BagelsinAugust

tonight’s tabbouleh

Aug
15

My tabbouleh recipe is the trial-and-error type, tested over many dinners, with improvements occurring all the time. I do not have one single recipe, as it is a work in progress, developed to my taste, but I do have two beliefs about tabbouleh that I try to stick to.

The herbs are the best part of this salad, so both the parsley and mint need to be thoroughly cleaned, or otherwise you end up biting into bits of sand/dirt. You can wash the parsley and mint by dunking it in a bowl of water several times (and changing the water as needed). You can gently pat the herbs by laying them on a towel, or leave them on the counter to dry. The herbs are less mushy, more crisp, if revived with a quick water bath and left to dry.

The next thing most tabboulehs contain is a grain, or filler of some sort, if you will. Bulgur is the traditional go-to.  In the recipe below, you will see I use bulgur #1, the finest, smallest grain. I have found it in the international aisles of grocery stores, in natural food stores, and also in specialty markets. Other types, or grades, of bulgur or dried cracked wheat that you may find in stores work, too, but the size of the grains will affect how much water you use, and overall consistency. If you cannot find bulgur, or do not eat wheat, quinoa and couscous are fine substitutes.

Tonight’s Tabbouleh
tabbouleh
Ingredients (serves four as a small salad or two generous servings for dinner):
1/2 cup bulgur #1/ bulgur fine
1/2-1 teaspoon ground sumac
1/4+ teaspoon garlic powder, adjust to your preference
one pint of cherry tomatoes
pinch of salt
1 lemon
1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup+ of water
one large bunch of washed parsley (see note above about washing)
half a smallish bunch of washed mint
small bunch of scallions (about 5-6, depending on size), finely sliced
one Persian cucumber, peeled and diced
about two tablespoons of red wine vinegar
additional extra virgin olive oil, optional

Steps:
1) I begin by cutting the tomatoes in half, or quarters, depending on the size. Place the bulgur in a glass bowl, add the ground sumac and powdered garlic, and mix. Instead of leaving the tomato juice on the board, put it in with the bulgur. Also, put the chopped cherry tomatoes in a colander over the bulgur, and toss with a smallish pinch of salt. Let the tomato juice drain over the bulgur for a couple of minutes.
2) Meanwhile, cut the lemon, and squeeze half of the juice on the bulgur in the bowl. Put the bulgur with the juices and a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil in the microwave for one minute, stopping halfway to fluff with a fork. The grain will start to slightly sizzle, so keep an eye on it.
3) Take the bulgur out of the microwave, and it will smell like it is lightly toasted (the liquid is absorbed, and color has changed to a darker shade). Immediately add the water and squeeze the other half of the lemon into the bowl. The bulgur will absorb the liquids quickly, so stir a few times, before placing in the microwave for another two minutes, checking halfway again. Taste at the one minute mark to make sure the bulgur is not too hard, but also not mushy. The consistency you are aiming for is al dente, or slightly underdone. Adjust for more water, if needed. Take out of the microwave, fluff with your fork, and leave to cool down.
4) To chop the parsley, cut off as much of the stems as possible, or pinch the leaves from the stems. Don’t discard the stems though, as they can be added to broths. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but the less coarse stems, the better the taste. Chop the parsley, aiming for medium to fine. You can make sure no large pieces or leaves are left, or just call it done. Place on a plate, bowl, side of the board…just not in the bulgur yet, as it may be hot, but, if your bulgur has cooled down, then by all means add the parsley in.
5) Pinch the mint leaves from the stems, as you did with the parsley. Here you want to take care to remove the leaves completely as the stems tend to be too large and woody to eat. Mint stems make great mint tea, so these don’t need to be tossed either. Chop the mint finely, and add to the bowl, along with the scallions and cucumber.
6) Add the red wine vinegar, and combine. Taste to see if you would like more olive oil, or salt. I usually add just a little of both, adjusting as needed. You can refrigerate the tabbouleh for a day or more, but I like to serve it immediately, with toasted pita bread. For dinner, stuffed pita pockets with hummus, tabbouleh, and yogurt or tzatziki are my favorite. When it comes to meat, lamb is a good accompaniment to this salad.

