Gingery kimchi fried rice

February 21, 2013 § 16 Comments

kimchi fried rice 1

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.

fried rice garlic

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 »

Down to Basics: Stew & Co.

January 28, 2013 § 11 Comments

stew gremolata vegetables

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.

lamb tagine

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 »

Arugula and delicata salad

January 22, 2013 § 22 Comments

arugula delicata salad 1

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.

delicata half moons

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 »

Vanilla Nut Granola

January 9, 2013 § 15 Comments

nutty granola jar

How are we already more than a week into January?  Can someone please explain to me how that happened?

Around mid-November through mid-December I was so happy because I’d really found a rhythm, a productive and interesting but soothing rhythm, to my days.  I was finally comfortable enough to put 2012 into cruise control and start admiring the scenery.

Then 2013 came barging in and it totally threw off my groove.  The toddler-like newness of the year must be contagious because I’m stumbling about a bit trying to regain my stride.  I suppose I should respect the newness and not try so hard for broad, efficient striding at all.

nutty granola bowl 1

Transitions, good or bad, they’re always a little tricky and tiring.  Not the least of the reasons for which being that the crack in the earth is open and naughty daemons are wandering around making mischief in our lives and of our immune systems.  (Especially our immune systems!  Sniff, wheeze, cough.  More chicken soup please.)

But, the threshold has been crossed, and once you’re over you can look back, but you can’t go back.  Not with any amount of kicking or screaming or clinging to the doorframe.  What’s back there has been digested (hopefully well) and given strength to now, and now off we go to the next now and onward! « Read the rest of this entry »

Creamy “pumpkin” soup

January 2, 2013 § 35 Comments

pumpkin soup 1

Happy, happy New Year to you all!  Did you ring in the New Year in style?

I know we did.  Much more stylishly than we really are, in fact.  But if the holidays aren’t a time to up your style game, when is, right?

Perhaps it’s the crash after the high of holiday activity, perhaps it’s that the New Year always makes me nearly as nostalgic as October does, but I’m now left feeling quietly morose.  “Another year,” a voice somewhere inside of me sighs, “another year, and I still don’t understand.”

onion skins

So I’m sitting in our living room now, which feels dark as the Christmas twinkle lights have all been put back into boxes, wondering to myself, ‘understand what?  What do I so yearn to understand?’

The answer, I’m sorry to say, is anything and everything, as far as I can tell.  The answer is Life.

Day by day life happens, intermittently glorious and terrible, and I don’t understand any of it.  At all.  Not a bit.

I’m suddenly remembering a quote my mother told to me earlier this year (I’m not entirely sure of its origin), “this thing of which we speak cannot be found by seeking.  But only seekers will find it.”

I don’t entirely understand the quote either, but it speaks to me about life and meaning on a level separate from understanding.  I feel somehow like that’s it.  Like maybe trying to understand won’t get you anywhere.  Life just is, it isn’t an entity to be dissected and understood.  You have to get out of your own way, but at the same time seek and make that daily effort to get out of your own way. « Read the rest of this entry »

Molasses spice cookies (grain free)

December 17, 2012 § 13 Comments

molassess cookie and milk

Life is really crazy right now, friends.  I honestly can’t quite keep up.  There’s holiday hustle, and major, major work bustle, and there are current events and insanity and life, really.  It just is crazy.

But in the midst of so much action, so much feeling, so much, I keep having these moments where my breath catches in my throat and I almost suffocate from the enormity of the sense that I am so blessed.  So, so blessed.  These stresses and worries are privileges, each a reminder.

The packages to be mailed, the gifts to be made, the notes to be sent show that I have people I love and who love me, wonderful, meaningful relationships to attend to.

The work to be done, the daunting decisions to be made, the worried conversations about scenario after scenario at all hours of the day mean that we have work, we are taking risks, we’re in a position to take risks, we have each other to talk to about it, and so much enthusiastic support from others that it’s almost absurd.

The emotions, oh the emotions, the tears of sadness and fury at the state of the world remind me that I care, that I’m able to care, and that I don’t have to be complacent.

molasses cookies

« Read the rest of this entry »

Roasted cauliflower with harissa cream

December 8, 2012 § 13 Comments

cauliflower harissa pom 1

I’m back.  Phew.

I think 3 1/2 days at a time is my new favorite way to be in Boston.  In 3 1/2 days I can cram in almost all my favorite things (friends! colleagues!  Bread products! Riding along the river on a classic Dutch commuter bike that is beautiful but also insanely heavy!) and avoid the majority of the things that drove me slightly batty when living there.

But now I’m back, and in my kitchen banging out some semblance of meals including, a) some very awesome homemade pasta with butter and anchovies last night, and b) cauliflower with harissa cream several times.  The latter (at least for the purposes of this conversation) is the more important by far.

homemade harissa

Perhaps you have not been waiting with bated breath for this cauliflower, but I have!

I’m not even sure why I love this cauliflower so very much.  I just do.  I love the dark, charred frill that develops on the edges of the golden roasted cauliflower florets.  I love how the minute pocks and crevices of the cauliflower make the perfect surface for catching the sauce.

I love how incomprehensibly soft and mellow the garlic cloves become, and the wrinkled skin the olives develop.  I love how they all work together, if you carefully assemble a forkful with one of each, and how they are equally delicious each on their own if you can’t be bothered with focused bite construction. « Read the rest of this entry »

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