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Saturday, August 28, 2010

oven-roasted zucchini cutlets, or deconstructed zucchini parmesan


the first week of kindergarten

We’ve just finished Meredith’s first week of kindergarten at Rabbit Creek Elementary School! What an exciting week it’s been! We walked her to the bus stop on Tuesday morning, and she boarded the bus with our third grade friend and neighbor, Zoey. (More on Zoey, our marvelous bus-helper, in a later post.) Meredith bounded off the bus in the afternoon, face shining with joy, announcing “I LOVE school! I want to go EVERY day!” I’m so thrilled that kindergarten is already so exciting and fun for her… thank you, wonderful Ms. Rakos!! I was pretty sure she would LIKE school, but I am practically beside myself with joy that she LOVES it!

Of course Dan and I tried to pry as much information from her on the walk home—and thankfully, she was happy to oblige. This is a change from her reports on her beloved pre-school, about which she would generally respond “Oh, I don’t know—I forget!” During the past three years, we were reduced to asking “Who got to be the candle-snuffer today?” since that seemed to be the one thing that 1) we knew to ask and 2) she was willing to recount.

But this year is different.

First off, she announced the biggest surprise: “Guess what color the inside of the bus is?  WHITE!” (I guess she thought the inside would be yellow, like the outside?) We’ve been regaled nightly with the “loose tooth song” (although Meredith has yet to experience a wiggly tooth of her own). I have gotten a full report on the different seating tables: yellow puffins, red foxes, blue bears. (I think I’ve got them right.) I have heard about journal time (“It’s ALWAYS in the morning, Mom!” she reported on the second day) and counting the days with tally-marks. Then, the story of their exciting Thursday in Gym class: “We did SQUADS, Mom! And I was on Squad 6!” I remembered squads from my own days at Rabbit Creek—in fact, Meredith and I share a common Gym teacher, the amazing Ms. Steen—but when I asked Meredith what they did in their squads, (like maybe a relay race or something?) she gave me a blank look. “No, Mom, we did SQUADS!” She told me about practicing lines and drawing apple trees in Art class on Friday, and how one student in her class drew black apples, but she preferred the more conventional red…

It’s more fun than I could have imagined to hear her describe her school experiences. She has her first library day on Monday…  I can’t wait to hear about her adventures with the librarian, Ms. Kean!

Thank you, Rabbit Creek Elementary School, for such a fantastic beginning to Meredith’s school year!

Now that I have a bit more time during the day to cook, while Meredith’s in school, a recipe like this with a little more prep time is more feasible. There are lots of sweet Alaskan zucchinis at the farmers markets these days… please, take advantage of them while you can—even if it’s raining on market day!


oven-roasted zucchini cutlets, or deconstructed zucchini parmesan

This recipe is very loosely based on one for an eggplant parmesan in Cooks’ Illustrated (January 2004), but you don’t have to make the whole recipe—the zucchini slices are good just on their own (as pictured). You can dollop each slice with your favorite tomato sauce, though, if you like, to make a fun deconstructed zucchini parmesan. (I’ve included two very easy and yummy recipes for tomato sauce, below—one with fresh tomatoes, one with canned.)

It’s much more fun doing this recipe with another person—there’s quite a bit of dredging and drenching to do. You won’t be surprised to learn that I always make a double batch of this because it’s so yummy, and the cooked slices freeze well! I have to admit that my favorite way to eat these, other than hot, fresh and crispy right out of the oven, is in a sandwich with mayonnaise, thinly sliced red onion, and lots of lettuce.

3 or 4 large zucchinis, cut crosswise on a slant into ½” thick ovals
6-8 slices of bread (you know my preference: whole wheat sourdough)
½ to 1 cup fresh-grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup flour
3 eggs
sea salt or kosher salt and freshly-ground pepper
spray vegetable oil (or regular vegetable oil)

1. Put the zucchini slices into a large bowl and toss with a tablespoon of salt, then let sit for at least 30 minutes and up to 2 hours in a colander. Drain off the liquid in a colander, and rinse under water. Dry the slices between kitchen towels to remove as much liquid as possible.
2. Heat oven to 425 degrees. Grind bread slices in food processor to make fine, even crumbs. Transfer crumbs to a pie plate and if your parmesan isn’t grated very fine, grind it up with a few pulses, too. Add cheese, ¼ teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper to the crumbs and mix together.
3. Combine flour and 1 teaspoon pepper in large ziplock bag; shake to combine.
4. Beat eggs in second pie plate.
5. Place 8 to 10 zucchini slices in bag with flour; seal bag and shake to coat zucchini. Remove zucchini slices, shaking off excess flour, dip in eggs, let excess egg run off, then coat evenly with bread crumb mixture; set breaded slices on wire racks on your counter. Repeat with remaining zucchini.
6. Put 2 heavy, rimmed baking sheets (preferably non-stick) in the oven and let them preheat for 10 minutes or so. Remove them one at a time from the oven, spray or brush thoroughly with vegetable oil, and load the zucchini on the sheets in a single layer. Bake until zucchini is well-browned and crisp, about 30 minutes, rotating baking sheets after 10 minutes, and flipping slices after 20 minutes.
7. While the zucchini bakes, if you’re going to serve the zucchini with tomato sauce, make the fast fresh tomato sauté or the marinara sauce. (You can make the marinara the day before, if you like. Just reheat before serving.)
8. Serve each person several slices of zucchini, overlapping slightly, on plates with little bowls of the tomato sauté. This is especially nice alongside a green salad.

fast fresh tomato sauté
This recipe is based on one from Vegetarian Suppers from Deborah Madison’s Kitchen.

3 cups of sliced, quartered, or diced tomatoes
1 shallot or ½ a small white onion, minced
1 large garlic clove, minced
small handful basil leaves, slivered, or 1 teaspoon thyme, minced (whatever fresh herbs you have hanging around, or growing in a pot on your deck—oregano, maybe?)
1 tablespoon olive oil
sea salt or kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
a drizzle of balsamic vinegar

1. Toss the tomatoes with the onion or shallot, garlic, herbs, olive oil, and a pinch of salt. You can let the mixture marinate for up to 2 hours or use it right away.
2. Just before you’re ready to eat, heat a skillet and when hot, add the tomatoes. Swirl the pan around to warm them through, add a few drops of balsamic vinegar and some pepper. They should just warm up and release their juices, not fall apart.

marinara sauce

4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
two 28 ounce cans whole tomatoes, or diced tomatoes
2 tablespoons dried oregano
sea salt or kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

1. Coarsely chop the tomatoes if using whole ones.
2. Saute the garlic in the olive oil until fragrant (30 seconds or so). Add the tomatoes and cook the sauce until nicely thickened, about 30 minutes.
3. Crush the oregano between your palms as you sprinkle it into the pot. Stir to combine, and add salt and pepper to taste. If you want a smoother sauce, put some of the sauce into your blender, or use a hand-held immersion blender to puree some of the chunks out of the sauce.

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Thursday, August 26, 2010

strawberry cosmopolitan


the conspicuous cart

I admit to feeling a bit self-conscious when I’m trundling through Costco with one of those colossally tall bottles of Kirkland-brand vodka in my cart. I think the bottle is taller than Meredith. Whenever I’m in Costco, I’m always likely to meet several people I know, or who know me from the farmers market…  and when I inevitably do, I always imagine they are thinking “Ye gods! Does she actually DRINK all that vodka? What a lush!”

It could be worse… I’m not buying cartloads of pizza pockets, battered onion rings, microwaveable burgers, or buckets of Miracle Whip. And I’m buying that vodka to make fruity five-o-clock drinks—not to guzzle straight out of that monstrous bottle. Usually my cart is also loaded with the other necessary ingredients: limes, lemons, watermelons or peaches, strawberries or oranges, grapefruits or plums

Really, when you think of it, vodka could be construed as a HEALTH food. A drink every day is supposed to be good for your heart, right? I don’t really like the taste of alcohol, so a fruity mixed drink is just the ticket to keep me healthy. And just think of all those vitamins in the fruit! Not gonna catch ME with scurvy! 

But back to that bottle. Unless you, too, have bought one of those massive jugs of 80-proof, you have no idea how unwieldy that monster is to pour a measure of vodka into a tiny jigger. I wish they would change the shape into something more manageable. Like the Absolut Citron bottle. [Whoops! Did I just admit to buying another Costco-sized bottle of alcohol?] Anyway, if the bottle weren’t so tall, it would have two advantages. One, it would be easier to pour. And two, it might not be QUITE so conspicuous in my cart.

Here’s a drink I love to make with strawberries and the aforementioned lemon-flavored vodka. I don’t have to tell you where I get the Absolut Citron, do I?

strawberry cosmopolitans

This recipe makes enough for two strong drinks. I like to make this in the blender, with frozen strawberries—either local ones from the farmers market that I’ve frozen, or the berries from the big bags from (you guessed it) Costco. But if you have fresh strawberries you want to use, by all means do that!

8 or 9 large strawberries, frozen or fresh (don’t thaw first, if frozen)
3 ounces lemon vodka
2 ounces Cointreau (orange-flavored liqueur)
1 ounce freshly-squeezed lime juice
sweetener to taste (see recipe for sugar syrup, below)

1. Put all the ingredients except for the sweetener in the blender, and buzz until nicely pureed and smooth.
2. Taste and add sweetener if needed. I like to add a little if my strawberries are tart, but the Cointreau is sweet, as well, so taste it first.
3. If you’re using frozen strawberries you can just pour this into a small glass if you want, without ice, but I like to put lots of ice in a tall glass and then pour the drink over the top. It stays cold longer. If it’s really thick and icy when you first make it, pour it into the glass first and then push the ice cubes on top and into it. Drink with a straw, if you have it!!

sugar syrup

1 cup water
1 ½ cups sugar

1. Combine water and sugar in a small saucepan. Heat over medium heat, stirring occasionally, under the sugar is completely dissolved.
2. Cool the syrup and pour into a glass jar and keep it refrigerated.


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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

red devil chocolate cake (with secret beets)


a weighty issue

Dan took Meredith along when he bought her first bike several years ago. When they returned with a pink bike with white tires and training wheels, unicorns and rainbows festooning the frame and sparkly streamers adorning the handlebars, I wasn’t surprised. I WAS surprised, however, when I picked the thing up for the first time, and almost suffered a hernia. So this is what the Chinese make with their leftover pig iron!

Ye gods, it weighed more than Dan’s and my bikes together! And tiny three-year-old Meredith was supposed to pedal this miniature single-speed beast around our gravel-roaded, hillside neighborhood? There wasn’t enough hot chocolate in the greater Anchorage area to provide her with sufficient calories to get this thing up our driveway, much less up the hill to the bike trail beyond.

Even when Meredith ditched the training wheels, the weight of the overall bike was not much diminished, especially since Dan was then required to install a kickstand. Because of the impossibility of Meredith pushing the bike up our hill on her own, most of her biking was done by first driving partway to preschool, then biking together from there.

But as Meredith’s skill on her bike has grown (“Look, mom, no feet!!”), her strength and endurance have increased, and she can actually get the leaden pink beast cranking along. When she and I go on running/biking outings together, I only have to help push her up the biggest hills. Since she has outgrown her bike trailer, we decided to order a trailer-bike for her to ride behind our bikes. And for her sixth birthday (rapidly approaching), we ordered her a new gear bike to encourage her biking enthusiasm.

Imagine our consternation when the trailer-bike arrived, and although we’d gotten a nice model (it even has six gears for Meredith to learn to shift), the thing weighs more than the bikes we will pull it with! Ugh! And the gear bike? The lightest one we could find in her size weighs just as much as her pink one.  At least it doesn’t weigh even MORE. I’m sure lighter bikes for kids would be prohibitively expensive, but still… It seems unfair that the littler they are, the heavier the bikes they are expected to ride.

Here’s a funny thought. As Meredith grows, and her bikes get bigger, they will get lighter and lighter, until at last she will have a bike that is lighter than the tiny first bike she ever rode at age three. What doesn’t kill her will only make her stronger.

Even better than hot chocolate for powering stubby legs on bike pedals, this chocolate cake is lovely. No one ever suspects the beets unless I make them guess the secret ingredient—and even then, they can’t actually TASTE the beets. It’s a relatively healthy and very delicious cake.




red devil chocolate cake (with secret beets)

This great recipe is based on one from Moosewood Restaurant Book of Desserts. The cake doesn’t taste at all like beets once it’s baked because of all the cocoa powder in it, but the beets add a great depth of flavor and moistness—not to mention vitamins!!

If you have an overabundance of beets like I do (they are very often in our CSA boxes), make a double or triple batch of the cake in small loaf pans, and then wrap them well in plastic wrap and freeze them.  Because of the beets, the cake stays very nice and moist, even after freezing. You can also roast and peel your beets ahead of time and freeze them whole, in preparation for baking this cake later.

If you want to make a Mexican chocolate cake, just add 1 ½ teaspoons of cinnamon to the dry ingredients for an Ibarra chocolate flavor.

14 ounces roasted, peeled beets
½ cup water
3 eggs, or 2 eggs + 2 egg whites
1 ½ cups sugar
¼ to ½ cup oil (depending on how low-fat you want to go)
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ teaspoon salt
1 ½ cups flour
¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
optional: ½ to 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

1. Roast and peel the beets:

a. Put whole, unpeeled beets in a baking dish or dutch oven and put ¼” of water in the dish. Cover tightly with foil or the lid of the dutch oven and bake them at 400 degrees (or whatever temperature you happen to be baking something else) until tender when stabbed with a paring knife. Usually they take at least an hour, but young beets might be quicker, depending on their size.
b. Remove from the oven and let them cool. When the beets are cool enough to handle, slip their skins off.

2. Grease and flour the pan(s): either two 8” round baking pans (for a small layer cake) or one 10” pan, or a couple of small loaf pans, or line a muffin tin with cupcake papers. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
3. In a blender, puree the beets and ½ cup water. Set aside.
4. In a large bowl, beat the eggs well. Thoroughly whisk in the sugar, oil, vanilla, salt, and beet puree until very smooth. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa, and baking soda. Add the dry ingredients (except the chocolate chips) to the wet ingredients a little at a time, whisking until smooth. Then stir in the chocolate chips, if using.
5. Pour the batter into prepared baking pan(s) and bake until a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. Check the cupcakes after 15 to 18 minutes. The two cakes/loaves might take as little as 30 minutes, and the one 10” cake will probably take at least 45 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes in the pan, then invert onto a cooling rack. Cool completely before frosting with your choice of frosting, or just dust with powdered sugar. If you add the chocolate chips, you don’t really need frosting at all.

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Monday, August 16, 2010

raspberry rickey


fruity drinks, sunset beach optional

For the last few years, we have taken advantage of the post-Christmas lull in bakery sales to take a vacation. (January seems to be a month to cut down on carbohydrates—even healthy whole-grain sourdough ones—in favor of salads and other New Year’s Resolution-type fare.) We have gone to Costa Rica now for two years running, and have really enjoyed the sun and warmth, beautiful beaches, fresh fruits and vegetables, and friendly people. When we are there, we rent a house near the ocean, and five o’clock every day finds us wandering down the path to the beach, fruity drinks in hand. We sit on driftwood logs, enjoying the relative coolness of the evening, sometimes chatting with fellow sunset-watchers, other times just enjoying the sounds of the surf while we attend the deliberate plunge of the sun into the ocean. If there are other children present, we also watch Meredith rolling around in the surf, filling the air with laughter and her swimsuit with sand.

This year, as our departure date loomed, and we prepared to head back to wintry Anchorage, Dan and I discussed ways to bring some of our relaxed Costa Rican lifestyle home to Alaska. One tradition we vowed to continue was our sunset drinks on the beach…  even though in Anchorage we would face challenges.

1. There is no beach in easy reach. Mudflats, yes…  beach, no.
2. We lack a dependable sunset at a useful, pre-dinner hour. In the winter, we’d be sucking down mojitos at 3:30 in the afternoon, and as for summer? We’d have to eat our dinner after midnight if we waited for sunset to enjoy our planter’s punch. 

No matter. Fruity drinks at five o’clock, no beach or sunset required. Since we have returned from Costa Rica, I have put every conceivable local and non-local fruit available into service in my explorations of fruity and alcoholic concoctions. Frozen blueberries picked in Kachemak Bay last year, strawberries from the farmers market, pear juice from the health food section of Fred Meyer, and watermelons hauled home from Costco have all been used with great success.

This recipe is one of my favorites, and I’ve just gotten to the end of the frozen raspberries we picked from our neighbors’ bushes last summer. If you don’t have local raspberries, frozen ones from the supermarket work just fine!

raspberry rickey

I think this might be my favorite drink at the moment.  It’s like having dessert first!

for each drink:

½ cup raspberries, fresh or frozen
1 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice
2 ounces vodka
a dash of creme de framboise or Chambord or other raspberry liqueur
sugar syrup (see recipe below) to taste
Perrier or soda water to top up

1. Put the raspberries in the bottom of a tall glass. If they are frozen, let them thaw. Moosh the berries up with a fork until they are reduced to a rough and seedy paste.
2. Add the lime juice, vodka, raspberry liqueur and a splash of sugar syrup and stir well.
3. Add ice cubes to fill the glass, and then top up with bubbly water. Stir well and taste it, and add more syrup to taste.
4. Serve with a straw. This drink works best with a straw, because you can suck up all the yummy raspberry morsels through the straw. If you don’t have a straw, all the raspberry bits get stuck at the bottom below the ice cubes.

sugar syrup

1 cup water
2 cups sugar

1. Combine water and sugar in a small saucepan. Heat over medium heat, stirring occasionally, under the sugar is completely dissolved.
2. Cool the syrup and pour into a glass jar and keep it refrigerated.


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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

spicy Indian spinach and potatoes


graduating from the bike trailer to the trailer-bike

Way back in May (Remember that sunny week?) we went to Hope for a long weekend, since Dan was doing a bike race. On the day of Dan’s race, Meredith and I readied ourselves for a ride from the Porcupine Campground to the Seward Highway and back. We would cheer for Dan and the other racers—he was doing two laps of 25 miles each on the Hope Road.

Meredith wouldn’t be riding her own bike the 18 miles each way, though—luckily, she is still good-natured about riding in the bike trailer, as long as she’s had a chance to wear herself out riding her own bike beforehand. (I confess: she listens to books like Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory on an ipod while I pull her along.)

Luckily, it was nice weather, but we had a rather stiff headwind on the way back to the campground, which pulled against the trailer to make it seem more a baby grand piano than Burley’s finest. But more than the wind resistance, what most caught my attention was the increase in weight; Meredith had definitely grown over the winter. I was utterly knackered at the end of our ride. After five years of hard use, it was time to pass the trailer on to someone with a smaller child—the size that can be pulled without inflicting quite so much pain. We needed to find a new scheme for biking together.

So we ordered a trailer-bike. Dan attached it to the road bike first, and quickly rejected it as too wobbly with the bike’s skinny tires. So we brought it to my family’s cabin in Kachemak Bay, where we keep our mountain bikes for use on the hilly dirt road from the dock at Jakolof Bay.

Sure enough, Dan’s mountain bike pairs nicely with the trailer-bike, and a few days ago, Meredith and Dan made a sedate tour on the new assembly, stopping frequently to pick likely-looking salmonberries while I ran along. Meredith’s face was radiant—so happy to be pedaling along with her dad instead of riding behind in a trailer. She also seemed to be enjoying it more than powering her own bike as I ran alongside and helped push her up the big hills, which is what we did in June and July.

We woke on Saturday morning to cloudy skies, which, surprisingly, were not even drizzling. We were pleased to anticipate a family bike ride without the downpour that has plagued our daily outings. (Rain doesn’t stop us, but I do admit to a dampening of spirits at the outset of our excursions.) We motored the skiff to the dock and unloaded our bikes, swapped rubber boots for bike shoes, and donned helmets. But as we pedaled up the dock to the gravel road, the rain began to fall.

No matter. We were enjoying our ride toward Red Mountain immensely. And what a delightful ride for me—Dan biking with a cheerful Meredith, and me not having to pull or push anyone but my own self up the mountain! We were having such a lovely ride that we just kept pushing and pushing up the hills—and soon we were within striking distance of the end of the road at Red Mountain! We were so proud of Meredith for hanging in there, helping pedal, and hanging on over potholes and rocks. We had never expected to get all the way to the top!

We turned around at road’s end, and began the long ride back down the hill. We’d buttoned up as best we could, but it soon became clear that we need to invest in several fenders. As we sped down the rain-soaked old logging roads, Dan’s rear wheel flung a fountain of sandy mud into Meredith’s face. Very soon, she was transformed from a mud-freckled, dirt-speckled child into a heavily bearded one. Halfway down, Dan perched his cycling glasses on her little nose, so even though the glasses slid down repeatedly, her eyelids filled with a little less gravel. By the time we got back to the boat, she was spitting mouthfuls of grit, shivering, and (justifiably) sniveling.

We loaded the boat, zipped back to the cabin and flung off our filthy, clammy clothes. We were too chilled to take photos, but I did show Meredith her face in a mirror before we hopped under the outdoor shower to clean off. She laughed to see her face completely caked with mud. It took a while to scrub off our bodies and rinse out our eyes, and then took much longer to launder our clothes in buckets, but it was well worth it! We are so proud of intrepid Meredith for her first trip up Red Mountain!

I made this Indian spinach dish in Anchorage and then froze it before adding the potatoes, to bring down to the cabin. (Potatoes don’t freeze very well—they get mushy and mealy.) We ate Indian spinach and potatoes with spicy chickpeas for dinner and that helped warm us up after our bike ride! 


spicy Indian spinach with potatoes

This recipe is based on one in Neelam Batra’s 1,000 Indian Recipes, a fantastic resource for flavorful and interesting dishes made with all kinds of different vegetables. I love to serve it with rice and raita (raita is yogurt sauce: just stir a small clove of minced garlic and salt to taste into a couple of cups of plain yogurt), or with spicy chickpeas—I’ll add that recipe another time. Find garam masala, an Indian spice blend, at Summit Spice & Tea, if you don’t have some already!

4 small red or waxy yellow potatoes (such as German Butterball or Yukon Gold), scrubbed and cut into bite-size dice
½ teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt, plus more as needed
1 pound spinach or chard (if using chard, remove stems and chop the leaves coarsely)
1 tablespoon olive oil or canola oil
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon peeled minced fresh ginger
1 large clove fresh garlic, minced
1 to 2 fresh green jalepeno or other chile peppers, halved, seeded with a spoon and minced
1 to 2 large tomatoes, finely chopped (you can used canned tomatoes if you don’t have any fresh ones)
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon garam masala
¼ teaspoon ground turmeric

1. Put the potatoes in a pot, cover with cold water, add the salt, and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover the pot, and simmer until the potatoes are soft, about 10 minutes. When the potatoes are tender, scoop them out with a slotted spoon.
2. Pile the spinach or chard leaves into the remaining water, stirring them around to soften them with the boiling water, cover the pot again, and cook them just until they are tender and wilted. The spinach will only take a minute or two; the chard will take longer. Pour the greens into a colander and let them drain.
3. Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat and add the cumin seeds; they should sizzle when they hit the oil. Quickly add the onion and cook, stirring, until golden, about 5 minutes. Add the ginger, garlic, and green chiles and cook for a few more minutes, until the garlic has mellowed a bit. Then add the tomatoes and cook, stirring, until most of the juices evaporate, 5 to 7 minutes.
4. Add the coriander, garam masala, and turmeric, cook about 1 minute, and then add the potatoes and spinach to the onion mixture. Mix well, cover the pan and simmer over medium-low heat, about 5 more minutes, to blend flavors. Taste the dish and add salt, a little at a time, until it is just right. Transfer to a serving dish, sprinkle a little more garam masala over the top if you desire (taste it first to see if you want more spice), and serve.


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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Meredith’s marvelous moose stew


vegetarian moose stew

This isn’t the kind of moose stew that you might already know and love. It’s actually a stew FOR the moose, not OF the moose. Dan and Meredith created this concept while I was out of town for a week this summer (necessity, in this case, being the father of invention). Not being present for the initial feasts, I can at least fill you in on its already hallowed traditions, in the hopes that you and your favorite young ones can create some masterpieces of your own.

Unless you have chickens or pigs to consume your kitchen scraps, the best that can be hoped for most summertime produce waste is its addition to a thriving compost heap. Which, in many cases, does seem to be rather a waste, considering the gorgeous colors and textures of a lot of the scraps… at least in Meredith’s estimation. Moose stew is made by putting into a large metal bowl of water whatever looks appealing from the left-handed sink while I am preparing food. This might include papery onion and garlic skins, leafy strawberry stems, stub ends of zucchini, curly peelings from broccoli stalks, pointy olive pits, crunchy ribs of romaine, stems of arugula or parsley or cilantro, conical tomato cores, and colorful peels of lemons, limes, and oranges. It must be plant-based. No egg shells, for example. Or crayons.

To this base, other things may be added in small amounts, but those ingredients first require permission from a parent. Rolled oats and yellow split peas are common additions, as are those adorable little green mung beans. So far, Meredith has not requested saffron threads or truffle oil, and a good thing, too. I generally steer her to those dried peas and beans so aged that I can no longer recall their origins. Quarter-teaspoons of herbs and spices are allowed, as well: up to five, but usually fewer are required. Don’t want to obscure the taste of those lovely veggies!

Chopping is sometimes warranted, usually with a table knife, but sometimes assistance from a grownup is needed. A good soak and plenty of energetic stirring is usually needed to meld the flavors. (Moose prefer their veggies raw, so no cooking is required.) Then the bowl is carefully deposited outside on the front walk, in easy range of our large and ravening population of moose. 

It’s like waiting for the tooth fairy to come, or for Santa and his reindeer to eat the snacks we leave on Christmas Eve…  in the morning, Meredith comes down to check on the bowl, and so far, the moose have loved every one of her concoctions—they have licked the bowl clean every time! (Is that moose slobber I’m washing out of my bowl? Just kidding!)


Meredith’s Marvelous Moose Stew

by Meredith, age 5 but almost 6
This recipe is just one idea of a moose stew. You can use anything you want that is a plant, to feed the moose.  This includes spices and herbs, beans, peas, and even flowers. Sometimes I use spices, but this stew doesn’t have them, so the moose to enjoy the flavor of the cauliflower. Mom was making spicy roasted red pepper and cauliflower (which is one of my favorite things). She says moose love cauliflower, especially.

red pepper stems, seeds, cores, and yucky bits
cauliflower stems and leaves
rolled oats
yellow split peas

1. Fill a large bowl with a few cups of cold water.
2. Cut cauliflower stems in smallish chunks—at least as well as you can with a table knife. As your mom to cut the hard ones. Tear the leaves into pieces.
3. Add the cauliflower and red pepper to the water. Stir well.
4. Add a sprinkling of rolled oats, about a ¼ cup of yellow split peas, and 2 tablespoons of raisins. Stir again.
5. Set outside and wait for the moose to come! Usually they come at night while I am asleep, but they always eat all the stew.

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