Strawberry gazpacho

June 8, 2012 § 25 Comments

So, I think I might have had more to share with you.  Some further reflections, maybe a recipe, and many many thanks for your wonderful, kind response to my post about my feast.  But it’s going to have to wait.  It will have to wait because my consciousness has been completely and irrevocably subsumed by this soup.

It’s like a secret that’s just too good.  It takes on a will of its own, growing and pushing and elbowing until it burbles out to be shared, whether or not you meant for it to be aired.  I do want to share this soup with you, and it has decided that it simply can’t wait any longer.

When we ate it for supper a while back Joel exclaimed, “this is the first soup that I can say without qualification that I love.”  Myself, I would count it among a very small handful of soups that I have truly loved.  But it is the only one of said soups that does not also contain more than my week’s allotment of cream in a single bowl.

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Jorrun’s rhubarb torte

June 1, 2012 § 17 Comments

If you page through my spiral bound notebook stuffed with recipes, you will almost certainly notice that it is spattered and worn and nearly fallen apart.  If your eye is particularly of the sort that seeks out patterns, however, you may also notice that somewhere in the realm of 75 percent of the recipes in it are attached to someone’s name.

Beth’s chicken, Peter’s pancakes, Daim cake from Caroline, Liz’s shirley bars, Judy’s scones, Peach’s cardamom bread.  And I’m fairly positive that, all around the world, many cooks have similarly labeled recipes, this one from grandma, that one from an old friend, and this one from that lady who used to live down the street.  Remember her?  She always made the best…

Even some of my cookbooks by acclaimed chefs contain recipes attributed by name to someone else –  Lindsay’s sugar cookies or Rob’s famous coleslaw in Sunday Suppers at Lucques, Sally Schmitt’s cranberry and apple kuchen or Eric’s staff lasagne in the French Laundry.

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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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Mango, avocado, and crab spring rolls

May 7, 2012 § 141 Comments

When you think about it, it’s remarkable, really, just how many opportunities we have every day to do something new.  Much of the time it doesn’t feel like it.  Our days follow patterns.  We have baskets full of habits and well-worn ruts that we comfortably cruise along in.

And actually, a certain amount of repetition and stability in your life turns out to be really important and healthy.  Which makes perfect sense.  Nature is full of rhythms and patterns.  We reside within them, and if completely rhythmless we feel jostled and jarred and seriously uncomfortable.

But if we don’t keep our eyes open to all the myriad of tiny dips and swerves within the patterns, it can be easy to feel trapped in some sort of mold that looks a lot like same-old-same-old.

I forget sometimes, that I’m the one making the decision to walk down the exact same street to get to the subway every time I go, when in reality, there are dozens of paths that run there.  The destination is the same – rhythm – but I can switch the route up – discovery!

Same with cooking.  We need to eat.  Pretty darn regularly, in fact!  And it’s easy to find ourselves making the same things over and over again.  Of course, I’ll be the first person to sing the praises of old weeknight standbys (did somebody say spaghetti?!).  They’re lifesavers.  But, it’s also remarkable to me just how very many things I’ve never made before, or techniques I haven’t tried.  Even with a decent number of years of cooking under my belt. « Read the rest of this entry »

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 »

Parsnips and dates with tahini-yogurt

January 31, 2012 § 24 Comments

I am going to start by saying that as a general rule, it is not a good idea to substitute ingredients for one another based on color.  At least, don’t do it all willy-nilly.  Sure, sweet potato bits can stand in for cubed butternut squash pretty well, and many leafy greens are swingers, changing partners and taking one anothers’ places at will.

But, you may not always get that lucky.  At least some small morsel of thought is required.

A cautionary tale: one of my very dearest friends lived along with my self and eight other fairly hapless souls in a large, elegantly dilapidated house on the edge of campus our junior year of college.  We all shared a kitchen and subjected each other to our culinary experiments, and dirty dishes, at will.  My lovely friend (who is now an excellent cook, so let that be a lesson in perseverance) produced a wide variety of extremely, um, innovative foods, many of which were about as edible as a chocolate truffle rolled in glass shards.

