Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Zucchini: New Ways with an Old Love

"All this passion over a handful of blossoms. But I, too, am captivated by these lithe yellow flowers, having grown them over the years, sometimes begging space in friends' gardens when I didn't have my own, becoming familiar with their whims as plants, how their gentle savor can refine and ornament other foods as well as please on its own."
-Marlena De Blasi, A thousand Days in Tuscany.

The first zucchini I ever saw I killed it with a hoe.
- John Gould

I have long had a love/hate relationship with zucchini. It all stems from growing up in a small, mountain town in California. Every one had a vegetable garden, and everyone had at least one zucchini plant in their garden.

A sort of sure thing, harvest-wise.

I loved the smell of the plants in their little patch of earth. The beautiful, huge green leaves, transparent in the sunlight. The golden blossoms, the bright green fruit. The way they smelled, indescribably alive and yet modest in their glory. The spikiness of their stems compared to the delicateness of their beauty.

There was something about that mountain place, that mountain soil, that caused zucchinis to prosper unlike anything many had ever seen. Zucchinis, left unchecked, reached baseball bat proportions. One had to keep up with the zucchinis, one had to stay ahead of the game.

My mother and neighbors became increasingly creative with zucchini as the summer season wore on. Zucchini began to infiltrate all kinds of foods that would not normally contain the green beast. This culminated in one neighbor's discovery--a recipe for a cake/bread using zucchini but that was NOT the ubiquitous zucchini bread; this was called "friendship bread," and required a starter.

It was fancy.

And it hit the little town like nothing had in a very long time, small towns being sort of incestuous and all, and soon everyone had made and received at least one "friendship bread."

When the bread started making second and third appearances, the name experienced a metamorphous, and was aptly dubbed, "enemy bread." Normally friendly people began hiding when they spied a neighbor arriving with suspicious packages in "enemy bread" dimensions!

I survived that summer, and many more like it, happily with my love of zucchini still intact. But, perhaps because it is in my blood now, I am always looking for new ways with this green beauty. It is in this spirit of the coming summer that I offer you a recent recipe I concocted in an effort to make a simple soup from what I had on hand. Happy zucchini bumper crops to you all!

Simple (yet effective) Zucchini Soup

Chop 2 medium size zucchini and add to 2 cups simmering chicken stock (or vegetable stock)
Cook until tender
Puree in a blender or food processor until smooth
Add 1/4 cup hummus and blend again until thoroughly incorporated.
Add mixture back to the pot, reheat and serve.
This soup is also good served cold, but is best warm.

Friday, May 15, 2009

My "Licious" Babou

All the flowers of all the tomorrows are in the seeds of today.
-- Indian Proverb

May is stretching into June way too quickly and yet time seems to have slowed at the same time. I think it is partly anticipation. My Old Man returns home from his job at the end of this month and his next job is...gasp...in our own town! So I have that to look forward to and the time seems to be flying by except when I think about having to wait until the end of the month to see him and then it feels like it is going v.e.r.y. slowly.

In the meantime, we had mom for a visit and Babou outdid herself entertaining her grandmother. They had such a good time together. I could hear them in the backyard coming up with all kinds of new dance moves and there was much gymnastics involved in all their activities!

Lately, it seems Babou is growing before my very eyes. She is so aware and is just blossoming in so many ways. Driving over a bridge the other day, Babou pointed out the window to a boat and exclaimed, "Boat! Daddy!" I didn't realize she realized so much about her Daddy's work (he's a construction diver).

Lately we have been upping our practicing of numbers, letters, and colors. We take daily walkabouts, needed outings for all of us. Loco O needs as much walking as we can give him, and I need the exercise. We hike up into the hills and chant our "ABC's" and "123's" and look at flowers and learn their names and what colors they are. Everything is blue to Babou! For some reason she just cannot get past this color! To any color question, the answer is invariably blue!

Her confidence is soaring. The other day at the park, I watched her back up this little boy against the slide with her wagging finger. She was pointing at him and giving him quite a reprimanding. I don't know what he did (I suspect he tried to take her turn on the slide) but I am quite sure he will never do it again!

And foodwise she has always been a fantastic eater. I have never made her "baby food" except when she was really little (and she still preferred whatever we were eating instead), she has always eaten whatever we are eating. But lately she has become much more enthusiastic about it all! She likes to help me cook now, and she has taken to exclaiming, "Mama! 'Licious!" Music to a mama's ears!

Monday, May 11, 2009

May Happenings

Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.
-Old Saying

Time has been moving quickly. I have been moving through my days in fits of momentum in which I do much quickly, and then have to calm down for a couple of days to recoup and renew. As much as I can while chasing my increasingly agile, quick, and BUSY little Babou!

I started out the month with the Open Studios private party my friend throws every year. Although the day turned out to be a bit drippy, it was a success none the less. The food went quickly, and smoothly, and everyone seemed to really like it. It was a solid three days of prep and I am so glad I organized it as it did because it was much smoother that way than in previous years. I was a little flustered at the end and forget to bring flowers to decorate the platters (I always decorate with nasturtium flowers) but the food looked really good anyway. I just had to be a little more clever in the presentation.

My friend's art was, of course, the main centerpiece, and she had some beautiful new paintings on display. I am always in awe of that ability, to translate light and landscape into art.

Promptly afterwards, my back went out! But I found a really good chiropractor out of it all. I was in so much pain that I chose the first chiropractor who could see and who would let me bring my daughter. He turned out to be a special type of chiropractor that practices something called the NUCCA method. They adjust your upper vertebrae to change the signal your brain is receiving from your back. Then the back readjusts itself back down the vertebrate, solving all imbalances along the way. It is very precise and very gentle. I was/am truly amazed at how well and quickly it works and on a variety of difficult conditions such as sciatica and scoliosis (which is what I have) of the spine.

I was really pressed to get my back realigned and in working order because LJoy had made a reservation seven months ago for an evening of camping on Angel Island. I would have been so let down if I had missed it, it was truly amazing. We had views of the Bay and Golden Gate Bridge, and of the city. The moon was almost full and we got to watch it rise. I hope that Babou remembers it, I know I will. It was one of those experiences that you will never forget.

Mother's day my mother came to visit and I had girlfriends over in the afternoon. We all hung out in the backyard to enjoy the garden. All the flowers are doing really well and the veggies are really getting going. I am so glad I got them in when I did...

Mom will be in town for a couple of days, helping me make sure my back keeps its adjustment. There is just nothing like having your mom around! Happy Mother's Day dear readers!

Friday, May 1, 2009

Vegetable Dreams

I believe more firmly than ever in fresh raw milk, freshly ground whole grains of cereal, and vegetables grown in organically cultured soil. If I must eat meats, I want them carved of beasts nurtured on the plants from that same kind of soil.
-MFK Fisher

Yesterday I returned from my big grocery/catering shopping day and found, to my great delight, a package from Amazon on my front porch! I hastily opened it wondering what wonderful surprise was this, and found that it was the gift won on the Eco Women website! A book, by Sophie Uliano, entitled "Gorgeously Green." It is a book I have looked at many times before but hadn't bought due to one thing or the other. I have wanted it for so long now! Thank you, Eco Women!

If you haven't had the chance to check them out yet, do so now. They are a committed group of ecowarriors who provide consistently sound and practical advice, well researched and vital information, and motivation and inspiration to make positive changes consistent with a global environmental mindset. Read them, know them, enjoy them: http://ecowomen.net/ (I apologize--my link setting in not working properly.)

The Earth Day pledge I recently made was to incorporate more vegetarian meals into my weekly bill of fare. It was the motivation I needed to get myself into gear.

The stars were also aligned in my favor for after I made the pledge, my husband, a pretty stalwart meat eater, left for a job that will last a month, perhaps even two. So it is the perfect time for me to start eating vegetarian and testing recipes that will lure him to the other side.

So far, two of my favorites (maybe not my Old Man's though--still have to test working-man-worthy vegetarian) have been a curried cauliflower soup and roasted vegetable salad. They are delicious alone as light meals, or paired for a more substantial menu.

Curried Cauliflower Soup

Saute reasonable amounts of onions and garlic and in a small amount of oil while steaming a whole head of cauliflower. Add curry, perhaps a tablespoon, to taste with the now translucent onion mixture. Once fragrant, add four cups of stock. For thicker soup, add less.

Meanwhile, with a food processor, puree the now steamed cauliflower adding a can of "lite" coconut milk as you go, creating a creamy cauliflower puree. You may also add fresh ginger to the puree which will provide the soup with an extra kick or, for a milder flavor, add the ginger to the onion and garlic mixture at the beginning.

Add the cauliflower, coconut, and ginger puree to the simmering stock, mix well to combine and adjust seasonings as desired. Enjoy!

Roasted Vegetable Salad

Slice eggplant, portabella mushrooms, red onions, and tomato halves (or whatever combination of vegetables you like--fennel would be good here too) and place on an oiled cookie sheet. Lightly brush tops with more oil, season with salt and coarsely cracked pepper. Bake at 350 for about a half an hour, until cooked to your liking.

Meanwhile, combine balsamic vinegar and olive oil with salt and coarsely ground pepper whisking to combine. If you are a garlic lover like I am, you may also add a clove or two of chopped garlic to the dressing. Add mixed greens. Toss and plate greens, topping them with the still warm roasted vegetable. Top with liberal helpings of blue cheese and enjoy!