Valentine’s Day pickled beets + social lubricant sauerkraut

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Some new stuff is coming down the pipe up at the Gazebo. Judy had her ACL surgery, Erin has a campus visit in Missouri, and my schedule for the semester still isn’t set. My boss at the Women’s Center is leaving for a new position at Harvard, and that means…well it might mean a few things for me. Updates to come soon.

Tomorrow is Valentines Day, though, and instead of any fancy plans, I decided to ferment and pickle. Speaking of plumbing (heh) sauerkraut is supposed to be very good for the digestive system and for social confidence! And beets, well, they are red. The deepest of deep, dark, staining reds. A well-lubricated digestive tract + extroversion + red: how’s that for a perfect Valentine’s Day?

So, I pickled some beets.
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Look at that bloody beet carnage. I didn’t kill anyone, but my kitchen was a murder scene.

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I used my mandolin slicer to julienne the beets and I felt like I was dismembering a body. You can only slightly see it in the first picture, but after I piled the julienne slices in the mason jars, I stabbed a few sprigs of rosemary in there for some extra sweet and savory flavor.

After the beets were in their jars, I worked on my kraut. I have been in a serious kraut kick and one of them I bought recently had kale in it!! (I can’t resist some alliterative additions…put a kick of kale in that kraut! okay I’m done).

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That’s a whole head of cabbage and a (rather small) bunch of red kale, the cabbage julienned on the mandolin slicer and the kale knifed to tiny little pieces. After you let it sit in a ton of salt for a few hours, you pack the veggies in a glass jar.

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A surprising amount of cabbage and kale fit into this mid-sized jar. You have to pack it down to squeeze the moisture to the top, crushing the leaves as tightly as possible to form a nice layer of brine at the top. It won’t be quite ready to eat for another 3 or 4 days (I could eat it now but it wouldn’t have the fermented probiotic goodness that apparently is the Valentine’s Day miracle bacteria).

So, happy pickle/ferment day, everyone! (And Happy Valentines, too ❤ )

-B

 

Julienned Pickled Refrigerator Beets

  • 3-4 medium red beets, peeled
  • 4 large sprigs of rosemary
  • 1 cup vinegar
  • 4 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp kosher salt
  • 2 tbsp mustard seeds
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup water
  1. Julienne your beets in whatever method causes the least (or the most, if you prefer) juicy beet carnage. Keep in mind that shit stains.
  2. Split the beets into two clean mason jars, an add the rosemary (2 sprigs per jar).
  3. Combine the vinegar, sugar, salt, mustard seeds, and red pepper flakes in a small saucepan and heat until boiling, whisking the mixture to dissolve the salt and sugar. Once dissolved, turn off heat and stir in water.
  4. Pour the brine over the beets, dividing the liquid equally. Make sure there is enough brine to cover the veggies (if not, add a little more water).
  5. Place in the fridge. They should be ready to eat in about 24 hours!

 

Kitchen Kale Cabbage Kraut (see what I did there?)

  • 1 small head of cabbage, cored
  • 1 small bunch of kale, de-stemmed
  • 4 tbsp salt
  1. Shred the cabbage and kale. You can use a knife, a mandolin slicer – for the cabbage – or a food processor.
  2. Put the kale and cabbage in a large bowl and sprinkle with the salt. Let sit for 3 to 4 hours, allowing the moisture to seep out of the leaves.
  3. Pack your mason jar. Put a few spoonfuls in at a time, and press down to squeeze out more of the juices (this will be the brine!). I used a smaller glass that fit down into the jar to pack the kraut. Keep going until you have packed all of the kraut into the jar.
  4. Weigh the cabbage down with something while it ferments. The internet suggests that you put a smaller glass in the jar weighed down with stones or marbles, so that’s what I did. Cover the jar with a light towel or cheese cloth and secure with a rubber band to allow air to circulate but keep out dust or fruit flies.
  5. Let sit for 3 or 4 days, or longer, depending on the tanginess of your desired kraut. Check the kraut each day and press the glass down further to keep the veggies under the brine.
  6. Eat kraut!

 

Friends & Food

 

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Hi!

So, it’s been awhile. The semester has been busy, to say the least. Busy is sort of a lazy word, though. A by word for stressed, or overwhelmed, or guilty about the things you say no to. Or just an excuse to say no. I have felt like I don’t have a choice about being busy, and neither do any of my friends; we are busy because not to be would mean not trying hard enough, or not working hard enough to achieve our goals. In reality, not being terribly overwhelmed and busy might just mean spending more time with each other, feeling like I have room to breath, cooking dinner for myself when I want to. Or you know, writing in a blog about things I like doing.

