Ah, the photogenic popovers in winter sunshine, with narcissus shadows…


This winter is so much nicer than the last two.


Remember all that unrelenting gray rain?!



Today I pulled out the dried-up old sweetpeas & planted sunflower seedlings. The padrón pepper plant is finally giving me a few peppers at a time. Purple string beans are going strong & the cherry tomato is gangbusters. This afternoon I found a sneaky overgrown squash.

Then I picked blackberries & made a pie.

faithful as can be

Been a while since we had a nice salad. This one comes to you courtesy of a fierce cilantro jones that seized me last week. First I found this yummy chicken biryani recipe via gojee & was “as faithful as can be—for me”* to the recipe, which meant I used mild peppers instead of hot, & about twice, maybe thrice, as much as cilantro. That jones, you know.

I liked the raita so much that I wanted to put it on everything. Salad dressing? Of course. Blueberries & cilantro are a cool-as-a-cucumber match made in summer heaven, so there you go:

Cilantro Loves Blueberries Salad

feeds 2 serious salad-eaters, 4 normal folks

Little gems &/or other mild green lettuces, a few large handfuls

Blueberries, a large handful

A small splash of olive oil

Avocado slices

Raita (adapted from the biryani recipe above):

1 C cucumber peeled, seeded and finely chopped

1/2 C plain yogurt

2–3 T cilantro minced

2 T mint minced

1/2 t cumin seeds

1/2 t salt

fresh ground black pepper to taste

(You will have a lot of leftover raita!)

Wash & dry the lettuces & blueberries & throw em in a bowl. Dollop a couple of generous spoonfuls of raita on top, followed by a small bloop of olive oil. Toss well. Plate with sliced avocados on the side.

*I’ve always loved this song. You notice they never actually resolve the problem? Heh. Quote is at 0:39.


Listening: Girl Talk. I just wish this spiffy visual breakdown included dates for all the sources, because I strongly suspect I’m getting a remedial crash course on all that happened in pop music for the past quarter century while I was busy listening to the likes of Cachao & Gillian Welch.

Reading: Ingratitude: The Debt-Bound Daughter in Asian American Literature by erin Khuê Ninh. Everybody should read this. (Especially if you’re suffering any form of Tiger Mom Fatigue. Don’t know about you, but the Fatigue hit me pretty much the first moment I heard of her.)

Drinking: variations on carrot juice

Eating: Peas! Peas! Peas! How about a simple recipe?

Cheesy Peasy

(serves 1)

2 slices Alvarado bread

medium sharp cheddar

about 2 pods’ worth of English (shelling) peas

Cover one slice of bread with cheese. Dot peas all over. Put the other slice of bread on top & hold it together carefully (no escaping peas!) as you place the sandwich in a sandwich grill or press of your choice (we use a George we found on the street). Grill til cheese is melty. Yay, cheesy peasy!

(Edited to add picture)

arugula flowers

Woops! Where did March go? I think Camera Shy may be distracting me a bit.

I am quite smitten with the arugula flowers.

Did you know you can eat them? I didn’t. I like them. Hard to describe the taste without sounding weird, but… they make me think of fresh wood. No, not like eating wood chips. Nothing like that. Much nicer.

I like throwing them on top of everything, just like I was throwing the leaves on everything all winter long. Makes sense, to go from winter to spring, leaf to flower.

3 o’clock

What is that strange & wonderful thing?

Why, it’s Baconhenge! Of course.

We (the 3 o’clock girls—always a good time!) could not resist populating it.

savory bread pudding

So, I had made & eaten this killer savory bread pudding, & I was so pleased & proud that I was gonna tell you all about it… but then we got hit with that lovely warm spell, during which I only wanted to pretend it was May, or even June. Which means no bread pudding—that’s a winter food!

Now that it’s pouring cats & dogs again, I thought you might be ready to hear it. This is an adaptation of an adaptation of a Tartine recipe. So easy & so good!


1 lb. loaf of day-old bread, preferably Acme Levain, cut into 1.5” cubes*
1 small yellow onion
3 spring onions, red**
10 large eggs
1 quart whole goat milk
3/4 tsp. salt
freshly ground pepper
pinch nutmeg
a little fresh thyme or other herbs
1 bunch (approx. 3 cups) rainbow chard, chopped
2 cups grated goat cheddar
extra virgin olive oil

Oven at 350°

In a skillet, cook onions in olive oil until tender. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, salt, nutmeg & pepper.

