Hot weather, cold salads

Temperatures and tempers have been escalating lately. And nothing is more uncomfortable than a body full of heat or anger, except maybe a body enraged by both. I can't say this has been the hottest summer of my life, since I spent one summer semester in Boston living in a 5th floor walk up that practically jutted out over I-90, with no AC at all. I feel asleep every night on the floor in my underwear, engulfed by the noise of box fans and buzzing traffic, fantasizing about my next door neighbor Jay- formerly a huge tease and currently the lead singer of California Wives. Back then I cooled off by sneaking into the Boston University law library, one of the only properly air conditioned buildings within a one mile radius of my apartment, and cuddling up to Jay for a nap. Now, no such option. 

The heat in Boston offered no reparation- it was 105 every day for a week that year and fresh farm produce was way, I mean way out of my budget. I'm serious: one time I paid $8 for a single heirloom tomato at the Copley Square market as an indulgence. But as long as a I reside in the South, hellish heat is a price I will gladly pay, if only temporarily, for proper okra and tomatoes. And cucumbers and peppers and zucchini. All the things that happen to absolve the body from the effects of high temperatures. 

The heat breaks each night at 9:30 and although that's normally when I'd be winding down, I'm not wholly myself in July and August. I perk right up as soon as I have the chance to turn my oven on without throwing off the delicate balance of airflow in my home. Most recently I've been roasting vegetables that keep well and enable me to make a fine lunch the next day during the long daylight hours. 

I developed a dressing to suit them all, inspired by my friend Molly Martin who staged with Yotam Ottolenghi in London and taught me that dressing sticks to veggies (basically anything that isn't lettuce or greens) best when it's thickened with roasted garlic. And when I say "roasted," I mean GBDAF: golden brown and delicious as fuck. Not just soft. Not just a little brown. I mean fully the shade and smell of caramel. 

I'm about as lazy as cooks come, so I make a two veggie/one herb salad on my best of days. My favorites have been: roasted okra with cucumbers at cilantro (pictured), roasted sweet potato with avocado and chives, and roasted rainbow carrots with mint and chile flakes. Maybe if I've slept particularly well the night before, I throw on some extra sesame seeds and a soft boiled egg, also pre-cooked and chilled under the cover of night. 

Roasted garlic sesame dressing
-yields about 1/3 cup. I recommend making as much as one head of garlic will give you. 

1T roasted garlic
2T coconut sugar
2T toasted sesame oil
3T lime juice

1. Preheat oven to 350.
2. Cut the top off of a whole head of garlic so that all the cloves are exposed. Place in a sturdy piece of tin foil and drizzle generously with grapeseed oil and salt. Wrap tightly.
3. Bake garlic on a small sheet pan for an hour, or until the cloves are deeply golden brown. Let it cool completely before handling.
4. Combine all ingredients with fork or in a small food processor until garlic is smooth and sugar is dissolved. 
5. Serve drizzled over cold roasted or fresh vegetables (see suggestions above). 

Bloomsbury Farm, Week...I Lost Track

I've completely lost track of time this Summer. So far it's been a blurry montage of work and hip pain punctuated by small joys, like the banana split at Henrietta Red or free soft serve from Lulu (oh my god, is all my happiness ice cream based?). More accurately, it has been defined by omission- a distinct lack of popsicles, swimming, floating, concerts, jumping, kissing, sleeping, reading, camping, adventure...you get the picture.

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What I've been lacking in quality Summer fun, I've made up for in quantity of vegetables. Cabbage and broccoli and kale and cauliflower and sprouts and tomatoes and radishes and kohlrabi and collards and chard up to my eyeballs. I've been making sweet and salty caramelized cabbage pasta over and over with miso paste added at the end instead of anchovies at the beginning. And I can't get enough of this recipe for swiss chard cooked down with cream and shallots, which I spoon over polenta or grits. Cherry tomatoes halved and tossed in buttermilk herb dressing are basically the bread and butter of my kitchen at the moment. 

My obsession with fritters continues to grow, but I've lost both the time and motivation to use potatoes as their binder. Good thing cheddar cheese works just as well! You know how the best part of a grilled cheese sandwich is that little bit of filling that's escaped and gotten all crispy and caramelized in the pan? Yeah, that's what the outer texture of these broccoli cheddar fritters is like. The inside is light and fluffy, pancake-y almost, thanks to oat flour which you can make yourself in a food processor. 