daum

Jul
28

Marriage is hard work at any age; that platitude is, sadly, as true as it is hackneyed. But now that I’m old enough to accumulate my own stack of holiday cards every year, some of the from the Jackie Harrises of the world, who were reckless enough to get married before the age of thirty but often seem to beam the brightest in their family photos (probably because they also had kids earlier and those kids are now sentient beings who will soon be capable of driving themselves to band practice), I’ve observed something that probably would have surprised my mother: The young are often harder workers – or at least better team players – in the quarry that is marriage. They do not, as I did, bring a mortgage and mid-stage career and an assemblage of tastes and opinions and biases and assumptions formed over more than three decades. They bring only a toothbrush. Whatever else the need, they’ll acquire as a couple. Whatever kind of people they turn out to be, they’ll turn into under the heady influence of the other. – pgs. 68-69, The Best Possible Experience

calm mornings

Jun
08

When I have the chance, I like to eat sit-down breakfasts. They’re not grand affairs, nor composed of contents from a box hurriedly dumped into a bowl and splashed with milk. I think of each breakfast as a calm beginning for whatever the day ahead will present. It is a ritual that makes me feel as if I have already accomplished one task from my list.

One of my favorite breakfasts is made with muesli. What is muesli? It is similar to granola, but made with raw rolled oats (granola is made with baked oats). Like granola, muesli usually contains dried fruits, nuts, or seeds. Unlike granola, there is no baking involved, or sitting by the stove the entire time making sure you don’t burn anything. Muesli is forgiving; all you have to do is shop for the ingredients, if you don’t already have them, and toss them together. The combinations are manifold, which gives my creativity plenty of exercise. What I enjoy most about muesli is that it comes together quickly, and lasts a while. I recently chose to make a batch of muesli with some of the ingredients I already had in my pantry, the jars that are almost-but-not-quite empty, taking up space with ten pieces of something inside.

Below, I offer some of my favorite muesli combinations with the fruit that is in season now. I promise that they do not take more than five minutes to prepare, from gathering the ingredients to arranging in a bowl. Muesli can be made to accommodate all allergy symptoms. Oats don’t sit well with you? Try adding puffed quinoa or toasted buckwheat instead. Dealing with picky eaters? Try adding some of their favorite dried fruits or nuts to the mix. If you don’t like yogurt, try kefir or your preferred type of milk or milk substitute instead. Most of all, spend a few minutes with yourself, not Buzzfeed or your phone.

 

Muesli Mix Ratio*
-40% rolled oats

-20% other grain (puffed rice)
-40% dried fruits and nuts (10% almonds, 10% dried blueberries, 10% dried raisins, 10% date pellets)
-a handful of seeds (sunflower)
-pinch of salt

*I use this ratio for all the muesli I make. In parentheses you will find the ingredients for the blueberry muesli I mention in the recipes below.

 

Strawberry and Banana Muesli with Hemp Seeds
strawberry and banana muesli Ingredients (measurements are suggestions, adjust to your liking):
-generous quarter cup of plain yogurt
-two heaping tablespoons of blueberry muesli
-half a banana, peeled & sliced
-six strawberries, washed and sliced
-one teaspoon hemp seeds (hemp seeds are full of easily digestible protein, various vitamins, iron…the list goes on)
-half a teaspoon of poppy seeds (not pictured)
-less than one tablespoon wildflower honey

To arrange: 
1) First place the yogurt in a bowl (mine is from Crate & Barrel), and top with the muesli. Continue layering with the fruit, and then seeds. Drizzle honey on top.

