I am doing a catering job for a friend of my Mom’s book group. They are reading a book called The Dirty Life: A Memoir of Farming, Food, and Love by Kristin Kimball. I was going to make some recipes from the book, but I could not get a hold of a copy. Since Anne liked what I made for the Midtown Gallery opening for my Mom’s featured show at Art Hop last Friday, I decided to make one of them again, and some other things made with as much local produce as I could get.
Today is my birthday, and a day off, AND (lucky me) the farmer’s market is open! I went for a run, biked a little, lifted some weights, and then went to the market. I bought produce from several of the vendors – eggplants, late season tomatoes, zucchini, beets, sweet potatoes… and then I looked down to the back corner where there was a stand full of things, but set farther away from everyone else. I headed over towards the apples I could see, and decided to get some Honeycrisps there. I started talking to the two guys there – elderly men who looked like they have worked Very Hard. One man was pretty stooped over, and I noticed he had a metal hook for a hand. He was so friendly, and was trying so hard to sell me other things. The other man said his name was William, and he was sort of super overly friendly, and kind of a close talker. I told him it was my birthday, mostly because I was at a loss to respond to his telling me that things were not going all that well for them at the market (not many people – a cloudy, threatening to be a rainy day day). He told me I should go to Finley’s where they give you a nice lookin’ steak complete with mashed potatoes, bread, and a drink for free on your birthday. Maybe he’s right. I walked away with some unplanned cider, and well wishes. Sometimes things make me happy and sad all at once. I guess that’s what it means to be human.
I got home and set to work. First I roasted the eggplants along with some red peppers and tomatoes I had. I also roasted the zucchini, some garlic, and onion. They were just tossed with lots of olive oil, salt and pepper, and some good balsamic vinegar. When they were done, I mixed everything together, added some nice extra virgin olive oil I got – some really tasty stuff – added some chopped parsley, capers, lemon juice, and some more salt and pepper. I wanted to make this since I could prepare it advance, and it is supposed to sit around for a few days before you eat it, to let the flavors develop. The food is intended for Sunday, so it will have a few days to improve.
I also made the hummus in advance for the same reason. I want the flavors to really get married and all awesome. This was SO fun to make. I looked up a couple of recipes online, and then I saw the apples on the counter. I had left them in the plastic bag, and I was not sure what I was going to do with them. I decided it would probably be a great idea to put a few in the hummus. I think I will have to tell William and his friend about this later – show them a photo. I think they’d get a kick out of it.
Beet & Honeycrisp Apple Hummus
This is for a double batch
- 2 – 14 oz cans of garbanzo beans (or prepare them yourself if you like from dried beans)
- 5-6 small/medium beets, roasted, skinned & choooed
- 2 honeycrisp apples, skinned, cored & chopped up
- 3 tbsp garlic infused olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic
- 4 – 5 tbsp tahini
- juice and zest from a lemon or two
- Salt to taste, but definitely at least 1 tsp (I used French sea salt and a little pink Himalayan)
- 1 tsp fresh ground pepper
- 2 tsp cumin
- 1 tbsp honey
- Olive oil to toss beets in for roasting
- Preheat oven to 425, and place beets with stems chopped short, and the bottom of the root looped off for easy wrapping up. Place them on double layer of aluminum foil, and make a little bowl so that when you pour the oil in for coating the beets. Toss them with some salt and pepper, too, for good measure, and encase them well in the foil. If you want to be super careful, you can place a sheet pan under them so in case juice leaks, it will not burn on the bottom of your stove and smell really bad. Roast for about 20-30 minutes – it depends on the size of your beets, so feel free to open up the package and stab a fork into them to see how they are coming along. When a fork goes in easily, like a cooked potato, remove from the oven and allow to cool before peeling, but don’t wait too long, because it is easier to peel them if they are slightly warm.
- Next, chop up the beets, chop up the apples, and mince the garlic.
- Put everything into a food processor and let it run until smooth. You could chunk up some apples or beets and leave out to add in at the end if you wanted it to be all crazy and chunk or something, but that might be kind of weird. Let me know if anyone tries that.
I work at Water Street Coffee Joint in Kalamazoo, MI. I cook food there – it is a great job. I get to work with some fabulous, smart, interesting people as we talk, banter, postulate, fantasize, rant, dish out the cynicism, sarcasm, jokes, political commentary, share music, talk about Classical music and listen to it (with Matt and Stephanie – fellow Classical music wonks), and, of course we talk about food a whole lot, too. I love my work, workplace, and counterparts. Oh, and the coffee is pretty damn good, too…
Anyway, we make this one thing called Chicken Pecan Salad. I love it, but I tend to be opposed to consuming salads where the first ingredient is Mayonnaise. The dressing recipe is fine – using mayo, honey, poppy seeds, cider vinegar – but I prefer to use Greek yogurt (which, interestingly, has seen a 2500% increase in purchases during the past 6 years – check out this article from The Atlantic regarding this topic.)
