03 . 10 . 14
“We do not grow absolutely, chronologically. We grow sometimes in one dimension, and not in another; unevenly. We grow partially. We are relative. We are mature in one realm, childish in another. The past, present, and future mingle and pull us backward, forward, or fix us in the present. We are made up of layers, cells, constellations.”
— Anais Nin
Spicy Potato Tarragon Soup
It’s still winter here in Colorado, although spring is introducing itself in fits and starts. I’m considering this my last homage to the hearty, sustaining bowls of warmth that have characterized this amazing season of snow and festivity. Savor the crumbs of cold that are left for us, folks. Everyone seems to want to be in the season that’s in front of them instead of celebrating the one that’s here, now. It will be time for tulips, asparagus, and rhubarb soon enough.
- 6 tablespoons butter, divided
- 2 leeks, sliced
- 1 bulb fennel, sliced
- 1 yellow onion, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 8 small red potatoes
- 1 fuji apple, sliced
- 12 small yellow fingerlings
- 6 oz. Irish Red Ale
- 6-8 cups vegetable or chicken stock
- 1 tsp sea salt
- Freshly ground pepper to taste
- 1 cup heavy cream
- Juice of two large lemons
- 1/4 cup minced tarragon
- Sriracha or other preferred hot sauce
- Crisp cooked bacon (optional)
Melt butter in a 8-quart stockpot. Add onion, leek, garlic, and fennel; cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes until the vegetables are just softening. Add potatoes (skins on) and stir together to create some browning at the bottom of the pot and the potatoes. Deglaze the browning bits after 10 minutes with the ale. Lower heat, add stock, salt, and pepper and simmer for 45 minutes.
When the potatoes are completely softened and separating from their skin, add the heavy cream then transfer batches to the blender and blend on low so that the soup is just combined but still a bit chunky. Transfer to a staging bowl and repeat until all the soup is blended but still has texture.
Stir in lemon juice, fresh chopped tarragon, hot sauce to your liking, and add bacon (optional). Taste for salt and pepper.
02 . 18 . 14
We spent Saturday evening in the garage. Shaun turned on the propane heat lamp and Caroline and I watched the boys build a spice shelf for Corbyn and her newlywed digs. Drinking beer from the can and sitting next to a woman I admire and respect more than she’ll ever know, I felt my pulse physically slow for the first time in months. I’ve missed this. Quiet, thoughtful moments without pressing emails to respond to, where tense decisions and terse dialogue are not on the regular, when the pendulum between fight and flight rests heavy.
Sunday continued at the same easy, tender pace. We went for a long run and treated ourselves to waffles and the NYTimes, laundry to Olympics coverage, and an afternoon bike ride to pick up frozen berries to satiate a brief craving for summertime. I love how Denver rewards us with a splattering of perfect days like these in the deep of winter. I swear they always show up at the right time as if to say, STOP! LOOK! The day is beautiful and you are here and very much alive to take in this moment and remember how to enjoy the miracle that is your life.
The fact that the weekend felt so precious is an indicator to me that the cards need shuffling around here. These weekends need to feel more ritual than they do unusual and surprising. I’ve quietly dedicated my time over the past six months to a local project that has called me to stretch, push, break down, pick up, and humble myself before a dizzying array of interpersonal dynamics in ways I do not yet have words to describe. I’m feeling a bit numb right now — to the success and failure, to what the work gave and what it took away. Regardless, I’m certain the impact of “it all” is positively permanent, and that the excruciating and thrilling days are teaching me something. For now I’m just feeling in the moment, and the moment isn’t good or bad… the moment just is.
“We think that the point is to pass the test or overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.”
― Pema Chödrön
Cardamom Oat Crumble
Adapted from Bon Appetit
Don’t sell yourself short and try to use fresh fruit for this recipe in the wintertime! Ya’ll know I love Chile, but berries picked before they’re ripe and shipped by boat from the Southern Hemisphere taste like cardboard. Frozen fruit is dandy in the off-season and I’d encourage you not to poo-poo it. I tend to prefer darker berries with cardamom, but feel free to substitute as you feel inspired.
