Italian mushroom and celery salad

June 21, 2012 § 23 Comments

First, the bad.  My hometown was ravaged by horrible flooding in the last two days.  Just torn apart.  A torrent of rain developed overhead and wouldn’t budge until it had dumped 7 inches, 9 inches, 10 inches of water in some places.  The wall of water rushed down the hill toward the lake taking out huge chunks of roads and sidewalks, dumpsters and bridges with it.

Perhaps you even saw it on the news yesterday.  I know the story about the seal that was swept out of the zoo by a river of water and was found stranded on the highway received a lot of attention.  Many of the other zoo animals – the little barnyard animals in the petting zoo – drowned.  I spent half the day in unremitting tears about this.  Unfair is not nearly a strong enough word.

It’s horrifying to be reminded how powerless we are. It’s  also probably really important to be reminded.  These extremes may be the new normal, and it’s time to be truthful about the fact that we are not remotely in control.  And perhaps the best we can do sometimes is bond together, lend a never ending supply of helping hands, and cope.

All my family and friends there are fine, though.  Thank heaven for that.

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Salad of avocado, bacon, grilled peaches, and sweet onions

June 18, 2012 § 26 Comments

We stole away to New York City for the weekend.  Just a day and a half.  A hiccup of a trip lengthwise, but packed full enough to have been a long happy sigh.

Two of our dear, dear Boston friends are natives of the place – well, one is a true native, but the other did live there for a long enough sojourn to have gone native – and basically ever since we’ve known them we’ve been trying to plan a time for this jaunt.

It became an imperative to fit it in this weekend, though, before we must part ways.  At least for now.

The two of them are as excited about sharing beautiful, delicious, made-with-care food as we are, so our day and a half was structured almost entirely around that.

We visited as many of their favorite places and tasted as many of their favorite foods as could be squeezed into our packed agenda.  We ranged around every corner of Manhattan and tried a little of Brooklyn on for size as well. « Read the rest of this entry »

Roasted beets and arugula with horseradish cream

March 31, 2012 § 11 Comments

The other day, I stole a few moments to bop over to Sara’s lovely blog, Sprouted Kitchen, to take a peak at what she had cooking.  When I arrived I was instantly arrested, not by the recipe but by the quote she began her post with.

“Beet’s concentrated jewel-like color is both its joy and its downfall. It is Murphy’s law that it should marry so happily with the virginal white of goat cheeses, mascarpone, and thick puddles of creme fraiche, none of whose looks are improved by a pink stain curdling the outer edge” – Nigel Slater, Tender

This captivated me.  This simple, beautiful statement that captures so much of the personality of beets.  They are enticing and they are challenging, colorwise, flavorwise, every which way.

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A Greek Salad in Winter

February 28, 2012 § 16 Comments

The weeks are continuing to double time it in their march forward.  The days downright hurtle.  I duck as something goes whizzing uncontrollably over my head, then stand back up muttering, “holy bleep, was that Thursday?!”

I feel the insight of Lewis Carroll’s winsome scene in which Alice, on the cooky side of the looking glass, runs beside the Red Queen as the Queen explains that they’re not going anywhere, but rather everything is moving swiftly by them and, “it takes all the running you can do, to keep in place.”  (I’m afraid I’ve been neglecting my work on believing impossible things before breakfast, though.)

As I run to stay in place, I try to remember to notice my breath, feel my hands and feet, and to keep around a bottomless pot of soup and a sturdy salad so I can dip into them for several days.

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Kale avocado and persimmon salad

December 17, 2011 § 4 Comments

My lunch has left me fixating on leaves.  It’s similar to when you think too long about a word and after a bit you aren’t sure whether it actually is a real word because at that point it sounds too weird to you.  I do this relatively frequently with the word ‘which’. It’s awkward.

Anyhow, as I ate my lunch – this unabashedly leafy salad – the fact that we eat leaves became odder and odder to me.  Leaves, people!  I started to feel like maybe I was confused.  Maybe I was a manatee or giraffe or some other animal that grinds away pensively at greenery.

Do we really eat leaves?  The red bursts of the poinsettias decorating coffee tables at this time of year, those are leaves.  On my run yesterday I chased some last oak leaves as they fluttered down from the trees (I find chasing after falling leaves to be one of the most elating and gleeful activities.  It always makes me feel like I’m 4 or 5 again).  They weren’t that dissimilar from the foundation of my salad (well, apart from being dried out and brown, which my salad distinctly wasn’t).

