July 5, 2011

A New-Found Sense of Mettle… and Mushrooms

You know that saying “There’s no such thing as a free lunch”? Whoever came up with this saying has clearly never been mushroom hunting…. Or perhaps I should say mushroom foraging. Hunting implies a level of effort that may actually count as working for your lunch, thereby compromising its “free” status.

While there are some mushrooms for which (I am told) you do actually need to hunt, the chanterelles I found in my parent’s yard this weekend were most definitely not in that category. In fact, against the mossy green backdrop from which they emerged, their vivid coral hue all but shouted HERE I AM – HAVE AT ME!!

And so I did.

Wait a minute, you may be thinking. Are you sure that’s what that color means?

Good question. Deep in the recesses of my once-hunter-gatherer brain, I was wondering the same thing myself. Because traditionally, organisms that advertise such bright colors are usually trying to tell us something much different — something more along the lines of, oh, I don’t know… I CONTAIN LETHAL TOXINS. EAT ME AND YOU SHALL SURELY PERISH.

So yeah, that was a possibility.

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June 25, 2011

Breakfast Salad with Asparagus and Rocket

Soul-searching is a funny thing. It is simultaneously thrilling and terrifying, exhausting and exhilarating: somehow managing to feel like flying and free-falling at the same time. It’s hard work. And yet, for as much energy as it must require to fuel a process with such fascinatingly contradictory results, I’ve not found that it builds up much of an appetite — at least not for food, anyway. An appetite for change; for knowledge; for new places, blue skies and greener pastures; yes. An appetite for lunch — not so much.

Lucky for you, I stopped soul-searching just long enough to come to a very important realization: something was missing in my life. Something very important, and (fittingly) green. Something I suspect you too may be missing, going about your life day in and day out without ever noticing its absence.

I mean vegetables, of course. But not just any old vegetables. I am talking about vegetables FOR BREAKFAST.

 good egg

(I hope none of you is wondering right now whether vegetable cream-cheese counts.)

(It doesn’t.)

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June 15, 2011

Early Summer, Ripe for Change (and Zucchini)

You know what’s pretty great? This pasta.

early summer pasta carbonara

It’s nutritious, delicious, and mostly meat-free. And it’s got zucchini (!), which is always a fun word to say. Perhaps most importantly, it is excellent for aiding in the recovery of sleepless whirlwind weekends and providing the necessary sustenance to enable one to gracefully roll with the punches…. Both of which I have had some firsthand experience with in the last few days.

First, something pretty great happened this weekend. And then yesterday something not-so-great happened. I am still reeling from both, feeling alternately aflutter and adrift.

Ever the optimist, I am hopeful that these not-so-great things will turn out to be great things in disguise; doors closed that lead to doors opened and all that. But sometimes, despite all your positive thinking, you can’t help wondering: How do I decide what the best course of action is? What if I’m wrong? What do I do if this ends up being a big mistake? And why does it seem like there are far more ways to screw something up than there are to get it right?

Yesterday, grappling with these questions was turning out to be a losing battle. I was starting to feel overwhelmed, and so out of sorts that my faith in myself was shaken. When that happens, I find the best thing to do is immerse yourself in something familiar and comfortable: Get your hands busy doing something you know how to do; something that will make you feel capable and grounded and help you get your Little Engine That Could-feeling back.

Also, it is worth mentioning that dealing with life-changes on an empty stomach is rarely a good idea.

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December 7, 2010

Lamb Burgers with Buttermilk Blue

Meat.

That’s what I wanted for lunch today.

Perhaps it’s because I’ve been sick and my diet for the last four days has consisted primarily of oatmeal, yogurt, and more oatmeal. Perhaps it’s because I just discovered that a friend of mine who is addicted to fast-food burgers (seriously, the guy keeps McDonald’s in business) also happens to read my blog, and it got me wondering what he’d actually want to eat here, anyway. Or maybe I’ve just been thinking about my brother, a self-professed carnivore, a lot lately.

It could be that a post about lamb from this new blog I recently discovered quietly lodged itself in my subconscious, and decided today was the day to speak up…. Or weirdly enough, it may even have something to do with the fact that I’m reading (and loving) this book about witches and vampires in which the characters talk a lot about blood: the chemical make-up of it, the temperature of it, the color and texture of it, even the sound of it (yes, apparently some blood does make a sound)… and of course, the taste of it.

(I know, I told you it was weird.)

Maybe I was just hungry.

For whatever reason, I quickly realized the quiet, economical, sensible little lunch I had planned for today (primarily consisting of greens and an egg — big shocker, I know) was not going to cut it. I needed meat. Red meat. Stat.

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November 30, 2010

Blue Hubbard Bisque with Sage Butter

You know what I don’t get? All the hooplah about Butternut squash.

As soon as fall rolls around, everyone everywhere (from cooking magazines to coworkers to mom) is raving about it, putting it in stews and chilis and soups and salads, talking about it like it’s the height of squash sophistication.

