Archive for July, 2008

Last week, while watching the kids cruise bikes and scooters up and down the street, our neighbor casually mentioned the abundance of zucchini in his backyard. To drive the point home his daughter came screaming from the house that she had just “found another one” that was at least 10″ long. Whether she was excited or frightened at the prospect of “another” zucchini, let alone a really big one, was not readily apparent. She could have just as easily spoken of locusts in the same tone of voice.

With their house clearly about to be buried under an avalanche of zucchini, and the rest of the neighborhood gardens ramping up their output of the slender squash, we decided that the upcoming Sunday night Sidewalk Cafe would be zucchini-centric. A celebration of the often maligned but prolific little garden staple. As word went out about the “theme” for dinner a neighbor whose garden hadn’t kicked in yet knocked on our door looking for spare Zucchini. We knew just where to send her…

The offerings were quite varied and really tasty. There were zucchini fries, zucchini and green chili quiche, zucchini risotto, grilled zucchini, fried zucchini rounds (husband and wife dueling recipies no less!), and zucchini pizza. While our own zucchini harvest has not yet been so large that we have had to sandbag the house in defense of their arrival, we now have a few more ideas on just what to do when the crop comes in.

It will take us time to track down recipes for everything, but for starters try the zucchini pizza. It is cooked entirely on the grill – not a trivial note as we enter into our 3rd week with temperatures in the mid-90s.

Zucchini Pizza

What you’ll need:
1 large garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil (preferably extra-virgin)
1 lb pizza dough (we made honey whole wheat in the bread maker)
1 lb zucchini (about 2 large), cut diagonally into 1/3-inch-thick slices
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 lb coarsely grated mozzarella (2 1/2 cups)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano

Preheat gas grill on high, covered, 10 minutes

Mash minced garlic into a paste using flat side of knife. Transfer to a small bowl and stir in 1 teaspoon olive oil.

Form dough into a 12- by 10-inch rectangle on a floured cutting board and rub with 1 teaspoon olive oil. Cover dough with plastic wrap.

Toss zucchini with salt (1/4 teaspoon) and 1 tablespoon olive oil in a bowl. Grill zucchini on lightly oiled grill rack, covered, turning once, until just tender and showing grill marks, 4 to 5 minutes total. Return to bowl.

Grill dough, oiled side down, on lightly oiled grill rack, covered, until underside is golden brown, 2 to 4 minutes. Getting the dough onto the grill is definitely the tricky part. We simply “flipped” it, oil-side-down, from our cutting board.

Turn crust over using tongs and brush with garlic oil. Sprinkle with half of the cheese, then arrange zucchini, overlapping slightly, in 1 layer on cheese. Sprinkle remaining cheese on top and grill pizza, covered, until underside is golden brown and cheese is melted, 3 to 5 minutes.

Recipe credit: Epicurious

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Everyone’s experienced it: a memory so vivid, you could taste it.

Earlier this week at the library, MaryBeth and Junior were reading a book called “Jalapeno Bagels”, based on a Hispanic/Jewish bakery in Southern California. One of the recipes in the back of the book was for “Chango Bars”. While reading, MaryBeth had flashbacks to a favorite recipe from her childhood, Congo Bars. Now, middle age might slow the congitive flow at times, but she did eventually realize that the recipes were one and the same. “You say tom-A-to, I say tom-AH-to”…

Once home, MaryBeth called for a professional consultation. Her mother provided the recipe that MaryBeth used to make those bars many many times in her youth. Lyrics from bad 80’s music she remembers. Recipies, at least this one, she doesn’t.

So…here it is, now fondly called “Chongo Bongo Bars” in the DINKS household.

Chongo Bongo Bars

Dry Stuff
1 c. whole wheat flour (NOT in my mother’s original recipe)
1 3/4 c. white flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder (2.5 for lowlanders)
1 c. chocolate chips

Wet Stuff
2/3 c. butter
2 cups packed light brown sugar
3 eggs

Melt the butter in a pan over low heat.
Remove from heat and mix in the brown sugar. (Taste liberally at this point. Hmmm)
Add eggs, one at a time
Add dry stuff (except for chips) a little at a time until thoroughly blended.
Stir in chips.

