Tag Archives: cooking

on moments of time: (story)time: eat this poem by nicole gulotta


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“As for food, simple cooking dominates most days, like jam spooned into thick yogurt, a bowl of popcorn left on the coffee table, or beans smashed on bread. None of it is particularly noteworthy. Leftovers are placed in glass containers for tomorrow’s lunch, and scraps are scraped into the trash bin. Whole plums, celery stalks, and bunches of carrots in the bottom of the crisper go soft before we can use them. The remains of our meals are discarded like poem fragments we put into a file to look at when we’re in need of inspiration.

A poem stops time, keeping a moment suspended until we’re ready to revisit it. A good meal stops us too, however briefly, reminding us to savor every bite.” – Nicole Gulotta, Eat This Poem.

I’ve had this book in my hands for a month now, but I wanted to read through it all first, and cook from it as well, before I shared it with you. The month has been very busy, but I’ve pulled this book into my lap for five and ten minute stretches here and there, and we’ve been cooking from it all month. To be completely honest, it wasn’t the first time I’ve read or cooked with Nicole. Her blog of the same name is a staple in my life, and I consult her Literary City Guides first before planning any trip. I even got to test out some of the recipes in this book last year as Nicole was writing and editing her manuscript. I had to dig a little to find the photos I took during that time, and finally found this one.

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Our family tested four of Nicole’s recipes, and the Earl Grey Shortbread Cookies could be reason alone to purchase this cookbook. But don’t let it be.

The only recipe I made for just me was a simple Caesar salad with paprika croutons. I saw this photo and I can remember all the details of that Saturday afternoon. I was home from yoga, and the sun was streaming in the back window of the kitchen as it likes to do on the weekends. Everyone else was eating at the table while I prepped the ingredients; they were scattered again when I finished. I pulled the latest issue of Dwell out of the mail pile, and filled a water spotted glass two-thirds high before sitting down to eat. I ate the whole bowl, and helped myself to seconds. The afternoon stretched ahead of me, glass-spotted, sun-spotted. I packed the leftovers into glass containers for tomorrow’s lunch, and ate the scraps, folded down the corner of the magazine page, and set it aside to finish later.

…..

Pairing Nicole’s own rich food stories and kitchen experiments with poetry is the magic here. One night I had beets, and I started in an ordinary place – the index, scrolling my finger though the b’s to find inspiration. But another night I first opened and began to read Billy Collins’ writing about a pear, and dinner inspiration started there. Food is temporary, fleeting. A few moments on our counter, and then spent – eaten, stored, discarded. It meets us where we need it, and can be nothing more than that. Which makes the memory of a salad on a Saturday that much more surprising – and comforting. What else did I do that day? I’m not really sure, but I can still remember standing there at the counter, scraping croutons off the baking sheet, and eating scraps as I went.

…..

BASKETS

By Louise Gluck

From The Triumph of Achilles (1980)

1.
It is a good thing,
in the marketplace
the old woman trying to decide
among the lettuces,
impartial, weighing the heads,
examining
the outer leaves, even
sniffing them to catch
a scent of earth
of which, on one head,
some trace remains—not
the substance but
the residue—so
she prefers it to
the other, more
estranged heads, it
being freshest: nodding briskly at the vendor’s wife,
she makes this preference known,
an old woman, yet
vigorous in judgment.

2.
The circle of the world—
in its midst, a dog
sits at the edge of the fountain.
The children playing there,
coming and going from the village,
pause to greet him, the impulsive
loving interest in play,
in the little village of sticks
adorned with blue fragments of pottery;
they squat beside the dog
who stretches in the hot dust:
arrows of sunlight
dance around him.
Now, in the field beyond,
some great event is ending.
In twos and threes, boldly
swinging their shirts,
the athletes stroll away, scattering
red and blue, blue and dazzling purple
over the plain ground,
over the trivial surface.

3.
Lord, who gave me
my solitude, I watch
the sun descending:
in the marketplace
the stalls empty, the remaining children
bicker at the fountain—
But even at night, when it can’t be seen,
the flame of the sun
still heats the pavements.
That’s why, on earth,
so much life’s sprung up,
because the sun maintains
steady warmth at its periphery.
Does this suggest your meaning:
that the game resumes,
in the dust beneath
the infant god of the fountain;
there is nothing fixed,
there is no assurance of death—

4.
I take my basket to the brazen market,
to the gathering place.
I ask you, how much beauty
can a person bear? It is
heavier than ugliness, even the burden
of emptiness is nothing beside it.
Crates of eggs, papaya, sacks of yellow lemons—
I am not a strong woman. It isn’t easy
to want so much, to walk
with such a heavy basket, either
bent reed, or willow.

