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Search for Simplicity + Cream of Vegetable Soup

Cross

Two of my greatest spiritual teachers during this difficult time are large trees and the writings of Richard Rohr.

For anyone who is not familiar, here are two introductory ideas about Rohr, gleaned from his many books and free daily emails:

  1. Scripture is foundational, with a yes/and relationship to personal experiences of the divine via contemplation practices like meditation
  2. Franciscan alternative orthodoxy, Rohr’s tradition, encompasses a deep lived respect for nature and the environment, solidarity with marginalized groups and individuals, and a simple lifestyle.

He founded The Center for Action and Contemplation (CAC), where he currently serves as academic dean. The center is located in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and offers a variety of classes and conferences associated with Rohr’s teachings.

The theme of last week’s emails was simplicity. At the end of every week, Rohr sends out a summary. These compressed versions of Sunday, June 28 and Tuesday, June 30 stand out to me:

“Sunday: As we grow spiritually, our lives become more and more centered and simple. There are only a few things that matter, and eventually really only one.”

I can so relate to this statement. To accompany COVID, which has restricted the scope of the physical spaces I am able to occupy and the people I can physically be with, I have experienced both the unexpected loss and the painful but voluntary letting go of several friendships. I have willingly shed the stability of my full-time salaried writing job for the freedom “to go rogue” with my skills and figure out what’s next.

To ground myself amid these changes, I find myself thanking God for what’s right in front of me: the roof over my head, the food in my fridge, the bed I have to sleep in. I suppose I am saying that such changes — and COVID — have challenged me to grow spiritually? I doubt I am alone in that.

The pandemic has stripped most of us of a lot of what we might call “freedoms,” while at the same time freeing us with more time to live out these simple values.

One of the changes I am most grateful for is the time and space — borne out of necessity — to cook most of my own food at home. The recipes I gravitate toward are uber basic.

This brings me to the other summary:

“Tuesday: Simple living is the foundational social justice teaching of Jesus, Francis of Assisi, Dorothy Day, Pope Francis, and all hermits, mystics, prophets, and seers since time immemorial.”

Making a very simple, cheap meal from scratch is a subtle spiritual experience for me. It feels aligned with my values. Simple. True. Holy.

In other recent posts, I have extolled the virtue of soup. The simplest, most satisfying of soups, I believe, is to chop up one kind of vegetable, sizzle some onion and garlic in a big pot, toss the chopped vegetable in with broth to soften and cook it, and then blend it (in the easiest and least messy way possible, ideally, with an immersion blender) and add a touch of heavy cream.

I recently did this with a big ole pile of zucchini. Here’s the recipe. You can substitute a vegetable of your choice (carrots, squash?).

Enjoy — I wish you a simple, peaceful day with lots of veggies on your plate.

Zucchini

Cream of Zucchini Soup
Ingredients

  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 8 large zucchini, chopped coarsely
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup + 1 Tablespoon heavy cream
  • Kosher salt and pepper

Instructions

  • Arrange all your ingredients on the counter.
  • Chop the zucchini into smallish chunks.
  • Chop the onion and prepare the garlic.
  • Heat vegetable broth and water together in a small saucepan. (Re broth, I’m a big fan of Better than Bouillon.)
  • Warm a big pot over medium heat and add butter until it melts. Add onion and garlic, and cook until they soften and become fragrant.
  • Add flour and zucchini; cook, stirring, for 2 minutes.
  • Stir in broth and water; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer everything uncovered until zucchini is tender, approximately 15 minutes.
  • Remove pot from heat and cool for 10 minutes.
  • Blend away!
  • Add heavy cream, and stir over medium heat until hot again.
  • Enjoy lots of soupfuls as you season to taste with salt and pepper.

Easy Recipe for Baking Any White Fish

Chef Caroline

Wait… what’s that about fish? Just getting your attention real quick with a picture of my niece Caroline playing in her miniature kitchen 🙂

As I mentioned in a previous post, I’m trying my hand at the pescatarian life. This recipe for baked salmon never fails, but I tend to fall in a major rut with it… fish at my house means salmon all the time, baked with lemon and butter and dill. I did attempt to liven things up this week with a recipe for roasted salmon with miso rice and ginger scallion vinaigrette, but by the time dinner rolled around I needed something quick and easy and chucked my plans for the no-fail mainstay.

That’s OK, because I have landed on another very simple way to cook white fish — of any kind. The recipe that follows is a dumbed-down, cheaper version of Ina Garten’s mustard-roasted fish, and it’s based on what I had in my fridge and a big filet of fresh snapper that my husband picked up at the store yesterday.

