The weekend and food

I had a wonderful weekend for food. On Friday I had a bag waiting for me from a local market CSA. It contained pea sprouts, pastured eggs, pastured Italian chicken sausage, celtuce, and blueberries. It was a steaming hot day so my primary desire after that was to head straight home to relax and eat.

I had some soaking cannellini beans awaiting my arrival. I rinsed them and threw them in a pot with water, crushed garlic, an onion, and several sprigs of oregano. I then set the pot to simmer. Beans are so fabulously easy to cook, and yet they seemed so intimidating before I discovered this.

I wanted something extra-decadent for my Friday night dinner, so I also started on a quiche. I decided on a pea sprout and goat cheese quiche with an almond flour crust. I discovered later that the delicate flavor of pea sprouts is a bit lost when hidden among other ingredients, but the quiche was delicious all the same. I had crisp green salad, then quiche, and a bowl of cannellini beans sprinkled with cracked pepper and dashed with fruity olive oil. It was a nice feast.

But I decided I wanted a sweet ending, even after enjoying a succulent nectarine. So, I made a clafoutis with blueberries, dark chocolate, and buckwheat flour…sounds strange and it was. But strange in the best of ways. It was definitely more breakfast-like, but that’s kind of how I like my desserts.

Saturday morning was spent drinking iced coffee and driving about aimlessly, trying to find refuge from the heat. I wandered into a grocery store to scrounge up a picnic lunch and dropped the iced coffee I had been nursing for over an hour. Very embarrassing, of course. After my lunch, I decided to let the heat vanquish me and headed for home. I watched Chocolat and was mesmerized by the hot chocolate and chocolate cake, and the lovely haunting music of the movie. Chocolate is indeed medicine, and I resolved to eat more of it.

For dinner I had cold chicken drumsticks sloshed in spicy dijon mustard. I swear I can eat some mustards like soup. I also had some fragrant and chewy jasmine rice and a marinated zucchini salad with a bit of tangy tomato sauce. On Thursday, I had cut the zucchini with my spiralizer, salted it, drained the water after a bit and seasoned it. The zucchini gets firm yet springy, like al dente pasta, when prepared this way. It was so cooling on that sun-dreary day. For dessert I had more of the blueberry and buckwheat clafoutis, cold from the fridge. I always love cold leftover clafoutis best.

Today was even more scorching but I braved the day and drove down to Columbus to visit some friends. I had a $14 sub-par salad with one friend, but later in the day my other friend served me some homemade asparagus soup, with some basil leaves floating on top. It was quite delicious and creamy. She served the soup with ciabatta toasts topped with smoked salmon, cream cheese and dill, cucumber slices, and red onion. Creamy vegetal soup, cool cucumbers, crisp toasts, and salty salmon…perfect antidotal delicacies to a hot day. She also sent me home with some fruit tarts.

On the way home I stopped by Whole Foods to return some rancid olive oil I had bought. I purchased raspberries, cotton candy grapes, champagne mangos, nectarines, einkhorn wheat flour, whole-milk plain yogurt (for making labneh), black pepper, almonds, peanut butter, and an 85% chocolate bar studded with quinoa and black rice. In the summer my food budget goes through the roof due to the plethora of amazing fruit, but every cent is worth it.

When I finally made it back home, I dug out the fruit tarts. I wasn’t keen on the look of the sugar-glazed fruit or the pastry crust, so I flicked off the fruit, dug out the custard and topped it with the fresh raspberries I bought. It was cool, tangy, and sweet and I am still not ready to return to work tomorrow.

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My favorite ways to eat asparagus

My CSA share started a couple weeks ago and I have received a bit of asparagus each time. I snap off the ends like you are told to do, but I always end up munching on them raw while I’m cooking and they taste sweet and fresh to me. Only the very end is woody, but it is still palatable. Perhaps this is because the asparagus is very fresh, being from a local farm.

The first week I ate them very simply by steaming them in a pan with a touch of water, until they were tender yet toothsome and springy. I tossed them with a bit of lemon juice, salt, and olive oil and gorged on them with my fingers.

This week, however, I ate them in one of my favorite ways: on bread spread with homemade mayonnaise topped with an egg. Again, I quickly steamed the asparagus with a touch of water in a lidded pan. I find this the simplest and quickest way to cook them, and I feel the texture is just as good as when blanching. You can use any bread, but I feel a crusty baguette works best. This time I had only humble Ezekiel toast but it was delicious nevertheless. I made the mayonnaise with avocado oil which is great for mayonnaise because it is mild in flavor, doesn’t harden in the fridge like olive oil, and isn’t bad for your heart like canola or soy oil. I fried my eggs (farm fresh from my CSA), but I also love this with perfectly boiled eggs, which in my opinion means a yolk that is moist and creamy, but still firm.

I lay out the toast, spread it with mayonnaise, gently lay the lovely green spears, top it with the egg (one per toast), and sprinkle all with salt and pepper. It is quite a decadent way to enjoy asparagus.

