Category Archives: husband

Breakfast fun

I piled ripe, fragrant mango slices, frozen peaches, a banana, creamy “Australian-style” yogurt, and some coconut milk into the blender this morning for a breakfasty version of my beloved mango lassi (and read that Wikipedia entry closely, it looks like there’s a version of lassi that involves marijuana – how’s that for a new take on putting pot in your food?).

After I poured it into glasses, I regretted having used all the mango. I wished out loud that I had some sort of garnish, because it looked so plain just sitting there on the counter in a stemless wine glass, which was totally the wrong shoe for the occasion, if you know what I mean.

Luckily, my husband was at the ready with his creative powers. First, he stuck his finger in the smoothie as garnish. Then he grabbed a banana (peel on), and stuck that in instead. He headed back to the fruit bowl for more inspiration so fast that he didn’t even recognize that he’d created a drowning duck out of food:

Banana duck 1

But, of course, he couldn’t leave well enough alone:

Balancing act

“Now I bet you wished I worked from home,” he said.

Recipe for Mango-Peach Smoothie
Recipe 143 of 365

You may garnish your smoothie however you choose. My husband recommends whole fruit.

TIME: 5 minutes
MAKES: 2 big smoothies

Flesh of 1 large, ripe mango
1 ripe banana
8 slices frozen peaches (or 1 ripe peach, peeled and sliced)
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1/2 cup light coconut milk

Combine all the ingredients in a blender or food processor, and puree until smooth.

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Fightin’ words

Last night we made the Berber-Spiced Chicken Breasts from Food & Wine (hooray! someone else’s recipe!), and as we sat down to eat them, the crunchy texture on the outside got my husband all worked up.

HIM: Hey, cool! These have the same texture as Shake’n’Bake!

ME: (Confused. These are chicken breasts marinated in cardamom, paprika, garlic, cinnamon, etc. and grilled.) I’ve never had Shake’n’Bake.

HIM: (Yelling.) WHAT? (Seems to be rethinking our marriage.)

ME: I’ve never tasted Shake’n’Bake. My mom didn’t cook that kind of stuff.

HIM: Are you a communist?

You see, this is how wars start. We smoothed it all out in the end, thanks to this soothing warm salad, but for a minute there I thought I might get the ax. Am I the only person in the world who hasn’t had Shake’n’Bake?

Roasted Green Bean and Tomato Salad with Lemon-Herb Breadcrumbs

Recipe for Roasted Green Bean and Tomato Salad with Lemon-Herb Breadcrumbs
Recipe 127 of 365

Here, lemony breadcrumbs create sort of a moist binder, so the result is like – God help me – a healthy, herby green bean casserole. A perfect side dish for modern African Shake’n’Bake, it turns out.

TIME: 15 minutes, plus roasting time
MAKES: 4 servings

1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
Zest and juice (about 1 tablespoon) of 1 baby lemon
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs (such as parsley, chives, basil, thyme, or mint)
1/2 pound green beans, trimmed
1 pint cherry tomatoes, some halved

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

In the bottom of a large bowl, mix the panko, lemon zest and juice, oil, salt and pepper to taste, and the herbs. Add the beans and tomatoes, and toss to coat.

Raw green bean and tomato salad

Transfer the vegetables to a large baking dish, and scoop any extra crumbs right on top. Bake in the top part of the oven for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the tomatoes are soft and the greens are al dente and beginning to brown. Serve immediately.

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Yes and no

When we fired up the grill last night, I had a vision: I wanted a pile of steaming broccoli rabe, topped with lemon and plenty of parmesan cheese and grilled hot Italian sausage. I was so excited to use my new toy, a snazzy Weber vegetable basketthat goes right on the grill, basically serving as an outdoor nonstick pan. I’ve grilled romaine before, but this thing seems like it’ll blow my perception of what greens and vegetables go on the grill (and stay on the grill, rather than falling through the cracks) wide open – baby tomatoes, green beans, shrimp without a skewer . . .

Grill-sauted Rabe 1

My husband played along for most of it, calmly grilling the saugs while I hopped around obsessing over the basket, but when we settled down for dinner, he seemed less excited. First he ate the sausage. Then:

HIM (verbatim): What’s all this green shit on my plate?

ME (pretending I liked it): It’s broccoli rabe.

HIM (doubtful): Have I eaten this before?

ME (lying): No, probably not. But it’s good, try it.

I tried it again with him. I’d had it before, braised and sauteed, and vaguely remembered having loved it. But this time, we both hated it.

Vegetable sadness. Must find a way to love it.

But the basket sure was fun.

