Tag Archives: vegetables

How to Celebrate a Sunday Birthday

Thursday: Wear a fascinator to work and tell everyone that your birthday is coming. Feel childish in your excitement. Run with it.

Friday: Reflection, Kirtan, Goose Island Bourbon County Stout.

Saturday: Clean your apartment. Bask in the open space of your bedroom where, mere days ago, summer’s window AC units had been stacked, staring you down with their large-scale clutter. Go to the market. Cook food. Have people over, make punch, laugh a lot, adore whatever family and friends are around you. Soak in the celebration even if you have a little tummy ache.

It was a mellow party, a nice party, and it ended early enough for Shawn and me to do some cleaning so we weren’t faced with a mess this morning, music still playing, early enough to slow dance in the living room in a pretty dress and sock monkey slippers and new birthday earrings in the wee hours of the real birthday day, when the guests had all left or gone to sleep. What could be better than that?

Sunday: Birthday! Wake up to your little sister and her adorable boyfriend cooking eggs in your kitchen. Feel your heart swell even as you decide to keep your eyes closed a little longer, listening to the clatter of pans and coffee mugs in the next room. Talk on the phone more than usual. Open presents. Post a recipe from your birthday party that was requested last year, made this year, too, requested again.

Squash Lasagna

What Goes In:

  • 4 pounds or so winter squash (a couple medium butternuts or comparable amount other squash)
  • 6 Tbsp. butter (yep, lots of butter)
  • small handful sage, chopped
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 4 cups milk
  • freshly grated nutmeg, salt, pepper
  • 8 oz. or so gruyère, grated
  • 1 box oven-ready lasagna noodles

How to Do It:

  • Prepare squash: Cut in half, scoop out seeds, roast until soft, then scoop flesh into a big bowl.
  • Brown 2 Tbsp. butter in a pan. When the butter turns light brown and smells nutty, remove from heat, toss in sage, and mash into squash with some salt and pepper.
  • Make bechamel: melt remaining 4 Tbsp. butter, whisk in flour, slowly add milk, stirring lots to avoid lumps. Add some salt and pepper and a little nutmeg. Stir and cook until it’s thick.
  • Assemble lasagna: Put a cup of bechamel in the bottom of a pan. Layer uncooked lasagna noodles, bechamel, cheese, and squash. I had 4 layers, ending with bechamel only, with some leftover cheese.
  • Cover with foil, bake for half an hour or so at 35o. Remove foil, sprinkle on the rest of the cheese, cook until cheese is melted and browning just a little. Probably around 15 minutes.

If you are, say, making kale chips and decide to crank the heat to 400 instead of 350, you will most likely end up with a burned, crispy layer at the bottom of the pan. Some of your friends will claim that that’s the best part. Others will push it to the side but still ask for the recipe. Having done this two years in a row, I recommend just remembering to keep the heat on the lower side.

Enjoy your lasagna, friends! I am off to enjoy a walk on a gray day, tasty dinner cooked by a professional, and yet more good cheer.

My First Workshop: Booze Infusion Blowout!!

 

Inspired by last winter’s soup swap, my friend Elena asked a little while back if we could do a booze swap, tasting and trading homemade infusions. It sounded like a great plan (what could be better than sharing creativity in cocktail form?), but there was a minor glitch. Some of the people who wanted most to participate had not infused liqueurs before and weren’t quite sure how to go about it.  And so, a plan was born: a two-part party with infusion taking place in Part I, an exchange of boozy goodness in Part II.

Part I, the workshop portion, took place yesterday. Infusions were made, drinks were drunk, good times were had. My house still smells like ginger, zesty and fresh.

I highly recommend throwing your own infusion party! Here is how to do it:

Step 1: Roll Out the Beverages.


