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.

 

Batch no. 740

I have been sitting on this jar of fig and black tea jam for way too long. A billion years ago in September, I won a contest at the Willy Street Co-op and acquired a haul of local products, including this jar of Quince of Apple preserves.

To be honest, I forgot about it until I was inspired by the third installment of all whisked up! to make a recipe from this seasonal blog. There were lots of recipes on Liz’s blog that tempted me, including the beet butter, but I couldn’t resist the oat and jam bars. I eat oatmeal almost every morning and it’s the one thing that Half-moon will eat these days, too. The original recipe calls for cranberry sauce, but Dan remembered the fig jam and that was that. The thing I like about this recipe is that it’s not too fussy or too sweet (especially if you skip the glaze, like I did.)

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And I think it’s perfectly acceptable to eat these for breakfast along with a big cup of coffee. Happy almost March.

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Oat and Jam Bars

From Inspired by the Seasons

1 c of cranberry sauce or your favorite jam heated to a spreadable consistency
1/2 c cold butter cubed into small pieces
1 3/4 c all purpose flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 c sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 tsp molasses
2 large eggs
1 c rolled oats

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line an 8″ baking dish with parchment paper to allow for easy removal of the cooked bars.

Work the butter into the flour with your fingers until it reaches a course crumb consistency.  Using a fork, stir in baking powder, sugar, vanilla and molasses. Mix in eggs and oatmeal.

Take 2/3rds of the dough and press to the bottom of your baking dish, using the greased bottom of a measuring cup to press the dough into place makes this step a lot easier.   Spread the jam in an even layer and top with remaining dough by dolloping with spoonfuls of the remaining dough.

Bake until golden, about 45 minutes.

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Click on the frog below to see all of the other Wisconsin Whisk all whisked up recipes!

Not a food blog

I talked to my mom a couple of days ago and she said she really enjoys reading my blog but that it doesn’t always have to be about food. “You used to write about other things, too,” she said. “Like… Two Rivers.” So this is not a post about food (but doesn’t everything always go back to food?*), it’s a post about pictures.

I have always had a thing for pictures. Growing up my dad turned all of his kodachrome film into slides (thousands and thousands of slides) and one of my favorite things was our family slide shows. We would gather in the living room for the event. I remember the excitement I felt as my dad clicked the tripod screen into place. I remember the whir of the projector as it warmed up and the dust particles that danced in the lightbeam. My dad would sit on a chair next to the projector, beer in hand, and click the slide tray into place. My mom, sister and I gathered on the couch with popcorn. There was usually a theme: “Moscow, 1977,” “sunsets through the years,” “birthday parties,” “camping trips,” “California,” or “road trips.” I’m sure I always begged for one more tray of slides when the screen went blank.

At some point I got my first camera and my parents happily supported my new hobby, even as I had a habit of overshooting the same subject. I remember developing an entire roll of film of the Statue of Liberty, looking approximately the size of a flea in the photos, that I shot from the deck of the Staten Island Ferry. There was also the time that my dad paid upwards of $40 a roll to develop my pictures for me when we were in Slovenia (thank goodness I now use digital.) I still have a tendancy to fixate on certain subjects with my camera, like the time I took 300-400 photos just of the golden retriever at a family reunion in Montana.

But I love photography, as amateur as I may be. I love taking pictures of floors and what’s under my feet.

 

I love taking pictures of my feet.

 

I love taking pictures of other people’s pictures.

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And recipes.

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I love taking pictures while traveling.

And closer to home.

Apparently I love taking photos of blue stools.

And I love taking pictures of food (*see- it all comes back to food).

This past weekend I had the opportunity to attend a food photography workshop at Drunk Lunch led by freelance photographer Paulius Musteikis known around Madison for his beautiful photographs often gracing the covers of Isthmus and Madison Magazine. Paulius, a self-taught photographer, offered lots of practical advice, like read your camera manual- something I have not yet done, and more artistic advice- where is the light coming from? What shapes do you see? What is the story your photo is telling?

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I loved his presentation and then enjoyed playing around taking lots of pictures of these plants.

And what I learned is, I have a lot to learn. But isn’t that true for most things? I feel lucky that my family instilled the love of pictures in me. Just like writing, it makes you look at the world differently. We all have a story to tell.

Book report

I have been devouring Tamar Adler‘s An Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and Grace before bed, which might explain why I have been waking up famished. I really can’t recommend it enough. People often compare Adler to M.F.K. Fisher- patron saint of food writers- although I can’t attest to that because I am afraid I will knock myself- or Half-moon- out if I fall asleep reading the tome that is my copy of The Art of Eating in bed.

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I love that Adler makes me feel guilty for not pickling my kale stems. I love that she has the sensibility of a Depression-era housewife, often using the same pot of water four or five times for different purposes. I love that she writes things like this:

“I recommend buying a bunch of parsley whenever you can. Then, once you have it, act as children do when handed hammers and suddenly everything needs pounding.”

