Polenta hiding mozzarella and lemony greens

February 26, 2013 § 17 Comments

polenta hiding greens 1

This past weekend Joel and I were in Wisconsin for the American Birkebeiner.  The Birkie, as it’s called, is the largest Nordic ski race in North America and the third largest in the world.  Every February, thousands and thousands of skiers descend on the tiny town of Hayward, Wisconsin to subject themselves to over 50 kilometers of hilly, sometimes icy, always beautiful, and invariably intense cross-country ski racing.

From those not used to it, I’ve heard it’s really a cultural experience.

My family has been going to the Birkie for as long as I can remember.  There’s a children’s race, called the Barnebirkie (which is Norwegian for “child Birkie”) the Thursday before the big race, and my brothers and I started skiing it when we were still so little that my mom had to walk beside us the entire length of the 1 km toddler course.  My parents would then do the grown up race on the weekend.

mozzarella slices

I started skiing the half Birkie in high school, and I did the full a couple of times while I was in college.  But then I up and moved to the East Coast and was never able to make it back in February (much less train for it, anyway), and so the glorious Birkie weekend full of the excitement of a giant challenge and the fun of meeting up with and staying with friends, comfortably sharing tons of good food and wine and swapping war stories after the race is over, became something I just heard about over the phone each year.

But now we’re back in the upper middle of the country!  And one of the first things I did upon arriving at our new home in Northern Minnesota was to register both Joel and myself for the Birkie.

So then we had to start training like mad.  Trail runs and hikes followed by skiing and skiing and skiing as soon as there was snow.  Sadly, fate conspired against me and last week I found myself feeling substantially under the weather and completely exhausted.  Things didn’t get any better going into the weekend, so I had to bow out of skiing the race (small strangled sobbing noise).  I still went with and did part time cheering duty and full-time relaxing duty at the cabin where we stay, listening happily to everyone’s excited stories of how terrible it was this year (tough conditions make for even more satisfying suffering). Next year, though.  Next year I plan on being fully well enough to ski. « Read the rest of this entry »

Broccoli soup with parmesan and lemon

November 21, 2012 § 15 Comments

I’m going to make this one quick because, let’s face it, I don’t have much spare time today, and you don’t either.  Too much crimping of pie edges, dry brining of turkeys, simmering of cranberries, and such and so to be done.

Or, if we’re completely honest, spilling of half bowls of pie dough on the floor, forgetting to take out the turkey, and smoldering of forgotten pots of cranberries.  I am thankful for (among the many more standard things that I am deeply grateful for) brooms, basting with butter (a highly worthy alternative to brining), and smoke detectors.  Though perhaps not in that order.

I am also thankful for this soup because it is the solution to the ‘what shall we eat the night before Thanksgiving?’ dilemma.  (Or if you are in another country, it’s the solution to almost any other dilemma you can come up with.)

I love this recipe in part because the way Merrill – one of the cofounders of Food52 – came up with it is the same way I come up with ever so many dinners.  She saw the words “broccoli soup with Parmesan and lemon” written on a coffee shop signboard.  She thought to herself, “da@* that sounds good” (it’s the holidays, so I’m being careful with my naughty words, see?), and proceeded to try to make her own version.

I have done the same many a time.  Also, the exact same thought ran through my own head when I saw the words “broccoli soup with Parmesan and lemon,” so I knew I had to make it tout de suite. « Read the rest of this entry »

Scrambled eggs and asparagus

April 29, 2011 § 6 Comments

Devastating tornados in the south, royal weddings, the state of the world is as complicated as always, and my poor little mind just doesn’t always feel like it can process all of it.  So, at the risk of seeming out of touch, I’m trying just to concentrate on what’s right here, right now, and that is flowering trees.  Flowering trees are the best part of spring. Hands down.  The best.  Don’t you think?  (Maybe you actually don’t thinks so, but humor me for the moment.) The supple, soft velvet of their perfect petals shimmer so lightly as breezes waft through and pick up their perfume.  The colors are delicate and diaphanous, as if they had been chosen by a young girl in love with the Impressionists.  And there is simply nothing more giddily romantic than standing under a blossoming cherry or crab apple tree, gazing through the branches as petals flutter down around you and the occasional robin cocks his head at you curiously.

The second best part of the spring is slightly harder to determine. It may be the dandelions sprouting up everywhere (I know it’s weird, but I just love dandelions).  But, I think it’s more likely that it is asparagus.  Asparagus is so delicious and so ephemeral, around about this time of year my hoarding nature kicks in and I find myself buying bundle after bundle of the slender spiky stalks and eating them practically three meals a day.  Frankly I’m a little surprised I haven’t started getting up in the middle of the night to fix myself a midnight asparagus snack, just so I can fit in one more plateful each day before the season is over.  Haven’t started yet, that is.

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Soupe au pistou

July 9, 2010 § 4 Comments

I would say that this is a story of soup, but then you would probably turn away, shaking your head and thinking, “no way am I going to eat soup in the middle of summer, unless it’s a cool as a cucumber soup.” (Which, by the way, I hope to make sometime here very soon as I have a bumper crop of dill in my fridge.)  So, instead I will say that this is the story of a man named Anthony from Texas.  Technically “from Texas” is not really part of his name, but it may as well have been because he exuded everything I think of when I imagine the good side of Texas, the openness and charm.  Also the big-ness.  He’s a former high school (and college, I think) American football player, and had one of those positions where, as far as I can tell, you pretty much specialize in being the human version of a reinforced concrete wall.

Anthony from Texas and I worked together for a few years, and much of our conversation was about having survived growing up in what you might characterize as ‘extreme climates.’  There was a lot of good natured sparring: “Cold?!  This isn’t cold!  Minus 40 degrees and having to put Vaseline on your face to keep the skin from freezing immediately is cold!”  or “How can you be overheating?  It’s not even hot out!  Try running drills in 110 degrees while wearing layers of protective gear.  That’s hot!”

When it’s (in my opinion) really hot out, I make a concerted effort to whine about at least every hour or so, on the hour.  And, virtually every time I did so, Anthony from Texas would chime in, “what you have to do to beat the heat is take a hot shower, and then have some hot soup!  It’ll kick start your body’s cooling mechanism, and the day won’t feel as hot in comparison.”  I shudder at the thought.  But, amazingly, the practice works.  (If you survive through to the other side of it, which I sometimes think is questionable.)

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