Friday, September 23, 2011

Autumnal Equinox--Summer into Fall

How does it happen every year? I'm preparing to start school, and whammo, I'm suddenly in the thick of things and the weather is getting cooler and I'm picking up autumn squashes at the CSA. I mean, we still have the air conditioner in the window, I'm still folding shorts and tank tops in the laundry. That's New England for you. Today one of my neighbors and colleagues at my school reminded us all that today is even the Autumnal Equinox. I was glad he did because it's a perfect reminder of how it is indeed a marker how we are transitioning from one season to another.

So what exactly is the Autumnal Equinox? I like the explanation given by the KU Medical Center's Diversity Calendar (see my blog post here on my connection to KU!) that gives the standard explanation that "the length of the day and the night are approximately equal at every place on earth" but also says that "the word equinox is derived from the Latin word aequinoctium (equal night)." and that many Pagans celebrate Mabon as one of the eight sabbats (a celebration based on the cycles of the sun). Mabon celebrates the second harvest and the beginning of winter preparations."  Cool, huh?

It's also perfect for this post since I was so disappointed that I was never able in August to post many on many of the topics and dishes I wanted to, and I had been planning to kind of cover them here along with some of the more recent items. Now I can do a half and half post and it all makes sense. In the words of Hannibal from the A-Team, "I love it when a plan comes together."

For the first food post I didn't get to, Lauren the super awesome Mighty Food Farm greeter at the CSA room turned me on to eating beets raw. I made this shredded Carrot & Beet Salad that's so simple. You shred 'em up, dress 'em up, and eat 'em up.

The dressing is just olive oil, lemon juice, some dijon, salt & pepper. Then add some chopped fresh parsley. Once you try it, just figure out what you think you might like and adjust it. Here's a neat looking recipe if you want to try one. I say the simpler the better, let the beets & carrots shine. This recipe made me feel sooooooo happy that I finally treated myself to a super duper lovely Cuisinart Food Processor, an upscale model too. What super duper home culinary mom/chef shouldn't own one? Shredded these beets up right quick!

Last summer I posted my favorite use for leftover fresh corn, which is turning into Corn Chowder. This summer I made some Lobster Corn Chowder, using some lobster claws that were in the freezer at the fish counter at Hannaford. They were inexpensive so I could afford to buy them for my son who loves lobster and wonders why we can't have it for dinner. A big regret this summer was not being able to get to the Maine shore for a vacation (or anywhere for that matter).
I cooked the lobster with the corn in the same pot.

Most of the creaminess comes from the starch of the corn and from pureeing the potatoes and the broth. There's only about a cup of milk in the pot.
Owen got his lobster when we went to Lenny's in Branford, CT with his aunt & uncle!
A final thought on summer goodness is how much I love fresh parsley. Not the curly kind, the flat leaf. I seemed to add it chopped to everything this year. I loved it more than basil or cilantro. 
Me in the parsley row at Mighty Food Farm. I'm squinting, not frowning. I really LOVE parsley.

Okay, so now the plan isn't coming together. Because now that I'm at the end, I don't want to talk about my Autumn cooking yet. I still want to savor summer a bit more. I'll tell you about my vegetable pot pie and my creamy carrot soup next time.  Right now it's been rainy and a little dreary and school has been hectic and we teachers don't have a contract and I'm really pretty tired and I just want to breathe a little bit more of the summer air, look at the summer greens.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Make-shift Rat-a-Touille

Wow, summer has just FLOWN by!  I'm going to have to post a whole bunch of stuff to catch up. This is from back in early July!!

My Ratatouille--in a bowl, not like Remy's rebel dish, sliced, but he satisfied Ego!

"Ratatouille. It's like a stew, right? Why do they call it that? If you're gonna name a food, you should give it a name that sounds delicious. Ratatouille doesn't sound delicious. It sounds like "rat" and "patootie." Rat-patootie, which does not sound delicious."--Linguini, a bit tipsy, and not really knowing much about cooking

If you've never seen the movie, you should. It's truly one of our favorites. It's all about how anyone can cook. We love all Pixar films, and when you add in a rat (we've had multiple rats as pets, even one who surprised us with an entire litter!), a chef, a clever plot, one of my favorite dishes as a key climactic event, and you've got a Hansen family favorite.

