Category Archives: vegetarian

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.

4 Comments

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

Late Bloomer

Quinoa and Lentil Salad with Mint, Feta, and Cauliflower 1

When it comes to the vegetable world, cauliflower is a bit of an underdog. Not in a chubby turnip way, or even in a dread-headed celeriac way, but in a could-have-been-greener broccoli wanna-be sort of way. It doesn’t have the drama of an artichoke or the diva personality of spring’s first asparagus. (It would never dare to be bunched up with 15 of its closest pals and put on display at the front of the grocery store, Rockettes-style.)

Not cauliflower. Cauliflower is modest. Cauliflower got her ears pierced at sixteen. She’s been sheltered all her life—in so many places, in that suffocating plastic wrap—and shoved into step beside more pedestrian vegetables like carrots and celery. But oh, people. This girl’s got hidden talent.

It’s not that I never wanted to get to know cauliflower. I met with her occasionally, pureed for soup, or pickled for a salad, or perhaps roasted, with raisins and garlic and pine nuts and lemon. But only today, after a run-in with grilled cauliflower showered with homemade almond dukka, did I realize she’s a natural-born star. And she was discovered late enough that she’s somehow still classy. Still genuine. Full of flavor, but not one to flaunt it. She keeps her right leg to herself, this one.

Maybe you’re a step ahead of me. Maybe you’ve been downing cauliflower all this time—since before your son discovered that if you squeeze lemon juice on it and let it sit for a bit, it turns pink, the same way the greener, more svelte vegetables turn brown in the same situation. (This girl’s used to adversity. She lasts a good ten days in the fridge, if you insist upon it.)

But suppose all that isn’t true. Suppose you’re still walking right by (like my husband, who refuses to believe she’s just a late bloomer, like me. He thinks she plays Bingo in Velcro shoes with eggplant, but we’ve agreed to disagree.) In that case, you’ll need to stop, the next time you see her, and bring her home, along with some quinoa and two handfuls of little green lentils. Grab some feta and fresh mint, while you’re at it; you’ll be making a giant salad that tastes as good spooned out of Tupperware in the ski area parking lot as it does warm, sitting at the dinner table. You’ll notice the cauliflower is still herself here, despite all the other things going on.

Yup. She’s a keeper.

Quinoa and Lentil Salad with Mint, Feta, and Cauliflower 2

Quinoa and Lentils with Mint, Feta, and Cauliflower (PDF)
Lentils have never made me swoon the way, say, chickpeas can. Ditto for cauliflower, an underdog of the vegetable world. But my friend Dan taught me that if you pair the two with crunchy quinoa, bright mint, salty feta, plus a swirl of olive oil and the punch of white vinegar, and you’ve got a main-course salad that puts the words “quinoa bowl” to shame. If you’re making this salad ahead, let the lentils and quinoa mixture cool to room temperature before folding in the cauliflower, mint, and cheese.

I suppose a can of lentils would work here in place of the home-cooked kind, but like most beans, they require very little actual work time.

Makes 6 servings

For the lentils
3 cups water
1/4 cup white vinegar
1 cup green lentils
1 teaspoon salt

For the quinoa
1 cup chicken or vegetable broth
1 cup water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup quinoa

For the salad
1 small shallot, finely chopped
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 medium head cauliflower, cut into florets, steamed until tender
1 1/2 cups (about 6 ounces) crumbled feta cheese
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh mint
Salt and freshly ground pepper

First, cook the lentils: combine the water and vinegar in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Add the lentils, return to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer the lentils until tender, 45 to 60 minutes, adding the salt after about 30 minutes. Strain the lentils.

While the lentils cook, make the quinoa: combine the broth, water, and salt in another small saucepan. Bring to boil, then add the quinoa and cook over low heat, partially covered, for 10 minutes. Stir the hot quinoa together in a large bowl with the shallot, vinegar, and olive oil. When they’re done, add the lentils, then the cauliflower, feta, and mint. Stir to combine, and season with salt and pepper, if necessary, before serving.

4 Comments

Filed under cheese, egg-free, garden, gluten-free, grains, Modern, recipe, soy-free, vegetables, vegetarian

Now what?

Yogurt Dip with Feta and Dill 5

A friend recently referred to my recent string of cookbook projects—all of which are now finished, save the final edits—as my Irish quadruplets. She suggested that perhaps I begin participating in some form of cookbook-related birth control.

I can’t blame her. I didn’t mean to write four cookbooks in 16 months. It just happened. Eighteen months ago, I didn’t think I’d ever write one. But now, with all the major deadlines behind me (as of Saturday), sitting at home in my puffy robe as the snow spins off my neighbor’s roof in a little fit of confusion, I’m wondering just who did all that work. (It couldn’t have been me.)

And more than anything, I’m wondering who I am now, in a culinary sense. I know a lot about the Pike Place Market right now. I know a lot about myriad foods across Washington State. I know more than I ever anticipated knowing about doughnuts. And I know a lot about grilling fish, too. (That was the ghost writing project, which I never told you about.)

What I don’t know, it seems, is what food will be mine in the years to come. I’ve been gluten-, soy-, and egg-free for almost six months, and I’m just starting to figure out whether that’s helping with lupus. (Summary: I think it is.) I’ve been figuring out that in baking, using pure ground flaxseeds in place of eggs (instead of flaxseed meal) makes a huge difference. I’m figuring out my favorite version of socca, the Mediterranean chickpea pancakes I can’t seem to stop eating. I’m finding a good snack bar for after the gym.

What’s next for me? For the first time in what feels like a long, long time, I just don’t know. And I kind of love it.

Here’s a dip inspired by a bite I had last weekend at the Fancy Food Show, in San Francisco. It’s not much—just some yogurt, a flurry of feta, and the dill I’ve been meaning to use. It’s not the kind of thing that fits in a book, you’ll notice. It’s the kind of thing that fits in a little jar in the fridge, for snacking, when you’re not making food at all hours of the day. Perhaps that’s what I like about it.

Yogurt Dip with Feta and Dill 1

Yogurt Dip with Dill and Feta (PDF)
Here’s a dip that works in my house as a substitute for ranch dressing—only there are some undeniable nutritional benefits going on here. For something that tends more toward the “spread” category, add a handful of pitted kalamata olives, and whirl the whole thing in a food processor before serving.

Serve the dip with fresh carrots, cucumbers, baby zucchini, bell peppers, or crackers.

Time: 10 minutes active time
Makes: About 1 cup

7 ounces full-fat Greek-style yogurt
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
Juice of 1/2 large lemon
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Combine all the ingredients in a small bowl, using a fork to smash the feta into tiny pieces. Serve or chill up to 1 week.

3 Comments

Filed under appetizers, gluten-free, recipe, snack, vegetarian

Saaging

Garden Saag

The question people have asked me over the last three weeks is this: Well, what have you been eating?

It’s this. It’s a bastardization of Indian saag (the kind I used to adore eating with paneer), made by sautéing spinach and kale and whatever other greens crop up in my kitchen with garlic and ginger, then simmering them into submission with a can of coconut milk. Hit haphazardly with an immersion blender, the greens collapse into a green mass just liquid enough to deserve a bowl. (Say the word saag aloud, so it rhymes with “clog,” and you’ll know how the dish gets its name; it’s a real slump of a thing.)

I eat the saag alone, or draped over roasted chicken or millet, or I thin it with a bit of stock (or additional coconut milk) and puree it in a real blender until it’s silky smooth. Then I use it as a grown-up sauce, for grilled salmon or halibut. It’s what I’ll be making ahead to take camping this weekend, which means I’ll eat it Dr. Seuss-style for days and days—on a boat, on a train, in a box, with a fox.

So yes, in week three of this silly thing, my culinary spirit is still, well, saaging. But at least there’s this. And for that, I’m thankful.

IMG_6743

Garden Saag (PDF)
There is an awkward, pubescent moment in every Seattle garden each year; it usually exists between June and August, when the days are just at their peak length, when the kitchen excitement over tiny fresh greens has died but the tidal wave of mature summer tomatoes has yet to begin. In this span of two weeks, the garden grows. It’s exactly what we wanted it to do, isn’t it; yet, when the workhorses of our early summer gardens, the greens, really get down to business, we’re often overwhelmed. When spinach, kale, and arugula threaten to take over every inch of your living space—or any greens, really, as long as they’re coming in massive quantities—make this sauce. Inspired by Indian saag, a spinach dish often draped over paneer (Indian cheese), it’s delicious on its own, mixed into rice, or draped over a delicately grilled slab of fish.

Light coconut milk will work for the recipe, but the flavor will suffer.

TIME: 15 minutes active time
MAKES: 4 servings

1 tablespoon ghee or unsalted butter
1 large clove garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh ginger
3/4 pound fresh spinach (regular or baby), cleaned and chopped
1 medium bunch kale (about 1/2 pound), ribs removed, cleaned and chopped
1 can (15 ounces) coconut milk
Small pinch red chili flakes (optional)
Kosher salt

Heat a large, wide pot over medium-high heat. Add the ghee, then the garlic and ginger, and cook, stirring, until the garlic is soft, about a minute. Add the spinach and kale and cook until the greens are wilted, stirring frequently. Add the coconut milk (water and solids, if the contents have separated), the chili flakes (if you like spice), and salt to taste. Cover the pot and cook for 10 minutes. Remove the cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid is almost gone, another few minutes.

Using an immersion blender or a food processor, partially blend the greens until they’re spoonable but still a bit chunky, and serve as a side dish. (To make a sauce, simply puree until completely smooth.)

6 Comments

Filed under farmer's market, garden, gluten-free, recipe, side dish, vegetarian

Stung

Bucatini with Garlicky Nettle Pesto 2

Stinging nettles taste green and earthy and wild, like cooked spinach would in a teen Goth stage – not surprising, considering they’re usually foraged in the wild and eaten relatively young. But as I’ve told you before, they come by their name honestly. Resist the urge to touch them or play with them as you dump them into a pot of simmering water to tame their poisonous attitude. When they’re raw, they sting.

Cooked, though. Cooked, a tangle of nettles whirls up into a beautiful pesto, more deeply flavorful than its basiled cousin and a better bed buddy for four large cloves of garlic. Last night, I made a fairly traditional pesto, only with the nettles, and smeared it on a marinated, roasted leg of lamb, so each bite had two punches of spring. Today, when I found myself standing at the stove, hands shoved deep into my back pockets while I slurped long bucatini directly out of the cooking pot I’d used to stir them with the leftover pesto, I knew I had a recipe to share.

That was yesterday. I wrote all that – what you see above there – and then I found out that dear Kim Ricketts had passed away. There will be no more writing about nettles.

Kim was the mama of Seattle’s food scene, a literary powerhouse who brought people together for the love of food and books. I can’t say I knew her well, but I knew her well enough to be touched by her energy and her kindness. And now, the morning after the news, yesterday’s recipe seems so appropriate, because what I really feel is stung. I feel scraped raw. And I don’t know how to begin mourning someone whose soul and spunk was so immortal.

So scratch the pasta. I mean, it was good, but scratch it. Make this pesto, and take it to someone you don’t see that often, someone whose light and effervescence makes the world a better place. And thank them for being alive.

Pot of pasta with nettle pesto

Garlicky Nettle Pesto (PDF)
Although most Seattleites find nettles at farmers’ markets this time of year, they’re also often available at Whole Foods Markets. Buy a bunch when you can, and double or triple this recipe, as needed, and freeze some, because my fortune-telling powers tell me you’ll want to twirl the pesto up with long pasta again long after the season has passed. If you have time to be thoughtful and a bit patient, you can add toasted breadcrumbs, for a bit of crunch, or chopped sundried tomatoes.

