Roasted Yam and Black Bean Dip

Black bean, feta, and roasted yam dip

My motto for myself for the last few months has been, "Out of the juicer and into the cup."

I got a juicer for my birthday, and I let everything swirl together in the cannister before I open the cap and watch it splash into a glass. Crazy mixtures of bright things--fresh tumeric, tangerines, ginger, carrots, apples; beets, beet greens, celery, cucumber, lemon. Stuffing all that produce down the shaft, it occurs to me every time that too much input will result in a big mess. And no juice to drink! At some point, all that beautiful, bright juice has to be let out. 

And, as Elizabeth Gilbert says in her new book, letting out what's inside us, unleashing the "big magic," isn't about being a virtuoso in something. It's not about quitting our day jobs. It's about befriending our fears but never, every putting them in the driver's seat. 

For me, one of the clogs in the juicer lately has been writing. The more writing I consume in books--articles, on Facebook--the more I labor under this seductive, false idea that I don't have anything to say. That it's all been said. Wow. That really lets me off the hook. Meanwhile, that juicer is spinning, and the liquid is getting dangerously close to exploding all over the place. So here's to letting it pour out. To my health, and yours!

Meanwhile, if I'm aware, my eyes are always open to the moments and people in my life who are figuring out how to let their juice fill the cup.

My friend, a single mother of 3 special needs kids, has taken in another needy young adult who's been abandoned and needed someone to love her and show her how to do laundry. Another case of that universal reality, that those with the least are often those who give the most.

Our new 4th grade neighbor girl (Loretta is in heaven--girls in the neighborhood!) who, after meeting Loretta, wrote her a card and made her a gift: Can we have a play date sometime? (Ladies, we have a lot to learn from this. Risk. Vulnerability. Letting women know we LIKE them.)

Cristina, who bravely moved to start a new job and listen to her calling even though it meant change and uncertainty all over again. (The silver lining for me, though I miss her terribly, is that my mailbox has been full. My love language, for sure.)

And my mom, who retired from her job of 24 years and knew when it was time to go. I see so many folks who malpractice, who stay somewhere much longer than is good for them and their patients, clients, students, co-workers, customers. I had a party for her, and 50 (mostly) women from the home store she's worked at over the years were at my house. We had a toast for her, and half the room was crying. (Me first, of course.) So energizing to see how she's continually paid attention to and loved those around her, and what beautiful juice has filled the cup.

I made this dip, and I've made it a few other times, too. A few weeks ago, I was on my way home, remembered I had to bring an appetizer somewhere, did a mental inventory of my pantry and fridge, and had this concocted by the time I walked through the door. It turned out to be a keeper. And I love it when that happens.

P.S. Here's a poem I wrote putting fear into the backseat where it belongs.

Get Started

Who am I to do this?
Who am I to find the burning bush,
and then to step closer?
To dare conversation with God,
take off my shoes,
tell the story of deliverance?
You try ignoring
a burning bush. 

Roasted Yam and Black Bean Dip
You could easily leave the cheese and sour cream out of this. If you do that, add a little more lime juice, olive oil or water to the bean mixture to make sure it's smooth enough.

2 cans refried black beans
1 tb. olive oil
one large onion, thinly sliced
1/2 c. sour cream 
juice of one lime
1 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. (or to taste) chile powder
1 c. shredded white sharp cheddar
1 very large or two medium yams or sweet potatoes, skin on and diced into 1/2"
more olive oil 
2 Tb. interesting seeds (chia, amaranth, buckwheat groats, sesame, poppy, flax)
handful chopped fresh cilantro
1 large or two small avocados, diced

Preheat oven to 375.

Toss diced yams with olive oil and a little salt. Spread out on a single layer on a baking sheet, and bake until just tender, about 20 minutes. 

Meanwhile, sauté sliced onion in olive oil until caramelized (or almost.)

In a 9x13 baking dish, mix beans with caramelized onion, sour cream, cumin, lime, chile powder, and salt to taste. Spread evenly into the bottom of the dish.

Top bean mixture with shredded cheese and roasted yams. Bake in the oven until the whole thing is warm and bubbly, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven and top with seeds, cilantro, and avocado. Serve with tortilla chips.

Lovage and Lemon Guacamole


Holy crap. It's really spring around here. The lilacs are blooming one month early. I know you won't tell Loretta that I've been stealing them like crazy. (She gets so worried about my transgressions.) Someday, I'll have a lilac bush. Until then, guard yours closely.

We've mowed the back yard which seems to have given us all a new lease on life. We had picnic last night. I mashed up four perfect avocados, but didn't feel in the mood for the chips and guacamole default. So I added a big handful of lovage (thank you, Jesus, for perennials), some finely chopped celery, lots of salt, a big squeeze of lemon, and some spicy celery salt on top. (That's your recipe.) God. It was so good. Celery seems to be enjoying a comeback lately, and I could be the leader of the movement. So fresh, bracing, and crunchy. If you wanted to really go nuts, you could add some feta on top and drizzle a little olive oil.

And some more poetry. In 2 months, Yancey and I will be celebrating 20 YEARS of marriage. I'm not %$*&ing with you. It's true. So there's more to come in this department. I just feel nostalgic lately, and so lucky and grateful to have taken up life with this man that gets me and who keeps trying to get me even when it's hard. And I can hardly stand it when he's walking around here in his Carharts with sawdust clinging to them. Here's something about that....


Hard not to love a man
who knows how to build stairs.
He's sitting at the kitchen table
with carpenter's pencil, architect's triangle,
plotting the rise, the tread,
lineal feet of lumber.
I sit across from him
with coffee, books, calendar,
faking absorption in my own business,
distracted with his scribblings,
calclulations, creations,
and after twenty years,
still infatuated with all of it. 

Yancey Ross Lake 2014

Guacamole Addiction


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.

Advent 2013: Savory Parmesan Shortbread

Parmesan Shortbread

This is for my friend Jordan.

Jordan recently moved back to the West Coast after being in NYC for 4 years, and I keep quizzing her about all the things she misses. She told me about some parmesan shortbread she used to get at a favorite coffee shop, and then I couldn't stop thinking about it.

I don't want to embarrass her, but Jordan is a tastemaker. If she likes something (shoes, pencils, or shortbread), you'd best pay attention. She's got the magic touch just like my mom or sister or other artists have. And another thing--making her happy makes me happy. It's not hard to make her happy. I can make a salad, send a card, or compose a photo that gets a "LOVE!" out of her. I told her recently that I get inspired when I'm around her--inspired to see things differently, to find more beauty in everyday things.

I find it pretty easy to appreciate people and things, but I'd put inspiration in another category. Being inspired by someone or something usually means I'm spurred to some kind of action or resolve that wasn't there before. Something moves. Besides Jordan, here's some other people in my world that have inspired me this year:

  1. Molly who started meditating, somehow, in the middle of parenting four boys and cutting people's hair
  2. My sister who landed an amazing, scary job that's kicking her out of her comfort zone
  3. Emily who's interning as a chaplain at the King County Juvenile Detention Center
  4. My dad who's going through a forced career change at 61 and finding joy and peace anyway
  5. Kristen, who finds time to paint breathtaking canvases in her studio after teaching art to high schoolers all day and caring for her family
  6. Kerri who worked her butt off to help her twin daughters get into a great college and bravely said goodbye to them
  7. Jenn who's living life (very unexpectedly) as a single parent and staying present to all of it

Cheers. Parmesan shortbread for all of you.

