Easy Zucchini and Mushroom Pasta... and a rant.

I'm in a strange place.
Jeez, how many times have you read those words here?
I'm reading this book.  It's kinda blowing my mind.  I also read this 'opinion' article today in stark contrast to the book.  The first is extremely radical but equally well researched, documented and well written.  The latter... not.  In fact, 'Not' on all counts: radical, well researched, well documented or well written.
I don't even know where to begin to describe how much more informed I feel having read the former.  I need to admit though that it wasn't an easy read.  It was disturbing.  I cried sometimes.  It was a near existential crisis (given the fact that I've had more than my share of those in my lifetime this shouldn't be a surprise).  It has made me want with all my heart to check out.  To check out of this whole system of power, patriarchy, imperialism, capitalism and consumerism (mostly there to keep those of us not heavily profiting from the from the first four things placid and sedated).  Then I feel angry.
When you really start looking at how incredibly jacked up a system is.  When you realise that it's not just jacked up here but around the planet.  When you realise that you've been fed a line and swallowed it mostly because you wanted to and it was easier than dealing with the reality.  When you realise that we've gotten ourselves so far down the rabbit hole that it will take a revolution or a catastrophy to crawl back out.  Then I get angry.   The opinion piece suggests that we look at how good we've got it now in comparison to... whenever she's referring to (she never specifies exactly) and give thanks and rejoice.  She argues that we now get food items year round, we are no longer subject to drought (you just pay more for the food), the crop yield is higher and more nutritious (really?!) Unfortunately, these facts we can rejoice in will only remain if oil supplies remain consistent and cheap.
There is this question of sustainability (a word I hesitate to even utter these days).  What if things change?  What if things change drastically?  What if markets change?  What if it simply becomes unsustainable to ship our fertilizer and pesticide ridden food 1300 km?  What if it becomes so expensive that we simply can't afford it anymore?  There are those of us genuinely concerned about relying on a system that precarious.  Food isn't like any other retail commodity.  It's not like an ipad... food is something we need for our survival.  It's right up there with air and water (let's not get into how crazy jacked that is right now).  Am I willing to take the chance that we'll somehow figure things out when the time comes.  Will I be happy saying that we had a good 75 years or so once the well has run dry.  What about our kids?  I think it's a hell of a bet and it's one that I'm not willing to take.  I'll hedge mine with the crazy young idealists who are grass feeding their cattle and selling me purple carrots and take my chances.
Like I said... I'm in a strange place.

please note that I added in a couple of leaves of rainbow chard from my garden... feel free to do the same.
It's summer.  It's hot.  I love it so please don't think I'm complaining for a second about it.  I wanted to cook something easy but substantial and this is what I churned out.  You could definitely throw some meat in here - just about anything would do.

Easy Zucchini and Mushroom Pasta (thrown together from my brain and my available ingredients)
serves 4 - 6

2 med/lg zucchini, halved and thickly sliced
3 cups mushrooms (button, shitake, cremini - whatever is on hand)
3 garlic scape strands, chopped OR 2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tbsp oil or rendered lard
2 cups dry pasta (penne or rigatoni) cooked to al dente (about 15 minutes for my penne), drained and set aside
1/2 - 3/4 cup fresh herbs, finely chopped
3/4 cup parmesan, freshly grated
1/2 cup cream
1/2 vegetable boullion cube
pepper sauce

Heat a large pan or wok over medium heat.
Add in the oil or rendered lard and then throw in the zucchini and garlic scapes.  Heat for a few minutes allowing the zucchini to start getting golden and soft on the edges.  Turn down the heat a bit if things are starting to stick.  (The zucchini should start releasing some liquid at this point as well) Throw in the mushrooms (these tend to absorb a lot of liquid so you might need to add a little more oil at this point.
Cook another 7 - 10 minutes.  You are looking for the zucchini to be quite soft and cooked through (it won't be as white anymore) and the mushrooms to begin to soften a bit.
Turn the heat down to low and toss in the cooked pasta.
Add the herbs and toss.
Dissolve the boullion cube into the cream and then add to the pasta.  If you need a little more liquid then go for it but don't overdo it here you just want enough liquid to coat the pasta not create a sauce.
Add in the grated parmesan and toss until it melts through the pasta.
Check the taste and add salt as needed.

