Tag Archive | zoom cooking

Connections

Evening harvest of peppers. Two red bells (one unripe but wounded), two juicy Blots, five Aji crystals, six Chimayos, and a mess o’ jalapeños. I’m grateful for this spicy abundance from the garden, for the resilience of these plants that I started from the miracle of tiny seeds inside in early spring. Amazing!

I’m grateful for a day filled with loving connections with friends old and new, from down the road to Hawaii to the east coast. I’m grateful for Zoom Cooking with Amy, Instagram Edition. Tonight we opted for simple and quick, and prepared two recipes we’ve seen on Instagram. We started by halving and scoring some small potatoes as the butter melted in a sheetpan in the oven. We grated parmesan and tossed in spices of our choosing, mixed those with the butter in the pan, then pressed the potatoes cut side down onto the yummy goo, and cooked for about half an hour at 425℉.

While the potatoes cooked, we of course mixed our martinis, and then chopped leeks into one-inch lengths, and seared them in butter.

First one side…
…then the other
Then we steamed them in stock for about five minutes, removed the lid, and mixed in some miso (I used red, she used white), tamarind paste, and a splash of Dijon mustard, stirring until the sauce coated the leaks and thickened just a little.
And that was our dinner. So simple, so delicious.
I read to harvest jalapeños by holding the pepper at the base and pushing up: turns out when they’re ready the just pop right off the stalk that way. I checked a few and ended up harvesting a lot. Also read to harvest them often so they’ll keep producing. We’ve got at least a month before first frost, so I’m hoping this huge harvest will result in more by the end of the season.
Since peppers are one of the few veggies that freeze well without being blanched, I halved all the jalapeños, scooped the pith and seeds out, and laid them on a tray to freeze. This way I can grab a handful whenever I want to make some poppers. Apparently you can just load them with filling straight from the freezer and put them right in the oven. We’ll know more later!

Zoom Cooking with Amy: Herb Roasted Potatoes

…with feta-yogurt dip, chopped nuts, and scallions…

All I knew was potatoes and feta, and all I had to do was show up with the ingredients. Amy talked me through the recipe. How thick to slice the potatoes, how long to boil them, how much of which herbs to toss in with onions and potatoes to roast…

…how much feta and yogurt, lemon zest and juice, garlic, salt and pepper to blitz in the food processor for the delicious sauce… to line the bowl with the sauce, spoon the roasted vegetables on top, sprinkle with nuts and scallions, and drizzle with honey. We sipped our cocktails and talked of many things as we cooked and ate, as we always do. I can hardly recall a single one of them. I’m grateful for the easy, long friendship (is it 50 years? 51?) that we get to continue across the continent with zoom cooking, and grateful for all the great dishes we’ve made together in person and apart. I’m grateful for locally grown, organic potatoes from Farm Runners, and for custom grocery delivery from P&P. I’m grateful for perennial scallions in my garden from early spring through late fall.

In the midst of cooking I paused to split the bread dough in two and set it on the warm stove to rise in loaf pans. I’m grateful for the sourdough starter that Ruth gave me oh so many years ago still going strong, for the new standard loaf pans I bought from King Arthur to finally replace the oversize pans I inherited from my mother oh so many years ago, for the persistence to try this recipe again and again learning a little more each time how to bake at high altitude.

I’m grateful that this time, I think I finally got it right. I won’t quite know til I slice the loaves tomorrow. They just came out of the oven and need to cool completely before I take the serrated bread knife to them, but they look and sound just right.

I’m grateful for a slow, quiet morning in the garden, and the gorgeous snapdragons I grew from seed which are just now starting to bloom. I’m grateful for connections with friends and cousins here and afar throughout the day, and grateful that as far as I know everyone I love woke up alive this morning. Not everyone did, and that stark reminder highlights the value of each precious day and every act of kindness, compassion, and connection it holds. I’m grateful for mindfulness practice, and the healthier perspective it’s brought to all aspects of life, from the personal to the political and the planetary. I’m grateful.

