BAKED RICOTTA

My mom has religiously read The Sun magazine from cover-to-cover since I bought her a subscription about a year ago. Occasionally, she passes issues back to me, with pages dog-eared to indicate “Read this,” and now I do the same to you, pointing you to this piece, “The Geography of Sorrow.” It is a powerful conversation—technically an interview—that cuts wide swaths through issues such as our cultural responses to grief, the impacts of trauma and shame, and the power of ritual. All in all, the piece makes a lot of damn sense while also being quite beautiful. Can any of us writers hope for much more? To make a lot of damn sense while also being quite beautiful?


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At one point, the subject of the interview, Francis Weller, quotes Kahlil Gibran: “The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.”  The quote appears as part of a discussion of our cultural compulsion to narrowly limit what feelings we will acknowledge, instead choosing to numb or deny in order to keep ourselves from fully experiencing our lives:

“In this culture we display a compulsive avoidance of difficult matters and an obsession with distraction. Because we cannot acknowledge our grief, we’re forced to stay on the surface of life…We experience little genuine joy in part because we avoid the depths.”

Our relentless emphasis on positivity and insistence on seeing “the bright side” of things has the unintended effect of keeping us on life’s surface, like the buoyant toys Shiv tries unsuccessfully to force to sink to the bottom of the bathtub. Why is it that we are so afraid to go under, when under is where the depth is, where the gratitude originates, the only place wisdom can be born? As a parent, I want to make sure that my son has the courage and trust in himself to confront the darkness of things, whether inside himself or in the world around him; I want the same for my students.

And that, of course, means being willing to dive in myself, and to let them all see me when I do.

baked ricotta | Blue Jean Gourmet

BAKED RICOTTA
Recipe barely adapted from Apt. 2 Baking Co.

ingredients:

2 cups whole milk ricotta
½ cup Parmesan cheese (I used shredded mixed Italian cheese, because that’s what I had)
3-4 T olive oil, plus more to finish
2 T chopped fresh herbs (I used rosemary & oregano), plus more for garnish
Zest of half a lemon
½ tsp. salt & generous grinds of black pepper, plus more to taste

Preheat oven to 350°. Stir the cheeses, olive oil, herbs, zest, salt & pepper together until smooth. Tur the mixture out into an oven-safe dish and bake until everything is warm and beginning to brown on top, approximately 20 minutes. Drizzle with a bit more olive oil and garnish with additional herbs, if you wish.

I served ours with toasted slices of this homemade bread (with a cup of rye substituted for AP flour, to add a bit of heft). We all gobbled it up this way, as part of dinner of meatballs and glazed carrots, but baked ricotta would also make a wonderful party spread with crackers and olives. I plan to recreate this during the holidays!

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SANTA FE SOUP

Everyone should go on a honeymoon thirteen-and-a-half years in.

Santa Fe aspens | Blue Jean Gourmet

People keep asking us if it “feels different,” being married, and I think we keep disappointing them because the answer is that it doesn’t, really.  I mean, things are different—that was the whole point, to be able to now think about filing taxes jointly, to be able to have Jill’s name listed on Shiv’s birth certificate, too, for us to both be able to use the funds in my FSA account.  These are the things that we wanted, that we didn’t think we would have until a time farther off in the future.  I still sort of can’t believe it, like it was all just too easy and I should have known it wouldn’t last.

But you know what is different?  Other people.  Like, referring to Jill as my “wife” elicits a completely different set of reactions than when I used to call her my “partner” or fumble for some not-awkward or clinical way to explain who she was.  But you say “wife” and everyone knows.  Boom, simple, done, easy.  Likewise, I am amazed by how excited people are about our marriage.  Old friends, acquaintances, even strangers—never mind that we’ve been together for, like, ever, but people want to throw us parties and send us presents and line our mantel with congratulations cards.  Not that I am complaining, mind you, but it struck me as a bit odd until a friend explained: “It’s so nice to have an official occasion to celebrate y’all and your relationship.  It’s not that we love or respect you any more now than we did before—we just have a reason to make a big fuss.”  And make a big fuss they did: some of our incredible friends actually sponsored most of our honeymoon—offering the use of a beautiful Santa Fe vacation home, covering & booking our flights, and sending us off with a guidebook, decadent spa reservations, and a super-generous gift card.

