It Was the Summer of…

Sheep

I am reminded by posts on Facebook about capturing the “last gasps of summer” that it is Labor Day in the US.  Here on the Mediterranean, we expect to have several more weeks of warm weather.  In fact, today, I’m just putting a hem in a pair of white pants that I plan to wear quite a bit this fall.  But mentally, it is the turn of the calendar and I, too, am feeling nostalgic for last summer.

Since the boys have been in university, our summers have had a consistent pace, but this summer, some things changed.  We aren’t pulling them off to be with us in our overseas life as much, anymore.  They have their own involvements and responsibilities, now, and they can’t just up and leave for several weeks like they used to.

This was the summer of girlfriends.  Having significant others hanging at the house with us was a completely new development, and we really liked it.  It was fascinating to watch our sons attend to women they have chosen to have in their lives,  and I was proud to see their consideration and more grown-up ease with themselves.

This was the summer of full-time jobs. Most parents, I’m sure, would agree that it is enormously satisfying to send your able-bodied young person off for a big ol’ day of work.  This was, at the same time,  the summer of baby animals.  Gabe has a real gentleman’s  farm in operation on the island.  He took in a menagerie of Craig’s List babies last spring:  lambs, chickens, turkeys, and ducks and then there is the biggest handful of them all, his beautiful preschooler dog, Geist (he just turned 1 so he’s technically not a baby anymore).  Allan and I became quite enchanted by the whole free-ranging brood and were perfectly happy to send Gabe off for a 12-hour work day in exchange for tending the animals.  I could have and now think should have taken so many more pictures of them as we watched them grow.  It was fascinating how they made choices and communicated to each other,  everyday, about where they wanted to go on the property and what they wanted to do.  They were so silly sometimes, but my heart was happy seeing them have completely natural, stimulating lives.

Turkeys

This was the summer of nieces.  I think the generation of my siblings and me has shifted slightly and our children are stepping up to be our friends and to provide us with authentic support.  Through this season of the passing of our mom, my nieces, in particular, came forward to not just cook and help arrange things, which they did capably and creatively, but they made us laugh and amazed us at all of their adult involvements.  I know that my mom would have been so happy to know how her passing strengthened and even changed our relationships in many wonderful ways.

Finally, this was the summer of home-town affirmations.  Allan and I have had our wonderings, over the years, if our plan to eventually repatriate back to Whatcom County will be the right choice.  We have other overseas friends who are building their retirement nests in farmhouses in France, condos in big cities, someplace warm.  We love Lummi Island, but we haven’t always been sure that we could fit back into the culture we left, now, 15 years ago.  This summer, though,  we had encounter after encounter, often by chance, with people we have known in the past, but didn’t know so much about presently.  We were astounded, first of all, by what positive lives so many old friends are pursuing.  Many have lost unneeded pounds and as a result, feel fantastic.  Many have become incredibly active, riding bicycles, taking strenuous hikes.  Many have let go of negativity and are living in grateful places.  Several have completely stopped drinking.  I found myself becoming genuinely excited thinking of living in community, in the future,  with these old friends and our Lummi Island neighbors.  Of course, lots of conversations turned toward our bounteous summer provisions in the Northwest and how we were preparing and/or preserving them.  I am really looking forward to sharing cooking when we can.  One of the cookbooks I read cover to cover this summer was Monday Morning Cooking Club, and I can picture that sort of get-together with old and new friends to learn more about and from each other and to enjoy the cooking skills so many of us have been honing these long years.

Gabe

Gabel, after a Sunday of preserving. He put away 4 gallons of blackberries (slated for blackberry wine-making in the fall), 4 pints of beets, two bags of blanched beet greens, and a crock of sauerkraut, all from his own garden and yard.

One friend and I already got the conversation going when she and her husband came out to spend an evening of crab-eating, sunset watching,  and visiting with us.  Even though she had worked that day, she had, because she’s just like this, baked off a heavenly loaf of artisanal bread in the morning to bring out.  She swore that nothing could be easier than making up this no-knead bread, developed by Jim Lahey of the Sullivan Street Bakery in New York City, and once I tried it, I became a devotee, too.  It is also a wonderful dough to form into foccacia or pizzas.   I am not going to retype the recipe.  Go to this link because you will also find some short videos that will illustrate a couple of the finer points involved in the process.  Peggy, I hope that this is the beginning of a long and delicious conversation.

