Saturday morning I received a FaceTime Call from Emma, my college junior. “Hi Gramma, I just called to see how you’re Celebrating You today?”
Believing I was Celebrating Me by opting out of applying make-up, forgetting to comb my hair and on my 3rd cup of very dark roast, “Uh, Emma,” I asked, “why should I be Celebrating Me?”
Remembering she was live on FaceTime, forbidden to Eyeball Roll her grandmother, she went with the exasperated sigh. “Grandma, it’s your b-i-r-t-h-d-a-y month. You must Celebrate You every single day,” she replied seriously.
Racking my memory, quite sure I’d never celebrated me for 31 straight days, I decided this was something new she’d learned in college. “Enlighten me,” I suggested.
She proceeded to explain. Ending our call, I called up Mr. Google. Self Celebration is not new. Now, however, it’s been enthusiastically embraced by the 72 million Gen Z’ers born between 1997-2019. I even found a link to 100 Ways to Celebrate You. Says Oprah, “The more you praise and celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate.”
Realizing I am about 6 decades late to the party, if Emma wants to celebrate her grandmother, I won’t argue. Surprisingly this exercise has already made my days richer, more meaningful.
DAY 8, Friday : CELEBRATING DORIE
Although I’ve provided Days 1-7 examples below to encourage you to Celebrate You, birthday or not, let’s begin with Day 8.
There’s a stack of reasons to celebrate Dorie Greenspan. First, it’s her birthday month also. Her 14th cookbook, Baking with Dorie: Sweet, Salty & Simple, will hit my mailbox on October 19th. In 2010, my joining French Fridays with Dorie, a virtual cooking group cooking through Dorie’s Around My French Table, provided the footing, support and friendship needed to begin rebuilding a life.
Today I baked gougères, cream puff look-alikes but not sweet. The dough is the same, pâte à choux, but these are cheesy. Gougères are the first thing I baked after joining FFWD in 2010. Today I’m baking them again only using Dorie’s newer recipe, My Newest Gougères, from Everyday Dorie. It’s a simpler recipe (below) but just as tasty.
Dorie has often written about gougères in her books, articles and The NYT Magazine. The past 20 years when she and her husband, Michael, entertain, she serves this little dreamy puffball as an appetizer. I know that’s true. Recently I’ve been spending my winters in Paris. Once, when Dorie knew my Aspen friends were in Paris, she invited us to dinner. “However many are visiting,” she said, “bring them all.”
The short version. We cleaned our plates! We left their apartment at 12:30 am after jumping up from the table on the hour to watch the tour Eiffel’s light show. (Dorie and Michael, charming hosts, were amused.) Their balcony view started from the Arc de Triomphe to the tour Eiffel to the The Dôme des Invalides. Awestruck. An amazing evening.
CELEBRATING ME, Days 1-7(my version )
Here’s an example of my first 7 days. Predictable, quirky and courageous (#7). Your turn.
Day 1, Saturday, October 1st: Looking a bit weary but glad to be here. We’ve all been Celebrating Women 50-some years. Longtime friends gathered to support the young organizers of the Women’s March.
Day 2, Sunday: Finding Joy today with my monthly Zoom Call with 6 childhood friends. Since Covid began, we’ve pulled up 70 years of memories, offered support and mourned the loss of one of us. RIP Carol.
Day 3, Monday: Dazzled by the High Country’s glorious Fall splendor. Patrolled in Ashcroft with my partner, Deb, who hadn’t yet packed her uniform away!!! And, haven’t missed many chances to walk through the Northstar Preserve
Day 4: Celebrating my Mother’s birthday by baking a mini-Apple Crisp, something I can’t replicate.
Day 5: Let’s go quirky…..I wrote down 5 of my Life’s major mistakes, those I regret the most, failures I have dwelled on forever. Did any Good result from them, that lemonade/lemon-thing? Yes, I realize. Forgiving. transformational.
Day 6: Coupling with Day 5. From this day forward, determined to cut myself some slack, eliminate all expectations of perfection and just enjoy the journey. (I’m talking to you, French Language Proficiency.)
