Sunchoke Soup

11 . 12 . 13

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“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

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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.

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Butternut Squash and Brie Galette

10 . 31 . 13

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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
  • salt/pepper
  • 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.

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Construction:

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.

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Field Notes

10 . 22 . 13

Autumn. FINALLY. My bones have ached for this season. I do believe the leaves on the trees that line our street now match the hues of my heart, and for a few brief, palpable moments over the past few days, I’ve been reminded that I belong in this human skin, this temporal world.

Offline life owns any and all coherent bits of my lexicon right now, so today I give you a film, doughnuts from Ashley’s super fun new cookbook, and a few notes from the field, as follows: 

(1) Tell people you love them while they can still hear you (2) Get over yourself. Self-consciousness robs us of being fully present to others (3) Pay attention and everyone is the guru — especially the 6 year old boy next door (4) Celebrate the people who keep you company. Thank them, daily, for their grace, patience, and wisdom (5) Beautiful things don’t just happen, you make them happen. Work hard. Keep your chin up (6) We belong to the earth. Lie in the leaves on the ground and pray like hell you’ll learn how to burst and bless and move on like they do (7) Change your toothbrush more often and buy new underwear. It’s the little things (8) “Nobody looks stupid when they’re having fun” – Amy Poehler  (9) Date pits do not go in the garbage disposal (10) Sparklers in place of birthday candles make a mess, but are always a good idea. 

Gluten-Free Apple Fritter Doughnuts 

  • 1 cup oat flour
  • 1 cup rice flour
  • 2/3 cup cane sugar
  • 6 tbsp almond meal
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup + 4 tbsp buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup apple sauce
  • 4 tbsp coconut oil
  • 3 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup peeled, diced honeycrisp apples
  • 1 1/2 cup sugar + 2 tsp cinnamon for coating
  • 1/4 cup butter or coconut oil, melted

Preheat the oven to 350.’ Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl, and mix well. In another bowl, whisk together liquid ingredients and eggs. Pour wet mixture into the dry and stir gently with a wooden spoon until just combined and there are no more flour streaks. Fold in the diced apples gently.

Spoon batter into standard doughnut molds, before the top of the basin. As you can see in the video, I struggled with this. If they look wonky and overflowing they still turn out good, I promise. Bake for 15-18 minutes until lightly golden brown around the edges. Let cool before tackling the cinnamon sugar coating.

Ashley’s instructions for the fritter effect are for stoves with a broiler situated at the top of the oven, mine are for a lower oven/drawer-style broiler and instructions are shared accordingly. In an assembly line, place bowl of melted oil/butter in the middle between the cooled rack of donuts and a bowl of cinnamon sugar mixture. Dip tops of baked and cooled doughnuts in the oil/butter for a millisecond, then roll around in the sugar mix. Place on a baking sheet, cast iron pan, or sheet of tin foil beneath the broiler to caramelize the sugar for 2-3 minutes, careful not to burn. Repeat until doughnuts are coated. Serve warm.

** Leave a comment with your field notes of late and I’ll pick one winner to receive a copy of Baked Doughnuts for Everyone by October 29, 2013. Winner will be announced on facebook and via email! Cheers!

give me your stars to hold

09 . 17 . 13

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“I am the pool of gold when sunset burns and dies  you are my deepening skies; give me your stars to hold” ― Sara Teasdale

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Shaun, there is no way to interpret the language of this heart. Our story is my favorite secret. After a summer to meditate and celebrate this next season, I think it’s cool we let the internets in on the news.

I can’t wait to hold you, weep with you, laugh with you, fight with you, thrive with you, unfold with you every day for the rest of my life. This. This love. This time. I love this crazy, complex bond on our best and worst days. I hope we never stop changing. I hope we never stop growing, shedding, breaking, and billowing into new parts of each other, new parts of ourselves. This love with you has been the best and most challenging thing I’ve ever done; and, after all these years (eight! can you believe it?), there is still nothing I am more proud of. Without you I am a shadow version of myself, and every day by your side, I am learning to be a better human, a better friend, and a better partner. I love you. I LOVE YOU SO MUCH. Here’s to conscious commitment. Here’s to the freaking miracle that we’re here, now. Here’s to all the years and lines and thrills we have still to earn and learn. What do you say? Meet me in June next year, by that mountain we love with all of our friends? I’ll wear a white dress, and hand you my whole heart.