For the Thanksgiving break, I have decided to do all of these things, and try not to let myself feel guilty about not taking the time to get more work done. Often, that’s what holiday breaks mean for academics – more time to read and write that you don’t normally get during the semester. The pressure comes not just from myself but from others who expect me to work at a certain pace; those who expect me to always  be busy.

I will continue the tradition of not posting about work on this blog, and instead continue to think about food and friends, in the spirit of this weird holiday (we’re not getting into politics here today). While I helped make most of the dishes we shared on Thursday evening, there were a few that I specifically contributed.

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This pecan pie recipe is from smitten kitchen. I added the leaf embellishment – my mom and I started doing this a few years ago, probably off a tip from Southern Living. smitten, in her greatness, added an option to this recipe to “gild the lily”: aka, add a chocolate ganache bottom. And of course I did that too.

smitten also contributed the recipe for the cocktail that I drank for most of the day (I’m not sure anyone else had any but it was definitely gone by the end of the night).

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This apple cider sangria really got me through. Her recipes are always reliably delicious and aesthetically pleasing.

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Yeast rolls! These turned out better than I could have hoped. I have made this specific recipe a couple of times (it’s Pioneer Woman). I always have to add much more flour than it calls for, though, and it ends up making at least twice as much as the recipe says. If I can get the texture right, which is hard, they are everything I want in a yeast roll. Of course Pioneer Woman’s rolls are way prettier than mine, but I feel like she would say that’s okay. She likes when things looks rustic.

The last thing Bryn was in charge of (and by in charge of I mean I insisted on making it) was a cheese ball. I was inspired by A Cozy’s Kitchen’s pimento cheese ball, but used my mom’s pimento cheese recipe instead (I won’t have it any other way).

This ball was demolished. Here’s the pimento cheese recipe:

  • scant 1 cup mayonnaise (Blue Plate, if you can find it)
  • 1 small jar pimentos
  • 8 ounces Extra Sharp Cheddar, grated on the small side of a box grater
  • 8 ounces Sharp Cheddar, grated on the normal side of a box grater
  • 1 tablespoon grated onion
  • 1 teaspoon Worchestershire sauce

Combine all ingredients. Place in fridge or freeze for at least 15 minutes, while you chop the nuts. Chop 1 cup of pecans, then roll the cheese in the nuts. Voila! Ball of cheese.

We invited all our favorite people (unfortunately, not all of them could be there). It was a beautiful evening, and we were all thankful to be where we were.

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Erin making the place cards (yes those are squids get your mind out of the gutter).

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SAMSUNG CSCThere was lots of apron wearing.

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And cats in sweaters.

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Stuffing prep.

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Friends…

The end.

Happy Holidays,

❤ B

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Fall Gardening in Somerville

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I picked the last four cucumbers from my vines today. The vines were mostly drying up – it is September after all – so I pulled them up to plant more seasonally appropriate vegetables. It was still sad to end their run; there were little buds on the vines that could have, maybe, pulled through if I left them up. Thinking about the history of those plants, though, they probably would have just curled up into little poop-shaped cucumbers and that would be that (see above).

So I pulled them up. I hadn’t realized how long they had gotten, and when I laid them down on the ground I was rather astonished!

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What long vines! And the ends were still fairly good-looking. Well done, strange cucumber plants. On to new ventures.*

*I actually left up one of the small plants, because it still had cucumbers on it…I just couldn’t get rid of all of them at once!

The new vegetables I planted today are: Brussels Sprouts, Swiss Chard, and Broccoli Raab. As in the summer, my only real hope and goal is to have the plants produce at least one thing that I can eat. (P.S. I finally ate my summer kale! I was proud to put it on my pizza).

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Brussels sprouts! Where the cucumbers were before.

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Broccoli Raab, in the failed zucchini containers. Let’s hope they these don’t go the same way!

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Chard – yellow stems! I actually found this large pot in the back yard and I think it will work well.

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Plant cluster.

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This afternoon I plan on pickling one last batch of cucumbers to hold on to a little more of summer. But, I also pulled out the crock pot because it’s wonderfully cool today – one of the first days in the 60s, with a lovely fall chill. I will always mourn the official end of summer, but I’m ready for this beautiful season. Keep your fingers crossed for these little plants!

– Bryn

The Peak of Performance, and the slow roll towards Autumn

Things are starting back up again around here. Library books are overdue, it’s high time my syllabus was finished, and I’m going to have to submit a “what I did with my summer research funding” report soon. I think I will have a proper amount to say in that report, but I always wish I had done more. More! More.

