Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Golden Pasta and Cauliflower Salad

This is almost exactly as in The Ultimate Uncheese Cookbook, except we didn't have bell peppers or water chestnuts, so I didn't put them in. They would have been nice for a bit of extra contrast but I enjoyed this as it was.

Angeline made the greens with contents from our CSA box, to go with the salad.

I also made the "Colby Cheez" from the Ultimate Uncheese Cookbook, which is currently chilling in the fridge. I'll post about that when it's done.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

May 18th, Biointensive bed

Good week for this bed, except for whatever's eating the seedlings at night...I've lost nearly all of the carrot seedlings :( I've been putting crates over the beans and cucumbers at night and I put out some slug bait (the pennies are also an attempt at slug control) and things are better, but I didn't protect the carrots at all and that was a mistake. I'll re-seed them next week. Still haven't planted the onions. The tomatoes are mostly doing well, canteloupe is holding up, corn is growing like crazy, and the potatoes finally came up. No summer squash yet, though...

May 18th, raised beds

It's been HOT this week, up to 100 degrees a couple of days (!) Tomatoes are doing well in the heat and everything else is hanging in there. The lettuce is coming along but the spinach is really slow. The winter squash is taking over its bed, the zucchini is just starting to get moving, and the bell peppers have hardly done anything since I transplanted them: I may need to replace them with nursery plants. The herbs are all doing well.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

May 11th, Biointensive bed

You can't really see anything here, but the beans, cucumbers, canteloupe, and corn are coming up, along with the basil and marigolds here and there. Tomatoes are doing well but not amazing, I put some fertilizer spikes near each one and hopefully that will help: I also picked off a few bugs from the undersides of the leaves.

May 11th, raised beds

May 4th, Biointensive bed

May 4th, raised beds

Steamed carrots, leeks, and baby turnips; sauteed baby turnip greens

Originally uploaded by wbajzek
For lunch today I steamed the carrots, leeks, and baby turnips. The steaming water had some earl gray tea and rosemary from the yard in it; it added a subtle but nice flavor to them. When done, I poured on a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper, and stirred it up.

Meanwhile, I washed, chopped, and sauteed the greens from the baby turnips with a bit of grated ginger.

We still have more greens (kale, I think), so I may sautee them and serve them for dinner with the leftovers c, l, and bts from lunch.

Mac and Uncheese

Mac and Uncheese
Originally uploaded by wbajzek
This is based on the "ultimate mac and uncheese sauce" from the Ultimate Uncheese Cookbook, plus fresh herbs and minus the powdered onion and garlic. I don't have either, and can't handle much garlic anyway, it makes me queasy. It was definitely more cheese-like than my own improvised uncheeses. It was pretty good, but next time I will not use the garbanzo flour, which has too strong of a taste, and I may need to add more mustard or something to give it a bit more zip.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Cake Maker to the Stars: From caterpillars to caterpillar rolls...

Kittee just posted this, with lots of gorgeous photos. I only finished lunch a half hour ago, and suddenly I'm all hungry again. I'm going to have to make something like this sometime. I wonder if we already have a reasonable substitute for bamboo sushi rollers... I'd rather not buy more gear if I can avoid it. 

Sauteed agretti and kale with ginger

Wednesday is delivery day from our CSA, and we have a lot leftover from last week. Since I'm working from home today, I decided to prepare some as an experiment and perhaps as lunch if it turned out well.

This is agretti and kale sauteed with ginger. Actually, I steamed them for 5 minutes or so first. I think it's pretty fantastic, the sweet/salty/savory flavor of the agretti compliments the kale well, and the ginger ties them together.

I wasn't sure what to do with the agretti at first, but the stems seem to be edible so just cut the ends off and you're good to go. 

Monday, May 5, 2008

Solar-baked beer bread take two

Solar-baked beer bread take two
Originally uploaded by wbajzek
The recipe is similar to the previous, except the flour is all-purpose, the beer is Oatmeal Stout, and instead of containing seeds and such, it has chopped, fresh sage and mint. I also put in some nutritional yeast which, now that I think about it, I may have put in the last one as well. 

This was cooked in a black aluminum roasting pan rather than the cast-iron dutch oven like the last time I made beer bread. Something I had not posted about yet is that we had attempted to bake a focaccia roll several days ago and it was set on aluminum foil directly on the bottom of the pan. The top was well done and the bottom was not cooked at all. This time, the loaf was cooked in a pyrex dish again, which I set atop "stilts" (a pair of ramekins) to make sure the hot air circulated below.

