Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Roasted Delicata Squash Kale Salad with Maple Tahini Dressing

It's been a difficult couple of weeks news-wise, and for me, often a carefully-planned and satisfying meal is the best comfort. This week, I made a salad with roasted delicata squash, and it really hit the balance between rich comfort food and being healthy. 

Have you tried delicata squash? I first tried it a few years ago, and now it's the epitome of autumn to me. It's super easy to cook -- you cook it with the skin on, and it's delicious roasted -- and has a great squash flavor.

What's also great about this recipe is that the different components are super versatile and could easily be used in other dishes -- the maple tahini dressing has a really interesting, nutty flavor, and the roasted squash is great on it's own. 

Also, a podcast to try out while you cook. I thought the "Anna in Somalia" episode was really moving, and made me re-realize I still need to read Anna Karenina. 

Roasted Delicata Squash Kale Salad with Maple Tahini Dressing

Makes 3-4 large servings

1 medium delicata squash
1 T olive oil
1-2 T honey
salt and pepper
dash of chili powder
dash of garlic powder
dash of paprika
1/3 C goat cheese, crumbled
About 3 cups baby kale or chopped regular kale (no ribs or stems)
1/4 C dried cranberries
1/2 C chopped walnuts


1 small clove garlic, peeled and grated
½ cup olive oil 
¼ cup tahini (sesame paste)
3 tablespoons white vinegar
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
1 tablespoon molasses
dash of paprika  
3/4 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper or white pepper

1. Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees F. Slice squash in half and clean out seeds with spoon. Slice each half into C-shaped pieces by slicing horizontally. Place on baking sheet or 9 x 13 pan. Drizzle 1 T olive oil over squash, along with 1-2 T of honey, and then season to taste with salt and pepper, chili powder, garlic powder, and paprika. Squash pieces should be lightly coated with oil, honey, and spices.
2. Bake squash until golden brown, about 40-45 minutes. 
3. Prepare dressing by mixing all dressing ingredients; a mason jar with a lid works well for shaking to mix ingredients. 
4. Assemble salads: on a bed of the kale, add roasted squash, goat cheese, dried cranberries, chopped walnuts, and drizzle dressing over it all. 

Enjoy! Happy fall! 


Sunday, September 10, 2017

Photo of the Day: Bye, Summer

I was on vacation for the past week in Minnesota and Wisconsin, and have to go back to work tomorrow. Before fully facing being back in the real world, I'm going through photos from the trip, and really like this one taken of my sister looking out at the lake at golden hour. 

With the yellow in the trees, there is also something very autumnal about this photo. Do you also feel this time of year like you can feel the season changing day to day? 

Monday, July 3, 2017

S'mores Bark

If you're like me and having an urban Fourth of July weekend (which is lovely in its own right), here's a small way to bring a bit of the beach and campfires to your weekend or BBQ plans. I made these for the first time last year pretty randomly, and they are SO easy. You're basically just melting the ingredients of a s'more into an easily-transportable bark. S'mores have such an unmistakable flavor that they're an immediate bite of summer. 

Enjoy and Happy Fourth!

S'mores Bark 

Makes a 9x9 square
Prep time: About 20 min. 
Refrigeration time: About 60 min. 

3 4.25 ounce chocolate bars (e.g. large Hershey's bars), either milk or dark**
3/4 C mini marshmallows
3/4 C graham crackers broken into small pieces 

1. Line a 9x9 pan with parchment paper; paper will probably not lie down flat yet, which is fine. 
2. Crumble the graham crackers into small pieces, but not letting them get completely powdery. 
3. Break the chocolate into small pieces in a glass bowl, and microwave for two to three minutes, until melted, stirring half-way through. 
4. Once chocolate is melted, add in about a half cup of each the mini marshmallows and graham crackers (leaving the rest for the top) into the glass bowl, and stir until everything is coated with chocolate. 
5. Pour the mixture into the parchment paper-lined pan, and smooth out with a spatula so that mixture goes to edges of pan. Hold down the parchment paper in corners so that the liquid spreads to edges of pan. 
6. Pour remaining marshmallows and graham crackers over top of bark. 
7. Refrigerate for about an hour, until chocolate is completely cooled and solid. 
8. Using a large knife, chop bark into equally-sized squares. 

**I like a mix of milk and dark, and used two dark and one milk this time

Monday, April 17, 2017

Kusama, Museums, and the Experience Economy

Last month, I visited the record-setting, hard-to-get-into Yayoi Kusama Infinity Mirrors exhibit at the Hirshhorn Museum here in DC. 

I went, I stood in line, and I selfie-d. 

The exhibit is based on standing for 15-30-second timed sessions in around a half dozen "Infinity Rooms," which are small installation rooms with different designs of lights and mirrors illuminating their interiors, suggesting the feeling of infinity. They're beautiful and evocative. Three or so hours later, though, because of the long lines and limited time in each, I had probably actually experienced them for less than five minutes total. 

This article in the Washington Post today puts into words a lot of what I thought of the exhibit, and raises some really interesting questions about museums and art, as well as the mixed outcome of the so-called "experience economy" in general. 

