Summer Vegetable Minestrone Soup

I pronounced the name of this soup as “min-a-strone-ey” for my entire life, until one day I saw it written down and then pronounced differently by a waiter (“min-a-strone”), and now it’s just a blind mental panic when I have to say it aloud until I just go with one or the other.  I’m pretty sure the correct Italian pronunciation is somewhere in the middle, but my impressive lack of ability with languages is just one of the barriers to me ever sounding suave and cultured in an Italian restaurant.

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Just one of many, man.

But this soup is the perfect answer to the age-old question that starts popping up midsummer: “what the HECK am I going to do with all of this summer squash/zucchini?”

IMG_5930 Since it doesn’t need to cook for long, you don’t have to worry about cranking up the AC for hours (or just suffering with the oven on).  The big bites of vegetables in a light but flavorful broth leaves you feeling full, but not stuffed or weighed down.  Plus, you can use up buckets of garden produce in this soup–feel free to substitute whatever vegetables you have on hand.

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Summer Vegetable Minestrone Soup (serves 8-10)

  • 1 T olive oil
  • 4 green onions, diced (you can substitute regular onions if that’s what you have on hand)
  • 1 small zucchini, thinly sliced
  • 1 small summer or crooked neck squash, thinly sliced (diced if too thick)
  • 1 medium-sized kohlrabi, peeled and diced
  • 1 lb fresh green beans, trimmed and cut (large pieces)
  • 1 can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 3 T pesto
  • 6 C liquid (I used 4 C chicken broth and 2 C liquid)
  • Parmesan rind (optional)
  • 1/4 C small dry pasta (I used acini di pepe)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • parsley to garnish

A big ingredient list, I know.  Just use up what you have!

Brown the green onions in the olive oil in a large soup pot.  Once tender, add the squash.  I let these sauté in the oil for a few minutes to brown a little and add some extra flavor.

Add the remaining ingredients up to and including the pesto.  I stirred the pesto into the vegetables just to make sure it got evenly distributed.  Pour in the broth, then bring to a simmer and add the dry pasta (if you have it, you can use cooked leftover pasta or pre-cook it, but you may need to add less liquid to compensate).  Drop the Parmesan rind in for as long as you are cooking it, and remove before serving.

Simmer until the pasta is cooked, then season with salt and pepper to taste.  Add the parsley right at the end for a garnish and for a fresh, herbal finish to the soup.

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Fritz loved this soup–I also ended up adding some leftover chicken that we had, once I realized that he’d be taking the leftovers to school for lunch.  I always try to sneak in extra protein for Fritz whenever I can, since he generally doesn’t eat enough during his busy days at the clinic.

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He told me this was his favorite kind of soup.  He loves a flavorful broth that is packed with “stuff” (especially meat), so he feels satisfied right away.

Fritz always tells me that he can feel it “going right into his bones” when he is hungry and takes his first few bites of soup–even more so in the winter, when it’s cold and miserable outside (unlike today: 85 degrees and not a cloud in the sky!).

IMG_5910I have something else fun to share!

My baby sister Jordi turns 20 this month (eek!), and she got her first tattoo last week (for someone with real sensory issues, she did AWESOME!).

She literally yawned while a needle was stabbing her repeatedly in the thigh.

She literally yawned while a needle was stabbing her repeatedly in the thigh.

Macska means “Cat” in Hungarian, and Jordi has always loved the big cats.

Tattoo

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Exhibit A: Jordi in a tiger t-shirt at my wedding (the previously mentioned sensory defensiveness meant she could tolerate a fancy dress for a maximum of five hours).

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I love this girl.

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Library Love

Those of you who know me in real life know that I love the library.  It is, and has been for my entire life, my number one resource for books, movies, and magazines (in that order).  I go to the library once a week to restock–and sometimes pay my overdue fines (which I like to consider a willful donation to the fine establishments I frequent all over Monroe County).  I rarely buy books because I go through them so fast (this is major bragging, I know, but it’s true) and since I am unable to rent a movie from Redbox without keeping it at least one extra day by mistake, I prefer to spend my overdue fines at the library.

I also use the library to download e-books to my Kindle before I go on any kind of vacation or travel.  Usually I’ll look for popular books a few weeks ahead of time, since there’s often a wait list for new releases.

Henry agreed to model the books I have out this week.

Henry agreed to model the books I have out this week.

This is a little ridiculous, but the smell of the original Softsoap hand soap (the orange kind) always brings me immediately back to the library of my childhood.  My family used to check out STACKS (and I mean serious stacks) of books to read every week.  I’ve just always been a really big reader–from awful(ly good) beach reads, to science fiction and fantasy, to the classics, historical fiction, and biographies and books spanning cultures far away from my own.  I read something a while back that people who are able to speed read (and who don’t need to sound out every individual word in their head while reading) find reading much more enjoyable and less laborious, and I’m so glad that I happened to inherit/learn that skill.

