"Things won are done,
Joy's Soul lies in the Doing."
- William Shakespeare

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Change of Plans

I had grand plans yesterday for dinner.  Grand, I tell you.

And they would have worked too...if I hadn't made a minor...erm, correct that...major faux pas.


Soufflés really do want to be thoroughly mixed before they go baking away.  The egg yolk-bechamel  with the beaten egg whites that is.  It was going to be really lovely too, if only I hadn't been such a muppet, and too gingerly mixed those egg whites into the bechamel.  We had a couple of bunches of arugula from our CSA box, and some gorgeous chives, along with a sheep's milk cheese...ohhhhh, it was meant to be perfection.

It looked perfect:

Right?  Sadly though, when I went to dish it up, I learned a rather humbling, if not downright painful, lesson.  Mix those damn ingredients, and don't be such a coward about it.  I've successfully made a soufflé before, but well, not this time.  Bit of an uncooked soupy mess at the bottom.  Argh.

I will try it again, and once (if) I get it right, I'll be back to blog about it.

Instead, I've got tonight's dinner to share with you lovely people.  Super quick, super simple, and everything can be prepped several hours ahead.  My kind of dinner.  Not like that blasted soufflé.

Aprés soufflé bomb, I headed back to my tried-and-true Around My French Table.  Ah, Dorie, I know I can always count on you.  Now, before you turn your nose up in disgust, as I once would have, prior to living and traveling around Europe, hear me out.  Sardines are good.  Sardine Rillettes particularly.  Rather like a paté, smooth and creamy, surprisingly un-fishy.  Seriously, milder even than tinned tuna, wouldn't you know.  Served atop a nice crusty slice of bread.  Oh, delight.

And alongside, a green salad, of which I don't think I need to share a recipe...because, well, I am pretty sure anybody can throw some veg into a bowl and call it good.  But how about this for a tasty dressing...Sundried Tomato-Balsamic Vinaigrette!  Oh yeah, baby.  I will take some of that, thank you very kindly.

So, here's tonight's rather more successful meal.  And yes, I took the photo after I'd already begun eating.  Not due to any oversight of course.  Just so you know it's that tasty.

Okay, it was an oversight.  Forgive me and my novice ways.

Willie Green's Sun-dried Tomato-Balsamic Vinaigrette - adapted from The Northwest Vegetarian Cookbook

-makes approximately 1 to 1 1/4 cups

3 Tbs soaked and softened sun-dried tomatoes
1/3 to 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil (I used 1/3 cup, I like a little zing)
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 tsp minced garlic
1 1/2 tsp minced shallot
2 tsp finely chopped fresh herbs (I used chives, because that's what I had.  The recipe calls for 1 tsp each summer savory and basil)

Soak the sun-dried tomatoes (not the type stored olive oil) in boiling water for 20 minutes, then drain, and save the water for soup or to cook grains.

I threw all the ingredients into my mini-food processor and gave it whiz about half an hour before serving.  Dreamy.

Sardine Rillettes - adapted from Around My French Table
-makes 1 cup

Two 3 3/4 oz cans boneless sardines packed in olive oil, drained (Trader Joe's has some lovelies)
2 1/2 oz cream cheese
2 tsp minced shallots
1 - 2 scallions, white & light green parts only, thinly sliced
Juice of 2 limes, or 1 lemon, or to taste
2 - 3 Tbs minced fresh herbs (I used chives and cilantro)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Pinch of cayenne or Piment d'Espelette (I used cayenne)

Throw all ingredients, except sardines and 1/2 lime, into the food processor, and blend til smooth.  If you'd like a smooth, paté-like consistency, throw in the sardines next, and whiz to combine.  If you prefer a bit of texture, mix them in with a fork.  I chucked it all in the food processor.  Easy peasy.

Taste for seasoning, and add a little more citrus, or salt and pepper, if necessary.

Cover and chill for at least 2 hours, or as long as overnight.  Will keep for up to two days.

Bon Appetit!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011


It feels like my birthday tonight...the season's first CSA box arrived, and I am one happy, and well fed, lady.  I kind of can't even stand how beautiful this produce is, I must say.  After spreading it all out on the counter, snapping a few (inferior) shots, poring over some recipes, and realizing that the mister and I were very hungry indeed, I knew I had better get a move on with getting food on the table.