Cauliflower Risotto Bianco

In my post-school meandering I've spent a lot of time just sitting.  Getting my toenails painted...

reading, sending emails, Facebooking, you know... that kind of thing.  In my Facebook perusing I came across this article that one of my friends shared.
The article is by a contributor to the New York Times.  It's been all over Facebook and god knows what else.  It's called 'The Busy Trap'.  I loved it.  It hit home.  We've all had those friends... you know the ones who have to book you in.  The ones that say 'Yeah, definitely.  Once things slow down then we'll book something' when you ask them to get together.  We've probably all been those people at some time or other.  The thing is that I had just just read this post by one of my favourite bloggers.  Chandelle is writing about summer and simplicity and how she and her partner consciously chose to live differently, not as an experiment... but permanently.

When I was younger I would sometimes feel like something inside me was going to burst - in a good way.  Like there was all kinds of creativity in there, all damned up for some reason or other that I could never figure out.  I wanted to let it out.  I tried.  I felt frustrated.  I tried again.  I looked for support or belief or whatever you might call it from others.  I felt frustrated.  And then time happens.  Marches on or whatever the hell we say.  Stuff happens that distracts you and covers up all that 'feeling of bursting'. Stuff accumulates and before you know it you're surrounded.  By people.  By stuff.  By a job.  By multiple roles.  By all of these things competing for first priority.  At least that's how it's been for me.  I've talked things through so much with D (because he's kinda in the same boat as I am) and looked for reasons or causes or blame or whatever but the bottom line is that all of that creativity/thought/idea just isn't there... it's all cloudy.
After reading these two articles I've started to wonder if I haven't had it completely backwards.  What if the only reason that all that stuff never got out wasn't because of something that I did wrong or someone else did wrong to me but because of something that I didn't do.  I had lots of time to sit and stew when I was in university.  I had no tv.  I didn't really listen to the radio.  I remember times when my busy friends were all busy and I had no work and would just sit on my couch.  Occasionally, something amazing would happen like a great poem or awesome wedding vows or a kicking vocal lick but mostly I just sat there and felt sorry for myself because I wasn't busy like my friends were.
Now I find myself wishing for that time again... and more.  Who knows what could have been with more time like that.  Who knows what kind of person I would be with more of that time - idle, nothing, wasted (not) time.  What would it turn me into.  I fully intend to do my best to find out this summer.
This of course has absolutely nothing to do with Cauliflower risotto.

Cauliflower Risotto Bianco adapted from 'Vegetarian' by Alice Hart

4 1/2 cup vegetable stock
1 vegetable boullion cube
4 cups cauliflower broken into bite sized florets
2 tbsp butter
1/2 cup garlic scapes, chopped (optional: use 2 cloves crushed garlic)
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
generous 1/2 cup parmesan cheese freshly grated
1/2 cup cream
salt to taste

Steam the cauliflower for about 7 minutes or until just starting to soften.  Set aside.
Heat the vegetable stock and boullion cube together until almost simmering.
Heat a heavy bottomed sauce pan over med/low heat and  add the butter.  Once the butter is melted add in the garlics scapes or garlic and cook for just a minute.  Add in the arborio rice and stir until the rice is coated.
Begin to add in the vegetable stock one ladleful at a time, stirring constantly and making sure that the mixture doesn't stop simmering.  You want to add in another ladle of stock once the liquid gets low but not low enough for the rice to stick to the bottom of the pan.  Continue for about 20 minutes or so.  The rice should be soft and not look more white in the middle - ie.  all one colour.  Turn the heat down to low.
Add in the parmesan cheese and the cream.  Stir well and check the taste.  Add salt if necessary.
Add in the cooked cauliflower.  Stir and serve.

Roasted Strawberry Ripple Ice Cream

I capitalised everything.  This recipe deserves each and every capitalisation.
I've realised over the last few months that this blog is really about what we eat in our house.  What I make.  I show you the duds, the failed cakes, the weird looking bread.  I show you all my desperation food and my comfort food.  This ice cream is kinda my 'fill-in-the-gaps-and-stop-feeling-sorry-for-yourself' food.
You see I haven't gotten strawberry picking yet.  My intentions were... good.  In fact, they were great.  I had a day all set up with my friend C.  I would drive up to her place (about an hour and a half away) we would go picking together, we would lunch, I would help with some weeding (which is no small task) and then I would toddle off home strawberry baskets in hand feeling spent but refreshed all at the same time.  Then the day before D told me he needed the car for a gig the next day.  Then there were rehearsals and graduations at school.  Then Kid #1 had graduation.  Then... Then... I wrote to my friend C and in my frustration told her that I felt like a loser.  She was so gracious.   I still haven't gone strawberry picking.

