Tuesday, January 15, 2008

winter carrots

I pulled these from the ground a couple of days before it started snowing again, on my mother's birthday--it would have been her ninty-seventh. It made me think again how she wasn't interested in gardening, which I believe she associated with loss and failure and sadness, and she put it behind her, with the other parts of her childhood that she didn't want to remember. She appreciated a good homegrown tomato though, if she didn't have to grow it herself.
I didn't do anything to these except clean, chop, and steam. They tasted like the ultimate essence of carrots, sweet and sharp and intense.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Menu for Hope

I haven't been blogging for a while, but participating in the Menu for Hope gave me the incentive to start again. I'm donating a dozen vintage cookbooks, dating from the '20s to the '80s-- Prize #UC 19. They make good reading--there are some excellent forgotten recipes (and some very strange ones: Frozen Cheddar Cheese Dessert, anyone?). It's also a nice way to look at the history of food preparation, food fads, and even the place of women in the home, since a lot of small cookbooks were put out as new appliances came out. The manufacturers wanted the American homemaker to want an exciting new GE refrigerator or a Hotpoint stove, and they put together recipes to entice her with a vision of her ideal future (see photo above, lower right corner).
If you don't know about Menu for Hope, check out Chez Pim--Pim is the begetter and gracious overseer of this enterprise to do some good in the world, now in its 4th year. Kalyn of Kalyn's Kitchen is handling things for the central U.S.--take a look at her post, with a listing of other prizes that have been donated by midwesterners. A full list of all prizes is at Chez Pim, here.

Monday, September 03, 2007

OLS10: tardy!

How could I be late for the last One Local Summer post? I had some very good reasons (the main one being the excitement of a visit from one grandson), but as I tell my students: I don't want to hear your excuses. (My reasoning being that I don't want to have to decide if someone's grandmother really died; and anyway, I always give extensions.)

But here, late, is my last OLS meal:
OLS 10 Menu
Pasta with Sauteed Vegetables
(local noodles, peppers and onions from the market, kale and herbs from the garden)

Mixed Tomatoes with Honey and Olive Oil (garden tomatoes, market honey, nonlocal olive oil)

Cucumber Salad (D's father's cucumbers with my herbs, a little local vinegar)

Chocolate Ice Cream (from Honey Hut, our favorite local ice cream maker since the '70s)

This was a meal notable for its simplicity and ease: vegetables chopped and sauteed to a sputter, then thrown together with the pasta, or mixed with their oil or vinegar baths. My favorite part of it is also my #1 favorite salad of the summer, which I've eaten several dozen times, at both lunch and dinner--the tomato salad. I never thought before this year to add honey to tomatoes, and I'm not sure why I did the first time, except that I was feeling experimental. But the fact is that honey and olive oil (sometimes with a squeeze of lemon or lime, sometimes not) is ambrosial. Here's a loose recipe.

Ambrosial Tomato Salad
Several mixed tomatoes--whatever you have in your garden or market basket
A good olive oil; I used about a teaspoon per cup of tomatoes
A squeeze or 2 of honey
A pinch or 2 of salt, to taste
Whatever herbs need pruning in the garden: I've used dill, basil, mint, cilantro, and sometimes a combination, depending on the day. My favorite combination was mint and opal basil.
Chop the tomatoes; if you're using cherry tomatoes in the mix, cut them in half so that they absorb the flavors. Sprinkle with salt and let sit while you gather your herbs (the salt draws out the tomato juices, which in this case, you don't want to discard, but savor). Add olive oil and honey and the chopped or torn herbs. Eat immediately, preferably outside on a day of the perfect temperature (for me that would be a nonhumid 82).

Sunday, August 26, 2007

OLS 9: the last of the deer

A quickie post this week, because I'm working on my syllabus at the last minute (as always). Don't I tell my students not to do this? Why don't I listen to myself??
We had the last of the deer D got the last time he went hunting--a little amazing, since there seemed to be so much of it at first. We had to reorganize the freezer so it would all fit, and even then, we gave away parcels to D's father and anyone else who expressed an interest in venison.
We thought we'd eaten the last of it in July, but there was one more package hidden in the bottom drawer which I found when I was checking to see if there was anymore ice cream (there wasn't, darn it).
End of August Menu
Deer burgers with crispy bacon (courtesy of the Sausage Shoppe)
A salad of zucchini and cherry tomatoes (farmers market and garden, respectively), with a nonlocal vinaigrette
Corn from the market that's next to the multiplex theater (a nice double feature: a movie and a dozen ears of corn)
No photo of the burgers because they came out looking fuzzy and sinister.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

OLS 8: pizza!

