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 »

Orange cardamom yogurt cake

November 9, 2012 § 90 Comments

Sometimes I wonder if I shouldn’t have been a pastry chef.

In general, I like to think of myself as more of a cook.  I find some self-satisfaction in my inaccurate – or more appropriately, unprecise –  stirring together of a pinch of this and a handful of that until I’ve made a meal of it.  I don’t think of myself as precise enough for baking and pastries.

And yet…And yet, at the end of a very long week, a week  where – let’s just say hypothetically – the workdays have been 12 hours long and the brain has taken the spirit captive, I find that precision is what I want.  The precision is a respite.

Structurelessness can be a tyrant, and precision and strict guidelines can actually offer solace.  In those moments, I take comfort in measuring an exact teaspoon and a half or creaming for exactly three minutes.

I also love pastries for their sheer un-utilitarian-ness.  Sometimes when there’s a lot to do, the wise decision is to make those calls or do that laundry, to stop avoiding and cross some things off your list.  But sometimes the wise decision is instead to do something that delights you, that has nothing to do with the list.

You don’t need sweets in your life, to be sure, but I think sometimes you do need little things that are “just because,” that aren’t necessities for the body, but may be for the soul.  Life needs to contain both basics and beauty, both bread and roses, or perhaps both stews and pâte feuilletée. « Read the rest of this entry »

Shepherd’s pie with kale

November 6, 2012 § 30 Comments

Hey! So, it turns out there’s an election or something going on in the States today.  Who knew, eh?!  (Joke.)  Some part of me feels like I should talk about it, as it’s a weighty issue, hot discussion, trending topic, etc, etc, etc.  I mean, I sure know what I believe.  But, I can’t really try to force my beliefs on anyone else.  Actually, that’s false, I totally could try to force my beliefs on you!

But, not to worry, I won’t!

Instead I’m going to preoccupy myself thinking and talking about a creek.

There’s a little creek within spitting distance of the house where I grew up.  I think I may have actually mentioned it before, though I can’t keep track of these things.

It’s a wonderful creek.

There’s nothing jaw-dropping or awe inspiring about it.  It doesn’t have a magnificent or majestic sort of beauty about it.  But it does have the most miraculously quiet, serene beauty to it.  The angles of the rockbeds, the arc of the branches, the ripples of the water, to me they are lyrical in an other-wordly and yet entirely this-worldly sort of way.  It’s one of my favorite places on this earth, and I think one of the most beautiful as well.

I grew up going for walks there all the time.  My mother would take us walking there when we were little for teddy bear picnics and to look for minnows.  I went walking with friends there, making believe we were explorers in a lost forest.  The creek was on the way to and from our high school, so we would hike up and down it in a hurry to get to classes and sports practice.  I walked there with my boyfriends, feeling terribly romantic.  I walked there whenever I was having boy troubles, alone with my thoughts  and terrible indecisiveness.  I, of course, took Joel there on his earliest visits to Duluth, to show him what a special place it is. « Read the rest of this entry »

Pork braised with beer and cinnamon

April 11, 2012 § 20 Comments

Hello friends.  How are you?  I am well, but my head is quite lodged in a cloud of data.  Like the high peak of a mountain, caught in its own little weather pattern of eternal fog.  Would that I had some of the other characteristics of a mountain to compensate!  I trust that at some point it will all coalesce and I’ll be able to step out of it enough to see what shape it is – a bunny! a dragon! an armadillo! ah, the shapes clouds take on… – but right now I’m in the thick of it, hours upon hours of interview data.

(At least it’s the very best kind of data I could possibly be wanting to work with – people’s stories!  How precious!  Yet, I find this also makes it all the harder to do anything akin to analyzing.  I’d rather just listen…)

Also, along with Boston’s schoolchildren, whatever wonky muse I may be endowed with seems to be taking an April vacation.  Anyone who has seen Elizabeth Gilbert’s stellar TED talk on creativity and genius will know exactly what I mean when I say, my genius is being “kind of lame” at the moment.  (And, if you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it.  It’s fascinating and entertaining.) « Read the rest of this entry »

Spiced sweet potato and leek cakes

April 3, 2012 § 20 Comments

Were I a poet, I would write odes in celebration of cardamom.

Actually, now that I give my bold statement a little thought, were I a poet, I would probably have much more profound and brooding things to write about.  For example, what a sparrow isn’t.

