We've had some rainbow striped bowtie pasta hanging around the house for a while now and this recipe from Eatwell Farm was the perfect way to use it. Pasta, potatoes and pesto are already favorites of my children, so as expected, they ate this dinner up. The pesto recipe is different than what I'm used to: rougher textured but just right in this case.
This is pretty delicious and absurdly easy. We have no celery, so I'll leave it out. We still have two big chunks of frozen ham left from Christmas, so I'll throw one in the pot and rustle up something to serve alongside, like maybe leftover bread and cheese from yesterday.
You're right...it isn't spring. But I had to buy a last bunch of asparagus and use it up before the end of July, just because. From Heidi Swanson's Super Natural Cooking, this is a light, wholesome soup that I like to make with chicken stock. I serve it with bread and cheese to round out the meal.
The super-powered seeds Jack’s mother threw out her kitchen window must have been favas. While I can't help but question the wisdom of trading an entire cow for a handful of beans, there is real truth to this tale beyond the giants, golden eggs and beanstalks of unusual size: legumes are a delicious source of protein and can be remarkably easy to grow.
I love the way that rolls off my tongue - fava bean tagine. I bet if I made it into a little song and dance, while I served dinner, my daughter would repeat it all day long - just to annoy me. But would she eat it? Well, yes, under duress. I spoon fed her all the fava beans (which she enjoys raw, but not cooked) and sweet potatoes, in exchange for a bowl of super sugar clifford crisps, or some other fake-healthy organic sugar cereal. The chicken and cous-cous she ate on her own. My son refused the vegetables outright, but that is nothing unusual.
Homemade polenta can be an intensive affair, it requires half an hour of near continuous stirring. Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone has a walk-away version, but it needs to simmer for an hour and a half, after two separate pots of water are brought to a boil, one at a time, on top of each other. That takes more pre-planning than I can handle.
We had a busy weekend, as usual, with one of the highlights being Urban Sprouts' Greens, Eggs & Jam brunch on Saturday. My husband, kids and I rode our bikes along Golden Gate Park's panhandle bike path over to Ida B. Wells High School in the Western Addition for the party. The greens and eggs were fabulous - lots of yummy food from NOPA, Radio Africa & Kitchen and Contigo Restaurants, and the bluegrass band was fun. My daughter was stumped when asked to identify their instruments - "a violin and three guitars" she told me. But it was actually a fiddle, mandolin, banjo and one guitar.
I love fava beans, they are delicious in the spring. Most years they are ready in our garden and appear at markets around the same time as shelling peas, asparagus and lilacs. Lilacs and lilies of the valley, superstars of the northeastern American garden, are my absolute favorites. I would gladly trade a year's worth of favas to have those two bloom for me in California.
Sometimes we turn to last minute alternatives.
The kids and I spent the morning visiting the doctor, investigating my son's complaints of tummy aches and other intestinal issues that have been carrying on for the last few weeks. I figured his GI problems were due to the fourteen days of antibiotic he'd ingested to treat an ear infection back at the beginning of the month, in addition to the seven days of antibiotic he'd taken for a staph infection about a month before the ear thing. But when his eyes got goopy and he started barking like a seal I figured I should take him in.
"Hrm..." the doctor said "his tummy feels fine, but he has a really big ear infection".
Well imagine my surprise that he'd been able to foster a new, nasty infection so quickly in the same ear. But, it turns out, its the same old infection, just bigger and badder, and now identified as antibiotic resistant. So he gets another fourteen days of a new antibiotic. And when the doctor confirmed my suspicions that the stomach problems were probably a result of the antibiotics, she asked me about my son's diet.
"Gus is kind of like a bat. He eats mostly fruit." I told her. And she thought that was fine, but recommended that he (which of course means we) start eating lots of "white, starchy things". "Don't feed him any whole grains", she said. And with that she was gone, leaving me with a blindingly white prescription flapping in my hand and two insane children groveling at my feet, shredding the exam table paper and rubbing themselves all over the clinic floor.
Yikes. No whole grains? Thats like, all we eat. Aside from fruit and vegetables. Perhaps that should clue me in to why my son has such active bowels. But I took it in stride and realized we had a wonderful opportunity to have white, processed grain pasta with our scheduled dinner.
Except that my kids wouldn't eat it. In fact, I wouldn't even eat it. When the recipe asked me to simmer the leeks in chicken broth I got a little nervous, and in hindsight I wish I'd gone with my gut and sauteed them instead. Even my husband, who actually ate the pasta, was surprised that I hadn't. He thinks that will fix any problems, but I'm not planning to test his theory. This one won't make it into my three star and above archive - which, by the way, I'm planning to put up sometime soon, in printable 4x6 notecard format - get your recipe boxes ready.
So instead, we had a cheese plate and toast. Havarti and Cheddar from Say Cheese, where we'd stopped after the doctor, luckily. Thanks guys, for saving the day!
