Braised fennel wedges with saffron and tomato.

I’m in love with a cookbook.

[Leaf Parade. Braised fennel wedges with saffron and tomato.]

As I dished the other day, my beautiful copy of Deborah Madison’s Vegetable Literacy arrived last week. Normally, I read cookbooks like I read magazines. I flip through the pages, look at the pictures, bookmark a couple things that catch my eye, and then I move on. This one, though? This one I’m reading. It’s outstanding. Extraordinary.

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Happy little Sunday things.

On Friday afternoon, my boss sent me an email with the following message: “On this first weekend of spring, I have to share this observation (heard on NPR on the 20th): ‘The first day of spring is one thing, and the first spring day is another. The difference between them is sometimes as great as a month.’ Attributed to Henry Jackson van Dyke (November 10, 1852 – April 10, 1933), an American author, educator, and clergyman. Have a good weekend!”

[Leaf Parade. Happy little Sunday things.]

Uhhh. Talk about a killjoy.

While I do like my boss very much, I have to disagree! The first day of spring is the first spring day. And, according to my count, it has sprung. Has begun. I don’t care how cold and windy it was this weekend, the sun was shining and little birds were hungry and chirping again. It was a spring weekend because I decided it was. I found spring because I sought it out. It’s that simple.

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Avocado egg salad.

Most of the time, I forget about egg salad.

[Leaf Parade. Avocado egg salad.]

I’m not sure why — it’s one of those good old foods, one of those at-home foods. My mother didn’t make it all the time, but she always did something or other with the leftover eggs from our yearly Easter morning egg hunt, and often it was egg salad — the white portions faintly freckled in day-glo Easter hues.

Every year, we dyed our Easter eggs as a family. Shades of lavender and baby blue, creamy yellows and pale stains of peach. I have many big memories of the four of us sitting down to our newspaper-lined kitchen table the Sunday morning before Easter. My parents would each sit with a mug of coffee, my sister and I with a kaleidoscopic collection of vibrantly-tinted tea cups, while the whole kitchen swelled with the acrid tang of distilled white vinegar. To this day, I can’t quite separate the smell of white vinegar from this memory. It always smells like Eastertime to me, like the beginning of spring, the beginning of something good. And it reminds me of what it was like to sit down at a table with family and begin that something together.

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I quit sugar.

Six weeks ago, I quit sugar.

[Leaf Parade. I quit sugar.]

I know this sounds really extreme and odd (and yes, I can actually hear you rolling your eyes from all the way over here), but that’s what I did. I quit sugar. In fact, not only did I quit sugar, I quit all things sweet, including artificial sweeteners and, for the time being, fruit.

You want to know why. Everybody has wanted to know why. Everybody has been so confused (and sometimes actually angry) that I would go and do this. That I would go and quit sugar. And, I admit, six months ago, I probably would have reacted the same way. So just hang on a second while I pull out my soapbox…

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A salad for spring.

Guys. It’s here. It’s happened. It’s spring!

[Spring is here! Celebration "Junk Salad" with fennel-lemon vinaigrette {gluten-free, vegetarian}.]

Well, sort of. You see, I woke up yesterday morning to this great mess:

[Spring is here! Celebration "Junk Salad" with fennel-lemon vinaigrette {gluten-free, vegetarian}.]

Yep, Cambridge, once again, all frosty and white, slushy and miserable. I was determined to make the best of it and, despite the snow not magically turning into daffodils at the stroke of midnight this morning, the most of it I certainly made.

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Peanut butter: A love story.

[Leaf Parade. Peanut butter: A love story.]

Crunchy peanut Once Again.

I just Googled “peanut butter addiction.” Yes, that’s right. I have a problem.

A couple of weeks ago, after polishing off yet another jar of the stuff (with a spoon, as usual), I decided to institute a strict Jar-Of-The-Month Nut Butter Initiative. What does this mean? At the beginning of each month, I am entitled (yes, entitled) to one jar of nut butter for the next four week’s enjoyment. Once the jar is eaten (read: has vanished without a trace), there will be no more nut buttering until the crowning of a new month. Pretty straightforward and, not to mention, pretty generous. To give you some context for this kind of decision making: a couple months back, after housing a box of (peanut butter-flavored) granola bars and a six-pack of bananas, I decided I was addicted to sugar and sweeteners; in response, I cut sugar and sweeteners out of my diet cold turkey — and I haven’t looked back since. It was a good break-up — a smart one. And I’ve never ever felt healthier or happier than I do now.

