Springtime pasta

Things are just getting off the ground in the vegetable department right now, but there are little handfuls of things to pull – peas, a small zucchini, some parsley or chives, a carrot. Today I got a zucchini before it got huge, and it had an amazing bloom that I thought would make a nice garnish for some leftover pasta. Vegetables quickly sautéed with butter, then a good squeeze of lemon and  toss it with the pasta.





The Feast of the Forgotten Vegetables

Our friend Lark just invited us to the most impressive dinner party the other week, inspired by a festival she ran into somewhere in Europe I want to say. Maybe France? Or Spain. At any rate, it celebrated the late-season root vegetables and hearty greens that are still around, nearly forgotten in the garden. She and her sisters-in-law cooked probably 10 different dishes, served thali-style, and it was absolutely incredible.

I was doing some late-fall putting away of the garden this afternoon, and came upon three artichokes that were still OK. Inspired by the Feast of the Forgotten Vegetables, I tossed them on the porch to bring inside, though I will admit that in the back of my mind I was thinking, “Those will sit in the crisper for a few months before I throw them in the compost.”

We just let our artichokes bloom this year, partly because the purple thistle was so pretty, and partly because I was for some reason intimidated by the spiky things. This is our second year growing artichokes, and until tonight, we’d never cooked them. But after the kids went to bed I wanted a snack, and there they were.

Boiled for 20 minutes. Melted butter with lemon. Seriously, these were the best artichokes I’ve ever had. Surprisingly tender. But seriously, as a side point, who figured out you could eat those things? “Ok, now you’re going to scrape inside of the very bottom of the leaf off with your teeth — no seriously, it’s good.”

I’m on board. No more letting them blossom for the color, we’re eating them from now on.


Finding Fiddlehead Ferns

I have a favorite route home when I’m coming south on I-5 that is not the fastest way to get here. It involves getting off a couple miles early and taking a winding road through Interlaken Park, which is down the hill from our old apartment. I have very vivid memories of riding my bike through the park our first fall back in Seattle, listening to the new Iron and Wine album on my iPod, and heading off to teach color theory at SPU.

I was taking the same route home the other day, and the road through was blocked off. Something strange came over me, and instead of taking the detour, I parked the car and hopped out to take a look around, wondering if there had been a big landslide. I also had an ulterior motive in the back of my mind – I’ve been reading Langdon Cook’s book about foraging around Seattle called “Fat of the Land” (I know, another blogger with a book that I’m obsessed with), and I’m on the lookout for a nettle patch. As I was walking around, I didn’t find any nettles, but another topic from his book came to mind. Fiddlehead ferns. After a little investigation, I figured out what types of ferns produced fiddleheads and which didn’t, and after that, it was easy to find them.

I took a couple heads from each newly blooming fern (do ferns bloom?), because apparently if you take them all, well, there won’t be a fern there next year, and gathered a handful. Tonight I got around to cooking them up (blanched for a couple minutes, then sauteed in butter), and they were nice and tasty, kind of like asparagus, and apparently full of beta carotene. Plus, I had a little bit of nettle pesto left over from Zack and family’s recent visit mixed into some homemade pasta from the other night to pile them on. Not to brag.


Make these tonight, thank yourself in the morning

I know in some circles I’m the last train to leave this station, but I recently ran into the blog Orangette. Fabulous photos, the perfect tone with the writing. (Which is why it’s super well-known, and she’s written an even more awesome book that I read half of last night, and why I’m kind of beating a dead horse here.) But to the point… I ran into a recipe for overnight yeasted waffles. A couple posts back I wasn’t necessarily blown away by the cheese I made… it was as it should be, at least, but nothing beyond that. Not so with these waffles. They were unlike anything I’ve ever had; in a normal waffle maker (not a Belgian one) they crisp up and almost entirely and dissolve in your mouth. And the kids cleaned their plates at breakfast, which has not been a pattern of late.

They may not be for everyone – Alicia prefers a cakier waffle and thought these were more like a croissant than a waffle, but said they were good (in that way that meant “good for you to make for you and the kids when I am not at home”). And I am thinking that they would be good with sourdough starter instead of regular yeast (Zack, can I have some more? I killed the last batch.) But seriously, try these, you won’t regret it.


Marion Cunningham's Raised Waffles via Orangette with blueberry syrup from last summer.


Rendering Lard

When bought half a pig this spring, I asked for the fat, which they don’t usually send home with you. You wouldn’t believe the huge bag that came with our pork chops, ham, and bacon. That pig put on some serious layers of winter warmth.

I’ve been meaning to render the fat into lard. I found a really fantastic post about it from a blog called Homesick Texan (whose carnitas recipe I also have to try).

Fat gets a bad rap these days, but doing it the old-fashioned way at least eliminates the trans fats. I don’t really have a plan for it, so I poured it into a 9 x 13 pan, refrigerated it, and then cut it up and wrapped it in waxed paper like cubes of butter, ready for the freezer. Maybe I’ll try it in some pie crust, some biscuits, or maybe it’ll just be something to fry potatoes in.

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