11 October 2015

Eating food while living away

So I'm going to code school. It's in SF. This would mean a minimum 3-hr roundtrip commute every day were I to stay at home, so instead I'm renting a room in the city and staying there 5 days a week. I've been coming home on the weekends. I have a lot to do and a lot of people to interact with and a lot of things to learn, and I am very tired.

We still have the CSA box coming for slightly more than 2 out of the 3 months I'll be gone. We paid for it all up front last year, when we signed up. So although we can cancel boxes if we need to, we'd much rather actually get and use all that beautiful veg. Plus, doing an advanced academic program is leaving my brain fried (and my evenings filled with homework) kind of a lot of the time. So the basics of eating are requiring some attention.

The general food plan is as follows:
- John picks up the CSA box every Thursday (as long as he's in town).
- I come home Friday night.
- We spend part of the weekend cooking and prepping for the week ahead. We pack everything up and freeze what can be frozen.
- I take some pre-cooked food and some easily usable/transportable ingredients back to the city on Sunday night or Monday morning. The rest stays at home for John to eat.
- I eat the previously prepped food all week, with supplemental salads, fruit, eggs, oatmeal, and canned soup/etc as needed.
- The next week, I bring home my tupperware and cooler, and the cycle starts again.

This is not that different from what a lot of people do on a regular basis. It's just a matter of planning and execution.

I have found myself not wanting to eat anything even vaguely complicated. This is good, because it means I really don't have to do that much to get fed. I just throw together some pasta with veg and beans, or warm up some pre-made soup, or put a handful of salad greens on a plate. In the morning there is tea and more tea and possibly eggs, depending on how long I've been up and therefore how much breakfast I can stomach. There is more soup and instant couscous for lunch. Sometimes I buy a burrito. I'm just tired.

Staples I'm keeping in SF:
- grains: pasta, instant couscous, rolled oats
- the tiniest bottle ever of olive oil
- granola bars
- canned things: tuna, soup, chickpeas
- lots of tea
- cream cheese
- tortillas
- bread
- butter

Fresh supplies to replenish every week, depending on the CSA & how much I've used up:
- veg: carrots, broccoli, peppers, green onion
- fruit: apples, mostly
- lots and lots of eggs
- any cilantro that comes in the CSA box
- basic salad greens or a head of lettuce

Things we're making on the weekend:
- Soups and stews: chili, samosa soup, carrot & white bean, etc
- Pasta sauce or fagioli sauce with all the veg, especially greens
- Refried beans and rice, kept separate for future burrito OR fried rice application
- Baked things for snacks or desserts: scones, loaf cakes, cookies
- Salads that keep well: grain and veg, so far

I'm pretty tired. What do you like to eat when you're tired?

17 September 2015

Potato corn chowder with fennel, dill, and caraway

Potato corn chowder with fennel, dill, and caraway

I've been taking advantage of the end of the summer corn for the last few few weeks. We ate our way through a huge batch of summer chili, some of which is still waiting patiently in the freezer for future dinners. I also froze a bunch of farmer's market corn to store for the winter, and made a bunch of beautiful light yellow broth from the cobs. So far, so good.

Then I discovered Use Real Butter's chanterelle bacon corn chowder. Yes please!

We don't have any chanterelles to forage in Silicon Valley -- and even if we did, I'm the only person in our house who voluntarily eats mushrooms. So those were out. Bacon was similarly out, since we wanted a vegetarian chowder. But corn, potato, and fennel? That sounded like an amazing combination. I punched it up with fennel fronds and toasted caraway seeds, and our potato corn chowder with fennel, dill, and caraway was born.

This chowder turned out a little sweet for my tastes, largely because of the combination of super-fresh corn kernels and corn broth. If you're using frozen corn, I imagine that problem will not come up. But otherwise, there are a couple ways to combat the sweet. I added a few drops of liquid smoke to a serving, and that was very good. Hot sauce or cayenne pepper would also be great if you like the spice. Or go the other direction and add some grated parmesan cheese or other hard grating cheese.

And a crunchy, tart, or bitter salad of arugula or massaged kale and apples would be a perfect contrast on the side.

Potato corn chowder with fennel, dill, and caraway

Potato corn chowder with fennel, dill, and caraway
Inspired by Chanterelle bacon corn chowder
Serves 4-6

1 tbsp butter
2 small or 1 large leek (or use 2-3 shallots)
1/2 large bulb fennel
1 small or 1/2 large carrot
1/2 cup white wine/dry vermouth
3 cloves garlic
3 large boiling potatoes
3 cups veg broth or corn broth
3/4 tsp dried thyme
2 ears corn/approx 1 1/2 cups kernels
3/4 cup milk/cream
salt, pepper to taste
~2 tbsp each fresh dill, fennel fronds, and parsley
lemon wedges, 1 per serving
toasted caraway seeds, 2 pinches per serving

Melt your butter in a large soup pot over medium heat. Trim, clean, and chop your leeks, and cut your fennel and carrot into small pieces. Add them to your soup pot along with a generous pinch of salt, stir, and let cook for about 5 minutes to soften.

While you're waiting, finely mince your garlic. Scrub and cube your potatoes.

When your vegetables have become soft and aromatic, deglaze the pan with your wine or vermouth. Scrape the bottom of the pan as needed to remove the fond. Then add your potatoes and garlic to the soup pot, along with your thyme, and continue to cook for another 5 minutes.

Next, add your broth to the soup pot. Bring everything to a boil, reduce the heat, put on the lid, and simmer for about 25 minutes, or until your potatoes are completely cooked through and ender. You can test this by smashing a piece of potato against the side of the pot.

Husk, de-silk, and slice your corn kernels off their cobs. Scrape the cobs with the back of your knife to get out as much fresh corn action as possible. Add your corn kernels and milk or cream to the pan. Season well with salt and pepper, and simmer gently for another 5 minutes or so.

Chop all your fresh herbs finely and stir them into the soup, reserving a pinch or two for final garnish if you so desire. Taste and correct seasonings.

Keep your pot of soup warm while you toast your caraway seeds. To do this, put a teaspoon or two of caraway seeds into a small, dry frying pan over medium heat. Toast for 2-3 minutes, shaking the pan occasionally. Don't go anywhere, because seeds burn very easily. When the seeds have just barely turned a darker shade and they are very aromatic, turn off the heat.

Serve your soup with reserved herbs and a few pinches of caraway seeds scattered over the top. Squeeze a wedge of lemon over each bowl, and eat with plenty of hot toast. Rye or pumpernickel would be ideal, but sourdough is also good.

This made a delightful and comforting dinner, and was a great way to switch up our usual corn menu.

How are you eating the last of the summer corn harvest?

14 September 2015

Simple herbed labneh: Middle Eastern yogurt cheese

Simple herbed labneh: Middle Eastern yogurt cheese

If you like to use yogurt for all kinds of different sweet and savory uses -- curries, marinades, soup garnishes, and smoothies are my usual suspects -- you likely have a big tub of plain, unadulterated yogurt in your refrigerator. Well, now you can add one more use to that list: labneh.

Labneh is a very simple concoction: yogurt drained well and transformed into a spreadable cheese. It's very similar to Greek yogurt, depending on how long you let it drain. While labneh is occasionally stocked in Middle Eastern specialty markets, it's frequently easier -- as well as more versatile -- to just buy ordinary yogurt and make it yourself. If you happen to make your own yogurt to begin with, that's even better.

Labneh adds a delightful tang and a thick, creamy texture to any number of dishes while simultaneously removing the need for a separate container of Greek yogurt. What's not to love?

What can you do with labneh? I tend to go very simple and eat it spread on bread or crackers, but you can apply it nearly anywhere you'd normally use either Greek yogurt or sour cream. Mix labneh with mashed avocado to make a super-rich and delicious dip. Spread some in a burrito along with a generous helping of salsa. Garnish a bowl of spicy dal. Use it to make tzatziki and eat it with juicy meatballs or lentil kibbeh. Serve it with a platter of hummus and vegetables, add a drizzle of olive oil and some pita bread, and go to town.

