Sunday, July 26, 2009

Pickled Baby Carrots




You might not realize this but I am a wisp of a person. I hit 5 foot 3 only on days humid enough to give my hair extra lift. I am the sort of gal who can shop in Gap Kids. But husband on the other hand is a bit shy of 6 feet and has the build of someone who played football in high school. (He didn’t—he was an art nerd.)

With each pregnancy, I take on the appearance of a young sapling taken over by an enormous gall. People see me walking around and wonder how I can keep all that baby up. Luckily, pregnancy turns me into a weeble-wobble—I can’t fall down.

With my last pregnancy there was the fear that my body wouldn’t make it 40 weeks as an incubator. Everyone said, oh you will go early; you will never make it your due date; you are having THAT baby early. With Belle, I was a couple weeks early. Not scary early, just early enough to rescue me from the terrible nausea and illness that typifies pregnancy for me.


But as one of those wonderful aphorisms goes, “Every pregnancy is different.” While people are still amazed by my girth—many woman at work have kindly told me that you are HUGE!, this baby shows no sign of budging. I am now just a few days before my due date and after ages of Braxton hicks, I am still just waiting. After weeks of being careful to conserve calories to help the baby, I am imagining taking long walks, eating spicy food and doing jumping jacks to help get things going. But frankly, I am still too nauseous to walk or to do any of those things.

There is another old wives tale about nesting—as soon as you start nesting and are in the middle of things getting settled you go into labor. You basically run to the hospital with the house half cleaned, the mop still in the water bucket.

While I am not one to mop the floors ever (my husband is much neater than I), I thought pickling might be a sort of nesting thing. I don’t mean to say I went through the whole 9 yards and pickled 17 gallons of anything, but I did make a small batch of pickled carrots. Putting things by seems like an age-old form of nesting.


We have plenty of baby carrots from Snake Hill Farm and some homegrown spicy peppers. I wasn’t organized enough to write down the recipe—but basically equal parts water and vinegar, salt, sugar, cumin seeds, homegrown dill weed, and mustard seeds.

This is my entry to One Local Summer for this week and for Grow Your Own hosted by Amy of Playing and started by Andrea of Andrea's Recipes.

It didn’t seem to help budge the baby at all—so I spent the rest of the day standing up cooking. Maybe a fridge full of cheesecake bites will start labor… well, if she doesn’t come I will post those next.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Fennel Bud and Mint Herb Butter on Corn


Belle’s was not having good luck with the animal kingdom this weekend. First there was an unfortunate incident with some fictional birds. And, then Saturday morning, my husband and I realized we had forgotten our CSA basket overnight.

Thanks to the cold rainless summer we hadn’t receive a single share yet. If this had been 1850 we would have starved. (That said, if it were 1850 my husband’s family would be alternating surviving a potato famine, farming rocks in Italy; and I would be eating rice on the west coast of India. But why split hairs?)

So Belle trotted off to the front door with her father to pick up the vegetables. “Mommy, oh look.” and “Bring your camera” were both mentioned after the door opened. The front stoop was littered with the detritus of many a happy raccoon. The fastidious little buggers had cleaned all 12 ears and left the silk, cobs and husks for us to clean up.

It was the final straw for Belle. Tears were spilled, punctuated by the phrase, “those raccoons.”


We decided to run to the farmer’s market to pick up replacement corn. Then we came home, steamed them and topped them with Fennel bud and Mint Herbed Butter. (The adults added nanami—Japanese Chili powder with orange rind and black sesame seeds) Basically combine 5 T of soften butter with 2 young leaves of finely chopped mint and 1 full fennel flower bud also chopped. Finished with coarse sea salt.

Fennel and mint are wonderful herbs as they engender feelings of being a successful gardener no matter your skill, ability, interest or soil. At some point in the summer we completely forget about our fennel, it first goes to bud and then flower and finally to seed. We use all of the forms of fennel in our food. The fronds and buds are definitely stronger an anise flavor than the bulb. We put the buds or the flowers in tossed salads, with roasted vegetables, or in ago to put on sandwiches. (The seeds are commonly used in Indian food.)

