Happy Year of the Tiger!


I got shut out of this show for dragging my feet on the buying of tickets, but that’s ok cause a week later they played for free(!), outside(!) at Cal & I didn’t have to cross any big water for that.

Eating: brown rice, pinto beans (from a can, even), the first Hass avocado, Bariani olive oil, Maldon salt. Feels like cheating: you aren’t really cooking but it tastes so good, you can’t imagine eating anything better. Unless you’re steaming Dungeness, which also doesn’t feel like cooking. Ditto the first artichokes (boiled) & the first asparagus (roasted). I like this theme.

Rearranging: furniture. (Lest you think I’ve gone all lazy, with those non-cooking meals & all.)

Smelling: plum blossoms!

Gazing in wonder: the tulip magnolias are stunning right now. No picture can do justice. Go out & look, if you haven’t already.

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Recently Donna brought home yet another of her well-chosen love gifts for me, a newsprint booklet from 1982 titled 300 Sensational Salads. I shall now share some of these sensations with you, to brighten your day & make you glad you live, cook & eat in the present:

1 can (13½ or 14½ oz.) chicken broth
1 cup converted rice
1½ tsp. salt
½ cup vegetable oil
2 T. soy sauce
2 T. toasted sesame seeds (optional)
2 cups diced cooked chicken, turkey, or pork
1 can (14 oz.) chop suey vegetables, drained
1 jar (4½ oz.) sliced mushrooms, drained
4 green onions with tops, sliced
1 jar (2 oz.) diced pimiento, drained

Add enough water to broth to make 2½ cups liquid. Bring to a boil. Stir in the rice & 1 tsp. of the salt. Cover & simmer 20 minutes. Remove from heat. Let stand covered until all liquid is absorbed, about 5 minutes. Transfer rice to large bowl. Combine oil, soy sauce, remaining salt & sesame seeds, if desired, mixing well. Stir into rice. Cover & refrigerate 1 hour. Stir in remaining ingredients [including those yummy canned chop suey vegetables, mmm]. Cover & chill at least 3 hours. Make 6 main dish servings.

Also included among the 300 Sensational Salads are “Hot Chinese Potato Salad” & “Chow Mein Salad” but honestly, neither of those is quite as special as this one, which you’ll surely want to bust out next time you host dinner guests:

8 strips bacon, cut-up
1 cup chopped onion
2 cans (15 oz. each) cheese ravioli
¼ cup sugar
¼ vinegar
Pepper to taste

In skillet cook bacon until crisp; drain fat reserving 1 tablespoon. Return 1 tablespoon fat to skillet; add onion & saute about 2 minutes. Add ravioli, sugar, vinegar & pepper; cover & simmer until ravioli is heated through. Serve on lettuce. Yield: 4 cups.

Gawd almighty, is that not the most vile thing you ever heard of?! But leaving the issue of pure nastiness aside, what on earth qualifies this to be called a salad? The fact that you plop it on top of lettuce? The presence of vinegar? What?!

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Michael’s blackberry honey on Alvarado sprouted whole wheat. Every once in a great while, & I mean like every several years, a perfect jar of honey & a certain mood of mine align to give me a whole loaf’s worth of incredibly satisfying bread & honey. The honey varies but the bread is always Alvarado. This time the honey is dark brown, partly crystallized between liquid & solid, & yes, it does taste like blackberries. I don’t see Michael anywhere on the web—figures, for a guy with hand-written labels. You can get his honey at the Berkeley Bowl, & his last name is Huber, which may or may not mean that he is a direct descendant of François Huber, the father of beekeeping. That would be too neat. I mean that both ways.

Dave Rawlings Machine “Bells of Harlem”, off the new album. Steady rotation. “Ruby” is pretty damn awesome too.

Toe-up socks! How can you not knit in this weather?!

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Decadently preparing for winter. The salad spinner is finally getting less use than the Le Creuset baking dish & Dutch oven. No, this is not an ad for Le Creuset, but I’m really not sure what I would be doing if mom-in-law hadn’t handed these two crucial items down to us, years ago.

First there was tomato sauce:

I got 3 batches out of a 20 lb. crate of dry-farmed Early Girls. YTMV. (Your tomatoes may vary.) Hint: unless you want to have All Tomatoes All the Time for 2 days, spring for the grade A instead of the grade B tomatoes, which have bright red voices made especially for screaming, “WE’RE GONNA SPOIL & ROT & MOLD ANY SECOND SO YOU BETTER DO SOMETHING NOW!” I’ve learned my lesson & next year I’ll be listening to the cheerful voices of the A tomatoes murmuring “no problem, take your time, we’ll be fine all week.”

So. Wash, trim & halve those loud, loud tomatoes. Put them cut side up in the aforementioned Le Creuset 9×12 baking dish. Layer them on top of each other until the baking dish is almost full, with a bit of room at the top for bubbling liquid.

Sprinkle on top: minced garlic & capers, salt, pepper, & a generous back & forth of olive oil.

Roast in 325-350 degree oven for at least an hour. Say an hour & 15 minutes. When you take it out of the oven, there will be tons of liquid in there. Take a big spoon & press the tomatoes down so that relatively clear liquid spills into the spoon, & transfer as much liquid as you can into the aforementioned Dutch oven (or other wide, heavy-bottomed pot). Put that on the stove to simmer. Stir the tomatoes around in the baking dish, turning things so the garlic & capers get mixed in, & stick it back in the oven for another half hour or so.

“Forget” about the simmering liquid on the stove. “Remember” suddenly that you might be burning the pot! In a panic, race to the stove just in time to see that you have the most delicious sludgey tomato syrup, which is just starting to brown. If you had “remembered” just a few minutes later, you would have burned it. Heave a sigh of relief & thank the tomato gods for your sauce-making 6th sense & the awesome pot that can handle such treatment. (Really, I promise Le Creuset never heard of me!) Take the tomatoes from the oven (or probably you already did, it doesn’t actually matter that much) & stir them into the syrup/sludge.

Here’s what it looked like after I already took a big spoonful & put it on spaghetti for my dinner. Much reduced, totally concentrated tomato goodness:

Honestly, if I hadn’t been totally absorbed in a phone conversation with the Triathlete, I don’t think I would have had the patience to let the liquid simmer down that far. Yay for happy kitchen accidents!

But wait, there’s more! You get two blog posts in one!

About the same time, Donna had parallel desires for lasagna & roast chicken. She brought home fresh sheets of pasta & 8 thighs. It would have made sense to make one thing one night & the other thing another night, but sometimes the week just gets away from you. Such as when you get in over your head with a giant box of screaming tomatoes.

Seeing as how we only have one baking dish (you know the one) suitable for lasagna &/or roasting chicken, & seeing as how both the fresh pasta & the raw chicken were starting to grow some slightly-urgent little voices themselves, I said, hey, what if we do them both at once?