Henry is judging my beachy read choices for this week.  Don't you do it too.

Henry is judging my beachy read choices for this week. Don’t you do it too.

It’s also important to me that you know that I won the third grade frequent reader contest by a landslide (also the timed hula hooping contest in fourth grade–my only athletic win of all time, ever and ever, amen).

The Community Manager at Webucator from my home city of Syracuse reached out to me about helping to promote libraries, life-long learning, and free courses about everything from Adobe, Microsoft office, web development (um, yeah, I should probably take some of those) and more.  The Fayetteville Free Library is the first of an expanding library partnership in central New York to offer the full course list of Webucator free to library members.  Members of the library ask for a voucher that enables them to enroll in any course for free, after which they have 12 months to complete it.

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For more information on that (or if you think your library would be interested in partnering with Webucator), read this blog post about the new partnership with the Fayetteville Free Library.  Contact information is available there.

Now, for all you non-CNY residents, you get to try some stuff out too!  Webucator has a list of tutorials that are always available to anyone (for free!), so these could be a great resource for you, friends or family, or for work.  They also have a “Course of the Month” from their self-paced section that you can sign up for for free.  This month is an advanced Microsoft Excel course.  Excel was the bane of my existence throughout all of the lab sections of my biology/chemistry/physics/statistics classes from undergrad (Fritz had to help me format any type of formula required since mine never worked).

And for Rochestarians, I found a diamond in the rough while exploring Monroe County’s extensive library system this past year (when my clients cancel unexpectedly, I usually stop into the library to do notes/paperwork and minimize driving to my house or office).  The Lyell Branch is hands down the best.  They have tons of the most recent movies, all the time, and a great selection of books, a lovely staff, and are very welcoming to their urban community.  Plus, they have gorgeously fragrant lavender bushes planted in the front.  They are definitely not the most beautiful or large library in CNY, but trust me when I say they are the place to go.

FYI I totally choose my books by their spine and then the cover.

FYI I totally choose my books by their spine and then the cover.

The Lincoln Branch Library is another one of my most frequented library stops.  Though I don’t use it often myself (I have lots of go-to toys for my PT sessions), they have a toy library that I frequently recommend to my clients that can’t afford to or would prefer not to constantly cycle through toys for their kids.

See? Libraries are the best.  Share with me all of your library stories and make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. I also have a fond memory of Mr. Brown, my elementary school librarian, making us line up at the door based on our likes and dislikes (“whoever likes LIVER AND ONIONS can line up”), and me smugly leaping up to race to the door when he called out for the broccoli-lovers.

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Classic Pesto

I know you guys are probably sick of me posting recipes of vegetables that are uncooked.

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I also know that I just posted a recipe for this garlic scape pesto a few weeks ago, so it’s hardly necessary to have another pesto recipe on here, but I do have my reasons.

  1. I had a bunch of basil in the fridge from last week’s CSA box;
  2. I needed pesto to make an amazing and easy summer minestrone soup (that I will be posting soon!); and
  3. The last time I posted a basic pesto recipe was in 2010 and for some reason (new to blogging, obviously), I decided not to post any pretty pictures of it all finished and instead included a close-up photo of a giant green caterpillar (which kind of made it look like I intended it to be an ingredient?).  I know.  I feel nauseous just thinking about it now.  You can see it here if you want to have a little chuckle at my early attempts at blogging, but, warning!–giant caterpillar.
Emerson finds this just as alarming as you do.

Emerson finds this just as alarming as you do.

So I just want to reassure you that I do have some other food groups coming up in recipes.  There’s the summer minestrone soup (seriously delicious), and I’ll be baking a tres leche cake for my dad tonight to celebrate his birthday (guess I just ruined the surprise) this weekend.  I also have a post coming up about some free classes at the library!  Exciting!

And I can promise that there were no caterpillars photographed–or used–in the making of this pesto.

Classic Pesto 1

Classic Pesto (makes a pint)

  • 1 C toasted walnuts
  • 2 handfuls basil
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/2-3/4 t salt (I like my pesto on the salty side)
  • 1 C loosely packed freshly ground pecorino-romano cheese
  • 1/4 C olive oil
  • 1/8 C water

Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor, and blend until evenly chopped and smooth.

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(If you buy walnuts untoasted, just place them in a dry skillet over medium heat for 2-4 minutes, shaking them frequently to prevent burning).

I used our Ninja blender, and it worked perfectly.  I really love that thing.

