Sometimes, a picture is worth a thousand words...


Out, Out Damn Spot!

For those of you who don't frequent Shakespeare plays, that's a reference to a line in Macbeth. At first I thought I thought I was incredibly clever in quoting this Master Of Theater, until I Googled it and came up with this. (#11, in case you miss it).

Ah, well, we're not all perfect.

but back to my story...

Have you ever made a dish...a gloriously well-balanced dish, where every bite sang in your mouth? You know, from the kind of recipe that you saw in a new magazine, while thumbing through it in the line at the grocery store, that caused you impulsively toss it into your grocery cart and purchase it? Or perhaps the kind of recipe that caught your eye as you drooled over your brand new cookbook, safe in the arms of your most comfortable chair, drinking a glass of mint-graced iced tea?

The kind of recipe, however simple, that caused you to have that special food-driven epiphany we all know and love.

"I HAVE to make THAT."

The kind where you'll go out, drive all over town, all day long, looking for special ingredients and the best and freshest produce, fish or meat. And then you bring all of your exceptional purchases home, taking great care with them so that they stay their pristine best, and begin the journey of chopping, tossing, and tasting, until your beautiful dish finally emerges as greater than the sum of all of its wondrous parts.

You arrange it beautifully on the plate; noticing colors, textures and placement...

You place your garnish carefully on top...

(So proud of your magnificent accomplishment)

You take the dish outside into the perfect evening light...

And snap a photo of your creation in all of its gourmet glory...

Then you and your beloved sit down at your charming dinner table,
complete with a gently flickering candle and fresh flowers...

You can't wait to get to work the next day, to your computer, where you can download your masterpiece...

You're so excited to share this with your food-blogging brethren that you can barely even sleep because you're already devising the perfect story to go along with it...

You race into work early the next morning, downloading the picture onto your computer and inputting it into Blogger....

And then...

Oh, no...

What's that?

What's that SPOT on my beautiful picture? (right down below the word 'right')

Marring my very green, very carefully chosen butter lettuce? And my white plate? And my perfectly pink shrimp?

No, no, no!!

Why, oh why, am I cursed with SPOTS?!

Black-Eyed-Pea and Shrimp Salad, from Martha Stewart Living
Serves 4 as a starter, 2 as a main dish.

3/4 c. dried black eyed peas (9 oz)
2 bay leaves
2 sprigs fresh savory plus 1 1/2 tsp coarsely chopped, plus more for garnish
1 medium carrot, peeled and halved crosswise
2 garlic cloves; 1 crushed, 1 thinly sliced
1/2 tsp. coarse salt
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
12 large shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 tbsp cup plus 1/2 tsp cider vinegar
Boston or Butter lettuce

Put the black-eyed-peas in a medium saucepan and cover with water by 4 inches. Add the bay leaves, sprigs of savory, carrot and the crushed garlic clove. Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer. Cook partially covered for 10 minutes, then season with 1/2 tsp salt. Cook until the beans are tender, but not mushy, and begin checking after 10 min more for doneness. Drain. Discard everything but the beans.

Heat 1 tbsp oil in large skillet. Add sliced clove of garlic, and cook until fragrant but not brown. Add shrimp and 1 tbsp. of water. Raise the heat to medium high, cover and cook until the shrimp turn opaque and water has evaporated, about 3 min. Add the black-eyed-peas, remaining 3 tbsp oil, and cider vinegar. Season with salt if needed. Stir in chopped savory, and cook 1 min more. Remove from heat and serve warm over lettuce, garnished with savory sprigs.

Notes: Okay, confession: I used canned black eyed peas because I had them on hand (oh, I know, the shame, after all that drama above, but hey, even if not completely true, it's more fun to read, no?). So, I didn't drive around all over town looking for the perfect dried black-eyed-peas, but I did for the perfect lettuce, shrimp, etc. (I know, good for me that I spent my day driving around in the hot, non-air conditioned car). But, now, I wish I had...because that's probably where the SPOT came from! Canned black eyed peas will get mushy if you try to cook them with the other stuff enough to get a bit of the flavor (ie. this is what happened to me). So don't use canned black-eyed-peas, use the dried ones. Yes, it will take longer. But not much, and it will be better. With a dish as simple as this and with such few ingredients, the better the ingredients, the better the dish. No matter, because the salad was a perfect summer evening meal. Not a lot of hot cooking, light and refreshing, and perfect with some sweet tea and a nice big piece of crusty bread with butter.


