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.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Chive and Oregano Butter

GUYS IT IS SO DAMNED HOT. Just a couple weeks ago, I spent a lovely drizzly morning pulling weeds and shoveling mulch without so much as a water break, and yet by 9am this Saturday my shirt was sweat-plastered to my back. The plants have noticed the change of season too: the bok choy is bolting, the radishes are bolting, the leeks are probably not gonna reach maturity. I’m seriously thinking about redoing some of the spring plants in our fall garden box, because a lot of things I was looking forward to are gonna have to be harvested in a hurry, and probably before they're ready.

Watermelon radishes, pulled somehow both too early AND too late

My farmwife is in Ireland (jealous), and I’ve been hanging out at her place, feeding the cats and watering the ducks and making sure they stay species-segregated. I've also been eating a ton of bread. Since my celiac-roomie and I are still unpacking the kitchen, we haven’t yet written procedures for my eating toast in our house. (By the way, I am not exaggerating when I say procedures- I am anticipating my toast eating to be accompanied by written instructions that would put chem lab to shame. Use this knife! Bring the plate carefully to the sink, making sure it doesn’t tip or touch other surfaces! Wash hands twice!). 

Anyways, since I'm hanging in a non-gluten-free kitchen this week, I put a lot of spring things on toast for potluck. Zucchini quickly marinated with olive oil, mint and lime, radishes with compound butter, avocado, and summer squash with olive oil, green garlic and black pepper...  it was so easy, and somehow also better than anything I've cooked recently. I know I already said one incredibly obvious thing this post, but Celiacs is the worst. (Sorry roomie- I love you! Come back and we can put vegetables on  gross cardboard gluten-free toast!).

The only vaguely multi-step thing was the radish toast, for which I made an herb butter I’m writing about below but forgot to photograph. I was tempted just to put up photos and say “eat spring vegetables, on toast with minimal seasonings!” but that just seemed a little absurd. I’m supposed to be writing a food blog here. Or a blog full of duck pictures. Or just a weird site where I ramble? I dunno. I’m still working this out, clearly.

Most of the herb butter recipes on the internet call for a vague amount of “mixed chopped herbs”- whatever you’ve got on hand. This is probably legit, and a great idea for dealing with a bunch of parsley you bought and only used a tablespoon of, but NOT helpful advice when you live in a herbaceous edible wonderland. Right now, my community has got parsley, chives, oregano, rosemary, thyme, sage, mint and lovage, the last of which is a super-strong celery tasting thing that I just discovered isn't overgrown parsley. And that’s just the ones I know about! My life guys… it’s just so very difficult. Where do I find the strength?

So I needed to make some choices. I started with oregano, because there’s a crazy amount of it right now and I almost never use it fresh. I was kinda afraid it would be taste too dark, so I added an equal amount of chives and called it a day. I put it on toast with watermelon radishes and a good bit more salt, but I’m going to remember it for when the corn comes in (corn on the cob with fancy butter !!!!), and I’m very sure it’d be great with a variety of meats. At the very least, it will stop you from tossing out your scrap herbs, and if you eat it plain on toast I won't judge you.

Fancy Butter with Chives and Oregano

1/2 cup (one stick) unsalted butter, softened

2 Tbsp chopped fresh chives
2 Tbsp chopped fresh oregano
Kosher Salt and fresh-ground pepper, to taste

Mash butter, chives and oregano together in a bowl with a fork, or a whisk if you're feeling fancy. Add a generous pinch of salt and a good bit of cracked pepper, and adjust to taste by spreading on some bread. Seriously wonder why you haven't been doing this forever.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Here are some things: episode 1

