The heat of July can feel oppressive and overwhelming. I forget what it’s like to be cold. Even on the cooler days the humidity drenches us with sweat. July feels like a month to get through. But, we’re at the end of it. We did it.
August has always felt gentler, the breeze cooler and more refreshing. Less like hot breath, more like a cool caress.
The past two weekends have been hot hot hot. All fans on all the day, move as little as possible, ice cubes melt in minutes. The only good thing about it is that the tomatoes and basil like it. The arugula that I grew way too much of doesn’t seem to care either way. It survived winter, it’s thriving in summer, what doesn’t it like?!
I tried to grow Butter Lettuce. Not a single seed sprouted. What even am I doing wrong?! The thing I want to grow won’t, the thing I don’t is so abundant that it’s choking out other plants. That feels very 2020 of it.
Tim has declared that he hates arugula. I’m trying to trick myself into liking it. If I eat it often enough will I start to enjoy it? My friend, Madie, eats it from the garden while we stand six feet apart and chat in the sun.
Arugula is ok when it’s well balanced. As I was eating this salad the other day I could taste the earthiness of the beet greens, the spice from the arugula, and sharpness from the pickled onions. It was smoothed out by sweetness from raisins and balsamic vinegar, finished by smooth peppery olive oil and salty almonds. Some leftover salmon elevated it to a filling meal.
Some things are my best enjoyed on their own: chocolate ice cream, crispy bacon, cherry tomatoes still warm from the sun. They’re great as food pals, but they don’t need any help from anyone. Arugula isn’t there yet. But, Madie, I’ll always have some plain arugula growing in my garden just for you. You can have that while I enjoy my ice cream. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Arugula Salad with Raisins and Salmon
arugula, spinach, beet greens, and baby kale, torn into bite sized pieces
chopped roasted and salted almonds
cooked salmon (or crispy tofu)
Toss the greens. Top with pickled onions, raisins, almonds, and salmon. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
Serve with crusty bread that’s been toasted and slathered with butter and jam and a glass of rosé if you’re feeling those summer vibes.
There’s a little more time to think these days. Sometimes my brain gets overrun with thoughts about the what-ifs, the economy, the future. This is weird. It’s like nothing I’ve ever experienced before. It’s the only thing we want to talk about. For good reason. I’ve been trying to distract myself with cookbook writing, furniture rearranging, and, as our supplies dwindle a bit, using what we have well, and returning to a lifestyle where we’re making things from scratch again.
We usually have a well stocked pantry. I rely on things like beans and tuna and pasta. I love having jars of homemade jam, dilly beans, and dill pickles to get us through winter. And I almost always have at least one extra jar of Sir Kensington’s Chipotle or Sriracha mayo on hand. A few weeks before COVID-19 became a pandemic we stocked up a little more. We set aside some food in a plastic bin that we can grab and take with us in an emergency. There isn’t a can opener in there, so we have no way to eat it. But, it’s there if we need it. And between the pantry and what’s in cold storage, I think we could eat for two or three months using just what we have on hand. I think many people have done the same. Our pantries are stocked. We’re ready to ride this thing out at home. But, what to do with all those supplies now that we’re here… There’s the open can, eat with spoon option. Provided you didn’t forget the can opener. But, maybe we could try something a little more fun?
Today, we had Black Bean and Cheese Quesadillas. They could be eaten as a very basic quesadilla. Beans, cheese, tortilla, and something to dip them in. Great. But, you could also make them into something more.
To start, Tim made the flour tortillas from scratch. We are ruined. We should never buy store bought tortillas again. You can use corn tortillas too. Either way you’re winning.
We mashed up some black beans with some taco seasoning (Tim makes this from scratch too) and a pinch of salt. Easy. You could switch it up and use pinto or cannellini beans or even chickpeas.
We added colby and cheddar cheese. You could use queso fresco or try a great vegan cheese if you like. I like colby for the meltyness and cheddar for the taste. If we had pepper jack I’d add that for some spice.
Leftover chicken, pork, or beef? Add it. Some crispy bacon left from BLTs? Perfect. I wanted leftover chicken in these quesadillas. But, we didn’t have any. Next time.
Jarred roasted bell peppers? Good idea. Scallions that are getting a little wilty in the fridge. Do it. Onions and fresh bell peps? Sauté and add.
Leftover rice from dinner last night? Reheat it and mix it in with the beans. Oh! You made chili for dinner? Plomp it onto the tortilla and top it with cheese. Save the cans of beans for another time. Fold. Heat. Done.
Have a little leftover cream cheese and no bagels to eat it with? Smear it on the tortilla before you top it with the beans. Add a little sprinkle of garlic powder for good measure.
There are a million ways to quesadilla. And a zillion ways to use your pantry treasures for good. Oh, and if you feel like you may have over bought, our local food banks are hurting right now. So, grab some sanitizer wipes, clean those cans, find your local food bank, and drop them off (while you know, social distancing) and help someone in need.
I’ve got lots more ways to use those pantry items creatively. If you want help, send me an email at email@example.com. I always love to talk about menu planning.