Time: 25 minutes active time
Makes: 1 generous cup

1/2 pound nettles
4 large garlic cloves, smashed
1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 1/4 cups extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Bring a large pot of salted water to a simmer for the nettles. Add the nettles directly from their bag and cook, stirring continuously, for 2 minutes. (This denatures their sting.) Dump into a colander to drain. When the nettles are cool enough to handle, wrap them in a clean dishtowel and wring out as much moisture as possible, like you would for spinach. You’ll have about a cup of cooked, squished nettles.

In the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the paddle attachment, whirl the garlic, pine nuts, salt, and pepper to taste until finely chopped. Add the nettles, breaking them up as you drop them in, and the lemon juice and whirl until finely chopped. With the machine running, add the oil in a slow, steady stream, and process until smooth. Add the cheese, pulse briefly, and season to taste with additional salt, pepper, or lemon juice.

19 Comments

Filed under farmer's market, grains, Lunch, Modern, Pasta, recipe, vegetables, vegetarian

There’s a beer in my breakfast

Malted Millet Granola 2

It may sound strange to you, but in my brain, there’s not anything especially unusual about coming up with a recipe. It’s sort of like deciding which way to drive through a neighborhood in a new city: I see my options, and I choose. I might drive on the sidewalk every now and then, and there are the invariable wrong turns, but it’s still just driving.

Then, once in a while, I come across an ingredient that takes me a little outside my comfort zone. That’s what I love about the cookbook I’m working on right now, Pike Place Market Recipes. About half the recipes are mine, inspired by the market’s shops, and the rest come from restaurateurs and purveyors there – and in general, these days, they’re the ones bringing new foods into my life.

Last week, I cooked with malt for the first time. I was testing a Reuben recipe from The Pike Brewing Company. The concept is simple: You take a corned beef brisket, braise it in beer, then smother it in malt syrup, an ingredient used to make some beers, and roast it again until the syrup caramelizes into a thick, glossy sheen on the beef. The resulting sandwich is unusual: rich, salty, and tinged with an earthy, sweet flavor not intrinsic to your typical Reuben.

Golden malt syrup

Walking into a brewing supply store and saying you’d like to buy a cup of malt is like asking a fire truck for a drink from its hose. Somehow, when I went last week, I envisioned it sounding more normal to ask for two cups. The guys at the counter at the store near me stared at me anyway, gobsmacked by the concept of putting malt into anything but a giant plastic vat, but eventually we found a suitable container and the malt wound its way home to my kitchen. And resting on the counter, after four of us had downed an entire brisket’s worth of beef in one meal, was exactly one cup of leftover malt syrup.

Malt is the best way to convince non-beer drinkers that beer is a good thing. Dip a finger in, and it comes out coated with something akin to honey but more full-bodied. It’s sweet without being sugary, earthy without tasting like earth. It’s what honey might taste like if it was made by warthogs, instead of bees. And it’s a darn good substitute for honey in homemade granola.

This cookbook thing? It makes for busy days, that’s for sure. But it sure is a delicious ride.

Malted Millet Granola 3

Malted Millet Granola
Okay fine, you win: this is a strange-sounding granola. But think about it: Malt, the syrup derived from grain (often barley) that gives beer its sweetness, has been used as a sweetener for centuries. Why not use it in place of honey or maple syrup? I made this granola with breakfast in mind, but patted one batch into an even 1/2” layer and didn’t stir it as it cooked. The result? Well-packed granola chunks perfect for snacking.

You can buy malt syrup at any good brewing supply store.

TIME: 20 minutes active time
MAKES: About 15 loose cups granola

1 cup golden malt syrup
1/2 cup (packed) brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 18-ounce container (6 1/2 cups) old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup roasted, salted sunflower seeds
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
1/2 cup raw millet
3/4 cup sliced almonds
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 cup canola oil

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicon baking mats, and set aside.

Combine the malt syrup, brown sugar, and vanilla in a small saucepan, and cook over medium heat until the sugar has dissolved, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, place the remaining ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Add the honey mixture, and stir to blend. Divide the granola between the two baking sheets, spreading it into an even layer on each sheet, and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, stirring the granola after 15 minutes (and every 5 minutes thereafter) and rotating sheets top to bottom and back to front halfway through. The granola is done when it’s uniformly golden brown. (Note: The malt caramelizes quickly, so once the granola starts to brown on the bottom, watch it carefully and stir when it starts to brown.)

Let the granola cool to room temperature on the baking sheets. Break apart and store in an airtight container.

8 Comments

Filed under beer, Breakfast, recipe, snack, vegetarian

Soup for the masses

Pasta e fagioli 1

This here’s just a crack-diggity soup recipe that you’ll need to cook if you have a) a vegetarian at the table, b) a certain someone in your life (it might be someone you sleep next to every night) who whines and roars and gnashes when anyone says anything about eating vegetarian, and/or c) a faint desire to stick with the Meatless Monday thing. It requires porcini powder, which I buy at DeLaurenti in Seattle. (It’s available online here.)

Pasta e Fagioli with Controne, Kale, Carrots, and Porcini Powder (PDF)
Made with a few special ingredients that may take a hunt but take really no more work to cook than what you find in a regular grocery store, this vegetarian version of pasta e fagioli, the traditional Italian pasta and bean stew, has an unctuous, meaty flavor that comes from porcini powder. Also called porcini dust, porcini powder is made from dried porcini mushrooms. Used like a ground spice, it adds depth and a rich background flavor—perfect for someone who might not be too keen on eating a vegetarian meal.

If you can’t find small, round controne beans, which don’t need to be soaked, use about 1/2 pound of other dried white beans (except soak them overnight and only simmer them for 60 to 90 minutes), or stir in two (15-ounce) cans of drained white beans (with the liquid) instead.

Time: 1 hour active time
Makes: 6 to 8 servings

One (300g) package controne beans (or 10 ounces other dried white beans)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 pound carrots, peeled and sliced into 1/4” coins
4 stalks celery, cut into 1/4” half moons
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme (or 1 teaspoon dried)
2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano (or 1/2 teaspoon dried)
2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary (or 1/2 teaspoon dried)
2 tablespoons porcini powder
Bay leaf
6 cups vegetable broth
1 bunch dark, leafy greens, chopped (kale, collards, or chard work well)
One (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 cup small pasta, such as macaroni or ditalini
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
Parmesan cheese, for serving (optional)

Place the beans in a large saucepan and add water to cover by about 2 inches. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for 2 to 3 hours, or until the beans are tender, adding water as necessary to keep the water level just above the beans. (You can salt the water as the beans cook, if you want.) When the beans are tender, drain off enough water for the water level to remain just at the top of the beans. Set aside.

Heat a large, heavy soup pot over medium heat. When hot, add the oil, then the onion, and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes, until the onion begins to soften. Add the garlic, carrots, and celery, season with salt and pepper, and cook another 5 minutes, covered. Stir in the tomato paste, thyme, oregano, rosemary, and porcini powder, and cook, stirring, for another 3 or 4 minutes, until the mixture begins to darken a bit. Add the bay leaf, broth, greens, and tomatoes, as well as the reserved beans. Bring to a simmer, and cook for about an hour, stirring occasionally. Add the pasta, and cook until tender, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the vinegar, then season to taste with additional salt, pepper, and vinegar, if necessary. Serve hot, garnished with Parmesan cheese, if desired.

6 Comments

Filed under garden, gluten-free, Italian, recipe, soup, vegetables, vegetarian

Live to Tell

Curried Cumin Crackers 1

There was a time in my youth—maybe six weeks, if I had to approximate, which must have been a very long time for my mother—when I listened to Madonna’s Live to Tell on repeat for hours on end. Hours, people. And oh, goodness, Madonna understood. Clearly the secret I wanted to live to tell wasn’t all that important, because I can remember neither the tale I had to tell nor who needed to hear it. But it was there, with me, suspended heavily in the air like my legs off the floor of back seat of our silver Volvo 840.

The thing is, I do remember putting the emphasis on the telling—not on the living. Today—a few years wiser, maybe, and slightly more experienced with health complications—I wonder sometimes what I’m living to tell.

As more and more of my relatives enter their anecdotage, it becomes clear to me that humans are predisposed to a good yammer. We all live to tell something, and to tell it over and over. The topic varies, though—some people want to talk family history, others want to rehash the past, and still others just want to have a story to tell about every topic that comes up. Telling is remembering. Or it’s proving you’re smarter than someone else, but for the sake of argument, let’s pretend that doesn’t ever apply to me or you.

Back to me, though. What am I doing now that will stay with me? Sometimes it’s hard to know, but once in a while, in a blinding flash of clarity, I know I’m living a moment that will be with me forever. My father teaching my son how to lick an ice cream cone. Walking past the explosion of daffodils each spring on the corner of 1st and 73rd. New England’s ice storm of 1998. Watching my husband stand on the bed, using the cat as a flyswatter against some unwanted bug. Cornering my sister at a family wine dinner, whispering to her that I was pregnant, and watching her get ridiculously drunk downing all her own wine and all of mine as well.

What I do know, very clearly, is that I want something to stick with me. And I want it to stick for a really, really long time.

There’s a point in every person’s life, I suppose, when one recognizes ones own mortality. I think for most youngish adults, the realization comes (if it does come that early) as a result of some sort of trauma—a car crash, maybe, or a bad fall. For me, it came in the form of a very long, very big needle.

Nine months ago, I had a kidney biopsy. I thought it was routine; the doctor intended to get a baseline measurement of how my organs were working, in case of any future complications. The next day, he called me and told me my kidneys were on the verge of failing. Between dinner and breakfast, we decided which chemotherapy treatment I’d try, and the following day, I cancelled a trip to San Diego and headed to the hospital. I’ll be telling that story for a while, I’m sure.

And now? Well, now my kidneys are fine. There’s nothing wrong with them. Nada. Zilch. Problems gone. When I go in for a check-up, my nephrologist (who has purple hair and a nose piercing, how Seattle is that?) is clearly bored. But somehow, on my lower back, right below my ribs, I feel a keen sense of awareness, a constant sense of care that I take with me everywhere. It’s a sense of living, after realizing for the first time that my own life is inevitably limited. And lately—maybe it’s this whole clean eating thing—I’ve been much more aware of taking care of those kids.

Last year, I met a woman whose condition is similar to mine, only sixty thousand times more dramatic. She’s a food writer and blogger. Her name is Jess. She has lupus. (Sound familiar?) She lives in San Francisco, and she’s my lupus superhero.

See, Jess approaches her disease with grace. She accepts that her life has to be different, but doesn’t mope or whine; she exudes an energetic peace that any perfectly healthy person would admire. She practically oozes happy, leaving behind her a wake of hope and cheerfulness that I’m not sure anyone could ignore. Her kidneys are much more sensitive than mine—so sensitive, in fact, that she has to eat entirely sodium-free, to make sure her kidneys stay happy. In her kitchen, she replaces salt with cups and cups of creativity. This month, she’s celebrating National Heart Health Month on her blog, Sodium Girl, by asking bloggers and readers to consider the USDA’s newest dietary guidelines, which (among other things) recommend that Americans cut way back on their salt intake. It’s called the Love Your Heart Recipe Rally. And that recipe up there? Your heart will love it.

But, okay, I really didn’t do it for my heart. I did it because even though my kidneys are healthy now, I want to become more constantly cognizant of what I’m feeding them, so that they last as long as humanly possible. So they live to tell. Naturally, that should mean less salt.

So, I don’t mean to get all serious on you here, but do me a favor: Take a moment. Here. Now. Is there one thing you can do that will make you healthier? It might not necessarily be cutting out salt entirely, and it might not have anything to do with salt. It might mean eating more green vegetables. It might mean drinking red wine instead of hard liquor, because at least wine arguably has a couple health benefits. Or it might mean making a batch of crunchy curried cumin crackers, so you stop snacking on your son’s outrageously salty Goldfish crackers six times a day.

