When you’re cooking with food as alive as this — these gorgeous and semigorgeous fruits and leaves and flesh — you’re in no danger of mistaking it for a commodity, or a fuel, or a collection of chemical nutrients. No, in the eye of the cook or the gardener… this food reveals itself for what it is: no mere thing but a web of relationships among a great many living beings, some of them human, some not, but each of them dependent on each other, and all of them ultimately rooted in soil and nourished by sunlight.
~ Michael Pollan, In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto
If you’re looking for an exciting, exotic, erotic, hot blog post, this is not it. (I do have a dragonfly photo that might qualify, but won’t be posting it today. I caught ’em in the act, so to speak.) The title refers to the weather we’re currently experiencing. It’s only about 90 degrees today. Tomorrow we’re under an excessive heat advisory. Personally, I find the heat to be excessive today. Tomorrow I’ll probably think this was cool in comparison.
The birds don’t appear to paying much attention to the sign. Or if they are, they don’t seem to care. There is a lovely view from that sign, looking out over farms, fields, and the city of Lancaster in Pennsylvania.
Some of the comments on my Summer Solstice post (271: Learning to love summer) on Tuesday were mixed and thought-provoking. I didn’t do a count to verify it but it looks like there is a pretty even split between those who love summer and those who don’t. Those who love summer gave some great reasons for doing so. Some of those reasons include:
- Better weather
- Longer days (more sunlight after the long, cold, dark days of winter)
- Flowers in bloom
- Sunrises and sunsets
Some of the descriptions from those who love it include:
- Lazy days
I don’t typically think of stews as a summertime meal. However, Vegetable Stifado from Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home: Fast and Easy Recipes for Any Day is one of my favorite dishes to make this time of year. Almost everything in it can be found locally grown and freshly picked or, better yet, in my garden.
I vary the recipe a little in that I like to add extra tomatoes, peppers, and squash. I use a zucchini and a yellow squash, and 2-3 different colors of peppers (green, red, and yellow were on the menu when I made this the other day, but I’ve also used orange and purple). I leave out the optional okra (because I am not a fan). The potatoes I used when I made this the other day were small, thin-skinned new potatoes so I scrubbed them well and left the skins on. This stew freezes well. The potatoes might get a little mushy but it’s a stew so it works out okay, even thickening it a little. The recipe calls for it to be served over rice. I’ve been known to substitute couscous for the rice.
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large potato (about 2 cups cubed)
- 1 medium eggplant
- 3 cups undrained canned tomatoes (28-ounce can)
- 1-1/2 cups water
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 sprig fresh rosemary (1 scant teaspoon dried)
- 1 medium zucchini or yellow squash
- 1 bell pepper
- 1 cup frozen sliced okra (optional)
- juice of 1 lemon
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill (1 teaspoon dried)
- ground black pepper to taste
- grated feta cheese
In a large stewpot, sauté the onions and garlic in the oil over medium heat until just softened. Cut the potato into 1/2-inch cubes and add to the pot. Cut the eggplant into 1-inch cubes. Add the eggplant and the juice from the tomatoes, setting aside the tomatoes. Stir in the water, salt, and rosemary. Bring the stew to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer, covered, for about 10 minutes. After the first 10 minutes, the stew can be simmered uncovered.
While the stew simmers, cut the squash into 1-inch cubes and the bell pepper into 1-inch pieces. When the potatoes are just beginning to soften, add the squash and bell pepper and continue to cook for 5 minutes. Coarsely chop the reserved tomatoes and add them to the pot, along with the okra, lemon juice, and dill. Simmer for about 5 minutes, until the vegetables are tender. Add black pepper to taste, and remove the rosemary sprig if you used the fresh herb.
Serve topped with feta cheese.
Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home: Fast and Easy Recipes for Any Day is one of my favorite vegetarian cookbooks. There are a lot of good recipes that don’t take nearly as much time as many of the recipes do in Sundays at Moosewood Restaurant: Ethnic and Regional Recipes from the Cooks at the Legendary Restaurant (Cookery). Sundays At Moosewood has some fantastic recipes but they can be complicated and/or time consuming. Moosewood Cooks at Home was a great cookbook to have while I was working (outside of the home) because most of the recipes don’t take that long to prepare and/or cook.
I am happy to report that after 2-1/2 days of kitchen duty, I now have 20 quarts of yellow beans tucked away in the freezer. I may have to give some away. I don’t know what I was thinking when I decided to buy a bushel of the yellow (wax) beans. Next year I think I’ll get a peck of each type of bean they grow at Hilgert’s. There are three varieties of green beans to be found at Hilgert’s (this year, at least): Kentucky Wonders, Bluelake, and Italian. A peck of each plus a peck of the yellow will give me 20 quarts of a variety of beans.
I did blanch and freeze some of the green beans (the Kentucky Wonders and the Italian). I have 8 quarts of those. All in all, that’s a lot of beans! (Does all this counting of quarts of beans make me a bean counter??)
The food is so pretty this time of year.
Everything is so colorful and delicious.
All you need to do is add a few grains and you have the beginnings of a great meal.
In other food adventure news…
Today I finally got back to my cookbook adventures. I may have to rename that as I made something that a friend suggested. I did not follow a recipe, just (some of) her suggestions. I stir-fried some of the fresh yellow beans that I put aside just for that purpose, having picked out nice, slender, tender beans. I added some other veggies I picked up at the Hartville Market yesterday (peppers, candy hybrid onions, carrots, green onions, and zucchini) and then flavored it all with black bean sauce and some chili garlic sauce for heat.
We had it over rice noodles. Delicious, nutritious, and quite satisfying for our “big” Sunday afternoon meal.
I’m excited. The lack of exclamation points might make it seem as if I’m not all that excited but I am. The strawberries are ready for picking at Hilgert’s Farm. Or you can go to the market and buy already picked berries if you’re not up to picking your own. M and I stopped by the market yesterday to buy a quart to sample. I’ll be joining a friend on Wednesday to do some picking. I’d like to freeze a bunch of them this year.
The reason strawberry season excites me so much is because it is the beginning of the fresh, locally grown, produce season. The peas and sugar snap peas will be coming in next. Some of the other farmer’s markets have lettuces, green onions, radishes, and fresh herbs that are locally grown. From now until sometime in November we’ll be eating plenty of fresh fruit and veggies.
We also went to the Hartville Marketplace to see what was available there. As usual, we loaded up on lots of goodies such as red leaf lettuce, radishes, green onions, and new potatoes. We came home and made a lunch that was a feast of mostly locally grown vegetables and fruit (with a few not-local nuts thrown in for good measure).
The rains continue, almost unabated. I’m beginning to feel as though we live in a rain forest during the monsoon season. Everything is lush and green and beautiful. And wet. The pond is filling up nicely. We decided to raise the water level this year to see if that helps with the weed and algae control.
The rain has also brought something that the birds are attracted to and that something is on our deck. I don’t know what it is. There were dozens of birds pecking around on the deck and under the porch, seemingly enjoying whatever it was they were feasting on. Bugs of some kind, perhaps. Or seeds from the trees. I’m not sure. Whatever it is/was, it gave me the opportunity to practice with the zoom on the new camera. Most of the photos were pretty bad. I got lucky with one or two fairly decent shots.
The flamingos are an easy shot since all they do is stand there. They don’t seem to mind the rain although they might be swimming or floating soon if the pond gets much higher.