Throw into the egg mixture: bread cubes, chard, 1 cup of the cheese, herbs & onions. Mix well.

Butter or oil a 9×13 baking dish. Pour the stuff in, sprinkle evenly with the remaining cup of cheese & a bit of pepper.

Bake for about an hour, until it passes the toothpick test.

You can serve this on its own, or for a more balanced meal, swath it in arugula leaves. Yum!

* I think my cubes were a bit smaller & quite uneven. You could even cut thick slices & then tear them up into chunks. (What, you would use your Tartine loaf this way after going through all that trouble to get it? Not unless you happen to live walking distance or something….)

** If you can’t get spring onions, you can use leeks or just another onion.

eating green things

Gnocchi & pesto at Encuentro!

Risi e bisi! Recipe from Ferry Plaza Farmers Market cookbook, peas from Swanton.

FOAF (Friend of a Friend) cucumber melon gazpacho! (Same free-association recipe improvisation method as FOAF salad, of course.)

(I know, kinda crappy photo. I’ll give you some nice waves at the end of the post to make up for it.)

I started with cucumber gazpacho in mind, but my recipe wanted lemon & I only had lime. Well, lime is friends with melon, & gazpacho is friends with cilantro & pepper, so…

Fill your blender jar with an assortment of peeled, seeded cucumbers, cut into chunks. I like to get a bunch of different kinds of cukes from different stands at the farmers market, but you could keep it simple & just use one kind.

Then pour in:

1/2 cup olive oil

1/2 cup water

1/8 cup white wine vinegar

Blend so the level goes down.


Lime juice; start with half a lime. You may want to add more later.

A very small, very mild pepper. By very small I mean not much bigger than a finger.

Couple sprigs of cilantro

Small pinch of cayenne

Salt & pepper

Melon, a couple of big scoops (with a regular soup spoon or tablespoon). I tried this with an Eel River melon from Full Belly & also with an Ambrosia melon; I suspect almost any melon would work. Will try Galia next.

(optional) Small clove garlic

Blend again, taste, & adjust as necessary. You are aiming for a balance of flavors that tastes good to you; it will not be great yet, until you give it several hours—preferably a whole day—in the fridge. See if you can detect just a little hint of the melon; it should not be a sweet soup. Then stick the whole thing in the fridge.

Next day, put it back on the blender & give it another go, just a few seconds, to re-blend anything that separated while it was sitting. Then garnish as you like, or not.

It’s finally really summer!

Happy Year of the Tiger!


I got shut out of this show for dragging my feet on the buying of tickets, but that’s ok cause a week later they played for free(!), outside(!) at Cal & I didn’t have to cross any big water for that.

Eating: brown rice, pinto beans (from a can, even), the first Hass avocado, Bariani olive oil, Maldon salt. Feels like cheating: you aren’t really cooking but it tastes so good, you can’t imagine eating anything better. Unless you’re steaming Dungeness, which also doesn’t feel like cooking. Ditto the first artichokes (boiled) & the first asparagus (roasted). I like this theme.

Rearranging: furniture. (Lest you think I’ve gone all lazy, with those non-cooking meals & all.)

Smelling: plum blossoms!

Gazing in wonder: the tulip magnolias are stunning right now. No picture can do justice. Go out & look, if you haven’t already.


Recently Donna brought home yet another of her well-chosen love gifts for me, a newsprint booklet from 1982 titled 300 Sensational Salads. I shall now share some of these sensations with you, to brighten your day & make you glad you live, cook & eat in the present:

1 can (13½ or 14½ oz.) chicken broth
1 cup converted rice
1½ tsp. salt
½ cup vegetable oil
2 T. soy sauce
2 T. toasted sesame seeds (optional)
2 cups diced cooked chicken, turkey, or pork
1 can (14 oz.) chop suey vegetables, drained
1 jar (4½ oz.) sliced mushrooms, drained
4 green onions with tops, sliced
1 jar (2 oz.) diced pimiento, drained

Add enough water to broth to make 2½ cups liquid. Bring to a boil. Stir in the rice & 1 tsp. of the salt. Cover & simmer 20 minutes. Remove from heat. Let stand covered until all liquid is absorbed, about 5 minutes. Transfer rice to large bowl. Combine oil, soy sauce, remaining salt & sesame seeds, if desired, mixing well. Stir into rice. Cover & refrigerate 1 hour. Stir in remaining ingredients [including those yummy canned chop suey vegetables, mmm]. Cover & chill at least 3 hours. Make 6 main dish servings.