So, since I had to hustle my bustle this evening, and get the two of us fed right quick, I don't have a new recipe to share per se, but rather a tweak of one I shared a while back, from Street Food, by Tom Kime.  The meal was another take on the Nonya Sambal I served up earlier this month.  I am a firm believer in playing with your food.  Not of course once it's on your plate, I am a responsible parent after all.  But rather whilst cooking...get in there, mess around, and try something new.  New indeed.

This week's CSA share included a newbie for me, garlic scapes.  These are the shoots that grow on garlic bulbs, which are often tossed, to allow the plant to put its energy into growing the bulb.  Delicately flavored, and scented of garlic, without the bite.  Yum.  And they're so pretty.  I went with the farm's recipe advice to toss it in a stir fry, a la the above Nonya Sambal, and it was absolutely lovely.  Along with some rapini leaves, bok choy, cilantro and mint. We ate like Kings.  Which works.

The photo does not do the food justice.  Just put your faith in me that it was one tasty meal.

Oh, and dessert...perfectly ripe strawberries.  These babies are so fresh, and so fragrant, it was almost a shame to eat them.  Almost.  And so not.

They really are that red and juicy and gorgeous.  Gems of strawberries.

Why on earth do we ever settle for less than this heavenly food?

A healthy (or not, given your outlook) dollop of whipped cream, barely sweetened with confectioners' sugar and a wee bit of vanilla. Oh my.

What a perfect start to a summer of amazing food.  I'm beside myself right now.  Truly.

I'd love to mention, our CSA share is with Helsing Junction Farms, and what a lovely treat.  I'm absolutely thrilled to be enjoying the freshest food imaginable...and organic to boot.  Ah...I'm off to sit myself down on the couch, full of strawberries, thumbing through cookbooks for tomorrow's feast.

Life is good.  Great, actually.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Kids Will Be Kids

Just in time for the lazy days of summer, I've recently finished reading a marvelous, funny, and eye-opening book, Free Range Kids, by Lenore Skenazy.  The subtitle is particularly telling for our times:  "Giving our Children the Freedom We Had Without Going Nuts with Worry."  Skenazy is an accomplished writer; witty, gently scathing, and above all, realistic.  By laying out actual, factual statistics, she dispels many of the fear-mongering myths parents are constantly bombarded with, by a shock-value media.  Kidnapping, broken bones, lawsuits, this clever lady takes them all on.  And I love what she's got to say.

Being a parent, and particularly a mother, seems to mean that the job comes with a fair (or unfair, perhaps) load of guilt.  Are we providing a safe enough environment?  Opportunities to grow?  Playdates aplenty? Travel... education...saving for college...oh my God...how much therapy is this kid going to need, and will it all be my fault?! 

Alright, a little overly dramatic there.  But the point is, we are given so much freaking information on how to parent these days, that we seem to have lost all common sense.  It's too easy to over-analyze every minute detail, to death, purely out of love and concern for our kids.  Because that's what the media is slamming over our poor, worrying heads every five minutes. 

Remember, way back when we were kids, how summer went down?

"Mom!  I'm going out to play!"

"Alright, see you for dinner.  Have fun.  Don't eat gum off the road."

Boom, that's it.  Get outside, use your imagination, and for the love of all that is holy, do not eat chewed gum off the road.  (I have a cousin who regularly did that.  That is awesome.  Utterly foul, but awesome.)

I think the conversation now may go something like this:

"Can I go out and play?"

"Outside?  Are you kidding?  I've got (laundry, work, dinner, etc) to do inside, and I can't be out watching your every move right now, making sure nobody abducts you.  Or that the neighbor kid falls on our property, and his parents sue us.  Tell you what, tomorrow we'll go to that nice, safe park, where everything is padded like a lunatic cell, you can play for a whole hour, while I google any hidden dangers from my Iphone.  Oh my God!  I just heard gum off the road can KILL you!  We're not going anywhere!"

