Sunday, June 23, 2013

Happy Summer!

Hello zucchini, tomatoes, eggplant, and pepeprs. Hello summer!

 Cucumbers are coming.

Beans are growing.

The romas are here. Can't wait for fresh sauce.

And breakfast tacos.

I have zucchini on the brain:
stuffed zucchini
zucchini lasagna
zucchini bread
zucchini lakes
zucchini tortilla espanola.

What are you doing with all your zucchini?

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Father's Day Breakfast Hash

I had to work in the afternoon on Father's Day, so I asked my husband what he wanted for brunch. "Hash," he said. And so it was.

We had some lovely little organic potatoes that we like to halve or quarter and then roast until they're creamy on inside and toasty on the outside. I think it's really important to buy potatoes organic, just for the flavor. I also had some radishes and new onions from the farmer's market.

This guy was helping me. I think he's going to be a chef when he grows up. He loves to take all my cookbooks off the shelf.

Chop all the veggies, toss with salt, pepper, olive oil, and some crushed red pepper flakes.

Roast in the oven at 425F for 45 minutes-1 hour, until everything is soft and robust.

Meanwhile, fry up some bacon and poach some eggs. Don't forget the coffee.

Father's Day Breakfast Hash
serves four

8-12 small organic potatoes, halved or quartered
1 bunch radishes, halved or quartered
2 small new onions, quartered
1 bell pepper, sliced thin
2-3 small carrots, peeled and chopped into thick coins
a few tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper
red pepper flakes
1-2 eggs per person
2-3 slices of bacon per person
a handful of scallions and fresh herbs or greens
parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 425F. Prepare the potatoes, radishes, onions, bell pepper, and carrots, and toss in a baking dish with olive oil, salt, pepper, and the red pepper flakes. Place in the oven and roast for 45 minutes-1 hour, until everything is tender and the flavors are concentrated.

Meanwhile, fry the bacon to your liking and poach the eggs.

Here is how I poach eggs:
Heat a large saute pan with a few inches of water to almost simmering. You want to see bubbles on the bottom and steam coming off the water, but no active bubbling. Add a glug of white vinegar. This will help the whites stick together. One at a time, crack the eggs into a small bowl to make sure the yolk stays intact. Use a spoon to create a whirlpool in the nearly simmering water and slide the egg in. I cook 4 eggs at a time in my 12 inch saute pan. Poach for 2-3 minutes, until the whites are cooked and the yolks still runny.

When you're ready to dish up, mound the potato hash in the center of the plate, top with 2-3 slices of bacon, 1-2 poached eggs, a sprinkle of scallions and basil, and a shower of fresh grated parmesan cheese.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

A baby bird fell out of a tree: on learning to fly

 We've become familiar with our feathered neighbors this spring: the hummingbirds who are always vying for ownership of the feeder, the little brown birds who fly around in a pair making high-pitched cheeping sounds, and the scrub jay family who are nesting in the tree on the west side of the yard, near the fence.

I was pottering in the garden yesterday afternoon when I noticed something tiny and fluffy flapping and cheeping on the ground in the fallen leaves near the fence. It was a baby scrub jay, fallen from the nest. One of the parents was hopping around near it, looking concerned. The little chick can't fly yet.

We didn't know what to do. They looked like a family in crisis, a nestling on the ground and the nest so high up. That little bird just a ball of dandelion fluff. I didn't believe it would last the night.

We did some research and contacted some wildlife rescue people. They said to leave the bird where it is, that it is a fledgling and often they spend a few days on the ground before they learn to fly. The parents will watch over it and feed it, and they will hear the baby call.

We kept an eye on it yesterday, concerned because we didn't see the parents around much. We kept the cats inside and hoped a raccoon wouldn't find it. I am so tender-hearted, even worse than usual these days, and that scared little chicky made me so sad. It looked so vulnerable, sitting on the ground in its tender baby fluff, about to spend its first night out of the nest.

I keep thinking of Pema Chodron's passage about the baby bird:

...Another image for maitri or loving-kindness is that of a mother bird who protects and cares for her young until they are strong enough to fly away. People sometimes ask, "Who am I in this image--the mother or the chicks?" The answer is we're both: both the loving mother and those ugly little chicks. It's easy to identify with the babies--blind, raw, and desperate for attention. We are a poignant mixture of something that isn't all that beautiful and yet is dearly loved. 
I feel like that baby bird a lot, since becoming a mother: vulnerable, uncertain, and completely ill-equipped for life outside the nest . Sometimes I lose the mother bird part of me, and all I feel inside are those hungry chicks, cheeping cheeping. Now I have to take care of my own inner baby bird, and my outer baby bird who always needs physical and emotional caretaking. (And my husband's baby bird, who I love as much as my own.)

But I can see what that baby scrub jay outside in my back yard can't: the parents are there, watching out, and so am I, a benevolent gardener. This is what's supposed to happen. This happens to all baby birds learning to fly: they spend some cold nights on the ground. It's lonely and painful, but a part of the process. This bird is lucky it fell on our side of the fence, and not the neighbors' side where the pit bull lives. Its feather will grow in and it will learn to fly. 

Monday, June 10, 2013

Surprisingly Delicious Use-Up-All-The-Zucchini Spaghetti

It is the beginning of June. Already we have a glut of zucchini. I harvested these from our Eight-Ball zucchini plant over the last couple of days, and there's a lot more coming. I am always on the lookout for zucchini recipes.

This recipe I picked up on my travels in Sorrento, Italy. I am not a huge zucchini lover, and when we made it in my cooking class at Mami Camilla's, I was doubtful I would like it much. But there's magic in Italian cooking. This recipe is so simple: zucchini, olive oil, parmesan, basil, salt, pepper, but the product is much more than the sum of its parts. Cooking the zucchini down until it is a soft, saucy mush brings out the natural buttery, nuttiness of the squash. Good parmesan, pecorino, and basil elevate this dish to a summer favorite. And, best of all, it is a fantastic answer to the gardener's dilemma of, "What to do with all that squash?" This sauce is best with fresh pasta, but dried will do.

Surprisingly Delicious Use-Up-All-The-Zucchini Spaghetti

6-7 medium zucchini, sliced in thin coins
a fearless pour of good olive oil
salt and black pepper, be generous
a large handful grated parmesan reggiano
a smaller handful grated pecorino romano
a small bunch basil leaves, chopped or sliced
1 pound spaghetti

Put a large pot of water on to boil.
Put a saute pan on medium heat, and add a good pour of olive oil. You want to cover the bottom of the pan, probably half a cup or so.
Slice the zucchini into thin rounds and add to the hot oil. Salt generously so the water will come out and evaporate off. Fry the zucchini until soft and lightly browned, about 20 minutes.
When the water is boiling, salt the water generously, add the pasta and follow the package instructions.
While things are cooking, grate the cheeses and chop the basil.
When the spaghetti is al dente, reserve a mug full of pasta water, then drain.
Add the spaghetti, cheese, and basil to the saute pan with the zucchini. Toss well. Add pasta water to create a creamy sauce. Salt and pepper to taste.

Buon appetito! 

Linked to: From the Farm Blog HopIndependence Days ChallengeTuned-In Tuesday Blog Hop

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

What's happening in the garden in June?

 The first tomatoes are ripening. 

 The coreopsis is blooming.

 The tomatoes have already overgrown their cages.

 We're eating little eight-ball zucchini squash. So far we're keeping up.

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