Sunday, July 28, 2013

Tomato Time!!

Our tomatoes are finally ripening and they're HUGE!! Check out this (almost) one and half pound Mr. Stripey. Pass me the mayo and salt, I think it's SANDWICH EATIN' TIME!!

Saturday, July 27, 2013

I did it! I cooked*! Well, almost...

My panzanella was a success! Even more rewarding (for me) was that I didn't need to follow a recipe exactly; instead I read three and combined by favorite parts of each. I even diced up all the ingredients on my own! (Yes - I do realize this could be the accomplishment of a motivated 10 year old - but cut me some slack. I wasn't remotely interested in real food or cooking until after I turned 30.) 

My panzanella is combination of Ali Benjamin, Alton Brown and the pin I found online. Two called for bacon, one did not. Two called for stale bread, one called for toasting. One added chili peppers, two did not. None of them suggesting adding dijon mustard to the dressing; I figured that out on my own. 

This is what I did:
• Cubed two cups of baguette then spread them on a pan, drizzled them with olive oil and put them into the oven for 10 minutes until hard/crispy.
• While the bread was in the oven I: diced one shallot, put it into a cup of red wine vinegar, added a spot of dijon mustard and whisked. Next I cubed two avocados, a cucumber, a variety of tomatoes and combined them all in bowl. For a little heat I added half of one jalapeno. 
• When the bread came out of the oven it moved it to a Pyrex bowl to cool. Next I heated up the cast iron skillet that still contained bacon fat from our morning's breakfast. Once the bacon fat was hot I spooned out three tablespoons and drizzled them over the bread and tossed. 
• To the bread bowl I added the tomato mix and an appropriate amount of dressing. I mixed it all up with my hands and then put one and half handfuls into each dinner bowl. The only thing I would do differently next time is not mix in the avocado because it made the dish look green and mushy. Instead, I would add the avocado at the end as a garnish. 

It was so delicious!! And perfectly summer. I hope you try it yourself!
XO -
Cullen (the one who obviously doesn't create the beautiful meals you see on this blog). 

*According to Oliver "adding heat" is a core part of cooking. Everything else is just "combining ingredients". But I'm okay with that. Baby steps!

Sunday, July 21, 2013


Seeking an in-season, mid-summer dinner idea I turned to Pinterest. Panzanella caught my eye. While I don't think I've ever had it before, it seems to be a chunky version of gazpacho and I love gazpacho. Tomatoes, cucumber, chunks of bread, extra virgin olive oil and vinegar.

Not enough of our tomatoes are ready to be picked so we biked down to the Grant Park Farmer's Market to see what we could find there. A colorful pint of mixed cherry and heirloom tomatoes caught my eye. On our way out of the market we ran into our friends Laura and AJ; they mentioned that Laura's sister-in-law (Ali Benjamin of the blog and book  Cleaner Plate Clubhas a great Panzanella recipe. As soon as I got home I pulled the book from my shelf and flipped to the tomato chapter. Her recipe calls for toasting the bread in the oven - which sounds more appealing then the recipe I had which calls for leaving the bread out overnight. AND it means we can try this sooner then later! 

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Combustible Summer

Some summers are generic - borderline forgettable. Five years down the road you can't remember one from the other. This isn't one of those summers. 2013 is combustible.

I can't put my finger on what came first; I can't put it all in order. We're only half way through this season and it's already a fiery blur. The supreme court's landmark decisions, the bombs in Boston and the surprising verdict in Trayvon Martin's case have  been punctuated by the most constant steam of extreme weather Atlanta has endured in my lifetime. At this point, to say "emotions are running high" would be an insulting cliche. 

On Facebook I avoid drama. I block feeds from friends whose opinions upset me. When offered the bait of extremes I look away. Even in my studio, where I've worked for over four years, I make an effort to stop politically charged conversations before they start.

Dear reader - do you know I'm liberal? Can you tell from my lifestyle? Does it matter to you? If so, do I care that it matters to you? Is it something I try to hide? Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, Socialist, Communist - all of them aside - this is what I want you to know I stand for: EQUALITY. 

I stand for equality.  In the last decade I've had the conversation over and over again but in innumerable contexts. 

Moving back to the South (after undergrad in Rhode Island) I was shaken by the belles and gents who vehemently did NOT identify as "feminist". To hear these people tell it, feminists were to men as white supremacists were to minorities. That premise is so far off base it became confusing; were these people joking? Had they not heard ANY of Steinem's message? Feminism is (quite simply) the complete social and economic equality between men and women. If you have a problem with that - please stop reading my blog.

This argument of equality resurges in every social and economic opportunity: rich vs poor, minority vs white, gay vs straight, those with health insurance vs those without, obese vs healthy, immigrant vs citizen, Florida vs the continental United States. IT DOES NOT END. 

And because it does not end I have chosen to remove myself from the Facebook conversation because I want to continue to respect everyone's right to their own opinion. Until today - when I remembered I don't have to fight on Facebook. I can publish my personal opinion here.