Broccoli Cheddar Fritters
-makes roughly 16 small fritters

1/2 cup oat flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 large eggs
1 medium head broccoli, finely chopped
1 small box sprouts, roughly chopped
3 large handfuls shredded cheddar- about 7 ounces*
1/2 cup finely chopped herbs**
zest of one lemon
grapeseed oil for frying

1. Mix the first four ingredients together in a medium bowl, then add vegetables, cheese and herbs.
2. Let sit for 20 minutes. Mix again. 
3. Preheat a pan over medium heat, then add 1/8" oil. 
4. Portion out mixture into 2T fritters and fry until golden brown, about 3 min per side.
5. Serve ASAP with tzatziki

*I used good ol' Kerrygold
*You'll need at least one pungent herb, such as garlic scapes, green onions, or dill. If you don't have any of those on hand, use a finely chopped shallot. Parsley, tarragon, chives, lovage, and celery leaves are all good supporting players. 
 

Bloomsbury Farm CSA Week 1, Part 2

You'll notice that my CSA posts have only odd numbers. That's because I pick up a large basket of veggies every other week. It's the perfect amount of food for me and Dan, with enough to spare for one or two IYSTD's (Invite Yourself to Dinners). So let's get two topics out of the way before we proceed: storage and supplemental shopping lists. 

I'm not going to go into great detail about how to properly store your veggies because it's already been covered extremely well here. I will say that plastic baggies are by far the worst and most wasteful way to keep vegetables; I'm a big fan of eight and 12 ounce mason jars, multi-size deli containers and glass snapware. All three are BPA-free, last for ages, plus they stack and freeze well. I'm looking forward to trying bee's wrap, but of course, you can achieve a similar effect in most circumstances by placing a plate and a jar of pickles on top of a bowl. It's basically a crime to let beautiful produce or a beautiful meal go bad because you don't time or proper storage on hand, but let's get real: it's a crime we all commit every now and then and I ain't about mandatory sentencing. Make a point to forgive yourself on the spot when it happens and pay your penance by giving the spoiled goods back to nature via your compost bin. 

Now on to the fun stuff: carbs! That's mostly what I buy at the grocery store to round out the meals I make with CSA produce- brown or white basmati rice, farro, fresh frozen ramen noodles, frozen sprouted corn tortillas, tortilla chips, sourdough bread, lentils, black beans, potatoes and sweet potatoes. I also usually grab milk or buttermilk, eggs, lemons, one type of nut or seed, one type of cheese, shallots, onions, garlic, ginger and a protein such as Short Mountain Cultures black eyed pea tempeh. And don't forget condiments! My kitchen is never without dijon and whole grain mustard, sesame oil, hot sauce, kimchi, miso paste, honey, a couple kinds of vinegar, olive oil and grapeseed oil. Meat is a rarely on my list (read Eating Animals if you haven't already!), but when it is I go for sustainably raised, cheap cuts that can do double duty. Bone-in chicken thighs or leg quarters are a favorite, simply because they have lots of connective tissue and can be used to make stock after the meat is eaten. 

I've been planning to do an outdoor IYTD with chicken and cabbage salad since I picked up my CSA share a week and a half ago because cabbage is an extra patient vegetable and as you'll remember, I quick pickled the carrots to extend their patience. I did a truly piss poor job of inviting people and my big, backyard to-do turned out to be just me and my dear friend, my first ever chef friend, Max Clement. He came by and wrote this recipe for buttermilk herb dressing (aka RANCH) and kept our chicken from burning while I ran inside a dozen different times. Max happens to make a great grilled cabbage and pickled peanut salad at the restaurant where he works in Philly, but mine is inspired by Nashville local John Stephenson, who was the first chef I interviewed about a thousand years ago when I was working for an online magazine that was um, maybe a drug front. He's been at the helm of a few very beloved kitchens in town and of all his food I've eaten over the years, maybe my favorite dish of his is a grilled Napa wedge with roasted carrots, walnuts, smoked gouda and buttermilk dressing. 