Also included among the 300 Sensational Salads are “Hot Chinese Potato Salad” & “Chow Mein Salad” but honestly, neither of those is quite as special as this one, which you’ll surely want to bust out next time you host dinner guests:

8 strips bacon, cut-up
1 cup chopped onion
2 cans (15 oz. each) cheese ravioli
¼ cup sugar
¼ vinegar
Pepper to taste

In skillet cook bacon until crisp; drain fat reserving 1 tablespoon. Return 1 tablespoon fat to skillet; add onion & saute about 2 minutes. Add ravioli, sugar, vinegar & pepper; cover & simmer until ravioli is heated through. Serve on lettuce. Yield: 4 cups.

Gawd almighty, is that not the most vile thing you ever heard of?! But leaving the issue of pure nastiness aside, what on earth qualifies this to be called a salad? The fact that you plop it on top of lettuce? The presence of vinegar? What?!

steady rotation


Michael’s blackberry honey on Alvarado sprouted whole wheat. Every once in a great while, & I mean like every several years, a perfect jar of honey & a certain mood of mine align to give me a whole loaf’s worth of incredibly satisfying bread & honey. The honey varies but the bread is always Alvarado. This time the honey is dark brown, partly crystallized between liquid & solid, & yes, it does taste like blackberries. I don’t see Michael anywhere on the web—figures, for a guy with hand-written labels. You can get his honey at the Berkeley Bowl, & his last name is Huber, which may or may not mean that he is a direct descendant of François Huber, the father of beekeeping. That would be too neat. I mean that both ways.

Dave Rawlings Machine “Bells of Harlem”, off the new album. Steady rotation. “Ruby” is pretty damn awesome too.

Toe-up socks! How can you not knit in this weather?!


Decadently preparing for winter. The salad spinner is finally getting less use than the Le Creuset baking dish & Dutch oven. No, this is not an ad for Le Creuset, but I’m really not sure what I would be doing if mom-in-law hadn’t handed these two crucial items down to us, years ago.

First there was tomato sauce:

I got 3 batches out of a 20 lb. crate of dry-farmed Early Girls. YTMV. (Your tomatoes may vary.) Hint: unless you want to have All Tomatoes All the Time for 2 days, spring for the grade A instead of the grade B tomatoes, which have bright red voices made especially for screaming, “WE’RE GONNA SPOIL & ROT & MOLD ANY SECOND SO YOU BETTER DO SOMETHING NOW!” I’ve learned my lesson & next year I’ll be listening to the cheerful voices of the A tomatoes murmuring “no problem, take your time, we’ll be fine all week.”

So. Wash, trim & halve those loud, loud tomatoes. Put them cut side up in the aforementioned Le Creuset 9×12 baking dish. Layer them on top of each other until the baking dish is almost full, with a bit of room at the top for bubbling liquid.

Sprinkle on top: minced garlic & capers, salt, pepper, & a generous back & forth of olive oil.

Roast in 325-350 degree oven for at least an hour. Say an hour & 15 minutes. When you take it out of the oven, there will be tons of liquid in there. Take a big spoon & press the tomatoes down so that relatively clear liquid spills into the spoon, & transfer as much liquid as you can into the aforementioned Dutch oven (or other wide, heavy-bottomed pot). Put that on the stove to simmer. Stir the tomatoes around in the baking dish, turning things so the garlic & capers get mixed in, & stick it back in the oven for another half hour or so.

“Forget” about the simmering liquid on the stove. “Remember” suddenly that you might be burning the pot! In a panic, race to the stove just in time to see that you have the most delicious sludgey tomato syrup, which is just starting to brown. If you had “remembered” just a few minutes later, you would have burned it. Heave a sigh of relief & thank the tomato gods for your sauce-making 6th sense & the awesome pot that can handle such treatment. (Really, I promise Le Creuset never heard of me!) Take the tomatoes from the oven (or probably you already did, it doesn’t actually matter that much) & stir them into the syrup/sludge.

