Breakfast, Dinner, Lunch

Sweet Potato Tortilla Espanola with Gremolata and a Saffron Aioli

First, thank you.

Thank you to all of those who voiced your support and concern for my grandmother.  She greatly appreciates your kind words, thoughts, and especially your prayers. And it means a lot to me to receive such overwhelming support.

Now on to food.

The idea of surprising yourself is kind of funny.  I mean, doesn’t it seem like something impossible to do?  How can you surprise yourself when you are conscious of your own thoughts and actions?  I love surprises and if I knew how to control it, I would surprise myself all the time.  I would throw myself little surprise parties, celebrating a good hair day or a great day at work.  And there would be a pie and my dog, Porter.  Sometimes, I might make my favorite dish for dinner and buy a bouquet of flowers, just as a nice gesture.  And then I would totally freak out like “oh my gosh, how thoughtful!  I love peonies, oh, and that dish smells divine.  You are such a culinary genius. You really shouldn’t have.”

All that to say, I really surprised myself with this dish.

Tortilla Espanola is a traditional dish from Spain made with potatoes, onions, and eggs.  Not that they are any comparison, but tortilla espanola is as common to the Spanish as say maybe french fries are to Americans.  I like to describe it as a cross between au gratin potatoes without the cheese and a potato omlette with not enough egg and too much potato.  So pretty much unlike anything you’ve ever tried before.  You are in for a heavenly surprise.

So I took a traditional tortilla espanola recipe and gussied it up like teenager on her first date.  I made it with vitamin rich, sweet potatoes instead of russets, added a Spanish, saffron aioli and sprinkled it with gremolata {I know, it’s Italian, but the two are relatively close to one another, right?}  And, rather than frying the potatoes and onions before adding the eggs, I tossed them lightly in olive oil and just slightly baked them– only because it was easier and less time consuming, health had no part in that decision.

This dish turned out so well I really badly wanted to devour every last decadent crumb.  And if I hadn’t made it for someone else, I just might have. Which wouldn’t have surprised me.

So here’s to Spanish food, to healthy eating and to surprising yourself!

Sweet Potato Tortilla Espanola with Gremolata and Saffron Aioli // Keeping Willow Sweet Potato Tortilla Espanola with Gremolata and Saffron Aioli // Keeping WillowSweet Potato Tortilla Espanola with Gremolata and Saffron Aioli // Keeping WillowSweet Potato Tortilla Espanola with Gremolata and Saffron Aioli // Keeping Willow photo-3Sweet Potato Tortilla Espanola with Gremolata and Saffron Aioli // Keeping WillowSweet Potato Tortilla Espanola with Gremolata and Saffron Aioli // Keeping WillowSweet Potato Tortilla Espanola with Gremolata and Saffron Aioli // Keeping WillowSweet Potato Tortilla Espanola with Gremolata and Saffron Aioli // Keeping WillowSweet Potato Tortilla Espanola with Gremolata and Saffron Aioli // Keeping Willow

Tortilla Espanola with Gremolata and Saffron Aioli
Equipment//
8″ nonstick frying pan or braiser
1-2 sheet pans
mandolin/food processor with slicing attachment/or handy dandy chef knife
rubber spatula

tin foil

Ingredients//
TORTILLA ESPANOLA
3 medium sweet potatoes, peeled
1/2 spanish or yellow onion
6 eggs
2 T milk of choice
1 t kosher or sea salt
1 T olive oil
1/2 T butter, ghee or coconut oil
freshly ground black pepper
GREMOLATA
1/2 cup flat leaf italian parsley
2 lemons
1 clove garlic
SAFFRON AIOLI
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 pinch saffron threads
1 t warm water
salt and pepper to taste

