Category Archives: husband

What We Don’t Eat


It’s always been hard to judge Bromley’s misery properly, because she’s been a miserable, hateful sort of creature since the beginning. She’s almost never affectionate, and pouts constantly, and whines if she smells food but doesn’t get to eat it (which, in my line of work, happens often). She hates rain and children and men with beards, and feet without shoes on them, and people touching her feet, or her head. She’s the cranky neighbor and the crazy lady on the corner and the mean librarian, all rolled into an aging, stinky, always-hungry beast. As we talked about putting her down, my husband and I stared guiltily at each other, each thinking our own version of the times we’d wished aloud that she’d just hurry up and die already, so we didn’t have to clean up the remnants of the individually-packaged kids’ juice boxes she’d opened with her big maw and strewn across the living room rug, or wonder how she’d gotten to the shoulder-height bag of cat food. Thinking about how different she was from the dog we thought we were getting, almost 13 years ago.

Bromley comes from good eaters. When we arrived to pick her up for the very first time, her mother was counter surfing. We should have known then.

“SYRI,” bellowed Syringa’s owner, before Siri became a terrible name for a dog. The red bell pepper Syri had claimed from the cutting board dropped to the floor. Innocent eyes begged forgiveness.


From the moment we got Bromley home, she was the same kind of scavenger, ripping open entire bags of sugar, stealing donuts off the counter, sneaking bites of steak directly from a hot grill, and generally failing to understand that the kitchen counters weren’t dog domain. She learned to stand in the center of the kitchen and not move, ever, interrupting the so-called kitchen triangle so effectively that we could never get from the refrigerator to the stove or the stove to the sink without running into her unmoving bulk. When we scolded her, she looked up at us with what we soon came to call “filet eyes.” She knew she was beautiful from a very young age, which didn’t help.

Outside the kitchen, she was cold and loveless. She refused to be petted. She hated being touched. She generally hated other dogs, too. No matter how much time and money we spent training her, she only paid attention to us if we had food in hand or if she was seated on some sort of couch. For years, we joked about giving her away.


But about two months ago, our big Rhodesian Ridgeback plum stopped eating. We’d taken her in to have her various old lady lumps inspected, but until then, while she was partially deaf and blind and starting to lose her barking voice, there hadn’t been anything actually wrong with her. Not eating seemed like a giant red flag.

That same week, she fell up the stairs. She was ambling up them after eating her breakfast in the laundry room downstairs, and her back paws slipped out behind her on the polished wood, just a stair or two from the top. I heard a yelp and a thunk, as all 85 pounds of her hit the floor, and ran to find her stuck, chest and front paws prostrate on the top landing, with the back paws pads-up behind her. I had to lift up her backside so she could gain enough traction to finish the job. She was very embarrassed.

“I’d say 90 percent of our clients let their dogs live too long,” said the admin at Bromley’s vet, when I called to ask how one knows when it’s time to put her dog down. “We see a lot of dogs that suffer for way too long. And not eating is generally not a good sign.”

I dropped my phone, collapsed into the bed beside my snoring hound, and sobbed into her fur until she wiggled away, grossed out by my storm of affection. That afternoon, I brought her in for a check-up, but again, there wasn’t a single definable something wrong. The vet insisted it was our choice, but made sad little nods and pursed her lips a lot.

And so we went into discussions, round and around, trying to decide whether it’s better to wait until a dog shows definite signs of the end-of-life kind of aging before putting her out of her misery, or to have her anesthetized before anything tragic happens, and save her the pain. I bought her lovely hunks of beef leg bones to chew and thought about what we’d do, if we gave her a day of her favorite things before it was all over. We’d take her to the beach, of course. I started planning a steak dinner goodbye party in my head.

Because she’s the dog we got, we have loved her. And because we were heading out of town, and because a few days after seeing the vet she simply started eating again, we didn’t put her down.

Instead, we gave Bromley to my husband’s parents for two weeks, and left for our spring break road trip, hoping she’d be there when we returned, and that no one else would have to do what we hadn’t been ready to do ourselves. And the first day they had her, they wound up in the emergency room.

It was an abscess in her foot that had clearly been there for a long time, said the ER vet, and, later, our own vet. Weeks, maybe, or longer. It was likely the sign of bone cancer or a deep bone infection, they thought, but just in case, they’d treat it like a random foot infection. They cleaned it and drained it, and put in stitches, which fell out as the wound worsened, and put in staples, which fell out also, and put in more staples. My in-laws shepherded her through multiple rounds of pain medications and antibiotics, and Bromley became famous with all the vet techs. When we returned, my in-laws had had the patient in their home for two full weeks. They’d covered their rugs with puppy training pads to prevent the blood from Bromley’s wound from staining everything. The injured leg was wrapped in a big purple bandage more appropriate for a 12-year-old girl than a 12-year-old dog.

And when we came home, Bromley seemed upbeat. She was eating normally. She seemed happy to see us, even. We took her in to get her staples out, three weeks after the ER visit, and the vet leveled us with her steady, sweet gaze.

“There is a chance that it could just be a tissue infection,” she said defensively. “But honestly, I’d say I’m 99 percent certain it’s either a cancer or a deeper bone infection.” She recommended an X-ray, which would tell us which it was. The cancer could theoretically be treated with amputation, and a bone infection would require a month or so of IV antibiotics.

Jim and I looked at each other. We knew we couldn’t amputate one back leg of a dog who could no longer reliably stand on two. And since every vet visit left her shaking and bereft, sending her to a dog hospital for a month would be devastating to her. We told the vet we didn’t need the X-ray and left, chewing on her warning that sometimes, bone cancers can take over in a matter of weeks.


At home, we spoiled her rotten. I bought fat, fresh spot prawns for grilling, and we ate them, but saved all the shells for her dinner bowl. I let her eat corn straight off the cob, in little bites. I fed her the crusts from Graham’s lunchtime sandwiches. We committed to buying canned dog food, which is outrageously expensive, and smells not unlike excellent pâté.

A few days later, my husband left on a business trip. I took Bromley in for her final foot check-up, and the vet declared it healed—healed better, in fact, than she had thought it might. Bromley wove her bumpy body between my legs as well as she could, like a toddler burying her head in her mother’s legs to hide. It was as if faced with her final moments, she’d decided she did actually have some love to share. As I was leaving, I suddenly decided I should ask to have the foot X-rayed. Off went Bromley, shaking terribly, with the perennially peppy vet, who seemed to pity me because I was about to learn the method nature had chosen for my dog’s execution.

But the vet came back with a funny look on her face.

“I’m happy to tell you that I think I was wrong,” she said. “I can’t find anything. Her foot looks completely normal.”

“Normal?” I asked, surprised and almost crestfallen. “Let me see.”

I couldn’t believe that there could still be nothing wrong, but as far as my amateur eyes could see, the dog’s injured paw looked the same as the normal paw, which the vet had X-rayed for reference. How many lives does this dog have? I thought to myself.

Bromley has never been easy to love, so with the good news came relief, but also an enormous wave of shame. I know my job is to love this animal as long as she lives, but part of me hoped—honestly, guiltily hoped—that something was finally really wrong with her.

And somehow, Bromley knew. When we got home, she became strangely sweet. She started following me around the house, like she had something interesting to say but kept forgetting. She sat next to me if I was sitting on the floor—close enough that I could pet her, which wasn’t something she let us (or anyone else) do regularly. She didn’t stop drooling or snoring or peeing in the wrong places at the wrong times, but instead of the mean, reclusive cat we’d likened her to her whole life, she finally became a dog.


In return, we’ve started treating her like one. We’ve started petting her, because finally, she’ll let us. Last weekend, when Graham passed out in the middle of the living room floor, she took a nap next to him. And I actually cuddled with her. It took her five whole minutes to realize something unusual was happening and she stomped away.

And in the kitchen, we’ve simply kept spoiling her, because if a large dog can live almost 13 years eating all the human food dogs are supposed to avoid, a few more scraps on top of her pâté certainly won’t kill her.


Last night, we had spot prawns again, heaping piles of messy garlic- and chili-studded creatures on a platter for our own dinner. We sucked the sweet meat out of their shells, and heaped the tails and legs into a big metal bowl, which we passed on to Bromley on the back porch. She looked up at us in lucky disbelief, as if wondering whether perhaps they might be poisoned. We nodded and pushed the bowl closer. My husband and I hugged each other, somehow deciding, after 12-plus years, that we’d simply love Bromley the way she wanted to be loved. Because sometimes the sweetest thing you make isn’t what you eat, but what you don’t.


Spot Prawns with Garlic, Chilies, and Lemon

If you’re really going to do it right, eating spot prawns should be done with an apron on. That way, you can snap the tails off the creatures right as they come off the grill, slurp the juices off their legs (and out of their heads, if you’re so inclined), peel the shells off before dredging the tender, sweet meat in any lemony butter that remains on the plate, then wipe your hands on your front with reckless abandon.

In a pinch, whole fresh shrimp are a good substitute, but nothing beats the sweetness of spot prawns from the Pacific Northwest.

Serves 2 to 4.

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter

3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 teaspoon dried red chili flakes (or to taste)

1 medium lemon

1 pound fresh spot prawns

Preheat a gas or charcoal grill over medium-high heat (about 425 degrees F).

In a small saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. When the butter has melted completely, stir in the garlic and chili flakes. Zest the lemon and add that to the mixture, then slice what remains of the lemon into wedges and set aside.

Put the spot prawns in a large bowl and drizzle the butter mixture over the shellfish. Using your hands, scrape the leg side of the prawns against the bottom of the bowl, so each creature gathers up as much garlic as possible.

Grill the prawns for 1 minute per side, with the lid closed as much as possible, or until the prawns turn a deeper shade of pink and curl. (You want them cooked, but just barely.) Transfer the hot prawns to a platter, and serve piping hot, with the lemons for squeezing over them.



Filed under Buddies, commentary, dog, gluten-free, husband, recipe, shellfish

Crab season

red rock crab

I wouldn’t call 4:30 a.m. a friendly time, but if you see it enough – say, growing up in a family dedicated to the first chairlift, or rowing crew in college – it becomes familiar. So when my alarm went off in the pre-dawn calm last Saturday, way before the hours I call human, I popped right out of bed. It was time to fish.

As a kid, we seasoned river trout in a paper bag. My father or brother would catch the fish – if I remember correctly, I never, ever caught one – and we’d pour flour into the bag, douse it with salt and pepper (or lemon pepper, if we had it), add the fish, and fold the top of the bag over twice. Dad set a cast iron pan over the open fire, glazed it with butter, and pan-fried the fish right there, next to the river. Or something like that. I think my father loved it because if we cooked by the water, my mother couldn’t complain about the house smelling of fish. I liked shaking the bag.

But river fishing, to me, always seemed like the easy way. (Don’t tell Dad, okay?) I romanticized deep sea fishing. Catching a fish in a river made you coordinated or perhaps just lucky; catching a fish in the ocean made you A Provider. So when my husband’s family arranged a salmon fishing trip for a group of curious relatives with All Washington Fishing, a local guide company with a slip about 2 miles from our house in Seattle, I was thrilled to join them.

I’d love to say it was a scintillating adventure. I’d love to say I caught three monster king salmon while battling rogue waves, each fish testing my strength to its limits. I’d love to say I came back with windburn, or sunburn, or both, or that I worked for my catch at least a little, but none of that really happened. The fact is, it was an easy, relaxing, calm, quiet morning. Like going to the farmers’ market, only less walking. We didn’t go out far – just across Puget Sound toward Bainbridge Island, where the kings and cohos were hungry and plentiful. The morning was almost absurdly pleasant. I drank coffee and ate Fritos. (It’s not a bad combo at 7:30 in the morning, if you’ve been up for a bit.) I learned how the fishing rods work, and reeled in the occasional fish, and drank in the shifting grays of the sky between our group’s successes. And in the end, perhaps because I was the only one who didn’t land one of the 7 keepers, or because I managed to pee off the bow because I was too proud to make the guide extract the women’s toilet from the hold, or because I’m the only one with a huge freezer, or because I have passable knife skills, I went home with 30 pounds of gorgeous salmon flesh. That, combined with my husband’s huge salmon-eating grin, was worth the wake-up call. I didn’t catch much myself, but my freezer is full.

