Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Weekly Waterfowl (14!)

So on Sunday, my farmwife and I spent the afternoon installing an automatic door on the duck's house. Monday, the ducks spent the entire day inside the house because they are afraid of the door. 


I have the dumbest pets.

(There are no waterfowl in this photo because there were no waterfowl outdoors to be photographed all of yesterday. Maybe if people leave comments telling my stupid dumb pets they are disappointed, the ducks will come outside?)

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Six things not to do while making sparkling cider

1. Attempt to load 302 pounds of apples and 30 pounds of pears into your farm-wife's Toyota Yaris. You can, in fact, buy high quality apple cider without having to stand on an extra tall ladder with an apple picker for six hours. Just live in the northeast like a normal person.

2. Make more cider than can reasonably fit inside a single chest freezer.

3. Forget that water expands, and overfill the glass gallon jars before putting them in said chest freezer. You will end up feeling supremely stupid while straining big chunks of glass out of the defrosted cider.

4. Underestimate the power of your own (previously proven) stupidity. Fun fact: even when a gallon glass jar appears to be unbroken- like when the cracks on the inside of the jar don't go all the way through and it holds a gallon of liquid cider without leaking - it might still shatter when you open it due to an expansion of gas. Bonus fun fact: when the bottom of a gallon jug of cider falls out and you're holding it at chest height, it is possible to make a mess rivaling a tomato-swamp. Also, you might not notice until the next day at work that you've still got apple cider on your shoes.

5. Use a gallon vinegar jug to carbonate cider. The flip-top doesn't provide a good enough seal for carbonation to happen, and you'll just end up sad and disappointed.

6. Have easily annoyed roommates. This one I actually managed to avoid- in addition to the glass-and-cider mopping incident, my roommie has put up with my getting weird frozen apple gunk all over the inside of her freezer and waking her up at 6:17 am because I was making a racket in the kitchen carbonating cider. And that was just this week! Apparently, she has just come to expect such things from me, because she was spectacularly nonplussed.



All of that aside, if you're not a monumental idiot, making sparkling cider at home is almost unbelievably easy. It takes two ingredients, four minutes of actual work and will knock the socks off of anybody who likes apples. Starting with good cider (and not needing to cook it) effectively elevates Martinellis' from the sad, child-and-Mormon knockoff champagne that it is into something independently worthwhile and effervescent. So if you live somewhere with cider, I am going to have to insist that you stop everything you're doing and make this now.

Hopefully, you're smarter than I am.


Sparkling Apple Cider 
Basic recipe from here, above suggestions my own.

One gallon high-quality apple cider
1/4 tsp champagne yeast (LINK)
2 empty 2-liter soda bottles, cleaned thoroughly

Dissolve the champagne yeast in ~1/2 cup of cider. I often find this requires me to microwave the cider for 30-60 seconds, but try to minimize the heat: cider is actually defined by not having been cooked (did you know this? Does everyone know this?).

Divide the yeast/cider mixture between the two bottles, and then fill the rest of the way. You do need to leave a little head space- basically, just fill the bottle to the place it would have been filled with soda. Stash the bottles somewhere at room temperature.

The cider is done when the bottle feels very hard to the touch- for me, this has taken around 24 hours consistently, but it could go faster or slower depending on your house temperature. Refrigerate immediately, drink within a couple days, and make sure to open the bottle slowly over the sink.




Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Weekly Waterfowl (13!)

Things I learned this week:
  • I am very grateful mud isn't a consistent problem around here
  • When a Tinder date asks what you did this weekend, 'shoveling duck poop' is not a very good answer. You should probably invent something less gross.
Last week we cleaned out the duck coop for winter, which was unsurprisingly disgusting (it involved literal shoveling of shit). We also made a giant mud puddle while hosing everything down, and the ducks discovered it, and well....



All hail Utah's pathetic yearly rainfall, for this is a rare occurrence.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Samantha Bee's Kale and Rice

Guys, I'm getting weird. I mean, it's one thing to emotionally depend on her for my weekly dose of cathartic feminist rage, but I'm pretty sure cooking dinner based on Samantha Bee's old interviews is crossing a bridge into crazy stalker land. Like, if I asked someone where a recipe came from, and their answer was "an interview with my favorite comedian", I'd be pretty weirded out... but here I am, eating this thing for lunch again and using all my neighbor's kale.


(My submission for 'whitest sentence of the year': One of my neighborhood Lindas grows three types of kale AND knows which one I like.)

I don't even know how I ended up reading this interview. Most likely, it was the result of anxiety-and-insomnia fueled late night brain distraction, less poetically known as "reading shit on the internet". I'm surprised I even noticed the recipe; half the time, when I'm trying to drown out my brain in excess information I'm barely paying attention. Last month I speed re-read my way through a bunch of childhood books (for the same reason) and found myself mentally skipping out on half the plot.

Anyways, her description (salty, spicy, garlicky) got my attention, as did the fact that it apparently isn't pretty and smells terrible. What can I say? I have affection for delicious things that aren't Instagram worthy. I realize the irony of this, but I actually find pretty food kind of irritating. I mean, I'm a good cook. Why do I also have to be a decorator? On principle, I object.



A friend of mine suggested recently that we enter some jam-club stuff into the state fair competition (my life is normal) but when I looked up the rules, I found approximately 96 points for things like "uniformity of pieces" and "general appearance of the jar" and a footnote about taste. Seriously? You know what the criteria for a jam competition should be? First, 'is it delicious?' and second 'do you have botulism?' Priorities.

Anyways, Sam Bee's kale and rice is as spicy, garlicky, and salty as advertised. It's also a pretty phenomenal make-ahead work lunch, if you're the kind of person who does such things. The cliff notes version of the recipe ("sauté kale, rice, garlic and chilies, then mix that with roasted chickpeas") worked for me, but since this is a food blog I've written out a recipe below. 


