09 July 2014

Beans and Greens


This summer's new CSA boxes have begun arriving on a regular basis and we are so enjoying their contents.  And yesterday, the first of many 10-lb. boxes of organic fruit arrived from across the mountains.  I have cherries everywhere at the moment.  I promise a full cherry clafouti report soon.

For now, I'm talking about escarole, which arrived in our CSA box last week.  A bitter-ish green, currently in season, which tastes great sauteed.  It is especially tasty in this dish, which I adapted from a recipe in a cookbook I owned long ago -- a cookbook that's name escapes me but it was authored by Dr. Andrew Weil and Oprah's former chef, a woman named Rosie.  In any case, this preparation is still very much around and in heavy rotation at our house.

Beans & Greens
olive oil
dried red chile flakes
1 large yellow onion, diced
1 head escarole, roughly chopped (I use lacinato kale when I don't have escarole)
2 cloves fresh garlic, finely chopped or sliced
3 cups cannellini beans, cooked (if from a can, rinse and drain)
1-2 cups vegetable or chicken broth
1 lb. dried penne pasta (or another shape you like)
About a 1/2 c. basil pesto -- homemade or purchased, whatever you like
Parmesan cheese, finely grated

Cook the pasta to al dente in a large pot of boiling water.

While the pasta is cooking, using a large skillet or sauté pan, saute the onion and pepper flakes in olive oil until just getting soft. Add the greens and let them just wilt.  Add the garlic and stir everything around until the garlic is nicely fragrant but not browned.  Add the beans and about 1 cup of the broth, cover the dish but leave some space so steam can easily escape and simmer for about 3-5 minutes, until the greens are tender, beans are heated through, and the broth is reduced or gone.  Add the remaining broth and stir everything together.  Taste for salt and add some if needed. Remove mixture from the heat.

Drain the pasta, but don't rinse.  Toss the hot pasta with the pesto in a bowl.  The pasta should be generously coated with pesto.  You may need a bit more pesto or depending on pasta size/pesto texture.

To assemble: Place about 1/2 cup of the pesto-covered pasta in a shallow serving bowl.  Ladle a generous helping of the greens/beans/broth mixture over the pasta.  Top with the cheese.

Serves 4 as a main course

28 June 2014

A new summer job


Wyatt and I are enrolled in a new co-op preschool for fall 2014 -- the Woodland Park Cooperative Preschool.  The school is a place that encourages student-led play and exploratory learning.  Opportunities are provided but the kids ultimately choose what they will interact with in both an outdoor and an indoor classroom.  Our new teacher, Teacher Tom, has a big personality and a lot of experience with this kind of program.  He's hugely popular.

As part of the co-op experience, each parent gets a school job. I''ll be the chairperson for the summer session program for summer 2015 -- but, it tuns out, that means doing a number of tasks for this summer's session as well.  So starting on June 4, I began buying snacks and coordinating activities for a program I know very little about.

To get more familiar with the summer program, Wyatt and I decided to participate in Woodland Park's summer session. So for the first two weeks of June we were still attending our regular co-op and also going to summer school three mornings a week at Woodland Park.  Super fun.  Crazy busy.

The other parents and staff that I've met at Woodland Park have been terrific, and nice, and super helpful.  It's truly a team approach for all the summer tasks, so I can't complain.  And if I'm honest, diving right in with a job to do has helped me feel part of the community more quickly.  Come fall, we'll be very familiar with the place, which I kind of like.