Method//
1. Preheat the oven to 415°F. With a mandolin, the slicing feature of a food processor or with a knife, slice the sweet potatoes as thinly as possible so that they remain in one round disk. I used a mandolin, which I think works best. Cut your halved onion (along the core) in half again (again, along the core). Slice the onion quarters the same way as you sliced the potatoes. On a foil lined baking sheet (I needed two), toss the potatoes, onions, olive oil and salt and pepper. Bake for 10 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, whisk together your egg and milk mixture, adding a 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Grease a 8″ non-stick frying pan or braiser with the butter/ghee/coconut oil. Take potatoes out of the oven and turn the oven to broil on high, leaving the rack about 8″ below the burner. Layer the potatoes into the pan so that it is relatively even (you don’t have to be super precise here for you perfectionists). Turn on the heat to medium low. Once the pan has warmed up, pour in the egg mixture. Gently and slightly lift the edges of the potatoes with a rubber spatula to allow the egg mixture to get fully absorbed. You want these eggs to cook slowly, so if you notice any browned eggs or if there is a lot of sizzling going on, turn down the heat. Low and slow is the way to go (as my dad always says about roasting the perfect marshmallow). Cover the pan, running your spatula along the edges every few minutes, checking to make sure the heat is not to high.
3. In between checking on the tortilla you can start on your condiments, your gremolata and the saffron aioli. To make the GREMOLATA, finely chop the leaves of your italian parsley. Using a microplane, grate the zest of the two lemons and the garlic clove over your chopped parsley. Run your knife over the mixture a couple times to combine. Presto, you have a perfect Italian condiment that will go on mostly anything from eggs to green beans to osso bucco.
4. The SAFFRON AILOLI is very simple. First, allow the saffron to bloom for 5 minutes in the teaspoon of warm water. Combine the mayonnaise with the saffron and water infusion and season with salt and pepper.
5. Back to the TORTILLA ESPANOLA. When the egg in the middle of the tortilla is a little runny but almost set, place the entire pan under the broiler for 6 minutes or until the top is just turning golden brown and the egg is completely set. Allow the tortilla to cool slightly. You can then gently slide the tortilla out of the pan, cut it into portions and serve with gremolata and aioli. You can eat is hot or at room temperature. Either way, you’ll love it.

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Keeping Willow by Stacy Feyer-Salo is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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Life

This is my Grandma. Her name is Penny. She has ALS.

This post is deeply personal.  Because I am talking about a woman whom I love deeply.  Who is very sick.  And there’s nothing I can do about it.

My grandma was diagnosed with ALS in December of 2012. ALS (also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease) is a neurodegenerative disease where the nerves in your body begin to die, no longer allowing the brain to communicate to the different parts of the body. People with ALS lose their ability to walk, sit up, talk and eventually breath.  There is no cure for ALS and those diagnosed with the disease on average have a life expectancy of about 2 years.

I am writing this not only because my grandma is sick but because she is a beautiful woman.  Although she always looks stunning– she is gorgeous, and all of my memories of her always include perfectly manicured nails and a keen fashion sense– that is not the kind of beauty I am referring to.  My grandmother’s beauty radiates from within.  The kind of beauty you have to tell people about.

In these four short stories, little glimpses into the ways my grandmother has shined light into the world, I hope to declare from the rooftops the beauty that exists with this woman.  Stories that show her kindness, hospitality, generosity, fantastic sense of humor and loving personality.

Under Appreciated Art
I was maybe 5 or 6 years old and my brother and I were visiting my grandma.  She had my siblings and I over for long weekends all the time [my youngest brother, Danny, wasn’t yet born].  She always does the best job at being a grandma, like always having dessert, taking us to the park, buying us new clothes and giving us lots of presents.  I can’t remember where we were going, but we were driving home from a super awesome thing that amazing grandmas always do.  My brother and I were in the back seat when I struck gold.  I found  a blue, ink pen lodged in the seat beside me.  What is a 5 or 6 year old to do with said pen when there is no paper around?  What a crime!  I needed to express myself with this pen and I had neither coloring book nor Bible to scribble in.  But I was a creative child and soon my canvass had become the siding of the door I was sitting beside.  What luck to have found a clean surface to create a masterpiece upon.  In my deep, beyond my age humility, I drew no attention to the treasure I had made on the side of my grandma’s car door, and quietly exited when we arrived back to my grandma’s house.A few days after arriving back at my parent’s, my mother received a phone call.  It was grandma, and she was wondering about my masterpiece.  Only, my mom had it wrong.  She thought my grandma said my masterpiece was all over the couch.  I racked my brain.  I didn’t do anything to the couch, did I?  No, I am positive I did not express myself artistically on grandma’s couch.  “Mom, I promise!  I swear, I didn’t!”  Rightfully so, the incident was blamed on my younger, less wise brother, Ryan.  But nevertheless, my grandma was kind and forgiving.  She must have known it was me.  A 3-year-old could not possibly be as skilled as I was at the art of scribbling.  But she didn’t get mad.  In fact, I never heard about it again.  It wasn’t until I was a young adult that I had a flashback of scribbling in my grandma’s car and put 2 and 2 together.  My grandma is always this loving, so forgiving, extending grace when it is not deserved. I’m sorry grandma.

