07 . 06 . 14
Paradise in Plain Sight, Karen Maezen Miller
Chapter 10, pg. 82-83
We experience our lives through the senses, a truly marvelous thing. In the split second after the pure cognition of seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching, and thinking we form a reaction to a sense object: attraction or aversion, liking or disliking, the subjective judgement of good or bad. No matter how we react to our environment, the environment has no gripe with us. Every war is a war with ourselves. Everything is empty and ephemeral. We can turn anything into a weapon to wreak havoc and destroy peace, as we do.
If you doubt any of this, remember what you took on faith in fourth-grade science. All matter is composed of atoms. Atoms are empty space. By definition you can’t see emptiness. You can’t even imagine it. But you can be it. You already are it. Now, to live and let live in emptiness: that is the secret to paradise. It’s a secret hidden in plain sight, but it can take you forever to crack the code.
First, be quiet. Give away your ideas, self-certainty, judgements, and opinions. Drop your personal agenda. Let go of defenses and offenses. Face your critics. They will always outnumber you.
Lose all wars. All wars are lost to begin with. Abandon your authority and entitlements. Release your self-image: status, power, whatever you think gives you clout. It doesn’t, not really. That’s a lie you’ve never believed. Give up your seat. Be what you are: unguarded, unprepared, and surrounded on all sides. Alone, you are a victim of no one and nothing. You are ready as you’ll ever be; you were born ready. The possibilities are endless. Reject nothing. What appears in front of you is your liberation – that is, unless you judge it. Then you imprison yourself again.
Now that you are free, see where you are. Observe what is needed. Do good quietly. If it’s not done quietly, it’s not good. Start over. Even now, as you read along, are you formulating an objection to this in your mind? Because that’s what I do, and that’s what I have to stop – the endless, imaginary debates, the pros and cons of this and that. They wear me out.
I push back from the fray and step out into the garden where the leaves rustle and bend in gentle rhythm with the wind. The air is fresh. The sky is blue. It’s an amazing place we live in when we’re not at odds with it. Who can contain the love that this one life brings with it? It is boundless.
Lavender Berry Pavlova
We made this sucker a few weeks before the wedding (sneak a peek here, we’ll share more photos here when they come in). I got a little heavy handed with the lavender on my first batch of whipped cream. HOLY moses. It was a little like eating one of those sleepy eye masks. Do be careful when you’re adding it to the mix, the essential oils are quite potent!
- 4 egg whites, at room temperature
- 1 cup super fine sugar
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch
- 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 cup cold heavy cream
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 2-4 drops food grade lavender essential oil
- 1 pint fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced
- 1 cup fresh blueberries
- 1 cup cherries, pitted and halved
- 2 tsp sugar
- 1 tsp lemon juice
Separate yolks from whites, allowing whites to combine over a medium mixing bowl. Beat whites by hand with a good whisk until firm and formulating stiff peaks (5-10 minutes). When the peaks are firmed, tip bowl upside down and nothing should move. Slowly fold in sugar, cornstarch, and vanilla with a rubber spatula.
Pile the meringue onto a parchment covered baking sheet in the shape of a thick, stout frisbee. Bake for 1 hr at 200’ F. Remove and allow to cool completely.
Meanwhile prep the lavender whipping cream and berries for serving. In the basin of an electric stand mixer, whip cream on high. When it starts to thicken, add sugar, vanilla, and a few careful droplets of essential oil. Chill before serving and assembling the pavlova. **If fresh lavender is more readily available, an alternative method is to steep 1 sprig of fresh lavender in cream over low heat for 20 minutes. Strain cream and allow to cool before creating whipped cream.
Combine the strawberries, blueberries, and whatever summer fruit strikes your fancy in a bowl and toss with a bit of sugar and lemon juice, just enough to coat the berries lightly. To assemble, place cooled pavlova on serving dish. Spread whipped cream evenly across the surface and top with generous heaps of berries.
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.