But meanwhile, a complaint. NYC’s scent gets a particularly bum rap for a city that contains upwards of eight million peeps. But come mid-July even I can’t contest that a haze smelling distinctly of diapers, feet, and way-past-its-sell-by-date milk looms in a fog around our fair town, making almost cartoony wafting shapes above piles of trash.
And thus! Evan and I will be merely in and out of the city for the next few weeks, avoiding the Oscar the Grouch smell and seizing the opportunity to take some time off before Evan starts his PhD (whoot! Go bunny!) and I start my Master’s in Food Studies, Nutrition and Public Health (for real, I’ll be legit).
So over the next few weeks we’ll be helping out on my sister-in-law’s farm in Vermont, visiting both sets of our folks in Northwest CT, and even going to a wedding in Curaçao! As such we will be dropping into the city every few days, instead of every-every day. Hopefully our little window bounty will survive the lack of attention – although as things are looking a leetle shabby as is, perhaps not.
But! We do have some fine looking peppers turning appropriate pepper-shades coming along, and some very exciting eggplants, which neither of us are sure when to cave and pick. Suggestions?
Written in Shakespearean voice, but telling the epic tale of
two siblings almost getting it on the rebellions’ fight against a totalitarian Empire – this is a play seriously worth reading. Complete with soliloquies by the formerly mute R2D2, triumphant monologues by our here-to-rescue-you hero Luke, and nods to Shakespeare’s actual archetypal dramatic works, it is a clever and quirky laugh a minute.
So what could we possibly do but invite people over for a reading?
This was a fantastic affair. Hilarious, ridiculous, and totally embarrassing. It also made a big mess for a weekday and involved a lot more prep and clean-up than expected, so for the last two acts (yes, this was a two-part event) we met in the park and made it a potluck.
Amongst this fantastic crew of readers are several vegans, and people who come over often enough to have exhausted my classics. So I did a variation on an Israeli couscous theme I make in the wintertime, usually with pomegranate and spinach. Inspiration courtesy of a post by Martha.
Israeli Couscous with Mint and Lemon
- 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
- 8 ounces (1 1/2 cups) Israeli couscous
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, chopped finely
- 5 scallions, chopped
- 1/3 cup golden raisins
- 3 tablespoons very thinly sliced lemon zest (2 to 3 strips)
- 1/2 cup salted pistachios
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- Freshly ground pepper, to taste
- 1/8 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
Seriously uncomplicated directions to this guy. Cook the Israeli couscous as you would pasta (although I prefer it on the al dente side, closer to four minutes). Add the other ingredients. Combine, put it in some tupperware, head to the park.
This is a game we’ll play again, definitely with other works… though it has been pointed out to me that George Lucas did not stop at Episode IV. So no doubt more potlucks, vegan/vegetarian food, loved ones and the park to come.
A Jedi craves not these things. (But I do.)
Knowing that my parents and my husband’s parents occasionally read this blog, I have been thoroughly warned against telling this story. But I’m a rebel, and I think they all will live. So I’m going to tell a story about Harry Potter, and then link it to lavender. Ready?
When Evan and I had just started dating he informed me that he had never read any of the Harry Potter books, nor seen any of the movies. Clearly this needed to be rectified – and stat. So in the downtime of our first summer together – which meant when we weren’t holding hands under the table or gazing longingly or fluttering our eyelasshes across crowded rooms (cue eye roll here) – we were reading all the Harry Potter novels. Soup to nuts. And then watching all the movies.
It was an incredibly immersive experience. So much so that I had begun dreaming about Harry and the gang on a nightly basis, wacky adventures ensuing while I rolled around like Voldemort had discovered we were connected via a scar. No good for the sleeping.
One night I dreamed that Dumbledore had blessed me and Evan with Harry and Hermione’s powers. I had been handed my wand and was learning proper wand motion. “You’re doing it wrong,” I could hear Hermione explain, “You’re supposed to point and flick.” Point and flick. Point and flick.
I awoke from this vivid scene with a jolt, clutching Evan’s penis while exercising proper wand flicks, wondering why it wasn’t shooting sparks.
