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Last night I made a pot of lentil soup and added so much dill in the end that I pushed my lentils over the edge into a full on identity crisis. WHAT ARE WE? A LENTIL SOUP OR A DILL SOUP, DAMMIT! Jason loved it despite the boycott in the bowl. The rebel however continued within his intestines and made itself heard throughout the evening.

I wasn’t spared either. The anger of the lentils caught up with me this morning, and let me just say I’m glad the Earth shook in Baja two days ago, and not today. Otherwise I would have to take the responsibility. The only one I had to give personal apologies to this morning was Cosmo, who at some point lifted himself from his third nap today, gave me—let’s call it—a disappointed look, and rushed to the other room to pack his bags. I’M OUTTA HERE!

Cosmo napping. Or else anesthetized.

I think I’ll stick to the simple greens today.

My passion for edible weeds makes even more sense when you look into my family history. My mother back in her teenage days was a fearless daredevil. Let’s see. For a bar of chocolate she:

–       climbed a 3-storey building up its lightening-rod only to be later rescued by fire marshals as she was too terrified to repel;

–       walked across a cemetery at midnight, while her guy friends (“Those idiots!”) hid behind the graves only to appear in their ghostly, white bed sheets in front of my chocolate-driven teenage mother;

–       wrote 24 different essays for her classmates thus fulfilling their home work; (The teacher was no fool—she got an F for cheating and an A for creativity and hard work.)

–       played goats with her friend where they roamed a green meadow on all fours while grazing and chewing on juicy grass and wild flowers.

Come to think of it, all this could explain way more then merely my ecological sentiments. However, one thing must be clarified. My dear mother was growing up in post-war Poland (in the 50’s and 60’s). Hence, her chocolate bar then was your safe Toyota today, just as hard to come about.

Anyways, my battered insides are fully functional again and asking for a fresh, non-lentil food supply. Come and check out my refrigerator to see what we’re having for lunch:

–       Mixed greens (duh)

–       Shredded white cabbage

–       Micro greens

–       Scallions

–       Fresh dill

–       Fresh basil

–       Half of an avocado

–       Green Apple

–       Walnuts (toasted)

Brilliant. Let’s quickly whisk simple vinaigrette: extra virgin olive oil (3 parts), apple cider vinegar (1 part), Dijon mustard (1 tsp), honey (1 tbsp), and a reasonable amount of sea salt and pepper. Taste, approve, and pour over all the GREEN MEADOW of your bowl. Please, make sure you chop the stuff before tossing into the dish, OK? We are making a GREEN APPLE SALAD after all.

Green Apple Salad for my Goat

Happy grazing everybody. I have lunch plans with my fellow goat. BBBLLEEEAAATT!

There’s this thing on a certain social networking site, known as Facebook, where one writes up 25 things about themselves and sends the list to 25 people. The idea is to share intimate, less known facts about yourself with people of your choice. Instead of writing down my 25 things and posting it on the above mentioned website, I thought I’d toss them here and make a salad out of it.

1. Almost every morning, as I dress up my bottom, I glance in the mirror and smile with approval at the sight of my profile.

2. The more I cook, the more appreciation I gain for my mother’s culinary talents. I didn’t realize how good of a cook she was until I tried the trade myself. The goal is NOT to be able to make a few dishes I can later alternate when making dinners for my family. Instead, I cook to free my soul and go to heaven for having discovered and exploited my potential.

3. There’s something about Jason’s nipples I cannot simply resist.

4. I am on non-speaking terms with Starbucks for their new line of VIA Ready Brew. While the world screams “RECYCLE! USE LESS PACKAGING! STOP CUTTING DOWN THE AMAZON!” they come up with those tiny coffee sachets worth 1 cup each. Hello! Have you not heard of global warming and The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, which is twice the size of Texas?? These Starbucks people are bananas! Argh!

5. The awesome thing about the holidays is that Jason can’t stop me from making peanut butter and chocolate brownies, or a shit load of chocolate cookies, or even a brownie pie!

6. My favorite candy store? Sur la Table for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

7. My favorite day of the week? The bra-free day. I like to keep my girls free and give them all the play-time they want before I get them to work for food when I get pregnant next year.

