Tag Archive: Onion

  1. Answer It

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    Thai Carrot Soup from www.happyolks.com

    I stood there, in the cold of the morning, hunched over the kitchen sink with my hands gripping the counters ledge watching the leaves fall and collect on the deck. Trying to count my breaths, I silently beg each one to play it’s reverse card and go back to the tree, the life-force, that created it earlier in the spring. They do not stop. With each yellow sliver that drops, I feel myself being pulled down to the ground with them. Pieces of my heart and understanding lay there, wilting, disentigrating back to the earth. I wished for Autumn all summer long — for it’s first snow, cold sheets, fires in the living room. Now that it’s here, I’m not sure I’m ready to dig through the “basement” for all that needs supporting it. Things have settled, and suddenly the stillness I asked for has arrived with a pretty bow and a painful but necessary awareness to all that has really taken place from January to October.

    I’ve highlighted and bookmarked Tiny Beautiful Things to shreds during this phase. Is it a phase? Can we call it that when it hasn’t yet passed? Anyway, Cheryl Strayed’s words are both comfort and a total slap in the face right now. In one particular letter, a young woman writes to Cheryl asking “WTF, WTF, WTF?” She responds in sharing the bone chilling history of sexual abuse from her father’s father and how she came to realize that pressing against the wound, tackling it straight on, was the only way to get a grip on her life. She ends her response to the young woman, “Ask better questions, sweet pea. The fuck is your life. Answer it.”

    I share this passage not because I stood there staring at the leaves thinking, like the young woman who wrote Cheryl, “WTF, WTF, WTF.” But I realize that the leaves falling is my life. I need to answer it. Simple as that. I need to ask better questions about the why. Ask questions that shed light on what needs adjusting. So you’re feeling like “x” you’re acting like “y” and it’s causing a sour, hollow feeling in your gut. It’s not WTF. It’s your life. Dig deeper. Lean in. Throw yourself down the basement stairs and scavenge for as much as you can. You’re going to need all of it, everything you got, to make it to winter. 

    Thai Carrot Soup from www.happyolks.com

    Thai Carrot Soup

    • 3 sweet onions
    • 3 cloves garlic
    • 2 tsp grated ginger
    • 2 tsp red chili flakes
    • 3 spoonfuls coconut oil
    • 2 tbsp cumin
    • dash of nutmeg
    • 2 stalks lemongrass, finely chopped
    • 1.5 lbs carrots, peeled and chopped
    • 1 can full fat coconut milk
    • 5-6 cups chicken broth
    • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
    • 3 tsp salt
    • 4-5 thai chiles, de-seeded
    • handful fresh basil
    • 3 limes, juiced

    In a large pot or dutch oven, saute roughly chopped onions with grated garlic, ginger, red chili flakes, and coconut oil until softened but not terribly browned. Add apple cider vinegar to deglaze the pot. Add cumin, nutmeg, lemongrass, and carrots. Stir to coat. Add coconut milk and the broth. Combine. Simmer on low with a lid for 30-40 minutes or until the carrots are completely softened.

    Pour contents of pot into a high-powered blender in small batches with the fresh thai chiles. Blend until completely pureed. Add water or stock to adjust the thickness. Pour into individual bowls and top with juice of fresh lime and chopped basil.

    Thai Carrot Soup from www.happyolks.com

  2. Happiness is a Crock of Beans

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    Between Kansas and Colorado there is a hand painted sign on a train depot by the side of Highway 70 that reads “Happiness is a Crock of Beans.”  We passed it a few years ago on the pilgrimage from Florida back to California after Shaun’s graduation. It felt so affirming at the time. I scribbled it on the back of a receipt and shoved it in my wallet, saving it. Savoring it.

    Turns out, if I have learned much about happiness in the three years since that road trip, it has probably been precisely that it’s all just a crock of beans. It’s simple. Unfussy. It lacks elaborate construction or planning. Just a crock of beans. You get where I’m going with the metaphor, right? I have experienced more joy and collected the best memories in the simple presence of a cup of coffee, deck of cards, and a few good friends and family than in the throws of any other world-class adventure – and believe me, I’ve been spoiled with more than my fair share of them. We move so fast sometimes trying to get from point A to point B in order to become more successful, get more done, and be more “happy” that we forget that all we really need to be content is an old rocker on the back porch with the dog, a glass of wine, and a hand to hold.

