Thursday, August 30, 2007

Too Many Zucchini or Polite Vegetable Giving

This is the first year that I am starting to get upset about some of the vegetables that I have received. If they aren't exactly what you would eat, please don't give them to other people. I don't enjoy getting zucchini the size of baseball bats. Picking them at the right time, when they are youngish and tender, is good for both of us.

Please be polite when sharing your fruit and veggie bounty. If you have too many zucchini, be nice to your plants and get them off the plant when they are still small and put them in the frig. Or grate them, squeeze out the liquid and freeze them in zippered bags for use later. Make them into "pancakes", mixed with herbs, and freeze them. Quickly saute them with onions and garlic and herbs and freeze that, make soup, and when you've exhausted your energy, give away your beautiful babies.

But please, don't donate your teenagers -- I've already got one of my own -- situated between my countertop and the compost pile (or in reality, my own son, sitting at the computer right now).

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Pressure Cooking in the Heat

It's been hot here for most of the past week. Last week I had the opportunity to pick fruit at my friend Barbara's organic orchard with my assistant Ellen. It was hot and we picked a lot. I do enjoy the picking but when you're done, you've got to do something with the fruit.

Here's where my pressure cooker comes to the rescue again. I made applesauce in just 5 minutes on the heat. I then put it through the food mill and get the seeds, core and skin out. The wonderful flavor from the skin gets infused into the applesauce. Doing it that way keeps the kitchen fairly cool.

When I mention the pressure cooker, people usually think winter. But I think summer since this is when using the pressure cooker can help keep you cool.

My new DVD Pressure Cooking: A Fresh Look, Delicious Dishes in Minutes uses early summer produce because that's when I filmed it. I keep the cooker on the stove and use it almost daily.

Today I made a vegetable dish with onions, garlic, potatoes, corn, red peppers, carrots, summer squash and curry powder. It took 3 minutes at pressure. I ate it on top of quinoa which I made a couple of days ago in the cooker for 5 minutes on the heat.

Healthy and delicious eating can be easy and cool in the summer if you use a pressure cooker.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Beans and Mushrooms and More

There's something wonderful about every tine of year when it comes to vegetables and other plant foods. But right now, I am rejoicing about mushrooms, a fluke find, and the first shelling beans, chiles, and more.

I just got to go to Mendocino for a much-needed break with my Biz Divas group. We had a wonderful time at Crane Dance, a wonderful house by the ocean. We ate at The Ravens at The Stanford Inn by the Sea (go there if you can), an upscale vegetarian restaurant with spectacular view of the ocean and gardens below. The food was varied but fresh. We all loved our salads and found other items varied greatly. We didn't have dessert which I took to mean that we were satisfied with how much we ate.

On the way home we had to stop on Highway 128 to check out a brake light that came in on the car in which I was a passenger. That meant that the car following us stopped, too. Two of the divas took a walk. They came back to the road and told me that there were mushrooms on a log down the path. I didn't get too excited as these words usually turn out to be false alarms. But not this time.

I let out a whoop when I realized that the log had young and tender oyster mushrooms growing on it on one side and more mature ones on the other. I didn't pick them all but could have, if I had a bag or basket nearby. I did get quite a few and showed them off to the group. They were concerned about my eating them. I told them, "I'll eat some of them. If I don't die, I'll eat the rest." I explained that oyster mushrooms aren't poisonous but still they worried.

I had some for dinner that evening mixed with other veggies with only pleasant taste and no ill-effects. Yum. But do NOT pick wild mushrooms unless you know what you are doing.

Today at the market, I got some fresh cranberry beans. They are expensive and a bit of a pain to shell so I only got what amounted to just over a cup and a half shelled. I can't wait to cook them with some garlic and eat them. I will leave out the chilies, although I bought many of them this week.

I have varieties that include Hungarian carrot (very hot), chile de Padron (hot but sweet and tasty), aji amarillo which I haven't yet tried this year but it varied wildly last year, bulldog, Cyklon, and more. I usually buy them red because they have more flavor and agree more with my system. I eat them in small amounts but truly enjoy them for their heat, and because they are good for me, or so I have heard. I do know that the capsicum in them is good for you plus they contain plenty of Vitamins A and C. The flavor can't be beat as long as it doesn't overpower the other food with its heat.

Produce here is just bursting with flavor and the tables at the market are just about overflowing with items from squash and onions to corn and lettuce, and lots of tomatoes. A neighbor dropped off a bag of apples and the pears are ready, too. One can eat so well and fresh. I hope that you are able to do the same.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Blueberries for The Veggie Queen

Traveling these days can be tough. I have been to many cities in the past 9 days and the work part of my travel is over (if you don't count the traveling). They say that timing is everything. And despite have a cancelled flight which resulted in a long taxi ride to an alternate airport, and, separately, a 3 hour flight delay, all has gone relatively smoothly. But nothing can top my experience last night picking organically grown blueberries in Duxbury, MA. Steve Berall and his wife Ellen are friends of my very good friends. Steve does organic lawn care professionally and has many blueberry bushes planted on his exquisite property.

I saw them (Steve, Ellen and the blueberries) last year and when I was trying to arrange a visit with my friend Barbara (the first of the 30+ that I know), we decided to meet in Duxbury. I asked it if was blueberry time and Barbara didn't know. But I suspected that it was. When I asked Steve on the phone as I drove toward his house, he confirmed that by saying that the timing was "perfect". I couldn't agree more.

He has a variety of blueberry cultivars. And I must say that there is nothing like having berries directly from the bush, although this is my first time picking them. I am sure that I ate at least a pint of them while harvesting, yet we ended up with 4 quarts in about 10 minutes.

My favorite fruits are blueberries and figs, so I truly felt that I was in paradise. And now I am sure of it. All this blueberry talk has made me hungry so off to the berries I go.