Warm Vegetable Salad with Beet Greens & Unplugged Parenting (The NYT is Wrong)

18 Aug

Ok, so the NYT isn’t wrong.  I just disagree with this article here in which the author describes his terrific “plugged-in summer.”

Now, don’t for a second start to think I’m going to rant about parents at the playground who are texting or reading blogs (ahem) instead of  interacting or at least enjoying watching their kids.  Because I’m not going to even though when I see this is makes me sad. (And yes, there IS a difference between the odd “Let’s meet at 5” text vs the obvious surfing and Angry Bird playing).

The article makes a decent point that we don’t need to disconnect entirely.  However, I was caught between chuckle and blech-face when I read that he was happy to have the new leaf-identifying app and the bird-sound app and all the other apps.

Here’s a thought: take a field guide to birds.  Or a guide to trees and have your kids – gasp! – open an actual printed book and flip through until they find the leaf.  What happens if you ask your kids to identify a leaf and they can’t…nothing.  There is great joy to be had (and lessons learned) from an adult who says, “I don’t know.”  And further joys from allowing children to make up names.  Ask them, “What would you name this leaf?”  Answer: “Pointy-tipped cloud.”  Collect the leaves if you like, bring them home and continue your summer by looking it up when you get back.

I imagine the campfire the author had and how perhaps they forgot the lyrics to “The Circle Game” or :This Land is Your Land” and before anyone could stumble or search the brain files, they swiped and clicked and found all of the lyrics and had the tune play, too.

I like the forgotten lyrics.  I enjoy the made up words we stick in when we stumble.  I like the mystery of leaves and the satisfaction of paging through bird books to see if we’ve spotted a warbler or a nuthatch.

Why do we feel that answers must come immediately?  Why do we pass this onto our children?  Let them develop skills.  Do I suggest we disregard technology?  I do not.  But virtual nature?  It’s like tasting a picture of a s’more.

Warm Vegetable Salad with Beet Greens (meal in a bowl)

This is a simple dinner in which you can slice all those vegetables you have from your CSA or market and with just a few minutes, make them seem like a collection of gems.  I like to add cheese (try Bucheron or Feta) but this is optional (for vegans) as are the sunflower seeds (for the nut-allergic).

2 1/2 tbsp olive oil

pinch sea salt

1-2 Summer squash, sliced

1-2 carrot, sliced

1-2 zucchini, sliced

1 bunch beet greens, washed but kept long

1 tsp best syrupy balsamic vinegar

handful of crumbled cheese (optional)

handful toasted sunflower seeds

Heat the olive oil and salt in a skillet.  Add squash, carrots, and zucchini and let still until seared.  Gently flip or stir.  Cover the vegetables with the beet greens and let cook for 2 minutes.  Drizzle with vinegar and remove from heat. Plate right away and top with cheese which will begin to melt.  Add seeds for crunch.

Farmer’s Market Gazpacho (Raw-Vegan) & Perspective

17 Aug

 

 

“Are you making sauce?” Julia asks.

“It’s actually soup,” I say.

“Actually, it’s ketchup,” Will says.  He’s 4 and everything is better with ketchup.

“It’s soup.”

“The cold one?” Julia raises her eyebrows while I nod.  “It still looks like sauce. You could use it as sauce.”

And thus, the gazpacho sauce was borne.  We had it on raw summer squash ribbons.  We dumped it on noodles.  And we drank it as soup. Sometimes, kids give you the perspective you need in order to reframe your life or your day or your work issue.  Other times, like this morning, they wake you up before the alarm, scream at each other and demand you break up the arguments about who flicked who, and test out every inappropriate word they know and have to miss the sleepover because of it.  Oh well.

Try some soup-sauce and chill, Mom.

Farmer’s Market Gazpacho

This chunky, hearty gazpacho can be eaten right away or savored over a week.  The combination of tomatoes really makes a difference.  I like to keep the gazpacho hearty and the vegetables identifiable, but if you prefer a smoother soup as above, puree half of it or all of it.  All of the measurements are flexible – add more tomatoes, fewer onions, green peppers, or more dill – up to you.  My version is more like a liquid salad with sunbursts of colors rather than a traditional soup.

