Something for those days when even your skin feels like too much clothing

The last few weeks have been busy (as you may have noticed from the negligence of my poor little blog...I'm sorry!) and HOT. Super HOT. 100+ F degrees HOT and don't you think for a minute that particular "F" means "Fahrenheit." Luckily, it's now starting to cool off, but this dandy little salad has gotten me through it all.

This recipe is super adaptable – you can add whatever you like to it, and it still tastes delicious. Other add-ins or substitutions could include artichoke hearts, shaved fennel, balsamic vinegar, red wine vinegar, pecorino cheese, parsley or other herbs.

Chopped Tuna Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette, adapted from Real Simple
Serves 4.

2 six oz. cans of tuna, drained (*my pick: Italian tuna packed in olive oil, drained)
1 15 oz. can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1 12 oz. jar of roasted red peppers, drained and roughly chopped
1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion
2 tbsp. capers
zest of 1 lemon, grated
10 cherry or grape tomatoes, cut in half
10-15 black olives cured in olive oil, pitted (optional)
1/4 cup thinly sliced celery (optional)
2 tbsp. basil, chopped
3 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. cracked black pepper
toasted pita bread, for serving.

In a large bowl, combine the tuna, beans, red peppers, onion, capers, lemon zest, tomatoes, and olives and celery (if using). Whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, salt and black pepper in a separate bowl. Pour vinaigrette over the tuna mixture and toss. Serve with toasted pita bread.

** For those of you in Eugene, Italian tuna in olive oil and olive oil-cured black olives are both available at PC Market of Choice. And truly, the tuna makes a huge difference!


A Horny Melon

There are horny boys, and then there are horny melons. There is sometimes also a combination of the two. Loving Boyfriend brought this lovely, construction-site orange horned melon home to me Sunday evening after kindly making a quick stop at the grocery store to pick up some of the things I had forgotten from my grocery shopping list (ah, who needs a dumb list anyhow?!).

He was so cute. He rushed in, pulling the horny melon from his pocket, and presented it to me on his open palm with true bravado: Look what I brought you! I knew if you were at the grocery store and saw this fine specimen of a horny melon yourself, you wouldn't be able to pass it up! So, being the Loving Boyfriend that I am, I bought it for you! You can guess, then, why I'm going to marry this boy.

Thus, the horny melon came into my possession. Now, I do have to admit that I had seen the brightly colored melons in the produce section before, and had wondered what they were, what they might taste like, and from where they might have come. I had pondered what to do with such a melon...what dishes could it grace with its tender inner texture? Just why might it have these little protruding spines? I had even dreamed about bringing my very own horny melon home with me, to do with as I pleased in my home kitchen, away from the prying eyes of the produce manager. But still, I resisted its wiley charms. I did not bring the horny melon home with me. I couldn't justify bringing a horny melon into my house, not when there were already two presumably horny boys living there. And yet, I didn't even have to take the plunge. My man gave me the very horny melon I had been making eyes at all week long!

So what is a girl to do with her very first horny melon? Why, eat it for breakfast, of course! We cradled the little melon in some paper towels to tuck it in for the night and went to sleep. Dreams of horny melons danced in my head all night long. When it came time in the morning, we poured our coffee, fixed ourselves some toast and then, with a delightful squeal of ecstasy, split that horny melon right down the middle.

This is what the poor little melon looked like when we did:

I have to say I was a little disappointed in what the horny melon had to offer. There was far too many seeds! Not enough substance! Shall we just say, its appearance left much to be desired? Still, we went in for a taste...just a small, tender caress of the green goo...we brought it to our mouths, licked it off the ends of our fingers and discovered that it tasted a bit like...


Just kidding. Closer to lime jello. But we still didn't know what to do with the little horny melon. I had no stellar ideas, no idea how to create something magical out of its lime jello flesh.

So...I guess I have to ask...
...do be careful of your answer...

Just what would YOU do with a horny melon?


