Caramelized Fennel with Citrus, Chickpeas, and Couscous

Caramelized Fennel with Citrus, Chickpeas, and CouscousOddly enough, I get most of my recipe ideas from Pinterest these days. I say odd because I think Pinterest is famous for recipes like diet coke cake, but I have found the secret tunnel of deliciousness. I follow Kristin Holt, and you should too. I’ve been reading her blog for years, and her food pins are right up my alley.  I also pin a ton of stuff from Food52 and The Kitchn. And then when it’s time to go to the farmers’ market, I just pull up my pins and go from there. This gem is one of those finds. I have never actually cooked fennel before, and certainly not caramelized it. I have only sliced it, shaved it, and marinated it for salads. It is delicious that way too, but oh my heavens, this recipe is making fennel my new favorite vegetable.

Caramelized Fennel with Citrus, Chickpeas, and CouscousCaramelization softens and sweetens fennel, replacing the sharp licorice taste with an almost buttery earthiness. It smells so good. And it tastes even better.

Caramelized Fennel with Citrus, Chickpeas, and CouscousBut now I realize I have forgotten to show you the fennel I was working with: enormous! They are just huge this time of year, and we always look forward to it.

Caramelized Fennel with Citrus, Chickpeas, and CouscousThis was the scene at the market a week later: fennel towers! I bought three more.

Caramelized Fennel with Citrus, Chickpeas, and CouscousBut back to the recipe at hand. I love chickpeas, and, even though couscous isn’t my favorite grain, I was intrigued by the idea of adding citrus. It was better than I had even imagined. This is seriously the best dinner I have made in a long time! The fennel frond on top adds back a little bite of licorice and a touch of crunch, which I always appreciate.

Caramelized Fennel with Citrus, Chickpeas, and CouscousAnd so, in summary, make this tonight! You won’t be sorry.

Caramelized Fennel with Citrus, Chickpeas, and Couscous
Recipe from The Kitchn

1 large fennel bulb with fronds
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1 1/2 cups (or 1 15-ounce can) cooked and drained chickpeas
10 Kalamata olives, halved and pitted
Zest and juice of 1/2 lemon
Zest and juice of 1 orange
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup instant couscous

Trim fennel and cut into 1/4-inch thick wedges. Reserve fronds for garnish.

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add fennel and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender and caramelized, about 10-15 minutes. Add coriander, chickpeas, olives, and lemon juice to pan and stir to combine. Continue to cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, juice the orange into a liquid measuring cup and top off with water to make 1 1/2 cups of liquid. Add liquid to a small saucepan along with 1 tablespoon olive oil, orange zest, lemon zest, and salt. Bring to a boil and stir in couscous. Cover, remove from heat, and let stand for at least 5 minutes.

To serve, fluff couscous grains with a fork and spread on a dish. Spoon chickpeas and fennel over couscous and garnish with fennel fronds.

Scenes from West 3rd

West 3rdEric and I are always trying to find the cool neighborhoods in LA, the places where it’s fun to take a Saturday stroll. This past weekend we headed to West 3rd, a sweet stretch between the old farmer’s market at Fairfax and the Beverly Center at La Cienega. We found fun shops and lots of places we’d like to come back and try (including a Turkish bakery: be still my heart!) We were strolling between lunch and dinner, so we weren’t hungry, but I took pictures of all the deliciousness and want to keep it here as a reminder when we’re looking for a new place to try. This is Magnolia Bakery, of NYC fame. It smelled so good in there!

West 3rdWouldn’t you like to sit at that little table in the window? I would!

West 3rdAnd then we came across this little hole in the wall (literally!) selling fresh juice and Stumptown coffee, precious Pacific Northwest nectar. I was smitten. It reminded me so much of the little bread and pastry stands I used to frequent in Russia.

West 3rdThis is the scene inside Joan’s on Third, a market and deli. I drooled over all the cheese. And the salads looked fantastic too.

West 3rdAnd then there was the pie shop. I was charmed by the menu…

West 3rdand the pie schedule.

