Becoming Girasole

Yes, Seattle, there is a sun.  And it looks like I’m not the only one who noticed—so did the sunbathing girls on Seattle U’s lawn and passersby clad in rolled up cut-offs and Ray Bans on the way to the coffee shop this morning.  Never mind that it’s only 60 degrees, in this particularly rainy city, we get so excited for the return of sun that we sometimes jump the gun a little :).  Still, I don’t think we’re alone.  When I lived in Rome, people everywhere would sit out on an island in the middle of the Tiber river at the first sign of spring, roll up their sleeves, take off their shoes, and eat panini with their eyes closed and their faces to the sun.  We literally became girasole:  that which turns toward the sun. I remember getting my book and my favorite mango sorbetto and joining them, the words and gestures like music around me, as the sweet ice melted on my tongue. Our common language:  a worship of light. 

So, in honor of the crazy spirit that makes us all swoon when the sun comes out, I decided to make the thing I love most about these bright, happy days:  sorbetto that reminds me of the heaven I used to buy from handsome men in tuxedos near the Piazza Navona. I found fat, pink mangoes and shiny green limes and took them home to fill my house with make-believe summer. 
You’ll be glad to know that this recipe only has three ingredients:  mangos, sugar, and lime.  Michael Pollan would be happy with us, wouldn’t he?  Except, he’d probably be happier if we didn’t get our mangos from Mexico.  Especially since we live in Seattle.  Sorry, Michael, we’re pretending it’s summer today.

Here’s how you make it:

Mango Sorbetto

1. Peel four ripe mangoes, and slice them.
2. Zest one lime, and juice two.
3. Make a simple syrup with about ¾ cup sugar and ¾ cup water.  Mix in a pan until it combines.  You want about 1 cup of simple syrup for the recipe. 
4. Put the four mangoes the juice of two limes, the zest, and the simple syrup in a blender.
5. If you have an ice-cream maker you’re one lucky chap/gal.  Put it in and let it spin for 20 minutes.
6. If you don’t have an ice-cream maker, sorry!  You can still make it though.  Hooray!  Put it in a Tupperware container and let it sit in the freezer for about 3 hours, stirring it every half hour. 
7. Voila!  Sorbetto.  Go outside, with a bowl in your hand, put your bare-feet in the grass and pretend it’s July.

Do you have a great ice-cream or sorbet recipe?  Post it below!  I'd love to try it out.  


The Incredible Edible

Hello blog-world,
I’m happy to swing open the doors and return to my weekly postings. Saying that almost makes me feel the fresh air on my cheeks and smell the cherry blossoms.  I apologize from the bottom of my heart for my absence, but I had some things to attend to that took me away from my favorite perch: a great handmade, wooden table at Porchlight Coffee on 14th, writing to you!  I got married, I finished grading a load of final papers, I went on a blissful honeymoon, and, at long last, here I am.  Whew!  It’s been a crazy month.  April finds me incredibly happy, and only teaching one class!  It also leaves me wanting to get back to good, simple days (before all the craziness), with homemade food, and the lovely rituals that make up life.  

One of my favorite rituals happens in the morning, when I get up and boil an egg.  I know.  It doesn’t sound very romantic, but in the time it takes an egg to boil, and the twenty minutes that follow, there is a great window of day that would otherwise go by completely unnoticed.  It reminds me to be here now.  It gets me thinking about ideas for my novel, it gives me time to clean up the house, and on other, lazier days, it gives me time to catch up on a little reading in my bathrobe :).  Too busy to be here now?  Just boil a bunch at once and put them in the fridge for later.  It’s a win-win. 

I like to put my egg on a colorful plate when it’s done, and grind a little salt on one side of the dish, and a little pepper on the other.  Then I put a dollop of stone ground mustard below those and finish it off with a slice of toasted buttered bread.  I’m telling you, I could eat this breakfast every day of the rest of my life. It is that satisfying, and it’s the easiest thing EVER.  

