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 all stay species-segregated. I've also been eating my weight in 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 weird edible wonderland. Right now, my community has got parsley, chives, oregano, rosemary, thyme, sage, mint and lovage, 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

Want some internet distraction?

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 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. 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 she snarkily explains 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...

(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 an unexpectedly gigantic free 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.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Hello from Providence

Good morning! I'm in Rhode Island, where I'm trying to figure out how the universe hasn't invented nap cafes. Seriously, we have places you can go pet a cat in a strange city but nowhere to nap? Cmon humanity.  My stomach is churning with a strange mix of nostalgia, excitement and anxiety- either that, or I've over caffeinated myself in preparation for my reunion.

Since I have nothing new to say about food (that is, until I can talk Seven Stars Bakery into giving me all their recipes), I have decided to post some pictures of animals. Here are some pictures of dogs supporting Bears Ears National Monument! And here is a picture of my brand new ducklings:

(I'm sorry the picture is blurry- it's the only good one, because the heat lamp screws up the lighting)

Yes, I now have ducks... which is not at ALL weird. I can envision my next several days of conversations: "How's your surgical residency? Prestigious and super important for society? That's great! I live in Utah and my biggest accomplishment is owning like 3.5 baby birds, the latest of which I've abandoned to come to this reunion".

Totally normal conversation. Definitely helping my anxiety.

Anyways, they have giant, cold, floppy feet and sometimes out of nowhere they lose their balance and fall over. I'm officially in love. Happy Friday- and if anyone is reading this, PLEASE get around to inventing a nap cafe.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Watercress and avocado salad with apple onion dressing

Hi all! I was supposed to have a couple of relaxing weeks, but then congress set healthcare on fire. Since all of the legitimate activists in Utah were busy with Bears Ears and the rapidly imploding justice system, I ended up spending yet another week making snarky, desperate signs for my congressman to ignore:

In addition, I'm on week four of a new job and have two (awesome!) new roommate/landlords who came with dogs, a cat and a gluten allergy. I'm also up 23 baby leek plants that keep threatening to freeze to death, community permission to get ducks (!), and did I mention that congress set healthcare on fire? I feel like all my friends in medical school... except, you know, they're doing real person important things and I'm freaking out about how to stop bugs from eating my spinach.

On the bright side, spring in Utah brings a flush of volunteer edible annuals and perennials that remind me why I love my pseudo hippie-commune so very very much. Sage, sorrell, lavender, arugula, parsley, horseradish, more mint than I can handle... the wild areas of our community are erupting, and I want to eat it all, and right now. I find myself slightly panicked by the approaching summer. I've already missed the two week window where dandelion greens are edible and will have to wait for next year. What can I preserve? What do you do with three pounds of horseradish? How can I take advantage of it all, consume it all at once? Why, with this bounty literally in my backyard, am I eating so many tortilla chips? How does time keep passing so fast?

Do me a favor and don't psychoanalyze this one, ok?

Just last week I found out there was a giant patch of watercress behind my friend Kellie's house. Turns out one of my hippies, the one who was going to teach me how to eat dandelions, has been cultivating it for a couple years, growing it the unused space next to a spring. I've walked past it hundreds of times without recognizing it as watercress, or even as food. I would make the world's worst forager.

Nonetheless  I picked an entire basket before realizing I didn't have any idea what to do with it. Luckily for me the internet provided, and in the first couple lines of Google's search results I found a solid use for watercress and the best salad dressing I've made in years. It's got grated apple and onion and soy and rice vinegar and the special power to make a two ingredient salad (just watercress and avocado) taste so delicious even the most anxious among us can relax into spring.

Watercress and Avocado Salad with Apple Onion Dressing
Stolen from Epicurious

1/4 cup unseasoned rice vinegar
4 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp sugar
1 Tbsp grated yellow onion
1/4 cup finely grated peeled apple (any Gala-like variety)
3 Tbsp neutral tasting vegetable oil
1 avocado
6 cups watercress, leaves and thinner stems only

A note on grater size: As directed, I used the large holes of a box grater for the onion and the smaller ones for the apple. If you have a four-sided box grater, I trust you to figure it out. You have a fancy box grater. You've got your shit together.

Combine rice vinegar, soy sauce, sugar, onion and apple in a jar and shake until you're pretty sure the sugar has dissolved. (Alternatively, you could do this in a bowl with a whisk, but you know I'm all about salad dressing in jars. Built in storage!). Add vegetable oil, then shake or whisk again until mixed.

