Where the Magic Happens

Ah well. Again, I have been too long away. I keep getting swept under by the permanent high tide of bad news (complete with a low tide stench). The madman and half-wit minions someone thought should run our country, (into the ground) make writing about pasta seem pointless. And I resent, deeply, anyone who does that. I shouldn’t speak ill of the dead (those who are dead inside, that is) but I ask myself sometimes: why crawl out of bed?

Well, that’s easy actually: to bake. My daughters rely on me to keep a babbling brook of baked treats flowing through the house, so they have fuel to complain about homework and chores. Hey, it’s tough to stress-bake your way out of the current atmosphere of violence and vitriol, but grab your aprons, because if we don’t try, who will?

I know I have published a couple iterations of chocolate chip cookie recipes, (“Chookies,” “Cookies Again“) but this one includes coconut and oats and is top notch. I like these the best, and this is due, in part, to my employment of the larger of my two dough scoops. Larger cookies not only ease the psychic pain, they are more moist. But are they really more moist, or did I just manage to not overbake them? It’s unclear. Indeed we live in times where one can only assume sales of large dough scoops have soared, along with “WTF?” cross-stitch throw pillows kits, and one-way tickets to Canada. Don’t overthink it, just switch to the large dough scoop.

My friend Jenni enjoyed one of these cookies the other day when we were out seeking solace in the woods in the uncomplicated company of our dogs. She described the cookies as magical. That was sweet. No magic here though, just love. Or perhaps then it’s magic after all – because what is more transformative than love? Answer: large infusions of cash to politicians.

My daughter says these cookies taste like girl scout Samosas, “but homemade, so even better!” I read somewhere that every day that you wake up and someone loves you is a miracle. Every day that you wake up and someone loves you, and makes you cookies, is a day to throw off the covers, Eaters, and hit the ground running. Or at least crawling.

Transformative Cookies

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup old fashioned rolled oats
1 cup unsweetened, dried coconut
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature (you can replace some, or all, with coconut oil)
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar (I have also used Sucanat with good results)
1 large egg, room temperature
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup chopped dark chocolate (You can use chips, chunks, or a chopped bar, but my favorite chocolate to use here is chopped barkTHINS with pumpkin seeds – notice I did not say pumpkin spice)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, stir the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and oats together.

In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugars together for about 30 seconds until blended. Beat in the egg until smooth and barely fluffy. With mixer running on medium high, drizzle in the maple syrup and vanilla until incorporated. Turn the mixer down to its lowest setting and gradually add the dry ingredients. Blend just to combine, then mix in the chocolate.

Form large-ish balls and place on a parchment, or silicone lined cookie sheet at 3 inches apart. Pat them down slightly but don’t stress them out. Check at 9 minutes, but they may need to bake a bit longer. They are done when lightly browned on top.

marycake

 

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Buried in Berries

The other day, my daughter and I sallied forth to cull the last of the waning season’s blackberries. We stopped first at the rare indigenous blackberry patch of legend (RIBPoL). Notice the leaves – these are not the willful brambles that have colonized your yard and viciously slashed your feet. These are the peaceful natives, or what remains of them. And they are delicious – like jam flavored wine, or wine flavored jam. They manage to evoke the pleasures of both: the fruity comfort of jam on buttered toast, and the relaxing and mood enhancing properties of a good glass of wine.While picking in the unpleasantly hot sun, I thought, how have I not written about berries this summer when I live in berryland and I think and talk about berries all the time? It may be that from late May to September they are so abundant here, it’s like writing about blinking. It’s just life, you know?

But oh, what a lovely life. The salmonberries were brief and sparse this year, and in all my years of dining on them, I have never managed to get one out of the woods and on to a plate. They are best eaten trailside. The same goes for thimbleberries, which disintegrate into a lipstick red mush, once picked. Strawberries were delicious, but that’s a post unto itself.One day in July I walked in the woods and encountered this particularly populated bush of Red Huckleberries. On that same walk I tasted four other kinds of wild berries, one of which I had never seen before, but don’t worry, since I am obviously still here. My husband has always been alarmed by my gleeful foraging behavior, and even after his two decades of life in the northwest, acts like everything in the woods is deadly poison. I am starting to think that’s just his shtick.

This is an underripe blackcap, a berry I have not seen since my childhood rambles in the woods. I just learned that this seldom seen delight is the same as the black raspberry. I assume, like everything except morning glory and dandelions, they have been choked out by the invasive (or, as they prefer to be called, “Himalayan”) blackberries.

