Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thanksgiving Offerings

After grocery shopping with Mama Roddy and cooking all day, the last thing I have energy for is photo-ops. Maybe tomorrow...

In lieu of photos, a list. Here's what I'm contributing to the big day:

Smoked salmon on whole wheat crackers
Turkey and cream cheese wrapped pickles
Cornbread stuffing with apples, turkey sausage, cranberries and walnuts
Peas with shallots and priosciutto
Oatmeal pecan pie
Fresh cranberry relish with oranges, ginger, and apples

The pickle thing is a major tradition from Matt's side of the family. Don't knock till you try.

My mom, Mama Roddy, my sister-in-law Kathryn and her mom have dibs on all the other major T-day staples.

Feast on.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Rice and Beans


Quickly, I would like to sing the praises of a hot couple who've been hanging out together for ages: rice and beans.

I have recently discovered rice and beans. I have to admit, most of my life I have hated beans. I used to say, "The only beans I like are jelly beans and coffee beans." Sadly it was true. I avoided the refried beans beside my enchilada, I carefully spooned the broth and meat off the top of chilli, and if someone served lentils, I just had salad. I also had an epic fight with my parents in my bratty teenage years over green beans that is still talked about to this day. I have a distinct childhood memory involving navy bean soup in the school cafeteria and a case of the stomach flu, so maybe that's where the aversion started.

Then came my gateway bean: garbanzo. I fell in love with hummus and I tolerated garbanzo beans on Italian salads. I guess in some ways they are the most unbeanlike bean there is. Much firmer in texture and more neutral in flavor. A few years later, I tasted a Tuscan white bean dip at Macrina's Bakery. It was like hummus, but better. Then I stayed open to canellini beans when they showed up in soups and rice dishes. Then kidney and black beans didn't seem so bad in chilli.

I had a real breakthrough this month. For the first time in my life, I bought beans. Cans and cans of beans. The economy is down and we're trying to eat as organically and cleanly as possible. This sometimes means no meat with dinner or big pots of something that can stretch for lunches all week. I have to tell you, there has never been a better time (at least for me) to learn to cook with beans.

The first batch of beans and rice became latin/ indian inspired haystacks. I started with a mirepoix (diced carrots, celery and onions) and sauteed it with sea salt and olive oil. When they became tender, I added a big tablespoon of one of my favorite spice mixes, garam masala, and a cup of rice. I continued to sautee for about a minute, then added 2 cups of chicken stock, covered and let cook until the rice was cooked. At the end I added a rinsed can of canellini beans and tons of fresh cilantro. Matt and I ate bowls full with corn chips, sour cream, and salsa.

Yesterday, we were down to odds and ends in the fridge, so I decided to make vegetarian tacos. I had two mushrooms, half a red onion, a zucchini, and a red chilli pepper, so I chopped them up and sauteed them in olive oil with salt, fresh cilantro, and chives. I also made a pot of rice and used coconut milk instead of water to cook it in. I heated up some black beans and we ate the vegetable sautee, coconut rice, and black beans on corn tortillas with fresh avacados, a little leftover green goddess dressing (avacado, buttermilk, and tons of herbs all blended up with lemon juice), and sour cream.

If my eagerness to eat the leftovers for lunch today proves anything, then last night's dinner was pretty damn good.

I'm not sure what my next rice and bean adventure will entail, but I'm definitely keep my eyes open for new recipes (hint, hint--post me yours!)

On an entirely different note, I plan to cook up a bunch of fun things this afternoon: tabouleh (bulgar wheat, tomatoes, green onions, feta, kalamata olives, parsley, mint and lemon juice); curried chicken salad (chicken breast, major grey's chutney, curry powder, currants, plain yogurt, almonds, green onions, parsley and chives), and for dinner I plan to experiment with this new buttercup (not butternut!) squash I picked up at the Co-op.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

San Francisco

My friend Jenn was going to San Francisco for a conference and had an extra bed, I had frequent flier miles, and I've been having dreams about having dinner at Chez Panisse. Seems like some things are just meant to be...