Napa cabbage is the perfect candidate for grilling; it has a mild flavor, nice crunch, and it holds up better than romaine over high heat. The crimped edges of its leaves pick up just the right amount of char and and smokiness from the grill, which taste so, so, so good with creamy buttermilk dressing. And its patient nature does not fade away with the heat of the coals- leftovers will taste just as good for several days after you assemble this salad. 

This meal is pictured with grilled sweet potatoes, which you can make by slicing 1/2" rounds, blanching them in boiling water for 2-3 minutes, then throwing them on the grill for 5-7 minutes per side with a little salt and oil. 

Basic Grilled Chicken
serves 6-8

4 to 6 pounds bone in, skin on chicken
3 cups buttermilk
1T kosher salt
1T raw honey
1T dijon mustard
1T vinegar based hot sauce such as Frank's
meat thermometer

1. Whisk together salt, honey, mustard and hot sauce, followed by buttermilk. 
2. Pour marinade over chicken in a large casserole dish. Cover and let sit in the fridge for at least eight hours, or up to 48. 
3. Light your coals and distribute them so that most of them are on one side of the grill. No need to rinse or pat chicken dry- just place it on the side with little to no coals, skin side down. Close the lid and leave for 15ish minutes, then flip (they will look pale- that's okay!), leaving chicken on the cool side of the grill. Close the lid and leave it another 15ish minutes. 
4. Take the chicken's temperature. You're looking for it to be oh, in the 145-150 degree range. Move chicken to the hot side of the grill and keep a close eye on it. You'll want to flip it around a few times, but it should get a really nice golden brown color with a little char after 5 or so minutes.
5. Make sure the middle of the chicken registers at least 160- the temperature will continue to climb as you let it rest another 10 minutes before serving. 

Grilled Napa Wedge
-serves eight as a side dish

one large Napa cabbage
one 8oz jar pickled carrots (see Week One)
a small amount of something fatty and salty, such as a couple ounces good blue cheese or 3-4 pieces thick cut bacon (pictured: beef bacon)
buttermilk herb dressing- recipe follows*

1. If you're using bacon, go ahead and cook it to your liking.
2. Cut the cabbage into quarters lengthwise and brush the edges with bacon grease or grapeseed oil. Lift open the leaves a little bit and sprinkle in some kosher salt.
3. Grill cabbage on the cool side of the grill, turning once, for 20 minutes.
4. Transfer wedges to the hot side of the grill and let them sit for a couple minutes until just charred, flipping once. 
5. Cut the cores off and chop remaining pieces in half. Cover with crumbled bacon, pickled carrots and dressing.

*If your friends or family are very into sauce, you'll want to double this recipe so that they can put it on the chicken and other sides. 

Buttermilk Herb Dressing
-makes about a cup

1/2 cup good buttermilk
1/3 cup full fat greek yogurt
2T grated shallot
1/4 cup finely chopped herbs (think: parsley, basil, dill, tarragon)
salt and pepper to taste

1. Mix it all together! 
 

Bloomsbury Farm CSA Week 1

Hey, it's me, your friend who showed up to her CSA pick up location 15 minutes before the farmer even arrived. I just really like vegetables, okay? I'd say my affection is partially because my Mom (happy Mother's Day!) fed me things like sweet potato pie and broccoli casserole instead of baby food, and partially because I'm still an ADHD child who stops and oggles over anything shiny or brightly colored or with an interesting texture. And a Bloomsbury Farm CSA basket is all of those things. Please join me on my bizarre joy ride of produce once a week for the next 23 (!) weeks to read about what I'm doing with the contents of my baskets. 

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In my basket this week, I have:
Napa Cabbage
Fennel
Haruki Turnips
Beets
Straighter Head Lettuce
Kale
Carrots
Easter Egg Radishes
Parsley
Alfalfa Sprouts
Strawberries

The strawberries didn't even make it all the way back to my house and I suspect yours didn't either. I usually throw any kind of sprouts into smoothies, but I'm going to give you recipes and ideas for what to do with the rest of this produce. Email me and let me know if you have questions or requests!  