PS: Ms. Bee, if you're reading this, I love you and wish your show was every day. Barring that, could you please explain to the former Green Beret who's on NPR right now telling us we all just need to get along that for some people, this #takeaknee thing really is about right and wrong



Samantha Bee's Kale and Rice
Adapted, obviously, from Samantha Bee

1/2lb kale (I like Lacinato) ribs removed, roughly chopped and washed well
2 cups cooked rice
2 chilies*, finely chopped
5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 15oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp cayenne
~5 Tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper

*I've used both jalapeños and some unidentifiable long red chilies I found in our community garden. Use whatever you've got, but consider two a minimum- as previously mentioned, I am extremely white and my comfort should not be considered a reliable indicator of spice level.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Toss the chickpeas with a tablespoon of the olive oil, cumin, paprika, cayenne and a couple pinches of salt and pepper. Spread evenly on a sheet pan. When the oven is ready, roast the chickpeas for 30 minutes, tossing halfway through.

Full disclosure: in both above instances, I have interpreted 'toss' to mean 'shake the sheet pan so all the chickpeas roll around'. I am not sorry.

Heat the remaining 1/4 cup of olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Add the chilies and garlic, and sauté until fragrant, just a couple of minutes. Turn the heat up to medium-high, then add a big handful of kale and a pinch of salt and sauté. When the kale has wilted, repeat (another handful of kale, another pinch of salt) until you run out of kale. Keep stirring regularly until all the kale is fully cooked, adding more olive oil if necessary.

At this point, if your kale has released a lot of water, turn up the heat and keep cooking until it's gone. Otherwise, add the rice, poke it with your spatula a bit to break it up, and then mix to combine. Sauté for a couple more minutes (at this point it's KINDA more like a stir-fry, but Samantha Bee says sauté and I do not argue with my betters) until everything is mixed up and a little oily. Take the pot off the heat, mix in the roasted chickpeas, and go pack yourselves some lunch.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Weekly Waterfowl (12!)

Weirdo duck looks like a deformed dinosaur. 


Happy Friday, everyone.

Also, if you live in Salt Lake City, our congressman Chris Stewart just voted against aid for Puerto Rico. Time to leave him angry messages and demand he explain himself.


DC: 202-225-9730

SCL: 801-364-5551
St. George: 435-627-1500


Thursday, October 5, 2017

Baked Gigante Beans with Slow Roasted Tomatoes

There are some real advantages to 12-hour canning days. For instance, you can plug your electric car into a regular 110 volt outlet and be fully charged the next time you leave the house. You have enough time to listen to basically everything Lin Manuel Miranda has ever written consecutively. Also, if you're going to spend all day in a kitchen anyways, it's the perfect opportunity to slow-roast everything in sight.

Right now, that means tomatoes. Or, to be fair, until yesterday it meant tomatoes: Tuesday night saw our first morning frost (a whole TEN DAYS before I was supposed to can things!!) and most of the tomato plants are dead. So is all the basil. I've been handling my grief by reminding my farm wife twice daily that we need to do tomatoes and pesto in August next year, and also by opening the freezer to stare, Gollum-like, at the handful of slow-roasted tomatoes I put away last week.

So right, slow roasting. A couple weeks ago, I believe while canning peaches?, I made a pot of beans AND a tray of tomatoes in the oven at the same time. What followed was the easiest week of meals ever, mostly comprised of a rotating combination of beans, tomatoes, bread and cheese. Nobody really needs instructions on making a  sandwich with mozarella and slow-roasted tomatoes, but I can tell you it's a great idea- even if your bread is stale or freezer burned, the juices from the tomatoes soften it up. Photographed below is the closest thing to a recipe I made that week, and even then I hesitated to post it. Who writes recipes that start out "roast tomatoes for 6-12 hours, sometime in advance"? Most people don't sit in their houses all day making jam. But last night I ate it again, and when I was scraping the last juices out of the baking dish with a piece of bread I realized it might be a keeper.


Pre-oven. It looked lovely baked, all burbly and melted, but by that time the sun had gone down farther and all my photos looked terrible. Ah, to be an organized blogger with photography skills...


Baked Gigante Beans with Slow Roasted Tomatoes

8 slow-roasted tomato halves, from 4 tomatoes
3-4 cups cooked white beans with some of their cooking liquid (or two cans, drained but not rinsed)
2 Tbsp roughly chopped oregano
3 oz soft goat cheese
2 Tbsp good olive oil
salt and pepper

To slow roast tomatoes:

A note on tomato type: this is easiest with Roma tomatoes, which are both smallish and have a lower water content. Obviously this isn't a requirement- the yellow bits in the photo up there are the remains of a beautiful heirloom I felt a little bad roasting. I try and cut bigger tomatoes into half-Roma sized pieces, but I'm an oddball. In general, the larger and jucier your tomatoes are to start with, the longer you need in the oven- I left this batch in for 10-12 hours and they were still jammy.

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees, and brush a layer of olive oil onto a baking tray. Cut tomatoes in half lengthwise (if using romas) or into thirds if using larger tomatoes. Arrange tomatoes cut-side up, then brush the top sides with more olive oil. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and any herbs and spices of your choosing (I like coriander because as always I'm a fangirl, but I've seen recipes with rosemary, thyme, etc). Put the tray in the oven and bake for at least six hours, checking every hour or so. Tomatoes are ready whenever you want them to be... but I like them to be collapsing and starting to curl at the edges.

Extra tomatoes (and you should be making extras) freeze well.

To make beans:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cut your tomato halves into a couple of pieces each. Combine tomatoes with cooked beans and oregano in an ovenproof baking dish and mix gently. Break the goat cheese into chunks/crumbles and scatter on top. Drizzle with the olive oil, then a big pinch of salt and a couple grinds of black pepper. Bake for 15 minutes, then eat, using a big h of bread to sop up the juices.


Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Your Weekly Waterfowl (11!)

HELLO HUMAN WHAT IS THIS THING YOU POINT AT ME? CAN I EAT IT?


This is a rough week in America, which is a sentence I've found myself saying more frequently than is perhaps reasonable. Please take care of yourselves, and then call your representatives. Mine are counting their NRA money while praying, but yours might be more useful.

