Marinated fennel and grapefruit salad

April 10, 2013 § 23 Comments

fennel grapefruit salad serving

I have been having an absolute love affair with raw fennel lately.  Every night and/or every time I’m at the market my little conversation with myself goes, “what kind of vegetable should we have with dinner?  Broccoli?  Nah.  Cabbage? Not today.  Kale?  Meh.  Ooh, how about a salad with shaved fennel.  Oh, yes that sounds perfect.”  And it keeps happening.  Over and over.  So what if I just ate a whole bulb?  More fennel please.

It could just be one of my recent cravings.  Or perhaps it’s because it’s the closest we’re getting to spring here right now.  Still.  (Not talking about the weather. I’m not talking about the weather.  I’ll just put on another sweater, and not mention the weather.)  But, on the whole, I’d say the jag started with this salad.

sliced fennel for grapefruit saladleftover fennel fronds

Fennel salad with burrata?  Sign me up, and then give me seconds!  Anything that includes buratta tends to be my dream meal.  But, the fennel, with its sleek coat of lemon and olive oil and the icy cool of mint leaves was no second fiddle to the burrata’s main act (or what I thought would be the main act, before I sat down to eat).

And, that, in sum, is why I can’t stop eating fennel.  I mean, a) I get to use my mandoline, which is always an exciting process because you flirt with losing your fingertips but then get parchment thin delicate sheets of fennel, all in a noodle-like tangle, out of the deal.  And then, b) the 15 minute waiting period where the fennel bathes in a lemony dressing ever so slightly softens its crunch and freshens its flavor with the brightness of the lemon – both in juice and zest form – bolstering the anise notes of the vegetable.  I fall for lemon-in-both-juice-and-zest-form’s show every time.

This salad, with grapefruit and curds of soft goat cheese is my most recent use of lemony fennel.  There is nothing new about combining fennel’s sweetness with the juicy bittersweet of grapefruit.  I feel like I have seen it in many a restaurant in past years at this very time of year, the transition time where we start picking up spring while still trailing a few threads of winter along with us.  (Once I even had it as a fennel grapefruit salad with pine nuts and chunks of salted brittle candy.  That was pretty tasty.)  But, look at the word “marinated” there.  Marinated makes it different!  And new! « Read the rest of this entry »

Down to basics – the omelet

March 25, 2013 § 23 Comments

basic omelet 1

After I posted about my method for making creamy scrambled eggs, I received several requests asking whether I could write a similar post on making the perfect omelet.

The answer:  most certainly! … Well, sort of.

The perfect omelet is a fitful, finnicky, tricky thing.  It is said that you can judge the caliber of a chef by his or her plain roast chicken and his or her omelet.  So, I knew that if I was to post about how to cook an omelet, I could not do so lightly.

So, I decided to put in a whole bunch of practice first.

eggs for two omelets

On the whole, I’m relatively unpracticed at making omelets.  Certainly if you compare with my practice in fried or scrambled eggs.  I like eggs in nearly any preparation, but omelets are not at the very top of my list, so I don’t make them as frequently as some other eggy delights.  Actually, if I were to order how frequently I made different types of eggs, the list would be something like this:

  1. Fried eggs
  2. Baked eggs (most often baked plainly with just a drizzle of cream and maybe some herbs)
  3. Scrambled eggs (with or without lots of mix-ins)
  4. Poached eggs – Frittatas – this one’s a tie
  5. Omelets
  6. Soft or hard boiled eggs (though, actually, I do absolutely love a soft boiled egg, if someone else prepares it for me)
  7. Other egg-based things like savory custards, stratas, souffles, etc.

So there you go.  And I have now started the most boring conversation ever, listing egg preparation preferences. Or maybe it’s actually one of the most interesting potential conversations ever.  Your egg preferences may be like a personality barometer.  Maybe it’s an edible Myer’s-Briggs!  Do all other INFJs have the same egg preferences as me?  Do ENTPs prefer scrambled eggs above all while ISTJs are omelet people?  Feel free to discuss. « Read the rest of this entry »

Down to basics – Soft scrambled eggs

February 17, 2013 § 32 Comments

soft scrambled eggs 1

My dear friends, would you be up for bearing with me for just a moment so I can talk about scrambled eggs?

Plain old scrambled eggs.  Not scrambled eggs with crisped asparagus or lacy pieces of prosciutto, not scrambled eggs with cheeses and meats and peppers and mushrooms.  Not scrambled eggs with anything, except perhaps a helpful piece of toast.  Just scrambled eggs.  Soft scrambled eggs.

Scrambled eggs are a staple breakfast of mine, and it has occurred to me – given the many times I have been given not very good scrambled eggs – that this absurdly simple preparation, requiring only a few ingredients and minutes, can be quite tricky to pull off.

scrambled eggs start

I think, like me, for many people the ideal of scrambled eggs is soft and creamy, a smooth pillowy mound of golden eggs with barely a curd to spear into.  Eminently scoopable eggs, almost like a savory custard.  But more often our eggs turn out dry, in large chunks.  It’s disheartening.

I didn’t used to feel this way about scrambled eggs.  When I was little, scrambled eggs were my favorite food, after any of the sweets we weren’t allowed to eat, but I liked them cooked until totally hard and dry.  Then I’d chop them into tiny pieces with my fork.  I was weird.

When I was 6 or 7 I got into a huge argument about this with my grandmother, in fact.  She explained to me that the proper way to cook scrambled eggs was to leave them partially uncooked and creamy.  I insisted this was a disgusting and terrible idea.  We faced off, dug our heels in, and neither of us would give an inch on our stance.