CHICKEN LASAGNA STROGANOFF SMASHUP (ever so vaguely based on a mushroom lasagna recipe by Deborah Madison)

8 chicken thighs, bone & skin on, not the really big ones
at least 3 fresh rectangles of pasta to fit your baking dish
bag o’ large brown button mushrooms
bag o’ baby spinach
1 yellow onion
dried porcini mushrooms (I had half a tiny bag. A whole bag would be better.)
1 stick butter
1/2 cup flour
1 box mushroom broth
few cloves garlic
bunch of fresh marjoram
olive oil
salt & pepper

Note: You really need two people to make this. Lasagna is 3 or 4 dishes pretending to be one dish. On the other hand, if your ass hasn’t already been kicked by a bunch of tomatoes, maybe you could do it alone. I wouldn’t.

First, put the porcini mushrooms to soak in a bit of hot water.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Then, make mushroom gravy: Melt the butter in a medium saucepan, & whisk in the flour. When the roux smells insanely good, pour in the mushroom broth. I think it’s best if you heat the broth first. I kinda arrived at this gravy in a, um, less than straightforward fashion. You could, unlike me, consult a real recipe & then actually follow it. Anyway: whisk whisk whisk, bring just barely to a boil so that it thickens, then turn down to super-low simmer & keep whisking.

Meanwhile, rinse off the thighs, trim excess fat, pat dry, & then mix them around in a bowl with salt & pepper.

Wash your mushrooms & spinach. Slice the mushrooms. Chop a few cloves of garlic & an onion.

Are the porcinis good & soft? Whisk the liquid (minus any grit) into the gravy & chop the porcinis. In a large pan, brown the onions with garlic & olive oil, then add the porcinis & the sliced mushrooms. They should give off some liquid & get a nice color to them. We did this in two batches (so as to saute rather than steam). Move all of that into a bowl & then wilt the spinach in the pan to remove most of the liquid.

Wash your marjoram & strip the leaves into the chicken bowl. Toss & rub around.

Now assemble the lasagna as follows:
Butter the pan.
Just a thin layer of gravy.
Sheet of pasta.
Gravy, thicker this time.
Onions & mushrooms.
Onions & mushrooms.
Chicken! Arrange the chicken to cover the lasagna evenly, skin side up.

Like so:

Heft that thing into the oven & let it go for 40 minutes, then check to see if the chicken is done & continue roasting (or not) accordingly. The lasagna will be done before the chicken.

When it was done, Donna looked at it & exclaimed, “Sick!” (She’s been hanging out with kids.)

I did warn you it was decadent. Yes, you are ingesting extra chicken fat with every bite of tender lasagna. Yes, you can rationalize it all you want by saying “well we didn’t use any cheese, & the gravy is made with mushroom broth instead of milk….” Yes, it’s not the prettiest piece of chicken you ever did see (& this isn’t the prettiest picture either), but it’s damn delicious.

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Gillian Welch & David Rawlings at the Fillmore: More than worth the backache from standing all night long. That hallowed room is really not for creaky old bodies, but 10 feet from the stage with the flawless crystal sound, Gil & Dave working their magic, breathing & creating as one organism, it’s so good, it feels like love.

Warren pears: Almost not of this world—but they are of this world, they come from the ground, they grow on trees & aren’t we lucky beyond belief? It seems like insanity to eat any other fruit right now. (I am insane, though, & cannot refuse the last of the melons & stone fruits.)

Gourmet magazine: A different kind of love, more material & mundane perhaps, but no less real. I grew up ogling those centerfolds every month, year after yummy year. I refuse to say RIP! Will someone come in & rescue it somehow? Am I in denial?

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You know how foodies (& other people, too) sometimes like to poll each other on what their last meal would be? Extravagant requests come up, tall fantasy orders for the prison chef (assuming this last meal would be before you get sent off to the chair at midnight).

I’ve always said it would have to be something I cook for myself. Even if they couldn’t let me cook in the kitchen, I could at least toss a salad for myself in my cell. How sweet, how profoundly self-loving it is, to cook for yourself: an unbroken throughline from thought or desire to action & creation to mouth to stomach, a completed circuit. I make my salad exactly how I want it.

This is comfort food for me, a late-night salad:

3 or 4 handfuls of small lettuces, mostly Little Gems (from Blue Heron)
1/2 of a large Dapple Dandy pluot
3 small pink radishes
flat leaf parsley
sherry vinaigrette (olive oil, sherry vinegar, salt & pepper)

I don’t want a lot of ingredients at 10 pm when I’m sad for no specific reason & lots of specific reasons, both at once. I want something simple & beautiful & nurturing, & I want to make it myself, taking my time to pay attention to what I’m doing, making tiny adjustments & changes as I move toward perfecting this small, finite vision. Maybe that’s why salad is so comforting to me: it is an easily attainable* perfection when so much else is so impossibly far from perfect.

I started by washing the leaves, spinning them dry & dumping them in the bowl. Then I mandolined the radishes, scattering the dots of them on top of the leaves. I cut a pluot in half & mandolined most of the half into sheer, soft little sheets that folded upon themselves; what was left, I realized I wanted cut into tiny chunks. Then I chopped some parsley, stirred up my dressing, tossed the salad, & served half of it onto my darling’s plate. I ate my half right out of the big salad bowl, because that feels good too in its own way.

There is no real border between the making & the eating of a late-night comfort salad. It’s the whole process that soothes from start to finish. Making a salad I want to eat is something I can rely on in myself, something I can always touch when too much is uncertain. Things feel more hopeful after that.

*Yes, I know it’s not easily attainable for most people. Chances are it’s within reach for most people reading this blog, though.

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Newly smitten with Francis Lam, thanks to a tiny little link from Orangette. Incidentally, her new book surpassed my expectations. How often does that happen? I’m not really supposed to be buying books right now (slashedbudgetyouknowtheeconomyblahblahblah), but I bought hers & I’m not sorry.

About Francis: that little link led to a recipe that demanded every pot in the kitchen, but his writing seduced me into doing it anyway. He worries about Cantonese food! He makes all kinds of sense about wine! Check out his tattoos! I’m in love. If you don’t hear from me for a while, it’s because I’m busy reading all his archives.

Actually that’s not true. You might not hear from me for a little while because I just got myself a job with the U.S. Census & April is hella busy. Send bag lunch ideas. Hmm… maybe Mr. Lam has some advice?

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Let us now praise the mighty force of nature that is Neko Case! Thrill over her insanely fabulous Knight of Swords album cover: is the resemblance not striking?

(Thanks to Learning the Tarot for this particular image.)

In Tarot, the Swords are the suit of air, & indeed Middle Cyclone feels like some serious wind. I have been playing this thing incessantly since laying hands upon it, & sometimes I could swear I feel my hair blowing back even when all the windows in the studio are shut. It’s not news that the girl has lungs & knows how to use them, but wow, how does she keep cranking out amazing album after amazing album? Despite all the air, Neko herself is a rock-solid dependable Virgo, which only goes partway toward explaining why I love her so.

Let me count the ways:

1) The feeling of enormous spaciousness she creates, which has stayed with me as an unflagging overall impression ever since I heard the first few notes of the Furnace Room Lullaby CD. It’s not just the heavy reverb, either.

