Broccoli

Creamy grit bowls with roasted broccoli, poached eggs, & dill

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I'm not sure why I went into the fog. There was something beautiful about the way it creeped. The way it crawled. A slow moving breath that had a thousand floating legs. As if someone was controlling the fog on a silent crank. It dipped down and up the hills of the farm, a caress between the fog and the ground. It was alluring. I could hear voices coming out of it. At first they were whispers. Sweet whispers. They made me remember a time long ago. It crept closer and I could no longer see the pines in the distance. I knew I should go back home, I had things to do. My legs didn't move as fast as they did years ago. A frost was setting in and the grass crunched beneath my feet. The fog gained on me, I could feel its tickle on my skin. 

"Bill! Where are you? Bill?"

He liked to spend a few moments alone on the bench by the lake the mornings, he was such a quiet man. I love that about him. A quite confidence. I didn't like to be without him for long. Years back we abandoned our individuals.

"Bill!"

The fog was thick around me now. It was a blanket; dense, soft, and familiar. I needed to make the cake. We had the kids coming over later for dinner, it was Bill's birthday. Chocolate birthday cake, it was tradition. Bill and I would eat the leftover cake with coffee over the next several mornings, I was looking forward to this. Our kids always declined to take leftover cake with them because they know our sugary secret. When they were children, it was all we could do to prevent them from finishing the cake in one night.

The fog was so thick now it was dizzying. I was lost in a cloud. I sat down on the grass to stop my head from spinning. I was still thinking of birthday traditions. The children... oh how they loved that cake too. I needed to get them to sign the birthday card for Dad. They would scribble in their names and cover the envelope with hearts and XOs. Each of them would have something small they made out of the craft box at home and, beaming, would give it to their Dad. I really needed to get back, the children had been alone for too long! Why did I wander so far?

"Bill!" I yelled. "Bill, where are you?"

The fog started to clear. The pines in the distance reappeared. I stood up and started in the direction of home.

"Bill!"

The fog was thinning quickly, just as quick as it came. I could see a man walking towards me in the distance, wisps of fog making his figure fade in an out. Oh how silly of me. I remembered that the kids weren't young anymore, they were grown. I had no card for them to sign, there would be no crafted gifts. Sometimes I forget.

"BIll! There you are! I need to make the cake."

The last bits of the fog passed away and I reached the man. It was not Bill.

"Mom, I'm not Bill. Bill isn't here anymore remember? Maybe you shouldn't take walks too far away from home anymore. I could hear you shouting for Bill. Are you OK?"

"Oh yes honey, I'm OK, it was the fog... I got confused."

"It is alright Mom, lets go back. We have some Chocolate cake inside."

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Recipe (serves 2)

Grits - 1/2 cup (on the generous side)

Cream - 1/4 cup (on the generous side)

Water - 1 and 3/4 cup

Broccoli - 1 head, chopped off the stalk into smaller pieces

Scallions - 1/2 a bunch, slivered

Garlic - 2 Cloves, minced

Dill - 2TB, fresh, minced

Eggs - 2

Lemon juice - juice of 1 lemon

Olive oil - 2TB

Apple cider vinegar - 1TB

Salt/pepper - to taste

Lemon zest, extra dill, extra scallions - to top (optional)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Take two eggs out of the fridge and let them rest on the counter. Chop & prep all veggies.  Toss together the broccoli, garlic, scallions, fresh dill, lemon juice, olive oil, and salt/pepper. Spread the broccoli on a baking sheet and bake in the oven for about 30 minuets, flipping half way through. Meanwhile, place the grits, water, cream, and a pinch of salt in a small saucepan, covered, over low heat. Let it slowly simmer until cooked about 20-30 mins, stirring occasionally. After it is cooked, season with fresh black pepper.  

About 10 mins before the grits are done, put about 2 inches of water in a deep skillet with the apple cider vinegar, and heat over medium until it starts simmering. Lower the temperature just a bit to keep the water at a low simmer. Crack one egg into a small bowl or ramekin. Gently slip the egg out of the ramekin into the skillet of simmering water and cook for 5 minuets, so all the whites are set but the yolks runny. Meanwhile distribute the grits between two serving bowls and top with broccoli mixture. Remove cooked egg with a slotted spoon and place over the bowl of grits & broccoli. Repeat with the second egg. Top the bowls with lemon zest, more dill & scallions if desired. 