A man and his fish

But then, on the way home, there was crab. The recreational season apparently opened July 1st here. The boat’s captain cruised by his pots with the same sense of idle convenience I use for getting gas or picking up a half gallon of milk. By then, I’ll admit I’d sort of stopped paying attention because I was focusing on the fish. But with each haul, he drew big tangles of sharp, angry legs out of his crab traps. About half were red rock crabs (pictured above), red-tinted, cranky things whose leg meat is apparently delicious but, besides the pinchers, quite difficult to retrieve. The other half were healthy full-size Dungeness. We took our Dungeness limit, 10 crabs, thinking the sweet, flaky meat could supplement our big family dinner.

What we didn’t realize, hauling in the crab, was that given a good labor force, two hours, and a few beers, the product of 10 pounds of crawlers is about 4 pounds of meat – enough to eat a bunch straight from the shell, stir some into crab salad, make a dozen jumbo crab cakes, pile crab curry over rice, and still have enough left for a hot, bubbling crab dip spiked with jalapeños two days after the catch.

Unlike waking up early, an overabundance of fresh-picked Dungeness crab meat is not a problem I’d call familiar. But if you should find yourself, like I did, with a healthy half pound of the stuff, and you can’t stand the thought of eating plain old crab salad for the third day in a row, and you’re longing for an indulgent appetizer that highlights the shellfish without scrimping on creaminess, this dip’s for you.

And guess what? You don’t even have to set the alarm.

Fishing photos by Adam Corcutt.

Crab Dip with Pickled Jalapeños and Goat Cheese 2

Hot Crab Dip with Pickled Jalapeños and Goat Cheese (PDF)
Active time: 10 minutes
Makes 6 servings

10 ounces fresh-picked Dungeness crabmeat
4 ounces fresh goat cheese, softened
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup sliced pickled jalapeño peppers
Juice of 1 large lemon
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Tortilla chips, for serving

Preheat the oven to 425°F.

Gently squeeze the crabmeat in small handfuls over the sink to discard any excess liquid. Transfer the crab to a mixing bowl, add the remaining ingredients, and stir with a big fork until more or less blended. (This is a good time to think about something else; there’s nothing exact about this process.)

Transfer the mixture to an ovenproof dish just large enough to hold it all. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until bubbling and browned on top. Serve hot, with the tortilla chips for scooping.


Filed under appetizers, fish, gluten-free, husband, recipe, shellfish, side dish, snack

A stew for the heart


Sometimes, I eat because it tastes good. I eat because the caramelized skin of a well-roasted chicken triggers a pleasure mechanism in my brain, because pureed kabocha squash tastes like everything that’s good about the earth itself, and because a good stinky cheese sings up into my nostrils as it hits the heat of my tongue.

Of course, I also love eating things that look good. Chomping into a well-made pain au chocolate reveals (literally) thousands of microscopic layers, culminating with the perfectly dry, crisp shatters that envelop the exterior. Just a week or two ago, I had a charcuterie plate at Mistral Kitchen made up of whimsical piles of thinly shaved meats, each a little porcine tornado almost (but not quite) too pretty to eat.

Food can feel good, too. I’m drinking tea right now, and I like the way the peach flavor rolls down the center of my tongue, while the ginger flavor unfurls toward its edges. I like the way a good braised hanging tender separates in my mouth, each thread of beef so soft I don’t really need my teeth. (Still, I’m glad I have them.)

Then, every once in a while, I eat for my heart. I’m not talking about eating by cereal box claims, or eating however the Senate says I should. I’m talking about eating because it’s calming and emotionally nourishing. We all do it.

Take last May, for example. I’d just been released from the hospital, where I’d had a kidney biopsy. The doctor had said he’d call back in a week or two. We decided to go out, my husband and son and I, for a special meal that would let us sit and forget the previous 48 hours, if only for a few minutes. But when we walked into Spur, they informed us they didn’t allow kids. We got back into the car, and the phone rang. It was my nephrologist–already. My kidneys were on the verge of failing, and I needed treatment. I’d start infusions the next day.

That night, we ended up eating pho. We were confused, and nervous, and scared. It tasted good, but it wasn’t food for the heart. The next day, I started a six month-long course of induction therapy.

And guess what? It worked, people. The kids are healthy again.

Last week, the night before my treatment stopped, we went back to Spur, this time with friends. We drank, and laughed, and ate course after course, sharing each plate slowly and thoughtfully. The food was good, I think—but I’m not sure I really tasted it. That night, I was eating because it felt right to be in that restaurant, quietly celebrating an internal achievement.

You might agree that Thanksgiving is a heart meal, too. Whether you’re the cook or the dishwasher, there’s something about eating the turkey and the gravy and the mashed potatoes that’s . . . centering.

This year, we went to Colorado Springs, for a banquet hall Thanksgiving dinner sponsored by my grandfather. I thought I’d survive, not planning a big meal this year. Turns out I was wrong. I have trouble enjoying Thanksgiving without entering a kitchen. Turkey from a buffet table—even an incredibly impressive one—erases all the conduits of conversation that a Thanksgiving meal preparation necessarily provides. It’s fun, like a good dinner out, but to me, it sort of misses the point of Thanksgiving, which is not just to eat, but to eat together, and solve problems together, and make mistakes together. It also neglects Thanksgiving’s most important side effect: leftovers.

I’d planned to be a big girl about the whole no cooking thing. I even roasted a turkey the night before we left, and held a mini Thanksgiving here at home, just to be on the safe side. But I gave away the leftover turkey; there were no sandwiches. Digging through the refrigerator for a late-night dinner on Friday night, it was inescapable: I felt like I’d missed the holiday entirely. We’d had a giant meal on the allotted day, but there hadn’t been anything comforting about it.

When I came back to my kitchen this week, I only wanted comfort food. I made hot and sour soup, and huevos rancheros, and this buffalo stew. It’s the simplest of stews, made with the buffalo meat my husband gawked over when I sent him to the grocery store with a carte blanche for dinner foods. With only ten ingredients, it seems almost undercomplicated—but sometimes, simple is all my heart wants to eat.

I thought I might be alone. But when I phoned my neighbor today–a neighbor who had a thorough home-cooked family Thanksgiving–I happened to ask her what she was doing for dinner. “I don’t know,” she said. “But all I want to eat is beef stew.”

Buffalo Carbonnade 2

Jim’s Buffalo Carbonnade (PDF)

Made with buffalo stew meat and a good, hearty beer, this version of the traditional Belgian dish is quite stripped down—it’s delicious, but in no way fancy. I made mine with my husband’s homebrew (made with hops from our back yard, naturally), but any high-quality beer with some good body will do.

Note that this isn’t a recipe for a crowd—it’s just enough for two hearty servings. Double or triple it if you’d like, searing the meat in batches, then serve the stew over buttered noodles or polenta, with steamed or roasted carrots.

Time: 30 minutes active time, plus plenty of simmering
Makes: 2 servings

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound buffalo stew meat, cut into 1 1/2” pieces (beef will also work)
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 large onion, halved and sliced
2 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
2 cups good beer
1 cup beef stock
1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Heat a medium-sized soup pot with a tight-fitting lid over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of the oil. Coat the stew meat with the flour on all sides, and season with salt and pepper. Add the meat to the hot oil, and cook until the pieces are browned on all sides, turning them only when they release easily from the pan, about 15 minutes total. Transfer the beef to a plate and set aside.

Add the remaining tablespoon of oil to the pan, then add the onions, and season with salt and pepper. Reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook, stirring often and scraping any brown bits up off the bottom of the pan, until the onions are deep golden brown, about 30 minutes.

Add the garlic and thyme, and cook and stir for about 30 seconds. Add the beer and beef stock, and bring the mixture to a simmer. Slide in the beef, cover the pot, reduce the heat to its lowest setting, and cook at a bare simmer for another 1 1/2 hours, or until the meat is extremely tender. Remove the lid, and simmer another 15 to 20 minutes, or until the liquid is thick and glossy. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper, if necessary. Stir in the butter, and serve hot, over buttered noodles or polenta.


Filed under Beef, beer, husband, recipe

The Best Pork Stew You’ll Never Make

If I were to give you the perfect recipe for a Mexican-inspired pork and black bean stew, it would look like this:

Wilbur 1

1. Find some friends willing to buy an entire pig, haul it six hours from home to a remote cabin without electricity or hot water, and cook it in a homemade “Cuban microwave” for hours and hours, until swarms of toddlers are melting under the pressure of a hard day’s play in the wild, the keg is kicked, the sun is finally going down, and the pig’s skin is crisp. Make sure the friends are food literate, but not food snobs. (Some make a point to only eat animals that have read Virgil, but I think too much enlightenment makes for tough meat.)

carving the pig at curlew

2. When the pig is roasted, volunteer to carve it in the dying light, even if you’ve never done it before. A 37-pound animal is large, but still only has two cheeks, which means that if you want to dig the fatty, tender cheek meat out with your fingers, you’ll want to be the one hovering near the head. (The whiskers, by the way, become quite sharp when roasted.) As you slice into it – surely with a knife you’re completely unfamiliar with, wearing giant barbecuing gloves that make you feel as awkward as Edward Scissorhands and only slightly more coordinated – combine just the right amounts of selfishness and laziness. You should cut enough meat off the bones to fill plate after plate with steaming flesh and satisfy any nearby vultures, but not so much as to strip the bones naked. (The meat left on them will be critical to your stew.) Pack obscene amounts of leftover meat and bones into coolers, neatly divided into “meaty,” “fatty,” “bones,” and “Neanderthal” containers, regularly offering diners feet or a snout from the last category, lest they miss what might be their only opportunity to munch on a pig’s toenail. Leave the coolers outside in the sun, with questionable amounts of ice, until the next morning.

Stock on the curlew stove

3. Make pork stock: Combine the meatiest pork bones, chopped onions (with the skins), and (unfiltered, from-a-real-spring) spring water in a large, unwashed roasting pan. Straddle the pan over two burners on an ancient stove, pausing to appreciate first that you know how to light your own stove at home, and second, that you weren’t the one to haul the propane tank currently responsible for cooking your stock up to the cabin on cross-country skis last winter. Bring the stock to a strong simmer, turn the burners off, cover the stock, and go to a rodeo.

rodeo queen at the chesaw rodeo

4. Here, to make the stew taste better, you should eat at least half of a corn dog, or possibly try the 68th Annual Chesaw Fourth of July Rodeo’s version of taco salad: one snack-sized bag of nacho-flavored Doritos, crushed, opened, and topped with taco meat of unclear provenance, shredded cheese and lettuce, and an unconscionable quantity of sour cream. (They do make it in small bags for little buckaroos, in case you were wondering.)

high class husband at the chesaw rodeo

5. Drink Budweiser in the sun while you watch toddlers chase chickens, small boys get stomped on by small (but still quite large) calves, teenage girls race horses around barrels, and grown men make their best attempt at roping and milking wild cows. Drink a little more; you need to sate your immediate hunger but open your palate to the possibility of a great deal of stew.

Boys playing on porch in Curlew

6. Get back to the cabin, bring the stock back to a simmer, and feed and entertain all children in the immediate vicinity. Snoop around the premises for anything that might make for a good stew – onions, garlic, carrots, and celery would be a fortunate start – and chop the vegetables, taking note as you work next to another person that it is neither the size of a kitchen nor its fanciness that makes it functional. (A kitchen qualifies as “good” if the space is well used, of course, with plenty of chopping room near the stove, but also if those working therein are happy bumping elbows without apologizing, and comfortable injecting cooking questions into unrelated conversation without losing one’s place in either the chopping or the conversation.)

Curlew kitchen 1

7. In a large (preferably tippy) soup pot, sauté the onions, garlic, carrots, and celery in (possibly) three-year-old olive oil, then season heavily with cumin, chili powder, dried oregano leftover from seasoning the pig, salt, pepper, a pinch of ground cloves, and a little bit of luck. Add the remaining salsa from two separate, open-but-unrefrigerated jars of salsa (their spiciness will have a lot to do with how your stew turns out), three cans of black beans (along with their liquid), and enough stock to let all the ingredients swim around freely. Simmer until the carrots are soft, roughly one hour, bossing anyone near the stove into giving it a quick stir so you can appreciate just being where you are.

dogs begging for pork stew

8. Meanwhile, clip most of the cilantro from the newly planted herb garden just off your porch. (If you can arrange for your dog to fall off the porch while avoiding a curious tot and land directly on the cilantro plant, do so, as the cilantro will be easier to cut that way.) Grate cheese and find some sour cream. Intend to slice the avocado in the fruit bowl, then promptly forget about it.

