Over the course of my seven years at the Deli, we’ve seen a lot of changes. Everything from the bowls we put the food in, to our grab and go case, right on up to our new Production Kitchen and the addition of Okinawa Sushi. There isn’t a single aspect of the Deli that remains exactly how it was when I walked into the kitchen at 1221 for the first time. Perhaps the biggest change has been the variety of food we offer. When I started, we typically had a rotation of about 10 recipes in our hot case and maybe 20 to 30 salad recipes to split between the service case and the salad bar. Now when I search the inventory to figure out what to put on the menu, the list is in the neighborhood of 600 different recipes—and that doesn’t even include the soup! But in the midst of all this change and variety, there is always a core of recipes that we come back to time and time again. Call them our heirloom recipes—ones that have been around the block and have continued to be among our top sellers for over a decade and more. I’ve shared many of these recipes over the years in my articles, and this month I’m going to share two more that represent not only how things have changed, but also how some things have managed to stay just the way all the old timers here remember them originally.
Our first representative is our always popular Squash Delight. I honestly don’t know exactly how old this recipe is, although I know it’s one of the first entered into our computer system and that it was transferred from an obsolete recipe file created well before I started at the Co-op (I believe it was created by my predecessor in the Deli a year or so before I started—so it goes back to around 1999 at least.) It follows the traditional means of recipe development here in the Deli. Squash Delight was created specifically as a salad for our salad bar. This means that the cooks started by looking for a seasonal recipe that contained no more than four to six ingredients, and ideally met some niche for our members with special dietary needs. In the case of Squash Delight, they created one for raw food eaters in the fall. The beauty of this recipe lies in its simplicity; here it is:
4 cups acorn or butternut squash, shredded
1 cup red pepper, finely chopped
1/2 cup lemon juice
2 Tbs. tamari
1 Tbs. maple sprinkles
2 Tbs. ginger, grated
Directions: Combine dressing ingredients. Combine pepper and squash. Toss with dressing and allow to sit 30 minutes before serving
Now, this recipe takes about half-an-hour to prep, depending upon your skills with peeling and shredding squash. It has a vibrant taste and color that makes it an ideal side dish for any meal, especially this time of year, and makes use of squash in a way that most home cooks don’t think of—and that’s what makes it successful for us. It’s not the usual baked squash. This has always been the most fun for us, taking an ingredient that everyone has used over and over the same way and giving a new twist.
Our second heirloom recipe’s origin followed the other typical path for the Deli in the old days, but is also a great representation of how things have changed for us. Our Autumn Roasted Vegetables (and someday the English major in me will change the order of the first two words) began as a way for us to work closely with the Produce department and reduce the amount of food being tossed out by the store. Initially this recipe came about when the Produce department would cull items that were less than perfect. While root veggies last a while, those Produce staffers were so picky that if an item looked odd, had a slight discoloration, or was just starting to dry out a bit, they’d get rid of it. While that helps us maintain the best Produce department in town, a lot of perfectly good food was getting wasted. So the Deli would snatch up the burdock root, celeriac, turnips, and anything else we could get our hands on and turn it into soup or Autumn Roasted Veggies. Once the food was prepared and cooked, it was beautiful once again. We hate wasting food! However, once we moved into our new Production Kitchen this became not just difficult on a store level, but almost impossible to continue in this way due to regulations regarding signs, recipes, and the HACCP laws that govern a wholesaling facility. The recipe used to change from day-to-day and the signs were handwritten to reflect the ever-changing ingredients. These days, we’ve had to simplify and standardize the recipes to meet our new regulations. So, here’s the recipe...but remember, you can sub in any root vegetable you have and I highly recommend being adventurous with some of the weirder ones you can find over in Produce!
1 lb. red potatoes, cubed
1 lb. sweet potatoes, cubed
1 red bell pepper, medium dice
5 or 6 whole garlic cloves, peeled
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 tsp. veggie broth powder
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 tsp. celery seed
salt and black pepper to taste
Directions: Combine water and veggie broth powder until powder is wholly dissolved. Combine this with olive oil, thyme, and celery seed. Mix this in a large bowl with the veggies to coat and salt and pepper. Lay veggies out on a baking sheet and cook at 350ºF for 20 to 30 minutes or until veggies are tender, stirring about every 10 minutes. The stirring is important—you don’t want the veggies to burn.
The spice levels in this recipe are approximate; it really just depends on how you like it.
There you have it, two of the Deli’s oldest and most popular recipes and two examples of how recipes come into being—as well as an idea of how change comes to even the best of things.