Friday, November 6, 2009

All About Me

Well, I suppose I could give this post an AA feeling by starting things out like this, "Hi, my name is Karoline. I'm 29 years old, and I'm having a mid-life crisis." That pretty much sums things up these days. So, I joined the millions of other people who air their dirty laundry on the internet with the hopes that it will somehow help me to find purpose and meaning in my life. Sound familiar?

Let's back things up a little to give you an idea of how I arrived at said mid-life crisis. I grew up in a snooty Chicago suburb, and like the half of my high school who did not attend Northwestern or Harvard, I went to the University of Illinois. Because my dad's an attorney, I got it in my confused, yet-to-be-fully-formed brain that I should follow a pre-law track. Poli sci and Spanish it was. Fortunately for the rest of the attorneys out there, I spent an ungodly amount of time studying abroad in Brazil, Spain, Austria, and Cuba where I found my true love: eating. Well, I also fell in love with beer, wine, and all other alcoholic beverages, but that is fodder for another post and another meeting.

I graduated from college early, and I started waiting tables to pay for cooking classes. After a few grueling years of living out of my car, I snagged a studio apartment in Lincoln Park and spent my nights slinging pans as a line cook and my mornings baking pastries just to cover the rent. Don't be led astray...that doesn't mean I didn't have any fun. I partied hard enough to meet my husband (well, we did meet at a work function), get him sufficiently sloshed, and convince him to marry me and move to Boston -- all in the span of a few short months.

Ahhh, Boston...I love that dirty water. Not really. If cities are like spouses, Boston was the product of an arranged marriage who I quickly made my ex. I enrolled in Boston University's master's program in gastronomy, and for four years, I slaved as a pastry chef, student, and freelance writer/ stylist. When the time came, I was glad to leave it behind.

Not quite finished with grad school, I spent four months living in Argentina where I researched my final thesis. Yes, by research I mean that I drank copius quantities of malbec with the hopes of discovering the who, what, and why of the world's current obesession with the grape.

With no place to return to stateside, we decided to try out the west coast. So, we packed up the car and drove to San Francisco on a whim. We didn't have jobs or an apartment. Heck, I hadn't even set foot in CA except for the time I went to Disneyland when I was ten. But, something told me that San Francisco was the place for me. I know that doesn't make me unique -- this city attracts all the crazies and wayward souls. That's why I love it. That, and the amazing food scene.

So, here I am: rapidly approaching the big 3-0, baking sourdough for a living, and desperately trying to find myself. Yet with all the yoga, lifecoaching, and rolling fog, one thing remains certain. I love food.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

A little something to wet your appetite

Farro with mushrooms and asparagus
Meredith Berger, nutrition intern at Emerson Hospital, says, “Whenever I make a grain dish, I try to beef it up with some finely chopped vegetables to make the grain portion size smaller but be just as filling.” In this case, farro, rated medium on the glycemic index, is beefed up with asparagus and mushrooms. The addition of protein-rich chicken stock and sherry vinegar lower the overall GI of the dish. The cereal is an ancient cousin to modern day wheat and sometimes known as emmer wheat. High in B vitamins but low in gluten, it may be tolerated by some with wheat allergies. Choose the semi-pearled version, as it cooks faster than the whole grain. Farro is often cooked like rice or pasta. For this recipe, boil the kernels first and then transfer to a skillet to absorb the flavors of the sauce. To make the dish vegetarian, soak the mushrooms in 2 cups of water; reserve it and use in place of chicken stock.

Serves 4

1 ounce dried mushrooms
8 ounces semi-pearled farro
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
3 tablespoons sherry vinegar
2 cups chicken stock
1 bunch asparagus, cut into 1/4 inch pieces
Salt and pepper, to taste

1. In a small bowl, cover dried mushrooms with warm water. Soak for 25 minutes, or until softened. Drain the mushrooms, and discard the soaking water. Chop finely.
2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add farro, and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Drain and reserve.
3. In a large skillet, over medium heat, heat the olive oil. Add onion, garlic, thyme, and mushrooms. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes or until onions are tender. Stir in 2 tablespoons of sherry vinegar. Continue cooking for 1 minute.
4. Add chicken stock, and bring it to a boil. Stir in farro, and return to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer, and cover with a tight fitting lid. Cook for 10 minutes. Add asparagus. Cook, covered, for an additional 10 minutes.
5. Season with 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar, salt and pepper.

More about who I am in upcoming posts...