When Tim came home from his Thursday meetings today, I handed him one of these date truffles, and he told me to get my coat, and the two of us headed to Bella Nashville for a pizza date, which is…
UPDATE: The winner is Lindsey Hepler! Thanks everyone for entering, and congratulations to Lindsey!
THIS THIRD WEEK OF AUGUST HAS BEEN a night on Nashville’s walking bridge, traffic whooshing by on the distant interstate, a ferry boat passing beneath, my head against Tim’s shoulder while I tell him, “You know, if I lived a thousand years on the planet all by myself, I’d never figure out how to build a boat like that,” and us moving to the other side of the bridge to keep watching it, following it, mesmerized by the turning showboat gears like little children looking at a train; a twilight picnic next to soccer practice, SUVs dropping off and picking up preteens, moms calling out I love yous to their running kids just as the golden hour fades; spiders’ webs so big, constructed around our back door overnight, that I shriek when I see them, even though the streets are sleeping in the early-morning sunrise; long-distance phone conversations with wise voices; surprise hydrangeas; oven disasters that send us to share dinner on the front porch (also covered in spiders’ webs, for the record, because those spiders! they are something!); and, along with these things, a whole lot of good meals to eat.
We’ve had Kathryn’s buckwheat almond cake (but with peaches!), smashed potatoes to use up our pantry stash, Erin’s brilliant einkorn tortillas, fresh tomatoes on homemade bread (recipe soon, we hope!), peach crisp adapted from the brilliant David Leite, pesto to use up our basil, cucumber water to use up our cucumbers, and, this morning for the third time in the last few weeks, this berry date smoothie.
We’re calling this a berry date smoothie with a kick because it’s the kind of smoothie that starts off sweet and then surprises you, almost burns you, as the hot, hot kick of cayenne hits the back of your throat. You want to reach for a glass of water when it hits, but then the rest of the smoothie comes instead, and then you want to say, “Do it again!” and so you take another swig.
No burying the lead in this post, folks: I’m nuts about this Brussels sprouts salad. I want to tell you I almost cried when I tasted it, but then I’d have to tell you how my brother almost rolls his eyes whenever he hears me say that. “Yeah, that tortilla soup you posted is good,” he told me a few months ago after he’d read about it here and then tested it at home, “but it’s not like I cried about it.”
My brother thinks he’s very funny.
I saw that brother—and my mom and my dad, and my in-laws, and Tim’s cousins, and his aunt, and his sister and her family, and his sweet grandma Emily, and my dear friend Jacqui—last weekend, in the midst of an epic few days in which Tim and his brother, Nathan, and I drove five hours to Ohio and five hours to Chicago before Nathan flew back and Tim and I drove eight hours home. We left Friday and came back Tuesday and, writing this now, I almost can’t remember what day it is, let alone where I’m sitting as I type. But before we left, inspired by versions of this I’ve seen everywhere from Shutterbean to Gluten-Free Girl to Instagram, I made this shredded Brussels sprouts salad.
When we started registering for wedding gifts last summer, there was one thing Tim really wanted to add: an ice cream maker.
And where I (the impatient, get-it-done type) probably would have just clicked the first version I saw at Target or Williams and Sonoma and rejoiced to have checked something off my list, this man I married is different. He does research.
So it was in those final few months before our wedding that we had at least three different conversations about ice cream maker options: the kind where you have to freeze the bowl ahead of time, the kind with the freezing mechanism already inside; small ones, large ones; ice cream makers from Cuisinart, ice cream makers from Italy. Because this was around the time when I was off for a weekend to Oregon, I even remember talking to Kim and Tyler Malek from Salt and Straw about the ice cream maker(s) they use and recommend and why, jotting notes in my notebook to share with Tim.
My Tim loves ice cream. I mean, he loves it. He’s been dreaming of making his own (with raw milk because that’s what we drink) since long before he knew me (there are handwritten notes that prove this fact).
So having told you all that, I probably don’t have to tell you what happened when, after our honeymoon, opening the handful of gifts at my parents’ house in Chicago that our friends hadn’t already transported down to Tennessee for us, we found one very heavy, very large box sitting amongst them, holding that dream ice cream maker (a Delonghi GM6000, if you’re curious):
those first few weeks back in Nashville, he must have made ice cream eight or nine times.
And while I’ve been telling Tim all along, amongst our ice cream night with friends and homemade ice cream at the pie party and quiet nights at home filled with scoops of chocolate chocolate chip or bourbon vanilla or cinnamon or hazelnut coconut chocolate chip, that one of these days, I’ll really have to blog these ice creams, it wasn’t until recently, amidst our raw experiment week, when Tim made a raw ice cream sweetened only with dried fruit (!!), that I got too excited to contain myself.