Here’s how I like to do it:

1. Put your egg(s) in a pot with water covering them.  (Old wives like to say that if you don’t put it in a stainless steel pan the shells will be harder to peel, but this new wife doesn't have one and it usually works just fine.  I think it depends on the eggs, really.)

2. Cover the pot and turn it on high. 

3.  Go read a poem, or write your love a note about how much you adore him or her.  Call your mom. Do a little meditating. 

4.  When the water boils you’ll hear the pot lid pop up and a little steamy sound of the water seeping over the edge, telling you it’s time to take it off the burner.

5.  Put it on one of the off burners, and set the timer for 20 minutes. 

6.  Dance around the house to your favorite song. Or, if you’re family is still asleep, plan out your day, before it’s planned for you.

7.  When the timer beeps they’re almost done!  Pour out the hot water and add some cold water to the pot, covering the eggs.

8.  While they’re cooling, toast a piece of hearty bread, and get the plate ready.  Grind some salt on one side and some pepper on the other, put a dollop of stone ground mustard below that.

9. When the toast pops, butter it.  Then set it on an empty island on the plate.  P.s. it’s okay to get a little artistic with this set up.  It makes it more fun.

10. Now pour the water off of the eggs, crack the top of the egg on the sink and start peeling.  Make sure to get your fingers under that layer of skin between the shell and the white of the egg.  If you can get this going, the whole shell will just slide right off.

11.  Ta da!  It’s ready.  Put it on the other empty spot on your plate, wherever it looks best.  Then pour yourself a glass of juice and relish the simplest, most satisfying, breakfast on earth.  Enjoy your day!




I've been invited to read some of my fiction this week in the Ballard Library Reading Series!  I would love to see you there!  Please see the full press release below:
It's About Time Writers Reading Series #257
Thurs. March 10, 2011
Linda Malnack, Robert Flor, Lauren Fink
+ Jack Remick on The Writer's Craft (Modern Poetics)
  6:00 - 7:45 p.m.
5614 22nd Ave. N.W.
Seattle , WA 98107
  Wheelchair accessible.  Free
open mike readers have 3 minutes to read
scheduled writers read 15 minutes
writer’s craft 20 minutes
Carol Levin is tonight’s emcee
Jack Remick’s latest book is Blood, a novel from Camel Press. He co-wrote The Weekend Novelist Writes A Mystery with Robert J. Ray; it was a Featured Alternate in the Writers’ Digest Book Club.  His published work includes Terminal WeirdThe Stolen House, publications in national magazines and two books of poetry. Work in progress includes One Year in the Time of Violence, a memoir; Pacific Coast Highway, a novel; and a book-length poem, Josie Delgado. Black Madonna in Blue was a semifinalist in a couple of script competitions while Lemon Custard finished in the top 20 at the Writer’s Place script writing contest in 2010.
Lauren Fink is a Seattle writer whose work has appeared in Seneca Review, Jeopardy Magazine, and Bellingham Weekly.  She teaches composition at Edmonds and North Seattle Community Colleges, and writes the blog Sow Change.  Her short story, “The Wreckage of June” is forthcoming in Crab Creek Review
Robert Flor is a 2010 Edge Development Program Artist Trust Writer . His publications include Sounding Review, Fourcournered Universe, 4 and 20 Journal, Sealed of Mirrors, and others. He is a member of the WA Poets Assoc, Pacific NW Poets and the Academy of American Poets.  Bob studied at Seattle Univ and Univ of Oregon and is a Seattle native.
Linda Malnack’s poems have appeared in The Seattle Review, Southern Humanities Review and Willow Springs. She has had the honor of winning the Willow Springs Poetry Award and Washington Poets Association’s William Stafford Award. Linda currently volunteers as one of the co-editors for the on-line poetry journal, Switched-on Gutenberg.