Day 7: I always promised when my bum knee diminishes my lifestyle, stops me from activities I love, I’d take care of it. This summer my knee said, “I’m done.” Yesterday I Celebrated Me by scheduling a Knee Replacement. Steroid and Gel shots will get me through the winter in Hawaii and Paris with my operation already scheduled for April. My surgeon promises to have me ready for the 2022’s Forest Conservancy’s opening day.
COOK THE BOOK FRIDAYS
My Newest Gougères, Dorie Greenspan, EVERYDAY DORIE,
Yield: about 55 (small), 35 (large)
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup water
1 stick unsalted butter (8 TBS), cut into four pieces
1 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 cup all purpose flour
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 large egg white, at room temperature
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard (preferably French)
2 cups coarsely grated cheese such as Compté, Gruyère cheese or sharp cheddar
2/3 cup walnuts or pecans lightly toasted and chopped
Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat it to 425 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.
Bring the milk, water, butter and salt to a boil over high heat in a medium saucepan. Add the flour all at once, lower the heat and immediately start stirring energetically with a heavy spoon or whisk. The dough will form a ball and there’ll be a light film on the bottom of the pan. Keep stirring for another 2 minutes or so to dry the dough. Dry dough will make puffy puffs.
Turn the dough into the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or work by hand with a wooden spoon and elbow grease). Let the dough sit for a minute, then add the eggs one by one, followed by the white, beating until each egg is incorporated before adding the next. The dough may look as though it’s separating or falling apart but just keep working; by the time the white goes in, the dough will be beautiful.
Beat in the mustard, followed by the cheese and the walnuts. Give the dough a last mix-through by hand.
Scoop or spoon out the dough, using a small cookie scoop (11/2 teaspoons). If you’d like larger puffs, shape them with a tablespoon or medium-size cookie scoop. Drop the dough onto the lined baking sheets, leaving about 2 inches between each mound. (The dough can be scooped and frozen on baking sheets at this point.)
Slide the baking sheets into the oven and immediately turn the oven temperature down to 375 degrees F. Bake for 12 minutes, then rotate the pans from front to back and top to bottom.
Continue baking until the gougeres are puffed, golden and firm enough to pick up, another 15 to 20 minutes. Serve immediately—these are best directly from the oven.
MAKING AHEAD: These puffs can be made ahead. Keep the scooped puffs in the freezer, ready-to-bake. Scoop the puffs and freeze them on a parchment-lined baking sheet or cutting board until firm, then pack them airtight. Bake them straight from the freezer, giving them a few more minutes of heat.
S T O R I N G : The puffs are best soon after they come out of the oven and nice (if flatter) at room temperature that same day. If you want to keep baked puffs, freeze them and then reheat them in a 350-degree-F oven for a few minutes.
Each year, in late September, I take inventory of what’s tucked away in my pantry, hanging out on my shelves and threatening freezer burn in my fridge. As diligent as one tries to be, aren’t we all guilty of buying more than we need and using less than we can? But when I leave my condo each winter, like Old Mother Hubbard, my cupboards are (must be) bare.
Over time, and this is my eighth year of winter travels, I’ve turned the chore of ‘What do I want to eat tonight?’ into ‘What can I eat tonight?’ My palate is only limited by what I have on hand. It’s a game I play with myself.
Admittedly, I do sometimes suffer buyer’s remorse. Why in the world did I buy a quart of Chinkiang Vinegar or 26-oz. can of whole Jalapeño Peppers or 30-oz. jar of coconut oil during a Pandemic when I’m only cooking for One?
What causes me no remorse, however, is the abundance of fresh garden vegetables and fruits available from our valley’s farmers. The farmers markets and CSA boxes are harvest-rich, overflowing with produce right now. Because some of my bounty was nearing its use it or lose it limit, I needed to get serious about not wasting it. That’s how Classic Bistro Salads Week became a reality.
