Baked sweet potato with lime butter

November 13, 2011 § 18 Comments

It’s been a thoroughly draining week, intellectually.  Emotionally too, actually.  And, the idea of trying to say something remotely intelligible or amusing seems more than a little out of my league, at present.

On the way to trying to become a doctor of philosophy, there are many hurdles you have to clear and people you have to convince.  (Including yourself.  There’s a lot of convincing of yourself that you can, in fact, do this, in spite of the daunting monolithic-ness of the task at any given moment.) Last week I had another one to fling myself over in defending my dissertation proposal.

I did it.  Hurrah!  Which puts me, finally, in that category, which I’ve always been somewhat confused by, known as ABD.  All but dissertation.  I always used to hear that and think, what?  All but dissertation?  But, isn’t the dissertation kind of the whole thing?  Answer, no.  Not even remotely.

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Strata with mushrooms, sweet potato, and bacon

November 3, 2011 § 24 Comments

I’ve had a long-time propensity towards working in coffee shops.  Ever since my crash course in coffee drinking many summers ago in Norway.  (I went from drinking cream and sugar with a splash of coffee to drinking plain coffee, black, in the span of about 3 days, thanks to the merciless teasing of my dear uncle.  Except for the occasional cappuccino, I’ve never looked back.)

I sit, along with the many other denizens of Laptopistan, titrating my caffeine while hammering through work.  Were it 300 years ago, we’d be inventing the stock exchange in London or fomenting revolution in France.  Instead, what are we doing exactly?  Blogging, I suppose!  And dissertating, and consulting, and designing websites, and such and so.

In college, I was never able to study in the library.  It always put me to sleep.  So, instead I went and studied in the coffee shops.  There were two options then, in the sleepy little agricultural town where I went to school.  Not a Starbucks or Caribou Coffee in site.

One coffee shop skewed toward the granola, with fair trade coffee, decent organic baked goods, grating music, and dirty old couches.  The other had unabashedly Midwestern coffee (i.e. on the weak side), but I loved to go there because it was decorated like a family kitchen.  It was the kind of space where I felt comfortable staying for hours.

Like the coffee, the food belonged in a church basement.  But, the names always made me laugh.

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Orzo pasta salad with mixed herbs and summer squash

July 3, 2011 § 12 Comments

I’m not much of a 4th of July celebrator.  I don’t love fireworks or watermelon – but don’t worry, I do fully recognize that this makes me a total weirdo.  I do, however, like to get my picnic on as much as the next girl, and this seems to be the weekend for it!  (Or for some of us, a weekend of hauling an unwieldy, heavy new table up several flights of winding stairs while jamming our fingers and muttering curses under our breath.  But, followed by a picnic! As there was most definitely an edict issued from somewhere stating, “thou shalt picnic!”).

Rickety picnic baskets, red checkered blankets, pitchers of lemonade, potato salad, amusing ants elbowing their way through to get to your food, what’s not to like?!  Especially if you throw in a frisbee, and a nice shade tree.

Except, I have to admit that usually my version of a picnic is much simpler than that.  It generally just involves some pieces of bread and some pieces of cheese or perhaps ham or salami.  Simple.

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Fingerling potato salad with chard and bacon

June 23, 2011 § 21 Comments

Duluth, Minnesota, my hometown, and where I was last week, is a very cool city.  (Both figuratively and literally – given that even in mid-June the high temperature during the middle of the day most days last week was 52F and in the winter it can easily be 40 below.  You can actually get t-shirts that say, “Duluth is a cool town.”  I can’t decide whether they’re dorky or cute.)

It’s small but it has some splashy things going on in the art and music world.  There’s tons of untamed outdoor space – you can barely walk without stumbling into the woods (I think that’s a good thing).  People there seem to be on the forefront of the barefoot running movement.  The town is participating in the ‘One book, One community” campaign, a movement (started by the Chicago Public Library system if I remember correctly) that aims to bring communities together in dialogue by sharing the experience of reading the same book.

And, now Duluth has also started participating in “One vegetable: one community,” trying to get everyone to eat more kale this year.

I think this is hilarious.  And distinctly awesome.

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Spring vegetable jumble with lemon tarragon butter

May 13, 2011 § 5 Comments

There is a little restaurant a quick stroll down the street from us that serves a ridiculous brunch on the weekends.  You might be tipped off to the fact that they have some tricks up their sleeves when, come Saturday at 10am, you see the line of chipper people trailing out their door and down the sidewalk, drinking coffee and chatting as they wait for a table.  Your suspicions would be further aroused by the amazing technicolor underwater scene painted across their bathroom walls.  It’s ebullient, playful, borderline garish, but oh so enticing, just like their food.

They make waffles so large and airy you could raft them down a river (of maple syrup, at least), their pancakes piled with enough fruit to fill a decorative bowl on a coffee table, and they have been known to make a popover the size of your head and fill it to overflowing with creamy eggs, sausage, vegetables, and hollandaise.  That last one is something I’ve been thinking about recreating at home, but I haven’t gotten to it yet.  I think you might need to get a special permit to make popovers that big.

Their suppers, I’m afraid, don’t quite live up to their brunch standard.  We’ve tried twice, giving it the benefit of the doubt, but both times the food was fine, but relatively uninspired.  It had a couple things going for it anyway, though.  One was the extreme and helpful frankness of the servers.  All of our questions were answered fully and honestly, and then some.  The crab cakes were fine,  we were told, but they were more cake than crab.  The burger was more worth getting, we were counseled.  And the enchiladas, it was explained, would be good if what we were looking for was the extremely-gooey-cheesey type of Tex-Mex (Joel was, in fact).

