Just a few photos from the farmer’s market. Stuff that caught my eye.
Wishing you a relaxing weekend…
Before I gave birth to my baby five months ago, I knew my life was poised to change in dramatic ways, many of which could not be anticipated. I just had to wait and see what the changes would be and how they would reveal themselves. I assumed there would be a lack of sleep, changes in my marriage, and an immense amount of love. Most new parents probably go through this same experience. During pregnancy you read all the books, listen to advice from countless friends and relatives, and then wait to see how the pieces of your life rearrange themselves after this new person enters/explodes your world.
The lack of personal time has probably been the biggest adjustment for me. Being a person with perpetual projects, ongoing plans, and endless to-do lists, I was not exactly prepared for how much one little being could thwart my life off course. For example, I have been planning to plant the winter crop for the last three weekends. And just how many seeds do you think I’ve actually planted? You guessed it. Exactly zero. In order to avoid feelings of frustration or resentment, I’ve been trying to cultivate a new regard for time and accomplishment. Maybe the “right” time for planting the seeds was not, in fact, September 1st. Maybe the “right” and perfect time is actually late in the evening on September 29th, and not a moment sooner. How am I to know? Because truthfully I am not the one who moves the stars and the heavens, even though I sometimes like to think I am.
In order to carve out a bit of time and space for myself, I’ve had to get creative. While I may rarely (if ever) have an hour to devote solely to my personal projects, I can usually find ten or fifteen minutes. Lately these magical minutes have revealed themselves right before the start of my shift at work and also during my lunch break. I used to habitually arrive at work at least fifteen minutes early, secretly hoping my boss was giving me brownie points for doing so. Guess what? Neither she, nor anyone else I worked with, noticed. So instead of giving my workplace those precious (unpaid) minutes, I now utilize them for myself. Sometimes I read a book in my car. Or make a long overdue phone call to a friend. Mostly though, I take a walk.
Before having my baby, I walked for one sole purpose: to stay in shape. But recently my strides have switched to meanders. I don’t so much walk as I do wander. I’m not worried about making my body strong: I know my body is strong. It birthed a human, after all. I used to count laps at the park to track my miles. From time to time I even wore a pedometer to keep a record of how many steps I was taking. But I don’t do that anymore. It’s not about how many times around the park I can clock before work starts. It’s more about doing nothing, actually. Well, doing nothing while my feet are moving. (Although sometimes I take pictures of plants or interesting insects.) Often I make it only half way around the block before I decide I just want to sit down. So I find some grass and sit. It’s my time so I do what I want.
Today at lunch I decided to go to the park, even though I had planned to do the grocery shopping on my break. Oh well, I thought, there is still food in the pantry. There is bread in the fridge. We’ll survive another day (or two.) What I really needed was to not be inside a building. To be out in the sun. To claim a few minutes solely for myself. So I took some pictures, inspected the contents of a seed pod, found a pine cone nestled in tall grass, and foraged for some dandelion greens. If I focus my attention on the trajectory of life, there is time enough for everything. I don’t have to fight it, or worry about it. Even if I only have fifteen minutes, I can live deeply inside that fifteen minutes and experience it fully.
The lovely dandelion greens inspired me to make another pizza. I started with a triangle of garlic naan (Indian flatbread). From the garden I plucked some raindlow chard and basil. I also found a crookneck squash. In the back of the fridge was some sliced mushrooms and a ball of abandoned mozzarella. A little tomato sauce went on the naan, followed by the greens, vegetables, and cheese. I baked the pizza in the oven at 375 degress for ten minutes. A great meal to end a great day.
What a treat to try a brand new fruit, especially one as gorgeous and exotic-looking as the dragonfruit. My coworker was given this particular fruit by one of our customers, and he was generous enough to share it with me.
Dragonfruit is the common name for pitaya, the fruit from the cacti of the genus Hylocereus. They are common to Mexico and South America, but can be grown in our Mediterranean climate as well.
When the exterior of the fruit is cut open, the soft inner flesh becomes exposed. The flesh is interspersed with tiny edible black seeds. The fruit tastes very mild and is reminiscent of a kiwi.
My coworker advised that in Vietnam the dragonfruit is considered particularly beneficial for men, and is thought to help prevent colon and rectal cancers.
Have you seen Glass Gem Corn yet? What a stunning example of heirloom maize breeding.
I am on the waitlist at Native Seeds to purchase some Glass Gem kernels. Maybe you’d like to try your hand at growing it too?
How to make your own insect housing for your backyard ecosystem.
Great article by Sue Robishaw on how to eat out of your garden. I’m sure everyone with a vegetable garden needs this little reminder every now and again. I know I do!
