Tiramisu

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It's about time for a good old recipe, don't you think? Enough of my pontificating and opining! Emily says this is really a spirituality blog that calls itself a food blog. Sigh. Don't give me an opening, or I'll squeeze through it. 

We're celebrating Yancey's birthday all week, starting with Monday Night Dinner last night. When 10 or 12 of us gather a few Mondays a month at our house, one of my rules is I don't make dessert. But birthdays are another matter, of course, and Yancey reached back in the archives for this request. Remember when tiramisu was on every menu? Setting it down in the middle of the table last night, I remembered why.

And though it looks impressive with its beautiful layers, it could not be easier. I often bring it to Christmas gatherings as it's so festive and everyone thinks I toiled over it.

P.S. Yancey's birthday marks 25 years of the two of us knowing one another. On his 16th birthday, we sat next to one another on a high school bus. He hadn't been in in my sights at all (Jock? Ew!!), but he was after that. It took awhile for the feeling to be mutual, but that's what makes good stories. We have been so blessed with the goodness and love of each other.

Tiramisu
I got this recipe at least 15 years ago from a little stack of them at Pacific Food Importers in Seattle. I really, really miss that place. They sold ladyfingers, marscapone, and every other Mediterranean foodstuff you can think of. Thankfully, Trader Joe's sells marscapone, and they even have ladyfingers right now. A good grocery store should have the same. This probably isn't the best dessert for pregnant diners since it contains the trifecta of no-no's--raw eggs, coffee, and alcohol! But I've never worried about serving it to others and never had any problems.

4 eggs
8 Tb. sugar
4 Tb. rum, brandy, or marsala
1 lb. marscapone
1 big package ladyfingers (or 3 TJ's packages--60-75 cookies)
strongly brewed coffee or espresso (about 1 c.)
cocoa powder or chocolate shavings made with a vegetable peeler 

Get out a 9x13 glass dish.

Divide eggs, putting yolks in a medium bowl and whites in the bowl of a mixer.

Beat whites until peaked.

To the yolks, add sugar, rum, and marscapone and whisk, beat, or stir until smooth. Gently spoon in egg whites, folding until incorporated.

Quickly dip ladyfingers in coffee and place a layer in your glass dish, trying to make sure the whole bottom is covered. Pour on 1/3 of the marscapone mixture and smooth with a spatula. Repeat two more times, ending with a layer of marscapone. Refrigerate at least an hour. 

Before serving, sift cocoa powder or sprinkle chocolate shavings over the top. Cut into squares or just scoop out with a spoon.

Roasted Squash, Mark Driscoll, and other Collapsing Things

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My friend Tracy just left for a trip to China. I was trying to reassure her that the to-do list would get done and that her son would be just fine without her. As we parted, she called out, "The world is a scary place!" Tracy is one of the least fearful people I know, but she's right. The world is a scary place, and my little life in Bellingham doesn't know the half of it--ebola, extremists, refugee camps, dictators, drought. But you don't even have to go that far to run into grief, loss, depression, loneliness, poverty, longing and disappointment of every kind. If I pay attention, it's enough to get me asking every morning, "How then shall we live?"

Some of you know that I grew up in a big, Evangelical church, so the news about Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill Church has me really thinking about leadership, about religion, and how the two of those things can get so #$%ed up when they intertwine--how many people get hurt when what's supposed to be a message of love becomes one of shame, subservience, and sin. 

It's tempting to villainze people like Mark Driscoll, but a client reminded me this week that what we permit, we promote. It's our own longing for certainty and belonging that allows leaders like Driscoll! It's our own drive to codify, categorize, and enshrine that lets us idolize institutions or people that will fail us. In the end, we've got to have something more bedrock than church, than work, even than family and our relationships with one another. It's that darn Saint Catherine of Genoa again, running through the streets and proclaiming, "My deepest me is God!" If we dig down and find love of power, success, or fame, workaholism or violence, we haven't descended far enough. Because if we go to that deepest place, there is nothing to fear.

I'm now one of those food bloggers that's tempted to apologize for not writing about food, but here's another poem instead. And if you can stay hooked for a minute, there's a little bit about roasting squash down there, too.

On the Resignation of a Public Figure

I believe what they say,
what every news outlet almost gleefully reports--
he lied, cheated, abused his power, 
betrayed thousands of people.