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You can substitute the nuts for more traditional pine nuts, or sunflower seeds.  I like walnuts because they have a great nutty flavor and are soft enough that they blend easily (unlike almonds).

Classic Pesto 3We ate the pesto last night as the main seasoning in the minestrone soup, and tonight I’ll probably make some basic pasta with broccoli and pesto to clean out the fridge and pantry a bit.

The 37th annual Park Ave Summer Art Festival is gearing up for the weekend–people are setting up tents, music stages, road blocks, and food booths.  We’ve also got a nice pair of port-a-potties located right across the street from my apartment building, so that’s nice.  My baby sister is also getting her first tattoo tomorrow, which is really making me itch to get going on adding to my (only) tattoo.  I have some big plans for it, so hopefully seeing her get it done will motivate me to finally get started on mine!  I’ll share pictures next week!

Also, it just went from sunny and beautiful to POURING and thundering in about four minutes.  I love summer!  And I should probably check my windows…

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Cucumber Tomato Salad

I’ve always said I’m not a big fan of salad, but what I really mean by that is that I’m not a big fan of lettuce.  It just starts to taste kind of gross to me after a few bites, unless it’s a heartier green like kale (massaged kale salad: thumbs up), or really baby micro greens as a part of a bigger dish.  (Don’t get me wrong, I still eat salads.  But it’s a battle to keep myself enjoying them).

Salads not including lettuce, though, are awesome!  I don’t even like cucumber that much, but when mixed with a meaty heirloom tomato, finely minced onion, and finished with the basics (vinegar, olive oil, salt, and pepper), I can eat it happily.

Cucumber Tomato Salad 1

I’m not a big tomato eater, either (raw ones used to make me gag/throw up as a–melodramatic–child), but for some reason this summer I’ve been all over ‘em (and it’s barely even tomato season yet!).  I’ve been ordering Caprese salad every time I go out.  Guess you can’t go wrong with some reduced balsamic and mozzarella cheese, either.

So for a cucumber tomato salad, I’m in the basic-is-better camp.  Thinly sliced cukes (not cucs, thankyouverymuch, since I read that in my head as “kuhks”) and finely minced onion are a must, since they need to mellow and almost pickle in the vinegar dressing.  Simple and fresh ingredients, easily put together–that’s what summer is all about.

Cucumber Tomato Salad 2

Cucumber Tomato Salad (serves 4-6)

  • 1 medium cucumber, roughly peeled (I find it pretty to leave some green)
  • 8 small tomatoes (I love Trader Joe’s small heirloom tomato mix)
  • 1/4 Vidalia onion (mine was on the smaller side)
  • 1 T extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 T apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 t salt
  • several twists of freshly ground black pepper

I like to leave some thin green strips when peeling my cucumber.  When it is all sliced, it looks very pretty and doesn’t taste any different.

Cucumber Tomato Salad 3

Slice the cucumber, tomatoes, and mince the onion.  Combine in a small bowl, then drizzle with vinegar and olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper.

Cucumber Tomato Salad 4

You can eat this right away, but it’s even better after sitting for an hour or two in the fridge (or the next day).  Give it a quick stir before serving to remix the vinegar.

Cucumber Tomato Salad 5

Super easy, fresh, and delicious.  This was the perfect side to a grilled pork loin that we enjoyed on the roof of our apartment building with some friends and semi-dry Riesling last night.

Plus, there’s no better way to use up that cucumber flooding all the gardens in the Northeast right now.

I went for my first outdoor run in a few weeks this morning, and it feel so nice to run in cool 60-something temps again before it warmed up.  I managed to do FIVE miles, which was even better since I immediately went to the Public Market and scarfed down the best apple cider donuts in the world (no, really).

Here’s what we got in our CSA this week (this is my half of the share):

CSA

And here’s the few extras we picked up at the Public Market this morning (not pictured: Polish sausage that the sausage guy gave me a great deal on since he only had two pounds of it left).

Public Market Haul

I did a bunch of pickling today that I’ll be sure to report on once we actually open the jars and know if they are any good!

Pickles

 

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How to Freeze Berries

I’ve been getting a little frustrated with my migraines lately.  I’ve had them for years (since I went to college), and they’ve just become a super annoying part of life.  Some doctors have been awesome in helping me manage/predict them, while others have done their absolute best to scare the heck out of me about having them while not really telling me how NOT to have them (irreparable brain damage! stroke risk!)

I feel this appropriately reeks of my despair.

I feel this appropriately reeks of my despair.