As you can see, it has a substantial crust on the top, and none to speak of where it was in contact with the pyrex. I suspect the temperature got hotter more quickly, creating the crust and sealing in the moisture below, because the bottom has a VERY moist, almost cake-like consistency to it. When I saw it, I was sure it was going to be a failure, but in fact, it's not.

Taking a tip from someone's blog post (sorry, it was a long time ago and I forgot who), I have been keeping a jar of olive oil in the fridge, which has congealed into a somewhat spreadable glop. A little bit of that on this bread was a lovely combination.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Still here...

A quick post, mostly to notate the schedule of things so far this year so I can remember what happened when. The onion seedlings got hit by fungus gnats and so they all had to be tossed out, I think I did that in the last week of February. The weekend of March 22-23 I started working on the raised beds and got the chard transplanted and the spinach and lettuce seeds into the 3x3 bed. The following week, (Spring Break, more or less) I got my seed potatoes in the mail and set them to sprout in a box, and also placed the two 3x6 beds where I wanted them in the backyard. I loosened the soil under the beds so the drainage would be better (the soil here is very thick clay) and planned out what would go where. I also started tomatoes, bell peppers, and more onions (regular and green) in pots on the porch.

The weekend of April 5-6 I filled one of the 3x6 beds with SummerWinds planting mix and put in leek seeds, zucchini seeds, and delicata squash seeds, along with nasturtiums, zinnias, and cosmos, all started as seeds. I also marked out and started double-digging the 100 sq. ft. Biointensive bed. The digging was tough at first but it was better once I established a rhythm. If I had been thinking ahead I would have done the double-digging last fall and planted buckwheat or vetch to get the soil going, but...oh well. I got about 3/4 of the bed dug that weekend and kept it watered so the soil wouldn't turn into brick. I also planted oregano, basil, marjoram, dill, tarragon, sage, and cilantro in the herb bed, to go along with the parsley, mint, oregano, sage, and thyme that survived from last year. Borage and marigold seeds, too, and there are Shasta daisies and white alyssum left over from last year that are flourishing as well. Somewhere around this time I planted some arugula in the 3x3 bed but I can't remember exactly when that was.

The weekend of April 26-27 I filled up the last 3x6 bed with planting mix and put in sweet and Thai basil (from the nursery) and the tomato plants that I started from seeds: Brandywine, Yellow Brandywine, two Romas, and a Green Zebra (I bought that at the Farmer's Market in Mountain View, my Green Zebra seedling inexplicably died one day). I also put in seeds: Genovese basil, marigolds, and cosmos, and transplanted some of the basil and the dill from the herb bed since they weren't looking too good. Biointensive bed: I sifted in some compost over about 1/2 of the bed and loosened the top 2 inches or so of the soil to get the compost mixed in.

Yesterday I finished double-digging the Biointensive bed and planted the potatoes as I was digging. There are 5 rows of Yukon Gold potatoes. I also finished sifting compost over the rest of the bed. Today I planted seeds in that bed: corn, summer squash, canteloupe, carrots, cucumber, and beans. I put in 3 tomato plants from my seedlings - 2 Rutgers and a Brandywine - and put in some Roma seeds since the 4th tomato plant didn't survive the transplanting process. There are also some basil, marigold, and Sweet William (dianthus) seeds in there and I plan to put in more flowers. I transplanted the bell pepper seedlings into the bed with the leeks, winter squash, and zucchini and also moved a couple of other things around since I got several seedling that had come up right next to each other. The onions are still in their pots: I'll transplant them soon.

Our garage has so much stuff left by previous tenants in it that we can nearly always find something we're looking for out there. We've found nails, plywood, and plastic netting for fencing so I read that the carrots should have burlap or shade netting over them (on the ground) until the seedlings come up so I went looking around and there was some burlap! I love this house.

Vegans, vegetarians, and the rest

I'm not vegan. I think I would like to be, but I haven't made the leap yet. However, I believe that nearly every meal I have posted to this blog has been vegan or very nearly so... It's hard to say for sure because I know some already-prepared foods, like the beer in the beer bread, could potentially be non-vegan. Everything had been good, and some things, like tonight's dinner, I thought were really excellent. Full of flavor and texture, and quite satisfying. 

