First, I’m not even going to bother saying this is a recipe post, because we literally followed this Slate recipe verbatim. Second, have you ever had banh mi? It’s basically a Vietnamese hoagie (or sub, if you prefer that term, but I don’t. I’m from Pittsburgh.) Anyway, there is this place. It’s in Little Italy. It’s called Saigon Vietnamese Sandwich Deli. It used to be called Saigon No. 1. They’ve expanded a bit and apparently changed their name since we first went there three years ago. Not that we were the first people to go there or anything because we most definitely weren’t. But clearly business has boomed since our presence was had. But back to the point: their sandwiches. Banh mi is a traditional Vietnamese sandwich on a baguette that has warm, sweet pork and rich pate, served with slices of cool cucumber, crisp pickled carrots, and a spicy chili sauce. It’s an amazing combination of sweet, savory, fatty, spicy, cool, and crunchy. Totally amazing.
BUT. This post is obviously not that. This post is about our imitation of that amazing sandwich. Matt found this recipe on Slate for a tofu banh mi. We’ve both had tofu before, but we’ve never cooked it before. But since we’re always looking for more vegetarian recipes to make, and we got all of the veggies necessary for this in our CSA baskets, I was all about making this. Also, the tofu cooking method is from Mark Bittman, and he’s basically our recipe god.
I know what you’re thinking. “Garlic scapes? Jess, you did not get garlic scapes in your first CSA.” I know, I know. If you haven’t noticed, I’m quite slow at posting (this pesto is long gone by now), and we’re already on our third CSA delivery. Just bear with me. I promise CSA veggie recipes will be on the way.
But right now, let’s talk about this pesto. Have you ever had garlic scapes? Have you ever seen them? You may have thought, “what the heck are these crazy curly things?” Well. I will tell you.
Local highlight: Garlic Scapes from Phillips Farms in Hunterdon County, NJ
Scapes are the fresh green shoots that grow out of hardneck garlic, and they are cut off because, if left on, they’d just take away from the formation of a nice plump garlic bulb. And that’s the last thing that anyone wants. Me, especially. Garlic scapes are garlicky, vegetal, and slightly herby, so they can be used in so many ways. The best way (at least in my book) to use them is to make a pesto, but my parents love them just sauteed or grilled.
I think it’s safe to say that winter, if you can even call it that, is over for New York City. I’ve been saving this soup recipe to post on a chilly day, but today’s dreary weather will have to do. Every year, we get a boatload of carrots in our farm share, so I’m always looking for new recipes to do something more interesting than simply roasting them or throwing them in a stir-fry. So when Matt came across this cumin carrot soup recipe from Mark Bittman (one of our go-to chefs for simple, delicious recipes), we knew it was a must — plus, I really wanted to make a soup so we could use our new immersion blender.
Local highlight: carrots (duh!) from Phillips Farms in Hunterdon County, NJ
This recipe is really as easy as they come. There are only six ingredients, and all you have to do is roast the cuminy carrots until soft, sweet, and browned, then simmer them with onions and more spices in rich vegetable stock, and blend. Voila! Delicious, velvety soup. Top with cilantro, toasted nuts, or a dollop of creme fraiche. This recipe makes quite a bit of soup (six large bowls, maybe?). We ate it for dinner, and enjoyed the leftovers for several days. The soup keeps very well.
Butternut squash is one of my favorite vegetables. Its sweet, creamy richness is irresistible to me, so I’m always pleased to find a lovely mound of beautiful butternuts at my weekly market during the winter. Recently I turned one of these darlings into one of the most delicious pasta dishes I have ever made. No lie. The chopped butternut squash is roasted with chopped onion, minced garlic, and olive oil until its soft and nearly spreadable. Then the squash and cooked pasta are pan-fried together with sage and pine nuts to deepen the flavors and make the pasta a bit crispy.
I found this recipe on The Kitchn, and I followed the directions almost exactly. I did not have a sweet onion, so I subsisted half of a regular onion, but since the onion is roasted with the squash, it still became sweet. I also used rotini in place of farfalle. I think this prohibited the pasta from getting as crispy as The Kitchn describes, but it was still incredibly tasty.