My other favorite way to eat it is blanched or steamed, cut into smaller pieces, and tossed with Japanese black sesame sauce. I used to eat this all the time but haven’t a whole lot in recent years for whatever reason. This is the recipe I used to use; I highly recommend it.

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An ode to bittersweet chocolate

I started eating dark chocolate in my teens because of all the magazine articles I read that told me I would be beautiful and healthy if I consumed a small square everyday. I didn’t dislike it, but it certainly didn’t compare to Reese’s, which I consumed voraciously.

I may have begun eating dark chocolate grudgingly, but over the years I’ve come to crave and love it deeply. I feel like I need to hide or lessen my bittersweet fervor from others because it is almost unseemly. Furthermore, a lot of the people I know do not share my love. They still view dark chocolate and something “saintly” and they believe I’m eating it because I have strong will power, because why else would someone choose such bitter stuff over Hershey’s?

For example, a few weeks ago my colleagues were expressing disgust at some “dark” chocolate bunnies we had laying around the office. Sharon said she had to make chocolate chip cookies with them in order to mask the bitterness, and even then it was too much for her. I felt the need to defend bittersweet chocolate, so I simply said “I love dark chocolate. I just love it.”

“That’s probably because it’s healthier,” said Courtney, quick to dismiss such a ludicrous love.

Well, let me count the ways I truly love and enjoy my bittersweet chocolate:

  • Naked and alone This is one of the best ways to consume dark chocolate, especially with a cortado or cappuccino. I prefer chocolate that has a cacao content of 80% or higher. You need to let the chocolate warm in your mouth a little to truly savor the avalanche of flavor you are about to experience. Also, don’t restrict yourself to one square because of those silly magazine articles. Sometimes, I’m satisfied with just a nibble, but sometimes I’m more voracious and need a few squares to have my lust quenched.
  • With dried fruit I love the contrast of bitter chocolate and the sweetness of dried fruit, especially medjool dates and dried figs. This is a dessert (I hope) I will never tire of, because it is so magical. Sometimes I like an even-higher cacoa content here, like 90%. Lately, I’ve been having fantasies of trying completely unsweetened chocolate with medjool dates, since the dates are so incredibly sweet themselves.
  • With bread or crackers This combination never occurred to my until I was reading M.L.K. Fisher’s The Art of Eating. I immediately realized the genius of the combination and tried it with a good country loaf from a local bakery. I will never forget delicious contrast of sweet, yet bitter chocolate and chewy, yeasty bread. For me, this is the epitome of decadence. Sometimes I also enjoy chocolate with whole-grain crackers, my favorite being ak-mak. I make little sandwiches with the grainy crackers and pieces of chocolate, varying the proportion of cracker to chocolate depending on my desire at that moment. Apparently, a bar of chocolate lightly melted (or not) on a baguette is a popular snack in France. I’ve been meaning to try it like this, by melting my chocolate a bit in the oven with some good, buttered bread, and perhaps a sprinkling of sea salt to finish.
  • In hot chocolate Fuck the powdered hot cocoa mixes. I love making hot chocolate my whisking chopped, bitter chocolate with milk or cream in a double boiler until it thickens. When it’s done, I add some honey or sugar and savor. It’s also delicious with a bit of sea salt, of course.
  • In dense chocolate cake I’ve tried many recipes for “flourless” chocolate cake but my favorite thus far has been one made entirely with chestnut flour and some chopped chestnuts mixed into the batter. I found the recipe abandoned in a cart at the grocery store years ago, and I just recently got around to making it. Over the years, I’ve developed a very sensitive sweet tooth. Although I enjoy desserts, most of them are way too sweet for me. This recipe has the perfect amount of sweetness in my opinion. Don’t forget to lick the bowl- the uncooked batter is just as delicious as the final product (it’s basically chocolate mousse- another way to enjoy bitter chocolate). I have tweaked the original recipe:

 

Chocolate Chestnut Cake

4 oz 70% chocolate

4 oz unsalted butter

4 eggs, separated

1/2 cup honey, or sugar

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 cup chestnut flour (I imagine almond flour would also work)

1/2 cup chopped, cooked chestnuts (optional)

Heat the oven to 350º. Prepare a standard cake pan with butter and parchment paper, or use a springform cake pan.

Melt the chocolate and butter in a double boiler and stir to combine. Do not burn the chocolate! Allow to cool slightly.

Whisk the eggs yolks with 1/2 the honey and the salt. Stir in the warm chocolate and set aside. Beat the egg whites in a clean bowl until frothy. Add the remaining honey in a slow drizzle and beat until stiff peaks form.

Add the chestnut flour and chestnuts to the chocolate batter. Mix in 1/4 of the egg whites to lighten the mixture. Then gently fold in the remaining egg whites. Pour into the prepared cake pan and bake. Check it after 25 minutes. It is done when a knife in the center comes out clean, but it also tastes amazing ever-so-slightly under-cooked. It tastes best if you let it sit at room temperature for a day or two.