I got crabs in Charleston, OR!

But the smoked fish is even better!

I often have to go down to the coast to conduct field research. The University of Oregon's Marine Biology program is based primarily in the small fishing village of Charleston, OR on the southern coast of Oregon. The quaint grounds of the Oregon Institute of Marine Biology (OIMB) become my home-away-from-home for the days while I'm running experiments, and although not very relaxing while I'm there because I'm so busy with work, it's always a nice place to get away from the city and re-charge the Marine Biologist (as opposed to the "Lab Rat") in my soul.

Summer is the busiest time for me because I work on juvenile and adult Dungeness crabs, and the juveniles are out in full force the month of June. They're cute too...I know all you non-marine biology people are thinking "What? Little crabs are cute?" Oh yes, when you see their beady little black eyes looking up at you and they open and close their tiny little claws, your heart really will swell, I promise. Here, check it out. That's not a picture my crab babies, it's a blue crab, found mostly on the East Coast (blogger won't let me attach my own pictures for some reason...grr), but hopefully somewhere in your heart, you'll think it's as cute as I do. Or perhaps I'm just a weirdo, but that's why they have special jobs for people like me, right? I hope...GULP.

Anyway, when I began graduate school, I was living full time at the coast, where there is a gorgeous assortment of coastal state parks and beaches that are some of the prettiest in Oregon. The tide pools are amazing and you can get your fill of gray whales migrating by and various other cutesy marine mammals (NOT nearly as cool as marine invertebrates, mind you, like crabs). But, as all of you food-lovers know, the coast is also a fine place to catch up on your omega-3 fatty acids because you can get freshly-caught wild and LOCAL seafood and fish.

The best place in Charleston to upgrade your omega-3 quotient is at Chuck's Seafood. When I lived in Charleston, Chucks was merely a fresh-fish depository, where local fishermen and fisherwomen would bring in their catch of the day...now, it's a full-blown gourmet food shop, complete with fresh fish. Boo-ya! I can even stock up on things that I can't get in fancy-pants Eugene...things like Black Lava Sea Salt, local honey, special sashimi sauces, and freshly smoked oysters. The most amazing find at Chucks, however, is their smoked albacore tuna and smoked salmon. I don't know what they do to their fish there before they smoke it, although I'm convinced there's a possibility they may be injecting it with crack...I'm only kidding...but, seriously, that's how good it is! It's incredible. I've never had any smoked fish like it. I even bring down an extra cooler (one for samples, one for fish) and ice packs every time I go down. I do have to admit that if I was stranded on a deserted island and I could only have one type of smoked fish from Chucks, it would be the smoked tuna, hands down. The salmon, however, is a close second.

Flipping through a recent edition of Gourmet magazine, as I am wont to do at times, I came across the following recipe: Wild Rice with Smoked Fish and Snap Peas. What a great excuse to have to go work at the coast, right?

Wild Rice with Smoked Fish and Snap Peas, from Gourmet
Makes 6 to 8 servings.

2 3/4 teaspoons salt
2 cups wild rice (3/4 lb)
1 lb sugar snap peas, trimmed
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
3 tablespoons coarse-grain mustard
2 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup chopped fresh dill
1/2 lb hot-smoked salmon or smoked trout, skin discarded and fish flaked into 1/2-inch-wide pieces
4 scallions, thinly sliced crosswise (about 1 cup)
6 hard-boiled large eggs, quartered lengthwise

Bring 4 quarts water and 2 teaspoons salt to a boil in a 5-quart pot. Add wild rice and simmer, partially covered, until rice is tender and grains are split open, 1 to 1 1/4 hours. Drain rice well in a large sieve or colander.

Meanwhile, cook snap peas in a 4-quart saucepan of salted boiling water until crisp-tender, about 2 minutes, then transfer with a slotted spoon to a bowl of ice and cold water to stop cooking. Drain peas, then pat dry between paper towels and cut each pod diagonally in half.

