Better Parmesan & Peas

Y’all, our co-op kicks ass. When we lived in Nashville we went back and forth about joining a CSA because it was just the two of us and, even though I love me some random veggies – and I can certainly put them away, we were concerned about wasting food. I know there are options like canning, pickling, jamming, and so forth but farm girl I am not and I know my limits when it comes to the kitchen. At any rate, when we moved to Raleigh we started the search for a CSA to fit our needs and found Carolina Grown. Every week we get to order from their ever-expanding menu of produce, meat, fish, dairy, eggs, grains, pasta, baked goods, etc. all from right here in North Carolina and it is delivered right to our doorstep every Friday morning. Like I said – it kicks ass. The beauty of the co-op is that it inspires me to experiment with different ways to prepare the abundance of vegetables we receive every week.

This week, we got some English shelling peas. I love peas. They are adorable and delicious. But, I’d only ever eaten them one of two ways – in a pasta/casserole OR blanched with butter and salt. I did some sleuthing online and found this lovely collection of recipes from 101 Cookbooks. I was particularly inspired by the Spring Pea Slathered Crostini recipe but didn’t have everything on-hand so I just went with what I had: peas, parmesan, butter, salt, and crushed red pepper.

In the recipe she says to boil the water while you shell the peas. Due to my giant (not quite man-sized) hands and sausage-esque fingers – these kinds of tasks take me a good minute to complete. So, I waited until I was about half-way through the bag of peas to start the water. I cooked them for about 30 seconds, then rinsed and tossed them in a bowl with a pat of butter and a pinch of salt. I added a large (not quite man-sized) handful of shredded parmesan and several generous shakes of crushed red pepper. I attempted to “make quick work of it” with my immersion blender (also known as the most amazing kitchen tool I’ve ever owned) but, apparently, didn’t quite have enough of the mixture to fully submerge the blender resulting in a quick spray to the face of pea/parmesan/crushed red pepper. So, I got out my food processor and took care of business.

I served it as an ever so fancy blob on a plate with a fresh baguette. It was delicious. The crushed red pepper added the prefect amount of heat and parmesan is amazing no matter what you do with it. Next time, I’ll try it with manchego (my all-time favorite cheese) and serve it on a baguette with a slice of jamón serrano. Though, I don’t know if the manchego would last long enough in my kitchen to make it to the Cuisinart…

Better Detox

Every year since somewhere mid-college career, one of my many resolutions has been to complete some sort of cleanse seasonally. I have yet to complete any sort of cleanse. Ever. Unless, of course, you count those two times I got mono and survived off Jell-o and Sprite for a few weeks. I usually start strong, spending a lot of time Googling “detox” and whatnot but, then I remember I get awfully cranky when I’ve not been fed in a few hours and decide it’s in the best interest of everyone around me if I just continue eating whatever I want, whenever I want. Really, it wouldn’t be fair to my friends and family – I’m doing the right thing.

With the solstice approaching, I’ve decided it’s time to start the process of thinking about maybe doing a cleanse all over again. After doing some research, I’ve determined I need to just make up my own plan. My B.A. in Spanish and National Certification in Massage Therapy obviously qualify me to do such a thing. I have a few stipulations – most importantly: I must be able to eat for most of the cleanse. I must! So, the Master Cleanse and any juice fasts are out. My goal here is not weight-loss; it is giving my liver a well-deserved break from all the hard work it does for me so it can perform even better post-cleanse. Because, let’s be real here, my liver gets a pretty damn good work-out most of the time. The cleanse will be Ayurveda-based, (I found a great, 13-day plan in The Modern Ayurvedic Cookbook by Amrita Sondhi) focusing on gradually eliminating the more “toxic” foods from my diet and then slowly reintroducing them after a two-day siesta from solid food during which I will only drink water, which I can spice up with ginger and lemon to aid in detoxification if I’m feeling fancy.