Also, for anyone who hasn't read it, this is a great primer on American gun violence.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Bourbon Peaches

Hello world! My work has been a little nutso recently, and then I made a 36-hour trip to Boston last weekend for my mother's 60th birthday. Also, jam club is officially up and running again- the 35lbs of apricots we put away a couple weeks back were just the start. Two Fridays ago, when I turned down a social invitation to do jam things, my friend was all "isn't Saturday jam club day?" and then I laughed like a crazy person because EVERY DAY IS JAM DAY. Do not test me. I will pelt you with apples and not even shout "rock!" as I drop them. I have 302 pounds of apples. We can spare a few for revenge.

Correction: I had 302 pounds of apples. They are now cider, 10 gallons of which are being stashed in my incredibly accommodating roommates' chest freezer.

Anyways... last two Saturdays ago was peach day, and although it's rapidly cooling down here (quick seasonal transitions seem to be Utah's thing this year) I'm hoping that wherever you are, there are still peaches. Because these bourbon peaches? They were the best thing we made last year, and quite possibly the best thing to ever be put on top of vanilla ice cream. More creative people than I could probably even finagle this into some sort of upside-down peach cake situation. Regardless, they're phenomenal - and I need to tell you about them now, because today is my breather between Tuesday (picking pears), Wednesday (making vinegar from fallen pears), Friday (cutting and prepping pears) and Saturday (making pear ginger jam). Also, I start hunter safety next week in anticipation of a trip that probably won't happen. These are appropriate ways to use my time, right?



Problem is, I don't have any good pictures. Jam days tend to be gross, sweaty indoor affairs, and any photos taken have empty coffee pots in the background and terrible lighting. Instead, I hope you will accept last year's photo of my farm wife, seen here performing her solemn duty to be queen of the jams. The peaches in question are quite visible in the bottom left corner, and also in her hand. I made the paper crown- does that count?


Bourbon Peaches
Adapted very slightly from the Food in Jars book!

6lbs peaches
1 lemon (optional)
1 1/2 cups white sugar
1 cup bourbon, divided*
4 pint jars

Peel the peaches: boil a pot of water, and fill a large bowl with ice water. When the water is boiling, add the peaches (in batches if necessary). One minute later, remove the peaches with a slotted spoon and put in the ice water. At this point, the skins should slip right off.

Once the peaches are peeled, cut them in half and remove the pits. Toss all the peaches together with the juice from the lemon, which will help stop the fruit from browning**.

Boil a pot of water big enough to hold four pint jars standing up. Sterilize four pint jars, along with their rings and lids. (If canning is TOTALLY new to you, the same lady I stole the recipe from has a great resource on her site!). Combine the sugar with 3 cups of water in a pot over medium heat and cook, stirring regularly until the sugar dissolves.

While the syrup is cooking, pack the peach halves into four pint jars as tightly as you can. When all your peaches are packed, pour 1/4 cup of bourbon into each jar. To remove air bubbles, run a chopstick or thin knife down the side of each jar, or tap them gently on the countertop. Add syrup, leaving 1/2 inch of headspace.

Wipe the rims, put on the lids and rings, and put the jars into the boiling water. Set a timer for 25*** minutes. When time is up, turn the pot off and let the jars cool at least partially with the water- this was the best way we found to avoid bourbon leakage.

*A note on the booze: we used bottom shelf bourbon- like, really bottom shelf. In-a-plastic bottle bottom shelf. If we weren't canning with it, and it were vodka, I might attempt to use it as a cleaning product. Point is, you're welcome to use whatever actually tasty bourbon you've got hanging around, but it might be a waste- between adding sugar syrup and peaches, even shit bourbon ends up tasting pretty good. I'm enough of a snob to have been seriously skeptical last year, but I can tell you now it works.

**Also, this year, in a (successful) attempt to avoid last year's three-day peach meltdown and subsequent cursing, we rallied the community and got a bunch of help peeling and pitting on Friday night before canning the next day. It's not a big deal, but despite the lemon juice, the peaches did get a little brown. If that's a deal breaker, just peel and can them all the same day.

***This is at sea level- in Utah we went longer!

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Your Weekly Waterfowl (10!)

This is the face of a duck who has just run down a rogue chicken AND a cat. She is not sorry at all.


Also, she's totally judging me for not posting here in a while because I've been drowning in work, activism and jam. She believes this is not a good excuse.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

How to Eat Toast without Poisoning Your Celiac Roommate: An Instruction Guide

Procedures Approved by Becca and Annalise, 8/23/17


Setup: All bread will be double bagged, and preferably kept in the freezer. In future, Becca will try NOT to use her celiac roommate’s bags… even if they’re machine washable. Think this through Becca. Gluten-toast will ONLY go in the red toaster to the left of the coffee machine, which will have some sort of tray underneath it. Said tray will not be plastic, because we tried that and we think it melted.
Procedures:

  1. Ask yourself: are you eating things-on-toast because you are too lazy to make yourself something resembling a meal? Spend at least 30 seconds contemplating alternatives.
  2. Prepare space for gluten invasion. Plug in poison-toaster, find and dampen a clean dishtowel, make sure the sink doesn’t contain anything dishwasher-unsafe, check dishwasher for space
  3. If possible, pre-assemble toast toppings to minimize contamination.
  4. Take the bread bag out of the freezer, and open it next to the toaster. Transfer toast over a plate and the toaster tray. Immediately return the bread, rebagged, to the freezer. Extra credit for wiping hands with the now-designated gluten rag.
  5. Turn on toaster. Contemplate whether a $2 toaster from the NPS store says something good or bad about you. Remind self that the melting plastic smell the first time was probably the tray.
  6. PUT THINGS ON GLUTEN TOAST:
    1. Before touching drawers, jars, surfaces etc, wipe hands with the gluten rag.
    2. Things from communal jars (peanut butter, mayonnaise) require separate utensils for scooping and spreading. There is a high likelihood that you will forget this and gluten the scoop spoon and therefore require 3+ utensils. Forgive yourself
    3. If making eggs, do NOT let pan touch the gluten! Hold the pan a couple inches above the bread.
    4. Under no circumstances call smooshed avocado on toast “avocado toast”.
    5. DO NOT put your gluten-fingers in your salt jar. De-gluten your hands first! Alternatively, you could get a salt shaker like a normal human.
  7. Eat toast! Toast is awesome. Do this at the dining room table, as the Annalise has promised she will not lick it.
  8. If possible, transfer dishes straight to dishwasher. If not, make sure the sink is clear of pans, break out the gluten-sponge and do dishes normally. The gluten sponge should also be used to wipe out the sink- Annalise has promised not to lick that either.
  9. Use gluten-rag to wipe down dining table. Put immediately in the wash.
  10. Optional: dance around the kitchen singing “I didn’t poison Annalise” to the tune of Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire”. Pretend this is the first time.

