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.
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.
“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.
March 17th last year was day three of our ten day trek on the Torres del Paine circuit. Some of you weren’t with us last year when we took a hiatus to Patagonia, Chile. I made Pisco Sours when we came home. In any case, we had put in 20km that day and looked ahead at a challenging summit early the next morning. Shaun made camp by the lake of Los Perros Glacier, pitching the tent as I propped up my swollen feet against the tree from where I started putting up the hammock and stopped halfway. I draped the hanging portion of the hammock over my face and listened to the moaning and creaking of the glacier, waiting every 15 minutes or so to hear large, school bus sized chunks of ice dislodge and crash into the water below.
Shaun came over to where I lay comatose and finished my hammock job. I crawled in and tried not to think about food. We had underestimated our calorie needs for the trek and were on a tight ration of freeze-dried meals, oatmeal, and cliff bars for the remaining 100 kilometers. The two books and journal I had brought haunted me. I would have given my left arm to have swapped them for a jar of peanut butter when we left the hostel in Puerto Natales four days prior. I rocked over on my right side in the hammock to survey the area as other hikers limped in for the night. A splattering of white sticks at the base of a tree at the next campsite over came into focus. DEAR GOD, IS THAT SPAGHETTI? With a sudden burst of energy I rolled out of the hammock and motioned for Shaun to join me at the base of the tree. Sure enough. Dried spaghetti exploded across the roots in the dirt as if someone yesterday had been standing there and ripped open the package too quickly. One by one we collected the pasta like a game of pick-up-sticks, careful to keep the larger pieces intact before delicately placing them in my beanie. We crouched by our tent for an hour brushing off the dirt before boiling a pot of water, cooking it, and adding it to our allotted packet-meal for the night.
That bizarre, desperate, and humbling moment is everything to me. It is the most mortifying and perfect reminder we often just need one person to be with us in the amber of the moment and bear witness to our existence. Someone to sit with us in the dirt after a long day to sort through the muck and pick up the pieces of our lives and make something good of it. A hug, a look, a gesture that silently says… I hear you, I see you, and I’m right here with you. I’m pretty psyched on the fact that the person who eats spaghetti from the forest floor with me in times of famine is the person I get to call partner and “husband” for the rest of my life. And if we’re lucky enough to have a partner, sibling, parent, or friend who doesn’t back away from the vulnerable, ugly, and often lopsided parts of our journey, we should be bold enough to say thank you loudly and often. There is no work more important, in my opinion, than to accept this love and learn to share it with as many people as we can muster. It is the only work to be done in this lifetime, really. We go through our years busy-ing ourselves with work and pleasure and community, yet despite it all, we still often feel so darn alone. We must reach for one another, constantly. We have to try and crouch together, we have to try to laugh, to listen, to cry, to bear witness to each other’s lives… they are affirmations to our humanity and our deep and fundamental longing to know and be known. I’m pretty young in the scheme of things and probably don’t know much about much, but this is what I believe: we were put here to hold on and hang in there, together. We’re here to seek each other and support and try our merry best to humble ourselves to the madness that is being alive together at the same time, rolling the dice, getting creative with hands outstretched to make the best of the whole thing.
Lemon Herb Ricotta Agnolotti
Big hugs to my friend Bre Graziano, Italian food guru through and through, with the creation of this recipe.
3 cups fresh ricotta cheese, homemade or purchased
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus more for serving
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/4 cup chopped fresh chives
1/2 cup chopped fresh chervil
juice of 2 lemons
2-3 tbsp sea salt
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
Pinch of nutmeg
1 tablespoon semolina flour, plus more for dusting
4 extra-large eggs
2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
pea shoots and fresh herbs for garnish
olive oil for cooking
juice of 3 lemons
1 stick of butter
In a medium bowl, combine ricotta, herbs, lemon juice, egg and salt/pepper until thoroughly combined. Cover and place in the refrigerator.
In a large bowl or clean, flat work surface combine the flour with the salt, nutmeg and the 1 tablespoon of semolina. Create a well in the flour and crack eggs into it. Beat the eggs with a fork until smooth, drizzle with olive oil, then continue with your hands to mix the oil and eggs with the flour, incorporating a little at a time, until everything is combined. As Jamie Oliver says “with a bit of work and some love and attention they’ll all bind together to give you one big, smooth lump of dough.” Wrap the dough in plastic and let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.
Cut the dough into 4 equal pieces and cover with plastic wrap while you work with one quarter at a time. Flatten the dough ball and dust with flour. Roll the dough through pasta machine at the widest setting. Fold the dough in thirds (like a letter), then run it through the machine at the same setting, folded edge first. Repeat the folding and rolling once more. Roll the dough through at successively narrower settings, two times per setting, until it is thin enough for you to see the outline of your hand through it. Lay the dough out on a work surface lightly dusted with flour and trip the edges so they are straight.
Fill a ziploc bag (or piping bag if you’re fancy like that) with ricotta filling. Pipe filling across the bottom of the pasta sheet in a straight, even line. Pull the bottom edge of the pasta up and over the filling. Seal the agnolotti by carefully molding the pasta over the filling and pressing lightly with your index finger to seal the edge of the dough to the pasta sheet. Set aside, cover with a towel, and continue until you’ve used up your dough. You will probably have filling leftover! Double the dough recipe or use the filling for later.
In a large saucepan, melt butter with lemon juice and olive oil over low-medium heat. Cook agnolotti in batches for 5 minutes at a time, using a spoon to drizzle pasta with hot liquid to cook evenly. Serve immediately with fresh herbs, pea shoots, and a bit of leftover Parmigiano-Reggiano
My head is full, my heart is ready. A few more days and it all shall pass, as they say. The last few days of the semester are the hardest, but most important, times to practice balance and moderation. In Sanskrit, moderation is matannuta, knowing the right amount: where well-being and contentment come together. I’m thankful for this Buddhism exam. It throws me beautiful and thought provoking buoys while navigating the sticky stuff.
Cooking provides the time and space to step away from what crowds our day planners, our thoughts, and helps us to practice “the right amount.” Too much vinegar will overpower your salad, not enough yeast will leave your loaves lifeless.
I love this fava bean crostini, for it is just the right amount.