Archives for the month of: October, 2011
painting of lemon pie and blue teapot

Lemon Sponge Pie, 8″ x 8″, gouache and watercolor pencil. Sharyn Dimmick

My late older brother ate pretty much the opposite of what I eat. He ate a lot of fast food, quick food and processed food. He drank mugs of coffee laced with up to a quarter cup of sugar, minus what he spilled on the counter. He liked raw carrots and celery and fresh strawberries, but he only ate those things if someone else washed them, cut them up and put them in a bowl for him, preferably on the counter where he could see it. The only other vegetable he consumed regularly was onions, although he once ate seven jars of marinated artichokes out of the case Mom gave him on Christmas Day. In the fruit category he liked raisins, strawberry milk and blueberry pie.

In the last year of his life, Kevin had an experience that improved his diet slightly. He liked to tell the story. His then girlfriend, Barbara, who would become his wife, had a cat named Jigs. Jigs looked forward to Kevin’s visits because he nearly always brought bags of fast food with him. One day Kevin arrived with a McDonald’s bag, containing a cheeseburger and an order of Chicken McNuggets. Kevin broke  open a McNugget and gave it to Jigs. Jigs sniffed it, immediately commenced to try to bury it and walked away, insulted. Kevin said, when he told the story, that if a cat wouldn’t eat something that was supposed to be chicken he wasn’t going to eat it anymore either.

Michael Pollan has famously given us the guideline not to eat anything your grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food. We hew pretty closely to that in our household these days, although we each have our indulgences: we buy Prego spaghetti sauce because Mom made her own for years and we can honestly say we like Prego better. I particularly like the Italian sausage flavor. We use it for quick suppers. Sometimes I add fresh summer squash or mushrooms or eggplant to the sauce, but sometimes I don’t. Beyond that, my personal weaknesses are for Cheez-It crackers and Golden Grahams cereal. I know I can make cheese straws, but I love Cheez-Its  right out of the box. I don’t buy them often. Golden Grahams are even less defensible — they are tooth-achingly sweet and taste like candy: to be able to eat them at all, I mix them half and half with some healthier cereal — anything not sweetened — and eat them with almonds. I allow myself about one box a year, on sale only.

To me, scary food does not mean food that appears to be dripping blood or cupcakes accented with spiders: scary food means food that has been so processed that it does not resemble the original food it came from.  An order of Chicken McNuggets is a good example, but so is anything labeled “cheese food” or  “pasteurized processed cheese,” as well as white bread from the grocery store. There are many more examples: please feel free to tell me about your personal food horrors in the Comments. Perhaps I’ll put up a link called “The Horror Roll” and list some of your candidates there.

Halloween was Kevin’s birthday. There is nothing he liked that I cook on a regular basis and if I shared one of his “recipes” you would stop reading this blog. Seriously. Instead, I’ll share with you a favorite family recipe that my mother made yesterday with ripe Meyer lemons from our neighbor’s tree and her famous Swedish pie crust. For your convenience, I’ll give you the pie crust recipe below, but I’ll spare you the editorial commentary: for the full rant on pie crust, please visit the Gravenstein Apple Pie post. Meanwhile, get ready to make a Lemon Sponge Pie, which is much like a lemon meringue pie, except that you fold the egg whites into a lemon custard, which includes milk. If you like lemon desserts, you will want to try this.

Make the crust first:

Sift 3 cups unbleached flour with

1 tsp salt

Cut in 1 cup Crisco (or other vegetable shortening) until it is the size of peas. Add a little butter (1-2 Tbsp for flavor).

Break into a one cup measuring cup:

1 large egg. Beat it until blended.

Add to egg:

1 Tbsp white or cider vinegar

Add water until combined liquids reach 1/2 cup, plus a little.

Add liquids to flour, salt, shortening and butter. Stir together crust and form it into a flattened round. Cut 1/4  from the round — this is your crust for this lemon pie. Wrap the other 3/4 crust in waxed paper and store it in the refrigerator for your next pie or quiche (Crust recipe makes 4 single crusts or 2 double-crust pies).

Pat pie crust into a circle on a floured work surface. Roll it out, making sure to roll in all directions and roll out any thick edges. When you think you are done set a 9″ or 10″ pie plate on top of crust. Adjust as needed: you need to roll this crust very thin for best results.

Transfer your crust to your pie tin. The classic method is folding the crust into quarters and unfolding it in the tin.

Now preheat your oven to 400 degrees or 350 if using a Pyrex  pie plate. Proceed with filling.

Pie filling:

Separate 2 large eggs, whites into a small mixing bowl, yolks into a larger one.

Beat the egg whites until fairly stiff. Leave beaters in place and change to larger bowl.

Beat egg yolks with:

1 cup milk

1 cup sugar

1/4 cup flour.

Zest 3 or 4 lemons over the bowl of egg mixture. Squeeze juice from lemons into bowl — you need at least 1/3 cup of juice.

