because: caramelized onions

I felt productive this weekend, mainly because I roasted more tomatoes and had the inspired plan to caramelize onions in the oven at the same time. It worked brilliantly, beautifully. I know this because I couldn’t stop eating them this morning. They are velvety, jammy, savory and sweet.

We planted onions this spring and ended up with a lot of them come harvest time. I’m pretty happy about this. However, there were a few that didn’t cure well that had begun to go a bit mushy. I decided that since I had the oven on at 275° for the next five hours anyway, I may as well put some onions in. I sliced the good parts of five or so of such onions thickly and tossed them with a drizzle of olive oil in a pyrex dish. Nothing makes me tear up like these homegrown onions (not quite true, but they are certainly tear inducing). I think I stirred them twice over the course of the evening, and by the end of the cooking time they were very soft and lightly browned. I turned off the oven and left them to stew overnight. In the morning they were perfect. I added a touch of thyme-infused sea salt, and ended up snacking on a few spoonfuls before breakfast.

Because I wanted to eat more caramelized onions and because I was pretty hungry, I concocted a salad which made use of a few generous forkfuls.

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September Salad with beets, caramelized onions and pecans

I didn’t measure anything because I wasn’t planning on writing about it, but it turned out so good that you will have to accept my approximations until I make it again, and adjust it to taste. I thought about dressing the salad, but I’m glad that I didn’t because the oil from the onions coated everything nicely.

⋅ ~ 4 leaves kale, washed, stemmed, kneaded til bright green and cut into ribbons
⋅ several handfuls diced cooked beets (I used cold beets but warm would probably be lovely as well)
⋅ several forkfuls caramelized onion (and I do mean full)
⋅ soft cheese, crumbled (I used fromage frais, but a creamy feta would also be nice, such as Doric Macedonian Feta – Elise I silently thank you every time I find myself in possession of a bucket of the stuff)
⋅ a smallish handful of pecans, hand crushed and toasted over medium heat
= Assemble and eat.

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away

I work downtown. We live in a quiet neighborhood not far from town. This is all very well for walking to work along the seawall and having easy access to excellent bookstores and chocolateries, but I have spent most of my life falling asleep to the sounds of treefrogs and owls, rain and wind. The city traffic and sirens and busyness can be overwhelming. Sometimes I need to get away. Anywhere with forest or open water and quiet will do.

On one such day recently, we headed out for a hike in the highlands. I wore gumboots and brought an apple and a lump of cheese, and couldn’t resist looking for hedgehog mushrooms even though I know it’s still too early for them there.

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we drove

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We went on a road trip last weekend back to the mountains. Our destination was Nelson, nestled in a narrow valley with a long lake-river running by. I had a list of places I wanted to have coffee or get food at and tea blends and favorite products to buy. There were friends to visit, a few stored possessions to collect, and I wanted to see the splendor of the fall colours and say goodbye to the house that we are selling.

It rained heavily the morning we left our island home. From the ferryboat, the mist hung heavy on the shorelines we passed, long tendrils of cloud clinging to the tall conifers. I glimpsed a bald eagle through sheets of sideways rain.

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And then we drove, and drove and drove, for hours. Mostly Jer drove while I read aloud to him. I drove a long winding section through high country, bright reds, oranges, pinks and yellows sweeping by under now-blue skies.

Next, a magnificent landscape of Ponderosa pines and rolling hills; sagebrush; magpies; dry crumbling mountains laced with silver, gold and copper; the shimmering Similkameen, shallow and wide, rolling on down over rounded river rocks.

It was raining when we drove into Nelson, the beautiful lake peaceful, but the excitement of the day had been lost to the kind of dream-shattering conversation that sometimes only long hours in a vehicle can bring. The placid water and yellow-leaved cottonwoods then served as a backdrop for us to build new plans and dreams over subsequent drives along the lake shore that weekend.

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September 24

Headache today, the storm clouds crinkled like thick cream. Discomfort melted as raindrops dotted the ocean waves. The seam of the horizon lost in slate blue distance.

Also: it’s dark now in the mornings when I get out of bed, and it’s cool enough now for sweaters on sunny days.