Curlew cabin front

9. Ask someone else to chop a good deal of what’s probably tenderloin and shoulder from the “meaty” bowl of pork in the cooler, and add it to the stew. Simmer another 10 minutes or so, so the pork fat melts into the broth. Season to taste again with salt and pepper, and serve hot, in mismatched bowls with shredded cheese, sour cream, and spoons that make you feel like you’re Goldilocks, minus the part where she finds the spoon that’s just right. (Feel free to continue forgetting the avocado.) In your mind, call it Curlew Stew, if you’re into that sort of thing. Pretend you aren’t surprised when it seems like the best stew you’ve ever tasted, and make a mental promise to make pork stock again someday soon. When it’s cooler.

dividing pig meat

10. Mop the last of the soup up with plain sliced sandwich bread. Commence a conversation about recipes – why and how we use them, how some people must cook from them while others simply can’t, where we record them, etc. Remember some recipes, like Hannah’s grandmother’s Goat Curry for Fifty, whose re-creation is so entirely unlikely that you might as well call it impossible. Think first, to yourself, that you wished you’d written the stew recipe down in some way, or snapped a photo before the last carrots were scraped from the bottom of the pot and fed to your child (who, with his first tooth, now seems to be able to eat cooked carrots). Then reconsider, and note that perhaps anyone interested in recreating Curlew Stew should probably not be relying too heavily on a recipe in the first place.

That’s it. That’s the whole recipe. Just ten quick steps.

If you live in the United States, chances are very good that you have recently suffered, are currently suffering, or will soon suffer an unbearable heat wave. (The definition of “unbearable” may differ from region to region; 90-degree heat broke records in Seattle a couple days ago. Likewise, the definition of “suffer” may be flexible; I was forced to make cold iced tea and wear a dress yesterday. It was awful.)

I thought that perhaps this heat thing, combined with the likelihood that you have a cooler filled with roasted pig parts on your porch, might make Curlew Stew an unconvincing proposition for your dinner this evening. But I promise: It’s the best pork stew you’ll never make.

But if you really want to taste Curlew Stew, I know a guy who makes a mean Cuban microwave; he says he’s willing to lend his to me when I’m ready to roast a pig. Swing by my driveway sometime around Christmas, because I now know I’ll be going whole hog, as they say, for our next holiday party. I’m sure there will be pork leftover.

Tonight, you should just make skirt steak kebabs.

Spicy Skirt Steak Kebabs 2

Spicy Skirt Steak Kebabs (PDF)

Marinated in a mixture of lime juice, garlic, fresh oregano, and red pepper flakes, these skirt steak kebabs pack a punch, but don’t take much time to prepare or grill. Instead of tomatoes and zucchini, feel free to substitute other vegetables—broccoli florets or crimini mushrooms would also be great.

Be sure to soak the skewers for the kebabs in a pan of water for a good 30 minutes (or longer) before you thread the meat and vegetables on.

TIME: 15 minutes prep time
MAKES: 4 servings

Juice of 3 limes
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh oregano
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (the fresher, the better)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 pound skirt steak, cut into 1” cubes
2 zucchini, cut into 3/4” rounds
2 dozen large cherry tomatoes
12 wooden skewers (12” long), soaked

Blend the lime juice, garlic, oregano, red pepper flakes, oil, salt and pepper together in a mixing bowl. Add the steak, stir until all the steak is coated with the marinade, then add the zucchini and tomatoes. Refrigerate, covered, about 1 hour.

Prepare a grill for direct cooking over high heat, about 450 to 550 degrees. Thread the ingredients onto the skewers, alternating ingredients, piercing zucchini horizontally (through the skin on both sides) so that all the ingredients lie in a flat plane.

Grill the kebabs for 3 to 5 minutes per side, until the zucchini is marked, the tomatoes are beginning to burst, and the steak is cooked through. Serve hot.

Spicy Skirt Steak Kebabs 1


Filed under Beef, dog, gluten-free, husband, kitchen adventure, pork, recipe, travel, vegetables


Emmer & Oat Chocolate Chunk Bars  close

Lunch last Friday was almost perfect. I wandered into Le Pichet a little after noon, and downed a New Yorker article and the better part of a glass of house red before a striking gentleman ambled in and took the barstool next to me. We flirted and talked, carefully eating our own little salads, ignoring the rest of the room. He fed me grilled sardines with onion jam, and I scooped salade verte onto his plate. Then we shared oeufs plats, two eggs snuggled into blankets of ham and gruyere and baked until the whites were just set. We both smiled.

He walked me to my car, where he kissed me goodbye. I drove away toward a doctor’s appointment, feeling light and happy, and so lucky to have married him. Then I looked at the floor in front of the passenger seat, and noticed my laptop, along with its nice case and all my work and recipe notes, was missing. The light feeling vanished.

I always lock my car. Sometimes I lock it twice, or even three times, just to be sure my obsessive-compulsive tendencies are still functioning. I pulled over to scour the seats, but a computer is a very difficult thing to lose in the crack between the seat and the center console. I checked the trunk. I called the restaurant. Nothing. Someone had stolen my computer.

There was an unusually clean spot on the passenger door. It was human-shaped, but other than that, there was no sign of a break in – no scratches around the window frame, no bent metal near the lock. While the lack of evidence was convenient from a financial standpoint – no one wants to replace a computer and fix a car door – it was completely humiliating. I must have left the car unlocked. Someone must have watched me leave the car unlocked.

I spent the remainder of the day alternately panicking and mentally flogging myself for my presumed mistake. Instead of going straight home to change all my passwords, file all the various required reports, and record what I could of the recipe notes I’d lost, I went to my doctor’s appointment, where every person in the office assured me the same thing had once happened to them, and they’d survived. Then our nanny called. Our son was running a fever. I picked him up, took him to his doctor, and waited in line for his medicine.

My husband came home. We fretted over a sick kid and cobbled some sort of dinner together. I wish I could remember what we ate. Later, we huddled around our Time Machine downstairs, trying to determine how much of my data was successfully backed up. So many recipes, I thought. So many emails. Getting a new computer is one thing – a process I loathe, because it requires spending so much money on something I understand so poorly – but recreating a work history is another thing entirely.

But I was fortunate. I’m somehow missing all my photos from the month of April – including all the shots we took of Graham’s first birthday – but as far as I can tell, everything else was backed up.

I breathed.

Then, as is always the case when something goes sort of awry but not really, really wrong, I felt a rush of luck. My car wasn’t stolen. I didn’t lose a person. And after all, I’d had a most incredible lunch date with my husband.

Wait. Lunch. At lunch, we’d shared part of a baguette. At lunch, I’d broken a six-week streak of eating gluten-free, as planned. And I didn’t feel one single bit different.

So . . . what? Do I not have celiac disease? I was simultaneously relieved and just plain angry. I mean, I’ve spent six weeks trying not to get caught gazing longingly at the donuts in the bakery case I work near at my local coffee shop, and I’d certainly like to have another one in this lifetime. On the other hand, I’d been harboring a little fantasy. It went like this: I’d eat gluten again, and fall terribly sick, and my joints would scream and shout more than ever. A small plane would soar across the sky, loop-de-looping a message across the bright blue until, clear as day, there was a puffy white paragraph for the entire city to read: JESS DOES NOT HAVE LUPUS. IT’S JUST CELIAC DISEASE. IF SHE STOPS EATING WHEAT, EVERYTHING WILL GO AWAY.

But no dice.

On the other hand, GLUTEN. On Saturday, I had a bagel for (first) breakfast, then we ate French toast for brunch, with friends. We rode to Roxy’s for afternoon Reubens. Afterward, I decided to bake.

Emmer & Oat Chocolate Chunk Bars  2

Friday morning, I’d cleaned out my laptop tote a bit. At the top of a stack of papers headed for the recycling bin was one with “emmer chocolate chunk cookies” scrawled across the top, the ghost of a months-old craving. The only glutinous product left in the house – I’d known keeping any would be too tempting for me – was a little bag of Bluebird Grain Farms’ emmer flour, which I’d been too stubborn (or cheap) to give away. And we’d planned a trip to the mountains the next day. Cookies, indeed.

I fluffed butter and sugars, added eggs and vanilla, and fortified the batter with emmer flour and oats. At the last minute, I wavered. What about emmer bars, I thought? With huge chunks of chocolate? I love the way the cut sides of chocolate chunk bars offer a window into just how much meltiness hides in each bite. But cookies seemed so much easier to eat. I went back and forth: Bars. Cookies. Bars. Cookies.

Emmer & Oat Chocolate Chunk Bars, before spreading

In the end, I made both. I scooped about half the batter into a brownie pan, pressed it flat, and made bars. With the rest of the batter, I made cookies. I like the bars better. So does Zac. My husband likes the cookies better, because they’re a little crispy. So does Graham, apparently.

Graham likes the cookies best

I guess there’s no way of knowing, without a biopsy, that I don’t have celiac disease for sure. But for now, it sure doesn’t seem likely. I’ve been eating gluten for almost 72 hours now, to no ill effect.

So that was all a lot of hubbub, now, wasn’t it? It reminds me of a joke my sister-in-law, a stand-up comic down in L.A., tells about going back “into” the closet, after years as a lesbian. (She’ll be performing in Bellevue next week, if you’re around.)

“What can I say, folks? Sorry about all the hubbub,” she says. “But I’ve really appreciated all the rainbow flags. Bandanas. WNBA tickets.” (Here’s the actual clip.)

So, yeah. I guess all I really need now is a little more chocolate.

Emmer & Oat Chocolate Chunk Bars 1

Emmer & Oat Chocolate Chunk Bars (and Cookies) (PDF)
Here’s a chocolate-stuffed dessert that’s a two-fer in many ways: Barflies get chewy chocolate chunk bars, while cookie lovers get crisp wafers with a great oatmeal cookie chew. Sweets seekers get their fix, and nutrition nuts can point to whole grain emmer flour and a good dose of oat bran to justify the splurge. And for two treats made at the same time, bake the bars right away and freeze the rest of the dough in balls for cookies when you need them at the last minute. Or you can just make all of one type—whatever suits you.

Order emmer flour online at

TIME: 25 minutes active time
MAKES: 16 bars, plus 2 dozen 3” cookies

Vegetable oil spray (or butter for greasing the pan)
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 1/2 cups emmer flour
1/2 cup oat bran
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup thick rolled oats
3/4 pound (12 ounces) semisweet chocolate, chopped

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Coat an 8” square brownie pan with the vegetable oil spray (or butter), and line with a square of waxed or parchment paper. Line two heavy baking sheets with parchment paper, and set those aside, too.

In the work bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and both sugars on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla. Scrape down the sides of the work bowl, and mix briefly.

Whisk the emmer flour, oat bran, baking soda, and salt together in a mixing bowl. With the mixer on low, add the dry ingredients, about a third at a time, and mix until the flour is incorporated. Add the oats and chocolate and mix until combined.

Emmer & Oat Chocolate Chunk Bars in pan

Transfer three packed cups of the dough to the 8” pan, spread flat with a spatula, and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the bars are lightly browned at the edges and the dough has little cracks in the center. Cool for 10 minutes in the pan, then use the paper to transfer the bars to a cutting board. Cut into 16 squares, and let cool another 10 to 15 minutes (to firm up) before moving.

Use the remaining batter to make another batch of bars, or make cookies: Shape knobs of dough into 1” balls and place 2” apart on prepared baking sheets. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until edges are lightly browned. Cool 5 minutes on pans, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

Bars and cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature up to 5 days.

Emmer & Oat Chocolate Chunk Cookies


Filed under Cookies, dessert, husband, recipe


grilled cheese and tomato soup at Swedish

I think my senses are playing tricks on me.

