Counter Upscale

It started with the handblown glass salt dip. Combing both form and function with incredible beauty, it added an upscaled practicality to our everyday kitchen essentials.

Because we are in the kitchen a lot and because we like beautiful things, our counter top is full of art … and food related items. And art holding food items. I love the unique shapes and luster of our glass cruets and containers.

Pro tip: Don’t keep refilling your olive oil cruet without occasionally washing the vessel. Your olive oil can turn rancid much quicker.

-Susan

The salt dip and olive oil cruet were purchased locally at the now closed DoveTail Arts. The sugar and vinegar bottles were purchased on Etsy. You can find the artists, AJ Métissage, on Etsy at https://www.etsy.com/shop/AJmetissage?ref=usf_2020

The tray holding the containers also came from DoveTail Arts.

Read More →

Old and Slow (and Wise?)

Paul: I was thinking today about what I might have done on a Sunday morning when I was 25 or 26 years old – and the first thing that hit me was that I probably wouldn’t be awake in the morning at all – I’d probably be sleeping off whatever drunk or stoned time I had on Saturday night. And then my memory is a complete blank – what DID I do on Sundays? I’m thinking not much, and certainly not much interesting.

One thing that has for sure changed is my spontaneity. It’s much rarer for me to want to do something at the drop of a hat. I tend to like something planned – at least a day or two out. And I do feel myself more resistant to change – favoring the familiar. BUT, Susan and I DID drop everything and change our lives 100% to come out west to Oregon (and Michigan’s U.P. before that) – damn that took some balls! That’s change writ large, and we made it happen.

I also find myself liking mellower music – not necessarily older music, just more mellow. I’m still every bit as much into guitar music and riffs as ever, but I like it a little more slow, a little more sparse. I also, oddly (and perhaps this is an artifact of digital music services like Spotify) find myself listening to more new, I-never-heard-it-before music and getting into it.

Another change I notice is how hard it is to memorize new information – this hit me full-on when I had to memorize a small video script for work – man, damn near impossible. This memorization issue slaps me totally in the face when I’m trying to learn new music – I probably haven’t really memorized more than one or two new songs in the last ten years (I certainly can play more songs, but I need some sort of visual cue). The one that gets me is Dylan’s “Stayed in Mississippi a Day Too Long” – a simple song that I can play well, but man, I can NOT get it memorized. Same is true of the Dead’s “Ripple.”

I also find my relation to cooking (one of my great later-in-life loves) evolving. I used to hate preparing to cook (the “meez”), and I used to always be looking at a recipe. Now, I love the prep time, and I take it nice and slow. I love sharpening the knife, making careful uniform cuts, thinking through the process. I like that I have quite a few things I cook that I don’t need a recipe for – that I can just cook and feel pretty damn confident that it’ll be good.

I think in general, I’m tackling tasks at a slower rate, but I feel more deliberate and intentional. I take my time and think about what I’m doing, and really take pride in doing things right. And I seem to be able to notice subtleties that I never paid attention to before – even in weird little tasks like spreading cream cheese on a bagel or pouring steel-cut oats into boiling water. I notice what works and what doesn’t. I seek out purposeful shortcuts and efficiencies.

I honestly feel like I have some wisdom now. When I was younger, I really didn’t know what that word meant (I guess like I really didn’t know what love meant) – it felt like it was some label older folks used to rationalize why they knew more than you. Now I “feel” what wisdom means, and damn, if I don’t know a TON more than younger folks. It’s not specific task knowledge or a depth or specialization – it’s more of an understanding, or perhaps an intuiting of how the many variables of life mesh and work together. It’s understanding the whole “system” at a depth that is really hard to explain. But I know things, and the “big” questions (“What’s it all for?”, “What’s the purpose of life?”) feel at least functionally answered in my own mind so that I don’t stress them any more.

Are there things that stress me out? Sure there are, and they’re the same ones that have stressed me out for decades. Can I make enough money to handle my responsibilities? What happens if something goes wrong? But honestly, they don’t eat at me like they used to – I have confidence that solutions can be found, even if they take a while to put in place.

I guess I’ll wrap up with a thought on confidence. When I was younger I wasn’t confident, instead I was cocky. I knew I was smart and thought I could do anything. But I didn’t DO anything – I just spun my wheels, and I was an idiot.

Now I’m confident. I have wisdom, peace, true happiness, and I’ve got pride in real and genuine accomplishments. I know how to do many, many things, and I know how to figure out what I don’t know. I rarely get overly nervous (though put an asterisk by the moments before playing at an open mic). I do stress out, but I think that’s natural. I HAVE learned to accept the stress, and after a short period of time, let it guide me to a more proactive set of reactions.

