I’m going to be honest folks. It feels a bit challenging to write about summer and my garden and produce when the world is falling apart. But here we are. I know, pea blintzes can feel trivial – they do to me too. I can’t spend 100% of my waking hours reading articles and calling representatives and being depressed about the state of the world, so I am doing my best to act like everything is normal and it’s all going to be fine. Despite the fact that at the moment it’s looking pretty bleak.
Now that we’ve got that depressing shit out of the way, I guess let’s talk about my garden. That sounds fun doesn’t it?
I feel like I’m in produce overdrive! Between our expanded beds and the CSA we have this year I’m having trouble keeping up with the lettuces, greens, peas, and radishes. I’ve been eating salads for every meal and adding sautéed collards or bok choy to everything I make. When shelling peas started coming in from my garden, these blintzes popped into my mind and I wasn’t able to get them out. I don’t recall eating that many blintzes as a child, but I know it happened, and that they were a treat filled with sweet cheese and topped with fruit. But every since eating blintzes stuffed with mushrooms at Malka’s chanukah pop up, I feel like the world of savory blintzes is a whole new world.
My little garden didn’t produce enough shelling peas for a full batch, so I supplemented with some frozen ones, steamed them with some lemon juice, layered them on top a creamy spiced cheese filling, and wrapped it all up in pillowy crepe-like pancakes. The result was just this side of savory, delicate and lovely, a dish that could be eaten at brunch or for a light dinner.
A little while ago, I went to lunch at one of my favorite cafés (which, disclaimer, is also owned by my dear friend) with Jonah and another friend who was in town. After we finished eating, we were waxing poetic about their brown butter miso cookies. These cookies are quite possibly my favorite cookie of all time, and I do not say that lightly. They are certainly in the top three cookies I’ve ever had in my life. Why? First, when the miso mixes with the brown butter and sugar, it creates this amazingly complex butterscotch flavor. Second, I love anything with miso. You know that, I know that, why even pretend like it’s not true? As we were sitting there, talking about The Cookies, we decided to play a game called “will it miso?” We decided that pretty much all produce will miso (though I’m sure there are exceptions). Will cheese miso? I’m not so sure.
This got me thinking about the bag of rhubarb I had at home in my fridge. I hadn’t decided what to do with it yet – there was talk of ice cream, as well as the previously posted gluten-free rhubarb poppy seed bread – but all this talk of miso in baked goods got me thinking. We got home, I did a little research, and I got cooking.
Don’t be scared by the (optional) miso in this recipe. As I mentioned above, it mostly provides an extra butterscotch flavor, making it a little richer and complex. If you don’t have any miso, head to the store and pick up a small tub. You can use it every which way, and once you learn its magical power of making everything delicious, you won’t be able to stop using it. If you get stuck there are plenty recipes on this very blog that feature it, like this caramel apple cake, this sticky toffee pudding, these roasted vegetables, this roasted squash and tofu, and these vegetable quinoa bowls.
I have never really liked lentils. When I was young, lentils and beans both had this texture (I think from cooking them into oblivion until they became mushy and grainy) that I just couldn’t stand. And so I stopped eating them, simple as that. Mexican food became a slight challenge (back then, it was because I didn’t like beans, now it’s because I can’t eat corn), but I mostly got away with it. Beans re-entered my life when I started living with my friend Carmelle and she made the most amazing refried beans and vegetarian chili. But lentils… I still couldn’t get behind. I hadn’t ever had them and thought, “Now those are good lentils!”
Recently though, my sister has been on a microbiome and gut-health kick, telling us all that we should be eating this or that, sending us articles and books to read. And when she sent along a recipe for lentils on our family WhatsApp thread, I told her I didn’t really eat lentils. She proceeded to yell at me (as much as one can yell via text) and tell me that lentils are good for you and that I should be eating them. It also happens that around this time, I was in the thick of cooking my way through many recipes in Alison Roman’s Dining In. From it, I made a recipe for spiced lentils (used in a rendition of a salad nicoise) that I found to be incredibly delicious. So delicious in fact, that I told the checkout guy at the grocery store that he had to make it immediately, and I let him take a picture of the recipe I had on my phone.
