Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Goodbye Sumi House & Ricotta Polenta Rosemary Cake

Today my real estate agent called to tell me my house had been sold. My voice cracked as tears gave way and I thanked her for the call. She has heard me shed many tears over this parting in my life these last few months. A while back I thought it was going to be foreclosed, but in the 11th hour it went into short sale mode. An old neighbor bought it, and now the community treasure that was our land, is back in the hands of the community. A deep sigh of relief. It was quite the feat with environmental easements, first rights of refusal and the sheer high profile of the whole project that kept things tied up along with the bank dragging its feet.

And so I say goodbye. So many things happened in my home. I soaked in the ofuro looking at the manzanita's gnarled branches, memorizing every one. M had chicken pox. M proudly walked me into her pink room and showed me her name she had scribbled in permanent black marker on the wall the size of a bowling ball. The financial markets crashed. Obama became president. I watched the hawks fly over the meadows and heard the squawks of their babies. Years of hearing May Day festivities that spilled late into the night as I lay restless in bed worried about fire, drugs and what it all meant. The pain of my husband and I dissolving like a big rig wreck in slow motion over the course of months. Moths every march while driving down the dirt road. June bugs descent in june that got inevitably caught in my hair. The smell of kitkitdizzi and pine needles baking in the sun that I could smell from my front porch. Giving lost folks on my dirt road directions based on names of those they were visiting and not the address of their destination. Seeing a rare lightning storm come down from the north in July. The smell of fire on an August night from the river canyon that jolted me out of bed. Years and years of New Years Day waffles at Bruce and Holly's house. The seasonal creeks that weaved its way through the meadow every spring. The ancient oak that fell over in the big meadow that became the symbol of our family's dissolve.  Pizza parties that smelled the whole house of burnt flour that took days to disperse. Taking trash to the dump. Bonfires and the smell of smoke in my clothes.

It is my heart today feeling the expansion and contraction of putting this to rest. Expansion of letting change take me on its merry wings, to fly to a new place. Contraction of how much I can feel resistance in myself to change and my mind that wants to know what it will look like. My heart has dove so deep into this process that I feel now saying goodbye to this life has been more powerful than the journey to it. And tears come today of equal parts love for myself and how I have let this carve me as it has, becoming more present for life and open-hearted for my humanness, and grief that a beautiful thing has been let go of.  I go inside myself then, where the only thing that matters is waiting like it has been since the first spark of sparks. The love of loving everything carries me beyond the illusion that there has been loss when now I know I am only finding myself. And this is what it always has been, a journey into love. Farewell Sumi house, old friend.

A month or so back a local farmer, friend and grain producer asked me to make some dishes to showcase his polenta for an event he was attending. I wanted an almost savory cake that would hold up for the traveling and sitting on a table while keep the ease of serving to hundreds of people. I found Dorie Greenspan's Ricotta Polenta cake recipe and decided to change it around to be more suitable for a hot summer day. It turned out really well.

I halved the sugar, substituted olive oil for butter, skipped all the fruit, added rosemary and added pine nuts to the top. A barely sweet, herbaceous, nutty summer cake.

Ricotta Polenta Rosemary Cake
Makes one 9x9 cake

grease your baking dish....

1 cup polenta
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup ricotta
1/3 cup lukewarm water
3/4 cup honey
zest of one lemon
1/2 cup olive oil
1 heaping tablespoon rosemary
2 large eggs
1/2 cup toasted pine nuts

With a hand mixer or standing mixer, beat eggs, zest, honey, ricotta, water and olive oil. Slowly add cornmeal, salt and flour, baking powder and rosemary.
Do not over mix; just mix until everything comes together.
Pour into a greased pan and sprinkle pine nuts on top.
Bake at 325 for 35-45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Updated Favorites List: Summer 2012

I am updating my Favorites List. Spilling a bit over into lifestyle. Let me know what you think. Here goes:

1. Favorite Campsite in California:
Gold Bluffs Beach Redwoods State Park

 I fell in love with California through and through when I stepped foot here. 

2. Most Favorite Spa. Ever.

It is Japanese inspired, top notch and the water is purified with UV light instead of chemicals. They have their own line of soaps and one of them is hinoki scented which smells like a real ofuro. I have been here many times and never tire of it. Sitting outside in a hot tub looking at the Santa fe mountains...it is heavenly.

