Sunday, August 26, 2007

I invented sauce; a peach army gathers

The idea for this spicy "zucchini sauce" came to me this morning while I walked to work at the record store - I thought that shredded zucchini could be seasoned and sauteed until it shed enough water to become a semi-cohesive sauce. And this is exactly what happened! It turned out perfectly.

Penne with spicy zucchini sauce
serves two
2 cups dry penne
1/2 tbsp Earth Balance
1/2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium-large zucchini, shredded (maybe 4 cups?)
1 shallot, diced super-finely
1 large or two small cloves garlic, pressed
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
salt to taste
optional: rough-chopped kalamata olives, diced tomatoes, feta/goat cheese

Cook penne according to package directions; drain and set aside (do not rinse).
Saute diced shallot until completely softened but do not brown. Add garlic and red pepper flakes, and stir until aromatic, about 30 seconds. Add zucchini and stir immediately, to stop garlic and shallot from browning; add salt (I used three grinds on my salt grinder) and continue stirring. Saute uncovered, stirring frequently, until zucchini begins to shed water, about five minutes. Cover and allow to cook for 5-10 minutes, or until zucchini is completely softened. Saute another minute or two uncovered to evaporate any excess liquid; add pasta, stir to combine, and divide onto two plates. Top with optional olives, tomatoes, and/or feta.

I'm on round two of freezing peaches; this photo of my little faux-flash-freezing setup makes my peach segments look like a futuristic army laying in wait in a cryogenic metal chamber. Fingers crossed that not heeding the advice of every single source I found on the internet that I absolutely have to use sugar when freezing peaches turns out alright.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Who needs money when you've got fresh fruit?

It was an overcast morning; I am in madcap desperation to eke the remaining joy out of summer; hence today's wild fruit spending spree.

Oh, the aching joy of shoulders:
1 pt. strawberries
1 box blackberries
1 box raspberries
3 lbs. white peaches
1.5 lbs. yellow peaches
2 lbs. nectarines
1 little watermelon
4 heirloom tomatoes
1 pt. sungold tomatoes
1 lb. spinach
1 bunch kale
4 big zucchini
1 head celery
1 bunch carrots
5 ears corn
Total spent: $55

Last week's seemingly-successful peach-freezing experiment means I'm going to try to repeat it until peaches are gone and I have a month or so worth of frozen lovelies for my smoothies. I'll be freezing most of the white Terhune Orchards peaches; the other peaches, nectarines, and berries are all going toward satisfying my apparently-endless appetite for fresh fruit.

Reading over answers to this Serious Eats thread, I realized that I couldn't think of a fruit I like that I wouldn't love to eat every day for the rest of my life, except maybe bananas. I can't imagine an occasion when the answer to "does a perfectly ripe peach sound good right now?" would be "no." Even - or perhaps especially - after eating a peach, the idea of eating a peach always seems like a great, irresistible idea. The same goes for berries, ripe melons, or citrus.

We're all friends here, so why lie? - sometimes I have eaten so many delicious seasonal fruits that I have suffered gastrointestinal distress. Logic and moderation fail me at times like these. Last week's fruit was all gone by Wednesday, and while I'd like to imagine this massive haul will last longer, I have no reason to think s6 - this week's strawberries are so delicious that I doubt they'll be around much longer.

Otherwise, it was a pretty standard day at USG. Apples are taking up more real estate than last week; soon they'll be abundant. The only new vegetable I'd like to try are some of the fresh beans, but I want to know how to use them before buying, as there are several varieties I'm not familiar with. If fresh lima and cranberry beans are still around next week, I'll pick up some of both. Green beans are waning, and shell peas are finally completely gone.

The spinach this year has been less bountiful, but quite delicious - the leaves are very tender at this point in the season, and the flavor is delicate and fresh. I bought kale as well, because it's one of the only cruciferous vegetables my photo assistant will eat, and we need to get some of those every week, I think. Swiss chard may be tastier and packed with nutrition, but since broccoli is unacceptable around here, I'll have to choose kale, bok choy, and tatsoi more often than my dear chard.

No photos this morning because we have a band staying with us and there are too many boys in sleeping bags on my floor to set up a shoot, but later I'll try to get a photo of my cute watermelon once I open it up, as well as the entwined love carrots I found in my bunch last week. [UPDATE: Just found the watermelon photo on my camera and added it later to this post.]

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Early birds, early apples

While I recognize that at 27 I am probably still too young to begin bemoaning the fleeting days of my youth in earnest, I was nevertheless shocked by two distinctly autumnal phenomena at my early-morning trip to the USG today.
Item 1: It was really, really cold. Not just chilly - downright cold. I was ill-prepared for the temperature because IT IS SUMMER, though I did get there quite early today.
Item 2: Many vendors, including my beloved Terhune Orchards, were excitedly displaying their "early apples," which means that soon they'll just be "apples," and it will be fall. Where has summer gone?

