Winging it with the Good Stuff

I like food that is naturally beautiful and that has a bit of history behind it. From the tender care of seeds, to sprouting seedlings and full maturity, from its harvest and directly into the kitchen with the clumps of moist Earth still clinging to the roots—can food get any yummier than this? So it was a disappointing Saturday when I wasn’t feeling up to par for a farmer’s market trek due to my ailing body. On a typical Saturday morning after savoring my coffee and after my nest is consumed with its tantalizing aroma, it is usually off to the market. Sometimes just me or sometimes all fledglings in the nest and papa bear are off for the adventure. What inspires me in the kitchen is the meaning and story of the farmers behind their precious prizes they so lovingly and laboriously grow day in and day out. Only at the market can you discover this and I will always be a passionate fighter to save the integrity and purity of wholesome foods. Just as I once was where my children are, so will they be where I am now. How can I instill the essence of wholesomeness in them so that farming on soil and not in labs will prevail when they do reach the point where I am now. In Orange County decisions to eat out are limited to a few farm-to-table restaurants where I know where the food is from and how it is grown or raised. The concept in places like France especially in the countryside is still prevalent because people are intimately in touch with their food. It would not be such a conundrum in the states if we demanded more Ferme Auberge-like establishments and made it a point to stop buying from industrial farms with items (I cannot even call them food) not only packed with toxins but have been struggling in abused environments. Grains are beyond the point of no return, but can we still save our fruits, vegetables and fish from Frankenstein’s greedy hands? We can with our wallets! Enjoy your feast in your nest with whatever you discover at the market today.
IMG_5460IMG_5510 Since I rested all weekend in bed, my fresh edible stock was limited so the rest of the weekday was intense each evening we entered our nest. “What’s for dinner?” Instantly, I was transfixed by the watchful collective eyes of my very own chopped judges. After some intermittent sleep and some sipping of vital liquids, I watched Chopped the all-star marathon over the past weekend. Even while feeling under the weather the excitement of food related reality shows like Chopped could make my stomach rumble and inspire me to be an artist in the kitchen. It wasn’t until I watched so many back to back episodes that I realized my weekday evenings can be like an episode of Chopped. Even though I may have one less judge to cook for, my boys put me under pressure with, “What are you making? Why are you putting that in it? I’m not eating that!”
Granted I do not have the harrowing moment of opening up the basket to find canned haddock or pickle pig lip or cheese curls, but I did have to open a not-so-bountiful-as-usual-fridge this week because I missed the farmer’s market. I did have raw cashews soaking, one and half tomatoes, a couple cups of quinoa pasta, some wilted Swiss chard and some not so fresh garlic cloves and the white bulb of the leek. I heard the crankiness and exhaustion in my little judges’ voices and sent them right to the shower. That’s three minutes plus dry, moisturizing and dress time (another minute or two) and hopefully decompose while I get my first round out. Normally it’s an appetizer but in my severe situation, I started with the pasta sauce. I rarely make a red sauce during the weekday so I needed to think fast. Tomatoes and olive oil in the pan while I cleaned and cut garlic, leeks, parsley, cilantro…oh and thank goodness for the last teaspoon of raw honey! I blended all the ingredients and shook the blender as if I am dreadfully afraid that I will be the chef that will run out of time. I pour the blend back in the pan, add some red wine and a touch of balsamic let simmer five more minutes while the rest of the garlic, parsley, cilantro, chard and handful of cashews are tossed into another pan for sautéing. After five minutes both red sauce and chard are done. I put the red sauce to the side, and plate the chard adding salt, pepper, olive oil, a healthy squeeze of lemon and sprinkle some cheese. The water has boiled in another pot and I throw in the pasta. While I wait for it to become al dente, I make the cashew tahini hummus. In just about the same amount of time that it is blended to perfection the pasta is ready. I drain most of the water but put a tablespoon of it into the red sauce mix well and then pour over pasta and dress with cheese…voila dinner is served. The trick is not to make too much pasta or there is no room for the good stuff. My judges were begging me to finish with the chard and by finish I mean take a shot of it for my post. IMG_5444IMG_5529IMG_5557IMG_5537 They devoured the chard sauté and didn’t leave a morsel for me. I didn’t get chopped this week, let’s hope I am feeling just as inspired next weekday in my nest with my farmer’s market finds face-to-face with my maybe not so incorrigible judges. Judges know best—happy wholesome eating!

