Come winter, you will be grateful that you have carefully preserved both your love and your vegetables. Here’s what to do with all those cukes, zucchinis, tomatoes, basil & green chilis.
by Judyth Hill
I really want to write about men. Men have lately been rather uppermost on my ever-lovin’ mind, if not in my bed. Then I remembered, in the nick, as we say, of time, that I’m also a food writer.
So, I’ve added vegetables. They do share something in common, like needing lots of sun, water and rich soil. No, I think that’s primarily about vegetables.
Well, they both provide roughage, and basic nutritional…
Uhn, no, that could be wrong.
Well, shining eyes, and glowing skin. There. Eat a large helping of men daily, and you’ll… hmmm.
There must be a connection.
I mean my very first cookbook, that sweet treasure, given me by my mother when my wooden spoon was longer than my arm, was “The Settlement Cookbook.” And it said, clear as day, right on the cover, “The Way To A Man’s Heart.”
But maybe they just meant the meat and potatoes. And of course, the cakes, the stollen and küchen. I think those recipes actually commence: take one man, one ring, seven promises, two sets of in-laws, one stereo, and mix with…but perhaps I digress.
Start over. Vegetables. Green, yellow, red, purple, blue-black. I think the hearts of men come in those colors: I know their ties do.
Diced, julienne, cubed, sliced, grated to pulp. I know some men who definitely feel like the end products of an enraged Cuisinart.
Sautéed, stuffed, braised, grilled; so many ways, so little time.
Be that as it may, it’s harvest time, in life if not in love.
But what a strange year! A fickle New Mexico spring has left us bereft of the usual abundancies of apricots and peaches, and there’s nary an apple to be seen in many of our orchards.
Though, like good men, there are a splendid few.
And tomatoes, scarce because they need warm nights (hmmm) to reach that ripe ruby state, that ready burst of juicy heat in the mouth …but sheesh, when you have one…
Ok, ok, enough. It has been a year for green beans, bush beans, and oh those squashes, turning king-size in their and our gardeny dreams.
This is the current green thumb report from my poetfriend Joan Logghe: last year at this time, we canned and jammed and dried and froze in a frenzy of plenty. ‘Til I convinced her as the gemmy little jars emerged from their steam bath, that what we both really needed was to go shopping immediately.
Two black and one coral dress later we both were rested and perky, and infinitely ready. At least I was.
Much like the grasshopper and ant, however, I have lived to see the wisdom of her ways, as her jewel-like syrups and plump peach halves emerged to enliven Sunday pancakes, or roll sensuously down the side of two ice cold scoops of vanilla Haagen Daz.
Such is the truth of seasonal desires.
Deep in your winter, you will be grateful that you have carefully preserved both your love and your vegetables. And if you haven’t the blessing of filling a colander in your own garden’s dewy morning, there is always the privileged option of your local Farmers’ Market.
First, let’s deal with the arsenal of summer squashes at hand, oddly confirming a notion I have never succumbed to, namely, that you can have too much of a good thing.
A simple and delicious bread and butter pickle can be put up with zucchini and yellow squash, and these late summer afternoons are the perfect weather to do so.
A Profundity of Pickles
4 lbs zucchini
2 t. celery seed
1 lb. small white onions
2 t. turmeric
1/2 c. salt
2 t. dry mustard
1 qt. cider vinegar
2 t. mustard seed
2 c. sugar
Slice the squash and peeled onions thinly. Cover with water and the salt. Let stand 1 hour, then drain off salt water. This will crisp the vegetables.
Combine the remaining ingredients, bring to a boil, and pour over the drained squash. Let marinate 1 hour.
Bring the mixture to a boil, cook three minutes.
Pack into pint mason jars and boil, covered, in a hot water bath for 20 minutes. Remove jars from water bath and allow to cool to room temperature and seal.
Of course, you know that zucchini bread is one of the delights of fall. Spicy, with the round, warm flavors of cinnamon and ginger, it’s rather idyllic, like certain men, slathered generously with sweet butter and accompanied by a tall cool glass of cider.
This is a non-dairy recipe and you could even substitute a cup of honey for the sugar. It will be just as lovely and P.C. too!
Best Zucchini Bread
Preheat oven to 325º.