Whisk together vinegar, mustard, sugar, and remaining 3/4 teaspoon salt in a bowl, then add oil in a slow stream, whisking until combined well. Whisk in dill.

Combine peas, salmon, scallions, and eggs with warm rice in a large bowl. Drizzle with dressing and toss gently. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Notes: I didn't have sugar snap peas, so I used petit peas, but otherwise, followed the recipe as written. My only complaint is that it was a bit sweet for my tastes, so I might decrease the amount of sugar next time, although I roughly halved the recipe so my proportions may not have been perfect. When you got a perfect bite complete with a large chunk of salmon, however, the sweetness offset the smokey salmon quite nicely. Thus, maybe just increase the salmon. Because of this, don't scrimp on the salmon pieces - make 'em big and hearty!

I also didn't really know what "hot smoked" vs. "cold smoked" meant, but "hot smoked" just means salmon that is smoked with heat, while "cold smoked" salmon means (thanks to my friend Clare) that the smoke is cold before it reaches the fish so that it isn't really cooked, but is more cured; lox is cured with salt/sugar and spices :)...don't use lox with this recipe - it won't hold up against the other flavors. I was also considering leaving out the eggs, because I'm trying to eat fewer egg yolks, but they went so well with the other flavors that in my opinion, they're a necessary addition to the recipe. The yolks here are hard-boiled, but still "tender" in the center - my favorite!

The recipe will keep well as leftovers or would be great for a picnic, since it can be served at room temperature. I would even go so far as to say that the flavors meld even better together the second day.

Other special places in Charleston:
On your way down from Eugene on Hwy 38, stop in tiny Elkton (Population: 170). This is the halfway point on your trip down to Charleston for a visit to Chuck's, and Thomaselli's Pastry Mill and Cafe has incredible apple turnovers. LB would disown me if I made a trip down to the coast and didn't bring him back a Tomaselli's turnover - they disappear quickly, so plan to get there before noon, or you'll be left empty-handed. Another notable foodie/wino place in Elkton is Brandborg winery, right across the street from Thomaselli's. Their wines, although pricey for a grad student like myself (averaging about $30/bottle), are some of the better ones I've tasted in this area, especially the "big reds." The tasting is free, and the owners are quite interesting to visit with. The chef at Thomaselli's, Jack, and Brandborg often join forces and offer dinner/music/wine combo nights featuring mostly Oregon bands - I have yet to make it down for them, but I'm sure it's a fantastic evening. If you eat dinner or lunch at Tomaselli's, Jack is likely to come out of the kitchen and have a chat with you - he's got some great stories to tell because he used to be a commercial crab fisherman and he makes some tasty meals.

I would also have recommended the local honey from a small bakery across the street from Chuck's, but the bakery was closed this last trip down and has new owners. The honey was collected by a local man, who had been collecting honey and beekeeping for nearly 60 years (since he was 15), and his nettle honey was amazing. If I can find it once again, rest assured that I'll be updating and posting it here.

Lastly, it's not exactly food, but it's a great cause...you can get some amazingly cheap and beautiful pottery right outside Davey Jone's Locker in Charleston, another landmark place where you can get just about anything from shampoo to crab rings to t-shirts that say "I got crabs at Davey Jone's Locker" (ha ha very cute play on words, right?). The pottery "store" is a tiny bright yellow building/kiosk that was started by several women in their late 40s, 50s, and 60s who decided they wanted to buy a pottery wheel and thought selling some of their goods might help them afford it. I always try to support them when I can, and I've never regretted a single purchase - I've gotten some awesome mugs and gorgeous salad bowls for a mere fraction of what they would sell for here in Eugene or elsewhere in Oregon.


Summer wishes

Happy Summer Solstice!

...and so summer begins,
bringing with it long days and warm soil
and giving forth the full bounty of the season...

ripe, luscious blackberries, blueberries, raspberries and gooseberries
tender shelling peas
fresh, plump, sweet figs
rich, soft avocados
smooth-skinned eggplants
brightly colored summer squash
gorgeous tomatoes still warm from the sun.

I hope this summer brings you all joy, happiness and great produce!


I might as well face it, I'm addicted to...

The worst kind of magazines to be addicted to: Food magazines.

