Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Miso Soup

I made myself some miso soup today for Lockdown Lunch, and realised that I hadn’t done so for an awfully long time. It reminded me how much better it is when you make it at home and can be more generous with the ingredients than is usually found out in restaurants. It’s a very simple dish, which is one of the things that delights me about it both from an aesthetic and dining perspective.
Boil the dashino-moto

Miso Soup

1 packet dashino-moto powder
4-5 cups water
1 scallion
2 tablespoons awase (mixed red and white) miso paste
1/2 cup firm tofu
6-8 dried seaweed pieces
Mix up your miso paste with hot broth

Begin by combining the water and dashino-moto powder. I prefer Shimaya brand, since it has bonito flakes, but doesn’t overpower with fish aroma. There are vegetarian options for stock, of course, or you can just use plain water and add a couple pinches of monosodium glutamate (which is completely safe - the anti-MSG thing is just anti-Asian racist propaganda)

Bring your soup base to a boil while you slice your scallion. When the base is boiling, remove it from heat and drop the scallions in to blanche. Ladle some of your hot broth into a small bowl with your miso paste and mix. Add the miso paste to the pan.

For the seaweed pieces, I like to buy a container of roasted seaweed snacks because you can get a relatively small quantity, and eat the remaining ones right out of the packet! I use kitchen scissors to cut about 8 snack sheets into strips right into the pan.

Lastly, the firm tofu. Cut it up into 1/2 to 1/4 inch cubes are drop in. Let the ingredients get to know each other for a few minutes, then serve.

I like to add some soy sauce to my soup bowl, but that’s pure taste.
Add the scallions
Add the rest of the ingredients
My favourite dashi
Tasty snacks also

Thursday, April 30, 2020

Hooray, Hooray, for the First of May

One of the things that I have always loved about the Wheel of the Year; the cycle of eight holidays that are celebrated in the Craft, is that they are anchored to real events. You can look out of your window and see the Winter Solstice happen. Likewise the Summer Solstice, Spring and Autumn Equinoxes. They are not the anniversary of a supposed historical event, or the day when ‘our people traditionally do the thing’ but rather the reverent observation of the patterns of movement in the Universe around us.

The tricky bit happens because of two guys: Julian, and Gregory. Julian invented this calendar system, and it was predominant in Western Europe when the ancient holidays marked on the Wheel of the Year entered into a broader syncretic cultural context. The first of May, for example, was actually just about always right in between Spring Equinox and Summer Solstice. Same with the first of February, August, and November being just about exactly poised between equinoxes and solstices.

Gregory, however, screwed that all up. He made a new calendar and moved things four or five days away from where they previously were.

In my opinion, clinging to the human-invented date of 1 May as the day to celebrate when the actual halfway day is 4 or 5 May is an elevation of a defunct human calendar over the divine movement of the Universe around us.

In the year 2020 of what is called the Common Era, the halfway day between Spring Equinox and Summer Solstice is 4 May, not 1 May. That is the day that I will celebrate; the day when it is really happening outside my front door.

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Mother Knows Best

The view from Betty’s front window
I am a medium. I haven’t always known this about myself, but as I have gotten older it has become more and more apparent. When I was about 27, near my first Saturn return, through a complicated and very interesting series of events I met a man named Mischa Duvan, who was at the time the senior and only shaman of the Ulchi Tribe in Siberia. He told me that I would work with the dying and the dead later in life, but that I should not attempt to at my age.

That was nearly half a lifetime ago, so as I approach my second Saturn return, I can’t be surprised that I see and get messages from dead folks more often. It usually happens when I’m doing something else, like giving a Tarot reading or having a deep magical counseling session. It’s not something I initiate, but once it starts, it tortures me until I understand and pass on the message I’m being given. That torture takes the form of a crushing and unexplainable sadness that I must assume is the easiest of my buttons for someone on the other side of the Veil to push.

The last time it happened was on the 19th anniversary of our mother’s death on October 26, 2019. I had been feeling that nagging, causeless sorrow for a few weeks, but it had not risen to the point where I would notice it above the general noise of my fear-prone mind. I and my fiancé were very busy assisting his mother with the sale of her home of 45 years and her transition into a retirement community so I was quite distracted. The winning offer came in on that anniversary day, so the three of us went out to dinner to celebrate. It was such a great load off all our minds and erased so much uncertainty that we were all feeing good. Future mum-in-law has some mobility issues, so I dropped her and her son off at the front door and went to park the car. The instant I was alone, the weight of sadness that descended was absolutely crippling. I remembered that it was our mother’s death anniversary and the penny dropped. She wanted me to know something. I made it into the restaurant and back with other people, I could hold it at bay for a while.

