Warm potato salad with artichokes and herb dressing

April 19, 2013 § 25 Comments

potato artichoke salad 1

I’ve started thinking a lot about love lately.  To be more specific, I’ve thinking about love in the face of an uncertain, sometimes scary world.

That sounds dour, doesn’t it.  I can’t help it for the moment.  Adjusting to this new idea and identity of becoming a parent coupled with feeling that uncertainty acutely, especially because of the madness of the weather and current events and all that stuff, it leaves me really wondering how I’ll do.  I struggle with love, you see, because I can be, well, an anxious person sometimes.  I’ve been strongly affected by watching loss and sadness ever since I was very small, and somewhere along the way I just stopped trusting that there was benevolence in the universe.

And when you don’t trust, you armor yourself, guarding yourself against strong attachments because of the fear that something will happen, and you’ll be left bereft.  But then (thankfully!) there are people in my life who mean so much to me, Joel, my family and community, Squid (so she’s a fur person not a person-person, but she counts), that my love for them handily bursts through any shields I have raised to try to protect myself.  This is wonderful, but it’s also frightening.

I’m sure that baby, when he or she comes, will be the same.  Except better/worse.  I mean, let’s face it, I love our darn dog so insanely much I feel like I would be destroyed if something happened to her.  How the heck am I going to handle the amount of love that comes with having a baby????

Squid on couch

This little one makes my day

Because the world is uncertain, and mostly out of our control.  We can set up all the plans and safeguards we can imagine, but we still can’t protect ourselves or others from absolutely everything.  And dwelling on that sort of thing, my friends, is how you make yourself anxious (you know, in case you were wondering).

In the past 5 or so years, after I had noticed myself stuck in this sort of pattern of thinking, I started trying to work on it.  Meditate or pray, I’ve been told.  Journal.  Develop the habit of thinking of yourself as lovable; this allows you to love others.  Make note of things that you are grateful for, new things every day. « Read the rest of this entry »

Spinach and pine nut soup

March 19, 2013 § 20 Comments

spinach pine nut soup 1

I wasn’t kidding about the soups (I even made another one today for lunch.  This one, in fact, but with kale instead of cabbage).  And, as you can see, I definitely wasn’t kidding about the spinach and pine nut soup.  Actually, I used the soup and my desire to make it as an excuse to have an impromptu St. Patrick’s/St. Urho‘s day dinner for a few friends.  Clearly there is nothing very Irish (or Finnish for that matter) about spinach and pine nuts, but check out how green that soup is!  I decided that with a side of soda bread and some good Irish butter and cheddar it would suit us just fine.

And it did.  It’s actually quite a wonderful soup.  No wonder I used to make it as a starter for dinner parties all the time!  Come to think of it, I think I first served this soup (or a version of it) at the first serious dinner party I ever hosted.  That was back in the day, back during my sophomore year of college, if I remember correctly.

toasted pine nuts

Courtesy of my first year of college, I developed such an aversion to the food at the school’s dining hall, I convinced the school to let me not be on a meal plan at all, and I started cooking for myself in the tiny – and usually disgusting with other students’ crusty leftover midnight macaroni and cheese pots and half eaten bags of microwave popcorn – dorm kitchen down at the end of the hallway.

That was pretty much my start of cooking seriously for myself, though in this context “serious” meant a lot of chicken breasts with steamed broccoli interspersed with granola or Special K bars for dinner.  (The Special K bar dinner was the saddest.)  I also discovered how very lonely it can be to sit and eat dinner in silence by yourself every single night.  I suppose that must have contributed to my passion for sharing meals, and I started devising ways to coax others to dine with me. « Read the rest of this entry »

Bouchon Bakery chocolate chip cookies

March 10, 2013 § 17 Comments

Bouchon_cc_cookies_milk_1

I never was much of a chocolate chip cookie person.  In our house growing up, a chocolate chip cookie never emerged from the oven.  Not a single time.  We were given fresh baked bread or rye flatbreads with cheese after school, not cookies.  And, while I know I whined about it, I secretly thought it was kind of awesome (and on the whole, I’ll still take fresh baked bread over a cookie, or very nearly anything else, any day).

My friends had chocolate chip cookies that they would sometimes share with me, of course, or as we got older we would go to their houses and bake them (we did try to bake cookies at my house one time, and they turned out terribly, a melted puddle of disaster instead of cookies.  Thus it was that our oven truly never made a batch of chocolate chip cookies, at least not successfully).  And I’d eat them.  I was a kid, they were sweet, it was cool.  But, I never really got to like them.

Bouchon_cc_cookies_milk_above

In college, my sophomore year roommate was a champion cookie baker.  She baked cookies whenever she wanted to avoid anything, which meant a heck of a lot of cookie baking.  From her, I learned that age-old teenage rite of eating half the cookie dough as we baked (it’s a wonder we never got salmonella, given she wasn’t exactly using the highest quality eggs), resulting in batches of only about a dozen cookies that would actually get baked.  And the baked cookies, again, were fine and whatever, but I never started to crave the cookies.

Nor did the signature chocolate chip cookies made by the boy I started dating that year change that.  Of course, these ones were odd cookies that didn’t taste particularly good unbaked, or warm, or at room temperature, but were at their best refrigerated and then soaked in milk.  Maybe he had accidentally switched to copying a biscotti recipe halfway through writing the cookie recipe down, or something.  Either way, I never saw what others seemed to see in chocolate chip cookies.  I know so many people who will get excited about a chocolate chip cookie of any quality.  But, I never found any cookie good enough to write home about.

