Tag Archives: gardening

Summer Squash with Feta and Fresh Herbs

I’m no Cheryl-style desperado when it comes to dispatching zucchini.  In fact, I’m kind of pleasantly surprised when they come my way.  The squash plants in my garden are despondent and I think they may have given up for the year, so I’m glad to be getting a weekly bag of bitty squash (with flowers!) from the warm side of the mountains in my CSA box.

I know that most of you are in a different boat, though, so I thought I’d share my favorite method for cutting zucchini down to size.  This recipe (once again inspired by Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone) cooks a big pile of squash into submission all at once.  The resulting dish–sweet, herbal, salty, tender–makes a fine hot or cold salad on its own, but it’s also dandy tucked into tacos, tossed with pasta, or spread onto a summertime pizza. Continue reading Summer Squash with Feta and Fresh Herbs (click for recipe)

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Parsley Pesto Toasts with Radishes

I love to cook.  The rhythm of chopping, the aroma dancing up from the pan, the colors and flavors and textures of food transformed by heat and human ingenuity.

I also love to not cook.  The ease of a salad fresh from the garden, a handful-of-this-handful-of-that pesto, a plum I pick from the tree and eat outside.

This flavorful recipe is not-cooking cooking.  It takes less than 5 minutes (including the pesto) and can be lunch or a snack for one, or you can make a platter of these pretty little toasts to serve at your garden party.  Invite me!

You do need a nice hearty bread, thinly sliced and toasted (you could rub it with olive oil first, sure, but I didn’t).  The pesto recipe is mostly parsley, so heap it on there.  Top with lots of thinly-sliced radishes for crunch and zing, and anoint your toast generously with flaky salt.If you’re in more of a cooking kind of mood today, allow me instead suggest these “green tartine” radish top toasts.  Can’t decide?  You could always make both together for a top-to-tail radish tasting.

Raw Rhubarb Compote

I don’t think I knew about rhubarb when I was a kid.  But I have read about and romanticized the childhood pleasure of being sent outside with a bowl of sugar to dunk the tart whole stalks as an afternoon treat.  Did you get to do that?

This compote is like a grown-up version of what I imagine that sweet-crunchy experience to be.  I especially like to make it with green rhubarb, which turns a dingy beige color when cooked; leaving it raw instead preserves the gem-green color and lets the occasional pink highlight shine.  The flavor is very bright, tart and sweet at once, and if you are feeling adventurous the recipe (from Rustic Fruit Desserts, again) smartly suggests infusing the compote with fresh rosemary or lavender.  I always mean to try that, but it’s so good as is that I never have.

Likewise, I’m not too creative about serving this dish.  We usually scoop spoonfuls over yogurt, maybe with a little granola (like this one with orange zest and currants) sprinkled on top.  What other ideas do you have?  I have a big bowl in my fridge.

Continue reading Raw Rhubarb Compote (click for recipe)

Arugula Salad with Parmesan and Toasted Walnuts

In recent years I have prioritized raising babies over raising vegetables, and I haven’t spent much time in my garden.  It’s every vegetable for itself out there, and several have risen to the occasion by growing, flowering, going to seed, and repeating, providing me with a an annual harvest. The crops that have been most efficient in this regard–aside from the herbs; does anyone need parsley?–are a frilly lettuce, a purple kale, and the arugula.  Every spring they pop up and remind me that I had better clear some space if I want anything else to grow this year.

Last week summer came to Seattle and the garden bloomed with a sea of delicate arugula flowers.  I left several plants, of course, to ensure next year’s crop.  And I picked springtime’s last armload of arugula to take into the kitchen.

This is my favorite arugula salad (although this one, with grilled or roasted potatoes and blue cheese, is a close second).   And it’s as simple as can be: greens, grated Parmesan cheese, deeply toasted walnuts, a sweet balsamic vinaigrette.  It goes with anything, but it also makes a fine summer dinner all by itself.

Arugula Salad with Parmesan and Toasted Walnuts: Bake a couple of handfuls of walnut halves at 350, stirring often, until deeply toasted (10-12 minutes).  Meanwhile, wash and dry a big bunch of arugula and tear the leaves if they’re large.  Toss greens with a balsamic vinaigrette (2 parts olive oil to 1 part sweet and syrupy balsamic vinegar plus salt and pepper to taste), then add grated Parmesan cheese and toss again.  Top with the walnuts.

