An Everlasting Meal

Nature isn’t persistently bright; it wears and ages.

~ Tamar Adler, An Everlasting Meal

A few months ago, a friend sent me the book An Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and Grace.  It’s been sitting on the to-be-read shelf, and I’ve looked at it occasionally, thinking that I shouldn’t be neglecting it as I have been.  It is, after all, a gift, one I should explore and appreciate.  But I’ve learned that some gifts need to be approached at just the right time, and this book is one of them.

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White out

To balance out yesterday’s black out, I bring you a White Out.  The snow started falling yesterday, with some breaks in the action here and there.  The front, which brought with it some thunderstorms and strong winds, is somewhere out east (perhaps off the coast by now), and the snow that’s flying today is lake-effect.

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295: In a pickle

A barrel of cucumbers on ice

Yesterday’s pickling adventures went well.  It was fun having someone with whom I could share the work, and I got to see how the Pickle Lady makes her fabulous (Best Pickles on the Planet) pickles.

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206: Kitchen traveler

(Evening reflections in an empty bowl.)

Sometime last year I blogged about being in a cooking rut, and made the decision to randomly pick a recipe from the many cookbooks on my kitchen shelf.  The idea behind this is we would try something new at least once a week.  I’ve continued that project in some form or another, getting recipes from various places (books, online, magazines), but haven’t blogged about it much since I started my outdoor commitment.

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147: Veggie love

(Rapini, aka broccoli rabe.)

M and I do our best to eat locally grown foods.  We grow some, we buy a lot from the farm just up the road, and while the harvest is at its peak, I preserve the food through canning and freezing so that we can get through the winter months on mostly locally grown vegetables and fruit.

But sometimes we just gotta have something that was shipped in from elsewhere.  Rapini is one of those somethings.  Also known as broccoli rabe, rapini is my favorite green, leafy vegetable.  Italian and Asian cooks have been using rapini for a long time.  It’s a descendant of wild mustard and has loose, broccoli-like clusters of florets and large, dark blue-green leaves.  This lovely veggie is related to cabbage, kale, and cauliflower.  Although the word broccoli is in one of its many names, it is not a form of broccoli.

Rapini can be quite bitter in taste.  One of the ways to tame the bitterness is to blanch it first.  Then pair it with red chile flakes which, I’m told, brings out the boldness while overpowering the bitterness.  The simplest way to serve it is to boil it first in a big pot of water for about 5 minutes, then sauté in olive oil with garlic and red chile flakes.  You can eat this as a side dish or toss the sautéed mixture with a good pasta.  Squeeze a little lemon juice over it all and you have a marvelous dish.

Fresh-looking, lovely rapini is now showing up in the produce section of a few stores in my area.  It’s a winter vegetable so that’s when I look for it.  It always shows up first in the Italian market.  Not long after that, I find it where we buy a lot of our produce, a local market that carries, when they can, locally grown fruits and veggies.  (The rapini/broccoli rabe was not locally grown.  It’s an Andy Boy product, shipped to us from California.  You can find a few recipes for broccoli rabe on their website.)

We tend to eat a lot of rapini while it’s available.  We had it for dinner last night with pasta.  Hence, my babbling on and on about it.  I ♥ rapini.


The February thaw continues.  It was 52 degrees (F) when I stepped outside today.  I stayed out much longer than planned, soaking up the delicious sunshine.  Gotta get that vitamin D while I can.

(The pond at sunrise this morning.)

Winter may not be finished with us yet.  In fact, I’m pretty sure Winter has quite a few more things to say before Spring pushes it aside.  But the sun has some say-so, too.  One of the signs of spring to me is the way the sunlight hits the tops of the trees on the pond at sunrise.  Of course I have to be up at sunrise to see it, and my latest challenge has helped me to do that.  Yoga this morning, by the way, was good.  Very good.  Day 6 completed.

(Little fluffy clouds.)