    We all have our crock of beans, right? Those moments, those things that force us to slow down and really feel satiated by the goodness in our lives. They’re always there, waiting for us to see them, to have a good soak in them. As I begin to lay the stones for the next chapter in my life, I try and recall my own “crock of bean” moments of times past to help guide the little bits of the path that I actually have control over. Where were you? What were you doing? Who was there? If I can answer these questions with honesty, I know they will not lead me astray.

    This is a perfect light dish for this unseasonably warm winter. Crispy raw celery and onions with a peppery kick from the cress reminds of sandals in spring. Do yourself a favor and use dried beans if you can manage. They taste leaps and bounds better plus there’s no risk of BPA from those pesky cans. I used Garbanzo, Great Northern, and Cranberry Beans, but use what you have. Skip black and pinto varieties.

    Mixed Bean Salad 

    • 6 cups soaked and cooked beans
    • 6-8 stalks celery
    • 1 cup thinly sliced red onion
    • 1 head watercress
    • 3 lemons
    • 1/2 cup olive oil
    • salt/pepper to taste
    Combine soaked/cooked/cooled beans in a large bowl. Set aside. In a food processor with the blade attachment, run the celery through to finely slice. Use a mandoline or a sharp knife to cut the onion. I used nearly the whole onion, but I listed one cup. Adjust to your preference. Rinse and roughly chop the cress, remove and toss the roots and stems. Add the veg. to the bowl of beans. Stir together with olive oil, juice of three good lemons, and season to taste with a few grinds of sea salt and black pepper. Let rest in the fridge for about 30 minutes to develop a deeper flavor. 
  3. A Seat at the Table

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    My parents never arranged a separate kid’s table and a grown-ups table during holiday meals. The youngsters ate what the adults ate and participated in the same rituals of passing the biscuits, hoarding the gravy, and holding each others warm, eager hands in gratitude for another meal, another year in good health and humor.

    Such a simple act of inclusion, a seat at the table. An act of affirmation, really… You, yes you, young one, have a unique and important way of looking at the world.  There is so much to be grateful for during the holidays, but a seat at the table has been a gift I’ve probably undervalued until lately.

    Respect was a reciprocal value in my house growing up – give respect, receive respect. Our opinions and perspectives were encouraged but more importantly, my parents invited us to the table and then they listened. They had enough respect to sit with us and walk alongside us in our crazy ideas. I know better now, as I’ve aged, that some people never get a seat at the table, no matter how old they are. I get it now. I’ve been on the outside, I’ve seen and felt what it’s like for youth to be dismissed as naïveté. Even now when I don’t get “a seat at the table” (figuratively speaking) I remember this. I give thanks for this. What a gift it is to for people to take us seriously.

    Thanksgiving has come and gone, but the table is there at every moment of each day to sit, stand, walk beside someone and give them room and respect to speak their truth. Through the rest of the year who will you invite to a seat at the table? Invite them. Just sit there. Really look at them. Hear their story. Reach out to the younger folk in your clan too – see them, affirm them. They’ll remember.

    This turned out to be much more festive than I first anticipated while wandering the aisles at the market today. I imagine it would make a great holiday side, but an even better weeknight meal turned sack-lunch. If kale isn’t your idea of a party dish, try spinach instead.

    Pomegranate + Kale + Pearl Onion Orzo 

    • 1 large bunch of kale (or two, if you’re a go-getter)
    • 2 pomegranates
    • 2 cups pearl onions
    • 2 shallot bulbs
    • 2 1/2 cups orzo

    Olive Oil + Orange + Honey Dressing

    • 1/3 cup good olive oil
    • 1 tsp sea salt
    • juice of 1/2 an orange
    • 1 tsp raw honey

    Bring 2 medium-large pots to a boil with a bit of salt. In the first pot, boil pearl onions for 7-10 minutes. Remove, allow to cool, then remove skins. Set aside. For the second pot, boil orzo with a splash of olive oil for 5-7 minutes or until tender. Remove, strain, but do not rinse.

    Break open pomegranates one at a time, massaging out the seeds into a large bowl. Pick out the little white fibrous bits as you go along. This  can be a bit messy for the first time pomegranate handler, wear an apron! Alternatively, you could purchase pom. seeds in the produce section of your grocery. Once finished, return to the onions. to remove skins, cut off the bottom stem portion and peel the rest with your fingers. Cut in half and toss with the seeds in the big bowl. Finely dice the shallots and stir with the seeds and onions.

    Rinse out the onion pot and bring another bit of water to heat. Remove kale leaves from the tough spine and chop until very small bits. Not quite a mince, but a good chop. When the water is almost to a boil, immerse the kale and blanch for no more than 1 minute. Remove, strain the water, and toss with the pomegranate, onions, and so forth.

