Meatless Monday, zucchini salsa, and a distressing case of not having anything to say but writing anyway.

I am right smack in the middle of a crippling bout of writer’s block. At work, I’ve just handed off my last contribution to a project that’s taken six months – it wraps up next week. I’m writing reports, strategizing communications, and generally doing serious, professional things, the kinds of things where I can’t just slip in an occurrence or two of “ass” just to amuse myself. It’s all very good stuff, of course, and I quite enjoy what I do. But periodically, professional writing (and editing even more so) can be draining, and all the liquor and free-writing exercises in the world can’t bring back the easy flow of writing when you have something to say.

I’d hoped that sitting down to write about salsa would trigger something. Instead, my head feels completely numb, as if it has run out of words and no longer cares to tell my face to hold my mouth shut. I am pretty sure MFK Fisher never sat slack-jawed and brain-dead waiting for something good to happen.

Fortunately, where the words sometimes disappear, the food is almost always reliable. At the end of a day measured in word-counts and tracked changes, there is the kitchen, and sometimes an ingredient or two to get excited about. Today we had a couple of little zucchini, some red potatoes, a red field tomato, and the fresh brown eggs of free-run chickens. Today, we had Spanish tortilla with zucchini salsa, and slumped onto the couch to let our weary minds wander.

There’s no real recipe for the tortilla – I watched Paul make it once. He lived in Spain so I believe he knows what he’s doing.

The gist of it is that you want to take a couple of tablespoons of oil, and sautĂ© a diced onion until it turns translucent. Then you want to toss one-and-a-half to two pounds of thinly sliced rounds of potatoes (no more than a 1/4-inch, less is ideal) until coated in oil and onion bits. Pour a tiny bit of water into the pan – 1/3 cup  – then cover, and cook for 20 minutes, stirring every so often and scraping the bottom of the pan.

Then remove the potatoes and onion from the pan, cool each for ten minutes (spread out over paper towels and left until there’s no more steam), and heat the broiler. Wipe out the pan. Whisk together six eggs, some salt and pepper, and heat another tablespoon of oil in the pan. Mix potatoes into the eggs, pour the whole thing into the heated pan. Run a spatula along the sides (you don’t want this to stick) every so often, and when the sides are golden (five, six minutes), then shove it under the broiler until the centre sets and the top is golden. Another three minutes, maybe five.

Really, you can do this with anything. Slices of eggplant would be delicious. Zucchini, if it wasn’t already destined for salsa. Sweet potatoes, also good.

And top the whole thing with salsa. If it’s zucchini season and you have a few tender little ones in your crisper, make zucchini salsa (recipe below).

Zucchini salsa

  • 2 cups diced raw zucchini
  • 1 cup diced tomato
  • 1 cup diced red onion
  • 1 clove minced garlic
  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 tbsp. good olive oil
  • 2 tbsp. chopped fresh basil
  • 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
  • Red pepper flakes
  • Salt, to taste

Toss all ingredients together, and stick the whole thing in the fridge for about an hour. Toss again before serving. Serve with tortilla, as above (and also below), or with white fish, or chicken. If there are leftovers, sprinkle them over tortilla chips and cover with cheese to make nachos. Stuff it into tacos. The ingredients cut into larger chunks would make a nice salad.

I’m hoping the storm tonight carries enough electricity in the air to turn my head back on. Something has to, or tomorrow you might find me here, grappling with the basics of subject + verb + object in an embarrassing, futile attempt to regain any semblance of creativity and/or dignity. It is likely that I will turn to liquor, which would of course be completely out of character.