Cabbage

No-pity bright winter salad: Cabbage + Arugula + Lemon + Olives + Dill

.

2.jpg

Khaos

(a series in food & fiction by Kelly Ridenhour)


I did not know what to expect when I asked my shadow the question. I did not even know if it would work. It was the book that convinced me to try or that is my excuse. Truthfully, it was my longing for something unrealistic to be... not so unrealistic. If I did not work in a library where more books than I could ever possibly read surrounded me, I would never have found the book; the book that led me to the question. I couldn't help but wander long silent corridors and sweetly brush my fingertips along the spines of hardbound books. In lonely corridors I would break dust for the first time in decades. The pleasant dust, a crisp crust on fine crème brûlée. Inside a library, your mind wanders. It is suppose to wander. As an employee, the library's silence, the endless comfort of rows, the organization, it either becomes a meditation provoking thought or something that stirs chaos. 

On the day I found the book, I felt its draw, like a beacon shinning out from the sea of muted books. It was a dusty gray color, the color of muted night sky. The book became a secret I harbored. I could see its history on the backside of the front cover. I always feel a little pity when I discover a book like this one. A book whose existence no one knows of or an existence long forgotten. The inside cover was white, virgin, no inked dates to mar its page. The book's knowledge was all mine and I felt its gratitude. This book was not the type of book the people in my community want me to read. It made the secret dangerous and intoxicating. It was called Nyx. It is a book dripping with modern magic and Greek mythology. I would take the secret out underneath the apple groves that dotted the Utah landscape and read listening to the sound of irrigation runnels. Everything would become still in those hours, so still I became part of the landscape. The deer treated me as they did the apple trees, a solid object, part of nature.

I read for days about gods and goddesses of Greek mythology and the way those concepts and ideas have translated into modern life. Something I never learned before, it did not exist in my world. I was astonished that the ancient Greeks believed in these gods. It was not the incredulousness of these gods but the impressiveness of the things Greeks did to show their affections and loyalty; the things they built! I could not help but feel cheated. How exciting would a world be when filled with mythical creatures, gods who shoot arrows of love, nymphs, goddesses... and a world with scandals between gods and mortals? Even if these gods and goddesses were not real, the attentiveness of the Greeks made them real. I began to wonder about the realities of my own world and the one God that I worship and if someone would discover a book about my beliefs and my God 2,500 years from now. 

In Nyx the author discussed rituals and practices of the Greeks. There was one bit that stuck with me and my brain grew with questions. One question led me to my shadow. A shadow is not just one thing by itself; it is many things. It is light, it is dark, it is the ground, it is you, and it is air. The landscape in this combination is air. Air in Greek mythology is not necessarily one god. Air is the space where everything happens and it is the oldest of all gods, it is Khaos or as we know it, chaos. Shadow has been with everyone, at all times. It was there 2,500 years ago when the Greeks lived and it is here with you now. Think of all it has seen, all of the places it has been, all the space it has occupied and all the chaos that has passed through it. Filled with questions and too dark to read.

Despite what you believe, you know the powers of a full moon, or at least you are aware of the myth. If I told you the full moon produces a special kind of shadow would you believe me? No? You want to believe me don't you? That is how I feel when reading the book. I want to believe everything. Something so different from my world, something to pull me out and take me away. There is not one specific idea that convinced me I could ask my shadow any question I wanted under the strength of a full moon and in return, I would get an answer. It was more an accumulation of knowledge and feeling. Ideas put into practice. I felt my evenings in the apple grove grow more powerful as the moon waxed. I wanted to ask my shadow is magic is real, if myth was real.... and if it was there was it would be myth no longer, it would be chaos. My life as I know it turned on its side and my realities lost. I wanted that. On the night of the full moon I wandered into the apple grove, my shadow faithfully trailing me. I asked my question.

I won't tell you what happened. All I can tell you is that your realities are what you make them. I toss you my apple, I give you the chaos of asking questions.


I can't explain how much I love this salad. It is inspired from my favorite salad in a little greek restaurant near my parent's house. I love to eat it by itself or wrapped up in some flatbread. Or eaten with a side of  flatbread & hummus. Make it your own. It may sound simple but, seriously, it doesn't need any pity :).

Recipe (1 large salad or several small salads)

Green cabbage - 1/4 head of cabbage on the generous side, shaved or slivered

Arugula - 2 big handfuls

Red onion - 1/4 onion, shaved or slivered

Kalamata olives - 6-8, the meat cut off the pits

Olive oil - 2TB

Garlic - 1 clove, small, minced (optional - I don't event do this all the time)

Lemon - juice of 1 lemon

Dill - 2Tb, fresh, chopped fine

Salt/pepper - to taste

Toss together all ingredients & kind of gently massage the greens with the juices & herbs. Eat right away... or it tastes even better after it sits in the fridge and the flavors infuse for 15-30mins or so. Enjoy.