What I heard on Monday was I think we’re going to admit you to the hospital. Then, on Tuesday, when I was actually admitted and asked the nurse what I should order for lunch, I thought I heard her recommend the fish and chips.

“Really?” I asked. Fried? Isn’t a hospital where one goes to get . . . you know . . .healthy? The menu reads like something from a college pub: Cheeseburgers. Pizza. French dip.

“The nachos are pretty good, too,” she said. Right.

I started with tomato soup and grilled cheese, a drape of orange cheddar wedged between two pieces of buttery toast that had been steamed to soggy under a plate cover for a few minutes, along with a fat slice of pickle, before landing in front of me. That’s what one gets for being food-obsessed, I suppose: warm pickles.

What I saw yesterday, on April Fool’s Day, was no joke either: snow, on April 1st in Seattle, flying sideways against all of downtown. And what I felt – my water breaking, at 7 a.m. – was certainly real. There are a lot of questions, and a lot of uncertainties, but at the very least, it’s clear that even at 33 weeks, this baby of ours has a sense of humor.

NST monitor

Since then, it’s been mostly unbelievable sounds: The local NPR station, graciously ending its pledge drive just in time. Our baby’s heart, ricocheting around inside my bedside monitor, thumpthumpthumping like a washing machine stuck with all the sheets on one side of the tumbler. My IV contraption, ticking and purring and clicking. Before last night, when I got to listen to it for hours on end, I didn’t realize machines can be reincarnated, too. I know this one was once one of those old ink plotters – I can hear the old-school computer paper spooling through on its little side holes, and the blotters jumping all around, individual spots of schizophrenia in an otherwise organized system.

There are unknowns, of course. We’re not sure why whatever language is being spoken next door sounds best to them, whoever they are, at maximum volume. We’re not sure why someone’s male partner seems to like singing the female leads to Mamma Mia songs. We’re not sure if the scrambled eggs will always be overcooked, or if the lattes will always be hot and surprisingly delicious. (This is Seattle, after all.)

Breakfast at Swedish

We’re also not sure how long our baby will stay snug inside (he’s been given a permission slip to stay in, if he feels like it), or how much extra snuggling will be required after birth. We are sure that for now, we’re all healthy, and that five pounds is already a lot of baby. On this floor, we’re the lucky ones.

So, no. No recipe for you today, or for weeks (or maybe months) to come. I probably won’t tell you about the pizza some friends brought the first night, or the homemade nutter butters someone else dropped off, because now, I need to be here. Plus, the IVs seem to work best in my hand, and typing with one hand is a handicap I don’t have the patience for.

Until soon. Be well, have fun cooking, and eat something for me, will you?


Filed under husband

A Two-Dog Pie

Sour Cherry-Rhubarb Pie

I baked my little heart out today.

First it was blueberry muffins, to fuel a morning at Workimer, and the most absurdly easy macaroons. Then banana bread, for the freezer. (We have eight friends coming next week.) Then sour cherry pie, my first with real pie cherries.

pitting sour cherries

I’d never actually tried sour cherries, come to think of it. Smaller and softer, they’re so much more feminine than a Bing. At first, they taste like cherries in a bitchy mood, but after I got used to their punch, I decided I love them. And indeed, when I broke into them with my fingernails, pitting them all by hand without the use of a knife or a pitter, I felt a little more feminine myself. My fingernails are finally long enough to be good for something, I thought. I smugged inside, and thanked the steroids.

I’d made the nicest crust. I planned to have friends over for pie, and pretend it’s something we do all the time on a Sunday afternoon. On Friday, I stayed up late with my crust, with two whole sticks of butter, and the patience to add water until the dough clung together just enough. I even tied the two sections of dough together. (Who was it that told me once that it works, that a double-crusted pie bakes happier when its two halves sleep together in the fridge overnight?)

Nestling pie crusts

Oh yes, I did all the right things. I bought instant tapioca, because I’d never thickened with it before, and even folded my rhurbarb patch’s midseason surge in with the cherries.

Sour cherries and rhubarb

Then a friend called, just when I was about to roll the crust out. I turned my back, and in the time it took me to put a measuring cup in the sink, my dog stole about twenty percent of the dough. Right off the counter, in front of me, like I wasn’t even there. Just took a bite, and chewed thoughtfully, which is unusual – she’s a gulper, through and through. I’m sure that if she could speak, she’d have said Why yes, Jess, this is a fabulous crust. I can’t wait to taste it later.

We had a discussion, and she was exiled to the porch.

But really, it wasn’t that big of a deal – the skimpier crust forced me to roll the dough thinner than I’d have normally dared, and when I draped the last part of the lattice over the top, I almost shrieked with excitement. I brushed it with cream, sprinkled it with sugar, and tucked it into the oven with a twirl and a dance I’m glad no one got on film.

After it had cooled, I tapped my fingernails on the crust, and it made the hollow, almost tinny sound crust only makes when it’s impossibly flaky. I clapped, pushed the pie into the corner of the counter, where I knew my dog couldn’t get it, and texted my friends with a cherry pie invite. I ran out into the yard to clip flowers for the patio table.

A few minutes later, Scout, the Golden Retriever we’re watching this weekend, pranced down the deck stairs with my red oven mitt in his mouth. He was all wag.

Scout ate my pie

Scout ate my pie.

For the record, I didn’t cry. I didn’t get straight to work on another crust, either, which is surprising, because I wanted nothing more than to put him in one, all chopped up.

I screamed and shouted at him, and mourned for what seemed more like a masterpiece with every passing minute. Scout thought it was all a fantastic show, and wanted to know, Would perhaps a tennis ball help us enjoy my fit? My husband came home, and I wailed into his shoulder.

My first sour cherry pie. My perfect crust. How could he?

And was Bromley in on it? Did they plan the one-two punch, step by step pie ruination?

We salvaged two pieces out of the edge Scout didn’t touch. The crust was perfect. (Of course I can say that now that you can’t taste it, but really, it was. I promise.) The tapioca gelled the cherries together, and the filling sang with flavor.

Jim scraped what remained of the top half of the pie into the garbage, and saved the bottom crust, and its clingy bits, in a rosy heap in a Tupperware container.

“We’ll bake it again in the morning, and it’ll taste delicious,” he said. His optimism failed to cheer me.

I may find the ingredients again, because I may have been converted – sour cherries are worth their price, I know that much now. I may type the recipe out, so you can make it too.

But for now, I need a serious pout.


Filed under dessert, failure, fruit, husband, kitchen adventure

Ribs are for red states

plate 'o' ribs

Imagine, if you will, a blank map of our fair nation’s of political will. Color the states in with your favorite red and blue markers. (Erasable, please. You may need to change them.)

Now, in your brain, superimpose a different graphic. This one highlights the geography of the nation’s great ribbing traditions – sweet, sticky barbecue from St. Louis; saucy and smoky, from Memphis; vinegar-based, from the east Carolinas, and so forth.

You’ll notice a suspicious similarity between the first and second map. (There may be a chart of NASCAR’s fan base that coincides nicely with the other two illustrations. This is not a coincidence.)

I grew up in Idaho, which is all elephants also, last I checked. (Side note: 28,000 people showed up there for this year’s Democratic primary, an event traditionally accompanied by a joke about a phone booth.)

Unlike other Republican strongholds, though, Idaho uses “barbecue” as a verb, not a noun. In the North End, the Boise neighborhood that housed said phone booth and my childhood home, my family grilled chicken and steak for summer’s official kick-off. Later on, when my husband and I lived back east, Independence Day weekend meant steaming lobsters on a beach in Maine. If you’d asked me then to name the last thing I’d expect to eat in early July, ribs would be at the top of the list, right above gefilte fish and Tom Yum soup. Ribs are for red states.

All-American Man

But this year on the Fourth, Jim and I headed east, to Naperville, Illinois, to attend RibFest with our friend Peter, who judges the giant rib contest held there each summer. Jim’s been going for a few years, and for some reason, this year, I felt the pull. Maybe because there was a chance I’d sit on the jury with Peter. Maybe because Peter’s girlfriend Lauren would be joining us, and I knew I’d have someone to sing with when Joan Jett climbed up on stage.

Or maybe because I realized Illinois is a blue state turning bluer, and wondered whether the deep-rooted barbecue tradition that’s been wicking north for generations has any chance of moving into the Pacific Northwest as definitively as it has to the upper Midwest.

Sorry, I’m getting ahead of myself. There’s one little detail I should probably mention: I don’t really love ribs. I do like tender, silky-threaded pork rib meat, and I’m all for gnawing on a bone now and then, but thick, finger-cementing Kansas City-style barbecue sauce appeals to me about as much as drinking ketchup straight. I don’t like the way spicy sauces burn my lips, and I’m not a huge fan of anything smoked. So, yeah, the idea of judging a ribs event was a little scary. By definition, a barbecue competition soaks its judges in sauces as varied as the pedigrees of the people that make them, and frankly, some of them turn my stomach. I know it’s unadventurous, but I have trouble ordering ribs if I can’t guarantee I’ll like the sauce.

My friend Chris made ribs with a delicious apple cider vinegar sauce recently, though, and I’ll admit, with Chris’s ribs in mind, I also flew to Chicago with the hope of falling in love. I thought maybe I’d had a string of bad experiences that could be undone. I fantasized about finding a rack worth a Saturday, worth the patience it takes to caress good barbecue with the perfect sauce until, but not past, the point at which the meat gets ready to melt right off the bone, like ice cream on the hood of a hot car. My tastebuds were already hard at work imagining a Seattle version, sauced with a thin local-tomato-and-Wenatchee-apple-vinegar concoction, sweetened with Olympic Mountains honey and spiked with the homemade Asian-style chili paste I’d find. Call it blind idealism, painted on the rack of squealer in my brain.

So it was a little relieving, I guess, but equally disappointing, when we arrived at RibFest at 11 a.m. on Saturday, to find the judging seats filled. Lauren had treated us to a full-on Fourth of July barbecue (er . . . I mean grill-out) the night before, with bratwurst, and German potato salad, and light, spunky coleslaw, and deep-dish caramelized apple pie. The last thing I wanted was a slab of swine.

Peter judging

Peter, though, he’s always ready for ribs. As we watched him begin tasting his way first through 17 contestants’ entries, then through their 17 corresponding sauces, I breathed a sigh of relief. I didn’t feel like eating ribs, and nothing one wouldn’t eat at 11 a.m. is worth judging, much less eating in mass quantity.

howlin' coyote

RibFest is a confluence of ribbing traditions, drawing a roster of teams from across the country with names like Sgt. Oink’s, Texas Outlaws, and Howlin’ Coyote Southwest BBQ. From the moment we snuck into the judging tent, my excitement for actual rib-eating went from 5 to about 2 on a 10-point scale. Just watching the woman in charge pass ribs out made me feel like I had something stuck between my teeth. I took a few noncommittal nibbles from the extra samples, and went straight for the toothpicks.

tables, before opening

I walked out into the private sponsor area, still completely vacant before the Fest’s noontime opening bell. Peter and Jim had explained how people camp out here all day, eating and eating and eating until sunset, then come back the next day for more. As I scanned the vendors’ billboards, I thought of the previous night’s reported crowd of 65,000, and wondered how many pigs die for RibFest.

Ribfest at opening

A few minutes after noon, when people started milling around, the smell of ribs had lost its allure. I felt a little intimidated, knowing we’d planned to stay until 10 p.m. When would ribs start sounding good?

sauce mop

I wasn’t the only one. Lauren doesn’t even eat ribs, and as the judging ended, I was surprised to learn how many in our blossoming little crowd were heading straight for the chicken. I was told that in the upper Midwest, and indeed, at RibFest, ribs are served with corn on the cob, baked beans, and true potato chips. We roamed the grounds, sticking our fingers in papaya-based sauces and “thermo-nuclear” hot sauces, but the more I walked and the more I tasted, the more I wanted a nice green salad.

fresh-fried potato chips

I did eat, eventually, mostly from the list of sides. We shared a huge pile of fresh potato chips, still moist from the fryer. I filled my plate with everything but ribs—foil-wrapped corn, with the husks still attached, and tangy pulled pork, and pasta salad—and then stole some of Jim’s ribs (from Desperado’s, I believe), when I discovered I liked the sauce.

ribs to judge

Now, don’t get me wrong here – I enjoyed them, for the moments I was eating. But it didn’t happen for me, the way I expected it to. With 17 of the country’s best ribbers gathered in one place, I wasn’t inspired to try them all, the way I assumed I would be, and I certainly didn’t fall in love. I enjoyed, and socialized, and found an excellent root beer, but didn’t nearly obsess.

