Monday, March 23, 2015

Chimichurri

I am posting this recipe here--an older one--by special request. It is one of my all-time favorites.

In my dream, I arrive at the library just as everyone at the kids' school is sitting down to do an art project with their parents: there is glue and wood, paint brushes and scraps of colorful paper. "Oh, great, an art project!" I say, too loud. "I love art projects!" Only when I sit down in one of the eensy chairs, and see everybody looking quietly at me, do I realize I am naked. "Oh, gosh!" I say, too loud. "Lucky I have some undies in my bag!" Everybody looks at me quietly while I hop around and stick my two legs into one leg hole and fall over forwards with my bottom in the air and fall over backwards with my legs in the air. "Oops!" I say from the floor. "Yikes!" I laugh. "This isn't the least embarrassing moment of my life!" Everybody looks at me quietly.

 

It's like the kind of question Ben is always posing: Would you rather go to work completely nude or wearing a transparent wetsuit? (Nude.) Would you rather go to town completely nude or wearing an outfit with large holes cut out over all your private places? (Nude.) What about large holes cut out but patched in transparent fabric? (Nude.) At Dream Crafts Project, I would have been way better off naked than with the whole underpants situation.

 

I love questions like that, and I ask them too, but mine are almost always about food, and I always imagine that we're packing up for a life on a deserted island. What if you had to eat one thing for the rest of your life, but you'd get all your nutrients from it? (Michael picks ice cream, Birdy picks yogurt, Ben picks plum cake, and I pick brown rice.) If you could only use one seasoning for the rest of your life, what would it be? (Salt.) What about besides salt? (Lemon.) What if you could only use one herb? Ben picks mint; Michael picks basil; Birdy can't decide between mint and basil. But me? I pick parsley. I love parsley. It's so green-tasting, so boldy herbal without impersonating any kind of bubble bath; it's the closest you can get to seasoning a dish with the smell of newly mown grass. If it's on my plate as a garnish, I always eat it, and even hours later, I can feel its verdant echo in my mouth, as if my very teeth are photosynthesizing.

 

And this sauce is all about the parsley; it's a tribute to parsley, really, even though it's more commonly understood as an Argentinean accompaniment to grilled meats. In fact, it's typical to add other herbs to chimichurri--oregano or thyme or cilantro--but I love this parsley-only version, which is based in its simplicity on a recipe I clipped from Gourmet years and years ago. It is basic and fantastic, sharply herbal and mouth-wateringly green, with just enough vinegar to balance out the richness of, say, a perfectly grilled steak. But it is excellent with grilled anything: steak, chicken, fish, tofu. It is also a great condiment for sandwiches, and a little stirred into a pasta or grain salad is fantastic. In sum, it has for years been one of my most indispensable summer recipes. Encourage your kids to try it--by promising that they don't have to actually eat it or by calling it Shrek Sauce or whatever--because they may actually like it, but they won't know unless they etc.

Chimichurri 
Makes about 1 1/2 cups
Total time: 10 minutes

I salt steak very heavily before grilling, and so I actually undersalt this sauce a bit!!! I know! Add more to your liking. Also, the sauce can thicken while it sits--almost like it's gelling, strangely--so you may want to stir more oil or vinegar into it as you like. If you can't get out your grill yet, I say a bit about pan-frying steaks here.

1 large bunch Italian flat-leaf parsley
3 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
1/2 cup really good-tasting extra-virgin olive oil
1/3 cup regular old white vinegar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (or half as much table salt)
A large pinch of dried red-pepper flakes (optional)

Cut the largest stems off the bunch of parsley, then submerge the leaves (along with all of its smaller stems--I am not picky about this!) in a sinkful of cold water, then spin it dry in a salad spinner.  Combine the parsley with the remaining ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and whir until pureed. If it resists pureeing (maybe you had an extra-large bunch of parsley!), add more oil and vinegar, proportionately--enough to make a sauce-like consistency, and taste for salt. 

