Cook in the Moment: Boiled Quail Eggs with Meyer Lemon Sea Salt & Chives

Boiled Quail Eggs with Meyer Lemon Sea Salt & Chives (c)2012

April is National Poetry Month. I was going to tell you that I don’t read poetry, put my head down in shame and admit to the fact that I don’t know much about poetry at all. I’ve never been good at posturing, impressing others with obscure quotes. Ask me my favorite anything: poem, painter, band, etc., and I panic. My mind goes blank. The doubt crawls in and I’m definitely feeling uncool. But then I realized poetry is an inextricable part of my life, always present. Poetry is in the everyday and the momentous occasions. Kind of like cotton, it’s the fabric of our lives.

I learned that April is National Poetry Month because I read the blog Eat This Poem. Okay, so I do read poetry. Nicole announced National Poetry Month and asked readers to share their favorite poem. For once, my answer came to mind immediately. I grew up reading Shel Silverstein, famous for his illustrations and poetry. I’ve carried a tattered, coverless copy of Where the Sidewalk Ends with me since I was a little kid. Silverstein’s writing is a mix of ridiculous silliness balanced by loving guidance and a dash of melancholy. As a kid I turned to Where the Sidewalk Ends for comfort and respite from the anxiety of living in a world I couldn’t predict. I’ve always walked to the beat of my own drum, and reading Shel Silverstein’s poetry reassured me that my music was worth playing. My favorite Shel Silverstein poem from Where the Sidewalk Ends:


Cook in the Moment: Fennel Soup with a Green Swirl

Ingredients for Fennel Soup with a Green Swirl (c)2012

Out with the old, in with the new. Spring is here, have you cleaned out your closets? Boxed up your sweaters and pulled out your sandals? It’s time to open up the windows and let in the light. To me, spring  has truly arrived when the birds start singing. I’m amazed by their gusto, listening to the finches belt out arias with their tiny lungs. How can something so tiny make such a powerful sound?

As many of you know, the husband and I just moved to a new apartment in a neighborhood just a few miles away. We never actually saw our unit until we signed the lease and picked up the keys. To our surprise our humble new home on the third floor has a large patio with a mountain view! In all the time we’ve called Colorado home, we’ve never had a mountain view, so we’re pretty excited. I look forward to many al fresco meals. That’s where David Tanis’ Fennel Soup with a Green Swirl comes in. Flipping through his book, Heart of the Artichoke, the recipe immediately caught my eye as a perfect way to celebrate spring. This time of year fennel is sweet and succulent, with a fresh, herbal flavor reminiscent of anise. If you’ve never cooked with fennel, this simple puréed soup is a great place to start. The “green swirl” is basically a pesto made with fennel fronds, basil, parsley, and scallions. I enjoyed the bright and herbal green swirl atop the velvety soup. Typical of David Tanis’ recipes, Fennel Soup with a Green Swirl is easygoing and low maintenance- let it sit on the stovetop while you prepare the rest of the meal, serve it warm or room temperature. I recommend bare feet and a light, crisp, refreshing bottle of white wine on a Saturday afternoon. If the birds show up to sing you a song, even better.


Cook in the Moment: Roast Chicken with Mustard and Pumpernickel Croutons

Roast Chicken with Mustard (c)2012

Only 7 days left before the move. Next Thursday we get the keys to our new place, a different apartment in a different neighborhood not far from here. My mind is cluttered with thoughts, wondering why I packed ________, which I really need right now, and how much of our furniture will actually fit in this smaller unit, measuring in at 900 square feet. Packing paper and cardboard boxes threaten to take over, while empty closets hold only the echo of memories. My husband and I spent two years here, a long time for us. I like this place, with its many windows and sun-drenched views of meadow and pond. Our lease is up, though, and the rent is only getting higher. It’s time to move on.

I get a thrill from moving on, always welcoming a fresh start- the feeling that anything is possible. My mom says it’s a trait from my dad’s side of the family. We don’t hold on to the past, we don’t dwell on memories. My dad left us when I was 12 years old, never looking back. After that, mom wanted out of the home my little sister and I grew up in- too many memories, too many ghosts. There would be many more moves, from duplexes to apartments, each time with the promise of a fresh start for the three of us. I carried with me the belief that things would get better, encouraging my mom and holding onto my sister. All that moving means there’s not a lot left of our childhood memories. I keep a box with a handful of photos and a doll my mom made for me, my sister is the caretaker of a tiny nativity in a cigar box that belonged to our dad. Now she and I are grown and married, and things have gotten better. I married an Irish rover with itchy feet, a man who gets a thrill from new places, new discoveries. I like that about him. No matter where we go, together, we are home.


Cook in the Moment: Poached Chicken in Ginger Broth

Poached Chicken with Bok Choy in Ginger Broth (c)2012

A Long Journey and the Healing Power of Ginger

The day after we married in October of 2007, my husband and I traveled to St. Lucia for our honeymoon. Below is the story of our journey from my hometown of Arkansas past Florida and the Bahamas, past Puerto Rico, past the Virgin Islands, all the way down to one of the southernmost islands of the Caribbean. It’s a long and winding road, as the saying goes, and we discovered first hand the healing power of strange and wonderful gingerroot.

We arrived in Castries, the capital of St. Lucia, long after the sun had disappeared from the sky, our tiny propeller plane making an abrupt descent and jolted landing. Unbuckling our seat belts, my husband and I let out a sigh of relief. Throughout the day we maintained our excitement, boarding and departing each of the four flights on a journey from Arkansas to the very bottom of the Caribbean. We were all smiles until we encountered a delay in San Juan, Puerto Rico that left us standing in a crowded, sweaty bus parked on the tarmac, while mechanics worked on a problem with the plane. Eventually we boarded this last flight, and settled in for a jarring ride as the aircraft buzzed and hummed, drowning out everything the captain said over the scratchy intercom. I stuffed ear plugs in my ears and tried to pass the time by reading a book. My husband turned on his iPod with noise canceling headphones and went to sleep. No one on the plane even attempted to speak over the buzzing. The window view was nothing but darkness, and I imagined the vast sea below.


Cook in the Moment: Grilled Chicories

Grilled Endive, Frisée, and Radicchio with Bagna Cauda (c)2012

My husband and I moved to Colorado four years ago from Memphis, Tennessee. Though we came from a region known for its barbecue, I discovered the joy of cooking over open flames in Boulder. Growing up in the oppressive heat and humidity of Arkansas, going outside meant getting eaten alive by mosquitos. Arriving in Boulder, Colorado, I was intoxicated by breathing the fresh, dry air, and the feel of brisk breezes coming off the Rocky Mountains. I felt lighter, and the stunning snow-capped mountain views seduced me, constantly calling me outside. At altitude, the sun shines more intensely, and even on a 30 degree winter’s day, if there is sunlight on your shoulders you’ll be warmed through. Our fourth floor apartment faces open fields where bald eagles nest and coyotes roam, horses gallop around the pond and cows ruminate. This time of year, as winter becomes spring, you can find us on the balcony with a glass of wine and our little Weber grill lit, a trail of savory smoke drifting above our heads. Cooking on the grill is easy, it’s casual, and to me, it’s the essence of Colorado living. As the days grow longer, I begin to pine for patio time, the simplicity of summer cooking, and a slower pace of life. On a warm March day, the husband uncovers our grill and I open a bottle of wine. Tomorrow might bring a foot of snow, but today feels like spring, and we intend to savor this moment.