Quince Tart

My love affair with quinces began not too long ago, and in the most improbable of ways. I confess that I didn’t entirely know what they were until I read about them in Orhan Pamuk‘s hauntingly beautiful novel The Museum of Innocence. I picked the novel up during a rainy spring, seeking some aesthetic escape while my beloved was continents away, and, reader, I could. not. put it down. It is one of the most deeply moving, excruciatingly gorgeous novels I have ever read. And I read novels for a living. One of the key ideas of the novel is the extraordinary capacity of quotidian objects to serve as living and breathing repositories of memory. In love with the overwhelming beauty of the everyday already (thank you, Nabokov), I was swooning every other page. Pamuk’s starting point for the novel, as he explains it, was found precisely in these objects, the remnants of his childhood, the remnants of his hero’s romance. I won’t give away too much of the plot, but I will say that one of these objects is a quince grinder. I had no idea what it was, but then I found this lovely piece in the NYT, in which Pamuk introduces some of the objects, which he is actually putting in a museum in Istanbul (!!!!!). This kind of cross-over between literature and life is completely mind-blowing to me, and I could not contain my glee at Pamuk’s deep understanding of the resonance of everyday objects, of their incredible significance. It is actually very hard to describe how much this whole undertaking moves me. It is even a little bit frightening, since words are my tools, my hammer and saw for daily labor. So, in a tiny act of homage, I decided to make a quince tart.

I had to wait a long time for it to be quince season, and then I had to wait for the quinces to ripen. They can’t be eaten like apples, even though they look a bit like them: they have to be poached to make them soft enough to eat. The characters in Pamuk’s novel are making quince compote, and now that I’ve worked with the fruit, I can see that a quince grinder would be a very handy object to have around indeed.

For the tart, first you peel the quinces, and then you quarter them and cut out their fleshy seeds. Then slice them thin and add them to a pot of sugar, water, cinnamon sticks, and allspice berries.

You simmer this mixture for about an hour and a half, during which time your whole house will smell like heaven. I promise.

As the quinces cook, the liquid will reduce, and the fruit will soften. When they are ready, they will be slightly pink. So pretty.

Then you just load them into your tart crust and bake for a bit, until it’s lightly bubbling. I used Dorie Greenspan’s tart crust recipe, and it was perfectly paired with the quince.

Eric and I happily snacked away on this tart for a week, and it just got better and better, the perfect fall treat. If Pamuk ever came over for dinner, I would make this tart for him. And then I would probably weep profusely in attempting to talk to him about his novel and how much it moved me. It is not so often that I have an experience that I feel is so completely beyond the realm of linguistic expression, and it is really rather mystifying trying to write about such an experience, but oh my goodness, would that we all had more of such moments in our lives, whether they be found in books or in others or in the world around us. It’s in these moments that magic, real magic, is made.

Quince Tart
Crust recipe from Dorie Greenspan
Tart recipe adapted from Melissa’s Produce

For the crust:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick plus 1 tablespoon (4 1/2 ounces) very cold (or frozen) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg yolk
(Dorie’s recipe is for a 9″ tart pan, but it worked just fine in my 10″ pan).

-Put the flour, confectioners’ sugar and salt in the workbowl of a food processor and pulse a couple of times to combine.  Scatter the pieces of butter over the dry ingredients and pulse until the butter is cut in coarsely – you’ll have pieces the size of oatmeal flakes and pea-size pieces and that’s just fine.  Stir the egg, just to break it up, and add it a little at a time, pulsing after each addition.  When the egg is in, process in long pulses – about 10 seconds each – until the dough, which will look granular soon after the egg is added, forms clumps and curds.  Just before your reaches this clumpy stage, the sound of the machine working the dough will change – heads up.  Turn the dough out onto a work surface.
-Very lightly and sparingly – make that very, very lightly and sparingly – knead the dough just to incorporate any dry ingredients that might have escaped mixing.
-Butter the tart pan and press the dough evenly along the bottom and up the sides of the pan.  Don’t be stingy – you want a crust with a little heft because you want to be able to both taste and feel it.  Also, don’t be too heavy-handed – you want to press the crust in so that the pieces cling to one another and knit together when baked, but you don’t want to press so hard that the crust loses its crumbly  texture.  Freeze the crust for at least 30 minutes, preferably longer, before baking. (I left mine in the freezer for a few hours, while I was working on the quinces).
-Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Butter the shiny side of a piece of aluminum foil and fit the foil tightly against the crust.  Bake the crust 25 minutes, then carefully remove the foil.  If the crust has puffed, press it down gently with the back of a spoon.  Bake for another 3 to 5 minutes, then transfer the crust to a cooling rack; keep it in its pan.