West 3rdIt was only to be topped by this adorable ice cream shop. Yum! Needless to say, I have grand plans of eating my way up and down this street!

Adventures in Pregnancy: 22 Weeks

22 WeeksI love palindromes, so this is a happy week for me. Also, I am not expert enough to make those photos line up perfectly, but I figured it was worth posting this lopsided comparison image anyway. Ah well! And another also: I bought that black skirt at Goodwill this week, and I might wear it every day for the rest of this pregnancy. It is so comfortable!

I always like following along with the baby’s growth, and this week he is the size of a spaghetti squash. A spaghetti squash! He’s about 11 inches long, and he weighs almost a pound. It is so amazing to think that he used to be tinier than a poppy seed! And I am growing too. I haven’t been weighing myself, but I am certainly getting rounder. Almost everyone I know who’s been pregnant has had an overnight growth experience. And Sunday morning I looked in the mirror and realized I looked a lot bigger than I had on Saturday night. Eric noticed it too. Hurray for growth spurts! Or maybe he just really liked the spicy Chinese food I had on Saturday night. Either way, I love love love having a belly, love feeling his kicks, love knowing that he’s always here with me.

I am not sure there are any big new developments except that I am HUNGRY. And when I am hungry, I am HONGRY. I pity the fool who tries to stand between me and my food. I told Eric this weekend that being pregnant is like being plugged into the wall. When you are hungry, it feels like someone unplugged you, and you are just slowly and helplessly powering down, like the saddest of robots. Sadly, this condition will make you slightly impatient with your saintly husband when, through no fault of his own, it is taking too long to find a parking place. And this is especially troubling because your saintly husband was saintly enough to split a croissant with you an hour before dinner because you just could not go on without food food food. Thankfully, I really do mean slight impatience and not fire-breathing dragon behavior. I’m saving that for labor! But most thankfully of all, it is really so incredibly wonderful to feel hungry again and to be able to enjoy eating. I am so grateful for that every day.

We had the loveliest weekend, complete with a trip to the farmers’ market (where I bought three different kinds of broccoli! Hurray healthy cravings!) and an afternoon strolling through a new-to-us neighborhood in LA. That would have been enough for a five-star Saturday, but we also got to have dinner with our dear friends Jack and Juliette, and they agreed to be our baby’s godparents. All four of us are so excited about it! It would be hard to think of two more loving, faithful, and kind people to be examples for our sweet boy. We feel very blessed all around.

In nesting news, we got the crib this week, and it looks great! We’re working next on the remaining big pieces of furniture and the carseat/stroller. I will share more about this hopefully later this week, but I got fabric to make the baby a quilt, and I am in love with it. I am about halfway through the cutting, and then I’ll put together a layout and start sewing. I have never quilted anything this big before, but I’m up for the challenge. Can’t wait to see it all finished and draped over a rocking chair!

There may be more to report, but honestly, I have become a caricature of a pregnant woman: I can’t remember anything! This becomes very humorous in social situations, let me assure you. In general, we’re doing a lot of laughing over here, a lot of belly rubbing, and a lot of looking forward to the day when we’ll hold our baby in our arms.

March: Currently

SucculentsLoving daily walks, the extra hour of sunshine, baby kicks, and being able to eat again.

Listening to ten years’ worth of music on my iPod while I traipse through town. I love that too. A good song is like an old friend when it pops up in shuffle; I’m always so happy to get reacquainted.

Reading Irene Nemirovsky’s The Wine of Solitude. Not my favorite novel of hers, but still compelling. And our baby name book. (With 15 more library books at the ready!)

Finishing up reorganizing all of my art supplies. This was rather an undertaking, and I’m so happy with how it’s turning out.

Working away at the book proposal. Making great progress and feeling really good about it. (Also grateful for Eric’s perpetual enthusiastic encouragement and support, the sheer force of which could launch me to the moon. He is, in every way, the best thing that ever happened to me.)

