Arugula Pesto

Sauces & Spreads, Vegetables

arugula pesto 02

Lori and I are preparing to leave for a couple weeks. Just about everything is done. Even the weather has taken a turn for the worse, so I don’t feel so bad about leaving Seattle in the summer. I was feeling sort of guilty because one of the places we’re going to is colder and rainier than Seattle. (Yes, it turns out there is such a place. And, no, it’s not Olympia.)

But there is still some food we need to eat or preserve. We go through pains to use food, me probably more so. I think I am just more fearless when it comes to eating old food. That’s how I’ve fortified my gut against bacteria like Mithradates protected himself against poison. (Except that one time in Syria, but that was Syria!!)

Arugula was one of those foods. But how do you preserve arugula? You can freeze it, but then you have to blanch it and pack it and–eew, I have to stop myself. A better way is by whizzing it into pesto. Arugula can be dangerous, though, in amounts too high, like cilantro. It gets bitter.

We went for it, anyway, and the result was amazing, like arugula essence but with tact and self-awareness and manners. Walnuts keep the arugula grounded; parsley takes off some of the edge.

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Grilled Summer Squash with Pistachio and Balsamic Reduction

Tapas, Vegetables

grilled squash 02

I admire food bloggers who regularly maintain their blogs. Their dedication inspires me. At least, it inspires the ambitious and more optimistic half of me. Because the other half, looming distrustfully by, is convinced that recipes become recycled, Ingredient A, Subset A, swapped out for Ingredient A, Subset B. This darker half of me slinks around a contentless blog and mumbles and mutters about the heroism in originality.

But then the optimistic half, with his hibiscus breath, interjects and says originality is not the end, but one mean, among other means, to the ultimate end of satisfaction. Shadow Half, sardonic as he is, snaps back and asks with this schmuckish grin, “The satisfaction of what, the eyes?” Rainbow Half is unfazed. He puts his finger over Shadow’s lips and asks, “Don’t we eat with those, anyway?” I mean, it’s indulgent and horrible. A whole platonic dialogue unfolds.

Meanwhile, this poor, dejected blog sits like an alder under the moss, becoming more and more lost in the thousands of other food blogs, everyday more inaccessible and less significant, blending into grey, hyperlinked connectionlessness. Just wait. You’ll see it happen sometime around autumn, when school starts, a teenage seaside love affair that dissolves into the equinox.

For now, the love affair remains aloft. And many of these summer nights have me in front of my tiny Weber grill on my tiny balcony cooking tiny portions. I’ve discovered this love of barely warm, freshly cooked food. In fact, I’d argue this might best be served at room temperature, after the salt has brought out the juices from within, and the sweet balsamic has begun marinating into the fruit. You know, at that point in the late-night phone call, inhibitions down some, when the conversation really gets saucy.

Salmonberry Gazpacho

Fruit, Salads, Soups & Stews, Vegetables

Salmonberry Gazpacho 01

Native people of the Pacific Northwest sometimes paired salmonberries with fish during feasts.¬†That the fruit is even named “salmonberry” seems obvious when considering its homonym. Salmon berries, or salmon eggs, are not only similar in size, but in color and texture too.

This dish is my way of saying hello to the summer and good-bye to the spring. The last texture in this dish is the salmon egg, which reminds me of the birth of the berry this year. It lingers momentarily as the cool and tangy gazpacho provides one last taste of the Pacific Northwest’s first fruiting berry.

Japanese Pickled Garlic Scapes

Pickles, Tapas, Vegetables

Pickled Garlic Scape 01

Garlic scapes, or garlic spears, represent the birth of a flower. They whip out of the tall garlic plant, curling and facing downward in crane-like grace, awaiting the moment of bloom. As a gardener and cultivator of garlic bulbs, I carry the painful duty of decapitating them, forcing the energy of the sun back underground. This difficult act obliges me to make what use I can from the heads, as I would an animal, such as a pig. Coupled with my recent attraction to Japanese flavors, I attempt to–and, pardon the pun–give a bit more body to these severed heads.

Braised Beet Greens

Vegetables

Sometimes beets come in a bunch at the market, a 2-in-1 kind of deal. My drive to use the entire part of the plant or animal, where appropriate, one day brought a beet green to my mouth. Very similar to chard, the beet green has a pleasant, earthy and slightly bitter flavor raw. It is good enough to chop up into a salad. So I shaved the raw beet into a salad of its own greens and served it to my family. They had never eaten beet greens. All they could say was that the lettuce was so flavorful.

And while the beet greens are flavorful raw, when braised momentarily with a bit of wine, onion and garlic, and tossed with roasted almonds and fennel, they really come alive. Plus their brilliant green, coated in a glossy finish, is such a pleasing experience to the eyes. As you gardeners get ready to pull your beets, or as you beet buyers begin to see the bunches, consider doing your senses a favor with this one.