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- 1 1/2 quick cooking oats
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 2/3 cup packed brown sugar
- 1/2 cup candied ginger, chopped
- 1 heaping tsp cardamom
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp sea salt
- 12 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
- 4 cups frozen cherries
- 2 cups frozen strawberries
- 1 cup frozen blackberries
- 1 cup frozen blueberries
- 1 apple, sliced
- zest and juice of 1/2 orange
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 4 tbsp cornstarch (or) xantham gum
Mix flour, oats, sugar, brown sugar, candied ginger, cinnamon, salt, and cardamom in a large bowl. Add melted butter and stir together. Set aside.
Preheat oven to 375’. Butter 9″ deep cast iron pan. Add fruit to just below the fill line. Mix together with orange zest, juice, starch, and sugar. Pour and spread oat topping to cover the fruit completely. Bake for 45-50 minutes until the fruit is bubbling, thick, and the topping is beginning to brown. Let cool for 30 minutes to set before serving with ice cream or creme fraiche.
02 . 10 . 14
Today I’m partnering with The Giving Table, The Lunchbox Fund, and nearly one hundred other food bloggers to feed impoverished and orphaned schoolchildren in South Africa. We’re donating our posts and asking our readers to join us in raising (at least) $5,000 to provide a daily meal to 100 children for an a whole year. Children with empty tummies at school can’t achieve their full potential. With the collective help of our reader base, we hope to nourish minds, nourish a nation, and positively impact the planet.
Nicole Gulotta asked us to share a personal anecdote to plead the case of this fantastic cause, and while I will eventually get to that, I think it goes without saying that hunger at home and abroad is a problem that should take very little convincing to get behind. It is stunning and despicable to me that nearly 65 percent of all South African children are food insecure and that 1.9 million of those children are orphans as a result of HIV and AIDS. It is also unacceptable to me that 1 in 5 children here in the U.S, the so-called “greatest country in the world” live in a household that struggles to put food on the table. This would never be true of the “greatest” country in the world.
South Africa lives in a tender corner of my heart. In 2010 I lived on a small ship for five months with a few hundred students, professors, and Archbishop Desmond Tutu sailing across the Atlantic, around the horn of Africa, through the Indian Ocean, Bay of Bengal, South China Sea, and finally back across the Pacific. On the days we weren’t at port he gave lectures on the history of his country, Apartheid, the meaning of Ubuntu, and spent his mealtimes fraternizing with young people in the mess hall. On one evening I remember sitting around a round table with six women and one guy, a phenom to Arch (what we called him affectionately), that merited he scoot from his table to ours. He looked at us, giggled, and proceeded to circle the perimeter, tapping our heads like a game of duck-duck goose until he reached our male friend, Nimish, and squealed “you lucky little bugger!” before skipping off. He is at once the fieriest and goofiest person I’ve been lucky to experience and my life is forever changed by his unwavering optimism for human goodness, capacity for love and forgiveness, and his belief that young people can change the world.
A lot of things get the man riled up, and hunger is one of them.
“I doubt if there is a single moment in our history when all human beings have had enough to eat. Even today, in a world where it is possible to communicate across thousands of miles… close to 1 billion men, women and children will go to bed hungry tonight around the world. Yet a lifetime of experience has taught me that there is no problem so great it cannot be solved, no injustice so deeply entrenched it cannot be overcome. And that includes hunger. Hunger is not a natural phenomenon. It is a man made tragedy. People do not go hungry because there is not enough food to eat. They go hungry because the system which delivers food from the fields to our plates is broken.”
I have a shoddy recording (watch/listen here) of the night before we made port in Cape Town that I watch often for reasons private and obvious, in which he says:
Don’t let us grind you down. Dream. Go on for goodness sakes, dreaming. Dream, dream.
