Roasted chicken with dill and leeks

September 22, 2012 § 16 Comments

I think I have mentioned it before (yup, I have – just checked), but there was a lucky day once when I was home from college on winter break when I got to cook with the Norwegian food writer, cook, and TV personality Andreas Viestad.  Ok, it’s not Anthony Bourdain or Jamie Oliver, but for me it was pretty dang close.  Even better, actually, being the cooking and writing obsessed Scandophile that I am.

He was giving a book talk and signing at our church, accompanied by a cooking demo.  Our family friend and cookbook author Bea Ojakangas recruited my mother and me along with another friend to help with the food preparation.

I’m pretty sure, when it comes down to it, we were asked there more for our Norwegian language skills than our cooking skills, but I wasn’t concerned, I still felt special.  From the experience I took away some cooking pointers, a minor crush, and a signed copy of Viestad’s cookbook.

It’s a beautiful book.  One I have loved as much for the beautiful landscape pictures that reminded me of all my childhood summers in Norway as for the simple, flavorful recipes.  After break, I brought the book back to share with my college housemates as I excitedly told them about getting to cook with the cute Norwegian chef.  Soon, everyone in our house – boys and girls alike – referred to Viestad as the “cute Norwegian chef” rather than by name, and a number of recipes from his book had become regulars in the rotation of our household meals (we cooked for each other and ate together 5 nights a week). « Read the rest of this entry »

Spicy chicken salad

July 20, 2012 § 14 Comments

A while back, I was walking with one of my younger brothers and having a conversation.  We were ambling past a variety of food stands and restaurants and the conversation went something like this:

Brother: Oh, they’re using the old sriracha trick.  Classic move.  Nice.  And sriracha mayo, that stuff is so good.  I swear, sriracha makes anything delicious.

Me: Seriously.

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Warm chard salad with bacon dressing and roasted chicken

July 14, 2012 § 17 Comments

We’re back!  And more than a little bit woozy in the head with jet lag, one moment feeling perfectly energetic but practically cross-eyed the next.  We’re very happy to be reunited with our darling little bundle of fur who, quite adorably, almost went into shock upon seeing us again and spent at least half an hour doing nothing but pressing up against us to lick our hands and knees while making tiny, excited whining noises.

But, otherwise it’s a little hard to be back from such a lovely vacation.  While we were in Norway, most evenings we found ourselves bundling up in parkas to stay warm in the late night sun.  Back in Boston, we practically can’t go outside until the sun has gone down and the stifling heat begins to dissipate.  I have to admit, I prefer the arctic circle version of summer.  Here it does smell of sticky, muggy, blossom-filled memories of summer camp nights, though, which I kind of like.

There’s a lot to catch up on.  But, I’m reframing my long to-do list as a record of all the neat things I get to do rather than have to do, and by golly, I think it’s actually working to help to keep the no-more-vacation-slump at bay.

A slump that would be easy to slip into, that one, as our trip was quite filled with happy days and nights spent with family and friends.  There was plenty of rain but also several endlessly sunny days.  There was the ever gorgeous scenery, and of course I got to fill up on all my favorite foods:  hotdogs with lefse, skolebrod, boller, waffles, and enough ice cream, berries, and smoked salmon to sate even the most ravenous troll (if only trolls would prefer such things to goats and hapless humans!).

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Holy Mole Chicken and Squash Chili

February 3, 2012 § 6 Comments

Ok guys, I’ve got to come clean.  I’m a hater.  Okay, well not really a hater, though I’m worried I’ll come across as such (Hmm, I don’t think “hater” and “as such” are frequently used together in a sentence like that.  Also, I sound like a ding dong when I try to say something like hater.  But I’ve gone and done it, so let’s put it past us, alright?).  I just don’t really get American sports, and I’m afraid I really don’t get the Superbowl.  (I can’t even remember if it’s one word or two.)  Up until college, I kind of thought the Superbowl happened once every four years, like World Cup Soccer (that is, football to the rest of the world) or the Olympics.

The Olympics!  Now there’s exciting sports to watch!  Particularly the winter Olympics.  See, by virtue of how I was raised, I find Nordic skiing, biathlon, long-distance speed skating, and the like, to be the most thrilling displays of athletic prowess.  Oh my gosh.  I lose my words.  I think about the men’s Nordic skiing relay in ’94 and ’98, the EPIC battle between Norway and Italy, Norway losing (gasp) on their home turf in Lillehammer by 4/10ths of a second, then avenging their loss in Nagano, with a dramatic sprint finish by Thomas Alsgaard, beating the Italians by 2/10ths of a second.