Recipe for Grill-Sauteed Broccoli Rabe (if you like it)
Recipe 122 of 365

Preheat a grill-specific vegetable basket on a hot grill, or heat a large skillet over medium-high heat inside. Place a trimmed, rinsed bunch of broccoli rabe in a large bowl and drizzle with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper, toss to coat, and cook in the hot vegetable basket for 5 to 10 minutes, turning the greens with tongs every few minutes, until bright green and cooked through. Serve hot with shaved parmesan cheese and a squeeze of lemon.

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Husband Says: Salad Spinners Suck

My husband has informed me that he deserves a weekly column on my blog. He’d like to use it as a platform to voice his numerous concerns about our kitchen, but since he still prefers I don’t use his name, I’m denying him full access to posting.

This is today’s issue:

I hate the salad spinner. It’s a nuisance to clean, and that is my single metric for the worth of anything in our kitchen. I realize this is ridiculous–like judging the saws in my shop by what sort of sawdust they make–but cleaning represents my primary relationship with everything in the kitchen (except maybe the grill and the bottle opener). So I hate the salad spinner, and I take a perverse pleasure in the simple idea that it is plastic and brittle, and therefore will likely meet its end long before I do. I might even help it on its way.

I’m thinking of setting him up with a podcast. I’ll record what he says about my food, and you can laugh like I do. On the cauliflower, he waxed poetic about how the texture and sweetness balanced nicely with our salad, etc.

I wonder if he’ll ever find out I can buy salad spinners at the grocery store.

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I will make time for you.

Today I’m at B & K’s wedding, where rumor had it they would be serving (hallelujah!) breakfast for dinner.

I almost didn’t come. I almost threw a hissy fit and insisted that I have the power to make my own choices about my time, and told my husband that while I valued B & K’s friendship and feel so excited about their union, B is really his friend, and I had every right to stay home in Seattle and sleep my way out of my overbusy spring. In fact, I did throw that fit – sort of, only quietly over email, to my girlfriends.

Then, just as I’d settled down to muster up the courage to tell my husband I didn’t want to go, I got an email from him, sent originally to the groom’s sister to be read as part of the wedding ceremony. Like the most tender moments of any wedding ceremony between two people whose lives are meant to go together, it reminded me that I married him because, among other things, he always makes time for me.

He wrote from LAX, exhausted from a redeye from Hawaii and probably pretty stinky, which is exactly how the groom would have liked it:

Feeling this busy reminds me that time is the most valuable thing any of us have. It is always in short supply, and we are always trying to get more out of it– as if minutes and hours could be manipulated and stretched into longer bits and chunks just by willing it so. And yet the moments we get with our friends always seem compressed, not expanded. For B and K, idle times are rare, but as a couple they continually find time for each other, for their families, and for their friends. Their happiness arises from making time for each other and the people around them, no matter how busy they are.

This, in my mind, is what it’s all about. A marriage vow says “I will never be too busy. I will make time for you. I will always make time for you.” In fact, that’s the same reason the rest of us show up for the wedding. Sure, we’re celebrating, but we too are making time and promising to keep making it. If we have any wisdom, we use our short supply of time on the people we love. How else could we spend it?

It’s as if he knew that I’d been sitting at that very moment on the couch with my knees pulled up to my chest defensively, trying to decide whether skipping what promises to be a memorable weekend would cast a dark shadow over my relationship with B and K. He’s right: there is no better way for me to spend my time. I think I’ll be very, very glad I went.

Here’s a recipe that hardly takes any time at all.

Rhubarb clafoutis

Recipe for Rhubarb Clafoutis
Recipe 97 of 365

A clafoutis (pronounced kla-foo-tee, sometimes spelled clafouti) is a really simple, traditional French dessert, made by pouring a quick batter made with eggs, cream, and sugar over fruit, typically cherries, apples, or pears. It’s usually served family style, but I find that when I make a whole one, I can’t stop eating it, so I made individual servings, which worked perfectly for me – just double the recipe for a larger crowd. Some recipes call for flour, but this one doesn’t, it’s more custardy and Passover-friendly, for my mumzie. And it takes about ten minutes to make, so preheat the oven before you do anything.

TIME: 10 minutes prep, plus 25 minutes to bake
MAKES: 4 servings

Butter for greasing the ramekins
1 cup chopped rhubarb (from about 3 thin (12”) stalks, halved lengthwise and cut into 1/2” chunks)
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1 large egg
1/2 cup milk (I used whole, but skim or cream would also work)
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Grease four ovenproof 1/2 cup ramekins or crème brulee dishes with the butter. Toss the rhubarb with 2 tablespoons of the sugar, and divide the rhubarb evenly between the four ramekins. Place the ramekins on the baking sheet.

