The weekend menu has focused on foods at hand — gobs of tomatoes and basil from the garden, a basket of peaches from a friend and a basket of figs from another friend.
Bruschetta with feta cheese on toasted whole wheat bread
And fig cobbler.
I know I don’t live in Italy or California, but when I eat this way — so satisfyingly seasonal — it makes me feel more alive. The food is bursting with flavor, not to mention how inexpensive and fun it is to go to the garden instead of the market to figure out what to prepare for the next meal. Minimizing the margin of culinary error by using fresh, homegrown produce makes too much sense.
Come to find out, I didn’t have nearly as many tomatoes for a canning day as I had planned. Also? I didn’t have any more canning jars or the energy to start an extensive project. I was sidelined late last week with an inner ear infection that was by far the most painful experience I’ve had in a very long time. So, instead of laboring in a hot kitchen this weekend, I used my tomatoes for a much quicker project and used my time curled up on the couch with Netflix and a certain furry friend.
Kili (Kilimanjaro) is just about the sweetest dog you can imagine. We spent most of the weekend together while her parents were away. She did not like the sound of the blender, but did enjoy the copious amounts of cuddle and snuggle time afterward.
As for the salsa? It was fresh, easy and I threw in whatever I could find, including those tomatoes and some cilantro from the garden. I’ve decided life is just better with copious amounts of home grown condiments and boisterous puppies. And antibiotics. And Advil. And Diet Coke.
I’d better stop there.
When I was a baby, I couldn’t say “apple sauce.” Instead, it became “bobby sooce,” which is lovingly what my mom still calls it. On my recent trip to Texas, I found a giant jar of bobby sooce in the fridge and ate it every morning for breakfast with a bit of cereal. My mom had made it from scratch, which she assured me was easy-peasy.
On the recent adventure to California, I introduced Roscoe and the gang to my mom’s apple sauce. And it was a huge hit. I thought I’d share the simple recipe for anyone interested:
Karel’s Bobby Sooce
8 apples (Granny Smith are best), skinned and cored
The juice of one lemon
Dash of cinnamon
4 tablespoons of water
Combine all ingredients in a large sauce pan. Once it begins to simmer, lower to low heat, cover and let cook for 30 minutes or to the consistency desired. I like it chunky. Let cool and transfer to a jar. Enjoy!
The bobby sooce, in the back right-hand corner, was among the food prepared for the family this week. Meg kept the little containers in the fridge for dinners this week and the big ones (shepherd’s pie – minus mashed taters, and butternut squash mac-and-cheese) went in the freezer. I love when my hair-brained ideas for over-helping friends are accepted. I promised Meg a time will come when I’m pregnant and chasing another little one around and I’ll call in the favor in return.
Happy Saint Patrick’s Day! In high school, part of my student council responsibilities included fundraising. My junior and senior years, I led the March of Dimes walk-a-thon team and coordinated coin drive contests between the classes. This provided a great chance to be on the morning announcements daily, and of course, because I was far too secure and far too silly, I did these announcements in an Irish brogue, pretending to be the Lucky Charms leprechaun. By the end, I usually had the principal laughing so hard at me (and with me) that she had to stop for a moment before she could finish with the lunch menu. Some 3,000 kids at my high school and I’m doing an Irish comedy act on the morning announcements; my mother wondered why finding a prom date from a different school was really the only option.
Of course, still overly secure and equally silly, I am wearing a green dress today and passing out the loaves of Irish Soda Bread I baked for our One Yard Wonder + Recipe Challenge. Even with matching correspondence, this seems like a lurch toward normalcy by comparison. I added cranberries, cinnamon and pepitas to the recipe. I’m not a huge fan of the messy, knotty loaves, but they smelled amazing coming out of the oven. Next time, I’ll bake them in a bread pan.
It’s a good thing you love your friends a green shade of ridiculous, lassie.