I love that she sounds like an eighty-year-old woman tucked into a Tuscan hillside but is really a thirty-something woman residing in a small apartment in Brooklyn (of course.) Most of all I love that she seems to believe that all of the world’s problems can be solved with stale bread and good olive oil.

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She keeps all of her food in glass jars and cooks all of her vegetables on Sunday. She turns her lemon peels into citrus syrup to mix with cold seltzer to make homemade soda. She pickles her kale stems. Adler gives advice so simple I want to slap my head and say Of course! Like how you should taste your food at every stage of the cooking process and that it should always taste good (it doesn’t taste good? add salt!) Reading this book has made me think twice about a trip to the store, instead improvising with what I already have. And it’s made me wonder why I don’t eat more meals like sauteed greens on toast. With parmesan cheese. And olive oil (of course.)

Adler also addresses a question I have often wondered when reading cookbooks and food blogs: When is a recipe borrowed? When is it “adapted?” And when is it your own? According to Adler, there are no original recipes, which reminds me of one of my father’s favorite sayings, “The last person to to have an original idea invented the wheel.” So here is a recipe. I made it up. Or I adapted it from one I read on Smitten Kitchen, another New Yorker doing incredible things in a tiny kitchen.

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This recipe utilizes the vegetarian workhorse, lentils. It also has a potato and a dressing made with lemon (or vinegar) and cilantro (or parsley.) Serve it with good bread and a glass of red wine. It’s comforting and wholesome. I think Tamar Adler would like it.

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Warm Lentil and Potato Salad with Capers

Ingredients

1/2 cup French green lentils
1 Yukon Gold potato, cooked and chopped into bite-sized pieces
2 or 3 kale leaves, washed, dried and chopped into thin ribbons
1 garlic clove, smashed and made into a paste with a little salt
1 small chunk of onion, sliced into thin pieces
lemon juice and/or red wine vinegar
1 Tbs. Dijon mustard
olive oil
a couple of tablespoons of capers (I don’t rinse them)
a bunch of cilantro + stems (or parsley), chopped
feta cheese, optional

Directions

Cook the lentils in a small saucepan on the stove until they are tender and water is absorbed (keep warm.) At the same time, cook the potato in a separate pot- cover the potato with water and cook until you can easily poke a knife into it (I have a bad habit of undercooking potatoes.) Keep the potato warm, too (I just let it sit in the pot of warm water and damn I just realized I should be telling you somehow you can use the potato water for another meal.) Meanwhile, make the dressing. Place the lemon juice (or vinegar) and sliced onions in a shallow salad bowl and let sit for a few minutes. Whisk in the garlic paste, mustard and olive oil (taste it!). Add the capers and kale (taste it!) Next add the cooked lentils, cubed potato and chopped herbs (and crumbled feta cheese too, if you are using it.) Toss this all together and taste it! Adjust the seasonings, if you wish, adding salt or black pepper. (Or more lemon, capers or herbs- remember, it should taste good.)

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According to Adler, M.F.K. Fisher said you don’t always have to balance each meal, just the day. Apparently Fisher used to frequent a beer hall where she would make a meal of cheese, onions, caraway seeds and crusty bread. I am so happy I found these women.

The year of the plant

2016 seems to be the  year of the plant. I keep seeing Michael Pollan’s quote (eat food. not too much. mostly plants.) everywhere. NPR ran this story and The New York Times Food section this week has a luscious-looking roasted cauliflower on the front page. And after almost canceling my subscription to Bon Appetit after they ran this ridiculous story in their December issue (I don’t know about you, but I always wear my best dress and pout my red-painted lips while searing halloumi cheese), they seem to have redeemed themselves this month by denouncing the artisan bottled water trend (there is organic birch tree water?), loving lots of fresh herbs and including plant-forward recipes that I can’t wait to try (like this one! and this one!) I am normally lousy at eating lunch, so I decided to start the new year off right with a grain-based salad made with a lovely winter root vegetable: the beauty heart radish. Crunchy, peppery and hot pink; the beauty heart radish is a great way to brighten the grayest of winter days.

And while cauliflower is getting a lot of attention these days, I have been obsessing over celery. And so is Half-moon, who stopped and cooed at the green stalks as I whipped them out of the fridge and onto the cutting board, pausing to let him reach out and grab at the leaves. (Speaking of leaves, make sure they get into the salad too- 2016 is also about cutting down on food waste.) While my grain of choice- chewy spelt berries- cooked on the stove, I mixed up a dressing of lemon juice, lemon zest, olive oil and cilantro. Add in a little tangy, salty feta and- poof!- you have a hearty, healthy lunch. Leftovers are delicious, too.