Fold egg whites gently into the other ingredients and pour filling into your prepared crust. Transfer the pie to the oven. Keep an eye on it —  you are going to bake it for about 25 minutes, but this pie burns easily. If you are worried about it, put a strip of foil over the crust. Bake until filling is not sloshy. Allow to cool to lukewarm — if you cut it too warm, the filling will run and you will have pudding with crust rather than pie.

Like it? You can bake three more with the crust you now have on hand, or you can make quiche, apple pie, pumpkin pie, chocolate pie — whatever you like best.

Food Note: I use Meyer lemons in this recipe because we grow them. Eurekas or other tart lemons are fine, but don’t go above 1/3 cup of juice with them: Meyer lemons are sweeter than other varieties.

The Horror Roll: To nominate candidates for  “The Horror Roll,” please list foods or “foods” that scare you by their apparent deviation from real food in the Comments section. I’ll start a “Horror Roll” page soon with some of the most horrendous nominees. In fact, I’ll start it now. Check it out.

Halloween painting of cocoa shortbread cookies with bats.

Trick or Treat Cocoa Shortbread. 8″ x 8″ gouache and watercolor pencil. Sharyn Dimmick

Trick or Treat. I’m not here, am I? Because I’ve gone to post on ArtEpicurean for pre-Halloween fun. Please follow me over there for a delicious treat, my beloved cocoa shortbread cookies tricked out in Halloween costumes. Usually, I don’t break out this recipe until Christmas, but I wanted to do something special for Jane, a woman after my own heart who posts recipes inspired by or accompanied by paintings.

I’ll give you a thumbnail of the cookie painting, but please go visit Jane’s blog for the recipe. You won’t be sorry. Just click on the link that says ArtEpicurean in the first paragraph if you haven’t done so already, or scroll all the way down to the bottom of the page and click ArtEpicurean in my links section. We’ll save you some cookies.

P.S. I have to be away early this morning through late afternoon. If something goes wrong with the link, please  use your initiative and Google “Art Epicurean” to get your recipe. I’ll check in as soon as I can — before 6 PM PST. — Sharyn

P.P.S. The link in the first paragraph works now, thanks to Sally B. Sorry that it failed earlier.

painting shows ingredients for pasta: broccoli, lemons, feta, fresh basil, dried pasta.

Broccoli-Feta-Basil Pasta. 8″x 8″ gouache and watercolor pencil. Sharyn Dimmick

This week I got a big bunch of fresh basil in the farm box. Fresh basil in October? I’ll take it. I used some of it to make a quick pesto to eat on Portobello mushroom “burgers” last night. I used the rest to make my favorite quick pasta dish: pasta with broccoli, feta and basil.

This is almost a non-recipe.

1) You put your pasta water on to boil

2) You get out a box of pasta — I like short pastas with this: farfalle, fusilli  or penne. I use half a pound for two people because I like leftovers and because when we eat this pasta we eat it as a one-bowl meal.

3) While the water heats and the pasta cooks, wash and chop your broccoli into bite-sized pieces. How much broccoli? I can’t tell you that. How much do you have? How much do you like broccoli?

4) Crumble some feta cheese into a large serving bowl or two individual pasta bowls (You can make this for one, too — just use less of everything). I’m going to say four ounces of feta for two people, but if you want to use more, use more. The more cheese, the better it is, really.

5) Squeeze the juice of one or two lemons over your cheese.

6) Grind some black pepper over  the cheese if you like pepper.

7) Do a quick chiffonade of basil leaves into the cheese.

8) Throw your chopped broccoli into the pasta water in the last minute of the pasta’s cooking. Cook one minute only.

9) Drain pasta and broccoli

10) Toss with feta and basil mixture, or put in individual bowls and stir like mad with a fork to distribute cheese. The cheese melts a little on the warm pasta, releasing the perfume of the basil.

Food Notes: This is best to eat in late spring and early fall, whenever you have the intersection of fresh basil and broccoli and lemons, but I make it in deep winter, too, substituting dried oregano and red wine vinegar for the basil and lemons. It’s good with roasted red peppers or bits of sun-dried tomatoes added to it, too, which add color contrast and winter vitamins. I make this pasta with fresh green beans if I don’t have broccoli — that’s good, but the broccoli version is better. What you don’t need is any salt or olive oil: feta is plenty salty on its own and provides enough fat. Keep it simple.

This is really good made with whole wheat pasta, too, which I buy whenever I find it on sale.

Please come back on Friday for a Halloween surprise.

Painting of a Pink Poached Pear

Dream Pears 7″ x 7″ Acrylic on Fabriano  Paper by Suzanne Edminster

Dear Readers and Cooks,

I am pleased to introduce my first guest post on “The Kale Chronicles.” My real-life best friend Suzanne Edminster is a painter who lives in Santa Rosa who teaches popular classes in acrylic painting techniques which you can find on her website, SaltworkStudio. What not everybody knows about Suzanne is that she is a talented hostess who can pull together delicious meals with skill and grace. Just for you, she painted the painting and wrote out the recipe. Enjoy.

