clear as day

in between some this american life and pop songs i will never admit to listening to (okay, not really: it was this one and this one)

in the midst of remembering an epic conversation last night and thinking ahead to a friend’s return home next week

between creaming butter and sugar to make this tart and zesting lemons to bake into a set of these cookies

to bring along to a dinner with friends tonight

i am remembering that life is good, life is good.

and sometimes even in a way that i can see.


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in stars

i miss the days when i could dream myself out the window.

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i know it won’t always be like this. the work will one day settle itself (or i will wrestle it to the ground myself). friends will circle back into the fold. eventually the hours will fall by in a way that feels more like wind and less like… whatever this is.

but for now, every moment of solace is hard-won. and usually by accident.

i took myself to the beach last week, hoping for warm sun and the sight of water forever and the kind of peaceful noise that only an empty coastline can offer. but instead i was cold and goosebumply, unnerved by this creature that kept hanging around and staring at my sandwich:


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and finally scared off by a potbellied, sun-browned fisherman – shirt half-on – who kept eyeing me as he stalked the shoreline on a cigarette break. even so far up pch, pure solitude is hard to find.


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i left the beach and tried to redeem my outing with a quick turn into a park that overlooked the sea,

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where the people hanging around consisted mostly of families with small children, all of whom were securely clothed.

but even then…


so i count it as a loss. the week starts again, and the days turn like gears; the weekend comes and i find myself – quite by accident – sitting around the dinner table with a circle of friends that i never really counted as my own… and it’s here that i feel finally eased of my little burdens and, paradoxically, the most alone with my thoughts – in the best way. the way i have needed this whole time.

a friend and i have this broken thread of a discussion about what it is exactly that strange people like us need in order to finally feel at home in our own lives. i walked out at the end of that night, saw the stars up in the sky for the first time in i don’t know how long, and it felt like some kind of answer.

i still don’t know what that answer is, because i don’t speak in stars, but here is a pretty (sad) song.


(it’s the same guy who did the cheerier song i liked over here.)

cheater’s pizza

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i don’t have much tolerance for pizzas that replace the crust with some non-crust material. english muffins, split and smattered with sauce and cheese and given a run through the toaster oven – they were fun as a kid. but a good yeast dough will bake up to be crispy, tender, and chewy in the oven – a perfect platform for whatever you decide to strew on top – and you really shouldn’t mess with it.

however.

there may come a time in life when you welcome a meal that can be toasty and tasty in five minutes flat. and so you realize you’ve got to swap out the yeast packets and floured hands and rising time for something a bit more efficient. when you’re ready to make such a compromise, back up from the english muffins; grab a package of flatbread instead. after a short time in a hot oven, each round gets browned and crisp around the edges and – with enough choice ingredients layered on top – you forget to be a snob about it and just bite, chew, and enjoy.

i got to eat this gourmet-ish dinner nearly every evening this week thanks to a friend who, instead of showing up to dinner with a bottle of wine for the hostess, handed me a printout of this recipe.


note: while getting all the ingredients from trader joe’s may not be wholly necessary, it sure adds to the whole “easy” part of it.

also: you will end up with some extra prosciutto and cheese after you make the pizzas, but i’m sure you can find a way to “take care” of the leftovers.

and: there will be sauce left too. that’s just annoying. i apologize.


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Easy Goat Cheese & Prosciutto Pizza
Makes 8 small pizzas


1 package Trader Joe’s Middle Eastern flatbread
1 jar Trader Joe’s pizza sauce
1 package Trader Joe’s string cheese (For real.)
1 package prosciutto (about 5 oz.)
5 oz. goat cheese with herbs
balsamic caramelized onions*
several leaves of fresh basil, sliced in chiffonade (for pretty!) or torn into small pieces

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. On one flatbread, thinly spread 1 ½ teaspoons of pizza sauce. Distribute one string cheese on pizza, crisscrossing shreds for even coverage. Tear half a slice of prosciutto into small bits and distribute on pizza, followed by small chunks of goat cheese and caramelized onions. Repeat process for each flatbread.

Bake for 6 to 7 minutes (closer to 5 if using a toaster oven), until cheese is bubbly and lightly browned.

Sprinkle with basil and serve.