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Spelt farfalle in a creamy butternut squash sauce with roasted broccoli

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I've admired film and photography for most of my life. I've always been particularly responsive to visuals and to sounds. Also to words. I remember my life in little clips and frames. I have an unusual amount of memories from early years... from when I was one or two but they are mostly visuals. I think of them as memory vignettes. They are places that were very comforting to me or of places where I first felt strong emotions.... a favorite carpet or the feel of petting a dog. We lived on the coast in New Bern, NC. Brackish waters are everywhere there, including the pond in our back yard. There was this wooden board walk through this marshy area and tall pines to the dock where my Dad use to set crab traps. I don't really remember the board walk but I remember sitting in the back yard and looking at the thick bed of pine needles and ivy that grew around the start of the boardwalk. In my eye is the coarseness and texture of the wood.

I also remember being taught to shell a crab. Feeling the moist steam of a boiling pot of water and my Dad helping my fingers pop out unwanted parts of a crab. I was confused at the yellow smears of crab gunk on my fingers. I remember my Dad telling me that we needed to get rid of the gunk because it was poisonous... and being afraid that I might accidentally be poisoned by crab in the future. In my nose is the smell of salt and fish. These little frames, moments, memories of experiences are who we are. It is art when I am able to read someone else's experience, and get a frame into their life. It is a point where lives touch in a deep and internal way, a private world. It is why we write, why we take photos, and why we read. The look in a strangers eye from a photograph, or the way colors bounced off each other in a landscape description; they touch me and remind me of my personal vignettes that I guard. I loved this, it was a secret to me. I was consumed in this private life, so much so that I use to be a rather quiet child around strangers. I just absorbed all the visuals without vocalizing much in return. I wanted to be a photojournalist, it is what I started out doing in college for the first few months. I was set on working for national geographic... and who wasn't. Any of us would love that job. At some point I became very hard on myself, I lived in an unrealistic world, or maybe it was the mindsets of other people that made me feel this way. I changed my major, to another design degree, landscape architecture. I had considered it before and it is something creative, involving the environment, helping people, but technical and marketable... it seemed safe.

 

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I practiced photography occasionally, when I was somewhere beautiful and I could actually hold visual vignettes down the road and share them with others. I don't know why I use to give up on things I loved just because they seemed unrealistic. I should have put more confidence in myself and lived with a little less fear. I have a decent camera, I got it for about $400 years ago. It is the nicest camera I have ever owned. Of course there are much, much better cameras. I've never had any formal training in photography or in film, although I have worked heavily with photoshop in college... but mostly because of self education and interest. I've stopped myself from really trying to produce films and better photography and I've made plenty of excused because I am constantly comparing myself to the work of others whom I admire. That is where I have to stop. For me, it is all about the vignettes of memories, stories, and emotion, the things that make you who you are and I want to stop hiding. I'm aware that in comparison to the works of film and photography that are out there, I'm not outstandingly impressive. I'm ok with that, because right now, this is me with my point n' shoot, tripod jerry-rigged onto mason jars, imovie, wrinkled linens, and really delicious food. I'm proud of it, happy about it, and loving to show you and introduce you to the vignettes that make up my life. I hope you enjoy and share some of yours with me. 

 

Watch the video above, The song is Cristobal by the artist Devendra Banhart... one of my favorites.  

This recipe is delicious... I've already made the sauce two weeks in a row, so much beautiful autumn squash. It is definitely inspired by mac n' cheese... just one you can feel much better about eating. Just make sure you get the roasted squash blended into a sauce before eating it all, that stuff is ridiculous, like sweet candy. 

