April 23, 2012 § 3 Comments
Stones. That’s my usual response to what fills my first harvest in my community garden in early spring. I spend days clearing the surface of these leaden balloons. But not really. They’re always right below the soil, ready to buoy themselves up. Stones float. That’s the only possible reason for their constant surfacing.
This year, though, my garden has a new, less stony epidermis. Long story short, there’s 6 inches of new soil in my garden. Stones, still, but not as in springs past. Give it some time.
This spring’s first harvest is chives. Thrilling, I know. I had never planted them in my plot. They were just sorta there, leftovers from previous gardeners. But just before that 6 inches was layered down, I thought to rescue the just-emerging greeny spikes. And because I gave them a second chase at life, I decided to fulfill their purpose. I decided to use them in some way in my kitchen.
Right. And exactly how would I do this? What does one do with chives, anyway? I’m sure something, but nothing came to mind. Google rescued me, of course, sending me to several different sites. Oh yes, biscuits were made—cheddar-chive biscuits. And a chive chip is on my wait list. But for now, let’s start with something easy. Let’s get all vinaigrette.
Epicurious, thank you for this green-as-goodness dressing. Faced with a minimalistic salad (i.e., I really didn’t have much in the fridge and the salad, therefore, was a bit weak), this vinaigrette perked up what was paltry. You could say, I suppose, that the chives did indeed fulfill their purpose.
Chive Vinaigrette, ala Epicurious:
- 1/3 cup chopped fresh chives
- 1/4 cup Champagne vinegar
- 1 small shallot, coarsely chopped
- 1 tsp honey
- 1 tsp Dijon mustard
- 2/3 cup vegetable oil
- 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1. Blend the first five ingredients in a blender. Just a note here: I used white wine vinegar – didn’t have Champagne vinegar in the house. And show yourself some respect—use a good Dijon.
2. Next up, the oils. With motor running, slowing add in the veg oil and evoo. Hold off on the last quarter of that 1/3 cup evoo. Give it a taste first and see if more is needed.
3. You’re done. Well, not really. Before you’re done, give it a taste. It’ll benefit from a pinch of kosher salt. Or two.
The result: a more-beautiful-than-you-expected green green green dressing with a light but full-flavored expression. But I give you fair warning before you enjoy —you’ll want to be sure the person you kiss next has also partaken. Chives are onions, after all.
April 18, 2012 § Leave a comment
Winter’s the time to be contemplative, right? For some reason I have chosen spring for that purpose this year. I’m taking each experience, rolling it around in my brain, letting it flow in and out, and seeing what sense it leaves. Too often experiences just rush in and out. I’m gonna change that.
Things have rolled in and rolled out over the last few weeks and I’ve found the ones I love:
Rooftop sunsets with friends.
Blue skies and reflections.
My yoga mat. I love yoga. I love the fact that a year ago I didn’t even expect I’d be saying, “I love yoga.”
Friends you give your spare key to. Friends you’d give your spare kidney to.
Little things that contain promise.
That my kitten is fierce.
Fierce with a capital F.
And that she is full of … personality. Let’s call it personality.
The color green.
Oranges and yellows and tulips and spring…
…and hearts that bleed.
April 8, 2012 § 5 Comments
This is a little something I sent to the New York Times Magazine’s Ethicist column in response to their query about why it’s ethical to eat meat. Yes, I am currently a vegetarian. No, I don’t believe it’s unethical to eat meat. It’s all about the how and where and … well, read on to get a real idea of where I stand on this. And please keep in mind, I’m not advocating one way or the other and for no one else but me. Comments? Leave ’em below!
I was 4, and I accompanied my oldest brother to a duck farm. He was delivering a load of hay to be used as bedding for the local two-legged citizenry, and I was just along for the ride. The bales were unloaded and we drove toward the gate. We slowed as we rounded the corner and spotted a bright-yellow baby duckling against the brick-red barn. The trouble was the roll of chicken fencing the little guy was stuck behind. We stopped, liberated the fluffball, and brought him home. I named him Grover.
We kept Grover in a pen by the sandbox. Each day as I stepped off the bus from kindergarten I would bound toward the pen, shove fistfuls of lawn toward him, study the quick thrusts of his neck. As a rule, ducks aren’t the cuddliest of pets, but for a kid, they’re alright.