Savory Parmesan Shortbread
From Nigella Lawson. I changed the recipe the tiniest bit with the addition of rosemary (guess I'm into that these days--it's my one garden plant) and flake salt. EASY and addictive. You'll want to make these for every dinner party. And they make a wonderful gift, maybe with a bottle of wine and some spiced nuts. This recipe makes one log--I quadrupled it and kept some in the freezer.

1 c. flour
3/4 c. grated parmesan
7 Tb. softened butter
1 egg yolk
2 Tb. chopped fresh rosemary (optional)
flaked salt for the top

Combine flour, parmesan, butter, and egg yolk in a mixer, food processor, or with a wooden spoon until mixture forms a lump. Separate into two balls. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead for 30 seconds until smooth. Do the same with the other.

With your hands, roll the doughs into a cylinder, as uniform as possible without stressing it, about 1 1/2" in diameter. Flatten the ends, too. Roll these up in a piece of plastic wrap then twist the ends. Put them in the freezer for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350, take your cylinders out of the freezer, and cut into 1/2" coins, and sprinkle a bit of flake salt on each. Arrange on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake until just barely golden brown, about 20 minutes. Let cool before eating.

Emily's Favorite Caponata


Emily and Ricky came up a couple weeks ago for her birthday, and she requested eggplant caponata. Then my neighbor Megan left a jar of caponata at my door a few days later. Then I had one more eggplant left and made it again last night for my parents. I don't think too much eggplant ever did anyone in. 

As I've mentioned ad nauseum, we've had lots of dinner guests lately. It wouldn't work if I laboriously menu-planned, set a nice table, or worried about things like appetizers. BUT, having a little something to nibble is a favorite hostess trick, giving me time to pile dirty dishes in the sink, take off my apron (if I remember), and act like things are more effortless than they really are. 

This caponata is absolutely delicious, a big saute pan is all you need, and one batch should get you through two nights of company. I've made it with fresh or canned tomatoes, with or without red chile flakes, and even without the flourish of fresh basil at the end. That's for the summer, which I'm not sure whether we're having or not. I keep bugging Joe's Garden about the basil. They just smile and say, "That's the sun's job." And the sun is nowhere to be found. But this little number might cheer you up.

Emily's Favorite Caponata
Adapted from Epicurious. Makes about 2 cups. Leftovers are delicious over eggs, spread on panini, or a million other ways.

5 Tb. olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 1.5 lb. eggplant, cut into 1/2" dice
1 14 oz. can diced tomatoes, some of the juices drained, or equivalent amt. fresh tomatoes
3 Tb. red wine vinegar
2 Tb. drained capers
1/4 c. chiffonaded fresh basil
salt and pepper to taste
red chile flakes 

Heat oil in heavy large pot over medium heat. Add eggplant, onion, and garlic cloves. sauté until eggplant is soft and brown, about 15 minutes. Add diced tomatoes with juice, then red wine vinegar and drained capers. Cover and simmer until eggplant and onion are very tender, stirring occasionally, about 12 minutes. Season caponata to taste with salt and pepper. Mix in fresh basil. Taste and see if it needs any salt (capers add a lot of salt). Grind a bit of fresh pepper and add a dash of chile flakes if you want. Transfer caponata to serving bowl. Serve with crackers, pita, or grilled bread. 

Peanut Butter Hummus



It's strange to be sitting in bed writing about peanut butter hummus when thousands are camping out in Egypt's Tahrir Square, desperate for freedom and change. I keep asking myself, "Have I ever wanted anything that bad?"

Everything--even the cooking in my kitchen or yours--happens in a context. This week, that context seems more dramatic than usual. I am praying for the people to prevail. It's funny how America likes to talk up democracy. I think we champion predictability more than we champion justice. This is our chance to walk our talk. I hope we don't fail.

In my little world, I'm taking kids to the park, filing taxes, eating kimchi (that jar is never-ending!), and making peanut butter hummus.

Peanut butter hummus?! So creamy, easy, and delicious. As Nigella says (this is her recipe), without the "clagginess" of tahini. I remember my mom used to make baba ghannouj with peanut butter. No such thing as finding tahini in Bellingham in the 1980's. If toast is all you're using peanut butter for, you're missing out. Wyatt came home after church today and ate a huge plate of this. With all the unrest in the world, I'm hard-pressed to think of anything more satisfying than feeding loved ones or breaking bread together. 

my world

Peanut Butter Hummus
I didn't make any adjustments to this recipe. And since I always benefit from her commentary, here's the recipe in Nigella's voice:


Roasted Pumpkin Seeds with Lime and Garlic

roasted pumpkin seeds
There are so many things that can go wrong in a day. Forgetting to put out the garbage, missing your bus, refereeing sibling rivalry, or the mail getting soaked. And bigger things, too--losing your job, getting your feelings hurt, worrying about bills, coming down with the flu.

And that's what I love about stepping into the kitchen--it's a daily chance for something to go right. And even if your venture fails spectacularly, at least you've been doing something with your hands, creating something, being generative instead of reacting or solving problems.

Carving pumpkins with the kids yesterday, I was scheming about how the pumpkin seeds could go right. It seems like a lot of work in the moment--separating stringy flesh from seeds, making sure  kids don't fling them everywhere. Finally, a precious bowlful. Curry powder? Cinnamon? Chili powder?

I settled on lime zest, olive oil, and garlic powder. I don't use garlic powder a lot, but it's magical, in its way. Fresh garlic on these would be totally overpowering and would burn in a second.

God. These were so good. Last night for Yancey's birthday dinner, we had french onion soup,  salad with pomegranates and goat cheese, and caramel apple cake. But these stole the show. Three cheers for little things going right.

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds with Lime and Garlic
Extract the seeds from one big pumpkin or two smaller ones. Put them in a colander and rinse really well, pulling off any strands of flesh. Shake vigorously, removing as much water as possible. In a medium bowl, toss pumpkin seeds with 1 tsp. coarse salt, 2 Tb. extra virgin olive oil, finely grated zest of one lime (making sure not to get any lime pith in there--very bitter), and 1 tsp. garlic powder. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, then spread pumpkin seeds out in a single layer. Roast at 375 for about 15 minutes, stirring once or twice. Remove from oven when seeds are dry, golden and dark brown in places, and sizzling. Let cool. They'll get more crunchy as they cool. Add a little more lime zest and salt after they've cooled.

More Falafel and Spring Lunch


I'm not big on combing through archives--blog or otherwise. Guess I wasn't meant to be a historian. If I'm at the doctor's office and I have the choice between two magazines, I'll pick up the most current one even if the older one is more interesting to me. What's that about?! My guess is it's about relevance. I want to know what everyone's talking about now, not what they were talking about last month.