I picture him, at home with his family,
avoiding the liquor cabinet (or not),
sneaking out to his car,
driving for hours to get away from himself.

I imagine running into him
at the grocery store, both of us
doing late night milk-runs.
If I got in his way, maybe he'd look up.

Then I could say,
"There is enough. You are enough.
If there is mercy for me, there is
mercy for you.
We're all dipping into the same bucket,
and it never runs out." 

P.S. I had collected quite an assortment of squash from my CSA deliveries--delicata, acorn, butternut. I know from experience that a huge, hard squash sitting there probably won't get thrown last-minute into dinner. So I halved everything, rubbed the cut sides with olive oil, and spread them out on a parchment-lined baking sheet and baked until everything was falling apart--about an hour. After they cooled, I scooped the flesh into a tupperware and stuck it in the fridge. Tomorrow, I'll use it to make squash soup with coconut milk and red curry. But you can just keep it in there, smashing it into quesadillas, tossing it with hot pasta, cream, and parmesan, throwing some in your morning smoothie, dropping dollops onto pizza. Autumn at its best!

Penn Cove Mussels with Basil and Cream

Jackpot!

Yancey and I had a very fortunate run-in with a Penn Cove Mussel truck yesterday.  We were waiting for our minivan to get its oil changed (Yes, we have a mini-van.  My friend Jackie always used to say that minivans run on libido--they suck it right out of you) and on our way to Pike Place Market in Yancey's work van.  We were flagged down by a man standing outside a refrigerated delivery truck.  I'm sure he took one look at Yancey and thought, "This guy looks nice.  I'll bet he'll stop and give my battery a jump."  He picked the right guy. Yancey's the sort of person out shoveling neighbors' driveways in the snow, they guy who offers to help everyone move.  They did their thing, chatted it up.  Meanwhile, I'm sitting in the van noticing that the truck says Penn Cove Shellfish LLC and hoping with all my might that we'll be trading battery juice for shellfish.  They shook hands and were parting ways when the driver said, "Are you guys interested in some mussels for dinner?"  Hell, yes.

10 pounds of shellfish

I thought he was going to pull out a Ziploc and give us enough for an appetizer.  No.  He gave us a TEN POUND BAG of just-harvested, tightly-closed mussels.  Yancey thought it was funny how I acted like we had just won a trip to the Bahamas.  We got some ice from a fishmonger at the market, then walked around talking about how we'd fix them and who we'd invite for dinner. Naomi, Michael, my niece and nephew, and Karl ended up coming over, and we didn't do anything fancy.  Basil from the garden, white wine and heavy cream, fresh tomatoes, grilled bread.  And we sent some home with my sister, gave a giant bag to the neighbors, and will be eating them again tonight.  They were plump, small and glossy just like they should be, and tasted like the sea.  Just five minutes on the stovetop, which is all a Seattlite can handle in 100 degrees.  Maybe tomorrow a gelato truck will need our help.  One can hope.

P.S. My sister took this photo of me in the kitchen.  She took some cuter ones where I'm looking at the camera and smiling, but I'm posting this one because it's so TYPICAL.  Yancey sometimes walks in the kitchen, starts to say something, and then says, "Never mind.  You're in the zone."  Meaning, I am incapable of coherence until I get dinner on the table.  This is me in the zone.  It's kind of funny, don't you think?

Leftoverist in THE ZONE

Penn Cove Mussels with Basil and Cream
Serves four as a main dish--serve grilled bread to soak up the broth and a salad alongside.  Penn Cove Mussels are from Whidbey Island and the only place in the world where Penn Cove Mussels are harvested.  They are what the fishmonger will likely be selling if you live in the Northwest.  If you're not in the Puget Sound Area, use whatever is best where you are.

2 pounds fresh, tightly closed mussels, de-bearded (discard any that are open--this was not a problem with ours)
olive oil
2 cups dry white wine
4 large cloves garlic, minced
1/2 c. heavy cream
1 1/2 c. diced tomatoes
salt
pepper
big handful fresh basil leaves, cut into thin strips

In a large stockpot, saute the garlic in olive oil for a couple minutes.  Add wine and mussels, turn heat up to medium-high, cover stockpot, and steam until mussels open, about 4 minutes.  Add cream, tomatoes, salt and pepper, and simmer with lid off for another 2 or 3 minutes minutes until liquid bubbles.  Dump everything in a wide, shallow bowl and shower with fresh basil.