July 18, 2014 § 1 Comment
It’s a great feeling when you spot a recipe you’ve been wanting to try and discover you have all of the ingredients, except for one or two non-essentials. It’s like a small miracle coming down from the heavens, (saving a trip to the grocery store really is a small miracle to me). Does it feel any less special remembering that I bought the main ingredient, red lentils, a while back with this recipe in mind? Nope. Lentils have been making a consistently welcome appearance in our kitchen as of late. When the weather turned summery, for one week straight I ate a salad for lunch that consisted of green lentils cooked in white wine and chicken stock, drained, and then tossed with arugula, hard boiled eggs, and an apple cider vinaigrette. It kept me full all day. It tasted delightful. I’ve also been keeping a hefty amount of lemons, mint and basil around the kitchen. It’s really high time I plant an herb garden because these days it seems that all the recipes I mark down to try have one or the other, or both. They’re the culinary anthem of my summer, really. And it just feels wrong to acquire herbs laid down flat inside a clear plastic case with no room to stretch and flourish – like a zoo animal trapped in a cage. If empathy for herbs is wrong, I don’t want to be right. And yet I still haven’t walked the walk of planting my own. So right now I’m just a hypocrite who compares herbs to zoo animals. Where do I go from here? How about garlic and onions, yes? Unlike red lentils, which have just started to make their appearance, and lemons, mint and basil which usually only come around every once in a while, garlic and onions are old friends around these parts. They are in everything we make just about and, chances are, if a savory recipe does not call for them (what?! how?!) we add them.
The base of this recipe could be a multitude of things. The lovely recipe writers, David and Luise, suggest zucchini noodles, which should be on your list of things to make if you have not. This is the tool I use to make the “noodles”. I only had half of a zucchini so I noodled it, along with four carrots, which still wasn’t enough base for two people. I grabbed a half cauliflower out of the fridge, cut it into smaller pieces and zinged it in my mini food processor to make “rice”. So, yeah, I mixed “noodles” with “rice” – that’s really the beauty of using vegetables as your base – they are so very versatile. You can mix and match and play with different colors and textures and shapes. The sauce for this recipe called for hazelnuts, which I did not have. I’m curious to know what the sauce would have tasted like with them, but I did not miss them. Nor did I have lemon balm leaves. I used mint instead. Mike added Siracha to his, which I think was an excellent decision.
Red Lentil Polpettes with Lemon Herb Sauce – adapted from Vegetarian Everyday, by Luise Vindahl and David Frenkiel
For the balls:
1C red lentils
2 garlic cloves
3T olive oil
2T tomato paste
1/3C rolled oats (quick oats are fine)
a good pinch of red pepper flakes, salt and pepper
Rinse lentils and place in medium saucepan with 2 1/4 cups of cold water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Drain and cool slightly. With an immersion blender or fork mash lentils slightly, leaving some whole lentils. Place mashed lentils and remaining ingredients in a mixing bowl and mix well. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Lemon Herb Sauce:
1/4C olive oil
1 handful, or 1-2T chopped, of basil
1 handful, or 1-2T chopped, of mint
salt and pepper
While the lentils are cooling, mix the above ingredients with an immersion blender. Adjust to taste. 10 minutes before lentil mix is done cooling, pre-heat oven to 375 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Form 15 balls with your hands (be amazed by how much it looks like meatballs) and place on baking sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes, checking every 5 minutes for doneness. We ate these with a base of carrot noodles, zucchini noodles and cauliflower rice, but you could eat them with any number of bases. Think rice, potatoes or even a green salad.
Plate, and sprinkle with Siracha.
July 14, 2014 § Leave a comment
Have you ever noticed that “Runaway Train” is always playing when you go to the doctor? Please tell me it’s not just me.
Sterile gauze smell, check. Wallpaper borders, check. “Runaway Train” playing softly in the background, check.
I used to love that song. The consistent, low-grade whine of it matched perfectly my disposition of my pre-teen years. Then at some point – probably around 16 or 17 – the song took a turn for me. It was old and played out and I was more of a Fleetwood Mac/Jock Jams/random one-hit-wonder song I heard a million times in Sweden, girl (my schizophrenia in music was also developing at this time).
At 16 I traveled to Europe for three weeks with my soccer team. One week in Denmark. One week in Sweden and one week in Paris and Amsterdam. That trip was everything. And the crepes I ate in Paris were everything. Cliché, it may be. Care, I do not. There is a reason Paris crepes have the esteem they do. People don’t just say they love Paris crepes because they heard someone else say it, or because they think it sounds cool. It’s because they ate a crepe in Paris and their life was changed forever.
Ever since that trip when I hear the word crepe my mouth becomes a swimming pool. Mostly, I refrain from eating them. Last night I wasn’t strong enough. It was a Bastille Days celebration and crepes not only felt appropriate but it had been at least two years since I had indulged. So I indulged. And, per usual, was disappointed.
Some things should be left in certain times and places. Trying to recreate such special moments and tastes is treacherous because if it’s off, it’s a tease. If it’s way off, it mucks up the beauty and purity of the original. Not all food and not all moments. Just the ones. For me it’s pisco sour in the mountains of Peru, zilvás gombóc (plumb dumplings) in my aunt’s snug dining room in Hungary, and street crepes at twilight in Paris.