Toast!

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Your Weekly Waterfowl (9!)

Hello! It's been a week- I had guests, and then we had to rally in opposition to actual Nazis (because apparently that's a thing we have to do now) and then I had more guests. I went to Idaho to see the eclipse, which was awesome and totally made up for the 12-hour traffic jam we hit on the way home. I wasn't driving though, so I probably can't make that call. Also, thanks again guys! You were champs.

So I haven't been writing about food- partially because I've been busy, and partially because it feels inappropriate to do so when this week's news is our president openly supporting white supremacists. I'm not sure I'm comfortable interrupting a serious social media conversation with a post that's basically self-promotion with a side of zucchini, you know? I haven't quite cracked the 'political recipe-writing' formula either. "Salad for when your Senators are shit?" "Five things to eat while lying on the floor in despair over healthcare?" "Easy-traveling sheet cake, so you can eat it while still showing up to the goddamned protest?" 

That last one has promise, actually. Too bad I don't like cake.

In addition, a staggering percentage of my diet has been tomato+olive oil+salt. Sometimes I add some cheese. Sometimes I don't even make it indoors- I just eat the tomato like I would a peach. Oh! Also there are peaches, which are so ripe I eat them over the sink.




If it helps, my ducks are judging me too. Look at that side eye. Hey, duck ducks, you don't get to judge me- you're terrible at eating and are somehow ALWAYS dirty. YOU HAVE A POOL.

Duck ducks would like to point out that they live in a dirt pit and that their hygiene does not excuse me from cooking actual meals. Also, they would like some tomatoes please.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Tomato Soup with Corn, Harissa and Oregano

Things I learned last summer:
  • Attempting to can can 1,000 lbs of fruit with two and a half people is a very bad idea, even if one of you is very unemployed
  • You really need to peel peaches before you cut them in half
  • Tiny peaches are the devil's work
  • For whole-peeled-style tomato chunks, the trick to density is letting them drain for at least three hours prior to canning.

That last tip is from our community's British fairie godmother, aka my neighbor Lynda. 250lbs of tomatoes later (about half of them in chunks) I can tell you that it works very. It also leaves you with a LOT of juice- enough to create a small tomato swamp under your kitchen table and necessitate cleaning tomato residue off the walls. 

Totally adding "tomato swamp" to my glossary of community vegetable disasters.

Even then, we canned a lot of juice- when I went through my pantry last month I still had four quart-jars worth. Since we are officially back into canning season (35lbs of apricots down, an orchard to go) I've been trying to finish it off, a task with which the internet was not at all helpful. Google 'tomato juice recipe' and you will get two things: recipes for making tomato juice and recipes for Bloody Marys. (Bloody Maries? Bloodys Mary?) Anyways, I drank some straight, which I didn't like at all. I also tried re-hydrating cous cous with it, which I'm still convinced might work but turned out weird and sticky.


I'm delighted to say I've found a solution- in a brothy, summer-produce heavy soup that came about after some aimless garden harvesting. While the ingredient list is kind of long, the actual cooking part is easy. Also, this was literally made from what I had on hand- my llama neighbors have an entire front yard of oregano, and my spring garden produced those shallots. Point is, feel free to substitute. I'm pretty sure it would be as good with arborio rice, white beans and thyme as it was with farro, chickpeas and oregano. No shallots? Use an onion! The essentials here are the harissa-spiked tomato broth, crunchy corn and some sort of chewy bean or grain.

Only one more quart to go.

Tomato juice soup with corn, harissa and oregano

1/4 cup olive oil
4 cups unsalted tomato juice*
4 cups water
1/2 cup finely diced shallot (this was about one big one for me)
~2 cups corn kernels.This was 2 corn cobs in my case, but canned or frozen would work fine
1lb zucchini, sliced in thin coins
1 generous Tbsp finely chopped fresh oregano
1 tsp harissa
1/2 cup farro
1 can chickpeas, drained
salt and pepper

*My tomato juice should probably be classified as tomato drainage- it was pretty thin, and contained nothing but tomatoes and a little lemon juice. With normal tomato juice, I would recommend using 2 cups tomato juice and 6 cups water instead, and being very careful with the salt.

Warm the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pot (my new dutch oven worked great!) over medium heat. Cook the shallots, stirring frequently, until translucent and a little brown around the edges. Add the oregano, zucchini and corn and toss to combine. Saute, stirring occasionally, until everything has softened and is starting to brown. This only took me around five minutes. Mix in the harissa.

Add both tomato juice and water, as well as 1/2 tsp salt and about 20 grinds of black pepper. (As an extension of my earlier note, if your'e using pre-seasoned tomato juice, you might want to skip the salt here). Add the farro and chickpeas, cover and bring to a boil. Uncover slightly (you know, sort of haphazardly cover your pot) and set a timer for 20 minutes.

When the timer goes off, check that the farro is cooked (it should be) and adjust seasoning if necessary. Both times I made it, I added more pepper at this point. Serve anywhere from just warm to hot.






Your Weekly Waterfowl (8!)

Hello! I've been delinquent on the duck front. I've been delinquent on the everything front. Also, when I take closeup photos of my ducks (or when my farmwife does and I pilfer them) it kind of looks like they are living in squalor. 


