01 . 09 . 14
It’s 2 am and I just ate the last piece of molasses cake leftover from the New Years Eve gathering we hosted a few days ago. I never saw anyone eat a slice, but the next morning I found the bundt half gone on it’s stand, covered by a dish towel. I like that people can expect a treat when they’re at the house. I’m often asked why I cook and my answer has evolved and simplified over time: to love, to nourish. It’s a small thing, on my list of big things, of ways to say I love you.
In any case, there is a vent beneath the counter that warms a patch of tile on the kitchen floor and I stood on it, camped out in my bare feet, eating, listening to the creaks of the house and sorting through a stack of mail beside me. I turn over what appears to be a credit card offer and start scribbling a shopping list. Cauliflower. Horseradish. Greens. Coffee beans (!). Chemex filters (!!!!!). Toothpaste. Chocolate chips. Goat’s Gouda. Dates.
I love January and it’s everyday-ness. I’m glad for a regular pulse again. The holidays are great but it’s the stillness that I crave at the end of it all. We took our little evergreen out to the curb promptly when we returned from California and I filled the house with white ranunculus and put my Dad’s Neil Young album, Harvest, on our new record player to fill the house with something… normal.
New Years resolutions have never been my bag. Not on the 1st, at least. I want to cover my ears, close my eyes, and shout la la la la la la la la la la la when “goals for 2014″ comes up in social conversations because here’s the deal: A new year starts whenever I say it starts. You guys know me, I’ll preach intentionality ’til I’m blue in the face, but, erase the numbers on the calendar and the year restarts fifty times, even one hundred times in 365 days, if we want it to. I like the idea of resolving and revising my life, intentions, goals, and boundaries throughout the entirety of the year. My blueprints look nothing like they did a month ago, and I’d wager they’ll look different next month. Without grandeur or pomp or circumstance, there are always occasions that beg a breaking down and rebuilding the foundation. Fate and free will do their dance, and we are presented with, or choose, change.
That’s the beauty of this human life we get to live here on planet earth. We get to revise. We get to shift lanes. We can stop what we’re doing at any point of the day, month, year and say hey, you know, I think I’m going to to try doing things differently from here out. We are constantly being called to look in and look out at they way we treat people, how we spend our time, how we think about ourselves, and the respect we show our bodies and our planet. Instead of cramming in all that self-reflection and goal setting for the sparkling brevity of a ball-drop, I’d ask you to consider celebrating a new year, a new you, whenever you can. And those days are worth celebrating. The Thursday in March where you wake up, put your feet on the floor, and say to yourself: today will be different, today I will… (fill in the blank)… that’s gold right there. There will be no confetti or champagne. But it will be perfect, and you did it all on your own.
Happy New Year, today, and every day.
Shiitake Bok Choy Dumplings
It’s cold out! If you live in a winter-y climate, skip the juice fast and feed your Qi with warming, nourishing foods. My acupuncturist, Anna, says it’s an order. For the wonton sheets… I could only get my hands on the itty-bitty variety, which, if you have fingers that aren’t on the dainty side like me, folding can be a bit of a challenge (albeit a worthy one). If you can find wrappers that are bigger, i.e. 3x3in, I’d suggest doubling the filling for this recipe.
- 25 wonton wrappers
- 4 bulbs bok choy
- 1/2 lb shiitake mushrooms
- 2 large carrots
- 1 inch nub ginger
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 cup minced chives
- 1 tsp orange zest
- 1 tbsp tamari or Braggs liquid aminos
- 2 tbsp toasted sesame oil
- + extra bok choy to line the steam basket
Orange Teriyaki Sauce
- 1/2 cup tamari
- 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
- 2 tsp water
- 2 tbsp orange juice
- 2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
- 1 tbsp brown sugar
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 2 tsp minced garlic
- 1 tsp minced ginger
- 1 tsp orange zest
- 1 tsp cornstarch
Get the sauce out of the way: Combine ingredients (except for cornstarch and orange zest) in a saucepan on medium heat until the sugar is dissolved. Stir in cornstarch and zest last then remove from heat.
For the dumpling filling: chop boy choy, shiitakes, chives and carrots into very small pieces. Using a microplane grater, shave garlic, ginger, and orange zest into the vegetables and mix together. Warm sesame oil over medium heat in a pot or sauté pan. Add vegetable mixture and the tamari and stir to soften for no more than 5 minutes. The veggies should be vibrant and al dente.