In a small mixing bowl, whisk 1/4 cup sugar with the egg until thick but not yet lightened in color. Add the remaining ingredients, whisk to blend, and pour an equal amount of the batter into each of the ramekins, so that the liquid comes up almost to the top of the rhubarb but doesn’t quite cover it.

Bake the clafoutis (the baking sheet should make it easier to take them out of the oven) on the top rack, for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the custard is barely set. Cool for ten minutes, and serve warm, garnished with whipped cream or confectioners’ sugar, if desired.

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Yard work hash

In preparation for a morning of yard work in the rain last Saturday, my husband started writing us a song. He does this periodically – well, almost every day, now that I think about it – and writing is a bit of a misnomer. He’s really singing, except whichever song lucky enough to be the focus of his attention receives a total lyrical overhaul. Since the creations are spontaneous, their quality varies wildly. (And by the way, have I mentioned that my husband is a physicist?)

This morning? Weird Al‘s “White and Nerdy,” itself a version of “Ridin’ Dirty,” rewritten for the dog as “Brown and Furry.”

“You see me eatin’ . . .my kibble . . .and now I’m beggin’ beggin’ beggin’ for your bagel.”

Fun, but not a chart topper.

But some become favorites, like James Taylor‘s “Mexico,” rewritten as an entire Mexican restaurant menu (complete with dish descriptions), or The Samples‘s “Did you ever look so nice” crooned with the refrain “Did you ever eat fried rice?” in a register more than a hair out of his natural vocal range. Now every time I hear the Samples song I turn in surprise when the speakers’ lyrics don’t match the ones that come most automatically out of my mouth.

So last weekend, as I mindlessly chopped scallions and wondered where I’d put the little planting trowel I may or may not have purchased when we moved in last fall, he translated DMB‘s “Satellite” into “Seattleite,” and I burst out laughing. It’ll be one of my favorites – and it would be yours, too, if you’d heard the Adam Sandler-quality observations on our life in Seattle. I’m sure he’s not the first person to come up with it, but I give him credit; I’ve been singing it ever since.

“Seattleite,” and a really killer breakfast made with the (surprisngly, pre-cooked) andouille sausage from my Skagit River Ranch stash, a bunch of little Russets from the farmer’s market, and two (if I do say so myself) perfectly poached eggs were just what I needed to get me going.

If you’ve never done it, here‘s a good video on how to poach an egg. I tend to go heavy on the vinegar.

Andouille-Green Chili Hash 2

Recipe for Andouille-Green Chili Hash
Recipe 67 of 365

You can use any kind of sausage, but I love the spiciness of good Andouille sausage.
Top the hash with ketchup, salsa, or sour cream, if desired.

TIME: 30 minutes
MAKES: 2 servings

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/2 pound Russet potatoes, peeled and diced into 1/2” pieces
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon paprika
2 spicy andouille sausages, cooked and sliced into 1/2” rounds
1 (4-ounce) can diced green chilies, drained
2 scallions, sliced thin (green and white parts)
3/4 cup shredded sharp cheddar or Monterey jack cheese (loosely packed)
2 large eggs, to be poached with a dash of white vinegar

First, heat a high-sided skillet or wide saucepan filled 3/4 of the way with water to a bare simmer.

Heat another large skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add the oil and the butter. When the butter has melted, swirl the pan to combine the two, then add the potatoes. Season with salt, pepper, and the paprika, and cook until browned on all sides (about 5 minutes), stirring occasionally. Add the sliced sausages to the browned potatoes, and cook another 5 minutes, or until the sausages begin to brown.

While the sausages cook, crack each egg into a small ramekin, add a dash of vinegar to the poaching liquid, and poach the eggs (they should take about 4 minutes).

Add the diced chilies and half the scallions to the potato/sausage mixture, and cook another minute or two, stirring. Season to taste again with salt and pepper, if necessary.

Divide the hash between two plates, top with the cheese and the remaining scallions, and carefully place a just-poached egg on the top of each pile. Serve immediately.

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Persimmon popsicles, and other new things

Yesterday my husband returned from wandering Seattle with his parents with a smile on his face. He said he had something for me, and he held my hand like a child’s and lead me out of the office, where I’d been typing away. We walked out into the early afternoon rain, and there on the grass landing strip across the sidewalk from our house was a Meader persimmon tree.

