0702 Ratatouille, kind of

As we enter July, we’re starting to reap the benefits of the community garden plot.  We’re also starting to experience mid-summer gardening woes: mosquitoes, sunburn, weeding, excessive kale.  I’ve taken a few pictures, but I’m not sure if you can really get a sense for what we’re working with – or what our garden neighbors are producing in similar spaces.

And so it happened that we found ourselves facing down a fridge full of produce on the eve of leaving for a weekend trip.  Inspired by this week’s SELMA menu, I decided to use up the zucchini, tomatoes, and rapini in a sort-of ratatouille.  And I have to say, it turned out way better than I expected.

I sauteed a couple of cloves of garlic (minced) and an onion (finely diced) in a tablespoon or so of olive oil over medium heat, then added 3-4 small tomatoes (diced) and let the whole thing go saucey while prepping the rest of the veg.  I chopped a medium-sized zucchini into bite-sized pieces, then added it to the sauce once the tomatoes had cooked down a bit, tossing to combine and to ensure even cooking.  While the zucchini was going golden, I washed, trimmed, and chopped a handful or two of rapini from the garden, and tossed it in to wilt for a few minutes.

We’d picked up a couple of loaves of bread at Plum Market last night –  baked goods go half off or more at 8pm – so I sliced half a ciabatta in half again, then put it in the toaster oven for a few minutes while rounding up Shane for dinner.  I had initially thought about serving the ratatouille over polenta, but that was just too much heat for an already hot night – and the ciabatta turned out to be just right.

The only thing I’d change for next time is the rapini – it was, well, like eating a bunch of rapini-flavored sticks.  After one bite each, we carefully removed the stick-y parts, and proceeded.  We ate this pile of goodness with fork and knife, pulling away bites of toasty bread, sweet red-gold sauce, and tasty veg topped with shaved Parmigano-Reggiano.

0701 Zucchini Potato Frittata

We ran a quick errand after work, and by the time we got home, we were starving.  I had planned to make a frittata from Local Flavors, but lacking the ricotta the recipe required, I opted to just fly by the seat of my pants.  And you know what, it was a damned good frittata.

Fritatta in the pan

Tonight’s frittata was a riff on the basic recipe I gave you last month.  We had a few boiled new potatoes, half an onion, and a knob of goat cheese left over from other meals, so the cheese was whisked in with five eggs, while the potato and onion were sliced up along with a yellow squash and sauteed in the last of the butter.  After adding the egg-cheese mixture, I ran a silicone spatula around the edges to keep everything from sticking, then transferred the pan to the oven for a couple of minutes under the broiler.

The frittata pictured above isn’t the one we ate tonight, but it’s pretty close.  I have to tell you, though, that in the moment of truth, tonight’s frittata flipped out of the pan beautifully.  And then we ate it right up.

0625 Dinner at Corner Brewery

Lacking dinner plans, we again found ourselves going out tonight – this time to Corner Brewery, in Ypsilanti.  Located near the Depot Town area of Ypsi, Corner is a fair drive for us, but on a beautiful night like tonight, it’s well worth it for the patio and the beer.

photo by ericarhiannon

Corner is the sibling brewery of Arbor Brewing Company, which we’ve been to a fair number of times. I don’t know what it is about ABC, but we just haven’t found much to love about it. I like their food, but they charge exceptional prices for only adequate beer, thus providing a strong disincentive for choosing ABC over, say, Jolly Pumpkin.  Corner, however, seems to charge pretty decent prices for pretty decent beer, which is good enough for me.  Shane has said a couple of times that he’d consider joining their mug club if we lived in Ypsi (which might happen next year depending on the housing market).

Mug club
photo by phil dokas

I was starving, so I had a portabella mushroom sandwich with a nicely savory tapenade and with quite well seasoned grilled vegetables on the side.  It’s not that I don’t love chips, but if grilled squash is an option, I’ll take that 9 times out of 10.  Shane was less hungry, so he snacked on chips and guacamole along with his Arborealis.  I ordered a Strawberry Blonde, but am pretty sure I got the Brasserie Blonde – nice and malty, but lacking the strawberry sweetness.  A nice night for sitting outside, and a nice dinner to go along with it.

0615 A Serious Squash Salad

Shane stayed late at work tonight, so he missed out on the glory that was this salad:

OMG Squash

What is it? Two small zucchinis and two small summer squashes, sliced lengthwise and grilled. A chiffonade of mint and basil from the garden. Soft goat cheese and toasted pine nuts.  And I ate it ALL. Every last bite. And here is a funny Photobooth picture to prove it:

Squash makes me happy

The recipe called for boiling the squash, then tossing all ingredients with a light vinaigrette.  I prefer the squash grilled, and there was enough moisture and flavor from the grilling that I didn’t think the dressing was necessary.  Maybe next time I’ll use the dressing – and will share the salad with Shane.

