03 . 05 . 15
I have a piece in the new issue of Darling Magazine this month. I was asked to write a rosy-cheeked take on family dinners––their evolution from youth to adulthood, tradition, nostalgia, how the act of gathering around a table “transcends the act of dining as a means to an end.” I was feeling OK but not awesome about my rough draft when I submitted it in December, then: Christmas. We hosted my family at our new place. It snowed. I planned a few elaborate meals because, you know, food is love, and on the second night, before anyone took their second bite of potato tarragon galette, my brother and I were in a shouting match over my request that he not text at the dinner table. He got defensive. I called him an asshole. He got up and left. My mom cried, dad got quiet. Shaun tried to mediate.
It was ugly. But, it was real. More often than not, the meals we get to share with family and friends do not take on the convivial, alluring nature we see promoted across blogs and boutique media. It’s easy to set a beautifully-styled farm table and encourage meaningful, open-hearted dialogue and then CONVENIENTLY disregard that meaningful, open-hearted dialogue is, by nature of our human-ness, a fucking mess most of the time. The mess doesn’t sell.
There is nothing precious about our dinner table. It is, and has been, a mighty kickstand for the hardest and heartiest conversations in our lives. Sure, we’ve made many memorable, effortless, joy-filled moments around our table over the years, like that one night we stayed up late on a weeknight braiding challah and eating boozy french toast with a friend who kicked her dude to the curb. The time Cody and Emily stopped over before Corbyn and Caroline’s wedding with the kids and Shaun poured a bowl of tomato soup for Ev’s “Mr. Shark,” which he proceeded to splash all over his clean pajamas and Mr. Shark. And yet, for every uncomplicated and tender occasion we’ve experienced at the table with loved ones, there have been at least a dozen gritty, soul-obliterating instances that preceded it. Like New Years Eve of 2012 when Shaun and I ate buttered toast before The Lumineers show at the Ogden, contemplating if we’d even do 2013 together as a couple, or the night before our wedding that we ate bad pizza together on the floor, holding each other, laughing, crying, wishing we would have just eloped like we’d wanted all along.
Here’s my addendum to the story that was actually published: family dinner is where we do the work. And when I say family I mean our biological families, friend families or otherwise. And when I say table, I mean the couch or the barstools or the floor or the porch or the car. Wherever we eat, wherever we are forced to stop and reckon with the day or our lives or our relationships with one another in the presence of food: we go to work. We take something that is hard and make it easy, or take something that is easy and royally overcomplicate it. We wrestle, together, with what Anne Lamott calls “the three most terrible truths of our existence: that we are so ruined, and so loved, and in charge of so little.” It’s the angst and heat and sticky stuff that comes with the work that builds real, long-lasting commitment and goodness in our lives. We need to get better at celebrating THAT.
I struck my match, she poured out her gasoline.
We burn now. All the time. ― Tarryn Fisher
Carrot Habanero Hot Sauce (aka Honeymoon Heat) (aka SUPER SPICY)
Adapted from my friends Corbyn and Caroline who discovered a love of carrot based hot sauces while honeymooning in Belize last year. This recipe makes about 6 quarts of hot sauce. Yes! You read that right 6 qts. I felt like there was really no sense in making a small batch when so many friends go through sriracha so quickly. You can easily halve, quarter, or further divide the recipe to make a smaller portion with the same result.
- 15 garlic cloves, unpeeled
- 2 cups peeled, chopped carrot
- 4 medium sweet yellow onions, chopped
- 30 medium habanero chiles, stemmed
- 3 cups white vinegar
- ¼ cup salt
- ¼ cup sugar
- Juice of 6-8 limes
Roast the garlic in a skillet over medium heat, turning regularly until soft and blackened in spots, 10 to 15 minutes.
In the same pot, combine the carrot, onion and habanero chiles with the vinegar, 3 cups water, salt and sugar. Partially cover and simmer over medium-low heat until the carrots are thoroughly tender, about 20 minutes. Blend until smooth. Thin with a lime juice and more water if the sauce seems too thick. Taste and add salt as preferred. Store in glass jars in the fridge.
02 . 25 . 15
Raw Celery Root with Apple, Caraway, and Horseradish
Adapted slightly from the forthcoming release of The Complete Vegetarian Cookbook and the fine folks at America’s Test Kitchen. The cookbook offers a shortcut to preparing the celery root by running it through the blade setting on your food processor. I found that the salad held up better the next day with the matchstick preparation. ATK is giving away one copy of The Complete Vegetarian Cookbook to Happyolks reader. Leave a comment with the best thing you’ve read or watched recently and you’ll be entered to win. Giveaway will end 3/4.