Other kinds of magazines come into my house and quickly leave. I'll flip through them, maybe ripping out a page or two as I go to file away for later reference if there's something I really want to remember (ahem, like a recipe, perhaps), and then off they go into the recycling bin.

But looking through a food magazine is an entirely different story. There are recipes!! Loads and loads of recipes!! Yummy sounding recipes. And neat gadgets! Must have gadgets! And beautiful kitchen things I most certainly cannot afford right now, but perhaps could afford... someday! And books...cookbooks and books about food! There is a veritable plethora of food information and food stuff! It's a big weakness for me.

Sure, I will only get around to cooking a few recipes. If it's a good month, I'll get around to cooking a few recipes from each one. I usually read them the day they come in the mail from cover to cover, picking out a few I absolutely have to make right away, storing the rest in the recesses of my brain for "later." Only sometimes, "later" doesn't come for a long time. Or, ever. But still! I have to keep them. Just in case.

Most of the recipes in Saveur seem beyond my capabilities as a cook, whether it's the ingredients, the special equipment needed, the health issues I would have if I did make it, or just the time and effort it would take to cook one of them. However, this does not stop me from trying a few of them out almost every month anyway (they always sound so good!)...nor continuing to subscribe to the magazine. This recipe for Victoria Sponge Cake was featured in the magazine last year sometime, and I wasn't able to find it on the website, so I had to dig through my boxes of "old magazines" to find the one I wanted.

LB hates these boxes - he knows of my magazine addiction (I've recently acquired two new ones, and yes, all but one of them are food-related) and he just does not understand why I have to have 200+ magazines around the house since I rarely pick them up after looking through them once, unless it's for that one recipe that is impossible to find because I cannot remember just WHICH magazine it's in... This occurred recently with a rose buttercream cupcake recipe - I was just waiting for the rosebushes to bloom and now for the life of me, I cannot remember where in the heck I saw it!

Furthermore, LB has officially banned me from bringing any magazines along with us to Hawaii unless they are the one or two that will fit into my carry-on luggage when we actually make the move. I'm desparately trying to figure out how to weasle my way around this new "rule." Any ideas from you readers would be helpful...

I've tried cutting and pasting out a few...but then I end up cutting and pasting the entire magazine into some other form, say white paper...this cuts down on a few pages, but not many. I've tried limiting myself to a single dessert, appetizer, main dish, etc...but more than one recipe for each one makes it out...and eventually most of the magazine ends up saved anyhow. Some of the recipes are available online, but then there's that one that isn't... or it doesn't have a picture and I'm not nearly as inspired...or I can't find a seasonal recipe... (and if I had the magazine, I could just pick up that month!)

Basically, I have a problem. I know. But once you taste this cake, you may be wishing you could have found it online too :) So my addiction and I are here to help you out. No need to go searching online or through old magazines, we're going to provide it for you right here. It's fabulous, and perfect right now because the strawberries are amazing this time of year. Once you dig your fork into the double Devonshire cream and layers of homemade strawberry jam sandwiched between two caramelized-edged sponge cakes, at least you, dear reader, will be happy I gave LB a loving "hmmph" and kept this particular magazine despite his disgruntled murmurings.

So without further adieu: Victoria Sponge Cake, from Saveur

3/4 lb. salted European-style high-fat butter, softened (plus extra for pan)
3 cups self-rising cake flour (plus extra for pan)
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
4 eggs
1 1/4 cups double Devonshire cream (I get mine from Cost Plus World Market)
3/4 cup strawberry jam (preferably homemade)
confectioner's sugar

Preheat oven to 360F. Grease two 2" deep 8" round cake pans with butter and dust with flour; set aside.

Beat remaining butter in a large bowl with an electric mixer on high for 5 minutes. Add sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Combine eggs with 6 tbsp. water in another bowl and whisk together. Add half the egg misture and half the flour to the butter-sugar mixture. Beat well for 1-2 minutes, then add remaining flour and egg mixture. Beat for an additional 5 minutes.

Divide the batter between prepared pans. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 35-40 minutes. Invert cakes onto a rack, remove pans and let cool completely.

Beat cream in a medium bowl until stiff. Put 1 cake layer on a cake plate, spread the top with jam, then cover the jam with the cream. Spread top of remaining cake layer with remaining jam and place it, jam side down, on top of cream. Dust cake with confectioner's sugar.

