Pinolate | Pine Nut Cookies

I'm always looking to expand my tiny-cookie repertoire, as well as to use up stuff that goes rancid in the pantry if I don't act fast. This time I had a nice stash of pine nuts from a pesto dinner, and they came pre-toasted (thanks, Trader Joe's).

These pinolate are naturally gluten free, in the same way that broccoli and rice are gluten free. They never started out with gluten in them in a former life. You need nothing else but nuts, egg white, sugar and lemon zest. It's a celebration of the pine nut, not the fact that it doesn't have flour. And, because they're so rich, a little cookie goes a long way.

adapted slightly from Biscotti
makes about 20 small cookies

7 oz. pine nuts (if they're pre-toasted, you can skip the first step)
3 oz. almond meal
1/4 c. + 3 T sugar
1/2 tsp. lemon zest
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
1 egg white, lightly beaten until barely frothy

Toast the pine nuts: preheat oven to 300 F. Spread the pine nuts evenly on a cookie sheet and toast for about 10 minutes or until lightly golden. Let cool before using.

Pulse the almonds with the sugar and 1/3 c. of the total pine nuts in a food processor to create a sandy texture. Transfer the nut mixture to a small mixing bowl. Add the lemon zest, vanilla and egg white and mix well. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 325 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Form the dough into cherry-size balls and roll each ball in the remainder of the pine nuts, pressing them gently into the dough.

Space the balls 1.5" apart on the sheet and bake 9-11 (or 13 for me) minutes, until golden brown. Let cool for 15 minutes on the baking sheet.

Store what you don't eat right away in a sealed container for up to a week.


Saturday Sentimentalist: wanderlust

When I look back on the influential moments of my life thus far, so many of them are tied to places I've visited. Memories from these trips sneak up on me every so often, years or even decades later. The other morning I was standing at the drinking fountain at work and got a faint whiff of something - imagine something similar to the smell of new IKEA furniture - and I was transported back to the bedroom where I stayed in high school during my first trip to Germany. I hadn't thought of that bedroom in years, but suddenly I was remembering the layout, the confusing way the bed was made and its uncomfortable metal frame, the way the carpet met the tile in the hallway, and how my host mom used to put an assortment of snacks and mineral water on the bedroom floor for me when I got home from school each day.

Of course, I didn't think just of those mental snapshots. I thought about the feelings of being there, as a 16-year-old, awkward yet mature, very conscious of how much baggier my jeans looked compared to those worn by German girls my age, worried about my German pronunciation of everything, but willing to give it a shot. I am so glad I did.

Looking back on this stuff, I'm even more convicted to live in each moment. But, because I'm me, I still can't help but hang onto those things that help me briefly return to that time and place. I've since thrown away many ticket stubs, travel brochures and various tchotchkes, but if there's anything I know I'll hang onto as long as humanly possible, it's these things.

1. Travel journals. If I can be disciplined to at least write a list of places I go each day during my travels, I know that decades later I will be grateful. I can't tell you how glad I am to have kept a thorough journal of that first trip to Germany when I was 16. Not only does it provide a funny portrait of myself that I'll never see in the photos of me from that trip, it shows how I took in the whole experience. It also reminds me that not all travel is glamorous, despite my memories of it being wonderful all the time. It's exhausting, emotional, and disappointing sometimes. I kept other journals during my study abroad trip in college and on our first trip to Paris. Though those aren't nearly as robust as my first one, it's nice to read about what stood out to me and to be reminded of what we did. It's amazing to realize how much I might have otherwise forgotten.

2. Mixtapes. Or in my case, burned CDs. I still have the CD entitled "Spring Break 3!" - third in a series, of course - from a roadtrip I took with my friend Crystal during our junior year of college. I listen to it every once in awhile and can still recall those feelings of freedom mixed with feelings of stress and crushing on boys. Music has the ability to return you to a time and a place, and it's the same with the tunes that carry you through hours in the air or on the road. It's the reason John Coltrane's "In a Sentimental Mood" takes me to London Heathrow, where I sat for hours in a plane on the tarmac, in a snowstorm, waiting to take off, only to deplane and book a flight the next morning. Which sounds kind of miserable, but it was actually one of the rare occasions I got to spend quality time with my brother, and for that reason, a pretty meaningful moment in time. 

3. Photos. Obviously. I don't need to elaborate much here. Except to say that in some ways, I think digital photography has made this area easier but also more complicated. We can take waaaaay more photos with our digital cameras, and we know instantly whether they turned out, but on the other side of that, I wonder if we lose meaning in having so many to sort through later. I'm always struck at landmarks when I look around at everyone taking pretty much the same photo, and I start to realize how much we're experiencing all this glorious stuff in front of us through such tiny screens (except for those nerds who take photos with their tablets. wow.). These photos prove we're there, of course, and who can't resist snapping our very own shot of it? But still I try to challenge myself to find other ways of documenting my experience. Though the end results may be boring to everyone else, it's something special for me.

