Simple Yellow Squash

baby squash

I just went out to the garden, and I counted approximately 75 baby yellow squash between 5 plants. That is A LOT of squash coming in the next few weeks!! I harvested the first crooknecks yesterday, which were probably a little bigger than I should have let them grow. Varying sources say to pick crookneck squash when they get to be 4-5″ long, but these were more like 7″ and had developed a bumpy skin that the smaller ones don’t seem to have.

basil

I have two favorite ways to prepare squash – on the grill or as a saute. By the time I got home from bouldering last night, Matt had already eaten dinner, so I just threw this saute together quickly. The herbs are doing great right now too, so I wanted to incorporate a few of them as well. You can feel free to substitute other herbs or add other vegetables that you have on hand – bell peppers, broccoli, asparagus… it would be good as a side or even on its own for a light dinner.

Yellow Crookneck Squash Saute

1-2 squash (this should feed 2 people, add more squash as necessary) – sliced 1/4″ thick

1/2  an onion – sliced

1-2 cloves garlic, minced

Fresh herbs – parsley, basil, oregano – chopped (maybe 2 TBSP worth? Up to you)

Olive oil, salt, pepper

Heat a skillet over medium heat (Size of skillet dependent on how much squash you have). Saute onion in olive oil until nearly translucent, add squash.

Saute for 5 minutes until tender but not mushy. A few minutes before squash is done, add garlic, herbs, salt and pepper to taste. Serve!

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Chez Panisse & a Burger Bus

Chez Panisse

Over Memorial Day weekend, I had the chance to go to Alice Water’s acclaimed restaurant Chez Panisse in Berkeley. A friend had given me a gift certificate for Christmas (thanks Jo!), so I have been waiting for the opportunity to come up – since we live in Santa Barbara, it would have to be on one of our visits up north to the Bay Area. We had lunch in the Cafe, and it was everything I had imagined, and more! We shared a salad of arugula with kumquat and seared duck breast, Matt had a dish of chickpeas and fava with poached eggs and harissa, I had ricotta and wild nettle pizza, and we finished with blueberry peach cobbler with almond ice cream. Oh, and a glass of lemon green tea that was perfect. Delicious!!!

Arugula salad

What is so special about this particular restaurant, you ask? Well..

Alice Waters was one of the first people to use locally-grown ingredients in her restaurant. Back in the 70’s, I guess this was unheard of in the fine dining world, so she was a bit of a revolutionary. She only serves what is in season from farms in the Bay Area,  and all of their meat/poultry/fish is also locally sourced. The menu is somewhat limited and changes daily – dinner in the restaurant is one fixed-price menu of several courses, while the cafe has an a la carte menu.

Green iced tea

In addition to the restaurant, Alice Waters has been a major force behind the Edible Schoolyard project, which works to get local fresh food into school cafeterias and teaches students how to grow food and how to prepare it. It seems so common sense, and yet if you look at the way students are fed in the schools today, you can see how far we’ve gotten away from buying and eating food grown close to home. To learn more about Chez Panisse, click here, or go visit the restaurant yourself the next time you’re in Berkeley (but call for reservations first!).

Chickpeas and Harissa

And on a local Santa Barbara note, I visited the Burger Bus last week for lunch. Owners Cheryl & Michael retrofitted a short yellow school bus into a mobile burger stand, which they park at a different location each weekday. They use ONLY local ingredients – bread from Our Daily Bread, cheese from Spring Hill Cheese (my personal favorite at the farmer’s market -their garlic cheese curd is to die for!), beef from Shalhoob’s that is 100% grass-fed, hormone free, and vegetables fresh from the farmer’s market.  They also have homemade falafel for those of you not into burgers. I didn’t even have time to take a picture of our burgers we devoured them so fast! So check out their website to see when they’re at a location near you, and support this innovative new local business.

Burger Bus

New Potato Salad

Colorful potatoes

In the last few years, I’ve made it a habit to search out farmers’ markets wherever we travel. I want to see where the local people go to eat and shop, because I get a better sense of where I am when I experience what daily life is to them. On our recent trip to Peru, I was amazed at the HUGE bags of potatoes we saw in every market. And not just the brown or red potatoes you see at the supermarkets in the U.S. But every color, shape and size that you could imagine!  We also learned that potatoes originated in the Peruvian Andes, and of the 5,000 known varieties of potato, 3,000 are found ONLY in the Andes. Peru’s great gift to the world! We ate potatoes a lot in Peru, and they were delicious every time – fried, sliced, sauteed, in soup, etc. I only wish I could have brought some home with me to plant in the garden!

Cusco marketplace

The potatoes featured in this recipe are from the Santa Barbara Farmer’s market – I picked up a few pounds last week and grilled a few last week (no pictures, but they were yummy). But we do have potato plants growing in the garden! Interestingly, potatoes and tomatoes are in the same family (and do not do very well when planted close to each other – sibling rivalry perhaps?). I really understood the connection today when I saw how similar the leaves are.  See for yourself:

Potato plant

Tomato leaves

This recipe is from a great cookbook I have called Simply in Season. It organizes recipes by season (spring, summer, fall, winter, all seasons), so most of the ingredients in a given recipe are also at their best in that particular season.  I use this book a lot when I need ideas for a meal because the recipes are uncomplicated, they come together fairly quickly, and they taste good!  Check it out here.

New potato salad

Garlic Potato Salad

6 cups new potatoes (cubed)

3 cloves garlic (minced)

1 cup green onions (minced)

1/4 cup olive oil

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

2 teaspoons fresh rosemary (chopped; or 1 teaspoon dried)

salt and pepper to taste

Boil potatoes in water until tender, about 5 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Combine the rest of the ingredients in a large bowl. Add cooked potatoes and stir to coat. Chill about 3 hours before serving.

