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Dinner tonight: Salmon cakes, sauteed kale, and wasabi-garlic mashed potatoes.
(The boy just got a new camera and is going to be my food photographer.)
This is my new favorite way to eat salmon. The only modifications I had to make to the recipe were to use a flax seed “egg” instead of an egg white, and wheat-free tamari for regular soy sauce.
Last  time we ate these with coconut rice (basmati rice cooked with half  water and half coconut milk) and sauteed chard; this time we had mashed potatoes and kale. Delicious both times!
Fresh Salmon and Lime Cakes                                                           
Makes about 12 2-inch cakes
One 1-pound skinless salmon fillet, any pin bones removed, chopped into 1/4-inch dice
2 tsp. ground flax seed mixed with 2 T hot water (or one egg white)
3 tablespoons rice flour
2 kaffir lime leaves, chopped, or 6 thin strips lime zest, chopped
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1 teaspoon wasabi paste
3 tablespoons chopped chervil or flat-leaf parsley
1/4 cup fresh lime juice (from about 2 limes)
3 T gluten-free tamari
2 tablespoons brown sugar
Oil for frying (something neutral, like corn, canola, or vegetable
Combine the salmon, flax mixture or egg white, rice flour, lime leaves or zest, ginger, wasabi paste, and chopped parsley in a medium bowl.
Combine the lime juice, tamari, and brown sugar in a small bowl and mix well. 
Heat the oven to 300°F. Heat 1 T oil in a large skillet over medium heat. For each cake, shape 2 tablespoons of the salmon mixture into a small patty. Place in the hot pan, and cook until lightly golden on one side (1 minute or so); flip to cook very briefly on the second side and remove to a rimmed baking sheet in the oven to finish cooking, about 5 minutes. Serve with the lime juice dipping sauce.
Recipe from Donna Hay, via The Essential New York Times Cookbook, via Bon Appetit, modified by me.
Wasabi-Garlic Mashed Potatoes (vegan) 
2 lb (approx.) Yukon gold potatoes, washed and cut into chunks 
1/2 c coconut milk                                 
1 T wasabi powder                                
2 T Earth Balance margarine                
3 cloves garlic, chopped
Boil the potatoes until soft, about 20 min. Heat the milk and whisk in the wasabi powder until dissolved and lump-free. Melt the Earth Balance in a skillet and saute the garlic over medium-low heat until just fragrant, 2-3 minutes. Drain the potatoes and mash with the other ingredients until creamy. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Dinner tonight: Salmon cakes, sauteed kale, and wasabi-garlic mashed potatoes.

(The boy just got a new camera and is going to be my food photographer.)

This is my new favorite way to eat salmon. The only modifications I had to make to the recipe were to use a flax seed “egg” instead of an egg white, and wheat-free tamari for regular soy sauce.

Last time we ate these with coconut rice (basmati rice cooked with half water and half coconut milk) and sauteed chard; this time we had mashed potatoes and kale. Delicious both times!

Fresh Salmon and Lime Cakes                                                           

Makes about 12 2-inch cakes

  • One 1-pound skinless salmon fillet, any pin bones removed, chopped into 1/4-inch dice
  • 2 tsp. ground flax seed mixed with 2 T hot water (or one egg white)
  • 3 tablespoons rice flour
  • 2 kaffir lime leaves, chopped, or 6 thin strips lime zest, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon wasabi paste
  • 3 tablespoons chopped chervil or flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice (from about 2 limes)
  • 3 T gluten-free tamari
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • Oil for frying (something neutral, like corn, canola, or vegetable

Combine the salmon, flax mixture or egg white, rice flour, lime leaves or zest, ginger, wasabi paste, and chopped parsley in a medium bowl.

Combine the lime juice, tamari, and brown sugar in a small bowl and mix well.

Heat the oven to 300°F. Heat 1 T oil in a large skillet over medium heat. For each cake, shape 2 tablespoons of the salmon mixture into a small patty. Place in the hot pan, and cook until lightly golden on one side (1 minute or so); flip to cook very briefly on the second side and remove to a rimmed baking sheet in the oven to finish cooking, about 5 minutes. Serve with the lime juice dipping sauce.