Phew!  Heavens.  My heart races and I find myself squeezing the life out of the nearest chair arm just thinking about it.  I have to catch my breath for a second.

Okay, now tell me that that’s not more exciting than the Superbowl.

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Curried chicken salad

August 31, 2011 § 15 Comments

I know I’ve mentioned that I have a meat CSA (community supported agriculture) in addition to a vegetable CSA before, but I can’t remember if I’ve spoken about it at length.  And it’s been a long day, and I’m too lazy to check the archives, so I’m going to go ahead and make the executive decision to speak about it at length.  In particular, to say: I looooooooooove it!  I love it!  It’s the best!  To be able to get your meat, in a wide assortment of cuts and types, once a month from a farm where you know the animals are being raised sustainably and humanely.  Just thinking about it induces a little sigh of relief.

(Given that I can’t eat legumes, many nuts, or unsprouted whole grains, meat winds up being fairly important in my diet, and before I found my CSA it was quite a struggle.)

Kim, the farmer, is wonderful.  So friendly, gregarious, and accommodating, and completely uncompromising of principles.  They have an open barn once a month so you can come out and “meet your meat,” which is something one really ought to have a chance to do, if one is going to eat meat, and is also a signal, clear as a mountain brook, that they have nothing in their process to hide.  And, did I mention the hen house?  When the chickens aren’t running about in the fields, pecking and scratching for insects, they roost in an old bus, salvaged from a dump.

An old bus!  How wonderful is that image?!  And, even more fascinating, between the solar heat and the heat from the feathery little chicken’s bodies, the bus requires no extra energy inputs to make it a pleasant abode for the birds, even in the winter.  A chicken Hilton, on wheels…with tires that have gone flat.

And everything we get from Kim just tastes so much better than most of the meat you encounter. When someone says, “tastes like chicken” about something, they mean it tastes chewy, bland, generally inoffensive and entirely uninteresting.  But, that’s not what chicken should actually taste like, it turns out.  It should taste like chicken!  (I’m afraid there’s not really a good way to describe it, so you’re going to have to make some inferences from the bold italics.  It’s juicy, nuanced, and I swear you can detect fragrant hints of grass and wildflowers in there – maybe they soak it in while they’re scritching and squabbling about.)

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Chicken with artichokes and white wine sauce

May 3, 2011 § 22 Comments

My sophomore year in college, as I sat dutifully pretending to read some text on the roles of women in Enlightenment literature or some such, my roommate looked up from a small hand mirror, tweezers in hand, and proclaimed, “you know plucking my eyebrows every couple of days for years, you’d think the hairs would start to get the idea and just stop coming back.”

I thought this was a very good point.  semi-animate objects should totally be able to pick up on our cues and take over for themselves after a certain amount of time.  After decades of being made every ding dong morning, you’d think my bed could start making itself at this point, right?  I would also very much like to see the floors mop themselves every 2 weeks.  And, sometimes I would really like dinner to cook itself.  Don’t get me wrong, I really do love to cook, but there are certain days when I would not at all mind seeing my supper rise to the occasion and begin cooking itself right around 6 o’clock.  On Mondays, for example.  That would be nice.

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Cardamom-yogurt chicken and curried eggplant

April 14, 2011 § 14 Comments

Okay, so I’m sick of these April showers already and would be quite happy if we could just get on with the May flowers.  How about it?  Not that I can complain that much.  We had a beautiful spring weekend last weekend, and the flowers are, in fact, coming up.  In the arboretum where I go running, there are happy little crocuses nosing their way up under the oaks, and some of the hillsides are so covered with bluebells it looks like the sky accidentally tripped and fell down there.  But, nasty weather has descended upon us again, and therefore I feel it is necessary to whine immaturely.  Whine, and get to roasting and stewing things. (Oh, of course now since starting this post yesterday, the rain has moved off and it’s beautiful again.  Well, I’ll take it!).

