Tag Archives: Vegetables

Last Haul of the Season

24 Jan

Ah, summer. That magical time when I visited the Farmer’s Market each week and planned our meals accordingly. Now that the market has closed and the local fruit stands have boarded up their windows, I have only my memories and occasional trips to the local remate to tide me over. It’s tough to get there with the kid, and cold and muddy, too, and I have a hard time struggling to carry all those purchases the distance I have to walk back to the car. I can’t wait until May.

These photos are from the last market of the season back in October. This trip was extra special because I was able to fit some thrifting in that day, too.

The plates, bowls and hangers are all thrifted. Purchases that day included green beans, pea shoots, pomegranates, raw almonds, peaches, grape tomatoes, hummus, red pepper tapenade, and a butternut squash.

The sunflower seeds pictured here were actually grown in my garden. Earlier in the season Isobel and I checked out a local nursery’s booth at the Farmer’s Market and they had a display with soil, a little peat pot and seeds. We happened to run into my cousin’s family there, so Isobel and her cousin Victoria got to plant their own sunflower seeds. We watered it and placed it above the sink and two days later it sprouted. It was so magical for Isobel and I to watch. We watched it bloom and eventually cut it down. Isobel helped me pluck the seeds from the flower head. It was incredibly easy and required little more than water on my part.

The amber jar and wooden salt and pepper shakers in the background were also purchased secondhand that day, along with the Pyrex, mushroom cruets, and very awesome (but naturally, inaccurate) vintage dinosaur place mat. I picked up the letter sorter for Isobel and milk glass dish below for a song.

I miss you, summer.

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Recipes: Butternut Squash

6 Sep

One of the issues with meal planning that I run into over and over again is that of leftovers. Sometimes the problem isn’t even with the prepared food itself but with the uncooked portions I have leftover in the fridge. In this case, the food in question is butternut squash.

My friend Jake has been helping us with our garden and thanks to him we have both pumpkin and butternut squash plants in our yard. Gardening is way harder than I believed it to be, particularly so because we’re not using pesticides and all the local garden centers stopped carrying ladybugs months ago. Aphids are really kicking our ass over here, and Jacob finally came up with a solution involving spraying each goddamn bug with a magical, organic substance that will shred the critter and knock him to the ground, thereby preventing anymore identical bastards to pop out of his pooper, and, as Anthony put it, “ruin Halloween.”

All that aside, Jake’s plants have managed to produce butternuts, and they are awesome. He gave one to me and I immediately set about the task of slicing it into rounds and baking it. I was originally trying to make steamed disks of butternut so that I could slather them with goat cheese, honey and toasted pecans and feast thusly until my husband returned home from sword practice.

Of course I forgot about them in the oven so that didn’t happen.

I ate them anyway and realized that as divine as steamed squash could be, these were chips, and they were even better. I really think that Jake raised a superior squash because I’ve recreated this experiment a few times since then and while the results of have been delicious, that first squash I used was far and away superior. Perhaps the defining factor was the way that squash was made: it was small, had a very small globe end and a very long cylinder end. When I sliced it the squash divided into perfect disks. Squash I bought from the farmer’s market was too large, so I had to resort to slicing it into half-moon shapes.

After they were sliced I brushed them with olive oil and set them on a foil-lined baking tray. This is about the thickness I was going for.

As you can see from the photo, they weren’t all perfect and some were thinner and some were thicker. I divided up my squash moons into a thinner and a thicker pile so I could cook them in batches. This really wasn’t extra work because I couldn’t fit them all in at once anyway.

Some received a dusting of spices, including cinnamon, cumin, curry, and five spice powder. These were all very good, especially the cinnamon and curry powder, and just by adding the slight addition of powdered spice you could completely change the character of the chip. My favorite is still probably a sprinkling of sea salt, but don’t bother adding that until the chips are out of the oven. If you add it before baking the salt will pull the moisture from the chips and they will steam instead of bake.

I threw leftover chips in a large zippy bag and toasted them throughout the week. They suffered no ill effects from this treatment and could probably survive five or six days like that. Squash are hardy.

They come out like this, though I had quite a few burn and quite a few remain soft and stick. The handy thing about cutting them into rounds is that the skin helps the squash retain its shape and there’s less burning and steaming because you don’t have that bit of squash flesh at one end.

