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i have a thing for chevre. a love. a passion. a zest. i remember when my mom came back from a trip to san francisco– a mom and dad and no kids trip– enlightened with the discovery of this soft, creamy cheese. she would make us omelets and the eggs would wrap their arms warmly around that cheese, squeezing it ever so slightly, creating a lovely goopy mess. it did not take long for chevre to win my undying devotion.
well i also have a thing for french salads with that tangy red-wine vinegar dressing and crusty bread smeared with the goat cheese. HEAVEN, i tell you. the smooth, low flavor of that cheese cuts the tang of the vinegar while the crusty bread crunches and crisps crumbs all over the plate (the table, my shirt, but it doesn’t even matter).
i don’t even know definitively if my romantic vision of a french lunch salad is accurate at all. it stems from a restaurant in des moines called la mie. in the roosevelt district, i remember exploring this place with my mom, too. i remember tasting my first pureed carrot soup and being floored that carrot soup could be so orange, so sweet, so independent. it was life changing. here is where i remember so fondly my little french salad with the crusty bread and massive smear of goat cheese. i haven’t been there in a long time, and it looks like it’s changed since i’ve last ate here, so it’s hard to say if they are still doing this (and i do hope they are!).
i had it again, where my mouth excitedly savored each bite, at a french cafe in chicago, near the university of chicago. i have no idea what it was called. the rest of the food we ate was mediocre (the soup was super salty) but that salad stirred within me joyous recollections of la mie. my mouth, so very happy.
well, this past weekend i attempted my own. and, just as i am not fully sure it’s french, i have to admit i had to look up how to say “in the cafe of la grande” on freetranslation.com. i mean, i did create this meal in my house kitchen, the house my roommates and i donned la grande. and how could i give my beloved perception of french salad more validity than naming the post in french? ha! so, i am exposed: my knowledge of all things french is below par to be sure.
but oh, oh how i love this salad. i made it with fresh spinach and chunks of the fresh goat cheese and cow’s cheese from zingerman’s creamery. (i’ve mentioned them before.) and, because of financial limits, i cannot smear my bread as full or lovely as la mie once did. but my mouth smiles and my stomach softly rumbles as i imagine my saturday lunch dans le cafe de la grande. served with a grinning side of leftover tomato soup.
i didn’t write down how i made it, but i’ll explain it like this:
red wine vinaigrette for a french salad
(serve with crispy bread smeared with soft, fresh cheese, goat or cow)
red wine vinegar
a wedge of lemon
a squirt of dijon mustard
put all of these ingredients in a bowl and whisk together with a fork. i use a ratio of probably 2:1 vinegar to oil (i really like the tang, it needs the tang for the cheese to cut).
serve on fresh greens.
well folks, it’s official. as 23 said goodbye, 24 welcomed me graciously on this past thursday. i must admit, i am very excited and comfortable about 24– 23 was hard for me, i think, because it was such an odd number. it’s the OCD in me. i love round, warm, even numbers. they feel so much more welcoming and loving. my roommate, john, did suggest the benefits of 23 as a prime number, unique in that way. i say bahh to that, and even though 23 was a lovely year, i eagerly ushered in the big 2 – 4.
surprising as it may seem, the theme of the day was food. tara woke up super early (for her!) and made her famous banana cream pie.
there is something so warm, welcome, homey about a home made pizza. the nostalgia sets in and i think of the great pizzas i’ve made throughout the years. from the chef boyardee box we used to get when i was a kid to the amazing whole wheat pizzas made in vancouver, bc with my dear auntie l to the entertaining pizzas crafted for various new years occasions…i have no bad associations with a little pizza pie. i feel sorry for anyone who does.
over the holiday, my family went on the first-ever meyer family bar crawl. never thought i’d see that day. but i did, and what a glorious time we had! wausau, wisconsin was not ready for the meyer clan. how could it be? one of our stops was at the red eye, where we enjoyed some delicious beers and perhaps even more impressive pizza. my mom and i shared the special of the evening: a pie topped with butternut squash, prosciutto, caramelized onions, and goat cheese. and what a pizza it was. glorious! no red sauce: instead, the toppings rested atop a pillow of airy squash puree. while i picked off my prosciutto (i have a thing about not eating meet unless i know how that meat was raised), my taste buds, impatient and mutinous at the delay, could not get enough of that earthy, sweet, creamy, crispy goodness.
afterwards, my mom and i spent a good week passionately reliving each bite. worse, two weeks after we kept tempting each other, talking about how we were going to try to make our own version. finally, i followed through with my claim (i had enough pink banana puree to be sure) and the results? splendid!
the dough, frozen leftovers from a pizza night a month back, thawed out beautifully– nice crispy, thin, whole wheat. i coated the pan with a little oil and sprinkled it with cornmeal, which gave the bottom of the crust a really lovely texture that suited the squash toppings perfectly. while orange sauce may not sound the most appealing, the colors of this pie were gorgeous, the texture smooth, and the community at la grande was yet again palatably pleased.
whole wheat pizza with orange sauce
pizza crust (recipe follows, or use your favorite!)
1 red onion
3 cloves of garlic
1 tablespoon olive oil (or more)
white wine (a splash)
1/4 cup chopped kale
1. heat the oven to 425. parbake the dough for 3-4 minutes before topping it (if it’s a homemade dough that is).
2. heat the oil on medium heat. add onions and garlic, sauté until they become tender, about 3-5 minutes, when they begin to release their juices. add a splash of wine and let them simmer, sucking up that flavor.
4. add kale (mine was frozen), and let the kale wilt down.
5. while those toppings are hanging out on the stove top, spread a generous layer of squash (mine was pink banana) over the warmed dough. evenly sprinkle the onion-garlic mixture on the top.
