Monthly Archives: September 2012

Autumn daydreaming

Lately, I’ve found myself drawn to Kate Christiensen’s blog. Her blog includes recipes; but has no photos, nor ingredient lists, nor links. It is all about the narrative. Her writing is touching and humorous and beautiful.

So now – or at least today, you get just that. No photos – just use your imagination. When I was a kid, my imagination was my best friend and daydreaming was my best subject. Autumn is a particularly good season for daydreaming; getting lost in the changes, from the ground to the sky to the kitchen, laced with grey and tawny and pungent spice. When I was a kid I would often go into the yard with a football, run around catching balls and diving into and over piles of leaves, all the while commentating on my play. Most boys that are into sports as a kid play this game – the last second shot, the final pass down the field for the touchdown. I took it the extra step to not just occasionally commentate on my last second play, but throughout the entire “game” that I would play. I would go through multiple downs and quarters; I would give the other team points; and I would play with my favorite 49ers of the early 90’s – Steve Young, Jerry Rice, and others.

I can feel summer slowly turning into fall, and it makes me wanna kick around some leaves. The weather is leisurely shifting to “light sweater,” with its cool, crisp mornings. The autumn sun is still warm with an ochre-tint in the afternoons, as everything slowly begins adjusting to gold. And the days are growing shorter with a slanted, gilded light that feels like falling leaves and football.

I’m writing this from the comforts of my dining room table on a perfectly mild, mid-September morning. Today is September 22nd, which means it’s officially fall. It won’t be long before its time to turn our clocks back, say farewell to the sun, and throw an extra blanket on the bed. It also means it will be time for soup; a time that Amber loves dearly. The sunsets begin arriving sooner, painting the hills purple and peach, the daylight dwindling behind long shadows. As much as I love spring and summer in Sonoma County, nothing can touch autumn. If I could stay in one season it would be autumn. I love the crispness of the mornings and the feeling of life slowing down; starting a sort of hibernation for the winter, getting away and resting after a summer filled with activity.

Amber is busy caking for delivery as it is still technically wedding season. We spend most Saturdays apart. With the new job, I’ve basically been living with her Mon-Fri, and then coming home for the weekends. I’m still getting used to resting during my actual weekend. Saturday mornings are quiet around here; all the roommates are working (winery folk). The occasional bit of commotion comes from across the street where every morning starting at 9am, the Lil Kickers play soccer (which is actually quite entertaining to watch). A swarm of kids all run after the ball until it eventually goes into the goal. The only time the whistle blows is after goals; when the ball goes out of play; halftime; and at the end of the game, where inevitably, one kid breaks into tears because his team lost, or because he never touched the ball – and how could you when you have to break through the seven layers of children, orbiting around the ball?

Autumn seems to allow for pensively recluse behavior with a touch of whimsy and melancholy – a perfect equation for daydreaming. Today, my pleasures come from a good cup of coffee and the ability to get lost daydreaming about fall, and writing all about it without the slightest tinge of writers block.

Tomorrow, my buddy Scott (a Vikings fan) and I, will sit and watch my 49ers play his Vikings. Scott and I used to work the brunch shift at a restaurant that was often so slow; we could spend most of the morning watching football and sipping coffee (before shifting to mimosas for the afternoon game). One of our favorite breakfast snacks was a truffled-egg salad on toast. A little mayo and mustard and chopped black truffles mixed into finely sieved egg, spread on grilled toast. I’d do my best to not eat six or seven of them before the day’s end. The simple concoction made my Sunday morning.

It is now noon. Noon on Saturday morning and nowhere to be except right here: typing, sipping coffee, and daydreaming. Hello autumn.

Truffled egg salad

1/2 dozen eggs, hard-boiled, peeled and finely chopped (or sieved)

1/4 cup mayonnaise

1 TBSP yellow mustard

1-2 TBSP chopped (canned) black truffle of ½ TSP (or taste) truffle salt

2 TBSP minced chives

Salt to taste (if you don’t use truffle salt)

Pepper to taste

Place eggs in bowl; add the mayonnaise, mustard and truffles. Mix until evenly blended. Add chives, and mix briefly to incorporate. Serve over grilled bread. If you want add-ons, try smoked salmon, or prosciutto or fresh tomatoes.