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Roasted orange chutney

January 24, 2012 § 12 Comments

English is a language with a lot of great idiomatic phrases, so I take slight umbrage at the fact that there is no good taste equivalent for the saying “I could see it in my mind’s eye.”  At least, I don’t think there is.  If anyone out there knows one, will you please share it with me?  I would use it all the time.  I would probably drive everyone around me to drink, I would use it so often.  (So maybe it’s actually good I don’t know such a phrase.  It prevents the need for an intervention – for my overuse of it, or for the induced drinking problem in those who are sick of hearing it, I couldn’t say…)

It’s how I think about recipes, ingredients, and cooking.  I think many people who cook a lot do.  I imagine ingredients and preparations and I taste what they would be like in my mind’s mouth (ergh, see, that sounds ridiculous) before even cracking open the cupboards in the pantry.  And, when I see a dish of some sort, I do the same thing.

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Ginger banana bread with cardamom crunch topping

January 12, 2012 § 36 Comments

Banana bread and I go way back.  Way.

It was “my thing” for a while, actually.

Growing up, my mother’s baking repertoire was very nearly purebred Norwegian, and concentrated solely on holidays.  The rest of the time the oven’s use was confined to roasts and braises.  If it wasn’t boller, birthday cake, or a Christmas cookie, it didn’t get baked at our house.

But, every now and then at a friend’s house I would be invited to have a bite of something wonderful for a snack.  A lace-thin slice of intensely moist, banana flavored, bread-cake, shot through with the little black squiggles that banana bread develops, and now and then with melting chocolatey chunks.  Best. Snack. Ever.  I was convinced of it.  I would dream of it often during the long, stark periods during which I had to do without.

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Kale avocado and persimmon salad

December 17, 2011 § 4 Comments

My lunch has left me fixating on leaves.  It’s similar to when you think too long about a word and after a bit you aren’t sure whether it actually is a real word because at that point it sounds too weird to you.  I do this relatively frequently with the word ‘which’. It’s awkward.

Anyhow, as I ate my lunch – this unabashedly leafy salad – the fact that we eat leaves became odder and odder to me.  Leaves, people!  I started to feel like maybe I was confused.  Maybe I was a manatee or giraffe or some other animal that grinds away pensively at greenery.

Do we really eat leaves?  The red bursts of the poinsettias decorating coffee tables at this time of year, those are leaves.  On my run yesterday I chased some last oak leaves as they fluttered down from the trees (I find chasing after falling leaves to be one of the most elating and gleeful activities.  It always makes me feel like I’m 4 or 5 again).  They weren’t that dissimilar from the foundation of my salad (well, apart from being dried out and brown, which my salad distinctly wasn’t).

It was a disconcerting moment.  Particularly because a not inconsequential portion of my diet is made up of leaves.  In fact, I love leaves.  In the summer, I eat salad like it’s my full time job.  In the winter, I eat a lot of greens as well, but usually in sauteed or braised form, which renders them far less leafy looking.

Perhaps that’s why I was having trouble with the concept of leaf-eating.  As mid-winter bears down on us, salads do tend to seem incongruous.  Cool, refreshing, light, not exactly what you’re looking for when you want rib stickiness, something to warm you from the inside out.

But, there are exceptions.  Salads robust and hearty enough to deserve a place on the winter table.  And, in spite of my perplexing ruminations while eating it, I do believe this is one of them. « Read the rest of this entry »

Roasted apples with ginger mousse and cinnamon breadcrumbs

October 27, 2011 § 13 Comments

It seems to me that we have a failure of imagination when it comes to oven temperatures and apples.  We always bake them.  It’s like our temperature dial is locked between 350-375F.  What’s up with that?

I know what’s up with that.  It’s mostly dough or crumble topping.  We put our apples in pies, and crisps, and dumplings, and strudels, and turnovers, and unless we want black and incinerated edges, we had best bow to the characteristics of dough and stick with those mildly hot baking temperatures.

Now, I like dough as much as the next person (maybe more than the next person), but today I’m going to say, “break out!  Take your apples out of their floury, buttery, oaty sheaths!”  Because if you do, then you can roast them!  Crank up the knob on the oven and lash that fruit with intense heat.

You’ll find that this fast (faster, at any rate) and furious, let ‘er rip, method of cooking still gives you apples that have the sweet, tender innards of baked apples.  But the outside, well the outside is where the magic happens.  They become mahogany, all glistening and browned with a pleasant hint of burnt caramel to edge the rich sweetness with a thin rim of sophistication. « Read the rest of this entry »

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