Slow cooked Greek green beans

September 10, 2012 § 10 Comments

Did you have to take timed tests in elementary school?  (To this day I’m still not entirely sure whether they were called timed tests or times tests, after all, they were used for learning the times tables.)  A couple minutes to complete as many problems as you can multiplying by 7.  A couple minutes to complete as many problems as you can dividing by nine.  Awful.  Awful awful awful.  There’s a pit in my stomach now, just remembering.

I’ve never done well with time pressure.  I freeze up when I’m in a hurry, making stupid mistakes, leaving a trail of minor disasters.  But, I also hate being late.  So, I won’t just take the extra time I sometimes need.  Basically, time, deadlines, and I all keep slightly different schedules.  And I occasionally lose my sanity  trying to force them into alignment.

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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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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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Orzo pasta salad with mixed herbs and summer squash

July 3, 2011 § 12 Comments

I’m not much of a 4th of July celebrator.  I don’t love fireworks or watermelon – but don’t worry, I do fully recognize that this makes me a total weirdo.  I do, however, like to get my picnic on as much as the next girl, and this seems to be the weekend for it!  (Or for some of us, a weekend of hauling an unwieldy, heavy new table up several flights of winding stairs while jamming our fingers and muttering curses under our breath.  But, followed by a picnic! As there was most definitely an edict issued from somewhere stating, “thou shalt picnic!”).

Rickety picnic baskets, red checkered blankets, pitchers of lemonade, potato salad, amusing ants elbowing their way through to get to your food, what’s not to like?!  Especially if you throw in a frisbee, and a nice shade tree.

Except, I have to admit that usually my version of a picnic is much simpler than that.  It generally just involves some pieces of bread and some pieces of cheese or perhaps ham or salami.  Simple.

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Darling carrot and pea hand pies

March 6, 2011 § 6 Comments

Well, now that you know how I felt about cauliflower when I was little, you know how I felt about most vegetables.  It’s hard to believe that the farm-share buying, garden planting, vegetable fiend I am now actually grew out of that prissy little girl whose heart grew faint and lip trembled at the thought of eating leaf and root matter of any sort.  I had a very few exceptions to my no vegetables rule.  A few vegetables that were inoffensive enough I would deign to consider them foodstuffs.  I liked cucumbers.  In fact, cucumber and mayonnaise sandwiches were one of my favorite summer dinners (this was my escape hatch when all the grown ups were eating their open faced shrimp sandwiches).  I would eat carrots if they were shredded and mixed with ranch dressing, and I would eat peas if they were cooked and drowned in my mother’s magnificent gravy.  That was about my limit.  So, peas and carrots it frequently was.

However, in spite of the lore around peas and carrots (I’ve heard that an old joke/admonishment in many families was to tell the children to “eat every carrot and pea on your plate,” hehe) we never actually ate them together.  It was either peas or carrots.  Not peas and carrots.  I knew, in a sense, that they were supposed to go together.  Two of my best friends and I even dressed up as peas and a carrot for Halloween once!  But still, never did the twain meet on my dinner plate.  Up until a couple of days ago that is.  In my mind’s peripatetic wanderings last week  I stopped to rest awhile upon this idea and decided that it was finally time to eat peas and carrots together.  But, I didn’t manage to stop there.  No sooner had I settle on it, I had quickly moved on from the idea of just eating plain old peas and carrots and started thinking of pot pie.  And then I started thinking of hand pies. « Read the rest of this entry »

Spanakopita rice

October 26, 2010 § 4 Comments

Who knows where we get the ideas for the things we cobble together on weeknights, right? Well, maybe you do know. I mean, sometimes inspiration is obvious – a bookmarked recipe page, a post on a blog, a family staple, or the fact that it’s midweek which very frequently means spaghetti. Other times, the places ideas come from are misty and obscure, like magical islands in distant oceans. This dinner most definitely came from the latter. And, it might have required seven-league boots or a ride on a magical eagle to make its way to my kitchen.