…..

Buy a copy of Eat This Poem for yourself, but then maybe for your mother next week, or the teachers who share poetry with you and your children, or the newlyweds just filling a first kitchen, or any others who feed your soul.


[Gift pairs well with the aforementioned cookies.]

things I thought of *after* I pushed “publish” on that last post

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Since I finished that last post, I’ve thought of a few additional things that I should have added. I apologize if I’ve said some of this before – I think maybe I’ve talked about it briefly on some of my Instagram counter photos, but Leslie’s comment about cooking dinner with three little kids underfoot made me think of it again.

I’ve talked a lot about menu planning and shopping with a list, and you can read that here if you missed it and are interested. If you’re not interested, I completely understand. Grocery lists are not that riveting. Unless you are our friend, and you write a book about them, and you get to appear on The Jimmy Kimmel Show to promote it. Otherwise, sort of a snore.

Knowing what we’re going to have for dinner and having the ingredients on hand is half the battle. I have a really hard time tossing make-at-home dinner plans to pick up takeout, even when I find myself tired and hungry at the end of the day – and sometimes at the end of a hard gym class or a long run. It’s not the easiest thing to walk in the door at 6:30 or 7:00 and start the process of making dinner from scratch. This is what helps me stay motivated, and on track.

1. My husband cooks dinner as well, but he does the afternoon kid shift, so he’s often doing pickups and shuttling around to activities, which means about 60% of the time I’m on deck for dinner. We typically email or text each other at some point in the day about dinner plans, and if there is a long lead item in the mix (like roasting vegetables or hard-boiling eggs), he’ll get some of that prep done before I get home. He used to do the majority of the cooking, but I’ve really grown to love it, and find it calming at the end of the day.

2. I walk in the door, take off my shoes, wash my hands, and immediately start pulling ingredients out of the fridge. If I stop to read the mail, or change clothes, or sit down – even for five minutes – I lose all motivation and suddenly feel like I might starve to death that instant. If I get all of the ingredients out, within two minutes I’m in the groove, and even if dinner takes another forty-five minutes, it doesn’t bother me.

3. Sometimes I have a drink while I’m cooking. It can make the task feel like a more pleasurable one – like I’m doing this for fun, and I’ve come to regard it as just that.

4. Ingredients out, produce washed, big strainer in the sink, ready to go. I do all the prep on my 15″ wide countertop between my range and my sink. It’s tiny. I chop vegetables and swipe the scraps directly into the strainer in the sink. I put everything into glass bowls and ramekins, and most nights they fill the countertop and my cutting board when I’m done. I carry the strainer with the scraps to the trashcan, open up the dishwasher (that I’ve emptied over breakfast), snap a photo of the ingredients to keep track of what I’m making, and get started.

5. I fill the dishwasher as I go, and I try to keep things clean as I’m cooking. Some nights I’m still a disaster, but I’ve improved over time. I set timers for everything, just in case I get distracted. I call for help when I need it, and for the table to be set. If there’s a lull in the action, I wash and slice fresh fruit, which we pass around the table each night.

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6. The house starts smelling really good, and dinner is ready. We crowd four people around a table for three, and practice our manners (and our patience). Some nights it’s just a mess, most nights it’s okay. Some nights it’s perfect, like the best sort of family dinner you could imagine. Everyone clears their spot except for the little one. She feigns exhaustion at the slightest hint of a chore.

7. We never leave the kitchen without completely cleaning up, and packaging up leftovers for lunch tomorrow. (I love leftovers.) Most nights M and I do that together, while the girls move into their bedtime routines. Sometimes one of us accompanies them when meltdowns seem close at hand. I love the feeling of a clean kitchen at the end of the day. Turning out the light and climbing the stairs to the bedrooms above is one of my favorite things about our days. It’s nothing and everything all at once.

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Glamour shot of the inside of my refrigerator, with all my leftovers lined up in a row. We also have a lot of cheese sticks this week. And a lot of cheese in general!

on my counter, lately

I feel like doing a happy dance most days – the increase in daylight hours means I’m back on the running trail again. I was a little worried about the effects of my winter hibernation, but I’m pleased that the indoor work I’ve put in since November seems to have really helped my overall strength and endurance. E has a confirmation class / youth group meeting on Sundays just three blocks from Forest Park, which gives me ninety minutes of late afternoon sunshine to run my heart out. Last weekend I measured the perimeter + those extra blocks at 6.5 miles; if I add in an additional inner route I like, I can get in 10 miles in that stretch of time. Which means I’m hungry these days since I’m running off the rough equivalent of lunch and dinner several times a week.

