Friday, July 28, 2017

A few of my favorite things - 7/28/17

These days are all about the temporary: living out of boxes, in a (hopefully) short-term rental house. While there is so much that feels open-ended, like my sentences are all end with an ellipsis, I am finding it helpful to establish, where I can, consistency and a sense of normalcy. Even the mundane is welcome at this point. My husband and I have been getting up around 5:30am to walk/jog. The picture above was taken the first morning we visited Irene Rinehart park.

As a way of establishing another familiar process, I thought I would also start to regularly share a few of my current favorite things:

Grantchester season 3 just wrapped up and I am not entirely sure what to think of the direction the characters have taken. Is anyone else out there watching?

I think listening to this song transforms any situation. I used to listen to it on the morning train into LA and look at the houses flashing by the trains path and think of all the people waking up to start their days. After our recent move, the first morning we jogged down by the Yakima river, both my husband and I put in ear buds and played this song. It was our soundtrack and accompanied only by the crunch of the gravel path and whistles of birds. Pretty magical.

This article in the LA Times made me smile (and naturally, it is about dachshunds).

For those who may wonder: how are Duke and Harriet adjusting? Here is Harriet soaking up the central Washington sunlight. She celebrated her 6th birthday this week and I cried: out of gratitude for the love and joy that she has brought to our lives and out of exhaustion for this particular season we are in.
Our rental house has a small backyard, but it is much larger than the CA patio they previously had, so the pups are loving it. I like how Harriet appears to be "smizing".

Happy Friday friends!

Monday, July 24, 2017

Early days in a new place and a simple salmon recipe

Hello from a new place! We arrived in central Washington late afternoon on Sunday 7/16. We drove in on interstate 82 and dropped over the Umtanum and Manastash ridges from Yakima, and as our new hometown was coming into view, I pressed play on the song "Home" by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. It felt right.

However, I am proving out the wisdom that just because a decision is right, doesn't mean it will be easy. These first few days have been overwhelming. My sincere apologies to all my friends who have done big moves: I know I was not as understanding as was warranted or needed. There are so many things to learn and adjust to: my initial trip to the grocery store took 90 minutes, most of it trying to find where the heck everything was located.

The moving company arrived Tuesday with all our items. It feels to good to have both us, the dogs and our belongings in the same spot. Escrow closed the same day on our home in SoCal. So, in all capacities, I have moved- this is where I live now. Sometimes my brain can't quite catch up with it. The first night sleeping in our new home I rolled onto my right side expecting to see faint light through our bedroom sliding glass doors. Instead I found a solid wall and it took a few minutes to realize where I was and in which state.

While my little world is topsy-turvy, there are graces along the way. My sister calls them "text messages from God", which I think is good description: not earth-shattering, stone tablet-creating communications, but moments and interactions that help me feel loved and connected.

I have a perfect example: while the movers were unloading the semi-truck full of our boxes (and I was fretting terribly: has everything arrived? is anything damaged? what room should I put this and this and this in? will it all fit into our dollhouse sized rental house? ) I noticed a girl of about 7 years old watching the activity from a safe vantage point on the sidewalk. She stepped off her scooter but was still wearing her hot pink helmet, elbow and knee pads. She watched for about 15 minutes and I waved at her and she waved back. About 30 minutes later she returned with her older sister and marched right up to me with a jar of lemonade and handwritten card welcoming us to the neighborhood. It was the kindest gesture and we chatted for a few minutes. The girls told me which house was there's and that they have a Corgi who will always bark when we walk by.

It was so helpful to me, to feel welcomed. Daily there are gains in this direction and I use them to buoy me up. I am just terrible at navigating change and hold on to all the encouragement I can.

And of course, I am still me, even in a new place, which means I look to my kitchen as a place of centering. On Wednesday, it was one of the first rooms I tackled to unpack boxes and organize. By Thursday, the weather turned cool. Well, cool for me: 75 with a strong wind. I wore a sweater to the grocery store and was kindly questioned by the cashier, "How can you possibly wear a sweater in this heat?" She accepted my explanation that I am from SoCal and the grocery bagger tried to lessen the awkwardness of the interaction by saying, "Well, it is a very nice sweater." I purchased a gorgeous deep coral wild sockeye salmon and, owing to the cold weather and all, made a pot of salmon chowder with one of the fillets. It was cozy and delicious and so perfectly comforting. I do not yet have the chowder recipe developed to share with you all, but it is on my list of things I'd like to write about.

