June 2010

Well, I did it–I finally moved all the way in to the cabin! I’ll be honest, though, this past week has been extremely trying, but more than anything I feel like (once again) I’ve learned a lot about myself and learned how better to deal with pressure and stress and sore feet.  Oh, the sore feet (where’s my foot massage?)  The insane thing is the timeline: I only got the privilege of living in my last house for ten months–August 15-June 15–because my landlady, Beth, was a Neiman Fellow at Harvard for the year. Somehow, even though I knew that I would soon be packing everything up again, I managed to settle in fairly thoroughly–I mean how I could I not since it was my dream home: porch, antique furniture, salvaged doors and all? And then, knowing that I would be moving soon, I managed to put it all off until the week I needed to be out. It’s been a whirlwind, needless to say, and given that, beyond two wonderful friends helping out with a couple truckloads of furniture, I did it all by myself with my tiny, ancient Honda Civic. I feel like superwoman–superwoman who wants to take a very very very long nap.

But I’ve kept you waiting.  Without further ado, meet the cabin! I haven’t come up with a name for it yet, I want to feel the place out, see what it’s quirks are, but hopefully I’ll come up with something soon. I haven’t taken a picture of the kitchen either (I’ll give you a tour for the next post), but the layout is simple: kitchen, bathroom, main room, and lofted sleeping space. There’s also a boarded in porch that I’m using as my study. Oh, and a cellar! Goodness I’m going to put that cellar to use this winter. And it’s so peaceful. My old neighborhood was quiet–extremely residential and small-town-America-ish–but this goes beyond. I hear crickets and the hum of my refrigerator. That’s it. This, friends, is a piece of heaven.

And for two nights I shared the cabin with a dog named Mozzetoff. Yes, the super redneck spelling of Mazel Tov–appropriate given that I live in Appalachia. Also appropriate since my life has been nothing but good luck these past few weeks. However, Mozzetoff and the cats did not get along and while I’m sure it would have calmed down, I also realized that I wasn’t going to be able to spend as much time home with him as I hoped. And leaving the dog inside (he refused to stay outside on his tie out) for 7 or 8 hours just seemed like an awful thing. He was perfect and relaxed (around humans, at least) and the best darn dog. I was sad to give him back to the shelter. I might reassess the situation in a few weeks, but, as my friend pointed out, you don’t need a dog, you need a shotgun.

Cabin life, needless to say, is unparalleled thus far, and I can’t wait to spend a good deal more time in it. Yes, I might not have my dream stove and oven, but my little electric one will do just fine. And my spring water? Can I gush (yes, pun intended) about it enough? So delicious. Oh, and the first bird I spotted was a scarlet tanager! And there are turkeys calling behind me in the woods and woodpeckers hammering all around and the clearest view of the stars for miles (well, maybe not, since the stars are clear everywhere here). Beside the point. They’re “my” stars and I love them all the more because of that.

Life is still crazy hectic so I haven’t had much time to cook, but yesterday I decided to take a little time and make some pancakes–some gluten-free cherry coconut pancakes, to be exact. Last week a friend took me out to some super laden cherry trees on one of his family’s properties and we picked at least half a gallon of the red berries. He gifted them to me to make something with them, but with the move my plans were thwarted a bit. Don’t worry, I still have something else up my sleeve. So with the gift of the cherries and the gift of a few hours to cook a leisurely breakfast while listening to Loretta Lynn on the turntable, I whipped up an experiment in gluten-free pancakeness. And they turned out pretty good–light, fluffy, slightly sweet with the coconut and tart with the cherries. The perfect start to the perfect relationship with a home.

Gluten-Free Cherry Coconut Pancakes

1/2 c sorghum flour
1/2 c rice flour
1/4 c oat flour
1 tsp xanthum gum
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 c vegetable oil
1 can coconut milk
1/4-3/4 c water (depends on how thick you want the batter)
1/2 c unsweetened coconut flakes
3/4 c pitted cherries, halved

Warm a skillet over medium-low heat.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, xanthum gum, salt, and baking powder.

Add the oil and coconut milk and whisk until a batter forms. Add as much water as necessary to get the desired consistency.

Stir in the coconut flakes and cherries until well distributed.

Spray or brush a tiny bit of oil in the skillet to coat it and then spoon 1/4 c amounts of batter into the skillet. Cook for 7-10 minutes, until browning on the bottom and bubbly on top, and then flip and cook for another 5-7 minutes until browned and done. Repeat with the remaining batter.

Makes approximately 16 pancakes.

