Monthly Archives: March 2010

First Fruits…Well, Radishes, actually

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On February 12, 2010, radish seeds were planted…..

and today, I picked these beauties:

I realize that it has taken twice as long as usual to get these…. things do grow here in the winter, but more slowly…but at least they grew, which is something that I was beginning to worry about.  I also started some zucchini plants from seeds back in February as well as a variety of tomatoes, beets and garlic, new basil, lemon thyme and oregano.  These seems to be doing well.  However, I planted a bunch of bell peppers plants and they are dying…… I cannot figure this out.  But I’m going to take these radishes as a good sign that at least one part of my garden is doing well.

Oh, and I ate these on a salad for dinner tonight.   Oh, man, what a difference from what I get at my local Food 4 Less store!

Lori G. (c) 2010

No Reservations, Making Aioli, and Mindful Living

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A couple of nights ago, I watched an episode of Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations where he visits Provence.    I had been looking forward to this episode all week.  This is odd because I have never been to Provence, have no plans to go to Provence, and have had no particular interest in the cooking of Provence.   Rather, I think it is the idea of Provence that I found so alluring.  Mr. Bourdain, in fact, does address the reason why many people find the notion of living in Provence appealing.  In the episode, he has a conversation with his hosts where he says:

Everyone in some child-like way craves a life of simplicity where they have a garden, beautiful sun, where they can walk into a small town and everyone will know them and wave…

That’s it.  He nailed it.  There is something appealing about the simple life, something that many of us find so desirous as we struggle with the break-neck speed of daily urban life.   What some of us desire, even if we don’t realize it, is to live more mindfully.  That is,  we actually want to walk through life more slowly, gently, with great focus and attention. 

This concept is explored in a segment of the episode where an elderly woman demonstrated the art of making aioli, an emulsified garlic sauce traditionally made with stone mortar and pestle.    Mr. Bourdain made this comment about aioli-making:

It’s very gentle, the process…You gotta be careful.  You have to keep your voice down.  Show a little respect for the process…

After watching this episode, I began thinking about making some aioli myself — for no other reason except that spreading fresh aioli all over some fish, bread and vegetables sounded delicious.   I did a mental inventory of my pantry:  I have fresh garlic, olive oil, a lemon, and a mortar and pestle.  I could do this.   Then I began trolling the internet for recipes and found everything from the highly convoluted (chipotle aioli made with mayonaise… eeewwww) to the plain and easy.   Finally, I found a video on YouTube demonstrating the simple traditional method,  and I committed the process to memory.

When I got home from work, I found my mortar and pestle, got out my best extra virgin olive oil and sea salt, peeled three large garlic cloves, and sliced an oh-so-tiny sliver of lemon.  

Then I began to grind the garlic with a scant pinch of salt, softly and gently, just like the elderly woman.  I worked with focus and commitment.  I shut out the sound of cars passing by my front door and imagined myself in a country kitchen.  I imagined using my own home-grown garlic, which I recently planted in a relative’s garden.    With great deliberation I added drops of lemon juice and olive oil and continued grinding.  I fell into a rhythmic motion:  grind, grind, drops of oil, grind, grind, drops of juice.  About 10 minutes later I had a couple of tablespoons of thick, silky smooth, sunny yellow paste.   

I sliced and toasted some fresh bread, still in a mindful state and fully relaxed after a long day at the office.  I took a spoonful of the aioli, slathered it on a hot piece of toast and took a nibble.    Suddenly, I was snapped back to reality.  Fresh aioli, created with so much quiet attention and mindfulness, has a unexpected bite and kick.   It flung me out of my semi-zen state and back to normal time and space.  

Garlic has a way of keeping things real.

So, my point is telling you this is to encourage you to find a routine task, anything, even vacuuming or washing your car, and do it slowly and attentively, with the goal of attaining a simpler, less stressful life, at least for a few minutes.  

I know, it’s not Provence, but maybe its a road in the right direction. 

L. Gloyd (c) 2010

PS:    Here is the video I found on YouTube showing a traditional method of making aioli:

Photograph from Morguefile.com

Dreamwork and Art

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Yesterday, I attended a day-long workshop on Embodied Spirituality.  The two facilitators led the participants  in an exploration of alternative ways to express our spirituality and connect with the divine.   The workshop focused on four practices:  yoga as prayer, meditation,  accessing spiritual wisdom through dreams, and making art as meditation or spiritual practice.

In this post, I am going to focus a bit on the dream work and art-making since these two had the most immediate and powerful effect on me yesterday.