I roasted them for about 35 minutes at 400, but you really have to watch these guys carefully and will almost certainly have to adjust the time and temperature of your oven for their temperament. Mistakes will still be delicious, even if they aren’t chips. The burnt parts are almost completely caramelized plant sugars and they taste like toasted marshmallows.

If they end up too soft, break out the honey and the goat cheese or feta and enjoy them that way.

Chips aside, you are going to have leftover squash. The globe-like ends are not fit for chips, but scoop out the seeds, rub with oil and roast all the same.

After roasting these I mashed them with a fork, discarded the peel, and added them to shiitake risotto (made by adding dried shiitake mushrooms to the stock while it heats, then adding the sliced mushrooms and butternut puree to the plain risotto at the end) and Oh. My.

It was so good I nearly cried when I ate the last bowl. I served it to Anthony in these wooden bowls I salvaged from my bestie’s yard sale. The color of the squash mellows in the creamy whiteness of the risotto and Anthony thought the color came from cheddar cheese, but the pale orange is actually the squash. I threw a squash chip on top for garnish and added a dusting of cheese and for the next ten minutes my life was complete.

Other things I made with the leftover squash include a butternut squash puree which I later realized would have made a perfect baby food. I roasted and mashed the squash then added butter and crumbled feta along with salt and pepper. I decided then and there that all babies should eat so well.

I stirred the leftovers of the puree into a black bean  and bell pepper hash that I had in the fridge and it was so very good. If Jake gives me anymore I’m going to make soup. Do you have a favorite way to prepare butternut or other winter squash? I’d love to hear it. As the summer winds down I expect I’ll get a few thrown at my car when people are at a loss to deal with them.  I’ll point them this way for ideas.

The Meal-Planning Market

12 Jul

Since I’ve been buying part of each week’s groceries at the Farmer’s Market it’s totally changed the way I’ve been going about meal planning. Although I’ve been chipping away at my Life List goal of planning meals for a year I’ve only experienced limited success, but this new world local food has given me new inspiration and motivation in a way that supported my meal planning goals.

Each week I’ve been posting my Farmer’s Market finds each week in a flickr group called Farmer’s Market Hauls started originally by Jim of Sweet Juniper. I’ve also convinced two food-blogging, local-shopping friends to join in, the fabulous Lead Paint Cookbook and home cook extraordinaire, E of Outpost 505. If you shop at a fruit stand, flea market, farmer’s market or CSA, please snap a photo of your haul and add it to the group. I think it’s time we breathe new life into it. Clicking on the photos below will take you to my flickr where you can read notes describing each item in the picture.

What I’m loving is that while I’m at the market buying produce I’ll find other, nonfood-related but still very awesome things. I’ve so far grabbed a flier to tour an alpaca farm (friends, I’m going to arrange a trip for this–let me know if you want in), signed up for free books via Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, and Isobel was able to plant a little sunflower in a peat pot. All of this, free, too.

We’ve been watering the little sunflower and watching it sprout. Last night it I decided it was large enough to put in the ground. That booth also gave us free seed packets: parsley and lettuce. I told her that seeds were tiny baby plants and she helped me water them. I can’t wait for them to sprout but I really hope she won’t love them too much.

In addition to the produce we’ve picked up some fabulous clam chowder from near San Jose, Dutch chocolate zucchini bread that is so good it haunts my dreams, endless varieties of hummus and fresh pita bread, and dried organic spices. Isobel often asks for pita and hummus for breakfast, and it makes me ridiculously proud when she does so.

Our farmer’s market is still pretty small. It was just started last year and buzz about it is only just taking off. There are still a lot of things not available at the market–no meat is sold and only one vendor sells cheese and offers only one kind. But I’ve still managed to make a wide variety of things with the selection of things I do bring home, and I feel I’ve only scratched the surface.

I’m still mulling over how to pull my Farmer’s Market shopping into a cohesive plan, but I’m getting there. For now I’d like to share a list of things I’ve made with the items from my haul:

* Spicy Eggplants in Honey Sauce from The New Book of Middle Eastern Food

* Blanched wax beans with dill butter.

* Figs: Cut in half with market goat cheese and honey.

* Gazpacho with local bell peppers, tomatoes, cucumber, red onion, olive oil and lemon.

* Crudites with wax beans, heirloom cherry tomatoes, and cucumber dipped in hummus.

* Zucchini ribbons dressed with oil and goat cheese.

* Zucchini ribbons dressed with leftover Spicy Honey Eggplant sauce.

