Category Archives: greens

Bluff City and Home of the Blues

Memphis.

What side of this city did I see? Several, actually. I had two trips there for work, one in March and one in May. I met the nicest, funniest hotel staff at the welcome and valet desks both times. I observed the pieces of the city’s history that residents refuse to let go, such as the trolley, the horse carriages, and bygone symbols of its fame and glamour, like the named music notes in the sidewalk.

I also experienced Beale Street, sort of. Not in the rip-roaring, guitar-wielding, flam-doozling way someone else might have (it was with work, after all), but bar-hopping and cooling my heels in the shade listening to the street hawkers and the wildly cacophonous competing music venues in the small space was certainly a unique experience. Plus, good company.

And oh yeah, I found plenty of good eats. I did my exploring online beforehand, as well as through friend networks. They all pointed to one place: Rendezvous.

The place was happily down-home, with random knickknacks, lots of tourists, and a we-don’t-take-no-guff attitude at the front desk. Only open for dinner (not lunch) during the week- that was odd. Their specialty was most certainly the “Dry-Rub Ribs,” but my coworker’s brisket was mighty tasty too.

The ribs were pretty addictive, and quite unique- it’s kind of like tasting a really salty food- all the crystals tingle in your mouth- but then you realize they contribute to a seasoned, earthy¬† flavor, not just salt. Who needs sauce, anyway?
It turns out the seasoning mix contains oregano (a main Greek spice) because the immigrant family that started the joint was from Greece! I love when food connects back to the travel theme…of course it always helps your food when it’s got history and whole-heartedness.
Another place I had to stop at was The Little Tea Shop- I mean, come on. Tea. Home cooking. This was a place I found by reputation online. Their most touted items were the vegetarian turnip/ collard greens and the corn sticks: “crispy on the outside yet flaky and buttery on the inside.”
The Little Tea Shop, in its position as a local institution/ legend, deigns to be open for lunch only. And its waitresses tend to be a little short (with their words, not their height), which I chalked up to cultural differences. Oh, and neither their cash register nor their credit card machine was working, so the woman at the front had her hands full trying to make change for people out of spare change she had in a PAPER BAG. It was wildly endearing, and made for a great story.

So, besides the barbeque (sort of) and Beale Street, what other sides are there to Memphis? Well, there are the fun new ‘cuisine-y’ type places popping up (Local Gastropub comes to mind as a place where we had great food, but slow service), and you’ve got your music history pathways to follow.
But my antennae went up as the cab driver from the airport said he knew how to direct us to “any number of diversions, from used bookstores to-“
“Hold up, did you say used bookstores?”
*Done.*

I found one or two downtown, and went on a bit of an adventure to Midtown, a short drive away from the downtown, and home to Memphis’ hipsters and dive monkeys, to find another one, pictured below. Heaven! (Loved the quirky aisle caps consisting of chairs with vintage typewriters)

And how could I forget the fried chicken! Gus’s Fried Chicken was very low-key, and although “Gus’s World Famous Hot & Spicy Chicken” is its full title, I didn’t find it spicy. And I’m a wimp, soooo… Gus’s didn’t have the kind of sustainable sourcing policy of the places I usually find on these trips, but the chicken was so tender and juicy, I went back twice!


Ohmigod, and just like in Omaha, TRY THE FRIED PICKLES. Gus’s were entire spears, and had a spicy crunchy coating- dee-lish.

Besides these neighborhood attractions, a group of the people in town for the meeting had a fun round of friends’ poker (no betting in the state) in the hotel lobby. It was EPIC.

Thanks for the memories, Memphis!

Will Run For This Soup

Full [seven] times hath Phoebus’ cart gone round
Neptune’s salt wash and Tellus’ orbed ground

…since last I wrote anything here. It has been BUSY!
Lentil Roasted Garlic Soup with Chard

Not necessarily with cooking and baking, but with writing and dreaming and planning (also good things). Oh, and running. Yes, there has been an awful lot of running around here lately, due to my winning the lottery of DC runners: Cherry Blossom Ten-Mile Race on April 1st. In the spirit of spontaneity, I put my name in for the race in December, and heard back a couple of weeks later that I had gotten “lucky,” and would have the rare opportunity to run 10 miles before most people had gotten out of bed on a Saturday morning. So I have been training, and the arm incident did not stop me for long.

As of this week, I’ve gotten up to 7.7 miles at a stretch, which took me 1 hour and 24 minutes. So, I’m getting close!

If I take a moment to reflect (tasting life in retrospection, as it were) on what voice inside me made me put my name on that list, I would say that running a race is a great example of setting a goal, devising a strategy, challenging yourself to meet your own expectations, and, I predict, feeling elated upon conquering what might have looked like an unconquerable mountain mere months before.

It’s good practice, is what I’m getting at, for launching other types of efforts.

Consider this your encouragement from me, and let me know if you’d like more!

