Lemon-Chile Green Bean Pickles

IMG_3393 G and I love our Saturday morning Farmers’ Market trips, and most weeks we load our bags to the brim, arriving home wondering what will we do with all of these vegetables– a delicious “problem.” When we’re really lucky, our friends and family gift us more veggies. Due to an influx of green beans–yellow and green wax beans, and meaty romano beans–I decided to pickle a few handfuls. I used a recipe from the August issue of Bon Appétit and crafted these spicy, citrusy, fresh pickles. Because the beans aren’t blanched, they are super crisp. I skipped the chiles de arbol and instead added rings of a hot banana pepper from the market, which added consistent heat. The interplay of the heat with the tang of lemon, the brightness of dill (my variation on the recipe), and the slight note of sweetness, produces a pickle that is addictive, and the perfect accoutrement for a simple summer lunch or dinner. G is eager to add one to a weekend Bloody Mary. I encourage you to make a jar, too–they keep in the fridge for 2 months, if you don’t eat them sooner.

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Parisian Macarons

“If you dunno where you want to be in five years...you’re already there.”

Elizabeth Gilbert shared this quote on her facebook page last week, and it’s been echoing in my head ever since.

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macaron tower at Ladurée, Versailles

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I’m on vacation–staycation, really, as I haven’t gone anywhere, but I’ve submitted grades for my summer classes and am taking a break from administrative-ish work I’m doing. Amorphous, analytical intellectual labor is, however, an ingrained habit and routine. Every book I read, I think about how I might teach it, critique it, or write one of my own. Every TV show I watch (OITNB, I’m thinking of you) or movie I see (Trainwreck, anyone?), I think about writing a conference paper. And while I truly enjoy the thrill of analysis, is it too much to ask to get out of my own head?

Add the aforementioned quote into the mix, and suddenly I’m realizing that I do not have a five year plan, professionally or personally. And while I’m okay where I am now, I don’t really want to be here in five years. The natural next question then is where do I want to be? And what is keeping me from being there? Cue the analytical roller coaster.

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macaron at the food court in the Louvre

Five years ago this past Spring I was in Paris, co-leading a group of students, community members, and my Grandma on a 10 day trip through literary Paris. We trudged through cemeteries, climbed monuments, and visited numerous cathedrals. We drank rosé and sparkling water, and ate artful pastries, chocolates, and macarons.

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discerning Dr. J

I would love to return to Paris, but there are so many other places I want to go, and so little money to spend on travel. Italy, Canada, Ireland, Colorado, New Mexico, the Keys…the list is long, and filled with longing.

In lieu of a return to Paris, I bring French touches into my kitchen, from berry tarts to (vegetarian) Niçoise salad to crisp Rosé. Yesterday, I tackled one of the more technical French delights: macaron.

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Parisian Macaron recipe and apron

Armed with a recipe from Dorie Greenspan, clad in my macaron apron purchased in Paris, and wielding tools from Mora and E. Dehillerin, I went to work. Dorie’s recipe is filled with helpful hints and tips, and I read and reread it to make the process easier. Macaron aren’t hard to make, but they demand careful technique and attention to detail and…patience. The most challenging step was waiting 24 hours to sample the cookies! The most tedious step was remaking the salted caramel filling and ganache after realizing that the cream I used in both was spoiled. The most rewarding step was receiving a glowing review of the macaron from my husband, who raved about the salted caramel filled treat I tucked into his work lunch.

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my homemade macaron

My macaron have wee feet, so I must let them dry longer next time before baking them. And, they are a bit larger and flatter than I would like, so the batter should be thicker and the circle templates smaller than a shot glass, my measurement of choice. But they are fairly spot-on in texture, with a crisp outer shell and a chewy-soft interior. While I generally prefer chocolate, I actually prefer the salted caramel filled cookies. Dorie’s salted caramel is rich, the burnt sugar edge amped up and rounded out by the intensity of Maldon sea salt. They pair nicely with a strong cup of coffee and a puppy snuggle.

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Five years. In five years, I will have figured out how to dedicate my time to creative, soul-feeding endeavors, and to find a better balance between creative and critical skills. I will have pushed aside all of the unnecessary shoulds and sorries. And I want to have found away to escape the spirit-crushing toll of the Protestant Work Ethic that demands usefulness and accountability for all endeavors. I want to have a strong marriage and happy middle-aged dog, to be connected to my family and friends, to be engaged in meaningful work, and to be living more purposefully–thriving rather than surviving. Five years is a long time, and but a blip. Here’s to dwelling in delicious, blissful possibility now and then.