Steakhouse Potato Salad

Today’s Musings:
Recently,  two different friends have reproached me for “living in the past.”  No kidding;  That’s what happens when you naively decide to write a memoir, isn’t it? You are faced with excavating your history, your shards of broken dreams, your faulty memories and stories, surrounding yourself  with these unearthed remnants of your past.  Spade in hand,  the memoir process requires you to crouch on your personal plot of land and begin digging, uncertain of what’s hidden underneath the smooth topsoil.   Prodding the hard-packed earth,  you uncover remembrances buried long ago.  Layer by layer, bit by bit, you scrape away time.  The work is often painful; you are spent by day’s end. As you reveal each recollection, you resist placing a value on it straightaway.  You unearth,  record, set it aside for later examination, and  move on to the next trinket to be exhumed.  Some memories you uncover whole,  the ground gives them back easily.  They appear, to you, almost untouched by time.  Others are mere shards that require painstaking reconstruction and restoration.  You unbury still other recollections only to realize they are not, in truth, as you remember them.  Each piece, intact memories and shards alike, is changed, if only a little;  sharp edges smoothed by the years buried and concealed from sight.  You gently extract them from the ground,  brush them off and carefully spread this array in front of you for a discerning evaluation – what to keep, what to discard,  what is valuable, what no longer serves you.  Some remembrances you delight in unearthing while others you wish you had never found. You continue with your work until each treasure, every fragment, has been exposed.  Only then can you truly recognize where you’ve been.  Only then can you decide where you’re headed next, but do these memories fail us as guides?   

 

Misunderstanding

Make a notation dear
of this word and that
which ones hurt most
which ones feel good about our hearts

which ones we moor our tenderness upon
When in the midst of course terms
I would rather expose docile replies
It is strange how fear binds adults

Would you still admire me if
I spoke in concert again with your aspirations
with eyes of open glass
You would be captive in their sentience of you

Or if I were mute
which of my voices would you understand
The voice of my joy in you is brave and sweet
It resonates from the most inward enclosures

I’m quite guilty
I relied on poetic vision
to show me what exists
and what doesn’t

I sought knowledge of you through your body
at times making false assumptions
wrong turns
sincerely at times admit to being lost
crying, where is the felicity in this?

In small favors not on desert plateaus
In errors only
I tried to placate your worlds
with perfect skies
the contour of your body and mind

I ask you please to renounce your hardness
A favor for love

To be unpossessive of happiness
maybe in not striving for ends
just in the purpose of temporary joy
Ti
me only falsely unmakes their sum
a
lso fragmenting us

Before you
and after you
a region slept in me
Trees replaced you
and temples replaced you
and then nothing replaces you

Now that your absence is exposed like the desert we stood in
I search failingly for your depth in the shallow nightfall
I search for your affinities in quiet spaces

I had hoped the slow paces of enlightenment
would rescue our disappointments
not allow a trail of misunderstanding
to mislead the procession of tenderness
which once flowed in weightless rivers

What darkness cares to separate us
Existential questions preclude emotional ones
Perplexities aren’t supposed to stop Love

Once the chastities have eloped
I hoped to undertake true intimacies
Outside of mysteries

Is your body made for me
to place unutterable reasons within
to shelter your surfaces with gestures now obsolete

A lovely future dares to be here now
Don’t allow the unknown to dispel it
Don’t use doubt as a veil of shyness

I thought I had vanquished the desire to perfect
It robbed me of the ability to love what is most human
to admire the task not quite finished the way I had envisioned it
to subtract nothing
for Love

We must embrace the accomplishment
of one who gives their soul
Where doest right and wrong appear in love
just a state we know to be vulnerable

Our eyes began east harmonies
A procession of epiphanies, maybe,
but not all meetings are breathless

I saw in the mistral of your eyes
Love adrift
and sought to still your inquietudes
I failed more than once
with words
and with wordlessness

At times I thought I deserved to be loved less
At times much more
All the time wanting something else

 Don’t begrudge our pasts
There are many of them
At once remote and still intimate
I consider them like our childhood
unruly and fantastical
but our memories always fail as guides

Full of not knowing
and yet instilled with clairvoyance
We distill a thousand kinds of courage
necessary for anything of worth

Who can see the way out of adult dilemmas?
Certainly not adults
We expected so much brilliance
for such a difficult task

Tall flowers do not grow in close shelter
to survive our folly
our hearts must go separate ways for a vanity forever precluding Love

 – Jason, 1998

Today’s Recipe:


Steakhouse Potato Salad

What do you like on your baked potato? Sour cream? Blue cheese? Bacon? They’re in here!


