Coconut Basil Zucchini Rolls

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.

Early Summer Pasta with Creamy Walnut Basil Sauce

Early Summer Pasta with Creamy Walnut Basil Sauce

 

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This post was going to be about how I have the greenest green thumb and my peas won’t stop producing (my mom would be so proud) so I have to keep finding new ways to eat them that don’t involve stir-fry because I don’t often crave the flavors of Asian food. What is actually on my mind, however, is that I don’t do a lot in our garden. The peas basically grow themselves. I harvest and water, occasionally fertilize, smash bugs with glee and generally curse at them, but our outdoor space is more William’s domain.

Instead, I’ve been spending my time not showing up in key relationships, being “too busy” trying to cross everything off my to-do list, trying to get to work on time, complete grad school classes successfully, commute, run, maintain my blog, volunteer and stay active in community groups, and generally do everything I do to the highest standards I can aspire to, while accomplishing more things than are humanly (for me) possible.

 

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I sat at a table for a non-profit board I’m on last weekend and as we went around sharing what we were looking forward to this summer, my mind couldn’t think of a single thing other than getting to the end of the season so I could breathe and have some free time.

It became evident I needed to let things go. While I feel a lightened load from taking items off my plate, I’m also experiencing increased guilt at committing to projects and events and then not following through. I debated back and forth for hours, days, weeks about dropping a class and waited until the last day to finally admit I can’t find 15 more hours in each of my July weeks.

In the name of self-care, sanity and medium/long term health, I’ll be doing less this summer than I aspired to. I’ll be focusing on just being, breathing, enjoying the moment and experience and whatever these months bring more.

I’d rather not get to the beginning of September and wonder where summer went. So today, with my mile long list needing shredded, I’m going to go shell favas in the kitchen, prep an early summer vegetable hash, contemplate making a berry pie with the cache of boysens from Sunbow for William, and generally work on setting down my high standards for now because I get to give myself a break.

 

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Early Summer Pasta with Creamy Walnut Basil Sauce, serves 4

This pasta came about through my walnut experiments and out of needing to use what the little plot of land we care in south west Eugene is producing now. Feel free to use whatever vegetables you have. 

8 oz. pasta of choice

1/4 cup raw walnuts, soaked at least 4 hours and drained

2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice

3/4  tsp. sea salt

1/8 tsp. ground black pepper

4 cloves garlic

a large handful of basil leaves

1 cup water

1/4 cup chickpea flour

1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes

1 Tbs. olive oil

1 bunch broccoli, diced into 2-inch pieces

1 medium zucchini, diced

1 medium onion, diced

a medium handful of snow peas, tops removed and cut into 1-inch pieces

minced basil, to serve

additional salt and pepper, to taste

  • Begin making the pasta. While the pasta is beginning to cook, bring together the sauce.
  • Place the soaked walnuts in a food processor or blender. Add the lemon juice, salt, pepper, garlic, and basil. Puree until semi-smooth and then set aside.
  • In a small saucepan, whisk together the flour and a small amount of the water until no clumps remain. Then whisk in the remaining water and turn the heat to medium. Whisk for about 5-7 minutes until the mixture resembles a nice thick pudding. Remove from heat and carefully pour it into the food processor with the basil-walnut mixture. Blend it up until completely smooth.
  • In the last minute of cooking the pasta, toss in the broccoli to quickly blanch it. Then, drain it along with the pasta and run under cool water while cooking the remaining vegetables.
  • In a large sauté pan, heat the olive oil over medium-high and then lightly sauté the onion, zucchini, and snow peas until nicely soft and golden, about 5-7 minutes. Into the sauté pan, pour the pasta and broccoli, sauce, and additional salt and pepper to taste.
  • Serve topped with a little extra basil for garnish.

to go on

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I can’t go on. I’ll go on. – Samuel Beckett

We were headed back from the coast last weekend and I had been admiring the views and the changing season when I looked out and realized it is September(!) and I suddenly saw not the slow slide of summer into fall but the trajectory of my life these last few months. I realized that I have been so busy feeling my way through this year that I haven’t been able to truly see the world around me, much like that summer I was in Ireland for the second round and one of my co-interns spent so much of her time capturing the experience on her camera that she never stopped to appreciate the views beyond her lens. When I look up and out, it is so easy to feel and see the change in season right now, and as we drove back into town last weekend, there was a bittersweet sadness hanging in the air. This and the last few posts have reflected that bittersweet vibe, as I’ve been sharing bigger matters that have sat heavy with me this year.

 

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One of these is whether I’m even writing a food blog anymore. I have always had more of an interest in talking about life in this space than in hyper-focusing on the food. Over the course of the last few months, I’d like to think I’ve been doing more of that and through the process become more honest in sharing the bigger things that matter. As I’ve done so, I have contemplated moving away from sharing food at all because it often doesn’t seem to go with the message I’m conveying. I think about my readers too. What do you want from this space? Why do you come here? How much is too much information? And I think about why I began the site, to share life and food.