 

24 June 2014

Only a paragraph


June has been a tad busy in these parts. We have ended one school and started another.  Swimming lessons have begun as a daily ritual. We made it to Canada to throw a party for grandpa's 90th birthday, complete with 50+ people who came for brunch, cake and celebration.  Had a brief visit with my mom and dad, who were rock stars for traveling to Canada with us and helping throw the party.  There's been a car accident that totaled grandpa's vehicle, despite hurting no one at all.  Colds have been had and are unfortunately lingering among us.  Every other day, we seem to pick five pounds of strawberries from the yard.  One must eat them.  I've taken grandpa on six trips to the dentist and oral surgeon, with at least 10 more to go, to essentially get his mouth renovated.  Gallstones apparently need to be removed from one of us sometime soon. Another of us is reading everything in sight, out loud. Our cat attacks my ankles and chases me down the hall on a daily basis.  I think it's her way of demanding treats and unfortunately I reinforce this behavior.  Me and my three-year-old are prepping the deck for a new coat of stain.  Elves will soon stain the deck. And then the beautiful, newly-rebuilt giant table will appear.  Somehow I became the chairperson for summer school at our new co-op.  The learning curve is a bit steep. Luckily, the sunsets from our deck have been stunning lately.  I finally handed off my co-op treasurer duties to someone new this week. We made s'mores over the charcoal barbecue on the summer solstice and licked our fingers.  And, what's more, we have perfectly spherical ice cubes in the freezer.


22 May 2014

Rhubarb galette

I am the lucky owner of a thriving rhubarb plant, having added it to my garden over a year ago now. I somehow resisted cutting stalks off the new plant last spring, and now I'm enjoying the pay off.  This week I consulted my Chez Panisse Fruit cookbook to see what to do with my bounty and decided to give the rhubarb galette a try.  Served with a dollop of sweetened whipped cream, it was quite remarkable.   Even my three year old ate every last bite with barely a pause, declaring "the cookie part" to be his favorite.

Thanks to the genius of the folks at Chez Panisse (and Jacques Pépin, whom they credit), I discovered a galette dough that is so tasty it could contain, well, anything and you'd probably want to eat it. You can find the recipe I followed here.

A few notes:  I skipped the amaretti powder, but only because I didn't have any.  My crust was a bit more of a free-form than the one shown in the article.  I also chopped the rhubarb smaller and skipped the glaze.  I used only about 10 ounces of rhubarb sweetened with a generous 1/3 cup sugar to top half the recipe of the galette dough. 

The technique for making the dough is unique, but do follow it carefully.  The pastry doesn't look like much for a while, but comes together once you smoosh the pieces of dough into a ball with plastic wrap and refrigerate. 

Just for me


I am under no illusions.  I know that although they are lovely, the pictures I take of my garden are really just for me. So, my apologies for this quite selfish post.

The garden changes so rapidly once the growing season is here that I forget the just how vivid the May/June shades of green are by the time the tired August ones arrive -- unless I take a picture of course.  These pictures are from the past two weeks of May.  We've had an exquisite show of flowers and color around the place. 

Before I started gardening, I admit that I didn't appreciate the differences between May and June or between August and September.  Now I feel like there is always something unique to enjoy at the moment and also something different but good to look forward to at every part of the season.  Today, it's green and flowering everywhere with the anticipation of peonies -- and fruit!


07 May 2014

The new egg sandwich


It started innocently enough with a quick visit to Honore with friends last Friday.  The plan was coffee and pastries followed by playing at the nearby park.  But a few weeks back I had snagged one of Honore's newest items -- a loaf of crusty levain -- fresh from the oven.  They told me it was a new item.  I crossed my fingers that it would become a regular thing.  It was fabulous.  Last Friday, however, I saw no loaves in the case.  So I asked the baker and he told me they were coming out of the oven in minutes.

An hour later after we were done at the park, I stopped back at Honore to pick up the loaf they had set aside for me.  And that was a lucky thing in itself since the bakery had already sold all the others. My loaf was still warm.  It made me very happy.


We ate on it Friday night accompanied by a goat cheese brie and apples. On Saturday, in an attempt to make another meal with this amazing bread, inspiration struck.  Like the bread, we think the sandwich is a keeper.