4.jpg

Vegetarian take on fish tacos: Cornmeal baked zucchini with purple slaw & adobo cream.

Tacos.

1.jpg

Right now I'm surrounded by broken bits of twig, twine, and dirt strewn along the floor of my house and nursing hot glue burns. I'm sure my project feels like a cruel temptation to my dogs... as they eye my large stick sign with longing. One night, in the beginning of making the letters out of twigs, Banjo carried off the 'O' and drug its entrails through several rooms. I imagined this inanimate stick object fittingly groaning "oooooo" with agony as it was ripped to shards. I wish I had the sign done, it is oh-so-close, I would show you a picture. It is lovely, considering I needed something cheap out of what I had... which was sticks! Things have been busy lately... and not just because of stick signs. I apologize for absence but believe me, I want to be here with you guys! I'll have more words and photos for you all soon but I needed to make sure you were fed first. Sorry I don't have very many photos... It was too dark for good photos when we had a chance to make dinner, so I took a few of the next day leftovers.

Now, I've mentioned that I believe tacos are the perfect food. I love them that much. I stand by my statement to the end. When things get busy and crazy, tacos slide into the menu often. This recipe, while not strikingly fall, is definitely a recipe you want to fit in before all the zucchinis disappear. You can find baby summer squashes at the farmers market right now since none of those babies will grow very big this late in the season.  Of course, normal sized zucchini can be used if cut down to proper size.

*When things are busy and I don't have time I have no problem buying pre-made tortillas. Sometimes it is fun to make your own though, but a tortilla press is a good investment if you plan on doing this. 

5.JPG

Recipe (makes a lot of tacos) 

Summer squash - 1lb of baby squash (unusually little ones ya'll), but if using regular cut down to about 2" long sticks. 

Red cabbage - 1 cup generous, slivered

Red onion - 1/4 cup, slivered

Limes - Juice of 2 limes

Cilantro - 4TB, fresh, chopped

Chiles in adobo - 1-2TB of the sauce (depending on how spicy you want it. I went with 2) 

Sour cream - 1/3 cup

Eggs - 2

Coconut oil - 2-3TB (other oil will work as well)

Cornmeal - 3/4 cup

Flour - 1/2 cup (any flour will do)

Bay leave - 1tsp powdered (I threw dried leaves up in a clean coffee grinder to powder)

Ginger - 1/4tsp

Cinnamon - 1/8tsp

Cardamom - few pinches

Paprika - 1/2tsp

Salt/pepper - 1/2tsp

Chop/prep all your veggies. 

Preheat oven up to 350 degrees. And lightly grease a baking sheet with coconut oil

Toss together the cabbage, onion, lime juice, cilantro, and a pinch of salt in a bowl until combined. Set aside until later (this part can even be made a day ahead... tastes better that way!) 

Stir together the sour cream and adobo sauce in a separate small bowl and set aside until the end.

Beat eggs in a small bowl, set aside, and then combine the cornmeal, flour, and spices in a medium bowl. Now, one at a time, take a zucchini (or zucchini piece) and dip it into the eggs, turn to coat, and then drop it into the cornmeal mixture, turn to coat, and then lay it on the baking sheet. Repeat with the rest of the zucchinis. 

Bake the zucchini for 10 minutes. Take out the pan and flip the zucchinis while brushing on a little more coconut oil. Bake for 10 more minutes. 

Serve a zucchini or two on a tortilla (tortilla recipe below), top with slaw, and then drizzle with the adobo sauce. Enjoy this delicious piece of veggie heaven.

2.jpg

Corn/flour hybrid tortilla recipe (Makes 12-16)

Masa Harina - 1 cup (found in the international section of grocery or carniceria) 

All purpose flour - 1 cup

Warm water - 3/4 cup, generous

Olive oil - 1-2Tb ( A hefty glug)

Salt - a pinch

Wax paper and a tortilla press. 

Mix together the masa, flour, and salt. Make a well in the center and pour in the water and olive oil. Stir together with a wooden spoon, slowly incorporating the sides until you form a ball. Then use your hands to get in there and knead until the ball comes together and there are no dry spots left. You don't want it sticky though... it needs more flour in that case. Add a splash more water if you think it is too dry. Make a thick disc with the dough and cut it into 12 wedges ( I cut mine into 16 wedges... but that makes really small tortillas). Roll each wedge into a ball, set aside. Cut off 6 strips of wax paper, big enough to cover the base of your tortilla press and place a skillet on high heat. Here comes the juggling part.