Black Bean and Cheese Quesadillas
8 (8-inch) cooked flour or corn tortillas (for ours, Tim used the recipe for flour tortillas from America’s Test Kitchen’s Bread Illustrated cookbook. There’s an almost identical recipe here.)
1 1/4 cups mashed black beans
1 1/2 teaspoons taco seasoning
1/8 teaspoon salt (Morton’s Kosher)
1/2 cup grated colby or pepper jack cheese
1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
additional goodies: meat, rice, roasted bell peppers, scallions, green chiles, rice, cream cheese etc…
Re-heat anything that needs to be very hot (like meat and rice), or cook any fresh veggies or meat that you want to add. Set it aside.
Mix the black beans with taco seasoning and salt. Heat it over low until it’s hot, and then mash well. Divide the beans and the cheese between the tortillas. Top half of a tortilla with the black bean mixture and top with a bit of each type of cheese. Add any of the additional goodies, then fold the un-topped side of the tortilla over the topped side.
Heat a skillet over medium. Add the quesadillas and cook, flipping once, until the tortillas are browned and a bit blistered, the filling is hot, and the cheese is melted.
A great paring for these quesadillas is corn chips with some homemade guacamole, made with avocados that you bought last week and forgot about.
I’m sitting here shoveling this food into my face hole and I keep wondering what that B.O. smell is… Oh. It’s the unused scallions. Why even do they smell like that?! It’s kinda gross.
Not quite as yucky as dog toots, rotten stuff, or humidity. But, off-putting none-the-less.
Speaking of humidity, it’s kinda warm and rainy and humid today. Buuuuuut, tomorrow it’s gonna be in the 50s, Friday night it could freeze, and that, plus the blanket of leaves on our lawn, is making it feel like fall. Which makes me want to eat all the soup and bake all the things.
Today I baked an apple cake and some sandwich bread. I also roasted cauliflower for my lunch, even though what I really wanted were the Red and Green Enchiladas that I made a few weeks ago. But, I don’t have any tortillas and I didn’t want to go to the store or make them. I had the oven on and a bit of time before while the bread rose. I figured I should do something with the very old cauliflower that I’d forgotten about in the crisper. I tossed it with olive oil and salt and let it roast for a while.
I had frozen the leftover farro from the Kale and Farro salad that I made at the beginning of September. It was thawed and in the fridge, ready to be used. I added it to the baking sheet when the cauliflower was browned and delicious. Plus the stinky scallions, a smidge more salt, some Italian Hot Salt, and a grind of black pepper. It just needed to get warm and a bit crispy.
I’m sorry I said “stinky scallions”. That doesn’t make things sound delicious.
I wanted one more element, so I fried an egg in butter and popped it on top. Over-medium, so the yolk could run through the farro. Everything got topped with some local Sriracha and a bit of Maldon salt.
You could skip the egg and top it with a plomp of Fabanaise, to make it vegan. You could use brown rice, barley, or bulgur wheat instead of farro (maybe quinoa?? not sure how it would do – it could end up as tiny crispy bits… nope, that still sounds delicious). Just adjust your baking time accordingly. If you have broccoli, that would be perfect, carrots might be great, you could even use those green beans that are still growing in your garden. Treat this recipe as a starting point. Remember, you’re the boss of your meal. Make it how you want.
Roasted Grain Bowls
1 small head cauliflower, core removed, chopped into medium-sized pieces
1 1/2 T olive oil
1/2 t salt, divided
2 C cooked farro (can sub: brown rice, barley, or bulgur wheat)
1/2 T chopped scallions
freshly ground black pepper
Italian Hot Salt (or a pinch of cayenne)
1/2 T unsalted butter or olive oil (optional)
2 eggs (optional)
Sriracha, for serving
Maldon salt, for serving
Pre-heat the oven to 350°F.
Toss the cauliflower with the olive oil and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Roast, turning once, until cauliflower is tender and browned, about 30 minutes (time may vary depending on your oven).
Add the farro, the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, the scallions, black pepper, and Italian Hot Salt or cayenne. Toss with the cauliflower. Bake until the farro is hot and a bit crispy, about 5 minutes.
Fry the eggs in hot butter to desired doneness.
Divide the farro and cauliflower mixture between two plates and top each with a fried egg, some Sriracha, and some Maldon salt.
Right now my thoughts are flipping between crêpes and the onion rings I ate right before I made the crêpes. Of both, I couldn’t wait to eat more. But, let’s talk about the crêpes today (those onion rings can wait until next week). When I was a kid, mom made crêpes every once in a while. If she made them for supper, we usually had to eat a savory crêpe or two before we were allowed to eat one covered with maple syrup, powdered sugar, or honey. I may have turned my nose up at it then, but now I see the merit in the savory crêpe.
Crêpes are what I’d imagine would result if a tortilla and a pancake had a baby. A delicious baby… This is getting weird… They’re light, soft, and a bit crispy around the edges. They’re great with butter and maple syrup, of course, but also the perfect vessel for some savory goodies.
I like the idea of a multifaceted filling. It starts with a purée. I had some pumpkin in the freezer that I reheated and seasoned with salt and cayenne. Simple. You could also try cauliflower, sweet potato, or beets.