    Slowly stir in cooked orzo, 1 cup at a time. Prepare the dressing by whisking together the olive oil, salt, orange juice (a little pulp is great too), and the honey. Pour over the entire bowl and stir again to coat. Let sit for 15 minutes before serving.

  4. Fits and Starts + Chard, White Bean & Tamarind Stew

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    Fall arrives in fits and starts in here in San Diego. Friday was a tease with its grey skies, cool breeze, and invitation for thinking books and black coffee. Sun, shorts, and summer squash on Sunday — September keeps us wanting. My creative process follows suit. Ideas come and go, passing through me before I have time to bottle them up or at least find a working pen.

    I bought a sketchbook at the end of summer, it was on sale at the art store and at the time I had these great intentions of writing everyday; “creativity for creativity’s sake.” I was inspired by a recent feature Shaun and I had collaborated on about a new friend, colleague who encouraged “artists need to be creative for the sake of it, not for work, but because it’s who you are.” Agree. So does Julia Cameron, who insists on a practice of writing every day, among other things, to “recover creativity, as it is the natural expression and direction of life.” It’s been three weeks, and that sketchbook is barely filled with the caught inspiration, captured realizations, or daydreams like I envisioned.

    I love, and fully one hundred and fifty percent believe in the practice of “creativity for creativity’s sake,” but as Elizabeth Gilbert, writer, says in her ’09 TED Talk, it can’t always account for “the utter maddening capriciousness of the creative process, a process which everyone who has ever tried to make something knows doesn’t behave rationally, and sometimes seems downright paranormal.”

    Case in point, Shaun and I saw Bon Iver this past weekend, and in the middle of a solo set the creative rain comes like a flood and I have nowhere to put it in the dark, musty auditorium. Vernon is singing, I am completely in the present moment, engrossed, emotional, and the ideas come a’knocking. WTF, creativity? I needed you a few days ago. I can’t deal with you right now.

    We have to be okay with that. Part of being creative for creativity’s sake is not documenting it, saving it for later, making it a practice. Let it just be. A thing that comes, at random, irrationally, and reminds you that it’s there and that it will come back because it always does . Let the creativity just be there for the sake of it, even if it’s stuck in your head or heart and can’t be rendered “useful.” Perhaps this is the extended meaning of being creative for the sake of it. Feeling it. Enjoying it. Not having to go anywhere with it. Just letting it affirm our sometimes maddening humanness.

    Fall will come in San Diego. Eventually. It will fake us out for a while. And it may feel inconvenient when it does make an appearance because we’ll be wearing shorts and sandals. But heck. Let it come when it does. The sketchbook will be there, and if it doesn’t get love everyday, there will be times later when I’ll be glad I have all the extra pages. I think. I hope.

    White Bean, Tamarind, Chard Stew with several adaptions from Yotam Ottolenghi’s Chickpea Stew in Plenty 

    • 4 tbsp seedless tamarind pulp
    • 1 bunch (stalks and leaves) Swiss chard
    • 2 tsp coriander seeds, ground
    • 3 tsp caraway seeds
    • 1 large onion, chopped
    • 2 tbsp olive oil
    • 2 lbs roma or plum tomatoes
    • 2 1/2 cups water
    • 2 tbsp honey
    • 2 tsp cumin
    • 2 cups freshly cooked cannelli beans
    • handful of fresh cilantro
    • salt and pepper to taste
    • 2 cups short-grain brown rice, cooked with a tsp of olive oil
    Soak dry beans overnight, and cook for 45 minutes before you plan to get started. Alternatively, you could use canned, but I discourage it – BPA, the same stuff we’re on the watch for in water bottles is found in tin can linings. While you’re cooking the beans, put on the rice too.
    Okay, now we can start. Whist the tamarind with 3 tbsp of water until it dissolves into a paste. Set aside. Place chopped onion and caraway seeds in a large pan with olive oil and saute on medium heat for 10 minutes. Add tomatoes, water, honey, beans, ground coriander, cumin, chard, and a bit of salt and pepper. Strain the tamarind water through a fine mesh strainer over the pan. Bring to a slight boil, then reduce heat, cover, and let simmer for 30 minutes. If you like a more soup-y stew, add a bit more water. If you prefer a thicker stew, remove the lid to let the steam evaporate. Add salt and pepper to taste.
    When you’re ready to serve, spoon rice into a shallow bowl, creating crater in the center. Put a ladle or two over the rice, and top with fresh cilantro.

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.