Regarding the Kusama exhibit in particular, the author makes a great point about how the rushed experience gets in the way of the ultimate objective of the art: 

"Unfortunately, Kusama’s basic aesthetic — her fascination with infinity and repetition and the way these things can obliterate the ego (like being dwarfed by a sea of stars on a cloudless night) — is lost when the time in each room is so rushed. You have barely registered the basic look of the space when there is a knock on the door and it opens, daylight rushes in and you’re on your way to the next one."

He also introduced me to a label for a phenomenon I've definitely noticed of late, which is that many services are geared towards an "Experience Economy," meaning that people, whether they are museum patrons or customers, are "more interested in experiencing things (like travel, art, social gatherings) than buying material objects." I'm sure we've all seen a heap of think pieces in the last few years about the value of prioritizing experiences over material possessions. 

The article's author has something really interesting to say about both the opportunities and problems presented in such an economy for art and museums. By design, museums and art offer an experience, suggesting that museums could be more popular than ever in such a context, but that experience can also be commodified, arguably interrupting the experience. 

On the opportunities for museums in an "experience economy:"

"The Experience Economy also seems to promise a reservoir of fundamentally aesthetic interest in the world — better to enjoy a sunset on the beach or an afternoon at the Kusama exhibit than hoard up useless money in your back account. That seemingly anti-materialistic energy could be diverted into a more prominent social role and perhaps better bottom line for museums. It seems to be an egalitarian system, too, rewarding people for their curiosity, engagement and willingness to wait in line rather than merely for their socioeconomic status."

And the potential pitfalls: 

"And it is something that can be exchanged. Placing the selfie on social media not only substitutes for the experience that didn’t in fact happen, it engages the audience in an economy of images, including exchange, competition and reward (praise, “likes,” retweets). The experience at the core of the Experience Economy is now looking not so different from any other commodity, although it is less tangible."

The more popular and more easily captured for social media an exhibit is, the more likely it would seem that the experience would be compromised, resulting in the exact opposite of what we might hope for for art in an "experience economy." 

What do you think? Can art be popular today without being turned into a commodity? Is social media to blame? What's positive about the experience economy?

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Chasing the Light in Phnom Penh

On a work trip to Phnom Penh, Cambodia last month, I was lucky enough to get a lazy Sunday to myself amidst a busy work schedule. I got out my camera and wandered over to a park surrounding the Independence Monument, which is in the middle of the city. The sun was setting, and families and young people were out, either playing soccer, sitting and enjoying the end of the weekend, or chasing each other around, as these two girls were. I love the energy of these, and they capture some of the magic of Phnom Penh.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Photos of the Week: Lights at Night

The other week, I took a photography class that was focused on night photography at a holiday lights display at a botanical garden in Virginia. It was a chilly and lovely night of wandering around and taking pictures at night. 

There's something so nice about lights in the dark at this time of year, when there are so many hours of dark, and it makes me think of this Mary Oliver poem:

The Buddha's Last Instruction
by Mary Oliver
"Make of yourself a light"
said the Buddha,
before he died.
I think of this every morning
as the east begins
to tear off its many clouds
of darkness, to send up the first
signal—a white fan
streaked with pink and violet,
even green.
An old man, he lay down
between two sala trees,
and he might have said anything,
knowing it was his final hour.
The light burns upward,
it thickens and settles over the fields.
Around him, the villagers gathered
and stretched forward to listen.
Even before the sun itself
hangs, disattached, in the blue air,
I am touched everywhere
by its ocean of yellow waves.
No doubt he thought of everything
that had happened in his difficult life.
And then I feel the sun itself
as it blazes over the hills,
like a million flowers on fire—
clearly I'm not needed,
yet I feel myself turning
into something of inexplicable value.
Slowly, beneath the branches,
he raised his head.
He looked into the faces of that frightened crowd.

Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Cucumber Rickey

Though it's mid-September, it still feels like summer in DC (it was 97 degrees out last weekend!), and we technically all still have another week before autumn officially starts. 

I made this cocktail a few weeks ago with mint that I'm growing in my small-but-mighty terrace garden, and it was really refreshing and different. I personally love ginger beer, and this is a great way to incorporate some fresh elements into a cocktail.

So if you are still craving a bit of summer before fall officially starts, try these out!

Cucumber Rickey 
Adapted from shake 
Makes two

4 shots of vodka
1 handful of fresh mint leaves (plus a few for garnish)
6 slices of cucumber (plus 2 for garnish)
1 T fresh lime juice
1 can ginger beer
Ice cubes

1. Add the mint leaves, cucumber, and lime juice to a cocktail shaker.
2. Using a muddler, muddle the ingredients in the bottom of the shaker until thoroughly crushed.
3. Add the vodka, and then ice to above the level of the liquid mixture, and shake vigorously for 10 seconds.
4. Strain mixture into pint glasses containing ice cubes, top with about 1/2 can of ginger beer, and garnish with remaining cucumber slices and mint leaves.