For the quinces:
1 pound quinces
1 1/2 cups Water
1 cup Sugar
1 cinnamon stick
6 allspice berries
2 teaspoons lemon juice freshly squeezed

-Peel quince and cut lengthwise into 8 wedges, coring it. Cut each wedge cross-wise into thin slices and in a 1 1/2-quart heavy saucepan combine with water, sugar, cinnamon stick and allspice berries.
-Bring mixture to a boil, stirring until sugar is dissolved, and simmer 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until quince is tender and has turned a deep pink (near end of cooking), and syrup is reduced and thickened. Discard cinnamon stick and allspice berries and stir in lemon juice.
-Cool quince filling for 5 minutes, and then spread into pre-baked tart crust. Bake for about 15-20 minutes at 350 degrees. Let cool for 20-30 minutes before removing tart from tart pan. Slice and enjoy!

365 Project: Year 2

On Sunday I finished up my second year of the 365 project, which means that I have posted one picture per day to my Flickr account for two years!It’s great to have a sense of accomplishment about it (comrades, when you are finishing your dissertation, any sense of accomplishment will do!), but more than that, it is a gift, really, to have this record of my life and to have an extra incentive to keep my eyes open wide every single day, so I don’t miss any little bit of magic. What happens now that I’m done? I start Year Three! I couldn’t imagine my life without this project now that I’ve started it, so I will carry on:) I usually post about a weeks’ worth of pictures at a time, so the third year should be up early next week. In the meantime, here is a quick look back at some of my favorite moments from this year, as well as some thoughts on the general trends of my interests and subject matter (because I love amateur statistics!) 🙂

Every year brings its own joys and sorrows, but I am grateful for all the joys this year has brought my way. By far the best was that I married the love of my life and the best friend I have ever had. Being with him makes every day a happy adventure, and, as I told him a few weeks ago, being married to him is the most fun I’ve ever had in my life. Our wedding day was sweet and beautiful and all we could have hoped it to be. *Heart overflows with gratefulness*

Before our big day, we got to spend some truly special times with our families. We met my family at Sea Ranch for Thanksgiving last year, where we feasted, hiked, read, slept late, and generally made merry. *Nostalgia*

In the spring Eric and I went to see the tide pools at Half Moon Bay. As soon as we left, I wanted to go back. I wanted to see more starfish!

In May Eric and I both graduated from Berkeley, spent a beautiful week celebrating with our families, and then left this lovely library behind.

A few days later, my brother got married in beautiful Carmel, and more awesome family celebrating ensued. Lots of champagne, lots of laughing, lots of good food!

The next day, Eric and I were able to visit Point Lobos, which is one of the most breathtaking places we’ve ever seen. Just wow.

Less than a month later, Eric and I got married and headed off to our honeymoon in Hawaii! It was 10 days of utter relaxation and beauty, as is evident from this picture. 🙂

When we got back, we soaked up the rest of the summer with our dear friends, and Eric moved out of his apartment so he could move in with me and our wedding presents. The stack of boxes was pretty impressive: thank you friends and family!

Just a few weeks later, we moved to our new home in Pasadena and started working on making it our own. Whew, what a year! It makes me a little tired thinking about it (and I even left out a few other trips and happenings)! It is so nice to be settled here, getting cozy and enjoying being newlyweds.

What else can we learn about me from the past year’s pictures? I drank a lot of coffee. I drank a lot of tea. I did a lot of reading and a lot of writing. I did a lot of cooking and a lot of baking. I worked on a lot of fun projects. I saw lots of beautiful plants, flowers, and trees. I visited some incredibly gorgeous places. I got to do it all hand in hand with the person I love more than anyone else in the world. And I have really and truly wonderful friends and family. That sounds like a sweet life to me. At the risk of being meta, I have to say that I’m grateful for the opportunity to look back and be grateful some more. 🙂 I’m excited to see what this next year has in store for me!

Purple, Tweed, and Pearls

One of the most lovely things about living where we do is that we are surrounded by lots of tiny little towns, which are really cute and fun. On Saturday Eric and I headed out to explore Sierra Madre, a lovely town with a clear view of the mountains and lots of little shops, cafes, and historical buildings. They had just decorated for Christmas, so we loved seeing all the wreaths and trees and ribbons!