But say good-bye to peanut butter and almond butter and cashew butter and sunflower seed butter? No, impossible. They’re too wonderful. They make me too happy. And there are so many varieties I haven’t tried yet — in fact, I spied a jar of walnut butter just the other day and had to do a double take. (Be still my heart. I’ll be back for you, Baby.)

[Leaf Parade. Peanut butter: A love story.]

Homemade sweet-free almond frozen yogurt, drizzled with almond butter and sprinkled with cacao nibs and — yup, more almonds.

In general, I eat a lot of nuts and seeds, and they’re all delicious and important to me, each in their own way. But there’s nothing that does it for me quite like the thick, gloppy, mucilaginous paste of a stick-to-the-roof-of-your-mouth peanut butter. I’m talking can’t-talk-because-your-mouth-is-too-full-of-peanut-butter levels of peanut butter. The greater the encumbrance, the greater my happiness.

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A quick and simple black bean soup.

LeafParade.BlackBeanSoup.4

As a kid, beans didn’t make many appearances on my family’s dinner table. On occasion, my father would request a can of barbecue baked beans with his hotdogs, but, apart from those rare instances, I can’t remember eating a single home-cooked bean. Even when, as a young teenager, I cut meat from my diet, beans still hadn’t shown up for the party — occasionally one or two may have snuck into the processed packaged veggie burgers I ate like life-sustaining manna, but those were consumed only incidentally. (It might be important to note that I was the worst kind of vegetarian — I survived on Boca Burgers, potatoes, and Power Bars. Oh, and peanut butter sandwiches.)

These days, though, I just love beans. White beans with tomatoes, rosemary, and ham. Chick peas in coconut milk and curry. Bright red kidney beans on top of big green salads with little chops of nuts and hard boiled eggs. Nom. Swoon. Yum. Beans are great.

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Happy little Sunday things.

This weekend’s activities and musings are foregrounded by my anticipation and excitement for the coming of spring. For the past few weeks, I have been imagining waking up the morning of 20 March (which is this Wednesday, guys) to red-breasted robins chirping, daffodil blossoms advancing, and the winter-white skins of the citygoers imbibing their first rays since their forced hibernations back in late fall. Like the quick flick of a switch — winter to spring. (That’s how it works, right?) Sadly, the clout of my delusions became hugely palpable when I checked the weather for the week and saw snow on the forecast for Monday night. That just won’t do for the robins and the daffodils and the suntans of my neighbors. I am, therefore, proceeding in a state of utter denial.

1. I bought a bike today! A Raleigh Classic Roadster! From the very nice folks at Cambridge Bicycle! And I’m very excited about it! Exclamation point! I haven’t ridden a bicycle since my days in Sweden, during which many of my biking adventures were, in fact, misadventures. (Basically, I fell down a lot.)  Needless to say, I am, admittedly, not a very skilled biker — but I am hopeful that I will quickly overcome my inadequacies with many long, sunny afternoons on the Charles River bike paths. (Ahh, springtime.)

[Leaf Parade. Happy little Sunday things.]

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Zucchini: A manifesto.

LeafParade.ManifestoZucchini.10

Zucchini + toasted walnut “Junk Salad” with a roasted garlic + lemon drizzle {gluten-free, vegetarian}.

Zucchini is one of those vegetables that, when it comes to be in season, it comes to be very much in season. For this reason (among others), it is our bad luck that it’s not currently July. But, no matter. When I want zucchini, I find a way to eat zucchini. Thank you very much.

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On lions and lambs: Boston in March.

In March in Boston, a little bit of sunshine goes a long way.

[Leaf Parade. On lions and lambs: Boston in March.]

Yesterday morning, at The Esplanade.

Let’s get things straight: I am — ostensibly — a morning person to the greatest degree. I usually wake up when it’s still dark outside — to read in bed, to drink cup after cup of tea, to boil eggs, to do laundry, to just be. I like to slowly step into my day in the same way that I like to slowly step out of it. I live just a few short miles away from where I work and so, because I hate to take the T and because I love love love to walk, in the mornings, I frequently opt for the latter, and it is one of my favorite things. It makes a lovely slow-stepping morning extra, extra lovely.

This time of year, you’re always hearing that March comes “in like a lion” and “out like a lamb,” and in New England that adage is hugely legible. In terms of weather, the last day of February and the first day of April often feel miles and miles apart. And while, in February, to satisfy our green-loving eyes, we are lucky to stumble upon the last of the soggy, curbside Christmas trees, there are daffodils in April, and little purple crocuses. Oh, the crocuses.

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