Autumn!! I think that the Jewish calendar gets it right: Life begins with autumn. We're just past the Jewish celebration of New Year (Rosh Hashanah) which welcomes the process of life with harvest festivals (Sukkot), days for atonement and making recompense (Yom Kippur), and days to remind us of our dependence on the All Mighty. Maybe that's why I'm such a sucker for Autumn. I love the apples. I love the weather. I love the leaves. Somehow, its melancholy beauty is my happy place. It reminds me of all of the beauty that pain brings, the opportunities brought about by sorrow and the wonder mortality itself illuminates. Yoni and I caught peak season in Central Park (not this year, but who's counting?), so in honor of October and remembering and loveliness, I thought I'd share it with you! Speaking of which, we'd LOVE to hear about your favorite autumnal adventures! Where is your favorite place to see autumn leaves and what's your favorite autumn fix? We're looking to expand our seasonal repertoire.
A little confession: Ever since I saw Antonio Banderas and Madonna in Evita, I wanted to go to Argentina. So when my doctor recommended Chile and Argentina as places we could go, I was ready to pack my bags.
It's a long trip. While there are a few direct flights, we got really affordable tickets which meant we had 2 layovers. But after nearly 20 hours of travel, we arrived in Argentina.
From Palermo, St. Elmo and Recoletta to the galleries, ice cream shops and artisan fairs, Buenos Aires is like Europe with a small dose of South American. With monumental architecture and grand boulevards, the city is epic in proportion. Cluttlered with mansions and slums, shopping malls and commercial districts, it's a serious city. On first meeting, Argentinians themselves are somewhat brusk. But each time we had the opportunity to get to know them, they were extremely kind. From taxi drivers with hearts of gold, to Yoni's long lost family who welcomed us like honored guests to people in shops or on the street who would patiently struggle through my faux-spanish to help us get where we were going or unexpectedly compassionate and helpful car rental workers, Argentinians kindness was often a contrast with our first impressions. While it wasn't my favorite stop in South America, it was a wonderful adventure. If you want to plan your trip, ping me and I'm happy to give recommendations!
Greece. You can't turn on the radio (or paper, or I assume TV) without hearing about it these days. Will they leave the Eurozone? Won't they leave? They're selfish! They're destitute! The list of frantic headlines goes on and on. Here in Denver, I've had my own little crisis that's also all about the green(s). This one, however, seems headed for a resolution far more satisfying to all parties involved.
If you'll remember, Liberty planted a salad garden in late May. This meant her starts were established a full month later than was recommended. This resulted in disappointing daily surveys relative to average regional yields. In response, Liberty determined to seek a bail(bushel?)out. "Why?" Liberty asked, "in this time of plenty, must I suffer? My friends and neighbors to the North have more green(s) than they know what to do with. All I ask is that they extend a loan, to carry me until my own crop comes up, then I will repay their generosity... WITH interest!" A coalition was formed, with Momo and Hannah coming to Liberty's aide with a bundle projected to last through the week.
It seems, however, that these projections were based on models which called for extreme 'belt-tightening' measures. Measures that Liberty refused to implement. As a result, the initial bushelout was exhausted in a single dish (details below). All parties are expected back at the (dinner) table to hash out terms of a new deal, where it is expected that Liberty will request further backing. Many remain skeptical that such an agreement can be reached. However, Liberty shows signs of optimism, owing to the fact that this time she will not be entering negotiations empty handed. It seems she has retained a sizable portion of leftovers from said dish, and hopes to leverage their deliciousness for further support.
this recipe is a bastardization of spanakopita, one of my very favorite dishes. the traditional version uses spinach, for which I substituted whatever was in season. this also might be far from traditional, because it's definitely a lot different from everything I found online, however, it's similar to both my mother's version, as well as that of my favorite greek in DC. finally, as further evidence of my poor planning skills, you'll notice this recipe calls for a couple of Mexican cheeses in lieu of the traditional feta. that's because I started cooking before I had all of my ingredients together, and the local store didn't have ANY feta (????).
- 1 package filo dough (follow defrosting instructions)
- 6 cups mixed fresh hearty greens (I used chard, beet, mustard, kale, and maybe some other things too)
- 2 T + 1 T olive oil
- 2 t cider vinegar
- 3 green onions, just the greens, diced at 1/2 in
- 1/2 medium onion, diced
- 3 T diced fresh parsley (1 t dried)
- 3 T fresh dill (1 t dried)
- 2 c ricotta
- 1/3 c cream cheese
- 5oz cotija cheese + 5oz queso fresco (or 10oz feta), crumbled
- 1/4 c whole milk
- salt & pepper
- 4 eggs
- 1/3 c butter, melted
Make sure your filo is well on its way to getting thawed. Take your mountain of greens and wash them really well. I plunged my lil kitchen forest into a full sink and shook things around a bit, then laid them out on some clean dish clothes to dry. Then stack those leafies, roll em up, and slice into thin ribbons. Heat 2 T of the oil in a large skillet, and sauté the greens, intermittently covering and stirring until everything has thoroughly wilted. Add the vinegar, sauté for another minute or so, then transfer to a mesh strainer to drain. Let your greens sit and sulk for a good while (for me in was about 30 min. during which time I walked to the grocery store where I discovered they didn't have any feta...).
