Friday, May 31, 2013

One Good Egg (give-away)

Even as I type this, on a 100-degree early Friday evening with a cold Racer 5 IPA at my side, Ben is making dinner. "Here are leftover pinto beans," I said, and handed him the potato masher. "Can you make some kind of dip for us to have with tortilla chips and veggies?" And yes, he can. He's in there mashing and seasoning, stirring and tasting. Lemon, garlic powder, olive oil. Smoked paprika. Salt.

Jeez, Ben, you couldn't make something that didn't look so much like dog poo? (Kidding! So, so, so grateful.)
And that's good, because perhaps I will never cook again? Yesterday we had beans and rice from the freezer. (If you're doing the math here, that means that, yes, Ben has been charged with making dinner for four from leftover thawed frozen leftover beans.) The night before we had pizza toast. The night before that, the kids and I had boiled artichokes with melted butter. I have no idea what Michael ate for dinner, or if he ate dinner. One day, at a party where I'm serving Cheetos and dirt again, Michael will refer to the recipe blog I used to have, and everyone will laugh.

A very small part of the problem is Suzy Becker. Because now I'm reading the illustrated neurological memoir (a genre you doubtless know well) I Had Brain Surgery, What's Your Excuse? And really: I just want to lie in bed with her funniness and kindness, her illustrations that make me (literally) LOL.

In the meantime, I have scored a delightful give-away of One Good Egg! I know! Because honestly? You will love it. I promise. You will love it. The whole entire time I'm reading her stuff, I'm like: "I like almond croissants too!" and "I feel weird saying my name at a meeting!" I just love her. (That is so lame. What is wrong with me, besides the heat and the Racer 5 and the lack of actual meals? Can I think of no higher praise than her liking of the marzipannish pastries, the social awkwardness? Apparently not. But please know this: I wake at 4 every morning, and I'm psyched to be awake, so I can read more.)

It's the usual: just leave a comment. I'll close the bidding a week hence. 6:00 EST on Friday. Then you'll have to return to see if you've won, and email me your address.

Have a lovely weekend, friends.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

A Tiny Update (i.e. Veggie Burger Bites)

My darlings, I did not make anything new last week.

Perhaps I was lazy? It is true that we have a resident bird whose 4 a.m. call mimics the tambourine-playing of an exuberant, arhythmic toddler. I am slightly exhausted. But I do love the early light and sound.

It is also true that I've been making lots of old favorites. These rhubarb-crumb bars, for example. And this granola. These eggs. When I'm not out on my hands and knees, sniffing at the lilies of valley. Or stretching up to catch the too-much perfume of the decaying lilacs. Or closing my eyes to daydream about the bleeding hearts and peonies.

Spring is the season of the cigar-tube "vase"
and the world's tiredest cat.
Anyway. All I have to offer you is a miniature tweak of my veggie burger recipe. And it's simply this: make tiny ones for a potluck appetizer! It couldn't be easier. Just use a cookie scoop to portion out the mixture, then use wet hands to flatten them into patties. Chill if you've got time (so they don't fall apart) or go ahead and fry them right away in a nice big slick of oil. Drain them on paper towels on top of cooling racks, and serve hot, warm, or at room temperature. (I didn't have any cilantro, so I actually flavored these with parsley and chives and lime zest. Yum.)

My parting advise: Read One Good Egg, by my new friend* Suzy Becker. It's an illustrated trying-to-get-pregnant memoir that strikes just the loveliest balance between funny and earnest and irritable and kindhearted. I loved it.

* I have never actually met Suzy Becker. But I would like to. And we did exchange some exceedingly pleasant work emails!

Oh, and one last last thing: We are listening to Packing for Mars with the kids, and it is the perfect level of interesting for all four of us. Lots of delightful details about the very human side of space travel (e.g. pooping, peeing, barfing). I recommend it completely for anyone 10 and over. If you've never read anything by Mary Roach, prepare to be blown away by her wonderfully extravagant style of curiosity.

Monday, May 13, 2013

The Ultimate Kale Salad

Photo of Birdy and kale by Douglas Merriam, courtesy of FamilyFun (where I published almost exactly this recipe but without the breadcrumbs. I'm sorry FamilyFun! I wasn't holding out on you! I just hadn't seen the light).
Things are breaking up a little here, straining at the seams. In the Venn diagram, the circle of my happy, beautiful life is overlapping exactly with the circle of my thrumming fretfulness. It’s lilacs and lilies of the valley and violets, purple-scented perfume breathing into our windows where I lie with my beloved partner, where our thriving children sleep with the rosy blossoms of their faces tipped up into the moonlight. And also my oldest friend has been ill, my heart’s companion of 41 years, and this illness is the hazy double of all the rest of it, the ghost outline of every dogwood tree and Mother’s Day card and meal and thought. I don’t really know how to write about it, except to say that sometimes I feel like I’m living multiple simultaneous lives. It’s not that I don’t love baked beans and great novels and spring and kids, because I do, and this is really my real and happy daily-ness (as it is hers). And also there’s this other thing that I can’t write about, and that isn’t really mine for the telling, that is the dark side of this blog’s moon, if you know what I mean. Also, because she will get better, it seems silly to burden you.
I took this one myself just yesterday!
Anyways. I don’t know why I mention this now, except that I sighed a little existentially as I was uploading this recipe (Kale? So what.). Even though this is possibly the single best recipe I have ever shared, so please, please don’t let my sighing angst deter you from making and loving it, which you should and will! And you’re like, Haven’t I already made your kale slaw before? That one with the lemon? Or that one with the walnuts? And you have, and those were great, they were. But this one is better. This is the new and improved one (Now with new sudsers that actually gets your clothes clean!) that forces me to confess that the others must have been ever-so-slightly imperfect, because of the perfectness.

