What a crazy week! I'm really looking forward to July and August, so that I can have time to focus on my garden and my cooking. It has been raining every day for about two weeks now, so I haven't been out in the garden for anything more than a drive by inspection. The yard is water logged and flooded in places and the constant pouring from the sky makes going outside a very unpleasant experience. Most of my inspections are from the comfort of my living room via the big windows that line our eastern wall. The asparagus are now flowering out. Have you ever seen an asparagus go to flower? It looks like a tall, thin, fern-like tree. They're strange, but so much fun to watch. The zucchini and squash plants are getting big from all of the rain, but the eggplant plants are unhappy. The green bean plants continue to grow skyward, but I don't see much in the way of flowers yet. The strawberries in the front yard are putting out tiny green fruits, but they're not ripening. The rain is good for the plants, but they're craving some sunshine and heat.
Last Sunday, J and I resolved our ongoing debate about how to use up the big bunch of cilantro we got in last week's share by making a huge double batch of salsa. We got some good canned organic whole tomatoes and blitzed them in the mini food processor with a good handful of cilantro, a couple of jalapenos, red and white onions, freshly-squeezed lime juice, and some salt and hot sauce. I don't usually like salsa, but this stuff is good. We heated up plates of tortilla chips sprinkled with jalapeno-jack cheese so that the cheese got good and melty, then dolloped the whole thing with our spicy, herbal, onion-sharp salsa. We made pannini with the same cheese on slices of a good rustic loaf and dipped the crunchy-melty-warm sandwiches into the salsa before devouring them. I crisped up some whole wheat tortillas in a skillet before frying a few of our organic, free-range eggs, and assembled huevos rancheros (tortilla, egg, salsa on top) in big bowls, sprinkled with crumbles of tortilla chips for crunch. Salsa was a good investment of time and cilantro. I can't wait to make this with our fresh tomatoes in August and September.
The radish question mark still loomed until J started talking about daikon. I decided to slice the radishes impossibly thin (using my Japanesse mandolin) and pickle them in rice wine vinegar and sugar. Word to the wise: heating the vinegar to dissolve the sugar and to speed up the pickling process is good. Inhaling a snoot full of warm vinegar is bad. After I finished my cough attack, I layered the some-red and some-white radishes in a shallow covered dish with the pickling liquid and some kosher salt and stashed it in the fridge. Within 24 hours, the pickling liquid turned pink from the red radish skins and J was happily chomping away on wafer-thin rounds of radish. I can't get past the smell of the radishes to try them, so this snack will be J's.
We ate the homemade strawberry jam spread on every bread product we could find in the house throughout the week. The sweetness has been tempered by the coldness at which we serve the jam, so it is really pleasant now. The jam even set up into a nice, thick consistency in the refrigerator, so it is easy to spread and it doesn't run off the bagel or biscuit or muffin or spoon. J and I munched happily on bagels and jam yesterday morning, discussing the ways we could use up the rest of the jam: mix some into a strawberry smoothie or milkshake, top a cheesecake with it, blend it into cream cheese or butter, use it as a filling for a cake or cupcake or sandwich cookie, mix it into whipped cream for strawberry shortcake... We had more ideas, but some are not sharable in such a public forum. ;)
We learned a valuable lesson about leeks last week. Did you know you could get a seed leek stalk in your leeks? It's a very hard core in the center of the leek that is difficult to cut and too woody to eat. We got three seed leeks in our share last week, so I labored in the kitchen to salvage the few outer layers that seemed soft enough to eat. I ended up with about a cup and a half of long, thin leek slices that lived in the fridge while I figured out how to use up this not-big-enough amount to its best advantage.
Saturday morning found me at the stove making creamed leeks and mushrooms. I sauteed the leeks and some sliced crimini mushrooms in a bit of butter until they were meltingly soft (not easy with these woody leek leaves) and stirred in a drizzle of cream and let it reduce to a velvety-smooth consistency. The cream turned a light brown, almost beef stroganoff color, from the mushrooms and it was redolent of the earthy mushrooms themselves. I stirred in some blanched asparagus (we had two small bunches left over from the shares) and spooned some of the mixture (creamy sauce and all) into two small consomme bowls. Eggs in cocote were my goal, with the creamy vegetable mixture as my base. I cracked two eggs from our share into each bowl, seasoned them with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, and drizzled a tiny bit of cream over each before placing the bowls in a skillet of boiling water. I slapped the cover on and, just a few minutes later, we had softly-cooked egges (okay, I waited a bit too long - inexperience - and a bit of the yolks was not softly-cooked enough for my tastes) with bubbling warm veggies underneath. J and I cracked what little of the yolks that remained creamy and stirred it all into the veggies and cream sauce below. J dunked bits of toasted bagel into his bowl (I found a couple of leftover bagels in the freezer and toasted them up. I would have preferred some baguette, but a girl can't be too choosy on a rainy Saturday morning.) and I slurped my eggs up with a spoon (saving my bagel for strawberry jam - it's addictive).
We were more than adequately fueled for the morning after our eggs in cocotte and we stashed the left over veggies (I dream of them over egg noodles) in the fridge before setting out to run errands.
We didn't make it to the farm yesterday because of the weather and a ton of traffic between us and the farm. We had dinner plans with the NY/NJ family so we pushed off our pickup until today.
I've still got pea shoots and arugula in the refrigerator from last week and two eggs remain. I just nudged J (still half-asleep next to me) to begin the process of getting him up and out to the farm to pick up this week's goodies. J went a bit crazy at Costco earlier this week and bought TWELVE pounds of cherries (you can't see my counter tops with all of the cherries in my kitchen at the moment). I'm thinking about making a cherry chutney with some of the share bounty this week. I'm pretty sure we'll be getting more rhubarb, so it will be a cherry-rhubarb collaboration of some sort this week.
It's the last week of school, so I won't have much time to cook, but the promise of next weekend and the summer that follows it lies in front of me, beckoning me to plow through the week, full steam ahead, and get to that promised land to enjoy a summer of cooking and eating. I'm looking forward to it.