When you get back, preheat the oven to 350, and give your greens an extra squeeze to be sure there's no residual moisture lurking around. Stick your frying pan back on the stove, add the remaining 1T of oil, and sauté your mixed onions til they're limp, add the herbs toward the end just to wake up their aromatics, mix this with your greens.
Mush the ricotta and cream cheese together with a fork until uniform-ish--the cream cheese should be clumpy, but disperse. Add the remaining cheeses, milk and greens to your ricotta mixture and combine. I like to season to taste with salt and pepper at this point (grind enough pepper to make your arm fall off and a few healthy pinches of salt should do), mix in beaten eggs to your seasoned filling.
Take a 10in springform pan and butter it liberally (also, maybe live liberally, definitely vote liberally, just while you're at it). Place a layer of filo on the bottom, and brush with more butter (this time you can be moderate), repeat with another sheet of filo+butter, and on for 12 layers, taking care to keep your stack of dough well covered while you work (to be honest, I lost count, and probably pooped out around 6 layers in). Bake your foundation for 15 min. Add half the filling to the baked bottom, and repeat the filo+butter process, then again with the filling+filo+butter. Bake the whole thing for about an hour, or until pie is solid when you jiggle it, and the top is golden and crisp. EAT IT ALL!!!
[A little disclaimer: this is angstier and Mormoner than this blog's usual fair, so be advised.]
"We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may."
-The 11th Article of Faith of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints
Dear Church People,
I started writing this letter right after the Charleston Massacre. I couldn't understand how y'all felt so comfortable taking a political stance against the "threat" gay marriage posed to some nebulous idea of American religious freedom, but remained all but silent on the racially motivated shooting deaths of 9 fellow followers of Christ. Back then (two whole weeks ago), I had wanted to chisel out a neat little moral-of-the-story for you -- something sweet and clear and tweet-able, like 'never fear love, only hate (#loveislove (#charleston (#blessed (#follow4follow))))'. But I was too sad and angry and confused to even finish writing the thing, much less distill it into 140 characters of clarion insight.
I'm still sad and angry and confused, but my continued silence on the issue has become personally intolerable. I'm a white Mormon girl from Colorado -- I recognize I do not speak from a position of authority or particular insight. But it's gotten to the point where I cannot not speak. Or rather, the point where I need to ask an honest question. Because I know what the church is doing to defend itself against Adam and Steve's Crate and Barrel registry, but for the life of me I can't figure this out: what are we doing about the terror being wrecked on Black-American Christians across the South?
Here's where this is all breaking down for me: If I remember my Sunday School lessons correctly, murder is a whole lot worse than [what old white men in Utah might view as] weird sex stuff -- at least in God's book. I'd like to think that persecution, violence, and arson are all pretty high on the divine list of no-nos, as well. But right now you guys seem too fixated on promoting the civil exclusion of same-sex couples to realize that Christ's #1 and #2 commandments are in hard-core jeopardy -- because you know what doesn't seem very loving to God or our neighbors? Shooting a bunch of people during bible study and then setting their churches on fire.
So speak. Please, speak. I beg of you, speak. Not on the "the sanctity of marriage". Not on whether or not you will allow me to post a rainbow picture to Facebook. By all means, send my bishop a letter to read over the pulpit about the importance of religious freedom, but God so help me if you finger* people like James Obergefell as the threat instead of people like Dylan Roof. If religious freedom is indeed a sanctified cause, then honor it by officially decrying the violence now threatening every AME church in America. Do not condemn gay people in love, condemn white people who hate. Condemn the weaponization of places of worship. Condemn the guns and gasoline which are prying away safety, security, worship, community, and equality from innocent believers. Because to me, that seems a heckuva lot worse than the due process of law being used to pry away. . . what exactly? from whom?
Please don't forget that we've been the ones terrorized and mobbed and burned out of communities. Don't forget that you've been the person sitting in church for Wednesday night bible study. I don't want to feel safe or protected or like I don't need to do something just because bigots still think of Mormons as white, tow-headed creatures like them. Rather, I want to care about Susie Jackson and Clementa Pinckney and Tywanza Sanders like they were my sisters and brothers, because they are my sisters and brothers. I want you to mourn their deaths with me. I want you to mourn the hatred that killed them. I want you to make like Mosiah and "command that there should be no persecutions among them, that there should be an equality among all men."
