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Archive for July, 2007

Quit your filthy thoughts – I’m actually talking about melons here. 

Taken a mere 5 days after this picture:

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It’s taking over, along with 4 or 5 smaller friends!

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Ah, quinoa.  I love a superfood that tastes good – I crave quinoa whenever I’ve been eating heavy meals with little nutritional value – this adaptation of Comfort Couscous brings me right back to health.  I’ve been attempting to grow quinoa in the garden this year, but haven’t had much success.  It’s a shame, because the flowers are beautiful and the grain output substantial.  Maybe the next plantings will take.

Quinoa Bake with Chard

2 cups water or vegetable broth
1 clove garlic, pressed
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/3 cup quinoa

olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 big pinch (1-2 tsp, depending on your spice preference) red pepper flakes
1 small bunch chard, stems separated and cut into 1 inch pieces, leaves coarsely chopped
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 cup shredded mozzarella

Combine the water, garlic, salt and pepper in a small saucepan over high heat.  Bring to a rapid boil.  While that’s boiling, rinse your quinoa really well.  Unwashed quinoa can be bitter tasting because it’s coated with saponin, a naturally occuring substance that acts as a pesticide – fascinating plant!  So, put your quinoa in a bowl, cover with cold water and rub between your hands for a few seconds.  Lather, rinse, repeat two more times, just to be on the safe side.  By now your water should be boiling, so add the quinoa, cover and lower the heat to a simmer.  Let it cook for about 12 minutes, until the water has been absorbed.  Your quinoa should be translucent, with quite germ curlicues.  Remove it from the heat and let it rest, covered, for 5 minutes, then fluff with a fork.  You could stop right here (as may be your want on hot summer days), dress the quinoa with some walnuts, leftover veggies and miso dressing and enjoy a hearty bowl of grains, or you can continue on with me to cheese land.

All still here?  I thought as much.  Preheat the oven to 350°.  Heat the olive oil in a large skillet, then add the onion and garlic.  Sautee until translucent, then add the red pepper flakes.  I always crush up the flakes a bit in my hand before adding them, since it releases more flavor.  Add the chard stems and saute until they’re almost fully soft.  Add the leaves and a splash of water, then cover to let it all steam for a couple of minutes.  Remove from heat.

In a medium bowl, combine the quinoa, egg and chard mixture.  Mix in 1/2 cup of cheese, and taste for salt and pepper.  Spoon into a greased square baking pan (I used 8×8, I think), cover with the remaining cheese and bake for about 20 minutes, until the cheese is golden and the edges have started to crisp.

The end result is nutty and comforting with a little extra kick from the red pepper flakes.  The edges bring a nice crisp and toasted texture, while the middle retains that creamy quinoa feel, with the grains almost popping in your mouth.  Yum city.

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Right?  The watermelon has pretty much taken over the front bed, creeping into every available space.  I figure it’ll keep weeding to a minimum in that area, so I’ve been letting it spread.  Had I thought ahead (as every story about my burgeoning gardening skills starts), I would have planted the melon closer to the house – I’ve been reading up about training melons up a trellis, simply creating pantyhose slings for the fruit, and it sounds so space efficient and clever.  Maybe next year.  The plant seems happy though, as we have lots of these little babies sprouting up all along the vine.

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Awww….

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I’ve been a little distracted lately, so haven’t been posting very much.  A new quarter started so I’m teaching again, work is pretty busy and the rest of my time is taken up with caterpillar war.  The important things.

Because there’s been so much happening outside the kitchen, I’ve been throwing together old favorites and easy improvisations, none great enough to share.  I may have made another carrot cake.  Or two.  What?  Totally rich in beta carotene.  Don’t look at me like that.

The one accomplishment I’ve made in the kitchen this week is to put together single-serve meals for a friend who’s been under the weather.  Nothing says love like mini lasagnas, right?

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You can look here for the recipe.  Other than that this weekend, I’ve been taking a cue from Norman.  My position of choice at the moment looks a lot like this:

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Zzzzz….  See you on the flip side.

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I rushed home from work in order to get started on using up our glut of produce.  I improvised a raw beet salad, popped the zucchini pie in the oven, then I went out to the garden for my new favorite pastime of caterpillar picking.  Those bums have burrowed holes in more of my green tomatoes – they’re infuriating, so I’m being vigilant and trying to smoosh them before they do any more damage.  I’ve gotten over any squeamishness I may have had at first, because after all – this is tomato war.  It’s not uncommon for a neighbor to hear faint mutterings outside their window while I curse these green wriggly bastards.