We'll start with my go-to solution for any vegetable and it just so happens to please those among us who insist on refraining from meat, dairy, eggs, gluten, or vegetables in general: the fritter. All you do is puree or chop up the cooked vegetable up and mix it with potato, egg, flour and some spices. Flax eggs and potato starch will happily sit in for the real stuff and the variations are endless! You can add in pickled greens, beet greens, kimchi, grated or cooked root vegetables, cheese, herbs, or any kind of spice that tickles your fancy. 

The other really nice thing about the fritter is that the batter freezes well in individual portions. At some point this summer, you're going to get sick of kale or cabbage or collards and fritters are a great way to make like a squirrel with your momentarily unwanted greens. They're a hearty, quick breakfast alongside an egg during the winter. Yes, mine got a little extra crispy because my fur husband chewed on our good spatula until the handle came off and as you can imagine, it was very difficult to flip the fritters. 

I'm setting aside the cabbage for next week, when I'll be making a grilled Napa wedge salad with a parsley buttermilk dressing alongside some nice, smoky chicken. I also quick pickled about half of the carrots and all the radishes. Don't overthink pickling- just make sure you're using a 1:1 ratio filtered water and a vinegar that isn't aged. For an 8 ounce jar, I use 1/4 cup water, 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar, a spoonful (2ish teaspoons) of raw cane sugar and whatever spices I have on hand, usually a sprig of dill, a garlic clove, 1/2t yellow mustard seeds, and a few peppercorns. That's it! The carrots will go on the napa salad next week and the radishes will wait for taco or nacho night. 

A friend of mine gave me this nice olive oil that's pressed with the rind of blood oranges and it happens to go quite nicely with the remaining contents of this week's basket. I used it to make a big batch of dressing for two salads. The first isn't pictured, but it's rubbed curly kale with roasted beets, quick pickled red onions and ricotta salata. The second is comprised of straighter head lettuce, paper thin slices of fennel and radish, and spicy green olives. It's a pleasing, light dinner alongside the turnip fritters, but if you or yours are the type that insists on eating meat, I think salmon would be a nice choice. Get a big piece, cover it with a couple pats of butter, sliced shallots, salt and little half moons of lemon. Stick it in a cold oven, set it to 400, and wait 20 minutes. Better yet, have a dinner party and ask someone else to bring salmon. 
 

Turnip Fritters
-makes 12 small fritters
The batter can be made ahead, then frozen in 1/4 cup patties. Sub a second potato for turnips if you don't have turnips or are folding in other vegetables. 


1 bunch turnips with greens (10 ounces of root, if you must know)
1 medium/large russet potato (12 ounces total, after peeling)
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/3 cup chopped green onions, green part only
1/4 cup flour*
3/4 t kosher salt
1/2 t white pepper**
oil for frying
yogurt, sour cream or creme fraiche to serve

1. Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil.
2. Peel potato and cut into eight even pieces. Cut turnips roots in half (do not discard greens!). Boil both until fork tender, about 10 minutes.
3. Remove vegetables from pot with a slotted spoon, then drain and run under cool water. Dry well. Cut away any large stems from the turnip greens, then drop them into the same pot for another 5-10 minutes. Drain, squeeze out excess liquid and chop finely. 
4. Push potatoes and turnip roots through a vegetable ricer if you have one, or spin them around in a food processor until smooth.
5. Gently fold green onions, turnip greens, salt, pepper, egg and flour into the turnip mixture. 
6. Heat a large skillet over medium with 1/4" oil. 
7. Spoon mixture into the pan and press it flat with the back of a spatula. Fry about three minutes on each side, or until golden brown.
8. Drain on compostable brown paper bags and serve immediately. 

* You can use potato start to make these GF.
** If you're one of those weenies who's averse to "spicy" food, maybe only use 1/4 t white pepper. 


Sorta Provencal Salad
-serves 6

one large head lettuce
one small bulb fennel, with fronds
as many pickled radishes as you like
your favorite spicy olives
dreamy orange dressing

1. It's a salad. Toss that shit together. 

Dreamy Orange Dressing
-yields about two cups
If you're using this for a salad with less piquant toppings, consider adding dijon mustard to taste at the end. 