When Life gives you carrots, make Carottes Râpées. Had enough with the Beets? Icy sliced red onions, chunky roasted beets and a tangy vinaigrette play well together with grilled meats, soups or a baguette sandwich. For lunch? Lose the onion and bring greens, grapes, Roquefort and walnuts on board. Here’s a tip…fresh radishes, sea salt and butter. Delicious. Céleri rémoulade is addictive. And, who can’t stand and cheer for Salad Niçoise?
The unexpected bonus of pulling together these bistro classics were the memories which came alive with each meal and snack. I hope this post brings to mind food memories from your travels.wherever they may have been. Bon Appétit
With Love, Friendship & Appreciation to Dorie Greenspan for her support and encouragement to my becoming more skillful at my own french table. And, to my French Fridays with Dorie colleagues for ten years of friendship, support and memories. May it continue…
Chunky Beets & Icy Red Onions from Around My French Table by Dorie Greenspan
Thinly slice one red onion, toss into a bowl of icy water before sticking in fridge. Roast a pound of beets, peel and slice into 1/2-inch cubes. Mix together 1 tsp. Dijon mustard, 1 tsp. honey, 1 TBS extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper. Toss the cubed beets together with the vinaigrette. Chill for at least an hour. When ready to serve, fold in minced parsley, adjust s/p, drain the sliced onions and sprinkle them on on top of salad.
Although often served individually, you’ll sometimes find Salade de Crudités (raw salads) on the menu. This trilogy of salads, Carottes râpées, Céleri rémoulade and radishes with butter and salt, is a popular starter. The butter-filled radishes are shown in my first photo.
Carottes râpées (grated carrot salad) from Around My French Table by Dorie Greenspan
1 pound carrots, peeled and trimmed 2 TBS Dijon mustard 1 TBS honey 1/4 Cup cider vinegar 1/2 C canola or grapeseed oil Salt & Pepper Currants or Raisins Use the large holes on a box grater to grate the carrots. In a small jar, mix the Dijon, honey, cider vinegar and oil together. Add a pinch of salt and pepper and shake until well combined. Pour dressing over salad. Toss with handfuls of currants raisins. (If you wish to add chopped roasted walnuts and/or chopped parsley, now is the time.) Season again if needed and serve.
Céleri rémoulade from My Paris Kitchen by David Lebovitz
This is a strongly-flavored salad of raw celery root sticks tossed in a creamy mayonnaise and Dijon dressing with bits of tangy cornichons. David’s recipe and explanatory essay is the best I’ve read. The Link is here:
If we were playing by the rules, a Niçoise is a “composed” salad, with each ingredient artfully arranged on a plate in separate little piles, then drizzled with the dressing. Of all the classic French salads, this is probably the most abused and altered. But the Niçoise has “good bones” and is very supple.
This is Dorie’s recipe but you can add, subtract, improvise and create as you wish.
Niçoise Salade from Around My French Table by Dorie Greenspan
Yield: serves 4
Ingredients: 12 small potatoes, scrubbed and boiled until easily pierced with a knife (about 10-20 minutes) Blanch two generous handfuls of green beans in potato water until they are crisp-tender (about 4 minutes) 4 hard-boiled eggs 2 jars or tins tuna (4 – 6 oz. each), packed in olive oil salad greens cherry tomatoes or regular tomatoes cut into chunks small olives (Niçoise, but any will do) capers (drained and patted dry) anchovies (rinsed and patted dry)
Shallot Vinaigrette Mix together:
2 Tbsp. wine vinegar (red or white or sherry1 shallot, finely minced ¼ tsp. Dijon mustard a couple pinches sea salt a couple grinds of fresh black pepper 4 – 5 Tbsp. olive oil
Please know I don’t normally “do” boxed cakes. Betty Crocker and Duncan Hines don’t usually live in my pantry. But recently, when asked to bake a chocolate cake for a special birthday, I went there. It’s always amazed me how adding pudding in the mix, an extra egg, sour cream, Kahlúa and dark chocolate chips will bake a plain-Jane into fancy Nancy. My chocolate glaze, the icing on the cake, was homemade. When my hostess asked if I’d share the recipe, I did. Some secrets are best shared. (See my blog of August 6th.)