The best part was that we found so many beautiful fall leaves! Hurray! And it was actually pretty chilly, so we felt very autumn! I love how my shoes are completely buried in the leaves 🙂 These shots were taken in front of a church that was built in 1890. And I thought that was pretty awesome.

This outfit is comprised of some of my favorite pieces. The tweed skirt (with the cutest kick pleats, and a satin lining to boot!) came from my favorite clothing swap party. It reminds me of my dear friend Aly, who is always so classy and would look so elegant in this skirt:) Of course, I had to add bright colors: this purple silk top is from the Bargain Barn. I kind of love its ridiculous poofy sleeves, as well as the pleat down the front and the tiny gold button at the collar. (And by sheer coincidence, I had just painted my nails purple. Color coordination FTW!)

The belt too is from the Bargain Barn, and my shoes, which I realize you can’t see at all, are brown suede flats that my mom bought me for my birthday a few years ago: thanks, Mom! I had grand plans to put some lipstick on and switch into some more colorful shoes, but I suppose the me you are seeing here is the everyday me, the me that is too cold for frippery! Soon I had to put my beloved thrifted corduroy coat back on to rescue me from the wind.

The earrings are really special to me. They are little black pearl studs that I bought on our honeymoon. If our time in Hawaii convinced me of anything (I mean besides the glories of the lanai and the luscious pineapple), it convinced me of my great love for oddly-shaped and colored pearls (this love was first kindled when Eric brought me back a set of beautiful burgundy pearls from Australia). So so lovely. I wanted to buy them all, everywhere we went, but I was very happy with this modest little pair. I love how they almost look like tiny shiny buttons.

So, this was our little photo shoot in the leaves! I will write more about Sierra Madre later this week, because it certainly deserves its own post: major cuteness! I hope you all had a lovely weekend!

Petaluma

Somehow, Thanksgiving is less than a week away, and I have remained almost entirely oblivious to it. I chalk this up in part to the dissertation madness, but also to the fact that, for the first time in my whole life, I won’t be with my family this Thanksgiving. Now, of course, I *will* be with my family because I will be with Eric, and he is my family and my home, wherever he may be. But a little tradition that has been going on for many years is coming to an end this year, and I am missing it and remembering it fondly. For the past five years or so, both my brother and I were both living in the Bay area, and my parents and my little brother would fly out to spend Thanksgiving with us. The first time we all stayed in a big suite in San Francisco, but in the years after that, my completely amazing parents would rent us a house at Sea Ranch, and we’d all get together and hike to the beach, read books by the fireplace, explore the surrounding towns, and, of course, do plenty of cooking and eating. My parents bought all the groceries (oh, happy day!), and Eric and I would trade off cooking with my brother and his now-wife. It was heavenly. So every Thanksgiving Eve, Eric and I would make the drive up the coast to Sea Ranch with a trunk full of brussels sprouts and pumpkins to spend a few glorious days by the ocean with all the people I love the most in the world. While I am bummed that it didn’t work out that way this year, I have been thinking fondly of the times it did, and one thing that came to mind was the cute little town where we’d always stop for lunch on the way up and back down: Petaluma.

When we’d pass through, they’d usually have just put up the Christmas decorations, and it was lovely to see the seasons blending in to each other one after the other.

Eric I actually had a chance to visit this summer too, on our way up the coast to a wedding of some sweet friends of ours. We ate at the glorious Della Fattoria, where I was apparently too busy stuffing my face to take any pictures, but I can attest that it is totally charming and totally delicious. After lunch we took a quick walk around town, and strolled across the bridge over the river.

It was lovely to see all the charms of the town in warm weather, like the little riverside coffee shops, with patio tables. I was smitten instantly.

The town is full of lovely old buildings and squares, and we had a beautiful stroll, hand in hand.

I love the old bank….which is now apparently an antique store. Sounds good to me.

One of the places we passed by was…a pie shop! Pie has found a special place in my heart due to the masterpieces of my friend Steve, who would frequently have me over for pie day, where I’d sit on a stool in the kitchen and watch butter, fruit, and flour turn into sheer magic. Steve is passionate about pie, so I wished he could have been there to see this place, the Petaluma Pie Company. He would have loved it. They even had a wall dedicated to the pie stories of all their customers. Steve, you must go there someday!