RibFest in full effect

Honestly? I felt a little guilty. I’m used to being the foodmonger. And in a crowd of rib lovers, I felt a little left out. (And healthy. Oh, bless you, Naperville. You made me feel so fit.)

I wondered if there was something wrong with me, physically – if I’d eaten too much the night before, or somehow missed a key element of preparation. I thought maybe Joan Jett’s throaty yowls had stripped me of my appetite. But the moment we got home, I dug into Lauren’s coleslaw like I hadn’t eaten in a week. What’s wrong with me? I thought. Why don’t I love ribs?

I’d say it’s a political thing, or that I’m just not American enough. Or maybe it’s a combination of the two. Earlier in the day, I’d watched one woman give another a box of perfume, as a birthday gift. They’d combed through the scent descriptions together, searching for the flower that loaned its signature to the scent (“Ahhh! Magnolia!”), and discovered that each of the company’s perfumes is named for a particular person. Love in White is named for Laura Bush.

“I love Laura!” said the recipient, halfway between a squeal and sigh, her accent all Chicago.

I’d looked the other way, pinching a smile between my lips, realizing I’d never hear the same conversation in Seattle. Is there a correlation between liking Laura Bush and loving ribs?

Of course the answer is no. That’s just the excuse I created for myself, in the moment, when I felt like the only kid whose mom wouldn’t send cupcakes to school for her birthday. I know plenty of liberals who would go to great lengths for a good plate of ribs. I’m sure there are native Seattleites, even, whose idea of a heaven is a full rack, no matter which incarnation of sauce is slathered on top.

For now, though, I’ll have to learn to be okay with not being one of them. I’ll eat ribs when the mood strikes, when the sauce is right for me. When Chris makes them, or when I finally get around to that Seattle version.

great saying

And maybe I’ll go back to RibFest next year, with a little more determination, a bigger dash of patriotism, and a lot more dental floss. Maybe the election will change the map enough that I’ll stop pigeonholing a food I didn’t grow up eating. We’ll start our relationship from scratch.

I’m still not convinced I can’t fall in love with ribs. But if I don’t, well, I’ll just make sure Lauren’s cooking dinner.

German Cole Slaw

My friend Lauren Fischer’s German heritage comes out swinging each summer with picnic classics that skip the mayonnaise-laden dressings so typical of hot weather fare. These recipes are bound together by the flavor of celery seed; I love how it lends crunch and flavor and a hint of spiciness. I made both salads in about an hour (putting the potatoes on first to boil, then making the slaw, then finishing the potato salad), so it seems fitting to give you both.

Fischer Family Coleslaw (PDF)
When I was making Grandma Fischer’s tangy, celery-spiked slaw for the first time, NPR was reporting on childhood obesity, and I decided to cut the sugar by half – we didn’t miss it. The slaw is delicious straight out of the bowl, but would also be great on a warm barbecued pork sandwich.

TIME: 20 minutes
MAKES: 8 servings

1/2 cup canola oil
2 tablespoons sugar
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
3/4 teaspoon celery seed
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
1/4 large red cabbage (about 1 pound)
1/4 medium green cabbage (about 1/2 pound)
2 large carrots, peeled

In the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the chopping blade, whirl the oil, sugar, vinegar, onion, salt, mustard, celery seed, and pepper until pureed. Transfer to a large mixing bowl.

Using the shredding disc, shred the cabbages and carrots, and add to the dressing. Stir to combine, and season to taste with additional salt and pepper, if necessary. Let sit 3 hours before serving.

German Potato Salad

Lauren’s German Potato Salad (PDF)
The dressing for the Fischers’ bacon-studded potato salad is unique: It starts as a roux, flour mixed with the drippings leftover from frying bacon, and builds into a thick, celery-spiked sauce that coats the hot potatoes with flavor without making them gummy. I imagine the leftovers would be fantastic formed into patties, seared in a hot pan, and topped with a poached egg, for breakfast, but so far, leftovers haven’t been an option.

It’s important that you add the hot dressing to hot potatoes – I sliced the potatoes next to the stove while the onions cooked.

TIME: 20 minutes active time
MAKES: 8 servings

3 pounds small potatoes (I used firm white Yukon Golds)
6 slices bacon
2 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons salt
3/4 teaspoon celery seed
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
3/4 cup finely chopped onion
3/4 cup water
1/3 cup white vinegar

Place the potatoes in a large saucepan and fill with cold water to cover. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook until tender (15-30 minutes, depending on the size of your potatoes).

In a large skillet, fry the bacon over medium heat until crisp. While the bacon cooks, mix the flour, sugar, salt, celery seed, and pepper together in a small bowl.

Transfer the bacon to paper towels to drain. Add the onion to the bacon fat and cook, stirring, until the onions are tender and golden brown, about 7 minutes. Add the flour mixture to the onions, and cook, stirring, for a minute or two. Slowly add the water and vinegar, stirring constantly. Bring the sauce back to a bubble and cook, stirring, for another minute or so, until thick and creamy.

Meanwhile, slice the potatoes, transfer to a mixing bowl, and crumble the bacon into the bowl. Add the warm dressing, and stir to coat all ingredients well. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve warm or at room temperature.


Filed under commentary, gluten-free, husband, pork, recipe, side dish, vegetables

Soup for consumption

Chicken Soup for the Road Biker's Soul

Calling this beauty a soup is a bit of a stretch. Sure, it fits on a spoon, and slides down the throat like a cure, but it’s really meant to be just that – a tonic, with some occasional added chewability.

I met her at Frank and Michelle’s house last week. We gathered there for a Saturday night feast, with a Wooly Pigs Berkshire pork shoulder and a few bottles of St. Joseph, to hear about their trip to India. (We never did talk about India, did we?)

Before dinner, Michelle pulled a pot off the back of the stove. “It’s a quick little consommé,” she murmured nonchalantly. Like we all make consommé on Saturday nights.

The kitchen showed no signs of the true consommé process, a (probably, once you’ve done it more than twice, not all that) tenuous procedure that involves adding ground meat and finely chopped vegetables and egg white to an intensely flavorful stock. (The choppy bits gather up all the impurities in the stock (read: the fat), and eventually float to the top of the liquid, to form what’s ridiculously (in my opinion) called a “raft.” You take the raft off, and serve a perfectly clear, delicious liquid. Here’s a great Cookthink post on making pho from scratch with good pictures of how the raft works. The final product is gorgeous, but I’m only convinced it’s worth it when I’m not the one cooking.)

Chopped chilies

Michelle’s consommé was a well-dressed, low-maintenance version. She started with a rotisserie chicken and a box of store-bough chicken broth, and let the two simmer together with ginger and lemongrass, and enough spice to really get the nose running. We chopped basil and cilantro and mint up good and fine, stirred it into the strained liquid, and served it in big mugs, along with lime juice and thin hot pepper slices.

It was as convincing as chicken soup, but bright, and fiery, and somehow quite springlike, with the soft, sweet herbs floating on top. The night got cold more quickly than any of us expected, and when we went outside to wait for the pork to cook, the consommé was a necessary companion. I almost didn’t want dinner to come.

Then the pork came out, with silk stockings around each and every string of muscle, and we ate it with Frank’s lemon gnocchi, and we were ohso happy we hadn’t stopped at soup.

I made Michelle’s soup again a couple nights ago, only for dinner, with shredded chicken, to feed the cold Jim contracted in Boise. (Last weekend, he and my brother had another adventure. They rode Bogus Basin Road, 16 miles and 3,000 feet up. At the top, they got caught in a thunderstorm. Jim stuffed his jacket, Tour-style, with the first 100 pages of a phone book, to stay warmer on the way down. Even so, the next day, he was sick sick sick. We thought perhaps it was consumption. Or SARS.)

I left the herbs whole this time, simply because they seemed more fortifying that way.

Sure enough, when Jim left for Finland this weekend (I do hope we’ll hear from him here, but no promises), he seemed stronger.

Maybe it’s just a cold. Or maybe it’s The Soup that Cures Everything.

I certainly feel better.

Chicken Soup for the Road Biker's Soul 2

Chicken Soup for the Road Biker’s Cold (PDF)
When your immune system gets caught in the undertow, you need a soup that sasses back. Here’s a spicy Asian-inspired broth for spring, whose bright spice and fragrant whole herbs make eating chicken soup out of “soup season” an actual pleasure. This shortcut version, based on one my friend Michelle makes, is spicy enough to warm you up, but if you’re really under the weather, load up on the chilies (or use a spicier variety) and smoke the bad stuff right out.

For a more filling soup, turn it into a version of pho, with vermicelli and bean sprouts, or stir in chopped spring vegetables, like asparagus, chard, peas, and green garlic.

TIME: 20 minutes active time
MAKES: 4 servings

3 1/2 to 4 pound rotisserie chicken (look for a plain flavor)
2 carrots, cut into chunks
1 medium onion, cut into chunks
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2” piece ginger (about 1” in diameter), peeled and thinly sliced
3 stalks lemongrass, cut into 1” chunks (white and light green parts only)
5 peppercorns
5 cilantro stems
2 red jalapeno peppers, very thinly sliced (seeds included)
Juice of 2 medium limes
2 teaspoons Asian fish sauce (or to taste)
4 big stalks Thai basil
4 big stalks mint
1 cup cilantro

If your chicken has any sort of wacky seasoning on it, remove the skin. (Your dog will be happy to help, if it’s not crisp and delicious enough for your standards.) Remove much of the chicken’s breast and thigh meat and shred it. (You should have 4 loosely packed cups of meat, and enough meat left on the bones to flavor the broth.) Set aside.

Place the chicken carcass in a large soup pot, and add the next 7 ingredients, along with about 10 cups cold water. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a strong simmer and cook for 1 hour.

Add one jalapeno’s worth of pepper slices, and simmer for 5 minutes longer. Strain the broth carefully through a fine-mesh sieve, and return to a clean pot. Add the lime juice, and season with salt and fish sauce, to taste.

Divide the chicken and remaining jalapeno slices between 4 large bowls. Add broth to each bowl and top with herbs. Serve immediately.

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Filed under chicken, gluten-free, husband, recipe, soup, vietnamese

Brownies, for a mission

Bittersweet espresso brownies

It was a ridiculous mission.

My husband, brother, and a few friends decided to climb Mt. Shasta in a day. It’s a big mountain, to put it mildly, and it was only when Jim dropped me off in Portland, where I was to spend the weekend with my grandmother, that I realized how scared I was about having two of the men I love most in the world being up on that mountain together. Individually, they’re both smart, fit, and snow-savvy; together, they’re . . .well, you know how boys can be.

People ask me what I’d want for my last meal with a regularity I find stunning. I rarely think of my own morbidity, and, frankly, I think the concept of picking just one meal to cherish is a little ridiculous. Yet, when Jim was packing for the trip, I found myself flipping through recipes in my head, trying to think of the perfect thing for either he or my brother to have, should one of them find himself stuck on the side of a 14,000-foot peak, awaiting care.

I’ve been awfully heavy on the sweets here recently, but of course, I had to make brownies – a whole wheat, espresso-laden version of the ones in the back of June’s Gourmet. Jim is hopelessly addicted to the (coffee) bean, and over the last few years, my brother has been steadily working his way through one fudgy, dark chocolate brownie recipe after the next, hoping to find The One.

If you don’t count the hours I spent lying awake in bed, worrying, I had a lovely weekend. (Really, I was only there for 36 hours.)

pulled pork sandwich on our knees

I took my grandmother to the Portland farmers’ market for the first time, and we sat on a bench together, our knees touching, with a barbecued pork sandwich balanced nicely between our four kneecaps. We browsed at Powell’s, and took our purchases into the Anthropologie across the street, because really, what’s a book without a good couch? (No one seemed to mind.)

I read The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, which was excellent, except it made me think of people having freak accidents and dying. Poor timing, I guess.