Place a piece of wax paper on the bottom of the press, top it with one ball of dough in the center, and then top it with another piece of wax paper. Press down the tortilla press all the way and then lift up. Peel off the tortilla and then lay it onto the skillet (once hot). After a minuet, flip the tortilla. It should be slightly speckled with brown. Let the tortilla cook another minuet on the other side, if it starts to balloon up, remove from heat and its done! Repeat the process with the other wedges using both sides of the wax paper only once.

 

4.jpg

Tofu-q with a habanero, apricot bbq sauce + avocado & cabbage slaw.

 .

wide view.jpg

I'm sitting here in a coffee shop near my house enjoying a big cookie and a cappuccino, with two dogs at my feet, and acting like I've been a Denver resident my whole life. Ok... maybe thats how I feel but, in reality, I probably don't look that way.  Especially when I get on the light rail and ride 10 minutes before I realize I should have been on the bus, abandon mission, and trek half-way through the city by foot. This coffee shop has some parallels to the shop I worked in during college, so I really like it. It serves up giant cookies like the onces we baked, has comically large milk pitchers, offers you drinks in pint glasses meant for beer, has a large loose leaf tea selection, friendly baristas, bakes in-house, is next door to a bar, has a well-loved and welcomed slightly-crazy, semi-homeless person who leaves his bag behind the counter, is not over-decorated, really needs new tables/chairs, and serves up decent coffee with good foam but without the fancy, high-coffee style that comes with perfect pours. Give me a single shot cappuccino in a small cup spilling over with foam and I'm happy. 

contrasting.jpg
soft wheels.jpg

Anyways, I'm getting use to this place. Denver that is, not just the coffee shop. Although I do miss the trees and my dogs miss the grass. Don't get me wrong. There are lots of trees planted in Denver and it is a beautiful, green, cheery place but I'm use to being able to drive 5 or 10 minutes down the road and let myself and my dogs free and go trail running through a deciduous forest. I miss that... those plants and trees are friends I have left behind. Even though my dogs miss grass (it is too dry of a place to grow grass in dog parks and waste precious water resources by watering a lawn solely meant for dogs to pee on... which is a responsible thing for the city to do) they have so much to do, see, smell here. Everyone loves dogs and almost everyone has dogs. Seriously, our first morning here was an insane welcome with the manager of the restaurant we brunched at buying us "welcome to Denver, we love dogs cocktails" and providing us a list of dog-friendly Denver activities. 

tree skylight.jpg

Last weekend we took advantage of the holiday weekend since Ty had Monday off work and we headed out towards The Great Sand Dunes National Park for some camping.  On Saturday we camped at a place called The Orient Land Trust where they have natural hot springs. This true, off-grid community can be found several miles off the highway on a dirt road. You know those types of roads that make you feel like you are in a secret, secluded place as the dirt kicks up around your car in a cloud that streams down the road as the largest feature in a broad, flat landscape. It is a special place. We were hoping to get a walk-in camping spot even though no one answered our morning call. Being Memorial Day weekend we arrived to find all the camping spaces filled up, they have a strict daily entry limit, and I was still hoping we could sweet-talk in a place for our tent. Fortunately they let us pitch our tent at some of the trail heads but we were not allowed to go to the hot springs. It was a little disappointing but more than understandable, we did take some beautiful hikes and watched the low-horizon sun play rumpelstiltskin on all the desert plants by turning them to gold before our eyes.  The rockies were dark silhouettes with a sunset cloak patterned in never-ending colors. Gawking over the sunset our dogs pricked up their ears and turned in the direction of the howling coyotes nearby and watched eagerly at the deer and elk grazing. We had the whole place to ourselves and in that moment we were the only ones. 

golden sun.jpg
rumpelstiltskin.jpg
sunset.jpg

The next day we woke up early and got to the sand dunes around 8 in the morning, before the welcome center even opened. I've been to a similar desert before and I know how hot the sand can turn under the fierce afternoon sun. There was only a handful of people at the dunes so early, lucky for us. (If you plan on going I recommend going early. When we left there was a streaming tail of cars filled with impatient faces waiting to get in.) We trekked the dunes from 8-12 and banjo sniffed the sand, pawed at it playfully and ran around in circles like she does in the snow. We kept climbing up big peaks, pausing to take in the view and then sprinted in a path straight down the dunes as fast as we could, with both hands failing in the air. Eventually we had to turn back even though each new dune peak was taunting us; begging to be climbed. The sand heated up and we had left our shoes behind at the car, while puppy paws had received an exfoliation treatment better than any spa could do. I love the duney desert, the grit in the air, salt in your mouth, and the wind in your hair. Leaving the dunes you resolve to an awe over how diverse and beautiful this country is. I've now seen this country from tippy-top north to low-country south and from east to almost west; it is truly magnificent. The weekend was for the spirit of remembrance, and gratefulness. Despite the bad, we have a whole country filled with beautiful things to be grateful for.

desert.jpg

On memorial day we felt a responsibility to use our roommates grill. After-all, it was Memorial Day, we are American, and neither of us had lived with a real grill before. Still sandy and with skin warm-to-the-touch, these spicy, tofu-q's with a cooling slaw hit the spot. You really want to factor in at least a few hours of marinating time, you can even leave it in the refrigerator overnight. 

