August 9, 2012 § 14 Comments
Ok, I’m going to come out and say it. There’s a certain point every summer at which I start to get a little annoyed by the sheer bounteousness of summer produce. I mean, I love it, I really do, but it’s just so freaking beautiful and abundant. It’s kind of like that person you know who is really smart and talented and beautiful and then they’re nice on top of it, and and eventually you’re like, “come on! Can’t you at least be neurotic?!” I get a little bit that way about summer vegetables. (Please tell me this doesn’t make me a horrible person, though, clearly, I have issues.)
We put summer produce on sun-soaked a pedestal, cooing over it and the way it needs only a little sprinkling of salt, maybe a drizzle of good olive oil. We rhapsodize perfect garden tomatoes or fresh sweet corn like we do our first love. And it’s all true, and completely deserved. Fresh summer produce is miraculous. It really would be a shame to do much more than serve it in a minimalist state, an ode to the garden. And the essays that have been written on the subject, well, I have nothing to add to them that hasn’t been said. « Read the rest of this entry »
August 18, 2011 § 24 Comments
Did you know that eggplants kick their blossoms off if they don’t get fertilized? Just kick them off! Like a bouncer unceremoniously tossing an unruly guest, by the collar, out into the back alley. “And stay out!” I know this now, after a bit of internet gardening-forum perusing, gasping, re-searching, and confirming.
As you may well have imagined, I developed a sudden, keenly focused, interest in the subject after I kept finding the blossoms of our eggplant lying scattered about on the porch below it, completely open and intact, un-chewed upon, as if they had been strewn by an industrious flower girl. I had missed the wedding though.
At first I suspected birds or insects. I imagined little beetles and ants popping the blossoms off and tossing them to the ground, laughing and egging each other on. Like the insect version of cow tipping. Until, finally, one day it happened right in front of my eyes. One moment the blossom was on the plant, and the next it just fell off. As if the eggplant simply didn’t want it anymore and was cutting it off, disowning it, which, I guess, in a sense, is what was happening.
April 14, 2011 § 14 Comments
Okay, so I’m sick of these April showers already and would be quite happy if we could just get on with the May flowers. How about it? Not that I can complain that much. We had a beautiful spring weekend last weekend, and the flowers are, in fact, coming up. In the arboretum where I go running, there are happy little crocuses nosing their way up under the oaks, and some of the hillsides are so covered with bluebells it looks like the sky accidentally tripped and fell down there. But, nasty weather has descended upon us again, and therefore I feel it is necessary to whine immaturely. Whine, and get to roasting and stewing things. (Oh, of course now since starting this post yesterday, the rain has moved off and it’s beautiful again. Well, I’ll take it!).
Which brings me to another, only very tangentially related, point. Why are so many of the world’s most delicious things brown and lumpy and generally unphotogenic? Sure most vegetables and fruits and berries are beautiful and colorful, but all the stews, and roasts, and curries, and sauces, and many soups out there, well, they’re not exactly getting phone calls from scouting agencies looking for beautiful food models. And yet, they taste amazing! You don’t care what they look like because their deep, full fragrance and flavors wallop you over the head (the good kind of wallop), and you stop looking and just eat. « Read the rest of this entry »
September 11, 2010 § 8 Comments
Tartine is one of those many French words that sounds beautiful when said by a native speaker, but is rather difficult to get out when you’re someone trying to learn the language. The particular combination of vowels and consonants with that French “r” right in the middle gets stuck in the roof of your mouth a bit like a spoonful of peanut butter. You had best learn to say it, however, if you plan on eating breakfast anywhere in that lovely country (unless you’re having a croissant, the pronunciation of which people seem to struggle with just as much anyway). Traditionally, a tartine is simply an open faced piece of baguette, most often smeared with butter and jam. This is what I had for breakfast every single sparkling Parisian morning (because it turns out that Paris sparkles, even when it’s gray and drizzly) while I studied there back in college. Two baguette halves with copious amounts of butter and confiture de framboises, dipped in my coffee. And then I would be ravenously hungry again within about half an hour. Scandinavians are bred to require protein at breakfast. Oh well.