And if anyone knows what these are, please contact me in the comments section below. They were longer and slimmer than the other blackberries and the leaves were unique. I can attest that they are edible, if a bit tart. I saw a faint, but unmistakable, hologram of the Virgin Mary that persisted for 2 hours after I partook of these dainties, but once I wandered out of the woods, it disappeared. So I don’t think that’s a problem.
There are few sights more wholesome and welcoming to me than a bowl like this in the morning. Berries atop waffles, dutch babies, yogurt or peanut buttered toast make me feel like all the rain was worth it. And then there’s the baking…
My clever friend Kirstin picked the berries for this pie during the eclipse, so they are infused with the changing light, the awed cries of millions of observers, and the humbling sense of our own minuscule presence in the cosmos. So yours probably won’t taste like this did, but don’t despair. The pie my daughter and I made from the RIBPoL, picked during no notable astronomical event, was fantastic. I followed Rose Levy Beranbaum’s recipe for open faced blueberry pie (works for blackberries!) that I linked to in “Why Pie?”

Now crisps are the go-to dessert of the season, and best served with vanilla enhanced whipped cream. I made this one for an outdoor party I catered, and served it next to a backyard duck pond. Crisps are quick and easy and you can use a variety of flours, nuts, oats, maple syrup or your choice of sugar. I also used this recipe for a desserts class I taught at the Bayview School of Cooking. There were no ducks, but it was still good.

Any Berry Crisp

Ingredients for crumble

¾ cup whole wheat pastry flour (I have subbed almond meal here and it’s delicious, if not cohesive)
2 tablespoons flax meal
1/2 cup rolled oats
¼ cup sugar
½ teaspoon salt
1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted

Ingredients for filling

1 tablespoon cornstarch (you can also use instant tapioca pudding)
1/3 cup sugar
1 ½ cup raspberries
1 ½ cup blueberries or blackberries
1 ½ cup cherries (frozen is fine)
¼ cup dried currants (optional)
1/4 cup Beaujolais wine or similar type

Instructions

Preheat oven to 375. Butter an 8 inch baking dish.

To make the crumble, mix together the flour, flax meal, oats, sugar and salt in a bowl. Use a fork to stir in the melted butter. Divide the mixture into three portions and use your hands to form three patties, place the patties in the bowl and freeze for at least ten minutes, or until you’re ready to bake.

Make the filling by whisking together the cornstarch and sugar in a larger bowl. Add the raspberries, blue or blackberries, cherries and currants and toss until evenly coated. Wait three minutes, add the wine and toss again.

Transfer the filling to the prepared baking dish. Remove the topping from the freezer and crumble it over the filling, trying for big and small pieces.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until the topping is deeply golden and the fruit juices are bubbling. Let cool a little before serving.

This recipe is, with slighdt adaption, is based on Heidi Swanson’s Tutti-Frutti Crumble in Super Natural Everyday.

 

 

Eat this Eclipse

This post is dedicated to all mothers, whether they weep or rejoice.

Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?
Mary Oliver

On Monday morning, I hadn’t realized that the moon had begun it’s slow slide across the sun’s face, until my oldest burst in exclaiming, “There’s a bite out of the sun!” I went outside with my sister and daughters, to watch the light gently grow lovely and eery. As our shadows resolved into darker, crisper forms, my sister asked me how the eclipse made me feel.

I witnessed America’s last total eclipse as a second grader in 1979, standing outside my school in Portland. And a few trips around the sun later, here I am, in middle-age and motherhood. “It’s knowing that the next time this happens here, I will be gone, ” I said, “that kind of gets me.” I hope I am not gone, but I most certainly will be dead. “Will you promise to talk about me at the next eclipse, girls?” I said. “Yes, mom. Please pass me the glasses.” It was kind of sweet; I could tell they found me maudlin and a bit tiresome, but knew this was no time to cross me. I almost asked them to promise to scatter my ashes then too, but there are only so many promises you can extract from children you refuse to take to theme parks.

feathery eclipse shadows

I wasn’t sure what the eclipse was supposed to awaken, but I knew I was sharing this experience with millions, and I wished they could all witness it with someone they loved. I may not have done much with my one wild and precious life but hike, consume novels, and serve as the source of a fairly dependable stream of meals and baked goods. But I did raise these remarkable women, and give them to the world. It’s that handing-them-over part I don’t like. Can’t I keep them?

