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wednesday vegetables thursday

It was bound to happen.

Set an intention, make an appointment, pledge a promise, cross your heart.

But perhaps you’ve noticed –

life isn’t always a respecter of such things…and really, why should it be?

Life is bigger (& thankfully, more mysterious) than that.

But had I been able to keep my appointment with you to bring vegetables on Wednesday,

this is what I would have brought.

You would have really liked it I think…

Spinach with Chickpeas

serves 6

(more delicious by far than the photo can say)

2 pounds fresh spinach

Chickpeas (one 14 oz. can)

4 – 6 cloves garlic, chopped

1½ teaspoon ground coriander

3 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Sea salt

Pepper

Optional: Juice of 1 lemon

Optional, but wildly delicious: chopped preserved lemon

 Wash the spinach, removing only the thick long stems if there are any. Drain excess moisture from the leaves.

In the largest wok or sauté pan you have, add the olive oil.  Turn heat to medium. When oil begins to shimmer warm, drop in the chopped garlic and ground coriander. Stir until the aromas rise. Without adding any additional water, pack in the spinach leaves, place a lid on the pan and reduce temperature to low. Read more

life is just …

a   c h a i r  of   b o w l i e s …

…but as always, that depends on your perspective.

I went out to collect the mail and – it must be my lucky day – I received my first (does one get a second?) Free Pre-Paid Cremation! notice (details inside.) Well, that’s going up in smoke!

And then, I was heading out to a great little farmers’ market when I learned I needed to be home in case either of two inspectors came by to look at our bathrooms.

So, with my market plan foiled, and suddenly feeling older than dirt, I played with what I had, and what I had were organic Rainier cherries picked from a nearby orchard.

I’d bought enough of them to do several things.

But cherries have this cuteness factor that I wanted to capitalize on, so… it’s to be

Cherry Clafoutis

first!

Clafoutis are definitely cute too.

And – proving this truly WAS my lucky day – I already had everything I needed to make them.

Clafoutis are French flans or custards, flavor-infused, with various fruits baked inside. There is some debate as to whether to remove the pits of the cherries or leave them in. Those in favor of leaving them in believe that the pits actually impart a subtle deliciousness of their own. The option is yours. But…For a child to lift a little red globe by its stem from a pillowy custard, pop it into her mouth – with the option of spitting the pit, if permitted – seems reason enough to leave them in.  Don’t be fooled…adults love to spit them too. It is said.

Cherry Clafoutis

These can be made in either one 12-inch mold or six 8-ounce ramekins and serve 6

  • Unsalted butter, for the mold or ramekins
  • ½ cup (100 g. or 3½ oz) blond cane sugar, plus more to sprinkle the mold(s)
  • ¾ cup plus 2 Tablespoons (200 ml) whole milk
  • ¾ cup plus 2 Tablespoons (200 ml) unsweetened coconut milk *
  • 1 vanilla bean, split open and seeds scraped out
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup (40 g or 1¾ oz) millet flour
  • ¼ cup (30 g or 1 oz) almond meal
  • ¼ cup (30 g or 1 oz) cornstarch
  • 2 Tablespoons melted unsalted butter
  • 1 pound 5¼  oz (600 g) ripe sweet or sour cherries (such as Rainier or Bing)
  • Confectioners’ sugar to dust

* You could substitute heavy cream for the coconut milk if you prefer

Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Butter either a 12-inch mold or six 8-oz cup ramekins, and sprinkle with sugar. Tap out the excess.

In a small saucepan, heat the milk and coconut milk (or cream) with the vanilla seeds and bean. Heat to just under a boil, then turn the heat off. Add almond extract and cover the pot with a lid. Allow the milk to infuse with flavor for 15 minutes. Then strain and set aside.

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cookie thanks

If you follow along, you know that we’ve been on a remodeling adventure for the past month and a half. For about 4 weeks we were without a true kitchen as cabinets were refinished, and new counters, appliances, sinks, faucets and lighting were all added. I’m back in the kitchen now and loving again the sweet rhythms of cooking!

The work in our house continues though as two bathroom have been gutted and are undergoing a complete head-to-toe makeover. To give you a feel for the activity level around here, take this past Friday as an example –  moving through the house, performing as if choreographed, with their own specialized tools, were 2 carpenters, 2 drywallers, 2 electricians and 3 tile-setters (all at once). Add to that a couple of dogs (and me) and you see there’s no lack of good company.  How do we say thanks? Sometimes simply with cookies.