Spaghetti and Meatballs Weather

Lately, I’ve noticed that the weather has given me exactly what I need.  I know it’s snowing, and icy-cold for Seattle.  But it’s almost meditative to watch the snow swirling outside the window and the blanket-like sky surround the city with grey. With wedding planning and my classes in full swing, I’ve been craving a little time to relax. So, I’m thankful to curl up on the couch with some tea and grade papers by the fire. This last push of winter is giving me time to regenerate and hibernate before the rush of spring comes.
And what better way to welcome this reprieve from the dull 50’s, then to make something to embrace the cold?  As my fiancé says:  “It’s spaghetti and meatballs weather.” I couldn’t agree more.  I love the idea that there are certain foods that can embody the weather, and this recipe definitely does.  We made it from the new cookbook we received as a wedding present from our friends Adam and Negar Seumae (thanks, you two!). 

So, curl up with your honey, or your kitty; enjoy some meatballs, a movie, and the fact that the weather is giving you permission to take it easy. 

Italian Grandmother Meatballs
Adapted from: The Newlywed Kitchen 
By: Lorna Yee and Ali Basye

Serves 6 people

For the meatballs:
¼ cup milk
1 cup toasted cubed bread, crusts removed
2/3 lb ground pork
¾ lb ground beef
1 large egg
1/3 cup grated pecorino
¾ tsp kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 teaspoons oregano
2 cloves garlic, finely diced
Small pinch of red pepper flakes
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil for frying

For the tomato sauce:
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
¾ cup diced yellow onion
4 cloves garlic, crushed or finely minced
1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
3 tablespoons tomato paste
¾ cup fresh basil leaves, torn
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Meatball prep:
1. Soak the bread in a small bowl with the milk for 2 minutes.
2. In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients for the meatballs (not including the olive oil) with the soaked bread. 
3. Mix everything together lightly and form into balls of desired size (if you over-mix your meatballs will be too dense).  I make mine about 1 ½ inches in diameter.
4. Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat and cook the meatballs until they are deeply browned on all sides about 8-10 minutes total.

Sauce prep:
-Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the onions and cook for 7-8 minutes, or until they are golden brown.  Add the garlic, crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, and basil.  Season to taste with salt and pepper and bring the sauce to a simmer.  Place the meatballs in the tomato sauce and simmer for 25-30 minutes.  Serve the meatballs over penne pasta, and garnish with grated pecorino. 



Imagine Christmas Eve in Walla Walla, 1990.  The stockings were hung, Santa’s cookies and milk set out neatly on the mantle, and sugar plums were dancing through each of our heads as we slept.  Or so it first appeared.  On closer inspection, my brother, just dying to see the goods Santa brought him, decided to get up at 2 a.m. and race downstairs to check out his toys. Thrilled, he played happily until 3:30 a.m. when the joy wore off, and he realized he only had the rainbow-flicker of the Christmas lights to accompany him.  The only way to bring back the excitement was to wake me up so I could see my stuff, too. On it went again, the exhilaration rising and falling like a roller coaster before both of us ended up sorely disappointed that Christmas had ended by 5:00 a.m.

We learned our lesson.  It’s best to have patience and wait until the time is right both on Christmas Eve, and with bigger things too.  But I’m not always the most patient person. And this year I’m busy with a lot of projects that excite me as much as Santa did.  I’m planning wedding, working on a committee to get a P-patch going at North Seattle C.C., and writing my first blog.  As many of you fiancés, committee members, and bloggers know, these things require a lot of a certain virtue.

It takes planning and gumption to tackle wedding planning each day, and it takes the same stuff to write this blog, and to watch the P-Patch take shape at North. I watch the spike on the blog readership chart each Saturday, but then feel that familiar fall on Monday when the line touches down on the X-axis. I hear good news about the P-Patch, but can become disappointed by the seemingly long journey ahead.