I’ve always believed some purchased food products are better than homemade. Give me all-butter puff pastry, Fage Greek yogurt, Knorr’s Bearnaise and Hollandaise sauces, Fig Newtons and Oreos. Most crackers and chips, marshmallows and, if it’s not a holiday, boxed mashed potatoes are time-savers but still can be delicious. Until last week I would have added Pimento Cheese, the “pâté of the South” to that list.
During my decade living in the South I acquired a taste for pimento cheese, especially the Publix brand from my go-to grocery store. As I recall my appetizer repertoire revolved around Publix’s pimento cheese with saltines and Lipton’s Onion Dip with Lay’s potato chips. When I left the South and with no Publix available, I lost the taste for it.
This week’s Cook the Book Friday’s recipe choice is Pimento Cheese. Dorie Greenspan adapted this recipe (with its roots in North Carolina) from a friend. I dropped off a mini ramekin to Meredith, my Gant neighbor visiting from Georgia, for a taste test. “Next time I come back from Atlanta,” she said, “I’ll bring you a container of my favorite pimento cheese. It’s delicious.”
That evening she texted me, “I don’t have to… this is the best pimento cheese ever.”
While pimento cheese with white saltines is humble fare, pair it with a St. Germain Gin & Tonic. Adding elderberry liquor to a common gin and tonic ups the ante for this summer’s favorite cocktail. Here’s another thought. With a bottle of St. Germain sitting in your cabinet, experiment with twenty other elderberry cocktails just posted on the blog The Spruce Eats.
After finishing summer school, Emma, my 20-year-old granddaughter, flew to Aspen. It’s been 19 months, Christmas 2019, since I’d seen her. We didn’t waste a minute…..
We’ve had rainy days and smoky days this summer which translates to reading days. My favorite books this month included Michael Lewis’s book about the Pandemic titled The Premonition. As John Williams, the New York Times reporter, wrote, “I would read an 800-page history of the stapler if he wrote it.”
After Aspen Institute’s CEO Dan Porterfield interviewed MacArthur Fellow Dr. Angela Duckworth, I had to read GRIT. I’ve become a fan of food writer Hetty McKinnon and her cookbooks. The premise of Matt Haig’s novel, The Midnight Library, is unsettling but intriguing.
Since we’ve had rain this summer it’s been a great month to forage for mushrooms. Friends Judy Wender and Buzz.Patton were hiking in nearby Lenado recently when Judy spotted the motherlode of King Boletes (porcini’s). The upshot was a good hike spoiled. Buzz hiked. Judy harvested.
“I like to sauté them with a touch of butter and some garlic and then freeze them in batches,” she says. “They are also good dried. Nothing better than a fresh mushroom and pea risotto! They are also delicious with eggs, steak and I just made a mushroom, barley and kale soup-yum.”
Readers, Let’s take the rest of this challenging summer and make it sparkle.
DORIE GREENSPAN’S PIMENTO CHEESE from Everyday Dorie, The Way I Cook
Yields about Two Cups
One 1/2 oz. Jar of Pimentos 8 ounces high-quality extra-sharp cheddar 2 ounces high-quality sharp cheddar 3 tablespoons mayonnaise ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
You can make this up to a week ahead.
Press the pimentos between sheets of paper towels until they are as dry as you can get them and cut each into a few pieces.
If you’re using block cheese, cut into small chunks. If the cheese is shredded, you’re good to go.
Put the pimentos in a food processor and pulse just a couple of times to finely chop them. Add both cheeses and pulse to begin chopping them. Add the mayo, salt, and cayenne and pulse and process until the mixture has the texture of tiny-curd cottage cheese. (I made it both with tiny-curds and then smoother.)
Remove the blade and, using a flexible spatula, give the cheese a last turn.
Scrape the cheese into a bowl or jar. Press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface of the cheese if you’re using a bowl.
