August 19, 2009

Irresistible Bounty


Its taken months, but finally it feels like summer is here.  After a couple of months of rain, and then some pleasant sunny days, it has gotten hot enough for people to start complaining about the weather again.  I love having some real summer weather, perfect for swimming as much as possible and sitting up on the roof deck enjoying the cool breezes.  This is also the best time of year for fresh delicious food.

I went to the farmer's market today with a strict budget and simple list of things I wanted to find. I love walking through the market to see everything that is there before I decide which vegetables and fruits will come home with me.  Once I saw everything there was to choose from, I began selecting ears of corn, potatoes and cucumbers.  When I started looking at tomatoes and fruit I realized that my budget wouldn't allow for all the irresistible bounty at the market to make it to my kitchen.  Its not unusual that I find myself in this situation, like a woman with a credit card and a thing for fancy shoes, I just can't live without the blueberries and the peaches and one quart just won't be enough.  I slip some of the tomatoes I bought into my handbag so they won't get squished and think, don't tell my husband I bought all of this.

Of course he won't mind when it becomes dinner, and really, I know that my dollars are going to a good place and I get to come home with some of the jewels of the season.  All of the fresh, glowing produce is completely inspiring.  It hardly needs to be cooked or transformed in any way, but its hard not to think about combinations and additions that would be a delicious meal.
Along with perusing the farmer's market, I have been perusing the gorgeous pictures and recipes in Deborah Madison's Local Flavors: Cooking and Eating from America's Farmer's Markets.  It is full of great ideas for using seasonal produce from all parts of the country.  Its the kind of cookbook that I drool over in summer and winter alike, but this time of year I can find a lot more of the ingredients that I want to use.  I've been buying a lot of corn on the cob with the intention of freezing some, but before it gets to the freezer it is all gone.  I've been making some succulent salads which I will share but first a simple recipe for great corn fritters.




Corn Fritters, adapted from Local Flavors by Deborah Madison.


These are crunchy on the outside and make for a light, delicate bite full of sweet juicy corn.  As always, when featuring fresh vegetables and fruit, the end result will only be as good as the ingredients you use.  Make sure the corn is fresh and not starchy.  I served these as part of a meal with other salads, she recommends serving the fritters topped with arugula leaves.


6 ears sweet corn (about 3 cups kernels)
2 eggs, beaten
4 scallions, finely sliced
1/2 cup chopped parsley
2 tablespoons shredded basil
1 cup grated cheddar
1/3 cup whole wheat (or whole spelt) flour
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
butter or oil for frying


Slice off the tops of the corn kernels then use the back of the knife to press out the milk.  Mix the kernels and scrapings with the eggs, scallions, herbs, cheese, and flour.  Season with salt and pepper.  


Heat butter or oil to generously cover the bottom of a skillet.  Divide the batter into sixths and drop into the skillet.  Fry over medium heat until golden, then flip and fry the second side.  Serve right away.  

August 16, 2009

Worms!

I've been wanting to make a worm bin for a year or so. Being an avid eater of vegetables and whole foods, and thus a producer of vegetable scraps I needed a place to recycle them. Although some of my upstairs neighbors simply drop their scraps out the window into the alley behind our building, I have been hoping to do something more productive with some of my food waste. Its taken me a while to finally make a worm bin, but thanks to my friends Jen and Dani who gave me the gift of worms for a wedding shower present back in the spring, I finally got to have a bin of my own.

I'm a little behind the times. I mean, the New York Times had an article on worm bins in the city a while ago, but despite that it took me some time to get around to building a bin. I was a little intimidated by the bin itself -- what if I messed it up or didn't provide an adequate home for the busy little wigglers? Well, it turns out to be really easy and worth while. Our bin is small, so the worms can't handle all of the veggie scraps we have, but its a good start.

In case you aren't familiar with worm bins -- it is a simple way of turning food waste into rich dark worm castings which are great for adding to soil for healthy plants. With some help from Worm Mainea, I made a simple home for the worms where they can munch on the mold and fungi that break down the food. To make a worm bin, you just need a few simple materials. You can use a wooden box, but it was easier for me to obtain a plastic storage tub which would fit under my kitchen sink.

Drilling air holes

I drilled holes in the top to let in air. You can cover the holes with a screen to keep fruit flies out. I also added a drainage hole at the bottom in case there is too much liquid in the bin which is just closed with a cork and some masking tape. If the bin needs draining, this will do the trick.

Worms

To make bedding for the worms, rip up newspaper into long thin strips and dampen it with water so that it is moist but not wet. The worms are red wigglers, not earth worms, so you will need to order them from a supplier or get them from someone who has an excess of worms in their bin (over time the number of worms in the bin will increase). I put the worms on top of the newspaper and then put more shredded damp paper on top of them.

DSC_0702

Worms like: coffee grounds and filters, vegetable and fruit scraps, paper and cardboard, breads and grains, tea leaves and bags (no metal staples, though), and egg shells. Worms do not like: meat, fish, bones, dairy, grease, vegetable oil, pet waste, dirt from outside, salt. The worms can only keep up with half the weight of the worms per week. I started with a pound of worms, so they can take about a half pound of "worm food." I usually check on them every week or so to see if the other food has broken down yet. Each time I add food, I put it in a different corner, under the top layer of bedding. More newspaper bedding should be added as the bedding breaks down. Following these guidelines will keep the environment in your bin well balanced and smelling good. So far, my little pets seem healthy and happy (well, I don't know about that) and they are taking care of some of my food scraps each week. Eventually there will be enough worm castings to remove some of the castings and use them to fertilize plants. It will take some time, but its nice to have this recycling system under my kitchen sink.

August 1, 2009

Our Special Day


On July 25 we had a fabulous, amazing, perfect wedding ceremony and celebration.  Despite two inches of rain the day before, our friends and family rallied and helped build platforms and lay down hay to cover some of the wettest areas.  It was a thrillingly wonderful event for us and, we hope for everyone who was there.
The tables turned out to be just as I had hoped and envisioned.

Our guests did an amazing job supplying delicious and varied desserts, adding a really special element to the feast.  With homebrewed beer and pizza baked in a brick oven on site, everyone ate and drank happily.

I've been spending some time collecting myself after such a monumental event, but hope to soon be posting weekly with more recipes, projects and highlights of summer.