Monthly Archives: July 2008

Do You Peek?

There are 2 types of corn buyers: peekers and non-peekers. You’ve seen those huge bins in the grocery stores where people toss the corn husks they have peeled off to see whether or not it is an acceptable ear of corn for the family. My gosh, this makes me crazy! These same people think nothing of buying an extra avocado or two at two bucks a pop, just in case one isn’t so lovely inside. But when it comes to a 25 cent ear of corn, they get all picky. Me? I don’t peek.

Do you?

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Road Kill Tomatoes

When you are lucky enough to live near tomato fields, you’re lucky enough to experience plenty of road kill tomatoes.

Chan’s Berries

Chan’s farm stand is a small operation with a split personality. Split several ways. On one hand, you can see them tending the strawberry field by the rustic stand early in the Spring, when there is still quite a chill in the air. They carefully lay plastic on the dirt to insulate it from any untimely freezes. Then, we wait, and wait, and wait. Suddenly, their field is packed full of U-Pick families out gathering the lovely strawberries. Its like watching the monarchs return to Pacific Grove … there one week and gone the next.

At Chan’s small stand, they sell strawberries (of course), and often some wild card item. Back before the the fields were open for picking, I drove by, just to check it out. The field was empty. The sign said “Closed.” But … I noticed someone. Flipping back to the roadside stand, I saw someone there. Bingo! Strawberries? No, but she was packing asparagus that had just been harvested from a near by field. YES! A stop by Chan’s at this time of year always means at least one type of strawberries, and at least one other type of random veggie. But, its always fresh at Chan’s!

Just a few days back they still had fresh blackberries, but if you want some, you’d better hurry!

Life is Good

I hear people go on and on about the loveliness of living in France where they just pick up a few items from the local farmer and all then enjoy some time relaxing with family, feasting on food that others can only dream of. That is how I feel about my locale.

Today, found a bit of chicken in the fridge and put some rub on it … always a strong start. Ran out to TK’s Best for some corn and tomatoes, and voila … we have dinner! TK’s Best is usually my go to place for eggplant, a variety of peppers, long beans, and other Chinese veggies. They had a rough go of it last year with the widening of the road and having their water cut off for a few weeks during planting season (go figure), so I like to give them a little more business when I can. Today I picked up just corn and tomatoes for tonight and was out of there barely $3 lighter. They also had flats of tomatoes for canning or whatever, which I plan to do annually, but ….

So tonight, while it may not be France, we’ll dine on BBQ chicken, locally grown corn and sliced tomatoes. Oh yeah, the whole plan with tomatoes this real is just to add a bit of kosher salt and pepper and let the tomato shine. And, while preparing our al fresco meal, we’ll chat, play darts, and toss toys for the dogs outside lakeside while watching the catamerans play in the breeze.

Like I said, life is good.

Squash Fritters

Seeing that I am in the “Ready for a Little Spice” phase of the Summer Squash Love Affair (see previous post), I made some yummy fritters with the squash kindly passed along by my neighbors. These can easily be made with zucchini, crook neck, or yellow squash. And their fried, and fried is good.

The trick with making these fritters is to be careful with the amount of moisture. You want just enough to hold the fritter together, but not so much that they will fall apart in the oil or cause too much oil to splash on you. Adding to that is the lovely information that the squash are plump full of water. After grating the squash, you need to either lay out a few layers of paper towels and spread out the graded squash then cover with a few more layers of the paper towels. Some people have perfected the take a few layers of paper towels, or a clean dish towel, put the squash inside, pull up the sides tightly and squeeze out the moisture. It took me just one bad experience with that last one to go back to the lay it all out flat method.

Ingredients:

4 medium or 2 large zucchini or yellow squash, grated with moisture removed

1/2 red onion, finely diced

3 eggs, beatten

1/2 cup parmesan cheese

1 cup flour, divided

1 tsp garlic powder

2 tsp paprika

salt and pepper to taste

oil for frying

Directions:

1. In a large bowl, beat the eggs, then stir in the onion, cheese, garlic powder, paprika, salt and pepper. It should look like yucky baby food at this point.

2. Add the squash and 1/2 of the flour, mix gently.

3. Cover and refridgerate for at least 20 minutes. Remove from refridgerator and drain any visible moisture. Add the remaining 1/2 cup of flour.

4. Pour oil into heavy skillet, about 1/2 in deep, and heat on medium – high. When the oil is hot, carefully spoon large spoonfuls of the mixture into the pan, and flatten a bit. (If you leave them too round / tall, the middle doesn’t cook through.) When the bottom is a deep brown, flip them over gently. After the other side browns perfectly, transfer them to a paper towel to soak up the extra oil.

We served them with some Garlic dip from Primo, and the dip was much better with these fritters than it had been simply with chips.

Enjoy!

Squash love cycle

Every year, I look forward to the start of the new local crops. You know, its mid spring, you’re ready to move from veggies best consumed in soups and casseroles, and really wanting everything fresh and new. The fields have been planted, you can see the harvest slowly maturing, and you’re READY for those fresh veggies in all of their pure simplicity. Here is my version of the squash love cycle:

Phase 1: Gentle Longing

It is close to zucchini season, you see some in the grocery store and figure they must be from somewhere nearby, they are a little dinged up, but you still fork over nearly 2 bucks a pound for them.

Phase 2: The Crush

Those perfect little zucchini and yellow crook neck squash show up at the farm stands. Yes! You simply slice them, toss them on the grill with the rest of your dinner, a little olive oil and kosher salt and you’re in heaven. This is great!

Phase 3: Committed Relationship

Squash shows up as a simple healthy side with many meals. You love the comfortable simplicity of the affair. If you ever need a little variety, something as simple as a little shaved parmesan on top does the trick. Zucchini is generally perfect just as is.

Phase 4: The Friends

Friends and neighbors are all overflowing with summer squash and kindly share with you. How thoughtful. But, really, some days you think there may be too many friends in this relationships. Grilled veggie sandwiches are a good option here.

Phase 5: Ready for a Little Spice

Plain squash is now just so, well, plain. Its time to add a little variety without compromising the integrity of the squash itself. Knowing that everything is better fried, you make fritters. Yum!

Phase 6: The Slow Decline

The squash is still shared, and you hate to just toss it out. Now it becomes a small player in lasagna, casseroles, and the occasional stir fry. You really need to add some extra flavor because the squash is just too boring to go it solo.

Phase 7: The End

The season is finally over, and when you see it in the store, you remind yourself that it was probably shipped from miles and miles away, and since you just cannot be a part of that industrial movement, you bravely pass it by. (This rule doesn’t apply to Swiss chocolate though, for obvious reasons.)

Foggy morning

I simply love these mornings when the fog comes in and floats on the water like a magical mystery. This picture is of the very last moments of magic this morning.

So, why is there this lake stuff in a food blog you may ask. Well, our kitchen window looks out over the lake, when we BBQ it is near the lake, when we relax outside in the evenings the lake is where we gaze. For years now, before “stay-cations” were trendy, we have summered in our own vacation house here on the lake. Sure, we do live here year round, but also understand that we are fortunate to live in an area where many vacation. Swimming, boating, and simply enjoying the lake IS our summer vacation, and for my family, it is paradise.

Coming soon: the life cycle of a squash season.