Serve alone or with a bit of lightly-sweetened whipped cream (homemade, of course). After a few days of eating it unadorned, I tried it with some sliced sweet frozen banana, which I allowed to thaw slightly and a drizzle of tahini. It was like a much-improved version of an ice cream cake.

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I received my first CSA bag today! I’m absurdly excited about it.

IMG_0435I received pea shoots, collard greens, lettuces, onions, broccoli and radishes. In the two little paper bags are some type of mushroom (oyster?) and an assortment of sweet potatoes, red potatoes, and russets. This is a nice haul for 15$ a week!

Tonight I think I’m going to simply sautee the pea shoots and mushrooms with garlic.

I rarely buy radishes so I looked around online for some ideas on what to do with them. Here were some of my favorites:

  • raw sliced radishes dipped in ricotta cheese
  • crostini with pesto, thinly sliced radishes, and sea salt
  • sandwich of thinly-sliced radishes and red onion, goat cheese, and mashed avocado
  • thinly-sliced radishes on buttered bread

I think I will need some more radishes!

I also received this cute table linen:

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This week

My new favorite snack:

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Whole plain greek yogurt drizzled with raw local honey and topped with sunflower and chia seeds.

Also:

Medjool dates dipped in whole plain greek yogurt

Favorite meal of the week:

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Garbanzo Bean Soup with Chorizo and Caramelized Onions

Will post recipe later!

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Sauteed Orange Cauliflower and Bok Choy with Tahini Sauce

Today has been a very cloudy and dreary day. It used to be that I loved cloudy weather. It made me feel peaceful- like I had every reason to cuddle up on a sofa chair, read, and drink tea all day. People would be shocked when I told them this; that no, I didn’t find the cloudy weather “soooooo depressing…soooooo depressing,” (as one woman exclaimed to me). I figured growing up in southern California I had enough sunny days baked into me for a lifetime. But after living in Ohio for almost ten years, things are starting to change. When it’s cloudy I crave sun rays.

My boyfriend cracked one of his ribs so we spent much of the morning at an urgent care. I sat and read tabloids for almost two hours, my only other amusement being a sassy old woman who kept giving the staff an earful of her opinion about everything: from not wanting to give her social security number, to the forty minute wait time, to the fact that she didn’t like her name displayed on the “expected wait” monitor for everyone in the room to see.

I just leaned back in my chair and tried to doze off a little, wondering why an 80+ year old woman had more energy than me.

When we finally got home I felt hungry and taxed. I decided to bring a little sunshine into my like by cooking an orange cauliflower I bought yesterday.  

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I simply sauteed some orange cauliflower florets with bok choy in refined coconut oil. I added sea salt and a tahini sauce I wrote about in an old blog post:

2 tbsp of tahini 

1 tsp of olive oil

juice of one lemon 

1 garlic clove

2 tsp soy sauce

Blend all the ingredients in a food processor

I drenched the vegetables pretty heavily with the sauce. It was very flavorful! I had some slices of Tillamook sharp cheddar cheese on the side and then a champagne mango for dessert to keep up the orange theme (and because they’re delicious).

I think we are getting takeout from an Indian restaurant tonight. The leftovers will be a nice side to Chicken Dal, one of my favorites. 

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A few quotes

From Edible Columbus:

  • Things to eat in the springtime in Ohio: asparagus, broccoli, breads, cabbage, carrots, cheeses, cilantro, collards, eggs, honey, kale, maple syrup, meats, milk, microgreens, mustard greens, peas, radishes, rhubarb, spinach, strawberries, swiss chard, turnip greens
  • “For a spring smoothie, blend a handful of fresh strawberries with a frozen banana, a tablespoon of chia seeds, and a handful of baby spinach.”    (This would be wonderful with the addition of pineapple coconut juice)                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            “Crisp snow or sugar-snap peas are great snacks and delicious in stir-fries. Whip up a peanut sauce with soy sauce, rice vinegar, fresh ginger, natural peanut butter, and a squirt of local honey. Add in snow peas, sliced red peppers, and carrots for a pop of color.”                                                        Alexis Joseph, MS, RD, LD 

From How to Pick a Peach by Russ Parsons:

  • “And therein lies the paradox of the strawberry. In its wild state, it is a highly seasonal, wildly flavorful fruit that is as fragile as a soap bubble. Yet in our passion for it, we managed to turn this dreamy berry into a year-round staple as resilient as Styrofoam and only a little more flavorful. It wasn’t too long ago that strawberries were a food you anticipated all through the winter and then gorged on in a brief frenzy that was a ritual of spring. Today it’s a year-round garnish, the parsley of the breakfast plate….And yet finding a berry with true flavor-the kind that stops you in your tracks when you taste it-just keeps getting harder…this is one case where the old “buy local; buy seasonal” mantra really pays off.”                                                                                                                                                                                                                             This year I really wanted to go strawberry picking at a local farm. In Ohio, strawberries usually start popping up in late May and into June.

Ginger Rogers:

  • “When you’re happy, you don’t count the years.”

ginger rogers

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