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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Baked eggs and yogurt biscuits

February 24, 2012 § 25 Comments

The other day as I sat staring down at my long scratchy to-do list, I suddenly saw it transform before my eyes, distinctly and unmistakeably, into a lamprey, writhing on the page and viciously sucking all the life out of my day.  Gruesome.  And, I knew at once that the image was completely accurate.  I’ve been living off of my to-do list lately.  Actually, it is more like I have been possessed by my to-do list, a drone under its command.

The list consists of winding pages of the endless tasks that ought to be taken care of in between the meetings and duties that create rows of blocks in my calendar, like the bricks of a parapet.  The fact of the matter is, there are things that must get done, and better to list them out than try to keep them sorted and ordered in my poor, addled brain.  But, lately I’ve let the list get to me.  The magnitude of it, and my brain-numbed reliance on it, have left me feeling empty.  It takes over my mind even during the moments I’m trying to let go and recharge.  And that’s where the trouble comes from.

When I wake up, I feel that brief wondrous moment of expansiveness that the morning brings.  Here is the day!  It is filled with possibility!  For two seconds.  Then the list comes thundering down on my head.  It shutters and boards up anything that looks remotely like possibility and replaces them with a sense of floundering and stress.  Feelings that don’t get you anywhere.

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Strata with mushrooms, sweet potato, and bacon

November 3, 2011 § 24 Comments

I’ve had a long-time propensity towards working in coffee shops.  Ever since my crash course in coffee drinking many summers ago in Norway.  (I went from drinking cream and sugar with a splash of coffee to drinking plain coffee, black, in the span of about 3 days, thanks to the merciless teasing of my dear uncle.  Except for the occasional cappuccino, I’ve never looked back.)

I sit, along with the many other denizens of Laptopistan, titrating my caffeine while hammering through work.  Were it 300 years ago, we’d be inventing the stock exchange in London or fomenting revolution in France.  Instead, what are we doing exactly?  Blogging, I suppose!  And dissertating, and consulting, and designing websites, and such and so.

In college, I was never able to study in the library.  It always put me to sleep.  So, instead I went and studied in the coffee shops.  There were two options then, in the sleepy little agricultural town where I went to school.  Not a Starbucks or Caribou Coffee in site.

One coffee shop skewed toward the granola, with fair trade coffee, decent organic baked goods, grating music, and dirty old couches.  The other had unabashedly Midwestern coffee (i.e. on the weak side), but I loved to go there because it was decorated like a family kitchen.  It was the kind of space where I felt comfortable staying for hours.

Like the coffee, the food belonged in a church basement.  But, the names always made me laugh.

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Okonomiyaki with garlic scapes

June 30, 2011 § 8 Comments

Not that long ago, I would have only understood 50% of the words in that title.  (In case you’re wondering, yes they would have been ‘with’ and ‘garlic’.)  But, you know how it goes, we grow, we change, we join vegetable CSAs and then we discover the wonder of garlic scapes.

Garlic scapes are the shoot and bud of the garlic plant (the regular garlic that we eat is  the bulb), and they look basically just like that, lovely curling shaded green stems ending in a graceful teardrop shape.

Except, unlike your average stem, garlic scapes grow in a roller coaster of a loop, making them eminently wearable as jangly bracelets, if, you know, you’re trying to make a fashion statement.

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Scrambled eggs and asparagus

April 29, 2011 § 6 Comments

Devastating tornados in the south, royal weddings, the state of the world is as complicated as always, and my poor little mind just doesn’t always feel like it can process all of it.  So, at the risk of seeming out of touch, I’m trying just to concentrate on what’s right here, right now, and that is flowering trees.  Flowering trees are the best part of spring. Hands down.  The best.  Don’t you think?  (Maybe you actually don’t thinks so, but humor me for the moment.) The supple, soft velvet of their perfect petals shimmer so lightly as breezes waft through and pick up their perfume.  The colors are delicate and diaphanous, as if they had been chosen by a young girl in love with the Impressionists.  And there is simply nothing more giddily romantic than standing under a blossoming cherry or crab apple tree, gazing through the branches as petals flutter down around you and the occasional robin cocks his head at you curiously.

