Light a fire

I wrote my first blog post here on November 14, 2010, so it’s almost been six (six!) years. Wild.

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I may have been neglecting this space a bit lately, but I’m happy it’s still here. And if you just read that last line, then I’m happy you’re still here, too.

It’s been a really beautiful, warm fall. We took Half-moon to his first pumpkin patch a couple of weeks ago (as of press time, the pumpkins remain uncarved. Maybe it’s better late than never?) We had a delicious picnic dinner  in Tenney Park from the Underground food truck and Sitka Salmon folks and discovered that Half-moon LOVES smoked salmon. I went catting with a notorious Madisonian (more on this in this coming week’s Isthmus) and we’ve been enjoying late afternoon happy hour fires. I have also been making lots and lots of rice bowls with veggies and tofu. The funny thing is, I was inspired to make these bowls by a meal that we had in Seattle about five years ago when we took the train to visit my sister. One night my old roommate from Wyoming, Brett (who had since moved to Seattle) and his wife, Kate, had us over for a super fun dinner where we created our own bowls with rice, salmon, and vegetables- I remember shredded beets- and a delicious, herbaceous sauce.

So I found myself thinking about this meal one morning about a month and a half ago, which turned out to be the same day Brett found me on Instagram, after having not communicated for at least over a year. Cosmic energy, my friends.

And from checking out Brett and Kate’s instagram pages, it turns out that they know the farmer behind one of my all-time favorite blogs, so I need to get to that bottom of that, too. All right, rice bowls. I had a realization sometime in the last couple of years that I am not very good at making stir-fry- it always ends up too greasy for my liking. Instead of sautéing veggies, I prefer them raw (or cooked separately ahead of time- like roasted brussel sprouts) served with a salty, umami-y sauce + fresh herbs (like cilantro) + sesame seeds or peanuts. Here is how I like to make rice bowls:

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Rice Bowls with Tofu and Seasonal Vegetables

Ingredients

Brown rice (cooked according to directions- about a cup uncooked rice for 2-3 people)

Vegetables: any combination of shredded napa cabbage (really good marinated in sesame oil- reminds me of the wok seared sesame noodles from when I worked at Noodles and Co.), green beans, shredded beets, sliced radishes, green onions, thinly sliced kale, brussels sprouts, etc.

Baked tofu (see this blog post for marinade and baking directions)

Sauce: Play around! Here are a couple of combinations to try-

soy sauce + (dark) miso + sesame oil + lime/lemon juice + chopped cilantro

gochujang (fermented chile paste) + soy sauce + water

Toppings: peanuts or sesame seeds, (more) fresh cilantro

Directions

Place cooked rice in bowl. Top with tofu, vegetables, sauce, peanuts or sesame seeds and fresh herbs.

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Tonight we’ll have to light a fire to embrace the early darkness. Happy fall.

 

 

 

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Blossom and bloom

After a cool start, summer has arrived in Wisconsin. Things here continue to move at a pretty slow pace.

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Hanging out in the mornings with Half-moon while he pulls up a stool at the milk bar, I have been observing summer perennials and a neighborhood romance bloom (watching white-haired, tank-topped Gordy pedal back and forth by our other neighbor’s house on his turquoise bicycle, I started to get suspicious… One day I got to text Dan, “they smooched!”) While the days feel pretty lazy, I also like to play a game called, “What can I get done in the two minutes it takes Dan to change Half-moon’s diaper?” Then I go into turbo-charge: I turned a calendar page (eleven days late)! I made diaper spray (1 cup water + 1 tablespoon olive oil + 1 teaspoon soap, like Dr. Bronner’s)! I found the key to the garage in the washing machine! It’s a lot of fun.

We’ve also been experiencing some “firsts.” On Wednesday, Half-moon attended his first gig with his dad. It was at Cress Spring Bakery for their pizza night. Located in a valley outside of Blue Mounds, Cress Spring Bakery is an idyllic place to lounge with a wood-fired pizza and a cold can of beer. Their chocolate chip cookie/ Sassy Cow vanilla ice cream sandwich might be my favorite thing I have eaten this summer.

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This morning we took Half-moon to his first downtown farmer’s market. Yesterday, he met his first donkey at his first music festival, and a couple of weeks ago I actually followed a recipe to make marinade for the first time. And it was really f*$#ing good. The recipe came from my new Thug Kitchen cookbook, and if you don’t know Thug Kitchen, you need to.

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(Disclaimer: I didn’t actually make the marinade for the baked tofu- Dan did- but I called out the ingredients from the milk bar.) I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned this before, but my favorite way to eat tofu is baked. Not me, the tofu. While the Thug Kitchen cookbook didn’t say this, I like to bake tofu on parchment paper- I think I learned this from Mark Bittman– when you only have two minutes to clean up, this makes it really easy (first press the tofu before marinating, then bake tofu for 10-15 minutes on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper in a hot oven-  400 or 450 degrees.) We followed the recipe for the ginger-sesame marinade and ate it with the Vietnamese Rice Noodle Salad. Here is the recipe for the marinade for the tofu:

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And the noodle salad:

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Vietnamese Rice Noodle Salad

From the Thug Kitchen cookbook 

Ingredients: 

1 package (6.75 ounces) thin rice noodles
1/2 head of lettuce, chopped (or other greens)
2 medium carrots, cut into matchsticks
1 cucumber, peeled and cut into matchsticks
1 cup thinly sliced fresh mint leaves
1 cup thinly sliced fresh basil leaves
1 cup chopped cilantro leaves
1 cup sliced green onions
1/2 cup roasted peanuts, finely chopped
Lime wedges, for serving
Toasted sesame dressing* (or other Asian dressing)

Directions:

Cook the noodles according to package directions. When they are done, drain the noodles and run them under cold water until they are cool to the touch. Set aside.While all that is going down, get all your veggies and herbs ready and make your dressing.To serve, pile a large mound of noodles in the center of each plate. Arrange the lettuce, veggies, and herbs around the mound while leaving a good amount of the noodles exposed. Drizzle the dressing on both the noodles and lightly around the vegetables. Sprinkle peanuts all over and serve with lime wedges.

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We are now off to our first neighborhood block party. Happy Saturday, my friends.