Wednesday, September 17, 2008

thirty-six hours and orange flower water

School is back in session and I find myself go-go-going from dawn until I eventually collapse into an unmoving heap at about 11 pm (and for me to not move in my sleep is rare). The crisper is full of CSA vegetables that I have been neglecting.

Here is what I know (in an oddly passive voice). Delicata squash has been roasted (and eaten, skin and all, with olive oil and salt). Butternut squash has been made into soup. Edamame has been boiled, eaten. The eggplant shall be turned into baba ganoush. Finally, chocolate cookies have been made and they have two secret ingredients: thirty-six hours and orange flower water.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Spicy Cucumber Salad

We got cucumbers in our CSA box and I decided to make a marinated salad.

1 cup distilled white vinegar
1 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes (adjust up or down to taste)
2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped or ripped
2 teaspoons dark sesame oil
2 large cucumbers, thinly sliced, peeled if you want (or if not using organic)
1/2 large red onion, thinly sliced
1 small carrot, cut in thin strips

Bring vinegar to a boil and add sugar, salt and red pepper flakes, stirring to dissolve sugar. Simmer for one minute and remove from heat. Allow to cool to room temperature. Whisk in sesame oil. Put cucumbers, onion, carrot and basil in a bowl and pour dressing over. Cover and refrigerate at least one hour. Use slotted spoon to serve.

Picture credit: Under Creative Commons license from stu_spivack at

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Ginger Chocolate Pudding

On Sunday I tried to eat a sandwich for lunch and had excruciating, shooting pain in my right jaw/ear when I tried to chew. My doctor says I have TMJ and put me on a soft food diet for awhile. So, I've been eating smoothies, soup and other things that I can mush around and swallow without too much effort.

It seemed like this was a good time to treat myself to some chocolate pudding, which I haven't had in ages. Sad but true: I've never made pudding from scratch! But I found a recipe on Simply Recipes and I had all of the ingredients so I whipped up a batch. Instead of the chocolate chips, I used about half a bar of the Extra Strong Dark Chocolove bar that I like to keep in the fridge (my favorite basic dark chocolate bar). I also had a thumb-size piece of fresh ginger in the fridge, so I grated that and added that at the same time as the chocolate bits. The result is amazing, if I do say so myself.

(Photo credit: Under creative commons license from foodchronicles because I'm feeling far too lazy to take a decent pudding picture myself.)

Friday, August 15, 2008

Soda Bread at Tea Time

I recently traveled to Edinburgh for an academic conference. In an attempt to not spend a fortune eating out, I went grocery shopping for some meals. In the bread aisle I hunted out the densest, darkest, heaviest bread I could find (as per usual) and I ended up with a loaf of Irish soda bread. It was delicious and I ate some every day with butter and jam (while sipping hot tea, how very British of me). Yesterday I got the urge to make some of my own. It is very easy since it doesn't require any yeast or serious kneading. My recipe was inspired by this one from Simply Recipes, but I used mostly whole wheat flour (about 3/4ths of the flour), so mine is a lot darker.

I had some today with butter and some grape jam made by Jenny's stepmother. Deliciously rustic.

Note: According to this site, what I made was not traditional Irish soda bread, but "spotted dog" or "railway cake." That's fine with me; I'm a sucker for taste more than authenticity.

Community Supported Agriculture

My roommate, Jenny, and I joined a CSA this summer. "CSA" stands for "community supported agriculture" and the basic concept is that you buy a share in a local farm and, in exchange, you receive a weekly box of fresh vegetables (and occasionally some fruit). Belonging to a CSA is a great way to get fresh, local, organically-grown, seasonal produce while supporting a small farm. One thing that I've really noticed is that I actually have strong affection for the vegetables we receive. I've never felt such pride for my food (I can only imagine what I would feel if I actually gardened and grew some of my own veggies). This pride means that I actually use the vegetables. Also, we don't get to choose what goes into our CSA box. We just get whatever was harvested that week. I was already a pretty avid vegetable eater, but I've already been introduced to some foods that I wouldn't normally have even noticed in the produce section of the grocery store--kholrabi and garlic scapes, namely.

The picture above represents the box that my roommate and I got this week. This was a particularily plentiful box. The previous ones have contained a little less, but that may have been due to the cool spring and some flooding at our CSA farm. Now, we only have a half share, meaning that our delieveries come every other week. So far, this has been adequate. We strategically eat the foods that spoil quickly first and we've even had to freeze some peas. I think next year we might try sharing a full share with someone else. That way we would have a smaller portion, but we would get it every week and might get even more variety.

There is a lot of information on CSAs out there, but here are a few links for some more information.

CSA information at Local Harvest

Driftless Organics, my CSA
CSAte, a blog written by some of the members of my CSA

August 15, 2008

We got our CSA box yesterday, so the kitchen is filled with gorgeous, fresh, seasonal vegetables.

For lunch today I headed for the roasted summer vegetables (left over from dinner last night) and grated a little Parmesan cheese on top. Then I saw the tomatoes. We have such a variety of tomatoes--big heirloom slicers, Roma and little yellow cherry tomatoes. I decided I needed a little tomato salad with a drizzle of poppy seed dressing. For protein I added a fried egg with a touch of Thai chili sauce.