Wednesday, June 30, 2010

so much of my life revolves around food lately

growing, cooking, eating, photographing, discussing, studying...i’m rather obsessed.

katherine gave me a huge bowl of irresistibly yummy cherries that she picked on sunday, and they’re almost gone already...i wanted to do something special with some of them before i totally wipe them out, so i made a fruit salad with cherries, blueberries, nectarine and apple:

for a garnish i tried making chocolate leaves for the first time: you brush melted chocolate on the back of a rose leaf (or any other edible/non-poisonous leaf), let it cool in the fridge then carefully and quickly peel off the leaf.

super-thin dark chocolate melts faster than you would even believe, so i chilled my fingers with an ice pack before handling them, but i still managed to smoosh them a bit.

for the last couple of days i’ve been making stuffed squash blossoms for lunch. the plants send up around three male flowers a day, which doesn’t look like much to eat but they’re very filling once you fill them.

the first three blooms i stuffed with leftover collard greens, pak choi and wild rice, plus some fresh parsley and thyme, then tied shut with a chive, sprayed with a tiny bit of olive oil and pan fried. i placed them on a bed of extra stuffing because i heated up more than would fit in the flowers.

then today i sautéed minced carrot and celery, mixed in some wild rice, let the mixture cool then stuffed it into the blossoms, tied with a chive and pan fried. both versions were delicious, but today’s won the taste test. i added a side of homegrown baby greens and more edible flowers. i’m every bit as infatuated with edible flowers as i thought i’d be when i was dreaming all this up last winter.

i cut more peas today and gave them to a friend...i sort of thought the peas would be mostly done by now. it’s not that i’m tired of them but i do want to use that space (and the existing supports) to grow more rattlesnake pole peas, so i’m thinking about cutting off all the remaining flowers and eating them rather than letting them develop, then taking down the plants. it seems drastic so i need to give it more thought.

they’ve been good producers, keeping me in daily snacking and salad peas, not to mention all the photos they’ve posed for...i don’t want to seem ungrateful. i’m sure if i take down those plants i’ll look back some cold, hungry day in january and slap myself for being wasteful.

the basil seeds i scattered all around outside finally decided it’s warm enough to start growing.

i’m excited to try the purple variety. i want to make purple pesto!

this isn’t something i cooked, but since i’m doing an all-food post i might as well include a couple exceptionally awesome restaurant meals i had recently. this one is the new mediterranean appetizer platter at shangri-la. it’s supposed to be an appetizer for four people, but it makes a fabulous meal for one person sharing parts of it with three other people. it does have one non-vegan element, the tzatziki sauce, but my friends took care of that for me. the baba ghanoush is (goddamnit i’m running out of terms of suitable gravity to convey extreme tastiness). it is *inappropriate moaning sound*.

i finally got to try boise fry company, where they serve fries as the main dish, with “sides” of burgers. they’re really good at knowing what’s vegan and what’s not (i find it weird, though, that they only have one vegan fry sauce, “sweet onion mustard”). they make their fries from multiple different potato varieties, sweet potatoes and yams, with four different cuts to choose from. we tried peruvian purple curly fries and yam shoestring fries.

they offer a “vegan burger” that's unlike any i’ve had, the patty consisting of mostly quinoa and beans. even though bethany warned me it was awful i still wanted to try it, but without the commitment of getting a whole one, so reed and i split one. i liked it, and he really liked it.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

megablooms, megaheat, and jury duty

nearly all of my large heirloom tomatoes are putting out these big blossoms that are totally unlike the little yellow flowers i’m used to on tomato plants. i really hope i get some crazy fused tomatoes, or at least huge ones befitting the size of the flower...none of these megablooms have fruited yet, though. they seem to last a lot longer than the normal small flowers, dozens of which have already come and gone and set fruit on the cherry/currant/etc. tomatoes.

boise reached 101 degrees today. and to think just a week ago i was doubting we’d reach 90 in june. it was oppressively hot, but now a cold front is coming in and the temperature’s headed back down to the upper 70s. a refreshing thunderstorm came this evening with lots of dark clouds, horizontal lightening and cooler wind, but no real rain, just drizzles.