Heyo! I have like three things I need to photograph in order to write about, but truth be told I haven't been feeling great lately (my boss, when she saw me this morning: "Girl, you look like shit!"). I've mostly been sleeping and eating gluten-free crackers. Don't judge me... my roomie has Celiacs. In between, I found some interesting things on the internet and I thought I'd share them:
  • Miss Eaves "Thunder Thighs" - I think I'm in love. I've watched it like 18 times this week. I want to send it to everyone I know. Can we have more of this in pop culture please?
  • "In America, important men were desirable. Important women had to be desirable". The article (here) gives what I feel is an overgeneralized summary of nationality and sexism (and, you know, ignores race and class completely), but that one line pinpoints something that's been making me angry lately.
  • Vegetarian Bacon Mayonnaise : I am HIGHLY skeptical, but also intrigued. If anyone tries this, let me know.
  • So... Alex Honnold free-soloed El Cap? Holy crap. I've started climbing again recently, and for the record, I consider free-soloing not only WAY past my personal acceptable level of risk but also a little selfishly irresponsible. And yet. Maybe breaking the boundaries of what's possible for a human being requires irresponsibility. Maybe it's really none of my business. Regardless I firmly agree with this author on the immensity of the achievement.
  • Here is Ice Cube doing a great job explaining to Bill Maher that he is a piece of shit needs to move past just apologizing and examine his own racial biases, conscious or not. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Billl Maher actively disagrees with and then ignores him. Thoughtful expression of reality: 0, white fragility: 1. Personally, I really admire Ice Cube's commitment to getting his point across anyways. 
Lastly, I'm on Instagram! My username is tencansbeans, and you can follow me here. You should be warned, however, that it's gonna be 68% photos of ducks and protest dogs. 

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Watercress, Sorrel and Yogurt Sauce

Do you know what you get when you scour the internet for recipes that use spring greens? 25 variations on cold soup. Green soup isn't something I'm historically into- it's a little too monastic, and WAY too close to green juice, which I consider an abuse of vegetables. Nonetheless, last Saturday, upon discovering some unexpected free time, I decided to run a taste test: I picked around three pounds of garden greens (sorrel! watercress! spinach! arugula!) and spent the entire afternoon following three different recipes. 

Wanna play "good, idea, bad idea*?"

Clockwise from top left: sorrel, watercress and parsley.

Turns out I still don't like green soup- one tasted like pond scum, and one was definitely supposed to be served as a sauce and was therefore too salty to eat alone. The only one I did like was more inoffensive than truly enjoyable.  None was worth the effort of picking 22 ounces of watercress leaves off their stems. Pro tip? Never do that.

In the name of waste reduction, I took the second soup to potluck with some baked potatoes, and in doing so realized I'd forgotten to write about this completely lovely watercress and sorrel sauce I made a couple weeks back. It comes from Deborah Madison's "Vegetable Literacy" and is everything those stupid soups weren't- a bright showcase for all the greens occupying my backyard, and totally worth the effort. 

Btw, I know Deborah Madison is a goddess and everything, but "Vegetable Literacy" should clearly be a picture book where I snarkily explain what vegetables are to non-Californians. If I had a nickel for every college educated person I know who struggled to differentiate between a cucumber and a zucchini.... Seriously, lady stole my book title.

(Please don't hate me Deborah! I love you and everything you stand for, and I know you're too good a person to be snarky about vegetable education.)

Ms. Madison suggested serving it with boiled potatoes, but I never boil something I can roast so here we are. I also suspect it would be great with roasted chicken, or a number of white fishes, but you'll have to tell me.

* Just to be clear, this was Saturday a week ago. Yesterday's bad idea involved a gigantic, free-on-Craigslist chicken coop it took ten of us to unload from the truck.

Sorrel Sauce with Watercress, Parsley and Chives
From Vegetable Literacy, by Deborah Madison

1 hard boiled egg 
2 teaspoons walnut oil
1/3 cup yogurt
1/3 cup sour cream
1 cup packed sorrel leaves, stemmed and roughly chopped
1/2 cup parsley leaves
1 cup watercress leaves, roughly chopped
2 Tbsp chopped chives

Add yogurt, sour cream, walnut oil and the egg yolk to a food processor and thoroughly blend. You're not going to use the egg white (I think I just ate mine), so don't be confused. Add the sorrel and pulse a couple times, then add parsley and watercress and keep pulsing until there are no big leaves left. I was fine with mine being pretty well blended, so I let the food processor just blend for a while. 