That link up there under the photo will take you to today’s music.  I’ve linked to it sometime in the past so I apologize for the repeat.  It’s a song I always think of when the clouds take on that fluffy, cotton-ball look.  I first heard the song on a CD we bought in an Oxfam shop somewhere in England, but I can’t find the CD.  It has something to do with Manchester baggy pants music…  the CD’s might be in the car, my mind seems to think.

The clouds have moved in and out today.  It’s clear as a bell right now.  The house seems filled with sunshine, so filled it might burst with all the light.  Or maybe that’s me, and I will be bursting soon.  It’s a joyful thing, a warm-up with sunshine in February.  One would have to be the world’s biggest grump not to appreciate it.

(Tree reflection on the pond.)

The pond is thawing.  It looks so pretty I wanted to walk upon it.  It might have been possible but since I wasn’t sure how thick the ice actually got this winter, I didn’t chance it.  Besides, there is no one around to rescue me if I fall in.  I stayed along the edges, on firm earth, and admired the play of light and water.  I also enjoyed the musical sounds of the ice thawing.  It’s a bubbling sound, difficult to describe.  I would have made a video but it seems the small plane pilots are enjoying the day as much as I am and every time I’d attempt a video a plane would fly by.  A helicopter joined in at one point and that’s when I gave up.  You would not be able to hear the lovely bubbling sounds with all that other racket going on.

(Thawing, ice and reflections.)

I took a lot of photos of the reflections and the ice, but it’s one of those days when almost nothing came out well.  Or so it appears to me right now.  I think that’s because I was so immersed in the gift of the warmth, the melting, and the sunshine that a photo just can’t duplicate that feeling.  I’ll look at the photos again when the Winter returns.

(Remains of a dove.)

I showed you life under the snow yesterday.  There is death out there as well.  I’ve seen several dead field mice and moles (or are they voles?) as the snow has melted.  The dove was probably a victim of one of the two red-tailed hawks that have made Breezy Acres part of their territory.  The dove was likely part of the dule I’ve been following since I began my outdoor adventures.

Well.  On that sad note, I’m going to get this posted.  I’m heading back out to watch the sunset.  I don’t think it will be quite as spectacular as it was the other day, but I’m sure it will be beautiful.

And, for dinner tonight (in case you want to know), we’ll be GRILLING.  Outside.  On the grill.  Black bean burgers and some grilled veggies.  Does that sound heavenly or what?


115: Burritos for dinner

(A few ingredients.)

M and I teamed up today to make Four Grain-and-Vegetable Burritos for an early dinner.  It was an early and late birthday celebration dinner.  Early for M (his birthday is tomorrow) and late for me (mine was last month).

We’ve made these burritos in the past.  They are a little labor intensive, making it easier and faster if we team up to put it all together.  It’s more fun that way, too.

(Prepped veggies.)

Remember that resolve I made to sharpen my knives occasionally?  I’m thinking of taking it back.  After years of using dull knives, I’m finding the sharpened variety to be dangerous.  I managed to slice into my thumb while cutting the top off of a leek.   Ouch!

(Ready for toppings.)

It was worth the bloodshed.  The burritos were fabulous.  Delicious.  Really, really yummy.  And filling.  Very filling.  You should give them a try.

Today’s Outdoor Adventures

It warmed up today, into the 30’s.  But we had 25 mph winds to go with the warm-up and that made it seem as cold as when it was in the 20’s.  There was some thawing of the snow on top of the pond and the ice in the creek.

(Today’s view of the creek.)

I did not ski today.  I intended to.  But M went out early and said it was pretty brutal.  The wind created big drifts in some places.  Bare spots in other areas.  We were supposed to get another 3 inches or so of snow today but the prediction turned out to be wrong.  I think it snowed heavily for about five minutes this morning and that was it.

(Dipping in the stream.)

That’s about it from the Bogs for today.  I hope you’re having a wonderful weekend.

Oh.  Right.  One more thing.  I redecorated ye olde blog.  Whaddya’ think?

113: Balance

(Tea time.)

