Embedded Cooking

I am now coming to you live from someone else’s house. Someone else’s kitchen. Granted, this kitchen belongs to my dearest friend and this kitchen is everything I would like my kitchen to be: large, gas stove, dishwasher, plenty of cabinet space, a spice drawer, a knife drawer, and a (oh. my. gosh.) double oven. However, I am cooking and living in one place and sleeping in another. I am displaced and because of this displacement, I am full of unrest.I know that others have larger problems than mine. My downstairs neighbor’s place is completely flooded–completely unliveable. His furniture was ruined as was most of his other stuff. He asked his son if he could stay at his son’s house for the month it will take to remodel the apartment, and his son said no. So my neighbor is living in a hotel. At least I have friends and family to be here for me.

Being displaced is nothing new. I’m not experiencing something nobody’s ever experienced before. Take, for example, the ultimate displaced people: the Jews. They’ve been enslaved in a foreign land, wandered through wilderness, were enslaved again, enslaved, enslaved, dispersed, murdered, and woke up one day, after all this, back in the desert. Somehow, this group of people manages to preserve their cultural identity while being scattered throughout the world. At times with absolutely nothing, they’ve held strong to their identity.

How can I do less when I still have family, dear friends, and a place to stay that feels like my home?
Because I am cooking in a fabulous kitchen, I’ve decided to make the most of it. Tonight I made a vegetarian ragout and oatmeal cookies (taking full advantage of that (oh. my. gosh.) double oven).

Mushroom Ragout (adapted from Deborah Madison’s book):

  • olive oil
  • a bit of butter
  • onions and shallots, chopped into medium/small chunks
  • sugar
  • 1 large parsnip, finely diced
  • 5 medium carrots, finely diced
  • fresh parsley, chopped
  • dried sage (better with fresh, but I didn’t have any)
  • dried thyme
  • various mushrooms, sliced
  • garlic, minced
  • red wine about 1/3
  • 6 oz can tomato paste (dilute this in the wine)
  • 2 Tbs soy sauce

Heat butter and olive oil over med/high heat. Add onions. Stir to coat with oil then sprinkle sugar on them and let them sit, stirring occationally for about 10 minutes. Add the parsnips, carrots, and herbs and cook until onions are nicely carmelized (about another ten minutes). Take the vegetables out of the pan. Add olive oil, mushrooms, and garlic. Saute until mushrooms change colors (about 5 minutes). Add the vegetables, wine/tomato paste, and soy sauce. Simmer until mushrooms are soft. Don’t let it get too dry add water or stock if necessary.

Serve this over a baked spaghetti squash, couscous, or pasta. We did pasta and squash mixed because it was a small squash. Top it all with more chopped parsley.

Follow this with the world’s best cookies. Ever.

Oatmeal Cookies.

  • 1 1/4 c butter
  • 3/4 c firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 c granulated sugar 
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 1/2 c flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 3 cups slow cook oatmeal

Heat oven to 375 F. Beat together butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla. Combine dry goods and mix well. Stir in oats.

On an ungreased cookie sheet (I use baking spray though), bake 8-9 minutes for chewy cookies.
If you use an (oh. my. gosh.) double oven, you can do double batches of cookies.

As I bit into the first warm and chewy cookie, I felt a beginning of a celebration. Not a celebration of displacement, but a celebration of love, friends, and whole grain sweet things.

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