Celeriac and apple soup with chorizo chips and paprika swirl

March 20, 2012 § 11 Comments

A while back, more years than I’d like to consider actually – oh. yes. that’s a little scary to think about – I took a journalism class. As with so many classes, I remember very little from it.  A few things, however, are indelibly stuck in my memory:  the inverted pyramid format of conveying information (most important info first, juicy details later), which I found I abhored; the maxim, “if it bleeds it leads” (meaning, violence always get the front page); and the professor’s counsel that the public always wants stories about war, scandal, children, and pets.

I’m not sure I agree with that assessment.  Or maybe it’s just that those are never the things I want to write about.  (Good thing I didn’t wind up going into journalism!)  Except today.  Today I want to write about pets, specifically, my pet.  You’ve all already humored me so much, but now I’m going to make you listen to just one more story about the puppy.

Because, this weekend, we took her to the beach, and she saw the ocean for the first time.

It was pure joy to watch her awe as she crested a dune and started at the sight of the water.  She stared for a long moment, just like I do whenever I arrive at the ocean, actually.  Then, she initiated a game of chase with the waves.   « Read the rest of this entry »

Parsnips and dates with tahini-yogurt

January 31, 2012 § 24 Comments

I am going to start by saying that as a general rule, it is not a good idea to substitute ingredients for one another based on color.  At least, don’t do it all willy-nilly.  Sure, sweet potato bits can stand in for cubed butternut squash pretty well, and many leafy greens are swingers, changing partners and taking one anothers’ places at will.

But, you may not always get that lucky.  At least some small morsel of thought is required.

A cautionary tale: one of my very dearest friends lived along with my self and eight other fairly hapless souls in a large, elegantly dilapidated house on the edge of campus our junior year of college.  We all shared a kitchen and subjected each other to our culinary experiments, and dirty dishes, at will.  My lovely friend (who is now an excellent cook, so let that be a lesson in perseverance) produced a wide variety of extremely, um, innovative foods, many of which were about as edible as a chocolate truffle rolled in glass shards.

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Corn and tomato salad with smoked trout

July 29, 2011 § 6 Comments

We were just talking about drinking, so I figured it was time to move on to smoking, right?  (And then we can talk about the really interesting vices…joke.)  There’s only one type of smoking I can get behind, and that is the smoking of meats.  Fish in particular.  I don’t know how to do it myself, and therefore I choose to picture it as an esoteric mystical practice, kind of like a druidic rite, in which slippery pieces of fresh fish are enveloped in wafting clouds of smoke, amidst some hand waving and muttered incantation, and then they come out rich and flakey and salty and as delicious as candy (if candy were rich and flakey and salty, which, perhaps, more of it ought to be).

I have met a man who owns a shop that sells smoked meat and fish, I’ll call him ‘Eric the smoker’, and he makes the most unbelievable smoked salmon and whitefish.  It’s pretty hard to believe anything that good could be legal.  (His pate is in a class of its own as well.  Mine is not bad, though.)  At his shop they also sell posters with heavy woodblock prints and funny slogans.  My favorite is “Fish: The healthy smoke.”  (My other favorite is “Cheese: the adult form of milk.”  I own both.)

Admittedly, some nutritionists may argue that smoked food is not good for you.  Smoking meat can produce some carcinogens that you then ingest.  But, allow me to go on a little scientific rampage tangent, and just point out that these carcinogens have only been shown to be carcinogenic in lab animals.  Now, if a chemical that you apply to skin or something of that sort is carcinogenic in lab animals, we should take it seriously.  And, we should take it seriously for food too, but with a caveat.  You see, these carcinogens are produced by the cooking process, and humans are the only animals that naturally eat their food cooked.  Growing evidence points to the possibility that we’ve been doing so for a loooooooong time.  In fact, it may be what allowed us to evolve into humans!

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Scrambled eggs and asparagus

April 29, 2011 § 6 Comments

Devastating tornados in the south, royal weddings, the state of the world is as complicated as always, and my poor little mind just doesn’t always feel like it can process all of it.  So, at the risk of seeming out of touch, I’m trying just to concentrate on what’s right here, right now, and that is flowering trees.  Flowering trees are the best part of spring. Hands down.  The best.  Don’t you think?  (Maybe you actually don’t thinks so, but humor me for the moment.) The supple, soft velvet of their perfect petals shimmer so lightly as breezes waft through and pick up their perfume.  The colors are delicate and diaphanous, as if they had been chosen by a young girl in love with the Impressionists.  And there is simply nothing more giddily romantic than standing under a blossoming cherry or crab apple tree, gazing through the branches as petals flutter down around you and the occasional robin cocks his head at you curiously.

The second best part of the spring is slightly harder to determine. It may be the dandelions sprouting up everywhere (I know it’s weird, but I just love dandelions).  But, I think it’s more likely that it is asparagus.  Asparagus is so delicious and so ephemeral, around about this time of year my hoarding nature kicks in and I find myself buying bundle after bundle of the slender spiky stalks and eating them practically three meals a day.  Frankly I’m a little surprised I haven’t started getting up in the middle of the night to fix myself a midnight asparagus snack, just so I can fit in one more plateful each day before the season is over.  Haven’t started yet, that is.