The good thing about no one digging through these archives is it allows me to repeat myself now and then. This is a blog about leftovers, after all. So my public service announcement today is this: Homemade falafels are dizzyingly delicious. I'm going to make you go back into the archives for the recipe, but here are some tips I've learned from making them so often in the last year:

  • I haven't tried making them with canned chickpeas--I've always soaked dried ones overnight and had beautiful success every time. After working with the mixture several more times, I really think they'd be too wet with canned, cooked beans. Expect them to fall apart if you make exceptions here.
  • I've discovered that dry chickpeas are hard to find outside of specialty stores. If you're at Safeway, try looking in the Mexican food aisle.
  • Good pita is also hard to find. Why?! I get mine (Kronos Greek Bakery Authentic Pita) at PFI. I've also found it at Halal groceries in my neighborhood and the Red Apple on Beacon Hill. Or you can skip the pita altogether and make a falafel plate instead of a sandwich.

I promised chickpeas three ways this week. That may excite or depress you, depending on who you are. Falafel is the first way. The second is, predictably, hummus, but there's tahini in this one. (Yes, I sometimes make humus without it.) I don't like the way homemade hummus tastes made with canned chickpeas. So whenever I've soaked a big batch of dried ones, we eat hummus all week.

The third chickpea creation is coming up. Delicious, easy, friend-making fare. Stay tuned.

Here's our little lunch today. I was home watching Loretta while Yancey worked on house projects. Have I told you already what a cherished scenario it is, assembling bits of leftovers and calling my husband in for lunch? He doesn't want to stop working, usually, but is glad once he's sat down. The three of us, sharing sweet English peas from Pike Place Market, dipping triangles of whole wheat flatbread into hummus. Life is rainy and good here today.

spring lunch

Caramelized Onion and Spinach Dip

caramlized onion and spinach dip

Have I told you about my thing for white, caloric dips? Give me a tub of spinach dip from your average supermarket deli and don't expect to hear from me for an hour. Weight Watchers calls these "red light" foods, apparently. Meaning, stop and think before you eat them. One bite can send you over the edge. My other red light foods include buttered white popcorn, nachos, triple cream cheeses, and almost any french fry. With tartar sauce. Oh yes. Please tell me you have your own red light foods.

I had three potlucks in 24 hours this weekend. Frittata for my Lenten breakfast this morning, wild rice salad and blondie bars for the party tonight, and this dip for book club. We read Push this month. You know, the uber-depressing, throw-yourself-off-a-cliff novel? We all cried and ate our weight in spinach dip. If those kinds of realities inhabit our world (and hell--even our little book club!), there's got to be spinach dip to balance them out. Amen?

Caramelized Onion and Spinach Dip
Frozen spinach would be just fine in this, as would subbing mayo for the sour cream. This really and truly was "refrigerator dip," meaning, "%$*!! I have to take something to book club!" And I used reduced dairy here because that's what I generally buy, not because I was trying to make a lowfat version of this dip.

6 cups fresh spinach, coarsely chopped
olive oil
one large yellow or sweet onion, thinly sliced
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 c. reduced fat sour cream
8 oz. reduced fat cream cheese
1/4 c. finely grated Parmesan cheese

Heat olive oil in a large saute pan. Add spinach and saute until wilted, about 4 minutes. Scrape into a bowl. When it cools, squeeze the moisture out of it.

In same skillet, heat more olive oil over medium high heat. Add sliced onions and saute until golden and caramelized, about 20 minutes. Add a bit of salt halfway through. Remove from pan and let cool.

In a food processor, combine sour cream, cream cheese, garlic, and 1/2 the caramelized onions. Scrape into a bowl, and add spinach, remaining onions, parmesan, and salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with fried bread, tortilla chips, fresh bread, or good crackers.

Thyme and Parmesan Popcorn

thyme for cheese popcorn

Driving home in the rain today, I brightened considerably when I realized that it's January.  January means one thing around this house:  American Idol.  And American Idol means popcorn.

It's been a popcorn kind of vacation.  The kids and I have eaten a lot of it while Yancey's been at the fire station--for lunch, for dinner, for snack.  I usually prefer the following:  white kernels, popped in a little bit of vegetable oil in a heavy saucepan.  Little bit of melted butter, lots of kosher salt.  Sometimes with a beer if I'm being bad; seltzer water otherwise.  Does it get any better than that?

As it happens, yes.  It does get better than that.  Fresh thyme, lemon zest, parmesan from a can, garlic powder, butter, and kosher salt. Wyatt went to bed the other night, then came back out into the kitchen while I was eating this.  I heartlessly sent him back to bed.  The next night, I let him stay up late with Yancey and I.  He hung his little head over the bowl, complimenting me and my popcorn up and down, and alive to the pleasures of staying up with Mom and Dad.  Reminds me of a Jane Kenyon poem I love.  This poem is a little sad, and I know my kids have zillions more moments alone with me than Jane (or most people of her generation) ever did.  Certainly I don't expect my children to appreciate these popcorn moments now--their job is just to eat.  Someday, though, I wouldn't mind if Wyatt remembered this night fondly.  I know I will.

Drawing from the Past
(Jane Kenyon)

Only Mama and I were at home.
We ate tomato sandwiches
with sweeps of mayonnaise
on indifferent white bread.

Surely it was September,
my older brother at school.
The tomatoes were fragrant
and richly red, perhaps the last
before frost.

I was alert to the joy of eating
sandwiches alone with Mama, bare
feet braced on the underpinnings
of the abraded kitchen table.

Once I'd made a mark in the wood
by pressing too hard as I traced
the outline of a horse.

I was no good at drawing--from life,
or from imagination.  My brother
was good at it, and I was alert
to that, too.

Thyme for Cheese Popcorn
Pop a bunch of white popcorn kernels in your usual way.  If you're a microwave popcorn kind of person, make sure you use the kind with no additives or flavorings.  Dump the popcorn into a big bowl and drizzle melted butter over it.  Chop a bunch of fresh thyme (I must have used at least 2 big tablespoons).  Scatter thyme over popcorn, shake a bunch of dried parmesan from a can, and sprinkle some garlic powder to taste.  Finely zest half a lemon over the top (this is where microplanes really shine) and finish with some kosher salt, tasting first to see how salty the cheese made things.  Enjoy by yourself in front of the TV or with your young son who will appreciate you more someday.

Fig Walnut Crisps

fig and walnut crisps

Already, today's list is looking distressingly long.  Half my Christmas cards not sent yet, gifts not wrapped, house a mess. Isn't this what we're supposed to say at Christmas?  Cliché moans of  "Not enough time!" or "Christmas comes earlier every year!"  All that's true, but, in spite of the break-in, I feel a little Christmas spirit sneaking in.  I'm even making cranberry cognac trifle again, if you can believe it.

A few years ago, I stopped purchasing gifts for family and friends.  Children are the exception--for some reason, they don't get excited about chutney or spiced nuts.  Everybody else gets things from the kitchen.  Always granola, and this year, some combination of lemon curd, cranberry vanilla jam, or these crisps.