Pour into a greased 8×13 pan and bake at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes. As MaryBeth’s mother stated twice in the ten minutes it took to provide the recipie: DON’T over-cook these!

While waiting, lick mixing bowl.

Enjoy these spectacular treats from a lifetime ago and take a trip down memory lane to your (or someone else’s) childhood.

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Habits are formed early, so we’ve been trying to influence Junior’s transportation habits since he was a wee young thing. When he was really little MaryBeth would occasionally take him on the bus to/from school. For a toddler, there was no cooler method of transportation than mass transit – let’s hope that sentiment sticks with him.

The second prong of our plan has been liberal applications of bike transport… We’ve moved through various stages of development: bike trailer; Trail-a-Bike and now, at last, his own pedal bike. Thanks to some initial balance training on a Strider pedal-less bike, Junior has been riding his pedal bike without training wheels since he was just shy of 4 1/2. He’s been riding his bike to/from school for the past few weeks (though “from” school only just recently as it is all uphill) and really gets a kick out of it!
Junior Rides to the Farmers Market
Saturday saw a major breakthrough in self-propelled biking. Junior rode 3.5 miles to the Farmer’s Market on his little 12″ wheeled bike. When you’re four, 3.5 miles is forever! He was quite the trooper and we used the outing to teach/reinforce bike lane/path etiquette and bike safety.

We didn’t cover the distance completely without incident, but as luck would have it when we approached our first potential melt-down, a familiar voice called out to us. Pete and Janet (and Greta the dog) to the rescue! Nothing cuts off recreational whining faster than the opportunity to show off your biking skills to an appreciative and admiring audience. After a brief visit the little guy was raring to go all the way. A couple of additional rest stops later (including one when another cyclist wanted to talk Xtracycles – the word’s getting out!) and we were at the top of the hill above the Farmers’ Market. There was no stopping him now but we did spend time reinforcing the concept of a controlled descent as the bike path has multiple switchbacks to help with the uphill climb on the way back.
The return trip was a combination of his riding on the back of one of the Xtracycles (with his bike stowed on the other X) and his riding his own bike. All in all he probably put in a little over 4 miles on that little bike. Needless to say, he slept well last night!

With luck, by the time Junior is old enough to drive he will realize that a car is not needed for many/most of his trips. With even more luck, he will experience a childhood similar to ours where we explored our towns and neighboring towns all from the saddle of a bike. Kids are well served by a bit of independence and self reliance. We don’t plan on becoming a taxi service…and the first time he suggests he needs his own car, we’ll buy him an Xtracycle!

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Wednesday was both our first “date night” with the Xtracycles and the inaugural voyage of Mark’s Xtracycle. “Voyage” seems apt given the extra size, weight etc. of an X-bike. Mark picked his up from the Sports Garage Tuesday night (with the car oddly enough) and was immediately handed the task of hauling the weekly dairy purchase home from the Farmers’ Market on Wednesday. That’s 2 gallons of milk, 1/2 gallon of yogurt (all in thick heavy glass jars!), and some cheese – all packed in a cooler loaded with ice.

Naturally it rained…. That had Mark rethinking the wisdom of swapping out the bulky mountain bike tires with lots of grip for the skinny, fast “slick” tires that seemed to have only a mild understanding of the importance of traction. On more than one turn he reacquainted himself with his Catholic past.

Thankfully, there was a spectacular double rainbow for us to enjoy all the way home. Maybe it was divine intervention intended to have us give the skinny tires a rest. Rainbows, let alone full double rainbows, do not happen every day, and it felt somehow more spectacular on our bikes than it would have in a car.

Take time to enjoy the rainbows, friends!

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Sunday was a scorcher and that made this week’s Sidewalk Cafe HOT, HOT, HOT! That didn’t stop us from enjoying some cold beverages, tasty food, and cool neighbors.

Not surprisingly, most of the offerings this week were not hot – who wants to fire up the oven when the house is already 88 degrees? Also in the “not surprising” category, most of the DINKS’ offerings involved veggies from the Abbondanza CSA. They included a roasted beet salad with feta (more on this below) and scallion pancakes (thanks to Home & Cooking) with a soy/ginger dipping sauce.