Artichokes

Artichokes are actually a thistle, and the bud, if left unchecked, will develop into a bright blue flower. However, I was introduced to the artichoke via canned marinated hearts, often found in salad bars.  I knew that it was common to eat artichokes with an elaborate procedure of dipping the leaves in some kind of sauce, and then scraping the leaves with your teeth. But I never actually experienced this ritual until I moved to California at the age of 23. And even then, I wasn’t particularly impressed – it seemed like so much work for so little yield! So with the exception of occasionally sauteing the baby artichokes I found at the farmer’s market, I didn’t mess with the big guys.

Artichoke on Plant

Around September, Matt came home from the garden nursery with a pack of artichoke plants. We planted them in the newly-established raised bed we had built in the front yard. A month later we came back from a 3-week trip to Peru, and those front yard artichokes were different beasts- they were huge!  A friend described the plants as “prehistoric-looking.”

Artichoke Plants

They continued to explode in size, and this spring we were ecstatic to find they had little buds. And then more buds. Fast forward to May:  we are drowning in artichokes. We give them away by the bag-full, we grill them in batches, and cannot eat them fast enough. I’m sure the flow will peter out soon, but until then.. its artichoke heaven.

Grilled artichoke

Grilled artichokes

Medium-to-large globe artichokes, with 3-5″ of stem attached (if possible)

Lemon

Olive Oil

Salt/Pepper

Start a large pot of salted water to boil, enough to cover the artichokes. Wash the artichokes to get rid of any dirt and/or hiding bugs. Cut in half, and scrape out the fuzzy inedible choke with a spoon. Squeeze lemon juice over the cut size to prevent browning.

Drop artichoke halves in boiling water, and boil for about 10 minutes. Remove from water, and coat generously with olive oil, salt, and pepper, particularly the heart.

When the grill is hot, place the halves, cut side UP, on the grill. Grill for 10 minutes. Turn the artichokes over and grill the cut side for 5 minutes. Remove fromthe grill, squeeze additional lemon over artichokes if desired, and start eating! (If you want step-by-step directions on how to eat an artichoke, wikiHow has it covered here)

*If you wanted to use baby artichokes instead, you would simply cut them in half (don’t scrape out the choke – its not developed yet), boil for 5-7 minutes, and follow the steps from there.

Carrot-Potato Soup with Oregano Pesto

Fresh Pulled Carrots

The other week, I pulled a big handful of carrots from the garden. We try to plant carrots every few weeks so that we have a constant harvest throughout the year, and they are often mixed in with other vegetables (carrots grow well with just about anything).  Carrot seeds require constant moisture to germinate, so when we get spells of dry hot weather it is almost impossible to keep the soil consistently moist, and they just won’t grow! But then we’ll get a good rain, and all of a sudden we get lots of carrot seedlings popping up, sometimes in unexpected places.

Carrot Seedlings

Carrots 2

One of my favorite go-to recipe websites is 101 Cookbooks. Heidi Swanson posts a great collection of  interesting vegetarian recipes  using whatever is in season at the moment, and it is the simplicity (and deliciousness) of the results which keeps me coming back time and again. Her recipe for a carrot soup caught my interest,  I happened to have all the ingredients on hand, and it was nearly lunchtime. The recipe calls for fresh lemon juice, and luckily a friend had just dropped off a pile of Meyer lemons from her tree (by the way, if you’ve never had a Meyer lemon – they are unlike any you’d had. Tangy and brightly flavored yet not bitterly sour, you could almost eat them straight!).  After I had made the soup, I decided to add potatoes for a little extra chunk and thickness, which I thought made it slightly more filling and even better.

Carrot Potato Soup

In the notes for the original recipe, Heidi mentions that an oregano pesto would make a good topping. After some Google searching, I found an oregano pesto recipe at Food&Wine (original found here).  Fortunately, the herb garden is in full swing so I was able to harvest some fresh oregano, and I added some fresh marjoram and parmesan/romano cheese as well to round out the flavor.

Marjoram

Carrot-Potato soup

1 1/4 lbs carrots

+/-8  fingerling potatoes (or 2 medium-sized potatoes)

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

2 medium cloves garlic, minced

1 large yellow onion, chopped

3 cups+ vegetable stock or water

Juice of 1/2 a lemon (Meyer if possible)

fine grain sea salt (to taste)

Take the tops off the carrots and scrub them (I don’t usually peel mine unless they are really dirty looking). Cut the carrots and potatoes into 1-inch segments and set aside. Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy soup pot over medium heat. Add the garlic and onions and saute for a few minutes until the onions start to get translucent. Add the stock, carrots and potatoes and bring to a gentle boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes or until the carrots and potatoes are tender. Try not to overcook. Remove from heat and cool for a few minutes.

Puree with a hand blender, either completely smooth or leave it a little chunky, then stir in the lemon juice. Salt to taste until the flavor pops.

Finish with a drizzle of the oregano pesto (see recipe below). Serves about 4.

Oregano Pesto

1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons chopped oregano

2 tablespoons chopped parsley

2 tablespoons chopped marjoram

1 small garlic glove, minced

kosher salt

parmesan/romano cheese

In a mini-food processor or using a hand blender, combine the olive oil with the herbs and garlic. Pulse to a coarse puree. Season with salt and parmesan cheese. Add more herbs if it looks really runny and you want to thicken it up. *Recipe makes more than you’ll need for the soup, and tastes great in sandwiches or as a salad dressing.