I SWEAR we bathe them- but I'm pretty sure they're afraid of water. We have desert ducks.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Tomato Bruschetta

I spent my last Saturday night putting linseed oil on a garbage enclosure because at Wasatch Commons, we know how to paaaaaaarty. I also had to renew my passport this week, which made me feel super old (I used up a 10-year passport) and reminded me of all the awesome places I haven't been going lately. I think at this point in my life I was expecting to be living in Uzbekistan working for the UN and counting tree frogs on the weekend. I have friends who do that kind of thing.

Side note, I do know that there aren't really tree frogs in Uzbekistan. Are there tree frogs in Uzbekistan?

Interestingly enough, it's the same sentiment with which I started this blog, now four years ago. In between my life got a lot, lot worse and then better- and though I sometimes forget, my relative happiness and stability are a gift. I never thought being somewhat satisfied with my life would feel so much like an accomplishment, but it does. My cohousing community (explained here if it's a new concept) has grounded me here in a really lovely way and I'm grateful. That's kind of what I want in life- the ability to be happy doing nothing much on a Saturday night.

I mean, I also want 84,000 other things- my life list will attest- but for now I'm focusing on what I've got. I think I can pull it off for at least the next hour.



My community harvested the first tomatoes of the summer last week, and I promptly abandoned my plans to eat anything else. While I'm fully aware of how irritating it is when food people do stuff like rave about garden-fresh tomatoes, in this case I can't deny reality. A tomato off the vine is a completely different species. Even the ducks understand- last week one of them found a downed tomato, and even though it was too big for her to eat she refused to give it up. I looked up from weeding to see her haphazardly run-waddling through the garden rows while both the other ducks chased after her.

Quack attempts to escape with her tomato.

Recognizing that my current garden-paradise is temporary (and 100% because I have awesome neighbors), I'm giving you a recipe that works regardless. I learned it, in fact, on the mealy, refrigerator-trucked tomatoes that you can find anywhere. It's nothing original- the same tomato, balsamic, garlic and basil combination you'll find if you google 'bruschetta', but it's the framework I've been using for years because why mess with success? It's great on toast of course, but I'll also use it as a springboard for dinner. Some ideas:
  • mixed with a can of white beans (or chickpeas-my lunch Monday)
  • on top of warm cous cous, perhaps with more white beans
  • with cold cooked pasta and mozarella 
  • straight with a spoon, as my celiac-roommate did before potluck last Sunday. I suppose you could put in a bowl and eat it straight too, but that just seems too civilized.
So wherever you live, eat some summer flavors this week. And if you've got some garden tomatoes, I won't judge at all if you choose to ignore me completely and just eat them with salt.


Tomato Bruschetta

2lbs tomatoes, any variety
20 leaves basil
3 garlic cloves, crushed
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp olive oil
salt and pepper

Place a colander over a bowl. Cut your tomatoes (using a serrated knife helps) into small pieces- I cut cherry tomatoes in half, but if possible I like the pieces a little smaller. As you work, transfer the tomatoes to the colander so they can drain a little bit. The draining isn't strictly necessary, but I find that if I'm using bigger tomatoes it's quite helpful.

Chop your basil- I usually go with the 'stack leaves and then sliver' method, but it's up to you. Empty the drainage bowl and dump the tomatoes back in. Add olive oil, balsamic, chopped basil, pressed garlic, a good pinch of salt and many grinds of black pepper and mix well. Taste for salt and pepper. At this point, adjust the other seasonings if you want- I've found that with blander tomatoes I want more balsamic and garlic than with my garden ones. Leave the mixture to rest- room temperature is fine- for at least an hour so all the flavors mingle.

Right before serving, toast some bread- rub with the cut side of a garlic clove if you're feeling fancy! Using a slotted spoon, heap tomatoes generously onto the bread. Serve immediately.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Cheater's Tortilla Española

I ate my first tortilla española in Spain on a foreign language exchange trip I really kind of hated. I was genuinely irritated about how minimally academic the whole thing was, a reaction which perfectly encapsulates the nerdy, well-meaning, privileged brat I was at 17. I saw Goya's dark room, ate perfect grilled sardines and learned the difference between tea and infusion by myself at a beautiful old cafe- and somehow, I resented feeling like I hadn't earned them. I mean really- would my doing more homework have made the trip any less of a gift from my parents? If I'm honest, I think it was that trip where I felt the first stirrings of my depression. When I concentrate on remembering, the was an acute loneliness, emptiness and insomnia that I tried to soothe away by submerging my brain in the internet and raiding crackers from my host family's pantry in the middle of the night.

That beginning, so very hesitant, was quickly overshadowed by a crazy medical incident involving a pretty bad staph infection, two trips to the hospital and about six sitcom-worthy language mishaps. Waking up with both my eyes swollen shut kind of pushed the barely nascent idea of mental health out of focus. My host mother, whose name I have long forgotten, earned my lifelong gratitude by being about the best medical advocate anyone could ask for. She took one look at me (face swollen, sleep deprived and slightly delirious) and marched me to the doctor. She yelled at my tour leader so he held the bus for me, she yelled at the nursing staff until they let me, a random American without any identification, see a doctor, she yelled at the patients in the waiting room until they let me cut the line.

I took this photo from the top of a Cathedral in 2007. I think I thought I was artsy?

Full disclosure, she may not have been yelling- as I said, I was a bit delirious. Regardless, she saw the golf-ball sized cyst on my forehead, realized I needed help and got it for me. Somewhere in there, my last day staying with her, she also gave me a Spanish-language cookbook that I lost somewhere between Pontevedra, Madrid and Boston.

That cookbook haunts me. It is a reminder that I lose things, constantly, and I lose things that people are not supposed to lose. It was important to me, and I somehow just left it behind. Over the years, I've lost so many things of monetary and personal value through a combination of ADHD, laziness and absentmindedness I can never seem to work out. I lost the backpack I hiked the PCT with because I dropped it off to be cleaned and in my depressive fog never came back for it. I grieve for it too. I lost my flute, or more likely had it stolen from my dorm room, but I'll never be sure: knowing myself, I can't rule out the possibility that yes, I am that careless. I lose earrings and gloves and socks and my jackets and my debit card. Every twenty minutes I misplace my phone, my keys or both. Often, I never get these things back.