Here’s what it looked like after I already took a big spoonful & put it on spaghetti for my dinner. Much reduced, totally concentrated tomato goodness:

Honestly, if I hadn’t been totally absorbed in a phone conversation with the Triathlete, I don’t think I would have had the patience to let the liquid simmer down that far. Yay for happy kitchen accidents!

But wait, there’s more! You get two blog posts in one!

About the same time, Donna had parallel desires for lasagna & roast chicken. She brought home fresh sheets of pasta & 8 thighs. It would have made sense to make one thing one night & the other thing another night, but sometimes the week just gets away from you. Such as when you get in over your head with a giant box of screaming tomatoes.

Seeing as how we only have one baking dish (you know the one) suitable for lasagna &/or roasting chicken, & seeing as how both the fresh pasta & the raw chicken were starting to grow some slightly-urgent little voices themselves, I said, hey, what if we do them both at once?

CHICKEN LASAGNA STROGANOFF SMASHUP (ever so vaguely based on a mushroom lasagna recipe by Deborah Madison)

8 chicken thighs, bone & skin on, not the really big ones

at least 3 fresh rectangles of pasta to fit your baking dish

bag o’ large brown button mushrooms

bag o’ baby spinach

1 yellow onion

dried porcini mushrooms (I had half a tiny bag. A whole bag would be better.)

1 stick butter

1/2 cup flour

1 box mushroom broth

few cloves garlic

bunch of fresh marjoram

olive oil

salt & pepper

Note: You really need two people to make this. Lasagna is 3 or 4 dishes pretending to be one dish. On the other hand, if your ass hasn’t already been kicked by a bunch of tomatoes, maybe you could do it alone. I wouldn’t.

First, put the porcini mushrooms to soak in a bit of hot water.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Then, make mushroom gravy: Melt the butter in a medium saucepan, & whisk in the flour. When the roux smells insanely good, pour in the mushroom broth. I think it’s best if you heat the broth first. I kinda arrived at this gravy in a, um, less than straightforward fashion. You could, unlike me, consult a real recipe & then actually follow it. Anyway: whisk whisk whisk, bring just barely to a boil so that it thickens, then turn down to super-low simmer & keep whisking.

Meanwhile, rinse off the thighs, trim excess fat, pat dry, & then mix them around in a bowl with salt & pepper.

Wash your mushrooms & spinach. Slice the mushrooms. Chop a few cloves of garlic & an onion.

Are the porcinis good & soft? Whisk the liquid (minus any grit) into the gravy & chop the porcinis. In a large pan, brown the onions with garlic & olive oil, then add the porcinis & the sliced mushrooms. They should give off some liquid & get a nice color to them. We did this in two batches (so as to saute rather than steam). Move all of that into a bowl & then wilt the spinach in the pan to remove most of the liquid.

Wash your marjoram & strip the leaves into the chicken bowl. Toss & rub around.

Now assemble the lasagna as follows:

Butter the pan.

Just a thin layer of gravy.

Sheet of pasta.

Gravy, thicker this time.

Onions & mushrooms.




Onions & mushrooms.




Chicken! Arrange the chicken to cover the lasagna evenly, skin side up.

Like so:

Heft that thing into the oven & let it go for 40 minutes, then check to see if the chicken is done & continue roasting (or not) accordingly. The lasagna will be done before the chicken.

When it was done, Donna looked at it & exclaimed, “Sick!” (She’s been hanging out with kids.)

I did warn you it was decadent. Yes, you are ingesting extra chicken fat with every bite of tender lasagna. Yes, you can rationalize it all you want by saying “well we didn’t use any cheese, & the gravy is made with mushroom broth instead of milk….” Yes, it’s not the prettiest piece of chicken you ever did see (& this isn’t the prettiest picture either), but it’s damn delicious.


Gillian Welch & David Rawlings at the Fillmore: More than worth the backache from standing all night long. That hallowed room is really not for creaky old bodies, but 10 feet from the stage with the flawless crystal sound, Gil & Dave working their magic, breathing & creating as one organism, it’s so good, it feels like love.