6. glop fresh goat cheese over the onions, and sprinkle grated parmesan too. salt and pepper.
7. put in the oven, bake 8-10 minutes until crust is golden and cheese is melty.
aunt lynda’s whole wheat pizza dough
1 packge of yeast (about 2 1/4 teaspoon)
1 cup warm water
2 1/2 cups wheat flour
2 tablespoons oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1. preheat oven to 425. dissolve yeast in warm water in a medium bowl.
2. stir in flour, 2 tablespoons oil, and salt, beat 20 strokes.
3. cover dough and rest 20 minutes.
4. divide dough into 2 balls, roll out on 2 12″ pans greased with oil and sprinkled with cornmeal.
5. bake for 4 minutes, the pull out and cover with desired toppings. then return to oven to bake for a total of about 10 minutes, or until crust is brown.
i know what you’re thinking. you’re envisioning one of those fake pies. well, that’s how i see them. the easy bake or no bake pies. a pie shell loaded with a sweetened strawberry yogurt and sliced bananas with some whipped cream fluffed on top. you know, the kind you see at the average church potluck. sweet and smooth, but not really exciting.
well, you should try to get excited.
because clearly, i am talking about the pink banana squash. yes, my very own take on the pumpkin sour cream pie found first in my new gourmet today cookbook from christmas.
squash marmalade, you ask? yes! i respond with a gleeful and sunny enthusiasm. i think anything so bright and smooth can only put me in a gleeful and sunny disposition. it probably didn’t help that the weather on sunday was beautiful. bright sun streaming in, tickling the powdery snow that’s blanketing detroit. oh how that winter sunlight–harsher, stoic, and somehow more guarded–can turn the white snow blue while it makes the detroit river blue pop with a ferocity i haven’t seen except in photographs of the arctic. but it could also just be that the river’s iced over a bit.
tara and i went for a walk around belle isle to enjoy the sun’s visit (brief visit, at that) and to move our bodies a bit, stretching and striding in that cold january wind that, when it’s on your side, coaxes you onward, lulling you into a comfortable cold until you turn, and then: BAM! that wind cuts through you and all those layers don’t mean a thing. it just made us walk faster. and for me, the warm sunshine of this glowing orange-hued marmalade held that wind at bay, letting me absorb the stark, steep contrast of the winter landscape. we tried, desperately, to find a word to describe the january sunlight that gushed from the sky… it is somehow more thin, more taut, more… not brittle… but what? we settled with intense, thin, and taut. oh, how the english major in both of us tussled and clucked with dissatisfaction in our inability to find the right word. how we wished we’d a larger vocabulary. perhaps this is a late new years resolution.
regardless, onto the marmalade. a super easy use of my multiple pounds of pink banana puree! hooray!
pink banana marmalade
1 cup squash puree
3/4 cup cane sugar
1 stick cinnamon
1/2 lemon, juiced
1/2 orange, juiced
water, if needed, to cook squash if it’s not pureed
throw all the ingredients into a pot on your stove top and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. cook down until you reach your desired consistency. if you’re squash is not in puree form, you can chop it into chunks and simmer with water until cooked, about 45 minutes. i cooked mine down for 20-30 minutes, until it reached the texture of apple butter (but smoother, oh this squash i so smooooth!). transfer into a glass jar, cool. smear on bread, crackers, graham crackers, pretzels, you name it! i even baked it into a sort of filling in leftover pie crust… delightfully earthy, sweet, and sunshine in a jar!
earlier this fall, i went on a work field trip to Toledo GROWs with my coworkers at Earthworks Urban Farm. this trip was fun and exciting for me– beautiful gardens, community art, an inspiring director, engaged youth, delicious food. it was fantastic. perhaps the most exciting part was our purchase of the heirloom pink banana squash. this squash demands attention. it is HUGE. i remember feeling similarly overwhelmed and awed when i saw my first hubbard squash in live and living color last year. but something about the pink banana called to me more than the mother hubbard. i think the exotic color and oblong shape, something artistic and romantic and bizarre culminated into a lovely, charming attraction to the pink banana.
we brought it back to detroit where i daydreamed about what this beauty could become. and, over the coarse of a couple months, my eagerness continued to grow as i watched it sit on our work table. finally, last week or so, i was given clearance to take this giant baby home with me and work it out.
the picture above is to demonstrate the size: mikey, my friend jamila’s dog, was the guest of honor during this dinosaur egg adventure. trying to give folks a perspective of the shear size of this squash, you can see that mikey is the same size (and perhaps weight) as the Toledo GROWs pink banana! craziness.
as i cut the pink banana in half, i secretly believed a dinosaur baby would pop out. i knew it wouldn’t, but i guess i hoped one would– oh how creepy, sci-fi, delightfully wild that would have been! but, instead, i saw a rather clean, not-too-goopy mess of seeds and pulp which i happily removed. then, i cut the squash in quarters, rubbed it with some butter and sprinkled with salt and pepper, and roasted it in a 425 degree oven for about 45-55 minutes. i put some water in the pan to steam it while roasting. below are the pre- and post-roasting photos.
from here, i scooped the soft, mushy orange sunshine into my food processor. so much squash! i pureed until smooth, and ended up with 3 full yogurt containers of the vibrant squash. it processed so smooth and so mellow and so sweet. truly delightful. watch for yellow banana-themed recipes to come…
break is over. the holidays, gone. i flew into detroit from colorado yesterday–a flight that had me up and at ’em at 3:32 am mountain time (i kept trying to tell myself that this wasn’t so bad, 5:32 am in detroit… my body didn’t really find such rationale appealing).