You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘cooking’ tag.

July’s produce log has proved a little challenging to get finished. I could blame it on the fact that I’m too busy eating but that wouldn’t be entirely true.

If this is your first visit, you’re seeing a month-by-month log of fresh produce, with a tally to see how my local versus non-local dollars compare. See April Produce Log for an introduction to the project. Here are May and June. You can download each one as a PDF. Here is July. Each month includes recipe ideas, links and PDFs to download.

Scroll down for more on July’s produce, reflections on eating in summer and recipe ideas.

It’s about this time in August that I want to push the pause button. I have yet to consume vast quantities of artichokes and because of that I’m not ready to see cantaloupe or even corn. Oregon’s artichokes are about a month late due to less-than-optimal weather.

This feeling of wanting to slow the tide of earthly delights is really just silly anxiety, stemming from a desire to savor as much and as deeply as possible. No one is stopping me, of course. To savor can imply taking time to create a spectacular dish. But savoring can just as easily mean standing at the kitchen counter eating a peach and licking the juice that drips down your arm.

I wrote about the comforts of seasonal eating and how limiting to what’s in season simplifies and allows you to enjoy eating on a different level. The desire to freeze the moment is that the overabundance from the garden and the sheer variety from the market begs for more time to enjoy it. There are only so many opportunities to cook for friends, which is the best way to celebrate all this bounty. In the absence of guests, I bang on my neighbor’s window with a big zucchini, hand a big bunch of basil to the teenager walking down the sidewalk, or give strawberries to the guy across the street.

Freezing the moment is what seasonal eating does, for better or worse. You’re up to your eyeballs in basil but you have to enjoy every leaf. For soon it won’t be there (except in frozen form, which is pretty darn good).

What’s Cooking?

Berries. Three visits to a local farm yielded 11 pounds of berries (a couple more visits needed), most of which go in the freezer. But not before making blueberry sorbetto topped with raspberries, with a little pinot noir thrown in for fun. And also not before making berry crisp, with marionberries and peaches. For those who don’t like to bake, this is a crowd pleaser and idiot proof (unless you burn it under the broiler). Make your own raspberry vinegar by tossing a handful of raspberries in some champagne or white wine vinegar in a mason jar and let sit in the sun. Strain out the berries once the vinegar has turned nice and red.

Carrots & Zucchini. I bought a large bunch of carrots and then pulled more from the garden, which is too many if you don’t love carrots. So I experimented with pickled carrots (refrigerator style) to make use of them. I loosely followed this recipe but I think I should have cooked the carrots longer. Together with my pickled zucchini (which I modified to make savory with no sugar, added garlic, dill, onions and coriander seed), I have ready snacks to put out when guests come over. See June’s log for other zucchini recipes.

Arugula. It’s growing like gangbusters this year which means eating a salad a day, sometimes two. Because of arugula’s peppery flavor, the sweetness of a raspberry vinegar dressing compliments the kick. When you have too many greens you have no choice but to start eating breakfast salad. There’s at least one other person out there who wants savory for breakfast. Use any lettuce or vegetables you like. Pictured is my take on it with arugula, shredded carrots and sunflower seeds, along with the soft-boiled eggs.

Beans. Last year, my beans died a horrible death. This year, I can’t keep up. I’m growing the Italian romano beans—a long, flat, wide bean with a nutty, sweet flavor that almost double in size overnight. My father used to make stewed beans that we had with polenta—the polenta being a poor man’s substitute for meat in Italy. I loved this dish; there was something wonderful about how the beans almost fell apart. I now know it’s called fagiolini in umido. Like many Italian recipes there are no hard and fast rules, unless it’s the rules of the person whose recipe you’re using. I don’t blanch my beans first and I also add torn fresh basil and shaved parmigiano at the end.

Artichokes. Sorely missing from this month’s log, a bag of baby artichokes are sitting in the fridge. I couldn’t want till next month to encourage trying this recipe. La vignarola is a Roman spring vegetable stew. Because Oregon’s artichokes are late, one can enjoy a spring dish in summer. The Italians are always improvising with what’s available. The catch here is that fava beans are called for and the planets didn’t align properly for the two vegetables to co-occur. The overabundant beans (see above) will have to be the understudy for favas.

………………………

Phew. A long post but there’s a lot to say. If you use one of these recipes, let me know how it goes. If you have a favorite recipe using one of these fruits or vegetables, please comment!

Having wondered where my food dollars go, specifically local fresh fruits and vegetables, I decided to log a year’s worth of purchases—from the farmers market, local produce at stores and not local at stores. Starting with April, at the end of each month I’ll post a new log.

Numbers on a page don’t appeal to me the way visuals do, so I decided to do a visual log. I have no goal other than to see if I put my money where my mouth is. As a big supporter of our local farmers markets and as a volunteer at Portland Farmers Market, I want a better idea of how my food dollars shake out.

For the sake of simplicity, I’m only logging fresh produce even though bread, eggs, grains, dried beans and nuts can be purchased at the farmers market. Maybe next year! I am logging expenses on seed packets because what comes out of the vegetable garden is a reflection of what I eat. And there are true costs like seeds, fertilizer and compost. As to whether I track what I reap from the garden, we’ll see. As my garden is organic, so will this process be.