That evening, my husband wondered if she was dreaming of hunting them corn-fed raccoons; but I am fairly confident she was dream of the herbed butter that she ended up licking off her plate.

This post is also my entry for Weekend Herb Blogging run by Haalo of Cook (Almost) Anything at Least Once


Sunday, July 19, 2009

Veggie Stuffed Shells

Stuffed Shells

It turns out to be true—we do turn into our mothers.

Or maybe just me.

In the last two weeks I have gained just enough energy to start getting everything ready for baby two. The house has vacillated between organized and disarray. Our assessment of our readiness ebbs and flows accordingly. Luckily, we have plenty of help. We have a handy-man helping with things like putting up curtain rods, removing any poisons from the garage, etc.

The other day, I asked him to come by in two weeks to disassemble Belle’s crib. This piece of furniture is something that I never cared for as a child. I learned the skill of breaking out early and never looked back. Belle on the other hand, who was able to break into child gates before turning one, has never made any overture to leave the confines of her wooden sleeping quarters. Instead, she has made her crib her sanctuary, taking blankets, animals, books in with her at every nap and every bedtime.

Last night, J—was putting Belle down to sleep. I could hear them trekking up the stairs singing the classic medley of abcd-itsybitsyspider-hushlittlebaby. (Or is that choral pastiche only classic at my house?) I could hear them discuss how many books would be read at bedtime. I could hear the laughter. Then there was a moment of silence. I wouldn’t have noticed it except that it was followed by “Mommy.” First from J—and then from Belle. I couldn’t place their tone. It wasn’t quite happy. It wasn’t angry. But there was definitely an underlying sense of urgency.
I waddled upstairs as fast as I could, both hands clasped under my sizeable, 9 months pregnant girth. When I got upstairs, J—was standing silhouetted in the door looking at me— face paled. I walked into the room. The space where the beloved crib once stood was now a square of dust bunnies punctuated by a couple long forgotten chew toys.

Belle asked, “Where is my bed?” It might have been obvious to J—what had happened but for a two-year old the question was full of earnestness.


And at that moment, the shock—I am blaming the shock—turned me into my mother. When I was Belle’s age and my mother had a hard time weaning from my bottle, she told me a bird came in and flew away with the whole cabinet of glass bottles. And, that is what I told me daughter. The bird came in and borrowed her crib. It sounded stupid coming out of my mouth. It sounds stupid as I type it now.

Luckily we had set up the toddler bed. So we got it all ready with Belle’s menagerie. Then we read every book on her shelf. We tucked her in. And, closed the door.

The rattle and pleading coming from the other side of the door were disquieting to say the least. J—just stood and watched the door for a while. Still stunned from the emptiness of the room and the fact that I was turning into my mother, I went downstairs and drowned my sorrows in some carb-based leftovers.

We had some delicious shells in the fridge stuffed with Ohio ricotta, fresh Ohio mozzarella, Swiss chard from our garden, local peas that I had frozen, local mushrooms and sweet onions from the Farmer’s market, and shredded carrots from our garden. Top with a cream sauce or with tomato sauce (as we did.)

When my mother heard of the whole story, she was fairly unfazed. She reminded me that I didn’t join the bird hunting society of America or have a deep-seated desire baby bottles. I guess turning into your mother isn’t the worst thing in life.

Veggie Stuffed Shells

For ½ a box of medium shells, use the following filling:

½ sweet onion
1 small head of chard
1 cup grated carrot
1 cup sliced mushrooms

When cool add sautéed veggies to:
1 cup ricotta
½ cup grated parmesan
½ cup fresh mozzarella pearls (quartered)
½ cup frozen peas

Stuff into shells and place in butter lined baking pan. Top with tomato sauce or cream sauce and more parmesan.

