Archives for posts with tag: peanut oil
Original painting of many-leaved tree with roots.

The Lovely Blog Award. 6″ x 6″ watercolor pencil on paper. Sharyn Dimmick.

Last week Shira of In Pursuit of More tagged me in a relay, charging me with writing about hope and John Clinock of artratcafe generously bestowed on me the one lovely blog award. I am honored by the kind intentions of my fellow bloggers and will do my best to live up to their trust.

A major tenet of the two forms of Buddhism I have practiced is the practice of letting go, letting go of outcomes, letting go of expectations, letting go of desires. This does not immediately sound like fun, does it? That’s because we want what we want, even if wanting it is causing our suffering. I am personally undertaking a course of consciously letting go these days because I find myself falling in love. First I fell in love with a city, a country, a way of life, when I went to France. Then I fell in love with my guitar again, starting to play daily after a hiatus of a year.  I fell in love with my room, starting to see ways that it could be improved. Every summer I fall in love with open water swimming when the days get warm enough to swim at the cove down in the Berkeley Marina. And, as you might have expected, I am somewhere on the continuum of falling in love with another person with all of that continuum’s abundant symptoms: sleeplessness, excitement, fear of the unknown. There is pleasure in falling in love and there is pain. There is fantasy and reality, hope and dread. I find that the easiest approach, although it is hard to put into practice, is to treat the entire experience as a practice, to work with whatever it brings to me in any given moment: if I am sleepless, get up and read or write. If I am inspired to write a love song, write a love song. If I am scared, feel the fear.

One aspect of treating life as a continuous practice is that there is no room for hope. Hope causes us to leap into the future, into some better world that is different from what we are experiencing right here, right now. When I am right here, I can respond to my fear or excitement as it occurs; when I am jumping into hope, I lose my opportunity in the present moment. My teacher is fond of saying “The love you want is no other place.” And, I, of course, am hoping that she is wrong, that there will be glorious love in a field of flowers some other day. But I know what she means: our only chance is this moment, what we find there now, where we find ourselves now. We can’t count on having another moment, better or worse.

What we can count on is that things will change: if I am sleepless for three weeks running, during week four I will fall into a deep sleep when the body needs it. The foods of the changing seasons that I highlight on The Kale Chronicles reveal this in a beautiful way: now there are Gravenstein apples and gypsy peppers, summer squash and tomatoes, cucumbers, green figs, the first grapes, blackberries, melons. Soon eggplants will come in and peaches will begin to fade away until next summer brings the new crop. I stir a couple of spoonfuls of apple crisp into my morning oatmeal and plan another round of zucchini-feta pancakes for lunch, topped with Sun Gold cherry tomatoes. Next month, perhaps next week, I will be eating something different. Food becomes more satisfying when you are not reaching for raspberries in December and tomatoes in February, when you eat what there is now, choosing your favorites, perhaps, but working with what you’ve got.

Love cannot resist reaching into the future, imagining scenarios, conjuring kisses out of the air. So let it. Just know that the fantasies, the daydreaming are a current and temporary state: mine them for their images and ideas, laugh at them and at yourself, an ingenue in a fifty-four year-old body. Watch as your mind tosses up Loggins and Messina songs (Where did they come from?). Sing them if you want — no one needs to know.

What do I hope for? I hope for the courage to face my life, the courage to be in whatever state I find myself in until that state changes. I hope for the courage to respond authentically to whatever I need to respond to. Today I thank Shira (who is in La Belle France) for encouraging me to meditate on hope and John who says lovely things about The Kale Chronicles. With my one-year blogging anniversary coming up fast (next Sunday) I tell you that I had some hopes for the blog: I hoped a few people would like my recipes. I hoped my writing would acquire a wider platform. I hoped a few people would buy my paintings and maybe even my music CDs. I hoped that I would find some writing students who want to do writing practice. Some of that has happened. But writing The Kale Chronicles has become much bigger than that because I have discovered an entire community of like-minded souls, people who care passionately about what they eat and where it comes from, but, beyond that, care about how they live their lives, treating each other with kindness and humor. I started a blog and found myself in a whole new community. I am made welcome here as I am made welcome in my communities of writers and singers and artists. And I will be calling on you soon with a special anniversary challenge, The Lauren Project — I know you will step up to the plate. There will be prizes and glory and the opportunity to help a lovely young woman find more joy in the kitchen.