My consolation came swiftly in the form of being early enough to snag the last basket of these Tristar strawberries - perhaps summer is not all lost.


1 pint Tristar strawberries
3.5 lbs. white peaches
1 lb. nectarines
1 pint Sungold cherry tomatoes
4 heirloom tomatoes (two yellow, two crazy red)
2 ears corn
1 lb. green beans
1.5 lbs. spinach
4 zucchini
1 bunch carrots
1 lb. golden nugget potatoes
2 heads Rocambole garlic
1 bunch lemon basil
Total spent: $49

While I could probably eat all the peaches myself in a day or two, I bought so many because I'm going to try freezing some of them for smoothies. It would be amazing to have enough to last a few months once they're out of season, to cut down on my Trader Joe's frozen fruit habit...

All the other fruit will be eaten out of hand, the carrots will be chopped up for my lunches, and the beautiful/weird-looking heirloom tomatoes will be eaten in a "salad" with fresh herbs and a bit of cheese.

Lemon basil may be the best smelling herb in the universe; the freshness of the lemon brings the basil's spiciness to a new fragrance level. I'm really looking forward to using it. Monday or Wednesday I'll get a few pounds of "regular" tomatoes from the weekday USG and try my hand at some spaghetti sauce using fresh, rather than canned, tomatoes.

More on my sauce and freezing experiments later; right now, I've got some strawberries to eat.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Currently reading

While at K's, I borrowed her copy of The Revolution Will Not Be Microwaved by Sandor Ellix Katz. The writing is a little rough in places, but it's quite an interesting read so far. Some of the groups and movements Katz covers definitely seem to be on the fringes of food movements, but they're doing great work - from creating seed-saving networks, underground raw milk dispensaries, to entire illegal local markets for products like bread, unpasteurized juice, yogurt, etc. I've also learned that Italy - bastion of Slow Food as a lifestyle before it was a movement - has been subjected to heavy government regulation for many traditional products (like much-discussed maggoty casu marzu cheese, but also other less-spectacular foods) since it joined the EU.

I'm only about halfway through the book, but it's definitely encouraging my desire to move somewhere I can have a garden. Part of me wants to move to Detroit, where widespread urban gardening is a positive upside to the devastating depopulation of its city center. Katz mentions Detroit, but I first read about the movement in the July issue of Harper's - here's a link to the article.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Two dinners

Last night I made dinner and brought it over to Katherine's house. It was like a picnic, but inside for most of the time (we started outside but it got dark plus the mosquitoes were ferocious).

As appetizers, we had blanched wax beans and...homemade dolmades! I was so excited to make them...though they turned out a bit weird. K and I both agreed that the flavor was good, but my cooking technique needs work. Most of the recipes I found on Recipezaar called for cooking the rice for ten minutes, adding the spices/etc., then wrapping the rice mixture in grape leaves, submerging in water, and cooking for 30-45 minutes, until the rice is done.

Because I'd never made them before, and wasn't using a recipe for my seasoning, I decided not to undercook the rice - I wanted to be able to taste my filling for spices - so I cooked it until mostly done, and cooked the wrapped dolmades for about 15 minutes. The filling turned out decently tasty, though when I filled the grape leaves and submerged them, they got waterlogged and the rice was a little undercooked.

Also, an open note to everyone whose recipe for dolmades instructs the preparer to wrap it "like a burrito":
Have you ever made a burrito? Have you ever had a burrito? Making burritos is easy, because tortillas are not the shape of maple leaves, nor are they approximately as durable as wet paper. Wrapping dolmades is like wrapping tiny doll burritos for dolls made of ash and paste. Also, you're in the afterlife.

But regardless, K and I agreed that the filling had excellent flavor. The approximate recipe for said filling is below. Next time, I'm going to steam them.


3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup very-finely minced shallot (I used one gigantic one, probably 3-4 regular
1/2 cup rice (I used basmati, but I'll try arborio next time)
1/2 cup vegetable broth
1/2 cup water
juice of 1/2 lemon
1/4 tsp dried dill
1 tsp fresh mint, minced finely
pinch red pepper flakes
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Sautee shallot in half the olive oil until translucent. Add red pepper flakes and dill (crumbling dill in your fingers), and stir for a few seconds, until spices become aromatic. Add rice, and stir until grains become translucent; add vegetable broth and water. While rice is cooking, add lemon juice and mint. Cook until almost done, add remaining olive oil and salt and pepper to taste, roll your dolmades, and finish cooking.

Then we had a cheese-laden almost-lasagna whose only claim to good health was steamed kale mixed in with the ricotta, and zucchini slices layered among the many, many cheese layers (ricotta, fontina, and mozzarella, with parmesan on top, of course). It was very delicious.