My mom used to claim she could track my movement through the house by the trail of objects I left behind.

These days, I wear the same shoes every day because having fewer things means having fewer things to misplace. I wear my grandmother's ring on my hand and never take it off. I have some coping skills, but I still dream about finding a treasure trove of objects I've lost. I still feel the not-so-secret shame of misplaced, permanently lost objects, the greater shame of having lied about losing them, the sometimes desperate desire to be the kind of person who accepts who they are and doesn't bury their mistakes so reflexively.

Is my carelessness a symptom or a fault or both?

In a show of horrifying irony, or perhaps predictions coming true, the day I wrote the beginnings of this post I got in to a car accident that, while resulting in no personal injury, has pretty much shattered my barely-held sense of having my shit together. It's a story for another time, but again I am left wondering and doubting myself. Where do I draw the line between the things I cannot control- the whirlwind of anxiety and ADHD that is my brain- from the ones I can? Will I ever be able to trust myself with anything of consequence? How do I rectify my pain, which is real enough to be diagnose, with the priviledged-even-for-the-first-world nature of my problems? Seriously, where are my keys?

(Before you suggest anything, farmwife just gave me one of those tile things for my birthday. She's figured out the drill).

I took this photo last week. Apparently I still think I'm artsy.

So all of this rambling was just a prelude to telling you I've cracked a lazy-girl version of a tortilla española. If you've never had one, a tortilla española is sort of like a potato and onion fritatta cooked entirely on the stove and often eaten as a sandwich. I have made them the traditional way before, (including once just last week), but it requires frying a couple pounds of potatoes in batches and guys... I hate frying things. Not for weird dietary reasons- it's just a pain. No matter how careful I am, I always end up with a messy stove, a million oily paper towels and a bunch of fried-in oil. The waste! I know I could reuse the oil, but let's be real... I won't. I just let it languish, aspirationally, in a jar under the sink until someone digs it out and dumps it.

Anyways, after my last attempt, I became determined to find a way of doing this without the fried, and lo! A tortilla ere blooming. Turns out that baked potatoes work just fine- and baking a potato is the kind of thing that takes time but zero effort. You can even bake the potatoes days in advance, or use leftovers. I'm sold. It is not at all traditional, but unless someone finds my long-lost book it will have to do.

Updated to add: a friend of mine with better Tortilla cred suggest that you could also cheat by par-boiling and then sauteeing, which I suspect would be much better.

Cheater's Tortilla Española

1.5 lbs yellow potatoes
2 medium onions, finely diced
2-3 Tbsp good olive oil
6 eggs
Salt and pepper

Bake your potatoes, or break out the leftovers. When they're cool enough to handle, peel them with a vegetable peeler. This is a little messy. Once peeled, slice into 1/4 inch rounds, or half-rounds if you've got giant potatoes.

Heat a couple tablespoons of oil in a sauté pan over medium-high heat, and cook the onions until browned. Meanwhile, beat six eggs in a large bowl with quite a bit (at least 1/4 tsp of each) of salt and black pepper. Mix in the potato slices. When the onions are done cooking, mix them in as well. Be a little careful about how fast you do this, or the egg will start to cook.

Put the remaining tablespoon of oil into a small non-stick pan and turn the heat to medium. I used an 8-inch sauté pan, but well seasoned cast iron would work well too. Pour the egg/potato/onion mixture into the pan, and smoosh it flat. In the first couple minutes, run a spatula around the edges a couple times so that the egg from the top runs to the bottom of the pan. Then let it cook, undisturbed, until it's beginning to set. This took me 10 minutes, but I'm at altitude with very fresh eggs- your time may be different.

When it looks like it won't fall apart, run the spatula around the edges and the bottom. Wearing oven mitts, invert a plate- anything larger than the pan will do- on top of the pan and flip the tortilla onto the plate. Put the pan back on the stove and slide the whole thing back in, cooked side up. Push the edges into place if you have to, and then cook for another couple minutes until it is set, or a toothpick into the middle comes out dry. Serve with aioli, hot sauce or anything else languishing in your fridge.


Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Your Daily Duck (6!)


Ducks: they will crawl through the fencing to eat brown rice.


Duck ducks!

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Your Daily Duck (5!)



"Psst: Galinda! I think she's hiding the food behind her back."

Monday, July 24, 2017

You Daily Duck (4!)


I did something dumb and careless (I got in a car accident- nobody is physically hurt) and I was feeling really shitty about myself, so the farmwife sent me this picture: 



DUCK DUCK DOES NOT WANT BECCA TO BE SAD! SAD HUMANS DON'T GIVE TREATS. QUACK ATTACK!

Friday, July 21, 2017

Your Daily Duck (3!)

I'm pretty sure the right ducks are trying to figure out if my iphone is food (still no, ducks). Left duck is a little busy being blurry.


Duck Ducks!

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Your Daily Duck (2!)


My beloved dutch oven, a 20th birthday gift from my Aunts, developed a big circular chip in the enamel last week. Lodge offers limited lifetime warranties, so they're replacing it, but I still couldn't bear the thought of getting rid of something that had 




So yep, I gave it to the ducks. Serendipitously, we were looking for a container that was too heavy for them to knock over- for some reason our 'plastic clam-shell full of rocks' idea wasn't sustainable. I'm still pretty sad that my dutch oven is dead... but at least it's being used for cute purposes.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Your Daily Duck

Welcome to your Daily Duck! Full disclosure: there is a 105% chance I will become lazy and this will turn into your Weekly Waterfowl. Regardless, it's a series and there will be photos and videos of ducks.






In the words of my farmwife: have you ever wondered what it would be like to eat raw zucchini without hands if your mouth was just two spoons? Wonder no more.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Farro with Browned Butter, Sage and Eggs

I've started a glossary of community vegetable-disaster terms. So far, it includes "squashpacolypse" (derived from an incident that involved cleaning rotten squash off saw blades) and "zucchini crisis", which just meant someone forgot to harvest zucchini before they went on vacation.

