Crispy tortillas stuffed with beans and cheese and topped with salsa and vegetables
Two weeks ago I was in Mexico. More specifically, in the Yucatan Peninsula- in and around Meirda. I went with a team of professors to host a soils workshop at the Autonomous University of the Yucatan (UADY) and to visit some sites for a new research project. I spent an entire day touring agroforestry systems, milpas, and Mayan home gardens. It was lovely. There was a gorgeous variety of fruits available and a host of native spices. Yucatecan cuisine is quite unique- punchy and flavorful, acidic, easy on the heat in the dish, heavy on the heat in the salsa. I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was not like Meixcan food I've had before, yet reminiscent of it. This garden tortilla pizza is also reminiscent of Mexican food you've likely enjoyed before. And it too, calls upon a few native Mexican ingredients. However, unlike Yucatecan food, this dish could not be farther from traditional.
Crispy sweet potato chips smothered with peppers, carrots, and spicy peanut dressing
Lately things have been feeling weird. Up until the past few days I haven't really felt like myself. And although I have a list of reasons about a mile long why, all those reasons are just bits and pieces of the same driving force. Change. All summer long I worked carefully to achieve a delicate balance. I enlisted new routines, I tried many different approaches to working, I reflected and assessed the strengths and weakness of my days... But now things are just different. The morning routine I proudly settled on by the end of summer is no longer applicable to most of my week. My delicate balancing act of priorities has toppled into a giant mess as a slew of new responsibilities and obligations have been tossed into the mix. My initiative to maintain progress on all of the things most important to me has devolved into a simple system of "what do I have to do immediately, what do I have to do really soon, and what have I been putting off for so long that I can actually justify bumping it up on the to do list?". I won't say my summer of seeking balance was all for naught- it was an important exercise. But life isn't like some project were you work really hard, execute your plan, buffer out the imperfections, and presto: Balance! Contentment! Keep that on the shelf for later! Life is fluid and dynamic. It's always changing and you can try to hold on to your plans and schedules and ideals when the tides shift, or you can go with the flow. And this fall, the current is strong, the waves are massive, and after a few frustrated months of stubbornly trying to swim up stream, I just threw my hands up into the air and let the flow of the water do the navigating.
A rich, sweet, mild Thai curry with peppers, pineapples, and onions7
This is the post that should have come before the bread- the one that explains my long absence and the elusive nature of all the recipes I've been promising!
You may be asking yourself, is this really happening right now? Can it really be true? And the answer is yes. The panang curry recipe that I excitedly posted about on facebook nearly two months ago, is finally here. I don't blame you if you've forgotten all about it... two months is a long time to wait. I feel that an apology and explanation is due on my part. After all, my last recipe post was a whole month ago, and I should be grateful that you haven't forgotten all about me. So, first things first. What's up? Where have I been? Well, for starters, in an effort to get my work life back in order, I've been a little less attentive to keeping up with the blog. It's a really enjoyable outlet for me- creating and testing new recipes, getting the pictures together, writing whatever thoughts that have been at the front of my mind. However, it also makes for a very convenient distraction, which isn't an issue except that for much of this summer, I've been really embracing distractions. Hence the neglect. I cut myself off. The need to get it in gear was compounded by the start of fall quarter in early October. My summer of loose scheduling and working from home every day has sadly come to an end. I don't have classes nor am I teaching, but I have meetings out my ears. Luckily, I can still do most of my work from home, but my flexibility has been reigned in a bit. Although I hate to admit it, it's probably for the better right now. I have finally gained some focus and a plan, I have both immediate and long-term objectives, and even though I'm approaching these tasks a little begrudgingly, it's giving me that little boost of momentum I need.