Sadly, we were way too full for pie (I suppose they call it Della Fattoria for a reason!), but I walked around taking lots of pictures and grinning like a small child and probably puzzling the employees. Sorry! They had all of these old-fashioned blenders and mixers strung across the front window: so cute!

And they had these tiny little ceramic pies on display: even cuter!

And they also had a mushroom and goat gouda pie. Hook, line, and sinker!

But eventually we had to leave the warm and buttery air of the pie shop to continue our peregrinations. I don’t know too much about the history of Petaluma, but I loved seeing some of the old buildings, which spoke of the bustling life of a little river town. I loved this little boarded-up window in a brick wall.

Eric thought it would be a great backdrop, so he took my picture. 🙂 Petaluma, I will miss visiting you this year!

The Ultimate Chocolate Bundt Cake

This past Tuesday was National Bundt Day, and even though this post is a bit late for it, I was celebrating in spirit! Eric and I got a bundt pan from my sweet friend Leah as a wedding gift, and I am in love with it! It’s the perfect way to make a rich and moist cake that doesn’t even need frosting. YUM!

A few weeks ago, in the midst of endless dissertation editing, I decided what I really needed in my life was chocolate cake. A big layer cake would have been too much for just two people, and I wanted something lighter than a tort, so I turned to the trusty bundt. I found this post over at Joy the Baker, entitled “The Making, Baking, and Consumption of the Best Chocolate Bundt Cake Ever.” And I knew I had hit a goldmine, since Joy is amazingly awesome, as are all of her recipes. So, off to the store I went to get my supplies.

The recipe involves two parts: mixing the cocoa powder with coffee (yes, coffee!!), and mixing the cake base. I couldn’t taste the coffee at all, but Eric said he could. I suppose maybe my taste buds themselves are 70% coffee-based by now. I’m not complaining.

The whole house smelled amazing while the cake was in the oven. And then we ate it. Eric likes seeing my ecstatic food faces when I bite into things, and I don’t think I disappointed him here. I took one bite, looked at him, and said, “This is everything I could ever want a chocolate cake to be.” Oh yes.

The best part about National Bundt Day for me was my discovery of the bloggers who celebrate it. Chief among these is The Food Librarian, who not only has done a 30 bundts in 30 days project three years in a row, but officially calls it “I Like Big Bundts.” Oh yes.

I have spent so much time on her beautiful blog in the past few days! Pumpkin Spice Bundt? Sounds good! Ultimate Streusel Bundt Cake? Yes, please! Cinnamon Chocolate Bundt Cake? Sign me up! My eyes start goggling at the possibilities!

I think that this rich and delicious chocolate bundt cake is going to be my standby for years to come, though. I can’t imagine it ever failing to put a smile on my face. Hope you enjoy!

The Ultimate Chocolate Bundt Cake
Recipe adapted from Joy the Baker, from The Big Sur Bakery Cookbook

1 1/4 cups plus 1 Tablespoon brewed coffee
3/4 cup Dutch process cocoa powder
2 1/4 cups sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
2 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
2 whole eggs
1 egg yolk
1 1/4 cups plus 1 Tablespoon buttermilk
1 cup plus 2 Tablespoon canola oil
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups, plus 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour, sifted

(I didn’t put a glaze on the cake and didn’t think it needed one, but if you would like to make one, Joy will tell you how here!)

-Put brewed coffee and cocoa powder in a small saucepan and bring to a boil, whisking frequently.  Remove from the heat and let come to room temperature.
-In the bowl of a stand mixer fit with a whisk attachment, mix together sugar, salt, baking soda, eggs and egg yolk on low speed for about 1 minute.  Add the buttermilk, oil and vanilla extract and mix on low again for another minute.
-Add the flour and mix on medium speed for 2 minutes.  Add the cooled cocoa mixture and mix on medium speed for 3 minutes.  The batter will be very loose.  Pour into the prepared cake pan and bake for 1 hour, or until a cake tester inserted in the cake comes out clean.
-Let the cake cool completely in the pan and then invert onto a cooling rack. Serve and enjoy!

Fall Leaf Garland

I saw this adorable project idea a while back on A Beautiful Mess, and I really wanted to try it. I love fall, and bright colors, so why not make a felt leaf garland to celebrate the season? Since there aren’t too many fall leaves around here, it seemed all the more reason to make my own!