Recipe from Donna Hay, via The Essential New York Times Cookbook, via Bon Appetit, modified by me.

Wasabi-Garlic Mashed Potatoes (vegan) 

  • 2 lb (approx.) Yukon gold potatoes, washed and cut into chunks 
  • 1/2 c coconut milk                                 
  • 1 T wasabi powder                                
  • 2 T Earth Balance margarine                
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped

Boil the potatoes until soft, about 20 min. Heat the milk and whisk in the wasabi powder until dissolved and lump-free. Melt the Earth Balance in a skillet and saute the garlic over medium-low heat until just fragrant, 2-3 minutes. Drain the potatoes and mash with the other ingredients until creamy. Add salt and pepper to taste.

This is me running in PA farm country, and waving at horse-and-buggy drivers [not pictured].
I registered for the Marine Corps Marathon this week, so it’s official insanity now. My interim goal, however, remains the George Washington Parkway Classic, a 10-miler in early April.
Today I ran my longest distance to date, just over 8 miles. I find myself curiously enjoying the distance runs, and so far the gradual increases over 5 miles have come easily. This surprises me since it was So Hard to build up to 2 miles, and then to 4. I wonder when I will hit the next ceiling.
I need more running music, though, as my long run now goes through the whole playlist and starts again. I’ve got a high-energy rock mix that’s heavy on Muse and Audioslave, but I’m willing to experiment. Any suggestions?

This is me running in PA farm country, and waving at horse-and-buggy drivers [not pictured].

I registered for the Marine Corps Marathon this week, so it’s official insanity now. My interim goal, however, remains the George Washington Parkway Classic, a 10-miler in early April.

Today I ran my longest distance to date, just over 8 miles. I find myself curiously enjoying the distance runs, and so far the gradual increases over 5 miles have come easily. This surprises me since it was So Hard to build up to 2 miles, and then to 4. I wonder when I will hit the next ceiling.

I need more running music, though, as my long run now goes through the whole playlist and starts again. I’ve got a high-energy rock mix that’s heavy on Muse and Audioslave, but I’m willing to experiment. Any suggestions?

I’m a red wine girl (plus the occasional gin or whiskey). And since I can’t drink beer after, say, a fruitless day of research in the special collections with dusty fragile old books in languages I can barely read, wine is an ordinary weeknight pleasure as well as a special occasion indulgence. I need to practice my wine-tasting vocabulary, though. I worked in a winery tasting room one summer, but I just copied what the more experienced servers said about the wine, without developing a very well-articulated palate myself. So hopefully without being too snobby about it, I will start trying to describe for you what I’m enjoying at present.

For Valentine’s Day, we went to Cheesetique. (I’ve been twice and highly recommend it — they have a cheese shop in front and a wine bar in the back. I take in my own gluten-free crackers.) I tasted several reds but my favorite was the Can Blau Monsant ‘08, from Spain: “Sweet blueberries and cloves melt into smoky oak.” (That was last week, before I decided to write about it, so I can’t remember my own descriptors other than “Yum!”) Not too sweet, not too mouth-puckering, but dark and smooth.

Tonight, while stirring the bacon-spinach risotto, I’m drinking Tilia ‘09 Malbec-Syrah, from Mendoza, Argentina. The bottle says “…black-currant fruit flavors and aromas with a touch of roasted espresso and finishes with notes of dark chocolate and well-rounded tannins.” It might just be the power of suggestion, but I think I really taste all those things. I add only, “…medium-bodied and fruit-forward with a nicely complex although short finish. Delicious everyday wine.” I got it at Whole Foods for $9. I think I can afford to drink this more often.

Try them and tell me what you think!

I submitted the first version (definitely not the first draft!) of my dissertation proposal this week. I’m a slow writer at the best of times but it took me a month to write and re-write those two pages. Now I’m waiting for my director’s feedback.

It gives me chills to read the proposal (which has to be rather bold — there’s no space in two pages for humble circumlocutions) and think, “Am I really going to write this?” I must admit that I think it will be an awesome project, whatever its final form, but I’m scared to attempt it. 

