A mother-daughter conversation on food and cooking (mostly)

Monday, June 29, 2009

Zucchini Soup

It's great to be back in my own kitchen again. Last night, after a swim at Mary Ellen's, we all had a dinner of cold zucchini soup and homemade bread; followed by a second course of grilled Copper River red salmon, grilled eggplant from the garden, and French potato salad. I call it French to distinguish it from the mayonnaise version.

For the potato salad, I used red potatoes and after boiling them in their skins until barely tender I cut them into chunks and tossed them with this dressing: 1/4 cup olive oil, 1/4 cup rice vinegar, a pressed clove of garlic, a tablespoon of Dijon mustard, salt and pepper. I also added a sliced green onion and some fresh tarragon.

Here is the soup recipe:

Curried Zucchini Soup

2 tablespoons butter
2 large zucchini, thinly sliced
1/2 onion, thinly sliced

Melt butter and add zucchini and onion. Cover and cook 10 minutes; do not brown.

2 teaspoons curry powder
1 teaspoon salt (maybe a little less)

Add curry powder and salt and cook another 2 minutes.

2 cups chicken broth
1 cup half-and-half (or evaporated milk)

Place vegetables in blender, add broth and cream, and process until creamy. Chill. Garnish with chives or parsley.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

The Bourbon Blossom

I forgot to mention in the last post that we invented a new drink for Father's Day, which we named the Bourbon Blossom.

2 ounces bourbon
1 tablespoon Triple Sec
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Lots of ice
Orange slice for garnish

Shake the bourbon, Triple Sec, and lemon juice with ice. Serve in a glass over ice, garnished with an orange slice.

Seafood Orgy

Moderation was abandoned. Although I think it's a good idea not to overconsume certain resources, we ate seafood every night on Cape Cod: halibut, scrod, scallops, lobster, haddock!

For Father's Day we had halibut, asparagus, sweet potatoes, and a Razzleberry Pie. Of course, you bought the pie from Marion's Pie Shop, so you know all about it. What a great Father's Day present.

Beet Pickled Eggs

I had only eaten one pickled egg before this. It was between undergrad and grad school, when my friend John was hanging out with some guys who met every week at a local bar to watch pro wrestling on the big screen. I went with them once, and one guy had pickled some eggs. He pulled a big warm jar out of a paper bag. I ate an egg. It was strange.

Now it's...what, 9 years later? A few months ago I saw a picture of a beet pickled egg, all purple and Easter-y and lovely, and I decided I would make a batch.

I poked through various recipes, thought about my own pickling past, and came up with this.

The Eggs

First, I hard-boiled a dozen eggs.

My eggs never seem to get that ugly blue discoloration between yolk and white. They used to when I was younger. I buy brown free-range eggs -- I suppose that could be a factor -- but it's more likely my standard method that makes the difference.

I put cold eggs in a pot of room temperature water and brought it to a boil over medium-high heat, uncovered. As soon as it boiled, I put the lid on and took the pot off the burner. I let it sit for about 8 minutes -- no longer -- and then took the eggs out and ran cold water over them and put them in a dry cool bowl immediatley into the fridge.

This method always seems to make perfect eggs.

I peeled them about 20 minutes later, as soon as they were cool.

The Pickling Mixture

I mixed the following ingredients and let them sit in a pan on the stove until the eggs were peeled:
  • One small beet, roasted and peeled and sliced, left over from the previous night's dinner
  • Two cups water
  • Two cups vinegar
  • One tablespoon sugar
  • Two tablespoons salt
  • Half teaspoon dry mustard
  • Bay leaves
  • One teaspoon brown mustard seed
  • Several allspice berries
  • One teaspoon dill seed
  • Half teaspoon celery seed
  • One teaspoon black pepper
I used a big glass jar with a hinged locking lid -- I love those. I put the eggs in it and brought the mixture to a boil on the stove, then poured it immediately over the eggs.

I got the jar cooled down as quickly as possible and put it in the fridge.

After three days, I ate an egg.

I loved it. Sweet and sour and pickly and mild -- really delicious.

I had to coax Lawson into trying one. After trying it, he said "I think that's something I'd have to be in the mood for."

Nobody else who's visited has wanted to try one, either. Pickled eggs are something they sell in rural convenience stores around here, all weird and yellow and bobbing around in massive jars next to the crock pot of boiled peanuts.

So I've been happily eating a pickled egg every few days. They're almost gone.

Look, a perfect dinner: vichyssoise, Heather's seeded sourdough, salad with Parmesan, and a few pickled things.

Monday, June 15, 2009


We had some people over to swim yesterday. We ate:

Ribs smoked by Lawson
Hummus made by Lawson, with whole wheat pita bread
Carrot salad, your recipe
Spiced spinach-zucchini empanadas

For the empanada dough I used your recipe (you inspired me quite a bit this weekend, I see). Here is how I made the filling. It was inspired by Mexican and New Mexican dishes I've had but didn't follow any recipe.

Spinach-Zucchini Empanada Filling
This wasn't quite enough for all the empanadas (I made them smaller than your recipe calls for -- there were 10 in all). For the other three I had some longaniza in the freezer that I hadn't put in casings, so I used that. Those three are like British pasties, except Central American. Very good.

Here's the filling.