Anyway, with the type of job I’m working now, I’ve been having a lot more headaches lately.  Combine cigarette smoke during my sessions (I know! really?!), driving around in a hot car in this crazy humid weather, having to plan my infrequent pee breaks in between houses, and spending my working hours trying to motivate kids to do exactly what they hate doing–and you’ve got a stellar recipe for migraines.  I’ve also learned that eating too much sugar is a major migraine trigger for me, which kinda sucks because HELLO!? Sugar! I love you!

I wake up knowing when I’m probably going to get a migraine (I can just feel it), and despite my best efforts to avoid it (with lots of water, pee breaks during the day, major air conditioning, no sugary foods), there doesn’t seem to be much I can do other than just await the inevitable.  I usually function just fine throughout the morning and early afternoon, but then by 4:00 or so I need to be done with all activities.  You can see how that might be a bit of a damper on things.

I have been prescribed some new meds this year that do seem to help when I feel a migraine coming on, but they work best when combined with my 100% fool-proof method of migraine dissipation: sleep in a dark room for at least an hour.  Seriously, it’s like magic.  Pill plus nap almost always has me waking up feeling just fine.

The part that is so frustrating is that I just need to learn to listen to my body and do what it wants.  The biggest problem always happens when I really just want to do what I want to do, and I keep putting off just turning off all the lights, closing the blinds, and sleeping.  I end up trying to cook something, or wanting to just go to the gym, or see one more client for the day, and that’s when I find myself past the point of fixing it all with a quick nap. That’s exactly what I did today, and by the time Fritz got home from work I was mad and crying (aka making it worse) because I knew I did the wrong thing and I was going to pay for it.

Fritz was super nice, and bought me a new box of tea to try, and reminded me that I’m still learning how to deal with these headaches.  I’m getting better about canceling my 5:00 patient if I need to, and better about remembering to bring my drugs with me when I go away for the weekend.  I’m still working on that sugar thing, and if I look back even six months to how much better I’m managing them, then it does help.  Being willing to stop everything for an hour or so before it gets too intense is so worth it if I can have the whole evening back.

(By the way, I did sleep from about 6:00-7:00, and then woke up and was able to make dinner, can some relish, and make lunch for tomorrow.  Then write my notes for the day and blog!  Still mad I didn’t make it to the gym with Fritz, though).

Well.  Thanks for letting me vent about that!  Ha.  I am aware that there’s people struggling with pain issues that make mine look like a mere inconvenience.

Here’s some cat pictures for you!

Cat Snuggs

Awkward much, Henry?

Awkward much, Henry?

I have some great recipes coming up to share, but for today just have a tip I picked up from someone a few years ago.  It’s super obvious, but one of those things that I never figured out on my own and had to be taught.

Freeze Raspberries

My parents have some giant raspberry bushes in the backyard, and every year they freeze the berries mixed with sugar into a simple sauce.  It’s awesome over ice cream or in smoothies, or later cooked down to a thicker syrup.  However, sometimes I just want plain berries, and I want them pretty.

Instagram, bitches.

From my Instagram.

It’s simple: freeze them on a baking sheet first, then you can store them in a freezer bag.  You can make it even one step simpler by freezing them on a sheet of parchment paper on a baking sheet–they are easy to brush off the paper and there’s no washing up to do.

How to freeze raspberries

 

That way, they don’t stick together, they don’t crush under their own weight, and they are super simple to grab a handful for snacks or for defrosting.

Raspberries

Wash them only right before freezing–raspberries especially are very delicate and the less you handle them, the better!

So…more cats?

That's a smirking cat if I've ever seen one.

That’s a smirking cat if I’ve ever seen one.

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Kohlrabi and Cabbage Slaw (No Mayo)

This recipe is really just an idea, and not even an original one at that.

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Take sweet and smoky beef or pork barbecue, put it on a sandwich or corn tortilla, and top with a bright, vinegary coleslaw.

The best thing about unoriginal ideas, though, is that they get changed up by convenience and by my CSA.  I had purple kohlrabi in the fridge and something had to be done with it.  I was inspired to make a more Fritz-friendly meal (read: including meat, served in something you can hold) by a super-delicious sandwich–the Carolina–from a Rochester food truck named Marty’s Meats.

Purple Kohlrabi

(OMG THAT LAST SENTENCE.  Sorry, Taylor, Mom, and all other editors who cringe when they read my blog).

I have spoken about my strong distaste for mayonnaise in previous posts (see this European Potato Salad post), so I knew that the coleslaw would have to just have vinegar in it, and absolutely no mayonnaise.  A little bit of foodgawkering later, and I had a recipe.

I guess at this point I'm just resigned to knowing that some of you judge me for the cat+table situation here.

I guess at this point I’m just resigned to knowing that some of you judge me for the cat+table situation here.

