April 23, 2013 § 10 Comments
This is about as typical of a weeknight supper as you get in our house. Roasted fish plus roasted veggies. Bam! Done! Thank you very much. Of course, the ways you can change this up are infinite with different spice rubs or sauces, different types of fish or veggies. We eat salmon most often, caught by our friend Dave who fishes commercially in Alaska. But, this time I had some cod.
I roasted it very simply, but then fancied it up by adding a pistachio and herb pesto – which was nothing but my way of saving the wilting ends of a couple bunches of herbs and the remnants of a bag of pistachios. Roasting a lemon or two with the carrots not only lends flavor to the carrots, but it also emboldens and rounds out the juices of the lemon. The arugula I tossed in at the last minute, to lightly wilt it. Easy peasy lemon squeezey (literally in this case, ha!).
Vær så god!
April 15, 2013 § 30 Comments
I wrote this post yesterday, before the horrifying explosions in Boston, and I’m posting it anyway as it is, but I cannot not start by saying that my heart is sobbing for Boston. For the past seven years until this year, every marathon Monday I have either been cheering near the finish or running the marathon, and so many people I care for were nearby today, though they are all safe as far as I have been able to discover. The Boston Marathon is such a joyful pageant, a show of camaraderie and of the amazing strength of the human body. It is tragic, it is unbearable as always, to see such goodness attacked. That’s the very essence of an act of terrorism, I guess, to attack something good and meaningful to try to frighten people out of participating in the goodness life has to offer. I often don’t actually feel strong enough to keep hoping and living joyfully in the face of such uncertainty, pain, and cruelty. I am overcome with sorrow. I pray for strength for Boston, and for all of us.
I’m in the process of working on a redesign of this site (and it will in a couple weeks be moved, finally, to fiveandspice.com, woohoo!). And when I say I’m working on it, I really mean that the wonderful and talented Melissa and Erin of Wooden Spoons Kitchen are doing the heavy lifting, and I’m pelting them with questions and thoughts, and they’re helping me and making sense of it all admirably. I can’t wait until it’s ready and you all can see it!
In the redesign process, I’ve had to spend a lot of time thinking about what this site is about and what makes it unique, while also spending lots of time looking at other beautiful blogs to guide the redesign and show what I like and don’t like in a look, and voice, and so on. This, I’m sorry to say, sent me into a nice little bout of comparison, which is a worthless way to spend your time. Comparison is the thief of creativity, and yet is nonetheless something that I am horribly prone to. When I go down the road of comparison, I forget that I exist as anything except as how I stack myself up against others (and I never ever stack myself favorably).
There are so many cooking blogs, I wailed to myself. So many are so gorgeous, clever, unique, thoughtful, creative, have well-tested recipes. What am I even doing trying to participate? Am I just adding to the clutter of an already crowded space? Just adding noise to the din of the argument about what and how we should eat? I’ll never be the best (wah)! What’s the point?
I worked myself into quite a sad, sorry state of worthlessness. And then of course I ran into some nicely lettered quote on pinterest that said something like, “The forest would be a quiet place if only the very best songbirds sang.” Which was totally annoying to see in that moment because I wanted nothing to do with sage advice, or with the truth, or with being reasonable at all. I didn’t want to be an adult! I wanted to wallow!!!! I wanted to fester, to poke at my (self-inflicted) bruise!
And then I had to laugh at myself. Because as soon as I could admit that my ego really just wanted to throw my own little pity party with me as guest of honor, I could see the pointlessness of that behavior, and how utterly true that “annoying” quote was. We exist totally separately from how we compare to others. We each exist in our own remarkable uniqueness. We each have our own voice, and adding that voice to the chorus, if we are singing true, will never be adding clutter. « Read the rest of this entry »
April 10, 2013 § 23 Comments
I have been having an absolute love affair with raw fennel lately. Every night and/or every time I’m at the market my little conversation with myself goes, “what kind of vegetable should we have with dinner? Broccoli? Nah. Cabbage? Not today. Kale? Meh. Ooh, how about a salad with shaved fennel. Oh, yes that sounds perfect.” And it keeps happening. Over and over. So what if I just ate a whole bulb? More fennel please.
It could just be one of my recent cravings. Or perhaps it’s because it’s the closest we’re getting to spring here right now. Still. (Not talking about the weather. I’m not talking about the weather. I’ll just put on another sweater, and not mention the weather.) But, on the whole, I’d say the jag started with this salad.
Fennel salad with burrata? Sign me up, and then give me seconds! Anything that includes buratta tends to be my dream meal. But, the fennel, with its sleek coat of lemon and olive oil and the icy cool of mint leaves was no second fiddle to the burrata’s main act (or what I thought would be the main act, before I sat down to eat).