If I were to distill what I learned from the instructor about dreams into a few sentences, they would be:

  1. Dreams come from outside our egos.  They have a separate reality that comes from the world of spirit.
  2. They have multiple meanings and many levels of understanding.
  3. They show us truth about ourselves and provide meaning for our lives.
  4. An individual cannot understand the full meaning of dreams by herself.  Sharing the dream with others helps to gain further insight.
  5. Even if one does not understand a dream, “getting it out there” by sharing it or in some way manifesting it releases its transformative power in our lives.

In preparation for this workshop, each participant had been asked to bring a dream to share with the group.  After this lecture on the nature of dreams, one of the facilitators led us in a guided meditation where we were to focus on this dream.

I did not bring a particular dream; rather, I have a recurring dream that I wanted to explore.  I have dreamed on several occasions about the destructive power of water.  This theme manifests itself in several ways in my dreams:  either as a tsunami bearing down on me,  large surf battering me against rocks along a shore line, and water falling from the ceiling of my apartment from a burst pipe.    As we were led through the meditation, I began by focusing on the tsunami dream.   As I watched the image unfold on my mind’s eye, it began to change.  It became me standing on the beach watching a ship being engulfed by a giant wave.

After about twenty minutes, the instructor gently closed this part of the meditation but asked us, in silence, the make our way to a box of art supplies, select some whatever media we wanted, proceed to a table, and begin creating an art piece based on the images that had evolved in our seated meditation.  The goal was carry on the meditation as we created the art piece.

I started my piece using several photographs taken from a magazine.  I was amazed when I immediately (and serendipitously)  found the perfect images of  my dream in the magazine.  I clipped out an image of a calm moonlit ocean, a woman pointing, and a ship.  I felt as it something outside of me had found those images and was instructing me how to lay them out on the paper.     After I glued the images in place, I used oil pastels to create the rest of the image.

Here is the finished piece:

I have some ideas about what this image means, but in keeping with the instructor’s comments that it takes other people’s insight to give one greater insight, I am asking each of you to comment below about what you see in this dream.   What do you think it may mean?

Thanks in advance for whatever wisdom you can share with me.

Lori G. (c) 2010

Kitchen Improvisation: Chicken Tortilla Soup

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After researching my cookbooks of Mexican recipes and spending an hour online sifting through various recipe archives, I decided that I would just invent my own version of Chicken Tortilla soup that is quick and easy.   I made this recipe up as I went and, let me tell you,  it turned out pretty darn good considering I only used ingredients I had on hand.

In a large pot I heated some olive oil and tossed in 1 chopped onion, 2 stalks of chopped celery, 4 small carrots that had seen better days (chopped like the rest) and 1 small chopped green bell pepper that was in worse shape than the carrots.   When the vegetables had gotten a little soft,  I added 2.75 pounds of boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 6 thighs) and a quart of vegetable stock (I didn’t have any chicken stock or I would have used that).  I also added a 15 ounce can of diced tomatoes, a half cup of frozen corn kernels, and 3 cloves of crushed garlic.  I turned the heat up and while I waited for the mixture to come to a boil, I added the following seasonings:

1/2 teaspoon Mexican oregano, 1/2 teaspoon medium dried chili powder, 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin, 1/2 teaspoon ground celery seed, 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander seed, 1/4 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika, 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder, 1/8 teaspoon chipotle powder (be careful with this, it’s HOT), ground black pepper and salt to taste, and a sprinkle of crushed Mexican saffron for color.    Now, for goodness sake, if you don’t have all of these spices do not go out and buy them.  The chili powder and cumin are essentials, but the rest you can just leave out.  Use Greek oregano if you don’t have Mexican.

Then the soup came to a boil, I turned down the heat and put a lid on it.

While the soup simmered, I heated about 1/2 inch of canola oil in a cast iron skillet and sliced 4 corn tortillas into strips.  When the oil was hot, I fried the tortilla strips in small batches for a few minutes until they were a little brown and crisp.   When the strips are done frying, I drained them on paper towels and sprinkled a little salt on them.  Set them aside for now.    If you can find crisp tortilla strips in the bag by all means use them.

When I finished making the tortilla strips, I pulled the cooked chicken thighs out of the pot and let them cool on a cutting board for a few minutes.  With two forks, I shreaded the pieces and returned them to the pot.

To serve, I filled a bowl with soup then added a few of the fried strips on top with a dollop of Greek yogurt.  I would have used sour cream if I had it.   A squeeze of lime would be a nice final touch but I didn’t have any.

So, I just finished my SECOND bowl.  Yes, it was that good.    This recipe makes a lot of soup.  I’m estimating about 8 servings.  I’ll let you know in about a week how many bowls I got from this.

🙂