Yesterday, I woke up to an email with the subject line "zucchini apocalypse", which irritated me because my dictionary already contains an apocalypse. Also, in light of my spring-garden fail (have I mentioned our spring garden failed?), I'm kind of irritated at the zucchini. They're doing so well! It's barely July and there are SO MANY ZUCCHINI. I've personally eaten like twelve and also brought a couple to a friend as compensation for being too lazy to make salad. My mom taught be not to show up empty handed, but let's be real- if you invite me over, you're likely to get a loose handful of sage, or three plums and a radish, or some sugar cane I couldn't resist at the NPS store.


I'm pretty sure those are all things I have brought to my friend Rachel's house for dinner. She feeds me a lot.

The last time I ate at Rachel's- the time with the compensatory zucchini- she made pasta with browned butter, an egregious amount of sage, Parmesan and fried eggs. It was dead simple but phenomenal, even with gluten-free pasta. With those ingredients, how could it not be? (Side note- I have like six friends in Utah, and two of them have Celiacs. I am quite confused.) The next day I came home from work, picked some sage, and half an hour later was happily eating on the patio while the farmwife took blurry photos and fed farro to the ducks. The ingredients might not be objectively summery, but the effort to reward ratio certainly is. With a leafy green salad and a glass of white wine it would be fit for company- even if your company is too dignified to show up with random vegetables. I will be making this one again. 


Note: I had a whole thing written about switching from pasta to farro, which I chose for nuttiness and because what I really wanted was the effect of the sage browned butter infusing everything (smaller pieces to be dressed → more uniform distribution). Unfortunately it quickly devolved into me ranting about fatphobia, and bad nutritional science and the gross ways in which those things force us to talk about what we eat. I ended up both very angry AND exceedingly bored with my writing, so I'm gonna spare you the rest of the rant. In summary: I wasn't trying to healthy-up the recipe because fuck that. In the words of the indomitable Lindy West, fuck it very much.

Farro with Browned Butter, Sage and Eggs
Adapted from my friend Rachel (serves 2)

1 cup farro
4 Tbsp butter (half a stick)
2 eggs
20-25 sage leaves, picked off the stems
1/2 cup finely grated parmesan (I used a microplane)
Salt and Pepper

Put a couple cups of water and a pinch of salt in a small pot and bring to a boil. When the water is boiling, add the farro boil until cooked but still chewy, about 20 minutes. Drain into a colander with small holes. 

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a small skillet over medium heat. When the butter starts to bubble/foam gently, add the whole sage leaves. Swirling the pan occasionally (or smooshing things around with a rubber spatula), cook until the milk solids are browned and the whole thing has a nutty toasty aroma. Remove from heat immediately. When the farro is ready, toss it with the browned butter sage mixture, breaking up the sage leaves as you go. (Are these too many instructions? Do people know how to brown butter?)

Fry your eggs. People do this differently- I used the same pan I'd browned the butter in (with a little more butter because life is excellent). Most of the time I also like my yolks a bit past runny- getting into the fudgey territory- but feel free to do yours as runny as you'd like.

Lastly, assemble: divide farro into two bowls and divide parmesan between them, leaving a little for the top. Add black pepper and toss; taste for salt. Top each bowl with an egg and the remainder of the cheese. If you're me, add more pepper and then happily eat outdoors.



Monday, July 10, 2017

Birthday Pavlova

On my second birthday, my mother was about two months pregnant with my little sister. As she tells it, even being near food was unbearable, so she asked a friend of hers to make me a birthday cake. Her friend, who is Kiwi, made me a Pavlova...  and I was done with cake forever. There was to be no other cake. I was a stubborn child  (shocking, I know) and I've had a Pavlova every year since- if not on my birthday, within a month or so. My mom even managed to (awesomely) send one to the me via some friends when I was hiking the Pacific Crest Trail in 2012. Our family takes tradition seriously.

Last year, I made my first one, and then my second and third, because it took me three tries. Now I have a new birthday tradition: calling my mother and apologizing profusely for making her learn to make meringue for a toddler.


So have you eaten a pavlova? I don't know what kind of meringue it is- in fact, I just recently learned that there are different kinds- but it's crispy crunchy on the outside and then soft and almost marshmallowy on the inside. It's like a sugar pillow with a sugar crust... and then you get to eat an inordinate amount of whipped cream and fruit. I know I'm biased, but I have also never seen leftovers. This year, in fact, I had to make two.


(And, for the record, BOTH of them worked. I am an adult and I can make my own damned cake.)





FINE I LIED. I did have to remake one... but only because I forgot it was cooling in the oven and turned it to 450 to make these potato wedges. It was perfect until then- my ADHD screwed it up, not my inability to bake things. And then we stayed up until 2:30am and ended eating the second one I'd made without photographing it, so I made another one the next day. Also I broke a yolk into one of the batches and I had to start again, and there may still be melted sugar on my oven floor. BUT STILL I AM 27 AND I AM A REAL ADULT I SWEAR!!!


Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go call my mother.


Becca's Birthday Pavlova

Adapted slightly from my mom's friend Alison

Note: my personal struggle with this cake is disproportionate- my celiac roommate has made a few, and my friend Kiks made me one on my 21st birthday on her first try. I think that means she is a wizard? Either that, or I'm just terrible at following instructions. Point is, don't be scared. Even all flattened it tastes good.


4 eggs

4 Tbsp ice water
1 1/3 cup sugar, divided
4 tsp cornstarch
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp white vinegar
2 cups heavy whipping cream
Fruit! I use a package of strawberries, a package of raspberries, a package of blueberries and one kiwi, but you could really use any combination you want.

Preheat the oven to 375°F and cover a baking tray with foil. Separate the eggs, reserving the yolks for another use (I made this mayonnaise to go with my potato wedges). Mix the cornstarch with 1/3 cup of the sugar and set aside.