Recipe: No-Knead Bread

 

Artisan Bread

One Pot Pasta

One Pot PastaI can’t live in denial much longer; school is starting soon.  I don’t mind starting my work, but I had such a luxuriously,  long summer that it was almost like I got an extra season in there.  I even got to go the the NW Washington Fair, which I haven’t been to in approximately 20 years.  It hasn’t changed much, but that is a good thing.

School start up always has a particular tension about it.  Gone are the leisurely days when one can see how the day reveals itself before deciding what to cook.  You now have to have a plan.  To keep eating well on work nights,  you have to have already cooked the food ahead of time, or you need a meal idea that is a quick prep without creating a bunch of dishes.

This Martha Stewart recipe is going around the food websites and it works; it really works.  I like it for August, especially, when we will be having multi-colored tomatoes, warm from the garden, and fresh basil, more than we know what to do with.  This cooking method also stands up well to whole wheat pasta, building in additional fiber and nutrition.  Sure, it’s not the most complex pasta dish we’ve ever eaten.  I immediately started thinking about roasting the vegetables first, which you could easily do ahead of time, to bring up some additional complexity.  But don’t bother.  Make this as is.  Feel happy that you’ve had a healthy, low-fat dinner, using garden produce.  Pack the leftovers for your work lunch the next day.  Wash up the one pot.  Then, have a few minutes to enjoy some more of a waning summer evening.

One Pot Pasta

Ingredients

  • 12 ounces linguine or other long pasta (whole wheat works well)
  • 12 ounces cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 large onion, thinly slices (about 2 cups)
  • 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
  • 2 sprigs basil, plus torn leaves for garnish
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
  • Course salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 4 1/2 cups water
  • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for serving

Directions

Step 1

Combine pasta, tomatoes, onion, garlic, red-pepper flakes, basil, oil, 2 teaspoons salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and water in a large straight-sided skillet.  Bring to a boil over high heat.  Boil mixture, stirring and turning pasta frequently with tongs, until pasta is al dente and water has nearly evaporated, about 9 minutes.

Step 2

Season to taste with salt and pepper, divide among 4 bowls, and garnish with basil.  Serve with oil and Parmesan.

Pickled Blueberries and Shallots

Pickled Blueberries and Shallots

I didn’t set out with a summer goal to jar 17 quarts and 8 pints of cucumber pickles.  It came about when our friends were out visiting last week.  They are smack in the middle of the most fun summer of record, beginning with riding their brand new touring bicycles to our house, and then regaling us with stories about their sailing trip in the San Juan Islands, Shakespeare in the park in Vancouver, concerts at wineries, and on it went.  We recounted our own stories about painting our living room.  No. Don’t feel sorry for us; we are living the life we choose.

But while they were here, they got the phone call that their custom-ordered box of perfect pickling cucumbers was ready to be delivered.  Now, they have never canned before and only had a passing interest in making pickles this summer.  In fact, I think they had forgotten all about it.  They were about to go to town and plop down a hefty investment in canning supplies when I made an alternative proposal.  I suggested that I take the cucumbers and use my plentiful canning supplies, and the assistance of Gabe, an experienced pickler, to make the pickles, and they continue with their mad summer.  And that was quickly agreed to.

So,  what was delivered was a lot of cucumbers and I had to do much multiplication to prepare enough pickling brine, but I still got the salt wrong and had to make four gallons of liquid instead of two.  Fortunately, we brew beer and have a 6 gallon stock pot.  In the end, I had extra brine left over, and I stored it away in the refrigerator.  Now, the brilliant thing about this is that I am ready, in a moment, to pickle anything.  Quick pickling only requires an hour or so in brine so the commitment is small and involves no true preserving.  I began today with 1 1/2 cups of organic blueberries, a large shallot, thinly sliced, 1 small cinnamon stick, and 5 whole cloves.  These are going on top of a grilled steak salad for dinner.  If you’re interested in what else you could quickly pickle, take a look at this link from Saveur magazine: Perfect Pickle Recipes.