The main piece of equipment you'll need to make labneh is a fine strainer. I use a very fine-mesh nylon strainer set over a measuring cup to make my labneh. You can also use a slightly more open-mesh strainer lined with a double layer of cheesecloth or a coffee filter. Aim for something that will allow liquids, but not solids, to escape.

Simple herbed labneh: Middle Eastern yogurt cheese

Basic labneh

full-fat plain yogurt
a fine-mesh strainer
a bowl or cup to set your strainer over

Set your strainer over your draining vessel, making sure that there's a good inch or two of space between their two bottoms. Fill the strainer with yogurt.

Leave your yogurt in the refrigerator overnight, or for at least 12 hours. 24 hours is an ideal draining time. As the yogurt drains, it will reduce in volume by approximately 1/3 to 1/2.

Remove your finished labneh to a container of your choice. Store in the refrigerator until needed. Use your accumulated whey to make bread.

Herbed labneh

1 cup finished labneh
green herbs of your choice
1 clove garlic
salt and pepper

Mix your finished labneh with as much chopped herbs as you like. I used dill and parsley for this rendition; pretty much any green herb you like should work well. Smash and finely mince a clove of garlic and add it to the mix. Season with a bit of salt and pepper and stir together.

If you like, you can make your labneh into balls. Pick up spoonfuls of labneh, drop them into a bowl of chopped herbs, and gently roll to coat in the herbs. I tend not to bother with this, because I'm just going to spread my finished labneh anyway.

Leave your herbed labneh in the refrigerator for at least a couple hours before serving, to give the flavors a chance to develop.

I ate my labneh on toast with a handful of pickled peppers, and threw some dilly beans on the side for extra pickle action.

Have you ever strained yogurt at home? What's your favorite way to use it?

08 September 2015

Spicy tuna salad with chard stem pickle, cabbage, and cilantro

Spicy tuna salad with chard stem pickle, cabbage, and cilantro

A few days ago, I made a batch of Marisa's chard stem pickles. Now -- as usual when trying out a new kind of pickle -- the question is how to use them.

I started off with this experiment in tuna salad. After all, dill pickles or gherkins are a pretty standard ingredient in classic tuna salad. So why not give it a try with a different variation? I like to eliminate the usual mayo and go for a more oil-and-vinegar-oriented salad, which meant that these tangy, slightly sweet pickles were a perfect match.

To complement the rice wine vinegar in the pickle brine, I added hot mustard and cilantro. Together with the tuna and vegetables, this made a nicely spicy, herbal, and complex tuna salad.

Now I want to do another tuna salad experiment with my refrigerator pickled beets. Of course, in that case, everything will be BRIGHT FUCHSIA. But that's okay. Who doesn't like bright pink food?

On that note, because they're just too gorgeous, this is what the chard stems looked like just before I brined them up. So intense.

Spicy tuna salad with chard stem pickle, cabbage, and cilantro

Spicy tuna salad with chard stem pickle, cabbage, and cilantro
Makes enough for 3 open-faced sandwiches or 2 substantial closed sandwiches.

1 cup shredded cabbage
1 medium carrot
1-2 scallions
2-3 tbsp chard stem pickles
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1-2 tsps hot Chinese mustard
1 tbsp grapeseed oil or other oil of choice
1 5-oz can tuna
salt, pepper

Shred your cabbage and deposit it into a mixing bowl. Sprinkle with a few shakes of salt and mix with your hands, squeezing gently, to soften the cabbage a little.

Prep and finely chop your carrot, scallions, pickles, and cilantro. Add them to your bowl, along with the mustard, the oil, the drained contents of your can of tuna, and salt and pepper to taste. You may also wish to add in a little of the pickle brine for some extra vinegar kick.

Mix everything together well, taste and correct seasonings, and you're done. Super easy.

Spicy tuna salad with chard stem pickle, cabbage, and cilantro

I had my spicy tuna salad in a couple of open-faced sandwiches on toasted sourdough, with a small green salad on the side. It was fantastic. Needless to say, this is definitely going on the list of things to make when the fridge is full of pickles (i.e. always).

Do you have a fridge full of homemade pickles? How are you eating them this month?

29 August 2015

Bagel panzanella

Bagel panzanella

I've been wanting to make bagel panzanella for several months. Now that the best summer tomatoes are here, it is time. Oh man, is it time.

You almost certainly know my love of bagels. Bagels are wonderful. Bagels are delicious. Bagels are the best breakfast on a holiday morning. You can put anything on a bagel. And while I usually discuss my love of bagels through a series of various cream cheese schmears, I thought it was time to mix it up in a more bready way, so I could shoehorn even more bagels into my diet. What recipe combines a delicious bread product and many tasty vegetables? Panzanella. And so bagel panzanella was born.

Probably the most important component of panzanella is the bread. It's supposed to be dry, so it can soak up all the vegetable juices and vinaigrette readily, yet not turn into a pile of soggy mush. So preparing the bread is critical. It also needs to be done a good 12 hours in advance, unless your bagel is already quite stale. You can get away with toasting your bread pieces gently in a low oven, but the texture is going to be a little different.

I chose an everything bagel, for optimal all-bagel flavor content. Cherry tomatoes came out of the garden; cucumber, red onion, and basil came from the CSA box. Actually, the basil could have come out of the garden too, since there's plenty of it out there. But it didn't.

To make this even more substantial (and bagely), you could serve big scoops of it over some tangy salad greens -- arugula would be my pick -- and scatter some chunks of cream cheese or goat cheese rolled in sesame and poppy seeds over the top to serve. For that matter, if you wanted to take the whole thing in a sweeter direction, you could go for a blueberry bagel, an assortment of halved berries, and fresh mint, give it a squeeze of lemon juice, and serve it all over a bed of spinach, with optional goat cheese. Panzanella!

Bagel panzanella

Bagel panzanella
serves 2

1 savory bagel to make 2-3 cups cubed bread
2 cups chopped tomato (14 cherry tomatoes in my case)
1 1/2 cups chopped cucumber
3/4 cup thinly sliced red onion
1/2 bunch or up to 1 cup chiffonaded fresh basil
1/4 cup or more red wine vinaigrette

Cut your bagel into bite-sized pieces. I'd recommend going a bit on the small side, to create optimal bites with cucumber and tomato later.

Put your bagel pieces on a rack and let them dry out overnight. If your bagel is already a day old (mine was fresh from the bagel shop), I'd guess you only need 4-6 hours.

The next day, it's time to make your salad. Chop up your tomato and cucumber into bite-sized pieces; thinly sliver your red onion; chiffonade your basil. Combine your bagel pieces, tomato, cucumber, red onion, basil, and vinaigrette. Mix everything together well. Let sit on the counter (no tomatoes in the fridge) for at least a half hour, and up to four hours.

Taste, correct seasoning, and serve with the delights of your choice.

Red wine vinaigrette

1 clove garlic, crushed and minced
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp dijon mustard
1/4-1/2 tsp salt
12 good grinds of pepper
1/2 cup olive oil

Put all the ingredients into a small jar. Lid the jar and shake well to emulsify. Voila! Red wine vinaigrette.

You'll have some vinaigrette left over, so put the jar into the fridge and use it on any salads you may be eating in the next week or so. Let the dressing come to room temperature before using.

Bagel panzanella

It's so dramatic-looking with the black cherry tomatoes.

We had our bagel panzanella with slices of Spanish tortilla, but it would be pretty happy alongside a whole lot of different main dishes. Eat it for breakfast, with some scrambled eggs. Eat it for lunch, with a cup of Tuscan white bean soup. Eat it for dinner, with a burger of your choice, or maybe a seared steak if that's how you roll.

How are you eating your bagels lately?

23 August 2015

Blistered shishito peppers

Blistered shishito peppers

Shishito peppers are one of the highlights of late summer. While they look like a hot pepper, they are generally pretty sweet -- only about one in ten peppers will be spicy. So eating a plate of these is like a delicious, delicious game of chance, where no matter what, you always win.

When we got a pint of shishitos in our CSA share, we knew exactly what to do with them: blister them. One hot pan and five minutes later, we were ready to eat the entire pint in one fell blow.