Eggplant fries, sauteed zucchini, and charred baby bell peppers
Another Sunday afternoon trapped inside on a 98 degree day, looking longingly out the window. Yesterday I stayed out in the back yard until past noon pulling up weeds and raking up the dozens of plant litter piles that have accumulated around the yard. I was glad to get that all done but I was seriously overheated and worn out by the time I came in. I haven't sweat that much since El Centro... I was hoping to get some more digging done today, but when I woke up this morning the knots in my back indicated that that was not a good idea. I did collect a few barrels of compost and acquire a dragon fruit cutting as well as a pretty well-established hops plant, so at least the morning was put to good use. I know my back is grateful for the break, but I'm itching to get back out there nonetheless. This season's garden fever has begun. I've got nearly 200 little seedlings going, one of three new deep sunken beds dug out, all of the weeds and any spent summer crops pulled out of the old garden, a clean yard, and a plan. It's going to be a good fall, when it finally comes. Embarking on this new garden expansion is particularly exciting because I feel like I've finally got a good hold on things. I've gotten to know my yard, soil, pests, and predators well, and I feel armed and ready to transform this new area. There's not a time that I could go out in the garden and think, "no, there's nothing that really needs to be done around here". There's always more to do, and the more invested I get in working on this new project, the more I think of other things I want to do next.
Cheddar polenta, savory sauteed mushrooms, and tangy green tomatoes and pepperoncini
Man, have I been a serious grump this week. I've woken up everyday with a kind of chip on my shoulder- easily agitated, unfocused, irritable. And no, it's not "that time of the month". Sometimes these things just happen, but usually I'm quicker to recognize it and to confront myself about my poor attitude. This week, though, I just kind of stewed in it as if I had no control of the situation, no choice but to be grumpy and miserable. I think a lot of my discontent can be traced back to work. I'm scattered- working on several different projects and developing some new ones. And if you haven't figured this out about me yet, scattered is not my thing. I like lists, objectives, and deadlines- not ambiguity and flip-flopping. It's nearly impossible for me to really get in to something when I have to continually shift gears. And on top of that, I keep finding myself getting sucked into helping other people do their work. Long, hot overnights in El Centro to help a lab mate, going into the lab on a weekend (sacrilege!) to measure leaf traits for some other offshoot project... things I really don't want to do, but feel too guilty to decline. But the thing is, none of that is really an excuse. Just because certain aspects of my life are not ideal at the moment, doesn't mean I just get to throw in the towel and give up on having a good week. Work is not my life. My life has many other facets to it, and they (as well as poor Chris, whom I've been snapping at all week) shouldn't have to suffer just because I'm not really feeling grad school a the moment.
A rich, spicy and satisfying Indian curry with fresh, buttery naan
That rain we never got has been sitting in the sky, getting heavier and heavier. Southern California is not a humid place by any means- even the most humid of days in Riverside is less humid than an ordinary day on the east coast. But when it's over 100 degrees, that 20% humidity is surprisingly palpable- and it is seriously unpleasant. The hours of 9 am to 8 pm are all but resigned to being indoor hours, which always makes this time of year difficult for me. I'm an outdoor person. There are few afternoon plans that I find more appealing than spending a good six hours out in the garden or going for a nice long hike. Of course, most of the year here is very conducive to outdoor living. All winter long I can camp, hike, and garden to my heart's content- but from roughly June to September I feel stuck. I feel cooped up in the house, frantically trying to squish all outdoor activities into the couple of light hours in the morning and evening that are bearable to leave the house in. With or without the humidity, the summer here is mostly a wash for outdoor things unless we hitch a ride to the coast or the mountains, but at least the dry heat is slightly more comfortable to contend with. So today, with grey clouds once again filling the sky, all I can do is cross my fingers and hope that maybe, just maybe, it will finally rain. The humidity will dissipate, the parched soil will be quenched, and I will sit by the window with a cup of tea, dreamy and nostalgic about rain. Although, it's been so very long since it last rained here that I may just have to go out and stand in it, letting it soak me through.
Hi there! I'm Cara- plant ecologist, gardening addict, and whole foods enthusiast. My whole life revolves around plants, including my kitchen. Join me here at LWM each week as I post local, seasonal, plant-based recipes and write about my never ending quest to find balance and tranquility in this crazy little world.