So I was working on liking lentils, and I was off to a really good start. Now I’ve become a person that, instead of cooking a batch of rice or farro on Sunday afternoon for lunches that week, will cook a batch of lentils to be used in salads and bowls or seasoned with oil and herbs for a side. I feel like I don’t even know myself anymore.
As I’ve been looking for other ways to use this batch of lentils, a recipe slowly started formulating in my brain. The warmer weather has got me itching for all food that is representative of spring, and a warm salad with lentils and crispy lamb sprang to mind (pun very much intended). With a little heat from the onion, some creaminess from the yogurt, bites of juiciness from tomatoes, and a little tang from the feta, this recipe became a quick favorite. It’s easy enough to throw together, makes great leftovers, and doesn’t make too many dirty dishes. I think you’ll like it.
This spring has been flying by. Every time I think “Those flowers won’t bloom for another few weeks,” it feels like they open up the next day. Baby plants are coming up in our garden already. Can you believe that? The spring rains are dousing Portland, but with that comes the lush greens and bright pastels, the mildly warmer weather, and of course, the rhubarb. I started another ceramics class last Friday, and when our instructor made us share an interesting fact about ourselves, mine was just rhubarb. Simple as that. I am certainly the class weirdo. But the time of year has arrived when I always have some in my fridge.
My sisters, who both have important people in their lives avoiding gluten (as do I), requested that I create a gluten-free version of this poppy seed rhubarb bread (which I really hope to re-photograph soon). I’ve done very little gluten-free (GF) baking in my life, partially because I strongly dislike the anti-gluten movement – the people who avoid it because it’s the trendy thing to avoid – when gluten and the grains that contain it actually provide lots of good, healthy nutrients. But, as I have known more and more people diagnosed with Celiac Disease, it seems like it is time to wade into the world of GF baking. Another thing I have found so sad about GF baking is that often the pastries I have seen are simply depressing – soggy, structurally unsound, chalky messes. This all changed, however, when I visited my sister in New York last fall. She had been singing the praises of Alice Medrich’s book Flavor Flours, and when I stayed with her we baked two recipes from it: some linzer cookies and I think some gingerbread. They were delicious. Perhaps my favorite thing about them was that, rather than hiding the lack of traditional AP flour, these recipes embraced the flours they used instead, making the flavors of buckwheat or teff or rice flour an integral part. Instead of being the random flavor of the flour you needed to use for the right texture and structure, the flavors played a role in the ingredients and flavor combinations. It makes perfect sense that the book was called Flavor Flours.
I had been thinking of getting a copy of this book for quite some time, and then I realized that not only would it be fun to cook from, but it would be a good tool for me to learn about GF baking and to create my own recipes that are edible for that many more people. So hopefully this is the first of many. If there’s a recipe here you’d like to see a GF version of, let me know and I’ll see what I can do. In the mean time, enjoy this GF version of what has become a favorite spring recipe.
As I recover from my lack of cooking, I am easing back in with my favorites, my go-to’s, and things I realize I should have shared with you.
I think it was around Thanksgiving that I first had some variation of this bowl. It’s a simple equation, really, and one you’ll find all over the internet. Cook a grain (or combination of grains), top with vegetables and/or proteins, and season with sauces. What I like best about them is that with minimal effort, you can feed yourself anywhere from four to six meals with only about two hours of effort. They have become a go-to in our house: I add a soft boiled egg at breakfast or crispy baked tofu at dinner. I add greens to make it more of a salad, or whatever roasted vegetables I might have lurking in the depths of my fridge that need to be finished up, or some smoked salmon from the farmers market. The point is, this is endlessly riff-able and endlessly people-pleasing.
Here are a few other recipes I use for topping my grains and sauces: