a dinner party

emily just finished a huge project at work so we threw a surprise dinner party for her—

colorful letters on computer paper, with stamps and drawings and colored with rainbow chalk, strung together on twine to say “congratulations emily” and hung across my living room. flowers in mason jars and scotch bottles. a huge multicolored mylar parrot we named bernie, “laying” a blue farmers market egg in a brown bag nest. a moleskine with a bookmark stamped with emily’s name and a heart that alex and i made with our thumbprints. the coffee table set with candles and flowers and and mugs of lavender rooibos tea and a pitcher of lemon water with party straws that looked like peppermint sticks, and cushions from the couch to use as seating.

there were no leftovers.

it was a perfect night, full of love and warmth and caring and belonging and joy and gratitude.

(and a killer soundtrack.)

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the menu:

spring mix, roasted lemon brussel sprouts, toasted pumpkin seeds, chia cider vinaigrette.

wild king salmon pan seared and finished in the oven, with some delicious mystery rub that matt concocted, and sliced avocados.

steamed artichokes with a dipping sauce of grapeseed oil, minced garlic, minced basil, salt and lemon juice.

cold cucumber soup: chopped cucumber marinated with leeks, garlic, lemon juice, dill and salt and pureed with chicken stock, finished with grapeseed oil.

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should we eat quinoa?

the nutritional value and culinary versatility of quinoa are a no-brainer. i eat fairly little meat, fish and dairy, and can’t have comparable grains (barley, farro, couscous, bulgur, wheatberries) because of my gluten intolerance, so quinoa has been an invaluable part of my pantry.

recently, though, whether or not i should continue eating quinoa has been a tough call for me: did you know that since quinoa become so popular in america it is no longer affordable for the bolivians who have grown and harvested it for hundreds of years and for whom the andean grain is a dietary staple?

the answer for me has been to use quinoa sparingly, making a cup or two every month or two. is that still to much? what are your thoughts?

leftovers

when you don’t know what to do with those few lone shrimp that are about to go bad or the tail end of your weekly farmers market bounty, make a pot of quinoa and toss some stuff into it.

like lemon cucumber, feta, pickled red onion and shrimp.

or roasted diced beets, diced peach and nectarine, feta, and lemon.

protip: pancetta

since i didn’t grow up eating a lot of red meat, i know very little about pork and beef products, other than that they taste delicious and that i eat them fairly infrequently.

the two things i do use regularly, however, are bacon and pancetta, because i can get them from a local farmer at my sunday market. i’ve always had certain preparations in mind for bacon and others for pancetta–but it turns out they’re basically the same thing.

the similarities: both are generally made from pork belly, cured, and considered raw. the difference: bacon is smoked.

seriously. that’s the only difference.

protip: citronette

you probably know that a vinaigrette is a dressing made with equal parts oil and acid, usually with some kind of binder (like mustard) and salt and optional seasoning. but did you know that for it to be called a vinaigrette the acid has to be a vinegar? duh.

i didn’t know that until this week. turns out when you use citrus juice, like i often do, your dressing is called a citronette.

now go make someone a salad and be pretentious about it.

shrimp

i peeled and deveined a pound of shrimp today, for the first time in five years, and i think it’ll probably be another five before I put myself through that again.

but: the payoff is that shrimp can be oven-roasted, which is simple and fast. just lay them out with garlic cloves, drizzle (generously) with grapeseed oil, salt, and lemon juice, and stick in a 400 degree oven until they’re pink, about 8-12 minutes. when they start to curl into themselves you know they’ve been in too long.

i was worried about drying them out they came out perfectly cooked, and paired nicely with massaged kale.

i don’t think this is what bob marley meant

jammin

i made jam once in 2009—which was when i decided i hated making jam. i thought the use of powdered pectin was nonnegotiable, and using it meant measuring and caring about proportions, which is just not how i roll in the kitchen. i turned all of my mason jars into drinking glasses and abandoned all hope of ever having homemade jam on my breakfast toast.

last week, i had an over-abundance of farmers market strawberries on the verge of going bad, so i decided to see what would happen if i cooked them. i added some water and sugar and lemon juice and zest, and guess what—they turned into jam!!

since then i’ve had a hard time leaving the kitchen. do you know how many things can be turned into jam? here, i will provide a list:

meyer lemon cherry

meyer lemon blackberry

honey vanilla bourbon apricot

lavender nectarine

white balsamic strawberry

regular balsamic strawberry

heirloom green tomato

champagne grape

jam is now one of my favorite things to make, and there are many many more jams in my future. i’ve gotten some pretty great reviews so i’m open to peddling my wares and happy to take requests!