Category Archives: food

morning thoughts

 


Last night I dreamed about my cat who was dying.  It was my cat, but not my cat (in the ways that dreams work).  She was Toby, but not Toby.  She was curled into a ball on my chest and was shaking and heaving.  And as much as I tried, I could not remember her name.

I woke to the sinus ache of dry hot air, another night of the “Santa Anas,” yesterday’s temps peaking at 104 according to my car’s thermometer.  I immediately stepped outside to check the progress of the garden.  The peas that I planted a few weeks ago are surviving the dryness, thanks to a regular dousing.  The Siberian winter tomato varieties that we planted a few weeks ago are thriving.  We’ve never planted winter tomatoes before, but it seemed worth a try and the horticulturist at our local nursery was insistent that they would set fruit.  I wonder if they are as acclimated to dry desert winds as they are to the shortened days of the season.  They already have several blossoms apiece.

I am barefoot in the garden though I probably should not be.  We’re rebuilding our back house and the ground around the garden is covered in splinters of wood and screws and small sharp things.  But I take my chances anyways, today.

I sit on the pavers in the sun, near the plants, and marvel that it’s fall and yet it’s hotter than the summer.  Though this happens every year, it always feels strange and new when the dry winds blow.

My son moved home this week, for awhile.  It’s a strange thing to have my kids around–it is so easy to share with them, everything.  Yet I struggle with parenting them, as adults, never knowing how much to guide, how much to let them do for themselves.  We went grocery shopping together yesterday afternoon and as he put the shopping cart away he deftly lifted the entire thing over the parking lot median, as if it was as light as a gallon of milk.  I am jealous of his easy strength, and am reminded of my middle age.  The time when I carried him on my hip feeling more than two dozen lifetimes ago.

For lunch he and I have a salad of spicy mesclun lettuce from the garden, picked at midday.  The leaves are wilted and limp, but have so much flavor that they overpower the small grape tomatoes that I’ve added into the mix.

The house is full of the smells of fresh bread, as Stijn is baking his next round of sourdough.  We watched Michael Pollan’s “Air” documentary a few days ago and ever since I have craved bread, remembering all of the dark and rich loaves of Scandinavia.  Little else is as interesting to me right now, as that.

for the big ones

I’ve had a few zucchini piled up on the counter that I haven’t been sure what to do with.  They aren’t the young tender ones that taste great in zucchini carpaccio (which, btw, I make sans goat cheese and it is still super-yum) and I’m not in the mood for baking zucchini bread or zucchini cake.

So, this recipe from the gals at 3191 was just what I needed.  I adapted it by using soymilk instead of coconut milk and I put a dollop of rich plain yogurt in the center and swirled it around into the soup.  Also, I wanted to note that I made this with some BIG zucchini (you know, those ones that are lurking under the leaves that you don’t find until they are as big as your arm).  I feared that the big zukes would turn out woody or flavorless, but that was not the case at all.  And I didn’t even clean out the seeds–I just blended it all together in my Vitamix until it was creamy:

Curried Zucchini Soup with Coconut Milk
adapted from Great Food Fast

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons curry powder
1 1/2 pounds zucchini (I used 3 medium-sized), sliced thick
1 baking potato, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
4 cups stock (the original recipe just calls for water)
2/3 cup coconut soy milk

1. Heat oil in large pot over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, 4-5 minutes. Add garlic and curry powder and continue to cook, stirring constantly until fragrant (another minute).

2. Add the zucchini, potato and stock. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer until vegetables are tender (15-20 minutes).

3. Add coconut milk. Puree with immersion blender or in batches in blender until very smooth and velvety. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Seasoning depends on stock and potency and freshness of curry powder (my soup needed very little seasoning).

 

it’s all about the cheese

a cheese plate, my typical way to finish a meal

a cheese plate, my typical way to finish a meal

About four months ago, after trying to make sense of various mysterious health symptoms, my physician suggested that I go on an elimination diet for awhile, specifically to eliminate dairy at first, but she also suggested that eliminating eggs or gluten might be in order if my symptoms weren’t alleviated.  At the time my primary symptom was nausea, but I also often felt a sort of unspecified abdominal ache in the evenings, too.

Within a few weeks of the no-dairy, the symptoms became minimal.  Because I noticed them when I ate eggs, I also eliminated those.  And since then I’ve felt remarkably nausea and gut-pain free.  A few times since I started the elimination I’ve tried a bit of cheese and I still cook with butter and I seem to be fine with that, as long as dairy is not a major category in my diet.

