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?