Ode to (more) inertia

I’m thinking this ode to inertia I wrote a year today is so good, it’s worth posting again. And it has the bonus value of allowing me to wallow in my own inertia. Enjoy.

This vibrant comfort dish started with a fresh lemon and a couple of leftover sweet peppers

When I think Italian food, I think red.

Tomatoes. Spaghetti sauce. A nice glass of Chianti.

It’s a limited vision. But it doesn’t have to be so.

It could be yellow.

Or orange!

I conjured up the following recipe after a friend gave me some fresh lemons. I wanted to make some comfort food (and icy cold lemonade wasn’t gonna cut it), so I thought of linguine with lemon sauce. But I had some yellow peppers I wanted to use up, the inspiration for which brought me to a bunch of red pepper sauce recipes. Thus was born my Pasta with Lemon & Pepper Cream Sauce.

peppers before

I liked it so much, I made it again a couple of days later with some vibrant orange sweet peppers. And a couple of carrots. ‘Cause I’m just a wild and crazy gal (who likes to sneak veggies into everything).

The result had all the atomic orange goodness of a bowl of Kraft macaroni cheese without any of the scary dyes or preservatives. The half-and-half (or cream, if you’re really needing it) speaks of comfort. There is a ton of natural, delicious flavor here, but don’t skip over the fresh lemon juice or the red pepper flakes.

peppers finished dish

Pasta with Lemon & Pepper Cream Sauce

Ingredients:

  • 2 orange (or yellow or, if you must be conventional, red) sweet peppers, seeded and cut into eighths
  • 2 carrots, peeled and cut into sticks (skeptical? You won’t even taste these — but they’re orange! and good for you!)
  • 4 cloves garlic, smashed and skins removed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • about 12 cherry tomatoes, halved (I used red, but I really wished I had orange on hand — these are for garnish)
  • zest of 1 fresh lemon plus about a tablespoon of lemon juice
  • 3-4 tablespoons half-and-half
  • 1 tablespoon dried parsley
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • A pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 4-6 ounces of your favorite pasta (I like angel hair, but you have my permission to be unconventional)
  • 2 tablespoons shredded parmesan cheese
  • Salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

  1. peppers cutArrange peppers, carrots and garlic on a cookie sheet. I tucked the garlic cloves into the pepper pieces so they wouldn’t get burnt (though a little browning just adds yumminess). Drizzle with oil. Add salt and pepper. Roast in a hot 400 degree oven for 25 minutes, stirring once or twice. Add the cherry tomatoes and roast for 10 minutes more (35 minutes total).
  2. peppers roastedAllow roasted veggies to cool slightly. Reserve the cherry tomatoes for garnish later. Now’s the time to start your salted water a boilin’ for your pasta.
  3. peppers blendedCombine lemon zest, lemon juice, roasted veggies, half-and-half and dried spices in blender (I used a smoothie glass) and blend until smooth. It will be thick, like a smoothie. Taste it and add salt and pepper as necessary.
  4. When your noodles are done (al dente if you must, or a little mushier if you’re more like me), drain and add back to your hot pot. Dump your blended veggies into pot and mix well.
  5. To serve, divide between two bowls (or, if you’re really hungry, dump into a single big bowl). Garnish with parmesan, your roasted cherry tomatoes and freshly ground black pepper. Serves 1 or 2.

peppers after

Believe deeply

The veteran actor with the bushy eyebrows and the glum visage — who seemed ancient 40 years ago when he was playing a tired police detective on “Barney Miller” — died yesterday.

Abe Vigoda is dead. For reals.

If “enjoy” is the right verb, I enjoyed his obituary in the newspaper this morning, which imparted this little bit of wisdom for those among us who are grasping for meaning as we age:

Vigoda quote

Paging Walter Mitty

This is what a writer thinks about while she’s washing clothes:

The neatly coiffed woman who gets her kicks by hanging out in the laundromat looking for people she can teach to fold their fitted sheets.

She thinks of metaphors for aptly describing characters in stories she’s writing only in her reverie.

Morticia Addams in a prom dress

Can you be too comfortable?

“We as a species demand comfort,” writes memoirist Krista Schlyer in Almost Anywhere: Road Trip Ruminations on Love, Nature, National Parks & Nonsense (reviewed here recently on my author blog). “Alone among the earth’s creatures, we do not adapt to the Earth’s seasons of spare and plenty, heat and cold.”

Brrr. Cold.

Schlyer made these remarks in chapter of her book on the desert, as she discussed the marvels of the creosote bush, which she describes as one of the drought-tolerant plants in North America, known to be able to live a year or two without rain.

