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Posts Tagged ‘Spring’

A few weekends ago, Greg and I took a little journey up to Lyman’s Orchards just a hop, skip, and jump away from my alma mater, Wesleyan University. Lyman’s becomes an oasis of plenty in the summer– trees and shrubs weighted down by the sheer volume of carefully cultivated fruit begging to be picked and consumed and taken home. When we went most recently in mid-April, none of the fruit was quite ready to be picked, and instead we were greeted with beautiful floral blossoms canopying the hundreds of acres of Lyman’s.

After tonight’s torrential storm, I suspect none of these flowers have survived, but if you are interested in visiting with us in a few weeks, Greg and I plan to participate in the annual Strawberry Fest held on June 11. (Last year’s Peach Fest was certainly a treat, with the both of us participating heartily — though not victoriously — in a peach pie eating contest.)

That’s it for tonight. We have a very exciting post featuring a very successful wedding cake to come, but no more until then!

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For all of my grumbling and complaining about the cold, wet rain of spring, take a look at what has sprung forth in our little neck of the woods! I headed out for a bit of a half-hearted run the other day to take my mind off my ever so stressful end of the semester duties and was so fully rejuvenated by the glory of spring, I sprinted home to grab the husband and a camera for an indulgent jaunt through the neighborhood. It’s going to be a beauty, this spring…

One of the highlights of this spring will be the M&A wedding through which the wedding cake project came into being. (For the curious, the frosting cry for help was resolved with a bit more Internet research and the help of some very experienced consultants. Instead of whipping together the egg whites and adding the butter to it, reversing the process makes an unimaginable difference.) We had a big celebratory dinner party the other night to welcome one friend home from an extensive stint in Cambodia, to celebrate another friend’s medical school successes, and to bid an early farewell to a third friend leaving for Ecuador for a year.

Another highlight is that our very good friend Amy al-Zarqawi has just returned from an extended stay in Jordan. She came up to New Haven for the weekend and we stuffed her full of cheese and carbs in classic Amy fashion. Lots of mac and cheese, bucatini carbonara, pancakes for breakfast, and a deep rich chocolate cake.

A final highlight — I finished my first year of grad school this past Saturday! No more homework! No more books! No more teachers’ dirty looks! That is… until May 17th, when my summer semester begins again. Sigh. I am thoroughly excited for the respite for now, though, since I have people to see and wedding cakes to make!

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Good Friday

Over the years, we’ve both separately developed a number of traditions and practices around the Easter season. Starting in college, Joann adopted the tradition of very competitive easter egg hunts — these have sometimes involved pinatas, Central Park strangers, and raw eggs, and one year resulted a very badly twisted ankle.  Similarly (or not very similarly at all, actually!), a few years ago, Greg began the practice of fasting on Good Friday. Through our dating and marriage, we’ve come to influence each other’s traditions quite a bit: Joann now wears an ankle brace during easter egg hunts and joins Greg in fasting, and we both break fast with lamb.

Good Friday commemorates the day that Jesus, the Lamb of God, died as substitution for our sins, so what a better day to remember his atonement than to hunger for Him as we hunger for food, and to satisfy our longing by partaking of that which truly satisfies us, which truly nourishes us, the Lamb of God?

Why fast on Good Friday?  Well, for the same reason the Israelites were commanded to fast for the Day of Atonement (although, Christians are not commanded to fast on Good Friday).  There is a lot of misunderstanding about why Israel would fast on that day.  Most people think that the act of fasting was the act of atoning for their sins, that their forgiveness came because they were fasting, because they humbled themselves and repented.  But that’s not true: the Day of Atonement was the day that the sins of Israel were symbolically “placed” on a goat that was sent out of the city (hence, “scapegoat”) and a lamb was sacrificed for the sins of Israel.  These were the things that “atoned” for the sins of Israel.  Sort of.

