Archive for the ‘lunch’ category

abundance

July 22, 2011

Living mostly from one’s own garden is partially an exercise in doing without. But addicted as I once was to my Granny Smith a day, it hasn’t been so hard to trade the petroleum apple for whatever is freshest at a given moment. I’m finding that it’s more challenging, actually, to live well with the daily abundance, to enjoy what the earth offers today without worrying too much about tomorrow.

I brought in my first zucchini (and a few other things) a couple of mornings ago. I picked them quite small, which felt a little wasteful — another day or two in the sun and I would have doubled my food supply, for free. And there is always the prospect of an impromptu dinner — I find myself hesitating to bring in, say, a giant helping of lovely baby arugula for myself, because how will I add interest to tomorrow night’s salad otherwise?

But those tender tonic leaves, while precious, aren’t like the jar of balsamic vinegar one keeps on the shelf for special guests. Set to the side, young arugula only disappears into a tougher version of itself, simultaneously fierce and faded. Better to mow down half the patch for your breakfast and leave the rest to go to seed while you eat something else. The cycle will begin again soon enough. I know this intellectually, but every year my desire to hold on to the fruits of my labors, to save them for a special occasion, has caused me to lose some of them altogether.

Zucchini won’t be exciting for long, but after months of leaves, these first young fruits — along with a few handfuls of beans and peas — are to be savored. Right away. What occasion is more special, after all, than this moment of perfect deliciousness?

salad days

July 3, 2011

thursday morning harvest

greens with home fries

arugula fennel frittata

lettuces w/marinated strawberries & toasted squash seeds... frittata on the side

no bent forks

July 26, 2010

I have a director friend with a favorite speech (typically delivered over a meal) that goes something like this:

     This is a fork.

     Not a knife.

     If you try to make it into a knife, all you’re going to get is a bent fork.

Her point is not so much about cutlery as about understanding and respecting the essential qualities of the actors you’re given to work with.

The day after a gathering at my house, I found a mostly full bottle of red wine on the counter among the empties. It belonged to the genre one friend calls porch wine—not special, not bad, just fine for distractedly sipping on the porch.

I hated to throw it out, so instead I threw it on the stove, with a scattering of last season’s coriander, to reduce. As I considered what I was going to do with it when complete, I realized I didn’t have a lot of options. Red wine glaze just doesn’t go with most midsummer vegetables.

Then I remembered some eggplants I had picked up at the farmer’s market. Reduction done, I corrected with a little honey, then added salt, olive oil, some smashed garlic cloves, and the eggplant (halved lengthwise) to the pot. After simmering for awhile, I put the whole thing in the fridge and went to bed.

The next morning I put some rice on to cook, figuring to layer it with the soused eggplant and some feta and oregano. I cut up the eggplant and tasted a bit. Not bad… but not special. And not nearly as appealing as all the things coming out of my garden faster than I can eat them…

Hindsight is 20/20. I should’ve thrown out the wine before rendering those lovely eggplants unspecial. Instead, I threw out the whole conglomeration.

There are schools of cookery that are all about culinary alchemy—making silver knives out of stainless steel forks, as it were. There are old techniques for making tough cuts of meats into tender, refined dishes, as well as new techniques that turn solids to foam, or liquids into self-contained shapes. While I appreciate the craft, and often the flavor, of such dishes, in my own kitchen I’m more inclined to let a fork be a fork. More and more, I find the best way to appreciate the essential qualities of whatever came out of the garden that day involves the application of olive oil and salt. Sometimes the “recipe” calls for the application of heat, sometimes not. Herbs and/or lemon are sometimes nice, but unrequired.

After I let go of the eggplant idea, I shredded some radicchio and chopped a handful of green beans and added those to the warm rice, along with a splash of olive oil.

no-lettuce lunch

July 3, 2010

The garden is finally beginning to throw off a few edibles of the non-leafy variety. Today I pulled three turnips and plucked a couple of handfuls of peas.