Monday, March 16, 2015

Thai-style Squash Salad with Masses of Herbs



You are lovely, you are. How many times have you shored me up? Countless. Truly. Thank you, now and always, for your kindness, your sympathy and empathy, your thoughtful and carefully chosen words. You have said so many things to me that I have turned over in my mind, and that have offered a great depth of comfort. I will tell you a little more about my friend at some point. I will. I'd love to. I wrote the tiniest bit here, about losing her. I hope to write more.

But also, I am eating. Cooking and eating. My friend died, I slept for a thousand hours, and then I returned, hollow and blinking in the light, to the world of the living, where people expect to be fed, and where I like to feed them and to eat.


I've made this particular salad a number of times lately. I like it because it uses the end of the winter storage squash, but then it gestures towards spring with its bright flavors and heaps of herbs (and much as I want to be all asparagus and radishes, all that's growing here right now is mud and puddles). It's based on a Thai salad I love called nam sod, which is usually made with ground pork or chicken, and has this same flavor thing happening: ginger and chiles and raw onions, lime and salt and herbs, peanuts and fish sauce. 
It is so, so good, and I wanted to make a vegetarian version of it for a potluck we were going to, so I made it with squash (I left some out for the vegetarians before adding the fish sauce). 


Some people won't like it. Some people will like it just fine or even a great deal. And some people will become deranged about it, obsessed, and the email they send asking for the recipe will be time-stamped 3:25 AM, because they were up in the night thinking about it in all it's spicy-crunchy-tender-sour-salty-caramelized glory. I will say that Michael, who is generally baffled by winter squash and people's affection for it, likes it quite a lot prepared this way. "I love the mint and cilantro," he just said when I asked him. And then (this isn't saying much, but still), "I would say it's my favorite squash preparation." Recipe follows a brief photo essay. Enjoy!







Thai-style Squash Salad with Masses of Herbs
It doesn’t matter if you have a little more or less squash: just adjust the dressing accordingly. You can also add other vegetables to the squash, such as roasted Brussels sprouts, which are lovely in here. I haven’t tried sautéed mushrooms, but I feel like they would add a nice, chewy textural element; cooked barley might add that too. Another note: don’t be shy about the salt and lime and chili paste. You want the dressing to taste too salty and sour and spicy before it interacts with the robustly mild, oppressively sweet squash.

2 medium butternut squash (or 1 massive one), enough to make about 10 cubs diced squash
¼ cup melted coconut oil (or vegetable oil)
Kosher salt
1/3 cup lime juice (around 2 limes)
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1-3 tablespoons sambal oolek (Malaysian chili paste) or sriracha (or something else Asian and spicy)
1 tablespoon fish sauce (optional)
3 tablespoons very finely slivered ginger
1/2 cup salted peanuts, roughly chopped
1/2 red onion, halved and sliced thin
1 bunch cilantro, with stems, roughly chopped
Leaves from one bunch mint, the largest leaves torn in half and the rest left whole

Heat the oven to 450 and line two large, rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.

Peel the squash (a brutal job), then cut it into ¾-inch cubes (another brutal job). Toss the squash with the coconut oil in a large bowl, then spread it out on the baking sheets and sprinkle with salt. Roast for 20 minutes then flip the cubes around, switch the pans top to bottom, and roast for another 10 minutes or until the squash is deeply browned in spots and just tender.

Meanwhile, whisk together the lime juice, 2 teaspoons of kosher salt, chili paste, and fish sauce.

