Fractals All Around

Today marks the anniversary of my kid’s first big-screen movie, Disney’s Frozen. In the days following, she (then 2) ran around in circles – and in a tutu – singing, “fwozen fwactals all ah-wound…

It’s marvelous and inspiring when lyricists and children’s writers aren’t afraid of using more challenging vocabulary, like the word fractal. Kids are sponges – they can get it, we just have to give them a chance. And thanks to the writing team, Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez, my kid had a new and unlikely word in her vocabulary…and she wasn’t afraid to wield it.

So here’s an unlikely segue – cauliflower is a fractal, an object with the incredible attribute of having its large-scale pattern continuously recur at progressively smaller scales. Now there’s something to chew on – and so I bring you Anne’s cauliflower stew, karnΙbahar musakka.

Ingredients
  • 1 large head of cauliflower, rinsed, soaked, and broken into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 1/4 lb ground beef
  • 2 cubanelle peppers, diced
  • 2 small tomatoes, peeled and diced
  • 2 tbspn tomato paste
  • 2 tbspn olive oil
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 c hot water
  • egg sauce

Instructions

  1. sauté olive oil and diced onion on medium heat, until they are pembe (=pink, caramelized)
  2. add chopped meat, continue to sautee over medium heat
  3. add pepper, tomatoes, and tomato paste
  4. add salt
  5. cover, simmer, 5 minutes
  6. add cauliflower
  7. add 1/2 cup of hot water
  8. cover, simmer, 20 minutes
  9. make egg sauce
  10. turn off heat of cauliflower
  11. slowly add hot juice of cauliflower to the egg sauce, and then pour and mix into the big pot

A (carrots) Rainbow of My Very Own

Once upon a time…before baby, when “date nights” were plentiful and leisurely meals were savored without a second thought as to what we’d owe the sitter if we linger another 15 minutes, we regularly frequented our neighborhood Turkuaz on the Upper West Side. With its warmly-lit, tented ceilings and its vast array of hot and cold small plates (and a spouse who could order in Turkish, which worked rather well for me…think Jamie Lee Curtis’s character in A Fish Called Wanda…), Turkuaz always delivered a delicious escape from the bustling city.

When Turkuaz first opened, at the start of the meal, they served a dip of carrots with yogurt – yogurtlu havuc salatasi – with warm pide bread. Loved it so much I had to run home and duplicate. And today I’m duplicating with rainbow carrots to create 3 different colored carrot dips.

Ingredients

yogurt sauce:

  • 4 cups of plain Greek yogurt
  • 3-4 cloves of minced/crushed raw garlic
  • 1 tsp salt (less or more, as desired)

carrots:

  • 3 pounds of rainbow carrots, separated by color
  • 5-6 tablespoons of olive oil

Instructions

yogurt sauce:

  1. in large mixing bowl, mix yogurt, garlic, and salt
  2. set aside

carrots:

  1. separate carrots by color (e.g., yellows, purples, oranges) – you’ll be making 3 separate dips, so have 3 small mixing bowls on-hand
  2. start with the orange carrots; in a food processor (another example of my culinary laziness – Turks would grate the carrots…but when I grate, I eat skin), finely chop orange carrots
  3. saute finely chopped carrots in 1 ½ – 2 tablespoons of olive oil on medium heat to soften
  4. put aside in small mixing bowl to cool
  5. repeat for purple carrots…
  6. repeat for yellow carrots…
  7. after carrots have cooled, blend yogurt mixture to each of the softened carrot bowls, add additional salt to taste as needed
  8. garnish with fresh dill (my dexterity for garnishing was never…well, just see below…but these dips are so pretty, they can withstand even the clumsiest hand!)

IMG_3520

Really Bad Eggs…

Actually, menemen, the recipe I’m sharing today, is a delicious egg dish. The really bad eggs are my own…

So how do you know when your family is complete? Our “only” is quite an energetic and vivacious handful, and yet there’s a tremendous force from within – something resembling my intense morning coffee thirst…one cup, then another, then another… Thou shalt procreate. Again.