Yes, the wonders of lavender are spread as far as the Hogwarts’ eye can see. From sleep aid to magical cures to, mmm, lavenderful treats. Like Lavender-Honey Ice Cream. This is not a dessert for the dairy-impaired, or the vegan conscious. But it is absolutely a heavenly flavor – creamy and soothing, thickly sweet with a tangy aftertaste. We got this recipe from The Arrows Cookbook (we crossed their Blueberry Ice Cream recipe with their Lavender-Honey one) and added slices of lemon peel.
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 1 cup milk
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 4 tablespoons fresh or 2 tablespoons dried lavender
- zest of 1 small lemon, removed in strips using a peeler
- 5 large egg yolks
- 1/2 cup honey
1. Fill a large bowl halfway with ice water. Have ready a smaller bowl that fits inside the ice bath, and a fine sieve. 2. Stir together the milk, cream, sugar, lemon peel and lavender leaves in a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Take the saucepan off the heat, cover, and let the mixture steep for 20 minutes. 3. Whisk together the egg yolks and honey in a large bowl. Slowly pour the hot liquid into the yolk mixture, gently whisky to combine. Return the mixture to the saucepan and cook, stirringly constantly with a wooden spoon, over medium heat until the mixture reaches a temperature of 180 degrees F or it thickens just enough to coat the back of a spoon. Immediately strain the mixture through the fine sieve into the smaller bowl, pressing on the lavender (and lemon peel) to extract the flavor, and place the bowl in the ice bath. Stir occasionally until completely chilled. 4. Freeze the mixture in the stand mixer with the ice cream attachment you were lucky enough to get as a wedding – commitment ceremony – being alive gift (or the ice cream machine one might otherwise own). Serve at once or freeze for later. Enjoy on a steamy July night near the solstice, when bedtime is minutes away and there’s no chance of a noseless Death Eater forcing you to maul your partner.
Despite the serious space limitations of our NYC studio apartment, our eggplants are fruiting!
It’s not done yet. Ees just a little baby now. A thumb-sized baby eggplant… That one day will be dinner.
We lost some eggplant flowers – probably normal given the crowding, but I’m no eggplant-expert – but they’ve made a lovely centerpiece!
In other news, this week in our share we got:
- a beautiful head of lettuce
- snow peas
- sweet salad turnips
- garlic scapes
Nothing quite like being farm-supportin’ cityfolk.
There’s something about basil that screams summertime. Whether it’s paired with tomato and mozzarella, thrown into a Thai stir-fry, or spread with olive oil and sea salt over grilled goodies, it is the quintessential summery flavor. But nothing solidifies the oncoming summer season so much as pesto.
I know people who make literal tubs of pesto and freeze it for the impending potlucks. When I was little I requested it so often over the summer months that my mother, tired of making and remaking pesto on a daily basis, froze pesto in ice cube trays. Not a bad idea for the sake of speed and convenience.
I too love bringing a good pesto (on greens, on tofu, slathered on veggies, or, of course, on pasta) to potlucks. But I’ve found three main problems over the last few years. One: parmesan is not only not vegan, it’s not even vegetarian due to the unfortunate use of animal rennet. (Say it isn’t so!) Two: pine nuts in 2014 cost you your first born in currency. Which led me to three: I have a slight allergy to walnuts in which my tongue tickles, but not to pecans – isn’t that strange?
And so – behold! – The Poor Man’s Vegan Pesto
- 2 cups basil, preferably from your garden (!!)
- 1/2 cup shelled pecans
- 1-2 cloves fresh garlic, depending on who you’re planning on standing near later
- 1/4 to 1/2 cup good olive oil
- And sea salt, copious amounts
Okay, and this is where the recipe gets really complicated. Put them in a blender, and press “Blend.”
No really, in case you didn’t know already, that is how you make pesto.
I was really surprised to find that the pesto genuinely doesn’t need parmesan. Cheese lovers no doubt will argue – and I empathize – but for anyone avoiding dairy, pesto doesn’t need to be a sacrifice. It was delicious and we put it on everything and no doubt will stack up our freezer for the oncoming months.