*To make the balsamic caramelized onions: Melt a few tablespoons of butter (2 to 4 depending on the size of your onion) in a pan over high heat. Cut an onion in half, remove skin, and slice into half-moons. Throw onion slices into pan and let them brown over high heat, stirring or shaking the pan only occasionally. When the onions have gotten soft, brown, and caramelized (about 10 minutes), pour in a few glugs of balsamic vinegar (about 2 tablespoons, or to taste). Continue to cook over high heat, stirring constantly, until the vinegar has reduced and coats the onions (a few seconds more). Remove from heat.

broccoli crunch salad

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this poor, poor neglected recipe. the first time i read it on the blog 101 cookbooks, i slavered at seeing all these favorite things tossed up together in a way i’ve never seen before. i love shallots. i love fried shallots. i love lemony, garlicky dressings. i love red onion when it’s sliced whisper-thin. and broccoli was the first vegetable i ever permitted into my system. (“little trees” for wee little me.) so once upon a time i made a trip to my special store and bought a golden blonde jar of almond butter and set it in my cupboard with high hopes…

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and now more than a year later – when said jar is quivering dangerously close to its expiration date – i have finally finally gotten down to make it. and oh boy, YUM. i usually don’t eat salad unless i’m in a really peculiar mood, but i have been eating this one happily every day since i made it over the weekend. in fact, i ran out to get two new big bunches of broccoli last night, because i’m not ready for this salad to be over. it’s been a great thing to tote to work: full of textures and fun things to nibble and cronch, and inducing none of that droopy-eyed stupor that i find usually follows a delicious meal.

below is the recipe as i made it. i changed nothing in the proportions; i just decided to swap in dried cranberries for the diced apple (for the chewy factor) and polished up the directions to accommodate a cooking-for-one-or-two kind of situation.

i suggest you head over to 101 cookbooks, though, and take a look at the original write-up of the recipe (and the pretty picture). there are candied walnuts, which i omitted for the sake of time – and for fear that all the combined deliciousness might be too much for me to take. (i love candied walnuts.) but i’d like to note now that the fried shallots are not not NOT optional. along with the dressing (and the broccoli itself, i guess) they pretty much make this dish.

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Broccoli Crunch Salad
adapted (barely) from this recipe from 101 Cookbooks
Serves 4

4 -5 cups tiny broccoli florets

1 garlic clove
scant ½ teaspoon fine grain sea salt
¼ cup almond butter
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon honey
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons hot water

handful of dried cranberries
½ small red onion, thinly sliced
1/3 cup pan-fried crunchy shallots*

Bring a medium pot of water to a boil and salt as you would pasta water. Boil the broccoli just long enough to take the raw edge off – about 30 seconds. Drain and immerse it in cold water (or let cold water run over it). Set aside.

Make the dressing by sprinkling the salt over the clove of garlic. Roughly chop the garlic. Smash the clove using the side of your knife, and then chop some more; repeat until the garlic and salt turns into a paste. In a small bowl whisk the salty garlic paste with the almond butter, lemon juice, honey and olive oil. Add the hot water and whisk until light and creamy. Taste, make any adjustments and set aside.

On a plate, place a generous handful of broccoli florets. Sprinkle with dried cranberries, red onion slices, and fried shallots. Spoon some dressing off to the side.

Store any leftover salad components separately.

*Stir together the thinly sliced shallots, a splash of clarified butter (or olive oil) and big pinch of salt in a large skillet over medium heat. Stir every few minutes; you want the shallots to slowly brown over about fifteen minutes. Let them get dark, dark brown (but not burn), and if needed turn down the heat. Remove from skillet and transfer onto a paper towel to cool in a single layer where they will crisp up a bit.

the swell season

happy monday, guys. (sob.)

i don’t know about you, but i think conan o’brien is tops in all sorts of ways. i caught my dad (who is usually full of puns and cheesy humor) laughing aloud while watching him on tv one night, and it was like all my world had come together and been made right.

anyway, despite all that, i’ve felt like his new l.a. set has produced a lot of awkward musical segments, which is especially sad when it’s an artist i know has the live performance thing down tight. i don’t know what happens; i just find myself thinking pretty often after watching a performance, “well, that was a weird one.”

perhaps things have improved since i watched more regularly – or maybe it’s been my imagination all along – but i caught a performance recently that really did it right.

the swell season playing “low rising.”


their song really rose to fill the space.