I imagine these peppers would also be excellent grilled on the barbecue. Toss your peppers with oil, string them onto soaked skewers, and roast, turning to cook each side, until nicely blistered. Then salt and eat. I haven't tried this, though, so if you do, let me know how it goes! For science!

This method will work with shishito or padrón peppers.

Blistered shishito peppers

grapeseed oil or other cooking oil with high smoke point
shishito peppers
plenty of kosher or sea salt

Put a frying pan wide enough to hold all your peppers in a single layer over medium-high to high heat. Let the pan get hot before you start cooking. Test the temperature with a flick of water, just like you would if you were cooking pancakes; when the water sizzles away immediately, you're ready to go.

Add a generous slug of oil to the pan and let it heat up for a moment. Then add your peppers and toss or stir to coat. Let the peppers cook, stirring or flipping occasionally, until they are blistering and turning golden to dark brown in patches on all sides. This should take about five minutes.

When your peppers are done, remove them to a paper towel-lined plate or wire rack and immediately season with a generous amount of salt.

Serve hot. Eat them all. Hooray!

Blistered shishito peppers

Blistered shishitos are great by themselves, but they also work well as part of an antipasto spread. A hard slicing chorizo or other spicy sausage and a chunk of manchego are the perfect match. Marinated olives would be pretty tasty too. Basically anything you'd get at a tapas bar is a good idea.

And of course you are going to want a glass of cold, cold beer on the side. Hot peppers and icy beer are one of the best possible combinations to eat on a hot afternoon.

What are your favorite late summer snacks?

14 August 2015

Momofuku-style pickled torpedo beet, radish, and tokyo turnip

Momofuku-style pickled torpedo beet, radish, and tokyo turnip

We've had the Momofuku cookbook for awhile, and I've never cooked anything from it until now. But I've been wanting to try these pickles for a few weeks, ever since I read a blog post that talked about how the beets in this recipe (or method, really) aren't cooked.

I've always made (and eaten) western-style beet pickles, so I've always boiled my beets. But shredded or julienned raw beets are excellent in a salad setting, or even as garnish for a hot soup or rich piece of meat, so I was officially intrigued. And we certainly had plenty of beets lying around. The CSA farm seems to have a had a bumper crop this year, and they've been coming practically every week. So many beets: golden, torpedo, and plain old red globes.

When I checked out the supply in our crisper, I found not only three beautiful red torpedo beets, but also three ordinary red radishes and a single solitary tokyo turnip. (Of course, later I found two more buried under a head of cabbage, so...yeah.) I decided to pickle them all together for a few reasons. First, beets and turnips are a usual match in Middle Eastern pickles; if you've had a falafel sandwich with pink pickled turnip, you've experienced this. Radishes are similar to turnips in texture, but also provide a pungent kick. Besides, all of these vegetables needed eating.

Momofuku-style pickled torpedo beet, radish, and tokyo turnip

I considered adding some ginger to my pickles, because that's always super interesting. See: fennel pickle with lemon and ginger, which is SO GOOD and you should go make some right now. Actually, I need to go make some, because I have all the ingredients lying around, crying for me to use them. Anyway. I knew about that; I also recently read about Nami's pickled sushi ginger, which I need to try as soon as I can find some young ginger. But since I hadn't tried this particular pickle method before, I thought it might be a good idea to just go for the master brine recipe before I started fooling around quite so much. The fooling around will very likely happen later, though. Oh yes.

Momofuku-style pickled torpedo beet, radish, and tokyo turnip
Adapted from the Momofuku cookbook

1 cup hot water
1/2 cup rice vinegar
6 tbsp (3/8 cup) sugar
2 1/2 tsp kosher or pickling salt

3 torpedo beets
3 radishes
1+ tokyo turnip
or adjust vegetable proportions to fill your jars.

2 pints or 1 quart mason jar with plastic storage lids
chopstick or spatula
optional canning funnel

For the brine, combine all the ingredients in a nonreactive pan or bowl. I used water that I boiled in the teapot and let cool down a bit, instead of the book's hot tap water. Stir until the sugar and salt are completely dissolved.

For the veg: wash, trim, and peel your beets. Wash and trim your radishes and turnips. Halve all your veg and slice into very thin half-moons.

Pack your vegetables into mason jars. Pour the brine over the veg to cover, filling up to 1/2 inch from the top of the jar. Use a chopstick or spatula to remove any bubbles. Cap your jars and put them in the refrigerator to cure overnight.

Momofuku-style pickled torpedo beet, radish, and tokyo turnip

Store in the refrigerator and eat at your leisure. These guys should last at least a month, and probably quite a while longer. I usually keep refrigerator pickles for a good three months or so.

What are you pickling this summer?

03 August 2015

Scrambled duck eggs with green beans, red pepper, and fresh herbs

Scrambled duck eggs with green beans, red pepper, and fresh herbs

We bought an egg share with our CSA. This means that along with our weekly vegetables, we also get half a dozen mixed brown, blue, and spotted eggs. They're excellent -- obviously super-fresh, with bright orange yolks and full whites. A fried CSA egg is a thing of beauty, especially split over a piece of sourdough toast. But six eggs is just about as many as we can eat in a week, considering our overall low levels of breakfast-eating and baking. And then the CSA decided to give everyone a sample of half a dozen duck eggs.

Suddenly we had double the eggs, and the duck eggs were nearly double the size of the chicken eggs, so it was more like we had sixteen eggs than twelve. It was definitely time for a couple of hearty weekend scrambles. And why not get the full use out of the CSA by adding plenty of herbs and vegetables?

For our herbs, we used curly parsley and dill, both of which are excellent with egg. I think dill is seriously underused in general, and particularly when it comes to eggs. It's great raw in egg salad, and it's also great cooked into a scramble like this. I imagine that it's similar to the classic tarragon-and-egg combination. Try it!

Scrambled duck eggs with green beans, red pepper, and fresh herbs

Scrambled duck eggs with green beans, red pepper, and fresh herbs
serves 2

2 scallions
large handful green beans (or zucchini, broccoli, etc)
1/2 red bell pepper
2-3 duck eggs (or sub 5-6 chicken eggs)
~3 tbsp each fresh dill and parsley (or basil, tarragon, chives, etc)
salt, pepper

Chop your scallion whites, setting the greens aside. Saute in butter in an appropriate egg pan over medium heat.

Wash, trim, and cut your green beans into bite-sized pieces. When your scallions have begun to soften, add the beans to the pan, along with a punch of salt. Continue to cook for another 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally, while you dice your bell pepper. When the beans are mostly tender, add your peppers and cook for another 2-3 minutes to soften.

Crack your eggs into a bowl. Finely chop your scallion greens, parsley, and dill; add them to the eggs. Season with salt and plenty of pepper. Beat with a fork until frothy and well mixed.

When all of your vegetables are tender, add your egg mixture to the hot pan. Cook, stirring frequently, until your eggs are done to your liking.

Serve your finished eggs with a little more pepper or a few fronds of herbs scattered on top. A simple green salad is definitely welcome alongside. And if it happens to be dinnertime, or Sunday brunch, a glass of dry white wine would not go amiss.

Have you ever cooked with duck eggs?

29 July 2015

First garden green beans of the year

First garden green beans of the year

I planted a truly massive amount of green bush beans this year. We had the garden space, and can basically never get enough beans, so why not? Besides, after the moles killed multiple jalapeño plants and a tomato plant, I figured that more plants equaled a better chance of actually getting a crop.

Now the beans are the most successful plants in the garden, with no attrition by mole at all. I'm picking huge double handfuls every other day, so as to keep up a steady supply for the whole growing season. Later I'll let one or two plants go, so the beans mature in their pods and can be used for seed next year. Hooray!

First garden green beans of the year: Green beans with butter and garlic

For my first foray into homegrown green bean cooking, I went super simple. What better way is there to eat beans than sauteed with butter and garlic?

Green beans with butter and garlic
Serves one. Multiply as needed.

