We inherited a rose bush, fully mature and waving around her blooms like it’s the Macy’s Day parade everyday during season. It’s only a little bit unknown that I have a record with demerits for killing plants you can “neglect,” doing such a good job in my neglecting that they shrivel into a husk of their former selves. Not so with the rose bush. Call it adulting or call it dedicating oneself to the preservation of beauty in the world society, but I have doubled up efforts and that will soon include pruning and weeding. (Sidenote: who am I?)
Romanesco might be the vegetable of an architect’s dreams. This broccoli cauliflower hybrid is full of M.C. Escher angles. I could eat soup every day. It can be easy and tough to master. So much of it comes down to semantics of seasoning. For this Romanesco Soup, I wanted to riff on the green color, adding a green tasting food like celery root, which when the hairy husk of an exterior is cut off reveals pale flesh that taste like the stalk. A little parsnip goes a long way but I love it in soup. Fennel offers a smidge of sweetness and a barely green bulb sliced into half moons. The spice here is enough curry powder to give it an edge but not enough to taint the silky green surface with turmeric’s golden glow. No, instead, that’s done by actual shaved disks of fresh turmeric as an optional garnish with shaved jalapeno for a hit of heat (and more green), and the fresh sudsy scent of cilantro. Fresh turmeric is a revelation–it’s a taste of sweet earth with only rooibos coming close to matching that flavor moniker. Don’t skip the butter unless you’re vegan (then, you can totally sub in vegetable stock and all olive oil). I love the luscious texture the butter gives to the soup and a hint of flavor without it becoming at all indulgent. But then again, I’m of the ilk that a soup made from scratch (that includes using boxed broth) with time, love, and intention is pure indulgence of the highest order that feeds the stomach and soul simultaneously.
Stowed away in my closet, in the farthest reaches of where the walls meet, a winter coat enclosed in a zippered bag waits. Nestled nearby, snow boots that are nearly good as forgotten, might as well yell that they still reside with me. It’s been almost a decade since I attended New England in the winter and summer for my poetry MFA, but I can almost hear the slight crunch of snow compacting underfoot. The break of seasons gives a natural rhythm to the year and even though winter sometimes can take its time finishing its lap, there is something whimsical about a world bathed in fresh snow and diffused light. Living in the golden state, we forget what winter can mean. For us, on good years, we can expect rain. And this year, days three and four involved climes of mid-seventies weather. So, I’m dedicating this recipe to my friends and family entrenched in a winter wonderland. Think of it as a love letter from California.
Winter vegetables can seem bleak without the variety of the summer harvest. It’s why of all the recipes I cooked from Myra Kornfeld and Stephen Massamilla’s food poetry cookbook, Cooking with the Muse, I asked if I could share her Mediterranean Cauliflower Kale Roast with Feta. This vegetarian side dish packs in bold flavors and served with baked tofu or salmon, is my kind of healthy meal. What makes their way of approaching recipes extra special is how Massimilla provides a poet’s note and in this case, a snippet from an Auden poem to accompany Kornfeld’s recipe creation. Food poetry synchronicity at its finest!
I’m on a mission of Thanksgiving leftovers reconsidered. Do you have leftover pumpkin pie? Before you even think about sneaking a piece onto your plate the day after, HOLD ON and consider the following: Pumpkin Pie Latte Shakes. In possibly the most meta-experiment of a pie-inspired drink coming back to the original concept and actually including pie in the drink without any of the funny food coloring or extras, there’s nothing basic about this dessert.
If someone asked you the question, Are you a cook or a baker, the answer comes quickly for most. I am and always will be a cook first—I like the tactile process of tweaking along the way, tasting until a dish is just right. For a long time I didn’t think there was a baker inside of me. Two things changed that: my sourdough starter, Salvatore, and Kate McDermott. Kate and I met in New Orleans at IFBC years ago. After that food conference, I sought out her blog and discovered a post she wrote about her neighbor Sadie, a story that started me on the road to finding my inner baker. She wrote, “In her gentle way, she taught me that baking from the heart always tastes best, even if it doesn’t turn out quite like the picture in the magazine.” The post and quote made me rethink everything I had ever presumed about baking and question when Kate would write a book about her unfussy perspective on pies and baking.
