Baked winter squash pasta

October 19, 2012 § 28 Comments

A few summers ago, I did an internship at the photography studio at Stonewall Kitchen up in Maine.  I was just starting to really dig into my PhD work, and the pressure I was putting on myself because of it had started giving me panic attacks and making me sick.  Things weren’t going at all as I’d planned, so I decided to take some time off to recover and learn better how to deal with, well, myself really.

At that point I had just barely picked up a camera and started aiming it at foodstuffs.  I hated every photograph I took, but I adored the process of taking the food photos, so when a friend connected me with her friend who was the photographer for Stonewall, and she offered me a summer internship, I jumped at it.  It was like being in college again.  A weird summer internship!  Barely getting paid! Exploring new pursuits, things I enjoy,  rediscovering myself, yippee!

I learned all about f-stops and shutter speed and ISO numbers that summer.  I learned a lot about what I liked and didn’t like in food styling and lighting, and I gained the confidence to start experimenting.  I learned that I totally loved spending the whole day in a photo studio, even if I was holding light bounces and washing dishes most of the time.

I also learned that I did have the mental fortitude to stick with things that are tough, things that I suck at, and improve little by little.  Even though I kind of wanted to stay in the photo studio forever, it helped me feel like I could stand up for the research I wanted to do and ideas that I had, and I would finish my PhD.  (Um, though that part is still technically TBD.  IthinkIcanIthinkIcanIthinkIcan…Give me a few more months.) « Read the rest of this entry »

Sturdy green salad with lemon yogurt dressing

October 12, 2012 § 13 Comments

Well dear friends, the distillery, which after a flurry of ad hoc focus group testing with friends who are roughly in our target market and/or have clever things to say about names is now officially named Vikre Distillery, now has a Facebook page.  As of yesterday!  And you know, if that doesn’t make something real, then what does, really?

In the non-Facebook version of life, also known as reality, the distillery is still very much in the process of becoming extant.  But, we’re making a lot of progress and have found all sorts of amazing help, willing ears, editors, math-checkers, connection-makers.  Though so far, the number of people who have offered their services as first line taste testers outstrips the numbers of any of these categories by far.  Leaves’em in the dust.  No contest.  (Gee, I wonder why.)

By day, I find myself bopping between meetings and then back to focused data coding.  By night I continue to stare pensively at data with a furrowed brow breaking only to fill mason jar upon mason jar with vodka and herbs, trying to come up with our ideal gin blend and aquavit flavor profile, etc. etc.

Joel crunches and recrunches numbers, and perfects powerpoints, and pamphlets, and makes a lot of phone calls.  I’m glad I’m not doing that part.  I have a weird irrational quasi-fear of calling people.

Some days are awful and I throw up my hands, convinced this was the worst idea in the known history of mankind (worst, no exaggeration) and that it will all be a miserable failure.  Other days are bright and happy, full of hope and new connections and small successes and a sense that we can make things happen.   These things go like that.

Anyhow, progress, progress, progress.  Each little step, on any sort of day, is progress. « Read the rest of this entry »

Roasted carrot soup with citrus and cumin

October 8, 2012 § 28 Comments

Is it quite terrible that one of the things I liked best about Boston was the length of the corduroy jacket season?  It stretched on seemingly into perpetuity, that in-between temperature season where you can throw a corduroy jacket over your t-shirt or over your wooly sweater and be happy.

I really love wearing my corduroy jacket, you see.

This makes me sound so frivolous, doesn’t it?!  It is frivolous.  Forgive me, I’m a flake!  At least where corduroy is involved.  And boots too, but let’s stick with corduroy for the moment.  The point is, here I wore my corduroy jacket for perhaps two days, and then the season was over.

It snowed a little bit both days this weekend.  In some places, actually, it snowed a lot!  I absolutely love snow, and I say bring it on.  The temperature is hovering right around freezing, the smell of leaves and an edge of snow are trapped, suspended in the chill, dry air.  It smells like I remember Halloween weather always smelling.  The ground is coated with crackling leaves, maple, birch, and aspen, and in many ways, this is actually my very favorite kind of weather.  I keep being overcome by a delirious happiness when I step outside and feel that air and smell that smell.  Except, gosh I’d like to be able to wear my corduroy jacket for a little bit longer.

I’d also like to have cake and eat it too while acquiring grass in a similar shade of green as that on the other side, if it’s not too much trouble, thank you. « Read the rest of this entry »

Spaghetti squash with cauliflower, anchovies, pine nuts, and currants

May 10, 2012 § 14 Comments

For much of my adult life (starting, even, when I was more adult-ish, than adult), I’ve wanted to have a restaurant or cafe where I was recognized.  All Cheers-like, where everybody – or, more realistically, at least somebody – would know my name, and I would know theirs.  I’d be a regular.