A year without rain. Or two!

This year, however, in the luxury of El Nino, the desert of the southwest is getting rain (not like New York is getting snow, but you get my point), and pictures of the creosote bush show blossoms!

morticia at prom

The branches of a creosote bush are spindly gray things, sort of prehistoric looking. But its blossoms are beautiful. The juxtaposition is sort of like Morticia Addams in a prom dress.

Does growth require pain? Do we need to get fired, get divorced or get sick before we turn things around? Are droughts necessary to inspire blossoms?

I hope not. Who hopes for discomfort? The creosote doesn’t grow because of drought. It survives through drought, it carries on because it has to. The blossoms come when the rain does. When things aren’t so hard.

So when you’re feeling a little uncomfortable — hungry, thirsty, maybe too cold? — when you’re struggling, think of the creosote. Persevere. But when you’re comfortable? That’s when you bloom.

Cream of Crisper Drawer Soup, heavy on the asparagus

It’s that time of year.

No, I’m not talking about the third week in January, the worst week of the year. (Stock brokers around the country can attest to this! But no, that’s not what I mean.)

OK, well, I am. A little.

I’m talking soup. And it’s soup time because, well, it’s cold outside and a nice hot soup warms the house and the soul. (Won’t help your stock portfolio, though. Sorry.)

I talked to my mom earlier this week, and she assured me she was staying indoors (away from the bone chilling temps in central Minnesota), keeping busy. Making soup. Chili. Minestrone. Something called Barley Burger Soup (you had me at “barley,” Mom).

So I made soup for supper, even though my Beloved proclaimed “yuck” (fine, enjoy your boxed macaroni and cheese).

I’ve posted a recipe for “Cream” of Asparagus Soup in the past, but that recipe was a faux cream version. This one actually calls for a half cup of half and half. Because, why not?

I also cleaned out my fridge. Because that’s what a good soup is for. Using stuff up. Plus it turns a greenish asparagus soup into a more golden hue. Like the sun.

I hope you enjoy.

cream of asparagus carrot sweet potato soup

Cream of Asparagus & Orange Leftovers Soup

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 carrot, peeled and sliced
  • 1 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1/2 yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, smashed
  • 1/2 leftover red pepper, chopped (bonus if it’s roasted)
  • 20-25 spears asparagus
  • 1 cup leftover baked potato and baked sweet potato (I knew I’d find a use for this!)
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 cup half-and-half
  • Shredded parmesan to garnish

Directions:

  1. Break tough ends off asparagus and separate tips to use later. Roughly chop remainder into 1-inch pieces.
  2. Heat olive oil in a largish sauce pan and add all vegetables except asparagus tips and leftover baked potatoes. Saute until onion is translucent.
  3. Add chicken broth. Simmer for 30 minutes or so until vegetables are tender. Add potatoes 5 minutes from the end; they’re already cooked and you just need to warm them up. Add lemon zest at the very end, right before blending.
  4. Using an immersion blender, blend until smooth. Add asparagus tips and simmer for 6-8 minutes (until tips are tender). Stir in half-and-half and warm (don’t boil), and add salt and pepper to taste. Serves 2. Garnish with parmesan and fresh cracked pepper.

 

The Big Short sickens, as only an award winner could

If  you need any reason to dump your limping stock portfolio and invest in liquor and bullets, The Big Short will give it to you.

I sat in the darkened movie theater feeling literally nauseated. Our nation’s institutions are rife with fraud, and the doomsday prepper in me wants a house with a moat and a year’s supply of clean water (Flint, Mich., need not apply).

When a movie about collateralized debt obligations can evoke an emotional punch in the gut like that, you know it’s good.

The Big Short is among eight movies nominated as best picture in the Academy Awards and as I do every year, and usually fail, I’m attempting to see all of them before the Oscars on Feb. 28.

Three down, five to go.

I saw The Revenant a week and a half ago, and though I needed to shield my eyes more than once, I highly recommend it. The award-worthy cinematography makes winter look beautiful (and who couldn’t use more of that the third week of January, universally known as the worst week of the year?).

The Martian, another pulse pounder, would have been the first nominated movie I saw. Did you know it’s based on a book that was originally self-published?

My mother recommends Joy, so I wish it was a nominated film but rather, Jennifer Lawrence is nominated as best actress. So what’s left on my best picture list?

  • Room
  • Spotlight (alas, I suspect I will leave the theater as nauseated as after The Big Short)
  • Mad Max: Fury Road (really? Didn’t I see this was playing on Cinemax?)
  • Brooklyn
  • Bridge of Spies (maybe I’ll save this for last; can’t go wrong with Tom Hanks!)