In the meantime, I will share what I did with the second fillet: an easy baked salmon recipe. As I grew up regularly having this dish, it is pure comfort food to me. Good fish, mayonnaise and salt and pepper is all that is necessary. The thin coating seals in the moisture of the fish and adds a creamy saltiness. I purchased a whole salmon, so I did this with a full fillet but I think the process could easily be applied to smaller portions.

simple baked salmon

1 salmon fillet, skin on (approx 2- 2 1/2 pounds)
2-3 tablespoons good mayonnaise
salt and pepper

1) Preheat oven to 350. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

2) Place the salmon on the baking sheet, skin side down. Pat the fish dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Using a butter knife spread a thin even layer of mayonnaise over the salmon. As far as the thickness of the layer, it should be opaque, but still thin, like 1/16th of an inch or less.

3) Bake fish for approximately 20 minutes, until it flakes easily with a fork. The cooking time will vary depending on the thickness of your piece of fish. To ensure I did not overbake, after 10 minutes, I started checking every 3 minutes.

4) Enjoy with a spritz of lemon. Leftovers are wonderful when made into salmon salad sandwiches.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

carrot, chickpea and peanut salad

While I am in the middle of the move and general upheaval, I am keeping up with the practical, like eating. I am finding time in the kitchen to be comforting. Here is one of the things that is sustaining me:

This salad is mainly my justification to eat a favorite snack- I love dry roasted salted peanuts. Specifically, I love dry roasted salted peanuts with a Diet Coke, straight out of the vending machine- the peanut sodium level so high it practically burns countered by the fizzy, ice cold achingly-sweet soda. In some now forgotten book, I read about a character who plunked salted peanuts directly into her bottle of Coke and this seems like completely reasonable behavior to me.

Before I lose you, let me alleviate any concerns and clarify that this salad does not contain Diet Coke. 

One of my personal discoveries of the last few years is that I don't actually love a lettuce based salad. I am thinking particularly of salads which float a few bits of meat, cheese and vegetable on a raft of ubiquitous spring mix. If the salad has an equal ratio of greens to other components, I am good. If the greens are varied (kale, arugula, etc), I am thrilled. Otherwise, I am kind of over it. It is not just out of boredom but because this type of lettuce heavy salad doesn't keep well in the fridge and generally tends to not fill me up. (Resulting in the above: afternoon snack of peanuts and Diet Coke).

This salad is a good one because 1) I can mix it up and have leftovers straight from the fridge 2) the heft of it satisfies my hunger and 3) it includes two of my favorite addictive foods: cilantro and roasted peanuts. The play of flavors with the sweet carrot, dense chickpeas and tang of red wine vinegar remind me ever so slightly of beloved pad thai (I hesitate to provide the comparison as I'm likely setting you up for disappointment, but to my palate, it hits some similar notes. I am the person at my Thai food restaurant who asks for extra chopped peanuts.)

The origin of this salad is from our domestic goddess, Nigella Lawson. In her book "Endless Summer", the salad is composed of simply carrots and peanuts with a red wine vinegar dressing but it was her description that made me first try it, some 11 years ago: "It's ingredient list may sound odd, but this is a combination that not only works but becomes addictive. Don't be alarmed at the amount of vinegar: the astringency of the dressing, against the fulsome oiliness of the nuts and, in turn, nutty sweetness of the carrots, is the whole point." Use of words like "fulsome" is what keeps me reading Nigella.

About a year ago, I was home from work on lunch break, staring at the contents of my fridge, deciding what to pull together. I remembered Nigella's salad and wanted to bulk it up a bit. Enter a lone can of chickpeas from the pantry. As George Clooney said, "God bless the chickpea." (Three cheers if you know which episode of Friends this reference is from!)

While I have gone on about my dry roasted salted peanut love, if you're not a fan, I think you could substitute dry roasted salted cashews with equal success. 

carrot, chickpea and peanut salad 

1 15.5 oz can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed 
3 - 4 medium carrots, peeled and grated (grated on a the large holes of a box grater)
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar 
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup rough chopped dry roasted peanuts
1 cup chopped cilantro 
salt & pepper to taste 

1) In a medium bowl, toss together the chickpeas and grated carrot with a fork (works better for me than a spoon at breaking up the clumps of grated carrot). 

2) Add red wine vinegar and olive oil and stir to coat. Let it sit for 3-4 minutes for the vinegar to soak in a bit. (If you're so inclined, take a pause to sip on that Diet Coke). 

3) Stir in peanuts and cilantro, give it a taste, and then season with salt and pepper: I wait to add salt until after the peanuts have been incorporated, since they bring so much along with them. 

This keeps well in the fridge for about 2 days. I generally get 2-3 lunches for myself out of it.