Here is the basic cucumber pickle recipe I used, also from Saveur.  Just save the brine from the salt, sugar, and vinegar for other uses.  Also, I recommend you buy a smaller box of cucumbers.

Cucumber Pickles

MAKES 2 QUARTS

1/2 cup coarse kosher salt
16–20 small kirby cucumbers, tips trimmed, well washed
1 tbsp. sugar
2 cups cider vinegar
12 black peppercorns
8 cloves garlic, peeled
1 bay leaf
1 bunch dill with seed heads
1–2 horseradish, oak, or grape leaves (optional)

1. Dissolve 1/4 cup salt in 2 1/2 quarts  water in a large bowl. Add cucumbers and set aside for 12 hours. Drain and rinse.

2. Combine 1/4 cup salt, sugar, vinegar, and 2 cups water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat. Add peppercorns, garlic, and bay leaf and boil for 2 minutes. Fit cucumbers upright in 2 hot, sterilized quart jars. Tuck in dill. Pour hot vinegar mixture over cucumbers to cover. Add leaves, if using. Put lids on jars, screw on bands, and process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes. Remove jars from pot and cool. Store in a cool, dark place for at least 3 weeks and up to 1 year.

Cucumber Pickles

 

 

Orange Cauliflower Salad with Fried Capers and Rocket

Cheddar CauliflowerGabe told me he had planted Joe’s Garden starts of cheddar cauliflower in his garden, but I didn’t really know what that was.  I was not prepared for these yellow surprises and I still can’t get past the reality that they don’t actually taste like the mac and cheese powder packet.  They don’t taste like anything but cauliflower and I can’t explain to you how they made them so yellow, but man, do they make a gorgeous salad.

Before we harvested these, I would have assumed that Alice Waters’s recipe for orange cauliflower salad, from The Art of Simple Food II,  involved the juice and probably zest of an orange, but no, she is referring to this specimen.  If you didn’t grow them and can’t find them at a farmer’s market, regular white cauliflower and,  as you see, even a combination of broccoli will do just as well.  One hour from garden to table, this was a proud contribution to the annual Lummi Island pig roast pot luck.

Orange Cauliflower Salad with Fried Capers and Rocket

From The Art of Simple Food II

4 Servings

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Soak in a bowl of cold water for 15 minutes:

  • 2 tablespoons salt-cured capers

Remove the outer leaves from:

  • 1 head of orange cauliflower

Cut in half, remove the core, and separate into florets.  Place in a bowl and toss with:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Sea salt

Spread on a baking sheet and roast until soft and caramelized, about 15 minutes.  Set aside to cool.

Make the dressing.  Mix together:

  • 1 medium shallot, diced fine
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • Sea salt
  • Freshly-ground black pepper

Let sit for 10 minutes to allow the flavors to marry.  Whisk in:

  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Taste for salt and acid and adjust as needed.  Drain the capers and squeeze dry.  Heat a small heavy-bottomed pan over medium-high heat.  Pour in:

  • 1/2 inch of olive oil

When the oil is hot, add the capers and fry until the buds have opened.  Remove with a slotted spoon to absorbent paper.  In a large bowl, mix together the cauliflower and:

  • 1 1/2 cups cooked red quinoa
  • 2 handfuls of rocket (arugula)
  • Sea salt
  • A pinch of pepper

Pour in the vinaigrette and mix carefully.  Arrange on a large plate and sprinkle the fried capers over the top.

