Warm Spaghetti Squash-ta Salad with Beurre Meunière, Tomatoes, and Feta

I have forgiven myself. I exhaled once, I am at peace.

Beurre Meunière is the kind of term reserved for a classical preparation. Though its origins are peasantry, it requires some level of technicality and execution. I say this, because I have seen burnt butter before.

[which is also delicious in certain circumstances, of course, but not suitable for Beurre Meunière]

Similarly, I am sure there are Frenchmen rolling over in brown buttered graves at my application of their beloved methodology here. To be fair, my introduction to the flavor of Beurre Meunière was backward, anyway. Most combine browned butter, lemon, parsley and/or thyme (and also sometimes capers), to form a sauce for fish. See Rachel Khoo do so here.

The fish is first dredged in flour. Hence, “à la meunière.” By the miller’s wife. Because flour was available in the home.

Gendered statements and heteronormativity, whew! I’m tired.

Meanwhile, I found Beurre Meunière like Colonel Mustard once probably murdered a person. At Trader Joe’s, being avoidant, with a bag of popcorn.

Given that I started on such an untraditional note-and also, I am me-I gave in to my compulsion to reinterpretation here. Cayenne speckles the golden milk solids in the browning butter. We mix parsley, thyme, and oregano for our herbs. We substitute Castelvetrano Olives for capers in the name of Brine. All of it coats yellow tangles of warm spaghetti squash and grilled chicken. We serve it with juicy bursts of freshly diced tomato and salty bites of crumbled feta. Hummus, optional.

Tradition is a thing, but–

Doing as others told me, I was blind. Coming when others called me, I was lost. Then I left everyone, myself as well. Then I found everyone, myself as well. -Rumi

I’ve heard that well-behaved women seldom make history, anyway. Time to swirl a fork in a mess of squash. Warmth and texture. Cool bursts of juice and feta salt. Inhale sweet and nutty. Exhale cares.

You do you. Picked and chosen, tangled and crumbled, hot and cold, spiced and herbal, queer and colorful, soothing and delicious.

Clementine Snack Cake with Chocolate Glaze [gluten free]

Aren’t Clementines supposed to be out of season? My whole life, I have spent Christmases peeling plump wreaths of sweet orange-ness. It is now the end of March, and I feel like a chipmunk-cheeked, cake-baking and -eating fraud.

Wikipedia tells me that the ones I used to make this cake were birthed on the cusp of the season. Spongey, aromatic cake robed in chocolate silk–what a way to go out with a bang.

I didn’t enjoy every minute of making this cake, however. In fact, I almost quit. Yikes, this is starting to sound like whenever I exercise. Or do laundry.

I experience displeasure, I think, because the end doesn’t necessarily seem linear. In fact, the path we take to get there impresses with indirection. Even if those are, at times, the best kind of paths. Shhh.

To begin to make Clementine Cake, for example, one must first boil clementines. For hours. This is not an initiation prank. [Admittedly, I did laundry over the course of this portion of the recipe, which might explain any and all displacement of negative emotion.]

The air was warm orange juice, and the next step: squashing the boiled rounds to remove any seedlings. Then, puree. Peel, pith, fruit. All of it is ground to coral mush. It doesn’t make sense.

We whisk in too many eggs and almond meal. Pour into a well-greased square, and await the poofs of citrus air from the oven. At some point between the delicate rise of the batter with heat and the oozy gloss of chocolate glaze, it pieces together.

Sometimes, timing is irrelevant. The point is where you are now. The getting there got you here. And it wasn’t so bad, now that you’ve arrived (looking back).

In fact, there is unseasonably clementine-d cake waiting for you, if you have a couple hours. Free of gluten. Softer than the lips of someone you’d like to love. Cocoa robes. Raw honey sheen. Cubes of chocolate-draped, citric fluff.

Who says it’s boring to be square.

Cardamom, Blueberry, and Rosewater Layer Cake

This cake was supposed to have tahini in it. Tahini, rosewater, cardamom, and blueberries. Sounds like the makings of an intriguing type of halva. Doesn’t it.