And, that, in sum, is why I can’t stop eating fennel. I mean, a) I get to use my mandoline, which is always an exciting process because you flirt with losing your fingertips but then get parchment thin delicate sheets of fennel, all in a noodle-like tangle, out of the deal. And then, b) the 15 minute waiting period where the fennel bathes in a lemony dressing ever so slightly softens its crunch and freshens its flavor with the brightness of the lemon – both in juice and zest form – bolstering the anise notes of the vegetable. I fall for lemon-in-both-juice-and-zest-form’s show every time.
This salad, with grapefruit and curds of soft goat cheese is my most recent use of lemony fennel. There is nothing new about combining fennel’s sweetness with the juicy bittersweet of grapefruit. I feel like I have seen it in many a restaurant in past years at this very time of year, the transition time where we start picking up spring while still trailing a few threads of winter along with us. (Once I even had it as a fennel grapefruit salad with pine nuts and chunks of salted brittle candy. That was pretty tasty.) But, look at the word “marinated” there. Marinated makes it different! And new! « Read the rest of this entry »
March 30, 2013 § 56 Comments
I went a little insane this last week. I went for a walk with the dog and didn’t need to wear a hat. My face didn’t feel cold at all. I knew intellectually that was possible, but I had actually kind of forgotten what that felt like. And I was like, “SPRING!!!!!”
So then I decided we were going to celebrate both Passover and Easter – Joel’s background is Jewish and mine is Lutheran, so I figured we were allowed. We (ok, really it’s me, but Joel goes along with it so well) are extremely attracted by events, holidays, and meals steeped in symbolism, and both Passover and Easter are ideal for this. In addition to planning big meals for each holiday, I also decided it would be best if we made all of our own matzoh and Easter candy homemade. No problem, right? Ha. I feel like my every spare moment has been in the kitchen, which I don’t really mind. But, then my advisor finally sent me comments back on one of my dissertation drafts, so I was supposed to be editing that too. Oops.
But, so far, it’s all been totally worth it. And as long as the lamb cake I’m currently baking comes out of the mold without its face falling apart, then I feel like we’re ready to rock and roll.
It feels amazing to have my energy coming back because I’ve been pretty exhausted for the last couple months…Which brings me to our very big news. It, as you may have already guessed, has everything to do with an entirely different sort of, shall we say, baking project, with buns in ovens, and all. And I don’t mean the hot cross kind.
That is to say, come late September we’re expecting a new family member to join our little family!(!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) We couldn’t be more thrilled. Or terrified, of course. « Read the rest of this entry »
March 25, 2013 § 23 Comments
After I posted about my method for making creamy scrambled eggs, I received several requests asking whether I could write a similar post on making the perfect omelet.
The answer: most certainly! … Well, sort of.
The perfect omelet is a fitful, finnicky, tricky thing. It is said that you can judge the caliber of a chef by his or her plain roast chicken and his or her omelet. So, I knew that if I was to post about how to cook an omelet, I could not do so lightly.
So, I decided to put in a whole bunch of practice first.
On the whole, I’m relatively unpracticed at making omelets. Certainly if you compare with my practice in fried or scrambled eggs. I like eggs in nearly any preparation, but omelets are not at the very top of my list, so I don’t make them as frequently as some other eggy delights. Actually, if I were to order how frequently I made different types of eggs, the list would be something like this:
- Fried eggs
- Baked eggs (most often baked plainly with just a drizzle of cream and maybe some herbs)
- Scrambled eggs (with or without lots of mix-ins)
- Poached eggs – Frittatas – this one’s a tie
- Soft or hard boiled eggs (though, actually, I do absolutely love a soft boiled egg, if someone else prepares it for me)
- Other egg-based things like savory custards, stratas, souffles, etc.
So there you go. And I have now started the most boring conversation ever, listing egg preparation preferences. Or maybe it’s actually one of the most interesting potential conversations ever. Your egg preferences may be like a personality barometer. Maybe it’s an edible Myer’s-Briggs! Do all other INFJs have the same egg preferences as me? Do ENTPs prefer scrambled eggs above all while ISTJs are omelet people? Feel free to discuss. « Read the rest of this entry »
February 21, 2013 § 16 Comments
Decidedly not a beauty queen this one. She’s all lumpy and monochromatic. But the frumpy exterior conceals a heart packed with flavor.
