It’s the Time of the Season for Acorn

Today, the fog lasted until almost eleven. For awhile, the wind was just whipping through my clothes, and I could briefly see the fog of my breath. I was cold enough to wear a sweater, and drank a gallon of hot tea in perfect, gray-fog bliss. Briefly this morning I could pretend that September in California means that there will be cold arriving shortly, a crisp rime of frost on the sidewalk, ruddy hued leaves and sharp winds under cerulean skies.

Unfortunately? September in California means maybe an extension on summer’s “short lease.” It gets hot. Hotter, sometimes, than it’s been in August. The leaves don’t start doing anything noteworthy until almost November, and by then, rain is threatening, and you’re feeling rushed. The fine weather lasts so long that the slow transition doesn’t seem to exist here. It’s funny… I’ve lived here my entire life, and I still somehow expect it — a gradual decline into a colder time. However, that’s not going to happen, because it’s just not time for all of that yet.

Still, I can feel it coming. It doesn’t help that the stores have squash out, there are gourds in my garden, Halloween sales start Labor Day Weekend, and the cornfield near the church has scarecrows. It’s a bit crazy-making, trying to resist the lure of cooler nights and dim, foggy mornings. So, I don’t. I am officially beginning autumn today. I’ve started with squash.

Wait. I hate squash.

However, I belive in the power of acorn, and roasted acorn is perfection in being. Next year, I am going to grow a large patch of acorn. Please note that I am now dismissing the word ‘squash’ from my vocabulary. Watery and tasteless, summer squashes don’t have the punch of flavor or …anything, really, to make me want to be bothered with them. I have to add so much to them — basil, shallots — breadcrumbs, perhaps? for them to have any taste. And after all that, they’re really not so much vegetables as they are… uh, I don’t know, the main course? Veggie latkes? At any rate, I have found a friend in acorn, and I so enjoyed it this weekend that I combed through my old recipes today to dredge out a likely spice rub with which to pair it. Now, there are charmoulas, and then there are charmoulas. The ingredients are wildly variant, as seems to be the case with all rubs, but there are some base ingredients that remain the same. One is garlic. The other is cumin. I’d never made a charmoula before, but I’ve tasted them, and figured that one rub was pretty much like another, in the world of rubs. I hoped this would be a winner, since it was veggie specific. This recipe found awhile (a year?) ago in the newspaper, in their Thanksgiving food section, and it meant to highlight vegetarian tastes especially. It includes:

  • Garlic cloves
  • 1 tsp. Paprika
  • 1 tsp. Cayenne
  • 1 tsp. Kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. Ground coriander
  • 1 tsp. Ground cumin
  • 2 Tbsp. brown sugar
  • Schmear of olive oil

Please note the lack of direction for the garlic and the oil — two things I think ought to be left to the tastes of the individual.

So, I used my handy marble mortar and pestle, and ground up my ingredients (because you never want to reuse a coffee grinder that has had cumin ground in it. Ptui!) and made my acorn rub. The verdict? Not so good. I used molasses instead of brown sugar, which may have made a difference in that there was too much liquid. The flavor was fine, but it was too spicy, and not rich enough, or something, to go with the acorn. But as a barbecue sauce? Amazing, and I must admit a deep hatred and distrust of all things barbecued. D. liked it, but I’m an acorn purist, I’m afraid. Just a little olive oil, salt, and pepper for me. Or, butter and maple syrup… but mostly, I like acorn best roasted dry and served up whipped like mashed potatoes with a teensy bit of garlic and basil. Tasty!

Meanwhile, I have found a scary sort of perfection elsewhere. Just in time for the season, a fulfilling use for your every seed need: pumpkin seed brittle!!! Ohhhh, you know you want to try this at least once. If you look at the picture, you’ll be hooked like I was … or a little alarmed at the state of anyone’s teeth in attempting to bite that hunk of sugary goodness. Pumpkin seeds support the function of the immune system, assist prostate health and help lower cholesterol levels. They are also a useful source of omega 3 fatty acids and zinc. Now that you’ve had your health minute? Add sugar and enjoy!

Dried Vegan

Just a quick note to say that our idea of drying zucchini (about twenty of the monstrous things shown to the left) for use later has paid off already. We’ve been wanting to engineer a vegan quick-bread, and have succeeded! We used the dried zucchini, cut up into strips using scissors, and it’s turned out to be a wonderfully coarse loaf. Alton was going to be in for a scolding with his measurements for getting a bread starter going (from I’m Just Here for More Food: Food X Mixing + Heat = Baking), as our whole wheat starter tried to climb out of the jar even in the fridge … but we just incorporated some starter into the loaf, and are quite pleased at the results.