Yesterday I mentioned that I love to cook but don’t like to bake.  There are far too many rules in baking whereas cooking allows me to unleash my creativity, adding a pinch of this, a dash of that, and a handful of something else.  When I was homebrewing, I made my beers the same way.  There are, of course, some rules that must be followed.  And some tastes that don’t mix well.  In cooking there is a balance between the rules and creativity or individuality.

There is also balance in my home and kitchen.  M likes to bake so we balance each other out in that regard.  He makes fantastic breads.  He even learned how to make gluten-free breads when I went gluten-free.  Sourdough gluten-free breads.  It doesn’t get much better than that, let me tell you.  (Note:  I am no longer living the gluten-free lifestyle, but I still don’t include many wheat products in my diet anymore.  I feel better that way.)

Yesterday M made the fig bars you see in the above photo.  I thought they might make a good subject for my food photography experiments.  The photo needs a spot of color, I think.  Or something.  I dunno.  It doesn’t look quite… finished.

Something to ponder

I was reading an article about skiing in the December issue of Yoga Journal last night.  (I’m a little behind in my magazine reading.)  In a section about cross-country skiing, the author wrote:

Balance is not something you achieve and hold on to.  It’s more ephemeral; it’s a string of temporary successes, held momentarily, lost, and then discovered again.  Skiing gives you a fleeting experience of balance with each shift of weight and each glide.  But it’s not permanent.  When you lose it, you just have to have faith that you’ll come back to it.

~ Carmel Wroth, “Cold Play,” Yoga Journal, December 2010

I like it.  I like that it can be applied to life as well as skiing.  The yoga poses included with these words of wisdom are a bonus.  I’m going to give them a try.

Today’s Outdoor Adventures

We’re approaching the time of year when it feels like winter is weighing heavily upon us.  Mid-January.  Then the dreaded February comes along, the longest short month of the season.

(Weighing down the wood pile.)

Although I mean heavy in a figurative sense, there are some literal meanings as well.  Getting dressed to go outside takes time and effort.  You have to put on a couple of pounds of layers and boots.  Hats.  Gloves.  Even so, the cold manages to find any vulnerable spots and slip inside the poundage of layers.

(Buried in layers of snow.)

Walking is more difficult.  The snow seems to weigh you down as you trudge through the drifts that are almost waist high.  It’s a relief to find the spots where the wind has thinned the snow layer.

(Animal tracks across the pond.)

Today has been mostly gray.  The flurries continue but with little accumulation.  It’s in the 20’s and windy.  I did not want to step outside.

(Today’s view of the pond.)

The original plan was to wait until late afternoon and go skiing.  Then I decided I better not wait.  I knew waiting would result in me not going at all.  So I put on all those layers.  The boots.  The hat.  The gloves.  And I stepped out into the gray and cold and blustery winds.

I didn’t intend to go far.  Just far enough and for just long enough to meet my commitment.  It was strangely quiet.  Although there was food in the feeders, there were no birds at them.  I topped off the food in the feeders and then found myself walking down the hill towards the pond.  I would go to the bottom of the hill.  No further.

I got to the bottom and my feet wanted to keep going so I continued on until I found myself standing by the creek in the woods, thinking how dull and gloomy the day was and wondering where the birds had gotten to.  Perhaps they were feeling the weight of winter too, and had decided to stay inside.

And then…

The sun came out and lit up the creek, the ice, and the snow.  Birds were chattering and cheeping and tweeting in the trees.  In a split second, the world had changed.

(The top of the creek is beginning to freeze over.)

Of course we all know the world didn’t change.  My perspective changed.  It changed enough that I was able to enjoy the rest of my walk on this wintry day.

(My tracks, heading home.)

The clouds came back and hid the sun again.  The grays grew deeper and darker.  On my way back to the house, I found this:

A little gift from Mother Nature hidden in the willows.  I must have missed it when I walked by the willows on my way to the woods.  To some, it’s just dried flowers left behind when summer and autumn moved on.  But it brightened my day almost as much as the sun’s brief appearance.  I’m not sure why.  It just did.