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.
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.
11 . 25 . 13
I’m not a coffee snob by any sense of the imagination, but I can appreciate a good cup and the careful attention it took to brew. What I don’t appreciate is the attitude that now often comes served on the side with these new trendy caffeine purveyors, and really, the “craft” food scene, at large. I was in San Francisco two weeks ago with my Mom and dear friend Mari shopping for my wedding dress (found it) (love it) (!!!!) and stopped by a hip and hyped establishment in SoMa for the day’s fuel. At the counter we were greeted with the most appalling you-are-wasting-my-time looks from the baristas for even asking what the meth-lab looking glass beaker contraption was at our left, and what the “minimalist” breakfast menu really entailed (does the listing “egg” really mean just an egg on a plate, or does that come with toast?). I usually can tune out the I’m-hot-shit barista vibe at home in CO, but that morning I wanted to reach over and smack the beards off their sassy faces for acting like jerks to my gracious and legitimately curious Mom.
Frankly, I could care less about how cool or well-known a person, brand, or product is. Cool bores me. Cool tells me nothing about your heart. Cool tells me nothing about your brain. I’d rather sip lukewarm instant coffee in a dirty, poorly-lit diner outside Reno, Nevada every day of the year then have to stroke an inflated ego to get some pour-over in prime urban real estate. What happened to being friendly WHILE these folks do whatever sustainable, curated, artisan, handmade, small-batch, “authentic” thing they do? Hi there! I’m human, you’re human, isn’t it neat that we get to be humans together!? What happened to being and living those maxims for the sake of it, not because it’s en vogue and gives people/brands this elevated sense of social importance and license to be inconsiderate.
On that note, Shaun and I have been on a crusade lately to eliminate the use of the word authentic in our daily dialogue. I feel like we’re living in this supersaturated season where friends and colleagues can’t express themselves or be in relationship without tossing around the word to qualify to everything they care about: authentic storytelling, authentic branding, authentic relationships, authentic conversations, etc. It’s gotten so bad we have even joked about pitching a film to the Portlandia producers where a couple sits down at dinner and has to use the word authentic in every sentence they speak to the waiter, i.e. “is the tomato in this burger an authentic tomato?” It seems that in the process of trying to authenticate our lives, work, and experiences, we turn our social environments into the very antithesis of the word. By definition, authentic simply means to be genuine. Yet if we’re all trying SO hard to be genuine, is genuine even genuine anymore? It certainly doesn’t feel like it. When a friend emails, “I’m really looking forward to authentically relating with you” in regard to an impending meet-up, I scratch my head and think, oh wait, you mean, like JUST BEING ALIVE TOGETHER IN THE SAME ROOM AND LISTENING TO ONE ANOTHER? I realize that this is a terribly circular debate, one that I know seems to wrap around and over itself and runs into all sorts of dead-ends and fingers pointed right back at me at various times of my life. That said, I think it’s worth stepping stage-left and sorting through the mess of how this word “authentic” has made us more or less of the thing we want most — to be ourselves and feel “different,” to feel like we’re all not just cogs in the machine.
We have friends who make furniture from reclaimed wood in an old mechanics shop south of downtown Denver and furnish some of the “hottest” bars and restaurants of the city. On paper, they seem like poster children for a hipster, eco-chic, cool-kid (fill in the blank). What I love most about Rob and Ben though, is how utterly unconcerned they are with “striving for authenticity” in their lives and craft. They just ARE authentic. Imagine that! They do what they love. They live what they love. They are the truest expression of authenticity I know because of how little attention they pay to accomplishing the definition, and how much attention they pay to being good humans and enjoying the time they get to live on earth and do the things that make them happy. I find that this I’m just doing my thing the way that works for me attitude is constantly in attempt to be emulated by the creative community but most of the time ends up feeling forced in a I’m trying way too hard to not care… but… really I care a lot about what you think of me and my authentic-ness, kind of way.
And then I sit back and think… I’m probably just a grouch. What is authentic for me is different for someone else. Maybe, as it has been suggested to me, some people just authentically are assholes. Maybe the trendy coffee experience is sincerely soul-affirming for some in a way I can’t possibly understand or appreciate. I happen to find conversations with the folks working in cafes with saggy green leather couches, gay-marriage posters, and drip coffee more affable than the former, but hey. At the end of the day, the pandemic use of the word authentic underscores how massively disconnected we are, as individuals, to what it means to be fully ourselves. Fully and/or comfortably. We have to talk about being authentic all the time to convince ourselves that we actually are. And where does that come from? Ultimately that’s what we’re left to assess. Why is everyone trying so hard? WE DON’T NEED TO TRY SO HARD! We just need to BE our own weird selves. That’s authentic. Be weirdly enthusiastic. Be weirdly honest. Stay weirdly interested in the things that make your heart sing. We are all unique little snowflakes. Except when we’re not unique little snowflakes. Let’s try owning that too. I actually really like that I’m not the only one who enjoys camping or has binged on episodes of Mad Men or wants to be Oprah Winfrey’s best friend or puts avocado on toast. Is being alike really so bad?
At the end of all this, I feel like I’ve made no progress in wrestling the issue. In fact I’ve hesitated even posting this diatribe after coming across a sticky note in my suitcase while packing for our trip that I quoted from a magazine: “gratitude alters your vibration, moving you from negative energy to positive – it’s the easiest, quickest, most powerful way to effect change in your own life and the world.” Gulp. In some weird way, sorting through and throwing out the bullshit in our lives is a way of expressing gratitude. What if we were all just too darn grateful to worry about what’s most cool or most authentic? We don’t get enough time in this life to navel-gaze on the these matters, and I’m stomping my feet and throwing my arms to just say so.
Be a nice human. Listen well. Be intentional. Speak your truth. Say thank you. Like what you like. Love what you love. Do what you do. That’s all I have left to say about that.
- 6 persimmons (any variety)
- ¾ cup sugar
- 2 cloves
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 lemon
- 2 tbsp cornstarch
- 2 large eggs
- 3/4 cup milk
- 1/2 cup water
- 3 tsp honey
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1 cup flour
- 3 tablespoons melted butter
- Butter, for coating the pan
In a mixing bowl, combine milk, water, butter, honey, and eggs. Add flour and stir together vigorously. Place batter in the fridge for 1-2 hours so bubbles rise and diminish.
Cut persimmons into wedges, peeling off the skins as you work. Place in a heavy bottomed pot or pan. Set over medium heat and saute persimmons with sugar, cloves, cinnamon, and lemon for 20 minutes until softened. Add cornstarch and simmer for another 5-1- minutes. Remove from heat.
Heat a small, non-stick crepe pan. Scoop half cup of batter into the center of the pan and spread evenly. Cook for 30-ish seconds and flip, cooking for another 10 seconds before removing to a plate.
Fill corner of crepe with a dollop of mascarpone and persimmon compote. Fold crepe over itself until you have a triangular shape. Repeat. Cover desired serving with more persimmon compote.