I also like that I used the words “occludes” and “milieux.” I hate academic verbiage, and I fight hard against passive voice and excessive nominalizations, but one must still use a little bit of theoretical jargon to show that one knows what one is talking about. Still, I fear that my writing has actually gotten worse since my undergraduate days. I can analyze and argue at a much higher level now, of course, but my use of language was much lovelier when I was not so immersed in academic prose.

At least I can do some non-academic reading now that I am working on a more relaxed schedule. Any suggestions?

At Christmas, my little youngest two sisters (just turned 14 and 16) were politely asking what my dissertation is going to be about. I explained that I’m interested in people’s everyday lives in the ancient world, especially what they ate and what it meant to them, but that this sort of thing is often difficult to find out. I told them about some of the funniest documentary papyri that I’ve read, like the letter urging the recipient to come to town immediately, and not to be distressed about the pig, because the chief of police would take care of everything. Or the one from the boy who was mad at his father for not taking him to Alexandria and only sending him some stupid chickpeas as a present, and threatened to not eat or greet his father or shake his hand unless he was taken along next time. 

At bedtime, the youngest said, “Good night! Sleep tight! Don’t let the bedbugs bite!” Then she became thoughtful, and asked, “Are you going to have bedbugs in your dissertation?”

"What?" said I, puzzled.

"You know. People long ago had bedbugs, right? Are you going to write about them?"

I think I said that I didn’t think bedbugs showed up much in the historical record, but I can’t quite remember. Mostly I was laughing. But who knows, maybe a little bioarchaeology would do the trick.

He had been eight years upon a project for extracting sunbeams out of cucumbers, which were to be put in phials hermetically sealed, and let out to warm the air in raw inclement summers.

— Jonathan Swift, Gulliver’s Travels

I’m a 30-something, Orthodox Christian, happily-married, home-school alumna.

Cooking: I have the good fortune to come from a family of excellent cooks, so I’ve been cooking as long as I can remember. My taste for experimentation serves me well now that I have been gluten-, egg-, and (mostly) dairy-free for 4 years.

I am also a “part-time” vegan, as an Orthodox Christian who tries to observe the fasting calendar of the Church, so you’ll see a variety of vegan and carnivorous meals here, depending on the day or season.

I don’t claim to be a Serious Cooking Blog, but I like to write about what works for me and what doesn’t, and to wax rhapsodic about all kinds of deliciousness.

Running: I hate the gym, so I started running in the summer of 2009. After a wretched couple of months (I live in a hilly neighborhood), I finally made it to the consistently-running 2-mile mark, at which point it started to be fun. In the summer of 2010, I got addicted. I ran my first race, a 10K, in October 2010 — two days after my Ph.D. comprehensive exams. My 2011 New Years’ resolution is to run a marathon — namely, the Marine Corps Marathon this coming October.

Dissertating: I have a B.A. in History and an M.A. in Classics, and I’m working on a Ph.D. in Early Christian Studies. This is an interdisciplinary degree, but I fall on the history end of the history-theology-philology spectrum.

I’m currently working full-time on my dissertation, which is about lay piety and food practices in the 4th and 5th centuries, focusing on evidence from homiletic texts and documentary papyri in Greek and Coptic.

Somehow I manage to experience coherence in these diverse preoccupations. I hope you will join in the conversation about any one or all three of them, and share the phenomenology of cucumber.

There is a certain Proarche, royal, surpassing all thought, a power existing before every other substance, and extended into space in every direction. But along with it there exists a power which I term a Gourd; and along with this Gourd there exists a power which again I term Utter-Emptiness. This Gourd and Emptiness, since they are one, produced (and yet did not simply produce, so as to be apart from themselves) a fruit, everywhere visible, eatable, and delicious, which fruit-language calls a Cucumber. Along with this Cucumber exists a power of the same essence, which again I call a Melon. These powers, the Gourd, Utter-Emptiness, the Cucumber, and the Melon, brought forth the remaining multitude of the delirious melons of Valentinus.