We wrote down all of the measurements along the way, too, so that WHEN the bakery opens we’ll have this recipe as well as all the yeast breads.

Fish DO Fly

My salmon will arrive tomorrow. 10 pounds, flash-frozen at sea, in individually vacuum-sealed portions (8 oz or 16 oz, assorted). Flown in from port, in Washington, packed in dry ice so they stay totally rock-solid frozen. As fresh as it gets without going to Alaska.

Perspective: I’m a vegetarian except for fish, and that’s only very rarely. I was raised as a vegetarian, and only came to eating meat when it was either that or live on salad / bread every bloody night (boarding school). So, this will be Adventures In Cooking, for certain, as I attempt to figure out how to cook salmon. I’ve seen Jacques Pepin do it any number of ways … but I’m thinking that I’m going to opt to start with the “sous vide” method of poaching at low temperature in a plastic bag. Slate, of course, has something snarky to say about this cooking method … or, rather, cooking methods in general. We’ll see what happens.

Tomorrow, before 3 pm, it’ll be at the door.

I ordered like three months ago.

I can’t wait.

Bread and Stitches

Just a quick post, to give you an idea of the current project. This one’s the one I blogged about a while ago, and the one which is consuming most of my time … at least, when I’m knitting.

  1. s1, k1, *k*, k2
  2. s1, k1, *k2tog*, k2
  3. s1, k1, *k into front and back of each stitch*, k2
  4. s1, k1, *p*, k2

So, the stitch (again) is to K | K2TOG | KTF&B | P across whole rows (see the previous post to get a nicer description). It ends up looking quite pretty, but it’d help if I could actually remember where I was in the pattern (note the several rows of plain old K | P in towards the top – I was in a meeting & kind of paying attention to people talking, instead of keeping track of where I was). I figure I’ve just got to remember to do this again, every 5 repeats or so … yeah right! It’s just going to end up being random, I guess.

We have given in to the temptation to bake … and eat … and are in the process of experimenting with sourdough combined with fiber. We’re trying to hide as much fiber in sourdough as possible, while disguising it as “regular” sourdough. So far, oat bran seems to be the winner. It’s quite light in color, so it hides in there very well, and we’ll know about the texture tomorrow when we try it out on a friend of ours.

Of course, we found the “plain” bread a bit difficult, as we’re used to adding more along the lines of the following (which is my “basic” recipe, in descending order of quantity):

  • Whole Wheat Flour
  • Water
  • Unbleached Flour
  • Flax Seeds
  • Oat Bran
  • Molasses
  • Honey
  • Wheat Germ
  • Quinoa Flour
  • Yeast
  • Salt

However, it’s much more fun to play with this stuff, that’s for sure. There’s not a chance in the world that you can do “bread art” with anything which is nearly 1/3 fiber … so, this is a nice change, and if it means we can add another bread to our repertoire … it’s only a good thing. Except, of course, that we’ve made four small loaves in the past two days, and all we’ve left is one small one … and that’s to share. Sigh. It’s vacation, right?


And so the great excercise in denial begins. The yeast – innocent, foamy, yet so sinister. It calls out from its infancy, saying, “eat me!” We also can’t manage to take the in-between pictures of the baking process, because we’re really not all that experienced at food blogging, and, frankly, are really into baking. So look at the yeast … and imagine it being combined with various flours (some wheat, some not), various fibers, some sweet stuff, and a wee bit of salt. Then imagine it all being kneaded, allowed to rise, kneaded again, formed, rising again and being baked.

And, as you can see, we listen to the cries of the yeast; we bake lovely loaves, and can’t resist eating them prior to any art shots.

It’s quite theraputic to look at the kitchenaid paddle going ’round and ’round. It’s also quite relaxing to have one’s spouse sitting amidst a pile of newspapers (a week’s worth, if I’m estimating properly), catching up on all of the neglected information.

What’s even more theraputic is to have waited all night long for the loaves to have really set, and then making that first cut with the slicer, after estimating (by weight of the loaves) how thick the slices should be … and then tucking each loaf into its own zip-top bag for sharing, refrigerating, and generally flinging away … to tempt someone else.

Yes. To know that a) the stick of butter you’ve had sitting in the fridge has long since gone rancid, b) you have exactly 1 teaspoon of peanut butter left, c) you have no cream cheese, d) you used all of the non-crystallized honey in making the bread, and e) it is not really a good thing to make a trip to the market just to indulge in bread, unless you plan on really indulging in bread … these things are not theraputic.