While we wandered and ate, the climbers slept for 3 hours, hiked and skied for 14 hours (up the red, down the blue), and summited with enough altitude sickness to prevent them from planning the next trip before they said their goodbyes. (In my opinion, this constitutes a perfect outcome.)

By the time they hit Portland, they were exhausted. I drove them home in the early, early morning to the sound of a full snore-chestra. There was a drummer behind me, playing a slow, low beat on a set of Timpani drums, and a much more delicate sleeper, whispering a soft rhythm, in and out, like those little brushes drummers use on their symbols. Behind me, I honestly couldn’t say who made which noise, but in the front seat, my husband honked out a most unmusical bleat. He was sitting upright, in the position one uses when one needs sleep in the most desperate way but would like to appear awake: shoulders hunched, chin pushed forward, spine bent awkwardly forward, like a flower toward the sun. Every once in a while, he would have a limb spasm and fall against the dashboard or the window, and I would giggle, there in the drivers’ seat, happy to have laughter replace chewing on my fingertips as the best means of keeping myself awake.

The best way to stay awake at 2 a.m., of course, is food. I ate Swedish Fish, which I hate, as a rule, but when I asked Jim for candy at the gas station, they were the only thing he came back with.

I’m so glad he’s home, but I haven’t quite forgiven him for not telling me there were brownies left in the backseat.

Leftover brownies

Whole Wheat Bittersweet Espresso Brownies (PDF)
This recipe is adapted from Ruth Cousineau’s recipe for Deep Chocolate Brownies, in the back of the June 2008 issue of Gourmet magazine. She called for chocolate no stronger than 60% cacao, but I used Trader Joe’s 72%. I used white whole wheat flour exclusively for this recipe – even for preparing the baking pan – and the results were sensational (especially if you’re looking for brownies with two sources of caffeine). For the prettiest results, do allow the brownies to cool completely in the pan before cutting and transporting.

TIME: 20 minutes active time
MAKES: 30 good-sized brownies

2 sticks (1/2 pound) unsalted butter, plus more for the pan
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate
1/4 cup espresso beans, very finely ground
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
5 large eggs, room temperature
2/3 cup white whole wheat flour, plus more for the pan
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and center a rack in the middle of the oven. Butter and flour a 13” by 9” baking pan, and set aside.

Melt the butter and chocolate in a 3-quart heavy saucepan over low heat, stirring until smooth. When the chocolate has melted, add the ground coffee, and let sit until lukewarm.

Whisk in the sugar and vanilla, then add the eggs, one at a time, whisking between additions until the mixture is thick and glossy.

Whisk together the flour, cocoa power, and salt, and stir into the chocolate mixture, just until the flour is combined.

Spread the batter in an even layer in the pan and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few crumbs attached, 30 to 35 minutes. Cool completely, then cut into squares.

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Filed under dessert, grandma, husband, recipe

Get behind the mule and plow

On Sunday, I bought pinto beans from Buck, at Alvarez Farms’ Ballard Farmers’ Market stand, thinking I could make real refried beans:

On Monday, Jim came home to find me sprawled out in the sunbeam on the floor of our office, snow angel style, except very still. I stared up at him and asked him not to make me move. The combination of riding our bikes to the market and a three-mile walk had been too much the day before, and even with a two-hour nap, I couldn’t kick the fatigue. I’d thawed out a pound of ground beef, hoping I could work up enough excitement to make tacos with homemade shells for Cinco de Mayo, with the refried beans.

Jim decided it wasn’t a good idea for me to use a knife. “Plus, you’re probably very dirty,” he said. “Have you seen that floor up close?”

I suggested going out, since I hadn’t done anything with the beans yet anyway, and he, Mr. I Love Mexican, refused. (He always refuses to do the expected.)

Then, my husband offered to make me spaghetti and meatballs. (He’s the best that way. I’d be so sick of being my pick-me-up, in his position, but he always finds the right thing to say.) Lying on the floor, feeling the warmth of the pine planks soothe my back, it sounded like the best idea in the world. He told me to stay put.

“That would be wonderful,” I said, and decided to do my very best not to coach. He checked his email and showered, and my sun hid behind the back fence.

One thing, I thought. I’ll just get out all the stuff he could put in the meatballs. That nearly-dead head of parsley. That half an onion. The right pan. I got up.

“What’s this?” he asked, pointing to the pan.

“For searing meatballs.”

“I can’t do them in the oven?”

“You can. But if you do them on the stove, you can just dump the sauce in on top, and let them simmer, and it’s fewer dishes.” Ah ha. Trump card. I had revealed that there was premade sauce somewhere in the house.

I piled a few things onto the counter, then I really did sit down to read.

He sounded like an unpracticed ping-pong player in the kitchen, rattling around without the habitual patterns that come to someone who cooks frequently in the same space. Three drawers would open before he’d find what he was looking for. When he began snapping the tongs open and shut over and over, I could tell he was standing over the meatballs, waiting for them to cook, instead of flitting off to start a different task, like I might have done. I wished I could watch him.

I don’t know how long it took. It was long enough for me to finish a magazine, which I rarely do. Long enough for a neighbor to knock on the door and announce, “Wow! It smells like chicken livers!” (I don’t think Jim liked that part. It smelled nothing like chicken livers.)

It was long enough for me to recognize the way a dinner’s smells rustle themselves up and out of a kitchen, and make the one who’s being cooked for feel darn near queenlike.

When it was done, he called me in.

There, simmering in the high-sided skillet, was a gorgeous sauce. It looked like a Bolognese, only the meat had more body.

“Is this meatball sauce?” I asked carefully.

“Yeah,” he said. “Your meatball theory doesn’t work. They started to burn, so I had to scramble them into a sauce.”

I decided not to argue about my “theory.”

“So we’re having bucatini with scrambled meatball sauce?”

“Yes,” he said. He piled pasta into our bowls a little awkwardly, and smothered it with his creation. He showered everything with Parmesan cheese.

Jim's mashed meatball sauce

Meatballs are always better than the sum of their parts, and this sauce – flecked with egg, breadcrumbs, cheese, herbs, and the oatmeal his mother always uses in her meatballs – was better still, because there was no cutting involved. Each bite of pasta had just the right amount of meat. I swooned, and he sat, eating quietly, and I could tell he was proud of himself (and maybe a little surprised). I couldn’t have wished for anything more on May 5th.

“Babe,” I said, mouth full. “This is amazing.”

“Maybe I should cook with you more,” he said tentatively, and I agreed. He promised he’d make the sauce again, so I could write down the recipe.

After dinner, I told Jim about how I’d heard Tom Waits playing at a coffee shop that morning. I’d decided it was a Tom Waits sort of day, all grumbly and growly, when it could have been so nice. “That’s the whole premise of that one album,” he said. “The song that goes ‘Some days, you just have to get behind the mule and plow.’ Even on the bad days, you just have to keep on going.”

He’s right. You have to rest, but you also have to plow.

I put the pinto beans in a bowl of water to soak, and decided we’d have Cinco de Mayo a day late.

It’s been a rough week or two, lupus-wise. New symptoms. New meds. Spoon counting, again. Maybe this is what the rune reader meant by “patience.” Tuesday morning, I woke up exhausted again, and tried to remind myself, every now and then during the day, that it’s okay not to feel good. Even when it gets all annoying and grumbly, illness does not equal failure.

Somewhere during the day, I found my way to the grocery store, and stocked up on poblanos and fresh chili powder. I sautéed onions and spring garlic from the market in my favorite pot, then softened the peppers, and stirred in the soaked beans and spices. I covered the pot, put it in the oven without setting a timer, and took a long nap.

Two hours later, I did feel better. We scooped piles of mild, simple, slow-cooked pinto-poblano chili up with quesadilla triangles, and relaxed together.

I feel much better today. Go figure.

Pinto-Poblano Chili 2

Baked Pinto Poblano Chili (PDF)
Once cooked, dried pinto beans plump up with a soft, almost meaty texture no can could match. Making chili with dried beans may sound like more work, but it’s not, especially when you just tuck it into the oven to cook for a couple hours, completely undisturbed.

If you don’t have time to soak the beans overnight, place them in a pot and add water to cover. Bring to a boil, then let sit for an hour before draining, rinsing, and continuing as directed.

Also, you can substitute 3 cloves chopped garlic for the spring garlic, if you don’t have access to the leek-like garlic shoots that farmers’ market often sell in the spring.

TIME: 30 minutes active time
MAKES: 6 to 8 servings

1 pound dried pinto beans
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 bunch spring garlic (about 6 stalks, 1” in diameter at thickest point), chopped (white and green parts)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
3 poblano peppers, seeded and chopped
2 tablespoons ancho chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano (or 1 teaspoon dried oregano)
4 cups vegetable or chicken broth
1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 (15-ounce) can corn (or 1 1/2 cups fresh kernels, if available)
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Cotija or crumbled goat cheese, for garnish

Place the beans in a large bowl and add water to cover by 2 inches. Let soak overnight, then rinse and drain.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Heat a large, heavy pot with a lid (such as a Dutch oven) on the stove over medium heat. Add the oil, then the onions and spring garlic. Season with salt and pepper, and cook and stir for 10 minutes, until soft. Add the poblanos, spices, and oregano, and cook and stir another minute or two. Add the beans, broth, tomato sauce, vinegar, and brown sugar, season again, and bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Cover the pot, and bake in the oven for 2 hours, undisturbed.

Stir in the corn and cilantro, and season to taste with additional salt and pepper, if necessary. Serve hot, sprinkled with cheese.


Filed under farmer's market, gluten-free, husband, recipe, vegetables, vegetarian

A Snitch in Time

Tug on the Mississippi

It’s been a long week, since I was here last. Like flying through time, only instead of having Time bend for us, we moved for Him: We started in Seattle, where a dear friend and her adorable two-year-old were staying with us, then zipped to New Orleans with my family, catching two raucous nights and a wedding there, then flew back for a different wedding in Seattle, then hit home, seeing the same friends again. At one point I thought of the little golden snitch in Harry Potter, and wondered if this is how it felt, buzzing around nonstop, trying not to get caught. (That laptop? Yeah, it stayed in its bag, mostly.)

Random flasher in NO

But oh, New Orleans: City of debauchery, gluttony, and (we noticed) extremely bendy liquor laws (where pretty 17-year-old siblings are concerned, at least). It was my third trip since Katrina, and I must say the city is looking a lot better than it did a year and half ago.

New Orleans isn’t so easy on the liver, especially when my cousin Erica is in charge. (And I must say: Partying with your entire family is FUN.) Instead of rehashing everything from the bachelorette party to the bull ride, I’ll offer a few wedding planning tips, because Erica, honey, you did it right.

Erica looking away

For brides and grooms:

1. Do offer your guests a tall, strong cocktail as they walk into the ceremony site. Preferably pink. No one will care if you’re late.

Policeman at Erica's wedding

2. Do coordinate with your city’s police force and arrange for a parade around downtown after your ceremony, complete with a big brass band and you at the head of the line. This is so much more fun for your guests than waiting for you to take ten zillion pictures.

Band leading parade

3. Do give your wedding chow a sharp sense of place. Erica and Mark did up the New Orleans grub in a huge way, starting with a crawfish boil (and the best fried catfish) and ending with a failure-free buffet (those are so rare!) of spoonbread with beef debris, crab beggars’ purses, savory cheesecakes, jambalaya cakes, etc. Ah-MAZE-ing, even for this not-so-Cajun-lovin’ girl.

Rehearsal dinner fried catfish

4. Do ask your stiletto-clad guests to avoid the toes of guests with lesser, or in my case no, shoes on. It’s only polite. (I’m still a little limpy. It’s not my fault my shoes were off when I took this photo, is it?)

Light on latrobe's

5. Do commemorate your favorite late-nite snack. We had gyros after dancing, right there in the reception room, at 11 p.m., which made me miss breakfast a lot less when we hit the airport at 4:45 a.m.

Erica eating gyros

Anyway. That was the first half of my week. At the ass-crack on Saturday morning, which also happened to be our anniversary, we flew back to Seattle in time for a different (gorgeous) wedding here, which I stumbled through with less energy than I might have liked. Jim and I bailed on the dancing and had our own little slow dance right here behind the chair I’m sitting in, celebrating five years of marriage, and slept more in one night than we had in the previous three combined.

