Thursday, July 31, 2008

bread, tomatoes, lunch

The bread is from King Arthur's website; it's called "Gruyere-Stuffed Crusty Loaves" or something like that -- though I used a combination of Cabot's extra shap cheddar and some Asiago, because that's what I had.
The slightly blurry tomatoes were harvested from our yard!!
And the bottom one is my lunch. Chickpeas, deviled eggs (made with chives from my herb garden), and a pepper.
That's all I have time for right now!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

today's lunch

That polenta I made the other day? Worth its weight in GOLD, I tell you.

Yesterday I fried some up in a bit of butter for breakfast, with a fried egg.

Today I did it again, but ate it with the greens and beans from the other night (which are, of course, even better now than they were the first time).

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

a coleslaw miracle! (also notes on cannellini beans and polenta)

The miracle: my kids ate it. It's based on a recipe in The Best Recipe -- I chop the cabbage and grate th carrot, and toss them together (also a few radishes and scallions, this time) in a colander with about 1/4 cup of sugar, and 2 tsp kosher salt. I let it drain for several hours and then toss it with some oil and cider vinegar. Delicious.

It's also amazing how mild-tasting this cabbage was! I love cabbage, I have to say, but it is often quite strong-flavored. This one is so sweet and almost delicate.

I also made Barbara Kingsolver's "Disappearing Zucchini Orzo" which tastes better than it looks, honestly, so I didn't take a picture. It's kind of bland looking, but it tastes great.

(I called it "grated dinner.")

Finally, I cooked some cannellini beans from Baer's. I don't have good luck with cannellinis. I don't love canned ones because the skins are often tough, but when I cook them myself, well, the skins are also often tough. I don't have this issue with other kinds of beans, by and large. Once I tried the Cook's Illustrated method of soaking them in salt water, then draining them and cooking in fresh water. I was amazed by how soft the skins were, and how quickly it happened -- so quickly, in fact, that they basically dissolved and turned to mush before I noticed. Whoops. Not that that's always a problem, since I often mash them with garlic and olive oil, anyway.

Well, so I emailed the Rancho Gordo guy and asked him what he thought of this technique and he basically said, why bother? He felt that he has refined his technique well enough.

But I am feeling after multiple attempts that maybe cannellinis just have a tendency toward tough skins and this is a way to compensate. (Plus I sort of hope that somewhere in the ancient world there might be a precedent for this -- soaking them in seawater or something -- but I haven't seen any evidence for it!) So next time, I'll try the salt brine again and then watch them really carefully to keep them at a low simmer and test them early and often . . .

Today I decided that polenta would go well with the white beans and beet greens I'm making for dinner -- I really make an effort to vary the grains in our diet. It's so easy to eat wheat at every meal, but I just don't think it's the best for us. And since I bake so much bread (though not so much lately, as it's been hot) . . . I try to incorporate rice, corn, quinoa where I can.

I remembered reading about a cooking technique for polenta where you bake it in the oven instead of stirring it constantly on top of the stove, and I gotta tell you, I'm now a convert! It's cooling in a loaf pan in the kitchen as we speak. I used the cooking water from the cannellinis as the broth, and I had a little trouble figuring out the amounts, but it seems to have come together okay. I started out with 4 cups of broth and 2 cups of coarse cornmeal (Bob's Red Mill, I think), but after about 40 minutes it was REALLY dry. So I whisked in an additional 2.5 cups of water and gave it another 45 minutes, and I think it'll be good. I also stirred in some grated Romano -- maybe about a cup?

Monday, July 21, 2008

Look, I *do* own another pan!

The thing about the summer CSA (in past years) is that I sort of missed the ritual of the farmer's market. We've been participating in Drumlin's Winter Share since 2002, but they didn't start a summer share till 2005. We debated joining, because we've always loved going to Waltham's farmer's market. It's not a huge market, and there's only one organic grower, but we like participating in the community of it. The first couple of years, the Drumlin summer share more than met our needs, and we didn't get to the market much.

But this year, I really feel that we're getting less produce from Drumlin. Honestly, it's probably because they got complaints about too many greens (how sad!), but maybe it's also that they're trying to make more $$ at the farmers markets they participate it -- and really, we used to get SO MUCH for the amount we paid, that this is probably reflecting true market prices a little more accurately.

The point is, I don't begrudge it, particularly since the silver lining is shopping regularly at the farmer's market again! I bought potatoes, blueberries, a purple cabbage, and some herbs.

The top picture shows some gorgeous red potatoes that I quartered, lightly boiled and then browned in a pan. They were fantastic -- but I can't take much credit, because they were so wonderful to begin with. Cooking with perfectly fresh produce doesn't require much fussing, (I think Deborah Madison says something like, you don't need to do much to make it good, because it's already good.) Plus, the kids tend to like things plainer, anyway.

There was an extra bunch of radishes in the share bin at Drumlin last week, so I took it (as well as the greens someone took off their beets!) -- and our salads have been heavy on the radishes ever since. The kids really like the *stuff* in the salad -- if I serve Arij salad from the bottom of the bowl, he's perfectly happy. He might eat a piece or two of lettuce, but he loves crunching on the vinaigrette-soaked carrots and radishes.