Have you seen these crisps in bakeries or at nice grocery stores?  They're so expensive!  Generally around $10 for a small package whose ingredients cost $2.  I love them, but never buy them.  Brie or chevre are absolutely transformed atop these little things--they make crackers seem pretty darn boring.  I know I've been using an inordinate amount of dried fruits and nuts lately.  It's the season.  So much fresh stuff is out of season, so I dig into the pantry.

Since you're probably reading this much too late for more Christmas baking, I think these make wonderful New Year's treats or hostess gifts for that wild party you're going to.  (Our wild New Years always consists of holing up at Bethany and Chris' house in Bellingham and consuming egregious amounts of cheese.)

In Praise of Leftovers is going silent for several days since things in my offline life will be busy.  But I feel all sentimental signing off this time.  This is my first Christmas as a blogger, and I feel my community has expanded.  Thank you for your part in that.  And if I could digitally cry, I'd be crying as I tell you how generous, kind, and present everyone has been to us since the break-in. Daily, envelopes have arrived for Wyatt with money to restart his piggy bank, and his eyes get wider each time.  For all of us, it's a tangible reminder that we are loved.  I feel so sad (and yes, still mad!) for the person that was here in the dark, stealing cheese and chicken and spare change.  That's desperate. Wherever s/he is, I hope their envelopes start coming in the mail soon, too.  Merry Christmas, friends.

better than being at the mall

Fig Walnut Crisps
Have I directed you to Seven Spoons yet?  It's one of my daily reads.  I remember, right when I was starting my blog, I'd read Tara's with my jaw on the floor.  So beautiful!  And so beautifully written!  I still feel that way about it.  The only thing I changed from her recipe was adding some coarse sugar and salt to the tops of these loaves and baking them in mini pans instead of full ones.

softened butter for greasing pans, or nonstick spray
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup pepitas (green pumpkin seeds)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 cups buttermilk
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup honey
1 cup coarsely-chopped dried figs
1/4 cup shelled sunflower seeds
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1/4 cup flax seed meal or whole flax seed, bashed in a mortar and pestle or pulsed in a spice grinder
2 teaspoons fresh thyme, chopped

1 Tb. coarse sugar
1 tsp. grey salt or flake salt

Preheat oven to 350° F. Lightly grease 4 mini loaf pans, or spray with a nonstick spray.

Spread the walnuts and pumpkin seeds on a baking sheet. Roast in the oven, stirring occasionally, for about 7 minutes until fragrant but without much color. Remove from the baking sheet and into a bowl, then set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda and salt. Add the buttermilk, brown sugar and honey and stir until combined. Add the reserved nuts and remaining ingredients and stir until just blended.

Pour the batter into the prepared pans. Top loaves with a sprinkling of coarse sugar and flake salt.  Bake until golden and puffed, about 30 minutes. When touched, the loaves should spring back immediately. Turn the loaves out of their pans to cool completely, right side up, on a wire rack.

The bread is easiest to slice when fully-cooled. Leave the loaves to rest at room temperate for a few hours or, following do what I did and pop them in the freezer.  Once frozen, slice the loaves as thin as you can and place the slices in a single layer on an ungreased cookie sheet.

Heat to 300° F and bake them for about 12 minutes, then flip them over and bake for another 8-10 minutes, until crisp and deep golden. Cool completely on a wire rack, then store in an airtight container.

Ploughman's Lunch at Cama Beach

center for wooden boats at cama

I've been gone for a few days.  Maybe some of you have noticed?  And I haven't been doing any cooking.  Zilch.  All of the sudden I have a lot of work.  Turns out no one is paying me to putter around in my kitchen and write about it, so sometimes I have to leave my kitchen for awhile.  What wonderful comments you've been leaving here, though!  So delightful to come home to.  Thank you.

And we went to Cama Beach State Park for two days--little cabins with sinks and refrigerators, but no stoves or cooktops.  That's where the Ploughman's Lunch comes in.  Sandwiches seem to be the choice of most Americans for no-cook food.  I am definitely not against sandwiches--cold ones, hot ones.  I often crave a plain old deli sandwich from Albertson's or any deli, piled high with cold cuts, pickles, mealy tomatoes.  But even more than sandwiches, I love the Ploughman's Lunch.  It originates in England, and at its most basic it's a hunk of cheese, some bread, and a pickle.  Around here, we have Ploughman's Dinner, too. Pretty often, actually.

ploughmans lunch

Just lay out a big piece of parchment paper in the middle of the table (The Leftoverist travels with parchment. Pathetic.). Then, cheese, bread, crackers, spicy mustard, salami, wedges of pomegranate, Jonagold apples, Taylor Gold pears.  You can add nuts, olives, pickled vegetables, hard boiled eggs, bits of chutney or dips, dried fruit.  The kids eat a lot more this way, I find, than when I slave over assembling something.

With the autumn light spilling into our little beachside cabin, we played charades and got Wyatt laughing harder than he's laughed in a long time.  Is there any better sound than that?  These last nine months have been a hard transition for him. There have been several nights when he's cried himself to sleep, missing Yancey and our family dinners, the daily contact they used to have.  Wyatt is happiest when we're all together.  So am I, and our two days at the windswept beach were beyond precious.

dad time

I could go on and on about Washington's newest state park, a 1930's fishing resort that the state bought 17 years ago and just reopened in 2008.  Little (cheap!) bungalows right on the beach, trails, beautiful views of the Olympics.  What struck me most, though, was the story of the sisters who sold the 450 acres to the state. The resort had fallen into disrepair, guests weren't coming anymore, and they approached the state.  They ended up selling it for half its appraised value, and then turned around and donated 4 million dollars for capital improvements.  Isn't that incredible?  45o acres, a long perfect stretch of beach, and developers lining up to pay top dollar. During our stay, I kept feeling grateful to them, for their gift to future generations, their foresight and selflessness. And it reminded me of the transformative effect generosity can have.  The park felt infused with goodness and hospitality, the history of thousands of working class families recreating and making memories.  And the sisters' story made me want to be more generous, not just with money, but with how I give to generations that come after me--indeed, even to the seventh generation.  How different the world would be if we lived with them in mind.

In the meantime, I'll be here, hunkered down over my ploughman's lunch.

sunset at cama

Cranberry Rosemary Punch + Dana's Dates

dana's dates

Last night's party was delicious--delicious co-workers (thank you, Priya and Emily!); guests (Organization Development professionals from around the world); and client--my friend Geoff who has a PhD in giving heartfelt compliments.  He knows how to make a girl feel appreciated.

In all my running around--taking dirty dishes, refilling crostini, fetching ice--I managed to promise guests that I'd post these recipes. They happen to be the two least labor-intensives nibbles of the night.  The dates are from Dana's blog, and I've wanted to make them for a long time.  Simple, quick, but "Give-me-another-one-of-those" scrumptious.