Dream the craziest dreams. They actually often are, God’s dreams.
I feel pretty confident that I know only a smidgen of what there is to know about this life and humans and our collective experience, but I know this: we can’t do it alone. Most of you will visit this site for the recipe, and perhaps the half that read this accompanying post will find themselves economically capable of donating to The Lunchbox fund, and that’s okay. We are all doing what we can, with what we have, and the time we get here. But I’m dreaming. I’m going to dream that 5000 Happyolks readers who will see this post over the next week will donate $10 and multiply The Giving Table’s goal by a factor of 10. Yeah. Crazy dreams. Whatcha think? Let’s do it.
Shaved Fennel Salad
- 10 lbs (5 medium-ish bulbs) fennel
- 2 granny smith apples
- 1 red onion
- 1 cup parsley leaves
- 1 cup mint leaves
- 1 cup watercress
- ½ cup sour cherries
- ½ cup shelled + chopped pistachios
- juice of 1 navel orange
- juice of 1 lemon
- 3-4 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp (plus a dash) sea salt
- cracked pink pepper
With a mandoline, shave bulbs of fennel to ¼ inch thickness. Place in bowl and sprinkle with salt to soften. Set aside. Shave the onion and apples (with skin) on the same setting on the mandoline and set aside. Clean and remove leaves of watercress, parsley, and mint. Set aside.
Prepare the dressing by combining the juices of the orange and lemon, olive oil, plus salt, and cracked pink pepper. Toss together the fennel, onions, apples, parsley, mint, watercress, chopped pistachios, and sour cherries with the dressing.
This one’s for you, Arch.
For good measure, here’s the link (again) to donate a buck The Lunchbox Fund.
01 . 31 . 14
Red Pepper Rapini, White Beans, and Grits
My kitchen is old. My counters are laminate. My spice cabinet is a joke and I’m pretty sure mice live under the fridge. There are splatters on the ceiling still from the time Corbyn and Shaun made Margaritas in a blender missing it’s top. New dish towels and a clean rug in front of the sink are a big deal to me. An old friend from San Diego visited our place a few weeks ago and remarked at how normal, homely, even ugly our cooking space is, despite what she sees online. I love our house. I love our quirky, odd lay-out of a kitchen. We’re all in this funk-a-licious life together, ya hear? And in the spirit of reality checks, I love to cook and share quirky, semi-technical, creative dishes with you here… but five of the seven days in a week we’re eating some riff on grains, greens, and protein. Cheers to rentals, easy dinner, and comfort in a bowl.
- 2 lbs rapini (broccoli rabe), dense stems removed
- 1 cup white beans (your choice)
- 1 shallot, minced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 lemons, juiced
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 3 tbsp bacon or duck fat (optional)
- 2 tbsp red pepper flakes
- pinch of salt
- goat cheese crumbles
- a poached or soft boiled egg, one per serving
- dash of chili oil
- 2 cups polenta or grits (labeling varies)
- 4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced
- 8 tbsp salted butter
- juice of 1 lemon
- 2 tsp salt
In a medium sized pan toast red pepper flakes for 2-3 minutes over medium heat. Add olive oil, bacon fat, minced garlic and shallots over slightly lower heat until it starts to sizzle but the garlic is not browned. Add Rapini leaves and let wilt, untouched for five minutes before stirring together. Add white beans, lemon juice, salt, and red pepper flakes. Stir and remove from heat.
Melt butter in a large pot with the minced garlic. Before butter starts to bubble, add stock and lemon juice. Bring to a boil. Add polenta and stir vigorously for 5 minutes until combined. Add stock to adjust the viscosity and salt to taste.
Serve in a bowl, all together, with a poached egg, goat cheese crumbles, and chili oil.
01 . 21 . 14
Oh, baby. Last week I was an emotional and professional doozy. Without getting into specifics, I can honestly say that I have never felt more tested to dig deep, set my ego on the shelf, and be the person of (strength, character, restraint, kindness) I’d like to think I’ve been practicing for since I joined the human race on December 26, 1989.