2) The old-skool, uncompromising defense of her copyright. No Creative Commons for Neko, no way. Don’t get me wrong, I think there can be a lot of good in all that newfangled sharing, but Neko’s hard line speaks to my heart, as in the Canadian Amp liner notes: “THIS IS WHAT WE DO FOR A LIVING. WE HAVE KIDS, BILLS, AND RENT TOO. THANK YOU.” The current liner notes take a more threatening tone, & I love her for it.

3) The constant experimentation & fun & joy & excellence… I never claimed to be a music writer, & enough bytes abound from keyboards more polished than mine. I’ll just say my world would not be complete without her music arriving in fresh batches regularly the way it does, which brings me to

4) The professionalism & consistency. I am in awe of how she runs her operation. How she shows up all the fucking time. No weird drug habit, no moody off nights. No parched, thirsty deserts of endless time between albums. As much as I love Neko, there are musicians who sing more directly to my own soul, & of course they are the ones who dole out an album maybe every 5 years if you’re lucky, maybe because they’re too busy enjoying themselves (yeah, Gil & Dave, I’m looking at you), or maybe because it’s just too hard (I can’t really pretend to know, but Freakwater comes to mind), or maybe it’s just my own natural sympathy for my kin, the unprolific artists of the world. How lucky that we can rely upon people like Neko (& Sherman Alexie, who is going to bankrupt me with his prodigious output) to keep us all going!

5) You know I am a sucker for a really good Bob Dylan cover, & Neko’s “Buckets of Rain” just about breaks my heart. In the best possible way.

I could go on, but I’ll leave it at this: I don’t think it’s any coincidence that I’ve started making souffles just during this last little stretch of Middle Cycloned time. What food could be airier? It’s like eating clouds. Too bad they always collapse before I think to grab the camera. Put on some brand-new Neko, whip up some egg whites of your own, & then you won’t need my pictures anyway.

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Rain, rain, la la la….

Flannel sheets, a persistent downpour, & no leaks in the roof (knock on wood): if that’s not a recipe for a blissful weekend nap, I don’t know what is. Eventually you’ll have to wake up, though, & when you do, you’ll be hungry. How about an excuse to turn on the oven? It makes the kitchen feel so toasty!

Here’s my pasta mashup of this roasted broccoli & this caramelized cauliflower. (Look for the garam masala variation in the comments of that post.)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Put a pot of pasta water on the stove to boil.

Throw into a large mixing bowl:
3 broccoli crowns, cut into small bite-size pieces
1 large red onion, halved & thinly sliced
3 green onions, thinly sliced
A generous amount of olive oil
Salt, approx. a teaspoon
Garam masala, a light sprinkling
(I would have put lemon zest in too, but my lemon was a bit past its prime & the skin looked tired.)

Toss it all together & spread in a single layer on 1 or 2 baking sheets (I used 2). Roast for 10 minutes, then stir & turn the stuff. If it seems dry, drizzle more olive oil on. (I also consolidated onto 1 sheet at this point, because the veggies had shrunk so much & I wanted them snuggled close together for moisture.) Turn the oven down to 400 & put back in for another 8 minutes or so.

During this second half of the roasting, boil your fresh lemon fettucine, drain it & plop it into the same big bowl you had from mixing the veggies together. (Please don’t tell me you washed it already!) Toss it around with a bit of olive oil so it won’t turn into a solid sticky lump while you’re waiting for the veggies to be done.

Around 8 minutes, check the veggies. I squoze half a lemon over them & stuck them back in for another 2 minutes. After they were all done, I squoze on the second half lemon; you want to do this while they’re still in the baking pan, since the lemon juice will have a deglazing effect on all the yummy onion bits that are stuck on the bottom. Then throw it all on top of the pasta, mix together & eat!

Feeds two hungry nappers, with a good amount of leftovers:

Edited to add this variation: I went to cook dinner for my mom, since she broke her foot (aww). She happened to have some nice fresh crab that her neighbor gave her (so don’t feel too sorry for her), so I added that to the recipe & used Old Bay seasoning instead of garam masala. Since the asparagus is here (yay!) I also threw in some of that, sliced. I added the asparagus at about the 15-minute mark, & the crab just a couple of minutes before the end since it was already cooked. Also threw in a can of garbanzo beans (at the very beginning w/ the broccoli & onions). Delish!



I happen to have a thing about glass bottles & jars. This fetish predated—but has only been encouraged by—my environmentalist plastic angst. The plastic angst never goes away, although it does fluctuate, most recently spiking a couple of years ago after I saw horrible pictures of plastic bits found inside a dead albatross chick. On the other hand, last year’s chemical-leaching panic merely induced another lefty-Cassandra eyeroll: oh, so now after we’ve been saying for decades that plastic brings every form of evil upon the world, you’re suddenly gonna run out & spend a bunch of money on glass food containers because you’re afraid for your precious babies? (Not that I’m prioritizing albatross babies over human ones, just annoyed at the greenwashing consumerism so prevalent among human American adults.)

Anyway. I shall resist getting into my lefty-Cassandra eyeroll du jour re: the perils of free-market capitalism & the current state of the economy, blah blah blah. Instead, let’s talk about food! Here we have homemade yogurt, which is both economical & environmental.

I went to a yogurt & cheesemaking class at Institute of Urban Homesteading a few months back. When I signed up for the class I only saw the cheesemaking part of it, but as these things often go, the yogurt is the part that has thoroughly infiltrated my daily life. How wonderful to spoon yogurt out of a mason jar! If you’re lucky (geographically as well as economically), you can just roll on down to the store & buy St. Benoît in a quart mason jar for $5-something. But here, let me do the math for you: a half gallon of organic Straus milk is $4-something & you get two lovely quart jars of yogurt out of it. Plus the satisfaction of making it yourself, of course.

On the other hand, you might end up eating more yogurt than you knew was possible. I suspect that the plastic angst has actually been keeping a lid on my yogurt consumption for most of my life. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

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When you hear “carrots, onions, cabbage…”, do you yawn? Does your mind wander off to more interesting things like profiteroles, or clementine bitters, or hand-knitted socks?

If that’s the case, I do sympathize. I think we’ve all encountered quite enough rubbery frozen carrot chunks, flavorless generic onions & overcooked mushy cabbage in our various travels.

But please don’t let yourself be burned out, disenchanted or depressed about these fine vegetables.

It’s just not necessary to suffer so.

Don’t let them be ruined for you!

You could be missing something.

I’m just sayin.

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I love election cartograms!

I am so exhausted. Are you tired? Everybody seems to be in a kind of election hangover. Months of stomach-pretzeling anxiety, then all that euphoric weeping delirium when Obama won, & the catharsis of finally giving the Republicans the pounding they deserved—well, actually they deserved much worse than that, but let’s not get into that here—now I can barely do anything. The Prop 8 disappointment throws a weird contradictory layer of angst into the mix; rather emotionally confusing. I was in my pajamas last night before 7pm.