It’s hard to resist. I can’t. Every once in a while I trip up and order that crepe/pisco sour/not a zilvás gombóc because, nonexistence. And then I learn that lesson I’ve learned so many times – these magical moments with these treasured dishes, much like treasured musical moments, cannot be recreated. And if I’m going to try, I must do so sparingly, choosing carefully.
You hear that people-who-choose-the-music-for-doctor’s-offices? Sparingly. Soul Asylum’s power lies in being played in 1995 to moribund pre-teens alongside a smoldering incense burner. Otherwise, it just loses that magic.
July 11, 2014 § Leave a comment
I promised myself I would make weekly trips to the farmer’s market this summer since we didn’t sign up for a CSA. This is the first summer in the last few years we didn’t sign up for a CSA, but it was for a very exciting/about time reason – we’re going to Europe for 2 weeks!
As with most things that require me to get up early on Saturday mornings and forego curling up on the couch and reading the latest New Yorker with a steaming coffee in my hand, it hasn’t happened as much as I wanted it to – or at all, yet (yet, I swear!). The result: me spending boo coo dollars at Outpost. Honestly, though, the food part of our budget is something I don’t mind busting. I mean, it technically is part of the medicine/hobby/entertainment categories. Can you tell I was the youngest child? It was a GREAT training ground on the pillars of persuasion.
I miss our CSA. I miss the convenience of not going to the grocery store as much. I miss the dirt on the vegetables (usually a sign that your veggies were not put through a factory). I miss the surprise of what each week will bring, and then the search for recipes to try. And then the making of those recipes. And then the eating of those recipes (favorite part).
I think the ghost of all-the-CSA-recipes-that-could’ve-been has been haunting me. Nudging me. Whispering softly in my ear with garlic scape laced breath. I have been a woman possessed, making every kind of salad concoction I can think of – specifically using ingredients and pairings I never have before.
I’m not really into rating salads, except as good or not good. There is no #1 salad out there in my book. There are delicious seasonally/time of day/mood appropriate salads. The fun thing to do is: 1) make a large base of quinoa, zucchini noodles (or shredded carrots) and roasted chickpeas (with a dash of S&P of course) 2) place them in separate containers in the fridge 3) each morning, depending on your mood, add Siracha, mint and a squeeze of lemon, or spinach and roasted tomato and cumin vinaigrette, or peanut sauce and green onions, or oregano, sautéed red onions and goat cheese.
See where I’m going with this? Endless possibilities. Or if there is an end I’ve got the wherewithal to find it. At least right now in this bountiful season we’re in.
July 9, 2014 § Leave a comment
I said little prayers each time I made my way around the sun-soaked track. Please don’t hit me with a ball. Please don’t hit me with a ball.
I could barely see the field from the west side of the track because the sun filtered everything else out. But each time I made the north loop turn, the soccer practice happening on the field inside the track appeared warmly lit by the setting sun. Kids yelling, high fives, long shadows.
The pain in my calf was a 2 on a scale of 10, a vast improvement from the last couple of weeks. I had just seen the chiropractor an hour before and the words health management were still fresh in my mind.
As I ran my mind bobbled between feelings of youth and feelings of age. The smell and sounds and sights were all taking me back to those days on the soccer field. The time between then and now felt as small as the lines separating each lane of the track.
And yet vague reminders told me something different – that the time in between is vast. Health Management.
Add to that wealth management, time management, upper management.
At some point in that vast space life went from something that happened to something that needed to be managed. That in order to remain in control there were certain duties one needed to carry out. I can’t remember when that point happened. In fact, I think it was a quiet wrestling match spread over years – me constantly fighting and embracing independence and all that came with it. I think I’m still embroiled in it and might be until the very end.
I had set my mind on running four miles. I became so distracted by the soccer practice on the field that I lost count of my laps. I didn’t know my pace. I was just happy my pain had dissipated enough to keep running after a few laps. I stopped just as the sun fell behind the bleachers and spilled through the openings and around the edges making the field a patchwork of light and dark.
July 2, 2014 § Leave a comment
I’m sitting on my couch in the living room. The windows are open and there’s a steady summer breeze making its way into my living space. I’m trying to figure out what to do with my next hour from my to-do list. It’s never been my strong suit. Choosing, that is. There’s a direct correlation between my inability to make decisions and the amount of choices I have in front of me (isn’t that true for everyone?). Putting off decision land for a second, I look out my window. Simultaneously, I hear the garbage truck barreling down the street towards our house and see the three year old boy across the street run down his driveway screaming with glee. It takes me a second, but I quickly understand he is downright Christmas-morning-giddy to see the garbage truck pick up the trash. And bless that garbage truck driver’s heart, he gives that boy a little honk as he pulls away.
We live on the second floor of a duplex, which is conducive to watching these little neighborhood scenes play out. In the kitchen it means that while I’m whisking eggs I can see the price of gas at the gas station down the street (it’s $3.70/gallon right now). There’s also a cemetery in my panorama which is beautiful but also kind of a downer. But it’s up on this second floor where I feel safe. A combination of watching too many 48 Hours Mysteries, a frightening robbery in Peru while we were staying at my sister’s house, and a dark imagination, has instilled in me a deep-seeded distrust for windows’ and doors’ ability to keep crazies out.
My kitchen is full of windows. It faces Southeast and lights up brilliantly on mornings when the sun is present. It’s those days, music blasting and my hands mixing ingredients together in that kitchen, that the world is so lovable. When windows are those things that let the sun show off and the summer breezes in, and doors are the things that bring friends and family home to eat around the table, (and garbage trucks honk at their adoring fans).