I posted, and then deleted, the one with Michael's parmesan-grating middle finger fully extended. I am not currently entirely confident about my sense of humor.
The Ultimate Kale Salad
Makes 1 large bowlful
Total time: 15 minutes

This is, currently, my most-requested recipe. I don’t mean to be immodest, but the number of people here for dinner who tentatively hold their plates out, “Oh, just a little for me,” and make the ew-kale face—and then return for an unseemly amount of seconds? Well, it’s a big number. Raw kale salad is, simply, the greenest-tasting thing I know, and it converts everyone who thinks they don’t like kale, because they’re thinking steamed and stinky, and are then shocked and delighted to be served a bright, fresh tangle of salad.

Also, I’m usually flexible, I know, but I have lots of picky notes here about trying to follow the recipe as written. There is something so utterly balanced about this, with the rich, salty cheese and the crunchy breadcrumbs against the tangy, garlicky greens. You’ll see. Also, this doubles well—so you should double it. (As shown in the photos below, where I am making lots.)

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup fresh (or frozen) breadcrumbs (Note: if you don’t have any, just put a slice or two of any kind of bread in the blender! But maybe don’t use the dusty cardboard-scented kind from a cardboard can, which will not be tasty here.)
1 healthy bunch of very fresh kale (ideally the lacinato or dinosaur variety, which is sweeter and has a better texture here, but any kind is good)
¼ cup olive oil
1 to 2 large cloves of garlic, smashed, peeled, and finely minced or put through a garlic press
2 tablespoons sherry VINEGAR (Not cream sherry, not cooking sherry. Balsamic or white-wine vinegar makes a good, but not ideal, substitute.)
¾ teaspoon kosher salt
2/3 cup freshly grated parmesan

Heat the 1 tablespoon of oil in a smallish pan over medium heat and fry the breadcrumbs, stirring some, and then later more, until they are very brown and toasty, which will take longer than you might imagine (5 or so minutes). Set them aside in a bowl so that they don’t burn in the still-hot pan.

Wash and dry the kale. Now strip the ruffly leaves off the kale's stems by grasping the bottom of each stem and pulling your hand up it forcefully. Discard the stems. Stack and bunch the leaves together, then use a large, very sharp knife to sliver them as fine as you can. Put the slivered kale in a large bowl. (Any thoughts on the stems? I’m starting to think it’s silly to compost them and that I should either a) not bother stripping the leaves or b) find a great kale-stem recipe.)

Now, in a tiny pan, heat the oil over medium heat and fry the garlic in it until fragrant and just on the verge of coloring (which you will need to intuit, given that it won’t have colored yet!). Add the salt and vinegar, and stir for another minute as the vinegar sizzles furiously and the whole thing foams and becomes outrageously fragrant. Pour half the hot dressing over the kale and toss very thoroughly with a pair of tongs. Then get in there with your hands and massage it until the leaves are glossy and dark. Now taste it, and add more dressing as needed. Stir in the cheese and breadcrumbs, taste for salt and vinegar, and serve.

Monday, May 06, 2013

A little of this, a little of that

Dear Ones, how patient you are.

Radio silence--and that after having to hear annoyingly about how my kids make their own lunch (and with panache, no less!) with little to no information about how children would get to this stage of culinary development. I'm sorry! This comes, you know (or should), after years of teaching them to cook--the kind of teaching where there are great, choking clouds of flour everywhere and Terrifying Knife Experiments, and lots of chaos and tedium. I'm sorry to have misled you. If your children are 2 and 4, then indeed, no, they won't be making their own Chopped-style lunch.

Speaking of: Can I brag? You know ChopChop, the scrappy little nonprofit kids cooking magazine that I'm the editor of? We won the James Beard Publication of the Year award! Can you even believe that? Did I have to crowd-source a cocktail dress on facebook? Yes I did. Did Birdy say, as I was leaving the house, "So. Wait. Sorry. Tell me again! It's just going to be, like, you guys and all the actors that have ever played James Bond?" If only! But I did get my picture taken with Ted Allen, the host of Chopped, to prove to the kids that it was not all lameness and drear.

Okay. Enough with the boasting (but thank you for indulging me).

I wanted to offer some links to things I am loving right now:

This book, which I tore through and couldn't stop reading, even though it's EPIC. And this book, which I am tearing through now, even though it's NOT LONG ENOUGH.

This game, which is like a cross between Puerto Rico and Agricola, but not as hard to learn as either of them. We are addicted to it.

But, for a non-gamer game, we are also loving this small, good-natured word game.

This origami documentary is so excellent.

Also--I've said it before but I'll say it again--this beer.

And this always useful and good cake.

I have two pieces up over at Brain, Child. This, that's new, and this, about Birdy's beloved Strawberry.

A recipe is coming soon. Thank you for bearing with me!