 

Mixed Cherries and Strawberry Muesli with Almonds
mixed cherries and strawberry muesli with almondsIngredients (measurements are suggestions, adjust to your liking):
-generous quarter cup of plain yogurt
-two heaping tablespoons of blueberry muesli
-dozen cherries, washed and pitted, then sliced in half
-eight strawberries, washed and sliced
-about 15 almonds (almonds are high in calcium and fiber) 
-less than one tablespoon of orange blossom honey

To arrange: 
1) First place the yogurt in a bowl, and top with the muesli. Continue layering with the fruit, and then almonds. Drizzle honey on top.

 

Orange-Banana-Cherry Muesli with Chia Seeds (aka sunshine on a cloudy day)Orange-Banana-Cherry Muesli with Chia Seeds (aka sunshine on a cloudy day)

Ingredients (measurements are suggestions, adjust to your liking):
-generous quarter cup of plain yogurt
-two heaping tablespoons of blueberry muesli
-half a banana, peeled and sliced
-half an orange, slices or supremes
-about two teaspoons of chia seeds (chia seeds are a good source of B vitamins, magnesium, and phosphorus)
-4 cherries, washed and pitted, then sliced
-half an apricot, sliced
-about 20 goji berries (goji berries are high in antioxidants) 
-7 pistachios, shelled
-a light drizzle of wildflower honey, optional 

To arrange: 
1) Place the yogurt in a bowl, spread on the bottom, and top with the muesli. Arrange the banana slices on the outer side, and the orange supremes on top of the muesli in a flower/clock/circular pattern. Sprinkle the chia seeds between the spaces of the orange supremes. Layer the sliced cherries in between the orange supremes, finishing with the apricot slices, goji berries, and pistachios. Drizzle lightly with honey on top. This is optional, as the bowl is already a sweet from all of the fruits.

 

Kiwi Muesli with Rhubarb-Strawberry Compote and Poppy Seeds
Kiwi Muesli with Rhubarb-Strawberry "Jam" and Poppy Seeds

Ingredients (measurements are suggestions, adjust to your liking):
-generous quarter cup of plain yogurt
-two heaping tablespoons of blueberry muesli
-one kiwi fruit, peeled and sliced
-one tablespoon of rhubarb-strawberry “jam”, directions below
-about two teaspoons of poppy seeds

To arrange: 
1) Place the yogurt in a bowl, spread on the bottom, leaving some “gaps” for the muesli. Place the muesli in the “gaps”, and add the kiwi fruit around the edges. Place the rhubarb-strawberry jam on the yogurt, and top off with poppy seeds.

For the Rhubarb-Strawberry Compote: 
1) First things first, this is not a traditional jam, but a looser version. Now that this is out of the way, take one washed and dried medium sized rhubarb stalk, cut into two inch pieces, and 12 medium sized, halved strawberries, and toss in a bowl with juice from half a lemon, and two tablespoons of sugar. The sugar amount you use will be more or less depending on how tart your rhubarb is, or how sweet your strawberries are. Let the mixture sit until a good amount of juice has been extracted (15-30 minutes).
Note – I do not recommend honey, or other sweeteners, when making this mixture because both fruits are low in pectin, and too tart to use with citrus juices alone (the pectin in citrus would gel the mixture, but my results were too tart in previous trials). The sugar here acts as a binding/gelling agent, and honey/agave both proved to be too watery to use. The process took much longer, with diminished results. 
2) Then, place the contents of your bowl into a stainless steel or copper pot, and turn the heat on high. You want to keep the mixture from sticking, so stirring with a rubber spatula is important. As the mixture begins to boil (it will rise, bubble, and foam), reduce the heat to medium, and continue stirring.
Note – You can remove the top of the foam at this stage, or wait until the end. Removing the foam only produces a clearer set, so if this is not a problem, then move along swimmingly.
3) You want to make sure that the contents are breaking down, so if 5 minutes or so have passed and you still have large chunks of fruit, feel free to gently mash them with your spatula against the sides of the pot (not the bottom, because they may stick due to the pressure you are applying). The consistency will become a little thicker, and the bubbles will appear smaller in size. Keep stirring.

