*Or: “Finding out why everyone just uses store-bought caesar dressing”
Right off the bat, you are probably asking yourself what scrambled eggs on toast has to do with caesar salad. The answer, of course, is nothing, unless you are cooking with me and I didn’t do enough prep work. But we’ll come back to that in a minute. When last I posted we were doggedly working our way through the greens. We’re still at it. I had a lovely spinach salad and Chad used the remaining leaves for another sandwich, while Shae took care of the mixed greens with her own salad. Now we were down to the romaine and the swiss chard, and I don’t know about you, but to me romaine lettuce just screams caesar salad. And it was going to be quick and easy because a caesar is the simplest salad ever. Greens plus dressing plus cheese, possibly some croutons. I had some chicken that needed cooked, and I decided to grill it and throw that on top. No problem. Then I got ambitious and that’s when the trouble started.
Romaine. Caesar. It just makes sense. Even the puppy sous-chef agrees.
For some stupid reason I can’t remember, I decided to make my own caesar dressing. Okay that’s a lie. I know exactly why I wanted to make my own caesar dressing. I wanted to make my own caesar dressing because one of the only times I ever babysat anyone was when I went across the street to keep the Johnson’s kid busy while the parents had a dinner party. I got there early and Mrs. Johnson was trying and failing to coddle an egg for a homemade caesar dressing. I watched her run through half a dozen eggs. I was in my early teens at the time and was both blown away to find you could make salad dressing from scratch and amused that this woman seemed to suck at it. And since that night decades ago, every time I have had a caesar salad, I think of Mrs. Johnson in her evening finery throwing egg after egg in the trash and chuckle. Why I thought I could do any better is beyond me, but some sort of CSA-hubris had me in its grip. And so it was that at 10 pm on a saturday night I ran to the grocery store to buy anchovies and eggs. Continue reading
*Or, “Ramen: It’s not just for broke students anymore.”
I missed the first week of the “large” summer share that my roommates and I are splitting, but I am back in Boston for the avalanche of greens that is the second week.
We may need to buy some rabbits.
Yep, that right there is what we in the business refer to as an “Oh My God What Have We Gotten Ourselves Into” amount of greens. Working clockwise from bottom left, we got romaine lettuce, red kale, rainbow swiss chard, mixed field greens, some seriously fierce parsley, beet greens with beets attached to them, and red oak lettuce. Not pictured is the baby spinach that I lost track of while corralling the greens for this class picture.
We also got these babies:
Spoon is for scale.
Now at this point you may be mentally composing a comment along the lines of, “Wow, Jackie, that’s a really cool CSA you joined if they send lime-flavored licorice ropes! I had no idea candy was an option! Where can I sign up?” Well, much to my dismay, these are not in fact farm candy. They are garlic scapes. And before you ask the natural “What the hell is a garlic scape” question, I’ll just admit that I have no idea. I’m going to go look them up right now. Imagine, if you will, elevator music is playing while I am away researching esoteric vegetables…
….strangers in the niiiight, exchanging glances…doobee doobeedoooo…………..
…Okay, I’m back. Apparently the scape is sort of the stalk of a garlic plant that will come up and eventually flower. Okay sure why not. I’ll let you know what we do with them and how it all turned out in the next post. For now let’s just look at some of the steps we are taking to whittle away at the Green Wall in the fridge.
*The first in a new serial, “How not to cook”
It’s been a rough week or so for me in the coffee department. There was a time when I could wake up and function pretty well without coffee. I was capable of making it out the door to work on time, working basic math problems, interacting with the general public, you name it. Now the best I can realistically hope for in the absence of coffee is to remember to put on pants before leaving the house. So I always have plenty of coffee in my pantry, both ground and bean-form, ready to go. And while it might seem like addictive behavior to have tons of coffee stockpiled in the cupboard, it’s actually just good sense: I can’t really hop in the car and zip to the nearest donut shop in the event of a household shortage, because I in my pre-coffee state should not, as they say in the pharmaceutical industry, be “operating heavy machinery”. And some mornings a can opener constitutes heavy machinery. On those days, a coffee maker might as well be a particle collider. If I were the representative Australopithecus afarensis and coffee wasn’t happening yet, evidence of tool use by early man would have been delayed by another million years or so.
