Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Camp Kitchen

Not so long ago, we spent winters on the road. Each fall we would pack our little car to the gills and set off from Maine in search of warm weather and dry rocks. For six months we lived in a tent, roamed the country and climbed. When we dipped into cities to see friends, I was always struck by how many people asked us the same question: "How do you eat out there?" The short answer is, simply and well. When pressed for details we'd admit to eating for fuel, eating what cooks quickly, eating the same, easy-storage vegetables for months at a time, and eating cheaply. We are often in (food) deserts, sometimes in places where our cooking and drinking water needs to last a few days until we can drive the hour back to town, and we never have ice in our cooler. Too messy and an extravagant expense when on the road for so long. We don't eat much meat at camp (never chicken), and by the time we get home we crave just about anything cooked in an oven instead of on a stove top. Once we are off the road I have a hard time recalling specific dishes we ate at camp, so on this past (much abbreviated) trip I tried to document some of our camp meals. I did not take pictures of the many delicious rest-day meals we ate here, and here, among other places. Nor did I document every single meal, because, as I said, we eat a lot of the same things over and over again. Once I am back oven-side I will get a new recipe to you. In the meantime, I hope this finds you all healthy and happy, safe and sound.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Simple Gestures, Tiny Gifts: A Dispatch from the Desert

We wake just as the sun hits the top of the cliff band. Our first morning in Snow Canyon. Still air. Shards of sun and thin blue light cut the cloud cover. We haven't been on the road like this in almost a year but the routines come easily. I peel the thick synthetic sleep layers from my body, bristle and goose bump as the air hits my skin which I then cover, systematically, layer by layer, until I am again puffed and protected against the cold. You make coffee and boil eggs. We laugh through mouthfuls of granola and the last of the persimmons from home. What we laugh about I can't say exactly but the days have been full of giggling and silliness. The stresses of home and work and "real life" have been left behind for a few precious weeks. We are giddy with it. You mug for the camera, shoulders stooped, jaw jutting forward. You look like a Neanderthal I say. You smile. Success. Then I see her, our neighbor. She sits alone in her sleeping bag on the other side of a soft hedge of desert sage. She is alone. She is writing. She can't speak. That's what the park ranger told us last night. She can hear but she can't speak. She carries a notepad. Neat girl. I want to say hello but I don't. For fear of...what? Awkwardness? How would the conversation go? Does she want to talk? Would I make her feel uncomfortable if I attempted to be neighborly? So I say nothing, and she writes in her pad, never turning her head and soon we are in the car, winding through the Beaver Dam Mountains, the northern edge of where Joshua Trees grow, and we don't see cars or people all day.
We see oil derricks. We see cows. We see shot gun casings and surprising patches of lush green grass. We climb until our fingers can no longer bend.
At camp we add layers and head lamps and when we go to the stove we see it: A small ziplock bag with a piece of obsidian, a small tin of skin salve, and a note: Hello sweet neighbors! Some healing balm for the Neanderthal feeling parts! Love 16A.
The girl is gone. Her campsite is empty. Weird I think. But sweet. I don't open the bag or even move it. For days I leave it where she left it, and I start to revere it. Days later I look at it and I think, what an amazing gesture. She was listening. She heard me call you a Neanderthal. She heard us yammering about where to climb. She heard us joking and singing nonsense songs, our constant chatter, sound for the sake of sound. She heard us. And though we never even saw each other's faces, she found a way to connect. I spend all day thinking of all the times I speak when I should listen. Then I think how lucky I am to have all my senses and all my health. I am so lucky in fact that I take these things for granted all the time. We spend the day taking note of the things we are grateful for: the luxury of living outdoors for a month just for the sake of recreating and the greater luxury of a comfortable home to go back to; The great lengths and heights our bodies will take us to; To have found love and known love in so many ways, in so many forms; The sublime peace of standing alone in the dark listening to a Cottonwood tree shake and trill in the wind so steadily it sounds exactly like hard fast rain smacking wet rocks in a river; Our families; Our friends; To love to do so many things we often can't decide where to start. The list goes on and on.