I found some pretty felt squares on sale for a quarter each at my fabric store, and I grabbed them all! Okay, all of the colors, I mean. 🙂 And then I laid out my little supplies. I wanted to use this scratchy wool carpet yarn (since it has limited knitting function!), and I knew I wanted to hang my garland on our mantel. I did a little measuring and got to work!

My felt squares were 12×12, so I made little chalk marks as a guide, so I’d cut the leaves fairly evenly across three layers (I folded the squares over).

Here are my pretty little leaves! I used a tapestry needle to stitch them (since I needed a large eye to accommodate the yarn), and I cut the yarn into several pieces, since stitching with a long thread is often a recipe for tangles. When I was finished, I just knotted the ends together. Voila!

I hung my garland on our mantle, and now our living room looks a little more cheerful. I think I’ll make a new one next month for Christmas, since I like the look so much. Happy fall!

The Liebster Award

When I woke up this morning to find this comment from my besfrinn Emily on my latest blog post, I wasn’t sure if she was serious: “I am awarding you for your awesomeness :) I mean, really awarding you. I know this is why you wanted me to be your friend when we were in HS: so that I’d one day pass on a blogging award to you :)

Why wasn’t I sure? Well, because when we were back in high school, we used to play this fun little game that went a little something like this. We would look for the ugliest dress in the store, the most ramshackle house on the block, the nastiest sounding thing on the menu, and then we’d smile at each other and say, “I bought you that!” It never failed to make us burst into laughter, since we were young and silly and easily amused (…some things never change!) Her dad was adorably confused by this, especially when we moved on to cars and houses. We loved it. So I thought she might just be playing.

But it turns out she was serious! She actually gave me the Liebster Blog Award, which is so sweet and awesome! She blogs, wittily, hilariously, and wonderfully over at The Waiting, and someone insightful gave her this award, which she then passed on to 5 more people. It’s like a crazy chain letter of blog love, except not the kind we had in middle school, which were really a little creepy. No creepiness here: just a fun way to learn about some new blogs and enjoy the writing community! Thank you, besfrinn!

Liebster means beloved or favorite in German (I am glad I can actually remember this, after so many many semesters of German!), and the award is designed to spotlight up and coming blogs with fewer than 200 followers, to give them a bit of a nudge in the way of fans and followers. So I am going to pass this award along to 5 of my favorite blogs and leave them a comment to let them know they’ve been chosen as paragons of awesomeness. Then they can do the same on their blogs. All chain letter awesomeness, no chain letter creepiness! Here are 5 of my most favorite blogs, interspersed with some atmospheric pictures from my Flickr stream, in no particular order.

1. Dining with Dostoevsky My BFF is a serious baker. She is famous for whipping up amazing creations, both sweet and savory, and she writes about them, and about the crazy adventure that is grad school, on her lovely blog. She is witty and insightful and full of charm. Reading her blog always makes me feel a little better about life, for how dark can a day be when such beauty and deliciousness exists in it?

2. Lilac and Lace I just found Heather’s blog a few months ago and am already in love with it. She writes about her adventures, projects, and travels (and sometimes her husband’s hamburger haikus!) with wit and enthusiasm. She just unveiled a pretty new site design, and I love that I always find some happy surprise when I visit her blog!

3. London Bakes Kathryn lives in London and accentuates the tales of her delicious adventures in and out of the kitchen with beautiful beautiful photographs. Her blog is always a visual treat!

4. Amethyst Blog This sweet blog is written by two best friends, Jenn and Suzanna, who share their lovely projects, style, and inspiration with each other and with all of us! My favorite part of their blog is called People with Purpose, and it features artists and non-profits who are working to give back to their communities. So inspiring!

5. Tenpenny Splendid Jess is a graphic designer and fellow grad student (hello, comrade!) who writes about her projects, plans, inspirations, and whatever cool things she is up to (like breaking in her culinary robot). She’s currently doing a project called 30 Days Hath November that I think is totally rad. Also, I like her pretty pictures.

To all the lovely ladies I awarded, here’s how to accept the award and keep the ball rolling:

1. Copy and paste the award on your blog.
2. Thank the giver and link back to the blogger who gave it to you.
3. Reveal your top 5 picks and let them know by leaving a comment on their blog.
4. Hope that our followers will spread the love to other bloggers.

I hope you enjoy these blogs as much as I do!