Food is important to me. I love learning about it. I love talking about it. I really like helping others with it. And if you are newer here, if you read back to this post, you’ll see the making and partaking in food is so much more to me than finding peace through this year’s challenges or in fueling life on the run. All my interests, joys, and even problems circulate and intersect in and around food. And though I’ll chatter your ear off in actual conversation until you politely ask me to shut up about it, I don’t particularly enjoy writing about food in this space anymore.

 

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In a recent conversation with a friend, the topic of my eating disorder and food came up and I shared, It’s not about the food. Just like every person has his or her tools or mediums with which to create a life (or destroy it), my strengths–and also weaknesses–are both food and words. Like my eating disorder, this space seems to be about food but is also not about food.

Inevitably, I have opted to continue with the recipe sharing because when I talk about the highs and lows of life here, I share the meals that feed my soul through the process, recipes that hold meaning not because they have this or that ingredient in or out, not because of any label or food trend but because they are simply feeding me through this life. I’ve considered deleting posts which I think are silly now or old recipes that I no longer partake in, but those too are all part of my experience. Those meals, like the more recent ones, fed me through those ventures into becoming the better person I am today. For that alone, I want to have them recorded.

 

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In this transition of seasons, I too feel as if I’m wading through a big life transition. As I take a deeper and bigger-picture look at my trajectory, as I sort through my life and organize my thoughts around the point of this space, I want to share with both the readers who have held on for the long haul and those that are just jumping in, the basic reason for this blog hasn’t particularly changed. It is a space where I can use my creative tools to share real life more honestly; to go on, when a part of me is actually afraid to share what I really feel, is afraid to move into life’s changing seasons, is often frustrated and saying simply, I cannot go on.

 

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When I am standing fearfully on one of life’s cliffs, not ready to jump yet somehow poised for whatever the next adventure brings, when I am at the point where I begin to question everything, when my mind wants to give up and fight like hell simultaneously, that is when I know I am right where I need to be. I will get through this changing season and I’ll be better for the challenge with which it came. I will be glad too that I was willing to share the experience here, rather than waffling on about some random ingredient.

After all, isn’t this life little more than the accumulation of these daily lessons and joys, of conversations and meals good and bad, of being vulnerable, of putting plans into action and seeing hard work pay off, or spinning wheels in useless worrying which we can’t seem to move on from, until, for whatever reason, we do?

 

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Two-Tone Fennel + Pistachio Zucchini Bread 

This zucchini bread has been a work in progress for many years and I’ve held off on publishing because every recipe, like the most vulnerable blog posts, is not quite ready to share. Originally adapted from a Cook’s Illustrated recipe, it has taken on a life of its own with the switch to quinoa, brown rice, and almond flours, two types of summer squash, fennel seeds, and pistachios. It is the type of recipe that feels right in this (nearly there) return to cooler days and comforting foods season, and it’s likely my last bout with zucchini this summer. My plants have been producing steadily since mid-June and they’re telling me their time has nearly come. Onwards!

1 lb. zucchini and yellow summer squash, (about 2 medium or 3 small)
2 Tbs. ground flax seeds
6 Tbs. hot water
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup quinoa flour
3/4 cup brown rice flour
1/2 cup almond flour
1/4 cup tapioca starch
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. allspice
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. fennel seeds
1/4 cup plain non-dairy yogurt (I used unsweetened coconut)
1 Tbs. apple cider vinegar
3 Tbs. coconut oil
1/4 cup toasted pistachios, chopped

  • Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Oil and flour the bottom and sides of a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan.
  • Shred the mixture of zucchini and yellow squash on the large holes of a box grater and then transfer to a fine-mesh strainer set over a bowl. Allow to drain for 20-30 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, mix the ground flax seeds with the hot water in a small dish and set aside to form a thick slurry.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk the flours, baking powder and soda, salt, cinnamon, allspice, fennel seeds, half the pistachios, and 1/2 cup sugar together. Set aside.
  • After the zucchini has drained, squeeze it dry between several layers of paper towels. Mix the dried zucchini with the yogurt and apple cider vinegar in a small bowl. Set aside.
  • Beat the remaining 1/4 cup sugar and coconut oil with a whisk in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Add the flax slurry and incorporate well. Add half the flour mixture and half the zucchini mixture and mix until just incorporated. Add the remaining flour and zucchini and mix once more until the mixture just comes together.
  • Scrape the batter into the prepared loaf pan and sprinkle the top with the remaining pistachios. Bake until the loaf is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with just a few crumbs attached, about 55 minutes. Cool the bread in the pan for 10-15 minutes, then tranfer the loaf to a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature, or once cool, slide into the fridge for a day or two, as the flavors really develop overnight.