I love our gospel. I love our leaders. But their misplaced silence has been ringing in my ears for awhile now, and I'm not sure how much longer I can stand the headache. I've been praying for patience. I've been praying for understanding. But I don't think I deserve to pray for peace until I try to bring it about myself. This is the start of my attempt.
More or less respectfully,
*speaking of weird sex stuff. . .
Is it hot there? It's hot here. Hotter for the fact that we have yet to haul out our air conditioning units that weigh as much as a 12-year old. Maybe we're too lazy, maybe we're taking the Pope's encyclical to heart and doing our part to forestall the swift march of climate change, and its relentless ravaging of our sister, Mother Earth? But really, we are very lazy.
Luckily, there are lots of ways to cool down that require little in the way of heavy-lifting OR advanced planning! An added bonus? The chance to unnecessarily carb-load smack-dab in the middle of swimsuit season! Have I got your attention yet? Good.
This recipe is a combination of some of my very favorite things (ice cream, bread, butter, sweetened condensed milk), and also there are bananas in it. It's an ice cream sandwich, but not the fluff-filled cardboard ice cream sandwiches of our youth*, NAY! These are exponentially more delicious, more fancy, AND more sandwichy. They're ice cream sandwiches you show off to your friends, bring home to mom, and then? You marry the crap out of 'em. Why? Because they're unique, and perfect, and make you look good and smart (though, also fat).
Before I get to the nuts and bolts of the treat that will sweeten your sweaty state, a couple of notes. First, some lesser souls might be a bit apprehensive about putting ice cream on bread. Don't be that fool. And secondly, be very, VERY careful when making your dulce de leche. If you're not, the cans of sweetened condensed milk will explode, and your chest hair might never grow back...**
Banoffee Ice Cream Sandwiches
1 can sweetened condensed milk or pre-made dulce de leche
2 brioche rolls
1 banana, sliced
1 pint vanilla ice cream
Make your dulce de leche. I use this method , but there are other ways if you're feeling ambitious or scared. Slice your buns in half and butter like no one's looking. Toast the buns on a hot skillet until golden, top with generous amounts of dulce de leche, bananas and ice cream. Sprinkle with salt. Add the lid. Enjoy!
*which, if I'm being perfectly honest, I sometimes really enjoy in all their yuckiness.
**just ask Shiloh.
***this post was done in collaboration with our friends at Il Forno Bakery in the Bronx. Their breads are impeccable, and if you're near them, do yourself a favor an make a few friends by picking up one (or five) of their superior loaves.
Summer has officially arrived! ... ... ... OK, maybe there are like, 4 more days until it actually "officially" arrives, but we're close enough ... Anyway ... Yoni and I got half a farm share, but we are bestowed with great bounty a few times a month from our friendly neighborhood CSA. They are super nice and accommodating, but this week I got grumbly and wrote a letter that wasn't mean, but it wasn't as positive as I would have liked it to be. Fewer greens, I complained. More fruit! I insisted. Better cheese! I demanded. I fear I am always going to whine to them if this is their reaction. Farm share from heaven. It's like a produce rainbow. SO ... in gratitude and as penance, Imma start a little feature on the blog about how to use up all of the beautiful food that comes via your farm share or CSA.
Tonight ... Yoni and I ate most of the cherries. They were delicious and sweet (more than tart) and needed no embellishment. Berries are like that. Little jewels on the stem and in your mouth. But eat them fast or they'll ... errr ... change color?
BRAISED SAVOY CABBAGE GRATIN -- BUTTER or OLIVE OIL, SAVOY CABBAGE, VEGETABLE BROTH, SOFT CHEESE LIKE BRIE OR ST. MARCELLIN I had grand plans for a slaw -- I love slaw -- but Yoni really wanted to braise last night. Why in crazy heat, I don't know but it was actually delicious. He used this recipe from All About Braising by Molly Stevens. Yoni swears by her recipes and rightfully so. Every time he makes one, they are amazing.
MEDITERRANEAN MELON SALAD -- TOMATO, CRENSHAW MELON, CUCUMBER, FETA, KALMATA OLIVES, I sliced up one of the tomatoes, one of the cucumbers and a mellon I had left over. I tossed them with some feta cheese and kalmata olives. Somehow the similar textures of the mellon, tomato and cucumber allowed the flavors to really sing. I love to sing.
If there are veggies you're having a hard time figuring out (beet greens, radish greens, any greens) tell us and we'll try to figure something out for you. If you have any amazing ways to use your beautiful summer produce, let us know so we can pass it on!