Admiring the baby’s crib. We just put it together!

Shopping for fabric for the baby’s quilt.

Napping every afternoon like my life depends on it (it kind of does).

Learning the names of new-to-me trees and flowers that I see on my walks. Loving that too.

Looking forward to a few trips in April: a weekend in Carlsbad and a week in Maui!

Feeling ecstatic that we are resurrecting our Saturday farmers’ market ritual, and equally ecstatic that I feel good enough to cook.

Wondering every day at my growing belly and the sweet baby inside it.

Feeling joyful, grateful, at peace.

Project Life: Berkeley Trip

Project LifeWell, hello, Project Life, old friend! I set up the layout for these pages in December and am just now finishing them. This trip was from almost a year ago, but that sort of adds to the charm, right? Now we’ve had time to forget all the stuff we did and to appreciate a reminder. And I guess that’s the point of scrapbooking anyway! (However, I do have grand plans to start a little Project Life factory around here as soon as I finish organizing all my art supplies. Getting so close!)

Project LifeI got some new paper last fall, and this was my first time playing with it. I love the design and soft colors.

Project LifeI am kind of in love with the concept of chronotopes (time-space; thank you, Russian literary theory), and I love being able to revisit the places where I used to live. I remember the first time Eric locked his bike up outside this building, all the happy dinners we had here, and the couple of weeks when we lived here together after we got married and before we moved to Pasadena. So many wonderful memories.

Project LifeEarly in our relationship, Eric came to my favorite coffee place with me and tried a cup, even though he doesn’t drink coffee at all. It was so sweet that he wanted to share that experience with me. We spent a lot of lazy weekend afternoons here. And so we always love to come back!

Project LifeVisiting Berkeley is always a feast of culinary delights, and Ici is a mainstay on the list of must-haves. I wish everyone such blissful ice cream experiences, and such wonderful friends as ours.

Project LifeWhat’s better than an afternoon in the park with friends post-ice cream?

Project LifeMore Berkeley glory! It never gets old. At least not for us!

Project LifeBerkeley Bowl!

Project LifeMore Berkeley Bowl!

Project LifeAnd our old neighborhood. Ah, Rockridge, you are the stuff of dreams.

Project LifeAnd, to top it off, dinner with my BFF! So good to catch up with someone who makes you feel like no time has passed at all since you last saw each other.

Brandon Pettit’s Chana Masala

Chana MasalaI came across this recipe in Molly Wizenburg’s excellent book, A Homemade Life, which I devoured in two days over Christmas break a few years ago. I hadn’t heard of Molly’s blog back then, but my mom had, since she’s always ahead of the curve. The writing in that book is so searingly and deliciously honest. I laughed, I cried, and I wished I had the courage to spill it all out in such a breathtakingly beautiful way. Molly’s kind of a hero of mine. This recipe comes from her husband, Brandon, with whom she owns Delancey in Seattle (where I have had the supreme pleasure of dining). It’s a small world, as they say, and I was intrigued to read that Brandon went to Oberlin at around the same time as I did. When I finished the book, I looked him up, and recognition dawned on me: I knew that guy! I used to sit at the same round table as him at Talcott dining hall, slurping my black bean soup. He was a friend of a friend (that friend also appears in the book!), but I never knew him personally, and I am sure he would not recognize me. But still, it was lovely to find that memory again, and I made sure to thank him personally as we left Delancey.

Chana MasalaBut anyway, the food! I have tried my hand at Indian food. I dabble in aloo mattar and mushroom bhaji and baingan bharta. I’ve tried kormas and curries. I will never give up because Indian is probably my favorite food on the planet (and it is probably my only real pregnancy craving), but this is the only Indian dish I have ever made that really tastes right. It is astoundingly good. I think it’s the cardamom pods and garam masala, or maybe it’s the charring of the onions or the slow cooking to concentrate the flavor. I’m no expert. But this chana masala is a dream. And I’m pretty sure I’ll be making it until I can’t hold a knife anymore.