A Midsummer Day's Dream

Having been gone the last two Saturdays, I was dying to get to the Farmer's market to see what was new and what I had been missing. Yes, even as Loving Boyfriend and I headed off to Bend, OR to become engaged two weekends ago (unbeknownst to me at the time), I was staring wistfully out the window and wondering what might be coming out at the market while I was driving far away and in the opposite direction. You can imagine me...hands spread out with my palms against the window, eyes opened wide and longing to know what was happening as we sped by the market, just beginning to set up their tents. It was almost heart-breaking.

So this weekend, there was no way I was not going to go. I convinced my friend K., who had never been, to go with me and subjected her to my shameless produce weakness. First, a stop by the ATM to get out a little extra money. Usually, all I allow myself is a $20 bill to get me through the farmer's market and make my purchases - this is the best way I can force myself to budget given all the gorgeous produce calling my name out from the stands and knowing that being at a farmer's market on a budget is a bit like letting my inner child out in a candy store and telling her she can only pick one thing. Not having gone for 2 weeks, I felt I could justify an extra $20 and just let myself go crazy.

We floated through the aisles, checking out the produce, looking at prices and of course, stopping by Freeman's booth to see what delicously rare goodies he had this week. Among the produce that had arrived while I was gone were the first early summer, vine- and sun-ripened tomatoes. Also newly arrived to my eyes were summer pears (I had no idea there was such a thing, but of course, I bought some), sour pie cherries, English shelling peas, a few early figs and gloriously bright purple gooseberries. Freeman also had several unique berries, including more red currants, black currants (which make a truly exquisite jam) and josta berries (a cross between a black currant and a gooseberry), which were also quite tasty (Freeman always offers his patrons a taste of his unique hand-gathered fruits).

I made my rounds, picking up anything that piqued my fancy or looked incredibly fresh and bursting with that sun-ripened smell. I piled my bags up with mint, tomatoes, cherries, new potatoes, purple gooseberries (which were promptly turned into fabulously light-tasting custard tarts on Sunday), black currants, Italian runner beans, and more. The fava beans, however, were also looking especially shiny, heavy in their pods, and priced quite reasonably, so I also reserved a special place in my bag, and my budget, for them.

Some people prefer to stay away from fava beans, touting the difficulty in actually getting the beans out of their pods, and then again out of the tough shell that surrounds the individual beans, as their excuse. I actually find it rather theraputic... Sitting down with an empty paper bag in front of me, a large bowl for the beans in their pods and another smaller one for the beans themselves, I could spend an hour immersing myself completely in the gentle labor involved. It reminds me of when I was younger and everyone would sit together as a family and "snap" freshly picked green beans from the garden for dinner - popping off the ends and then snapping them in the middle.

For fava beans, I crack the end of the pod where it was once connected to the complete plant, pulling the string that runs like a vein along the side of the pod. This leaves an opening where I can then run my finger along the inside of each pod and scoop the beans out into my bowl. Before I begin, I start a pot of water to boil and prepare an ice bath, so that once all of my beans are freed from their pods, I can toss the contents of the entire bowl in the bubbling water to blanch them, drain them after only a minute, and put them in the ice bath. This blanching technique makes easy work of the inner bean's shells. Some people pinch alongside where the bean was connected in the pod; I find it much easier to lightly grab the opposite side and rip a small whole in the bean shell before pinching it to release the bean. The favas are then ready for any dressing up you'd like to do.

My favorite way to eat fava beans is how Ilva, at Lucullian Delights, makes hers...raw, with a bit of olive oil, lemon juice, freshly cracked black pepper, and large chunks of tangy pecorino cheese. But I had seen another recipe in Fresh from the Farmer's Market, a cookbook by Janet Fletcher that had caught my eye. For those of you in Eugene, she's demonstrating a cooking class at Cooks, Pots and Tabletops on July 19th (that would be on Wednesday!). Remember when you're choosing fava beans to get enough so that you'll have enough shelled beans for any recipe you want to try. This recipe took about 1-1 1/2 pounds of the beans from the market, to end up with about 1 cup of shelled beans to work with, and although it's similar to hers, I've changed things up a bit.