4) The desired consistency is up to you, but I measure mine by the drips falling from the spatula when I hold it up straight (horizontal) over the pot. If the drips are very rapid, that means it needs a little more time to thicken. When the drips take a second or two to come down, almost like they want to fall but have to think about it, then I turn off the heat. (And sometimes, when I haven’t been paying attention, and the drips almost seem to unite to form one larger drop, then it is closer to traditional jam (ie thicker) than I want it. You can add some water or juice to loosen a thick set jam, and boil a minute or so more.)
5) I pour the hot compote into clean jars, immediately after turning the heat off, seal and turn the jars upside down until cool, and then refrigerate. These jars sometimes seal, sometimes they do not, which is why I put them in the fridge, and eat the contents in about a week. If you would like to process this mixture, make sure to follow the USDA recommended canning instructions.

local wildflowers

Jun
01

In my mind, coming home with a few flowers (from overgrown bushes) after a hike or walk is a sign of a successful trip. I have held this belief since I was a child. It seems then that by this measure, yesterday was a successful trip.

wildflower bouquet

wildflower bouquet

krzhizhanovsky

May
18

Flags the color of poppy petals flutter above the crowds. Reality is fighting back. But its blazing suns don’t frighten the newly ascendant underground. Sleepers’ eyes are shielded by eyelids. Yesterday’s utopia has become today’s science. We’ll break the backs of facts. We’ll rout their status quos: you’ll see those status quos turn tail and run. If an ‘I’ should rise up against our ‘we’, we’ll hurl him down a well of nightmares headfirst. We’ll hide the sun behind black blots, we’ll plunge the whole world into a deep, static slumber. We’ll put even the idea of waking to sleep, and it is resists, we’ll gouge out its eyes. – pg. 100, The Branch Line

And then that warm wind, like a wing against one’s soul.  pg. 89, The Branch Line

spring

Mar
20

What a joy it has been to see this small ice poppy plant produce vibrant red blooms for the last two weeks. I especially like the folds of the petals as they emerge, reminiscent of creases on silk fabric. Spring is here, indeed, and I am elated.

Ice popies

larkin

Mar
19

Lambs that learn to walk in snow
When their bleating clouds the air
Meet a vast unwelcome, know
Nothing but a sunless glare.
Newly stumbling to and fro
All they find, outside the fold,
Is a wretched width of cold.

As they wait beside the ewe,
Her fleeces wetly caked, there lies
Hidden round them, waiting too,
Earth’s immeasurable surprise.
They could not grasp it if they knew,
What so soon will wake and grow
Utterly unlike the snow. – First Sight, Philip Larkin

strugatsky

Feb
23

Evil is ineradicable. No man is able to decrease its quantity in the world. He can improve his own fate somewhat, but it is always at the expense of the fate of others. And there will always be kings, some more cruel and some less, and barons, some more violent and some less, and there will always be the ignorant masses, who admire their oppressors and loathe their liberators. And it’s all because a slave has a much better understanding of his master, however brutal, than his liberator, for each slave can easily imagine himself in his master’s place, but few can imagine themselves in the place of a selfless liberator. – pg. 206, Hard to Be a God

happy new year

Jan
22

Looking up at the stars, I know quite well
That, for all they care, I can go to hell,
But on earth indifference is the least
We have to dread from man or beast.

How should we like it were stars to burn
With a passion for us we could not return?
If equal affection cannot be,
Let the more loving one be me.

Admirer as I think I am
Of stars that do not give a damn,
I cannot, now I see them, say
I missed one terribly all day.

Were all stars to disappear or die,
I should learn to look at an empty sky
And feel its total dark sublime,
Though this might take me a little time. – The More Loving One, W. H. Auden


Glass Beach, Fort Bragg, California