I was thinking I'd put some radishes in the coleslaw I'm planning on making later today, too.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

"Pasta Estate"

Okay, so I think of pasta with vegetables as pasta primavera, but it ain't primavera anymore (she panted in the 90 degree heat). I think "estate" is Italian for summer.

Here are a couple of pictures from the prep, and one of the salad we ate. I can look back at these in the depth of winter and be happy.
The top picture shows an onion, more fava beans, and red chard stems sauteeing, all from Drumlin. The middle pic is of the yellow squash I'd chopped, and the last one is the salad.
I am also happy because I used up the several batches worth of chard stems that I had saved, instead of just composting them. Often I just use them with the chard, and cook them a little longer first, but sometimes it's nice texture-wise to have greens without them. I cooked some last week -- a mix of beet greens and chard, and accidentally cooked them longer than I intended to, but they got silky smooth and so delicious!!
One final note: I am amused to notice just how much I use my 12 inch All-Clad skillet!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

kissing broccoli

Arij caught me kissing the adorable little florets of broccoli we could take two of (first come, first served! the early bird gets the broccoli!) from our CSA today, inspiring me to use last week's bok choy and make stir fry for dinner. He thought I was crazy till I rhapsodized about how *cute* it was . . . I offered to take his picture kissing the broccoli and I'd post it to the blog. So here it is. It should be captioned, cute boy kisses cute broccoli.

Monday, July 14, 2008

fast food

Hermie was here yesterday to visit and help with kids, dishes, etc. Having her as my mother-in-law is a great gift from the universe. But I digress.

It got to be 5.30 and I hadn't thought about dinner (!)

What to do?

I chopped an onion, threw it in a pan with some salt on medium high heat. I diced up 3 yellow squash, and put those in the pan after the onions had browned. I let those brown a bit too and then added a cup of frozen corn, a tsp or so of cumin seeds, and a few shakes of Aleppo pepper. At the end I tossed in a cup or so of canned black beans and some minced scallions and cilantro (maybe a tablespoon of each?)

We ate it over quinoa with a little cheddar sprinkled on top.

The kids, of course, preferred the quinoa and black beans plain. Sigh.

Sunday, July 13, 2008


I often eat eggs for breakfast, with buttered (one might even say LAVISHLY buttered) toast. This is a holdover from pregnancy when I could not seem to take in enough protein or calories, particularly early in the day. But lately things have changed. I just don't want fried eggs (over hard, with the yolks broken, but cooked gently so they're tender and not the "shoeleather" that my dad always snickers about when he's around and watching me do it) anymore.

Ahem. Where was I?

Oh yes. Ready for a change.

Hot as it was last week, I got a hankering for oatmeal. So I ate that a couple of days, with cracked flax seeds and whole milk yogurt and a drizzle of agave nectar. The kids ate some, too, with brown sugar. And leftovers usually get thrown into whatever batch of bread I have going.

Then I turned the leftovers of that pasta and mixed-vegetable "use up the CSA" dish into a frittata. Now that was yummy.

Today I poked around the fridge, feeling the need for protein but not wanting eggs, and landed on last night's lentil salad with herb vinaigrette and feta. I toasted up some of the pain de campagne I'd also made and buttered it (not too lavishly, actually), and ate that with it. Jon, who'd had a bowl of cereal, wandered by and snitched a bite.

Of course, now that I ate that for breakfast, what does that leave for lunch?

Thursday, July 10, 2008

two dinners -- with pictures!!

Okay, because I'm in the early stages of trying to figure out what I'm doing with regard to pictures, the chronological order of these pictures is off, but I did manage to get the pictures (a) downloaded off the camera onto the computer (a process which took the better part of forever) and (b) uploaded here.

Woo hoo!

The top one, I made last night, and served over pasta. It has spring leeks, a handful of fava beans, red chard, and pattypan squash, as well as a generous sprinkling of basil and Romano cheese. I sauteed/braised the leeks for 10-15 minutes, then tossed in the fava beans which I'd shelled (with considerable help from Annie), blanched, and peeled again (fava beans, worth the trouble, or not? the jury's out); I sauteed the squash over relatively high heat and let it get really brown and caramelized; the chard I sauteed after the leeks and favas were done and transferred to another bowl.
The bottom one is salad greens with the herb-vinaigrette-marinated beans, radishes and feta on top, as well as toasts made from the bread I baked over the weekend -- the bread I have yet to write about, but I haven't forgotten.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Stir fry redux

I had two big bunches of bok choy, some cilantro, some mushrooms, and an open container of tofu.

Lately when I cook bok choy I'm disappointed by how watery it seems. I just saute it the way I do chard or beet greens, but then it's watery in a way that those other greens aren't. Even if I raise the heat at the end to cook off the excess liquid, it sits and becomes juicier than I'd like. Soggy, even.

