Thursday, September 29, 2016

The time of the beets

It is the time of the year when beets are sold in large bags, pounds and pounds of them, for $5 at my farmers market. They store well, and I stock up for the fall season. Over the years, I prepared them in different ways, here is a collection of different recipes that  I go back to, again and again.

1. Balsamic Roasted Beets

This must be my favorite way to prepare them. Wash the beets, scrub them, no need to peel them, and cut them in sliced or cubes, and roasted them in a covered clay baker for about 1h in a bath of beef broth and balsamic vinegar and a bay leaf. They are a great side, and perfect addition for salads throughout the week.

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2.  Z’atar roasted beets with string beans, Brussels sprouts and goat cheese

This is a great dinner using the balsamic roasted beets. The z’atar adds a wonderful, warm spice and note to the fall dish.

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3. Beet Salad with Garlic Greek Yogurt sauce

This recipe is inspired by a beet wrap from the 86 This! store in Belfast. The roasted beets with a very garlicky Greek yogurt dill sauce are the core of this tasty wrap with spinach and walnuts.

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Other ideas to use balsamic roasted beets:

Raw kale salad with roasted beets, melon and balsamic vinegar.

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Roasted beets with apple and pomegranate seeds.

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A lunch plate with apples and falafel.

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4. Pickled beets

Beets are first roasted and then pickled in vinegar with onions, sugar and spices. Much better than the store-bought variety.

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5. Raw beets

Raw beets is another great way to prepare them, preserving all their vitamins and a nice crunch, much like carrots. Here, they are prepare with red cabbage, shaved fennel, goat cheese, walnuts and balsamic vinaigrette.

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Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Summer squash fritters

A few days ago I finally cooked again something that resembles a meal. The summer squash are 3 (any size) for $1 at the farmers market right now. There are boxes of free squash along the way where I go walking in the evening. This summer, I used them for spiralized ‘znoodle’ salads. But the znoodle salad has a now a competitor: the fritters. The ‘pancakes’ are not really fried, just pan-fried. They are fairly easy and fast to make, with a grater for the summer squash and the carrot, a handful of corn kernels and a nice mixture of herbs and nutritional yeast to give them a solid, nutty flavor.  Easy summer food! But very satisfying.  The key is in the nutritional yeast.

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First, grate the summer squash and carrot in a bowl. Add the grated parmesan cheese, panko bread crumbs, and an egg.  Now, for the flavoring: I used a combination of dried thyme and fresh mint, and a heaping helping of nutritional yeast, and some red pepper flakes for some background sizzle.

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I measured out 1/4 cups of fritter, and then made them flat in the pan.

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After about 5 minutes on each side they are ready to go.

Summer squash fritters (makes about 4 fritters)

  • 1 larger summer squash (ca 8 inch)
  • 1 carrot, peeled
  • 1/4 corn kernels (frozen is fine)
  • 3 TB nutritional yeast
  • 2 TB grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 –1/2 cup panko bread crumbs (to your liking)
  • 1 egg
  • salt, pepper
  • fresh or dried herbs: thyme and  mint
  • 1 TB red pepper flakes
  • 1 TB of olive oil (divided)
  1. Grate the summer squash and carrots in a large bowl.
  2. Add the corn, yeast, parmesan, panko, herbs, and pepper flakes. Mix gently.
  3. In a separate cup, swirl the egg with a fork, then pour over the mixture.
  4. Mix well, add a bit of salt and pepper, not much since the parmesan cheese adds the necessary salt.
  5. Heat a 10 inch pan with half of the olive oil, until hot.
  6. Scoop 1/4 cups from the mixture, place in pan and flatten. Sear for 5 minutes, and then turn, and sear for another 5min on the other side. Repeat for the other half of the mixture.
  7. Serve immediately. Optionally, sprinkle some Dukkah over the fritters.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Cozy times

I know I will regret this. But today I am glad the sky is overcast, and although I have not been outside, I hope the heat broke. It was still in the upper 80s all week, and humid. That, coupled with a some unspecified bug I caught made me feel run down, and in need for rest and feet up on the couch.  When the skies turn to gray, I feel like a natural calm coming over me, and for one day I am grateful for it.

As said, I will probably regret this soon.

The cats are suddenly alert. Thunder is rolling in.  They will take cover under the bed soon, and I debate if I get my pasta maker out. This day calls for pasta and a slow-cooked tomato sauce.  But maybe just for downloading photos and blogging.

Yesterday, a last hot, humid day I drove again, to Stonington. This summer I have been enchanted by it. This time I stopped on the way, before the road leads to the tall bridge, up on the hill. Caterpillar Hill. It has the most breath-taking view of all of Maine. The beautiful landscape of the many small inhabited and uninhabited islands of Penobscot Bay, sitting next to each other, to they can be reached by sail boat or kajaks. I sat down, with my camera, and stared into the horizon. Such beauty. I wished I’d had a house on Caterpillar hill to see this view every morning.

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On my way to Stonington, I stopped by the 44 North Cafe Deer Isle store and roastery, in the old Deer isle high school building. Unfortunately they were closed.