And somehow I made it through the holidays while sticking to a mostly dairy-free and egg-free diet, with very few temptations or frustrations (it helps, I suppose, that I love veggies and that I bought a Vitamix blender).  It seems that as long as I don’t think too much about lasagna and souffles and rigatoni gorgonzola, well, I am pretty okay with my various eating options.

But then there are those days (today is one of them), when I am longing for a bit of comfort and it seems that that comfort has very creamy contours…

 

 

A new favorite

One thing about shopping in a country where you don’t know the language is that shopping for groceries can be a bit of an “adventure.” Which is why we accidentally bought lemon-lime soda (euw) instead of bottled water, why we ate pork tenderloin (instead of veal) two days ago, and why we spent more than 10minutes trying to figure out what yogurt to buy for breakfast (and ended up buying two of them, just in case one was yucky).

One happy find has been rabarbar vanilj tea, which is a great drink for the long white nights, and a good substitute for the vanilla sleepy time tea that I like to drink before bed at home.

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Our daily bread

One of the aspects of eating out while traveling that never ceases to delight me is the variety of bread that’s served with our meal. Probably I enjoy it so much because I’m already dreaming about the day that my kitchen aid mixer out of storage and start making my own bread once again…

Here are a few pictures of bread from our recent meals:

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Obviously there’s nothing ‘paleo’ about my diet–bread remains an ongoing pleasure that I’m not interested in forgoing…

so simple, so tasty

radishes, farmers cheese, chives and toast

radishes, farmers cheese, chives and toast

Today’s simple pleasures: fresh cheese, good bread, and local veggies. Yes, please.

As I stretched this morning I felt a warm burn in my belly and realized that I was starting to pull against some of the scar tissue from my surgery last year.  I hadn’t realized just how tight I’d become, from that.  And I’m trying not to be (already) discouraged about just how much work lies ahead as I regain my former flexibility.  I knew that I had a significant amount of scar tissue to work through in my lower leg, but I hadn’t considered that as a lingering issue for my abdomen, too.

bread

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I don’t remember the first time that I made bread dough, but I must have been fairly young–by the age of eight I’d already won a ribbon at the Fair for my sweet rolls (and yes, they are still amazing).  I’m sure the knowledge I had at such a young age came from watching my Mom bake–as I remember it, her loaves were usually whole wheat, sweetened with honey (or at least that is the flavor of bread that always reminds me of those young years).  Her dinner rolls remain, in my mind, the stuff of legend.

Although I have remained a maker of bread nearly all of my life, for the past ten years or so, I’ve primarily defaulted to doing so in a bread machine.  That way I can set a timer and not have to worry about any of the details of the process.  Out pops a tasty loaf in about two hours, or when I walk in the door from work if I’ve set the time earlier that morning.  Breadmaker bread is good, and is certainly better than most store-bought bread, but….it also has a uniform texture to it that’s not airy and the crust is not crispy and, most importantly, it robs one of all the pleasure of kneading and smelling and shaping the dough…

So I’ve begun making and baking my own bread again, by hand.*  It’s such a time-consuming and mercurial process: the very same recipe rarely yields the same result.  And there is so much intuition involved that I have to just “feel” the bread to know what it needs (more flour? a bit of oil? extra time for raising?).  Being a part of that process and experimenting with different recipes and doughs is pure pleasure.  I’m developing a kind of bread knowledge that allows me to compose recipes in my head and to refine my process with every loaf (though I did also pore over these two books for much of my bread-knowledge, too: The Bread Bible and Peter Reinhart’s Artisan Breads Every Day.)

I’m not sure why I am so keen on making my own bread right now.  I suspect that it’s filling a space of domesticity that’s a bit empty because I no longer have many duties in caring for my children.  Or perhaps it’s a craving for comfort and the memories of times past.  Or perhaps it’s a need to touch and smell something altogether different than the slick manufactured surfaces of keyboards and touchscreens and elevator buttons and chrome.

But whatever the reason, I am again making bread.  And it is good.

*I still do the initial bread mixing in either my Sunbeam or my KitchenAid.  In that I’m following the pattern of most bread “experts.”  I am also using this awesome Baguette Pan that was given to me by a friend.