Brandon Pettit’s Chana Masala
From Orangette (also in A Homemade Life)

Good-quality olive oil
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
2 medium cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp cumin seeds
½ tsp ground coriander
¼ tsp ground ginger
1 tsp garam masala
3 cardamom pods, lightly crushed
1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes
1 tsp kosher salt, or to taste
1 Tbs cilantro leaves, roughly torn, plus more for garnish
A pinch of cayenne, or to taste
2 15-ounce cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
6-8 Tbs plain whole-milk yogurt, optional
A few lemon wedges, optional

Film the bottom of a large saucepan or Dutch oven—preferably not nonstick—with olive oil, and place the pan over medium heat. Add the onion, and cook, stirring frequently, until it is deeply caramelized and even charred in some spots. Be patient. The more color, the more full-flavored the final dish will be.

Reduce the heat to low. Add the garlic, stirring, and add a bit more oil if the pan seems dry. Add the cumin seeds, coriander, ginger, garam masala, and cardamom pods, and fry them, stirring constantly, until fragrant and toasty, about 30 seconds. Add ¼ cup water, and stir to scrape up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Cook until the water has evaporated away completely. Pour in the juice from can of tomatoes, followed by the tomatoes themselves, using your hands to break them apart as you add them; alternatively, add them whole and crush them in the pot with a potato masher. Add the salt.

Raise the heat to medium, and bring the pot to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, add the cilantro and cayenne, and simmer the sauce gently, stirring occasionally, until it reduces a bit and begins to thicken. Taste, and adjust the seasoning as necessary. Add the chickpeas, stirring well, and cook over low heat for about five minutes. Add 2 Tbs water, and cook for another five minutes. Add another 2 Tbs water, and cook until the water is absorbed, a few minutes more. This process of adding and cooking off water helps to concentrate the sauce’s flavor and makes the chickpeas more tender and toothsome. Taste, and adjust the seasoning as necessary.

Stir in the yogurt, if you like, or garnish with lemon wedges and cilantro. Serve.

Pie Day

Master at WorkMy friend Steve is just one of the greatest friends you could ever have, and that’s before you even consider that he’s an incredibly talented chef. We’ve been friends for almost half my life, and I’m so grateful for him. When I lived in Berkeley, he lived in this amazing little cottage up in the Berkeley hills, and he used to invite me (and Eric, if he was in town) to dinner. When Steve invites you to dinner, you say yes. Those meals are some of my happiest Berkeley memories, and I have an awful lot of happy Berkeley memories. Eventually it became clear to me that Steve was a pie master. He’d make his dough from scratch with no food processor, no pastry cutter–with nothing more than his hands. I used to sit on a stool in his tiny but beautiful kitchen and watch him work butter and flour into magic. Steve’s love for pie dates back to our college days, when he discovered Mama Jo, so we’d often make buttermilk pie and strawberry cream cheese pie, two of his favorites. But he’d also make savory pies, which were just as amazing. We called these happy events Pie Day. By the end of my time in Berkeley, I’d just call him up whenever I had any good fruit. I took my ten pounds of cherries over, and we made a day of it. And so when Steve told me he was in town for a week from Korea, I asked him if we could make pie. He was happy to oblige, and he suggested strawberry cream cheese. For the savory, I told him I’d been dreaming about asparagus and fresh green peas. And that was all it took. Steve came over on Monday to hang out with me, my mom, and Ellen, and we had the most marvelous time.

Pie DayI was really touched that he made time for us on his last day in town. And so were my mom and Ellen. Luckily, we found some Oxnard strawberries, and then we got to work shelling peas before Steve got there (this was more or less our only contribution, but Steve always makes you feel like you’re being so helpful). While he was working on the dough, these two lovely ladies were knitting away on the couch.

Pie DayThis was our savory filling…mmm, I am still dreaming of it. I should also mention that Steve stopped mid-cooking to make salad dressing for me because I was starving and needed to eat some greens. And then he let me eat all the filling that was leftover from the pie. See, he is the best ever. Sadly, I don’t have any real recipes for you, but this is asparagus and green peas lightly cooked in butter with shallots and sliced almonds. And then we covered it with shredded Manchego and Parmesan.