Later, I told my youngest that the idea for the cake came to me during the eclipse and she said, “Oh, then you had an ecliphany.” Okay, some people say you choose your parents. I know this is a cherished belief for some, so I almost feel bad that I think it’s nonsense. But if we could choose our children, I like to think I would have plucked those two frisky weasels out of any crowd of aspiring offspring. Yup, there they are. One of them has a jumble sale grin of mismatched teeth, the other is coated to the gills in the adolescent armor of orthodontia. I love those smiles. I hope that, if all goes the way we pray it will, when I am gone (but not forgotten!) my daughters will still love each other, still be treading the earth lightly, smiling and taking great bites out of the sun.

Ecliphany Cake

Caution: While baking these cakes, please wear glasses that are ISO 12312-2 compliant. This astronomically-inspired creation consists of a half recipe of Molly Gaskell’s buttery-delicious Orange Cake from The Moosewood Cookbook, and a small chocolate cake – any recipe you like – (scale it down, or just use all the remaining batter in cupcakes). I have published my favorite chocolate cake recipe and a gluten free version in previous blogs, linked to here. I served this with dark chocolate ganache. Adding the chocolate moon was a fun novelty but it was the sunny orange cake that was the…big star.

Ingredients for Orange Cake

Butter for the pan
1 1/2 sticks butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar (I reduced this slightly from Gaskell’s original recipe)
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon grated orange rind
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoons orange extract (my addition)
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sour cream or yogurt
1/4 cup orange juice

Ingredients for glaze

1/4 cup orange juice
1 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons Orange Liqueur, like Grand Marnier, or Dry Sherry (optional)

Directions

Preheat oven to 350F. Butter an 8-inch round cake pan. In a large bowl, beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after addition. Stir in the orange rind, vanilla, and orange extract. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1 cup sour cream or yogurt, and the 1/2 cup orange juice. Set aside. Sift together the dry ingredients in a separate bowl. Add this to the butter mixture alternately with the combined sour cream (or yogurt) and orange juice, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Mix by hand after each addition – just enough to combine well. (These are my official directions. My unofficial directions are to throw it all together and beat it until combined.)

Turn into the prepared pan. Bake 30 to 35 minutes, or until a knife inserted all the way down comes out clean. Cool for about 15 minutes, run a knife around the edge, then invert onto a plate. Allow to cool completely.

Combine the glaze ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer uncovered for about 3 minutes. Pour the hot glaze onto the cooled cake. Let stand for at least 10 minutes before slicing so that the glaze has an opportunity to soak into the cake.

 

Campfire Girls

In late June, I took my girls camping with our friend Molly, who was visiting from Australia. Our fellow campers at Staircase were overall a rough and tumble crew, except for a tidy hipster contingent. This cadre ran an orderly campsite of floaties, french presses, and frisbees, all in meticulous states of categorization. They played sprightly games of badminton, thumbs peeking from their Arcteryx, while I yawned and lost myself in a spinetingling mystery novel, and the girls played with matches. We hadn’t brought proper firewood, so I listened to a chorus of “It’s burning!” ”It’s going out!” “It’s burning!””It’s going out!” as they flogged a fire out of gathered sticks. It’s good for children to shift for themselves sometimes; not all parents can be eternally cheerful and well-coiffed, ready at all times to let their faces go numb blowing up yet another floatie. Okay, they probably had a solar-powered pump.

Normally, I would have sought out a book more fitting to the setting, like my old faithful A Walk in the Woods, by Bill Bryson. But he recounts so many tales of people getting mauled by bears, and I didn’t want to be up all night, convulsing at the slightest leaf quiver. I mean, I do that all night, every night, but usually there is a slightly thicker membrane between me and peril than a stuck tent zipper.

In the course of one of our little hikes, I lost a button from my shorts and Molly’s eagle eye served us well, ferreting it out where it lay on the dusty trail. My shorts’ decision to jettison this button had nothing to do with the carbovore camping diet we were enjoying. And even if it did, nothing could get me down. Not midsection bloat, or an overabundance of clouds on the first day, not the hipsters’ kids, (despite, or perhaps because of, access to state of the art camping gear/parents, they were absolute turds) and not my hips, which after a night on the ground felt like forest creatures had been pummeling them with my hiking poles. I was impervious to every insult and injury, because this was my first trip with Big Red.

