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Posts tagged ‘zucchini’

sautéed zucchini with cinnamon and currants

Eating seasonally is a fraught issue. Even as someone who lives within spitting distance of California’s fields and worked on a farm in one of the biggest agricultural communities in the US, I still find myself standing in a supermarket aisle realizing seasonal eating can easily fall in the “it-sounds-so-nice-but-what-does-it-mean” category.

But the last two weeks brought fresh insights, most of them born from the sweat of my mother and grandparents’ brows and my own tendency towards frugality. It’s not that I don’t love grocery shopping—one of life’s true joys–but with the rest of my family out of town (and an accidental purchase of a $17 bag of cherries from Whole Foods) I decided I was going to embark on several weeks of eating close to home.

I admit—I held off on this post for a while because the things I was eating just seemed so simple. I should get more creative, I thought, come up with something special tonight. My resolve held firm through the morning, but come 11:30 a.m. I’d be standing at the stove sautéing the same slices of zucchini, and by dinnertime I’d be wandering beer-in-hand through the garden snapping off leaves of kale to make my favorite kale slaw with our ripe avocados.

My conclusion? Eating seasonally, healthfully and startlingly cheaply really just requires three things: a bulk supply of a bountiful fruit or vegetable from your garden or nearby market, a great simple recipe (think six ingredients or less), and the willingness to enjoy (many) variations on the same meal. It may sound silly, but the prospect of dozens of zucchinis per week for the duration of the summer actually excites me to no end—I love crispy slices of spiced sautéed zucchini hot from the pan, and I’ll eat them daily much in the same way that I ate roasted cauliflower with lemon and tahini in the spring, or will eat grilled cherry tomatoes tossed with grains and salads next month. And yes, when I desperately crave cherries I won’t berate myself for indulging in a bag from the store. I’ll just check the per pound price first.

Sautéed Zucchini with Cinnamon and Currants

This recipe is endlessly adaptable – once you’ve sauteed the zucchini with the cinnamon and currants, feel free to get creative with your favorite grain. If you have good cheese like ricotta salata on hand add that in as well for a tasty lunch or summery side.

2 medium zucchinis

olive oil

cinnamon

handful currants

1 cup cooked Israeli couscous

Heat your pan over medium heat and add a good glug of olive oil. Slice the zucchini into thin ribbons and add to the hot pan, doing your best to arrange the strips so they don’t overlap. Sprinkle with salt and cinnamon.

When the first side is browned flip the zucchini piece by piece (or, if you’re lazy, just give the pan a big shake) and sprinkle with a bit more cinnamon. Cook until the other side is done, then add the currants and cooked Israeli couscous and stir fry with the zucchini for a few more minutes. Enjoy hot from the pan or cooled to room temperature.

frittata with asparagus, zucchini, mushrooms and chard

For one reason or another, I’ve always liked Thursday. You could say it’s my Friday—when I was in grade school I relished having the maximum number of weekend nights ahead of me, and in college Thursday was a weekend night since I managed to avoid ever having Friday class (that’s right, all eight semesters). It’s safe to say I’m primed to look forward to Thursdays now, but at Love Apple I can add another check to the pros column: Farm Dinner.

I’ve mentioned Farm Dinner before, but really it deserves its own paragraph. Every Thursday between 7 and 7:30 p.m. a rag-taggle group of farm dwellers, apprentices, and the odd visitor or ten assembles on the patio, everyone bearing food from the kitchen and glasses of wine. There’s a fire roaring in the pit and children dashing across the lawn adjacent, and the tables sport red-checkered cloths and settings for 30. Sometime around 8 p.m., just as people start eying the food and Cynthia begins to rise from her chair for the anticipated announcement, the Shivs are sighted walking down the driveway. Catherine and Shiv are our closest neighbors, and they are always preceded by a small child on a skateboard and bring the most delicious curry I have ever tasted (their British accents also lend a certain dignity to the conversational games that follow every meal).

What exactly are conversational games? you may be wondering, as I did on my first day when I heard circulating accounts of farm Thursdays. Once everyone is settled with their food the bios portion begins, with those who are new to the table giving a two-minute run-through of their life and/or relationship to the farm. Next come the questions, which go around the table campfire style and range from the cheapest thing you bought and loved (my Bond Girl prom dress) to whose voice you would choose to read your eulogy (I said Lincoln, but in retrospect Barack Obama) to what your roller derby name would be (“Little Bo Streak”). Every once in a while the odd serious question will pop up (“What is the greatest act of love you have ever experienced?”) and everyone will roll their eyes but answer it very admirably.

I think what I really love about Farm Dinner (other than the grown-up icebreakers) is that it’s about something I’ve never been particularly good at: sharing. You share your time and attention. You share your stories. You share food. When I cooked Thursday nights in college it was just for myself, but here it’s a sort of offering, not just from me but from the farm—in this week’s case, from the chickens, the overburdened zucchini plants, and the towering chard. Making food is something I’ve always loved, and here it’s something that’s loved in return. Well, if not loved, at least appreciated—if only for the fact that I used 60 eggs in one go.