42+

The most perfect western tiger swallowtail I have ever seen. She must have just emerged from her cocoon. Not a tear or tatter on her as she feeds on the perennial onions in full bloom the past couple of weeks.

It’s been a challenging few weeks. Between internal and external events, I’m tired all the time. It’s hard to rise to each occasion. But from this glum place, I’ve reached a conclusion: I need to return to my daily gratitude practice. And why bother with a thousand words, when a couple of numerals and some pictures can do the job? So, catching up for the past couple of weeks, here are just some of the things I’m grateful for…

Honeybee on the crabapple tree a couple of weeks ago.

42+ is a gratitude practice from the Active Hope course I just completed this evening. It’s freely available online, and one of these days I’ll probably facilitate a group engagement similar to the one that just ended, hosted by a friend. Today, I’m grateful for (4) having been given the opportunity to take the course, having made the commitment to take it and participated in it fully, and for the wonderful classmates I shared the eight-week journey with. I’m grateful to (2) Deborah Sussex for offering the course for free, and for her skillful and open-hearted facilitating of it through an increasingly difficult time in our country, when active hope is needed more than ever. The + part is how I will express my gratitude: right here, right now. Many thanks, Deb, Denali, Kes, Renee, and everyone else, for the inspiring experience of virtual connection.

I don’t know western bumblebees well enough to identify this one who was enjoying the lilacs in their glory. I also enjoyed them every single day of their bloom, snipping a couple of clusters each evening to bring inside for their fleeting, saturating scent.
I’m grateful for Zoom cooking with Amy a couple of weeks ago…
…grateful for Topaz and Wren getting along…
…for the claret cup blossoms…
…for garden asparagus from Kim, and for pesto with cashews and garden arugula, and for the Instagram inspiration to combine them…
I’m grateful that Garden Buddy had some extra plastic jugs after a well-meaning neighbor crushed all those I’d been saving to use for frost protection. Grateful to have all the little peppers and tomatoes in the ground, just in time for the last freeze–ha!–but saved by the jugs.
Grateful for Boyz Lunch again outside, with a fantastic frittata and orange chiffon cake…
… and for the silly pleasure of a successful latté stencil.
I’m grateful for daily Wordle laughs with cousin Melinda, and the gentle, mind-tickling competition between us.
Grateful for pea flowers a few days ago, and the first fragile pea pods just forming today.
Grateful for this bean sampler and a couple of extra treats from this small, fabulous heirloom bean company, and grateful to SB for turning me onto them. Looking forward to making many healthful meals with these dried goodies as the garden harvest comes in.
Grateful for time with this little old man who stayed with us the past week while his mama traveled. Almost fifteen, and I’ve known him since he was a pup. Dear old Rocky is grey and wobbly now, but still full of spunk in the morning. He’s teaching Wren some good habits, and we’re trying to preclude her learning some bad ones as well.
And finally, I’m grateful for this little cuddlebug, who softens my heart more and more each day with her irrepressible Piglet energy and her unconditional love.