Original watercolor painting shows ingredients for cucumber raita.

Cucumber Raita. 6″ x 6″ watercolor pencil on paper. Sharyn Dimmick.

In the meantime — back to the present — a simple raita recipe for cucumber season, courtesy of Padma, my Indian roommate in college, who taught me how to make it. The secret to good raita is no shortcuts — you must cut the cucumber into spears and de-seed it with a knife and then you must slice each spear into small bits with the knife — if you grate it, the cucumber turns watery. Raita is all about texture. So set aside an hour to make raita — you won’t be sorry.

Cucumber Raita

Peel 2 cucumbers (or use an Armenian cucumber, which requires no peeling). Slice each cucumber lengthwise into quarters, sixths or eighths, depending on its circumference. Remove all of the seeds. Slice the now seedless cucumber into small pieces and put in a steel or Pyrex bowl. Grate 1/2 of a fresh coconut into cucumbers. Add one bunch chopped cilantro.

Heat a small amount of peanut oil in a small skillet. When oil shimmers, add 1 tsp of mustard seeds and 1 dry red chile. Fry for a few seconds until mustard seeds pop and add chile, mustard seeds and oil to cucumber mixture to season it. Add plain yogurt and salt to taste, making it as creamy or as light as you like.

Food notes: You can, of course, make this with dessicated coconut — it’s just not as good as when you use fresh. Make sure your coconut is unsweetened — sugar in raita is gross. You can eat the raita as a salad, as a side dish with an Indian meal, or simply mixed with rice.

One Lovely Blog Award: I’m supposed to give you seven random facts about me. Here goes:

1) I’ve written two new songs in the last week, “Ingenue” and “The Werewolf.”

2) I like to eat pie for breakfast, although I usually eat oatmeal or polenta cooked with milk and sweetened with seasonal fruit.

3) My favorite color is kelly green. I also like lavender and blue, crimson, claret, raspberry, all balanced with plenty of black.

4) I am a Pisces, Sagittarius rising, Gemini moon, Venus in Aquarius.

5) Although I am a folk musician and will always be one, I have always (always?) had a fantasy of singing with a rock band.

6) If I could only eat one type of food for the rest of my life, it would be Indian food.

7) This bull needs a big meadow: don’t put me in a pigeonhole — I won’t fit.

Now I need to pass the award to fifteen of you. In no particular order

1) Celi at The Kitchen’s Garden — Celi writes about sustainable farming, a subject dear to my heart. Beyond that she is fun and knows how to tell a story.

2) Shira at In Pursuit of More has endeared herself to me by her generosity and her commitment to simplicity.

3) The Caerus blog, a brand new blog, showcases the artful thoughts of Suzanne Edminster, Karina Nishi Marcus and a growing cadre of guest artists. Look for it on Thursday mornings and go back to read the back archives.

4) The Literary Jukebox. I found this one this morning. Maria Popova posts a literary quote and a song everyday. Great for literate music junkies.

5) Debra at Breathe Lighter. Debra shares all aspects of her life in San Gabriel — recipes, photographs, pet stories, field trips, music, all accompanied by her enthusiasm for life.

6) John at artratcafe provides an art education by featuring the work of many diverse artists. He writes poems, too. Foodies will like his brilliant posts on food that combine illustrations, literary quotes and recipes with a certain je ne sais quoi.

7) John at From the Bartolini Kitchens writes an ongoing love letter to his Italian family and the foods of his culture. Want to make cheese or fresh pasta? See John.

8) Eva Taylor of Kitchen Inspirations  knows how to put it all together: the dress, the shoes, the place settings. Lately she has been experimenting with healthier, lighter versions of favorite foods, keeping to a low-carb diet.

9) Betsy of Bits and Breadcrumbs cooks food I want to eat — I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.

10) My writing pal Bob Chrisman has branched out and now writes a memoir-type blog called swqm60. Check it out.

11) Jane Robinson at Art Epicurean posts abstract paintings and encouragement for creative types.

12) My old friend Maura writes theonceandfutureemptynest about her life with husband, children, grandchildren, parents, dogs, running shoes, kayaks and literary ambition. A graceful writer, her thoughts will resonate with the sandwich generation.

13) I’ve already sent you to look at Deby Dixon’s photos on Deby Dixon Photography.  Have another look, please.

