aged cheddar, brown bread + tomato chutney

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I have a memory of eating a cheese sandwich on the patio at Ballymaloe, the famed Irish country house and restaurant, on an August day many years ago. William and I were staying at Ballymaloe over the bank holiday weekend while working in Ireland that summer and it was a trip we saved up the bulk of our travel budget to experience. We took the bus to get there and without a car and miles from any town, lunch was kind of an interesting affair. The day I ate my cheese sandwich, lunch was not being served. But they knew we were young and hungry twenty-somethings and the place is known for service beyond this world, so we were offered a choice of a couple sandwiches. Even then I wasn’t overly fond of meaty meals and though none of the options sounded particularly like what I was craving, I opted for cheese. I expected something of the sort of cheese sandwich we might be served in America, either with processed cheese or a sandwich of the grilled affair.

 

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What came from the kitchen was neither. It was homemade brown bread covered in big, thick slices of Irish farmhouse cheddar, the kind that’s been aged for quite some time. I stared at the sandwich, at first thinking to myself, there is no way I need to or am going to eat that much cheese. Hah. Once I began I realized how good it was and before I knew it I was polishing off the plate, satisfied and completely guilt free. I’ve thought about that cheese sandwich often over the years, not particularly desiring to reinvent it again but thinking instead how it encapsulated that perfect weekend in which we had no plans beyond how to get there and no cares other than exploring the farm, the cookery school gardens, and the surrounding countryside with the wheat and oats ready to harvest and a few combines out doing so. We don’t have a single picture of that weekend because we deliberately opted to truly live in the experience instead. It was my first time in the countryside of County Cork and even though I have a deep fondness for Ireland, I really felt at home, truly like there must be history here in the far southwest countryside and rolling hills. Either that, or my foodie nose sniffed out the real farm to fork food-centric part of the country and just wanted to stay in it forever.

 

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Since then, too, cheddar hasn’t been in my diet and neither has that sort of brown bread. Truly, travel in general has changed a lot for me since those days when I didn’t worry about food allergies and could eat exactly what I was craving without making someone else sacrifice their own food desires. I didn’t have any tomato chutney during that Ballymaloe weekend but their tomato chutney business began before the restaurant and guest house did and I came home with a jar of their famous recipe. I hadn’t given tomato chutney a thought since until a quick weekend in Seattle this past June. I always travel with at least my breakfast these days but William woke up a little later than I and wanted to go out for a quick brunch. We somehow got in to Morsel, a popular Ballard breakfast spot, before the line got too long. While I sat at a little table in front of their biscuit case, I noticed their tomato jam was a staple and seemed to be quite popular. Even though I only had a pot of tea at Morsel, I was reminded again of a time when traveling and eating nice bread and cheese and tomato jam because it sounded good was second nature.

I was also reminded that travel memories are what we make of them and though food is an intricate part of those memories and I love getting inspired to make new things because of travel, the memories really aren’t about the food. They are about the experience, the atmosphere, the kind way a stranger becomes a connection, the quiet and deep catch-up chat in a packed coffee house on a Saturday morning, the way we’re put at ease by a conversation in the library after dinner, the thrill of riding rickety bikes up quiet country lanes with no one else around save a few cows, and the deep satisfaction of sitting in the sun on the patio of a house that has more years of history than any building in this country, thinking of absolutely nothing other than how perfect the moment at hand actually is.

 

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Aged Cheddar, Brown Bread + Tomato Chutney

The Recipe Redux theme this month is meals inspired by our travels. This one has been a long time coming but is inspired by that weekend at Ballymaloe, by a lunch platter/plowman’s lunch recipe in one of my favorite cookbooks, and by that little tea and brunch at Morsel in Seattle. I’ve been scheming up ways to make really nice bread and vegan cheese into a meal for a while now. When I initially began eating gluten and dairy-free, I avoided all processed foods–like cheese and gluten-free bread–as much as possible. Since then, the offerings have much improved and there are reasonable substitutes without questionable ingredients–especially when it comes to cheese. I used Vtopian Aged Cheddar and much to my surprise, the flavor was very much in line with a nice farmhouse cheddar. As you can see from the pictures, it has a cashew base and so becomes quite spreadable when warm. If you’re not adverse to cow’s milk cheddar, William’s current favorite is Kerrygold Reserve.

