Friday, May 29, 2009

yes, I'm still here

I know, it's been a while. The last two weeks are a bit of a blur, frankly. The end of the school year and beginning of summer always are. There are things to finish up, new things to start, and--always--an overwhelming desire to sleep. Oh, and basketball playoffs, which seem to be keeping me up past my bedtime every night. Sometimes I think the best thing about living on the west coast was that there were never late games. Then I remember all the other good things--the jacaranda trees, the excellent Mexican food, the weather--and I realize that a) I probably didn't care that much about the games then and b) they often started so early I missed them (out enjoying the weather and the jacarandas, you know). Ah, well.

But I digress. Which is really what summer's all about: digression. I am digressing right now from a conference paper I'm writing (having hit page 7 with ten days to go before I deliver it, I'm feeling ok about that); from some end-of-year report writing; and from some planning. Book orders for fall were due some time ago, for example.

So this is all just a placeholder to say, as I do every year: what happened to May?

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Strawberry Panzanella

I first read about strawberry panzanella on the blog 101 Cookbooks. It was one of her spring recipes, and it turned up just in time for us to test it out as an Easter dessert. It was a particularly good choice, as it's easily veganized, and easy to make ahead. Actually, it's just easy all around.

Of course I couldn't just make the recipe as given. First of all, the amounts seemed slightly off--surely you'd want more berries for that much bread? And, really, do you need to cut them into matchsticks? I've made it twice since that Easter dinner (actually, I've made it twice in one week) and I think I've got the definitive recipe now. Though actually one of the nice things about panzanella is that you don't need a definitive recipe--it's more like a method, a way of using things up and making them taste good, that is successful precisely because it's not precise.

Still, I know some people like precision. I like it myself. So here is, almost precisely, how I've been making strawberry panzanella. (I was going to wait to post this until I had a picture, but really, the one over on the original site is quite lovely. So go look at that, then make this. Or something like it.)

For dessert for 3-4, you will need:

about half a baguette, preferably a day or two past its prime (my baguette was 13 oz originally, if that matters to you), cut or torn into bite-sized chunks
1/4 cup brown sugar (I scanted this a bit, and the butter as well)
1/4 cup butter or olive oil
maybe a pinch of salt if your butter's not salted (optional)
1 quart strawberries
some Greek yogurt, sour cream, or nothing at all

Preheat oven to 400F

Melt the butter (if using) and stir together with brown sugar, or stir together brown sugar and olive oil. Add a pinch of salt if you like. (I did twice, and not the third time, and couldn't tell the difference.)

Toss bread chunks in butter/sugar mixture--use a large bowl for this, or just do it by hand on a jelly roll pan (you'll need it anyway in a minute)

Spread the buttery, sugary bread out on the jelly roll pan and toast for 10-15 minutes, turning/stirring after every five minutes, until the bread is crispy and slightly caramelized in places. Don't worry that some of the bread didn't get buttered/sugared; it will all be good, I promise.

Meanwhile, wash and slice up the berries however you like: halves, quarters, chunks, whatever works for you. Using a potato masher, mash about half of them in a large bowl. Maybe a little more than half. If the berries are slightly underripe, you could throw a tablespoon or two of extra brown sugar in here--I won't tell.

Toss the bread in with the mashed berries, trying to get the bread thoroughly soaked in berry juice. Toss in the not-mashed berries. Let the whole thing stand while you get the rest of dinner together, stirring occasionally to mix things up again. Steal a bread chunk or two while you're at it and marvel at its simple deliciousness.

Serve with Greek yogurt or sour cream dolloped on top, or don't, as you choose.

This is obviously best the day it's made, as the bread does tend to get a bit soggy the next day. Still, we happened to have some leftovers the last time and I was amazed at how tasty it still was, soggy bread and all.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

A Narrative Compass

In graduate school my friends and I occasionally amused ourselves by imagining what our dissertation topics said about us. Female violence? Prostitution and “fallenness”? Sibling incest? They may have been safely “literary” topics, but what did it say about us that we had spent so much time on these topics rather than, say, gardens?

read the rest here...

(A review of A Narrative Compass: The Stories That Guide Women's Lives, ed. Betsy Hearne and Roberta Seelinger Trites, and my favorite new book...)