So, without further ado, I bring you the most interesting ice cream I’ve ever had: Tim calls it raw chocolate. With an ingredients list including raw milk, dried fruit, raw organic egg yolks (does that scare you? read this), cocoa powder, vanilla, gelatin and cream (if we’d had raw cream, this could have been a totally raw version), it’s free of refined sugar and, I can almost promise, unlike anything you’ve ever had: icy and sweet, flecked with hints of raisin (although next time, we might just do dates), refreshing and unique and delicious.
This past week, Tim and I did sort of a cleanse, wherein we ate mostly raw: fresh fruit, fresh vegetables, nuts, seeds, raw dairy, dried fruit. We added homemade chicken soup, nettle and Tulsi teas and, at a maximum of once a day, roasted vegetables, but otherwise it was, for the first time in our lives, an experience in raw eating.
It was interesting.
First of all, it wasn’t hard, at least not in the way typical cleanses are. I wasn’t starving, I didn’t get major detox reactions, there was no need to summon all my willpower not to eat a cookie. A couple times, one of us would say to the other, doesn’t a taco sound good?, but, for the most part, we felt like there was so much we still could eat: a bowl of juicy grapefruit; fresh pomegranate arils sprinkled with flax seeds and coconut; caprese salad (tomatoes, raw mozzarella, fresh basil), morning smoothies, giant green salads (and you know how I like those), frozen fruit mixed with nuts in raw milk, homemade pecan nut butter on celery sticks—all along with our soup and roasted vegetables, so, as you can imagine, we were quite full and satisfied.
Also, it was really, well, cleansing, just as we hoped it would be. The week made us feel good—really good—from our skin to our digestion to our energy levels. After the holidays, I had been fighting a little bit of a sore throat/cold/infection, the first one since I changed my diet in 2009. This cleanse week killed it, knocked it right out of me.
But there’s one more thing, too, a thing that’s been especially fascinating and something I didn’t expect or plan for: this week has started to open my eyes to the world of raw eating. It’s something. You know, there are raw restaurants, raw blogs (like my new favorite g0lubka), raw cookbooks. And it’s not like you just eat an apple and a carrot and call it a day, either: there are crazy inventive raw recipes for things like raw donuts, raw cookies and chocolate avocado pudding, for example.
I mean, have you ever had a raw brownie?
This was an idea that had never before occurred, let alone appealed, to me.
And I know they say, when you take yourself away from something for a little while, say from sugar, for example, you change your tastes. So I know it’s possible that these brownies won’t seem sweet enough to the average palate or chocolatey enough compared to the typical brownie.
But to me, they were amazing, enough to make me wonder why I’ve trained my brain to think I need things sweeter than they have to be. I loved them. I made them twice. And both times, when I saw the simple combination of dates, walnuts and cocoa powder make a brownie and the ability of half an avocado with honey, cocoa powder, vanilla and cinnamon, along with just a pinch of salt, to create a velvety chocolate frosting, I marveled. It’s the same feeling I’ve had looking at a piece of segmented grapefruit or the inside of a pomegranate: what amazing foods we’ve been given. It’s good to celebrate them.
As far as vegetables go, asparagus is really something: tall, peaked in pretty tips, stalks cast in deep shades of green, with knobby dark-purple bumps along the sides shaped in tiny triangles. It has no fat or cholesterol, few calories, little sodium, as well as lots of potassium, folic acid, vitamins A & C and fiber. Plus, this time of year it’s just finishing up its two-month-long season, meaning it’s still pretty easy to find at your supermarket.
Of course, just because it’s available doesn’t mean it’s fresh—a lesson I learned all too well on Saturday when I pulled out the bunch I’d grabbed the night before and, gasping, extended my arm as far away as possible from my face, hoping to minimize the oh-my-gosh-what-is-it-that-smells-like-death odor assaulting me. A return trip to the store—complete with thorough examining of every remaining bunch of asparagus, conversations with the produce man and the manager, obtainment of two brand-new bunches hidden away in the back cooler— left me confident of three things: 1) Fresh asparagus should not, ever, ever, smell like dirty socks left in a hamper, 2) Nor should it, for any reason, have yellow slime building up between stalks and 3) There’s a reason I spend so much time at Dominick’s: those people are nice.
When you’re choosing asparagus at the store, don’t assume bunches are fresh just because they all look alike. Search for firm, bright green stalks with tightly closed tips, where the ends look freshly cut, not dried out. And, fun fact: the thickness of the stalks reveals how late in the season the vegetables have been harvested. Thicker stalks = beginning of season. Thinner stalks = later.
Now, if you love asparagus like I do, you’ll already know how good it is roasted in a white-hot oven, smothered in olive oil, when the skin blisters and absorbs all the oil’s fruity flavor. It’s also fantastic grilled over open flames or, boiled and chopped up into Saturday morning omelettes.
But can I make one more suggestion? If you have in your hands a fresh bunch of asparagus, you absolutely have to make this salad. Trust me on this.