Baked winter squash pasta

October 19, 2012 § 28 Comments

A few summers ago, I did an internship at the photography studio at Stonewall Kitchen up in Maine.  I was just starting to really dig into my PhD work, and the pressure I was putting on myself because of it had started giving me panic attacks and making me sick.  Things weren’t going at all as I’d planned, so I decided to take some time off to recover and learn better how to deal with, well, myself really.

At that point I had just barely picked up a camera and started aiming it at foodstuffs.  I hated every photograph I took, but I adored the process of taking the food photos, so when a friend connected me with her friend who was the photographer for Stonewall, and she offered me a summer internship, I jumped at it.  It was like being in college again.  A weird summer internship!  Barely getting paid! Exploring new pursuits, things I enjoy,  rediscovering myself, yippee!

I learned all about f-stops and shutter speed and ISO numbers that summer.  I learned a lot about what I liked and didn’t like in food styling and lighting, and I gained the confidence to start experimenting.  I learned that I totally loved spending the whole day in a photo studio, even if I was holding light bounces and washing dishes most of the time.

I also learned that I did have the mental fortitude to stick with things that are tough, things that I suck at, and improve little by little.  Even though I kind of wanted to stay in the photo studio forever, it helped me feel like I could stand up for the research I wanted to do and ideas that I had, and I would finish my PhD.  (Um, though that part is still technically TBD.  IthinkIcanIthinkIcanIthinkIcan…Give me a few more months.) « Read the rest of this entry »

Roasted carrot soup with citrus and cumin

October 8, 2012 § 28 Comments

Is it quite terrible that one of the things I liked best about Boston was the length of the corduroy jacket season?  It stretched on seemingly into perpetuity, that in-between temperature season where you can throw a corduroy jacket over your t-shirt or over your wooly sweater and be happy.

I really love wearing my corduroy jacket, you see.

This makes me sound so frivolous, doesn’t it?!  It is frivolous.  Forgive me, I’m a flake!  At least where corduroy is involved.  And boots too, but let’s stick with corduroy for the moment.  The point is, here I wore my corduroy jacket for perhaps two days, and then the season was over.

It snowed a little bit both days this weekend.  In some places, actually, it snowed a lot!  I absolutely love snow, and I say bring it on.  The temperature is hovering right around freezing, the smell of leaves and an edge of snow are trapped, suspended in the chill, dry air.  It smells like I remember Halloween weather always smelling.  The ground is coated with crackling leaves, maple, birch, and aspen, and in many ways, this is actually my very favorite kind of weather.  I keep being overcome by a delirious happiness when I step outside and feel that air and smell that smell.  Except, gosh I’d like to be able to wear my corduroy jacket for a little bit longer.

I’d also like to have cake and eat it too while acquiring grass in a similar shade of green as that on the other side, if it’s not too much trouble, thank you. « Read the rest of this entry »

Grilled kale salad with beets, figs, and ricotta

September 18, 2012 § 49 Comments

We went up into the woods over the weekend.  It felt so good.  Always does, really.

We went to the Boundary Waters, the forest in Northern Minnesota bordering Canada.  A wilderness where the only real way to get around is by slipping a canoe into the water and paddling from lake to lake.  There you can glide through still water, bounce through choppy, scramble over beaver dams, dodge moose…the only sounds around are the slap of the paddles, the drips of water, the occasional loon call, or easy conversation with the others in the boat.

Every wild area has its own unique silence and peace.  I think that of the Boundary Waters may be one of the deepest anywhere.  It affords the most beautiful solitude  (and the most comfortable companionship with the others paddling with you) that you can imagine.  Where else in the world can you canoe or kayak between hundreds of lakes with only hikes of several – ok, sometimes several hundred – canoe lengths in between?  It’s remarkable.

We paddled a nice 12 mile loop on Saturday.  On Sunday afternoon we decided to hike up one of the low ridges to take in the views of the leaves that are just starting to show hints of gold and scarlet.  On the hike down, for the first time in several weeks, I began to think in earnest about food. « Read the rest of this entry »

Heirloom tomato tart

September 13, 2012 § 17 Comments

Although fun and life-giving and joyful and love-filled right now, if I had to choose a single word to describe life these past two weeks (and thank goodness I don’t have to choose just one word – a world where you use only one word when you could spout off a string of five to ten would be a sad world indeed, far too Hemingway-ian for the verbose among us), it would be chaotic.

Totally chaotic.  Connecting with old friends and nabbing as much quality time with family as possible on top of working on a dissertation on top of that ultimate relaxing free time activity of, ahem, starting a business, turns out not to be a recipe for order and quiet.  We did expect this, but you never fully appreciate these things until you’re in the middle of them.

But I love it!  We love it!  We love everyone here.  So far so amazing.  We even had a chance to ride around on The Lake and under the Aerial Lift Bridge on a decommissioned coast guard cutter owned by friends of friends, all in the name of settling in.  That’s pretty darn cool. « Read the rest of this entry »

Sweet corn polenta with broccoli pesto

August 19, 2012 § 27 Comments

Was I the one grumping up a storm and hemming and hawing over what to do with the sheer quantity of summer produce around?  Me?  Well, I take it all back!  Every word of it! It never happened.  I never said it.

Now I’m like all those guys in all those movies, running after the train as it pulls out of the station, crying, “waaaaaiiit!!!!”  Because my true love is on that train.  Except, the train is actually summer.  And my love?  Sweet corn polenta.