14) Can’t leave out my pal, Movita Beaucoup! This chick is funny. And an incredible baker when she leaves off the Crisco frosting. And someday she is going to buy a painting (but you could beat her to it and buy up all of the best ones first. Just saying…)

15) Your nominee. Please use the comments to tell us all about the blogs you love the most, the ones you open first everyday, among other things. We have free speech here.

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Painting of beet greens, cumin seeds, peanut oil.

Beet Greens with Cumin 8″x8″ gouache and watercolor pencil. Sharyn DImmick

Wednesday I was reminded of why I like to eat fresh and seasonal food. Wednesday is vegetable box day for me and I went down to Berkeley in the rain to pick up my vegetables. Among the other things I got were bunches of turnips and beets with their greens attached. I twisted the greens free and bagged them separately since I have been told that otherwise the greens draw nutrition from the roots. I knew I was going to cook some kind of oven dinner — I had leftover delicata squash to eat, for one thing. On the way home I decided we would eat mixed turnip and beet greens tonight to get them at their freshest and most nutritious. I also decided to cook the beets, remembering a wonderful sauce in my Joyce Goldstein Kitchen Conversations cookbook made from butter, honey, dry mustard, cinnamon and black pepper.

I consulted Mom about what else we could have. She suggested baking two large red potatoes and serving them with sour cream. Fine. We would have squash with brown sugar and butter, the potatoes, beets in a hot and sweet sauce. I would put in a rice pudding for a high protein dessert so that we did not get hungry after all those vegetables for dinner, utilizing some cooked brown rice we already had.

That left the greens. Because two of the vegetables had a sweet profile I knew the greens needed to be savory, so I discarded the idea of making them with raisins and walnuts  or with peanut sauce: these would have to be greens as greens. As I chopped the beet and turnip stems I suddenly thought, “What if I cook them with roasted cumin seeds?” Maybe that would tame the bitterness.

I pricked the potatoes and put them in a 350 oven with the whole kabocha squash (the farm newsletter recommended roasting it whole before splitting it open to remove the seeds and strings) and a Pyrex bowl of brown rice pudding, made with raisins, milk, sugar, a couple of eggs and enough butter to keep it from sticking. Then I peeled beets and put them in a saucepan on the stove (the oven was crowded, due to the giant squash, or I could have roasted them). While they cooked I made Goldstein’s marvelous sauce.

Then I got out the peanut oil and filmed a hot skillet with just a touch (under a tablespoon). After a minute, I added a couple teaspoonfuls of cumin seeds and let them pop before bringing the skillet to my cutting board for the beet and turnip stems. While they began to cook over medium heat I chopped the greens and put them into the skillet with all of the water that clung to them and popped a lid on. When they were done, I assembled a plate of one potato, half a delicata squash, one beet and a large serving of greens, to which I added a small squeeze of Meyer lemon.

I am happy to report that these were the best greens I ever tasted. The cumin worked its magic, giving off its fragrance and mellowing the greens’ strong flavors. If you are not a greens lover but are fond of cumin, I urge you to try it. It is beyond simple and yet the results are sublime. Yes, I did say sublime — the acid test will be tomorrow when I see how they are reheated.* There’s got to be something to eating your greens the day they are picked — but the cumin didn’t hurt either.

Non-Recipe Greens Recipe: Greens with Cumin Seeds

Wash whatever greens you’ve got — I used turnip and beet greens.

Separate stems from leaves.

Chop stems into small pieces. Chop greens separately.

Heat a skillet over medium high heat.

Add 2 tsp to 1 Tablespoon of peanut oil, depending on your oil tolerance.

When oil shimmers, add 2 tsp cumin seeds and let them pop.

Remove skillet from heat long enough to add chopped stems.

Return skillet to heat. Add chopped greens.

Cover and cook over medium heat to desired done-ness — I cook them until the liquid has evaporated — about five minutes.

Add a squeeze of lemon and eat while hot.

* I ate the leftover greens for dinner Thursday night. They were still wonderful, tasting of cumin.

P.S Forgot to say: I’m heading up to Portland for a long weekend and I, unlike most modern people, have no mobile devices. This may cause a delay in my approving comments, but I want to hear from you and I’ll approve them all when I get back. — Sharyn

Painting Note: For information about Beet Greens with Cumin or any other painting, please contact me here.