Sonoma Pears Poached in White Wine and Blueberries

On an autumn night in Santa Rosa I was contemplating a bag of small Bartlett pears that had been carried too long in the car and were starting to bruise. I was longing for a sweet, elegant way to cook pears without messing with pie crust, cobbler or crumble. I developed this recipe as one that could, in the best of all possible worlds, be cooked with fruit from our garden, though I draw the line at keeping goats for cheese– four chickens are demanding enough.

We have two young pear trees in our urban backyard orchard, both Red D’Anjou. This was a mistake; we were given one of the two trees and was assured it was a Bartlett. Neither is bearing yet, as we’ve had to take young fruit off too-young branches to avoid breakage. Scott, my husband, planted 9 kinds of blueberry bushes in a raised bed, but between chickens, squirrels, raccoons and other poachers, we got a total of about five blueberries from the plants this year, although they are bearing well. Next year, bird netting goes over all and the humans of the house can eat the harvest. Eventually I’ll try this recipe with our own blueberries (self-frozen if need be) and our own pears.

At the end of the summer we had overbought on white wine and had not yet laid in the stock of red. My mother used to serve red warm cinnamon pears—yes, I think she used cinnamon drop candy on them and to make the sauce!– and I really wanted the pears to turn that glorious holiday crimson. What could I do to give the wine a color? We had small frozen organic blueberries that we keep on hand for cereal. I adapted Stacy Slinkard’s recipe for Red Wine Poached Pears that I found in About.com at http://wine.about.com/od/howwineismade/r/poachedpears.htm. The result was delicious, and the color of both sauce and pears, a deep red-purple, divine. Surprisingly, the blueberries held their shape through the longish poaching time. I used fresh lime juice from our lime trees rather than lemon, and I chose soft new Sonoma goat cheese to offset the brilliant sweetness of the pears in the sauce. Scott and I agreed that the white, tangy bite of goat cheese was perfection on the warm red pears. A bonus of this recipe is that the whole house smelled of pear-pourri!


Sonoma Pears Poached in White Wine and Blueberries

Ingredients:

4-6 halved, cored pears (peeling is optional and top stems can be left on)

1½ cups of white wine (your choice)

½ cup of granulated sugar

2 tablespoons of fresh lemon or lime juice, with optional zest

2 teaspoons vanilla

1 teaspoon cinnamon

½ to 1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries

Soft plain or new goat cheese

Combine all the ingredients, except pears and goat cheese, and bring to a boil. Let the sugar and wine combine, then add the pears face-down and simmer for about 15-20 minutes, turning once after about 10 minutes. Pears should be tender and easily poked through with a fork, but don’t overcook them. Remove pears and boil the wine/pear sauce until reduced by half. Serve pears warm in bowls with a small dollop of soft goat cheese in the middle of each half. Pour warm sauce over all. It’s excellent cold as well.

Painting Note: This slightly cosmic pear painting shows both the pinkish red of the sauce and the purple of the blueberries. It’s 7” x 7”, acrylic on paper. The pink-purple ranges from Alizarin Crimson to Fluorescent Magenta. You can see more of my paintings at www.saltworkstudio.net . Or visit my blog at http://saltworkstudio.wordpress.com/

Painting of a To-Do List

To-Do List. 6″ x 6″gouache, watercolor pencil and ink. Sharyn Dimmick

What if you come to visit and there is nothing new to read?

On days when I don’t post, I invite you to:

1) Read the About page (there’s a lot of information there).

2) Scroll all the way down to the bottom of the Home page and click on various links. In the links section, you can find links to other artist’s sites, food blogs, sites for writers and cool participatory events like NaNoWriMo, which will begin soon.

3) Cruise through all of the illustrations on the site. I’ve added archives at the bottom of the home page, which should make this easier to do now.

Think about which is your favorite painting. Tell me.

Even think about buying one.

Which would you like to see in a future give-away?

Or would you rather have the last copy of my homemade illustrated cookbook made before I started “The Kale Chronicles?”

4) Check out the food blog links in the Apple Cake with Caramelized Fennel and Dark Rum post — you may find a new favorite or two.

5) Visit the Go-To Cookbooks post and think about your favorite cookbooks. Leave comments if you want.

6) Learn to make your own pie crust: follow the directions given under “Gravenstein Apple Pie.”

painting depicts Canary melon, limes, chile paste, peanuts and fish sauce

Canary Melon Salad 8″ x 8″ gouache and watercolor pencil, Sharyn Dimmick

Those of you who know me well know I am iffy about melons: I like watermelon and ripe honeydew, but I O.D’d on orange melons sometime after childhood. When I get a new melon, it is not necessarily a day of rejoicing. Wednesday’s CSA brought a rather large and spectacularly yellow Canary melon. I had never tasted one before. To make matters worse, my mother does not eat melons of any description, except for a token piece of watermelon on the hottest of days.