While very good, the scallion pancakes didn’t have that balance between “taste” and “effort” quite right, especially for a hot summer day. Too much “roll”, “rest”, “do this” “do that”, “roll again” and so on to keep them on the “quick meal” menu. A definite keeper of a recipe, though.

The beets, however, will be back soon (could be as early as next week if the CSA has beets again). We’ve come a long way (read: Mark has come a long way) with eating beets willingly. After a childhood spent thinking beets were red, had the consistency of Jello and were, oddly, shaped like a can, he has come to appreciate the flavor to be had from a beet that still looks like a beet.

Roasted is our favorite way to eat beets, and easy is the way we like to cook. This salad is a cinch to make. It is inspired by a salad we had at one of our favorite restaurants: SOBO here in town. Best of all, the beets can be roasted on the grill…no need to turn on the oven on a super-hot day.

Roasted Beets and Beet Greens with Feta
Prepare Dressing
3 T champagne vinegar
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 c olive oil
mix (or shake) well

Prepare Beets
wash 3-4 large beets and wrap individually in foil
roast on grill over medium heat, about 1 hour
unwrap beets, cool, and peel
Chop beets into 1/2 inch pieces
toss beets with a small amount of dressing, to coat

Prepare Beet Greens
remove tough stems
wash greens
slice greens into ribbons
saute w/ a little olive oil just until limp
toss with a little dressing to coat

In a medium bowl, prepare a bed of beet greens. Arrange beets in the center of the bed of greens. Top with crumbled feta cheese and serve. Very tasty. Make some next weekend, and invite your cool neighbors to break bread with you. You won’t be sorry!

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While we can’t say this is exactly what the Xtracycle folks had in mind when they created their “Free Radical” beast, MaryBeth is shown here with and “extra cycle” loaded on the Xtracycle. Here’s how that came to be…

We were quite proud of Junior today for riding his pedal bike (sans training wheels) nearly all the way home, including half way up the “big hill”. And while most any hill is “big” to a four-year old, even MaryBeth upgraded the gearing on her bike to make the climb.

After a day full of activity, including gymnastics in the morning and non-stop motion at pre-school in the afternoon, Junior pulled to the side of the road (ok, the sidewalk) and called for road-side assistance to get the rest of the way home. Mom and the Xtracycle to the rescue! The Xtracycle has just enough room for Junior, his bike, his gear, and Mom’s assorted junk.

If you haven’t already, visit Xtracycle.com, and learn about this Xtraordinary hauling machine.

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(Photo: Abbondanza)
At long last Mother Nature remembered that variety is the spice of life. Fortunately the good folks at Abbondanza are in tune with Ms. Nature and thus this week’s veggie box had a HUGE variety of early summer vegetables. Good thing, as our creative skills were wearing thin after a few weeks of mostly leafy greens…
This week we got, among other things:

Fava Beans (Where’s the Chianti?!)
Green Onions

MaryBeth took on the challenge of planning a menu for this bounty. With a pile of cookbooks at hand (Think she hit the books as hard in Grad school? Hmmm.) she was able to pull together quite a show of culinary variety. This week’s menu ought to be interesting, and certainly more diverse than usual. And thus commences the weekly challenge to consume all of the veggies from our box before the next box arrives!

Pasta salad with leftover salmon, feta cheese, fava beans, chopped tomato, green onion, and beet leaves

SUNDAY (Sidewalk Cafe)
Scallion Pancakes, courtesy of Home & Cooking
Roasted Carrots
Crispy Kale (Kale tossed with Olive Oil and roasted at 425 deg.)

Beet Soup w/ Orange Creme Fraiche (Fields of Greens)
Grilled Chicken
Grilled Zucchini

Pizza w/ fresh mozzarella, onion, fresh tomato, mushrooms, and sausage

Farmers’ Market


If all goes according to plan, we shouldn’t have too much left from by the time we pick up next week’s box on Thursday. If the plan fails, we can always use the juicer to make something other than Margaritas.

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