this morning i dragged my ass out of bed at 7 to get to the courthouse at 8 for jury duty. a note about the courthouse: to this day i cannot accurately speak the words “ada county courthouse” without slowing down considerably, pronouncing each word separately with a space of about 3-5 seconds in between. otherwise it always, unfailingly comes out “ada cunty cowt-house” or “ada cowty cunt-house.” i can’t help it, and it is strange.

i made it to the cunt-house on time, was given a little clip-on badge and sent to sit in a large room. nearly 60 potential jurors gathered in the room, spacing themselves out as much as possible, no one talking to anyone else. i glanced around a few times and it seemed like nobody else thought to bring a book, which is ludicrous to me, but maybe they were counting on entertainment.

and indeed there was entertainment--a movie screen playing the film “radio.” i don’t know much about this movie, but i gathered from the few moments i paid attention that it’s reasonably offensive and terrible. (reed was “livid” that i chose to read a book instead of watching “radio.” he is a shitty movie connoisseur.)

i’m reading “what is the what” by dave eggers, a semi-fictional autobiography of one of the lost boys of sudan. it’s a horribly upsetting, funny and wonderful book that sometimes makes me laugh and cry on the same page. so, during two hours of what ostensibly qualifies as jury duty, i continued my lengthy reign as the weird kid in class who buries their nose in a book and reacts emotionally to the text as if the events are unfolding in real life right before their eyes.

i did stop reading and pay attention when they played an ultra-patriotic orientation video--a brief, pointless synopsis of our duty as members of the jury and the crucial role we play as pawns in the perfect and infallible legal system of these fantabulous united states. the weird thing about the video, though, was that one of the on-screen narrators is a local media guy who writes for some of the same magazines i write for, only he changed his last name. i’m aware of TV people changing their names to avoid stalkers and whatnot, but for some reason this confused me deeply and i couldn’t get past it. i wanted to object loudly and tell everyone he was perjuring himself.

there were momentary glimmers of hope during the two-hour waiting-for-something-to-happen, like when they assigned us new numbers (separate from our identification numbers, which were also separate from our juror numbers. i just love being reduced to a numeral!) and had us line up, then sit back down, then line up again, stand there for a while, then sit back down.

eventually, a large old man in a black robe wandered to the front of the room and breathlessly explained what had just happened in what was supposed to be our trial. it ended in a plea agreement, so why he felt the need to give us a play-by-play with details and commentary was beyond me. then we were dismissed with a reminder that we’re on call for the rest of the week and an assurance that we'd be paid for half a day of service, despite not actually serving. the whole morning was such a frustrating waste of time when i could’ve been sleeping.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

bee on thyme

it’s been a wonderful few days. lazy, do-nothing days, spent almost entirely outdoors. today something out of the ordinary happened...a little bird perched on my finger:

these birds...i don’t know what they are, but there’s a lot of them in the back yard lately, and they’re not at all bothered by my presence. i can walk right up to them. i approached this one slowly then reached out my finger, and it hopped on, looked at me inquisitively for a few seconds then hopped off and continued eating. what wild bird does this? i wish i’d gotten a better, non-blurry picture, but maybe i’ll have another chance.

a lot of frog friends have been turning up in the garden. i’ve seen five (maybe six) individuals in the last three days.

this is what gardeners who use chemical pesticides miss out on...getting to observe all these cute little predators going out for a meal. (of course they probably also miss out on the aphids, earwigs, slugs, and other bugs whose interests conflict with mine, which are the big draw for said cute little predators.) the other day i watched a ladybug crawl along a carrot leaf consuming massive quantities of aphids. i think it was the most satisfied i’ve ever felt watching one creature eat another.

lots of swallowtails, lately, too. it seems like these used to be one of the rarer butterflies here in boise--when i was a kid i remember mostly seeing painted ladies and skippers and cabbage moths, and when a swallowtail or monarch came by it was a big deal. these are probably the most common now. i wonder what that means.

i was thinking about the pictures i post on here of my garden, and how selective they are...not intentionally, but i do mostly just take pictures of the stuff that looks good because, well, the other stuff is ugly, and i don’t usually want to look at it. but in a way it’s fun to examine what’s gone wrong and keep a record so i can avoid repeating mistakes, or maybe help others learn from my fuck-ups. here are a couple big ones.

