Friday, August 05, 2016

Orange hair, red tomatoes, green rhubarb


Life, early August, 2016:

Wake up, coffee, read headlines to catch up on Donald Trump news that erupted overnight, check Talking Points Memo to see what they have to say on the Donald Trump news, then Politico, then Slate, then the National Review, then Twitter. After this, it’s time for Facebook to see which friend chose today to post an impassioned call for everyone to come together and vote for Hillary, no matter how we feel about her, because the alternative is unthinkable. A fight in the comments inevitably ensues, ignited by either a representative of the small number of Trump supporters in my universe or a progressive who announces that he/she will under no circumstances vote for Hillary to prevent Trump, that’s like choosing between Pol Pot and Hitler, he/she is voting for Jill Stein. These fights go on for dozens, even scores, of comments. By the time I’m done reading them, Trump has almost surely said or tweeted something new and amazing so I go back to the headlines and the circuit begins again. Round and round it goes. Soon it is time to start making dinner and I feel like I have just wasted a whole day because I have.

Sometimes I can successfully avoid the vortex, but this only happens if I go cold turkey, zero internet starting from the moment I get up. A productive, peaceful day is then possible unless, mid-afternoon, I decide to go to Whole Foods and there’s a line at the check-out counter. After I’ve studied what the person in front of me is buying and concluded yet again that I really can’t afford the 200 calories in an Ocho chocolate-coconut bar, I remember my phone is in my bag and . . .  he said what?

The rest of the day is lost.

The other salient feature of my life, early August, 2016: cherry tomatoes. We struggle to grow big tomatoes, but the cherry tomatoes are flooding the kitchen. I can’t keep up with the buggers. This week I made two dishes that employed cherry tomatoes to excellent, very different effect, and yet there are still several pounds of cherry tomatoes attracting fruit flies in a bowl on the counter and hanging off the bushes out back. Those bushes show no signs of knocking off. Hardly something to complain about, too much food. I’ll stop.

Here are the cherry tomato dishes, both of which I recommend. As it happens, both also contain kale. 

*Toasted bulgur bowl from Lukas Volger’s Bowl. I don’t hate or even dislike tabbouleh, but I could happily give it up for the rest of my life. Not quite salad, not quite starch. Watery. Insipid. Not Volger’s version! It’s a robust meal. Nutty, toasted bulgur fortified with kale and chickpeas and enriched with toasted almonds and garlicky tahini sauce. I made it even heartier with some feta. Try it. You’ll be pleased. It keeps, too, so you have healthy lunches for the next couple days. Recipe here.

*One-pot tomato and kale pasta. Many thanks to the publicist who sent me A Modern Way to Cook by Anna Jones. What a lovely surprise, coming home to find this handsome book full of vegetarian bowl recipes on my doorstep. Last night I tried Jones’s version of that one-pot pasta youve probably heard about. I’m talking about the pasta you make by putting uncooked spaghetti, sauce ingredients, and water in single pan and boiling for 8 minutes or so.






Cool, no? 

I may have actually tried this before, but I can’t remember. Too much cooking, getting old. It was easy and worked beautifully. The pasta and lemony tomato sauce marry in a wonderful way when they’re cooked together and the kale, which you add at the end, eliminated the need for a salad. Not that I would have made one anyway. I loved this and Mark did too. Recipe here.

The final noteworthy event in my August so far: I baked the ugliest cake ever. Our rhubarb patch is almost as fecund as our cherry tomato plants, but, alas, the rhubarb variety we grow is green. It tastes exactly the same as pink rhubarb but if it is true that we eat first with our eyes. . .


I think it is true.

The recipe comes from the irresistible Vintage Cakes and consists of a rich, yogurt batter that you top with hot rhubarb compote and bake.



This soft, tangy cake tasted fine, but not as fine as the Food52 rhubarb cake of a few weeks ago, which had the added advantage of hiding the color of the rhubarb. I will never dig up our rhubarb patch, which has been going strong for about 8 years now (I started with seeds), but I might have to plant some red rhubarb next year.

36 comments:

  1. I won't even mention Scott Lemieux at Lawyers, Guns & Money, or Kevin Drum at Mother Jones, because then you won't even have time to make dinner. I have to force myself to go to NR, but I do it, because I have to know what new mischief they're up to. All this to say, I feel your pain. Laughed about the rhubarb aesthetics problem -- it's sort of real!

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  2. NR has been so quirky this election cycle. They really do not care for DT at all. I don't read them as often as the other sites, but I have become hooked on Kevin Williamson's Twitter presence. I kind of like him, even when I don't agree with him. Now of course I have to go look up Lawyers, Guns & Money and Mother Jones. Thanks a LOT!