The punch was an accident.  In the prep kitchen, I pulled out my big punch jar and went to grab lemonade concentrate.  A thousand expletives.  In my freezer at home!  And no supermarkets downtown!  Emily walked  to Uwajimaya and called me from the frozen aisle--no lemonade.  We decided on cranberry cocktail, and she carried some back to the gallery.  I dumped the rosemary syrup in, floated a big chunk of ice and a bunch of thinly sliced lemons.  People were pining for it, and it looked so beautiful in the glasses.  It's a big joke on me--the thing everyone's begging for wasn't in the master plan. I'm sure you've got your own stories and metaphors where that's concerned.  If we had it all together and never did things like forget lemonade at home, there wouldn't be room for cranberry punch. And what kind of world would that be?

Emily and Priya will tell you I was definitely NOT all zen about the punch last night, though, or about the rentals arriving 45 minutes late.  Lest you think I can creatively solve kitchen emergencies and smile beatifically all the while.  Sheesh. I'm not that multitalented.

box of dates

Cranberry Rosemary Punch
This makes 5 quarts--a lot.  Halve it for a smallish party.  I often have simple syrups like this in the fridge, so you can just pour a little bit into a single glass of juice, too--taste, and adjust to your liking.  Not surprisingly, I like mine really rosemary-y.

For simple syrup:
2 c. water
2 c. sugar
1/4 c. chopped fresh rosemary

In a saucepan, combine sugar and water over medium heat until sugar is dissolved.  Add rosemary, simmer for a couple minutes, then remove from heat and cool.  Pour mixture through a sieve, discarding rosemary. Keeps in the fridge for a couple weeks.  This makes more than you will need.

To make punch:
Combine 4 cans frozen cranberry juice concentrate with 12 cans water and 1 1/2  cup of rosemary simple syrup. Add lots of ice (you want to dilute the punch a bit since you've just added sugary syrup), two thinly sliced lemons, and a couple fresh rosemary sprigs.  Serve confidently, acting like you planned this the whole time.

Goat Cheese and Pistachio Stuffed Dates
Makes 16.  Adapted from Dana Treat, who adapted it from
The New Classics by Martha Stewart.  You can make the goat cheese filling one day ahead and refrigerate it. These hors d’oeuvres can be assembled several hours before serving. Loosely cover them with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for up to three hours. Bring to room temperature before serving.

4 oz. soft goat cheese
3 tbsp. shelled salted pistachios, toasted and coarsely chopped
1 tbsp. finely chopped fresh chives
1 Tb. honey
8 plump, soft dried dates (preferably Medjool), pitted and halved lengthwise

Stir together goat cheese, pistachios,chives, and honey in a small bowl until smooth. Season with pepper.

Arrange dates, cut side up, on a platter. Using a small spoon and your fingers, fill each date with a small mound of the filling. Garnish, if you like, with additional chopped pistachios and chives.  Thinly drizzle a bit of honey over the whole platter.

Cranberry Fig Jam

fig and cranberry jam

In Praise of Leftovers has taken a backseat this week to the rigors of catering prep.  When I get in the zone, I hardly even have an interest in pulling out the camera.  That's serious.

I'm helping my friend Geoff with a gathering he's having in advance of the Organization Development Network conference being held in Seattle this year.  This will give me a chance to praise him--I can make food link to anything. But you know that by now.

Geoff and my friend Kathy have just written a book called Extraordinary Groups.  What I love about the book (my signed copy is waiting to be read--I'm waiting for a no-children window) is not just its provocative premise--that life is too short to waste in groups that don't fulfill their promise--but that I have seen Kathy and Geoff live out the principles and possibilities in their book. I hate what I call the "keynote speaker syndrome," where you see someone speak or present and you can tell they are not living out what they're presenting. It's become a schtick, something they say but don't experience anymore.  In the three years I've known Geoff and Kathy as part of the Community Consulting Partnership, they have exhibited in countless ways what it means to be authentic;  to bring one's whole self to a group; to stay curiously and faithfully engaged in service to the community. Dedicating a cranberry fig jam post to them isn't the highest honor they've ever had, I'm sure, but here goes.

This will be on the cheese plate Friday night--delicious with brie, goat cheese, blue cheese, or even cheddar. It's sad that lots of folks only see cranberries in a sauce on an overloaded Thanksgiving table once a year. Come October, I've got them in my freezer all winter and am always finding ways to shove them into the spotlight.

You can also spread this on toast in the morning, appreciating whatever quiet minutes you might have to yourself before you bring your extraordinary self to the extraordinary groups you're creating.  The world needs whatever gifts you are bringing.

Cranberry Fig Jam
Makes two cups.  The method here is a little strange, mostly because I just made this whole thing up!  I cooked it, let it sit overnight in the fridge, then decided it was too chunky, so performed a little food processor magic on it.  I love the way it turned out.  If you don't have a food processor, just chop your cranberries and figs pretty finely before cooking them.  I can't guarantee how that will turn out, though.  This is one reason I'm so sad Gourmet (the magazine) is going away.  They have test kitchens.  I don't.  We'll save that grief for another post.

3 1/2 c. fresh or frozen cranberries
12 dried figs, coarsely chopped (I used a cake of Kalamata figs)
1 c. sugar
1 Tb. minced fresh ginger
3/4 c. apple cider

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan.  Cook down until thick, about 20 minutes, stirring frequently.  Remove from heat and cool.

Put about 3/4 of the mixture into a food processor with a couple tablespoons of hot water, and pulse until smooth, about 30 seconds. Transfer to a bowl, and mix in the chunkier jam until thoroughly combined.

Mojito Peach Salsa

Mojito Peach Salsa

I'm in bed with my laptop.  The kids are watching Bob the Builder (much to Wyatt's chagrin--he's SO Discovery Channel now), and I hear rain on our new roof.  Fall is definitely on its way, but I'm sneaking in some peach-talk.  My blogging friend Dana talked about summer fruit guilt recently, which I thought was true and funny.  Quick!  Eat all those peaches and really enjoy them!  In addition, you must indulge in fabulous and creative fruit creations which you post about on facebook.  If you're a blogger, for heaven's sake--where's your beautiful rustic fruit dessert?

I've made (and written about) lots of salsas.  I think it's because I'm always looking do something with a couple pieces of fruit, one lone cucumber or tomato.  Many recipes assume you'll be making a big bowl of something for a party.  That would mean you'd have to go out and buy a bunch of stuff.  But if you're cooking for yourself or your family, you really only need a bit to transform your lonely produce into some tangy deliciousness.

Coming home from Sun Lakes, we stopped at a produce stand.  I got peaches, chiles, corn, Roma tomatoes.  Just a bit of each. And when we stopped Safeway for some ice, I grabbed some avocados.  Like I always say, I am incapable of resisting avocados on sale.  When we got home, we had Vacation Fridge (meaning nothing), but I found some corn tortillas. Guacamole, peach salsa, tortillas.  I had the rare occasion of being cilantro-less (what?!), so picked a bit of mint, and it was just the thing. Seems like you can call anything "mojito" these days, so I'm shamelessly jumping on that bandwagon.  Maybe I could moonlight as a recipe-namer somewhere and get paid a lot of money for it.