Recipe (Makes 6 - 8 servings)

Butternut squash - 1 large squash, peeled, de-seeded, and chopped into cubes

Yellow onion - 1/2 diced onion

Garlic - 3 cloves

Broccoli - 2 heads of broccoli, chopped of the stalk

Sage - 2TB fresh

Salt/pepper - to taste

Milk (or milk alternative- coconut and unsweet almond both work great!) - 1 Cup

Reserved pasta water - About 1 cup

Spelt flour - 2 cups + extra for dusting

Salt - good pinch

Eggs - 3

Extra Virgin Olive oil - Several TB (4-5 total)

Uncooked pasta - if not making your own pasta or want a vegan alternative

Directions including making your own pasta

Clean a counter top or a large cutting board and spoon your flour into a pile in the center. Sprinkle in some salt and mix together, patting the flour back into a central pile. Make a well in the center of your flour large enough to hold three eggs and a splash of olive oil. Crack in your eggs and then pour in a generous glug of oil.  Use a wooden spoon to gentle stir the eggs, breaking the yolks and slowly incorporating the flour from the sides. Keep going until you whittle away at the sides of the flour, this will take a little while. Once the flour is too sticky for the spoon, flour your hands and gather the dough together, using your hands to incorporate all the rest of the flour. Knead the dough for several minutes, until soft and silky. About 5 minutes kneading.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Let the pasta dough rest on the counter while you chop up all your veggies and garlic. Set the chopped/prepped ingredients aside and pick back up with the pasta.

Take out your pasta dough and cut into 4 pieces. Flour a clean surface and roll out one of the dough pieces very thin... it should be a little translucent. (Of course, if you have a pasta roller, use that) Flipping and rotating the dough as you go, and adding more flour to prevent sticking. Try to roll the dough into a rectangle if you can. Trim the edges of the dough off, so that you end up with a rectangle. I saved the dough trimmings to roll out again in the end. Cut the flat dough, with a sharp knife, into about 1" to 1 1/2" rectangles. Get a little cup of water and place next to your working area. Now, pick up one piece at a time and add a little dab of water to the center and pinch the top and bottom of the rectangle together in the center. Then use your thumbs and index finger to pinch together/flatten out the sides of the dough, it should resemble a bow tie. This process can take a little while, but you will get into a rhythm. Of course, you can just cut the pasta into a different shape, like long linguine noodles, it would be faster. Lay the bow-tie pastas out on a baking sheet to dry a bit until we are ready to cook them. Repeat the process with the other three dough balls and then gather up all your trimmings into a ball and roll those out into bow ties as well. 

Toss the squash cubes in some olive oil and salt/pepper and lay flat on a baking sheet. Roast in the oven for 35-45 minutes, until the cubes are soft, a little browned in spots, and very sweet. Toss the broccoli pieces together in the bowl you used for the squash (no need to wash) with some olive oil and a little salt/pepper. Lay the broccoli out on a separate baking sheet and roast in the oven for about 20-25 minutes until a little brown but still slightly crunchy. It works well to put the broccoli in the oven after the squash has been in there for about 20 minutes... so that they can both come out around the same time.

While those are roasting, bring a medium/large pot of water with a pinch of salt to a boil. Also, heat up a medium skillet with 1 TB of olive oil on the stove. Once the oil is warm add in your garlic, cook for a minute and then add in your onions. Let it soften, stirring occasionally, while the broccoli/squash are roasting. Let the onions cook for at least 10 minutes. Add in your sage to the onions and cook for another minute or two. Remove from the heat and then pour onion mixture into the blender with the roasted squash, set this aside until the pasta is done cooking. 

Once the water is boiling add your pasta, I added the pasta in 3 batches, using a large slotted spoon to remove and drain the pasta. You will want to reserve at least 1 cup of pasta water to thin out the sauce. The pasta takes about 3-5 minuets to cook, or until al dente. Once you remove the pasta, let it drain in a colander and give it a quick rinse with cool water... so it stops cooking. Blend together your squash, onion mixture, 1 cup of milk (or milk alternative), and 1 cup of pasta water. Scrap down the sides, taste the sauce and adjust salt/pepper and add more pasta water if you want the sauce thinner. Depending on how fast you worked, the sauce might need to be re-heated on the stove before adding it to the pasta/broccoli (even though we were very happy eating it straight from the fridge, cold, the next day)  Toss the sauce, broccoli, and pasta together. Enjoy... this stuff is like candy... it is worth it.  