I’ve been on the hunt for the perfect tree for a few weeks. More accurately, I’ve been dreaming about the perfect tree, because I haven’t actually made it to a nursery yet. But I’d been thinking along the lines of a semi-dwarf apple tree that produced crisp, tart specimens that hold onto the tree well and store successfully. Wade Bennet, the cider master at Rockridge Cidery (who supplies me with warming cider when, like on Saturday, it’s pouring and freezing at the University District farmer’s market), suggested I find a Buckley Giant, an apple tree whose huge, green, basement-friendly fruits usually weigh in at over a pound each.

But this persimmon tree arrived literally on my doorstep, with a man who volunteered to plant it. So we put it in. I don’t know whether it requires special attention of any kind; I don’t even know how to tell when a persimmon’s ripe on a tree. (I know some ripen to a softish state, and I think the Meader is one of those, but I haven’t done my research yet.) In any case, someone at The Nursery told my husband that she’d been trying to get her hands on this particular variety of persimmon for months, so he hopped on the bandwagon and now it’s the five of us, my husband and the dog and the cat and me and the Persimmon tree.

I’d send a photo of Miss Persimmon, but there’s nothing to see. She just looks like a three-foot stick planted in the ground right now. She does seem beautifully planted, though, thanks to my in-home arborist.

The description I found on a random nursery website says to make persimmon popsicles. I’ll have to try that, in a few years, when the tree starts to bear fruit. The whole experience reminded me just how many ingredients I’m unfamiliar with – I’ve put persimmon in salads and a cake or two, and I’ve eaten them raw, but I’m a complete persimmon novice when it comes to baking, canning, and storing.

So, in anticipation of my need to try new cooking things with less familiar ingredients (like persimmons), I’m going on a New Things Kick. Not promising a whole week of new things, just acknowledging an effort to look deeper into my kitchen. I think I’ll find plenty in my pantry, which is filled with things like adzuki beans, nigella seeds, and vaccuum-packed shelf-stable baby clams from Japan (eek), none of which I’ve ever touched.

I bought dried fresh cranberry beans at the market on Saturday, a first for me. They were creamy white with purple flecks in their container, but cooked up to a gorgeous pinto hue that looked so . . . natural. Here’s the result, which I served with its liquid as a bed for yesterday’s halibut:

Cranberry Beans with Bacon and Brussels Sprouts

Recipe for Cranberry Beans with Bacon and Brussels Sprouts
Recipe 57 of 365

My husband’s tuna dish at The Stumbling Goat the other night inspired these beans – I’m not sure what was on his plate, but it struck me that I rarely serve fish in a bowl, over beans with a little light, snappy broth. And why not? These beans make the perfect bed for small piece of protein.

I used cranberry beans, but I’m sure fresh dried cannelini beans would also be delicious. As a warning, I doubt many kids would go for this, but I’m already planning to make it again.

TIME: 30 minutes, plus 45 minutes to cook the beans
MAKES: 6 servings

8 ounces dried fresh cranberry beans, rinsed and picked
2 cups chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 thick (or 6 regular) slices good-quality bacon, diced
1/2 pound small Brussels sprouts, washed and trimmed
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup red wine vinegar

Place the beans in a soup pot, and add the chicken broth, salt, and 2 cups water. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, for 30 to 45 minutes, or until the beans are just barely al dente. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Begin cooking the bacon pieces over medium heat in a large ovenproof skillet. Halve any sprouts bigger than 1 inch in diameter. When the bacon is almost crispy, add the sprouts, season with salt and pepper, and cook for about 5 minutes more, or until the sprouts begin to lose their bright color. Increase heat to high, add the beans (with any remaining cooking liquid) and the vinegar, season with salt and pepper, and cook another minute or so, stirring. Add 2 cups water (the water should almost cover the beans), and carefully transfer the skillet to the bottom rack of the oven. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until about half the water has evaporated and the sprouts are entirely cooked through. Serve immediately: spoon the beans into bowls, and pour the extra liquid on top.

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Filed under farmer's market, husband, pork, recipe, Seattle, side dish

Krrrrisp Kraut

A few weeks ago, my mother-in-law requested a recipe for pork chops with sauerkraut and apples. My experience with sauerkraut is pretty limited, but I do know that whenever I get a bratwurst, there never seems to be enough of the stuff – I’m always rationing the sauerkraut as I eat, lest I find myself with one bite to go and no kraut available.

I’d looked for chilled sauerkraut without much success at a few of my usual stores (I didn’t think I’d have any trouble, but apparently you can’t trust Trader Joe for everything), and eventually relied on my neighbor to grab me some when she was at a different market. She came home with this, which cracked me up:

Krrrrisp Kraut

Why doesn’t it say “Barrel Kured?”