1 small shallot, roughly chopped
2T water
3T white balsamic vinegar
2T orange marmalade
1 large egg yolk
1 cup neutral oil such as grapeseed
1/2 cup olive oil*
3/4 t kosher salt

1. In a blender or stand mixer, puree shallot, water, vinegar and marmalade until smooth. 
2. Add egg yolk and give it a whir! 
3. While the blender or mixer is running, slowly stream in oils. 
4. Add salt and taste. 

*I used 1/4 cup regular olive oil and 1/4 cup Galena Garlic Blood Orange Olive Oil. Regular olive oil will do just fine. 

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Reasons Why

I'm tired and I hate everything.

That's kind of my natural state. 

I say "kind of" because like anyone, I have my soft spots- two, actually. One is this time of year, the waking of a Souther Summer, humid and humming, smelling of hard pine and honeysuckle, of wet sandstone and cold dew. The dappled light coming through my windows by way of the newly leafy sweet gum tree in my back yard practically has the same effect on me as laughing gas; one minute I'm sitting at my desk, grumpy and grumbly as ever, and next thing I know, I'm giggling on the floor, loving forgiving of all creatures, a person I do not know or recognize. 

That's who I wish I was, really, instead of this modern day Sisyphus, pushing around the dead weight rock of fear and pity and guilt. On the floor, laughing, it's obvious that all the things the rock is made of amount to worry, which as we all know, but tend to forget, is a misuse of the imagination. How good it feels to let go, to be weightless, if only temporarily. 

Using my imagination properly is how I discovered my second soft spot: feeding other people. Two years ago, I had an ongoing surplus of food leftover from various photoshoots and I wanted to save it from the trash can. I'm not gonna lie to y'all- it didn't go great at first. Most soup kitchens won't take food that has been opened or that has been sitting out all day. And most friends don't want to take something ridiculous like five pounds of pea tendrils off your hands on a whim. So the obvious options were out. Then I tried this thing, this amazing thing: I wrote on my personal social media outlets "I'm making [insert dish] on [insert day] at [insert time]. Any and all are welcome. Invite yourself in the comments." 

Worry whispered to me that I was making more work for myself, more dishes, more trouble overall. I'd have to figure out what to make, drive to the store, spend extra money on supplemental items, cook, do dishes, clean my house, try to keep my dog from humping any pretty brunette guests, TALK TO PEOPLE!, do more dishes, and of course, lay awake all night wondering if my guests were disgusted by my house or my jokes or my cooking. Worse yet, it whispered, maybe no one will come at all. And I'm not sure how, but there in the middle of a whirlwind of worrisome whispers, I found the eye of the storm, the place where I reminded myself that none of this had actually happened. What if I decide to feed other people and don't look for a reason not to, I wondered? What if all of these annoying things do happen, and I still find joy? 

And I did. Again and again. 


For practical reasons and because I grew up reading Southern Living and Martha Stewart articles with lists about how to throw a great dinner party, I do have a few recommendations for implementing your own "Invite Yourself to Dinner:" 

Clean your house enough so that there is no visible mold, sticky gunk, or tumbleweeds of human or pet hair (this is how you wanted to live anyway, right?) 
Make something cheap in one pot (ahem, like lentil salad with asparagus) 
Ask at least one guest to bring at least one thing*
Ask at least one guest to help with at least one thing
SIT DOWN DURING DINNER
Play fun music! 

Have boundaries; decide on a set time you want to kick people out and have a polite line ready to let them know the party is over

*People do suck though, so the one thing should be simple. Think, like bread or beer.

Spring Lentil Salad
-serves 6 as a main dish, 12 as a side
Can be made up to a week ahead; blanch and add asparagus right before serving to keep it verdant. 


2 cups French lentils or lentils du puy
4 cups good chicken stock
1 cup dry white wine
2 large shallots
a couple Tablespoons butter and grapeseed oil
2 heaping Tablespoons capers
zest of one preserved lemon, finely chopped*
1 bunch asparagus
1/4 cup roughly chopped dill
1 cup parsley leaves (about half a bunch)
1 Tablespoon whole grain mustard
1 teaspoon honey
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/3 cup olive oil
bread, olive oil, flaky salt and soft boiled eggs to serve
medium sized pot with a lid (4ish quarts)

