Risotto with radishes, kale, and lemon

April 25, 2013 § 4 Comments

risotto radishes kale lemon 1

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.)

risotto radishes

So, with that taken care of, let us turn to the risotto. « Read the rest of this entry »

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Roasted cod with pistachio pesto, carrots, and arugula

April 23, 2013 § 10 Comments

roast fish pistachio pesto

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!

« Read the rest of this entry »

Warm potato salad with artichokes and herb dressing

April 19, 2013 § 25 Comments

potato artichoke salad 1

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????

Squid on couch

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 »

Marinated fennel and grapefruit salad

April 10, 2013 § 23 Comments

fennel grapefruit salad serving

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.

sliced fennel for grapefruit saladleftover fennel fronds

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 »

Spinach and pine nut soup

March 19, 2013 § 20 Comments

spinach pine nut soup 1

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.

toasted pine nuts

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 »

Broccoli salad with bacon and pecans

March 5, 2013 § 13 Comments

broccoli salad dressed

It is decidedly not spring here yet.  In fact, it’s blowing ferociously and snowing several inches outside right now (just a stone’s throw further south they’re getting close to 10 inches, but we’re getting only brushed by the storm).

I remember the day in March in 2nd grade when our teacher taught us the saying, “March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb.”  She even had a paper cut out lion and lamb thumb tacked up on the cork board to drive the point home.

We were all mystified.  No, no, no.  The saying was all wrong, we pointed out (after the metaphor had been explained).  March comes in like a lion and it goes out like a lion too.  Maybe an ever so slightly more docile lion, but a lion nonetheless.

blanched broccoligreen onions for slicing

That’s Minnesota for you.

So, no, no spring yet.  It makes me miss the other places I’ve lived, the places where crocuses and daffodils start intrepidly strutting about in March.  However, the yearning for spring isn’t desperate yet.  Not desperate, but on the other hand, I’m definitely not as into root vegetables as I was a couple months ago.

In my need for a change of pace, I found myself craving broccoli salad a few days ago, something that does not happen often at all, except for the odd day midsummer when it sounds good, or when I’m several time zones out of my element, running late for a wedding rehearsal, and my stomach is growling audibly, and I’m standing in front of a deli counter.  It happens sometimes then too. « Read the rest of this entry »

Polenta hiding mozzarella and lemony greens

February 26, 2013 § 17 Comments

polenta hiding greens 1

This past weekend Joel and I were in Wisconsin for the American Birkebeiner.  The Birkie, as it’s called, is the largest Nordic ski race in North America and the third largest in the world.  Every February, thousands and thousands of skiers descend on the tiny town of Hayward, Wisconsin to subject themselves to over 50 kilometers of hilly, sometimes icy, always beautiful, and invariably intense cross-country ski racing.

From those not used to it, I’ve heard it’s really a cultural experience.

My family has been going to the Birkie for as long as I can remember.  There’s a children’s race, called the Barnebirkie (which is Norwegian for “child Birkie”) the Thursday before the big race, and my brothers and I started skiing it when we were still so little that my mom had to walk beside us the entire length of the 1 km toddler course.  My parents would then do the grown up race on the weekend.

mozzarella slices

I started skiing the half Birkie in high school, and I did the full a couple of times while I was in college.  But then I up and moved to the East Coast and was never able to make it back in February (much less train for it, anyway), and so the glorious Birkie weekend full of the excitement of a giant challenge and the fun of meeting up with and staying with friends, comfortably sharing tons of good food and wine and swapping war stories after the race is over, became something I just heard about over the phone each year.

But now we’re back in the upper middle of the country!  And one of the first things I did upon arriving at our new home in Northern Minnesota was to register both Joel and myself for the Birkie.

So then we had to start training like mad.  Trail runs and hikes followed by skiing and skiing and skiing as soon as there was snow.  Sadly, fate conspired against me and last week I found myself feeling substantially under the weather and completely exhausted.  Things didn’t get any better going into the weekend, so I had to bow out of skiing the race (small strangled sobbing noise).  I still went with and did part time cheering duty and full-time relaxing duty at the cabin where we stay, listening happily to everyone’s excited stories of how terrible it was this year (tough conditions make for even more satisfying suffering). Next year, though.  Next year I plan on being fully well enough to ski. « Read the rest of this entry »

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