I had some previously made infusions on hand. Most of them were on the sweeter side — rhubarb, hibiscus, ginger-peach, and earl grey. These I set out with a pitcher of OJ, a pitcher of lemonade, and some seltzer. Nothing too fancy, just some general mixers to cut the drinks a bit so we weren’t just slugging back multiple tastings of uncut liquor. I had a more savory concoction, too: a caraway-dill vodka with a hint of garlic. This I mixed with the meager drop of vermouth I had on hand and a dash of olive juice for a strong and pickly dirty martini. One guest claimed that the caraway-dill vodka was great with orange juice, but I’m not sure I believe him.

Step 2: I Love Jars. Get Some Jars.


We asked participants to bring a bottle of booze and some flavors they would like to work with, and we provided jars to make things a little easier.

Step 3: Permission to Wing It.


Because I was in a period of transition (AKA post-school, pre-state-licensing floundering) when the booze party plan was hatched, we decided to call this shindig a workshop. I was super psyched to take on a leadership role and teach some things, and I typed up some official sounding language in the invite about how we would discuss infusion and sample some past projects before assembling our concoctions. It all sounded very orderly. In fact, it was not very orderly at all, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I vaguely pointed to the line-up of infusions and mixers, and people poured drinks and rolled up sleeves and started slicing and dicing fruits and veggies and spices on the kitchen island, tumbling pretty colors and smells into jars.

I offered a little bit of advice as things trucked along: the zest of citrus fruits is the best part to infuse. When using super crazy hot peppers, taste your infusion hourly to make sure it’s not getting out of hand. Fruits and veggies should be ready to strain in a couple of weeks. Teas will only take a day or so. But mostly, we all just winged it, ooh-ing and ahh-ing at each other’s colorful combinations, lining up shiny jars.

In a few weeks, we will strain our drinks, add some sugar as appropriate, reconvene for swapping and sharing, maybe tie some ribbons on bottles for holiday gifts, resume our kitchen-creative chatter. I look forward to tasting some of these blends next month — I’m eying the vanilla-pear, various gingery concoctions, all of them, really, in all their improvised glory. I can’t wait to taste how they turn out!

Back to the City

The fourth of July was wonderful again this year: perfect days in Vermont, green grass, loved ones, cooking on campfire, dappled sunlight by the brook, and the coldest, clearest water.

I will catch up soon on kitchen projects, CSA plans. The fruit share started this week. It wasn’t supposed to start until next week, but the weather has been in the triple digits, and even peaches were plump and ready in early July, and we received a satisfying, handled bag of them with our share last night, accompanied by some wonderful berries, balms to sooth the re-entry, the easing back from three perfect days into heatwave, city grit, the grind of non-vacation life.

I will catch up on these things soon, for sure. In the meantime, I am savoring the peace still lingering from those recent, perfect days, celebrating summer and the glow of recent memories.



Fried Squash Blossoms

I mentioned in a recent post that squash blossoms were the first thing I had ever fried, and that they were wonderful. I was delighted to receive squash blossoms from our CSA two weeks in a row and even more delighted to finally eat them this evening.

The batter provides a light crunch to these babies, and the delicate texture of the blossoms screams of early summer. Better yet, they take mere minutes to prepare.

Recipe: Fried Squash Blossoms

Ingredients:

  • Squash blossoms (I had 10, but I’ve made as few as four at a time)
  • White flour (1 cup or so)
  • club soda (1 cup or so, again)
  • vegetable oil (I mixed canola with olive oil)
  • salt + pepper

How to do it:

OK, for the sake of full disclosure, I admit that I stuffed my blossoms to make them extra delicious. I had some leftover tofu-pesto alfredo in the fridge (recipe to appear here one of these days), which I mushed up with some goat cheese and spooned into the center of the blossoms.  I have previously filled these guys with goat cheese and basil or ricotta with a little bit of pesto. It’s hard to go wrong with creamy cheese and fresh herbs. If you’d like to fill your blossoms, peel the petals back carefully and spoon the filling in. For smaller blossoms where a spoon would not do, I put my filling in a sandwich bag and cut the corner off so that I could pipe it into the little flowers.