Creamy Leek, Pea, and Chicken Pasta (adapted from Sunset Magazine, April 2010):
8 oz spaghetti or other pasta
1 cup shelled peas
1 bunch leeks, sliced (about a cup)
1 green garlic, sliced
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup coarsely shredded chicken
1 cup cottage cheese
salt & pepper (about a teaspoon of each)
Cook the pasta in salted water, following package directions and adding the peas to the pot for the last few minutes. Drain and put it in a large serving bowl. Meanwhile, bring the chicken broth to a boil and cook the leeks and garlic in it. When the leeks are soft, add the chicken and pour over the pasta. Stir in the cottage cheese and salt and pepper.
What is a home without tequila? As I found this afternoon, perfectly fine, as long as there is vodka around. The margarita recipe I posted last friday works well with either one.
Today I had the honor of meeting Novella Carpenter, author of the book Farm City about her adventures in urban agriculture in Oakland, CA. She was great, even more Farmy than I had imagined she'd be. As she likes to explain in her book, she is not the first to raise a garden and livestock in an inner city. Its not that uncommon in other countries, and even some parts of the United States. Today, I'm told, Detroit has the most active urban farming community in our country. Nonetheless, her story of breaking ground for a farm in Oakland's Ghost Town neighborhood where she raises poultry, rabbits and pigs is pretty impressive.
As for my garden, I took the big step of planting our pre-sprouted bean seeds today. if you remember from a day or two back, the seeds have been growing in paper towels as my efforts to settle them into the ground were thwarted by uncooperative children. Today I finally dispensed with my need for family planting and planted them by myself. Naturally there was much shrieking and rending of garments when my children learned the fate of their seeds, but luckily I had a few left for them to drop into holes in the ground. And now, thank goodness, it is done.
For the second time this month we ate an asparagus and pea salad, from Canal House Cooking's spring issue. It is so good that I plan to make it again before the season ends. We also grilled salmon, my college pal Jenny Nelson's recipe, that Jason and I first ate years ago on the east coast in their wonderful garden. This spring pairing is great, and for the kids (there were five - my friend Shelley and her munchkins joined us for dinner) there was also a side of buttered pasta, some sort of twisty noodles they were very fond of. I had some too, really not a bad addition to the meal.
Asparagus and Pea Salad (adapted from Canal House Cooking Volume 3):
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 bunches thin asparagus, sliced crosswise after tough bottoms have been trimmed off.
1 cup fresh peas, shelled
4 skinny spring onions, thinly sliced
1 small head butter lettuce, washed and chopped
8 pieces cooked bacon, chopped
1 handful fresh mint leaves, chopped
pepper & salt
Bring a pot of water to boil, and toss the peas in for two minutes, then the sliced asparagus. Boil for two more minutes, then dump the pot into a colander in the sink. Then immerse the vegetables in a big bowl of ice water to stop them from further cooking. Put the lettuce, onions, mint and bacon in a salad bowl, then add the peas and asparagus when they are cool.
Put some water on in a kettle to boil, keeping it warm until the rest of your meal is almost ready. At that time, heat the water back to a boil and mix 1/4 cup of hot water with the parmesan and olive oil. Whisk it until smooth. Add the pepper and some salt. Pour this dressing over your salad, toss it and serve.
Jenny Nelson's Grilled Salmon:
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 Tablespoon soy sauce
1 Tablespoon dijon mustard
1 Tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon butter
1 teaspoon grated ginger
1 teaspoon honey
fresh wild caught salmon filet for four
Put the olive oil, soy sauce and brown sugar into a teeny-tiny pot over low heat (I use a metal measuring cup). Bring it to a gentle simmer, then add the butter, ginger and honey. Stir it all together, then let the sauce simmer until it thickens, so that it is not terribly runny any longer. Remove it from heat.
Lay each piece of salmon skin side down on a sheet of tinfoil, and fold up the edges to make a sort of boat around the fish. This will hold the sauce in place, so the tinfoil edges should be close to the fish edge, and at least as tall.
Heat the grill, and when it is medium heat, put each fish boat on the grill, and brush the sauce on with a pastry brush. Try to divide it equally among the fish pieces.
Close the grill lid and wait five or ten minutes. Then check on the fish - it will be a paler pink color and opaque looking when it is ready. You can cut into the middle of the fish with a knife to see how its done and judge for yourself. Bright pink is undercooked, but you don't want to cook the fish so much that even the middle is overcooked, so a completely opaque middle section is too cooked. When the fish is ready, you should be able to scoop it off the foil, leaving the skin behind, with a spatula.
Tonight I made a tagine with chicken and sweet potatoes. My Moroccan friend Khadesia showed me how to cook this, so it is really her recipe. The best part of this dinner is the sweet potatoes. They steam on top of the other ingredients, which infuses them with spices. Khadesia usually makes this with frozen peas, but today I picked my first harvest of snap peas from our garden. I'll add those in at the last minute instead of frozen ones.