The summer always starts out so promising. You have this long stretch of time in which you think, “I can do anything! And everything! I’m going to the beach three times a week and write drafts of TWO you heard me TWO dissertation chapters and create a blog and post in it every day and make all my food from scratch and I’ll grow all of my own food because that’s possible in a concrete backyard, right?”

Maybe that’s just me. Inevitably, I do a couple of the items on my grocery list of ambition, but most of it is actually not possible. Granted, that rant was a bit of an exaggeration, but only a bit. I actually did think I was going to get drafts of two chapters under my belt. I actually did think I was going to get to the beach like once a week. I really wanted to grow some vegetables and cook as much of them as possible. And I did at least a fraction of all of these things. Let’s review, shall we?

Earlier this summer, I posted about my tiny backyard garden. I was so optimistic! All of the plants were doing great at the beginning of the summer, and I thought I was going to be smoothered in zucchini and cucumbers and herbs for the rest of my days. Well, at least for like a week. BUT, things took a turn.

The cucumbers faired the best. At the peak of their performance, the vines had trellised all the way up the porch railing and up onto the strings of lights hanging a few feet above them.

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See that? The plants actually grew more after this picture was taken – they started creeping to the right along the string of lights (I’m not sure if this was dangerous or not…I assume it’s alright).

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This picture from the back shows more of the creepage (and also more of the neighbor’s porch). They grew so much that they started taking over the herbs in the box above them!

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The green swirly fingers grabbed right on to both the thyme stems and the rosemary. (You can see a little baby cucumber hanging out in there too!)

I had hope from this much promising growth that the plants would produce a lot of healthy cucumbers, but there must not have been enough nutrients in the soil, or not enough sun reaching the back deck, because I didn’t get very many. Most of the little ones, like in the picture above, shriveled, and the ones that did grow didn’t entirely fill out. I would have one cucumber with a big butt and one with a tiny waist; none of them were actually cylindrical, and most curled up into a fat “C.” They actually tasted pretty good, but I had hoped to produce at least one fully formed cucumber.

Some of the other plants did alright for awhile. The dill has completely played out, but I think I could still recover the herbs from the cucumbers with a little effort. I may try to move them inside when it gets cool. The kale isn’t so bad either. I can harvest it soon – but it’s just one wee little plant. The leaves stayed small, but it could still provide a meal.

The zucchini didn’t get nearly as far. One day I went out to water the plants, and every zucchini plant had fallen flat over. The leaves weren’t green, and they looked pretty dead. I talked to my dad, and he mentioned that he had a few squash plants that did the same thing, and he told me a story about a moth. I wish I remembered that moth story, because I could tell you now. But let’s just say, I’m blaming the moth. I tried to rehabilitate the plants, and things were looking promising for awhile; the plants started to have new growth, with green green leaves! But then they stopped growing. I didn’t stop doing my part, but damn it if those plants didn’t quit on me.

It almost felt like the end of the desperate zucchini plants was some sort of signal for me to get back to work. I have actually worked a little bit on my dissertation, and feel okay about the thing right now (surprisingly). I am running a writing retreat for graduate students this very week, and hope to get some words on the page, by god.

When the semester starts, though, I worry that the tenor of this blog might change significantly. So far, it’s mostly been about vegetables with the occasional plant or rant thrown in, and a teeny bit about grad school life. I truly hope to keep it going – it’s so good for me to practice writing of any kind. I will still keep trying to grow some things, definitely cook as much as I can with my schedule, and I’ll be damned if I don’t make it to a beach one last time before the fall begins in earnest, but I also need to think about those dissertation chapters, and how I’m going to juggle three different jobs plus dissertation writing. Oh, did I mention I’m working 15-20 hours a week at the Women’s Center starting in the fall? I am beyond excited, and am so grateful to have this opportunity, but I also don’t see many more zucchini plants in my near future. Let’s just say I’m not aiming for garden + food blog celebrity status just yet 🙂

This is all speculation, of course. And anticipation. Anticipation is always a feeling I associate with fall – that crisp in the air makes you feel like things are about to happen. So here’s to counting down toward September: let me not mourn summer and the loss of my cucumbers too much, and instead get excited about opportunities that await me!

Fried Garlic Scapes + Scape Stir Fry

I have gotten garlic scapes in the last two of my Boston Organics boxes. I have never worked with them before, so I tried to experiment a little bit before I posted a recipe. The first thing I tried was a fried rice/stir fry situation that adapts this Kale Coconut Stir Fry from Cookie & Kate. I used her method: frying the vegetables in batches and then pulling everything together at the end, seasoning at each stage. I decided to use the scapes in the stir fry and also pan fry them separately so they get crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. The dish turned out to have a great flavor, and to add some extra protein for those who are looking, I fried an egg to throw on top. Unfortunately, I didn’t take pretty photos the first time I made the dish, so it was a huge bummer to have to make it again 😉 I had different vegetables this time though – bell peppers, sugar snap peas, and of course the garlic scapes.