failure #1:

the topsy-turvy chocolate cherry tomato had been doing fine until one day a strong wind gust broke the stem partially. i let it hang by a thread, leaves wilting while the stem festered, for a week or so, before finally calling time of death. overall i am just not impressed with this topsy-turvy business. it’s an eyesore, it leaked yucky brown water from unexpected places, and i don’t think it sped up growth at all. i think i’ll put a new plant in the top, set it on the ground and use it like a normal planter, somewhere out of the way so i don’t have to look at it. i still have the upside-down vodka bottle tomato growing happily, though, so this isn’t the end of my inverted tomato experiment this season.

failure #2:

apparently sunflowers need sun. here was my initial line of thought: there’s a giant bush in the middle of one of my planting beds. on the sunny, left side i planted corn, which is thriving. i wanted something else tall on the right side for symmetry. also, i had it in my head that sunflowers grow so tall so fast they would emerge out of their shady corner in no time, shooting up past the height of the bush to reach sunlight and bloom. yeah, no. they need sun.

i interplanted the sunflowers with peas, which were doing ok...until birds nibbled them to pieces. i then placed netting on top of the dismal mélange, which further weighted down the sad sunflowers and allowed surviving tendrils of the massacred peas to get tangled, stuck, and eventually yanked off. oh well.

i put all these poor creatures out of their dim misery after the photo. now i’m not sure what to do with that spot of truly does get almost no sun, but i hate having unused space, and it looks damned ugly...

that’s enough failure for now...maybe i’ll make this a weekly examination, though. i could start doing “garden fail fridays.”

yesterday i decided to do something new with the left side of the above-ground planter. i transplanted every kale, pulled every lettuce, amended the soil and planted three rows of bush beans. it’s bare now, contrasting markedly with the right side:

but in about a week it will be full of bean seedlings, rows of little green satellite dishes oscillating to face the sun. it amazes me how fast bean plants develop. tomatoes are this drawn-out test of patience, where you have tons of small milestones spaced out across weeks and months--first seedlings! first true leaves! first buds! first flowers! first fruit! first blush! first ripe!--beans are instant gratification comparatively. my other plantings of bush beans sprouted at the beginning of june and are already budding:

lettuce is quick, too. i never guessed that i would be fortunate enough to eat lunch fresh from the garden just about every day in late spring/early summer. my salads from the last two days:

and i picked yet another shit-ton of collards.

rather than cooking them i thought i’d try seasoning and dehydrating them like kale chips. it worked wonderfully--they tasted/behaved just like kale, i couldn’t tell the difference.

i ate all three full dehydrator trays worth in one sitting.

this afternoon i made a batch of lavender lemonade. recipe here. i halved the water for the finished lemonade (2 cups instead of 4--i like strong lemonade). also, instead of using a citrus juicer i used my centrifugal juicer, juicing the lemon skin, rind, flesh and all, which yields a creamy, more complex lemon juice. i drank it out of an old mason jar...but i forgot to kick off my shoes and put a flower in my hair. next time, for sure.

it gave me an excuse to finally try out this lovely yellow pitcher i picked up at a flea market last winter.

once i use up the remaining lavender simple syrup i’m going to try making dandelion lemonade, with my non-gelled dandy jelly. i love the idea of lemonade infused with flowers, and the result is delicious, but i must say, my usual recipe for lemonade (two apples and a lemon run through the juicer, nothing else) surpasses this lavender lemonade in both taste and nutritional value. i think i’m turned off by all the dissolved sugar. would it work if i tried to steep the lavender in boiling apple juice? worth a try, maybe...

yesterday’s sunset was phenomenal. the west half of the sky turned orange/pink with thick, creamy clouds:

the east went blue/purple with patchy clouds and a rainbow:

and peach ambient light glowed over everything:

i get one more day to frolic and play and bask in the beauty of everything, then jury duty. that’s going to be fucked up. in a way i don’t mind, but now i’m thinking about how i can’t stand to spend more than a few minutes inside during the daytime lately, and from what i understand the majority of jury duty is spent sitting around waiting, indoors i assume. i don’t think court is like school where you can convince the teacher to hold class outside when the weather’s nice. judges probably don’t go for that, right?

Thursday, June 24, 2010