Tuesday, September 13

Still Summer {Berry Tart}

I'm still trying to convince myself that summer's not almost over, even as the leaves are quickly starting to blush and the nights are turning so cold that we've had to add extra blankets to the beds (instead of turning on the heat - it's too soon for that!)  It started off imperceptibly enough, with just the slightest hint of yellow in the top branches of the trees that line our street.  But just yesterday, as I drove through the neighborhood I was shocked to see that the branches are suddenly more gold than green.  When did that happen?  And then the urgency struck.  To make summer last just one weekend longer, just one day more.

This is a curious new feeling for me.  Year after year I welcome fall like an old friend.  My best friend, in fact, for it is my favorite season.  I trudge through summer with my eyes always on her, like a wanderer plods through a desert; her cool nights are the oasis that is often just out of reach.  But not this year.  No, she showed up on our doorstep unannounced at the end of August.  Or so it seems.  And I wasn't ready for her.  However, despite the chill in the air and the changing leaves, the calendar still says it's summer, and I'm holding on to that as tightly as I can, for as long as I can.  Because if the calendar still says it's summer, then it's still summer in my kitchen and as such, there's no shame in sharing one or two more summer recipes before time runs out, is there?  Like the seasons, I feel their time is slipping through my fingers, too, just as strawberries & cherries are too quickly being replaced by apples & figs (which, by the way would look just as pretty on this tart).

Tuesday, August 9

The Summer of the Zucchini Tart

Every summer has it's signature dish.  The one thing I find myself making over and over.  That one dish that never seems to get old, though sometimes my family doesn't share that sentiment.  Last year it was tomato salad, marinated in sweet balsamic and spicy raw garlic, made with what seemed like an endless supply of tomatoes from the garden. The year before, crispy zucchini fries were on the table nearly every day.  The kids requested them cut into sticks instead of rounds and happily dipped them in just about anything from spicy marinara to creamy ranch dressing and even ketchup.  This year it's the zucchini tart, with juicy heirloom tomatoes and caramelized onions, that we can't get enough of.  In fact, I'm sure this summer will become know as "the summer of the zucchini tart" if ever, by chance, my children someday write about the recipes that populated their childhood. (Hey, a mom can dream!)

I've lost count of how many times I've made this tart in the past few weeks and zucchini season continues to stretch before us! Each time it's a little different, depending on what's sitting on the counter.  But this is my favorite variation.  I love the sweetness of the caramelized onions with the bright flavour of oregano.  Top it with a very good olive oil to really bring it to the next level.  I've fallen in love with Cobram Estate extra virgin olive oil.  Not only is it made in a completely peanut-free facility, but their small batch, tree-to-table practices produce the most pure and flavourful olive oil I've ever tasted!  In a tart that's this simple, it's those pure ingredients that make it so amazing. 

Thursday, July 28

Chocolate Sunflower-Butter Cake

I don't often crave peanut butter any more, but when I do it's fierce, relentless and has to be satisfied in the biggest and most extravagant of ways.  Last week I woke up with the craving and couldn't get it off my mind.  Like that catchy song that's stuck in your head.  You can't get it out until you sing it at the top of your lungs.  Well, this cake is the equivalent of me singing "peanut butter, peanut butter, peanut butter" in my loudest voice.  Only it's completely peanut free!  And it worked!

Thursday, July 21

Blueberry Swirl Ice Cream with Blueberry Syrup

To say last week was hot is like saying the ocean is wet.  "Hot" doesn't even come close!  Sizzling, scorching, sweltering are better.  The kids even began contemplating solar science experiments.  For instance, if a red and a yellow crayon are left in the cup holder in the car, what color will the resulting ooze be the next morning?  Or, if placed in the sun, how quickly would my cast iron skillet reach a temperature hot enough to cook an egg?  And once preheated, how long would it take to fry that egg using only the searing heat of the sun and a little butter?  In the end, though, it was just too hot to venture outside for that.  We decided to make ice cream instead, which we all agreed was preferable to a fried egg.

Thursday, July 14

Summer in a Bowl {Zucchini Vichyssoise with Quick Sweet Corn Relish}

A culture clash or a match made in heaven - or both, as French country meets a 1950's Americana classic in this cool, garden-fresh soup?  Either way it's summer in a bowl!