The Romans used Ostritch Feathers, I’m told. Sigh. Spin Class will have to do.

Lead Us Not Into Temptation

When I was in college in the good old undergrad days, the lady I worked for had a garage full of what I’ll just call Slim(e)fast. Costco had just morphed out of Price Club (remember that?) and people were reveling in that bulk buying thing, so there were just acres of cans in this woman’s garage. It was scary. Miles of dusty, metallic cans housing miles of metallic tasting, dubiously supportive diet drinks. I remember thinking a.) that the drink obviously wasn’t working (you had to see this lady – she drank it with food, okay?) and b.) that the cans took up so much space that I would NEVER do something so dumb. Besides, I thought, we live in California. There’s so much fresh stuff. Can’t she just eat salad and lose weight?

Okay. Flash forward to my post-collegiate life. I’ve kept my vow. I’ve never done that particular dumb thing, but I do have my soy protein shakes, in powder form, and they’re so convenient for when I’m working… and they’ve allowed me to drop a bit of weight in the bargain, so that’s nice, but they, too, I buy in bulk, and they take up a stupid amount of space in our pre-remodel, postage-sized kitchen (which will STILL be postage-sized post-remodel, but that’s another long and ranting post). The thing is, I’m struggling with the idea of convenience in packaged foods as a weight loss support. We do live in California. We do have all this great local produce, farmer’s markets, CSA’s, our own garden. It seems pointless and counter-green to rely on packaged products, when I could “just eat salad.” Oh, the hubris of seventeen.

Shall I get to the point of my rant? D.M. no longer wishes to bake, but IS BAKING. And dear Lord help us, but I could inhale a whole loaf…

Snakes Can’t Count

Just in case you wondered: Snakes can’t count. How do I know this, pray tell? Well, let’s just say that in feeding one’s snakes, one drops live mice into the cage. They soon become dead mice, sometimes several in rapid sequence, after which they are eaten. They may or may not join their brethren in the snake, is the problem, although they will certainly be just as dead.

The other thing I’m sure you didn’t want to know (unless you plan on keeping snakes)? They don’t necessarily leave those dead mice where you can see them … but you can sure smell them in a couple of days, and will have to go digging around, sifting through their cage, looking … for the mouse which oh-so-delightfully ended up buried beneath an architectural feature of the cage, and ended up waiting just for you!

Secret Fiber…

The new trick will be to incorporate fiber into our breads in a … secretive way, so that certain relatives (who should be downright ashamed of themselves) will be able to actually taste things, and then, maybe someday, eat the things baked for them.

Yes, the zucchini bread was vegan; yes, it had flax-seeds in it, and nuts, and oat bran, and wheat germ, and whole wheat flour. But come on, he could’ve actually tasted it! Bah! A nice little lady at work actually STOLE the loaf I brought in for everybody – she just wrapped it up & took it to her desk instead of leaving it in the communal area! Now, would a little taste have hurt him?

Apparently we’re going to have to refine our fiber a bit more, maybe run it through the blender or the cuisinart before we incorporate it into the breads. Maybe get a “white” whole-wheat flour, too, and peel the zucchini, so there’re no little green bits. And oat bran is already light.

And he wonders why his wife’s always going behind him sprinkling BeneFiber in things!

It was the First Bake and everything! Woe!

Way Too Much Squash. Way.

This morning I looked up various pie recipes, because I hear that Okara, that wonderfully pulpy by-product of tofu production, can be used in a “dump” pie to make its own crust. This was just in the service of, oh, making use of something we already have. I wasn’t thinking that we should put into use some of the SQUASH that is piling up by the boxload around here… But then I found, serendipitously? — that zucchini can be used in place of …apples? From yesterday’s Christian Science Monitor comes a recipe for… wait for it… Zapple Pie.

Is this something from the Midwest?! Remember those awful recipes for Ritz Mock Apple Pie (and I shouldn’t even include the link to that abomination!) that people used to make? This by turns horrifies and fascinates… See, West Coast people make, oh, ratatouille, with excess squash. But if you’re from Boston, maybe this is the way to do it.

Zapple Pie

This mock apple pie is a delicious way to sneak vegetables into your kids’ meals.


  • 6 cups peeled, quartered, and thinly sliced zucchini (about 2 pounds)
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 unbaked pie shell


  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts

To make the filling: In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine zucchini, sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Add 2 tablespoons lemon juice. Stir to mix and cook until tender, but not mushy, about 15 minutes, stirring frequently.

