the last few times i've been to the distillery, i've had their crispy green beans - green beans perfectly fried with a buffalo ranch dipping sauce. since green beans are now competing with cucumbers for the top spot in my garden and i finally have the courage to try frying something again (let's just say i had a batch of homemade donuts that did not end well), i turned about a pound of them into the perfect salty spicy snack.
a few years ago, i made a mistake with zucchini. it was the first summer in our house and i was excited to have my own space to grow whatever i wanted. a quarter of the space was dedicated to six zucchini plants. yes, six. i spent the second half of the summer trying to give away zucchini faster than they were growing. i vowed never to plant so many again. that same year, my cucumbers did absolutely nothing.
i've been on a canning spree the last couple weekends and i don't see an end in sight! this week at the market i picked up 2 pounds of local yellow plums for $2, and spiced them up with two of my favorite things: cinnamon and cardamom. not sure what cardamom tastes like? if you've had chai tea, chai latte, or anything else "chai" flavored, you've had cardamom. it's a unique flavor, almost floral and herbaceous at the same time, and it pairs really well with the sweet plums.
anybody else think it's outrageous how much spices cost in the grocery store? the best kept secret: indian grocery stores or indian spice stores, if you have them were you live. i stock up my chai spices about once a year and recently stopped in for chili powder and other spices for taco seasoning. the prices are unbelievable! case in point: black peppercorn. last time i was there, i picked up 7 ounces for $2.40. there's no way i could get a normal sized 2 ounce jar in the grocery store for less than that. it's the best.
every sunday i plan breakfast, lunch, and dinner for the work week to reduce shopping trips and make it easier to answer the "what's for dinner?" question. as consistent as i am about planning weekday meals, the weekend is another story. saturday and sunday lunch are almost always neglected.
lucky for me - and probably you - my tomatoes are perfectly ripe and my basil is out of control. why not fold some perfectly ripe tomatoes (preferably homegrown from the plant your grandpa grew for you from seed) into eggs and top with pesto? it's the perfect mid-day lunch, quick breakfast, or meatless dinner. this one's a keeper for sure.
i don't know what i was thinking when i chose these whole wheat honey pancakes from itzy's kitchen for my secret recipe club selection this month. don't get me wrong, it took me no time to make them and the flavor is great. no matter what i do, cooking pancakes is one thing i have yet to master. (and cooking rice, but that's another story all together. how come i can make ravioli from scratch, endless varieties of risotto, towering layer cakes, and jam with ease, but two simple things always defeat me?!) i thought i had mastered them last winter, and it wasn't until i was elbow deep in wheat flour and honey making these when i realized those carrot pancakes were made on my electric stove, which thankfully was kicked to the curb a couple months ago in exchange for gas. long story short, my heat and timing were all off and the first two batches were either burnt to a crisp or raw in the middle. luckily the last batch came out perfectly brown and cooked through.
according to my cherry lady at the market, this week is the last of the cherries. bummer. this summer, more than ever, i've come to love perfectly red, ripe cherries. but you wouldn't know that, since cherries haven't really graced the pages of this blog much, have they? i better change that this week...you might want to stock up and get our your cherry pitter, because i have an unbelievable cherry jam coming up...
anyway, back to the bars. couple cherries with a crunchy shortbread crust and creamy brown butter filling and you've got the perfect end to a summer barbecue, or enchilada fest, as i would have it.
one of my favorite local restaurants is salenas, in village gate. jason always and i almost always get the flag - one chicken enchilada with white sauce, one pork enchilada with green tomatillo sauce and one beef enchilada with traditional red enchilada sauce - except for the last time, when i got the stuffed avocados. theirs were stuffed with spicy black beans, peppers, and onions, served with a side of beans and rice. i simplified mine a bit (and really, the recipe below isn't even really a recipe, but a suggestion) stuffing them with the same spicy black beans i often put in a taco or serve on the side and a simple pico de gallo. not only was the avocado creamy and delicious, but it got me thinking - what else could be stuffed inside?
i classify almost all of my weekday baking as "stress induced" and "impulse baking." case in point, these oatmeal cream pies. some night last week (i think it was tuesday?) after a particularly long day at work and awork to do list with about six items on it and a home to do list with about right items - neither of them involving "do something fun, like bake cookies" - i had the urge to bake. i scrolled through the 124 cookie recipes i have saved in my google reader. chocolate chip? boring, at least for today. whoopie pies? peanut butter and chocolate? delicious! but oh they're too fussy and i'm in no mood for fuss. i needed a quick recipe with a high success rate; i'm in no mood for a failure. which brings me to these oatmeal cream pies. perfect. at 9:00 at night, while you're watching your favorite show, i'm mixing oatmeal and creaming marshmallow. and forty five minutes later i was licking the cookie & marshmallow cream bowls, assembling cookies.
this year my garden had a major overhaul. instead of trying to cram anything and everything in my two hundred square feet, i decided to focus on four things - romaine lettuce, cucumbers, green beans, and tomatoes. fourteen tomato plants to be exact. six romas, one glamour, one san marzano, six cherries, and one unknown my grandpa grew from seed (and so far is doing the best of the bunch - hopefully they all do much better this year than last). i picked my first tomato of the year this week and celebrated it with the perfect summer risotto. and since my basil has been going crazy for weeks, i couldn't help but stir some in at the end. i bet these would make out of this world risotto cakes.
i'm a sucker for books. and by books, i mean real books, with printed pages. i don't care what the research says, there's something about reading a real book that an ebook can't match. no way. and when i find a book i want to buy, i'm the one who reaches in the back of the stack - past at least four or five of the same book - to get a copy that no one else has opened. i want the new book smell. the crack of the spine when i open to read it. which brings me to borders, a week and a half ago, when their going out of business sales kicked off. and while we were waiting in line to check out, i noticed a huge sale sign in front of the magazines. needless to say i walked out with all the america's test kitchen special editions i could get my hands on. and promptly made these cakes the next day.