Squash Ribbon Salad with Goat Cheese and Toasted Pine Nuts from Ezra Pound Cake

0611 Asparagus to Zucchini

Today was the first day all week that I really felt human.  On a related note, it was also the first day all week that I prepared a real dinner.  Of course, I had help:

Friday Night Grilling

Have I mentioned that we got a meat grinder as a wedding present?  Perhaps I have.  Have I mentioned that it’s GREAT?  Seriously, it’s so easy to use, and so convenient to be able to pull a piece of meat out of the fridge, grind it up, and have quick pork burger patties for four, instead of oversized pork chops to awkwardly share.

Grill Up

In addition to the pork burgers, Shane grilled up a bunch of zucchini (!!!) and probably the last asparagus of the season.  It’s been a good run, asparagus, but I’ve moved on to the end of the alphabet.  What looked like a giant pile of vegetables disappeared quickly, leaving us happy and full.

I’m liking this Friday night grilling thing.  We should do it more often.

0115 Summery pasta and a beet and spinach salad

Dinner tonight at Shana‘s, pasta with pesto and a packet of summery vegetables from her winter Locavorious share.  I had good intentions of roasting squash to bring for a salad, but time got away from me after work, and instead I brought my favorite beet salad from Plum Market, a package of spinach, and some leftover herbed goat cheese.  It was such a treat to have zucchini and summer squash – and to share a meal with friends as we planned for the croquembouche.

Sometime over the holidays Olivia mentioned that she wanted to try the croquembouche, Shana expressed interest, and I offered up the occasion – my 30th birthday.  Many emails have flown back and forth this week as we discussed recipes, divided up ingredients and equipment, and planned a small brunch to go with this confectionery masterpiece.  Tonight we cracked eggs, whipped the pastry cream, piped small circles of pâte à choux – and drank wine and talked about food and life.  I’ve missed evenings like this, and I hope that there will be many more to come as I enter my 30s.

Current favorite dish: quick and random pasta!

We’ve got some news coming up shortly, but in the interim, I wanted to share my current favorite thrown-together lunch-y meal.

Earlier in the week, Shane and Dan and I went to Fort Reno and had delicious picnicky things, resulting in a fridge full of half-eaten snackity bits like grape tomatoes and peapods and tiny balls of marinated mozzarella. In a rush to put together lunch before leaving for work on Thursday, I concocted the following, which I made again this morning.

Take some zucchini – any variety, whatever you like – and slice it width-wise and about 1/4″ thick. Grill with salt and pepper on a stove-top griddle – or on your regular grill when you’re cooking out, as they’ll keep a couple of days – until marked and soft.

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil, then add about 1 C dried pasta – shape of your choice, though I wouldn’t go much smaller than penne or fusili – and cook til al dente. Drain, and then toss with a bit of olive oil.

While everything’s still hot, cut up some mozzarella into bite-sized pieces and toss with the pasta and zucchini. Seal it up in your container of choice, and by lunchtime, everything should be nicely melted and marinated. Eat it cold like a pasta salad, or warm it up for a minute or two.

If you have marinated mozzarella, you can substitute the marinade for the olive oil. You could also use asparagus, but that would take a bit longer to cook. I bet this would be fantastic with some roasted or briefly grilled tomatoes – might have to try that next time.

Eating and Growing Locally: Week 14

In a bout of “what the hell do we have in the fridge?”, we made our all-local meal:

Local dinner

Pork kefte, broiled Mediterranean veg, and homemade tzatziki sauce, all of which were delicious and have been subsequently snacked on.

Homemade Tzatziki

Tzatziki (from Serving Up the Harvest)

3 C quartered and thinly sliced cucumbers
1/2 t salt, or more as needed
1 C greek yogurt or sour cream
1 garlic clove, minced

Combine the cucumbers and salt in a colander and toss to mix.  Let drain for 30-60 minutes.  Transfer to a clean kitchen towel and pat dry.  Combine the cucumbers, yogurt, and garlic in a large bowl.  Season generously with salt and pepper.  Set aside at room temperature to allow the flavors to develop for at least 30 minutes before serving.

This is the halved version of the recipe – the amount that we made – and it still made a LOT of tzatziki.  We’ll probably halve it again next time.

Broiled zucchini and tomatoes

Broiled Zucchini with Herbs (adapted from Moosewood Restaurant Low-Fat Favorites)

2 t olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
juice of 1/2 lemon (a couple of tablespoons)
a handful of finely chopped basil (or mint) and chives (or scallions) – as much as you’d like or have on hand
salt and pepper
1 medium-sized zucchini, sliced into rounds
1 tomato, sliced

Preheat the broiler.  In a large bowl, whisk together the oil, garlic, lemon juice, herbs, salt and pepper.  Toss the zucchini and tomatoes with this mixture until evenly coated.  Place the vegetables on a lined baking sheet and broil for 8-10 minutes, until the zucchini is just tender.  Serve immediately.