Then, Sunday, we had friends over for a Pagan eating celebration (read: our take on Easter), and I baked my first ham (easy peasy) and made the most delicious banana cake, with a cream cheese frosting that almost didn’t make it out of the bowl. Just yesterday, the friend and the 2-year-old left, and here I am, with lots of dirty laundry and about ten pounds of maple- and marmalade-glazed ham.

So, apologies: I just don’t feel much like cooking. (I do feel pretty good, though, considering. Hooray for naps three days in a row.)

But before it all started, I was on a recipe bender. I’ve been tearing out magazine recipes like a machine lately, bringing other peoples’ ideas into the kitchen to see what happens, and it feels good. Last week, before the time warp started, Jim and I had a conversation that went something like this:

ME: Tomorrow night I’m making an awesome Frenchie onion tart from Gourmet.

HIM: Just onions?

ME: OOoooooh. I’ll make it with kale!

HIM: And?

ME: And beet salad.

HIM: No, back to the tart. And?

ME: And what?

HIM: And bacon. Why?

ME: Why? Oh. Because we have that leftover bacon?

HIM: And?

ME: And because everything’s better with bacon?

HIM: And?

ME: And . . .I don’t know. Why am I playing this game?

HIM: And because when you cook, you have to know your audience. And I want bacon.

So demanding, this husband of mine.

The next night, before we headed off to a yoga class, I made the dough, folding in half whole wheat flour, and caramelized the onions. We only had 2 pounds’ worth of onions, so I added a pound of kale. (In my blissful post-ohming state, I forgot the kale on the stove, and it burned. It turned out just fine in the end, though; the burned bits got covered up by the cheese. Still, watch your kale.)

“No bacon?” Jim was doubtful when I slid the tart into the oven.

“No bacon,” I said.

Moments later, I heard his voice reverberating off the shower curtain. The song was about how tarts without bacon suck, with refrains about vegetables being for losers, etcetera.

When he walked out of the bathroom, I told him he was welcome to cook up the bacon himself and sprinkle it on top of the finished tart, if he was so sure my version would fail, but he declined. The sweet, yeasty scent of caramelized onion on fresh dough wafted through the house. He looked hungry.

When I took it out of the oven, I was thrilled to find that the tart’s crust was crisp enough to pick up in one hand. I transferred it to the cutting board that way, like moving a Frisbee, just to prove a point. (The truth: It almost broke. Don’t try it.)

My husband mumbled something unintelligible through his first bite.

“Excuse me?” I said.

“It doesn’t need bacon,” he said. “It’s amazing.”

I made it again the next day, for my friend, pushing the crust to all white whole wheat flour, and softening the edges with just a brush of olive oil. I used the full three pounds of onions, plus the kale.

Even better.

Onion-kale tart

Whole Wheat Kale and Caramelized Onion Tart (PDF)
Adapted from a March 2008 Gourmet magazine recipe for an Onion Tart with Mustard and Fennel, this simple appetizer tends toward pizza, but “pizza” just doesn’t capture its little mustard bite, the great herby fennel flavor, or the way the kale dries out and crisps in the oven. You can caramelize the onions the night before you serve it, as the original recipe suggests, but be sure to pour off any accumulated liquid before spreading them out on the dough.

For best results, bake the tart in a heavy 12” by 15” half sheet pan. I found the crust wasn’t as crisp in a flimsy pan.

TIME: 1 hour active time
MAKES: 8 appetizer servings

1 (1/4-ounce) package active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water
1 1/2 to 1 3/4 cups white whole wheat flour, plus all-purpose flour for rolling dough
1 large egg
1/3 cup plus 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
2 3/4 teaspoons salt, divided
Olive oil spray
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
3 pounds yellow onions, halved and thinly sliced
Freshly ground pepper
1 3/4-pound bunch kale, cleaned and chopped
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Stir the yeast and warm water together in a small bowl, and let stand until foamy, about five minutes.

Place 1 1/2 cups of the flour in the work bowl of a stand mixer. Make a well in the flour, and add the yeast mixture. Stir the egg, 1 tablespoon of the oil, and 1 1/2 teaspoons of the salt together in the small bowl with a fork, and add that to the well, also. Using the fork, mix the liquids with the flour until a soft dough forms, and almost all the flour has been incorporated.

Fit the mixer with the dough hook and knead on medium-high speed until smooth and elastic, about 4 minutes, adding some or all of the remaining 1/4 cup flour, as necessary, to prevent the dough from sticking to the bottom of the bowl. Transfer the dough to a bowl coated with the olive oil spray, and turn to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a draft-free corner for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, until doubled in bulk.

While dough rises, heat 1/3 cup of the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add the fennel seeds, and cook, shaking pan, for about 30 seconds, until just beginning to darken. Add the onions, one teaspoon of the salt, season with pepper, and stir with tongs to lift the fennel seeds into the onion mixture. Reduce heat to medium-low and cover onions directly with a round of parchment paper cut to fit the pan. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are very tender and golden brown, 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours.

Heat a separate skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add a tablespoon of the olive oil, then the kale, and season with the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, plus pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until kale has wilted, about 6 to 8 minutes. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees, and arrange a rack in the center of the oven.

Punch the dough down, and use a floured rolling pin to roll the dough out on a lightly-floured surface to the size of a large (12” by 15”) baking sheet. Transfer the dough to the sheet, and crimp the edges, if desired. Brush edges with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil.

Using a small offset spatula or plastic scraper, spread the mustard out over the dough. Spread the caramelized onions evenly over the mustard, then the kale over the onions, then the cheese over the kale.

Bake the tart until the crust is golden brown, 30 to 35 minutes. Cut into squares and serve warm or at room temperature.
Bitten onion kale tart


Filed under appetizers, husband, Lunch, recipe, travel, vegetables, vegetarian

Christmas in July

I hate it when people say that, Christmas in July. It’s not that I’m against gifts – I tingle at the sight of an unexpected package (the more stamps, the better). But if Christmas happened a second time, wouldn’t it be in June? I mean, calendar-wise? But Christmas in June just doesn’t have that nice ring to it.

Anyway. On Friday, Christmas showed up on my front porch. (And it’s July.)

Most years, we spend Christmas with my husband’s family. I can count three with my family in the eleven years my husband and I have been together, and this is a good thing: Christmas in my family is a convenient time to hang out, a time when everyone has the day off, a good day to ski and drink hot chocolate and gloat about the lack of a lift line. My mother’s Jewish, so despite her ability to spread the guilt on thick in other situations, late December doesn’t come with strict familial duties and pressures, which means we’ve always had a fairly easy time balancing the holidays. My family’s just as happy if I visit in January.

Here, my husband is lucky. Because in his family, Christmas is some of the expected religious pomp and circumstance, combined with (what is to me) a massive family reunion, plus parties, diligent Christmas morning traditions, and copious quantities of cheese, all jammed into two or three days.

Each year in Vermont, where we often celebrate, someone hosts a Christmas Eve party. We’re talking upwards of 20 people, gathered in one house in sports coats and cable-knit sweaters, jabbering and drinking and eventually sitting down together at one massive table. I love it all. This year Kim hosted; she’d set a table for 24, I think, with what I took to be some fancy china, personalized place cards, gifts for each person, etc. She could have given Martha a run for her money.

But when the tenderloin came out and dinner got underway, I picked my plate up and was surprised to find that the plates were plastic. She’d found them in Chinatown – Who wants to wash twenty-four fancy plates on Christmas Eve?, she reasoned – for cheap. I swooned. She offered to pick some up for me the next time she saw them, and I instantly forgot about them.

But a couple days ago, when a package showed up on the porch with her address on the return label, squeezed next to twenty-seven (I counted) stamps of various monetary values, I knew just as instantly what was inside. Christmas in July, indeed.

My husband did warn me that writing about the peacock cups might generate a landslide of ancient dishware from his side of the family. A natural dish gradient, if you will, unused dishes mailed to and fro across the country according to gravitational pull.

It didn’t happen (I should probably be thankful), but these – oh, they are just right for the chairs. (And I’d just decided my husband was right; buying plastic plates for outdoors in the summer was too frivolous. Ha!)

If I set them the long way on the fat arm of my adirondack chair, I can even cut on them without flipping the entire plate into my lap, like I did a few nights ago.

Oooh, just wait ’til you see them.

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Filed under husband, recipe

The chairs are done

Adirondack chairs

Tito’s latest project is finished, and just in time for summer. They’re wonderful; every time I sit down in one, it swallows me whole. Anyone know where I can get good red cushions for them that are at least a little waterproof? And preferably for $10?

Before the glue had finished drying on the arms, we celebrated with a strawberry crostata. Bromley got to lick the whipped cream bowl.

If you have a strong inclination toward rhubarbification, as my friend Beth does, by all means substitute a pound of chopped rhubarb for half the berries, and increase the sugar to 3 tablespoons.

Strawberry Crostata with Cornmeal Crust

Recipe for Strawberry Crostata with Cornmeal Crust
Recipe 183 of 365

A crostata is a country-style Italian fruit tart, usually high on the flavor-to-effort ratio. Don’t be a perfectionist about the crust; the whole point is for it to look rugged. Just squish it up around the fruit however you have the urge to do it the first time.

Serve with lightly sweetened whipped cream, yogurt, or ice cream.

TIME: 30 minutes active time
MAKES: 6 servings

For the crust:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup cornmeal
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
2 tablespoons full fat sour cream
1/4 cup cold water
Raw or turbinado sugar, for decoration (optional)

For the filling:
2 pounds small strawberries, hulled and sliced
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Pulse the flour, cornmeal, salt, and sugar together in the food processor until blended. Add the butter, and pulse 20 times, or until the butter is the size of small peas. Add the sour cream, and pulse a few times to incorporate. Turn the machine on, and add most of the water in a slow, steady stream, stopping when the dough begins to come together – you may not need all the water if the atmosphere is humid. The dough is moist enough when a handful of the dough stays together when you press it into a clump in your hand.

Dump the dough onto a large piece of wax paper, gather into a ball, press into a disc shape, wrap, and chill until firm, at least 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees, and line a baking sheets with a silicon baking mat or parchment paper.

For the filling, place the berries in a large mixing bowl. Then mix the flour, sugar, and cinnamon together in a small bowl and set aside.

Roll the dough out on a floured surface with a floured rolling pin to about 12” in diameter. Transfer the dough to the baking sheet. Sprinkle two tablespoons of the dry flour/sugar mixture over the center 8” of the dough, and mix the rest of the dry ingredients in with the berries. Pile the berries in the center of the dough, leaving a 2” border all the way around.

Preparing strawberry crostata

Using your hands, fold the edges of the dough up and over the berries a little at a time, overlapping the dough over the previous fold each time. (If the dough doesn’t readily stick together, dribble a little water on your fingers and brush it between the layers of dough to encourage it to stick.) If using the turbinado sugar, brush the crust with water or milk, and sprinkle it generously with the sugar, patting it into the crust a bit to make it stick.

Bake for 45 minutes, or until the crust has browned and the filling is thick and bubbling. Let cool on the baking sheet for about 15 minutes, or until the juice solidify, then transfer to a platter and serve.

(Hint: To keep the tart intact, it may be easier to slide the tart directly from the baking sheet onto a large cutting board and serve it on that.)


Filed under Breakfast, dessert, dog, fruit, husband, recipe

Tito on location, part 3

After some very busy days, I have two profound observations: 1) mudlfats are big, and 2) Korean seafood is good.

The first was obvious during a 5 hour tour (on foot) of the field site. We walked straight out towards an ever receding horizon until the guide stopped and said, “Time to go back– water coming.” Standing in the middle of nowhere, someone asked how far we had gone, and he responed “about halfway.”

The second is a recurring theme, supported by the box lunches (essentially Korean Lunchables) provided by the hotel yesterday: rice, seaweed, baby octopi, pickled peppers, and egg-fried fish filets. Additional evidence includes the grilled marlin at dinner that night, served with a red onion slaw and not the least bit oily.

Both points may need further study.