Notes: Don't make this in a single 4" (or about that?) high pan - I did this time (I've made this once before) so that I could just cut it in half with a cake leveler, and I had to bake it so long to get the middle cooked through that the edges got overly browned. This wasn't a total loss, because it gave the cake a yummy caramelized flavor, but it's much more attractive with golden, not brown, edges. I served it with strawberries marinated in marsala and mint, and it was a delicious accompaniment. It's not healthy, but it's a great cake for entertaining. I can also post the homemade jam recipe if anyone wants it...let me know!


Barley: Food of the Gods?

...or perhaps, food for the goddess? ...ahem...

I've told you before how much I love barley. Looking for interesting tidbits of this now-favorite food of mine, I found that barley was quite an important grain for the Celts too. In Wales, they even had a god, Taliesin, to rule over barley fields! In Norse mythology, the Norse gods, Skull and Thor, had a famous fight that created thunderstorms in a sacred barley patch. Other notable barley celebrations included Passover, which was originally a barley harvest festival, according to one website. In addition, early Egyptians and Greeks believed that barley was a sacred gift from the gods. Now, I know you can't believe everything you see on the Internet, but I'm happy to think that somewhere out there, there are others who have loved barley too and given it the place it deserves in our diets. :)

This is the recipe that started it all for me: Vegetable, chicken and barley soup, from The Golden Door Cooks Light and Easy. It's simple, filling and delicious without being too hearty for a Springtime meal...and if you're enjoying this Spring in Oregon, you need a little warmth and comfort to ride out the rain anyway. Plus, I was just excited that I got most of the carrots looking like little "cubes"...not exactly a "fine dice" but I was proud it didn't look like "big odd shapes"...carrots are not the easiest thing to "finely dice" for this goddess! Ha! Above the recipe is stated that pearl barley is packed with B vitamins, minerals, iron and calcium.

Vegetable, chicken and barley soup, from the Golden Door Cooks Light and Easy
Serves 6

3/4 cup pearl barley, rinsed
3 cups water
1 bay leaf
3 tsp. kosher salt
3 (4oz) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
6 cups chicken stock
1 tsp. olive oil
1/2 small onion, finely diced
1 leek, washed well, trimmed and finely diced
1 celery rib, finely diced
1 small carrot, finely diced
1 small yellow squash, trimmed and finely diced
3 scallions, thinly sliced (about 1/4 cup)
1 lime, cut into 6 wedges

Combine barley, water, bay leaf and 2 tsp. salt in a small pot over medium high heat. Cover and bring to a simmer. Simmer 40 minutes or until barley is plump and the water has been absorbed. Add more water if necessary.

Place the chicken breast halves in medium pot and pour in the stock; bring to a simmer. Simmer 15 minutes or until chicken is just cooked through. Remove chicken from stock and set aside to cool. Reserve the stock. Dice chicken into 1/4" cubes. Strain the stock through a fine mesh sieve and set aside.

In the same pot, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Add onion, leek, celery, carrot and squash and saute for 3-5 minutes or until just beginning to soften. Stir in the diced chicken and stock, and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Remove the bay leaff from the barley and discard. Add the cooked barley and remaining salt to the soup; simmer for 5 minutes. (add additional stock if soup is too thick). Ladle equal portions of the soup into warm bowls and garnish with scallions and a squeeze of lime.


Take your time...

As we all know, Life often has a way of bumping our cooking, cleaning and even our relationships with the friends we care about, to the side-burner while it takes over. I’m definitely guilty of letting things like school take precedence over all of these at times, as well as my blogging.

Or, perhaps these are just times when I'm letting school take over My Life...

"Life is what happens to you while
you're busy making other plans." John Lennon

But, then I saw this quote in a magazine a while back, and I wrote it down as a reminder...

"The best reason to take your time is that
this time is the only time you'll ever have.
You must take it, or it will be taken from you.
It is telling that the phrase "taking your time"
is synonymous with slowing down.
If we want to live life fully, we do best to slow down.
I don't suggest that we turn back the clock,
trying to retrieve a bygone era when life was slower.
We couldn't, even if we wanted to.
But I don't believe that we should want to.
We should revel in our electronically
supercharged, unbounded world.
But, to make the most out of this new world,
to avoid feeling overbooked, overstretched,
and about to snap, to make modern life
become better than life has ever been,
a person must learn how to do what matters most first.
Otherwise, you will bulldoze over life's best moments.
You won't notice the little charms that adorn each day,
nor will you ever transform
the mundane into the extraordinary."