So I broke into my Skagit River Ranch stash and set out to make pork chops positively swimming in sauerkraut. After searing the herbed chops, I sauteed tart apples and added sauerkraut with some of its liquid, apple cider vinegar, and Dijon mustard to make a lip-smaking topping that reminded us of salt and vinegar potato chips. You can serve the chops with the kraut topping as is, or make a not-so-healthy entire meal out of it (was I the one talking about eating more greens?) by piling the whole shebang onto a thick slab of toasted, buttered bread. This is what we did; my in-laws’ flight was early and we were in a bit of a hurry. The bread soaks up the extra vinegar quite nicely.

My husband and I hadn’t really touched base all day, and while we ate I was trying to figure out whether he had arranged to meet his parents at a certain place, whether he’d spoken to them that day, etc. He got very agitated when I found out he hadn’t told them we’d be waiting in Sea-Tac’s cell phone waiting lot. I released the anti-cell phone monster.

Him: You’ve got to get over this cell phone thing. People made plans and carried them out successfully long before the invention of the cell phone.

Me: Fine. But you don’t have to be so condescending about it, Mr. Cell Phone . . .(at this point I tried to think of a clever way of pointing out that he caved in and started using a cell phone when we moved to Seattle, but found myself at a loss).

Him: I’m not being condescending. I’m being indignant, which is different. It means I hold the whole world in disdain. Not just you.

Ohhhh. So that’s the difference.

Salt-and-Vinegar Pork Chops with Sauerkraut

Recipe for Salt-and-Vinegar Pork Chops with Sauerkraut
Recipe 53 of 365

Sauerkraut is like pickles – the refrigerated kind almost always beats the kind you find on the shelf. This recipe makes more than enough vinegar-kicked sauerkraut and granny smith apple topping for two big pork chops, but unless (like me) you insist on a high kraut-to-chop ratio, you could probably stretch it over four pork chops without any complaints.

I used half thyme and half sage for the herbs. You could substitute 1 teaspoon dried herbs (such as rubbed sage), if you prefer.

TIME: 15 minutes
MAKES: 2 big servings

2 pork loin chops
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme, sage, rosemary, or a combination of herbs
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 granny smith apple, chopped
1 packed cup sauerkraut (with about 1/2 cup of its juice)
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Season the pork chops with salt and pepper, and rub the herbs into the pork chops on both sides. When the pan is hot, add the oil and swirl the pan to coat, then add the chops, and cook for 3 to 5 minutes per side (depending on the thickness of the chops), or until browned and cooked through. Transfer the chops to a plate and tent with foil to keep warm.

Add the apples to the pan, and cook for about a minute, stirring. Add the sauerkraut (with juices), mustard, and vinegar, and season with salt and pepper. Cook for a few minutes, stirring, or until most of the liquid has evaporated. Serve the chops with the sauerkraut mixture piled on top.

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Peter, Peter, Cauliflower Eater

About this time last year, when we were still living in Woods Hole, I made a silky-smooth cauliflower soup spiked with coconut milk and green Thai chili paste (which I’ve always called chili paste, but which actually reads “green curry paste” on the label, I just discovered). At first, my husband turned up his nose at the concept of cauliflower soup, but our friend Peter, who is less discriminating when it comes to plain-tasting foods, liked it. Together we convinced my husband that cauliflower isn’t the horribly boring brainy vegetable it poses as on the produce shelf. I promised Peter I’d teach him to make it before we left, but summer came and soups disappeared from our kitchen vocabulary, and we never made it again.

Today is Peter’s birthday, so last night I bought some cauliflower, thinking I’d write up the recipe for him. (As a side note, what do you think supermarket checkers think when a woman buys just a head of cauliflower? I mean, just milk or just bagels is one thing, but I think as a checker I might create elaborate, misguided suspicions if a person bought just a head of cauliflower. What might I be suspicious of, though? It’s not as if cauliflower is a weapon. I guess I’m just self-conscious of my newfound love of cauliflower.)

Anyway, when I picked up my pen to sketch out the recipe, I was instantly overwhelmed by the amount of green curry paste in my life, and couldn’t do it. So here’s a different version of cauliflower soup, smooth and creamy because it’s well-pureed, not because it’s high-fat. Real buttermilk from Sea Breeze Farm (found at the University District farmer’s market) gives it a nice tang.

If you want to make Peter’s soup, substitute a can of coconut milk and about a teaspoon of green curry paste for the buttermilk.

Silky Cauliflower Soup with Lemon Thyme

Recipe for Silky Cauliflower Soup with Buttermilk
Recipe 51 of 365

When I lived in Paris, my host mother, Mme Jacqueau, almost always started the evening meal with a thick, simple soup. Though she was Catholic to the bone, the way she urged the three Americans living with her to take second helpings of her soups would have made her a good candidate for a pushy Jewish mother. The soups were always simple, like this one, with just enough je ne sais quoi to make them interesting.