Cauliflower Salad

Sue’s Garlic Scape and Almond Pesto

Garlic Scapes

This is a story about how having a CSA can change your life.  It wasn’t so long ago that our long-time friends, let’s call them Dan and Sue, didn’t eat very diversely from the plant kingdom.  They will have to forgive me for sharing this awkward memory from our shared histories, but I recall going to a bakery/cafe together when our children were in the 8 and under age group.  This place served sandwiches made with their in-house whole wheat bread, baked daily, and we popped for the $5.00 PBJs for the 5 kids.  When the sandwiches arrived, faces fell and the parents went into “making the best of things” mode.  The problem was that these sandwiches had come with raspberry jam and in their fruit lexicon, jam was a grape product and nothing else.  The kids picked and nibbled, but sadly, they left the restaurant with less than full bellies.

Fast forward, now,  to about 4 years ago when Dan and Sue started frequenting the local farmer’s market and eventually signed up for a seasonal CSA.  One of their sons, at that time, also became a vegetarian and they all started looking for methods to a) feed their son and b) prepare the strange, new produce that was arriving on their doorstep every week.  Their son was the first to come upon using these garlic scapes in a pesto.  Now, pesto is pesto, but this one is somehow different; it is buttery and nutty and tastes so good as a spread.  We howl about it every time it is brought to share and though the son has (mostly) moved out on his own, Sue has taken ownership of this pesto and so it shall be named after her.

Now, good luck finding garlic scapes in August.  They are a spring treat, but Sue told me this week that she had a small cache she was keeping in her refrigerator, and I just outright asked her to give me some.  She gave me not one, but two bundles.  Isn’t that generous?  I think you could try this, though, with a combination of some thin scallions and some garlic cloves and you would have a pretty close outcome.  I don’t have to, however, because I have TWO bundles of scapes.

Pesto

Sue’s Garlic Scape and Almond Pesto

Makes about 1 cup

Ingredients

  • 10 garlic scapes, finely chopped
  • 1/3 – 1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese (to taste and texture)
  • 1/3 cup slivered almonds, lightly toasted
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • Sea salt

Directions

Put the scapes, 1/3 cup of the cheese, almonds, and 1/4 cup of olive oil in the bowl of a food processor.  Whir to chop and blend all the ingredients and then add the remaining 1/4 cup of olive oil and, if you want, more cheese.  If you like the texture, stop;  if you would like it a little thinner, add some more oil.  Season with salt.

If you are going to use the pesto immediately, pres a piece of plastic against the surface to keep it from oxidizing.  The pesto can be stored in the refrigerator for a couple of days or packed, airtight and frozen, for a couple of months.

 

 

Herb Pie

 

Herb PieThis recipe is a play on familiar spanakopita, made with spinach Whenever I have made spanakopita in the past, I made it from a recipe-driven point of view, buying special ingredients from the grocery store and assembling them in specific amounts.  Chock that up to my inexperience, but it never really occurred to me, until now, to make that pie in a free-form way.  As Yotam Ottolenghi describes in his book Jerusalem, this isn’t a recipe to be made from buying little packets of herbs from the store.  This is what you make when you’ve come from a true farmer’s market with unruly heads and bundles of fresh greens and herbs, or, even better, you are growing them yourself and you have so much you need ways to melt them down into savory dishes.  This is additionally a good way to use up bits of delicious cheese.  You pretty much can’t go wrong with the filling proportions and because the filo pastry looks all the better with rustic flourishes and scrunches, that part is worry-free, as well.

In addition to being a delicious way to use an abundance of produce, this is an extremely versatile dish to have on hand this time of year, particularly if you have company.  It is a splendid side dish to any kind of meat you have cooking.  It also makes a comforting breakfast as well as a classy lunch with salad.  It keeps nicely in the refrigerator for a couple of days.  Rewarm portions in a 350 degree oven.

Herb Pie

Adapted from Jerusalem

Serves 6

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil, plus extra for brushing the pastry
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 1/2 lbs (about 8 cups) hearty greens (Swiss chard, bok choy, spinach, kale etc…) thick stems separated from leaves, each roughly chopped
  • 1 large bunch of green onions, chopped
  • 1 cup mixed fresh herbs and tender greens (parsley, mint, dill, arugula etc…) chopped
  • 4 oz ricotta cheese, crumbled
  • 2 oz feta cheese, crumbled
  • 4 oz other cheese, grated (sharp cheddar, goat cheese etc…)
  • Grated zest of l lemon
  • 2 large free-range eggs
  • 1/3 tsp. sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 9 oz filo pastry

Pour olive oil into a large, deep frying pan over medium heat.  Add the onion and saute for 8 minutes, without browning.  Add the green stems and continue cooking for 4 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add the green leaves, increase the hat to medium-high, and stir as you cook for 4 minutes, until leaves wilt.  Add the green onions, tender greens, and herbs and cook for 2 minutes more.  Remove from the heat and spread the vegetables into a 9′ x 12′ baking pan. Put it into the freezer for about 10 minutes to cool.