Anyway.  On to the point of my story, which is that a gathering of our neighbors started to form, Chris came home from work, and we all congregated for a nice evening.  The zucchini pie came out of the oven, the beet salad came out of the fridge, and we talked the night away.  Everyone said they enjoyed the pie, but I think it still needs some tweaking, so I won’t share that one right away.  My salad creation, however, is ready for print. 

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Community Beet Salad

A note: you may want to break out the food processor for this one if you want a quick salad.  Don’t worry about rinsing it between ingredients – they’re all going to turn red anyway. 

For the salad:

2-3 large beets, peeled and grated
4-5 carrots, grated
8-10 radishes, grated
a small handful fresh basil, cut into chiffonade
1 orange, peeled, sectioned and cut into small pieces
one large handful sunflower seeds

For the dressing:

yikes – this is going to be a bit rough, as I measured nothing.  Here goes…

about 1/3 cup good olive oil
about 3 Tbsp orange muscat champagne vinegar – I found this at Trader Joe’s – you could use another mild vinegar and some orange juice for the same effect
2 small cloves garlic, pressed
salt and pepper to taste

Here’s the instructions.  Toss, stir, serve.  Perfect for an evening you’d rather spend outside with lovely company.  Here’s a vague idea of the solar lights – I’ve not gotten any better at photographing them, unfortunately…

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Tea(light) time

We stood outside, looking up at the house.  Our string of solar lights outlining the eaves was glowing blue with a harshness that didn’t do anything for the house.  At the same time, the beautiful covered tea lights that my lovely sister gave me were hanging between our houses, unlit due to a lack of extension cords.  I credit the ingenious solving of this problem to our neighbor Adam, after he and Chris discussed it at length.  Simply disassemble the tea lights to remove the pretty reflectors, triple up the strand of solar lights, climb up on the roof to plant the solar panel and voila – powerless beauty. 

I stayed out of it, because these two are perfectionists in the best sense of the word, and I’m a slap-it-together-until-it-sort-of-works kind of a girl.  I spent my time in the garden, ruthlessly seeking out and destroying tomato hornworms while the fellas went to work.

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The result is beautiful, and truly simple.  There’s a light sensor built into the solar panel, so once the sun goes down, these glowing orbs light our path until morning with the power they’ve collected during the day.  Just as soon as I’m home at dusk, I’ll try to capture it in a picture.

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Did y’all know that Marshall’s sells kitchen ware?  I went in for work clothes and left with baking supplies.  Sigh…

The rose-shaped bundt pan was a rational purchase, I swear – I have loads and loads of carrots to be used.  Usually, we just juice them and swig carrot-ginger juice for the week, but we haven’t been motivated to take out the juicer for some reason.  So, I decided to go the opposite route – dessert!

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Adapted from Epicurious:

Carrot-Walnut Bundt Cake with Lemon Cream Cheese Icing

For the cake:

1/2 cup white whole wheat flour
3/4 cup all purpose flour
4 teaspoons cinnamon
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups sugar
3/4 cup canola oil
3 large eggs
3 cups grated carrots 
3/4 cup chopped toasted walnuts

For the icing (my version is pretty lemony, because that’s the way I like it.  If you want it to be a little more cream cheesy, lighten up on the zest/juice):

3/4 cup powdered sugar
3 oz cream cheese at room temperature
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp lemon zest
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup (or more) heavy cream

The cake couldn’t be easier – grease your bundt pan and preheat oven to 350°.  Beat the sugar, eggs and oil until pale and fluffy, then add the flours, cinnamon, soda and salt.  Fold in the carrots and walnuts and transfer to the pan.  Bake about 50 minutes or until a toothpick (or knife) inserted near the center comes out clean.  In the midst of baking this cake, we discovered a free garden window on craigslist that would fit perfectly into our front wall – I’m a little addicted to the free section, and it was first come, first served.  I had to fudge a little on the baking time so we could get out of the house to retrieve our prize.  I upped the temperature while we got ready and turned off the oven before leaving the house – it was risky, but both cake and window were perfect at the end.

For the icing, simply blend together the first 5 ingredients, then blend in enough cream to thin the icing appropriately.  I kept mine fairly thick, but you can easily play with this for some more drip action.  I realize that I’ve totally hidden the rose design with this tactic, but it was worth it.  The ridges allow for more icing to seep through.  Ingenious.

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Love carrots?  They love you too: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7o56zGiRAcQ

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