Gently toss the squash with about half the dressing and taste: it should be tart, salty, and spicy. Add the ginger, toss again, then leave to cool. Top with the peanuts, onion, and herbs. Toss gently just before serving, then taste again and re-dress as needed.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Loss

1973
Thank you for your kind condolences. Your words have been so comforting to me. I will be back very soon with food and books and lots to share. In the meantime, I am sending love right back out, right back at you.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Broccoli-Cheddar Chowder and Whole-Grain Cheese Muffins

I've got your back. Especially if what's on your back is 100 falling-off buttons, and you need them sewn on in the single minute before your wedding starts. Just saying. #iamagoodfriend
My darlings. I have been a negligent recipe offerer. So I'm compensating with two, which are favorites, and which I've been making again lately, what with the bitter cold and the snow and the snow falling, snow on snow on snow, and also the cold. My oldest, dearest friend is dying in a hospice in Coney Island. I have wanted not to mention that because, well, you know, she is a loyal reader, and who really wants to read that, especially about one's own self? But I think she will not be reading this. And Ben and Birdy have been sweetly teasing me that I have a kind of grieving-Tourette's right now: Hi. I'm Catherine. Nice to meet you. My best friend of 43 years is dying. 

Enough said. Because soup and muffins. Comfort. Love. Lots of cheese. xo


I garnished with "reserved broccoli florets" that I forgot to mention. Texturally, butter-fried breadcrumbs is an even better choice.

Broccoli Cheddar Chowder
Serves 6
Active time: 10 minutes; total time: 45 minutes

Thickened simply with potatoes, this wholesome green soup is easy, delicious, and velvety-rich. Also: broccoli!
           
1 tablespoon each butter and olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 pound of  potatoes (any kind), peeled and diced
1 quart chicken or vegetable broth
2 cups whole milk
pinch of dried thyme or marjoram or mint (if you've got fresh herbs--cilantro, mint, or basil--use more, and add them just before pureeing)
1 large head broccoli (1 ½ pounds), stems peeled, stems and florets chopped
Juice and grated zest of ½ a lemon
8 ounces sharp cheddar, grated
Salt and pepper

Heat the butter and oil in a soup pot over medium-low heat, and sauté the onion and garlic for five or so minutes, until the onion is translucent. Add the potatoes, broth, milk, and herbs, bring to a boil over high heat, then turn the heat down and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes, until the potatoes are very tender. Add the broccoli, and simmer another 10 minutes or so, until the broccoli is tender but still green. Puree, using a stick blender (or carefully, in batches, in a blender), then stir in the lemon juice, zest, and cheese, and add salt and pepper to taste.




Whole-Grain Cheese Muffins
Makes 12

This is a recipe I adapted from The Pioneer Woman Cooks, but I use whole-grain flour instead of white flour and buttermilk instead of milk. Also sharp cheddar instead of Colby jack. The muffins are quick and easy to put together, crunchy-edged, and outrageously savory. Heavily season any soup you eat alongside or it will taste flat by comparison.

1 1/2 cups flour
 (I use 1 cup spelt, and ½ cup whole-wheat)
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon garlic powder
3 cups shredded cheddar cheese

1/2 cup milk

1/2 cup buttermilk
1 egg

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) melted butter (I use salted)

Heat the oven to 375 and grease and flour a 12-well muffin tin.
Whisk together the dry ingredients, then stir in the cheese.
In a separate bowl (or large measuring cup), whisk the egg, milk, and butter together.
Pour the milk mixture into the dry ingredients and stir with a spoon just to combine.
Bake for 20-25 minutes until they are deeply golden and firm to the touch.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Peg Doll Book Winner!!!

KellyB. Please email me with your address! And thank you all so much for playing.

Real post coming soon.

xo

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Making Peg Dolls & More, and a Give-Away!!!

What? Just because she looks like a person more likely to forge a pole axe and come after you with it than make a little peg doll? #watchyourback
I am participating in a Blog Tour! I know! And it's because I am just in love with this book, and when Margaret Bloom asked me to write about it here, I couldn't resist.

This is the first book.
Making Peg Dolls & More is her follow-up to the lovely Making Peg Dolls, and it's so deliciously gorgeous and inspiring that it is currently in rotation here as a coffee table book. [cough *Waldorf coffee table* cough *drink your Sereni-Tea*] Birdy and I pretty much compulsively leaf through it, all the time, and every page shows something we want to make: dreamy-perfect little dolls and toys and ornaments, everything so appealingly wool and wood, so pretty and gentle. Plus, the instructions are super-clear.