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The next recipe I made with the scapes was a pesto. I also had dandelion greens in my box, so I blended them together with some walnuts and parmesan cheese. It was less than stellar the first day, but after the flavors had a chance to mix and brighten in the fridge for a day, it was quite delicious. I sauteed some patty pan squash and served it with cheese tortellini, and though it didn’t make the best entree, the cold salad from the fridge the next day was deli-worthy.

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The colors in the stir fry make me very happy. You can just see the head of a garlic scape poking out of there. I halved the snap peas so that everything would cook at a similar rate. For the fried scapes, I curled them into individual bundles so they would be easier to manage (and look pretty too!). Trim off the harder, woodier ends of the scapes – it gets tough, kind of like asparagus – as well as the very end next to the bulb. The little bulbs taste the most like garlic.

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Finished product! The light had faded by the time I took these photos, so they don’t look quite as good as the fresh veggies, but you can see the crispy fried garlic scapes on top. Time for a recipe!

Organic Vegetable Stir Fry with Fried Garlic Scapes 

Ingredients

– about 2-3 cups chopped vegetables of your choice. I used:

1 orange bell pepper, sliced

1 green bell pepper, sliced

about 1.5 cups sugar snap peas, stringed and snapped in half

1 bunch garlic scapes, ends trimmed and diced small (keep out 8 to fry)

– 1/4 cup Coconut flakes (optional; use flakes, not shredded coconut)

– 1.5 cups cooked brown rice

– 1 egg, beaten

–  olive oil

– sesame oil

– soy sauce

– salt and pepper, to taste

– sriracha sauce

1. In a large frying pan over medium heat, scramble the egg until lightly set in 1 tsp olive oil. Add a dash of salt and pepper, then remove the egg to a bowl and set aside.

2. In the same pan, add 1 tsp of olive oil and 1 tsp of sesame oil. Add the garlic scapes with some salt and pepper and cook for about 6 minutes with a lid on, but stirring frequently. Add the rest of the vegetables and another teaspoon of olive oil, a dash of salt and pepper, and about 1/4 tsp of soy sauce. Cook for another 6-7 minutes, until the vegetables reach your desired level of tenderness. I kept the lid on my pan for awhile so that they would cook through but still reach a nice level of brownness. Add the cooked vegetables to the bowl with the egg and set aside.

3. Add the coconut flakes to the same pan with 1 tsp sesame oil. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until lightly browed and aromatic. Add your cooked brown rice to the pan, along with 2 tsp soy sauce and 2 tsp sriracha (more or less depending on level of heat desired). Cook until heated through, then add the veggies back to the pan, warming everything evenly.

4. Meanwhile, fry your garlic scapes. Use the 8 scapes you have set aside and curl them into bundles (see photo above). In another frying pan, heat 1 tsp of olive oil. Add the bundled scapes and fry for about 5 minutes on each side until you see a nice char forming. You can also add a top to the frying pan to cook the scapes through more quickly. DON’T overcook these though – they will burn easily once they start browning.

5. Divide the stir fry equally into bowls, and topped with your fried scapes. If you are feeling adventurous, fry an egg to go on top and drizzle everything with a little more sriracha. Fin!

Makes 4 large servings 

Domesticity: or, Kitchens and Contradictions

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I recently made a short trip home to see my family. In the summer every year, the Gravitt’s go to Holbrook Campground and sweat our little butts off making food and going to church. As someone who considers themselves a hardline feminist, I have had a hard time over the years embracing some of things I have been expected to do as a southern woman. Though my parents in particular never forced me to do the dishes or help in the kitchen (anymore than my brother), whenever I was with my extended family there was an expectation. Every family gathering – holidays in particular – the extreme pressure to always be in the kitchen reared its divisive head. The men would be in the living room or somewhere else sitting, watching tv, or playing outside, while the women would be constantly frantic, moving dishes from one table to the next, letting the men and children eat first, and half the time never even sitting down to the table. I didn’t feel comfortable in either the living room with the men or in the crowded kitchen with the women. It’s particularly interesting, then, that I’ve taken to cooking as much as I have. Campmeeting specifically is a place that brings these debates and contradictions to the surface for me: most of what the preacher spouts at the altar doesn’t jive with my own moral sensibility, and the women in my family – whether it was my grandmother growing up or my mother now – cook and look after everyone the whole time. Not exactly a feminist utopia. But, I still love being there. I like cooking for my family, and though I don’t normally go to church, I don’t mind sitting on the porch and listening from afar. The place has a specific sense memory that I can trace through all of my 27 years. It’s one of the only times of the year when I see my cousins. It’s weird, and crazy, and a little bigoted and closed minded, and also special.