And truly, on most days at least, who really wants a gorgeous but high maintenance looker of a dish when in a few minutes you could instead have one of the most incredibly easy and tasty lunches (or dinners, but I always seem to eat it for lunch) known to man.
And it uses up some leftovers too. That’s always good.
I never used to like fried rice that much, actually. I didn’t dislike it, I just saw no reason to eat it. I never saw what others seemed to see in it.
So for years I would scrupulously cook rice in small quantities so as never to have leftovers. Or, if there were leftovers, I would turn them into a porridge-like pudding for breakfast, and never think about the possibility that I was missing something. « Read the rest of this entry »
February 17, 2013 § 32 Comments
My dear friends, would you be up for bearing with me for just a moment so I can talk about scrambled eggs?
Plain old scrambled eggs. Not scrambled eggs with crisped asparagus or lacy pieces of prosciutto, not scrambled eggs with cheeses and meats and peppers and mushrooms. Not scrambled eggs with anything, except perhaps a helpful piece of toast. Just scrambled eggs. Soft scrambled eggs.
Scrambled eggs are a staple breakfast of mine, and it has occurred to me – given the many times I have been given not very good scrambled eggs – that this absurdly simple preparation, requiring only a few ingredients and minutes, can be quite tricky to pull off.
I think, like me, for many people the ideal of scrambled eggs is soft and creamy, a smooth pillowy mound of golden eggs with barely a curd to spear into. Eminently scoopable eggs, almost like a savory custard. But more often our eggs turn out dry, in large chunks. It’s disheartening.
I didn’t used to feel this way about scrambled eggs. When I was little, scrambled eggs were my favorite food, after any of the sweets we weren’t allowed to eat, but I liked them cooked until totally hard and dry. Then I’d chop them into tiny pieces with my fork. I was weird.
When I was 6 or 7 I got into a huge argument about this with my grandmother, in fact. She explained to me that the proper way to cook scrambled eggs was to leave them partially uncooked and creamy. I insisted this was a disgusting and terrible idea. We faced off, dug our heels in, and neither of us would give an inch on our stance.
It was time that wore me down (happily). I began to prefer my yolks runny and my scrambled eggs soft, and it became a point of intense experimentation to try to achieve my new vision of scrambled egg perfection. « Read the rest of this entry »
January 9, 2013 § 15 Comments
How are we already more than a week into January? Can someone please explain to me how that happened?
Around mid-November through mid-December I was so happy because I’d really found a rhythm, a productive and interesting but soothing rhythm, to my days. I was finally comfortable enough to put 2012 into cruise control and start admiring the scenery.
Then 2013 came barging in and it totally threw off my groove. The toddler-like newness of the year must be contagious because I’m stumbling about a bit trying to regain my stride. I suppose I should respect the newness and not try so hard for broad, efficient striding at all.
Transitions, good or bad, they’re always a little tricky and tiring. Not the least of the reasons for which being that the crack in the earth is open and naughty daemons are wandering around making mischief in our lives and of our immune systems. (Especially our immune systems! Sniff, wheeze, cough. More chicken soup please.)
But, the threshold has been crossed, and once you’re over you can look back, but you can’t go back. Not with any amount of kicking or screaming or clinging to the doorframe. What’s back there has been digested (hopefully well) and given strength to now, and now off we go to the next now and onward! « Read the rest of this entry »
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 »
November 3, 2012 § 21 Comments
When I came up with the idea of making breakfast arepas, I felt extremely innovative.
I was first introduced to arepas several years ago in Boston by a friend of mine who excels in the sniffing-out-cheap-but-good-street-food department. I enjoyed the golden cheese-filled corn cakes a lot – it’s hard not to like warm cheesy corny stuff – but they didn’t excite me to the degree many other street foods (did somebody say kimchi tacos?) do.
Why? Probably because, for unknown reasons and a shameful lack of imagination on this front, it took me until just days ago to realize that you could stuff an arepa with more than just cheese or cheese and beans. So much more!
A few days ago, I saw an image of arepas filled with avocado, pork, and salsa, and my immediate thought, because there are few things on this planet I love more than avocado + egg for breakfast, was “arepas filled with avocado and fried eggs! ImustmakethisandeatitNOW!!!!” And I felt very clever for having such a unique idea.
Then, last night I was texting with my brother who lives in Manhattan (he has power back! Yay! I hope everyone else still without power also has it restored ever so quickly!) who had written to me to tell me that I really needed to try making a bourbon and maple syrup milkshake. (Um, yes, clearly I do.) Somehow it came up that he had eaten an arepa for dinner, and I told him excitedly, “guess what! I’m making breakfast arepas tomorrow morning!” « Read the rest of this entry »