Right now, my body is intolerant of wheat gluten, so I picked up these flax and millett lavash wraps for my chicken salad. I have not had any gluten free wraps aside from corn tortillas, and I thought it was pretty tasty! I am going to try some gluten free bread soon, too, which I plan to review. Hopefully I can eat fantastic local bread again soon – send good vibes to my body, it could use any additional love it can get 😦 Usually things like this make me laugh a whole lot, though, and sometimes, that’s super awesome. Even if my body is doin’ its thang, at least I have The Internet to provide an endless source of entertainment (and music)!
Work Inspired Chicken Salad
Note: I did not weigh out or measure the amounts of things used, as I have been so lax in updating, I was sitting down to eat when I realised that this could, like, go on my neglected food blog. I am estimating, so feel free to experiment and scale according to what are estimates. Thankfully, chicken salad is one of those things where you can add slowly, so when you are mixing in the yogurt, perhaps smart small, add the other liquids, and then add more of the yogurt if it needs it…
- Cooked, picked, chopped chicken – a mix of light & dark, of course!
- Half a bunch of celery, diced
- 2 cups of grapes, halved or quartered – it’s up to you
- Half bunch of green onions, chopped or 1/3 a vidalia onion, or a mixture of both
- Medium sized Pink Lady apple chopped small
- I used 1/2 cup of Glad Corn because I wanted something crunchy in it, and I did not have any nuts – you could use that amount (or more to taste) of toasted pecans, slivered almonds, pistachios, etc. Use what you like
- Roughly 1 cup of Greek yogurt
- 1/4 cup Nayonnaise
- 1/8 cup honey mustard (or plain honey – again, ADD SLOWLY if you use honey, since it’s going to be more intense than the honey mustard)
- 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 1 tbsp rice vinegar
- 1-2 tsbp poppy seeds
- Salt to taste
Today was super productive. I cleaned out my little house, mowed the lawn, cleaned the pounds of fresh, local ramps that my mom’s friend gave us (I have so much more – this is officially Ramp Week here at the diner, by the way), made pie crusts, juiced 20 limes, vacuumed, swept, mopped, carried a picnic table, and shared a lovely mother’s day meal with my family. While I mowed, I was thinking about unconditional love. That is what comes to mind on mother’s day, and how lucky I always have been to have so much of it in my life – not just from my own family, but friends, and other people too. Now that some of my friends are having kids, I was thinking about what unconditional love means to me.
I landed on this definition as I was mowing the lawn: Unconditional love is not a sentiment, it is a responsibility. Love is a hugely beautiful thing, and I am glad to know it very well. But it is what you do when things are not easy or given anymore that this becomes crucial. Today I thought a lot about how I want to show that kind of love to the people in my life I feel so strongly about – what is the best way to nurture that responsibility and to be a rock for them? I have not asked that question of myself in a long time. Since I moved back home, my family has shown me unconditional love not by just being kind, but being present themselves in order to do so. That is where the words evaporate and all that is left are people doing everything they can to help each other. I feel like I have a lot left to learn, but that it is flowing through my hands every time I break bread with people. That is something I can always do when things are falling apart, or everyone else is too tired, unmotivated. I am always willing and able to cook good food. Now, what else can I do? I feel like some things are starting to make sense finally, and I am glad that it is easier to know how to do what my heart is telling me. My mom asked me to make her key lime pie for dessert, and so I squeezed the limes by hand. I cut them in half and tried to get every bit of juice out, leaving my small hands sore and sticky. Love is worth it, though, and I know that I have people who would squeeze limes by hand for me in a jiffy.
Thanks, Mom. You are so special to me, and I am so glad I am getting to spend my days with you right now. You’re always there when I need you. And I will always make you key lime pie and risotto, whenever you ask.
Mother’s Day Key Lime Pie
Verbatim from Joy of Cooking
- Single pie crust, pre-baked
- Can of sweetened condensed milk
- 1/2 cup lime juice
- 1 tsp salt
- Meringue topping, if you like
- Make the pie crust and bake it until lightly golden brown at 350
- Mix the condensed milk, lime juice and salt. It’s really cool how it all comes together.
- Make the meringue and put that on top if you want, then bake it at 350 for 10-15 minutes.
