Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Fear and Loathing at the Greenmarket: Bad Craziness with Dragon Tongues

So the craziest thing happened on the way to this week's post.

I was absolutely walking on clouds with little birdies tweeting around my head after weeks of travel, weddings, guests in from out of town, etc. to get to wallow wholeheartedly in the Union Square Greenmarket on Saturday morning, knowing I was actually going to be home and have time to enjoy playing around with stuff I found there.

I was ready to wax poetic about the perfect cusp-of-fall day--a refreshing new briskness in the air, corn and tomatoes still at their peak but winter squashes and new apples starting to appear--a veritable paradise on urban earth. And I surely would have held forth with lengthy treatments of numerous products I, once again, couldn't help but bring home, despite my new Stop Eating So Much Already, Dammit! campaign.

I was excited to get into pornographically detailed descriptions of my highly successful experiments with zucchini blossoms,

zucchini squash blossoms: a study in sepia

which I had eaten for the first and only time on our aforementioned trip to Rome this summer, but had never prepared myself. I couldn't wait to yammer about my super exciting discovery about them (1), and show off my cool new cast iron tortilla press in the context of talking about the faaaabulous squash blossom quesadillas I made--and ate so fast I didn't even get a picture (2). So much for the campaign.

I very likely would have employed the adjective 'unctuous' in describing the risotto I made with the remaining blossoms (3). Thank heaven we were all spared that.

I also bought a spaghetti squash--a big thing for me. There would have been a charming story of contrasts, how I used to long for such a whimsical, exotic prize when amusing myself by pouring over Burpee's catalogues while visiting my grandparents, whereas my dear SigOth was being taught to hate them by a mother who insisted on dressing them as if they were actually pasta. Possibly, there would have followed a tale of triumph wherein I devised a recipe that won him back over (or a tale of woe wherein I discovered that they are actually as nasty as he claims). Alas, we know not yet, as various circumstances (not the least of which my being a bachelorette this week and having to consume everything I cooked by myself) leave the controversial squash unmolested on the counter at date of writing.

But all of that was thrown aside (and thank God too, given how long this has turned out already!!) by the Curse of the Black Dragon.

No, seriously.

I gave my very last $3 to the lady at Berried Treasures (No, seriously.) for half a pound of bewitching purple-black string beans.

Black Dragons, Dragon Tongues, random beans.

"What are these called?"

"Black Dragons. Or Dragon Tongues. Or Something. They turn green when you cook ‘em."

Well, how's that for a whole emotional roller coaster in a few succinct lines? What could be more exciting sounding than Black Dragons? Unless it's Dragon Tongues? But what could be more deflating than they turn green when you cook them? In the face of the blackberry bean disappointment, I took it as a challenge to see if I could manage to cook them while retaining the color that is clearly the only reason anyone would pay a premium for them in the first place.

**Spoiler Alert**

In a word, no. But stick with me, ‘cause we're getting to the crazy.

Ok, so I haven't read McGee (or I probably wouldn't have felt the need to embark on this little adventure at all, but whatever), but I don't imagine I can do anything about regulating temperature or acidity to keep them from turning green while being cooked in hot liquid, so I decide to try the microwave. While snapping them into one inch lengths, I can't help but be a tad discouraged by the fact that these babies are clearly bright green in cross section. Oh well, what the heck.

I put them in a little deli container with only clinging rinse water for moisture, just set the lid on top to let steam escape, and set the micro for one minute. After about three seconds I hear BiiiiZZZIRT. Crackle. You know--that sound right before Colin Clive starts screaming It's Alive! It's Alive!? Exactly. I whirl back around and the little deli container is--I swear on my half empty pack of Frank Sinatra’s unfiltered Camels--Filled. With. Lightening. I dive for it and yank the door handle open--a choice I probably wouldn't have made had I been thinking at all.

Wow. Ok. Weird! I examine the little deli container. It looks like all 80 other little deli containers under the counter. But who knows, maybe in this age of enhanced security, perhaps this one has some kind of invisible anti-shoplifting metal wires embedded in it. That the TSA confiscated my cannoli at airport security because the cream qualified as a liquid is a far stranger true story than the possibility of an anti-theft wonton soup tub, right?

So I dump the beans into a bowl I know for a fact has been in the microwave without incident a million times. I put the bowl in the microwave. I hit start. BiiiiZZZIRT. Crackle. Lightening shoots out the top of the bowl. This time I prudently hit the stop button. And back away slowly. And mix a Tanqueray and tonic.

I've kept the rest of the beans that didn't go into the machine. I'm going to try to reproduce my results and post video. Because typing it now, it sounds too far-fetched, even to myself.

Much later, when I was able to talk myself into opening the door, I got an interesting visual of how microwaves impact food. Mostly the beans were still purple black, but they were covered sporadically with some rather leperous looking green spots--presumably where the waves hit and cooked the beans. I count it as a battle lost in the War on Green-turning.

At this point I was feeling gin brave, figuring I'd already contracted heirloom bean related radiation sickness if I was going to, and proceeded with the next step in my experiment as previously planned. I dumped a bunch of vinegar on them to see if they would stay purple when pickled--which would have been so great from an alliterative marketing standpoint if nothing else. Again, no. Though by the next morning they had leached a charming lavender hue into the vinegar, which I think would make simply darling Easter eggs.


1. While eating stuffed fried blossoms--at the very restaurant on the Piazza Santa Maria in Trastevere from which diners watch hippies getting a beat down from the cops in Fellini's Roma--I thought "Slimeylicious! I bet these would be AWESOME in quesadillas!" After picking up some blossoms from (I knew I should have written it down, or remembered it by now since I shop there every time I go to the market, but that really nice guy on the park side of the west side of the market who always has those cute bitsy baby potatoes? And the stunningly gorgeous wreaths and garlands at Christmas time? Sweet Mountain Something? Sweet Something Mountain?) the market, I did a little Google when I got home. I was semi stunned and satisfyingly validated to discover that far from being an Italian monopoly, zucchini blossoms are like kudzu in Mexico, and putting them in quesadillas is pretty much a no brainer to millions of people. Score one for my palate!

2. RE: Tortilla Press: Get one NOW! Easy to use and store, fun, cheap, more delicious and healthy tortillas, etc. etc. Quesadillas: blossoms aren't intensely flavored, so don't be stingy. At least two, torn apart, per quesadilla. A few very thinly sliced crimini mushrooms nicely underscore the flavor of the blossoms. Paper thin slices of red onion, separated, contrast beautifully. Nonstick or cast iron griddle, do not grease.

3. No excuse, but in explanation, I would have only used such purple prose out of sincere shock that the risotto turned out so beautifully under. . .difficult circumstances. I urge you to not attempt a dish that requires near constant attention while also attending your Resident Evil 4 addiction. You will do Leon, your food, and your nerves no favors.

No comments: