Sunday, March 29, 2009

a little bit of lemon on a gray day

Well, I may have spoken too soon. About the light, that is. Seems I've forgotten how persistently gray and rainy early spring can be. Still, things are growing! Fields are being carpeted in that new spring grass that nearly vibrates with color and that just makes me happy. And, well, I know we need the rain.
So I've been searching for a while now for a good springy lemon recipe. Something to brighten up the kitchen on these damp days. Nothing too sweet - mind you, because it's now that time of year for transitioning in to salads and lighter fare, remembering that we should be eating more healthfully, and all that 'fresh-start' business.
It's also been good reading weather, and as I was lost in Molly's new book yesterday morning, the recipe I'd been searching for just happened to find me.
I should know by now that inspiration is not born of force. Silly girl.
The best things always seem to be unexpected (much like the weather, these days).

Molly's recipe for this lemon yogurt cake (mine was made with olive oil, as was a suggested variation) can be found here, though I used the recipe as written in her book. It's simply perfect.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

a little bit of light

A miraculous thing - the return of the sun. The light now lingers just a few moments more each day invoking a vibrancy as only the turn of a season can. I am thrilled, I tell you - thrilled, to have just a little bit of light left in the evenings to photograph again.
However, I confess I wish I'd photographed this beautiful baby bok choy the moment I brought it home. As lovely as it is here, it spent longer than I had intended just out of sight (and memory) in the fridge. Thankfully, they were hardy bundles and were put to good use with the rest of my first asparagus, a handful of shitakes, and some slivers of carrot - a decent impromptu dinner of red quinoa and spring veggies.
I have no recipe to give, only a method to share:

In a small pot, cook 1 cup of quinoa in 2 cups broth or water until the liquid has been absorbed and the grain is cooked. Meanwhile, heat a bit of oil in a skillet or wok, and when hot, add your chosen vegetables in order according to cooking times (here the carrots and asparagus went in first, then the others); just before they are finished cooking, toss in a bit of minced ginger and garlic. Add a bit of soy sauce or tamari and perhaps a spoonful of cornstarch dissolved in 1/4 cup or so of broth or water to make a thicker sauce. Serve the vegetables over the quiona garnishing with a few slivered scallions.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

a brilliant spring preview

I started tomato and eggplant seedlings.

I know last week started with snow and school closings, but it ended in a brilliant spring preview that brought out grills, opened windows, and gave us an extra hour of daylight. And while I know the temperature has yet to settle into those gorgeous 70-degree days, one cannot deny the arrival of spring when there is asparagus this fresh to be bought.
What a delight - something green! (Fiddlehead ferns - are you listening?)

So, with The Zuni Cafe Cookbook already in mind, I decided to delve right in and try out Judy's recipe for Asparagus & Rice Soup with Pancetta and Black Pepper. (Peppered bacon stood in for the pancetta here.)
I can't think of another dish that so captures the feeling of March for me. Bright with new asparagus for those dreamy, new-earth scented days, yet still warm and smokey with lots of black pepper and bacon for those inevitable cold snaps.
It's going to be a good spring.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

good night, sweet prunes

Steeped in tea, sweetened a tad, and put to rest with a kiss of mandarin orange peel.
I'll see you in the morning.Oolong-Steeped Prunes with Mandarin Orange Peel
(inspired by the recipe for Masala Chai Poached Prunes found over at In Praise of Sardines and by Judy Rodger's recipe in the ever-tempting Zuni Cafe Cookbook)

8 oz. pitted prunes
1 cup water
A scant tablespoon of oolong tea leaves
Several bits of dried Mandarin orange peel (I used about six - 1/2 to 1 inch pieces)
A scant tablespoon of sugar

Bring the water to a simmer, pour over tea leaves and dried orange peel in a shallow dish. Steep for 10 minutes. Strain the tea leaves, reserving the liquid and removing the peels. Set peels aside and stir sugar into tea to dissolve. Place prunes in a jar, tucking in the reserved peel as well. Pour the tea over the prunes to just cover them. Cover and let cool. Let soak at least several hours, and store in the refrigerator.