When we dip into town for groceries and internet we are surrounded by the holiday frenzy and the relentless messages to buy more, ask for more, and even when giving to others, to consume just about everything in excess. The holidays are filled with joy and celebration and generosity and love but they can also cause anxiety, stress, guilt about having as much as we do, and feelings of inadequacy for not having as much as we might like. We try to quell that anxiety with grand gestures and flashy gifts and for five weeks we work ourselves into a national hysteria, forgetting sometimes to just breathe and look around and give thanks for what we already have. That plastic bag with a half-used tin of hand salve and a found rock, and the reminder that connection and generosity of spirit can come from the most unexpected places, may be the best gift I receive this holiday season. It is helping me move through these next few weeks knowing that I have all that I need and more, and that the simplest gesture can be the most powerful gift.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Winter Salad, California Style

Living in a new part of the country means re-learning what "seasonal eating" is. We lucky people who live in the Bay Area are, well, spoiled. Winter doesn't mean that farmer's markets are limited to root vegetables, storage squash and the last of autumn's apples. It means we get to pile all of those things along with many others, on top of fresh new lettuces and greens which, up in Sonoma, finally have enough water and shade to grow. After the searing summer heat and more peppers, eggplants and zucchinis than I ever care to see again, our winter garden is leafy, spicy and growing at the rate of a full salad bowl every other day. Like I said, lucky. When I first lived in the Bay Area, years ago, I worked for a dear friend at The Gardener, in Berkeley. The lessons I learned from her are innumerable, and among them was how to eat a persimmon.
Persimmons are not something I ever encountered as a child in Los Angeles. And of all the produce sent from California to New England, persimmons are seldom seen. Around here they show up at the start of November and stay on through the holidays, lending their festive orange glow to menus and decorative arrangements alike. While sort of intimidating and almost quixotic on the shelf, they are simple to prepare and easily digested by the body. Most importantly, they are delicious, sweet at first bite but without any lingering or excessive sugary taste.  My preferred variety is the Fuyu which is squat like a tomato and firm like an apple. These are eaten while still hard and crisp and are delicious in salads, with dry, salty cheeses, or in slices on their own.
Hachiyas, the larger, more oval shaped variety, are eaten soft and ripe when they are practically pudding in the skin. Both varieties are said to soothe sore throats and an irritated intestinal tract and contain enzymes that break down damaged cells and foreign microbes in the body. Pete came home from Sebastopol the other day with a bag full of both kinds so I have been enjoying them every way I can. Most recently I sliced them into this salad of the-best-spinach-I-have-ever-had (it is almost meaty in its richness), escarole and mustard greens. I added pomegranate seeds, another favorite winter fruit.
Pomegranates grow on trees all over town and my friend Emma has been plucking them from her Edenic back yard and bringing them to work, so I eat the seeds in my granola, in salads, dropped in a glass of soda water or get the idea.
Crunchy persimmon, the tart pop of pomegranate seeds, crisp, spicy greens. What's missing? Oh yeah, cheese. I just discovered how much I love ricotta salata. It has an odd, almost springy texture that I really enjoy. I tossed the whole shebang in good olive oil, juice from half a lemon, and a sprinkle of Maldon sea salt. Now that's my kind of winter meal.

Winter Salad with Persimmons & Pomegranate
serves one hungry person or two as a side

A handful of really good spinach*
A few large mustard or kale leaves
A few large escarole leaves
1 firm Fuyu persimmon
1/4 cup pomegranate seeds
2-4 oz ricotta salta, cubed or crumbled
1 T high quality olive oil
juice of half a lemon
Maldon or other flakey sea salt

* If you are able, try to get your hands on hearty spinach that has textured, knobbly leaves. It is more likely to have that lovely meaty quality I mentioned than "baby" spinach or more the more delicate, thin-leafed variety.

