Pizza and raspberries. Oh, and pecan pie.

For someone who’s so gainfully unemployed, I’ve spent too little time in the garden this summer. Today I spent most of the afternoon tackling the mo-fo crabgrass, which has gotten out-of-hand.

Not that putting more elbow grease there would make the tomatoes ripen any quicker. The cooler-than-usual summer has made the tomatoes more reticent, but I guess the raspberries are enjoying it. It’s gotten to the point where I have more raspberries than I feel like eating. I came across a raspberry vinegar ‘shrub’ recipe in the NY Times magazine a couple of weeks ago. I made one batch, but since I have this tendency to not follow recipes precisely, my ratio of vinegar to raspberry was higher than called for. My ratio of sugar to vinegar was also lower than dictated. Still, it tastes OK. I’m making a second batch now.

For a while I was making pizza with the peppers and squash from the garden. We always have odd chunks of cheese lying around. I tried using the flat bread from the Afghan guys at Farmer’s Market, but because it’s already baked, you can’t bake it too long as pizza, so the ingredients don’t get cooked as long. I tried the ‘whole wheat’ pizza dough from Trader Joe’s: it comes as a lump in a bag. Even though there’s no sugar listed in the ingredients, the dough was too sweet.

I came across Lamonica’s brand pizza dough at Whole Foods. It’s supposed to be refrigerated, but for some reason, Whole Foods placed it in their frozen section, so you have to give it extra time to thaw.
It’s called “Mostly Whole Wheat Pizza Dough.” I appreciate the qualified honesty. I made it tonight, with cheese, sliced squash, green pepper and red onion (left over from Linda’s salad). It took longer to bake than the specified time, but it was pretty good. I think I’ll stick with this one. I don’t bother with tomato sauce on my pizza, because I never have any handy. I guess I could slice some tomatoes and throw them on the pizza with the other ingredients, but I’m worried about the sogginess factor. I’d rather just eat the tomatoes as a caprese salad

I’ve also invested in a pizza cutter wheel from Goodwill, since Joe was using the cleaver to whack at the pizzas. What I’d really like is a 12 inch pizza stone so that it can fit in our DeLonghi toaster oven. That way I can bake pizza in there, hopefully using less energy, than baking it in the full size oven.

Linda came for a visit last week. She baked us a pecan pie, which turned out great, not too sweet. She’s a stickler for following directions, which meant that there were a lot fewer pecans than we would have liked. I used her recipe to make a pecan pie today, for a potluck tomorrow. I tripled the amount of pecans! On the other hand, I can’t make pretty little folds on the edge of the pie crust like she did. If this turns out well, maybe I’ll experiment with using palm sugar (jaggery) and maple syrup, in place of regular sugar, brown sugar and corn syrup.
We’re bringing vanilla ice cream, for a la mode. If the pie turns out terrible, maybe I should bring the raspberry shrub as a raspberry syrup and serve vanilla ice cream with raspberry sauce as a back-up.

We also made Linda cook dinner for us one night. Even though she’s a very good, confident baker, she almost never cooks, so she felt a little intimidated. She found a recipe for pasta primavera, which would use up a lot of the veggies from our garden. We ran through the recipe together, to determine which ingredients we already had, and what she’d need to buy.
“Dried basil, 1 teaspoon” she said.
“I’ll just pick you some fresh basil from our garden. I don’t have dried stuff.” I replied.
She looked doubtful. “Well it calls for dried basil. . . ”
“Same thing, but fresh is better!” I retorted.

While Linda was here, I took her to Stanfurd campus to check out the Cantor Art Center and the Rodin sculpture garden. I usually skip the sculpture sections of most museums, but Linda was methodically taking photos of almost everything in the sculpture room. Since this forced me to be in there, I too took my time looking at the smaller pieces. Rodin made quite a few sculptures of hands, as studies for his larger arrangements of people. But the hands were posed in an unnatural, even impossible fashion. I tried to make my hand contort they way his sculptures did, but it was impossible. So, after several visits to the Cantor, I still discovered something new in their permanent collection!

The other thing I never noticed until this visit was that there are bronze? panels on the main doors (east entrance) of the museum that show different sites that would have been visited as part of the typical Grand Tour of Europe most educated/well-to-do students would have seen in the 1800’s; Leland Stanford, Jr. went on such a trip himself. You can recognize the Coliseum, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the Louvre, etc. There’s also a token Indian temple – I don’t know if Stanford really went to India, or is just there as a ‘classic’ site.
Imagine what sites would be depicted on these panels if Stanford had lived today. Disneyland? The Berlin Wall? Sydney Opera House?

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Lychee at $2 a pound

Since we got invited to not just one, but two BBQs for 4th July (people love us, they really do!), I had to go stock up on ingredients at Milk Pail: avocados for guacamole; apples and oranges (out-of-season!) for sangria, and Crunchfuls cereal (alas, they were out of caramel flavor, so I had to get chocolate!) There were also some fresh lychee for sale at $2 a pound. I didn’t ask where they came from, and bought a handful. When I got home and tried them, they were pretty fairly sweet. I should get go back and get some more.

In the garden, the patty pan squash are kicking in. The bush beans may almost be done. I made a stir-fry of squash, beans, basil from the garden, plus some trumpet mushrooms tonight. The tomatoes are late bloomers/ripeners this year; I don’t think anyone has harvested any yet. We’ve also got peppers.

Sadly, there’s been some outsiders stealing from the garden. My neighbor’s raspberries and strawberries have been closed to stripped; she’s especially upset because she needs to make jam for the upcoming state fair competition. (Her plot is smack-dab in front on the entrance gate.)

I have been a bit neglectful of the garden, having spent most of June watching World Cup. Next week, I need to spend a day in there to properly weed and fertilize.

falling off the wagon

Wow, it’s been another long stretch I’ve gone without posting. A combination of things, I was working on the proposal (didn’t get the gig), then right afterwards I came down with a sore throat/cough, which always takes me a while to get over.

Why does it always take so much longer to get over a sore throat/cough than a cold. I essentially avoid biking and swimming when that happens, so the lack of exercise and being trapped indoors drives me a little nuts. Especially when I have to cancel social engagements because I don’t want to get people sick.

While I was sick I did read a lot of books (the only place I went to was the library.) Of the books I read, these are the ones I’d recommend.

Flow: the cultural history of menstruation
Sir Vidia’s Shadow
Orange County:a personal history
Alan’s War: the memories of G.I. Alan Cope
Why I killed Peter
The adventures of Blanche

Anyways I got well in time for … allergy season! I made up for the lack of exercise by going hiking at Elkhorn Slough yesterday with Joe (followed cioppino at Phil’s Market, and a nap on the beach), and biking with friends, once up to Woodside/Portola Valley on Tuesday, and then the Sawyer Camp Trail today.

I’ve been doing daily battle against the sparrows. Last year this time, they built a nest under the eaves of my porch, and made a big poopy mess. But I waited too long, there were already eggs in the nest, so I had to wait they were hatched and gone before cleaning up. This year, they came back, but each day as they try to add/build their nest, I take my long broom and brush off the partial nest. Then the next day they’re back again. I come out with my broom again.

It reminds me of that stupid parable about Robert the Bruce and the spider spinning its web seven times (moral: try, try again.) I’m just wondering. How many times does it take before the the stupid sparrows figure out they’re not welcome here and just go build their dangetty nest in the tree on the street already!

The lovely thing about spring is artichokes. This year, I’ve been harvesting them much smaller, so they are more tender.