As an example, during my last trip to Rome, I found it more fun to document the hundreds of people trying to nail that perfect nighttime Trevi Fountain shot than trying to do so myself. 

4. Personal epiphanies. I feel like the movie Paris, Je T'aime is always on when we're flipping channels. It is filmed as a series of vignettes by different directors, each a tribute to a different arrondessement in Paris. I've seen it just once in its entirety. Since then, though, I've watched this particular vignette multiple times. Upon first viewing, I laughed as soon as the woman began to speak. Her American accent was a stark change from the graceful, sophisticated French we'd heard in all the other scenes. She's Carol, from Denver, and she is reading a report she wrote for her French class about her trip to Paris. As the scene unfolds with her walking around with her fanny pack, you feel her loneliness and even her disappointment in Paris. It is the perfect illustration how travel can be a let-down after romanticizing it for so long (there is such a thing as Paris Syndrome, I've since learned). And also of how what we tell others when we return are often rosier versions of what we actually experienced. But what I love most about this scene is the beautiful, intangible moment she describes at the end of her report. Having been a solo traveler before, and as someone whose love of Paris has gone through a similar awakening, this final scene gives me a lump in my throat each time I watch it. While good food and beautiful views and historical landmarks will likely be catalysts to push you to get out into the world, if that's all you get out of travel, you're missing the point. If you have 6 minutes, take a look. I need not say more. (Watch it here if you don't see the video below.)


Summer journal: catching up weeks 3 and 4

I curse myself by declaring things like, "Follow this Summer Journal thingy each week!" because inevitably I'll miss one week, and then debate whether to continue at all.

But the fact of the matter is that summer is very summer-like, pulling me in all sorts of directions, and it's not built for routine. Either way, I have a few photos to share. I wish I had more, especially from my trip to Boise.

Here is what summer has looked like recently.

During the heat wave, we spent one Friday night in Peaceful Valley, eating burritos by the river and playing ball with Luna. Just down the road was a community garden.

We held a cornhole championship in the backyard for Joel's birthday.

Behold the cake. I finally made Molly Wizenberg's "Winning Hearts and Minds" cake. This is a Molly Wizenberg summer, apparently.

Margot, perfectly content again in her favorite spot in the window

Since the basement is a cooler place to sleep, we've been trying to coax Luna down there with positive reinforcement (sausage, peanut butter and cheese). Either something from her past or a keen sense of smell or fear of unknown spaces - who knows - is preventing her from joining us. Joel captured the process well. She just won't have it.

A scene in McCall, Idaho. As I mentioned, I did a horrible job of taking pictures on this wonderful little getaway to Boise. I guess part of it was that I got a lot of quality time with my sister - probably the most uninterrupted hang-out time we've had in at least a decade - as well as with my mom and dad and nephews in McCall. There was a lot of sitting and chatting and I didn't think about my camera much.
One of my gifts to Joel for his birthday was a pound of guanciale. In other words, I gave him a pig's jowl. That's love, folks. And also a bit selfish on my part. Now he can make us dishes like this bucatini all'amatriciana for months.
The weather has been crazy around here. Between mini tornadoes and distant wildfires, we've gotten a few incredible sunsets.


Summer Journal: Week 3

This past week featured, of course, the 4th of July, as well as a couple nice get-togethers with friends. When I look through my pictures, all I got was food.

Ah, well.
Raspberry Blackberry Lime Sorbet remnants
A few weeks ago, I started getting a weekly box from Full Circle. For a person who tends to freeze with indecision at farmers' markets, this is a great solution. You can pick the produce (and other groceries, like milk, butter and grains) that goes your box, but they give you a good starting point to start swapping from. For instance, unless you select otherwise, you might get a pound each of zucchini and carrots, a couple peaches, a head of red leaf lettuce, an onion, a cucumber and a cantaloupe in your box.  I pick it up at the Lutheran church in Browne's Addition every Tuesday after work, and it's like Christmas, even though I know what I'm getting.

I try to incorporate a bit of it in each meal, whether it's a hearty salad, roasted vegetables, or something else fun like zucchini fritters.
Grilled pork, turmeric rice pilaf with currants and roasted carrot coins

Romaine and red leaf lettuce with apricots and almonds

Zucchini, pre-fritterizing
Food is nourishing, indeed.

Multigrain pancakes with every possible topping


Hot evenings were made for this.

Disclaimer: on days like this, we should all drink more water. Drink water all day long. As long as you've done that...

...you've earned one of these when you come home.

Every time Joel, or in this case, I, make a Paloma (that beautiful beverage pictured above), I am stricken with the worst earworm of a German pop hit from the late 1990s by the Ö La Palöma Boys. It was extremely popular when I was over there in high school, in a similar way that Weird Al's "Amish Paradise" was in the states.