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Hey friends, we’re getting married.

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When we were in Mexico, I had enchiladas with mole every night. Not joking. I’ve taken Rick Bayless’s recipe from the Mexican State dinner in 2010 and did a bit of tinkering to make you a cliff notes version. I can see you rolling your eyes at me now… MOLE, KELSEY? A bajillion ingredients, I know, but I promise you it’s worth it and when it’s all said and done you’ll have loads of leftovers and can flex your muscles and proudly say, “I AM WOMAN! I MADE MOLE!”

Oaxacan Black Mole

  • 10 medium chihualces (Oaxacan) chiles
  • 6 medium (about 2 ounces) dried ancho chiles
  • 6 dried chipotle chiles
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 1 cup white onion, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 cup sesame seeds
  • 1/3 cup unskinned or Spanish peanuts
  • 1/3 cup unskinned almonds
  • About 10 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 14 oz can whole peeled tomatoes, strained
  • 2 slices stale bread, toasted until very dark
  • 1/4 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • A scant teaspoon oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 ripe banana
  • 1/2 cup (about 3 ounces) finely chopped chocolate (75% cocoa content)
  • Salt, about 1 tablespoon depending on the saltiness of the broth
  • Sugar, about 1/4 cup (or a little more)
  • small flour tortillas
  • sour cream
  • cilantro
  • limes
  • shredded chicken breast (or grilled veggies)

 

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Step 1: Soak chiles in boiling water for 30 minutes. In a large dutch oven, melt coconut oil and sauté onion and garlic until they begin to brown and caramelize – about 20 minutes.

Step 2: While the onion and garlic are doing their jig, preheat the oven to 350.’ Spread nuts and sesame seeds on a baking sheet with parchment paper. When the oven is to temp, roast the nuts for 12 minutes or until golden. Place nuts and seeds in a blender along with 1 1/2 cups of the broth and blend to as smooth a puree as you can. Transfer to a small bowl.

 Step 3: Without rinsing the blender, combine the canned tomatoes with another 1/2 cup of the broth and puree. Pour into another bowl. Again, without rinsing the blender, combine the roasted onion and garlic with the toasted bread, cloves, black pepper, cinnamon, oregano, thyme, banana and 3/4 cup broth. Blend to a smooth puree and pour into a small bowl. Finally, without rinsing the blender, scoop in half of the chiles, measure in 1/2 cup of the soaking liquid, blend to a smooth puree, then pour into another bowl. Repeat with the remaining chiles and another 1/2 cup of the soaking liquid.

Step 4: From four purees, you have your mole. In the same dutch oven you used for the onions and garlic, heat 3 tablespoons of coconut oil and set over medium-high heat. When very hot, add the tomato puree and stir and scrape (a flat-sided wooden spatula works well here) for 15 to 20 minutes until reduced, thick as tomato paste, and very dark (it’ll be the color of cinnamon stick and may be sticking to the pot in places). Add the nut puree and continue the stirring and scraping until reduced, thick and dark again, about 8 minutes. Then, as you guessed it, add the banana-spice puree and stir and scrape for another 7 or 8 minutes as the whole thing simmers back down to a thick mass about the same color it was before you added this one. Add the chile puree, stir well and let reduce over medium-low heat until very thick and almost black, about 30 minutes, stirring regularly. Stir in the remaining broth and the chocolate, partially cover and simmer gently for about an hour, for all the flavors to come together. Season with salt and sugar.

Step 5: In batches in a loosely covered blender, puree the sauce until as smooth as possible. Return the mole to the same pot and heat it to a simmer. For enchiladas, fill 3 small tortillas with chicken or vegetables (if vegetarian preference). Lay on a plate, then drown them in a hefty spoonful of mole, top with sour cream and cilantro leaves.

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Caramelized Fig Ice Cream

08 . 25 . 13

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Dear friend,

Many years ago I was on a flight from Boston to Dallas after the funeral. My heart was swollen with grief, my head pounded with rage and questions about loss. Sick and lonely, I sat in an aisle near the front of the plane and stared blankly at two stewardesses gossiping and locking, unlocking, locking cabinets in preparation for takeoff. A little girl lept, literally, across the threshold of the plane behind them. We made eye contact and I smiled at her. She was four years old, maybe five, I never can tell the ages of children. Turning back to her mom, then back to me, she bounded toward the corner of my seat and placed her tiny hands on my crossed knees and shouted “You are the most beautiful princess I have EVER SEEEEEEENNNN!!!” I began sobbing, instantly. I don’t remember anyone looking at me, the hot, soggy mess that I was. I don’t remember being embarrassed. I only remember feeling more peace, anguish, and assurance than I had ever previously known, or have perhaps known since.

