Archive | June, 2011

Happy Solstice!

21 Jun

I am a casual observer of most holidays.  Many are celebrated out of convenience, or as an  excuse for my family to get together and eat a lot of food.  Many have been adapted to suit our needs; Valentine’s Day has been demoted to Unvalentine’s day observed on the 15th of February, Christmas has become Festivus and is observed as close to the December holiday as is convenient for my immediate family to gather, and this year on Halloween I sat in my living room wearing an orange top underneath a grey sweatshirt probably watching South Park while waiting for the 10 Trick-or-Treaters who were brave enough to come down our dim street.

That being said, I’ve always felt an affinity for the Solstice.  It seems like the most organic of celebrations, and if you know anything about the hippie I am slowly but surely becoming, I like things to be organic.  A little bit about the Summer Solstice, in case you aren’t in the know, or are curious.  The first official day of Summer, the Solstice is the longest day of the year (and of course that means the shortest night).  Depending on how the Earth is spinning, the Solstice takes place in the Northern Hemisphere between June 20th and 21st.  If you’re reading from the Southern Hemisphere, I’m sorry, I don’t mean to leave you out of the loop.  Come December you’ll have your turn, all of you laughing as we huddle here in the cold.  The Winter Solstice will bring the shortest day of the year just in time for me to celebrate my birthday in the dark. Woohoo.

Lots of different groups have celebrated the time of the Solstice over the years (Hey folks, it’s not just for Pagans anymore!) and what it comes down to is a celebration of the earth, fertility and the power of the sun.

So, I took some time today to enjoy the earth’s bounty in honor of this day.

Here is a shot of the pretty purple flowers I’m getting on my green bean plants.  I had no idea they would be purple.  Cool!  And here are the first green beans in my garden…

In another few days, they should be the perfect size to pick, steam lightly and serve sprinkled with salt and pepper.

I also have big plans for my shelling peas, which have not only been growing vigorously, and sending out tons of delicate white flowers, but pods are also starting to emerge.

And last but not least, I wanted to pay tribute to our dear friend, Dionysus.  Being the god of wine, pleasure and festivity, I’m sure he fits into this Solstice celebration somehow.

We inherited a whole slew of grape vines.  Dionysus help me if I know what in the world to do with them, but it’s been at least fun to watch them grow so far.

Oh, and I also staked my 33 tomato plants this afternoon, but that setup doesn’t photograph very well.  I will post a tomato update soon.  Anyhow, that’s my sendoff to the Summer Solstice.  We are off to have dinner with a friend, so look for my regularly scheduled CSA related recipe tomorrow.  In the meantime, get outside, enjoy this extra long and lovely day.  Soak up some of that wonderful vitamin D rich sunlight.  It only happens once a year unless you’re lucky enough to travel to the Southern Hemisphere every winter.  Make up your own Solstice ritual, the only rule is to enjoy the day!


My Arch Nemesis (in the kitchen)

14 Jun

No, it’s not Casanova Frankenstein, nor is it Magneto and the always lovely Mystique, Lex Luthor, The Foot Clan or my all time favorite, Metal Head.  Today I came face to face with my most hated and feared member of the Brassica family.  One of the four foods I will not eat is that most popular head of broccoli.  I would gladly eat a million lima beans and a whole mess of brussel sprouts before I willingly seek out broccoli as an addition to my plate.  Lots of people ask me why, if I’m such a fan of veggies in general, do I have such a hatred of broccoli, and honestly, I can’t say why.  I recall a traumatic incident that involved brand new braces and barely cooked broccoli but other than that, all I can say is I just don’t like the stuff.

But what does that have to do with my Tuesday recipe?  Unfortunately for me, the stuff is in season, and we’ve gotten it in the last two CSA shares.  So, I decided to be brave and cook it into something, cleverly disguise it as something edible, instead of letting it go to waste.  It is something I always feel like I SHOULD eat after all.

So with my sidekick Eli in hand, I embarked upon my Kitchen Colosseum challenge.