3. Favorite Coffee: I am not going to say I am a coffee snob. But, I do take it seriously. After I found Barefoot Coffee, I never looked back. Honey-process is the difference here. The natural sticky residue on the coffee beans are not rinsed off before roasting.  I think this makes the coffee smooth and less bitter than other coffee. 

4. If I could get on a plane and go anywhere tomorrow, I would go to Tiamo Resort, Andros Island, Bahamas.
This off-the-beaten-path destination has been on my radar for a bit of time now. I think growing up in Florida hooked me on the outer islands of the Bahamas. My girlfriend worked at Small Hope Bay Lodge on Andros back in the late 90's, and my visit to see her there as well as visits to Eluthera in my teens convinced me that remote beaches are worth the hassle of getting to.

5. Favorite Food Blog of the moment: Food 52
I have been going there for recipes lately. Usually I make all of my own recipes up. But they crowd-source theirs and I love the contests and appreciate when 25 or so other people make the recipe before me and then decide it is amazing. It is a sure bet in the food world.

6. Favorite Fast Food Joint on long drives: Chipotle
This started while living in Chicago 14 years ago. My bff Trish and I would eat there after work and we discovered their chips had lime juice and salt on them.  We would dip the chips in sour cream and then the chipolte hot sauce. Since then, it has become a pit stop for clean bathroom breaks and somewhat healthy food on the drive M and I often take to San Francisco. I completely appreciate consistency in restaurants, and that regard Chipotle never lets me down.

7. Coolest business I worked with this year: Cartelligent.
I will never step foot on a car lot again. They offer the very best price for a car. I called, told them what I wanted and hung up the phone. Next day they had special ordered the exact car I wanted for A LOT less than the dealerships had offered. Drove to their office, turned in my old car, signed papers and was driving away in my new car in less than 30 minutes. AMAZING.

8. Fashion Item I Could Not Live Without: Frye Boots.
I think my friends would say I am not a fussy dresser. I do hold my own when it comes to fashion however. Living in the country, I have learned to appreciate function over form for the most part. These boots are the very best people! The kind of boots you keep for 20 years. The kind of boots you can walk around in for 12 hours and still be comfortable. I am on my second pair now, and actually prefer these now over my trusty clogs and haviana flip flops which is saying a lot. They are spendy, but worth every dime.

9. Best Gadget I own: Petzl Zipka Headlamp
I started using this particular headlamp 5 or 6 years ago. It does not have a strap; instead has a retractable cord which makes it more compact. Great for kids too. I would be up craps creek on many occasions if I did not own this little gem. It fits in your pocket perfectly!

10. Best Fluff Website: Jezebel
This is what you get when smart people write about mindless things. Enough for me to be hooked. Any site that titles a story "The way to poop at work with 100% secrecy" has me as a reader. And I will end it with I am not so shallow as to let that be the only source of my news. I am a dedicated NYT Sunday reader and PubMed is a favorite online hangout for me.

Ok, there you have it.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Chilled Broccoli Basil Soup and Loving Ourselves

I am in the practice of using everything to lift. I like the usefulness of this practice because it is a direct route to loving ourselves. In my case, I was clocked in the head with the reality that I had been abandoning myself for a lot of my life. I did this by depending on outward love for validation that I was loveable. If my husband loved and accepted me, then I was ok. If he didn't, then something was wrong or flawed in me. A big part of our culture is based on this. You live a certain way, society accepts you and you feel like you belong. You look a certain way, then you are beautiful and successful. When you look outward into the world, this is a common message. No wonder when my husband and I split, I spun out. I had no legs to stand on because I gave those up a long time ago when I decided other people would decided how loveable I am. The big gift however was I was given the opportunity of my experience to see this and do something about it. I could trace this belief that validation happens outside of myself over many personal events in my life. But I wanted to move deeper into this idea after I understood that pattern I was working, and get to the part inside myself I could expand, so looking outward for certainty or love no longer was needed. This practice does not mean that I do not mess up anymore or become perfect however. If anything, it has expanded my compassion for the world by leaps and bound because now I see how we all get the opportunity to do this work every breath we take. So now I get to love my mess-ups as much as my achievements because they all are experiences on the same road, to the same destination. There is an immense relief for me to let go of the idea of perfection, and instead go towards acceptance. On this self-created stage of life, with all the actors and props of my own volition, I get to choose where to place my focus. Is it a disaster I am in the middle of, or is it an opportunity? Even if it seems like a disaster at first, I will be tender with myself while redirecting my focus, just as I am tender with my daughter when she falls down playing....

