Radicchio Panzanella from “Eat This Poem”

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“Because when we eat and when we read, we honor what was made for us to consume. We savor every last bite.” -Nicole Gulotta, Eat This Poem

One of the great gifts of poetry is attention. Have you ever tried to read poetry like prose? It doesn’t work. You scan the lines and end up losing the thread halfway through. No, to read poetry you must slow down. Let the rhythm wash over you. Luxuriate with the feel of the words in your mouth. To understand poetry you have to fall in a little in love with it.

Cooking is the same. There’s a world of difference between cooking pasta and setting a pot of water to boil, adding a steady stream of salt, running your fingers through the pasta before adding it to the roiling water, and testing it until it embodies the perfect marriage of yielding and firm. When it’s done with attention and care,cooking ceases to be a chore and becomes a meditation.

If you care about both food and poetry you’re likely already following Nicole Gulotta’s brilliant site Eat This Poem. And if you’re following Nicole online- and even if you’re not- you need to check out her new book of the same name.

I say this as someone who was lucky enough to get a sneak peak of her  book. When I was taking notes for what to make I filled three pages of a legal pad. I started using symbols to keep everything straight- , a circle for make at work, a star for must-dos, a heart for date night. Her book is filled with simple, good food made with attention.

Nicole’s book is organized not around meals or seasons but by theme. These themes- On Splendor, On Moments in Time, among others- speak to the rhythms of our life. These themes are filled with poems and accompanying recipes. And what poems. I found myself lingering over old favorites from Theodore Roethke, Naomi Shihab Nye, Billy Collins, and Mary Oliver. And I fell for new to me poets like Jehanne Dubrow and Richard Levine (whose enclosed poem, “Believe This”, I emailed to two separate people in with the title OMG OMG. Look it up. Fall in Love.). There is splendor here.

It’s a brilliant idea. And what transforms a brilliant idea into a treasured work is that it works beautifully. The recipes are elegant creations, delicious and creative but written with life in mind. This is a working cookbook that exists in a space that’s been sorely neglected. Nicole is not preaching the gospel of a 30 minute meal. She’s not a chef whose sub-recipes have sub-recipes. Instead she’s an evangelist of the calming, attentive power cooking brings- choosing a peach, chopping parsley, gently cooking garlic until it’s just fragrant. These actions nourish us just as much as what we place in our mouth does, and Nicole appreciates these acts without fetishizing them.

In response to “Tree” by Jane Hirshfield, where Hirshfield speaks of “That great calm being/ This clutter of soup pots and books-” Nicole offers a segment of simple, comforting meals that feed the calm being in us. For this lovely radicchio panzanella found with Hirshfield’s poem radicchio is quickly seared then chopped. It’s then tossed with whole grain croutons, Parmesan cheese, white beans, and a punchy dressing and topped with chives. I was curious but cautious when I saw the recipe- radicchio is famously bitter and can be overwhelming. But I trusted Nicole and recommend you do the same. The heat tames radicchio’s bite enough that it will play nice with the other ingredients. It’s a dish unique enough to stop you in your tracks, but no harder than boiling and tossing pasta. And by the act of making something both commonplace and special you are are practicing the poetry of cooking.

Eat this Poem is released on March 21st and you can find it here. I already have a list of people I’ll be buying it for as gifts. Congratulations Nicole! You’ve created something truly exceptional.

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Radicchio Panzanella

Adapted from Eat This Poem: A Literary Feast of Recipes Inspired by Poetry by Nicole Gulotta, © 2017 by Nicole Gulotta. Reprinted by arrangement with Roost Books, an imprint of Shambhala Publications, Inc. Boulder, CO. www.roostbooks.com
Nicole recommends drizzling the radicchio with olive oil and sprinkling with salt and pepper, then searing it in a dry pan. I seared my radicchio in a healthy drizzle of olive oil because I was distracted and not paying close attention. (I am fully aware of this irony.) This meant that the radicchio was a bit more cooked, but was still excellent.

Serves 2-4

4 cups whole grain bread cubes (cut from about 4 slices each an inch thick)
olive oil
salt and pepper
1 pound radicchio (about 2 medium), wilted outer leaves removed and quartered
1 1/2 cups cooked white beans such as cannellini, or one 14.5 ounce can
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
minced chives

For dressing:

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
2 teaspoons honey
1/2 cup olive oil
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the bread cubes onto a sheet tray and toast until golden and crisp, about 12-15 minutes. Set aside and let cool.