Last night we had pizza, in celebration of being able to comfortably turn on the oven. Not only was it comfortable, it was welcome--I think it got down in the high 40s last night.
The pizza crust was half of a batch I made a few weeks ago and froze--it's from a recipe I got from Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, Barbara Kingsolver's book on local eating, and it's very good--crispy, chewily toothsome. Plus, it's online!
The sauce was a local affair, mainly, as were the mushrooms and cheese (farmers' market, both); the pepperoni was not. The salad--totally local, and in fact, totally garden (mine), except for the olive oil and vinegar dressing.
One of the best things about this sauce was how it made the house smell--tomato-y and rich and spicy--as if someone Italian lived here, someone Italian who was a brilliant cook.
Heavenly Roasted Tomato Pizza Sauce

several tomatoes; as many as you want to get rid of, if you're trying to use them up. I used 6 medium to large tomatoes, Brandywine and Beefsteak
2 cloves garlic
a double handful of fresh basil
a small handful of fresh oregano
several sprigs of fresh thyme
olive oil
balsamic vinegar
Because I was using very juicy tomatoes, I chopped them, put them in a colander over a bowl, salted them a bit, and let them sit there for a while so they'd lose some liquid. Then I spread them out on a cookie sheet which I lined with foil (to make clean up easier). I chopped the herbs and the garlic and distributed them more or less evenly, then drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar (I'd guess 2-3 tablespoons each).
I roasted them in a 325 oven for about an hour--but the time would definitely depend on how juicy your tomatoes are, so you have to keep an eye on it. I was waiting for the point where the juices were on the verging of burning (another reason to use the foil). When that happened, I took them out and put the tomatoes and remaining juices in the food processor to mix them up a little. What I got was a nice, thickened, heavenly smelling (and tasting) sauce somewhere between tomato sauce and paste in thickness--perfect for spreading on pizza. I used about half on a 9x13 pizza and froze the rest for a future dinner.
A very pleasing dinner for a summer day that feels a little bit like fall.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Julia Child Birthday Event

I'm late for this, but I had to do it anyway. Last year Lisa at Champaign Taste invited bloggers to post about Julia, and inspired by this, I made mayonnaise for the first time. (It was easy; did you know that Julia says it's OK to do it in the blender?)
This year I made Nicoise Salad. Here is Julia's recipe. I followed it as to ingredients, but altered quantities freely, on the grounds of availability and personal taste (less tuna, more tomato). It was one of the best I've had, probably because so many of the vegetables were fresh, just picked from the garden--the tomatoes, the cucumbers, the beans, the basil I put in the vinaigrette, the shallots.
When I was thinking about Julia and what to make, I tried to remember when and what I first knew about her. I couldn't pin it down, but an early Julia connection was her appearance in Desperately Seeking Susan, an '80s Madonna movie. Rosanna Arquette is a frustrated, ignored wife of a swimming pool salesman--can I be remembering that correctly? Her husband comes home and wants to know what his girls have been up to--he means Rosanna and Julia, who is cooking on the television in their kitchen, as Rosanna tries to keep up with her furious whisking. The idea of it was that Rosanna didn't have a life or any friends, so she had to look to Julia for companionship (I guess)--and of course, she goes out and meets Madonna and has adventures (does she become a stripper?) and finds love, etc.
But that scene also had this cozy friendly feeling--Julia cooking on the tv, and Rosanna in her own kitchen, that I liked. When I came across Julia again, I wanted to get in on that (without having to meet Madonna, etc.) and our culinary relationship was born.
This Nicoise Salad was also good in the way that something can be when you make one serving, just for yourself, on the spur of the moment. I read the word "Nicoise" (which is a lovely word), I let the ingredients drift through my mind--olives, tomatoes, beans. I found myself going to the refrigerator as if in a dream, and dreaming, brought it all together: lunch!

Sunday, August 12, 2007

OLS 7: food as medicine

The gardens (mine and D's father's) are producing beans, cucumbers, peppers, lettuce, kale (pictured), radishes, tomatoes and pears--so there has been a lot of local eating going on this week.
But the best local meal was made for me by D when I was sick--a medicinal soup made from chicken broth (from our last farmers market chicken), various garden vegetables and herbs, and a lot of garlic and cayenne pepper. It was a soup that made your eyes water a little and your nose run (wait--it was already running!), and it made me feel as if I might be on the road to recovery.
No pictures. As D said, just eat it for once, why don't you? so I did.