Radish Panzanella

radish panzanella

Telling you I like panzanella is a little like telling you my teenage self liked pizza. I don’t like panzanella; I want to eat it every day. In the same way I grew up buying Tombstone and Jack’s and, let’s be honest, eating any pizza anyone would give me, now I want panzanella, and I want it all the time. Really, the jump from pizza addict to panzanella evangelist isn’t a crazy one. The most traditional versions of panzanella are practically pizza, deconstructed: bread, tomatoes, basil, mozzarella cheese. But lately, my panzanella love has pushed me to new combinations of ingredients, ones far stretched from anything resembling a pizza slice. And while sure, I might be biased, I have to say, I think a radish panzanella like this one could make a zealot out of anyone.

radish panzanella

This salad starts with radishes—and saying radishes are beautiful is kind of like saying I like panzanella.

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Spicy Roasted Vegetable Bisque

Curried Roast Vegetable Soup | FoodLovesWriting.com

October brought dark and stormy skies today, which is another way of saying it’s a good time for soup. We made this fiery version out of a heap of roasted vegetables recently, and while the corresponding recipe is posted at the bottom of this post, the truth is that making it is much more about a method than it is about a list of ingredients: roast a bunch of chopped vegetables in oil, simmer them in hot water, pure√©, add milk, add seasonings, adjust.

The other truth is that, basically, this is how we cook most days.

Vegetables | FoodLovesWriting.com

See, let’s just say, for the sake of argument, that there are two main ways to approach recipes. (I have to say “for the sake of argument” in case any of those of you who are reading here today are the pesky, exacting sort [of which both Tim and I tend to be] and so, when you hear the words, “there are two main ways to approach recipes,” you can’t help it but your mind immediately begins making a case for why there are, in fact, actually at least six different ways to approach it, not two, and once you’ve realized that, you find it’s hard to hang in there through the rest of the paragraphs, having already deemed this post you’re reading to be written by an unworthy source. Listen, you just put those thoughts on hold a minute and rest easy because, right now, we are just talking about this for the sake of argument. Forehead unfurrowed, we continue.)

So let’s say one person gets a recipe, maybe like the one written in this post for an it’s-a-kick-in-your-pants soup, and she looks at her fridge and sees how her ingredients don’t match up with what’s needed and so, she either (a) saves the idea for another day when she’s able to buy everything listed or (b) abandons it altogether.

At the same time, another person gets the same recipe, understands the rough outline of what’s going on, and instead of following it to the letter, she instead pulls out all the carrots and onions, mushrooms, potatoes and zucchini lurking in her crisping drawers, and, experimenting, applies the same strategy to them.

One person caters to the recipe; the other, gets the recipe catering to her.

Soup + Fall Days | FoodLovesWriting.com

What’s the difference? Why is one person line-by-lining it and the other, just seeing instructions as a guide? For me, the biggest difference has been time—that incomparably valuable resource that is usually required to learn to do anything, be it speaking a language, riding a bike or handling basic HTML. Do you relate? Has it been that way for you? For me, cooking has been, and continues to be, all about practice, about trying over and over and over again in new ways and the same ways until, one day, you’re making roasted broccoli the way you drive a car, and you’re barely thinking about the way you’re waiting for the smell of crispy florets to tell you when they’re done. The progression from looking at a potato, thinking, how does this become French fries?, to pulling together a meal on the spot is not overnight, at least not for most of us, but usually, it comes.

In our life, Tim and I usually look in the fridge and opt for what’s easy, zucchini to roast and a salad to toss; leftover soup and garlic-rubbed toast; beets (roasted in the CSA apocalypse 2012) to top with goat cheese and toasted hazelnuts. There are times, of course, when we set to making something finer, something bigger, especially when we’ll be dining with guests, and some meals require more preparation, like soaking quinoa or slow-cooking pot roast or preparing a quiche.

But most nights, in our life, we’re throwing quick meals together—not from great skill but from practice, which is the kind of thing I wished I’d heard more often when I was just beginning and, to be honest, which I wish heard from food bloggers and home cooks and great chefs more often. Like a runner or a football player or a businessman, when it’s go time, we’re all mostly drawing on the years we’ve been trying—the failed frittatas and the terrible pie crusts and the cakes that turned gray.

When they happened, the failures were tragedies, but years later, they’re gifts.

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Gluten-Free Tabbouleh

quinoa

It doesn’t matter if I’m with you in the kitchen making quinoa or talking to you through the lens of a computer screen, telling you I’m having a hard time making friends is one of the fastest ways I know to bring back all the emotions of second grade P.E. class. It’s humiliating—kind of like announcing you’re the kid no one wants to sit next to on the bus or that the guy who’s taking you to dinner is only doing it because his mom knows your mom. Over and over again the last few days, when this topic has come up in conversation with acquaintances and friends, I’ve been shocked at how humbled I’ve been to simply state the truth, how much I’ve wanted to color it with less emotion and try to hide the fact that I crave deep relationships. I feel so embarrassed to say it, like I’m asking you to pity me and tell me I’m wonderful and invite me to your dinner party, but I force myself to do it anyway because it’s true and I want to say what’s true, and also, I want to fight the urge to only tell you what I think you’ll think sounds good. I’m too good at that already.

soaking quinoa

Sometimes when Tim and I are cooking together, I’ll ask him how he wants the vegetables chopped, and he’ll say fine and minced, and he’ll ask me how I want the table set, and I’ll think, I wonder what he would want me to say? before I answer him. I don’t always do this, mostly because he’s helped me see how unhelpful it can be, but sometimes I still do because it’s a deep habit, one so ingrained in me that I fall back on it without meaning to.