Most of the time when I eat out, I go to places that I know can provide a similar experience. There are not many choices within walking distance of my office, but I know that I can get an enjoyable meal at any of the indian, japanese, and thai restaurants (relatively) nearby. Yes, I realize that thai food which claims to be vegetarian often still contains fish sauce, but to me that is not that big of a deal, as I will occasionally eat fish with no issue.

You see, I discovered several years ago that eating meat was making me sick. I've had indigestion and/or other stomach problems for as long as I could remember. One day, I decided I was going to learn to cook for myself, and as I was aware of the (perhaps exaggerated, I don't know) dangers of cross-contamination, I decided to forego the meat until I had developed some skills. A week later, at my next opportunity to eat meat, it dawned on me that I had felt so much healthier since several meatless meals had gone by. It was an epiphany. I've never gone back.

...intentionally, that is, because it turns out that meat is really hard to avoid. A large part of the population assumes that if you don't eat meat, you're a messed up freak. I can deal with that, I guess. The problem is that there's another large part of the population, possibly the largest, who is so unaware of the issue that it perhaps doesn't occur to them that chicken broth, for example, is not vegetarian. There's no "meat" in it, so it's OK, right? The problem for me is that I get sick if I eat such things. Because of this I am considering just telling people that I am allergic to animals and will get sick of I eat any part of them. This is sort of almost true, so I guess I can live with it, except I am tired of being the annoying picky eater everywhere I go. So for the most part I eat at places I know I can trust, and do my best not to be too much of a pain when I go elsewhere, unless I feel like I have no safe option unless I raise a stink about it. 

The flip slide is that occasionally I encounter well-intentioned vegetarian dishes which were clearly designed by people who would never, ever consider eating a meal without meat unless they had to suffer through the creation of such a recipe. I think the big fallacy of the meat-eater's mind is that vegetables have no flavor, and so veggie meals prepared by non-veggies often seem to me to still contain more animal products than vegetables. Cheese, mayo, butter, and anything else that is rich and not-quite-meat. 

I guess I've found that over my five meatless years, my need and desire for such rich food has seriously waned. I am still capable of packing in a lot of rich, heavy food at an indian buffet, I admit it, but for most meals, I get by just fine with something lighter. I have come to enjoy the flavors you find in spices, fresh herbs, organic and heirloom produce FAR more than the surprisingly-small-when-you-think-about-it variety you find in meats and cheeses. I think your average meat-centric food preparer would do well to look into these options, too. It would likely improve their own cuisine, as well as enable them to come up with something a little more creative for the rest of us than pasta alfredo with a white lettuce side salad. 

Spanish rice, black beans, peppers & seitan, cilantro "pesto"

A multi-part preparation... Something I am not always motivated enough to do.

Item one: Spanish rice, made with brown rice, vegetable stock, and a can of stewed tomatoes, the contents of which had been run through the food processor.

Item two: black beans. soaked overnight and then cooked in the pressure cooker.

Item three: Seitan with red, yellow, and green bell peppers, all sauteed with a bit of olive oil, salt, and adobo seasoning. The adobo smelled quite strong, but the flavor was subtle. It's on the old side, so I don't think I can consider that a "rule."

Last but not least, the cilantro "pesto" that I made last night.

We assembled these things artistically into our bowls and had another nice meal on the porch, in the lovely spring cupertino weather. The leftovers were all mixed together for the sake of reducing dish usage. I think it'd make really nice burritos, but I don't think buying bunch of tortillas when we'd realistically only need two or three makes sense, because at the moment I don't expect that any of our other leftovers would make particularly appetizing burritos. 

A bit of cleaning up along the way, and the kitchen is a lot less of a disaster than it could have been considering all the dishes, tools, etc involved. If only I were always so disciplined. 

Friday, May 2, 2008

Believe it or not, this tastes great!

This is a "pesto"-like condiment made with cilantro, cashew butter, sesame seeds, nutritional yeast, a freshly squeezed meyer lemon, and half an avocado. It's very rich, creamy, and aromatic.

Tomorrow we're going to make some rice, beans, and sauteed vegetables. We'll layer it up in bowls, Cafe Yumm-style, and top it off with this.

Tonight I steamed broccoli, bok choy, and baby carrots while sauteeing mushrooms in soy sauce and olive oil. Then the steamed veggies were mixed with the mushrooms and a bit more soy sauce and then it was all cooked to perfection and served over brown rice with Freixenet left over from our wedding last year.