Easy Baked White Fish

Ingredients

  • Any kind of white fish, cut into one big piece or smaller filets
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 4 Tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 small onion, diced (or better yet, minced)
  • Kosher salt and black pepper

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Place fish in a baking dish, pat dry, and season generously with salt and pepper.
  • In a small mixing bowl, whisk together all ingredients + 1 teaspoons salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper.
  • Pour the sauce over the fish!
  • Bake, uncovered, between 10 and 15 minutes, depending on how your fish is cut. Will be nice and flaky when done.

Heave a beautiful evening.

Ginger

Week’s Worth of Summer Suppers

Summer Suppers Pic

Shelter in place has its challenges, but I’ve got it pretty good. Finding the silver lining: I’ve been eating a lot healthier because… I’ve been cooking a lot more! Go figure.

How has the pandemic shifted things for you?

Here is what I’m eating for dinner this week:

(It’s not entirely pescatarian, contrary to a goal I shared in a recent post.)

Here’s everything you need:

Pantry Items

  • Long grain rice (1 1/2 cups)
  • Olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Pepper
  • Low-sodium soy sauce
  • White vinegar
  • Sesame oil
  • Onions (1 small white, 1/2 small red)
  • Fresh garlic
  • Black beans
  • Vegetable oil or Ghee
  • Panko bread crumbs
  • Dijon mustard
  • Mayonnaise
  • Worcestershire sauce

Shopping List

  • Frozen salmon fillets
  • Chicken thighs (bone in preferably)
  • Lots of eggs
  • Shredded cheddar cheese
  • Lots of kale
  • 2 avocados
  • 1 large tomato
  • Cilantro
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes
  • 1 yellow bell pepper
  • 2 limes
  • Scallions (ÂĽ cup)
  • Head of cabbage
  • Fresh ginger
  • Lemons
  • Flour tortillas
  • Miso

Enjoy! Hope you find some time between meals to sit under a tree.

Craftivism, Sidewalk Chalk, and Soup

I was recently listening to a podcast about women and creativity. The guest, who was interviewed about her efforts re homemaking and all things domestic, said something to this effect: “Get out your cauldron and make that witch’s brew!”

Hell yes!

I am working on (or more accurately, actively avoiding) a book project related to race and education in the United States. The eruption of Black Lives Matter protests across the country and the redirection of the national media spotlight on long-neglected issues of systemic racism has somewhat paralyzed me. Well, I’ve sent a few emails. Arranged some interviews.

I’m honestly so… exhausted. I think of Eliza DooLittle in My Fair Lady: “Words, words, words; I’m so sick of words!”

There’s a saying, “The briefest sermon never ends.”

Some are interjecting their voices via cross stitch. @pixeledstitching sells these for $25 dedicated toward Communities United Against Police Brutality:

Craftivism

Others are using sidewalk chalk:

Sidewalk Chalk

About that witch’s brew… there’s a Rumi poem called Say Yes Quickly with two lines that encapsulate my feelings about making a bright green pot of vegetable soup:

“Inside you there’s an artist you don’t know about.

Simply follow directions and you’ll make some pretty pictures:

Brew 1

Brew 2

Brew 3

Brew 4

And another line,

“If you’ve opened your loving to God’s love,
you’re helping people you don’t know
and have never seen.”

The recipe below for pea, bacon, & mint soup, featuring many of the same ingredients as Ina’s but with the addition of a little meat flavoring, channels the spirit of my great grandmother. It does nothing for the world but fill your house with the smell of bacon and love.

Ingredients

  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 8 oz bacon slices, chopped coarsely
  • 1 medium leek, sliced thinly
  • 1 stalk celery, trimmed, sliced thinly
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 cans (15 oz each) peas, rinsed, drained
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup firmly packed fresh mint leaves

Directions

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat; cook bacon, leek, celery and garlic, stirring until onion softens and bacon is browned lightly.

Step One Recipe

Add peas, broth, the water and mint to pan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, 20 minutes. Cool 10 minutes.

Step Two Recipe

Blend soup (ideally with an immersion blender.) Season to taste. Serve with a sprig of mint and a drizzle of oil.

Bacon Pea Soup

 

Corona Cooking: 2+ Pastas for the Casual Pescatarian

Shrimp Dish

 

Who doesn’t love the power of food and cooking to evoke fond memories from the past.