I share this with you, friend, because I know that little girl is looking for you right now. She is bounding down the aisles of your life to tell you, remind you, that despite your brokenness, you are a bright shining light in this world. You are worthy of joy and happiness. Despite your mistakes and wrong turns, you deserve the sun and the moon and all of the stars. The pain you feel, the questions that keep you up at night, the sadness you harbor, the wounds you hide for friends and colleagues — all of this, all of these things, will make sense one day. Not today. And that’s totally fine. It’s okay that things are not okay.

If you lived here, I would hope to find you sitting on my front porch tomorrow evening as I returned from errands. I would hold you. I would hold you so tight. Then I would make you a grilled cheese sandwich and we might drink the good wine straight from the bottle and I would tell you about the little girl and the plane and how wonderfully fucked up and outrageously mind-blowing the Universe seemed in that moment. Because that’s what there is, you know. Madness and wonder. Joy and agony. Fear and freedom. All at once, all the time.

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Remember that night in Beijing after we had that god-awful duck and saw a show at the Peking Opera house and it was so cold in the theater that we could barely feel our toes? We found a bathroom in a bar down the street at intermission and the insides of the stalls were completely covered in mirrors. Everywhere. Head to toe mirrors in front of us behind us, above us. We laughed hysterically and you asked me from the stall next door, “have I been drugged?!!” I sat with my pants at my ankles and laughed, “well, if you’ve been drugged, so have I.”

We were in China. Sick and stuffed with duck and happiness. We were also in China, having no idea, really, where we were, and had found ourselves in a bathroom where it was impossible to NOT look at our tired, pale, puffy-faced, half-naked selves and wonder about the meaning of life. I remember blowing steam on the wall to my right and watching my reflection become hazy. I closed my eyes and prayed that we’d never forget who we were and how we felt in that moment. The magic. The hysteria. The total confrontation of self in the most bizarre and unknown circumstances. There was this feeling that the situation reflected upon how perfect and awkward and hilarious and terrifying the best and worst moments always are.

I mean this in all seriousness. For you and me, girl, there will be times in our lives that will somehow all boil down to one vulnerable minute, sitting on the John, and really seeing ourselves… seeing ourselves, and coming to terms with what’s looking back. I think you’re upon one of those times. What do you see?

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Dear friend, I want you to know that you are the most beautiful princess I have ever seen. Your losses, regrets, sins, and secrets. Your exstacies, braveries, dreams, and triumphs. All of it, a masterpiece. Every last bit.

Breathe in, breathe out. Dig deep. I love you.

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Caramelized Fig Ice Cream with Mascarpone and Honey Pecans

  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup mascarpone
  • 1/3 granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp pink salt
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 lb Black Mission Figs
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2-4 tbsp water
  • 1 cup honey roasted pecans, roughly chopped

 

For the fig-swirl: Melt butter over medium heat in a saucepan. Add brown sugar and stir to dissolve. Halve all of the figs and toss in the saucepan with water and lemon juice. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until you have a chunky-jammy mixture. Add salt with one or two stirs, set aside and let cool completely.

Ice cream: In a small pot over medium heat, combine milk, and granulated sugar until sugar is completely dissolved and the milk is just barely lukewarm. Whisk in the egg yolks. Set mixture in the fridge and wait until the fig mixture is cooled.

Using an ice cream machine, pour liquids into the frozen basin and process according to manufacturer instructions, i.e., let spin and thicken for 20 minutes before adding mascarpone, fig jam mixture, and the nuts. Continue to process for +/- 10 minutes. Pour semi-frozen mixture into a pyrex dish or glass tupperware. Freeze for at least two hours before serving.

No ice cream maker? The Kitchn can help with that.

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Let's get in Touch

I wish I could make coffee dates with you all. In the meantime, feel free to drop me a line with questions, comments, concerns, or just to say Hi. I like that. There is nothing more uplifting than an email from a a fresh contact or kindred spirit.

I can be reached through this contact form and at happyolks [at] gmail [dot] com.