Of Parmesan and Pollen

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Parmesan stock adds umami depth to anything

Celebrating & Sneezing

As the year stretches out and natural light increases day by day, even the dreaded return of Daylight Savings can’t crush the spirit for long. Though this annual time shift has many well-documented downsides, getting up with the birds brings its own rewards. That joyful dawn chorus makes a cheerful start to the day despite my bleary eyes. That said, a friend just reminded me that our state legislature approved a bill to make daylight saving permanent in 2019 and it’s still waiting for our (actually quite wonderful) governor to sign it. Maybe I’ll kick start the movement with a quick note to my local elected officials to put on some pressure…

As I wandered around on my morning walk, I started sneezing violently and realized that my usual path leads between a thicket of native hazels and a stand of alders. Both are heavy pollen producers and when the wind kicks up, you can watch thick drifts of pollen blowing off the plants. Kachoo! This is when I’m grateful for my N95 masks, which effectively block most of the pollen and dust as well as any stray virus microbes that might be floating about. Though our state mask mandate has been lifted (for now), I still carry a mask in my pocket for just such an occasion. At home, our HEPA filter runs all spring, keeping indoor air cleaner in the main rooms just as the kitty jungle of cat-friendly plants (mainly spider plants and aloes) does in the bathroom. A recent study showed that at least some common houseplants are indeed effective air cleaners, removing chemical pollutants of several kinds. Years ago a NASA study with a similar result was criticized for inadequate parameters. I was happy to see that this new study corrects those failures and reaffirms the air refreshing power of indoor plants.

Show Of Support Matters

On my walk, I noticed many windows, including my own, sporting homemade-looking Ukrainian flags, often alongside Black Lives Matter signs. I’ve often wondered if such signs were anything more than preaching to the choir, but last week, I learned the they may have a surprisingly positive impact. A friend visiting Bainbridge got lost and ended up driving through several smaller neighborhoods looking for the correct road. Along the way, she saw many windows with BLM signs in houses of all sizes and was brought to tears. As she said, “I didn’t know people on Bainbridge cared about people who look like me.” I was moved to tears as well, and started thinking about who we assume might be seeing our signs. Family, friends, and neighbors, of course, but in this tiny neighborhood, I hadn’t really thought much about other visitors, as well as the many service people and delivery truck drivers who frequent our neighborhoods. Whatever their political persuasions, whatever their color or gender, just seeing so many signs of solidarity has to be sending them a message too.

Who sees our windows? We really don’t know, so let your heart shine!

Boldly Flavorful Vegetarian Stock

My youngest brother is an inspired foodie and his blog often sparks a flurry of fun in my own kitchen. Eben cooks a lot of meat, while I lean towards vegetarian meals, but one of his inventions has given my soups a fabulous flavor boost. Vegetarian soups can taste a bit thin, so when Eben wrote about making a savory, Parmesan-based broth a year or so ago, I immediately started experimenting. Last week he posted an updated version that boasts an even deeper umami-rich flavor. That reminded me that I had a bunch of Parmesan rinds in my freezer so I put them right to work. My version below is simpler than his (see his blog link below) but amazingly delicious all the same. I freeze some in recycled yogurt containers and some in an ice cube tray used for pesto and other savory things, then pop them out and store them in a freezer box. When a dish needs a bigger base note, just drop a cube or two into the mix and prepare to be amazed. Try adding a cupful of this stock to split pea soup for another blissful experience.

Hearty Parmesan Stock

1 tablespoon olive or avocado oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
4 stalks celery, chopped
1/4 tsp kosher salt
2 cups chopped Parmesan cheese rinds
8 cups water

Combine oil, vegetables and salt in a soup pot over medium heat and cook until barely soft (3-5 minutes). Add water and chopped rinds, cover and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 3-4 hours, or until cheese rinds are almost entirely melted. Strain through a colander and freeze in small amounts for up to 3 months. Makes about 6 cups stout stock.

Here’s Eben’s more complex version:


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One Response to Of Parmesan and Pollen

  1. Diane Hooper says:

    Thanks Ann,
    Always enjoy your columns! Keep up the good work.

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