I speak not of myself, who has been called Big Red a time or two. Nor do I speak of my namesake gum; I am referring to my new Teton Camp Chef stove in all it’s shiny metallic glory. It will never look this good again (nor will I, after sleeping on the ground).

Hello, Gorgeous.

What did I cook on it? Who cares? It doesn’t matter. The point is, I love it, and in spite of it being as low tech as it gets, I felt sassily competent using it. Like if all else failed, I could always make something for my family, as long as I brought enough propane – and I actually did! Recently, my sister-in-law used her stove on a road trip back to Washington, whipping up her (in)famous Quesadillas ala Bathroom, in offputting proximity to the toilet in a “rustic cabin.” It was 95 degrees, and there was no air conditioning, so cooking anything for her children was a little act of motherly love.

Lake Cushman

And that may be why I love stoves: fancy ones with extra burners in other people’s well-appointed kitchens, the wood stove I used to make us dinner and dessert once during a blackout, and humble camp stoves employed while swatting mosquitoes. Looking at them makes me think of all the meals cooked on their surfaces – some delectable, some just fair, some inedible. But hopefully all with some affection in them, some desire to please people we care for, or at least fill them up, so they go to sleep and we can behold their soft, and above all, silent, faces in repose, cozily tucked up in their sleeping bags. Kumbaya, Eaters.

Happy camping, happy cooking,

marycake

Inside the Big Cedar at Staircase
Two trees

 

Exiting Eden

My family was fortunate enough to see Maui this past March, and we were giddy with excitement about it. In the car, en route to the airport, we stated our vacation goals. Husband: to do as little as possible. Youngest: to see a dolphin and a turtle (in the interest of which she wore one dolphin and one turtle earring). Oldest: to snorkel and swim as much as possible. Halfway through the holiday, they were all meeting, and exceeding their goals. “And what was I hoping to do?” I asked. My youngest piped up in a let’s-speed-this-along voice, “Mom, we know. You filled that gelato punch card. That’s it right? That’s really great Mom.”

As enjoyable, if not admirable, as it is to fill an entire punchcard with holes at Maui Gelato, the goal I specifically stated at the beginning of the trip was to do something I had never done before. I don’t make gluttony a goal. That’s like making blinking at regular intervals a goal.

Keopuka Rock, viewed from The Garden of Eden

So I left them. Really, I had no choice. I knew I couldn’t make it all the way to Hana, but I wanted to see part of the famous (62 miles from Paia to Hana, 620 curves) road, and I figured the only way not to get carsick was to be the driver. This famous highway is shocking. Even though you are hugging the hillside, trying not to die, going from tight to tighter switchback, someone is always riding your tail. It astounds me that the death toll isn’t higher. I didn’t want to go further than a third of the way, partly because I knew I would have to drive back on the ocean side and I was dreading it.

I parked in one of the micro pullouts and rock-hopped up a stream to take a quick dip at the base of a waterfall, but I mean quick. Why didn’t I bask in the jungly solitude? It’s embarrassing and ridiculous, but I was alone in an eerie shaded canyon, near Keopuka Rock, where the opening scene of Jurassic Park was filmed. Despite repeated self-beratement, I could not shake the sensation that a carnivorous dinosaur might come lumbering hungrily out of the ferns. They are extinct, you say? Most people don’t even get the last word of the previous sentence out before they are eaten and partially digested by something enormous.

At mile marker 10.5 lies the Garden of Eden Arboretum and Botanical Garden. I knew it would be lovely, because I read guidebooks like novels. I stopped on my way back and saw a 100 year old mango tree, traveler’s palms as big as a garage, and loads of flowers in vigorous, riotous bloom in the heavy tropical heat. The colors were intense, outrageous, the way everything is in the tropics. The screeching and warbling of birds was constant; the insects were deafening; I could hear myself sweating. I leaned over a viewpoint to see the dizzying, winding road below that I would soon be back on. If I was going to get back on the horse, I needed reinforcements.

20170403_160123
One of many Hana Highway one-lane bridges, completed in 1911

20170403_143352 (1)At the exit was a food truck, the Garden Gourmet Cafe. This nomenclature felt like a missed opportunity to me. No Eve’s Eatery, Forbidden Kitchen or Tree of Knowledge Cantina? All the meals sounded fantastic, but I was thirsty and Hawaii is a great place for juices. At the window I beheld a young woman of absolutely absurd physical beauty. As I mentioned, everything is over the top there. She was the Keawakapu Beach of females – impossibly beautiful, yet, there she was. It’s the humidity, I guess. I would never work in a food truck if I were her. Like a unicorn, I would be frozen near a reflective surface, (pond, mirror, spoon) utterly transfixed by my own perfection. I tried to rub the raccoon eyes off my lower lids, straightened my stretched and sagging bikini top, (I threw it away that night) and choked out an order: pineapple-strawberry smoothie, with a bit of citrus.