Enough already! I mean yeah, the long neck is ideal for getting evenly-sized perfect little cubes of squash, and it’s got an appealing name (butter nut… mmm) — but otherwise it’s not all it’s cracked up to be, is it?

Let’s face it: it’s always been one of the more difficult squashes to cut. Getting through that neck is treacherous, am I right? Seriously — everyone has a butternut squash horror story. Some even have the battle scars to prove it.

What’s worse, when you do finally succeed in hacking the little beast to pieces, it often yields up (what I find to be) flesh that is a) overly moist, b) usually kind of stringy and c) only somewhat sweet some of the time. Yes, after all that work you’re not even guaranteed a sweet reward.

So there you find yourself, standing over the stove, with sore biceps and bleeding digits, surrounded by buff-colored squash peels and band-aid wrappers, and all you have to show for it is some vaguely-sweet, fibrous orange glop.

Okay so maybe I’m exaggerating a wee bit.

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November 22, 2010

Spiced Carrot Soup with Cumin and Honey

Golly, it’s been a while, huh?

A very long while… like, an inexcusably long while.

*Ducks head in shame*

Okay okay, I know! I get it. Please stop yelling at me. It’s just, despite its inexcusability, there are, um, excuses.

Like, I was without internet for a month in October! Yup — true story. First there was a week of testy internet service, followed by a week of no service at all, which in turn led to a few lengthy (and largely ineffectual) conversations with Time Warner’s Customer Service department. After coming to the realization that it was time for a new modem, I finally got one… only to give it back a week later because, well, (and here comes excuse #2) I moved!

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September 13, 2010

A Parting Gift

Dear Summer,

You have been so sweet. Let me sit back and take a moment to remember you — the salt-crusted skin and the smell of brine; the sound of cicadas and crashing waves; the intense sweetness of a plum after an accidental mouthful of seawater; the feel of falling asleep tucked into a hammock, impossibly both grounded and weightless, floating; the stretch of long days, melting hot and sticky-sweet, and the cool relief of evening — before I say goodbye….

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August 30, 2010

Chive Cream

I never thought I’d say this, but I’ve been feeling a bit conflicted about apples.

Have you seen them in the farmer’s markets in the last week or so? Bins of early apples nestled up alongside the summer squash and cherry tomatoes and big bunches of basil?

I have… and my first thought (Apples! I love apples!) was immediately followed by the realization that apples herald the coming of autumn. Another burst of excitement (Autumn! I love autumn! — and I do, in all of its roasted squash, clove-scented kitchen, crisp afternoon and brisk blue sky-glory), was too soon followed by guilt (is a love of autumn a betrayal of summer?) and a final realization that my beloved autumn is too soon followed by the dreaded winter: dreary, dark, dismal winter.

Between Thanksgiving and the holiday season, November and December are alright, but around February things are starting to feel quite bleak. By the time March finally rolls around with its lingering dirty patches of snow and slush and freezing rain, I’m already chomping at the bit for warmer weather and longer days and GREEN… but March is an interminable month, and often taunts us with a couple of warm days in the third week only to pitch us back into arctic temperatures just in time for the start of April, sometimes just in time to cruelly bury the first few crocus buds in a new layer of sleet or snow.

You see now why I’m so conflicted about the arrival of apples.

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August 23, 2010

Dinosaur Kale: It’s What’s For Dinner

Remember that kale from earlier this week? Well, I’ve still got about six large leaves of it left.

I told you it was a big bunch — huge, even. Supersaurus huge. (And no, this time I actually did not make that up. Google it.)

Gargantuan.

Behemothic!

Okay okay, I’ll stop. Sheesh.

So it’s been a busy — and rainy — weekend, which means I sadly haven’t had much time to cook. As summer is winding down, I’m guessing you, too, are out there trying to take full advantage of what little of it is left, and probably don’t have lots of time to cook either… so I figured I’d share with you one of my super-fast, super-easy weekday dinners — one which is not at all original, unique, or particularly special: sauteed garlicky greens (in this case, my lingering, seemingly ineradicable bunch of Tuscan kale) with — wait for it — a fried egg on top.

…. Because, yes, probably half of my weekday dinners are [fill in the blank] topped with a fried egg. I’m sure you didn’t see that one coming.

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August 16, 2010

Tuscan Kale and Cod Simmered in Summer Tomatoes and Sweet Onions

Despite the fact that it is approaching late summer and the markets are crawling with all manner of lush, succulent produce — peaches and nectarines, heirloom tomatoes and corn and baby summer squash in more colors, shapes and sizes than I knew existed — somehow I found myself with a hulking bunch of decidedly not lush, wouldn’t-describe-it-as-succulent-if-you-paid-me (even for a hundred dollars, there are lines I just won’t cross) kale in my refrigerator.
ANY CHARACTER HERE
ANY CHARACTER HERE
Wow that was a long sentence.
ANY CHARACTER HERE
But I digress.