Good thing I had this recipe up my sleeve for y’all. I’d been working on it for a while, & on the 4th try it worked well enough to share with the Witch for Halloween (her favorite holiday, of course). The Witch is the most food-limited of my friends, by which I mean there’s hella stuff she can’t eat without getting walloped by a migraine. Luckily she’s a great cook & not afraid to experiment with obscure alternative ingredients. I was really proud to come up with a dessert she can eat!

Chocolate Coconut Tapioca Pudding
aka Pudding of Earth & Eyes of Newt (no sugar! no dairy! wheee!)

Throughout this recipe, whisk pretty much constantly!

Soak 1/3 cup small tapioca pearls in 2 to 3 cups of water for a few minutes, then bring to a gentle boil & simmer for about 15 minutes.

Drain off the gloopy water & reserve about 1/2 cup of it. I do this by pouring through a sieve into a bowl, then dumping the tapioca pearls from the sieve back into the pot.

Add about 1/2 can of coconut milk to the pot, whisk to distribute the tapioca, & simmer for another few minutes.

Meanwhile, whisk together in a separate bowl:
the rest of the coconut milk
2 T. good cocoa powder (I use Green & Black’s)
1/4 c. maple syrup
1 t. vanilla
pinch salt

Add the chocolate mixture to the pot, along with 4 to 6 T. of the reserved tapioca gloop. Continue to simmer & whisk another few minutes until tapioca pearls are completely clear. At this point the pudding is still quite liquid but should have thickened ever so slightly. If not, add a little more of the gloop.

Remove from heat & let cool a little, then refrigerate for at least 5 hours.

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The phonebankers are HUNGRY! If you’re not cut out for talking to strangers about politics, consider feeding the folks who are. I know myself well enough to realize that it wouldn’t be doing anybody any favors to put myself on the phone—or knocking on doors, eek—with the intention of swinging votes toward Obama. But I also realized that I’d better do something in order to 1) not be a nervous wreck during this crazy pre-election moment & 2) not hate myself if, goddess forbid, the election goes the wrong way.

So. I can’t call & I can’t knock on doors. They also need people to do data entry, but that’s a really bad idea for my hands. So what can I do? Well, I can cook. (I can also carve punkins, apparently, but who am I kidding? Every available surface of Berkeley is already plastered with Obama’s name or face.)

Pasta for Obama:
2 lbs. dry rigatoni (on blowout special at the Bowl!)
3 small yellow onions
most of a bunch of celery
most of a pound of carrots
2 enormous zucchinis
a bag of mushrooms
1 large can of Muir Glen crushed tomatoes
1 can tomato paste, also Muir Glen
8 or 9 fat tomatoes from Plastic Lam’s aunt’s garden (thanks!)
olive oil, salt & pepper, oregano
flat-leaf parsley, chopped & sprinkled on top for garnish
fresh grated Parmesan (optional)

Grocery bill: $13.94, plus $3.28 for the cheese

Follow usual tomato sauce procedure (in short: onions, celery & carrots first, then mushrooms & zukes, then all tomatoes, then simmer up to 2 hours, boil pasta & combine). To save time I cheated a little & used the food processor for the onions, celery, carrots & tomatoes. I had to boil the pasta in 2 shifts. When it was all done it was too heavy for me to lift, so Donna slid a cutting board underneath it & helped me schlep it off to the Obama office along with bowls, forks & napkins raided from our party supplies. Don’t forget the cheese, & a serving spoon!

When we got there, the place was stuffed full of about 100 people sitting cheek by jowl with a phone on one ear & a finger plugging the other. Some folks had been there all day, nibbling on nothing but scones & leftover Halloween candy. About what I had suspected. I ladled out the pasta & Donna walked around delivering it with the Parmesan in her other hand: “cheese?”

27 small servings vanished so fast it made my head spin. People were very happy to get real food & tickled at being served. (That’s where the cheese pays for itself. Donna sprinkles it with a lot of care & love—sorta fancy waiter meets storybook mom. You think I’m kidding!) We probably coulda brought twice as much. They also said that sandwich fixings would be very welcome, so if you don’t have all afternoon to simmer tomato sauce, just drop off some cold cuts & bread & I’m sure they’ll be thrilled.

Today I think I’ll bake taters, steam broccoli, fry bacon, bring cheddar & sour cream & let people assemble their own. Just two more days!

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I’ve been busy lately! Coupla weekends ago I had a quintessentially East Bay foodie day with The Witch. First we went to a chicken workshop (yes we have urban chicken fantasies!) at EcoHouse, where I got no good photos of the chickens, but this friendly duck came to investigate my camera:

After that, we dropped by the People’s Grocery garden party, where we ate an embarrassment of padrón peppers & admired this lovely kiwi vine:

Then I felt kinda crappy for a week & didn’t do anything interesting. I think maybe I successfully fought off a full-blown cold.

Once recovered, I had to come up with a goodbye card for the incomparable Steve Woodall, who is leaving (wah!) to run the Columbia Center for Book & Paper Arts after nurturing our own San Francisco Center for the Book from its very beginning. I have always been in awe of Steve’s big, big heart. He is one of the kindest people you could ever hope to meet, & somehow manages to keep tons of stuff running smoothly with the most easygoing manner… I just don’t know how a person becomes like that. If I’m lucky maybe I’ll get to be a little more like him in my next life.

Anyway, you can imagine the pressure was on since I knew that about a hundred killer book artists were all making cards for Steve too. None of this running out to buy a card & scrawling something in it with a ballpoint pen for this crowd, no way. Not when John DeMerritt is making one of his famous boxes to put all the cards in. I was so distracted by the card situation that I forgot all about bringing food to the party until like half an hour before I had to leave. Doh! The fridge looked pretty bare & I thought I’d have to run out & buy something on the way, but you know, that’s not how I like to do things if I can help it. I spent too many years of my life as the person who brought chips & salsa to potlucks. (Although for the record, let me say at least it was always Casa Sanchez. I did have standards.)

Here is Mother of Invention Salad. We have fuyu persimmons on the tree right now, so I grabbed two of those, plus an apple & half a head of some speckly chicory (sorry I can’t remember the name of it—you could use radicchio or anything similar). Mandolined the fruit, squeezed some lemon juice over it. Sliced the chicory; the tops of the leaves were too soft to do on the mandoline, so I did that with a knife & then hit the mandoline when I got closer to the stem end. Tossed it all with red wine mustard vinaigrette (thanks again, Orangette!) & then thought it needed some green, so I ran out into the garden & pinched off some pineapple sage for garnish. Done!

Of course, when I got to the party it turned out everybody else had brought chips & salsa, bread & cheese, & wine. Occupational hazard of the book arts: no way in hell do you have time for anything else. Now I remember why I always used to do the Casa Sanchez thing… & why I don’t edition books anymore!

Next night, it was the reception for Road Trip at San Jose Museum of Art. I hadn’t seen the show yet so was quite eager to find out how it looked. I have to say I’m pleased as punch to be in this show. Curator Kristen Evangelista did a fabulous job; how often do you go to a big group show like that & really enjoy most of the stuff in it?!

