Today’s newsflash is that you can’t believe every health claim you read on a pill bottle, which is one of the reasons I think it’s smart to count on food for your vitamins instead. And although nutritional science waffles on what’s good and bad for us, I think we can agree that it’s always nice to see presumably-health-promoting-and-also-delicious foods smiling up at us from our plates. Probiotics are a current darling of the health-food scene, which pleases me because I always like when my favorite foods come into vogue (hello, dark chocolate!). Sandor Katz emboldened me to ferment my first batch of sauerkraut two years ago, and since then, in the secret world of off-blog cooking, I’ve continued the science experiments of fermentation in bubbling jars in the fridge and basement. Continue reading
The upside of seasonal eating has gotten enough play. Today we turn to its darker side. To the part of eating seasonally where summer ends and I am supposed to set aside perfect peaches for pumpkin soup and root vegetables. What kind of solace is that, I ask?
In the coming weeks I’ll settle in, I know, remembering the unexpected heights that Brussels sprouts can reach and that miso-roasted squash and kale salad. I’ll even delight in planning our vegetarian Thanksgiving menu. Eventually.
But for today, let’s talk about holding onto those peaches for as long as we can.
This recipe is the love child of this sweet tomato jam and this savory peach jam. It was inspired by a tomato and peach salad we ate all summer and a tomato and peach gazpacho served in the cafe of my favorite bookstore. And like all my good jam ideas, I later learned that Marisa had it first.
This jam is equal parts peaches and tomatoes by weight, but the result is more sweet than savory; the umami notes of tomato and balsamic add just a whisper of intrigue. As you’d expect, it’s most at home alongside a soft cheese or spooned over a piece of salmon, but it’s no slouch in a sandwich or vinaigrette either.
Yesterday we woke to a mist hanging low among the trees and houses, and when it lifted autumn had come. Our breath rose in puffs around us as I walked the kids to school, and later in the sunshine the highest branches glowed amber and gold as if newly gilded from above.
You need some warmth in your belly on days like these, and this bean bowl is a fortifying way to start the day. It’s inspired by the menu at the Beachcomber Cafe in Trinidad, CA—a wintry place most days of the year, so they know warm-you-up food.
For a real indulgence, start with a homemade pot of beans. I know I’ve already sung the praises of the ojo de cabra beans pictured below (from Rancho Gordo), but white beans or black beans make a fine substitute. With black beans, of course, you can go the cilantro and salsa route; with white beans I love parsley and tomato jam. The only essential ingredients are beans, a soft-cooked egg, and a cold day.
At 2 a.m. I was still in the kitchen. Peach jam in the canner, tomato jam out of the canner, three trays of fruit leather in the oven, tomatoes and peaches in the dehydrator, prepping zucchini relish. This is what I always forget in those dreamy, carefree spring months when I plant my garden or sign up for a CSA (or, this year, do both): The harvest season is also a season of all-out frenzy.
This recipe is here to help. You will find both emotional and practical relief as you reduce two truly gargantuan zucchini to five tidy pints of the hot dog relish you remember from childhood.
Pile it onto a field roast sausage with that better-than-ketchup (and I don’t say that lightly) tomato jam and a beery mustard, and you’ll almost forget about the boxes of ripe pears in the basement still awaiting your attention.
Any ideas for those pears? Continue reading
For the most part I’m a lazy cook, which is why I don’t get along too well with fava beans.
If you have it in you to shuck the beans from the pod, simmer them briefly and then peel each and every single bean, more power to you. You are now ready to make some elegant little appetizer that will be gone in two bites, like this fava bean and arugula crostini or that fava and ricotta bruschetta. (That second recipe recommends having a friend do the work for you, which is at least a step in the right direction.)
If you don’t have it in you to do all that work, this recipe is for you. It neatly foists the labor of excavating the tender beans straight onto your guests, providing a lively to start to your dinner party as your guests roll up their sleeves and forge a camaraderie based on their mutual amazement at your laziness. Provide a tiny bowl of good salt for dipping the beans, napkins, and a bowl for discarded pods and bean skins. Continue reading
Our artichoke harvest has been meager so far this year: one lonely bud. The girls’ enthusiasm to eat it buoyed it straight from the back yard onto this week’s menu, where it was luckily joined by a larger bag of artichokes from our CSA.
I always end up feeling that artichokes are worth the work, don’t you? I usually take the easy way out and steam them in eighths, but at least once a year I roll up my sleeves, clear my counters, and set to work cleaning and slivering artichokes for this recipe. When you’re done, the deep, haunting flavor of any passable artichoke is magnified by caramelization, teased out by rosemary, and slathered across a gorgeous pile of pasta. I confidently assert that this recipe is worth the hour it takes.
Here’s a decent photo tutorial showing the steps for reducing a healthy-looking artichoke to a very-tasty shadow of its former self. You can use artichokes of any size for this recipe–baby artichokes won’t have the thistle-blossom choke in the center, but if you use a larger artichoke you can just scoop out the choke with a paring knife or grapefruit spoon as you go. Thinking of the task as meditative rather than repetitive helps.
Whatever you do, be sure to save the meaty outer leaves that you peel off. I usually steam and serve them separately, but Elise of Simply Recipes offers the even-better idea of simmering them to make a broth. I like the idea of getting three dishes from my bag of artichokes–this pasta, a plate of cold artichoke leaves with dipping sauces, and a steaming bowl of pillowy cheese ravioli floating in artichoke broth. I’ll try that next time and report back. Waste not want not, and all that.
p.s. After all that, the kids refused to eat the pasta, of course. The leaves, which remained in recognizable artichoke form, were as popular as ever.
If you have a long weekend coming up (and I hope you do), perhaps you’re looking forward to it for the same reason I am—three opportunities, three days in a row, to enjoy an unhurried breakfast. What luxury!Truth be told, these scrambled eggs only take five minutes longer to prepare than the standard sort, an investment that might even be thinkable on a weekday. But those five minutes yield excellent returns: they give you a little crunch, a little creaminess, and a lot of herbaceous wake-up in your bowl. And yes, it’s really just scrambled eggs and toast, but if you have never crouton-d your toast into your scrambled eggs you are in for a nice surprise. Continue reading