— Irenaeus, Against Heresies 1.11.4

(originally written Nov. 20, 2010)

Most people must be thinking about Thanksgiving (and maybe even Christmas) dinners by now. Those of us who have the (mis)fortune to be food-lovers (I don’t like the snob connotations of “foodie” but you can call me one if you want) with multiple food allergies have already been thinking about it for some time. I swing back and forth between enthusiasm for all the new things I could try and despair about the effort and risk involved.

We’re going to have Christmas with my family this year, which provokes mostly enthusiasm regarding food. Several of my younger sisters have recently turned up with gluten/dairy/egg/etc allergies, too. When Christmas comes around, we’ll be all in it together, coming up with new traditions. Fortunately, my family is full of good and adventurous cooks, and I think we can concoct some lovely things.

Two Christmases ago Brooks and I stayed home and his parents and brother came to visit. I planned and cooked the whole meal gluten-free (My mother in law washed all the dishes as I went along :) ) and, if I may say so myself, it was amazing. We had avocado-grapefruit salad with hazelnut oil, red pepper and fennel soup, prime rib, roasted red potatoes, kale and green beans braised in white wine, and rosemary dinner rolls. It was one of those meals where hardly anyone talks for the first few minutes of each course because the deliciousness takes up all one’s attention.

Thanksgiving is another scenario entirely. My in-laws regularly host 30 to 50 people on the big day. The logistics are complex and the dishes are highly traditional. They cook two turkeys and a ham at the house, one aunt makes huge vats of cheesy mashed potatoes, another aunt makes huge vats of sweet potatoes with marshmallows, etc. The dessert bringers try to outdo themselves with decadence every year. As you can imagine, this system doesn’t bend well to accommodate one lone individual with multiple allergies.

Sometimes I try to find individual cooks and ask for slight modifications: Can you make the gravy with cornstarch instead of flour? Can you cook one batch of the raisin rice with oil instead of butter? And then I hope they remember because it’s usually too hectic (as well as annoying for them) for me to hover and remind them. I could have hugged my sister in law last year when she decided, of her own accord, that instead of traditional green bean casserole, she was going to roast the beans with olive oil and almonds.

I usually end up cooking my own little meal on the side. This is fine and probably the simplest for everyone, but I end up feeling a little bit disconnected because I’m not really sharing the meal even though I’m eating at the same table. As much as I like to cook, I get tired of having to do it myself all the time if I want to eat anything good. And even more to the point, I don’t really like cooking just for myself. I like to share. I like to feed people. I like coming up with allergy-friendly things that even omnivores can enjoy. So every year I look for something I can contribute to the main buffet without competing with the established dishes.

I haven’t been totally happy yet with any of my vegetable or dessert attempts (except for some superb chocolate cupcakes from a Bob’s Red Mill mix with applesauce). I still haven’t decided what to try this year. There are lots of things I could try baking but they would require transporting half my pantry out of state, (or buying six or so kinds of flour when there) for an uncertain result, since I don’t have time to experiment in advance.

I have made myself a place at the buffet table, though. Last year I remembered my family’s traditional cranberry sauce, which needs no alteration and made a great hit. I think it comes from a Cuisenart magazine back in the early 90s, if not earlier.

Cranberry Pear Conserve

2 lbs. pears
2/3 peel of orange
2 cups sugar
4 Tblsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 cup golden raisins
24 oz cranberries

Peel, quarter, and core pears. Use metal blade to finely chop orange peel with sugar, about 45 seconds. Add pears, lemon juice, and spices and pulse-chop to a medium chop about 4 times. Add raisins and cranberries and pulse twice just to combine. (Without a food processor, pulse the orange peel and sugar in a spice grinder, chop the pears with a knife and add the remaining ingredients directly to the pot.)

Transfer mixture to a large saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until thickened, 30 to 40 minutes. Transfer to a serving bowl and cool. Refrigerate at least one day to blend flavors, or up to 10 days.

So, dear readers, however few you are, I hope these cranberries will make you as happy as they do me, and I hope for a thankful and low-stress holiday for us all.

(See Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef for inspiration.)

(Do I overuse parentheses?)