After dinner and returning to her soon-to-no-longer-be home, I excused myself and retired to the basement semi-suite that we use when visiting. I made it to the bottom of the stairs before collapsing in sobs. My man put his mum to bed and came downstairs to find me there. He was of course tremendously concerned and asked what he could do. I told him to stay with me, since his presence is like a control rod in the reactor of my stability-challenged spirit. He logged on to his computer and I curled up on the couch and started playing solitaire on my phone. A few minutes later, a seemingly random thought crossed my mind: ‘I wish I could go home.’ In my idiolect, ‘home’ means our mother’s hometown of Cleethorpes, England. We spent summers there growing up, and I always feel closest to her when I visit.

I had no sooner thought the thought when a surge of energy when through me from head to foot like a bolt of lightning and I saw a picture of my aunt Betty in her home in Cleethorpes. I gasped, dropped the phone, and clamped my hands over my face and started to shake violently.

My man asked if he should phone an ambulance. As soon as I could speak again, I said no. I told him that Mom wants me to go to Cleethorpes. He answered “tell everyone I said hi.” That’s someone you marry.

Mom has never come through to me in all the years since she died, so I took it seriously. I had gotten the message, so within a few minutes the cloud of sorrow was gone without a trace and I went back to as normal as I get and started looking for ways to make a trip back home.

The right opportunity arose and I was able to tack on a short trip to the UK to the end of a business trip to the East coast. I saw most of the family, met a new cousin, and looked in on our eldest god daughter and her partner in Glasgow. I headed home, feeling a little bit foolish, honestly. No huge drama. No big revelations. No spectral appearances. Just a lot of great fish and chips and some much needed family time.

Then COVID-19 happened. Borders started to close. Our wedding plans are thrown into uncertainty. My late-eighties aunt is in lockdown, and like me, many of my closest relations are old enough to be in the at-risk category. I got an e-mail from Betty’s eldest daughter this morning sharing that she is fine, though quite bored being in lockdown, since she has run out of tasks to do around the house.

When the severity of the consequences of the situation became clear, I got on my knees in front of my ancestor altar and prayed to our mother and thanked her for telling me to go while I had the chance. Mother knows best.

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Roasted Garlic Soup

This recipe is a little complicated for my tastes, but the results are worth it. If you want a lower carbohydrate version, reduce the number of potatoes or omit them.

Roasted Garlic Soup

4 heads of garlic, roasted
1 medium onion, diced
1 tablespoon cooking oil
6-8 fingerling potatoes
1/2 teaspoon salt
Pepper to taste
6 cups chicken or vegetable stock
2 large bay leaves
1 cup heavy cream
1 lemon, juiced
3 eggs

Begin by roasting your garlic. This step can be done well ahead of time, which can make the rest of the process feel a little less labour intensive. If you don’t know how to roast garlic, here is a tutorial on the YouTube How To Roast Garlic

Peel and dice your onion. Place your cooking oil in a large soup pot and sauté the onion until it is transparent. Usually about 3-4 minutes.

Add the stock, potatoes, salt, pepper, and bay leaves. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until the potatoes are fork-tender.

Remove the bay leaves and set them aside for future stock-making.

In a small bowl, beat the eggs and lemon juice together. The egg should be thoroughly blended. Ladle two cups of the hot broth into a measuring cup for easy pouring. While continuously stirring the egg and lemon blend, very slowly add the hot broth to temper the egg. Slowly, or you wind up with scrambled egg soup. When the mixture is steaming, the eggs are tempered and will not congeal into solids.

Add the heavy cream and roasted garlic. Lick your fingers - you can, you know. You’re a grown up.

Puree the soup with an immersion blender. Add the lemon and egg mixture and voila! A new way to eat roasted garlic!

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Red Spread

 
This was a very lucky strike for me. So, here I am following the guidelines to remain at home during the coronavirus outbreak, which leaves me way too much time to get goofy ideas and give them a try.

I had a couple of tomatoes on the vine that were about to die of old age, and somehow in the last few months and especially in the last few days I have gotten the never-waste-food thing on steroids. I thought I might puree them, but then they would just sit in my fridge and go bad as tomato goo because I only use that in one recipe.