Frittata with Asparagus, Zucchini, Mushrooms and Chard

We have a LOT of eggs, so I aimed for a high egg count and didn’t add much else. Feel free to experiment, and the overall size of the dish can also easily be altered.

30 eggs (or thereabouts)

2 medium zucchinis

6 small potatoes

good handful of asparagus

several handfuls mushrooms

4-5 large chard leaves

salt and pepper

Crack the eggs into a large bowl and beat well, seasoning with salt and pepper. Slice the zucchini into rounds and saute in olive oil until lightly browned; meanwhile, boil the potatoes until soft and slice when cooked through. Arrange the potato slices on the bottom of a large baking dish and layer the sauteed zucchini on top. Chop the asparagus and mushrooms into bite-sized pieces and layer on the zucchini, then shred the chard for the final layer. Pour the beaten eggs over the veggies (they should be almost entirely covered) and bake in the oven at 400 degrees for 1 hour, or until nicely browned.

zucchini saute with corn and nopales

I’ve been on the farm for just shy of two months now, and I can probably count the times I’ve been off the property on two hands. (Maybe three, if we’re including runs to Trader Joe’s to replenish our compost toilet wine cellar).  I don’t have a car, but everyday life at Love Apple—working in the garden, swimming in the pool, eating groceries that magically appear at our apprentices’ cottage each Thursday—leaves little to desire. Another advantage to the self-contained lifestyle is that when you do get the chance to venture out, it’s a genuine thrill. Attending the roller derby bout in Santa Cruz last Saturday? I’ll admit it, I dressed up. And when, like yesterday, the field trip is spontaneous, it’s all the more exciting.

Especially when the destination is the Corralitos Gardens dahlia farm. Cynthia is a longtime lover of dahlias, and my first week on the farm we planted them along the main driveway with Milly, a feisty gardener in her 70s who has been saving tubers for decades. We have a few beautiful older specimens at Love Apple, but Corralitos Gardens was like stepping into one of Milly’s dahlia catalogs, where each flower seems to belong to a fantasy world. (With names like Carmen Bunky, Creekside Volcano, and Eden Barbarossa, how could they not?).

Of course all good field trips end with food, and ours was no exception. On our way back to the farm, dahlia blooms in hand, Cynthia took us by Mi Pueblo, an enormous Mexican market that featured chicken feet (in the cart of the woman in front of us), Mamey (a melon with bright orange, honey-sweet flesh), and Arroz con Leche paletas (my two favorite desserts—rice pudding and ice cream—combined to glorious effect). Back at the cottage we toasted with tamarind soda as Lisette made tortillas in our brand new tortilla press, and while we cooked our protein (mysteriously labeled “Al Pastor meat”) we still managed to throw in some love from the garden, with a sauté of zucchini, fresh corn, and nopales.

Zucchini Saute with Corn and Nopales

Nopales, the leaf-like pads of the prickly pear, add an element of the exotic to this veggie saute. Feel free to improvise with what you have–we have zucchini spilling out of every available large bowl in our kitchen, hence my recent slew of zucchini recipes.

3-4 nopales, peeled

1 large (or several smaller) zucchini, diced

2 ears of corn, shucked

cilantro

Cholula hot sauce

salt and pepper

Boil the peeled nopales until tender, then set aside and cool before dicing into small pieces. Place the ears of corn in a 400 degree oven and grill, turning occasionally so all sides get nicely toasted. Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, saute the diced zucchini in olive oil, then add the pieces of nopales. Take your grilled corn and cut the kernels off the cob, adding them to the saute as well. Season with salt, pepper, and Cholula, tasting for spiciness, and finish with a handful of chopped cilantro.

goat cheese zucchini lasagna

On any given day, this is what I see when I open our cottage refrigerator.

It’s an all-consuming battle, us seven 20-somethings versus a never-ending supply of goats’ milk (two gallons a day, to be precise). Fresh it tastes similar to cows’ milk, but after three or so days in the fridge it gets, well… goaty. We all have various tolerance levels for this unfortunate phenomenon—some grin and bear it by grabbing a five-day-old jar and pouring in a third of a bottle of Hershey’s syrup, some (read, me) give yesterday’s gallon a tentative sniff before hastily returning it to the fridge. “Finding out how much milk someone can drink in a day should be part of the Love Apple interview process,” someone joked my first week here, and though I had to laugh I also secretly cringed. I try to hide it, but since I’ve never been a milk drinker I’m the weakest link in our stand against the goats—Marty, Lupe, and Totes—and their prolific udders.

Still, I had a battle plan: cheese. A list of cheese recipes hangs from a magnet on our freezer door, and after consulting it thoroughly I decided I’d attempt cheese making on my days off this week. Armed with a packet of culture, a thermometer, and an enormous aluminum pot, I began with chevre, heating a gallon of milk to 86 degrees and stirring in the ordinary-looking white powder. And then… that was it. You let the milk sit for 24 hours to separate, then strain out the curds to hang for 4-6 hours. It was so easy I made three batches, satisfying myself with a mental tally for the day: goats—plus two gallons, Sara—minus three.

