05 . 19 . 14
Closing in on six weeks ’til the wedding (smiles). We’ve conjured the sort of day that requires little by way of traditional “planning” and I’ve found that the few things that require our attention this month ― wine lists, dance jams, family activities ― have been joyful and transportive moments away from the madness that is work in this season. On the one day Shaun was home last week we had a most-perfect day-date that included an oil change, bank deposits, dropping bags at Goodwill, and margaritas at 1pm before afternoon conference calls, respectively. This life, right now. There is dignity in the grind. Sleep has been hit/miss this spring, mostly the falling asleep part. The usual tracks repeat: who am I, where am I going, what am I doing with my life? I think of June 28. Shaun, beaming in his new suit. The friends and family who have rooted for us in this business of life and love. It works. I finally fall asleep.
Can’t wait to celebrate. There is SO MUCH, so very much to celebrate. We’ll get there.
In the meantime for my homies in the grind, some lighter tunes for cooking, working, and gathering on an almost-summer afternoon:
Grilled Za’atar Artichokes and Wild Rice Salad
- 2 lbs baby artichokes
- 1 1/2 cup dry wild rice
- 1 cup plump golden raisins
- 25 large mint leaves
- 1/2 cup Italian parsley leaves
- 1/2 cup dill fronds
- 6 green onions, sliced at bias
- 1 preserved lemon, rind reserved and minced
- Juice of 4 fresh lemons, divided
- 1 shallot, minced
- 1/2 cup olive oil, divided
- 3 tsp Za’atar, divided
- 1 tsp cumin
Rinse rice before cooking. Stir in rice with 3 cups of water or broth to a boil with 1 tsp of salt. Reduce heat to low, cover, and allow to cook for 45 minutes to 1 hour until the rice is puffed and the liquid is mostly absorbed. Fluff rice with a fork and continue to cook, uncovered, to evaporate excess liquid. Remove from heat and let cool.
To prepare the artichokes, cut off and discard the tip of the artichoke. Pull off and discard the dark green, tough outer leaves until you reach the soft, light green/yellow part. Using a pairing knife, trim the stems and shave off any remaining dark green parts of the artichoke around the base of the stem. Cut in half. Place in a bowl with lemon juice to prevent from oxidizing. Repeat with remaining artichokes. Drizzle with olive oil and 2 tsp of Za’atar. Place in the fridge to marinate for 20 minutes.
Start the grill. Over medium-high heat, grill artichokes belly-side down on a vegetable grate (optional, helps prevent losing a few soldiers). Cover grill and cook for 10-ish minutes until the ‘chokes are browning and crispy at the edges. Return to the bowl of marinating liquid and stir together with a bit of cumin.
To prepare the salad, toss room-temperature rice with herbs, preserved lemon rind, shallots, green onion, raisins, juice of 2 lemons, and 1/4 cup olive oil. Add salt to taste. Top with grilled artichokes and their liquid.
05 . 09 . 14
It’s 3pm and raining now. I feel like Hayden’s here in the room. It’s been long time. Maybe it hasn’t. Maybe I just haven’t been present to it. If I’m honest, staying present has been difficult lately. The season has turned over so fast, it’s like I woke up this morning and the trees are just now suddenly green, tulips are blistering at their ends, and the garden has creeped back to life. Before you left, you pointed out the one tree in the back alley that is holding out. It’s naked and just barely budding while her sisters are already flanked and beaming. In my mind, I’ll pretend it has been waiting for me to stop spinning, settle my mind, and catch up to the miracle that is this season. I hate when you’re gone but I loved how quiet things were today. I’ve needed it, desperately.
When I am silent, I have thunder hidden inside. – Rumi
Spring On a Plate
This recipe is for my mom whose beauty is matched only by her grace, passion, and strength. I am nothing without your love. Happy Mother’s Day. You are my sun and moon and all of my stars.
- ½ lb fresh green garbanzo beans
- ½ lb green asparagus
- 3 stalks rhubarb
- 2 yellow potatoes
- ¼ lb ramps (baby leeks)
- Handful watercress
- (optional) heel of stale bread, ¼ cup breadcrumbs
- ¼ cup olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
- 16 oz unsweetened greek yogurt
- ½ cup dill, minced
- ½ cup mint, minced
- 1/2 cup parsley, minced
- 3 lemons, juiced
- salt and pepper to taste
- (optional) 7-minute egg
Bring a small pot of water to boil. Shell the garbanzo beans and blanche in the boiling water for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and rinse with cold water. Set aside. Preheat oven for 350.’ Cut potato into small wedges and place on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and send them to a hot oven to roast for 20 minutes. Remove tough ends of asparagus, thoroughly yet delicately clean and remove roots from ramps, and cut stalks of rhubarb in half and then slice length wise into 3 smaller strips. Place in the basin of stone or glass baking dish and drizzle with olive oil and a dash of salt/pepper. Place on the available rack in the oven and bake for the remaining time on the potatoes (+/- 10 minutes).
In a medium bowl, combine yogurt, and lemon with the minced fresh herbs. Pour herb-y yogurt onto a large serving platter. Spread with a spatula to create a yogurt bed. Arrange vegetables on top of the yogurt to your liking. Garnish with watercress, blanched garbanzo beans, a sprinkle of bread crumbs, and a halved medium-boil egg.
Enjoy immediately with warm flatbread or alongside a nice lentil salad.
04 . 07 . 14
“If you suddenly and unexpectedly feel joy, don’t hesitate. Give in to it. There are plenty of lives and whole towns destroyed or about to be. We are not wise, and not very often kind. And much can never be redeemed. Still life has some possibility left. Perhaps this is its way of fighting back, that sometimes something happened better than all the riches or power in the world. It could be anything, but very likely you notice it in the instant when love begins. Anyway, that’s often the case. Anyway, whatever it is, don’t be afraid of its plenty. Joy is not made to be a crumb. (Don’t Hesitate)”
― Mary Oliver, Swan: Poems and Prose Poems
Quick Pickled Vegetables over Herb-y Black Lentils
- 1 bunch tricolor radishes, quartered
- 1 cup pearl onions, halved
- 1 lb. baby carrots
- 2 cups cauliflower, broken into small pieces
- 1 bulb fennel, sliced
- 2 shallots, shaved
- 4 florets belgian endive, halved
- 4 cups white wine vinegar (or red wine, or rice)
- 4 cups water
- 1/4 cup mustard seeds
- 2 tbsp juniper berries
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 2 tbsp salt
To make the pickling liquid: Place water and vinegar in medium pot along with sugar, juniper berries, salt, and mustard seeds. Bring to a simmer over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally to dissolve sugar and salt. Place cleaned and prepped raw vegetables into the liquid and submerge. Cover and let cool to room temperature, place in refrigerator for 1 hour. Extra vegetables can be kept for up to two months. They make for great accouterments in a Bloody Mary!
For the Lentil Salad…
- 4 cups cooked black lentils (about 1 pound, dry)
- 1 cup watercress leaves
- 1 cup parsley leaves
- 1 cup celery leaves
- 1/2 cup mint leaves
- 1/4 cup minced chives
- 2 lemons, juiced
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- salt/pepper to taste
Cook lentils until al dente, about 30 minutes. Strain, rinse, and set aside. Mix with olive oil, lemon juice, and greens. Serve as a bed to the pickled vegetables. Dress with chives, serve cool, but not cold. Makes great leftovers for weekday lunches. Served mine today with lemon avocado aioli.
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
- 6 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.