2 large cucumbers, halved lengthwise and seeded

Bunch of fresh dill

2 onions, chopped

3 peppers (one red, orange, and yellow), cut and seeded

1 28 oz. good quality whole peeled tomatoes

1 can diced tomatoes (not the kind with basil in)

2 fresh larger tomatoes in season (plum/heirloom, or any local)

1 pint cherry or globe tomatoes

1 small can tomato juice

2 tbsp. cold water

2 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce

3 tbsp. lemon juice

½ cup good olive oil

splash red wine vinegar

2 cloves garlic, crushed

sea salt and pepper to taste

Peel the cucumber, slice it lengthwise, and scoop out the seeds with a spoon.  If you use an English cucumber, the skin is thin enough to keep on.  Chop up the larger fresh tomatoes and halve the cherry or globe, seeding casually (meaning, using your thumb, get some of the seeds out but don’t be fanatical about it).  Put tomatoes into a large bowl.  Cut the peppers, cucumbers, and onions into bite-sized pieces and add to bowl.  Mince the garlic and add it to the vegetables, stirring gently by hand.  Chop a handful of dill and add it (you may use leftover whole sprigs for garnish).  Add cans of tomatoes, reserving the liquid from the cans.  Cut up the whole canned tomatoes, and add.  Stir in lemon juice, tomato juice, vinegar, water, olive oil, into the mix and salt and pepper to salt.

If you want a more liquidy soup, add some of the reserved can juice.  Otherwise, keep it thick, add the Worcestershire sauce, mix with a spoon, and cover in the fridge for a few hours.  The soup will pick up flavor as it sits (the next day it will be great).  Add drizzle of olive oil to each portion if you like and serve cold with homemade croutons if desired.

 

 

 

Apricot-Ginger Chocolate Chip Scones & Teaching Small

16 Aug

“Uh, Mom?  How do you close an ironing board?”

This, from Jamie, age 12.

I remember how this action baffled me as a kid.  You press where?  And do what? Perhaps I was or still am challenged by the mechanics.  Or maybe no one showed me.  I remember my mother teaching me how to iron a shirt and how her grandmother taught her.  But how to close the unruly ironing board?  I was on my own.

What else am I overlooking?  What are the small actions we tend to forget?  This recipe comes by way of my grandmother who was a big part of my life and now sadly can’t remember much, let alone how to be gentle with scone dough so it doesn’t get tough.  But I can teach Jamie and he can tuck the bit of info away somewhere until he wants to bake for someone or wants to comfort himself as I did the year before I met my husband, baking bread in my dumpy ranch house in the woods.

“Bring the board here,” I tell Jamie and he lugs it out of the overstuffed pantry/laundry room.  “Press the little circle lever down while squeezing the ironing board.”

“Weird.”

“Yup,” I nod.  “Now come be gentle with the dough.”

Apricot-Ginger Chocolate Scones

1/2 cup dark chocolate chunks or chips

1/3-1/2 cup sliced crystalized ginger

2 cups self-raising flour, plus a bit more for cutter/surface

2 tbsp apricot jam

2 1/2 tbsp sugar

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 cup butter

2 eggs

2 tbsp milk or cream

2 tbsp large granule sugar

In a small pot or in microwave, warm jam so it is runny.  Pour over sliced ginger and let sit.  Mix flour, sugar, and salt.  Add in chips and coat with flour.  Knead in butter until the mixture resembles coarse meal.  Beat one of the eggs and add it to the flour mixture.  Add the milk and the ginger and stir gently just until combined.  Place dough on floured surface and pat or roll to 1-inch thick.  Dust a cutter or a juice glass with flour and cut scones.  Place on parchment-lined cookie sheet and brush with remaining egg (beaten). Sprinkle with large granule sugar and bake at 425 for 12-15 minutes until lightly browned on edges and top.

Let cool on wire rack and teach your kids how to make them or change them.

Labneh (Middle Eastern Yogurt Dip) & Loving Summer

14 Aug

Fall was always my favorite season.  Maybe it will be again but when I became a parent I realized the freedom of summer.  Do my kids miss homework?  They do not but I believe I miss it even less than they do.   I fit my work in where I can all year-round but in these warm days I want only pick berries with my kids, see them tear around the yard, come home form the beach with sand in their hair (sand that seems to stay no matter how many washings), and diners that start late and linger on the porch.

Last summer I had an intense book tour with a group of authors.  We formed a little pack of creative misfits and wandered a new town each day, shuttled from one plane to another, events and bookstores and little to no sleep, always in search of good food.  We found great stuff, including wonderful labneh in Kansas.

My kids love the creamy texture and the salty spread as a dip for carrots or cucumbers slices.  I’ve written about labneh before but I do so again to encourage you to try it.  If you don’t feel like letting the Greek yogurt drain overnight, don’t do it – it’s still thick.  See if you kids can make the whole things start to finish while you memorize the feel of bare feet on the porch or the pleasure of summer’s last few days.

