Forum Holitorium

Month: August, 2014

Squashsitting


One benefit of not traveling when summer is well on its way to fall is that you might be asked to look after a garden and told to help yourself to whatever is ripe. That is the position TC and I have found ourselves in this week. Our friends have a plethora of summer and winter squash and apples, apples, apples, so the kitchen has been the site of much action. The apples have been cooked down to compote or applesauce (depending on where you draw the line). The butternut squash has been made into Squash Pockets filling and paired with buckwheat groats. The strawberry leaves will add an accent to future cups of tea. And the yellow and green zucchini and pattypan squash have gone into two batches of the recipe below. This new addition to my summer culinary repertoire makes for a fast, easy, tasty meal.

Indian-style  Summer Squash

1 tbsp olive oil

1 kg / 2.2 lbs summer squash (green and yellow zucchini, pattypan), cut into fat matchsticks

1 1/2 tsp cumin seeds

1 tbsp diced fresh ginger

1/2 tsp turmeric

1/2 tsp ground chili pepper, paprika, or (for those not up to hot) coriander

salt

black pepper

1  heaping tbsp almond butter, tahini, or peanut butter

Fresh basil

Heat the olive oil in a large pan. Add the cumin seeds and cook until they darken. Add the ginger, turmeric, and chili pepper and sauté a minute or two. Add the squash, stirring to cover it with the spice mixture. Add some salt and a few tablespoons of water if it starts to stick to the pan. Cover and stew until cooked (at least 10 minutes). Grind some black pepper to taste. Stir in the nut butter of your choice. Sprinkle with fresh basil and serve with rice or buckwheat groats.

 

The recipe mine evolved from calls for a mix of zucchini and bulb fennel. Carrots would also make a nice variation. The past few months have seen me preoccupied or obsessed (once again depending on where you draw the line) with nutrition, and what’s interesting is that you never hear much about the health benefits of zucchini – not like nutrient-dense veggies like kale (vitamins K, A, and C – AND fights cancer!), carrots (vitamin A!), Swiss chard (vitamin K!), or sweet potatoes (vitamins A and C!). Why do we hear so little about this ubiquitous favorite of gardeners? Well, there isn’t much of a case to make for zucchini as a superfood. Zucchini provides modest amounts of vitamin C, manganese, copper, and the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin, which are both good for your eyesight. It is low calorie and a source of fiber. I’m afraid that’s all I could dig up. Summer squash will not be the next superfood, yet there is ample place in your diet for Cucurbito pepo. Think of it as the extra vegetable serving we all need to eat after getting a balanced mix of leafy green, cruciferous, and orange carotene-rich veggies – a filler vegetable. Zucchini and the summer squashes take on the flavor of what they are cooked with, and there are so many ways to prepare them.

Here are some ideas for how you can eat up the fruits of these prolific plants: fried zucchini blossoms, ratatouille, broiled zucchini and herbs (with or without a lemon marinade), zucchini tart, zucchini frittata, zucchini with pasta, zucchini soup, zucchini pancakes, zucchini fritters, zucchini bread. Zucchini pairs well with mint, thyme, marjoram, basil, savory, chives, and garlic. What are your favorite ways of preparing zucchini?

Mahlzeit and happy cooking!

My Blue Period

Südperd

“Every act of creation is first an act of destruction.” – Pablo Picasso

How true this is of knitting. All three of the projects I finished over the past two months started off as different items. I sacrilegiously frogged my first sweater, a very warm one I often wore at home that did not fit as well as it could have. After two failed attempts to reknit it, I found the right pattern and now I’m ready for winter days. Both TC and I have new scarves. His navy blue Atlantic Desire scarf was completed on our June journey while my variegated Sea Shawl was started on said journey and completed in July. Both of course are still in need of blocking.