Realistically, I don’t think I can cut out sodium altogether. And I don’t plan on it. But if I can choose one thing today to do differently in my kitchen that pleases the kids, maybe I’ll be able to choose something else next month. Of course, the spirit of the Recipe Rally is to remake a specific salty food, replacing it with a low-sodium alternative. I chose those Goldfish. Readers, I love you. But there is no way in hell you’ll find me cutting anything out in 3/4” fish shapes, especially when I can’t guarantee the correct proportion of swimmers with that special smile. And strike me down for lack of ambition, but I wasn’t sure I could mimic that awesome orange color without a special trip to a chemical plant.

So I made a different cracker. It’s got a base of masa harina, a finely ground corn flour, and ground curry, which gives it the pleasing sunny hue that I associate with mindless snacking, which, in this case, is a good thing. I added an egg, canola oil, and some sodium-free baking powder for body, and stuffed the dough with flavorful seeds that become little grenades between the teeth—things like whole fennel, cumin, and mustard seed. There’s a bit of sugar, which guarantees addiction (let’s work with one vice at a time, please), but there’s no salt added. Half a batch in, I certainly don’t miss it, and I feel a little smug knowing that someday, my kidneys (and, okay fine, my heart) might live to tell me thanks.

I’m sorry, what was that? You have a Madonna song stuck in your head now? You can thank me later.

Click here for a full list of Love Your Heart Recipe Rally posts.

Curried Cumin Crackers after baking

Curried Cumin Crackers (PDF)

Made with whole seeds that burst between your teeth, releasing little time bombs of earthy flavor, these easy-to-make crackers aren’t for spreading or dipping. They’re for eating. For something a little spicy, add a pinch of cayenne pepper. For best flavor, use fresh spices. And you know what? They really taste best the second or third day.

Time: 20 minutes active time
Makes: 4 servings

Spray vegetable oil
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups masa harina
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
1 tablespoon sesame seeds (white or black)
1 tablespoon yellow mustard seeds
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
2 teaspoons ground curry powder
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
2 teaspoons baking powder (sodium-free)
1/2 cup canola oil
1 large egg
1/2 cup warm water

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 12” by 18” baking sheet with vegetable oil, and set aside.

Combine all the dry ingredients in the work bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, and blend on low speed until mixed. With the machine running, add the oil in a slow, steady stream, then add the egg, then the warm water. Mix until the dough comes together and there are no dry spots left at the bottom of the bowl. (You may have to add another tablespoon of water.)

Curried Cumin Crackers pre-bake

Scatter the dough out across the prepared baking sheet, and gently pat it evenly into the pan. Using a small rolling pin or a wine bottle (I find the latter works best), roll the dough into an even, thin layer, rolling all the way to the edges. Use a small, sharp knife to score the dough all the way through to the sheet into crackers of any shape, and trim the edges. (You can make squares or triangles, but anything bigger than about 2” in either direction may crack while baking.)

Spray the crackers all over with vegetable oil spray, and bake for 30 minutes, rotating once halfway through, or until the crackers are firm and the edges are light golden brown. Let cool completely on baking sheets, gently break apart, and serve. Store cooled crackers in an airtight container.

Curried Cumin Crackers 3

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Filed under appetizers, recipe, snack, vegetarian

A Clean Start

Carrot Hummus with Harissa 2

There’s something about the concept of the Western world’s New Year that never sits quite right with me. Until now, I thought I was simply anti-diet. The New Year’s pooch is a symbol for me; it represents the cookies and cake I’ve consumed, and also the people I’ve shared them with. If I pour my energy into dieting on January 1st, like half this country seems to do, I effectively cut myself off from the biggest soul-quenching time of the year, because food connects me to memory. It’s like ruling out bright sunlight in August. (Sure, we could all use fewer UV rays, but what would August be without sunburns?) I usually start the year out bingeing on soups and stews, precisely because so many other people are avoiding them.

This year, for the first time, I figured out why January 1st seems so meaningless: Here, it seems like the same new year every time around. We’re supposed to create a resolution to battle whatever it was about the previous year that left us feeling unsettled, but there’s no rhyme or reason to what’s intrinsically needed. Every year, there’s basically the same expectation: This year will be better. Why?

2010 was kind of an outrageous year for me. There were months with no appetite, followed by an experiment with eating gluten-free. In the end, the culprit was something close to kidney failure. Then there was chemotherapy, crazy complications with my son’s health, and (surprise!) two cookbook deals. It was a roller coaster, for sure. As December faded to January, I had trouble resolving to do anything but make sure 2011 was a little more calm.

This past weekend, my parents visited, and I was somehow able to drop everything. (Not my son, of course. I didn’t drop him.) We played human-sized chess at the Pacific Science Center, and gobbled soup dumplings, and watched humans pretend to be dogs driving cars, and it was all light-hearted and boatloads of fun. Last night, as I read Graham a book before bed, my eyes fell to the Chinese zodiac hanging in his bedroom. Now there is the right approach to the new year thing.

Chinese zodiac

2010 was the Year of the Tiger, right? In my world, certainly. The Chinese zodiac called for unpredictability, recklessness, and aggressiveness, but also generosity. My year couldn’t match more perfectly. Last night, as I looked down the chain of animals, I realized that long, long ago, someone realized this next year is just the year I need.

This New Year – the one that started this week, for me, with a calm mind and my son emerging happy and clear-sighted from eye surgery on the first day of the Chinese New Year – will hopefully be more rabbity. I want the year to be soft-spoken and flexible, creative and gentle. Luck would be good, but it’s not necessary.

In this kitchen, the Year of the Rabbit means clean food. It means being kind to my body – more Zumba, less zeppole. (Yes, I tried Zumba. It’s like a dance party for those of us who can’t stay awake past 9 p.m., and it’s fabulous, even on days like today, when the average participant age is about 103.) Anyway. For some reason, I’ve been all hopped up on the idea of eating a little less meat. Crazy, I know, but for some reason, right now, it feels right. It feels clean.

Clean Start

It started with a book. Clean Start showed up on my doorstep, and I thought, Really? Do I need a book to tell me how to eat well? But it had an orange cloth cover, and if there’s one thing I’m a sucker for, it’s the color orange. I opened it, and fell in love with the photographs – tahini-glazed heirloom carrots, sautéed greens with sesame seeds, and this wacky Carrot Cashew Miso Spread (PDF) I immediately wanted to dip my fingers into. The concept of a carrot spread made my brain whir.

I realized, as I started listing out all the recipes I wanted to try, that not a single one had meat. It took me a good day or two before it registered that the book is totally vegan, which I thought was a good sign; my body seems to be craving what’s in those pages regardless of the ingredients. Well, almost regardless.

See, I’m sort of in a carrot phase. Last week, I made a carrot and chickpea tagine for the cookbook (which will most likely be called Pike Place Market Recipes, but more on that another time). Then, when my parents were here, there was an Indian coconut curry with carrots and chicken, and a mysteriously carrot-heavy tom kha gai. On Superbowl Sunday, neither the television nor the tacos held much appeal for me (only the latter is really a mystery), but I was all about the raw carrots. I might in fact be turning into a rabbit.

This morning, when second breakfast seemed inevitable, I simmered up some carrots, and whirled them into a hummus rich with olive oil inspired by that spread in Terry Walters’ book, and flavored it with lemon juice and harissa. Healthy? Perhaps, but not intentionally. Just what I happen to need right now, that’s all. The harissa (an African chili paste) gives it a touch of heat, but because it’s still a bit warm after you being pureed, it feels soothing soothing. I think it should be the new snack du jour in preschools, because its effect is somehow calming.

Please don’t be surprised if I appear to have a slightly orange hue next time we see each other. I’m sure I’ll get over it. I just hope my teeth don’t start growing first.

Carrot Hummus with Harissa 1

Carrot Hummus with Harissa and Lemon (PDF)
Made by whirling cooked carrots, chickpeas, lemon juice, olive oil, and harissa (a North African spice paste) together, this simple spread is healthy and a little addictive. Adjust the spice level as you see fit.

Time: 10 minutes active time
Makes: 4 servings

1/2 pound carrots, chopped (3 large or 2 big handfuls baby carrots)
1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
Juice of 1 large lemon
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt, to taste
1 tablespoon harissa, or to taste

Place the carrots in a small saucepan. Add water to cover, bring to a simmer, and cook until completely tender. (Time will depend on the size of your carrots, but about 10 minutes should do it.) Drain the carrots, then transfer them to a food processor with the remaining ingredients. Blend until completely smooth, then transfer to a bowl and serve warm.

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Filed under appetizers, gluten-free, Lunch, recipe, vegetables, vegetarian

Phoenixed

Vinegar-Braised Onions 3

Madame Jacqueau, the woman I lived with in Paris my junior year in college, used to say that things always come in threes. She used it when talking about almost anything—short waits for the metro, major avalanches, well-roasted chickens. Literally, in French, she was saying that there’s never a second without a third. Today, I do hope she’s wrong.

I have agreed to write two cookbooks.

Wait, let me try that again: In the last six weeks, I have agreed to write and have written one cookbook. I have agreed to write another book, which is completely unrelated, by May.

The first, which I literally just submitted, is a book I’ve been working on in conjunction with Mark and Michael Klebeck, the owners of Seattle’s Top Pot Doughnuts. It will be published by Chronicle Books next fall. It’s a doughnut cookbook, with fifty recipes and loads of great tips. Suffice it to say that over the past six weeks, I have tricked neighbors and friends into believing I started a doughnut factory in my house. I have worn pajamas more than anyone should. I have purchased more powdered sugar (for glazes and icings) than any human should see in one lifetime. Finally, for at least a week or two (until the edits come back), I can turn off the deep fryer. In fact, I’m feeling like I might be on the precipice of a health kick. (Okay, starting soon. We made wings and onion rings last weekend.)

It was hard, writing a book in six weeks. But it’s done. And it was actually a little thrilling.

I’m most thrilled, though, about the next one: I’ll be writing a cookbook with a big handful of essays about Seattle’s Pike Place Market, to be published by Sasquatch Books in the spring of 2012.

More than anything, it just seems fitting. The week my husband and I flew to Seattle for the first time, in March of 2006—me for a conference, him for a job interview—I decided Seattle was right for us in front of that iconic market sign. Then I walked into the market with a friend, and my husband called, telling me he’d been offered a job. I wandered around aimlessly, probably looking a little bewildered. This will be my home, I thought.

When I moved here, and started Hogwash, I picked Rachel, the market’s pig, for my masthead, because she’d been there that day, the day I became a Seattleite. Just sketching out the chapters and brainstorming recipes ideas, I feel like it’s suddenly 100% true: Seattle is my home.

I’m admittedly just as excited about the essays as I am about the recipes. (More so, maybe.) I think it could be difficult, without getting too mundane and repetitive, to communicate the magic of any place people habitually give up describing, instead saying “it’s really amazing,” or “you just have to go,” with a big, body-slumping huff. These will not be wedding toast essays. They’ll be wicked fun.

You could say it’s been a busy few weeks.

But there’s more.

Last week, my piece on preparing to live gluten-free (which, as you know, it turns out I didn’t have to do), from Leite’s Culinaria, came out in Best Food Writing 2010, a yearly collection of fantastic food writing by people I admire and ache to emulate. I was thrilled, and seriously humbled, to be in the same pages. My mailbox also brought a copy of the November issue of Cooking Light, where my recipes appear for the first time. (Side note: Make the posole. It should appear online soon.)

Basically, I’m being blasted with good things from all directions, and it feels fabulous.

I’d have to say, though, that despite all of this writing stuff, the highlight of the last few weeks has to be last Saturday morning. I participated in a fundraiser for lupus—the goal was to raise awareness and money, and to get the word out that there hasn’t been a new drug developed specifically for lupus released to the market for more than 50 years—and instead of doing the fun walk, I did the fun run. I ran a 5K.