Now I see why they’re called ‘aromatic vegetables’…

Since I’ve been paying more attention to my digestion and eating habits lately (advisable when you rise early and run before eating), I’ve decided to try to go as vegetarian as possible in these last few weeks leading up to the race. In that vein, I made this recipe from The Daily Soup Cookbook, which has been bookmarked with a sticky note for-ev-er:
Lentil Roasted Garlic Soup.
The ingredients and procedure are below, modified for my special scaling-down (some in the fridge, some in the freezer) and wasn’t-in-the-cupboard (only a puny amount of Puy lentils left, and didn’t want to mix them) techniques:

  • 1 whole head of garlic
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large white onion, chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 teaspoons 1 tsp dried rosemary
  • 2 1 Bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 pound 1/3 cup of french lentils
  • 8 cups 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 half of one 28-ounce can of whole tomatoes, drained and chopped
  • about 3/4 cup chopped chard
  • 3 Tablespoons 1 rough tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 Tablespoons 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1/4 Italian Parsley, chopped

Pre-heat your oven to 450 degree F. When it comes to temperature, loosely wrap the head of garlic in aluminum foil and place in oven for 15-20 minutes, allowing it to roast. Remove from the oven, and let cool long enough to skin the cloves, placing the cloves into a food processor. Pulse to a near-paste. Set aside.
Heat the olive oil in a stock pot. When nice and slithery, add the onions, celery and carrots. Allow the aromatic vegetables to cook in the pot for 5-7 minutes, adding a slick more oil if necessary. Add the rosemary, bay leaf, salt and pepper, incorporating them into the vegetables. Allow to cook for 2-3 more minutes.
Add the lentils, broth, tomatoes and tomato paste to the pot and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer, and partially cover with a lid. Allow to simmer for one hour.
After the hour, stir in the chopped chard, roasted garlic paste, the minced garlic and balsamic vinegar. Simmer for 5-7 more minutes in order to have the soup incorporate the new ingredients and wilt the greens.
Remove bay leaf and serve.
Serves 5-6.

Creative Endeavor Year

 What a delicious last couple of days.
Beet greens rescued from limpness, crisped up with bacon goodness

With New Year’s Eve on a Saturday and New Year’s Day on a Sunday this year, some may have groused about losing days off work, but I made the most of the celebrations not being smooshed into a few tired late-night hours, only to be confronted with the office coffeemaker the next morning. Ha!
I successfully kick-started my Creative Endeavor Year! I’ve stated lately what I’m interested in, and how differently I want to orient myself, so you maybe have an idea what I’m talking about. No? Ok, then I’ll go first with activities from the last few days, and then would you please chime in?
Lists. Yes, I made lists, in different places, on different-sized scraps of paper, and with overlapping topics. Maybe a little overzealous, but now I get to synthesize! Places I want to travel, places I might want to move, key areas of focus for my new work, my annual review, and goals. Totally exciting, right? Well it is for an introverted organizer.
Slowly Scrambled Eggs (you’re allowed to zone out while scrambling!)

Writing. Yep- as the new tagline indicates, I’m going to let writing take up a lot more space in my life this year. The focus will be on this blog, as I navigate the transition, and on the novel, which will give me a product and some experience in creative process (little out of practice).

Outdoors. A long run, several moderate-length walks in the cool air- clearing the clutter that tends to clump onto my brain if I spend too much time inside. You know what I mean: meant-to-do’s, errands, shoulda-coulda-woulda’s. Unless these get out and on a list, they just hover over my shoulder and make me unproductive or regretful. For me, moving at some speed outdoors tends to banish these thoughts. I return refreshed, like my brain had been through a permanent press and spin-cycle!
Apple, cinnamon-sugar, and perhaps a little butter was involved

Back-to-Basics. Return-to-Roots. (I like alliteration, OK?) On NYE, I made my first loaf of bread in the bread machine I received for Christmas, and have been finding ways to appreciate the simple white slice since then. Today, I tried out my first batch of plain yogurt in the new yogurt-maker, and await the results tomorrow morning. While there are a lot of blogging cooks out there who know how to combine many beautiful exotic ingredients for amazing dishes, I like to take the more minimalist approach. Because really, life is what you make of it. So if you don’t have pimenton de vera or spelt flour or fresh cilantro when the urge to create in the kitchen strikes, don’t fret. Take what you’ve got, and figure out how to honor that. In fact, I think that’ll be the philosophy for this Creative Endeavor Year.

Stale croissant, melted chocolate = uncomplicated souffle
I’ve been cooking pretty simply in the past month, both because of the desire for wintry comfort food and the need for something simply being enough. Call it an overworked metaphor if you like, but here are a few photos to inspire you to take a stab at this philosophy. Whatever you’ve got, honor that.

You may see several of the items listed in my Favorites List, which is no accident. What’s on your List?