So, weddings. They lure you in with pretty things and love and a false sense of security from thinking you’ve read allllllll the blogs (and, ahem, watched allllll the episodes of Bridezillas), so surely you’ll be able to anticipate at least the really large problems. So you reserve a venue and a caterer. But then you wake up one day a month later and realize that the state you chose is not going to work at all, and that you’re going to have to re-plan the whole thing, starting with researching everything all over again, and with an added sense of urgency because weddings are so crazed/y that venues book up a full fifteen months in advance.
I’m pretty unclear on why it’s impossible to find a place that 1) costs less than six months’ rent and 2) does not require the rental of a porta potty. Peeing in a box was my dealbreaker, and yet here we are at deadline time, with one place that costs $10,000, and two others without public bathrooms.
So. Portable toilets and a lack of indoor plumbing, here we come. Luckily, we’ve found “The Comfort Trailer.” It has fake wooden floors. It has fake marble walls. It has a sound system.
After all of these adventures in swank bathroom hell, we’re still going to need to feed people, and I refuse to even contemplate what finding catering is going to be like.
As far as I’m concerned, my best plan right now is to make dozens of these cheese croutons, plop them all on salads, and call it good. And it would be great, and anyone who disagreed would be wrong, because these croutons are amazing.
When Deb put this recipe up a few weeks ago, it was like it filled a void in my cooking repertoire I hadn’t known was there. Fried cheese croutons? On spring salad? Of course. Perfect. Out of the past ten dinners we’ve eaten, five of them have been salads with fried cheese croutons.
We’ve been throwing it together with greens, sliced red onion, almonds and a simple vinaigrette made from this chive vinegar (that’s the crazy hot pink stuff below), mustard, honey, and olive oil. Last night, we tried it with spinach, strawberries, and pecans. Of course, the power of the fried cheese crouton is such that no matter what kind of salad you scrounge up, it’s going to be amazing.
Fried Cheese Croutons for Salads
Adapted from smitten kitchen
Makes four croutons
This is really more of an idea than a recipe. I measured out in ounces the first time, but in the subsequent rounds, I ended up just eyeballing somewhat equal portions of cheese and then throwing in some extra chèvre. Maybe four parts goat cheese to three parts parmesan. For the breadcrumbs, panko works here, but you can also just toast a couple of slices of bread (I used whole wheat, crusts and all) until they’re hard and browned, and then whir them in a food processor until they’re a consistency that’s slightly coarser than sand. Since you’re frying, you’d ideally want to pick an oil with a high smoking point, like ghee, avocado or coconut oil. But I’ll admit that I used olive oil since it’s all we had on hand, and taste-wise, it was delicious.
5 oz chèvre (or other soft goat cheese)
4 oz coarsely grated parmesan (or other flavorful hard cheese)
1-2 tablespoons flour
1 egg, beaten
¼ cup panko or other breadcrumbs
several tablespoons of a high-heat appropriate oil (enough to fill the frying pan with about a third of an inch of oil)
- Mix together the chèvre and the parmesan until they’re completely combined. Divide them into four balls, and then flatten them into patties.
- Prepare a dredging station by putting the flour into a small dish, the beaten egg into another, and the breadcrumbs into a third. Coat each cheese patty in flour, submerge it in the egg, and finally roll it in breadcrumbs until it’s fully covered. Meanwhile, heat the oil for a minute or so.
- Fry the patties in the oil for about two minutes on each side, until they’re golden and crispy. Flipping them will be a bit of a challenge, since they’ll be starting to get melty. I took Deb’s advice and used two forks to maneuver, which worked well.
- Deposit each crouton on to a salad of your choice. Top with several grinds of pepper. Devour.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about food as a medium for conveying emotion. I think other people have been, as well, because it’s been popping up across the internet. Poor Man’s Feast’s discussion of her mother’s breakfast eggs started it for me, I think: the eggs, over the years, went from soft-boiled and velvety in the first years of marriage, to violently cooked until the pan blackened in the years before and after divorce.
