April 25, 2013 § 4 Comments
Before we get to risotto, I have a few little announcements to make, housekeeping style. I trust the risotto can wait a couple moments, even though it is not known to be the most patient of rice dishes. But anyway, as I mentioned a little bit ago, this here little blog is undergoing a spiffing up process. It’s like Five and Spice is going on Project Makeover! That’s not a real show is it. Extreme Makeover? Anyway, that’s beside the point.
The point is that some major, and (so!) exciting renovations are happening, led by the (brilliant) ladies of Wooden Spoons Kitchen. In order to make it all work, starting sometime on the later end of tomorrow (Friday) the site will be down for a while. It will stay down over the weekend while the magic happens in the background. Then on Monday morning it’ll be back with its brand new look and also at a new URL. Instead of being at wordpress.com the site address will be plain old fiveandspice.com (took me long enough to make the change, right?! Some weird Estonian company or something had snagged that URL, I think in hopes of getting me to buy it from them. But when their lease on it expired, I snapped it up. Take that!).
I’ll have the old site set up to redirect, so old links will all still work and whatnot, but just know that henceforth you’ll be able to look for me at that new address. Now this is important (hence the bold typeface) if you subscribe by email, that should keep working without interruption (at least in theory. Fingers crossed.) but if you subscribe via an rss feed/reader type of thing, you will have to resubscribe. But, this should be easy enough, right? You did it once! I bet you can do it again. (I, on the other hand, have no idea how to subscribe to an rss feed. I am a luddite. This is why other people are in charge of moving the site over, and holding my hand, and talking to me in reassuring voices the whole time.)
So, with that taken care of, let us turn to the risotto. « Read the rest of this entry »
April 23, 2013 § 10 Comments
This is about as typical of a weeknight supper as you get in our house. Roasted fish plus roasted veggies. Bam! Done! Thank you very much. Of course, the ways you can change this up are infinite with different spice rubs or sauces, different types of fish or veggies. We eat salmon most often, caught by our friend Dave who fishes commercially in Alaska. But, this time I had some cod.
I roasted it very simply, but then fancied it up by adding a pistachio and herb pesto – which was nothing but my way of saving the wilting ends of a couple bunches of herbs and the remnants of a bag of pistachios. Roasting a lemon or two with the carrots not only lends flavor to the carrots, but it also emboldens and rounds out the juices of the lemon. The arugula I tossed in at the last minute, to lightly wilt it. Easy peasy lemon squeezey (literally in this case, ha!).
Vær så god!
April 19, 2013 § 25 Comments
I’ve started thinking a lot about love lately. To be more specific, I’ve thinking about love in the face of an uncertain, sometimes scary world.
That sounds dour, doesn’t it. I can’t help it for the moment. Adjusting to this new idea and identity of becoming a parent coupled with feeling that uncertainty acutely, especially because of the madness of the weather and current events and all that stuff, it leaves me really wondering how I’ll do. I struggle with love, you see, because I can be, well, an anxious person sometimes. I’ve been strongly affected by watching loss and sadness ever since I was very small, and somewhere along the way I just stopped trusting that there was benevolence in the universe.
And when you don’t trust, you armor yourself, guarding yourself against strong attachments because of the fear that something will happen, and you’ll be left bereft. But then (thankfully!) there are people in my life who mean so much to me, Joel, my family and community, Squid (so she’s a fur person not a person-person, but she counts), that my love for them handily bursts through any shields I have raised to try to protect myself. This is wonderful, but it’s also frightening.
I’m sure that baby, when he or she comes, will be the same. Except better/worse. I mean, let’s face it, I love our darn dog so insanely much I feel like I would be destroyed if something happened to her. How the heck am I going to handle the amount of love that comes with having a baby????
This little one makes my day
Because the world is uncertain, and mostly out of our control. We can set up all the plans and safeguards we can imagine, but we still can’t protect ourselves or others from absolutely everything. And dwelling on that sort of thing, my friends, is how you make yourself anxious (you know, in case you were wondering).