It’s a difficult question. And exceedingly personal. My head’s been going back and forth between two paddles in a game of table tennis. The first to “serve” were the old images of big Italian families, surrounded by bunches of children (all well-behaved, of course)…but then those images were volleyed back by my own need for individual pursuits and meaningful engagement in the world…which then got whacked back by the guilt of not providing my daughter with the sibling I perceive her to want more than the brownie in front of her…which then was blocked by the logistical mobility and financial flexibility that having one child affords…and then smashed by previously-dormant-but-now-fully-panicked inner stereotypes of onlies being selfish, unable to share or play well with others, never learning how to compromise…and finally counter-smashed by my defiance to keep from blindly bending toward any cultural or societal stereotype. No clear winner. Just a headache.

It seemed like a prudent course of action to return to the fertility clinic and see if I’ve still got game. The disappointing, although not surprising, truth: barely. And while that doesn’t render all the aforementioned musings moot, it puts a few extra obstacles in front of me.

It’s hard to let go sometimes. For so long, and with so many in vitro attempts, I weighed myself in eggs. But now it’s time to appreciate that I’m more than a mere carton of really bad eggs. Since it’s the season of Easter and renewal, I’ll just close with an egg hunt metaphor: if I persist in loving more fully those in front of me and in delving more deeply into the relationship I have with myself, I’ll find new life in places I didn’t even expect.

Here’s how to make menemen, eggs with tomatoes, onions, and peppers.

Ingredients:

  • 5-6 eggs
  • 3 peeled tomatoes, coarsely chopped
  • 3 cubanelle peppers, finely chopped
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped

IMG_9971I throw everything to be chopped into a food processor because I’m lazy and a little clumsy when it comes to chopping, but Anne insists it’s better to chop otherwise the juices come out in the food processor instead of the pan.  (NOTE:  my daughter’s knife is a child’s knife…never put a sharp blade into the hand of a tiny person…although one could say the same for me…)

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 – 1 ½ teaspoons salt

 

Instructions:

  1. In large skillet, sauté onion in olive oil on high, about 5 minutes
  2. Add peppers, continue to sauté
  3. Add tomatoes and salt and turn to medium heat for about 10 minutes until most of the water is evaporated
  4. Make little pockets within the veggies to rest the eggs and crack open an egg to each pocket
  5. Cover and cook on low heat for another 15 minutes, or until the eggs are fully cooked

If at first you don’t succeed…PIRASA

Nine cycles of in vitro fertilization (IVF).  Nine.  For those who aren’t familiar, a single cycle of IVF medications and ultrasounds and surgical procedures and non-surgical procedures can take anywhere from 4-6 weeks, often necessitating breaks and more tests in between cycles, and the requisite holding-of-one’s-breath for an additional 2 weeks to pee on a stick.  And of course, as you may have already read from Yalya CorbasI, it ain’t over, even then…

So our statistical mantra, borrowed from Aristotle’s Cardinal Virtues, for bringing home baby was fortitude, and persistence.  Then, of course, getting baby to eat pIrasa requires a similar virtue.  PIrasa is a dish of braised leeks with carrots, rice, lemon juice, and a hint of sugar.  It should be love-at-first-bite, but, like many things in our lives, this took a few tries before Ayla looked forward to her leeks.

IMG_3037Ingredients

  • 3 tbpsn arborio rice, washed
  • 8 long carrots, cut on the bias
  • 6 leeks, trimmed and cut into 1-2 inch-wide pieces
  • 4-6 tbspn olive oil
  • 1 tbspn salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 1/2 cup boiling water

Instructions

  1. remove the outer layers of the leeks and trim off the bottoms and tops, then cut into inch/inch-and-a-half-wide pieces; rinse well
  2. heat olive oil in large saucepan on medium heat
  3. add leeks and carrots, stir then cover, and let them “sweat” as Anne says…about 5 minutes
  4. add rice, cover again for another 5 minutesIMG_8483
  5. add salt, sugar, lemon juice, boiling water; stir and cover
  6. cook on medium-low heat for about 25-30 minutes

This dish is one of my sister’s personal faves and is versatile in that it may be served warm or cold!