But what I’ve really been thinking about is the opposite. Food cooked in happiness. Does it taste better? Is it the intent behind it that we savor, or are the good intentions literally baked in?
Lee had surgery a few weeks ago. It was scheduled, and necessary, and in the long run it’s going to be much better for her health, but it was still so, so scary. I thought we were both prepared for it, but when I had to leave the prep room at the very last possible moment before anesthesia, I cried. The anesthesiologist, wise man, joked to Lee, “This will feel like literally no time for you, three hours for me, and three days for your fiancée.” Yes. Maybe four. Or five.
Naïve, I thought I would spend the week cooking, whipping up healthy comfort food and spending my week working from home turning myself into a hipster Martha Stewart. If you’ve experienced major events like surgery, you’re sighing for me right now, because you know that worrying and caretaking are exhausting, and the most carefully-laid plans about cooking nutritious and pre-meal planned meals will become a complete Everest, theoretically possible but not something you’ll actually do any time soon.
Enter: friends with food. Home-cooked tomato ragout, pizza delivery, coconut water for hydration, and a tractor-shaped “get well!” balloon that has been floating around the house like a specter of well-wishes. (We’ve been joking that it’s Farm Bill-themed because why in the world did the store have a tractor-shaped balloon? What holiday is that for?) Last weekend, some old friends cooked a steak dinner completely kosher, after I’d protested that it was too much work, so that we could eat it too. This has been a very thorough reminder of the community that surrounds me, us, ready to bring over the casseroles when times get rough.
This has been a week of food cooked with affection and caring. The kind of amazing food that fills you with love with every bite; not just love for the food, but for the people who prepared it, and emanating from the food itself.
And this weekend, Lee made me eggs. She’d already eaten, so she made them just for me. She’s already been mobile and back in school for days, but watching her whisk and chop and stir, healthy and whole, made me the tiniest bit overwhelmed with emotion.
Herbed Ricotta Scrambled Eggs
The eggs serve one, the ricotta will serve 4-6, depending on how much you use.
These are inspired by Heidi Swandon’s Herb Cream Cheese Scrambled Eggs. We used ricotta because it’s what we had on hand, and were pleasantly surprised. Lee is, shall we say less adventurous with the spices, and didn’t include the tarragon or oregano, both of which I enjoy.
1 cup ricotta
8 green onions (both green and white parts), chopped
1/3 cup chopped chives
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme (or slightly less if dried)
(1+ teaspoon each dried or fresh tarragon or oregano, if desired)
salt and pepper
2 eggs, well whisked
splash of water, splash of milk
butter, for greasing the pan
- Place ricotta in the bowl. Mash the thyme, salt, and pepper (and other herbs) into it, then add the green onions and chives and stir to combine. Set aside.
- Melt a pat of butter in a frying pan. Whisk water and milk into scrambled eggs, and add to the pan. Cook and scramble until they’re nearly cooked to your taste. Add a heaping tablespoon of the ricotta mixture, stir, and remove from heat after eggs are fully cooked.
- Serve with toast and another dollop of the ricotta mixture on the eggs. (Or smear the toast with ricotta mixture. Delicious.)
Do you eat? Thank a farmworker.
Or better yet, go take action in your community (some of them are big, like screening a film; some of them are small, like attending someone else’s event. All of them are worthwhile.)
More than a month ago now, I was sitting at home alone on a Friday night, writing up a post for you all about cabbage salad. In what might be called “the calm before the storm,” I wrote peacefully about my commute, and cabbage, and how my love of food began. (I still want to tell you about these things. Except maybe not about my commute. When I type out “tell you about my commute,” it seems on par with writing to tell you that it’s raining outside, or that I have shoes on my feet. But, I digress, and) five (?!) weeks later, as you may have noticed, no posts about thinly sliced vegetables have emerged, and the reason looks something like this:
It’s shiny. It’s gorgeous. It’s shiny.