I grew up what some people might call a people pleaser. I studied what the crowd around me liked and wanted, and I worked very hard to make myself fit their desires. I didn’t get in trouble, I said kind things, I learned to ask you more about your life than I’d say about mine—constantly working to gain your approval, whomever you were, so that you would like me, so that you would say something that would make me feel OK inside.

chopping herbs

In many different types of society, people pleasers hide really well. They’re not the ones parents worry about or the ones dealing with failure—they’re usually, on the outside at least, fully functional, engaging, pleasant people to be around, successful in work and at home and in churches. But the thing is, trying to please everyone else is a mask. Keeping it up isn’t just impossible; it’s exhausting. And sooner or later, you start to see that it’s nuts.

tabbouleh ingredients

Early when Tim and I were dating, we talked about this and about how I’d spent a lot of my life thus far trying to be exactly what I thought people wanted me to be. I didn’t know how to say no without guilt or how to willingly disappoint someone without anxiety, and so I started to ask myself why. Maybe it was because I was afraid of loneliness? Maybe because I liked the illusion of control? But mostly, I think it was this: maybe I was trying to fill my soul with their acceptance.

quinoa with add-ins

I recently finished the book “Grace for the Good Girl,” written by Emily P. Freeman who blogs at Chatting at the Sky. It it, she says this:

Life behind a mask may feel right and may even be fun for a short time. After a while, though, recycled air becomes stale and the effort it takes to continue trying to be someone you aren’t becomes a burden rather than a game. Only in returning home, taking off the mask, and being you again will you find relief.

holding bowl of tabbouleh

The lie of seeking people’s approval is that it will actually satisfy me, that it will actually fill me up. And I am repeatedly, regularly capable of hiding who I really am because I think that will give me what I think I need: your acceptance—even here on this blog when I talk about recipes for cauliflower rice or grass-fed pot roast or raw brownies or sauteed Brussels sprouts. There’s something really, really appealing about feeling well-thought-of or appreciated or valued.

quinoa tabbouleh bowl

And so part of learning, slowly learning, to stop hiding yourself means learning instead to do the opposite: to speak the truth and to be embarrassed and to, when you boast, boast of your weakness (or in the One who has none). Otherwise, it’s a treadmill that never ends and worse, it’s impossible to ever lose sight of yourself enough to do what really does satisfy: to taste and to give real love.

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Homemade Chicken Tacos

This is going to seem like a really trite way to begin a food blog post, but nonetheless, here it is:

I am so thankful for food.

taco ingredients

I started thinking about it this month, when Tim and I began doing a weekly cleanse/detox day and I saw, again, how food affects my body. I thought about it when I read some recent posts (which you really ought to check out if you haven’t already) over at Roost and Honey & Salt, which tell the stories of people totally changing the way they eat in order to improve their health.

Also, there have been long conversations about nutrition on Friday nights, random chats on the phone and with roommates about digestion, the ever-growing and expanding sea (ocean!) of food blogs out there, which continually blow. me. away. with the diversity and scope and perspectives and recipes.

taco fillings

But mostly, it’s just been the food itself.

I mean, man.

tacos

Sometimes I’ll look at a blueberry or a lemon or an egg and think, you know, God didn’t have to give us so many different colors and tastes and textures to eat. He didn’t have to design food to provide pleasure or to be the tool that offers nourishment to us. He didn’t have to create natural, whole foods that grow on trees and bushes, or the animals that provide dairy and meat. There could have been a different system—maybe a button to press or an IV line to hook up or, I don’t know, computer-like systems that monitor our levels of things and adapt automatically. Seriously, think of it: There could have been no flavor, no concept of sweet or tart or spicy. No variety in colors, just gray or brown mush.

These are really things I think about sometimes.

But we get juicy red strawberries! And fermented dill pickles! We can make homemade stock and grass-fed sloppy Joes!

It’s so good. I’m thankful.

And right now, I am specifically thankful for these homemade chicken tacos we made recently, stuffed with some of my favorite chicken and a hodge-podge of other ingredients we had on hand, packaged in sprouted taco shells.

I am thankful to eat these things and be full, to be satisfied, and, most of all, to be well.

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an ALT sandwich (with sprouts and cheddar)

Yesterday, I made a sandwich for lunch.

(I also threw away two dozen old magazines. And made a donation pile for Goodwill. And listed things to sell on Amazon and eBay.)

Here is how the sandwich part went.

1. I took two pieces of bread, covered one with sliced raw cheddar and stuck them in the 350-degree oven for a little while (maybe five to ten minutes).

bread and cheddar

2. I sliced an avocado in half, removed the pit, sliced the flesh while it was still inside the skin.

add avocado

3. When the bread was good and toasted and the cheese all melty, I put avocado slices on the plain piece.

building the sandwich

4. I sliced a big, fat, juicy red tomato into slices.

add tomato

5. Lettuce (aka mixed greens) goes on top of the avocado, then tomato, then salt and pepper—they’re key.

add lettuce and tomatoes

6. I wanted to add sprouts, but all I could find at Trader Joe’s were microgreens. They’re fun.

add sprouts or microgreens

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