Even though they never filled me up, I loved tartines. And even more so on the day I realized, “what the heck?! Why not have an open faced baguette sandwich with something more than just jam?” (I know, so revelatory, right?) Much deliciousness ensued.
I like to think of this particular creation as what would happen if an eggplant Parmesan sub studied abroad in France, got a little comfy, and eventually became an expat there. It has an affected French accent and attempts an air of sophistication, but in the end it can’t help but be overflowing with gooey, bubbling melted mozzarella. “Deep fry zee eggplant?! Mais non! I couldn’t possiblee. I vil roast eet wiz some peppers and tomatoes, maybe add a leetle chevre and Dijon. But somesing eez meesing…Oh yes, mozzarella! Sweet! I’m so gonna melt that all over the place…Nice.”
February 10, 2010 § Leave a comment
I don’t think I can adequately express my undying gratitude to ‘blank canvas’ foods and dishes. You know, the kind where it provides a base, and you can just sprinkle with this, dollop with that, add a handful of chopped whatever, and serve. Things like omelets or scrambles, quesadillas, stir fries, soups, and salads. They’re like the dumping grounds of foods. Except way more positive and edible than that. How about, they’re like loving grandmotherly foods, waiting with open arms to accept whatever you have to add to them.
Salads, in addition to having achieved this reputation as healthy meal extraordinaire or carb counter’s best friend, are amazingly willing receptacles for other ingredients. All it takes is a good salad dressing and you can tie together salad greens with almost any other vegetable, meat, cheese, nut, fruit, legume, or cooked grain you can produce! In the summer I like to throw a gratuitously huge spectrum of chopped fresh vegetables into my salads – no simple lettuce salad for me, thank you! In the winter, on the other hand, most of the vegetables I have around require cooking. But that doesn’t mean they can’t go into a salad. I make a lot of roasted vegetables because my general belief is, if it’s not best fresh, then almost any vegetable is better roasted. So, I often have the odds and ends of leftover roasted veggies, and these (or sautéed vegetables) are a perfect addition to a salad. Which is how I ended up with this deliciously Mediterannean-y roasted eggplant and artichoke salad for lunch. I had leftover roasted eggplant from one pasta dish and leftover artichoke hearts from another, so woopsy! Onto a bed of spinach they went, along with a stray half tomato that was totally non-seasonal and therefore not particularly good, but did add lovely color. « Read the rest of this entry »
August 29, 2009 § 4 Comments
I was going to wait a few more days before I posted again (I don’t want to set too high of a standard for myself for frequency of writing, after all!), but I’m afraid I can’t stop myself because I’m completely overexcited by the dish I made last night. True to form, I had an unplanned assortment of ingredients to use, but the fact I had an eggplant inspired me to try to make dish a friend of mine had once served me, called a caponata. Caponata is a Southern Italian stew or spread that has a delicious and uniquely zesty combination of flavors that would be a good spread on crusty bread – potentially with salami (works with salty-sweet) or chicken (works with almost anything!) or over pasta, even rice. I looked at some recipes, and (not surprisingly) didn’t have all the ingredients, plus I had some extras I wanted to use up. So, I experimented. The flavors you want in a caponata are sweet, sour, and salty on top of the tender, almost creaminess, of cooked eggplant. Kind of like a Sicilian version of Chinese sweet and sour chicken…except completely different.
Here’s what I had: 1 onion, garlic, 1 eggplant, 1 zucchini, 1 patty-pan squash (a summer squash that looks a lot like a ufo), 2 large tomatoes, apple cider vinegar, olives, capers, raisins, a little sugar, and butter (normally I would have used olive oil here, but I was out). « Read the rest of this entry »