My husband and I are trying our hand at a pescatarian diet (with a few cheats here and there), which prompted me to revive an old favorite of ours, Ina Garten’s linguine with shrimp scampi. I followed the recipe to a tee and then felt like it needed a little something more, so I dusted off the finished product with generous handfuls of grated Parmesan cheese.

Padraic lifted a forkful to his mouth and immediately went nostalgic on me, reminiscing about the time we made this together in my shoebox studio apartment in Chicago, splurging on large and expensive shrimp from the Whole Foods around the corner. Then, another time on a lakeside vacation, when my younger brother watched us pull everything together in a large skillet and told us “we made a good team.”

This is a romantic, special meal indeed — and not just because you’re shelling out some bucks for shrimp. It’s the richness of the noodles, the decorative lemon slices, the deceptively simple flavoring of olive oil, butter, lemon, red pepper flakes, garlic, and the way all the ingredients take just a few minutes to cook in a skillet, especially when there are two cooks in the kitchen.

Savor this dish on a summer night with your S.O. and bring some beachside vibes into your home.

A second, far less sexy supper is this New York Times recipe for the thoroughly GREEN “kale-sauce pasta.” Think of it as pesto, with voluminous amounts of blanched kale leaves standing in for the traditional basil.

Don’t be fooled by its simplicity — it’s a bit of an undertaking to clean and stem and blanch all those ever-lovin greens, but it’s a good staple made all the more satisfying if some or all of the kale comes from your backyard.

And then… when you’re sick of the kitchen (and perhaps each other), how about a pasta sauce for the ages that never disappoints.

Onward and upward, friends!

Corona Cooking: Roasted Vegetables Over Polenta

Corona Cooking: Roasted Vegetables Over Polenta

How are you feeling today? I’m keenly aware that I am taking a privileged walk through this global pandemic… and yet I often find myself seized by a vague melancholy borne of solidarity with those who are suffering, the surreal vibe of this whole thing, and the uncertainty of what is yet to come.

I’m sure there is a great deal more I could be doing for the world, but last night I went back to basics and took care of myself and my husband with a soothing bowl of fontina-flavored polenta and roasted veggies. I fight the idea, but caring for me and mine CAN be enough on a Saturday night during these difficult times. At times, it may be the best thing we can do to hunker down and make a satisfying meal. Let’s get to it:

Roasted Veggie Ingredients

  • Veggies (I used two small butternut squash and a pile of Brussels sprouts, but go for what you’ve got on hand — broccoli, carrots, sweet potatoes, turnips… hmm…)
  • Olive oil
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Salt (preferably Kosher salt or sea salt)
  • Pepper

Instructions

  • Chop the veggies into chunks
  • Plop into a bowl and season generously with salt and pepper
  • Mix with 3 parts olive oil to 1 part Balsamic vinegar
  • Pour on a baking sheet lined with foil or parchment paper
  • Roast at 450 degrees Fahrenheit until browned and cooked through, 20-25 minutes

It’s a beautiful transformation… Raw veggies with some seasoning:

Raw Squash

Brussels Sprouts

Become better versions of themselves… roasted!

Roasted veggies

Polenta Ingredients

  • One cup loose polenta
  • One Tablespoon unsalted butter
  • Small wedge of cheese, shredded (I used Fontina, but go at it, Asiago, cheddar, even dollops of goat cheese would be tasty)
  • A few tablespoons of Parmesan cheese
  • 5 cups water

This is what we’re looking at, minus the water:

Polenta prep

Polenta Instructions

  • Bring water to a boil
  • Add polenta, stir, bring back to a boil
  • Turn heat on low and simmer and cook, stirring often, for 40 min (yes this is a dinner to linger over)
  • Mix in cheeses and butter at end once polenta is already cooked

Combine all in a bowl, throw a chopped fresh herb on top, and you get a version of this, courtesy of School Night cookbook:

Cookbook pic

Once you purchase (or find) a container of loose polenta, let your creativity take the reigns and repeat with different veggies or try serving with protein… something in the red meat department would appeal to me…

We capped off this quiet evening with a trip to Forest Park and took comfort in this view: Forest Park view

Peace.

Corona Cooking: Roasted Sweet Potatoes

Hey there! I’m inspired by the simplicity of #QuarantineCooking to share my favorite way to cook and EAT sweet potatoes:

Ingredients

  • Two sweet potatoes
  • 2 T. unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 T. Olive oil
  • Two large garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 T. shredded Parmesan cheese
  • Herb of your choice, fresh or dried

Instructions

  • Peel and cube potatoes and dump into large mixing bowl.
  • Dump all other ingredients into bowl and coat the potatoes.
  • Pour seasoned potatoes onto sheet pan lined with foil or parchment paper.
  • Bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for approx. 20 minutes.