Berkeley was everything I thought it would be. As I wandered through the UC Berkeley campus, I saw people with petitions and a girl asking, "We're non-violent action. Would you like to save a tree?" Earlier, I saw a guy getting arrested as the pungent smell of pot hung in the air. Quintessential liberal California.

Berkeley: University library, politically active church, and organic farmer's market




The long-awaited dinner: little gems lettuce with beets and green goddess dressing; grilled halibut with roasted peppers, fennel and romesco sauce; flourless chocolate cake with hazelnut cream.






Oakland: Jenn and I at Pizzaiolo--outside with no jackets in November!


Mission District: breakfast at the Tartine Bakery, San Francisco architecture, the Woman's Building




San Francisco: farmer's market at the ferry building, individually brewed drip coffee (delicious!), Bay Bridge, battling sea lions






Friday, November 07, 2008

Quirkiness

My friend Casey tagged me in a blog post, so I guess I'll respond! (PS This is really hard to do for some reason).

Seven Quirky Things about myself and Three things I like about myself.

1. Even with chiropractic care, apparently, my right leg is half an inch shorter than my left.

2. I didn't cry when I was born. Instead, I opened my eyes, looked the midwife in the face, reached up and grabbed her shirt to pull her closer, and started cooing at her.

3. We moved a lot when I was growing up. In my life, I have lived in 12 houses, 1 trailor, 3 dorms, 2 apartments, 1 Swiss chalet, 1 flat, and 1 mother-in-law. I've lived in 3 countries and 6 states.

4. I have 3-5 dreams every night that most of the time I can remember in the morning. I have learned that relaying them to others is very boring for them. :)

5. Matt and I have matching teddy bears that were both given to us when we were in junior high school (we didn't know each other then). Oddly, I named mine Peter and Matt named his Pete. We still have them.

6. When I was in high school and college, I hated to be alone or to not have plans. Now I crave being alone and love having nothing planned for days at a time.

7. I frequently have dreams or thoughts about things that end up happening.

Three things I like about myself:

1. I'm fairly loyal (I've liked Matt since I was 18!) and put a lot of value in my relationships.

2. I have always tried to think independently from other people and come to conclusions about things on my own. This often makes me feel like an outsider, but I think it's a good trait for a writer. I also love it when I find other people like this--to talk about ideas and discover things together.

3. Recently, I have become very adventurous about food and try new things all the time. I used to be very picky and life is a lot more fun now that I'm not.

What I ate last night...


DINNER MENU


CHEZ PANISSE CAFÉ DINNER MENU

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Bellwether Farm ricotta with artichokes, rosemary, and black olives, $10.00
Blue Heron Farm Little Gems lettuce with beets and green goddess dressing, $9.00



Spaghetti alla Norma with eggplant, tomato, basil, hot pepper, and ricotta salata, $18.00
Northern halibut with grilled peppers, fennel, and romesco sauce, $28.00


DESSERT
Philo Gold apple and raspberry tart with vanilla ice cream, $9.75
Bittersweet chocolate pavé with hazelnut cream, $9.25


All our produce, meat, poultry, and fish come from farms, ranches, and
fisheries guided by principles of sustainability.

http://www.chezpanisse.com/

Monday, November 03, 2008

God's Politics

So election day is tomorrow and it has been "one of the most evocative elections in our country’s recent history" (to quote an article I read recently by musician Derek Webb).

Evocative.

It certainly has been for me, my friends and family, and seemingly for the nation. I thought I'd share some of my thoughts here. Many of these thoughts are influenced by my faith, so I hope that my otherwise believing friends won't mind too much.

Yesterday, I read something that Jesus said and it really surprised me, humbled me, and got me thinking. It was what some people like to call "The Sermon on the Plain" (Luke 6:20-38, if you care). It's one of those times when Jesus says something so radical, it turns religion and morality and convention on its head. Here's what he says:

"To you who are ready for the truth, I say this: Love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with energies of prayer for that person. If someone slaps you in the face, stand there and take it. If someone grabs your shirt, giftwrap your best coat and make a present of it. If someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to practice the servant life. No more tit-for-tat stuff. Live generously.