Lots of thinking as we were driving past the alfalfa fields and truck farms of Central Washington.  Namely, that farming is hard work. Can't take vacation, can't leave things to chance, have to buy that expensive equipment, really have to care about the weather forecast.  And the immigration debate must be so much more than that if you're a farmer trying to keep your costs low.  Complicated.  Without understanding all of it, I just felt thankful that there were still farmers and families committed to growing food that ends up on my table.  I don't know who picked these peaches, but someone did.  And they took care not to bruise them--picked them gently from the tree, placed them in a crate, put the crate in a truck, unloaded the truck at the produce stand, arranged them on a table, scribbled "Local!  $1.29/lb" on a 3 x 5 card, and put them gently in a bag with my tomatoes and corn.  Gift after gift.  So much wonderment and hard work in every plain old day.

Mojito Peach Salsa
I made another peach salsa at Sun Lakes that had corn and cilantro in it.  That was delicious, too.  You can leave the tomatoes out of this, add finely diced cucumber, and leave the chiles out if you don't like heat. This makes a small bowl--double it if you've got the stuff around.

2 large peaches
handful cherry tomatoes, quartered
1/4 small red onion, finely diced
1 jalapeno, serrano, or other hot chile, seeded and finely diced
handful fresh mint, roughy chopped
1 Tb. sugar
juice of one lime
lots of kosher salt

Combine all ingredients gently.  Put more of anything to taste.

Charred Green Chile Dip with Feta

chile dip

If you want to be insanely popular at your end-of-the-summer BBQ, make this dip.

It's inspired by my incredible mother, who lugged a few pounds of assorted chiles up to Ross Lake.  She had my dad grill, steam, peel, and seed them.  That's always his job.  In fact, while I was doing it, I felt like I was channeling him.  He has a precise system which results in perfectly seedless, tender strips.  Being the multitasking, distracted version of him that I am, I made this with summer ratatouille in the oven, chicken in the grill pan, and all the week's veggies waiting their turn to be washed at the sink.

My mom's was bubbling from the oven and included mozzarella. It was based on a dip she and my dad had at Deschutes Brewery in Oregon.  I love that about her.  She has something at a restaurant, analyzes it (and steals the menu), then immediately goes home to recreate it.  And usually her version is better.

Predictably, mine was dictated by Sunday Fridge Cleaning, and also some beautiful, small Anaheim chiles at MacPherson's. They were something like $1/lb.  I didn't know what I was going to do with them, but couldn't pass them up.  If you ever find yourself asking "WWTLD?" ("What would the Leftoverist do?"  DUH.), one answer is definitely to buy things for which you have no plan.  It encourages creativity and variety.  The trick here is not to buy too many things without a plan. Not that I've ever done that, of course.

This photo of Loretta and the teacup is from Jordan's party where this dip was speedily consumed.  Look at those chubby rubber-band wrists.  Coming home from grocery shopping along yesterday (rare treat), I burst into tears thinking about how fast these years are going and how one day I'll miss them.  Tomorrow, remind me I said this.

P.S. The teacup is full of soda.  And it's not organic.

loretta and teacup

Charred Green Chili Dip with Feta
You can use any mix of mild or medium heat chiles--Anaheim, Pasilla, whatever else might be coming on at the markets.  I threw in a couple jalapenos, and I would done more if I had them.  I reached for a lime, then thought better of it.  I'm glad. The smokiness of the chiles came through a lot better without any lime.  And if you REALLY want to get the paparazzi after you, make a double batch of this.  You won't bring any home. Also, I cheated on this photo shoot.  There are no roasted onions in this dip.  I pulled a couple out of my roasting ratatouille.  You can be mad at me if you want.  I hate it when magazines and cookbooks do that.  Anything for a good photo.  A few chopped red onions would do just as well.

1+ lb. Anaheim chiles or mix of Pasilla and Anaheim
2 or 3 jalapenos
1 c. sour cream (no lowfat stuff, either!)
3/4 c. crumbled feta
3 green onions, finely sliced
1/4 c. finely chopped cilantro
1 garlic clove, minced
1-2 Tb. heavy cream
cilantro, red chile flakes, and chopped red onions for garnish

Turn your grill on high.  Lightly oil chiles and jalapenos and grill until blackened everywhere, about 4 minutes/side.  You can also do this under the broiler--you just have to tend to them more.  Put the charred chiles in a plastic or paper bag and close it. Let them steam and cool for about 20 minutes.  This loosens the skins.  Pull the skin and stem off, then lay the chiles flat and scrape the seeds off with a paring knife.  Roughly chop all of them.  You should end up with a little over a cup of chiles this way.

Combine roasted, chopped chiles with everything else, add a bit of heavy cream as needed to loosen the dip.  Garnish with cilantro, chile flakes, red onions, or anything bright.  Serve with tortilla chips or fried bread.

Mediterranean Platter with Cooling Yogurt Dip

mediterranean platterI

n my second post ever (where my loyal sister commented twice, bless her heart), I talked about how there's nothing like after-church hunger.  It's still true.  Occasionally, I sit through church passively, but normally, I work up an appetite.  Today, I led prayers, cried through the sermon, kept track of the kids during lunchtime, and chatted wholeheartedly.  By the time we got in the car, Loretta was a wreck (wailing "I'm tiode!" the whole way home--why don't kids just close their eyes and get it over with already?), and I hadn't eaten enough. Watch out for She Who Has not Eaten Enough.

Bethany UCC

Many Sunday mornings, Yancey and I are tempted to skip church, take advantage of our day together by lounging around with pancakes or taking the kids to the beach. I see why so many people choose that--church is a giant time commitment.  I was reading here recently on this topic--"I hear complaints about fluffy songs, outdated hymns, exclusive language, narrow theology, judgmental messages, too much fashion consciousness, sheer boredom or simply being indoors on a free morning." In the Pacific Northwest, less than 2% of us are churchgoers.  We're out in the real church of the mountains, woods, coffee shops, or brunching with friends...right?

I have ZERO need to convince anyone to go to church, and I understand all the above sentiments.  Here's why I go, though:

  1. Sabbath.  Taking a few hours (or a whole day!) off from being productive is good for my relationships, mental and emotional health, and general outlook on life.
  2. Challenge.  It helps if you go to a church that doesn't let you get away with ambivalence about issues of justice and peace.  A morning at Bethany UCC is likely to kick your ass where these things are concerned, and I need that at least weekly.
  3. Accountability.  Especially where downward mobility is concerned.  It's too easy, living in the world, to forget what really matters if you're not around people trying to live out their values in similar ways.  And by "values," I don't mean the term "family values" that's been co-opted by the Religious Right.  I mean values about living simply, giving generously, understanding privilege, being welcoming to all regardless of age, sex, sexual orientation, class, race, nationality, ability--all that stuff.
  4. Community. Friendships, of course, but more than that.  Going to an intergenerational, multicultural church forces me to be in community with people that I might not choose otherwise.  There are lots of folks I don't "click" with, but we are together.  In a world where affinity seems to be what matters most ("What does the other person have in common with me?") I want the discipline of difference.  And I want that for my children.
  5. Hospitality.  As I've mentioned before, we eat lunch together every week.  Sometimes the table is bending under the weight of baked-from-scratch cakes and fresh salads, other times it's Costco pizza.  But we eat on porcelain dishes, compost the leftovers for the worms, and talk about all sorts of important things while we're doing dishes together. Today, the kids hosted the adults. They harvested veggies from the P-Patch that our church helps operate, and our family contributed a platter of quesadillas.