Summer Crunch Salad with Feta, Mint, and Lime

Need a last-minute idea for tomorrow afternoon’s Fourth of July picnic?  Look no further.  After a day that started and ended with chocolate yesterday, we needed a good salad around here today.  (I don’t mean that in a we-must-repent-with-salad way.  I mean that in a let’s-have-more-cake-today-but-maybe-some-salad-too way.)

This one is a beaut.  I think that my love for radishes has been well documented here, and when I saw this Smitten Kitchen recipe I was pretty sure that a radish-less version would be a pale imitation.  But in a very unusual turn of events, my fridge is relatively bare (we were out of town for 10 days and I haven’t gone shopping yet).  The only crunchy vegetables I could scare up were romaine lettuce, a yellow pepper, a few baby carrots, and a couple of green onions.  Into the salad they went.

I toasted pepitas for more crunch, and because I was thinking of Barrio’s chopped salad, a place my mind often wanders in my wistful-for-salad moments.  I piled on the one-two-three punch (is that a thing?) of feta, mint, and lime juice, which I copied from Deb and Deb copied from April Bloomfield.  Genius.  Do it. Continue reading Summer Crunch Salad with Feta, Mint, and Lime (click for recipe)

Kale and Avocado Salad with Black Garlic (or Roasted Garlic) Vinaigrette

When I moved to LA in the late ’90s, I was pretty sure of two things.  First, that I was going to love graduate school.  And second, that I–born and raised in Northern California–would hate living in LA.  But life has that funny way of playing tricks on you sometimes, and of course the opposite was true.

About LA: I liked the 72 and sunny, of course, and I liked riding my bike to the beach and the farmers market.  I liked breakfasts on Venice Beach and the late-night city scene and did I mention the 72 and sunny?  But what I loved most about living in LA was my roommate.

Having a good friend means a lot in a new place, and I lucked out when I connected with my roommate through the school’s matching system.  She picked me, she later said, because I said I wanted to find an apartment with a balcony so I could have an herb garden.  Ours flourished in the three years we lived together, and I was so sad to say goodbye to her when I left my roommate and that apartment to move to Seattle.

But life has that funny way of playing tricks on you sometimes, and now she lives in Seattle too.  We went shopping for seeds and starts this spring for our respective gardens, and when we had lunch last week she brought me a gorgeous bag of newly-picked kale from her back yard.  Old friends, tender new greens, both so nice to have around.

A kale salad was in order, of course.  Some creamy avocado, some toasted almonds for crunch.  I gave that fermented black garlic one last chance and blended it into a vinaigrette.  Last time I baked it and I thought maybe I had destroyed its magic properties with the heat–but no, its flavor simply isn’t that dramatic.  So you can save yourself $3.50 and substitute half a head of roasted garlic for the black garlic if you prefer. Continue reading Kale and Avocado Salad with Black Garlic (or Roasted Garlic) Vinaigrette (click for recipe)

Orange-Roasted Carrot and Avocado Salad with Cumin Vinaigrette

It’s a good day when I make two great salads.  I couldn’t decide which to tell you about first, so I’m going in chronological order.  My brother was passing through town today, and he and I had this one for lunch.  I’ll tell you about the dinner one (kale! toasted almonds! the rest of that black garlic!) another day.

Because, no, I don’t cook something new every day.  In fact, some days I don’t cook at all.  (Who cooks every day?  More power to you, I say, but not me.)  Here’s how it works around here: when I make something I really like that hasn’t yet been featured on Emmy Cooks, I snap a picture and jot it down on my list.  Often I do tell you about it the same day, because it’s on my mind, but sometimes I don’t.  And sometimes, like today, it’s fridge cleaning day and I make two worthy new salads and save one for another day.  So that’s how I build up my list, which is where I turn for inspiration if it’s not a cooking day, or if I’ve only cooked old favorites that you already know about (I do that a lot), or if I tried something new that wasn’t so great.  Because I only tell you about the great stuff.

This salad was great.  Continue reading Orange-Roasted Carrot and Avocado Salad with Cumin Vinaigrette (click for recipe)

Lentil and Yogurt Salad

It’s no secret that parents find themselves doing things that they wouldn’t have expected of themselves before having kids.  Today alone, I patiently explained to my kids over and over why they couldn’t play with a ball that they’d thrown into the chicken yard (it was covered in chicken poop), calmly told my one-year old to take a huge rock out of her mouth (we were inside; where did that come from?), and rejoiced along with my three year old when we found a small stuffed toy that she was desperately looking for (it was stuffed down into her pants leg, of course–yes, that’s right, the leg of the pants that she was wearing).

