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Archive for the ‘seasons’ Category

Like a lovely green tunnel. I love the bike trails in the spring!

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So, the rows aren’t exactly straight, but look- peas! I planted sugar snap peas and shell peas, so I should have a nice variety in a few short weeks. I can’t wait for sugar snaps right off the plant, and last year the shell peas I’d frozen were a highlight of my winter. So, these little plants are super-exciting. Look at them go!

 

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People get really, really excited about fiddleheads, which I think is mostly a function of fact that they’re pretty much the first thing available locally in the spring, and also because they’re foraged and therefore something of a novelty. If someone tells you that fiddleheads taste like asparagus, that person should be treated with distrust. They do not taste like asparagus- only asparagus itself carries that distinction. Fiddleheads do taste very green, though, which is very welcome by the time they find their way into the stores in late April or May.

So, I’ve only ever seen very simple preparations for these little ferns. They need to be washed and trimmed and cooked thoroughly, since I’ve heard they have the potential to make you sick. But what doesn’t, really? Boil the fiddleheads for five minutes or so and then saute them briefly in some butter with garlic, and they’re pretty tasty. Not asparagus tasty, but they do remind you that asparagus is right around the corner!

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I signed up for a plot at the Northampton Community Garden this year, so now I have my very own little 20×20 space to grow whatever I want. There’s a picture of it. That compost barrel was left by the previous tenant, which was an unexpected bonus. Ok, so maybe it’s not breathtaking quite yet, but rest assured that in a few short weeks it will be.

The truth is that I’ve been super anxious about the garden, probably because I imagined that there are lots of really experienced gardners all around me, and I fully expected to be mocked and derided by them for making foolish mistakes. Emily and I were joking that I should do all my gardening by headlamp to avoid prying eyes, but the plan is complicated by my failure to actually own a headlamp. God, I am the worst gardener! Plus someone would probably call the police if I was stumbling about with a headlamp on in the middle of the night, and that would be even more embarrassing than putting in my snap peas too late.

On Saturday I raked up the hay left behing by the previous gardener, loosened the soil with a fork, spread and spaded in some compost from Martin’s Farm in Greenfield, and raked it all smooth. On Sunday I put in peas, both sugar snaps and shell peas, and bok choy, spinach, and swiss chard. Very exciting. Oh yes, very, very exciting indeed.

I should say for the record that everyone I’ve encountered there so far was supernice and helpful. They did not seem interested in identifying my weaknesses and drawing attention to them for their own amusement.

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My cooking life has two constant shaping factors, which are 1) my sourdough starter and 2) the ebb and flow of local veggies. The first matters because sourdough starter has to be “fed” once a week, which means that every week I produce more of it, which means that every week I either have to bake something with the excess or dump it, which I hate doing, so I try to use it. The second matters in different ways at different times of the year. Right now, it feels like spring is coming fast, so I want to use up all the produce I froze and canned and dried last summer. I want my chest freezer and my pantry to be empty before I start filling them up again.

The calzone project made excellent use of both resources, which makes it an astounding success in my eyes. I made sourdough pizza dough and stuffed it with formerly frozen local veggies and made sauce out of tomatoes I’d canned last year. Pretty much perfect.

I’ll include the dough recipe here, even though it won’t be of much use if you don’t have a sourdough starter:

  1. In a large bowl, combine 1.5 cups warm water, half a cup of fed sourdough starter, 1 package of dry yeast, and two cups of whole-wheat flour. Let stand one hour.
  2. Add 2 teaspoons each of salt and sugar, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 teaspoon dried oregano, and about 2 cups all-purpose flour. Knead until smooth and let rise until doubled (2 hours) in a warm place.
  3. Punch down the dough, divide into 8 equal pieces, roll ’em out, and let sit for 10 minutes.

For the filling, I used roasted red peppers, spinach, roasted eggplant, and a mixture of beans and summer squash. I know that last one is a little unconventional, but I’ve got a surplus and wanted to use them up. I think you can stuff calzones with basically anything. The only tip I can offer is that you want whatever you use to be relatively dry so the calzones don’t turn out to be a soggy mess. I drained everything really well and roasted excess moisture off the squash and beans.

To assemble, I mixed together some sauce (I just cooked down some tomatoes and added a cube or two of frozen pesto for this) and ricotta and put a dollop of that on one half of each round of dough, and then mixed and matched the veggies and topped the whole shebang with some grated mozzarella. Then I moistened the edge of the dough with some water, folded it over the top, and crimped the edge with a fork.

Bake at 450 for 20 mins on a baking sheet that’s been oiled and sprinkled with cornmeal, and cool them on a rack so they don’t get soggy.

My assembly technique may leave something to be desired, since each calzone had its own, um, wonderfully unique shape, but I was happy with them. And that’s a really good thing, since I made sixteen of them and ate about two a day for the last week. It was pretty intense.

 

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I was in Oklahoma City for a conference for a few days this past week, and I came away with really mixed feelings about the conference and a certain amount of pity for Oklahoma City. It actually had some charm, but what it was lacking was any people at all. It was like a ghost town. Anyway, there was a botanical garden pretty much on the same block as my hotel, which I guess is what I mean when I say the city had some charm. Here are some pictures to remind us northerners that spring is coming, and the world won’t be so monochromatic soon!

         

          

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Here’s a burst of color to welcome us to spring-time, since the weather is not appropriately celebratory here in Massachusetts.

You know what’s next? Summer. And you know what that means? Crunchy vegetables instead of an endless parade of potatoes and squash. Plus, some other fun and delightful things, like swimming and food preservation.

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