Labneh (thick yogurt dip)

1 cup Greek yogurt

1/4-1/3 cup oil oil

sea salt

Drain the yogurt in cheese cloth overnight (or don’t).  Stir in olive oil and add salt, stirring to dissolve.  Chill in fridge and serve on bagels or toasted pita points or with vegetables.  Try labneh with your veggie burgers or in your fish tacos.

 

 

 

Triple Cheese Polenta & You Married…her?

12 Aug

It’s official; I am now in touch with everyone I have ever met.

It used be that people lost touch.  I made friends at a summer job or met a boy in creative writing class and we had to write actual letters in order to keep knowing each other.

here is an essay I wrote back when Google became a verb all about those infamous searches we do to locate our pasts.

Up until last night, there was one person missing from the parade of old friends.  OKay, fine, he’s the one old boyfriend who seemed to drop off the face(book) of the planet.  I actually wrote about him in here but havent done much searching…

I don’t know where I pictured this used-to-be boy now man living, but I hoped he’d be a writer because we’d met through a writing class and he’d written the funniest postcard ever and I helped him learn how to end a story.  How did our story end?  With my immaturity.  He wanted a real girlfriend.  I didn’t know how to be that.

But don’t feel bad for him.  It worked okay.  See, the reason I hadn’t seen his name in the publishing world or our overlapping alumni newsletters is because he changed his surname back to his mother’s maiden name, published tow bestsellers, wrote screenplays for huge blockbusters starring those golden people who are always on the cover of weekly mags, and – wait for it  – married an a-list actress.

How do I feel reading that from my comfortable, quirky farmhouse in which my four children are running around in various stages of undress waiting for one of their favorite meals, my pediatrician husband is singing Ben Folds, and I am stirring polenta for the second time this week?

I feel fine.  David, I am so glad life worked out for you, so happy for your successes in work and love, and I have just the slightest bit of regret or perhaps it’s that wonder at what would have been.  Your actress wife is really funny and pretty and I would happily give back the t-shirt and boxers you gave me, but I will never let go of that funny postcard.

Triple Cheese Polenta

This is the Italian comfort food you’ve been looking for your whole life.  The kind of food that makes you taste it and say Oh my word…texturally satisfying with layers of flavor this is best hot and served with vegetables you’ve quickly cooked in a skillet with olive oil and a pinch of salt. You can use different cheeses; Fontina is great for melting.  Add cheddar last as it will become stringy if stirred too much.

2 1/2 cups vegetable stock

1 cup polenta

2 oz Taleggio cheese in pieces

1/3 cup Asagio fresca in slices or pieces

1/3 cup grated cheddar

Bring stock to a rapid boil and add polenta in a steady stream, stirring with a wooden spoon as you do so.  Keep stirring until the mixture is thick and polenta has swollen, about 12 minutes.  Add Taleggio and stir to melt.  Start your vegetables on high.  Add the Asagio fresca.  Let sit in the polenta to melt.  When veggies are done, reduce heat on polenta and add cheddar.  Stir and cover to finish melting.  Serve right away without looking back.

 

Semi-Sweet Breakfast Loaf with Carrots and Zucchini & A Threeway

11 Aug

I’m the kind of baker who likes the load a bunch of foodstuffs in a bowl and see what happens.  This is the School of Anti-Baking.  Sometimes this results in oven explosions or brownies that resemble moose turds but most of the time I have enough of the science down to have it work.

“What’re adding?” Julia wants to know.

“I don’t know yet.”

She watches me and then, out of nowhere says, “Can I have a threeway?”

Huh? If I were the kind of parent who cursed in front of her kids I might have said, “What the fuck did you just say?” But I am not that kind of parent so I thought that and said, “Excuse me?”

“A threeway,” she rolled her eyes as if I should of course know what she means. “Like, cranberries, chocolate chips, and carrot shreds?”

“Oh.  Sure.”

And so the Breakfast Loaf began to take shape as I lost a year or two from my life.

Sweet Breakfast Loaf with Carrots and Zucchini

This is the time to use up the stray carrot sitting in the fridge or the lone zucchini that didn’t make it into your lasagna.  Also, please feel free to substitute flours that work for you – sorghum, brown rice, etc in order to make this gluten-free or wheat-free.  Add seeds, nuts, or other dried fruit as desired.  This is sweet enough to appeal to kids but also great with cream cheese or smashed berries on top.  Add more sugar if you must or other chips for a fourway.