(Note: this recipe is just for the coleslaw.  For the beef barbecue, I tossed a bunch of random ingredients into the CrockPot without measuring.  I went with an Asian influence and used beef, rice wine vinegar, ginger, and 23598234 other ingredients.  Here’s a similarly inspired recipe (or follow the link below) if you need actual instructions and not just my wine-fueled ramblings).

(Just kidding about the wine-fueled part.  It’s Wednesday, for goodness’ sake).

(Am I?).

(OMG THE PARENTHESES TODAY).

Kohlrabi and Cabbage Coleslaw (No Mayo)  Adapted from Cheese and Chocolate

  • 2 small-to-medium kohlrabi, peeled and sliced into matchsticks
  • 3 C cabbage, shredded (shredding tutorial in this post)
  • 1/2 C thinly sliced red onion
  • 5 T rice wine vinegar
  • 1 1/2 T sugar
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1/4-1/2 t red pepper flakes (start slowly here!).

Sadly, kohlrabi is a lot less pretty when is it peeled.  Usually kohlrabi is green (and looks just like the little aliens from Toy Story), but our farmer happened to see purple kohlrabi in a seed catalog and wanted to try it.  Tasted just like the way green kohlrabi did, if I remember correctly.

Purple Kohlrabi 2

Combine all the ingredients and let sit in the fridge in a covered bowl for at least 30 minutes before serving, tossing several times so that the vinegar coats everything.

Kohlrabi Coleslaw

Serve only on top of some seriously decadent barbecue.

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The acidic and tangy crunch of cabbage was exactly what the sweet barbecue beef needed, and I loved having an afterburn from the red pepper flakes (I measured them generously).

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And no, I didn’t miss the mayonnaise at all.

I preferred this sandwich on a corn tortilla quickly heated up in a dry pan; Fritz is a firm believer in soft sandwich rolls.  To each his own, man.  (Plus, two small corn tortillas has fewer calories than a giant sandwich bun, plus plus my brain always prefers to eat “two” over “one”).

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Grammar people–I’m sorry about this post.  I blame Wednesday.  To make you feel better, I would like to ask you a question that I have been pondering in my real-life context lately.  Less vs. Fewer.  Which one is right, when, and why?  Is one sometimes wrong?  The last lingering wisps of English: Don’t Bastardize the Language that Mr. Scotty instilled in me have been weakly suggesting to me that those terms are not as interchangeable as they first feel.

For funzies, here’s some pictures from our camping trip this weekend (I’ll try to post some different ones from my Instagram dump).

Sunset on our first night over Ontario Lake.

Sunset on our first night over Ontario Lake.

Such romantic, so bird poop.

Such romantic, so bird poop.

Frisbee

These three.

These three.

The last supper.

The last supper. Plus supermoon.

Didn't bring a tripod, so blurry.  But still cool.

Didn’t bring a tripod, so blurry. But still cool.

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Refrigerator Pickled Radishes

I was going to put this at the end of my blog post, but I’ll put it up top since I really need to know.  I have a movie with Scarlett Johansson in it playing in the background right now.  Anyway, Scarlett makes me think of celebrity crushes (totally my woman crush), and I was ridiculed for my celeb bf the other day.  Adam Levine what-what?!  This isn’t a hall pass situation or anything (frankly I’d still be mad if Fritz hooked up with Carrie Underwood), but who’s your celebrity (man or woman) crush?

Back to food.  The CSA has kinda been dictating my meals lately, which is great except that I’m totally over radishes.  Like, I’m not going to be listening to any sad songs on repeat when I finally stop seeing them taunting me from the veggie drawer.

But waste not, want not, right?

I’ve found a secret weapon in my will-not-let-anything-go-bad CSA battle–The Complete Book of Small-Batch Preserving, by Ellie Topp and Margaret Howard.  I can’t wait to try more recipes this summer (like those involving fruit!).

IMG_5139 This recipe is really intended to quickly pickle some radishes for a side-salad, but I’ve had them in the fridge for a week and they are still quite crisp and delicious.  I was really surprised that the recipe didn’t call for salt, and briefly considered just adding it anyway, but then decided to go against my gut and trust the pickling experts.  Good thing I did, too, ’cause it really doesn’t need salt.  The zing of the vinegar seems to fill in for the zing we usually expect from salt (and that is my well-researched and highly scientific explanation).

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I used a mixture of radishes, but the color from the red radishes does bleed after a few hours and get a little less pretty, so definitely don’t do this too far ahead of time if you were planning on trying to impress anyone.  Since Fritz generally views food as an inconvenient necessity, I don’t worry too much about presentation.  Though for the record, Fritz is really strangely impressed by weird and easy things, like pan sauces or piped frosting.

