Tuesday
Apr152014

Go-To Cake

Save the day cake

"*&%$! I forgot that I said I'd bring dessert!"

Seven-year-old Loretta has taken it upon herself to be the Bad Word Police. She thinks "crap" is a bad word, so I guess it could be worse. My friend Emily says she swears more when she's excited. She's excited about her new role at work (which happens to be a church) and finds herself swearing about it all the time. Hilarious. I guess that's true with me, too--the Bad Word Police can issue tickets when excitement or frustration ensues. Abby,who's here every Monday night for our big family dinner, says she can't get a word in edgewise around here. Even the most inconsquencial subjects are blown up into an excitable mess. Loretta, of course, lives for this. Many citations to issue.

%&*#$! If I've forgotten to pay the water bill and come home to a sputtering faucet, that's one thing. (I did that last summer and actually went around to the neighbors asking if they were having problems with their water. My neighbor Lori said, "Have you paid your bill?" Mortification.)

But if I've forgotten about bringing dessert, that's an easy fix. Molly Wizenberg saves the day again. Easy, quick, chocolately depths. Add a little bit of lightly sweetned whipped cream or some strawberries. Or some reduced balsamic syrup and a sprinkiling of flaked salt. Or just plain. The expletives will diminish. Actually, scratch that. They will just be uttered in a more contented way.

Save-the-Day Almost Flourless Chocolate Cake

Monday
Apr072014

Spring Sprout and Farro Salad

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The Bellingham Farmers Market opened last weekend. Nettles, kale, radishes, the traditional throwing of the cabbage. (By the mayor, no less. Did you know I have a thing about celebrity sightings? Unhappily for me, the mayor of Bellingham is my lone conquest.) And lots of Bellinghamsters geeking out over local everything.

market sign

Though I'm not disciplined or resourced enough to do all my shopping at the farmers market, going and spending whenever I can is fun and helps me feel more connected to the hard-working farms around here. My parents and I gathered a little picnic of aged Ladysmith cheese and a round of herbed focaccia from The Breadfarm. Even though it was gray and rainy, I couldn't help but feel more Spring-y. And radish-y.

My mom and I couldn't resist the big bins of sunflower sprouts. Here's what I did with them today:

Spring Sprout and Farro Salad
Serves two. Take 1 1/2 c. of cold, cooked grains. I used farro, but you could use lentils, barley, brown rice, quinoa, etc. Toss them with a giant handful of sunflower (or other) sprouts, some chopped greens (I used dandelion greens), shredded carrot, a Tablespoon of capers, crumbled feta, toasted walnuts, a big squeeze of lemon juice, a little lemon rind, fresh ground pepper, and a big glug of olive oil. Taste before you salt it since capers and feta are so salty. I had some proscuitto around (my secret weapon these days) so I fried a couple slices and tore them over the top.

Saturday
Mar292014

Guacamole Addiction

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If you're around me for more than an hour, you'll see that the conversation turns to avocados. And I'll say (knowing I'll get a laugh, of course), "I can't sleep if there are ripe avocados in the house."

They have to be perfect (no strings, no big bruises). If they are not ripe, forget it. I have the best luck with Costco, though Dandelion Organics has been putting an occasional ambrosial avocado in my weekly veggie delivery. And the only reason I'd ever consider moving to California is the possibility that me or someone on my block might have an avocado tree. Can you imagine? Heaven!

I read a tidbit recently (Bon Appetit, maybe?) where a chef talked about putting celery in his guacamole. I tried it, and now it's a must. It adds a fresh, neutral crunch that complements the avocado. I've tried guacamole many different ways--with or without garlic, with or without onion. If your avocados are good and your don't skimp on the lime and salt, you can hardly go wrong. But here's how I do mine these days:

Sarah's Guacamole
Finely chop 1/4 of a white onion, a big handful of cilantro, 1/2 of a seeded jalapeno (if you like) and one  stalk of celery, leaves and all. Scoop out the flesh of 3 avocados, and mash everything together in a bowl or with a mortar and pestle. Add plenty of kosher salt (tasting along the way) and juice of one lime (if it's small) and 1/2 a lime (if it's big). Top with a little more chopped cilantro and maybe some red pepper flakes.