It’ll come as no surprise to you that one day, Grover wasn’t in his pen to greet me. And it will also come as no surprise that later the same week an odd-looking, all-dark-meat chicken appeared on the dinner table. It was another brother—one who is still not my favorite—who broke the news. I remember the tears; no sound, just tears rolling down my cheeks. Mom got up, opened the freezer, and took out a package of hot dogs.
Growing up on a farm, this is what happens. Animals are named. Pets are killed. Portions of pork and beef and lamb are carved from their bodies, wrapped in crisp, white butcher paper, then “Bucky” or “Victor” and the date are penned on the package. Their flavors are contemplated as their diets are recalled and discussed. “Did we feed Bucky too many potato peelings?”
Grover was my indoctrination into this culture. A farm girl has to learn.
Forty years later I am a vegetarian. The psychological root of this is not due to my childhood pet being served to me on dinner plate. In fact, I do not eat meat because I don’t know who is on my plate. Who has touched that ham? Where did she live, what did she eat? This is not a creature with whom I am familiar, and because of that, I cannot take the animal into me. I can’t.
Four years ago I stopped eating pork. Years before I had given up beef and other red meat, and I have since stopped eating poultry (except for the Thanksgiving turkey, I admit). But pork, that was a big thing. And I gave it up with this caveat: I will not eat pork until I can raise the pig myself. (I have since tacked on the other meats.) I will once again know the what and where and when of the who that is on my plate.
The why or why not of the ethics of eating meat is irrelevant. We cannot feed our population unless meat is provided. On a societal level, meat must be a part of this American culture. And this holds true for numerous cultures and their circumstances.
The statement “eating meat is ethical” is one that can only be made by an individual, and with qualifications. For this vegetarian, eating meat is ethical if I know who it is and approve of how it was treated.
When I was 16, one of our female Muskovies died a horrible death: She drowned in a mud puddle while a male…ahem…did his business with her. My parents chose not to serve her for dinner. They clearly knew which side of ethical this duck died on.
copyright Ellen C. Wells, 2012
April 1, 2012 § 5 Comments
What we have here is a guest post. My first guest – awesome! And it’s from none other than the best chef I know personally—my dear wife, Jennifer. She’s the real cook in the Dainty household. Who needs a recipe? Not her, not really. Today’s topic happens to be one of those recipe-less recipes that she just developed from experience. You eat enough chowder, you’re gonna know how to make it eventually.
So, without further ado, here’s Jennifer’s brilliant rendition of clam chowder.
Ode to a clam. Yes, I said clam. Many of you out there have an aversion to shellfish, which are easy to ruin in unskilled hands. Perish the thought. I know one former Eastern Long Island resident (editor’s note: That would be me) who had such an aversion, until she was able to experience what shellfish cooked well tastes like … manna from heaven. Well, actually the sea—the sweet, briny, bountiful sea.
Inspired by photos posted by dear friends who did some late-winter clamming, I suddenly remembered the quart-sized pouch of clams frozen in our freezer; harvested New Year’s weekend during an unseasonably warm morning outing in the flats of Provincetown Harbor. I had frozen the clams along with the liquor they produced, waiting for the right moment to make a chowder. Not your typical Monday night meal, and it only took moments to whip up!
-I thawed out 4 cups of clam broth and 2 cups of fish fumet
-Diced into 1 inch cubes 3 potatoes
-I cooked the potatoes in the clam liquor along with 2 bay leaves for seasoning. While the potatoes were cooking I sautéed up a mirepoix (fancy way of saying celery, carrot and onion).
-2 medium carrots
-2 celery stalks
-1 large onion
-Once the veggies were mostly soft I added 4 oz. of shitake mushrooms. I had them in the fridge, and thought, why not?!
-When the potatoes were done (15 minutes or so), I used an immersion blender to break down the potatoes, but not completely. I wanted to leave some chunks, but also give the illusion of some cream in the broth, so I let my starch be the cream substitute. To the pot I added my cooked veggies and the quart plus of clams, warmed the mixture through and wished I had some crusty bread to serve along with it.
Man, oh man that was good! Thank you P & J for inspiring me to bust out the bounty harvested a few months ago. Food-inspired memories!
Comments? Questions? Your favorite clam chowdah experience? Leave us a note below!