Broccoli and Asparagus Risotto with green onions and garlic scapes:

Chop two large green onions and one large garlic scape (Remember, don’t waste the green parts!  Those are edible and delicious!)

In a large pan, heat 1 Tbsp olive oil and melt 2 Tbsp butter.  Saute the green onion and garlic scapes

Add 1 1/2 C risotto rice to the pan and saute until translucent.  Add 2/3 C dry white wine to the rice and stir until it is absorbed.

Gradually add 5 cups of stock to the rice.  I used my roasted vegetable paste to make a stock, but you can always use chicken stock.  I add one cup at a time, stirring until most of the liquid is absorbed, then I add another cup of broth.  The rice should get creamy at the end of the cooking process.

Add one small head of chopped broccoli and half a pound of chopped asparagus spears before all the remaining liquid is soaked up (I had to add an extra cup of water here)  Keep stirring so the rice doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan.  Cook until the rice is creamy and most of the broth is absorbed.

Add 1 C shredded parmesan and another Tbsp of butter and mix to finish.

Of course I served my risotto with a salad because we are swimming in greens right now thanks to the rainy weather.

And there you have it.  Broccoli cleverly disguised as something even I can enjoy and eat.  After all, who doesn’t like rice and cheese?

Made from scratch every day

13 Jun

My poor kitchen floor.  It’s under constant attack thanks to the crunchy granola, do-it-yourself lifestyle we seem to have embraced with both arms and legs recently.  After a winter’s worth of dirt, snow, and food refuse, my floor underwent a long overdue transformation last week after I got down on my hands and knees and scrubbed.  It was back to it’s shiny, cheery, yellow linoleum state for about a day before I decided to bake 10 loaves of bread in one day and the fine dusting of flour started to accumulate again.

Today, our eagerness to make everything ourselves resulted in a double-whammy for the kitchen.  Earlier in the afternoon I had my first foray into the world of pastry making when I made a double batch of my own puff pastry dough.  Unfortunately, it turned out more like regular pie dough than anything close to puffing, but fortune favors the brave, and it made one hell of a savory pie.

But my floury kitchen capers are slowly but surely becoming the norm; the main event was yet to come.

For the holidays last year, my mom’s big gift to the son-in-laws was beer brewing equipment, and two weeks ago, Eric finally started his first batch.  It took up valuable real-estate in my front closet, bubbling away in a five gallon bucket while the coats and lawn games snuggled unused in the free corner.  Tonight was bottling day.

With our bellies full of my new favorite substitution for casserole, we all took our posts.









Someone’s obviously put a lot of thought into this beer bottling process because it was relatively quick and easy.  And now if I can get my mind off of the poor sticky beer soaked floor we can sing “43 Assorted Bottles of Beer on the Wall” until it’s time to bottle the next batch!

Vegetarian, Monday thru Friday

10 Jun

As I said in my post on Tuesday, Eric and I have decided to go vegetarian for one week out of the month for at least the next 4 months.  Cooking vegetarian is always kind of a challenge for me because it requires a great deal more preparation and attention than I’m used to giving my normal casserole in the oven.  Armed with several books, and the vast knowledge of the internet and my own mother, I accepted this challenge with much gusto, making sure to steer clear of the easy option (pasta and marinara sauce) all week.  A lot of people think vegetarian and they can’t get past how boring the dishes might be.  But that couldn’t be farther from the truth.  A non meat dish doesn’t have to be a former meat dish with said protein removed.  You have to change the way you think about a meal, and make the focus on something other than meat.

And so, I give you, our week meat free!

Monday: Pad Thai with tofu (thank you mom for the great recipe, even if it was a touch too spicy for my bland Minnesota born taste buds)

Tuesday: White bean soup with greens and potatoes

Wednesday: White pizza topped with asparagus and arugula salad (The first and best white pizza I’ve ever managed to make, and it was perfect.  Also, if you think the idea of having a salad on top of a pizza is weird, give it a chance anyway.  I thought it was weird too, but actually loved it!)

Thursday: After helping a friend move, we ended up going out for cheese pizza.  A classic that I’d forgotten about.  It was great.