Refrigerate for at least 4 hours. If you can wait a day, that’s even better. The mixture will pick up punch during that time. Serve straight from the fridge.
1 wedge of lime (or lemon) 1 1/2 ounces gin 1 ounce St. Germain (elderflower liqueur) 3 ounces tonic water 1 slice or a few thin lime wedges, a lime twist or a sprig of fresh basil to garnish, optional
Squeeze the lime wedge into a “rocks” glass (short, wide glass). Fill glass with ice.
Add gin, St. Germain and stir. Add tonic water and stir. ( If you wish, adjust the ratios of gin to tonic water.)
Garnish with a slice of lime, add 2 or three lime wedges or a lime twist to the glass. It may also be garnished with a sprig of basil. Cheers!
In the late Eighties my daughter Melissa, a junior at St. Olaf College in Minnesota, spent her junior semester abroad in Sumatra, Indonesia. Michael and I were less than pleased about her destination choice but to no avail. She was headstrong, independent and hell-bent to have an adventure on the other side of the world. ( She must have inherited those character traits from her father.) So off she went.
It was a rocky few months. This was the college’s first experience with sending a woman to Sumatra, communication where she was situated was sketchy and safety was an issue. Let’s just say the President of St. Olaf and I had conversations.
Fast forward to her return. We headed to the airport the day of her arrival home to Des Moines where we lived at the time. We were beyond excited. The plane arrived. No Missy. I know that because when she didn’t deplane, I charged onto the plane and looked under several seats. (As I mentioned, these were different times.)
Michael kept his cool. I did not. The airline said she had been routed to Denver. My brother, who lived in Denver, called when he got to the airport, had her in hand and would stay with her until she boarded a flight for Des Moines. Although my recollections of that incident are hazy (or, blocked), she eventually made her way home.
That was the week I found my first gray hair.
So it’s not surprising that last week, after 17-months, when she was finally coming to Aspen, I was at the tiny Grand Junction airport 4 hours before her arrival. We’d had more than 20 different mudslides in our area last week causing ongoing road closures. I was prepared for whatever Mother Nature threw my way. Melissa arrived. We drove back to this beautiful Valley where she once had lived and to my mind, our time together was perfect.
The moral of this story may be Always a Mother, Life is Wobbly, Be Brave and Mind the Gap.
To celebrate a milestone accomplished, I’ve got a little baking adventure for you. Or, if that grinds your gears, sit back and just enjoy reading about mine. Semifreddo is a classic Italian staple that lands midway between mousse and ice cream. It has the consistency of a frozen mousse and the flavor of ice cream. If you’re pronunciation-challenged like me, it’s pronounced SEH – ME – FRAY – DOUGH which means half-frozen in Italian.
Semifreddo is basically heavy cream, sugar and eggs. In the frozen dessert category it’s been called ‘the richest, most luscious and most decadent.’ You don’t need an ice-cream maker to create it. Use any fruit or chocolate you have on hand. Add nuts, if you wish. The last semifreddo I made was peach. In my opinion, adding the meringue topping is an extra detour you don’t need to travel. I usually just puree extra fruit and pour it with added chunks on top. For me, the meringue adds an extra sweetness not needed.
CHERRY SEMIFREDDO adapted from Hetty Lui McKinnon and ZOËBAKES
Semifreddo 2 pounds sweet or sour cherries, fresh or frozen, pitted 1 1/2 cups superfine sugar, divided (if you don’t have superfine sugar, just blend granulated sugar in a food processor for 2 minutes) 3 tablespoons cornstarch 1 1/2 cups (375ml) heavy whipping cream 6 large egg yolks 1/2 cup whole milk
Meringue Topping (optional) 3/4 cup egg whites 1 1/2 cups sugar 1 1/2 tsp salt
Line a 9×5 loaf pan or 9×4 Pullman pan which is used to create the square shape or mini-loaf pans with plastic wrap.