And then K gave me some chard from her garden!! She just pulled the thing right out of the ground. It looked delicious. And when I was preparing it for dinner tonight alongside veggie sausage and couscous, it smelled very fresh - almost like just-mowed (mown?) grass - and it tasted even better than it looked. Definitely the best chard I've had all season - yum!! Nice work, Gardener K!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Monday, August 13, 2007

Move over, yellow peaches...

...because this year, nectarines and white peaches are more delicious than you.

I've always felt that nectarines were just less-flavorful peaches for people who can't stand skin fuzz, but the few nectarines I've had this year have proven me wrong. While the yellow peaches have been quite inconsistent, with about a 3:1 "okay" to "wow!" ratio, I haven't met a nectarine this season that hasn't been wonderful.

Much more surprising to me is that Terhune Orchard's white peaches, which I had assumed would be as pale in flavor as their flesh is in color, are juicy, sweet, and full of peach flavor - much better than most yellow peaches I've had this year. It's eerie that a post-Bunnicula-looking fruit is so loaded with sweet peachiness.

I'm still trying to figure out why they said that men prefer the white peaches. Maybe they're supposed to be less juicy? Or less sugary? Or they look more like footballs? I really like them, and I'm not a man...although I do like action movies, I guess, so maybe I'm not a good example.

UPDATE: this website explains that white peaches are actually sweeter than yellow - not because they have more sugar, but because they are lower in acid, which allows the sweetness to shine through. I don't know who this Produce Pete fellow is, but he seems to know from white peaches. However, neither Peter nor Google has come up with my answer as to why men would prefer them...but I do know that they're very good for breakfast.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Ho-hum (not the veggies, but me)

It was a tough week at work, which unfortunately translated into kind of a downer Saturday. While I had pledged that I would buy less at the USG this week since my photo assistant is going away for the week, and therefore I only need food for one, I didn't quite manage...and spent almost the same as any other week.

So much green, so little time:

1 bunch peppermint
1 bunch tarragon
1 bunch Italian parsley
1 bunch Russian kale
3 small heads bok choy
3 zucchini
1 bunch (3) white onions
1 bunch leeks
1 lb. shell peas
4 white peaches
3 nectarines
4 apricots
2 yellow ("low-acid") tomatoes
1 pint orange Sungold cherry tomatoes
Total spent: $35

The tarragon is an experiment - I'm trying to get myself out of my fresh herbs comfort zone, which is made up entirely of basil, oregano, and parsley, though I've yet to find my tarragon recipe. I bought the mint to make this facial scrub from Urban Vegan, which actually calls for dried mint, though it worked wonderfully with the fresh herb. (My face felt amazing, but it was annoying to have to prevent the oats from going down the drain. I will make it again, though.)

Tonight's dinner was risotto with leeks, chard, and peas; Tofurkey sausage; and sliced Sungold tomatoes with parsley. The tomatoes were perfect - little sweet globes of warmth and light. I'd been planning to make a green risotto with the chard for the past few days, but when I saw leeks at the greenmarket, I realized their more-vegetal oniony flavor would suit the chard better than the shallots I had originally bought for the purpose. It turned out terrific.

I don't have solid plans for anything else I've bought this week, though I did recently make a new pot of black beans (with the poblano and jalapeno chiles I bought last week and didn't write about because I was in Baltimore to see friends at Virgin Fest), so the kale will probably end up in burritos, or with the beans over rice. We'll see what happens with the tarragon...and I've also got a ton of fresh mind leftover to find a use for.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Delicious stir-fry sauce; plum updates

Last night I was craving spicy green beans a la San Francisco's amazing House Of Nanking, so I improvised. Of course, they didn't hold a candle to the originals, but they were certainly salty, spicy, and delicious. They were so good that I wrote down the stir-fry sauce recipe for once:

Spicy garlicky stir-fry sauce for green beans (and tofu)
Enough for two green-bean-loving people

4 tbsp. vegetable broth
2-3 tbsp. tamari soy sauce
1-2 tsp. chili garlic sauce (I used about 2 and they were on fire!)
2 cloves garlic
about 1/2 tsp. cornstarch

Mix everything up in a little bowl with a fork. Start sauteeing your beans whole on medium-high, then add half the sauce when they're halfway done. Add the rest just when they're tender enough, and stir until everything's coated and sauce is thickened, about 5 seconds (seriously). Serve over LOTS of rice with many iced drinks on the side. You can also use this sauce for tofu, but you can figure out how to do that on your own.

In plum news, the lovely big Shiro plums were...well...still plums. I am afraid I'm doomed to disappointment by most plums. The combination of super-tart skin and extremely mild, sweet interior flesh is just not for me. I wish I could find the Green Gage plums from last year! Sigh.

Also, in only tangentially-related news (because they are only tangentially vegetables), Snapea Crisps are now available at Trader Joe's, which basically means all my meals are going to be spoiled by snacking from here on out.