Put the spinach in a bowl and cover with cold water. Lift the spinach out. The sand and dirt will settle in the bottom of the bowl. Rinse the bowl and repeat until all the sediment is removed from the leaves. Do the same with the other greens.

Spin or pat the greens until very dry.

Using a paring knife, remove the stems from the mustard or kale by cutting each leaf lengthwise down either side of the stem. Cut or tear the stemless leaves into fork-bite size and place in a salad bowl. Cut or tear the escarole to a similar size and add to the bowl along with the spinach.

Cut the stem off the persimmon, then halve the fruit vertically. Some Fuyu persimmons contain seeds but many are seedless and just have a pretty flower-like pattern inside. Place one half, flat side down, on a cutting board and slice thin half moons. Do the same with the other half and add to the salad bowl.

Cut the pomegranate in half, vertically. Store one half in the fridge, covered, to enjoy later. Cut your remaining half in half again, vertically. Remove the seeds from the white pith and sprinkle over the bowl of greens. One half should yield at least 1/4 cup of seeds, sometimes more.

Add your cubed or crumbled ricotta salata, the olive oil and lemon juice and toss until salad is evenly coated. Add a good pinch of sea salt and a crack of black pepper and gently toss again. Enjoy as a light, vitamin-rich meal, a first course, or a fresh Thanksgiving side.

Other Fun Facts
Spinach is one of the best greens you can eat. It is very high in iron, clorophyll and vitamin A. It promotes peristalsis (the involuntary wave-like movement of the muscles in your digestive tract that moves your food through your system), soothes intestinal inflammation, is a great detoxifier and can help restore pH balance to your digestive system.

Pomegranate is another cleansing and cooling food which can be great in a season marked by celebratory and, often, heavy eating. Along with cranberries it is known to promote a healthy bladder and urinary tract. The astringent rind is said to make a good skin wash.

Escarole, cousin of endive, is high in vitamins C, K, and A, as well as calcium, iron and magnesium.

Mustard Greens are incredibly high in water content making them a great detoxifying, tonic food. They belong to the Brassica family which is widely considered to be one of the most powerful anti-cancerous groups of vegetables.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Favorite Pancakes & Fall Trips

November 1st!!! How did that happen so fast? In the past few weeks I've experienced the splendor of autumn (New England), an early taste of winter (Tahoe), and even a few searing, summer-like days here in Sonoma; a last hurrah before the much needed rain we got this week.
My trips have been a wonderful mix of the nostalgia-stirring and the brand spanking new.
The trip to Maine was a homecoming. Familiar, sentimental in an almost painful way. Even though it was October it smelled like every summer of my whole life: of wet pine, of moss, faintly of smoke and strongly of the sea. It smelled like capture the flag, blood drawn by a barnacle, mildewed rope bracelets, first kiss, first drunk, and lying on the lawn after dinner with my sister and my parents because the stars were too bright and too startlingly milky to ignore. And bed can always wait.
I have been to Tahoe a few times now and feel like I am only just beginning to understand its greatness. On our most recent trip we left Sonoma in the dark, at 6am, when it was already 60 degrees, and made it to Donner Summit by 9am to find thigh high snow, fog over Donner Lake, and that bright mountain sun already glaring against the white- a reminder that you have been thrust several thousand feet towards it in only a couple of hours.
 I have also, in recent weeks, found a favorite pancake recipe. Purists be warned! This is not your standard flapjack. But stay open minded if you are able. My pancake obsessed sweetheart has completely converted from his flour-based pancakes to these gluten-free, energy packed, and truly scrumptious stacks instead. 
Said sweetheart, Pete, is a rock climber, and thus, has chronic joint pain. When its particularly bad we try to eat an anti-inflammatory diet. For those of you new to this idea it basically means eating a mostly raw, plant-based diet, and cutting back on alcohol, meat, dairy, caffeine, sugar and gluten. I know. Even as I type the list I realize it sounds severe. But in reality, when we eat this way, it never feels abstemious. I love to cook (as you know), we both love to eat (those of you who know us can attest), and we want our food to taste good even when consuming with the specific intent to heal the body, or even fuel it.