Refrigerator Pickled Radishes (from the Complete Book of Small-Batch Preserving; makes 2 cups)

  • 1/2 C rice vinegar
  • 2 T sugar
  • 2 t finely chopped ginger
  • 1 t fresh dill, chopped
  • 2 bunches radishes

Wash and slice the radishes thinly , toss with all other ingredients, cover, and refrigerate for 30 minutes before serving.

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So easy and delicious.  I was a little worried about what it would be like biting into a piece of pickled ginger, but that was pretty dang good too.  Dice the ginger finely to prevent it from being too overwhelming if it does happen.

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And because I was reminiscing about my trip to South Africa a few years ago, some pictures:

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I keep daydreaming about going on vacation again soon.  I am headed to California in August to visit a very important brand-new addition to the family, but based on my sympathetic hormones apparently flooding my body and inability to think of new baby Dawson all the way in California without getting emotional, I’ll wait to blog about that until next week.  Happy Friday tomorrow!

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Garlic Scape Pesto

These are garlic scapes.

Garlic Scapes

When I first found them in our CSA in 2011, I called them “garlic scrapes”, and felt like a complete idiot when I finally realized I’d been using a misnomer for an entire year before someone corrected me.  It’s like when you get home after a night out and realize you’ve had a giant leaf of parsley in your teeth for who-knows-how-long.

(By the way, do you tell people when this happens?  Do you want people to tell you about the food in your teeth, or a wardrobe malfunction, or errant eyeliner? For the record, I do.  Tell me!  Even if I’m embarrassed at first, just act cool, ’cause I really do appreciate it in the long run).

Garlic scapes are the tops of garlic plants (the part we normally eat is the bulb).  They are kind of like a mix between green onion and garlic, except with an unmistakable garlic flavor.  You can use them in any way that you’d use garlic or green onion, but they really shine in a pesto.

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If you are buying them in a public market, garlic scapes are more tender when smaller and less curly.  Little ones can be used more easily raw, but the bigger and more mature ones do best when cooked (even lightly).

Garlic Scape Pesto (makes about two pint jars of pesto)

  • 2 bunches garlic scapes
  • 1/2 C extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 C lightly toasted walnuts
  • 3/4 C grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 t salt
  • 1/4 C water

Lightly toast the walnuts–I just put them dry into a small frying pan over medium heat, turning them frequently.  You could also put them on a baking sheet in an oven at 300 degrees.  Watch them carefully, and if they burn, toss ‘em.  You just can’t recover from burned nuts (is there a joke here somewhere?).

Combine all the ingredients, and blend.  I used a Ninja blender, which worked great once I added just a little bit of water (in the ingredient list) to keep everything moving.  A food processor would be a better choice if you don’t have a blender with blades that go up past the bottom.

You can adjust the recipe to taste.

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I kept some pesto in a mason jar to use for the week, but the rest I put into an ice cube tray.  I let them freeze into cubes, then place into doubled-up ziplock bags to keep in the freezer (double bagging them will help prevent freezer burn).

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Warning!  I am sensitive to raw garlic (it burns the heck out of my mouth and my stomach), and as I was eating piles of raw pesto in the name of taste-testing, I definitely gave myself a small stomach ache.  However, eating it throughout the week over pasta (letting it cook in the pan with some pasta) gave me no problems whatsoever.  Just something to be aware of.

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This pesto is nice and spicy from the garlic scapes, but tastes pretty mild once mixed into a pasta or vegetables (or used in minestrone soup).

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Fritz and I are really enjoying this glorious three-day weekend we had, and I have to admit that digging my schedule out to start summer sessions tomorrow made me pretty sad.  Makes me jealous of all my coworkers that decided to take the summer off (maybe in a few years I can do that too?!).

Yesterday Fritz and I went wine tasting around Keuka Lake with my parents (hi Mom and Dad!), and we stopped at two awesome vineyards (and one less awesome that shall not be named).  We loved the renowned Dr. Konstantin Frank Vinifera Wine Cellar–also known as Dr. Franks–and we all got to try the Rkatsiteli for the first time (originally from the Republic of Georgia).  A pourer from Dr. Franks recommended that we also try Domaine Leseurre, which is a new vineyard started in 2011 by a super sweet couple from France (also, French accents: the best).  They had a series of mostly dry to semidry white wines that we all really enjoyed (my favorite was the 2012 Riesling Barrel Select Dry).  I would definitely go back to both of them, but my favorite was definitely Domaine Leseurre because of the friendly and educational service (and, of course, the accents).

