Summer squash and rice gratin with salsa verde

June 15, 2012 § 32 Comments

I have waited for almost a year to get to eat this gratin again.  Waiting, waiting, waiting for it to feel reasonable to purchase some summer squash.  Finally I cracked because I just couldn’t wait any longer.  I wanted my gratin!

I first had it last summer when I was home visiting my parents.  It was my mother who suggested making it, and I thought it sounded fine.  Though, how exciting could a summer summer squash gratin really be?  Zucchini and cheese struck me as tasty, but in no way revolutionary.  Just kind of summery comfort food.  (Eep!  That was in no way intended to be a dig at comfort food!  I love comfort food!  But you’ve got to admit, it’s not exciting, per se.  That’s kind of the whole point.)

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Caccio e pepe pizza with roasted radishes

May 21, 2012 § 37 Comments

We spent this weekend in the vegetable garden.  It’s hard to imagine a better use of a weekend, I think.  You’ve got sun, you’ve got soil, water, and greenery.  Those are the four main elements of life besides the ether, right?

My mom loves to tell a story about Pavlov (yes, the same Pavlov who was into studying dogs salivating in response to bells) who at some point in his adult life became severely ill.  On the verge of death, he asked his assistant to bring him a bucket of soil from the river nearby.  He buried his hands into this dirt, playing with it, and filling his mind with the memories of playing in the dirt when he was a child.  The delight and strength this brought him helped him break his fever, and, miraculously, he recovered completely.

I’m rather fond of this story, myself, actually.  Being in touch with the earth, quite literally, through the process of digging your hands into it does feel to me like it has this power to bring an unmistakeable sense of peace and wellbeing.  I sure felt that way this weekend, crouched in the dusty, weed filled span of our garden plot, ferreting out weeds and replacing them with seedlings.

It was high time we got ourselves over there, for many reasons, not the least of which was that, because of some scheduling snafus and other everyday trivialities, we had neglected the garden right up until this weekend.  We had neither weeded nor planted anything.  I joked that we were going to leave it feral and use it as a foraging garden.

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Roasted strawberries with whipped, honeyed chevre

May 14, 2012 § 35 Comments

The past couple of semesters, I’ve taught a graduate class on theories of behavior change in nutrition and public health promotion.  (Talk about a mouthful of a course name, right?!)  One of my favorite theories we cover in this class is one called Self Determination Theory.

I like it because in many fields, health promotion most definitely among them, we spend a lot of time thinking about what people are doing wrong and trying to figure out how we can convince them to do what we think is best for them based on what we (the experts, that is) think is important.  And, when you spend a whole lot of energy focusing on the many things people aren’t doing or don’t really want to do, it’s easy to forget that people are also capable of amazing joy, creativity, curiosity, and completely intrinsic motivation.

Self Determination Theory is exactly about that.  About where people’s motivation comes from and how the more they can connect a behavior with things that intrinsically motivate them, the more they will internalize that behavior, and the more likely they are to keep doing it.

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The green madame

April 24, 2012 § 8 Comments

I have a problem with, no, let me rephrase that, it’s not really a problem, but I have a predisposition toward collecting little scenes that I see during the day and immediately turning them into images or metaphors for something else.  There’s nothing wrong with this at all, of course.  In fact, it’s quite handy at times.

But, today I want to share three vignettes with you that I like so much, I’m refusing to let my brain get all allegorical with them, even though it would be easy enough to do so.  I’m simply going to share them with you.  And if you’d like to  turn them into your own metaphors, by all means, go for it.

The first, I saw when I was running in the arboretum near our house this weekend.  It was swarming with birders, like bees pacing busily about their hive.  A group of them was standing a little ways back from a tall pine.  Each person in the group had binoculars plastered to their eyes.  They all peered upward, craning their necks, searching for something in the empty tree.  Meanwhile, a giant, chestnut colored red tailed hawk swooped down from the tree right behind them.  It stood on the ground, unnoticed, for a while, cocking its head at the birders curiously.   Then it took off, still unseen.  I chose not to say anything.

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Pasta with burrata and kale-roasted garlic sauce

April 17, 2012 § 26 Comments

I moved to Boston just about seven years ago.  Actually, for those of you interested in geographical specificity, I moved to Somerville.  But I didn’t even know what the distinction was between them at the time.  On the day I arrived, after having driven through the night, through Canada, with only a two hour stop for a nap at 6:30 in the morning before chugging onward and pulling up to my new apartment at 2:30 PM, I decided to try to take the subway down to the Boston Common and the Public Garden to hang out there in the remaining late afternoon sun.  (Actually facing the boxes of my belongings in my new space was simply too daunting.  I needed some time.)

The last time I had been in the area was the summer between kindergarten and first grade, and the only thing I still remembered from that experience in Boston was being in the Public Garden.  Actually, what I remembered was sitting on the Make Way for Ducklings statue in the Public Garden, and that memory was largely based on a photograph my mom had taken.