Directions for just the sauce.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Chop up all your veggies, sage, and garlic. Toss the squash in a bowl with olive oil salt and pepper and then lay the squash out flat on a baking sheet.  The squash will roast for about 35-45 minutes until it is very soft, a little brown in spots, and very sweet. Reuse the same bowl to toss your broccoli together with the olive oil and salt/pepper. Lay the broccoli out on a separate baking sheet. After the squash has been in the oven for about 20 minutes, add the squash in the oven as well... so they can both come out around the same time. The broccoli will roast for about 20-25 minutes, until slightly brown but still a little crunchy.

While the squash/broccoli is roasting, bring a salted pot of water on the stove to a boil, this will be to cook your pasta. Also heat up a medium skillet on medium heat with 1TB of olive oil. Once it is hot, add in your garlic, cook for a minute and then add the in onions. Let the onions soften for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, and then add the chopped sage. Cook for about 2 more minutes and then turn off the heat. Cook your pasta until al dente and then strain out your pasta, reserving at least 1 cup of pasta water, and giving the pasta a quick rinse with cool water. Toss the cooked squash, onion mixture, 1 cup of milk (or milk alternative), and 1 cup of pasta water in a blender and blend until smooth. Scrap down the sides of the blender, taste and adjust salt/pepper, and add more pasta water if you want the sauce thinner, and then blend again. Toss together the cooked pasta, roasted broccoli, and sauce. Enjoy... this stuff is like candy... it's worth saying twice.

 

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Honey, orange, miso soba noodles + broccoli.

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The process of documenting recipes and cooking is more involved that I would have imagined. I have been cooking and baking for years, sometimes I would snap a photo with my phone and rarely my camera but there was nothing particularly special about the picture. All of these posts are new recipes - things I've made within the past two weeks because I have to get better at the documenting process. Usually, when I am done making a meal and place the food in a dish... I'm ready to eat it, but instead I find myself taking photos thinking, "Oh, is that lighting right? I don't know. Can I eat it yet?" Another thing is the right time to make food. To begin with there is only a certain amount of time in the day I have to make food and then to factor in lighting to that time window. My house has gorgeous natural light, it is one of the things that I love about living here but it only takes kindly to photos at certain times of the day. I have a decent camera, not a fancy one, no camera equipment, light reflectors, etc. So here I find myself, at odd times of day, eating meals. Or only equipped with indoor florescent lighting because the only time I had to make a meal was in the winter dark of dinner. Taking better photos is something I will work on, for you guys and for myself. For now, here is a honey, orange, miso bowl for anytime of the day and whatever odd schedule you may be on.

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Recipe (serves 4)

Soba noodles - two bunches (6oz)

Broccoli - two small heads, tops removed. 

Red onion - 1/4 a large red onion, sliced

Orange - Juice of one orange

Garlic - 3 cloves, minced

Miso - 1TB

Honey (or agave if vegan) - 1tsp

Sesame oil - 3.5TB

Rice vinegar - 2tsp

Sesame seeds - scant 1TB (I used black) 

Heat up your oven to 350 degrees. Get out a medium pot and fill it 2/3 full with water, bring to a boil. Once at a boil, add you noodles, turn down to a simmer and cook until tender (about 7-8 minutes). Meanwhile separate and chop you broccoli into desired sizes and place into a large bowl. Sprinkle with 1TB sesame seeds and 2TB sesame oil. Toss to coat, lay on a baking sheet and bake for about 20 minutes. 

Prepare your sauce. Mince garlic and place it in a mortar with 1TB miso and mash with the pestle until a paste forms. (If you do not have a mortar and pestle do this with the back of a fork in a small bowl - mashing until well combined and garlic is in a rough paste). Place paste into a small bowl and whisk in orange juice, 1tsp honey, 2tsp rice vinegar, & 1TB sesame oil. Heat up the 1/2TB - 1TB of sesame oil in a skillet on medium heat. Add your sliced onion. Soften for several minutes. Once the broccoli is out of the oven, toss your broccoli in the skillet, stir to combine, and turn off heat.

Once the soba noodles are done I like to strain them in a colander and then run a little bit of cold water over the noodles but not much so they are still warm. This is just to prevent the noodles from sticking to each other as they cool. Combine the noodles, broccoli mixture, and dressing. Toss until well distributed and evenly coated. Serve into bowls and top with more sesame seeds. 

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