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Category Archives: Cooking

Rumex crispus?

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The fields are aflutter with weeds. Nettles are knee high, bees are spreading their business, and the full moon is giving everyone a little extra “oopmh.”

This morning I found hearty and healthy specimens of what I believe to be Rumex crispus, curly dock. Some plants had all green leaves, while others had leaves flecked with red. Rumex crispus is an edible member of the buckwheat family. The wavy leaves are often described as sour or lemon-y tasting. Dock recipes abound on foraging/wild eating websites. Hunger and Thirst has a recipe for Dock Enchiladas that looks amazing. I’m going to have to try them.

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Hobo Packets

Hobo packets are just about the easiest way I know of to make a good, quick dinner where each person can make the meal to their own distinct specifications. It’s also a good cold weather meal and requires only minimal prep time. You’ll need to cut up four or five ingredients. I usually use some combination of potato, root vegetables, hopefully an onion, and some herbs and spices. For our recent hobo packets, I chopped an onion, some red potatoes, a large zucchini given to me by a coworker, brussel sprouts cut in half, and some celery. I used baby carrots whole from the bag. We decided to experiment with using red curry paste, and I was extremely satisfied with the results. Salt, pepper, and olive oil are also necessary accompaniments. You’ll need aluminim foil to make your packets.

Preheat your oven to 375 degress.

Rip off a sheet of foil for each person. In the middle of each sheet, place your desired amount of vegetables. Season to preference and drizzle with olive oil. Wrap each hobo packet up as neatly, or as messily, as you’d like. Place the packets on a baking sheet and cook for about 20 minutes to a half an hour. You can test for doneness by opening a packet and piercing the hardest vegetable with a knife to see if it goes through easily. If it does, the rest of the packets should be good to go.

Remove the vegetables from their packets and place in individual bowls. Re-season, if necessary. This would also be a good time to sprinkle with cheese.

While I wouldn’t recommend cooking your food in aluminum foil all the time, this is a fun way to make individual portions for a group of people. Hobo packets also cook well on the barbecue and in the coals of a campfire.

Cooking for Lou: Pureed Yellow Squash

Since my daughter was born, one of the things I’ve been most excited about is cooking for her. On the advice of our pediatrician, we are slowly introducing her to vegetables, spending four to seven days tasting them one at a time. Her first vegetable was yellow squash, which we grew here at home in the garden. (The poor squash were doing well until the earwigs found them. Now I’m lucky to get one out of four squash that hasn’t been munched.) On Lou’s first vegetable day, I was happy to find two squash that were untouched by insects and ready to be eaten.

I diced each squash into half moons, then placed them in boiling water for a few minutes to soften. Using a slotted spoon, I removed the squash pieces from the water and placed them in the Baby Bullet* food processor with 1/4 cup of water. (You could also use a blender or regular food processor.)

It was a simple process and also very gratifying to feed my girl food I had grown myself. She seemed to enjoy the new taste. It was exciting to watch. Little does she know how many meals Mama already has planned for her.

*I am not endorsing the Baby Bullet over any other product, it just happens to be the one I’m using.

A Walk, a Reflection on New Motherhood, and a Pizza

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.

Dandelion greens

How to Eat Out of Your Garden

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

Cookin’ the Books: Essential Pepin by Jacques Pepin

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.

Garden Scrap Salad…or What to do With Your Random Backyard Bits

If your garden is anything like mine, you probably have a varied (albeit small) daily bounty. So what’s a backyard chef to do with just one ripe tomato, a lone pepper, and a handful of herbs? My solution is a Garden Scrap Salad, composed of all the little random bits that aren’t much by themselves, but when added together can create a mini feast.

To put your Scrap Salad together, first go to the garden and see what’s ready to be picked. Here’s what I had this morning: one tomato, one small cucumber, one bell pepper, four swiss chard leaves, some basil, and three green beans. I chopped up these ingredients and placed them in a bowl.

Now head to the pantry. What’s lurking in there? A can of corn? A jar of marinated artichokes? Maybe a tin of tuna? Pick something and throw it in the salad mix. I dug deep into the depths of my cupboard and found some kalamata olives and a handful of corkscrew pasta, to which I added leftover feta cheese from last night’s dinner.

Ok, what’s next? Do you have any dressing? Yes? Great. No? How about a little olive oil and vinegar? A dash of salt and pepper never hurt.

Now check you out! You not only made good use of several random scraps from your garden, but you also saved yourself some money by working with food you already had on hand in your pantry. And now you get to enjoy your delicious meal.

Puff Pastry Pizza

Here is my homemade version of the Trader Joe’s Margherita Pizza. All you need is a package frozen puff pastry, one large sliced tomato, some shredded cheese, and a few chopped herbs.

Before you start assembling the ingredients, thaw out one puff pastry from the package. (They usually come in packs of two.) The brand I used took about 40 minutes to thaw. After the puff pastry is ready, unfold it and place on a baking sheet. Then preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Slice one big tomato and get yourself some herbs. I use chopped basil and oregano leaves.

Sprinkle the shredded cheese on the puff pastry. (I’ve used both mozzarella and cheddar cheese.) Place the tomatoes on top of the cheese then scatter the herbs over the tomatoes.

Bake in the oven for approximately 20 to 30 minutes, until the puff pastry is fluffy and golden. Let the pizza rest for a few minutes before slicing. Enjoy!

Pickled Green Tomatoes

Here is a useful recipe for all those end-of-season green tomatoes hanging around the garden. I am waiting two weeks before tasting these pickled green tomatoes, so I will let you know how they turn out.

To make your own pickled green tomatoes, quarter enough tomatoes to fit inside a glass jar of your choosing.

Add one sliced hot pepper with seeds.

Then add one tablespoon each of salt and peppercorns, four sliced cloves of garlic (I also added a few garlic scapes because I needed to use them up), and three or four sprigs of dill. Fill the jar with white vinegar and place in the refrigerator for two weeks before tasting. Can’t wait to see how these turn out!

Homemade Herbs de Provence

Purchasing a pre-made Herbs de Provence blend can be expensive, so I decided to make my own. The flavorful herbal mixture is often used to season meat and fish dishes, and in stews. Historically, Herbs de Provence is a combination of rosemary, savory, marjoram, thyme, and sometimes lavender. While mine is not a “traditional” blend, I did whip up a tasty and aromatic concoction from the herbs growing in my garden (free! and organic!) For this batch I used savory, basil, thyme, and oregano.

A week prior, I snipped the herbs from their containers and hung them to dry in the garage. My drying method is pretty basic: bunch the herbs together, wrap the bunch with a piece of twine, and hang it on a nail from the rafter beams. When they were ready, I stripped the dried leaves from the stems one herb at a time. Then I combined the herbs together in bowl with my fingers. After they were incorporated, I placed my Herbs de Provence in a glass jar and sealed it up. So far I’ve used it on baked chicken, with great results.

Thyme

Savory

Basil

Oregano

Marrying the herbs together

The final, flavorful product

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