Also, I have a new favorite weed: purslane. It grows along the ground, rather than reaching for the sun, so unless you’re on your hands and knees getting after the tall weeds, you’re likely to miss it. Today, getting after the tall weeds, I discovered it everywhere. Unlike dandelion and many other “found” greens, it has a very mild taste. I also appreciate that the leaves are thick and plump—a nice change from the flimsy salad greens that have made up so much of my diet these past months. If there were a Purslane Marketing Council, the slogan could be “Less bite, more chew.”

The young turnips were mild enough to eat raw, so I sliced them thin, along with a golden beet and some peas in their pods. Then tossed in the purslane and dressed it all with a vinaigrette made with green coriander, mint and honey. Yum.

confronting the cupboard

February 22, 2010

Every winter I’ve gotten a little bit better at provisioning. I don’t find it particularly difficult to cook for one (I’ve had a lot of practice) but I do find it challenging to do it for only 2 or 3 days and have nothing left over… nothing that won’t keep until my next escape to the country, that is. Starting with my first garden I began freezing several varieties of pesto. Two summers ago, I added stewed and dried tomatoes to my repertoire. This year I stocked the larder with winter squash, many kinds of beans, even jars of pickles.

By the time I arrived at the house on Thursday evening, I already knew it was going to be a night for cranberry beans, cooked with lots of olive oil and other fragrant things. I like this preparation best with bread for sopping, but it was too late to start bread so I settled on a bed of polenta instead.

One benefit of this kind of slow-simmering meal (besides its deliciousness) is that it really warms up the house. One drawback is that, after the long drive, my belly often requires immediate attention. Usually I have some cheese or nuts around, but things were looking pretty grim… until, at the back of the refrigerator, I found a carefully wrapped half-button of goat cheese. (This was obviously the work of an overzealous helpful houseguest—I would have probably deemed the piece too small for saving and enjoyed it as my reward for cleaning the kitchen.) It was hard as a rock, but it smelled the way it should and wasn’t growing anything extra, so I shaved it thin and took a taste. Creamy taste, crackly texture—very nice with a glass of wine while the beans bubbled.

When shell beans are fresh from the garden, I will cook them in olive oil only, but because these were a little dehydrated, I first covered them with water and simmered them with a few whole cloves of garlic and some thyme branches. I never got around to cutting and drying herbs this year, but as I always say, if you can’t find thyme for the important things, you’re just not trying hard enough.

Once the beans were tender, I doused them in oil and finished over very low heat until all the water was gone, then ladled them over polenta and added a few more thyme leaves.

The next day, leftover polenta with pesto from the freezer.

And breakfast potatoes make a fine meal any time of day.

My first winter in the house, I would always arrive with groceries from the city—a few pieces of fruit, a hunk of cheese, a beautiful boule. Now I have the confidence to skip that step. When it comes to putting food by, I’m still learning, as evidenced by the occasional storage failure…

But self-sufficiency is not so much about having done something right as it is about being willing to enter into the adventure.

pasta with walnut sauce and today’s harvest

August 7, 2009

Cut one medium yellow squash and a fistful of green beans into bite-size pieces while boiling water for pasta. When water is at a full boil, add a couple of servings worth of dried pasta, similar in size to the vegetable pieces. Grind a large clove of garlic and a handful of walnuts with a pinch of salt. When the pasta is almost done, add vegetables to the pot. Return to boil, then drain and dump in a bowl. Cover the bottom of the pot with olive oil and turn to medium. Scrape in walnut paste. Do not clean mortar & pestle—the leftover bits will help with the next step. Chop arugula coarsely. Add half to mortar and grind, then add this to the pot. Remove sauce from heat and toss with pasta. Allow to cool for a minute or two, then add remaining arugula.000_0829

I was planning to add some shaved pecorino romano, but it smelled too good already and I was too hungry. Maybe next time.

here come the squash

July 28, 2009

and I say

it’s alright

do do do do do do do do do do do 

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