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Filed under husband, Korean, travel

Tito on location, part 2

Yesterday, disaster loomed large when I inadvertantly began ordering a platter of Polychaetes, which were still very alive and wriggling around on the table next to me. Best not to point at things inquisitively when you lack the vocabulary to say “no thanks, I was just curious.” Backpedaling was tricky, but I managed via spastic sign-language to secure an order of grilled sardines instead. The sardines were quite dead, and they were delicious. Honestly, French bistros around the world should give up and go home– the Koreans have perfected the sardine. Sliced lengthwise (still whole), rolled in cornmeal and seaweed, and served amidst an array of sauces, they were just about perfect.

Other things on the gastronomical list include trying bibimbap, a signature rice dish complete with a fried egg (genuis!) on top, and learning to say mashi isseumnida (direct translation: “It’s tasty!”).

I’m now back in my hotel after a quick trip to the nearby market, where I saw a label on a noodle package that read “MSG, for health!”. I passed on the noodles and purchased a bottle of Soju for 750 won (about 80 cents). I think maybe I’d better mix it with something.


Filed under fish, husband, Korean, travel

Tito on location

Alright folks, I’m breaking the radio silence for the first installment of “Tito goes to Incheon”. Does that sound like a comic book to anyone else? I’ll start working on the illustrations, but first some text:

In a scant 12 first hours in Korea, I’ve already eaten myself into a stupor twice. Last night, it was a massive, carved-stone bowl of what I can only describe as “essence of ocean”. Full of fish heads, spines, and various entrails (some of which I ate around), plus with a menacing red color, I was happily sweating after the first three bites. And I mean sweating. (A concerned waitress came over to ask if I was okay.) This was the perfect follow-on after being introduced to a traditional bath house (yes, the hotel has one), which is by far the best cure for jetlag I have ever encountered. Jokes about naked men and appetite will be omitted lest I loose my posting privileges for the rest of the trip.

Then this morning it was a breakfast buffet to end all buffets. The ubber-hip hotel (I think the walls would continue to pulse even if they turned off the electric lounge music) has eight restaurants all incorporated into one enormous maze-like space. Open kicthens (eight of them, if you weren’t paying attention) and shiny things abound. Breakfast is part Korean (rice, kimchi, dried bits of fish, cold miso soup) and part western (bacon, potatoes, pastries… did mention the bacon?). Feeling a foot (or stomach) in each world, I loaded up a full plate from the Korean buffet, then went back for a western round. The only hitch was the coffee– the convention here is to only serve a half-cup at a time, so the poor waiter was coming back to my table constantly. It’s cruel game for both parties when you can drink it faster than they can pour it.

Alright, time to find some mudflats. Over and out.


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Filed under husband, Korean, travel

A sandwich of commitment

Homemade Steak Bomb

On the eve of his departure (he’s headed to Korea for field work), Tito took one look at our leftover steak and channeled Nino, who must have been the big Italian dude in charge of the menu at Nino’s on Charles street in Boston’s Beacon Hill neighborhood, where we lived a few years back. I never actually met Nino, but based on some of the subs the place offered, I don’t think it’s outrageous of me to assume he was a pretty hefty guy.

Our favorite was the steak sub, which we usually opted to convert into a steak and egg sandwich topped with melted provolone. We dubbed it The Steak Bomb, and when our 5th floor walk-up got hot in the summer, it somehow made everything better. Perhaps it was just cheaper than any of the salads sold on our street.

The S.B. was a toasty, buttery bun, loaded with hot sauteed onions and shaved steak that had been mixed with scrambled eggs, topped with a slab of provolone, and melted just enough, in the pizza oven, if I remember correctly. It was massive, and it was a sandwich of commitment. You know the type: once you pick it up, you either have to keep holding it and finish it, or put it down and risk having it explode with all its supernatural sandwich force all over your plate/lap/clothing.

Here’s our home version. Considerably smaller and much less greasy, but not for lack of trying. We just don’t have a twenty-year-old griddle, that’s all.

The Steak Bomb
Recipe 152 of 365

For some reason, writing out a letter-by-letter recipe for a steak bomb seems like utter sacrilege.

Here’s the idea:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees, and heat a big cast iron pan over medium heat. Melt a hunk of butter in the pan. Open up two big hoagie rolls and smear the insides around in the melted butter. Toast them in the oven for a few minutes, until just colored around the edges.

Add a little olive oil to the pan, and saute half an onion, sliced very thin, for about 10 minutes, or until good and brown. Add a mess of thinly sliced leftover steak (about 1/2 pound), and some bell peppers, if you please, and saute until you get that good meat aroma going.

(Did you forget about the rolls? Put them on a baking sheet, this could get messy.)

Skooch the onions and steak to the edges of the pan, and add a bit more butter to the center of the skillet. Crack in two eggs, let them cook there until the whites begin to gel a bit, then scramble them in the center of the pan. Mix them up with the steak and onions.

Fry time

Put a little cheese on the buns. (Provolone would be ideal, mozzarella or cheddar would work; I used string cheese, because hey, you got what you got.) Pile the steak/onion/egg mixture into the buns, and slap some more cheese on top.

Bake the sandwiches until the cheese is good and melty, about 5 minutes on the top rack.

Now, eat it. Without putting it down.

Eating a steak bomb

And no, using the sweat from your beer glass to clean your hands afterwards is not shameful.


Filed under Beef, husband, recipe, sandwich


From the top of Washington Pass

We had a spectacular camping trip: good hikes, great views, and time both alone and with friends punctuated by sightseeing, random wine tastings, a quick interview with a brown bear, and a stop at a farm selling fresh, raw goat’s milk cheese (which is illegal, by the way, but quite delicious). Add perfect weather and the season’s first cherries, obscene quantities of cheddar cheese and salami, and, well, I guess you could say it was an ideal two-day vacation.

Cherries (or what's left of them)

Breakfast, lunch, and dinner

Now bits and pieces of our hiking gear litter our property inside and out like a yard sale, and my body, which felt so spry and strong and able 24 hours ago that I commented to my husband that I felt like maybe this whole lupus thing was a bit of a lie (he raised his eyebrows), now feels slow and weak and grumpy, to put it mildly.

I think I need to commission someone to build me a personal prediction model. I’m sure Tito could do it in Matlab, can’t you do anything in Matlab? All I really need is a program where I can put in the day’s activities and access a little print-out of what I might expect for the following day, given how many spoons I’ve spent. Put in “rest,” get out “energy.” Put in “5-course dinner for 10,” get out “nonfunctional.” Wouldn’t it be nice if life was that predictable?

I’m getting better at judging how much some activities drain me of energy, which is a nice way of saying I’ve made certain mistakes enough times to learn from them, but new things . . .I need the program to help me predict the results of activities I’ve avoided altogether for the past few years. How many spoons does an 8-mile hike take? Well, I really have no idea.

Yesterday, for example, after having hiked the day before, I happily marched up to Stuart Lake under clear skies of Western Blue (I believe Crayola is perpetually postponing their launch of that color; there simply is no manmade match for it). Then we fought the traffic back to Seattle with the rest of the “citiots” who decided to hike last weekend, baked brownies for Tito’s birthday sculpture, and enjoyed the bulk of the evening on the porch with some friends, drinking beer and eating the bratwurst we were never able to find on Sunday night in Leavenworth, which, for mysterious reasons, thinks its a good idea to close down all pork-related fast food stands by 5 p.m. on a holiday weekend. Here’s the one we wanted to try:

The sausage place that pissed us off by being closed

Yesterday at 9 p.m., I languished, satisfied and slightly sunburned, sated with pork and sauerkraut and hefeweizen (Tito’s requested birthday meal) and the last of the day’s sunlight. Katie and I built artful sculptures out of strawberry ice cream, espresso brownies, and toasted marshmallows, and paired them with some delicious South African screw-top pinotage.

Birthday Sculpture 2

Had I thought about the day’s activities at 7 a.m., when I was climbing out of a tent at 4,000 feet in a hat and gloves, and punched them into a handy-dandy prediction model, the printout would have told me that without more rest I’d crash at precisely 9:24 p.m., perhaps when the day’s steroids began circling my system’s drain. I’d become a complete basket case, with pains shooting up the sides of my legs and out of each place where tendon attached to bone, and that I’d wake up the next day (today) with a pretty stubborn headache, the kind of stuffy head you get when you spend a day outside below freezing without a hat on, and random waves of nausea.

But no. I have no personalized Matlab model, so I sure spooned it out this weekend without realizing it, and today, I’m reminded to do my calculations by hand the next time I’m eating breakfast by a river somewhere in the Pacific Northwest:

Camping spot near 8 Mile Creek

Oy. I overspooned. But I might add that it was totally worth it.


Filed under commentary, husband

Ichiban Carbonara

If you haven’t picked up a copy of Heidi Swanson’s Super Natural Cooking: Five Ways To Incorporate Whole and Natural Ingredients into Your Cooking, you’re due for a trip to Amazon. As promised, the book provides a real, approachable segue between cooking the way you do now and cooking with more natural foods and whole grains. Typically when I get a new cookbook, I hunker down on the couch with a cup of tea, the book, and a stack of sticky notes to mark the recipes I’m most excited to try. The other night I ended up reading basically the entire thing because there’s so much informative text – I tend to skip many of the boxes in cookbooks because I know how to peel a tomato, slice a mango, zest a lemon, and chop chocolate. But this book will be a real educational tool for me, simply because whole grains are one of cooking’s coffers I haven’t explored much. Now the book looks like it’s growing little yellow Post-It weeds out of the cracks between every page.

Since my husband still doesn’t want me to use his name here, one of my readers suggested an exhaustive list of possible screen names, from which my husband selected Tito. This is a crotch rocket-riding alter ego I haven’t met, and really doesn’t fit his personality (as I know it) in any way, but Tito it is.

So Tito doesn’t love pasta. And as you’ve probably noticed, he tends to say what he thinks. (Example: on Monday when it was pouring, I let my hair dry naturally and tried to get it to curl a little, and he told me I looked like a flood victim. Joking, of course. But I got the point.)

Pasta carbonara falls into what he unflatteringly calls “Middle Italian” food (as opposed to Middle American, which involves Can of Soup Casseroles and possibly Hamburger Helper). I disagree, but I love carbonara, so perhaps I’m biased.

With a little trepidation, I decided to cut carbonara’s flavors away from its spaghetti and paste them onto soba, Japanese noodles make from buckwheat, which Heidi tells me is actually an herb, not a traditional grain. Result: deep flavors of great pancetta (I didn’t say Heidi would make me a vegetarian), cream, Parmesan, and a healthy dose of peas layered into noodles with their own earthy flavor.

“Ichiban carbonara,” said Tito.

Soba Carbonara 1

Recipe for Soba Carbonara
Recipe 144 of 365

Traditionally, carbonara requires tossing hot, hot pasta with a mixture of eggs and cream, so that the heat from the noodles poaches the egg and forms a lovely thick sauce. Here’s a version that uses Japanese soba (buckwheat) noodles, which are typically rinsed with cold water after cooking. (Don’t do that here.) Next time I’ll toss in a handful of toasted Panko breadcrumbs mixed with a bit of chopped Italian parsley to add a bit of crunch.

TIME: 15 minutes (begin cooking the noodles before the bacon is done)
MAKES: 2 servings

1/4 pound pancetta (one 1/3” thick slice), cut into 1/4” dice
1 large egg yolk
1/2 cup heavy cream
Salt and freshly ground pepper
4 ounces (1/4 pound) soba (buckwheat) noodles
1 cup frozen baby peas*
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Put a large pot of water on to boil for the soba.

Cook the pancetta over medium heat in a large skillet until browned and crispy, 7 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, whisk the yolk, cream, and some salt and pepper together in a small bowl to blend. Set aside.

Cook the soba noodles according to package directions (probably about 8 minutes, but it may depend on the thickness of your soba). Just before the soba is done, add the peas right to the water along with the noodles. Drain the peas and noodles and return them to the pan, and immediately add the egg/cream mixture, tossing the noodles with tongs as you add it so it coats everything evenly. Add the cooked pancetta and parmesan, toss to distribute evenly, and serve immediately.

*If you find fresh peas, by all means, use them, but add them to the soba about three minutes before the noodles are done cooking.


Filed under husband, Italian, japanese, Pasta, pork, recipe