Wishing you luck and rainbows (in marshmallow form),
Banana Squash Oat Bread
4-6 cups oats (eyeball it)
4-6 bananas, mashed
2 squash (zucchini, etc), grated
1/3 cup oil
1 1/2 cup water
1 spice cake mix
1 tablespoon cinnamon
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease three bread pans. Cook 42-45 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool for 10 minutes, slice and top with ice cream. Wait to see if roommate loves it. Happy dance when he does. Feed the remainder to friends and coworkers the next day. Feel the love. Secretly rejoice you no longer have any frozen black bananas hanging around the house.
P.S. My happy news of the week? Matty will be hanging around for a bit and not returning to the land of Oz permanently. Yay!
I love grocery shopping at ethnic stores. One of my local favorites is the Baiz Market. They have some of the best Middle Eastern food in town and aisles full of the most exotic ingredients you could imagine. The first time I visited, there were families preparing for a religious feast and very happy at the gaggle of skinned goats hanging in the deli. I was a little startled. I’ve seen a wide variety of butchered animals in African and South American travel, but goats with their little eyes watching passersby was a new one. I don’t know that I’ve ever eaten goat. Llama, yes. Guinea pig? I’m afraid to say, yes.* Rabbit, etc? Of course. But there is something about the garbage disposal nature of goats that makes me wonder how good the meat could be?
The spice aisle, however, was nothing short of delightful. Racks of cinnamon, cardamom, cayenne and even those that don’t start with C were screaming for my basket. I ended up coming home from my latest trip with two large jars of fava beans, similar to those I enjoyed in Bolivia, and a giant jar of fig jam. I love figs. The trees are beautiful, the fruit is succulent warm off the tree and the flavor tastes like honey bees made out with flowers. I knew exactly what I wanted to do with those preserves.
A little melted butter, some phyllo dough and a generous portion of fig jam =
A wonderful summer tart. We had this for dinner last night with friends and it was excellent! Three cheers for shopping outside of the conventional lines and for trying new spur of the moment creations in the kitchen.
* Llama and guinea pig are delicacies in South America. When I was working there, I often didn’t have the choice to ask what was on my plate. Instead, I got to enjoy a beautiful meal prepared with great sacrifice (which the children hiding under the table enjoyed by the sneaky handful).
Today starts the second half of 2009 and I’ve got big plans. New month, new projects, new challenges, new joys.
Last night I made risotto for the first time. It was wonderful, even if Matt called it “slimy rice.” He loved it too. I’ve now conquered the school of grains at epicurean school, with risotto serving as the thesis. I passed.
I still think if given the chance to start over career wise, I’d go to culinary school and become a baker. Maybe I’d own a small bed and breakfast or a winery. I love cooking for others and the joy of learning new things in the kitchen never wavers. This weekend I’m going to try red velvet cake from scratch, perhaps topped with cream cheese frosting and fresh blueberries for a 4th of July treat. I am looking forward to pulling out my cookbooks, finding a clean apron and digging in. Plus, it has a theme, and you know me and themes. If there is a way I can come in costume or celebrate the mundane to make everyone else laugh, I’ll find a way.
There are new art supplies too. Soft ballerina flannel that will soon be transformed into a quilted surprise. And there is something about variegated yarn that makes my heart skip a bit. The warm beautiful colors flowing from one shade to another — it’s like a sunset in your hands. I cast on a new project last night, finding a meditative state in the repetition.
Photos by Amanda Nemec
And finally — please stop worrying about me. I am embarrassed now to have shared the way I have here; I do appreciate the support and your kind words but I don’t handle being a source of pity. Trust me when I say, there is absolutely no reason whatsoever to feel awful for me. My life is pretty damn good.
So, thank you. While I’m really not outside acting like a mentally handicapped cheerleader this week, I will again soon. My spirit is here, in check and I’m fine. I once was and will so again be a giant, goofy dork who loves nothing more than to make fun of herself.
June community dinner: vegetable spring rolls, coconut rice, garlic chicken peanut pasta, lime sorbet, wine, beer, friends and the occasional glass of milk to cut the heat. Apparently, I’m a fan of the spice.
Summer dinner: spaghetti squash from a community garden in Tempe, with sauteed vegetables — they weren’t so blurry in person.