Enjoy!

Sweet Potatoes

Corona Cooking: Perfect Chicken Breast

Corona Cooking: Perfect Chicken Breast

Hi friends! It’s been a while. So COVID-19 has hit. Whew. Simplicity is key for me in the kitchen right now. I’d like to share a recipe from a cookbook called The Whole30: The 30-Day Guide to Total Health and Food Freedom. 

It’s called “perfect” chicken breast. Minimal ingredients, healthy, can be eaten for breakfast, lunch, dinner… or a snack!

Ingredients

  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Cooking fat (olive oil, butter, or my preference, Ghee)
  • 2 chicken breasts

Cooking Process

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Pat chicken breasts dry and season both sides with salt and pepper.
  3. Heat cooking fat in skillet on medium-high.
  4. Add chicken breasts — rounded side down — and sear for 5 min. Meanwhile, prep a sheet pan with a piece of aluminum foil or parchment paper.
  5. Place chicken breasts on sheet pan and bake for approx. 13 min. (Cookbook says between 10-15 but I’ve found 13 min. to be the sweet spot.)
  6. Test middle of chicken breast with knife and fork and tweak baking time to your liking 🙂

Namaste. May food bring you some peace and comfort.

XO,
Ginger

2017 Recipe Scrapbook

On this frigid New Year’s Eve, I thought it would be fun to document some of the recipes and corresponding occasions that warmed my kitchen (and my belly!) throughout the year 2017.

This year has been challenging, rich, full… then again, I suppose those are some pretty accurate descriptors for LIFE in general and not specific to any calendar year. I’m grateful that cooking has made the year fuller and richer (I think there’s a double entendre in there)!

I hope that this list serves useful to you if you’re looking for some inspiration for the coming year, and please do share your favorite recipes of 2017 in the comments section!

XO,
Ginger

Celebration Meals

mom and me smitten kitchenMy mom and I both gave each other Smitten Kitchen Every Day: Triumphant and Unfussy New Favorites this year for Xmas. (I credit my mom with teaching me how to cook, and she can thank me for introducing her to Deb Perelman 🙂 ) After driving back from Xmas celebrations in Chicago, I was eager to create a festive mood at home (and make the most of my week off from work) by trying the book’s spiced carrot and pepper soup with couscous swirl, paired with a kale caesar [salad] with broken eggs and crushed croutons:

soup and salad smitten kitchen

Go figure that in my anticipation of the cookbook, I borrowed my mom’s cast iron skillet to make Cacio e Pepe Potatoes Anna from Perelman’s site. Potatoes wrapped with a bow, in my opinion:

Screen Shot 2017-12-31 at 1.15.19 PM

Screen Shot 2017-12-31 at 1.36.44 PMIn August, my husband Padraic and I celebrated our fifth wedding anniversary. I made a Jeffrey out of him with Ina Garten’s recipe for Real Meat Balls and and Spaghetti. (I love how Ina is always calling for food to be “real” — “real mayo,” for example. And I love her mixture of snobbery and warmth). You can read elsewhere on this blog about my first attempt with this dish.

When Padraic and I had my parents over for a celebratory dinner, I tried a recipe for sweet and spicy pineapple pork from Rachel Ray’s Book of 10: More Than 300 Recipes to Cook Every Day.

Today, on New Year’s Eve, I’m experimenting with another recipe from the Smitten Kitchen cookbook: artichoke and parmesan galette. I tasted it for you… surprisingly lemon-y 🙂

Screen Shot 2017-12-31 at 1.53.01 PM

Weeknight Suppers

Quick and Easy Chinese: 70 Everyday Recipes is just plain awesome for weeknight, aka, work night, cooking, because the meals are not only quick and easy, but flavorful and special-feeling. For some reason I lean towards chicken when making chinese food. Perhaps I need to get more adventurous. For now, here are two keepers:

Kung Pao Chicken

Kung Pao Chicken

Lemon Chicken

Lemon Chicken

Back in September, I tried slow cooker pesto mozzarella chicken pasta:

Screen Shot 2017-12-31 at 2.13.56 PM

Here’s are two more gems from Smitten Kitchen:

Tomato and Sausage Risotto

Screen Shot 2017-12-31 at 2.47.33 PM

Quick Pasta and Chickpeas

Screen Shot 2017-12-31 at 2.45.38 PM

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And… two recipes from Chrissy Teigen’s cookbook Cravings: Recipes for All the Food You Want to Eat  that make for simple, special weeknight suppers:

