Thursday, January 12, 2017

Catching up and looking ahead

Here's a long and long-delayed update on my 4 Obsessions. Yes, I am still obsessed, and yes, there still are (primarily) four.

Cooking

First off, here is the recipe for curried pumpkin red lentil soup that I promised a bunch of people a while ago and never managed to post. It is easy, fast and damn good.


Curried Pumpkin Red Lentil Soup
1 large or 2 medium onions
2 T olive oil
1 T prepared, refrigerated ginger garlic paste like this stuff which I can get at my local grocery store for about $4 (or 2 minced garlic cloves and about 2 teaspoons of grated fresh ginger)
1 Tbsp curry powder
salt
freshly ground black pepper
15-oz can pumpkin
1 can vegetable or chicken broth or equivalent homemade
¾ cup red lentils
1 lime
plain yogurt
cilantro


  1. Grate the onion in the food processor (if you don't have a food processor I probably wouldn't make this recipe because grating an onion on a box grater would make me weep for ages.)
  2. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium high. Add ginger garlic paste, grated onion, 1 teaspoon salt and some black pepper. Cook, stirring, until aromatic and starting to stick to the bottom of the pan, about 3 minutes.
  3. Add curry powder and cook, stirring for 30 seconds. Whisk in pumpkin until evenly incorporated, then whisk in the broth and 3 cups water. Season with 1 teaspoon salt and bring to a simmer.
  4. Add lentils and continue to simmer until lentils are tender, about 15-20 minutes. Squeeze half the lime into the soup (cut the other half into wedges so people can squeeze in more if they want).
  5. If necessary, thin the soup with a little water before serving.
  6. Serve soup with a dollop of yogurt, top with some chopped cilantro and offer lime wedges for those of us who appreciate a dose of acidity.


In other food news, like many of my friends I was gifted an Instant Pot for Christmas. So far I like it and think it is a useful addition to my kitchen, particularly for making brown rice and cooking dried beans, two things I love but have had trouble planning far enough ahead to make them as often as I should.  I've made a few "real" recipes in the instant pot (chili, a chicken orzo pasta dish) that are decent but not earth shaking. I'm actively reading pressure cooking cookbooks and reading blogs about pressure cooking to expand my repertoire. Send me your recommendations if you have them!

Reading

One of my responses to the impending Trump presidency was to buy books, as though my purchases could neutralize the waves of ignorance and hatred rolling through our country. I realize this is illogical but hell, at least I'm helping to keep the local bookstores in business and I'm sending some of my money to authors I admire.

This is the haul from one week (other weeks I've been a little more in control and just purchased books one at a time). Some were intended as gifts, many were for me. Now that I can no longer stand to listen to the radio because Trump's voice makes me want to throw things (all my NPR is consumed via podcasts now) I have more time for reading. I've also started consuming more audio books (which I mostly get from the library) because they mean I can knit more easily while consuming prose.

From top to bottom: The Performance of Becoming Human by Daniel Borzutzky, An Untamed State by Roxane Gay, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (screenplay) by J.K.Rowling, The Fortunes by Peter Ho Davies, The Bitch is Back edited by Cathi Hanauer, Underground Airlines by Ben H. Winters, Commonwealth by Ann Patchett, Here I Am by Jonathan Safran Foer, Mediterranean Vegetarian Feasts by Aglaia Kremenzi

I read a lot of good stuff last year, though I didn't quite make my 52 books in a year goal. Again, I blame the election because I started and did not finish many books in November and December. My mind was just too unsettled to focus so some were worthy books that I will pick back up later and some just felt wrong and trivial and got tossed aside. If you are looking for something good to read you might be interested in perusing last year's list and if you want to see what I think of the above books and everything else I plan to read this year then check in with this year's reading list (both lists contain brief comments).



Writing

I also haven't been able to write fiction since the election. The world has become so surreal that I find it hard to escape into an alternate universe--I feel like I won't find my way back to this one since it is increasingly unrecognizable. I know this sounds dramatic, but writing is hard and, with my particular brain chemistry, reality is also increasingly hard so it's enough to stop me from doing it. I've decided to set all my current work-in-progress fiction aside and not feel bad about it.

I won't stop writing, but I'm giving myself a different challenge: read (at least) a poem a day and write a poem a day.