In the past 5 or so years, after I had noticed myself stuck in this sort of pattern of thinking, I started trying to work on it. Meditate or pray, I’ve been told. Journal. Develop the habit of thinking of yourself as lovable; this allows you to love others. Make note of things that you are grateful for, new things every day. « Read the rest of this entry »
April 15, 2013 § 30 Comments
I wrote this post yesterday, before the horrifying explosions in Boston, and I’m posting it anyway as it is, but I cannot not start by saying that my heart is sobbing for Boston. For the past seven years until this year, every marathon Monday I have either been cheering near the finish or running the marathon, and so many people I care for were nearby today, though they are all safe as far as I have been able to discover. The Boston Marathon is such a joyful pageant, a show of camaraderie and of the amazing strength of the human body. It is tragic, it is unbearable as always, to see such goodness attacked. That’s the very essence of an act of terrorism, I guess, to attack something good and meaningful to try to frighten people out of participating in the goodness life has to offer. I often don’t actually feel strong enough to keep hoping and living joyfully in the face of such uncertainty, pain, and cruelty. I am overcome with sorrow. I pray for strength for Boston, and for all of us.
I’m in the process of working on a redesign of this site (and it will in a couple weeks be moved, finally, to fiveandspice.com, woohoo!). And when I say I’m working on it, I really mean that the wonderful and talented Melissa and Erin of Wooden Spoons Kitchen are doing the heavy lifting, and I’m pelting them with questions and thoughts, and they’re helping me and making sense of it all admirably. I can’t wait until it’s ready and you all can see it!
In the redesign process, I’ve had to spend a lot of time thinking about what this site is about and what makes it unique, while also spending lots of time looking at other beautiful blogs to guide the redesign and show what I like and don’t like in a look, and voice, and so on. This, I’m sorry to say, sent me into a nice little bout of comparison, which is a worthless way to spend your time. Comparison is the thief of creativity, and yet is nonetheless something that I am horribly prone to. When I go down the road of comparison, I forget that I exist as anything except as how I stack myself up against others (and I never ever stack myself favorably).
There are so many cooking blogs, I wailed to myself. So many are so gorgeous, clever, unique, thoughtful, creative, have well-tested recipes. What am I even doing trying to participate? Am I just adding to the clutter of an already crowded space? Just adding noise to the din of the argument about what and how we should eat? I’ll never be the best (wah)! What’s the point?
I worked myself into quite a sad, sorry state of worthlessness. And then of course I ran into some nicely lettered quote on pinterest that said something like, “The forest would be a quiet place if only the very best songbirds sang.” Which was totally annoying to see in that moment because I wanted nothing to do with sage advice, or with the truth, or with being reasonable at all. I didn’t want to be an adult! I wanted to wallow!!!! I wanted to fester, to poke at my (self-inflicted) bruise!
And then I had to laugh at myself. Because as soon as I could admit that my ego really just wanted to throw my own little pity party with me as guest of honor, I could see the pointlessness of that behavior, and how utterly true that “annoying” quote was. We exist totally separately from how we compare to others. We each exist in our own remarkable uniqueness. We each have our own voice, and adding that voice to the chorus, if we are singing true, will never be adding clutter. « Read the rest of this entry »
April 10, 2013 § 23 Comments
I have been having an absolute love affair with raw fennel lately. Every night and/or every time I’m at the market my little conversation with myself goes, “what kind of vegetable should we have with dinner? Broccoli? Nah. Cabbage? Not today. Kale? Meh. Ooh, how about a salad with shaved fennel. Oh, yes that sounds perfect.” And it keeps happening. Over and over. So what if I just ate a whole bulb? More fennel please.
It could just be one of my recent cravings. Or perhaps it’s because it’s the closest we’re getting to spring here right now. Still. (Not talking about the weather. I’m not talking about the weather. I’ll just put on another sweater, and not mention the weather.) But, on the whole, I’d say the jag started with this salad.
Fennel salad with burrata? Sign me up, and then give me seconds! Anything that includes buratta tends to be my dream meal. But, the fennel, with its sleek coat of lemon and olive oil and the icy cool of mint leaves was no second fiddle to the burrata’s main act (or what I thought would be the main act, before I sat down to eat).
And, that, in sum, is why I can’t stop eating fennel. I mean, a) I get to use my mandoline, which is always an exciting process because you flirt with losing your fingertips but then get parchment thin delicate sheets of fennel, all in a noodle-like tangle, out of the deal. And then, b) the 15 minute waiting period where the fennel bathes in a lemony dressing ever so slightly softens its crunch and freshens its flavor with the brightness of the lemon – both in juice and zest form – bolstering the anise notes of the vegetable. I fall for lemon-in-both-juice-and-zest-form’s show every time.
