May 1, 2014
April 28, 2014
March 31, 2014
I don’t really know where to begin. So I suppose I’ll just start writing and figure it out later. It’s quite pretty out right now, in the low 70s today and henceforth all through the week. This weather makes me want to go camping, to sit outside and read a book, to eat fatuoush salad and cilantro green beans, to see friends who have been gone all winter that I miss dearly. I can hardly put into words how badly I want to get in the car and take a road trip. To drive and drive and drive, through mountains, down secondary highways, along an ocean would be nice. To camp wherever we feel like, to get up in the morning with no agenda, no plan, other than to hop in the car and see where we end up.
Years ago, when we lived in Seattle for a few months, we started what has since become known as Bainbridge Day. We woke up one morning, it was a Wednesday I remember and the sky was the brightest of blues after days of rain, and rather than do our usual of looking for jobs and trying to figure out what we were doing with our life, we decided to get the hell out of town. I had a deadline that day for an article I was writing, but as is a requirement of Bainbridge Day, I shirked my responsibilities, sent an email saying I’d have it done tomorrow and turned my phone off for the rest of the day. Then Drew and I packed a backpack, walked down to the ferry, headed out to Bainbridge Island where we walked around aimlessly for miles, sat by the water, ate mussels, talked for hours over beers, and then as it got dark we got back on the ferry, slowly moving toward the skyline all lit up like Christmas lights.
The one requirement of the day was that we weren’t allowed to talk about anything that stressed us out; money, jobs, perceived family expectations, not feeling creative enough, and so on. All the things that we talked about everyday, all the time, whether out loud or in our heads. We also allowed ourselves to spend money without feeling guilty, two things that for me, usually went hand in hand. The whole day felt so liberating, so wildly exciting to do something so nice for ourselves, to have such carefree fun together even in the midst of so much uncertainty.
Since then we’ve had a Bainbridge Day at least once a year, if not more. They’re always unplanned, on a weekday so you have to shirk some of your responsibilities and expectations of yourself, usually decided by that gut feeling you have sometime in between waking up and walking out the door to go to work. The perfect day to be a tourist in your town. Or to hit the road.
This post is for my dear friend Georgia who is moving to Maine this week and whom I will miss oh so very much. I hope you have yourself some lovely Bainbridge Days in your new town. I can’t wait to be pen pals.
March 28, 2014
March 13, 2014
January 2, 2014
At the beginning of the year I started writing down our Awesome Dinners/Lunches/Breakfasts of 2013 in a small notebook. I had tried a year or two before to write down every single dinner we ate but then I got bored and stopped after about 6 months. I didn’t really care about the nights we ate leftovers or didn’t feel like going to the store and made something from whatever was in the pantry, or if that was even too much work, the dinners of popcorn and beer. I’m only really interested in the highlight reel.
In June my grandfather passed away and while my mom, aunt and I were cleaning out his closet I found this unused notebook of his from back in the day, back when they used the term currency and people wrote letters. So I transferred all the meals I had written in the other notebook, not too many as it turns out since I was in quite the cooking slump the first half of the year, and now I keep it in my purse as my awesome meal journal. I think he would’ve liked that.
I’d have to say 2013 was the year of Brothy Asian Noodle Soups, made most of the time by Drew. I crave it just writing that sentence. He has a great, simple recipe where you make a broth of ginger, garlic, star anise, soy sauce and fish sauce and then you add whatever you feel like to it. My personal favorites are bean sprouts, kimchi, peanuts, cilantro, lime and really good ramen noodles from the asian market. Over Thanksgiving weekend we ate this three days in a row.
I also ate a lot of tacos this year, one of my favorite food vehicles. For a few months this summer, every other week I’d help my friend sling tacos at the farmers market using whatever was in season, straight from the farmers. One of the most memorable was when we topped the tacos with a quick pickle of radishes, every color of carrots and green onions. They were so beautiful and vibrant.
In September we went to Nashville for the weekend and while playing scrabble one night with our friends, according to my notebook we ate a dinner of snacks that consisted of brie, bread, triscuits, hummus, grapes, baby carrots, gin and tonics, reeses peanut butter cups and chips and salsa. Quite the medley.
My notebook also says that on Monday, July 1st we cooked two dishes from the Jerusalem cookbook for dinner that night. Swiss chard with tahini, yogurt and buttered pine nuts which I made a note that it was super delicious!, and turkey zucchini burgers with green onion and cumin.
A few days later our friends came to visit for the Fourth of July and it seems that I went all out and made two more recipes from Jerusalem; pasta with yogurt, peas and chile (this is one of my favorite recipes) and a baby spinach salad with apricots, almonds, toasted pita and sumac. Then for dessert, banana cake with chocolate chips and crystalized ginger.
I already miss tomato and peach season, there are so many recipes I never got around to making since for the most part this summer I ate tomatoes raw on top of open faced sandwiches, I made tomato basil risotto from the New York Times three times one week, gazpacho pretty much every week for as long as tomato season held out, and other than eating peaches dripping over the sink, I made peach jam twice with the idea that we’d save it for a gloomy winter day like today, but it was just too delicious for that kind of patience. Maybe next year.