Friday: Thursday’s meal plan, which was tofu satay with pickled chard

For lunches we worked on eating the leftover soup with grilled cheese, radish and green sandwiches on my homemade herb bread.

For those of you who have been following me, first off, thank you!  And secondly, I realize the blog has become very food-o-centric lately, and I hope you are enjoying that because I certainly have been enjoying cooking.  However, look out for a return of the usual suspect topics: The garden, which is off and running, my fitness plan, which has been derailed for a variety of reasons, but is currently preparing for a revival, and of course, the cats, who are occasionally too cute not to write about.

CSA Week Five: Soupy, Chowderish, Stewlike White Beans with Greens and Potatoes

7 Jun

I realize that so far most of my CSA related recipes have been vegetarian, and that’s mostly been by chance, but this week, it’s on purpose.  We decided to go veg. one week out of every month during the summer and as far as our CSA and garden produce can take us.  Why the indefinite timeline?  Simply put, I hate grocery store produce.  Ever since we got into Farmer’s Markets, CSAs and growing our own, everything else pales in comparison.  If it hasn’t come straight out of the field, I don’t want it.  So it’s much easier to get really excited about eating vegetarian now the produce is starting to get good.

As I said last week, this time of year is really devoted to a variety of greens.  That being said, we were left with plenty from last week and I knew we would be getting more this evening.  A good and healthy option for greens is to pop them into a soup.  White beans compliment greens well and happen to be my favorite bean.

You might be wondering, why in the world I would think it’s a good idea to make soup in the heatwave we’ve been having in the Midwest.  The answer is simple.  I love soup.  I have several cookbooks devoted only to soups.  For a while it was one of the only things I could make, and although I may have graduated upwards with my culinary skills, it remains a staple of mine.  Bean and lentil soups are super easy to make and they are rediculously healthy and filling.  Beans are also a major source of protein in a vegetarian diet, so that being said, I was willing to sweat it out to very happy results.

How to do it:

(and please remember that when I cook, I cook for a crowd even though there are usually only two of us, so this will make a full stock-pot of soup.)

Soak 2 cups dry white beans in hot water for 24 hours or at least overnight.  Periodically rinse the beans and add more hot water to cover.  Beans make their own yummy broth, so don’t dump all the water when you are ready to start cooking.  When ready, transfer the beans and their water to a big stock pot.  I think mine is at least a gallon and a half.  Make sure there is water covering the beans.  (You can also use broth here for a little extra flavor.  I use a roasted vegetable broth concentrate to keep the soup veg.  At this point in the process I used one spoonful.)  Bring the beans to a boil and turn to medium heat.  Simmer with the lid on until beans are tender.  Mine took about an hour.  Stir occasionally and add water as needed to keep the beans covered.

Chop 3 large potatoes into large chunks.  Chop 3 baby leeks.  Don’t waste the tops!  You can keep chopping up the leek until it gets to a dark green.  Side note here- Leeks are really good if you are trying to lose weight.  They are filling, have a nice flavor and are a mild diuretic.  TMI?  Maybe, but I thought you ought to know 🙂  Chop a handful of green garlic.  Add everything to the beans, add about 2 cups of water and another spoonful of broth concentrate, or broth.  Cook for another half hour until the potatoes are tender.

Remove half of the soup so far and blend it in a food processor or blender.  I only did this to half of mine because I like my soups with some texture, but if you want something creamier, go ahead and blend the whole thing.

Return the blended soup back to the pot and add your chopped greens.  I used 15 collard green leaves and one large head of Chinese cabbage cut into strips.  At this point, don’t add any water because the greens will let out water of their own.  My pot was about half full after I stirred in the greens.  After about ten minutes of occasional stirring, I added 4 more cups of water.  After cooking for about another half hour, I added a handful of frozen dill I remembered having from last year.

Serve topped with a little bit of cheddar, a sprinkle of salt (No other salt added) freshly baked herb bread and a fresh seasonal salad.

Now you relax and let your house return to a tolerable temperature.  Or you could just step outside and realize how much cooler it actually is inside.  Happy eating everyone!