Sesame Noodle Salad
Thursday, May 28, 2009
Sesame Noodle Salad
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Like my boysenberry brambles I planted a few years back. They have recovered from a butcher job by my semi-competent mow and blow guy and it looks like we should have quite a few this year....
And ladybugs...They are the guardians of my roses and are consequently much guarded by me. Just ask the neighborhood kids. Ladybug theft is punishable by...well, let's just say that some kids have learned that lesson the hard way. And notice the small praying mantis to the ladybug's right? I didn't see it until after I looked at the picture on my computer screen. I love those too.
And daises...these flowers are so bright and carefree. I am happy I have a shady spot for these in my back yard.
And my rapidly growing tomatoes...They have grown feet in a matter of weeks. In that way they are much like my kids, or at least it seems that way.
Though dandelions are much maligned, the greens are quite nutritious (yet bitter). I personally like them for their puffs of promise. Pluck them and make a wish. I did...and I hope it comes true!
My roses, over thirty shrubs and climbers now, fill my garden and my vases from April through December with their fragrance and beauty.
I'm thrilled to see my morning glory vine blooming this year after a hard frost two winters ago nearly killed it.
And don't forget bees! With all the worry about CCD (colony collapse disorder), it's nice they are alive and well and buzzing in my garden.
And finally, lots of lizards...they crack me up with the way they do their push ups. We have a ton in the walls, on the house, on the sidewalks. The dog and cat are especially fond of chasing them, but luckily for the lizards, they haven't yet had any success.
Monday, May 25, 2009
Sunday, May 24, 2009
Rainbow in a sphere
Flying, soaring through the air
Fleeting beauty pops.
A block party. We have the friendliest neighbors and always have several parties throughout the year. This year, as always, a fleet of grills and chimineas are assembled curbside. As is the tradition, folks grill their own main course and bring side dishes to share. For us, that means grilled sausages with homemade pickle relish, potato salad and berry crisp. And s'mores...can't forget the s'mores. And the mojitos.
Friday, May 22, 2009
one recipe of your favorite pizza dough
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
I was a model citizen growing up. I always followed the rules (and made sure everyone else did too), always got perfect grades, and always tried really hard to please the adults in my life. The times I did make mistakes are singed into my memory, like a brand on a bull's rump. There was the time I got in trouble for bringing ranch dressing onto the school bus and the driver came unhinged and screamed at me. I also remember the time I recorded over a book on tape from the library, and how I had to apologize to the librarian. And the time I stole gum from the market (my mom made me give it back.) And the time I was busted for coercing the younger neighbor kids to write bad words with a sharp nail into the wet stucco of new construction nearby...really, really bad words. And how I was introduced to the concept of Karma when I faked being sick so I could stay in bed and read, but ended up really breaking out in the Chicken Pox that very same day. Boy, now that I read that laundry list, I'm not so sure I was the good girl my memory tells me. Well, at least I was a whole lot better behaved than my sister...
Actually, despite all that, mostly I did what was right. My only real teenage rebellion, was when I became a born again Christian in high school, which drove my agnostic parents crazy (and subsequently started dating the pastor's son...I hope you all warn your daughters about PKs...very dangerous indeed). But all in all, it could have been much, much worse.
That probably explains why as an adult, I get a sick thrill out of breaking popular cultures so-called 'rules' and doing things differently, like breastfeeding for eternity, and having babies at home, and eating healthy, organic foods when everyone else seems to subsist on fast food dinners. It's pathetic, I know, but I feel especially wicked when I don't follow recipes exactly, when I take an idea and hijack it to become my own and best the so-called experts with their fancy test kitchens. But I do it all the time, and it gives me an enormous amount of satisfaction. It all starts with the art of improvisation, not being afraid to try new things, and most importantly, not being afraid to fail. Believe me, I make the occasional bomb too. But by and large, I'm pleasantly surprised with the food I prepare in my kitchen and am especially proud when it is entirely of my own creation.
Which brings me around to my dinner tonight. I made it with chicken and green beans, but if you have pork and asparagus, that would work too. Or shrimp and zucchini, or beef and bell peppers, or tofu and snap peas. The point is, is that you should have confidence in your cooking and understand that recipes are meant to be adapted to suit your mood (or what is in your refrigerator). That being said, it is important to follow most baking recipes exactly. Baking is much more about proper chemistry than a stir fry is.
I bought some beautiful garlic, ginger, red spring onions and green beans (I know...already?!?) at the farmers' market on Sunday. Chopped up and stir fried in a fermented black bean sauce, it made a simple, yet interesting weekday dinner. My kids (well the two that weren't at baseball) inhaled this dish, even though it was a bit spicy. And the basic sauce and method would translate well to whatever veg and protein combination you can imagine...probably.
