Thursday, May 31, 2012

Mint Sauce

Bowl of Mint Sauce with Mint Leaf
Classic Lamb Chop Accompaniment

Recipe by Robin

Mint is growing again like crazy in shady spots. I’m always amazed at how it can freeze down to nothing in winter, but regenerate tall as ever in spring. With the Persian mint that Lynn (of Strawberry Mojito fame) gave me from her yard, and all the spearmint growing in our yard, mint jelly for our first (lamb) BBQ seemed like a natural.

Grilled Balsamic Marinated Lamb (with Mint Sauce)

Lamb Chop on Plate Cut into 3 Sections, Cooked Rare
Grilled to Perfection

Recipe by Staff of Life Butcher

What would you cook on a brand new BBQ grill? Those of you who follow Seasonal Eating’s Facebook page know that after many grill-less years, my husband Bruce finally bought a gas grill on Memorial Day weekend.  I appreciate all the “what to grill” suggestions from readers, and you will no doubt be seeing future posts about them. Please share any of your other favorite to-grill foods in a comment below!

Ziplock Bag with 4 Chops and Marinade
Use Ziplock to Cut Down on Marinade Quantity Needed
For our first to-be-grilled food, I thought of a chance encounter with a young, good-looking butcher at Staff of Life Market years ago. I was presented with a dilemma: leg of lamb on sale at a ridiculously low price, but only two people at home to eat it. This butcher had all the answers, including how to cook it and freeze the leftovers. He said to cut it into thick steaks and marinate it in balsamic vinegar and garlic, then grill it. When I asked for details about cutting up steaks, he offered to do it for me. Was there any reason not to go for it?

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Escarole and White Bean Soup with Bacon

Bowl of Escarole and Bean Soup
Winning Combo: Escarole, Bacon, and Beans

Recipe by Robin

Bacon. I can’t understand why so many people are fans of the stuff. Friends who like it tell me that it goes with everything, and even like it chocolate-covered. I don’t get what’s great about the salty fattiness. Oddly enough though, while brainstorming a use for massive amounts of escarole from our CSA, I kept envisioning a bacon with white bean flavor. Perhaps the motivation comes from my Auntie’s baked beans, white beans delicately flavored with bacon and maple syrup. Or perhaps I’ve eaten a similar Italian-style soup in the distant past. In any case, a little bacon did indeed make this the perfect soup, on the first try.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Strawberry Mojito or Nojito

Two Iced Cocktails
Mojito and Nojito

Recipe adapted from Lynn

My friend Lynn is the queen of entertaining. Not only is she gracious and charming, she’s a natural planner, organizing and synthesizing details for all manner of theme parties in a way that seems effortless. She is ever calm, never rushed. When attending to last minute preparations as early guests arrive, she engages the guests as she goes about her work, inviting comment on placement of food and drink, or offering self-guided tours of the garden.

So leave it to Lynn to know the perfect drinks to serve to her husband’s college friend and his wife, even though she hadn’t met them yet. Not knowing whether they’d prefer refreshment of the alcoholic or nonalcoholic variety, she muddled up mint from her yard, lime, and local in-season strawberries, making a mixture that could go either way. This mojito-nojito strategy could also work well at parent-with-young-kid parties, or with other mixed groups.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Spring Borscht: Bocwinka

Borscht with Eggs and Herbs, topped with Dill
Borscht with Springtime Goodies

Recipe Adapted from The Art of Polish Cooking

Until last August, I was afraid of beet soups, and had never eaten them. Early childhood memories of watching my grandmother from Poland make dark, foreboding soups (that I never tasted) made me cautious. Because my cooking goals for both 2011 and 2012 included exploring my Polish family cooking roots, learning to make beet soup was inevitable. Especially since we get loads of beets in our CSA share.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Carciofi alla Romana: Italian Artichokes with Mint & Parsley

Artichokes in Basket with Parsley, Mint, and Garlic
Just a Few Simple, Fresh Ingredients

Recipe by Elizabeth Minchilli

Is there ever a point in reinventing the wheel, in recreating what already works? That depends on how much you might improve it and in how much time. Often in the recipe realm we can add interest or healthfulness by changing things up. But sometimes the original recipe is so authentic that we don’t want to mess with it. This recipe, for example.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Spaghetti and Broccoli

Bowl of Spaghetti and Broccoli
Healthful Pasta

Recipe from “The Cooking Decade”

“Weird!” said my husband both times I’ve mentioned making this recipe. I could tell from the tone of his voice that he didn’t mean “different and interesting,” he meant “sounds terrible,” mainly because he’s not fond of yogurt. But I’ve been intrigued by this no-red-sauce spaghetti for awhile. My husband isn’t home today, but a huge bunch of CSA broccoli is, so the time was right to try it.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Tagine of Chicken and Fava Beans

