, sauté them in your saucepan in a little olive oil first and set aside.

Leftover leeks, waiting to be consumed!

Leftover leeks, waiting to be consumed!

After your chopping and slicing is done, place water, broccoli, and carrots in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Once boiling, cook about 4 minutes to get the broccoli tender. Drain. Pat broccoli mixture dry with a clean dish towel or paper towels and chop as finely as you’d like.
Place broccoli mixture and flour in a large bowl; stir to coat. Add cheese, salt, pepper, onions, and egg to broccoli mixture and stir to combine. If the mixture isn’t wet enough, you may need to add another egg or some egg white–I had to do this because I didn’t really measure the broccoli carefully so I think I had more than 2 Cups.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil and swirl to coat. Spoon 1/4 cup broccoli mixture into a dry measuring cup. Plop pile into pan and press down with a spatula to flatten slightly. Repeat in your pan as space allows (I recommend trying to go in a clockwise circle so you know which ones hit the pan first). Cook 4 minutes on each side or until golden brown.
Combine yogurt and herbs in a small bowl. Serve yogurt mixture with fritters.

Regarding the latkes. I have no grounds for giving you a recipe because I clearly have a long way to go to master the potato pancake. I learned my lesson that the step instructing me to squeeze the liquid out of the shredded potatoes should be taken seriously, and if, after mixing, it seems like the mixture isn’t holding together, I should definitely fix it BEFORE adding to the pan. I may have been losing patience at this point. Something about the fact that I was in such cozy clothing, and, oh yeah, I had just been to the dentist to have a major filling and the anesthesia was wearing off…

I based my pancake ingredients on this recipe, which uses sage (still alive in the garden!). I even had the clarified butter from a rare impulse buy at Trader Joe’s:
Here are some pictures:

I substituted shallots for some of the onion.

I substituted shallots for some of the onion.

Happy Holidays!