Alright, alright.  I do have a flair for drama, it's true.  But seriously, the above imagined conversation is not that far off from the reality of what parents are worrying about these days.  One of the big ones, for me, that Skenazy tore to shreds, was the child abduction fear.  Statistically, 1 in 150 million children are abducted and killed by strangers, that's a 0.00007 percent chance that your child would be the one.  And yes, that would be absolutely soul destroying to be that one.  But here's how she put it into perspective.  If you were trying to get your child kidnapped and killed by a stranger (weird, but see it through, purely for the perspective, not because it's been a bad day with Junior), how long would you need to keep him outside, unsupervised, for this to statistically happen?  Seven hundred fifty thousand years.  Wow.

Remember climbing trees?  Falling down and breaking something?  Didn't at least one child from every family have a broken bone at some point, back in the day?  And nobody sued.  It was unfortunate, sure.  Painful, absolutely.  But one of those learning curves that hey, kids learn from.  And most likely, not only did they climb that tree with a little more finesse next time...they also were a little stronger from the life lesson.

I was somewhat disgusted to discover this past year, my kids' school  policy on wet recess.  Not pouring down, better stay inside, rainy day recess, mind you.  Nope, it's been raining and the field and playground equipment are wet.  What happens then?  No playing in said field, or on said playground equipment.  (Which you can bet is already pretty damn equipped with the latest child safety measures.)  Running on those foamy mats under the playground equipment, wet or dry days...is not allowed.  Why?  Liability issues.  Fear of lawsuits makes it so the playground lady is now forced to be a cop, lining exuberant kids up against the bloody wall, in time out.  For running.  At recess.  (This is not her fault, nor the school's by the way.  Litigious society ought to shoulder the blame here.  Which means all of us.)

Rough housing used to be a normal, even healthy occurrence.  Irritating as hell, obviously.  Especially in close quarters.  But, surely, if everyone's laughing, and having a good time, this is okay.

Remember building forts?  Living outside all day, all summer, past when either the streetlights came on, or you were catching fireflies and playing flashlight tag?  Riding bikes to the store to buy penny candy?  Waxing nostalgic here, I know.  But what I'm saying is this:  Our job as parents is yes, to keep our kids safe.  But, it is also to maintain perspective as to what's important and what safe really means.  And at some point, these kids are going to venture out into the world, and either be a complete, sheltered wreck, because they've never dealt with anything remotely shocking.  Or they're going to have picked up a few lessons from climbing trees and exploring nature, and be just fine.

I still worry, and frankly, I think that's not a bad thing.  These are precious people we've made, and for whom we bear some serious responsibility.  But perhaps, letting go, in the face of fear...fear of being hurt, of being judged, of screwing up...letting go of our kids a little bit at a time, and trusting that they can work it out, and that we possess some decent intuition as their parents...perhaps that's what we're meant to be doing here.

And the day came
when the risk to remain tight in a bud
became more painful
than the risk it took to blossom.
~ Anais Nin ~

Whatever course you decide upon,
there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong.
There are always difficulties arising
which tempt you to believe that your critics are right.
To map out a course of action and follow it to an end requires courage.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson ~

Life shrinks or expands
in proportion to one's courage.

~ Anais Nin ~

and the net will appear.

  ~ John Burroughs ~

Kids will be kids...if we let them.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Second Time's a Charm

Over a week has passed since the Mister's ArtWalk at Venue, and I've been mulling over whether or not to include one of the recipes I made for the show. First off, though, let me say that it was a fabulous night.  And how could it not be?  Art, wine, food, friends, and a rare evening out, sans small people, with the Mister.  An undeniably good combination.

The wave paintings, of course, and the rocks, are the Mister's.  Visit his website, StuartKingDesign, to see further examples of his, ahem, brilliance. Not that I'm biased, or anything.

So, in the end, I have decided to share one more recipe from that evening's food I made, the other being the Spiced Candied Nuts, from David Lebovitz's Ready for Dessert.  This, too, comes from that fine book, and had me very interested in what on earth Green Tea Financiers would taste like, and also, Could I make them successfully?  The first batch, eh, not so much.  The second? Well, that was the charmer, and it cinched the deal for me.

The reason I've been unable to decide if I should post this recipe, was that I had to tweak it a bit, after the trial run was decidedly unsuccessful.  And who am I to tweak a Lebovitz recipe?  Perhaps it was my damnable oven.  Perhaps I purchased an inferior brand of green tea powder (although that stuff was bloody pricey, and no way was I spending $22 for a couple of grams in the next price bracket).  Perhaps it is just my nature to struggle with dessert.  Life's a learning curve though, and since I'd already committed to making these financiers, I gave it another go.  I'm glad I did.