How does this thing work? Which hand do I hold it in? Do I just use it to hit the can until I bash a hole in it?
Now, at this point, you are likely already saying, “Hey Jackie, why don’t you just get one of those Kuerig doo-hickeys? Problem solved!” Ah, if only Keurigs were that simple. I rented a room from a married couple at one point, and the husband was quite passionate about his coffee. He had several types of rather bewildering brewing apparatus, but his go-to for an average Tuesday cup-o’-joe was a Keurig. This was before I had my own coffee maker-my beautiful, perfect Mr. Coffee-and several were the times that Joseph came into the kitchen to find me staring forlornly at the Keurig having failed to get it to give me coffee. Sometimes I was holding a cup 1/8 full of strong coffee. Other times just water. There was the incident when I couldn’t get the little coffee capsule into the stupid holder correctly and was trying to just hold the lid-thing shut. One time I was repeatedly plugging and unplugging the whole machine, hoping to reset whatever I had assembled and/or programmed incorrectly. Now in my defense I would like to say that I can assemble a portable dredge pump. I rigged a pulley system to get my queen-sized mattress up through the second floor porch window the last time I moved. I can do some pretty sweet stuff with a spreadsheet. I can do all those things, after I have had a few cups of coffee.
Or: The pufferfish of the plant kingdom (with garlic)
Now right off the bat, you’re probably asking yourself two questions: 1) What the hell is a fiddlehead; and 2) Why the hell would anyone eat one. Yesterday my answers would have been, respectively, “I don’t know”; and “I don’t know”. Today, my answers are, again respectively, “The not-yet unfurled frond of a specific type of fern that is foraged for a few weeks in the spring”; and “I still don’t know”. (I should note that they are nowhere near as unappealing as dandelion greens. Those were probably the one thing I just couldn’t handle in the winter CSA. Ever wonder why no one really carries straight-up, unmixed dandelion greens? You probably haven’t, but I’ll tell you why anyway. It’s because they don’t taste good. Anyway, back to fiddleheads.)
Fiddleheads. It will become apparent pretty quickly that I just like the word.
The CSA really brought in the big guns for the last week of my winter share, having failed to break my spirit with the Great Cabbage Deluge of ’14. I mean, the first thing I noticed about my new fiddleheads was that the bag they came in had a label with what I’ll call a strident warning about the need to cook them. Combine that with the extra warning in that week’s email and I would go so far as to call it “shrill”. Bottom line: they really really advise against eating fiddleheads raw. Apparently there is a risk of some kind of gastrointestinal unpleasantness or associated microbial invasion if they are consumed uncooked. But hey, the same applies to chicken, and I eat that all the time, so why not. Continue reading
Or: “Making myself feel better about getting take-out by adding one homemade element”
So Mom and Dad, I know that when we spoke on the phone today I said my next post would be about the lovely borscht I made a few weeks ago. But then I had a look at what was left in this week’s Box of Wonders and saw among other things four jalapenos, a bunch of grape tomatoes from somewhere down south, and an onion. I don’t know about you, but to me that says salsa. But what kind of salsa? I had a slide show of choices running through my head, but in the interest of time and the possibility of consumption in conjunction with the take-out I am getting tonight to eat while watching the hockey playoffs starting in twenty minutes, I went with pico de gallo. In case you don’t know exactly what pico de gallo is (which would not be uncommon: when I worked in a restaurant that served it, I explained it to at least three or four customers per shift), it is distinct from other salsas in that none of the ingredients are cooked. Its most basic incarnation is just finely chopped tomato, jalapeno, and white onion with some lime juice. You see why it sprang to mind. Most recipes include some cilantro. Some include green bell pepper, but that is really just filler, and I like my salsas the way I like my crab cakes: with as little filler as possible!