Perhaps it comes from my small-town girl core, which craves to be situated in a community small enough where you can’t help but bump into someone you know on every grocery store visit.  Perhaps it comes from the more universal human desire to belong, to be part of something, to be known.  Either way, it’s been a borderline compulsion for years, but mostly just an internal one.  I’ve never really intentionally played it out.  Either my tendency to explore and try new places would thwart my quest to become a regular, or a high turnover rate in the staff would.  (Technically with the latter, I guess I still was a regular, but it doesn’t count if there is no one that greets you with that smile of the eyes that says, ‘hey, I know you! I’m glad you’re back. How’s the family/kids/dog…?’)

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Tartines of pear, parsnip, and blue cheese

April 7, 2012 § 14 Comments

My childhood was filled with snowy Easters, the ground washed out with dirty grey snow banks punctuated by brown splotches as taupe as a suburban housing development.  We would collect barren branches at the start of Lent and put them in a vase, and by Easter tiny leaves would be peeping out from the buds.  This was the only green to be seen.  The only flowers were those in the colorful plastic wrapped pots we brought home from the grocery store.

This is my way of asking forgiveness if I prattle on and on about spring for the next couple of weeks.  It’s a bit hard to think about much else right now.  Spring in these parts can be a little in your face.

If appearances are anything to go by, the trees have hired the same decorator that did Barbie’s Dreamhouse.  The cherries’ branches are waterfalls of tiny pink blossoms.  The magnolias are bedecked with large drooping flowers as soft and swishy as ballerina skirts.  I always find the pastel palate that industry breaks out for spring to be terribly cheesy, until spring actually rolls around.  Then I remember that it’s just honest. « Read the rest of this entry »

Butternut caponata

February 17, 2012 § 24 Comments

I was thinking of calling this butternata, which, to me, makes it sound like it is a sonata of or about butter, which sounds bizarre and wonderful.  Don’t you think?  But, I didn’t want to mislead anyone.  There is no butter involved here – though a generous hand with the olive oil more than makes up for that – except of the ‘nut squash variety.

And, speaking of butternut squash, have I told you about my friend and the bulk squash episode?  I probably have already.  But, I consider us all old friends here now, which means you’re going to have to listen to my stories, whether or not you’ve already heard them, and laugh and gasp and nod in all of the right places.  I can’t wait.

We have a friend who, one fall when he and his wife lived near us, tagged onto our CSA to buy a bulk order of winter squash.  And bulk was what he received.  I’m not even quite sure how many pounds of squash he ordered, but it was on a magnitude you’d usually associate with a grocer’s.  Joel is piping in, “it was probably, like, a hundred pounds. At least.”

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Holy Mole Chicken and Squash Chili

February 3, 2012 § 6 Comments

Ok guys, I’ve got to come clean.  I’m a hater.  Okay, well not really a hater, though I’m worried I’ll come across as such (Hmm, I don’t think “hater” and “as such” are frequently used together in a sentence like that.  Also, I sound like a ding dong when I try to say something like hater.  But I’ve gone and done it, so let’s put it past us, alright?).  I just don’t really get American sports, and I’m afraid I really don’t get the Superbowl.  (I can’t even remember if it’s one word or two.)  Up until college, I kind of thought the Superbowl happened once every four years, like World Cup Soccer (that is, football to the rest of the world) or the Olympics.

The Olympics!  Now there’s exciting sports to watch!  Particularly the winter Olympics.  See, by virtue of how I was raised, I find Nordic skiing, biathlon, long-distance speed skating, and the like, to be the most thrilling displays of athletic prowess.  Oh my gosh.  I lose my words.  I think about the men’s Nordic skiing relay in ’94 and ’98, the EPIC battle between Norway and Italy, Norway losing (gasp) on their home turf in Lillehammer by 4/10ths of a second, then avenging their loss in Nagano, with a dramatic sprint finish by Thomas Alsgaard, beating the Italians by 2/10ths of a second.

Phew!  Heavens.  My heart races and I find myself squeezing the life out of the nearest chair arm just thinking about it.  I have to catch my breath for a second.

Okay, now tell me that that’s not more exciting than the Superbowl.

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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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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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Lemon braised lamb with rosemary

January 20, 2012 § 7 Comments

Pretty much everyone in my family is a card carrying nerd in his or her spare time.  You may not perceive this on first glance.  It’s a sort of internal nerdiness.  Our spirits wear broken glasses, high water pants, and pocket protectors.  We pick up on Star Wars references, and occasionally sing little songs under our breath about whatever it is we’re doing in the moment.  Ok, maybe it’s actually just me who does that.  But, whatever.  (Have you seen New Girl?  Kind of like that.)

One of my brothers has read famous political figures’ dissertations, for fun.  The last time I spoke to my mother, she was gleefully reading a stack of dictionaries.  (Some of them have fascinating material in their appendices.  Seriously.)  I have a certain propensity toward exploring the thesaurus.  My reliance on it during college verged on the religious, zealous, fervid, a little over the top.

As many of the food obsessed are wont to do, I also like to read through cookbooks.  So, when my middle brother gave me The Flavor Thesaurus for Christmas, well it was clear that the book and I were going to need to get a room.  I’ve been slowly savoring my way through it ever since.  It’s truly a magnificent little oeuvre, informative, but not remotely boring.

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