Monthly Archives: October 2012

The hardest thing to write

Photo by Lara Ferroni

Dear Parents,

Wait, that’s too formal.

Hi there! It’s Jess and Jim, fellow preschool parents . . .

Too campy.

Hi parents,

Better.

Now I have to tell them my son has cerebral palsy and explain why he uses a walker.

By now, you’ve probably noticed that there’s one spunky, silly 3 1/2-year-old who doesn’t quite match the rest.

But wait, that’s putting Graham’s differences before Graham, isn’t it? Can’t I start the email by showing how normal he is?

This morning, our son Graham threw himself onto the ground, kicking and screaming, because I didn’t use my maternal ESP to divine exactly which way he wanted me to design his breakfast plate, and the pomegranate seeds were totally in the wrong spot.

Ugh. Now he’s also a brat.

This might be the hardest thing I’ve ever written. It’s an email to the parents of all the kids in my son’s new preschool classroom, detailing what’s special about our child and why, and laying out some tender ground rules for their kids to learn—no pushing his walker down the stairs, etc. I’ve had it started for a good week or two, but procrastination has gripped me hard.

Everything feels hard all of the sudden, for some reason. It’s hard to get myself and my kid and my stuff into the car, hard to make coffee, hard to motivate. It must be the rain. Yes, that’s it. I’m suffering from shock after Seattle’s 85-day streak of gorgeous weather has (quite spectacularly) ended.

Months ago, I agreed to be part of The Oxbow Box Project, an effort on the part of Oxbow Farm to get the word out about their CSA box. In theory, it’s easy: They give me one of their weekly CSA boxes, brimming with produce, and I see what happens with it in my kitchen. Only, my pick-up day was the first day of The Rain. Stars crossed. The parking gods frowned. I dragged a cantankerous child to the pick-up, and the contents of that boisterously-colored box went into the fridge without a smidgen of ceremony. The next day, I painted mascara over my bad humor, got on an airplane, and flew to New York, hoping the vegetables would remember me when I returned.

Here’s the good thing about fall vegetables: They’re very patient, and they don’t hold a grudge. They don’t mind if you skip the warm reception, or if you go out of town. When I got back, the squash was still firm, and the collards and chard were still bright and perky. I sliced long radishes for a snack, and twirled pasta up with softened leeks, bacon, and shaved radicchio. This morning, I had roasted yellow beets for breakfast, like it was the most normal thing in the world.

There are still squash and potatoes and chard waiting for me, but last night, before I sat down to finish the email, there were carrots. To me, carrots always seem easy. Split in half lengthwise, tossed with whole-grain mustard, and decorated with fresh dill, these are a favorite from Dishing Up Washington. Save them for Thanksgiving, if you want, because they’re unfussy. (A dish like this is happy waiting on the counter, uncooked, for a few hours, and they taste perfectly lovely at room temperature.)

Or roast them soon, on a rainy night, when things feel hard but you know they really aren’t. (Tell me I’m not the only one who gets all dramatic when it rains.) You can float the back of your hand over your forehead and pretend you slaved over them. You can make up something complicated about what you did to get them to caramelize, dark and sweet, on each cut side. But you’ll know, deep down, that they’re just roasted carrots with mascara on–carrots with a mustardy little kick in the pants that elevates them from random root vegetable to elegant success story.

It’s just what we all need sometimes, isn’t it?

Roasted Carrots with Mustard and Dill (PDF)

Nash’s Organic Produce in Sequim is known for its sweet, crunchy Nantes carrots, which grow particularly well in cool climates and the alluvian soil that covers the northeastern portion of the Olympic Peninsula that Nash’s calls home. Roasted, they become even sweeter.
You can cut the tops off the carrots entirely, if you’d like, but I prefer to leave about ¾ inch untrimmed — I like how the little green sprouts look, and they’re perfectly edible.

4 servings

8 medium Nantes or regular carrots (about 1¼ pounds), peeled and halved lengthwise
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons whole grain mustard
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh dill

1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.

2. Mix the carrots, oil, mustard, and salt and pepper to taste together in a casserole dish large enough to hold the carrots in a single layer. Turn the carrots cut sides down, and roast for 25 to 30 minutes, until tender.

3. Sprinkle the dill on top, pile the carrots into a serving dish, and serve immediately.

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Filed under Dishing Up Washington, gluten-free, recipe, side dish, vegetables, vegetarian

The Wrong Thing to Do

photo by Lara Ferroni

Finally: Dishing Up Washington, the book I worked on for most of 2011, is coming out. It’s a month away. So while I’ll be spending the next few weeks in and out of Seattle (New Yorkers, come see me this weekend!), I thought I’d give you a little glimpse into the book, including the gorgeous photos by Lara Ferroni - and a few perfect recipes for your Thanksgiving table. In fact, the things I’ll be posting here are just what I’d cook, if I hadn’t already planned on being the lazy one this year.

At Vashon Island’s Kurtwood Farms, owner Kurt Timmermeister makes a bloomy-rind cow’s milk cheese called Dinah’s Cheese. When it was first released in 2009, Seattle swooned; nowhere in the state is there a farmstead Camembert-style cheese so clearly fit for international fame.

In my official opinion, it would be an atrocity to do anything to Dinah’s Cheese besides eat it at room temperature at its peak ripeness, when the middle succumbs to a thumb’s soft pressure and the inside has the consistency of thick homemade pudding. But should your path cross a certain gooey cheese good enough to make you voluntarily lie prostrate in a busy street, and you promise not to tell anyone that you’d consider putting half a wheel into a simple potato gratin with little bits of pancetta and a glug of cream, read on.

This is just the right way to do the wrong thing.

Potato Gratin with Dinah’s Cheese and Pancetta (PDF)
8 servings

2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
¾ cup (about 3 ounces) diced pancetta
4 medium Yukon Gold potatoes (about 2 pounds), peeled and sliced 1/8 inch thick
3 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
4 ounces not-quite-ripe Camembert–style cheese (about ½ wheel), chilled
2⁄3 cup heavy cream
½ cup whole milk
1 egg

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Coat an 8- by 8-inch (or similar) gratin dish with the oil and set aside.

2. Heat a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the pancetta, and cook, stirring occasionally, until crisp, 6 to 8 minutes. Set aside.

3. Meanwhile, toss the potato slices and flour in a large bowl, using your hands to distribute the flour evenly. Season the potatoes with salt and pepper (the amount of salt you use should depend on how salty your pancetta tastes). Cut the cheese into thin slices. (You can leave the rind on.)

4. Spread one-third of the potatoes along the bottom of the dish, overlapping them as necessary. Scatter one-third of the cooked pancetta over the potatoes, followed by one-third of the cheese, broken up into little bits. Repeat with the remaining ingredients, making two more layers, ending with pancetta and cheese. Whisk the cream, milk, and egg together in a small bowl, then carefully pour the liquid mixture over the potatoes.

5. Cover the gratin tightly with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil, increase the temperature to 400°F, and bake 40 to 45 minutes longer, or until the potatoes are lightly browned on top and a skewer can pierce through the layers easily. Let cool for 10 to 15 minutes before serving.

6 Comments

Filed under cheese, Dishing Up Washington, gluten-free, recipe