So I decided to change my tactics. I cooked it with a little oil and some minced ginger and garlic, and then at the end I poured on some sauce that I usually use with a stir fry: soy sauce, sherry, corn starch, hoisin, brown sugar, hot sauce. It thickened up the "watery" pan juices and worked really well. Plus it was yummy. Bok choy is so delicately flavored; it could stand a little boost for a change.

I seared the mushrooms with some salt and pepper and then sprinkled on chopped cilantro after I took it off the heat. I could have combined the 'shrooms with the bok choy, but then they would have sort of steamed, instead of searing. I love doing this with mushrooms, on high heat till they get really brown and even a bit chewy.

The tofu I pan-fried, mostly for Arij, who loves it that way.

And then I made some scallion crepes from a recipe in Deborah Madison's Local Flavors book. I've made them several times before, and they're awesome. Plus they provide a nice way to present stir fry components that's entirely different from plain white rice.

Of course, it was in the high 80s and I had all four burners going on the stove. Phew. Is it any wonder that I stopped making the crepes, saving the rest of the batter to make this morning to eat with butter and jam?

And the chopped scallions I saved to make raita either today or tomorrow.

I've been thinking that stuffed chard leaves would make another good dinner one of these days, with feta and brown rice and the spring leeks I sill have from last week's pickup. Maybe tonight.


After my last post with my impromptu bean review, I was thinking some more, and talking to Jon. I think that I will still order from Rancho Gordo, despite its distance and expense. They're just too good to miss. The variety is just dizzying, and I want to support the farmers who are preserving that diversity of heirloom stock.

And did I mention that they have flat-fee shipping? One big order a year, I can handle.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

herb vinaigrette

We got both flat-leaf parsley and some lovely dill in last week's share, and I have to admit I'm often guilty of not quite knowing what to do with it all. This week, I made an herb vinaigrette which I used in various ways.

First, what I did: I chopped roughly equal amounts of parsley, dill, mint (from my own herb garden) and scallions quite fine. The total "mince" was probably around 1/3 of a cup. I mixed that in a jar with probably around another 1/3 cup of olive oil, a couple-three tablespoons of red wine vinegar, and some salt and pepper.

I put it over lettuce and radishes, of course.

Then the other day I soaked and cooked some black nightfall beans I ordered from Rancho Gordo last fall. (One of these days I have to smarten up and figure out how to to insert a clickable link for things like that!) Their beans are sensational, both in variety and quality, though they are sort of expensive and not exactly local. There's an outfit here, somewhere on the North Shore, I think, that grows beans -- "Baer's Best" -- that are available at two stores I frequent, Wilson's Farm in Lexington and Russo's in Watertown. They also sell stuff under their label that's not necessarily grown by them, though. They used to have a "Massachusetts Grown" sticker on the ones they did grow, but I'm not certain it's still there. Anyway, they're less than $3 a pound and the quality is also excellent, even if the variety isn't quite as stunning as Rancho Gordo's.

Anyway, that's my bean review, apparently. These black nightfall beans took a long time to soften -- probably 2 hours at a gentle simmer. And since I didn't want them to become pure mush, I was checking in on them frequently for the last hour and a quarter of that. Sort of fussy.

Another side note: my father-in-law gave me a great three-quart pot a couple of years ago (not that I needed another one, of course. . .) with a glass lid, which is great for cooking a half a pound of beans, because I can monitor the simmer. Of course, when I want to cook a larger quantity, it's not as good! Then I use an ancient enameled cast iron Copco pot.

So when these beans were finally tender but not mushy, I drained them and let them cool just a little, and then tossed them with some of the herb vinaigrette, and served it over lightly dressed lettuce. The only thing that would have made it better were some lightly toasted slices of sourdough baguette, but you know, you just can't have everything in this life.

Today, then, I used the vinaigrette (again freshly made) as a marinade for grilled zucchini and portobello mushrooms. I made some simple bread (more on that another day; I'm already pushing it with the length of this post!) and so we had crusty sandwiches with extra sharp cheddar, thinly sliced. Jon had grilled sausage, too, of course!

Saturday, July 5, 2008

inspiration from a neighbor

It was Thursday evening and I had cooked some pinto beans, and I had greens soaking, but I was feeling lousy, I'd just roused myself from a nap (I NEVER nap), and I couldn't figure out what to do for dinner.

My neighbor Maureen helped me see the possibilities.

I chopped an onion and sauteed it in oil, threw in some salt and some cumin, and then mashed in the pinto beans and some of their cooking water. Voila, refried beans.

I finished washing them and then sauteed beet greens and chard with oil, salt and garlic.

Whole Foods wheat tortillas were lurking in my fridge, as well as cheese (duh).

Quesadillas for supper, with greens and refried beans. Lovely.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

pride (of pita)

You know what they say about pride, right?

The pitas I made Monday, after I'd decided that I had it all figured out, came out quite badly. And I blew my wad making them.


Back to the drawing board, apparently.

(Of course, the chips I made from them met with unqualified approval from my children, who have been eating them for the last half hour.)