When my sister and brother in law were living in L.A., they got all kinds of fun stuff in the mail and the daily papers to promote the Oscar nominated films. You never knew who was in the Academy, so they just blanketed the region with stuff. One of the cool things was this little promotional menu for Chef Gustaeu's restaurant featuring recipes from the film. Owen wanted to cook little Remy's ratatouille recipe for his cooking project at his school. It's one of the fun things they do there as part of their school day.

Here he is serving up his ratatouille for his classmates to sample.
I ran out of school to make it there and back to see & taste! Kira was happy to sample!

So I had a bunch of zucchini from the CSA to use up, still those lovely scapes and some other stuff in the fridge, so I pulled together a make-shift Ratatouille. (No farm eggplants yet [can't wait]).  This is kind of a garbage ratatouille. But then again, as they say in the movie, it is a "peasant dish," right?

Yum, all sauteed up in the pan nice and soft, then add the olives and tomatoes and parsley.

Make sure you use good Kalamata Olives. Finish w/olive oil as you serve!

Here's my favorite scene in the movie, when Collette tells Linguini how it is in a restaurant kitchen: you can't be Mommy!  (I think it's like that when I'm cooking lots of stuff, too! Get out of my way!)

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Ah....Summer! In which I Whine, then get to some recipes: Gazpacho!

* This is a long post, to make up for all the months of zilcho.
My new diet of eliminating trigger foods for cluster headaches has really put a damper on my cooking joie de vivre. I have eliminated all things soy, which includes tofu of course, but also soybean oil and soy flour which is in just about anything you buy from the store. One week I mixed Kashi Go Lean in with my Kashi Autumn Wheat just not thinking, and duh, there are whole soy flakes in it. After three days, sure enough, bam, a headache.

The saddest thing for me was having to give up yogurt.  I had Greek yogurt every morning, and I especially loved Skyr from the local Gammelgarden Dairy, so it was the first thing I reintroduced. I seriously was close to tears when it brought on a headache. Nothing aged or cultured. No beer or wine. No chocolate. I've already gone on about no cheese. I don't want to cry a river, but it's seriously hard for a foodie....hear the violins?

I did manage to find delicious soy free veggie burgers, even better tasting than the Morning Star Farms or Boca or Dr. Praeger's.  Sunshine Burgers are wheat and soy free, non-GMO certified, organic, and eco-friendly. So far my favorite are the Southwest. I haven't seen the Falafel at Hannaford, but I'm going to ask the friendly store manager if he'll get them (he's one of the lacrosse coaches with my husband--life in a small town).

So with CSA summer season in full swing, my usual recipes are out the window. I always make a big salad with crumbled bleu cheese and walnuts and cranberries. Some weeks our salad has wilted before we've eaten it. So sad! And I always made swiss chard with goat cheese... Quiches with cheese. See the common denominator here?  As a vegetarian it's really a staple. I can have ricotta, so I've found a spinach and ricotta pie is tasty. I've made that a few times, same Enchanted Broccoli Forest Quiche recipe, just spread ricotta across the bottom instead of sharp cheeses and you're good!

The other thing that has been my go to food right now is simply the glorious egg. I've written about the goodness of organic local eggs before in this post last MayWhile it's great to go to the local farmer's market, I love going down to Mighty Food Farm to pick up our CSA order ourselves. You park on the farm, and pass a few chickens on the way to the CSA room.

Farm kittens playing while rooster looks on.
They also have a freezer now if you want to purchase local meat birds or beef. If you haven't seen Food, Inc., you really need to. I really don't see myself going back to eating meat, but if I did, local would be the way to go. Here's a clip from Food, Inc.

Here's a bowl of beauteous boiled eggs:
And what I've been eating at least three times a week. In fact, one weekend I had to lock myself in my parents' empty house and spend literally 8-10 hours each day working on this giant project a certification through the University of Kansas Center for Research on Learning, the second of two I had as a career goal to complete (hooray, I passed and am going next week to Kansas to the big conference to receive it--yippee!), and all that was in the house was TWO gigantic drawers of cheeses, a freezer filled with ice creams with chocolate in them, and a cupboard of soy-filled items.