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I think that some of my interest in 19th century domestic novels comes from my love of cooking, gardening, even freakin’ knitting and cross-stitching. I want to resurrect these activities for myself as things that I choose to do; not that I am pressured into. Also, these aren’t the ONLY things that I like to do. I have a choice. I will work full time and cook for myself and others. When I don’t have time though, I won’t. The ways that women in domestic guides and novels of the nineteenth century find power and energy in the work that they do goes beyond conservative notions of separate spheres and the expectations of gendered roles. These damn beautiful vegetables go way beyond the gender of the person who cut them.

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We used to carry water balloons around in the bowls hanging on this wall. My grandmother worked those bowls to the bone. These bowls carry with them memories of labor.

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That clock still works. It’s still ticking away the time in a place where everything and nothing has changed for me. Though I don’t think I’ll ever fully reconcile my feelings about Campmeeting, I will embrace food, and embrace the “feminised” labor of cooking at home. I will grow food, I will prepare food, and I will eat food in the best way that I can. And, at least for now, I’ll continue to come home during the summer, sweat my butt off cooking at the Campground, and even occasionally listen to a sermon (maybe). But I’ll also sit on this porch, listen to the crickets and the treefrogs, and read about how other women express their contradictions.

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Also, while I was at home, I made several batches of fridge pickles to the general excitement of those who tried them. I decided to share the actual recipe I used for the cucumber pickles here, so that people can come back to it if they want to make them. My two-year old niece, Audrey, for one, really enjoyed them (though I think she would eat any old pickle). The recipe for the brine is from the Smitten Kitchen’s Pickled Vegetable Sandwich Slaw which is also an amazing way to use some of the summer vegetable surplus. I thought this brine worked great with cucumbers. Here’s the recipe:

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Refridgerator Pickles

Brine:

– 1 cup white vinegar

– 3 tbsp sugar

– 2 tbsp kosher salt

– 2 tbsp mustard seed

– 1 cup water

Vegetables:

– ~4 small to medium cucumbers, sliced (2 per jar)

– 4 small cloves of garlic, cut in half (2 per jar)

– 4 large sprigs of fresh dill (2 per jar)

– 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (1/4 per jar)

1. Combine the vinegar, sugar, salt, and mustard seed in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring until the salt and sugar are dissolved. Take the mixture off the heat and pour in the cup of water to cool the brine down slightly.

2. Meanwhile, pack the vegetables into two regular sized canning jars. [I cut my cucumbers into rounds, because I like snacking on them, but I think this recipe would work fine with spears as well. Whole pickles I think would be hard to achieve with this method – they would basically be vinegary cucumbers.] Layer the garlic, dill, and red pepper flakes in with the cucumbers so that the ingredients are somewhat evenly distributed.

3. Pour the brine over the cucumbers until they are completely covered. Try to evenly distribute the mustard seed as well. Put the lids on, and into the fridge they go.

They will be lightly pickled in an hour, and perfect the next day. They should keep about a month in the fridge. Makes 2 jars.

– Bryn

Pickles, Mushrooms, and More

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The last post I wrote had a lot of feelings. My friend Erin posted an article that basically says what I wanted, but is much clearer and better written. The article,  The Supreme Court’s Lonely Heart’s Club, is by Michael Cobb (an English professor…I have so many arguments for the Humanities right now). A brief excerpt, before I move back into the territory of VEGETABLES which is way more fun to write about:

“Marriage equality activists could have pursued a different agenda — challenging the need for sexual scrutiny by the state, and the constellation of benefits that belong to marriage — but they didn’t. Instead of dreaming up new forms of governance, they asked to be ruled by the ones that already exist.

And so old questions remain: Why can’t I put a good friend on my health care plan? Why can’t my neighbor and I file our taxes together so we could save some money, as my parents do? If I failed to make a will, why is it unlikely a dear friend would inherit my estate?

The answers to all these questions are the same: It’s because I’m not having sex with those people. (To make matters worse, that also means we probably didn’t have children together.) For the only thing that truly distinguishes romance and marriage from other loving intimacies like friendships, other familial relationships and close business partnerships is that sex is (or once was) part of the picture.

