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.

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.

Muhammara (Syrian Pomegranate Dip)

Fruit, Sauces & Spreads

Muhammara 01

I love watching people try this for the first time. Its flavor is mystical, almost indescribable. So enchanted by it am I that I feel incomplete if I don’t have any stored in the fridge.

Variations of this mesmerizing dip abound. Some are coarse, some are pureed, some are burgundy, some are orange. But all of them share a few traits: pomegranate, walnuts and red peppers.

Basic Salmonberry Vinaigrette

Fruit, Sauces & Spreads

Basic Salmonberry Vinaigrette

For those who find themselves with but a handful of salmonberries, this recipe is a great way to extract and extend their wonderful flavor. This is an effective way to make use of those salmonberries that have begun to bruise and turn to mush in the refrigerator. Use this vinaigrette as a base. The addition of garlic and mint, for example, may be most welcome, while others may prefer a pinch of chile flakes and cumin. For an example, see our pairing with cured salmon and fennel.

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.

Vegan Raspberry Cornbread

Bread, Desserts

Cornbread, complete with bacon fat and eggs and butter, is a food by which my stomach is most enamored. I love to share it with my friends. Most of them indulge with the same voracity as me. But not all of them. Some of them don’t eat pork or eggs or dairy, or a combination of these, for one reason or another. I have been pondering for some time about how to make a vegan cornbread that isn’t awful — lets face it, most vegan cornbreads just plain suck.

I baked this early in the morning of Independence Day. It ended up turning out unexpectedly patriotic.