Warmed curly endive and fava bean salad, adapted from:
Fresh From the Farmer's Market
Serves 2.

1 - 1 1/2 lb. fresh fava beans, to end up with approximately 1 cup of shelled beans
1 tbsp. olive oil
3-4 thin slices of pancetta, sliced thinly into 1/4" pieces
1 large shallot, minced
4-5 large leaves of curly endive, with stalks
salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste

Prepare the fava beans as described above until you have removed the beans from both the pod and their inner shell. Set aside. Heat olive oil in a saute pan until hot, then add the pancetta and fry until it begins to render its fat and becomes crisp (about 5 minutes). Add the minced shallot and cook one minute or until tender. Cut the very tops of the leaves off the curly endive - they tend to be tough, then cut the entire stalk and remainder of leaves into small pieces. Place endive into a large bowl, then mix with the pancetta and salad and any oil that remains in the pan. Add the prepared fava beans, and toss these with the salad. Season with salt and pepper to taste.


Thanksgiving in July

You know how cranberry sauce is the perfect accompaniment to turkey? So much so that gourmets and novices alike add cranberry sauce to the sides of their plates at Thanksgiving so that they can take a bite of turkey on the end of their fork, dip it slightly in the little mashed potatoes, and mix it in with that delightfully red and tart concoction? Okay, well, I'm one of those people that doesn't do this because I'm not big on mixing my food, but LB is an avid "mixer," so I know they exist out there. In recent years, I've been seeing lots of recipes for what to do with that King of Leftovers: Thanksgiving turkey. Recipes for stews, dumplings, casseroles, and more made from leftover turkey abound, but one cannot forget the pure simplicity of a leftover turkey sandwhich...add a little cranberry sauce to one of the slices of bread, and you've got yourself a bit of heaven. Especially if it's homemade cranberry sauce, slightly tart and absolutely delicious.

But why would I be going on and on extolling the virtues of cranberry sauce and leftover Thanksgiving turkey in the middle of the summer? We're still 19 weeks away from that (Yikes! Is that all???)...woah, need to recover from that one...now I wish I hadn't counted. Anyway, back to the question: why would I be going on and on extolling the virtues of cranberry sauce and leftover Thanksgiving turkey in the middle of the summer? Because I recently discovered a summery version of this fabulous comfort food! Red currants! Pickled red currants with roasted chicken, to be precise.

If you've never had the tart, lovely taste of red currants, then you should definately snatch them up next time you see these beautiful, piquant berries gleaming back at you. Most often, red currants are used to make jams, syrups and other cooked dishes, as I discovered last year when my favorite vendor at the Farmer's Market offered them up to me for the first time, and I found myself at home with a bunch of red currants and nary a recipe in sight. Black currants are also fabulous - they make a truly exquisite jam, and are even quite delicious raw. I, however, did not have enough red berries to make a jam (although now I think I would have combined them with strawberries or another sweet berry to the mix), so I made a syrup. It did not turn out very good, and I think instead ended it's short life in the garbage can after only a single pancake and spritzer-type drink (ie. I did try to like it...).

But, I was not to be outdone! This year, when these pretty little berries showed up at the market, I confidently grabbed myself a basket, confessed that I had no idea what I was going to make, but something great for sure, and took my prized purchase home.

It sat in the fridge for 2 weeks.

Now, since I HATE wasting food, I was determined to use these berries up. I searched around, remembering some magazine article about unique berries, and came upon a prize: Pickled Red Currants. I quickly mixed up the ingredients since I had them on hand, and let them stand in the pickling juice until they were sufficiently "pickled." These were meant to go on top of a salad with a shallot, dijon, pickling juice vinaigrette served with duck mousse on a sliced baguette. No poor graduate student has duck mousse in her fridge (although she might wish she did), so instead, I served the pickled currants with a salad (and the requisite vinaigrette), and some slices of skin-on roasted chicken.