This salad, with grapefruit and curds of soft goat cheese is my most recent use of lemony fennel. There is nothing new about combining fennel’s sweetness with the juicy bittersweet of grapefruit. I feel like I have seen it in many a restaurant in past years at this very time of year, the transition time where we start picking up spring while still trailing a few threads of winter along with us. (Once I even had it as a fennel grapefruit salad with pine nuts and chunks of salted brittle candy. That was pretty tasty.) But, look at the word “marinated” there. Marinated makes it different! And new! « Read the rest of this entry »
April 6, 2013 § 24 Comments
Hello dear people! We’re just back from Denver. Did I even mention we were going to Denver? I don’t think I did. There were more important things to talk about! But, in spite of the lack of public acknowledgment, that is, in fact, where we were for the last week. We were at a distilling conference, which, as you may suspect, is a whole lot cooler than many of the conferences one could find oneself attending.
Craft distillers are a pretty good bunch, as far as I could tell from my observations of the 600 or 700 or so that were at the conference with us. Quirky, driven, creative, Jacks and Jills of all trades, and quite friendly besides the occasional curmudgeon – there always has to be at least one curmudgeon in any bunch.
I didn’t make a ton of connections. I’m an absolutely terrible networker! I clam up and get shy and awkward and can’t think of a thing to say to anybody, so I float off around the edges and watch people talk. But, there were some smaller, more intimate gatherings where I could actually connect with people and those people I found to be stellar ones! Also, the sessions were generally useful and fascinating. We learned about variables in aging spirits, how to work with wholesalers, innovations in packaging, women in distilling, surviving an audit, how to “nose” (that is to say, smell) unwanted compounds in your spirits. Good stuff.
Now we’re back and the refrigerator is starkly empty. I need to do a major restock. And I need to bake some bread.
As much as possible, I’ve been trying to bake all of our bread at home. Which sounds like some sort of half super-hero, half Ma on the prairie type of domestic prowess. But, I’ve found that there are so many recipes for low maintenance loaves out there, that baking one a week isn’t all that great of a commitment. And the payoff is huge. (Mostly. Sometimes my loaves totally flop. Those are sad days.) Plus, it means we deeply savor every bite of bread. (I usually only have one slice a day so the bread lasts through the week. Joel always accuses me of bread rationing.)
I adore good bread. I can completely understand how civilizations could be built on bread and why it is a metaphor for life, for spirit, for giving, for abundance. So, it makes me terribly sad to know that more and more people can’t eat bread, and that bread in the way it’s commercially produced these days is not very good for us at all. It’s a tragedy really. What are we if bread no longer makes sense in the context of “the bread of life” or “our daily bread?”
I’m no expert, but from what I’ve read, I suspect the reasons for this change in bread are complex and many. Part of it, I am quite convinced, comes from the changes in the grain supply with the industrialization of agriculture. The wheat available today is not the wheat people ate for hundreds of years. The wheat available to us now has been bred to be durable, shippable, highly storable, easy to harvest, and high-yield, but not to be nutritious or flavorful. The potential goodness of the grain has been bred right out of it, leaving instead a highly gluten-filled, hard to digest, inflammatory commodity. « Read the rest of this entry »
March 30, 2013 § 56 Comments
I went a little insane this last week. I went for a walk with the dog and didn’t need to wear a hat. My face didn’t feel cold at all. I knew intellectually that was possible, but I had actually kind of forgotten what that felt like. And I was like, “SPRING!!!!!”
So then I decided we were going to celebrate both Passover and Easter – Joel’s background is Jewish and mine is Lutheran, so I figured we were allowed. We (ok, really it’s me, but Joel goes along with it so well) are extremely attracted by events, holidays, and meals steeped in symbolism, and both Passover and Easter are ideal for this. In addition to planning big meals for each holiday, I also decided it would be best if we made all of our own matzoh and Easter candy homemade. No problem, right? Ha. I feel like my every spare moment has been in the kitchen, which I don’t really mind. But, then my advisor finally sent me comments back on one of my dissertation drafts, so I was supposed to be editing that too. Oops.
But, so far, it’s all been totally worth it. And as long as the lamb cake I’m currently baking comes out of the mold without its face falling apart, then I feel like we’re ready to rock and roll.
It feels amazing to have my energy coming back because I’ve been pretty exhausted for the last couple months…Which brings me to our very big news. It, as you may have already guessed, has everything to do with an entirely different sort of, shall we say, baking project, with buns in ovens, and all. And I don’t mean the hot cross kind.
That is to say, come late September we’re expecting a new family member to join our little family!(!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) We couldn’t be more thrilled. Or terrified, of course. « Read the rest of this entry »
March 25, 2013 § 23 Comments
After I posted about my method for making creamy scrambled eggs, I received several requests asking whether I could write a similar post on making the perfect omelet.
The answer: most certainly! … Well, sort of.