Red and Teal Revisited

Living in Southern California is a many-splendored thing, even if the general practice of surfing at the beach every weekend remains a myth. We have sunshine, and lots of it, and when it does rain, we actually have thunder and lightning (which seem not to exist in the Bay area, somehow…) Our little neighborhood is so cute and walkable, and so close to Eric’s work, that there really is very little to complain about. However, when a fall-loving girl sees shops filled with autumn colors and friends’ pictures of gorgeous trees, that girl sometimes misses living in a land that has seasons. This past week, driving down the street, I saw a bright orange persimmon tree in bloom, and it made me so happy I almost cried. So when Eric told me that he’d found some spots on campus with fall leaves, I was ecstatic! Best husband ever! We set out today for a true fall photo shoot, and it was even cool enough for me to wear my wool jumper and boots.

These boots come from my thrifting mecca, the Bargain Barn. They are so beautifully made and so comfortable, and I love the little straps on them. They are from Ecuador, so I suppose maybe someone bought them on the trip of a lifetime, and then realized they were not exactly suited to the climate of Memphis, Tennessee. Fear not, vacationer, I am putting your boots to good use!

When I saw the leaves Eric was talking about, this is what I did, before he even knew what I was doing!

I grabbed a pile of leaves…

Threw them in the air…

And grinned like a five-year-old! That’s just how fall leaves make me feel:)

I was also happy to have the chance to wear some of my favorite pieces of bling. I love pairing this periwinkle necklace with the bright red of this jumper. My mom found it, along with a hot pink twin, at an estate sale, and was kind enough to give them to me.

My mom also gave me these adorable turquoise cowboy boot earrings. I think she found them in San Diego. I really like how, in this picture, it looks like the boot is kicking my hair!

I think this bracelet also came from my awesome aunt Ellen. I love the pretty etchings on it.

This wool jumper is from my favorite clothing swap party (ah, how I miss you!) It is surprisingly warm for a little dress, and I love its big buttons and pockets! The shirt is also from the Bargain Barn, mother of all thrift stores! A few years ago, I would never have thought to put red and teal together, but now it is one of my favorite color combinations. Thank you to all the fashionable ladies who inspired me to take chances with color! I hope you all are enjoying fall as much I am!

Black Bean Chili with Orange and Cumin

A few months ago my sweet besfrinn (who blogs here) told me about this amazing chili she was making. She told me her whole house was filled with the scent of oranges and cumin, and I was hooked in right then and there. I am a soup and stew kind of girl, which is, I suppose, the result of living in a mostly rainy climate for seven years or so, and chili always sounds good to me!

It hasn’t been so cold outside here this fall, and yet is really *has* been cold in our apartment (accursed north-facing windows!), and so, bundled up in my 30-Below socks and sweater(s) (sometimes you need 2!), I set about cooking.

The combination of flavors was so unexpected and delicious! I would never have thought to put oranges in chili, but they were perfect! Eric and I were so sad when this chili was gone, and now that I’ve written this post, I think I’ll make sure to get the ingredients for it this weekend so I can make it again. Hope you enjoy!

Black Bean Chili with Orange and Cumin
Slightly adapted from Bon Appetit via Epicurious

2 oranges
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups chopped onions
4 garlic cloves, pressed
4 teaspoons chili powder
4 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3 15.5-ounce cans seasoned black beans, drained (I used about 2 c dried beans)
2 14.5-ounce cans diced tomatoes in juice
Sour cream
Chopped fresh cilantro

-Grate enough orange peel to measure 1 1/2 teaspoons. Juice oranges.
-Heat oil in heavy large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onions; sauté 5 minutes.
-Mix in garlic and spices. Add beans, tomatoes, and half of orange juice. Simmer over medium heat until heated through and flavors blend, stirring often, about 15 minutes.
-Mix in orange peel and remaining orange juice. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
-Ladle chili into bowls. Top with sour cream and cilantro.

Honeymoon: Lihue

The middle of November seems like the right time to be reminiscing about tropical travels (and daydreaming about trips to come!), so here is the first installment of a series of posts on our lovely honeymoon in Kauai.