On the one hand, the sacrificial lamb harkened back to the Passover in Egypt when the God’s judgement passed over those houses who took shelter under the blood of the lamb (painted on their doorposts).  But more importantly, the sacrifice of a lamb (all the ritual sacrifices, in fact) pointed forward to what God would ultimately do.  Israel trusted in the atonement of the sacrifices not because the death of a goat or lamb or a bull would calm an angry god, but they trusted in the hope it represented, the hope that God would one day provide the sacrifice to end all sacrifices.  That was why Abraham named the mountain “The LORD will provide.”  That was the lesson when he went to sacrifice Isaac on the mountain: we don’t provide the sacrifice, the LORD does.  The LORD provides, and that’s the background to the entire sacrificial system.

All well and good: so why fast?  When fasting we remember viscerally that we cannot live without “bread” (food, generally), that we cannot live without nourishment.  On the Day of Atonement we remember that we cannot live unless God provides the sacrifice, we cannot live unless we partake of Him.  We hunger for bread, because ultimately we hunger for the Bread of Life.

One important passage about fasting in the Bible is Isaiah 58.  It begins with Israel complaining, “Why have we fasted, why have we humbled ourselves, and You have not noticed?”  What follows is marvelous–but a little surprising:

6“Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of wickedness,
to undo the straps of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
7Is it not to share your bread with the hungry
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover him,
and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
8 Then shall your light break forth like the dawn,
and your healing shall spring up speedily;
your righteousness shall go before you;
the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.
9Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer;
you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’ “

The day of fasting is not a day to humble yourself that God may notice, it’s a day to act justly, to give generously, to feed the hungry, the homeless, the oppressed.  But this is the Day of Atonement–why should this day especially be a day to do these things?

Because it is the day that we remember that the LORD provided the sacrifice that spared us His justice; the day He generously gave us eternal life; the day he fed those who hungered for righteousness, for pardon; the day He made us His children, to live in His house forever; the day He set us free from the anger, hate, greed, envy, insecurity, and guilt that oppress and enslave us.  It is the day we remember the LORD provides.  Who are we then to withhold justice?  Who are we then to ignore the needy and quarrel and fight?  This is the day we remember that God saved us because He saved us.  He saved us because He saved us.

So on Good Friday, we celebrate with joy the food that God bids us to take and eat free of charge; we celebrate God’s covenant love for his covenant community; we celebrate that on the cross God is just and the justifier of many.  Perfect love, perfect justice.  And so we fast this day and satisfy our hunger with roasted lamb.

Broiled Leg of Lamb

Boneless leg of lamb, about 5 pounds
olive oil, rosemary, garlic, cumin, salt, pepper

Butterfly the lamb and smother it in the oil and spices.  Let sit for about an hour.  Broil for about 20 minutes, flip and 20 minutes more.  Let sit 10 minutes before slicing.  Delicious with red wine; bread is good, too.

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Cold, wet, rainy spring!

Spring! It’s here! Perky buds on the trees! Galoshes galore! Spring is finally here! Admittedly, this is a bit of a feeble attempt at enthusiasm, because frankly, I don’t know why Greg prefers spring to winter so much. Winter comes along with beautiful snow-blown landscapes and the potential of days off due to unplowed streets and grocery stores full of squash and tubers and root vegetables, perfect for hearty slow-cooked meals, stews and roasts and the like… Spring brings rain, and lots of it.

It is true that on my trot through the park last night, I saw a pair of ducks hanging out in what had previously been dry ground, now flooded into a legitimate pond, perfect for the happy couple to frolic in. And walking into one of the Yale buildings today, there was a beautiful flowering tree, so fragrant I thought the undergrad who had just walked past drenched herself in too much perfume. But with more rain on the forecast and a tired Lily Pulitzer trench, there are really few things I look forward to about spring… but then there are green beans.