8. Hey, Mister! Have you not noticed your car has built-in blinkers? Nooo, these are not Christmas ornaments. You ought to use blinkers all year round dammit. Oh, yeah, that’s a huge pet-peeve of mine.

9. I grew up surrounded by books. Love ‘em to the last page. However, since I started this blog, I’ve been mostly purging words rather then inhaling them. I miss that.

10. Cosmo is a four-legged Pelè in disguise.

11. I have a vivid imagination. In my head, I see pictures of myself and/or people close to my heart in extremely catastrophic scenarios. Those images come to me randomly and out of the blue. Often they are so realistic I start to cry. I am unaware of the origin of this condition. I don’t know how to overcome it either.

12. Beauty moves me. It fills up my chest till it hurts and I start to cry. Again.

13. I secretly fart.

14. I haven’t used a hairbrush in six months, since I cut my hair short.

15. I was a witch in one of my previous incarnations, who lived in the woods and brewed herbal concoctions for various ailments.

16. – 24. Last night I made a salad, a twist on Coleslaw, that was so good the world stopped spinning for a moment. It was so fantastic in fact it’s worth 9 points of the 25 Important Things From Agnieszka Graczyk’s Life. Here’s how I did it…

I bought a package of shredded cabbage. I’d have gotten a whole head if the store offered one, as you know how I feel about the unnecessary packaging, etc. They didn’t carry the veg in its natural form. Back in my kitchen, I emptied the bag into a large bowl and added shredded Granny Smith Apple along with a bunch of chopped scallions. In the meantime, I toasted maybe a 1/2 a cup if raw walnuts, let them cool, and then roughly chopped them into small boulders of brain nuts.

Don’t they totally look like brains? The truth is they are really good for your brain, so it’s a clever tip to remember. The smurfs that write on Whole Foods web pages made my life easier for describing in detail the nuts’ magic:

Walnuts have often been thought of as a “brain food,” not only because of the wrinkled brain-like appearance of their shells, but because of their high concentration of omega-3 fats. Your brain is more than 60% structural fat. For your brain cells to function properly, this structural fat needs to be primarily the omega-3 fats found in walnuts, flaxseed and cold-water fish. This is because the membranes of all our cells, including our brain cells or neurons, are primarily composed of fats. Cell membranes are the gatekeepers of the cell. Anything that wants to get into or out of a cell must pass through the cell’s outer membrane. And omega-3 fats, which are especially fluid and flexible, make this process a whole lot easier, thus maximizing the cell’s ability to usher in nutrients while eliminating wastes–definitely a good idea, especially when the cell in question is in your brain.

The salad would not be complete without the dressing I quickly whipped up in our Magic Bullet. These were the components:

–       freshly squeezed lemon juice from 1 lemon

–       1 tbsp of honey

–       2 tbsp of heavy cream

–       3 tbsp of olive oil (the whole nine yards – organic, extra virgin, first cold pressing, etc.)

–       2 tsp of sea salt

–       1 tsp of black pepper.

Everybody in the bowl (the cabbage, scallions, apples, and nuts) got coated evenly with the silky dressing, then chilled in the refrigerator for at least 45 minutes before consumption time. Then I took a bite, and with it I heard music and saw fireworks on a horizon. It was amazing, beyond delicious. There was the tartness from the apples and the dressing, but instantly the nut took off the edge and spread comfort and bliss in my mouth.

I didn’t need anything else for dinner. That was my delight of the day. For Jason, however, I reheated leftover penne over pancetta and garlic, and grilled three chicken tenders. Just like that. Nevertheless, the salad still took the Guest of Honor’s seat, and got a round of applause. Pure brilliance on a plate.

25. I am madly and uncontrollably in love with that white boy from Texas named Jason Blaine. Moreover, I am madly and uncontrollably loved by that white boy from Texas named Jason Blaine. He loves me just the way I am.

Gobble, gobble…!

This morning I went on a hike with Heidi. We’ve known each other for as long as I’ve been in LA, however, life happens and we lost touch for a big chunk of that time. It felt good learning about the shenanigans she’s been up to as we struggled through the bushes up the hill.