After making this pancake recipe once I decided to make a quadruple batch of the dry ingredients to have the mix on hand all the time. I have since gone from being a once-every-couple-of-months pancake eater to a bi-weekly pancake eater. Very happily and healthily so.

The Pancakes
adapted from Sprouted Kitchen
1/3 cup almond meal *
1/3 cup oat flour **
1/3 cup quinoa flour
1 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
2 T sugar
pinch of fine grain salt
1 egg
1 cup almond milk (or milk or buttermilk)
coconut oil or butter for cooking
1 t vanilla (optional)

*You can make your own almond meal by grinding whole or slivered raw almonds in a food processor until very fine.
**You can make your own oat flour by grinding whole organic oats in a food processor until very fine.

Combine all the dry ingredients in a large bowl and mix well. 

In a small bowl lightly beat the egg, then add the cup of almond milk and the vanilla.

Add wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir to combine. 

In a cast iron or heavy bottomed pan, melt the coconut oil or butter over medium heat.  When the pan is ready add about 1/4 cup of the batter and repeat as desired without overcrowding. Personally, I like to limit it to 2 pancakes at a time so they are easy to flip.

When bubbles form on the top of the pancake, flip and cook another minute or so. When making larger batches for a crowd I pre-heat the oven to 250 degrees and keep the finished pancakes warming on a plate so everyone can eat at once. 

The options for toppings are endless. As documented in the photo above, I mixed some Maine maple syrup with whole milk yogurt and topped my pancakes with that and fresh figs picked from a tree up the street. We have also eaten them with homemade apple syrup from a friend. They are great with just a slab of high quality salted butter melted on top, or a scoop of your favorite nut butter if you are looking for enduring energy.

How do you like to eat them? Please let me know!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012


First of all, I want to say thank you to everyone for your comments and notes about my last post. It was my first really personal post and I was feeling a little shy about it. The immediate outpouring of positive responses was so encouraging and much appreciated. Please keep letting me know what you enjoy reading about!

So I had this long and nuanced post planned for this week about how stress correlates to illness and about how to seek balance in our lives and about seasonality and a few other things. Finally I realized I had written an overly verbose version of something quite simple that I want to say.


I'm calling it for me and I'm calling it for you because chances are, you aren't calling it for yourself. It's a time out from To-Do Lists, from emails, from chores, and most importantly, from anything that involves the phrase "I should". We spend so much time running around trying to maximize our efficiency, and no matter how productive we are there is still this mounting pressure to do more, do better, and do it faster. Well not right now.

Right now it's tea time. 

Pull out your favorite mug, sit down and put your feet up. Maybe read a book, or better yet, do nothing more than admire your wool-clad toes and let the tea and the time do their work. You deserve it. I know you do.

Masala Chai
I won't bother to write a recipe here because I barely adapted it at all from one of my favorite blogs, Yummy Supper. I used almond milk, upped the amount of cardamom because I love it, and decided not to sweeten the tea but to add a little rose water which I find particularly calming when I am out of sorts.

I chose Masala Chai because when I traveled in India with my friend Rachel it was this sweet, milky, hot beverage that got us through each day. It revived us after 36 hour train rides, unnerving interactions on the street, the confusion of Indian bureaucracy and the general nerve-fraying experiences of traveling in a country that big, that crowded, and that stimulating (and thus draining).

Ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, pepper and star anise all have a mild stimulant effect which is at once comforting and rejuvenating. These spices warm the body, aid digestion, and help restore sharpness and focus to a fatigued mind.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Waking up from Routine

Photo by Ann Grinnell

I am a creature of habit. I love my routines. But lately I have been thinking about the dual nature of any practice that becomes rote. Routine is often positive --a weekly yoga class, a meatless Monday dinner, reading to a loved one before bed, a morning run. But even the best and healthiest of routines put us into a kind of autopilot. The repetition and the safety and the eventual thoughtlessness with which we ascribe to routine can prevent us at times from being in the world. I mean really being in the moment with all the senses engaged. Routine can make our worlds small, the focus narrow.

For the past few months I have been waking up early in the morning (against my instinct to hit snooze for the fourth time) to write for a while before my day of DOING THINGS begins. I sit in the same place, in the same way, with a cup of hot water and the shades pulled up and I watch the morning, the subtly shifting but mostly unchanged scene outside my window. After a few weeks I decided to sit outside instead of looking at the outside. It was a transformative experience. I felt--pardon the terrible cliche--alive. Instead of seeing the wind in the oak trees I felt the wind on my face. Instead of noticing a bird on a blooming sunflower I heard and watched two little finches flirt and fight over the leafy perch. Instead of noting the morning fog I smelled the Pacific, felt the salty damp on my skin. 

It's gotten me thinking--what do I miss each day by being a slave to even the healthiest of my routines? What passes me by? What and who do I take for granted? What do I miss by sticking to what I already know? 

I don't mean to say that we should forsake routine altogether in the name of potential experiential bliss.  But I would like to suggest that most of us could benefit from occasionally lifting our heads, and opening our senses to the unfamiliar. 

Erica greets the unknown
So often we think of health as something achieved by a careful calculation of nutrients taken in, calories expended, and vices moderated or avoided altogether. With all that calculating we forget sometimes to factor in pleasure, the wonder that can come from a spontaneous adventure, the unpredictable and hilarious turns that an unplanned night can take, the nourishment we receive from honestly connecting with another person. 

As always this is one woman’s opinion. But after a couple of months of deciding to say yes to just about everything and of relaxing my sometimes rigid rules and routines, I urge you to change it up. Don’t wait for the new year to try new things or to resolve. Start today. The changes can be small. Go for a walk alone without your headphones; sit in a different chair at your kitchen table; tell a loved one exactly why he or she is loved; eat your meal without reading or watching a screen or listening to music; get in the car, pick a direction, and explore like a tourist even in your own town; stay up to watch a meteor shower; get up to watch the sun rise; see and taste and smell and touch everything; become acutely aware of even the tiniest gifts--the sweetness of a breath taken in and let go. 

Saturday, September 15, 2012

End of Summer Lasagna (no noodles): Zucchini Trilogy Part 3

Apologies for the delayed post. For whatever reason, this post about the medium sized zucchini was the hardest for me to decide on. I flipped through every cookbook I have and went into the archives of several blogs looking for inspiration. I considered making this inventive cobbler which I am still going to try, and I also considered some iteration of this but I have yet to buy a spiral slicer (next on my "to buy" list for the kitchen). I settled on pasta-less lasagna. The mornings and evenings have turned cold here and I find myself less drawn to chilled soups and salads for dinner. I want hot food but I still don't want the heavier pastas and stews of winter. This lasagna, using slabs of zucchini and eggplant in place of the noodles is a nice middle ground--hot, comforting, gooey with cheese but light and fresh and full of the summer garden harvest. I didn't include a recipe for the pesto here because I never really measure when I make it. Basically I throw salt, a clove or two of garlic, a raw nut of my choosing (walnuts this time) and big handfuls of herbs (basil & lemon balm in equal measure) into the food processor, hit "on", and pour good olive oil into the feed tube until I get the texture I want. From there I salt, pepper, and re-herb as needed. It requires, as most cooking does, the happy job of multiple taste tests.