Zoom Cooking with Amy: Empanadas

It’s been a busy winter. We haven’t zoom-cooked in a long time. She said, “What shall we make?” I said, “Empanadas.” She found recipes and that was that. I’m always grateful for zoom cooking with Amy.
Topaz and I were both grateful to wake up alive this morning, just in the nick of time to start the fullness of another precious day. I used sour milk for the latte. That was disappointing, but I still had time to make a pot of regular coffee before a zoom meeting. I tried to drink it, I really did, and it didn’t taste bad, but I couldn’t get past the curdled foam. Had it been the last cup of coffee in the house, I might have drunk it. I’m grateful I had a choice.
We made the dough in a food processor, which works, but sometimes you have to pour out the damp sand of dough and form it together on the board. These piles became two discs which I chilled while I took Topaz for a walk. We had about an hour before Zoom time.
Caption?
We paused to sit together in the sun west of the house. But it was cold, so we didn’t stay out long.
Back inside, I made the empanada filling. Diced shiitake mushrooms and shallots, sautéed slowly in butter; when that was cooked, some chopped raisins and leftover chicken breast shredded, with a couple splashes of thick balsamic vinegar. Then it was time to send the link, and make a drink.
Amy wanted Palomas for our south of the border dinner, so we each whipped up one of those. She actually put a pepper mix in with the salt on her rim. Two ounces fresh grapefruit juice (thanks, Kathleen!), two oz Tequila, ½ oz lime juice, and a splash of agave syrup, shaken and poured over ice, then topped with a few ounces of sparkling water. It was delicious.
The recipe said to roll and cut the dough, but Amy read we could use tortilla presses, and what a brilliant idea. Perfect thickness, perfect size, and no wasted dough.
In went the filling with grated Swiss…
… pastries folded, sealed, and brushed with egg yolk…
…and baked til golden brown. They were not nearly so hard or complicated as we both thought they’d be. See where expectations get you? This was a great example of misperception, projection, exaggeration. A tiny example, but still, an example. What on earth made us think that making empanadas was going to be hard? They turned out perfectly, tasty and beautiful. And above all they were really fun to make!
She made a fancy salsa with cilantro and chili paste. I didn’t have either, but I did have leftover parsley dip from the other night when I had to use a cup of parsley I’d trimmed off the overgrown indoor plant. That had mayo, sour cream, and garlic in it. To that, I added a generous share of hot sauce and a pinch of paprika, for a perfectly spiced and creamy dipping sauce. We had cookies for dessert. Amy had sent me some chocolate chip cookies she made with walnuts and pecans toasted in butter and salted. She also sprinkled the tops with sugar and a touch of salt. Thanks to the sluggish postal service, my cookies arrived three days late, just in time for zoom cooking with Amy.
Fifty years of friendship as of last September. What a treasure.

Day Two: Beignets

I’m grateful for Day Two of Zoom Cooking with Amy. After making the dough last night, this morning we rolled it and cut it and fried and sugared it, for our first attempt at classic New Orleans beignets.

As usual it was fun, but we were both a bit dissatisfied with the quality of the beignets, though neither of us was sure exactly what they were supposed to be like. We felt that they were more doughy than they should be. She said hers were chewy. Mine were, frankly, an abject failure, overcooked outside and underdone inside. We agreed they wouldn’t pass muster with Paul Hollywood. I’m grateful for the lessons I learned in the effort. First, they should have been rolled thinner. Second, they browned much too fast. I surmised, too late, that the oil temperature should be lower than stated, since water boils at a lower temperature at this altitude. Indeed, when I looked it up afterward, I found this:

Deep-Fat Frying: The lower boiling point of water in foods requires lowering the temperature of the fat to prevent food from over browning on the outside while being undercooked on the inside. Decrease the frying temperature about 3°F (1°C) for every 1,000 ft (300 meters) increase in elevation.

Kim Allison, ThermoBlog

But since beignets or doughnuts or pretty much any fried pastry is simply a vehicle for sugar, we both ate plenty of them with our coffee, and laughed about it.

I composted the first batch, rolled the remaining squares thinner, cut them in half, and fried up some more beignet logs. I learned a third lesson here, the reason they are cut square (balanced) and not rectangular: some of them wouldn’t flip over in the oil, kept rolling back onto their first side so I had to hold them over.

A few of them turned out the way I think they’re meant to be, airy in the middle, though even then they were more trouble than they were worth, in my estimation. I’m grateful we did this for the delight of cooking and spending time together, rather than with any attachment to outcome.

Fall

I’m grateful for another beautiful fall day. The brief brutal cold of ‘pre-winter’ has passed. Nights are mild in the twenties and thirties, and days warm up thirty degrees or more. The moon has filled and slowly wanes, days are bright with sun in bluebird skies. (I never understood the ‘bluebird sky’ until I saw a mountain bluebird male.) It’s perfect weather. I’m grateful the old dog is still alive to enjoy a few short wobbles through the woods with Topaz tagging along. Grateful to be learning from him just how much gentleness I possess, and how much more I can stand to grow.

