I don’t know about you, but I feel like I’ve been eating the same-old, same-old for the last few months. Maybe I let my meals become as dull as the winter weather. Maybe I was just a little lazy. Either way, spring is now here and there is an influx of greens at farmers markets adding flavor and color to dinner. This week I had the most amazing, quickest, delicious stir-fry for dinner.
Pea Shoot and Spinach Sauté
2 cloves garlic – minced
2 T. grated ginger
1 t. red pepper flakes
2 cups pea shoots – cut into 2 inch segments
2 cups spinach – cut into thin slices
1 T. soy sauce
1. In a large sauté pan or wok, heat 1 T. olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and ginger, sautéing for 3 minutes – don’t let garlic brown! Add pepper flakes and cook for an additional 30 seconds.
2. Add greens and mix until they begin to wilt. Toss in soy sauce and mix, cooking for an additional two to three minutes.
Simple, easy, delicious and a great change from the winter blahs.
Over the last nine months I’ve been working for Schenectady Greenmarket. In that time, my life has changed quite a bit. One main area of change is my kitchen. Sure, I have always been a pretty ardent home-cook, rarely eating out, rarely purchasing prepared foods – but I haven’t the kind of person that eats truly seasonally. All that has changed since now most of my grocery shopping is done on Sundays as I run around the market.
Among the celeriac, beets and kohlrabi, there has been one humble reawakening – carrots. This cooked carrot salad is now a staple of my weekly dinners and lunches. It brings sunshine and warmth to my day regardless if it is actually sunny outside (and -12) or snowing.
Spicy Cooked Carrot Salad
Adapted from Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone
1 lb. carrots – diced
1 garlic clove, minced
2 t. sweet paprika
1/2 t. red pepper flakes
1 T. fresh lemon juice
3 T. olive oil
2 T. chopped parsley
1/3 c. crumbled feta cheese
1. Boil the carrots in salted water until tender but not soft (about 3 minutes).
2. In a large bowl, smash the garlic with a pinch of salt. Stir in the paprika, hot pepper flakes and lemon juice. Whisk in the oil.
3. Add the carrots and half the feta cheese. Toss until fully combined. Sprinkle the remaining feta on top and serve.
This salad is wonderful on its own for lunch, perfect wrapped up in a pita with falafel or grilled chicken and amazing served for dinner next to some freshly grilled chorizo.
So, it started out as a small break. I was switching jobs and needed to take the time to really focus on all my new roles and responsibilities. And it was summer, so ‘what-the-heck?’ And then July came and I put an offer in on a house back in Montgomery County and ‘holy crap!’ My brain was filled with the anxiety not only of a new job but a new house and all the layers of emotion, fear and joy and confusion that go along with both those things. September came and I finally closed on the house, moving into my sweet little cottage along the Mohawk River just up the street from an actual fort. And with it came new responsibilities like buying a lawn mower and painting the sun-porch and taking out the trash every Thursday night.
And writing somehow never came into the picture. I mean, I’ve thought about it a lot, but things just kind of happened and I didn’t.
So now it’s October and there really aren’t any more excuses. I’m settled into my job and my home and the pattern of my day and I have a gorgeous view of the river from my sunny office window. I can’t complain and I can’t procrastinate anymore. It’s time to write about the things that happen and not get swept away by them.
I’m going to admit it – I am pretty damn lucky. I live in an amazing part of the world surrounded by farmland, friends, mountain views and great food. Top that off with a job that allows me to combine all of these things and, well, things are pretty damn sweet. The past few weeks I’ve been grabbing some delicious fruit from the Market and nibbling on it throughout the week but the truth is, I can’t eat the fruit fast enough. So instead of letting it go to waste, I’ve been making the most delicious, simple and summery treat I can think of: cobbler.
Last week it was cherry cobbler, this week it’s been peach and next week who knows? Maybe plum? Yum! Cobbler is so amazingly simple to make, the toughest part is waiting the 45 minutes for it to cook. It’s best served warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream (Battenkill Creamery is my choice) but I’ll fess up to eating it cold, straight from the pan for breakfast too!
Easy Fruit Cobbler
4 T butter
3/4 c. all-purpose flour
3/4 c. sugar
1 t. baking powder
1/4 t. salt (I usually skip)
3/4 c. milk
2 c. fresh fruit (sliced if needed)
- Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
- Put butter in an 8-inch square pan and set in oven to melt. When butter is melted, remove from oven.
- In a large bowl, whisk dry ingredients together. Add milk and whisk until it forms a smooth batter.