I’ve been calling it spanakopita-rice, which sounds kind of goofy, but really pretty much sums up what it is. All the spinachy goodness of spanakopita filling without the trouble of phyllo dough (which I like to call phyllo d’oh, even though a certain husband of mine says that if I keep doing so, I probably won’t have any more friends soon. But it’s totally funny, right? Right?). And, I think that’s vaguely where the idea came from. I had feta cheese to use up from those yummy muffins, and I figured I would make one of my standard Greek-y tomato-y sauces for chicken and sprinkle feta all over it. But then a vague notion of spanakopita crept into the recesses of my mind. Mmmm. I do love spanakopita. The notion became stronger when I remembered that I had leftover spinach as well. But no phyllo dough, because who just keeps phyllo dough around when you’re not planning a party with fancy hors d’oeuvres? So, then I thought I would make some filling and toss it with pasta. But, somewhere in the process of chopping onions, I started thinking about paella as well. And how I’d never made a paella. And how I wasn’t going to make paella that evening, but maybe I could use rice in place of pasta with my spinach-feta mix. « Read the rest of this entry »

Cheesy Winter Squash Muffins

October 21, 2010 § 40 Comments

What is it about fall?  Really.  I can’t get over it.  There is something so splendid, so unabashedly glorious about this time of year that I feel almost ready to pop with abundance and contentment each time I put on a sweater, step outside, and feel the soft voluminousness of the clear fall air.  I love the colors – deeper, from brilliant to brooding.  I love the nostalgia.  I love sweater weather.  I love the cold that is just enough to most definitely require snuggling.  I love the expanse of an electric blue fall sky.  I love how spacious fall weekend days feel, even though the evening closes in earlier.  I love the coziness of eating supper when it’s dark out.  I love the smells and sounds of leaves.  I want to bundle fall up in a fuzzy sweater and give it a hug.  It makes me want to sing happy songs and write sonnets to it.  Except that nobody – least of all fall – will be done any favors by my attempting to write sonnets.  So, instead I cook to it.

Fall calls for food that is encased in dough, or splashed with some cream (in case work actually listens to your petition and lets you hibernate this year), or dashed with some nutmeg, or drizzled with some maple syrup.  Food filled with all the deep colors and vibrant yet mellow flavors that echo the way fall feels.  And lots and lots and lots of winter squash.  There is almost nothing more autumnal than a butternut, or acorn, or kabocha, or buttercup squash.  They just keep filing in from my farm share, and with all their different shapes, colors, and sizes, the pile of them in my pantry is starting to look like line up of circus characters.  It’s truly fabulous.

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The Best Macaroni and Cheese Ever, in a sense

March 17, 2010 § 6 Comments

Happy St. Patrick’s Day (and St. Urho’s Day yesterday!).  I know according to some generally accepted food writing standard I’m supposed to be making use of this holiday conversation starter to share some recipe for colcannon or bangers and mash or Irish soda bread.  But, I’m afraid I haven’t made any of those lately.  Though I feel an affinity for Irish folks – my Viking ancestors having pillaged and conquered their villages and such (always have to give my Irish friends a hard time on St. Patty’s day) – I’ve never gotten into celebrating the holiday.  Ack, wait!  Don’t pinch me!  Here’s something green.  And not to worry, I’ll certainly be raising a pint tonight.

I’ve been musing about growing up lately.  I just don’t feel like I make a particularly good grown up (growing old is a different story – I have high hopes of being a totally eccentric, white-haired old spitfire of a woman someday).  Growing up has its perks, for sure.  But, why are we expected to get so darn serious as we grow up?  Life is too important to take seriously, I say!  I still secretly want to be a ballerina.  I still look for fairies and elves in the trees and flowers.  I would rather chase after falling leaves and stomp in puddles than go running and do yoga (though I enjoy both of those too).  It keeps things magical. « Read the rest of this entry »

Greek-spiced Shepherd’s Pie

December 14, 2009 § Leave a comment

(once again, pardon my subpar photography skills!)

I apologize if it’s a bit hard to read this post over the sound of me patting myself on the back.  Yeah, I’m a little proud of this one – mainly because it rates pretty high on the tasty-deliciousness meter and it used up a hefty two pounds of mashed potatoes that I had leftover from a lefse party (lefse is a Norwegian potato flatbread that is really best made at a party, preferably with a beer in one hand!).  The temperature has finally gotten legitimately wintery here.  Of course, I grew up in northern Minnesota, so whenever the subject of the cold comes up I have to act all extra tough (I mean, because I am, of course), and say things like, “This isn’t cold!  It never even gets really cold in Boston.  Try a couple of weeks of minus 40 and then get back to me about cold.”  This generally gets a lot of looks of shock and horror at the idea of that kind of weather, and then everyone returns to complaining about how cold it is.  Because it is.  Certainly, it is at least cold enough to have me hovering near my oven every evening coming up with reasons to turn it on.  Even if I’m making something on the stovetop, I’ve been able to scheme up some way to end it in the oven.  Case in point, this spiced up rendition of something akin to shepherd’s pie.

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