Tag Archives: books

Mid-summer

Grow:
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Cortland Onion
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Rhubarb Swiss Chard
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Garlic Scapes
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“Black Cap” Raspberries (do these count as “grow” if they’re growing wild taking over the property?)
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Sparkle Strawberries

Cook:
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Chinese Cabbage, Black Bean, and Bacon Saute
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Swiss Chard with Freekah and Pomegranate Molasses (adapted from Ottolenghi and Tamimi’s recipe in Jerusalem)
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Strawberry Muffins
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Strawberry and Black Raspberry Cobbler adapted from The Seasonal Baker by John Barricelli<a
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Chicken Salad with Romaine lettuce, Watermelon Radishes, Basil, and Mint

Read:
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Write:
The garden continues to do its thing, while I try to keep all the plates spinning. Unpacking boxes is a fits-and-starts ordeal, and trying to decide whether to grow, cook, read or write is a constant tug of war. There has been a bit of all of it the last week and a half. Balance is over-rated, right? An eight hour day in the garden, followed by a ten hour day reading, followed by a five-hour round of cooking/baking/preserving is fine. As long as it all gets done, right?

Right.

The black cap raspberries are coming in strong right now, and I’ve picked three and a half quarts in the last week. One quart went into a cobbler, and the rest went into today’s jam. I sweetened it with honey and brightened it with lemon juice, and again followed the instructions on the Pomona’s Pectin box. After licking the spoon, I couldn’t figure out why the dogs were looking at me so strangely. Then, on a walk past a mirror, I saw the huge blob of it on my chin. I’m glad I didn’t leave the house that way! It looked like a dried but particularly nasty wound.
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Jam!

The raspberries are the very devil to pick. I have yet to collect any without new scratches. They’re worth it, though. I could wear long clothing, but it’s hot. I’d rather be scratched, honestly. I’m sure there’s some fun psychology there.
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The kale, collards, Swiss Chard, Chinese Cabbage, onions, scallions, and lettuce are doing well, and providing lots of green to eat. Watermelon radishes are adding some crunch, and garlic scapes add some zing. Alpine strawberries continue to grow like mad, and I stand in the garden and reward work with mouthfuls of the tiny berries. They’re too fragile to survive the trip to the house, which suits me just fine.

Grow, cook, read, write. And on we go.

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Saucy carrots and ordinary evenings

We have 13 days of school left. I’m trying not to think about it too much, particularly since I’m split down the middle as to how I’m feeling. One minute I’m so excited I could weep, and the next minute, I’m so sad, I could weep. My classroom is mostly ready for my exit, except for the disaster area space behind my desk, and a week ago, two students helped me box and neatly label the books that I’m keeping. (Our dining room is a bit crowded these days.)

While at work I’m still so busy I can’t see straight, (final Isearch papers turned in today!)I seem to be just drifting through my afternoons and evenings. If I had to account for my time, I’d be in trouble, because I can’t tell you what I’ve been doing.

Let’s see: I read a really good book the other night, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, by Jesse Andrews (I was snorting uncontrollably with laughter by page 150). I made some lemon blueberry cornmeal muffins last weekend, and I’m going to tinker with the recipe; more honey, I think. We went out to dinner at a restaurant new to us, M.C. Spiedo (good, though everyone was dressed like they were going to Walmart–Target, at best–and on their damned cell phones…neither being the restaurant’s fault, of course). We went to the SoWa Open Market on Sunday. I went to a student’s house, because they have chickens and were lovely enough to invite me to tea, and to see their set-up. Actually, I had a great afternoon there, and it’s probably the most memorable of my recent activities.

I won’t be winning any thrill-seeking awards, will I?

That’s okay.

Tonight, dinner was a happy somewhat-orchestrated-accident. Remember those lamb ribs, and the sauce I said I was going to de-fat and do something with? Tonight, I added some more dried fruit, about a cup of chicken broth, and some oil-cured Moroccan olives and simmered it until it was a loose sauce. I served it over bulgur wheat, with small cubes of lightly smoked goat cheese (that we got at SoWa) and slivered almonds (next time, I’d add thinly sliced scallions, and on mine, some cilantro). On the side, we had sliced carrots that I sauteed with some onions. Then I added a half cup of water, a heaping teaspoon of honey, and a heaping teaspoon of harissa, and cooked the water away until the carrots were tender and the harissa and honey glazed the carrots. When the water was almost gone, I added a tsp of butter, to make them glossy.

The contrast of the sweet and occasionally smoky and/or briny sauced bulgur with the spicy-sweet carrots was a good one, and we were glad we ate at home.

Sometimes, being a homebody is delicious.

Divestment and a Coconut Curry

I have spent the last 18 years collecting books for my classroom.

One person can collect a lot of books in 18 years.

Now that I’m leaving teaching, it seems insane and somewhat criminal not to make sure that most of the books wind up in the hands of students. I started this process last year, filling many boxes with books that students could take from, and then passing on the remainder to colleagues and the school down the road from our home. But I still have probably 2,000 left.

I started the divestment process in earnest today. I have already filled five boxes from the “realistic fiction” section, and still have all of the other genres to go. The kids will get first dibs on most of the titles, but I’m setting aside some literature circle books and author sets for the teacher who will take my place. (Fingers crossed that it’s a certain someone I know…) I am also keeping a fair number of them, on the off-chance that I decide to go back to the classroom. My deal with myself is that if I haven’t returned to teaching in two years, I will get rid of most of the rest of them.

Some, I will keep forever. Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson; Winger, by Andrew Smith; Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, by Benjamin Alire Saenz; The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak; A Northern Light, by Jennifer Donnelly, all of John Green’s books…the list is actually pretty long. Some books are meant to be read over and over again, and I have encountered many, many of these books in the amazing world of young adult fiction. It is one of the things in my life for which I am most grateful: that I had a career that led me to such amazing places.

And now I’m getting weepy, so let’s talk curry. This one, in particular: http://www.rachaelraymag.com/recipe/coconut-chicken-curry/

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There will be no Rachael Ray bashing on this blog.  Along with my family, she taught me to cook and I will be forever thankful for that.  The fact that she isn’t a trained chef is what still makes her food so approachable, in my opinion.  And no one who has ever eaten one of her recipes in my house has complained, so she must be doing something right.

I didn’t change too much to this recipe.  I had regular coconut milk, so used it (creamy and silky and coconutty…light, schmight–use the full fat, unless you’re on a diet).  I didn’t have sweet potatoes, but I did have cauliflower and regular potatoes, so I chopped those up and used them instead; I put them in when the recipe called for the sweets.  I added chopped dried apricots with the vegetables.  (This recipe could easily be vegetarian; use the sweet potatoes, cauliflower, and potatoes, and you’ll have a filling, spicy, fragrant meal.)

I also added shredded coconut as a garnish, along with chives and micro-greens (no basil in these parts yet).  Oh…and I goofed and added 2 tablespoons of brown sugar, instead of 2 tsp.  But they weren’t packed, because apparently it’s still winter here (Snow!  This morning!  Dammit!) and my brown sugar is as hard as a rock.  I had to chisel it out, which is probably why I got distracted and used too much.

The extra sugar wasn’t a bad thing, though, because I used a spicy curry powder; the two balanced each other brilliantly.  The house smelled like a cozy Indian restaurant, and it was nice to have a big bowlful of warm for dinner.  Since, as I mentioned, it’s still frigging winter here.  Not that I mind, or anything.

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