The perfect omelet is a fitful, finnicky, tricky thing. It is said that you can judge the caliber of a chef by his or her plain roast chicken and his or her omelet. So, I knew that if I was to post about how to cook an omelet, I could not do so lightly.
So, I decided to put in a whole bunch of practice first.
On the whole, I’m relatively unpracticed at making omelets. Certainly if you compare with my practice in fried or scrambled eggs. I like eggs in nearly any preparation, but omelets are not at the very top of my list, so I don’t make them as frequently as some other eggy delights. Actually, if I were to order how frequently I made different types of eggs, the list would be something like this:
- Fried eggs
- Baked eggs (most often baked plainly with just a drizzle of cream and maybe some herbs)
- Scrambled eggs (with or without lots of mix-ins)
- Poached eggs – Frittatas – this one’s a tie
- Soft or hard boiled eggs (though, actually, I do absolutely love a soft boiled egg, if someone else prepares it for me)
- Other egg-based things like savory custards, stratas, souffles, etc.
So there you go. And I have now started the most boring conversation ever, listing egg preparation preferences. Or maybe it’s actually one of the most interesting potential conversations ever. Your egg preferences may be like a personality barometer. Maybe it’s an edible Myer’s-Briggs! Do all other INFJs have the same egg preferences as me? Do ENTPs prefer scrambled eggs above all while ISTJs are omelet people? Feel free to discuss. « Read the rest of this entry »
March 19, 2013 § 20 Comments
I wasn’t kidding about the soups (I even made another one today for lunch. This one, in fact, but with kale instead of cabbage). And, as you can see, I definitely wasn’t kidding about the spinach and pine nut soup. Actually, I used the soup and my desire to make it as an excuse to have an impromptu St. Patrick’s/St. Urho‘s day dinner for a few friends. Clearly there is nothing very Irish (or Finnish for that matter) about spinach and pine nuts, but check out how green that soup is! I decided that with a side of soda bread and some good Irish butter and cheddar it would suit us just fine.
And it did. It’s actually quite a wonderful soup. No wonder I used to make it as a starter for dinner parties all the time! Come to think of it, I think I first served this soup (or a version of it) at the first serious dinner party I ever hosted. That was back in the day, back during my sophomore year of college, if I remember correctly.
Courtesy of my first year of college, I developed such an aversion to the food at the school’s dining hall, I convinced the school to let me not be on a meal plan at all, and I started cooking for myself in the tiny – and usually disgusting with other students’ crusty leftover midnight macaroni and cheese pots and half eaten bags of microwave popcorn – dorm kitchen down at the end of the hallway.
That was pretty much my start of cooking seriously for myself, though in this context “serious” meant a lot of chicken breasts with steamed broccoli interspersed with granola or Special K bars for dinner. (The Special K bar dinner was the saddest.) I also discovered how very lonely it can be to sit and eat dinner in silence by yourself every single night. I suppose that must have contributed to my passion for sharing meals, and I started devising ways to coax others to dine with me. « Read the rest of this entry »
March 14, 2013 § 24 Comments
I’ve been going through a spate of soup-mania lately. Vast quantities of soup have been making their way from the kitchen to my lips. It’s practically all I want to eat.
I mean, I always like soup, but right now something about the world, the liminality of so many things – not the least of which being the season – is making soup particularly appealing. When you’re in between winter and spring as well as all sorts of projects, just waiting (and waiting (and waiting)) for people to get back to you about pesky little things like edits and comments, what better to do than a little slurping? Soup is there to oblige all slurping needs. Also, I have a private theory that I’ve been dehydrated because of the dryness in the air, and my body is trying to make up for the fact that 10 or so cups of water a day just isn’t quite enough by steering me towards eating liquid food as well. Is that even possible? Not sure.
Anyhow, I’ve had avocado soup for lunch for about 5 days in a row. We’ve had sourdough tomato soup, and Norwegian fiskesuppe (with some extra parsnip and tiny arctic shrimp added), and creamy squash soup, and pho. To name just a few. I also just had the sudden flicker of a memory of a spinach and pine nut soup that I used to make for dinner parties in college (because I hosted dinner parties in college. With no kegs or even drinking games. Because I was that cool.). I’ll have to make that some time soon because doesn’t that sound good?
This soup, though, I consider the culmination of sorts (though not the sort of culmination that signals the end. No way. More soups to come, so if you’re a soup person you should come on over…). The soup to rule all soups, you might say. A soup so filled with wonderful things that it is a considerable stretch to call it a soup. It should be eaten with a fork. Indeed, it should be so thick a fork should stand right up in it. « Read the rest of this entry »