Friday, July 31, 2020

Covid Cafe: All Good Colorful Food

Hello, chefs. Plans for the weekend? Didn't even realize it was the weekend? We're working in the cafe gardens, so today just a few snaps of our most local food...

Immature Tetra Squash
from Row 7

Here's what tetra looks like at maturity--a delicata winter squash for roasting.

Japanese Eggplant

Blackberries from the CSA box

Hooray for
Cosmonaut Volkov
Territorial Seed Company's Great Northwest Tomato Taste-Off winner

Broccolini and green onion from the CSA box, 
prepped for first meal

More of our morning harvest

First meal: grass-fed burgers from the grill
with twice-baked potatoes et al.
(We wish you were here to eat with us.)

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Covid Cafe: Garlic Scape Pesto

Art made legs for Wayne's grate 
and now the squash have a runway

Good day to you, chefs. Connie's been busy with Covid-modified library assignments these past few months, but she recalled seeing a picture of garlic scapes here, likely sometime last spring. While we bask in the tomato harvest, today she's sharing her flashback experience making pesto.

Connie writes: I saw a photo of garlic scapes on your blog but no recipe. A master gardener who works with me at the library asked me if I wanted any garlic scapes this spring. I had never worked with them but said yes!
Looking online, pesto seemed like the most popular recipe.  Here I provide the full recipe, but I halved it and served over pasta. Packed a punch but delicious.

Garlic Scape Pesto
1 cup garlic scapes, sliced crosswise (about 10-12)
1/4 cup raw sunflower seeds
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup basil leaves
juice of one lemon

1.  Place the garlic scapes in a food processor and pulse for 30 seconds.

2.  Add the sunflower seed and pulse for 30 seconds.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
3.  Add the olive oil and process on high for 15 seconds
4.  Add the Parmesan cheese and pulse until the ingredients are combined.
5.  Add the basil and lemon juice and process until you reach a desired consistency.

6.  Add salt to taste and serve immediately.

Badger Flame Beet

Chris and Lisa just pulled their first badger flame beets yesterday from seeds we started together (you'll recall the bunny feasted on my early plants).

Today's cooked beet report:
sweet and luscious

Sly &The Family Stone - Hot Fun in the Summertime
(I'd be lying if I said those opening bars don't give me a chill)



Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Covid Cafe: Cosmonaut Volkov, Pups, Weed, and Amtrak Baked Eggs

Hello, chefs. I found this trifecta of Cosmonaut Volkov tomatoes ripening in the Spirit Circle this morning. These grew well on our Chicago roof and in fact the seeds that started these are likely from 2011. I originally got the seeds because their name intrigued me.

The naming story varies, with Wikipedia saying Vladislav Volkov and crew died when a Soyuz space capsule valve opened too soon upon re-entry in 1971, suffocating the crew. Other sites contain speculation that Cosmonaut Volkov seeds went into space but I'm not able to confirm.

Rob walks dogs
Usually Rob walks Chicago, but every week he also tends pups for the Chicago Anti-Cruelty Society (ACS). We love the photos and captions of his charges.

Gabriella: All tongues and tail

The aptly named Teddy

Bath time for Little Whitney

Weed progress
I've been watching vids and reading online, trying to learn how to maximize production. I topped these plants and tied down the resultant branches, which are now growing upward. We'll see if they produce buds. More here.

The ideal result

Amtrak Baked Eggs
A long time ago we were heading to Union Station to board Amtrak for the west coast. I cleaned out the fridge to make breakfast and thus Amtrak Baked Eggs were born, a good reminder that the simplest ingredients can produce a delicious result.

5 eggs
A couple generous handfuls shredded cheese
Green onions, cut in one-inch pieces

--Generously butter a pie pan/quiche pan.
--Scatter the cheese on the bottom.
--Whisk eggs and pour in.
--Scatter green onion on top.
--Bake at 350F 20-25 minutes or until set.


When you kill it at the edge of the pan, you don't notice
That the egg grows an eye in death.

It is so small, it doesn't satisfy
Even the most modest morning appetite.

But it already watches, already stares at your world.
What are its horizons, whose glassy-eyed perspectives?

Does it see time, which moves carelessly through space?
Eyeballs, eyeballs, cracked shells, chaos or order?

Big questions for such a little eye at such an early hour. 
And you – do you really want an answer?

When you sit down, eye to eye, behind a table,
You blind it soon enough with a crust of bread.


Celeste - Stop This Flame

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Covid Cafe: The Mother Africa (Peanut) Sauce


Good day to you, chefs of Covid Cafe. Yesterday I made this exceptional sauce, from the cookbook From Harlem to Heaven, by JJ Johnson and Alexander Smalls. Remarkably, I had all the ingredients on hand except for the vegetable stock, so I substituted homemade chicken stock, which lends this glorious concoction extra depth. I can't wait to try it with chicken and sweet potatoes.