Keuka Lake Vineyards

Also, cats:

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Fritz and I are going on an easy camping trip with our friends Breanna and Zev next weekend, so we used the long weekend to dig out all of our old camping supplies and make sure we have everything we need.

 Bottle opener, check.  Corkscrew, check…cats? Check and check.

Bottle opener, check. Corkscrew, check…cats? Check and check.

Also, have you seen a cat smirk before?  ‘Cause Emerson totally is.

It's because I'm shedding 20 pounds of hair in your camping stuff.

It’s because I’m shedding 20 pounds of hair in your camping stuff.

Hope you had a nice holiday weekend (to my fellow Americans).

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Sautéed Radishes with Lemon

One of my favorite parts of the summer is when my CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) starts.  I first tried using a CSA when I lived in Long Island, and couldn’t wait to get started again as soon as I knew we were moving to Rochester.  The CSA we are using here (from Markwood Acres) has been great so far, with lots of spring and summer items: greens, greens, radishes, greens, more radishes, and peas (along with a few other items, but you get the idea).  Lots of radishes.  With their greens attached.

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We have an amazing Public Market that I know I’ve mentioned before, and Fritz and I go every Saturday that we are in town to hit up Duke’s Donuts and grab a few essentials for the week (sausage, extra/different vegetables, etc).  It’s cheap, really close by to our apartment, and super plentiful.  So why the CSA?

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The main reason I love a CSA: waste.  I hate throwing away food, especially food that is fresh and pretty and that I have already paid for.  And since I’d usually rather eat any form of bread or sugar over vegetables, the CSA forces me to make better food choices all summer long, just so I don’t waste it.  I would never buy two (small) heads of lettuce at the market for just Fritz and I, but I’ll be darned if I don’t find a few new ways to dress up a salad so that we finish it all by the time the next Saturday rolls around.  And I always feel better when I’ve got a lot more vegetables in me, so I appreciate the CSA pushing me a little bit.  And of course there’s the added benefit of trying things that I don’t normally buy (I’m talking to you, kohlrabi).

If only you knew how many hours I spend a week trying to prevent this from happening.

If only you knew how many hours I spend a week trying to prevent this from happening.

I like being pushed to try new things, and experimenting with ways to save what we can’t use up fast enough (I’ll blog a garlic scape pesto recipe later in the week!).

We had quite a few weeks of radishes, and my first thought was to pickle them.  My second thought was to sauté and add some butter and lemon to disguise the peppery taste that Fritz isn’t too sure about.  I ended up doing both, but first: the sauté version.

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Sautéed Radishes with Lemon (serves four)

  • 1-2 t butter (I used salted)
  • 2 big bunches small radishes (I had two different types: breakfast radishes and springtime radishes)
  • salt to taste
  • 1 T lemon juice
  • sprinkle of rice wine vinegar (about 1/2 teaspoon), optional

Over medium-low heat, melt butter in a heavy-bottomed pot or saucepan.  I used an enameled cast-iron pot, which I’ve been using more and more lately for it’s amazing heat-holding and even cooking abilities.

Wash and thinly slice the radishes, rinsing and setting aside the greens for later.  Sauté the radishes in the butter until they are tender but getting a nice crunch on the outside (about five to six minutes, as long as they aren’t overcrowded).

Roughly chop the greens, then add to the pot.  Top with lemon juice and allow the greens to wilt.

Sprinkle with vinegar if desired, and season with salt to taste.  Beware that greens cook down considerably, which is why I add the salt after.

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These radishes serve four as a side, and the tangy lemon and vinegar perfectly complement the peppery radishes.  Sautéing them in thin slices also really helps to mellow out the flavor if you aren’t particularly partial to this family of vegetables.

I had a hard time not just eating everything straight out of the pan.

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These would be awesome served with steak or barbecued chicken, since they can stand up to strongly flavored protein without overwhelming it.  You could also drop these right on top of polenta or mashed potatoes if you want to get all fancy and restaurant-y.

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I’m officially a radish convert.

I have this week off from work (man, do I love following the school calendar), and already it has been a full and busy week!  Fritz and I visited some of our favorite people of all time, Cait and Jeff.  It was really nice to see their new home (actually, I alternate between thinking it was nice and being insanely jealous), lay by their pool, play with their absolutely adorable son and puppy, and relax. Plus they are photographers, so now I get to have some nice pictures of Fritz and I!

Fritz and I

Note my excellent sunburn lines.

Note my excellent sunburn lines.  I am also extremely awkward when doing these types of photos, and haven’t yet learned to take the hair tie off my wrist.

(Speaking of relaxing, have you seen the show Naked and Afraid?  Fritz and I are weirdly obsessed with it, even though we only get to see it when we stay at my parents’ or with friends who have cable.  It’s the most ridiculous premise for a show ever.  People try to survive for 21 days in extreme environments with a complete stranger, naked…for no prize?  Basically my worst nightmare).