I’ve never been a great runner, or even a good one. But in college, I used to do it, just for exercise, and as a way to spend time with friends. Since being diagnosed with lupus, I’d sort of lost the running thing. It made my joints ache, and it took the kind of mental stamina I didn’t have, when I had to think positively so often when it hurt to walk, or open a jar, or hold the hairdryer. But since starting a new drug after my kidney scare last spring, I’ve been feeling remarkably buoyant. So somewhere along the line, I decided to run.

Of course, they kind of tricked me into the 5K. The website advertised a 2.5-miler, which, if you’re mathematically inclined, you’ll realize is almost three quarters of a mile shorter than a 5K. I “trained,” if that’s what you want to call it, by running a total of about ten times in the two months preceding last Saturday, culminating the previous Sunday with a nonstop two-miler. The morning of the run, I happened to check the website, and balked at the increased length. But it was too late to back out.

People came from all the corners of my life: My parents flew in from Boise. My grandmother took the train up from Portland. My sister (the one who ran a half marathon two weeks ago) showed up with matching purple-and-white headbands she’d crocheted the night before. There were writer friends and editor friends and my husband’s work friends and college friends and mommy friends and just plain friend friends. And they all came for me. When I said “I think I can,” they came to tell me that I could. And I did. Their presence felt, in a word, warming. And being able to run that far (with a weensy bit of walking, I’ll admit) was extremely heartening. I think it feels better to run again than it ever felt to run when I’d always been able to do it.

My sister, incidentally, also introduced me to a new verb this weekend: to be phoenixed. According to her sources, that eyeball-searing burst of roasted air you get when you open a hot oven with your face too close to it—you know how it burns almost unbearably for just a second or two, and makes your necklace hot around your collarbones?—is called a phoenix. So, grammatically, one turns one’s head to avoid being phoenixed.

It’s fantastic, isn’t it? And completely new to me. It’s the hot version of the way your nose hairs freeze when you step out in to the snow on a -20 degree day. (Why didn’t you tell me about this word?)

I think it’s the perfect way to describe the run. There was so much warmth coming my direction that I almost had to look away.

I’m so glad I didn’t.

Here’s a recipe perfect for when there’s just too much going on. They started with inspiration from Gluten Free Girl‘s recipe for Balsamic Onions, from her new book, Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef. But the original recipe required stirring, and let’s face it, there are days when stirring seems like an awfully energetic and time-consuming activity. (Really, it’s the simplest recipe. But I needed a nap.)

My version is just onions, braised slowly in the oven with balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt, pepper, and water—but after hours on low heat, they’re blasted in a hot oven, so all the excess liquid evaporates and they morph into sweet, tart caramelized onions that you never really had to stir or watch in any way. (I did indeed get a nap.)

Be careful, though: For that last little bit, they’re in a very hot oven. Turn your head when you open it, or you’ll get phoenixed.

IMG_3927

Vinegar-Braised Onions (PDF)

My first instinct was to call these Candied Onions, because when they emerge from the oven, they’re sticky and sweet, but the idea of putting candy on a sandwich deterred me. However, they do go with just about anything. Thus far, I’ve eaten these slow-roasted beauties with chicken, in an omelet with goat cheese, on toast, in a sandwich, and with a spoon. I can’t imagine there are many things they won’t improve.

If you have a casserole dish that looks too new, this is what you need to make in it.

TIME: 10 minutes active time
MAKES: 4 large servings, if eaten as a side dish

1 giant yellow onion, peeled, halved, and cut into 1/2” slices
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup water

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.

Arrange the onions in a heavy baking dish. (I found it worked well to keep the onion slices together as I cut them, then shingled the slices in the pan, keeping the individual sections of each slice together.) Drizzle with the olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and pour the vinegar and water over the top.

Cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil, then bake for 2 hours. Remove the foil, stir the onions, and bake another hour or so. Increase the heat to 450 degrees and roast another 10 or 20 minutes, stirring once or twice, until the liquid has evaporated and the onions are dark and sticky. Serve warm.

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Filed under gluten-free, lupus, recipe, vegetables, vegetarian

The Thoughtsorter

IMG_3552

Imagine, if you will, a large, round lampshade with tons of tiny holes in it. Now imagine that there’s a picture in each one of those holes, with a light behind it that projects the image onto a screen, like the little microfiche films you used to look at in public libraries for junior high research papers. With me? Now put the lampshade on your head, and let each one of your thoughts shine out a little hole, so that together, the snapshots narrate all the different things happening in your brain.

The thing on your head is called a thoughtsorter. (I invented it myself.) I use mine when my (good) multitasking skills can’t quite keep up with what I intend to do in a day, or with the things I want to think about. It’s not so fashion-forward, but it’s quite helpful as an organizational tool.

I haven’t needed my thoughtsorter in about three weeks. (Have you noticed? I’ve been gone about that long.) See, I’m working on two Big Projects—things I hope to tell you more about very soon—and it’s pretty much been me, my kitchen, a lot of dishes, and an increasingly dirty computer. I’ve had my proverbial head in the sand, which eliminates the need for said hat. It feels really good not to need all the little holes.

Today, I’ve come up for air, and I’m thinking about my hands. They’ve been white all day. They get this way sometimes (medically, it’s called Raynaud’s Syndrome, and for me it’s part of having lupus), mostly in the fall, when the weather turns. My body’s watching the calendar, it seems, and this year, Seattle’s snapping into late September with alarming punctuality. When they turn white, my fingers remind me of those strange whitish carrots, all wrinkly and not quite as pretty as they might otherwise look.

No one has ever been able to tell me why I have lupus, or how long I’ve actually been affected by it, but it’s clear to me that the side effects became serious when I lived in La Jolla, California, during the fall of 2003. I suppose we all want something to blame for the less desirable things in our lives, and for lupus, part of me always accused this unrealistically sunny, plastic-peopled paradise of making me “sick.” Shortly after I moved away and was diagnosed, La Jolla became the source of all evil.

I’d been married just a few months (in sickness or in health indeed) and had moved there to be the cook for a team of research scientists from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution—one of whom happened to be my husband—who were working in conjunction with oceanographers at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

About a month into our time there, I started noticing funny things. First my back ached, my fingers blanched every time I walked into air-conditioning, and my feet and hands hurt. I attributed it to spending hours cooking every day, and plenty of time grocery shopping, in addition to my normal active lifestyle. Then it was hard to tie my shoes, and hard to open doors. I remember sitting in a Whole Foods parking lot in my rented Ford Focus, deciding whether the fact that I physically couldn’t get the trunk open without using both hands was a good reason to cry.

One day, I went to pick up my coffee cup, and my hand sort of crumpled sideways, like it had lost all the bones. I went to the ER the next day.

The rest, as they say, is history. I have lupus. It’s relatively well managed, if you don’t count random bouts with possible kidney failure. (My kidneys are much happier now, thank you.)

But for whatever reason, I could never really put that time in La Jolla behind me. I was literally afraid of the place. I have a hard time pinpointing exactly what I was afraid of—that things would get worse if I stuck a pinkie toe into southern California? Hardly realistic. That all the emotions and fears surrounding finding oneself being consumed by an autoimmune disease would come flooding out uncontrollably? Maybe that. No one likes public displays of hysteria.

I’ve always known I’d have to go back. You know, back to the wolf’s den.

I planned a trip for last May, just after two of my closest friends moved to the area. Three days before departing, I was told I needed a quick round of heavy IV drugs for that kidney thing, and that I wouldn’t be leaving Seattle. Figures, I thought. I rescheduled my trip for Labor Day. But this time, instead of going with my family, I’d go alone.

Looking back, I think I did expect something of a turbulent, rollercoastery reentry, but it was nothing of the sort. I went down to La Jolla Shores with my friend Michaela, who’d arranged for us to go snorkeling with leopard sharks for my birthday. (Nothing eases the nerves like swimming with sharks, right? “Really, they’re harmless bottom-feeders,” she’d said. She was right.)

So much came back. I remembered driving the Focus, and the weirdness that is SoCal. I retraced my driving route to and from the Scripps research pier. I visited the little sandwich shop I’d loved. (I’d forgotten how ludicrously large they make their sandwiches.) I remembered the women, those falsely curvy, Juicy-clad glitterati that prowl downtown La Jolla, trying to look important, but (I always thought) actually just looking like they need something better to do.

We shopped. We people-watched. We ate cupcakes.

But at no point was I overwhelmed, or even touched, by emotion. It sort of surprised me, to be honest. I thought I’d be a wreck. My time there changed my life, and not necessarily for the better.

I flew back to Seattle that night feeling stunned. For years, I’d put off going back to La Jolla the way people avoid exes, for no reason. There was just no part of me that needed to do any forgiving (or forgetting, for that matter). Quelle bonne surprise.

It did make me wonder, though, how I was able to separate La Jolla from all that happened when I was there, and whether other people in similar situations can do the same thing. Maybe—just maybe—that’s when I invented the thoughtsorter. Maybe I was somehow able to separate all the little things that bothered me about being diagnosed from all the fun stuff in my life, so that my friendships, my relationships, and some of my everyday habits could avoid the inevitable cloud that medical issues can often cast over one’s life. It’s just a theory, but if it’s true, I’d bet there’s a good market for thoughtsorters in the medical devices industry. (Hey, you research types—give me a call, and I’ll send you the specs, for a small fee.)

I don’t actually expect researchers—even the best ones—to find a cure for lupus anytime soon. But finding anything new, even the slightest improvement on previous knowledge, might give hope to someone just being diagnosed, and to me, hope is the goal. I function just fine with lupus because I know, in my heart, that there will be ups and downs, but that overall things will be just fine. One of my lights has always been hope. It kills me to think of people going through those first uncertain stages of diagnosis without it – not knowing whether they’ll ever feel normal again, or go for a run again, or have children, or whether they’ll be okay if in fact it turns out that they can’t do any of those things.

That’s why about month from now, I’m participating in a lupus research fundraiser, called the Mad Hatter Walk and Roll. It’s one of those little walk-a-thon things. (Believe it or not, I’m planning to run it, with the highfalutin’ goal of finishing before the walkers.) Everyone wears funny hats, and eats lots of doughnuts, and for one day, everyone who has lupus struts around feeling like their medical status makes them a bit of a rock star. I can’t wait.

And you know what? I think I have just the hat.

(If you’re in Seattle, come join me! Or donate to my team, lupus minimus, if you’re so inspired. The info is here.)

IMG_3557

Hot Honeyed Carrots

Made with fresh garden carrots, this is more of a concept than an actual recipe. Top and scrub the carrots and place them in a pan large enough to hold them in one layer. Add water to cover, along with a good pinch of red pepper flakes, and bring to a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until all the water has evaporated, partially covering the pan once the water reaches only halfway up the sides of the carrots. When the water is gone, drizzle with honey, sesame oil, and soy sauce, and cook and stir until the sauce has reduced to a glaze, just a minute or two. Serve immediately.

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Filed under garden, gluten-free, lupus, recipe, side dish, vegetables, vegetarian

Why does your garden grow?

Garden Carrots

When we lived on Cape Cod, we had friends with a huge tomato garden. I remember a cantankerous gate, and in the heaviest part of the summer, the vines, which didn’t seem too prone to organization, spiraled up and around each other, racing toward the sunlight in one big viral, vegetal tangle. I remember how when we walked among them, picking and tasting, the strays popped beneath my flipflops.

Toward the end of one summer, these friends decided they needed help eating tomatoes. One Tuesday, they had us over for a tomato-themed happy hour. The idea was to munch and chat and have a beer, but with the help of some good Parmesan cheese, a tub of sea salt, and a dipping bowl of great olive oil, we frittered the whole evening away, eating our body weight in ripe, warm-colored fruits, feeling the beer melt our day away.

From then on, when convenient, we celebrated Tomato Tuesdays. It was the sort of thing that became a tradition well before we had done it long enough for it to deserve “tradition” status, like when you vacation somewhere two years in a row, and it becomes The Mother’s Day Place, or The Memorial Day Place, or whatever, simply because you enjoyed yourself so much. But Tomato Tuesdays ended, for us, when we moved to Seattle.

Truthfully, I don’t miss very much about Cape Cod. I’m not particularly fond of the ocean, or of sandy beaches, or of grey hair or bad hats or bad drivers, but when we moved, I did miss Tomato Tuesdays, almost immediately. But just weeks after we arrived in Seattle, a guy from a couple houses down knocked on our door. He introduced himself—here, I call him The Tomato Neighbor—and foisted two manhandfuls of sunny jewels upon us. At the time, our belongings were caught in a painfully long moving truck fiasco, so these glorious, colorful tomatoes, which required nothing more than the knife and cutting board and table and chairs we’d borrowed from other neighbors, were just the thing. I remember eating them alongside burritos from the freezer section from Trader Joe’s, thinking that even though Tomato Tuesdays couldn’t reinvent themselves in Seattle, we’d most likely find something equally terrific here.

Tomato Line-Up

Summer after summer—this will be our fourth here—the Tomato Neighbor plants his tomato garden. In a space about as big as our living room, with a carefully crafted vine-rigging and watering system, he plants upwards of 20 varieties each year, more than 50 plants in all. Each May, as little fuzzy, weak-leaved starts appear at the farmers markets, he brings home infant Black Krims and Mortgage Lifters, Purple Cherokees and Green Zebras, little children to be fostered and spoiled throughout the summer. As they grow, we tell the histories of the ones we know, like the tomatoes are actually people—what, you hadn’t heard that a guy actually paid of his mortgage selling seeds for his new tomato variety?

What I’ve noticed, over the years, is that our relationship with The Tomato Neighbor ebbs and flows with the tomato season. All winter long, we hardly speak. (It’s not that much of a coincidence, really. We don’t have a lot in common.) But when the days get longer, and the sun starts peeking out a little more, we see each other. He’ll show me the start he’s about to put in the ground, or tell me which new variety he’s testing this year, and I’ll promise, like I did last week, to give him some of my leeks and show him how to clean them. In a way, when he plants his tomato garden, he plants a little community for our neighborhood. As the fruit comes forth, we see each other daily, the Tomato Neighbor and I, and Vicki, and Gail, and whoever else happens by—maybe Susan from across the street, or Kris, or whoever. There are lots of shouts through open windows, and slices to try, and people stop knocking on doors.

The other day, when The Tomato Neighbor popped in to tell me he’s got 44 plants in the ground already, I realized that as much as I love the food that comes out of his garden, it’s not the tomatoes I miss in the winter. It’s the community his tomatoes bring. It’s calling a different neighbor to show her the Greek salad I’ve done with his tomatoes, and explain to her why it would be perfect for her mother’s birthday party. It’s having friends from around the corner, and their two dogs, over to taste the tomatoes, with salt and olive oil, the same way we did on Cape Cod. It’s having a garden of my own, but also knowing that in a way—and I hope not a selfish way—the gardens on my street are all mine, in the same way that my garden belongs to all of them.

So when I went to plant a garden this spring, I started by asking myself a question: What do I want to get out of this square of land, besides food? Not How does my garden grow?, but Why does my garden grow? Okay, so actually, I cheated: I asked you on Facebook, too. You’re good. You said yours give you really dirty fingernails, and healthy dandelions, and an excuse to spend money, and—my favorite—a “forgiving place to remind me that mistakes are how we learn.”

But me? My garden grows because it gives me a sense of community. It feeds my second most immediate family, this little group of people on First Avenue, in a way that’s much more tangible than anything else I do. My garden’s problem—or my problem, really—is that I don’t feel like I have enough to give. I mean, is knocking on someone’s door with four blueberries really an act of kindness? I rarely have enough lettuce for a salad, and beets come out two at a time. I’d be kidding myself if I thought my little city space could produce enough food to feed us (or, ahem, if I thought my limited gardening skills could actually make that much food grow), much less have enough to really share, the way the Tomato Neighbor does. So this year, instead of planting a little of this and a little of that, I decided to plant mostly one thing: carrots. In September, I want to have enough to share with everyone.

Teeny tiny carrot plants

I think carrots are the perfect garden vegetable: You can plant them early, when the digging itch strikes, but you can’t really put them in too late (in Seattle, anyway). In fact, you don’t even have to plant them, if you don’t want to—last year, I just flung the seeds into the patch and walked away, and everything turned out fine, except for the fact that my carrots came up in a sort of semicircular spray of green, like a bad eyeshadow job, instead of in neat little rows. In any case, the seeds morph into waving little green feathers almost immediately. You can thin the little sprouts, to make them grow bigger, but you don’t really have to. They grow below ground, instead of above, so my dog doesn’t eat them. They don’t go bad if you don’t pick them at just the right time, the way tomatoes do. And if, hypothetically, you’ve been known to forget all about them and leave them in the ground for, say, six months too long, they’re quick to forgive you.

I know. You garden people are balking, but you can keep your comments to yourself. I plant. They grow. I’m doing it right enough for me.

(Well, okay. They usually grow. I might have gotten a little bold and planted carrots in late February, but only a few came up. Mistakes are how we learn, right? So last weekend I planted again.)

Anyway. Last weekend, I announced to The Tomato Neighbor that I’d planted enough carrots for everyone, thinking I was doing my share. I’m proud of my carrots before they’ve shown even the smallest sign of success.

“Oh,” he said. “I got a whole bunch of carrot starts to put in, too. I meant to tell you that.”

So. I suspect we’ll have a few carrots around this fall. This little salad is my mental preparation.

Carrot & Hazelnut Salad 2

Carrot and Hazelnut Salad (PDF)

I’m not normally the kind of girl who eats a bowl of carrot salad and calls it lunch. (I make fun of those girls.) Tangled together in a mixing bowl, though, this combination of freshly grated carrots (the pre-shredded kind really won’t do), spunky vinaigrette, and earthy, crunchy hazelnuts makes me think twice about adding a sandwich.

Use good-quality sea salt, vinegar, and oil for this recipe.

TIME: 25 minutes (including toasting nuts)
MAKES: 4 servings

1 cup hazelnuts
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons champagne vinegar
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup hazelnut oil
1 pound carrots, peeled and grated
2 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh parsley

First, toast the hazelnuts: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Roast the nuts on a baking sheet for about 10 minutes, or until the skins begin to darken and peel away from the nuts themselves. Rub the nuts in a textured tea towel to remove the skins, roughly chop, and set aside.

Whisk the mustard, vinegar, and a little salt and pepper together in the bottom of a mixing bowl. Add the oil in a slow, steady stream, whisking until the oil is fully incorporated. Add the carrots, hazelnuts, and herbs, along with additional salt and pepper, if needed, and toss to coat.

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Filed under garden, gluten-free, Lunch, radio, recipe, salad, vegetables, vegetarian

Time change

Black Chickpea and Carrot Salad 3

Time baffles me. My father, an engineer, always said you need three things to conquer a new math concept: milk, cookies, and two hours. The first time he told me that, when I had to really study for a math test once, two hours seemed like an ocean of time. I’m pretty sure I cried before the clock started ticking, scared that my little boat of concentration wouldn’t make it to the other shore. But I’ve just spent two hours – that same increment – trying to sweep the debris off my browser and get to the screen now in front of me, and it hardly seems like I’ve had time to breathe, much less take a drink of milk.

Almost two weeks ago, I had lunch at Picnic, a little “food and wine boutique” near me in Seattle that sells mean European-style sandwiches, great soups, and a variety of creative little deli salads. I was with my oldest Seattle friend (someone I went to college with) and my newest Seattle friend, a woman I’ve only recently started getting to know. In round numbers, I’ve known one for ten years and one for ten weeks. Yet somehow, cuddled around the end of the table together, the difference, and the fact that they were meeting for the first time, didn’t seem to matter. We bantered and relaxed like we’d been having lunch together, the three of us, for years.

We all ordered soup, but before it came, one of Picnic’s owners, Jenny, came out with a little tasting plate of the curried chickpea salad we’d all been eying. “New Dehli salad,” said the sign, which made me laugh right out loud. It was spot-on – you certainly wouldn’t find a bright yellow legume mixture studded with golden raisins in the old-fashioned deli of my grandmother’s childhood.

It was the kind of salad that sits in the middle of the table and beckons, its little carrot arms waving wildly. Me, they say. Pick me. Every time my fork wandered toward the plate, I had a little moment of decision anxiety, a tiny panic over which scoop looked tastiest. (The truth: they were all pretty much equally delicious.) I’ve been meaning to tell you about it this whole time, but it’s taken until today – with a green tea latte, a muffin, and two hours – to get it all down.

My own version came together with a bit of serendipity, as we were pulling out of the driveway on our way to Portland, Oregon last week. Jill had sent me a bag of sexy black chickpeas from Montana. They’d been flirting with me the entire month of February, all pearly and exotic-looking, from behind the pantry door. I also had two pounds of gorgeous carrots from my garden – carrots I’d planted last June, forgotten about in September, remembered in November when they were hibernating under two inches of mulch, fretted over in January, and pulled just that morning – waiting patiently for the just the right use. (Carrots are pretty much the perfect vegetable for my current lifestyle: Can’t harvest today? Wait six months. They won’t mind.)

Quite literally, my husband was buckling our son into the carseat while I sautéed shallots with ginger, and yellowed them with curry. I stirred the mixture into the cooked chickpeas, along with toasted pine nuts for a bit of texture (because I didn’t think I had time to soften the raisins in hot water), fresh chives, lemon juice, and those carrots, all grated up.

“We’re ready,” said my husband. “We need to go.”

“Wait. Just a sec. I have to take a photo.”

He stood in the entryway watching me shovel the salad in, not 30 minutes after breakfast. Time stood completely still for three or four bites. I felt the chickpeas rolling over my tongue, and imagined their black skins cracking opening my mouth, revealing creamy insides really not much different from the interior of a regular chickpea. I felt the chives scrunch between my molars, felt the pine nuts collapse beside them. It was a snack for pressing pause.

“Are you going to take one?”

Right. The photograph.

“Yeah,” I muttered, foggy. “I’ll be right there.”

(And yes, of course regular canned or dried chickpeas work fine for this. I used the same amount you’d find in a can.)

Black Chickpea and Carrot Salad 2

Curried Carrot and Chickpea Salad (PDF)

Based on the “New Dehli” salad at a Seattle food and wine boutique called Picnic, this snacky salad combines chickpeas (regular, or black, if you can find them) and carrots with curry, ginger, chives, lemon, and toasted pine nuts. Either canned or dried chickpeas will work.

TIME: 15 minutes active time
MAKES: 4 servings

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (divided)
1 large shallot, finely chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon coarsely grated fresh ginger
1 teaspoon curry powder
2 cups cooked chickpeas (rinsed and drained, if canned)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 medium carrots, peeled and grated

Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large skillet on medium heat. Add the shallot, season with salt and pepper, and cook and stir until very soft, about 6 to 8 minutes. Add the ginger and curry powder, then the remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil and let bubble for another minute or two. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside to cool.

Combine the chickpeas, chives, pine nuts, lemon juice, and carrots in a mixing bowl. Pour the curry mixture over the top, stir to blend, season to taste, and serve at room temperature.

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Filed under garden, gluten-free, Lunch, salad, side dish, snack, vegetables, vegetarian

The F Word

Hot and Sour Soup and Pike Place Chinese Cuisine

Click here to listen to me talking about hot and sour soup on KUOW.
Recipes are down below.