1 3/4 c. granulated sugar
1 c. vegetable oil
1 T. vanilla
3 c. all purpose flour
1 t. salt
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. baking powder
2 c. grated raw peeled zucchini
1 T. cinnamon
1/2 t. pumpkin pie spice, ginger, allspice, clove to taste
Possible to toss in as the mood and cupboard contents dictate:
1 c. walnuts, chocolate chips, or raisins
Beat eggs until light and foamy. Add sugar (or honey), oil, zucchini and vanilla.
Combine all the dry ingredients in a separate bowl. Stir into the wet just until moistened. Batter should still be a bit lumpy.
Pour into two greased loaf pans. Bake 1 hour, or until a toothpick inserted near the center of the pan comes out dry, and the top, when lightly touched with a delicately inquiring fingertip, springs back.
This bread freezes beautifully.
If you’re still overburdened squashwise, the large ones make an excellent Zuke Parmesan. Dip half-inch thick slices in beaten, peppery egg, then bread crumbs, and sautée them. Then you layer them in a casserole dish with a nicely basily tomato sauce and generous slabs of mozzarella betwixt and between. Sprinkle lavishly with Parmesan and bake for an hour or so at 325º. This dish, a delicious pinot, and candlelight says it all.
Now this is really cool:
Sun (well, almost) Dried Tomatoes
Preheat oven to 200º.
Slice perfect Roma tomatoes thinly, or cherry tomatoes in half, and sprinkle with salt. Place on a cookie sheet and bake for 6 hours, or until crispy.
These can be frozen for long-term storing, and your pizzas will go on automatic gourmet with these poised on the gooey, lascivious cheese. Or, mix the tomatoes with excellent olive oil, fresh basil, chopped herbs of choice, and crushed fresh garlic. This makes a lush, heady sauce added to a bit moreoil for hot, al dente pasta; or aheady hors d’oeuvre spread on fat, velvety slices of buffalo mozzarellawith maybe a deep, well-bred Merlot. Oooooo, that Bear’s Lair ’06 is way que good, and quite easy on the pocketbook.
However you may choose to enjoy men or summer’s provender, trust me, these tomatoes will be a treasure in your culinary toolkit
And last, but surely not least, autumn caches for winter to come require pesto, which a wise cook knows to freeze neatly in ice cube trays, ready to pop into a marinara, a creamy what-have-you sauce, or enjoy simply solo, heated à point, for a whoosh of summer’s bounty revisited.
Or merely defrost, warm gently, and schmear on crisp Italian bread with cool slivers of crisp Anjou pears.
This entirely fabulous and genius version of pesto, is especially interesting because it marries two extraordinary gems of the green world, basil and green chile, traditional flavors of the old and new world both. It also begins with a man, to wit, the utterly and divinely brilliant Felipe Ortega, world-renowned master and maestro of micaceous pottery, as well as a effervescently creative chef, who devised this salutary recipe.
Sr. Ortega, multi-talented, multi-lingual, runs a wild and inspiring pottery studio cum B & B, Owl Peak, nestled among the majestically rivered, piñon and yucca blanketed mesas of La Madera, New Mexico. His shapely pots, hand-crafted (by coil, not wheel) of clay dug from the ancestral locale of his people, and open-fired, are a rich, deep mahogany color, the slip ashimmer with mica specks, like tiny stars.
A visit will profit you a gorgeous meal, perhaps a pottery class, and assuredly, time spent in the company and abode of a 100% original beauty-maker of the first order.
And a man who knows his vegetables.
Felipe Ortega’s Green Chile Pesto
4 large cloves of garlic
1 c. well packed, fresh basil
1 c. well-drained, roasted, peeled and chopped green chile*
1 1/2 c. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2/3 c. piñon nuts, finely chopped
1/2 t. salt (add more as you desire)
1 c. olive oil
In a blender, make a paste of all ingredients except the oil.
Gradually add in oil, and if desired 1/4 cup of grated Parmesan cheese.
Whether your fantasies run toward men or vegetables, remember: both require tenderness and attention, and a sultry, joyous cook does not live by bread alone.
Judyth Hill is a poet and former bakery owner. She has published six books of poetry and is the author of the internationally acclaimed poem, “Wage Peace.” www.Rockmirth.com
* Authentic New Mexico green chile is available from www.buenofoods.com. (800) 952-4453