We got the book a little before the holidays, and Birdy immediately decided on the project she wanted to make for gifts: these little Herbal Comfort Friends, which are sewn from felt, completed with wooden beads, and filled with sweet-smelling herbs. She designed her own medallions: a sprig of lavender for her grandmother's lavender-filled friend, a little campfire for her friend Harry's that's filled with mint, and a little wind storm for her test doll, that she kept for herself. She loved making them. They are just the sweetest things and, I'm imagining, double nicely as drawer-scenting sachets.

I wish I had a scan of Harry's thank-you note. I think it says, "Thank you for that mint thingy." True, he might not have been the ideal recipient of this particular gift, but it's the thought that etc. 
Birdy was making a diorama for her Underground Railroad report, and she painted this little figure for it. Not a Making Peg Dolls project exactly, but certainly inspired by it. I love the way Margaret paints all the dolls with watercolors so the wood shows through. 

If there were 40 doll bodies in your house, then you could make a few yourself, and your kids wouldn't even miss them!
Making Peg Dolls & More, plus this set of 40 wooden doll bodies (pictured above), would make the world's most perfect gift for a crafty kid. It only gives me a little pang because I feel like my days of giving that kind of gift are truly numbered. Sigh. And then what? Mani-Pedi gift certificates? A Meth-Lab Kit?
I lifted this photo from the Wee Folk Studio post, because this is my very favorite project in the book. 
Anyways, thanks to Margaret's generosity, as well as that of Hawthorn Press, I am lucky enough to be hosting a give-away here. Just leave your name in the comments here if you'd like to be entered (!), and I will announce a winner a week hence. February 18th, 11:00 am EST. Or thereabouts. And for more chances to read about it and win, feel free to visit the other blogs that are hosting reviews and give-aways of this tender, optimistic world-view-as-book:

February 2nd :: The Crafty Crow 
February 3rd :: Clean 
February 4th :: Castle in the Air
February 7th :: A Child's Dream
February 9th :: Forest Fairy Crafts
February 10th :: Bella Luna Toys
February 12th :: Twig & Toadstool
February 13th :: Wee Wonderfuls


Good luck! And lots of love. xo

Monday, February 09, 2015

We Are Obnoxious But We Love You

Ben made this up, when I was going crazy thinking of poems and puns for a holiday work project. I have it hanging over my desk, and it makes me smile every day. "Do you think anyone's going to be offended?" I just asked him, and he said, "If so, they probably shouldn't be reading you." He's a realist.
Oh, Valentine's Day. All of my best ideas are still here. Though there are some bad links, so I'm going to rehash a few ideas here in brief. Mostly you will need: doilies. For instance, to make a pretty cake.

Figure A.
Figure B.
This is the cake you want. You just lay the doily over the (bottom of the) cooled cake and sift powdered sugar over it. Voila! I snipped a heart out of a round doily here, but a heart-shaped doily is also perfect for this. Speaking of heart-shaped doilies!

You can see that I was more about the face than the shirt while snapping this picture. Sigh.
This is a shirt idea I developed for FamilyFun a number of years back. You just stick a doily to a washed and dried cotton t-shirt (I used a loop of tape on the solid part of the doily to stick it down) and use a sponge brush to dab white acrylic or fabric paint down over and around the doily. Then lift the doily off carefully while the paint is still wet (I find that if you wait until it dries, you end up lifting off some of the paint). A folded piece of newspaper inside the shirt prevents leak-through. Done. I use a pearly-white acrylic paint, so I don't even need to heat-set it, but if you use fabric paint, just follow the directions on the bottle.


And if you wanted to make an anatomical heart t-shirt, those instructions are here.

Unrelated: someone pointed out that the Whole-Wheat Chocolate-Chip Cookies weren't here. WTF? That is seriously crazy, given that we make them at least all the time. Remedied, and please keep your requests coming. I love them.

And come back soon! Wednesday-soon. Because we are going to do a special give-away then!

xoxo