- Pour batter into the pan then scatter the fruit evenly on top.
- Bake until batter browns, about 45 to 50 minutes.
Eat and enjoy!
As soon as the sun begins to shine and the snow stops falling, my job requires that I am on the road visiting farmers. I love this part of the year…and I loath it. There are two fundamental truths I have discovered over the last few weeks:
- I live in an amazingly beautiful, breathtakingly beautiful area of the country.
- Despite printing up and following directions, I will get lost.
I told this to the Lemon Drop yesterday afternoon as I asked him to talk me out of the maze of back roads I was on in Rensselaer County. He just laughed and laughed. What makes the entire experience even more funny is that I have a master’s degree in geography.
It isn’t my fault though…
Sure, I have no sense of direction and I second guess any kind of instructions no matter how simple or exact. No, the problem is not on my end, it is with the directions themselves.
Why take me down six back roads when I could easily take a main route the entire way and then a left onto the desired street? Why aren’t roads marked? Or signs twisted so you think you are on the correct road only to realize 3.7 miles later you actually aren’t?
The only thing going for me is that I am not required to find my way around at night. I once had a 1.9 mile night-time journey take me an hour and a half because I missed the one and only left turn I had to make. Yes, a GPS would make my life simpler and my bitching wane, but I don’t think about it until I’m in the middle of nowhere on mile 4.2 when I was supposed to find Barton Road at the 1.6 mile mark. And I’ll forget about everything by the time I hit the road again on Friday.
My faults are many, I’ll admit. I have a problem with any kind of authority (shocker, I know). And I don’t like having to hand control over to anyone or anything (even directions) – I’ll do it, but grudgingly and I am always poised to snatch that control back at the slightest moment of weakness (huh, maybe that’s my issue with men?).
Is that why I keep getting lost? I don’t know and I’m not convinced. I still think Google Maps has it out for me.
Sometimes we can’t say the things we really want to say. Or conversations stop and switch before we get to make the point we really wanted to make. Or we have a delicate or difficult question we really want to ask but miss the opportunity or lack the courage to ask it. What happens when we hold onto these unspoken pieces of ourselves?
Do you forget about them or do you play them over and over in your head? Do you have 1,000 conversations rolling around inside of you…Or is it just me?
Every time I drive these conversations begin to surface. I tell an obnoxious friend that I love them but I don’t like them right now. I ask my closest male friend if I’m pretty or beautiful or plain. I yell at the boys(s) that broke my heart. I share my deepest dreams and fears with the man I love…In my head…as I drive.
I wonder if any of it will come true. I wonder if I should tell my friend that they are being obnoxious. Or if I’m pretty or plain. Or if the man I love would run were I to show him the raw version of me.
In the end, 990 of those 1,000 conversations stay in my head. Of the 10 I say out-loud, maybe one goes well; the rest should have been left unspoken. But how do you know if you keep it all inside? How do you know anything if you don’t take the risk and try?
Spring has finally (kind of) made an appearance in Upstate New York. The Winter was cold and bitter and even snowy…but it was also long. Why is it that we spend all year complaining about the season we’re in? Winter is too cold (or too warm); Spring is too short, too rainy, too cold or non-existent all together; Summer is too hot, too wet, too dry; Fall is too short, too warm, too stormy. I’m just as guilty as the rest, I complain right along with everyone else.
To me, Spring is always about transformation and transformation is never easy or smooth. Transformation, instead, is about stormy emotions, destruction of the old, birth of the new. Muddy paths and windy nights; turmoil and chaos – that is what Spring brings. It is an unsettling of routines, souls and perspectives. It is scary and beautiful all in the same breath. It is about surrender and acceptance.
Spring in Upstate is also the time when fields are plowed and planted. It is the time when farmers emerge from their workshops rested and repaired with a curse on their lips and a prayer in their hearts, prepared for the marathon that is about to begin.
Farmers are always in a tussle with Mother Nature. Last year it was a record warm Spring and a devastating Summer drought. This year, it is the continued cold snap and flooding. We need to get seed in the ground so that it can mature in time and be ready for harvest but we also need the ground warm and dry enough to get into the fields.
For many of us who have a supporting role on farms or in farmers’ lives, planting means saying “goodbye” for a solid six (or more) weeks. I had my goodbye chat last night, planting hasn’t started, but it will in the next few days. There may be a quick call from a tractor cab here and there, but I’m not holding out a lot of hope. After seven years in the country, I’ve gotten used to the rhythm and the calendar that farm men live by. I’m not saying that I like it, I’m just used to it now.