They say you should expect the unexpected at weddings, and that something is guranteed to go wrong. We were actually amazed by how smoothly our wedding and reception went: a few hiccups here and there, but nothing that really mattered. The real trouble came before and after the wedding. This is almost comical to me now, but about two weeks before our wedding, on the day before I was flying home to finalize the rest of the wedding details, I threw my back out. Now, I have a long and storied history of trouble with my back, and I’ve hurt it many times by doing dumb things like moving bookcases and couches (never again!) But this time, it was nothing of the sort. We were kneeling on the floor, opening a wedding present, and as I moved to get up, something went wrong, and I couldn’t move my back. It was ridiculous, like something you would see on tv. Except that it was very, very real. I changed my flight, and Eric spent the next few days buying me groceries, taking me to the doctor, and eating standing up with me because I couldn’t sit down. He missed a whole morning of work to take me to the doctor, and I was apologizing to him for needing him so much, and, without a moment’s hesitation, he looked at me and said, “Baby, you are my everything.” I could have just melted away, right there in the doctor’s office (except that melting implies movement, of which I was not capable). Thankfully, with the help of many muscle relaxants, I recovered and was able to walk down the aisle and dance away at our wedding. The story continues a few days after our wedding, when we were leaving my apartment in Oakland to fly off to our honeymoon. Because I had hurt my back, Eric was carrying both of our suitcases, and he was racing out to the cab with them when he stepped off the curb somehow at an angle. I didn’t see it happen, but I did hear him yell louder than I have ever heard before, and I was terrified. We both were, I think.

He hobbled into the cab, upset but certain it was just a bad sprain. I asked him if he wanted to go straight to the doctor, and he said that he didn’t want to miss our flight, as he was sure they would just tell him to ice it and elevate his foot. I was worried, but agreed to take our flight. At the airport I turned into a hilarious medical-assistant version of a diva: snatching bandage wraps from the gate agents and demanding ice from the restaurant near our gate. I did all of this without even thinking about it, of course, because he is my everything. Eric was a trooper, and the flight attendants were so kind to us. When we landed, we dropped off our luggage at the hotel and took a cab to the hospital, where the doctor told us that his ankle was, in fact, broken, but that it was a tiny fracture. We were both sad to hear it, but we had such a positive experience in the ER there. I honestly think it was still faster for us to fly to Hawaii and go to the ER than it would have been for us to go straight to the ER in Oakland! This changed our plans some, of course, but after a few days of adjusting to it, we really had a marvelous time. By the time we made it back from the ER, with Eric freshly outfitted with a boot cast and crutches, we were exhausted and so ready to get into our room and relax. But first we had lunch by the pool, and I grabbed the nearest flower and stuck it in my hair. I was still in a honeymoon state of mind. 🙂

During the time we were in Lihue, we stayed at the Kauai Marriott, which is insanely pretty. We spent a lot of time out on our little balcony, reading and watching the kids play in the waterfall pool. Our room was lovely and bright, and we spent the first day or so relaxing and getting used to the time change. And eating lots of pineapple! I had no idea I even liked pineapple, but when it is fresh, it is so good!

There is  a two-hour time difference between California and Hawaii, but we were actually coming from Memphis, where we were married, and which is another two hours off. For the first few days, I woke up at 5am, made coffee in our little pot, read a novel, and watched the sun come up over the ocean. It was so beautiful. I liked seeing the hotel waking up too, the lights coming on slowly around me.

The Marriott has this ridiculous pool, where we spent some lovely lazy afternoons. It creates in you a feeling of pure luxury, and I am sure that is what they were going for!

Lihue is one of the bigger towns on Kauai, and once we got our rental car, we headed out to explore. Our first stop was Fish Express, where we had some of the best meals of our trip. It is a modest shop front with no seating, so you have to take your food to go. It was raining that day, and we had nowhere to go, so we devoured our scrumptious fish in the car, listening to Hawaiian music. It was perfect. 🙂

I had blackened ono in guava-basil sauce, and Eric had macadamia nut encrusted mahi mahi. These were, of course, served with macaroni salad and rice, in the Hawaiian plate lunch style. I am drooling just remembering it…we definitely ate here more than once!

In the course of our peregrinations, we became very accustomed to a singular sound: roosters crowing. A friend of ours had told us before we left that chickens roam wild and free all over the place, since there are no mongooses (mongeese?) on the island to eat them. They were really beautiful, but sometimes they crowed a little too early in the morning!

Lihue was a lovely little place to start our honeymoon in, and we dropped back in a few times on our way to other parts of the island (we always tried to make these trips coincide with lunchtime!)  We had a lot of fun exploring the areas around our hotel, and I will write more about our adventures soon!

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