Use real, fresh buttermilk and tangy, raw goat’s milk cheese from a farmer’s market, if you can find it. You could also substitute regular milk, heavy cream, or coconut milk for the buttermilk.

TIME: 15 minutes active cooking time
MAKES: 8 smallish servings

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper (use white pepper if you have it)
1 (2 1/2-pound) head cauliflower, leaves removed and rinsed
1 quart low-sodium chicken broth
1 1/2 cups real buttermilk
Crumbled goat cheese and chopped fresh herbs for garnish (optional)

Heat a large soup pot over medium heat. When hot, add the oil, then the onions, and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onions begin to soften, about 5 minutes. (Do not let the onions brown).

Meanwhile, cut the florets away from the cauliflower’s core, discard the core, and cut the cauliflower into 1” pieces.

Add the cauliflower and the broth to the onions. Season again with salt and pepper, increase heat to high, and bring the soup to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook until the cauliflower is completely soft, about 10 to 12 minutes. Remove the soup from the heat and stir in the buttermilk.

Carefully puree the soup in small batches in a food processor or blender. Return the soup to the (cleaned) pot, season to taste with salt and pepper, and gently reheat, if necessary. Serve hot in small bowls, garnished with goat cheese and herbs, if desired.

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Filed under farmer's market, husband, recipe, soup, vegetables

I didn’t buy the wrong potatoes

Remember that red stuff on your (well, not my) mother’s devilled eggs? That’s paprika. At least, that’s what it said on the jar.

But it wasn’t really paprika. It was some bastardized version of the ground sweet red chili spice made famous by Spanish and Hungarian cooks. It was carefully aged in a metal McCormick box in the pantry right above the oven for about 25 years, spilled occasionally and cleaned up and put back in the box, and then sprinkled on the eggs for color, scaring children but not adding any real flavor for adults. The stuff I’d known as paprika is to fresh, smoky paprika what Sunny D is to orange juice. Not the same.

A friend brought me some Pimenton de la Vera, true paprika with a flavor I’d almost describe as . . .foggy, from Spain. I’m just learning to use it, to flavor roasted chicken, season salad dressings, and add depth to soups and braises. I’m a little late, I know.

Last night I purchased some potatoes simply because the package said “no butter needed.” My response to any advertisement that passive-aggresively tells you what NOT to do is of course to do just that thing, so I planned to take them home and douse them with butter. But we had a lactard coming over for dinner, and I’d just made herbed potatoes a week or two before, so I pried open the paprika and started shaking.

My husband happened to walk by just as I was putting them in the oven. “Looks like you bought white potatoes and wished you’d bought red ones,” he said. Always helpful.

Paprika-Roasted Potatoes

Paprika-Roasted Potatoes
Recipe 35 of 365

Look for fresh Spanish or Hungarian paprika in the bulk spice section of a store you think goes through its spices quickly. Sour cream makes an excellent condiment.

TIME: 5 minutes, plus roasting
MAKES: 4 – 6 servings

1 1/2 pounds (1 24-ounce mesh bag) baby Dutch yellow potatoes, or small red potatoes
1 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon smoky Pimenton de la Vera, or whatever paprika you love or have
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Scrub and halve the potatoes, and arrange them in one layer in a large ovenproof dish. Drizzle the olive oil over them, then season them with the paprika, and salt and pepper to taste. Use your hands to distribute the paprika evenly, so the potatoes are all red.

Roast for 35 minutes, or until the potatoes can be easily pierced through with a small skewer. Serve hot.

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Filed under husband, recipe, side dish, vegetables

451

Paper burns at 451 degrees Farenheit. At least, that’s what my physicist husband told me, exasperated by my stupidity as I closed the oven door on the inferno surrounding the pretty king salmon filet our friend Matt had brought home from Pike Place Market.

You see, first I was going to bake the fish. Then I took a good look at it, and decided that baking it would get the job done, but that broiling would give it a nice browned crust, and I’d just had the oven up nice and high for a batch of Miracle Bread, so I flipped on the broiler and put the salmon, arranged so innocently on a piece of parchment paper, a few inches from the top element.

Within seconds, the fire alarm went off, and after discovering a ring of flames dancing around my (beautifully sizzling) salmon, my husband marched in and started quizzing me sarcastically about the temperature at which paper burns. “I think there was a book about it, does that ring a bell?” Apparently not loud enough for me to hear.