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  3. I don't apologize; I love Lemieux. Very lawyerly, but I like that. Big on, you know, evidentiary support for stuff. But you got even; now I have to see what Kevin Williamson is up to on Twitter.

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    1. Well, KW is an acquired taste, like capers or black olives. My father made me read so many of his articles that I eventually came to appreciate him. I have now become WELL acquainted with Lawyers, Guns & Money.

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  4. When I first looked at the picture of that cake, I thought, "Oh! A green chile enchilada bake." I love rhubarb cake more than green chile enchiladas but somehow, I just can't get past the look of the thing.

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    1. Yeah, it's gross looking. I hate throwing food away, but we've eaten only about a third of this cake now and it's losing its deliciousness so I think our last remaining chicken will have a feast. She won't care.

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    2. Oh...isn't she lonely? Do you still have any goats?

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    3. I am so worried she is lonely. I talk to her when I go down there and she talks back to me, but she won't let me touch her. Oh, the goats. I have not written about that because it was extremely emotional for me. It still is. But the short answer is, no, we don't have the goats anymore. I think they have better lives with a lot more space and places to graze, but it's sad. We visit them. One grazes on open space near us with another goat, and the other two are at a beautiful winery in Napa. I miss one of them so much. We just didn't have the right set up for goats in the long term.

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  5. I recommend oven roasting those cherry tomatoes, freezing them, and having them for tomato/pasta sauce this winter. I have done it, and it is an easy way to process a large number of tomatoes quickly. OH, the election! My day mirrors yours, just different sources. It's like trying to look away from a car wreck. I want to, but it is so seductive to see the extreme illogical nature of this one. I am looking forward to November when I get my life back. I usually cannot resist for a whole day, but it's getting easier since the polls have Drumpf way down in the polls.

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    1. I almost feel justified in spending so much time reading about this election. I've never seen anything like it. Everything is upside down. What are your sources? Thanks for the cherry tomato idea. I will try that.

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    2. I do feel justified most days in trying to keep up! I cannot imagine not making the effort to be informed during this chaos. It's not just the election, it's the strange perceptions of life in the US that are not based on any facts or logic. I am flummoxed. I try not to follow any set news services, but surf around a lot. I am trying to avoid group think, which I think is part of the problem. It's too easy to stay in a bubble of like-minded folks, and while it's comfortable, it can be misleading. I am trying to develop some insight into what and why these other folks are thinking. Know yourself, but also know your enemy!

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    3. OK, I came back to see if someone else had commented and re-read my comment. It sounds like Sarah Palin's response to Katie Couric!! I am embarrassed, very embarrassed, so I will list my most visited news services. On a daily basis, I go to Politico, Bloomberg News, New York Times, and then follow lots of stories from reading Google News. I also watch Fareed Zakaria consistently because I think he offers factual coverage and presents both sides of an issue as any journalist should. I have resisted getting involved with Twitter as I really spend too much time on the news already. I am trying to carve out a part of every day to be completely separate from this insanity, trying to remember that I will get myself in a twist over things I cannot do anything about. So, I hope that makes me look less like Sarah.

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    4. Oh my gosh, you sound nothing like Sarah Palin! Your sources overlap with mine quite a bit. I try to read other povs too. There aren't all that many commentators who are pro-Trump, apart from Fox News. Even commentators who generally lean right are down on him. I took two days off and it's been great. It really does feel like an addiction sometimes.

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  6. This won't use up many tomatoes, but I love this recipe from Mario Batali: Cut in half and briefly saute them in butter and olive oil with some thinly sliced garlic and a pinch of red pepper flakes. Toss them with pasta, chiffonaded basil leaves, grated Parmesan, and some toasted pine nuts. I could live on that.

    After trying my best to remain neutral on social media I gave up and have been inviting people to join me when I sign up for volunteer shifts at the HRC headquarters. I spent a few hours on Wednesday making phone calls to people in California asking them to host fundraising events. To my utter shock, instead of cursing me out or hanging up on me, several people said they would be delighted to do it. Some people were not so lucky. The poor young guy sitting across from me kept encountering women who had just lost their husbands. The whole two hours I kept hearing him murmuring, "Oh, no, I'm so sorry, ma'am."

    It feels good to actually do something to try to stop what's happening. I think what we need, though, is a huge course correction as a nation. What in the world does it say about our culture and our educational system that we have such a huge,huge problem with ignorance, violence, and racism? What does it say about us that so many people are taken in by this person? Including at least one of my grammar school playmates, who is a wealthy, intelligent woman.

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    1. Yep, something is wrong. I can't read enough essays on what it might be. There are some really good ones out there.

