Before I move on the the vegetable box, I must again offer thanks for all your good wishes and healing thoughts. Both cats continue vigorously on their way back to tip-top kitty health, the Unit arrived safe and sound (albeit a bit cranky after twenty hours of travelling) from Greece, and I am re-learning what it’s like to sleep six hours at a shot. In short, life is getting back to normal.
The latest box finally contained the joke of summer produce—zucchini—as well as a canary-colored pattypan squash, a trio of magenta onions, kale, celery, tarragon, green bell peppers, and several ears of plump-kernelled sweet corn.
I also had a stowaway.
And here’s what I did:
The squashes, bell pepper, and one of the onions joined with garlic, tomatoes, an obscene amount of olive oil, and loads of herbs to make a faux ratatouille: a not-tatoullie, if you will, due to the lack of eggplant. I love the silky texture all the vegetables take on when you cook them to death. There’s not an al dente bite in the entire pot (I think we should overcook our vegetables more often, but more on this another time). This stuff is great as a base for a poached egg or two or plopped on a piece of toast, but ultimately this batch played a supporting role in a burrito. I took a Mexican approach to some Mediterranean ingredients to create a totally disrespectful-of-culture old-world-new-world dinner.
- Braised chicken→Braised chicken (kudos for my creativity on this one, right?)
- Jalapeno→Spicy harissa
- Sour cream→Tahini-yogurt sauce
Winner, winner, (Mexi-terranean) chicken dinner!
The spicy harissa was a gift from my delightful friend Sally who knows my love of all things tongue-numbing and constantly surprises me with new ways to feed the addiction. This stuff is magical: plenty of heat, but not so much that your head will explode. Plus, the complexity of the spice and the acidity of the sauce makes this interesting enough to eat off a spoon (not that I would know anything about that).
The kale I braised with white beans and artichoke hearts, along with a couple of Parmesan rinds. In its first iteration, I served the beans under a piece of slow roasted wild salmon (it’s salmon season!!); I used the leftovers to make a white bean, kale, artichoke soup.
I took the corn off the cobs and used the cobs to enrich some chicken stock with their corny flavor. I used the stock to make risotto, into which I added the sweet kernels. Truthfully, it was a bit sweet for me, so I tossed on a decent dousing of olive oil and sherry vinegar. I also crisped up some lardons of my homemade bacon, because bacon + corn = yum. We had a ton of risotto left over. I think I may make some arancini, subbing out bits of goat cheese for the mozzarella.
The celery I ate in sticks at work with blue cheese dip. Sadly, no spicy chicken wings.
The other onion endured a slow cook in oodles of oil and butter until it got brown and sticky. I plopped it on top of some focaccia with a mess of black olives I had marinated in with orange, garlic, and basil.
And the tarragon flavored some pickled mustard seeds. I will giggle like seven-year old when I get pickled mustard seeds at a restaurant. I will never share. They always seem so exotic and luxurious, like caviar without the whole lining-of-a-fish-belly thing. Thing is, pickled mustard seeds are dead simple to make. Who knew? And now I have my own supply! Sorry: not sharing.
While cooking, I listened (a lot) to Leon Bridges. Have you heard his record? Listen to it. I promise you will love it. If you don’t I will personally come to your house and do your laundry. Seriously: it’s that good. He croons with the passion of Sam Cooke, plays guitar with the tightly executed song structures of CSNY, yet possesses a completely modern sensibility along the lines of Usher or John Legend. Bridges lives in Fort Worth, on the same street as my brother. The two ran into one another at the Newport Folk Festival—where Bridges knocked everyone’s socks off—and celebrated an “only in Rhode Island” moment.