We ate lots of other delicious things this week – penne with zucchini and ricotta, homemade pizza with random leftovers from the market, and grilled chicken with a zucchini salad –  we just don’t have pictures.  Nom nom nom.

As we move into the dog days of summer – and our last month with a balcony – our garden seems to be winding down. The lettuce looks weird – some of it is definitely lettuce-y, but some appears to have tall stalks and flowers. Maybe I don’t know how to grow lettuce? A couple of tomatoes and chilis are ripening on the vine, and our basil trucks on into its fourth month. Over the next few weeks we’re going to be finishing things off – picking the lettuce, transplanting the herbs, letting things go to seed and die – but for now I’m just enjoying the changing colors from my vantage point by the window.

Eating and growing locally: week 10

I kind of can’t believe it’s been 10 weeks since I got really pissed off at the state of our food industry and told SB that I wanted to make an effort to eat more locally.  I feel like I talk about this stuff all the time, and I apologize if you’re sick of hearing about it, but the last 10 weeks have really changed the way that we think about food and the way that we eat.  It’s kind of fantastic.

Local meal #6

Tiny pork burgers with ground pork from Cibola Farms, herbs and greens from our garden, slices of onion, tomato, and aged cheddar from the market, and rosemary Italian rolls from Atwater’s.  Please ignore the ketchup and the totally unnecessary mayo.  These were sooooo flavorful that we didn’t need other condiments at all.  Maybe some homemade pickles that, as of yet, exist only in my head.

Sweet potato fries

Along with the burgers, we had sweet potato fries, using up the last of the sweet potatoes that had started to sprout while we were at Bonnaroo.  I tossed the potatoes with kosher salt, freshly ground pepper, cinnamon, and cumin, then baked them long enough that they were soft, but not long enough to get crispy.  Better luck next time.

All local breakfast!

Shane made a really fantastic all-local breakfast – farmers market eggs scrambled with zucchini, onion, and garlic (also from the market), a fruit salad of peaches and the last of the strawberries, and toasted rosemary Italian rolls from Atwater’s.

Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble

Did I say we ate the last of the strawberries for breakfast?  I lied.  The last of the strawberries actually went into a strawberry rhubarb crumble (recipe from Smitten Kitchen), which we ate with ice cream throughout the week.

On Friday, we ate the last of our store-bought chicken, so this week we’ll be making our first foray into entirely local meat.  We also bought (omg) crabs (!!!!) at the market this morning.  Stay tuned for much excitement and exclamation points about that.  It’s also worth noting that I made an incredible cole slaw that we’re hoping to repeat this week.


  • The chilis still are not red.  C’mon, chilis!  You can do it!
  • Everything else continues at the previously documented rates of growth.  I’m not sure if the worm poop is helping or not – or if we’ve just hit that hot part of the summer where some things are going to grow, and others are going to die.

Eating and growing locally: week eight

I missed the farmers’ market so much when we were at Bonnaroo.  It seems like a weird thing to miss, but that’s what I got.  After two months of doing most of our shopping at the market or individual stores, going to the grocery store just seems weird.


Day 326 - 6/18/08


Local meal #4
Pork and Broccoli Stir-fry

  • Pork from Cibola Farms, sliced to 1/4″ thickness
  • Broccoli from the FB market, roughly cut up
  • A whole head of green garlic from the Courthouse market, roughly chopped
  • Soy sauce and peanut oil (non-local)

Combine the pork, garlic, and enough soy sauce to marinate in a bowl.  Set aside.  Heat some oil in your wok or non-stick skillet.  Saute the broccoli stems until soft-ish, then add the pork, garlic, and soy sauce.  If you have other veggies, great.  I was going to include zucchini, but there wasn’t enough room.  Saute until everything’s delicious and tender – I think I left it all in too long, but I was waiting for SB to get home.  It was delicious nonetheless.  It would be fantastic on top of rice, but rice doesn’t grow in the DC metro area, so that’ll have to wait for a non-local meal.

Bonus local meal!

Grilled Zucchini Salad – bonus meal!

  • One small eight-ball zucchini, sliced about 1/4″ thick (but any summer squash will work)
  • Fresh tomato, cut into bite-sized chunks
  • Mixed greens
  • Olive oil (non-local) for drizzling, salt & pepper to taste

Using our trusty grill pan, I dry-grilled the slices of zucchini quickly until tender, then tossed them on top of the tomato and other salad fixings.  One eight-ball zucchini made enough for two salads, or for me to have a salad AND a bowl of yummy zucchini.  Drizzle with a little olive oil before serving to really bring out the buttery awesomeness of the zucchini.