In a saucepan, cook the cherries until they release their juices (this will take longer with fresh cherries), about 5-10 minutes. Whisk together 1 1/4 cups superfine sugar and cornstarch, then add it to the cherries, cook for 3 minutes or until the juices are thick and clear. Allow to cool.
Puree half the mixture until smooth and refrigerate.
Whip the heavy whipping cream to soft peaks in a stand mixer or handheld electric mixer. Don’t over whip or it will not blend well into the mixture. Set aside.
Whip the egg yolks in a stand mixer fitted with a whip attachment until light in color on high speed, about 3 minutes. While the yolks are whipping, heat the milk with the remaining 1/4 cup of superfine sugar until simmering. Turn down the speed of the mixer to low and slowly drizzle the hot milk into the whipping egg yolks. Turn back to high speed and whip until light, fluffy and cool to the touch. Fold the cooled pureed cherries into the egg mixture. Fold the whipped cream into the cherry/egg mixture.
Pour 1/3 of the mixture into the prepared pan. Add 1/3 cup of the whole cherries to the pan. (If the whole cherries are too juicy, just pour most of the juice off and set aside). Add another 1/3 of the semifreddo mixture to the pan and another 1/3 cup fruit over that. Repeat with the remaining semifreddo and 1/3 cup cherries. Cover and freeze for several hours or overnight, until very firm.
Stick the serving trays into the freezer a hour or two before inverting the semifeddo.
Invert the semifreddo onto a frozen serving tray, return to freezer.
OPTIONAL: Once the semifreddo is firm again, make the topping.
To make the SWISS MERINGUE: Bring about an inch of water in a saucepan to a simmer. Combine the egg whites, sugar and salt in the bowl of your stand mixer. Place the bowl over the simmering water and stir the egg mixture with a rubber spatula until it is hot and all of the sugar has dissolved, about 5-7 minutes. You don’t want to cook the egg whites, just steam them.
Remove from heat and place the bowl onto the stand mixer, fit with a whisk attachment. Beat on high speed until very think, glossy and stiff peaks when you lift the beater. Spoon the meringue over the semifreddo and return to the freezer to set for at least an hour before serving.
Let your plated servings “sit” for 5-7 minutes so the mixture turns a bit soft, thus the name for the dessert half-frozen.
For years, as you’ve heard me say, my cardinal photography rule is to never let a picture get in front of the experience. That’s why I missed grabbing a photo of the Mama Bear shepherding her two babies from the Rio Grande Trail recently and the Golden Eagle swooping over Maroon Lake towards the Bells. With this week’s recipe, forget the rule. I want you to taste the experience in spite of the photograph.
While there are fresh veggies available in the farmers markets, this Cold Noodle Salad with Spicy Peanut Sauce should become a rest-of-the-season habit. For those of you unfamiliar with Soba, they are Japanese noodles made with buckwheat flour. Despite the fact Soba noodles are healthy and flavored-packed, brown noodles are brown. They don’t photograph well nor look particularly appetizing. Since this recipe was one of NYT Cooking’s most popular recipes in July, I put together this salad on trust.
For those of us who have forgotten post-Pandemic promises made during quarantine vowing to slow down and pace ourselves (How’s that working out for you?), I also suggested some recipe shortcuts. Start to finish, 20 minutes.
Post-pandemic adulthood comes with certain small joys that you simply didn’t appreciate enough previously. The last two weeks, these are some of mine.
Friends of mine live in nearby Woody Creek on an expansive property which is rich with trees, a pond and skirts the Roaring Fork River. That habitat would definitely attract any wise old owl flying overhead in the late Spring. Birding is not my girlfriend’s passion and she particularly does not love owls. The owls arrive. The ducks on the pond, fearing for their lives, disappear.
But she does love me. Last year, because of the quarantine, I missed seeing their owls. This year she was determined I get a good viewing. Recently, early one morning, my phone rang, “They’re here,” she said. I just happened to be an early morning birding field trip. I was off.
Fifteen minutes later, I was standing on their long, winding driveway, bonding quietly with a family of owls until Papa Owl was done with me. Agitated, he flew near me, settling into another tree. Time for me to exit.