Recently I’ve had some new perspective on the idea of patience. I went to a sustainability meeting a few days ago at North and, the Coordinator, Christian Rusby, framed the idea of patience in a way that didn’t make it seem like procrastination.  He said that it wasn’t the right time to go full speed ahead with the P-Patch, but it also wasn’t time to just sit back and do nothing.

Instead, he proposed that we be strategic.  We’ll start the momentum for the project in the spring when people are excited about being outside and want to plant things.  Once we have interest, we can get formal approval from the administration and work on a grant.  True, we probably won’t have a P-Patch at North until next spring, but by being patient we will have one sooner than if we jumped the gun and the plan was rejected altogether. 

The fitting part, is that I realized that my other goal for the year, growing food, also takes this same strategy, and the same willingness to be actively patient.  You have to wait for the right season and temperature before you can plant certain things, and then you have to tend to them while they slowly grow.  If you try to plant basil in winter it will surely shrivel.  If you try to write a popular blog in four weeks, it will most likely parish too.  So, I’m going to practice a little patience in the weeks to come, and see what sprouts in the spring. 

For more information about the North P-Patch Project, visit: 


How I Fell for a Beet

When I was in fourth grade I was wildly jealous of my friend Sara.  Not only did she have a secret passage in her house, but she also had an au pair named Julia.  “On her first day,” Sara told me, grinning wickedly, “Julia brought me this!” She pointed at a beautiful fan-like hair decoration that was from Ukraine.  It was pink and had long ribbons hanging from it.  We spent hours imagining what it must be like there, with all the little girls wearing these gorgeous fans on their heads and twirling their ribbons.  

It was also at this point in my life that my hatred of beets reached its apex. Eating them seemed unnatural; they were the color of Barbie shoes!  The taste was like perfumed dirt: scented but earthy. My mom always bought them canned, so the texture was mushy and reminiscent of the cranberry jelly that came out each Thanksgiving.  The worst part? They were impossible to hide.  If I slyly stuffed them under my mashed potatoes or rice, they always betrayed me with their hot pink juices.  “Eat ‘em” my parent’s would say. 

“Bleck!” I would shout back.  “I’d rather eat mud.” 

So, you can imagine my horror when I found out that the lovely Julia not only loved beets, but she was going to make beet soup for our special weekend lunch. I immediately had to adjust my idealized version of Ukranian girls, to a bleaker one that included them slurping  borscht, a traditional staple in Ukraine and Russia.  Little did I know, it was about to become my favorite. 

We smelled it all afternoon as we played Clue with our flashlights in the secret passage, and wondered what it would taste like.  Once Miss Scarlet had killed Colonial Mustard with the rope in the carriage house, and we were settled down at the table, I stared into my bloody-looking bowl, preparing to force it down.  I may have been a child who told my parents what I really thought of their cooking, but I didn’t want to offend Julia.  So, I took my spoon in hand and decided to bite the beet. 

Amazingly, the soup was good.  Tangy, tomatoey, with a little crunch from the cabbage, carrots and celery.  It was also slightly honeyed and tasted sweet, sweet and earthy, in a good way.   I ate my bowl and asked for another.  Julia smiled with all her teeth.  I smiled back, with most of mine.

It’s been 20 years since that day at Sara’s table, and in the years in between I have mastered my own borscht recipe.  I make it nearly every Sunday and usually have some waiting in the freezer.  It’s a quick winter lunch, and it’s great ice cold in the summer with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkling of fresh dill.  What’s more is that borscht reminds me that what they say about first impressions isn’t true. Sometimes they don’t match our initial expectations, and sometimes they surprise us and we fall in love.