Warren pears: Almost not of this world—but they are of this world, they come from the ground, they grow on trees & aren’t we lucky beyond belief? It seems like insanity to eat any other fruit right now. (I am insane, though, & cannot refuse the last of the melons & stone fruits.)

Gourmet magazine: A different kind of love, more material & mundane perhaps, but no less real. I grew up ogling those centerfolds every month, year after yummy year. I refuse to say RIP! Will someone come in & rescue it somehow? Am I in denial?

comfort food

You know how foodies (& other people, too) sometimes like to poll each other on what their last meal would be? Extravagant requests come up, tall fantasy orders for the prison chef (assuming this last meal would be before you get sent off to the chair at midnight).

I’ve always said it would have to be something I cook for myself. Even if they couldn’t let me cook in the kitchen, I could at least toss a salad for myself in my cell. How sweet, how profoundly self-loving it is, to cook for yourself: an unbroken throughline from thought or desire to action & creation to mouth to stomach, a completed circuit. I make my salad exactly how I want it.

This is comfort food for me, a late-night salad:

3 or 4 handfuls of small lettuces, mostly Little Gems (from Blue Heron)

1/2 of a large Dapple Dandy pluot

3 small pink radishes

flat leaf parsley

sherry vinaigrette (olive oil, sherry vinegar, salt & pepper)

I don’t want a lot of ingredients at 10 pm when I’m sad for no specific reason & lots of specific reasons, both at once. I want something simple & beautiful & nurturing, & I want to make it myself, taking my time to pay attention to what I’m doing, making tiny adjustments & changes as I move toward perfecting this small, finite vision. Maybe that’s why salad is so comforting to me: it is an easily attainable* perfection when so much else is so impossibly far from perfect.

I started by washing the leaves, spinning them dry & dumping them in the bowl. Then I mandolined the radishes, scattering the dots of them on top of the leaves. I cut a pluot in half & mandolined most of the half into sheer, soft little sheets that folded upon themselves; what was left, I realized I wanted cut into tiny chunks. Then I chopped some parsley, stirred up my dressing, tossed the salad, & served half of it onto my darling’s plate. I ate my half right out of the big salad bowl, because that feels good too in its own way.

There is no real border between the making & the eating of a late-night comfort salad. It’s the whole process that soothes from start to finish. Making a salad I want to eat is something I can rely on in myself, something I can always touch when too much is uncertain. Things feel more hopeful after that.

*Yes, I know it’s not easily attainable for most people. Chances are it’s within reach for most people reading this blog, though.

Francis Lam

Newly smitten with Francis Lam, thanks to a tiny little link from Orangette. Incidentally, her new book surpassed my expectations. How often does that happen? I’m not really supposed to be buying books right now (slashedbudgetyouknowtheeconomyblahblahblah), but I bought hers & I’m not sorry.

About Francis: that little link led to a recipe that demanded every pot in the kitchen, but his writing seduced me into doing it anyway. He worries about Cantonese food! He makes all kinds of sense about wine! Check out his tattoos! I’m in love. If you don’t hear from me for a while, it’s because I’m busy reading all his archives.

Actually that’s not true. You might not hear from me for a little while because I just got myself a job with the U.S. Census & April is hella busy. Send bag lunch ideas. Hmm… maybe Mr. Lam has some advice?

Neko Case


Let us now praise the mighty force of nature that is Neko Case! Thrill over her insanely fabulous Knight of Swords album cover: is the resemblance not striking?

(Thanks to Learning the Tarot for this particular image.)

In Tarot, the Swords are the suit of air, & indeed Middle Cyclone feels like some serious wind. I have been playing this thing incessantly since laying hands upon it, & sometimes I could swear I feel my hair blowing back even when all the windows in the studio are shut. It’s not news that the girl has lungs & knows how to use them, but wow, how does she keep cranking out amazing album after amazing album? Despite all the air, Neko herself is a rock-solid dependable Virgo, which only goes partway toward explaining why I love her so.

Let me count the ways:

1) The feeling of enormous spaciousness she creates, which has stayed with me as an unflagging overall impression ever since I heard the first few notes of the Furnace Room Lullaby CD. It’s not just the heavy reverb, either.