Hot and sour soup isn’t the prettiest, or even the second-prettiest soup there is. In fact, if I had to curate a list of beautiful soups, it would be miles below pho and chicken noodle, pasta e fagiole and tom yum. Hot and sour soup looks like dirty nothing in a bowl.

At least, that’s what I thought, before I got to know it. I guess it’s a soup like some people, that way – it’s easy to pigeonhole and walk away from, if you don’t know any better.

I grew up “hating” hot and sour soup, which means I’d never tasted it. (I hated a lot of things, including, but not limited to, anything with spice, foreign flavors, or ingredients whose entire preparation I didn’t personally witness from start to finish.) At Chinese restaurants, my family ordered a big bowl to share, and I ordered egg drop soup. The waitress would rattle her cart to our table and hold my lone bowl up accusingly, as if to ask Who ordered the boring soup?

Me. It was always me.

A few weeks ago, I came very close to doing the same thing, because I enjoy the simplicity of egg drop soup, and because it’s what I’ve always ordered. But for whatever reason – perhaps because I wasn’t really paying attention, or maybe because I am now An Adult Who Likes Things – I hopped on the hot and sour bandwagon, along with the rest of the table. And I tasted my new favorite soup for the first time.

I know. That f-word. It’s a bit of a shock to see it on the screen, even. I’m not a big fan of favorites. I go for change, and variety, and different every time. But this soup, people. If I count correctly, I’ve had hot and sour soup nine times in two weeks. Nine times. (Obsess much?)

The thing is, it’s worth obsessing over. Don’t look at it; taste it. Sip a spoonful, and the first thing you’ll notice is the texture – a bit of cornstarch makes it silky, almost satiny. It glosses over the tongue in a way few Western foods can, every drop somehow fatter and smoother. If you’re lucky enough to get a bit of soft, ribbony egg (and were lucky enough, in the first place, to pick a soup whose preparer got the egg to bloom up just right, like in the photo above), it glides across your palate. Then there are the cloud ear mushrooms, which don’t really taste like much, but have a lovely crunch, like some sort of terrestrial seaweed. (They supposedly improve circulation, too.) There are lily buds, with their vegetal, almost artichoke-like flavor. (Bet you didn’t even notice them the first time.) And then . . . then. . . there’s the clean, astringent hot of white pepper, and the brisk, bracing vinegar flavor.

Of course, there are endless variations. I tried rice vinegar and apple cider vinegar, white vinegar, and a mixture of various vinegars. (I think I like white vinegar the best, because its flavor is stronger than rice vinegar but not too fruity.) There’s also whatever else the cook feels like adding – little gifts, like chunks of tofu, or pork, or carrot, or chili. I’d been tasting soups everywhere, trying to figure out, since I’d never been down the hot and sour soup road, what I liked. More tofu? More pork? More hot? More sour?

Then, gazing out the windows at the rain on the Sound at Pike Place Chinese Cuisine one day, slurping the bowl above, I had a BFO: I could probably make hot and sour soup myself. At home.

Hot and sour is, after all, a rather homey thing. Traditionally made with the most humble ingredients – dried staples, small bits of meat  - it’s a soup made with leftovers. They just might not be the leftovers you have in your kitchen.

I scurried around Pike Place Market, collecting ingredients. (You can get everything there.) I made a few traditional versions first, relying on recipes from Grace Young, Mark Bittman, and Susanna Foo, until I learned what combination of flavors I liked.

As it turns out, I’m sort of greedy. I like a healthy combination of tofu and pork – more than one usually finds in restaurant versions of hot and sour soup – and more than anything, I like a soup made with good, homemade stock. I like to tinker with the pepper and vinegar, until I get it just right. And I like to eat my hot and sour soup right when it’s fallen just below scorching, screaming hot – which is to say, immediately.

I also like the version I made using what’s available now at farmers’ markets here in Seattle – Northwest leftovers and pantry staples, if you will, like dried porcini mushrooms, and kale, and carrots.

Only problem now is deciding which one’s my favorite. Time for bowl number ten.

Homemade hot and sour soup

Hot and Sour Soup (PDF)

Northwest Vegetarian Hot and Sour Soup (PDF)

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Filed under chinese, farmer's market, gluten-free, Lunch, pork, radio, recipe, soup, vegetables, vegetarian

How to Defibrillate Dying Kale

Spaghetti with Kale, Lemon, and Garlic 1

It’s not a pretty picture, so you’re not going to see it. But open your own refrigerator, and chances are good you could find the same thing: a few little kale saplings, melting into the produce drawer’s back corner, so long ago forgotten that they must now pretend they don’t exist.

Our refrigerator is only 5 days old. But I bought the kale well before its predecessor was wheeled off to the morgue, and unfortunately, a new refrigerator cannot act as a defibrillator for oldish produce.

Truth: Buying a new appliance is much easier than cleaning out an old one. But I didn’t have the heart to leave the kale behind. It always strikes me as The Thing That Can Be Saved.

Kale, in its market prime, is physically spunky, and stubborn enough that it often refuses to be tucked into whatever space I assign it. Two weeks past its peak, it’s a little less sexy. It sags. But really, I promise you: You don’t need to throw it away.

sauteing kale and garlic for pasta

First, it might be worth mentioning that I’m on a pasta binge. Perhaps it started when I was working on a story about healthy pasta alternatives—quinoa, spelt, whole grain rice, and soba noodles sure do make a gal crave the old fashioned kind—or maybe it’s just this winter thing. In any event, I could eat plain white pasta three meals a day right now. Paired with the insanely peppery olive oil Jim’s aunt schlepped back from Italy for us, and maybe a little Parmesan cheese, spaghetti fits my current definition of the lip-smacking perfect food. (I tell you this with corroboration from my 9-month-old, who keeps imitating me chewing when I eat it.)

So you’ll pardon me, I hope, when I tell you that this kale saver actually seems like the complicated version. But there’s not much to it. You sauté very finely chopped kale in great olive oil, with a little spice, until it’s threatening to crisp up on you. Stir in some garlic, then some cooked spaghetti, Parmesan, and a squeeze of lemon, and sit down.

It’s important, though, that you take a seat away from your computer, and away from any reading materials. You’ll need your full mental capacity (at least, I needed mine) to focus on the little bite-by-bite cross section of spicy, sour, and earthy. And then you’ll need some more kale. And time, perhaps, although I’d be willing to wager this would work with a brand-new bunch.

Spaghetti with Kale, Lemon, and Garlic  3

Simple Spaghetti with Kale, Lemon and Garlic (PDF)

Made with a few sprigs of leftover kale, great olive oil, and a touch of spice, this simple lunch for one is quick and reasonably healthy. Double or quadruple the recipe as needed, piling the extra kale on top at the end.

TIME: 15 minutes
MAKES: 1 lunch

Spaghetti for one (a bundle about the diameter of a dime)
2 tablespoons good extra virgin olive oil
5 sprigs lacinato kale (droopy kale is fine), very finely chopped
Pinch red pepper flakes
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 large garlic clove, finely chopped
Juice of 1 lemon wedge
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

Cook the pasta al dente according to package directions.

When the pasta is almost done, heat the oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Add the kale, red pepper flakes to taste, and season with salt and pepper. Cook and stir for 3 or 4 minutes, until the kale starts to get a bit crisp. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for another minute. Add drained pasta, lemon juice, and Parmesan cheese, and stir to combine. Serve immediately.

Spaghetti with Kale, Lemon, and Garlic  (gone)

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Filed under Lunch, Pasta, recipe, vegetables, vegetarian

The food fairy

***PLEASE NOTE*** The name,”The Food Fairy,” is federally trademarked by North Carolina personal chef Terri McClernon. For more information about her business and services, please visit her site here.

Bean Bright Veg Salad 4

Today, I’m on KUOW talking about how preparing great food ahead of time makes me feel like there’s a food fairy in the fridge. It works like this: I get hungry, I open the door, and boom – there she is, all twinkles and glitter, handing me the perfect mayo-less pasta salad.

Unlike more typical pasta salads, in this one, it’s the vegetables (and a good hit of vinegar) that shine. Crisp corn, juicy cherry tomatoes, and summer’s best green beans compete for attention in each bite. Instead of the usual dairy component, the salad gets its creaminess from white beans—which means it’s also packed with protein.

Oh, how I love the food fairy.

If you listened in, here are the other make-ahead recipes I mentioned:

Quick Bulgur Salad with Corn, Feta, and Basil (PDF)
Sausage and Summer Vegetable Strata (PDF)
Lulu’s Carnivore-Friendly Vegan Banana Pancakes (PDF)
Basil-Champagne Vinaigrette (PDF)

Bean and Bright Vegetable Salad (PDF)
TIME: 20 minutes active time
MAKES: 4 to 6 servings

1 cup orzo or other small pasta
1/4 pound thin green beans, trimmed and chopped into 1/2” pieces
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons finely chopped shallot
1/4 cup champagne wine vinegar
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Kernels from 1 large ear corn
1 (15-ounce) can white or Great Northern beans, drained, or 1 cup dried beans, soaked and cooked
2 cups baby tomatoes, halved or quartered
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley

Cook the orzo for 7 minutes in a large pot of boiling, salted water. Add the green beans, cook 2 more minutes, and drain them both together.

Meanwhile, whisk the mustard, shallot, vinegar, olive oil, and a bit of salt and pepper together in a large mixing bowl. Add the hot pasta and beans as soon as they’ve been drained, then stir in the corn and beans. Let cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally, then fold in the tomatoes and parsley. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and serve. (Salad can be kept in the refrigerator, covered, up to 5 days.)

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Filed under gluten-free, Pasta, radio, recipe, salad, vegetarian

Corn and bulgur

Bulgur salad with corn, basil, and feta 1

It’s not a conversation I’ll ever be able to live down, so I might as well tell you about it. It went like this, a few Junes ago, when we lived on Cape Cod, where there is no corn in June:

JIM: Wow! Corn on the cob!? Really?
JESS: Yup! Doesn’t it look great?
JIM: Where did you get corn this time of year?
JESS: (Looking sideways to see where her smart husband went.) The store.
JIM: No. I mean what country. Where did it come from?
JESS: Ohhh. California, I think.

There are a number of problems with this conversation: First, California is technically not a country. Second, corn usually tastes way better when purchased out of the back of a truck. Third, I was buying corn in June. Guilty. It’s just one of those things. Some people can’t stop themselves from buying Chilean cherries in January. I always buy corn before I should.

It’s become a bit of a joke between us. Anytime I bring something seasonal home – fat, drippy apricots, or heirloom tomatoes, or fava beans, say – Jim asks where it came from, and I tell him I got it at the store, even if I’ve just come straight from the farmers’ market. It’s our way of reminding ourselves that we can all be idiots, sometimes. We have a good laugh.

Last week, I spied soft, creamy cornsilk poking out from behind the bell pepper display, and couldn’t resist. At eight for $5, it wasn’t exactly cheap high-season corn, but I figured two ears were better than none in terms of satisfying my early-season craving, and better than buying a whole bushel, in terms of food miles. Into the cart they went, without a plan.

Then came the bulgur binge.

Last year was the summer of quinoa. We piled beans and avocado and tomatoes and corn atop big bowls of the stuff, or mixed it with vinaigrettes of all types, along with myriad summer vegetables, making glistening summer salads we could scoop in at all hours of the day. This year, though, I’ve decided my grain of choice is bulgur.

Bulgur has the unluckiest of grain names. Quinoa may be hard to pronounce, and even harder to spell, but it’s saved by its q; I’d love it on the basis of its Scrabble potential alone. Being easy to cook and delicious to eat seals the deal.

But bulgur. In a bag, it doesn’t look like much more than squirrel food, and what’s sexy about a food that rhymes with vulgar?