MMMMmmmmm....perfect. The savory pickled currants cut through the delicious salty-greasiness of the roasted chicken skin, and gave you that "just-right" combination of flavors...like cranberry sauce and roasted turkey. Loving Boyfriend and I even found ourselves picking the currants off of the salad just to have a bite with the chicken...and then digging into the jar for more. And if you don't want to heat up your kitchen to make a roasted chicken, grab one of those rotisserie chickens from the market and you're set (I did)!

Pickled red currants, from MSL

1/2 pint red currants (you could use red, white or a combination)
1/2 cup of champagne vinegar
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. whole coriander seeds
1/3 inch of peeled, fresh ginger, thinly sliced
2 strips of fresh orange zest (about 1 inch long)

Wash currants and place into a non-reactive bowl. In a medium saucepan, stir together 3/4 cup of water, vinegar, sugar, coriander seeds, ginger, and orange zest. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, stiring occasionally for 10 mintues. Let cool 10 minutes. Pour through a fine sieve over the currants in the bowl. Stir gently so that all are submerged, then let stand at least 30 minutes, or refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.


Dishwasher Poached Salmon?!!

After getting various comments about the existence of this recipe, I had to check it out. So I did a search for "dishwasher poached salmon," and believe it or not, it does exist out there, even in the food blogging world. You basically wrap your salmon fillet in a tight package of aluminum foil and "poach" it in the top rack of your dishwasher. Most recipes state that you should only cook the fish by itself, run some tang or something through once before you cook it, and refrain from using soap, but this particular food blogger's attempt included doing the dishes at the same time! Read this amusing story from She Craves. She also graciously posts a link to the original recipe, although it appears there are several out there!

I briefly considered doing this myself, just to be able to post about it, but I just don't think I could stomach it! Anyone out there who wants to try, do write back and let us know how it goes!!


What's on YOUR potatoes?

The University of Oregon's paper, The Daily Emerald, released this story this morning: UO uses dishwasher on potatoes. Apparently, the kitchen that supplies the dorms with the potatoes washes them in the dishwasher with the same detergent that they use to wash the pots and pans, called "Solid Insure," before preparing them for consumption...all of this unbeknownst to the innocent freshmen who have been away from their mother's kitchen for mere months or up to a year and eating at the dorm cafeterias. Poor freshmen.

The story goes on to say the anonymous employee who alleged that this was occuring asked the head chef about the practice, and he stated: "We've been doing it this way for years and it's a very common practice ... if it doesn't hurt the pots and pans it doesn't hurt the food.' Ick! What kind of a chef would say that?

I'm assuming (um, hoping) that this will go up for investigation and will be stopped. While the amount of detergent that may end up in the potatoes is minimal, I know I wouldn't dream of sticking my own potatoes in my dishwasher, even when I use environmentally friendly, biodegradable detergent. It's bad enough that there are probably pesticides used to grow all of the food that makes it into the school kitchens, no need to add more chemicals once they're there! Another line in the article that added insult to the whole thing and made me cringe was that the potatoes came out of the dishwasher partially cooked, due to the hot water. EW. Who wants potatoes cooked in a dishwasher? Not me. And you can guarantee the head chef doesn't cook his potatoes in his own dishwasher at home, either...

But, when you're a slave to the dorm kitchen, what's a freshman to do? Especially if mom and dad already paid the bill for the cafeteria and you don't have steady job? Bummer. Perhaps its a rite we are all fated to endure...

I know when I was living in the dorms during my own freshman year in college, there were rumers about how the cafeteria used government "Grade D" meat and the ingredients in the salad bar were used over and over until some poor starving, or non-observant, sap finally consumed them, regardless of how slimy they got (although the meat was definitely not of highest quality, and I avoided it most of the time, I can vouch that the salad bar was quite sketchy). I think that's why I lived primarily on the vegetarian chili (though I am not a vegetarian) and usually only ate what I thought I could stomach...which also included making our own Rice Krispy treats by melting large marshmallows with butter, adding a bit of the rice cereal and then mix, mix, mixing until the delicious treat emerged. Not exactly mom's, and not exactly healthy, but it sure tasted a lot better than a slimy salad bar, preservatives and unidentifiable ingredient list or not!