Anyway, we had a really awesome time with Cait and Jeff.  Here’s some other pictures from the weekend from my Instagram:

The four of us.

The four of us.

It's all a part of my plan for Project: Be Cait.

It’s all a part of my plan for Project: Be Cait.  Wake Fritz up with adorable toddler.

Cait and I.

Cait and I.

Tell me you don't feel safe with a lifeguard like this around.

Tell me you don’t feel safe with a lifeguard like this around.

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Fudgy Dark Chocolate Brownies

I had such a nice weekend.  Fritz was out of town doing dentist stuff, but one of my little sisters, Kristen, spent the weekend here since she’s on summer break from veterinary school.

This is Kristen.  She is my sister-friend.

This is Kristen. She is my sister-friend.

A great friend of mine, Breanna, also came down to Rochester for a much-needed ladies night.  Kristen and I went to ZooBrew (highly recommended) on Friday, and all three of us made our way over to one of my favorite bars, the Daily Refresher, on Saturday.  The Daily Refresher gets 5/5 stars from me for their late-night thin-cut (yes) garlic fries that you can grab at the food truck in the back patio (french fries are my kryptonite after-ahem-even one glass of wine).

Breanna and I have known each other for years, since college, and we have a special bond since we both starting dating/marrying our husbands at around the same time, and then both suffered (are still suffering) through said spouses getting through dental school/residency.

One of the first times the four of us hung out together--apple picking, of course.

This is Breanna. One of the first times the four of us hung out (this is 2007, I think!)

I’m pretty sure being married to a dental student is harder than actually being one (though don’t ask Fritz that, since he thinks I just faff around baking and playing games all day. Which…I kinda do).  Anyway, Henry is deeply in love with Breanna, even though this weekend he has been going through an existential crisis that mostly involves him hissing and swiping at Emerson nonstop.

Why was I put on this Earth? Do I even want more food?

Why was I put on this Earth? Do I even want more food?

Henry actually abandons our bed to stare at Breanna all night whenever she sleeps over.

I'm not as innocent as I look.

Just so you know, Emerson’s not as innocent as he looks.

I, of course, took no photos of the entire weekend other than these of Emerson playing in the sink this morning.

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He gets confused when the water bounces off his ears and doesn't land where he expects.

He gets confused when the water bounces off his ears and doesn’t land where he expects.

I love my friends.  And my family.

Anyway.  Let’s make brownies.

dark chocolate brownies

I’m not a picky brownie eater, in the sense that if it comes from BJ’s in a giant Ghirardelli box, then I’m there.  But I wanted brownies that are just a little bit classier (aka slightly less sweet) and that don’t require a bulk store membership in order for me to bake up a pan.

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Major requirements: fudgy, fudgy, fudgy, crackly top, not 3572 pans, and fudgy.

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I knew that to achieve a less cake-y brownie, then I’d have to decrease the flour and leavening agents pretty significantly from other baked good recipes.  I also knew I wanted to melt the butter first, then beat in the eggs before adding flour to try to get that shiny crackly top.

Fudgy Dark Chocolate Brownies (makes 16 small brownies)

  • 1/2 C butter (one stick)
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 1 C sugar
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 C unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 C flour
  • 3/4 C semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and spray a 8×8 square pan with oil or butter (or line with parchment paper).

Melt the butter in a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat, and add the salt, sugar, and vanilla.  It just needs to be warmed up–the sugar doesn’t have to dissolve (good thing, or you’d be making candy).

Remove from heat, and add the cocoa powder and the eggs.  Beat for 30 seconds to a minute, then fold in the flour and chocolate chips. Don’t over mix after the flour is added; just mix until combined.

Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes, or until they are your preferred texture.  Make sure that when testing doneness with a toothpick that you aren’t fooled by melted chocolate chips!  You want to take them out of the oven when there are still crumbs clinging to the toothpick.

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Check out that crackle.

Cool for at least 10 minutes before slicing and removing (ha!).

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These brownies really are my perfect brownie.  All the cocoa powder gives them a really dark chocolately flavor that is perfectly balanced with ice cream but can also stand on its own.  You only need one (or maybe two or three) to feel satisfied.

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Overall, I was impressed that they weren’t too far off from the beloved box mix.  You could add more chocolate chips for a meltier brownie, or nuts if you roll that way (I certainly do not).

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I only have one more week of the “school year” (Early Intervention and preschool physical therapy services follow a school year calendar), then a week off (!) before my summer schedule starts.  Does it feel like June just flew by for you, too?

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