During my New Hampshire family vacation, I found a renewed appreciation for sitting next to lakes and watching the sun set while drinking wine.
It wasn’t quite a vacation from cooking—there were anywhere between 10 and 20 people eating dinner on any given night. My family’s level of trust in my cooking abilities seems to have grown significantly since I started blogging about all of the things Andrew and I cook together. The reality, however, is I don’t actually know how to “cook” at all, since the breakdown of our cooking ventures usually involves me measuring ingredients and throwing them in blenders while Andrew does the part that actually involves sticking food on a hot flame in a specific way until it tastes good.
Nevertheless, I returned from vacation slightly more skilled at grilling meat for 20 people, and eager to jump back in to our cooking projects.
Pot-Roasted Artichokes with White Wine and Capers
This recipe comes from April Bloomfield’s A Girl and Her Greens cookbook. The plan had been to do something quick and easy, but we took a look at the recipe and couldn’t help ourselves. It was an especially silly choice considering that the recipe called for 18 artichokes and we only had 4.
The artichokes need to be “turned,” which sounds like its should be something really simple, like flipping them upside down. It’s not. To turn artichokes, you fill a bowl with water and squeeze in the juice of a lemon (or anything citrus). You throw the artichokes into the citrus water to prevent them from turning brown during the hour and a half it takes you to prep them. This is actually less of an issue if you only have four. You pluck off all of the green leaves, leaving only the softer, inner ones. Then you cut off about 1/2 inch of the stem and peal the remainder. Then you take about an inch off the tip as well. Now you are ready to cook them.
- Heat 1/4 cup of olive oil in a large pot until it’s smoking. Stand the artichokes cut-side down in the oil for a minute, then reduce the heat to medium-low and add 2 garlic cloves and a teaspoon of salt. Cook everything until the garlic is nice and smelly, around 3 minutes.
- Pour in 1 1/2 cups of white wine, and cook for 25 minutes until everything is soft. Add 1 tablespoon of capers near the end.
- Once the artichokes are soft, bring the heat back up again and simmer all of the wine away. Add some mint and parsley (we didn’t have parsley). Once the wine is gone (sad) and the artichokes are dark brown (less sad), they’re ready.
CSA vegetables used: artichokes, garlic
Other ingredients used: white wine, capers, mint
It was a sort of pitiful looking bowl of 4 artichokes, but they were so delicious that we declared it was completely worth the effort and swore to make the same recipe again if we ever got more artichokes in the box.
Cucumber Soup with Avocado Toasts
I’ve discovered this summer that while there are about a billion recipes for cold cucumber soup. Nevertheless, it’s hard to find one substantial enough to be a real meal. This recipe from Melissa Clark seemed a little more interesting than usual. She recommended serving it with avocado on toast, which also sounded like an excellent idea.
- Blitz 1 lb peeled cucumbers, 2 cups of buttermilk, 1 clove of garlic, 2 anchovies, 2 scallions, 1/2 a jalapeno (we used a full serrano…oops), 1/2 teaspoon of sherry vinegar, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt in a food processor.
- Smoosh some avocado on toast.
CSA vegetables used: cucumbers, garlic
Other ingredients used: buttermilk, avocado, anchovies, scallions, serrano, sherry vinegar, salt.
Pickled Green Beans
The green beans had started to build up and we were now in possession of about 3 LBs of them. I decided that while I wasn’t sure the idea of a pickled green bean sounded very good, how they actually tasted was going to be a problem for another day. I froze 2 lbs of beans and pickled the remaining pound, using this recipe from the New York Times.
We wanted to make these pickles shelf-safe, since the purpose of this entire process was to get them out of the refrigerator. While I’ve made a lot of pickles at this point, I’ve usually just stored them in the fridge until we ate them all. I’m a little frightened of the canning and sealing process, with all of the various sterilizing and sealing steps and the myriad of ways you can die if it doesn’t go well. Nevertheless, my desire to empty the fridge of green beans gave me a new courage to face the threat of botulism, so I got to work.
- First, you trim the green beans and stick them upright in the jar just to make sure they fit. Then you trim off anything too long so that there’s still 1/2 inch of room at the top. Then you dump everything out.
- If you want them to be shelf-safe, first you sterilize the jars in a giant pot of boiling water. After the jars are sterilized, you put the green beans back in and add 1 teaspoon of coriander, 1 teaspoon of mustard seeds, and few black peppercorns to each jar.
- Next, you combine 1 cup of white wine vinegar, 1 cup of sherry vinegar, 1 cup of water, 1 TB turbinado sugar, and 2 teaspoons of salt in a small pot and bring it up to a boil. We were pretty low on white wine vinegar, so I substituted rice vinegar. Then we ran out of that and I substituted more sherry vinegar.
- Once the liquid simmers for 2 minutes, pour it into the green beans and seal them up. Then they go back in the boiling water bath for 10 minutes.
CSA ingredients used: green beans
Other ingredients used: rice vinegar, white wine vinegar, sherry vinegar, garlic, coriander, mustard seeds, peppercorns, turbinado sugar.
Michelle Obama & Ribs
Andrew was about to start a show downtown, which meant we wouldn’t be eating dinner together six days a week for a few weeks. We decided to celebrate our last chance to cook an elaborate meal by grilling ribs, which we had bought from our AirBnB host on a pig farm in Wisconsin the previous month. It was also a chance to go on a vegetable rampage. We grilled the cabbage and the tomatillos while listening to the first night of the DNC Convention on NPR—because if you are going to be a demographic cliche, you might as well really embrace it.
Andrew repurposed our grill for smoking—using this method stolen from Eater. We made a little ring of coals and sprinkled wood chips on top. We found some little grill lighting cubes which we used to light the coals, and then let them slowing catch. Then we jerry-rigged a little smoking rack on top of the grill and put the ribs in. 3 hours later, we had smoked ribs.
Once the ribs were done, we lit a new set of coals and grilled the cabbage and the tomatillos, onions, serranos, and garlic for salsa verde.
To make the salsa verde, we blitzed the tomatillos, onions, serranos, and garlic together in the food processor, along with some cilantro. This is a recipe I’ve used a lot of times, but I’ve never grilled everything before. It had a paler, mellow cooler than usual but it tasted incredible. Sadly, it also didn’t have any of the many preservatives that usually come in salsa, so we only got through about half of it before it went bad (three weeks later).
CSA vegetables used: tomatillos, onions
Other ingredients used: serranos, garlic, cilantro
Grilled Cabbage with Spicy Lime Dressing
We also made a spicy lime dressing to go along with the cabbage, from The Kitchn. The dressing was 1/4 cup of lime juice, 1/4 cup of olive oil, 1 teaspoon of fish sauce, 2 garlic cloves, 1/4 cup of cilantro leaves, salt, 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper, and 1/4 teaspoon of sugar.
CSA ingredients used: cabbage
Other ingredients used: lime, olive oil, fish sauce, garlic, cilantro, cayenne, sugar
Next: Andrew’s playing a show and can’t weigh in, so I cook a really random collection of dishes.