So yes, marriage equality erases an odious and invidious distinction among straight and us not-straight citizens for which I’m truly glad and which I celebrate. And it’ll make lots of people’s lives better. But it also leaves unexamined the reason sex seems to give you benefits and recognition — and why it orders the world and civilization.”


Mushrooms  

I got another Boston Organics box today, and wanted to write a little bit about what I have been doing with my vegetables. With these beautiful crimini mushrooms, I made a mushroom gravy! (And also biscuits, and smashed potatoes :D)

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Miracle Mushroom Gravy, from The Southern Vegetarian cookbook, by the Chubby Vegetarian  (that Melissa game to me for my birthday a few years ago).

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Verdict: It was not bad. It didn’t necessarily taste like sausage gravy, but it had some nice flavors. The recipe called for sage, and I added it even though I know I don’t really like a lot of sage. If I make it again (which I might, because Judy really liked it), I will probably put less sage in it, and perhaps add a few other kinds of spices to make it more gravy-tasting. Overall, though, good meal!

I also made a homemade mac and cheese and put broccoli in it, and quinoa black bean tacos and used the green bell pepper and avocado from my box of vegetables. Overall, it was a good use of what I got in the Boston Organics box.

As I said before, I just got a new full box of veggies that includes:

– Gala apples

– 1 avocado

– A bunch of bananas

– 1 green bell pepper

– A large bunch of broccoli

– 5 pickling cucumbers

– Garlic Scapes (whaaatttt)

– Mint leaves

– Nectarines

– Anjou Pears

– 2 Zucchini

– A large heard of Escarole

I am brainstorming ideas for Garlic Scapes, which are the top shoots of the garlic bulb. Since I got pickling cucumbers, I decided to immediately  quick pickle them. I couldn’t resist!!

Pickles

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I still had an entire bunch of radishes as well, so I thought I would try pickling them – I saw a recipe for quick pickled radishes last summer, and never got around to making them. I combined that recipe with one from Smitten Kitchen that gave me a nice vinegar base to work with.

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For the radish pickles, I threw in a jalapeno pepper, lots of mustard seeds, and lots of fresh dill from my flourishing dill plant in the back yard.

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Arren’t they just gorgeous? A little Christmas-y, perhaps, but I’m loving in. For the cucumber pickles, I kept the dill and mustard seeds, and instead of the jalapeno, added some red pepper flakes and a large garlic clove. 20150701_140100

They look great in my fridge. Here’s hoping they taste great too!

– Bryn

Roasted Potato Leek Soup + Tiny Garden

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Though I have been working on my dissertation – mostly reading and taking notes – I have also been trying to cook more, and have started up my subscription to the organic produce delivery service, Boston Organics. Basically, they send you a box of fruits and veggies every week or two; you can choose certain things not to include (like, if you hate onions), but otherwise it’s the freshest most local assortment they can procure for that week. It’s great for me right now because it forces me to be a little more creative with my meals; rather than just making recipes off blogs, I have to think of what I can make with the ingredients on hand.

This week, the box included lacinato (dinosaur) kale, leeks, potatoes, broccoli, chives, an avocado, a green bell pepper, crimini mushrooms, plums, bananas, gala apples, and 2 anjou pears. Quite the bounty! I have to admit though, I wasn’t terribly creative with my first recipe. I saw leeks and potatoes, and went straight to roasted potato leek soup. I know it’s not seasonal – soup in the summer? It seems like there are two kinds of soup people: soup-is-for-winter-only people, and I-like-soup-enough-to-make-it-in-the-summer folks. It looks like I’m the latter! The weather hasn’t turned that hot yet, anyway; we haven’t put the AC’s in yet, and can get by with fans circulating the air from the open windows. So, I decided to roughly adapt this recipe from Ina Garten that is probably my favorite soup recipe I’ve ever made. Her version includes arugula, creme fraiche, and heavy cream, none of which were in my refrigerator, so I threw in what I had instead: buttermilk, sour cream, carrots, and celery, for that extra flavor the arugula would add.

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Ina has this lovely recipe for crispy shallots that she serves with her soup, but they take quite awhile to make. Instead I opted to make kale chips for the crunchy bits on top. Here’s my recipe for Roasted Potato Leek Soup with Crispy Kale:

Ingredients

Soup:

2.5 pounds white or gold potatoes, peeled and chopped small

2 large celery sticks, ends removed, roughly chopped

3 small or 2 large carrots, peeled and chopped small

2-3 leeks, dark green parts removed, washed thoroughly and chopped

salt and pepper

3 tbsp olive oil

1/3 cup white wine, plus 2 tbsp

4 cups vegetable stock (may need 1 extra cup, depending on how thick/thin you like your soup)

3/4 cup buttermilk

6 oz. sour cream

1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese, plus more for serving

Kale chips: 

1 bunch lacinato kale, stems removed and chopped into 1-2 inch pieces

2 tbsp olive oil

salt and pepper

red pepper flakes

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Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper, and place chopped potatoes, leeks, carrots, and celery on top. Toss with 3 tbsp olive oil, and sprinkle with 1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp coarse ground pepper. Roast in the oven for 35-40 minutes, until tender and golden. Flip the veggies with a spatula halfway through cooking.