Lots, I think. Great nutty flavor, for one. And it’s cheap; I buy it in the bulk section of my local supermarket. It falls into the whole grain category, which means you can preen your feathers in nutritional self-congratulation while you’re standing in line at the check-out counter. Bulgur also bridges the gap between crunchy and yielding between the teeth, and accepts almost any flavor, like that rare woman who looks good in absolutely any color. (If I think about it too long that way, I get a little jealous, but I do love a food with flexibility.)

Recently, I’ve learned that bulgur can also stalk a person as well as any convicted sex offender. It’s been following me all spring, in fact. A couple weeks ago, my cousin Julia sent me a video of the tabbouleh dance:

I don’t really care if you think it’s funny (or not), or completely inappropriate (or not). It’s become clear to me that no one I forward it to seems to laugh as hard as I do. Which is fine. I never did have a normal sense of humor. The point – besides the fact that from now on, I will think of chopping a shoplifter’s hand off when I hack the stems off a bunch of parsley – is that the song is now deeply enough engraved in my brain that I’m singing songs to my son about changing his diapers in the same tune. Yes, the tabbouleh song has entered my nursery rhyme repertoire. And my husbands get-a-beer-out-of-the-fridge dancing soundtrack. And, it turns out, my kitchen psyche.

This video made me realize I’ve never actually made tabbouleh, that classic middle eastern mix of bulgur (which is cracked wheat, cooked by simply soaking it in hot water), parsley, tomatoes, and whatever else one likes to use. I wondered if I was missing something.

The day after Julia sent me the video, my friend Jon brought over a most delicious tabbouleh – one with the usual crunchy bulgur, parsley, and some mint, I believe, but instead of tomatoes, he’d folded in gigantic white beans. I took a modest portion at dinner, then focused on raving over the rest of our meal, partly because it very much deserved raving, and partly because I wanted to distract the others so there would be more tabbouleh leftover for me to snack on at midnight. It worked.

Then my mom got to talking tabbouleh. She even sent me photos. (See? Stalker.) This weekend, when I needed a side dish for a barbecue with friends, I put some water on to boil.

My bulgur salad was even faster to make than I suspected it might be. I soaked the grains, then sawed the kernels off a couple corn cobs, chopped some herbs, and crumbled feta. Into a bowl it all went. My husband grumbled something about salad for squirrels, and after being indoctrinated by the video, he insisted I couldn’t in good conscience call it tabbouleh since there aren’t tomatoes in it. A spoonful later, he was as smitten as I was. I won’t call it tabbouleh, but I will call it delicious.

Tomorrow, I’m going to make another version, this time with tomatoes and little chunks of mozzerella cheese, and perhaps balsamic vinegar instead of the lemon juice I used here. Maybe the next day, I’ll make another bulgur salad, with the fresh chickpeas coming into markets in Seattle. I see a creamy bulgur side dish in my future, too, and muffins studded with bulgur and fresh raspberries.

And oh, yes. Someday, there will be fresh local corn, and I’ll make this one again.

Bulgur salad with corn, basil, and feta 3

Quick Bulgur Salad with Corn, Feta, and Basil (PDF)

Though it satisfies like a pasta salad, bulgur salad requires a lot less attention (and less time near a hot stove, when summer weather hits). It’s also cheap, a bit healthier, and seems to get tastier after a day or two in the fridge.

To make the bulgur, you simply dump it into in a mixing bowl, add hot water, and let it soak for half an hour.

TIME: 30 minutes
MAKES: 4 to 6 servings

1 cup bulgur
1 cup boiling water
Kernels from 2 ears of corn
1/2 cup finely chopped parsley
1/2 cup finely chopped basil
3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/4 cup olive oil
Juice from 1 large lemon
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Place the bulgur in a small mixing bowl. Add boiling water, stir, and let sit 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, blend corn, herbs, feta, olive oil, and lemon juice in a medium bowl. Add bulgur, season with salt and pepper, and serve at room temperature.

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Filed under grains, Lunch, recipe, salad, vegetables, vegetarian

Like we did for pie

Pulled Pork and White Bean Chili eaten

My sister called me from Colorado this weekend, in the midst of cooking for the UW ski team after a day’s races. She was with my brother, who was there coaching Stanford’s team. (Sometimes it’s convenient, having a family full of ski racers.) On the stove: a sweet potato version of the squash- and black bean-stuffed peppers we’d made together once.

There, in the midst of making dinner, she realized she wasn’t sure what to do with the potato.

“Do I just bake it?” she asked.

Allison,” I admonished. “You can’t call me from Nationals with a question about potatoes. How’d it go?”

She gave me the quick, half-hearted version of the day’s race, then continued on her quest. “So I bake them. Then do I just scrape the stuff out, like we did for pie?”

Like we did for pie.

Those were the five words that got me: Like we did for pie. Those words, they made me realize that of all the things I might have expected, when Allison moved to Seattle, the only thing I really wanted was to have a sister again. I never harbored any real plans for teaching her to cook stuffed peppers, or sweet potato pie, or anything, for that matter. I just wanted to see her more, and take life’s juicy parts in together, in smaller sips—less How’s life, I haven’t talked to you in ages? More Hey, is that my sweatshirt?

It’s not like we ever stopped being sisters. But when you live smack in the middle of the underarm fat on the curled bicep of Cape Cod, and your kid sister lives in Idaho, it’s not exactly easy to bond on a regular basis. With my brother, distance never seemed to be an issue—we grew up in the same house, at the same time, close enough in age to suffer the mental and physical battles that bind siblings together for life.

But Al and I never had time to beat each other up. Visits were usually exciting, but hurried, sometimes stilted, and always, always too short. It’s hard to have time to wrestle with someone who lives across the country, much less invite her over for dinner.

Since September, though, when Allison moved here, we’ve been doing better. Sunday nights, she shows up with dirty laundry, chases the dog around the couch in circles, and pillages my closet for clothing that no longer fits. I love it all.

Conveniently enough for me, it’s not considered polite to pick physical fights with your pregnant sister, the way she might with my brother. So instead of wrestling, we cook—and increasingly, that means cooking together automatically, as opposed to me cooking, with her waiting, deer in headlights, for me to assign her a specific task. Now, she knows where the measuring cups are. She knows how to cut an avocado. She knows where we keep the good cloth napkins, and the hot sauce, and the extra sparkling water. And, it turns out, she knows how homemade sweet potato pie is born, which tickles me pink.

Of course, I should have seen this coming—should have seen that in my house, every Sunday at the stove means roasting one’s first chicken, and learning what goes into a fruit crisp, and learning to like real summer tomatoes. But honestly, I wasn’t marinating her in kitchen experience on purpose.

What I wanted, and what I now realize I’m getting, in part because we’re spending time eating together, is a sister who’s growing into a friend. We’re separated by twelve years, and are living quite different lives, with different values, and priorities, and schedules. But when someone that looks a lot like you walks through your front door with a hug every week, things change. We’ve gone from being related to relating.

Outside the kitchen, it’s fantastic. And the food knowledge goes both ways: Allison introduced me to the Swimming Rama stir-fry at Thai Tom, and to a new place for bubble tea, and someday, I will make it to University Teriyaki, just because she loves it.

But last night, when Allison came home after Nationals, and we started Sunday night dinners again after the two-month hiatus her ski season necessitated, I felt paralyzed. Getting confirmation that she’s watching, and listening, and learning every time she comes over freaked me right out. Teaching someone how to cook a specific dish is one thing, if you know they’re paying attention, but this whole subtle absorption thing is a bit disconcerting. What if the woman never learns to cut an onion properly? I know how to do it, and I can do it if I need to, but in practice, I’m usually sort of an onion mangler. It just wouldn’t do if she thought that was the right way.

It comes down to this: What if I don’t teach my sister the right things?

I’ve decided that would be okay. I’ve decided that if she’s learning how to stir-fry, she’s also learning that not every stir-fry tastes the same, and that some may, in fact, taste really bad. She’s along for the ride when I stuff peppers, and also when I tear their soft flesh accidentally, or burn the cheese on top. She’s realizing that the best part of a well-roasted chicken is a super crisp skin, eaten right off the bird right when it comes out of the oven, even if that means putting a bird on the dinner table stark naked. She’ll eventually find out that I hate eggplant, and that I’m not very good at making pizza, and that I’m actually quite lazy when it comes to washing vegetables. She’ll also be here for nights, like last night, when dinner means taking a vat of the world’s easiest homemade chili out of the freezer, simmering it on the stove for an hour for good measure, and not really cooking at all.

With any luck, Allison will learn that enjoying spending time in the kitchen means writing her own definition of what it means to cook, and what it means to eat well, rather than adopting mine or anyone else’s.

Six-Can Vegetarian Chili 3

Last week, I cooked dinner for about 25 people with a friend who also happens to be in her third trimester of pregnancy. My assignment was chili—two giant pots of it. I made one simple vegetarian version (pictured just above), and a more time-consuming one, made with pulled pork, white beans, and green chilies (pictured at the top of the post, and farther below). We split and froze the leftovers, presumably intending to save them for when neither of us has the energy to cook. Our portion probably won’t last.

Here are both recipes; choose what suits you best.

Six-Can Vegetarian Chili (PDF)

It doesn’t sound as sexy as a meal made entirely from raw ingredients, but throwing together a hearty, healthy, vegetable-studded chili in well under half an hour appeals to me. In this version, loosely based on the beef chili my mother-in-law makes, I especially love that I can dump all the canned ingredients in without any fuss—which usually means that even on a tired day, I have the energy to make homemade cornbread while the chili simmers. Serve as is, or top with shredded cheese and a dollop of sour cream.

This recipe can be easily doubled or tripled—you’ll just have to cook the vegetables a little longer before adding the beans.

If you like a spicier, smoky chili, consider adding a finely chopped chipotle pepper or two, from a can of chipotles en adobo.

TIME: 25 minutes prep
MAKES: 4 to 6 servings

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon salt
2 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 (6-ounce) package sliced crimini mushrooms
1 (15-ounce) can kidney beans
1 (15-ounce) can black beans
1 (15-ounce) can pinto beans
1 (28-ounce) can tomato sauce
1 (15-ounce) can corn
1 (7-ounce) can fire-roasted, chopped green chilies
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

Heat a large, heavy-bottomed soup pot over medium heat. Add the olive oil, then the onion, and cook for 5 minutes, or until the onion begins to soften. Add the chili powder, oregano, salt, and garlic, and cook and stir for a few minutes, until the spices become fragrant. Add the mushrooms, stir to blend, and cook, covered, until the mushrooms give up their water, about 10 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients, stir, and simmer for an hour or two, stirring occasionally. Season to taste and serve hot.

Leftover chili can be cooled and frozen, in an airtight container, for 3 months or so.

Pulled Pork and White Bean Chili side

Pulled Pork and White Bean Chili (PDF)

I don’t suppose I get extra credit for writing a recipe that’s double slow-cooked, but that’s just what this is: pork shoulder, braised to fallingapart in spicy green salsa, then pulled and stirred into plump white beans that have been simmered for hours with the braising liquid, tomatoes, cumin, chilies, and garlic. The result—a relatively easy, deeply flavorful (but not blow-your-mind spicy) chili spiked with shreds of tender pork—is enough for a crowd. Any leftover chili can be cooled, then frozen in airtight containers up to 6 months.

This recipe takes some planning—please read it carefully before beginning. And don’t be afraid to make it ahead of time; the flavors will only improve with a day (or three) in the refrigerator. I made the pork after an early dinner one night, cooked the beans overnight, and simmered the finished chili just before dinner the next day.