I got a sneak peek at the melon on Saturday morning at the Farmers’ Market because they were giving pieces away at the Riverdog Farm stand. It was very sweet, floral or perfumy, complex and not orange: it was a melon I could eat.

In the schizophrenic weather of Northern California October I am cooking posole in the morning for a hot lunch and wishing I had gone swimming by mid-afternoon. After thinking about it for six days I knew what I was going to do with the ripe melon: I would fix it Thai-style with chile paste and fresh lime juice and some fish sauce and eat it on a bed of arugula, also featured  in the farm box.

As I sliced and seeded the melon, I tasted it again. It was really sweet. After I cubed each slice into a bowl, trying for bite-sized pieces, there was a lot of juice in the bottom.

I took another bowl, added a dollop of chile paste from my trusty jar, squeezed a lime into that and  added a touch of fish sauce. I tasted the dressing. Pretty good. I combined the dressing with the melon and tasted it again. Hmm. Could it use more lime? Try again to be sure. At this point I was standing at the cutting board tasting rapidly. Yes, It could use more lime. I cut another and squeezed in half of it. “More,” the melon said, “More.”

I ended up using two limes’ worth of juice in the salad. And I tossed in two packets of honey-roasted peanuts leftover from my last Southwest Airlines flight. I ate every bit of this in my large salad bowl and drank all of the juice from the bowl and am happy to say that I have enough melon and arugula left to make another batch for lunch tomorrow (or the next time it turns hot).

Canary Melon Salad with Arugula, Lime and Chile Paste

Slice and seed 1 Canary melon. Cut it into bite-sized chunks.

Wash and dry enough arugula to give each eater a portion of salad.

Make a dressing of a dollop of chile paste (up to 1 Tbsp if you like heat. 1/4 tsp if you are wary of chilies), plus the juice of 2 limes and a splash of fish sauce. (It helps if you taste the dressing with a piece of melon and a leaf of arugula to know what you are getting).

Toss arugula with dressing and remove arugula to individual salad plates or bowls or a family-style platter. Pour remaining dressing over melon and toss. Pile melon on top of arugula. Garnish with whole or chopped peanuts to taste.

Food notes: I meant to garnish this with Thai basil and/or mint as well, but I never made it out to the yard to pick any. But if you have more discipline than I do by all means add either herb. I might like this with cooked shrimp or prawns, too, or even grilled beef, or coins of sausage.

Painting Note: I was uploading the painting and realized I forgot to paint the arugula. Oh well. Artistic license.

Next Week’s Treat: Next week “The Kale Chronicles” will feature a guest post by painter Suzanne Edminster who will share with you her recipe for poached pears with goat cheese.

painting shows apple cake and ingredients

Apple Cake with Fennel 8″ x 8″ gouache and watercolor pencil. Sharyn DImmick

I am not a big cake person — I would rather eat pie or yeast-risen breads like cinnamon rolls — but when I saw “Grandmothers of Sils’ Apple-Yogurt Cake” on Smitten Kitchen I knew I had to try a variation on it. Deb’s picture enticed me and I like fennel/anise/licorice flavors. I have been cruising apple cake recipes for awhile (some of my friends like cake) and this one called to me.

I was patient: I waited a month. I kept hoping to get fennel in my vegetable box. No such luck. Yesterday I went out and bought some at the Farmers’ Market.

Smitten Kitchen’s recipe doesn’t have any fennel — what was I doing? I don’t have any anisette liqueur: I was plotting to use what I had with some gentle assistance from roasted fennel to bump  up the anise flavor.

First step, prepare the fennel. While it roasted I peeled and chopped the apples — I used some of my beloved Gravensteins and a couple of miscellaneous apples from a bulk buy I made at the market. It took me four apples to get the required three cups of diced apples.

Next I made “lemon yogurt” by mincing homemade candied lemon peel  into plain yogurt and adding half a capful of lemon extract (All of the lemons on the tree are greenish this week)

I turned the well-roasted fennel into a puree by adding the dregs of a bottle of dark rum — maybe an eighth of a cup — and a little olive oil and putting it in the blender. It took quite awhile to get a puree, even after I added a capful of anise flavoring to it, but I ended up with the quarter cup of liquid that I needed. I bumped up the flavor with a little star anise ground in a mortar.

These preparations done I almost followed the recipe as written, Almost. I swapped in unbleached flour and whisked the baking powder into it rather than sifting them together — I avoid sifting things together whenever possible because the flour sifter is not fun to clean and dry. Oh, yeah, and I made the cake in a bundt pan because I don’t have a spring form pan and it seemed like a bundt pan would work just fine. The batter smelled amazing, deeply perfumed with rum and citrus.

The cake came out a little less brown than I would have liked and I baked it for some extra minutes. It was showing good color near the bottom edges, but when I unmolded it, most of it was pale. After letting it cool for awhile I gunked up my sifter with powdered sugar. The cake looks nice with the sugar sifting: although this is the kind of step I often skip, I’m glad I bothered.