Tattoos and Eggplant Parm
Not only is my grandma extremely kind and loving she is inconspicuously generous.  As mentioned previously, she has always been good at spoiling me.  But her giving goes beyond ice cream and new toys. My grandma and her husband, “papa Al”, live in the Chicagoland suburbs.  Whenever my friends and I wanted to take a trip into the city, one of those being my bachelorette party, they were never hesitant about picking us up at the train station, letting us park our cars at their house or taking us out for lunch.  The first things out of my grandma’s mouth when we arrived after “hi, how are you”, was, “can I get you something to eat or drink”.  She is always having people over for dinner, radiating hospitality, and offers her home freely.

Early in our dating relationship, Jazz and I took a trip out to Chicago.  Anyone who knew Jazz when we started dating knew that his appearances, with dreadlocks, tattoos, infrequent showers and patched jeans, didn’t quite fit the mold of a stereotypical “good catch”; although I very strongly disagree with that.
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Though I think these things may have made my grandma feel uncomfortable, she never wrote Jazz off.  She welcomed him to her home and made us a vegan, eggplant parmesan.  She asked him about his tattoos and what they meant.  She asked why he wore his hair the way he did.  She asked about his passions and interests.  She showed genuine interest in who he was as a person and was able to look past his appearances.  We spent a lovely day at the botanical gardens with my grandparents and I remember on our way home feeling so loved and respected that my grandma would open herself to someone she normally wouldn’t, simply because I loved him. This spoke volumes to both Jazz and I and is a blessing we will always hold close for the duration of our marriage.

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Florida and Faith
My grandmother’s generosity goes beyond her family and extends to her faith community.  Grandma and papa Al are devout members at their parish, Our Lady of Perpetual Help, and have a deep and vibrant faith.  They actually both sent their children to the school there at some point or another [if you’re confused, grandma and Al didn’t marry until all of their kids were grown and out of the house].  Grandma and papa Al serve their community in numerous ways.  My grandma was appointed as a lay leader and served the eucharist during Mass on Sundays.  This act is symbolic of how I view her.  Always giving, extending love and kindness to those around her.

Over one of my college spring breaks, Grandma and Papa Al invited me to come stay with them for a week in their condo in Florida.  Of course, what broke college student, in the final stretch of a Michigan winter, who loves her grandparents would say no to that?  We went to the beach, went shopping, ate a lot of food and watched American Idol.  It was a very lovely week.

Towards the end of my stay, my grandma and I had a conversation about religion.  You see, I was raised a protestant Christian as my mom married a protestant man [hi dad!] and converted to his church, while my grandparents are Roman Catholic.   You might be surprised to hear this but protestants have not always thought highly of the catholic faith and vice versa (i.e. the reformation, the French wars of religion, the thirty years war, and the “troubles” in Ireland, just to name a few).  It is a tension that has torn apart nations not to mention families and friendships, even to this day.  During this conversation my grandma wanted to be clear about one thing, she wanted me to know that it didn’t matter what church tradition a person was raised in, that God’s love and grace surpasses those kinds of formalities.  And I whole heartedly agreed with her.  And even though the conversation we were having was theological, underneath it was personal. Deep down what we were telling each other was I love and accept you the way you are.  An all-loving, perfect God loving me as I am is one thing, but hearing an imperfect human being who has biases and baggage and misconceptions and expectations say she loves me the way I am is a love I find to be truly profound.  The entire world can learn from the love my grandma has for me.

Last Wishes and Last Laughs

This Christmas our family crammed our casseroles and roast ham onto a small table in the pool house of my grandparent’s condo.  This was the first holiday we celebrated after my grandparents moved out of their old house– a lovely tri level built by Papa Al himself, which boasted large windows, a beautiful garden and enough rooms to fit us all.  Grandma and Papa Al moved into their condo this summer as a way to avoid stairs as much as possible and eventually make it easy for a wheel chair and hospice to move in.  It was strange getting together for the holidays anywhere but their old house, not to mention in a pool house in the winter, but this Christmas felt oddly special none-the-less.

We stuffed ourselves full of all of our favorite foods, sitting in large wicker chairs with a snowy, poolside view.  We went around the table giving toasts and saying how much we loved (great) grandma/mom/wife/Penny.  We piled our plates high with pie and caramels and our glasses with wine and beer.  We opened a huge pile of presents and thanked one another for their thoughtfulness and generosity.  But unlike most Christmases, my grandma wanted to say something to all of us.  She used an app on her iPad to speak for her, as at the time she could barely talk.  We sat in silent anticipation, pondering what a woman with a terminal illness would say to her family after all she had lived through, all she had done for us and all her body had gone through in such a short period of time.  The voice from her iPad began to talk.  “I have an announcement”, it said, and my heart began to pound.  “My three children are going to be performing a song for us for our entertainment this evening.”  The smirk on her face helped me realize that this woman, my dear grandmother, is the most amazing person on the planet.  Because what may have been our last family gathering together of her life, rather than having us dwell on her sickness and the imminence of her death, she chose to live.  To make everyone laugh. And we did.  Because neither my mom nor my uncles are singers.  And saying that is a compliment.  They are REALLY bad!  My grandma keeps a recording of the performance as leverage for blackmail.  And she made almost every one of her children and grandchildren perform for everyone.  And we laughed the night away.  And my grandma smiled and played peek-a-boo with the babies.  I want to be like my grandma.  Grandma Penny, you are my hero.

