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 »
September 18, 2012 § 47 Comments
We went up into the woods over the weekend. It felt so good. Always does, really.
We went to the Boundary Waters, the forest in Northern Minnesota bordering Canada. A wilderness where the only real way to get around is by slipping a canoe into the water and paddling from lake to lake. There you can glide through still water, bounce through choppy, scramble over beaver dams, dodge moose…the only sounds around are the slap of the paddles, the drips of water, the occasional loon call, or easy conversation with the others in the boat.
Every wild area has its own unique silence and peace. I think that of the Boundary Waters may be one of the deepest anywhere. It affords the most beautiful solitude (and the most comfortable companionship with the others paddling with you) that you can imagine. Where else in the world can you canoe or kayak between hundreds of lakes with only hikes of several – ok, sometimes several hundred – canoe lengths in between? It’s remarkable.
We paddled a nice 12 mile loop on Saturday. On Sunday afternoon we decided to hike up one of the low ridges to take in the views of the leaves that are just starting to show hints of gold and scarlet. On the hike down, for the first time in several weeks, I began to think in earnest about food. « Read the rest of this entry »
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.
December 17, 2011 § 4 Comments
My lunch has left me fixating on leaves. It’s similar to when you think too long about a word and after a bit you aren’t sure whether it actually is a real word because at that point it sounds too weird to you. I do this relatively frequently with the word ‘which’. It’s awkward.
Anyhow, as I ate my lunch – this unabashedly leafy salad – the fact that we eat leaves became odder and odder to me. Leaves, people! I started to feel like maybe I was confused. Maybe I was a manatee or giraffe or some other animal that grinds away pensively at greenery.
Do we really eat leaves? The red bursts of the poinsettias decorating coffee tables at this time of year, those are leaves. On my run yesterday I chased some last oak leaves as they fluttered down from the trees (I find chasing after falling leaves to be one of the most elating and gleeful activities. It always makes me feel like I’m 4 or 5 again). They weren’t that dissimilar from the foundation of my salad (well, apart from being dried out and brown, which my salad distinctly wasn’t).
It was a disconcerting moment. Particularly because a not inconsequential portion of my diet is made up of leaves. In fact, I love leaves. In the summer, I eat salad like it’s my full time job. In the winter, I eat a lot of greens as well, but usually in sauteed or braised form, which renders them far less leafy looking.
Perhaps that’s why I was having trouble with the concept of leaf-eating. As mid-winter bears down on us, salads do tend to seem incongruous. Cool, refreshing, light, not exactly what you’re looking for when you want rib stickiness, something to warm you from the inside out.
But, there are exceptions. Salads robust and hearty enough to deserve a place on the winter table. And, in spite of my perplexing ruminations while eating it, I do believe this is one of them. « Read the rest of this entry »
October 21, 2011 § 7 Comments
Curse the design and marketing team at Crate & Barrel! Curse them for being good at their jobs! Here we are, still knee deep in October (arguably the best month of the year), and an idle flip through their latest catalogue has left me jonesing for Christmas (not only Christmas, but all sorts of related decorative elements that I truly do not need).
Christmas is, it must be said, my very favorite holiday and my favorite season (I have a major failing for twinkle lights and Christmas carols. What can I say? Character flaw, perhaps.), so it doesn’t take a ton to get me excited about it and chomping at the bit for it to come. But, to do so to the detriment of appreciating fall, glorious fall, well that would be tragic.
March 17, 2011 § 4 Comments
I don’t know about you, but I still feel rather pocket sized these days. Powerless. To be perfectly honest, it’s a feeling I often struggle with anyway. So, events, disasters, scares, all tend to bring it out full force. The voices on the news joining with the voices of fear and worry in my mind, amplifying into a din. A Greek chorus composed of squawking, insane parrots, on speed. Sometimes the mind is really not a good place to be. This is another reason why I cook. It is my meditation. I’m a horribly unreliable meditator. Just as bad about yoga and qi gong. But, cooking is the time when my mind quiets as I concentrate on the weight of the knife handle in my hand or the steam from a pot wafting up to my face as I stir.
It’s why I sometimes prefer to cook things that have a lot of different pieces. Chopping, rolling, shaping, shaking, layering. Dishes that are antithetical to the usual weeknight cooking demand to just get something good on the table quickly, and instead are a true-blue labor of love. I find tarts quite good for this. I love the feeling of rubbing together the flour and butter between my fingers and the thump of the floury rolling pin on the dough and the endless potential for fillings. Like this one, for example with its lightly crunchy, golden cornmeal crust and filling of tender caramelized leeks and sturdy greens all bound together with nutty, pungent Alpine cheese. « Read the rest of this entry »