The other thing the place had going for it was the vegetables.  I get irked when I go to restaurants and all the more vegetables they provide you with are 3 elegantly plated green beans or a thimble-sized nest of micro-greens.  This place was much more my style.  That style being the, “why yes, my meal will consist of 2 servings each of 4 different vegetables perhaps drizzled with a delectable sauce, thank you,” style.  Each dish came with a riot of seasonal veggies, a mountain of veggies, a jumble of veggies…

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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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Ginger-lemon congee with pork

April 4, 2011 § 8 Comments

What a nutty weekend!  This is how it went:  We went out on Friday night to see a dramatic version of the “The Grand Inquisitor”, a story from within The Brother’s Karamazov in which Christ comes back to Earth during the height of the Spanish Inquisition.  It was fabulous and fascinating…and my brain has been hurting ever since, puzzling over issues of freedom and peace and mystery and authority.  Then I had to work all day Saturday collecting more dietary data from scores of immigrant women and children, which is fun because they are all wonderful and inspiring, but it is also exhausting.  I came home at the end of the day to discover that a friend was going to surprise us with a visit for dinner.  So I scrounged together dinner, and we all stayed up too late talking about this and that.

Sunday was beautiful and sunny, perfect for relaxing.  Joel has decided he is going to learn to skateboard (I’m sure he would like me to let you know that he actually has learned by this point, after a couple of weeks of practicing), so we decided it might be a fun afternoon activity to go for a quick little excursion, him on his skateboard and me running alongside, er, actually I was more behind than alongside, but whatever.  In the spirit of exploration, we took a couple of turns we had never taken before, and the next thing we knew we were a teensy tinsy bit lost.  We stopped in a cafe to ask for directions and learned from the woman behind the counter that to get back to our car would be approximately an 8-mile jaunt.  Oops.  So, what had been intended to be a 4-mile run turned into a 12ish mile run, and by the end of it we were both thoroughly worn out.  And very hungry. « Read the rest of this entry »

Baked risotto with Indian spices

February 18, 2011 § Leave a comment

My maternal grandfather was an antiquarian, supposedly one of Europe’s best. By many accounts he was also a dead ringer for Roger Moore, and on business trips to England would get stopped and asked for his autograph. You know, I’ve never actually asked whether, in response, he tried to explain, or forged Mr. Moore’s signature, or just signed Asbjørn and left people to puzzle over it…Anyway, my mother grew up in a house full of gorgeously bound old and rare books. And because we inherited many of the books after my grandparents died, my brothers and I grew up surrounded by them as well.

There’s something about old books that insinuates itself into your psyche so that you become more at home and at ease when surrounded by walls of red leather bindings, gold embossing, marbled end pages, than almost anywhere else. Old books have a soul. And perhaps it’s actually genetic, but all of us in my family have a deeply rooted love of them. Their looks, feel, contents.

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Lefse

December 31, 2010 § 48 Comments

I’m finding it remarkably difficult to write this post.  It’s always hard for me when I really, really care about something.  You see, lefse for me, and many of my friends, is not just lefse.  It’s so much more.  But, maybe for the sake of those of you who haven’t had it – or haven’t even heard of it – I’ll start with what it is.

Homemade lefse (particularly when fresh) is hands-down one of the best foods on the face of this earth.  Truffles, caviar, foi gras, lobster, you’ve got nothin’ on lefse.  It is an inordinately traditional Norwegian potato flatbread.  Simple.  Soft and supple, a bit like a tortilla, but almost lacy thin and seductively buttery.  Hot off the griddle, they are absolutely unbelievable.  Our favorite – and the most traditional – ways of serving lefse are either wrapped around a hot dog and ketchup (don’t knock it until you’ve tried it!  You’ll never look back.) or spread with butter and cinnamon-sugar (brown sugar is equally tempting and adds a lovely caramel accent).  Really you could use them to wrap up just about anything, including, it turns out, the phenomenal combo of smoked salmon and scrambled eggs.  They are so good, I can’t even begin to wax adequately eloquent about them.  I would have to be a bard of potatoes.

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Blue cheese latkes

December 16, 2010 § 3 Comments

I’m considering making a cross-stitch pillow (you know, the kind that usually says something like: “God bless this house”) with the sage words, “deadlines are the mother of productivity,” probably in a nice shade of blue.  We all know it’s true, even you crazy people who are good at spreading your workload out over time.  Then again, there’s a catch.  The deadline has to be close enough, otherwise it becomes the mother of determined and inventive procrastination.  That’s how I found myself today, attempting to figure out the origins of the phrase “A day late and a dollar short.”  I started musing about it yesterday, and it kept nagging at me until finally today I turned to the internets to try to figure it out.  And yes, I do have access to, YouTube and Facebook and Minesweeper, so I had absolutely no excuse for phrase etymology being my chosen form of mindless amusement, but whatever.  Oh and in case you’re wondering, there’s not much out there about the phrase, though I did find that – maybe – the first written use of it was in a comic strip in the late 1930’s.

I’m hoping that this sudden concern with a saying that basically means “too little, too late” isn’t my subconscious reminding me about the direction my work may be heading if I keep letting myself procrastinate like this.  I would say that I was thinking about it in relation to the fact that I’m giving you a latke recipe today, when Hanukkah ended last week, but actually that would make it several days late, but definitely not a dollar short.  I’d say it’s worth at least, like, $7-12 more than you could possibly wind up paying for them!

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