late spring score

i won't play modest mousy here: when it comes to matters of the kitchen, when i'm on, i'm on. yesterday, the first real day off from work i've had in nearly 2 weeks, i made it my beeswax to spend a good part of my day cooking. first, after a relaxing morning in bed, a trip with ryan to the clark park farmer's market. the farmers' tables aren't as loaded as they may be in a month, but there was plenty to contemplate. we walked away with a canvas bag full of: organic brown eggs (for ryan), herbed homemade chips from the amish man (the first stand in the park if you're coming from baltimore ave. - also, try his mint iced tea!), a big leafy bunch of lacinato kale, two glowing red tomatoes, and a pint of the season's finest: strawberries. good lord, these strawberries are so melt-y and sweet, they make supermarket strawberries cry with shame.

back at home, ryan made some crazy amazing looking omelette, and i whipped up a big old tofu scramble, studded with some onions and roasted red peps. nothing too out of the ordinary, but a hearty breakfast nonetheless:

ry left for work around 3:30, and i biked downtown with him. i met up with my co-worker (and soon to be new housemate!) RJ, and we vented and laughed about work stuff over very, very tall pints of lager at oscar's - best dive bar in the city. we parted ways in the early evening and i savored my slow and somewhat wobbly bike ride back west. the sun was low in the sky, and a gentle breeze kicked off the river. it was the kind of moment i so often dream about during the cruel winter months, buried under blankets on the couch.

when i got back home to an empty house, i was invigorated and inspired to make something special with my farmer's market scores. i decided to really do it up in an everything-from-scratch, multi-step, multi-dish fashion. i didn't have a plan, but a quick rummage through the fridge brought on a slew of fresh ideas. i started prepping some ingredients, popped in a "jazz masters" cassette tape, and then a magical thing happened: i entered kind of a culinary trance, where one idea effortlessly transitioned to the next, and before i knew it, every burner on the stove was occupied, things were marinating in little dishes, and the image of the finished plate was formed in my mind.

and it reminded me of how cooking a meal is like writing a story: you need to give yourself a bit of structure or few character sketches, but the real beauty happens when you fill in the spaces between the plot points, when you loosen your grip on your brain and let it roam. stream of consciousness, kitchen-style, is when you put the cookbooks away and let the food just happen. a lot of the time, it's hard for me to get in this mode, but gorgeous produce and bountiful staple ingredients helped me let go...

much to my surprise, lauren came home from work (i thought she was dining with a friend), which snapped me a bit out of my stove-top reverie. she poured us lovely little grapefruit & gin cocktails:

and helped set the table while i flipped the last few things in the frying pan. she waited patiently while i plated, and then we sat down to what was one of the most creative, satisfying meals i've made in quite a long time:

quinoa w/ crispy leeks topped with chipotle scented lacinato kale & tomato salad, pan fried seed encrusted tofu with spicy crema,
and fresh corn griddle cakes with a minty balsamic macerated strawberries

one little recipe to share for the strawberry topping:
(it's best to make this first, before you even start prepping or cooking anything else, so the strawberries can soften up, with the help of the vinegar, and sweetend up, with the help of the sugars they release)

- mash 6-8 ripe strawbs in a non-metal bowl.
- drizzle about 1 tsp of the best balsamic vinegar you can get (the kind i used is super special, procured on lauren's trip to italy a few years ago)
- toss in about 1 tablespoon of chopped up fresh mint.
- crush up a couple black peppercorns with a mortar and pestle (or, okay, a twist or two of the pepper grinder), and add to the bowl.
- mix everything up and let it sit for as long as possible.
- try not to eat it all before it makes its way atop your griddle cakes, or whatever other lucky dish gets graced with this most luxurious condiment


1 comment:

Amy said...

I didn't think anything could make me feel hungry today but that last picture and the description really did. The corn cakes...mmmmmm.