Jane’s Krazy

If I am ever prompted to write Remembrance of Things Past, it will probably be because of a slice of avocado sprinkled with Jane’s Krazy Mixed-Up Salt. This is one of the earliest things I can distinctly remember eating.  These avocado slices ended up on top of the black beans in the foreground after they received their sprinkling.

Jane’s Krazy, as it is colloquially referred to in my family, is also great on cottage cheese, an item that clearly needs more salt.  I don’t eat cottage cheese at this point, but I ate a lot as a kid and loved loading it up with Jane’s Krazy.

Jane’s Krazy also improves a ripe tomato immeasurably.

My mother came to use it on the suggestion of Sarah Knickerbocker, one of our neighbors in Maine, when my father was stationed at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.  Sarah’s husband was Admiral Knickerbocker. The Knickerbockers lived down a long lane near our house; when I visited Maine in 2001 after not having seen their house since the age of four, I distinctly remembered the lane, the large mossy rock along it, and their house at the end of the drive upon seeing each of those items again.

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Spring-Ingredients Chickpea Salad

SpringchickpeaI went to the farmer’s market this morning. It’s not something I’ve been good about since we moved to Fresno; being so incapacitated for the past year has done a lot to prevent that. Having myself organized and being energetic enough to get to the market on Saturday morning wasn’t happening. But I’ve been a couple times lately. This morning I went around 9 a.m. There are only two organic growers (only one certified), and they have a lot of the same things; mostly greens and herbs. There are other growers with strawberries, root vegetables, and broccoli, but all conventional. I suppose they may have more as the season goes along, but it’s a limited selection compared to what we had available in Kalamazoo, which is not what I would have expected.

I bought some radishes, arugula, herbs, swiss chard, and kale. Later on in the day I made a run to Whole Foods and got the rest of my groceries. This is what I made for dinner tonight. This is pretty much a spring vegetable party. If you are a lover of feta cheese, on top of this salad would be a good spot to put some.

If you wanted to make a simple light spring meal in courses, you could start with a pureed lettuce-and-fresh-pea soup, serve this along with roasted asparagus, and finish with strawberries and sweetened whipped cream.

2 c. dry chickpeas, soaked for 8 hours or overnight

1 T. olive oil

Few grinds black pepper

½ T. olive oil

2 bulbs fennel, chopped into ½ in. squares

1 bunch radishes, chopped into similar-sized pieces

5 oz. arugula, washed and dried

1 clove garlic, minced

Juice of 2 lemons

¼ c. olive oil

¾ c. chickpea cooking liquid

Salt and pepper to taste

Place the chickpeas in a pressure cooker with water to cover plus a half-inch. Add olive oil and a few grinds black pepper. Close the cooker. Bring the cooker to pressure and cook the chickpeas for 20 minutes. Bring the pressure down by running the cooker under cool water. If you do not have a pressure cooker, place the same ingredients in a regular pot, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook until tender, about 1 hour. When the chickpeas are tender, drain them, reserving the liquid.

While the chickpeas are cooking, heat the oil in a large sauté pan. When it is hot but not smoking, place the fennel in the pan. Sauté, stirring, until the fennel has just lost its raw texture, about five minutes. Place in a large bowl and set aside. Add the radishes, arugula, and garlic to the bowl.

When the chickpeas are cooked, mix the ingredients for the dressing together. Place the drained chickpeas atop the vegetable ingredients in the bowl. Pour the dressing over the bowl’s contents, then toss all the ingredients together gently. Season with additional salt and pepper if necessary. Makes 6 entrée-sized servings.

Broiled Asparagus

Where am I?  Where have I been?  For a long time, running to stand still, now working on getting better…

Our meals got a lot simpler over the last year.  As I got sicker and sicker, Michael took over more and more of the cooking.  For most of the past year, he did all of it.  It’s only now that I’m cooking the occasional dinner all myself (on a slow day where I haven’t had much exertion) or helping him by making some part of it.

This has been a strange experience for someone who defines herself so much in terms of her relationship with food.

But I am making the occasional thing or two here and there.  I made chickpeas tonight, really simple chickpeas, dressed with garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, parsley, salt and pepper.  They’re the best, but it’s nearly impossible to write a recipe for them – I’ll have to try harder on my measurements next time.  The bane of the done-it-a-million-times cook – just put in enough of each.

Michael made asparagus.  When we lived in Michigan, the first month of the farmer’s market (May) was asparagus month, and we bought a lot of it and made ourselves totally sick on it, cooking it every which way.  I love it steamed or sautéed, but there’s nothing that beats this recipe for ease.  It gets wilty and slightly crisp and toasted at the tips.  Sprinkle some toasted sesame seeds or slivered almonds over it if you want to look like you Did Something.

Some people have asparagus cookers.  These are little pots about the size for Cannibal Barbie to cook up one of her friends.  I am not a believer in Pots for One Purpose, so I scorn the asparagus pot. The point of them is that the stems cook in a little bit of water and the thinner tips cook in the steam.  Eh.

I do the snap-the-end off bit with asparagus, though I think it probably takes off more than is absolutely necessary.  (When I am snapping asparagus I always wish that broccoli stalks could be snapped off at the tender point with just such a maneuver, negating the need for stalk-peeling, certainly among the worst vegetable-prep jobs.)  When you bring asparagus home, cut a little bit off the ends and put it in a glass with a little water in the fridge, then toss a bag over it.  That way you’ll be surprised and delighted by your little fridge bouquet every time you open the door to drink out of the milk carton and your asparagus will stay fresher.

Ingredients:

2 bunches asparagus (well, you could make it with one, but the broiling reduces the volume a lot, and seriously, the stuff is only really in season for a little while, so you might as well go to town), ends trimmed

Olive oil

Salt

Pepper (afterward)

Turn the broiler on, and place a rack on the top position. Take your big ol’ cookie sheet with a rim (I use a jelly roll pan, which has never seen a jelly roll in its life) and lay the trimmed asparagus on it in a reasonably neat fashion. Drizzle with a little olive oil (a little, okay?  Remember this stuff is going to lose volume as it cooks, so you don’t need as much as you might think, unless you are going after reproducing that study I read this week that says people who follow a Mediterranean diet live longer. In that case, load the asparagus up with oil and have some baklava too) and sprinkle with salt. Pop it under the broiler, and check it every minute or so. When it gets pleasantly wrinkly but still green, pull it out and with your tongs (use the gentle forcep-like kind, not the salad-bar kind) flip each spear over. Back under the broiler until the same result is achieved on the other side. Remove.  Dust with a little pepper.  Congratulate yourself for hardly breaking a sweat making asparagus (unless you leaned too close to the broiler).