In the meantime, warm a healthy drizzle of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Place the quarters of radicchio in the pan and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Sear until the leaves are soft and just going brown in spots, then turn. Repeat until all sides of the radicchio have been kissed by oil. Transfer to a cutting board and roughly chop the radicchio. Place in a large bowl and top with the beans, bread, and Parmesan cheese.

To make the dressing, whisk together the balsamic vinegar, sherry vinegar, and honey. Add in the olive oil and whisk while it’s combining. Season to taste with a healthy pinch of both salt and pepper, then pour over the salad and toss well. Top with a flurry both of Parmesan and chives.

 

 

 

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Smoked Salt and Rye Chocolate Chip Cookies

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My father’s hopes travel with me
years after he died. Someday
we will learn how to live. All of us
surviving without violence
never stop dreaming how to cure it.
What changes? Crossing a small street
in Doha Souk, nut shops shuttered,
a handkerchief lies crumpled in the street,
maroon and white, like one my father had,
from Jordan. Perfectly placed
in his pocket under his smile, for years.
He would have given it to anyone.
How do we continue all these days?

“What Changes” by Naomi Shihab Nye (found here)

Last night at work I send out dessert to two woman sitting at the bar. They were crying. I told their server they deserved desserts because they looked as sad as I felt. They looked up at me, eyes bright with tears, and we communicated through nods and hand gestures- I see you. I understand your pain. We will get through this. We are stronger together.

Uncertain days lay ahead. I hope that we can move together in the direction of love and justice. I hope for an end to the ugliness. We have a time of protest and uncomfortable conversations and court cases coming. I hope that in four years we have healed this brokenness. I pray that we remember that all women and men are created equal, and that we are all endowed with inalienable rights. And I pray we always act as such.

I take comfort in baking and feeding people. It is the best way I know to love people. I think we’ll be needing a lot more love, in all its guises, in the coming months.

Stay safe, stay strong.

Smoked Salt and Rye Chocolate Chip Cookies

This is an adaptation of my favorite chocolate cookie recipe ever. If you’re skeptical of white chocolate, I understand. But the white chocolate creates a deliciously creamy, almost marshmallow-y pocket in the cookies that’s too good to pass on. Smoked salt is relatively easy to find, but if you can’t find it and still want a smokey flavor I would substitute the rye whiskey with Scotch.

adapted from Date Night In by Ashley Rodriguez

Makes 2 dozen cookies

8 tablespoons (113 grams) unsalted butter, softened
2 tablespoons (30 grams) turbinado sugar
2 tablespoons (30 grams) cane sugar
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (190 grams) dark brown sugar
1 egg
1 tablespoon rye whiskey
1 1/2 cup (200 grams) All-Purpose flour
1/4 cup (30 grams) rye flour
3/4 teaspoon (5 grams) baking powder
1/2 teaspoon (2 grams) smoked salt, plus more for sprinkling
8 ounces (225 grams) mixed dark and white chocolate chunks (about half of each)

Preheat your oven to 350. Line 2 cookie trays with parchment paper and set aside.

In a large bowl using a hand mixer beat together the butter and the three sugars on medium-high for 5 minutes, until the butter is fluffy and the color is lighter. Add the egg and the rye whiskey, and mix until just combined.

In another bowl whisk together the all-purpose flour, the rye flour, the baking powder, and the smoked salt. Add to the butter and mix together on low until the flour is just combined. Using a rubber spatula, stir in the chocolate chunks.

Drop the cookies using spoons into tablespoon and a half balls onto the cookie sheet, making sure to space them an inch apart. Sprinkle each ball of dough with a pinch of smoked salt. Bake for 12 minutes, rotating halfway through. Remove from the oven when they’re just starting to set around the edges. Let cool on the tray.

The cookies will keep well, stored in an airtight container, for three days.

