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2013 February

Yayla Çorbası: Turkish Yogurt and Chickpea Soup

Yayla ÇorbasıWe had so many fabulous meals in Istanbul, but our favorite by far was at Çiya Sofrası, a culinary anthropologist’s dream. We chose small portions of ten or twelve dishes to share, but the real showstopper was a deeply lemony and minty yogurt soup: Yayla Çorbası (pronounced yai-lah chor-bas-uh). After we got home, Eric did some hunting to find out if we could recreate it, and he found a plethora of recipes that fit the bill. This soup is, of course, not identical to the one we had there, but it is still pretty amazingly delicious.

Çiya SofrasıHere is our spread at Çiya Sofrası, with the soup of all soups in the middle of the left hand side.

Yayla ÇorbasıThe rice thickens the soup, along with the yogurt, and the chickpeas give a perfect toothy bite to each spoonful. The mint grown in Turkey is a little different than the mint we have here (which is why I am super selfishly asking my mom to bring us back a big bag of it when she goes later this month with my dad!), but it is the perfect complement to the lemon. I have never tried, much less made, a yogurt soup before, but now I am in love.

Yayla ÇorbasıAnd that seems as fitting a sentiment as possible for Valentine’s Day.

Yayla Çorbası: Turkish Yogurt and Chickpea Soup
Adapted from A Seasonal Cook in Turkey (a truly fantastic blog!)

½ cup of rice, rinsed and drained
1 cup chickpeas
2 tbsps plain flour, gently heaped
1 egg
2 cups yogurt
8 cups water
2 tsp salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 tbsps butter
4 tsps dried mint
Lemons, for serving
Flaked red pepper (optional)

-Cook the rice in 2 cups of the water till softened ( 15 mins). The starch is released and will help to thicken the soup.
-Add the remaining water to the same pan along with the chickpeas, salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Simmer for 15 mins.
-In a bowl, combine the yogurt, flour and egg and beat till smooth.
-Carefully take a ladle of the hot liquid and mix into the yogurt mixture. Stir until incorporated. Add one more. Then add all the mixture into the pan and simmer gently till thickened.
-In a separate pan, melt the butter and add the mint. You can also add the pepper flakes at this point if using.  Cook on a very low heat for 30 seconds. Whisk this butter into the soup. Squeeze the juice of one half lemon (or more, to taste) into each bowl, and stir. Serve warm.

A Tale of Two (Cross-Stitch) Bugs

Two BugsI finished this little butterfly cross-stitch over the weekend and promptly put it in its tiny frame. I should have added a quarter for scale, but in the absence of that, these little guys are just a hair over two inches. When I put them side by side, Eric said, “Yay! You have two bugs!” I didn’t really consider the butterfly a bug, but I suppose I will leave this discussion up to Nabokov and my talented and knowledgable friend Melissa. In any case, now I have more eye candy for the wall behind my sewing machine.

Butterfly in ProgressI am continuing to enjoy cross-stitching…I love the methodical in and out of the needle, and I love watching the shapes and colors take form on the fabric. However, there is probably not going to be another cross-stitch post here for quite some time, and that is because the one I just started is ginormous. Like 11 x 17. It’s totally cute, and totally humongous, at least compared to my manageable little bugs.

ButterflyI am reaching a bit of a dilemma with my cross-stitch, and with my knitting too. Here it is: they are really great activities for tv-watching, but I’m kind of trying to watch less tv lately. It’s just that I have a bunch of books I want to read and projects I want to work on. I don’t think I’d have the patience to just sit and stitch or knit without anything to look at or listen to, and we can’t seem to pick up NPR on the stereo in the house. So my question is this: what do you do while you’re working on big craft projects, to provide some visual or narrative or auditory interest? I guess the ideal situation would be a conversation with lots of other knitting ladies, but that isn’t always schedule friendly. If anyone has any wisdom, I would love to hear it! Otherwise, maybe I will break out my recording of War and Peace. That should keep me occupied for a while!


One Little Word: February

One Little Word: FebruaryI am taking Ali EdwardsOne Little Word class this year, and our February assignment was to make a vision board for our word. I used to make collages all the time when I was in high school, but that was so many years ago that this felt both familiar and foreign. The project was very open-ended, and I decided that I didn’t really want to include any words at all, but instead just to convey openness through space and color.

İstiklâl CaddesiI just cut out things that spoke to me, and I did not create this color scheme intentionally, but I really love it. I cut out this beautiful picture of İstiklâl Caddesi in Istanbul months ago, and this felt like the proper place to use it.

TrainThis gorgeous train was part of Eric’s parents’ Christmas gift to me. Since I asked for a lot of things that are hard to pick out for someone else (boots, jeans, etc), they gave me some money and a delightful stack of pretty images. I have been saving this train for something special. I love it, and the adventurous travels it suggests.