Noodle-less Zucchini & Eggplant Lasagna
2 medium sized zucchini
1 medium eggplant
10-15oz whole milk ricotta
1 egg
zest of one lemon
parsley, thyme, oregano, mint or any other fresh herb you have on hand
red pepper flakes
olive oil
mozzarella and/or parmesan to top
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Slice the zucchini & eggplant lengthwise into 1/8-inch thick slices. Arrange in a single layer on your counter, cutting board or a sheet tray and drizzle lightly with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt.

In a bowl mix ricotta, lemon zest, egg, and chopped parsley, mint, oregano & thyme (or other herbs), and red pepper flakes until well combined. Salt and pepper to taste.

Lightly oil a lasagna pan and cover with a single layer of zucchini. Top the zucchini with a generous layer of the ricotta mixture.

Cover  the ricotta with a single layer of eggplant. Top the eggplant with a generous layer of pesto. Repeat the layering steps alternating zucchini, ricotta, eggplant, pesto until you reach just below the lip of the pan.

Sprinkle grated mozzarella and/or parmesan over the top and cover the pan with foil making sure the foil is not resting directly on top of the cheese.

Bake covered for 25-30 minutes. Uncover the lasagna and bake another 15 minutes until the cheese is melted and brown. Zucchini and eggplant should be fully cooked but, in my opinion, still a bit firm.

Let rest uncovered for 10 minutes, slice, share, enjoy.

Health benefits of lemon balm & basil
Lemon Balm
Lemon balm is antibacterial and has been used topically to dress and heal wounds for centuries. When ingested it is said to help with digestion, relieve nausea, and help with troubles of the liver, spleen, kidneys and bladder.

Basil is a member of the mint family. It helps stimulate appetite and digestion and it is a tonic for frazzled nerves. It is a natural breath freshener and can help counteract flatulence, constipation, nausea, and stomach cramps. It is a mild antibacterial and anti fungal so the leaves can be used topically to alleviate itching skin and insect bites.

Bonus: They are both delicious!!!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Sleeping Giant: Zucchini Trilogy Part 2

Okay, I am going a little out of order here. I planned to take you on a zucchini filled journey, sequentially from the babiest to the biggest. But last week, in the heat wave, I missed my window for mid-sized harvesting and was left with the big guys, the baseball bats, the sleeping giants.

There isn't anything wrong with a giant zucchini. They are still nutritious and if anything the flavor gets even milder. The challenge with the bigger fruit is coming up with a way to deal with the change in texture. As the zucchini grows the flesh becomes pithy (not concise so much as abundant-in-pith). It acts as a sponge if you throw it in a sautee pan making the resulting meal too soggy and it is too dry and chewy to enjoy raw. The solution? Shred and bake. I love traditional zucchini bread, in the same sweet breakfast style as a banana bread. But in the name of exploration and experimentation I chose a zucchini corn bread this time around. It flirts with both the sweet and the savory and has enough heft from the cornmeal to stand up to soup dunking or as a side for a lobster bake.

I cut into the zucchini and discard the seeds before shredding the flesh. 
You can grate the zucchini with a cheese grater, or, to make faster work of it, use the grating blade of a food processor.

To make my bread I used a combination of fresh grated and frozen grated zucchini. If you use frozen grated you will need to squeeze a lot of water out of the vegetable before adding it to any baked good.
 First, I use my hand to press the zucchini against the side of the sieve, removing the easily expelled water.

For round two of water removal I place the mushy mound of zucchini in the center of a clean, strong dish towel, fold the corners up, and twist and squeeze until all the water has drained through the cloth.
If you use all fresh grated zucchini you won't need to squeeze any water out. We ate our bread with Vermont Creamery cultured butter. I all but insist you do the same.
Brown Butter Zucchini Corn Bread
adapted from Epicurious
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter plus some for the bread pan
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup buttermilk (I used regular milk & it was still delicious)
1 t vanilla extract
10 oz of shredded zucchini 
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour (I used whole wheat pastry flour)
1/2 cup sugar
1 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1 t fine sea salt
3/4 cup medium grind cornmeal
1 t cinnamon, nutmeg, or ginger (or 1 t of each)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter the bottoms and sides of a 9x5x3 loaf pan.