Truly, though, this is an outrage. The people out there who don't think it is, or don't find it a "big deal," obviously don't care much about their food or what goes into their bodies...and at the very least - would they truly choose to eat potatoes cooked in a dishwasher?

Oven-roasted, dishwasher detergent-free, organic parsley potatoes, anyone?


The Dark Art of Delegation

Last week, I got unexpectedly delayed at work by over an hour and a half. This happens sometimes, and is not usually a big deal as long as Loving Boyfriend can run home and let the dogs out, but on this particular evening, I was exhausted from having to get up at 4:45 am (not my usual arousal). So, as you can guess, I no longer felt feeling like cooking. To remedy the situation, I called Loving Boyfriend and asked sweetly if he could take over dinner. And Loving Boyfriend, being as Loving as he is, agreed. Better yet, I even got him to make (almost) exactly what I was hoping we would have that night...Curried Chicken.

"What's that?" You say.

"You didn't make it? Loving Boyfriend made it?
Now just how did you get him to make just what you wanted?"

Ah, my friends. Rest easy. Let me share with you the Dark Art of Delegation.

You see, I had carefully chosen this recipe out of the myriad of recipe inspirations I have around the house, made the trip to the Farmer's Market and the grocery store to get the ingredients I needed, and had planned on making it that night. Not wanting the green beans I'd picked from the basket at the Farmer's Market to go too many more days in the fridge and having already thawed out some chicken, I asked him if he would please, pretty please, make what I had planned for dinner.

Step #1: Ask nicely. If dealing with someone from the opposite sex, it probably
helps if you're wearing skimpy clothing, but this is not necessary,
especially if you're at the office and asking over the phone.

Now, Loving Boyfriend doesn't use recipes. He throws a bunch of stuff together in a pan or on top of a pizza and lucky for him (and me!), it usually comes out quite tasty. He also makes a mean batch of crepes, and is quite the go-to breakfast man since I like to sleep in these days and he'll get up with the pooches when they get too annoying so that he can go play video games without me nagging on him that he's not helping around the house (Wait...doesn't engagement give me a license to nag?! He he he...). So, to avoid the usual follies that could occur, I fanned his ego a bit.

"Oh! I almost forgot to tell you!
LB, you sure looked good when I left this morning..."

Now, mind you, I left at 5 AM to come into work. LB was sleeping in his sprawled out, very cute, bed-headed, non-communicable position. Never-the-less, step 2 is important.

Step #2: Fan the ego. Small, white lies are fine to use here if it can advance your position.

Then I hit him with the necessary refinement of my former request: "But, um, (shuffles feet) will you please, for me, follow the directions?"

Step #3: Move in for the "kill." Acting cute while you do this may help.


Step #4: Be sure to qualify your needs so that confusion is at a minimum.

"I'll make you a special dessert tomorrow...with ice cream...

Step #5: Bribe and coerce as needed...

Although it took some coercion and bribing, he agreed to follow the recipe and make the Curried Chicken I had planned.

I did it! I thought things were going along just as planned. One slight problem, however. I also had planned NOT to cook it in the microwave, even though it was a microwavable dinner recipe. I try to cook in the microwave as little as possible, for about a billion reasons, but also because it's so difficult to control how cooked your meat gets.

I neglected to relay this to Loving Boyfriend. Damn! How could I forget step 6!

Step #6: Know exactly what you're asking for.

But, Loving Boyfriend, being the good Loving Boyfriend that he is, followed my instructions to the letter (Good boyfriend!) and made the dish exactly as it was written...lucky for both of us, the meal didn't suffer at all (or not noticeably so). It was actually really simple, fast, and best of all, didn't heat up our kitchen, which has been hovering on 100 degrees every night (one reason, besides how busy life has been, that I haven't been cooking much). I think we'll also be making it again...but maybe not in the microwave.