How many people in your life can you say about them that they are unreservedly forgiving, exceedingly generous, lovingly open-minded, deeply spiritual and hilarious all at the same time? Really, how many? These kind of people are rarities, true gems, and I am very lucky to have one as my grandmother. To be her own flesh and blood is a true gift. It would be the joy of my life for her legacy to live on through me. I love you Grandma! You may feel weak right now but you are the strongest person I know.

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Keeping Willow by Stacy Feyer-Salo is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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Parenthood

On Blogging

I just need to clear some head space.

Because I have 6 posts in the works and can’t seem to find the time or mental where-with-all to get them finished.

And my child is refusing to take a second nap and has learned to climb on many things that are high and dangerous.  Such as this granite coffee table pictured below.  She is spinning in circles.

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And therefore, so is my head.

And after receiving hoards of positive feedback from a recent post, I feel like I need to be on my A-game.  Except for the fact that this is impossible right now.  But that’s what blogging is, isn’t it?  At least a personal blog.  Isn’t it about being honest about what’s happening in life?  And if I’m to be honest, I can tell you that life feels slightly chaotic at the moment.  And sometimes I have to remind myself to breath and drink water and use the washroom.

On another more light hearted note,  a little fun fact about my blog, I receive about 20 views a day from all over the world on one post in particular.  My “My Response to Miley Cyrus and ‘Free the Nipple'” post attracts a lot of attention.  The search term most commonly used for people to find this post, “miley cyrus tweetin pid of naked breasts”.  Gives you a lot of hope for humanity, doesn’t it?

With that, I give you another adorable picture of my loves.

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xoxo
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Keeping Willow by Stacy Feyer-Salo is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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Dinner, Lunch, Snacks

A Mediterranean Feast | Grain Free Tabouleh and Creamy Baba Ganoush

I LOVE Mediterranean food. And this little Mediterranean feast, with fresh parsley, tomatoes and lots of lemon juice, will make you hopeful for Spring to break through. The tabouleh is non-traditional in that it is made without bulgar wheat, rather cauliflower and almonds, but every bit tastes and feels like a traditional tabouleh. This baba ganoush, a creamy, garlicky eggplant dip, is one of my summertime favorites. I usually throw a couple eggplants on the grill and just relax outside with a beer.  I wouldn’t recommend doing that today, but eating this dish will make you reminisce about a gorgeous, Michigan summer.  We ate this with Feasting at Home’s Falafel recipe (I didn’t get a picture, but it was so good), except I baked it instead of frying it (350F for 30 min, turning halfway). This baked version of those rich and flavorful nuggets of chick pea glory along with rich baba ganoush and fresh tabouleh are sure to leave a puddle full of desire in your mouth and your belly. So eat up, and dream of the oh so very soon {34 days to be exact} arrival of Spring.
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Tabouleh
Ingredients//
1/2 cup chopped almonds
3/4 cup ground cauliflower
1 cup cherry tomatoes, diced
1/2 t salt
3 T lemon juice
1/2 c diced cucumber
1 small clove garlic, finely diced or grated with microplane
2 cups chopped curly parsley
Method//
Chop the cauliflower in a food processor until it is a grainy, slightly bigger than course sand.  I set some aside from when I made my Cauliflower Pizza the other day.
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Either in a food processor or with a knife– I just used a knife– chop up your almonds until small and grainy.
Combine all ingredients into a medium size bowl and adjust the amount of salt and lemon juice according to your taste. Always taste EVERYTHING you cook before you serve it. The flavors will meld together better after it’s been sitting a little while.
Baba Ganoush
Ingredients//
2 large eggplant
1 clove garlic
1/4 c lemon juice
1 T olive oil
1/2 c hummus or 3 T tahini
3/4 t salt
Pepper
Method//
 Either on the grill (medium high heat, 10 min per side) or in the oven (425 F for 30 min, turning halfway.  Prick the skin with a fork first) roast your eggplants. Meanwhile measure all of your other ingredients into a food processor.
Once your eggplant is cooked (skin may be black and insides mushy), allow it to cool for st least 5 minutes.  Place on a baking sheet as juices will flow everywhere. Once cool enough, pull the skin off the eggplant. It should easily come right off.
Put eggplant in the food processor with remaining ingredients and purée until smooth. Allow to chill in the refrigerator before serving.