Saute in order:

one small onion, diced
one zucchini, diced
one teaspoon garlic, minced
a bag of spinach, torn up

Add and simmer:
small handful currants
1/8 cup walnuts or pecans
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
salt to taste
a bunch of black pepper

Remove from heat, let cool slightly, and add:

several handfuls grated Parmesan
1-2 eggs

I filled the empanadas and baked them as instructed in your dough recipe. I served them with Herdez salsa verde.

It was a lot of food, but the watermelon and carrots offset the heavy ribs and empanadas well, so nobody felt too stuffed.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

More about Road Food

We care a lot about food, in case you hadn't noticed--I guess we bought a camper so we could drag our kitchen around. I hate eating junk. Now we are on this freeway/motel trip from Tucson to Cape Cod, and here is how we survive. We eat out only once a day, usually dinner, and avoid chain restaurants, looking for anything local or ethnic or fresh--not always possible, but it's fun to look.

We take a small ice chest and a plastic box of food and utensils, and a paper bag with fruit. This five-day trip the cooler contained Jarlsberg cheese, English Coastal Cheddar, a package of fancy Italian cold cuts, mustard, a couple of kinds of hummus, small cans of tomato juice, baby carrots from the garden, grapes, cherries. The box contains a small cutting board, a roll of paper towels, a tablecloth, a knife, a corkscrew, silverware, a box of RyKrisp, a loaf of whole wheat sliced bread, a tin of herring fillets with black pepper. The produce bag holds two avocados, a small bunch of bananas, apples, peaches, plums, etc. which we eat as they ripen. All this costs less than a few fast food lunches! And we only spent an hour apiece assembling the ingredients--Dad at Trader Joe's, me at Sprouts.

We eat breakfast in our motel room and have a picnic lunch wherever it happens. We've been lucky with dinners on this trip and even though we've driven 500 or 600 miles per day, ended up with New Mexican food the first night, then barbecue, last night sushi, and tonight a sort of hometown Pennsylvania seafood/Italian thing.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Getting Lucky in Kansas

We arrived at our motel in Ottawa, Kansas after 7:00 last night, in a downpour. We have driven 1200 miles in two days, on track to get from Tucson to Cape Cod in five days.

There were "restaurants" all around us: Applebee's, Wendy's, McDonald's! We really wanted barbecue, so we looked in the Yellow Pages and there was indeed a barbecue joint--and they delivered! I ordered a rib plate and a chicken plate with spicy sauce, and twenty minutes later it arrived. $7.85 per plate. A miracle.

We had been lugging around a bottle of champagne, waiting for something worth celebrating--and this was definitely it.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Sweet Corn Quesadillas

I knew gardenlessness would be hard, but I didn't know it would be this hard.

Lawson decided to skip the garden this year. We've had terrible pest problems these last few years -- stinkbugs and their cousins the leaf-footed bugs, primarily, plus some bacterial leafspot. And rats, always rats. Then last year we had mole problems AND nematodes. So Lawson decided to just let the land rest for a year.

So now it's June and I absolutely ache for a yellow garden squash. It's killing me. No new herbs -- just the year-round ones like rosemary, thyme, and oregano. No chiles.

The grocery stores have lots of raspberries and blueberries and strawberries, so I've been buying them to make me feel like it's summer. But the vegetables in the store look the same as ever...with one exception. SWEET CORN.

I never cared much about corn when I was younger. Didn't like corn on the cob. Thought it tasted weird. But, as with so many things that changed when I moved to the South, the sweet corn here really is amazing, and I've been converted. I still can't eat multiple ears in one sitting like Lawson can, but I do love it.

So now we're coming to the point of this whole post: that blurry cell phone picture up there conceals the fact that those quesadillas are the best quesadillas ever made. I saved a cooked ear of sweet corn from dinner the night before, cut the kernels off, and made sweet corn quesadillas.

Each quesadilla contained:
  • Medium cheddar
  • Half an ear's worth of sweet corn
  • A handful of chopped cilantro
  • Whole wheat tortillas
All these ingredients were essential. And I don't think just any old corn would work: it had to be fresh sweet corn.

I sauteed the quesadillas in a big pan in some olive oil and served them with plain old Herdez green salsa.

We just couldn't handle having no garden anymore, so over the weekend Lawson bought some basil and chile plants and a cherry tomato which he will plant in containers.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Lemon-Basil Daiquiris

Our beach trip a few weeks ago was somewhat marred by cold weather, but was otherwise beautiful. You can see in this picture I am holding a daiquiri in my long pants and wool jacket.

Sharon had heard about this drink somewhere, so she and Annie set about trying to re-create it. Here is the recipe for a blenderful, as perfected over several days.
  • 4 ounces light rum
  • 1.5 ounces lemon juice
  • 1/8 cup or more sugar
  • 4 basil leaves
  • ice to fill
It sounds almost too minimalistic. It is very light and crisp, like a mojito. But all the ingredients come through just right, assertive but not too strong.

They experimented with using lemonade, lemon zest, and freshly squeezed lemon juice, but in the end settled on high quality bottled lemon juice. I would probably juice a lemon just because that's what we usually have around.

I think you should make one with your homegrown Meyer lemons and garden basil, Mom.

Kitchen Art

Can you guess what this photo is?