roasted rhubarb


It is the last day of May and I'm ready for June. 

May is my birth month (and my mom's) and so I feel extra charmed by its lilies of the valley and elderflower blossoms, its hot afternoons and chilly evenings. Unpredictable weather aside, I associate the month with celebrations and cake. This May, however, was busier than most. It had many long nights of works, a few ups and downs and many a handful of strawberries to celebrate the ups and console the downs.

One would assume that long work hours mean less cooking, but this isn't always the case. I spent May grilling fruit (more on this to come soon), making chimichurri and homemade mayo, baking polenta cake and brownies and roasting rhubarb. 

Somewhere between working and cooking, I read Molly Wizenburg's new book. It probably needs no introduction here, but it is the tale of the restaurant that her and her husband made from scratch. The book and the restaurant share a name, Delancey, and its pages are effortlessly conversational. It feels like Molly was telling me the story over pizza and beer. I found myself wanting to reply, to comment. I would read a page, nod my head in agreement and then think of a related story that I could add to the table.

At first, however, I was skeptical. The story read too much like her husband's story and not her own. But half way through, I realized that this was the point, the story even. The book is about how the restaurant - what started out as his - became theirs. Beyond his and hers, it also became a community. 

As I read it during my busiest work month of the year, once again, I found myself nodding along as she wrote about being to busy to really cook. Between my cooking spells in May, this is how I felt many days this month. I'm not one for too much takeout, but I am definitely one for one too many meals where making dinner both begins and ends with boiling water for pasta.

In the beginning of the book, Molly mentions roasted rhubarb. This immediately reminded me that I had some rhubarb in the fridge. It was hanging out, useless and I thought that I should put it to work. I put the book down, picked the rhubarb up and roasted it with orange juice, maple syrup and red wine. Then I ate the results three days in a row: twice with yogurt for dessert and once with oatmeal for breakfast.

The rhubarb isn't too sweet, just as I like it best. I did, though, add a little extra maple syrup to the yogurt, but not too much to disguise the rhubarb's tartness. Also, dressing up oatmeal with rhubarb that was cooked in red wine feels luxurious and against-the-rules, a pretty great way to start the day. 

Roasted rhubarb is a good thing to cook when you have no time to cook. Never underestimate the satisfaction of having something homemade at hand to throw on top of yogurt or oatmeal, ice cream or ricotta.  




Roasted Rhubarb

adapted from 'Delancey' by Molly Wizenberg

serves 2-3

3 rhubarb stalks
2 tbsp maple syrup
3 tbsp orange juice
4 tbsp red wine

Preheat the oven to 350F / 190C / gas mark 4.

Give the rhubarb a good wash, remove its ends and its leaves, and then chop it into large chunks. Place the rhubarb into a baking dish and give it a good toss with the maple syrup, orange juice and red wine. Make sure the rhubarb chunks are evenly spread out amongst the bottom of the baking dish and then put it into the oven.

Roast for about 25 minutes, or until the rhubarb is tender and pale, and the juices have thickened into a sauce.

Serve hot or at room temperature over ice cream, yogurt, oatmeal, or any other of the usual suspects. Leftover rhubarb can be stored in the refrigerator for a couple of days.

Guten!
 

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edible souvenirs: the georgia edition


I was a tease. A month ago I bragged about all of the feasting that I was going to do in Georgia. If you're wondering what that feasting included, I promise some details soon, but first let's talk about what food experiences I was able to pack in my suitcase.

Souvenirs from the Republic of Georgia

coarse white cornmeal for making gomi (similar to polenta), a rainbow of light and dark beans, walnuts (since Georgian food is essentially based on walnuts), the juiciest barberries, golden raisins, dried chili, wine (including several bottles of Kisi), chacha (Georgian grappa), an unidentifiable dried fruit (the one that is looped around the wine bottles - if you know what it is called, please let me know!), Ukrainian vodka with honey and chili, khmeli-suneli (a Georgia spice mix including dried mint, bay leaf, summer savory, fenugreek, parsley, dill, basil, celery seed, coriander and marigold), honey, green tea from Batumi, and dried marigold (also known as "Imeretian saffron)

It was a full suitcase and, thus, a true culinary trip.

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desert or dessert: Gather Journal

 
Desert or Dessert? It is a common typo to make. Years ago a friend taught me how to not confuse the two: dessert has a double s, and that is because you want more of it.