2. After roasting, deglaze the sheet pan with the white wine, and stir veggies with spatula to scrape up the roasted bits on the sheet pan. Put all of the wine-veggies in a large stock pot or dutch oven, and cover with the 4 cups of broth. Using an immersion blender, blend the vegetables with the broth until your desired consistency (I like my soup relatively smooth, so I blended it for quite awhile). If you don’t have an immersion blender, you should get one; just kidding – you can use a food processor or blender and blend the stock with the vegetables in batches.

3. Place the pot with the blended soup over a stove eye on medium heat, and stir in buttermilk and sour cream. Reheat slowly, stirring frequently.

4. While the soup is reheating, toss the chopped kale with 2 tbsp olive oil, 1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp pepper, and 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes. Place on a parchment lined baking sheet in the 400 degree oven. Roast kale until crispy, about 15-20 minutes, flipping and stirring halfway through with a spatula. Really watch the kale – it will burn quickly once it reaches the right amount of crispy.

5. After the soup is heated through, stir in the parmesan cheese and add an additional 1-2 tbsp of white wine. Taste for seasonings, and add a dash of salt and pepper if needed.

To serve, ladel the soup into bowls and top with crispy kale. Drink the leftover white wine on the side!

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In other news, and to completely change the subject, my garden has been growing! The zucchini is particularly flourishing, and the cucumber plants are trellising up some string I placed on the railing. Very exciting! Before and after pics:

Cucumber plants, soon after I planted them:

20150604_101136Cucumber plants now! Note the little swirlies (technical term, I know) creeping up that string:

20150622_135722 20150622_135654Zucchini plants, soon after I planted them (they were larger than the cucumber plants to begin with, and this is not the best picture):

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Little kale:

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Now, the zucchini and kale together! They are looking great:

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You might not be able to tell from the pictures, but the kale has gotten larger and sprouted new leaves. There were originally six small zucchini plants, but the weakest from each container was killed off by the other two stronger plants. Now there are small buds that I think will be flowers, which will produce zucchini. I really hope that I can get at least a few zucchini and cucumbers from these plants. I haven’t been a terribly successful gardener in the past, for various reasons: apartment living and moving every year or so, poor ground soil, and one particularly resilient ground hog. This time, I’m hoping my little plants pull through! For now, I will go eat my non-seasonal leftover soup 🙂

Polenta Fries, Pizzettes, a Cat and a Conference

This week is spring break for students at Tufts, and my advisor asked me to cat sit for the week while she is away with her family. I gladly accepted, 1) because it’s a little extra money and being a grad student isn’t the most glamorous of titles, and 2) because I can stay in her giant and beautiful house in Brookline and get some work done in peace and quiet. I currently live with four other people, which is wonderful – I love living communally and think it’s better for myself and the world. BUT, this has been a great opportunity to be alone in a quiet space, something that is a bit of a luxury. I’ve been working on a conference paper that I need to submit on Friday that is based on one of the chapters of my dissertation on Mary Shelley and Emily Bronte. It’s been a nice break from writing my dissertation prospectus (an outline of sorts that serves as a proposal for your dissertation project). The house I’m staying in also has a gorgeous open kitchen with big windows, so I thought I would take advantage of the natural light and do a little cooking while I’m here. Last night I made mini pizzas with roasted garlic, pesto, and olives (I can’t believe I called them pizzettes in the title, but what-are-ya-gunna-do) and Parmesan Polenta fries, both of which I am particularly proud of. I am staying here a few nights, and needed to get a few ingredients that I could use for more than one meal, so I decided to use tortillas for the pizza crusts here (I will probably make some sort of taco tomorrow). You could use any sort of flat, bread-like item you have on hand; these tortillas are a mixture of corn and wheat, but gluten free corn tortillas, pita bread, or even naan I think could work equally well.