Now back to the frying steps…

  1. Whisk flour lightly in a bowl to break up any lumps (not worth sifting, really). I added a little bit of chickpea flour tonight, but I don’t think it added much.
  2. Whisk in club soda until the batter is relatively thin, maybe like heavy cream that’s been beaten for a minute or so, just before it’s whipped.
  3. Add salt and pepper to taste. I used a very light sprinkle of cayenne pepper and a relatively hefty pinch of kosher salt.
  4. Heat 1/2 inch or so of oil in a skillet over medium heat. Heat it up until a drop of water sizzles and pops when dropped into the pan.
  5. Quickly dunk each blossom into batter and drop it in the pan. Fry for a minute or two on one side, then flip over (unless you want to get into deep frying, for which I have no advice)
  6. Remove from pan and drain on doubled up paper towels to remove excess oil. I flipped mine over to get both sides.
  7. Most important! Eat while hot! Enjoy!

CSA: Week 3

Tonight, we are getting:

  • 1 Head Deep Red Leaf Lettuce
  • 1 bu. Hakurei Red Salad Turnips
  • 2 bulbs Kohlrabi
  • 1 Head Green Iceberg Lettuce
  • 1 Head Bok Choy
  • 6 Squash Blossoms
  • 1 bu. Mixed colored Beets
  • 1 bu. Italian Parsley
  • 1 Greenhouse Cucumber
  • 2 pc. Baby Bok Choy

The meals that will spring from this will likely look like this:

  1. Salad for lunch: It seems that we are going to remain mired in salads for a bit — we still have a little lettuce from last week. The cucumber will be a welcome addition.
  2. Fried Squash Blossoms: We did not get around to cooking last week’s squash blossoms (travels interfered), so we will now have 10 to delicately fry and savor, a nice treat to share with an out of town guest.
  3. Weeknight Barbecue: Baby bok choy will likely be marinated and grilled at a potluck double date later this week. I wonder how kohlrabi would do on the grill? Perhaps it is time to find out. Or perhaps the kohlrabi will be julienned and added to a soba noodle salad for a little bit of crunch.
  4. Turnip Salad: I have been eagerly awaiting the return of Harukei turnips. Though we have not had red ones before, white Harukei turnips proved to be one of my favorite new discoveries from last year’s CSA. The early season turnips were sweet and mild with a refreshing crunch, and I loved them in a simple salad with sesame oil and rice wine vinegar. We still have some cilantro from last week’s CSA, which will be wonderful here.
  5. Bok Choy Sauerkraut: This week’s big bok choy + last week’s big bok choy = time to bust out the pickling crock. Not sure what spices I will use for this yet, but I’m looking forward to my first fermentation project of the season.

Not sure yet what will become of the beets and parsley. Pickled beets? Light borscht? Ravioli with beets and goat cheese? Mmmm…Whatever happens with my straggler veggies, I am very much looking forward to a weekend at home (I’ve been away too much lately), to grounding myself in my little kitchen, tearing through vegetables after a few days of unhealthy eating on the road, and hopefully reporting back on the projects ahead.

CSA: Week 2, making plans

Week 2 of the CSA brought exciting goodies like squash blossoms and garlic scapes. Only 4 of each, but exciting just the same. A good friend came over before pickup to help with last week’s bok choy over lunch (sauteed and tossed with radishes, wrapped up in chickpea pancakes), so we were mostly finished with last week’s goods — an accomplishment in my mind as we were away over the weekend — but there was still a full head of lettuce, plus some carrots and radishes kicking around, and the heads of lettuce are getting bigger as the season progresses, so we clearly need to step up our salad eating game if we wish to stay abreast of things.