Lemony Arugula Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe
Thai Beef Salad 

The Pioneer Woman’s Migas is filling AND cheap:

Screen Shot 2017-12-31 at 2.32.40 PM

I happened upon this yummy recipe for cauliflower-cheddar soup while waiting for a prescription to be filled 🙂

Screen Shot 2017-12-31 at 2.42.54 PM

And finally, lentils! The theme of the new chapter in my life in which I’m paying out of pocket for health insurance AND paying grad school tuition. Thank God they’re so delicious!!

Fridge-Clearing Lentil Soup
Brown Lentils and Rice with Caramelized OnionsScreen Shot 2017-12-31 at 2.56.11 PM

 

STUFF I MADE THIS SUMMER

I spent the summer querying a lot of magazines, writing a long-ass article about teaching gifted students that was finally published this month, for which I still haven’t gotten paid :/ getting accepted into an MFA program, hemming and hawing over whether to quit my teaching job and then writing what turned out to be a novella-length short story about a comically inept teacher for my workshop class, digging into my role as Aunt G, and cooking like a good ole southern Grandma for large family get-togethers…

Here is some of the STUFF I MADE:

The Pioneer Woman’s Chicken Spaghetti

Screen Shot 2017-12-31 at 3.05.16 PM

Orange Pound Cake

Screen Shot 2017-12-31 at 3.21.44 PM

Cristina Ferrare’s Strawberry Shortcake

Screen Shot 2017-12-31 at 3.28.47 PM

My Great-Grandmother’s Baked Beans 🙂

Screen Shot 2017-12-31 at 3.35.27 PM

Salty Oatmeal Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Screen Shot 2017-12-31 at 3.47.56 PM

Tomato Feta Pasta Salad

Screen Shot 2017-12-31 at 3.58.08 PM

Shrimp & Sausage Paleo Skillet Meal

Screen Shot 2017-12-31 at 3.57.41 PM

And a few more for good measure:

Mentoring on Sunday Afternoons

This last category is bittersweet… My mentee, a former resident of Epworth Children and Family Services, is currently “on run” and so we are no longer able to meet. For a few months, though, we filled our Sunday afternoons with cooking and scrapbooking about what we had cooked. When she told me that cooking — and documenting it — was how she wanted to spend our time together, I thought, girl after my own heart!

We did a bit of a tour through Ree Drummond’s The Pioneer Woman Cooks:

Recently, when I received a one-line e-mail from her therapist saying that she was gone, I was tempted to view our time together as “a waste,” thinking back on the volunteer coordinator’s lofty words about how it “only takes one person” to make a difference in the life of a child. What difference could I possibly have made?? I lamented.

Today, and in the new year, if there are any resolutions to be made, I believe it is to withhold judgment about any of my pursuits (or relationships) and do my best to be present in them, living one day at a time. I am grateful for my brief time with a young, resilient 14-year-old young woman. It is enough for me that we had a good time together on a few Sunday afternoons in 2017. And yet… I’m glad that we documented our time together, so that some Sunday afternoon in 2018, I can return to this page, and remember her… and the food 🙂

Cheers to the New Year, to cooking, and to treating time with a little bit of reverence.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Recommendations for Sanibel Island…and Beach-Side Musings

The salty, gritty scent of the gulf rolling onto crushed shell-bone and white sand… Clear, cerulean skies and hot sun… And, predictably, my favorite part: late, sun-kissed dinners teeming with fresh seafood, warm bread, and goldfish garnered salads. 

I grew up coming to Sanibel as a child, and this week my husband Padraic and I spent a week there with my parents and one of my brothers. I’m not the best at relaxing on vacations — trust me, I spent much of the week in the condo in front of my computer, planning lessons, grading papers, and researching summer professional development opportunities. Any “color” I got is the product of Jergens Natural Glow. (Minus my two lobster red feet.) But as I get ready to board the plane back to my real life, I find myself eager to reminisce.

I talk about writing quite a bit on this site, and so it bears mentioning that I always associate my childhood Sanibel trips with writing and journaling and reflecting. And the book, Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh, given to me by my mother. There’s something about the pull and tug of the ocean that as a child/adolescent, called out my inner longings, surfaced my frustrations and fears, and got me in my feelings, in a broody, contemplative state that couldn’t have less to do with building an ambitious sand castle or getting a killer tan.