I ate all of my mom's CSA spinach with farm eggs, just like this.
Look how good and yellow the yolk is! Read that May 24 blog to find out why!
We made egg salad too, with just mustard for Kira. I scoop out my own and add just a slight bit of mayo, and curry powder, which is fantastic, then put it on 7 Grain Sourdough, from the Bakkerij Krijnen, which we can get right in the CSA room. It's on East Main Street in our town, and specializes in pastries from scratch and natural sourdough bread. Hans the Baker is from the Netherlands and uses lots of local and organic ingredients and this bread even has our favorite McCann's Irish Steel Cut Oats in it! 

Of course when it's summer we grill out. In addition to our gas grill for grilled veggies, we have a little backyard fire pit where we do hot dogs over the fire and eat them without plates and that's nice and easy. Last week I put out the pick your own snap peas still in their pint. I can't do the Smart Dogs any more though (boo hoo, soy) and the Sunshine Burgers kind of fall apart over the fire grate so that was a bit of a drag and no S'Mores for me either... more whining, I know. I grabbed some Edy's fruit bars, those are delish and again, saving myself lots of calories between the no cheese and no S'Mores, right?  I really am feeling healthy giving up all the prepared stuff.

For a hot meal, my favorite dinner to whip up is sauteeing veggies and throwing them over pasta. Any kind of veggies tossed with pasta. A great early summer veggie to try are garlic scapes. They're the top of the garlic plant. Here's a nice blog with some beautiful pics. And, my friend Abi's lovely photo and blog post about her love of scapes. I always grab them from the CSA room, they're free! This week I tossed together just about a little of everything we had going on in the fridge. I've been committed to doing less of that American shopping trip of stuffing the grocery cart every week. So much of it sits around and we decide to eat something different and run out for different ingredients anyway. 

Here's what I made:
Swiss chard, garlic scapes, zucchini, squash, kalamatas, artichokes, capers, parsley, basil, ricotta, Organic Valley cream--mostly CSA veggies!
There are so many veggies, you hardly need any pasta (for you carb phobic freaks!). And I always use Barilla Plus, which is protein enriched from chickpeas so there's no soy thank god.

And now for my pièce de résistance: GAZPACHO! Last CSA pick up I had so many greens left from the week before I was able to use most of my share for the ripest, most juicy and beautiful looking tomatoes ever. Too bad I didn't take pictures of them before the soup was made, huh?

But look at it finished. Is this gorgeous or what?
That's Hans' the Baker's 7 Grain Sourdough as Croutons!
 We had this on 4th of July. So cool and delicious.  
Look at the gorgeous herbs from the Pick Your Own Field at the farm. I used the parsley and the basil in the gazpacho. I also made coleslaw for the fourth, just baby cabbages from the farm, some mayo, vinegar, maple syrup, carrots and all that delicious dill!
To make the gazpacho, I used about three pounds of garden tomatoes. Seriously, do not even bother to make gazpacho from grocery store tomatoes. It's not worth it. It will not taste good.  Some recipes call for adding tomato juice. What?? I think Chef Lee, my brother, would call those cooks "shoemakers"! Maybe I'm wrong about that, but really if you use garden tomatoes, they will be so juicy, you shouldn't need anything else! I personally don't prefer the usual addition of red or green pepper, but add that if you'd like. I put the tomatoes in the food processor with about three garden cucumbers. Again, don't bother if they aren't from the garden too! (Peel the skin first).  Don't pulse them too much.  I eyeball the amount of cucumbers too. I added two or three scallions, and a handful of those lovely scapes! When they aren't in season, I'll probably do one clove of garlic. Do this to your own taste. (If you want a simple recipe, here's one from The Martha, serves 1 so multiply to your needs.)

Add a lot of parsley and about half that in basil, to your taste. And then grind sea salt and half that of fresh ground pepper to your taste. Next stir in about a quarter cup of red vinegar. Chill a few hours. Stir it up before you serve it. Drizzle in some extra virgin olive oil right before you serve it. Slice up some good bread into cubes and toss with olive oil and toast. Toss a few in the bowls.  
Holy cow it's fantastic. 
Fireworks in Bennington a few hours after our gazpacho!
One last thing. I'm not sure if the option to leave comments is obvious or not? Sometimes I think there's a just a number next to the word COMMENTS. If so, just click it and a new window will open with comments in it! I'd love for you to leave me a comment! Otherwise, just click on Post a Comment! You can see the most recent comments on the right of the blog. A recent check of the blog stats showed visitors from the United States, the UK, Russia, Germany, the United Arab Emirates, Japan, Netherlands, Denmark, Poland, and Canada!  Wow!