Formally established in 2001 the Forest Conservancy works in partnership with the USDA Forest Service and collaborates with other non-governmental partners to build community, opportunity and awareness of the ongoing challenges facing our 2.3 million acre White River National Forest. Faced with USFS budget cuts, staff shortages and the growing number of tourists, we all are grateful and glad to be back at work this year.
Last week my bookclub met for the first time since February, 2020. We celebrated with a potluck luncheon plus bubbly in a member’s gorgeous garden to discuss “Hamnet” by Maggie O’Farrell.
Mother Nature didn’t miss a beat during the Pandemic. The flora and fauna are the better for it.
COLD NOODLE SALAD with SPICY PEANUT SAUCE adapted from Hetty McKinnon, NYT COOKING
SERVES: 4 generous servings
8 ounces soba noodles
1 medium cucumber (about 6 ounces)
5 radishes (about 4 ounces)
1 bell pepper (red, yellow or orange)
1 1/2 cups of shredded carrots
1 tablespoon sesame oil
½ cup roasted salted peanuts (about 2 ounces), roughly chopped
2 scallions, trimmed and finely chopped
Handful of cilantro leaves
1 lime, cut into wedges for serving
½ cup smooth peanut butter (not natural)
¼ cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 tablespoon sesame oil
2 teaspoons chile oil or hot sauce, plus more to taste (optional)
1 garlic clove, grated
1. Bring a pot of salted water to the boil. Add the soba, stir to prevent sticking, and cook according to package instructions until just tender. Rinse under cold water until the noodles are completely cold.
2. Make the sauce. In a medium bowl, combine the peanut butter, soy sauce, maple syrup, lime juice, sesame oil and garlic. Add chile oil or hot sauce if you want more spice.
TIP: In A Hurry? There are now good peanut sauces available. You can adjust purchased sauces to your taste. However, this homemade sauce is always a better option.
3. Add 1/4 to 1/2 cup water, 1 tablespoon at a time, and whisk until the sauce is a pourable consistency. Taste and add more chile oil or hot sauce as desired. Set aside.
4. Cut the cucumber in half and scoop the seeds out. Slice vertically into 1/8 inch thick slices and then into matchsticks. Slice the radishes into 1/8-inch thick slices and cut then in half, making half-moons. Slice the pepper in half, remove the seeds/membrane and cut into 1/8-inch pieces. Grate carrots. Place them all in a large bowl.
TIP: Cut, slice and grate the raw vegetables as you wish. You want them thinly cut and small sized. I used a mandoline slicer for some of the process but that is not necessary. This salad needs color, thus the shredded carrots and colorful pepper.
5. If the Soba noodles need to be loosened, run them quickly under some water and allow to drain OR they can be easily separated by hand (gloved). Add the noodles to the vegetables, add the remaining 1 tablespoon sesame oil and toss to combine.
5. When you are ready to serve, mix 1/4 cup sauce into the salad and drizzle a small amount on top for presentation. DO NOT over-sauce this salad. The sesame oil provides flavor as well. Top with the chopped peanuts, scallions and cilantro mixture. Serve immediately, with lime wedges alongside.
If you were raised in a small Iowa farm town, you’re probably not too bothered by garter snakes. When two friends who have community garden plots gave me carte blanche to their rhubarb patches, the little guy who slithered under the leaves as I was bending over to pull some rhubarb stalks didn’t prevent me from taking my share. For the next day or two we reached an accommodation. He slithered. I pulled.
We always called rhubarb an “alley plant.” In the Midwest, at least, that’s where it thrived. While my Mom’s rhubarb sauce was delicious, her crisp mighty tasty, it was her rhubarb pie crowned with a mile-high meringue topping that was to-die-for. What I wouldn’t give for just one more sliver.