But with the grace and presence of mind I save just for these occasions, I slid the pan back into the oven and shut the door to avoid feeding the fire with more air. (Plus, there was only so much paper left to burn.) My husband stood at the porch door, laughing hysterically at me while he waved the smoke out of the house. Matt came up from downstairs with a look of surprise and awe on his face (this was, um, after he’d watched me pour instead of sprinkle salt into the pile of tomatoes I was adding to the bean salsa when I opened the wrong top on the salt container, resulting in a gametime tomato substitution, which left the dog with a bowlful of very salty tomatoes). I pull out all the stops for guests, what can I say.

Paper burns at 451 degrees Farenheit

But the salmon was delicious, gently browned on top and still a bit translucent in the center, and once I’d picked the particulate matter off the edges, you couldn’t even tell I’d broiled it on a bed of fire. I’d cooked up a rosemary-rich warm white bean salsa (I love salmon with white beans) with the slightly anemic tomatoes the trip to the market had also provided. (Matt fell prey to Pike Place’s “Look! It’s summer!” produce displays.) We ate the salmon, perfectly salted beans, and bread with a few slices of roasted kabocha squash and a plain arugula salad, and forgot all about the fire.

Broiled Salmon with Truffled Rosemary White Bean Salsa

For a timely report on broiling and some good hints, check out today’s New York Times.

And ahh, today is my brother’s birthday. What better gift than an embarrassing moment (or two) for his sister.

Recipe for Broiled Salmon with Truffled Rosemary White Bean Salsa
Recipe 31 of 365

For even cooking, it’s best to heat your entire oven before broiling, especially with delicate foods like fish, which looks better if you never have to turn it over to cook it on both sides. If you broil the fish directly on an only very lightly oiled skillet or baking sheet, you’ll have to clean the pan, but the skin will stick to the pan, enabling you to scoop the fish (and not the skin) off the pan cleanly with a spatula. Try to take the salmon out just before (or just as, if you like your salmon well done) bits of white fat begin to appear on the surface of the fish.

I used about a tablespoon of a mild black truffle/olive oil blend, which gave only the faintest whiff of truffle; use what you have (or none at all) and add it to the salsa bit by bit, until you get a flavor you like.

TIME: 20 minutes
MAKES: 4 servings

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
1 (15-ounce) can cannelini beans (white kidney beans), rinsed and drained
2 ripe tomatoes, diced
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 (1 1/4-pound) salmon filet
Truffle oil

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees (or 451, just for kicks).

Make the white bean salsa: heat a large skillet over medium heat. When hot, add 1 tablespoon of the oil, then the onion, and cook the onion until it begins to soften, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and rosemary, and cook a few minutes more. Add the beans and tomatoes, season with salt and pepper, and reduce the heat to low. Cook the bean/tomato mixture for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

After you turn the heat down on the beans, switch your oven from bake to high broil. Place the salmon on a lightly greased baking sheet (a bit of olive oil spray works well) and drizzle the remaining teaspoon of olive oil over the top of the salmon. Season the salmon with salt and pepper. Broil the salmon 3 to 5 inches away from the broiling unit (or whatever works best in your oven) for 5 to 8 minutes, depending on the thickness of your fish.

When the fish comes out, stir a little truffle oil into the beans and pile them onto a serving platter. Top the beans with the salmon, and serve hot.

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Where does YOUR food come from?

Boy, spousal fodder for these bloggy fires is easy to find these days.

So tonight we made eggnog, in anticipation of our housewarming later in December. We strained the liquored nog into its ceramic jug to avoid adding the chalazae (those little white things that connect the egg yolks to their whites, and, technically, an umbilical cord for fertilized eggs). “Look,” said he with the strainer, “baby chickens!”

There’s nothing like a husband to remind you where your food comes from. And I thank mine for that.

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A Good Time for a Burrito

IMHO, there’s never a bad time for a burrito. But when you’re stuck at the top of a pass after a day of skiing, freezing, watching your husband wrestle a rear tire off and then on a car to disassemble the frozen parking brake after ignoring Cardinal Rule #91 of skiing (never use the parking brake below freezing after 3 days of rain in Seattle), and there’s no BeeBopARhuBop Rhubarb Pie available to wash away the taste of shame and humiliation, a burrito from the taco stand in the ghetto lodge at Stevens Pass sure hits the spot. Just so you know.

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A functional drunk is a precious thing

“A functional drunk is a precious thing,” reported my husband with an air of experience and knowledge. Comparing his current state to that of a belligerent drunk, which he assured me he was most certainly not, the man I’ll spend the rest of my life with announced he’d make me dinner.