These are a take on the classic peanut butter cookie – BUT – with almond-butter & roasted almonds instead – and with whole grains like whole wheat, quinoa and millet flours. (Quinoa & millet flours both contribute to a softer texture and add much more protein than traditional wheat flour. If you don’t have access to the specialty flours or simply want to use all wheat, use 1½ cups whole wheat flour. These will not be quite as tender however…but don’t let that stop you!) There’s no added fat here, only that found in the almond butter. And (it was said) these are were absolutely delicious!

A few sweet & (sort of) healthful bites for the many helping hands…

Almond-Butter Cookies with dry-roasted Almonds

1 cup smooth almond butter (I use & love the roasted variety)

½ cup dark brown sugar, packed

½ cup granulated sugar (or substitute with coconut sugar)

¼ cup water

1 large egg

2 Tablespoons honey

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon almond extract

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon sea salt

¾ cup whole wheat flour

½ cup quinoa flour

¼ cup millet flour

2½ ounces (about ½ cup) slivered almonds

Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C). Line 1 or 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Spread slivered almonds over a cookie sheet and roast until golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool a few minutes, then chop into medium fine pieces. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, measure out the whole wheat flour, millet flour, quinoa flour, salt and baking soda. Stir well to incorporate.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, if you have one: Cream together the almond butter, the 2 sugars, water, egg, honey, and vanilla and almond extracts until smooth. Add the dry ingredients, including chopped almonds. Mix until well-combined (but don’t over-beat.)

Drop dough onto the prepared baking sheets by the tablespoonful. Use the back of a fork dipped in flour to make indentations in a crosshatch pattern, flattening cookies to about 1/3-inch.  (Allow for at least 1-inch of space between flattened cookies because they will expand some upon baking.)

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gingered stir-fry of asparagus, shitake & cashews

It’s Wegetable Vednesday!

At the market today under gray and threatening skies, locally-grown asparagus, crisp and tall, vaulted  into my basket. I’d already shared one of my favorite preparations for asparagus (lemon-marinated then simply grilled and sprinkled with coarse sea salt) but to my mind there’s another that rivals it: stir-fried with a little sweet and a little heat, earthy mushrooms, and scattered with lightly salted roasted cashews. Truly nummy.  (This could easily be a side dish, as it is. I added to ours tofu – or you could substitute finely sliced chicken breast or prawns- and serve atop soba noodles or rice.)

To utilize more of the asparagus stalk, did you know that you can cut off the bottom bit, stand stalks up in a container of water where they’ll drink up ’til they’re no longer thirsty? It’s true. So let them drink while you begin to prepare the other ingredients. (Pour yourself a little too if you like.)

I love the sweet rhythms of stir-frying. Though simple and easy, keeping it fun & utterly stress-free is helped along by some good organization. I measure out, wash and chop everything ahead of time. A stack of ramekins or cups and little saucers come in handy. Everything is ready before my wok is hot.

Gingered Stir-Fry of Asparagus, Shitakes & Cashews

Ingredients

  • 1 bundle asparagus
  • 1 bunch green onions
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 cups shitake mushrooms
  • ginger root (the width of a thick thumb x 1 or 2 inches, depending on your love of ginger) cut into matchsticks (or chopped if you prefer)
  • 1 cup roasted, lightly salted cashews

For sautéing and saucing –

  • sesame oil (or another oil with a relatively  high-smoke point such as grape seed or peanut oil)
  • ¾ cup chicken stock (or vegetable)
  • 1 Tablespoon cornstarch or arrowroot (I prefer arrowroot because it dissolves easily & adds glossiness to the sauce)
  • Tamari or Soy sauce (1 Tbl. to start)
  • 1 brimming teaspoon honey
  • sriracha hot chili sauce – optional
  • sesame seeds to garnish – optional

Brush the mushroom caps with a dry soft brush to remove any dirt. Remove the woody stems, then slice caps in approximately ¼-inch slices.

Ginger root – peel with the edge of a spoon then cut into slices, then slices into thin match sticks. If you prefer, you could mince instead.

Garlic – mince.

Green onion – wash and remove nearly all the green, then slice on the diagonal in approximately ¼-inch slices.


