Monday, August 30, 2010

Delicatas




I discovered the thrill of the CSA a few years ago when I was still living up North. I was in the car listening to the radio and they were discussing Community Sponsored Agriculture. This is for me! I thought... I can support a local farm that grows fruits and vegetables in a healthy, sustainable way. I won't have to worry about pesticides and genetically tinkered frankenfood.  And I can feel good about minimizing my carbon foot print by decreasing the miles my food travels to get to me.





Also: I'm lazy and I don't like to try new things. Well, okay, maybe that's not entirely true, but I, like everyone else, find myself stuck in a rut every now and again where all I can remember cooking is spaghetti and hamburgers. With a CSA you get a box of goodies once a week with stuff you may not normally buy at the grocery store (in quantities you most definitely would not buy at the grocery store). It's like being on Iron Chef, minus the alligator testicles.







When I moved down South I thought I would have even better access to fresh vegetables...with all this space and fertile soil. Instead, fast food chains have sprouted ( I counted 50 in a 5 mile stretch from my home). I won't go into my usual tirade of the evils of fast food (right now)...just take a look around. 'Nough said.  There are wonderful farmer's markets that run from the summer-fall, which I love, but you do have to get there early and in the beginning it can be a little overwhelming. Also, it takes me forever to get through because I like to talk...to everyone.




A rather resourceful neighbor of mine organized with Doe Run Farm to make the little neighborhood I live in a drop off point. So once a week I stop by her house (along with 30+ other families) and pick up a box of fruits and vegetables that were picked earlier that day...still warm from the morning's sun.  There are times when we plow through the box on the way home: our teeth stained blue from the berries, our chins and fingers sticky with peach juice before we even enter the front door.




Sometimes I get stuff I've never seen: like these delicata. Even the name is beautiful. The farm always has great recipes to go along with their fare, but this one I got here.


Recipe:

Squash
olive oil
OJ
rosemary
salt & pepper to taste

Peel and cut the squash into small cubes ( about an inch). Steam for about 7 minutes. They are done when they are softened, but firm. Drizzle with olive oil.  Splash on some OJ. Sprinkle some chopped rosemary on top. Salt and pepper finish it off. Toss gently.

Enjoy.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Marshmallows



Nothing says I'm A Kid more than a marshmallow. I'm talking about the big honking Jet-Puffed ones...not those little dinky ones that Swiss Miss tries to pass off in her packets of hot chocolate.  





During the summer I like them impaled on a stick, hovering over the hot coals resting in the bottom of the Weber. During the winter I like them floating atop my hot chocolate, melting ever so slowly into a foamy cloud; a distant cousin of whipped cream. Throughout the year it's rice crispy treats. For me, it's pure decadence. I don't try to fool myself into passing them off as legitimate food by placing them on top of sweet potatoes or smearing them over an otherwise healthy almond butter sandwich. No, these I place in the same category as say Pixie Stix & Cotton Candy.






What I love about this little trio of ingredients is just that: there are only three. Butter.  Marshmallows. Cereal. And it only takes about 10 minutes to make. This stuff is actually nice and malleable. Should I decide to pursue a career in sculpting, I'd be mighty tempted to use this as my medium. Future sculpting aspirations aside, I gave these a little flare by using a cookie cutter to make whimsical stars.









Here's how I made these:

1 bag huge marshmallows
1/4 cup soy butter (to make them dairy free for my son, N)
1 box puffed rice cereal (I used brown rice. Makes me feel like a good mum)

Melt butter and marshmallows. Stir in cereal. Once the mixture is all together I like to spray some PAM on my hands and press it into a pan. Voila! It's probably a good idea to let cool but that kind of patience is hard to master.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Susan's ShakaLaka Lentils

Red, Yellow, Green, Brown, Black...whatever their color I love lentils. I'll eat them any way I can. Hot or cold, firm or soft, savory and spicy. It just doesn't matter. I love them. But it didn't start out that way. There was no love at first sight, no eager excitement to try something new. In fact, growing up the only time I had them was when my grandmother made Lentil Soup. Which tasted better than it looked. To a kid that means everything. My son, A, has a word for this: DeLusting (delicious + disgusting). Sometimes that kid can really nail it.






Now that I'm older and perhaps a little wiser I find myself Oohing and Ahhing over these little legumes no matter what their disguise. And I'm always looking for new ways to make them.






Enter the amazing Susan Greeley. Nutritionist, Cook, Mom and all around great friend. Here's a woman who really knows her way around a lentil. She recently came to visit and made this beautiful lentil salad.




It didn't last very long, but we were smart enough to make a TON and had some leftovers. Turns out, this little salad gets even better as the flavors intensify over time. Good thing too: I've got some healthy appetites in my house!