Pie DayWhen the pie was in the oven, I told Steve he should make himself a drink and made sure to advertise the Luxardo cherries I got Eric for Christmas. So he made two Aviations, one for him, and one for my mom and Ellen to share. I didn’t have any, of course, but they looked delicious! One of my favorite drinks, definitely.

Pie DayFinally, it was pie time. Just look at this exquisite beauty. I could have eaten the whole thing myself. It is worth noting, though, that Steve is such a sweet person that he cut a big hunk for Eric, who couldn’t be there that day.

Pie DayAnd these were the strawberry pies–one with cream cheese and one without, both equally delicious.

Pie DayI don’t know what words I can use to say this that haven’t already been written, but truly, there is nothing better than good food and good friends. I am looking forward to the next pie day already.

Adventures in Pregnancy: 21 Weeks

21 WeeksAt 18 weeks I was feeling large and in charge, and this week I am feeling…larger and in charger! Although it is still probably not noticeable at all when I wear loose clothes, I am getting seriously round. And I love it! Apparently I could not be bothered to brush my hair in this picture, but: roundness!

Kicks are carrying on as before, and, if anything, getting a little stronger. Tonight Eric actually saw one as it was happening, and that was pretty cool! I don’t think they are strong enough yet to feel with your hand, but I think we’re getting there.

As is most likely obvious due to my unplanned absence last week, I had a blast partying it up with my mom and my aunt (more on that to come!). We played, we shopped, we ate, we napped, we laughed, and a great time was had by all. They were very tolerant of my afternoon naps, came along on my walks, and let me have some of their dessert. It was fantastic! It still feels like a real treat to be able to go out to dinner, since evenings have been rough on me for quite a long time. I’m feeling really grateful for all the laughter-filled meals we shared.

Pregnancy brain continues apace, and it is making my life hilarious. I misread something this week as “couscous placemats.” That sounds messy. And I misread “bookmarks” as something really funny too. I would tell you what it was, but…I forgot. That should give you a good idea of the mental capacities I am working with here!

I am not sure what else is new this week, except that we have loved knowing that our sweet baby is a boy and have been working a bit more on choosing his name. We are nowhere near making a decision, but it’s fun to flip through the baby name book! We also ordered his crib this weekend (woot!), so next up are the carseat and the stroller, and then we can work on the fun registry stuff. We’re also doing our best to take advantage of these nice second trimester days, when I feel good and am not too big to move around easily. More on those adventures coming soon too!

Inspired by Elise, as always, I have decided to make our baby a quilt. I am excited to get started on that this week (and…let’s be honest, I’m excited to go to the fabric store too!) and start pulling the nursery together. Three cheers for the second trimester!

Adventures in Pregnancy: 20 Weeks

20 WeeksThere are definitely some signs of expansion around here! But, let’s cut right to the chase: it’s a…

20 WeeksBOY!! I never want to forget the hours leading up to when we found out. Our appointment was on Saturday morning, and on Friday night Eric was so happy. He was so looking forward to seeing the baby. I asked him if he was excited, and he said, “Big time excited!” Adorable.

20 WeeksOn the way to the doctor in the morning, Eric played two of our favorite songs and held my hand, smiling at me at every stop sign. He took this picture of my excited face before we went into the office. I guess I was wearing the right color! When we finally got in to do the ultrasound, there he was! The funny thing is that Eric and I saw right away, and we would have known he was a boy even if the doctor hadn’t told us. We were so excited, but even more excited that everything in the anatomy scan looked perfect, just the right size for the baby’s age. He was jumping and kicking and dancing and cradling his sweet little face in his hands. We love him more than we can even comprehend.

We spent the rest of the day in a happy daze. We would have been completely thrilled either way, and we are just so happy that he is healthy and strong and growing just as he should. There is so much celebrating to be done over that.