Upon my return home circa two hours later, mildly sweaty and not at all tired, I hopped into the shower to wash off the LAZY rash I’ve been dealing with lately. Due to my soft spot for the planet, I usually take super speedy baths. Three minutes is all I need to cover tops to bottoms (yes, I need plural for my BOTTOMS). On occasion, when any labor-intensive activity is required (major scrubbing, shaving, scull massaging, egg scrambling, knitting, etc.), I like to turn off the water in between various stages of any given task. For Jason such dry shower is a DISAPPOINTING WASTE OF FUN TIMES.

Today, however, I craved comfort that only a strong stream of water running down my nekid body can bestow. And so I stood there… nekid, wet, and happy as a pig in the mud for at least a whole seven minutes. And when I cut off the downpour at last, I didn’t even mean it. It was the sense of duty that got me out of the bathtub. “Somebody should be writing now!” I kept hearing in my head.

So I stood there… nekid, wet, happy as a pig in the mud on the cold bathroom floor, drying off with a fuzzy towel, when my eyesight came to rest on our toilet. There’s truly nothing extraordinary about the white urinal, but it made me think of Terri’s recent post where she talked toilet, etc.

Terri Terri Quite Contrary

That’s all she wrote. That’s it! It wasn’t satisfying for me. It’s toilet talk for god’s sake. Come on! The commode comes with HOT WATER. It begs the question HOW DOES ONE DISCOVER THAT IT COMES WITH HOT WATER? Is the hot water settling like a warm mist on your bare bottom? Do you dip a toe inside to test the waters? I need more information, Woman! Terri, I have this itching urge to comment on the TOILET SITUATION in your office, the I-can’t-believe-I’ve-just-gone-there kind of comment like, uhm.., wait. I almost have it… on the tip of me tongue, uhm… Yeah, nope, I’ve got nothing. Carry on.

And just like that I was done with my hygienic routine. Time to put some clothes on.

All that treading in the dust made me hungry for something truly earthy. And what’s more earthy than a vegetable born in the dirt, then dug up to be eaten for dinner? Mr. Celery, let’s look at your root. I like it big and hard with the skin peeled off, ready to eat. But first I’ll take you gently in my hands, wash you, strip you naked, and then give you a free ticket for a ride on the food processor rollercoaster.

Apples + Celery + Lemon

What I’m saying, y’all, is today I’m making a CELERY ROOT SALAD. When you get your big and chunky root all ready as described above, pair it with 2 Granny Smith Apples, cored and cut in eighths. Also, grab a half of a cup of fresh raisins, and the same amount of raw walnuts. The nuts need to be toasted. With raisins, I like to soak them in a freshly boiled cup of hot water for a few minutes before tossing them in my salad. This way they get plump and soft, and easy to chew on.

To make your life easier, let me just put together a roster of all ingredients for the Salad of Honor:

–       1 BIG or 2 medium celery roots

–       2 Granny Smith Apples

–       1/2 cup of fresh raisins

–       1/2 cup of raw walnuts

–       fresh basil leaves and dill (about 1-2 tbsp of each, chopped)

–       1 container of non-fat Greek yogurt, or equivalent of organic sour cream

–       sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste (note: this salad LOVES black pepper, so don’t be shy)

–       1 tbsp of sugar (I use raw cane, organic), or honey

–       1 tbsp or so of freshly squeezed lemon juice

Once you get your celery and apples cleaned and cut in chunks, drop them into a food processor and grate. Feel free to use a hand grater if you have extra time on your hands, or your gym membership expired. Transport those veggie and fruit strips into a large bowl. Sprinkle all with lemon juice to prevent from oxidizing and thus turning dark. Season with salt to help soften the celery. The salt will also help the apples release their juice. Now add chopped herbs, soaked and drained raisins, cooled toasted walnuts (roughly chopped), yogurt/sour cream and get the whirlpool going. Using two salad forks, mix everybody together. Grind black pepper all over the bowl until it hurts your knees. Add a sprinkle of sugar, and a dash of love. Mix again, taste, fix if needed, and store in a refrigerator in a tight container.