1-2 big handfuls green beans
1-2 cloves garlic
1 pat butter/slug olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Wash your green beans, trim them, and cut them into bite-sized pieces. Crush and mince your garlic.

Melt your butter or oil in a frying pan over medium to medium-high heat. Add your garlic and cook for about a minute before adding your beans. Season with several good pinches of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes. If you like, you can add a splash of water to the pan and let the beans cook in the steam.

When the beans are done to your taste, season with pepper. Taste and add more salt as necessary. Eat immediately.

First garden green beans of the year: Green beans with zucchini and dill

Of course, beans can also get a little fancier. This is especially the case if you also need to get through a CSA box of vegetables every week. In this case, I more or less just added some delightful extras to the basic green bean and garlic recipe. It's still super easy and still delicious.

Green beans with zucchini and dill
Serves one. Multiply as needed.

1 big handful green beans
2 cloves garlic
1 small or 1/2 large zucchini
1 pat butter/slug olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
2-3 tbsp chopped fresh dill (or basil, tarragon, parsley, etc)
wedge of lemon

Wash your green beans, trim them, and cut them into bite-sized pieces. Crush and mince your garlic. Chop your zucchini into thin rounds or half-moons.

Melt your butter or oil in a frying pan over medium to medium-high heat. Add your garlic and cook for about a minute before adding your beans. Season with several good pinches of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 3 minutes. Add water to steam your beans if you like.

Add the zucchini and continue cooking for another 2-3 minutes, or until all the vegetables are done to your taste. Season with pepper and correct salt.

Serve topped with plenty of fresh dill and a squeeze of lemon juice. If you're having your beans alongside a seared piece of fish, put any extra dill and lemon on the fish.

Beans! They are the best.

Who's gardening this year? What are you harvesting now?

27 July 2015

Summer garden tuna salad

Summer garden tuna salad

The CSA box demands that we eat as many vegetables as humanly possible all summer long. This is simultaneously great and a problem.

Salads are the obvious solution, but an all-veg salad is usually not a sufficient lunch. Unless you want to make another entire dish, some sort of protein is necessary. I chose eggs -- we still have abundant CSA eggs -- and tuna, and decided to wake up the flavors with sriracha sauce, garlic, and fresh basil, scallion, and parsley. For some extra textural interest, I used a mix of cooked and raw vegetables. Altogether, this worked out super well.

If you aren't a tuna person, you can always leave it out and up the hard-boiled eggs to two, or sub in the cooked and drained beans of your choice. I'd probably go for white beans first, but any kind you like that maintains reasonable structural integrity should be fine. If you want to use other fish, maybe try fork-mashed sardines or a smoked fish of your choice. And of course, you can make this completely vegan by switching out both tuna and egg for beans. It's all good.

Some lime or lemon zest wouldn't be unwelcome, either.

Summer garden tuna salad

Summer garden tuna salad
makes 2 meal-sized servings

1 egg
1 cup broccoli florets in bite-size pieces
1 cup green beans in bite-size pieces
3/4 cup shredded/julienned cucumber
3/4 cup shredded/julienned zucchini (I used gold bar squash)
1 clove garlic, minced and pulverized thoroughly
1-2 scallions or a large handful of their greens, finely chopped
large handful basil leaves, finely chopped
large handful parsley, finely chopped
1 5-oz can tuna, drained
1+ tbsp olive oil
several good squirts sriracha or other hot pepper sauce to taste
salt, pepper
any other veg you think sounds good in this circumstance
salad greens to serve

Put your raw egg in a small pot of water and set it on to boil. Cook for 9 minutes at a simmer. Scoop the egg out of the water and put it in an ice bath.

While your water is still hot, add your broccoli and green beans. Bring the pot back to a boil and cook for 3 minutes, or until the vegetables are done to your liking. Drain, shock briefly in cold water, and drain again.

While you're waiting for the egg and cooked veg to cool enough to use, cut up your cucumber, zucchini, garlic, scallions, basil, and parsley. Add them to a mixing bowl along with your tuna, olive oil, sriracha, salt, and pepper.

When the egg is cool, peel and dice it. Add your egg, broccoli, and beans to the bowl. Mix thoroughly. Taste and adjust seasonings.

Serve on a bed of salad greens of your choice, with an extra drizzle of olive oil and a little more salt and pepper.

A spoonful or two of leftover salad, combined with mozzarella cheese and another dash of sriracha, makes a good quick quesadilla filling. The cucumber makes it a little drippy, but it's still delicious.

How are you eating your fresh summer vegetables?

15 July 2015

Radish and dill compound butter

Radish and dill compound butter

Radishes, butter, and salt are one of the most classic food combinations out there.

Usually I've seen instructions to swipe whole radishes through cold butter and dip them into sea salt. This is all well and good if you want a huge mouthful of radish, but it can get a little spicy for me. So instead I thought I'd make a quick compound butter and spread the resulting tasty mess on slices of sourdough baguette. Then I added some fresh dill, because we had a big bunch and it's delicious with crispy radish. Perfect!

This is one of those recipes you can adjust to suit your tastes. Do you like lots of crunch and spice? Add more radish. Do you want all the dill? Add more dill. You're going to be spreading this on bread anyway -- a fairly neutral palette -- so I recommend going for large amounts and strong flavors.

If you want to chill your butter before using -- maybe so you can let a slice of it melt on top of a piece of poached salmon later -- you can shape it into a cylinder by wrapping it in plastic wrap, rolling it to an even thickness with the palm of your hand, and twisting the plastic together at each end. Then just stick the packet in your refrigerator for future application.

And if you want to make this into a schmear instead of a compound butter, you can switch out the butter for cream cheese. This is definitely on my short list of things to make before the dill is all gone.

Radish and dill compound butter

2-3 radishes (3 tbsp grated)
1 1/2 tbsp fresh dill
4 tbsp softened butter
salt and pepper to taste

Shred your radishes on a box grater or microplane. Finely chop your dill.

Mix the shredded radish, dill, and butter together thoroughly. Season with salt and pepper, taste, and adjust.

Spread on the bread of your choice and eat. Otherwise, wrap in plastic wrap and chill for future use.

John and I may have polished off our entire batch, as well as an entire baguette, and called it lunch. Cold rosé is optional.

What are you spreading on bread lately?

13 July 2015

Super simple strawberry cake

Super simple strawberry cake

We've been getting 2 pints of strawberries per week from our CSA. This, of course, is pretty fantastic. Strawberries with dinner! Strawberries with breakfast! Strawberries at the slightest provocation!

But there's always that point at which the yet uneaten berries start to wilt a bit. Maybe one pint is gone, and the other is completely untouched (strange, but it does occasionally happen). And then it's Tuesday night and you know that Thursday will bring another two pints.

At this point you have a couple options. You can freeze your berries for smoothies, which is always a good plan. You can mash your berries into the world's smallest batch of jam, to be eaten immediately on toast spread with ricotta or cream cheese and topped with basil and black pepper (which I have not done, but which definitely needs to happen ASAP). Or you can bake with them.

Since the weather was cool enough for us to turn on the oven, we went with option 3. I found a minimal cake recipe that would let the berries take center stage, and I went to work.

This cake is not only really easy and quick to make, but also deceptive, hiding chunks of strawberry beneath its surface. The berries start out on top of the batter and sink down over the course of baking, becoming delightful surprises. So good.

Super simple strawberry cake

Super simple strawberry cake
adapted from Always With Butter.

6 tbsp softened butter
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 tbsp milk
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 cups flour
1 pint strawberries

I bake pretty much everything by the 1-bowl method, and this was no different.

In a large mixing bowl, cream your butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs and milk and mix to combine well. Add the baking powder, salt, and cinnamon, and mix to combine again. Add the flour in three half-cup increments, mixing thoroughly after each addition.

Pour the batter into a well-buttered and floured 8-inch cake pan.

Wash and slice your strawberries. Push the berries far down into the surface of the batter, making a pattern or not as you prefer. As you can see, I prefer not to. They'll mostly be covered in the end anyway.

Bake at 350F for 35-40 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean. Try not to put your tester directly into a molten berry.