LemonsThe other unifying theme seems to be food: raspberries, preserved lemons, purple basil leaves. I think this is less about me wanting to try new foods (though I am always up for that!) than it is about being aware of the brilliant rainbow that grows right up out of the ground every day. It still feels like a little miracle every time I hold a bright red pepper or unfold the tiny leaves of a Brussels sprout. I am so grateful for the fact that food gives us not only physical nourishment, but aesthetic sustenance as well.

One Little Word: FebruaryI’ll pop this 12 x 12 page into my Project Life album when I get along to February. But since that might be a while yet, I’ve got it watching over my sewing table and projecting some bright color into these gray and windy days.

Weekending: High School Dance Style

At the DanceSince Eric and I didn’t meet until we were 25, we never got to go to a high school dance together, or, well, any dance, really. We do love to tear up the floor, though, so when I found out about this Valentine’s Dance, I asked Eric if he wanted to go. And he did! So we donned our most convincing cocktail attire and headed out into the night. (As a hilarious side note, the pictures we took with his phone came out really badly, and Eric asked me if I could still use them for this post. I am so, so tired tonight, so I just said, “Yeah, I’ll just put them in…whatever mode, you know, that one that makes them look cool and retro.” I totally could not think of the word lomo. Anyway, a few seconds later I got the photos in an email, the subject line of which was: for “whatever mode.” And then I laughed almost hard enough to fall out of my chair.)

At the DanceI totally was not expecting the level of awesomeness this dance would achieve. There were balloons on the dance floor. And a chocolate fountain. And door prizes. And free necklaces for the ladies. The decorations were so impressive. And…there was a photo backdrop! I had joked that hopefully we could get our picture taken in that awkward high school pose, but I had no idea my dreams could come true! So, here I am laughing in front of said photo backdrop. The theme was “The Love Boat,” thus the life preservers and such.

So HandsomeAnd here is my dapper date. Even though I could have wished for more hip hop, I could not have wished for a better man to spend the evening with. He enjoyed even my craziest dance moves, and he shared a lot of red velvet cookies with me. He is the best.

Scenes from Everyday Life

I make no secret of the fact that I am really in love with the everyday. It’s a big part of the reason why I blog. It’s the whole reason why I do Project Life. And it’s a big part of my writing life too. These past few weeks have been so much fun, and I wanted to share some pictures of our everyday shenanigans. I used this rainbow chard to make an Ottolenghi dish that was so astoundingly good that we ate it all before I took any pictures. So I will have to make it again. And I have no problem with that.

I got my Caltech library card renewed, so I have been spending my afternoons working there, and it is heavenly. Wherever it smells like books, that’s where I want to be. They have these awesome water bottle fillers there, and I am very enamored of them. Green, convenient, and ice cold. That’s just how I like it.

Sometimes when I get too exhausted to process information anymore, I go for tea and read something for fun. Going to Peets makes me miss my Dad, but it also makes it more special every time I go there. Last time they gave me this enormous cup for tea, and that felt about right. Delicious Earl Grey, you have my heart forever.

Last weekend I came into the living room and found Eric curled up with a book on the couch. This made me so happy. It’s a hectic month for him, and I’m so glad to see him taking a little break.

This week I went to meet Eric for lunch at Chandler for the first time ever. It was warm enough to sit outside, and we shared an enormous Thai curry. It was awesomely economical.

Near the cafe I found the remains of this sledding hill. Oh, California!

And I stopped by the turtle pond to say good afternoon to my reptile friends.

Today Eric asked if I wanted to meet him in the library for a work date. Of course! We sat at either end of this enormous table, sunlight drenching us from the windows. After an hour or so, we were both so tired. “I’m sleepy,” I said, “I want to take a nap under this table.” “Me too,” he said, “We should have brought a blanket. We could have made a tent.” Oh my goodness, I love him so.

Project Life, Weeks 23 and 24

Annnnnd, I made it to December! I had a lot of fun with these holiday pages. Sequins! Glitter! Christmas trees! A magpie’s delight.

For Thanksgiving week, I wanted to capture our holiday tradition of going to the sweet little town of Sierra Madre the day after Thanksgiving.

And our tradition of hilariously trying to stuff a Christmas tree into our trunk and get it into the elevator. It’s more fun than a barrel full of monkeys.

This week also included a belated birthday dinner, which turned out to be totally romantic, what with the fireplace and the empty dining room. We talked about our plans and ideas for 2013, and I remember being just so happy to be sitting across the table from my best friend, who cares about every little thing that interests me.

And, of course, this pie had to be immortalized.

The next week took us into December and more Christmas tree hilarity.

This week we went to see Cloud Atlas, and it was so great to stay up late talking about it.

