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