1. Cut tough ends off of asparagus. Roughly chop the tender parts and blanch them in salted, boiling water for one minute. Place them directly into ice water to cool, then drain well. 
2. Pour most of the water out of the pot and bring it to a boil. Insert a steamer basket into the bottom, fill it with large eggs and place the lid tightly on. Steam eggs for 7 minutes, then put them directly into an ice bath as well. 
3. Dump the all water from the pot and replace it with chicken stock, wine, lentils and a very, very large pinch of salt. Bring the liquid to a hearty simmer and cook for 20 minutes, or until most of the liquid is gone and the lentils are starting to soften to your liking. Drain excess liquid.
4. Melt one Tablespoon of butter with one Tablespoon grapeseed oil over medium low heat. Thinly slice shallots into little half moons and cook slowly with a little bit of salt until nicely caramelized.
5. In a large bowl, whisk together mustard, honey, vinegar, and olive oil. Add capers, herbs, lemon zest, asparagus and cooked lentils. When shallots have cooled, add them too. 
6. Reserve any oil leftover from the shallots and add another pat or two of butter. Fry bread in it.
7. To peel the eggs, crack on the bottom, the top and then gently roll them under your palm so that they are cracked all over. Begin peeling on the fat end and use running water to help separate the shell from the egg. Cut over a plate using a wire tied to a cabinet handle. 

*I made my own preserved lemons using Meyer lemons and this recipe. They are also available pre-made at many grocers, but they vary in levels of saltiness and sourness, so please add with caution. If you can't find them, just use lemon zest and a little extra salt. 

Feed Yourself

When I first moved to Nashville, enough years ago that Nashville was not yet cool, I lived in a rent controlled apartment downtown. It was 503 square feet; I could spit into the sink while laying in bed. And because it was between two elevators, each night my dreams were infiltrated by a soft ding, ding, ding, mingled with the stereotypical bachelorette and bro noises rising up from 2nd Avenue. 

I found myself out on 2nd Avenue more often than I'd like to admit- for cheap beer, for takeout wings from Hooter's, for shows where friends in the band pulled me on stage to twirl me around. Then I'd walk home late at night by myself, wondering if I should feel uncomfortable because of the man who had flashed me in broad daylight a block from my place or the woman who went missing from my building or my ex-boyfriend who stalked me a little. 

Back at my apartment, a great eighth floor fortress that had proven impenetrable to two out of three of these dangers, I was grateful that I could see out, but no one could see in. Maybe for the first time ever, no one was watching me- not my parents or roommate or boyfriend or neighbor. Cheap beer, once the driving force behind some of my more shameful moments, became the catalyst for a miracle; it melted away an ever-present internal looking glass. I was no longer watching myself, no longer painfully and constantly wallowing in my flaws, which I considered to be everything from "cheater" to "wobbly arms." 

In the absence of the looking glass I was not Alice in Wonderland, nor was I Lucy in Narnia, and I certainly wasn't Moses on top of the mountain. I was just me, blind and deaf to every noise, thought and standard in the whole world except for my own voice yelling the same thing that drives most inebriated people to make their best and worst decisions: TO HELL WITH IT! It said, I said, screw all the rules about not eating after 7pm, screw your 800 calories per day, screw bikini bodies and stevia and adderall and zumba and quinoa. It said, I said: do something "wrong," eat something "wrong." 

I listened. I took all my clothes off. I opened the windows. I baked a chocolate cake and sat still while I watched it rise in the oven. That's what I needed. That's what I gave myself. That was the beginning. "Wrong" was so right. 

Two or three evenings spent alone in this manner and I was hooked. I began to wonder what else I could give to myself besides an hour of freedom and a slice of chocolate cake- grace, mercy, generosity, forgiveness, patience, appreciation? And if I was capable of being more than the sum of my flaws- real or perceived, physical or spiritual- was it possible that I could give grace, mercy, generosity, forgiveness, patience, or appreciation to other people? To anyone, to everyone?

That seems like a big task to me. It did then and it does now. But now I know where to start. When I catch myself doing what I think is the worst possible thing- being quick to anger and slow to love- I regularly go back to square one and make something just for myself to remember that a single slice of cake gave me hope and brought me peace. So much so that I now know the answer is yes. Yes, feeding yourself and feeding other people can absolutely make grace and mercy and generosity and forgiveness and patience and appreciation possible among us. 

