Tuesday, August 27, 2013

movin on in

Loving life in North Carolina! Too brain dead from training (which is ongoing… I’ll greatly appreciate Labor Day weekend!) to discuss a great deal, so this post is all about the eats.

Move in weekend my cousin Stephen was nice enough to help me relocate all of my stuff. Special thanks to his parents for lending out their mega SUV, which is the only reason I have a bed right now! Naturally, we had to reward him for his help (he moved some of Steve’s things that had been loitering in my garage as well) by taking him out for fun meals. We may have been rewarding ourselves, too!

Our first night in town (after an invigorating post-furniture-moving swim in MY NEW COMPLEX’S POOL WOO HOO!) was a restaurant onto which we simply stumbled, Milltown. Fun menu packed with local goodness. Lovely courtyard (there are soooooo many outdoor eating options in this temperate climate of ours!)


We split the local goat cheese appetizer; seriously, just READ THAT!


It looked SO COOL! Did not expect black sesame seeds. Not only did they look awesome, the seeds’ texture and nuttiness worked beautifully with the tangy creamy goat cheese. And that pear salsa was also pretty boss.


I opted for a special… they had me at poblano. Or heirloom tomato. Oh and crab. All of it. I wanted all of it.


It was ENORMOUS! I couldn’t even finish it, so Steve took one for the team and ate some of the succulent avocado-drenched crab. He’s a sport.


Meanwhile, I had to take a picture of my cousin Steven’s weird burger!


Our next stop was HOPPIN!


Mediterranean Deli has been recommended to me by basically everyone I have met in this area (and even people I’ve only sort-of-met, like various potential roommates I Skyped with over the spring). It did NOT disappoint.

It helps that when you walk in you are greeted by a magnificent toppings bar.


And a big heaping pile of za’atar, some of which I definitely absconded with for my pantry.


We amused ourselves with toppings (little pickled turnips, wonderful whipped feta dip, olives, and so on until our entrees arrived. I got their falafel, which was impeccable.


See it peeking out? Tender within, crispy on the outside. Falafel is awesome.


This cauliflower was roasted with sumac, and intrigued me so much I had to get a side of it. It was fabby!


Steve got the two side dishes plate (from their masssssssssive deli section). He opted for the chickpeas with spinach and the leek casserole. This plate is in my future, until I have tried every single deli selection.


Sunday, August 25, 2013

Good times on the deck

Oh deck. How I adore you.

The realities of leaving home smacked me in the heart all of my last week at home. I tried to soak it all in- cuddling the crap out of my cat, staring off my deck, enjoying the witty rappeur I share with my mother. None of it felt real and yet I was either up at night, all jittery, unable to sleep (like when I began drafting this blog post) or catatonic (like in the Biochemistry class I was finishing). Anyway, I finally got the news that I’d gotten my paws on a JOB!!! (update soon) and I received the reassuring news that I was going to be able to move my bed to the INCREDIBLE KINDNESS OF FAMILY THANKS KATHY AND TOM WHO ARE READING THIS AND LENT STEPHEN YOUR BIG SUV TO MOVE MY BED THANKS THANKS.

So I dealt with my anxiety as best I could, like reminiscing about my beloved deck. The deck is a really great place to relax and lie in the shade.


I also love the deck for cooking burgers.


From a source without reproach- Lebanese Butcher, a place I was sad to leave behind, which supplies halal, organic, local, and delicious meat.

In this case, herb-packed Lamburger!

With lettuce ‘n tomato ‘n dijon.


With burgers with a twist, one must have fries with a twist. Steamed sliced sweet potatoes, tossed ‘em with oil and cajun seasoning, plopped them on the grill. Fab.


Plus grilled asparagus. Clearly this meal occurred when asparagus was still in season.


The next meal we enjoyed on the deck showcased our wonderful oregano! It always winters over, and it always produces in comedically large quantities in the summer.


Used to season some chickennnnnn. Along with olive oil, lemon, s+p. Very Greek, very simple.


Gorgeous, no? Sadly, slightly overcooked. My fault. It is what it is. Steve still inhaled it.


Rounding out the meal, a fun little salad I semi got from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian: quick steamed cauliflower, capers, parsley, olive oil, vinegar, and bread crumbs toasted in olive oil atop. Mm.


It’s very funny for me looking at the teeny plants in this earlier phase in garden development since they’re so ALARMINGLY huge now.


Basically, if you’re dealing with a project that involves putting in a lot of work with questionable future payoff (childrearing comes to mind…) you should plant a garden. Everything just skyrockets.

Exhibit A: Mint.


Also in the produce department, we have beautiful basil (left) and sage (right). The basil is a heirloom variety and both my aunt (who gave me the seeds) and I have observed that it simply doesn’t grow as large as conventional varieties. Though its leaves are no less delicious.


The dill sprouted up valiantly but never seemed extraordinarily happy, truthfully. Too much sun?

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Big pepper! I have two pepper plants and this one produced a pepper very early on in its growth and it just kept growing and growing and growing, then reddening and reddening.

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It wasn’t 100% red when I picked it just because it had a teeny little soft spot developing, and I didn’t want it to spread!


I used this to make DEE-LICIOUS homemade salmon cakes. I added:
- Peppers and sweet onion, chopped very fine and briefly sauteed in olive oil
- 1 can of salmon
- whole wheat breadcrumbs
- homemade mayonnaise (yesssss)
- chives and basil from the deck (also yesssss)

Pan fried ‘em in a bit of oil and they were MONEY! Albeit unphotogenic, so you’ll just have to use your imagination.