Monday, June 5, 2017

This just in: baby ducks continue to be adorable

Also poopy... so very poopy. I think this is because they're growing at an extraordinary pace. These photos were taken, like, a week after the last ones. A week!!

This was the ducks' first day outside, and they were definitely a little confused.

Left duck is also a little concerned about the camera.

They don't have names yet, because if any turn out to be male we'll have to kill them; male ducks will literally rape chickens to death (seriously, raising animals is brutal) and I don't want to get any more attached than I already am. That  ship may have sailed already though... just look at them foraging!


And lastly, here is one of the ducks sitting on top of my neighbor/activism boss/friend (partner in duck and town-hall related crime? Farm wife? Our relationship is platonic and multi-layered. I'm taking terminology suggestions).

Just to be clear, the duck climbed up there all by herself. Farmwife is holding onto her because baby ducks will throw themselves off stuff and injure themselves. One of them dive-bombed off my shoulder the other day, and when it hit the ground I was pretty convinced it was going to die (it did not).

 Anyways... ducks! Ducks ducks ducks!

Friday, June 2, 2017

Carrot Salad with Harissa, Feta and Mint

On Sunday, by some miracle I ended up awake several hours before the rest of my friends and tried to write. I wanted to post about this watercress and sorrel sauce I made last week, but somehow ended up rambling about the smell of the ocean and the commuter train between Providence and Boston. I'm still convinced there's a way to make it work- something about spring, and foliage, and the distinct ungreen-ness of California and Utah - but for now I'm calling uncle. Instead I'm going to write about salad.

Me in Rhode Island, smelling the ocean like a weirdo totally normal person

See that transition? Excellent transition.

As a longtime (mostly) vegetarian, my feelings about salad run deep. The short version is that I think salad get short shrift because people are lazy about it- rather than planning what flavors and textures go together (like, you know, everything else we cook), people just empty their crisper drawers and call it a day. House salad = all the vegetables in the kitchen, thrown in a bowl with absolutely no restraint and drenched with some salad dressing from a bottle.

When I'm asked to bring salad to a dinner party (this happens a lot! really!) I often feel a need to prove this point. I end up with a strange competitive drive to bring the most delicious thing on the table, even though everybody else gets to play with bacon and butter. This is especially true here, where my vegetarianism is somehow exotic again, just like it was to my New England family over a decade ago. "Eat less meat, an environmental principle" hasn't really gone mainstream in Utah yet. Our written laws still include a resolution denying anthropogenic climate change, which today feels like an especially painful marker of how far we have to go.

Where was I? Right. Defending salad in a politically horrifying world.

The result of all this is that I have a bunch of impressive, take-me-seriously-as-cuisine salads that I eat regularly but also break out whenever I'm assigned salad duty. This one is from Smitten Kitchen, and is as such completely perfect. I made it for a game night a couple weeks back, and was surprised by the subdued reaction- like I said, it's a winner- but vindicated when it was subsequently specifically requested for the same friend's birthday party. Salad: 1 , Utah; 0.

Carrot Salad with Harissa, Feta and Mint
From utterly peerless Smitten Kitchen

3/4 lbs carrots, peeled and grated
2 Tbsp chopped fresh mint
2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
4 oz feta, crumbled (or more to taste! I always love more feta)
4 Tbsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, pressed
1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds or half as much ground*
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon paprika
3/4 teaspoon harissa
1/2 teaspoon sugar
3 Tbsp lemon juice

*note: I can't find ground caraway, so I use a mortar and pestle on whole seeds. 

Heat olive oil, garlic, caraway, cumin, paprika, harissa and sugar in a small pan over medium heat for a couple minutes (you don't want the garlic to brown). Take the pan off the heat and stir in lemon juice and a good pinch of salt. Combine with carrots and herbs, then leave to marinate for around an hour (this makes a difference!). Add the feta and then serve.