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tiny fortress

I’m at home today, on my first official “earned day off” and I am all but spinning in circles as I struggle to spend it well. I had big plans mapped out yesterday, but my mind has gone foggy as to what they were. There is a distinct chill in the air now. The house was cold all morning and my movements were slow. Now the windows are open and a pleasant breeze traverses the room. I let the rabbits roam, not expecting that they would harass the poor old cat. Fortunately, they gave up easily and each pet is calmly resting in her own sunbeam now.

Last night, I locked myself out of the house and sat in the garden. I’ve done this once before, but this time I pulled the knob tight with an intentional hand. You see, when stacks of dirty dishes sprawl across my kitchen (how does this happen so quickly?), it makes me want to scream. Usually I have the wherewithal to roll up my sleeves and banish them to the dishrack, but occasionally a long day and insufficient snacking will tilt me in the direction of rash emotion and terse words. Rather than scream, I scrammed. I sat at the little table in the back of the garden and wrote as I watched crows move eastward towards the gorge and pink ice-cream-castle clouds settle on the horizon. After a while, after having observed a wren light on the rooftop for a mid-flight song and a scarlet-flushed purple finch seek seed among the arugula pods, and having noted a garden spider’s tiny fortress in the cosmos and coriander, I began to shiver more than a little, and knocked rather sheepishly at the garden door.

We had several weeks of deliciously rainy weather and grass and dandelions are coming up everywhere. I am feeling similarly refreshed. Here is what I would like for the months to come: dinner parties/potlucks/cooking and eating in company, forest hikes and foraging for autumn mushrooms, apples in abundance, time spent with loved ones, garlic in the ground, and to cultivate an active and creative lifestyle.

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chaos sorted, tomatoes roasted

Ah September, I love this month! We’ve got our garden back in hand and are getting it ready for a cool, rainy winter. We learned a lot about gardens this summer, namely to not alternate rows of chard and kale because the kale shades out and stunts the chard, that a little goes a long way in the seed-scattering department, and that roasted tomatoes are a lifesaver. Having to toss moldering heirloom tomatoes for not having dealt with them quick enough is depressing. Luckily I came across Alana Chernila‘s roasted tomato recipe in time to save most of them.

There was a little more to it, but in essence it came down to this: halve and core the tomatoes (I quartered some of the big ones) and lay them out on a parchment -lined baking sheet. Toss on some peeled garlic cloves, a touch of sea salt and black pepper, some fresh herbs and a drizzle of olive oil, and slow-roast for 5 hours in a 275° oven. I roasted mine in the evening so just left them in the oven (which I turned off) overnight to cool. Once they have cooled, scoop the tomatoes and liquid into a freezer bag and freeze, or keep in the fridge up to a few days. To make a lovely sauce, dice and sauté a yellow onion, add thawed tomatoes and simmer 30 minutes.

The past few weeks have involved intense sorting. This book came into our lives and has inspired a world of good, but also a lot of work and chaos in the process. For several weeks, it was tense (or I was) and I kept my head down, plowing along in my quest to create order. Needless to say it was not a great time for personal relationships as the thought of someone seeing our house with stuff strewn all over was horrific. I am fairly strongly affected by my external environment, so living in a mess, even a temporary one, caused great unhappiness. At this point I feel the need to point out that the process was dragged out because everyday tasks and obligations kept interfering- we did not spend several weeks locked in our house sorting through piles of belongings. I can happily say that the free-pile on our front lawn is dwindling and our house feels (and looks) so much better.

The next challenge I am facing is also the best: to relax. Due to the topics mentioned above (garden, house, chaos!), and also my job which can be stressful for me as it isn’t well suited to my personality, I’ve been feeling pretty overwhelmed lately. Not to say that there aren’t still plenty of tasks to check off on the kitchen chalkboard, there are, but they are in the realm of reasonable. I set up a mini studio for myself and am really looking forward to time spent quietly dabbling with paints. In anticipation of this glorious reprieve, I also brought home a small armful of books from the library. Friends! I’m sorry for being lame this last month, but it’s better now, I promise. Let’s find a misty forest to walk in, and maybe even some chanterelles, and drink tea and draw and giggle. Please, soon.

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