2) The old-skool, uncompromising defense of her copyright. No Creative Commons for Neko, no way. Don’t get me wrong, I think there can be a lot of good in all that newfangled sharing, but Neko’s hard line speaks to my heart, as in the Canadian Amp liner notes: “THIS IS WHAT WE DO FOR A LIVING. WE HAVE KIDS, BILLS, AND RENT TOO. THANK YOU.” The current liner notes take a more threatening tone, & I love her for it.

3) The constant experimentation & fun & joy & excellence… I never claimed to be a music writer, & enough bytes abound from keyboards more polished than mine. I’ll just say my world would not be complete without her music arriving in fresh batches regularly the way it does, which brings me to

4) The professionalism & consistency. I am in awe of how she runs her operation. How she shows up all the fucking time. No weird drug habit, no moody off nights. No parched, thirsty deserts of endless time between albums. As much as I love Neko, there are musicians who sing more directly to my own soul, & of course they are the ones who dole out an album maybe every 5 years if you’re lucky, maybe because they’re too busy enjoying themselves (yeah, Gil & Dave, I’m looking at you), or maybe because it’s just too hard (I can’t really pretend to know, but Freakwater comes to mind), or maybe it’s just my own natural sympathy for my kin, the unprolific artists of the world. How lucky that we can rely upon people like Neko (& Sherman Alexie, who is going to bankrupt me with his prodigious output) to keep us all going!

5) You know I am a sucker for a really good Bob Dylan cover, & Neko’s “Buckets of Rain” just about breaks my heart. In the best possible way.

I could go on, but I’ll leave it at this: I don’t think it’s any coincidence that I’ve started making souffles just during this last little stretch of Middle Cycloned time. What food could be airier? It’s like eating clouds. Too bad they always collapse before I think to grab the camera. Put on some brand-new Neko, whip up some egg whites of your own, & then you won’t need my pictures anyway.

Rain, rain, la la la...

Flannel sheets, a persistent downpour, & no leaks in the roof (knock on wood): if that’s not a recipe for a blissful weekend nap, I don’t know what is. Eventually you’ll have to wake up, though, & when you do, you’ll be hungry. How about an excuse to turn on the oven? It makes the kitchen feel so toasty!

Here’s my pasta mashup of this roasted broccoli & this caramelized cauliflower. (Look for the garam masala variation in the comments of that post.)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Put a pot of pasta water on the stove to boil.

Throw into a large mixing bowl:

3 broccoli crowns, cut into small bite-size pieces

1 large red onion, halved & thinly sliced

3 green onions, thinly sliced

A generous amount of olive oil

Salt, approx. a teaspoon

Garam masala, a light sprinkling

(I would have put lemon zest in too, but my lemon was a bit past its prime & the skin looked tired.)

Toss it all together & spread in a single layer on 1 or 2 baking sheets (I used 2). Roast for 10 minutes, then stir & turn the stuff. If it seems dry, drizzle more olive oil on. (I also consolidated onto 1 sheet at this point, because the veggies had shrunk so much & I wanted them snuggled close together for moisture.) Turn the oven down to 400 & put back in for another 8 minutes or so.

During this second half of the roasting, boil your fresh lemon fettucine, drain it & plop it into the same big bowl you had from mixing the veggies together. (Please don’t tell me you washed it already!) Toss it around with a bit of olive oil so it won’t turn into a solid sticky lump while you’re waiting for the veggies to be done.

Around 8 minutes, check the veggies. I squoze half a lemon over them & stuck them back in for another 2 minutes. After they were all done, I squoze on the second half lemon; you want to do this while they’re still in the baking pan, since the lemon juice will have a deglazing effect on all the yummy onion bits that are stuck on the bottom. Then throw it all on top of the pasta, mix together & eat!

Feeds two hungry nappers, with a good amount of leftovers:

Edited to add this variation: I went to cook dinner for my mom, since she broke her foot (aww). She happened to have some nice fresh crab that her neighbor gave her (so don’t feel too sorry for her), so I added that to the recipe & used Old Bay seasoning instead of garam masala. Since the asparagus is here (yay!) I also threw in some of that, sliced. I added the asparagus at about the 15-minute mark, & the crab just a couple of minutes before the end since it was already cooked. Also threw in a can of garbanzo beans (at the very beginning w/ the broccoli & onions). Delish!