My dear friend (and running mentor), Sam, reminded me a few months ago that distance running and high intensity workouts would require some additional fueling. This is a good reminder, because I’m not much of a snacker, and I’m pretty set in my eating habits. It has made me more conscious of our weekly menu at home – I’m trying to focus on eating really great dinners (and resulting leftover lunches) rather than throwing in additional snacks to the mix. I’ve noticed that my sweet tooth is almost gone – I’m craving dinners with flavor, grains like farro (which I could eat every night, I think), earthy flavors like mushrooms, and especially bitter greens coupled with citrus. Outside of my pregnancies (which were decidedly not food happy times in my life), I can’t remember having cravings like this. It’s kind of strange, and I wonder if it’s normal. Maybe I’m just getting older – everyone, particularly my doctors these days, like to remind me of that.

I can tend to go off on tangents fairly easily on certain topics, but I’m going to avoid that here, and instead just point to a few interesting articles and radio bits on the subject that have been interesting to me. I feel like cooking and eating and food topics in general can get to be touchy subjects sometimes, so I try to write about it (and photograph it) as a conversation piece on a topic that interests me rather than from a position of knowing all the answers about food. I like to be inspired in the kitchen, and reading and listening to others talk about food does that for me, and maybe it does a bit for you as well. As Michael Pollan puts it, “Eat food, not too much, and mostly plants.” I subscribe wholeheartedly to this mantra, and I build on it with the idea that there’s no reason it can’t be delicious and fun and different every single night.

Run Less, Run Faster – this book really speaks to me at this stage of my life. I’m committed to being healthy and building a good platform moving forward as I age (get old, I know – I get it), but I’m a realist about how I spend my time. I’ve said all along that I don’t care about being an elite runner, but I also know that I like to study and improve and throw 110% into most things I do, so this gives me an avenue to do that at a personal level which helps to keep me engaged, i.e. lacing up my shoes and actually doing it. I also thought the chapter on a runner’s diet was interesting – particularly because it states that a highly varied, plant-based diet (little to no meat) is optimal. (Another great rec from Sam, marathon runner extraordinaire and all around nice gal.)

–Anything by Michael Pollan, but specifically Cooked. The new documentary series makes me sad (again) that we gave up Netflix. However, giving up Netflix also means I actually have time to put these goals into action.

–First Bite by Bee Wilson, as discussed on Fresh Air – I thought this interview was interesting, and I am always fascinated about how babies and children learn to eat, but I’m even more interested in her discussions on how adults can also learn (re-learn) how to eat in healthier ways.

Here are some of the best things we’ve been eating lately:

Stellar Quinoa Burger from Bon Appetit (Feb 2016) – this was definitely a weekend dish, and as many of the commenters pointed out, the burger didn’t hold together very well, but it was SO delicious that I’m determined to figure out a better binder. Or just resign myself to a messy dinner again. I made a spiced tomato chutney and sliced avocados for the top of the burger and it was divine.

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This Blue Apron meal was DELICIOUS. I was all, what? Cheese? Lemons? Together, on a sandwich? And then I ate it. It hit all the crave points and the salad was spot on fantastic and I’m going to serve it at my first dinner party in our new dining room because I basically daydream about dinners with friends in the new space 24-7.

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An old standby, but such a good weeknight dinner, particularly post-workout. M improvised a bit by making bread crumbs with leftover focaccia and it was delicious. Watch the salt on this one – add slowly. I don’t smash it in with the garlic like it says in the recipe.

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And we hosted a table at trivia night last weekend, and I made a crowd favorite, the ginger-chocolate-apricot cookies from here, plus three sandwiches: Prosciutto-Pear-Brie with lightly dressed arugula, Roast Beef (cajun spice, rare, thinly sliced)-Aged Cheddar-Mayo/Dijon Mustard blend on bottom-Mango spread on top-Pickled Red Onions-Watercress, and Egg Salad-Watercress/Arugula blend-Pretzel Roll. They went over well, and we had a few leftover for Sunday lunch.

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Spring is coming – I can feel it, and I’m fueling up and ready. Asparagus and rhubarb are on the horizon…