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Cauliflower sautee with garlic bread crumbs

March 3, 2011 § 14 Comments

I was, shall we say, a feisty little devil when I was very young.  I had about the temper control of a raging volcano.  And, when I wanted my way, I really wanted my way.  Rumor (which I shall neither confirm nor deny) has it that I would pull out all the stops in order to control the situation, including but not limited to: dumping jars of food or pitchers of juice on the floor, holding my breath until I passed out, and peeing my pants (yeah, I’m never ever going to live that one down).  One particularly vivid memory has to do with cauliflower.  One of the dishes in my mother’s repertoire when I was growing up was a sort of baked cauliflower casserole with some cheese and some mushrooms and maybe some lemon juice or something of the sort.  Now, I was okay with the cheese, but when you are 4 or 5 being faced with both cooked cauliflower and mushrooms in a single dish is overwhelmingly abhorrent.  If I remember correctly, in my young mind it was approximately on par with being served a casserole of brains (which, come to think of it, some people would probably happily eat.  Not I, I’m afraid.).  What followed at the dinner table was a classic case of frustrated parent trying to get picky child to take just one bite.  I’m sure you can envision the scene.  But, when said picky child was finally required to take just one bite, things got interesting.  I put the bite of cauliflower in my mouth, gagged it down.  And then promptly threw up all over the place, just to show my parents how I felt about vegetables.  It was not one of my finer moments.

Over time, I grew more appreciative of cauliflower.  In fact, I have grown to love it, as long as it is roasted or sauteed so that the outsides turn brown and caramelized and the insides are just tender.  Cauliflower can be nondescript, receding into the background and taking on whatever flavors you let it mingle with be they curry or lemon juice.  Or it can be confined to adding body and a bit of creaminess to a blended soup without giving it a powerful flavor.  But, if you can coax the shy flavor out, it is actually quite lovely, sweet and nutty.  And sauteeing the cauliflower does just that.  All you need to do is toss little florets into a pan with a pat of butter (or olive oil) and a sprinkling of sea salt, let them relax in the sizzle for a bit, stirring them up a couple of times, and soon you’ll have a beautiful simple side dish. « Read the rest of this entry »

Dreamy celery and apple salad

January 11, 2011 § 11 Comments

Wait!!!  Before you cross your arms with a “harumph,” and turn away muttering, “Celery?  Seriously?  This is taking the whole healthy eating in the New Year thing too far.  Celery is what you put in your rabbit’s hutch when it looks at you with big brown eyes that say ‘give me something crunchy but flavorless.’  It is not real human food…” Before you do that, first listen to me when I say, “I agree!”  I really do.  Unless it’s a vehicle for eating peanut butter and raisins, I rarely put celery into the category of food.  Rarely.  But, I do make occasional exceptions.  After all, you do need celery to make a good mire poix for starting off many a soup or stew.  And I wouldn’t have quite believed it, except that I tasted it myself (and by tasted, I mean devoured it), this salad gets a big old exemption as well.

The reason I made this salad it that I dreamed it.  Literally.  I woke up after having this salad in my dream, and I figured I really ought to give it a try in a waking state too.  Not that being in one of my dreams necessarily makes something a good idea.  Quite the opposite.  I frequently dream about things like being in a train depot on the back of a giant turtle that is about to dive under the water, or climbing an endless staircase into an orange sky surrounded by people with balloon heads, or polar bears reenacting tragic love stories by Shakespeare (actually, that one might be a good idea.  Venture capital investment opportunity anyone?).  But, I had such a good feeling about this salad as  I rubbed the sleep out of my eyes and the rest of the details of my dream slipped into the fog of lost memories, that I couldn’t resist digging up the ingredients and giving it a try.

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Thai-style cabbage salad

April 5, 2010 § 1 Comment

When I was little, I used to totally lose my marbles at holidays.  All my favorite foods!  Desserts!  Fun activities!  I would go totally nuts with excitement – especially over the food.  Now that I’m a “grown up”…I’m pretty much exactly the same.  In general, I really do try to keep my diet pretty healthy and fresh and I especially try to keep it low in sugar.  So, then when it’s a holiday and I’m surrounded by sweets and yummy foods, I may let myself just a little too loose – particularly if whipped cream is involved (which, if I have any say in the planning or implementation of whichever holiday it is, there always is).  I seem to basically have some sort of animal instinct to make sure that not a single speck of whipped cream anywhere in a 10-mile radius of me ever goes to waste. (I feel somewhat duty bound now to note that, if I’m wearing my nutrition cap, this is exactly what we advise people not to do – it’s best to try to eat about the same amount on a holiday as any other day, eating slightly less of the meal, perhaps, to make room for dessert…easier said than done, that’s for sure, but worth a try).

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