1 cup whole wheat flour

1 cup coarse bran

1 cup leftover cereal, brown rice flour, or any flour you like (or just use more of above)

2 eggs plus one additional egg white

1/2 cup applesauce

1/3 cup olive oil

1 tsp salt

1tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp baking powder

1 cup grated carrots

1 cup grated zucchini

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 white sugar

1/2 cup dried cranberries

1/2 cup chocolate chips

Oven to 350.  Spray or grease two loaf pans.  Mix everything in a giant bowl.  Pour into loaf pans.  Bake for 1 hour or more until set through.

 

 

Baked Italian Eggplant Polenta with Parmesan & No Place like Om

9 Aug

It is an unwritten rule that if your partner or spouse goes away for any period of time, the children and animals will give you trouble.

Today is no exception.  5am? Cue the dog vomit.  5.30am cue the daughter hunched over the toilet.  5.45am cue the dog again along with the worried Daniel who slept in the hall outside my room and has been trampled on by the dog and his sister.

The good news?  I had to cancel my dentist appointment.

That, and polenta with narrow Italian eggplant from our farm share.  This dish is a great way to use up whatever leftover cheeses you have – parmesan or cheddar or fontina or a mix.  If you want to do vegan, drop in some caramelized onions for extra flavor. The result is a crisp-edged, comforting cheese-enhanced easy dinner that you can enjoy by yourself if no one else is feeling up to it.

I’ll enjoy mine after a hour on my yoga mat this afternoon.  I often find myself dreading going to yoga because it takes effort to get there, and more than that, effort for me to switch my brain off or give myself permission not to worry about everyone else and my daily routine.  But in the hot room with everyone breathing and my body stretching and working hard, I know I’ll find some peace and energy after this crazy morning.  There’s no place like home for love and for chaos and no place like the yoga mat for a much-needed respite.  Om.

Baked Italian Eggplant Polenta with Parmesan

4 1/2 cups vegetable stock

1 pinch sea salt

1 1/2 cups polenta

2 Italian eggplants, ends trimmed and sliced 1/2 inch thick and SPRINKLED WITH 1 TBSP SALT FOR 30 min

2 tbsp butter

3 tbsp olive oil

1/3 cup parmesan

1/3 cup shredded/crumbled other cheese of choice (think about chevre or cheddar or gorgonzola for depth)

Oven to 350. Boil stock and add salt.  Pour in polenta in a steady stream, stirring with a wooden spoon as you do so.  As the polenta cooks for 15-20 minutes, stir.  At the 15 minute mark, add the parmesan and stir just once or twice (too much will make the cheese stringy).  Meanwhile, use a 1 tbsp butter and 1 of olive oil in skillet to briefly cook eggplant slices.  Don’t fuss with them too much, just cook them in a single layer and when they brown, remove them from heat.  Add 2 tbsp olive oil and mix gently.

Butter casserole dish and place a layer of eggplant on the bottom.  Sprinkle with a bit of the cheese.  Add most of the polenta.  Add the rest of the eggplant slices and top with remaining polenta.  Sprinkle cheese on top.  Bake for 20-25 minutes.  Serve with salad or mixed garlic mushrooms.

 

Cold Cucumber Soup with Peas & Imagination

8 Aug

4-year-old Will and 12-year-old Jamie and I rode the T into downtown Boston this weekend.  The journey, as they say, was the destination.  Will loves trains, the slurring scenery, the tickets, the immovable seats, the automatic doors.  We exited at the park and went for a ride on the Swan Boats.  “There’s a guy on a horse!” Will said.  “Yeah, Paul Revere,” Jamie told him.  “He rode on a horse to tell people about the British invading.” Will looked at his brother.  “Did he have a car, too?”  Jamie shook his head.  “Was this in the olden days?” Will asked.  He’s just learned this expression.  I nodded.  “People didn’t have cars, only horses or feet.”  Will thought about it.  “So they rode on horses or carriages.  Did they ever ride on ants?”

Jamie exploded with laughter and proceeded to imagine saddles for ants, ant ranches, and so on.

Meanwhile, last night Daniel created a whole world in which all the dinosaurs lived at the same time (“Even though they were, like, a million years apart.”).  And Julia’s go-to game right now is being a talking doctor puppy.

And my old friend, Tania, and her husband are imagining moving to a farm in Maine.  And I’m pretending to visit my grandma’s garden.  She closed it up right after September 11th 2001.  Each summer, we would pick cucumbers by the armful and slice them for sandwiches or soup that we’d ladle into gallon glass jars.  We tell ourselves stories as fun, as means of safe exploration, as a way to test out ideas without having to commit fully to them.  And we imagine the future or the past so clearly, we can almost taste it.

 
Cold Cucumber Soup with Peas
All amounts are approximate – Grandma Bev’s cooking has never been exact.  
Play with the flavors as suits you, adding a small amount of olive 
oil to the top before serving if you like. 
 