TIME: 1 hour active time, plus plenty of slow cooking
MAKES: 10 servings

For the pork:
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 (roughly 3-pound) boneless pork shoulder, trimmed of excess fat
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 (16-ounce) jars green salsa*

For the beans:
2 pounds dried cannellini or great northern beans (or a combination of the two)
2 (28-ounce) cans chopped tomatoes
3 (7-ounce) cans fire-roasted chopped green chilies
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 tablespoons ground cumin
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon dried oregano
5 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 teaspoons salt
4 cups chicken stock

For serving:
Chopped cilantro
Chopped avocado
Crumbled cotija or shredded Monterey Jack cheese

*Be sure to taste your green salsa before using it—if you don’t like it in the jar, you probably won’t like it in the chili. I like using El Paso or Trader Joe’s version, although the latter is a bit salty, so watch your seasoning if you use it. Of course, you could use any kind or color salsa (or a mixture), as long as you avoid anything fruity.

First, braise the pork: Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Heat a large, ovenproof Dutch oven or casserole dish over medium heat. Add the oil. Season the pork on all sides with salt and pepper, then brown on all sides (about 5 minutes per side, undisturbed). Transfer the pork to a plate, add the onion, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes, or until the onion is soft. Return the pork to the pot, add the salsa, and add water, if necessary, until the liquid comes halfway up the side of the pork. Bring the liquid to a bare simmer, cover the pot, and braise in the oven for 2 to 2 1/2 hours, turning the pork halfway through cooking—the pork is done when it falls apart when you try to pick it up with tongs. Transfer the pork to a plate, and reserve the braising liquid for cooking the beans. When the pork is cool enough to handle, chop or pull it into small pieces (discarding any fat), and refrigerate it overnight.

While the pork is cooking, start the beans: Place the beans in a large pot and add water to cover by 3 or 4 inches. Bring to a boil, remove from the heat, cover, and set aside for an hour. Drain the beans, and transfer to a large slow cooker, along with the tomatoes and chilies.

When the pork is done, heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add the oil, then the onion, and cook, stirring, until the onion is soft, about 10 minutes. Add the spices (next five ingredients), and cook and stir for 5 minutes. Add one cup of the chicken stock, bring to a simmer, and cook for a minute or two, scraping any spices off the bottom of the pan. Pour the onion mixture over the beans in the slow cooker, add the reserved braising liquid, stir, and cook on low heat for 10 hours, undisturbed.

Before serving, combine the beans and the chopped pork in a (probably very large) pot, or two smaller pots. Add the remaining chicken stock, and simmer for half an hour or so. Serve hot, garnished with chopped cilantro, avocado, and cheese.

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Filed under gluten-free, leftovers, Lunch, pork, recipe, Seattle, soup, vegetables, vegetarian

Laughing matter

Sweet Potato Beet Latkes 1

Jim and I bundled up to walk around in the snow last week, to deliver holiday gifts to a few neighbors. I zipped up my thigh-length down jacket. This coat—as opposed to the shorter one, whose zipper I split a couple weeks ago—goes over the new belly. (The wavy weave of the baffles makes the zipper do a little zigzag up my midsection, mind you, but it still zips.) I bent down to lace up those big warm boots, and what with the strain on the front of the jacket, I couldn’t quite reach the laces well enough to give them the tug they require. My husband actually laced up my shoes for me.

I’m changing, these days. I don’t wear pants with real zippers. I’m becoming more patient, without meaning to at all. All that elementary school Stop! Drop! And Roll! rehearsal is finally being put to good use; now I have to sort of barrel-roll out of bed, because yanking myself up sit-up style is no longer an option. My hair’s growing gangbusters. I even burp more, and it never seems as funny to other people as it seems to me. And oh, yes: I’ve almost stopped stressing completely. Goodness knows I didn’t expect that to happen.

But there’s one single thing, in these most recent weeks of pregnancy, one change that’s surprised me more than all the others.

It’s my laugh. It’s different.

It’s always been a wheezy, open-throated sort of thing, a laugh inherited from my father that starts loud but looses momentum as soon as it’s begun. It often entailed an unusually loud squeak or honk right there at the end—a sound just goosey enough to draw stares, but not so interesting or ungraceful that the laugh itself becomes the subject of more chuckling. And oh, jeez, giggling’s always been out. I couldn’t giggle right if my life depended on it. Yes, there was always just the shout, then the silent part, then maybe that little hee-haw, with the noise always seeming to come out when I was actually inhaling.

Lately, though, it’s been different. I must have more matter, down deep in the belly where laughs ring best, because all the sound waves are bouncing around in a very new way. My laugh isn’t broken up into separate acts anymore. It’s become a continuous ripple of sound, each little segment (what are the individual sounds in a laugh called, anyway?) neatly partitioned and identical to the next. It’s so textbook. Sometimes I wonder if it’s really mine.

The thing is, I’m suddenly enjoying laughing a lot more. It’s not that I ever disliked it, but now, I realize, it hasn’t always been comfortable to laugh. I’m generally a happy enough person, but I’ve never laughed as much or as long as most people. I liked being happy, but I never loved to laugh, Mary Poppins-style. Now, though, it comes more easily.

This weekend, the snow came for real, and we laughed even more. We decided to button up our lives for the weekend, just sit tight in our little neighborhood while the rest of the world continued to function (or not function, in Seattle’s case). And oh, goodness, it was fun.

Friday, we made the meatballs on the cover of the January issue of Gourmet—it started as sort of an apology, because I’d hated the previous issue so much—and homemade fettuccine, to go with them. Frank kneaded the pasta (I have no qualms about making dinner guests work for their food), and Michelle kept stealing his meatballs, and somehow we all seemed to forget the things that make life hard sometimes. We laughed at how much we all ate, and sat in front of our fireplace’s first real fire, and all was well and wintry.

Saturday, there was more snow. I laughed when I tried to fit into my ski pants, and again when I tried to figure out how to get Jim’s to stay on. We tromped around the neighborhood in big boots, and laughed at our dog, trying to make friends with her little doggie boots. Then we read, and made a tart for the neighborhood party that night, and latkes for Sunday, when we’d planned to have ten people for a big Hanukkah shindig.

Sweet Potato Beet Latkes frying

Then Sunday, it snowed more. Two by two, our dinner guests canceled—rightly so, for weather, or ill-equipped cars, or canceled airline flights—until we’d been whittled down to just me, and Jim, and the dog and cat, and enough latkes to feed the Maccabees. We laughed at the fact that we have a refrigerator filled to the brim with food, and no one to feed before we leave for the east coast tomorrow.

But two people is enough to light the menorah, so we ate latkes, and more mushroom tart, and celebrated, just the two of us. Jim put on the pajama pants Hanukkah Harry brought him—the ones with martinis on them—and did a little celebration dance, and pulled a muscle. We laughed at that, too.

Truth is, that’s what I like about Hanukkah: It celebrates the miracle of light, but it’s never just the light that lasts. There’s always something to be thankful for. This year, it’s especially easy.

There’s the way the snow brings out the best in the entire neighborhood. There’s our good health, mine and Jim’s and little someone’s. There’s a sheet pan with latkes that were supposed to last only one night, but will, without a doubt, last at least eight. There’s the airplane that will take us back east, weather willing, for 12 days, to share the holidays with friends and family and rescue us, thank god, from having to eat all those latkes ourselves.

And now, there’s the fact that my very own laugh seems to have made me happier. Now that’s a miracle. I don’t know how long it will last, but I’m glad it’s here.

Happy holidays.

Sweet Potato Beet Latkes 2

Sweet Potato-Beet Latkes for a Crowd (PDF)

In this colorful version of traditional Hanukkah latkes, the way the beets caramelize in the oil makes their naturally sweet flavor come bursting through. Shredding the potatoes and beets by hand gives the latkes a more genuine texture, but if you’re like me, one glance at that bag of tots, and you’ll head straight for your food processor’s shredding disk. It doesn’t hurt—with potato latkes, the way you cut them affects the way the starch comes out of the root, which affects the texture of the latke, but not so with beets and sweet potatoes, which are far less starchy.

Latkes can be made a day ahead, drained on paper towels, then refrigerated overnight. Reheat them for 5 to 10 minutes in a 400-degree oven, until sizzling hot. Serve with applesauce or sour cream.

TIME: 1 hour 30 minutes total
MAKES: 10 servings (about 40 latkes)

3 pound sweets potatoes, peeled
1 pound beets, peeled
1 large onion, thinly sliced and then chopped
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
6 eggs, whisked to blend
2 teaspoons salt
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
Vegetable oil, for frying

Using a food processor or a box grater, shred the sweet potatoes and beets. Transfer them to a giant mixing bowl, along with the onions and flour. Whisk the eggs, salt, and about 1/2 teaspoon pepper in a small bowl, add to the vegetables, and mix until thoroughly blended. (I found my hands worked best.)

Heat a large, heavy frying pan over medium heat. Add oil until it comes about 1/2” up the sides of the pan. When a bit of the potato mixture dropped into the oil sizzles madly, it’s ready. Drop the mixture by 1/4 cupfuls into the oil, and fry 4 to 6 minutes per side, or until golden brown on both sides. (If the latkes seem to fall apart when you flip them, be patient; they’re not done yet.) Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to drain briefly. Taste the first batch, adding additional salt and pepper to the potato mixture, if needed, then continue frying in small batches, adjusting the heat and adding more oil as necessary. Serve the latkes hot, just as they come out of the pan, or keep drained latkes warm on a foil-covered baking sheet in a 300-degree oven.

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Filed under appetizers, recipe, vegetables, vegetarian

For all you pumpkin carvers

My sis came over to carve pumpkins last night.

I heard a few gasps, telling my friends. Tonight? As in, Who carves pumpkins three days before Halloween? Two days is apparently the socially acceptable limit.

Which means I know what recipe you’ll need tonight.

Oh, come on. It isn’t that hard. You just slice the top off your pumpkin, then instead of staring at the thing, willing it to infuse you with instant artistic talent and creativity, you stick a hand in – sleeves rolled up, please – and gently mine the slinky pumpkin shreds for all the slimy seeds. Three big pumpkins’ worth should give you a bit more than three cups of seeds. A good soak in warm, salty water cleans them of any extra orange goo, and after a quick blot, they’re ready for the oven.

See? You don’t need to throw them away.

Salty Pie-Spiced Pumpkin Seeds (PDF)

Since the seed haul from every pumpkin is different, you might have to play with the ingredients a bit here – I scraped my seeds from 3 large pumpkins, being diligent with the first two and a bit lazy with the last. But play you should. I’ve added my favorite pumpkin pie ingredients (maple syrup, cinnamon, ginger, and cardamom), but a few pinches of clove, nutmeg, or allspice certainly wouldn’t hurt.

TIME: 10 minutes prep (not including seed excavation)
MAKES: 3 1/2 cups roasted pumpkin seeds

3 1/2 cups raw fresh pumpkin seeds
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt, and more for sprinkling
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 tablespoon packed brown sugar
1 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom

Place the seeds in a bowl with 1 tablespoon of the salt and add hot water to cover. Let sit for 4 hours (or overnight), until the seeds are puffy. Scoop the seeds off the top of the water, avoiding any leftover pumpkin bits, and transfer them to a large tea towel. Use another towel to pat them mostly dry – they’ll still be a bit slimy, but do what you can.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees; line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

Transfer the seeds to a large mixing bowl, and stir in the olive oil and maple syrup. Blend the remaining ingredients, plus the remaining teaspoon salt, in a small bowl, and sprinkle the mixture over the seeds as you stir them. Stir until the sugar has dissolved, then spread the seeds on the baking sheets in a thin layer.

Bake for about 25 minutes, rotating sheets and stirring seeds once or twice, or until browned and crisp. Remove seeds from the oven, sprinkle immediately with additional salt, and let cool on baking sheets. Break seeds apart and enjoy, alone or on salads. Store cooled seeds in an airtight container.

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Filed under gluten-free, recipe, side dish, snack, vegetarian