One of the best things about summer’s abundance is that it doesn’t take much to make an excellent meal. Thick slices of tomato with sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Corn on the cob, boiled for 7 minutes and then rolled in an herbed garlic butter. A ripe peach sliced and topped with a little whipped cream. Out of season, that tomato might look great, but it will lack the warmth of the summer sunshine. The corn won’t be as sweet. The peach won’t be exploding with rosy juices.
I volunteered at SELMA tonight, and when we broke for our shared dinner, I was reminded of this beautiful simplicity. I brought roasted eggplant, squash, tomatoes, and a fair shake of salt and pepper – which was served alongside a caprese salad, vegetarian calzones filled with ratatouille, Rex‘s tomato jam and pickled green beans, and Olivia‘s honey peach ice cream. After a couple of hours of stemming greens, scrubbing beets, whisking roux, and washing dishes, I was happy with a little bit of everything, and went home tired, full, and happy.
plus lots of other mucking about, digging, holding, and securing while participating in the Spirit of Hope hoophouse build in Detroit. What you don’t get from these pictures, though, is an accurate portrayal of the weather. It was cold. It was windy. It rained a lot. It also hailed. And then occasionally the sun would peek out and give us all hope. It was a physically challenging day, but the net result will be an extended growing season for the community garden allied with the kind folks at Spirit of Hope.
After delivering my carpoolers home, I went straight for the tub with a glass of bourbon, both very necessary to soothe and warm my sore muscles. So you can see how getting dinner on the table, much less a home-cooked dinner, much less one that had to be rolled out, was kind of a miracle.
The second miracle? How fantastic these pizzas tasted!
I had picked up a frozen ball of pizza dough at Plum earlier in the week, so tonight I split it in half, rolled it out, and pre-baked it at 450 for about 10 minutes. I was surprised by how much the dough puffed up – we tend to like a thinner crust, but no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t get it any thinner than this. Add the toppings, toss the pizza back in the oven for a few minutes, and dinner was on the table.
Shane fancied his up with balsamic crema and olive oil, while I didn’t even wait to sit down to start eating. So good! I’ve decided that we need to keep pizza dough in the freezer at all times if it means that a dinner like this can be made in a pinch.
I don’t really know why we haven’t been cooking much this week, apart from the fact that we were gone on Tuesday. Maybe it’s the nice weather and trying to exercise after work? Maybe I’m just not feeling inspired by the recipes we picked while feeling simultaneously overwhelmed by the weekend’s leftovers? I don’t really know.
Tonight I prepped at SELMA, while Shane stayed home to exercise and chill out. As it turned out, he made dinner – a simple pasta with sauteed onions, garlic, and tuna – while I picked up fast food on the way home. I had planned to have dinner at SELMA, but the combined forces of wanting to get home early and also feeling woozy conspired against my desire to eat the souffle that Lisa and young Charles were working on when I left.
We’re going to visit friends and family in Cleveland for the weekend, so I think I’m going to give myself a pass on updating unless we eat something really excellent.
Between the holidays, starting a new job, and the fact that it’s damned difficult to get out of bed in the mornings, we managed to go four months without having breakfast at SELMA. This week, however, we felt the first hint of spring in the air, and the combination of sunshine and the promise of crepes proved enough to get us out the door and into Jeff and Lisa’s warm kitchen, where John Roos and his wife were serving up breakfast. Well, that and the fact that we were out of coffee.
I couldn’t have been happier with my breakfast – a buckwheat crêpe complète with local ham, soft cheese, and a barely fried egg, just the way I like it. Shane had a gorgeous pile of scrambled eggs, homemade biscuits, and hippie gravy. I’m not sure how hippie gravy varies from regular gravy other than the lack of meat, but it sure was tasty. We both filled up our mugs with Roos Roast, and left with plenty of time to make it to work AND for Shane to find a parking spot on a beautiful end-of-winter morning. So good, you guys. Let’s not wait another four months before breakfasting at SELMA.
Whew, where did the fall go? I can’t believe that Thanksgiving is a week from today, and Christmas not far behind. After a blur of visitors last month, things have quieted down a bit, except that now I’m working 2 part time jobs that eat into my days, nights, and weekends. We haven’t managed to do much of anything except work, eat good food, knit (me), work out in the basement (Shane), take naps (me), brew beer (Shane), and watch a lot of Fringe for the last two weeks.
