April 25, 2013 § 4 Comments
Before we get to risotto, I have a few little announcements to make, housekeeping style. I trust the risotto can wait a couple moments, even though it is not known to be the most patient of rice dishes. But anyway, as I mentioned a little bit ago, this here little blog is undergoing a spiffing up process. It’s like Five and Spice is going on Project Makeover! That’s not a real show is it. Extreme Makeover? Anyway, that’s beside the point.
The point is that some major, and (so!) exciting renovations are happening, led by the (brilliant) ladies of Wooden Spoons Kitchen. In order to make it all work, starting sometime on the later end of tomorrow (Friday) the site will be down for a while. It will stay down over the weekend while the magic happens in the background. Then on Monday morning it’ll be back with its brand new look and also at a new URL. Instead of being at wordpress.com the site address will be plain old fiveandspice.com (took me long enough to make the change, right?! Some weird Estonian company or something had snagged that URL, I think in hopes of getting me to buy it from them. But when their lease on it expired, I snapped it up. Take that!).
I’ll have the old site set up to redirect, so old links will all still work and whatnot, but just know that henceforth you’ll be able to look for me at that new address. Now this is important (hence the bold typeface) if you subscribe by email, that should keep working without interruption (at least in theory. Fingers crossed.) but if you subscribe via an rss feed/reader type of thing, you will have to resubscribe. But, this should be easy enough, right? You did it once! I bet you can do it again. (I, on the other hand, have no idea how to subscribe to an rss feed. I am a luddite. This is why other people are in charge of moving the site over, and holding my hand, and talking to me in reassuring voices the whole time.)
So, with that taken care of, let us turn to the risotto. « Read the rest of this entry »
February 26, 2013 § 17 Comments
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.
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 »
December 21, 2012 § 17 Comments
I imagine, if you are like me, what you need right now is not another cookie or another cup of punch. What you need is the world’s quickest and easiest tasty dinner, so you can be well fed between the events, between all the time commitments demanded by crafting the elegant meals and trays of cookies required for the days that are the events, between the traditions that can’t be monkeyed with.
And on some days, you may want that meal to be something other than spaghetti. Nothing against spaghetti. I love spaghetti. I went through a phase of hating it because I thought we ate if far too often during my childhood, but now I understand why we ate it so often. I 110% understand why because now that I’m the one making dinner, we eat it just about as often, though usually with spaghetti squash these days rather than actual pasta. But, even with that understanding, there are only so many days in a row one can stomach spaghetti.
Which is why these burgers are such a great find. I’m pretty sure the idea came from Food & Wine, or else Bon Appetit. It was one of the various food magazines that I was reading on one of my several recent work trips at any rate, and the idea stuck with me.
October 3, 2012 § 18 Comments
I’m convinced that if food knows you’re afraid of it, it will, most of the time, rise (or is it sink?) to meet your expectations, and give you plenty of trouble. This is why, for example, you must be firm while rolling out a pie crust, even as you use a delicate touch, and why souffles are best made after 10 pm, with a generous glass of wine by your side.
I’ve feared a wide variety of foods in my time, but one by one, I have try-tried again, building up my nerve and feel for things, and I’ve eventually conquered most of them. Fried foods, though, have definitely still got my number. I feel a vague internal cowering even now as I think about searing bolts of grease splattering everywhere, and me screaming and running like a peasant in front of a hord of visigoths, trying to get away from the oily conflagration that could, in my mind, easily start out of nowhere in a split second, as soon as there’s more than about 2 Tbs. of hot oil involved.
I’ve never actually had any mishap remotely resembling that (I’m much more liable to shave off my fingertip or set a cake ablaze), but it still scares me. Suffice it to say, I don’t do all that much serious frying.
Even less so because I’ve never had much cause to. I love the results enough to slave away over improving my bread, even my radicchio experience I’m willing to work at, but on the whole I don’t like fried food. I don’t like the taste, so why bother?
I know I’m kind of weird, with this. I know that my general dislike of fried chicken, fried fish, pakoras, tempura, even French fries puts me at odds with most of humanity. It’s not a problem with the fat content or anything, cream being pretty much my favorite food group. I just don’t care much for the flavor. « Read the rest of this entry »
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 »
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.)
June 12, 2012 § 13 Comments
Do you all already love risotto? I feel like most people do. Like it usually comes naturally. I’m pretty sure I’m the odd duck in this one, but for me, well, it took me a while to hit my risotto stride.
When I first heard of risotto back who knows when at this point, I was immediately enticed by it. It looked like the rice version of creamy macaroni and cheese or maybe the rice version of pasta Alfredo. My impression of it was that it was a bowl of super cheesy, creamy rice. And how could that be anything but delightful? Right?
The first time I ever actually tried risotto was at the dinner we went to to celebrate my college graduation. It is a well known fact that a college graduation merits a celebratory dinner at a snazzy Italian restaurant wherein the graduate also gets to choose the wine. At least, I felt it ought to be a well known fact, and made sure our plans reflected this.
I wasn’t actually the one who ordered the risotto. I ordered lobster ravioli because at that time lobster ravioli was my culinary grail. The ultimate in fancy food (I don’t think I’d ever actually had lobster before that, come to think of it. What a dinner of firsts!). It was one of my best friends who came along and who ordered a vegetable risotto (she was being vegetarian at the time, I believe). I was delighted with her choice because it meant I could steal a few forkfuls.
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.
May 10, 2012 § 14 Comments
For much of my adult life (starting, even, when I was more adult-ish, than adult), I’ve wanted to have a restaurant or cafe where I was recognized. All Cheers-like, where everybody – or, more realistically, at least somebody – would know my name, and I would know theirs. I’d be a regular.
Perhaps it comes from my small-town girl core, which craves to be situated in a community small enough where you can’t help but bump into someone you know on every grocery store visit. Perhaps it comes from the more universal human desire to belong, to be part of something, to be known. Either way, it’s been a borderline compulsion for years, but mostly just an internal one. I’ve never really intentionally played it out. Either my tendency to explore and try new places would thwart my quest to become a regular, or a high turnover rate in the staff would. (Technically with the latter, I guess I still was a regular, but it doesn’t count if there is no one that greets you with that smile of the eyes that says, ‘hey, I know you! I’m glad you’re back. How’s the family/kids/dog…?’)
April 17, 2012 § 26 Comments
I moved to Boston just about seven years ago. Actually, for those of you interested in geographical specificity, I moved to Somerville. But I didn’t even know what the distinction was between them at the time. On the day I arrived, after having driven through the night, through Canada, with only a two hour stop for a nap at 6:30 in the morning before chugging onward and pulling up to my new apartment at 2:30 PM, I decided to try to take the subway down to the Boston Common and the Public Garden to hang out there in the remaining late afternoon sun. (Actually facing the boxes of my belongings in my new space was simply too daunting. I needed some time.)
The last time I had been in the area was the summer between kindergarten and first grade, and the only thing I still remembered from that experience in Boston was being in the Public Garden. Actually, what I remembered was sitting on the Make Way for Ducklings statue in the Public Garden, and that memory was largely based on a photograph my mom had taken.
In heading towards this destination held in my memory, the very first thing I did (and this is a remarkably easy thing to do in Boston, even if you have a better sense of direction than yours truly) was get on a bus going in exactly the wrong direction. I don’t even know how I figured out I was on the wrong course, except perhaps when the conductor yelled, “Arlington Center!” All I remember is how vivid, and noisy, and full of energy everything felt. I always feel this way in a new city, senses heightened as I eye everything closely trying to discern what it is, what it means, where I’m headed.