As for the other pepper plant, it produced WEIRD PEPPERS! Not bad, but like I’d inadvertently created a hybrid: in size, they were neither tiny (like hot peppers) nor large (like bell peppers). Instead, they were medium smallish, and as they mimiced a halfway point between the two types of peppers in size, they also did in taste. Half spicy. Very exciting!

On the tomato front, most of my tomatoes were green when I skipped town. My mom sent an email that a less charitable person might describe as snarky telling me all the delicious things she’s been making with the tomatoes that I GREW. (No I jest, I just begged my family to water them as I pulled out of the driveway for the last time. I didn’t want all my work to be for naught!)

I think roma tomatoes are super bizarre looking on the vine!


They also grow like weeds! Though I did have a couple of the regular kind too.


Now, let’s talk squash. I had two squash plants: one was an heirloom zucchini variety that my aunt gave me the seed to grow. The other was a yellow squash plant that my thoughtful boyfriend got me when I was concerned that since I only had one squash plant it couldn’t have the squash plant sex necessary to make zucchini (yes, my knowledge of plant reproduction is extraordinary). Anyway, the yellow squash plant dutifully blossomed and produced two small yellow squash:


And promptly never did anything again.

Meanwhile, the zucchini blossom regularly produced beauuuuuuuuuutiful flowers.


Then off they’d plop, leaving a bare stem. Agh! My working hypothesis, supported by my buddy at the farmer’s market whom I’d brief with weekly updates, is that it’s a boy plant, and only produces boy blossoms (i.e. not the kind that produce squash. The USELESS kind!)


So, basically the only homegrown squash I ate this summer consisted of two small yellow squashies. I made a really good scramble though!


Farmer’s market eggs and spinach, regular old carrots, lotsa garlic and herbs, and the squashies.

Served atop a wrap, in brilliant sunlight.


Wednesday, August 14, 2013

the summer vegetable hit parade

This is one of the most beautiful pictures I have ever displayed in my blog:


I feel like I have finally regained my cooking mojo, and, even more impressively, my healthy cooking mojo. I have several sources to thank, one of which is at last buying my own groceries and living in a wonderfully healthful place where the farmer’s market is cheap, walking everywhere is easy, and the people around me all dig health too. Believe me, many North Carolina posts to come. Life is good here!

Let’s wind down some pictures from back when I lived in the somewhat exhausting DC suburbs. I was finding joy in soaking up my last days with the family (and CAT!) for a good long while. I was making delicious food for them.  As an added bonus, when I feel like cooking delicious and healthy food, I also feel like photographing it. I feel like my cooking creativity has finally reappeared!

So back to this layered fusion-type business:

(That upside down flip flop in the background of the picture is obviously a deeply meaningful postmodern symbol. I’ll let you come up with your own interpretation).

On to the dish. Beginning with the eggplant.

To make eggplant any good without involving extraordinary quantities of fat, you must salt it. Just slice it, spread the slices out on a cutting board, liberally salt both sides, and let ‘em sit there for awhile.

You’ll note some condensation.


Once that’s happened, brush the slices with a clean kitchen towel, then wipe them with olive oil. It obviously tastes better with quite a lot of olive oil; and don’t skimp too much even if you’re fat preoccupied because they’ll just be dry and grody.

Under the broiler with them, til they look like this:


Meanwhile, make yourself some chickpea flour batter. Any respectable socca recipe (I used Mark Bittman’s from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian but the Internet is riddled with additional ones) will do. I seasoned this less aggressively than I do when I’m serving it straight up, so the flavors wouldn’t compete too much with the other ingredients in the stack o’ goodness.


To get tortilla-like shapes for layering with my veggies, I cooked the batter in a skillet, like you would pancakes. The chickpea flapjacks came out surprisingly adorable. I now understand much better how one could make injera at home.


Then I threw together an exceedingly quick sauce with basically just olive oil, tomatoes, and fresh herbs. And so the layering could begin.


Simultaneously fancy looking, healthy, and dead easy, this is a technique that I will be incorporating into many other recipes. Chickpea flapjacks+veggie layers= boss. I think tahini sauce may be in the future, too…


Certain people named my boyfriend left an ENORMOUS bag of kale in my refrigerator when certain people left town. ENORMOUS. Like a SLEEPING BAG FULL OF KALE.

Fortunately, I have two words for you: kale pie.

Leftover phyllo dough? Don’t mind if I do.


Filling can include any of your desired combinations of:
- Kale (duh). At various points I reappropriated leftover kale chips and leftover steam kale into my kale pies, and both worked brilliantly
- Eggs (or egg yolks made into a custard with milk)
- Cheese (parmesan, goat, or feta would be nice; but I used cheddar one time and that was tasty too)
- Fresh herbs of your choice, with parsley being a very nice choice
- Lemon zest or juice
- WALNUTS! Give it a nice extra shazam

I first used phyllo dough because it is reminiscent of classic spanikopita for this recipe, and had also been languishing in my fridge for quite some time. However, in a later version I made a homemade whole wheat and olive oil pie crust and it was mighty delicious too.

I photographed this pie immediately after it came from the oven, so it was steaming quite powerfully. But you get the idea.


More summer goodness to come, from the state with Carolina blue skies!