Eating Out of Your Garden by Sue Robishaw, from Countryside magazine
The heat wave we experienced the last few weeks worked wonders on my pepper plants. They kicked into high gear like never before. (The heat was merciless on my other, more senstive plants, but that’s a story for another post.) I ended up with more habaneros peppers than I knew what to do with. I decided to try pickling them. (By the way, this recipe will work equally well with serrano, or any other, hot pepper.)
You actually don’t need a huge pepper bounty for this recipe, just enough to fill a regular mason jar. I had enough habaneros for two jars. For this recipe you’ll also need one bunch of chopped green onions, a couple of peeled and chopped carrots (I had baby carrots in the refrigerator, so I used those), and three or four cloves of garlic. For extra flavor, you will want to choose some herbs. I clipped some fresh oregano, thyme, and ventured into the spice cupboard for some rainbow peppercorns. And don’t forget the salt.
After your onions and carrots are chopped, your garlic is peeled, and your herbs are de-stemmed, you’ll want to cut little slits in the sides of the habaneros. This will keep them from bursting when you cook them in your pot.
Place the peppers, onions, carrots, and garlic in a non-aluminum pot over medium heat. Add a tablespoon of olive oil and cook for about five minutes, until the peppers are softened.
Now it’s time to add your vinegar, water, herbs, and salt and pepper. I used two cups of vinegar and two cups of water for my double batch, but if you’re only filling one mason jar stick with one cup of vinegar and one cup of water.
Bring the ingredients to a boil and simmer for about ten minutes. Let the mixture cool and then pour into mason jar(s). Cap and refrigerate. The pickled habaneros will keep for two months.
PBS did an homage to the weird and wonderful world of roadside attractions in their special “A Program About Unusual Buildings and Other Roadside Attractions.” Crazy shaped buildings from across the country are featured, including a hot dog shaped restaurant and a giant fish. Many wacky buildings from the beginning of the century no longer exist, but there are still some out there to be visited. I can’t think of a better reason to take a road trip than to see these wild buildings while they are still around.
A few of the buildings featured: The Wigwam Hotel, World’s Largest Ketchup Bottle, The Shoe House, and the giant fish from the National Fresh Water Fishing National Hall of Fame.
Here is the Asian Cucumber Salad recipe I promised you. Are you overrun with cucumbers right now too? I’ve been eating them in just about everything, especially salad. This recipe for Asian Cucumber Salad is both sweet and spicy, the perfect accompaniment to a hot summer afternoon. One cucumber makes enough for two people. The only thing this recipe requires of you is a tiny bit of patience, since you need to let it marinate for about 30 minutes before serving.
Thinly slice one cucumber
Finely chop one hot chili
Put the cucumber and chili into a bowl, add a pinch of sugar and a pinch of salt, then cover the cucumber and chili with rice vinegar. Let it rest in the fridge for 30 minutes before enjoying.
Ah, my love for Jacques Pepin runs deep. I have enjoyed several of his cookbooks in the past, but his newest one, Essential Pepin has all of his best work rolled into one volume. It also comes with a useful DVD featuring tips that range from how to tie your apron to the proper way to roast a chicken.
His recipe for Green Pizza was the perfect fit for our lazy weekend when no one was feeling much like cooking, but appetites were still voracious. The “pizza” uses pita bread rather than actual dough. The recipe features pretty basic ingredients that most people already have on hand or can improvise with whatever happens to be hanging around in the fridge.
The first step is to take a pita pocket and cut it into two pieces so that you end up with two pizza rounds. Jacques calls for one cup of mesclun, 1/2 cup of diced tomato, 2 tablespoons of chopped onion, salt & pepper, 1 tablespoon of olive oil, and 1 1/2 tablespoons of Parmesan cheese. Well, you probably know by now that I’m not really one for exact measurements. (Also, I was making two pita pizzas- instead of one like in the recipe- since I don’t think Hubs would have been too pleased to watch me enjoy my delicious meal without him.) So I kind of went rogue on Mr. Pepin’s quantities and slightly deviated from his ingredients too. I did have a bag of baby lettuce that was about to kick the bucket, so I used that for my greens. Then I grabbed a tomato from the garden and chopped it. A tiny onion was still hanging out in the ever-so-slightly-abandoned raised bed garden, so I snatched it up and sliced it into rings.
I preheated the oven to 400 degrees. Then I layed the pita rounds side by side on a baking sheet and topped each one with the greens, the tomato slices, and the onions. A pinch of salt and pepper was followed by a scant drizzle of olive oil. Finally, the Parmesan cheese was liberally showered onto both pizzas. Now they were ready for the oven. These cook very quickly, so be sure not to forget about them. About four minutes is really all they need, or until the cheese is melted.
These Green Pizzas turned out great and were really easy. There are several other pizza variations in Essential Pepin that I will try in the future.
By the way, if you really want to roll deep with Jacques, check out his autobiography, The Apprentice. Great read.