Yesterday I made one of my favorite summer soups, a zucchini vichyssoise loosely based on Ina Garten's recipe from her book, Barefoot in Paris.  It's an old stand by in my kitchen during the summertime - and a great way to use up zucchini.  But as I stood at the stove and watched it simmer I realized that it just wasn't going to satisfy my craving for something cool and fresh the way it usually does, garnished with ribbons of julienned zucchini and fresh snipped chives.  No, yesterday I wanted something more.  Something zesty, vinegary, fresh and crunchy.  Corn is what I wanted; more specifically, corn relish!  The kind my grandmother would make & store in frilly little canning jars to be pulled out and put on our hot dogs while we watched the Cubs on T.V. 

Wednesday, April 27

Chili Pepper Martini

Bond looked carefully at the barman.

"A dry martini," he said. "One. In a deep champagne goblet."

"Oui, monsieur."

"Just a moment. Three measures of Gordon's, one of vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet. Shake it very well until it's ice cold, then add a large, thin slice of lemon peel. Got it?"

"Certainly, monsieur." The barman looked pleased with the idea. 

-Casino Royale

Thursday, March 24

Time {Blackberry Gin & Tonic}

"If I could save time in a bottle,
The first thing that I'd like to do
Is to save every day till eternity passes away,
Just to spend them with you."  -Jim Croce

I've been thinking a lot about time these days.  Mostly because I never feel I have enough of it and partly because a very small voice inside of me says, "There must be a way to make more, or to at least use what you have wisely."

It seems entirely too cliché to even write about time, because lack of it is just about the most basic problem faced by humanity since...well, the beginning of Time!  It's just a little, intangible, four-letter word, right?  But it also happens to hold within itself the entirety of our lives - little or not.

And recently, whenever I say, "I don't have the time," a quote comes to mind.  It's like a meddling stranger who keeps knocking at my door.  Is he selling something...?  Time in a bottle, perhaps?  (Now, that's something I would be interested in buying.)  But  I don't answer the door.  Instead, I stand by the window, just out of view, peering through the sheer curtains, waiting for him to go away.  He just keeps knocking, and I begin to count the minutes it takes for him to finally give up and leave.  It's as if time is irrelevant to him.  Maybe he could knock for hours, I fear, or even days!  Perhaps he is Time himself, I think in horror.  Time, knocking at my door!  And he doesn't stop; it's an infernal tap, tap, tap, like the incessant ticking of a much-too-loud clock in the dark of night - ticking away the minutes - a constant reminder that time is fleeting.  Finally I can take it no longer.  I throw open the door in anger, intending to scream, "Stop it!"  But when I face him and glare into his eyes, he's emotionless (of course, Time has no feelings).  Instead, he looks at me so calmly & deeply that I fear he must be able to see my soul.  And then he speaks. "Time is a created thing." He says, slowly, with purpose, "To say 'I don't have time' is like saying 'I don't want to."

It's an ancient Lao-Tzu quote I've thought of probably a hundred times.

"But I DO want to!" I yell back with enough emotion for both of us.  And all the things I loved doing before this little thing called Time became so scarce, come flooding back to my mind.  I do want to make time for this blog, for writing, in general, for taking photos, for creating recipes and uniting them with the stories that make them so meaningful on so many different levels.  Even if I'm the only one who reads them.

"Then do it." He replies, and is gone.  And so here I am, writing at 5:30 in the morning, because it turns out there is a pocket of time just before the sun rises, that I'd been sleeping through.  Who knew?!

Tuesday, January 5

Nine {Blackberry Pavlova with Blackberry-Honey Syrup}

 "Little boys should never be sent to bed.  They always wake up a day older." -Peter Pan

Last night I had a thought.  One of those startling thoughts that begins innocently enough, like the faint vibrations before an earthquake that rattles you to the core.  A reality check, you could say, in the truest sense of the term, though this phrase doesn't carry the weight that I felt last night.  Perhaps an epiphany is a better way to describe it.

I was tucking Connor into bed, and though he's 9 he still likes me to lay down next to him while he's falling asleep.  We talk and talk, and if you know Connor, you know what a chatterbox he can be.  We discuss all matters of importance - from what's going on in his Minecraft world, to the bug he found & caught crawling up a tree at school (catch and release), to the science test tomorrow for which he forgot to study (but he's sure he'll do fine).   He babbles on and on, while I listen, until he finally drifts off to sleep, sometimes mid-sentence.  I treasure this time, it's part of our routine.  But don't get me wrong - there are days when I'm behind on work or have a sink-full of dishes in the kitchen and laundry to fold on the couch,  and all I can see is the minute hand ticking the time away.  Last night was one such night.  Dinner ran late, dessert even later, pushing bedtime closer and closer to midnight.  I had a 6 a.m. video conference scheduled for this morning, and all I wanted to do was crawl into bed with a cup of tea and a book.