Bake at 375 for about 20 minutes until cheese looks bubbly.

This recipe is my entry for One Local Summer for this week. This week the parmesan and pasta continue not to be local—but as the chard and carrots are from the porch, I feel it was an okay trade-off. And, finally our CSA has given us a share, so this week we should have too much zucchini localness to speak off.

This is also my entry for Presto Pasta Nights started by Ruth of Once Upon A Feast and hosted by Pam of Sidewalk Shoes.

Stuffed Shells

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Bacon and Cheddar Puff Pastry Squares

Bacon Puffs

To say that the whole house filled with smoke would be incorrect. To be honest, it was just the kitchen, the dining room and the family room. Nevermind that at the time these rooms were filled with various in-laws. Nevermind that they were all starving. Nevermind that they are people who love their breakfast meats.

About ten minutes before this scene, I was saying to my husband, “I make bacon in the oven all the time. It should be fine.” I have a lifelong belief that hubris only offers returns in bad luck, so I should have known better.


But, when I paint a picture of scene, you can see how this all came to be. My nephews were over and I just wanted to please. Bacon is near the top of their list of pleasurables. So this how that morning played out. The family wakes up early so we are under the gun to make breakfast. Our Belle, who was a little over one year old, had been up in the night. So I was underslept. That morning, we were too ambitious--making waffles, fruit syrup, feeding our Belle yogurt, frying breakfast sausage…then there was the bacon. I had Belle on my hip. I took out the baking sheet. I opened the package with my free hand. Then with that same ONE hand, I placed the bacon on the sheet. At the same time, I bobbed and weaved so that Belle wouldn’t reach out and touch the raw meat. I popped the bacon in the oven with the help of my brother-in-law. Then I cleaned up the counter and went to set the table.

Did you notice what I missed? I forgot to put the bacon on a rack about the rack. That small step meant that for weeks we were cleaning bacon grease out of the oven (not to mention airing out our house and clothes.)

Cookie Cutters

Since then, I had avoiding serving bacon for guests. It’s been more than a year and I knew I would eventually have to face my fears. Donna Hay turned out to me my therapist on this one. She had a simple recipe where ham and cheese are baked on puff pastry—I subbed in bacon. I took out the fig paste and use a little mango chutney. The recipe was a breeze and was seriously addictive.


Bacon Puffs

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Pesto Ricotta Asparagus Egg Pie

Egg Quiche

Anticipation is become an endangered emotion.

The immediateness of society has numbed us and made us believe that waiting is an unnecessary part of life. Thankfully biology has kept us in touch with the reality of anticipation. There was a time when you waited until spring for strawberries, when you ate tomatoes in summer, when winter squash came in the winter. Eating seasonal is so fashionable any discussion of the behavior is a bit banal.

Pregnancy is great reminder about the power of anticipation. Forty weeks of waiting. And for most of human experience, women waited and waited in the hope that their wombs were holding a son (hopefully some were happy with a girl.) Science has helped us with the gender thing. But, we still have to wait the long wait.

But modern life bucks this trend. Instead of prizing anticipation and enjoying the time we wait, we think of time as a commodity. Most magazines are advertising ways to help you save time. But, what are we doing that is worthwhile with that time? Here is where anticipation and waiting come in. If you save up all that time only to be busy doing more things, what’s the point? Enjoying the moment is quite another thing altogether.

The momentary has often been lost on me. But, with Belle, I am learning. Learning to appreciate the wait is a skill that I am trying to teach my Belle. When your whole life is half a Presidential term, it is hard to appreciate long stretches of time. But, in trying to help her realize why waiting is worthy, say like waiting for the cupcakes to bake, I am learning to appreciate the time we wait together. For that reason, when we had J—‘s family over for brunch, I made some easy, fast recipes. But, then I didn’t take too many food pictures, I didn’t write a post right away, I did care about keeping the moment for the future. I just lived the moment. And, now I anticipate another such morning. With the hecticness of life, another such morning won’t happen for a long time no doubt. But, we can enjoy the wait.