We ate our first slices slightly warm with tea, which we drink British style with milk. We brew our tea from tea leaves in a pre-warmed pot with water at a rolling boil, but don’t let me get started on that rant here. Mom said she could really taste the apples. I tasted predominately citrus. We are waiting to see if the flavor changes over the next few days.*

In short, it is a pretty cake. It is an autumn cake. It might even be a quick and easy cake to make if one wasn’t caramelizing fennel and grinding star anise. Some other person might have just gone out and bought a bottle of anisette liqueur, but that is not my style.

Apple Cake with Caramelized Fennel and Dark Rum

Prepare a bundt pan by rubbing it with butter.

For the fennel:

Preheat oven to 350. The cake bakes at 350, too, so this is convenient.

Wash and trim 1 fennel bulb

Remove core and slice thinly. Place in Pyrex pan with a little butter and olive oil to keep it from sticking. Roast until done, showing some brown color and soft. Let cool. While it is roasting and cooling, you can prepare your apples:

Peel 4 cooking apples, core and dice them. Set aside

Puree fennel in blender with 1/8 cup dark rum (or other liquor to taste. Add a little olive oil if fennel resists the blender. Taste and add 1-2 tsp anise extract if desired. If you want more anise flavor still, crush some star anise in a mortar and add to fennel puree.

For lemon yogurt:

Do it the easy way and just buy 8 oz of good quality lemon yogurt, or add lemon zest, candied lemon peel or lemon juice to plain yogurt.

Once you have your apples, fennel puree and lemon yogurt ready, make your cake batter:

Whisk together in a small bowl:

1 and 1/4 tsp baking powder

2 and 1/4 cups unbleached flour

Combine in large mixing bowl and beat until pale yellow:

4 large eggs

1 and 1/4 cups white sugar

Beat in 1 cup lemon yogurt and fennel-rum puree.

Add flour mixture and 1/2 cup+ olive oil,  alternating between flour and oil and beating briefly to incorporate each addition. When combined, fold in reserved apples.

Pour batter into prepared bundt pan. Bake on middle oven rack in your 350 0ven for 60 minutes, checking to see that a toothpick comes out clean.

Cool cake on a bottle — I use a vinegar bottle — until just warm. Upend bundt pan over dinner plate. Mine came out easily — no sticking. Dust with powered sugar.

Food notes: I had some blood orange olive oil, so that’s what I used, figuring it would boost the citrus notes in the recipe. It did. But you can use any mild-flavored olive oil — or if you have lemon olive oil that would be good, too. My first powdered sugar coating sunk in. Oh well. I’ll just add more because it looks pretty. * The second day the flavors are more complex and mellow: you can’t tell exactly what you are eating, but you know that it is good. The cake is still quite moist and might be good toasted. You could easily make this cake with pears as well.

Now, could it be that I made a cake because I am celebrating? It could be. Betsy over at bitsandbreadcrumbs kindly nominated me for a Liebster Blog Award.

The Liebster Award is given to blogs with fewer than 200 subscribers by a blogger who feels they deserve more recognition.

Rules are:

  1. Thank the giver and link back to the blogger who gave it to you.
  2. Reveal your top 5 bloggers and let them know by leaving a comment on their blog.
  3. Copy and paste the award on your blog.

I am honored to receive the nomination and would nominate Betsy right back if I could: Bits and Breadcrumbs is one of my favorites.

Now it is my priviIege to nominate five more deserving blogs. I have been searching for small blogs for four days, looking for those that haven’t yet received Liebster Awards. Finding them is harder than I thought: everyday my list of wonderful blogs grows, but usually only big blogs post their stats. So, I’ll post three now and I’ll take suggestions from my readers about other small, deserving blogs they love in the Comments section. Please, only list blogs with fewer than 200 subscribers — I want to play by the rules. Here, without further ado are three of my Liebster Award nominees:

1) Jane at ArtEpicurean. A woman after my own heart Jane combines recipes with paintings inspired by food and tips to keep your creativity flowing.

2) Kat at Sensible Lessons always has something intriguing going, whether it is her new take on huevos rancheros, ancho sweet potato fries with Sriracha ketchup  or brownies with both espresso and mint.

3 ) Stephanie at Recipe Renovator helps people on restricted diets reconfigure their recipes.  Not exciting at first description? Her photographs are beautiful and her range of recipes wide. And someone with dietary restrictions may thank you. I’m excited to introduce this site to my gluten-free friends.

Now, a list of some other blogs I would have nominated but they already got the prize. You should read them anyway — they can’t help it if they are popular.

Daisy’s World: Daisy is always cooking something good to eat. Beautiful photos, too.

Krista and Jess: These women always have something surprising (“Mushroom conk,” anyone?). They make me laugh and they were the conduit for my favorite new recipe, the David Lebovitz-inspired tomato tart.

Frugal Feeding: Good food, good photos, frugality. What’s not to like? He recently posted a Thai Carrot Soup with Lemongrass — I’ll be revamping my Thai Carrot Soup soon.