I made this soup for my CSK last week. Chilled soups are an easy, light food when it is hot outside. I pulled the mason jar filled with this soup out for lunch for a good part of last week. One distinction I make though, is chilled soup is not cold soup. Chilled in my vocabulary means cooler than room temperature but not cold. I take my soup out of the fridge about 30 minutes before serving, which allows the flavors to be more pronounced. It was incredibly easy making this soup. I love broccoli and basil together. Turns out that in soup it is very well paired.
You can double or trip this batch easily! Add a dollop of creme fraiche on top for a special garnish.

Broccoli Basil Soup
4 cups

2 cups water
2 cups lightly steamed broccoli (I kept the stems on)
2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
zest of one lemon
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tbls. olive oil
1/2 cups fresh basil leaves (7-8 leaves)

Put in blender and blend until smooth; about 1-2 minutes.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Quinoa Blueberry Basil Salad

There is a local u-pick blueberry farm here where I live. Every year people flock to the family owned farm and stock up. I picked this season for my CSK share which I look forward to every week. Every week I plan the menu I will be making. Then 10 people (10 is the amount I can handle by myself) come and pickup their food and we chat and laugh and I get to introduce them to things like mizuna salad with miso tahini dressing. I brag a little about how the mizuna was picked that day, how the mizuna they are eating is also served in 3 star San Francisco restaurants. The young farmers who grow that mizuna drive those special greens all the way down to the bay because they are that good. This salad was a CSK creation too. I love blueberries and basil together! I added red quinoa, fresh sliced fennel, lemon zest and olive oil to round out a perfect summer dish.  This salad might have everything but the quinoa at the farmers market you currently frequent!

I have a really good friend going through a breakup right now. The fertile ground of strong emotions. She has a lot of women around her right now holding her tenderly. As we talk almost daily, I am brought back to my life when I was in her spot, and I was looking down the rabbit hole as I was falling through it. She has recognized this, and asked me a few times "Jess, how did you get through this?" It is difficult for me to watch her suffer; I have cried with her on more than one occasion. The memory of that pain is still fresh. The pain of your life shifting so radically and trusting you will get out on the other side is a big leap of trust. Now I appreciate my journey through heartbreak as one of the most profound things I have experienced. Yet I don't wish it on anyone. And so she and I hold hands, and I tell her she is in the worst part of things right now, that the container of support she has built will hold her, and mostly I just love her.  And I keep going back to loving everything. That idea, to love everything was the turning point for my grief. It was when I stopped drowning and started floating in the ocean of what was happening. Tall order though. How can we love cancer? Love the loss of a child? Love being fired from our job? Love the disease we have just been diagnosed with? I started with loving the grief. I did not try to change where I was or how I felt about what was happening. I spent so many days just crying and sad, that I started saying out loud to myself "Oh, I guess today I am having an especially sad day". Loving what was in front of me meant loving me while I was angry too. Loving my humanness. It is almost a paradox now that I grieved so deeply about my family breaking up and losing my partner, that now I am looking at a different set of fears to love around getting back into relationships. The work keeps coming I guess. I know my friend will make it through this heartbreak. She is plowing the fields in her heart right now, her tears being collected to water the seeds of her new life. Flowers more brilliant than the ones she has known are getting ready to blossom in their own perfect time.

Quinoa Blueberry Basil Salad
makes 4 servings

3 cups cooked red quinoa chilled
1 cup fresh basil torn into piecies
1 cup fresh blueberries
1 cup fresh thinly sliced fennel bulb
zest of a lemon
1 Tbls fresh lemon juice
2 Tbls olive oil
Salt and Pepper to taste

Toss together and season to taste.


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