Black pepper shortbread with chevre, pine nuts, and marinated summer squash

August 15, 2012 § 9 Comments

As we get ready to leave Boston, people keep asking me if I have a Boston bucket list, the things I want to do – or do one last time – before we skip town for colder, more birch tree and lake filled climes.  I don’t for the most part.  My bucket list is really seeing people, the close friends or just the daily faces that are so familiar.

It’s entirely expected that I’ll miss our dear, wonderful friends, our neighbors, my fellow doctoral students.  I’ll miss them like the dickens.  What is less expected, but is a realization creeping up on me is how much I will probably wind up missing the UPS man, the hip barristas at the local coffee shop, the sandwich crafting artistes at the cafe, the goofy kids at the cash register at the dog bakery (yes, there’s a dog bakery in our neighborhood), the fellow dog owners I wave at every day when I’m out with Squid, the old guy in the short shorts and helmet from the early ’80s who rides his bike everywhere all year round.

These are the personalities, colors, faces, voices that make up what we have of community here.

Also on my bucket list is simply keeping my eyes open to appreciate the daily sights here.  We have a wonderful view from our apartment of lush tree tops and just the hints of skyscraper tops (Boston has all of 4 or 5 skyscrapers).  It’s Boston, so there are truly historic sites tucked in here and there and everywhere amidst daily life.  The trees and vines, flowers and bushes of the arboretum look like fairyscapes right now, so I’m trying to remember to breathe them in amidst the frenzy of everything else going on.

And, no surprise, there is a bit of a food bucket list.  We’re making quick runs to our favorite farm stands, an unhealthy number of stops at our favorite bakeries and ice cream shop, and by the end of next week, we’ll probably be floating away on a river of really excellent iced coffee.

Most exciting of all (well, maybe not of all, but it was definitely exciting), we finally went on a hot date to a rather fancy restaurant that we’ve been daydreaming about trying for a while.  For all my interest in food and reading of restaurant reviews in the Times, I have been to very few seriously fine dining establishments (approximately zero, before this).  I’ve been a grad student for a while, and all!  So, though I love the idea of it, I’m completely intimidated by fancy restaurants, and we probably would not have wound up going in the end had Joel’s aunt and uncle not brilliantly and generously given us a gift certificate as a birthday present.

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Goat cheese popovers with blueberry sauce

August 6, 2012 § 15 Comments

First off, foremost, and before anything else, thank you!  Seriously, thank you.  Jumping up and down clapping my hands thank you.  I’m 8 and I just got the Playmobile Victorian dollhouse set I’ve been coveting all year, thank you.  Your enthusiasm, and support, and encouragement for Joel’s and my thoughts and plans mean so very, very much to me, and you will definitely be hearing stories as we get going with our new adventures!

And now, because when I’m overwhelmed with gratitude transitions go completely out the window, without further ado let’s go ahead and talk about breakfast.  Or snack.  Or breakfast standing in as dinner.  Or however you want to serve these popovers.  (The first, followed by the second, followed by the third works quite well.  I can say from experience.)

Though in the end they became the sauce rather than the apparent centerpiece, it was actually the blueberries that started the wheels turning and rolled me down the path that led eventually to popovers.

I saw them (the blueberries, that is), majestically portly and dusty midnight blue, piled high in their cardboard pints at our tiny neighborhood farmer’s market, and I simply couldn’t resist.  The word that comes to mind is peak.  Blueberries are at their peak, and they looked it.

The blueberry acquisition was followed, in short order, by a creamy white round of chevre, and I began to form a plan.  It was only the vaguest of plans though.  It went something like:  blueberries and chevre…together.  The question of how I most wished to eat them together remained unanswered for a couple of days. « Read the rest of this entry »

Elotes (Mexican street fair corn) salad

July 27, 2012 § 23 Comments

I’ve been meaning to make this corn salad for a ridiculously long time, ever since Joel first told me about the amazing grilled corn he used to eat when he lived in Mexico.  As far as I could tell, he couldn’t bring it up often enough, it was that good.  And from his description, I believed it was exactly as delicious as he remembered it being.

Elotes is grilled corn smeared with mayonnaise, rolled in crumbled cheese and spices, and spritzed with lime.  If you ask me, that hits pretty much all the most important food groups and flavor categories.  It sounded like something I wanted to be able to shovel into my mouth by the forkful.

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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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