Serve plain, with whipped cream, or with a sprinkling of powdered sugar. Very lovely for breakfast or with a cup of afternoon tea. Or, you know, whenever.

And if you are a fan of peanut butter, this is excellent with a big spoonful spread on top. Peanut butter and jelly cake for all!

What fruit-filled concoctions are you baking this summer?

09 July 2015

Refrigerator zucchini pickles

Refrigerator zucchini pickles

Yay! It's summer squash season! Yes, that magical time of year in which suddenly everyone you know is trying to foist bagfuls of zucchini, pattypans, and yellow squash onto their friends and neighbors at the slightest provocation. If you're growing your own, the situation is even worse. Suddenly, YOU are the one wandering into the backyard to find that an apparently bare plant has somehow sprouted six fully grown squash -- and you have four more plants to check -- and there were already several zucchini in your crisper.

Now is the time to use up that squash any way you can. I like to slice up a few squash for a simple saute with garlic and olive oil, or to cube them and scramble them with eggs and a big handful of herbs. But when those strategies fail, it's time to go a step further and think about preserves.

The classic method of summer squash preservation is a simple shred and freeze. This works out very well if you are the kind of person who will eat zucchini bread for months on end. But I decided it was time to try something different, and that thing was pickled zucchini.

This is a very simple and delightful refrigerator pickle. There is a surprising hint of mustard taste in the finished product, which means that these go very well on sandwiches of all kinds. A jar of these is definitely a great way to get through some of a massive summer zucchini harvest -- or, in my case, the seven or eight zucchini at a time that have been arriving at frequent intervals via CSA box.

Refrigerator zucchini pickles

1 pint mason jar, washed and dried
4 medium zucchini or summer squash (~2 cups sliced)
1 halved garlic clove
1/2 tsp dried dill
3/4 cup white vinegar
3/4 cup water
1/4 tsp peppercorns
1 tbsp pickling salt or kosher salt
optional canning funnel

Wash your zucchini and slice them into rounds or spears. I chose rounds for easy sandwich application. Leave them raw.

Put your garlic clove and dill into your jar. Add your zucchini. You may have to shift the pieces around a bit to fit them all in there.

In a small saucepan, heat your vinegar, water, peppercorns, and salt. Put on the lid and simmer for about five minutes, or until the salt has completely dissolved.

Pour your hot brine into your jar, leaving 1/4 inch of headspace at the top. Use a chopstick or spatula to release any air bubbles, and top up with more brine as needed. Make sure you get all the peppercorns into the jar, even if you have extra liquid left over.

Lid your jar and put it into the refrigerator. Let your pickles cure for at least 24 hours before eating them.

Now it's time for voluminous sandwiches of all kinds. Pickles for every lunch! Hooray!

How do you use up the yearly summertime zucchini glut?

06 July 2015

Fresh apricot sauce with honey and black pepper

Fresh apricot sauce with honey and black pepper

OKAY. We have just finished hosting John's mom and our niece for a full week of running around the SF bay area and points beyond. Much fun was had by all. The only problem is that I now have roughly 500 posts in my foodblog feed to get through as quickly as possible. Yay?

We didn't do that much cooking in the past week, considering the holiday etc., but one standout was this delightful apricot sauce. It was totally appropriate for multiple occasions. First, we seared some pork chops and served them with the apricot sauce, plus brown rice and garlic chard. This was lovely. But the sauce was even better on our last night, when we made a big batch of waffles for celebratory breakfast for dinner. Apricot sauce, waffles, and butter: yes please.

Of course, at this point I also must point out that our niece's favorite way to eat her waffles -- with peanut butter and maple syrup -- was excellent too. But you don't need me to teach you how to put peanut butter and maple syrup on waffles!

This sauce is very easy to make. Just a quick poach plus a little blending is all it takes to make your own delightful apricot concoction. This also creates what is possibly the most vibrantly orange sauce ever.

If you're planning to use this sauce with meat or other savory devices, I'd recommend adding a touch of something herbal. Rosemary would be ideal. You could either put a branch in the poaching liquid to let the flavor infuse into the fruit, or gently cook the pureed sauce with your rosemary for overall sauce infusion. Either way, you'd end up with something just a touch more complex and applicable to savory dishes.

This makes approximately 1.5 cups of apricot sauce, depending on the size of your apricots.

Fresh apricot sauce with honey and black pepper

Fresh apricot sauce with honey and black pepper

6-7 apricots
water to poach
2-3 tbsp honey (adjust to taste, depending on the apricots' sweetness)
10-12 grinds black pepper
stick blender or other appropriate blending device

Put a medium pot of water on to simmer. Halve and pit your apricots. When the water comes up to temperature, add your apricot halves and poach gently for about two to three minutes, or until the apricots float to the surface. They should be lovely and tender.

In a bowl or other container, combine your apricots, honey, and pepper. Puree thoroughly using the stick blender. If your sauce is too thick, you can thin it with a spoonful or two of poaching liquid.

Serve your finished apricot sauce with the delights of your choice. I choose waffles.

How are you eating your fresh summer stone fruit?

22 June 2015

London notes

London notes: St. Paul's Cathedral and the Millennium Bridge from the Tate Modern balcony


- Just put your phone on battery saver to begin with. Buy a prepaid sim at the vending machines at Heathrow. This is mostly important for data, because maps. London requires maps.

- Take the tube. Get an Oyster card from the machines at Heathrow. They actually have people on staff to help newcomers understand what to buy and how. (Imagine if they had people on staff at the BART machines at SFO.) Treat the tube like any major urban subway system, with the required fast walking, swift card-scanning on entry and exit, and standing to the right/walking to the left on the escalator, and you'll be fine.

- There are more than enough free museums to fill up an entire week without paying to enter anything. I went to the British Museum, the Tate Modern, the Museum of London, and Sir John Soanes' Museum. Other good candidates include the National Gallery, the National Portrait Gallery, Tate Britain, and a variety of smaller and more esoteric things like the Wellcome Collection.

- Don't buy coffee from the carts at the British Museum. Go around back to the Senate House shop for much cheaper coffee, plus reasonably student-priced sandwiches and etc.

- "Coffee" means "basic espresso drinks." If you want an actual drip coffee you can go to Starbucks, which remains everywhere. Otherwise, Costa or Nero are the main chains.

- London is under construction.

- Expect large flocks of schoolchildren near any tourist attraction.

- For long flights, noise-canceling headphones are more or less miraculous.

- If you hate crowds, do not go to Covent Garden or Soho after 5:30 pm. Consider what NYC's Soho is like and plan accordingly. If you want to eat dinner in a busy area, make reservations.

- It was harder than I expected to keep track of exactly how much I was spending, even with a reasonable grasp of the exchange rates and mental math skills.

London notes: Russell Square

- Searching out cheap food isn't necessarily easy, but it's doable. London obviously supports a huge community of commuters who need lunch every day. There are boxed sandwiches at grocery stores and Pret a Mangers on nearly every corner. Tsuru Sushi behind the Tate Modern has $5-ish prepacked small sushi boxes. St. Giles in the Field church has food trucks in the yard.

- There are public gardens everywhere and you should go to them, especially after buying one of the aforementioned sandwiches. Find a bench or a spot on the lawn and relax.

- If it's sunny and warm outside, the entire population of London will also be in the nearest public garden.

- You thought California allergies were bad, but London spring allergies are even worse. There are piles of fluffy flowerheads falling off the trees constantly and lying in drifts in the gutters. Bring your meds.

- On the other hand, I managed to sit directly on various garden lawns (flowerheads notwithstanding) for longish stretches of time without getting any bug bites. This seems nothing short of miraculous.

- English roses have a far stronger scent than the American varieties.

London notes: hanging out with nice dogs and pints of beer in Russell Square

- Some gardens have cafes with seating. This is an excellent plan for a lazy afternoon. Bring your book and have a pint of Peroni or an americano.

- UK open container laws are far more permissive than those in the US. You can drink in the park and no one will bat an eye. This also explains the massive amount of people standing OUTSIDE pubs with their pints.