20170403_145245
painted gum tree

It was simply fresh fruit with ice and a wheel of enormous, aromatic, green-rinded lemon laid on top. I have never seen this fruit’s like, and still don’t know what type of lemon it was, but I ate it, peel and all, after drinking the best smoothie of my life. The pineapple and strawberries were a recent harvest, grown on the island. Fruit eaten ripe and so close to its harvest is as good as life gets.

20170403_145254

I paused near my car as an aggressively fabulous peacock strode by, trailing an endless gown of shimmering emerald feathers. Peacocks are gaudily gorgeous anyway, but this one, like everything else there, made me feel like I was using psychedelic mushrooms. Just like the food truck Lilith, this creature was seven times prettier than necessary. I wanted to take my drink with me, but it was so icily, fruitily divine, I finished it right there, near the spot where Eve succumbed to the serpent. That sly devil must have tempted her with this very same forbidden fruit smoothie. I would give in, too. I always do.

Forbidden Fruit Smoothie (if you dare)

I generally avoid temptation, unless I can’t resist it. -Mae West

a small variety of strawberries, preferably local, dark red, and very sweet
(no need to remove stems)
some Maui Gold pineapple, chunked

If you have a powerful blender, you can even use the core, (my mom taught me that) which tastes delicious but is normally too fibrous to eat as is. Blend the fruits up with ice and enjoy. Top with citrus or squeeze some in.

marycake

A Walk in the Woods

Stars, when you shine, you know how I feel.
Scent of the pine, you know how I feel.  Nina Simone

I wasn’t raised on hiking; my parents favored gardening for exercise, and my mother played tennis. I have proved lacking in intuitive gifts in either of these areas, but in Colorado, I discovered hiking. That was in my 20s, but it’s my 40s that have truly been my Cheryl Strayed – minus the heroin addiction – decade. I have spent glorious, verdant hours in the woods, and I have loved it. I have hiked in the desert too, (narrowly escaping death [see “Die Another Day“]) and actually, that was pretty fun too. Trails often mean swims, and they always mean picnics.

This year, I was off to a joyful start when I took my oldest to Little Si in January, on what proved to be the only nice day for several sodden, frigid months. I had to abandon my plan to hike once in each month, but am picking it up again in 2018. I live wonderfully close to the Olympic National Forest, where some of my favorite spots are. Getting to the North Cascades requires more time and tedious traffic, though as I was recently reminded, it’s worth the effort. Behold:

Gregory at Picnic Rock, Lake Serene

My longtime friend, Gregory Ann, and I converged at the trailhead to Bridal Veil Falls and Lake Serene. She came from the north, me from the south. Her washing machine exploded as she was trying to make her escape, I encountered hours of traffic, and 30 Mad Max minutes in the warehouse vortex of Tukwila, asking people at the side of the rode if they knew where I could get gas. No one did. I finally had to render some fuel from discarded briquettes I found behind an abandoned house. It’s a simple process really.

I hadn’t been on Highway 2 in a few years, since the time I hiked to Surprise Lake after a night spent (surprise!) in my minivan with my sister in the Gold Bar fire station parking lot. I don’t always plan well (though I always bring my dad’s 65 year old snake bite kit from the Korean War). But fortune favors the bold, (and sometimes the idiotic) so in spite of the day’s repeated thwartings of our goal to just please meet up for a hike for pity’s sake, I arrived in the dusty parking lot within seven minutes of her.

I will say this: if you can get to this place, then go. Be sure to take the side trail (this adds one mile to total 8.2) to the falls. Then get back on the main trail and go all the way to the lake, even if it takes hours. In 100 Classic Hikes: Washington, Craig Romano rates this hike “moderate.” Okay, for an ultra runner, maybe. Greg trots up mountains with a goat’s nonchalance, but on this humid, 80 degree day, we agreed this was on the rougher side of moderate. I am just telling you so you bring enough water. My advice remains: get your ass up there.