Cook Eat Live Vegetarian: Seasonal, mostly vegetarian food from Andalucia, Spain.

Around the World in Eighty Bakes: How can you not love a woman who is trying to bake her way around the world with refreshing honesty?

Chutney and Spice: I love the hand-drawn header. And I can’t wait to make the Green Tomato Chutney

The Cilantropist: The name is brilliant. The photos are enticing. The recipes are things you want to cook.

Savoring Every Bite She loves pumpkin. She probably loves other stuff, too, but it’s October.

Enjoy all of it. And thanks for reading, — Sharyn

painting of Oregon farm yard in October

Oregon Farm Yard 8″ x 8″ watercolor pencil. Sharyn Dimmick

When I was in Oregon visiting my friend Carol F. I ate like a truck driver, a stevedore. The weather was cooler and Carol’s husband Spike cooked up thick burgers on the grill — with Safeway meat, mind you — and I ate them for three days straight: hot for dinner and cold for the next two lunches with tapenade and homemade bread-and- butter pickles and fresh tomato slices. When I wasn’t eating burgers I was eating egg and potato frittata with green chile and bacon and cheese. Seriously. Except for Sunday night when we went out and I ate a chile relleno and refried beans and chips and green salsa and a fish-bowl-sized margarita on the rocks with salt. Fortunately, I took a few strolls around the yard, inspecting the vegetables and apples and grapes and berries, went up and down the stairs several times and walked way out of my way at the convention center to get a latte from the evil Starbucks (the only decent coffee option there). Monday night we had rainbow chard and baked delicata squash and grilled chicken, but I had a small dish of boysenberry apple crisp for dessert and before dinner a neighbor brought us a warm loaf of whole-grain bread with molasses, corn meal, wheat and I don’t know what-all else and I ate that with Carol’s homemade boysenberry jam. Plus, I foraged that afternoon while I was in the yard, eating raspberries and boysenberries off the vines and blue-purple grapes.

painting of kitchen

Spike’s Kitchen 8″ x 8″ watercolor pencil. Sharyn Dimmick

And when we weren’t eating we were talking about food: Spike makes Shaker lemon pie and gingersnaps and biscuits and pumpkin pie with bourbon, any of which I would be happy to eat at least once. Saturday breakfast was a tough call: I was given a choice between green chile frittata and pancakes with homemade boysenberry syrup. Which would you choose? My addiction to green chile won out, but part of me mourns the pancakes I didn’t eat.

We talked about our food likes and dislikes. Spike drinks gin and the only white thing I will drink besides milk is tequila. He likes bourbon. I like Scotch, Laphroaig single malt Scotch, to be precise, and Jameson’s Irish Whiskey, with or without the cream and sugar and coffee, and dark rum and good-quality brandy. Not that I consume any of those things often, but I like them all. We both like hot sauce and various chile pepper and fruit combinations.

My excuse to visit Carol and Spike was the Wordstock literary festival. When I was there I took a break from food projects and listened to a lot of people read from their new books, but I did pick up a copy of A Homemade Life by Orangette‘s Molly Wizenberg and I have to say it is a charming book, full of things I will cook and a few things I won’t. The writing is lovely.

painting of kitchen interior

Carol’s Kitchen 8″ x 8″ watercolor pencil. Sharyn Dimmick

When Carol cooked the chard on Monday night she started with garlic, oil and washed and trimmed chard. We talked about eating it with vinegar, but she had some green olive tapenade with sun-dried tomatoes and wondered if it might be good. I said yes. I thought I was going to eat it just like that and then Spike said it would be good with Cholula. I had never heard of Cholula, a Mexican hot sauce from Jalisco, which apparently can be got at Safeway — look for the glass bottle with the wooden stopper. I put three large drops on my plate next to the greens.

It was delicious. The next time I get to Safeway I am buying myself a bottle of Cholula for eating with cooked greens.

Now, tapenade. Tapenade is not something I tend to have on hand unless it has been recently featured at Grocery Outlet, but I usually have Spanish olives and kalamatas. I dry my own tomatoes during tomato season and don’t usually run out until about March. So I imagine what I will do is finely chop some Spanish olives and leave some dried tomatoes to soak with them for a bit while I wash and chop my chard,

Without further ado, another stellar greens recipe,

Wash 1 bunch chard (or beet greens or turnip greens or spinach — you get the idea, don’t you?)

Trim stem ends and separate leaves from stems.

Chop the stems first while you heat a little olive oil in a skillet (You’ll need a lid later). Then chop the leaves into ribbons.

To the oil, add the chopped stems and some minced or pressed garlic to taste (I can’t tell you how much garlic Carol used. I wasn’t paying attention — two cloves? Three? Four? You know if you like garlic or not — trust yourself).

After a minute or two,  add the chard ribbons to the skillet with any water clinging to them and put a lid on it. Cook until done — maybe three to five minutes.

Add 2 Tbsp green olive tapenade or chopped green olives mixed with sun-dried tomatoes.

Serve with Cholula or your favorite bottled pepper sauce.