- Somehow we managed to do this whole trip without even entering a pub. On the other hand, drinking a refreshing beer in the park while people-watching (and dog-watching) was definitely worth it.


London notes: The Assyrian foot troops never skip leg day. British Museum.

- The British Museum, while definitely worth a visit, is just as problematic as expected. They know they have a lot of imperial plunder, and they're never going to let it go. Even the text accompanying some things (especially the Elgin marbles, aka the looting of the Parthenon) is super defensive. It's especially fun when you go up to the neoclassical section and see pieces of early 19th century British art directly copying the real thing you saw downstairs. There was one piece in Greek style, with neoclassical figures in the middle, two Egyptian painted sarcophagi on the sides, and a giant rampant gold eagle on the top -- SO bizarre.

The gift shops are a trove of cultural appropriation. Do people really still think that a scarf or tote bag printed with a pattern of another culture's coffins is a good plan in this day and age? Really?

Yes, there's the argument that the Parthenon panels would have been destroyed (or at least in much worse shape) if they weren't shipped over to England when they were. Well, while that is likely true, here's a counter-observation. I've never heard anyone make a similar argument about the Saxons and Danes and Normans who used the Roman ruins in Britain to make the foundations of their buildings. And it's not as if modern London hasn't been seriously damaged in war anytime recently.

The museum also clearly relies on the vast array of artifacts they own, and spends comparably little time and effort on education and sensical presentation. It was not easy to figure out the proper order to go through rooms, and the significance of different items frequently wasn't clear. Now, it's obvious that the museum wants to make money off selling guidebooks and maps, but still. This is a problem when you're trying to learn.

London notes: Assyrian panels at the British Museum

So, yes. There was certainly a lot of really interesting stuff to see, but that doesn't make it any less problematic. I liked the Assyrian section very much. For instance, the king above is claiming that he, being blessed by the gods, personally has conquered the entire world and made it great, including things like personally raising all the food in existence. It certainly raises some interesting questions about the concept of kingship, ownership, and agency at the time. Plus you have to love the idea that text can just go anywhere. Why not put it right on top of a fantastic stone panel that your best masons have been carving for the past year?

- While we're talking about collections of other cultures' things, let's talk about Sir John Soanes' museum. This is the home of the architect who designed the houses of parliament and his own house as well. He was a collector and essentially made his house into a museum while he was still alive. Phones aren't allowed on inside, so no pictures here.

The basement is called "the crypt," and is designed around the stone sarcophagus of Seti I. Evidently Soanes had an argument with the British Museum over keeping this. Above the sarcophagus there are a few stories of overlooking balconies, culminating in a elaborate glass cupola that lets light all the way down to the ground. And the entire place is filled with figurines and fragments of statuary. FILLED. Rooms and rooms full of every last piece of Greek, Roman or Egyptian artifact he could get his hands on.

And that's not all! There's a room filled entirely with paintings. One side of the room is a very shallow cabinet, which opens out to reveal ANOTHER layer of paintings. Hogarth's whole Rake's Progress is here, locked securely into the cabinet until a guide opens it out and explains the entire story from painting to painting. There's also an architectural drawings room and several other rooms being restored.

The front of the house has two stories of intact 18th century drawing rooms and salons, which I actually thought were the most interesting part of the museum, and certainly a lot less problematic than the hoard of statuary. Next time we are in London I want to search out more sites that specifically preserve or focus on that kind of everyday history.

- On that note, the Museum of London. This was the best museum of the trip, hands down. It was arranged in a reasonable progression, with lots of actually useful educational information, and it certainly helped a lot that they were tackling the history of the city of London itself. No cultural appropriation involved.

So, did you know that before London was founded, the people at the time constructed rush bridges from the south bank of the Thames (such as it was; it was really a big marsh) out into the river, and that from there they would, presumably for religious or ritualistic reasons, throw not only valuable weaponry but human heads into the river? And also clay pots that we now suppose were symbolic of heads? YEP.

I got to learn all about which buildings there were in Roman Londinium, and how they were laid out, and why they prioritized which ones. The museum is presumably built where it is because you can look out a window at a strategic point and see the actual Roman wall of an administrative building which is just still there. (There's another Roman wall near the Tower, which I didn't go see.)

And then there was the rest of the history of the city, all laid out in order. By the time I got to the late 17th century stuff, I had to cut short my visit and go meet John while simultaneously avoiding rush hour as much as possible, so I didn't get to see as much as I would have liked. Future visits: yes.

- Finally, on a totally different note, the Tate Modern. This was a great choice, even though I found all the historical museums more interesting overall. The collections are certainly impressive. For instance, there was a whole roomful of Rothkos, presented in low light so you could stare at them and get the optical-illusion effect of the center squares growing outward.

It was really difficult to take any pictures that remotely approached being decent, but here are a couple.

London notes: Brodsky Utkin drawings at the Tate Modern

London notes: Subodh Gupta at the Tate Modern

London notes: Ibrahim El-Salahi at the Tate Modern


London notes: tiers of boxes at the Globe Theatre

- I don't know why I'm presenting this as an entire section, because we only saw one thing, and that was King John at the Globe Theatre. This was on because this summer is the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta. (The British Library actually had the document itself on display, but I didn't end up getting there.) Of course, the subject of the play is not actually the signing of the Magna Carta, but still.

Needless to say, for two dorks with graduate degrees in writing, this was a non-negotiable.

The Globe still sells groundling tickets for standing room on the main floor for cheap publicly accessible theatre. We considered this, but my ankle was still sprained (on a side note, let me just mention how exciting it was to stomp around London in a boot all week), so we decided it was a better idea to actually get seats. So we bought two tickets to the highest tier and tromped up the stairs to watch the performance from there.

This was our view of the stage:

London notes: stage view from the third tier at the Globe Theatre border=

Overall, an excellent vantage point for the entire performance.

The play itself was well acted, but it isn't performed very often, because it is just not one of the best Shakespeare plays out there. In some ways it combined the slapsticky humor of some of the comedies with the actual historical events that you'd get in most history plays. That's not a combination you get a lot nowadays, but it shed some light on what the typical plays might have been like at the time. You have a performance with a narrative that pleases your rich and powerful benefactors and sends a clear message to the crowd, but also entertains that crowd and makes them remember your story or characters in a particular way. In this case, you get King John as a temporizing figure who really, really wanted the crown, to the point that he basically immediately jumped into war with the French, but you also get a clear picture of the succession being passed down to his heir etc at the end. Super interesting.

That said, OH MAN could some scenes have used some editing.


London notes: Gorgeous fish dinner at Pierre Victoire in Soho

- I know you guys were waiting for this part. The thing is, I definitely didn't feel the need to eat a big fancy lunch by myself every day while John was off working. Instead, I ate a good selection of sandwiches in Russell Square and various other parks, and that was great. That said, we did go out to dinner quite a bit.

- First, we went to Veeraswamy, the oldest Indian restaurant in London. I don't know that I've ever taken an elevator to enter a restaurant before, but I certainly have now. The food here was good -- especially John's drink, which was a delightful and intensely colored green apple juice -- but it was disproportionately expensive for what we got. I guess that's what happens when you're in a historic restaurant in a very expensive city.

Indian food in London is a bit sweeter than you might expect. This was surprising (even though we were warned about it), mostly because a lot of American food is also already pretty sweet. John prefers the Indian food we get in our very Indian-heavy part of California; I like the London Indian food just about as well, which is saying a lot, because I LOVE Indian food of all kinds.

- Tas. This Middle Eastern restaurant has several locations around London, and they are worth going to. We actually went to two of them, because one was next to the Globe, and the other was very near our hotel. The other reason is that it was just easier to make sure we could get good, serious, protein-oriented vegetarian food if we ate Middle Eastern. Lentil soup and hummus and grape leaves and lots of delicious puffy bread! And it was fairly reasonably priced as well.

- The Salt and Pepper Cafe. This little nook was around the corner from the British Museum. I had some very nice, very fast, and relatively inexpensive breakfasts here. You have to love a spinach omelet served with salad for breakfast. If you want a bowl of oatmeal with fruit and plenty of cream, this is where to go get it. Also: all the coffee!

