22 September, 2010

eight minutes

That's all the time it took me to make this awesome dinner last night. I wasn't even in a rush, I just started cooking and when I finished and glanced at the clock I was shocked to see that only 8 minutes had passed. Which is good news, because I was in need of a reminder that I can in fact have good, wholesome, healthful, fresh, homemade meals almost every day. A few more benefits to this meal: only one pan to wash, (plus cutting board), a small number of ingredients, a million variations, the fat from the salmon & olive oil help your body to absorb all the nutrients from the vegetable, and it tastes good.

Honey Mustard Salmon and Swiss Chard for 2

2 T. olive oil
1 T. mustard
1 T. honey
salt & pepper to taste
1 bunch swiss chard, chopped (include the stems and don't worry about drying the leaves after you wash them - you want to have that water to pulls the glaze up from the bottom of the pan)
2 filets salmon (a little under a pound)

Add the olive oil and mustard to a large, deep skillet on low heat for about 1 minute.
Add the salmon filets, allowing one side to cook, and drizzle the honey on top. Meanwhile, chop the swiss chard.
Flip the salmon filets, throw all the swiss chard on top and cover.
Allow this to cook for a total of about 5 minutes longer, until the chard is wilted and the salmon is cooked through. If you worry about the fish over-cooking (like I do) you can  lift it from the bottom of the pan so that it rests on top of the chard, or completely remove it.
Season with salt & pepper and serve.

19 September, 2010

expectations and eggplant

I'm afraid I could not come up with any way to link these two things, other than the fact that they both start with E and I want to talk about both.

First, the expectations. When I was young enough that only my mother could understand my high-pitched voice I used to get very upset when something did not go the way I expected it to go. My mother cleverly told me stories about what it was like to go to a new store or to a stranger's house during the car ride there. This gave me a better idea of what to expect and softened the blow of a new situation. Today, when I enter a new situation I don't have a caring, protecting figure who can tell me exactly what will happen and what I will feel. Rather, I have hundreds of people telling me what to expect, and none of them quite get it right.

We seem to have such a desire to control the world around us and create rules so that we know exactly what to expect. This is, in effect, absurd. When learning a new language, one quickly learns (and becomes annoyed by the fact) that every rule has exceptions. In everything I am learning about cell biology and genetics, I am discovering more and more instances that do not feet into neat categories. Just ask any histologist. If these grand systems of linguistics and biology do not allow for our expectations to consistently be met, how can we expect our everyday life to do so?

I am beginning to see that if I let go of my expectations I will be much more satisfied with the outcome. What exactly does that mean? It means not assuming that tomorrow I will be able to study for 10 hours, or that I will soon become best friends with somebody I met, or that a rainy day will lead to melancholy. Balancing this with organization will be difficult but I think that when I try, each day will be filled with a bit more wonder.

And now for the eggplant. This is the second time I've made this dish recently and I cannot get enough of it. I'm tempted to call it an eggplant caponata, but there are probably some traditional guidelines to what gets to be called a caponata and, well, I don't want to give you any false expectations.

Eggplant Recipe:

Roasting an eggplant is my favorite first step in any eggplant dish. You don't have to go to the trouble of salting and pressing, nor do you have to use a ton of oil for it to take on a rich, creamy texture. I don't even bother with removing the skin - it's a tricky step, and I want to keep all those antioxidants in my meal.

1 good-sized eggplant
1-2 Tbs olive oil
1/2 red onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
Pinch of salt
1 Tbs tomato paste
Fresh basil, chopped or cut into ribbons

Preheat oven to 350˚F
Cut the eggplant in half, length-wise, and spray or rub the inside with olive oil. Place it on a baking sheet and roast for about 40 minutes, until it is good and mushy
Meanwhile, heat 1 Tbs of olive oil in a large skillet. Add the onion, garlic, and salt, and cook over low heat until the onion is soft and translucent.
When the eggplant is done roasting, allow it to cool for a few minutes and cut it into 1-inch cubes. Add these to the onions along with the tomato paste.
Let this cook for a couple minutes longer, making sure the eggplant is heated through and everything is nicely mixed. I like to mash the eggplant a bit with the back of the spoon.
Remove from heat and top with fresh basil.

Serve with good crusty bread or wasa crackers and kalamata olives.
Serves 2 on its own.

13 September, 2010

end of summer

"I expand and live in the warm day like corn and melons."
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

11 September, 2010


This plaque is laid in the ground at  Bebelplatz in Berlin, the historic site of the Nazi book burning. Nearby is a small glass-covered chamber that descends into the ground, like an up-right coffin. All that is inside are empty bookshelves.

On the plaque is a quote from 1820 by the German Jewish poet, Heinrich Heine. It reads, "That was only a preview, where man burns books, in the end he also burns men." (my translation)

Something to keep in mind, in these days filled with anger.

05 September, 2010


"Luscious" is the best word I can come up with to describe figs. When biting into one on its own, the sweet earthy flavor and the soft, round, fleshy texture makes me feel as though I were doing something sinful. I first came to really appreciate figs when I spent a summer in Spain. My husband was so kind as to follow me around as I gawked at the amazing food market in Barcelona. We bought giant figs, jamon serrano and a dry, salty cheese, which we ate picnic-style in our hotel.

I love it when something so simple feels so luxurious. That's my favorite thing about good, fresh food or a hot cup of coffee as the sunlight streams through the kitchen window. This weekend has been kind of like that. For an evening snack I prepared some warm figs with cheese and honey, 2 different ways. Try it with a glass of red wine if you're feeling romantic.

Warm Figs and Cheese:
Version 1:
On a baking sheet lay out plain round crackers
Top with a slice of hard cheese, followed by half of a fig
Drizzle top with honey and a sprinkle of cinnamon

Version 2:
Cut an "X" into the bottom of the fig
Stuff with goat cheese
Lay them on their sides on  baking sheet
Drizzle top with honey and a sprinkle of cinnamon

Bake at 350 degrees until the cheese begins to soften, 10-15 minutes

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