I also associate Sanibel with my mom, Jeanie. This is the only annual vacation she and my dad really allow themselves, and she always seems to take a bit of the island with her, sharing its breezy, pastel, wholesome elegance. Large bleached shells fill glass vases in their home, shell Christmas ornaments adorn their Christmas tree, and there’s even a Sanibel perfume that instantly makes me picture my mom’s master bath in her home in Saint Louis. 

But enough nostalgia…

This week Padraic and I indulged in daily yoga classes at Sanibel Pilates and Yoga including Vinyasa, Hatha, Aerial, and a Pilates class for good measure. If you have a fairly advanced practice, the classes feel pretty light, but it’s a beautiful studio with warm and inviting instructors. Other than yoga, we did a lot of walking on the beach… eyeing a few brazen dolphins swimming close to shore.

My parents have it down when it comes to the Sanibel restaurant scene, so allow me to tell you what I ate all week. Interested? Good. 

So night one was The Timbers: a bustling, family-friendly joint with a great seafood market to boot. They serve goldfish instead of croutons in their simple house salad, which is the kind of thing that wins me over to a place. I had a hankering for crunchy fried shrimp that night, which was a treat, but I have to say, what impressed me most was the roasted vegetable medley of zucchini, carrot, and broccoli — buttery and super satisfying. 

Night two was The Green Flash, located on Captiva Island. This place is a local favorite, and they don’t take reservations. I opted for turf — a steak with grilled polenta and sautĂ©ed spinach. The meal was solid, but the best part of the experience was the sunset ocean view and the service — our waiter was a robust Russian dude with a “professional waiter” aura. (I think in my next life I want to come back as tattooed waitress who provides kickass service and never needs to write anything down). 

More yoga… More walking… More furious typing on a computer… 

Our third night in Sanibel was very special. Padraic’s cousin and his family live in Naples, so we made a trip to their house, after perusing a few art galleries and walking through Naples’s historic downtown (mighty hoity toity for my taste…) Steven and Laura are both architects (in business together), and Laura is a phenomenal cook. She served us a spinach salad with jicama, diced apples, orange slices, and a cilantro/lime/olive oil dressing, followed by cheesy chicken enchiladas and refried beans… then homemade flan for dessert. 

More yoga… More walking… 

Sweet Melissa’s was night four. Easily the best meal I’ve had all year, and possibly one of the best meals of my life. This place does take reservations — if you’re ever in Sanibel, make a reservation! 

The family split salads:

Here’s my personal favorite: big chunks of tomato and watermelon drizzled with basil infused olive oil and garnished with a generous square of feta, a large cornmeal crouton, and a few olives:

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Here’s a head of grilled romaine lettuce sprinkled with Parmesan cheese and Caesar dressing:

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And here’s a goat cheese and beet get-up:

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Three of us got the same entree: sautéed scallops and chunks of pork belly served over a buttery sweet potato sauce. Holy crap. Who would have thought that pig and shellfish got along so nicely on top of a yam? 

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Finally, last night, I rolled up my sleeves and did a little cooking to thank my parents for all the indulgent meals… with another indulgent meal…   Brown butter scallops, Parmesan risotto, and sautĂ©ed kale.

Screen Shot 2017-03-25 at 4.12.46 PM

A few notes on this recipe: 

  • The recipe title is a little misleading — the scallops aren’t actually cooked in brown butter; they’re sautĂ©ed in olive oil and then drizzled with some butter that’s been browned in a saucepan. 
  • You probably know this, but to get a nice sear on the scallops, pat them DRY. 
  • The risotto doesn’t call for any salt — the many ladles of chicken broth and pile of Parmesan cheese does the trick. That’s one reason I think this particular recipe for risotto is a good basic, bottom line risotto recipe to have in your repertoire, whenever you’re serving risotto as a side starch and not a main course. The instructions are simple and the result is scrumptious.
  • You probably know this, too, but when you’re sautĂ©ing kale or spinach in olive oil and you want it to cook down faster, add a splash of water… Helps soften and moisten the greens without making them oily. If I were at home, I would have added some red pepper flakes.
  • The whole plate is just crying out for a squeeze of lemon — I don’t know why the original recipe doesn’t mention lemons, for the love of God! 
  • Oh — one more thing — I seared all the scallops — large and small — for four minutes on each side. This worked out pretty well for me.

Okay… Home we go… Back to dead carrot fingers :/ I feel blessed, bloated, quite a bit spoiled, and totally overwhelmed by everything I have to do before Monday. Namaste. 

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