* Goat cheese slathered on baguette rounds, toasted, drizzled with honey and thyme from the garden. I could very easily eat this all day.

* The most amazing green salad with butter lettuce, cucumber, red Italian torpedo onions, heirloom tomatoes, and olive oil dressing. Even the oil was from the Farmer’s Market!

* Corn on the cob with cilantro and lime butter.

* Chopped up fresh fruit by the bucketful.

* Omelet with portabello mushroom and red onion.

* Scrambled eggs with cheese. Practically every day. Also, tastes so good with a side of spicy eggplants. I can’t explain this, but it works.

* New Hatten chowder with garlic herb pita chips.

* Pita bread spread with hummus and cucumber.

* Sliced cherry tomato salad with corn, red onion, and bell pepper and dotted with feta.

I’m looking forward to sharing detailed recipes and pictures with you (and maybe even meal plans, if I get my act together), and I really hope everyone joins me posting to Farmer’s Market Haul. I can’t wait to see what you’re bringing home.

The Summer Market

22 Jun

One of my goals for this summer is to do as much of our weekly shopping as locally as possible, either at fruit stands, the Tuesday Remate, or the downtown Farmer’s Market. Last Friday Isobel and I stopped by the Farmer’s Market because Anthony’s vacation had ended and Isobel wanted to see “the people.” You can see our glorious bounty in the photo above. In fact, if you click on the photo it will take you to my flickr where I’ve labeled everything for the curious.

I only brought one large tote with me but I could have used two. Toward the end of the trip I managed to pick up Isobel with one arm and hoist her onto my hip while holding an armload of produce in the other hand. I was so impressed I would have wifed myself right there if it were legal.

Going to the farmer’s market has really jump-started my menu planning for the summer. I’m really getting into it again and I think it’s because it’s so inspiring to see everything laid out and to talk with the people who grew it. Most of the stuff on the counter came from 30 miles away. I pick up stuff that looks interesting and plan my protein and meals around that. The combination of spontaneous and interesting, in-season and fresh really speaks to my desire to eat well and plan for my family.

That Friday I used the eggs, the garlic, and the portobello mushroom to make a killer omelet for dinner. Anthony has been making classic Greek salads for about a month now so I bought him a cucumber and those unusual-looking Italian torpedo red onions. They are really sweet and delicate and I like that in an onion that I’m going to eat raw. I think it makes it more appealing for children, too, as I’ve yet to find a kid that adores raw onions (though I’m sure they’re out there). When Isobel was about six months old she delighted in chewing on raw onion rings, but she liked many unusual things at that age. Staring at ceiling fans, for example.

I’ve eaten most of the cherry tomatoes pictures already.They were like tiny bits of candy. The larger ones I’m saving to split in half for salads. I hesitantly bought two smallish zucchini. Hesitantly because it seems like zucchini is the White Elephant gift of summer. It explodes in backyard gardens until strangers are throwing them at your car as you drive by in an effort to rid themselves of the overabundance. I’m going to try shaving them thin and drizzling them with oil and feta, but if I don’t care for that, there’s always zucchini fritters.

I’ve never eaten wax beans, aside from those regrettable canned three-bean salads everyone in America has had forced on them at some point. But this is the kind of thing I like about going to the market: I see something unusual and it inspires me to try it. My favorite instance of this ever occurred when I happened upon some zucchini blossoms. It was also the first (and sadly, only) time I’ve ever deep-fried something. As much as I love fried food, it intimidates me.

The fruit is nearly gone, now, too, and it hasn’t even been a week. I’ll probably be hitting a fruit stand soon.

I even bought an Anaheim chili pepper to pusue my goal of increasing my tolerance to spicy food this summer.

I also instantly bonded with another mother when I went to sit down and eat some soup and I heard her toddler shout a familiar “NO!” my way. Her son was mere weeks apart from Isobel and we commiserated over the stranger danger and the subsequent unsociable behavior it brings. While we ate and talked our kids took turns waving and shouting, “NO!” at each other.

Isobel looks really serious in this photo, and that’s because she is serious–about her food. If you get between her and her hummus she will cut a bitch. Actually, she will just throw a tantrum, a fact I found out when I tried to dip my carrot in her hummus. No, Mama, no. That’s my Isobel’s hummus. Also, she insists I call pita bread tortillas. We’ve been having hummus and ‘tias every day for breakfast since.


Thrift Store Gore: Rescue

12 Jun

Another disturbingly amusing thrift store find.