Generally I find Martha's methods cumbersome, and just an excuse to dirty yet another dish, but her advice on how to peel ginger is really handy. If you press the edge of a spoon into the skin of a fresh ginger root, it peels right off, along with the stringy part. It's much easier than using a peeler or knife (and safer too, at least for me). To quickly cool the green beans, she often recommends an ice bath. For me, that just means one more dish to wash. So I dump them out into the colander, top with a few ice cubes and run cool water over it. It seems to work just fine...and personally, I'd rather have slightly overcooked beans than have to wash another dish. But, I always take my beans out when they are still pretty crisp, and not at all soft.
Chicken and Green Bean Stir-fry with Black Bean Sauce
Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add green beans and blanch for 2-3 minutes or until crisp tender. Drain in a colander and top with a few ice cubes. Run some cold water over the top to stop the cooking.
Serve with plenty of hot rice, and some chili garlic paste on the side if you are really feeling rebellious.
Monday, May 18, 2009
There is a true champion of summer, an over-achiever and vigorous grower that is so easy to start from a tiny seed, pushed down into a mound of soil as soon as it's warm enough. Its savory fruits, yes fruits, we eat eagerly at first, hungry for a taste of the season. We like them grilled, sauteed, baked, stuffed, and even raw. We're thrilled when they first appear in our gardens and in the farm stands, and it seems as if we will never tire of them. But we do eventually, and they sit, unattended on the vines, growing to gargantuan sizes. As summer reaches its peak, there is a holiday for this special variety of produce, celebrated each year on August 8th, called Sneak Some Zucchini onto Your Neighbor's Porch Day, created to help us rid ourselves of the burden so much wasted food.
But fortunately, we are early days yet, and the zucchini and other squash at the market are small and tender, easily prepared, and we haven't nearly had our fill. Though I enjoy the succulent flesh of a young squash, my very favorite part of the plant is the blossom. Goldenrod yellow, faintly floral in flavor, yet not as dainty as other edible flowers (like pansies or nasturtium blossoms), their subtle squash essence holds up well in pasta dishes, soups and on top of pizzas. There are many recipes for stuffed squash blossoms which are typically filled with some sort of cheese, battered, then deep fried, but I usually prefer a lighter preparation. Gently sauteed and added to fresh pasta, along with the baby zucchini to which they were attached, they make for a wonderfully fresh and fast summer meal.
This simple pasta dish really accentuates the lovely colors and mild flavors of the zucchini blossoms. I think it would have been much better with fresh pasta, but time was of the essence, and I had to use what I had on hand. You can make your own, of course, or buy it. Just make sure that the pasta contains eggs for added richness and depth of flavor. The base of this dish would also make for a wonderful risotto. Another important tidbit to know when working with zucchini blossoms is that it is necessary to open each one, check for creepy crawlies, and give them a good rinse just in case. A tightly closed blossom makes for a wonderful hiding place, don't you agree? This recipe is adapted from one posted by Molly of Orangette.
Zucchini Blossom Pasta
1 pound of your favorite fresh or dried egg pasta, cooked according to package directions
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 T minced shallot
1 T butter
1 T olive oil
1 carrot, diced
salt and pepper
2 C quality vegetable stock
1 pinch of saffron threads, crushed
10 baby zucchinis with blossom attached, rinsed thoroughly (inside blossom) and halved lengthwise
freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Prepare pasta according to package directions. Reserve 2 blossoms and slice thinly for garnish.
Heat butter and oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add shallots, garlic, carrots, and salt and pepper and saute, stirring frequently until softened but not browned, about 5 minutes. Pour in vegetable stock and add saffron and bring to a boil. Continue to boil until reduced to 3/4 C, about 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat another 1 T olive oil in another large skillet over medium heat. Add zucchini and saute, until zucchini is tender and golden brown, about 7-9 minutes. Turn off heat.
When pasta is finished cooking, remove it from the pot with tongs or a spider and add to the skillet with the reduced vegetable stock. Toss to coat. Add zucchini and toss again. If pasta seems dry or sticky, add a tablespoon or more of the pasta cooking water to loosen. Pour out into large serving bowl and top with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, freshly grated Parmesan cheese and reserved sliced blossoms. Serve immediately.
Sunday, May 17, 2009
Friday, May 15, 2009
And I hope you all have a wonderful weekend. I am off to the ballfield again. Yes, again. And again on Sunday. But at this point, who's counting?