[Sarah--step down from the pulpit!]  Okay.  Here's how we satisfied our after-church hunger.  And I can't help it--I'm a preacher's daughter.

I just did some major-gargantuan-fill-the-larder grocery shopping yesterday.  Four stops, big list, took me most the day to unpack, clean out the fridge, trim veggies.  I feel much better now.  And had many, many options where lunch was concerned. So this wasn't really a Leftoverist lunch, but some of these things will appear again--don't worry.

After-Church Mediterranean Platter with Cooling Yogurt Dip
Serves 2.  (Wyatt and Loretta had already filled up on plum cake and blueberries at church).  There are so many other things you could use--olives, pepperoncini, grilled eggplant, roasted red peppers, any kind of fresh veggie, hummus, cured meats.  We have been eating like this a lot lately, so I'm sure more versions will appear before the summer is over.  I had some cold poached chicken breasts in the fridge (for a chicken salad recipe later) so threw that in my grill pan.  That's above and beyond.  Just veggies here would be more than enough.

For dip: Mix 1 c. plain yogurt with 1 small clove minced garlic, juice and zest of one small lemon, salt and pepper, and pinch of aleppo pepper or red chile flakes.  Stir, add more of anything to taste.  A little bit of tahini would also be delicious in this.

For platter: Slice a tomato or two.  Peel and seed a large cucumber and cut it into sticks (like carrot sticks).  Cube some feta cheese. Griddle a couple rounds of pita bread (or warm them in the oven) and cut them into wedges.  Arrange on a platter. For grilled zucchini, heat a grill pan or grill to medium high.  Cut a medium zucchini in half horizontally.  Slice each half vertically into four 1/2" slices.  Brush with olive oil and salt.  Put on grill, turning after 2-3 minutes.  Remove from heat, and slice into sticks.  Put on platter. Drizzle your best olive oil over the whole thing, and sprinkle with kosher salt and zaatar (or lemon zest or fresh herbs or toasted sesame seeds or so many other things!).  Serve with dip.

Spice Holsters

vacation antipasti

Growing up, my family took a lot of road trips and camping trips.  We didn't eat out, we didn't stay in hotels, but we never wanted for the high life.  My mom was a magician in the front seat of the car, assembling little towers of crackers, avocados, and red pepper flakes and handing them to my dad while he drove.  I don't know who first coined the term "spice holster" to describe my Mom's readiness with portable food.  I think it may have been one of her son-in-laws.  They love to tease her.  She protests and acts like she's offended, but we love the stash of red pepper flakes in the glove box and kosher salt in her purse.

Thanks to the love and generosity of my in-laws, we just got back from a little vacation in Birch Bay.  Right before we left, I had gone with the kids to Pike Place and picked out assorted veggies--whatever looked good.  No plan except to throw them in the cooler.

dusk on the beach

But here's the trick--I had my vacation essentials.  These are:  olive oil (lots--don't want to run out and have to buy it at the corner store for $12.99), kosher salt, my pepper grinder, red pepper flakes, lemons, limes, lemon reamer, garlic, garlic press, and fresh herbs. Between my garden and Pike Place, I had tarragon, basil, rosemary, parsley, and thyme.  Anything--indeed, the most delicious of things!--is possible.  One might even say I resemble my mother with her spice holster.  Phyllis (my mother-in-law) thought all my accouterments were hilarious (in an I-love-you-and-find-you-amusing kind of way).

I hardly spent any time in the kitchen, but we ate like royalty and on the cheap.  We had a gorgeous antipasti spread the first night which included:

  • Avocado with tarragon, lime, olive oil, and chile flakes
  • Grilled radicchio with lemon and olive oil
  • Blanched green beans with chevre and garlic
  • Baby potatoes with thyme, lemon, and garlic
  • Tomatoes with basil, garlic, and olive oil
  • Assorted olives, salami, and cheese

This is Yancey's favorite dinner and the way to his cute little heart.  Eating this way encourages lingering--we end up talking about all sorts of things we might not otherwise, tying up loose ends from old conversations, and plying the kids with more bread while we do it.

I talked here about how eating creatively and on a budget requires forethought.  Spice-holstering (can I coin that term?) is another example of that.  It didn't take Herculean efforts to ready my spice holster, but it definitely took more thought than just stopping at the store.  I read Michael Pollan's In Defense of Food while we were gone (in two sittings!  Ah, glorious vacation). He says our declining health is marked by a declining amount of time spent preparing, eating, and cleaning up after our meals.  If we want to eat well, this means we have to think about it.  I may spend too much time thinking about it, but you all indulge me.

Nothing in our antipasti spread required a complicated recipe, but I offer here two of my favorites--the radicchio and the avocado.  I ended up being away from this blog for four days, which is a lot for me.  I missed you and I think you missed me. We are in this thing together.

grilled radicchio

Grilled Radicchio
Buy a large head of radicchio from Pike Place Market.  Trim the outermost leaves that may be a bit wilted.  Cut it into 8 wedges, leaving the core intact.  This will keep it somewhat together on the grill.  Put wedges in a bowl--drizzle olive oil and sprinkle salt and pepper.  Heat grill to medium-high, and grill wedges about 3 minutes per side, until charred and getting a bit wilted.  Put back in bowl, squeeze half a lemon over, a little more olive oil, and moan with delight.

Avocado with Tarragon and Lime
I just had one avocado with me, so this is a small yield.  If I had brought more, we could have eaten just this for dinner. With crostini, this would make an excellent appetizer to bring to a party.  Just make sure you don't cut the avocado horribly far in advance, or they will brown.  Lime juice does much to ameliorate this, but I'm careful anyway.

Slice a large, buttery avocado and fan onto a small plate.  Sprinkle 2 Tb. chopped fresh tarragon, kosher salt, and a pinch of red chile flakes over it.  Drizzle with olive oil and squeeze 1/2 of a lime over it.

Blackened Tomatillo and Corn Salsa


We were in Eastern Washington over the weekend.  First, in Toppenish for the Murphy family reunion, which is 60 people if everyone comes.  10 Murphy children + partners, kids, and now a fourth generation.  When I'm there, I'm a "kid" and always will be.  I thanked my Aunt Mary for organizing everything and said how nice it was just to show up.  I have to be an adult everywhere else. For better or for worse, isn't that the way it is with family?  We're always who we were.