I topped the purée with some sautéed broccoli rabe, peas, and radishes. You might substitute with roasted or raw garlic, broccoli, any greens that you have on hand, apples, cabbage, summer or winter squash, carrots, or even white beans. If you have some fresh herbs on hand, things like basil, thyme, rosemary, or mint would be great. Just use whatever herbs would go well with the veggies that you’re using.
If you wanted to add a little more protein, throw in some leftover shredded chicken or chopped up crispy tofu.
And then, to top it all, I like a spoonful of plain or Greek yogurt, some walnuts, parmesan, and a squeeze of lemon. You might substitute with silken tofu or coconut milk, browned butter or cream, ricotta or cream cheese.
If you’ve got any left, they will make the perfect dessert (Nutella crêpes anyone?!), or can be reheated the next day for a quick and easy breakfast. You could do simple, just maple syrup, or maybe top them with some ricotta, cottage cheese, or silken tofu, and some chopped apples sprinkled with cinnamon and a squeeze of lemon. Two meals, one dish.
1 C purée (any: winter squash, cauliflower, sweet potato, beet)
1 T olive oil
1 C any mix ins: broccoli rabe, peas, roasted or raw garlic, kale, radishes, apples, cabbage, white beans, summer squash, carrots; chopped if warranted
1 C any proteins (optional): cooked chicken, crispy tofu
1 t to 1 T any: thyme, rosemary, basil, mint; chopped
to taste salt
1 C any toppings: ricotta, cream cheese, yogurt, silken tofu, parmesan cheese, browned butter, cream, coconut milk, walnuts, almonds, lemon zest; chopped if warranted
lemon wedges, for serving
(Prepare crêpe batter if it needs to sit for an hour in the fridge.)
Make your purée (roast or steam veggies, blend, season with salt and, if desired, cayenne).
Heat skillet, add olive oil. Sauté mix ins until tender (about 10 minutes, depending on the veggies) over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally. Add things like greens and garlic near the end. Re-heat protein, if using. Add to mix ins. Add herbs. Taste for seasoning.
While mix ins are cooking, prepare your crêpes (keep them warm in a 200F oven on a baking sheet).
To assemble, spoon some purée down the center of the crêpes. Top with mix ins. Roll up (the easiest way to do this is to hook a fork inside the edge of the crêpe and roll it in on itself). Serve with a squeeze of lemon.
When I think of kohlrabi, I think of a taste that’s like a combination of broccoli and cauliflower. It’s kinda sweet and mild and buttery. When I look at kohlrabi, I think of Yoda… Green, kinda funny looking, but really awesome when you give it a try.
Steaming seemed like the best way to soften the kohlrabi without rendering them tough. They’re pretty dense, so it took a while, but that gave me plenty of time to work on a nice filling. I used leek, radish, cabbage, and apple. If you wanted to change those out for something else you could try shallots, onions, or carrots. Any type of cabbage would be great. Purple cabbage would add some great color, but I had green, and it was great. Thyme, basil, and parsley were the perfect herbs to compliment the kohlrabi and the filling. And some protein rounded out the dish to make it a main, rather than just a side. I used turkey, but chicken, tempeh, or even tofu would be awesome too!
Nuts and parmesan cheese are perfect for topping. If you want to keep it vegan, some nutritional yeast would be a great alternative to the cheese. I love to squeeze some lemon over most everything. This dish was no different. I prefer to have two lemon wedges at the ready. One for the start, and one to use partway through.
4 kohlrabi, top and bottom sliced off, peeled if desired, but it's not necessary, greens reserved
1 T olive oil
1 C leek/shallot/onion, diced
1/2 C radish or carrot, diced
1 C cabbage, chopped
1 apple, diced
to taste salt
to taste pepper
1 t fresh thyme (or 1/4 t dried)
1 T fresh basil (or 1 t dried), chopped
1 t dried parsley (or 1 T fresh), crushed
pinch cayenne (or 1/2 hot pepper, ribs and seeds removed, minced) (optional)
1 C turkey or chicken or sausage (cooked)/tempeh/tofu
1 C brown rice or quinoa (cooked)
1 bunch kohlrabi greens (or kale, chard, spinach, bok choy etc...), chopped
parmesan cheese, grated, or nutritional yeast, for topping
almonds, chopped, for topping
lemon wedges, for serving (2/serving)
Place kohlrabi cut side down in a steamer basket with about 2" boiling water in the bottom of a pot. Cover and steam for about 30-40 minutes, over medium heat, until kohlrabi is tender and pierces easily with a knife. Remove, let cool slightly, and scoop out the middle (and mash or chop and set aside).
While kohlrabi steams, heat a skillet and add olive oil. Add leek through thyme and cook over medium-low heat for about 10 minutes. Add basil through kohlrabi greens, plus any of the center of the kohlrabi. Cook until all veggies are tender and the meat or tempeh/tofu is heated through, about 5 minutes. Taste for seasoning.
Spoon filling into hollowed out kohlrabi. Top with parmesan or nutritional yeast and almonds. Serve with lemon wedges for squeezing.