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Beauty Heart Radish and Celery Salad with Spelt Berries, Lemon and Feta

Ingredients

3/4 cup cooked spelt berries (for more on cooking spelt berries, see this post)
2 stalks celery (leaves too!), chopped
1/2 beauty heart radish (cut away the bitter peel), chopped
juice from 1/2 lemon
lemon zest
handful of cilantro, chopped
olive oil
pepper
handful of feta cheese

Directions

Cook spelt berries. Meanwhile, whisk together lemon juice, lemon zest, olive oil, cilantro in a big salad bowl. Add the celery and radish. Let the spelt berries cool to room temperature and toss them into the salad. Add feta cheese and season with pepper, if you like.

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I hope 2016 finds you following your path. Happy Nu-Nu! Wink wink.

Auld lang syne

As I try to reflect on 2015, I’m at a bit of a loss for words. In the grand scheme of things, it’s been one helluva year.

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I got hitched on a back screen porch in the rain and I had a baby. I said goodbye to our beloved kitty and hello to a new one.

I took time away from one career while trying to spark a new one. But throughout it all there’s been food, for which I am grateful.

I pickled carrots. I made lots of smoothies. I ate lots of ice cream. There were tacos, salads, pizzas, beans, loaves of bread and bowls of soup. I’m not one for making resolutions, but there is usually a list- in my head or written down- of things “to do.” This year I will try to play more banjo, exercise everyday (more for my own peace of mind than anything else), widdle down the t-shirt collection, spend more time reading and writing and less time aimlessly wandering the internet and eat more lentils. I referenced this soup in another post recently, but it’s so good I thought I should include the recipe. I recommend that you double the amount of tomato paste and lemon juice. You can also add more lentils and liquid if you want to stretch it out for a couple of meals. Maybe add a salad and a loaf a good bread. Definitely a bowl of ice cream for dessert.

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Red Lentil Soup with Lemon

From The New York Times

INGREDIENTS
3 tablespoons olive oil, more for drizzling
1 large onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon kosher salt, more to taste
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
Pinch of ground chile powder or cayenne, more to taste
1 quart chicken or vegetable broth
2 cups water
1 cup red lentils
1 large carrot, peeled and diced
Juice of 1/2 lemon, more to taste
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

PREPARATION
In a large pot, heat 3 tablespoons oil over high heat until hot and shimmering. Add onion and garlic, and sauté until golden, about 4 minutes.
Stir in tomato paste, cumin, salt, black pepper and chili powder or cayenne, and sauté for 2 minutes longer.
Add broth, 2 cups water, lentils and carrot. Bring to a simmer, then partially cover pot and turn heat to medium-low. Simmer until lentils are soft, about 30 minutes. Taste and add salt if necessary.
Using an immersion or regular blender or a food processor, purée half the soup then add it back to pot. Soup should be somewhat chunky.
Reheat soup if necessary, then stir in lemon juice and cilantro. Serve soup drizzled with good olive oil and dusted lightly with chili powder if desired.

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Cheers to a happy 2016.

 

Bon hiver

And it snows.

Huck snow

It might be wet and icy, but it’s snow- something the rest of the world seemed to have until now but us. And Half-moon is asleep on my lap and this morning the new kitten got the closest he has gotten to snuggling with our old guy, Muddy, since he came to us right before Thanksgiving. And there is a chance- a small chance- that I might get to take the skis out tomorrow. So I guess what I am saying is that things seem pretty nice today, except that my sister- the one who ties packages with black and white string and has the best sticker collection and makes the most delicious salads- is headed back to Seattle and I wish she were still here.

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On Christmas Eve we walked with Half-moon to the bar to fill a growler of porter beer before heading to our parents’ house to devour the cheeseball and make a radicchio and belgian endive winter slaw for dinner. I washed the leaves while she pickled the onions in red wine vinegar. We ate the salad along with fish stew and a baguette from Batch Bakehouse (that I had to fight for after our morning yoga class… Next time I’ll be sure to get there earlier!) After dinner and peppermint custard, we sipped hot water and whiskey while my sister read us “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas” and “The Gift of the Magi” by the light of her headlamp. We wrote our letter for Santa and went to bed. I’m nostalgic for it already.

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Radicchio, Belgian Endive and Naval Orange Winter Slaw with Pickled Red Onions

Ingredients

1/2 small radicchio, sliced thinly
3 belgian endive, sliced thinly
2 navel oranges, peeled and sliced crosswise (into rounds)
1/2 red onion, sliced thinly
small bunch fresh parsley, torn into pieces
red wine vinegar
olive oil
salt

Directions

Slice the red onion and soak in a bowl of cold water for ten minutes. Meanwhile, slice the radicchio, endive and oranges and toss together in a big salad bowl. Drain the onions and cover with red wine vinegar. Add the onions, vinegar, parsley and olive oil and toss again. Season to taste with salt.

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Happy winter.