Taken from the postscript of Real Simple Magazine, who excerpted it from the book Crazybusy, by Edward M. Hallowell, M.D.

For those of us that are busy more often than not, and spend a fair amount of time stressed out, overworked and trying (somehow) to fit everything in, it's important to stop (fairly often), for just a moment, to think about what's really important, and let ourselves enjoy those small, wonderous moments we can allow ourselves, even in the midst of all the craziness. And believe me, no matter how busy we think we can get, it is so, so important to make time for those special friends and for family, even if it's just to drop them a note to say "I care about you" or to pick up the phone and say hello.

That said, it’s also important to have meal ideas for those times when Life gets busy and we need to significantly shorten our cooking time so that we can have those few small moments and indulge in spending time with friends and family.

This is an easy recipe, and it was so tasty and felt so fresh and seasonal, that it will definitely be gracing our table on another busy night. Better yet? It’s even called “Summer Bounty” Flatbread...how's that for fresh and delicious? (True, it’s still Spring here, but who’s keeping track?) Enjoy those moments!

Summer Bounty Flatbread, From Terri Parish at PC Market of Choice

2 medium balls of fresh mozzarella
olive oil, salt and pepper
1 small summer squash or zucchini, sliced lengthwise
1 bunch of asparagus
1 medium orange bell pepper
2 greek-style pita breads (or flatbread)
1 medium Roma tomato, chopped

Seasoning oil:
1/2 cup olive oil
1 tbsp. Garlic, minced
1 rosemary sprig, chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Thinly slice the mozzarella; let drain. Sprinkle oil, salt and pepper on the orange pepper, squash and asparagus. Grill until tender (this only takes a few minutes). Set aside, and then slice the pepper into strips. Combine the ingredients for the seasoning oil; brush liberally onto both sides of each pita. Place pitas on a hot grill until the first side is crisp. Working quickly, flip pitas and layer mozzarella, asparagus, pepper and squash on the pita. When the second side is crisp, turn off the grill, close the hood, and let the mozzarella melt. Top with chopped tomatoes and serve. Serves 2.


Memes, memes, musical fruit?

Clare, my aussie host with the most kitties and yummy recipes I've ever seen, tagged me for this meme...The 5 Items Meme.

5 items in my fridge
Opened homemade jam (Black currant, fig, strawberry, blackberry...)
Organic non-fat milk (Milk is one thing I refuse to have be "conventional")
Too many condiments (Like Nerissa)
Our roommate's food (...Rotting in there unless I decide to throw it out)
Lots of fresh veggies (Right now: asparagus, bell peppers, spring greens (baby greens mix), green beans, beets...that's all I can think of right now...)

5 items in my closet
Lots of sweaters (It's chilly here during the rainy winter!)
Lots of shoes (I like shoes...but I think I only wear about 2-3 pairs...)
Loving Boyfriend's clothes (These take up way more space than I think they should...a girl should have more than half of the closet space...we have lots of clothes!)
Loving Boyfriend's shoes (Also taking up more space than should be permitted)
Mold (It raged an unfair attack on my shoes this winter...EW. It's so damp here in the winter!)

5 items in my car
Um, my car isn't running right now, so therefore it is completely devoid of my stuff...I've currently taken over LB's car...5 items I share that are in his car:
Dog blankets
Dog towels
One hair tie (for when the wind makes my hair stick to my chapsticked lips...I hate that!)
A very small assortment of CDs (we've had our car broken into in our driveway and everything stolen before)

5 items in my purse
Um, I don't really have a "purse"...I always leave it in some bar or restaurant or person's house if I attempt to be a "girl with a purse" and so, I usually just carry the necessary cards in my back pocket. BUT if I had a purse...it would be cute...and it would probably have in it...
A bunch of receipts
A wallet containing all of my cards I could possibly need (I seem to always be without the one I need at the time...)
Powder and lipstick (for special occasions...come on, I'm a marine biologist and a lab rat!)
Cell phone? (Maybe...I don't like being "electronically leashed" as my dad calls it unless I have to be...)