It was a fun opening too. Five Dollar Suit was playing bluegrass, & the food was thematic, reaching its conceptual peak with these teeny tiny chicken fried steaks, sandwiched in biscuits with gravy, here modeled by the talented, hardworking hands of Noah Lang & Donna Ozawa.

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What are we going to do to stop her from posting salads all the time?
Do you think an intervention is in order?
What if we ask her to post some flowers or something? She likes flowers. Probably as much as she likes food.
As much as she likes salad?
Yes, I think so.

The last sweetpeas of the season.

They kept going all the way into October! Pretty cool.

Red leaf lettuce, treviso, Warren pear, red onion, Iberico cheese, sherry vinaigrette….

Hey! What happened?
She may be beyond help.
I think it’s her coping mechanism. She’s just trying to make it to Election Day without having a nervous breakdown. Like the rest of us.

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So, about that gazpacho… I’ve made many batches of gazpacho in my life, but it seems that I need to revisit, revise, re-conceptualize the recipe every so often. The gazpacho that made me so happy 20 years ago is not the gazpacho that made me happy 5 years ago, & the gazpacho that I want now is yet another one. If you’ll bear with a bit of astrology here: lots of folks have needless anxiety about Mercury retrograde, believing that it just fucks everything up & you should basically hide under the covers until Mercury goes direct again. Not so! It’s an excellent time to do anything starting with “re-”: repair, return, remember, revise… you see where I’m going with this?

The latest, & arguably most Spanish, of my gazpachos, this is also a smaller quantity, reflecting the fact that I live with someone who is allergic to tomatoes. This is but a blender full, not the 2 blenders I used to make in my more voracious (& more social) days. I’m sure you can double, triple, do any kind of math you want with this, especially since the amounts are so loose to begin with:

dry-farmed early girls (or any excellent tomato of your choosing)
1/2 of a long, skinny Armenian cucumber (or other cuke of your choosing)
1/2 of a medium-sized red onion
a small, mild green pepper, like a bell pepper or pasilla (according to this handy grocery receipt here, mine weighed 0.13 lb.)
cilantro (I used about 1/3 of a bunch, but YBMV—your bunch may vary)
about 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
about 2-3 T. sherry vinegar
salt & pepper

Fill blender almost to top with halved tomatoes. When you pile on 1/4 of a cuke & 1/4 of an onion, plus part of your pepper & a few sprigs of cilantro, it will be full. Blend to reduce volume, then add the rest of your veggies, more cilantro, salt & pepper, & about 1/3 cup of olive oil. Add a shot of vinegar. Blend & taste & adjust as necessary. Chill thoroughly—this is important! I stick the whole blender jar in the fridge & then when I’m ready to eat it, I give it another blend to make sure everything is all thoroughly mixed & smooth. You can garnish it if you like, with chopped tomatoes or cilantro sprigs or what have you, but I’m liking this one bare naked right now. This minimalist presentation & the creamy texture together seem to allow more focus on the yummy flavors. (The color field is nice too!)

I also made that Niçoise salad I was talking about, but the picture didn’t come out pretty enough to show you. I used this dressing, drowned a drained can of tuna in it, then tossed the lettuce in it, & heaped that on plates waiting with steamed green beans, hardboiled egg wedges, tomato wedges, sliced steamed taters, & of course, the Niçoise olives.

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Things I’m thinking about cooking & eating:

Tomato sauce: Anticipating our freezers in winter, Plastic Lam & I split a 20 pound crate of dry-farmed Early Girls. I made my sauce using Pim’s brilliant concept & it kicked ass! Now I’m thinking I shoulda got a whole crate for my own greedy self.

Salade Niçoise: Something got me thinking about Niçoise lately, I’m not sure what. Then I had a lunch date with Cooking Show & we went wandering down College Av. looking at menus, until we saw that Somerset had a lovely back patio & Niçoise on the menu. Perfect! ...we thought. The patio was wonderful, but the salad? I’m sorry, but I could do so much better. Sugary-sweet salad dressing? GONG! No green beans, when we are at the height of green bean season? GONG! The conspicuous absence of green beans was made more glaring by the presence of asparagus—where did it come from at this time of year?! The hard-boiled eggs had their yolks whipped (think deviled eggs), which felt like trying too hard. Seared fresh ahi, too, seemed like a nice idea on paper but on the plate also felt like trying too hard. Gimme a can! Cooking Show loved the fries that came with her steak sandwich, though. We agreed we would go back there just to eat fries on that nice patio. Meanwhile, I am determined to make my own Niçoise, one that’ll show Somerset’s salad what’s what.

Chocolate coconut tapioca pudding: I should probably spell this out more clearly. Tapioca pudding, made with coconut milk. Then color it chocolate. First encountered at Good Earth in Fairfax, with the following ingredients: coconut milk, chocolate, tapioca, maple syrup, vanilla, salt. Seems like it should be easy enough, right?

Apple pie: I think I mentioned this before. I even bought the apples last week in the midst of that oddly autumnal moment we had. Then the weather snapped back to the September that I know & love: scorching, brilliant blue skies—in short, weather for…


Or, a scoop of Earl Grey & a scoop of saffron orange blossom from Ici, floral & refreshing. Happy late summer, Bay Area!

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I dunno bout you, but I just don’t believe in the whole meal-planning concept where you set off to the grocery store to buy a half cup of peas, 3 medium-size bananas, 2 white onions & whatever else will fit exactly into the recipes you have painstakingly plotted out for exactly a week’s worth of meals. What about inspiration? What about improvisation? What about cooking according to what the produce gods & goddesses (I mean, the farmers) send you this week?

Broccoli, for instance, is something you can always get, pretty much anywhere in America, & for that I am eternally grateful (especially when I’m in Wyoming). But really exceptional organic broccoli—gorgeously green, so fresh it seems immortal, & bug-free—is a precious gift that only comes once in a while. I think it’s the bug-free part that makes it so rare. I don’t know why it’s so hard to grow unbuggy organic broc, but when the broccoli stars align, I pounce.

Here is Cruciferous Pasta, for just such an occasion, when you have broccoli to make you sing, & equally good, snowy, downy cauliflower.

(Sorry bout the unglamorous picture. I was hungry! That’s the edge of my pasta claw up there in the corner. The thing gets so much use, I should probably trade up for one that’s not plastic.)

a few young broccoli crowns
small to medium size head of cauliflower
very large shallot (or 3-4 small ones), chopped
small yellow onion, chopped
handful capers, chopped
handful pine nuts
small head of treviso, sliced crosswise into approx. half-inch strips
lots o’ olive oil & a little bit o’ butter
garnish: small dry-farmed early girl tomatoes, quartered & sliced, 1 per serving
lemon fettucine

Put the pasta water on to boil. Cut the broccoli crosswise (quarter-inch or thinner slices), starting at the bottom of the stalk & continuing up until the florets separate & fall into a heap. Break the cauliflower apart into trees or lollipops (pick your metaphor), then cut them into spears unless they are already fairly slim.