- Juice of one lemon
- 2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
- 1 Tsp honey
- 3-4 Tbsp olive oil
- 4 Tbsp sour cream or Greek yogurt
- 3 Celery root, peeled
- 1 Crisp apple
- 6 scallions, sliced at a bias
- 1 cup fresh parsley leaves
- 25 sprigs tarragon leaves
- 1 tsp caraway seeds
- 2 heaping teaspoons prepared horseradish
Whisk lemon juice, mustard, honey, and salt in a medium bowl. Whisking constantly, drizzle in oil. Add sour cream last, stir to combine, and then set aside.
Clean and peel celery root. To create matchsticks, place halved root on the cutting board and cut a slice to a ⅛ inch thickness at a bias. Continue cutting, maintaining a wide bias through the whole root. Repeat with remaining half, then again with the two remaining prepped roots. Create a stack of two or three slices. If you are doing this for the first time you may want to start with a single slice just to get comfortable with the method and as you practice a bit you can start stacking. Cut across the celery root, lengthwise. The thickness we’re aiming for, again, is ⅛ inch. Repeat with remaining slices. Place celery root in a large bowl. Repeat this technique with the apple and add to the bowl of prepped celery root.
Stir in dressing immediately after creating your matchsticks to prevent browning. Add scallions, parsley, tarragon, caraway seeds, and horseradish. Stir to combine, adding more greens or if things feel a bit sparse. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
12 . 18 . 14
Dropping in briefly today to wish you and yours joy and respite in the last few weeks of the year. December, man. So much goodness, so much heaviness, all at once. For me it’s always been a month where the decisions, assumptions, and challenges that I had convinced myself were reconciled over the year seem to make their way back up to the surface. You know what I mean, right? Those wounds you thought you’d healed, the parts of yourself you thought you’d made peace with don’t look so sparkly anymore. It’s my birthday in a few days, so I think that has more pull in the reflection carousel than the holidays, although the lines have always been blurry for me. There’s this challenge to stay light and grateful amidst those nudges to take stock after another full year.
Last week two dear friends were in a rollover accident. The truck was destroyed, and somehow they both walked away with bruises and broken fingers. It was an event that reminded me holy moses-jesus-buddha-mohammed do I still have SO much work to do in the grace and forgiveness department. It seems the minute I get too comfortable with the idea, or illusion, really, that I’m operating at acceptable levels of compassion or humility or unselfish love, life and circumstance has a way of calling my bluff and putting me on my knees again. I’m glad for that.
And so, December. Here to enjoy and embrace and remember and love one another in the best way we know how. Stitch by stitch, day by day. We try to be good humans, we fail often, but we keep trying. And that is the beautiful thing.
Winter Vegetable + Gorgonzola Galette
- 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp sugar
- Pinch of salt
- 12 tablespoons cold unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup ice water
- 2 fennel bulbs, quartered
- 5 small-ish beets, quartered
- 6-8 fancy carrots, halved
- 2 cups butternut squash, cubed
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 shallots, minced
- 1 cup flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
- 4-6 oz crumbled Gorgonzola cheese
- 2 tsp Dijon mustard (or more, to your preference)
- salt/pepper to taste
In a bowl, mix the flour with the sugar and salt. Using a pastry blender or your fingers, cut in half of the butter until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Cut in the remaining butter. Pour in water then begin to mix and knead the dough until a ball forms and the mixture is no longer shaggy looking. Flatten the dough into a disk, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 400 F. Arrange rinsed and prepared vegetables on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and bake until the carrots are just starting to soften and are a little al dente in the thicker regions. Sprinkle with a hearty amount of sea salt, then aside and cool. In a mixing bowl, combine parsley, shallots, cooled vegetables, and a the Dijon. Stir to coat.
On a floured work surface, roll the dough out into a 12-inch round. Transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Begin with a spoonful of the veggie-mixture into the center of the dough. Sprinkle with Gorgonzola. Repeat layering filling and cheese until you run out of ingredients and can top with more cheese. Fold the border over your veggie-cheese tower, pleating the edge to make it fit. Finish outside exposed dough with a milk or egg wash. Bake for 30-40 minutes in the 400′ oven. Cut into wedges and serve warm.