To be or not to BLT

The BLT is so modest; all you need is good bacon, good bread, a ripe tomato, and crisp lettuce. It generally needs no uplift or makeover to make it delicious; maybe a smear of mayo, or a few slices of avocado – but overall if the BLT ain’t broke, don’t fix it.  But then again, when a local winemaker drops off five or six pounds of tomatoes at your workplace and you have a day old baguette sitting on your counter, the idea of turning sandwich to salad seems like a pretty solid plan.

About a month ago or so, I had a BLT salad at a food truck for a very reasonable price of $6. For starters, the salad was quite large and did not skimp on ingredients; tomatoes, bacon, cucumbers, fresh mozzarella, avocado, and dill – all tossed together with arugula and fried croutons in a creamy ranch dressing. First of all, wrap your head around the idea of fried bread; it’s so wrong and so right in so many ways – a light and airy crunch to complement every fresh bite of garden greens, tomatoes, and bacon confetti.

Ever since having that salad, I knew that I wanted to, no, I needed to recreate it. And so, with a day-old baguette begging to be made into croutons, and more tomatoes than could fit between to slices of bread, I set out to the store to pick up a few additional ingredients.

One of the many reasons I love Amber is because cooking and eating is one of the primary shapers of our day, and we had looked forward to BLT salad since we decided that the remaining baguette would be used for croutons.

Speaking of shaping my day, it’s pretty amazing to see how quickly my writer’s block has diminished since I have had the heavy weight of strife lifted; knowing that for the first time in a while, I’m a little more financially secure. The other day, I wanted to write, and I sat down and started writing. No hiccups or hindrances at all.

There was a very dark time not so long ago where, some days, I didn’t feel like I want to write anymore. I didn’t want to stop writing just at that moment; I want to stop writing, always. I hadn’t been dutiful journaler; in fact, I hadn’t been a very good writer, reader, or doer of anything. It’s wasn’t that there weren’t enough hours in the day as much as it was, my brain feeling incapable of mentally taxing tasks. I would sit down to write in the morning and immediately become distracted. When I tried to focus, I became discouraged quicker than usual. I felt vulnerable and untalented on those days.

Now, clear mind and open heart, I’m writing beautifully, prolifically, and as regularly as possible. Creative freedom allows for experimenting in the kitchen and more cooking – making this BLT salad possible. And so, now that I’ve been given back the ability to be creative, I give you this recipe (I know it has been awhile since I’ve posted one).

Oh yeah – and I washed it down with a tasty glass of Blanc de Blancs. 🙂

BLT Salad

Creamy ranch dressing

½ Cup Greek-style yogurt

1 TBSP dill

¼ TBSP thyme

1 TBSP parsley

Juice of one lemon

1 TBSP finely chopped chives

Garlic, minced

½ TSP Dijon mustard

2 dashes hot sauce

Salt

Pepper

Mix all ingredients together until smooth.

Salad

Heirloom tomatoes, sliced

Cherry tomatoes, halved

Bacon, rough chopped

Avocado, diced

Cucumbers, sliced

Ciliegine (fresh mozzarella balls), sliced in half

Corn kernels

Dill

½ loaf day-old bread, cut into bite-sized cubes

Mixed greens or arugula

Preheat oven to 375. Toss bread cubes with olive oil and salt and pepper. Place in oven for 15-20 minutes or until crispy and lightly browned. (Or if you have a deep fryer – fry those babies up 3-5 minutes or until lightly browned)

Toss greens with croutons and add ingredients to taste and toss with dressing.

Gallery

Growing up

So I started my new job a couple of weeks ago, just ten days before my 29th birthday. For some reason, twenty-nine already feels much older than twenty-eight. I celebrated on my actual birthday with Amber. We went out to … Continue reading