Zucchini, green pea, feta, & mint paté and zucchini with tarragon and hazelnuts

Zucchini green pea feta paté

It can be hard to stay cheerful when you’re a waitress. Many restaurant patrons are as needy and particular as toddlers, and they’re not always nice about making their needs known. I slip into horribly bitchy crankiness sometimes, as a mom and as a waitress, and it feels awful. On a good day, however, there’s a real joy in feeding people – even if it’s just the humble job of carrying their food to the table. People can be so endearing when they eat – the way they arrange their food before they put it in their mouth, the gestures they use to share with others at their table, even the particular care they use to get their order exactly correct can be as sweet as it is irksome. I like to see people eating together: some have so much to say they forget to eat, and others are either so comfortable together or so awkward they may not say one word through the meal. This weekend I worked with a very young woman, very quiet, very nice. An older couple came in and sat in her section. The man asked his wife what he wanted to drink – he’d forgotten. His wife knew (we all know! He gets the same thing every time.) The waitress came back to write up the order, and she said, “I love them!” Every little thing they said, the way that they knew each other so well they could finish each others’ sentences, all of it was making her so happy. I know what she means! I’d been feeling cranky about humans, that morning, but her love for this couple made humanity seem pretty wonderful. It reminded me of Alyosha, (still reading The Bros. K! Still reading) who says we should “…care for most people exactly as one would for children…” He’s trying, though he he doesn’t feel he’s altogether ready in himself. Sometimes he’s very impatient, and other times he doesn’t see things. I know what he means, too!

Well! We’re still getting tons of zucchini, and I’m trying to love that, too. Here are two ways to prepare it that both use herbs from our garden. One is simple, one a little more complicated. The paté being the latter, though it’s really not difficult to make. I’m calling it a paté because it’s nice on toast or crackers, but we ate it one night as a side dish, and it was good that way too. Feta, mint and peas seem like such a natural combination – so fresh and sweet and salty, all at the same time. This paté has some almonds in, which gives it a sort of country-paté texture. In the simpler dish, the zucchini is sautéed briskly in butter till it’s nicely browned but still has a bit of crunch. It’s mixed with garlic, tarragon and some toasted hazelnuts. A nice side dish!

Zucchini with tarragon and hazelnuts

Here’s King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band with Workingman’s Blues

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Two summer salads with feta

Arugula salad with apples, pecans and feta

We find ourselves in the delightful position of having too much to tell you about! I can’t keep up! I’ve also been talking too much lately. So, first of all, I apologize for posting several times in one day. Second of all, these are salads. Salads should be quick to make and pleasing to eat, and you shouldn’t waffle on about them for hours and hours. So I won’t! I’ll give you some recipes, and some good music, and set you on your way.

Chickpea, tomato, olive, feta salad

My boys loved both of these salads and fought over the bowl. The first is green and light, with arugula, romaine, pink lady apples, feta, and pecans. The second is a little heartier and quite savory. It’s got chickpeas, feta, kalamata olives, capers, pine nuts and fresh juicy tomatoes. We ate it with crispy eggplant rounds, as a nice meal.

And here’s a playlist featuring songs with horns. Horn-y songs. I love songs with horns! If anybody would like to suggest other songs with horns to add the list, I’m all ears!
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Deconstructed tapenade (With castelvetrano olives and french feta)

Deconstructed tapenade

Malcolm has standardized testing all week. These last few weeks he’s been working on essay composition. I decided to write this using the methods he’s been taught. Here we go…
“My goodness, look at those!” She cried, jumping back in surprise. [Narrative grabber] “Castelvetrano olives! I never thought I’d find them in a market so close to my home.” She bought as many as she could afford, and then her eye was caught by a creamy white cheese. “What’s that?” she queried. [Try not to use the words “said” or “asked”]
“Well,” responded the vendor, a short, pleasant woman with dark brown hair, [describe all the characters in detail], “It’s French feta cheese. Would you like a taste?”
It was the most delicious thing she’d ever eaten. [hyperbole] Creamy and juicy, with a nice salty edge, but much milder than Greek feta. She counted out her coins and bought a small slice.