In a small sauce pan over medium-high heat, melt the butter. Remove from heat when the solids at the bottom of the pan have turned golden brown but not burned (3-4 minutes). Scrape the butter and solids into a bowl and set aside to cool. Once cool, whisk in eggs, buttermilk, and vanilla.

Add the shredded zucchini to the butter mixture and stir until well mixed.

Sift the flours, baking soda, baking powder, sugar, salt and spices into a large bowl and whisk in cornmeal. Add the zucchini mixture and fold until just mixed. It should be very thick. Transfer the mixture into the prepared loaf pan and even out the top with a rubber spatula.

Bake until the bread is a golden color and a toothpick or tester inserted in the center comes out completely clean. Mine took about 50 minutes, and if your oven is like mine, you may want to turn your bread pan mid-way through to evenly cook.

Let the bread cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Remove the bread and let it cool completely on a wire rack. (or cut it open and slather it with butter like we did!)

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Zucchini: A trilogy

Admit it. You're sick of them already. For the first week you're ecstatic: the daily harvesting of the small and delicious squash, the blossoms stuffed and fried, the very picture of summer abundance, living proof that even you can grow a vegetable, and a flourishing one at that. And then you forget to look at your beloved plant for a couple of days and lo and behold, you have 4 zucchinis the size of baseball bats. We have three plants in our backyard, and we've stayed pretty on top of harvesting. Still, I find myself opening the fridge and sighing deeply with resignation. Another meal, another zucchini. It's hard to stay excited and inspired by the same ingredient no matter how versatile it is. But I will try in these next three posts to get myself and you re-excited about good old, dependable, prolific, adaptable zucchini. There will be one recipe for each stage of the fruit: one for the baby size, one for the mid-sized and one for the sleeping giant zucchini, so that none of your harvest goes to waste.

My favorite way to eat zucchini is raw, harvested young, when they are tiny, no longer than a couple of inches and about the width of two of your fingers. Sliced very thinly they are crunchy, slightly nutty, and the perfect vehicle for lemon, good olive oil, and a mild cheese. The other day I prepared them in a carpaccio-like salad, alternating the paper thin slices with equally thin rounds of lemon cucumbers and armenian cucumbers.  Add a little cheese and whatever fresh herbs you have on hand--basil, dill, mint, parsley, tarragon, or all of them--and you have yourself a delicious (and maybe home grown and harvested) lunch or side dish. Eat up, there is more on the way!!!

Raw Zucchini & Cucumber Salad
2 small zucchini 
1 or 2 cucumbers 
juice and zest of one lemon
zest of one orange
a handfull of basil, chopped
a few mint leaves, chopped
a few sprigs of Italian parsley, chopped
a handful of multi-colored nasturtiums, chopped
1/4 cup really good olive oil
1 shallot peeled and minced
a splash of rice wine or champagne vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
optional: a mild chevre or, for a vegan option, chopped toasted almonds to garnish

Very carefully, using a mandolin, slice the zucchini into paper thin rounds. If it is very hot and dry out, cover the slices with a damp paper towel while you tend to the rest of the ingredients.

Slice the cucumbers into paper thin rounds and set aside, covering with a damp towel if needed.

In a small bowl whisk together the shallots, lemon zest, lemon juice, a pinch of salt and a splash of vinegar. Let sit for ten minutes.

Alternating between zucchini and cucumber, lay the slices out on each individual plate or on a large serving plate. Each round should slightly overlap the one beneath it. 

Whisk the olive oil into the dressing and taste. Adjust as needed. Drizzle the salad(s) with the dressing, coating lightly but well. Sprinkle the chopped herbs and nasturtiums all over the salad. If you are using goat cheese add generous hunks here and there on top of the slices. Sprinkle the whole salad(s) with orange zest.

Finish with good sea salt and cracked black pepper.