Saturday, July 26, 2014

Fresh Corn and Tomatillo Salsa

It's time! For the cold, vinegar-doused relishes and fresh salsas which will seem such an exotic memory in much less than a handful of months from now.
Get it while you can. Eat these fleeting, fresh concoctions spooned over everything: fried eggs, poached eggs, omelets, grilled meats, pulled chicken, folded into tortillas, tacos, piled on beans and rice, slathered on market bread with ripe avocado and cheese, just don't forget to overdo it. You will wish you had when you are huddled by your wood stove slurping stew for the 4th time in the week.
Of all the months, July sun is by far the best on the skin (when it's strong and directly overhead), and the tomatoes are evidence of such. As they swell and blush, or as the tomatillos split open their capes and bust forth, or as the corn silks darken, let us take our cue.
This is the occasion to soak up each moment while in the very peak of the season's prime by putting it in the center of the table.

Fresh Corn and Tomatillo Salsa:
*1 cup fresh corn kernels
*1 1/2 cups fresh tomatillos, chopped
*1 cup sungold cherry tomatoes, quartered
*1 fresh ancho or poblano chili pepper, stem and seeds removed, diced
*1 sweet red pepper, stem and seeds removed, diced
*2-3 cloves garlic, minced
*white wine vinegar
*sea salt
*fresh ground black pepper
*olive oil
*1 bunch fresh basil or cilantro or both, chopped

In a medium mixing bowl, combine all ingredients, adding vinegar, salt, pepper and oil to taste.
Adjust seasonings as you go.
Gently mix with a spoon.

Store in a glass gar fitted with a lid and refrigerate for up to 5 days.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Dilly Beans

The mountain of beans has been tamed...for the time being. I owe the red pepper heart idea to my friend Suzy in Bellingham, Washington. She is full of inspiration, and usually takes projects to the highest possible heights with extreme artistic devotion, charming everything she touches.
The garden is requiring regular harvests which then require a place to put them. The fridge is chaos. Supper generally includes zucchini three ways, beans three ways, cucumber three ways and maybe a poached egg. It's impossible to eat it all.
So an entire afternoon was reluctantly devoted to canning. Honestly, this method of putting-by is a mixed bag for me. I enjoy an aspect of it, but canning requires following stringent instructions (so you don't unintentionally gift your loved ones botulism over the Holidays), and the humid nature of the project isn't always fun. Gladly we are in a bit of a cool snap, and yesterday turned out to be the perfect day for leaning over a massive pot of boiling water and hot brine.
This is the time in the season for pushing ahead and getting things dealt with as best possible, despite being a little worn out, and possibly a bit uncomfortable throughout the process. There is still a large scoop of satisfaction in it all, and of course---little red pepper shapes to remind us to keep a grateful heart.

For Dilly Bean recipe, I referred to the National Center for Home Processing, and only added dill seed to the brine. Please note to carefully follow an official recipe without altering ingredients to maintain a safe pH.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Grand Design


for the 

phenomenal architecture 

that idles

 on a blade

 of grass.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Fresh Green Bean Casserole with Buttermilk Biscuit Top

Green bean casserole was one of my most favorite memories from Thanksgiving. Mom would crank the top off Campbell's cream of mushroom soup, mix it with canned green beans and top it with a whole tin of french-fried onions. It was dirty. And perfect.

Times have slightly changed, but green bean casserole still holds a special place in my heart. I will be honest, although this version includes cream and a biscuit top, and does its part to reduce the continuous heap of green beans coming in from the garden, I will always pine for my childhood version. But this one does contain some serious pull. So without trying to compete with childhood loyalties, I give you:

Fresh Green Bean Casserole with Buttermilk Biscuit Top:
*8 cups loosely packed fresh green beans, tops removed and chopped into quarters
*2 cups quality whole milk
*1 cup fresh cream
*3 tablespoons unsalted butter
*3 heaping tablespoons AP flour
*1 small sweet onion, chopped
*3 cloves garlic, minced
*sea salt 
*fresh ground black pepper

Buttermilk Biscuit Top:
*2 cups quality AP flour
*1 tablespoon aluminum-free baking powder
*1 teaspoon sea salt
*5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold, cubed
*1 cup buttermilk

Place a large pot filled 3/4 with salted water over high heat. Bring to a boil. Add prepared green beans. Reduce heat to a simmer. Cook for 10 minutes or until beans are tender but still bright green. Strain. 

Preheat oven to 375. Butter a 9x13 inch baking dish. 

Melt butter in same pot over medium heat. Add flour and mix into a roux with a wooden spoon. Brown roux stirring often then add the onion and garlic. Stir. Once aromatic, add milk and cream. Whisk. Bring to a simmer whisking constantly. Season with sea salt and black pepper. Allow liquid to reduce by a third, and thicken before adding the strained green beans. Stir. Transfer mixture to the prepared baking dish. Set aside. 

Make biscuit topping by mixing the flour, baking powder and salt in a medium sized mixing bowl. Cut in the butter and blend with fingertips into the flour until it resembles a course meal. Mix in the buttermilk with a fork until completely incorporated. Do not over mix.

Gently flatten about 3 Tablespoons of dough into pieces and place over green bean mixture to create a top with small gaps between dough pieces. 

Bake until cream sauce bubbles and biscuit top is golden, about 20-25 minutes. 
Cool slightly before serving. 

And toast your mom.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Zucchini Feta Cakes

This is not a way to sneak zucchini into your meal. In fact, a stack of these will go fast, even among kids. My friend Joy introduced me to this idea and it has been a mainstay since.

If you are scratching you head trying to figure out how to utilize all the summer squash in your garden, look no further. The recipe is loose, so play around. I have made these with shredded cheddar and jack cheeses (whatever is on hand), and often make a tzatziki sauce to serve alongside.

Zucchini Feta Cakes:
*3 medium summer squash, whole, ends removed
*1 cup crumbled feta
*sea salt
*black pepper
*1 small sweet onion, skin removed
*2-3 fresh eggs
*high quality AP flour
*olive oil

Shred zucchini into a large mixing bowl. Lightly sprinkle with salt and stir. Allow to sit for 10 minutes then transfer to a mesh sieve. Gently press shredded zucchini into sieve to strain excess water. Return to mixing bowl. Season with sea salt and black pepper. Shred about 1/4 cup of the onion into mixture. Stir. Mix eggs into mixture with a fork, followed by the feta. Then add enough flour to create a batter, slightly thicker than pancake batter.
Line a cooling rack with paper towels.
Heat a large skillet over medium heat.  Coat with olive oil. Spoon mixture into hot skillet to create small cakes (about 3 tablespoons of batter for each cake). Loosely shape and flatten slightly with a fork. Brown each cake golden, flipping halfway through.
Transfer to cooling rack and repeat with remaining batter, oiling skillet as needed between batches.
Serve warm.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Legumes and Plumes

The weekend was filled with summery visuals. A few below. Haircot vert coming on strong in the garden, and this special bird (a victim of a glossy window pane). It took the help of a few friends to finally identify it. Drumroll.....

Seiurus aurocapilla 
Of the warbler family. Named for its nest shape, reminiscent of an old-school outdoor oven. A sweet little creature to study and admire. Gladly, we learned populations are holding strong despite the loss of their closed-canopy habitat. 

Viva adaptation!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

A Season's Lyric

Then there was blood from the beet,
heart of palm,
tails of oxen.
Salt from the cave,
sweat from the mine.
Clay from the lake,
Hail from the storm.
Honey from the comb,
sap from the tree.
Coals from the fire,
dew on the grass.
Songs from the birds,
a cry from the loon.
Death on the table,
life in the fields.
Blooms bent in prayer.
Kings buried in sand.
Bones bleached by the sun.
Dust on the sill.
Scales catching light in the sea.
Wings in air,
breath on lips.
A snake coiled on shale.
A barrel full of pork.
A shed hung with tobacco.
A fiddle with waxed string.
A ballad.
A lily.
A stand of maple.
A bog of tannin.
A grove of citrus.
A tale.
A whisper.
A seat to sit.
A swallow at dusk.