The Menu:
Baked French Toast
Pesto Ricotta Asparagus Egg Pie

Strawberry Ricotta Pie
Bacon Squares

Heirloom Eggs
Ricotta Egg Pie

(based on a recipe from Country Living)

Grate potatoes, toss with salt, pepper and olive oil and then pack into the bottom and on the sides of a deep dish pie pan. The potatoes will shrink so over fill it.

Bake at 375 until brown. Place in the freezer over night.

The next morning, whip 2 egg whites.

In a large bowl mix,
1/4 cup half and half
1 cup ricotta
3 eggs
1 egg yolk
1/2 cup grated parmesan
3 tablespoon pesto
¼ cup diced steamed asparagus.

Fold in the egg whites.

Pour into frozen crust. Top with a few spears of steamed asparagus.

Bake at 375 for 45 minutes.

This is also my entry for One Local Summer. The Half and Half was Snowville Creamery, the eggs, asparagus came from the Chagrin Falls Farmers market. The potatoes were frozen grated potatoes from last year’s CSA. The pesto from our own basil. (In fact the whole menu was fairly local. The bread from a local Jewish bakery, the bacon from Cherry Valley, the maple syrup from Snake Hill Farm, the strawberries from Woolf, the ricotta from Micellis… Really where I continue to lack is with wheat products—the filo and the puff pastry were store bought and who knows from where they hailed. And, with the baked egg dish, the parmesan was Italian and the pinenuts not local.)

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Red White and Blue Bundt cake ( Cherry and Blueberry Bundt Cake)

Red White and Blue Bundt Cake

All my synapses and intelligence has been drained in the process of making this bundt cake. I don't have the energy to write anything thoughtful or charming as an introduction. Here are the facts of the day as told now by a very exhausted narrator and one important caveat.

fact 1. Sometime early in the morning, I had a giant box of cherries that my dad had brought home from a big box store. I didn't want them (they were not local or organic). I didn't feel right wasting them.

fact 2. Sometimes my dreams of aesthetic overrides any little common sense I might possess.

fact 3. My husband was busy trying to clean and organize the bills so I was stupidly left to my own devices.

fact 4. We were going to the home of some family friends later in the day, so I thought Belle would love to help me make a cake.

fact 5. Belle's grandfather decided to take her out to the store. When she was out with her grandfather tooling about town, I decided to set up and measure everything so that when she returned all she would have to do is dump the dry ingredients into their bowl and mix dry into wet. (It all seemed very doable at that point.)


fact 6. I am pregnant and stupid so somehow I didn't forsee the large number of bowl, whisks, spoons, mixers, food processors, counters, andfingers that would need cleaning.

fact 7. By the time the bundt was finished and the dishes were cleaned, I was fairly sure I didn't want to ever think about red, white and blue bundt cake ever again.

fact 8. It probably would have been so daunting if I hadn't been 9 months pregnant.

fact 9. Belle and J-- thought it was delicious.

And then the caveat: In my recent baking experience, red seems to be somewhat fugitive. The strawberry cupcakes were much less red when baked. This too did not turn out as red as I had envisioned. It is not surprising to me as red natural dyes are the most fugitive of all the natural dyes. So you could use red food coloring, but I decided to just accept that the cake would only have a pale pink set of stripes.


Red White and Blue Bundt cake ( Cherry and Blueberry Bundt Cake)

Start the Red Batter:
In a bowl, combine:
1.5 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp mint
1 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

In the stand mixer:
beat 2 egg whites, remove to another bowl

Beat 2 more egg whites, remove to yet another bowl

In the stand mixered, combine:
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup (2 sticks) butter or margarine, softened

Once the sugar and butter are fluffy add:
2 large eggs yolks
1/2 cup cherry puree
4 oz sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Remove this to another bowl

Then, start the white batter:
n a bowl, combine:
1.5 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp ginger
1 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

In the stand mixered, combine:
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup (2 sticks) butter or margarine, softened

Once the sugar and butter are fluffy add:
2 large eggs yolks
1/2 cup apple sauce
4 oz sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Now, add the red wet mixture to the minty flour and the white wet mixture to the ginger flour, and the fold the egg whites into each batter.

Toss 1/2 cup blueberries with 2 T of flour and 1 T sugar.

Take a deep breath and then assemble.

Put in 1/3 of the white batter, 1/2 the blueberries, 1/2 red batter, 1/3 white batter, 1/2 the blueberries, 1/2 red batter, 1/3 white batter.

Bake 1 hr at 375 cool and glaze.

To make the glaze, combine:
2 heaping T powdered sugar
1 T buttermilk (in 1 t increments) until a think shiny glaze forms.

Drizzle over cooled cake.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Vegan Salad Nicoise

Vegan Salade Nicoise

I work in a land where splitting hairs is darn near a job title. In academia, people make their living with sometimes vary narrow expertise. Dissertations hinge on factors as small as that guy believed such and such war was a total failure and I believe it is sort of a failure. In saying this, I am not above it. There are plenty of meetings where I am right there in the verbal melee of splitting hairs. Don’t get me started on the history of cotton…

Food culture has its own level of splitting hairs. Anyone ever said I would only ever eat ____. Most of us have something that is seriously anathema (conventional strawberries, jackfruit only if I am in Asia). One of the really fancy splitting hairs contingent are the cultural purists—those who maintain that certain traditional recipes are only right if they follow ancient prescribed formulas. And here I am torn. Professionally I am totally pro-splitting hairs. And personally, I am con-following food rules. Heck, I eat mango with feta and make ramp kimchi.

Last night we had a vegan salad that is clearly a close friend of salade nicoise. Perhaps her hippie cousin? We dressed the whole thing with olive oil, vinegar, salt, pepper, mustard and chopped 'fines herbes' ( parsley, chives, chervil, thyme and tarragon); which is all very kosher in the land of Nice. We avoided lettuce as many a purist suggests (demands?). But, we also avoided anything from the sea and eggs for that matter. For protein sources we went with broiled tofu and tomato braised chickpeas. And, it was delicious.

Vegan Salade Nicoise

Vegan Salad Nicoise

First, marinate firm tofu sliced in ½ inch thick pieces:
2 T pomegranate molasses
1t agave nectar
A splash braggs liquid aminos
Olive oil
Chopped chervil
Chopped thyme
Chopped tarragon
¼ cup water
2 T red wine vinegar
2 cloves garlic minced

Then, boil small red potatoes, steam asparagus and green beans. When still warm, dress each with olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt, pepper, mustard, minced garlic, and chopped 'fines herbes' ( parsley, chives, chervil, thyme and tarragon). Chill each separately.

When the veggies are chilling, broil the tofu under a high broiler for 12 minutes basting periodically.

At the same time, simmer chickpeas with red onions, 2 T tomato paste, thyme and cayenne.

Quarter some cherry tomatoes. (I didn’t dress them but just because.) Rinse some radishes.

Scour your fridge for some olives. We only had kalamata.

Arrange and then eat.

Vegan Salade Nicoise

This was also my One Local Summer dish for the week.  Sadly our CSA has had some major problems with their crop but we are still shopping at the local farmers market for our food.  The tofu is from Cleveland Tofu Company, the veggies and the garlic in the dressing were bought at North Union market at Chagrin Falls with the exclusion of the tomatoes, olives and the chickpeas.  My favorite of the veggies were the radishes from Salash Farm.  (This farm has the best spinach too which we bought and used for pizza a few weeks ago.)  The herbs for the salad were from our yard.  The dinner was paired with bread from On The Rise.