From the start, Jill & I have always worked to keep “us” a priority in our family dynamic.  We had ten years together before Shiv arrived on the scene, and on some level don’t know ourselves, the people that we are now, without the other.  And while we spin out to live our individual lives, do our work, pursue our interests, parent our child, it’s essential that we spin back in together to touch base, to re calibrate True North.

honeymoon hike! |Blue Jean Gourmet

We do this in all kinds of little ways, of course—piling on the couch with the dogs after Shiv has gone to sleep, grabbing lunch together on a day when Shiv’s in school but I’m not, greeting each other when one of us arrives or leaves the house (Shiv threw a kitchen towel at us yesterday when we were kissing “hello.”  Somebody doesn’t like being left out!)  But to have four days and three nights of that kind of time was pretty swell.

So, I think we should make the “thirteen year stretch” honeymoon a thing.  Honestly, I think we appreciated the time more than we would have five or ten years ago.  But one of the best parts of taking a honeymoon thirteen years in?  We weren’t even devastated when it was over, because it meant coming home to this nugget.

Shiv with pumpkins

***Extra-special shout out to my incredible mom, Veena, who really made this whole thing possible by taking care of Shiv while we were gone.  She even had dinner ready for us the day we got back!  Talk about spoiled—sheesh. ***

 

SANTA FE SOUP

One of the best things we ate on our honeymoon—along with some excellent local lamb barbacoa tacos from this place—was a creamy, corn-and-chipotle soup that was the daily special at a museum café where we ate lunch on a windy terrace.  Once back home, we tried to recreate it and came pretty darn close.  We’ll keep tweaking and re-trying, grilling/charring the onion and pepper next time, maybe adding more cream, but as-is, it’s still definitely worthy of a fall supper, with some crusty bread and a salad.

Santa Fe Soup

ingredients:

1 yellow onion, diced

1 red bell pepper, diced

2-3 cloves garlic, minced

8 cups creamed-style corn (we had some frozen from the epic freezer stash that we moved when we moved Jill’s parents to Houston…but you can buy it canned or make your own)

2 cups chicken stock

1-2 T chipotles in adobo

1 pint heavy whipping cream

butter

smoked salt (substitute regular salt, of course, but you might want to bump up the smoky flavor with a few dashes of Liquid Smoke)

This soup is supposed to be a hearty indulgence, so start with a generous knob of butter (1-2 T) over medium-low heat in a heavy-bottomed stock pot.  Add the onion, garlic, and pepper, season with a few generous pinches of salt, and cook until translucent, stirring regularly.  At this point, turn the heat down to low and add the corn.  You may also want to add a bit more butter or olive oil, and be sure to stir regularly so the corn doesn’t stick.

Once the mixture looks homogenous and some of the moisture has evaporated, pour in the chicken stock and stir in the chipotles.  Bring up to a simmer and cook for 5-10 minutes.  Turn off the heat and remove the stockpot from the stove.  If you have an immersion blender, you can blend the mixture directly in the pot, though you may want to let it cool a bit, depending on how much clearance you have.  If you have a regular blender, cool the mixture considerably before processing it in batches.  (I left some texture in the mix, but you can make yours as smooth as you like—just remember, you’re still adding cream so it’s okay if the soup seems thick at this point.)  Check the mixture for heat (again, remember you’ll be adding cream, which will tame the heat a bit)—if it’s way too mild for you, blend in a bit more chipotles in adobo.

Return the mixture to a clean stock pot and warm over low heat.  Stir in the cream and cook, stirring continuously, until the cream has been fully incorporated and the soup is warm but not hot.  If you’d like thinner soup, stir in a bit more chicken stock.  Check for seasonings and add as much smoked salt as suits your liking.  Ladle into bowls and enjoy!

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