I don’t know what came over me. It could have been the lunch I had earlier that day (thank you Meghan) or the fact that I’m finally (maybe?) coming down off the emotional roller coaster I’ve been on over the last few days, but yesterday I wanted to cook. To bake even. Crazy, I know (because I can’t remember the last time I had the urge to bake), but I went with it. I also knew that I needed to make room in the refrigerator for our weekly box of vegetables (there were still veggies in there from last week that weren’t consumed over the weekend), so when I got home from the office I set to work.
First: baking. I decided that I wanted to make something with nostalgic value, something that would bring back fond memories. I settled on the Marathon Cookies that I first made for our trip into Ngorongoro Conservation Area to see Engipaata. The cookies were a hit, and although I didn’t make them too many more times before we left Arusha, I haven’t made them since. Tim and I have been talking about our time in Tanzania with increasing regularity, and I thought this a nice way to honor those memories. Although I was just short of the necessary 2 cups of oats, they came out quite nice. This morning she even brought half of one out to the pool for our pre-work/pre-school morning swim. My recipe is a little different than the original, which can be found here.
While those baked, I cleaned the fridge. Turns out we had a lot of veggies that weren’t bad, but were a little past their prime. Then I recalled some stems of swiss chard which I had stashed in the freezer. I couldn’t stomach throwing everything away, so decided instead to make a last minute vegetable broth. I knew there was no guarantee it would be flavorful (I can never seem to make my vegetable broths very flavorful), but it would at least provide some added nutrients if used as a substitute for water. So, into the pot went frozen swiss chard stems, beet greens, half an onion, old baby carrots (a little too dry for eating), the remaining sauteed mushrooms and zucchini (there just wasn’t room on our pizza), cabbage, a few halves of lemons from which I had taken the zest, some herbs, salt and pepper. I didn’t have the energy (or desire, frankly) to taste it last night, but I bet it’s better than a kick in the butt.
Then the CSA box arrived. This week we got: onions, lettuce (2 heads), fennel, carrots, cucumbers, potatoes, zucchini, cabbage, and radishes (more radishes- there was still an entire bunch still sitting in my fridge!). I have to be honest, I didn’t know what to make of the contents. Not that there was something wrong, the meals just didn’t jump out at me, the combinations necessary for a flavorful and inspired meal just weren’t immediately apparent. One thing I did know was that I needed something to do with radishes. My mom eats them whole, and even though I credit her with my love of foods that I love but which lots of other people find questionable- or even repulsive (i.e. cottage cheese, brussel sprouts)- I just haven’t gotten into eating whole radishes. Then I remembered one of my favorite appetizer plates at a fabulous Chapel Hill restaurant- The Lantern pickle plate- and was inspired. And pickled radishes were born. There are dozens of recipes for pickling- pickling anything- but I a simple one used one which called only for ingredients I had on hand, and doubled the recipe. They pack a punch, but I think will be delicious on hamburgers (or veggie burgers), or crostini spread with goat or cream cheese, thinly sliced cucumbers, and dill or chives.
All this cooking and I still haven’t answered the question “What are we having for dinner this week?” We are having dinner guests tomorrow night, an adult only meal, so I wanted something that would go together easily and still impress. In my search for zucchini recipes I actually came across close to a dozen that I wanted to try, but (I think) I have settled on an adaptation of Martha Stewart’s (any groans from the audience?) Spaghetti with Peas and Zucchini Ribbons for two reasons: 1) one of our guests is a super-taster (yes, there is such a thing) and thus sensitive to overly powerful tastes and 2) it has a mere 6 ingredients and promises just 35 minutes start to finish. Plus, I could have everything ready and cook a little off for Eleanor before the guests arrive. I’ll probably go for a lower-than-whole-fat-milk yogurt…but then again, maybe not! We also had a small bag of beets that needed consuming (remember those beet greens from the vegetable broth?) so I roasted those and will serve them in a salad with our lettuce, thinly shaved fennel, orange slices (maybe), goat cheese, and candied walnuts. And because I’m now curious about the taste, I might actually try that crostini recipe I mentioned above as an appetizer. Or maybe I’ll pickle some of our carrots, fennel, and a few chickpeas and have our own Duffey/Baird pickle plate to start.
Roasted beets. Stunning.
As for the rest of the week- your guess is still as good as mine. I’m thinking about a nice farm-stand or classic potato salad with burgers (and our radishes, of course) and a cold minted cucumber and chickpea salad, maybe served in lettuce leaves or over quinoa (here’s one that even incorporates radishes!). In my zucchini searches I came across a lemony zucchini, chickpea, and lima bean salad that sounded nice- maybe for lunch. But notice I just said thinking about. I do have plans for a spiced zucchini bread, and once that’s made I’ll provide the recipe and let you know how it turned out.
In the meantime, I think it’s time I dug out my copy of Mark Bittman’s 101 Simple Salads for the Season article. He’s always a great source of inspiration.