I’m grateful for the golden beauty of my imperfect little aspen tree, its symmetry twisted by a heavy snow years ago. Like me, the tree is flawed but doing its best. I’m grateful for awareness and humility. I’m grateful for the winding down that comes with fall, a welcome transition between the rollicking thrill of garden season and the respite of winter’s hibernation.

I’m grateful too, for the first ever two-part Zoom Cooking with Amy. Tonight we snacked with cocktails, then whipped up a sweet, soft dough for morning. After the dough rests in the fridge overnight, we’ll reconvene with coffee to bake…to be continued!

Zoom Cooking with Amy: Moussaka

We’ve been planning it for weeks. I chose traditional Greek moussaka because I wanted something to do with the Navdanya eggplants I grew. I’m not a huge eggplant fan (we had a falling out many years ago), but I want to like them. This Asian variety is hardy in this climate, and gave more fruits than any previous eggplant I’ve grown. This moussaka recipe calls for potatoes, tomatoes, garlic and eggplant, all of which I was delighted, and grateful, to provide from my own back yard.

Even the tomato paste came from my garden! It is such a gratifying feeling to reach in the freezer and pull out a cube of homemade tomato paste, all that summer distilled into one little frozen block. The lamb in the meat sauce came from a nice rancher I know in the next valley over. It was a busy day, so I fit in making the first sauce with my morning coffee…

…and I whipped up a quick béchamel on my lunch break. With both sauces in the fridge I went to teach my first mindfulness class, filled with gratitude for all the day had brought so far.

Stellar rallied this morning after a long night’s sleep, eager to take a walk, and excited to see Mr. Wilson when he came to cut up slab wood for the stove. Stellar spent most of the morning here by the gate, one of his all-time favorite locations, keeping watch over his domain as always. I’m grateful for another day with him, and I showered him with attention every chance I got.

“The most precious gift we can offer anyone is our attention.” ~ Thích Nhất Hạnh

After class, and another short walk with Stellar, wheezing as he went, it was right back to zoom cooking with Amy. Our first task was to slice the eggplants a centimeter thick, salt them, and set in a colander.

Three of the precious few russet potatoes lent their texture and flavor as the bottom layer in this recipe. As the eggplants baked, the potatoes were sliced, fried first, then layered into a buttered pan…

One layer of eggplant covers the potato layer, which in turn gets covered by the meat sauce…

Another eggplant layer, topped with the béchamel sauce, and shredded parmesan…

And baked til golden brown! Amy has the patience of a saint. She’s two hours ahead, so she didn’t even sit down to eat til after nine p.m.

I’m grateful for a full day with lots of meaningful connection, celebrating joy in the face of sorrow, attending to a full range of emotions and letting them flow through. I’m grateful for Stellar’s resilience, rainclouds, mindfulness practice, teaching, a warm evening fire in the woodstove, and zoom cooking with Amy, moussaka edition. I’m sure I’m grateful for way more than that that I can’t remember, and I’m grateful for the warm soft bed I’m heading to now.

Food, Again

The morning started well when I got a shot I’ve been hoping for for a long long time: two hummingbirds midair. It was with my camera-phone instead of my husband camera, so it’s not a great image, but certainly captures the drama of their territorial nature as they protect their food source. I’m grateful for a telephone that can live in my pocket and capture a photo like this! Unheard of even a decade ago, much less when I was first meeting the big wide world forty and fifty years ago. I’m grateful that I get to spend an hour in the morning before the workday begins, out in the garden with growing, living things.

Then it was time to cook Boyz Lunch. With the rattlesnake pole beans simmering in oil, ginger, parsley, black mustard seeds, and the first paprika pepper harvested…

…an organic whole chicken roasting in the oven (in a wonderful non-stick pan from Food 52: I was skeptical but it’s been well worth the price)…

…and mashed potatoes and sliced tomatoes from the garden, we feasted! I’m grateful for all the food enjoyed today, by me and others I provide for, and for the opportunity to prepare a feast for my friends; for the hard work in the garden paying off, and for the joy that cooking brings me.

I’m grateful for little Biko, who is just about 22 years old, in the prime of his life, and always eager for something green; and grateful to offer John the joy of feeding him lettuce from the garden.

Orchid interlude

I’m grateful for this lettuce-leaf basil, that grows so prolifically in a pot, with leaves so huge they really could be used as lettuce, as Amy pointed out, and will no doubt show up on my next BLT instead of lettuce. Maybe tomorrow.

And then it was time for Zoom Cooking with Amy. We started by making the pasta dough, and then the no-cook sauce, and while those were resting we enjoyed martinis together. Then we rolled and shaped the strozzapreti, and assembled our meals.

So simple, so delicious: chopped tomatoes, basil, garlic, a bit of olive oil, resting to meld the flavors.
We laughed about how we made The Big Lasagna last year, rolling the dough by hand, taking hours! We are both grateful to have mechanical pasta rollers now! I’m grateful for the KitchenAid attachment I was given ♥️.
I’m grateful for any cooking tips, and read recently that to keep pasta from sticking together it’s best to remove it from the water with a slotted spoon, rather than dump it into a colander.

And then we tossed the cooked pasta with the tomato-basil-garlic sauce, sprinkled with parmesan, and sat down to enjoy our dinner together. I am always and forever grateful for zoom cooking with Amy.

Zoom Cooking with Amy: Carrot Pancakes

I’ve really missed Zoom cooking with Amy in the six weeks that my tendon has been healing. I’m grateful for the diagnosis and the therapy, and the home exercises prescribed by OT Marla, and that I have had the dedication to be compliant. I can do so much more with my left hand now than I could two months ago, and with much less pain. Amy was up for spontaneous Zoom cooking, and went out to buy carrots to make the recipe I’ve been dreaming about for weeks.

With the second carrot harvest yesterday, and some leftover store-bought carrots, I needed to use up some, and sent Amy this recipe that looked too good to pass up. I didn’t have yogurt, so made a tomato-herb-sour cream sauce; without enough cilantro in the garden, I added parsley to the carrot-egg-garbanzo flour pancakes. They were delicious! I’m grateful for carrots from the garden, for ranch-fresh eggs, for improvisation; for bacon fat and olive oil, and for all the people and processes involved in getting these staples into my kitchen from where they originated; I’m grateful for the internet, and all the hundreds or thousands of people, and the materials, engineering, and ingenuity that cause the internet to come into my house and open the entire world to my curiosity and appreciation. I’m grateful for Zoom cooking with Amy, who’s been my friend for fifty years.

Carrot Pancakes with Salted Yogurt, minus the salted yogurt. So simple, so delicious!
I’m also grateful for the opportunity to help Deb by keeping Rocky for a week while she travels into the maw of Henri; I’m grateful to spend time with this fierce, adorable little terrier that I rescued thirteen years ago from an untenable situation.

Two Walks

Funny how our expectations and standards change as our conditions change. Stellar had a really good day, and got a long walk to the canyon this morning, and a medium walk around the sunset loop this evening. Some years ago, this wouldn’t have seemed like a big deal to me, but after the past year with him, and especially the past few months, it’s momentous. I’m grateful that he had the mobility for two walks today.

And in between Stellar’s two walk, there was a lot more to be grateful for, including a little bit of actual rain. Not more than a couple of minutes, but rain nonetheless; again, changing standards. In this climate induced drought, even a trace of rain and a cool breeze is something to celebrate. There may have been a rainbow, or trace of one, but it was time for me to come inside for … Zoom Cooking with Amy!

Tonight we cracked open the Gin Mayo she sent awhile ago, and put some in a spontaneous pimento-cheese. The main event was Bacon Jam. I never did hear tell of such a thing! We each made a different type of burger to try it on. She made a chicken burger, and I made a burger burrito because I didn’t have bread or buns. I formed the burger into a bratwurst shape and rolled it up inside a tortilla slathered with pimento cheese, bacon jam, and a handful of lettuce.