There are several reasons I like castelvetrano olives. One is that they’re very pretty. They’re as green as serpents, as bright as spring grass, and as shiny as emeralds. [similes!] They taste so good, too. They’re have a very vegetable-y taste, they’re fresh and buttery and mildly salty. [List reasons and support with details and examples] I thought the feta would go very well with them, and as I drove home with little packets of each on the seat next to me, my mind whirred with the possibilities. I wanted to make a tapenade, but not puréed – I wanted to retain the taste and texture and pretty colors of the olives. I thought of all the things I could add. Tart cherries would add a touch of sweetness, chopped hazelnuts would add a bit of crunch, and tarragon and chervil would lend their intriguing lemon/anise zing. Plus they’re half of that band “Les fines herbes.” They’re the bassist and the drummer, I think.

To conclude, I love castelvetrano olives, and I was surprised to find them at a market near my home. I made them into a chunky sort of tapenade that had a lovely mix of flavors and textures. It was delicious on small toasted pieces of baguette. We ate every little bit, and I was tempted to lick the bowl! Who knows what we’ll have for dinner tonight? [The conclusion should restate what’s already been said, in a slightly different way, but try to leave the reader wanting more with a takeaway ending.]

Here’s Chunky but Funky by Heavy D, to listen to while you chop olives for your chunky tapenade.
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Artichoke, walnut and feta croquettes

Artichoke croquettes

We don’t have cable in our house (conscious choice, cable companies! Don’t come calling.) But sometimes at work I can persuade my fellow restaurant patrons to watch the cooking channel. My favorite is Chopped. I can imagine a version at my house. Instead of gleaming counters and well-coiffed judges, you’d have tables full of school work and drawings and old bills, walls coated with little hand prints and globs of paint, and an elderly dog clattering through, bumping into everyone. And the challenge would be to look in my fridge, pick 2 leftovers packed away in plastic boxes, and make something special out of it. I’d win this round!! I had some leftover mashed potatoes, a half-used can of artichoke hearts, and a bit of extra sandwich bread on hand. What did I make? Lovely croquettes – crispy, flavorful and delicious. Croquettes can be a little stodgy, what with the bread and potatoes, so I wanted them to have bright flavor – something that would go well with feta and artichoke hearts. Hence the fennel and lemon. They turned out really nice! We ate them with a smooth roasted red pepper sauce (open jar of roasted peppers!), which the kids later happily ate on pasta for lunch.

Here’s Vaios Malliaras with Aginara (artichoke) Greek folk clarinet music from 1933. Odd and really lovely!
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Warm greek salad for a cold day

I love salad, it’s my favorite thing, and I want to eat it every night! But it can be so disappointing this time of year. Hard, flavorless tomatoes, pale icy lettuces. Bleh. So we’ve reinvented the salad to be a warm mix of lightly cooked vegetables mixed with olive oil, balsamic and herbs, and topped with crumbly, melty cheese. I decided to make a version of a Greek salad, because I had olives and feta, but you could do this with any mix of vegetables, herbs, and the cheese of your choice. It would be good with chard, fennel and goat cheese, or pears, walnuts and bleu. You could mix up the vinegars as well, if you’re feeling fancy. Or try nut oils. (I don’t have any, but I wish I did!) The trick is to cook the vegetables just as much as they need to be cooked…so they still have a bit of life and color and crunch. The cooking brings out the flavor of the winter tomatoes and the herbs. I used Kale, because it has such a nice texture and flavor once it’s cooked. Do the Kale a favor and cook it earlier in the day when nobody is around, then drain it and put it in the fridge till you’re ready to assemble everything. It tastes so much better than it smells when it’s cooking! And I added raw spinach right at the end, which wilts slightly as it meets the other warm vegetables, adding some brightness and crunch.

Here’s Blind Willie McTell with Warm it up to Me
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