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp butter
- 1/2 cup golden balsamic or white wine
- 1 cup arborio rice
- 20 ramps, divided and chopped (including the leaves)
- 1 medium vidalia onion, roughly chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 cup mushrooms, chopped
- juice from 1 lemon
- 1/2 cup parsley, chopped
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 tsp coriander
- 1/2 log goats cheese
- 1/2 cup parano cheese, grated
- 1/4-1/2 up yogurt
- 4 cups stock
- 2 bay leaves
- So let’s talk about the ramps: what I did was slice them all horizontally up through to the top, and put them in a bowl. Then I took some of the white parts out and mixed them with the onions I would start my saute with. I reserved the rest to be added in at the end. Chop of the rest of the vegetables, mincue the garlic, and the parsley. Place in dishes so it’s easy to add them in at the right times during cooking.
- Heat stock in a saucepan on the stove, toss in the bay leaves.
- Melt butter in the olive oil, and begin sauteing the onion, garlic, then the mushrooms. Add in some salt and pepper, the coriander.
- Add in rice and stir it around for a bit, then deglaze with the vinegar or wine. Then begin adding your stock, stirring as it gets absorbed. You don’t have to stand over it, just ensure it isn’t boiling or getting too dry.
- At the end of cooking, add in the cheeses and yogurt. You can even add some more olive oil or butter, use cream if you want it to be heavier. Then stir in the aromatics – the remaining ramps, and the parsley. Squeeze in the lemon. Salt and pepper adjustment if you need to.
- At the end I quickly stir fried some more whole ramps as a topping, just in some olive oil over high heat. Added salt and pepper, deglazed with golden balsamic, and squeezed some lemon over. Topped everything with chopped pistachios.
This is what happens when you are a cook all day, and a week passes without updating… To make this easier on the eyes, I will just start with Easter and go from there.
I had the privilege of spending this holiday with some of my favorite people: the Agololinis, a lovely mesh of Armenian and Italian folks who know how to live it up. In this kitchen I first tasted real butter, good bread, avocado, mango, sushi, rum, found out I loved bluegrass, heard awesome Dave jokes, and on and on. That is what happens when you spend most of your time in a place for many years – it becomes part of you. So great to be back with part of my family, even though Marita and Ephraim were absent (only in body, present in spirit).
The day began with leftover steak from the blackboard recipe (yet to be posted, my bad) and some eggs for my Dad. Then I made quiche. Then I made a pretty rad dish to take with me over to the party. I woke up at about 8, knowing I wanted to get cooking I suppose. I opened the pantry and stared at it. Not much to go on here. Looked in the freezer….oh, look, there’s some languishing bread…and some shrimp. Open the fridge – goats cheese, carrots? hmm… strawberries, basil. Balsamic, honey, done. Looks like panzanella to me.
Somehow I did not get a closeup of this salad, but you will see it on the table spread – it is toward the front of the table. See if you can guess which one it is 🙂
Last Minute Shrimp & Strawberry Panzanella
- 2-3 cups stale bread, cubed
- 1-2 cups shrimp
- 3 carrots, peeled and cut into matchsticks
- 2 cups strawberries, thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup basil chiffonnade
- 2 cups arugula
- 1 small package of goats cheese
- 1/2 cup asiago, grated
- 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
- 2 tbsp honey
- Salt & Pepper to taste
- 2 tbsp dijon mustard
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- Preheat oven to 425.
- Pepare dressing/glaze by whisking everything together in a bowl.
- Cut up carrots, and oil up a roasting pan. Toss them with some of the marinade/dressing – just enough to coat and leave the rest. Roast the carrots until tender. Set aside.
- Prepare the shrimp by removing shells, etc. Thaw if you’re using frozen ones. Toss with some of the marinade as well, and roast or saute. Set aside.
- Reduce the heat of the oven. Toss the bread with some oil, then spread on a jelly roll pan and toast to dry them out a bit.
- Chop up the strawberries, roasted carrots, and place in the bowl with reserved dressing mixture. Add in shrimp, bread, and basil. Toss to coat. Add in half the arugula and some of the goats cheese, and the asiago cheese – toss some more.
- In a serving dish place some arugula on the bottom to make it all pretty. Spread the salad over it, and top with the rest of the goats cheese. Crack some pepper over the top, and voila!
Since these recipes are going to be available in the cookbook, I am going to have to hold back on that for a bit. Sorry. Hopefully all the rest of the recipes I post will suffice until you can get your hands on the finished product! To tide everyone over, though, I will post pictures that I took while making the dishes I brought.