Recipe:
cooked lentils (firm)
carrots (chopped)
olives
tomatoes
chives
olive oil
fresh squeezed lemon juice
red wine vinegar
salt and pepper


I don't have actual quantities of each because it doesn't really matter. We just looked around my kitchen and grabbed what looked good. We could just have easily added corn, broccoli, edamame, peas, red onion, cucumber..... well, you get the idea.






Try as I might to freeze time, I could not and Susan had to head back home. She left me with long lasting bear hugs, tears running down my face, and one last serving of her ShakaLaka salad.


Sunday, August 15, 2010

Soup



My very good friend,Tasia is an amazing cook. (come to think of it, all of my closest friends can cook...convenient, no?). Whenever someone asks her for a recipe, she shakes her head, smiles and tells them ,"Oh, I don't know..." Once at a Sunday Supper she hosted, someone asked her several times for her recipe for this wonderful noodle dish she served. She ended up pulling out a bunch cookbooks, flipping to 4 different recipes and telling us she "sorta followed these". I felt a smile spread across my face. I get it! I thought. Cooking is not about following recipes. It's about experimenting with new ingredients, new combinations, or both. It's about using what's available. It's about not being afraid of bombing...or succeeding for that matter.




Ever since then I stopped following recipes when I cook. Instead I use them as a source of inspiration.  I read LOTS of food blogs and get so excited when I see something that I wouldn't have normally paired together. This soup is an example of that. I had been intrigued by this recipe from 101cookbooks back in July and now I found my opportunity to experiment. This soup is a loose translation, I simply went with what I had on hand.




I like this soup thick. I'll eat it with some crunchy french bread, or throw some cooked quinoa in it. I might even have it with a fried egg on top! That may sound like a bomb to some, but to me, that's a yummy success!






Summer Squash Soup


Ingredients:
1 medium onion
6 large yellow summer squash
1 green pepper
3 potatoes
1 jalapeno pepper
32oz chicken stock

Cut up the vegetables and saute in olive oil until soft.
Add chicken stock and bring to boil.
Puree.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Thunder Cake



Some may describe the weather here, in Alabama, as violent, what with the tornadoes, monsoons and thunderstorms that sweep across with little warning. I, on the other hand, would tell you the skies here are passionate, fickle,  tempestuous perhaps.

I had never encountered a tornado before moving here. Hurricanes:yes. Nor Easters: yes. Ice storms: you bet. But never a tornado. My husband, N, was so worked up over the possibility of getting caught in one that he bought a weather radio the first week we moved in. I, on the other hand, was looking forward to it.








It was a beautiful April day. Clear blue sky. Sun shining. Warm breeze blowing. That's how I knew there would be a tornado. The balmy breeze is a dead giveaway. ( N was glued to the weather radio...)  At one point, the dog, who hadn't moved from the same spot for 2 hours, bolted upstairs like a rocket and hid under the boys' bunk bed (that's another hard-to-ignore clue). The sky suddenly turned a color I can only describe as Apocalyptic Green, and everything became still. Even the trees were holding their breath. The eerie quiet only lasted a moment, then the winds came. Their force was so impressive, so fierce, so LOUD. I was taken by surprise. There was no build up, no slow crescendo. Dead calm one moment; screaming winds and marble sized raindrops hitting the ground with supernatural force the next. Tops of trees brushed the ground as though bowing reverently to the Anemoi, garbage cans whipped along the streets like candy wrappers, porch furniture rearranged itself.










Time slowed down. I stood staring out my window for what seemed like hours until the storm had passed. In reality it had only been a few minutes.  Excited, energized, awestruck, scared: my words fail to elicit the range of emotion I felt during that short time. It was spectacular. It was humbling.


Fortunately, the houses in my neighborhood were all spared, but the larger trees lining the creek two blocks away were not so lucky. Over time, the smaller trees have grown bigger and the landscape has filled in some. Try, as we might, we cannot control everything. Nature is truly an awesome force.




I was inspired to share this after reading Thunder Cake by Patricia Pollaco with my son, A. This a wonderful story about a little girl who is afraid of thunder storms. While baking a Thunder Cake, her grandmother shows her how brave she really is.  






The cake recipe is included in the book which A. could not wait to try....with or without a T-storm. I have adapted it somewhat to ingredients I have on hand. 



Recipe
adapted from Patricia Polacco

Cream together, one at a time
1 cup plus 2 tbsp butter
1 3/4 cup sugar
1tsp vanilla
3 eggs, separated {first add yolks one at a time. Beat whites until stiff, then fold in}
1cup cold water
1/2cup pureed tomatoes


Sift together
1cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups white flour
1/2cup cocoa powder
1 1/2tsp baking soda
1tsp salt


add dry mixture to creamy mixture.
bake at 350 degrees for 35 min























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