These days, periods of alone time are few and far between and what I need is a little different. For starters, sugar and alcohol and 30+ years on this planet simply do not mix (you'll soon learn what I'm talking about if you do not already know), so if I am going to drink a beer or two, cake is definitely out of the question. Plus, it's not so much about the end result anymore; I'm all about the comfort in discomfort along the way. I want to be excited by the spatter of hot oil on my skin. I want to laugh in the face of worry when I get raw egg on my hands and do not wash them. I want my whole kitchen (nope, my whole apartment- I've only moved up in the world to 750 square feet) to reek of trout for two days as a memorandum of hope when I do not have time to stop and feed myself. 

For those of you from the South who are familiar with croquettes, this is the Spanish version. They're a little less "overcooked canned salmon" and a little more "salty stuff suspended in fluffy mashed potatoes." You can bread them in whatever you have on hand- saltines, salt & vinegar chips and regular breadcrumbs all work well (all pictured). And as far as things to eat while drinking beer go, their goodness is on par with mung bean pancakes, Teresa Mason's fried avocado tacos, xiao long bao, Jess Benefield's crispy rice/spicy tuna, and Prince's hot chicken...ALRIGHT, everything salty and fried tastes good with beer, but especially croquetas, especially alone and without pants. 

Smoked Trout Croquetas
makes 12-15 small croquettes

about 5.5 ounces smoked trout*
1 pound yellow potatoes
3 large eggs
1t vinegar-based hot sauce such as Frank's
2T salted butter, melted and cooled
1/2ish cup chopped green onions, green and light green parts only
3/4 cup flour
3/4 cup bread crumbs, crushed chips or crackers, etc. 
4ish cups oil for frying**

1. Peel and quarter potatoes. Boil in very salty water until just fork tender. Place in ice bath and drain well.
2. Put potatoes through ricer if you're like, an actual chef or a mashed potato fanatic. If you're just a regular person who doesn't own a ricer, use a microplane or the backside of a box grater. 
3. Drain trout well and flake it with a fork. Mix it with one egg, the butter, and the green onions.
4. Gently fluff trout mixture into the potatoes with a fork.
5. Form small egg-shaped croquetas, about a scant quarter cup each (mine are all exactly 1.5 ounces, if you must know). 
6. While your oil is heating up in a cast iron skillet or a small dutch oven, set up your breading station. Beat the remaining two eggs with hot sauce, then portion out your flour and breadcrumbs in separate bowls. Dip croquetas in flour, then egg, then bread crumbs.
7. When your oil has reached 350, or when you throw in a cracker and it spits and spatters loudly, drop in your croquetas, three to five of them at a time, depending on the size of your pan or pot. Give them a minute or two on each side before turning. 
8. Drain oil off on a paper towel and make something red and creamy to dip them in. Saffron aioli is good, so is roasted red pepper aioli (recipe follows.) 

*That's the meat from two cans of Trader Joe's smoked trout.
**Get real: nothing beats peanut oil. Rice bran oil is a good second choice; grapeseed oil will do. 

Roasted Red Pepper aioli
yields about 1.5 cups

1 cup good mayo
1 roasted red pepper, patted dry
1 large clove garlic, crushed
juice of half a lemon
pinch of salt
pinch of white pepper

1. Blend everything together in a food processor except salt and pepper. Taste it and add salt and pepper as needed. 
 

Very Bastardized Étouffée, Very Bastardized Start

This site was supposed to launch the first week in January. But here we are, on the threshold of Spring and my first post looks nothing like what I had envisioned. 

Are y'all familiar with the concept of tightening? It's when we become less forgiving of ourselves over time in regard to certain habits. I experience it severely in my work as a stylist. When I began conceptualizing this site last Fall, I felt like I needed to replace my formica countertop with rubberwood so I'd have more space to shoot in my kitchen. Okay, reasonable enough.

Three months later, I'm waking up in the middle of the night thinking about how I need new wallpaper, new backsplash, new plates, new silverware, new tablecloths, new napkins, and new dish towels before my site could launch. Then last week I caught myself trying to style my wardrobe to match my new brand. Worse yet, I haven't actually purchased any of these things- not because I'm a procrastinator (I am), but because I'm a freelancer, not a millionaire. 