1.jpg

Tofu & sauce recipe (Makes 2 big ones) 

Buns - 2 buns

Extra firm tofu package - Pressed for 30 minuets and then sliced thinly.

Habaneros - 3, chopped (I didn't take the seeds out but you can)

Apricot - 1, peeled/sliced (I think you could use 2 without it being too fruity tasting)

Onion - scant 1/2 a sweet, yellow onion, chopped. 

Tomatoes - 2, chopped

Tomato paste - 6oz can

Garlic - 3-4 cloves, chopped

Honey - 2-3 TB

Apple cider vinegar - 1Tb

Liquid smoke - 1tsp optional (vegetarian version)

Chile powder - 2tsp or 1TB - depending on your desire for spiciness. 

Cinnamon - scant 2tsp

Paprika - 2tsp

Salt- to taste (about 1-2tsp for me) 

Slaw recipe - also makes a good side

Purple cabbage - about 1/6 a small head of cabbage, slivered

Onion - 1/4 an onion, slivered

Avocado - 1, sliced

Limes - 2, juiced

Salt - to taste

 

3.jpg

Press the tofu for about 30 minutes. Once pressed, sliced into thin "patties" the size of the tofu block. While the tofu is pressing make the sauce. Chop up all your vegetables. Place the olive oil in a small saucepan on medium heat. Add your garlic and onions and let it cook for a few minutes, until slightly soft. Add in your habaneros and apricots and let cook for a few more minutes until soft. Add in the tomatoes and tomato paste. Stir until well combined and let cook for 3-5 minutes until soft, slightly bubbling, and evenly dispersed. Then add in all the rest of the ingredients and let cook for a few more minutes, until just fragrant. Add the mixture into a blender and blend until smooth. Adding in some water if needed to bring the sauce to the desired consistency. Taste and adjusted spices. Layer the tofu in between a generous amount of bbq sauce, making sure all the tofu is covered. Let it marinate on the counter for several hours (2-3 at least) or overnight in the fridge. The extra bbq can be stored for later use (think veggie kabobs or pizza sauce).

Heat up the grill (or grill pan) and cook the tofu straight on the grill (rubbed down with a little oil since tofu can stick) or cook on top of bamboo skewers on the grill (soaking the skewers in water for a hour first). Cook the tofu for about 5 minutes on each side. Brush over some more bbq sauce after flipping. We even threw our burger buns on the grill for 1 minute to crisp them up.

For the slaw, toss together the onion and cabbage. Add in the avocado and stir, slightly mashing up the avocado among the slivers of onion and cabbage. Squeeze over the lime and season with salt.  

To assemble the burger spread a little of the paprika aioli below (admit for vegan), top with strips of tofu and then pile on a good bit of slaw on top. No shame in adding some more bbq sauce too... bbq is suppose to be messy. Serve with grilled asparagus. 

 

5.jpg

Grilled asparagus recipe + paprika aioli

Asparagus - 1lb with 1 inch of the ends trimmed off

Olive oil - 2Tb

Salt/pepper- to taste

Egg yolk - 1 large egg yolk

Lemon - Juice of 1 lemon

Olive oil - several TB

Paprika - scant 1 tsp

Salt/pepper - to taste

Pumpkin seeds - a handful, coarsely chopped (optional) .

To make the aioli add in the egg yolk, lemon juice, and salt into a small bowl. Beat with a whisk. Slowly drizzle in the oil in a very small, steady stream while whipping with a whisk. The aioli with start to thicken up and lighten as you whisk. I let my aioli get to about a medium consistency since I didn't need much and didn't want to use too much oil. Add in the paprika and more salt and pepper if necessary. Whip until combined.

Toss the asparagus in a bowl with the olive oil and season generously with salt and pepper. Lay on a pre-heated grill and cook several minutes, rotating the spears with tongs. You want the asparagus to get soft, a little brown in spots, but still retain a slight crunch. Lay the asparagus on a tray, top with some aioli and the sprinkle with pumpkin seeds.

2.jpg