I also ate a lot of pretty spectacular meals while camping this year, since everything tastes better outside. In August Drew and I spent a couple nights in South Carolina where we made fried rice with bacon, kale, carrots, green onion, eggs, garlic, ginger and homemade cilantro mint herb salt. I remember that trip because we bought a whole bunch of peaches at a roadside stand on our way back and made peach jam for the first time that afternoon.
In October we camped with our friends in West Virginia and on the very first night we made a dinner of steak cooked over the fire inside of corn tortillas with sautéed zucchini and onions. Even though we never really plan it that way, every time we camp with them we always seem to eat steak cooked over the fire. It is one of my most favorite camping meals. The absolute best was when we carved sticks into sharp points and skewered super thin slices of steak onto them and cooked it that way over the fire. Like meat marshmallows.
The one thing I know with absolute certainty that I will make again this year is my mom’s recipe for Irish Soda Bread, the same recipe she’d make every year on Saint Patrick’s Day. I haven’t yet tackled the corned beef and cabbage and boiled potatoes part of the tradition, and maybe 2014 will be my year for that, but I just love knowing that every year on March 17th I can make this bread and it will taste exactly as I remembered.
So here’s to another year of delicious meals, epic feasts with friends and more time spent cooking outside. Happy 2014 everyone!
Manney Irish Soda Bread
3 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
3 tsp baking powder
1 1/4 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup oil
1 cup raisins
Grease bread pan and dust with flour. Bake at 325 degrees for one hour.
November 18, 2013
I’m not sure where it started with me and nature. Growing up my family was not all that outdoorsy. Sure, we’d go canoeing down the Huron River a few times each summer, there was a bit of dabbling in camping once or twice, my dad or brother would take me fishing sometimes at Argo Park. We never took it to the next level or anything, like with gear or synthetic shirts or hiking boots. But who knows, maybe that was all it took, maybe that was just enough to give me the itch for more.
In high school I adorned my walls with pictures I cut out of magazines like Outside, Backpacker and Powder. I imagined myself scaling huge cliffs, whitewater rafting, backcountry skiing, writing for National Geographic, going on extreme adventures. When I was 22 years old Drew and I moved out west to Boulder, Colorado where we hiked and camped all the time for four years. It was there that I started to realize I’m not so much of an extreme sport sort of person. I barely even like waterskiing. I would much rather snowshoe or cross-country ski than downhill. The thought of scaling huge rock walls with hundreds of feet of nothing below scares the shit out of me. What I like most of all about being in nature is the stillness, the quiet. That when I camp all I have with me is a good book, stuff to cook with, and a camera.
Last month we met our friends Kim and Ryan at Bluestone State Park in West Virginia to camp for a couple nights. We’d never been to this campground before and when we got there the cool, rustic tent camping area was closed and the vast, nearly treeless, someone’s-playing-a-radio-a-few-sites-over RV campground was the only place open. So after setting aside our disappointment and our vision for a secluded, backwoods getaway, we sucked it up and found the best spot we could from our limited options. We cooked food, drank wine, caught up on life and then the next day, right around lunchtime, the whole campground cleared out and we had the place to ourselves. Suddenly it became the best place ever.
It was one of those long, lingering afternoons where it feels like it should be 5 o’clock but instead it’s barely one. It was early October, the afternoon was windy and sunny after a foggy morning, the leaves just starting to turn, wisps of burnt red and orange. We sat at the picnic table for hours, played Euchre, drank coffee, went on a long hike, took pictures, Drew and I made kimchi fried rice for dinner, Kim and Ryan built a fire. Then the next day, sometime in the early afternoon, after a breakfast of potatoes and eggs, we went our separate ways, Kim and Ryan back up to Thomas, West Virginia and us, home to Asheville. It had poured down rain in the middle of the night and as we drove through the Virginias and Tennessee, you could see the changes in the trees, the leaves getting closer to their peak.
Somehow I need more of that in my life, and I’m on a quest to find a way to make it happen. There is nothing that calms me to the core like being outside away from everything. When I was 19 years old I spent nearly three months working at a summer camp in northern Wisconsin and on the long drive home back to Michigan, after weeks of sleeping in a cabin, waking up at sunrise to swim or sit alone on the dock and read, watching the sunset every evening, I cried, feeling homesick for what I was leaving behind. I’ve always been conflicted, wondering if I’m a city girl or a country girl, since I feel at home in both and fear isolation, in both. But for now, with the colder nights, shorter days and holidays approaching, I’ll have to let my ideas simmer and embrace the city girl in me a bit more. With a good book to read, a camera and stuff to cook with.
Kimchi Fried Rice
I love making this recipe at home or camping. It takes hardly any time at all, uses barely any ingredients and is so very, very satisfying. Unless of course, you hate kimchi, in which case I don’t think you’ll like this at all.
A few tablespoons of canola oil
About 2 cups of kimchi
About 4 cups of leftover cooked rice
4 fried eggs, or poached would be super delicious too if you’re feeling ambitious
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the kimchi and sauté for about 5 minutes or so, until a little bit crispy. Add the rice, cook until heated through. Divide onto plates and top with a fried egg. Enjoy every bite.