Ingredients

  • 1 ½ lbs. small, red skinned potatoes
  • 1 Tablespoon Champagne vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ cup crumbled blue cheese
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • ¼ cup chopped red onion
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped Italian flat leaf parsley
  • 4 slices bacon, cooked until crisp and crumbled

Directions

  1. In a large saucepan, cover potatoes with salted water by 1”. Bring to simmer and cook, uncovered, until tender 15-20 minutes. Drain well.
  2. Whisk together vinegar, olive oil, mustard, salt and black pepper. When potatoes are cool enough to handle, quarter them and toss the still-warm potatoes with the vinaigrette. Add blue cheese, sour cream, red onion and parsley and toss gently. Let stand 1 hour to allow flavors to develop. Sprinkle with bacon and serve.

Moroccan Carrot Salad

A bowl of Moroccan Carrot Salad on a silver table

TODAY’S MUSINGS:
I wrote the following last month, but never had the chance to post it.  Synchronicitous procrastination, perhaps, as I was recently reproached for doing this very thing – my ruler, their life. A misunderstanding; that wasn’t my mindset at all, but still a gentle reminder to walk my talk.   Fences mended, yet the irony is not lost on me.

My first yoga teacher, Marlene, would often read this quote during savasana at the end of class.  It stuck with me because Emerson equates my contributions to this world as equal to those who have taken a more traditional route.  A belief you may dispute, but, then again, your belief is your own measuring stick, not mine. They are not interchangeable.

To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.
– Ralph Waldo Emerson

Smarter humans than you have made a similar mistake – a very public, very expensive, very embarrassing mistake.  I’m sure you’ve heard about the 1999 disaster of the Mars Climate Orbiter that burned up in Mars’ atmosphere.  A NASA review board found that the problem was in the software controlling the Orbiter’s thrusters.  The builder of the Orbiter, those clever engineers at Lockheed Martin Astronautics, calculated the force of thrust needed in pounds (The English or “Imperial” measurement) while the equally brilliant team over at JPL used the standard metric form – millimeters, meters, and newton-seconds.  The result?  125-million dollars’ worth of Orbiter toast.  The lessons?  Many, but for my purpose, “Don’t measure me with your ruler.”

Just because I chose not to have children doesn’t mean I haven’t contributed to this world.  What is an appropriate use of a life – to sacrifice individual potential, hopes, and dreams for another person – and teach them to do the same, the snake eating its tail – or to explore our own possibilities, our own potential, and nurture ourselves?  Yes, your child may grow up to be President…but, then again, you could have, too. Just because I choose to live alone doesn’t mean I’m lonely.  I’d rather do what I want, when I want with whom I want, than be trapped in a claustrophobic, tension-filled, lackluster union of convention.  There’s only one marriage I admire – and it’s not yours.    Just because I don’t have religion does not mean I lack a moral compass.  I intrinsically know the difference between right and wrong and have compassion for the suffering of others. I don’t need 10 written rules to tell me so.  Just because my house is small and well within my means doesn’t mean it is not a home.  I don’t require a better zip code to build a sanctuary of peace, warmth, and joy.  Just because my career doesn’t look important on paper doesn’t mean I’m not changing lives. My job is to bring joy and happiness to others – a lofty goal that makes me proud when I accomplish it. Just because I didn’t take a path of higher education doesn’t mean I’m not as smart as you.  My teachers are varied and many.  Just because my life is in stark contrast to yours, that doesn’t mean I regret my choices.

Don’t measure my life with your ruler. 

TODAY’S RECIPE:


Moroccan Carrot Salad

  • Servings: 8 servings
  • Print

This simple, easy-to-throw-together salad shone at a recent gathering, adding an exotic flair to the standard backyard barbeque.


Ingredients

  • 2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 lbs. carrots, halved lengthwise and cut diagonally into ½-in pieces
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro

Directions

  1. Heat oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Stir in garlic, cumin and cinnamon and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Remove from heat.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together vinegar, mustard, salt and pepper. Whisk in oil mixture.
  3. Steam carrots about 8 minutes until crisp-tender. Add warm carrots to bowl, sprinkle with parsley and cilantro, and toss to coat. Serve at room temperature.

Elote Corn Salad

A dish of elote corn salad
I’ve been cleaning house here. Tidying up. I’ve been sharing my thoughts (and baked goods) on this site since May 30, 2008. Twelve years. Twelve. Years. This was my very first post. Two-Bit Tart didn’t start out as a food blog. It didn’t start out as anything more than a place to share the thoughts that cluttered my brain and a safe place to exercise my desire to write. I was still practicing yoga then, still dabbling with Buddhism. I had lost my father, but my mother was still alive, although Alzheimer’s was already robbing her mind. I shared it all here. This blog saw me through culinary school in 2009 and was my therapist in 2011 when a breakup hit me much harder than was warranted. I finally shared my blog’s existence with family and friends in 2016. Before that, it was my secret.

