all is right in the world

beans (again)



From here until the end of May, I want to spend most of my time outside, and also drink a lot of beer.
I've been spending too much time in front of screens lately.

This is a strange time, like everything is simultaneously in hyperdrive but also limbo. With springtime, everything feels fresh and small and new. Especially when I look out my tiny bathroom window and notice all the still-unfurling leaves.

I keep thinking that I'm excited about everything, though every now and then, as I hear that someone else is moving, or figured something out-- I don't know--there's a lot going on.

Per the usual, I've been too busy to really cook anything. I read on the blog Orangette, her nice piece about doctoring up cans of beans with a little butter and spices. I've been doing this all week with cans of black beans. I add them straight to the pot with a sliver of butter, pinches of cumin and some chopped parsley-- then puree them until they're creamy and thick. I eat them plain and standing over the stove, sometimes with crumbles of feta cheese.


This last year hasn't gone the way I thought it would. Not that I had a clear idea about "how it would be," but all the same, it hasn't been the way I thought it would. And I guess I've been so in the present, that I haven't given much thought at all to what happens after May. When I think about "after May," I think about places. Visiting friends in New York and trying the city on for size again, or somehow going to Tel Aviv, where I'd  sit on the beach, with hands full of olives. I do not know if these are possible things, but they are still good to think about.

Right now, there are still six weeks until I graduate.
Even though I have difficulty listening to Father John Misty, there's a line off his new record, where he sings about the end of a relationship: "at least we'll both go on livinggggg!" Which is funny and sad and real and true/untrue. Which is the thing I keep reminding myself about the end of college-- I'll go on "livingggggg."

I will be so relieved, I think. To be done.

From here until the end of May, I'm going to spend most of my time outside, and also drink a lot of beer. And I'm going to think about the possibilities.



Buttermilk Skillet Cake with Walnut Praline Topping


Right now I am lying on my bed with my shoes on. 
White sunlight coming in through the window. 
Two nights ago, I saw a band called Chipper Jones play. 
Of course the beauty of music, and the particular beauty of live music, is that it brings you into NOW.
Watching the drummer play, I thought he was so graceful. Even though I’m still not totally sure what “grace” really even IS. Internal peace? Quiet? Silent passion? 

So much of my time these past few years has been me struggling to find a rhythm that makes sense— trying to find the grace in motion. 
Like the kind of grace I thought that drummer showed, even if only for a moment. 

I don’t know. 


I realized the other day that from here on out, with only one semester of college to go, not that it hasn’t been real— but that the planned time is mostly ending. 
It’s like the feeling I get when I think about how old I’ll be in ten years. 
Or how I felt when I first realized that in the next few years many of my friends will get married, someone is going to have a baby, everyone falling in and out of love across time zones, working working working on their New Year’s resolutions for the rest of forever until 
The End. 
Of course, this is the beginning of the rest of forever.

I made a cake the other day. 



A buttermilk skillet cake with a walnut praline topping because I like it when things are tangible. Because making things gives rhythm to days that pass so quick/slow. 
And making things feels like grace. 

This year, I want to make things. 

One of my favorite people in the entire world sent me a mostly incoherent, very drunk email on January 1st. At the end of the message he said, “all my love. from a lost yet broken yet wonderfull soul.” 

“Lost yet broken yet wonderfull.” 

Somehow, I feel that this really sums it up. 

"Yet wonderfull." 

I love you I love you I love you. 


xoxo
m


Buttermilk Skillet Cake with Walnut Praline Topping
from The Joy the Baker Cookbook

For the cake:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup buttermilk
For the praline topping:
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/4 cup heavy cream
generous pinch salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts

Preheat your oven to 375F/ 190C, positioning a rack in the upper third of the oven.
Butter and flour the bottom and sides of an 8 or 9-inch cast-iron skillet (or a 9-inch cake pan).
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar until blended and lighter in color, about 3 minutes. Add egg and yolk, beating for a minute between each addition. Beat in the vanilla.
Turn the speed to low, and add half of the flour mixture. Next, add the buttermilk, and when the flour is just combined, add the remaining flour. Remove the bowl from the mixer, and gently finish incorporating the ingredients with a spatula, taking care not to overmix. Spoon the batter into prepared skillet or pan, spreading evenly. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
While the cake bakes, make the praline topping: in a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine brown sugar, butter, cream and salt. Bring the mixture to a soft boil for 3 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla and nuts. Inhale.
Let the mixture rest in the pan for 20 minutes, to firm up. Once it has rested, and the cake has been removed from the oven, pour the praline mixture over the warm cake, spreading evenly. (If you chose to bake this in a cake pan instead of a skillet, remove the cake from the pan and place it on a cake plate, before pouring the topping over the cake.) Serve immediately, or at room temperature.
Cake will keep, well wrapped and at room temperature, for up to 4 days.

Curried Lentil Soup with Tomato and Spinach


I spend a lot of time in bed these days, staring at the massive pecan tree just outside my window. 
I think about the future a lot.
I often wonder if everyone else is in their bed too, thinking about whatever it is that comes next, and staring at their respective trees. 