P.S. Saveur has nominated In Praise of Leftovers again in 2014 for best Family Cooking Blog! As you know, I adore this magazine, and it's played such a part in my love of food. If you'd like to vote for me, click here.

Monday
Mar242014

Pulled Pork for a Crowd

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Last night we had a family party for Wyatt and my Mom. Wyatt is turning 11 and my Mom is turning another number.

I can't believe my chubby baby is eleven. I pulled out a bunch of old photos for family to look through. I sat down with them and wondered, "Did I enjoy those moments? Did I recognize how damn CUTE he was?" There's a parenting book that's been getting a lot of play lately called All Joy and No Fun. Isn't that the truth? You know when you're putting your child to bed that these will be among the most precious moments of your whole life. But you want to speed it up so you can have a nightcap and watch TV!

I've enjoyed my children more and more as they get older. Wyatt got me laughing so hard recently that I couldn't breathe. We have inside jokes and he introduces me to new music. He writes poems and stories that blow me away. And he leaves his dirty socks everywhere, which is a small price to pay.

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So if he wants meat (lots of meat), so be it. My default is to buy pork shoulder at Costco or Cash and Carry. It usually comes in a two pack, or about 15 pounds. A slow-cooker won't hold it all, so I put it in a giant roasting pan, cover it with foil, and cook it at 250 for at least 8 hours (overnight). It's like a miracle when you open the oven in the morning. Hopefully your dog will not whine all night, insane with the smell.

One of the few foods I actually don't like is sweet, thick BBQ sauce. I prefer the thin, vinagery stuff. Pile this tangy pork on a grilled or toasted bun with coleslaw or cabbage. If you put a little thought into your slaw, you won't need a vegetable or any other sides. That's what we did last night, with lots of cold beer, Wyatt's favorite tunes turned up, loud debate about many inconsequencial things, and toasts to two amazing people.

Slow-Cooked North Carolina-Style Pulled Pork
I used the following recipe, doubling everything and adding a couple tablespoons of paprika to the spice rub. You could definitely use a slow cooker instead of slow-roasting it in the oven.

Recipe

Monday
Feb242014

Easy

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I can make biscuits in my sleep. Easy.

You've heard this soapbox before, but one of my biggest cooking tips is to master a few things and keep doing them, over and over. You'll start feeling more comfortable in the kitchen, you might start improvising on your standards, and you'll get faster. For me and my set, speed is important in the kitchen. Most "30 minute recipes" involve a lot of prepared food. Even then, I don't trust them to be 30 minutes. The more laborious route is simply to cook more. That's what makes you quick.

I am still laid up with a broken bone--no cast, no surgery, just instructions to "stay off it." In my slowing down and "taking it easy" as the doctor admonished, I have felt the waters of goodness and awareness running downhill, pooling up inside me, around me.

Loretta has spent a lot of time brushing and braiding my hair. She's never seen me sit around so much or be so accessible. What is better than feeling those little hands on my scalp? Someday I will dream about it.

I have practiced the "Meditation of Sound," lying on the couch and listening to sounds in the house, sounds on the street, and letting them wash over me. There are so many sounds I've never paid attention to.

The kids are now doing almost all the dishes. I have fantasized about this! (And yes, my cooking is their bondage. More pots and pans than your average household.)

And of course I am dreaming about getting back on the trails and on my bike, alone or with friends. I miss it in a visceral, longing kind of way, and don't think I'll take it for granted again. At least not for a long time.

I hope something comes easy for you today--tonight's dinner prep, awareness of your own automatic in-and-out breath, or the love you feel for yourself when you look in the mirror or go about your work.