Lovage and Lemon Guacamole

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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....

Stairbuilder

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

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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.

Roasted Onion Guacamole

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I know summertime is for grilling or eating cold salads. We do plenty of that. But my oven comes in handy to shrink the mounds of produce I can't help but collect. I joked with Yancey that 50% of my time is Fridge Maintenance.  Jenga Fridge--if you take one thing out, the whole thing collapses. Until we find a bigger or second fridge on Craigs List, what to do with the pounds of zucchini, giant leaves of kale, cauliflower florets, and bulbous tailed onions hogging all the real estate?!

Turn your oven to 425 and let the magic begin.

I brought home a beautiful bunch of onions from Joe's Garden (Bellinghamsters, do you know what an amazing treasure this place is?). Of course I had no use in mind for them, and before long they started irritating me, the tops wilting, the bulbs flopping everywhere. So I coarsely chopped them up, threw them on a cookie sheet with olive oil and salt, and roasted them at 425 for about 10 minutes. They emerged soft, oily, charred in places, and perfect for mixing into everything I eat this week--sandwiches, eggs, burritos. And this guacamole. 

Other ways to use your oven in the summer:

  • Cauliflower florets with sumac, sesame seed, oregano, salt, and olive oil
  • Strips of pepper (much easier than roasting the whole pepper and peeling it)
  • Zucchini sliced lengthwise into 1/8" strips with salt, pepper, a bit of lemon juice, and olive oil
  • Kale chips
  • Roasted bok choy, a current favorite
  • If you're lucky enough to have excess tomatoes sitting around, cut them in half and roast them at 200 for 10 hours. Heaven. 

Roasted Onion Guacamole

Big handful fresh cilantro
1 small clove garlic
1/2 seeded jalapeno
1/2 tsp. salt
4 ripe avocadoes
juice of 1/2 lime
1/2 c. roasted onions

With a mortar and pestle, smash the cilantro, garlic, jalapeno, and salt until a paste forms. Add avocadoes and pound until desired chunkiness. Add lime, roasted onions, and more salt or lime to taste.

Tostadas with Chard Slaw

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We are finally feeling summer. After last week's deluge, that seemed unlikely, but we're planning to enjoy the 82 degree heat wave today by meeting Megan and her girls at the pool. We have to stay cool somehow. 82 is Death Valley around here!

And summer means berries, chard, zucchini, kale, green beans, cucumbers, herbs. My sister-in-law Kelly got me a full CSA subscription to Sage and Sky Farm, and Wednesdays are my favorite day now. We get a newsletter in our inboxes detailing what's in each week's box, but I don't like to look. I like to be surprised when I open up the blue lid and see all those green, tender morsels picked that morning. This week, it was chard, arugula, bok choy, lettuce, and sugar snap peas--a giant bag of them which our family consumed while garage sale-ing yesterday morning. (Mothers, I'm sure you know this trick--put vegetables in your childrens' hands while they are in motion or in front of the T.V, and they will disappear. Not that these peas needed any help, though.)

Tostadas are a common meal around here. The crunchy, flat shells are perfect vehicles for all sorts of things, they never go stale in the pantry, and little hands don't have to roll anything up. Per usual, I set all the toppings in the middle of the table and let everyone do their thing. I also served warmed refried beans (though cold would be just fine) and grated white cheddar with these, but you don't need that. 

Presto. A vegan no-cook meal that leaves more time for being outside. 

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Tostadas with Chard Slaw
Thinly slice 1/4 head of green cabbage and several large washed, ribbed Swiss chard leaves. Toss them with very thinly sliced red onion, a glug of olive oil, coarse salt, a dash of white wine vinegar, and some crushed red pepper, if you like. Smash avocado (or lay sliced avocado) on your tostada shell and top with slaw. 

BLT Salad with Creamy Avocado Dressing

BLT salad

This is the first meal I made in our new (summer) home. Nothing revolutionary, but easy, delicious, and just right for when the temperature climbs to a blistering 70 degrees around here. To celebrate, we went for a dunk in Lake Whatcom, which happens to be right outside our door.

Some other tidbits about our move and our new life in Bellingham: 

  • There are deer everywhere up here.  At first, I was incredulous when my Mom suggested Wyatt pursue them with his slingshot.  Then, after noticing they had eaten all my pots down to nothing, I'm reconsidering.
  • Wyatt climbed up in the cherry tree while the moving van was idling in the driveway of our Seattle house. I told him he could have a few last minutes up there. He sobbed so loudly he could be heard down the whole block. It was heartbreaking, but I love that he feels things so deeply. 
  • The Bellingham Farmers Market is indeed amazing. Wyatt got a lavender lemon popsicle and I bought some kale. Of course.
  • Our rental (and the fixer we purchased down the hill!) are right on an interurban trail system. We are in heaven, going for lots of bike rides and spending an inordinate amount of time outside.
  • In spite of not being unpacked yet, in the last five days I have managed to make basil shortbread, a giant platter of carnitas, rhubarb crisp, and have people over for dinner twice. There's some pent-up cooking energy going on, for sure.

This morning, at the kitchen table, the kids chattering in the living room and Yancey still asleep, my parents' cat meowing at the front door, I feel complete. We have landed, and it is good.

BLT Salad with Creamy Avocado Dressing
Serves 4. I've given instructions to make one big bowl, but you could plate the salad up individually. 

For salad:
1 large head lettuce, washed and torn
1 bunch watercress, washed and stems (mostly) removed 
2 c. fresh bread cubes
olive oil
salt and pepper
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1 lb. bacon, cooked until crispy and coarsely chopped
1 large avocado, cubed 
4 hard-cooked eggs, sliced into wedges 
handful of crumbled feta 

For dressing:
1 medium avocado
juice of one lemon
1/2 bunch cilantro, washed 
salt and pepper
one garlic clove
water to thin 

To make croutons, heat 2 Tb. of olive oil in a heavy skillet.  When oil is hot (but not smoking), add bread cubes, salt, and pepper. Saute until bread is crispy on all sides, but not hard (about 5 minutes). Set aside.

Arrange greens in a large salad bowl. Lightly toss with 1/2 of other ingredients--avocado, feta, bacon, eggs, and croutons. Arrange the rest of ingredients on top of the salad.

To make dressing, combine all ingredients in a food processor or with an immersion blender. Thin with water to desired consistency.

Drizzle dressing over salad.