Friday, August 24, 2007

Sidetracked By Weather

Well, we're back from vacation and I was all excited to post recipes to USE UP all the tomatoes I should be reaping from my CSA box and garden (6-7 plants, including a grape tomato plant, a yellow mini pear, two or three brandywines, and another plant that has some almost plum tomatoes that are a deep purplish-red with green stripes on the shoulders (no idea what it is, and don't think it's what I thought I bought, but I like it!)), but instead we've had wave after wave of heavy rain, wind, and even some tornadoes in Chicago. And as a result, my tomato plants dropped fruit, burst fruit, and generally have stopped all the good things they were doing before we left for vacation. I wanted to post a bruschetta recipe, a simple fresh tomato pasta, and others. I also wanted to ask for your favorite recipes.

Instead, I am using up my CSA boxes (received a fruit box this week, which included several tiny white nectarines, gala apples, yet another type of pluot (pretty tasty, these), tiny, perfect, muscat grapes, red haven peaches (not from Michigan though, what a disappointment!), and some gorgeous red pears (star krimson -- not ripe yet).

If I had all these good tomatoes, one delicious thing I would make is bruschetta. Here's how I do it:

Simple Tomato Bruschetta
Dice 3-4 very ripe tomatoes.
Put them in a bowl with sea salt and some freshly ground pepper.
Drizzle with olive oil.
Add shredded basil.
Add a clove or two of minced garlic.
Add a bit of balsamic vinegar.
Give all a stir.

Toast (the right number of) slices of good bread (we like the harvest boule from Trader Joe's) under the broiler (after spraying with olive oil and rubbing with garlic) until brown; flip and toast other side.

Pile the delicious tomato mixture on toast and eat immediately. Enjoy with a lovely glass of wine. Sigh with joy.

(I would be posting a lovely picture here if only I had a surfeit with which to make this embodiment of summer. Maybe next week...)

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Use it Up Vacation

Isn't that how to start a blog? (Set it up and then go on vacation?)

Okay, so this post isn't about finding ways to use up the many (many) things in the pantry for the reno, but it is about using up as much fresh food as possible before vacation. We got our first veggie and fruit boxes from Angelic Organics this week, and they were stuffed the brim with gorgeous yummy produce. ( If you are in the Chicago area, check them out. I've subscribed off and on for about 10 years, and they never disappoint.

Anyway, our box contained at least eight gorgeous ears of corn and a couple of sweet onions, and some fragrant fresh marjoram. I found a delicious risotto recipe online, which I adapted to cut a boat load of fat and to use up what I have, while keeping it incredibly rich and delicious. Here's the revised recipe:

Corn Risotto

7-8 ears fresh corn
2 C. Arborio rice
5 C. chicken stock
1 C. white wine
1 bay leaf
3 T. minced garlic
1 C. onion, diced
Olive oil cooking spray
2 T. butter
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup mixed fresh herbs, chopped (I used chives and basil, plus about 1 t. fresh marjoram)

Cut the kernels off the corn. Pre-heat pan over medium-high heat (for approximately two to three minutes); when pan is hot, add 1 T. each olive oil and butter. Add the corn kernels, and sauté corn for 2 to 3 minutes; stirring occasionally. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat and set aside.

Bring chicken stock to a simmer. Add bay leaf to stock while it simmers (discard bay leaf when stock is gone). Spray large risotto pot liberally with olive oil, add onion and garlic and cover, sweating until translucent.

Add rice and sauté for five to ten minutes (until translucent). Add the white wine (warm it slightly to keep from shocking the rice). Cook, stirring frequently, until most of the wine is absorbed. Add hot chicken stock, one ladle (approximately 1/2 cup) at a time. Stir frequently over medium high heat. Continue to add stock in this manner until all stock is absorbed.

Add corn, 2 T. butter, Parmesan cheese, and fresh herbs, and season liberally with salt and pepper.

This seriously was some of the best food I have made. I served it with a fresh tomato bruschetta (toasted Trader Joe's harvest boule, mixed garden fresh tomatoes with olive oil, minced onion, garlic, fresh basil, and plenty of salt and pepper). I love the taste of summer!

The Use It Up Kitchen

I can't believe I am joining the blogosphere. Don't get me wrong, I read a lot of great blogs with great writing, great thoughts, and great cooking (!!) and I've gained a great deal. But I've never been one to keep a journal, and find too much airing of trivial personal details to be a bit, well, personal.

But I am, so here goes. This blog should help us prepare for the renovation of our 1917 quasi-bungalow kitchen in Chicago, by helping us use up our (many, many) pantry provisions, and to use up (or re-purpose, or recycle, or donate) as much of our current kitchen as possible. For example, we plan to use a large number of our existing (80s white) kitchen cabinets in our nearly finished garage (the "garage mahal"; more on that later, I suppose), after I paint over all the horrid oak veneer on the drawers and find reasonably priced handles and counter top. I also want to develop a collection of as many recipes as possible before we begin that are healthy, delicious, and easy to make in a make-shift basement kitchen. Other bungalow ponderings such as thoughts on keeping the kitchen historically accurate while gaining thoroughly modern function, and where to source high quality, yet reasonably affordable kitchen pieces and parts may also be aired from time to time. I've looked around and haven't found a blog yet that does all this for me, so here goes!

(In this photo, you can see a bit of the offending kitchen, and more importantly, the world's best cooking helper!!)