Sunday, November 14, 2010

Cooling Down: All Good Growing Seasons Must End


Sour cherry tree upside down cake fruit 028 Despite our great good fortune in the weather this year, and mine—I’ve had the benefit of two great growing seasons, one in Rhode Island and one in Nashville—it’s clearly over. I came back from a conference trip to Florida’s Gulf Coast the first week of November to nights in the 20s. First frost, indeed.

It’s a bitter-sweet time of year, this transition from the riotous plate of sunny summer to the more sedate and colorless winter board. It’s a little like the realization, on graduating from college, that you will never again have the summer off (until, of course, you realize at middle age that you could become a professor!), but at the same time are ready to move on to being a grown-up. We’ll miss the casual ease of tomatoes and basil and berries fresh from the field, but begin to crave the serious and soul-satisfying stews, soups, and breads purposefully made from a reassuringly well-stocked larder. We’re sorry to come indoors, but anticipate the holidays around the table with family, grateful to by cozy inside.


Farewell to another growing season, with thanks for all the bounty, much of it tucked away neatly in our freezers and cupboards. Here is the fourth annual review, in pictures, of some of this year’s seasonal production.  On Friday I leave for New York to spend Thanksgiving with my son. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         Strawberries, Flowers, Orange Puff 015Asparagus 004

Fried feast, scallops, rings, corn cheese cakes, doughnut 008 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         Red leaf and chick salad 2 

Sour cherry tree upside down cake fruit 009 Blueberry pie, bolo 003 Sour cherry tree branch

Rasp tapioca, curr, goose, cheese, rye 001 Rasp tapioca, curr, goose, cheese, rye 005 Rasp tapioca, curr, goose, cheese, rye 004

Sour cherry tree upside down cake fruit 018Sour cherry tree upside down cake fruit 010Sour cherry tree upside down cake fruit 019

    Spring rolls, shrimp, DZ cookies, tom, buck 016Campari drink and fish 002Spring rolls, shrimp, DZ cookies, tom, buck 001

 Portugues dinner, country apple cake, cottage 007   Spring rolls, shrimp, DZ cookies, tom, buck 002Spring rolls, shrimp, DZ cookies, tom, buck 003


   Portugues dinner, country apple cake, cottage 028Fish fry, cole slaw, nashville sky 001LC 09 mis fruit and veg 030

 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         squash, baby broc, brioche pudding, olneyville 016LC 09 mis fruit and veg 026

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Second Time Around: Baby Zucchini

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         I am not a big squash fan, but I do like the little finger-size zucchini and golden squash that are the first of the season—and, if we are lucky enough to have a final burst, the last. This year was such a year: a long, dry, very warm (OK, hot) summer. As a result, everything was early, and many of the things I enjoy most when they are small came along twice. Recently I bought some nice little zucchini of my favorite size, well under 1” diameter, from a local couple selling at least a dozen varieties of squash, mostly winter ones, laid out on tables. The little zucchini were snuggled in a basket like babies, which of course they were.

Given that squash is not a preferred vegetable, I tend to be as finicky about how I eat them as I am about their size. I like them split and grilled with olive oil, or stuffed with seasoned mashed potatoes and served next to a steak. When I lived in California, a coworker used to make a salad with zucchini, avocado, and cream cheese that was very nice, and that I still make a variation of occasionally. Just after I bought these zucchs I was looking through my newly acquired Oaxaca al Gusto cookbook by Diana Kennedy, which reminded me of another favorite way to cook them from Kennedy’s first book, Cuisines of Mexico: with cream, cinnamon, tomato, and chile. I had some of the high-fat cream sold at the farmers market —as it turns out, the season’s last. But I did not have anything suitable in the house to serve a zucchini side dish with, and I had been craving a pizza. So I made a kind of deconstructed version of Kennedy’s squash dish, a cream-zucchini pizza in the Mexican style, using the cinnamon- and chile-enhanced cream as the sauce and topping it with pan-fried zucchini.

Zucchini and Reduced Cream Pizza

Pizza Dough
1 ½ cups flour
½ tea salt
2 T olive oil
½ cup warm water
2 tea yeast
Dissolve the yeast in the water. Put the other ingredients in the food processor, and add the water/yeast while the motor is running until it forms a ball; let it run another 15 seconds. Remove and let rise til double, about 3 hrs. Punch down and one aside, covered, for about 15 minutes before using.

Cinnamon Cream Sauce
1 cup heavy cream, preferably unhomogenized  
1 fresh, 4” piece stick cinnamon
½ small chile Serrano, seeded, or ¼ tea Tabasco
¼ tea salt
1/8 tea freshly grated nutmeg
Put all the ingredients in a small sauce pan. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and cook until the cream is reduced by half. Turn off the heat and let sit a few minutes, or until the cream has a pleasant but not too strong cinnamon flavor. Remove the cinnamon and discard.

Zucchini Topping and Assembling the Pizza
About 4 small zucchini, trimmed and sliced ¼” thick
1 small clove garlic, finely chopped
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
Torn fresh arugula or basil
1/4 cup chopped walnuts or pine nuts (optional)
¼ cup freshly grated Pecorino or Parmesan cheese
Preheat the oven to 450F.
In a large frying pan, quickly sauté the zucchini slices with the garlic in a little olive oil, turning them, over high heat until they are lightly browned on both sides. Sprinkle them lightly with salt and pepper.
Roll the dough out into a 12” round and place on a pan sprinkled with cornmeal. Spread the cream on the dough; top with the zucchini; and sprinkle with the nuts, cheese, and arugula. Bake in the oven for 12-15 minutes, until lightly colored and somewhat bubbly.