12 . 05 . 14
I’m feeling the holidays this year. Not in the red and silver tchotchke sense, but for the cheer. The lightness of being. The thoughtfulness that seems on the slight uptick, even in errands and work and travel. Of course, it goes without saying that LIFE IS NOT ABOUT THE STUFF and consumerism = yuck, but I’m putting cynicism on the shelf this season. I’m angsty all year about society and technology and social injustice and and and and and... the list of things induce a palm to forehead gestures is long. In any case, the whole gift thing has gotten pretty polarizing over the years, but I’m going on a hunch that most of us will find ourselves in the position of giving and receiving this year. Here are a few good feel-good ideas for humans who like to read, eat, and savor the moment.
Yotam Ottolenghi: a master of the craft, in every sense of the word. I finally got my copy of Plenty More –– it’s the kind of cookbook you get through and think, does it get better than this? I think this collection is the perfect gift for a cook who loves daring and true recipes.
I’ve been head over heels for these gorgeous, American-made knives from New West Knifeworks since 2012. I send the Superbread knife out as gifts to clients, and my mom has requested a Santoku under the tree this year.
This “everything” bag from Winter Session, a colorado company, doubles as my market tote and travel bag. Pricey, but indestructible. I’ve had mine for two years and I anticipate it will last another decade.
Not Without Salt Cookie Mix… Does this even need introducing? The inimitable Ashley Rodriguez is at it again with this killer cookie chocolate chip cookie mix. I ordered two and went through them both in a week. Yeah, THAT good.
If a fire came roaring up over our hill, I’d grab a hard-drive of photos and our It’s OK pennant from Secret Holiday Co. It has hung in our 22nd Street bedroom, St. Paul living room, and now lives in our mountain kitchen. I’ve gifted the Be Brave and Yes banners before and still will yet. Simple daily reminders that, yes, life is crazy, but things are pretty darn good.
If it’s possible to choose a favorite work of Anne Lamott, it’s HELP THANKS WOW. A quick, soul-quenching read that leaves me feeling like I just took a giant exhale.
Quitokeeto Modern Steamer, where utility and elegance coalesce. Just like Heidi, shop owner, herself, I appreciate this tool for it’s understated beauty and practical application.
Heritage, by Sean Brock. I became a mega-fan of Brock’s after seasons 1 & 2 of Mind of a Chef, then planned a quick trip to Charleston to visit McCrady’s and Husk (heaven is his “On Top of Ol’ Sierra Madre” cocktail) and experience the way he honors and preserves the culinary history of the South.
I’m head over heels with my Stitch & Hammer apron and this half apron from Food52. This linen number is pretty cute, too.
Level with yourself about how many bags of coffee you really go through in a month and get fresh-roasted parcels delivered at your doorstep before you run out. My friends at Brown Water Coffee donate a fraction of each purchase to sustainable water projects in Nicaragua, how cool is that?
Is there a better way to sip whiskey than with a fancy hunk of ice? I think not.
I’d love to share my experience at Mama O’s (that’s Oprah Winfrey) Life You Want Tour a few weeks back, but I’m still marinating in the feel-good vibes I walked away with. In the meantime, I think her new release “Things I Know For Sure” makes a great stocking stuffer or addition to a homemade gift for your favorite girlfriends.
I’m in love with this irreverent, quirky 13×19″ print that reads: “I eat no gluten, sugar, dairy, saturated fat, or processed foods… I do, however eat men, women, and small children.” I have a few others from Retrowhale that complete the series. Still trying to figure out the best place to hang these in the new place.
Photos shouldn’t live on your computer. Artifact Uprising makes it easy to honor memories shared and captured with photo books, prints, and cards. Bonus: the folks behind the brand are the REAL deal. We were gifted wedding prints earlier this year, which I adore, and plan on paying it forward to my sister-in-law when she gets her photos in. AU is offering Happyolks readers 10% off any purchase with the following Discount code: BLGHY14.
These Lunar Calendars are for your “woo woo” friend or family member. Both beautiful in aesthetic and chock-a-block with astral insight, I love these calendars as they remind us that life, like the earth, rises and falls, waxes and wanes, and that there is always a new chance to try again.
Produce as a stocking stuffer? I think yes. I love the preserves from Mm Local, locally grown, organic products from Colorado farmers harvested and canned at the peak of ripeness. I can’t live without the spicy mustard or kale kimchi.
Get yourself (or a loved one that you see often) a turntable and play the 180′ South album while cooking. I love the balance of soulful, meaty, and light songs and the energy they create in the background while entertaining. Sample here.
The 9 quart Le Creuset Dutch Oven is my kitchen workhorse. Expensive, yes, but wholeheartedly worth the investment and sure to make anyone’s eyes light up wrapped up under the tree. From soups to braising, to quick sautes, there is nothing this sucker can’t do.