Assemble the dumplings by placing one sheet on a flat surface. With a bowl of water near your dominant hand, dip a finger or two in the water and wet the perimeter of the dumpling so when you fold it all up it will stick together. Place 1 heaping tablespoon of cooked filling in the center and fold together by adjoining the two opposite corners with a pinch and then repeating with the remaining corners, sealing the edges together as you go like a present. If your wonton wrappers are circular, you can see detailed instructions on how to assemble here. Repeat until all filling has been used.
Prepare your steaming mechanism (pot with steamer lined with bok choy or lettuce, ghetto white girl style like moi… or by using a real-deal bamboo steamer as seen here). When there is sufficient steam generated, place as many dumplings as you can fit without touching one another. Cook for 5-8 minutes.
Serve warm and dip as desired.
12 . 11 . 13
The table is set, and our glasses are full,
Though pieces go missing, may we still feel whole.
We’ll build new traditions in place of the old,
Life without revision will silence our souls.
Let the bells keep on ringing,
Making angels in the snow,
May the melody disarm us when the cracks begin to show.
Like the petals in our pockets, may we remember who we are,
Unconditionally cared for by those who share our broken heart.
– Ryan O’Neal
- Traditional Kimchi recipe from Food & Wine
- 2 cups ramen or soba noodles
- 1/2 cup sliced green onion
- 1 poached egg
- 2 cups quick broth
- – 4 cups water
- – 1 onion
- – 1/2 apple, sliced
- – 3 lemon slices
- – 1/4 cup sliced shallots
- – 5 garlic cloves
- – 1″ nub ginger
- – 1/2 cup kimchi
- – 3 tbsp miso paste
For the broth, mix together all ingredients (save for the miso) and simmer for 30 minutes. Mix in miso after 30 minutes and remove from heat. While the broth simmers, cook the noodles, slice the green onions, and poach an egg with your method of preference.
Combine Noodles, 1 heaping cup of kimchi, 1/2 cup green onions and pour over 2 cups of broth and top with egg.
** I quadrupled my batch of Kimchi and am letting it continue to ferment for New Years gifts, it makes 8 quarts if you’re wondering!
*** Special thanks to New West Knifeworks for sending me a collection of knives to try. They’re beautiful and if you’re going the gift-route for the holidays, I highly recommend this Wyoming based company.
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.
11 . 12 . 13
“I must learn to love the fool in me–the one who feels too much, talks too much, takes too many chances, wins sometimes and loses often, lacks self-control, loves and hates, hurts and gets hurt, promises and breaks promises, laughs and cries. It alone protects me against that utterly self-controlled, masterful tyrant whom I also harbor and who would rob me of my human aliveness, humility, and dignity but for my Fool.”
― Theodore I. Rubin
Sunchoke Soup with Cracked Black Pepper
- 1 pound sunchokes, peeled and chopped
- 2 cups peeled, chopped potatoes
- 6 tablespoons olive oil or butter
- 2 sweet onions, chopped
- 4 medium cloves garlic
- Leaves from 2 sprigs thyme
- 9 cups chicken or vegetable broth
- 1/2 cup whole milk (optional)
- 1/2 cup apple juice
- 1/4 cup lemon juice
- Sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
Peel the sunchokes and the potatoes. Cut into dice-sized chunks.
Heat butter or oil in a heavy-bottomed large pot. Add onions, garlic, and thyme, and stir until the onions begin to brown. Add the broth. Stir. Then add potatoes and sunchokes. Cook covered for 5 minutes, then uncovered for 15 minutes until chokes and taters are softened. Add apple juice and lemon juice, cook for another 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in milk.
Working in batches, transfer the soup mixture to a blender, remove the middle-nob so that steam can escape and cover with a paper towel as to not burn yourself with soup splatters. Puree until smooth in batches, each time adding some of the butter to the blender. Serve with a healthy amount of fresh black pepper.
10 . 31 . 13
The coffee shop I find myself holed up in these days is a six-block walk from my house. I cross two one-way streets, then a busier intersection between a 24hr diner and a yoga studio. On my way home today I kicked up dead leaves that seem to suddenly have engulfed the sidewalk since Monday and considered calling my mom on speaker phone just so she could hear how pretty the crunching and swooshing sound was in the moment. I have a feeling she heard it, without the call. She usually does. Mom-thoughts generally lead to other gratitude thoughts, and today was no exception. Gratitude for friends who let me interrupt their work-day to speculate if the person sitting next to me is either a hit-man or private investigator based on the prolific mess of records, security camera footage, and license plate captures strewn about the table. Gratitude for the way the Universe ushered an amputee-veteran to my check-out line at Target yesterday while I was purchasing pimple-cream alongside halloween candy with even the slightest grudge against my otherwise perfectly functional body.
