April 25, 2013 § 4 Comments
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.)
So, with that taken care of, let us turn to the risotto. « Read the rest of this entry »
April 23, 2013 § 10 Comments
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!
April 19, 2013 § 25 Comments
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????
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 »
April 10, 2013 § 23 Comments
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.
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 »
March 19, 2013 § 20 Comments
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.
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 »
March 5, 2013 § 13 Comments
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.
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 »
February 26, 2013 § 17 Comments
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.
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 »
February 21, 2013 § 16 Comments
Decidedly not a beauty queen this one. She’s all lumpy and monochromatic. But the frumpy exterior conceals a heart packed with flavor.
And truly, on most days at least, who really wants a gorgeous but high maintenance looker of a dish when in a few minutes you could instead have one of the most incredibly easy and tasty lunches (or dinners, but I always seem to eat it for lunch) known to man.
And it uses up some leftovers too. That’s always good.
I never used to like fried rice that much, actually. I didn’t dislike it, I just saw no reason to eat it. I never saw what others seemed to see in it.
So for years I would scrupulously cook rice in small quantities so as never to have leftovers. Or, if there were leftovers, I would turn them into a porridge-like pudding for breakfast, and never think about the possibility that I was missing something. « Read the rest of this entry »
January 28, 2013 § 11 Comments
Ever since eating salad while admitting it was stew weather, I haven’t been able to shake stew off. Stew has been following me, or more accurately I have been following stew, chasing it into every manner of manifestation in my kitchen and out onto the table, beef, pork, lamb, venison, chicken, simple, spiced, something in between. It’s been stew all of this last week.
Or, if not stew itself, a member of the stew family. That is, tagines, curries, chilis, and so on. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, all of those are really stew masquerading as something exotic. And, of course, to those who grew up eating these others as their comfort food, stew is the exotic one.
And so, because once you can make a stew you can make all of its spicier cousins, let us go over some basics of stew construction, plus variations on how to transform your warming pot of meat and vegetables into a tagine, curry, or chili.
Stew is basically slow cooked pieces of meat (or it can be beans or another protein source) with vegetables in liquid of some sort. It’s thicker – less soupy – than soup, and the pieces of meat are smaller than the one (or several) large pieces in a braise. The steps in making stew are approximately these:
Start by cutting a couple pounds of a tough cut of meat into 2-inch cubes (stew beef, lamb, or even pork tend to work well; you can also stew chicken thighs, but they’ll take a bit less time in the final cooking process) and sprinkle them with salt. If you wish you can also toss them in some flour, which will help thicken the stew, but which is by no means absolutely necessary. Follow this by browning all your meat bits in butter or oil in a large heavy pan. Do this in batches so as not to crowd the pieces of meat because if they’re crowded they’ll steam rather than browning. Once nice and brown on all sides, transfer the meat to a plate. « Read the rest of this entry »
January 22, 2013 § 22 Comments
Right at this moment, it is 20 below zero outside. The windchill is -43F, and the high today is a balmy -4.
In other words, it is January in Minnesota. And while this kind of weather does make you vaguely wonder how life can exist here, it is also pretty great – after the thaw we had two weeks ago – to feel like we’re getting a spot of normal weather.
In case you don’t live in such a frigid place, here are some things to know about this type of weather:
Yes, there is still a palpable difference between temperatures when you get lower than 32F. Sure, it all feels freezing, but not at all the same level of freezing. 5 degrees above feels downright vernal after a spell of -15. When it’s around 10 or 15 below, salt actually stops working to melt ice. It’s kind of funny. When it gets really, really cold you can toss a cupful of water up in the air, and it will freeze before it makes it back down to the earth.
The best way to respond is to go outside in spite of the cold, just be sure all of your skin is covered and that everything you’re wearing is thick and wooly. Then, make some type of remark to everyone you meet about how arctic explorers would be overjoyed to have such a pleasantly warm day.
On a related note, you must learn to recognize everyone by their hats and puffy coats because you can’t really see faces. You need boots that are in a whole different league, preferably made of moose skin. The long fur coats you inherited from your grandmother stop looking like a politically incorrect bit of fashion history and instead look like an extremely reasonable and adaptive way of dressing. « Read the rest of this entry »