Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Squash Frittata

My friend Sara said recently that part of eating locally and seasonally is that we have to get sick of some things before their season is over and there’s no way around that.  She is a farmer and a vegetarian, and I imagine this is especially true for her but it ought to be true for all of us. 

Everything has a price and I suppose the price of that first tender sweet summer squash eaten straight off the vine* is that months later I will gaze at that too-prolific vine with dismay and wonder whether it will ever stop growing and fruiting. 

It will. At first frost if not sooner, I’ll be chopping up those withered vines and tossing them in the compost.  By January I’ll be digging through the freezer for frozen squash pulp** and thinking fondly of summer’s diced squash with lemon vinaigrette, squash gratins, grilled squash, squash fritters, and squash frittatas.  

This last  is currently my favorite way to cook squash. I made one for breakfast this morning that turned out especially well, so I thought I’d share it in case any of you are also faced with too much squash.

Squash Frittata with Sage and Lemon
to serve 4-6

2 medium summer squash
1 medium onion, diced
2T each butter and olive oil
1-3T chopped fresh sage
6 eggs
finely grated zest of 1-2 lemons
1/3 cup sour cream or creme fraiche
salt and pepper
1/2-1 cup asiago or parmesan, or a combination of the two, grated

julienne the squash, sprinkle with a teaspoon of salt and drain in a colander for half an hour, then squeeze the liquid from the squash (this will prevent the frittata from ‘weeping’)

warm the butter and olive oil in a 10” oven-safe skillet over a medium-high flame

saute the squash for a minute or so, then add the onion and continue to saute until veggies are lightly golden and tender, then stir in the sage and cook another minute

meanwhile, thoroughly whisk  the egg, lemon zest, sour cream or creme fraiche, and salt and pepper to taste

reduce heat slightly, add the egg- mixture, stir lightly just to mix in veggies, then cook about 5 minutes -- if you’ve never done a frittata, what you want is for the bottom to be golden and to cook the thing about halfway through

sprinkle the cheese on top and pop the pan under the broiler for a few minutes until puffy and golden on top

cut into wedges for serving

Obviously you can vary this pretty endlessly -- if I’m having guests, I make a tomato coulis to serve on top and a salad on the side.  You can of course use all kinds of vegetable, meat, and seasoning combinations and the only rule is to not over-stuff the frittata and to think carefully about cooking times.  Some variations I like:

~ swap out the yellow squash for zucchini, use rosemary instead of sage, add some chopped tomatoes (Sara’s for preference, but if you’re not one us lucky few, make do with any locally-grown variety you fancy) and use cheddar in place of asiago/parmesan

~ use chopped and lightly steamed spinach for the veg, season with a few grinds of nutmeg, and top with gruyere

~ arrange steamed broccoli and strips of roasted red peppers prettily around the frittata after pouring the egg mixture into the pan, sprinkle with dried or fresh oregano and thyme, and top with crumbled feta just before broiling

* I really do eat the first squash straight off the vine, without cutting it first.  It’s sort of a ritualistic (and possibly rather odd) practice in celebration of first fruits.  II also read something once on a fruitarian or raw-foodist site about how much better it is to eat ‘living’ fruits though I must say it sounds a little creepy when I think about it in those terms.
** To freeze squash pulp, you’ll need a squash that is overgrown enough that you wouldn’t want to eat it raw or even cooked necessarily, but not so overgrown that it is strictly compost or animal food.  Halve the thing lengthwise, scoop out the seeds (these can be washed and either roasted and eaten or saved for planting), then grate on the coarsest holes of a box grater. I salt, rinse, and drain before freezing, but I bet you could skip this step.  In any case, you’ll find that it reduces into a mild-flavored mush that can be used in quick breads as well as soups, or even baby food if you’re lucky enough to have one of those little critters about the house.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Finished object and project planning

Originally uploaded by 3Birds
This is Finch wearing his latest sweater. It's the usual seamless raglan with grafted underarms. The cable is Ripple and Rock from Barbara Walker's 2nd Treasury of Knitting Patterns, and the yarn is cottage craft that I bought at Stitches 2008 here in Baltimore. On the needles and next up for completion is Robin's sweater, knit with OWool Balance. I started over last week after deciding that the body and single sleeve I'd already knit in 1" stripes of gray, brown, and green were displeasing in some way. I find starting fresh much more pleasant than tweaking an existing project, and so far I'm pleased with the new sweater, a simple bottom-up seamless raglan in 3 broad strips of brown, green, brown.

I think I'm a little bored with knitting, and definitely sick of the clutter. I have too much yarn and way too many projects begun and abandoned, so I hope that knitting it all up into simple but well-crafted projects for family and friends will be cathartic. I find myself drawn more and more to my sewing machine, my embroidery floss, my journal, and my kitchen these days, so I'm going to follow that muse awhile. I have so many projects in mind that I'm sure I'll be busy all year and still not get to half of them. Here are some of the things I think I'll manage:

* candymaking, beginning with soft caramels and including sea-foam divinity, taffy, applets and cotlets, filled chocolates, and lollipops)
* baking all of our bread, excluding tortillas but including pizza and flatbreads, sandwich loaves, dinner rolls, breakfast rolls, and crackers
* making pasta at least once, and more frequently if I like the results
* learning to sew clothing -- I've done a bit of this, and this year I want to become a lot more proficient
* planting -- 2 more raised beds for front yard (the Mister and middle-bit will be building these for me)
* planting along back fence --native perennials and some brambles is the plan for this space
* making my own cleaning products, including laundry soap -- I've dabbled my toes for long enough in the green cleaning pool -- time to dive in!
* writing -- I've been participating in a weekly flash-fiction challenge for 3 weeks now, and I plan to continue this and perhaps expanding and/or polishing some of the promising pieces for submission

dinner tonight: roast chicken, buttermilk mashed potatoes, braised fennel, and chocolate cake for dessert

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Green and amber and gold it grows...

 I like the way my grains look here, all lined up in their jars.  I'd taken them out to search for wheatberries, which I didn't find, but I had plenty of other grains and was able to make a splendid supper. The grains above are, from left to right, whole wheat couscous, quinoa, barley, popcorn (grown by my farmer-friend Sara and probably destined for caramel popcorn balls), millet, and flax.

We've been eating a lot of grains lately, and Justin-the-carnivore allows as how a meatless diet wouldn't be entirely miserable for him.  He also has acknowledged that mushrooms are edible when they are distilled into roasted vegetable stock.  He's eaten far more mushrooms than he knows about, to be honest, but I doubt he'll ever tuck into a mushroom turnover with gusto.  Or anything short of loathing.  Which is a shame because I've been improving my pastry skills lately, and mushrooms are a natural filling for savory pies.

Anyway, for a (relatively) cheap and easy meal that is very filling and entirely vegan, you can't beat a pilaf. The main thing is to have a very nice vegetable stock, which is pretty easy to make well.  I prefer roasting my veggies and then simmering, but you can make a super-fast version with a few aromatics and a handful of herbs.  I use Mark Bittman's roasted vegetable stock recipe as a template -- it's in his How To Cook Everything Vegetarian. Once you have a good stock (it's a good idea to make a ton of it and then freeze it in 1-2 qt portions) you can follow the basic pilaf method of sauteing the grains with or without aromatics, then adding the stock and any additional vegetables.  Finish with chopped parsley or any other herb.  Serve with something bright green, like lightly steamed broccoli, chard, or spinach if you like. 

Barley and Wild Rice Pilaf

olive oil, and lots of it!
1 small to medium onion, chopped
2 stalks of celery, chopped
4-6 carrots, chopped
2 turnips, chopped
1 cup hulled barley (pearled can be used, but it cooks faster, so add it after the rice has cooked 20 minutes or so.)
1/4-1/2 cup wild rice
1 qt. vegetable stock
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley

Heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Working in batches if necessary, saute all the veggies, seasoning with a little salt and pepper. I did the onions, celery, and carrot (the mirepoix) together, then moved them to a bowl while I sauteed the turnips.   I use about 2T olive oil for each batch of vegetables.  You want to cook as many as you can without crowding them and if you have a big enough pot you can do them all at once.  The turnips I like to cook until very soft and golden.   Once the veggies are cooked, add another tablespoon of oil to the pan, and add the grains.  Saute them, stirring continuously for about a minute before adding all of the veggies back in, then the broth.  Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer and cover the pot.  Hulled barley and wild rice should take about 45 minutes to cook, possibly longer.  Be ready to add extra broth or water if the mixture dries out before the grains are tender.  Adjust the salt and pepper and then add the minced parsley off heat. 

dinner tonight is Robin's birthday dinner.  He requested spaghetti and meatballs, and a cocoa buttermilk cake with chocolate-malted icing.