I heard an echo of crunching and swooshing behind me as I stopped to cross the last street before our house and looked over my shoulder to catch a glimpse of the situation. Just a teenage-girl carrying a violin case. We acknowledged each other and crossed in tandem when there was a break in the traffic. She carried on ahead of me, swinging her case down the walk and I watched her from our porch for a minute or so, tossing my keys between my palms before going inside. There is an unspoken language between women that had been expressed between us in crossing the street and I wondered if she even knew it had transpired or the power it holds. When I was her age I don’t think I did. We are stronger when we cross together. I was a wildly independent in my youth. The sort of, I-don’t-need-anyone-to-help-me, I-can-do-it-all-on-my-own, type. In those days I associated feminism with unbreakability and ferocity, reserving all my tenderness or vulnerability for those in my inner circle. My relationship to my own femininity (and femininity at large) in those angst-y teenage years has softened as I’ve aged. With each passing season I find myself coming closer to a place where I can honor my emotional expressiveness, impulse to nurture, and keen sensitivity as having equal value to my fiery determination, independence, and fearlessness. Today I actively seek crossing the street with another, not as a crutch, but as a way to understand the female species and learn my place and call within it.
I set down my backpack on the couch and thumbed through the mail before kicking off my shoes and heading upstairs to check on Shaun. He was at his desk, just as I had left him several hours ago, reading Supreme Court documents for a new film project while sports commentary played in the background. I hugged him from behind, and closed my eyes. Earlier in the day I had confessed to a friend that I felt like I had nothing profound or compelling to write about my life or the world these days in this space. I get to wake up next to my best friend, I am involved in challenging and fulfilling work, and my friendships bring me deep and profound joy. Am I possibly too content to write? Is that even a thing? Contentedness, what is this witchery? Is it possible? Can I only create art when I feel melancholy or restless or at dis-ease? If good writing is a product of emotional carnage then I might be wise to consider a new career path. I kid.
Along these lines, said friend reminded me that I’m a normal human living normal days, as we do, and that I have permission to set poignancy on the shelf every now and again. “Some days you’re just a girl living her life.” And I’m cognitively very aware of this truth. Anyone who knows me will assure you I’m TEAM REAL-LIFE. And, even though the work I’m most proud of is born from some less-than-awesome mental states, the less-dramatic and emotionally stable days are the ones I like best and know you do too. The ones with walks and thoughts of pimples and hit-men and femininity and questions if I should go to therapy and if we should buy a second car and why my sweater smells like curry and when there will be enough snow to snowshoe and if brie or camembert cheese is a better accompaniment to squash and flaky crust.
And so it goes. This is my life, and I’m just happy to be in it.
Butternut Squash and Brie Galette
For the pastry:
- 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp sugar
- Pinch of salt
- 12 tablespoons cold unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup ice water
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.
For the filling:
- 3-ish lb butternut squash
- 2 apples (honeycrisp, pink lady, or fuji)
- 2 cups brie cheese, rind removed
- olive oil
- fresh thyme
- 1 egg
Preheat oven to 400.’ Peel the squash. Cut 1/4 inch vertical wedges up to the rind. Halve discs. Place on a baking sheet and coat with olive oil, salt, and pepper. It’s okay if wedges overlap. Bake for 15-20 minutes until just softened and a little al dente in the thicker regions. Set aside and cool. With a mandolin or pairing knife, cut apples (with peel) into 1/4 inch slices. Set aside. Cut or tear brie into strips and chunks. Set aside.
On a floured work surface, roll the dough out into a 12-inch round. Transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Begin layering cooled squash, apples, cheese, and a bit of salt and pepper leaving a 1 1/2 inch border for folding it all up. Repeat until you run out of ingredients and can top with more cheese. Fold the border over your squash-apple-cheese tower pleating the edge to make it fit. Finish outside exposed dough with an egg wash. Bake for 30-40 minutes in the 400′ oven. Cut into wedges and serve warm.