For the meal to serve 2:

nice aged cheddar of choice, thickly sliced

2-4 thick slices bread

tomato chutney

a little side salad for balance, optional

 

Tomato Chutney, makes 4 cups, adapted from Ard Bia Cookbook

3 cloves

1/2 a cinnamon stick

1 star anise

1 bay leaf

a good pinch of ground cardamom

1 tsp. canola oil

1 large onion, finely chopped

1 Tbs. fresh ginger, grated

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 Tbs. brown mustard seeds

1 quart canned tomatoes (or 2 14-oz. cans)

1/4 cup currants

1/4 cup golden raisins

1/2 cup apple cider vinegar

1/4 cup brown sugar

salt and pepper to taste

  • In a hot pan, toast the cloves, cinnamon, bay leaf, and star anise in a hot pan until they start to release their aromas. Then remove and wrap them in either cheesecloth or put in a tea ball.
  • In a large pot, heat the oil and saute the onion and ginger until the onion is soft. Add the garlic and mustard seeds and cook for another minute or so.
  • Add the tomatoes, the spice parcel, the cardamom, and cook uncovered over a gentle simmer for about 45 minutes. Then add the currants, raisins, vinegar, and sugar.
  • Cook for an additional 45 minutes until it has thickened up and and most of the liquid has cooked off.
  • Season to taste with salt and pepper, remove the whole spices, and then cool before transferring to a jar.

 

Gluten-Free Struan Bread, (here’s a quick history of struan bread)

2 Tbs. chia seeds

1/2 cup water

1 cup teff or millet flour

1 cup tapioca flour

1/2 cup leftover cooked grain such as brown rice, oats, or millet

1/4 cup amaranth or quinoa flour

1/4 cup almond meal

1/4 cup ground flax seed

1 tsp. sea salt

1/2 tsp. xanthan gum

1 1/2 tsp. yeast

3/4-1 cup water

2 Tbs. canola oil

2 Tbs. maple syrup

  • Soak the chia seeds in 1/2 cup water for about 15 minutes. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Prepare an 8 1/2 x 4-inch loaf pan by either lining parchment or rubbing the bottom and sides with oil and then flour.
  • In a large mixing bowl, combine the flours, almond meal, flax, salt, and xanthan gum. Set aside.
  • In a liquid measuring cup, dissolve the yeast in 3/4 cup of warm water. Allow the yeast to begin to foam and then add the oil and syrup. Mix the yeast mixture into the chia mixture and make sure the chia seeds have no lumps in them, and then add the liquids to the dry mixture. With a wooden spoon, mix well, just until the dough is soft and holding together. It will be fairly wet. If it seems more like a drier dough that can be picked up in the hands, add additional water so it is looser.
  • Pour the mixture into the loaf pan, and smooth the top. Take a serrated knife and score a line running the length of the loaf, just off the center. Then place it in the oven and turn down the temperature to 350 degrees F.
  • Bake for one hour at that temperature and then turn down the oven to 300 degrees F. Bake for an additional 40 to 60 minutes.


zucchini noodles, crookneck squash, garlic + pesto

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I finished my second trimester of classes this past weekend and I am sooo happy for a three week break. Every weekend since January save a couple has been taken up with assignments, projects and reading research papers. While I’ve loved the topics I’ve been learning these past few months, they have been more in line with the integrative health and herbal medicine component of the program rather than the nutrition side of things. My knowledge of the multi-facets of health and wellness has vastly improved even as this understanding has helped me personally as well. I’m already relishing this break, finally doing a little much-needed garden maintenance like gleefully wiping out pesky bugs with my bare hands, catching up on some lighthearted reading, and looking forward to delving into the rehab on my grandma’s old china cabinet (so I can finally finish unpacking, maybe?) I am also already thinking about next trimester and very much looking forward to a turn towards what I’ve been told is an extremely difficult class and a little more nutritional science. I think mostly I’m excited for the idea of a challenge–because grad school, working, commuting, and maintaining my running lifestyle hasn’t been challenge enough (insert Rebecca kind of enjoys pushing her limits comment).

 

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Since the last six weeks caught up to me with multiple big projects and a couple long weekends out of town all happening together, I’ve basically been eating this meal on repeat this month and last. William really gobbled it down the first couple times until he realized it was one of only a few meals I’d be craving/making all summer. Now he’s a little less than thrilled when I tell him we’re having zucchini noodles and summer squash again.

I have four heavy producing summer squash plants and between the two types, the making of this dish has kept the harvests in check. If you aren’t sure what to do with an abundance of zucchini, I recommend investing in a spiralizer (I have a cheapo $10 one and it works great!) and making noodles.

The day after I completed my classes, I cleared my schedule, took a nap, watched the Olympics women’s marathon, caught up on all the blogs I’ve let queue in my inbox, pottered around the kitchen and generally felt my cooking creativity come back to life. It is safe to say it’s back in force.