Reading a poem a day is easy and I recommend poets.org's email service where they send one well-curated poem each day to your email inbox. New poems appear M-F and there are classic poems on the weekends. It's a great way to discover new poets, visit with poets you've read before but haven't been following lately and generally just pay attention to a whole genre that doesn't get much attention. I check a lot of poetry books out of the library and keep them next to my bed so I can dive in when the insomnia hits, most nights at about 3:30 am.

I'm finding writing a poem a day surprisingly enjoyable. This is about process, not product. Some of these are really lousy poems. That's ok. A few have at least a stanza or a line that I really like and maybe I'll find a way to use them elsewhere or I'll go back and work on the poem to bring the rest of it up to that quality. The process is waking up a part of my brain that I haven't accessed recently and I feel like I'm building new muscles as a writer.


Knitting

Two days a week I work at the local (wonderful) yarn shop Spun so my knitting has taken a big upturn in quantity and quality. All my knitting projects are on Ravelry so if you are curious about what my needles have been doing you can check it out here. Since the shop started carrying Brooklyn Tweed yarn, I now understand why people get addicted to the stuff. I've completed one project (Oxbow) and am currently working on two others (Koto and Stasis) and all three are in different yarn weights (Quarry, Shelter and Loft respectively). The yarn is wonderful to knit with, the colors are complex and the patterns are incredibly well-written and clear. My knitting queue is increasingly filling up with more Brooklyn Tweed projects (Bronwyn and Reverb are the two I'm trying to decide between for next-on-the-needles).

Lately, of course, when I haven't been working on samples for the shop, I've been making a whole lot of Pussyhats for the Women's March in DC:


That's the update on the obsessions for now; if you feel like chiming in and commenting and letting me know what you are up to, please do. Now that social media has changed the landscape I find myself commenting less on blogs and more on facebook and Instagram posts. I'm sure that's true for many of you too.






Monday, October 10, 2016

Weeks 18, 19 and 20

Closing out the CSA season with three weeks packed into one post. I got sick during week 18 so went minimal; then I got busy and didn't feel inspired to do much beyond basic "use it before it rots cooking."  I end the post with a few reflections on this Homer CSA season.

Week 18
Clockwise from Left: Celery, roma tomatoes, watermelon, green zebra tomatoes, tatsoi, green beans, beets and greens, and sweet potatoes

Week 19
From left: scallions,  butternut squash, parsley, cayenne peppers, green peppers, corn, red pepper, eggplant, napa cabbage

Week 20
From left: popcorn, kale, pie pumpkin, massive sweet potato, Anaheim chiles, green pepper, garlic, massive butternut squash, napa cabbage

What I did/plan to do with it all:
  • I don't think I did anything very creative with Week 18 stuff: baked the sweet potatoes and had them topped with feta and scallions, made a quick tomato sauce for pasta with the roma tomatoes, steamed the green beans, boiled the beets and put them in a salad. Tasty but not exactly creative.
  • From Week 19, I cut the corn off the cob and added it to pozole; the red pepper, eggplant and scallions got stir fried together; the green peppers and parsley were chopped into salads; a little of the napa cabbage got stir fried with tofu, ginger and garlic; the cayenne peppers are being dried and the butternut squash will store well.
  • From Week 20: I still have a pie pumpkin from a previous week so I'm going to bake this one and that one together and see if I have enough for Thanksgiving pie (probably do it when I have the oven on for something else and then freeze the pulp for the end of November); the kale is going into kale, white bean and sausage soup; since I still have a lot of last week's napa and am faced with another massive head of it, I'll make some kimchi; the freakishly large sweet potato will get roasted and served with yogurt and cilantro chile sauce; the Anaheim chiles will get roasted and combined with some tomatillos and probably frozen to be combined later with pork or chicken for a chili verde; the butternut squash will (again) be stored until I'm in the mood to deal with its massiveness.


