Saturday, November 20, 2010

Cranberry Pistachio Biscotti

The husband was in a celebratory mood. Maybe cuz it was sunny and cold outside and we’d had cheese omelets made with happy eggs and scallions. That combination always makes him happy. I was fairly un-moody myself and had a huge batch of granola going which always makes the house smell crisp and cinamonny when it’s baking. I had also decided it was time for biscotti, when Denis wandered into the kitchen to suggest we needed a special dinner tonight and me, being me did not say make it yourself, but that could have been what I wanted to say. I try to be careful and pure in heart. When I said an elongated whiny wellllll. Anita, being the sensitive discerning person she is suggested takeout, explaining I’m sure you weren’t really planning on being in the kitchen all day. I wasn’t. I timidly offered that rather than takeout today might be a good time for Denis to expand his cooking repertoire from waffles to waffles plus one other thing. He’s a very smart person and could do this if he put his mind to it. Imagine my delight when he grabbed the Mediterranean Cook book and found Ground Meat and Rice Balls in Lemon Sauce! The blessing of it! He even had to go to the store to get fresh mint and parsley. The smell of garlic and lemons wafting out of the kitchen is pretty enticing, but I’ll need to wait to find out for sure. He’s a pretty great guy even though right now he is also searching for a pasta recipe he once made years ago and I don’t know why he wants that. He thinks I threw it away because it is made entirely of butter, butter, butter and a few breadcrumbs and ground pecans. Maybe I did throw it out. I don’t remember.

I did make the following biscotti recipe which is a change from the usual almond chocolate whatever. They are a really wonderful treat, especially if you like concrete dipped in coffee. Pistachios cost the earth but they’re a little cheaper when you shell them yourself. Otoh, you have to factor in that whoever shells them may also eat a cup while doing the job.

Cranberry Pistachio Biscotti

¼ cup light olive oil
¾ cup sugar
2 t. vanilla
2 eggs
1 ¾ cup flour
¼ t. salt
1 t. baking powder
½ cup dried cranberries
1 cup pistachios

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
Mix oil and sugar. Add eggs and vanilla and mix well. Combine flour, salt, baking powder and gradually add to egg mixture. Work in cranberries and pistachios. Roll into two logs 2x12 inches. Dough will be sticky. Wet hands with cool water to handle more easily. Place on cookie sheet on parchment paper if you have it. Or lightly oil the pan. Bake for 35 minutes or until logs are light brown. Cool for 10 minutes. Cut diagonally into ¾ inch thick slices. Place back on the cookie sheet and back again for 10 minutes. I like them pretty rock-hard, so I turn them all over put them back in the oven for about another 10 – 15 minutes.

Friday, November 19, 2010

A Beaver’s miscalculation

My grandfather, Pete Frolander, was a carpenter, who built wooden boats, log cabins, and the kind of furniture you might find today in faux-rustic condos. With a dusting of sawdust on his cap and a pencil behind his ear, he smelled good to me – like pine trees and lake water. While he worked and I was a little girl underfoot and not interested in dolls, he allowed me to hammer nails into scrap lumber. When I was done he proudly displayed them in a corner of his shop the same way I now tape my grandchildren’s colored works of art on my refrigerator. My hours of pounding, bending nails, dinging up the board, no rhythm or pattern – just spikey works of juvenile miscalculation and effort.

I’m not sure why finding a large poplar tree felled toward the shore of Pike Fish Lake in Superior National Forest reminded me of him. Until I walked over to it, I assumed the wind had taken it down. As I examined it, I had a smack-the-forehead moment. There were incisor marks on the stump and piles of chips all around it. This was the work of a beaver. After looking at it I realized this rodent woodcutter had neglected to stand back and see that a picnic table was going to be very much in the way of his project. Still, I was impressed; it was almost a work of art.

I guess that’s when I thought of Grandpa who often said “Measure twice cut once.” There’ve been countless times when I thought I had everything measured and under control and pressed send or pulled the trigger only to learn, no, it wasn’t quite right. It all landed on the picnic table not in the water. But he also said to be a good carpenter you can’t be a perfectionist. You always need to be fudging, repurposing, working the angles, and saving this or that up as extra for another day. No longer being a child did not necessarily reduced the number of mistakes I made, which could be a downer until, and even to this day, I go ahead and remind myself that most of them are not cause for panic and they might even have an upside such as an increase in patience with both myself and my environment. More on this later. (I’ve been on vacation.)

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


Yesterday was first full day of vacation at cabin on the North Shore of Lake Superior. Last night’s supper menu: Half a smoked whitefish. Rice crackers. Carrot sticks. I think I can top that tonight without too much strain.

All day I did nothing, unless absolutely necessary, like going to the bathroom. Didn’t make the bed or cook or wash a single dish all day. Denis did – not the cooking; the other stuff.  I did manage to fling the head with its sunken eyes, skins and fins attached down to the rocks at the water’s edge. We timed it to see how long before the gulls found it. They love carrion, you know. There wasn’t a single one in sight. 12 minutes. Five of them showed. today. Trying not to hurry much. Or at all. This morning saw a big buck lying in the woods just outside. His antlers were framed by bracken and tall grass. A bald eagle flew past the window. Nice.