We still have two jars
of our first pandemic purchase

JJ Johnson writes: In cooking school, we were taught the five French “mother sauces” as defined by the twentieth-century master of French cooking, Auguste Escoffier: béchamel, velouté, sauce espagnole (a simple brown sauce), sauce tomate, and hollandaise. 

The foundational sauce to the Afro-Asian flavor profile is what we call the Mother Africa sauce: West African peanut sauce. I’d like to urge you to stop reading this article and whip up a batch of it right now.
The Mother Africa (Peanut) Sauce The Mother Africa (Peanut) SauceThe Mother Africa (Peanut) Sauce

You can pour it over a bowl of rice. You can dice up a sweet potato and mix it in as a stew. It tastes delicious with the meat of the chicken thigh crumbled into the mix. This sauce will keep for five days in the fridge and you can eat it every day, in a different way. It’s an easy back-pocket sauce that you can’t mess up. It’s both comfort food and comforting to cook. Give it a try.

So I did. Here's the plan...

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 white onion, diced
1/2 cup large-diced carrots (1 medium carrot)
1 plum tomato, chopped
1/4 cup finely diced celery (1 rib)
1 clove garlic, minced (1 teaspoon)
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro (1⁄4 bunch)
1 bird’s-eye chile, seeded and minced (1 teaspoon)
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (from 1 lemon)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup unsweetened, creamy peanut butter
4 cups vegetable stock

1.   Heat the oil in a 4-quart pot over medium heat, add the cumin, and fry for 1 minute, stirring constantly. The cumin will become very aromatic and a few shades darker.

2.    Add the onion, carrots, tomato, celery, garlic, bay leaf, cilantro, chile, salt, and lemon juice, stirring to coat the vegetables in the toasted cumin oil. Sauté until the vegetables soften, about 5 minutes. 

3.    Stir in the tomato paste and cook for 2 minutes. Once the tomato paste is incorporated, add the peanut butter and cook until the oil separates from the peanut butter, about 5 minutes. 

4.    Add the stock and stir, making sure to bring up all of the tomato paste and peanut butter from the bottom of the pot so it is well blended. Increase the heat to medium-high to bring the sauce to a simmer. Cook, stirring, for 45 minutes. 

5.    Remove bay leaf. Using an immersion blender, puree the sauce in the pot until smooth. Season with salt to taste. 
Click here for more on how JJ Johnson is serving his community.

September Tomatoes

The whiskey stink of rot has settled
in the garden, and a burst of fruit flies rises
when I touch the dying tomato plants.

Still, the claws of tiny yellow blossoms
flail in the air as I pull the vines up by the roots
and toss them in the compost.

It feels cruel. Something in me isn’t ready
to let go of summer so easily. To destroy
what I’ve carefully cultivated all these months.
Those pale flowers might still have time to fruit.

My great-grandmother sang with the girls of her village
as they pulled the flax. Songs so old
and so tied to the season that the very sound
seemed to turn the weather.

 Summer melon,
salt and lime not pictured


Relaxing Cafe Music For Cooking - Jazz & Bossa Nova


Monday, July 27, 2020

Covid Cafe: Tomato Time

Bumblebee Cherry Tomatoes 
via Hudson Valley Seeds

Welcome, chefs, to the cafe. With so much vibrant food on the vine, we're eating mostly fresh vegetables with some protein at each meal. Now that the tomatoes are ripening, every day is delicious. And colorful, if Connie's garden is any indication...

Connie writes: This spring, after my allium bloomed and the little purple flowers fell off, I got out the spray paint and gave them all some new colors.  It has lasted several months and I like looking out my kitchen window at the "new" flowers which, in years past, I would have cut back.

Tenacious squash
at Rudy and Karin's garden

 Via the incomparable
Roz Chast

 Morning pickings

Perhaps you'll find inspiration in this photo of chicken breasts with tomato and artichoke, covered in Parmesan sauce, sent along by Rob.


A Bowl of Spaghetti

“To find a connectome, or the mental makeup of a person,”
researchers experimented with the neurons of a worm

then upgraded to mouse hoping
“to unravel the millions of miles of wire in the [human] brain”

that they liken to “untangling a bowl of spaghetti”

of which I have an old photo: Rei in her high chair delicately
picking out each strand to mash in her mouth.

Was she two? Was that sailor dress from Mother?
Did I cook from scratch? If so, there was a carrot in the sauce

as Mother instructed and I’ll never forget
since some strand determines infatuation as a daughter’s fate.

Tomato Black Prince
in the Spirit Circle

Did someone say Prince?

Prince - Partyman (Extended Version)