Which brings me to another, only very tangentially related, point.  Why are so many of the world’s most delicious things brown and lumpy and generally unphotogenic?  Sure most vegetables and fruits and berries are beautiful and colorful, but all the stews, and roasts, and curries, and sauces, and many soups out there, well, they’re not exactly getting phone calls from scouting agencies looking for beautiful food models.  And yet, they taste amazing!  You don’t care what they look like because their deep, full fragrance and flavors wallop you over the head (the good kind of wallop), and you stop looking and just eat. « Read the rest of this entry »

Sweet potatoes with andouille sausage

April 11, 2011 § 16 Comments

Of all the vices out there, jealousy is one that I’m actually not particularly prone toward.  I go in much more for some of the other ones (none of the interesting ones, I’m afraid, mostly just doubt.  If I were to choose which vice I would rather have be my predisposition, I think I would choose sloth.  I don’t know why.  It’s an odd thing to think about anyway, so I’m going to stop now.)

However, all bets are off when we come to the realm of food.  At times, I can be rather a slave to food jealousy.  I’m that girl at a restaurant several tables over, craning my neck and trying to figure out what you’re having and wishing that I had ordered it (“I’ll have what she’s having”…)  If we go out for ice cream, I take forever to decide which flavor to get, and then as soon as I have my little cup I’m immediately jealously eyeing everyone else’s luscious looking heaping cones of, I don’t even know what that is, butter brickle? Oreo? Purple razzle-dazzle chunky lola choco-madness?  It doesn’t matter.  I’m just jealous of it.

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Roasted chicken legs with warm tomato vinaigrette

January 9, 2011 § 5 Comments

We’re pretty solidly on our way into January, but I’m still thinking vaguely about resolutions.  I haven’t really made one.  Or I’ve made half a million.  Both, And.  Like so many other people, I’d love to eat even better and exercise even more.  Overall we do pretty okay in this household, however there is always, somewhat unfortunately, room for improvement.  But, as far as I can tell, my real resolution for this new year has been to start parting my hair on the other side of my head.  This was a sudden decision not founded on much of anything in particular.  It was sort of intuitive, and it also has been seeming to me symbolic somehow, the part in your hair sitting right above your brain, and all.

I couldn’t help myself, and just this morning I decided to look up what parting your hair on the right side “means” according to who knows who, the people who like to develop theories about the meanings of unconscious body language and self-presentation decisions, I suppose.  A right side part (which I have just introduced to my scalp) supposedly means you’re creative, artistic, and outgoing.  The left side (my former side) means you’re responsible and a strong leader.  (A middle part means you’re balanced.  It also makes my face look ridiculously long, so I guess I’m giving up my aspirations toward balance ;). )  This is interesting to me because, remarkably, the message of the left side part – dependable, a leader – is the self I’ve spent much of my life trying to project, while never feeling it was that good of a fit.  The right side part – creative, artistic – is actually more aligned with my natural approach to the world.  The trouble is, I’ve never thought very highly of my artistic talents.  I have that bent, but I don’t usually like the art I create.  It tends to be goofy, even cute, and I can’t shake off of myself the dogma that art should be serious, beautiful, heart wrenching. « Read the rest of this entry »

Chicken and pumpkin tagine with garlicky couscous

December 8, 2010 § 3 Comments

I love having people over for dinner. Love it! Throwing a “dinner party,” inviting “guests,” that’s kind of stressful and I develop this performance anxiety about it (though, I find it exhilarating at times as well). But, having folks over, gathering them around the table, making new connections, strengthening old ones, and most importantly filling everyone up with delicious food, now that is one of my favorite things in the world. In fact, I think it may actually be one of my greatest life aspirations, more so than work or other achievements, to make sure that my table is a warm and comfortable place where people always feel welcome to drop in for a moment and then stay for a whole meal and conversation.

Because of this, I have a tendency to improvise and experiment when I’m cooking for friends who come over, just as much as when I cook for myself. I know the general wisdom is that you should never try out a new recipe when you’re having company, and in concept I agree. But, I still find myself standing at the stove, pulling out random spice jars and saying to myself, ‘let’s see if this works’ even as I’m waiting for the ring of our doorbell (which, on a side note, is the most awful doorbell sound you could possibly imagine and always makes me jump a foot and half when it goes off) and know that people are about to come piling in, excited to be fed. Sure, there have been a couple of unfortunate incidents with rubbery, flavorless chicken, or curdled mango-cream sauce, but life went on, and overall it has worked out for the best. And there’s been more fun for everyone! « Read the rest of this entry »

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