The first one is Corn Oat Muffins with Hardboiled Eggs inside (whole ones), and a preserved lemon/asparagus garnish. The second is a Cauliflower Roulade with a Goats Cheese Herb/Arugula/Sprout filling, and a Goat Cheese Saffron Yogurt Sauce. Complete with a side salad of sprouts, arugula, dandelion (from yard), little flowers (from yard), and carrot shavings. Lightly dressed. Mouthful to write these titles!
Oh, and these both won. Thanks to everyone who voted for me, and thank you for bringing food as well. I enjoyed every bite that everyone shared.
Classic Sourdough Egg sandwich. Smoked mozzarella, frizzled onions. Side of pineapples.
Stuffed shells with Trader Joe’s Roasted Garlic pasta sauce. Stuffing is yogurt, cottage cheese, lemon juice & zest, salt and pepper, basil chiffonnade, caramelized onions and sauteed mushrooms.
The last time I cooked morel mushrooms was about a year ago in Chicago. It was a special meal, wrapped and tied prettily in my head as a gift to a weary traveler. I received a text message with flight info, an ETA upon grabbing a seat on the Blue Line, and nervous excitement inside my heart as I stirred the polenta. I made a morel cream sauce using yogurt instead of heavier dairy, and a salad, and perhaps asparagus? I listened to this song I was enamored with, which spoke of the inertia and unfolding of summer, which I knew was going to be amazing. I just knew. Just like I know now that it is hard to hear that song anymore, and that new songs have replaced it which are equally relevant. That’s life.
I have always been a curious monkey. My family will tell you how exhausting it was to answer all of my questions, in the days before wikipedia and smartphones, readily available information. I remember walking back up Dobbin toward home with my mom, and how tired she sounded when I inquired about where the neighbor may have purchased her shoes, because I liked them. I still ask a lot of questions, maybe too many (another question in and of itself). I often feel like my curiosity is something that must be tamed, bushwhacked. Other times, though, I feel like this is what people are supposed to be like, and that asking things is a catalyst for innovation, poetry, love, satisfaction, and problem solving. That I have the luxury of time to ask so many, compared to other people in the world who don’t have Macbooks to reach out to a large audience with their smallest blips of thought – instead they must sit with these questions, and maybe die with them, words never spoken; questions never asked with real hope for answers or directed towards anyone in particular. Sometimes it is OK to just ask, and stop looking so hard for all the answers. Being able to just ask can be good enough.
Lately, though, questions are floating in my head all the time, and I wonder about when is Appropriate to Ask. When should I just Bite My Tongue? It’s hard, because I think asking good questions is often as good a mark of intelligence as knowledge and creativity . It may even be of higher order than those, because it seems to encompass the latter two things entirely. Smart questioning is a big deal to me, and so the internet poses challenges regarding what I consider to be smart questions, and how to ask them. In order to ask smart questions, or even have a conversation at all, one should know who they are asking, talking to, talking at, ranting about, and so on. The classic dilemma of audience and specificity, assumption, and prerogative. Here, I usually feel like the internet often reinforces a sort of desperation laden with my current line of questioning, because actually getting answers seems to matter a lot, yet the internet cannot help me. It is a quick fix way to potentially feel less alone with certain short quips and statements of sentiment or emotion. It is like eating doughnuts for breakfast; the quick fix that wears off and leaves you empty very quickly.
Today I made morels for my mom and I. To cook the morels without wanting, to cook the morels knowing this IS their time, and to focus on accepting that which is simply true is not difficult for me. This is the first question I will ask: why do I miss other things so much the and not these? Anyway, I listened to that song, and I tried to embrace some questions to the point of nurturing them, incubating them until I know when and who to ask. Or what and why I would like to say to them, and then decide about it eventually. I took the morels and sauteed them with a little onion, butter, salt and pepper. Basil chiffonnade tossed in over the top and mixed in over low heat at the end, just to wilt it. Timing is a large part of cooking, just like it is when you ask questions. Sometimes the most important, and most intelligent question of all is, Do I want to know the answer, and why? Or, do I ask because the answer is obvious and I do not like it, or choose not to see, or simply cannot?
I have begun the book The Help and that book is a tale full of people asking questions, inside and out. Questions that cannot be asked out loud for social reasons, questions that take time to formulate, and then mustering the courage to know how and when to ask. This, so far, is my favorite question. One of the women is assuring her two year old charge that she is a smart, kind girl, when her mother constantly barks at her and is not very smart. The nanny says,
“And that’s when I get to wondering, ‘What would happen if I told her she’s somethin’ good, everyday?'”