My very personal history is in these posts, but it’s time. It’s time to cull the words that no longer represent me, my pathetic early attempts at food blogging, my poorly written pabulum of self-absorption. Most will stay, but it’s time to allow parts to fly away. It’ll be a process, but most things worth doing usually are.

Someone once asked me why I so enjoy purging my home of the stuff that collects there. Purging allows me to make space, whether it’s a shelf, or a cabinet, or even an entire room – space for hope, for possibilities, for growth. I want this blog to be ready for any and all of those things, too.


Elote Corn Salad

  • Servings: 8-10 Servings
  • Print

A creamy salad with all the flavors of Mexican street corn, perfect for BBQs.


Ingredients

  • 2 lbs. frozen corn
  • ¾ cup crumbled cotija cheese
  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • ½ cup Mexican crema
  • ½ cup chopped cilantro
  • ¼ cup fresh lime juice, plus zest from one lime
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon ancho chili powder
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Preheat broiler. Defrost corn and broil until lightly browned, stirring once, about 8-10 minutes total. Do not roast too much, or corn will become crispy.
  2. Mix remaining ingredients in a large bowl. Add the corn and stir to combine. Serve at room temperature.

Tropical Fruit Salsa

Tropical Salsa
“That one should be disqualified – that’s not salsa. It’s good, but it’s not salsa,” He whispered while pointing to her Tupperware container.

In celebration of Cinco de Mayo, her office was holding their annual salsa-making competition. Never one to go the traditional route, she had decided on a Tropical Fruit Salsa – a twist on the same ol’ tomato, onion, and chilies. She knew her flavor combinations weren’t for Everyman – and now there was “controversy” over whether her tropical fruit version was actually even salsa.

She smiled to herself – always seeming to end up in some sort of controversy. She knew it was good, even thrown together in 20 minutes the night before – even if most of them didn’t “get” it. Hers was only Tupperware actually empty at the end.

She couldn’t wait for the annual chili cook-off.


Tropical Fruit Salsa

  • Servings: about 4 cups
  • Print
A cooling tropical salsa that pairs well with warm summer days and backyard barbecues. Choose ripe fruit for the best flavor.

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ cups mango, chopped
  • 1 cup kiwi, chopped
  • 1 cup pineapple, chopped
  • ¼ cup red onion, chopped
  • ¼ cup cilantro, chopped
  • 1 – 1 ½ fresh serrano chile, seeded and finely chopped
  • 4 Tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon toasted cumin seeds, slightly crushed
  • ¼ t. salt

Directions

  1. In a medium bowl, combine mango, kiwi and pineapple.
  2. In a small bowl, combine red onion, cilantro, serrano chile, lime juice, cumin seeds and salt. Pour over tropical fruit.
  3. Let salsa sit for 30 minutes to allow the flavors to meld. Adjust seasoning and serve with tortilla chips or freshly grilled fish.

Crispy Burnt Rice

Crispy Burnt Rice

Dining out at an inspired chef’s restaurant simultaneously motivates and chastens me.  Often, I end the night well satiated yet lamenting, “Why can’t I come up with a meal like that?’  This is one of those dishes.   In the mind and hands of a creative chef, this all-too-common kitchen disaster – burning rice –morphs into a crispy nutty culinary epiphanic filling for lettuce wraps.  After munching down a few wraps, I couldn’t wait to purposefully burn my rice at home.  Why couldn’t I come up with that?


Crispy Burnt Rice

Burning the rice doesn’t have to be a bad thing – this nutty version is the perfect crispy base for Asian lettuce wraps.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup Calrose rice
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 Tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • Pinch salt

Directions

  1. Rinse rice with water until it runs clear. Combine rice with 1 cup water in a medium sauce pan. Bring to boil, cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove rice from heat and let steam, with lid on, for another five minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, combine rice vinegar, sugar and salt in a small microwave-safe bowl. Heat about 30 seconds until vinegar is hot and sugar has dissolved. Transfer rice to a large greased baking dish and let cool slightly. Drizzle with vinegar and pat rice evenly into dish, about ¼ – ½ inch thick.
  3. Preheat broiler. Broil rice 6-10 minutes, turning baking dish as needed, until rice is golden brown with areas of dark brown on top. The rice should be crispy on top and slightly chewy underneath. Break into pieces.
  4. Serve as a base for lettuce wraps or as a crunchy counterpoint in Asian salads.

Burnt Rice

Burning rice on purpose