Posts are going to be a bit scarce over the next week or so (and then depending on how long it takes to get internet at my new place). Yes! My new place! As sad (and trust me, I’m sad) to leave my beautiful house, I have to because my landlords are moving back into town from their year at Harvard. For some reason they want their house back (I can’t imagine why, I mean, the place isn’t perfect or anything), so I’ve been on the hunt for a new perfect situation. I’d been planning for a month or two now on moving in with friends to their house, but just this past weekend the opportunity arose to move to a cabin. Yes, a cabin. A cabin! A 150-year-old cabin in the woods, part-way up the mountain (but not too far out of town). A cabin with electricity (thank heavens) with spring water and a wood burning stove. A wood burning stove! (Do you know how long I’ve wanted to live somewhere with a wood burning stove??) Oh, and the kitchen is relatively huge. Pictures to come, but first I need to get the key, clean the place up, and move all of my stuff in by the 15th (which is oh-too-soon). So, dear readers, this blog will morph into vegan mountain living or something. Oh, and I’m going to get a dog. Too much excitement all at once!

Also exciting? The Lebanese Festival this past weekend! Ok, actually the festival was tiny and not all that exciting, but I was able to score the best falafel I’ve had in ages & an overpriced bottle of Lebanese pilsner, Almaza (which was surprisingly good–had no idea there was a Lebanese beer).  Both were perfect for the hot, muggy day.  Roanoke needs international festivals more often!

In other news, I’ve been gnoshing on these preserves lately (spread on Reinhart’s French baguettes, of course). I seriously can’t get enough of the stuff. Made out of fresh, local strawberries, turbinado sugar, and orange blossom water, the recipe is oh-so-simple and oh-so-good. It’s the perfect spread for afternoon tea or a snack with your morning coffee, and, given that a quart of strawberries produced just over a pint, it’s the perfect recipe for anyone who wants just enough for themselves (yes, I’m being greedy with this one). Early summer has never tasted so good.

Strawberry Orange Blossom Preserves

1 quart fresh strawberries, quartered
2 c sugar
juice of 1 lemon
2 tbsp orange blossom water

In a medium-large pot (I used my cast iron dutch oven) over low heat, cook the sugar and lemon juice until a syrup forms (about 10 minutes).

Add the strawberries and orange blossom water and increase the heat to medium high. Bring the strawberries to a boil, the lower the heat to a slow simmer. Cook until the preserves begin to gel, 45 minutes-1 hour (mine took about an hour).

Use immediately or follow proper canning guidelines.

Well, I didn’t end up in Richmond this weekend, so no yummy Ethiopian outings or fancy beer runs happened, but I did manage to fill up my weekend quite completely with Roanoke’s Festival in the Park (no, no country music listening occurred on my part), hiking up Mill Mountain (my favorite “urban” hike here), cheering on my friends in Mountains of Misery, drinking delicious margaritas in the rain on the patio of Cabo’s in Blacksburg, and watching The Brothers Bloom (new favorite movie–as my friend said, “It’s terminally cute”) at a friend’s cook-out/movie night on Monday. Whew.

At the beginning of the weekend, though, was my weekly farmers market run and while I didn’t go too crazy buying up new ingredients, my finds of the week were a quart of fresh, local strawberries (totally worth the $6), a pint of shitake mushrooms, and a small bunch of these wild, twisty, giant chive looking things called “garlic scapes.” Now the strawberries and mushrooms I could take care of, but garlic scapes top the list of “nope never had ’em, have no idea what to do with them.”

The internet, thankfully, exists and informed me that garlic scapes are merely the plant part that grows out of the garlic, the leaves, if you will. Pretty benign, no? But what to do with them? Again, the internet conquers all and informed me that Dorie posted a recipe last summer for garlic scape pesto–delicious!

So I made my own vegan version with what I had on hand and let me tell you, dear readers, garlic scape pesto is to die for. I mean, don’t make it on a first or fifth date, unless both of you are eating copious amounts because wow, it’s potently garlic, but scapes give the pesto a spicy bite with the garlic and an earthy undertone. Without any basil it does seem like a wannabe pesto, but if this is what wannabes are, I wanna eat it. Toss it with pasta and veggies (I simply sauteed onions, sliced carrots, shitakes, and kale and tossed them with the pesto with whole wheat spaghetti), serve it as a spread on fresh baguette–do whatever with it you would normally do with pesto. It’s a great early summer substitute for the basil harvest we’ll be getting soon!

Garlic Scape Pesto

adapted from Dorie Greenspan

10 garlic scapes, finely chopped
1 tbsp capers
1/3 c cashews
approx. 1/2 c olive oil
Sea salt

Put the scapes, capers, cashews, and half the olive oil in the bowl of a food processor. Whir to chop and blend all the ingredients and then add the remainder of the oil and, if needed to thin the texture. Season with salt.

Makes approx. 1 cup.