And it has brought on a peculiar type of writers block. I’ve been sitting on this post for a month now, writing and re-writing, and re-writing yet again. Getting engaged is a Really Big Deal, and my words should match (right? right). How can you write about a giant life change like this and not craft the kind of sentences that make angels sing and bring readers to tears with the hugeness of it all?
Well, uh, pretty easily, apparently. There are many things my brain can do right now, including but not limited to: statistics homework, comprehensive wedding blog perusal, wedding venue selection, wedding date selection, and complete and utter Pinterest obsession, but the pretty words, they are not coming.
After a lot of thought, tons of agonizing, and countless re-writes, I’ve realized, it’s ok. It can be simple. I’m getting married to the love of my life. It’s thrilling, and it’s also mundane. We’re engaged, but we still need to pay the rent, wake up to our alarms in the morning, cook dinner. That’s actually the thing that’s most incredible in all of this. We’ll be paying rent and waking up and cooking dinner, together. The wedding will be lovely, and simple dinners will be too.
So I have a simple dinner for you. Let’s celebrate the grandness and the day-to-day, with some cabbage salad.
Red Cabbage Salad with Lemon and Black Pepper
Serves 6 as a side (or, um, 2 if you’re eating it straight from the bowl as a meal).
This recipe comes from Molly Wizenberg’s A Homemade Life. It’s simple and comes together fairly quickly, but is filling enough that I’ll often eat just a big bowl of it for lunch or dinner. (You might want to pair it with a quesadilla or perhaps a sausage if the idea of eating a pound of cabbage in one sitting isn’t your thing.) She notes that you want a sharp knife in order to slice the cabbage very thin, and I wholeheartedly second that. Finally, I, being the garlic fanatic I am, didn’t find the flavors quite pronounced enough, and doubled the vinaigrette. You might want to start with half my amount, and add to taste.
1.5 pounds cabbage (a smallish head)
4 tablespoons olive oil
4 tablespoons lemon juice
1 large clove garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup finely grated parmesan cheese
freshly ground black pepper
- Remove damaged or bruised leaves from outside of cabbage. Cut cabbage into quarters, remove the core, and with a very sharp knife, slice cabbage as thinly as possible.
- In a bowl, whisk together until well-combined: olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, and salt.
- In a large bowl, toss together the cabbage with the parmesan, black pepper, and a couple of tablespoons of the dressing. Taste, and add more dressing and pepper as needed.
Articles! About gardening! One is a little scary, one is rather uplifting, and the last is just crazy.
When climate change happens, well, climates change. This piece discusses how this is happening, both with anecdotal evidence (desert plants from the Chihuahuan desert? Now growing hundreds of miles north in Santa Fe), and with a discussion of changes to the USDA’s Plant Hardiness Zone Map. Sure, some of the map changes are because of increased accuracy or tiny changes in temperature, but when you compare it to, say, the fact that over the past fifteen years, vineyards in Virginia have shifted from cold-tolerant chardonnay grapes to warm-loving merlots that never would have thrived in the past, it starts to feel more than a little weird.
If you live in Seattle, I need you to do me a favor. Go to the Beacon Food Forest, which will eventually be a 7-acre park full of food-producing plants that are open to public foraging. Help it grow, forage in it when it’s done, and let me live vicariously through you. The 2-acre pilot plot should be completed by the end of the year, and I’m thinking I need to move to Seattle, stat.
Aaaaaaaaaaaaaand if I don’t move to Seattle, it’s cool, I can just go to Linköping, Sweden, where they are building a huge vertical greenhouse that seems to have the potential to provide produce for most of the city. The pictures are crazy futuristic, and the company who is making it is hoping to use the technology in other, existing buildings. The tallest buildings will be called “plantscrapers.” People, the future is here!