So there you have it, my friends. Six simple steps to get you through the Dark Art of Delegation. You can do it!

Curried Chicken, from Everyday Food
Serves 4. Total time: <25>

1 small red onion, cut into 1/2 inch chunks (1 cup)
1 green apple, quartered, cored and cut into 1 inch chunks (1 1/4 cups)
2 garlic cloves, sliced
2 tbsp. ketchup
2 tsp. curry powder
coarse salt and ground pepper
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (6 oz. each)
1/4 cup low-fat plain yogurt
1/4 cup chopped cilantro

1. In a 2-quart microwave-safe dish with a lid, stir together onion, apple, garlic, ketchup, and curry powder. Add 1/4 cup water. Season with salt and pepper and stir to combine.

2. Add chicken; season with salt and pepper. Cover and microwave on high for 5 minutes. Turn chicken pieces over. Cover and microwave on high for 5 minutes longer or until chicken is opaque throughout. Lift chicken from dish, and divide among four serving plates.

3. Stir yogurt into onion-apple mixture in dish. Spoon sauce over chicken, and sprinkle cilantro over each plate. Serve with rice or noodles to soak up the sauce.

We served this with blanched green beans, and it was an excellent accompaniment. It's essential to have some kind of light vegetable on the side, even a salad, to freshen it up. Chutney would also work wonderfully to do this.


A different kind of recipe

Recipe for Success, adapted from Loving Boyfriend
Serves 2.

1 female rock climber (preferably Marine Biology grad student variety)
1 male rock climber (preferably Loving Boyfriend variety)
1 beautiful state park (preferably Smith Rock State Park variety, see picture above)
1 roomate
2 dogs
1 incredibly unique Oregon hotel (preferably McMenamin's variety)
1 hummus plate, with delicious pickled red onions
2 pints of McMenamins Ale (1 Nebraska Bitter, 1 Rubinator)
2 plush, white terry-cloth robes
1 amazing Turkish soaking pool
sweet, romantic lines, for seasoning
1 beautiful star sapphire, passed down from mom
enough love to make it through 40 years or so

Take female and male rock climbers and mix together in 1 beautiful state park over high heat. Keep female and male rock climbers in the shade as long as possible to avoid over-heating and resulting grumpiness that may ensue. Leave roomate back home so that dogs are at room temperature, taken care of, and not worrying or bothering the mixture.

Once thoroughly exhausted, move rock climbers to incredibly unique Oregon hotel and wash thoroughly to remove grit and grime. Remove from wash, dress gently in comfortable clothing and transfer to pub for food and drink. Add 1 hummus plate with delicious pickled onions (the female rock climber's favorite) and 2 pints of McMenamin's ale to the climber mixture to keep climbers satiated and not starving before dinner. Allow to soak up food and drink until slightly innundated with alcohol to remove "nerves."

Place in plush terry-cloth robes (provided in the packaging of incredibly unique hotel), and walk over to amazing Turkish soaking pool (preferably the type with gorgeously torquoise mosaic tiles, open sky-light, beautiful fountains and fabulous murals).

Gently add rock climbers to Turkish soaking pool and soak in salted water at 95-100 degrees F for 40 minutes, or until thoroughly saturated and muscle lumps and cramps are removed.

While soaking, get down on knees on the bench inside the pool, season with lots of sweet romantic lines (like: I feel like I've been searching for you my entire life...). When seasoned enough for flavor, surprise value and suspiciousness about what's going on, add 1 beautiful passed-down star sapphire, the promise of designing the ring of your dreams and ask gently:

"Will you marry me?"

Finish off with a resonant and exuberant "Yes" and enough love to make it through 40 years or so, and you've got a recipe that will turn Loving Boyfriend into Loving Husband in 9-12 months!

Recipe Notes: Yes, we're engaged! After everything you've been through with me, I couldn't resist sharing this happy news with all of you that have been such a large part of my life for the last year with your emails, comments, laughter, recipes and support (Thank you!). And for those of you in the United States - Happy 4th of July too!