In the meantime, here is April. You can also download April as a PDF. I expect future months to be a bit more colorful!

I love white beans and always keep them handy. Their white color contrasts nicely with colorful veg like carrots and greens. I prefer the small white beans, which you can get in bulk at most grocery stores. Bob’s Red Mill carries at least three types of white beans (It’s worth a trip to their store.). Here, I use their small white beans. But you can also use navy beans or the larger cannellini beans.

This is a nice hearty soup that can be made into many variations. You can skip the fennel and add thin strips of kale (my favorite is lacinato, also known as Italian black kale) when you add the beans and water. The point being that soup has room for experimentation. For example, if you like a soup that has a strong fennel flavor, add more fennel seed. If you aren’t sure, either skip it or use a little less. The fennel bulb on its own won’t emit as much fennel flavor, which is why I’ve added the fennel seed.

The Recipe

Ingredients
1 cup dry small white beans, navy beans or cannellini, soaked overnight
1 bay leaf
1 sprig thyme
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds, slightly crushed
Small pinch of red pepper flake
2 T olive oil
1 carrot, chopped small about 1/8 inch size
1 celery, chopped small about 1/8 inch size
1 onion, chopped small about 1/8 inch size
1 small to medium fennel bulb, halved and halved again, thinly sliced
3 canned plum tomatoes, chopped
8 cups stock or water
salt and pepper to taste

Preparation
1. Chop all vegetables. Heat oil in a stock pot. Saute vegetables, a pinch of salt and herbs for about 10 minutes on low to medium heat, slightly covered. This will sweat the vegetables.
2. Add the tomatoes and saute another minute. Add the beans and stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Simmer, partially covered for about 1 1/2 hours, or until beans are tender. Add salt to taste towards end of cooking.
3. Puree in a blender about 1/3 of the soup. Add pureed soup back to the pot.
4. Optional: drizzle with a little good olive oil before serving. Serve with a rustic bread and salad.

Notes: The red pepper flake just adds depth and rounds out the flavor; the soup is not meant to be spicy. Use what herbs you have. Add more or less stock or water depending on desired thickness of soup.

Download the White Bean Fennel recipe as a PDF.

Almost without trying, I’ve created a ritual I savor: making soup every Sunday. Call it my religion, at least while it’s cold outside. I went from being intimidated by soup to experimenting—the basics being, well, pretty basic. While there is no shame in following recipes, I’m more inclined to make soup if I’m in a soup mood, and then create something from what is available. Cooking moves us all in different ways (and some of us not at all). It’s fun to arrive at cooking intuitively. To get there, you have to just do it, usually by following enough recipes first.

My ritual involves soaking beans in a bowl of water on Saturday. Come Sunday morning, as I’m having coffee and listening to NPR, I start chopping vegetables. As the soup simmers, I do chores, and before you know it, there’s a pot of soup.

I plan to post a weekly Sunday Soup recipe. This week is White Bean Fennel. You’ll also find Asian-Inspired Butternut Squash in an earlier post.

Here are some tips:

Make your own stock. Vegetable is the easiest. Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone has a brilliant stock section that I refer to every time, the soiled pages to prove it. It is an all-around excellent reference, not just for vegetarians. Brin Eats was kind enough to post Deborah’s stock tips. Making your own has several benefits. It’s cheaper than buying chicken or veg stock. It tastes better than water. It recycles unused veg. You can make it while you cook other things (or save veg trimmings in a ziplock to make stock later).

At its most simple, better-than-water stock takes only some onion, garlic, celery, carrots and salt. Possibly a potato. A few mushrooms. Maybe some herbs. More stuff tastes even better—parmigiano rind, the ends of winter squash, fennel bulb trimmings, to name a few. Saute them, add water, simmer, strain, enjoy.

Keep a supply of dried beans and grains. Not only do they look pretty if you have a place to display them in jars, but available staples makes you more likely to make soup. White beans, black beans, barley, rice, etc. I go to Goodwill every so often to find inexpensive jars, slowly replacing all my plastic.

Always have carrots, celery and onions in the fridge. These three ingredients start nearly every soup. They also happen to be the backbone of your veg stock.

Have a good stock pot. No need for anything fancy. Just have something big enough for your ingredients and about 8 cups of water.

Use what’s in season. Need inspiration? Just wander the farmers market or your local organic grocery store. Buy a head of cauliflower if it looks good. Bring it home. Look up a recipe. In that order. Finding a recipe in one of your many cookbooks (and then going and buying ingredients) is like looking for a needle in a haystack. Instead, work in reverse. This method forces you to try a new recipe. Making your favorite minestrone over and over is wonderful. But pushing yourself has its rewards. Enter your market finds into a site like Epicurious plus the word “soup” and see what you come up with.

Invite friends over. Warm soup is a humble and unfussy meal to feed to friends along with bread and salad. Soak your beans on Saturday. Make soup on Sunday and feed your friends during the week after the flavors have been able to meld.

Don’t forget to make enough for leftovers! Depending on how much space you have in your freezer,  you can squirrel away enough soup to last you all winter.