Thursday, August 26, 2010

okra and purple beans

A tale of two vegetables - one I dread to see in my CSA bag and the other a welcome surprise.

Let's tackle the former first. Okra.  What to do with the CSA basket of okra that keeps appearing week after week?  Those slimy little suckers grow fast and easy which means this native Midwesterner finally needs to become educated in cooking them up.  And I just moved out of the Deep South!

I have learned that high heat helps to keep the slime at bay.  Roasting was an acceptable cooking method, and sauteing on a very hot stove would nice also if it weren't for the handful of other veggies I then dumped in with it, recreating a wet texture not unlike the slime I was trying to eradicate in the first place.

While searching for the perfect recipe for okra today, I came across this amusing quote in a New York Times article about the pesky pod:  "Steamed whole okra is phenomenal with butter and salt and is also great split, stuffed with crab, battered, fried and served with a light hollandaise."  Well, duh! Isn't anything better stuffed with crab, fried and/or doused in hollandaise??   The article does suggest an appealing recipe involving cornmeal and a cast iron skillet (and okra, alas) that I'm ready to try when okra inevitably shows up at my door this week.  Time to dust off my beautiful iron skillet (that sadly doesn't get much use because I'm scared of cleaning it and rust.)

A vegetable that I have learned to love recently is the shell bean.  I'm not sure what varieties Crooked Sky Farms is growing, but the first bundle last month were tender and sweet (lady peas, perhaps) and the ones I cooked up last night were so pretty!  Actually, at first I thought they were green beans but when I went to wash them, realized they were meant to be shelled.  The first pale green pod I opened revealed surprising purple beans inside!  Cooked in lightly salted water in a small pan, til tender, the fresh shell beans needed no accompaniment. Though I'm sure they'd be just as good cooked up with some ham or bacon...

They were just as pretty cooked - muted shades of olive and eggplant.  Gave me the urge to redecorate something.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

couscous salad with chickpeas

This is a great little spin on the same-ol' same-ol' Mediterranean salad - the mint, cinnamon and smoked paprika definitely punch it up a bit.  Smoked paprika is probably my favorite newly discovered ingredient.  Most often, I add it to spice blends for grilled chicken and pork.  It's also a good substitution for chili powder on the Dembowski classic sandwich: muenster cheese in pita bread, heated up in the microwave.

Couscous Salad with Chickpeas

(Adapted from Cooking Light, July 2010)

  • 1  cup  uncooked whole-wheat couscous
  • 1/2  teaspoon  salt, divided
  • 1/2  teaspoon  black pepper, divided
  • 1/8  teaspoon  ground cinnamon
  • 1  cup  boiling water
  • 3  tablespoons  extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3  tablespoons  fresh lemon juice
  • 1 1/2  teaspoons  minced garlic
  • 1/8  teaspoon  smoked paprika
  • Dash of sugar (or squirt of agave nectar or honey)
  • 1/3  cup  roughly chopped fresh mint
  • 1/4  cup  thinly sliced green onions
  • 1  (15-ounce) can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained
  • 1  pint cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 3/4  cup  (3 ounces) crumbled feta cheese
  1. Place couscous, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and cinnamon in a bowl. Stir in boiling water; cover and let stand 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork.
  2. Combine oil, juice, garlic, smoked paprika and sugar/agave nectar/honey.
  3. Add oil mixture, remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, mint, and next 3 ingredients (through tomato). Sprinkle with cheese.
     Yield: 4 servings (1 1/3 cups)

Friday, August 20, 2010

csa challenge

I've come to find that being part of a CSA can be quite challenging.  Sometimes it's an exciting challenge, but lately I'm getting a bit weary.  Just this week, I received a bag full of large chilies, beets, purslane (a leafy weed that's sort of like spinach), kohlrabi (a knobby root that tastes like broccoli trunks), and more potatoes.  The potatoes are challenging because I'd much rather cook rice, couscous, quinoa or pasta as my dinner starch.  Potatoes just seem so heavy.  And finding recipes to deal with the other vegetables that I've never cooked with or heard of can be tiresome.  I constantly feel like I'm just throwing stuff together for dinner instead of actually planning meals.  Perhaps that will change as I become more familiar with intimidating veggies.

Tonight's menu may be a turning point.  It uses local potatoes, purslane and zucchini:

what a weirdo

Behold Ginger's newest sleeping position - I finally caught her on camera.

 Let's get a bit closer.

What are you looking at?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

a dentist?!

Well, the pup had her teeth cleaned today - hopefully it's the only time she'll have to go through this (expensive) ordeal.  I'm pretty sure my heart can't take post-anesthesia pathetic little Ginger again.  A few snapshots of her glassy-eyed state:

I may have taken that while driving...

And here are the requisite before-and-after shots:

She's currently zonked out dreaming about chasing squirrels I'm sure.  Looking forward to when she snaps back to her usual pup-tastic self: now with shinier teeth and fresher breath!

sparkling and new

A new endeavor - an open window with a view - a view of our life in a far-away desert land.

I sure can't wait until we really can open the windows!