The New Egg Sandwich

Toast a large slice of bread in the oven on a rack (so air circulates on both sides of the bread) at about 350 degrees until somewhat crispy. The time depends on how moist your bread is, of course.  While you are toasting the bread, make your fried egg.  I like mine fried in a tiny bit of olive oil with Maldon salt, ground black pepper, and sumac sprinkled on the yolk before flipping it once the yolk is set and cooking a little more it's a "well-done" over easy egg -- the yolk maybe a tad drippy but not all liquid-y.  Anyway, suit yourself and make the egg(s) however you want. When the bread is ready, spread some basil pesto (at room temperature) on the bread, place your hot fried egg on top, then top that with thinly sliced ripe avocado and crumbled good-quality Israeli feta cheese.  Eat it with a fork and knife.

feeds one

06 May 2014

Big little stuff

Around my house the little every-day stuff is really the big stuff.  So by that measure, we've had big happenings in these parts over recent months. Let me catch you up.


Somewhere during the fall Wyatt graduated from just making scribbles and zig zags to being able to draw circles, then faces, and then baseball diamonds with pitching mounds.  Now he draws "space men," who appear to be faces but with eyes on antennas instead.  He also knows his letters and can write many of them, so at Valentine's he surprised me by signing all his cards to school friends with a "W" -- carefully penned on each card in the same spot with red marker.  It was his idea.  This was shortly after he brought home a wall-sized piece of art that he had created at school, which he calls "my Ws." He's big into words and the letters that start them, too.  I overheard him telling someone the other day that "G starts with golf." Recently, he told me that "Coyote starts with 'e'" -- not always correct, but I like that he's getting the idea of how letters give their sounds to the words they are in. He is always reading road signs too nowadays.  A little voice from the backseat tells me whenever I am entering a school zone and why it's important to slow down "so you don't bump a kid and hurt them."  Thank you, Wy. 


In February, the kid basically potty trained himself in the course of a couple days. So since February 22 we've not seen a diaper in the house.  Of course we still use the "pull down," as he calls it, when he sleeps but even those are usually dry in the morning.  Now we have a lot of potty talk (unfortunately) and get to discuss daily the things we do and do not pee on or into.  Somehow I never pictured myself telling anyone, "No you cannot pee into my shoes."

He's a fan of reading and pretending when on the toilet.  Sometimes he's a baseball announcer. Other times he just "reads" outloud to himself.  Two months in now, using the "big boy" seat on the toilet is old hat.  He's able to get himself to the bathroom, on and off the potty, pull up the undies and pull up the "over pants" as he calls them, and even soap-wash and dry his hands -- all by himself.  It's a big deal.  Of course, we've had the inevitable accidents due to forgetting to stop playing or waiting too long to go, but generally he's doing great.

Getting rid of diapers meant we had no need for a changing table, so Wyatt's room got a re-org, complete with a big boy bed and glow in the dark stars.  It's definitely the room of a little boy now, not a toddler or baby.  Wyatt takes great pride in his "studio" as he calls it.  It's his office, really.  He knows that Byron has an office, and he sees me work on projects at my home office, so now he has one too.



We put his twin mattress on a frame with a headboard, the same bed Byron grew up sleeping on.  It's very sweet seeing that furniture being put to use again.  It fits well in Wyatt's room and, miraculously, Wyatt hasn't fallen out of it yet when he sleeps.  We've moved the book case and added the fuzzy rug back into his room so he has a good place to read books.  I regularly find Wyatt in his room lounging on his bed, reading, and listening to a Sparkle Story on his ipod, which he selected and started playing all by himself.  Next thing you know he'll want me to knock.


In recent weeks, he's taken to trying to tell time -- and by trying I mean basically identifying the big hand and the small hand correctly . . . and the numbers . . . but not quite getting the concept of time of day.  All his clock watching prompted the acquisition of a watch for him (albeit a plastic brown one with monkeys on it).  Now he can check the clock whenever he wants.  Periodically he will tell me, "It's 9:30 and that's a good time to watch a Caillou episode" (or whatever it is he wants to do).  Other times, I think he is beginning to understand how the clock shows passage of time.  At school on the days I'm not there, I'm told he will say, "when the big hand gets to 11:30 then mom will be back for circle time." I think clock-watching has become one of his means of coping when he misses us.