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  7. A standing ovation from me for being able to get rhubarb to grow in your garden!! I tried and tried but either it would get trampled by Steve pulling up weeds or get swallowed up by the weeds. Love rhubarb!

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    1. WATER. I credit the regular watering for survival of the rhubarb. And it's not in a regular bed, it's in the rough ground with no soil amendment. I can't believe how well it's done.

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  8. I have an assistant who, sweet as she is, refuses to vote for HRC because she immersed herself in the bubble of Bernie supporters who vilified Hillary to such an unbelievable extent (she's apparently an actual murderer! Who knew?) that she can't see past all the smear tactics. HRC came to my place of work for a town hall meeting or something, and my assistant joked about poisoning her with pastries. It's like that.

    About that rhubarb. I put rhubarb on my menu a few months ago (rhubarb is one of the few "fruits" of spring), and the fresh stuff was beautiful, but my produce lady couldn't source fresh for me after the first two weeks and offered frozen, which I accepted, reluctantly. Frozen rhubarb is totally fine. It freezes really well. But it isn't pink! At least this batch wasn't. I'm afraid I resorted to adding a drop of red food coloring. It wasn't as beautiful as the real thing, but that drop helped a lot!

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    1. Oh--tabbouleh is so much better when you leave out or almost eliminate the bulgar. I sent myself to a study abroad year in Florence by working at an Armenian restaurant in Pasadena as a waitress for a couple summers. Their tabbouleh was exemplary. Barely flecked with bulgar, mostly parsley, cucumber, cherry tomato, mint, lemon juice, garlic, olive oil. It was my first exposure to this salad, and I was shocked when I discovered that most people consider it to be a bulgar dish! The bulgar was incidental in the Armenian version where I worked.

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    2. Kristin, Saturday I was in a theater and the guy behind me was opining very loudly that the Clintons are in cahoots with Trump. That HRC somehow schemed to have DT run and lose so she could win. I wanted to turn around and see who he was, what he looked like, but he was too close. To believe she could devise and execute such a scheme you have to believe that she is omnipotent and thoroughly evil, the devil incarnate! Lord.

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    3. Saw a post saying that if Hillary had pulled off half the conspiracies people accuse her of she must be magical and she should rule the known universe.

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  9. Listened to a podcast from The Professional Left this week which listed thirteen separate items, all hard to believe, and concluded with the comment, "Today is Wednesday." Says it all.

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    1. Yep. He seems to have cooled down a bit these last few days. I wonder if his handlers will keep him under control.

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    2. I guess he was saving it up for that diaphanously veiled suggestion that someone should assassinate Mrs. Clinton.

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    3. Unbelievable. The worst.

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  10. When I lived in Montana, I had a patch of rhubarb and loved it, even though my husband and boys don't care for it. One time when my mom visited she packed a large bunch in her suitcase to take back to Texas. Sadly, it is too hot to grow in Houston so I've gone without it for a while.

    Even though I live in very red state, most Republicans I know do not like Trump at all. Some people like my dad are planning on not casting a vote for president.

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    1. Most the Republicans I know do not like Trump either. Such a weird election.

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    2. Most the Republicans I know do not like Trump either. Such a weird election.

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  11. That pasta. My goodness. I was so skeptical, having done one pot pastas before. But it was amazing. I think what made the difference was adding the cheese after, whereas many recipes have you add it in during the cooking process. Thank you for posting! I've got both her books on hold at the library now.

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  12. I have nothing to say here about politics. I just came back to comment on rhubarb, amazingly enough, something I never cook with (my family doesn't like cooked fruit, they tell me. Boy does that eliminate a lot, it turns out). But I was catching up with "A Cake Bakes in Brooklyn" and she posted two vintage rhubarb recipes, one of which she made with green rhubarb. Rhubarb meringue pie: http://www.acakebakesinbrooklyn.com/2016/05/rhubarb-meringue-pie.html
    and rhubarb torte (this is the green one): http://www.acakebakesinbrooklyn.com/2016/05/rhubarb-torte.html

    So, just a rhubarb FYI.

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  13. My mom has 5 different rhubarb plants and always cuts some of each when she is cooking or freezing it. Dad started making wine to empty the freezer. Wonderful, if you're into that kind of thing. Color doesn't matter at that point. But I actually sorted it back out when she gave me a garbage bag full. I froze pink for those recipes that I thought would need it, and green for those where it is more incorporated into the finished product.
    -And about Trump; my husband is pro-Trump and retired so he has lots of time to surf for articles and opinions. Then he wants to argue with me about how biased the reporting is against him. But we are Canadian!!! Drives me mad that he is more vested in the American election than he ever has been in the Canadian ones.

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