There's an old folk hymn that goes:
If you tarry 'til you're better / you will never come at all

The Christians get a lot of things wrong, but that ain't one of them. The time has come to get going, "better" or not. 

It's frustrating how subjective that word is, isn't it? I especially dislike when people use "better" as a synonym for "healed." I'd like to think that we're continually getting better, instead of hitting a stopping point with no room for improvement. "Better" has been my life's theme and my life's work over these last few years, which have been notably different than the preceding 27. My friend Lisa told me that 28 is the year you become who you are, who you were meant to be- and she couldn't have been more right. 28 was another moment in time when I said, TO HELL WITH TARRYING! It was the year that I found myself with a surplus of food and decided to give it away to anyone who asked. And that changed everything.

We'll talk more about that in posts to come, but let's get one thing straight: I'm still a huge shit, and completely bananas, too. I can't be on a bluff without immediately thinking about how good it would feel to jump off and this comes up a lot because my parents live on a bluff. In the presence of a very sharp knife, the veins in my left wrist practically gyrate. I last put all my clothes away sometime around 2007. At least once a day, I find myself wondering, what in the fuck must Alien David Attenborough think we're doing right now?? And I have a half hour conversation with myself about the nature of our entire civilization every time I deposit a check. Last week, I drove by an old man who had fallen over next to his cane, said "I wonder if he's okay?" aloud and kept driving. 

I say all this because in the future, when I talk about faith and grace and miracles, I don't want y'all to think I'm one of those put together, productive, stable, clean, bubbly people. In my experience, that makes the whole shebang far less believable. And believing in shit is hard. One time I was run over by a semi in my Subaru and for no logical reason, I lived to tell the tale; I didn't have a single scratch on me, not even whiplash. Instead of believing that was a miracle of the divine or science variety, for two whole weeks I suspected that I actually was dead and walking around in some sort of Lost-style purgatory. I mean, what was I supposed to do- run around saying, OH MY GOSH Y'ALL EVERYTHING HAPPENS FOR A REASON!!!!!!!!!!! I really would rather die. 

I'm more so one of those people who throws leftover bhindi masala into a pot of etouffée and has faith that it will turn out well. Is that the smallest and most insignificant act of faith of all time? Yeah, probably. But small things have a way of snowballing, once you get going. And you can't get better until you get going. 

Very Bastardized Étouffée
-serves six, adapted from this charming recipe

1 pound crab meat
3 large garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 large yellow onion
1 green pepper
1 orange pepper
1 yellow pepper
2 ribs celery
3T butter
4T flour
2 cups crab, fish or good chicken stock
cayenne pepper, white pepper, garlic powder, salt
vinegar-y hot sauce such as Frank's*
about 1/3 cup bhindi masala**
a crap ton of green onions
rice to serve

1. Chop all your vegetables except for garlic very finely, preferably in a food processor because you're lazy like me. 
2. Melt butter in a large pot and stir in flour. Cook roux over medium heat, stirring frequently, until it's a shade of brown that's sort of like almond butter.
3. Add the chopped vegetables (still not the garlic!) and stir them around until they've softened a little, which should only take a few minutes.
4. Slowly add stock and bring to a boil. Throw in spices and fresh garlic- I'm gonna say you should start with 1/8t cayenne, 1/4t white pepper, 2t garlic powder and 1t kosher salt, then add more to your taste. You'll likely want a good deal more garlic powder and salt, but it depends on your tongue and your stock. 
5. Lower to a simmer and let it bubble away for about 30 minutes.
6. Take a moment to really get into that real crazy lady head space. Add crab meat and masala. Taste it and add the vinegar-y hot sauce if you feel like it needs a little brightness. Let simmer another minute or two before serving with rice and green onion.

*Or rice wine vinegar if you got one of them sensitive tongues. 
**IF you don't have leftover Indian takeout in you fridge (why would you?), you don't have to use it. This recipe is great without it as long as you use really good stock and plenty of hot sauce. I'd imagine you could also try sautéing something like 2t mustard seeds, 2t cumin seeds, 2t coriander seeds and 1t dried turmeric in with your roux. Email me and let me know if you try that!

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