I had it all. Softened butter. Yolks separated from whites. Ground cardamom. Rosewater. Thick, fatty, smooth tahini, and a cup for measuring. When it came time to include that last ingredient, I simply chose to refrain. I suppose what stands before you is representative of the fact that things do not always go as we intend them to.

It reminds me a bit of my life when I befriended the person for whom I baked this cake. She doesn’t know it. The bird you see in the pictures is now where it belongs: with her.

We knew each other years ago. I can remember the day we met for the second time. It was just after Bowie died. I came straight from practicing Ashtanga. I wore the same black dress every day. I brought a square of yellow cake with chocolate buttercream. We later baked the recipe again-in circle form, with sprinkles-to celebrate my 27th birthday.

That day, though, Minneapolis was as cold as ever. I don’t know why I went, honestly. I had just moved back to this city I had once called home. The in-between time. So much had been taken. My heart hurt.

I felt a horrible blast of frozen air when the door opened. I saw her silhouette first. I got out of line. She laughed, and I let her hug me. That was a thing I wasn’t doing then. People-hugging.

I remember the toilet paper selection in the bathrooms at Five Watt. I remember what we talked about. I remember the sweater she was wearing, which she both lost and found months later. I remember her hand resting on my shoulder when I gave a teeny glimpse into the weeks prior. I remember wondering if I’d see her again when I left.

To the person I am thinking of: Mitch Hedburg once said, I wanted to buy a candle holder, but the store didn’t have one. So I got a cake. You are the cake the universe delivered to me when I needed a candle holder. You arrived in a form I didn’t anticipate at a time when nothing was as I had planned, and I am lucky for it.

Your laugh is contagious. Your compassion is heartfelt. Your honesty invites honesty. You inspire me. You are the best friend. You are loved.

The Spring Playlist 2017

I keep thinking about this artist I heard about who took a Polaroid a day for 18 years. He died of cancer in 1997.

People write in now with events in their own lives that occurred on the dates of the pictures. This is what it looked like someplace on the day I was born.

All it took was 9+ months of gestation and a little fried chicken. I was all, It’s been real.

Speaking of goodbyes: this winter did not feel so cold as others. Did it?

Nearing the end of our time of hibernation, a great writer left us. To honor Derek Walcott’s passing:


The time will come
when, with elation,
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,

and say, sit. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

My shirt there says, “All things are delicately interconnected.” Like vines and leaves. May the next quarter bring good tidings, friends.

Adobo Shepherd’s Pie with Andouille Sausage

Adobo Shepherd's Pie with Andouille Sausage // Queen Smithereen.
A definition. Luck.

* to prosper or succeed especially through chance or good fortune
* to come upon something desirable by chance
* a force that brings good fortune or adversity
* the events or circumstances that operate for or against an individual
* something that happens to a person by or as if by chance
* the accidental way things happen
Adobo Shepherd's Pie with Andouille Sausage // Queen Smithereen.
It can be the force, or it can be the fortune. So.

Is it good? Isn’t it? Is it subjective? Who decided? Does it depend? Is it happenstance? Is it in hindsight? Is it in comparison? Is it in spite of? What caused it? Is it circumstantial? Why now? Does it last? Is it forgotten? Does it change? Who decides?
Adobo Shepherd's Pie with Andouille Sausage // Queen Smithereen.
In light of recent developments in my life, I have been contemplating about this a lot. Luck can run either way, can’t it? Sometimes, I think, out of humility, we discredit our contribution to fortunate events. Sometimes, I think, out of vanity, we give credit where credit is not due. Sometimes, I think, a good thing happening can make you wonder what the other stuff was for.