- Pierre Victoire. This French bistro is smack in the middle of Soho, right around the corner from Soho Square. We ate outside, which is not a normal thing John and I ever do, and watched people walk past with their dogs on an expedition to an evening nose around the square.

I had the massive slab of fish with clams in the picture, and it was just about exactly as fantastic as it appears. The food was really, really good, the people were friendly and good at their jobs, and I would go here again with zero hesitation.


- I like London quite a bit, and would absolutely go back. In the future, I think it would be great to get out into the more normal neighborhoods -- we were certainly in a very expensive part of a very expensive town -- and experience everything more like an actual Londoner would.

- Finally, I found £1.60 over the course of the trip. Finding money is always super satisfying.

11 June 2015

First CSA box of the year!

First CSA box of the year!

It's the first CSA box of the year! Here's what we got:

2 pints strawberries
3 huge leeks
bunch tokyo turnips w greens
bunch carrots w greens
bunch fresh dill
7 medium zucchini
2 little gem lettuce
1 bag mesclun mix
1/2 dozen eggs

This year we have an egg share, which is super exciting. Just look at all those colors! And who couldn't be excited about stuffing their faces with the first farm-fresh strawberries of the year?

There was only one problem: we got the box immediately before leaving the country for a week. How could we eat as much of this as possible in as little time as possible?

Fortunately, a good chunk of our share keeps pretty well. Leeks, turnips, and carrots are all reasonable storage vegetables. Eggs keep forever, which is good, because we had ten of our last dozen left too. The rest needed to get eaten or cooked and frozen pretty quickly. So what did we make?

First CSA box of the year!

Strawberries: Of course, we had to eat an entire pint raw as soon as possible. That's a given. Extras got washed, sliced, and frozen for future smoothies. Otherwise, we could have cut them up and strewed them over some of the mesclun mix for salad.

Zucchini: I am the main eater of zucchini in our house, but even I couldn't eat all seven in two days. I shredded a couple along with a carrot or two, mixed them with tuna, scallion, mustard, and sriracha, and had a lovely spicy tuna salad. I cubed up a couple more and threw them into some brothy soup. That took care of about half of them. The rest sat in the crisper and miraculously stayed intact for the duration of our trip. Other ideas: a zucchini pancake would be a good plan. Zucchini noodles and some relatively hearty lentil and tomato sauce would work well too. And cubed zucchini is great scrambled with a couple eggs or thrown into fried rice.

Dill: Since we had all the eggs, we could have made an excellent egg salad, but we didn't get to it in time. (This is actually on the list for this week.) Instead, I put the whole bunch of dill in a jar of water and put it in the fridge to see how well it would keep. This worked astonishingly well. I've since been snipping it into soup and strewing it over crispbread spread with cream cheese and topped with black pepper.

Lettuces: The little gems keep reasonably well, so we ate the softer mesclun first, along with the bit of romaine we already had. I don't know about you, but when I get a lot of pre-washed, perfectly fresh mesclun, I tend to just eat it in big handfuls out of the bag, or throw a handful of undressed leaves on my plate, along with whatever random quesadilla may be on the menu otherwise. That's exactly what happened here.

Verdict: success! We managed to eat all the tender vegetables in record time, and the rest kept in good shape for the week that we were away.

And now we have another box coming this afternoon. Yay!

Do you have a CSA share? What are you making with all your bounty?

02 June 2015

Samosa soup

Samosa soup

We've been eating a lot of pinto beans lately. This is a thing that happens when you buy a 5-lb bag of said pinto beans and cook huge batches of them in your pressure cooker on a regular basis, both of which I absolutely do.

Refried beans are already on the table two or three times a week at our house, whether they're made from pintos or black beans. I also recently made a double batch of Good Good Things' bbq pinto bean burgers (along with a vegetarianized batch of Joy of Cooking bbq sauce to put in them). We now have a lovely stock of 11 burgers stashed away in the freezer for future consumption. But I still had quite a few beans in their broth hanging around waiting to be eaten afterward.

We'd more or less exhausted the classics, so I wanted to make something different. Soup is always good. Why not mix up a basic bean soup with the spices usually used in making samosas?

I looked up a couple of samosa recipes and went to town.

This soup is lovely and warming, with a hint of heat that can be increased as much as you like. The garam masala makes it a bit sweet, especially when eaten plain. Add a handful of crackers (or naan, if you're feeling semi-industrious) and a few salad greens, and you have a complete and very satisfying meal. The leftovers freeze very well.

Serves 4.

Samosa soup

Samosa soup

oil of choice
1 large yellow onion
2 carrots
1-2 stalks celery
1-2 boiling potatoes
1 jalapeno or serrano
2 cups cooked pinto beans (in 2 cups of their broth if homemade, drained if not)
2 cups veg broth (+2 more cups if using canned beans)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground coriander seed
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp amchoor powder (or sub lemon juice)
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper or to taste
1 tsp garam masala
immersion blender or other pureeing device
plain yogurt/sub of your choice and cilantro to garnish

Warm a couple slugs of oil over medium heat in a large soup pot while you chop up your onion, carrots, and celery. When the oil is hot, add the chopped vegetables to the pan along with a shake of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about five minutes, or until the onion is beginning to turn translucent.

While you're waiting, chop up your potatoes and chile. Then add them to the pot, stir, and continue to cook for another five minutes.

Next, add your pinto beans and broth to the pot. Add all the spices except garam masala (and lemon juice, if you're using it). Bring the pot to a boil, cover, reduce heat, and simmer for about ten to fifteen minutes, or until your potatoes are entirely cooked through. This may take a bit longer if your potato pieces are on the large side.

Take your pot off the heat and puree your soup using an immersion blender. Taste and correct the seasonings. Then return the soup to the heat and cook it down until it reaches your desired texture.

When you're happy with your soup, turn off the heat and stir in your garam masala (and lemon juice). Serve plain, with chopped cilantro, or top with plain yogurt. Voila!

If you want more vegetables, you can saute some peas in olive oil with a little salt and put a big scoop of them over the top of your bowl of finished soup. Or put a handful of spinach or mesclun leaves in the bottom of each bowl before serving. Or have an actual salad on the side! It's all good.

What's your favorite thing to cook with pinto beans?

29 May 2015

Chickpea, heart of palm, & roasted red pepper salad

Chickpea, heart of palm, & roasted red pepper salad

One thing you do when you're going out of town -- especially if an abundant CSA box is on the way -- is to eat down as much of the food in your kitchen as you can.

Salad was definitely on the list, because we had romaine already, and we're going to get an influx of even more greens before we leave. So I went through the cabinets and pulled out everything I thought would make a great full-meal salad. That meant chickpeas, hearts of palm, and jarred roasted red pepper. Together, they make an excellent, highly flavored, and multitextural salad. Over plenty of crispy greens, this mix made a very satisfying lunch.

This salad is very reminiscent of one of my favorite restaurant salads ever: the heart of palm salad at Osteria in Palo Alto, CA. I'm super excited to have made something similar at home. And if any of you want good Italian food -- especially salads -- in Palo Alto, this is where you should go, hands down. Even their basic green salad is astoundingly good.

This recipe will make three meal-sized servings or 4-6 smaller servings. It's therefore pretty great to make on Sunday and bring to work for several days during the week, as long as you keep the salad greens separate from the marinated veg mixture.

Chickpea, heart of palm, & roasted red pepper salad

Chickpea, heart of palm, & roasted red pepper salad

1 15-oz can or 2 cups cooked chickpeas
1 14-15-oz can hearts of palm
3-4 roasted red bell peppers
several big handfuls of chopped parsley
1 tbsp champagne vinegar
1 clove crushed garlic
4+ tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper
up to 1 head romaine or other salad greens

If you need to roast your peppers, do that first. You can either roast them directly over the gas flame or halve them and stick them under the broiler. In either case, you want to blacken and blister the peppers on all sides. Then put them in a bag or sealable container for about ten minutes; this will trap the steam inside and loosen the skins. Then you can just brush the skin away with your fingers. Voila! Roasted red peppers!