Celery Root Salad

That’s the trick. The celery root and the apple have to spend some time on their own, consummate their marriage, play with the gifts you sent with them on their honeymoon before you can fully enjoy the taste of the union. Give it an hour, at least. And the day AFTER the wedding night is like heaven. There’s the crunch, a sweet bite dancing with the sour, and a little bit of heat from the pepper – an explosive mixture and a perfect marriage recipe.

May you live happily ever after!

What makes one a writer, I wonder… Having a blog exploiting one’s intimate culinary encounters? I think not.

In various social circumstances, upon meeting a new person, I am often asked what it is that I do. Since I’ve been experimentally unemployed for the last couple of months (the first time in my life), I usually simply reply:

“I’ve been writing…”

“Oh, you’re a writer!” The human somehow gathers from my ambivalent response.

And I say nothing more, as what more should I add? That I’ve been working on my knifing skills? That I’ve chopped a few onions and even made a steak in our little toaster oven? Or that I’ve been testing my neighbors’ patience with loud music, and my dog’s tolerance level with the dirty dancing that I perform to get out of my head? I don’t lie, but neither do I go into further detail.

When I finally filed my taxes a few weeks ago (I had applied for an extension, worry not), my accountant chatted me up while filling out the forms. He asked about Jason (his client as well) and how long we’ve been dating, what’s our dog’s name, and how life was in general. When he asked:

“So what do you do?”…I thought he also meant… in general, in my free time.

“I’ve been writing.” I said. “I just don’t get paid for it …yet.”

“That’s how it usually goes in this town, doesn’t it?” He concluded, the smart ass that he is.

Later, when I looked at the paper work, I noticed “WRITER” under my occupation. Now, does this make me a writer? What better proof of my trade than an IRS statement?

I heard that writers exhibit strange behaviors while experiencing creative flow. Someone told me once about this guy who could only write when sitting on top of an armoire in his tiny New York apartment. Imagine? How inconvenient! I also used to know this other guy, a writer as well, who’d store his journal in a freezer. He even told me that he tried to pull money out of his shower knob one night as if it were an ATM. Actually he may have just sleepwalked that night, in all fairness. And I’m not sure the incident had anything to do with his writing.

I have a few quirks of my own – come to think of it – when in the creative mode, like perching on my bed, laptop in front, and wearing nothing more than a pair of dangling earrings and matching panties (not the dangling part, I’m talking colors). And I also have a dog that takes in a few new words a day with his morning coffee. Does that count? Because if this doesn’t make me a writer, I don’t know what does!

Thesaurus

If you’re here for the recipes, you must be in a real pickle thinking “How will she ever get to food after this intro???” Well, my friend, I’ll tell you a secret… Sit down, breathe and relax. I’ll be gentle… The truth is that FOOD is just an excuse to write. It’s a side effect. It’s a symptom, and not a cause. Luckily, I really do truly and fully, passionately and madly love to play in my kitchen. I’m keen to use various toys – or cooking utensils if you must – with those kinky names like a cooling rack, an egg separator, a whip whisk, not to mention a meat tenderizer, and a piping bag… I could go on, but you get the idea.

Today I’ll write about PESTO: how I make it without cheese, and how I then mix it with a salad in the place of a dressing. And the only toy tool I need for this is a food processor, well, and a toaster oven. Now, if you don’t have one of those smart ones that can also broil and sweep floors (There she goes again!), a frying pan makes for a capable ersatz. I only ask you to bear with me when I get to the amounts and measurements. It really is my Achilles Heel, my pet peeve if you will. I chronically forget to use my measuring cups and spoons when fixing a new dish, and later, when I try to retrace my own steps to tell you all about it, I’m fucked.

