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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What a weekend! I hope you got outside (if you’re in the Bay Area). Time to come out of hibernation.

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This week’s suggestion: go out & fondle (gently!) some tender baby tips of redwoods. See those light green parts? They’re much softer than the older dark green.



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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The strawberries have arrived! Mind you, they’re not prime specimens of throbbing strawberryhood, but I think we are safely past those first crunchy, tough, no-flavor, wannabe strawberries. These actually have a bit of strawberry scent to them, & flavor too!

What to do with early strawberries? After the first delirious few, they’re not really that great for just popping in your mouth. These are the strawberries you put in things: in your breakfast granola, in smoothies, & of course, in salads. (Shocking!)

Herewith, Friend of a Friend Salad. (Folklorists abbreviate this ever-elusive “primary source” as FOAF, which is pronounced exactly how it looks—rhymes with loaf.) Spinach is friends with bacon. Spinach is also friends with strawberries. Bacon, meet Strawberries. Strawberries brought along their good friend, balsamic vinegar. Kettle Krinkle chips (lightly salted) are friends with everybody they ever met, apparently, although maybe not in quite the same way as those other friendships I just mentioned.

Wash & dry about equal amounts of baby spinach & assorted young chicories (enough to fill the salad spinner, is how I measured the total quantity), & throw them in a large salad bowl.

Sauté a sliced red onion in olive oil with a little bit of salt & pepper (bacon will bring more of both, since we had a kind that was quite encrusted with pepper); after some progress add about 4 slices of bacon, snipped into little pieces. When everything is nicely caramelized, add a handful of pinenuts & some more olive oil. Stir & integrate; then dribble in some balsamic vinegar & dump the whole shebang on top of your greens. Toss with abandon.

Then slice a few strawberries & crumble some of the chips on top. It’s spring!

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Big news in my world: Jennifer 8 Lee’s Chinese restaurant book The Fortune Cookie Chronicles is out!

So are the crabapple blossoms, tulip magnolias & every variation of daffodil. But the food has not caught up with the weather. Produce-wise, around here we are still in the long, long season I call Waiting For the Strawberries. I’ve had it with kale, I can’t make any more soup, & that fridge full of citrus seriously needs help, because eating a plain, unadorned orange has become downright boring—strong words coming from a citrus ho like me!

Fortunately, I reached back in the depths of my memory for this simple concept:

6 small oranges, peeled & sliced
1/4 red onion, sliced thin
dressing: olive oil, sherry vinegar, salt & pepper

Nice how just a little extra effort helps so much. You can work your way through a lot of oranges this way. A very long time ago, when the Triathlete married Ice Cream Man, I made a more elaborate version of this, with tangelos, grapefruit, blood oranges, basically every kind of citrus I could get my hands on. An appreciative wedding guest called it “C Monster Salad”.

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It’s spring! Today I planted sweetpeas.

Next, the lovely lettuces. Plus I have to figure out where to put the rest of the sweetpeas. Of course there’s always more than can fit in the designated sweetpea location. Of course they would fit if I could ever restrain myself to just one 6-pack. Of course I am totally incapable of such restraint—how could I choose between Black Knight & Purple Streamers, especially when they would look so excellent together?

This planting activity was quite the accomplishment for my long-suffering body. I’m quite proud of myself, even if I am icing my hand right now. (How, you may ask, do I do that while blogging? Let’s just say I have developed some special talents…)

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I just heard the first robin singing! In fact, as I type he’s still going at it, loud & clear from the tippy top of our neighbors’ tree. Dude, isn’t it a little early for that? Don’t stop though; it’s cheering me up on this gray rainy day after 3 weeks(!) of stupid sickness. May many fine robin lasses come & reward you for your effort.

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Happy Year of the Rat!

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