Drain and rinse your chickpeas and deposit them in a large mixing bowl. Drain and rinse your hearts of palm, cut them into bite-sized pieces, and add them to the bowl. My hearts of palm were supposedly salad-cut, but they were still pretty large, so I cut them down a bit more. Chop your roasted and skinned peppers into similar bite-sized pieces and add them to the bowl. Add a couple big handfuls of chopped parsley, and the base of your salad is ready.

To make the dressing, mix together a tablespoon of champagne vinegar and a clove of crushed garlic, along with some salt and pepper. Whisk in about 4 tablespoons of good olive oil. Taste and adjust the seasonings to your liking. Then pour your dressing over your salad and stir well to coat and mix. You can sub about 5 tbsp of the vinaigrette of your choice if you prefer.

It's a good idea to let this salad rest in the refrigerator for at least an hour before serving, so the flavors have a chance to mix together nicely. I absolutely did not do this, however.

When you're ready to serve, wash, dry, and chop your salad greens into appropriate pieces. Spread a few handfuls of leaves over each plate. Top with a generous amount of your chickpea mixture. Sprinkle a little more pepper on top and go to town.

What are some of your favorite salads?

25 May 2015

Scrambled eggs with tarragon, parsley, potato, and onion

Scrambled eggs with tarragon, parsley, potato, and onion

Wait, it's the holiday weekend? It's practically summer! What happened?

A lot of things happened. My ankle is still sprained, which means I've been hobbling around instead of standing up in the kitchen. I've been taking programming and computer history classes, which require a lot of brain and leave me wanting to sit around reading trashy novels in my spare time. And we're semi-suddenly going to London at the end of this week, due to someone having a required work trip. This gives us an excellent opportunity to kill two birds with one stone and take some vacation time. I intend to drink lots of coffee, eat British Indian food, and go to all the museums.

SO. That's my life right now. Anyway. Let's talk about food.

The other day I had some leftover potatoes and onions to use up, along with a bunch of fresh tarragon, so I made these delightful eggs.

Nigel Slater says that eggs and tarragon work well together, and I am happy to report that this is indeed the case. I'm especially happy because I don't really know what else to do with a package of tarragon. I think some further experimentation may be in order. But in the meantime, eggs work.

Scrambled eggs with tarragon, parsley, potato, and onion

1/2 small onion
1 small cooked potato
2 eggs
leaves of 2 sprigs fresh tarragon
leaves of 2-3 sprigs fresh parsley
salt & pepper
toast to serve

Melt a pat of butter in an appropriate egg pan. Dice your onion, add it to the pan, and cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes, or until it starts to soften. (If you're using leftover cooked onion, you can just heat it up with the potato.)

Dice your potato and add that to the pan. Stir and continue to cook for another 2-3 minutes, or until hot through.

Crack your eggs into a small bowl. Chop your herbs and add them to the eggs, along with a good sprinkling of salt and pepper. Mix well with a fork.

If you want toast, now is the time to put it on.

Turn the heat down under your pan and add your egg mixture. Cook, stirring frequently with a spatula, until scrambled to your liking. I like to scramble on low heat; the residual heat in the pan will still keep things going fairly quickly.

Serve your finished eggs with nicely buttered toast. Have some coffee. Yay!

What do you make with tarragon? Seriously, I need some suggestions.

Also, did I mention that our first CSA box of the season is coming right before we fly across the world? There may be some hasty cooking and freezing happening.

14 May 2015

Strawberry banana chia smoothie

Strawberry banana chia smoothie
Strawberry banana: perhaps not the most creative smoothie combination of all time. But hey! It's still tasty and easy, and it's certainly strawberry season right now. Why not?

Besides, the chia seeds make up for it.

I've been experimenting with chia seeds for a few months. They're excellent as a simple oatmeal topping or made into a pudding such as Gena's basic chia pudding. But I think my favorite way to eat chia seeds is to soak them and use them to thicken smoothies.

It's easy to adjust the amounts of seeds and liquid to make a thicker or thinner smoothie. This time, since I was using the classic smoothie thickener, banana, I kept the amount of chia seeds fairly low -- 1 tbsp of seeds for 1/2 cup total of milk and yogurt. It would definitely be possible to double the amount of seeds, eliminate the banana, and add in a bunch of different fruits and vegetables, though. Experiment and see what you like!

I strongly prefer smoothies made with fresh banana to those made with frozen. However! If you happen to have a freezer full of smoothie-destined bananas, you could absolutely use them here. You may need to add some extra liquid or switch out the yogurt for milk to adjust for your desired texture, but otherwise, you should be good to go.

If you make this in a regular-mouth mason jar, you can screw it onto a standard blender base and blend in the jar itself. Fewer dishes = yes please. This also means you can always put a lid on your jar and save the leftovers for later. Super easy.

Strawberry banana chia smoothie

1/4 cup milk or non-dairy milk of choice
1 tbsp chia seeds
1/4 cup plain yogurt or non-dairy sub of choice (or more milk)
4-5 strawberries, chunked
1 fresh banana, sliced
1 tsp flaxseed meal, optional

At least two hours before you want your smoothie, mix your milk and chia seeds together in your jar of choice. Refrigerate. Stir to mix twice at rough 10-minute intervals. This will keep your seeds from sticking together in one big lump at the bottom of your jar. Then just leave the jar in the fridge for 2 hours or more. I leave mine overnight.

In the morning, your chia seeds will be ready to go. Add your yogurt, strawberries, banana, and flaxseed meal to the jar (or put everything in a standard blender). Blend until fully pureed.

Drink it! Breakfast!

Do you eat chia seeds? What's your favorite thing to make with them?

PS: I have a sprained ankle. WHY. (It's because the moles dug a hole right in front of the back door. Jerks.)

08 May 2015

Carrot pinto bean chipotle soup

Carrot pinto bean chipotle soup

Because there's no reason to stop eating soup just because it's May.

I am doing nineteen things at once lately, so soup is actually one of the better choices I could make. It's super easy to make, delicious, cheap, and stores well in the freezer for future nights when I don't want to do anything but collapse into bed. Put some soup in a bowl, throw some lettuce on a plate (or into the soup), and you have a full dinner.

This particular soup is lovely and spicy and delightful. I will eat plenty.

Carrot pinto bean chipotle soup

olive oil or butter
1 onion
6 carrots
2 stalks celery
2 cloves garlic
1 boiling potato
2 cups cooked pinto beans
4 cups veg or bean broth
salt, pepper, bay leaf, cumin, oregano
1-2+ chipotles in adobo & sauce
optional garnish: green onion, cilantro, yogurt, etc.

Warm your oil or butter in a large soup pot while you peel (or scrub) and dice your onion, carrots, and celery. Add the vegetables and a pinch of salt to the pot, stir, and cook over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes, or until softened and beginning to brown.

Mince your garlic and dice your potato. Add these to the pot and continue to cook for another minute or two. Then add your beans and broth, season to taste with salt, pepper, cumin, and oregano, throw in a bay leaf, and bring the whole business to a boil. Reduce the heat to simmer, cover, and cook for about 15 minutes, or until all your vegetables are cooked through.

At this point you'll want to pull the pot off the heat, remove the bay leaf, and puree the soup to your desired texture with an immersion blender. I like a completely smooth soup, but it's fine to leave yours a bit chunky if you prefer.

Check out the texture of your soup. If it's too thick, add some water or broth. If it's too thin, put it back on the heat and simmer to reduce to your desired texture.

When you're happy with your soup's texture, taste and correct any seasonings. Then, off the heat, stir in as much finely chopped chipotle pepper in adobo as you desire. The amount can vary quite a bit depending on your spice tolerance, so it's a good idea to start off slowly and taste as you go. We like spice, so I used about 2 tablespoons of chopped chipotle and sauce.

Serve your soup with your choice of garnish. Chopped green onion works exceptionally well here, as does cilantro or fresh oregano. If you happen to be making this at the height of corn season, a handful of kernels fresh off the cob would be an excellent idea. You may also want to have some toasted corn tortillas or chips available for dipping.

What's your favorite thing to eat after a busy day?