Tonight the rush hour storm was worse then normal. The apocalyptic lightening flashed around me so nonstop that it became surreally beautiful while simultaneously terrifying. I even drove through a flooded tunnel (that I still think was probably a really bad idea). But after the storm - it was gorgeous. The clouds, the sunset, the breeze, the illuminated skyline of Atlanta. I hope I can I always hold on those mental images. In that moment of pure beauty Macklemore's new song "I can't change" came on the radio. 

I was paying attention to the lyrics; feeling thankful that this pop station summer hit so thoroughly represents how I feel when something occurred to me. It hit me that while this song represents how I feel most of the people I want to hear it - never will. Those people being my deaf lesbian sister-in-law and my baby boomer parents (who don't listen to pop radio stations).

So many very important people in my life are same-sex oriented. I want all of them to know: I accept and support you just the way you are. Your lifestyle is no big deal to me. I'm sorry for the difficulties our society is imposing on you. Your daily bravery impresses me. And to that end, the lyrics to Macklemore's "I can't change".

When I was in the third grade I thought that I was gay,
'Cause I could draw, my uncle was, and I kept my room straight.
I told my mom, tears rushing down my face
She's like "Ben you've loved girls since before pre-k, trippin' "
Yeah, I guess she had a point, didn't she?
Bunch of stereotypes all in my head.
I remember doing the math like, "Yeah, I'm good at little league"
A preconceived idea of what it all meant
For those that liked the same sex
Had the characteristics
The right wing conservatives think it's a decision
And you can be cured with some treatment and religion
Man-made rewiring of a predisposition
Playing God, aw nah here we go
America the brave still fears what we don't know
And God loves all his children, is somehow forgotten
But we paraphrase a book written thirty-five-hundred years ago
I don't know

And I can't change
Even if I tried
Even if I wanted to
And I can't change
Even if I tried
Even if I wanted to
My love
My love
My love
She keeps me warm
She keeps me warm
She keeps me warm
She keeps me warm

If I was gay, I would think hip-hop hates me
Have you read the YouTube comments lately?
"Man, that's gay" gets dropped on the daily
We become so numb to what we're saying
A culture founded from oppression
Yet we don't have acceptance for 'em
Call each other faggots behind the keys of a message board
A word rooted in hate, yet our genre still ignores it
Gay is synonymous with the lesser
It's the same hate that's caused wars from religion
Gender to skin color, the complexion of your pigment
The same fight that led people to walk outs and sit ins
It's human rights for everybody, there is no difference!
Live on and be yourself
When I was at church they taught me something else
If you preach hate at the service those words aren't anointed
That holy water that you soak in has been poisoned
When everyone else is more comfortable remaining voiceless
Rather than fighting for humans that have had their rights stolen
I might not be the same, but that's not important
No freedom till we're equal, damn right I support it

(repeat chorus)

We press play, don't press pause
Progress, march on
With the veil over our eyes
We turn our back on the cause
Till the day that my uncles can be united by law
When kids are walking 'round the hallway plagued by pain in their heart
A world so hateful some would rather die than be who they are
And a certificate on paper isn't gonna solve it all
But it's a damn good place to start
No law is gonna change us
We have to change us
Whatever God you believe in
We come from the same one
Strip away the fear
Underneath it's all the same love
About time that we raised up

(repeat chorus)

Saturday, July 13, 2013

An Estate Sale & Garden Update

On Thursday my next door neighbor and I drove an hour south of Atlanta to check out the estate sale of a retired antique dealer. This collector had moved from upstate New York to middle Georgia in 1981 but left her four shipping containers of treasure unopened and in storage for the next thirty two years. The company organizing the sale posted snapshots of box contents and as soon as I saw the piles of vintage greeting cards I requested the day off from work.

My neighbor and I arrived an hour early in an effort to get a good spot in line. Even so, we were numbers 93 and 94 and they were only letting in forty at a time. The crowd gathering outside was awesome to watch. A "storage wars" type excitement was in the air. We were definitely not the only ones who'd driven far to be part of this sale.

When 9am rolled around the shipping containers were opened and the first forty 40 shoppers pushed into the old one story clapboard home. One shipping container was full of glass items, very old sewing notions, sheet sets and quilts. The others were full of amazing furniture. In the back a shed was floor to ceiling with tools and old suitcases. Once inside the home there was an entire room, wall to wall, laid out with 1950s Christmas items; ornaments, unopened boxes of tinsel, greeting cards, stockings, etc. 

I exercised as much restraint as I could. Even so, I walked away with $50 worth of ephemera that I have no need/plans for and handful of things I think I can resell for profit. My FAVORITE (okay, one of my FAVORITE) finds is the pair of vintage garden books picture above. The embossed covers are beautiful!! And the knowledge inside is still relevant and noteworthy. Not a total waste of money, right? SOMEDAY I'll have a coffee table to put them on...

In other news, this is the RAINIEST summer I can EVER remember in Atlanta. (And I'm from here, so I can remember a lot of them.) For better and worse the garden is hanging in there. A few tomatoes have burst from all the rain but mostly the vegetables seem desperate for a little sun. No signs of root rot yet. Fingers crossed we get a little reprieve this weekend.

Happy Saturday!

Sunday, July 7, 2013