WFP: The season for reflection and planning

I’ve only been growing my own food for 4 summers now, but already I have distinct feelings about the rhythm of it all- almost as if the life that’s around me now has a personality and a purpose, and I’m getting to know it… Like, for instance, each summer around August I have the sensation that the veggies are just throwing themselves at me and I’ve got to catch them all and toss them into useful things to keep them from being wasted. Almost like a dance. And so, while that’s happening, it’s hard for me to think of much else food-wise. All focus goes to making use of the bounty- and while I still cook, it definitely stays a bit simpler. Now that November is here, I almost hear the garden slowing and then standing still, a quiet that I haven’t known since the early days of spring. I will miss it, but now there is space for new things. So, you’re likely to get a little more in the way of recipes, experiments, and food-philosophy from me during these colder days. I even put a notebook in the kitchen, to document such things.

I generally feel that the doing part trumps the thinking part, but the off season reminds me that there is surely a need for both. I have to take time to collect my thoughts and ideas and turn them into something productive. That’s part of why I’m thankful for this blog space- each Wednesday I’ve been able to share a little bit, and it helps me to piece together the puzzle when there’s been so much doing that I can’t remember what to do next. Also, there’s so much trial and error in this, it will really help next year to be able to look up how we did the potatoes and how much we got, or how I stored all the crazy amounts of eggplant out there… 

So, one of the things I’ll be focusing on this winter is the kitchen. Ah, the kitchen- the hub. I have a pretty small galley kitchen. I’m incredibly grateful for it, but it’s been a bit of a task trying to juggle everything in the busy season to keep it all rolling smoothly. I’m often completely out of counter and stove space (jars and canning and whatnot), and down on my hands and knees trying to find this or that tool… I’m often shuffling around where to put things, and reasoning with myself about what I can get rid of and what I should keep. Honestly, it’s more of a mess than I’d like. So, this is a perfect opportunity to streamline things and really think about how to make it work better. One improvement I made (with Jeff’s help, of course) was to install this little shelf above the stove. Now I have a place to keep eggs, bread, salt and pepper, butter and coconut oil, and oven mitts! We’re actually hesitant to install much in the way of cabinets on this wall because Jeff has a lovely plan to expand the kitchen a bit by just flipping the direction of the stairs… it’ll be awesome, and probably a few years away. So, in the meantime, little additions like this make a big difference to me.

In the next few weeks I plan to tackle each drawer and cabinet, donating what I don’t need and organizing what I do. I know this may seem boring to some of you, although I now really see how important it is and I think blogging about it here might help me to actually do it. Accountability and what-not. So bear with me? Plus, I want your help. What are some things that have helped you in the kitchen? What do you think would help you to cook more or feel like you could better use the space? The proper functioning of this room is vital. Especially when throughout the winter we eat more grains and beans and sprouts and fermented beverages and bread- I’m going to be soaking and sprouting and fermenting all over the place… 

And some food- Eggplant burgers with aioli and green salsa, baked potato wedges. I ended up kind of winging this recipe based on what I had, and this is what I came up with:

Grace’s Eggplant Burgers (makes about 4 big burgers)*

4 cups of cubed, unpeeled eggplant
2-3 cloves garlic (crushed or chopped finely)
1/4 cup salsa (plus more to serve on top)
1/2 an onion (chopped)
1-2 green onions (chopped)
1/2 t fish sauce (or soy sauce would work)
1 T salt
several cracks of black pepper
1-2 T flour
1 cup brown rice (cooked)
1 cup bread crumbs
cilantro & parsley, finely chopped, maybe a 1/8 cup total?

Add eggplant, onion, and garlic to a deep saute pan with a little bit of oil or butter. Stir around a bit and saute for a few minutes, then add the salsa and fish sauce and cover pan to steam until cooked through (you might add a splash of water to help this along if you think it’s too dry- you want these to cook down enough until you can easily smoosh them). Then turn off the heat and allow eggplant to cool a bit. Add remaining ingredients, and mix all together into a thick paste. Then take mixture and mold into a burger-shaped tupperware or container, lined with plastic wrap or wax paper. Wrap up completely and plop out of container onto a baking sheet. Then freeze them, or (if cooking immediately) just let them firm up a bit and remove to cook after 20 minutes or so. To cook, just use a non-stick pan or a very well greased skillet and brown on both sides (on med low heat, covered, so they defrost in the middle). Serve with aioli and salsa on top, or with the toppings of your choice (cheese, on a bun, etc). These could also probably be baked, but I haven’t tried that yet…

*note- I made about 4 times as much, so I’m doing my best to estimate on the amounts for a more reasonable sized recipe. You may have to tweak it a little if you feel it needs it.

Potato wedges– all you do is wedge potatoes, toss them in a little oil and salt/pepper, then bake at 425 for about 30-40 minutes, flipping midway.

Aioli– I just make mayonnaise and then add a little crushed garlic to it. So good! We use this, plus homemade ketchup to dip the wedges in.

Okay, so these burgers? I did not expect them to be as good as they were. They were delicious. Jeff took bite after bite saying hilarious things like "It’s a flavor explosion!" So funny. He wanted them the next night and I insisted that we save some for later. For this effect, I really suggest serving them with the aioli and salsa… Enjoy!



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