Place egg whites and ice water in a very clean bowl and beat with an electric mixer on high until stiff peaks form. With the mixer on its slowest setting, or while whisking by hand, add 1 cup of sugar very slowly. Still working slowly, add the sugar/cornstarch mixture, and then turn the mixer back to its highest setting and beat for at least 3 minutes. Add the vanilla and vinegar, and continue beating until most of the way there.


Pile meringue into the middle of the baking sheet, making a disk about 9" in diameter and at least 2" high. Place in the oven, then immediately turn the oven down to 200°F. Bake for two hours, then turn off the oven but leave the pavlova inside it- let it cool down with the oven. When it's no longer warm, peel the foil off the bottom carefully (or just say screw it and serve on a baking tray. I won't judge).


Shortly before serving, whip 2 cups of heavy cream.Spread over the pavlova, then cover in fresh fruit. Toddler Becca would explain that there is only one acceptable way of decorating it: a ring of strawberries around the outside, one in the middle, a very specific order of raspberries, blueberries and kiwifruit... but thankfully adult Becca is a tiny bit less stubborn.




Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Here are some things: episode 2

This week in community, one of my neighbors crawled halfway through our dog door and nobody was surprised. According to my roommate, who was neither fully dressed nor awake at the time, there was brief moment of shock... followed by a shrug of resignation. "Ah! Mary appears to be climbing through my dog door. Of course she is." Less than two months in community and already accepting the absurd as ordinary. I've trained her well.

Also, I almost had to go to the 4th of July parade in Provo (literally called the 'Provo Freedom Festival'- shudder), so major bullet dodged there. Instead I lay in the grass on the common house lawn and watched my ducks try and eat the sprinklers.

Here are some things I learned this week:
  1. Most of my office does not know what falafel is (absurd)
  2. Ducks really, really like falafel (somehow less absurd?)
  3. "Thank you for letting me ride-along on your garbage truck" is a difficult gift category
  4. A gigantic, slightly bendy zucchini is not the right answer
  5. Riding in a garbage truck in 90+ degree weather is not exactly pleasant
Here are some things I want to read (if I write them here, maybe I won't forget?):
  • "You Don't Have To Say You Love Me" by Sherman Alexie and "Hunger" by Roxane Gay. Side note: how did two of my favorite authors come out with books without me knowing this was happening? 
  • On that note, I have a sneaking suspicion that David Sedaris has written something I haven't read yet. Is this a thing? 
  • "Strangers in their own Land", which I have been meaning to read since the election
Here are some things that made me rage-laugh:
  • Utah has no rain, terrible air quality and practically no firework restrictions. HOW IS THIS A THING? Also, fireworks bother both puppies and veterans... and I thought those were supposed to be, like, the only things we all agreed we should support.
  • Orrin Hatch calling for civility like 15 minutes before the president's tweets about Mika Brezinski... about which the Senator conveniently failed to comment
  • A security guard at the Federal Building, when reading my permit application for a healthcare sit in, asking me (genuinely) "Have you tried to set up a meeting with Senator Hatch? He's in town this week- he should be meeting with constituents!". Did he really think that having people (including at least one disabled activist) sit on your lawn for nine straight hours in 100 degree heat was our first choice? 
And to make up for those last things, here are some pictures of my ducks hanging out with their newly refurbished house.

 


Ducks!
Becca

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Baby Bok Choy Salad

So you know how I JUST went on a whole rant about how people should take salad seriously? Like, two weeks ago? This is not that kind of salad. This is a salad for people who already like salads. This is a salad for people like me, who will quite happily eat a bowl of arugula with olive oil, lemon juice and salt. It's a salad for the kind of person who already wants to eat a bowl of greens- or at the very least the kind of person with a garden bed of bok choy that's bolting faster than you can stir-fry.


They were so cute back in May! Then they got all flowery and un-photogenic.

Have you heard that it's been hot? Thankfully we didn't get hit here nearly as hard as the actual Southwest (the extra mile of elevation helps) but it was in the 95-105 degree range for a week, and the high hasn't really dipped below 80 since. More problematic was how dramatic the transition was: by this posting, our entire spring garden bed has figured out that it was summer and gone to seed. This makes me feel like a sad garden failure. I've also found myself weirdly angry with our zucchini, which have of course taken to this insanely hot weather like the garden champs they are. F**king zucchini.

Is cursing at vegetables allowed on a food blog?





Anyways, if you have some bok choy that is going fast, this is an excellent way to handle it. It's so simple I'd feel ridiculous posting it if using raw bok choy as salad greens wasn't such a novel idea to me. I know, I'm a white girl. To  make it even worse, the recipe is originally Martha Stewart's... which is likely problematic, because my mom has an hors d'oeuvres book of hers from the 80's with a chapter quite literally titled "Drinks in the Oriental Parlor". As a side note, that book is the best/worst thing I've ever seen. Regardless, I have eaten this salad at least three times since my farm-wife first made it for potluck, changing nothing but the kind of nuts and the increasing volume of bok choy flowers. I figure that's a good enough endorsement of the taste, if not the source. So go! Eat some baby bok choy. Even if you don't live in a high desert, you've only got a little time left.

Bok Choy Salad

Adapted slightly from Martha Stewart

A note on the bok choy flowers: I normally find flowers in salads a little obnoxious. Most of the time, I suspect they were added for visual impact only. Bok choy flowers were a lovely surprise- they're a tiny bit sweet, which balanced the rest of the salad nicely- and of course they are readily available to me. That said, if you're not growing your own bok choy (like, you know, a normal person) this thing works just fine without.



4 tsp rice vinegar

1 tsp toasted sesame oil
1 Tbsp soy sauce or tamari
1/2 tsp sugar
5-6 cups baby bok choy, larger leaves cut into a couple pieces
1 Tbsp bok choy flowers (optional)
1/4 cup roughly chopped peanuts or cashews (I've used both!)

Put rice vinegar, sesame oil, soy sauce and sugar in a jar and shake until the sugar is dissolved. Alternately, you could do this in a bowl with a whisk. Toss dressing with bok choy- I found I wanted almost all the dressing, but this is of course personal- then add the nuts and flowers (if using) and toss once more.