In a large measuring cup or a small bowl, mix the flour with the remaining 1/2 cup lemon juice until smooth. Stir into the zucchini mixture. Continue to cook until the mixture thickens, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

To make the topping: Combine flour, brown sugar, and cinnamon in a small bowl. Using a pastry blender or two knives, cut in the butter until the mixture is crumbly. Stir in the pecans or walnuts.

Spoon the filling into the pie shell. Top with half of the streusel topping. Place in the oven and reduce heat to 350 degrees F. Bake for 30 minutes, until the crust is browned and the filling bubbles.

Sprinkle the remaining topping over the pie. Turn on the broiler. Place pie under the broiler for about 3 minutes, until topping is browned.

Set the pie on a wire rack to cool. Serve warm or completely cooled. It is best served on the day it is made. Serves 6 to 8.

Source: From ‘The Classic Zucchini Cookbook’ by Nancy Ralston, Marynor Jordan, and Andrea Chesman

Oh, go ahead. Throw some okara in the crust. Why eat anything recognizable?

From The City Gardener’s Cookbook, which came out in 1997 comes a better idea for excess zucchini than even ratatouille.


This dense orange cake, drizzled with orange glaze, is always a favorite at the annual harvest banquet.

  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup cocoa
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 3 1/2 cups grated zucchini
  • 3 tablespoons grated orange zest
  • 2 tbsp. cardamom powder
  • 1 cup chopped hazelnuts
  • calendula blossoms and petals, tuberous begonia blossoms, or orange mint sprigs, for garnish; some people add miniature chocolate chips.

    Orange Glaze

  • 1 1/4 cups sifted confectioner’ sugar
  • 1/4 cup fresh orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350°F. Sift the flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon together and set aside. In a bowl, cream the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add the eggs, vanilla and milk to the butter mixture. Stir in the dry ingredients and mix until well blended. Fold in the zucchini, orange zest and nuts. Pour into a greased and floured bundt cake pan. Bake 50 to 60 minutes. Allow the cake to cool for 15 minutes before turning out onto a rack.

To make the glaze, ina bowll mix together the sugar, orange juice and vanilla. While the cake is still warm, drizzle with the glaze. Garnish with flowers or mint spigs.

I hear you can add Grand Marnier to the glaze with some excellent results. I look forward to trying at least one of these… guess which one.

New Oven’s First Bake…

SO! The oven showed up this morning at 8:30, and it’s all sparkly, sleek, and wonderfully black and shiny! As an added bonus, of course, we have a grand total of 1 cm clearance between the oven door’s handle and the dishwasher door when it opens … and that’s only by dint of squeezing the oven right up against the refrigerator (yes, bad bad energy consumption, etc. … or didn’t you know that your appliances want room to themselves?).

In order for it to be fully “here,” however, we needed to test it. Problem was, what should we test it with? I mean, yes, it’ll cook (ceramic cooktop), but will it BAKE? So, since we had two monstrous zucchini sitting around, waiting to be fed into the vegetable drier (Okara took precedence yesterday), I figured we’d do zucchini bread. Now, let’s note that when I say monstrous, I mean that there are near-fully-developed seeds inside, which need to be scooped out before you begin.

So, a sore arm and withered fingers later, I ended up with 12 cups of lovely square-cut zucchini bits. I used our Benriner (shown to the right) slicer, because I’ve found that it does less damage to the veggies; it actually slices them, as opposed to grating them, which gives a better overall texture to most things which ask for “grated” ingredients.

This zucchini was added to flax seeds, blended flax seeds (as egg replacer), water, diced almonds, soy milk, pineapple juice, quinoa flour, whole wheat flour, oat bran, xylitol, splenda, raisins, nutmeg, cloves, vanilla extract, fennel seeds, salt, baking soda, baking powder, and … um … oh, yeah. FORGOT TO ADD THE OKARA!

Rats. Those of you who use recipes? This is why you do. This is where you can get all smarmy and say your “I told you so’s” and I’ll agree with you. The problem? I mean, it’s not like I didn’t have a recipe. I have plenty of recipes. I have two PDA’s (one Windows CE, the other Palm), each of which synchronizes with my recipes on the PC. I brought a PDA with me. It was sitting there on the counter. The recipe I was using as a base recipe was right there. You see, though, the problem? Not that I was using it as THE recipe, but as the “base recipe.” It was a recipe for banana bread. Were there bananas involved?

Smells great, though. Off to check … four loaves and a plate of muffins, all at the same time. It’s a trial by fire for it.