FROM WIKIPEDIA: “Fuck” can be used as a noun, verb, adjective, adverb, pronoun, or interjection and can logically be used as virtually any word in a sentence (e.g. “Fuck the fucking fuckers”). It hence has various metaphorical meanings. The verb “to be fucked” can mean “to be cheated” (e.g. “I got fucked by a scam artist”). As a noun “a fuck” or “a fucker” may describe a contemptible person. “A fuck” may mean an act of copulation. The word can be used as an interjection, and its participle is sometimes used as a strong emphatic. The verb to fuck may be used transitively or intransitively, and it appears in compounds, including fuck off, fuck up, and fuck with. In less explicit usages, “fuck” or “fuck with” can mean to mess around, or to deal with unfairly or harshly. In a phrase such as “don’t give a fuck”, the word is the equivalent of “damn”, in the sense of something having little value. In “what the fuck”, it serves merely as an intensive.

ALSO, YOUTUBE OFFERS ITS OWN DEFINITION OF THE WORD “FUCK”.

To make pesto sans cheese, first you want to toast some nuts. Traditionally pesto is made with pignoli, or pine nuts in English. However, recently I made pesto with walnuts due to lack of the other kind. It came out perfectly awesome. Hence, today, be my guest and use either one – pine or walnuts! And if you feel adventurous and end up experimenting with another type of nuts, come back here and do tell!

Back to PESTO: take ABOUT a 1/2 cup of raw, organic if available, pine nuts and spread them flat on a baking sheet. Then set the pan in a toaster oven and toast for about 5 minutes. If you’re going for the frying pan, or even a conventional oven (at 375 to 400˚), it will take 3 to 7 minutes (depending on which appliance you choose) before the nuts are done. You’ll know they are when you can smell them. You must then instantly remove the kernels from the oven or off the heat. Otherwise, due to the fat content, they will burn in a New York minute.

Once the nuts cool off, dump them into the food processor along with a BUNCH of fresh basil (maybe a cup?…or two? sorry!), 1-2 cloves of garlic (However much you LOVE garlic?), a SOLID PINCH of sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, and you can close the lid. Now pulse a couple of times to break down the nuts and greens and bring them closer together.

By the way, basil is not your only choice. You can also use arugula, and even mix it with other fresh herbs like dill, Italian parsley and cilantro.

Turn the machine back on and start pouring GOOD olive oil s l o w l y  through the feeding tube. For pesto, I use the brands from a higher shelf, good quality, organic oils. You can use extra virgin olive oil on its own, or mix it with flaxseed oil, or even walnut oil for a different spin. How much, you ask. Ekhm. I say pour until all ingredients are incorporated into a coherent green mass. Be gentle, go slow with a small stream. If you like it chunkier and thicker, back off with that bottle earlier. Better be safe than sorry. Test it, and then add some more oil, if needed.

No matter what I tell you about measurements (as long as I’m not selling you a baking recipe) it’s essential, no, it is your duty to taste whatever you make as you go. Remember, YOU are going to eat it. YOU are the one that needs to enjoy what you make. And the more you taste during the process, the more familiar you become with certain spices, their flavors and properties. Hence, you train your tongue to tell you when something doesn’t tickle it the right way, directing you to add more of this or that. The more you sample, the better cook you become.

When done adding the oil, your pesto is ready. However, if you don’t mind the cheese, and those few extra calories mean nothing to you, go ahead and add half a cup or grated Parmesan. Pulse a few more times and mix it with the green paste – make it feel good. Store it in a tight container in the refrigerator. You can also add a tablespoon of oil to cover the surface of the pesto, thus preventing it from turning dark.

I use it on sandwiches, wraps, with pasta (duh), and in salads as a dressing. Simply, mix soft lettuce leaves with diced tomatoes, green peppers, cucumber, chopped dill and scallions, add a tablespoon or so of the pesto, and unite everybody with a few circular motions of your salad forks. Don’t forget to season it with salt and pepper, if your pesto doesn’t do the trick. It’s all about sampling, thus learning how to please your own palette.

Here is a good spot for a photograph representing the PESTO described above.

Oops, no picture on file. In the state of utmost confusion and discombobulation, I forgot to snap one while the PESTO was still in the fridge. However, know that this article leads to a complimenting installment, which will talk about PITA POCKETS WITH GRILLED SALMON AND PESTO DRESSED SALAD. There will be photos!

See you then?

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