Here's a simple rule of thumb for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you; then grab the initiative and do it for them! If you only love the lovable, do you expect a pat on the back?...

I tell you, love your enemies. Help and give without expecting a return. You'll never--I promise--regret it...

Don't pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults--unless of course you want the same treatment...

It's easy to see a smudge on your neighbor's face and be oblivious to the ugly sneer on your own. Do you have the nerve to say, 'Let me wash your face for you,' when your own face is distorted with contempt? It's this I-know-better-than-you mentality again, playing a holier-than-thou part instead of just living your own part."

Ok, that was a long quote (and I left a lot out). What struck me about these words were two things: 1. I want to be like that, and 2. Jesus is painting a picture of a much different world than the one I live in.

How much criticism, hatred, fear, and anger have I heard from people during this election? A lot. And some of these people are Christians. When I read Jesus' words, I have to scratch my head about that. It doesn't seem like he's saying people should act like that. Just the opposite, actually.

Politics have a way of riling people up, pitting them against each other. Basically bringing out the worst in people. I've noticed it in myself, the mean thoughts I have about the person driving the car with the opposing candidate's bumper sticker on the back. As a Christian, I have to ask myself, is this the way Jesus would have wanted me to think? I can't help wondering if I've been the person that Jesus is talking about, pointing out others' faults with the sneer of pettiness and hatred on my face.

Some of my Christian friends might be thinking right now that being a Christian means that they should vote and vote for a particular party and that being right about this requires them to judge the other candidate harshly. I'm not so sure.

When it comes to the sanctity of life, there is no political party in America that values life the way I think Christ would. While one supports a woman's right to terminate a pregnancy, the other supports war, the death penalty and does little to help the oppressed and marginalized. If you are a follower of Christ, I ask: Where does "love your enemy" fit into a foreign military policy? Where does "treat others the way you want to be treated" fit into the right to choose?

Some people are concerned about taxes and the economy. Aren't Christians supposed to "give freely to those who have need," especially those worse off than themselves? Aren't they supposed to trust God's provision for them?

There's no perfect choice here.

The more I think about it, the life that Jesus is mandating in that sermon looks pretty different from American politics all-together.

Jesus didn't want to be a political figure. The people waving palms in praise of him as he entered Jerusalem were the same people who shouted "Kill him!" a week later. Why? They wanted him to be King, to liberate the Jews from Roman occupancy (Remember King Herod tried to kill him as a baby because he feared the same thing). But Jesus made it clear that wasn't the kind of kingdom he wanted to rule over. So people wanted him dead. They were so angry, so disappointed.

Which makes me think about this book I just started reading where the author says, "A Christian should get very nervous when the flag and the Bible start holding hands." And later he reminds us that "Jesus was a Middle Eastern man who lived in an occupied country and was killed by the superpower of his day."

So are Americans, the superpower of the world today, in the best position to judge how Jesus would see our political system? And am I really sure that Jesus would vote for my candidate? I find it more likely he is concerned with a very different kind of politics, one which involves how I myself will solve the problems I see around me: with mercy, love and patience.

And yet, the teachings of Christ do influence my vote. I am not advocating throwing up our hands and waiting for the end of the world. I believe that posture to be one of despair, something the Bible warns us against. I am saying, though, that I don't think we have a perfect system, a perfect nation, or a perfect way of knowing that our political choices are the right ones. Government can't mandate faith or compassion. No politician will save our country.

I confess I'm kind of looking forward to next week--when all of this will be over. Things have gotten heated, and downright mean, even among friends. When Wednesday comes, I do hope that my candidate will have won. But if he hasn't, my hope is not shaken. To quote Webb again, "My first allegiance is not to flag or country, or a man. My first allegiance is not to democracy or blood. It's to a king and a kingdom."

If you would like to download Webb's excellent album, Mockingbird, he is offering it for free here, just for this week, along with an audio reading of the article I mentioned in the beginning of this blog post.