Heat olive oil & butter in a large pan, & add ingredients in the following order: onion & shallot, (pause), broccoli, (pause), cauliflower, (long pause), capers & treviso, (pause), pine nuts.

My pauses usually accommodate chopping the next ingredient, & I’m a fairly slow chopper. YMMV. All the while you are adding olive oil in generous amounts as needed & turning things so they cook evenly, like a very slow stirfry. Cook a good while, until treviso is dark, limp & nearly unrecognizable, broccoli begins to fall apart a bit, cauliflower turns translucent & shows browning on some of its flat surfaces, & the whole thing takes on a certain cohesive quality, having passed the stage of each ingredient remaining independent & discrete. At a late stage of this game you’ll drop your fresh pasta in the boiling water.

When pasta & stuff are both ready, add the pasta to the pan & mix it all together. Serve with tomatoes on top, & microplaned pecorino &/or toasted breadcrumbs.

But don’t go putting “broccoli” on your shopping list & thinking it means you’ll get this!

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One of these things is not like the others, but sometimes I just gotta brag about my fabulous bro—how I love this little skirt!

Now back to our regular programming.

Blackberry nectarine plum pie, made with wild blackberries from the Eel River…

...& piecrust cookies, because I always have leftover pie dough (but of course, never enough to make a whole nother pie).

Spotted in Willits en route to the river:

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When is it a good idea to overdress your salad?

Answer: almost never. (If you want to skip the rant & cut to the exception, scroll down to the last paragraph.) Friends know that my already-opinionated tendencies get cranked up to 11 when it comes to the topic of dressing salad. To me, excess salad dressing speaks of an underlying contempt for the vegetables in the salad… & for all vegetables as a class. I’m not saying that every individual saladmaker who overdresses his salad holds vegetables in contempt; ignorance, inexperience or lack of attention are probably more often the true culprits. But even the most hapless newbie cook guessing wildly at how to dress a salad for the first time bases her guess on something, & this is where pernicious cultural tendencies come in to play.

I think we can agree that there is a strong meat & potatoes streak running through this country we call America, & many an American has been heard saying that they’d really rather not eat any veggies at all if they could help it. If they must, well, it’s better if they’re as un-veggie-like as possible: remember ketchup? (Okay, perhaps not the fairest example.) Add fat! Add protein! Add anything to mask, to distract from, to overwhelm the veggie nature of the veggies! How many times out there on the road have I ordered “salad” & ended up with a woeful handful of iceberg crushed under the weight of almost-solid dollops of thick dressing?


A good salad should be all about the vegetables. If you don’t like greens, go eat them fried in bacon fat or something; veggies shrink when they’re cooked, so you can get more of those annoyingly necessary vitamins in fewer bites. Also, a veggie that is not quite fresh enough to become (good) salad may often be very acceptable for (good) cooking; so then you should go ahead & cook the dang thing! (Don’t come crying to me that lettuce can’t be cooked. I’m Chinese.) All of this being the case, then, isn’t salad nothing more or less than a perfect opportunity to eat many, many wonderful mouthfuls of fresh raw veggies, thus prolonging & indulging the ecstatic enjoyment of same?

If so, why would you drown this good stuff in too much dressing? In a perfectly-dressed salad, the dressing should merely lubricate the lettuce. Visually it should appear not so much as a salad ingredient itself, but mainly as a shine on the surfaces of all the other ingredients. When you put lotion on your hands, do you leave drops & clumps of white opaque stuff visible all over your skin? I hope not. Use a small enough amount of dressing so that it barely films the leaves.

In order to accomplish this, you must be willing to toss your salad. I cannot emphasize this enough. Use a large bowl so that you have room to turn your salad over without dropping half of it outside the bowl. Put all your lettuce & stuff in this large bowl, then take a wee tiny bit of dressing & pour it over the top. It will look like it can’t possibly be enough. Have faith! Start lifting up big batches of salad from the sides of the bowl, dropping them in the middle. Pull salad from the bottom & put it on top. Move more-dressed stuff into contact with undressed stuff. The more lightly you want to dress your salad, the more tossing you have to do. It will be worth it. When the dressing is no longer discernable as a separate thing, & all parts of the salad are subtly glistening, you’re done.

Eat your salad!

If you get to the bottom of the salad bowl & there is a puddle of dressing there, you used too much dressing.

Except. There is always an exception, right?

Except when it’s high tomato season & there are dry-farmed Early Girls from Dirty Girl. Then, then you make yourself a salad that is mostly tomatoes (hold each tomato over the bowl as you cut it into chunks, so as to catch every drop of juice), a little bit o’ lettuce, a little bit o’ basil, & you pour on just a little too much dressing (olive oil, balsamic, salt & pepper). Why? Because as you eat your salad, the tomatoes will juice themselves all into the bottom of the bowl, & when you get down there, you will find the most divine puddle of tomato juice, seasoned with that bit of extra dressing, & you can plop a piece of sourdough toast in it & go swooning off to heaven. That’s why.

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Hey, it’s summer for another couple of months, but foggy evenings do lend themselves to roast chicken. I have been working on this recipe for a couple of weeks now, sort of blundering around in an experimental mode, & when it finally hit the mark, I realized that I was applying salad-making principles to roast chicken! No wonder it worked. If there’s one thing in the world I’m confident of, it’s my salad-making principles.

Key salad concepts as applied to sage roasted chicken:

1) Seasonal flexibility: you have your main ingredients that define the recipe—in this case, chicken legs, sage leaves, olive oil, shallots, & tiny taters—& then infinitely swappable supporting ingredients, depending on what comes home from the farmers market. I have used various kinds of summer squash, radishes (the little skinny long ones that are half pink & half white), treviso, carrots, flat-leaf parsley, & now am thinking about adding some kind of fruit. Perhaps figs.

2) One-dish meal: no need for pesky, distracting side dishes to round out your nutritional needs. There’s plenty of veggies in the pan. You can steam some brown rice to go with this (it soaks up the sauce deliciously), but the taters provide more than enough starch if you’re feeling extra-lazy (or extra-purist).

3) Good ingredients tossed in good dressing. If you get quality ingredients, your dressing is sound & your tossing thorough, you will have a good meal. No muss, no fuss.

So. The blow-by-blow for Sage Roasted Chicken:

Main ingredients:
6 chicken legs (here too, you can substitute your preferred chicken part, or a whole bird), rinsed & patted dry
Bunch of sage leaves (don’t be shy! Use a whole bunch!)
Tiny taters, no bigger than an inch. Most recently I used a mixture of German Butterballs & 2 different kinds of fingerlings.
Shallots, the more the better, but at the very least 2 large ones. Peel & cut in 2 or 3 pieces lengthwise.
Olive oil, butter, salt & pepper

Rotating cast of other ingredients:
Small summer squashes, preferably tiny sized, but if you get bigger ones you can halve or quarter them.
Treviso, quartered lengthwise
Small carrots
Any other veggie that roasts well
Any other herbs that play well with sage

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Warm a generous quantity of olive oil in a pan on the stove. Melt some butter in it too, & fry up the sage leaves. Don’t crowd the leaves too much; you can do them in batches if your pan is small. As the leaves get done, transfer them to your baking pan.