However, the latest issue of Gather explores both landscapes composed of sand and landscapes composed of sugar. Titled "Caravan", it is inspired by the wanderlust that deserts invoke and I've written about where you would least expect to find desert: northern Poland. "Caravan" is out today. Let it help you to daydream about summer escapes, road trips, and weather too hot for shoes.

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always around: coconut quinoa porridge


To write about food is to write about family.

Just over a year ago, I wrote about Black Coconut Rice with Mango. Beyond the recipe itself, I wrote about my grandad, a charming man that I called Poppy. This was the first dish that I planned to make him the next time I saw him, late August this year.

He passed away on Thursday. He was 94 years old. His life was well lived - it was filled with family and friends, music and memories, love and travel, dinner parties and after-work cocktails, yet his absence still stings. When someone gets that old, you get used to always having them around. They always come home from the hospital. They always wake up from sleep. Their bodies break and they break, but then you begin to think that they'll never completely break down. You begin to take for granted that they'll always be around for another meal, another drink, another visit.

 As lives have gotten longer, death has also become more detached from life. It used to have a stronger presence in family homes and not just be sectioned off to hospitals and old age homes. I'm sure saying goodbye to a loved one has always been and will always be a challenge, but the rituals around it were once stronger. Mourning is culturally specific and yet it is almost always based in religion. When your religion is having none, then death becomes even foggier and the rules about how to feel about it less clear.

I've written before about Adam Gopnik's delightful book The Table Comes First and his idea that for secular folks food is sacred. How we eat is also a question of how we want to live. This belief takes on extra weight at a time of mourning.   

When I was a kid, I used to regularly sleep over at my Nana and Poppy's. I remember waking up in the mornings, drinking orange juice out of a fancy blue glass and requesting a bowl of instant oatmeal. My Poppy always kept packages of Peaches n' Cream oatmeal in the cupboard for my visits. He would sometimes eat one too.


I've outgrown instant oatmeal, but I certainly haven't outgrown porridge. Sunday was my Birthday and a couple days before, I stumbled upon a recipe for Triple-Coconut Quinoa Porridge. With this being my first Birthday without my Poppy, I wasn't up for a fussy breakfast or orange juice made bubbly with Champagne. I wanted something simple and comforting. I wanted porridge.

Like the Black Coconut Rice with Mango that I had hoped to make for my Poppy, this recipe has coconut milk. It is creamy, but the quinoa still has a bit of a bite. It is sweet, but not too sweet. I topped it with strawberries and it felt like a grown-up twin to the Peaches n' Cream Porridge I used to eat. Only this time it was Strawberries n' Coconut Cream. I think that he'd like it too. I'm thankful for dishes like this that remind me of the meals and the moments that him and I shared. 

The last year there was plenty of talk about quinoa and how its international popularity has made it too expensive for the Bolivians who grow it. I belong to the 'it's complicated' category and continue to eat it moderately with awareness and gratitude. 

When it comes to nutrition, it is best to soak quinoa overnight, but sometimes I forget to soak grains or wear sunscreen or do the things they say that we're supposed to do. And I think that's okay. I also think that not soaking the quinoa made the texture of this porridge extra good, but I guess that I will have to try it with soaked quinoa as well to say for sure. 

 
Coconut Quinoa Porridge

adapted from Megan Gordon's 'Whole-Grain Mornings' via Bon Appetempt

serves 3-4

ingredients

1 1/4 cups (60 grams) unsweetened coconut flakes
1 vanilla bean, split
1 can (13.5 ounces / 400 ml) unsweetened coconut milk
1 cup (180 grams) quinoa, rinsed (I used red quinoa)
1/4 cup water
2 tbsp coconut sugar
 1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp sea salt

1 to 2 tbsp melted coconut oil, for serving 
a handful of strawberries, chopped, for serving

Place 3/4 cup of the coconut flakes in dry skillet and toast over medium heat for a couple of minutes until golden brown. Set aside.

Scrape the vanilla seeds into a heavy-bottomed pot. Add the vanilla pod, coconut milk, quinoa, remaining coconut flakes, coconut sugar, dried ginger, salt and 1/4 cup water. Give it a good stir to combine and then over medium-heat, bring the mixture to a slow boil. Decrease the heat to low and cover the pot with a lid. Cook until most of the liquid has been absorbed and the mixture has thickened, stirring every few minutes to prevent it from sticking to the bottom, about 18 to 20 minutes. 

Remove from heat and remove the vanilla pod. Let sit, covered, for 10 minutes. Divide between bowls and garnish with the toasted coconut flakes, a drizzle of melted coconut oil, and chopped strawberries.

Guten!

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