(One Can Never Have) Too Many Cherries

I may have overdone it.

There are six pounds of cherries in my fridge.

First, we were at Whole Foods at the end of the week, and they had their first organic cherries of the season, in the purple mesh bag. They were quite dear at $14.99 per pound, but cherry season is short. I stood with the bag in my hand for a moment, put it back, then thought again about how short cherry season is and put them in the cart.

When I checked out, I found out the bag was heavier than I’d thought. The damage was $25.33. Ouch. But cherry season is short, right?

On to the farmers’ market on Saturday morning. I had bought the WFM cherries because I was afraid I might miss out on them at the market – the one grower I knew had them the week before, Erickson Farms, said they had about 25-30% set this year. I didn’t know how long they’d have fruit, and I was afraid of missing out on cherries altogether, because nobody had a good set this year as far as I’ve heard.

When I got to the market, Fred Smeds of Savage Island also had cherries. He said he thought this might be his only week for them, so I bought three of his pint containers for a total of $9. Erickson Farms is on the other end of the market; they had the first Ranier-type cherries of the season, and of course I couldn’t resist getting those – that was another $7 for about two pints’ worth.

At that point I realized that I had bought $40 worth of cherries in the past 24 hours, and I had better start thinking about what I was going to do with them. Shortcake? Crumble? Cherry-infused vodka?

I can’t say that I’ve taken any decisive action yet. So far, my only plan has been to eat them, and that seems to be going fine.

Six pounds of cherries isn’t so ridiculous, really. Some women buy shoes – and expensive ones, at that – this way.

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Carrot-Beet Salad with a Leek-Lemon Vinaigrette

Last week, when I was making the carrot-beet cutlets, I thought a carrot-beet salad might be good – and nice to look at, too. Both vegetables have an earthy sweetness; in this recipe, carrots’ milder tone help counter beets’ dark intensity.

Just carrots and beets seemed a little dull – I thought about making this a grain salad, with quinoa or couscous, but I wasn’t in the mood, so in the chickpeas went. I think it would work well, though, to toss this with one of those, with or without the chickpeas.

I had this for dinner, tossed (along with a little bit of extra dressing) with some red leaf lettuce from our CSA box. The carrots are also from T&D Willey, the beets are from K.M.K Farms, and the mint, lemon and leeks are from Il Giardino Organico.

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Lunch with the In-Laws

It’s a real pleasure to have someone else around to cook for and eat with. Chimp called his parents at the hotel in the morning and said, “Come on over when you’re ready; Jocelyn’s making lunch.”

He had cooked some lentils the night before, and I figured it would be quick work to turn them into a simple soup with some garlic, olive oil, zucchini and lemon juice. I had planned to make another batch of chickpea-flour based fritters this week, too – I had cooked the carrots in anticipation of that – and then I realized that I also still had the beets I’d roasted. The cutlets became carrot-beet cutlets.

If I had blended the cutlet mixture less, I could have had an orange cutlet studded with red squares of beet, which would have been pretty spectacular. However, I think achieving that might have required something like the food stylist trick of placing the individual chocolate chips strategically in the specially-shaped ball of dough before baking.

The accompanying salad contains lettuce and cucumber from our CSA box and sunflower sprouts from Nueva Frontera Produce at the farmers’ market.

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CSA Box #2

Chimp’s parents are visiting; it is a good thing they are game for agricultural tourism.

Yesterday we went to pick up our box of produce and on the way stopped at the Sun-Maid Store for fun. The store is located right at the Sun-Maid plant and is one of the stops on the Fresno County Fruit Trail. When you get out of the car at the Sun-Maid plant, the air is filled with a heavy fruity sweetness – unsurprisingly, it smells like raisins. We took the obligatory pictures in front of the world’s largest box of raisins and browsed a great variety of raisin-related products.

When we got the box home, we found the following in it:

Nantes Carrots
Red Leaf Lettuce
Red Spring Onion
Fava Beans
Parsley
Red LaSoda Potatoes
Collard Greens
Mediterranean Cucumbers
English Peas
Fresh Garlic
Cuyama Fuji and Pink Lady Apples

It says in the newsletter that some people got apples instead of strawberries because of the rain last weekend. That’s us, sadly. Maybe next week.

Mean Peas

It’s been a very long time since I shelled peas.

I had plenty of time to try to think of when it might have been that I last did so while I was shelling the peas, since I don’t do it often and I am terribly slow at it. I honestly couldn’t remember what year it might have been.

In the springtime in Michigan, we bought our peas already shelled at the Kalamazoo farmers’ market. I will admit, I appreciated these peas I shelled myself more, knowing what it took me to get this little bowl together, than I did the ones in Michigan when I could just dump a shelled pound into a pan without a thought.

Repetitive food tasks appeal to me – they become meditative. When I worked for Whole Foods as a cheesemonger, I genuinely enjoyed the first few quiet hours of the day, when there were few people around and I could wire-cut 120 lbs. of cheddar, wrap it, and stack it in neat rows. My mind could be somewhere else while I did that, as the task became second nature to me over the five years I did that work.

I was trying to be mindful of the peas as I shelled them, though. To shell peas, you press down on the far end of the pod first to open it, then peel it open and tease the peas out. When pressed, tightly-packed pods tend to make a cracking noise, I discovered on this occasion, and ones where there is a little space at the end make a tiny popping noise, one that sounds like the natural antecedent of the opening of a champagne bottle.

I cooked these peas in salted water with butter until they were creamy and soft – I was surprised to find that it took 10 minutes – then tossed them with sautéed onions, garlic and spices. I remembered, as I was getting my seasoning together, that peas have a natural affinity for cardamom, and was pleased I had – it really brought the dish together.

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No-Kebab Kebabs: Vegetables with Lemon-Herb Tofu

I’ve been trying to put together a lemon-herb tofu for a while, and I think I’ve finally got it.

The original inspiration for this was kebabs. However, you will notice that no sticks were harmed in the making of these vegetables.

They did not go on sticks for a couple reasons. Mixed skewers are beautiful-looking, with all the vegetables arrayed in a colorful progression, but no matter how evenly everything is cut, one foodstuff inevitably cooks before another, resulting in burned something and nearly-raw something else. Additionally, I don’t own a grill (it seems somewhat pointless when my favorite food is beans) and I find that placing the vegetables flat on a baking sheet under the broiler works very well.

I usually make something like this at midsummer, when there are plenty of appropriate vegetables. I especially like broiled small tomatoes, their skins puckering and their flesh slumped into a juicy mass that collapses over the other ingredients when tossed together. In May, though, there are no such ideal tomatoes on offer, so we limited ourselves to what was locally available: the yellow squash and red onions from our CSA box, plus zucchini and fennel from the farmers’ market.

Despite the lack of tomatoes, these came out very well. The summer squashes developed a buttery, almost nutty toasted flavor, the onions softened and caramelized beautifully, and the fennel yielded its crunch just enough to provide an interesting counterpoint to the softer vegetables and the springy-textured seasoned tofu.

I’ve been wrestling all week with how to describe the red onions used in this recipe – I would call them green onions, because they have their soft stalks on – except they’re red on the bottom. Green red onions sounds confusing. Perhaps they’re immature red onions, because they haven’t been dried for storage?

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Chard Fritters

Yes, that is an okay I can’t bear to photograph and not eat this for another moment image. I needed a little box lined with parchment paper to nestle these into, and I didn’t have one. If you’re dissatisfied with the aesthetics of this, let me assure you that there’s a far better-looking recipe coming tomorrow.

Chickpeas really are the endless vegetarian miracle. Beyond their charms in whole form, they give us hummus, falafel, and chickpea flour, the last of which assists egg-avoiding vegetarians in all sorts of helpful ways. For example, I put up the chickpea pancakes last week, and now I’m putting up a little fritter.

I saw that the women at Naughty Curry had made some chickpea-flour bound Peppy Greens Pattycakes last week, which had been inspired by Rayma’s greens-potato-breadcrumbs Mustard Greens Cutlets.

I had leftover cooked chard in the fridge, which had come from K.M.K Farms at the farmers’ market. Actually, some of it was the white chard from K.M.K., and the other portion was the tops off a bunch of beets (which are effectively chard) that – I confess – I bought from Whole Foods because they looked so good, and besides, they were only from Bakersfield! It’s not that far away…and they were probably from north of Bakersfield, really…

At any rate, it was two huge bunches of greens I had cooked, and both Chimp and I had grown tired of eating cooked chard and beet tops, so I decided to make them into fritters, which helped the leftover greens disappear tout-suite.

These would be great dipped in yogurt, raita, or with a dab of chutney atop each. And you can do this with cooked or raw vegetables – in fact, I’m planning to inflict this method on some cooked carrots later in the week, and make larger cutlets, more like what Naughty Curry got up to. I’m in a vegetable cutlet mood – but it seems like I’m not the only one, huh?

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