All in all, setting aside the physical “falling apart” of the human body as it ages (that’s a topic for another essay!), I feel better now that I ever have before. So I guess being fifty-something is pretty damn cool after all.

Read More →

Louisiana Shrimp with Fresh Rosemary

Call us Midwesterners, but we make chicken wings a lot. Since fresh shrimp is so readily available, we thought we’d do a spin on Buffalo shrimp. The results were excellent!

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound fresh shrimp, deveined and cleaned (or leave intact for a peel-and-eat dinner)
  • 1/2 C Frank’s hot sauce (not wing sauce)`
  • 1/2 butter, melted
  • 1 t Old Bay seasoning
  • 1 1/2 T fresh rosemary
  • Texas Toast, buttered on the side
  • celery, cut, on the side

Directions:

Melt the butter in a large sauté pan. Add shrimp and sauté about 60-90 seconds. Toss in Franks, Old Bay and rosemary and cook together until shrimp are done.

Put them in a large bowl and serve with bread and celery.

Read More →

Red Wine Braised Short Ribs

This is a classic short ribs preparation with short ribs from http://www.snakeriverfarms.com. Super rich and slow cooked goodness.

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds bone-in beef short ribs, cut crosswise into 2″ pieces
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 T vegetable oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled, chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 2 T all-purpose flour
  • 1 T tomato paste
  • 1 bottle dry red wine (not expensive but something you wouldn’t mind drinking)
  • 6 sprigs flat-leaf parsley
  • 5 sprigs thyme
  • 2 sprigs oregano
  • 1 sprig rosemary
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 head of garlic, halved crosswise
  • 2 C beef stock

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Season short ribs with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Working in 2 batches, brown short ribs on all sides, about 8 minutes per batch. Transfer short ribs to a plate. Pour off all but 3 tablespoons drippings from pot.

Add onions, carrots, and celery to pot and cook over medium-high heat, stirring often, until onions are browned, about 5 minutes. Add flour and tomato paste; cook, stirring constantly, until well combined and deep red, 2-3 minutes. Stir in wine, then add short ribs with any accumulated juices. Bring to a boil; lower heat to medium and simmer until wine is reduced by half, about 25 minutes. Add all herbs to pot along with garlic. Stir in stock. Bring to a boil, cover, and transfer to oven.

Cook until short ribs are tender, 2-2 1/2 hours. Transfer short ribs to a platter. Strain sauce from pot into a measuring cup. Spoon fat from surface of sauce and discard; season sauce to taste with salt and pepper. Serve in shallow bowls over mashed potatoes with sauce spooned over.

Read More →

Baked Herbed Goat Cheese with Tomato

Ingredients:

  • 1 10-ounce log goat cheese, room temperature
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1/4 C grated parmesan cheese
  • 4 T EVOO, plus more for brushing
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 2 T fresh herbs – thyme, rosemary, parsley, basil (whatever you have)
  • 8-10 small cocktail tomatoes (about 10 ounces), quartered
  • 2 T chopped fresh chives
  • 2 t balsamic vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • Kosher salt
  • toaste baguette slices

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Combine the goat cheese, cream cheese, parmesan and 2 tablespoons olive oil in a food processor and season with pepper; puree until smooth. Stir in 2 T of fresh herbs. Brush a 1-quart baking dish with olive oil, then spread the cheese mixture in the dish, mounding it slightly higher around the edge than in the middle. Bake until golden and heated through, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine the tomatoes, chives, vinegar, garlic, the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a medium bowl. Spoon the tomato mixture on top of the dip. Serve warm with baguette slices.

Read More →

Easy Chicken Noodle Soup with Lemon

This recipe calls for a store bought rotisserie chicken but is also a great way to use leftover roast chicken. This makes about 4 servings and is great for a leftover lunch. Trust me on the lemon.

Ingredients:

  • 6 C chicken broth
  • 1/3 C fresh lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
  • 1 dried bay leaf
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and sliced into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 1 cup (about 2 1/2 ounces) spaghetti, broken into 2-inch pieces, *see note
  • 2 cups diced cooked rotisserie chicken, preferably breast meat
  • 1 cup grated Romano cheese (or parmesan)
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • kosher salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

In a large stockpot, bring the chicken broth, lemon juice, bay leaf, and to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the carrots and simmer until tender, about 5 to 8 minutes.

Add the broken pasta and cook until the pasta is tender, for 4 to 5 minutes,
stirring occasionally. Add the chicken and heat through, about 2 to 3 minutes.

Remove the bay leaf and discard. Stir in 1/2 of the cheese and the parsley. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Ladle the soup into serving bowls and
sprinkle with the remaining cheese.

*Cook’s Note: use any short pasta you have on hand as a substitute. Also, throw on a parmesan rind to the stock if you have one for some added umami. Just take it out when you pull out the bay leaf.

Read More →