few years ago, I stumbled across an amazing book, Take Big
Bites: Adventures Around the World and Across the Table by
Linda Ellerbee. For those of you that don’t know Ellerbee, well,
I’m sorry. She is both brilliant and amazing.
was first introduced to her decades ago when she was working on
NBC News Overnight. A vastly underappreciated show, and
she was terrific on it. Fun, easy going, and so wisely smart.
(Trust me… wisely smart… it works as a description. I think she’d
also appreciate wisely smartass.) Her autobiography, And So
It Goes, should be a must read.
Big Bites is a cookbook. Sort of. It is also a travel book.
An autobiography. A collection of stories, woven by a master.
I highly recommend any of her work, but this book is an especially
good effort. One of the most appealing aspects of it for me was
that each recipe she shared there had an impressive reason for
why it was included.
I posted an essay about our garden. Somehow, that connected with
a few people. I got e-mails… quickly arriving, very specific…
e-mails. People wanted to know about the beet salad I mentioned.
They also asked what we do with all of our cucumbers. And so…
in several unexpected ways, by popular demand… another garden
story, along with two recipes.
~ ~ ~
are a few things I appreciate about a garden. Actually, more than
a few. When it comes to creating amazing smiles and ongoing thrills
though, two seem to stand out: (1) Finding ways to make the overwhelming
arrival of specific vegetables constantly exciting. Cucumbers
for instance. It’s easy to get bored with cucumbers. Finding a
way to continuously open the fridge, spot the same item, and still
be reaching for it day after day… yes… that’s awesome. And, (2)
bringing a new item to the garden that you either hadn’t grown
previously or had battled unsuccessfully in previous years to
year, we’ve picked several dozen zucchini and cucumbers out of
our garden already. And I mean that literally, with probably six
or seven dozen of each harvested. The zucchini has been added
to dinners and baked into breads. And the cucumbers…
decided early on that I wanted to try and mimic the sweet slaw-like
dishes I’ve found in a handful of Chinese restaurants. Something
built on a rice vinegar. Terry and I found a few recipes we thought
were intriguing, stripped them down to the basic ingredients,
and developed a four-item dressing that works wonderfully for
seasons ago, in a previous garden, we tried to grow beets. We
were both pretty excited about the possibilities… until some critters
beat us to them and left us with absolutely nothing to enjoy.
have been different in this year’s garden. Not only have we been
bringing in some beets already, we have some continuing to grow
right now and another wave that should be ready late in August.
beet recipe comes with a warning label of sorts. Balsamic vinegar…
actually, any vinegar, so apply this to both recipes… can be tricky
to work with. Tastes vary so greatly from person to person, that
what one person thinks is perfect the next will find far to tart
decided to go with more of a side-dish-salad approach for the
beet recipe… a simple dressing used with the beets, glazed walnuts
and gorgonzola crumbles. And yet, the dressing is founded on a
very basic vinaigrette concept, which means you could take this
entire dish and serve it over greens as a terrific salad.
making no apologies for these recipes, though those more experienced
in the kitchen will immediately recognize their simplicity.
the story of this year’s garden… offered in two recipes, requested
by some web site visitors.
~ ~ ~
2-3 cucumbers (average size to large)
1/3 cup rice vinegar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon minced ginger
and slice cucumbers and place in storage container with sealable
a bowl, mix remaining ingredients thoroughly. Pour over cucumbers.
Toss to coat all slices, cover and refrigerate. Once or twice
before serving, open, stir and return to fridge.
ingredients can be adjusted to taste, but know that the sesame
oil in particular can be a strong and overwhelming part of the
dressing if increased.
can be adjusted in amounts for larger batches. However, keep in
mind that the amount of liquid will increase as the cucumbers
soak in the dressing. As such, look for the dressing to rest at
about half to two-thirds of the height of the cucumbers when first
green onions or thin slices of a sweet onion works well with this
recipe. You could likely also use it with cabbage for something
more closely tied to a slaw concept, and with other vegetables
if you wanted, though we have not tried that yet.
~ ~ ~
walnuts and gorgonzola salad
Gorgonzola crumbles (blue cheese crumbles work as well)
Balsamic dressing (below)
with beets, cooked (boiled, peeled, etc., but not seasoned or
dressed in any way) and sliced. Chill beets for at least 2-3 hours.
beets on plate/bowl. Add walnuts and gorgonzola crumbles. Lightly
drizzle dressing on top. Amounts to use of each are to taste.
parts olive oil
1 part balsamic vinegar
1 part honey
ingredients together, stir or shake, then chill briefly before
is a great recipe for a side dish or a snack. It works best when
assembled at the time you are going to eat it.
of thyme, salt and pepper varies based on amount of dressing made,
but should be kept to about 1/4 teaspoon of thyme and pinches
of salt and pepper for each cup of dressing. For instance: 1/2
cup olive oil, 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar, 1/4 cup honey, 1/4 teaspoon
thyme, pinch of salt, pinch of pepper.
can get thick if too cold, so it generally works best made a few
hours before serving and for that one service.