10 thoughts on “Winging it with the Good Stuff

  1. My mouth is literally watering as I read this post. That sauce sounds delicious. I’ve gotten into a rut with my cooking, making the same recipes over and over. Partly it’s out of convenience; partly it’s because my boys have their favorites and they’re excited to see them on the table. But I should shake things up and experiment more. Your post has inspired me. We have a wonderful market in our town that sells beautiful produce and a wide selection of various herbs and spices. I need to get out of my comfort zone. 🙂

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    • It’s tempting to make something that your audience loves simply because it make you happy to see them happy, but also because it’s easy. I challenge myself to think out of the box (literally no boxes in my kitchen except when Daddy buys) a few times a week. Sometimes it doesn’t go so well with my little audience but they see that I am trying new things and I hope that it will click with them to always try new things in their life because even though it may not always taste so good, you will never know until you try.

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  2. I am visually devouring your beautiful dishes! They sound wonderful, too. I have a real passion for the farm to table ethos. I want to support our local growers and farmers as much as possible, and in fact, we had this discussion tonight. Our city started a new Thursday night Farmer’s Market, and although we typically get our farm produce box on Saturday, we wanted to support the effort. As we purchased perhaps more than we really need, I commented that we don’t eat out much, which costs much more, and that we really have to support this effort or it won’t survive. It does take an effort to be committed to this purpose. I think you’ve said it so beautifully, Cristina. I get a lot of bonus “commitment” from you. Thank you. And I hope you’ve continued to feel well this week. ox

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    • How exciting that you have a new Farmer’s Market in town Debra! Sometimes the produce seems more than we can handle, however, once cooked the Swiss Chard or spinach for example really is not much, especially for a couple bucks a bunch. Since I don’t eat tortillas anymore I use Swiss Chard and other large leafs for wraps or tacos and then roast or blend any extra produce into pancake or juice mixes. You also have the option to feed it to Darwin. Yes, I agree eating out or buying anything prepared is costly and mostly disappointing. I was feeling better after a lot of rest and was ready for the start of the week again. It was just meant for me to catch up with some Chopped episodes I suppose.

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  3. In London we are {to some extent} seeing a return to fresh, natural food. More and more farmers markets popping up which is great. I’m all for eating fresh, ‘real’ food cooked each day. Your dishes look delicious and very inventive – but thats what food is all about for me. Creating with what you have in the fridge. Hope you’re feeling better and that cashew tahini hummus sounds divine – can’t wait to try it.

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    • Thanks feeling great, just needed some down time I suppose. Do try the cashew tahini hummus soon. I have attempted cashew “hummus” without the tahini, but was not a big fan until I made the cashew just like I would a chickpea hummus. Enjoy your Farmer’s Markets in London and your travels–I bet you can’t wait to enjoy some delicious cuisine from your motherland. Bon Voyage and best wishes to your family.

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  4. now that is one tempting meal – so simple, so fresh and natural
    i love the simplicity of the greens you used
    this is being bookmarked, and i will definitely make it
    i am not a tomato sauce person, i prefer whiter sauces, so i’d skip the tomato in this – and the cheese, i would leave for afterwards
    thanks for this wonderful description of how you put together a splendid meal

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    • You are very welcome! I was so happy that the saute Swiss chard was a hit, and was surprised that my little one ate the red sauce…his preference is “butter” and cheese (I sneak in white onions and zucchini, after a saute and sprinkle cheese on top, he doesn’t even know.) I hope you have a chance to try the various meals soon; I am certain you will find quality ingredients on your island to make them all so incredibly delicious. Happy foraging!

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