And now a reflection on the season:
I haven't decided whether I'm going to do the Homer CSA again next year. The produce was generally good and unsurprising; what I missed in the creative offerings from my years with Tantre (sweet potato leaves, shishito peppers, Japanese turnips, lots of herbs) I appreciated in the fact that I didn't have to work too hard to figure out what to do with the weekly share.  Most of the vegetables were good and fresh and tasted great with simple preparation if I was too busy to do anything fussy. There were a few disappointments: the corn was pretty tasteless (quickly learned that corn on the cob was not the way to go with it and cut it off and mixed it in with other stuff), the celery was bitter beyond use (chucked it in the compost), one cantaloupe was rotten and there was not much basil and there were almost no potatoes (only one week in the spring). I hadn't realized how much I was looking forward to fingerlings and the like until they never showed up. The communication from the farm was sporadic and not terribly helpful when compared to Tantre emails (for example, if a pest got the potato crop and that's why there weren't any, it would have been nice to know that.) The few recipes they suggested were not my kind of cooking (think hearty Amish) but that didn't really matter to me since I have pretty strong opinions and ideas about recipes to go on. The pick up at Arbor Farms on Saturday mornings was really convenient so thats a big plus. I am pretty tempted by the White Lotus Farm CSA for next year; I've been looking at their Instagram photos where they occasionally post photos their weekly CSA share and their farm is not that much further from my house than Arbor Farms, though the pick up time is later in the day and thus more of an imposition on my schedule. As an early riser, the 7:30-8:30 pick up for Homer CSA was ideal because I could get it and then get on with my day. But with White Lotus, I might be able to lure the girl child out to the farm with me (goats to visit! goat cheese, croissants and other treats to buy!) so it might help develop positive associations with produce for one of my kids. I'm going to keep contemplating my options for next year. If you have another CSA to recommend with easy west-side of Ann Arbor pick up options, please let me know!




Monday, September 19, 2016

Week 17

CSA Share
From Left: eggplant, green and red peppers, assorted tomatoes, concord grapes, carrots, hot peppers, squash, corn

Menu plans:

  • eggplant, peppers and the green zebra tomatoes will go into this eggplant salad, to be served with quiche.
  • a couple of the big red tomatoes will be grated to make a quick cooked fresh tomato sauce to serve with tortellini.
  • the squash will join last week's delicata and get roasted with some rosemary and garlic and served with the corn and pork tenderloin.
  • carrots are already gone since Fiona found them...
  • I'm not a big fan of concord grapes so I'm looking for recipes that go beyond grape-jelly flavors; can't decide whether making something like this grape focaccia is worth the effort or not. If you have a great savory concord grape recipe, send it my way!
  • I've accumulated quite a few jalapeños (and have a few more growing in my garden) so I think I'll combine them all to make a jar of pickled pepper rings.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Week 16

From Left: 4 ears of corn, 3 beets and greens, broccoli florets, 3 green zebra tomatoes, 2 big red tomatoes, eggplant, green beans, watermelon, delicata squash, red and green peppers, red onion, scallions

Menu plans:

  • the corn I plan to cook and then refrigerate and add it to the following:
    • kale, corn and white bean Caesar salad (I made this three times last week--it holds up great as a next-day lunch salad.)
    • added to a plain old batch of chili that the kids will eat 
    • added to this quinoa salad that also uses the green beans and some of the red onion
  • one of the big tomatoes will be used for my new favorite (very messy sandwich): toasted Ed's bread multigrain bread slathered with mayo, then layered with big slices of super ripe tomato, sliced hard boiled egg, and pickled hot peppers.
  • the broccoli florets, green and red peppers and scallions will go into a stir fry to be served with miso-butter tofu and some brown rice.
  • I'll roast cubes of the eggplant in olive oil and toss them with the green zebra tomatoes, some garlic, and balsamic and use it to top pasta with some pine nuts and parmesan.
  • The beets, the last big red tomato and the rest of the red onion will probably get turned into a big greek salad, maybe with some grilled chicken, or maybe plain.
  • I'm going to set aside the delicata squash until I get some more roast-able vegetables (more squash, potatoes, cauliflower, onions, etc.) and then make a big pile of roasted vegetables topped with feta, parsley and lemon.
  • If you happen to have some huge leaves of chard (one of Brian's coworkers dropped off a big bag of the stuff) then I recommend making these chard-wrapped, Greek yogurt pies. I made them last week and they are delicious, delicate and pretty darn easy.