(This is an actual discussion that Joel and I once had, after hearing a pair of essays by a husband and wife one of whom is a poet and the other a novelist. What a sparrow isn’t comes up as a poetic theme.  Later on a walk, I asked Joel what he thought of when he imagined what a sparrow isn’t, and he launched into a long musing exploration of the fluttering energy each little life on this earth has and the vacuum that could be left were it not there and how this might change the overall universe.  Then he asked what came to my mind when I thought of what a sparrow isn’t.  “An elephant and a beach ball,” I replied.  Joel writes poetry.  I don’t.)

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Slumdog Millionaire’s Shortbread

March 23, 2012 § 10 Comments

All through our childhoods, my brothers and I were only allowed candy on Saturdays – lørdags godt, “Saturday treat.”  Each Saturday we were given our allowance, to drop into the cleaned out yogurt containers that functioned as piggybanks, plus a quarter (adjusted up over the years to a dollar, a parent does have to recognize inflation), to clasp hot and sticky in our hands as we ran to the store to spend it on any candy of our choosing.

We had a complete free market phenomenon going on with our Saturday treat allotment, and (without remotely having the terminology to talk about it) we became very shrewd at calculating the relative utility of each variety of candy as compared to its cost, in order to determine how we could best balance the quantity versus quality of our purchases.

My brothers erred on the side of quantity.  My indifference curves must have been steeper because I tended to buy exactly the candy I preferred at the time, even if it meant I wouldn’t walk away with pockets bulging.

I remember an intense Mambo phase.  Do you remember those?  Fruit-flavored chews in a similar genre to Starbursts, but ever so much better. For a long time I also harbored a strong preference for Sour Patch kids.  But, as I grew older (and our financial allocation closed in  on a dollar), I – being female, and all – developed a powerful love of chocolate.  I recall many sweet, melty Saturdays of peanut butter cups or Three Musketeers Bars.

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Sweet potato rösti with avocado and smoked salmon

March 6, 2012 § 19 Comments

My father, who is both a wonderful person and a wonderful eater, and one of the most truly consciously healthy people I know, has been having to make some dietary changes lately to try to figure out some minor allergies.  That’s putting it mildly.  By “some” changes, I mean he’s doing sort of the mother of all elimination diets.  Even things like rice and potatoes, which are usually allowed in elimination diets are o-u-t, out.

If you’re exceptionally noble and self-possessed, I suppose you could see the good in such limitation.  The strict form of the sonnet can give rise to even more beauty and creativity than free verse, and all that la dee da.  But, overall, it has got to pretty much suck.  Perhaps even with a capital S.  That’s how I would feel about it, I know.

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Coconut and Thai curry soup with pork dumplings

March 3, 2012 § 18 Comments

On Thursday it snowed!  Finally.  It wasn’t the best timing since Joel was flying back from a work trip that night, but it was snow, and I wanted it!  The winter has been so sparse and brown, and when I looked out at the fragile white coating on the ground I literally felt what is meant by “a sight for sore eyes.”  My strained retinas relaxed perceptibly, and something inside me that has been tight and knotted all winter relaxed and unwound just slightly.  I’m a northerner.  My heart aches for a real winter.

I think you can see it in the photos too, that de-saturated grey light that comes with flakes suspended in the air.  Today it’s drizzling, so the snow won’t last long.  But it was there, and I was happy.

But anyways, what was I here to tell you about? Focus.  Focus.  Reel it in, Emily.  Ah yes, soup.

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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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Sesame ginger chocolate mousse – it was only a matter of time

February 14, 2012 § 25 Comments

They say one of the hardest things about love is learning to accept it.  It can be so hard to feel worthy of being loved.  Yet, you can’t fully love others until you accept that you’re loveable as well.

But, I’m not going to spend too much time focusing on anything so weighty today.  I’m focused on mousse.  The hardest thing about chocolate mousse, for me, is that I just made some for Valentine’s Day.  Not super original.  I think that chocolate mousse on Valentine’s Day may actually be the entry in the dictionary for the word trite.  Trite (trîte), adj., trit·er, trit·est 1. making chocolate mousse on Valentine’s Day…

I’m in the camp of people who doesn’t get terribly into Valentine’s Day.  I do love chocolates, and champagne, and flowers.  But, I love them on many more days of the year than just February 14th (and I wouldn’t mind receiving them on many more days too, ahem, Joel, ahem 🙂 ).

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