When you're ready to serve, put the watercress in a salad bowl and toss with the dressing- I'll leave the exact amount to you, but I like mine dressed pretty heavily. Pit and peel the avocado, then cut it into chunks and toss with the dressed watercress. Eat immediately.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Cucumber Mint Lime Soda

What season is it where you are? It's been waffling recently, but here in Utah it's decidedly spring; the mountains are melting, I'm sneezing non-stop and the mint has returned to take over everyone's yard.

See that stuff in the bottom right threatening my neighbor's flowers? Mint.

I used to think of mint as an expensive ingredient- I made mojitos a couple times in college, and between the tiny packages and the three-minute shelf life I always felt slightly cheated. Shows what I know though, because around here it's considered a weed: my neighbors actually thank me when I steal it from their yards.

I stopped drinking when I moved to Utah, which is a little confusing because I'm not at all Mormon. A couple of times, when eating at a restaurant, I have seriously considered ordering a glass of wine and just leaving it in front of me... you know, as a signal? "I'm not drinking, but I believe in gay rights! " Utah culture shock can be a bit much. 

These days I'm used to it, and this soda was inspired by a thoroughly addictive one I had while visiting my sister in Brooklyn a few weeks back. I demanded they tell me what was in it, and voila! I'm celebrating spring in style. Since it's basically a virgin mojito, I'm sure it'd be great with light rum, or even tequila, but I can tell you for sure that it's delicious as is.

Cucumber Mint Lime Soda

Note: I made my own mint simple syrup, but I'm pretty sure they sell this stuff in stores nowadays. If you don't live in a hippie commune full of mint and lovely neighbors, I highly recommend buying it.

2 Tbsp (1oz) Mint Simple Syrup
2 Tbsp (1oz) lime juice (aka ~one lime)
1-inch chunk of cucumber, cut into pieces
seltzer water / club soda

Fill a pint glass with ice. Thoroughly muddle cucumber, mint syrup and lime juice together- I did this in a mason jar with the back of a spoon, but if you have a cocktail shaker you should use it. Strain the contents and pour over ice; fill with about a cup of seltzer and stir well. If you're feeling fancy, garnish with mint and cucumber slices.

Cucumber Mint Syrup:

Chop ~3/4 cup packed mint leaves, and add to a saucepan with 1/2 a cup each water and sugar. (As long as you stick to a 1.5:1:1 ratio, the exact amounts don't matter). Bring to a boil, then take off the heat and cover. When the syrup is cooled, strain thoroughly and enjoy.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

The sum of its parts

Hello world, I'm back! I'm feeling juiced. I've got a new job, I've got new chickens... I could learn my lesson and just give up like a sane person, but instead I'm going to keep running into a brick wall. Is that a real saying? What with this being, like, the eighth time I've attempted this particular project, I'm starting small with some easy white-girl tacos I probably could have made in my dorm kitchen. 

But enough about that because LOOK AT THE CHICKEN BABIES!

Chicken babies 󠀽= not excited about being photographed.

I've finally committed to spending the foreseeable future in Utah, which has enabled me to check one chicken-related item off my life list: the yellow ones are named Click and Clack! They live under a heat lamp with some other chicken babies, where they practice the arts of huddling in a corner and not paying attention to me... even though I let them poop in a box in my living room for 24 hours. Ungrateful chickens. They don't even make eggs yet!

Luckily for me, my hippie commune also has 17 adult chickens, who are celebrating this warmer weather by laying eggs as fast as we can eat them. They're gorgeous- deep orange yolks, shells that are almost comically difficult to crack, and that distinctly emphasized taste of egginess that's hard to find in store bought eggs. 

They also make some bang-up tacos, which can be made in about 8 minutes and have been my dinner three times this week. The idea came from Food52, and is the kind of loose-form, easy recipe that seems almost silly to write about, but is often exactly what I want: inspiration for when I'm hungry, lazy, and haven't gone to the grocery store. Somehow the stupid-simple combination- egg, avocado, cheese, tortilla, hot sauce- makes something so much better than the sum of it's parts, and is effortless enough (did I mention it takes like 10 minutes) for an exhausted graduate student, overworked millennial or, in my case, a lazy-ass Utahn.

Scrambled Egg Tacos
Adapted slightly from Food52

3 small corn tortillas
2 eggs
1/2 an avocado
hot sauce (my favorite with eggs will always be Cholula)

Char the tortillas over an open flame. You really do want it to get blackened in places, which is great because I like burning things. I do this by turning on one of my burners and just dropping a tortilla on top of it, but if you're more responsible I suppose you could hold it with tongs. Cut the avocado half in thirds, and put one third on each tortilla. You could be all fancy and make slices, or be a normal person and just smash it with a fork. Scramble your eggs however you like- I do mine with salt and pepper in a little butter- and divide them between the three tacos. Sprinkle with cheese, douse in hot sauce, and enjoy.