Then I had my brainwave. I added some stuff to the puree and cooked it down to a paste. I just used it as the “T” in my BLT and it is spectacular! Here’s how to do it:

Red Spread


2 medium ripe (very) vine-ripened tomatoes
1 red chili pepper
1 teaspoon garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice

Put tomatoes, chili pepper, garlic, salt, and olive oil into a food processor and puree. If you want it a little less spicy (he gasped, grasping his pearls) you can de-seed the pepper.

Put the puree into a small pan and cook over medium low heat until all visible liquid has evaporated. Remove from heat and allow to cool for five minutes or so. Add the lemon juice.

Spread it on something and praise my name!

Yes, that’s a White Claw with lunch. Pedestrian judgements have never concerned me.

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Avgolemono Soup: An Instant Pot Story

Doug and I are currently learning Greek, and as I counsel my Gaelic students, cultural enrichment activities are a great way to keep your language learning holistic. I have always loved Avgolemono soup, so decided to learn to make it in my Instant Pot.

I read lots of recipes and only a few had any vegetables in them, but I wanted to scale the rice back, so added them to my version for a sense of bounty.

Avgolemono Soup


1 tablespoon olive oil
1 stalk celery
1 carrot
1 bunch scallions
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
8 cups chicken stock
6 boneless skinless chicken thighs
1/3 cup uncooked white rice
2 large bay leaves
3 lemons
3 eggs

Chop the vegetables. Add the olive oil to the Instant Pot and use the sauté function to begin cooking them. After about 4 minutes, add the garlic, salt, and pepper and cook for another minute.

Add the chicken stock and thighs, rice, and bay leaves. Set the Instant Pot to 12 minutes at high pressure. 

While the chicken is cooking, juice the lemons and beat them into the eggs until frothy. 

When complete, do a quick release, but be careful. That thick stock / rice may shoot up out of your release valve a little. Remove the bay leaves and discard. Remove the chicken thighs and set them aside to shred with two forks.

While the broth is still very hot, ladle about 1 1/2 cups into a measuring cup. Very slowly add it in small amounts to the egg and lemon mixture while mixing it continuously. This raises the temperature of the egg slowly enough that it will cook without forming any curds. It’s called tempering and apparently it’s a basic cooking skill that I had not acquired yet. Check!

Add the egg and lemon sauce to the pot, shred the chicken and return it to the pot as well.

Important: Once the egg is in the soup, don’t let it boil again, or your hard work tempering the egg will be for NOTHING.

Enjoy, Darlings!

Sauté


Add stock, thighs, rice, and bay leaves


Ready to temper the egg / lemon sauce




Take your time to get a good result


Shred the chicken and re-add



Perfect for a day in with Yaya

Friday, February 14, 2020

The Remover? Fuck that guy: A Valentine’s Day Meditation

On the occasion of the last Valentine’s Day before we are married:

Doug,

Alteration has found us, but whatever
The Remover? I don’t know that guy and I don’t bend in general, much less so
We see an ever-fixéd mark, and that’s who needs to
We have looked on tempests and been shaken
But we are
Still
Here
We are no fools, not for Time, various taxing authorities, or even Grindr
Shakespeare? That one writ, and we loved

Always yours,
S

****
#116.

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no; it is an ever-fixed mark,
That looks on tempests, and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.
Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
   If this be error and upon me proved,
   I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Sunshine Soup

Sunshine Soup is a staple of our Winter Solstice Banquet tradition. The secret to a great result is the fresh pumpkin. Where I live in Seattle, it is much easier to find pumpkins in the grocery store around US Thanksgiving than it is in late December, so I buy three pie-sized pumpkins and deconstruct and freeze them. This recipe makes enough soup for 10, so be warned.

Sunshine Soup


1/4 cup butter
1 medium onion diced
2 bay leaves
6 cups chicken or vegetable stock
8 cups fresh pumpkin
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 1/2 cups half and half
~ 1/2 pound gruyere cheese
1 tablespoon fresh orange juice
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Sauté the onion in the butter until it turns until it starts to turn golden. Add the stock, pumpkin, and bay leaves. Cook until the pumpkin is tender - about 15 minutes or so.

Remove the bay leaves. Purée using an immersion blender.

Add salt, pepper, half and half, and cheese.

When the cheese is mostly melted, turn down the heat and add the citrus juices.