I think it’s telling what people do when they’re nervous or anxious.
Some people over-eat. Some under-eat (at least that’s the rumour, I’ve never done it personally).
Some hit reality TV, or a good book, or booze.
Some find work to occupy their hands, like embroidery or knitting.
Me– well you, know. I cook and bake.
My hubby says that I almost never cook anything for less than a dozen people, but I don’t think that’s quite right.
I’d put it closer to 16 or 20.
These past few days with all the news coming out of Washington has left me feeling really unnerved.
So I hit the kitchen with a vengeance.
Luckily, I have lots of willing subjects.
Like the fifteen kids and a few lawyers who came to the house — Oliver’s Mock Trial group.
For them I started with my favorite Berry and Yogurt Muffins.
This time I added lots of orange juice and zest to the batter and glazed them with a Cara Cara-confectioner sugar glaze (just whisk in the sugar into the orange juice until desired sweetness/consistency is reached. Make a tiny bit or a lot!).
These are some tasty cakes– and supremely moist every time.
Also served: Bittersweet Chocolate Glazed Palmiers.
(No, I didn’t make the Palmiers but I bought really good ones and then dipped them in homemade ganache. They were a monster hit.)
I still had so much nervous energy so yesterday morning I sorted through my pantry and found a package of barley and decided to cook it up, not sure what I was going to do with it.
People who know me well are aware of how crazy I am for wordplay. I’m obsessed with any kind of word games (Scrabble, Jumble words, Words with Friends, anagrams, cryptograms, Boggle, you name it) and I often play with words in my head and challenge myself to see how many anagrams I can come up with (what else are you going to do in a long line after you’ve already checked Instagram and email?).
So I was looking at the package for this barley and it dawned on me that’s why I almost never reach for it– barley barely makes an impression on me (a rye lab might though).
(Should I stop? Is it making my pictures bleary?)
It lacks the panache of quinoa, the universality of rice and it’s on the complete different end of the preparation spectrum as couscous so i rarely go for it.
Not this time. I decided I was going to switch it up and try to make the most zippy barley salad I could, and it started with a Cilantro Tahini Dressing.
No, I don’t have a recipe but it couldn’t be more simple. Really.
Mix equal parts tahini, water and fresh lemon juice with a little minced garlic, and a pinch of cumin, salt and pepper. Put in a blender with fresh cilantro (I used the leaves from a small bunch) and blend until pureed. If you want it really thick, add a handful of chopped almonds in there and you’ll have a dressing that’s as thick as a pesto. Or skip the almonds — it’s just as good, just thinner. Adjust dressing to your liking, adding more salt, tahini or lemon if desired.
Cook your barley (mine I brought it to a boil and then reduced it to a simmer, and it was done in 45 minutes), and then see what you’ve got on hand that might be good with it.
Here’s what I added.
Sliced fennel, ripe avocado, endive, sliced red and yellow pepper and tomatoes.
After I took this picture I also found some English cucumbers so I diced them and added them in, too.
Throw all your vegetables in a bowl with the cooked barley and your Cilantro Tahini Sauce and toss. I realized that I also had a big container of really great looking salad greens (with spinach and radicchio) so I added that to the bowl as well.
This salad won’t be the prettiest thing you’ve ever eaten, but it’s hella good and it will feel like you just had one of those green smoothies — but it’s far more interesting with a lot more texture, too.
I liked it so much that when I saw that I had enough for at least 15 people I wrapped up the rest of it and hit the road with bowls of it.
I decided to surprise teachers at our school (past and present) with an unexpected lunch.
It was so enjoyable to catch the looks on teachers when confronted with a surprise homemade lunch; the timing was perfect as they were all finished with their last morning class and some were walking over to the market to buy something to eat.
My offering meant not only that they could taste something far healthier and more interesting than they’d probably be able to buy, skipping the checkout meant that they had more time to enjoy it, too.
I saved the last salad for a friend of mine who as it turns out was just heading back from the airport after a red-eye; I left her the salad (along with some other treats) on her doorstep.
I love this gal and was so happy that the timing worked out that she and her hubby could also enjoy a homemade meal after such a long trip back.
So that was my last few days.
I may not be the kind of person who is good at many things, many of which are vital right now. I have friends who are forming action groups, calling politicians, mentoring ESL students, gathering supplies for refugees, and so many things.
But I’m a good pretty sharer, and if all I can seem to muster is the energy to back up those who do important other things, then I’m okay with that– for now.
In the meantime, I just proved that I’m also a pretty good planner.
Like remembering to save the last wee little bit of Cilantro Tahini Dressing for this morning’s snack.
Toast, YOU never let me down.