Wednesday, September 28, 2011

An Ode to Kale

(The writing antics continue, nothing new to report, so instead I will wax lyrical about plants in the aftermath of a delicious lunch.)

I grew up in the rural Midwest with parents who love to garden. Peas, carrots, corn, tomatoes--I ate a lot of vegetables, but not a wide variety of vegetables. Other Midwesterners probably get me on this one, am I right? The region is not known for its exotic horticulture. A few years ago my sister-in-law left me a message saying that her co-worker had given her six eggplants and she needed recipes. I later learned that what she had actually received were six acorn squash. (Love you, C!)

Moving around broadened my vegetable horizons, and I had become acquainted with the eggplant via an Italian friend in Munich. I was instantly smitten with its creamy texture and unique flavor (when cooked right--when cooked wrong it tastes like plastic). During our early courtship, my now-husband once called his mother in Istanbul to get her recipe for Turkish fried eggplant salad to make for me because I was sick. And then I decided to marry him. The Turkish word for eggplant is patlıcan, which I think is kind of cute. Looks like pelican. But it's pronounced pot-luh-john. Sorry, this is getting random.

These days, my eggplant obsession has given way to a new favorite vegetable, kale. Some of you may be acquainted with curly-leaf kale as "that green cabbage that they use to decorate the edges of the salad bar." But like the shy girl in the corner of the dance hall, kale can be so much more. When properly wilted (rub it with salt), kale makes a delicious salad. Tossed with olive oil and salt, kale can be roasted in the oven for 20 minutes where it takes on an addictive crispiness not unlike a potato chip. Or saute it, and mix it with hot brown rice, beans and a vinegary romesco sauce for heaven in a bowl. With more substance than spinach, and less crunch than cabbage, there's nothing I'd rather eat these days than a heaping pile of kale.

Kale. It's not just for garnish anymore.

Disclaimer: This post was not written by a vegetarian. I like my bacon crispy and my steak bloody.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Some thanks, and a plan

On this cloudy Thursday, I'd like to thank Caitlin from All About Growing Up and Becoming a Famous Author for selecting me to receive the Versatile Blogger and Irresistibly Sweet Blogger awards. Thanks, Caitlin! You should go check out her blog--she does these awesome Cookbook Thursdays, and today's recipe is for sweet potato soup...mmm. And this reminds me that I forgot to thank Lori from On Writing and (sometimes) Publishing for giving me the Liebster Award last month. Thanks Lori, sorry I'm such a spacer! Lori posts delicious recipes on her blog too, including this one for fresh orange cake from the same post where she gave me the award. Haven't tried it yet but it looks tasty. Hmm, writing and recipe blogs combined...I think you girls are onto something!

All around me, these days, it seems like many of the talented writers I know are finishing up their books and making concrete plans to get them into the hands of prospective agents. I'm so excited for them, even strangely proud of them now that I know how much hard work and courage this all takes. I'm cheering them on from the sidelines, but looking forward to joining their ranks (hopefully) soon. I've been able to get back into the groove of things pretty well this week and have put two newly revised chapters into the hands of my critique partner. In addition, a meeting with my other critique group on Tuesday where I got some confidence-bolstering praise (and more revisions, always more revisions) was like a shot of creative adrenaline, and we're back on schedule to start meeting every other week again rather than once a month like we did in the summer.

From the looks of things, I'd say I've got about seven more chapters to rewrite until I'm finished, and then another round of polishing/pulling threads. Could the end be in sight? I'd like to set a schedule, but lately those haven't been working as well for me, so I've set a goal for when I want to be finished, by the end of October. So people, if you see me writing posts next month about carving pumpkins and baking ghost cookies, feel free to harass me about my impending deadline.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Blissfully Home

My traveling stint is finally over and I am back in my Venice home, so happy to be here that I could scream. The cat is screaming with joy too--he's barely left my lap since I got back. My skin is still buzzing with jetlag and I'm having some crazy, crazy dreams--I give it a good week before I'm not falling asleep at nine every night.

It took us a total of thirty hours to make it to Dubrovnik, and when our driver picked us up at the airport, all we could think about was sleep. But we were in town for a wedding the next day, and all our friends were waiting for us at a restaurant where they'd just had dinner. So we said Hey what's a few more hours and stayed out with them until 2 in the morning, and to be honest, seeing all their faces after so many years totally gave me my tenth wind.

The wedding was beautiful, and my husband and I got the added excitement having the suitcase with our dressy clothes get lost at Dulles. It arrived at our pension a scant hour before the wedding. We ate ourselves silly at the reception, went to a disco on the beach with the newlyweds, and stayed up until sunrise to celebrate. Actually we stayed up until about three or four every morning, just sitting around and sharing stories over cold bottles of Ožujsko. Talk about needing a vacation from your vacation.

On the way home, my husband and I stopped in Munich for a few days to hang out in our favorite city and spend a little more time with some friends. We were unbelievably lucky with the weather and got to spend time in the sun at the Seehaus, a beer garden on the lake in the English Garden. We also made it to the Oktoberfest, though fortunately for only a few hours, because a few hours of Oktoberfest is entirely enough. If you don't like crowds, then Oktoberfest is not for you.

Now I'm home at last, and so very excited for what I hope will be a long and productive fall. I want to cook more healthy meals, do more yoga, finish this freaking book. I took lots of notes on the plane and I think all I need is one good push. And finally, finally, I will able to make the time for it. How's your writing going? About to finish a project? Starting something new? What are your goals for the fall?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

A message on behalf of the Croatian ministry of tourism

The quality is not great--these shots were taken with my cell phone. It took us thirty hours total to get here, but the return on this time investment has been fantastic:

The Adriatic as seen from our resort
The old walled city of Dubrovnik is totally shabby chic
Streets so clean they sparkle
The church where our friends were married. Happy day!
What is it? Swordfish carpaccio, anchovies, fish pate and octopus salad.

I think I've eaten my body weight in octopus. Lovely, clean, friendly country! Tomorrow we head back west, with a stop in Munich, but for now my Kindle and I are going to the beach.