As I recover from my lack of cooking, I am easing back in with my favorites, my go-to’s, and things I realize I should have shared with you.
I think it was around Thanksgiving that I first had some variation of this bowl. It’s a simple equation, really, and one you’ll find all over the internet. Cook a grain (or combination of grains), top with vegetables and/or proteins, and season with sauces. What I like best about them is that with minimal effort, you can feed yourself anywhere from four to six meals with only about two hours of effort. They have become a go-to in our house: I add a soft boiled egg at breakfast or crispy baked tofu at dinner. I add greens to make it more of a salad, or whatever roasted vegetables I might have lurking in the depths of my fridge that need to be finished up, or some smoked salmon from the farmers market. The point is, this is endlessly riff-able and endlessly people-pleasing.
Here are a few other recipes I use for topping my grains and sauces:
It has been a time of changes around here lately. Just as the fall weather peeked its head in Portland, Jonah and I were off to Chicago, where summer raged. There we got married: in his parents’ backyard, under the chuppa, crying and laughing and dancing. It was everything that a wedding is supposed to be. The days before and after were packed with events, with tooling around the city seeing friends and gathering with family. The sense of joy and celebration, the high from all the love, felt like it would last forever.
And then, two days after the wedding, it came to a halt: we got a call that Jonah’s grandmother had passed away. At the wedding she had looked so beautiful and strong. She sat chatting with the other grandmothers and blowing bubbles. She stuck to her values, walking right past the dance floor and saying to my now sister-in-law, “Did you see that? I’m a good Mennonite.” The morning after the wedding, we sat with her and unwrapped a beautiful quilt that she had been saving for us, called “Around the World.” We hugged and kissed her goodbye and said we’d see her at Christmas. You see, Jonah’s grandparents lived in a small town in Minnesota and, despite over seven years together and many Christmases with his family, I had never been. Jonah wanted me to see it, to see the town covered in snow, to take part in the holiday traditions his family holds so dear. I told him that this would be the year to go, since I didn’t know how much longer Grandma would be with us.
We balanced the rest of our time in Chicago – friends distracted us, even continued the celebration while being sensitive to the loss. We made plans with Jonah’s family – when was the service? Should we go straight from Chicago? We decided, in the end, to fly home on our previously scheduled flight, and then flew out to Minnesota a couple of days later. I didn’t know what to do, how to help. In situations like this, when I feel helpless, I turn to the kitchen, to something I can have some control over. I went back to my traditions: when we celebrate, we eat; when we mourn, we eat. The slight nip in the air in those two days at home settled in my belly, and while I picked the last hauls of sungold tomatoes from our garden, I started to crave soups, roasted chicken, and squash in all forms. So I decided to bake this pumpkin bread. It is a bread of changes too: pale gold butter becomes a caramel, nutty, liquid. A soft, sparkly batter turns into a moist, dense loaf with a perfect crunch on top. It may not have been much, but it was what I could offer. Grandma, I promise to keep my new family well-fed.
When we heard the news, I emailed our wedding photographer to see if she could send any photos of Grandma from the wedding. She sent a handful of beautiful pictures, but this for some reason stands out to me. That’s her on the right, talking to Jonah’s other grandmother, as they watch the dancing.
It’s been a little while since I did any weekend finds, hasn’t it? I figured I’d give you some posts you could sink your teeth into. But hey, sometimes you can sink your teeth into a list of cool stuff I found, right? Right. Halloween is around the corner (like, wow, two weeks away already). And that, to me, means that we are in the thick of fall, which in turn means we should be making all things squash. I have my old go to’s (like tofu and delicata with miso and molasses, root veggies with miso and harissa) but it’s always fun discovering new ones. Here are some I’m itching to try.
1. Pumpkin Muffins
I’m not sure what about these pumpkin muffins makes me feel like they’ll be different from pumpkin muffins I’ve made in the past – maybe it’s the face that they’re topped with whipped cream cheese? Yeah, that could be it.
2. Butternut Squash Pie
This Italian dessert sounds beautiful – somewhere between a custard and a pie and sprinkled with almonds.
3. Squash with Dates and Thyme
I love me some roasted squash, and acorn has become a recent favorite of mine. This acorn squash tossed with coconut oil and roasted with dates sounds perfect – I love the thought of the sweetness from the dates. I would throw the thyme in to roast with the squash, and maybe add a sprinkle of cayenne.
Soba noodles have become a staple in my kitchen. I have always liked them, but as the weather has been slowly getting warmer, and there’s lovely produce all around, they have been appearing more often in my kitchen. I love them with a light sauce made of rice vinegar and lime juice. But the true beauty of soba noodles, to me, is that they are delicious cold. The day after you make them, and they’ve been sitting in whatever sauce you’ve tossed them with, they become ultra flavorful and refreshing. I am a big fan. And I think you should be too.
Jonah came home this week, on Monday actually, and I had a feeling that cooking might not be exactly what he wanted to do the moment he stepped of the plane. So on Sunday night I made a big batch of soba noodles tossed with roasted zucchini, fresh mango, and a light citrus-y sauce. I ate a small bowl, and threw the rest in the fridge, knowing that it would be delicious the next day for dinner with some roasted green beens (also in the fridge).
I love how colorful this dish is, how summery it is, and how packed with flavor. I think it’d make a great cold side dish for a summer party (4th of July, anyone?), and it makes great leftovers to take to the office for lunch. You can add some seared tofu, or maybe even some grilled chicken.
Soba Noodles with Summer Squash and Mango
2 zucchini, julienned
2 summer squash, julienned
1 9-oz package buckwheat soba noodles
3/4 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 tsp salt
2-3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 jalapeño, finely chopped (and seeded, if you’re not feeling the heat)
juice and zest of 1 lime
1 Tbl sesame oil
1 ripe mango, peeled and julienned
~1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
~1/4 cup fresh mint, chopped
optional but recommended: chopped peanuts to top (I used about 1/4 cup), lime wedges
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Toss the julienned zucchini and squash with olive oil and salt. Spread on a parchment lined baking sheet. Roast for 20-30 minutes, until lightly browned, tossing halfway through. Set aside to cool.
Cook the soba noodles as instructed on the package. Usually, this means boil them for about 4 minutes, drain them, rinse them with cold water, drain them, and spread them out on a dish towel to try.
While boiling the water for the noodles, combine the rice vinegar, sugar, and salt in a small pot over medium heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and add garlic and jalapeño. Allow to cool, then add the lime juice and zest as well as the sesame oil. Whisk to combine. Put the soba noodles in a bowl, and toss with the dressing. Add the squash, mango, herbs, and nuts to the noodles, tossing to combine. Garnish with a sprinkle more of chopped peanuts and a lime wedge. Enjoy with a light beer on a hot day.