Someone observed to me recently that the universe seems cruel sometimes because it is indifferent. But it doesn’t always seem cruel, does it? I suppose everything happens as it should, either way.
Adobo Shepherd's Pie with Andouille Sausage // Queen Smithereen.
We have stewed root vegetables and andouille sausage in a sticky, sweet adobo-based sauce. Yukon Gold potatoes are smashed and tinted red. Scallion speckles. Chipotle swirl. It browns in the oven. We serve it warm, with sauce spilling beyond its confines. It is everything at once, overflowing with heat and smoke and depth and deliciousness.
Adobo Shepherd's Pie with Andouille Sausage // Queen Smithereen.
With mitted hands, we transport the dish from its hearth. The air is savory and sweet. The mixture underneath still bubbles. Take note, for a moment, the glint of light. It is comfort, and it is simple. Unassuming, even. But luck is how you look, remember.

Savor for a moment that what rests on your table is wreathed in Gold(s).

Happy St. Patrick’s Day. Take care of yourselves. Drink responsibly. Ask for help getting home, if you need it. Good luck with the hangover.

Crockpot Chicken Noodle Soup

I can’t get the smell of this soup out of my crockpot. I don’t mean to dissuade you from making my recipe. It’s just that, whenever I open the cupboard where my crockpot is, I can still smell gusts of sage-y, savory air. It isn’t the worst.

If I reach for a tupperware container, or a towel, or a plastic bag, I am greeted with this soup I made for the sake of having options. Wafting, like the memory of salt above crashing waves.

Each time, I feel a bit like Elvis when it happened at the World’s Fair. Doing normal, mundane things just to be reminded of this thing that’s gone.

I once told someone I assumed I’d never see again that I liked that film. I bumped into him months later, and he had figured out a way to watch it. He informed me that he did not enjoy it.

Actually, thinking about it, I have to say: it took me quite a while to even remember that fellow’s name. Mitch, I think?

I don’t know, the whole thing is still pretty comical to me. I can’t think of this film ft. a song ft. reminders without being reminded. Mitch, you were a marker. (But, have you NO TASTE?)

I diverge. Here’s a better meet cute: a gal idles in her studio apartment, placing chicken and carrots and celery and some sage leaves tied with string into the shadowed nave of a slow-cooker. She sprinkles green dots of scallions on top. She squeezes the guts of two lemons.

Over the next two hours, its aroma permeates the hallway of the complex. In those hundred-twenty minutes, she decides to make Choice her word; when ready to serve, the soup is ladled-each time-over whichever noodles are preferred (egg, spaghetti, elbow, or squash).

Like the scent of flowers, the sky of blue, those tender love songs–the memory of such a thing could last a long while. Swoon.

Cacio e Pepe Frico Grilled Cheese

Cacio e Pepe Frico Grilled Cheese // Queen Smithereen.
Cacio e Pepe is a bit like Roman Mac and Cheese, except both simpler and more complex. Whereas we normally make a roux or add egg yolks and a cheesy spectrum of creams and oranges, Cacio is a barren ingredient wasteland. Sheep’s milk cheese, ground black pepper, pasta.

At this point, you might be wondering where the sauce comes from.
Cacio e Pepe Grilled Cheese // Queen Smithereen.
Something happens when spaghetti cooks in water. Starches release. Those starches thicken sauces, and even make them, if given the chance. Cue: complexity. It is so simple, it doesn’t make sense.
Cacio e Pepe Frico Grilled Cheese // Queen Smithereen.
You know the rules. When in Rome, do as the Nonsensical do: crave, complicate, and reinterpret simple intricacy. I sprinkled black peppery cheese on melting butter. I cooked a sandwich on top of it as it frico-ed.

[Both sides.]
Cacio e Pepe Frico Grilled Cheese // Queen Smithereen.
Ooze and crunch and superglue stretch. Om. Nom. Chew. Chomp.
Cacio e Pepe Frico Grilled Cheese // Queen Smithereen.
Munch. Pen:

Comfort Food

we were not the strand of pasta between
dog mouths, we were not

lit up like untangled knots of lights

strings strung in tight corners and wrapped
around bits and bobs
a garbling, muddled

spaghetti too big it hurts to open
that wide / each time

even after

Gulp. Good night, Moon.