the reasons why (fish cooked in brown butter)

sole amandine

I tend to keep mental lists of reasons I like things. Is that weird?

It’s true of avocados—loaded with good fat, make creamy smoothies, taste absolutely perfect smashed and salted on toast, were just $3-and-something for four at Trader Joe’s yesterday. It’s also true of places—Boston has those historic streets, the North End filled with great food, a beautiful autumn; Colorado doesn’t only offer 300 days of sunshine but is also surrounded by those incredible, breathtaking, larger-than-life mountains.

And of course it’s true of people, like my mom, whom we’re celebrating today. My mom’s list is filled with things like: makes me laugh, is a killer cook, knows just how you should and shouldn’t plant tomatoes each year. She can quote random phrases in Hebrew, knows facts about old theologians, listens to her favorite preachers while she gets ready every morning.

Though I struggle to be 100% honest and blunt with most people, Mom is one person with whom it’s easier. I’m probably sometimes TOO honest with her, in fact. Over her 27 years of motherhood, in which she has born the brunt of my harshest words and most untactful responses, I have been much more free because I know, probably as one of the most sure things I do know, that she loves me. She prayed for me for two years before she had me. She has prayed for me in all the years since she did.

And, as it was with antiquing and gardening and cooking and planning things far, far in advance, she has paved the way for me towards new interests, including something as simple as eating one of her and my dad’s favorite foods: fish.

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tilapia and white asparagus

superbowl sunday

There is a school of thought that says we cannot change our basic selves, that who we are intrinsically is who we have to be, give or take a few small choices, that someone like me will always be someone like me, maybe with different circumstances or friends or hairstyles, but always the same me deep down. Do you think that?

I’m not sure. To be totally honest with you, I don’t want to think that. I want to believe I can change—or rather, that I can be changed—and I want to believe that about you.

white asparagus

Thing is, change is hard to measure. Take asparagus. When you trim a bunch of fresh white asparagus and lay it on a baking sheet, rolling the stalks in lemon olive oil and sprinkling them with salt and pepper before you roast it all in the white-hot oven, you can watch it transform before you from hard and cold to bruised and limp, with spots of darkness from the heat all over its thin stalks, and you can know there’s change there, no question. But would some say it’s not much of a change? Though softened and broken, it is, after all, still asparagus?

asparagus

Or take potatoes.

boiling potatoes

You can boil baby golds, the way you’ve done before, cooking them until they’re soft, then smashing them and coating their soft skins with olive oil and salt and pepper like you did the asparagus, and you can roast them, too, until they’re crispy and golden, wonderful to pop in your mouth one by one but, at the end, bettered by heat and seasoning and time. Are they changed? Are they essentially the same?

smashed potatoes

And then there’s fish. Tilapia.

tilapia

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