It was time that wore me down (happily).  I began to prefer my yolks runny and my scrambled eggs soft, and it became a point of intense experimentation to try to achieve my new vision of scrambled egg perfection. « Read the rest of this entry »

Arugula and delicata salad

January 22, 2013 § 22 Comments

arugula delicata salad 1

Right at this moment, it is 20 below zero outside.  The windchill is -43F, and the high today is a balmy -4.

In other words, it is January in Minnesota.  And while this kind of weather does make you vaguely wonder how life can exist here, it is also pretty great – after the thaw we had two weeks ago – to feel like we’re getting a spot of normal weather.

delicata half moons

In case you don’t live in such a frigid place, here are some things to know about this type of weather:

Yes, there is still a palpable difference between temperatures when you get lower than 32F.  Sure, it all feels freezing, but not at all the same level of freezing.  5 degrees above feels downright vernal after a spell of -15.  When it’s around 10 or 15 below, salt actually stops working to melt ice.  It’s kind of funny.  When it gets really, really cold you can toss a cupful of water up in the air, and it will freeze before it makes it back down to the earth.

The best way to respond is to go outside in spite of the cold, just be sure all of your skin is covered and that everything you’re wearing is thick and wooly.  Then, make some type of remark to everyone you meet about how arctic explorers would be overjoyed to have such a pleasantly warm day.

On a related note, you must learn to recognize everyone by their hats and puffy coats because you can’t really see faces.  You need boots that are in a whole different league, preferably made of moose skin.  The long fur coats you inherited from your grandmother stop looking like a politically incorrect bit of fashion history and instead look like an extremely reasonable and adaptive way of dressing. « Read the rest of this entry »

Vanilla Nut Granola

January 9, 2013 § 15 Comments

nutty granola jar

How are we already more than a week into January?  Can someone please explain to me how that happened?

Around mid-November through mid-December I was so happy because I’d really found a rhythm, a productive and interesting but soothing rhythm, to my days.  I was finally comfortable enough to put 2012 into cruise control and start admiring the scenery.

Then 2013 came barging in and it totally threw off my groove.  The toddler-like newness of the year must be contagious because I’m stumbling about a bit trying to regain my stride.  I suppose I should respect the newness and not try so hard for broad, efficient striding at all.

nutty granola bowl 1

Transitions, good or bad, they’re always a little tricky and tiring.  Not the least of the reasons for which being that the crack in the earth is open and naughty daemons are wandering around making mischief in our lives and of our immune systems.  (Especially our immune systems!  Sniff, wheeze, cough.  More chicken soup please.)

But, the threshold has been crossed, and once you’re over you can look back, but you can’t go back.  Not with any amount of kicking or screaming or clinging to the doorframe.  What’s back there has been digested (hopefully well) and given strength to now, and now off we go to the next now and onward! « Read the rest of this entry »

Broccoli soup with parmesan and lemon

November 21, 2012 § 15 Comments

I’m going to make this one quick because, let’s face it, I don’t have much spare time today, and you don’t either.  Too much crimping of pie edges, dry brining of turkeys, simmering of cranberries, and such and so to be done.

Or, if we’re completely honest, spilling of half bowls of pie dough on the floor, forgetting to take out the turkey, and smoldering of forgotten pots of cranberries.  I am thankful for (among the many more standard things that I am deeply grateful for) brooms, basting with butter (a highly worthy alternative to brining), and smoke detectors.  Though perhaps not in that order.

I am also thankful for this soup because it is the solution to the ‘what shall we eat the night before Thanksgiving?’ dilemma.  (Or if you are in another country, it’s the solution to almost any other dilemma you can come up with.)

I love this recipe in part because the way Merrill – one of the cofounders of Food52 – came up with it is the same way I come up with ever so many dinners.  She saw the words “broccoli soup with Parmesan and lemon” written on a coffee shop signboard.  She thought to herself, “da@* that sounds good” (it’s the holidays, so I’m being careful with my naughty words, see?), and proceeded to try to make her own version.

I have done the same many a time.  Also, the exact same thought ran through my own head when I saw the words “broccoli soup with Parmesan and lemon,” so I knew I had to make it tout de suite. « Read the rest of this entry »

Shepherd’s pie with kale

November 6, 2012 § 30 Comments

Hey! So, it turns out there’s an election or something going on in the States today.  Who knew, eh?!  (Joke.)  Some part of me feels like I should talk about it, as it’s a weighty issue, hot discussion, trending topic, etc, etc, etc.  I mean, I sure know what I believe.  But, I can’t really try to force my beliefs on anyone else.  Actually, that’s false, I totally could try to force my beliefs on you!

But, not to worry, I won’t!

Instead I’m going to preoccupy myself thinking and talking about a creek.

There’s a little creek within spitting distance of the house where I grew up.  I think I may have actually mentioned it before, though I can’t keep track of these things.

It’s a wonderful creek.

There’s nothing jaw-dropping or awe inspiring about it.  It doesn’t have a magnificent or majestic sort of beauty about it.  But it does have the most miraculously quiet, serene beauty to it.  The angles of the rockbeds, the arc of the branches, the ripples of the water, to me they are lyrical in an other-wordly and yet entirely this-worldly sort of way.  It’s one of my favorite places on this earth, and I think one of the most beautiful as well.

I grew up going for walks there all the time.  My mother would take us walking there when we were little for teddy bear picnics and to look for minnows.  I went walking with friends there, making believe we were explorers in a lost forest.  The creek was on the way to and from our high school, so we would hike up and down it in a hurry to get to classes and sports practice.  I walked there with my boyfriends, feeling terribly romantic.  I walked there whenever I was having boy troubles, alone with my thoughts  and terrible indecisiveness.  I, of course, took Joel there on his earliest visits to Duluth, to show him what a special place it is. « Read the rest of this entry »

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