The main difficulties I had with that failed batch were that first, they weren't pretty.  I buttered the mini muffin molds, as recommended the recipe. They stuck.  And were a bit of a shambles when I managed to pry them out. Tears may have threatened, I'm not too proud to admit.  I'm rather emotional about my food, what can I say?  The second, and to my mind, bigger problem, was the taste was too strong.  After reading (the very few) words in English on the matcha (green tea powder) containers, trying to figure out which was the $7 item, and which the $40 one, I bought the one that said food grade.  I'm thinking this may have been my error.  Perhaps David used non-food grade?  I just don't know, he didn't specify.  And there are a whole lot to choose from in Uwajimaya.  After tasting the rather unremarkable first try, and being painfully aware that they were bitter and just so not good, I cut the 2 1/2 teaspoons to 2 scant teaspoons. And voila!  They were delicious.

A vivid green wee bite.  A little sweet, a tiny bit salty, and in the background (now, after I cut the dose) a lovely hint of green tea.  Delightful.

Green Tea Financiers - adapted from Ready for Dessert

Sesame Salt Mixture
2 tsp sesame seeds (white, or a mix of white and black)
1/8 tsp flaky sea salt

2/3 cup sliced almonds
5 Tbs all purpose flour

1/2 cup sugar
1 Tbs white sesame seeds
2 scant tsp green tea powder (matcha) *don't pack it down in your tsp measure, just loose*
1/4 tsp baking powder
big pinch of salt
grated zest of 1/2 large orange
1/2 cup egg whites (from about 4 large eggs)
6 Tbs unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly

Preheat the oven to 375.  Butter, or spray, a 24 cup mini muffin tin, or similar sized mold.  I had greater success with simply using cooking spray, on my second go of this recipe.  Follow your instincts.

Sprinkle about 2/3 of the 2 tsp sesame seeds, and a few flakes of sea salt, into the bottom of each prepared muffin cup.  David mixed his sesame seeds with the sea salt, but I found it difficult to get even amounts of salt in each cup, so I altered it a bit, and sprinkled them in separately.

To make the financiers, in a food processor fitted with the metal blade, or in a blender, pulverize the almonds, sugar, 1 Tbs white sesame seeds, the flour, green tea, baking powder, salt, and orange zest until the nuts are finely ground.  Add the egg whites and butter, and pulse until the mixture is smooth, stopping to scrape down the bowl as needed to ensure the ingredients are thoroughly combined.

Divide the batter evenly among the prepared muffin cups or molds, then sprinkle the tops with the remaining sesame seeds and flake sea salt.  Rap the muffin tin or molds on the counter once or twice to release any air pockets and level the batter.  Bake just until the financiers feel firm when gently pressed with a finger, about 12 minutes, rotating pan front to back halfway through baking time.

Let cool completely, then remove the financiers from the muffin cups, or molds.

If you're brave enough to attempt them, they are well and truly worth the small effort.  (Not counting the effort of attempting to decipher a language I don't speak, the first failed baking attempt, and the effort it took not to throw said failure at the wall.)

I messed up, so you don't have to.

You're welcome.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Riding the Wave

In a semi-reflective mood this morning, and pondering yesterday's trip to the beach for Father's Day, it comes to me that parenting is a lot like riding a wave.  Just as in life, and surfing, it is vital to one's very survival that you learn to relax, trust yourself and your child, and just let the wave take you where it will.  Becoming tense and seeking to control the situation (be it a pivotal point in life, a sticky moment in parenting, or a monster of a wave) will only result in a great deal of useless thrashing around, and figurative (or literal, if you're still with me on this wave analogy) drowning.  Anyone who's ever spent some time in the ocean learns pretty quickly that if you're in over your head, relax, and eventually you'll float to the surface.  Maybe after taking a good pounding.  And learning a tough lesson or two.  This applies to life, especially life as a parent.

I am pretty stoked that I (somehow) got lucky enough to find the Mister, and that our kids have such an amazing dad.  This is the sort of man that brings out the best in people, and that seems to me to be a pretty handy trait to have in a relationship, and as a parent.  He's passionate about life, the ocean, art, and his family.  He has the patience of a saint...obviously, he married me.  And he knows when to paddle like hell, and when to loosen up and ride the wave.  He taught me how to do that (mostly), and he's teaching our kids that every day.