Green beans are just about at their peak right now, $1.19 and vibrant at Edge of the Woods today. Radishes are on their way to the market also, and thus, a salad was born:

Green Bean Radish Salad

bunch of green beans, trimmed
bunch of radishes, sliced paper thin
good-quality mustard to taste
olive oil, salt, pepper

Bring a big pot of salted water to a boil. Blanch the green beans briefly, 2-3 minutes, then soak immediately in cold water to keep the beans from continuing to cook. If you miss this step, the beans will be a bit mushy.

In a separate bowl, whisk together mustard, olive oil, salt, and pepper to taste. Spoon this dressing over the green beans and radishes, and toss to cover completely. Finish with a sprinkling of freshly ground black pepper.

Equally delightful modifications:

Top with toasted, salted almonds. Or prosciutto. Or pancetta. Or a grate or two of Pecorino Romano. Instead of radishes, use thinly sliced red cabbage and lemon juice in place of mustard. The cabbage soaks up the dressing and develops a fabulous crunch of a texture that complements the suppleness of green beans quite well.

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Salad!

Yikes, where did this blog go?!  Well, that’s what we get with the end of the semester (semesters) closing in for one part-time student with a full-time job and one full-time student with a part-time job.  Whew.  But, you know, even though something like 5 weeks have elapsed since our last post, we still have over 40 views just two days ago.  I guess we have a dedicated and hopeful following.

This post is about salad!  And it’s about social constructs, too, because lately our salads are salads only in name, I guess.  What makes a salad?  Romeo by any other name would still smell like a rose, but does a salad have to be cold leafy greens, or a starch smothered in a cold sauce?  Whatever you want to call this, it at least began as a salad.

Before I go on, my wife makes the most delightful salads, and in particular she is a salad dressing master.  I’ve heard those scoffers, those unbelievers who think homemade salad dressing is for people who don’t live in the real world, for people obsessed about purity, and for people with have too much time–real people just don’t have the means to make their own salad dressing–from scratch!!  But, um, this is crazy talk.  These fools have never watched my Joann whip together a dressing, in a snap, with no planning, and reckless abandon.

I’ve tried to replicate.  After all, Joann makes it look so easy!  It’s just some oil, something acidic, salt, pepper, and MAYBE something for flavor.  That’s it.  Well, it’s only a little more complicated.  Classic mistake (which I made, of course): not enough oil.  You’re going to use ingredients that are very flavorful in their own right, so mellow it out with enough oil, which will also ensure that everything in the salad gets nicely coated.  And use good oil.  Come on, there are like three ingredients here, they need to matter.  But “good” oil doesn’t mean black truffle infused olive oil hand squeezed from olives that were massaged every night.  It means olive oil, extra virgin–and it doesn’t need to be fancy.  Or it means sesame oil (actually, it means only 1/3 sesame oil because a little goes a long way).  Or peanut oil.  The point is that the oil add some flavor of its own.  Is that so much to ask?

As far as acid goes: vinegar of any nearly any kind, lemon juice or some other citrus, maybe even pomegranate or cranberry juice (though those are probably more of a “flavoring” than the acid base we’re looking for).  And for flavorings: just about anything.  Herbs are good, as is honey or mustard.  It’s hard to go wrong here.  Just be thoughtful about matching the oil, acid, and flavoring.

Back to this salad.  We started with a bed of spinach.  To that we added caramelized onions, sauteed rutabaga, sliced radishes, toasted almonds (“toast” them in some oil just until they smoke–they are incredible), dried cranberries, and chicken.  More than half the ingredients are cooked!   And the warm ingredients caused the spinach to wilt just slightly, which was very nice.  We didn’t even need croutons or cheese!  For other additions: sauteed mushrooms, summer squash, sliced cheese (we’ve been using a vegetable peeler on romano and cheddar), toasted croutons (can be made using left-over bread and some oil–just pop under the broiler).  Also, caramelized onions make everything better.

Well, after all that, I realized we don’t even have a picture of this epic salad.  Fine.  I’ll leave you with a totally unrelated picture: still life, in April.

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