Julia's Borscht
Adapted from Moosewood Cookbook

1 beet (about 1 cup)
1 Yukon Gold or Red Potato (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 medium onion (about 1 1/2 cups)
3 cups cabbage
1 large carrot
1 stem celery
1 15 oz can crushed tomatoes, or chopped tomatoes (depending on what you like)
1 tablespoon, plus 1 teaspoon cider vinegar
1 tablespoon, plus 1 teaspoon honey
4 cups vegetable broth
2 tablespoons butter or olive oil
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
1/2 teaspoon salt (or more to taste)
Slice the potatoes and the beets and cut them into triangle shapes.  Put them in a small pot with 4 cups water and crumbled vegetable bouillon cubes.  Cover and turn on high.  Chop the cabbage, and onions, slice the carrots and celery.  While the beets and potatoes are coming to a boil, pour the olive oil into a soup pot, and add the chopped onion, salt and caraway seeds.  Saute on medium, stirring regularly, until the onion is clear and soft.  Next, put in the cabbage, carrots, celery and stir to coat with oil, salt, caraway, and onion.  Stir regularly so everything starts to cook, and when the beets and potatoes and stock are boiling, pour all of it into the soup pot with the cabbage etc.  Add the can of tomatoes, the vinegar, and the honey.  Bring to a boil.  When it's boiling, cover it and simmer on low for 30 minutes.  Serve with a spoonful of sour cream, or enjoy just as it is. 


Getting Back to The Dirty Life

“But most people don’t go outside that much” a man on the radio said when defending the idea of building a self enclosed city on Mars that could sustain human life.

I was in the car as I heard this, and my first reaction was “This guy’s nuts! People go outside all the time.  What kind of person wouldn’t want to go outside?” 

As I continued to listen, I rolled down the window just enough and handed the attendant my validated ticket for the grocery store parking garage, before rolling it up again as I exited.  After an earlier workout at the gym and a long day grading papers, I was looking forward to getting home and settling in with a book and glass of wine.

And then it dawned on me— I was the type of person the guy on the radio described:  a perfect candidate for Mars.

What were my excuses?  It was January.  It’d been raining forever.  I was wearing a particularly uncomfortable pair of heels.  The list could go on. 

When I parked a few minutes later, and climbed the carpeted stairs toward home, I wondered what on earth happened to those dirty childhood days, when I would get grass stains on my pants, and sand under my fingernails.  What happened to the mud pie and snowball fight?  Did I grow out of the outdoors?  If so, how could I find my way back?

Kristin Kimball’s new book, The Dirty Life, answers that question and gives us all a reason to get outdoors.  She’s the flip-flopped version of my own equation:  instead of growing out of the outdoors, she grew into them. 

A New York writer who falls in love with a farmer, the book takes readers along with her as she starts a CSA with her fiancé, and learns to farm on 500 acres six hours from the city she loves.  She describes her land and the animals who share it, with such care, that I felt I too had smelled the soil on the end of her shovel, and looked into her cow Delia’s patient eyes. 

There are no excuses on Kimball’s end as she bundles up against the winter dawns with no experience, and sweats out the sickeningly hot summer.  The book chronicles all four seasons on the farm and in her new relationship, which is just as regular in its shifting.

The best part?  It reminded me of the meditative tiredness at the end of a day outdoors, the amazing meal made with food pulled from the earth.  She made my mouth water for things I would never normally crave— pigeon wrapped in bacon, giant watermelon radishes drizzled with reduced balsamic and sprinkled with pomegranates.  Most of all, she made me not want to live on Mars. 

So, I decided to prove the radio guy wrong and join some of the people who do go outdoors. Marra Farm Giving Garden is located in South Seattle, and it donates all produce to the food bank and to the community in which it was raised and harvested.  They have volunteer work parties on Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday from 10:00-2:00, starting in March.  I’m happy to say that I’ll be there this spring, graduating from mud pies to edible produce.    

In the meantime, as I go out for my usual ritual of getting coffee and reading, I have started to walk instead of drive.  In true Seattle form, it usually starts to rain, and my suede shoes inevitably get soaked, but there is something about the dampness on my skin, and the blood in my cheeks, that makes me feel more like my old self.  

For more information on Marra Farm Giving Garden visit:
Marra Farm Giving Garden