And the really brilliant part?  He'll always be right close by, if they do take a tumble, and need a hand.

Stoked on this man.  Happy Father's Day to you, Mister.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Perfect End

Looking out at the gray drizzling day, I can't help but worry that summer may not arrive after all.  Sure, there hints, oh-so-subtle hints, that it's just around the corner.  School is out.  Plans are being made to fill the now just slightly freer days with outdoor fun.  Heck, even the weather felt full of the promise of summer yesterday.  So, instead of dwelling on the (not atypical) rain today, let's chat about yesterday's goodness.  Particularly, dinner.

After a busy Friday, filled with saying goodbye to school for the summer, celebrating the (presumed) commencement of summer, and errand running for Father's Day, a spontaneous sort (my favorite sort) of gathering took place with friends, that included margaritas, toasts to the sunshine, and the usual amount of side-splitting laughter.  Perfect.  

And of course the good times carried on well past a reasonable (ie, school night, kid-friendly) dinner time.  But hey!  It's summer.  No school.  And these kids can surely be counted as more cultural for staying up a little later, enjoying good food and company, right?  (Guilt resolved.)

From the Farmer's Market, I had some lovely asparagus, and green beans.  The pantry revealed some tinned tuna in olive oil.  And a quick think, and perusal of the cookbook shelf had me reaching for my treasured copy of My French Kitchen, by Joanne Harris (hooray!), and Fran Warde.

The recipe for Warm Tuna and Potato Salad calls for anchovies, but I was fresh out (ha), but I did have some anchovy paste in the fridge, so I added a little squirt to the dressing.  The other alterations I made to the recipe were to add asparagus, because, well, yum.  I replaced one tablespoon of the white wine vinegar with lemon juice, and I also reduced the 2/3 cup olive oil, for the dressing, because I prefer the vinaigrette to have some zing.  And perhaps because maybe, ugh, swimsuits are going to be involved soon.  Sigh.

So, here you go.  Easy as anything.  Super filling, and pretty darn healthy.  Serve it up with a nice, crusty baguette of course, a la Francaise.

Warm Tuna and Potato Salad - adapted from My French Kitchen
 - serves 4 to 6

For the dressing:
1 or 2 small shallots, minced
2 Tbs white wine vinegar
1 Tbs freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 Tbs grainy dijon mustard
1/2 tsp anchovy paste (optional)
1/3 cup olive oil (or more if desired)
sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

For the salad:
1 lb small red skinned potatoes (or white, something that holds its shape, not russet)
6 oz (or a couple large handfuls) haricots verts, or thin green beans, trimmed
8 oz cherry tomatoes
6 oz tuna in olive oil, drained
a few good handfuls of fresh basil

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Whisk all the dressing ingredients together, except for the olive oil.  Once those are combined, add the olive oil in a steady stream, while you whisk it in.  Alternatively, add all dressing ingredients to a jar, and shake vigorously.

Gently cook the potatoes in their skins in a saucepan of lightly salted water (1/2 -1 Tbs sea salt), for about 20 minutes, or until easily pierced with a knife, but before their skins split.  Drain the potatoes, cut in halves or quarters depending on their size, and place them in a large salad bowl, or platter.  Pour the 2/3 of the dressing over the warm potatoes, and toss to coat.

Plunge the green beans into lightly salted boiling water (save a pan, and some time, and reuse the potato water), and cook for 2 minutes.  Drain well, and add warm to the dressed potatoes.

Place the asparagus on one side of a rimmed baking sheet, and the cherry tomatoes on the other, and drizzle a bit of olive oil over them, tossing to coat, and season with salt and pepper.  Roast for 10 minutes, then remove the tomatoes, and add them to the potatoes and green beans.  Continue roasting the asparagus (increasing the heat to 425 if need be), for another 5 - 10 minutes, until fork tender, then add to the salad as well.

Pour the last of the dressing over the salad, and mix gently to distribute evenly.  Flake the tuna over the top, and tear the basil, and scatter it over the salad. Serve at once, while still warm.

Oh, lovely.

Perfect end to a perfect day.