Rhubarb, which is a vegetable, is an acquired taste. You’re either Yes or No. Wishy Washy is not a category. Besides making sauce this week I baked David Lebovitz’s Strawberry-Rhubarb Galette and Andrea Mohr’s (The Kitchen Lioness) unique Rhubarb-Ginger Topping. She plops the mixture on homemade hummus, adds a splash of high-quality olive oil, a bit of freshly ground black pepper, some flaky salt and makes a tasty statement. These basic recipes (below) are full of possibilities, just build on their ideas.
FOR the LOVE of RHUBARB – Astronaut John Glenn’s father, known as Hershel, was mostly deaf from injuries in WW I. To help out at home, every summer young Glenn sold rhubarb from the family garden throughout his Ohio home town. (story from Bill Dedman)
STRAWBERRY-RHUBARB GALETTE by David Lebovitz
Use your favorite pastry/galette dough or purchase a pre-made pie pastry at the store. (If available, purchase the all-butter pastry product.)
3 Cups diced rhubarb, trimmed and cut into 1/2 pieces.
2 Cups of Strawberries, hulled and quartered
Zest of One Lemon
2/3 Cup of Sugar & 1 TBS Cornstarch
1. Put the rhubarb and strawberries in a medium bowl with the lemon zest.
Sprinkle the sugar and corn starch on top. Do not mix the ingredients together. If you do, theyʼll start to juice and may be overly juicy by the time youʼre ready to use them. (Use this process with any fruit/galette combo.)
2. Preheat the oven to 400ºF. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
3. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough to a 14-inch circle and place it on the baking sheet. (At this point you can sprinkle 11/2 TBS of almond flour, cracker or bread crumbs, crumbled amaretti cookies or just a bit of flour on the tart dough to soak up any extra juices that may come out of the fruit when it’s baking. I crushed two graham crackers. Worked perfectly.)
4. Mix the fruit together with the sugar and corn starch and place the fruit into the center of the galette dough. Spread it with your hands, leaving 3-inches of space between the fruit and the edge of the dough.
6. Fold the edges of the dough up and over the fruit filling. Brush the crust liberally with melted butter and sprinkle with Turbinado sugar.
7. Bake the tart until the filling is cooked and bubbling and the crust is golden brown, 40 to 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and carefully slide the tart off the baking sheet onto a cooling rack.
SERVING: Serve the tart on its own or with Vanilla Ice Cream, White Chocolate and Fresh Ginger Ice Cream, Cinnamon Ice Cream, or a dollop of crème fraîche. The baked tart is best the same day but can be stored at room temperature for up to two days.
RHUBARB-GINGER TOPPING by Andrea Mohr, The Kitchen Lioness
2-3 stalks red rhubarb, (1 Cup)
6 slices fresh ginger (washed, no need to peel)
extra virgin olive oil
salt (to taste)
1. Cut the washed stalk into slices. Using low heat, cook the slices in a pan with olive oil, sliced fresh ginger and a bit of salt just till soft. That will only take a few minutes. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside to cool. Once the topping has cooled, remove the sliced ginger
2. After placing your hummus in its serving bowl, put the rhubarb mixture on top.
3. If you happen to have fresh pomegranate seeds, add a few to the rhubarb topping. With a splash of high-quality olive oil, a bit of freshly ground black pepper and some flaky salt. You’re done.
JUNE GRADUATION/500 DAYS OF QUARANTINE-DONE
In mid-June Clara graduated from Bishop Union High School in California. Despite being vaccinated and owning my personal Hazmat suit, graduation was a three-day closed affair with the class divided into thirds. Since Clara was the Valedictorian this year, she gave her speech three times! I was watching on television so that was fine with me. She leaves in mid-July to attend Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in Terre Haute, Indiana, to begin an accelerated four-year program resulting in a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics and a Masters in Engineering Management. Emma, an incoming junior at Point Loma Nazarene University, returned to San Diego last week (after 500 days of quarantine, she points out) where she has a summer job with the university. She is majoring in both Spanish and Child and Adolescent Development. As for what’s ahead with me, I think I might just put up my feet, sit back and watch!
This past weekend, using cheese selected by invited guests, I put together a cheese board for a good friend’s son’s engagement party.