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Keeping Willow by Stacy Feyer-Salo is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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Culture, Parenthood

The Death of Cool | A Eulogy

For those who don’t know me, which are probably a lot of you who were close to Cool, My name is Stacy Feyer-Salo.  I was an old friend of Cool Earthen Thou. Well, ok maybe we were more like good acquaintances for a short period of time, but I at least knew who Cool was since at least the 5th grade. We met in an encounter involving my Limited Too shorts, which were much shorter than my Limited too T-shirt. Cool pointed out that this combination does not necessarily work, and I deservedly received a school full of pointed fingers and the label “the pants-less girl wonder”. Cool also pointed out how I “intentionally” stuck my butt out too far when I walked. Thanks Cool, I know better now.

Anyway, since we first met I have seen Cool transform faster than you can say, “parachute pants”.  Cool was a very influential person, transforming many lives, no doubtedly both yours as well as mine.  Cool has molded the music industry, the world of fashion [single handedly raising the market value of leg warmers twice in two separate decades] once desolate urban destinations and the diet trend of not only our nation but the world.  Cool, more time than once, convinced the average Joe to leave behind their tasteless and boring image and pick up smoking, saving them from a life full of mundane, normalcy.  We have a lot to thank Cool for.

Cool was the kind of person you wanted to have around. If cool wasn’t at your party, concert venue, bar, shopping mall or modernly designed, direct trade coffee shop, no one else was either.  If cool was wearing high waisted, torn trousers, a neutral colored, over-sized blouse, felt hat and big textured sweater [not to mention a top knot] and you weren’t, it was pretty hard to make friends with anyone who knew Cool.  Oh you listen to Coldplay? Well Cool stopped listening to them 7 years ago, so maybe you should keep that little secret to yourself.

Cool and I had some crazy times together.  There were nights we stayed out way too late, having too many drinks (only locally crafted beer, PBR or Single malted Scotch Whiskey, of course) and I maybe made some life altering mistakes, but hey, I was somewhat close to Cool, and that made it all worth it.

We didn’t find out about Cool’s death until months afterwards.  You see, the night Cool died was the same night we, my husband Jazz and I– he was much closer to Cool than I ever was– had our first child.  We were so busy healing, changing diapers, not sleeping and generally losing our minds that we had no idea that Cool was even gone.  It was probably timely because Cool didn’t like children very much.  “Yes, I understand that kids like tacos, but no, we will not buy high chairs or install a changing table in our establishment because we are a restaurant that all of Cool’s friends are going to.  As you can understand, making this place child friendly would really  put a damper on our style”, was a common message we subliminally came across time and again (meanwhile the 10 kids eating overpriced tacos at the establishment are sitting on their hip parent’s laps getting guacamole all over their Levi’s and Madewell jeans).  I mean, I’m sure Cool would have loved the idea of Willow– especially if she was dressed in clothes bought from Etsy or baby Zara–  as long as she didn’t get too close.  Parenthood was something Cool never wanted.  Getting tied down wasn’t necessarily Cool’s thing.

Now let me be clear, Cool wasn’t one of those heartless, selfish people who don’t want children because they don’t feel they would make a good parent, don’t think they can handle the responsibility of caring for another human being (not to mention themselves), they don’t connect well with children or they are a nun or priest of something.  No, Cool didn’t like children purely because of image.  It was like being a parent and being Cool was like mixing oil and water, it just wasn’t going to happen.  I think we can all applaud Cool for always putting image first, no matter who or what stood in the way.

So goodbye Cool.  Goodbye nights of choosing to stay out late.  Goodbye friends of Cool and your hair that took hours to make it look like you didn’t wash it.  Goodbye coffee shops.  Goodbye hangovers.  Goodbye hipster dance parties and goodbye hipster bars. Goodbye words like “babe”, “babest”, “gem”, and “swag”.  Goodbye Urban Outfitters.  Goodbye Miley Cyrus. Goodbye to all of the establishments who refuse to install changing tables [seriously, where is one to change a soiled diaper? On the floor or at the table? Oh, that’s right, parents aren’t welcome here with their children].  Goodbye house shows and desert house plants.  Goodbye cocktails we learned about from Mad Men.  Goodbye Mad Men.  I will never forget all the ways I didn’t quite measure up to you and that I should never wear t-shirts that are longer than my shorts.

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Keeping Willow by Stacy Feyer-Salo is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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