Summer in Seattle is farmers’ market heaven. I have been known to go to four markets in a single week. I have my favorites (Queen Anne, West Seattle), and those I don’t like quite as much but are close to me (Wallingford, University). Most of the smaller ones shut down for the winter, but a few keep going.
Winter is a bleak season here but not as bleak as most parts of the country. You can still go to the few markets that are open and be greeted by friendly farmers eager to sell. At this time of year, you will have no trouble finding beets, cabbages, apples, pears, parsnips, leeks, potatoes, celery root, incredible wild mushrooms, and other hearty winter fare. I love all of those things so, while it is not the sun-buzzed insanity of July with all the berries and nectarines, the market is still a happy place for me. In fact, I like a quieter market better. I can take my time and think about what I want. Still, I don’t go as often as I would like.
Last weekend, I took the boys with the promise of a breadstick and an apple. I didn’t have any real plans of what to buy, if anything. I ended up in a stall with dried beans, parsnips, onions, purple cabbage, and fennel and I bought all of them. Visions of a hearty stew started playing in my head. I gathered my bags and went to pay and it added up to almost $20.
Now. My monthly grocery expenditure is shocking. I cook and bake a lot and I like quality food. People sometimes assume that you save money being a vegetarian but that is definitely not the case. Produce is expensive and highly perishable. And we entertain often so a lot of money goes toward food in our house. Plus I have two kids and though they are small, they eat a lot.
I have always said that I am happy to pay more money for gorgeous produce, especially if that money is going directly to the farmer. Still, every time I leave a market with next to no money left, I realize the cost of eating local can be high. I grocery shop often enough to know that paying $7 for about 2 cups of dried beans is a lot of money.
But then I made this braise. And I’m calling it a braise because I have a Le Crueset braiser that I would take in bed with me and tuck under my pillow if I didn’t think it was going to give me a permanent stiff neck. Anyway. I took my fresh local organic ingredients and I mumbled about how I love local farmers but geez louise, it costs a lot of money to buy the best. And I winged this dish and…… well, we loved it.
We loved it for a host of reasons. One is that I have spent 2010 really breaking out of my reliant-on-cookbooks comfort zone. Not to toot my own horn here, but I’ve gotten pretty good at making tasty and seasonal food without relying on a book. When I make something particularly good, it makes us both very happy. We also loved this dish because of the quality of the ingredients. I do feel sure that if I had bought my vegetables from the local grocery store and my beans from a bin, this dish would not have tasted as good as it did.
Before I share my creation, I just want to tell you about a web site that I have been contributing to for a bit. It’s called Well, Then and it is a community forum for healthy living. On the site, people contribute “ways to be well” with advice on sleeping better, managing stress, and eating right. My posts have been about the latter and especially about keeping the family healthy. As we navigate this treat-laden time, and the resolutions that January brings, I think the site is a great place to find support.
I used a more colorful variation of delicata squash for this recipe. I find parsnips to be a little woody, so I like to cut them into quarters, and then cut out the core. You can use canned beans here but be sure to add them right before serving since they have a tendency to fall apart.
1 small purple cabbage, halved, cored, and thinly sliced
1 tbsp. unsalted butter (or olive oil to make this dish vegan)
1/3 cup apple cider or apple juice
1 small yellow onion, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 large fennel, cored and diced
1 small (about 1 pound) delicata squash, seeded and cut into 1″ pieces
1 large parsnip, cored and cut into 1″ pieces
1 tbsp. each of fresh sage and rosemary
½ cup dry white wine
1½ cups vegetable broth
1 small bunch of kale, leaves only,torn into 2″ pieces
1½ cups white beans
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ cup quinoa
1¼ cups water
Melt the butter in a medium saucepan. Over medium heat, add the cabbage and a pinch of salt and sauté, stirring often, until the cabbage starts to soften, about 7 minutes. Pour in the cider and bring the heat up to a boil. Turn the heat down to medium-low and cook, uncovered, until the cabbage is very soft, adding more cider if the pan gets to dry. It will need about 25 minutes from start to finish. Set aside.
Meanwhile, heat a braiser or other wide shallow pan over medium heat. Pour in just enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan and then stir in the onion and fennel along with a large pinch of salt. Sauté, stirring occasionally until both are soft but not brown, about 8 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook for one minute. Add the squash and parsnip then the herbs and give it all a good stir. Pour in wine and the broth and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cover the pot. Keep it at a simmer, adjusting the heat as necessary, until the vegetables are all tender, about 15 minutes. Stir in the kale and cover the pot again. Cook until the kale is wilted, about another 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Meanwhile, bring the 1¼ cups water and the quinoa to a boil in a small saucepan. Add a pinch of salt, cover the pan, and reduce the heat to low. After 15 minutes, fluff the quinoa with a fork, then replace the lid for another 5 minutes.
Just before serving, add the beans to the vegetables and taste again for seasoning. Place a scoop of quinoa in a wide shallow bowl and ladle out some of the vegetables with their liquid. Top with the purple cabbage and serve. (You might have leftover cabbage but you won’t mind. It’s delicious.)