Taking a shower has become a big hit with him too.  Baths happen now and then, but mostly he wants a shower now. The kid who didn't like water in his eyes, now loves to wash his hair in the shower and linger in the hot and steamy spray. His favorite is when he gets to shower with either me or Byron.  A few mornings lately he'll pop out of bed when he hears Byron get up at 6 a.m. and insist he needs to "take a quick shower" with dad so he can be "all warm and toasty too."  But Wyatt is a fan of the solo shower too. When we want to get him out he will say, without exception, "not quite yet."

April weekend in Vancouver

The big excitement in April was a trip from Seattle to Vancouver BC by train for a long weekend -- kind of a birthday weekend celebration for Byron.  We arrived to discover Vancouver's cherry blossom festival in full bloom.  Plus, the weather was gorgeous, which allowed us to walk nearly everywhere we went albeit with a couple rides on the sky train, the water taxi, and a cab.


Our trip began Friday with an early-morning lift to the train station. We boarded the Amtrak Cascades and chugged along for about four hours until we reached Main Street Station in Vancouver.  From there, a quick hop on the sky train put us at our hotel downtown -- it was the birthplace of Button (the Sutton Place Hotel bear), who had come back to Canada with us (strapped securely to the outside of Wyatt's backpack) to see where he had come from (we acquired him on our last stay in April 2013).  We arrived by noon, had an early check in, and promptly decided to all take a quick nap . . . which meant we all woke up about three hours later.  It was lovely.

A late-afternoon urban stroll led us to Gastown and one of Vancouver's top wood-fired pizza joints for salads and pizzas and very fancy beverages, including the Golden Goddess for Wyatt.  Then back to the hotel for baseball watching and some more sleeping.  We had an early morning and full day planned for Saturday.

Next morning, we headed out of our hotel early, found some breakfast, and picked up supplies for a picnic lunch at Stanley Park.  Then it was off to the Vancouver Aquarium to be first in line when it opened.  We weren't first in the door, but we did make it early enough to pick seats in the "splash zone" of the beluga whale exhibit before the first beluga whale show of the day began.  We learned about how trainers work with these animals every day,  watched them train them, and even got to see some whale tricks.  Didn't get too wet, luckily.  Then it was off to the dolphin show and to check out the jelly fish, the Amazon exhibit, and the amphibians.  We stopped by the sea otters too.  For some bizarre reason, Wyatt seemed to enjoy the gas chromatography exhibit the most.  We could barely pry him away.


A picnic under the blooming cherry trees in Stanley Park, time at the play ground, and then a bit of a hike around to the totem poles . . . and then back to Burrard street left us all tuckered out.  It was during this part of the day that Wyatt repeatedly asked to "go get Dad's office car and drive back to the hotel please."  Although he rode a fair bit on Byron's shoulders, Wyatt hiked a good number of miles that day.  He was a trooper.  Until we got in the cab to go to dinner east of downtown, that is.  Within five minutes, he was fast asleep.


At the suggestion of friends, we tried a Palestinian restaurant called Tamam on East Hastings.  I thought the meal was outstanding, including the fresh-from-the-oven baklava made with pistachios and honey.  I'm not usually a fan, but this version was amazing. I thought the halloumi eggplant was a standout.  But the red cabbage salad and the slow-roasted chicken with spices were also pretty exceptional.  Also loved the humus and mutabal.  Highly recommended.

Sunday morning we went to Granville Island for breakfast and wandering and then took a water taxi to Science World for a few hours of exploring.  We saw a very old t-rex, discovered that together the three of us weighed about the same as 7,000 hissing cockroaches (but less than one giant tortoise), and visited a display of what seemed like millions of Legos.  


Afterward, we headed back out into the sunshine for some eating and hanging out in the part of town known as The Village (formerly the Olympic Village).  Then we caught the train for Seattle and settled in for the return trip.  Wyatt and Button slept all the way home.