Truth or dare? I always go with dare, but will start here with a truth. At Thanksgiving, my two favorite dishes growing up starts with my Tita’s dressing (I’m not alone there as my Tia doubles the batch so she can freeze half, defrost, and reheat whenever she has a hankering for her mother’s cooking). The other dish at its core is more cream of mushroom soup concentrate and crunchy onions from a tin than green beans. One hopes that time outgrows habit and on that point, I still love my Tita’s dressing and a good Green Bean Casserole, though now I prefer homemade mushroom cream and fried shallots.
Let’s say you’re a beer drinker. And, by beer drinker, I don’t mean no-other-adult-beverage-is-in-the-fridge-so-I-guess-it’s-a-good-night-for-beer drinker. Instead, you’re someone who first evaluates a restaurant by what’s on their beer list. What’s on tap first only to be followed by the bottled options. It may be very en vogue to be a beer drinker now, what with the explosion of amazing craft brews available from independent outfits, but I know someone whose delight for hops and yeast knows only the limits of what’s available in IPA. I can appreciate that kind of fixation with my gaze on tea (and have been noted to say more than two handfuls of time that “kombucha is my beer.” But let’s be honest, I can’t imagine tacos without Negra Modelo and have a penchant for Ranger with its elderflower notes. I’m a fan of dark oatmeal stouts too, but it must be said, anything I appreciate or know about beer originates with my main squeeze). Oh, husband. Lover of India Pale Ales. My dear heart. The man to whom I once gave an anniversary gift of a new-to-him-brand six-pack of IPA and a smattering of cheeses. Man whose dad once owned a t-shirt emblazoned with the sentiment, “Wisconsin: Beer, Cheese, and a Few Weirdos.” He’s my weirdo and as such, I’ve never seen the kind of enthusiasm he laid down when he picked up Lori Rice’s first cookbook, Food on Tap. It should be known I’m a fan of adding beer to food (hello, frijoles borrachos!) and every autumn I make my Beer Braised Lamb and Leeks and, now to add to the list will be Warm IPA Braised Cabbage Salad.
How do you say I love you? It comes out of my mouth in the language of beer and cheese. Cracking open an IPA for the one that I love even if my brew is less hoppy and scoring the best Vermont has to offer when it comes to cheddar (he likes it extra sharp) might be the love language that can’t really be bought. I tasted a delightfully bold cheddar from Cabot Creamery at IFBC and it set a plan in motion. Some people give expensive gifts, trips, watches, or other finery. I give grilled cheese.
How did we end up here? It’s fall again. Lovely, wonderful fall, the season at the top of so many lists. And maybe a reason it’s a favorite is tied up in the idea of harvest. The idea of bounty. So, what happens when the bounty we find ourselves with is sorrow? Does it seem like 2017 has been particularly macabre? As I write this, the sky has been orange and hazy for two days, over an hour away from the wildfires in the Wine Country.
When the end of September arrives, my pulse seems to quicken. Is it possible that certain seasons offer greater productivity? I’ve been writing behind the scenes. In coffee shops. At midnight. On napkins. On the phone. In my writing notebook. Sometimes writing requires certain parameters to get started. Other times, there is no road. All flat surfaces are fair game. The thing is don’t give up. Write through the rough patches until the street gets smooth.
I should start by telling you anything I could possibly write about Irvin Lin’s first cookbook would be biased. I hung the equivalent of a save-the-date postcard for cookbooks of Irvin Lin’s Marbled, Swirled, and Layered in the coveted spot on the front of my fridge months before his book had even reached his hands hardbound. I bought the book. Attended a book signing. Asked at least one inquisitive question during Q&A. So, as my full disclosure to you, I can give you more than you might ask for in a cookbook review. I can go behind the scenes.