These scarves, yes, were knit mainly en route to and from the Baltic sea. Accompanied by two lucky blog readers (no, you didn’t miss the contest – blood relations), TC and I head to the island of Rügen, Germany’s largest Insel and off the beaten path of most non-German tourists. We spent a week on the waterfront in one of the quietest parts of the island. Mostly visited for its sandy beaches with their trademark Strandkörbe on the eastern shore, the island is covered with poppies and fields of spelt. Reeds hug the rest of the shore. It’s a paradise for birds and birders.

One of my favorite memories of the journey was our visit to the museum (Historischen Handwerkstuben) in Gingst, a small town with a long, rich tradition of textile production. The two reed thatched buildings that house the collection date back to the eighteenth century, when several families of weavers shared the space. Each room was set up to show the tools and finished projects of different trades – cobbler, seamstress, tailor, rope-maker. Linen and spinning wheels were also on prominent display. A weekly market in summer features hand spun and hand dyed wool as well as locally grown organic produce. With its hodgepodge of mismatched tables and chairs and used books and old posters and postcards for sale, the cafe soon became our favorite haunt.

I would love to live in a thatched roof cottage like this one, wouldn’t you? Complete with green walls before they became trendy.

I just love these kind of organizers for life’s essentials, though the only ones shown above that I still eat are rice and oil. Perhaps if I travel further east, I might finally see one labeled buckwheat. Then there’s the following enamel container for good old NaCl that caught my attention because of that whole I- issue. I have found a good sea salt with seaweed added to it for natural iodine fortification, but since I never salted much to begin with, I find my salt consumption has increased dramatically in the past few months. I’m still searching for a good balance.

My experience on Rügen and the subsequent week in Berlin and Potsdam made me think more about my attitude towards travel and tourism. Travel is about being open to experiencing new things and finding out how people live in an unknown corner of the world. It’s about leaving as little a mark as possible on the places I visit. It’s about renting an apartment, going to the market and seeking out locally grown food, and cooking. It’s about slowing down and spending time with my travel companions. Strolling. Looking and seeing. Coming into conversation with people who live in a place and hearing their stories.

Tourism is about consuming, about working through to do and to see checklists that are rampant in guidebooks – regardless of your personal interests and the mood you find yourself in. It leads to that awful expression “to do a country” (as in “We did Italy last summer.”) In fact, tourism is doing what the crowd does, going somewhere because you “should.” It rapidly becomes stressful. And there is always a shop full of tacky souvenirs made of plastic bearing the name of the place, objects most likely made in China and delivered by diesel-spewing container ship. Possessing one of these objects (which will probably never biodegrade) lets you advertise to the world that you or someone you love were in a certain place at a certain time.

With the exception of the pollution from our car, I like to think we tread softly on Rügen. We cooked the majority of our meals in our apartment from food we bought at the market, composting our organic waste. I bought souvenirs of locally spun wool that I will make into clothing for myself and others as well as this ceramic baking dish – something that had been sorely lacking in our kitchen and that has been fantastic for making fruit crisps since its incorporation into our kitchen inventory.

Berlin and Potsdam were not as relaxing because of the stress to see “important” sights, though we focused on our specific interests, which in my case included seeing the incredible David Bowie exhibit – well worth the wait if you’re a fan – and dining at an Ethiopian restaurant in Kreuzberg. We skipped the palace in Potsdam (I have no interest in paying lots of money to see how the upper 1% lived, though I must admit as I walked past the entrance to the kitchen tour I felt a slight tug of interest to see the palace kitchen old Fritz probably never set foot in). Instead, we spent most of our time wandering through the impressively large (and free) Sans Souci park, which includes the botanical garden of the University of Potsdam, and the delightful Dutch Quarter, a district built for Dutch craftsmen in the eighteenth century that has lots of cafes and eateries and beautiful red brick buildings. We could have easily spent a full week exploring different parts of the park each day.

We beat the mad European vacation rush and are enjoying our own city as it empties out and slows down while those inhabitants that can afford it rush to be a tourist somewhere else. The weather has been rainy and thus conducive to knitting. My blue period continues as I prepare for fall, which is just around the corner. The hooded jacket below has such a beautiful cable border that reminds me of waves. Enjoy any travels and knitting you have before you.