Add all your washed & cut veggies & chicken to the baking dish. Pour the sagey oil & butter all over everything, add salt & pepper, & toss like a salad! When everything is nicely coated, arrange things so the veggies form a single layer (it can be a crowded, jumbled single layer) on the bottom, & put the chicken on top. Take care to cover treviso & any cut sides of squash with the chicken.

Stick it in the oven. Then, every 15 minutes, take the dish out & turn the veggies &/or spoon the pan juices over the top. Pay attention to how the chicken is progressing; at one of these turnings, you will note that another 15 minutes would be too much. Then adjust your timer accordingly—or turn up the sensitivity on your Chicken Sense (equal parts smell & intuition, I think) & just know when it’s done.

There you have it. Very much like a salad. This recipe just adds a lot of heat, that’s all.

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Seems to be the Summer of the Clafoutis. I’ve been having quite a love affair with all eggy things, now that the Riverdog pastured eggs have transformed my entire egg reality. It’s an egg renaissance around here for sure.

Here, then, is fig clafoutis, prompted by my mother’s food-oriented (of course: I ask food questions, she gives me food answers) report on her trip to Provence.

Using a very well-seasoned cast iron pan, you follow procedure for my easy fig thing, except instead of taking the figs out of the pan, you flip em over so the inside, cut half is facing up. Then drizzle honey all over, making sure a lot of the honey ends up on the bottom of the pan. I wasn’t measuring but I guess it was about 1/4 cup of honey. Pour your batter over, then slide the whole thing into the oven. For the batter, I pretty much followed Orangette’s recipe, except instead of sugar, I squirted a bit (hm, maybe a tablespoon) of agave syrup into the batter, & figured the honey would take care of the rest.

It did. Yum!

& just because I haven’t posted a salad in a while, don’t you think I haven’t been eating any…

Does August not rock harder than any other month? Go on & try to convince me there’s a sweeter time of year.

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A couple weeks ago I scrawled on kitchen scrap paper this little list of things to make & eat! It floated along the kitchen currents from chair to floor to counter, & every once in a while I’d catch it & check things off. I’m happy to say I’ve done everything on the list. Some of em I did more than once! This kind of to-do list is great for summertime food, & also this approach to it: first dream some simple dreams… & then just kinda let them happen. July is not the time to get all uptight & structured about getting things done.

corn with cilantro & lime: on or off the cob, yellow or white, with olive oil or butter… I buy my corn from Avalos whenever possible, or Catalan. (Not to get all essentialist, but there’s something so satisfying about the fact that Chicano-owned farms are growing the best organic corn. I feel downright smug on their behalf.)

stonefruit clafoutis: I already showed you a photo of this one. No specific recipe. You break some eggs, whisk in some milk & flour, a bit of agave syrup.

BLT: need I say more?

melon & prosciutto: a classic, of course, but I tend to forget about it for years at a time, probably because I was vegetarian for so long.

white peach ice cream: this was originally gonna be lychee ice cream, but then Cooking Show & I were walking by Mr. PVC’s garden eden & spied his little peach tree heavy with fruit; the irrigation guy who was there said he’d been instructed to “eat as many peaches as possible” & invited us to help. Well twist my arm! I loaded up the hood of my sweatshirt, topped it off with a few apricots, & then had to do something with them pretty much right away because they were that ripe.

blackberry pie: this has become somewhat of a birthday week ritual for me. All seems right with the world when you’re making a blackberry pie.

pesto: the first of many batches!

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Japan photos must wait, because we are awash—no, drowning—in fruit. All manner of stone fruit, strawberries, melons, lychees… & now the backyard contributes blackberries! I grew up picking blackberries every summer & have accumulated quite the Blackberry Knowledge, which I shall now share with you. Yes, there are actually some tricks.

Respect the thorns, & know yourself. You have to get into a careful & graceful state of mind to pick blackberries. No sudden moves, no jerking around, no careless shoving branches aside in order to reach your berries. If you would rather not be patient & slow & exacting, then by all means wear thick, tough clothes (like heavy denim) that cover as much skin as possible, & boots on your feet. On the other hand, it’s possible to pick blackberries in nothing more than a flimsy sundress & flipflops, as I did today. It has to do with personality, mood, & experience. In any case, however, you should not wear gloves; more about that in a minute.

Get down low & look up to spot the berries. Try it; you’ll be amazed at how many berries are hiding underneath all those leaves!

Most common blackberry-picking mistake: picking them too soon. A sure way to end up with a lot of mouth-puckering, super-sour berries! No! Arg! Second most common mistake: picking old berries. Here are the clues:

You want berries that are 100% black, no red anywhere, not even dark reddish purple.

Look at the texture of the berry. Perfectly ripe blackberries almost literally glow; they are glossy & shiny, & each individual globule of the berry is fat & round because they are all full of juicy goodness. Past their peak, those same berries will be dull, flat black, &/or the little globules will start to shrivel & wrinkle. (Often at that point they will have invisible but horrible-tasting mold, too.) The color & shine of ripe blackberries is what calls me from all the way across the yard & inside the kitchen: “come pick us right now!”

Helpful illustration: the red part circled on the left indicates a berry picked too soon. The shriveling part on the right indicates a berry past its prime.

Now here is the most important part, & why you can’t wear gloves to pick blackberries: you need the sensitivity of your fingertips to feel the amount of resistance when you try to pull the berry from the stem. It should just about fall into your hand at a touch. I usually nudge the berry to one side to see if it will come off, rather than pulling straight away from the stem. If you have to put any effort into pulling—& I do mean any—then the berry is not ripe enough. Think of picking a small object up off a table, not detaching two attached objects; a blackberry should feel like you’re just moving it from where it sits on the stem.

Also, a ripe berry is not hard; with practice you can tell by touch whether it is the right degree of tenderness. With this delicate touch you will also avoid bruising the berries—useful if you’re doing anything with them besides popping them directly in your mouth.

All this fine-tuned awareness, dancing between thorns with your fingers, & the willingness to let go of each berry if it won’t yield immediately to your touch, is what makes blackberry picking a very meditative experience. There are other methods, but I find this the most satisfying.

Here is what you want your bowl of blackberries to look like: midnight with stars. Every little nodule should be plump & glossy, each berry tender, the whole bowl fragrant with blackberry perfume—the essence of summer.

(In case you’re curious, that’s a stone fruit clafoutis in the picture at the top. No blackberries in it.)

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Cucumber gazpacho, garnished with mandolined pink radish. Adapted (slightly) from César cookbook.

8 cups English cukes, peeled, seeded & coarsely chopped
1-1/4 cup good olive oil
1 cup ice water
1 clove garlic
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
2 T. Meyer lemon juice
2 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper
optional: cayenne to taste

Blender half of it at a time, tasting & adjusting proportions. Then chill.

Other garnish possibilities: drizzle of olive oil, drizzle of pesto diluted with olive oil, fresh basil leaves, fresh mint leaves, thin ribbons of nasturtium, bits of chive flower, &c. &c. The beauty of this soup is that it’s so easy to make, so easy to dress up, & unusual enough to charm your dinner guests. Talk about chill.

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Once upon a time, I was invited to a posh art colony, where I learned many things about my artmaking process, about the New York art scene, & about oatmeal. The process stuff was very important (& still is), & the art scene stuff was informative, but the oatmeal was a fucking revelation.

I thought that I didn’t like oatmeal. It was always too gooey & gloppy & reminded me too much of, I dunno… like, barf. Or something. To think that I nearly missed this oatmeal just because I was in the habit of sleeping through the breakfast service! The dinners were always very good though, so one fine morning I made a point of waking up in time to check out breakfast.

I don’t remember what else there was, but the oatmeal was unlike any I had ever seen before. Each individual oat was fluffy & plump & discrete from every other oat. They clumped together like grains of rice or couscous instead of being glued together in a viscous gummy mush. Intrigued, I plopped a small spoonful in my bowl, melted some butter on top, & took a cautious mouthful. As you must guess by now: angels sang, synapses fired, I was a born-again oatmeal-eatin person.

Somehow I neglected to ask for the recipe. Having zero experience cooking oatmeal, I probably thought: how hard could it be? & to tell the truth, after much experimentation at home, I found that it really was as easy & simple as it should be.

Here is Meditation Oatmeal for one (or for two, in parentheses):

In a small pot with a lid, boil 1 (1-3/4) cup water with a pinch of salt.

When the water is boiling, turn off the flame & quickly pour in 1/2 (1) cup of rolled oats, stir once only if necessary to get all the oats wet, & put the lid on. Raisins or currants or other additions are optional; add them to the oats before you pour everything in. You don’t want to lose a lot of heat or steam, & you don’t want to break the oat flakes.

Leave the heat off & the lid on. Go meditate for 30 minutes.

Come back & you have your oatmeal! Serve with butter, brown sugar or maple syrup, whatever floats your boat. You can even pretend you’re at an exclooosive art colony!

Ahem. Is there something wrong with the weather that I must blog about oatmeal in May? I have been so, so cold. Imagine my surprise, then, when I took $60 to the farmers’ market yesterday & came home with this:

Here we have
ze famous Riverdog pastured eggs
ze famous Swanton strawberries
a yellow onion
purple asparagus
assortment of the first summer squashes
little carrots & big carrots
ze lovely lettuces from Blue Heron
2 kinds of fingerlings (French & Russian, I think)
broccoli raab
spring onions & fresh garlic
velvety, lovely fava beans
$5.70 (my no-fuss method of keeping track of how much I spend at the farmers’ market: I count in 20s & keep the change in my pocket)

When I saw the cherries, I thought I was gonna fall over in sheer surprise. When I saw the summer squash, I lost my mind. When I saw the peaches, my freezing little heart just melted.

Go forth & shop! The good stuff is all out there right now.

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I had a great weekend. We went to the beach, where there were all these teeny little jellies that looked like perfect glass marbles. They were all washed up along the surf line & dusted with a fine layer of sand that made them hard to see until the lip of a wave washed them clean. Then they would roll optimistically down the beach toward the water until the wind covered them with another layer of sand, which stopped them from rolling. The ocean reclaimed them a few at a time, in a slow process of lapping & washing, waiting & rolling.

Then, of course, there was salad (isn’t there always salad?): little gems (from Blue Heron), artichoke hearts (from Riverdog), & I don’t remember what kind of tangerines (from the Bowl), with chevre & sherry vinaigrette.

Unfortunately, the same wind that blew sand onto the jellies also blew something in my eye, which got all puffy & goopy with a pesky eye infection. Disgusting!

This is not coffee, it’s powdered eyebright in a coffee filter. Apparently, the whole herb is no longer allowed in the state because it’s an invasive weed, so you can only get it in powdered form.

I am now doing Everything With Eyebright. After pouring boiling water over a spoonful of the powder in the coffee filter, I drape a dishtowel over my head & steam my eyeball over the whole assemblage while the infusion drips. Once it’s all gone through the filter, I pour some on a face towel & hold it over my eye as a compress. Then I drink a cup of it. Finally, when it’s cool enough, I dip a cotton ball in it & squeeze it into my eye. Is there any application method I haven’t thought of? Anyway, it seems to be helping. I’m trying not to fall into any stupid narratives about paying for a good time. Instead, rolling around in my head the enjoyable idea of how those jellyfish were so eyeball-like.

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On eating in other folks’ cultures:

I feel a bit of guilt, now that the matzo shortage appears so grim. Even though I bought my 2 boxes before I heard about the situation, well, a shiksa like me can eat leavened or unleavened bread whenever, so probably my matzo shoulda gone to some Jew who at this moment is experiencing major angst over the lack thereof. But it’s too late for that.

We can only hope that emergency matzo gets flown in here before matzo riots break out!

Meanwhile, here is some leavened goodness I enjoyed over the weekend at the Cal powwow.

How to eat an Indian taco: the problem is that you have many many unsecured food bits mounded up on an unstable base (aka thin paper plate balanced on your knees). You are eating in a confined space (very little elbow room) with barely adequate plastic utensils, & you don’t want to be the uncouth non-Indian dropping aforementioned food bits—or worse, flinging the entire thing—upon your Indian (or non-Indian) seatmates. Plus, the distraction of adorable teeny tiny 4-year-old jingle dress dancers.

The temptation is to slice it like a pizza & pick up the wedges with your hand. Do not try this. The motion caused by sawing away with that little plastic knife will cause an avalanche of food bits to tumble off the edges of the plate & onto your lap, the floor, & all surrounding Indians & non-Indians. Also, fry bread is very elastic; when you inevitably lose patience with the pathetic progress of the knife you will try tearing the bread, which could easily result in the flinging action I mentioned earlier.

So. Here is the method I have developed. Pry your eyes away from the cute mighty mites long enough to take your wee fork & eat some of the bits off the top. Eat the hill shape down into a flatter, more spread out & stable arrangement of the bits, preferably so that the puffy edges of the fry bread function to hold things in the relatively sunken middle.

(Note that even with all your best efforts, those stray food bits dangling precariously over the edge will fall to their doom. It’s not about perfection here; it’s about minimizing the damage.)

Now you can try the knife, but be patient & saw all the way through to the bottom. No tugging! For controlled tearing, start with the edge & tear inward toward the middle, rolling the edge in so that the bits get trapped between layers of fry bread. This gets easier as the bread soaks up some liquid from the tomatoes & beans.

I know, nobody likes soggy fry bread, but guess what? You don’t have to eat that part. By the time you’ve eaten all the yummy crispy edges & everything on top, you’ll be too full for that soggy middle anyway. Relax with your comfortably full stomach, watch the dancers, & soak up the drums. Ho!

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