I am also doing great–the doctor told me I have gained five pounds so far, and I’m right on track with where she’d like me to be. Now I should be gaining about a pound a week for the next 20 weeks. I would like to think that my walking has helped me stay where I need to be, and I’m sure it has, but mostly I think it’s just that my stomach is still sensitive enough that anything sweet or rich doesn’t seem worth the risk. Luck of the Irish! Or something like that.

Physically, things are the same. I feel great most of the day, but nights are still hard, and sleeping is getting a little more iffy. About once a week my body lets me know I’ve eaten something that it does not approve of, but otherwise I feel fantastic!

Our sweet baby is kicking away, and this past week I was able to actually see a kick while looking at my belly. That was pretty amazing! His latest trick is kicking me in the bladder, which is, thankfully, more uncomfortable than it is painful so far.

In other exciting news, Eric made an off-hand comment about a trip to Hawaii this week, and I did some digging, and it turns out that we were able to use Eric’s copious frequent flyer miles to book a trip to Maui in April! We are pretty ecstatic about it. It all came together so quickly, it was kind of amazing. We are really looking forward to our babymoon on the beach!

Thank you all so much for reading and for your sweet comments! My mom and my aunt are in town (hurray!), so I will probably be a little behind in replying until about Thursday. Thanks for your patience!

A Handful of Happy Things

HappyThe truth is, there are an awful lot of happy things going on right now. To wit:

-Blogging every day and being back in this routine feels so good. I love thinking about posts during the day, and I look forward to writing them at night.

-Last weekend Eric came with me to the craft store to buy more canvases–they were Buy 1, Get 3 Free! That is a crazy good deal, so we got four 30x40s with a really nice gallery wrap. Huzzah! That should keep me busy for the next year or so.

-I’ve been getting a handful of things at Trader Joe’s in the past few months: cottage cheese, trail mix for Eric, one of the only types of bagel that my stomach will tolerate (hallelujah!). I also started buying cheese and bread there, since that’s been a craving of mine. It’s hard to find good bread around here, and that’s why I was so ecstatic to find their Pain Pascale. It’s so huge (like…larger than my entire torso) that you just buy a half of it, and it has a great wheaty depth and a tangy hint of fermentation. It is making me so happy these days, just toasted and topped with a fat slice of Manchego.

Happy-These shoes! They are Bare Traps, and my mom bought them for me almost ten years ago for a trip to Berlin and Paris (thanks, Mom!). Quality shoes hold up so well, and these are a delight in that regard. They have a big chunky sole and lots of comfy support, which I really appreciate, since I’m carrying some extra weight.

-In other news of great comfort, I got a Snoogle body pillow a month or so ago, and it rocks my world. It’s basically a huge C-shaped support pillow that helps with side sleeping (obligatory for pregnancy). I was already a side sleeper, but this is taking it to another level. I don’t think I’ll be giving this up after the baby comes.

Happy-Today was a really stellar day. I went over to Hillary’s fairly early to watch the girls for a bit, and when I got there, she had a fire going for me, and a pillow and blanket on the couch so I could rest while the girls were sleeping in. She is the sweetest person ever, and I had a blast playing with the girls too.

Happy-And to top it all off, I got to have lunch with Steve! For those who don’t know, Steve is one of my dearest friends and also my honorary third brother. We’ve been friends since college, when he was just starting to get into cooking (he is now a seriously seriously talented and accomplished chef). Steve is spending a year in Korea, so you can imagine my glee when I got a text from last weekend saying he was in town for a week for a surprise visit to family! It was so great to catch up with him, and EVEN BETTER STILL, he is going to come back on Monday and make asparagus and spring pea pie and strawberry cream cheese pie with me and…

-My mom and my aunt! That’s right, the Three Musketeers will be reunited next week!

-And, in the background of all of these happy things, there are the little routines that fill my life with color, joy, and peace: morning walks, afternoon naps, and tiny little kicks all day long. Basically, I am endlessly grateful.

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