Handful Dill, chopped
3 big bulbs Garlic
3 large Cucumbers, peeled and seeded (reserve some thin slices for garnish)
1 1/2 cups Greek yogurt
1 cup vegetable stock
½ cup milk (try coconut if you want a sweet and different flavor)
1 Onion
salt and pepper to taste
big handful raw peas
Chop all vegetables except peas, add liquid, puree in batches.  Adjust for flavor.  
Chill well. Drop whole peas in a stir once.
Serve with a few thin slices of cucumber and a sprig of dill on 
top of each portion.  
Note: If you like more texture, reserve some small chopped pieces of cucumber to 
add in at the end and a few scallions.

Twice-Cooked Beans with Smoky Paprika Onions & Laziness

3 Aug

 

Some recipe are borne of genius.  Some, like this one, are borne of sheer laziness.  What, you’ve never been enamored of Jacobs Cattle beans, their marble-like texture and splotches of brown and white, so taken with them you keep them cloistered away in a jar just to ogle them?  Well, I have.  And then I realized I was hoarding them so I poured a cup into my enamel pot and let them sit overnight in some water.

Then I forgot about them.

Then I remembered them but felt too lazy to cook them.

Then I forgot about them again.

Then I realized they would go to waste if I didn’t cook them soon so I did.

Then I forgot about them for a few hours.

So I cooked them again. And they turned out so well I recreated that dish a few times until it became a recipe.

Twice-Cooked Beans with Smoky Paprika Onions

Today, these are my lunch, on a bed of greens alongside Heidi Swanson’s simple and lovely corn salad.

1 cup Jacob’s Cattle beans (or other large bean)

2 cups vegetable stock

2 red onions

2 tbsp olive oil

pinch sea salt

1 tbsp paprika (smoked, bittersweet)

1/4 cup water

Soak the beans in 1 cup water overnight or however long until you forget about them.  Add 1 cup of stock to pot and boil for 20 minutes, covered. Turn heat off and let cool completely (this is a good time to forget about them again).   Cut onions in half and then into slices.  Add last cup of stock to beans and boil for 30 minutes. Heat oil in skillet and drop in salt and paprika, cooking on med-low until paprika starts to smoke just a little and becomes fragrant.  Drop onions into skillet and do not move them.  Once onions begin to caramelize, turn gently to avoid breakage.  Add1/4 cup water to onions when they are glazed and paprika is sticking or forming paste.  Add beans and stir together until liquid is absorbed. Don’t forget to eat it.

 

Brown Sugar Chocolate Chip Cookies & Lost & Found

2 Aug

Have I mentioned that I love a good yard sale?  That flea markets are second only to food and farmer’s markets for me? History, humor, treasures all in one place.  This spring my son Daniel and I went to a flea market fundraiser at his school.  He sorted through albums (“I mean, what would you do with this, anyway?) and I considered a juicer in its original box (didn’t buy it), a disturbing collection of clown and acrobat figurines, and a vintage mirror in need of rescuing (now repainted, hanging in my entryway). I adore the idea that what once cluttered someone’s life, what was unused and discarded is now useful again and on a wall or on a dresser or in a child’s hands.

And we bought some books.  Daniel likes to cook on his own and I bought him a baking book just for him – he was thrilled until he found a note inside.  “Uh oh, this book used to be someone’s,” he said.  “I know,” I told him, “That’s what yard sales are, a place where people sell their old things or items they don’t use anymore.”

But his book came with a note.  “I do not know how to say thank you for all of the support you’ve given me…” and so on.  A nice note.  A kind letter.  But what sets it apart?  At the top is a recipe for “Katherine’s Cookies” and, at the bottom of the recipe “PS DON’T SHARE”.

People get private with recipes sometimes, don’t they?  Secretive, as though the magic will dissipate.  Well, I’m sorry, Katherine, whoever you are, but I am sharing because to me, recipes are stories and stories are to be shared.  Like love or sorrow, cookies are best when enjoyed not alone but with friends or family.

Brown Sugar Chocolate Chip Cookies (aka Katherine’s Cookies)

I have nudged this recipe a little…feel free to do the same.  Hopefully Katherine won’t mind.

slightly more than 3/4 cup brown sugar

slightly less than 3/4 cup white sugar

1/2 cup butter

2 eggs

1 1/2 tsp vanilla

1 tsp baking powder

2 1/4 cup flour

1 tsp salt

dark chocolate chips or chunks to taste

Oven to 375.  Mix the first 6 ingredients.  Add flour, salt, and chips.  Spoon onto sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes. Share.

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