This week, we got:

  • 1 Head of Red Oak Lettuce
  • 8 oz. Sugar Snap Peas
  • 1 Head of Green Romaine Lettuce
  • 1 Head Green Boston Lettuce
  • 1 Head of Bok Choy
  • 3 Red Beets
  • 4 Garlic Scapes
  • 1 bu. Cilantro
  • 4 pcs. of Rhubarb
  • 4 pieces of Squash Blossoms

I am very excited about the beets, scapes, and squash blossoms in particular. Squash blossoms are the first thing I ever fried, and they remain one of the few things I am willing to cook in any significant amount of oil. I lightly batter them, sometimes filled with ricotta and herbs. I happen to have some leftover pesto-tofu alfredo in the fridge, four spoonfuls or so, just enough to fill these babies up and get them cooking for a simple supper tomorrow night.

As for the beets, I recently came across this gorgeous recipe for beet gnocchi on CakeWalk. These will be made tonight, served up to an impromptu dinner guest with goat cheese and garlic scapes. I just might be more excited than I should be. Time will tell. All I know for now is that my beets are roasted and beautiful, and I’m looking forward to a colorful meal.

We ate a big salad last night with a sesame-cilantro dressing and last week’s radishes, tossed up with pickled beets still lingering (and still good) from last season, and some sliced up, fresh and tasty sugar snap peas. I see more salads in our future. Lots more salads.

I’m hanging onto the big old head of bok choy. We got a lot of bok choy last year, and I’m waiting to see if we get more next week, waiting, too, until I’m not going away for the weekend, to get going on some bok choy kraut. I was skeptical of my ability to burn through a big jar of fermented bok choy last summer, but it turned out that it went great in pad thai inspired noodles, peanut sauces, etc. — the brininess replaced fish sauce and rice wine vinegar, and it was delicious.

The rhubarb, which was truly beautiful with its lovely (but poisonous) leaves, has been chopped and combined with a good bit of gin to make my favorite summer cocktail treat. More on that later, and more plans next week, hopefully recipes instead of a hurried list of food uses. In the meantime, I am excited about the lovely colors gracing my table, still delighted by the freshness coming through on Tuesday nights. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some hot pink gnocchi to make.

CSA Teaser

Our CSA started!

No pictures this week, but I’m getting excited for the summer of vegetables laid out before us.

This week, we got:

  • lettuce, lettuce, lettuce (red oak, red romaine, green Boston)
  • sugar snap peas
  • 1 bunch radishes
  • 1 bunch fancy, multi-colored carrots
  • 1 bunch tall and slender asparagus
  • baby bok choy (and so it begins — last year there was more bok choy than I ever could have imagined)
  • 1/2 pint strawberries

Peas were consumed standing at my kitchen island in bare feet, snapping strings from pods and munching away. I don’t believe there is a better way to eat these crisp, sweet things when fresh than plain and raw. Sautéed in butter with sea salt and mint takes second place, but I so rarely get that far.

Asparagus was roasted last night. I will admit to eating some of this, too, with my fingers, standing barefoot at the kitchen island. Some of it made its way onto a plate, though, for my solitary dinner. Shawn took the rest to work today for lunch. I will be living on salad lunches for a bit, tender lettuce leaves, pretty carrots, radishes steeped in lemon juice to take out a little bit of their bite.

And the strawberries…oh the strawberries…strawberries made their appearance at the greenmarket a few weeks ago, fragrant and bright red, but I had not gotten around to buying them yet. We’re participating in a fruit share this year, which won’t start until a little later in the season. But, as with last year, our farmer treated us to a wee half pint to kick off the season. The flavor in these things is insane. We’ve been eating them bit by bit, plucking them one by one from their little green carton, oohing and aahing  at their splendor.

It’s the start of the season, so the haul was fairly light, and no major plans were required to ensure consumption of vegetables. But I will be posting as the weeks go on, as more things spring up and make their way into our weekly share, and as our winter diet of starch and cheese gives way to veggies day and night. In the meantime, if you haven’t already, get thee to your local farmer’s market. Snatch up some snap peas and strawberries, some asparagus if it’s still hanging on. These things are fleeting and delicious and demand your attention!