Ingredients: small corn and wheat tortillas, kalamata olives, pesto, provolone and mozzarella cheese, and roasted garlic
Ingredients: small corn and wheat tortillas, kalamata olives, pesto, provolone and mozzarella cheese, and roasted garlic

First, roast two bulbs of garlic (I saved one for later because I LOVE IT). Strip off the excess skin around the bulb, and then chop off the top so you can see the tops of the cloves. Then drizzle it in olive oil and wrap it in either foil or parchment paper. Roast at 400 degrees until soft, about 40 minutes.

I started the Polenta Fries right after I threw the garlic in the oven – they will be finished before your pizzas, but they make a great appetizer 🙂 Start with a tube of Polenta. You could make your own, but using a tube is much faster and its already as firm as you need it to be to make fries. Cut the polenta into fries – I cut mine in half down the middle, and then eye-balled how big I thought a normal fry was. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Place the fries on a baking sheet, and then give them a good drizzle of olive oil (or, as Rachel Ray calls it, EVOO). I then sprinkled them with salt and pepper and grated some fresh parmesan cheese over them. Put them in the oven with your garlic and bake until crispy, approximately 30 minutes.

Polenta fries coated in olive oil, salt, pepper, and parmesan cheese, ready to go in the oven.
Polenta fries coated in olive oil, salt, pepper, and parmesan cheese, ready to go in the oven.

While the fries are cooking and the garlic is roasting, prep your ingredients for the mini pizzas. You can really put anything you want on these, but if you want the tortilla to stay crispy, make sure you don’t overload it with toppings. I started by putting the tortillas on a baking sheet and baking them along with the fries and garlic. You can skip this step, but your crust won’t be as crispy on the bottom. After the tortillas crisp up a little (about ten minutes in the oven) put on your toppings! Here’s how I did mine:

Pesto
Pesto
Freshly grated cheese - You can use any kind, but I used a little provolone and mozzarella
Freshly grated cheese – You can use any kind, but I used a little provolone and mozzarella
Sliced kalamata olives
Sliced kalamata olives
Roasted garlic
Roasted garlic

After taking the garlic out of the oven, I let it cool a little bit while working with the other ingredients, and then just gave it a good squeeze over the pizzas until I was satisfied. The one pictured above has quite a bit of garlic on it, but as you know if you’ve roasted garlic before, the flavor mellows enough that you could eat an entire bulb of it (at least I can). Use your discretion 🙂 Then just pop them in the oven that is still hot from baking the fries, roasting the garlic, and crisping your tortillas, and bake until the cheese is nice and bubbly.

Final cheesy crispy salty garlicky product
Final cheesy crispy salty garlicky product

If you haven’t already eaten all of your polenta fries, they go quite well together.

Polenta Fries with Parmesan, salt, and pepper
Polenta Fries with Parmesan, salt, and pepper

The Polenta fries were definitely a winner. When I make the mini pizzas again, I might use less pesto or even leave the pesto off entirely, and make sure I get olives that are packed in brine and not olive oil, because they turned out a tid bit greasy. I still loved the flavors though!

Anyway, back to cuddling with this guy, and attempting to write something convincing about books!

Sebastian the cat
Sebastian the cat

– Bryn

Condensed recipe

Garlic, Olive, and Pesto Pizzettes with Parmesan Polenta Fries 

Polenta Fries:

– 1 prepackaged tube Polenta

– 2 tbsp olive oil

– 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

– 1/4 tsp salt + 1/4 tsp pepper

1.Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Cut the tube of polenta into small fries and place on a large baking sheet.

2. Drizzle fries with olive oil and sprinkle with Parmesan, salt, and pepper.

3. Bake until crispy, about 30 minutes. Serve warm.

Makes about 30 fries 

Pizzettes:

– 4-6 corn and wheat tortillas

– 2 bulbs garlic

– drizzle olive oil

– 1/4 cup prepared pesto

– ~3/4 cup grated cheese (I used a mix of provolone and mozzarella)

– 1/4 cup kalamata olives, sliced

1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Remove excess skin from garlic bulbs, chop off their tops so the cloves are exposed, and drizzle with olive oil. Wrap in either parchment or foil, and roast for about 40 minutes, or until soft (I tested mine with a small fork to make sure they were done). Let cool slightly before handling.

2. Crisp the tortillas. Place tortillas on a baking sheet and put in oven while the garlic is roasting. Bake for ten minutes or until the tortillas are crispy.

3. Top the pizzas. Distribute your toppings equally among the tortillas. I put the pesto sauce on first, then the grated cheese, olives, and finally the roasted garlic. Squeeze the bulb of garlic and the soft, roasted cloves should pop right out. Add the garlic to taste.

4. Place the pizzas, on the baking sheet, back in the 400 degree oven and bake until the cheese is melted and bubbly.

Makes 4-6 mini pizzas