5 bloggers thusly tagged
Deetsa's Diningroom
Kitchen Queen
Pie in the Sky
Messy Cucina
Mana Makan - The feast crusade

Back in the day...

Remember the days when grandma (or maybe mom) used to cool her pies in the windowsill on a sunny day in the Spring or Summer - a towel draped underneath the pie plate, a cool breeze blowing across the surface of that crispy, golden crust?

Okay, so no one I know does this, as someone would probably steal it off the windowsill, dogs would get into it and eat the whole thing, or maybe some big black bug might come along and decide to take up residence in your beautiful pie, but come on, some of you must have known somebody that did? Or, perhaps it's just one of those June Cleaver memories, imbedded in the mind as what the perfect wife (or girlfriend, as the case may be) would do with her culinary creations in the summertime, beckoning the children home from playing with their friends...well, I'm certainly not perfect, but hey, 'when in Rome...'

I, for one, wish I had a big windowsill that was safe from big hairy dogs and big black bugs. Especially because I made this rhubarb pie for our Spring menu at Supper Club a few weeks ago, and it had to cool for at least 4 hours before we cut into it (What a perfect opportunity to be the "perfect" girlfriend, no?). And there is nothing more Spring-like than a rustic rhubarb pie. But alas, I settled for resting it on the outside deck rail only long enough to snap a quick picture in the sunshine (the glorious, glorious finally arrived sunshine), then rushed it back inside to safety.

But I could imagine it cooling out there, and that's all I needed to feel content, and like Spring had finally come to Oregon. Yay! I knew as soon as I published this post, I'd be jinxing myself and the freezing rain would come pouring down for the whole rest of the week (as it has been this entire week), but for short time, Spring and gorgeous weather had come, and I enjoyed every spare moment I could squeeze out of it! I dug through the recesses of our drawers until I found my sunglasses, dusted them off, and donned them for my first sunny trip to the Farmer's Market, where I got two pounds of brilliantly red, freshly picked rhubarb for this pie. Thankfully, rain or shine, our farmer's market is now in full swing - the best part about Spring.

We cheated on the crust, and bought it from the grocery store (shh, don't tell!), and next time I think I'll try to make my own. It tasted fine, but got that unattractive glossy transluscent crust look (does this ever happen to you??) on the top...which may not have been a result of just the crust, but if anyone can tell me how to get rid of that, please do! We served it with vanilla bean ice cream (essential!), and the pie itself was tart, but not too tongue-twistingly eye-cringingly cheek-dimpling tart, and had a pleasant sweetness to it that helped balance it out. This was both my first pie, and my first rhubarb pie. Next time, perhaps, I may add a bit more sugar to the recipe (confession: okay, I did do the eye-cringing a little bit), or try a few other versions, just to see what I like best. Any recommendations?

Rhubarb pie, from Martha Stewart Living

2 lbs. rhubarb, trimmed and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
pinch of coarse sea salt
1 tsp. finely grated lemon zest plus 1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
2 tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 tbsp. heavy cream
1 large egg yolk
fine sanding sugar, for sprinkling

1. Preheat oven to 375F, with rack in bottom third. Stir together rhubarb, granulated sugar, cornstarch, salt, and lemon zest and juice in a large bowl. Set aside.
2. On a floured surface, roll out half the dough into a 13'' round, about 1/8 inch thick. Fit into a 9 1/2 inch deeo-dish glass pie plate. Fill with rhubarb mixture and dot with butter. Refrigerate.
3. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the remaining dough, and drape over the filling. Trim the edges to 1 inch, then fold under and crimp. Make 5 large slits in the crust to vent the steam, and refrigerate another 15 minutes.
4. Whisk cream and egg yolk in a small bowl. Brush over crust, then sprinkle crust with sanding sugar. Bake until the bottom crust is golden and the filling is bubbling vigorously, about 1 hour and 25 minutes. Cover with foil if browning too quickly (I had to do this). Let cool at least 4 hours (I might do a bit longer, as my pie was still a little runnier than I wanted it to be). Enjoy!