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Once I arrive in Stonington, I sat down in 44 North Cafe, worked for a while. It was popping with people, mostly elderly tourists, enjoying the times when everyone else is back to school.  Around 5pm I went on another walk.

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Swinging on ‘my’ swing.

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Dreaming of a little house in Stonington, just enough for 1-2 people, a cat, little cleaning, heating and upkeep included.

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Then it was back to 44 North cafe, for another round of writing and some light white wine and dates stuffed with goat cheese.

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It was late when I was driving back, and it had started to rain. A long drive through the narrow, winding streets, with winds picking up and rain coming down. It must be very different in the winter here.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Back to work

September, September. The weather is great, the nights cooler. The free schedules are gone, and we are all synchronized by work days again.

My adventure of taking a creative writing class still magically transforms my life. I read with new gusto, and I have ditched shopping for evenings at Starbucks, just reading. I ride the wave as long as it lasts, because there is only one thing certain and that is that things will change again. My beginner's enthusiasm won't last forever, so I got my paraglider out.

I found it both exhilarating and scary to write my first peace of fiction. I pulled like on a string in the sky, and pulled out a whole character and a whole story. That was the exciting part. Torturing my brain with finding an idea that I really liked, that was less fun.

Cooking is also back on, too. So soon, more recipes!




Friday, September 2, 2016

A dose of spice

This semester I am taking a creative writing class. The idea of writing a book has ghosted around in the back of my mind for years, but I  found the thought of execution daunting and overwhelming, and I shh-ed it away.”Yes, one day.” I knew fully-well that day would likely never come. But, like good and meant to be ghosts, they don’t go away, and come back regularly, knocking on the mind’s door and testing the waters. I became increasingly brimming with ‘want’ and equally increased impatience of ‘I really don’t know of how to to do it!’. Over the summer, I listened to a short course on creative live. “Write your story” with this surprisingly mesmerizing instructor, Joshua Mohr, who made the idea of crafting a story look doable. This course increased my understanding significantly and planted a seed of confidence that this could be fun.  I started to played with the idea of taking a university creative writing class. Just get my feet wet. Maybe, just the first few classes?

I almost talked myself out of it again, 15min before the class. But then I headed to the classroom. It was a small. I had expected a large lecture hall with hundreds of students, so I could squeeze in, in the back, and hide. But it was a fairly small class room, 25 students at most, and these are typically filled to the brim. Auditing means you need to sit on the floor. I almost turned around on my heels again, leaving the whole idea behind.  The students were still streaming in, and a few seats were left as I could see through the loophole of the door. The instructor arrived, looking at me with a quizzing look of “can I help you? are you lost?” but he did not say a word.  I asked if I could audit the class, blablabla. He looked at me, intrigued and lightly amused,  and without other ado he ushered me in.

And that is how it started.

I am taking a writing class.

I had no idea what to expect. I don’t have a desk full of first drafts that just need rewriting. I don’t have any drafts. Actually, I never really have written anything (as in fiction).

We got a list of reading material, books that should be read from a writer’s perspective, and to write a review of what we can learn as a writer. We got the first assignment, “Write 5-8 pages of creative fiction, non-fiction or 5 poems until Tuesday.” “What?????!” I hastily looked around, no one seem surprised and I was sure there was probably a class I missed that explain of how to do that.  “Aren’t we supposed to learn this first?!!!”  I angstily thought in sheer panic. My mind started scrambling “What do I need for this?!”

The wheels have been turning since then. It is the weekend now and I will have to sit down soon, and get started. I still have no clue what I should write about.  In a mad google search, I informed myself about character development, plot, point of view, narrative arc, but I still need an idea. A plot! I am still stumped and start thinking again “Maybe, this was a crazy idea, because you don’t even have an idea of what you want to write about. What kind of writer are you!”

Oh dear, oh dear.

I have been reading a lot of Kurt Vonnegut this week. I like him.

My ‘normal life’ still goes on, the normal humdrum of same-old same-old auto-repeat, and it now feels like it has a layer of pixie dust, a spice mixed in. It is transformed into something exciting and glorious, full of expectation. Like a child with a new cool toy.. Free zones are no longer filled with mind-numbing netflix and a glass of wine, but reading books, thinking about characters, and using my imagination.

A little new endeavor, and everything is changed.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

House on a Ledge

There is no denying it: summer is over. Or at least, summer break and school starts again. Sigh. I had a really relaxing summer, free from pressures, outside and self imposed, and I am not really ready for the rigorous schedule of the academic year. Summer feels like softly swinging in a hammock, on my own time and pace, and the school year feels more like a rat race.

I can feel my squirrel genes engage, shuffling pictures of silky soups through my mind, sift through cake recipes,  making me bring home large bags of  beets, and marking the start of pick your own apples in the calendar. It’s all good, but I rather return to the begin of summer again, and go into an endless loop.

Here are some photos from my last summer trip. Since it was so serene in Stonington, I went a second time, this time able to spend a few hours in 44 North Cafe since it was open. But first I visited my new friends in Ellsworth, at Rooster Brothers. They graciously share some brioche with me each time I come.

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Penobscot Bay.

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