The day leading up to this moment had been memorable: we went to the U District farmer’s market and bought the largest, plumpest mussels I’ve ever seen from Taylor Shellfish, took a walk (clear day!) in Discovery Park, and lazed the afternoon away at Hale’s Ales’ beer tasting. Or beer drinking, as it transpired.

The guy likes to cook for me every once in a while, so who am I to complain? I got out a notepad and decided to write down his recipe for mussels steamed in garlic and beer.

He learned to cook mussels aboard the Nathaniel Bowditch, a traditional passenger schooner that cruises up and down the Maine coast in the summer providing A True Sailing Experience. The captain, Gibb, was “a very obvious and painful child of the depression,” as eloquently described by the drunk, meaning he did things the most effective way the first time, for the smallest cost possible. Each week, Gibb sent my then-seventeen-year-old husband ashore to dive for mussels (“’Always pull the ones at least a foot below the low tide mark,’ Gibb said”), build a fire pit on the shore, and steam them open in garlic, onions, and PBR.

The most curious part about the steaming process was how the captain determined when the mussels were done. They were put in big pot to boil, and the liquid had to boil over three times – once for the cooks, once for the red tide (presumably to kill any unwanted bacteria), and once for the passengers. Although the man at my stove admitted that the logic of this had never occurred to him (“I guess it’s about as scientific as our reasons to go to war”), he insisted that it was the only way to go. True to form, my husband allowed the mussel pot to boil over onto our white cooktop three times.

Despite the faint bitter taste owed to a little burned garlic, the mussels were delicious. I recommend you cook them with the lid on to avoid the mess that ensued in our kitchen, and I also recommend you enlist a sober helper to cap the olive oil bottle carefully, so you don’t end up waxing the floor with its contents, as we did.

Recipe for Gibb’s Steamed Mussels

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On Pork Belly

Regardless of how gross you think it sounds, you probably need more pork belly in your diet. Along with bacon (which typically comes from the side of the pork—its love handles, if you will, as opposed to its belly fat) and pancetta, pork belly is yet another meat product where the fat makes all the difference. However, unsmoked, uncured, and unsliced pork belly (yes, we’re talking about a solid cube of pork streaked with fat, or fat streaked with meat, if you’re a glass-half-full type) is not typically available at the grocery store, and I’d never had it in “steak” form before. Until last night.

The Seattle restaurant scene is buzzy. There’s always someone doing something new and different. I’d heard that former Earth & Ocean chef Maria Hines had opened her new place, Tilth, to rave reviews, and had heard that there was pork belly on the menu from Skagit River Ranch, which is where I recently bought a (stand-alone) freezer’s worth of organic beef, pork, and chicken. So, in a fit of impulsive behavior last night, we shut the door on trick-or-treaters before the big kids came out and headed to Tilth with some food-minded friends.

After an ethereally light and (corn) milky corn soup and a delicious but slightly too high-maintenance French melon salad (all small portions, which I appreciated), my Crispy Pork Belly landed. Served atop a pile of tender, buttery cranberry beans, with bacon vinaigrette and scallion pesto swathed across the sides of the plate, the pork belly might have been intimidating to some (including the vegetarian next to me). At about 2 1/2 inches square, it wasn’t big, but the stripey bacon texture was obvious on all four sides of said cube, leaving me to wonder if I really wanted to eat all that fat, and it . . .jiggled. A lot. Was this just bacon masquerading as something better?

One bite erased all hesitations. Imagine the best pork carnitas you’ve ever had: it quite literally melts in your mouth, and explodes with that deep, slightly salty flavor that only pork can provide as the meat fibers disassociate as you (hardly) chew. Now multiply that by ten, and you have Tilth’s Crispy Pork Belly. Try it, you’ll like it. I’ll be back (for brunch, I hope).

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“He’s a good eater.”

As Easter rolls around, I remember the last time I actually had Easter dinner. It was three years ago, mere weeks after our wedding, and my husband and I were invited to a post-Church brunch at a friend’s house.

We arrived in our bike shorts, looking nothing if not completely out of place. But it had been a last-minute invite (we’d been biking in the area), and our friends are lovely.

After a fantastic Ukranian-style Easter dinner, a few friends of the hosts came over. I began chatting with one woman, a doctor’s wife. Though I’d never met her, she seemed friendly enough. About ten minutes into the conversation, she asked me to point out my husband, and asked after his current employment. I told her he was a grad student at MIT, and she seemed pleased enough. As she drifted off toward the rhubarb crisp, I realized she had never asked my name or my relationship to the crowd; she had shown no interest in me as a person. She was judging me purely by my husband’s status.

When I related the story to my husband that night, he was a little shocked. “Next time someone asks what I do like that,” he said, “tell them I’m a good eater.”

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