In a long line of obsessions, sweet corn polenta is my latest.  It has taken over our diet in the last couple of weeks, just as sweet corn season is winding down (sad face).  Kimchi tacos are still at the tippy top of my favorite things ever list for the moment, and a most exciting delivery of delicious treats from a friend in Hawaii has skyrocketed passion fruit ginger jam up to join the tacos in first place.  (I may become totally open to genetically modified foods if someone can figure out a way to create a passion fruit plant that will generate fruit in northern Minnesota.  Anyone?)  But, sweet corn polenta is breathing down their necks. « Read the rest of this entry »

A glorious mess – curried carrots with carrot top pesto

June 25, 2012 § 20 Comments

Joel left on Friday to go to Ethiopia for a week for work.  At the end of this week we’ll be meeting up in Norway to visit my family and to have a little vacation time.  But, until then, it’s just me and Squid holding down the fort.  The fort that looks suspiciously like our apartment.  Hmm.

Already I’m eating weird.  It’s what I do when I’m eating alone.

I can definitely identify with the people I speak with who tell me they don’t cook or have stopped cooking because they are by themselves.  It happens all the time.  It can be really hard to stay motivated.  My problem, I’ve come to realize, is not that I don’t enjoy cooking for one.  I actually like cooking for one just fine and don’t mind fiddling with recipes to scale them down.  But, I hate eating alone.

For the longest time I thought I was an introvert.  Wrong!  Actually I was just shy.  Terribly, terribly shy, for many years, though much less so now.  But, I get much of my energy from being around people.  Apparently I always have.  It should have clued me in long ago when my mother told me about how even as a tiny child I was perfectly content to play all by myself, but only so long as there was someone in the room alongside me doing their own thing.  Somehow, it still took me until just a few years ago to actually make the connections.

Anyhow, I feel the same about meals.  So much of eating is communal for me, when I’m by myself I sort of forget that I need to eat.  Probably because of that underlying dislike of eating alone.  So, then when I suddenly remember that I probably do need to eat something, my blood sugar is already a little too low and the hanger is building.  I still pull myself together enough to cook, but I slap together all manner of ridiculous thing.

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Summer squash and rice gratin with salsa verde

June 15, 2012 § 32 Comments

I have waited for almost a year to get to eat this gratin again.  Waiting, waiting, waiting for it to feel reasonable to purchase some summer squash.  Finally I cracked because I just couldn’t wait any longer.  I wanted my gratin!

I first had it last summer when I was home visiting my parents.  It was my mother who suggested making it, and I thought it sounded fine.  Though, how exciting could a summer summer squash gratin really be?  Zucchini and cheese struck me as tasty, but in no way revolutionary.  Just kind of summery comfort food.  (Eep!  That was in no way intended to be a dig at comfort food!  I love comfort food!  But you’ve got to admit, it’s not exciting, per se.  That’s kind of the whole point.)

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Strawberry gazpacho

June 8, 2012 § 25 Comments

So, I think I might have had more to share with you.  Some further reflections, maybe a recipe, and many many thanks for your wonderful, kind response to my post about my feast.  But it’s going to have to wait.  It will have to wait because my consciousness has been completely and irrevocably subsumed by this soup.

It’s like a secret that’s just too good.  It takes on a will of its own, growing and pushing and elbowing until it burbles out to be shared, whether or not you meant for it to be aired.  I do want to share this soup with you, and it has decided that it simply can’t wait any longer.

When we ate it for supper a while back Joel exclaimed, “this is the first soup that I can say without qualification that I love.”  Myself, I would count it among a very small handful of soups that I have truly loved.  But it is the only one of said soups that does not also contain more than my week’s allotment of cream in a single bowl.

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Asparagus, avocado, feta tacos

May 24, 2012 § 28 Comments

What do you call a large group of guests about to arrive?  A gaggle?  A bevy?  A pod?  A platoon?

How about a gift of guests?  I suppose one does not without fail feel this way about one’s guests.  But, it’s how I think of our guests who are coming for this weekend, so let’s go with it.

We have a gift of guests on their way, trickling in throughout today and tomorrow.  And, although it truly does feel like a gift that folks are coming to visit, let me tell you, I could be a circus act with my frenzy of activity today.

With my hands I’m juggling meal planning, cooking, and last minute cleaning (of course the dog would choose to shed her winter coat right now).  With the right foot I’m fending off the lions of hostess anxiety, and with the left I’m stomping out a couple of little work/research fires.  And on my head is teetering the rest of the to-do list. (Call the vet, water the garden, write that memo…)  All I need is a flower that squirts water and a big red nose!

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Caccio e pepe pizza with roasted radishes

May 21, 2012 § 37 Comments

We spent this weekend in the vegetable garden.  It’s hard to imagine a better use of a weekend, I think.  You’ve got sun, you’ve got soil, water, and greenery.  Those are the four main elements of life besides the ether, right?

My mom loves to tell a story about Pavlov (yes, the same Pavlov who was into studying dogs salivating in response to bells) who at some point in his adult life became severely ill.  On the verge of death, he asked his assistant to bring him a bucket of soil from the river nearby.  He buried his hands into this dirt, playing with it, and filling his mind with the memories of playing in the dirt when he was a child.  The delight and strength this brought him helped him break his fever, and, miraculously, he recovered completely.

I’m rather fond of this story, myself, actually.  Being in touch with the earth, quite literally, through the process of digging your hands into it does feel to me like it has this power to bring an unmistakeable sense of peace and wellbeing.  I sure felt that way this weekend, crouched in the dusty, weed filled span of our garden plot, ferreting out weeds and replacing them with seedlings.

It was high time we got ourselves over there, for many reasons, not the least of which was that, because of some scheduling snafus and other everyday trivialities, we had neglected the garden right up until this weekend.  We had neither weeded nor planted anything.  I joked that we were going to leave it feral and use it as a foraging garden.

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