Then we stayed with our dear friends Sarah, Dan, and Baby Micah on their CSA organic beef ranch in White Swan.  Wyatt and Yancey got up early to help Dan weigh and measure the cattle, and Wyatt will be talking about it for a year.  He was very serious about bringing pants and a long-sleeved shirt so he could look like Dan during chore time.  I am in awe of Sarah and Dan's endeavor.  Their first grass-fed beef will be ready in August, and they've been so value-driven and methodical in how they have prepared the land and  built relationship with their neighbors.  Sarah reports that if a subsriber buys beef from one of their cows, they are helping save 4 million gallons of water annually (!!!) because of the sustainable way their cattle are raised compared to conventional beef.

On the way home, we stopped at a produce stand.  I got a a big box of corn, tomatillos, tomatoes, peaches, apricots, zucchini, cherries and sweet onions for $23.  Is there anything better than driving with a bag of fresh cherries on the console?  I don't think so.

Rainier cherries
We were starving after the 3 hour drive, so I made a huge bowl of corn tomatillo salsa which we had with nachos and guacamole.  Then I took the rest of the salsa and tossed it with pasta, black beans, and feta for Yancey's food at the station tomorrow.


Seeing all my family this weekend, I was more aware than ever of time passing.  My aunts and uncles seemed ageless to me for so many years, but everyone looked older this year.  I suppose some folks might find this depressing, but for me, it's more a reminder of how we have just this one precious life.  And, like dear Mary (Oliver, of course!) says, "I don't want to end up simply having visited this world."

blackened tomatillos and garlic

Blackened Tomatillo and Corn Salsa
This recipe makes a LOT because I used it for black bean pasta salad afterward.  If you don't have those kinds of plans for it (though more and more of you report thinking like The Leftoverist!) you can easily halve it.

10 fresh tomatillos, husks removed
3 cloves whole garlic
olive oil
10 roma tomatoes, finely diced
2 cloves minced fresh garlic
3 ears fresh corn, kernels removed
big handful fresh cilantro, washed and chopped
1 small sweet onion, finely diced
juice of one large lime (or more to taste)
1 jalapeno, finely chopped (seeded if you don't want your salsa spicy)

Place tomatillos and whole garlic in a baking dish close together, and drizzle with olive oil.  Broil for about 8 minutes, until blackened in soft in spots.  Remove from oven and cool.  Then put the mixture into a food processor and pulse a few times until you have a chunky puree.  Or you can coarsely chop everything.

Heat a skillet on medium-high, put a Tb. of olive oil in to heat, then throw in corn kernels.  Saute for just a couple minutes--you still want them crunchy, but not raw.  Remove from heat and cool.

Combine tomatillo mixture, corn, and all other ingredients in a large bowl.  Add more of anything to taste.

farfalle with black beans and leftover salsa

To make pasta salad with the leftovers: Combine leftover salsa with one pound cooked and drained pasta.  I used farfalle.  Add a can of rinsed and drained black beans, a few handfuls of sliced green onions, a diced red pepper, some pickled jalapeno rings, and a handful of crumbled feta or cojita cheese.  Dress with a little olive oil and more salt.  The salsa will have accumulated lots of juice while it sits, so that's the main dressing for the pasta.

Soy Sake Guacamole

soy sake guacamole

I've been away on retreat for 3 days, but came home for a couple hours Friday for Wyatt's kindergarten graduation. When we got home from the sweet chaos, we were all starving.  Remind me next year that June is Costco Cake Month, and remind me to pack a snack when I leave the house (I know, reader Momosis--bear with me on this).  So Phyllis, Yancey and I came home with the kids, and I scrounged up a mango, cucumber, tomatoes, jalapeno, cilantro, and red onion.  I haven't gone grocery shopping in a week (an eternity around here), so I was happy to find some bits that had affinity with one another.  With a squeeze of lime and a bit of salt and sugar, it made a beautiful bowl of salsa.  We sat around it, reminiscing about Wyatt's graduation and how fast childhood goes, and how it was okay for me to go back to my retreat and leave my children (thank you, Phyllis).  

I love dips--salsa, yes, but especially white, high-fat kinds of dips.  Whenever we go on vacation, I bring a tub of that horrible deli spinach dip or parmesan artichoke dip--the kind with soybean oil in it and a list of ingredients as long as my forearm. Another thing I love about dips is the propensity of people to gather around the bowl and linger there.  I am (I'm told) a very divulgent person, and anything that encourages or normalizes divulgence is good in my book. You have to stay close to the Calorie Fest if you want your fair share, so you have to be together, and sometimes people divulge juicy bits about themselves that might not emerge otherwise.  Now that I love even more than Top Foods spinach dip.

True to my divulging self, I want to share two things with you as I re-enter the world--a dip I've been dreaming about since I made it for my catering gig last week, and this little story.

During my massage at the retreat, the therapist nudged me and said, "Sarah, I want you to see something."  I raised my head to see a baby deer suckling from its mother outside our window.  They stood there for about 3 minutes before the doe licked the wobbly fawn and they wandered back into the woods.  It was the sweetest, most tender moment,  just by itself with no meaning-making attached.  But you know me.  Here comes the meaning-making--this season of my life, nurturing small children, having them and all their crises in tow--is short and precious.  It's not always sweet, but I don't want to miss it. I've been fighting this for awhile, and the deer family gave me permission to relax  into my life and the people who need me now. There is time enough for travel, work, activism, all the things on my bucket list.  My life now is the real thing, and I want to pay attention.  And these moments have everything to do with all the things I want to do later.

Okay.  Enough philosophizing.  This dip is my  favorite  new recipe in a year.  I'm not kidding.  Fusion food (combining elements from different cuisines) can sometimes go really wrong so I was a bit suspect of guacamole with sake, soy, and ginger.  And I really didn't know if my clients would like it. They agreed to it, but I was nervous they'd take a big old chipful and be disappointed.  They weren't, and I wasn't.  I came home that night exhausted, but had to stay up and work.  I comforted myself with a bowl of this and things didn't seem so bad anymore.

Soy Sake Guacamole
Serves 4 as an appetizer or 1 if you are me.  From Sunset magazine, my favorite magazine.  Yancey and I fight over it when it comes.  I served this with sweet potato tortilla chips and jicama sticks.  It would be fine with regular tortilla chips, but the sweet potato combo was really complimentary. And I happened to be using PERFECT buttery avocados, which is always a boon if you can find them (or wait long enough for them to ripen).  I also really loved the shiso in here, which I got at Uwajimaya.  If you are not lucky enough to have access to an Asian supermarket or don't grow it yourself, just leave it out.

2 ripe medium avocados, pitted
1 serrano chile, seeded and finely chopped
2 Tbs. fresh lime juice (or more to taste)
11/2 Tb. soy sauce
11/2 Tb. finely grated ginger
1 Tb. sake
1 Tb. finely chopped green onion
2 Tb. minced shiso leaves (optional)
1 Tb. toasted sesame seeds (you can toast yourself or buy them toasted, which I do)

Scoop avocado flesh into a bowl and mash with a fork (leave slightly chunky).  Stir in all other ingredients except sesame seeds. Sprinkle with the seeds.