Also, try playing with pestos! I recently made a dandelion green pesto, which was lovely, a kale pesto, and a parsley one. I’d love to try mint! Experiment with herbs and with nuts – and if you can afford pine nuts, more power to ya.
While farm food might not be in every New Yorker’s repertoire, we’re all palpably aware that this is a city that has every type of food option imaginable. So if you search hard enough, you can find positively anything. Which means that when your average suburban supermarket might not stock fresh pasta, or maybe not whole wheat pasta, or maybe not whole wheat fresh lasagna strips – because that’s just a lot to ask – you can bet your bottom dollar that one of the several hundred independently owned markets in New York City will.
(I really apologize for getting the “Annie” Soundtrack stuck in your head just then.)
And thus, Whole Wheat Vegetarian Lasagna with Share Greens.
Lasagna is labor intensive, but with the time anyone can do it. It is simply layers – in this case of whole-wheat lasagna, then tomato sauce (canned tomatoes, onions, garlic, basil, cooked in a pot), pan-seared zucchini, then fresh spinach and arugula (which came in this week’s first CSA share!!!!), then globs of ricotta mixed previously with one egg, and slices of fresh mozzarella, then repeat. Three times.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil with which to coat a 9-inch pan
- 12 whole-wheat lasagna noodles (preferably fresh!)
- 12 ounces (340 grams or two 6-ounce bags) fresh spinach leaves and/or arugula, rinsed
- 4 zucchinis, cut length-wise into strips
- 3 cups of tomato sauce
- 1 cup ricotta cheese
- 1 large egg
- a good-sized ball of fresh mozzarella
After the layers we combined the leftover ricotta with the leftover tomato sauce, poured it over the layers, and put mozzarella on the very top for the sake of crispiness. Bake uncovered at 350° for 45 minutes to an hour – until the cheese is bubbling – then let sit for 15 minutes before serving.
Enjoy with friends, because for that amount of effort the pleasure of lasagna should be ubiquitous.
Ugh. No. I’m really sorry.
Our first CSA share came with a stunning batch of strawberries, red as gems, and three stalks of rhubarb. There’s really not a whole lot you can do with just three stalks of rhubarb – not quite enough for a crisp or a tart or an Upside Down Cake – but the perfect amount for a compote!
Need the easiest dessert idea in the world? Well, this is it.
- Chop up your rhubarb into about half-inch pieces.
- Avoid and discard the greens as it’s been hammered into my noodle my whole life that they’re poisonous. I remain skeptical, although I just stumbled on a “Cooking Light” article entitled: “Healthy Foods That Can Kill You,” starring the poor, downtrodden rhubarb green. Do not fear though: I promise the stalk is harmless.
- Take the stems off your strawberries, though I have no poisonous disclaimer about them – only a bitterness one.
- Put your strawberries and rhubarb stalks in a saucepan with a splash of water, three well-sized teaspoons of sugar, and a teaspoon of vanilla.
- Wait for a heavenly aroma to engulf your home.
- Then throw a few leaves of (preferably garden-fresh) chopped basil in right before serving.
Give it a whirl.
In our very first crop this week came:
- Mesclun Greens
- Bok Choi
- Sweet Salad Turnips
- Fresh Strawberries
- And Frozen Blueberries
And with said bounty we made a Vegetable Lasagna with zucchini, share arugula and spinach, and a vegan’s nightmare’s worth of ricotta and mozzarella.
We had several mesclun salads with greens that taste incredibly unlike store-bought salad, with radishes and Oh My Goddess Dressing.
For dessert, we’ve made Strawberry Rhubarb and Basil Compote to serve over vanilla ice cream. (No, I’m not even a little kidding).
We also made Blueberry Muffins (with lemon zest), Coconut Soup with Rice Noodles, Tofu and Bok Choi, we roasted asparagus with garlic and lemon, and even tried sautéing sweet salad turnips. Those, while counterintuitive via their namesake, were surprisingly delightful.
Still more dishes to be made, as our loot has yet to run out. Doing a little dance now. Actually, doing many, many little dances.
What came in your share this week?