Once the mixture is cool, squeeze out a much liquid as you can and transfer to a mixing bowl.  Add the cheeses, lemon zest, eggs, salt, pepper, and sugar and mix well.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Lay out a 9′ x 12′ baking dish.  Divide 1/2 packet of filo pastry into two roughly equal portions.  Freeze remainder for another use.  Place a damp dish towel over the sheets.  Pour about 3 tablespoons olive oil into a small bowl.  Dampen your hands with olive oil and pick up a sheet of filo.  Brush your hands over the sheet and then place it into the bottom of the baking dish.  Continue in this way, placing some of the sheets so they overlap the sides of the dish, until 1/2 of the filo packet is used.  Place the filling on top of the pastry and bring sides around it.  Then, continue placing the rest of the filo packet, in the same way as before, on top.  Finally, tuck the filo sheets down around the sides of the pie.

Brush the top generously with olive oil and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until the center is bubbling and the top is crisped and golden.  Remove from the oven and serve warm or at room temperature.

 

Chocolate-Pine Nut Cookies

Red Chicken

We are doing lots of earnest work here at the farm.  Allan is repainting the entire interior of the house, and even though I had convinced myself I would paint an accent wall in aqua or a mineral green, in the end, I love Winslow White walls against natural wood floors so much that I couldn’t adulterate them with a color.  It looks so clean and spacious.  Additionally, we are organizing outbuildings and decluttering all of our storage spaces, which also creates elegance in our small living space.

We are staying on top of our cooking, foraging crab and em, shark (Gabe made tacos if you are curious), and making good use of our farmer’s market purchases, eating fruit desserts, when we have any.  But today was blessedly rainy, which we desperately need here in Western Washington, and this afternoon sounded perfect for tea and cookies.  Chocolate cookies.

This recipe, hot off the press from Food and Wine magazine was a fabulous surprise.  They are like pavlova when I get it the way I like it.  The top and bottom have a meringue-like crispness, but the middle is gooey chocolate, with toasty, oily pine nut bites.  They are not terribly sweet and are actually light.  I’ll just say they flew out of the house, and now we will resume our righteous living.

Cookies Cropped

Chocolate-Pine Nut Cookies

Food and Wine, August 2014

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup pine nuts
  • 1/2 lb. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter, cubed
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp.  baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp.  fine salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup superfine sugar
  • Flaky sea salt for finishing (optional)

Method

1.  Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.  In a large skillet, toast the pine nuts over moderate heat, tossing occasionally, until they are golden, 5 to 7 minutes.  Transfer the pine nuts to paper towels to drain and cool completely.

2.  Meanwhile, in a large heatproof bowl set over a medium saucepan of simmering water, melt the chopped chocolate with the butter, stirring occasionally, until smooth, 5 minutes;  let cool completely.

3.  In a small bowl, mix the flour with the baking powder and salt.  In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the eggs with the sugar at medium-high speed until thick and pale, about 3 minutes.  Using a rubber spatula, fold in the melted chocolate, then fold in the dry ingredients.  Stir in the pine nuts.

4.  Bake the cookies in 2 batches:  Scoop 1-tablespoon mounds of dough onto the prepared baking sheets, about 2 inches apart.  Sprinkle with flakes of sea salt.   Bake for about 12 minutes, until the cookies are dry around the edges and cracked on top; shift the sheets halfway through baking.  Repeat with the remaining cookie dough.  Transfer the cookies to a rack to cool completely before serving

Makes 3 dozen cookies