BUT, I’m not ready for that shit yet. I’ve gotta get my mind right first. TWO WHOLE DAYS WITHOUT FOOD?! Besides, the solstice isn’t for another few weeks. So, today I decided to dip a toe in the detoxification pool and start my day with a little yoga. I’ve been practicing yoga on and off for about 10 years now, which is pretty sad given the current state of my practice. I know yoga is supposed to be all about accepting where you are in your practice and in your life and moving forward at your own pace and namaste and OM and BLAH, BLAH, BLAH, but, the perfectionist inside me is having a difficult time accepting the fact that I usedtocould hold a headstand for as long as I wanted and now I can’t quite get my toes off the ground. It did feel good to start my day with yoga again, though – even if I didn’t stop sweating till I got to work because, well, I’m a beast, and we still haven’t gotten around to breaking out the ole AC unit. Who am I kidding? The AC unit had nothing to do with it. Hopefully, over the course of the next few weeks, keeping up with the yoga and maybe even doing some meditating will prepare me for my first big-girl cleanse. One baby (crunchy hippie) step at a time.

Better Strawberry Shortcakes

Strawberry Shortcake has always been one of my very favorite desserts. But shamefully, I have never once tried to make it myself. Last week, while visiting my folks in Nashville, my mom made it for us and it reminded me just how perfect a summer dessert it really is. When I saw strawberries on the menu for our co-op this week, I decided to give it a shot. So, I did as I always do when I need a good recipe, I turned to Martha.

Martha Stewart knows whats up, y’all. I am a novice in the kitchen and every time I try one of her recipes it tastes delicious, even if it doesn’t come out quite as pretty as hers. This is the image I pinned from Martha’s website. Doesn’t it look so nice? She is out of control.

First – the strawberries. I hulled, quartered, and sweetened them and put them in the fridge to chill and get all syrupy. Then, like a good little baker, I combined all the dry ingredients first, then put them in the food processor with the chunks of cold butter. And here is where I hit my first snag. Early on – I know. Being that it is May in the South it is just hot as a crotch. I am trying to avoid busting out our AC unit because I am lazy and there is stuff stacked on top of the box. So, as you can imagine, the kitchen got rather warm as I preheated the oven to 425. So warm, in fact, that the chunks of butter did not stay cold very long and the dough started sticking to the sides of the food processor rather than resembling “coarse meal” as the recipe said it would. But it was too late to turn back. I added the milk and processed until “just moistened” and ended up with some pretty wet dough. Any normal individual would have accepted defeat and just plopped the dough in gobs onto the baking sheet but I decided to press on and follow the recipe. Martha knows best, after all. I floured my hands, and dumped the dough onto a very floured surface in an effort to keep it from sticking to absolutely everything. Then, I shaped it into what was supposed to be an 8″ x 4″ rectangle but turned out to be more of an awkward oblong shape more or less the size of a Cabbage Patch Preemie Doll. I floured a sharp knife, which did absolutely nothing as far as keeping the dough from sticking to it, cut the loaf into 8 pieces, transferred them to a baking sheet, and put them in the oven.

Now, the recipe says to bake these bad boys for 25 to 30 minutes. But, my apartment has a pretty amazing kitchen and my oven is all sorts of busted. The bottom coil broke off (seriously, just broke off while I was baking a loaf of bread) a few months back and was replaced by our landlord with a super-strength coil that puts the top coil to shame. So, now I have to bake everything on the top rack and for about half the suggested time. About 12 minutes later my shortcakes came out looking like this.

I know what you’re thinking and you’re right; that does look like a butt.

While the shortcakes cooled, I took the delicious cream we got from Maple View Farm and whipped it into a frenzy with a little bit of vanilla and sugar. And voilá –  delicious strawberry shortcakes made by yours truly. I will say though, my mom always makes shortcakes from Bisquick and they turn out just as scrumptious (if not more so) without all the nonsense of using the food processor, “shaping” the dough, and making a huge, floury mess. Making shortcakes from scratch made me feel pretty fancy but, in the future, I’ll avoid all the hullaballoo and make them the way my mom does.