Thursday, August 20, 2009

Skillet Egg Souffle, Cucumbers in Dill & Vinegar & More

I haven't worn gumboots in years.

But at dawn hour this morning the grass on the urban farm was saturated with dew, to the degree that I lamented not having a pair to pull on.

Never mind, my tennis shoes did the trick, though they're saturated now. As is the seat of my yoga pants since I sat on the damp ground in the vegetable patch and plucked strawberries from their stems and ate them slightly dirty, wondering if I'd ever had a farm to mouth breakfast so sweet and luscious.

Rocky the rooster seemed, for once, happy to have me around; you see, coming upon a rotten strawberry, I'd toss it beyond the veggie garden fence, only to hear his clucks and crows of approval immediately thereafter.

Apparently the way to a nasty rooster's steely heart, is bruised and mushy, bird-pecked strawberries.

In addition to the two vegetable sides I posted yesterday, the Sunday meal I prepared included the three dishes pictured to the left and below.

Barbara grows amazing curly cucumbers that look like English cucumbers only they're curled, not straight. They grow on a vine, which Barbara has harnessed to a free-standing fence so that the vine grows vertical.

The green-skinned cucumbers get lost in the green leaves, and one must really fossick to find the treasure within the vine. I picked one large cucumber and two small sweet green peppers for this dish:

Cucumber with Sweet Green Pepper & Dill
1) Wash and slice cucumber into slim chunks. Toss into a bowl and douse with rice-wine vinegar.
2) Wash and slice one or two sweet green peppers. Toss into bowl with cucumbers.
3) Wash a handful of dill, dry on paper or linen towel. Chop well and toss over cucumber and peppers, stir with wooden spoon, mixing well.
4) Set aside for about an hour, allowing the vinegar to mingle with the veggies.

As I mentioned yesterday, I tend not to refrigerate salad-type sides if I'm preparing them for service within the hour or two. The reason: fresh-from-the-garden fare is full of flavor, crispness and vibrant energy that is lost by cooling below room temperature.

However, if you're cooking in an extremely hot kitchen, which would cause vegetables and salad ingredients to wilt, then obviously you'll need to refrigerate your dishes before serving.

Green Beans in Pesto
1) Wash, and either top and tail a handful of string beans per person, or don't top and tail. I chose not to top and tail the beans I picked from Barbara's garden because they were small and delicate and so were the tops and tails -- in other words, the whole bean was edible.
2) Toss beans into boiling water for a minute. A very quick boil is also know as "blanching." Cooking fresh-picked beans this way maintains the crispness, the color and the flavor.
3) Strain beans and run them under very cold tap water to cool.
4) Toss into a bowl and coat with fresh pesto. Set aside.

Skillet Egg Souffle with Chives
1) Separate 6 eggs.
2) Beat yolks till stiff; fold in a handful of chopped chives.
3) Whip egg whites till stiff, fold egg yolk mix into whites.
4) Pour into an oiled skilled.
5) Cook in 350 degree oven till set, about 10 mins or so.

Note: I used eggs I'd collected from the chicken coop that day. Because the eggs were fresh, free-range and thus flavorful and full of color, I decided to add the delicate flavor of chives and nothing else (though I did salt my portion of egg souffle at dinner.)

Without fancy additions to your eggs, one way to create an elegant omelet (that's how I think of the above dish) or skillet souffle is to separate yolk and whites, beat them separately, and then fold the two together.

Aerating the whites and yolks is a souffle technique, and then folding the two together and baking the egg mix in a skillet is an easy way to create the 'puffed up' effect of a souffle without the hassle of cooking a real souffle.

Tomorrow, I'll feature one more dish I made for the Sunday dinner, stuffed squash blossoms, plus a simple but delicious dessert showcasing those strawberries I mention above.

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