How good was this chard? After I had firsts, I went back to the kitchen to get a little more and had to scrape the pan to get a tablespoonful. How nice that chard is in season. How wonderful that you can use other greens for this recipe. Enjoy.

Paintings Note: I decided not to paint chard so soon after painting beet greens, so instead I offer you one partly imaginary view of Spike and Carol’s yard and two partly imaginary views of their kitchen. Many of the objects and animals depicted are real, but I used artistic license. Spike would like you to know that the black chicken on the hay bale is named “Batman” — at least that’s what he told me.

If you want some of Spike’s or Carol’s recipes, make some noise in the Comment section and I’ll bug Carol to write you a blog post. I’ll be eating lots of greens with cumin and greens with tapenade because today I got beet greens, arugula and Russian kale!

painting of red kabocha squash, soup ingredients

Red Kabocha Soup 8″x8″ gouache and watercolor pencil Sharyn Dimmick

In Wednesday’s veggie box we got a giant red kabocha squash. I was thinking of making it into a Thai-style soup with coconut milk and lemongrass, red chili and Thai basil. I asked Mom if she wanted chunky soup — i.e with vegetables floating in it — or a puree.

“Make the smooth soup,” she said. “We haven’t had it for a long time.”

I realized she was thinking of the butternut squash soup I make. I checked.

“You mean you just want me to make it with milk and ginger the usual way?”

She did. There went my exotic soup plans.

I had roasted the kabocha whole the previous night, acting on a tip from the farm newsletter that recommended roasting the whole squash and then cutting it open and scooping out the seeds and strings. I scooped the seeds and strings into a  pot, along with the roasted skins, setting the squash flesh aside, covered the squash innards and skin with water and set them to simmering while I peeled and diced two onions and took our ginger root out of the freezer.

After I strained the squash stock into a bowl, I got out my microplane to grate the ginger.The microplane is a handy tool you will find at any hardware store — I find mine indispensable for grating Parmesan and ginger and zesting citrus.

Using a stock pot, I heated a little olive oil and butter over low heat. In that I sauteed my onions, grating the ginger directly over the pot, and adding some crumbled thyme leaves.. Next up, squash stock and squash: into the stock pot they go. Cook for awhile and and add a sploosh of tamari (wheat-free soy sauce).

When the squash is soft I puree the hot soup in a blender in two or three batches,, pouring it back into the stockpot as I go. I add milk to taste or until I like the consistency, somewhere between a cup and a quart, depending on how large the squash was. I usually use one-percent milk, but you can use anything up to and including whipping cream, depending on your proclivities. Just don’t use skim milk if you are going to say it is my recipe. Or dried milk.

Roasted Red Kambocha Soup (or Butternut Squash Soup)

Roast 1 large whole red kambocha squash in a 350 oven until it is fully soft. (You can do this a day or two ahead like I did)

OR cut open 1 large butternut squash lengthwise, scoop strings and seeds into a saucepan, cover with water and cook for stock, and roast squash cut side down in a baking pan. If using butternut, deglaze the baking pan with water and add the results to your saucepan.

Separate your roasted squash flesh from your seeds, strings and skins.

Cover seeds, strings and skins with water and simmer in a saucepan for stock.

Meanwhile, peel and dice 2 medium or 1 large onion.

Heat 2 tsp, olive oil and 2 tsp butter in a stockpot over low heat.

Add onions.

Grate 1 Tbsp fresh ginger over sauteeing onions (easiest with your trusty microplane)

Crumble in dried thyme to taste. (We home-dry ours, letting bundles of fresh dry exposed to the air).

Strain stock through mesh strainer into stockpot. Discard solids.

Add squash flesh to stockpot. Cook for fifteen or twenty minutes until everything is soft

Add tamari to taste. Start with 2 tsp. (This is providing your salty taste — no need for salt).

Puree soup in blender in two or three batches, adding pureed soup back to stockpot.

Add milk to taste or to achieve desired thickness or thinness. If the soup gets thick while sitting, you can add more milk when you heat it.

Food notes: I developed this recipe originally for butternut squash and it makes lovely butternut squash soup. The kabocha soup is similar, but lighter in color. You could make it with any winter squash you like.

Because the ingredients are few, the preparation methods make a difference. Once you roast squash for soup, you will never want to mess with soup recipes calling for raw winter squash again. If you make the stock from skins, seeds and strings, your winter squash soup will have a depth of flavor unachievable if you just pour vegetable stock or chicken stock into it. Please try it once. If it sounds difficult, allow yourself to roast the squash one day, make the stock another day and make the soup a third, but it really doesn’t take long all told. If you are in a hurry, save the squash seeds and skins in the freezer to make stock with next time and use water, milk or some kind of stock — just know it won’t be as good.  I often mix up yeast bread dough while the squash is roasting to take advantage of the warm oven for the rise — there is nothing better than hot soup with homemade bread.

I have used evaporated milk, low-fat milk, whole milk and half and half in this soup at different times. If you use richer milk, it is richer. We find one-percent milk fine for everyday soup. If we were inviting celebrities to dinner, we might add a little half and half.

Tamari is less salty than regular soy sauce. I like the flavor better. If I had been making Thai style soup I would have used coconut milk for the milk and fish sauce for the tamari.

Obviously, you can make large or small batches of this soup, according to how much squash you start with: if you use a small squash, it will not yield as much flesh or stock and you can use less milk and one small onion. Use more squash, get more soup. You’ll have to taste it to know how much milk you like.

After I originally posted this I ran across the “No Croutons Required” October soup event, which requires bloggers to submit their delicious squash soups to Jacqueline of Tinned Tomatoes, http://www.tinnedtomatoes.com/2011/10/no-croutons-required-october-2011.html I am excited to submit this variation on one of my favorite soups to this long-running event.

* My little joke: I keep confusing “kabocha” and “kambocha.” The one with the “m” might be deadly in soup.

Painting note: For further information about “Red Kabocha Soup” or any other painting, please contact me here.

Painting of beet greens, cumin seeds, peanut oil.

Beet Greens with Cumin 8″x8″ gouache and watercolor pencil. Sharyn DImmick

Wednesday I was reminded of why I like to eat fresh and seasonal food. Wednesday is vegetable box day for me and I went down to Berkeley in the rain to pick up my vegetables. Among the other things I got were bunches of turnips and beets with their greens attached. I twisted the greens free and bagged them separately since I have been told that otherwise the greens draw nutrition from the roots. I knew I was going to cook some kind of oven dinner — I had leftover delicata squash to eat, for one thing. On the way home I decided we would eat mixed turnip and beet greens tonight to get them at their freshest and most nutritious. I also decided to cook the beets, remembering a wonderful sauce in my Joyce Goldstein Kitchen Conversations cookbook made from butter, honey, dry mustard, cinnamon and black pepper.

I consulted Mom about what else we could have. She suggested baking two large red potatoes and serving them with sour cream. Fine. We would have squash with brown sugar and butter, the potatoes, beets in a hot and sweet sauce. I would put in a rice pudding for a high protein dessert so that we did not get hungry after all those vegetables for dinner, utilizing some cooked brown rice we already had.

That left the greens. Because two of the vegetables had a sweet profile I knew the greens needed to be savory, so I discarded the idea of making them with raisins and walnuts  or with peanut sauce: these would have to be greens as greens. As I chopped the beet and turnip stems I suddenly thought, “What if I cook them with roasted cumin seeds?” Maybe that would tame the bitterness.

I pricked the potatoes and put them in a 350 oven with the whole kabocha squash (the farm newsletter recommended roasting it whole before splitting it open to remove the seeds and strings) and a Pyrex bowl of brown rice pudding, made with raisins, milk, sugar, a couple of eggs and enough butter to keep it from sticking. Then I peeled beets and put them in a saucepan on the stove (the oven was crowded, due to the giant squash, or I could have roasted them). While they cooked I made Goldstein’s marvelous sauce.

Then I got out the peanut oil and filmed a hot skillet with just a touch (under a tablespoon). After a minute, I added a couple teaspoonfuls of cumin seeds and let them pop before bringing the skillet to my cutting board for the beet and turnip stems. While they began to cook over medium heat I chopped the greens and put them into the skillet with all of the water that clung to them and popped a lid on. When they were done, I assembled a plate of one potato, half a delicata squash, one beet and a large serving of greens, to which I added a small squeeze of Meyer lemon.

I am happy to report that these were the best greens I ever tasted. The cumin worked its magic, giving off its fragrance and mellowing the greens’ strong flavors. If you are not a greens lover but are fond of cumin, I urge you to try it. It is beyond simple and yet the results are sublime. Yes, I did say sublime — the acid test will be tomorrow when I see how they are reheated.* There’s got to be something to eating your greens the day they are picked — but the cumin didn’t hurt either.

Non-Recipe Greens Recipe: Greens with Cumin Seeds

Wash whatever greens you’ve got — I used turnip and beet greens.

Separate stems from leaves.

Chop stems into small pieces. Chop greens separately.

Heat a skillet over medium high heat.

Add 2 tsp to 1 Tablespoon of peanut oil, depending on your oil tolerance.

When oil shimmers, add 2 tsp cumin seeds and let them pop.

Remove skillet from heat long enough to add chopped stems.

Return skillet to heat. Add chopped greens.

Cover and cook over medium heat to desired done-ness — I cook them until the liquid has evaporated — about five minutes.

Add a squeeze of lemon and eat while hot.

* I ate the leftover greens for dinner Thursday night. They were still wonderful, tasting of cumin.

P.S Forgot to say: I’m heading up to Portland for a long weekend and I, unlike most modern people, have no mobile devices. This may cause a delay in my approving comments, but I want to hear from you and I’ll approve them all when I get back. — Sharyn

Painting Note: For information about Beet Greens with Cumin or any other painting, please contact me here.

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