Today our entire family also attended a preschool “graduation” ceremony celebrating the fact that our three-year-old had finished this year of preschool…and will be starting another year of preschool in the fall.  Is that crazy?  I definitely would have thought so before becoming a parent.  And I guess I still think it’s a little bit silly now.  But you know what?  It was just darling to see her pride and excitement as her class filed in, to hear her voice ring out above the others as she belted out the word “chrysalis” in a song about a butterfly, and to see the smile on her face as she accepted her “diploma,” posed for a photograph, and then sprinted to us, beaming.  And even if it’s making too much of a not-much milestone, I love to see my girls learning to love school, which I know will serve them well in life.

Afterwards, we stayed for the school picnic.  I brought this salad, but don’t be fooled into thinking that the kids even tried it–they had sandwiches instead. Continue reading Lentil and Yogurt Salad (click for recipe)

Sorta-Caesar Salad

Well, the nice thing about this endless Seattle gloom is that the lettuce isn’t bolting.

When I first moved to Seattle, J and I lived in a tiny house, and one of the first things we did was put in a tiny garden.  We built four raised beds in the grassy strip between the sidewalk and the street.  Everyone does that now, I know, but this was more than a decade ago and I liked to think of us as pioneering urban farmers back then.  (We got chickens too, of course.)

There was just one problem.  I’m from California.  And when I moved to Seattle, I was cold.  I consulted with my local garden store about what kind of vegetables I could grow in this inhospitable climate and planted things like lettuce, arugula, and broccoli.  And then I bundled them up as warm as I could.  I put hoops over the beds and sheathed them in clear plastic, trapping the heat to create toasty little greenhouses for my tender plants.  They thought it was high summer and went happily straight to seed, of course.  Learning that some plants prefer cooler temperatures was the beginning of my education about the benefits that a cool climate has to offer.  (Others include not needing much of a summer wardrobe, only needing an air conditioner a few days each year, and the blueberries.  Oh, the blueberries!)

In any case, delightful lettuces grow in this part of the world nearly year-round.  They are floppy or pert, frilly or reserved, pastel green, deep maroon, or freckled.  They are the stars of the show at springtime farmers markets, and I find them irresistible.  Here’s a nice thing to do with any sturdy, crunchy lettuce.  (Romaine is the classic, of course, as we’re riffing on the Caesar salad here, but it gets much more exciting than that.) Continue reading Sorta-Ceasar Salad (click for recipe)

A Gardener’s Garden Salad for Springtime

I love green salads.  A crisp, lemony romaine salad?  Smoked salmon and tomatoes nestled into creamy, dill-dressed greens?  An arugula salad with grilled potatoes and blue cheese?  Yes, please.

You know what I don’t love?  The ubiquitous “garden salad” on restaurant menus.  You know the one: wilted (if not decaying) “spring mix,” a few grated carrots, hard cherry tomatoes.  That’s it.  It’s bound to be a disapointment to anyone who’s ever seen an actual garden.

I’m out to redeem the name.  This is a gardener’s garden salad.  Luckily, you can also put together a reasonable version of it if you have access to a farmer’s market, or if you have a few herbs growing on your windowsill and the good sense to buy a gorgeous, tender head of lettuce.

It’s easy to get complacent about the garden when you live in Seattle.  It rains, then it’s sunny, then it rains, so I tend to assume that everything is going ok out there without me.  Today was the first day in a while that I really poked around, and I was pleased to find that it’s time to start making salads that grew in the backyard.  (You may be lucky enough to live in a climate where your garden and farmers market have advanced beyond arugula and radishes.  Rest assured, it’s never too late to make a great salad.)

The basic equation is this: some lettuce or baby kale, some soft herbs, some edible flowers, and a light coating of chive vinaigrette.  Beyond that, it’s up to you.  Today, our salad was baby leaves of lettuce, arugula, kale, and ruby chard, a few sorrel leaves cut into ribbons, parsley, cilantro, arugula flowers, kale flowers, chive flowers, and a couple of sliced radishes.  Tomorrow, who knows?

Continue reading A Gardener’s Garden Salad for Springtime (click for recipe)