Saturday, September 03, 2016

Week 15

We were out of town last week so we now leap ahead to CSA Share Week 15

Clockwise from bottom left: cherry tomatoes, kale, two mini heads of cabbage, two onions, three jalapeños, broccoli florets, wax beans, five tomatoes (three of them are huge!), small bunch of basil, three sweet red peppers

Plans:

  • One of the huge tomatoes and the basil will get mixed with some corn that's been cut off the cob in a salad.
  • The wax beans (about half of what there were in the share are pictured above. I got hungry and ate the rest before I remembered to take the photo), one of the mini cabbages, a jalapeno and some thai basil that is growing on my deck will be stir fried with ground pork, diced firm tofu, ginger and garlic, served with rice.
  • I think I'll roast the red peppers and make a salad with the cherry tomatoes, garlic, sherry vinegar and olive oil, maybe serve it on baguette slices with some shaved parmesan on top.
  • Another huge tomato, an onion and a jalapeno will get mixed with cilantro and lime juice to make pico de gallo which will be served with some shredded raw cabbage, grilled chicken, black beans, and brown rice.
  • No idea what I'll do with the kale and broccoli--there isn't really enough of either one to be a star player so they'll have to play nice together somehow.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Week 13

CSA haul

4 ears of corn, a few radishes, some celery leaves, a small cantaloupe, 2 onions, 2 cucumbers, 1 green pepper, 3 red peppers, 4 massive red tomatoes, 2 green zebra tomatoes, 1 stripy tomato

Plans:
It's all about using up the tomatoes this week!
  • This Greek tomato salad will also use some peppers and onions. I'll probably serve it with some simple lamb chops.
  • This creamy tomato gazpacho will use a couple of the monster tomatoes.
  • More of the tomatoes and an onion will go into lentils with tahini and cumin. I made pita and za'atar bread the other day and I'll probably make it again to go with it.
  • The celery, radishes, two of the corn, a cucumber (and any left over peppers) will get tossed together in a salad with mint, oregano, lemon, olive oil and maybe a little feta.
  • The kids will eat their corn plain (sigh) and might also be convinced to eat one of the cucumbers.
  • The melon will just be cut up, chilled and eaten plain. Maybe the kids will eat some or maybe they'll just dig their feet in and continue to reject most summer fruits...

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Week 12

From left to right: another mass of purple, yellow and green beans, 4 cucumbers, 3 onions, broccoli florets, hot peppers, 6 tomatoes, 3 zucchini, 4 ears of corn, bag of ground cherries, small bunch of basil

I made a lot of pesto last week and while I could freeze some of it, I'm not sick of it (yet). Since I'm also feeling a little lazy this week, my plans for excess veg that aren't needed for specific recipes consist of barely cooking the veg in question and then plopping on a little pesto. I think that treatment is in store for pretty much everything in the above photo except the cucumbers, onions and ground cherries. Pesto on corn on the cob is really pretty amazing.

Menu plan:
  • A big salad with tomatoes, cucumber, and blanched green beans topped with sautéed cumin chicken and tahini sauce/dressing (this tahini lemon sauce thinned a little with water so it is pourable). If it feels sane to turn on the oven I plan make homemade pita bread to go with it.
  • Basil and tomatoes and fresh mozzarella will go into a caprese salad served with flattened, sautéed chicken breasts, sautéed zucchini and onions (long slow cooking which caramelizes the squash and onions and makes them velvety) and a side of pasta. 
  • Zucchini corn feta fritters (this recipe with corn added), yogurt garlic sauce, cucumber tomato salad with sumac.
  • Burger night (boring, I know, but sometimes fast and boring is the way to go) with steamed green beans and corn.
  • Broccoli, beans and any tomatoes that are still around will get tossed into pasta with some pesto.
  • Ground cherries (relative of the tomatillo but that taste like a cross between a cherry tomato and a pineapple) are for snacking straight up.

Sunday, August 07, 2016

Week 11

Week 11 of my CSA farm share:
Clockwise from lower left: 3 cucumbers, habanero peppers, green and purple beans, broccoli, beets and greens parsley, green pepper, romaine lettuce, watermelon, basil, assorted tomatoes, 2 onions, 2 heads of garlic

Plans:
  • The purple beans look a little tough this week so they're going to get the slow-cook treatment along with the onions: I'm going to try this recipe for Turkish-Style Braised Green Beans topped with yogurt and mint. 
  • The green beans will be used in this recipe for Blistered Green Beans with Garlic and Miso.
  • Two cucumbers will go into this cucumber feta salad.
  • The basil and some garlic will go into a small batch of pesto that'll be tossed with pasta and blanched, chopped beet greens, blanched broccoli and toasted walnuts. The beetroot will accompany the pasta as a simple side salad with onion, walnut oil, some of the parsley and a little red wine vinegar.
  • The tomatoes, green pepper, third cucumber and rest of the parsley will be used in a quinoa tabouli. 
  • I'm going to see if there are some tomato seconds available at the farmer's market so I can make and can a batch of salsa with the habaneros (that's a lot of habaneros though...I might need to figure out something else to do with some of them. Ideas anyone?)
  • The kids will eat the watermelon and romaine lettuce (yay!)