I happen to have a thing about glass bottles & jars. This fetish predated—but has only been encouraged by—my environmentalist plastic angst. The plastic angst never goes away, although it does fluctuate, most recently spiking a couple of years ago after I saw horrible pictures of plastic bits found inside a dead albatross chick. On the other hand, last year’s chemical-leaching panic merely induced another lefty-Cassandra eyeroll: oh, so now after we’ve been saying for decades that plastic brings every form of evil upon the world, you’re suddenly gonna run out & spend a bunch of money on glass food containers because you’re afraid for your precious babies? (Not that I’m prioritizing albatross babies over human ones, just annoyed at the greenwashing consumerism so prevalent among human American adults.)

Anyway. I shall resist getting into my lefty-Cassandra eyeroll du jour re: the perils of free-market capitalism & the current state of the economy, blah blah blah. Instead, let’s talk about food! Here we have homemade yogurt, which is both economical & environmental.

I went to a yogurt & cheesemaking class at Institute of Urban Homesteading a few months back. When I signed up for the class I only saw the cheesemaking part of it, but as these things often go, the yogurt is the part that has thoroughly infiltrated my daily life. How wonderful to spoon yogurt out of a mason jar! If you’re lucky (geographically as well as economically), you can just roll on down to the store & buy St. Benoît in a quart mason jar for $5-something. But here, let me do the math for you: a half gallon of organic Straus milk is $4-something & you get two lovely quart jars of yogurt out of it. Plus the satisfaction of making it yourself, of course.

On the other hand, you might end up eating more yogurt than you knew was possible. I suspect that the plastic angst has actually been keeping a lid on my yogurt consumption for most of my life. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

fine vegetables

When you hear “carrots, onions, cabbage…”, do you yawn? Does your mind wander off to more interesting things like profiteroles, or clementine bitters, or hand-knitted socks?

If that’s the case, I do sympathize. I think we’ve all encountered quite enough rubbery frozen carrot chunks, flavorless generic onions & overcooked mushy cabbage in our various travels.

But please don’t let yourself be burned out, disenchanted or depressed about these fine vegetables.

It’s just not necessary to suffer so.

Don’t let them be ruined for you!

You could be missing something.

I’m just sayin.

eye of newt

I love election cartograms!

I am so exhausted. Are you tired? Everybody seems to be in a kind of election hangover. Months of stomach-pretzeling anxiety, then all that euphoric weeping delirium when Obama won, & the catharsis of finally giving the Republicans the pounding they deserved—well, actually they deserved much worse than that, but let’s not get into that here—now I can barely do anything. The Prop 8 disappointment throws a weird contradictory layer of angst into the mix; rather emotionally confusing. I was in my pajamas last night before 7pm.

Good thing I had this recipe up my sleeve for y’all. I’d been working on it for a while, & on the 4th try it worked well enough to share with the Witch for Halloween (her favorite holiday, of course). The Witch is the most food-limited of my friends, by which I mean there’s hella stuff she can’t eat without getting walloped by a migraine. Luckily she’s a great cook & not afraid to experiment with obscure alternative ingredients. I was really proud to come up with a dessert she can eat!

Chocolate Coconut Tapioca Pudding
aka Pudding of Earth & Eyes of Newt (no sugar! no dairy! wheee!)

Throughout this recipe, whisk pretty much constantly!

Soak 1/3 cup small tapioca pearls in 2 to 3 cups of water for a few minutes, then bring to a gentle boil & simmer for about 15 minutes.

Drain off the gloopy water & reserve about 1/2 cup of it. I do this by pouring through a sieve into a bowl, then dumping the tapioca pearls from the sieve back into the pot.

Add about 1/2 can of coconut milk to the pot, whisk to distribute the tapioca, & simmer for another few minutes.

Meanwhile, whisk together in a separate bowl:
the rest of the coconut milk
2 T. good cocoa powder (I use Green & Black’s)
1/4 c. maple syrup
1 t. vanilla
pinch salt

Add the chocolate mixture to the pot, along with 4 to 6 T. of the reserved tapioca gloop. Continue to simmer & whisk another few minutes until tapioca pearls are completely clear. At this point the pudding is still quite liquid but should have thickened ever so slightly. If not, add a little more of the gloop.

Remove from heat & let cool a little, then refrigerate for at least 5 hours.