In mid-January, I started a new job. It should be mentioned that this is my first “Real Person” job, the kind that isn’t an unpaid internship or being underemployed in the food service. I am, obviously, thrilled, but am also rather terrified. (does getting a first job always feel this much like being a fraud? like any second someone is going to figure out that they actually meant to give the position to the person with ten years of experience?)
I dealt with my fears as any food blogger worth their salt would: stress cooking. Yes, the Sunday before I started, I spent twelve straight hours cooking soups, tarts, cabbage salad, and a breakfast bar.
This might be my first foray into A Career Job, but I am well aware of the phenomenon that goes: the more you need to be somewhere on time, the worse the hurdles become. For instance, the day before the interview for this very position, I came down with a heavyweight cold. The morning of, at five a.m., before any stores were open to buy batteries, our fire alarm started beeping its “low-battery” beep every thirty seconds. I was awake for the next two hours listening to it, until I finally drifted off long enough to sleep through my alarm. I then ripped my tights, spilled something on my carefully-selected shirt, burned myself making toast, and accidentally took the “drowsy” cold medication.
This was a morning on which I could have used some brown butter peach pecan bars. They’re hand-held, delicious, and it’s almost impossible to spill them on one’s shirt. They’re not overly sweet, so they’re suitable for breakfast. And I like to think of them as a reminder that sometimes, everything turns out ok, even if you have to wow potential employers while accidentally high on cough medication.
Brown Butter Peach Pecan Bars
This recipe began its life as a Smitten Kitchen Raspberry Breakfast Bar, which began its life as a raspberry crumb bar from Baked. In her description, Deb talked about dreaming of a peach brown butter cousin of hers bars, and I became inspired. I played with the recipe, subbed peaches for raspberries, and added in some pecans.
About the sugar: I also dialed down the sugar so they’re more like breakfast and less like dessert (although I certainly have nothing against dessert), so I decreased the lemon juice, as well. If you want a more sweet bar, I’d recommend using a full ¼ cup of lemon juice to match the extra sugar.
For the outer layers:
¾ cup (1 ½ sticks) butter
1 ½ cups whole wheat flour
½ cup firmly packed brown sugar (I used muscovado)
1 ¼ cups rolled oats
¾ teaspoon salt
¾ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ cup toasted pecans
For the peach layer:
1 lb (16 oz) frozen peaches
heaping 1/8 cup packed brown sugar (again, muscovado!)
2 tablespoons flour
1/8 cup lemon juice
2 Tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9×13 inch glass pan, and either flour the bottom or cover it with parchment paper.
- For the outer layers: Stick the butter in a saucepan, turn heat to medium, and melt it. Keep a close eye on the melted butter: it will eventually foam, and then it will clarify somewhat. Stir frequently, waiting for the butter solids to brown, and for it to smell nutty. Remove from heat immediately, since it can go from “browned” to “burned” in mere seconds. Set aside to cool.
- Combine flour, brown sugar, oats, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon in a food processor. Pulse until combined. Add the cooled brown butter, and pulse until the mixture almost forms loose crumbs. Add pecans, and pulse until it forms those loose crumbs, but make sure not to over-process (you want to keep large chunks of pecan).
- Set aside 1 ½ cups of the mixture.
- Deposit the rest of the mixture in your pan, and push it down and around until it forms an even layer across the entire bottom of the pan.
- Bake for about 15 minutes, until golden brown. Set aside to cool. (Keep oven on).
- For the peach layer: Deposit peaches into food processor, pulse until the most of the peaches are into bite-size chunks. Add in the brown sugar, flour, lemon juice, and cooled butter as you process.
- Spread the peach mixture over the crust.
- Sprinkle the reserved crust over the peach layer.
- Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, checking for a browned top and perhaps for the peach mixture to bubble around the edges.
- Remove, cool, cut up, and enjoy.
- I stored these in the fridge for quite a while, but after a week they became kind of “meh.”