Of course the cheese never lasts as long as the milk. I eat it for breakfast on toast with jam, but cooking with it has inspired a number of dinners this week—eggplant zucchini gratin, goat pesto pizza, and a lasagna/pasta bake of sorts that threw all of the above (minus the pizza dough) together into two baked casserole dishes of cheesy goodness. Served with two-buck-chuck (those bottles are becoming a regular feature in my photos I know), it made for a wonderful Wednesday night. I’m even feeling a little better about milking at 7:30am tomorrow.

Goat Cheese Zucchini Lasagna

We only had a few lasagna noodles left so I ended up cooking some pasta and making that a layer–either way will work. Also you don’t have to make your own pesto and tomato sauce, but if you have fresh basil it’s especially worth the effort.

For the pesto:

several handfuls fresh basil

1/2 cup pine nuts

1/2 cups grated parmesan

2 cloves garlic

olive oil

For the tomato sauce:

3 cloves garlic, sliced

4 cups canned diced tomatoes

For the caramelized onions and mushrooms:

1 Tbsp butter

2 large onions, sliced into rounds

handful of large brown mushrooms

1 lb ground turkey

lasagna noodles (or penne pasta)

2 large zucchini, sliced into rounds

goat cheese, crumbled

salt and pepper

Blend the ingredients for the pesto in the blender until smooth, adding more or less of each depending on your textural preferences. In a medium saucepan, brown the sliced garlic in olive oil, then add in the diced tomatoes and simmer until most of the liquid has evaporated and the sauce looks thick and smooth. Meanwhile, heat butter in a frying pan over medium-high heat, then add sliced onions and mushrooms and caramelize, stirring regularly for about 40 minutes until they are dark brown and gooey. When the onions are done, set aside in a bowl and brown the turkey meat in the same frying pan. In another frying pan, heat olive oil and fry zucchini rounds in batches until each piece is lightly browned on each side. If you aren’t using no-cook lasagna noodles, boil a pot of water, cook your pasta, and drain.

To assemble, lightly oil a large casserole dish and begin layering, starting with the pesto and adding zucchini, pasta or lasagna noodles, tomato sauce, onions and mushrooms, meat, and goat cheese (in any order you choose). Finish with a layer of tomato sauce topped with zucchini and crumbled goat cheese, then bake in the oven at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes, or until sides are bubbling and cheese on top is beginning to brown.

carrot zucchini cake with walnuts

Sitting here by the pool with the afternoon sun on my legs and a cascade of trumpet flowers draping off the pergola above my head, I have but one recurring thought: life is good on Love Apple Farms. Alright, I may not have been thinking that yesterday when I lugged an enormous bucket of biodynamic worm tea back and forth for several hours to hand fertilize 15 beds of produce. But as hard as the eight-hour workdays can be, there are a disproportionately large number of beautiful moments here on the farm compared to anywhere else I’ve lived.

I suppose my “beautiful moments” philosophy needs a bit of an explanation. At the risk of sounding like a complete hippie (a charge easy to make considering I now wear tie-dyed Love Apple shirts every other day), I have a thing for beautiful moments that started around the time that I began keeping journals. It began as a New Year’s resolution—think of a memorable moment from the day before falling asleep, and at the end of every month record the 10 best moments in a list. Unfortunately I’ve long since abandoned the practice of listing them, but I still think of moments before bed sometimes and wonder if there’s any way I could ever truly capture them in writing.

And here, every day an ordinary moment will strike me as strange or lovely or funny. Like sitting by the redwood trees at dusk, passing around the airsoft rifle and shooting soda cans off a pile of bricks. Stealing the single strawberry from the garden pots, warm and a little tart because I couldn’t wait for it to ripen. Smelling the aroma of simmering malted barley in a beer making class, or eating a crispy fried farm egg on toast with avocado. Lying on the roof of the garden classroom on a Monday night and watching the stars.

For me it’s always been the small things, small moments that add up to something like contentment. Which is why when, the other night, I found myself suddenly craving carrot cake at 5:30 in the afternoon, I just went into the kitchen and made it. No one else was around. I probably should have been making dinner, something savory and practical. But I felt like carrot cake—more than that, I felt like making carrot cake alone in the afternoon, humming to myself in my own little beautiful moment.

Carrot Zucchini Cake with Walnuts

2 cups flour

3/4 cup sugar

2 tsp baking soda

cinnamon

nutmeg

cloves

salt

4 eggs

1 cup oil

2 cups grated carrot

1 cup grated zucchini

1 cup walnut halves

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, and baking soda. Add in the spices to taste (I like a few good shakes of each) and finish with a pinch of salt. Add the eggs and combine, then pour in the oil and mix well. Lastly put in the grated carrot, zucchini, and walnuts and bake for 45 minutes, or until a knife comes out clean.

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