 

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Zucchini Noodles, Crookneck Squash, Garlic + Pesto, serves 2

This is a nice, quick, simple weeknight meal and if you’ve already got canned or cooked beans and pesto on hand, it comes together quick. I’ve been using my pesto recipe with basil and pumpkin seeds as my greens and seeds of choice. Each serving makes a really big plate but basically you’re eating really tasty summer squash for dinner, so there’s that. 

3-4 medium zucchini

1 tsp. extra virgin olive oil

3-6 small crookneck squash, medium dice

4 cloves garlic, minced

salt and pepper to taste

crushed red pepper flakes, optional

1 cup cooked black eyed peas, chickpeas, or white beans

1/4 cup pesto

extra basil to garnish

  1. Use a spiralizer or a vegetable peeler to turn the zucchini into noodles. Set in a colander over the sink and sprinkle with a good few dashes of salt. The salt will allow some water to escape while the crookneck are cooking.
  2. In a large sauté pan, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Add the crookneck and garlic and allow to cook for several minutes, until it becomes a bit golden and soft. Season with a few dashes salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes.
  3. Turn in the beans, the zucchini noodles and the pesto. Give it all a good stir and heat just until it all comes together, 4-5 minutes.
  4. Plate up and add a little basil on top to serve.

 

 

 


Coconut Basil Zucchini Rolls

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Accept what comes from silence.
Make the best you can of it.
Of the little words that come
out of the silence, like prayers
prayed back to the one who prays,
make a poem that does not disturb
the silence from which it came.

from Wendell Berry’s How To Be a Poet

 

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Somehow we’ve found ourselves in mid-summer and I’ve discovered that I can accomplish tasks in the online world while hanging in the backyard on a blanket next to the summer squash. The connection is a little slow and not altogether consistent but that opportunity leads to moments to turn and stare at the cloudless sky and listen for the gaps between the sound of the trees. Today there is more commotion with the street noise and I remember instead a more peaceful mid-summer day years ago, lying on my back in my parents’ yard out in the country, staring up through their ancient, looming trees, just listening.

 

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Coconut Basil Zucchini Rolls

This mid-summer recipe is a creation for The Recipe Redux, as we were challenged to use the season’s abundance in interesting shapes. I basically took a bunch of what’s growing in the backyard right now and made it into a quinoa salad of sorts, and then rolled it up in grilled zucchini. The same can be done with eggplant instead of zucchini and the vegetable fillings can be interchanged accordingly. I have a hunch that a tomato and sweet pepper version in the later season will taste even more amazing with the coconut basil sauce. As far as coconut milk goes, you can use what you prefer. The full-fat version will be a little more rich and substantial but the lighter cooking milk is also good. 

1 cup quinoa

2 cups water

4 cloves garlic

2 cups packed basil leaves

1 can coconut milk

¼ cup capers, divided

1 tbsp lemon juice and zest

¼ tsp. sea salt and black pepper

coconut oil

2-3 large zucchini, sliced thinly lengthwise

1 small broccoli, cut into small pieces

1 cup sliced mushrooms

1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen peas

  • Place quinoa in a saucepan, add the water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat immediately and simmer for about 15 minutes, before setting aside.
  • In a food processor or blender, puree the garlic, basil, coconut milk, about half the capers, lemon juice, zest, and salt and pepper.  Then set aside.
  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  • Use a pastry brush or a rubber spatula and lightly brush each zucchini slice with a thin layer of oil on both sides. Depending on your grill situation, you can instead brush the grill with a little oil so the zucchini doesn’t stick. On either an indoor or outdoor grill, arrange the zucchini slices so they are not overlapping. Cook until lightly golden and then flip to do the same on the other side. Remove and cook the remaining slices in batches, as needed. This step can also be done in the preheated oven on a flat baking dish.
  • Spread the broccoli and mushroom pieces out on a baking dish lined with parchment, drizzle with a little more oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place in the oven and bake for 5-8 minutes.
  • When the quinoa is slightly cooled and the vegetables are done, stir in about ¾ of the coconut basil sauce, the remaining capers, roasted broccoli, mushrooms, and the peas.
  • Roll the zucchini: Place the zucchini strips, one by one, in front of you. Add a large spoonful of the quinoa mixture at the bottom of it and roll up lengthwise away from you. Place the rolls back in the baking pan with parchment paper. There will be more filling than rolls (unless you make grill up some big zucchini), so inter-space some of the extra filling among the rolls as you go. Drizzle with the remaining basil sauce.
  • Bake for 10-15 minutes at 400°F just to heat through.

 

 

Listen to Wendell Berry read the entire poem. It is beautiful.


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