Monday, June 23, 2008

Kitchen Helper

I'm not a fan of kitchen gadgets. Most of them are good for three things:

1) Christmas gifts when you don't know what else to buy. (Hey, s/he likes to cook, I'll bet s/he'll love this juicer-coffee maker-corkscrew-hoopa combo!);

2) Taking up that annoying, extra cupboard space in your kitchen; and

3) Filling your spare time with disassembly and reassembly of 15 razor-sharp parts.

That said, I do recommend a select few kitchen gadgets:

1) An ulu. Best. Invention. Ever. Thank you, native Alaskans. Hide-scraping notwithstanding, you have done a wonderful thing for all my slicing and dicing needs.

2) A immersion blender. Think cream soups without the cream, and no dirty blender to assemble, use, disassemble, wash, and reassemble.

3) A microplane zester. How did i zest citrus without this? I also use it for hard cheeses, chocolate, and spices.

4) A bookend. Something has to hold up the cookbooks!

Her name is Souffle. In addition to bookending, she is good for pre-washing the butter dish if we forget to cover it, tripping the cook (particularly while said cook is carrying a saucepan full of marinara), and being too cute to incur the cook's wrath.

Blasted kitchen gadgets.

Monday, June 9, 2008

In Shivery June

Three weeks of unseasonably chilly, stormy weather have taken a toll on the gardens of In the Night Farm. Raging winds tattered the leaves of the chichiquilite huckleberries, laid the squash plants flat, and beat the life from the ground cherry and melon seedlings. Chilly nights left the tomatoes and peppers looking tiny and forlorn, seemingly even smaller than when I set them out in mid-May.

On the bright side, the greens and brassicas are thriving. The lettuces are lovely.

So is the arugula, though bolting reduced it to an aesthetic attraction during a few, hot days in early May.

And the peas are loveliest of all.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Warm Crowder Pea Salad with Green Herb Dressing

A favorite in the South, crowder peas (also known as cow peas, poor man's peas, or China beans) aren't just for Hoppin' John on New Year's Eve. They make a great foundation for vegetarian soups, salads, and burgers. This recipe features them in a light but filling salad that tastes of spring. I used black-eyed peas, but any variety of crowder peas would work beautifully.

By the way, you can avoid that "canned" taste and a lot of sodium -- and save money -- by using dried beans and peas from the bulk bins instead of canned varieties. Just cook the dried legumes in boiling water, drain, and freeze portions in airtight bags. I usually put about 3 cups of cooked legumes in each bag. To thaw, just soak a bag-o-beans in hot tap water for ten minutes. (Microwaving works too, but it kills the nutrients in the beans.)

Warm Crowder Pea Salad with Green Herb Dressing

Green Herb Dressing:
1/2 cup mixed fresh herbs (such as oregano, thyme, chives, and sage)
1/3 cup onion, diced
1/3 cup white rice vinegar
1/4 cup water
2 Tbs honey
1 Tbs olive oil
1/4 tsp black pepper

Combine ingredients in blender and puree. Set aside.

1 Tbs olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
1 carrot, peeled and finely diced
3 cups cooked, drained crowder peas
6 cups mixed salad greens

Saute onion, celery, and carrot in olive oil over medium heat until slightly tender (about 5 minutes.) Gently stir in crowder peas and heat until warm. Gently stir in 1/2 of Green Herb Dressing.

Arrange salad greens on large plates; top with crowder pea mixture and remaining dressing. Makes 3 dinner-sized servings.