The second best part of the spring is slightly harder to determine. It may be the dandelions sprouting up everywhere (I know it’s weird, but I just love dandelions).  But, I think it’s more likely that it is asparagus.  Asparagus is so delicious and so ephemeral, around about this time of year my hoarding nature kicks in and I find myself buying bundle after bundle of the slender spiky stalks and eating them practically three meals a day.  Frankly I’m a little surprised I haven’t started getting up in the middle of the night to fix myself a midnight asparagus snack, just so I can fit in one more plateful each day before the season is over.  Haven’t started yet, that is.

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Chipotle egg scramble

February 22, 2011 § 4 Comments

Life is a great teacher, and in my time thus far one of the things I’ve learned is there are some things you just don’t mess with.  A mother bear with a cub, for example (and no, I didn’t learn that from Sarah Palin, it’s something you are indoctrinated with almost immediately upon moving to northern Minnesota).  Or an irritated red squirrel (important life lesson: even adorable animals have teeth).  Or Texas (I don’t actually know that one from experience, it’s just the word on the street).  Or someone who has just woken up.  I learned that last one by virtue of having a best friend while growing up who was a very determined late-sleeper.  On weekends, come 1 or 2 in the afternoon her mother would start trying to wake her.  After a half hour or so she would give up and call for reinforcements – that would be me.  Now, in order to survive the charge of the (day)light brigade and live to be the alarm clock another day, I quickly learned a technique of whispering sweet wake-up songs in her ear and/or sitting on her head and then jumping back and doing my best to be very supportive but hands off while the newly awoken volcano girl crankily adjusted to the general idea of being up.

Now, hand in hand with the understanding that you don’t mess with someone who has just woken up is the knowledge that you don’t mess with someone’s breakfast.  Many of us simply don’t have the emotional coping mechanisms to deal with that.  I’ve grown a lot more adventurous over the past few years, but I used to eat the same breakfast every. single. day.  And so, I imagine that if, tomorrow morning come 6am, I tell you all “make these amazing chipotle pepper scrambled eggs for breakfast!!!!” about half of you will look at me with red loathing in your eyes while saying something like, “schnnerrrrummp blerrggh.”  Which, in early morning speak, means “just give me my granola and yogurt and coffee NOW!  Before I shove those eggs up your nose.”  I’m hoping that the other half of you will be like, “booyah!  Bring it on!  I like a breakfast with a little heat.”  But, to the first half of you I say, it’s okay.  Deep breaths.  It’s going to be alright.  You can just make these eggs for lunch or dinner instead!  But either way, you really should make them. « Read the rest of this entry »

Leek and artichoke bread pudding

January 23, 2011 § 21 Comments

We all have something I like to call “the wanting monster.” It’s the little thing inside of us that will barely ever let us be fully content, even if we’ve just received a wonderful gift or had the most phenomenal day. After a brief sojourn of abundance we start to get this creeping feeling, stealing in, tugging at the corners of our minds, trying to convince that something is still missing, even if that thing is only the fact that a beautiful moment can’t last forever. And then we start wanting. More recognition, more control, more money, more toys, a smaller nose, curlier hair, slimmer thighs, bigger muscles… you name it, it can be “wanted after.”

I won’t even get started on the intangibles my wanting monster frequently has me spinning in circles over. But, when it comes to concrete “stuff,” luckily – since I only have a staggeringly small grad student income – my wanting monster isn’t too horribly active. Dangle designer shoes or bags in front of it and it will lumber off to go find a corner to nap in. Roll in fancy cars or high tech gadgets and it will give a loud snore and roll over, completely uninterested. Tempt it with exciting outdoor gear and it might perk up its shaggy head for a moment, intrigued, but it will shortly lie back down again, feeling happy enough with the gear it already has. But oh, show me some lovely dishes or other beautiful kitchenware, and look out! The wanting monster will come crashing in, her eyes glinting with desire. I simply adore beautiful dishes and linens! Even just to look at! Joel, being very handy – a trait that befuddles and amazes my family to no end, since we are not people who build things, we are people who break things – has built us some massive storage cubbies, and already they are half taken up by my swelling collection of colorful dishes and cloths and silverware. (My total adoration of food photography has only been making my dish-lust worse, though at the same time, it sort of justifies it. Maybe? I hope. Let’s just say that it does…) « Read the rest of this entry »

Christmas morning vegetable frittata – reprise

December 25, 2010 § 1 Comment

This post was originally posted one year ago, today, but we had this frittata again this year (of course – it’s tradition!) and I was reminded, as always, of how good it is and wanted to share it again.