When the future makes me lonely, I think about Georgia O'Keefe who lived alone in a tiny adobe house in the red desert of New Mexico. When she couldn't sleep she would make yogurt and knead loaves of bread and sweep her floor in the middle of the night. Then I think about the food writer, MFK Fisher, who liked to leave peeled oranges on her window sill, especially in the winter, until the clear orange membrane became dry and crackly, and so when she bit, the orange was only a cold punch of crunch and winter and citrus. 


Sometimes, I think about a boy I knew only briefly, who once cooked me a dinner that mostly consisted of boiled carrots and brown rice, and how kind it was, but how much it needed salt. We  later went to a party, where everyone was older, and speaking languages I didn’t understand. We sat in a corner, and he told me about his lovers, while a tiny French man sang and danced along to "Like A Virgin." The little man danced up to me, "Whenever I feel sad,” he said, “I just listen to Madonna! Like a virgin! Like a virgin!!!" 

And often, I think about my friend Mary Margaret, who was the most beautiful old person I’ve ever known, and she died too soon, but she would throw these parties that were catered by Torchy’s Tacos, and the old-school literati and glitterati of my hometown would go, and there was always this man who wore his cowboy hat inside, he would sit and play groovy ragtime licks on her baby grand piano for hours. 


So lately, I spend a lot of time lying on my bed, staring at the tree outside my window. 
Lately, it rains. 
The other night I made this pot of lentils, and added potatoes and all the remaining odds and ends in my refrigerator.
And the simplicity of the lentils reminded me of all these tiny beautiful things; dancing to Madonna, cold oranges, and tiny houses in big deserts and cowboy hats. 

And how small it all is, and how perfectly beautiful. 


Curried Lentil Soup with Tomato and Spinach
from The Gourmet Cookbook 

1/4 cup vegetable oil
2/3 cup finely chopped onion 
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons finely grated peeled fresh ginger
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 cup lentils, picked over and rinsed
2 1/2 cups (20 ounces) chicken stock or store-bought low-sodium broth
2 1/2 cups water
2/3 cup chopped drained canned tomatoes
2 cups coarsely chopped spinach
fresh lemon juice to taste
salt and black pepper

Heat oil in a 4-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, 6 to 8 minutes. Add garlic and ginger and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add curry powder and cumin and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Add lentils, stock, and water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, until lentils are tender, 20 to 25 minutes. 
Stir in tomatoes and spinach and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until spinach is wilted, about 2 minutes. Add lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste. 


Jambalaya


I just moved again, my fourth time moving in the past four years. This is exhausting only because there's constant re-adaptation to a new kitchen, which is actually a real thing. I don't know how electric burners work?? Why does the oven light go on and off?? Just how cold IS my freezer? Also, because I've always lived with other people, everyone else always provided all the culinary hardware, which means that I've been getting inventive. 
Did you know you can actually shred cheese with a vegetable peeler? 


(Like a fool, I forgot to take pictures, so here is my brother and some nice pink skies.) 

Anyways, I made some jambalaya so fine that I thought I had been kidnapped as a baby because actually I MUST be Cajun.

This explains everything!

The real thing about jambalaya, is that you can adapt it to all your personal cravings.
After reading several recipes it appears that most people don't put shrimp in it?
But my mama always puts shrimp in her jambalaya, so I did too.
You can make it on the stovetop, or in the oven or both (I did both.)
You can add okra, or not.
You can add sausage or not.
You can make your own cajun seasoning or not.
It's great.



Mostly I liked making jambalaya, because it made me feel at home, and feeling at home is suddenly a rare and special thing. 
Lately, I find myself asking questions such as, do other people make a place a home?
Is home just where you feel safest? 

Sometimes, when these questions are too much, I sit in my small green bathroom, and watch a trail of tiny black ants crawl from the east end of my bathtub near the faucet to the west end where I keep my shampoo. 
I like the ants, because the ants are not concerned with questions of home or place or belonging. 
They just keep walking. 

The point is. 
This jambalaya is worth you time. It will make the air smell thick and rich and spicy. 
It will bring you back to the tactile, real version of yourself. The part of yourself that only exists in the HERE NOW.  
But mostly it tastes really good. And fills you up. 

You will love it. 

And I love you. 


XOXO



Jambalaya 
via AllRecipes.com 

These are guidelines, adapt as you please. 

2 tablespoons peanut oil, divided
1 tablespoon Cajun seasoning
10 ounces andouille sausage, slices into rounds
1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 onion, diced
1 small green bell pepper, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 (16 ounce) can crushed Italian tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 1/4 cups uncooked white rice
2 1/2 cups chicken broth

1. Heat 1 tablespoon of peanut oil in a large heavy Dutch oven over medium heat. Season the sausage and chicken pieces with Cajun seasoning. Saute sausage until browned. Remove with slotted spoon, and set aside. Add 1 tablespoon peanut oil, and saute chicken pieces until lightly browned on all sides. Remove with a slotted spoon, and set aside.

2. In the same pot, saute onion, bell pepper, celery and garlic until tender. Stir in crushed tomatoes, and season with red pepper, black pepper, salt, hot pepper sauce, and Worcestershire sauce. Stir in chicken and sausage. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

3. Stir in the rice and chicken broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 20 to 25 minutes, or until liquid is absorbed. (I actually ended up putting my Jambalaya in the oven at 375 F, for about half an hour because my electric burners didn't seem capable of cooking everything evenly for a long period of time.)