In heading towards this destination held in my memory, the very first thing  I did (and this is a remarkably easy thing to do in Boston, even if you have a better sense of direction than yours truly) was get on a bus going in exactly the wrong direction.  I don’t even know how I figured out I was on the wrong course, except perhaps when the conductor yelled, “Arlington Center!”  All I remember is how vivid, and noisy, and full of energy everything felt.  I always feel this way in a new city, senses heightened as I eye everything closely trying to discern what it is, what it means, where I’m headed.

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Mushroom and chevre frittata and scenes from a Saturday

April 15, 2012 § 16 Comments

Yesterday we traveled up along Massachusetts’ North Shore brimming with purpose.  Brimming also with coffee because that is a central element of a Saturday morning in this household.  We were on our way to visit Turkey Shore Distillery, to learn more about the distilling process and to pick the owner’s brain of everything he knows.

But first came a requisite stop along the beach for a walk and a picnic.  We wiggled our toes in the sand, waded brashly into the water (followed by an expeditious exit back onto the shore), and enthusiastically dug holes.  Well, some of us dug holes.  Some of us stayed on the sidelines and cheered.

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Tartines of pear, parsnip, and blue cheese

April 7, 2012 § 14 Comments

My childhood was filled with snowy Easters, the ground washed out with dirty grey snow banks punctuated by brown splotches as taupe as a suburban housing development.  We would collect barren branches at the start of Lent and put them in a vase, and by Easter tiny leaves would be peeping out from the buds.  This was the only green to be seen.  The only flowers were those in the colorful plastic wrapped pots we brought home from the grocery store.

This is my way of asking forgiveness if I prattle on and on about spring for the next couple of weeks.  It’s a bit hard to think about much else right now.  Spring in these parts can be a little in your face.

If appearances are anything to go by, the trees have hired the same decorator that did Barbie’s Dreamhouse.  The cherries’ branches are waterfalls of tiny pink blossoms.  The magnolias are bedecked with large drooping flowers as soft and swishy as ballerina skirts.  I always find the pastel palate that industry breaks out for spring to be terribly cheesy, until spring actually rolls around.  Then I remember that it’s just honest. « Read the rest of this entry »

A Greek Salad in Winter

February 28, 2012 § 16 Comments

The weeks are continuing to double time it in their march forward.  The days downright hurtle.  I duck as something goes whizzing uncontrollably over my head, then stand back up muttering, “holy bleep, was that Thursday?!”

I feel the insight of Lewis Carroll’s winsome scene in which Alice, on the cooky side of the looking glass, runs beside the Red Queen as the Queen explains that they’re not going anywhere, but rather everything is moving swiftly by them and, “it takes all the running you can do, to keep in place.”  (I’m afraid I’ve been neglecting my work on believing impossible things before breakfast, though.)

As I run to stay in place, I try to remember to notice my breath, feel my hands and feet, and to keep around a bottomless pot of soup and a sturdy salad so I can dip into them for several days.

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Pizza with mozzarella, lemon, and olives

January 27, 2012 § 16 Comments

I love to look at the work of various chefs, always trolling for ideas to pocket and have turn up sometime later, perhaps a little jumbled looking from having gone through the brain equivalent of a wash cycle, in meals I cook.  I think there must always be a little ticker tape running in my mind storing up a restaurant meal here, a recipe there.  Not that they ever seem to come back to me when I most want them to.  But, they’re influential.

The food ideas from some quadrants are delectably comfortable, vindicating in a sense.  I see them and I think, ‘oh that’s exactly how I would have done that!’ Or, ‘ha! I’ve made almost exactly that before!  I should make it again sometime.’

Some food ideas shake you up a little, splash some cold water in your face to wake you up from the food ruts we all settle into, at times more frequently than not.  These are the dishes that inspire you with an ‘I would never have thought of that!’ nudge.  Sometimes that ‘I would never have thought of that’ is followed by an ‘and I’m intimidated by the very idea, and don’t think I actually want to try making something like that at all.’  Other times it’s followed by an ‘and I will make it the next chance I get!’

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Creamy orecchiette with peas, pancetta, and mint

January 17, 2012 § 17 Comments

The first thing that Joel and I did together that could be classified (however questionably) as a date involved sitting at his kitchen table for 6 or 7 hours stuffing envelopes.  Not exactly romantic in the, ahem, classical sense.  In fact, I’m still trying to sort through exactly how he convinced me that that would be a worthwhile use of my day.  But, it did give us plenty of time to talk, and talk and talk and talk.  About literature, our personal histories and scandals, politics, friends, hopes and aspirations.

Good stuff.

He learned about me that I have trouble telling apart left and right, probably due to a brain lesion that I somehow acquired without even realizing it.  I had to use this to justify the fact that I accidentally put the stamp in the wrong corner of a stack of something like 100 envelopes.

I learned about him that he considered himself a connoisseur of macaroni and cheese.

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