Have a great weekend.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

One Day

In a rush, rush, rush these days.  Last night, in the midst of the dinner-laundry-clean out backpacks-etc rush, my awesome boy passed me some of his poetry from school, which made me pause, and smile, and feel very grateful for this kid.  I should mention, he drew inspiration from a song by the same name, by Matisyahu.

One Day
by Tyler King

One Day I Wish
There Will
Be Peace.
One Day
I Wish
Their Anger And
Life Right.
One Day
I Wish That
People Might
Not Like To Fight Cause It Is
Not Right.

Man, this kid is always up to good stuff.  What a lucky mum I am. 

Have a lovely day.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Oh, David...

*Note:  The above title should be sighed, in a satiated sort of way.*

David Lebovitz, to be specific.  His insanely great cookbook, Ready for Dessert, to be further specific.  And, most specifically, as regards today's post:  Spiced Candied Pecans.

The mister, as you may have heard me mention, is featured in the Ballard Art Walk, this Saturday, at Venue Gallery.   Nibbles and wine are provided, so of course, ever going with my strong suit...I decide to go for it and make a few desserts.  Which, as we know, what with the dirty, Viagra-grubbing oven I possess, and my penchant for not following recipes...isn't always the wisest idea in my world.  Oh, but, why not?  What's life without a little bit of risk, right?

I have made, and tasted, several spiced nut recipes.  Some pretty darn tasty, some just so-so.  These may just make me look like I know what I'm doing in the kitchen, regardless of how my other desserts turn out.  Never mind that this recipe sort of isn't exactly, truly baking.  At least not in the cake and cookie sense.  And it's really simple.

Hooray for that.

A little note, before we go on:  the recipe calls for 1 tsp ground cloves, which I used, and sort of panicked about when the intense smell of cloves flooded the kitchen while baking.  I worried the nuts were going to be way too heavy on the cloves.  Never fear.  Trust David.  He knows what he's bloody doing.

Also, because I wouldn't be me if I didn't tweak a recipe, just a wee bit, David's recipe is for 4 cups pecans.  I used 2 cups pecans, 1 cup almonds, and 1 cup cashews.  Partly because I wanted a mix, and partly because I am a flawed human.  Try it either way.  They are lovely.  And highly addictive.  If I don't get it under control, I'm going to have to whip up another batch for Saturday.  And wouldn't that just be too terrible?

A little bit sweet, but only just.  A little bit salty, but only just.  A little bit spicy, but only just.  Oh, David...

Spiced Candied Pecans

Or, in my case:  Spiced Candied Nuts
adapted from Ready for Dessert, by David Lebovitz

1 large egg white
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
2 Tbs ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp cayenne
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla extract
4 cups pecan halves, or a mix of pecan halves, and whole almonds and cashews

Preheat oven to 300.  Spray a baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray, or oil lightly.

In a large bowl, whisk egg white until frothy, about 10 seconds.  Stir in the brown sugar, spices, salt, vanilla, and nuts, and stir until the nuts are well coated.

Distribute the nuts in an even layer on the baking sheet and bake until well toasted, and the glaze is dry, about 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes, and rotating your baking sheet front to back, if needed.  Let cool competely, separating the nuts as they cool.

Will keep for up to 2 weeks, in an airtight container.

Do you see how those little bites of deliciousness are fairly leaping off the dish, so I can eat them?
Oh, yes...
Here's hoping that my other desserts are as successful.
Cross fingers...

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

A Word on Wine

"Wine talks; ask anyone.  The oracle at the street corner; the uninvited guest at the wedding feast; the holy fool.  It ventriloquizes.  It has a million voices.  It unleashes the tongue, teasing out secrets you never meant to tell, secrets you never even knew.  It shouts, rants, whispers.  It speaks of great plans, tragic loves and terrible betrayals.  It screams with laughter.  It chuckles softly to itself.  It weeps in front of its own reflection.  It revives summers long past and memories best forgotten.  Every bottle a whiff of other times, other places, every one - from the commonest Liebfraumilch to the imperious Veuve Clicquot - a humble miracle.  Everyday magic, Joe had called it.  The transformation of base matter into the stuff of dreams.  Layman's alchemy."

-quoted from the novel, Blackberry Wine, by Joanne Harris

Is that not the most perfect doorway into a story that you have ever read?  Okay, there are many other brilliant writers and brilliant first paragraphs...but this?  This?  Wine's every nuance and consequence laid bare, so eloquently that you can taste it.  The words themselves are intoxicating.