It was a disconcerting moment.  Particularly because a not inconsequential portion of my diet is made up of leaves.  In fact, I love leaves.  In the summer, I eat salad like it’s my full time job.  In the winter, I eat a lot of greens as well, but usually in sauteed or braised form, which renders them far less leafy looking.

Perhaps that’s why I was having trouble with the concept of leaf-eating.  As mid-winter bears down on us, salads do tend to seem incongruous.  Cool, refreshing, light, not exactly what you’re looking for when you want rib stickiness, something to warm you from the inside out.

But, there are exceptions.  Salads robust and hearty enough to deserve a place on the winter table.  And, in spite of my perplexing ruminations while eating it, I do believe this is one of them. « Read the rest of this entry »

Roasted carrot and avocado salad

November 17, 2011 § 13 Comments

So, I know I said that I’m going for simple dishes right now, but I had to make an exception for this sexy little number.  I mean, just look at it.  Can you say no to this salad?

I didn’t think so.

I want to be forthright with you and let you know right from the start, this is a fussy piece of work.  But it’s worth it!  Worth it for the oohs and ahhs it will garner, as much for its flashy good looks as its gorgeous layers of flavors.

It’s a “chef recipe” (different from a chef salad!), hence the little twists and turns of technique that take extra time and attention but also elevate a salad to dinner party fare, or beyond.  The original recipe is from ABC Kitchen in New York (I think that means it errs on the side of haute) and translated for the home kitchen in the new Serious Eats cookbook.

I saw it on the food52 website, and my I-need-to-cook-that-right-now-dar started beeping like a metal detector in Fort Knox. (Do metal detectors even detect gold?  They do, right? I’m imagining one of those goofy paddle-shaped ones people bring to the beach, not the kind you walk through before going into a government building.) « Read the rest of this entry »

Broccoli Salad with Avocado and Tomato

September 20, 2011 § 14 Comments

When I think of the rolling golden hills around Palo Alto, I think of broccoli salad.  Not estates complete with horses, not perfectly tanned and perfectly fit weekend riders stopping for a cappuccino while their carbon fiber bikes rest along the decorative fencing enclosing the cafe patio, not the vast expanse of ocean just off to the west.  Nope, I think of broccoli salad.  The heavy mayonnaise-loaded kind with bacon, cheddar and raisins.  The kind that really belongs at a church potluck in the midwest.

It’s because of the darn way I have a near full-on emotional break-down if I get overly hungry or overly tired.  And you don’t want to see what happens when I’m both.  It’s not pretty.

Last summer when we were in California for a friend’s wedding, I had, shall we say, a little more trouble adjusting to the three hour time difference than anticipated.  The fact that on the day I arrived in the Bay Area, I had gotten up at 4am Eastern Standard Time to catch my flight, didn’t actually make it to San Francisco until 14 hours later because of delays along the way, and then didn’t get supper until nearly 10pm West Coast time (which my body still strongly believed was 1am, and took great pains to remind me of this) somehow didn’t set me up for an auspicious start to the weekend.

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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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Quick pickled cucumber and melon salad

August 22, 2011 § 4 Comments

It’s been another crazy week, this last week.  More travel, more weddings (an exceptionally gorgeous and happy one of some close friends), and a running of errands for my own that could give the running of the bulls a run for its money in the category of harrowing, stampede-like qualities.

It’s all been beyond fun, but also beyond exhausting.  So, I’m going to take a little moment to share this refreshing little gem of a salad with you.  It makes me think of a spa food, which makes me think, “ahhhhhhh, I’m so relaxed.” (In spite of a certain preponderance of the evidence indicating the opposite.)

Granted, I’ve never been to a spa, so I can’t really speak to the nature of the food served at one.  But, here’s what I imagine spa food to be like: light and refreshing, nourishing and satisfying, full of pure, sensual flavors.  Food that lets you feel like you’re pampering yourself, while also being good for you.

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Tomato and nectarine caprese

August 2, 2011 § 13 Comments

Oh, hello!  Are you there?  Because I’m not.  Ok, technically I am physically here.  But my mind appears to have vacated the premises.  Half of it is scurrying nervously around, dusting off specific aims and trying to make sure its hypotheses match (sort of like socks, those hypotheses, in fact, I think my dryer might have eaten one of them).  The other half has up and taken off for the Mediterranean.  It seems to be hanging out on terrazza somewhere along the coast between Nice and Portofino.

Obviously the latter half is much cleverer, and knows what’s up.  It watches the busy, blustering academic part with a shrug of ‘who knows what that’s about,’ and pours itself a glass of wine while sighing contentedly, “ah, la vita really es bella, isn’t it?”

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