Still, the question came, soft as the blankets I tucked in around him, "Mom, can you rest with me...?"

Immediately my to-do list scrolled before me like the never-ending credits of a too long movie.  There were hundreds of reasons I could have said, "Not tonight."  But something stopped me.  Instead I said,  "For just a minute."

Tuesday, December 15

Old Friends {Roasted Red Pepper Soup}

I had a friend years ago who used to say quirky little things like, "Don't forget your sunshine, Sweetie!" and made them sound perfectly normal.  She's someone who radiated warmth; she was unapologetically happy, all the time.  She lit up the room just by stepping through the door.  I was thinking about her a few days ago, remembering when we worked together in the Christmas department of Dillard's in our twenties.  She moved to California in 2006, the same year my son was born, and as the course of life led us in opposite directions we lost touch.  Still, she's one of those people you don't easily forget, and I always think of her when it's time to decorate the house for Christmas.  That same year I was given a beautiful, two-liter food mill at Chistmastime.  It was complete surprise, but I guess I'd complained one-too-many times to just about everyone that my old, cheap little food mill, which I bought to make baby food, was not too far from worthless as it left a greasy residue on the food no matter how thoroughly I washed it.

Sunday, November 22

Good Morning, Sunshine! {Baked Eggs with Brown Butter, Sage & Nutmeg}

The fact that Thanksgiving is just around the corner didn't even occur to me until last Friday.  I'd left early in the morning to drive to Denver to spend the weekend at the Food Allergy Bloggers' Conference with freedible.  That day I decided to take a different route - a winding, narrow two lane highway that leads into Denver from the East.  I thought perhaps the traffic would be lighter, a less stressful, more scenic drive, because for as much as I love the city, I don't like the traffic!  I'd never actually taken that road before, but that morning I was up for adventure.  The road led through a forest just outside of town.  The forest floor was blanketed in fresh snow and the rising sun's long rays stretched through the branches in such a way that the snow shimmered like diamonds in spots.  I thought to myself, look what you've been missing by taking the interstate to Denver all these years!

Tuesday, November 3

In Dreams {Savory Pumpkin Tart & Poached Pears with Cardamom Cream}

Dreams are often most profound when they seem the most crazy. -Sigmund Freud

I really can't complain.  It's the first week of November and there are still tomatoes ripening on the vines in the garden.  Can you believe it?!  And just this morning when I walked out there to pick a few, I found a brand new blanket of tender, baby arugula, planted by the seeds of last spring's plants!  Naively, they bask in the sunshine, oblivious of what's to come.  Yet, the trees - wisest in the botanical kingdom - know it's fall, even if the temperatures say it's still summer.  Their golden leaves cling to the branches, knowing these pleasant days won't last.

I've lived in Colorado long enough to know that when summer stretches late into fall, winter will be fierce and spring, cold and damp.  So I tell myself to savour each and every warm day.  But deep inside I'm longing for the cool, crisp days of fall - for apple cider, for sweaters and boots and scarves, for late nights with friends around the fireplace, and for early mornings when the trees are frosted in fine, powdery snow.  In fact, I want it so badly I've been dreaming of it.  Strange & wild dreams.  Like that old Christmas song - it will be fall, "if only in my dreams."

Thursday, October 22

The Pumpkin Patch {Maple Roasted Pumpkin & Pumpkin Scones}

"In seed time learn, in harvest teach, in winter enjoy." -William Blake

It all started last fall.  I had all these brilliant cravings for pumpkin dishes floating around in my head.  Unfortunately I didn't have enough pumpkins to make them all a reality and the pumpkins in the markets left much to be desired.  I vowed that in the spring I would plant enough pumpkins in the garden to make all those dreams come true.  One thing led to another and as winter dragged on, plans began to take shape, growing larger and larger as my desire for the warmth of summer grew stronger.  Promises in winter are easy to make, but hard to keep.  

Then, one cold-but-not-too-cold day in February, we moved the garden fence across a barren plot of yard that would become our pumpkin patch.  There was life in that frozen soil, I just knew it.

But spring came late and often I found myself gazing out the frosted window at the garden, covered in silver snow, still sleeping when I was ready to run out there and yell, 'Wake up! Wake up!"