On Wednesday the kitchen had no appeal whatsoever, so we headed out for dinner at a restaurant that was probably a bit indulgent for two kids in Nikes, bad hair, and puffy jackets but, it’s Colorado, and the rising full moon begged us to release a bit of hardness and practice self care. On this night, care came in the form of fancy kohlrabi salad, grilled octopus, and two glasses of wine… all of which we probably couldn’t quite afford at the moment but felt so necessary to our existence that it didn’t even matter. At one point I looked at Shaun and said, I love this. “This” not being eating out, but the day, the moment, the fact that we were laughing and crying and so full and so empty all at the once. I started to well up with happy tears because of how ridiculously good everything felt (being alive, earning a right to sit across from each other at the table like this) despite the enormity of my exhaustion and general feelings of sweet-baby-jesus-this-life-business-ain’t-for the birds that hovered about.
As we age I imagine our daily struggles will wear different shoes, and the lessons we’re served will get harder and and somehow easier… but I also have to believe that in those future years we will look back on days like these and think: they were everything. These early days reaching and scraping and believing we can make something good of our lives are so brutal sometimes, but also so intensely rich. I can only hope that in ten, twenty, forty years we’ll be this resilient, this passionate. I can only hope we’ll be this feisty, foolish, and humbled in our smallness. I can only hope we’ll love how deeply we loved, how bad we royally fucked things up, how hard we tried, and how explicit we were in our search for opportunities to be better.
“Here we are, trapped in the amber of the moment. There is no why.”
Late Winter Chocolate and Orange Tart
A few disclaimers before you make a go of it. I’ll call this a “special occasion” recipe because it does take a bit longer than most of the recipes I share. Not that it should be reserved only for special occasions, but, you get what I mean. Also, for aesthetics, I did not remove the peel or pith of the oranges. Some people aren’t into the bitterness, so I’d suggest supreming or removing the rind of your fruit before dressing the tart.
The tart shell is the exact recipe from Yossy Arefi’s mascarpone tart last year, which she adapted from Dorie Greenspan. Please visit her site for the instructions. Ingredients listed below:
- 1 1/2 cups flour
- 1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 9 tablespoons cold, cubed butter
- 1 egg yolk
- 3 cups heavy cream
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup flour
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 8 egg yolks
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses
- 2 large blood oranges
- 3 large cara cara oranges
- 2 navel oranges
- 1 bar high-quality dark chocolate
For the tart shell preparation, see here. Set aside to cool while you prepare the pastry cream.
Warm the milk in a saucepan until it begins to steam, not boil. In a medium bowl stir together the flour, sugar, and salt. Add egg yolks. Whisking them together will create a crumbly-paste like mixture. This is totally normal. Pour warm milk from the saucepan into the bowl of egg-flour paste and store together. Once everything has combined, return mixture to the saucepan over medium heat. WHISK CONSISTENTLY. You will feel like you’re creating a ton of froth, but that’s okay, it will begin to thicken after a few minutes. Pause whisking after three minutes and see if it begins to boil, if so, remove from heat.
Stir vanilla into the cream and pour into a fine mesh strainer over a bowl in the sink. Push cream through the strainer to catch tiny bits of cooked egg. Place bowl in the fridge and let chill completely for 2 hours. To expedite the process, surround the bowl of cream in another bowl of ice. When the cream is cooled, stir in pomegranate molasses and lemon juice.
Melt the chocolate using a double boiler or water bath method. Spread melted chocolate over tart shell evenly. Pop in the fridge for 5 minutes. To prepare the oranges for garnish, hold the orange in your left or non-knife hand so that the navel is touching your thumb. Slice at your desired thickness, mine are about 1/4 inch. Retrieve tart shell with hardened chocolate from the fridge. Pour 3 cups of pastry cream into the center and spread as needed to cover. Arrange the oranges in concentric circles.