Pizza with mozzarella, lemon, and olives

January 27, 2012 § 16 Comments

I love to look at the work of various chefs, always trolling for ideas to pocket and have turn up sometime later, perhaps a little jumbled looking from having gone through the brain equivalent of a wash cycle, in meals I cook.  I think there must always be a little ticker tape running in my mind storing up a restaurant meal here, a recipe there.  Not that they ever seem to come back to me when I most want them to.  But, they’re influential.

The food ideas from some quadrants are delectably comfortable, vindicating in a sense.  I see them and I think, ‘oh that’s exactly how I would have done that!’ Or, ‘ha! I’ve made almost exactly that before!  I should make it again sometime.’

Some food ideas shake you up a little, splash some cold water in your face to wake you up from the food ruts we all settle into, at times more frequently than not.  These are the dishes that inspire you with an ‘I would never have thought of that!’ nudge.  Sometimes that ‘I would never have thought of that’ is followed by an ‘and I’m intimidated by the very idea, and don’t think I actually want to try making something like that at all.’  Other times it’s followed by an ‘and I will make it the next chance I get!’

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Roasted orange chutney

January 24, 2012 § 12 Comments

English is a language with a lot of great idiomatic phrases, so I take slight umbrage at the fact that there is no good taste equivalent for the saying “I could see it in my mind’s eye.”  At least, I don’t think there is.  If anyone out there knows one, will you please share it with me?  I would use it all the time.  I would probably drive everyone around me to drink, I would use it so often.  (So maybe it’s actually good I don’t know such a phrase.  It prevents the need for an intervention – for my overuse of it, or for the induced drinking problem in those who are sick of hearing it, I couldn’t say…)

It’s how I think about recipes, ingredients, and cooking.  I think many people who cook a lot do.  I imagine ingredients and preparations and I taste what they would be like in my mind’s mouth (ergh, see, that sounds ridiculous) before even cracking open the cupboards in the pantry.  And, when I see a dish of some sort, I do the same thing.

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Kale avocado and persimmon salad

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 »

Garam masala roasted cauliflower

December 9, 2011 § 19 Comments

It’s the quality of the light at this time of year, more than just the quantity.  There’s something about it.  Do you know what I mean?  It seeps into my pores, follows me around, tints my day in a very particular way that I can’t quite describe.

When there’s snow on the ground the sun is so amplified during its brief daily visit that you don’t necessarily notice.  But, when the ground is brown, littered with twigs and oak leaves, you can feel that the light is almost timid.  It sneaks up above the horizon, peaking about with a muted – sometimes pallid – glow.  You can tell as soon as it comes up that it’s already contemplating its journey back down, leaving us in darkness again.

I feel as though I barely get my day going and then I’m looking up and it is rapidly becoming dark outside.  And, try as I might, even though it may only be 3:30 or 4:00, I can’t really concentrate on getting any more work done.

If I’m working from home, when it gets dark it means it is immediately time to initiate that day’s Cozy Winter Evening, something I feel is essential if one wishes to keep from being overcome by dreariness.  For me this involves turning on a couple of our lights that cast a very warm yellow glow, lighting candles is good too, turning on some cheesy music (this is key), and taking a moment to briefly contemplate the tiny Christmas tree that we decorated and now have perched on the dining room table. « Read the rest of this entry »

Curried chicken salad

August 31, 2011 § 15 Comments

I know I’ve mentioned that I have a meat CSA (community supported agriculture) in addition to a vegetable CSA before, but I can’t remember if I’ve spoken about it at length.  And it’s been a long day, and I’m too lazy to check the archives, so I’m going to go ahead and make the executive decision to speak about it at length.  In particular, to say: I looooooooooove it!  I love it!  It’s the best!  To be able to get your meat, in a wide assortment of cuts and types, once a month from a farm where you know the animals are being raised sustainably and humanely.  Just thinking about it induces a little sigh of relief.

(Given that I can’t eat legumes, many nuts, or unsprouted whole grains, meat winds up being fairly important in my diet, and before I found my CSA it was quite a struggle.)

Kim, the farmer, is wonderful.  So friendly, gregarious, and accommodating, and completely uncompromising of principles.  They have an open barn once a month so you can come out and “meet your meat,” which is something one really ought to have a chance to do, if one is going to eat meat, and is also a signal, clear as a mountain brook, that they have nothing in their process to hide.  And, did I mention the hen house?  When the chickens aren’t running about in the fields, pecking and scratching for insects, they roost in an old bus, salvaged from a dump.

An old bus!  How wonderful is that image?!  And, even more fascinating, between the solar heat and the heat from the feathery little chicken’s bodies, the bus requires no extra energy inputs to make it a pleasant abode for the birds, even in the winter.  A chicken Hilton, on wheels…with tires that have gone flat.

And everything we get from Kim just tastes so much better than most of the meat you encounter. When someone says, “tastes like chicken” about something, they mean it tastes chewy, bland, generally inoffensive and entirely uninteresting.  But, that’s not what chicken should actually taste like, it turns out.  It should taste like chicken!  (I’m afraid there’s not really a good way to describe it, so you’re going to have to make some inferences from the bold italics.  It’s juicy, nuanced, and I swear you can detect fragrant hints of grass and wildflowers in there – maybe they soak it in while they’re scritching and squabbling about.)

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Kohlrabi slaw and flounder with lemon and garlic scapes (the rest of the meal!)

July 15, 2011 § 2 Comments

In spite of having a substantial dose of the type A in my personality, planning is not one of my strong suits.  Particularly not the detailed kind.  When I plan, checklists, and spreadsheets, and timelines usually fail to make an appearance. Instead, I make a broad sweep through the general idea of what’s going on, or what I’d like to have happen, and then I have a tendency to assume it will just fall into place.

I have been known to forget to order chairs for an event, or to reserve a room for a meeting, or assign tasks to people.  Sometimes I think it’s because I don’t try hard enough.  That if I were more patient and focused, I would be able to keep track of details.

But really, often it’s not for lack of trying that I don’t plan adequately, it’s because sometimes it simply doesn’t even occur to me to think about the things I miss.  I try hard, but they never make even a cursory appearance in my brain.   It has a bit of the same sticky mental feeling about it as the way, no matter how hard I think about it, I can never spell guarantee right on the first try.

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Chicken with artichokes and white wine sauce

May 3, 2011 § 22 Comments

My sophomore year in college, as I sat dutifully pretending to read some text on the roles of women in Enlightenment literature or some such, my roommate looked up from a small hand mirror, tweezers in hand, and proclaimed, “you know plucking my eyebrows every couple of days for years, you’d think the hairs would start to get the idea and just stop coming back.”

I thought this was a very good point.  semi-animate objects should totally be able to pick up on our cues and take over for themselves after a certain amount of time.  After decades of being made every ding dong morning, you’d think my bed could start making itself at this point, right?  I would also very much like to see the floors mop themselves every 2 weeks.  And, sometimes I would really like dinner to cook itself.  Don’t get me wrong, I really do love to cook, but there are certain days when I would not at all mind seeing my supper rise to the occasion and begin cooking itself right around 6 o’clock.  On Mondays, for example.  That would be nice.

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