Monthly Archives: May 2011

Flourish

How to add a much-needed fancy flourish to the end of a stressful week:

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Making it up as I go

This week has been INSANITY.  Sheer, near-unmitigated insanity.  So, instead of something eloquent and carefully-crafted, here’s a soup I made up.

This is the perfect example of what happens with a bunch of odds and ends and a lot of time on my hands.  I had shrimp shells in the freezer, left over from my last lemon-caper experiment. I had a powerful hankering for a bowl of soup with pesto on top. And I had a germ of an inspiration, thanks to a video about Tex-Mex chowdah.

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TEQUILA!

Margarita. Cookies.

Shortbread. Lime. Tequila. Triple sec. With a sugar-salt rim.

Need I say more?

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Let me take you down, ’cause I’m going to…

It’s spring. The air is so downy and soft I could float away on it. The water in the San Francisco Bay is gemstone-blue and sequined with bits of sunlight. The trees are green again; the sky is cloudless and infinite. On days like these, I daydream about nothing but strawberries.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that robin redbreasts have strawberry bellies. The arrival of both bird and berry has always been my personal signal to get excited for warmer times. Even in Northern California, where we only have three seasons, the start of strawberry season is always occasion for at least a little joy.

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My mama loves me; she loves me…

A day late and a dollar short, but…Happy Mother’s Day anyway!

My mother is, without doubt, the most bestest mama I’ve ever met. She’s five feet tall, 100 pounds, and the purest example I know of the Mexican jumping bean in human form. She’s always moving, always doing, always thinking and wondering and checking up on business. She’s a bottomless well of unconditional love and nurture, mixed with a healthy dose of clear-eyed practicality. She’s endearingly, sometimes cringe-inducingly silly; she will regularly crack herself up to tears before even reaching the punch line of a joke. And she’s the only woman I know who has never given her firstborn child grief for the horrific length of time she spent in labor with her. (Sorry, Mom. I hope it was worth it.)

So of course, when Mother’s Day came around, I jumped at the chance to cook for her. I’ve written before about my impulse to shower people with love in the form of food. So I made dinner.

And, if I may say so, I knocked it out of the park.

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A good egg

Feliz Cinco de Mayo!  I had a suitably Mexi-murrican recipe all lined up for this post, but, well, the day is almost over, and I realized I’ll have an equally beautiful opportunity to share it with you in a couple weeks.  (Cryptic?  What’s that?)

So instead, let me take a moment to pay tribute to my dear friend Kate.  I’ve already mentioned Kate on this blog o’ mine–I put some chickpeas through a blender in her honor.  Kate and I have known each other since middle school, when we bonded over our aching, thrilling, stubborn badge-of-pride outcast status.  We grew from wilting eighth-graders to viciously snarky teens, and then went our separate ways to college and watched each other blossom from across the country.

Kate is allergic to gluten and intolerant of most refined sugar.  But rather than let that stymie her love of food, she’s used it to inform a vibrant, fundamentally conscientious sense of where her food comes from and what it can do for her body.  She has thrown herself wholeheartedly into the study and practice of nutrition and agriculture–she can talk for hours about soil cultivation and the body-fortifying properties of your weekly grocery haul.  And, as if that weren’t enough, she’s a damn good cook.

In fact, she recently taught me how to tame one of my biggest kitchen bugaboos.  It’s a task I’ve attempted many a time, always with the same nearly-inedible result.  Not only was this devilishly frustrating, but it just about convinced me to swear off trying forever.  But then Kate made it look easy.

She helped me scramble an egg.

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Utter simplicity

You know what? It’s spring. The air is soft and downy, shot through with veins of light and blossom scent. The sky is bottomless blue, the kind of super-saturated color that makes my teeth ache (no, really). The market stalls are overflowing with bright clamoring produce, so fresh and blink-you’ll-miss-it-seasonal that it’s tempting to bring home bagfuls and just eat it, unadorned.

This is the season when I start to lose patience with fuss. In the winter, I’m perfectly content to hone my kitchen-sink cooking and practice all manner of fancy flourishes. But when the clouds break and the temperatures climb, I want something different altogether. I want fresh, and simple, and clean. I want to really taste spring in my food.

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