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Week 10

Farm Share, Week 10

Beets with copious greens, two heads of red leaf lettuce, pint of mixed tomatoes, two cucumbers, two onions, small bag of broccoli florets, copious quantities of purple, green and yellow beans

plans:
  • I ended up not saving enough beans to pickle any last week; despite my good intentions, my greed got the better of me and I kept steaming a handful at a time and topping them with Maldon sea salt, black pepper and Irish butter (best snack in the world!). This week there are even more beans available so I'll try to follow through and pickle a quart. Some others will also go to Green beans and Zucchini with Sauce Vert (which is terrific with salmon) and the rest will probably be demolished by my snacking.
  • I picked up some fresh mozzarella and have some basil growing on the deck so some of the tomatoes will get the classic Caprese salad treatment.
  • The beets will get boiled (or roasted if I have another reason to turn on the oven) and added to the lettuce, some tomatoes and cucumber for a big salad. 
  • I'm going to try and reproduce the beet green goat cheese pasta sauce that I made two weeks ago and see if I can come up with something reproducible, rather than just chucking things in on the fly. One of the onions will probably go in there.
  • The other onion and the little bag of broccoli will get tossed into some sort of weekly stir fry.
  • Still hot, still muggy, still good weather to use some cucumber for more Pimm's Cups!

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Week 9

varied tomatoes, kale, green and yellow beans, head of red leaf lettuce, three different cucumbers, two green peppers, small bag of tatsoi, head of butter lettuce


Produce plans:

  • Yay it's bean season! I love fresh picked beans. The green and yellow beans will get dived up between green beans and tofu w/nuoc cham (one of my favorite hot weather salads) and a jar of refrigerator pickle dilly beans which are a terrific accompaniment for too-damn-hot-to-cook nights with a plate of cheese, salami, crackers and a cold beer (Fat Tire Amber from New Belgium is my go-to beer this summer.)
  • The two lettuces, tomatoes and one cucumber will go into a massive chicken Greek salad. I still have the mini beets from last week to add to this. (I ended up adding the beet greens to a goat cheese pasta sauce and they were excellent).
  • The cucumbers will be slotted into happy hour consumption: I'm completely hooked on making Pimm's cups during these hot days of summer (recipe below) and a good chunk of cucumber goes in each drink. The rest will be used for my favorite summer beer snack.
  • Brian has claimed the green peppers for use in some sort of jambalaya-ish combination with rice, andouille sausage, onion and whatever else he feels inspired to throw in. 
  • The kale is enough for another kale Caesar salad. This time I'll add some cooked red quinoa and hard cooked egg to it to make it more substantial so it can stand on its own for lunch.
  • The tatsoi will probably get chucked into some end-of-the-week, use-up-stuff-in-the-fridge stir-fry which is an undignified end for such nice organic produce. Or maybe I'll eat it for lunch mid-week with some tofu, scallions and kimchi. 

Pimm's Cup
makes 2 drinks

1 bottle Reed's extra strong ginger beer
Pimm's No 1
1/2 a lemon, cut in two pieces
1/2 a lime, cut in two pieces
2 inches of cucumber (preferably with skin on--scrub off the wax if it isn't an organic, uncoated cuke), cut in four pieces
ice

In the bottom of each of two pint glasses put one piece of lemon, one piece of lime and two pieces of cucumber. Take a muddler (or in my case, the handle-end of a wooden spoon) and mash the hell out of them to release the juice from the citrus and create delicious little bits of cucumber to float around in the finished drinks. Put some ice in the glass, add about 1/4 of the ginger beer to each glass, then add the Pimm's to taste (I put in about 2 oz--a good glug), stir it up with your wooden spoon handle, then top with the rest of the ginger beer and stir again. Go find a chair on a deck with a breeze and enjoy.