I’m pretty much always the first one up on Christmas morning (originally because I was more ridiculously excited to open presents than anyone else, now it’s because I’m hungry before anyone else!), and while I wait around for all the other creatures to start stirring, I put on a pot of coffee, and I start cooking this frittata for our Christmas Day brunch.

This year, as I sautéed the onions and whisked the eggs, the ghost of Christmas past beckoned me to look back on young Emily, back when we first started serving this dish for Christmas.  I had no idea what a frittata was in those days.  I just knew that this thing that we were eating was, creamy, flavorful, and delicious and made me feel like it wasn’t even so very horrible to be eating something with vegetables, even for breakfast!  I also loved the word “frittata,” and ran around saying it dramatically, as though I was casting a spell.  “Frittata! Frittataaaaa!” (Yes, I was an obnoxious little kid.)

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Baked eggs and spinach with za’atar

December 19, 2010 § 21 Comments

I seem to have a problem right now.  A little glitch in the way my Christmas spirit is playing out.  I am not a shopper by any means.  For the most part I avoid it with an admirable (I think) level of assiduity.  And when I do have to shop, I psych myself up, put on my game face…and then still only last 10-15 minutes before I start to get childishly irritable.  Anything I thought that I wanted or needed evaporates from my mind and I enter this amazing ascetic state of not wanting anything except to get out (it’s especially bad in TJ Maxx, even though, yes, I know the store can be incredibly handy for finding things you need like new towels or work clothes that don’t have worn out hems and pockets that lead people to raise a slightly judgmental eyebrow at you).  But lately, happily, it has been the time to do some shopping for others, which in general I much prefer.

We’ve been scurrying around, wish lists in tow, searching for the standard hopalong boots for Barney and Ben and that doll that walks and talks for Janice and Jen, and so on.  And I keep finding things for myself instead!  I’m pretty sure you’re not supposed to buy more for yourself than for your entire family shopping list combined, but there these lovely things are sitting on the shelves begging me to give them just a little closer look.  A book that I suddenly remembered I want to read.  Some awesome eggplant purple running shorts on clearance.  Adorable polka dotted napkins.  Oh, and this fabulous little individual-sized, red Le Creuset baking dish – on super sale!  How could I not buy it?  (Don’t answer that.) « Read the rest of this entry »

Savory pear Dutch baby

November 24, 2010 § 15 Comments

Boston is a brunch city.  This is one of the first things I really noted about the place after moving here a few years ago.  Other characteristics I was more prepared for, the Red Sox fervor, the horrendous driving (you could use Bostonian driving to define the word abysmal), the unfortunate weather, the massive quantities of students stuffed into every historic nook and cranny.  But, the brunch fanaticism, I was not prepared for.
Somehow, and who knows how, it has become a deeply rooted issue of culture and identity out here.  Discussions about the best places for brunch are loving gush fests centered on hollandaise and stuffed French toasts, though disagreements can come close to blows.  Oh, and any meal on the weekend that comes before dinner is called brunch.  That was the most confusing part for me.  People would invite me to brunch and when I’d ask what time they’d say 2pm.  Isn’t that a late lunch??
Apparently not.
I enjoy brunch foods, but I am not a brunch person.  I am a breakfast person.  One of those people who wakes up already reaching from their bed for a cup of coffee and a bite to eat.  And if I don’t eat within approximately 30-45 minutes of waking up, I melt into an incapacitated, shaky, whiny, grouchy lump of low blood sugar.  So, if I’m going to have brunch, I usually have breakfast first.
This works especially well on the day after a holiday like Thanksgiving.  I languidly wake up – a couple of hours before everyone else – and while they slowly creak their eyes open and take a few hours to contemplate the idea of having something to eat (a hair of the dog that bit you after an extravagant feast like Thanksgiving, you could say) I get to dive into the leftovers of the pie, with some whipped cream of course, for breakfast.  And by the time everyone else is ready for brunch, well, I am too!

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