Asparagus – cut into 2- to 3-inch pieces, slicing on the diagonal.

If using tofu, dry with paper towels and cut into good bite-size pieces. Marinate in a mixture of cooking sherry and tamari or soy sauce for about 20 to 30 minutes.

The sauce – In a small bowl combine chicken stock (or vegetable stock), arrowroot or cornstarch and honey. Add 1 Tablespoon tamari or soy sauce, but feel free to add more later to taste. (Also, if you know everyone likes the heat, add a bit of Sriracha or other hot chili sauce now.)

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the art of surrender

It’s not as I expected…but just as I expected.

I expected hordes of people passing through our house. I knew the messes were inevitable. I knew that clouds of dust would find their way into small hidden spaces and loud noises would ring throughout the day. I knew that keeping our dogs smiling would require extra love. I knew too that without a kitchen, life would be interesting. I was ready for all that, and even my husband would attest that I’ve been quite the good sport through all most of it. But I imagined  that I could cook and I could then post what we ate for dinner. How hard could that be?

Hmmm.

As you’ve noticed, I’ve gone silent.

It’s not from lack of intention or interest. Life – moving throughout the day – just takes far more of me during this remodel than I ever imagined. It’s been good, but it’s been complicated. It’s been fun, but it’s been challenging. It’s been exhilarating and occasionally it’s been exhausting.

I used to read in the mornings, but reading has stopped. I exercised often. That was then. I corresponded with friends and family. Now it’s howdy waves in passing or texts with lots of code talk. Leaving all rhythms behind can be frustrating, and all the more so the tighter we hold.

I knew that no matter what I expected, I would be surprised. Expecting to be surprised makes surrendering to the inevitable far easier though, don’t you think?

We’re about half way through…or so we imagine. But of course we don’t know. We humans think we know a great deal and frequently we’re mistaken about that. There will be more surprises for us. (And for you.) May we find our way to be graceful through them.

Our kitchen is nearly done. Dribs and drabs remain. But we have water now, and heat to cook with. Our food is now within reach, and pots are bubbling on the stove. Spree is stirring. And though it’s Wednesday, and you might have expected vegetables (because I did lead you to that belief didn’t I?) ~ here is the smallest of offerings.

~ ~ ~

Halibut Fillets & Ribbons of Vegetables

in little paper packages

~ ~ ~

(And already another surprise…I just this very moment, we’re talking real time here, went to locate the images I’d shot of this sweet little dinner. It appears that I’ve erased them from my card …before uploading them to my computer. So – I’ll be back to fill in the images as it looks like our house may be enjoying this dish again on Saturday. 🙂 What are you gonna do? So in the meantime, would you be so kind as to imagine a light and very tender piece of halibut nestled in a parchment package, overlaid with colorful ribbons of zucchini & carrot & fennel & red pepper & peas, all brightened by wheels of lemon, bits of ginger & sprigs of cilantro? You’re a dear!)

Days later – OK friends – even though you’ve gone to all the trouble to conjure  this dish, we’ve enjoyed the dinner again and I’ve now got the photos for you. 

You might like this with a loaf of crusty bread, wrapped in aluminum foil and put in the same oven for about 10 minutes. Or maybe boiled or roasted new potatoes, or maybe basmati rice (or that delicious Forbidden Rice, as we did.) 

 Halibut & Ribbons of Vegetables in Papillote

for 4 servings

  • 1 zucchini, sliced into ribbons or shoestrings
  • 1 carrot, again, as with your zucchini
  • 1/4 red onion, sliced thinly
  • 1 handful fresh snow peas or sugar peas in their pods, thinly sliced
  • 1 small fennel bulb (tough outer layer removed) sliced thinly
  • fresh ginger root – the thickness of your thumb x 1-inch, cut into very thin matchsticks
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped cilantro
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped Italian flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Salt & freshly-ground pepper to taste
  • 2 Meyer lemons, 1 grated & juiced, the other cut into thin wheels
  • 4 halibut fillets, about 6 to 8 ounces each (170 – 225 g) (or another mild fish of your choice)
  • Olive oil for drizzling

Preheat the oven (or toaster oven if you’re camping out indoors or feeding only 2) to 420°F (215°C).  Cut parchment paper into 14 to 16-inch square pieces.

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