Turning a corner

It feels like we’ve turned the corner. Suddenly everyone is smiling on the bike path, shedding off the damp, gray cloak of winter and turning faces toward the sun. The trees are budding and the water in the lake is moving again; always a startling, impossible sight after so much stillness. It hasn’t exactly been easy to live in Wisconsin the past few years, for a number of obvious reasons for those of us who believe in logic and reason, nature, public education, fairness, humanity and snow in the winter… you know, those things. But the past few days serve as a reminder of why we do it. There’s that day. The one where everyone is outside and everyone is beautiful and everyone has a speckled cattle dog and all of a sudden you remember what green looks like. And all you want to do is get your hands in the dirt or sit in your friend’s backyard in the sun, beer in hand, soaking in the warmth. And walk for hours. And remember that there are people who put dinosaurs in their yard and knit electrical poles; the kind of people who help you remember that you are not alone in this fight to feel like things can be right in the world again.

And when you get home from that walk, you need to eat. Something nurturing but light, something simple but delicious. I have been making these broccoli melts from Smitten Kitchen at least once a week. Broccoli or broccolini lightly steamed and then doused in lemon, garlic and red pepper flakes, covered with provolone and lightly toasted on good bread; served with a slaw of red cabbage, shaved carrots and celery, it makes a perfect light spring dinner.

I have made the recipe from memory several times, but I recommend following the directions at least once- it’s really good just the way it was written.

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Broccoli Melts

From Smitten Kitchen

Yield: 8 small-medium open-faced melts

1 pound broccolini or regular broccoli
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
A few pinches red pepper flakes, to taste
Finely grated zest, then juice, of 1/2 lemon (juice before zesting only if you enjoy being grumpy)
Coarse salt, to taste
1/2 cup finely grated aged pecorino romano cheese
8 thin slices totally unfancy deli provolone
8 slices bread of your choice

If using broccolini, cut it into 2-inch segments. If regular broccoli, peel the stems with a vegetable peeler first so that they cook evenly, and cut the rest into large chunks.

Pour about 1-inch puddle of salted water into a large sauté pan and bring to a boil. Add broccoli and cover with a lid and boil/steam for 2 minutes. Drain well and pat dry on paper towels, wringing out as much extra liquid as possible. Chop into small (roughly 1/2-inch) bits.

Wipe sauté pan dry and heat over medium. Add olive oil and let it heat for a full minute. Add garlic and pepper flakes, cooking for 1 minutes, or until the garlic is just beginning to turn golden. Add the broccoli and cook 1 to 2 minutes more, seasoning with salt. Transfer mixture to a bowl and add lemon zest, juice, pecorino and more salt and pepper flakes to taste.

Heat broiler.* Arrange slices of bread on a tray and lightly toast on both sides. Scoop broccoli mixture onto each slice of bread, lay a slice of provolone over it and run under the broiler until cheese has melted and begun to blister. Eat. Repeat.

*We’ve been using our new toaster oven- thanks, mom!

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I hope today finds you knitting an inanimate object or digging in the dirt or simply walking, in awe of the buds and basking in the warmth. Happy spring.

Smashing eggs

I wonder if it’s possible to run out of words. That is a bit how I am feeling these days, although it could be the _______ (fill in the blank) weather/ state of affairs/ lack of sleep. So witty banter aside, I don’t know about you, but I have been eating a lot of egg salad these days. Making a properly hard boiled egg is a much debated subject, one that has caused arguments in my family and maybe yours. I am not going to take sides here or attempt to tell you how to do it, but I will say that after an embarrassingly long amount of time, I figured out that I like to put the eggs in the pot and then fill it with water- I have cracked too many eggs the other way. Do you have a favorite way to boil eggs? If so, please share!

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The reason for the abundance of eggs was because my sister convinced me that we should dye eggs for Half-moon’s first Easter.

Half-moon was excited because he likes to smash things against the ground. Like eggs. So, in retrospect, it was a really good idea.

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Growing up my dad would write elaborate rhyming clues that would lead us on a wild chase for eggs and, ultimately, our darling baskets filled with candy. I vividly remember one spring-like Easter afternoon sitting outside and listening to the Brewers broadcast on the radio while devouring pastel-colored candy corn. Thrown together at the last second, my egg hunt for Half-moon wasn’t nearly as planned out and it all led to a basket of stuff that he had already had, but now I get to eat a lot of egg salad.

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When making something for the first time or looking for a recipe, I often turn to Smitten Kitchen. When I looked up egg salad and saw that her recipe included pickled celery, I knew I needed to look no further.

I’ve been improvising each time I make it, but adding pickled celery every time. I like to mix it with spinach, for a nice salad for lunch.

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Egg Salad with Pickled Celery

Inspired by Smitten Kitchen. Makes one serving for a quick lunch or dinner- feel free to double or triple.

Ingredients

One hard boiled egg, chopped
One spoonful mustard
One spoonful mayo
One spoonful pickled celery*
One spoonful capers
Fresh parsley, chopped
Spinach
Bread, optional

Directions

Mix all ingredients- except bread- in a bowl. Eat as a salad, or, if you prefer, put mixture on bread and eat like a sandwich.

*Pickled Celery (from Smitten Kitchen):

1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/4 cup water
2 teaspoons Kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons granulated sugar
2 stalks celery, trimmed, diced tiny

Pickle your celery: Combine vinegar, water, Kosher salt and sugar in a jar and shake it until the salt and sugar dissolve. Add diced celery to jar, cover it and place in the fridge for at least 30 minutes, ideally one hour and up to one week.

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Bring on spring.