I’m glad I captured the NYT Book Review here. The Sunday paper is one of our greatest pleasures, and especially when the end-of-the-year booklist comes out. Last week I used the phrase “Nerds In Love” to describe Eric’s recitation to me, from memory, of a poem about Anton van Leeuwenhoek , inventor of the microscope. I didn’t imagine then that it would be such a fitting caption for every week of project life, but it totally, totally would. 🙂

Dorie Greenspan’s Classic Madeleines

Eric and I got a madeleine pan as a wedding gift, and, of course, being a literature-obsessed girl, I could not live without the world’s most literarily famous cookie (Proust, lime tea, madeleine: memory). When the hankering hit me, I knew Dorie was the right lady to go to for a recipe. These baked up with a perfect hump, a light crumb, and enough lemony tang to wake you up in the morning. In a word, they are delightful.

Madeleines are really more of tiny sponge cakes than cookies, but I have no problem with that. I am an equal opportunity eater, especially when this much lemon zest is involved. Dorie taught me how to work the zest into the sugar by hand, and it makes all the difference.

I doubled the recipe so we could have plenty on hand. That was a good move, it turns out, because I ate about five of them fresh out of the oven. They’re (relatively!) small! And I was hungry.

I was really happily surprised at how easy these were to make, and how well mine turned out. I think the secret is in chilling the batter. Thanks, Dorie!

Classic Madeleines
Recipe from Dorie Greenspan

2/3 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon double-acting baking powder
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup sugar
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3/4 stick (6 tablespoons; 3 ounces) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

-Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt and keep close at hand.
Working in a mixer bowl, rub the sugar and lemon zest together with your fingertips until the sugar is moist and fragrant. Fit the mixer with the whisk attachment, add the eggs to the bowl and beat the eggs and sugar together on medium-high speed until they are pale, thick and light, 2 to 3 minutes; beat in the vanilla. Grab a large rubber spatula and very gently fold in the dry ingredients followed by the melted butter. Press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface of the batter and chill the batter for at least 3 hours or, if you have the time, overnight. (For real convenience, you can spoon the batter into the madeleine molds, cover, chill, then bake the cookies directly from the fridge. See below for instructions on prepping the pans.)
-Getting ready to bake: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Butter 12 full-size shell-shaped madeleine molds (or up to 36 mini madeleine molds), dust the insides with flour and tap out the excess. If you have a nonstick madeleine mold, give it a light coating of vegetable cooking spray.
-Spoon the batter into the molds, filling each one almost to the top. Don’t worry about spreading the batter even, the oven’s heat will take care of that. Bake the large madeleines for 11 to 13 minutes and the minis for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the madeleines are golden and the tops spring back when touched. Remove the pan from the oven and release the madeleines from the molds by rapping the edge of the pan against the counter. Gently pry any recalcitrant madeleines from the pan using your fingers or a butter knife. Transfer the cookies to a rack to cool to just-warm or to room temperature.
-If you are making minis and have more batter, bake the next batch, making certain that with each new batch the pans are cool and properly buttered and floured or sprayed.
-Serving: The cookies are ready to serve when they are only slightly warm or when they reach room temperature. Dust the tops with confectioners’ sugar and serve the sweets with tea or espresso.
-Storing: The batter can be covered with a piece of plastic film pressed against the surface and kept in the refrigerator for up to 2 days, but the madeleines should be eaten soon after they are made. You can keep them overnight in a sealed container, but they really are better on day 1. If they must be kept, wrap them airtight and freeze them, they’ll keep for up to 2 months.

Square Painting

Today I am finally sharing a project I have been working on for months: my square painting! This all started with a pinwheel painting inspired by Elise’s, and then I made a circle painting. Still enamored of shapes and colors, I went with squares.

I drew these squares with a pencil and a ruler and then very imperfectly filled them in. I love that you can see brushstrokes and squiggly splotches of color.

Once I had them all finished, I knew exactly where I wanted to hang them in our living room. I love the bright color they bring into the space. Many thanks to my photographer, who did a lot of standing on chairs and moving flashes to get these shots!

I kind of love that I’ve unintentionally created the same color palette in all of them. I guess bright and cheery is what I go for!

Eric also took these awesome close-up shots, which I just love.

This is pretty magnificent. Fun with close-up lenses!

Although it took me from September to February to get from here…

to here, it was totally worth the wait.

A First Time for Everything

I have never owned anything leopard print at all, unless perhaps it was before the age of consciousness, but I kind of doubt it. And yet, when I saw this dress with its wacko combination of prints, I had to try it on. And then I kind of fell in love with it. It’s amazing how much a clearance rack will open your eyes; I am sure I wouldn’t have looked twice at this dress otherwise. But I love the simple shape of it, and the neckline, and the floral. I don’t think I own anything else in a floral print either. There’s a first time for everything!