Until, that is, my 5th year living in Boston when we moved to an apartment in Jamaica Plain near a hole in the wall little bakery named Canto 6.  A bakery with which we promptly fell in love.  They make excellent sandwiches with fresh bread and homemade ingredients as well as soups and vegetable quiches and the occasional thin slice of pizza with chevre and olives.  They make croissants that would hold their own in Paris, as well as meltingly tender scones, buttery Brioche topped with cheeses and honeys and fruits and other goodies, yogurt cakes, and olive rolls, and berry galettes, and sour cherry crumble pies.  All of which are ridiculously high quality and delicious. « Read the rest of this entry »

Gingery kimchi fried rice

February 21, 2013 § 16 Comments

kimchi fried rice 1

Decidedly not a beauty queen this one.  She’s all lumpy and monochromatic.  But the frumpy exterior conceals a heart packed with flavor.

And truly, on most days at least, who really wants a gorgeous but high maintenance looker of a dish when in a few minutes you could instead have one of  the most incredibly easy and tasty lunches (or dinners, but I always seem to eat it for lunch) known to man.

And it uses up some leftovers too.  That’s always good.

fried rice garlic

I never used to like fried rice that much, actually.  I didn’t dislike it, I just saw no reason to eat it.  I never saw what others seemed to see in it.

So for years I would scrupulously cook rice in small quantities so as never to have leftovers.  Or, if there were leftovers, I would turn them into a porridge-like pudding for breakfast, and never think about the possibility that I was missing something. « Read the rest of this entry »

Poached eggs with sweet potatoes and brussels sprouts

December 12, 2012 § 14 Comments

poached eggs sweets and brussels 1

I have a major breakfast thing people.  It’s pretty weird.

I mean, I knew I had a breakfast thing before – I’ve brought it up more than a few times, for example every time I mention breakfast – but I don’t think I knew knew.  If you know what I mean.  You know?

But now I know.  When I commandeered the whole breakfast-making procedure at my best friend in Boston’s house – where I was the guest, mind you – and started turning out frittatas with arugula and over easy eggs with a brown butter vinegar sizzle, that’s when I really knew.

poached eggs sweets and brussels 2

It may be Monday or Thursday, I may have a meeting at 8 am, but still I find myself compulsively fixing breakfast for myself and whomever else I can shake out of bed.  Plates of migas, fried eggs with kimchi and orange aioli, potato cakes with smoked salmon, honey-avocado lassis, fresh baked corn bread with homemade ricotta.  I may not be able to plan out my lunch, potentially not even dinner, but breakfast is likely to be a minor masterpiece.

I’d say it was a problem, if it weren’t so delicious! « Read the rest of this entry »

Roasted cauliflower with harissa cream

December 8, 2012 § 13 Comments

cauliflower harissa pom 1

I’m back.  Phew.

I think 3 1/2 days at a time is my new favorite way to be in Boston.  In 3 1/2 days I can cram in almost all my favorite things (friends! colleagues!  Bread products! Riding along the river on a classic Dutch commuter bike that is beautiful but also insanely heavy!) and avoid the majority of the things that drove me slightly batty when living there.

But now I’m back, and in my kitchen banging out some semblance of meals including, a) some very awesome homemade pasta with butter and anchovies last night, and b) cauliflower with harissa cream several times.  The latter (at least for the purposes of this conversation) is the more important by far.

homemade harissa

Perhaps you have not been waiting with bated breath for this cauliflower, but I have!

I’m not even sure why I love this cauliflower so very much.  I just do.  I love the dark, charred frill that develops on the edges of the golden roasted cauliflower florets.  I love how the minute pocks and crevices of the cauliflower make the perfect surface for catching the sauce.

I love how incomprehensibly soft and mellow the garlic cloves become, and the wrinkled skin the olives develop.  I love how they all work together, if you carefully assemble a forkful with one of each, and how they are equally delicious each on their own if you can’t be bothered with focused bite construction. « Read the rest of this entry »

Broccoli cheddar and apple gratin

November 28, 2012 § 18 Comments

Fair ladies, kind gentlemen!  I bring you: more broccoli!

Yes.  More broccoli.  Consider it another delicious stepping stone on the cruciferal march toward that cauliflower with harissa cream that I mentioned, and I swear I am working on, and it will appear any day now.

As a reward for your patience (or a way of buying it, perhaps?) though, this gratin is none too shabby, at least that much I can promise.

But first and foremost, for those of you who had Thanksgiving last week, how did it go?  Are you still stuffed?  Ours was quite the gathering, the most rollicking Thanksgiving I’ve been to in years, perhaps ever.

We were not only my family but also Joel’s, and on top of that not one but precisely six Norwegian students, here in Minnesota studying at various universities and connected to my mother in various ways.

The turkey was gargantuan, the gravy flowing, the Brussels sprouts piled high, and the pies numerous and flaky.  The conversation was sparkling.  Also, loud.  Norwegian Americans may be reticent, but Norwegian Norwegians generally aren’t. Nor is my family.  Plus, my grandmother was in the midst of everything exhibiting her talent for handwriting interpretation (mine = hard to read) and discussing Project Runway.  Always a kick. « Read the rest of this entry »

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