And since you’re going, swim in the lake. I felt deeply humbled by the purity of it – the teal green depths cupped perfectly below eerily beautiful rock formations. The water was not nearly as cold as I braced for, and as I slipped in, I felt my good fortune surround me for a moment: a good friend, a perfect spot poised between heaven and earth, and of course, a picnic.

Cookies to Get You There

These are such good cookies. When you make them with macadamia nuts, you swoon; so make sure you are not perched on the edge of a precipice. Macadamias are expensive, so feel free to use another nut, chocolate chips or another dried fruit.

1 cup flour (I have used almond flour, though it’s hard to get the dough to cohere)
1 cup rolled (old-fashioned) oats
1/2 cup coarsely chopped macadamia nuts
1 cup unsweetened, shredded coconut (I sometimes replace the oats with more coconut)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, room temperature
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 large egg, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup dried cranberries

Mix flour, oats, nuts, coconut, baking powder, baking soda and salt together. In separate bowl, beat butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar until blended. Beat in the egg until smooth, then drizzle in the maple syrup and vanilla until incorporated. Turn mixer to low and gradually add dry ingredient mixture and dried cranberries. Blend just to combine.

Chill dough up to 30 minutes, covered. All cookie dough, in my experience, works better after a bit of chilling. I have chilled it longer, but it gets a bit firm. Bake in walnut sized balls at 350 for 9 minutes. As always, that’s an estimated baking time. When they are lightly browned on top, they are done.

marycake

 

 

 

Tall, Green, Crunchy

Growing up, I spent a lot of time foraging in the woods. When the neighborhood girls and I weren’t in the midst of an epic hissy fit, or wreaking revenge on each other, we were building forts in the forest. These endeavors constitute some of my most vivid girlhood memories, especially the construction of the kitchen portion of the fort. I was forever concocting a “salad” of leaves, grasses and pine cone croutons. Whether this boded well or ill for the future of my cooking, I can’t say. I do know that it planted in me an abiding love for greenery, on my plate and around me. And all that scrounging around for ingredients was the beginning of a life of inventive salad-making, with or without lettuce.

It’s true: you don’t need lettuce to make a salad. If you are from the Midwest, you know this, my friend Jana informs me, because you have been making salads for generations with cool whip, Snickers bars and marshmallows. The thought of that concoction sends me running for pine cone croutons and cedar frond frisee. Recently, I have reunited with an old favorite staple of the lettuceless salad: celery. Ah, the discreet charms of this oft maligned plant!

When my girls were wee, they would watch Olivia, a whimsical children’s program based on the adorable Ian Falconer books. Olivia’s mom is one of my mothering role models (I get most of mine from children’s literature because the mothers who aren’t dead of a mysterious wasting disease are often pretty good). She has three children and runs an event planning/catering business. She stands in her kitchen, trotters jutting out beneath her sensible pencil skirt, reassuring a client that yes, there will be gluten free options at the bar mitzvah. Erstwhile her piglets run amok through the house, and she remains the picture of everlasting maternal calm.

What does this have to do with celery? Stay with me. Another character I enjoyed was Olivia’s monotone best friend, Julian with his ever present ipod. When Olivia asks, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Julian replies, “I’m just trying to get through the day.” I hear you. Julian was assigned to be celery in the school play and his song went, “Look at me, I’m Cel-er-y. I’m tall and green and crunchy.” Heck yes. Surely there is no need for a more ringing endorsement of a vegetable than that?

julian

I love celery, and the stalks and leaves serve perfectly as the base for a crunchy (tall and green too) salad. My rendition of this dish was inspired by a salad recipe from Seattle blogger and restaurateur, Molly Wizenberg. You can add pasta to this and call it dinner. Feel free to call it dinner if it gets you full as is, but my cavernous stomach refuses to fill up without some pasta. It has to be whole wheat though; white flour is a younger woman’s game.

Everytime my youngest comes to me with pickings from the yard, nestled together in a bucket of dubious cleanliness and asks, “Are these all edible?” I see a future saladmistress in the making.

Easy Salad Even Piglets Might Like

One big head of celery, leaves included, sliced
One jar of artichoke hearts, cut in half (preferably grilled and marinated by Trader Joe’s, of course)
One can of garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
a lot of chopped parsley (add alternate or additional herbs if you prefer)
chopped chives (optional)
shredded parmesan
olive oil, salt and pepper to taste
lemon juice to taste

Combine it all and stir. Eat it in a tree.

marycake