So yesterday, I was rummaging through what's left in my freezer because I'm ready to start filling it again... fresh peas and beans are on their way.  I found a batch of roasted strawberries from last year.  Not just any plain old roasted strawberries but roasted in rum, balsamic vinegar and sugar.  Oh yeah.  I remember making it last year and thinking of all the awesome possibilities... and then I forgot about it.  Poor, forlorn bag of roasted strawberries just waiting there for poor, forlorn, strawberry-less me to find them.  It was love at first sight.
I've adapted my favourite chocolate ice cream recipe here by upping some things and lowering others but the method remains the same.  Custard.  Cool the custard.  Pour into ice cream maker.  Add in fruit mix.  Freeze.  Eat.  I had a little for breakfast today.

On a completely different note:  I've been to a lot of graduations and recitals and awards ceremonies lately.  I must confess that I wish Kid #1 was getting all the awards.  We had a conversation about it.  It went something like this:
Me:  Over the summer the only things that you need to work on are piano, theory and math.  I have a math book for you to start.
Kid #1:  Why Math?
Me:  Because we want you to feel more confident with math.  I don't want it to be one of those subjects that you end up telling yourself you can't do.  Besides, next year being grade 7 you could get on the Honour Roll
Kid #1:  Why is the Honour Roll so important? (getting a little petulant and smart ass now)
Me: It's just a way of recognizing the students who have made a significant achievement with their grades.
Kid #1:  Well, if I get 79% does that mean I'm dumb?  That makes no sense...
And on and on.  I start getting pissed and we stop talking about it.  The thing is though that the more I thought about it the more I wondered the same thing.  Why is the Honour Roll so important?  Is it a guarantee?  Does it mean we'll accomplish something later in life?  Why do we feel this need to award and reward even the insignificant.  I'm still rolling this around...
(I know it's Canada Day so I've done my best by giving you a 'red and white' dish... patriotic Me)

Roasted Strawberry Ripple Ice Cream adapted from 'SuperNatural Everyday' and Epicurious.com

2 cups (or so) strawberries, washed, hulled and halved
2 tbsp maple syrup
1 tbsp olive oil
pinch of salt
2 tbsp rum
2 tbsp cane sugar (or sugar)
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

Ice Cream
1 1/2 cups milk
1 1/2 cups whipping cream (heavy cream)
6 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
2 vanilla beans, opened and seeds scraped out
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Get a 9x13 baking dish ready.
Combine all the ingredients and mix until the strawberries are completely coated.  Pour into the baking dish.
Roast for about 40 minutes which should be long enough for the juice to thicken but not burn.
Remove from oven and place in a bowl to cool.
Cool completely.

Ice Cream

In a heavy bottomed saucepan heat the sugar just a little over medium heat.
Add in the milk and cream.  Stir and let it heat through.  Add in the vanilla beans (throw the whole bean in) and the scraped out seeds.
Once the mixture is almost at a simmer but not quite then turn the heat down to medium/low.  Ladle some of the cream mixture into the egg yolks, stirring constantly.  Add about a cup of the heated cream into the egg yolk.  Then pour the egg yolk mixture back into the sauce pan.  Add in the vanilla extract.  Heat the mixture through and test its readiness by dipping in a wooden spoon.  If you can run your finger through the back of the spoon and the sides don't run together then it's ready.
Run the mixture through a sieve into a bowl.  Cover with cling film, placing the cling film right on top of the custard.
Cool completely and refrigerate for a few hours or even overnight.
Place in an ice cream maker at churn until the custard is ice creamy - right at the end of the churning add in the roasted strawberry mixture.  Don't churn for long.
Remove to a freezable container.
Freeze for a few hours just to harden the ice cream.  You will want to soften it a bit before serving though.

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St Michael's Choir School is celebrating it's 75th anniversary year of service to St Michael's Cathedral. Part of the school celebration is a trip to Italy where our boys from Grades 5 - 12 will be performing and celebrating Mass. This blog will be chronicling our adventures. Wanda Thorne is the Vocal Coach at St Michael's Choir School. Gerard Lewis is the Grade 7/8 Homeroom teacher at the Choir School.

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Wanda Thorne
St Michael's Choir School is celebrating it's 75th anniversary year of service to St Michael's Cathedral. Part of the school celebration is a trip to Italy where our boys from Grades 5 - 12 will be performing and celebrating Mass. This blog will be chronicling our adventures. Wanda Thorne is the Vocal Coach at St Michael's Choir School. Gerard Lewis is the Grade 7/8 Homeroom teacher at the Choir School.
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