But hoo-boy, we have been eating well. I love fall food as it transitions from the wonderful fresh stuff from the summer into the heartier meals for long, cold winter nights. I’ve been making our friendly butcher at Plum Market work for his money, asking lots of questions about the provenance of the meats (Niman Ranch and Bell and Evans farms – not local but quite reputable) and having things prepped for me to save time at home. Hey, it’s what they’re there for, right? We’d like to transition to buying more local meats, but in the interim, it’s really great to have knowledgeable and helpful butchers about .5 miles from our house!
A sample menu from this week:
Sunday: Balsamic Pork with Shallots, served with Al Dente mushroom fettuccine ($2 at work!)
Monday: Pollo alla Cacciatora
Tuesday: leftovers of the above, served with polenta and Zingerman’s parmesan pepper bread
Wednesday: Pasta e Fagioli soup, served with Zingerman’s parmesan pepper bread
Thursday: family-style dinner at SELMA – we’re bringing an apple cake and Shane’s hard cider
Friday: By the end of the week, I usually want to fall over, and we’ve usually run down the fridge and need to go grocery shopping, so we tend to go out and/or get food from the Plum Market salad/hot bar
Saturday: Braised Chicken Legs with Cider, Apples and Mustard
And in case you’re wondering, we’re sticking to a grocery budget of $100 or less per week, including alcohol. I’d like for it to be even less, but since we’re spending next to nothing on going out and/or entertainment expenses, this budget seems just fine.
We’ve been here a month, and some folks are wondering what sorts of shenanigans we’ve been up to. I’ll summarize in brief, and maybe be more vigilant about posting in the future.
Work: Shane started his job on Aug. 31 and seems to like it so far. He’s going to a lot of meetings, taking a couple of fitness classes through UM, and getting burgers on Thursday with a regular crew from the office. UM seems to be treating him well, which is a very good thing! Shortly after starting, we discovered that I can be covered on his insurance as his Other Qualifying Adult, which is pretty awesome indeed – especially because I’m in my 6th week of being unemployed.
Job Hunt: I have applied for what feels like a bajillion jobs since leaving GW, interviewed for two, and been turned down for one (minimum wage = wah). I am persevering, though, and am hopeful that something will come up soon. Having just one income has meant a lot of conversations about money, long-term plans, etc – big and sometimes scary stuff to deal with. I am incredibly thankful for Shane’s good job and for his support. Being unemployed has also meant a lot of time to spend on things like sewing, running, and volunteering, all of which I’ll write more about later.
Wedding: we were due to get married on Oct. 10, but as previously mentioned, those plans were suspended when we decided to move here. Now we’re talking about a spring wedding, maybe in Cleveland, maybe involving a lot of mimosas. Stay tuned for more info!
Cats: Basil has been barfing up a storm for the last couple of days, but after a trip to the very affordable vet (no seriously – 59 bones covered the office visit and two kinds of meds), I think it might be under control. The cats seem to be digging the new place and spend a lot of time stalking the squirrel that torments them by hanging out in the tree by our front window.
Domesticity: We’ve been homebodies a lot this month because we’re trying to save money – but eating well because I’m a good little housewife. Lots of roast chicken, homemade bread, soups, stuff like that. The sudden turn in the weather means that there will be more of the same to stick to our bones in the coming months.
Adventures: When we do get out and about, though, it’s to do inexpensive and tasty things like:
- splitting sandwiches at Zingerman’s – tonight we had the Rocco’s Revenge, the sandwich of the month for September
- blueberry picking in Dexter – we picked a couple of pounds for a grand total of $4 (including a soda)
- beers at Arbor Brewing Company – not the best brewpub or beer by any means, but it does the trick
- breakfast at FM@SELMA – I’ve been volunteering here since we first landed in town, but last week was the first week we made it to breakfast – amazing pork shoulder with pepper sauce, cornbread, and fried eggs. Mmmm.
- volunteer at the Homegrown Festival – we helped with set up, then poured for Arcadia, drinking a lot of free beer and eating excellent food along the way
Shane also went on a pretty epic beer tour spanning four states with Mike and Bill, but I’ll let him tell you about that later. He’s off to San Francisco on Saturday – I’ll be holding down the fort with Mina and barfcat and enjoying a visit from my sister and her husband for a few days. What have YOU been up to?