Bowl of Chicken Fava Tagine
Delightful Combination of Flavors

Recipe adapted from Cooking Light, May 2006

Today’s new moon ushers in the energetic high point of this Year of the Dragon, according to Chinese tradition. From May 20 – June 18, the Dragon Moon intensifies characteristics of the Water Dragon Year, including creativity, good luck, and accomplishment. So perhaps it’s the energy of the Dragon that made this recipe turn out perfectly the first time. Or maybe I just got lucky. In any case, this is my husband’s favorite of the many ways I’ve tried fixing fava beans.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Review: Organic Farming & Sustainable Agriculture Book

"Cultivating a Movement: An Oral History of the Organic Farming & Sustainable Agriculture on California’s Central Coast"

Book Cover, hands holding multicolor mini peppers
Fresh, Local, and Organic
We are blessed with a generous growing season around the CA Central Coast, as well as a wealth of progressive thinkers and activists. So it’s natural that the Santa Cruz area, like certain other areas in the US, became a hotbed for development of organic farming and sustainable agriculture. Since the 1960s, local interest in political activism, research, and education, as well as organic farming itself, has helped to make organic farming and sustainable production practical for farmers and appealing for consumers throughout the US.

"Cultivating a Movement" chronicles this process of popularizing organic and sustainable agriculture by interviewing contributors to the movement from many backgrounds and walks of life. This volume is excerpted from a ten-volume set of transcribed oral histories on organic and sustainable farming. In turn, these ten volumes are part of University of California Santa Cruz (UCSC) Library’s ambitious Regional History Project, in which librarians are interviewing hundreds of Central Coast area movers and shakers, recording and transcribing their stories.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Bessara: Moroccan Fava Bean Dip

Plate of carrots with Bowl of Bessara
Thick Bessara with Rainbow Carrots

Recipe Adapted by Robin and Bruce from “Cooking By Moonlight

Fava beans are small but mighty. They’re grown as cover crops, to “fix” nitrogen and naturally fertilize fields. Fava beans are harvested in spring, then the plants are plowed under, adding usable nitrogen to the soil. Fava flavor is strong and their texture hefty. I’ve tried using them in many recipes with less-than-bloggable results. Both fava beans and chickpeas are used in the Middle East and northern African cuisine, somewhat interchangeably. Substituting favas for chickpeas in known recipes is risky, note my recent oven-roasted fava fail. The concept of preparing favas as  hummus actually has a name (bessara), which was a good sign.  It’s still a strong dish, and makes a memorable appetizer.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Chillin' with Meyer Lemonade

2 Colorful Glasses of Lemonade with Waterfall

Recipe by Robin and Bruce

What’s your to-do list like? Hopefully it’s shorter and less complicated than mine! Preparing to sell a 1988 “special needs” car (cheap!), major planting projects in the garden, paying the usual monthly bills, and some minor surgery that caused me to lose my appetite have slowed me down blog-wise, particularly in the area of creating recipes. My apologies! The creative (recipe) process can be unforgiving.

Mostly I’ve been stuck on fresh fava beans and strawberries, which present opposite challenges. Favas are so odd, it is hard to know what to do with them. My proposed Oven Roasted Fava Bean Appetizer, based upon a similar Roasted Chickpea Appetizer, failed. The favas didn’t get crispy like the chickpeas, perhaps because of their greater surface area in contact with the cookie sheet. They were slightly caramelized, and “interesting” at best. You don’t want to know. Next recipe up: hummus made with favas. This is bound to work out better.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Top Ten (Plus Two) Garden Plants for May

Heritage Lavender with California Poppies
Lavender & Poppies Combine Beautifully

Easy to Grow Food & Flowers to Plant Now

Gardening is a never-ending process on the central CA coast, just like all yard-work. In this temperate climate, it’s easy to dream big, yet always feel a bit behind in what needs to be done. There’s planning, preparing the soil, planting, thinning, weeding, applying organic fertilizer, and of course watering throughout the dry season. There’s harvesting, hiring a garden-sitter if you go on vacation, and turning over the beds at the end of harvest. Even in winter, there’s trimming the perennials and protecting them from freezing. That’s a lot of work. So why do we do it?

Friday, May 4, 2012

May Veggies and Recipes

Pink Dogwood Tree Blossoms
May Dogwood

A May-ing We Will Go

We’ve just passed Beltane, marking mid-spring, on May 1. It’s a time for flowers and frolic. Sunny, warm days and not-too-cool nights are perfect for planting veggies and flowers here in Santa Cruz county.  Local gardeners can pick up organic plants this weekend while supporting one of the world’s only organic farmer training programs. UCSC’s Center for Agroecology & Sustainable Foods Systems, formerly known as the Farm and Garden project, is hosting its annual plant sale starting at 10 am May 4 - 5. It’s a great place to find roses, sages, annuals, and all sorts of veggies and herbs while supporting organic farming education. I’ll see you there Saturday!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Pureed Red Beet Soup with Dill

Bowl of Dark Pink Soup with Green Dill
Red Beet Soup with Sour Cream

Recipe inspired by Healing Foods

After my unexpected success with Golden Beet Soup with Herbs, I considered an even greater challenge: Red Beet Soup based on Miriam Polunin’s Carrot Cilantro Soup recipe. Inspiration, or more correctly motivation, came from the two bunches of red beets we have from our CSA, with another bunch on the way this week.