And this next, not quite a literary quote, but I happened upon it the other day, and had a good giggle.

Charles & Charles 2010 Rose.  The display sign read:  "You can drink rose, and still be a badass."

I did.  And I am.

And by the way, that rose is scrumptious.  Also local, if you're a fellow Washingtonian.  And Blackberry Wine, by Joanne Harris...delicious.  Help yourselves to some of both.

Have a lovely day.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Eat Your Greens, Street Food Style

Devin and I visited the new Uwajimaya yesterday, only intending on a few sauces...Needless to say, we came home with a wee bit more than a few.  What can I say?  It's the food lover's version of a kid-in-a-candy-store kind of thing.  As we were leaving, hefting our bags out to the car, Devin said:  "Wow.  That was so much fun!  I can't wait to go back!"  It's a grocery store, people.  Selling food.  No toys, no crazy doodads or whatsits.  Food, interesting food, lights my gal up.  And I have got to dig that.

A bit of our haul:

Hmmm...baby bok choy, choy sum, Chinese long beans, ginger...

So, what's for dinner?

Time to bust out one of my absolute favorite cookbooks ever:  Street Food, by Tom Kime.  Full of gorgeous, simple recipes and travel anecdotes about street food from around the world.  I pretty much drool as soon as I open the pages.  Each dish is vibrant, colorful, and screamingly fresh.  My kind of food.  Incidentally...this is the perfect cookbook for summer.  There are a number of barbecue dishes, easy-to-take on-a-picnic foods...great entertaining food, not your usual burgers and dogs on the BBQ.

Anyway, let's make some Nonya Sambal.  A super easy, great weeknight meal, it takes only minutes to cook.  Tom's recipe is adapted from an Indonesian sambal, but he also credits Malaysia and Singapore, for its inspiration. 

Oh, and by the way, my kids loved this.  In the interest of not burning their mouths with the sambal, however, I only put about 1 1/2 tsp of the hot stuff in, instead of the 1 Tbs suggested in the recipe.  Sambal is pretty spicy chili sauce, especially for a small sort of person, and if you've got little ones, you can always serve some up alongside the meal, at table.

And one more thing.  If you can't get some of these vegetables, substitute!  The thing with traditional street food like this is that people use what's available and fresh.  No choy sum?  Use broccoli, broccoli raab, or maybe some asparagus.  Whatever sounds good.  You absolutely cannot mess this up.  So go crazy.

Nonya Sambal - Adapted from Street Food, by Tome Kime
serves 4, as a main course, or 6-8, as a side dish

1 head choy sum (Chinese flowering cabbage), or purple sprouting broccoli
2 heads pak choy or bok choy
1 Tbs vegetable oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 inch piece of fresh ginger, grated
4 oz green beans, ends trimmed (I used Chinese long beans)
1/2 cup bean sprouts, rinsed
handful each:  fresh mint leaves, fresh cilantro leaves
salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the sauce:

1 Tbs sambal oelek
2 Tbs soy sauce
1 Tbs honey
1 Tbs hoisin sauce

-Cut the stems of the choy sum into 2 inch lengths and separate the leaves.  Cut the bok choy in half lengthwise, then cut each half into 2-4 wedges (depending on size), through the base.

-To make the sauce, combine all sauce ingredients in a small saucepan, and reduce over high heat for 2 minutes.  Remove from the heat.

-Heat a wok over medium-high heat and add the oil.  Stir-fry the garlic and ginger for about 30 seconds until golden brown and fragrant.  (Careful, you don't want it to burn, and embitter the dish!)  Add the choy sum stems, bok choy, green beans, sauce, and 1 Tbs water, and stir-fry for 2 minutes.  Next, add the choy sum leaves, and stir-fry for a further minute, or until tender.  Add sprouts, mint, and cilantro, stirring and tossing for 30 seconds until wilted.

-Taste a little of the vegetables with the sauce, and adjust the seasoning to taste. Season with salt and pepper.  It should be hot and spicy, but with a balance of salty, sour and sweet flavors.  Serve immediately.

Because this was our main course, we served it atop basmati rice. 
How easy was that? 
Enjoy your dinner.