This is the smile of a girl who’s being sartorially adventurous. And it’s the smile of a girl who’s wearing red boots.

I am wearing some fun chunky bracelets and a new necklace. It’s a tiny little purse on a  chain.

It opens! (As a side note, my microplane grater took a little bite out of my finger: ouch!)

It’s just big enough to fit a little piece of paper in. I thought a lot about what to write on the paper. My first thought was, “I love Eric,” but I think everyone under the sun knows that by now, so I decided to make it a little reminder of something that’s dear to my heart: gratitude. Grateful was my word for 2012, and even though I have a new word for 2013, I always want to carry it with me still. It’s how I want to live my life.

I got this purse a few weeks ago at the thrift store, and Eric helped me perform some basic repairs on it (the metal rings needed some epoxy). Now it’s ready to go, and it has a perfect little pocket for my iPod (however: how odd is it to listen to an iPod after years of Pandora? I keep wanting to hit “like” on things!) I paid $6 for this purse and then found out that it retails for $130. Wow! Definitely worth the cost of a little epoxy! ($0, since we already had some).

These earrings are old as the hills, but I love wearing them because the little plates jingle when I move my head. A little symphony, everywhere I go.

Eric and I had the loveliest and laziest weekend. The simplest things, when we do them together, are just so much fun. Like taking these pictures. Thanks, honey!

February 2013 Goals

I am still so in love with monthly goals, and I get excited at the end of every month when I get to make new ones. February is no exception!

Last week I bought some under-bed boxes and started moving a bunch of stuff out of the closet so I can actually see what’s in there. I am clearing out clothes that don’t fit now (but might in the future), things that are out of season, and my fancy work clothes. I’m about halfway done, and it’s exhilarating to get things out of the way that I haven’t worn in years, but now I’m at that part where a bunch of harder decisions need to be made. And I just want to push on through it so I can have the job finished and enjoy my clutter-free closet. So here’s to that!

Quilting is one of the crafts I want to try this year, and I’m all poised with a great book, a rotary cutter, and a cutting mat. I just need to buy fabric and start having fun with it!

I have been missing going to the gym with Eric–he runs slow enough to talk to me, and he adorably smiles at me from the weight room while I’m on the exercise bike. My membership expired at the end of last quarter, so I want to get it renewed so I can get back to pumping iron hanging out with Eric in a slightly athletic setting. And I’ll welcome any endorphins that want to come along for the ride.

I have really enjoyed being back in the kitchen this past month, and every time I make a grocery list, I try to include ingredients for one or two new recipes. There are so many amazing food blogs out there that I sometimes forget I have a shelf full of awesome cookbooks, so this month I want to hunt through them too and pick out some fun new things to try.

When we were home for Christmas, I thought nothing of whiling away an afternoon reading, but I’ve noticed that since I’ve been back, I don’t come to it often as an afternoon break. I still read every night before I go to bed, but I would like to re-incorporate a bit of reading time in the afternoons too, when I’m on work breaks. There is nothing more luxurious than curling up on the couch with a good book. And I have got plenty of them on hand.

Love Eric: what do I mean by this? I love Eric madly, and he knows it, especially since I tell him approximately twenty times a day. I can’t help it! When I told him I was going to make this one of my February goals, he said, “But you are the champion of loving me!” It’s just that this is going to be an extraordinarily busy month for him at work, and so I want to find special ways of loving him and supporting him and taking care of him during these hectic weeks. I have no doubt that he would do the same for me. That’s what love is.

And, of course, as always, I plan to take tons and tons of pictures.

How about you? Do you have February goals? I’ve updated my January goals here and will be back in March to give a report on these.

Update, March 2013: Well, it’s been a pretty awesome month! I totally cleaned out the closet, and I totally would not have done it if it hadn’t been on this list. Huzzah! It feels so good to actually be able to see what’s in my closet, and to know that a bunch of sweaters and dressy clothes are in under-bed storage, should I ever need them. Win-win! I did sort of get started with quilting insofar as I read the book that Eric’s awesome brother gave me on quilting for Christmas. Now I am ready to tackle some projects! The fabric stores are all several towns away from Pasadena, but I pledge to get there in March! I did reactivate my gym membership and got a shiny new ID card, which, again, I totally would not have done if it hadn’t been on this list. I think I conquered the cookbook goal too, but I will hold on to it in the future. It’s a good one to have. I totally read more in the afternoons, and I loved every minute of it. I hope that I loved Eric well in February, and I think he would say I did. (Well, he did say so, so that is confirmation!) We are both relieved to have this proposal in the rearview mirror, though, and to have more time to spend together. And I have lots of pictures to prove it!

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