I suffer through it because this drink is worth it. It's cold, bubbly and citrusy, and perhaps my favorite vehicle for my least favorite alcohol: tequila.

In most cases, tequila is the same thing as a bad idea: the last-minute, "Why not?" shot that pushes you over the line. In other cases, it's brainlessly paired with Mr. & Mrs. T's Margarita Mix, which has so much sugar you're guaranteed a headache. It wasn't until recently that I drank a margarita without a mix - with real lime juice and triple sec - and realized that tequila is not the enemy I always thought it was. It's still not my favorite flavor, but it is unlike anything else, and I guess that's enough to make me enjoy it on occasion.

The Paloma is on Joel's slate of go-to party beverages: it's easy to prepare and has a perfectly balanced taste, as long as you have grapefruit soda on hand, which is almost never the case. It's become one of those things that I see at the store and think, "Oh yeah, we need grapefruit soda for something..." but can't remember what.

This is what.

La Paloma

2 oz. tequila
pinch of salt
1/2 oz. fresh lime juice
grapefruit soda (I like Izze)

Combine the tequila, salt and lime juice in a high-ball glass. Add ice, top with soda and stir.


Just half a batch of strawberry freezer jam

Confession: I have never canned food, much as I love pickles and jams and a good canned pear. I admire those who do. Personally, sterilizing everything sounds like a major pain - and I'm really afraid of botulism. It sounds like an ordeal. Is it an ordeal? Maybe one day I'll bite the bullet and find out how easy canning really is. 

Freezer jam, though: I can get behind that. It's a lazy man's jam that tastes really special. I love the bright, fresh flavor of this method, which is really just flash-cooked off heat. 
I picked up a couple pints of strawberries at the Thursday Market last week, just enough for two cups of mashed berries. Because normal recipes for freezer jam call for 4 cups, I took a risk and used half the pectin packet and less than half the sugar it listed.
I had wonderful success, so if you're like me and don't want to make a whole boatload of freezer jam, give this a whirl. I love it on everything: my oatmeal, toast, pancakes, Monte Cristos, soft cheeses, and straight from the spoon.

Strawberry Freezer Jam for 2 pints of berries

2 pints strawberries, mashed with a potato masher, leaving some nice chunks (should make about 2 cups)
Half a 1.75-oz packet of pectin, or about .8 oz. (I use Sure-Jell - though you could use alternatives)
1 1/3 c. sugar

Place the pectin and sugar in a non-reactive skillet or pan and add 1/2 c. water. Stirring constantly, bring to a boil over medium high heat. Continue to stir and boil for a minute and remove from heat. Add the berries and stir for another minute.

Ladle the jam into clean small containers, as many as you need (I used three old jam jars). Cover and let sit at room temperature for a day to let it set, then freeze for a few months or, for immediate use refrigerate for a few weeks.


Summer Journal: Week 2

Now that I go on morning walks nearly every day, I have been judging lawns and edging (ours is definitely not in the competition). 


This weekend was eventful. I mentioned my brothers had their birthdays last weekend, so this Sunday held the surprise party for Rich, the older one. His wife, Sally, planned it. What she didn't know, however, was the surprise-within-a-surprise: my parents, other brother and niece drove in from Boise on Saturday to attend the party. Here they are looking at photo albums of little Richie; my dad's at the table preparing a sweet tribute to read to his son.

We got Rich out of the house on Sunday by taking him on tour of several breweries in town: Big Barn, Budge Brothers and Ramblin' Road.

When we got back from the tour, this was waiting for him in the backyard. Such fun. There are oodles of musicians in this photo.

I have been breaking up the workday with some beautiful walks around campus and good podcasts to listen to along the way. My favorites are always This American Life, Fresh Air, America's Test Kitchen Radio, and The Splendid Table. This past week I threw in a few wildcards, which were pretty good: The Dinner Party (featured an interview with Steve Martin), a couple of the New Yorker's Out Loud, and The Scrum, which was a little snooty but interesting anyway. When I looked down to adjust the volume on my earbuds one day, I noticed that I had a little traveling partner on my shirt.

Monday was a big day: I was able to officially declare myself DONE with the book I've been working on for pretty much the last year. In celebration, I felt I should take Tuesday off. So I did. After a leisurely morning at home, I went to the library and got my traditional mix: 1 fiction (Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon), 1 nonfiction (Weeds by Richard Mabey), and two cookbooks (Vegan Before 6 [VB6] by Mark Bittman and The Heart of the Plate by Mollie Katzen).

I also planned it so that I could watch the USA play Belgium in the World Cup.

I left work early on Thursday and hit up the Thursday Market in the Perry District as things were just setting up, which meant I got my pick of the best berries.

Also, did I mention it's really hot right now? It's my favorite kind of miserable. We're staying as cool and as sweet as we can.