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Sweet Potato Tea Cake


How do you deal with tragedy? I don’t mean the personal tragedies, I mean the macro, worldwide scale. There seem to be two ways to deal with tragedy, at least online. You can obsessively talk about it, bringing it into every conversation. Or you can ignore it. Both make sense to me- the former is to acknowledge it, and by acknowledging people’s suffering it feels like you are doing something. You are not helpless. The latter makes it feel like you are refusing to give the darkness power. You are not giving in. Both make sense. Neither seem to work.

This week has been full of sorrow  and anger and determination. There are many intelligent people who have written about how to respond to these events much better than I. I do know that banning Syrian refugees from entering certain states is a wrong and hateful reaction. I do know that changing my facebook profile picture does little except show solidarity, but that solidarity is better than nihilism. And I know that some joy has to be taken from everyday life. That tragedies, whether man-made or natural, will not stop, and to never step back is to risk becoming numb.

I bake when things are tough. There’s something about making things. Sorrow does not diminish, but it cedes some room for other emotions when I feel busy and useful. It was during one of these spats that I made this cake. This cake is wholesome. It’s the type you might make for an afternoon tea break, or eat for breakfast. It’s dense and slightly fudgy in texture, and just the right amount of sweet to feel like a treat. Aaron likened it to pumpkin pie, and it’s not an unfair comparison. It’s a nurturing cake, the kind you may want to eat when the world is spinning.

I’ll leave you with a poem, because if cake doesn’t help, poetry may. Stay safe. Stay strong.

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by Ann Lauterbach

The days are beautiful
The days are beautiful.

I know what days are.
The other is weather.

I know what weather is.
The days are beautiful.

Things are incidental.
Someone is weeping.

I weep for the incidental.
The days are beautiful.

Where is tomorrow?
Everyone will weep.

Tomorrow was yesterday.
The days are beautiful.

Tomorrow was yesterday.
Today is weather.

The sound of the weather
Is everyone weeping.

Everyone is incidental.
Everyone weeps.

The tears of today
Will put out tomorrow.

The rain is ashes.
The days are beautiful.

The rain falls down.
The sound is falling.

The sky is a cloud.
The days are beautiful.

The sky is dust.
The weather is yesterday.

The weather is yesterday.
The sound is weeping.

What is this dust?
The weather is nothing.

The days are beautiful.
The towers are yesterday.

The towers are incidental.
What are these ashes?

Here is the hate
That does not travel.

Here is the robe
That smells of the night

Here are the words
Retired to their books

Here are the stones
Loosed from their settings

Here is the bridge
Over the water

Here is the place
Where the sun came up

Here is a season
Dry in the fireplace.

Here are the ashes.
The days are beautiful.

 

Sweet Potato Tea Cake

I roasted the sweet potatoes the day of, but you could easily roast some ahead of time and set some aside. Boyce’s original recipe calls for whole wheat flour instead of spelt, but I’m more likely to have spelt than wheat so I subbed spelt out. It also called for half a teaspoon of baking soda which I forgot (I know, I’m terrible). I quite like the end result, but if you would like a fluffier cake, you should add it in. Finally, these were originally muffins that I changed into a cake. If you would like to make muffins, I’d start checking the muffins around 25 minutes into baking.

Adapted from Good to the Grain by Kim Boyce

One medium sweet potato, about 12 ounces
1 cup spelt flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup greek yogurt
4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into chunks
1/4 cup cane sugar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1 egg
6 dates, pitted and finely chopped

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Prick the sweet potato with a fork a few times and roast until soft and sweet smelling, about an hour. Remove from oven and peel out of its skin.

Lower heat to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter and flour a nine inch cake pan, and set aside.

In a medium bowl, sift together the two flours, spices, salt, and baking powder.

In a small bowl whisk together the greek yogurt and buttermilk.

In a large bowl, mix together the butter and the two sugars using a hand mixer until the mixture is fluffy and light brown in color, about three minutes. Scrape down the sides. Add the egg and half of the roasted sweet potato, and mix until well combined, about a minute. Scrape down the sides. On low speed, add the flour mixture until mostly combined. Add the buttermilk mixture, and then the sweet potato and dates, mixing until combined just combined. It’s okay if the sweet potato still has chunks.

Pour into the prepared pan and smooth over the top. Place in the oven and bake for 45 minutes to an hour, until it is golden brown and a tester comes out clean. Remove  from the pan and let cool on a serving rack.

 

 

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